Gu Xintang was thoroughly confused. He didn’t understand why Third Master Jing was so agitated. The third master was asking after something insignificant at best. An origin realm cultivator was hardly relevant in the grand scheme of things. Gu Xintang hadn’t even dealt with the matter himself. Instead, it had been delegated to subordinates. As an enforcer of the Bleakmoon Hall, he hardly needed to personally take care of the likes of ants.
“Why’re you asking all of a sudden, Third Master?” Gu Xintang couldn’t resist shooting back.
The third master was a bit white in the face. He snuck a glance at Jiang Chen to gauge the latter’s opinion. The young man furrowed his brow. “Captain Gu, what kind of place are the Sable Cells you speak of?”
“Where we keep our prisoners, of course,” Gu Xintang replied without thinking.
“So it’s possible for him to still be alive, after being tossed in there?” A ray of hope glimmered in Jiang Chen’s eyes.
Third Master Jing tried to look as expressively as he could at the captain. Unfortunately, Gu seemed to be immune to his efforts, and spoke honestly once more. “A dozen people die in that place every day,” he smiled apologetically. “Whether they live or die is up to them. Hardly anyone survives several months there. If they do manage to do that, then they’ll be able to stay there as long as they want. It’s a dog-eat-dog place, wild and barbaric.”
Jiang Chen’s expression darkened at that.
“Young master Shao, do you happen to be acquainted with him?” In the end, Gu Xintang was no fool. He could guess from Third Master Jing and Jiang Chen’s faces that something was up. The captain bore no fault in this situation. He’d only gone about his business as usual. Tossing the man into the dungeon instead of killing him outright was already a kind of mercy.
“Brother Gu, give it to me straight,” Third Master Jing sighed. “What’re the chances of him still being alive?”
“Quite low,” Gu Xintang replied truthfully.
“Can you go there right now and look for him? Consider it a heartfelt request. If this works out, I owe you big time.” Third Master Jing knew his way around social niceties. Seeing that Jiang Chen wasn’t in a position to ask what he dearly wanted to, he went straight for it instead.
Jiang Chen knew the third master was only putting on a show in a sense, but he nevertheless had to concede that he was being offered help. Regardless of how rude or despicable Third Master Jing had been in the past, he was currently being more than friendly. Jiang Chen didn’t have the stony heart necessary to retain his grudge.
Gu Xintang considered it a bit before nodding. “Third Master, that man touched upon the Moon God Sect’s taboo. He tried to gather information on Holy Maiden Xu Meng–something we expressly forbid, you understand. But since you’re asking me, I’ll do it for your sake. I’ll look into it right away. If he’s still alive, I’ll definitely bring him out.”
Gu Xintang wasn’t a slow man. He perceived situations well enough. If he refused right now, Third Master Jing would be most offended by the gesture. Not only the third master, but everyone else here as well. The others aside, he didn’t dare make an enemy out of Emperor Peerless. Once angered, a great emperor could annihilate him on the spot at the drop of a hat.
He was only a captain in the Bleakmoon Hall. It was dubious that the Moon God Sect would even attempt to avenge him. After all, they didn’t want to enter open hostilities with great emperors who were also wandering cultivators.
Third Master Jing hesitated a moment as a glint entered his eye. “Brother Gu,” he said, “there’s no one else here. I’m not going to try hiding anything from you. So, actually, can you bring Brother Shao and Senior Peerless with you?”
“Eh?” Gu Xintang blinked. Take outsiders into the Moon God Sect’s dungeons? That was something the sect expressly forbade. In that moment, he became somewhat suspicious of the group’s motives. Were they really here just for an origin realm cultivator? The dungeon didn’t have any other experts they’re interested in, did it? How could an origin realm cultivator be worth Emperor Peerless’s personal presence?
A long time elapsed in silence. Evidently, the contents of the request had shocked Gu Xintang severely. He wasn’t willing to agree without deliberation.
“Brother Gu, I’ve always respected your talent and ability,” Third Master Jing frowned. “Can you tell me why you’re still only a captain after all these years?”
Gu Xintang smiled wryly. “Third Master, I don’t have any foundation or backing in the sect. I’m happy enough to be a captain of my hall.”
“But you can do far more than that. What are you missing? Charisma or connections?” Third Master Jing’s tongue rang with the sound of silver. “If you want to be bold, now is the time. Here’s your big chance.”
Gu Xintang smiled wryly. He saw what the so-called ‘opportunity’ was. If he buttered up Emperor Peerless and made the emperor’s acquaintance, he served to profit greatly from the new connection. But it was easier said than done. There was the possibility of not finding the origin realm cultivator at all. And even if they did, Gu Xintang considered it much more likely for him to be dead than alive. Finding a corpse voided the favor. In fact, an undesirable conclusion was more likely to aggravate these people. His intuition told him that upsetting these people–great emperor, young man, and the rest–would bear serious consequences. The fact that he was of the Moon God Sect was irrelevant.
Jiang Chen took a deep breath. “Captain Gu, I know that you did only what your job demanded of you. There was nothing unfair about your conduct, and we really appreciate that you didn’t kill the person we’re looking for on the spot. It doesn’t matter whether he’s still dead or alive, we’ll owe you a favor as long as you take us to the cells.”
Emperor Peerless nodded as well. “Just like Third Master Jing said, you need to display your own charisma and boldness.”
Gu Xintang was a capable man. However, because he lacked solid backing from his higher-ups, he was often too circumspect in critical situations, not having the resolution or boldness to act decisively. The decision before him now was very difficult. After lengthy internal debate, he finally grit his teeth.
“Alright, I’ll do what you ask. I’ll take you to the cells, but you need to disguise yourselves before we go. Outsiders are absolutely not allowed into the sect’s restricted areas. And another thing: I need some reassurance that you’re only looking for that one origin realm cultivator. I cannot in good conscience take you, otherwise.”
“Don’t worry. I swear on my inner demons that I am, indeed, only looking for the person we spoke about. I will not cause any trouble for you,” Jiang Chen stated.
Third Master Jing chimed in as well. “Brother Gu, Sir Shao and Senior Peerless are both honorable people. They stick to their promises. You might not have a lot of faith in lil ole me here, but you can trust them for sure.”
Gu Xintang sighed softly. “I trust them, and I trust you. But for something that’s as important as this, I must take particular care. There’ll be no end to the ensuing problems otherwise. If the other captains find out, they’ll censure me. The fire might even spread to you, Third Master.”
“If anyone else finds out, I should think I’d be the most embarrassed of all,” Emperor Peerless smiled faintly. If a great emperor cultivator couldn’t take care of something so small, it would be intensely humiliating for him.
“There’s no time to lose. Let us depart right away. Captain Gu, tell us how we should disguise ourselves.” Jiang Chen didn’t want any further delay. Unnecessary time spent here translated to more risk that his father would be exposed to.
Both Jiang Chen and Emperor Peerless dressed up a little according to Gu Xintang’s wishes. Their disguises as the captain’s subordinates were quite convincing. The two that originally accompanied him were arranged to stay behind at Third Master Jing’s place.
“Brother Long, we’re leaving Madame Yun with you. Take good care of her if anything comes up.” Jiang Chen instructed before leaving.
The dragon was a little dissatisfied. He wanted to participate in the ensuing activity quite badly, but Gu Xintang had only two spots. Jiang Chen’s accompaniment was locked in. Though Long Xiaoxuan was confident, he wasn’t arrogant enough to think he was superior to Emperor Peerless. Thus, he didn’t complain despite his unhappiness.
The Moon God Sect’s headquarters weren’t in Frostmoon City proper, but were hidden in the wilderness. Any regular person who didn’t have the coordinates wouldn’t even be able to find the entrance.
As a member of the sect, Gu Xintang encountered no such issue. He passed by several checkpoints, Jiang Chen and Emperor Peerless in tow, before entering the Moon God Sect’s gates proper. Emperor Peerless suppressed all of his aura the entire way. The great emperor appeared just like a regular cultivator. He didn’t dare reveal the slightest hint of his great emperor realm cultivation. They were in the heart of the Moon God Sect’s territory, and being noticed was sure to induce unneeded misunderstanding and furor. Trespassing was a sensitive subject for any sect.
The cells were located in a secluded corner of the sect’s grounds. Gu Xintang was often sent here for guard duty. As the third-ranking captain of Bleakmoon Hall, he was obviously being sidelined intentionally. There was no other reason for someone of his strength and stature to do that job. After all, the work was hard and thankless.
Though it wasn’t Gu’s shift today, all of the guards knew who he was. His arrival, subordinates in tow, was far from surprising. Verifying the password was enough to get the trio past the outside defenses.
“That was the checkpoint on the outside. There’s another one further in. They’re a lot stricter there, and even I am asked questions if I come on a day off.” Gu Xintang transmitted to Jiang Chen and Emperor Peerless as a discreet request for their cooperation.
It wasn’t long before they reached the inner area. The checkpoint up ahead appeared to have remarkably improved security. Numerous experts patrolled the place, and defense formations filled every corner of the entrance. It gave off a forbidding impression to onlookers.
“What brings you here, Captain Gu?” The captain on duty was stunned, surprised by his fellow captain’s unexpected appearance. This captain was another marginalized character in the Bleakmoon Hall. His ability and position paled to even Gu Xintang’s.
“Captain Qin, there was a prisoner that I dropped off here earlier. I remembered a few more things I needed to interrogate him for just now, so I’m here to pick him up.” Gu Xintang voiced a white lie.