Chapter 122: The Game of Cat and Mouse

Situ Cang knew from his subordinates’ reports that Rong Ruihan was presently travelling together with Ye Xiuwen and Yao Mo.

This was the main reason that Situ Cang had summoned the members of Dawn Sect right now. Rong Ruihan understood the Grand Vizier’s thought processes extremely well. Naturally, he would be able to prepare the necessary countermeasures against the Grand Vizier’s innumerable formation arrays. Therefore, having failed in the last few attempts, Situ Cang realized that it was only going to get more difficult locating the trio on the run by tracking down Rong Ruihan.

Rong Ruihan was just like a slippery eel. Whenever the Grand Vizier’s subordinates drew near to pinpointing their exact location, they would suddenly vanish without a trace, thwarting all their progress thus far.

Therefore, Situ Cang decided to change tactics and locate the trio by instead tracking down the First-Seat Disciple of Heavenly Peak, Ye Xiuwen.

Qin Lingyu and the other Dawn Sect disciples walked along slowly as they entered the Grand Vizier’s residence. The path that they took was surrounded by peculiar and strange plants and flowers on both sides, creating an atmosphere of mystery and otherworldliness. Somehow, this seemingly unrelated matter further enhanced their impression of the Grand Vizier’s mastery over formation arrays.

Situ Cang’s servants led them into the guest conference room, before he bowed politely at them and took his leave.

Qin Lingyu and the rest waited in silence for quite some time before Situ Cang finally made his way into the room slowly. As he slowly strutted in, Situ Cang also brought with him an air of heaviness into the room.

This was not unexpected either. After all, he had placed so much hopes and expectations on his biological son, yet his son had been reduced to such a sorry state. Anyone in his shoes would be similarly unable to carry themselves with a cheerful disposition at this time.

“Senior Situ.” Qin Lingyu stood up and gave Situ Cang a respectful bow.

The other disciples followed suit and gave Situ Cang a fist and palm salute as well.

Even though Situ Cang had made them wait in the room for quite some time, the disciples from Dawn Sect could only suppress the indignation welling up within their heart for Situ Cang. No one dared to reveal any of their displeasure on their faces. After all, Situ Cang’s cultivation was so much higher than theirs.

This was the manifestation of the immutable principle that undergirded the entire cultivation works – the world was ruled by the strong.

Situ Cang nodded his head at them with nonchalance. Then, he arrogantly lifted his hands and made an inviting gesture as he spoke, “Take a seat.”

After Qin Lingyu and the rest took their seats, Situ Cang slowly explained the situation to them, “This Sovereign has summoned you today to discuss matters with that other Dawn Sect disciple, Ye Xiuwen.”

“This…martial brother Ye’s actions are all of his own volition, and they’ve got nothing to do with Dawn Sect at all. I humbly ask senior Situ to refrain from pinning the blame on us.”

Qin Lingyu hurriedly cut off all ties with Ye Xiuwen to minimize the possibility of implicating themselves.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself. This Sovereign hadn’t even said that he was going to blame you. This Sovereign is extremely clear about who’s at fault and who’s innocent.” Situ Cang responded with some measure of displeasure. Qin Lingyu immediately nodded his head meekly as he sought to placate Situ Cang.

Seeing that no one was interjecting any longer, Situ Cang continued, “This Sovereign has discovered that the Dawn Sect disciple named Ye Xiuwen is in cahoots with a felon of the Inferno Kingdom. These villains collude against us, and this Sovereign hopes that you will place justice before family and lend us your strength to weed out the enemy.”

“And this felon is…”

“It’s exactly the culprit who has hurt my disciple and poisoned the king of the Inferno Kingdom, Rong Ruihan.” Situ Cang enunciated each word with pristine clarity, and he even gnashed his teeth as he articulated the name, Rong Ruihan.

The Dawn Sect disciples stared aghast at each other. No one could have imagined that Ye Xiuwen would in fact know the Inferno Kingdom’s first prince, Rong Ruihan, to begin with.

“I wonder what senior Situ requires of us, then?” Qin Lingyu continued to ask with a warm tone of voice. His eyes gleamed brightly at this moment.

Who would have known that Ye Xiuwen would actually offend the Inferno Kingdom’s Grand Vizier? This was the prime opportunity to get rid of him.

What use is Yao Mo’s talismans and formation arrays now? No matter how formidable he is, there’s no way his abilities would exceed that of the Grand Viziers, huh? Qin Lingyu’s lips curled up discreetly with a vicious smirk.

“This Sovereign only needs you to provide me with some artefacts belonging to Dawn Sect. Of course, if these are artefacts that Ye Xiuwen normally carries around by his side, then that would enable this Sovereign to locate them much quicker.”

“This is naturally not an issue.” As Qin Lingyu responded, he immediately retrieved some artefacts from his Interspatial Ring and presented them to Situ Cang.

Ke Xinwen thought for a moment, and he also retrieved an artefact from his Interspatial Ring. Then, he introduced that artefacts to Situ Cang, “Senior Situ, this small accessory was something that Yao Mo had given to Ye Xiuwen as a gift. Ye Xiuwen had dropped it earlier in the midst of his altercation with the second prince. Perhaps this might be of use to you.”

As he said that, he similarly presented the artefact to Situ Cang.

In fact, he had earlier presented the very same accessory to Situ Cang for his inspection when he thought about pinning the blame for the second prince’s injuries on Ye Xiuwen. However, that attempt had been stemmed and thwarted by Situ Cang’s explanation that the second prince’s injuries was caused by a demonic cultivator.

This time, Ke Xinwen was certain that Situ Cang would no longer let Ye Xiuwen go scot-free.

“That’s even better. As expected, most of the Dawn Sect disciples are sensible and virtuous.” Situ Cang nodded his head in satisfaction, and his expressions were no longer as heavy as before.

Everyone heaved a sigh of relief – apart from Di Yue. Di Yue possessed an honest and candid disposition. He had previously maintained a fairly good relationship with Ke Xinwen and naturally spoke well of Ke Xinwen to others. However, having been betrayed by the others, only to be rescued from the jaws of death by Ye Xiuwen, he cut ties with the other disciples and now identified himself as Ye Xiuwen’s younger martial brother.

This was a decision which he had made unilaterally.

Di Yue lowered his head as he wracked his brain, thinking about how he was going to leak this news to Ye Xiuwen.

At the same time, Yu Wanrou had been listening intently to the exchange between Situ Cang and the other disciples and deliberating on her next move. Then, she mustered her courage and wrapped her hand tightly around her scarf as she asked, “Grand Vizier, sir, I wonder…how the second prince’s condition is right now?”

Yu Wanrou had earlier offered the Grand Vizier a bottle containing her spirit spring waters for the second prince’s use so that the Grand Vizier and the second prince would owe her a favour. A few days had passed since that incident, but she still had not heard of any news about the second prince. Therefore, she wondered whether the second prince had fully recovered by now.

Yu Wanrou treated this as a form of investment. Having offered a gift out of goodwill earlier, she naturally expected something in return. Even if she could not become the second prince’s concubine for now, receiving some compensation for her efforts was better than nothing.

Unexpectedly, the Grand Vizier did not even mention anything about the second prince during the course of their entire meeting. This left Yu Wanrou feeling sore and disappointed, as though all her efforts had been wasted.

Of course, the reason why Yu Wanrou had not heard any news about the second prince was because Situ Cang had already put on lockdown the spread of any information within the Grand Vizier’s residence about the second prince’s condition. This lockdown of information had been so effective that not even the people residing within the Inferno Kingdom’s palace had heard news that the second prince’s cultivation level has fallen to the first level of Qi Mastery.

Naturally, this is with the exclusion of the second prince’s mother, Concubine Ming.

If the high officials of Inferno Kingdom learnt that the second prince’s cultivation level had fallen to the first level of Qi Mastery, they would almost certainly challenge the second prince’s authority and qualifications to be the crown prince. This was an eventuality that Situ Cang absolutely wished to avoid.

Situ Cang had not forsaken his grand plans to let his own son ascend the Inferno Kingdom’s throne. In fact, the manifestation of this notion of his only grew stronger when Rong Yebin got injured.

After all, his son deserved nothing but the best!

Once Yu Wanrou’s words left her mouth, Situ Cang’s grim and gloomy gaze drifted across all the other disciples and landed on her body.

Yu Wanrou’s back shivered. She felt as though a vicious, poisonous snake had just transfixed its sharp gaze on her, piercing her skin with its eyes and exposing the depts of her heart.

Situ Cang was in fact sizing up Yu Wanrou. From his perspective, the matter pertaining to Rong Yebin’s fall in cultivation level was something that could never be leaked to others. At this moment, he wished to ascertain whether Yu Wanrou’s query was an innocent question or one laced with ulterior motives.

If she bore even a trace of ulterior motives, then he wouldn’t mind looking for the right opportunity to dispose of Yu Wanrou!

Yu Wanrou’s heart sank and her confidence wavered. Despite that, she mustered her courage once more and tensed up her body. Then, she looked straight back at Situ Cang as she forcibly put on a soft smile on her face.

This was the only thing she could do in the circumstances. In Yu Wanrou’s eyes, her greatest asset lay not with her cultivation, but her looks and appearances. Naturally, there was also her spectral demiplane and its contents.

After sizing up Yu Wanrou for a moment, Situ Cang managed to ascertain that Yu Wanrou was merely an insensitive lady asking an innocent question. Therefore, he dropped any thoughts to investigate her background further.

“Thank you for your concern. My disciple’s life is no longer in danger.” Situ Cang replied with indifference.

Yu Wanrou had been so frightened by Situ Cang’s earlier penetrating gaze that her back was completely soaked through with cold sweat. In the circumstances, she could hardly be bothered about obtaining any rewards for her efforts any longer. Having received a response to her question, she forcibly maintained the smile on her face as she lowered her head quickly to avoid further eye contact with Situ Cang.

However, Yu Wanrou’s heart was still filled with immense regrets –

Why is the Grand Vizier treating me with this kind of attitude? Could it be that the spirit spring waters weren’t effective? That’s not possible. Every time I drink it after suffering serious injuries, my injuries would recover extremely quickly.

Yu Wanrou bit down on her lower lips as she remained perplexed by Situ Cang’s reactions.

Yet how could she have known that the second prince’s injuries this time were hardly as simple as she thought? His cultivation had even fallen to the first level of Qi Mastery.

Armed with the artefacts furnished by Qin Lingyu and Ke Xinwen, Situ Cang once again managed to track down the rough location of Rong Ruihan and the others. Thus, he sent his own subordinates in pursuit of them with renewed vigor.

Situ Cang wanted to kill these fugitives with his own hands. But at the same time, he was suddenly awash with the idea of toying with his prey and watching them struggle in despair and hopelessness before killing them. This notion manifested itself rather strongly, and Situ Cang naturally decided to watch on and observe his prey intently, resolving in his heart to only make his move after they’ve been seriously wounded or incapacitated.

Thus, over the next few days, Rong Ruihan and the others found themselves at the mercy of several ambushes once again. In fact, these assailants seemed to have found the crux of the earlier problem, and they had once again struck at the trio with accuracy at every step of their way.

Rong Ruihan didn’t expect things to take a turn for worse so quickly. Nevertheless, he recalled a portion of his subordinates and instructed them to run interference against the onslaught of ambushes.

That said, Rong Ruihan’s resources were limited compared to the depths of Situ Cang’s command. The assailants sent by Situ Cang against them only grew stronger over time, while Rong Ruihan, Jun Xiaomo and Ye Xiuwen’s ability to resist Situ Cang’s advances grew more and more difficult.

It was just like how an experienced cat slowly tormented and wore down its prey, watching with macabre intent as the rat struggles and squeals in fear and anguish in its final moments.

Today, the number of injuries and wounds on Ye Xiuwen and Rong Ruihan’s bodies had increased substantially. On the other hand, it was Jun Xiaomo who remained relatively unscathed as a result of being sandwiched and protected between the other two.

Jun Xiaomo had always chided the others to look after themselves first and ignore her. Yet whenever a skirmish broke out, the other two would somehow subconsciously end up protecting Jun Xiaomo anyway. It was as though it were second nature to them.

Jun Xiaomo could understand it if Ye Xiuwen did all these things for her. In fact, not only did she understand it – she found it extremely upsetting. This was because she had always been a burden to her martial brother.

However, Jun Xiaomo could hardly understand why Rong Ruihan would do all these things for her. They were not close enough to justify such self-sacrificial actions on his part. So, why did the first prince have to shield and protect her time and again?

Having found no answers after wracking her mind, Jun Xiaomo decided that she would look for the answer directly from the horse’s mouth.

“Don’t think too much of it. This prince happened to save you coincidentally.” Rong Ruihan calmly responded as he held onto a Messenger Paper Crane and walked away.

Is that really the case? Jun Xiaomo stared blankly at Rong Ruihan’s back, but she found no words to express her thoughts.

Forget it. There was no point wasting any time contemplating matters that she could not understand. Her time was better spent improving her own abilities – otherwise, she would always be known as nothing more than a burden to others.

Then, Jun Xiaomo retrieved the Demonite from her Interspatial Ring and placed it in front of her as she began meditating. This piece of Demonite was exactly the same as the one that she had picked up from Jiang Yutong’s cavern.

Some distance away, Rong Ruihan revealed a sullen expression on his face as he released the Messenger Paper Crane into the air. Then, he remained standing where he was and gazed vacantly into the horizon. He seemed to be thinking about something; yet at the same time, he seemed to be recalling something.

He did not give an answer to Yao Mo’s earlier question because even he was puzzled why he had time and again instinctually protected Yao Mo.

But he had a feeling that, perhaps, this might have to do with a recurring dream that he had been having…

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