Chapter 236: Masked Individual

“Zu An?”

Sang Qian’s exclamation was pitched an octave higher than his usual speaking tone.

It was extremely difficult to even associate Zu An with an eight rank expert like Shi Lezhi, let alone believe that Shi Lezhi had somehow been killed by him.

“Brother Shi, could there have been some mistake?” Sang Qian asked doubtfully. He wondered if this fellow had been too frightened after having almost tasted Zu An’s sword in front of the dungeon entrance, and was now portraying Zu An as such a powerful foe in order to make his experience seem less embarrassing.

However, to say he was capable of killing an eighth rank expert was just too ridiculous.

Sang Hong was similarly disbelieving. However, he didn’t lose his cool like his son, but looked calmly at Shi Kun instead. He knew that there was more to this.

Sure enough, Shi Kun said bitterly, “I really wish I were wrong as well…”

He recounted the events of the previous night, as well as what Bian Tai had deduced. Of course, he left out some details that the two of them didn’t need to hear, such as poisoning Qiao Xueying. He only said that they were catching a traitor.

“Ninth rank…” Sang Hong remained silent for a long time, seemingly deep in thought.

Sang Qian spoke into the silence. “Brother Shi, there isn’t a single ninth rank cultivator in all of Brightmoon City. Could there be some misunderstanding on your part?”

Knowing that Sang Qian didn’t believe him, Shi Kun sneered and said, “I’ve already told you everything I should. I’ll leave it up to you two whether you want to believe it or not. Either way, I’m about to return to the capital. If something goes awry on your end, it’ll have nothing to do with me.”

“Young master Shi is returning to the capital?” Sang Hong asked.

“Correct. The clan has contacted me and ordered me to return early.” There was no way Shi Kun would admit to being frightened, and so he had to come up with a reason.

With that, he exchanged a few final pleasantries before leaving hurriedly.

When Shi Kun had left, Sang Qian said in puzzlement, “Father, why would the Shi clan order him to return at such a time?”

Sang Hong said indifferently, “Shi Kun’s plans have all been completely ruined, and so, remaining here is meaningless for him. Moreover, Shi Lezhi’s death must have completely horrified him. He’ll obviously want to use this as an excuse to leave.”

“What do you think about what he just said? Could there really be a mysterious ninth rank expert here?” asked Sang Hong curiously.

“Whether or not it’s true, we can just ask and we’ll know.” Sang Hong rose to his feet. He reached out to turn a porcelain bottle on a nearby bookcase. The bookcase opened up, revealing a private room.

A masked man strode out from within. Sang Qian assessed the figure from head to toe. He couldn’t understand why his own father would hide anything from him. Even at this stage, he still had this fellow wear a mask.

Sang Hong said in a low voice, “You should’ve heard Shi Kun’s words earlier. What do you think?”

“Ninth rank? There shouldn’t be anyone like that in the Chu clan.” The man shook his head, then said in a mocking tone, “If they really did have a ninth rank ally, the one at the head of the clan wouldn’t be Chu Zhongtian.”

Sang Hong nodded. “That is my deduction as well. However, Shi Lezhi’s death in the Chu Estate doesn’t seem to be false. Just what is going on here?”

The masked man tapped his temple. “I just recalled something. During the previous Clans Tournament, Zu An became an overnight celebrity. He was interrogated by the Chu clan’s Madam, and she found out that he seemed to have received some techniques from a mysterious individual, who imparted the knowledge of cultivation to him before leaving.

“Could it be that he wasn’t telling the truth, and that this strange person hadn’t left, but remained by his side?”

Sang Hong nodded. “This is definitely a possibility. This can also explain how Shi Lezhi could die such a quiet death. I believe that, after he found out Chu Zhongtian had left the city, he decided to use the opportunity to infiltrate the estate and capture Zu An. After all, that brat has left Shi Kun in a rather sorry state. There’s no doubting that he  wanted revenge.

“However, who would have expected Zu An to have a mysterious expert backing him? If Shi Lezhi was ambushed by this mysterious individual, even if their cultivation was around Shi Lezhi’s level, they could have killed him whether they intended to or not.”

Having gotten a rough grasp of the situation, Sang Hong looked towards the masked individual. “The issue now is, just who exactly is that mysterious expert?”

The eyes of the masked individual betrayed a hint of puzzlement. “I’ve been in the Chu clan for so many years, and yet I’ve never noticed anyone like this… Could it be that Zu An’s father had some connections, and that this person isn’t from the Chu clan?”

Sang Qian spoke up. “Back then, when the Chu clan chose Zu An as their son-in-law, we investigated his background. We suspected he might have some special background, but it turned out he was only an orphan raised by his uncle, who passed away not long ago. 

“We looked into his uncle as well. He was merely an ordinary person, and there was nothing special about him.”

“Orphan…” Sang Hong pondered a moment. “We weren’t able to find out anything about his parents?”

“There was nothing.” Sang Qian shook his head. An alarming thought struck him. “Could he really have some sort of mysterious background?”

“That is most likely the case.” Sang Hong’s eyes flickered. “There is no kindness without cause or reason in this world. I refuse to believe that a piece of trash deserves the earnest fostering of a mysterious expert. Qian’er, dive deeper into his background. See if you can find any clues regarding his parents.”

“Understood!” Sang Qian acknowledged immediately, but he wore a slightly troubled expression. “I just fear that we might not find anything, since the previous investigations were extremely detailed.”

“We cast a wide net the last time. Now that we know what we are looking for, we might unexpectedly find something.” Sang Hong had a considerable amount of experience in this field. He turned his gaze back to the masked individual. “Of course, aside from Qian’er, I must also trouble your distinguished self to investigate within the Chu clan as well, to see if you can learn anything about that mysterious figure.

“If they exist in this world, then they will definitely have left behind some traces, no matter how mysterious they are. If we examine everything carefully, we should be able to find some clues.”

The masked man had a serious look in his eyes. “All right. I really want to find out just what kind of expert is hiding in the estate.”

If there was really such a top-notch expert hidden in the estate, how could he possibly feel at ease?

“Thank you for your trouble.” Sang Hong moved on to a different line of questioning. “By the way, how many people know about the matters regarding the Chu and Wang clans’ merchant caravans? Would they end up suspecting you?”

The masked individual clasped his fist respectfully. “I thank you for your concern, but there is no need to worry. I did not participate in that; it was something I heard about through a different channel. Even if they started investigating, they would not be able to trace anything back to me.”

Sang Hong smiled. “As expected of an experienced man like yourself.”

“Since I am taking care of matters for your respected self, it is only natural that I take extra precautions.” The masked individual hesitated a moment, then added, “However, regarding the things that were previously promised to me…”

“Don’t worry. I have always been a man of my word,” answered Sang Hong. “Chu Zhongtian shows no understanding of the times, so he is destined to be eliminated. At that time, the Chu clan will be yours, as well as the one you yearn for.”

The masked man was visibly embarrassed. “I’ve let your respected self see a shameful side of me.”

“Fair, graceful, and virtuous women belong to those of noble character; there is nothing abnormal about that. What is there to mock you for?” Sang Hong revealed a faint smile. “Why did Chu Zhongtian suddenly leave the city? It seems like young miss Chu fell ill? Did he really spend the night trying to find Divine Physician Ji?”

“Indeed, something has happened to Chu Chuyan’s health.” The masked man replied. “It is a pity that the Chu clan’s Madam has kept her condition an absolute secret. Not even I understand the exact situation.”

“It could be side effects from the Evanescent Lotus.” Sang Hong fell deep into thought. After returning from the dungeon, Chu Chuyan’s strength had increased sharply. Her ingesting the Evanescent Lotus was an open secret.

“I’ve already sent some people to approach Zu An to inquire about Chu Chuyan. I will immediately contact your respected self when I receive any further news.” The masked man said.

Sang Hong bowed slightly. “All right. I leave this matter in your capable hands.” 

“Master Sang is too polite.” The masked man hurriedly rose to return the greeting.

After chatting for a while longer, the masked man bid his farewell and left.

When he had left, Sang Qian grumbled, “Father, just who is that person? Why do you have to hide his identity even from me?”

Sang Hong answered, “That is his request. His identity is sensitive, and he is only willing to reveal it to me. Since I agreed to his request, it isn’t proper for me to renege on my promise.”

Knowing that his father had always been one whose words carried enormous weight, Sang Qian didn’t dare say anything more. Instead, he began to mutter to himself, contemplating who the mysterious man could be, and why keeping his identity a secret was so important to him.

Sang Hong shook his head inwardly at his reaction. His son was indeed too impatient and reckless. No wonder the masked man had made such a request.

He suddenly thought of another matter. “Right, I heard that you had Zheng Dan approach Zu An again?” he said in a cold voice.

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