AIP - Chapter 17: Gu Changqing
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
An inn in Anyang Prefecture.
A slender young man in golden fighting clothes with straight eyebrows and bright eyes stood in front of Shi Wunian. He bowed to him and said, "Gu Changqing of the Hawk Hall pays respects to Aspirational Lord! And pays respects to these two True Persons."
"There is no need for such courtesy." Shi Wunian waved his hand, indicating that the man should sit down. "Thank you for coming from so far away."
"Aspirational Lord, thank you for your concern. Your disciple brought twelve capable men from the Hawk Hall with him and is ready for Aspirational Lord's orders."
"On the matter of seeking out the Martial Mirror, I would like to hear your opinion… I presume that you already know about the matter?"
"Yes, this disciple read through all the files on the way here."
"What is your view?"
"There is no solution to this problem," the young man answered.
"Mm?" Shi Wunian raised an eyebrow.
This Gu Changqing appeared unafraid, only saying, "With the trouble Xiao Biehan has caused, we have already missed out on the best time to catch that boy. The heavens and earth are vast, the people as vast as the sea. As we did not catch him in the last few months, even if we have a few more years, even decades, we still might not be able to catch him… We've never even seen his face before."
"Don't we have the name?"
"In the Sageheart Kingdom, there are thousands of people with the name 'Tang Jiye'. Besides that, a name is something that can be changed whenever one pleases. If we rely only on the name, we probably won't be able to find anything."
"And the portrait?" Xu Ruogu asked.
"Even more useless," Gu Changqing rudely answered. "Oral descriptions are only useful when the subject in question has obvious physical features. For example, a face with a mole, a bald head, or some other natural trait. But if they're an ordinary person, a portrait is unable to identify anyone."
Everyone fell silent. Portraits were already somewhat different from the real person, and when one considered that this portrait was based on oral descriptions, while the result might look similar to Tang Jie, it would be difficult to recognize him unless one had actually met him before.
Gu Changqing added, "In addition, it is only a boy who is still growing. As a person grows up, their appearance will change. After a year has passed, even someone who was familiar with him might not recognize him in person, let alone from some unreliable portrait. And we aren't even considering that he might be trying to hide."
"Does that mean we just have to let him go free?" He Chong anxiously asked.
"Naturally not. I am only saying that pursuing him might not produce a result. I did not say that I could not find him," Gu Changqing indifferently answered.
"What's your plan? Given what you've said," Shi Wunian said.
Gu Changqing answered, "To catch this boy, we must first understand him. While coming here, I investigated everything about Xu Muyang and found that he did not know any boy by the name of 'Tang Jiye' before this. True Person Xu should be able to confirm this."
"Yes," Xu Ruogu answered.
"Then this means that Xu Muyang got to know this boy after he fled to the Sageheart Kingdom. True Person He, when you were chasing Xu Muyang to the Sageheart Kingdom, did you ever leave Xu Muyang alone for too long?"
"Absolutely not," He Chong answered. "I chased him all the way, sporadically battling him, barely leaving his side. At most, we were separated for only a few hours."
"That means that he got to know this boy after the battle at Jade Orchid Mountain. The house was bought one month after the battle at Jade Orchid Mountain, by which time that Tang Jiye had already made his appearance. Thus, he should have met Tang Jiye during this month. Before coming here, I ordered the Shadow Hall disciples to investigate Xu Muyang's movements in the area. They discovered that one month after the battle at Jade Orchid Mountain, several days before Tang Jiye bought the house, bandits massacred the villagers of Little River Village at the base of Jade Orchid Mountain. The entire population of the village was slaughtered."
"You think that Xu Muyang did it?"
"I've already been to Little River Village, and someone set up a gravestone there, though, unfortunately, there were no names. I had my men dig up the grave and inspect the corpses, and we confirmed that the wounds inflicted were sword wounds. Some of them had died to a Divine Will attack."
"As expected!" He Chong snorted. "On that day, when I was defeated, I used the Divine God's Fury to blast apart that Eight Gates Heavenseal Formation. Xu Muyang had made that formation in haste, so it wasn't that effective. Xu Muyang must have been too injured to maintain the formation, so he must have stayed in the area to heal up, only coming out one month later. This happened to be just in time to run into those bandits slaughtering the villagers, so he killed the bandits in turn. This Xu Muyang, even when death was imminent, did not forget his chivalrous nature!"
His voice was dripping with disdain.
"That sounds right," Gu Changqing commented. "Before coming, I also had my men investigate the surrounding villages. Some people had relationships with Little River Village, and they verified that there truly was a boy with the surname 'Tang' of about twelve years old. Alas, their relationships were shallow and they lacked detailed information. The entire village was burned down, so there is no means of getting any more detailed information, but we can be eighty percent sure that this Tang Jiye is the last surviving villager of Little River Village. After killing the bandits, Xu Muyang took him away."
"Is there a point in knowing all this?" He Chong unhappily said.
"There is!" Gu Changqing answered. "Only by knowing who our target is can we understand him. This boy… is not simple."
"And why do you say that?"
"Because we couldn't find him despite mobilizing so many men; because Xu Muyang dared to entrust that item to the boy; because he was able to get Xu Muyang to take him with him!" Gu Changqing answered. He turned to Xu Ruogu and asked, "True Person Xu, you are Xu Muyang's elder brother. In your view, is Xu Muyang the kind of person to entrust a treasure to a person he was not sure about?"
Xu Ruogu shook his head.
"After killing all the bandits, would he leave with the boy he had saved and even live with that boy for half a year?"
Xu Ruogu continued to shake his head.
Cultivators lived wandering lives, and their interests came and went. While they would sometimes execute justice in the place of the heavens, going with someone they had saved was out of the realm of possibility.
Yet this Tang Jiye had convinced Xu Muyang to take him and even entrust him with the Martial Mirror. It was clear that Xu Muyang had seen something in him.
Shi Wunian sighed. "It's no wonder we couldn't find that boy. In the end, we were deceived by his age."
A normal boy in dire straits would reveal himself in panic, and Godhead Palace would have had the chance to find him. But since this boy was moving around with a plan and this wasn't their home territory, the task became much more difficult.
Gu Changqing smiled. "In truth, there are times when it's good that they're smart. A smart person has ambition, and ambition means a goal. Since we can't find him, we might as well try something else."
"He has the Martial Mirror," Gu Changqing stated. "He definitely knows the use of the Martial Mirror. Aspirational Lord, if a boy has a key to a treasury, what do you think he will do with it?"
Shi Wunian's eyes gleamed. "Do you even need to ask? He'll naturally look for an opportunity to open the treasury."
"That's right!" He Chong slapped his hand. "We just need to send people to keep a watch on the formation and he'll eventually deliver himself to our doorstep!"
But his words caused Shi Wunian and Xu Ruogu to glance at him in contempt while silently cursing his idiocy.
The Nine Executions Immortal Formation was an ancient formation. Besides knowledge of formations, one's cultivation was also crucial. Even with the Martial Mirror, Tang Jie was incapable of opening the formation.
If they really chose to camp out in front of the formation, there was no telling how many years they would have to wait. Perhaps after one hundred years, that boy might have become a corpse already and still not have made it to the Celestial Mountains, and the Martial Mirror would end up buried deep in the earth.
Gu Changqing asked, "Thus, let me ask a question of True Person Xu. Do you think that Xu Muyang would have passed on the cultivation mantras of the Xu Clan to that boy?"
"Impossible!" Xu Ruogu firmly declared. "The Xu Clan's cultivation methods can only be passed to those of the bloodline, not to outsiders. This is the foundation of the clan, and he would never have broken this rule."
If Xu Muyang had been a traitor to the clan, Xu Ruogu would have never dared to be so certain. But Xu Muyang had been thinking about protecting the Xu Clan before his death, so he could have never done such a thing.
"Did he have any other cultivation method?"
"No," Xu Ruogu replied. "My third brother was obsessed with the Dao of Formations, so he did not understand the cultivation methods of other sects. He Chong should be able to verify this."
He Chong nodded. "I fought with him for two months, and Xu Muyang used every trick at his disposal. I did not see him use any techniques outside of the Xu Clan's, so he probably could not use any."
"Then that means that Tang Jiye most likely cannot use any cultivation methods, except…" Shi Wunian recalled the Visceral Manifestation Classic, but considering that Xu Ruogu was present, he did not say its name.
Gu Changqing said, "The Visceral Manifestation Classic is only a foundational cultivation technique and is not a cultivation method of the Spirit Platform Realm, so it does not count."
He Chong glared at Gu Changqing for revealing the name of the Visceral Manifestation Classic, but Gu Changqing simply chuckled. "Who still can't guess at what's going on by now? But without knowing the specific value or location of the treasure, there's no way of knowing whether it is worth risking one's life for. The Visceral Manifestation Classic was the work of that august figure, but so long as its maker remains unknown, you can spread this name across the world without anyone caring. In truth, it's fine to speak openly. If you can't keep it hidden, it would be better to just stop hiding it. Just tell them that it's a treasury left by an Earth Immortal of the Immortal Platform Realm located in our Nadir Hill."
Shi Wunian nodded repeatedly. "Not bad."
Since they couldn't prevent this news from leaking, they might as well lower its value.
While the Immortal Platform Realm was impressive, the various sects all had comparable existences. The relics of an Immortal Platform Realm Earth Immortal was worth Shi Wunian making the journey, but it wasn't worth the all-out effort from the six major sects.
"But if we continue to pursue the issue, they might not believe us," Xu Ruogu hesitantly said.
"Thus, for now, I must have Aspirational Lord return," Gu Changqing said. "If Aspirational Lord remains here, you will only increase the perceived importance of this affair and draw the Basking Moon Sect's attention. Your visit could be explained as a means of preserving Godhead Palace's dignity, but if you stay any longer, it means that this matter is one of grave importance."
"Then what about the Martial Mirror?" He Chong frowned.
"While the Martial Mirror is important, it is in the hands of a mortal boy. The true difficulty is in finding the person, not taking the item. A strong man could easily deal with the target, and there is no need for Aspirational Lord or these two True Persons to remain."
"It makes sense." Shi Wunian nodded. "Since that is the case, we will return to Godhead Palace tomorrow. Hunting Eagle, remain here and continue the search. But what does it matter that the boy doesn't know how to cultivate?"
Gu Changqing answered, "One must cultivate in order to unlock the Nine Executions Immortal Formation. Since Tang Jiye failed to obtain the Xu Clan's arts and the Visceral Manifestation Classic is not enough to let him officially cultivate, then his next step…"
Shi Wunian understood. "Basking Moon Academy! He'll definitely try to get into Basking Moon Academy! No wonder he went north!"
"True! So long as we have people watch the academy, we'll catch him eventually. It's much better than keeping watch in the mountains," He Chong excitedly said.
"But Basking Moon Academy is not easy to get into," Xu Ruogu said.
"Yes," Gu Changqing sighed. "Fortunately, this boy doesn't seem stupid. I can only hope that he's very smart, so smart that he can overcome all the barriers before him and enter the academy."
"Basking Moon Academy only accepts students up until the age of sixteen. This year's chance has already passed, so he still has three years to attempt it," Xu Ruogu said.
"Three years! Still another three years," Shi Wunian and He Chong helplessly said in unison.
Gu Changqing indifferently said, "For the sake of Godhead Palace's eternal foundation, even waiting one hundred years would be fine! Patience is the treasure that leads to success, whereas a lack of patience means that nothing will get done. Moreover, waiting at Basking Moon Academy will always be better than waiting by the formation. Of course, this disciple will do his utmost to find this boy, but our clues are limited, so the hope is minuscule."
"I suppose that's all that can be done." Shi Wunian nodded. "As for the Nine Executions Formation, Godhead Palace will dispatch people to keep a watch on it throughout the year so that this kid doesn't get a single chance. We also have to keep an eye on the smaller sects."
"Yes!" Gu Changqing answered. "But I feel that he will most likely choose Basking Moon Academy. With the Martial Mirror in hand, he would be wasting it if he did not apply his efforts on the proper path. To make the search easier, your disciple also wishes to place several subordinates in Basking Moon Academy."
"This…" Shi Wunian frowned. "Basking Moon Academy places a lot of emphasis on a clean background. Our disciples here might not be able to pass their checks."
"That's not necessary," Gu Changqing replied. "Just have them enter the academy in the name of Godhead Palace."
"How could they agree to that?"
"They will. The Basking Moon Sect is worried about its secret arts getting out, but what we want is a person. We can go without the Violet Jade Mantra, and there is no need for us to learn the Divine Firmament Sword Classic, so we can simply have them take unimportant classes and even be watched. If the Basking Moon Sect is willing, we can also have them send disciples to our Godhead Palace Academy to study, where we will treat them as honored guests. While we might suffer a little loss, if we give them good conditions, they should agree."
He Chong grunted.
Gu Changqing's words sounded nice, but in the end, he was thinking about himself. It seemed that he was intending to use Godhead Palace's resources to train his subordinates.
Learning first-class arts was never easy. Besides exceptional talent, one also needed achievements and loyalty. For most disciples, let alone divine-rank arts, the ordinary arts were more than enough to greatly boost their strength.
Moreover, if these few people learned the arts of the Basking Moon Sect, even if they were not powerful arts, they would still have unique value to Godhead Palace in the future. Their status would not be lacking and there would not be any need to worry about resources. In the future, there was an extremely high chance that they could become True Persons or True Lords. As these people would all have been selected by Gu Changqing, they would naturally be grateful to him, and so Gu Changqing's power and status would rise. He had truly given a lot of thought to this plan.
However, Gu Changqing's meticulous plan needed Godhead Palace's approval.
And all of this was dependent on Gu Changqing getting back the Martial Mirror. If he failed… Haha, He Chong mentally sneered. You'll have to spit back out everything you ate!
He had no grudges with Gu Changqing, but he had lost Xu Muyang, causing his status in Godhead Palace to fall. Thus, he naturally felt unhappy when he saw others performing well and hoped that they would fail.
"Makes sense!" Shi Wunian had already stood up. "I will report this to the Palace Lord once I return. Starting from now, this place is under your supervision!"
"Yes! This disciple will not return to the palace without the Martial Mirror!" Gu Changqing prostrated in delight.