After finishing her meal, Yun Ruoyan decided to leave immediately with Li Mo on account of the distasteful man sitting at the table behind hers.
“Young Master,” Wang Gang asked, looking at Li Mo’s retreating back, “is that really the legendary Slaughtering King?”
Although Wang Gang hadn’t followed Wang Meng over to Li Mo’s table, he had overheard their conversation.
“The Slaughtering King’s said to be brutal and merciless, but he didn’t seem bad at all.” Wang Gang privately imagined that the Slaughtering King would be as muscular and broad as a little mountain; that, when he spoke, his breath would cause the world to tremble; that he was the type of man to gorge himself on meat and wine while emanating a killer’s aura.
But the Slaughtering King he saw today had been nothing but elegant, so much so that he almost seemed to possess a scholarly air.
Wang Meng snorted. “Even a demon who kills without blinking has to look decent in front of other humans, no?”
Although Wang Gang wasn’t great at reading emotions, he knew a little of his young master’s temper after having followed him around for so long. From his tone alone, Wang Gang could tell that Wang Meng was somewhat displeased.
“Who would have thought that that hateful little brat would actually be the Slaughtering King’s consort!” Wang Gang gritted out. He had never forgotten about the fact that Yun Ruoyan had scorched his face with her spiritual flame back in the Lin manor, but it seemed that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to get his revenge.
He looked back at his young master and asked curiously, “Why didn’t you retract the challenge against her? Neither winning nor losing will aid your reputation.”
“You don’t understand anything!” Wang Gang scoffed. “Don’t you know anything about the Slaughtering King? How many people on the Chenyuan continent are worth his paying attention to? If I retract the challenge because I’m afraid of his identity, he’ll quickly forget about me. But with the challenge in place, at least he’ll remember my name.”
Not only was Wang Meng a pillmaking genius, he was also the scion of a merchant family. His father had spared no expense in passing down his knowledge to his son, and Wang Meng enjoyed studying psychology in his spare time. At any rate, he was a learned man.
Wang Meng held out the flask of wine that Li Mo had unsealed but only taken a single sip of, poured himself a cup, wafted it under his nose, and downed it in one gulp. The hundred-year-old liquor was invigorating as it slid down his throat.
“Has there still been no news about my brother’s whereabouts?” Wang Meng asked.
Wang Gang was drooling upon smelling the heady scent of alcohol, but when he heard Wang Meng’s question, he quickly replied, “No, nothing. This is already the third batch of people we’ve sent out, and I’m afraid the second master has met his doom.”
Wang Meng frowned. He had been journeying in the Chen kingdom when his father suddenly contacted him, informing him that his brother Wang Kuang had gone missing within the imperial territory.
Wang Meng’s father had directed him to the Li kingdom immediately to search for Wang Kuang’s whereabouts. He wanted Wang Kuang’s body brought back, dead or alive.
“The eldest daughter of the Jin family and a few other scions also went missing. Based on our information, they had gone into the imperial territory along with the second young master, and it’s very likely that they perished upon encountering some strong magical beast.”
Although Wang Gang had never entered the imperial territory, he had heard that the magical beasts within were far stronger than those that were naturally seen around the Chenyuan continent. Wang Meng had never entered the territory either; because he had shown a strong propensity for pillmaking in his childhood, he was invited to Kongming Academy the moment he turned ten.
But because of his youth, his father had rejected the invitation. Instead, he had paid for famous pillmasters to tutor him at home, before allowing him to roam the continent to develop more experience as soon as he came of age. Wang Meng was quite pleased with this innovative style of learning, and he didn’t feel particularly regretful that he hadn’t attended Kongming Academy.
On the other hand, his brother Wang Kuang was different. Wang Kuang wasn’t particularly talented, but had always set entering Kongming Academy as his goal. For that goal, he had worked himself to the bone, even becoming a sixth-rank blademaster by the time he entered the imperial territory.
According to his father, he would undoubtedly pass through Kongming Academy’s selection process—but Wang Kuang had vanished, not even leaving a corpse behind.
Perhaps the situation would be explicable if he had been caught unawares by a group of magical beasts, but that didn’t seem to be the case. The problem was that Wang Kuang wasn’t the only scion that had gone missing; he didn’t know about his brother’s other peers, but the eldest daughter of the Jin family, Jin Fei’er, also had a relatively advanced cultivation for her age. Even if this group of people were to encounter a beast horde, it was very improbable that they would all perish.
“Have the men continue searching,” Wang Meng instructed. “Investigate anyone whom Wang Meng came into contact with directly before entering the imperial territory and within it.”
“Yes, Young Master!”
When the two of them finished their meal, Wang Meng began walking to the east.
“Young Master, where are you headed?” Wang Gang asked from behind. “The inn’s to the west.”
Sometimes, Wang Gang’s idiocy left Wang Meng speechless, but at least he was loyal. Wang Meng’s father had told him that what an intelligent master needed wasn’t a clever servant, but rather an honest and loyal one.
“Don’t ask so many questions; just follow my lead.”
“Yes, Young Master.” Clearly, Wang Gang was one such loyal servant.
Wang Meng took out a piece of jade from his sleeve as he continued walking. The piece of jade was yellow and didn’t look particularly special or valuable, but Wang Meng could easily track the location of another, identical jade pendant with it. Apparently, that jade pendant was to the east, not far forward from where he was.
After Yun Moxiao brought Duan Tianyun to the Lin estate, he brought him to Lin Qingchen’s bamboo gardens to have her help with his wounds. Although his arteries were sealed, the wound was so severe that Duan Tianyun’s shoulder continued to leak blood, dyeing the rest of his bandages red.
Lin Qingchen was rebandaging that wound. Duan Tianyun’s arm had been torn off at the shoulder joint. Back at the Slaughtering King’s manor, Li Luo had already cleaned and dressed the wound, cutting off the torn-off muscles and remaining dregs of flesh, revealing the ghastly sight of human bone.
Lin Qingxue was standing by the side and ready to help, but when Lin Qingchen removed Duan Tianyun’s bandages, she ran out in fright. Now, it was Zhuo Lin’er by Lin Qingchen’s side.
“Lin’er, pass me that red porcelain bottle.” Lin Qingchen tossed the used bandages aside and stretched out a hand toward Zhuo Lin’er. She immediately passed Lin Qingchen the bottle.
“The wound was cleaned and disinfected very well, so I won’t have to do that again,” Lin Qingchen told Duan Tianyun as she uncorked the bottle and dropped some of the powder within it on the wound. “This time, don’t try to pull off your bandages.”
Before agreeing to treat Duan Tianyun, Lin Qingchen had asked Yun Moxiao about what had happened, and he had recounted the whole story to her. As a physician, Lin Qingchen was very upset that Duan Tianyun had hurt his own body as a form of retaliation against Li Mo and the Slaughtering King.
“I won’t, Physician Lin.” Duan Tianyun forced out a smile. Because of the pain, sweat covered his entire face.
“If you can’t take it any longer, I’ll apply an anesthetic. There’s no need to force yourself to bear the pain.”
“It’s not necessary, thank you.” Duan Tianyun looked at his own gaping wound. “Being anesthetized is like being dead, and I hate that feeling.” In addition, he wanted to remember the pain; it would remind himself, day and night, of his need and desire for revenge!
Lin Qingchen bandaged the wound in silence.
After Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo left the restaurant, Li Mo sent Yun Ruoyan to the Lin manor. He wanted to take the opportunity to meet Lin Zainan, but it wasn’t a good idea while there were three guests in the manor who loathed him.
When Yun Ruyoan entered the bamboo gardens, she saw Lin Qingxue standing outside, her face pale. While Zhuo Yifeng was injured, Zhuo Lin’er had to take care of her brother, and neither sibling could spare the time to take care of Qingchen’s magical beasts.
Because Zhuo Yifeng’s injury was connected to Lin Qingxue, Lin Qingchen took the opportunity to force her sister to interact with her magical beasts. Lin Qingxue’s own guilt had caused her to swallow her fear and agree; after this episode, even she had become less frightened of the bamboo garden.
So why was she standing outside and trembling in fear now?
“Qingxue, what’s the matter?” Yun Ruoyan walked up to her and asked.
With a pale face, Lin Qingxue pointed at the house and said, “Sister Qingchen’s taking care of an uncle, and his wound’s frightening…”
Yun Ruoyan walked into the garden to see Yun Moxiao and Zhuo Yifeng standing to a side as Lin Qingchen bandaged Duan Tianyun’s wound, with Zhuo Lin’er as her assistant.
“Miss Yun,” Duan Tianyun called out as soon as he saw her.
Yun Ruoyan inclined her head in greeting as she asked Lin Qingchen about the wound, before turning to Yun Moxiao and Zhuo Yifeng.
As soon as Yun Ruoyan had entered, Zhuo Yifeng began feeling a little uneasy. Yun Ruoyan didn’t have many friends, and she especially cherished those with whom she had struggled through life and death. If she could help it, she didn’t want to lose a friend like Zhuo Yifeng.
“Zhuo Yifeng, are you alright?” she broke the silence.
“I’m a lot better.” Zhuo Yifeng knew that there was nothing to blame Yun Ruoyan for; after all, she didn’t owe him anything. However, as illogical though it might be, he felt as though there were skeins of emotions wrapped around his heart, constricting him more and more every time Yun Ruoyan showed up.
“We’re going to enter Kongming Academy soon, and there’ll be another expedition right when we do so. You have to recover before then,” Yun Ruoyan advised.
“I know. There won’t be a problem.” Zhuo Yifeng forced himself to smile.
To the east of the restaurant at which Yun Ruoyan had dined was a pawnbroker, and in front of that pawnbroker was a ragtag customer.
“There’s no way it’s only worth five silver!” the skinny monkey shouted.
Pawnbrokers dealt with rare and valuable goods. For safety and protection, the counter and shopfront were separated from the rest of the shop with a sturdy wooden barrier, leaving only a few small windows in front of the counter for communication and bartering between the shopkeeper and incoming customers.
“I grew up in the capital myself, so don’t try to hoodwink me!” the monkey yelled again, sticking his head into the small window.
“It’s only worth five taels of silver. If you don’t believe me, you can try to pawn it off elsewhere,” the shop assistant repeated, handing the yellow jade pendant back to the lanky man.
The skinny monkey scoffed, snatched the pendant back, and turned to leave. He was none other than Dou Yao, the man who had found the dying Jin Fei’er, drugged and had sex with her, and somehow returned to the capital…Previous Chapter Next Chapter