Chapter 33 - Desperado
"Is...is this really my beloved son?" The Fifth Master turned about abruptly, asking the head of the family in a shaking voice.
"Brother... would I joke with you about such a thing? These men here witnessed Tian Er's death." The big leader said slowly.
Hearing the answer, the Fifth Master was finally convinced as his face turned ghastly pale. He turned back around and looked down at the body.
The cloth was thrown off in a gust of wind, revealing Jin Tian's twisted body which looked like a ferocious ghost beneath the cloth. Strangely, the Golden Armour, that Jin Tian was supposed to be wearing, was gone now.
The Fifth Master cried out as saw Jin Tian's highly swollen face and pierced throat. He let out a painful mourning cry, clenching his fists.
"Brother Five, I know you are devastated. I've heard everything from the boys. Jin Wu, tell your uncle what happened." The head could only let out a sigh and told the oldest of the boys to speak of what happened.
"Yes, Big Uncle. Fifth Uncle, it went like this: Brother Tian asked us to go hunting in the suburbs this morning..." The young man was still in shock when asked to relate the event to his bereft uncle, but facing the freezing eyes of the Fifth Master and the big leader, he could only recount the story again.
During the whole process the Fifth Master was expressionless, his eyes vacant and only changing slightly when he heard that Jin Tian had stolen the Golden Armour from his manor, and even the Tube of Wind and Fire.
"Brother, now I've heard the entire story. How do you plan on dealing with the death of my son?" After taking a deep breath, the Fifth Master asked, his voice, seemingly, completely composed.
"That's quite difficult to decide. You know, it's Tian Er who provoked the thing, moreover, he even stole the tube..." The big leader knit his eyebrows and said slowly.
"I don't care what Tian Er did before he was killed, I only know that I've lost my only son, your nephew by blood! I shall cut that Shi Mu bastard to pieces so that my poor child can rest in peace. Should you not help me take revenge, I won't recognise you as my big brother anymore!" The Fifth Master shouted at the head, desperate and harsh. "Brother Five, have you lost your mind? You must be respectful when speaking to Big Brother!"
"Brother Five, we all know you are in grief, but we are the Jin Clan, we can't afford to lose our manners, no matter how crazy the situation is."
All the other Jin leaders all tried to dissuade the Fifth Master, seeing that he was losing himself in grief.
"Humph! You're all so good at talking, 'cause it's not your son that was killed! I know you have issues, 'cause that Shi Mu bastard is Sister Seven's step son, but I don't care who the murderer is, if you guys don't help, I'll do it myself." The Fifth Master stared defiantly at them, completely ready to risk everything.
Seeing the Fifth Master's malicious look, the head's face fell. But just as he opened his mouth and was to say something, an authoritative, old voice resounded in the hall,
"Well, son, if I stop you, are you going to disown your father?"
The Jin Clan members in the hall all became filled with respectful awe, upon hearing the voice, which belonged to the guardian of the Jin Clan, an Advanced Houtian Warrior[A].
The Fifth Master had now changed to an awe-stricken face, hurriedly answering, "Father, how could I have such a rebellious thought? It's only that Tian Er had such a miserable death, as his father, how could I save my face before our family if I don't take revenge for my own son's murder? What's more, the other big clans in the city will also laugh at our weakness."
"Humph! It's none other than you who has caused Tian Er's death! If you had not spoiled him to such an extent, how could he have dared to provoke the fight which cost him his life?" The elder man snorted disapprovingly, in a voice full of authority.
"Father, I know I'm in the wrong, but please, could you allow me to fulfill my wish, and take my revenge? After that, I won't say a word, no matter how hard you punish me." The Fifth Master knelt to the ground, and bowed to his father, banging his head on the ground and pleading with a husky voice, his forehead becoming swollen.
"Eh, as long as you truely repent for your folly. But, just as you've said, however, wrong he was, Jin Tian is still a child of the Jin Family if we just let the killer off, how will the other clans view us later? Eldest Son, send some men to go with Fifth Son and don't let Shi Mu see tomorrow's sun. As for his stepmother, my Seventh Daughter, I'll deal with her and confine her to the manor for the next few days." After pondering in silence, the eldest master finally made up his mind.
The head promised obediently.
Then the eldest master said no more.
Seeing this, the others only dared to stand up now, one after another.
"Since it's father's order, Fifth Brother, name whoever you want." The big leader thought briefly before he told the Fifth Master to ask for whoever he wanted.
"Big Brother, I don't need any other forces except the Blood Hunters and the Blue Eagles, that are good at tracking." The Fifth Master answered without needing to think about anything.
"That is, indeed, proper, for a mere practitioner, we don't need any Houtian warriors. Then I'll lend you the hunters and the eagles." The head nodded and promised without hesitation.
"Great! I'm guessing that the bastard has, at most, half a day's lead on us. I'll set off right now and shall take his life within the next few days." Quite pleased at the answer, the Fifth Master swore, his face twisted in malice.
At the same time, ten miles away from the city, on a large road, Shi Mu was driving two black horses and a grey carriage, making them go as quick as he could, leaving heavy dust along their trails. The Dagger of the Sun and Moon was at his waist, and the purple steel bow, as well as the pack of arrows, was on his shoulder. A trace of anxiety could be detected on his face.
"Brother Shi, you don't need to take me with you. You'll have a greater chance if you flee by yourself." A melodious voice came from the carriage before the curtain was drawn open, revealing Zhong Xiu's upset face.
"Don't you even think about that, if I leave you alone in the city, even if the Wu Clan doesn't harm you, the Jin Clan[B] will vent their anger on you." Not turning his head, Shi Mu answered in a firm voice.
"Even so, you can still drop me off midway. I can probably manage to hide somewhere." After thinking for a while Zhong Xiu offered her suggestion.
"Don't underestimate the Jin Clan. As long as you're within the region of Quan Zhou, you'll never find a safe place. If I really decide to drop you off somewhere, it should be at some place outside Quan Zhou." Shi Mu answered with a bitter smile.
"That's true. But do you have any ideas now? If we continue running on this official road we'll be discovered by the Jin Clan sooner or later." Zhong Xiu said with a soft sigh.
[A] - There are 3 tiers to the Houtian grade: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced (yes, I know, very unique and poetic names. [If you have a suggestion, for a better naming scheme, leave a comment below!])