Looking at the gradually forming blueprint, Han Yunxi’s group grew alert. Soon enough, they saw the entire framework of the maze before them. Long Feiye swept his gaze over it before declaring, “Take a good look. This should be the highest level where Ning Jing and Su Xiaoyu stayed. And those spots are the shafts with amplifying rocks.”
Soon enough, the group found familiar landmarks.
“Here’s the cliff where Ning Jing fell down,” Han Yunxi pointed out another spot. As she spot, the map of the map grew even higher to reveal the second level underneath. Nobody said anything but quietly watched and memorized the blueprint. They were currently located on this second level, which was separated quite a distance from the layer above. Multiple traps were located between the two layers as the surface revealed itself, making for a dizzying sight. Han Yunxi’s group stared at the maze, afraid to miss a single one. Once the first and second layers finished taking shape, a third layer appeared from beneath them.
There were also multiple traps located between the second and third levels, including the room of blades where Gu Qishao had been trapped in before. Han Yunxi’s group remained silent as they committed the sights to memory. It wasn’t until the whole maze finished taking shape before them that they all sucked in a breath. During the whole process, they had even forgotten to breathe!
Long Feiye’s analysis was right. This maze was a huge hive! It was like a huge hexagon made up of six total layers with six edges. Aside from the two exits on their second layer, the other five layers all led to dead end cliff traps. It wasn’t a cliff that led outside, but one hidden within the maze. Some were shallower than others, but each of them matched one of the five elements of: metal, wood, water, fire, and eath. Those five cliffs were probably the most dangerous part of the maze.
And Ning Jing had fallen off the Fire Cliff.
It was impossible for Han Yunxi to remember all the details after seeing it once since this wasn’t her area of expertise. This map only showed them where the traps were, not the switches or secret tunnels. If they couldn’t control those, then they could only remember the location of the traps and heighten their guard.
Yet Long Feiye, who could remember everything at a glance, had long committed the layout of the maze to memory. He definitely possessed supernormal retention skills, for he could now visualize the entire maze in his head. Still, he kept staring at the structure like the rest--not because he was trying to remember it, but to wait for a sign.
It was impossible for Bai Yanqing to traverse through every single pathway in such a big maze and test every single trap. He must have seen this map before too. If he knew the switches and secret tunnels equally well, that meant this blueprint might show them their locations too. As Long Feiye pondered this possibility, the entire maze structure began to move, reveaing switches, traps, and secret tunnels as they opened and closed.
“Heavens…” Han Yunxi couldn’t help but exclaimed. She was worried about finding the switches but never expected this living blueprint to start moving. All of the hidden levers and buttons showed themselves, then hid away, in a repeating process. It was the same with the tunnels. She even saw that each of the branching pathways in the maze had its own corresponding switch meant to seal off exits.
“Dang…” Gu Qishao looked at the group in disbelief. Gu Beiyue looked up as well, his expression stunned.
Han Yunxi suddenly celebrated, “Bai Yanqing’s lost his edge! Let’s go find him!”
“Hide this first! It’ll be no fun if we’re exposed!” Gu Qishao chuckled.
Han Yunxi didn’t know how to retract the blueprint, but she tried rubbing more blood on top. Once it was absorbed into the surface of the blueprint, it gradually sank back down, dissolving back into the round Xuan gold door. Gu Qishao lifted the fake rock wall and put it back in place before rapping against it with a chuckle. “Alright, we saw nothing here.”
Since Bai Yanqing couldn’t gain any more advantages, why should they let him wander as he pleased? They would chase after him right away! Han Yunxi had been worried of the man laying a trap for them from the shadows, but now she wished he’d do just that! Then they could meet a plot with a plot!
The group immediately headed inside where a clueless Bai Yanqing was currently resting in a dim room, sipping from a goblet of wine as he spoke to Mu Qingwu. He had tried waiting at the exit but didn’t see any sign of the guards or their hostages. In the end, he used a secret passageway to head for the topmost layer of the maze and discovered that one of his guards had been poisoned to death. It wasn’t a toxin he recognized, so he assumed Han Yunxi must have done it and taken the hostages away. He had no idea that Ning Jing had fell into the sea of flames.
With no hostages or tradeable victims, he finally remembered Mu Qingwu and doubled back into the maze.
So what if Gu Qishao can’t die?
So what if Han Yunxi doesn’t fear my poisons?
I can still deal with them from inside the maze.
Mu Qingwu was locked up in his cell, but not tied up. Still, he couldn’t escape when Bai Yanqing was leaning against the stone door and sipping wine.
“Just what do you want to do? I’m telling you now, even if I die, I’ll never work with the likes of you!”
Bai Yanqing swallowed his wine and maintained a serene smile. “Heheh, hasn’t your Li Clan always taken the neutral stance? What now, have you taken a fancy to the West Qin princess?”
Mu Qingwu knitted his brows. “What are you talking about?”
He had no idea what Bai Yanqing meant. The Li Clan? Isn’t that one of the Seven Noble Families? Didn’t they control an army of 100,000 men, only to disperse all of their soldiers?
He had the most interest in the Li Clan out of all the Seven Nobles--not because of their neutral stance, but because he was interested in their war strategies.
When Bai Yanqing saw his reaction, he suddenly burst out laughing. “Stop pretending! Tianning’s Mu Clan are the descendants of the Li Clan. Unfortunately, Long Feiye forced himself into Tianan’s capital city and slaughtered your entire Mu family. Your father, your beloved little sister, even your clansmen’s heads were...heheh, all hung over the city gates. By now they’ve probably rotted into bare bones.”
Mu Qingwu was stunned. After reeling a bit, he roared, “Impossible! You’re lying to me! Don’t try to trick me!”
Bai Yanqing tossed out a command token that was a personal item of Great General Mu’s. The “Mu” (穆) character was carved onto its surface. Mu Qingwu had seen this token in the past, but he never touched it with his own hands. This was the token possessing supreme authority in the Mu Clan, similar to a tiger-shaped tally issued to generals as imperial authorization to move troops.
“Feel the back, see if you can make out the edges of the ‘Li’ character,” Bai Yanqing reminded helpfully.
Mu Qingwu refused to believe it and didn’t want to feel, but his fingers couldn’t help rubbing against the token secretly.
The Li (离) character!
It was unmistakable!
Does that mean Bai Yanqing isn’t lying? The Mu Clan really are descendants of the Li Clan? But why didn’t father tell me? Why did he hide it for so long?
Mu Qingwu didn’t want to accept the tuth. He carefully examined the command token in his hands, but he’d seen it so many times that he knew it was his father’s! Even if someone made a fake, it was impossible for them to replicate the brown hanging tassels his father had tied to the end!
“Looks like you didn’t know about a lot of things!” Bai Yanqing chortled before telling him all about the incident at Hundred Poisons Sect.
It was that incident that stirred Bai Yanqing’s suspicions. Duanmu Yao helped ferret out the truth with her spies from Western Zhou’s royal court, allowing him to find out the Western Zhou emperor’s plan to gather all those spectators at Hundred Poisons Sect was actually masterminded by Mu Yuanbo!
Mu Yuanbo delivered a letter through Long Tianmo to a deputy general of the Chu Clan troops, who then passed it on to Emperor Kangcheng. Only then did the sovereign step out to act. Without Duanmu Yao’s help, Bai Yanqing would never have found this mastermind behind the scenes. Someone who could plant a spy within the Chu Clan troops and lead an army for generations was naturally a candidate to be a Li Clan descendant.
Mu Qingwu could only gaped as he listened to the story. He knew Long Tianmo had always been clueless about the details at Hundred Poisons Sect, much less why his father chose to do such a thing. His father never had any direct contact with the Chu Clan troops, but still managed to bribe one of its deputy generals to his side. Now everything suddenly made sense.
He always thought his father hated war and only helped Long Tianmo wind Tianan for the sake of his little sister. Who knew...who knew his father was a man of ambition too? Much less that the Mu Clan was the Li Clan, who ran away from battle after dismissing their troops! Mu Qingwu broke into laughter, his laughs filled with bitterness and pain!
He had once rejoiced in the fact that he wasn’t born to an imperial household. Living in a military family, he didn’t need to face such things as cruelty between brothers or conflicts between father and son for the sake of power. Instead of focusing on petty squabbles, he could dedicate his loyalty to the country and protect its safety. When he was very young, his father had personally taught him the art of war and read him books on military tactics.
Whenever they got to the story of the Li Clan and its 100,000 troops that ran away from the East-West Qin war, he and his father would end up red-faced from their disagreements. Mu Qingwu couldn’t bear to think whether his father had hidden the truth from him because he’d always looked down on the Li Clan and blamed them as deserters?
That thought only brought another pang to his heart!
Bai Yanqing didn’t mention the agreement he’d forced on Mu Yuanbo, but chuckled and said, “Your father was hoping for Long Feiye and Han Yunxi to turn against each other too. Unfortunately, Long Feiye personally led an expedition south and reclaimed Tianan, then hung the heads of your Mu Clan above the city gates. He threatened all of Tianan’s soldiers to surrender. Young general, you--”
“Enough!” Mu Qingwu snarled.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Oh you conniving old fossil, Bai Yanqing!