AIP - Chapter 64: The Fisherman
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
A powerful palm blast obliterated the desk made of fine sandalwood.
"What happened here?" Gu Changqing's roar resounded through the Eagle Nest, causing the three golden-clothed people down below to lower their heads in fear.
Gu Changqing's chest rose and fell as he suppressed his rage and yelled, "You useless idiots, bastards, trash! It's one thing to not find anything, but to leave behind tracks?! What's the point in keeping you around?"
The thought of how the people he had sent had blundered once more caused the flames of rage to burn in Gu Changqing's heart. He wanted nothing more than to crush their heads!
The people below all trembled in fear, not daring to speak. It was Gao Fei on the side who said, "Eagle Master, do not be moved to anger so quickly. I think that there is something fishy going on here."
"Something fishy?" Gu Changqing turned to Gao Fei.
Just like how Gu Changqing was the talent most favored by Godhead Palace at the moment, Gao Fei was the person that Gu Changqing appreciated the most. He would always put extra attention on his opinions.
Gao Fei explained, "Qi Ming is a veteran of the Hawk Hall, and we have all seen how he conducts his missions. He is a very mature and reliable person who has never made any mistakes before."
Gu Changqing grunted, "I know, which is why I sent him. I didn't think he would make such an error."
Gao Fei replied, "But I feel… Could it be possible that this wasn't a mistake made by Qi Ming's group?"
"Mm?" Gu Changqing looked at Gao Fei. "You mean…"
Gao Fei bowed and replied, "I wasn't there to see it myself, so I do not dare to be too certain. However, I had someone ask some of the nearby students, and also had some people sound out Xin Yue and Si Yue'er. Apparently, Tang Jie shouted about a thief because he discovered a footprint. Eagle Master, don't you think shouting 'thief' upon finding a footprint is making a mountain out of a molehill?"
Gu Changqing squinted. "Continue."
Gao Fei said, "In addition, according to the information I gathered, that footprint was extremely distinct, like the owner had stepped right into the pile of flour. It would be understandable if the three of them had left some small blemish in their movements, like a few small clues in an unnoticed corner. But to leave such obvious evidence without realizing it… I don't believe Qi Ming's group is incompetent to that level."
The three people below looked at Gao Fei with warm tears of gratitude.
Gu Changqing finally regained his cool.
He sat down and stroked his chin. "You're right. Gao Fei, I got too agitated. It seems like there really is something suspicious going on…"
"But your subordinate still does not understand. If Tang Jie really is trying to frame us, why would he do such a thing?"
"Why?" Gu Changqing went to rap on his desk as was his habit, but he found that he had obliterated his desk, so he stood up and began to pace back and forth. He then said, "It's naturally because he benefits from this. Xie Fengtang has probably noticed him now, yes? Now, the Basking Moon Sect will keep a close eye on him, and with the Basking Moon Sect interfering, we will have a hard time moving against him."
"Eagle Master means that he used this incident to draw the Basking Moon Sect's attention and protect himself?" Gao Fei frowned. "But the problem is that the Basking Moon Sect isn't exactly made up of kindhearted souls. We want the Martial Mirror, but so do they! Could it be… that Tang Jie plans to hand the Martial Mirror over to the Basking Moon Sect?"
Gao Fei paled at this thought.
If this was so, this would be the worst conclusion possible.
Gu Changqing shook his head. "I don't think he will hand over the Martial Mirror. If he wanted to hand it over, he would have done it three years ago. Why waste all the time and effort working as a servant? Even if he tried to exchange the Martial Mirror to become a True Inheritor, the Basking Moon Sect would probably agree, yes? If he wanted to do this, he would have done it long ago."
"Then why does he want the Basking Moon Sect to notice him?"
"Why?" Gu Changqing coldly chuckled. "Gao Fei, you've forgotten something."
Gu Changqing spoke clearly and slowly. "Up until now, we have actually found no evidence that he's Tang Jiye!"
Gao Fei was stunned.
Gu Changqing said, "Can you really be sure that he is the Tang Jiye with the Martial Mirror? He simply has a similar background, age, and name to Tang Jiye, but does this mean he's Tang Jiye? Frankly speaking, neither of us have yet confirmed this point!"
"After this incident, there's a ninety-nine percent chance that he's the one!" Gao Fei said with clenched teeth. "Otherwise, why would he fabricate evidence to frame us?"
"The problem is that our people really did go that night! That he shouted at the time might mean that it's not a coincidence, that Qi Ming's men really did leave behind some sort of trace! So it's completely possible for him to have discovered some sort of problem and then caused a great stir about it, making the evidence more obvious. Young men just love to play to the crowd. There's also this possibility!" Gu Changqing explained. "Most importantly, if Tang Jie really wanted to frame us, why did he choose precisely the night we went? Did he really have to wait until we came? He could have chosen any time he wanted to fabricate the evidence."
That disciple called Qi Ming down below swiftly said, "Perhaps it's because of the Art of Origin Return?"
"Wrong!" Gu Changqing said. "The Art of Origin Return isn't the only thing that can implicate Godhead Palace. If I were Tang Jie and I wanted to draw Basking Moon Academy's attention, I would definitely have a simpler option. For example, I could shout that some person wearing golden clothes was seen leaving my room. Framing! What does it mean to frame someone? It means to fabricate evidence! But he didn't do this, instead waiting until we actually went, and we can't even be sure that that evidence was actually fabricated by him!"
"This…" Everyone was momentarily speechless.
"This also means that we still can't be sure that he's Tang Jiye? And we can't even be sure if he was trying to frame us?" Qi Ming resentfully said.
"Yes, we can't confirm it! Over these last three years, there have been quite a few targets like him. But he is the only one to announce that he is Tang Jie, and he is the only one to discover our people after we searched his house. These two points alone are enough to mark him as suspicious, but they aren't enough to prove that he's the one!" Gu Changqing sighed. "In this world, there are far too many suspicious things and far too few things that can be confirmed!"
He was a person who cared a lot about the evidence. Though he was willing to admit that Tang Jie had an incredibly high chance of being Tang Jiye, until he found the Martial Mirror, any sort of reckless action was unwise.
If they got the wrong person, he would be in a whole load of trouble!
Gu Changqing added, "But this is why I can understand why he wants the Basking Moon Sect to take note of him."
Gao Fei's eyes brightened. "Because the Basking Moon Sect can't be sure either."
"Correct." Gu Changqing smiled and nodded. "Let us make a conjecture…
"Suppose that I am Tang Jiye, and I am also Tang Jie. I have the Martial Mirror, and if I succeed in cultivation, I can go to the Celestial Mountains, open up the formation, and obtain the Martial Lord's treasure. But succeeding in cultivation is easier said than done. If I wish to open the formation in the Celestial Mountains, I must at least be a True Person of the Celestial Heart Realm. And for the vast majority of people, the Celestial Heart Realm is a distant and unreachable goal."
Gao Fei joined in, "So I not only have to get into Basking Moon Academy, I have to obtain the favor of the academy, advance to the top ten students, and obtain the secret legacy arts! That's the only way to guarantee that I can get to Celestial Heart!"
"Correct. But I'm just a person of middling talent with a five-cycle Jade Gate. What can I do to get the Basking Moon Sect to favor me?" Gu Changqing rejoined.
A savage light flashed in Gao Fei's eyes. "It naturally has to be the Martial Mirror… This is the only weight I have available!"
"That's precisely why I shouted in front of the school, hoping to draw the academy's attention."
"But I didn't expect Godhead Palace to bribe some people in the academy and prevent this information from being reported to the higher-ups. Moreover, the Basking Moon Sect has a limited understanding of the Martial Mirror, so the attention I received was less than expected."
"So I need another way to further remind Basking Moon Academy."
"The problem is that I don't want to actually hand over the Martial Mirror, nor do I want to reveal the secret of the Martial Mirror. How should I remind the academy, then?"
"That's somewhat difficult… but… perhaps… I can turn around and use Godhead Palace…" Gao Fei's voice dwindled. "If the Basking Moon Sect finds out that Godhead Palace suspects me, they'll naturally notice me."
"So what I have to do is make the Basking Moon Sect see Godhead Palace's investigation," Gu Changqing said. "This is the same as me telling the Basking Moon Sect that Tang Jie might be Tang Jiye."
Gao Fei continued, "Yes, in this way, the Basking Moon Sect's attention will be on me, but since Godhead Palace isn't sure about who I am, the Basking Moon Sect also can't be sure if I'm Tang Jiye or not."
Gu Changqing: "Thus, the Basking Moon Sect will keep an eye on me, but it won't take any reckless action."
Gao Fei: "But the risk is still there. The Basking Moon Sect might choose to cast aside all apprehensions and seize me to search my soul and find the truth. After all, Basking Moon Academy is subordinate to the Basking Moon Sect. If they want to seize someone, they don't need to go through the trouble Godhead Palace has to."
Gu Changqing: "Is there anything in the world that's risk-free? When facing enormous organizations like the Basking Moon Sect and Godhead Palace, when trying to snatch wood from the fire, you have to take some risks. Moreover, the chances of the Basking Moon Sect doing this aren't high. Firstly, they still aren't sure if I'm the person that Godhead Palace wants. What would they do if they seized the wrong person? The consequences of soul searching are too severe, crippling the person in a way little different from death. Moreover, soul searching also has its limits, and it might not get the information they want from me. Secondly, Godhead Palace is still watching. It's one thing if the Basking Moon Sect doesn't find anything, but if it does, Godhead Palace won't just let the matter go. If they expose the matter and make it known that Basking Moon Academy tortured a student to seize his treasures, the Basking Moon Sect's reputation will plunge."
Gao Fei: "A student's life is worthless. But the Basking Moon Sect's reputation is worth a lot of money. Moreover, this is a situation where they're not sure if this is the right person or what they stand to gain. The situation will be even more disastrous if they end up killing a student in vain."
Gu Changqing: "So if I were Xie Fengtang, I definitely wouldn't use such crude and simple methods."
Gao Fei: "I would pretend to not know and use tactful and gentle methods to express my kindness, making it so that Tang Jie feels gratitude toward the Basking Moon Sect until he is ultimately willing to hand over everything to the sect. If Tang Jie himself hands it over, it doesn't matter how much trouble Godhead Palace tries to make, and the reputation of the Basking Moon Sect will be unharmed. I get both the virtue and the reward!"
Gu Changqing: "But if he doesn't hand anything over, I can improve my relationship with him and gather information. It's just a child, and it won't take much effort to trick him. If it's really no good, I can still resort to torture and interrogation. Even if it's the worst outcome and Tang Jie isn't Tang Jiye, it would just be a little favor showered on a single student, no big loss. In any case, whether being proactive or conservative, so long as that person is in my hands, I can do whatever I want."
Gao Fei: "It's like using the Basking Moon Sect to restrain Godhead Palace and Godhead Palace to restrain the Basking Moon Sect!"
Gu Changqing: "The sandpiper and clam fight while the fisherman catches both!"
Gao Fei: "That's why Xie Fengtang immediately handed out ten bottles of spirit medicine and one thousand spirit coins after the incident."
Gu Changqing: "This is only the beginning. If Xie Fengtang feels that there's a high chance that I'm Tang Jiye, if he knows the value of the Martial Mirror, if I perform a little better…"
Gao Fei: "Then even the ninth floor of Heaven One Pavilion might be open to me… This kid's a really ruthless schemer!"
With these last words, Gao Fei finally stopped standing in Tang Jie's shoes. He exchanged a glance with Gu Changqing, and they both sucked in a cold breath of air.
The subordinates below had their minds utterly blown away.
Why had Gu Changqing not considered the Basking Moon Sect all this time? Because he believed that if Tang Jie wanted to hand over the Martial Mirror to the Basking Moon Sect, he would have already done so rather than wait all this time.
It was precisely this limitation of thought that had caused him to commit a grave error!
Tang Jie truly hadn't handed over the Martial Mirror to the Basking Moon Sect, but this didn't mean that he didn't want to use the Basking Moon Sect.
The best way of using the Basking Moon Sect wasn't to tell the Basking Moon Sect, "I am the person that Godhead Palace is after." Rather, it was to use the actions of Godhead Palace to have the Basking Moon Sect "suspect that I am the person that Godhead Palace is after."
There didn't seem to be much of a difference between the two.
But in certain situations, this difference was like the gap between heaven and earth.
Suspicions were suspicions, but when you didn't have the actual object, when you didn't have a personal confession, when you only had a few clues here and there, you couldn't guarantee that it was him!
And he had already started to derive benefits from the process.
Gao Fei muttered, "If this is his plan, then isn't this kid's shrewdness just a little too frightening? He's only sixteen!"
Gu Changqing snorted. "You forgot that he drew our attention through his name of Tang Jie. And he was already being called Tang Jie back in the Wei Estate. If he is really Tang Jiye, then he started plotting this from before he entered the Wei Estate."
"What?" Everyone stared in shock at Gu Changqing.
"That year, he wasn't even thirteen yet," Gu Changqing slowly said.
Everyone was rendered speechless.
In truth, this matter wasn't actually very hard to conjecture out. In normal circumstances, they would have noticed that something was wrong from Tang Jie's shouted declaration in front of the school. Even if they didn't think that Tang Jie wanted to be the fisherman who benefited from the fight between the two other parties, they would have at least considered that he was borrowing the Basking Moon Sect to protect himself.
But they didn't think that an immature teenager would be able to think about this kind of plan.
This wasn't just a matter of intelligence anymore. What was most important was that their opponent had seen through worldly affairs and had an extremely deep understanding of society!
Rather than that plan that had toyed with them, this was what shocked them and left them in disbelief.
At this moment, all of them suddenly had a common hope: that this was all merely speculation!
Gao Fei said, "But there is ultimately a limit to how much he can extract benefits from the cracks. Once one side loses patience, he'll be done for…"
"Yes, playing with fire like this will eventually get you burned," Gu Changqing answered, "so there are ultimately two possibilities."
"What are they?"
"One: he truly isn't Tang Jiye. All he has done so far is simply shout that he's Tang Jie, discover that someone was spying on him, and report this to the school. From the perspective of a normal person, he truly hasn't done anything wrong, and his reaction is also normal. We've just had bad luck while he's had extraordinary luck. Thus, this entire incident was a coincidence. At his age, he shouldn't be able to concoct this sort of plan. We're just being too paranoid and overthinking it."
"And the second?"
"He really is Tang Jiye, and all of this was meticulously planned by him, and he was just waiting for us to take the bait. If this is true, we can't treat him like some ignorant teen, and instead have to treat him like a sly fox, like an unprecedented foe. If this is our opponent, he must have realized the risk inherent to this plan, so…"
Gu Changqing raised his head and looked at his men.
"He must have a back-up plan!"