As Su Ru Hui traveled north, he came across many corpses along the way. There were signs of sword fights on the trees, as well as traces of spiritual power. Su Ru Hui counted the number of dead bodies. Including the ones he had killed. There were a total of fifteen. The trial had only just begun for fifteen minutes, yet there were already so many casualties.
Su Ru Hui secretly clicked his tongue in disapproval. He still wanted to follow his old plan – concealing his tracks, finding a cave on a cliff halfway up the mountain to hide. This place was easy to defend and difficult to attack, and it was also conducive to reconnaissance. The terrain was high, and everything below could be seen at a glance. If anyone came, they could be spotted easily.
Su Ru Hui burned the clothes he took from the corpses as firewood, and kept a padded robe as a blanket. He counted the collected baggage and obtained two bags of cold steamed buns, as well as three talismans. The talismans were all from the archer’s bag, and Su Ru Hui had never seen the runes before, but they were all the same, so they were probably a special power that could dissolve swords and iron weapons. The archer was quite wealthy, and his crossbow was also a good thing, with five short arrows left. As for the little beggars, they were even poorer than Su Ru Hui, with only dry rations in their baggage.
The consumption of talismans in battles was too great, and Su Ru Hui sighed. He had used up many of the talismans that the strange people had given him just to deal with these few small fries. He only had one Teleportation talisman left, and Divine Concealment had been used up. He decided to live frugally and stay in the cave until the last day.
He chopped off many branches and piled them at the entrance of the cave, blocking the entrance and leaving a few small holes to monitor the outside. It was difficult to see that there was a cave here from the outside. After everything was arranged, he slept peacefully.
Kun Lun Secret Sect, Bei Chen Palace
In the center of a black marble palace, a brilliant golden star array silently operated in a pool of water. The three major star officials, Draconis, Leonis, and Ursa Major, sat around the pool. The Leonis star official, Mo Tuo Yan, was a blind monk dressed in a black and silver thread kasaya. He placed his hand on the water, and the star array presented what he saw with his Heavenly Eye in the water curtain. The water curtain showed scenes of the trial under Kun Lun Mountain, with fighting, struggle, people carrying knives, blood splattering three feet, and people using spiritual powers, stirring up the vortex.
Mo Tuo Yan sighed. “Many spiritual power users have infiltrated the common people. They must be from the Black Street. The Black Street thinks they can infiltrate the Secret Sect, but they are underestimating us.”
“A rabble.” Ursa Major star official Kun Wu sneered.
In front of the three of them, on a high platform, a man in black sat with closed eyes. His silver-gray long hair draped down to the ground, and the bright light from the skylight cast a shimmering glow on him. As a spiritual power user in the Chao Sheng realm, his lifespan was not the same as an ordinary person’s. He was over a hundred years old, yet he still had the appearance of a thirty-year-old. He had a handsome face and exuded the majesty and indifference of a superior being. He was as aloof as a mountain peak, only allowing others to look up to him.
Dan Tai Jing was in closed door cultivation year-round in Bei Chen Palace, and even the members of the Secret Sect could hardly see him face-to-face. Few people knew his true appearance, which led to the statue in Yun Zhou City that did not match his actual appearance.
Mo Tuo Yan lightly flicked his finger, stirring the water waves. “They are from the Black Street. Is Sang Chi Yu one of them now?”
“Why bother mentioning the name of a coward?” Kun Wu said.
“He is a child raised by Dan Tai Jing himself.” Mo Tuo Yan shook his head and sighed softly. “Stripped of his spiritual powers, his kneecaps smashed, and the Jiang family using a substitute to fulfill his marriage contract. With such humiliation, no wonder he fled to the Black Street. It is said that those who drink the secret medicine will become crazy. How many monsters have been locked up in Secret Sect’s prison because they lost their minds due to the secret medicine? Are we just letting Sang Chi Yu run free?”
Dan Tai Jing opened his eyes, his pale, almost colorless eyes devoid of emotion.
Dan Tai Jing finally spoke, “If he goes crazy, I will personally kill him.”
So cold and indifferent, there was no one else like him in the world. Sang Chi Yu had been following such a person for years, and had grown to act exactly like him.
Lang Ya Guang, the Draconis star official, quickly changed the subject and bowed to Dan Tai Jing on the high platform. “The conscription notice has been posted in various states and counties. There are 27 spiritual power users and 200 ordinary people who have applied. There are ten people who possess the Heavenly Eye special power, all of them from humble backgrounds without any aristocratic blood. The third batch has already arrived at the snow line. Please give us your guidance, Dan Tai Jing.”
Dan Tai Jing said, “Su Gou, take them to report.”
A smiling man walked out of the shadows. His face looked like it was made of white porcelain, clean and fair, exquisite to the point of being somewhat excessive. Upon closer inspection, there was a chilling non-human feeling. If Su Ru Hui were here, he would surely be surprised. Because this was the first Grade A puppet he created in Paradise Pavillion. He named it Su Gou Dan (1), and he created it to help him handle all kinds of miscellaneous affairs in Paradise Pavillion, and also to serve him tea, water, and give him massages.
He did not know that Su Gou Dan had been acquired by the Secret Sect, and the star array in his brain had been modified to make him loyal to the Secret Sect. He was in charge of the Secret Sect’s internal affairs, and was renamed Su Gou (2) by Dan Tai Jing, who disliked his original name.
Su Gou bowed politely. “Yes, Dan Tai Jing.”
The three major star officers also left. Dan Tai Jing sat on the high platform and watched them leave Bei Chen Palace. After a moment, he stood up. Pinching a Gate of Nothingness talisman between his index and middle fingers, a light and shadow vortex opened in front of him. He stepped into it and entered a dark and sunless prison. The narrow corridor, cold stone walls, and the Secret Sect’s architectural style were always so dull and unfriendly. The madmen’s screams were incessant, and even normal people were driven crazy by years of confinement. Dan Tai Jing set his gaze forward. Step by step, he walked along the spiral rocky staircase and arrived at the bottom of the prison.
This was a secret cell, with star array symbols engraved on all four walls. Pure Land symbols were embedded in the hard rock, suppressing the prisoner inside with the most strict and overbearing magic. Two faceless steel puppets with swords stood outside the prison, mercilessly slaying anyone who entered or left the prison without permission.
The prisoner was a woman with disheveled black hair and a fair complexion. She sat with her hands folded in chains as thick as an arm, which coiled around her limbs like a python. She heard Dan Tai Jing’s footsteps and slowly opened her eyes. She had a pair of beautiful eyes with slightly upturned corners, exuding a fascinating beauty. However, few people dared to look directly into her eyes, perhaps because her gaze was as sharp as a knife.
Dan Tai Jing did not approach her. He stopped outside the prison. He spoke slowly with a deep and majestic voice, “Mechanical Arsenal key.”
“I do not know,” Jiang Xue Ya answered crisply.
“Su Ru Hui was imprisoned in the Immortals Cave. You visited him three times and carried away puppet designs from the Secret Sect three times. We have found the designs, so there’s no need for you to lie,” Dan Tai Jing said.
Jiang Xue Ya sighed desolately as she held her forehead. “Dan Tai Jing, just look at me. Do I look like someone who can understand those designs? If I were that smart, why would my father make me a military officer? Moreover, if you have found those designs, you should be able to decipher them. Maybe the key is inside.”
“It is not,” Dan Tai Jing said.
“Oh…” Jiang Xue Ya thought for a moment. “How about this. Dan Tai Jing, you chat with me. If we have a good time, maybe I’ll remember something.”
Dan Tai Jing’s voice became even colder, “Jiang Xue Ya, procrastination is useless.”
Jiang Xue Ya had been locked up for half a month, and Dan Tai Jing had only asked her about the key and nothing else. The poor thing had only helped Su Ru Hui a few times with drawings and running errands, but Dan Tai Jing was too suspicious and refused to believe that she didn’t know about the key. Of course, it was also possible that Jiang Xue Ya was just a scoundrel and her words were not trustworthy.
Jiang Xue Ya saw him standing rooted in front of the prison door like a nail, and her smile became even more teasing. “Why stand so far away? I won’t eat you. Are you afraid of me? You’re a spiritual power user in the Chao Sheng Realm and the Secret Sect’s master. Why would you be afraid of me, a convicted criminal? Lang Ya Guang’s special power is ‘Huaxu Dream.’ If you want to know something, just ask him to make me dream and take a look.”
Seemingly anticipating that she would say something nonsensical, Dan Tai Jing’s brows furrowed, and he sternly said, “Silence.”
But Jiang Xue Ya had no intention of stopping. Her malicious and arrogant smile widened. “I know. You’re afraid that Lang Ya Guang will see the night we spent together, afraid that others will see me pressing you down on the bed. An all-powerful spiritual power user, the great master of the Secret Sect, bullied by his own disciple’s fiancée. To cover up the incestuous affair, you expelled Sang Chi Yu and imprisoned your future daughter-in-law, switching the engagement candidate in secret. What a clever way to deceive yourself. But even if your disciple finds out, he won’t blame me. Everyone knows he loves me to the bone and he even turned against Su Ru Hui for me.”
Dan Tai Jing’s voice contained suppressed anger, “If you dare to speak nonsense again, you will be severely punished.”
He raised his hand and turned the eight-trigram lock of the star array. The chain slowly tightened, and Jiang Xue Ya let out a painful groan.
Jiang Xue Ya licked her chapped lips. “Dan Tai Jing, my father didn’t love my mother and she died young. We never had a family reunion for the New Year’s Eve dinner, and my family never saved a seat for me. Those siblings of mine either wished for my early death or wished for me to get married soon, so there would be one less person to compete with them for land and power. Su Ru Hui was my junior brother. Zhou Xiao Su is my junior sister. I treat them as my own siblings. You imprisoned my junior brother and coveted his inventions. Do you still expect me to betray him?”
Dan Tai Jing once again turned the eight-trigram lock and spoke in a cold and stern voice, “You just passed the point of no return. You’re responsible for your own actions.”
“I can’t do it. I always value loyalty,” Jiang Xue Ya said with a suggestive smile, then changed the topic, “However… a brother is not as close as a husband. If you are willing to compromise and marry me off, I will reveal all the Mechanical Arsenal keys without reservation.”
1. Su Gou Dan – the literal translation is Boss Su’s Little Rascal.
2. Su Gou – the character for “Gou” here is different from Su Gou Dan. This one can mean dirt, grime, or filth. It can also be used to describe something that is impure or corrupted.