Martial King’s Retired Life – Vol. 13 Ch. 177


“You were waiting for me?”

Hong Jiu’s reaction didn’t surprise them for the reason that they, too, didn’t trust any of the others when they were in his shoes.

Ning Xinshi suggested, “Let us continue this conversation elsewhere in case we alert the government.”

Ning Xinshi went to the back of the Buddha statue to operate some device that had the statue’s base rumbling as a door behind the statue came into view. Besides a long staircase, there was nothing else in the dimly lit room. Where could there have been a more favourable location to ambush someone than in a long and narrow path? If there were one or two simple contraptions that could shoot weapons out from the rear, where could the target take cover?

Seeing Master Qi and Hong Jiu show no signs of setting foot inside the passage, Gu Bushang politely assured, “Second Leader, this old one can swear on his life that we harbour no ill will.”

To erase any doubts, Ning Xinshi said, “Let us head down first.”

“What’s there to be worried about?” Hong Jiu went down first with a smile.

Master Qi was going to caution Hong Jiu, but she decided to follow him after a brief think. And, nothing happened after the others filed in just as Gu Bushang assured. If Hong Jiu didn’t convince them he was reliable yet, the courage displayed removed all doubt about him.

It took them fifteen minutes of walking to reach the base, where there was a large stone door with a small square slot in it. The big chests of dry rations, water and torches left alongside the tables and chairs by the door indicated that the users had made camp there very recently.

Ning Xinshi gestured for everyone to take a seat, then told Hong Jiu and Master Qi, “It must have come as a surprise to see us gathered together and even arguing amongst each other, especially when we do not keep in touch.”

“Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised, but it’s not hard to realise it must have to do with Jiang Chen.” Hong Jiu smiled amiably. “You all received a letter, correct?”

“Correct.” Ning Xinshi elaborated, “Several months ago, this old one received a letter supposedly from Jiang Chen himself, informing this old one that his daughter had been taken hostage in an underground palace in Hangzhou, so he challenged this old one to unlock the lock. This old one didn’t fully believe him given Jiang Chen’s notoriety in the martial world. Although this old one has never heard of any nefarious deeds he was responsible for, some affiliated with an unjust association could not be trusted. However, it was hard to brush him off when the letter included a belonging of this old one’s daughter.

“As such, this old one immediately contacted Master Gu. Since he is this old one’s daughter’s father-in-law, he knew her whereabouts better than this old one. To this old one’s surprise, Master Gu arrived at this old one’s place before he could set out, and the first thing he said was, ‘My son has been kidnapped.’”

Hong Jiu bobbed his head. “And I bet he brought a letter with the same content over.”

“Indeed.” Gu Bushang explained, “The letter this old one received was basically identical to Brother Ning’s. This one was told to come to this temple if he wanted his son and daughter-in-law back.”

“So everyone here…”

“Same. My two sons accepted a business offer from Jiang Chen, but I received a letter saying Jiang Chen had locked them both up and to come collect them here,” informed Yan Liren.

Yu Yeshan said, “I received my letter a month before they received theirs. I was told my shifu had been captured, so they demanded I bring Frost jade to exchange for my shifu. This broadsword is my shifu’s prized weapon. I thought Jiang Chen set him up to get his hands on the weapon, but I never heard from Shifu, so I came here to check just in case. Only when I arrived in Hangzhou did I realise I wasn’t alone. I do feel apologetic about starting fights with them without first understanding the situation.”

It was safe to assume they weren’t “spars” from Yu Yeshan’s tone, but only they knew who won. More pertinently, it was clear that Jiang Chen knew exactly how to spur them into action based on his bespoke letters. Most importantly right now, though, was that nobody was dead because they were all fairly evenly matched.

“Sister-in-law is?”

Ning Xinshi enlightened, “She is the wife of Melancholic Swordsman – Wu Ping. She, too, received a letter.”

Judging from the discomfort she showed while in their presence, she was likely the only untrained person among them.

“This one was told to bring Black Aurum fragments here if she wanted her husband back. Therefore…”

Although Dongying’s Yuan Mu didn’t say much, in short, he received a letter, as well.

Hong Jiu: Jiang Chen kidnapped their family members to coerce them to come here, yet it doesn’t sound like any of them have met Jiang Chen. Why did he demand their presence if he’s not going to meet them? Based on what Ning Xinshi told me…

“Mr. Ning, is this the door you have been asked to unlock?”

The famed lock cracker of Liaodong answered, “That is correct. According to the letter, he confined our family members in the underground palace, but there was no word of them. This old one and Brother Yan met Master Yuan Mu behind the Buddha statue while searching the entirety of the temple. Master Yuan Mu noticed the statue was no ordinary statue, so we spent a long time studying the contraption, which eventually led us here.”

“Can the door be unlocked?”

Ning Xinshi shook his head. “Sadly, not even this old one can open it. The core of the lock is located inside the small slot, so it is impossible to see it. Master Yuan Mu tried to figure out the shape using string, but there was a carving inside that invaded his mind. Had it not been for Master Yuan Mu’s training, he would have fallen victim to Jiang Chen’s trap.”

Hong Jiu pondered for a while, then questioned, “Brother Yan would be an expert at mental techniques, right?”

Yan Liren replied, “This one is modestly educated on the topic. Thanks to the efforts of Master Yuan Mu, we were able to finally draw a rough image of the lock after many days of exploration. Regrettably, Master Yuan Mu informed us of an obstacle.”

Ning Xinshi expanded, “The key for the lock needs to be made from frost jade and Black Aurum.”

“Doesn’t that mean…” Master Qi instinctively looked at Yu Yeshan and Lady Wu.

“It is exactly as you assume. Jiang Chen specifically gathered us to unlock the lock.” Ning Xinshi elucidated, “This old one cannot call himself an expert on contraptions. He is not confident he could produce the special key, either. At most, there is only a 30% chance he will be successful. You both heard our conversation earlier. For that reason, this old one has been wondering if there is a contraption expert and a blacksmith who have yet to arrive. Thus, this old one assumed you two were the people we were waiting for.”

Hong Jiu slapped his thigh. “I get it now. Wait up!”

With that, Hong Jiu sped off so fast that Master Qi couldn’t even react in time.


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