Su Xiao and Tie Hanyi, having regrouped with Emperor Yuansheng just before the only boat heading to Repository Island set sail, were in luck for only Luo Clan’s helmsman, who was educated on the signals, could navigate his way to the deep ends of Lotus Root Grounds safely. If it wasn’t a special occasion, only Luo Clan’s patriarch would board the boat daily.
“We rushed here after receiving a letter Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s Interim Patriarch Yu stating that she is safe. To think that today would be the end of Evil Spirits, Y-, Master, the heavens really do smile upon you.” Tie Hanyi, of course, skipped the part about Yu Feiyuan sparing those on her tail as he wasn’t there to witness it.
In light of their decided victory and Yu Feiyuan’s safe retreat, Emperor Yuansheng didn’t concern himself any further with it. His Qilin Guards were out on a search and eliminate mission remnants, so stragglers would soon be exterminated if not already.
“Vice-Captain, I am glad to see you back!” Su Xiao effused.
“You seem to have grown taller, Xiao Han,” Shen Yiren replied, chatting jovially with Su Xiao thereafter. That was until her workaholic nature surfaced again – which didn’t take long.
Maybe it was because of the topic Shen Yiren broached and her superior-like posture that Su Xiao stood erect as if he was reporting back at the office, recounting all of the work completed since her departure. If it was any other day, they would’ve been complimented for their dedication to their jobs but not when everyone else was celebrating.
“Why are you crying all of a sudden?”
Sniffling, Su Xiao wiped the streaks down his cheeks. “V-Vice-Captain, I missed you,” he answered before recoiling in fear of a tongue lashing.
Shen Yiren waited for Su Xiao to turn back to her and smiled: “I also missed you guys.”
Everyone laughed as Su Xiao threw himself into Shen Yiren’s embrace for the latter to pet.
Even though she was beaming, Shen Yiren constantly cast her gaze to the group on the other side of the cabin for the reason that she felt uneasy about Luo Sword Manor, especially after Luo Ming slaughtered Evil Spirits. She couldn’t see any reason for him to slaughter the entire group. She couldn’t stop speculating that he wanted to silence them even if she wanted to. Additionally, about Abels’ anti-climatic death that didn’t sit right with her. She had no time to inspect his head since Luo Ming had someone tidy up. Shen Yiren being Shen Yiren, though, wasn’t above bending norms when it mattered.
Since I can’t take the head via legitimate means, maybe I can poke a hole in the middle of the boat and check the head out while everyone is panic-stricken? Workable. Catch some fish and deliberately get some sparks on the boat while grilling them over a flame? Maybe. If nothing else, watching those waiting on Repository Island see their boat coming back with smoke whisking from it would be fun in its own way. If only Ming Feizhen was here; he’s the best at handling these types of jobs.
Men who saw the smile spread across Shen Yiren’s lips thought they were smiling at them.
Shen Yiren looked over her shoulder to see Long Zaitian come over with a long face and pass her a sheet of paper.
“Qilin Guards’ report… Please do not worry.”
Shen Yiren furrowed her brows after reading the report. “Tang Ye?”
Long Zaitian nodded.
Shen Yiren went to Emperor Yuansheng at the end of the boat and whispered to him about Tang Ye’s disappearance.
“Could they still have someone around? Tang Ye shouldn’t be that easy to kidnap, however, right?” queried Emperor Yuansheng.
“Mm, based on what I know about Tang Ye, he is not the type to vanish for no reason. That is why… believe he has been kidnapped if he is not dead,” opined Shen Yiren.
“Hmm…” In a stifled voice, Emperor Yuansheng ordered, “Send out a search team. It’s only been four hours, so there must be traces remaining.”
Shen Yiren kept her voice down because she didn’t trust Luo Sword Manor, while Emperor Yuansheng spoke quietly because he didn’t want to bother Luo Sword Manor. Emperor Yuansheng understood Luo Ming had more than plenty of things to pick up after secluding himself for all those years. Luo Yan’s betrayal, if nothing else, would be a handful to clean up.
Voice muffled, Luo Siming communicated, “Father, almost half of the work at the workshop has ceased after Second Uncle left. As you already know, they… might not obey even you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Luo Ming assured. “I know what needs to be done. I’ve already chosen a successor to Sun Character Worship.”
“Already? Is it an elder of a branch? Besides the patriarch instating them, they would also need to have mastered Scorching Sun Spirit Scripture. There is no branch family member who has achieved that.”
“You will see. It is not time to reveal them yet.”
The aloof and seemingly distracted Luo Ming didn’t escape Luo Siming’s attention. As far as Luo Siming could discern, his father’s demeanour was identical to when his brothers passed away a decade ago, quiet and keeping everyone at arm’s distance. Luo Siming, consequently, assumed his father’s psychological issues hadn’t improved despite his skills improving. As such, although he was glad to see his father again, he could only lament at his father’s poor mental state.
Besides Repository Sword Hall, the rest of Repository Island was still as majestic as it always once since Luo Siming and Luo Yan took care of the island.
“Repository Island is as aesthetically pleasing as I imagined,” Emperor Yuansheng praised of the embellished buildings that formed in a v-like-shaped letter (without the connected part) from the main building, which was the tip as if to symbolise the tip of a sword, and numerous rows of houses for disciples to stay.
“What is there to praise about our barbaric structures, Brother Li?” Luo Ming, who emphasised eloquence with his buildings and bamboo to pander to his preference for peace and quiet, humbly remarked with a smile. “Please come this way.”
The swordsmen attired in green bowed to everyone who set foot on the island. When Luo Siming promised a banquet, he really meant it. They found the main building crowded upon entering, with wine being served up constantly.
As Luo Ming led Emperor Yuansheng to his seat, famous people from the pugilistic world greeted Luo Ming. Luo Ming wanted Emperor Yuansheng to sit in the host’s seat, but Emperor Yuansheng disputed it was inappropriate. In the end, Emperor Yuansheng sat in the neighbouring seat to force Luo Ming to raise the white flag.
Luo Ming saluted Emperor Yuansheng before he went to the host’s seat to announce, “Thankful for accepting this one’s invitation and coming to his humble abode. This one is grateful to have the honour of hosting you here. It is unfortunate that someone had to try and sow discord between us when you came here as guests, and the culprit is the leader of Beijiang’s bandit group Evil Spirits – Abels. As you were inconvenienced as a result of this one’s invitation, he has done what ought to be done and beheaded Abels.”
Shen Yiren left the building, sick of listening to Luo Ming, only to feel stuffy at the sight of Luo Clan’s people moving about. Thus, she sneaked off without any specific location in mind until she caught a faint flower fragrance. Interest piqued, she traversed several kilometres toward the scent. Much to her joy was the fact that there were fewer and fewer people around as she travelled.
Shen Yiren was searching for flowers, yet the flower garden she arrived at was covered in snow, although it was obvious there were hundreds of plumb blossom trees there if one looked close enough. The scent she smelt was the mixture of snow and the dancing leaves. The scent would change depending on how long she spent in the garden.
“This is Plum Blossom Garden.”
Smiling helplessly upon hearing the voice she recognised, Shen Yiren responded, “I didn’t expect to wander into Young Master Luo’s flower garden.”
“The garden is open today. Most guests have had a chance to check it out. As another guest of ours, you have every right to see it.”
“Plum blossoms bloom winter after winter and without withering despite the cold. Most martial artists in Jiangnan like plum blossoms, but Luo Sword Manor is the most famous among the fans. It is a privilege to see the flowers of legend.”
“If you are keen, this one is happy to be your guide.”
“Thank you for the kind offer, but I’ll pass on it. I’ve never had an interest in flowers. The nice fragrance merely drew me here.” Shen Yiren pointed to a particular pot and inquired, “Who pruned that one?”
The way the white plum blossom with only a few branches remaining was pruned suggested the one responsible was extremely skilled with his hands. Whoever started from the branch pruned it as if he was wielding a sword.
“Unless stated otherwise, only our clan’s patriarch is allowed into this garden. Father never received any guests while training at Sword Spirit House, but he would occasionally come here to prune the trees as a means of meditation.” Luo Siming pointed to the plum blossom Shen Yiren inquired about and smiled: “The nephrite water illuminator is my father’s project.”