Chapter 340: The Mastermind Was Him! (First)
Bai Yunfei took the Tempest sword out of his space ring. He laid it out for Tang Xinyun to step on. When Bai Yunfei stepped aboard, there was hardly enough room for a third person to climb on, prompting Jing Mingfeng to stamp his feet in mock anger.
"How upstanding you are, Ol'Bai! As soon as you find yourself a wife, you completely forget about your fellow brother! Are you trying to make me run back to Mo City!?"
"Er..." A droplet of sweat slipped down Bai Yunfei's face, "I guess... we could try to squeeze three on here..."
"Pft, I can practically feel your insincerity, forget it!
"Besides, if I were to get on there, I'd be ruining the atmosphere for you two lovebirds!" He quipped.
The awkward looks on both Bai Yunfei and Tang Xinyun's faces made Jing Mingfeng laugh, "I was just joking with you two. Go on ahead, I'll make my way home myself."
"But..." Hesitant, Bai Yunfei felt like there was something wrong with this.
"Hey now, don't be like that. Don't sweat the small stuff," Jing Mingfeng waved his hand, "When we came, it was me on the sword, so let Xinyun have a turn. It doesn't make a difference to me anyways. In any case, I can treat this as a nice and relaxing walk; do you think something like this is hard for a Soul Ancestor?"
Without even letting Bai Yunfei say anything more, Jing Mingfeng whirled around with his hands resting behind his head. He walked into the bushes in the direction of the city.
A jaunty tune could be heard as he whistled and walked away.
"..." For a good while, Bai Yunfei said nothing.
He eventually turned back to Tang Xinyun with a small smile, "Well, let's get going then."
In a burst of green light, the Tempest Sword took off with the two onboard.
Speaking wasn't too convenient as they traveled through the air, so conversation was scarce between the two passengers. During the silence, Bai Yunfei reflected on the battle with Ta Shan while Tang Xinyun stared silently at his back. What she was thinking was a mystery.
Once Tang Xinyun had been brought home, Bai Yunfei decided to fly off to find Jing Mingfeng. After being picked up, Jing Mingfeng couldn't help but laugh, saying there was still hope for Bai Yunfei since he followed the 'code of brotherhood.'
Tang Jing's investigation of the battlefield started only after Bai Yunfei had taken Tang Xinyun away and after Jing Mingfeng was far away.
There wasn't much he could investigate. The crater left behind by the Cataclysmic Seal didn't leave anything behind. If the battle prior to the crater was intense and with marks everywhere, the crater wiped all those marks away with a clean sweep.
"Jing'er, do you really believe what Bai Yunfei said? He may be the disciple of senior Zi Jin, but he's a mere mid-stage Soul Ancestor. How could he kill the Soul Exalt, Ta Shan?" Upon seeing the contemplative look on Tang Jing's face, Tang Qianshan just had to ask.
"Third uncle, you only just came back from abroad, so there's some extenuating information you might not know.
"I didn't have time to tell you while we were rushing over here, but before Xinyun was captured, the two who stopped the theft of the fireseed spirit mushroom we were selling at the auction house was Bai Yunfei and Jing Mingfeng..."
"Oh? Something like that happened?" Tang Qianshan asked, "What happened after that?"
"We sent some of our men to deal with the problem right away, but they met some of the returning members of the Wu on their way there. According to them, the transaction had already been made with Bai Yunfei. He was bringing the fireseed spirit mushroom back to Mo City with him...
"The two who had tried to steal the fireseed spirit mushroom were a mid-stage Soul Ancestor and a late-stage Soul Ancestor... both of them were killed by Bai Yunfei! In under three minutes no less!"
"What!?" Tang Qianshan exploded, "That Bai Yunfei is that strong!?"
"Yes, third uncle. You might recall that Bai Yunfei was only a late-stage Soul Warrior before this, but just now... I could feel that he was as strong as a mid-stage Soul Ancestor! I didn't see anything that proved he wasn't a Soul Warrior before. Even father said he couldn't detect anything hiding his strength. If I had to guess, he might've revealed that he was as strong as a mid-stage Soul Ancestor, but he might be even..."
"You're saying he might be even stronger? Is he a Soul Exalt!?" Tang Qianlei interjected with doubt. He simply couldn't believe what Tang Jing was saying. A twenty-something year old being a Soul Exalt-that was...
"He is the reason that my sister was brought back. I can also see that there's something between my sister and him... even if he's hiding his strength, I don't believe he harbors any ill will for our family, and with him being a crafter, if we can make ties with the Crafting School, the benefits our Tang would gain would surely be great."
"Ah yes, that much is true..." Tang Qianshan nodded in agreement.
Choosing to ignore the issue with Ta Shan for now, Tang Qianshan looked around the crater in front of him, "Was... was this really done by Bai Yunfei? Even I wouldn't be able to manage something on a scale like this, how terrifying...
"Can you sense the traces left behind by a soul armament? What kind of monstrous soul armament is needed to leave a result like this!"
After careful consideration, Tang Qianshan turned to Tang Jing, "Bai Yunfei mentioned there was a corpse nearby, go take a look. I want to look around this crater for some clues."
While Tang Jing busied himself with inspecting Hidden Snake's corpse, Tang Qianshan stood at the very center of the large crater where a smaller spherical crater was.
"Third uncle, have you found anything?" Tang Jing asked after he came back.
The man shook his head, "Nothing of any use, but... if we are to believe Bai Yunfei's words, then the Stone Asura died right here."
"Oh? Why do you say that?"
"Look here..." Tang Qianshan pointed at the smaller crater in front of them, "A strong amount of elemental earth still lingers here. It's slightly weaker now, but I can still sense it to some degree. I'm sure that the amount at its initial explosion was from an early-stage Soul Exalt at the very least! The lack of rubble from the explosion means he was killed before it could finally detonate."
Tang Qianshan was a late-stage Soul Exalt with an affinity for earth, meaning that his sensitivity to elemental earth was far stronger than most. Just by looking at the lingering elemental earth, he was able to make a detailed inference of the situation. The phrase 'experience comes with age' was created for people like him.
"How unexpected to think that Ta Shan, the scourge of the Forest Pass Province for the last decade, would meet his demise in this spot. But... there has never been a conflict between our house and him. What prompted him to kidnap Xinyun?" Tang Qianshan asked himself briefly before shaking his head, "Never mind that. What have you found out?"
"Nothing..." Tang Jing tossed Hidden Snake's corpse onto the ground, "I don't recognize him, and I couldn't find any clues on him."
A quick cursory glance was all it took to observe Hidden Snake's body, but it didn't seem as though Tang Qianshan knew him either.
"We've little choice but to stop here for now." He sighed, "The enemy was without a doubt prepared for this, so finding any clues would be dubious at best. Let's return first and hope that we can find something during our future investigations..."
They leaped up from the crater, reaching higher ground. When their feet tapped the surface outside of the crater, Tang Qianshan's eyes narrowed for a moment.
Turning around, he began to suspiciously look around.
"Third uncle? What's wrong?" Tang Jing asked in confusion.
Still slightly suspicious, Tang Qianshan continued to look around.
Without anything to show for his efforts, the older man withdrew his glance, "It's nothing. I was probably mistaken, let's go..."
The two men left for Mo City shortly after that.
Just several kilometers away, at a mountain Tang Qianshan was looking at earlier...
"He certainly earns his title as a late-stage Soul Exalt if he could sense me..."
Came the voice of a lively speaker.
From the white frosty fog that covered the mountain tops, two figures quickly made themselves known.
"Junior headmaster, moving against the Tang is far too early for us..." The second person that spoke was an elderly old man in white, who standing right behind the first speaker.
"Haha, it was a sudden fancy, that's all..." The 'junior headmaster' laughed. "That's why I ordered you not to fight. This is a slave's work. If we fail our goals here, we won't be hurt at all.
"Though that person's strength was something else... what we thought was a simple grab for the fireseed spirit mushroom ended up as a failure, and even kidnapping the young miss Tang proved to be a failure. This Bai Yunfei is quite the unpredictable one..."
His voice gradually grew more eery as he spoke. Just listening to him made one think that he wasn't really talking about a sudden fancy, rather a plan!
"Bai Yunfei, was it? What an interesting person. I hope I'll be able to play around with him in the future..." The young man laughed in anticipation before turning to walk down the other side of the mountain.
When he turned around, the fog that had been covering his face disappeared. A surprisingly handsome and alluring face was revealed.
He... was the man that fought Bai Yunfei for the fireseed spirit mushroom back in the auction house. He was the same person who had had a friendly talk with Bai Yunfei at the end...