Chapter 188 – Spy
The lush and dense forest contrasted very nicely with the torrential waterfall, adding to the overall spring vibes.
Li Zi Zhi led a pair of junior brothers down the mountain as they arrived at a small town. The town faced the river where there was plenty of activity. Many boats gathered around the mouth of river, and even more were docked at the pier.
The town was brightly lit up, and resembled a multitude of stars. It was already dark, but there were still many people walking around the pier purposefully. Men carried cargo and wares from the boats onto the piers. They shuffled along the wooden platforms which lined the entire dock and made a very distinct sound.
The pier was surrounded by water and there were few residences along the streets. Most of the buildings were commercialized and included many restaurants, tea houses and wheat storages.
Li Zi Zhi swept a glance at his surroundings suspiciously, looking out for anything suspicious. When everything was clear he continued walking.
Guan Family Wheat Storage
The servants shuffled across anxiously as they approached their master, “The people from the east have come!”
“Who?” Guan You Shan trembled slightly.
“The people from the monastery have descended from their mountains and have arrived.” Guan You Shan stood up before instructing, “Quick, invite them in!”
Taking several large strides, he walked to the door as well to invite his guests. He then noticed three people standing outside, of which only one was familiar looking.
“This is my senior brother Li Zi Zhi.” The Daoist who had collected taxes from them before spoke out. Guan You Shan hurriedly invited them in. Li Zi Zhi eyed his surroundings before asking, “Has everything been prepared?”
“Everything has been prepared and is ready.” Guan You Sheng paused before smiling, “Sorry for troubling you to personally descend the mountain. According to the customs, all the households have delivered their freshly harvested grains here.”
“We’ve also receive rental from the three hundred mu of land and the other plots of land. That’s a total of fifty two taels of silver. There’s also the rice and flour, divided by half amounting to a total of eighty stones in weight. They’ve all been filled into the sacks. Please feel free to take a look.”
Li Zi Zhi looked at him seriously before breaking out into a smile, “Come, let’s take a look.”
When they reached the warehouse where the goods were kept, it was already getting late. A servant ignited a torch as he opened the door to the warehouse. The entire layout was very organized and tidy.
He then stepped forward and opened a random sack as he ran his hands through the flour. He then nodded his head contently, “This is indeed fresh flour from this year’s harvest.”
Guan You Shan smiled along as he spoke, “I’ve been doing business with your monastery for decades now. Besides, your monastery has just increased its total ownership of land by another 500 mu. There are even rumors that you will acquire more land in the upcoming years. How would I ever dare to cheat you?”
“I still have to rely on your monastery’s future business to survive.”
Even after hearing this, Li Zi Zhi still maintained a severe expression. It wasn’t possible for Daoists to run to every tenant to collect rental payments. Hence, they assigned these tasks to this wheat storage family.
This arrangement had been ongoing for over twenty years now. Although it was far from the perfect solution, it was not a bad one without too many problems. After he checked through the harvest, Li Zi Zhi exhaled deeply, “Not bad. This shall do!”
“Daoist leaders please come in and have a meal!” Guan You Shan heaved a sigh of relief, “Hurry, serve the dishes and the wine. I shall instruct the other servants to load the sacks up onto the cart.”
“We shall deliver the harvest to your mountain first thing tomorrow morning.”
The three Daoists were satisfied with the arrangement and started discussing other affairs happily among themselves. The hall was already prepared for them to partake. The server smiled as he invited them inside to dine. The lights were bright and the food was plentiful. A large roasted pig laid on the table, as decadent oil drizzled down onto the table. There were beef slices as along with many other delicious looking food.
The pair of junior brothers laughed, “I wonder why boss Guan is so generous today?”
Just as the pair of them sat down and were about to start eating, Li Zi Zhi’s face turned ashen as he waved a hand, “Hold it!”
The pair of junior brothers looked curiously at him, but stopped whatever they were doing anyway. They then heard Li Zhi Zhi shout loudly, “Boss Guan, Guan You Shan?”
He shouted out three times loudly but nobody responded. When they observed their surroundings, they noticed that it was unnaturally quiet. The entire hall, yard and horse stables had their lights extinguished. All of sudden they were thrown into darkness.
“That’s not right!” All three of them knew that something was amiss and drew their swords. At this moment, someone sighed, “Why do you have to put up a fight? If only you chose to eat this meal, at least you wouldn’t be a hungry spirit!”
The minute those words were spoken, shadows filled up the entire room as more than twenty men barged in. Although there were many of them, they made such little sound and were extremely methodical. Apart from the barely discernible sound of footsteps, there was also the sound of long swords being drawn. The atmosphere turned tense as men flooded in.
“Who are you?” Li Zi Zhi knew that these men couldn’t have been assembled by Guan You Shan as he asked threateningly.
“Kill them!” The order was given from the enemy.
“Kill!” The twenty men charged forward as both sides clashed ferociously. The leader of the group was dressed in black robes as he lingered behind, watching wordlessly.
The minute contact was made, the three Daoists knew that their opponents weren’t weak or unskilled in any way. After successfully defending themselves from the flurry of blows, one of the junior disciples shouted out, “Blinding Light Technique!”
A buzzing sound could be heard as a bright white light burst forth. Li Zi Zhi’s shadow moved in a blur as he thrusted his sword out mercilessly. However, his opponent seemed to have been prepared for this despite losing his vision. With his eyes shut tight, he danced around and dodged the blow before swinging his own sword down in a counterattack.
If they were fighting single combat, there would always be pauses which both parties could pause and regain their energy. However, they were subjected to countless of attacks, and was almost like the unending snow descending upon them. One of the junior disciples recalled his lessons and took advantage of the fact that one of the men had just struck and missed. He stabbed forward knowing he couldn’t defend himself in time and pierced through his chest.
“Ah!” The victim screamed out in pain as fresh blood oozed out if his wound. When the rest of them heard his scream, they stepped in to replace him and continued their flurry of attacks. Even before this junior disciple could withdraw his sword, he had already been slashed three times. Two bodies fell.
Li Zi Zhi shouted out in fury as he continued defending and counter attacking whenever he had the chance. He managed to seize an opportunity and slashed down hard at the nearest assailant. With his next strike, he heard the sound of metal hitting against metal before a sword pierced his body, causing yet another wound to form. His other remaining junior brother had already been overwhelmed by the numbers and was hacked to death.
“Who are you people?” Li Zi Zhi shouted out through gritted teeth. The man in black standing behind didn’t respond. With a wave of his hands, five more men charged in, their swords moved in a synchronized manner as they attacked. Li Zi Zhi was struggling to stay on his feet as he defended himself, but was forced to retreat. In his haste to fall back, he was stabbed once more. At last, he heard someone shout out, “die”. He was then stabbed deeply at his internal organs.
Li Zi Zhi screamed out in agony and saw the flash of a blade. Even before his scream could end, his head flew high up into the air.
The next day
The Sect Leader and several Sect Elders walked across a quiet alley when they met up with their disciples, who were pale faced. The Sect Leader then asked, “Are they inside?”
“Yes, they’re all inside.”
The Sect Leader and the few Sect Elders entered and noticed that the entire place was littered with spots of blood. When they walked further in, they could see several corpses which had been placed on a mattress.
Apart from the blood stains on the mattress, it was considered quite clean. It was clear that these men had been dead for several hours now. The blood stains on the mattress had hardened and they knew that the killings happened only just last night.
“These are the sixth casualties from our sect.” The Sect Leader looked at the fresh corpses before him as his face turned ashen. “Zhao Ning, what do you think?”
“The situation is very obvious. Our enemies have begun their assault. First they will attack our outer disciples and the assets which are important to us. This was done in order to weaken the sect.” Zhao Ning’s face was pale as he replied.
“Have you checked out who is behind this?”
“We’ve been attacked stealthily, but haven’t found out the culprit behind this. But I can be sure that this was the attack by another sect. When we tried to use our powers to investigate this matter, we met with resistance by another force that could only be used by another sect.”
“However, the traces left behind by the Sect have already been passed to our Patriarchs for further investigation. We should be able to know in a couple of days.”
“Can we report this matter to the authorities and ask for help?” The Sect Leader asked, completely ignoring the fact that asking the officials for help was degrading to them, and would cause a loss of face.
“That’s very difficult. There are few soldiers here in the prefecture. Besides, there are thousands of thieves and robbers around which require the attention of the official and their troops. It would be hard for them to do their jobs and help us at the same time.” Zhao Ning replied gravely as he continued, “
“Try and ask them first. If they don’t have the men to provide us, then we shall decide what to do again.” The Sect Leader replied before turning to Yu Yun Jun. “Where is Pei Zi Yun’s location now? Hurry and pressure him into returning as soon as possible.”
Yu Yun Jun replied, “The last time we spoke he was already in Dou Ann Prefecture. He shouldn’t be too far away now.”
“Urge him again, get him to return sooner.”
“Yes!” Yu Yun Jun acknowledged.
Several disciples pricked their ears to listen to the conversation. At this point the Sect Leader called out, “Zhang Yin!”
The disciple hurriedly responded, “I’m here!”
“Grab some people and clean the blood away from their bodies. Also make sure their wounds are stitched up before giving them a fresh change of clothes. Only after they are properly cleaned will we place them within their coffins. We shall leave the coffins here within his hall.”
“There are now protective spells around this hall which will ensure their bodies won’t decay. We will handle their burial when the matter has been resolved.”
“Yes!” The disciple replied.
The disciples then watched as the Sect Leader and Elders departed. They then boiled some water before using the clean water to remove the blood stains on the corpses. After that, they used needles to stitch up the open gashes across their bodies and placed the corpses in fresh robes. The corpses were then placed into the coffin. When they were done, it was almost evening.
Zhang Yin didn’t look too good and was consoled by another disciple, “Senior brother Zhang, it’s normal to feel like throwing up after seeing dead bodies. Today we shall avoid meat and you will feel better in no time.”
Dark skies soon approached and the rain came. Zhang Yin didn’t reply immediately. Some time later he forced himself to speak, “I shall take a rest now. Don’t call me up for dinner tonight. If I’m hungry I will just find some food by myself.”
He then turned around to leave and walked into the rain. He looked around and noticed that there was nobody around him. He then started descending from the mountains, a step at a time all the way until he reached the foot of the mountain. He wiped the raindrops from his forehead and looked around suspiciously once more. Some distance across, he could make out the faint shape of a hut which had lanterns around it.
At the foot of the mountain, there were three rooms which were meant for visitors to rest and avoid the rain. At this point, all three rooms were vacant. Zhang Yin entered a room as he stepped onto the tiles of the interior. He then thought of the faces of his fellow brothers, which he had known for the last five years. Within a blink of an eye, he had departed from them for good. It was almost like waking up from a bad dream. He stared out at the rain, which was receding at this point. Zhang Yin gazed out for a long time before coming back to his senses. He sighed and mumbled to himself, “Stop thinking about them anymore. Ever since you went undercover, you knew that there would be this day which you had to leave them.”
“Even though you knew them for five years, they aren’t you true fellow brothers.”
He took a deep breath in before retrieving a communication talisman. He tapped the surface of it as a ray of light emitted out from it. Within several moments it took the shape of a shadow. Seeing the shadow of this person, Zhang Yin dropped all his thoughts and fell to his knees, “Disciple pays his respect to Elder Xu.”
“Since you’ve contacted me at such a time, it must be that there’s an emergency. What is it?” Elder Xu asked.
“I’ve heard a piece of news. Free Cloud Sect has been in contact with Pei Zi Yun. His last known location was in Dou Ann Prefecture, and he is rushing back now.”
“Pei Zi Yun, Dou Ann prefecture!” Elder Xu’s voice sounded stern immediately. It was clear that Pei Zi Yun’s name had a powerful effect. He paused for sometime before speaking out once again, “I got it. Wait a second, I shall reply you soon.”
Immediately after he responded, the shadow vanished from view, but the ray of light still lingered. Zhang Yun listened to the sound of the rain dropping and felt comforted somehow. He had felt horrible just moments ago but was relieved to hear the rain.
Some distance away, in a small valley, several people were huddled up together under an altar. Although the altar was small, it was very intricate and detailed. There were many inscriptions on the altar and a flag was even placed at the corner.
The few of them were speaking in hushed whispers as they heard the news. “Pei Zi Yun, is coming back?”