Chapter 360: A Thief's Guilty Conscience
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Aspiring to the Immortal Path Chapter 360: A Thief's Guilty Conscience

Translated by: Hypersheep325

Edited by: Michyrr

 

"What did you say?"

In the main hall of the Stone Gate Sect, Shi Jingzhai's eyes grew so wide that they almost came out of their sockets as he glared at Liang Xingbang.

"I've just received word that someone was selling Crystallized Sandworm down in the village," Liang Xingbang repeated.

"How could this have happened?" Shi Jingzhai hollered.

"I also don't know what's going on. Some kid came out of nowhere and said he wanted to sell Crystallized Sandworm."

"Can you confirm this?" Yu Wanniang hastily said. The matter of the Crystallized Sandworms was of utmost importance, and they couldn't help but feel nervous.

Liang Xingbang replied, "Old Ding confirmed that it was a Crystallized Sandworm, but it was a little small. It was probably used."

"Can we identify where it came from?" Yu Wanniang asked.

Their back and forth was almost like an interrogation. Thankfully, Liang Xingbang's mind was in chaos, and he wasn't in the mood to argue about such things. He just shook his head and replied, "No. That youth showed his sandworm and then left, saying that our store's shopkeeper was too proud and that he was too angry to sell to us. As they had a rather loud quarrel, quite a few people know about this."

"This appraiser is killing me!" Shi Jingzhai erupted with astonishing power. If that shopkeeper had been here, he probably would have been shocked to death by this intimidating power!

Yu Wanniang paled. "This is a problem. How could this have occurred? We've had control over the sandworm mining area for ages, and we've already mined everything out. How could one have gotten out? Or was it not from the mine and purely a coincidence?"

Shi Jingzhai glared at Yu Wanniang. "This isn't what's important! It doesn't matter where the sandworm came from. The moment it gets out that a sandworm appeared in the Mount Eternal area, trouble will inevitably follow. What do you think the Basking Moon Sect will do once they learn of this matter?"

The three elders turned fearful when they thought about what would happen when the Basking Moon Sect learned of this affair.

This was an understanding that came from a difference of perspective.

From Tang Jie's perspective, he not only needed to discover it but also have evidence of it. But for these three elders, even a rumor of a sandworm out on the market had them feeling like they were on the edge of a cliff.

It was precisely this difference that made the three of them react in exactly the way Tang Jie had predicted.

Liang Xingbang said, "The first thing we need to do is to put a stop to the rumors so that no more people learn of this."

"How do we do that?" Yu Wanniang asked.

Liang Xingbang and Shi Jingzhai glanced at each, and then they both made chopping motions.

Yu Wanniang was shocked. "'Kill them all'?"

The chubby Liang Xingbang, who seemed like a perfect mediator, grimly said, "What else can we do? The situation is urgent, so we don't have a lot of options."

"How do you plan to explain the massacre of an entire village? Too many people know, and it's difficult to pick them all out, so how can you ensure that word doesn't get out regardless?"

Shi Jingzhai coldly said, "Is an explanation needed? This was done by bandits. As for how to prevent word from getting out, the sandworm incident took place in the day, and word is just getting around. Tonight, the bandits will raid the village, and so we have the explanation and resultant disaster. To prevent this disaster from happening again, even if there are survivors, they'll keep the matter of the sandworm to themselves. Otherwise, the villagers who had died would have died in vain. Our Stone Gate Sect can even use this matter to restrict any rumors to ensure that the village is no longer harmed."

Yu Wanniang trembled. "Senior Brothers, rethink this! This is several hundred lives! How can this conduct be worthy of our status as cultivators of Immortality?"

"'Cultivators of Immortality'? Until we cultivate ourselves into Immortals, we're still human!" Shi Jingzhai solemnly replied.

Human nature was evil!

Liang Xingbang added on, "Junior Sister, there's no need to think that you're dirtying your hands. None of us needs to do anything. We can just have the people below us do it."

Yu Wanniang coldly replied, "If you don't kill them yourself, you won't feel any shame?"

Shi Jingzhai snorted, "Woman! A true man has to be fierce and decisive! What do puny mortal lives matter? Yu Wanniang, let me tell you: when faced with danger, let alone several hundred villagers, I could even kill thousands or tens of thousands and still feel no shame, still be true to my heart!"

"You!" Yu Wanniang glared. "You're not human!"

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"You had best remember that you're in together with these two inhuman guys!" Shi Jingzhai gruffly said. "You're also guilty of hiding the Crystallized Sandworms. All of us will have to take responsibility if this gets out!"

Yu Wanniang angrily ignored him.

In the end, Liang Xingbang soothed, "Let's not argue among us. Don't forget that it's not just the villagers. There's another person who's the cause behind all of this!"

"Yes, that youth." Yu Wanniang's eyes flashed. "We have to eliminate this person. If he gets to Canglong Prefecture, the troubles will be endless. It's not like we can kill everyone in Canglong Prefecture, yes?"

This time, it was Yu Wanniang who proposed silencing witnesses first.

Without that youth causing trouble, the Stone Gate Sect wouldn't be in such hot water. Yu Wanniang loathed this young man.

"So there are no objections, then? Good. I think we should have Lu Dong take care of this," Liang Xingbang said.

"'Lu Dong'?" Yu Wanniang was surprised.

Lu Dong was the leader of a gang in the Mount Eternal region, and he was also an outer disciple of the Stone Gate Sect, responsible for taking care of the seedier missions for the sect. Thus, very few people knew about his connection to the Stone Gate Sect. However, as this man was usually on the outside, he wasn't exactly the ideal candidate, whether it was in terms of strength, personality, or loyalty. Whether it was pretending to be bandits and slaughtering the town, or killing the black-clothed youth, these weren't small matters. Why give this person the responsibility?

But after some thought, Yu Wanniang knew what Liang Xingbang wanted. He clearly planned to get rid of Lu Dong through this matter so that there would truly be no witnesses left.

Shi Jingzhai giggled. "That would be wonderful."

Yu Wanniang sighed. "I don't care anymore. You guys decide on this. I'm going to find Tang Jie."

She began to walk out.

"What are you going to Tang Jie for?" Liang Xingbang and Shi Jingzhai both became nervous.

Yu Wanniang replied in a huff, "What? You paranoid fools, you think I'm going to tell on you? I'm going to find him so that I can drag him to Stone Gate Peak. Because of that damned Jin Clan, Tang Jie is lingering around. We can't have him run off to the village at a time like this."

The two of them sighed in relief.

"Moreover…" Yu Wanniang hesitated before saying, "Something doesn't feel right. I need to see if Tang Jie is connected to this, or if he already knows something."

While that night's interview under intoxication had already proved that Tang Jie hadn't found anything, now that something like this had happened, Yu Wanniang couldn't help but be apprehensive.

The two of them found this reasonable, so they headed off with Yu Wanniang to Tang Jie's residence. But they were told that Tang Jie had gone to the Basking Moon Sect's branch hall to play some go with Zhang Taixu—bored from waiting for the audit to be done, Tang Jie was seeking amusement wherever he could.

The three of them went to the village to seek out Zhang Taixu, but they learned from Zhang Taixu that Tang Jie was in an ill mood after losing two games and had gone out to clear his mind. Shi Jingzhai asked where he had gone, to which Zhang Taixu rolled his eyes and replied, "How should I know? We cultivators wander about like wild cranes. Those of high cultivation level could easily cover ten thousand kilometers in a day. If Tang Jie isn't worried about tiring himself out, he could have even run off to Duskland." He looked at Shi Jingzhai like he was an idiot, and Shi Jingzhai knew that panic had caused his intelligence to fall somewhat, so he could only stomp his feet and leave.

At the same time, in a mountain forest on the way to Canglong Prefecture, Xi Canhen had a bundle on his back as he made his way along the uneven path. He was still wearing those black clothes, but he had taken off that veiled hat. Next to him was little Bao'er.

After showing the Crystallized Sandworm in Jubao Village, Xi Canhen had set off for Canglong Prefecture.

It took about three days to get to Canglong Prefecture from Jubao Village by foot. Xi Shangyue had already arrived at the Wei Estate, but Xi Canhen's journey was foreordained to be more difficult than his sister's.

The Stone Gate Sect would not let him so easily reach Canglong Prefecture, and there was no doubt that he would be pursued. But how long could Xi Canhen last against this pursuit? Was it a few days? Or would he die before even seeing the first night?

No one knew the answer, and not even Tang Jie had been able to give him a hard answer.

For the same reason, no one knew how long Xi Canhen needed to endure this pressure, for this all depended on Tang Jie. All Xi Canhen could do was survive until Tang Jie finished doing whatever he needed to do!

Under this immense pressure, the youth's expression remained calm.

What was any of this to him?

Whenever he had been stealing the ore in the mine, when had he not been walking on the precipice of death? It had been a miracle that he had already been able to live this long.

Without Tang Jie, he would have already died to the flying sword of that Stone Gate disciple at the entrance to the mine. Compared to that dark time, at least Tang Jie had given him a life, given him hope. For this youth who had just escaped those extremely impoverished circumstances, this was already a sort of blessing.

It was difficult to make one's way through the dark mountain forest, but Xi Canhen pressed on. Only when it was getting dark did he find a tree to sit under. He took out some rations and began to eat them. At the same time, he took out a large slab of meat and said to the tiger, "Bao'er, come here!"

The little tiger looked at him, sat on the ground, and proceeded to ignore him.

Xi Canhen shouted again, "I'll give you something tasty."

The little tiger licked his lips, but he continued to ignore him, appearing to care nothing for that piece of meat.

Xi Canhen could only sigh at this.

Although Tang Jie had given him the little tiger and told the tiger to protect him, as a fiend tiger, Bao'er was extremely arrogant. While he had yet to reach Mind Opening, he knew how to act according to the person. Wei Tianchong and Shi Meng were both cultivators, so it was okay if these people commanded him. But Xi Canhen was a mere mortal, so what right did he have to order him around? Even if Tang Jie had ordered him to protect this kid, that would be by his will and not by the command of others.

Trying to bait him with meat? He was being looked down on too much.

In these last few days, Xi Canhen had tried his best to improve his relationship with the little tiger, but Bao'er had ignored him, leaving Xi Canhen feeling extremely helpless.

After another failure, Xi Canhen could only put the meat down.

At this moment, Bao'er suddenly ran a few steps, opened up his wings, and took off into the depths of the forest.

Xi Canhen was stunned. "Bao'er! Don't run off! Wait for me!"

Xi Canhen panicked and tried to chase after the little tiger, but there was no way he could keep up. In the blink of an eye, the tiger was gone.

The tiger's sudden flight left Xi Canhen dumbfounded.

He had known that he couldn't control the little tiger, but he had tried his best to get on good terms with him, doing his utmost to attend to the little tiger's needs over the last few days. In order to prevent the little tiger from being discovered and to maximize the time the tiger could spend outside the beast token, he had even chosen this small path through difficult terrain. Even if you don't appreciate my efforts, at least I didn't offend you, right?

But even this hadn't been enough to stop the little tiger from abandoning him.

Xi Canhen's heart ached at the thought.

Serving as bait for the enemy pursuit didn't make the youth afraid, but he felt aggrieved over how the little tiger hadn't appreciated his kindness. In these three days, he had bathed the tiger, fed him, kept him company, and taken him out for walks, but it had all been futile. Without the little tiger, how was he going to make it the rest of the way? Any random killer sent by the Stone Gate Sect could probably take his life, no?

As he dejectedly stood in the forest and despaired over his fate, a tiger roared in the distance.

Startled, Xi Canhen turned in the direction of the sound and saw the little tiger flying back.

In his claws was an adult Blossom Deer.

"Bao… Bao'er?"

Xi Canhen looked at the little tiger in surprise. It turned out that the tiger hadn't abandoned him. He had just gone hunting.

He then saw the little tiger make a beautiful circle in the air, and as he passed overhead, the Blossom Deer landed in the ground in front of him.

The little tiger made another circle before landing in front of him. He bit into the Blossom Deer and tore off a big chunk of meat. He then raised his head and looked at Xi Canhen as if he was saying, "This is fresh meat!"

Was this a response to the fresh meat he had been trying to lure the tiger over with before?

Xi Canhen couldn't help but laugh.

Tears streaked down his face: tears of joy from the fact that the little tiger hadn't abandoned him.

But these tears confused the little tiger.

He didn't understand why his catching a deer had made this kid start crying.

Was I bullying him? Oh no! If "Daddy" finds out, he'll scold me!

The little tiger nervously watched as Xi Canhen wept in joy, thinking that he had to do something to salvage the situation.

Thus, he went up to Xi Canhen and put that piece of meat in his mouth down. He looked at Xi Canhen as if he was saying, "You can eat it."

Xi Canhen was once more dumbfounded by the little tiger's actions, staring at him in a daze.

The human and tiger stared at each other.

As the little tiger looked at this kid, whose face was still wet with tears, he started to get annoyed. Why don't you wipe your tears already? Are you still not satisfied?

He turned around and tore off another piece of meat for Xi Canhen.

Xi Canhen still did nothing. The little tiger panicked, and he ran off and ate that piece of meat that Xi Canhen had tried to give him earlier. He then looked back at Xi Canhen.

When Xi Canhen saw this, he finally understood what was going on, excitedly shouting, "Oh, that's great! Bao'er, you've finally accepted me!"

He rushed over, embraced Bao'er, and began to kiss him.

Bao'er was annoyed by this affection, but as he had finally cheered this kid up, he could only endure, helplessly growling as he thought to himself, Just hurry up with your kisses and leave already. But Xi Canhen thought that he was purring in joy, so he kissed the tiger a few more times.

It was night, and the tired Xi Canhen decided to pass the night in the woods.

He slept very soundly. In his dreams, he protected the little tiger, attended to the little tiger, and ultimately received the tiger's acknowledgment, becoming extremely good friends with the tiger.

In comparison, the little tiger's sleep was somewhat restless.

The light of the numerous stars in the night sky penetrated through the leaves.

In the starlight, Bao'er looking at the sleeping Xi Canhen, finding him to be just like a sleeping child.

This was different from when he was with Tang Jie, where Tang Jie took care of him. When Bao'er was with this youth, he suddenly felt like he was the one who had to be the caretaker. It was a very strange feeling, like the instinct strong lifeforms had toward weak lifeforms.

It was an instinct that could manifest as disregard, ridicule, or murder, but it could also manifest as sympathy, consideration, and even a desire to help.

For Tang Jie's sake, the little tiger obviously couldn't do anything in the former category, only in the latter.

A gust of wind blew off the blanket over Xi Canhen's body.

After some thought, the little tiger grabbed the blanket with his mouth and put it back on. He then quietly lay down and closed his eyes, like a mother protecting her child.

—————————

It was late at night, the darkness like ink.

After the clamor of the daytime, Jubao Village was all quiet.

The only people about at this hour were the night watchmen.

Fifty-some people, all dressed in black, silently appeared in front of the village entrance.

Their leader, a man with a black scarf wrapped around his head and a steel saber in his hand, pointed several times at the people behind him, made a few gestures, and then pointed at the village. He made a vigorous chopping motion with his right hand, after which he said in a raspy voice, "Kill everyone! No survivors!"

"Yes!" the men in black called out before rushing into the village.

These men were all well-trained and disciplined, moving in unison, each toward a different house. In the darkness, their blades gleamed with a cold light. A massacre was about to commence.

At this moment, all of them suddenly heard a sigh.

This sigh came out of nowhere and made all of the men in black freeze in shock. But when they looked around, they couldn't see anyone.

Their leader suddenly turned to a nearby alleyway. "Who's sneaking around over there?"

"Aren't you the ones sneaking around?" a voice casually replied.

A person walked out of the alley, standing in the shadows so that their face was obscured.

The leader's eyes narrowed. "The brothers of the Changshan Society are doing business here. People who have nothing to do with this should leave at once."

This visitor was suspicious, and the man in black didn't want any unnecessary fights, so he yielded first.

But the man in the shadow sighed. "The scum of the Changshan Society are based several hundred kilometers from here. You could pick anywhere else to rob, but you run all the way to these remote mountains? Or are you pretending to be the Changshan Society for some reason? Moreover, the Changshan Society is a group of horse bandits. When did they get a Mortal Shedding Spirit Master?"

The leader was stunned and knew that he was in trouble. He took a few steps back and said, "Kill him!"

He was still cautious, having his men strike first.

The men in black surrounded the man in the shadows and attacked.

Tang Jie softly sighed.

He pulled out his saber and swung it horizontally.

A line of fire gushed out of the edge.

Unlike before, this was not a violet flame that raged like a sea of fire. It was concentrated and solid.

This line of flame swept through the men in black like saber energy. A moment later, all of the charging men in black swayed, and then their bodies fell into two halves, turning to ash upon striking the ground.

Several dozen lives had been instantly taken!

Only their leader was still standing there in shock.

Although his men had been ordinary people, killing several dozen people had to have required some enormously powerful spell art. Otherwise, he could never have pulled it off so easily.

This single swing of the saber had shown the gap between them, and the leader of the men in black knew that he was in dire straits.

He stared in shock at the ash on the ground, and then he fell back while shouting, "Senior, this one knows his errors and is willing to hand over everything and immediately retreat! Please, show mercy!"

He took out his Mustard Seed Bag.

Tang Jie sighed. "If I show mercy to you, who will show mercy to the innocent villagers of Jubao Village? What crime did they commit, that they all had to be exterminated?"

The man in black groaned in despair. "We are all cultivators of Immortality. The path is long and arduous, so we should assist each other. Senior, why go to such great lengths for some mortals?"

Tang Jie chuckled. "'Cultivators of Immortality'? Until we cultivate ourselves into Immortals, we're still human!"

Human nature was good!

Translator Notes

Tang Jie has successfully baited out a reaction from the three Stone Gate Sect elders. What will they do next?

Novel Notes

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