Chapter 23: Accidental Drowning
…What was he hiding?
He was certainly hiding a lot of things.
For example, the fact that the original owner was dead, or that he was a fake, or, he still was plotting to make a deal with Meng Chongguang so that he could return back to his father and sister in the real world.
Which ever matter was confessed, there was a possibility that Meng Chongguang would crush Xu Xingzhi into the ground with a slap and he wouldn’t be able to come out.
At this juncture, Meng Chongguang had directly thrown this question at Xu Xingzhi. Xu Xingzhi’s heart clamoured loudly only to sink deeply right after.
He said with a forced smile, “Why do you say that?”
Meng Chongguang stared at Xu Xingzhi until he felt like his had blood frozen up. He angrily flung Xu Xingzhi’s wrist away and his words even sounded alienating, “Since Senior Brother doesn’t want to say it, Chongguang won’t ask anymore. Go back to the tower and pack up. We’ll set off immediately. “
Xu Xingzhi: “…”
Complying with Meng Chongguang’s words, Xu Xingzhi returned to his room and fell into a reverie as he sat on the couch.
There wasn’t anything for him to pack because nothing in the tower belonged to him. He only took the folding fan, which was named “Idle Brush1” by the original owner, as a symbolic gesture, and turned it back and forth in his hands.
Meng Chongguang’s unceasingly furious appearance from just now really made one shudder with fear, but looking solely based on Meng Chongguang’s attitude, it didn’t seem like he had discovered the huge secret that Xu Xingzhi desperately wanted to hide, but more like he was acting in a fit of pique.
At which point had Meng Chongguang’s attitude changed? Let’s see.
Xu Xingzhi remembered that his expression changed after he placed his fingers on his pulse, so he copied Meng Chongguang and used his left hand to check his pulse on his right hand in an attempt to find out what the problem was.
After examining for a long while, Xu Xingzhi finally came to a conclusion.
——Because of the overwhelming anxiety and worries he’d been suffering from recently, his irascibility was excessive, so he really ought to take both medicines and tonics and focus on maintaining a good health.
He didn’t manage to find out anything and felt gloomy. He shook his left hand resentfully and took the folding fan he had placed aside, intending to go to the table to drink some water to calm himself down.
In the next instance, Xu Xingzhi’s left hand dropped abruptly.
He looked down and realised that the fan in his hand had turned into an exquisite porcelain pot’s handle.
In addition to the round pot, there was also one larger cup and two smaller cups arranged neatly on the couch.
Xu Xingzhi: …Whoa.
He had seen this fan changing into different forms in the memories, but it was still the first time he was witnessing it with his own eyes.
Xu Xingzhi shook the pot and discovered that it was filled with water. He then poured a cup of water, brought the cup to his lips and took a sip.
The water tasted extremely fresh and sweet, and it made him feel refreshed and energized despite him having taken only a small sip.
Xu Xingzhi thought optimistically, ‘Well, even if Meng Chongguang found out his real identity and abandoned him inside the wilderness, he could at least fill his stomach with water.’
He picked up the teapot and studied it carefully.
If he remembered correctly, he was thinking about “want to drink water” in his mind when the folding fan abruptly changed into a canteen.
Xu Xingzhi held his breath and remembered the giant scythe used in the battle at the Central Plain.
There’s no movement from the folding fan and it was so still like it was dead.
So Xu Xingzhi would only settle for the second best and thought of that Yu Chang Sword.
The folding fan was still as indifferent and remained motionless.
After a bout of various fancies and imagination, Xu Xingzhi could confirm that other that this tea set, he could only change the folding fan into a bundle of rope, a roll of brocade silk, a pot of old wine and a feather duster.
The feather duster could be used for cleaning, as for the rope and brocade silk, Xu Xingzhi couldn’t think of any other functions at the moment other to use them to take his life by hanging himself at a critical moment.
…It would be good if there was a dagger that could be used to protect himself ah.
With such thoughts going through his mind, Xu Xingzhi who was in a gloomy mood poured himself a large cup of wine as a vestige of comfort.
After finishing the cup in one gulp, Xu Xingzhi looked at the cup in his hand.
He was a mortal, and he didn’t know the complex method of regulating the pulse and energy of Daoism. But he knew that a person whose root bone2 had been extracted and whose spiritual power had been fully spent could never transform the folding fan like this.
He still remembered that when he first entered the wilderness, Zhou Beinan suspected that he was a Walking Corpse and had vowed solemnly that no one would be able to survive having their root bone removed.
At that time, Xu Xingzhi barely managed to muddle out off this by speaking in prevarication. Meng Chongguang also guaranteed on his behalf by explaining that there were zero traces of spiritual energy circulating within his body. Hence, Xu Xingzhi basically did not think any further about it.
However, looking at the current situation now, after Meng Chongguang made Spirit Stones rain, even if all his spiritual energy was dissipated into the surroundings, this body had been affected and unexpectedly scored a lucky hit and restored some power?
This was indeed a wonderful thing, but this also caused more suspicion to cloud his mind.
…For the first time, he seriously doubted the words of ‘Knowledge of the World’.
According to ‘Knowledge of the World’, Meng Chongguang, along with Zhou Beinan and the rest, colluded in carrying out nefarious acts to steal the Immortal Artifacts, murder their respected teacher, and even assisted evildoers. The original owner, Xu Xingzhi received great harm due to this, he suffered the stigma of killing his teacher and was branded with the failure of imparting good teaching, thus his root bone was removed and died tragically in the mortal world.
This was a story that practically told itself, but now there was a glaringly obvious plot hole.
——The body given to him by “Knowledge of the World” didn’t have its root bone removed, it was more like a body whose spiritual power was sealed off.
Once this loophole was uncovered, the information supplied by the “Knowledge of the World’’ was no longer logical and reasonable.
If the original owner was leveled with such hefty accusations, would the sects really let him off so easily by just sealing his spiritual power and letting him leave?
Since the original owner didn’t get his root bone removed, why did he die then?
Or, did the original owner even die in the first place?
Between this jumble of conjectures, Xu Xingzhi suddenly struck with an epiphany.
——The “Knowledge of the World” was just intentionally providing him with an irrefutable reason to kill Meng Chongguang.
On one hand, there would be a deep-seated hatred between Meng Chongguang and the original owner, on the other hand, he who had taken the original owner’s body yearned to return home, when these two motivations were added together, killing Meng Chongguang became a natural course of action.
Thinking about this, an intense and penetrating chill suddenly ran down Xu Xingzhi’s back.
However, no matter what he tried to guess, they were still just conjectures, they couldn’t be taken as concrete answers.
Xu Xingzhi carefully slotted the dagger given by ‘Knowledge of the World’ between his waistband and robes, but for the time being, he had no intention of using it to kill Meng Chongguang.
Standing in front of the tower while waiting for everyone to gather, Xu Xingzhi took a few glances at Meng Chongguang as he kept fiddling with the folding fan.
Meng Chongguang’s expression was cold as he directed the group focusedly. He called Qu Chi to follow in the rear while he took the front and Xu Xingzhi was dumped in the spot furthest away from him.
Zhou Wang had her twin sabers behind her back as she walked beside Xu Xingzhi with her hands tucked inside her sleeves. Her gaze moved back and forth between these two people a few times after which she lowered her voice and asked, “Did you quarrel with Big Brother Meng?”
Xu Xingzhi smiled bitterly.
….Thinking about it, it made sense that Meng Chongguang would be unhappy.
In Meng Chongguang’s views, Xu Xingzhi obviously didn’t not have his root bone removed and still retained his spiritual power, but he pretended to be weak. This clearly showed a lack of trust in him, which was why he refused to tell him the truth. Even after he somehow managed to find out the truth, Xu Xingzhi was still unwilling to tell him the truth and attempted to bluff his way through it.
…If Meng Chongguang’s exquisite and stained glass heart could withstand such a strike, it would be weird.
But Xu Xingzhi felt rather wronged too.
Firstly, he truly didn’t know that his root bone was not removed, so he didn’t hold the intention to deceive him. Moreover, the amount of spiritual power he could utilise was still pitifully small. Even if he went to the street to make a living as a performer, no one would be willing to give him money with these little cheap tricks of changing the fan into a pot, some wine and a feather duster.
Xu Xingzhi whispered to Zhou Wang, “He’s throwing a tantrum.”
Zhou Wang was curious. “Ai, I’ve never seen Big Brother Meng throwing a tantrum before.”
Xu Xingzhi was rather surprised because knowing Meng Chongguang’s difficult personality, throwing temper tantrums was as frequent as eating food and drinking water for him. “No one’s ever made him angry?”
Zhou Wang said, “…All those who made Big Brother Meng angry are dead.”
Xu Xingzhi: “…” …Suddenly scared.
Soon, dozens of dark silhouettes appeared in the vast wilderness after the group of people left the tower.
The silhouettes gradually became more defined human forms as they neared the tower.
The leader was Wen Xuechen who was seated in a wheelchair. Thirteen years might have passed but he was still as pretty and aloof, and his disposition was distinguished and elegant, like floating clouds. Compared to thirteen years ago, the only discernible change was that his hair had turned completely into a snow-white color.
There were a dozen disciples following behind him, donned in various attires, and they all belonged to the four sects.
The tower was vacant. No one came out to meet the newcomers.
Wen Xuechen didn’t seem to have any intention to go in either.
He stopped his wheelchair tens of feet away from the tower, bent down, and pulled up a large amount of the ’stardust’ from the ground before saying to himself, “…I clearly told him that Meng Chongguang will never leave Xu Xingzhi here, but he still wants me to come and take a look. He is really stubborn.”
He scattered the powder in his hands before turning around his wheelchair with the intention to leave.
A disciple dressed in Danyang Peak’s uniform asked, “Senior Brother Wen, are we not going to check any further? They might be holed up in the tower.”
“There are no spiritual energy circulating here.” Wen Xuechen coldly said, “There is another person in the tower, he is not one of them but just a useless person who broke his backbone. There is not need to go in and waste our time.”
Another disciple of Ying Tian Chuan who was wearing a purplish blue gown with a golden collar3
and seemed to be around the same rank as Wen Xuechen was skeptical. “Really? Since there is not one, what harm is there entering to take a look?”
Wen Xuechen raised his head. “Then you are just courting death.”
Said person said with a strange smile. “Wen Xuechen, could it be that you still miss the past affection you had for those disloyal people?”
“Affection for whom?” Wen Xuechen asked in reply.
That disciple had yet to say anything when Wen Xuechen waved his hand that was propped on the wheelchair’s armrest like he was shooing away a housefly.
This wave might seemed to have dispersed away in the air in an instant, but that person who spoke conceited nonsense to Wen Xuechen was blown to the ground by some strange power. His cheek was swollen while his ears and nose were bleeding.
Wen Xuechen’s tone was as cold as ice. “You are talking to me?”
After saying this, he then pulled his wheelchair to leave. “Those who are not afraid to die can go in. Those who want to live, follow me.”
Two Qingliang Valley’s disciples looked at each other before they hurriedly caught up with him. The rest of the dozen disciples stayed at their spots as they disapproved of Wen Xuechen’s words.
That Ying Tian Chuan’s disciple took a long while before he snapped back, and he spat out a bloody tooth. “Damn him! That pretty boy!”
Another person in the same uniform as him helped him up. “Why did you try to argue with him. He was one of the four head disciples in those years, after all.”
“Pei!” That Ying Tian Chuan’s disciple spoke with hatred, “If he is that powerful, why wasn’t he in the Heavenly Rank?”
A well-informed person explained, “In those years, from the four head disciples, Xu Xingzhi and Qu Chi were neck to neck; Zhou Beinan’s spearmanship might not rival his younger sister, Zhou Xian, but he was still considered as someone with outstanding talent; Wen Xuechen couldn’t endure the intensive Heaven Rank competition that lasted for more than ten days because of his serious heart condition, so he refused to take part in the battle.”
Ying Tian Chuan’s disciple sneered. “With all that said, he just loves to put on airs and play hero in front of us. He thinks he is something great and can bring something to the table.”
He waved his hands after he was done speaking. “Come, let’s go in. I don’t believe in his alarmist talk. Even if they ran away, it will be good if we demolish this damn tower so that we can explain to the Mountain Lord.”
With a silver spear in his hands, he took the lead and walked to the tower. The group of people felt that his words were reasonable and followed behind one after another.
Following their approach, the ground up spiritual stones on the ground that were akin to stardust gradually floated up.
A gust of wind blew up from the flat ground and those stardust rose and fell onto the face of the leading Ying Tian Chuan’s disciple.
His mouth was filled with sand and he couldn’t help feeling annoyed. He spat out the sands but realised that they were struck in his mouth and couldn’t be spat out no matter how he tried to.
To his surprise, he saw the sands suddenly rising and smacking him square in the face. He hurriedly waved his spear to block the sand and looked with squirted eyes only to find out that the sand had all clung onto his spear.
Instantly, “Chichichi” sound was produced as the silver spear was eroded by the sand, and inch by inch, it got smaller and gradually ceased to exist.
Seeing at how his hand was going to be eroded, the Ying Tian Chuan’s disciple yelled in alarm and threw the spear onto the ground. In the next second, he began to howl in agony like a pig as he pulled at his face.
Not long after, he stopped breathing. The sand had corroded everything until only an article of clothing was left behind.
After the sandstorm had subsided, a heap of clothes fell in front of the tower.
The wind had delivered the terrifying screams to the two Qingliang Valley’s disciples who managed to escape their deaths in the nick of time. The series of blood curdling screams caused pins and needles to surge through their entire body. They made huge and hurried strides but they still couldn’t surpass the speed of the attacking sand.
Seeing how they were going to be devoured by the sandstorm, Wen Xuechen who had been slowly pushing his wheelchair forward raised his arm and a glossy jade wheel disc shot out from his sleeve. A ray of Eight-Diagram Talisman shot out and enveloped the three of them.
The raging sand beat violently outside but it couldn’t enter the protective barrier. It soon lost its murderous intent and dropped to the ground.
The two disciples looked at the tower in fear and could only see a ground of clothes and hair crowns, but do they dared to go back to recover the corpses?
Wen Xuechen kept his wheel disc back into his sleeve with a bad complexion.
The array just now had exhausted too much of his strength. His lips were blue and white, even his breathing was a little short.
Like the two Qiangliang Valley’s disciples, he looked at the direction of the tower and fell into a trance.
Who knew what he was thinking about.
With Tao Xian and himself as burdens, the group couldn’t advance fast; Tao Xian’s health wasn’t good, so Qu Chi had to carry him all the way, hence their speed wasn’t fast.
They had walked and stopped for half a day but Xu Xingzhi and Meng Chongguang had yet to talk.
Xu Xingzhi could tell that Meng Chongguang had endured enough. He kept turning his head around to look at him secretively, only to quickly turn his head back when he was caught doing so by Xu Xingzhi, biting his lips like he was being wronged.
When everyone had stopped to take a rest at the rivulet, he was the furthest away from the group, sitting all by himself. He refused to drink even a sip of water and the words, “hurry, come and coax me!” were all but written in a giant font all over his face.
Xu Xingzhi wanted to change his fan into a pot and coax him with a cup of water but when he thought of how everyone thought that his root bone had been removed and he’d then have to explain how he could now use his spiritual power, and he felt that it would be too troublesome.
He had no choice but to only take the cowhide water bag to the rivulet and get some water.
Meng Chongguang who had noticed Xu Xingzhi’s action could no longer hide his happiness. He hugged his knees as he waited obediently to be coaxed.
When Zhou Wang saw this, she went to report to Zhou Beinan her discovery. “Uncle, Senior Brother Xu has been looking at Big Brother Meng the whole time.”
Zhou Beinan: “Shh, don’t look at those two damned cut sleeves. You will grow sty.”
Zhou Wang had already found out what “cut sleeve” meant after pestering the Skeleton Girl, Ru Yuan Zhou, so she covered her mouth to hide her smile.
However, her face had yet to disappear when the sound of splashing water came to her ears.
Qu Chi was leaning by the edge of the rivulet, washing his face when he heard the splash. He didn’t even wait to lift up his head, before urgently asking, “Tao Xian! Did Tao Xian fall into the water?”
Tao Xian, who was less than a foot away from him, was stuck between laughing and crying. “I am here, Senior Brother Qu.”
Lu Yujiu put down the canteen. “Who fell into the water-” He looked around. “-Where is Senior Brother Xu?”
“Who would it be except for him?” Zhou Beinan looked at where Xu Xingzhi was just now. “…Hey Xu Xingzhi, that water level isn’t even knee deep, why are you pretending to be dead?”
Other than the ripples, no one answered him.
Yuan Ru Zhou who was picking wild fruits at the trees some distance away frowned. “…Where is Senior Brother?”
Not waiting for anyone else to notice this bizarreness, Meng Zhoug Guang had already rushed to the rivulet and looked below. His voice was quivering as he called. “…Senior Brother? …Senior Brother?”
The knee deep rivulet had recovered to its calm, even the ripples had disappeared.
…But there wasn’t even the slightest shadow of Xu Xingzhi?