MCAB - Chapter 69
"Sloppy? The evidence is in front of us, so how am I being sloppy?" the old sect leader questioned angrily.
"You think you can pin the blame on my Autumn Water Palace using only a few bugs? Don't even think about it! I dare swear to the heavens that this matter is completely unrelated to the Autumn Water Palace!" the Autumn Water Palace's Palace Lord firmly said with an imposing aura.
"Please be patient, Sect Leader Qian. We cannot make a hasty judgment on this matter. I promise you that the Martial Arts Alliance will give you a satisfying explanation. Although the Autumn Water Palace looks the most suspicious right now, we cannot come to a conclusion with only one piece of evidence. We still need to investigate further into this matter," the Alliance Master said.
"The scent-seeking bugs point straight at the Autumn Water Palace. If not them, who else could the culprit be?" a person belonging to a sect that was hostile to the Autumn Water Palace said in a contemptuous tone.
Subsequently, many people started having hushed discussions among themselves as well, their voices growing louder and louder as time passed.
Shen Zheyan frowned at this sight. Then, she focused her gaze on the Autumn Water Palace's members, hoping to spot any possible clues.
"I don't know who enacted this crime, but since someone is intent on shifting the blame to the Autumn Water Palace, I feel that it is only right that I do something to prove my sect's innocence," the Palace Lord said. "Give me two days to find the culprit responsible for stealing the Coldwater Blade. If the culprit really comes from the Autumn Water Palace, I will return the blade and shoulder the crime. I will also make the criminal pay with his life!"
"What wonderful words. However, I wonder what you'll actually end up doing? For all we know, you could simply be speaking eloquence on the surface and finding someone to shoulder the blame for you in secret," a warrior known for his unruly behavior said, snorting.
Upon hearing this warrior's words, everyone present more or less started having similar thoughts regarding the Palace Lord's actions.
"There is something amiss with this matter," Shen Zheyan mumbled. She wasn't someone easily misled by others. She wouldn't casually believe the words of others. Meanwhile, her senses were telling her that this theft was very strange.
Although there were indeed many people aiming to steal the Coldwater Blade, those capable of killing the Coldwater Blade's guards were definitely extraordinary martial artists. Moreover, the fact that the only evidence they had so far pointed straight at the Autumn Water Palace was very suspicious. While the scent trap the Sword Mountain Sect laid was indeed clever, there was no way a powerful sect like the Autumn Water Palace wouldn't have anticipated such a trap if it was planning on stealing the Coldwater Blade.
Meanwhile, Jun Zishu, who stood at the end of the crowd, had the urge to laugh when she heard the unruly warrior's words. The warrior's suspicions couldn't be more on the mark. Although the warrior's original intention was simply to ridicule the Palace Lord, he had inadvertently revealed the truth.
The fact of the matter was that all of this was nothing but a ploy to trap the Autumn Water Palace.
The Autumn Water Palace had been acting too arrogantly in recent years. Although it was part of the righteous faction, it wasn't an old sect that had existed for many years. Instead, it was merely an upstart sect that had existed for less than two decades. Yet, despite being an upstart, the Autumn Water Palace had not only accumulated strength rivaling top sects, but it also showed no respect to its peers. It even showed disobedience against the Martial Arts Alliance's management. Thus, many of the top sects and the Martial Arts Alliance had decided to rid themselves of this eyesore of a sect.
However, the various sects couldn't just openly attack the Autumn Water Palace without a good reason, either. They would be bringing down their reputation if they did that. Before attacking the Autumn Water Palace, they needed to pin a crime onto the sect. It didn't matter if the crime was real or fake. It was fine so long as they had a reason.
Thus, the various sects had decided to collaborate with the Sword Mountain Sect and pin the crime of stealing the Coldwater Blade on the Autumn Water Palace. They had even arranged the necessary spies to shift the blame onto the Autumn Water Palace.
Of course, the Autumn Water Palace's Palace Lord was no fool. With his sect's behavior in recent years, he naturally knew that someone would eventually target his sect. However, he never expected so many sects to band together. So, he planned to shift the blame onto the Demon Cult. This was one of the failsafes he prepared before visiting the Sword Mountain Sect. This was also how Qian Xing had gotten dragged into this situation in the original storyline.
However, now that Jun Zishu had kicked Qian Xing out of the picture, she naturally had to take on the responsibilities of his role and shoulder the blame.
So, two days later, when the Autumn Water Palace's Palace Lord announced that the Demon Cult was the mastermind behind the Coldwater Blade's theft, Jun Zishu did not feel surprised at the slightest.
"The Demon Cult? How can you prove that this is the Demon Cult's doing, Palace Lord? How can we know if this isn't just some story you concocted?"
Everyone present was no fool. Moreover, some of them were even intent on screwing over the Autumn Water Palace and knew the truth behind this incident. Thus, there was no way these people would believe the Palace Lord's words.
Although the righteous faction were mortal enemies with the Demon Cult, it had been many years since any major conflicts had arisen between the two sides. Unless there was a good reason, nobody present wanted to stir up trouble with the Demon Cult.
Meanwhile, the Martial Arts Alliance's Alliance Master couldn't help but grow a little anxious when he heard the Palace Lord's excuse. The last thing he wanted to happen was for the Demon Cult to be dragged out into the light once more. After all, while the righteous faction might have a numerical advantage over the Demon Cult, its members weren't united at heart. Everyone in the righteous faction had their own goals and desires. If the righteous faction went to war with the Demon Cult in such a state, it would be a pyrrhic victory even if it ended up winning.
"Of course I have proof! Through my investigation, I found that the Demon Cult has bought out several of my sect's disciples. To be precise, they are spies planted by the Demon Cult. Also, I'm sure some of you might have encountered a group of bandits trying to steal your Hero Invitations. Well, if you recall the leader of these bandits, he is none other than Xiang Bugui, the scar-faced villain who defected to the Demon Cult two years ago! That's two pieces of evidence already!"
"Hold on a minute. The so-called Demon Cult spies you speak of are your sect's disciples; of course they will say whatever you want. Who knows if you compelled them to say that they're from the Demon Cult?"
"Are you telling me that you'd rather believe in the unscrupulous Demon Cult than our Autumn Water Palace?! I dare make an oath here and say that this matter has nothing to do with my Autumn Water Palace! If my sect is involved, I will suffer a miserable death! However, if my sect is uninvolved, the ones responsible for framing my sect will be condemned by the gods and die without a complete body!" the Palace Master adamantly swore. He refused to shoulder the blame for this crime no matter what.
Hearing the Palace Master's zealous performance, many of the people present started to have their minds swayed. As for the true masterminds behind this incident, they had no idea how they should continue pinning the blame on the Autumn Water Palace. Now that the Palace Lord had already spoken to such an extent, they would risk exposing themselves if they tried to accuse the Autumn Water Palace any further.
However, they couldn't simply let the Palace Lord pin the blame on the Demon Cult, either. The Demon Cult definitely wouldn't be happy to shoulder such blame. Not to mention, the Coldwater Blade wasn't even in the Demon Cult's hands.
The Palace Lord cared not for what the true masterminds thought. He'd rather drag the entire world into war than let his sect get destroyed because of a crime they did not commit. Thus, he continued," Of course, I have an even more important piece of evidence to share. This might come as a surprise to everyone, but the Demon Cult's Saintess is standing with us in this very hall right now!"
Immediately after the Palace Lord finished speaking, everyone in the hall started looking at the females around them in surprise and suspicion.
Seeing this situation, Jun Zishu remained calm and composed as she prepared herself to begin her act.
Shen Zheyan, on the other hand, started growing uneasy for some inexplicable reason.
Sect Leader Qian couldn't help but be surprised by this unexpected revelation. Unlike before, though, his reaction this time wasn't an act. Although he had indeed faked the Coldwater Blade being stolen, he had no idea that someone from the Demon Cult had snuck into his sect.
Suddenly, the atmosphere in the hall grew tense as everyone began searching for the supposed Demon Cult's Saintess. To people of the righteous faction, the Demon Cult was like a ticking time bomb that could blow up at any time, so they needed to root out the problem as soon as possible.
At this time, even some of the people who originally took a spectator's stance had taken on a serious expression.
"The Demon Cult's Witch is here? Who is it? Stop hiding and show yourself!"
"The surname of this generation's Witch is Yan, and her name is Xi. She also likes dressing herself in red. Can everyone not tell who she is?" the Autumn Water Palace's Palace Lord said, sneering as he looked at Jun Zishu.
"It seems your skill in slandering others is unparalleled, Palace Lord," Shen Zheyan immediately countered. Shock had filled Shen Zheyan's heart when she heard the name the Palace Lord mentioned. However, she refused to believe that the person she loved was the Demon Cult's Witch. Moreover, on the night the Coldwater Blade went missing, Jun Zishu had remained right by her side.
As soon as Shen Zheyan finished speaking, everyone's eyes turned in her direction, with some falling on her and the rest falling on Jun Zishu, who stood beside her.
However, even when subjected to all these stares, Jun Zishu's expression remained unchanged. Nobody could see what was going on in her head.
"If you want to know whether I am uttering slander or not, you can just ask the person beside you," the Palace Lord said.
Shen Zheyan naturally believed in Jun Zishu. She didn't doubt the girl for even a moment.
However, Jun Zishu did not speak. She neither denied nor acknowledged the Palace Lord's accusations.
The panic in Shen Zheyan's heart grew greater and greater. Her hand that gripped her sword also tightened as she looked at Jun Zishu.
After hearing Shen Zheyan call her name, Jun Zishu casually stroked her hair and laughed, her laughter filled with contempt.
Jun Zishu had to reveal her identity here today, no matter what. Even if she refused to admit it, the Palace Lord would certainly have other failsafes to fall back on. However, this wasn't the crucial point. The crucial point was that should she refuse to admit the truth here and confess to Shen Zheyan about her identity later on, Shen Zheyan would look down on her. Even Jun Zishu would look down on herself.
Sometimes, acting decisively didn't have to be reserved as a last resort. It could also be used to maintain a certain type of character.
"You people from the righteous faction are truly interesting. Even though all of you know that you are putting on a self-directed performance, you just have to trick those ignorant and dump all the blame onto us," Jun Zishu said, her melodious voice filled with disgust. "On behalf of the Demon Cult, I politely decline your offer to shift the blame onto us. Also, don't you people feel even the slightest bit of guilt for constantly shifting your wrongdoings onto the Demon Cult all these years?
"If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that you don't. You must feel that the Demon Cult is a despicable organization filled with cruel and inhumane people. But how are you shameless people wearing the mantle of righteousness any better than us?"
Albeit indirectly, what Jun Zishu had just said was basically her acknowledgment of the Palace Lord's accusations.
Shen Zheyan was in disbelief when she heard Jun Zishu's words. However, even though her heart was in disarray, she still chose to speak up on Jun Zishu's behalf, saying, "Even if she is from the Demon Cult, she has been with me on the night the Coldwater Blade went missing. She had no opportunities to steal the Coldwater Blade."
"She has already admitted that she is from the Demon Cult, Miss Shen, so why are you still speaking for her? Don't tell me the Witch has already poisoned your heart and dragged you to her side?" the Palace Lord questioned.
"Miss Shen is a righteous warrior. She is nothing like what you've just stated."
Wei Zinan was naturally attending the birthday banquet on behalf of the Medicine Valley. When he saw Shen Zheyan getting accused, he quickly spoke up on her behalf without hesitation.
"The Coldwater Blade is still on this mountain. As to where it is at, you people will have to ask the old sect leader himself. This farce of a banquet was originally planned for the Autumn Water Palace, but the Palace Lord is smart and knows to shift the blame onto the Demon Cult. It seems you must've come prepared for such a situation, Palace Lord. Otherwise, you wouldn't have known about my identity.
"Well played, well played."
Jun Zishu sneered as she clapped her hands. She was afraid that some people with slower brains might not have realized the truth behind the theft yet, so she decided that she might as well use this chance to reveal it altogether.
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Other novels I translate on Hosted Novel:
Pantsu Hero Alice (PHA)
Reincarnation of the Strongest Sword God (Side Stories)
After Being Bent By Reader (ABBR)(GL)