Unease and apprehension gnawed at Ruan Hongling as she continued to stare at her surrogate sister . Poise and composure had once again returned to Zi Yuan jiějie's countenance . The orange glow of the apartment's lighting cast soft shadows over Zi Yuan jiějie's delicate features, heightening her beauty . It was hard to believe that this was the same woman who had all but broken down in tears in her arms half an hour ago .
Ruan Hongling tried not to think too much about the argument just now, about how her tirade must have hurt Zi Yuan jiějie's feelings . Guilt and shame weren't the only things Ruan Hongling had felt by the end of the argument; there were also feelings of shock and disbelief .
Over the years, Zi Yuan jiějie had always seemed so self-possessed, so collected . Never in her life had Ruan Hongling seen Zi Yuan jiějie break down in tears . Never . Zi Yuan jiějie didn't even shed a tear (at least not in front of Ruan Hongling) when they both found out about Master's passing ten years ago, and that was saying something .
Ruan Hongling lowered her head in shame .
How Ruan Hongling wished she could turn back time and take it all back: all the poisonous words she had spouted in anger; worst, her angry accusations of Zi Yuan jiějie's lack of loyalty to the sect and to Master .
Ruan Hongling loathed her own behavior now . She hated her violent temper, and her lack of maturity . She hated the fact that it had taken Zi Yuan jiějie falling to her knees in tears before she finally realized that she needed to grow up .
Ruan Hongling hated herself .
She had to change . She had to grow up before she became an even greater burden to Zi Yuan jiějie .
"So the members of the Great Six are launching a joint-assault on Mount Tianlong…"
Ruan Hongling lifted her gaze from her lap and found Zi Yuan jiějie's studying her pensively . Still reeling from everything that had happened and struggling with her guilt, Ruan Hongling could only nod .
"But you checked the other day . " Zi Yuan jiějie's eyes narrowed . "You told me that the Fox Zen School was gone . "
Ruan Hongling snapped out of her emotional daze .
Now wasn't the time to wallow in self-loathing and guilt . There would be time for that later . A lot of time .
"I did," Ruan Hongling said, nodding fervently . "There were no signs of the school, I swear . "
"Well . The Great Six clearly believes that the Fox Zen School is still there . " One of Zi Yuan jiějie's brows arched . "A tip? From someone within the Fox Zen School, perhaps?"
Ruan Hongling nodded . "When I left the meeting, everyone was still waiting for some kind of signal from one of their associates . "
"A signal…" Zi Yuan jiějie gave her a brief glance . "To start the attack, you mean . "
Ruan Hongling nodded . "The exact location of the school will come with the signal . "
Zi Yuan jiějie leaned back against the couch with a sigh . Her eyes were closed, but Ruan Hongling knew that she still had shījiě's full attention . "And did they reveal the identity of this associate?"
"No . . . " Ruan Hongling hesitated . She glanced at Zi Yuan jiějie, whose eyes were still closed . "Could it . . . Do you think it's Mo Ahshi?"
Zi Yuan jiějie waved her hand casually . "Of course it is Mo Ahshi . " Long lashes parted to reveal a pair of beautiful eyes . "The real question is why . What's her motive?"
"To . . . Take over the school?"
"Unlikely . " Zi Yuan jiějie shook her head . "She didn't have to resort to such measures if her goal is to take over the school . " Zi Yuan jiějie paused to look at Ruan Hongling . "Mo Ahshi has the most seniority among all the other disciples of the Fox Zen School . And her reputation is stellar . With Ao Wushuang expelled, she's bound to be the next head anyway . So why go through all this trouble?"
"Mmm . " Ruan Hongling nodded .
"No, Hongling… Taking over the school isn't the goal here . " There was a pause . "I think it's the opposite . " Zi Yuan jiějie crossed one leg over the other . "She's obviously trying to destroy the Fox Zen School . But why? What's her real motive?"
Zi Yuan jiějie's analysis made sense . Why would Mo Ahshi collaborate with the Great Six to launch an assault on the same school that she was trying to take over?
Zi Yuan jiějie suddenly rose from the couch and began pacing back and forth . Wariness crept into Ruan Hongling as she followed her shijie's movements with her eyes .
"Z- Zi Yuan jiějie . . . ?"
Her shījiě did not stop pacing . "Before her sudden departure, Wushuang-qiánbèi asked me something strange . Back then, she asked if I'd been aware of any recent changes in the Zhengyi School . . . "
Confusion filled Ruan Hongling's mind . "What?"
"She said that I would find out about it eventually…" Shījiě kept pacing . "This must be it . She was referring to the attack . " Shījiě suddenly turned around to face Ruan Hongling . "So she knew . . . "
Ruan Hongling stared at Zi Yuan jiějie, trying everything in her power not to let her bafflement show . Zi Yuan jiějie had never told her any of this before .
"Wushuang-qiánbèi knew about the attack," Zi Yuan jiějie said a few seconds later . "That would explain her sudden return to the Fox Zen School and why she told me not to contact her . " Realization shone in Zi Yuan jiějie's eyes . "She must've gone back to defend the Fox Zen School after she learned of the attack . "
Hey… Wait a minute…
Something niggled at the back of Ruan Hongling's mind . A discrepancy . A contrariety resulting from something she had overheard at the guesthouse .
Ruan Hongling rose from the couch and walked over towards her shījiě .
"Um . . . Zi Yuan jiějie… I forgot to mention something just now," Ruan Hongling said tentatively .
Zi Yuan jiějie turned around, her penetrating eyes scanning Ruan Hongling's face in a way that made Ruan Hongling's steps falter .
"It's… It's about Ao Wushuang," Ruan Hongling said, lowering her voice into a whisper . "They're saying that she ran off . "
Zi Yuan jiějie's eyes widened just a tad . A moment later, Ruan Hongling found herself being pulled back towards the couch .
"Where did you hear that?" Zi Yuan jiějie whispered when they were once again seated side-by-side on the couch .
Ruan Hongling shifted slightly on the couch so that she was facing her shījiě . "Back at the guesthouse . "
Zi Yuan jiějie stared at her, clearly expecting her to say more .
Ruan Hongling paused in thought, searching her memory for more information to reveal . "I was . . . I was snooping around a little, coz I wanted to find out more about the attack . At one point, I overhead a group of Cultivators talking about the threats they might encounter during the assault . One of them mentioned Ao Wushuang's name, but then the others were quick to dismiss the idea . " Ruan Hongling paused to recall the exact words she had overheard . "They said that Ao Wushuang got scared and ran off . "
Zi Yuan jiějie had grown extremely quiet, though Ruan Hongling knew from the sharpness in shijie's eyes and the knit in her brows that she was deep in thought .
Ruan Hongling decided to stop talking and leave Zi Yuan jiějie to her thoughts .
"That makes no sense, Hongling . "
Ruan Hongling tensed up but said nothing .
"What do you make of it?" Zi Yuan jiějie asked after a while .
"That rumor about Wushuang-qiánbèi running off because she got scared," Zi Yuan jiějie clarified . "What do you make of it?"
Ruan Hongling did a double take . Had Zi Yuan jiějie just asked for her opinion?
Ruan Hongling cleared her throat . "Honestly? I don't buy it . " Ruan Hongling shook her head . "Ao Wushuang doesn't seem like the type who would run away . " Ruan Hongling looked towards her shījiě . "I think something else is going on here . "
"That is very astute, Hongling . " Zi Yuan jiějie nodded at her approvingly . "Well done . "
Ruan Hongling fought hard not to blush .
"Indeed, Ao Wushuang is no coward," Zi Yuan jiějie continued . "Only a fool would believe that story . "
Well . That was… interesting . So by Zi Yuan jiějie's standards, nearly all the Cultivators gathered at the guesthouse were fools .
"So… Um, Zi Yuan jiějie… What do you think happen—" Ruan Hongling stopped talking when Zi Yuan jiějie suddenly raised her palm .
"How certain is the Great Six regarding Wushuang-qiánbèi's absence?"
"Um . . . " Ruan Hongling thought hard about everything she'd observed back at the guesthouse, including her interactions with the Cultivators gathered there . "Wait . I just remembered something . " Ruan Hongling clapped her hands together and shifted closer to Zi Yuan jiějie . "I got curious after I overheard the conversation about Ao Wushuang, so I asked Zhang Tianhé about it afterwards . " Ruan Hongling stole a glance at Zi Yuan jiějie, who appeared to be listening to her with rapt attention . "I casually brought up Ao Wushuang in our conversation . And then I asked him if he thought Ao Wushuang was going to cause problems for the joint assault . " Ruan Hongling held Zi Yuan jiějie's gaze . "He gave me this confident smile and told me that Ao Wushuang isn't going to be a problem because—I quote—she has already been taken care of . "
Zi Yuan jiějie's frown deepened .
Ruan Hongling cleared her throat . "When I asked him what made him so sure, he told me that the intel came from an inside source . "
"These are deep waters, Hongling . . . Deep waters . . . "
A tight knot formed inside Ruan Hongling's stomach right then . The grim look on Zi Yuan jiějie's face unnerved her to no end . What exactly had Zi Yuan jiějie glimpsed from these events that she herself had missed?
Before Ruan Hongling could voice out her questions, Zi Yuan jiějie seized her shoulders .
"I need you to think, Hongling," said Zi Yuan jiějie . "When you were there at the guesthouse, did you hear any mentions of Bahuang?"
Ruan Hongling froze .
Huh . . . Come to think of it…
There were no mentions of Bahuang, which was very odd indeed . It was true that, before this, nobody from the Great Six (other than Ruan Hongling and Zi Yuan jiějie, of course) knew that Ao Wushuang was in possession of Bahuang . But things were different now; now the Great Six had someone inside the Fox Zen School . If Mo Ahshi was spying for the Great Six, wouldn't she have mentioned something about Bahuang? It was, after all, a vital piece of information that could affect the outcome of the attack . So why had Mo Ahshi neglected to mention it to her associates?
"Hongling?" Zi Yuan jiějie's voice jolted Ruan Hongling out of her thoughts, reminding her that she had yet to answer Zi Yuan jiějie's question .
"Um . . . No . " Ruan Hongling shook her head . "There were no mentions of Bahuang . "
Zi Yuan jiějie grabbed Ruan Hongling's shoulders again .
"Are you certain?" The urgency in Zi Yuan jiějie's tone rivalled the intensity in her eyes . "Are you absolutely certain that nobody mentioned Bahuang? Not even subtly?"
Ruan Hongling nodded firmly . "I'm positive, Zi Yuan jiějie . When you didn't pick up your phone, I stayed at the guesthouse and mingled . "
"For how long?"
Ruan Hongling glanced up at the ceiling for a moment . "An hour, I think?"
"And you managed to interact with everyone there?"
"Well . . . I didn't do much talking, if that's what you're saying . " Ruan Hongling stole a glance at her mentor . "Most of the time I was just listening . . . " Ruan Hongling winced . "Did… Did I not do enough?"
Zi Yuan jiějie released Ruan Hongling's shoulders and exhaled lengthily . "You did really well, Hongling . " Zi Yuan jiějie leaned back against the couch . "You acted as my eyes and ears . That's more than I could ask for given the circumstances . " Zi Yuan jiějie shook her head . "You were completely in the dark when you went in, yet you still managed to gather a significant amount of useful intel . "
"What do you think is going here, Zi Yuan jiějie?" Ruan Hongling sighed . "I must confess that I'm stumped . I honestly have no idea what to make of any of this . "
Zi Yuan jiějie was silent for a moment .
"The Great Six's ignorance regarding Bahuang no doubt strikes you as peculiar?"
Ruan Hongling nodded slowly . "Mo Ahshi is their spy . Why didn't she say anything?"
Zi Yuan jiějie chuckled humorlessly . "That would cease to be a mystery if you consider the possibility that Mo Ahshi wants the sword for herself . "
Anger rose inside Ruan Hongling . "But that's . . . "
That sword wasn't hers to claim!
Ruan Hongling took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down . They didn't need another tirade from Ruan Hongling right now .
Zi Yuan jiějie rose from the couch . "This is bad, Hongling . " Zi Yuan jiějie started pacing again . "Wushuang-qiánbèi's missing status is very concerning . "
Ruan Hongling stared at Zi Yuan jiějie for a moment . "Maybe . . . Maybe Ao Wushuang really did leave, but not because she was a coward . Maybe she left the Fox Zen School for some other reason?"
Zi Yuan jiějie shook her head . "Unlikely . "
Ruan Hongling frowned . "How so?"
"She would've contacted me if she really left the Fox Zen School . " Zi Yuan jiějie raised a brow . "Don't you think she would be interested in knowing the Heir's progress?"
A sinking sensation formed at the pit of Ruan Hongling's stomach . "So you're saying . . . "
"Yes . I fear that something untoward has happened to Wushuang-qiánbèi . "
Ruan Hongling remembered Zhang Tianhé's exact words back at the guesthouse: she has already been taken care of .
"And Su Chan's life is in grave danger . " Zi Yuan jiějie suddenly stopped pacing . "Assuming the poor girl isn't dead already . "
Ruan Hongling's stomach twisted into knots .
Zi Yuan jiějie was right . Su Chan's life was in danger . The other night, Mo Ahshi managed to track down Li Yundong before attacking him . And Zi Yuan jiějie's had hypothesized that Mo Ahshi had intercepted the paper crane Su Chan had sent out to Li Yundong . In other words, Su Chan was already on Mo Ahshi's hit list because of the paper crane .
"So I was right," Ruan Hongling said, stealing a glance at her shījiě .
Zi Yuan jiějie was now standing in front of the sliding door, staring out into the darkness .
Ruan Hongling rose from the couch slowly . "Mo Ahshi attacked Li Yundong because she wants to take out Ao Wushuang's ally . "
"No . "
"No?" Ruan Hongling blinked a few times . "You think there's some other reason behind Mo Ahshi's attack on the Heir?" Ruan Hongling slowly approached the sliding door .
Zi Yuan jiějie didn't turn around to face her . "What else was involved during the attack?"
What else was involved—
Ruan Hongling's blood ran cold .
"L- Liuhe . . . " Ruan Hongling found herself whispering .
Zi Yuan jiějie turned away from the sliding door and gave her a grim nod . "I suspect that Mo Ahshi only attacked the Heir because she saw him wielding Liuhe . "
"Wait, wait, wait . . . Shījiě . . . wait . . . " Ruan Hongling shook her head a few times . "I . . . I'm a little confused here . "
"Think, Hongling . Put yourself in Mo Ahshi's shoes . " There was a pause . "Why would she attack Li Yundong just because she thought Li Yundong was Ao Wushuang's ally? She could've just intercepted the crane and then leave it at that . That way, Li Yundong would be left with no means of communicating with Ao Wushuang . " There was another pause . "Attacking Li Yundong is actually counterproductive to Mo Ahshi's goals if you think about it . "
Something clicked inside Ruan Hongling's mind . "Because it might tip Li Yundong off…"
"Exactly . " Zi Yuan jiějie nodded . "What if, Li Yundong managed to figure out after the attack that his communication channel with Ao Wushuang was compromised? What if Li Yundong decided to speed up his plans because of that?" Zi Yuan jiějie's eyes darted to Ruan Hongling's face . "And let's not forget that Mo Ahshi was using her signature weapon that night . " Zi Yuan jiějie paused as though to let her words sink in . "If I were Mo Ahshi, I would certainly think twice about using the hairpin to attack Li Yundong . I would've been wary, and cautious . It would've crossed my mind that perhaps Su Chan and Ao Wushuang had passed on enough intel to Li Yundong during their communications prior to my intercepting their crane . What if Li Yundong is able to identify the hairpin based on that intel? These factors alone would suffice to dissuade me from attacking Li Yundong . "
Ruan Hongling shook her head in confusion . "Then how do you explain the attack, Zi Yuan jiějie? Just because she saw Liuhe?"
Zi Yuan jiějie hummed . "Here's what I think happened . " There was a pause . "Mo Ahshi must've intercepted the paper crane a day or two prior to the attack . The paper crane knew Li Yundong's address, so it was easy to figure out which city Li Yundong was in and where he was staying . Initially, she must've sent the hairpin to Tiannan City to spy on Li Yundong . But . . . " Zi Yuan jiějie paused to look at Ruan Hongling . "I'm confident that she didn't come to the apartment . "
Ruan Hongling frowned . "What makes you so sure?"
"I spent a lot of time at the apartment, remember? I would've noticed something amiss if she were there poking around . "
"But . . . if her intent was to spy on Li Yundong, isn't it better to observe him when he's at home?"
"You forgot something else, Hongling . An experienced Cultivator will always be wary of another Cultivator's home . There could be traps lying around . Protective spells . Talismans . Things like that . " Zi Yuan jiějie shook her head . "No . Mo Ahshi is too smart and too experienced to make that mistake . "
Agreed . A Cultivator could easily lose his or her magical weapons to one of those traps .
"Besides, the hairpin can't be used in the same way you use long-range surveillance spells, like the Observer Cloud," Zi Yuan jiějie continued . "It can only spy from up-close . "
"But Tiannan University?" Ruan Hongling frowned . "How on earth did Mo Ahshi think to look there?"
"Good question," Zi Yuan jiějie said . "But I'm afraid we can only rely on conjecture to answer that . " There was a brief pause . "It isn't unreasonable to assume that something inside Su Chan's note has led Mo Ahshi to believe that the Heir is a student of Tiannan University . " There was a dark chuckle . "And I bet Mo Ahshi found out about the freshmen's welcoming party while she was poking around the university . The event was the perfect opportunity for Mo Ahshi to observe Li Yundong from the shadows…" Zi Yuan jiějie sighed . "Though I must confess that I remain uncertain as to what Mo Ahshi was hoping to learn from her attempt to spy on Li Yundong . Maybe she wanted to learn more about his abilities? Perhaps she planned to find out if Ao Wushuang had other allies aside from Li Yundong? The possibilities are endless…" Zi Yuan jiějie shook her head . "Regardless, Mo Ahshi knew that Li Yundong would be there at the event . And Li Yundong's popularity amongst the students definitely didn't help matters . Any one of those students could've mentioned something about his involvement in the stage play . "
Ruan Hongling nodded a few times . "And she wouldn't have to worry about traps since the university is a public place . "
Zi Yuan jiějie hummed in agreement .
"So was watching him at first," Ruan Hongling said . "But then Li Yundong showed up onstage wielding Liuhe . " Ruan Hongling looked towards Zi Yuan jiějie . "That was when she decided to attack . "
"Makes sense, doesn't it?" Zi Yuan jiějie arched a brow . "We already suspect that Mo Ahshi is trying to get her hands on Bahuang . So it isn't unreasonable to think that she would jump at the chance to grab Liuhe as well . Surely you know what will happen when Liuhe and Bahuang come together . "
Ruan Hongling nodded . Liuhe and Bahuang came in pairs . When brought together, they could be combined to form an even more powerful sword .
"You acted wisely by keeping the Fan of Seven Treasures hidden that night," Zi Yuan jiějie said . "Who knows what she else would've done if she found out about the Fan of Seven Treasures too . "
"Mm," Ruan Hongling mumbled .
"Greed," Zi Yuan jiějie said . "Greed drove her to attack Li Yundong that night . " Zi Yuan jiějie shifted until she was facing Ruan Hongling directly . "Did you notice the way Liuhe react to Li Yundong's touch?"
"Yeah . "
Zi Yuan jiějie nodded and turned away . "I'm willing to bet that Mo Ahshi was planning to take Liuhe away before Li Yundong could claim it as his . "
Silence spread between them .
"What should we do now, Zi Yuan jiějie?" Ruan Hongling sighed . "The Great Six is expecting you to make an appearance soon . "
Zi Yuan jiějie turned and raised a brow . "Is that so?"
A bitter taste formed inside Ruan Hongling's mouth . "Zhang Tianhé Zhenren from the main sect has personally requested your participation in the battle . "
Zi Yuan jiějie remained silent .
"Ugh…" Ruan Hongling ran both hands through her hair . "This is such a mess . The only reason we still have a sect is because of you, Zi Yuan jiějie . But if we try to help Su Chan now, they'll think we're in cahoots with the Fox Zen School . That'll just give them the perfect excuse to shut us down . " Ruan Hongling sighed . "What in Tao's name are we supposed to do here? We have to help Su Chan, but we also have to fulfill our obligations to the main sect…"
"Simple . "
Ruan Hongling released the ends of her hair and stared at her mentor .
"We'll just do both at the same time," said Zi Yuan jiějie .
"Both at the sa—" Ruan Hongling's jaw went slack . "But we can't do that!"
"Can't we?" Zi Yuan jiějie arched a brow .
Ruan Hongling blinked a few times . "Y- You have a plan?"
Zi Yuan jiějie nodded . "Yes, I do . "
"What?!" Ruan Hongling gaped . "Y-You want us to go undercover?"
Zi Yuan jiějie gave her a strange look . "Why, yes, Hongling . That's the perfect solution to the conundrum we're facing . "
Okay . That was true . But still . An undercover operation! Espionage! Against the members of the Great Six, no less!
"We need to be there for appearances' sake anyway," Zi Yuan jiějie continued . "So we might as well capitalize on the situation and do something useful while we're there . " Zi Yuan jiějie's lips curved into a smirk . "All this while, we needed a way into the Fox Zen School, didn't we? And now we have it . Our opportunity has presented itself . " Her smirk widened . "This will solve all of our problems, Hongling . Trust me . "
Ruan Hongling took several calming breaths . This was new and, if she was being honest, kind of thrilling . She had never been on an undercover mission before . Her tasks usually involved surveillance, information gathering, message delivery, and package delivery . Basically, nothing covert . Ruan Hongling highly suspected that this had to a lot to do with her rather . . . um . . . loud, personality . Zi Yuan jiějie did raise her after all, so she probably knew that espionage wasn't Ruan Hongling's strong suit . It fact, it might very well be the bane of Ruan Hongling existence .
Which was why Zi Yuan jiejie's suggestion came as such a shock .
"Okay . . . " Ruan Hongling said as she slowly accustomed herself to the idea that she might have to step out of her comfort zone this time . "So . . . " She looked towards her mentor . "We go there, pretend that we're part of the assault . . . and then what?"
Zi Yuan jiějie kept staring out of the sliding door wordlessly . Ruan Hongling was starting to think that Zi Yuan jiějie hadn't heard her question at all .
"Come . " Zi Yuan jiějie turned away from the sliding door and began walking back towards the couch . Ruan Hongling followed her mentor obediently .
"First," Zi Yuan jiějie began once they had both sat down, "let's make our mission objectives clear . "
Ruan Hongling nodded .
"Good . We have two primary objectives here . " Zi Yuan jiějie raised a finger . "The first is to find out about Su Chan and Wushuang-qiánbèi . And the second . . . " Zi Yuan jiějie quirked a brow . "I think you already know what the second objective is . "
Ruan Hongling nodded firmly . The second objective was to prevent Mo Ahshi from getting her dirty hands on Bahuang . The mere thought of Mo Ahshi wielding the sword made Ruan Hongling's blood boil . How dare that woman!
Ruan Hongling's angry thoughts ended the moment she felt Zi Yuan jiějie's body heat against her side . Surprised, Ruan Hongling glanced sideways . Zi Yuan jiějie was now leaning against Ruan Hongling . Zi Yuan jiějie's eyes were closed, and she was massaging her temples .
"Are you alright, Zi Yuan jiějie?"
Her shījiě sighed tiredly . "I'm fine . . . Just . . . Just a little worn out, that's all . "
Ruan Hongling's heart went out to her shījiě . As far as Ruan Hongling could tell, the Heir's training had lasted an entire week . Had Zi Yuan jiějie found time to rest or meditate at all during that period? Or had she been keeping vigil the whole time?
There was a soft sigh . The weight and heat of Zi Yuan jiějie's body vanished from Ruan Hongling's side shortly after that .
"We can also try to find out what happened to shībó nine years ago," Zi Yuan jiějie cleared her throat . "I mean while we're undercover . "
Ruan Hongling studied her shījiě's profile . She would be lying if she said that she wasn't interested in knowing what happened to shībó .
"We shouldn't get our hopes up though," Zi Yuan jiějie said moments later . "I highly doubt we'd be able to find out much . We're undercover after all . We have to play our parts and act like we're trying to destroy the Fox Zen School, not snooping around . "
It was then that something occurred to Ruan Hongling .
"But Zi Yuan jiějie . . . Isn't our cover already blown?"
Ruan Hongling shook her mentor's arm . "You were defending Li Yundong that night, right? Wouldn't Mo Ahshi have known by now that you and Li Yundong are allies?"
"Indeed, you have raised an important issue . " Zi Yuan jiějie smiled . "However, that won't be a problem . "
Ruan Hongling's puzzlement must have shown on her face because Zi Yuan jiějie suddenly chuckled .
"Mo Ahshi and I have never actually met each other before the night of the attack . " Zi Yuan jiějie shrugged . "For all she knew, the woman she saw defending Li Yundong that night could be any Cultivator, not Zi Yuan Zhenren of the Linggong Sect . "
"Oh . "
"And also . . . " A purple ribbon slithered out from under Zi Yuan jiějie's sleeves . "I never had course to use this until that night . So we don't have to worry about her figuring out my identity through this weapon . " Zi Yuan jiějie ran her hand through the ribbon and smiled at Ruan Hongling . "No one other than you and Master knows about this ribbon . "
"Well, the Heir knows too," Ruan Hongling mumbled .
Zi Yuan jiějie smiled . "And the Heir . "
"But what if you show up at the Fox Zen School and Mo Ahshi recognizes you then?"
"A reasonable concern . " Zi Yuan jiějie nodded . "I'm still working on that part, actually . Although . . . " The tiniest of smirks formed on Zi Yuan jiějie's lips . "We do have an advantage . "
The confidence in Zi Yuan jiějie's tone stirred up a new wave of confusion inside Ruan Hongling . The way Ruan Hongling saw it, nothing in this situation was in their favor . If anything, it was the opposite . The Linggong Sect was facing a crisis, a conundrum .
Intrigued, Ruan Hongling stared at her shījiě, hoping that her shījiě would shed some light upon the matter and free her from her apparent ignorance .
Zi Yuan jiějie smiled . "I think we can pull it off as long as we play our cards right . "
The penny dropped .
"The play!" Ruan Hongling was pretty sure she was grinning like an idiot right now, but she didn't care . "You were wearing a costume, a wig, and—"
"And heavy makeup, yes," Zi Yuan jiějie said, her smirk growing even wider . "All I have to do is dress up or wear my makeup differently when we show up . " One of Zi Yuan jiějie's brows rose . "I might not even have to do anything at all . " The corners of Zi Yuan jiějie's lips quirked . "Zhao Ling'er has a completely different hairstyle . "
Ruan Hongling burst into giggles . "See? I told you it was a good idea to participate in the play!"
A second later, Ruan Hongling felt a dig on her right side . Ruan Hongling turned and noticed Zi Yuan jiějie's playful glare .
Ruan Hongling stuck out her tongue and crossed her eyes . Somehow, that childish gesture drew a hearty laugh out of Zi Yuan jiějie, and Ruan Hongling found herself cheering inwardly .
She had just made Zi Yuan jiějie laugh . She would count that as a win .
"Shījiě . . . Do you think . . . " Ruan Hongling stole a glance at her mentor . "Do you think that Su Chan is still alive?"
Zi Yuan jiějie didn't reply .
"What about . . . What about Ao Wushuang?"
Zi Yuan jiějie sighed . "I don't know, Hongling . " She shook her head . "I don't know . " A grim line formed on her lips . "That is why it is crucial for us to be on the inside . " Zi Yuan jiějie sent her a pointed look . "So that we can find out more . "
"Shījiě…" Ruan Hongling's stomach tightened . "If . . . If Ao Wushuang's gone, then . . . "
"Then Mo Ahshi likely has Bahuang already," Zi Yuan jiějie said .
This sucked . This totally sucked .
Ruan Hongling felt like throwing up .
"How . . . How do you supposed it happened, Zi Yuan jiějie?" Ruan Hongling shook her head . "I mean . . . It's Ao Wushuang . "
"Underhanded trickery, no doubt," Zi Yuan jiějie said in a tone of disdain . "An ambush, perhaps . Drugs? A sneak attack when the other is in deep meditative state?" Zi Yuan jiějie shook her head grimly . "There are so many ways a person can die by the hands of someone they trust . "
Ruan Hongling lowered her gaze and studied her lap, suddenly overwhelmed by the weight of Zi Yuan jiějie's words . Guilt rose to her chest, suffocating her, burying her under an endless pile of shame .
Trust . All these years, Zi Yuan jiějie had shown nothing but complete trust in her . And yet Ruan Hongling had repaid that trust by hurling hurtful words at Zi Yuan jiějie .
"I've told you many times, Hongling . "
Ruan Hongling looked up from her lap .
"There are other factors aside from power and spell mastery that will affect the final outcome of a battle . " Zi Yuan jiějie shook her head . "No matter how powerful we are, things could go horribly wrong if we aren't cautious . And there are many, many ways for that to happen . "
Ruan Hongling kept quiet . The truth was that she'd already learned that lesson the hard way when the Heir stole her damask from her .
"Regardless, we won't know more unless we're there at the Fox Zen School . " Zi Yuan jiějie smiled . "So until then, let's stay positive, okay?"
Ruan Hongling nodded . Zi Yuan jiějie was right . Ao Wushuang was formidable after all; Master wouldn't have given Bahuang to her otherwise . Right . As if Master would give Bahuang to some weakling who couldn't protect the sword . He might as well give away the sword for free if he did that .
Indeed, there was a chance that Ao Wushuang was still alive . Maybe she managed to hide Bahuang? Maybe she gave Bahuang to Su Chan and then Su Chan went into hiding with the sword? That was plausible, wasn't it? After all, Su Chan was an expert in stealth . The girl had managed to elude even Zi Yuan jiějie that night when they were chasing her, which was impressive to say the least .
Maybe Su Chan managed to get away?
There was a chuckle . Piqued, Ruan Hongling looked towards her shījiě, who now had a smile on her face . "All is not lost, Hongling . " Zi Yuan jiějie's eyes shone with confidence and optimism . "Because we have something else in our favor . "
Ruan Hongling found herself holding her breath, eagerly awaiting her shījiě's next words .
"The Jindan's whereabouts, Hongling . " Zi Yuan jiějie raised a brow . "Surely they needed Wushuang-qiánbèi alive if they want to find out where the Jindan is . " A sly grin spread across Zi Yuan jiějie's face . "Isn't that why the Great Six is attacking the Fox Zen School in the first place?"
Ruan Hongling burst into giggles at that . The so-called Great Six had no idea that they had all been hoodwinked .
"Oh it is a little funny, isn't it? Seeing how ignorant the members of the Great Six truly are . " Zi Yuan jiějie laughed . "None of them had a clue that the Jindan has already been consumed . They must think that Wushuang-qiánbèi had hidden the Jindan away . There's still hope . We still have a chance to help them . "
"But Zi Yuan jiějie . . . " Ruan Hongling shook her mentor's arm . "Even if we found out where Su Chan is later, how are we supposed to save her? We have to maintain our cover, right?"
Zi Yuan jiějie chuckled . "Of course we won't be the ones who doing the saving, silly . " Zi Yuan jiějie smirked . "That's the Heir's job . "
"What—" Ruan Hongling gaped at her mentor . Moments later, she snapped out of her stupor and began shaking her shījiě's arm . "But is that wise?" Leaning closer, Ruan Hongling lowered her voice into a whisper . "What if the Great Six finds out that he has the Jindan?"
"I've already taught him how to hide the aura, so it's fine . "
"But is he ready?" Ruan Hongling tightened her grip on Zi Yuan jiějie's arm . "Last time I checked, there was a mini army of powerful Cultivators at the guesthouse! What if the Heir shows up and those guys think he's with the Fox Zen School? They'll all attack him!"
"Powerful Cultivators, you say?" Zi Yuan jiějie quirked a brow . "Were any of the senior members there?"
Ruan Hongling pulled back slightly . "No, but still—"
"Then it isn't going to be a problem . " Zi Yuan jiějie patted Ruan Hongling's hand a few times .
"Y- You think so?"
Zi Yuan jiějie chuckled . "I don't just think so, Hongling . I know so . " Zi Yuan jiějie smirked . "The Heir could probably wipe the floor with them using hand-to-hand combat alone . "
Ruan Hongling's hands fell limply from Zi Yuan jiějie's arm . "W- Wipe the floor with…"
Maybe Zi Yuan jiějie had hit her head or something . Sure, the Heir was a genius and all that . But to defeat an entire army of powerful Cultivators? That was too much!
Silence spread between them .
"Since when are you so concerned about the Heir's well-being, hmm? Hongling?"
Ruan Hongling's jaw clicked shut .
"I- I was just…"
Zi Yuan jiějie laughed heartily .
"S- Stop laughing already," Ruan Hongling mumbled with a pout .
"Well… You need not worry about the Heir, Hongling," Zi Yuan jiějie said once she had stopped laughing . "We're talking about a man who has recently been exposed to countless bolts of Heavenly Thunder, both in real life and the simulation . " There was a pregnant pause . "Even I felt a significant increase in my spiritual energy, and I was only exposed to a few bolts . "
Ruan Hongling stared at her mentor, too stunned to speak .
Zi Yuan jiějie smiled . "The Heir can handle himself . "
Ruan Hongling nodded weakly and began to mull over their upcoming undertaking .
After a while, Ruan Hongling let out a long sigh . "So let me get this straight . " Ruan Hongling turned slightly and gave Zi Yuan jiějie an incredulous look . "Our job is to plant ourselves within the Great Six and then essentially act as double agents, restore the goodwill between the Linggong Sect and the main sect, find out what Mo Ahshi is up to, gather intel about Su Chan and Ao Wushuang, feed said intel to the Heir, save Bahuang, engage in battle with a bunch of angry fox spirits, keep an eye on the Heir to ensure that the Jindan remains hidden, and then gather news about Yan-shībó?"
The subtlest of smirks graced Zi Yuan jiějie's lips . "Pretty much . "
Ruan Hongling gaped . "This is crazy, Zi Yuan jiějie . . . Like . . . Insane . "
Zi Yuan jiějie chuckled . "Fun fact, Hongling . Things have been crazy ever since the Heir came into our lives . "
Ruan Hongling shook her head in disbelief .
Insane . Completely, and irrevocably nuts .Crisis
Bed . Pillow . Ceiling . Hello Kitty piggy bank . Home . A soft sigh made its way past Li Yundong's smiling lips as he drifted into wakefulness .
I made it, Chan'er . I kept my promise to you…
Grinning, Li Yundong got out of bed and stretched his arms above his head . The piggy bank clinked as it rolled on the mattress . Affection bloomed inside Li Yundong's chest . Lowering his arms, he picked up the piggy bank and studied its shiny surface, wondering how Su Chan would react if he brought the piggy bank along to their long-awaited reunion . What was it that Su Chan had always called the piggy bank again?
Hello Keedee .
Li Yundong brought the piggy bank towards his desk and set it down . Then, he walked out of his bedroom feeling more light-hearted than ever . At the living room, he stopped beside the couch, glancing around until he located the Fan of Seven Treasures lying on the coffee table . Sunlight trickled in from the balcony, showering the apartment with warmth . Scattered across the floor were the remnants of his (and Zi Yuan's) last-ditch effort from the previous night . He had come so close, in both sense of the word: so close to succeeding; and so close to dying .
A wave of sadness crept into his chest .
The woman had saved his ass again . And in doing so, she had lost not only the jade plate, but another one of her magical object as well—some kind of strange mirror whose function he knew nothing about . Zi Yuan had told him repeatedly not to worry about her sacrifices and to respect the choice that she had willingly made . He did respect her choice, and he sincerely appreciated her sacrifices .
Li Yundong shook off his negativity and forced himself to focus on the good that resulted from this whole ordeal: friendship; loyalty; trust; personal growth; and respect .
Indeed, Zi Yuan had now become a valued friend and a trusted ally .
And he would repay her . So help him God he would repay her . And thanks to Zi Yuan finally opening up to him about the reason she was helping him, he now knew how he could do that: he would take Wang Yuanshan's word for it and do everything in his power to help Zi Yuan achieve transcendence .
A loud buzzing made him look down . His phone was vibrating against the coffee table . Zi Yuan must've left it there when she brought him back last night . The caller ID surprised him a little . Bending down, he picked up the phone and answered the call .
"Good morning, Zhou Qin . How are you?"
For a few seconds, the sounds of breathing was all he could hear .
"Hello?" Li Yundong frowned . "Zhou Qin? Are you there—"
"Can we meet?"
Li Yundong's eyes narrowed . Why did she sound so breathless?
"Uh, sure," he said carefully . "Campus?"
"Y-Yeah, okay…" There was a pause . "Campus… Campus sounds fine . "
"Hey, Zhou Qin… Are you alright? You sound a little—"
The call ended with a loud click .
Li Yundong lowered the phone and stared at the screen for a moment . She just hung up on him . What the hell was that?
He tried calling again, but Zhou Qin had shut off her phone .
Seriously, what the hell?
Li Yundong sighed and pocketed his phone . For a moment, he considered calling Feng Na or Cheng Cheng to check her, but then thought better of it .
It was obvious that something was wrong, and at the moment, Li Yundong could only come up with three possibilities . One, her legs were acting up again . Two, perhaps she had a fight with Uncle Zhou and needed some advice, though he didn't understand why she couldn't just tell him over the phone . The third possibility was decidedly the worst: the Hé family was giving her trouble again .
Li Yundong grabbed his backpack from the couch, then moved towards the coffee table to grab the Fan of Seven Treasures . Once the fan was secured inside his backpack, he left the apartment in a hurry .
He would have to get in touch with Zi Yuan later to find out where the Fox Zen School was . But he had to make sure that Zhou Qin was alright first .
The journey to campus took him twenty minutes, since he couldn't fly during the day . As he walked past the gates, he called Zhou Qin's phone again . Alas, her phone was still turned off, so he had no idea where they should meet .
Li Yundong went to the cafeteria first, since it was the most logical place to have a social meeting .
Zhou Qin wasn't there .
Geez . Couldn't she at least set a meeting place before hanging up?
With a sigh, he pulled out his phone to check for any text messages . Perhaps she had decided to text him the meeting place .
No new messages .
Frowning, he pulled up his contact lists and scrolled through it, wondering whom he should call . His fingers paused when he saw Ding Nan's name .
Nah . . .
They had another falling out the other night . Why would she know where Zhou Qin was?
In the end, Li Yundong decided to call Feng Na . Needless to say, Feng Na was her usual bubbly self .
"Yo, Li Yundong! I haven't seen you in almost a week! Where the heck have you been?"
"Morning, Prez . Hey, um… Have you seen Zhou Qin today?"
"Err… No . No, I haven't," Feng Na said . "Not today… Oh, guess what! She's been back for a week, you know? And she's moving without the wheelchair! Isn't that great?"
Yes, that was great . Super great . And it would be even better if she wasn't acting so weird .
"Can you help me ask around? See if any of your friends have seen her today?" Li Yundong shook his head . "This is urgent . "
There was a long pause .
"Hey… Is something the matter?"
"I just…" Li Yundong sighed . "She called just now and asked me to meet her in campus, but she didn't say where . "
"Hmm… That's a little odd," said Feng Na .
"Yeah? Tell me about it," he muttered under his breath .
"Well, I did see her yesterday," Feng Na said . "She was… I don't know, she seemed a little down, I guess? Cheng Cheng and I asked her to join us for lunch, but she declined . " There was a pause . "I think she left the campus after that . "
"She seemed down, you say?" Li Yundong frowned .
"Yeah . "
"Did she seem… stressed out?"
"Err… I wouldn't say stressed out?" Feng Na paused . "More like depressed . "
"Did any—" Li Yundong checked himself, wondering how much he should reveal to Feng Na about the Hé family .
"Hey, what is it?"
Li Yundong cleared his throat . "Did anyone come to talk to her recently?"
"You mean other students? Well, we don't attend the same lectures, so I don't really know . But she's popular, right? I'm sure she's talked to a lot of students since her return—"
"No . I don't mean other students . "
"Oh . "
He could tell that Feng Na was confused .
Li Yundong sighed . "Damn . How should I even put this? Um… Did anyone from outside the campus come to see her? Like… Men in suits?"
"Men in suits?"
"Yeah . Like…"
"Like powerful people, you mean?"
"I guess . "
"Hmm…" Feng Na grew quiet for a few seconds . "The only person that fit the men-in-suits criteria is her dad . " There was another pause . "On the first day of her return, Cheng Cheng and I walked her out after class . Her dad was there to pick her up . "
"And that's it?"
"Yeah . " Feng Na paused . "Why are you asking all this? Is everything alright?"
"Oh, no . Everything's fine," Li Yundong said in a faux cheery tone, which probably wasn't fooling Feng Na at all . "Just… Just give me a call if you see her, okay?"
"Um… Okay, sure . I'll ask Cheng Cheng and my other friends if they've seen her . "
"Thanks, Prez! I owe you one . "
He hung up and made his way towards the cafeteria's exit . On the way towards the academic building, he took a detour and headed towards the copse of trees near the academic building . It was worth a try considering he once had a private meeting with Zhou Qin inside the gazebo .
The gazebo was empty when he arrived .
"Damn it . " Li Yundong glanced up at the sky . "She isn't here . "
He pulled out his phone and checked for any new messages . There was only one message, but it was from Feng Na, not Zhou Qin:
Asked Cheng Cheng . Didn't see her today either . Still waiting for my other friends to reply . Good luck in your search .
Li Yundong flicked a quick thank-you text and pocketed his phone again .
At the ground floor of the academic building, he ran into a guy from his class .
"Yo! Li Yundong! Haven't seen you in a week, man! How have you been? Oh, and nice performance the other—"
"Listen, have you seen Zhou Qin?"
The guy beamed . "Oh yeah, I did! Saw her when she came back last week! She—"
"No . " Li Yundong raised of his hand to silence the guy . "I mean today . Have you seen her today?"
The guy shook his head . "Er… No . I haven't seen her today . "
Li Yundong's heart sank .
"But a buddy of mine did . "
Li Yundong's gaze snapped up . "Where?"
"My buddy ran into her at the staircase leading to the rooftop," said the guy . "My buddy was coming down from the stairs, but she was walking up . So I'm guessing she's at the rooftop?"
The rooftop .
Li Yundong's blood ran cold . He stepped forward and grabbed the guy's shoulder . "When was this?"
"Um…" The guy frowned . "A while ago? Sorry, man . I can't really tell you the exact time . "
Li Yundong released the poor guy's shoulder and moved away . "Thanks . "
"Err… You're welcome?"
Li Yundong ran up the staircase as fast as he could . The door leading to the rooftop was closed . Li Yundong ran up the remaining flight of stairs and reached for the door knob .
During his cab ride to campus, he had assumed that the first thing he would feel when he saw Zhou Qin was relief . As it turned out, he was wrong . Dead wrong .
Because the moment he pushed open the door, he saw Zhou Qin standing right on top of the rooftop's ledge .
Li Yundong did the first thing that came to mind: he sprang forward and launched his Zhenqi towards Zhou Qin's figure .
When he heard Zhou Qin's loud yelp, he knew that his Qi Kinesis had found its target . He pulled his Zhenqi towards his body and pumped his legs harder . A second later, Zhou Qin's figure crashed into his chest .
Li Yundong lowered his stance to steady them both .
"What the hell is the matter with you?!" Li Yundong yelled . "Are you out of your damn mind?!"
Zhou Qin stared up at him with glassy eyes, her lips trembling .
"Goddamn it, Zhou Qin!" Li Yundong ran a hand through his hair . "After everything you've been through, you still want to throw your life away?!" Li Yundong swung his arm in a wide arc . "Open your eyes and look at yourself! You've recovered! You're standing and walking again! You're healed! Don't you know how lucky you are?"
"Y- You thought I was going to jump…" Zhou Qin whispered .
Li Yundong stared at the girl . Is she for real? Seriously?
"What the hell was I supposed to think?!" Li Yundong pointed a finger towards the ledge . "You were depressed . And you were standing right there, looking like you were about to jump!"
A smile pulled across Zhou Qin's lips . "Y- You were worried about me?"
Li Yundong felt a sudden urge to reach over and shake some sense into the girl .
"Of course I was worried! This is the seventh floor! What happens if your head hits the ground first—"
"Do you love me?"
"I said…" Zhou Qin sighed and rose to her feet . Once she was up, she walked over until she was standing directly in front of him . Then, she bit her lip and glanced up at him from under her lashes . "Do you love me?"
So it was finally here, the inevitable talk .
Li Yundong sighed . "Look, Zhou Qin…"
"Please just…" Zhou Qin grabbed his hand . "Please just tell me the truth . " She raised her head and looked straight into his eyes . "Do you love me?"
Li Yundong shook his head . "No . "
He could see the look of resignation gathering in Zhou Qin's eyes right then, along with the tears that she had no doubt been holding back .
A drop of tear slid down Zhou Qin's cheek, and she sniffed .
"Zhou Qin… Look, I'm sorry, okay? I just—"
Zhou Qin clamped her hand over his mouth .
"Please, don’t . " Tears swam in Zhou Qin's pleading eyes . "Please don't say anything . "
Resigned, Li Yundong nodded, and Zhou Qin removed her hand from his lips then . Moments passed in silence . From the corner of his eye, he saw Zhou Qin drying her tears and taking in deep breaths .
A minute or so passed before Zhou Qin returned to stand in front of him . She had stopped crying now, and she seemed calm .
"I… I know you love Su Chan . " Zhou Qin gave him a sad smile . "I can see it . I can see how much you love her . And I…" Zhou Qin cleared her throat . "I have no intention of coming between the two of you . " Zhou Qin held his gaze . "Truly, I don't . You two are happy together, and I can see that . "
Li Yundong continued to stare at Zhou Qin without saying a single word . He had no idea that his skepticism had shown on his face until he heard Zhou Qin's next words .
"I care about her too, you know?" Zhou Qin gave him another sad smile . "Su Chan . I care about her too . And… And I know how much she loves you . So no, I won't try to ruin things between you two . "
This sucked . This legitimately sucked .
Li Yundong sighed . "Zhou Qin…"
"Shh!" Zhou Qin raised her finger . "Just… I need to say this . "
Li Yundong nodded for her to go on .
"I only have one request . "
"Name it," Li Yundong said .
"Don't cut me out of your life . "
"What?" Li Yundong frowned . "Of course I'm not going to cut you out of my life . You're my friend—"
"I don't want to be just your friend," Zhou Qin said .
Li Yundong stared at her for a few seconds, then shook his head tiredly . "Then what are you saying?"
"Take me as your disciple . "
Li Yundong's head shot up . Zhou Qin's expression was dead serious . Not that the idea hadn't crossed his mind before . He'd already decided to teach Zhou Qin the basics of Cultivation one way or another . He just didn't expect Zhou Qin to be the one to bring it up .
Zhou Qin sighed . "After witnessing what happened at the performance, the things you did…" She stole a glance at his face, then sighed again . "I spent some time researching you . "
Li Yundong raised a brow . "Research?"
Zhou Qin nodded . "Like… The terminologies that you and Zi Yuan often used . All that Qi-control things that you talked about back at the hospital . I researched them all . "
Zhou Qin sighed and began moving towards the edge of the rooftop . Alarmed, Li Yundong reached out and seized her arm .
Zhou Qin turned his head and smiled at him . "Relax . I'm not going to jump . "
Li Yundong eyed her suspiciously until Zhou Qin rolled her eyes and turned back around .
"I know that you and Zi Yuan have powers," Zhou Qin said when she was standing in front of him again . "Well . That much is obvious . What I'm saying is that I know that you're Cultivators . "
Li Yundong gave her a resigned smile .
"Will you accept me as your disciple?" Zhou Qin gazed at him hopefully .
"Sure . " Li Yundong gave her a stern look . "But on one condition . "
Zhou Qin kept staring at him, clearly waiting for him to state his condition .
"You never ever try to kill yourself again," Li Yundong said firmly . "Ever . Do you understand?"
Zhou Qin nodded .
"Good . " Li Yundong sighed . "Life is precious, okay? Don't throw your life away . Just don't . "
He knew just how precious life was . He nearly lost his last night despite how hard he had fought . So he knew .
"I swear I will never try to take my own life again," Zhou Qin said .
Li Yundong nodded . "Then, yes . I accept you as my disciple . "
"Thank you, Master . "
Li Yundong flopped onto the couch unceremoniously, not caring at all that his backpack was slipping off the edge of the cushion . A soft thud sounded a second later . His backpack had fallen off .
While the apartment was silent, Li Yundong's mind was far from silent . No matter what he did, his mind kept replaying his conversation with Zhou Qin on the rooftop . To be honest, he still didn't know what to feel about everything . All he knew was that he needed to maintain some sort of distance between them starting from now .
A strange, yet oddly familiar noise broke the silence . Li Yundong sat up on the couch and looked towards the balcony . He squinted .
Hey… Isn't that…
Li Yundong sprang to his feet and pushed away from the couch . Before he could even reach the sliding door, a paper crane flew into the living room . He halted his steps, and watched the paper crane circle above his head .
As he held out his hand, there was only one thought going through his mind . A name .
Chan'er, Chan'er, Chan'er…
The paper crane landed on his palm and began unfolding itself . Seconds later, Li Yundong found himself staring at a large piece of paper containing an all too familiar cursive .
Fox Zen School under siege . Come at once .
The Great Six looking to wipe out the Fox Zen School . Su Chan in danger .
Fox Zen School located somewhere inside Mount Tianlong . Precise location unknown . Might have to find the entrance on your own . Look for Taoist temple halfway to the summit .
Hongling and I are with the Great Six . Undercover . Will pretend to join the assault to gather intel from the inside .
Remember: We are on your side .
Ao Wushuang and Su Chan both missing—exact status unknown .
The Great Six has spies inside the Fox Zen School—Mo Ahshi is one of them .
Enemy is not in possession of Bahuang . The sword is still missing .
Mo Ahshi thinks you are Ao Wushuang's ally but has yet to reveal that information to the members of the Great Six .
Mo Ahshi is unaware that I was the one defending you that night when she attacked you .
Exact time of assault still undecided at the time of writing—most likely this evening .
Number of Cultivators joining the assault equivalent to a small army .
Our prelim investigation suggests:
Ao Wushuang most likely got captured .
Su Chan most likely alive and in hiding . Because enemy doesn't have Bahuang yet—we think Su Chan might've escaped with the sword when Ao Wushuang was captured .
Su Chan could still be hiding inside (or somewhere near) Mount Tianlong .
No evidence that she was captured, but still a possibility . Therefore, start search from Mount Tianlong . See where the clues lead you to .
Head of Fox Zen School most likely aware of the assault . That’s why you can't find entrance—concealment spell was activated . The Great Six's assault force will rely on Mo Ahshi's tip to locate the entrance .
Head of Fox Zen School ignorant of Mo Ahshi's betrayal .
Mo Ahshi has her own agendas—she has withheld important information from the Great Six . Exact agendas unknown, but stealing Bahuang is definitely one of them .
The Great Six's objective is to destroy the Fox Zen School . Exact motive unknown . But we suspect it has something to do with the Renyuan Jindan .
Things to beware of:
Mobilize Adolescent Yang Qi to Vital Orb: Mask Jindan's Aura at all times .
No flying . Traps in the sky + they might detect you . You have the element of surprise on your side; use it to your advantage .
Do not try to communicate with Hongling and I . Might break our cover . Not safe .
Don't bother with phones . Mountain = No signal . Your Eryue far more powerful compared to others . Keep it activated at all times . We will find ways to pass intel to you .
Top priority = rescue Su Chan . But if possible, take out as many enemies as you can . Less enemies, higher chance for Su Chan to survive .
Word regarding the assault has spread to Cultivation world . A lot of Cultivators from other schools outside the Great Six might show up . These are lowly Cultivators intent on pillage—Fox Zen School has lots of magical weapons and treasures hidden inside their vaults . Stay sharp, and trust no one other than me and Hongling . Keep a close eye on the Fan of Seven Treasures .
This is of the utmost importance . You must put everything else on hold and come at once . Hongling and I will be there, but we both need to maintain our covers . Our hands are tied, so you have to be the one to rescue Su Chan .
You will be walking into a warzone, so stay sharp . And remember, trust no one .
Once you've finished reading this message, channel your Zhenqi into the paper .
Good luck, and stay positive .
—Zi Yuan .
The paper burst into flames the moment Li Yundong's Zhenqi made contact with it . Li Yundong glared at the dancing ashes in front of his eyes .
Not my Chan'er, you brutes . Not my Chan'er .