“I caught you to ask you where Liu Shan Men’s vice-captain, Shen Yiren, whom you ambushed four days ago, is now.”
“What are you talking about?”
The elder mocked my acting with his laughter: “You think Evil Spirits attacking the imperial court’s escort is still a secret? Hundreds of troops returned from Canhu Town safe and sound, you know? Or, are you naïve enough to think I captured you without knowing you’re with Evil Spirits.”
“So what if you do know? I told you I’d tell you what I can but wouldn’t otherwise. That’s one of the things I can’t talk about. Among Evil Spir-”
“Among Evil Spirits, you, Mountain Monster, have the least respect for the rules. That’s why I was glad when I learnt it was you who came here. You’re the only one I can negotiate with.”
I grinned: “What’s that mean? You going to bribe me?”
“You’re the kind who can’t be bribed. Unlike the others, you’re a gifted killer.”
The elder’s confidence was as annoying as his advanced disguise skill, but I still answered, “You’re not trusting me because I’m pitiful, are you?”
“No,” the elder answered with a chuckle. “You’re notorious for going back on your word. That’s why the pugilistic world calls you a nut case, a skilled nut case. However, I decided to consult you precisely because you’re untrustworthy.”
What he implied was, “Your untrustworthy nature makes you a double-edged sword. If I perceive you to be untrustworthy, your master could also be distrustful of you.” If anyone outright tried to goad me into being forthright, I’d slit his entire family’s throat at night.
“I have a condition.”
“I don’t know if you have anything besides your life to bargain with unless you consider the information to be worth two terms.”
“I have two pieces of information I can exchange with you. Besides Shen Yiren’s whereabouts, I can also inform you about other adepts we captured alive.”
“Now you’re speaking my language. What are your terms?”
I pursed my lips into a grin: “You have to remove your mask and show me your true appearance.”
The elder was so bewildered that he forgot to maintain his deep voice: “You’re a weird one. That’s it?”
“I’ve killed more than I can keep count of, which consisted of those I killed for entertainment and villains. You’re the first one I’ve lost to at this. If I don’t get to find out the appearance of who I lost to, wouldn’t I have lost for nothing?”
“Your request is as weird as you.” The elder pulled off his wig and mask. He rolled his long black hair into a bun and conveyed, “Easy enough for me. Take a look.”
In my opinion, he wasn’t handsome. I didn’t know how to describe him, nevertheless. His facial features were more ordinary than the one who tried to spear me back at Bishui Town, yett his smile was unique, in that helped him look better than ordinary. He always had his lips tugged up ever so subtly, oozing dangerous vibes.
He was much younger than I predicted. I thought he’d have had to train as long as Master, if not longer, to be so skilled. I thought the youthful energy in his eyes was part of his disguise, but it was actually his real nature shining through. I thought he’d emit an aura similar to Master’s because I assumed he had to fight countless challenging fights to the death to attain martial prowess of his calibre. By my estimations, he was twenty-seven to twenty-eight years old. If the turbulence in the pugilistic world made him look older than he was, he’d still be under thirty if you ask me.
Shifu said I had a good aptitude for martial arts but might not excel at the end due to me prioritising Blood Fiend Silkworm Transformation Art. Regardless, I continued focusing on transforming until even adepts struggled to see through my disguises. Even if my skills aren’t up to scratch, I’m still happy about it. For that reason, it was vexing to see the elder surpass my disguise and martial skills at his age. I couldn’t imagine anybody reaching his level even if they started training from the time they were still in their mother’s womb.
“Now that you’ve seen my appearance, please uphold your end of the deal.”
I proceeded to recount the events and shared everything I knew.
“Shen Yiren escaped?”
“Yes. Master said three, so he intended meet the quota. She has to be grievously injured. Once she’s healed up, Master wants to finish the last round.”
“What’s going through Abels’ head? Why does he want Shen Yiren?” He then switched to a mumble: “It’s been four days since Boss has been missing… If she falls off her horse while riding around on the mountain…”
That scene’s too beautiful for you to imagine, huh?
“What else do you know?”
Smirking, I answered, “Not even Master knows this. We conducted our own investigations. The three young individuals Master spared that night aren’t strong enough to rival him; however, their identities are mysterious. One of them called himself Hong Saolang. I think his hard-hitting palm style is a rare style. We don’t know what school it belongs to, but he could narrow space. My guess is he’s…”
“Wait, Second Brother was part of the team?!”
Did he just say ‘Second Brother’?!
“Wait, someone is coming.”
He switched to a refined demeanour. Dugu and the spear-wielding youth came running over.
“Brother Ming, what are you doing here?”
“I, uh, don’t know. I just passed by and saw her tied up here. She doesn’t seem to be a bad girl. Her name is Wang Liang.”
It was clear they were acquainted, yet he tried to hide what happened. Clearly, he was hiding some secret.
Dugu: “Wang Liang? That’s Mountain Monster, Evil Spirits’ second strongest! Brother Ming, I can’t believe you managed to bump into her. You really are Liu Shan’s Plague!”
Huh?! He’s a plague? No wonder why I was so bloody unlucky as soon as I bumped into him! His jinx skill is overpowered!