Didn’t Find Flipping Jiang Chen
The group from Valley of Yearning weren’t feeble amateurs, but Lady Bai and Bai Zhiqing were compromised; even Hong Jiu had just woken up not too long ago, so he needed time to get back into shape. Besides Master Qi, the others couldn’t serve much purpose in a high-level fight. They would be the group that needed people to give up their seats for them upon arriving at an inn.
Afraid his wife wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of travelling, Bai Zhiqing arranged for a carriage to make the journey easier for her. Not only was the carriage furnished opulently, but it was able to fit the eight of them, which meant they needed four healthy horses to pull them along. On top of that, Bai Zhiqing brought along three cooks, six performers, nine musicians and six stage actors in case his wife was bored. He even brought along gardeners to keep their campsites comfortable and craftsmen who could produce fireworks. It might’ve sounded excessive for a martial arts family, but Valley of Yearning was a group that had a penchant for being anti-stereotypical. Hong Jiu was the type of person who’d ask for a dance with death for the experience, so he merrily clapped away and showered the idea with praise.
Whilst chewing two bananas, Hong Jiu asked, “I still don’t get it. How does Lady Bai know where Jiang Chen is?”
As she gently tapped her finger to the rhythm of the music outside the courage, Lady Bai turned her head towards Hong Jiu and replied, “I don’t know.”
Hong Jiu blinked three times. “Third Brother.”
“Oh, yeah, she doesn’t know,” responded Bai Zhiqing.
“Wow, how heartless! That is the opposite of what you told us yesterday!”
“Jiang Chen sent me a letter, but I can’t reveal the contents,” stated Lady Bai.
Hong Jiu blinked another three times. “Third Brother…”
“Don’t look at me like that. It’s making me blush.”
“Who cares if you blush? Didn’t you say Lady Bai knows where Jiang Chen is?”
“No, no, I think she knows where Jiang Chen is.”
“You are locating him based off feelings?”
“You don’t know how good my wife is. We have interlinked hearts, interlinked minds, interlinked s-”
“I know. I know. Heart diseases, mental illnesses and corrupted s-”
“You don’t get it at all! Are those things you use to praise people?!”
“Get to the point then.”
“Why are you so impatient? I meant to say that I know what she is thinking. Although there are some things she can’t work out, I can help her work it out. Although we cannot reveal the details, one of Jiang Chen’s hideouts was revealed in the letter. Even if he is not there now, he would have to visit it sooner or later. For all we know, maybe your brother is there. There’s nothing to lose if we go check it out.”
Something about it all sounded wrong, but Hong Jiu had to admit that he didn’t have a better idea.
Despite claiming he wasn’t worried, Hong Jiu knew that it was no laughing matter if Ming Feizhen ran into some old “friends” within the twenty days – plus or take. Divine Moon Cult misunderstood him. League of Assassins weren’t his friends. Sky Realm Palace… Well… Considering how many of their hideouts he had been sabotaging over the years, yeah… Among the big four unorthodox factions, three of them wanted him dead. Now there was Jiang Chen’s group that came out of nowhere, too.
Since there were no traces to follow, it was better to gamble on Lady Bai’s only clue rather than trying to search a haystack for a needle. When he came to terms with it, Hong Jiu was in such high spirits again that he went to fill the shoes of their coach and the musicians’ conductor, occasionally humming a tune or two himself, as well.
Lady Bai remarked, “He sure is healthily energetic.”
Bai Zhiqing said, “As long as there is energy, competence will never be an issue for him.”
Under the leadership of Hong Jiu, the grand escort arrived in Hangzhou eight days later.
For as long as Valley of Yearning had existed, they had liked to dress in white clothing. Therefore, as they hit gongs and pulled a carriage large enough to transport a casket, people immediately moved away in case they interrupted the “funeral procession”. Some people shed a tear for them because they thought they were trying to cover their sorrows with cheerful music. Master Qi adamantly refused to join them because it was embarrassing, so she rode alone right at the rear.
Hong Jiu had recovered 40% of his full strength. If nothing else, he could walk without support again. Unfortunately, even after leading a search team around a mountain range, the only thing he found was a temple named “Ksana Temple”. Due to its spaciousness and proximity to a lake, its neighbouring paths weren’t difficult to traverse despite being on a mountain. It wasn’t the 15th or some special day, yet there was a constant stream of visitors. If Jiang Chen wanted to choose a place for a secret base, it wouldn’t make sense to choose such a populated place, not Hangzhou’s most popular temple. Worried he might’ve missed something, he even went in posing as a customer, but there wasn’t a single combat-trained monk or anything out of place. As such, they had to spend the night in Hangzhou before deciding on their next course of action.
The next morning, they decided to pose as a rich family running a business seeking a religious rite for their late relative. Bai Zhiqing and his wife were the patriarch and his wife. Hong Jiu was the head steward. Guan Ning was a servant. Master Qi and Fang Xiaoyu were Bai Zhiqing’s children. While the monks were occupied, their plan was to sneak deeper into the temple to investigate. Since they already made a spectacle of themselves with their unending performance all the way through to Hangzhou, nobody suspected their backstory.
At the break of dawn, Bai Clan offered a generous sum to Ksana Temple to perform the religious ritual. Understandably, the head monk of the temple jovially welcomed them, praised them for being noble people and offered all the blessings he could. If Bai Zhiqing had a career in praising people, he’d have pockets as deep as Gold and Silver Sect. The head monk was so happy to take the job without question that Hong Jiu wondered if his suspicions were unwarranted. When they asked to stay at the temple for seven days, however, the monk’s face twitched.
“Uh, well, if you need lodging, there are plenty of great inns in the city for every budget. There is one only five kilometres from the temple. Our small temple and tough lifestyle might be too demanding for you. Moreover, we, um, cannot allow female guests to stay, so I am afraid…”
Hong Jiu: Save the b.s. for a monk whose eyes don’t light up like stars when he sees money, you con artist. You’re better at asking for money than I am asking for food. You lead tough lives? You think Hangzhou citizens are any better? Cold Mountain Temple has guest rooms for female guests. Look at the size of your temple. Besides, look at yourself, you money-grubbing fatso. Who do you expect to believe you don’t lay hands on the innocent women of the local socialites? I knew this temple was fishy.
Bai Zhiqing: “Haha, in that case, my wife and daughter shall head back, while I shall stay with my steward.”
“Our humble temple is not befitting someone of your standing. This one is afraid he cannot take proper care of you, so…”
Bai Zhiqing wagged his hand as he chuckled. “Okay, okay. I appreciate you taking care of us so earnestly. In that case, I shall leave just Steward Hong behind. Though he oversees our finances, he is but a servant at the end of the day, and a servant would not be living a more luxurious life than you, right? You need not worry about your lodging not being up to standard for him, hahaha.”
The monk’s eyes started darting around as soon as he heard “finances”. Beaming, he replied, “You speak in jest. Steward Hong is our honoured guest.”
They sorted out the details, and Hong Jiu stayed for the night.
The head monk didn’t exaggerate when he said Hong Jiu would be their honoured guest; they let him choose from any of the sparkling-clean rooms. Given Hong Jiu could sleep soundly in the wild, it was no surprise that he was snoring not long after mindlessly selecting a room.
Someone gently pried open his window in the middle of the night, waking Hong Jiu up. He rolled over to his side, opened his eyes ever so slightly and saw someone slip a pipe through the gap to release some sort of white gas.
You amateurs. If you’re going to sedate someone with a gas, you should add some sedatives into their food, as well.
If you hit someone with an excessive dose of one sedative, they’d suffer from a headache the next day. Use too little and it wouldn’t be enough to sedate someone in such a spacious room. If you spread the dosage between two different sources of sedatives, however, they’d wake up the next day only feeling hung over, so they wouldn’t suspect they were drugged.
Hong Jiu sighed, blasting the gas back through the pipe it came through. Within moments, he heard the person outside drop to the ground. Hong Jiu immediately went to look through the window. Unsurprisingly, there was a novice male monastic on the ground. He picked up the monk, dumped him on the bed, covered his head with the blanket, set the monk in a spot that was easy to spot and then exited the room.
Not long after Hong Jiu left, a group of monks sneaked up to the room and then entered it when they didn’t see their fellow monk. Since they saw “Hong Jiu” sleeping as soundly as a corpse, they tip toed over and lugged him out without noticing that Hong Jiu witnessed everything.
At most, their behaviour only proved the temple was shady. It wasn’t proof that they were in cahoots with Jiang Chen, nor did it provide clues on Jiang Chen’s whereabouts.
Upon hearing someone zoom up to his side, Hong Jiu frowned. “What are you doing here?”
The maiden in black attire lifted her chin and poked her tongue at him. “Why can’t I be here?”
“Did Third Brother Bai send you?”
Master Qi nodded. “Even I can beat you right now. He sent me over in case you were assassinated here.”
While it was true that Bai Zhiqing was concerned for Hong Jiu, Master Qi just put words into his mouth. She was the one who couldn’t help herself and ended up running over to the temple.
After hearing his suspicions, Master Qi scoffed, “Scums of the earth. They were ogling Lady Bai and me. I would’ve skewered their eyes if it didn’t get in the way of our main objective.”
“Thing is, we’ve hit another dead end.”
Master Qi stopped to think before asserting, “I don’t think so.”
“Think about how many people they have. Why was the old monk against letting us in during the day? Don’t you find it strange that they won’t let women stay when they can’t stop ogling us?”
Hong Jui clapped. “You’re a genius.”
Master Qi fossilised for a moment as her brain processed what she heard. As a rosy colour came to her cheeks, she stuttered, “Wh-who asked for your praise?! Weirdo!” and then turned her head away.
… You’re the weirdo.
The moment Hong Jiu turned his attention back to the temple, he heard voices. “People are conversing in the main hall. Let’s go!”
It was odd for people to be conversing in the middle of the night in the main hall, so Master Qi followed along without question. They somersaulted off the roof and made haste for the main hall, unaware of a gaze watching them in the darkness.
The more energy she focused to her ears, the clearer the conversation was to Master Qi.
“You have clues?”
“No! I wish it was that easy! It’s not like you don’t know how weird that guy is.”
One of the men had a soft voice, but his wife induced a sense of grogginess when you listened to him, indicating he learnt some sort of internal discipline that had hypnosis functions. The other one had a sonorous voice comparable to shouting even though he was speaking at a conversational volume. The louder man sounded as though he had a Liaodong dialect. Given how many thick walls separated Hong Jiu and them, it went without saying that it was the latter speaker who drew Hong Jiu’s attention in the first place.
It was a stretch to state that the two of them were speaking in secret. After all, they didn’t do anything to hide the fact that they were there in the middle of the night and talking. Unable to fathom what it was all about, Master Qi looked to Hong Jiu, who muttered, “Why is he here…? And who’s the other guy? It’s not Leader’s birthday yet, and I didn’t invite anyone, either. Why are they here in Hangzhou?”