Lin Xuanfeng’s eyes trailed Zhuo Fan as he vanished in the distance, “This is the first time I have seen that punk so out of it. What on earth happened?”
“Ha-ha-ha, nothing much, just him sending his own friends to an early grave.” Huangpu Qingtian had a vague smile. He then turned to pat Liu Yizhen’s shoulder, “Old Liu, well done. Just as I expected.”
“Eldest young master, I don’t deserve it. I’ve been found out since the start, ugh… “
He didn’t finish as Huangpu Qingtian squeezed his throat with a thin smile, “No, Old Liu, you don’t have to be modest. You did great…”
Huangpu Qingtian smiled, but his hand only clutched harder. The smile looked downright sinister at this point, instilling dread in the puzzled old man.
How had he erred? Why had Huangpu Qingtian stopped Lin Xuanfeng from killing him, yet was now doing it himself?
Eyes bulging, Liu Yizhen could only let out hoarse sounds. Liu Yizhen was just as perplexed as the victim, “Eldest young master, what…”
“Ha-ha-ha, I stopped you only because Zhuo Fan was nearby. I didn’t want to put on a show for him. But now, this old geezer has outlived his purpose. It wouldn’t do if he fell into Dugu Zhantian’s hands. Killing him here will spare me the trouble.” Huangpu Qingtian’s eyes glinted and the vile snicker on his face grew. He put just a touch more force in his grip and the body shuddered for a moment, then Liu Yizhen’s limbs went limp.
Flinging the corpse away, Huangpu Qingtian clapped. Lin Xuanfeng gasped, his mind overwhelmed.
[Huangpu Qingtian is a beast to dispose of those he no longer has use of. He has not a shred of conscience. Will I end up the same?]
Huangpu Qingtian knew this was coming so he patted his shoulder, making him shiver, “Worry not. Even if a cripple, you’re the next in line to lead Merry Woods. You’re so much more valuable. As long as you are by my side, I will do you no harm.”
Liu Xuanfeng’s face twitched. He gave a hollow laugh while wiping his brow. Looking at Liu Yizhen’s body again, he sighed inside.
[Who is to say it won’t change?]
But then Liu Xuanfeng brightened, “Eldest young master, since you could bring Liu Yizhen, why didn’t you do the same for the elders of our houses? Finishing off Zhuo Fan then would’ve been so much easier.”
“Fool, you take Dugu Zhantian in charge of Dragon Cloud City’s defenses for a prop?” Huangpu Qingtian snorted, “I only managed to bring him after treating him like a spirit animal, placing him in my storage ring. It is because of his insignificance that he went unnoticed. If it were an elder from the seven houses instead, it would send an alarm to Dugu Zhantian and get us observed. If not for our low numbers keeping it under wraps, our plan would’ve fallen through!”
Lin Xuanfeng bobbed his head, accepting the tongue lashing while not forgetting to polish Huangpu Qingtian’s rear with endless flattery.
Huangpu Qingtian waved him off, “We’re setting out for the earth exit at once!”
“Uh, is there a point going there now that Zhuo Fan knows our plan?” Lin Xuanfeng was bewildered.
Huangpu Qingtian’s snide reply came, “Idiot, we’re going so that he’d walk right into our ambush! All the traps are in place. Despite knowing that, he has no way to foil them. Not when he had a hand in making it possible. That heartrending regret, the gnawing guilt, must be quite the torment, ha-ha-ha… “
Huangpu Qingtian cackled evilly. Lin Xuanfeng still didn’t get it, but did as was told.
In another place, Xie Tianshang’s team had been heading for the metal exit for three days now when a sudden light flew over. Xie Tianshang caught it, knowing to be Zhuo Fan’s sending jade that said, “Now you can look at the jade slip.”
Xie Tianshang was quite puzzled.
[Wasn’t I supposed to do that after five days? Why so early?]
But since Zhuo Fan said so, he of course obliged. Five simple words entered his eyes, “Head for the water exit!”
Xie Tianshang was floored, [What does that mean? Change course on the spot? Why? Is the metal exit dangerous?]
Xie Tianshang shouted without delay, “Hold! We’re changing directions. Follow me!”
Xie Tianyang pulled Xue Ningxiang to the front among the baffled stares, “Brother, what’s up? We’ve been running for three god damned days and you suddenly want to change course? Is it an enemy attack?”
“No.” Xie Tianshang shook his head, giving him the jade slip, “This is the jade slip Zhuo Fan gave me before we split, saying to inspect it five days later. But I just received word from him to look at it now. And it said…”
Xie Tianyang looked at the jade, “Head to the water exit? What the hell?”
“I don’t know either. But since Zhuo Fan said so, he must have his reasons.” Xie Tianshang’s eyes were firm.
Xie Tianyang shook his head, “Brother, since when did you became a fan? What if he’s wrong?”
“How many times was he wrong in the past days he was with us? We hardly ever suffered any setbacks as well. While in a situation I cannot fathom, listening to his judgment is a sound decision.” Xie Tianshang’s mind was set.
Xue Ningxiang spoke first before Xie Tianyang could, “Brother Tianyang, has big brother Zhuo ever been wrong? Listen to him.”
“Don’t you recall the Allbeast Mountain Range? Didn’t he fall for You Guiqi’s ploys time and time again…”
“But with no You Guiqi around, big brother Zhuo is the strongest, right?” Xue Ningxiang was zealously defending Zhuo Fan’s honor.
Xie Tianyang’s mouth twitched, feeling his heart ache. And since he could do nothing to Ning’er, he could only compromise.
And so, led by Xie Tianshang, the Sword Marquise Abode team turned towards the water exit. Chu Qingcheng and Long Xingyun’s team received Zhuo Fan’s message as well and were heading in the same direction.
None knew however of the ten thousand strong army waiting for them there led by Yan Bangui and You Yushan.
On top of a majestic mountain, You Yushan looked on in the distance but didn’t spot anyone. He took out his jade slip and sighed, “Ol’ poisoner, what’s your take on eldest young master’s action? Giving us a jade slip to open a day later, only to have our course changed to the water exit and set an ambush here. Why didn’t he say so from the start? Why make us waste so much time first going to the fire and metal exits?”
“Hmm, he was afraid of having the info leaked.” Yan Bangui’s grim face shuddered in fear.
You Yushan raised an eyebrow, “Does that mean there’s a spy among us? Ha-ha-ha, you crack me up. Any spies will be on their side. Is there any lesser clan out there willing to offend Regent by becoming a spy? Not to mention the dozens of vassals on their side willing to lean on the Regent Estate, giving us their movements of their own accord!”
“Be that as it may, it never hurts to be on the safe side. Especially at such a crucial moment in our plan.” Yan Bangui muttered, “As this is Sir Leng’s ploy, we only need to follow it.”
You Yushan nodded as well.
The two saw Leng Wuchang’s mind infallible, his plans perfect. All they had to do was just do what he said.
“Senior brother, young master You, the 3rd grade array below is set!” Yan Fu bowed in respect before the two.
Nodding, Yan Bangui waved him off, “Junior brother, you worked hard. Withdraw.”
“Thank you!” Yan Fu bowed and left.
You Yushan mocked the retreating figure, “The kid has been quite meek as of late. Not even a hint of dissatisfaction on his face either. Well he is a rare genius alchemist Pill King Hall raised after all!”
“Ha-ha-ha, ever since Zhuo Fan killed Vicious Pill King, he lost all support. He must’ve finally accepted his fate to turn so quiet. Those two only ever looked at others from their high horse!”
“Even you?” You Yushan raised an eyebrow.
They traded a glance then jeered.
The mockery from above slammed into Yan Fu’s ears. His fists clenched, and his eyes glinted with savagery. [One day you’ll get what you deserve and I’ll be there to watch you die!]
In the meantime, Zhuo Fan was rushing towards the water exit. With no time to notify the teams, he could only hope he’d make it in time to rescue them.
His mind kept drifting to the worst case scenarios, making him clench his jaw and plagued him with worry.
He told them to go for the water exit and was sure they would follow it. This was what made it ever worse, riddled with guilt, and yet in complete awe of the mastermind behind it all.
To be seen through so thoroughly that even implicated his allies in this trap, he felt toyed, like how a cat did to a mouse.
The mastermind was no ordinary man to make even the great Zhuo Fan fall for his schemes. This man’s schemes were on a whole another level from You Guiqi’s.
[Unwonted Contriver, Leng Wuchang!]
Zhuo Fan gnashed his teeth in rage.
He had already guessed the true architect behind all this framing. It was not that arrogant prick, Huangpu Qingtian, but Regent Estate’s steward, the second greatest mind of the Tianyu Empire, Leng Wuchang!
Revenge was out of his sight, for now. All he could do was to try everything in pulling through this desperate situation.
Then, Zhuo Fan sensed a bone-chilling air as he passed. Looking below, he found a clear pond releasing cold air from its center. A thousand year old Frigid Pond!
Eyes squinting, Zhuo Fan dived…