Chapter 361: Suspicions
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Aspiring to the Immortal Path Chapter 361: Suspicions

Translated by: Hypersheep325

Edited by: Michyrr

 

The first ray of the morning sun penetrated through the forest canopy, motes of dust dancing in the beam. As it fell on Xi Canhen's face, the youth shook his head and turned over to keep sleeping, but he felt something prodding into him.

He opened his eyes and saw a large tiger lying next to him, its bristly whiskers stabbing into his face like needles.

Xi Canhen smiled. Unable to control himself, he reached over and petted the tiger on the forehead.

Perhaps because he didn't like it, Bao'er turned over. He turned in the direction of Xi Canhen and instantly rolled right on top of him.

Several hundred catties of tiger body pressed down Xi Canhen, and he yelled, "Bao'er… Bao'er… you're crushing me!"

The cries stirred the little tiger, and when he woke up and saw Xi Canhen under him, he tilted his head as if curious as to how this kid had gotten under him.

Xi Canhen started to find it hard to breathe.

He waved his hand and weakly slapped the tiger.

The little tiger finally realized that there was something wrong with Xi Canhen, so he slowly stood up, shook his body, and moved over a little to keep sleeping, apparently caring little about how weak Xi Canhen was.

Xi Canhen held his chest and sat up. Pointing at the tiger, he said, "You… you little… The assassin from the Stone Gate Sect hasn't even arrived, and the one who was supposed to protect me almost killed me."

The little tiger lazily glanced at him and then kept sleeping.

Helpless, Xi Canhen muttered, "Ruthless thing."

Since he was already awake, Xi Canhen stood up, took out his sword, and started to practice.

The sword form that Tang Jie had passed to him automatically appeared in his mind, and Xi Canhen swung the sword according to his memories.

As he had opened his Jade Gate, even without a Spiritual Space, he could still circulate spiritual energy through his body. The sword whistled through the air, somewhat imbued with the aura of sword energy.

Even though he wasn't an official cultivator, he at least had some of the aura of a martial arts expert.

After he had finished one sequence, Xi Canhen put away the sword and said to the little tiger, "Bao'er, what do you think?"

The little tiger lazily yawned and swatted at a tree. This swipe scraped off some bark that flew at Xi Canhen, and Xi Canhen raised his sword to block.

He had practiced the Twelve-Form Horizon Sword for three days and had a basic grasp of its forms. At this moment, he very naturally tried to use a sword form to slice apart the bark, but to his shock, when the edge of his sword made contact with the bark, he felt like he was trying to cut into iron. It was Xi Canhen's sword that was knocked back, striking Xi Canhen and sending him flying.

Fortunately, the strength had been applied exquisitely, only enough to send him flying and not wound him. All that ended up happening was that he rolled on the ground a little.

Sitting on his butt, Xi Canhen said in surprise, "So powerful! Is this an Immortal art?"

The little tiger looked at him in disdain.

Xi Canhen rushed up and grabbed the little tiger. "How about you teach me?"

Grrr… The little tiger's fur was bristling from how eager this kid was, and for the first time, he took a few steps back.

A human taking a tiger as his master? Have you no dignity?

The little tiger turned his head, no longer willing to look. No matter how Xi Canhen begged, the tiger steadfastly ignored him.

"Fine. Don't teach me, then." Seeing that the tiger was ignoring him, Xi Canhen had no choice but to give up.

As he was backing away, the little tiger suddenly looked at him, a sharp light in his tiger eyes.

Xi Canhen looked at him in surprise, and then he felt a chill in his heart. Getting a bad feeling, he ran forward without looking back.

At the same time, a dark silhouette suddenly appeared not far away from Xi Canhen's back, rushing at Xi Canhen while unleashing a wave of sharp sword energy.

Xi Canhen had reacted quickly, but he was still just an ordinary person. This attack made from a cultivator's spiritual energy flew straight at him, and there was no way Xi Canhen could dodge it.

Raooo! The little tiger bellowed.

The Tiger King Roar resounded through the air, and that sword light froze for a brief moment.

Xi Canhen executed a roll, and the sword light brushed over his back and struck a tree.

The ambusher had missed, so with a grunt, he swung his sword and unleashed another wave of sword energy at Xi Canhen.

However, having missed the first attack, the ambusher had already missed the ideal moment. As soon as Xi Canhen had dodged the first strike, the little tiger rushed out, swatting a paw at the assailant's sword.

The clash of power had the assailant howling as he staggered back.

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As he was pushed back by the tiger, the ambusher said in disbelief, "An upper-grade fiend tiger? How?"

Only now did it become clear that the assailant was a muscular man.

His name was Hong Antao, and he was a third-generation disciple of the Stone Gate Sect, at the Spirit Lake Tier. He had been a hunter before entering the Stone Gate Sect and was skilled in pursuit, which was why he had been tasked with pursuing Xi Canhen. He had thought that killing an ordinary youth would be a trifle, but to his surprise, the youth had an upper-grade fiend tiger protecting him, much to Hong Antao's horror.

With his strength, let alone an elite upper-grade fiend tiger like Bao'er, even an average middle-grade fiend was possibly too much for him.

The moment the fiend tiger acted, Hong Antao turned and ran. Not willing to let him go that easily, the little tiger chased after him with a roar. The tiger opened his wings, stirring up wind and lightning. He was many times faster than Hong Antao, so with a single charge, he managed to get behind Hong Antao and swat at him with a paw.

If this blow struck true, Hong Antao would be doomed no matter how many lives he had.

But at this moment, Hong Antao suddenly shouted, turned around, and fired a green wind blade.

The little tiger glanced at it with scorn, but just when he was about to ignore it, he discovered that it wasn't actually aimed at him, but at Xi Canhen behind him.

Aghast, he stopped chasing Hong Antao, turning around and firing off a lightning bolt: his Galethunder Blade. It slammed into the wind blade, and the two of them exploded in a burst of light.

Hong Antao seized this chance to flee.

Enraged, the little tiger wanted to give chase, but then Hong Antao did exactly the same thing again, turning around and attacking Xi Canhen, forcing the little tiger to turn around and go to his aid.

Two unsuccessful attacks was very rare for the little tiger.

But this was the limit of what Hong Antao could do.

His biggest problem was that he didn't have Xi Canhen close at hand. The two failed attacks had given Xi Canhen enough time to roll behind a big tree, robbing Hong Antao of any further chance to attack.

Without the target of Xi Canhen, Hong Antao's life quickly reached its end.

The tiger came with a roaring wind, reaching him in the blink of an eye.

The giant tiger claws swiped at Hong Antao's face, obliterating the hunter's face with a single blow.

The little tiger landed on the ground and furiously roared at Hong Antao.

While he had successfully killed the assassin, he wasn't happy at all.

This person had only been at the Spirit Lake Tier, yet the tiger had failed to get him several times. It was simply unacceptable.

He turned to look at Xi Canhen, who peeked his head out from his hiding place.

The little tiger suddenly realized that this youth was pitifully weak, so weak that his existence dragged the tiger down.

Hm, I guess I should teach him a few things, the little tiger proudly thought to himself.

At least this kid would be able to protect himself the next time there was a sneak attack.

——————————

Stone Gate Peak.

Liang Xingbang and Shi Jingzhai anxiously paced back and forth across the room. When Yu Wanniang entered, they went up to her and asked, "What's the situation?"

Yu Wanniang shook her head, her face pale.

Their hearts sank. Shi Jingzhai anxiously asked, "What does that mean? Can't you talk?"

Yu Wanniang replied, "Lu Dong didn't come back. He and his men have disappeared."

"'Disappeared'?" The two of them were startled. "What of the villagers?"

Yu Wanniang replied, "Nothing happened to the village. When the sun rose, everything was going on as normal. Only Lu Dong and his men were gone."

The two of them gasped.

At this point, both Shi Jingzhai and Liang Xingbang realized that something was wrong.

If someone had found a piece of Crystallized Sandworm inadvertently, then the mass disappearance of Lu Dong and his men shouldn't have happened. This meant that this matter was no coincidence, but that someone had instigated it.

This completely changed the nature of the situation, and all three of them became uneasy.

Who exactly was opposing them from the shadows?

Spreading news, creating rumors, and even killing the people of the Stone Gate Sect from the shadows?

After some thought, Shi Jingzhai said, "This matter is highly suspicious. After all, all of this happened after Tang Jie arrived, and his mission was to inspect the mines. Could he have discovered something in the mines?"

Yu Wanniang asked, "If that was the case, why didn't he ask about it that night? Moreover, if he had noticed anything, why didn't he tell the Basking Moon Sect rather than do all this?"

Shi Jingzhai couldn't answer this question, so he gruffly said, "How could I know? We should just seize him and interrogate him."

Liang Xingbang coldly snorted. "We still don't even know if Tang Jie has anything to do with this, but I do know that if we seize Tang Jie, it won't be three days before a True Person from the Basking Moon Sect arrives and purges the Stone Gate Sect so thoroughly that not even the chickens and dogs will be spared."

"I worry that that will happen even if we don't seize him!" Shi Jingzhai roared. "We couldn't find him yesterday, and then something like this happens on the very same night. I won't believe it if you say that this has nothing to do with him."

But to his surprise, Yu Wanniang's face suddenly lit up. "This matter might truly have nothing to do with Tang Jie."

"Hm?" The two of them turned to look at Yu Wanniang.

Yu Wanniang explained, "The maids I posted at Tang Jie's side told me that Tang Jie returned last night, and upon his return, he spent all his time in cultivation and didn't go out again."

"Why didn't you say that earlier?" Shi Jingzhai asked.

Yu Wanniang brusquely replied, "I only learned about it this morning. That kid spends the daytime playing around and seeing the sights, and uses his nights to cultivate. You think I have so much free time that I can keep an eye on him every day?"

"Can we confirm that that was the real Tang Jie?" Shi Jingzhai uneasily said.

Yu Wanniang replied, "There's no doubt. I had arranged for those two girls to try and seduce him whenever they had the chance, but alas, that kid's heart is set on the Dao, and he is immune to their temptations. But this means that they interact with him every day and won't be tricked by just anybody."

"But that kid isn't just anybody," Liang Xingbang vaguely said.

"Senior Brother, are you saying that you're certain it is Tang Jie?"

Liang Xingbang hesitated, but he ultimately shook his head. "Not at all. Actually…"

In truth, without him needing to even say anything, a moment later, the three of them all had the same thought.

If Tang Jie was uninvolved, then who else could it be?

The three of them looked at each other, their hearts going cold, but none of them said a word.

The mood suddenly became awkward. After a while, Shi Jingzhai chuckled and said, "Senior Brother, if I'm not mistaken, weren't you the one holding all the Crystallized Sandworms?"

Liang Xingbang's face darkened. "Junior Brother, what's the meaning of this question?"

"I was just asking. Second Senior Brother doesn't need to be so sensitive about it," Shi Jingzhai said with a smile.

Liang Xingbang grunted, "I don't think that I'm the one being sensitive here, hm? I've been keeping the Crystallized Sandworms very well, but whatever I have stored away is as much as there is. If you two don't believe me, you can check if a piece is missing. But, Junior Brother Shi, you were the one in charge of extracting it, and our knowledge of how much was extracted was based only on your word alone. It's not impossible for you to have extracted one or two pieces and not recorded it."

Shi Jingzhai roared, "Bullshit! I basically had to strip myself naked any time I went in there, and you were able to see everything I took out. Where exactly do you think I could have hidden such things? Up my ass? You think I put myself in so much danger to get that sandworm just to tarnish myself like that? It's absurd!"

Liang Xingbang grew angry. "Weren't you the one who accused me first?"

Yu Wanniang hastily mediated. "Alright, enough. We're all on the same side here, so what are we fighting for?"

Shi Jingzhai grumpily said, "Yu Wanniang, don't stand on the side and pretend that you didn't do anything. You're also involved here. You were the one in contact with the other side, and you were also the one who took the samples. We gave you five pieces, and you didn't bring back a single one. What if this piece was one of those pieces?"

Yu Wanniang was infuriated by this accusation. "Hey, why are you blaming this on me? I used those pieces of Crystallized Sandworm to win the trust of the other side and open things up, did I not? You think it was easy for me to pull all that off? There's a lot that goes into working with those ruthless fellows while not leaving behind any incriminating evidence that could be used against us. At times, you even have to let them get a little advantage over you and work with some cruel and greedy sorts who would eat you up without leaving anything behind. After all that work I put into settling everything, you turn around and accuse me? Truly, working hard only to get nothing out of it."

The three of them stared at each other, and they all sat down in a huff and began to ignore each other.

After some time, they felt like this wasn't going to get them anywhere. Liang Xingbang ultimately said, "Do you think that this matter could be related to those guys?"

"Them?" Shi Jingzhai dropped his head and thought it over. "It shouldn't be. We've already given them a very cheap price."

Yu Wanniang's eyes flashed. "It's hard to say. People are always greedy, always trying to get as much as they can. We can't completely rule them out. For example, they could use this matter to apply more pressure on us and make us drop the price again…"

Shi Jingzhai and Liang Xingbang gasped. "They wouldn't be this ruthless, would they?"

"It's hard to say," Yu Wanniang worriedly said. "This incident happened right after Tang Jie arrived. This might not be a coincidence, but someone using the chance to pressure us. In the end, Tang Jie is only a student, not even an official disciple yet. Do you really think he has the ability to plan all this out? And even if he found anything, what reason does he have to do it? And I even used my secret art to plumb the depths of his heart. But those guys have the intelligence and the ability. They're the only ones capable of cleaning up Lu Dong's group without a sound."

"If this really is the case, then we're in trouble," Liang Xingbang worriedly said.

Yu Wanniang shook her head. "It might not be that bad. If it was them, then things become simple. At worst, they'll just ask us to drop the price. So long as we're willing to do that, it should resolve the problem."

Shi Jingzhai angrily said, "It sounds easy, but do you know how many goods we're talking about here? It took the sect thirty-some years to accumulate it all! And it's not just Crystallized Sandworms. There's also the spirit stones and other treasures we've accumulated over the years. There's so much that you can't even fit it all in a Mustard Seed Bag. We've already given them a sixty percent discount from the market price on these things, and you want to give them more? Just how low do you want it to go?"

Yu Wanniang retorted, "What else can we do? Can't you see how they're already beating us over the head?"

Shi Jingzhai bellowed, "That's your problem! In the end, it's all because you found the wrong person!"

Yu Wanniang was crazy from anger. "Alright, then you find one! You find a sect with the ability and daring to take these goods worth tens of millions of coins!"

Shi Jingzhai wanted to keep going, but Liang Xingbang stopped him. "Alright, enough. Why are we arguing again? Let's stop and end the matter here. We still have to find a solution. And we still haven't figured out what's going on, right? Wanniang, I'm afraid you'll have to take another trip. You were the one who contacted those people, so it's up to you to ask them if they were behind this, and if it was them, how we should handle it."

The short and chubby Liang Xingbang normally wasn't as imposing as Shi Jingzhai, but he had always been the brains of the group, proposing most of its ideas. Since he had spoken, Yu Wanniang and Shi Jingzhai were willing to listen.

Yu Wanniang sternly nodded. "In a little while, I'll go and contact them."

Liang Xingbang continued, "In addition, after this incident, we can't keep the goods around. We need to conclude this deal as soon as possible. For the next few days, I'll sleep in the storehouse and keep constant watch over them so that there's no mishap. Old Shi, you keep an eye on Tang Jie."

"What for?" Shi Jingzhai was confused.

Liang Xingbang replied, "Although those maids said that Tang Jie was there the entire night, the word of those lowly people isn't enough. It's best to be cautious around someone like Tang Jie."

"Alright," Shi Jingzhai reluctantly replied.

Yu Wanniang asked, "What about the village?"

"There's no stopping the news, so we can only let it spread. Anyway, there's no evidence, so we can just treat it like a baseless rumor." Liang Xingbang's mind had cleared, and he knew that panic was useless. Even if the Basking Moon Sect really came to ask questions, it had no evidence, so they just had to insist that it was a rumor. The key here was to clean up all the evidence so that it wouldn't come back to bite them.

"Finally, that kid who wanted to sell the sandworm. Although Manager Ding swore that he was just an ordinary person, Antao has yet to return, meaning that he might not have been as simple as he looked. We have to send a capable member of the sect to kill him," Liang Xingbang said.

Yu Wanniang frowned. "If he's really someone from that side, isn't it somewhat inappropriate to kill him?"

Liang Xingbang sinisterly smiled. "There's no need to worry about that. Since they've dared to stir trouble, they should be prepared to accept the consequences. Anyone who dares to harm our Stone Gate Sect… shall be killed without mercy!"

Translator Notes

Surely nothing bad will happen to the boy and the tiger that he's starting to bond with. Surely...

Novel Notes

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