AIP - Chapter 116: Chat
Tang Jie muttered, the confusion in his eyes growing.
He tilted his head and thought it over, then he shook his head. "My apologies. I don't seem to know you."
Tang Jie's face had showed no peculiarities, which left Gu Changqing a tad disappointed. But he was unmoved, smiling as he said, "It isn't strange for Little Brother to not have heard of me. This one is the supervisor for the Godhead Palace exchange students here."
"Oh, so it was Supervisor Gu!" Tang Jie spoke in a very dragged-out way, his face clearly showing the look of someone who had no idea who he was talking to but trying to look like they did.
He could pretend to not know Gu Changqing, but not Godhead Palace.
Actually, Gu Changqing wasn't lying. Besides being Deputy Eagle Master of the Hawk Hall, he really was the supervisor for all of Godhead Palace's students, and this was his publicly known status.
Because of his age, he couldn't enter the academy, so he had to leave most of the work to his subordinates.
This was one of the greatest restrictions on him.
But today, he was finally able to see Tang Jie himself.
Looking at Tang Jie's face, Gu Changqing chuckled and said, "I don't blame you for not recognizing me, but I've heard about you. On the first day of school, you amazed everyone with your declaration, and after getting first place in the examination, you inherited the Immortal classic, and not too long ago, you established a new record in the Celestial Defense Hall. Your reputation is already catching up to those of Qi Shaoming and An Rumeng, and your popularity is currently unparalleled. Today, a student of Godhead Palace came to my place to take his monthly salary and told me that he saw you. Otherwise, I would have narrowly missed out on this chance to meet with Little Brother Tang. When I heard that you were here, I came personally to see you. Please forgive me if I am disturbing you in some way."
Tang Jie's eyes glowed. "Your Godhead Palace students get a monthly salary?"
It was as if these were the only words of all that Gu Changqing had said that he had paid any attention to.
Gu Changqing erupted in laughter. "My Godhead students are far from home and have traveled great distances, all for this matter. If they did not have any sort of salary, how could they be convinced?"
When he said "all for this matter", he stared at Tang Jie. It was as if he was saying, "I burdened so many people by having them travel so far from their homes all because of you!"
Tang Jie laughed. "It truly isn't easy. But haven't students of my Basking Moon also gone to Nadir Hill? Though I don't know if they receive any sort of salary."
"Of course they do, though it's my Godhead Palace paying it." Gu Changqing was in no rush. When he saw that Tang Jie remained impervious to his probes and had changed the topic to money, he decided to play along.
The two of them continued to chat as they walked along. Hearing this from Gu Changqing, Tang Jie commented, "Wow! Then your Godhead Palace is much more generous than the Basking Moon Sect."
"If Little Brother is willing, you can also become an exchange student at Godhead Palace," Gu Changqing beamed. "With Tang Jie's current status and reputation, my Godhead Palace would undoubtedly be happy to make the exchange. If Little Brother is willing to come, you can receive one spirit jade a month. How about it?"
He went with the flow and offered Tang Jie an invitation.
Tang Jie hesitated and then answered, "It sounds pretty good, but I'm not the one who can decide such things, right?"
"If Little Brother is willing, we will handle Basking Moon Academy. It's just a minor matter."
"That's what you say, but we've only just gotten to know each other and you're already bringing up topics like this. Isn't this a little much for a stranger?"
Gu Changqing laughed. "Little Brother is right. After all, this is our first meeting. It's a little early to talk about such things."
Cai Junyang and the rest walked over, and they all froze when they saw Gu Changqing.
Liu Hongyan asked, "Tang Jie, this one is…"
"This is Godhead Palace Supervisor Gu Changqing…" He looked at Gu Changqing and added, "He seems to be somewhat of an admirer of mine."
The students almost fell over.
The student supervisor of Godhead Palace is somewhat of an admirer of yours? You really know how to talk!
Even Gu Changqing's face was shifting around a bit, but in the end, he just chuckled. "Little Brother truly speaks in an amusing manner. Right, how should I address all of you?"
Cai Junyang and the others reported their names.
Gu Changqing realized what was happening. "So this was a gathering of the elite students of the Freedom Society. I'm rather lucky to chance upon it. Regardless, all of you are rare geniuses of the academy, and I must use this chance to get to know all of you. My good students, where are all of you going? Why not let this Gu Changqing accompany you? I have lived in Wanquan City for three years and am quite familiar with the area."
"This…" Liu Hongyan and the others exchanged looks.
They were students going on an outing. Why was this random outsider trying to butt in?
In the end, it was Lin Dongsheng who spoke. "It would naturally be wonderful if Supervisor Gu is willing to join us. Right, my Lin Estate's venerable master is having his birthday tonight. If Supervisor Gu does not mind, you may join."
His grandfather had invited numerous famous individuals for his birthday, and as the student supervisor for Godhead Palace, Gu Changqing could be said to represent Godhead Palace in some respects. Thus, Lin Dongsheng had sufficient reason to welcome him.
"That being the case, this Changqing will trouble you, then," Gu Changqing said in delight.
They strolled along Jade Belt Lake and chattered. Though Gu Changqing was a Spirit Master, he didn't have the attitude of an esteemed teacher, so everyone had a pleasant time talking with him.
Not far from them, a group of what appeared to be tourists followed at a pace that was neither too fast nor too slow. They seemed to be enjoying the view, but they would occasionally glance at the students. This was naturally Gao Fei's group.
"Look. Over there is where my Godhead Palace has lodgings. If all of you have time in the future, you may come and pay a visit, and my Godhead Palace will certainly do everything in its power as the host," Gu Changqing said, pointing at the Eagle Nest.
All the students turned together, as did Tang Jie. This time, he did not use the fan to cover his face.
All three got a good look this time and shivered in unison. They all shouted, "It's him! He's the one!"
Gao Fei's eyes erupted with cold light. "You're sure?"
An old man stared at Tang Jie's face and muttered, "He's gotten a little taller and his skin's a little whiter, but it's still the same appearance. It should be him!"
"Move past them and take a look from another angle!" Gao Fei sternly ordered.
This was an important matter, and after last time's mistake, Godhead Palace didn't want another. They would only move after repeatedly confirming it.
The group quickly moved past the students. They stopped ahead to pretend to look at the scenery while glancing at Tang Jie.
After repeatedly looking at Tang Jie, another of the trio trembled and said, "It's right. It must be him!"
"No mistake!" all three replied in unison.
One of them said, "This lowly one would dare to wager my life that he is Tang Jiye. Master Gao, look there. Doesn't he look rather similar to that person I mistook for him last time? That was just because I hadn't gotten a proper look at his face. Now that I have, I'm sure that it's him!"
"Good! Excellent!" Gao Fei was so excited that he wanted to howl at the sky, but he restrained his emotions and gave the distant Gu Changqing a nod and a thumbs-up.
This meant that the target was confirmed with the highest level of reliability.
Now, they needed to prepare to catch the target.
But to his surprise, Gu Changqing lightly shook his head.
Zhao Xinguo froze. "What does Eagle Master mean? Why aren't we capturing him even though we've confirmed it?"
Gao Fei understood and whispered, "We're still in the Student Forest, too close to the academy, so it's not right to strike yet. It will be better to make our move when we're farther away so as to avoid the Basking Moon Sect."
"Oh, I see." Zhao Xinguo got it. He asked Gao Fei, "Since we've confirmed the target, what should we do with these three?"
"Get them out of here," Gao Fei replied.
"Why not…" Zhao Xinguo made a killing gesture.
Gao Fei considered it, but he ultimately shook his head.
The students were still walking along the lake, and as they conversed, they drew farther and farther away until they reached a rather deserted area.
In the middle of an excited conversation, Cai Junyang suddenly sighed.
Yang Zhiyuan asked him, "Brother Cai, what's wrong?"
"It's nothing," Cai Junyang said with a shake of his head. "I just thought about how it will be my father's birthday in a few more days. Brother Lin, your home is in Wanquan, so you can still go back when your elders have birthdays, but people like us who have come from afar don't have that ability."
"True, true," everyone sighed. They had all been away from home for nearly a year. It was far from their minds when they were cultivating, but now that Cai Junyang had brought it up, they all couldn't help but think of home.
Tang Jie noted, "Even so, we just have to work hard on cultivating. Once we reach Spirit Lake, we can go out on missions. We can just find a place close to home and pay them a visit while we're out."
"That's a good idea," everyone agreed.
Tang Jie added, "But for Supervisor Gu, you came all the way to Sageheart from Nadir Hill. Not even the excuse of a mission would let you visit your parents, yes?"
Gu Changqing smiled. "I am an orphan and have no relatives."
"Is that so?" Tang Jie said in a half-teasing manner, "I've heard Godhead Palace's Shadow Hall specifically raises orphans so that they can be sent to various areas as spies once they're adults. Supervisor Gu, you're not from Godhead Palace's Shadow Hall, are you?"
Gu Changqing laughed. "I didn't think this little brother would understand my Godhead Palace so well. Yes, I really am from the Shadow Hall. But Changqing is rather fortunate to enjoy the favor of Godhead Palace. I was given a chance to show my ability that had me transferred from the Shadow Hall to the Hawk Hall."
"The Hawk Hall?" Li Yijing was surprised. "Isn't that the department of Godhead Palace meant specifically for searching for and capturing criminals? So you're a hunting dog of Godhead Palace?"
No matter the era, country, or faction, hunting dogs had a bad reputation. They were the spies of large organizations, and their executioners.
In a world of strife, the ministry of war took the fore!
In a world of peace, the hunting dogs showed their might!
In these two differing eras, different organizations were relevant.
In this peaceful and civilized world, the Hawk Hall was located in the darkest shadows cast by the light, where all the filth gathered, and hunting dogs were synonymous with cruelty and callousness!
Everyone slightly grimaced at the mention of hunting dogs.
Deep down, none of them wanted to interact with this sort of person.
It would be like if a modern-day person found that they were standing next to someone from the KGB. Even if they had done nothing wrong, they would still feel guilty.
Cai Junyang snorted. "It's no wonder Godhead Palace came all the way to my Sageheart to exchange students! The exchange is just a front to probe my country, yeah? I really don't know what the upper echelons of the Basking Moon Sect are thinking, letting Godhead Palace do as it pleases. Cowards!"
Sure enough, criticizing government policy was an amusement that the common folk never tired of.
Cai Junyang had a straightforward personality and had nothing good to say about hunting dogs. Thus, he boldly said these words in front of Gu Changqing.
Gu Changqing wasn't angry. He simply chuckled and said, "Gathering information is the Shadow Hall's work. The Hawk Hall is concerned with capturing criminals, so, Young Master Cai, I won't accept this accusation."
"But what sort of person is in my Sageheart Kingdom that the Hawk Hall would be after?" Liu Hongyan asked.
"Someone who stole a treasure of my Godhead Palace," Gu Changqing casually replied.
He then recounted what had happened with Xu Muyang.
Of course, from his mouth, the tone of the story changed entirely. Xu Muyang was now someone who was greedy for treasure and fled after stealing from Godhead Palace. Gu Changqing had received orders to capture him, so he decided to work as student supervisor for Godhead Palace while on the job.
"I see." Cai Junyang nodded. "So you're saying that the thief is dead, but the treasure has ended up in the hands of a Sageheart native?"
"Precisely," Gu Changqing replied.
"Then has Godhead Palace found this person?" Liu Hongyan asked.
Gu Changqing smiled. "This fellow is exceptionally cunning and extremely difficult to find. My Godhead Palace has searched for three years but has yet to capture him."
Shu Mingyang asked, "You don't have the slightest clue?"
"That's not the case. We know that this person is sixteen this year, with the surname Tang and the given name of Jiye," Gu Changqing said, dragging out his words.
Everyone immediately looked at Tang Jie.
Tang Jie was unperturbed, feigning surprise as he said, "Oh, wow, really? That person is called Tang Jie? And I thought that my name was very rare."
"The Jiye of 'talented'," Gu Changqing said with a smile.
Is that how it was! Everyone sighed in relief, but they vaguely felt that something wasn't right.
Ping Jingyue softly said, "It seems that Supervisor Gu didn't come with us purely by coincidence. It seems like you wanted to see how similar this Jie and that Jiye were."
Gu Changqing laughed. "Yes, Young Master Tang is a native of the Wildgrain Plains, and the one we're searching for is none other than that Tang Jiye of Little River Village. The two lived very close to each other and have similar names and ages. My Godhead Palace had no choice but to investigate you. Please forgive me for any offense committed."
"It's fine, so long as you're not unjustly accusing me," Tang Jie casually replied.
Gu Changqing narrowed his eyes. "But… when we were investigating that Xu Muyang, we only got the name of Tang Jiye from the name on the house sale contract. Brother Tang, don't you find it strange? How did we know that he was from Little River Village?"
Tang Jie was startled. "I don't know what you mean."
Gu Changqing continued, "To investigate this Tang Jiye… I dug up the grave at Little River Village."
"What did you say?" Tang Jie shuddered.
Gu Changqing's voice was like a wicked wind at Tang Jie's ear.
"I dug up and inspected the corpses, and then I threw the corpses on the side of the road for the wild dogs to eat!"