Chapter 377: Suspicion and Scrutiny

“You mean that the problem lies with the mute woman?” Pi Yan furrowed his brows. “That’s impossible. I was the one who sent her to study the shadow arts. I also questioned her carefully, and I didn’t notice anything particularly suspicious.”

“Father, you only knew the mute woman well as a child. Ever since she was sent away for training, the two of you gradually drew apart. After her shadow arts improved, I’ve never once seen her face. She’s surrounded by shadow aura, so even Pi Yang, who’s close to her, hasn’t suspected anything, let alone the two of us. If the mute woman’s a fake...”

“You believe that there’s a third person on the Mingyuan continent who knows the shadow arts except for the mute woman and her master?” Pi Yan seriously doubted the veracity of his son’s claim.

“Father, wouldn’t her master be able to confirm her identity? I think we’d better find him,” Pi Batian suggested. “Right now, we also need his help. He’s skilled at finding people in hiding, and it’ll only be a matter of time until we find Li Mo if he’s here to help us.”

“Alright.” Pi Yan nodded. “We’ll do as you say.”

Unlike the other families, the Pi family remained in Peak Darkness even after the tournament. It had been four days since the conclusion of the tournament, but the Pi family showed no sign of leaving. Yun Ruoyan knew that Pi Batian had been intently focused on searching for Li Mo, but he had had no success.

“That dark robe really wasn’t to be trusted at all!” With Li Mo’s betrayal still fresh in everyone’s mind, Pi Yang’s expression turned grim and dark whenever Li Mo was mentioned. “To dare to conspire with the Feng family to lose our family the tournament, to lose the governing rights to Peak Darkness for another three years, and even to escape! Despicable!”

Yun Ruoyan stood behind Pi Yang, a smile dancing behind her veil. And don’t forget how he had you spend ten thousand spirit crystals for three Kongming Academy students.

“Mute woman, you were responsible for watching over him, so now that he’s run off, I’m sure Father and Brother will blame you.” Pi Yang’s tone was concerned. “You’ve always been meticulous, so the fact that even you didn’t notice anything unusual about him speaks volumes as to how sly he is.”

“He is sly, isn’t he?” Yun Ruoyan replied, trying to suppress her laughter. She could see that Pi Yang was truly concerned for her. In the past, she thought that although Pi Yang wasn’t as vicious as his father or brother, he couldn’t be a good person because of the negative environmental influences all around him. After getting to know him better over these few days, though, Yun Ruoyan found out that Pi Yang was actually still quite innocuous and kind-hearted.

Nevertheless, she and he could never be friends.

“Second Young Master, if there’s nothing else, I’ll—”

“Madam Shade.” A voice came from the other end of the corridor, interrupting Yun Ruoyan. She turned to see one of Pi Batian’s swordsmen walking toward her, and her face turned serious under her veil.

“What’s the matter?” Before Yun Ruoyan could speak, Pi Yang had already done so on her behalf.

“Lord Pi is summoning you,” the swordsman replied.

“I understand. I’ll head to his chambers immediately.”

The swordsman didn’t leave. Instead, he stood by the side waiting for Yun Ruoyan to move. She turned to glance at Pi Yang as she strode away.

“Let me follow you,” Pi Yang called out. “If I’m there, I may be able to ask for clemency on your behalf.”

Yun Ruoyan and Pi Yang went to Pi Yan’s rooms together.

“Why are you here?” Pi Yan frowned upon seeing Pi Yang. “The tournament’s over, so you should head back to the Pi city.”

“Yes, Father, I’ll be leaving tomorrow,” Pi Yang replied with a smile. Perhaps because Pi Yan didn’t hold his younger son in high regard, he was relatively lenient to him. In contrast, he was exacting in his demands for Pi Batian.

“Mute woman, you’ve been stuck to Li Mo like a shadow. Was there really nothing about him that struck you as unusual?” Pi Yan turned to Yun Ruoyan.

It wasn’t the first time that Pi Yan had asked a similar question. He had done so initially when Li Mo was all but confirmed to be a traitor. Yun Ruoyan had replied simply in the negative, but this time, she didn’t feel as though Pi Yan would let her get away with just that.

“Lord Pi,” Yun Ruoyan began, bowing. “I truly did not discover anything amiss. Li Mo is a stoic individual, one who rarely speaks or reveals much emotion on his face. All I can confirm is that he did not display any suspicious behavior while I was assigned to him. As for the thoughts and plans that he might have laid out before then, I was unaware of them.”

Yun Ruoyan had prepared her response well in advance. Her delivery was natural and without hesitation or guilt.

Pi Yan couldn’t find fault with her response, but because he was already doubting her, he began to feel more and more suspicious.

“Mute woman, when have you ever been able to speak so fluidly?”

Yun Ruoyan stilled. She hadn’t expected that speaking well would also cause suspicion, and she didn’t know how to allay Pi Yan’s concerns. Instead, she lowered her head and remained silent.

“Father!” Pi Yang could sense his father’s suspicions toward Yun Ruoyan. “She’s grown up with me, and I’m the one who understands her most. She would never do anything against the Pi family, she—”

Pi Yan glared at Pi Yang, causing him to stutter and stop entirely, before turning back to Yun Ruoyan. “You used to have to break up a sentence into three parts, and you would never speak more than three sentences in one go. Why do you sound like a different person entirely?”

Pi Yan released more and more of his aura, trying to terrify Yun Ruoyan with his strength. Against this demonstration, Yun Ruoyan didn’t deliberately try to remain calm: her voice began to quaver, and her forehead was covered by a sheen of sweat.

“Master, I, I—”

“Father!” Pi Yang once again stepped up to save Yun Ruoyan. “She was always fond of talking, and it was only after too much shadow aura ruined her voice that she became more and more reticent. Isn’t it natural for her to want to speak to clear her name?”

Pi Yan finally stopped pressuring Yun Ruoyan with his aura, and she exhaled in relief. Nevertheless, she forged forward with the next part of her planned response. “Master, I am truly loyal to the Pi family. Not having detected Li Mo’s betrayal was my failing, and I am willing to shoulder the blame.”

Pi Yan sat down, neither detailing Yun Ruoyan’s punishment nor dismissing her. Instead, he looked at her as she stood in silence, her head lowered.

Eventually, Pi Yang couldn’t take it any longer. “Father, if there’s nothing else, we’ll be leaving now.”

“You can go, but the mute woman remains,” Pi Yan replied, turning to her. “Your master’s coming, so you should stay and greet him.”

Master? Yun Ruoyan’s heart thumped. This woman had a master? She had no choice but to reply, “Yes, Lord Pi.”

“Is Master Shade coming?” In contrast, Pi Yang looked very excited. “It’s been so long since I last saw him!” He sat down, then motioned for Yun Ruoyan to follow suit. “You should sit too. Isn’t it tiring to keep standing?”

“I wouldn’t dare, Young Master.”

“Father.” Not long later, Pi Batian entered. He glanced at Yun Ruoyan, who stood by the side of the room, and at Pi Batian, who was sitting leisurely. Then, he announced to Pi Yan, “Master Shade is here.”

Before he finished speaking, a formless shadow suddenly appeared by Pi Batian’s side, gradually coalescing into the shape of a human. Yun Ruoyan saw only a man completely shrouded in a black robe, surrounded by a billowing field of shadow aura that rendered his features indistinct.

“Greetings, Lord Pi.” The master bowed to Pi Yan, his voice even lower and hoarser than Yun Ruoyan’s fake voice, as though there were something constricting his throat, that even the shortest word was a struggle for him. It turned her scalp numb.

“Master Shade, your disciple is here as well,” Pi Yan prompted.

He turned around and faced Yun Ruoyan. She felt as though a cold glare were penetrating her as she forced herself to remain steady and bow down. “This disciple greets her master.”

The master glanced at her critically, and a strange silence took over the room. In the pregnant silence, Yun Ruoyan could distinctly hear everyone else’s breathing.

“I hear you’ve failed your mission,” the shrouded man finally said.

“Yes, Master. I failed to detect my target’s motives in time, causing the Pi family to lose an important tournament. I will accept any punishment.”

The man nodded. His body flickered as he seemed to teleport to Yun Ruoyan’s side, then made as if to strike her in the face with a gnarled, blackened claw.

“Master Shade!” Pi Yang screamed, but he was too far away to stop him.

Yun Ruoyan felt a strong force about to hit her face, so quick that she couldn’t raise her defenses in time, and so strong that she couldn’t block it even if she had the time to react. Knowing that resisting was useless, she stood rigid and closed her eyes...

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