Shangguan Fei's attitude quickly changed from reluctance to enthusiasm when he heard the mission was to save his sister, as the Dragon King had given him a motivation that was hard to ignore.
Just as Shangguan Fei and Fang Wenshi were staying in the Dragon King's tent, three female soldiers from the Land of Fragrance came by on a visit.
Ever since Shangguan Ru's disappearance, the three of them came to the Dragon King's camp almost every day, reporting on the army's situation and seeking advice and orders from the Dragon King. And this time they had brought with them important information.
This was one of Gu Shenwei's agreements with the Second Consort. He was responsible for saving Luo Ningcha while the Second Consort would help him find Shangguan Ru's whereabouts. It was not convenient for the two to meet so the female officers of the Land of Fragrance worked as their messengers.
The eleven disciples of the Essence Pavilion were indeed living in the royal palace and they were very popular around the Khan. But the Second Consort assured him that the Khan was not deluded. He was only hoping to extend his life through the power of these eccentrics.
Like all the emperors, the Khan wasn't able to extricate himself from the age-old desire and pursuit of longevity. As death approached, he became more and more anxious and obstinate.
But just as Gu Shenwei had expected, Shangguan Ru wasn't in the hands of the Essence Pavilion's disciples.
"The Second Consort received news that the instructor was kidnapped by the people of the Central Plains and was kept in the craftsmen's area," said one of the female officers. Then she produced a simple map and pointed the location out.
Gu Shenwei wasn't surprised that the Second Consort could find the detailed information so quickly. She had secretly plotted for many years in the Royal Court and had amassed a lot of connections, which was no less in size than King Kuari's.
As for the people of the Central Plains she mentioned, they were either the disciples of the Essence Pavilion or pawns of a certain king. By doing things this way, they could circumvent the truce agreement between the Dragon King and the Norland.
"There are not many kidnappers, only about a dozen or so. The Second Consort said that they might be the elders of the Jade Pure Sect." The female officer continued explaining the situation.
Fang Wenshi left. Shangguan Fei had been listening nearby. Upon hearing this, he blurted out, "It's them!"
The Jade Pure Sect had sent five Taoist priests from the Central Plains to the Norland, whose sole purpose was to take back those external kung fu manuals from Old Man Mu. But they soon became interested in the Dragon King's Grand Enlightenment Sword Sutra and claimed that they could help him remove the hidden danger of Qi deviation but in return wanted his martial arts manual.
They had given a ten-day deadline. The time hadn't come yet, but they had surprisingly acted first and kidnapped Shangguan Ru.
As to whether Old Man Mu was a kidnapper or a hostage, the Second Consort wasn't able to determine this. Gu Shenwei also couldn't figure him out.
But this was an explanation for why the kidnappers hadn't made any requests. They were actually waiting for the tenth day.
"Very good. You can go back now, and I'll get your instructor out."
The three officers exchanged a glance and said in unison, "Dragon King, we also want to come to the instructor's rescue."
To the female soldiers of the Land of Fragrance, Shangguan Ru was not only their instructor but also a leader and protector. Therefore, they were eager to help.
"No need. Just wait here for my news."
The officers had obviously guessed that the Dragon King would reply in such a manner, and already had a counteroffer prepared. One of the officers replied, "Dragon King, we know our kung fu is poor and that we'll be a burden to you. But saving the instructor is the most important priority to us. If we don't offer any help now, the soldiers of the Land of Fragrance will complain that we're not doing our best and we would be too ashamed to see them after we return home. So please take us along to the rescue, even if the Dragon King only chooses one of us."
Gu Shenwei couldn't refuse, especially when Shangguan Fei was gesturing actively nearby, suggesting for him to agree. Shangguan Fei would prefer for all of the one thousand female soldiers to participate in the mission.
Gu Shenwei had concealed the news of Shangguan Ru's disappearance and didn't openly admit it even when the rumors were widespread. So, he also didn't want to make a big fuss about saving people. "Alright, then you can suggest one person to go with me."
The female soldiers had already picked a candidate. Two officers stepped aside and pointed at their companion in the middle, saying, "She's the best fighter in our army. Please take her with you, Dragon King."
The rescue team had grown from two to three.
The other two female officers took their leave. Gu Shenwei looked at the simple map and began to think up a detailed rescue plan.
Shangguan Fei was rarely interested in the female officers from the Land of Fragrance. He himself needed to be protected so he didn't want to bring another burden that would need protection. Therefore, he had to ascertain this woman's martial arts skills himself.
"You are not used to the life here, are you?" Shangguan Fei chatted with feigned enthusiasm.
The female officer nodded. She was in her twenties and was one of the youngest officers of the Land of Fragrance. She had the typical appearance of a barbarian with long, natural curly hair that couldn't even be completely covered with a helmet. However well-mannered she was, she didn't speak much to the Dragon King, not to mention Shangguan Fei.
"Who did you learn kung fu from? My sister?"
The female officer looked puzzled, Shangguan Fei had to explain, "I mean your instructor. We're twins. I'm her elder brother, and she's my little sister. Well? Can't tell?"
The female officer looked at him carefully for a while before nodding with a smile. "You two look a bit alike if observed carefully."
In fact, Shangguan Fei and Shangguan Ru were very similar in appearance but very different in temperament. This was why many people could not tell that they were twins.
"Did you learn kung fu from my sister?"
"Oh, that's not very long. Maybe more than a year, less than two?"
"One year and three months."
"Have you learned kung fu before?"
Shangguan Fei's interest in her stopped here. He turned to the Dragon King and kept winking at him. His idea was either to bring dozens or hundreds of female archers or none at all.
The Dragon King ignored Shangguan Fei's hint. He raised his head and said, "These five men of the Jade Pure Sect are very useful."
"Ahh?" Shangguan Fei was stunned, then his face lit up, "Right, they know how to treat the disease. Let's save my sister first, and then kidnap them …"
Gu Shenwei shook his head, "No, I have a better idea."
Shangguan Fei was even happier, and for the first time he felt enthusiastic about the rescue. "The Dragon King is going to trick them into curing the Qi deviation for me … And you."
"There are two strands of internal Qi in your Dantian: one yin, and one yang. They can't be fused and therefore, may cause Qi deviation. I've thought of a way to fuse the two with the help of external forces. The Taoist priests of the Jade Pure Sect are good at internal energy which is actually a 'good medicine' to cure your disease. I'll pass you an internal Qi manual later. Direct your internal Qi as I said when you compete internal energy with them, it may be very effective."
Shangguan Fei immediately became wary of the 'solution' the Dragon King just came up with. "Dragon King clearly said yesterday that the loophole of the Three-in-One Power had been eliminated …"
"The original method works too slowly. You will instantly see its effects through this method."
"So I'm going to wade in for the Dragon King again?"
"Mm, is there a problem?"
Shangguan Fei had a bellyful of grievance but became happy again after a second thought, "No problem. At least this time is to cure the disease, not practicing kung fu." That was all he could say for himself.
Gu Shenwei turned to the female officer, "What's your name?"
He had always been careful in his dealings with the women soldiers of the Land of Fragrance. Although these three female officers visited him every day, he never asked their names.
Gu Shenwei was only asking casually. Hearing the answer, he was stunned.
"My old name was too complicated, this is my new name given by the instructor," explained the female officer.
Shangguan Fei muttered, "Sister always gives weird names."
For Gu Shenwei, the name wasn't weird at all. He was actually very familiar with it. He had once told Shangguan Ru a story about a lone great thief, in which the protagonist was called 'Red Bat'.
"So you must be quite good at lightness skills?"
Hearing the Dragon King's praise, the female officer Red Bat was a bit surprised but very pleased, "The instructor said that I'm talented. I have been learning for so long but I'm still not even close to the instructor."
The female officers knew their strengths and weaknesses well and did not send the Dragon King an unqualified helper.
On the second night watch period, the three of them put on their full set of night suits and set out from the camp. The Red Bat proved that her martial arts training of more than a year had not been in vain. She knew the rules of stealth very well, and her movements were almost flawless.
Even Shangguan Fei had to admit that his sister's disciple was excellent.
The Taoist priests of the Jade Pure Sect, who originally lived in the Taoist temple in the suburbs, moved into the craftsman's area a few days ago. They rented a small camp on the edge with more than a dozen tents of various sizes, which looked no different from their neighbors.
The early investigation was no different from an assassination mission issued by Golden Roc Castle. The three went out separately to check their paths and slowly moved closer to the camp in circles, searching for hidden sentries and ambushes.
They found nothing. The Taoist priests of the Jade Pure Sect seemed to be especially confident or were greatly lacking in experience. They had not arranged any night guards outside.
When the three of them met up again, Shangguan Fei whispered, "Could it be a trap?"
"We have to jump in even if it's a trap."
"What's the Dragon King's plan?" Shangguan Fei always admired the Dragon King's astuteness and resourcefulness. The Dragon King had thought for a long while before they acted so his plan must be foolproof.
Gu Shenwei ordered to the Red Bat first. "Stay on the periphery and keep an eye on whether anyone sneaks out of the camp."
The Red Bat nodded and turned, quickly melting into the night.
Then Gu Shenwei said to Shangguan Fei, "Go challenge them, I'll protect you from the back."
"Challenge directly … like this?" Shangguan Fei was taken aback. This wasn't the Dragon King's style at all.
"Yes. Force them to compete in internal energy with you. Remember to use the method I taught you."
Shangguan Fei's confidence fell to rock bottom. Before setting out, the Dragon King had indeed passed onto him a method of guiding internal Qi, which was simple and easy to learn. It was similar to the Balanced Power Lotus had taught him, so he didn't doubt it. But the Dragon King still had too many whims on the Three-in-One Power, as it was still unknown whether it was effective and would bring more hidden dangers.
"You don't believe me?" Gu Shenwei stressed.
Shangguan Fei didn't dare to say that he didn't believe him. Gritting his teeth, he only asked one question. "The Dragon King will save me if I'm in real danger, right?"
"You are very useful to me."
That was enough. As he mustered all his courage, Shangguan Fei walked out of the shadow and went straight to the camp of the Jade Pure Sect. He stopped at the door and said loudly, "Come out, you curs of Jade Pure Sect. Let your granddaddy teach you a lesson!"
There was no response in the camp, but someone in the nearby tent looked this way.
Shangguan Fei raised his voice, "Curs of Jade Pure Sect, you dared to come to the Royal Court but dare not to show yourselves?"
Finally, a Taoist priest came out; he was thin and small, the complete opposite type of opponent Shangguan Fei feared.
"Who are you? What do you have to do against us?"
"Huh, I would have snuck inside and avenged myself if I had a grudge. I'm just in bad mood tonight and want to blow off steam on a Taoist priest."
Before he finished speaking, Shangguan Fei leaped to the Taoist priest and launched a palm strike. Since they were going to compete with the internal energy, he didn't want to waste time.
The Jade Pure Sect of the Central Plains had lost their external kung fu manuals but their internal energy was still very powerful. So the Taoist priest also struck out with his palm to receive the blow.
The two palms collided, and both sides infused a great deal of internal energy simultaneously.
Shangguan Fei's body swayed, and he inwardly cursed the Dragon King, his timidity rising again.
The Taoist priest's internal energy was unexpectedly powerful. Shangguan Fei immediately changed from attack to defense. He could barely protect himself, not to mention using the healing method the Dragon King had taught him.