Chapter 86: Loyalty—Part Eight
Wei WuXian, “Then is there any proof to your words?”
Sisi hesitated for a moment, “No, but if I said even a single lie, I swear my corpse will rot and not even have a coffin to lie in!”
Sect Leader Yao immediately commented, “With such clear details, she definitely isn’t lying!”
Lan QiRen’s eyebrows were tight-knit. He turned to the other woman, “I think I have seen you before.”
The woman’s face was full of panic, “I think… I think you have.”
Everyone paused in surprise. Sisi was a prostitute—could this woman be one too? Then why would Lan QiRen say he’d seen her before?
The woman, “During the YuelingQin Sect’s Discussion Conference, I often accompanied my madam.”
“The YuelingQin Sect?” A female cultivator asked, “You’re a maid of the YuelingQin Sect?”
A more sharp-eyed ones directly called out her name, “You’re… Bicao, Madam Qin’s personal maid Bicao! Right?”
The Madam Qin whom she referred to was Qin CangYe’s wife, and so the birth mother of Jin GuangYao’s wife, Qin Su. The woman nodded, “But now I’m no longer at the Qin Sect.”
Sect Leader Yao was thrilled, standing up as he slammed his table, “Do you have something to tell us too?”
With red eyes, Bicao began, “What I’m about to say happened a bit earlier, about a dozen years ago.
“I’d served my madam for many years. I watched our Maiden A-Su grow up. Madam had always cared for Maiden Su, but around the time when Maiden Su was about to marry, Madam was in an extremely bad mood. She had nightmares when she slept and sometimes cried too when she was awake. I thought that she was only finding it hard to let go of Maiden Su, since Maiden Su was about to marry. I kept on comforting her by saying that the man she was marrying, LianFang-Zun Jin GuangYao, was not only accomplished but also caring and devoted. Maiden Su would lead a very good life. Yet, after Madam heard this, she was even worse.
“When the marriage day approached, one night, Madam suddenly said to me that she was going to see Maiden Su’s future husband, and that she was going right now, wanting me to secretly accompany her. I said, you can ask him to see you. Why would you sneakily go see a young man in the middle of the night? If others heard of this, who knows how the rumors would go. But Madam’s mind was set, so I had to go with her. After we arrived, however, Madam told me to wait outside and not go in, which was why I didn’t hear anything and I don’t know what exactly she said to Jin GuangYao. I only knew that a few days later, when the date of Maiden Su’s marriage was set, Madam fainted as soon as she saw the invitation letter. And after Maiden Su was married, Madam was still extremely depressed. She was sick in her heart, and her sickness worsened by day. Before she passed away, she couldn’t hold it in any longer, and told me everything.”
Bicao said as she cried, “LianFang-Zun Jin GuangYao and our maiden, they never were wife and husband—they were brother and sister…”
There wouldn’t be a shock so great even if thunder exploded in Sword Hall. Qin Su’s pale face emerged before Wei WuXian’s eyes.
Bicao, “My madam really was too unfortunate… Old Sect Leader Jin was a bastard. He lusted after my madam’s looks, and once forced her when he was drunk outside… How could Madam resist? She didn’t dare say anything afterwards either. My master was of utmost loyalty to Jin GuangShan, so she was more than scared. Jin GuangShan might not remember whose daughter Maiden Qin was, but my madam could never forget. She didn’t dare talk to Jin GuangShan, knowing that Maiden Qin was very much in love with Jin GuangYao. After a long struggle, she finally went to find him secretly before the marriage day and told him a few things, begging him to somehow cancel the marriage before things got out of hand. Who knew… Who knew that Jin GuangYao married Maiden Su even though he knew she was his younger sister!”
What was scarier was that not only did he marry her, the two even bore a child!
This really was the scandal of the century!
The sounds of the crowd’s discussion rose louder and louder. “For how long has Old Sect Leader Qin followed Jin GuangShan? So he even dared touch the wife of his old subordinate. Damn that Jin GuangShan!”
“So it seems that nothing can be kept a secret for long in this world…”
“For Jin GuangYao to gain a strong foothold within the LanlingJin Sect, he had to have the help of his father-in-law Qin CangYe as his backbone. How could he have chosen not to marry her?”
“He really is the most immoral person of all the world!”
Wei WuXian whispered to Lan WangJi, “So that’s why in the secret chamber he said to Qin Su, ‘A-Song had to die.’”
In Sword Hall, a few others thought of A-Song as well. Sect Leader Yao, “Judging from this, I dare to guess that his son wasn’t assassinated by another at all, but rather by his own hands.”
“And why so?”
Sect Leader Yao analyzed, “Most of the children born from closely related brothers and sisters end up being dull-witted. Jin RuSong was only a few years old when he died, precisely the age at which young children begin to learn. Others wouldn’t be able to notice anything wrong when the child was still young, but after he grew up, it’d expose the fact that he was different from the others. Even if they didn’t doubt the relationship between his parents, if a dull-witted child really was born, it’d be inevitable that others pointed at Jin GuangYao, saying that such a child was born only because he had the dirty blood of a prostitute in him.”
Everyone found this to be quite persuasive, “How sharp, Sect Leader Yao!”
Sect Leader Yao continued, “And the one who killed Jin RuSong just happened to be the sect leader who opposed his construction of the lookout towers—how could there be such a coincidence?” He snorted, “Either way, no matter what, Jin GuangYao didn’t need to keep a son who’d likely turn out to be an idiot. He killed Jin RuSong, framed the sect leader who opposed him, and crusaded against sects that refused to accept him fair and square, in the name of revenge for his son—although it was heartless, it killed two birds with one stone. What tactics, LianFang-Zun!”
Suddenly, Wei WuXian turned to Bicao, “The night of Koi Tower’s Discussion Conference, you saw Qin Su, didn’t you?”
Wei WuXian, “That night, in Fragrance Palace, Qin Su and Jin GuangYao were in quite a big argument. She said she went to meet someone, that this person told her a few things and gave her a letter, that this person definitely wouldn’t lie to her. Was she talking about you?”
Wei WuXian, “For how long have you been keeping this secret? Why did you suddenly decide to tell her? And why did you suddenly decide to publicize all this?”
Bicao, “Because… I had to let Maiden Qin just what kind of person her husband is. In the beginning, I didn’t want to publicize it either, but because of Madam Qin’s inexplicable suicide at Koi Tower, I had to uncover this demon’s real face to seek justice for my madam and Maiden Qin.”
Wei WuXian smiled, “But have you never thought what a blow it’d be to her after you told her? Or do you really not know? That it’s because you went to tell Qin Su of the matter that she killed herself?”
Sect Leader Yao criticized, “Now this I can’t possibly agree with. Would hiding the truth be right instead?”
Immediately, someone helped him, “The other people are not to blame… Madam… Qin Su was still too fragile.”
A few of the older female cultivators chimed in, “Qin Su was so pitiful.”
“Back then I even envied her. I thought that she really had a good life. She had a good birth and a good marriage, the only mistress of Koi Tower with how devoted her husband was. But who knew? Tsk, tsk.”
One of the madams commented in an aloof way, “That’s why these seemingly beautiful things are often full of holes beneath the surface. There’s nothing to envy at all.”
Wei WuXian, Perhaps it’s precisely because of these people who comment in joy masked as pity that Qin Su decided to take her own life.
He looked down to see a bracelet of jade and gold worn on Bicao’s wrist. The quality was extremely high. It was definitely not something that a maid would be able to wear. He smiled, “Nice bracelet.”
Bicao hurried to pull her sleeve down. She said nothing.
Nie HuaiSang still seemed confused, “But… But who exactly is… the person who sent these two here?”
Sect Leader Yao, “Why worry over these?! No matter who it is, there’s one thing we can be certain of—he’s a man of justice who’s definitely standing on our side.”
Immediately came sounds of agreement, “That’s right!”
Wei WuXian, however, disagreed, “The one who saved Maiden Sisi is definitely remarkable. Wealthy, and has time in his hands. But a man of justice? That’s not necessarily true.”
Lan WangJi, “There are many points of suspicion.”
If Wei WuXian said this, not many people would pay attention, but since the one who spoke was Lan WangJi, the crowd quieted at once. Lan QiRen, “And where do those points lie?”
Wei WuXian, “Now there’s quite a lot of them. For example, with how cruel Jin GuangYao is, why would he spare Sisi after having killed more than twenty people? Now we have the witnesses, but what about the material proof?”
He had always been voicing different opinions than the rest, ringing quite starkly against the passionate speeches among the crowd. Some people already seemed very much offended.
Sect Leader Yao spoke loudly, “This is called, the net of Heaven has large meshes, but it lets nothing unwanted through.”
Hearing this, Wei WuXian smiled, and stopped speaking.
He knew that right now, nobody could take in what he said. Nobody would carefully consider his suspicions either. A few more words, and maybe the others would start to position themselves against him again. If it were ten years ago, he wouldn’t care about other people at all. He’d say whatever he wanted, and others would have to hear them whether they wanted to or not. Now, however, Wei WuXian no longer had the interest in taking the limelight this way.
And so, the waves of criticism began:
“Who knew this person could be so ungrateful and immoral!”
In the past few years, the words ‘ungrateful’ and ‘immoral’ were almost tied to Wei WuXian. At first, he even thought that they were criticizing him again. He only realized afterwards that even though it was the same people using the same words, the object of their criticism had already changed. He felt a bit not used to it.
Closely after, someone else spoke, “Back then, Jin GuangYao could climb up a step at a time only by playing up to ChiFeng-Zun and ZeWu-Jun. Or else, how could a prostitute’s son like him be where he is now? How dare he lay his hands on ChiFeng-Zun! ZeWu-Jun is still with him right now. Let’s hope that nothing happens to him!”
In the beginning, none of them believed that ChiFeng-Zun’s death, the incident of the dismembered corpse, and the corpse siege at Burial Mound was all related to Jin GuangYao. Now, everyone suddenly believed it.
“Not only his sworn brothers, his brothers by blood had it even worse. The couple of years before Jin GuangShan’s death, he busied himself everywhere getting rid of his dad’s illegitimate children, scared that someone would suddenly appear and fight for his spot with him. It wasn’t even that bad for Mo XuanYu. If not because he lost his mind and was forced back, maybe he’d end up the same way the others did and disappear for some reason or another.”
“Jin ZiXuan’s death had to be related as well!”
“Does anyone still remember Xiao XingChen from back then? Xiao XingChen, the bright moon, the gentle breeze. And the case of the YueyangChang Sect. At that time, Xue Yang was protected single-handedly by LianFang-Zun as well!”
“When Daozhang Xiao XingChen first came down the mountain, didn’t a lot of sects want him to be a guest cultivator at their place? The LanlingJin Sect also invited him, but he politely refused. Back then, the Jin Sect was quite pleased with itself. Having been rejected by a rogue cultivator, of course it felt like it had lost face. This old enmity had to be one of the reasons they protected Xue Yang in the future as well. They just had to see Xiao XingChen lead to a terrible end, huh?”
“Hah! What do they think they are? Just you wait if you don’t join our sect?”
“How unfortunate. Back then, I had the luck of seeing Daozhang Xiao XingChen’s brilliance at a night-hunt with my own eyes. His sword, Shuanghua, could move the whole world.”
“Afterwards, Jin GuangYao still got rid of Xue Yang. What a case of the dog bites the dog.”
“I heard that back when Jin GuangYao worked undercover in the QishanWen Sect, he wasn’t genuine at all. This was what he thought: if the Sunshot Campaign didn’t go well, he’d stay at the Wen Sect and help the villain; if the Wen Sect was about to fall, he’d turn around and become a hero.”
“Wen RuoHan is probably mad as hell in the Underworld. Back then, he trained Jin GuangYao as one of his most trusted cultivators. Almost all of Jin GuangYao’s current swordsmanship was taught to him by Wen RuoHan!”
“That’s not so big of a deal, is it? I heard that the reason ChiFeng-Zun failed the surprise attack was because he purposely sent out the wrong information!”
“I’ll say a secret too. The money and resources he used to build the lookout towers were all collected from other sects, right? Every sect helped out a bit. I heard that he secretly takes… this amount.”
“Oh Heavens… So much? He really is shameless. I thought he really wanted do good back then. All of our sincerity was fed to the dogs!”
Wei WuXian felt that things were rather comical, If they’re rumors, why the hurry to believe them? If they’re secrets, why would you come to know them?
These rumors didn’t happen in just the one day. However, in the past, when Jin GuangYao was popular, they were suppressed quite well. Almost nobody took them seriously. Yet, tonight, all of the rumors seemed to have become absolute truths, forming the rocks and bricks of Jin GuangYao’s supposedly-committed crimes, proving his lack of morality.
“Judging from this, this person killed his father, his brother, his wife, his son, his master, his friend… and even committed incest. How terrifying!”
“The LanlingJin Sect is extremely overbearing, and Jin GuangYao is even more so authoritative. He never listens to other people’s opinions. Right now, the indulgent, arrogant climate was brought up by Jin GuangYao alone as well. Does he really think we’d hold our anger back?!”
“He’s probably made up his mind to get rid of us all now that he’s feeling threatened by the expanding forces of the other sects, scared that he’d be overthrown like how the Wen Sect was, right?”
Sect Leader Yao sneered, “Since this is the case, let’s make what he fears the most a reality.” He slammed his table, “Attack on Koi Tower!”
Amid the hall full of cheers, Wei WuXian thought, Right before today, he was still the LianFang-Zun whom everyone praises. Just a day, and everyone wants to beat him up.
Suddenly, someone turned around, “Mr. Wei, Jin GuangYao has got the Tiger Seal in his hands. We’ll entrust this matter to you.”
Wei WuXian, “Huh?”
He didn’t think that someone would come talk to him out of their own will, and even in such an enthusiastic way, calling him ‘Mr. Wei’ instead of derogatories like ‘Wei-dog’. He hesitated for a second.
Immediately, another sect leader followed, “That’s right! Nobody ranks higher than the YiLing Patriarch in this path of cultivation!”
“Now things are looking bad for Jin GuangYao, hahahaha…”
Wei WuXian immediately felt a bit speechless. The last time others praised him like this was during the Sunshot Campaign more than ten years ago. Although somebody finally inherited his position as being the enemy of the entire cultivation world, Wei WuXian didn’t feel happiness at such an end, much less any warmth from finally being accepted by everyone.
He only doubted in silence, Back then, could it have been just like today? A group of people gathered up in a place, began a secret discussion, cursed everything, and finally decided to have a siege on Burial Mound?
After the discussion ended, preparations finished in the YunmengJiang Sect’s banquet hall as well. However, after the banquet started, two figures were missing.
One of the sect leaders mused, “Why are Wei… Patriarch YiLing and HanGuang-Jun missing?”
Sitting at the foremost seat, Jiang Cheng asked the guest cultivator beside him, “Where are they?”
The guest cultivator, “The two went to change after they left the inner hall. They said that they wouldn’t be taking part in the banquet—that they wanted to walk around a bit and would come back later.”
Jiang Cheng sneered, “The same as before, without any manners.”
This seemed to include Lan WangJi as well. Displeasure could be seen on Lan QiRen’s face. If Lan WangJi had no manners, manners wouldn’t exist in this world. With such a thought, he began to grind his teeth at Wei WuXian again.
On the other hand, Jiang Cheng fixed his expression and spoke politely, “Everyone, please dine first. I’ll invite the two back at a later time.”
Outside of Lotus Pier, before the dock, Lan WangJi followed the lead of Wei WuXian. He didn’t ask where they were going, either. The two strolled freely.
There were a few street vendors at the dock. Wei WuXian walked over, looked, and smiled, “Good thing we didn’t eat with them. Lan Zhan, come here, come here. The pie’s really good. It’s my treat! Can we have two please?”
Grinning, the vendor wrapped two pies in greaseproof paper. Just as Wei WuXian was about to take them, he suddenly remembered that he had no money on him. How could he treat him? However, Lan WangJi had already taken them over in place of him, paying with his other hand.
Wei WuXian, “Uh-oh, my apologies. Why is it always like this? Seems like every time I want to treat you to something, it doesn’t work out.”
Lan WangJi, “It is fine.”
Wei WuXian took a bite, “Back then, I didn’t even have to pay when I ate at the dock. I grabbed whatever I wanted, ate whatever I wanted; ran after I grabbed, walked as I ate. A month later, the vendor would get the reimbursement from Uncle Jiang.”
Lan WangJi left a moon-shaped opening on the round pie, “Now, you do not have to pay either.”
Wei WuXian, “Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!”
He finished in a couple of bites and scrunched the paper into a ball, tossing it in his hand as he looked around, “There aren’t many vendors left. Back then, no matter how late it was, this place was crammed with vendors, selling all kinds of food, because many people in Lotus Pier came out for late night snacks. There were also many boats, maybe even more than your Caiyi Town.” He continued, “It’s much fewer now. Lan Zhan, you came here too late. You weren’t here when it was at it was at its liveliest.”
Lan WangJi, “It is not late.”
Wei WuXian grinned, “When we were studying at the Cloud Recesses, I asked you so many times to come play at Yunmeng, and you always ignored me. I should’ve been more forceful and dragged you over. Why are you so slow? It doesn’t taste good?”
Lan WangJi, “Speech is forbidden when dining.”
He’d always chewed slowly when he was eating. If he had to talk, he made sure that there was no food in his mouth. Wei WuXian, “Then I won’t talk with you. You can eat. I thought you didn’t like it and that you could give me whatever you didn’t finish.”
Lan WangJi turned to the vendor, “Another one please.”
In the end, after Wei WuXian finished all three pies, Lan WangJi was still nibbling on his first one. Wei WuXian had already led him further and further away from Lotus Pier. On the way, he pointed at this and that for him to see.
He really wanted to show Lan WangJi all the places where he grew up at, played at, and fooled around at, tell him about the troubles he stirred up, the fights he fought, the pheasants he caught, and then examine the slight changes in Lan WangJi’s expression, eagerly expecting his every reaction.
Wei WuXian, “Lan Zhan! Look at me, look at the tree.”
Lan WangJi finished his pie as well. He folded the paper into a neat little square and held it in his hand as he looked toward Wei WuXian’s direction. It was only the average tree. The trunk stood straight and the branches fanned out. It should be a few decades old. Wei WuXian stood below the tree and walked around it a couple of times, slapping the trunk, “I’ve climbed this tree before.”
Lan WangJi, “You have climbed every single tree on our way here.”
Wei WuXian, “But this one’s different! This was the first one I climbed after I came to Lotus Pier. I climbed it in the middle of the night. My shijie came out to search for me, holding a lantern. She was scared I’d fall down the tree, so she prepared to catch me on the ground. But what could she catch with her thin little arms? And so I still broke one of my legs.”
Looking at his legs, Lan WangJi asked, “Why did you climb the tree at night?”
Wei WuXian bent down in laughter, “There’s no why. You know. I love fooling around outside at night. Haha.”