“The Feng family has established a secure communications channel with Madam Hong, so why would she send a message through a travelling merchant?” Feng Bo wondered.
“Perhaps the merchant would be able to get the news across faster,” Yun Ruoyan guessed. “I’ve seen Madam Hong’s handwriting, and this is it.”
As the head of a famous courtesan troupe, it was only to be expected that she would have her own means of sending messages, but Feng Bo still thought that something was amiss.
“The letter asks specifically for Miss Yun to receive these swordsmen. Why could this be?” Feng Bo continued.
Lin Qingchen frowned. “I feel like something’s the matter as well, Sister Ruoyan. Please, don’t go.”
“I can send someone else to go in your stead,” Feng Bo volunteered.
“Even if something’s amiss, I have to go personally,” Yun Ruoyan replied. “If not, how would we know what kind of trick they’re trying to pull?”
Lin Qingchen and Feng Bo both turned to Li Mo, standing behind Yun Ruoyan, hoping he would be able to persuade Yun Ruoyan against her foolhardy decision.
“Go if you wish,” Li Mo replied coolly. “But you have to stay within a meter of me at all times.”
The next day, Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo headed beyond the confines of the Feng city, waiting for the arrival of the swordsmen at the location stated on the note. A few minutes after they arrived, a few men on horseback appeared.
“There are only eight of them,” Yun Ruoyan remarked curiously. “I had expected at least fifty.”
“There’s indeed something amiss,” Li Mo murmured.
Regardless of whether the note was truly from Madam Hong, they had anticipated that they would be facing at least a group of fifty or so. If it were true, then two dozen families would be sending two or three swordsmen each; if it were false, then surely past experience would have taught the Pis that they stood no hope of capturing Yun Ruoyan with just eight men.
The cultivators walked up to Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo, then stopped about thirty feet away. Each of the eight was wearing a black robe, their heads masked and hooded.
“Who exactly are you?” Yun Ruoyan asked.
“Ha, haha.” The leader of the group stepped forward and began to laugh. “Yun Ruoyan, you really did come!”
When Yun Ruoyan heard the familiar voice, she clenched her fists tightly. “Rong Yueshan, it’s you!”
“It’s me! You didn’t expect it, did you?!” Rong Yueshan flung aside the mask on her face. “That I would still be alive and able to appear in front of you.”
Yun Ruoyan frowned upon seeing her face. “What happened to your face?”
Rong Yueshan clutched her left cheek. “It’s all thanks to your senior sister, Guan Ruliu! If not for her trying to escape, I wouldn’t have reported her to the Lie family, and neither would I have been forced to remain with the Lies as a slave. After I reported Guan Ruliu and the others, the young master of the Lie family, Lie Sen, not only failed to reward me, but even claimed that I was a traitor! He commanded his subordinates to carve a word on my cheek.”
If Rong Yueshan hadn’t mentioned it, Yun Ruoyan wouldn’t have realized that the marks formed a damning word: traitor.
“You’re really self-centered, aren’t you? You always push the blame onto others, with no understanding or contrition about what you’ve done. It’s because of you that a dozen of our peers are dead,” Yun Ruoyan retorted coolly. “Lie Sen’s not wrong: you are a traitor.”
“I’m no traitor!” Rong Yueshan immediately exclaimed. “They were the ones who were foolish for seeking death, and they even tried to rope me with them! If I hadn’t exposed their plan, I would have been dead. Aren’t I still alive? But Guan Ruliu and the others, haha, they’re all dead!”
Yun Ruoyan’s heart leapt. “What did you say? What happened to Senior Sister Guan and the others?!”
“They’re dead!” Rong Yueshan repeated. “Don’t you understand me? Dead!”
Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo had saved Guan Ruliu and her two junior sisters from the pleasure den within Peak Darkness, then entrusted them to Feng Yicheng. Feng Yicheng had them escorted to the Feng city, where they remained until they recovered—but after they did so, they wrote a letter and left.
In their letter, they claimed that they had been unable to forget their peers’ faces as they died. They swore vengeance and retribution against Rong Yueshan, and had left to take her life.
Yun Ruoyan knew Guan Ruliu quite well. Although she appeared gentle, she was particularly stubborn when she had set her mind on a task. Because she was skilled and cool under pressure, Yun Ruoyan hadn’t been too worried about her safety—but to think that she had perished!
“You don’t believe me, do you? Have a glance with your very eyes!” Rong Yueshan’s smile was warped and stretched beyond what seemed natural, but she was clearly very pleased by Yun Ruoyan’s shock.
Three black-clad men stepped forward, each carrying a black box in their hands.
“Open the boxes!” Rong Yueshan commanded.
In the frosty winter air, under the unwelcome clarity of the sun, Yun Ruoyan saw what the boxes contained: three heads, three female heads, hair draped haphazardly around their base. Their expressions were wretched, ferocious; their eyes were wide open, filled with resentment and disbelief.
Yun Ruoyan closed her eyes, for she knew the three females: Guan Ruliu and her two junior sisters. “Rong Yueshan,” she shrieked, her lungs trembling from the effort. “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you!”
A fierce red light shone under her feet as she soared to the skies, drawing her Scarlet Eye as she thrusted toward Rong Yueshan.
“Yan’er!” Li Mo called out, then followed her into the air.
“Quick, protect me!” Rong Yueshan shouted, her face finally turning flustered. She retreated quickly, and the swordsmen behind her stepped forward to shield her.
Because of her rage, Yun Ruoyan’s Scarlet Eye had turned the color of blood. None of the guards shielding Rong Yueshan were sword saints themselves; instead, their cultivation was about on par with Yun Ruoyan’s. In front of Li Mo, they were nothing but cannon fodder.
Yun Ruoyan’s Scarlet Eye boasted exceptional attack power, and none of the black-clad men were able to withstand a blow from her amidst her rage.
Li Mo noted, with some surprise, that Yun Ruoyan’s bloodthirsty behavior was a direct result of the partial awakening of her bloodline. Intense pain had provoked a reaction from the blood that ran latent in her veins, and quashing this anger would require fresh blood.
As Li Mo guarded Yun Ruoyan from the side and prevented the guards from escaping, Yun Ruoyan stabbed their bodies and tried to quell her rage and pain with their blood sacrifice.
Rong Yueshan retreated further and further away, her face distorting in fear. “You can’t kill me! I’m a member of the Pi family now!”
Given what Lie Sen had done to her, Rong Yueshan quickly realized that she wouldn’t be able to make a name for herself in the Lie family. Since the Pi family had been searching everywhere for Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo, Rong Yueshan had escaped from the Lie family and entered the Pi family.
After Guan Ruliu and her two junior sisters arrived in the Lie city to find that Rong Yueshan had escaped, they followed her trail to the Pi city, where they infiltrated the Pi manor in an attempt to catch her. However, Rong Yueshan had set up countermeasures for this very scenario, and the three women had been caught and imprisoned in the same prison where Zhuo Yifeng had been tortured.
That same prison would also be their grave.
Yun Ruoyan cleaved at another helpless guard before focusing on Rong Yueshan once more. “All the more reason you should die!” she gritted out. She chopped down another black-clad guard, then rushed to Rong Yueshan’s side and held her sword by Rong Yueshan’s nose.
“You can’t kill me,” Rong Yueshan cried out in fear. “The Pi family has caught everyone in the courtesan troupe! I’m here to tell you to surrender, or they’re all dead!”
Yun Ruoyan’s hand trembled almost imperceptibly. “And why shouldn’t I kill you first to avenge their deaths?”
“There’s more! The Pi family has also caught Feng Mian, the young master of the Feng family, Feng Yanyang’s only son! If you kill me, at least one member of the troupe will die. You know a woman called Xiao Qing, don’t you? I heard that she was friendly to you, so I chose her as my safeguard. If I don’t return in time, she’ll die a horrendous death, just like Guan Ruliu and the others, haha!”
Rong Yueshan pointed at the boxes that had fallen on the ground during the commotion, her smile more warped than ever. Guan Ruliu’s head had rolled out of her box, and her eyes stared straight at Rong Yueshan. Rong Yueshan’s laughter stopped abruptly; in a trembling voice, she said, “Don’t look at me! You’re the ones who asked for death, and I’m not to blame! I wasn’t the one who killed you—it was Pi Batian, blame him if you must! And I didn’t kill any of my peers either—those were the Lie swordsmen! I didn’t want them to die, but I was forced to do so! You forced me to do so!”
Rong Yueshan’s smile morphed into a mask of fright. She began to cry, tears and snot filling her face, giving her an inhuman appearance.
“Leave!” Yun Ruoyan shouted, sheathing her sword. “Before I find the members of the courtesan troupe and Young Master Feng, you’d better find a place to hide. If I see you again, I’ll kill you!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter