Translated by Rikko of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
As Gu XuanYan remained silent afterwards, instincts told Zhong Yan to zip up his mouth too. Fortunately, the chirping of insects and birds accompanied their hike, dispelling any bleakness in the air.
In a blink of an eye, they reached the peak of the mountain. From the mountaintop view, the valley appeared to extend forever into the distance, as though connected to the horizon. Both of them had no idea what was the name of their current location, but Gu XuanYan’s attempt at sword riding there was unexpectedly a success.
With the guide of the morning sun, they flew towards the southwest direction. Only after quite some time of sword riding did Zhong Yan see the indistinct silhouette of Green Summit.
Surprisingly, as they travelled through the silent mountains, the two didn’t even chance upon a disciple. Finally, when Zhong Yan returned to his quarters’ courtyard, he found Qing You rummaging through medicine herbs. As soon as Qing You detected the two, he straightened up in surprise right away, almost knocking over the basket of herbs he was air drying.
Nostalgia washed over Zhong Yan as if the person in front of him was his old pal. He couldn’t help but call out warmly, “Qing You, I’m back with more injuries.”
The surprise in the wordless Qing You’s eyes spiralled down to helplessness.
After heaving a light sigh, Gu XuanYan greeted gently, “Senior Qing You, sorry for bothering you again.”
Qing You glared at Zhong Yan before turning to Gu XuanYan, “My pleasure.”
Noticing only superficial wounds on them, Qing You let out a sigh of relief, “The seniors and juniors who went along as well said you two were missing and were all worried sick. Luckily, you two came back unharmed. Both of you are seriously…”
Zhong Yan cut him off the moment he realised Qing You was starting his nagging, “I know; I know. We’re sorry. You should focus on the wound on Junior Gu’s chest instead.”
Gu XuanYan declined, “No rush. Has Senior Qing You seen any demonic cultivators when we were gone?”
Qing You’s expression turned grim too, “When you all were in Northern Wilderness, a few demonic cultivators indeed came over here. But since their numbers are small, us disciples who stayed behind could manage it and so, they didn’t cause much of a havok.” A brief pause later, he continued with hesitation, “But those demonic cultivators were quite familiar with Green Summit. Somehow, they knew the location of Sect Leader’s residence, our disciples’ quarters, the hall and the book shed.”
Stunned, Zhong Yan figured things out instantly. How can they not know since one of our Sect Elders colluded with the demonic cultivators? Cang Luan probably already sees Green Summit as his backyard.
Still, he naturally couldn’t spill out his findings.
As it was pointless to continue with the topic, Qing You changed it up, “Let me take a look at your injuries before anything else.”
However, before the three of them could enter the house, a disciple went into the courtyard and bowed respectfully to them, “Senior Qin, Senior Gu, Sect Leader has asked for you to come by the discussion hall once he found out you were back.”
Zhong Yan asked, suspecting he had heard the disciple wrong, “Me too?” After receiving a nod as a reply, Zhong Yan asked again, “May Junior Gu and I treat our injuries first?”
Although the disciple remained muted, his face revealed a troubled expression.
Gu XuanYan replied in a light tone upon seeing his face, “It’s all right. We should be paying our respects to the Sect Leader once we return.”
Relief washed over the disciple as he expressed his gratitude, “Thank you, Senior Brother.”
Gu XuanYan tilted his head towards Zhong Yan, softening his voice, “Let’s go, Senior Brother.”
What could be so urgent that they don’t even allow us disciples to treat our injuries first?
Despite feeling nothing good would come out of the meeting, Zhong Yan still followed Gu XuanYan after looking at how calm he was.
Oh well, even if the sky collapses, chief disciple Gu XuanYan will get my back, thought Zhong Yan.
To his surprise, the moment he set foot into the hall, the Sect Leader and Elders’ blazingly hot glares fell on him.
Clueless why their eyes were on him, he didn’t dare to speak.
Only after quite a while did the Sect Leader call out, “MingXi.”
Zhong Yan only realised he was called after a brief stun, answering in haste, “Present.”
The Sect Leader’s voice was loud and deep, “Where were you in the icy plains?”
Uh, obviously? What? Does he think I can just flee away on my own?
Although Zhong Yan knew the meeting was some kind of trap 1, never could he anticipate himself being the target.
Zhong Yan didn’t dare to be rash, so he gave a straightforward answer, “This weakly skilled disciple got captured by the demonic cultivators due to a moment of carelessness.”
Li WenJi frowned, “Why did they capture you instead of the Sect Elders and chief disciples present?”
He’s just one step away from straight-up saying I’m useless. It wasn’t as though Zhong Yan could reply with, ‘They captured me to blackmail Gu XuanYan since we are Dao partners.’ He couldn’t imagine the uproar the truth would cause.
Unable to think up a reasonable explanation, Zhong Yan simply kept mum and stood rooted to the floor.
To his surprise, Gu XuanYan lifted his head and eyed straight at Li WenJi, ”What does Sect Leader mean by that?”
Gu XuanYan’s tone was gentle, as if empty of disrespect. Nonetheless, as this was the first time a disciple dared to throw a question back at the Sect Leader and Elders, the expressions of every elder in the hall darkened in an instant.
The sect leader called out in a deep voice, his glare as fiery as a torch, “XuanYan.”
The admonition lining in his voice was apparent. Despite letting out a sneer, Sect Elder Li XuanJi didn’t have the heart to say anything harsh to such an outstanding disciple. His voice was slow, “Both of you probably know the demonic cultivators were unexpectedly familiar with every location of Green Summit during their unwelcome visit. We suspect a traitor among us.”
He flashed a disdainful glare at Zhong Yan, “Although YunJi was already in his late Golden Core stage, he still got decapitated. On the other hand, Qin MingXi was only in the Essence Condensation stage then, but somehow, he survived. Never do I wish to suspect any of our disciples, but seeing that he came through unscathed from the kidnapping in the icy plains…”
Gu XuanYan cut the Sect Elder off with a clear voice, “I have witnessed Senior Brother’s kidnapping with my very own eyes and saved him with my very own hands. Please consult this disciple if there are any further questions.” With the bottom of his robes raised, he kneeled and kowtowed, his voice powerful and resonating, “This disciple, Gu XuanYan, would bear all responsibility should any problem arise.”
A wave of shock knocked over not only everyone seated in the hall but also Zhong Yan.
In the end, Sect Leader Li XunJi let out a light cough, “The first and foremost reason for summoning both of you over is to check if you two were unharmed; the querying of what happened only comes second. We have no intention of interrogating. Since XuanYan said so, let’s put this aside for now.”
Although the Sect Leader concluded as such, the matter being raised with such importance meant seeds of suspicion had already started growing within the Sect Leader and Elders; they would never let it go lightly.
‘Put this aside for now’ sounded as though they were planning to settle things once and for all the moment an opportunity arose. After bowing and getting up, Gu XuanYan swept a swift glance across everyone in the hall. A vicious light glinted in his eyes right then, but it vanished into thin air instantly.
The two stepped out of the hall. During their journey back, Zhong Yan couldn’t help suggesting, “If we let the Sect Leader know the blood oath I have with Cang Luan…”
Gu XuanYan cast a glance at him, his tone gentle, “Senior Brother, it will complicate things if you said so.”
Awareness registered in Zhong Yan’s mind instantly too. A Daoist disciple having a blood oath with the Demonic lord appeared to imply a collusion of the two. Even if, under the most optimistic light, Zhong Yan was deemed to be not a traitor, no way would Green Summit keep a disciple who had ties with demonic cultivators.
The urgency of breaking the contract dawned on Zhong Yan as soon as those thoughts crossed his mind. He couldn’t stop himself from heaving a sigh.
Beside him was Gu XuanYan, who apologised out of the blue, “It’s my fault for involving Senior Brother in this.”
His voice was soft, sounding genuinely apologetic.
Upon hearing that, Zhong Yan started to assure Gu XuanYan awkwardly, “That’s not true…”
Zhong Yan had been staying in this world for almost half a year. In the story, Gu XuanYan had already turned utterly evil by that point. However, except for revenge, there was no sign of the present Gu XuanYan stepping into the path of evil. Rather, he even saved Zhong Yan, giving Zhong Yan the impression that he wasn’t all that bad.
Other than Stockholm syndrome, Zhong Yan had no idea what had gotten into his mind.
- Literally: Feast at Swan Goose Gate/Banquet at Hongmen: banquet set up with the aim of murdering a guest. For more info of the historical event: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_at_Swan_Goose_Gate