Chapter 92 Chopping off An Arm“Exactly!”
“Why did he take so much trouble?”
The innocent but unbending genius pondered over the question, feeling a bit confused.
Zhou Zhenyue turned to look at that male disciple who posed that question and complimented, “We finally found a smart one… Zhang Zhao does have a fair point.”
Upon learning his theory was acknowledged by Elder Zhou, the disciple named Zhang Zhao bashfully lowered his head.
After a brief pause, Zhou Zhenhai began again, “Well, this is the first time for most of you to live out of the faction. Since you are still quite inexperienced in how things work in Jianghu, I don’t want to be too demanding. But you should bear it in mind that Jianghu is never as simple as you imagined in your chivalrous dreams. When you step into Jianghu, you’re actually entering a sort of hell, where a variety of ghosts, devils, and monsters lurk around. More often than not, if you make one mistake, a series of more mistakes will ensue. Stories about how a false step caused a lifelong regret are not rare in Jianghu. In the future, regardless of what you come across when adventuring in Jianghu, you must analyze the circumstance with a cool head. Never ever make a decision solely with your intuition, sympathy, passion, or impulsion. Otherwise, you may bring harm to yourselves or even render our whole faction completely annihilated.”
Those words were sincere and earnest.
But the disciples had their own thoughts about it.
Some were convinced.
Some were still deliberating the meaning.
Others did not agree with him. Instead, they reckoned that Elder Zhou was just too timid to confront the county government.
Zhou Zhenhai, of course, captured the subtle looks of all the disciples. Although he knew they had their doubts, he would rather let them figure out the whole thing themselves than force them to believe in his words right now.
Suddenly, Zhao Ling broke the silence unyieldingly, “Then… then who on earth killed Brother Lu and the others? If we can’t pin down the culprit, will we just let go of this?”
“Good point! Anyway, the county government must have something to do with this case, because they are the ones who delivered the bodies to the Righteous Manor.” A male disciple who had a crush on Zhao Ling added on a whim.
“Right. Big brother, how can we let go of this? After all, Li Mu is one of the suspects.” Zhou Zhenhai urged as he continued to wipe off his tears so as to seek more pity.
Zhou Zhenyue, however, turned away from him and slowly headed for the outside of the Righteous Manor.
“We certainly won’t let it pass. Lu Yun and his friends died in the county office. The magistrate of Taibai County is absolutely obliged to answer to our Taibai Sword Faction.”
Zhou Zhenyue muttered as he walked to the outside.
“I’ve been sharpening my sword for 10 years but never tried it on anyone… it’s been a long time since my Super-dynamic Sword met a decent opponent.” He noted with a sigh.
As a matter of fact, Zhou Zhenyue was not only an elder but the top swordsman of the outer school.
Just as he said the remarks, the sword fastened to his waist began to buzz, as if it also understood his mixed feelings.
At this moment, many young disciples locked their eyes on the back of that burly figure. They almost felt his lofty sentiments that were beyond description were emitting from every pore of him, making them be awed by him and worship him in spite of themselves.
“That is the real glamour of a swordsman, isn’t it?” wondered the disciples.
“Let go of me! I’ll kill Li Mu! Aahhhh… He is a dead man today!”
Li Bing was barking like a mad dog in the county office. Eyes scarlet in fury, he was wrestling with two armored soldiers who were supporting him as he cursed the county magistrate.
He was just rescued from the county jail by soldiers of the Chang’an government.
His clothes were shabby and ragged, his hair filthy and knotted, and he was giving off a stinking smell. Having pined during the days behind bars, he was so weak and hollow-cheeked that he was nearly unrecognizable. This beggar-like appearance was really a far cry from the handsome image of the youngest son of the magistrate of Chang’an whom he loved most dearly.
“Go ahead! Kill them all! No one in the Taibai County Government will be spared! Yes, they must die!” growled Li Bing, who was stamping about in a frenzy like a dog suffering his heat period.
“Secretary Feng, what’s going on? I think I could use some explanation.” Zheng Cunjian demanded with a frosty face.
The temperature in the chamber seemed to drop several degrees each time he uttered a word.
Some low-ranking officials who did not know the truth already fell to their knees, shuddering in fear.
It came as a complete shock to them that the missing son of the magistrate of Chang’an was imprisoned in the county. They could not believe that the county office made such a stupid move, for it was practically an act to court death.
Cold sweat was now drizzling down the foreheads of Feng Yuanxing and Zhen Meng.
“Gee, this is killing me.”
“Why, why does Li Mu happen to leave the office at this juncture?” The two whispered inwardly, totally at a loss.
“Er… In fact, we didn’t know the real identity of Young Master Li. We merely heard that someone was fighting in the street and harassing beautiful girls. So, His Honor Li went out to check in person and arrested several troublemakers. We only learned the case after it happened.” Feng Yuanxing emphasized, trying to throw the blame on Li Mu.
That was, of course, a strategy he and Li Mu agreed to adopt beforehand.
“Bullshit! You, it’s you! I can recognize you even if you’re burned into ashes,” Li Bing screeched furiously, “you tortured me, you took away all my belongings. It is you… Come, my soldiers, arrest him! I want him to die a slow and painful death!”
“Secretary Feng, you heard Young Master Li. Now, how do you defend yourself?” Zheng Cunjian sneered.
Feng Yuanxing heaved a sigh.
And then, he slowly straightened up his hunched back.
“There is not much to defend. I’m merely following the orders.” The loyal secretary answered flatly.
His respectful expression gradually faded, replaced by a serene and composed countenance that he didn’t display before. He was no longer bowing but stand straight.
When the case developed to this stage, Feng Yuanxing felt no need to stoop so low.
Although his profound experience in dealing with officials told him debasing himself might be a smarter choice, he decided to not listen to it this time. If such an accident occurred in the past, he probably was already on his knees, wailing and begging for pardon. However, at this point, he suddenly did not want to do that.
Perhaps he was already used to keeping his back straight after working for Li Mu for so long. He was starting to enjoy the feeling of being able to hold his head high.
Zheng Cunjian seemed a little surprised by his composure, but soon his face darkened.
“Good, very good.” The ‘Heartless Scholar’ said mockingly. Then, his eyes landed on Zhen Meng. “Warden Zhen, you must know everything that happened in the prison, don’t you? How dare you allow others to torture Young Master Li under your nose?”
Zhen Meng had been staring at Feng Yuanxing, astounded by his abrupt change of attitude.
When he suddenly became the target of the interrogation, it took him a few seconds to come to his senses and turn to face Zheng Cunjian. Looking into the scholar’s eyes, he gave a smile before saying, “As a warden of our Western Qin Empire, there are only two kinds of people in my eyes—innocent ones and wrongdoers. I don’t see any Young Masters in my prison.”
Zheng Cunjian looked dazed again.
Since he tapped into the political circle, never had he been contradicted by insignificant local officials in succession like that.
“Kill them! Quick! What are you waiting for? Zheng Cunjian, did you hear me? I want them dead, drop dead!” yelled Li Bing, quite exasperated.
After commanding the scholar, he rapidly crammed a chicken leg into this mouth and wolfed it down in irritation.
A moment ago, he was taken to a corner to rest. Two maids were serving him copious dishes.
Li Bing, who had lived on only one bowl of water and a slice of bread for several days in the jail, was famished. He thought he was about to starve to death. It was no wonder that he now hated everyone in the Taibai County Government to guts. How he wished they could all be cut into little pieces as punishment.
“Feng Yuanxing and Zhen Meng have breached their duties, abused their power, and employed private punishment. Send them to jail and keep them under close surveillance.” Zheng Cunjian announced their sentence with a grin as beckoned to the guards.
“Hold on,” Ma Junwu hastily stepped forward, trying to save the day, “Mr. Zheng, we treat you politely because you are a guest from the Chang’an government. However, we can’t let you land Secretary Feng and Warden Zhen in jail. As you know, officials of the empire cannot be imprisoned without the verdict of the county magistrate as long as they are still in office.”
“Who are you?” Zheng Cunjian asked with a disparaging smile.
“I am Ma Junwu, Dutou Official of guards in Taibai County.” The man replied at once.
“Wow, you are that Ma Junwu. I was told that Li Mu learned some archery from you, didn’t he?” probed Zheng Cunjian with a half-hearted smile.
Feng Yuanxing’s heart nearly jumped to his throat when he heard those words.
“Li Mu did learn archery from Ma Junwu. But that sort of thing is kept within the county office. How could Zheng Cunjian, an outsider, know about it?”
“What does that imply?”
“Perhaps it implies those men of the Chang’an government didn’t visit us on a whim. They must have done a detailed investigation of Li Mu in secret, and that’s how they knew things this trivial. But the question is, if not anything else, why did the Chang’an government investigate Li Mu out of no reason?”
The more he contemplated, the more appalled he was.
“His Honor is incredibly gifted in martial arts. How can I be worthy of his teacher?” Ma Junwu denied subtly.
However, catching the sight of Ma Junwu, Li Bing burst into another round of wild scream, “Him! It’s him! On that day they arrest me, this Ma Junwu was also on the scene. He even fought against me… Hurry up! Go get him!”
Zheng Cunjian beckoned again and several armored guards went up to Ma Junwu to put him under arrest.
Precisely at that moment, Qing Feng’s instruction flashed across Ma Junwu’s mind. He knew he had to be more uncompromising now. Thus, he took a step forward, stuck out his large hand and pressed it on the handle of the broadsword on his waist before stating, “Stop! Mr. Zheng, though I respect you on account of your schemer identity of the Chang’an government, I very much doubt your power to command other officials. After all, you hold no titles, right? So how dare you order us around in our county office? How dare you decide the fate of other officials solely based on your discretion?”
“What did you say?” Zheng Cunjian narrowed his eyes and snapped. “Well, you want to get violent?”
Ma Junwu did not budge at his menacing tone. Instead, he stood in front of Feng Yuanxing and Zhen Meng to shield them and then answered with pride, “Being the head of the county guards, I’m in duty bound to protect the officials of the county government.”
“Ha, hahaha, that’s the most hilarious joke I’ve ever heard!” Zheng Cunjian leaned back and laughed. “You guys working in the Taibai County government are really interesting… Guards, get started now! Why haven’t you taken them down?”
As those remarks were out, a man swooped in at a dazzling speed.
A blade gleamed as somebody unsheathed his broadsword.
The next second, profuse blood spilled out.
And an arm dropped onto the floor, the hand still clenching a broadsword.
Ma Junwu was covering the hem of what was left of his arm with his other hand, his face as pale as a ghost. Shaking in pain, he staggered backward but managed to not let loose a moan through his gritted teeth.
“Your Honor Ma…” Feng Yuanxing stuttered as he dashed forward to support him.
“Brother Ma,” Zhen Meng cried out and turned to Zheng Cunjian, “how audacious you are to harm an official in the county office! You…”
“Save it. You brats are weak, but how come you have the guts to offend Mr. Zheng?”
Ning Zhongshan, the lanky young janitor, gave a derisive laugh as he reached for the handkerchief a guard handed over to wipe off the blood on his broadsword. After he cleaned his weapon and slid it back to its sheath, he bellowed coldly, “I am the new Dianshi janitor, taking command of the local military forces. As Ma Wujun’s supervisor, I have the full power to punish him. Does anyone have a second opinion about that?”