“Your Highness, I’m afraid that the evil remainders of the Tang family have already run away from the city,” said Liu Chenglong.
Though he had the broken arm sewed back, he still looked a little pallid.
In the past few days, he had set off a manhunt across the entire city, during which a load of villains and demons were discovered by coincidence but no traces of Mrs. Tang and her two daughters were found. That led Liu Chenglong to doubt whether they were already gone.
The second prince, however, said with a serene face, “I’m sure they are still in the city.”
He certainly did not make that judgment without ground.
Yet, he decided not to enlighten Liu Chenglong on it.
Because the manager’s recent performance was kind of disappointing.
The second prince even started suspecting the once capable official from Qin City was losing his sharpness after staying in Chang’an for all those years.
“If so, they can only be hiding in Li Mu’s place.” Liu Chenglong, who also hoped to prove his competence and to make up for the credits he had lost, suggested, “There are few places in the entire Chang’an that we haven’t searched. And one of those is Li Mu’s Shack.”
But the second prince shook his head dismissively.
“For the moment, you can leave Li Mu alone. Just keep searching in the city. If digging to a depth of three feet can’t do it, then, try thirty feet. Search meticulously over and over again. Arrest anyone who is connected to the Tang family in any way. Torture them, interrogate them until they spit out the clues. We’d rather kill ten thousand innocent men than allow the target to slip away,” instructed the second prince in a blood-curdling tone.
Liu Chenglong felt his heart shivering.
He suddenly realized that he might have gotten it all wrong.
“Perhaps the second prince is not really searching for the remainders of the Tang family but is doing so for some other motives, isn’t he?”
“Then, who is the second prince’s real target?”
Liu Chenglong stifled his imagination and hastily took the order. Then, he added, “Your Highness, the head of the Ghost Sect and his companions have arrived in Chang’an. They’re requesting a meeting with Your Highness.” The Ghost Sect was a large faction in the Western Qin Empire. It had cultivated scores of experts in martial arts. The two zombie-like elders serving the second prince were members of the Ghost Sect. But the two elders were killed on the night of the Musical House chaos. So, it was not difficult to know that the incident was what drew the head of the Ghost Sect there.
Assuredly, the head wanted retribution for the dead the members of the Ghost Sect.
“Let them come to me.” A smile climbed to the second prince’s face.
He had heard that the head of the Ghost Sect finally made a breakthrough and entered the Celestial Being Realm after taking a closed-door training for a whole century.
In the Ning Mansion…
“Father, Xue’er and I want to pay a visit to the Shack…” Ning Jing, who had large eyes and thick brows, tentatively asked for Ning Rushan’s approval with a slightly scared look. He had just finished with the routine business report and found his father in a pretty good mood.
“That bitch is going to the Shack? Now that Li Mu has affronted the second prince, he is like a grasshopper in late autumn— his days are numbered. But that bitch wants to visit him at this point? Is she trying to draw the second prince’s enmity to our Ning Mansion?” A young man of 25 immediately railed against Ning Jing.
He was Ning Kang, the First Young Master in the Ning Mansion.
Ning Rushan had three sons and three daughters. Among them, only Ning Jing was born by a concubine. In fact, Ning Jing’s mother was just a maid working in the mansion. One day, Ning Rushan got really drunk and had sex with her, and that was how Ning Jing was conceived.
The rest of Ning Rushan’s children were all born by his official wife. But sadly, his first son, Ning Kang, and his second son, Ning An, were both useless people good only for feasting and drinking. The two never worked hard on anything. They were playboys, always spending money like water. Neither of them achieved anything in martial arts or literary, and they even had no business brain. Although Ning Rushang had tried cultivating them with tremendous effort, it turned out to be a total failure. So, he had to keep the two sons in his mansion and give them monthly allowances. Even so, the two still did not behave themselves but often cause trouble and strained his nerves.
His three daughters, the oldest and the second oldest, already got married. One wedded a merchant and the other tied the knot with a young general in the main battle force outside the city. Although the men they married were not as rich as their father, they were doing fine in their new families. The youngest daughter, Ning Ying, was unmarried yet. She was also the favorite of Ning Rushan. But this girl just was not fond of girl stuff. Instead, she loved learning martial arts and had become a disciple of the One-armed Old Nun in the Heart-exploring Nunnery in Chang’an. Her martial arts skills were fairly impressive. Since she liked traveling and doing good deeds, she was quite famous in town. Also, she was a well-known beauty in the city.
The past few years had made it plain that the Ning family was declining, though most of the Ning family were not aware of it yet. They were still full of pride because they were the descendants of the great general and intoxicated in the glory that their ancestors brought to them. Had Ning Rushan not exerted himself to run the business, perhaps the Ning Mansion had long since lost its prestige.
His youngest son, Ning Jing, though was not a child of his official wife, was the only one diligent and honest. He always did his duty and could come to his aid in terms of the family business. At first, Ning Rushan thought very little of the youngest son, because he was not smart enough. Given his humble and honest nature, he might maintain the current business but could not bring it to a higher level. Therefore, Ning Rushan never expected him to revitalize the Ning family.
However, later Ning Jing married a woman with a stunning gift in dealings. Although she used to be a maid, she was more shred in running a business than many of the shopkeepers and presidents of the chambers of commerce out there, which amazed Ning Rushan very much. So, gradually, he let Ning Jing and his wife take over a part of the family business. And to his surprise, the couple kept the business in perfect order and even made it flourished. Thanks to their efforts, the Ning Mansion was able to hang in there.
But the problem was that, by doing so, it was inevitable that his two other sons believed their father was so carried away by the love for the degrading son of a concubine he had handed over the business power to a maid. They definitely had a ton of complaints about that.
Ning Kang could not bear the sight of Ning Jing and his wife from the very beginning. He often gave them hard times and reviled them. When Ning Jing just made that audacious proposal, he quickly took the opportunity to rebuke him. He even addressed Dong Xue as ‘that bitch’ and directly forbade them to go to the Shack.
Nevertheless, Ning Rushan pondered over his proposal for a moment and then said, “It’s okay. You have my approval.”
In truth, he was a little expectant about Li Mu.
Although the young man did have affronted the second prince, what he did was nothing other than refusing to be recruited. He was, after all, a genius at the age of 15, a brilliant talent in both poetry and martial arts, adept with both the pen and the sword. Plus, he was the youngest scholar who championed the imperial examinations in literary as well as the youngest Natural Expert on the Divine Land. Considering these two accomplishments, the royal family would absolutely pay close attention to him, let alone he was also the son of Li Gang, the magistrate of Chang’an. Even though he had severed all the ties with Li Gang, based on Li Mu’s recent performance, Li Gang might want to welcome him back.
At the time, this great figure was in a difficult situation. Ning Rushan clearly knew that it was a golden opportunity to gain his favor by helping him when no one else was willing to.
At Ning Rushan’s remark, Ning Jing said joyfully, “Father, thank you so much.”
As to the reprimand from his older brother, he did not try to refute or anything in spite of his indignance.
Because Xue’er had told him all that mattered was the happiness of the two of them and those things were not worth his attention. Ning Jing also never thought about competing with his two older brothers at all.
In the Hanshan Academy.
A gust of autumn wind brushed past the earth, carrying away the withered leaves.
Tie Zhan, the president, hurriedly marched to the gate and welcomed several distinguished guests in with a broad smile.
“Haha, Elder Zhang’s arrival added glitters to my humble Hanshan Academy.” Tie Zhan, who was usually short with others, had put on a modest smile.
That was because the red-haired middle-aged man sitting opposite him was an elder from the headquarters of the Qing Sha Clan. He was, allegedly, an expert at the peak of the Natural Realm. A rumor even had it that this Zhang Bulao, who was known as the Red-hair Killing God, had already reached the Celestial Being Realm.
The Qing Sha Clan was one of the six largest ancient factions. Now that it had prospered for over 10,000 years, it surely had some amazing merits. Although by then, it was not that honored as the top nine Holy Clans or the 36 first-grade factions, the underlying influence it had was not to be treated lightly. Some rumors even said that the six largest factions in the ancient times had secretly manipulated the change of dynasty on the Divine Land and the trend of history. Thus, the veiled strength the Qing Sha Clan had perhaps was not less than that of the top nine Holy Clans.
Wei Chong, the elder of the Qing Sha Clan Li Mu killed, was merely a leader of its branch in the Western Qin Empire. But the man in front of Tie Zhan was the Red-hair Killing God, an elder of the headquarters, a big shot who had been known for centuries.
“President, this time Master has come to Chang’an for the murder of Elder Wei in our Western Qi division. He wishes to stay at our Academy for a couple of days. This is quite an honor for us.” A young man in a cyan robe briefed Tie Zhan at once. He was handsome, and his voice contained a hint of blatant pride.
That young man was called He Yunxiang. He was a genius who had graduated from the Hanshan Academy. Even though he was young, he was already a Great Master. Zhang Bulao, the elder of the Qing Sha Clan, thought very highly of him and took him as his disciple. It was him who suggested Zhang Bulao lodging at the Hanshan Academy during his stay in Chang’an.
To He Yunxiang, the trip was a glorious homecoming.
Before, he had also received the Alumni Gathering Invitation of Hanshan Academy.
“President Tie, you don’t need to treat me so courteously. It is me who came without notice beforehand. To compensate you for bothering you like this, I’ll do lectures on martial arts for three days in your academy,” said Zhang Bulao quite politely. He was several hundred years old, but he looked merely in his 40s or 50s. His facial features showed his perseverance and dauntlessness, and his red hair was his signature.
“Gee, that would be wonderful!” Tie Zhan was overjoyed at that offer.
Having an expert at such a high level giving lectures in the Hanshan Academy was actually a huge market promotion for the academy, an opportunity to demonstrate the connections they had, if the event was ever disclosed. Not to mention how many the disciples there would benefit from the lectures. If they could further cooperate with the Qing Sha Clan, then, the rise of the Hanshan Academy was no longer just a dream.
“I’ve been told that Li Mu has forced you to give him the assess to the academy book depository?” Asked Zhang Bulao.
Tie Zhan heaved with a sigh and answered, “Yes. Li Mu certainly enjoys his success in his youth and is so puffed up and recalcitrant. The powerful in Chang’an are all afraid of provoking the mysterious backup Li Mu has and turned a blind eye to his outrageous crimes. It’s a pity that no one in my Hanshan Academy is his match and that’s how… Well, you know.” He sighed in dismay.
“That’s no problem. I’ll be here waiting for Li Mu. That rascal is exactly the murderer who killed our elder in the division here.” The Red-hair Killing God said with determination.
Tie Zhan was in raptures. “If Senior Zhang is willing to stick up for us, that would be fantastic!”
He Yunxiang said with a smile, “The purpose of this journey Master made is to get to Li Mu. So, President Tie, please relax. Since I’m from the Hanshan Academy, I won’t sit back and let Li Mu have his way.”
Upon hearing those words, the other members of the Hanshan Academy on the scene were all elated.
Finally, the savior they had been expecting arrived.
In the Supervisory Department.
“Executive Xu, I’m mortified to disgrace our Supervisory Department with my ineptness,” muttered Lu Lizi, the Routing Supervisor, with his head lowered and his face burning in chagrins.
He eventually had failed to handle Li Mu.
Due to his nonfulfillment of the task, the headquarters of the Supervisory Department was rather discontented. Hence, they dispatched Executive Xu, the one in the Imperial Executive Group who had made his name known with his Sky-cracking Punch, to sort it out.
After a Supervisor was killed in Chang’an and a Routing Supervisor failed to capture the murderer, the Supervisory Department felt rather embarrassed. Although these years the power struggle within the Supervisory Department was getting more and more fierce, once something that made the Supervisory Department not look good happened, all the divided parties and groups regarded it as their priority.