AIP - Chapter 15: Pursuit
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Anyang Prefecture was particularly lively tonight.
First, Xu Muyang had detonated his Celestial Heart, sending energy skyward. Afterward, Shi Wunian and Xiao Biehan had gotten into a big fight, battling from Windscreen Ford all the way to the summit of Rainbow Cloud. For the entire night, the people of Anyang Prefecture could see gouts of flame in the sky and hear rumbles of thunder.
Shockwaves of spiritual energy stirred up storms that wreaked havoc across Anyang Prefecture, destroying nearly one hundred civilian homes and flattening the hills around Windscreen Ford.
Even so, it wouldn't be long before life returned.
The vanished grass and trees would grow back, and the hills and mountains would gradually recover through the use of spell arts.
This was how things were in the cultivation world. The land would experience a cycle of restoration and destruction because of cultivators. Rivers' changing course and mountains' rising and disappearing were commonplace.
Cultivators could enter seclusion for one hundred years, and when they finally emerged, the world would have changed.
Thus, while battles between cultivators might have been bitterly fought, battles causing the sun and moon to grow dark and blood to bathe the heavens, when the battle ended, ancient battlefields would often become gathering points of spiritual energy and prosper.
If some ancient great power died, the land would be blessed for ten thousand li, and in time, a powerful sect would be born.
Of course, there were also great powers who would not die in a timely fashion and who would seal all of their power into a spiritual land. The Ninedark Martial Lord was an example of this sort. It was precisely because no one had discovered his spiritual land for ten thousand years that the formation had finally begun to fail, allowing a small amount of spiritual energy and good fortune to leak out, thus drawing in countless people greedy for its power.
Shi Wunian was in no mood to mess around with Xiao Biehan, as the Martial Mirror took precedence. After fighting for a bit, he shouted, "Xiao Biehan, can I still not concede?"
Xiao Biehan loudly laughed. "What a dishonest fellow! You clearly have some strength in reserve, so how could you concede? Come, come; let's continue. If you have business, we can talk about it once the battle is over!"
No matter how unwilling and reluctant Shi Wunian was, he could not hope to leave unless Xiao Biehan stopped his assault.
The two of them fought until the sun rose in the east. Upon seeing the break of dawn, Shi Wunian angrily roared, "Xiao Biehan, just how long do you want to fight? This old man has business and doesn't have the time to play with you!"
The swords suddenly disappeared, and Xiao Biehan miraculously sheathed his sword and drew back. Laughing, he said, "Since Aspirational Lord Wunian is in no mood to fight, then forget it. What a pity! If Aspirational Lord is in no mood to fight, then even if I win, it would be a hollow victory. Aspirational Lord, since you have business to attend to, then please be on your way. My Basking Moon Sect will not try to keep you. But, Aspirational Lord, you should understand that this Sageheart Kingdom is protected by my Basking Moon Sect. Consider your actions carefully."
With a hearty laugh, he departed.
Shi Wunian was so angry that he could vomit blood.
He had come very quietly and inconspicuously, and it was clearly this bastard who had started a fight as soon as he got here. Just who was the one not considering their actions?
Returning to the ground, Shi Wunian saw that He Chong and Xu Ruogu were still there. Killing intent in his eyes, he asked, "Why have you not gone after that boy?"
He Chong answered, "Li Hongyang and Ming Yekong came as well. They were watching us and forbade us from leaving."
"What? Basking Moon Sect, this isn't over!" Shi Wunian was furious, thrusting out a palm and obliterating a large boulder next to him.
But despite his fury, he could do nothing to the Basking Moon Sect.
After some thought, Shi Wunian said, "So much time has passed that that kid has probably run far away by now, and finding him won't be easy. He Chong, find the person who sold this house, get a description of that boy, and have a painting made. Distribute this portrait to all of our Shadow Hall disciples in Sageheart and have them search for him. We must find him!"
"What? Mobilize all of our Shadow Hall disciples?" He Chong's heart thumped.
'The Shadow Hall' referred to the spies that the various sects had planted in other kingdoms. They specialized in gathering information, and if necessary, they could be mobilized to execute special missions. This was an extremely dangerous career, and most cultivators with future prospects would not choose this path. Thus, each spy was extremely valuable. Godhead Palace had only a hundred-some spies in Sageheart, and if they were all mobilized, the chances that they would be exposed were extremely high. The moment the Basking Moon Sect found them, they would be dead men walking.
The Basking Moon Sect would not kill Shi Wunian, but it would be ruthless to these spies. When the time came, there would probably be a sudden rash of accidents.
"That's not something we can worry about right now. The Martial Mirror is the foundation of Godhead Palace's prosperity. We have to get it back no matter what," Shi Wunian ruthlessly said.
Xu Ruogu was alarmed, hastily saying, "Aspirational Lord, this matter has already alarmed the Basking Moon Sect, and they will probably keep a close eye on us. If we mobilize the Shadow Hall disciples now, I worry…"
Shi Wunian understood what he was saying before he could finish. If they mobilized the Shadow Hall disciples now, the Basking Moon Sect would probably catch them all before they could even do anything.
Shi Wunian nodded. "You're right. That was my mistake. Do you have any ideas?"
Xu Ruogu answered, "Aspirational Lord, in the end, this is the land of the Sageheart Kingdom, so our actions can't be too brash. In my view, we have several paths that we can proceed on."
"Oh? Tell me them."
"The first option would be to bring over the elite trackers from Godhead Palace and Nadir Hill and have them start their investigation from here. The second would be to bribe the local officials of Sageheart Kingdom and gather information from them. The third option would be to gather some people from the rural areas and have them serve us in conducting the search. If we use the people of Sageheart to do our work, we'll have more manpower at a cheaper price. And not even the Basking Moon Sect will be able to stop us."
Shi Wunian nodded at these words. "Not bad. You've got a good head on your shoulders and deserve to be the next patriarch of the Xu Clan. Having the Sageheart people help us in our search is an idea. That being the case… He Chong, send a message back to Godhead Palace. Have them send over Hunting Eagle, and then inform the Shadow Hall disciples to work with him."
He Chong respectfully replied, "It will be done. But, Aspirational Lord, if we do this, the Basking Moon Sect will have a clearer idea of our objective."
"They probably already know enough," Xu Ruogu commented.
"Hahahaha! Feels good, feels good! That was truly an excellent fight!"
In Anyang Prefecture, Xiao Biehan laughed, holding his sword upside down, as he entered the Basking Moon Sect's branch hall. As he seated himself at the head seat, two other individuals stood at his side, both True Persons of the Celestial Heart Realm.
One wore an azure robe while the other wore a black robe. They seated themselves below and to the sides of Xiao Biehan. The azure-robed one had a green complexion, appearing like a corpse, while the black-robed one had a face so handsome that even men would be moved.
All the other cultivators, including Nan Baicheng, were prostrating at Xiao Biehan's feet.
"Paying respects to Third Martial Uncle!"
"Paying respects to the Founder!"
"Paying respects to True Person Hongyang!"
"Paying respects to True Person Yekong!"
Greetings filled the air.
Xiao Biehan waved his hand. "All of you, rise. Who is the one in charge here?"
Nan Baicheng hastily stood up. "Nan Baicheng, Changfeng's disciple, pays respects to Martial Uncle, True Person Hongyang, and True Person Yekong!"
Xiao Biehan looked at Nan Baicheng. "Changfeng? You're Yan Changfeng's disciple? Go on and tell me what happened here. The rest of you are dismissed."
Everyone else left, leaving Nan Baicheng to report on what had happened. Of course, Nan Baicheng made sure to include how he had calmly faced down Aspirational Lord Wunian and was determined to die if necessary. The three individuals simply listened.
Once Nan Baicheng was done, the azure-robed man asked, "Do you know who it was in the residence?"
Nan Baicheng hurriedly replied, "True Person Yanghong, after Martial Uncle began battling with Aspirational Lord Wunian, this disciple immediately sent men to investigate the details of the residence. We have already found that there were two inhabitants in the residence. One was a twelve-year-old boy called Tang Jiye. The house was bought under his name, and he once worked at an inn in Anyang Prefecture. He had been working there all the way until last night, but he did not show up today. The other was an older man in white, appearing twenty-some years old. Since he arrived half a year ago, he has remained in the residence and did not come out. I've questioned the seller of the house, who confirmed that when they were exchanging pleasantries, the man seemed to have the surname 'Xu'."
"Xu?" The black-robed man immediately said, "I recall who that fellow from last night was now! It was Xu Ruogu!"
"So Shi Wunian really did come this time to hunt down a traitor?" the green-robed Li Hongyang asked.
Xiao Biehan snorted. "Bullshit! Is hunting down a traitor so important that Shi Wunian himself would come out? And since when was it Godhead Palace's place to manage the affairs of the Xu Clan? That spiritual explosion last night was clearly a Celestial Heart Realm True Person detonating their Celestial Heart! Harrumph! For a mighty True Person of the Celestial Heart Realm to be forced to detonate their Celestial Heart, this matter is clearly more complicated than it seems! Hongyang, find out how many Celestial Heart Realm experts the Xu Clan has, and which one of them like to wear white."
"There's no need to investigate," the black-robed Ming Yekong swiftly said. "The Xu Clan has seven people at the Celestial Heart Realm: Xu Huaili, Xu Ruogu, Xu Mingyue, Xu Muyang, and three others who do not have the surname 'Xu'. That man in white wasn't of the right age to be Xu Huaili, and since it was a man, it could only have been Xu Muyang!"
"Xu Muyang?" Xiao Biehan was taken aback. "That formation master?"
He stroked his chin and began to think, muttering, "In other words, Godhead Palace and Xu Ruogu came to capture Xu Muyang, but Xu Muyang was more willing to kill himself than be captured. But Xu Muyang is dead now, yet they haven't left. On the contrary, they're trying to find that boy… haha, there's a problem here. It seems like the boy must either come from some extraordinary background, or else be holding some precious treasure."
"Martial Uncle is truly perceptive. I think the same. But I have not heard of any young scion of any sect going missing as of late, so I would venture to say that there is an eighty percent chance of it being the latter. What does Martial Uncle think we should do next?" Ming Yekong asked.
"Is there any need to ask?" Xiao Biehan grunted. "I don't know what it is that Godhead Palace wants, but I know it must be important, so important that Shi Wunian would come himself, so important that someone as proud as him would concede to me! Haha, he didn't know that the more he wanted to leave, the more I had to keep him! I don't care what Godhead Palace wants to do, but my Basking Moon Sect can't let it succeed, at least not easily!"
He slapped his hand down, obliterating the table beneath his palm.
While Xiao Biehan was called a sword fanatic and martial maniac, he had never been stupid. A love of fighting merely served as his smokescreen. He had come over this time to make trouble for Godhead Palace, and if Shi Wunian had confessed that Xu Muyang had stolen some treasure of Godhead Palace, Xiao Biehan might have dropped the matter.
The Basking Moon Sect was not so impoverished that it would want to steal Godhead Palace's treasures.
But the more unwilling he was to talk about it, the more suspicious Xiao Biehan became, and the more Xiao Biehan wanted to impede him. Thus, he fought with even greater enthusiasm.
The six major sects got along on the surface, but they struggled against each other in the shadows. Each of the sects only had one other sect that they truly got along with. For the Basking Moon Sect, its true friend was the Thousand Passions Sect, while it treated the rest with feigned courtesy. Now that Godhead Palace had run over to the territory of the Basking Moon Sect, Xiao Biehan would be letting down his title of Third Martial Uncle of the Basking Moon Sect if he didn't try to hinder Godhead Palace in some way.
In any case, he was a martial maniac.
Relying on his behavior of feigned madness, Xiao Biehan had succeeded in causing a mess for Godhead Palace.
With this said, Xiao Biehan continued, "Investigate that boy immediately, and have our disciples seek him out. We have to find him before Godhead Palace. I don't believe that we can't find someone in our territory before they can. In addition, send people to keep watch on Shi Wunian's movements. It would be best if he mobilized his Shadow Hall disciples so that we can catch all those mice in one fell swoop."
Cold sweat drenched Nan Baicheng's back as he said, "Martial Uncle, to follow a Violet Palace True Lord… this disciple…"
"No need to keep it a secret. You can just follow him in the open," the handsome Ming Yekong said. "Since Aspirational Lord Wunian has graced my Sageheart Kingdom with his presence, we must take care of our guest to the utmost. Arrange a place for him to stay and then find some people to serve. I trust that the Aspirational Lord will not be able to refuse my Basking Moon Sect's hospitality in earnest… Find a few smart and discreet disciples for this matter."
"This disciple understands," Nan Baicheng quickly replied. Openly keeping watch on Shi Wunian wouldn't result in any big harvest, but many things could be found by observing the small details. Besides, the Basking Moon Sect already knew what they were trying to do, so what they needed was to delay rather than further investigate.
As for the truth, they would know everything once they found that boy, Tang Jiye.
"Shi Wunian and his company were in such a rush to leave that I'm sure that Tang Jiye hadn't been gone for long. Mobilize all our men in the area, and we should be able to find that Tang Jiye," Li Hongyang said.
"This disciple will go." Only now did Nan Baicheng move to leave.
"Hold on," Xiao Biehan suddenly said. "You risked your life to keep Shi Wunian here for our arrival. You did very well, and I will report this to Senior Brother and get you the reward you deserve."
"Thank you, Martial Uncle!" Nan Baicheng said in delight.
In just two days, the Basking Moon Sect found all the information it needed.
There were six people who were of similar age and appearance to that Tang Jiye, had gone out alone that night, and had been in the area, according to the accounts of people in the area. Of these six, five had already been found, and none of them had anything to do with Xu Muyang.
The last one had yet to be found.
Eyewitness reports said that he had last been spotted going north.
Xiao Biehan immediately ordered the local officials on the border to dispatch large numbers of people to search for the boy. At the same time, He Chong, who had bribed the local officials at great expense, had also learned this news. He organized a group of wandering warriors to begin searching for Tang Jiye.
But after two months, he was still nowhere to be found, as if he had vanished from this world.