Chapter 996: Just where is Gu Qishao?

Who knew that the least of their worries would end up running into trouble?

Xu Donglin didn’t find Gu Qishao all day, nor did the man himself go to seek out Han Yunxi.

“Was he at the inn last night?” Long Feiye asked.

Xu Donglin was in a tough spot. “Your Highness, this subordinate...isn’t sure.”

Xu Donglin was only responsible for security around His Highness and the princess’s room, while the shadow guards in hiding were responsible for Baili Mingxiang’s safety. Nobody had bothered looking after Gu Qishao.

But neither did Gu Qishao need protection! Xu Donglin remembered how His Highness had instructed guards to look after Gu Qishao a long, long time ago. In truth, their jobs were purely to observe and guard against the man as needed, not ensure his safety. Xu Donglin also knew the secret of Gu Qishao’s undying body. Unlike Bai Yanqing and his weakness to Perplexing Butterfly Illusion, Gu Qishao was neigh undefeatable. If he wasn’t willing, who could do anything against him? 

Of course, while Xu Donglin and Long Feiye knew Gu Qishao’s secret, Han Yunxi was completely ignorant! In her eyes, Gu Qishao had consummate poison skills and top martial arts, but he couldn’t be considered some formidable expert. At least, he wasn’t capable of defeating Long Feiye even before the latter strengthened up. Neither had he defeated Jun Yixie in a fight in the past.

Anxious, she cried, “He must have ran into some trouble last night! Hurry and search for him! All over the city!”

If he ran into trouble at the justice department building, it would have caused a ruckus. Gu Qishao was no fool, so he’d only make a commotion if he ran into someone he couldn’t defeat in order to attract their attention.

“Either he ran into trouble last night or this morning,” Long Feiye said mildly. “Xu Donglin, search with care.”

Without a single clue, they could only wait for the results of Xu Donglin’s search. Han Yunxi felt sick at heart over their bad luck this time around. She looked towards the roaring inferno and prayed that it’d leave some bones behind. Even a teeny bit would help. 

The night drew on, but the fires didn’t die down. Han Yunxi’s group could only return to the inn. After dual cultivating some more, neither she nor Long Feiye went to bed, but stood on the balcony watching the fire and waiting for news of Gu Qishao. Nothing came for the latter, while the former finally abated a bit in the middle of the night. Only a few places were still smoldering. The sole purpose of the justice department was the storage of bodies for 1) those still waiting for burial, 2) those who were too poor to pay for a gravesite, and 3) unresolved murder cases. Each of these situations demanded a temporary storage space for the corpse(s) at the justice department. Thus, many families surrounded the building even in the middle of the night, crying or offering sacrifices to their ancestors to send on the bodies. Still others were waiting for the government to give them an explanation. Long Feiye had long sent people to find officials at the government office and get their stance. 

Nothing remained of the building, nor was anything salvaged from its ruins. Actually, the government had given up on putting it out as early as this afternoon. Now they had a few guards stationed around the place to prevent the masses from charging in and causing chaos. The next day, the government would send more people to clean up the place and dig out any bones remaining in the ruins. This was the only source of comfort left to families of the victims.

Soon enough, Xu Donglin came back with a report. “Your Highness, everything’s ready. Once the bones are collected tomorrow, we’ll have a quarter of an hour.”

Cleaning and collecting bones was lowly work, so the government officials wouldn’t do it themselves. The officials had paid money to get the city’s Old Sixth Chai to do the work. He could be considered a chief labor contractor who found low-paid youths to help out. After discovering the news, Xu Donglin bribed the officials to insert two more members into Old Sixth Chai’s crew while swearing the old man to secrecy. Tomorrow, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi would only need to disguise themselves to join the cleanup crew and look around for bones in broad daylight.

With Han Yunxi’s skills, all she had to do was get within range of the ruins to scan it with her detox system. To ensure success, Xu Donglin even gave them 15 minutes to work alone under the excuse of investigating a case. Han Yunxi admired Xu Donglin’s efforts. He had gone so far in only a day and one night and covered all the bases.

“It’s a waste that you’re not spending your days at the yamen offices instead,” Han Yunxi declared.

“Hehe, princess you don’t know, but I’m actually--” Xu Donglin suddenly stopped.

“You what?” Han Yunxi asked.

“Actually, I’m really stupid. It’s only that I’ve learned a few trifling things after following His Highness,” Xu Donglin flattered.

Besides Han Yunxi, there was probably no one else in the world who could successfully flatter Long Feiye into smiling. He simply looked silently at the sea of flames. Han Yunxi wasn’t in the mood to probe, so she asked, “Is there still no news of Gu Qishao?”

“Not yet, but don’t worry, princess. Heaven helps the worthy like Master Gu. Unless he ran into some poisons expert, it’s unlikely they’ll get the best of him. Tomorrow morning, this subordinate will order men to ambush themselves at the eight city gates. As long as Master Gu’s still in the city, we’ll find him for sure!” Xu Donglin comforted.

“Add more men to the search party,” Han Yunxi could only pin her hopes there. “Don’t make a scene in case it exposes our actions”

Xu Donglin left while exhaling in relief. He almost exposed himself just then because all of his dealings with the government officials had been taught to him by Chu Xifeng. Ever since Ning Cheng exposed the enmity between East and West Qin as one big misunderstanding, Xu Donglin had written a letter to his former head. Unfortunately, Chu Xifeng had never replied him. In Xu Donglin’s mind, Head Commander Chu probably needed more time to digest the news.

Now that the fire was under control, Long Feiye said, “Go back and rest. We’ll have to get up early tomorrow.”

Han Yunxi was in no mood to sleep, however. “Gu Qishao, that you think he could have ran off to the justice department and saw the culprit last night?” She’d been considering the possibility all day and that seemed the most likely reason. 

It would be great if he did, Long Feiye thought silently before nodding perfunctorily at Han Yunxi.

If Gu Qishao was here, Han Yunxi wouldn’t bother showing that she cared at all. Even with him gone, she knew her limits. In some areas, Long Feiye would grow unhappy immediately. Han Yunxi would never forget how Long Feiye had supported both her weight and Gu Qishao’s when the man went looking for Earth of Ten-Thousand Poisons in the Poison Sect. All of them had been trapped by the fires in that abyss. When their lives had been in danger, Gu Qishao had lost his temper at her for the first time and demanded that she let him go.

She had told him that since they were all together, they wouldn’t abandon each other! 

After going through all that, Gu Qishao was now not only their friend, but family. Like comrades-in-arms, it was impossible to abandon him. Some feelings weren’t ambiguous at all, but still hard to put into words. 

Han Yunxi changed the subject and asked, “Why did the culprit continuously target six women? How many women does he or she want?”

This case had to be related to that of the attacks. She had seen similar cases in the past when the culprit had deviant tendencies or some fetish to attack the same way over and over again towards the same kind of women. Either he or she harbored a motive or needed to kill a certain number to gain a certain item.

Long Feiye’s gaze was complex. He had never thought he’d ended up lying to Han Yunxi for the sake of somebody else. But he’d promised Gu Qishao not to share his secret, so he didn’t now even when he had a chance. His thoughts on the case were brimming as well. “It’s been five days since the culprit killed the last victim. If he or she still wants to kill, then it should be within these next two days.”

That reminded Han Yunxi. “Long Feiye, find someone to go to the lake and lure the snake out of its haunts!”

All of the previous victims had met their ends by Yinyang Lake, which meant the culprit preferred to do his or her deeds there. If the murders continued, then the lake would be the best place to track them down. Long Feiye nodded, and Han Yunxi went to find a shadow guard to call over the female mercenaries she’d arranged for this trip. While Long Feiye was used to shadow guards, Han Yunxi preferring bringing along female poison guards and mercenaries. Inexplicably, her own strength had grown. The female mercenaries of the City of Daughters were now even learning poison skills on the side. She was waiting for the day they could stand out independently so she could give all her poison guards to Long Feiye. His shadow guards didn’t know anything about poisons, so the poison guards could supplement their weakness.

It was uncertain whether her ploy would lure out the culprit or whether the burned ruins would give Han Yunxi clues to the Metal of Ten-Thousand Poisons. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi kept on chatting until they fell asleep. Early next morning, they rose from bed and dressed up as laborers in torn clothing before dirtying their hands. Still, it was impossible to hide the noble air emanating from their forms. After all, Cloud Realm Continent’s most distinguished bloodlines flowed in their veins.

Xu Donglin and Baili Mingxiang only felt that the two of them looked off. In the end, he added a beard to Long Feiye’s getup while Baili Mingxiang simply disguised Han Yunxi as a man and gave some her stubble. In this way, the two of them barely managed to pass as poor, downtrodden types. When they arrived at the ruins, Old Sixth Chai’s crew had just shown up as well. The old man glanced at Xu Donglin before tossing baskets to Han Yunxi and Long Feiye without a word. 

As Long Feiye couldn’t recognize poisons, he stuck by Han Yunxi’s side. She carefully began to scan the ruins as she stepped in, seemingly searching for bones while actually activating her detox system. Poisons that could seep into the bones was very toxic. Even if the corpses hadn’t been poisoned by Metal of Ten-Thousand Poisons, the detox system could analyze poisonous remains all the same. If the murderous dagger really was Metal of Ten-Thousand Poisons, then its toxicity would be even stronger. Back during the search for Water and Earth of Ten-Thousand Poisons, the detox system had been able to pick out traces of toxins even if it couldn’t understand the poison as a whole.

Han Yunxi carefully picked out two instances of poisoned bone fragments, both of which she abandoned because they were only common toxins. Such poisons wouldn’t be enough to cause such severe bleeding. There were so many bodies stored here that it wasn’t strange for a few to be poisoned. 

Curiously enough, Han Yunxi didn’t find any traces of the poisons she was looking for even after scanning through all the bones! 

What was going on?

While she was discussing this with Long Feiye, a shadow guard hastened over to report, “Your Highness, princess, something big happened at the lake!”

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