Chapter 256: Tong Ruizhen’s Resolve

Demoness's Art of Vengeance

Jun Xiaomo squinted as she looked at the panicking maidservant, and then she curled her lips into a smile as she suggested, “Did you fail to notice how long you took, or are you in fact simply unable to tell us? I didn’t require an accurate timing after all. I’m sure you should be able to give us an estimation, aren’t you?”

“I…I…” As Princess Linglong’s maidservant, she was already used to people giving her some latitude in her actions or a benefit of the doubt. She had never faced someone as overbearing as Jun Xiaomo. Now that Jun Xiaomo pressed the issue and bore down on her with relentless interrogations, the maidservant became completely flustered.

“Enough, Jun Xiaomo! What are you trying to say?” Princess Linglong gritted her teeth and barked at Jun Xiaomo as she glared at her maidservant for not being able to stand up for herself.

“What I’m trying to say is that the maidservant would most certainly need some time if she were to run back to the palace to personally inform princess highness, before escorting you back again, right? Since that’s the case, why didn’t she use a Messenger Paper Crane instead? Or is she simply saying that she thinks she can move quicker than a Messenger Paper Crane, hmm?”

“I…it just slipped my mind. That’s right, it slipped my mind!” The maidservant thought that she had finally found a decent excuse, and she immediately grabbed hold of it and retorted.

“Oh, you’ve forgotten, huh.” Jun Xiaomo nodded her head, before slowly responding, “Since that’s the case, could you tell us what you’re doing appearing around the pavilion to begin with? I’ve been here every day for more than a couple of days now, and I know that few disciples would pass by the pavilion, much less stop at the pavilion as a result of its location. Therefore, I’m quite curious as to the reason for which this maidservant would happen to be in the area.”

Once Princess Linglong heard Jun Xiaomo’s question, she was immediately taken aback. Then, she suddenly recalled that just prior to being informed of this incident, she had merely sent her maidservant out to fetch some things from the kitchen. There was absolutely no need for her to pass by the pavilion to begin with.

The maidservant began to panic, and her palms grew sweaty. A lump formed in her throat, and she stiffly responded, “I…I happened to pass by coincidentally.”

“Coincidentally? Oh, that’s really coincidental then. Don’t you think that the number of sheer coincidences is a little bit too much?” Jun Xiaomo retorted with a meaningful and mocking tone –

“Why don’t you just tell us the truth. This road is hardly used by anyone to begin with. It’s located near the main entrance of the Sect, and I’d only come here because I’d coveted its peaceful and tranquil surroundings for my formation array studies. If martial brother Zou could have coincidentally appeared at this place, and then you also coincidentally walked past the pavilion, and then it was coincidentally at the same time that I allegedly seduced martial brother Zou…just how lucky would I have to be if all of these coincidences were to occur at the exact same time? All of my lucky stars must be aligned today, huh?”

The maidservant finally knew what Jun Xiaomo was trying to get at, and she began to grow absolutely flustered.

“So what? It doesn’t mean that something didn’t happen just because it was coincidental, isn’t it?!”

“When an incident is the result of too many coincidences, I’m more inclined to believe that there’s someone orchestrating the matter behind the scenes.” Jun Xiaomo glanced coldly at the maidservant.

“You’re slandering me!”

“Whether I’m slandering you or not – everything can be made known by an Authentication Array, can it not?” Jun Xiaomo calmly replied.

This was the third time she had suggested the use of the Authentication Array by now. Her conscience was clear on this entire incident, and she had no fear of using the Authentication Array at all. On the other hand, others would tremble at its mention.

The maidservant naturally feared the use of the Authentication Array. Thus, she turned to look at Princess Linglong pleadingly, hoping that Princess Linglong would reject Jun Xiaomo’s request as she had done earlier.

Unfortunately, Princess Linglong simply stood where she was and squinted at her without any signs of assistance –

After all, there was no need for Princess Linglong to treat her maidservant in the same manner in which she would treat someone she was fond of. Princess Linglong was fond of Zou Zilong, and she would naturally reject Jun Xiaomo’s suggestion to use the Authentication Array. However, Xiao-Er was no more than a maidservant in Princess Linglong’s eyes, and there was no way she was going to stand up for her to such an extent.

Besides, Jun Xiaomo had indeed raised some suspicions as to what her maidservant had done, including what she was doing hovering around the pavilion, and how there could possibly be so many coincidences at the same time.

Yue Linglong also wanted to shed light on these two things raised by Jun Xiaomo.

Jun Xiaomo continued to add fuel to fire, topping off everything with the final straw that broke the camel’s back, “Princess highness, can you really accept the fact that one of your maidservants is doing something surreptitiously behind your back? Most importantly, we’re not even aware of what her true motives for doing all these things are.”

Yue Linglong’s pupils immediately constricted, and she glared back at her maidservant as she coldly stated, “Then, let’s use the Authentication Array.”

She could never condone any of her servant’s betrayal. If this maidservant had truly pledged her allegiance to a different master and turned traitorous, her fate would be sealed in stone – be tormented to death!

The maidservant’s mind was completely blank at this moment, and she shook her head vigorously as she firmly rejected the idea, “No way! We can’t use the Authentication Array. Never!”

“If this highness says you’ll do it, then you will do it! Since when are you allowed to make the decision on behalf of this highness?” Princess Linglong sharply dismissed her objections.

“I don’t want to use the Authentication Array. I don’t…ah!” The maidservant wanted to turn and run away, but Princess Linglong immediately subdued her movements with one quick lash of the whip that broke both of her legs.

“Princess…princess, I beg you…your servant knows that she’s in the wrong…please…” Xiao-Er knew that she was on the verge of a calamity right now, and her only glimmer of hope was to beg for mercy and appeal to the princess’s magnanimity.

Even though Yue Linglong was arrogant and despotic, she was not a fool. How could she possibly still be unable to see for herself that her own maidservant had schemed against her? In fact, she had probably already realized that the maidservant had brought her over here to kill Jun Xiaomo with a borrowed dagger.

Princess Linglong was infuriated, and she lashed out once more at her maidservant with the whip. Pak! A sickening crack of the whip resounded, followed shortly by the sound of flesh splitting and bones shattering. The maidservant shrieked tragically and collapsed to the ground.

She was different from Jun Xiaomo. Jun Xiaomo was a cultivator, so she was able to withstand some measure of abuse before falling. On the other hand, the maidservant was nothing more than a mere mortal, and a few lashes of the whip would be more than enough to guarantee her death.

“Traitor! How dare you scheme against this highness?!” Yue Linglong roared in fury.

Lying on the floor, the maidservant felt like her mind and soul had been split in two with the whiplashes – half of her felt every single bit of the excruciating pain that was echoing throughout her body, while the other half was completely numb to anything that was going on. It was only at this moment of time that she came to realize what Jun Xiaomo must have experienced earlier, and she knew that her fate was only going to be worse than Jun Xiaomo’s fate.

The maidservant shuddered as she lifted her head and looked at a group of people standing in the distance. There, she saw the new master whom she had pledged her allegiance to – Zhuang Lenghui.

Zhuang Lenghui locked eyes with her. Her gaze grew cold, and she immediately disappeared into the rest of the crowd that was around her.

To her mind, the maidservant was no more than a pawn in her grand plans. It was absolutely fine if this little pawn perished. After all, the maidservant had served her purposes, and her death would hardly affect Zhuang Lenghui’s plans at all.

The maidservant was thoroughly panicked at this point. She did not want to die. She truly did not want to die. She immediately stretched out her hand and clutched tightly at Princess Linglong’s sleeves as she begged, “Princess highness, your servant knows the folly of her ways. Please spare your servant. This servant will tell you who the mastermind is…Ah!”

An unknown sword congealed from sword intent suddenly shot over towards where she was, struck her waist, and cleaved her entire body into two. She was dead.

The maidservant perished with widened eyes, as though she were unable to accept the fact that she was going to die just like that.

Everyone noticed the horrific way in which she had perished, and they all got shivers down their backs.

Logically speaking, death was not a foreign concept to cultivators, and they should never have been as shocked and astonished at such a sight. However, the fact of the matter was that the maidservant had still been begging for her life just a moment ago, yet in the very next moment, a mysterious force had cleaved her entire body into two. Blood gushed out from her body and spattered everywhere around. The impact of that final strike had been far too strong, and everyone couldn’t help but shudder in shock.

“Traitor! Death was too easy for her.” Princess Linglong gritted her teeth with hatred, as though she were completely unaffected by the sight before her eyes.

Her nonchalance to the maidservant’s death caused another thought to surface in the hearts of everyone around her. She must be numb to it because she’s seen many such incidents before. Then, everyone turned their minds to contemplate the sorry sight that Jun Xiaomo had displayed earlier, and they began to see a different side to Princess Linglong’s viciousness that they had never known before.

Naturally, everyone wanted to know who the “mastermind” that the maidservant had referred to was. However, the maidservant was dead, and there was no one else to elicit that fact from.

Princess Linglong continued to strike her maidservant’s corpse with a few more lashes of her whip. Once she felt sufficiently ventilated of her frustrations, she smiled coldly at Jun Xiaomo and cautioned, “Did you see that? Anyone who crosses this highness is going to end up like that. You’d best watch your step.”

As she finished speaking, she led her bodyguards and left with a look of indignation all over her face. In her heart, her hatred towards Jun Xiaomo burgeoned to unprecedented heights.

Zou Zilong didn’t have the intention nor the loyalty to follow Princess Linglong as she left. He knew that Princess Linglong was still infuriated at this point in time, and anything he did now would only be met with a backlash.

Thus, he decided that he was going to give her a period of time to cool off. He firmly believed that with Princess Linglong’s affection towards himself, he would be able to placate her and win her heart again with a few words.

With that, Zou Zilong maintained his placidity as he pretentiously bade farewell to the few Sect Elders around, before taking his leave as well.

That said, he discreetly glanced back at Jun Xiaomo before he left. His eyes were filled with a cold intent.

Jun Xiaomo had torn apart his pretensions and trampled them on the ground today. She had even strained the goodwill that he had built up with Princess Linglong. Therefore, there was simply no way he could look at Jun Xiaomo with any better of an expression that he had earlier done. In fact, Zou Zilong had even mentally noted Jun Xiaomo’s “transgressions” against him in his heart, and he was going to look for the best opportunity to let Jun Xiaomo have her just desserts in the near future.

The Third Elder heaved a sigh of relief. He sincerely hoped in his heart that Sect Elder Tong would not hold this incident against Zou Zilong and the other members of the Stoneknife Peak. Otherwise, everything that the Stoneknife Peak had done to date would have gone to waste.

After bidding farewell to Tong Ruizhen, he led his disciples away as well. Walking behind everyone else, Zhuang Lenghui took one final glance at the dead maidservant on the floor, while her lips discreetly curled into a wicked smile.

Even though she found it rather regretful that Jun Xiaomo did not perish under Princess Linglong’s hands, she knew that a seed of displeasure for Princess Linglong and Zou Zilong had nevertheless been sown deep within Tong Ruizhen’s heart.

To the members of the Phoenixia Peak, it sufficed that Tong Ruizhen was displeased with Zou Zilong. This paved the way for their future ploys to grow and nurture this seed of displeasure so that it would grow to unprecedented heights.

When all was said and done, all the Phoenixia Peak was trying to do was to get Tong Ruizhen on their side – there was never any intention to take Jun Xiaomo’s life.

Zhuang Lenghui left confidently, and she failed to notice how Jun Xiaomo was staring at her back the entire time with a meaningful look on her face.

“Little disciple, you’ve seen it as well?” A large palm firmly patted Jun Xiaomo’s shoulder as Tong Ruizhen’s voice resounded from her back.

“Master?” Jun Xiaomo turned around.

“Master noticed that you were looking at that young lady’s back earlier. Disciple must be aware that that young lady most certainly had a hand in this entire incident.”

Jun Xiaomo nodded her head, and Tong Ruizhen sighed.

“Youngsters these days are truly overcomplicating things. Rather than doing things properly in an above-board manner, everyone seems to be turning to various unconventional means to obtain what they desire. Sigh.”

Jun Xiaomo lowered her head, but she remained taciturn. After all, it was not in her position to comment on such matters to begin with.

“Let’s go. Master’s going to take you back now. It would be best if you laid low for a period of time and remained indoors for your own cultivation.” Tong Ruizhen patted Jun Xiaomo’s shoulders, called the Heavenly Crane over, before flying back to the Zephyr Sect atop the Heavenly Crane.

On this last leg of the journey, Tong Ruizhen remained completely taciturn and sullen – it was a stark change from how he had been in the past. The deeply furrowed and knitted brows on his head clearly revealed the multitude of things on his mind right now.

Jun Xiaomo knew not to disturb Tong Ruizhen’s train of thoughts as well. Instead, she took the time to rein in her true energy and circulate them within her Dantian and meridians so as to accelerate the rate of her own recovery.

With that, she had thought that this incident would have come to a satisfactory conclusion. Yet, little did she know that this incident was just the beginning of a tumultuous storm.

Three days later, Tong Ruizhen suddenly burst into Jun Xiaomo’s courtyard and instructed Jun Xiaomo, “Little disciple, gather your belongings and follow master!”

Jun Xiaomo had just broken through to the seventh level of Qi Mastery, and she was still working on stabilizing her foundation. She had never expected her master to interrupt her like that.

“Master, did something happen?” Jun Xiaomo furrowed her brows, and a bad premonition surfaced on the top of her heart.

“It’s still that unruly princess. She had probably run back crying and complaining to her father, the king of the Greenwich Kingdom. Now, the general of the Greenwich Kingdom had led a brigade of troops towards the Zephyr Sect to cause trouble, insisting that the Sect Leader hands you over. They’re currently at a deadlock, but I’m afraid it’s only going to be a matter of time before they barge in to capture you.” Tong Ruizhen summarized the situation at hand.

“A brigade of troops?” Why would a Greater Sect like the Zephyr Sect be afraid of a mere brigade of troops?” Jun Xiaomo couldn’t understand this much. Logically speaking, any cultivator within the Greater Sect would be far stronger than any of the mere mortals living in these kingdoms. Why would there be any need for cultivators to give latitude to the king of a mere mortal kingdom? Did they really need to let the Greenwich Kingdom climb all over their heads like that?

“Sigh, it’s hard to explain.” Tong Ruizhen sighed. He realized that he had been sighing far more in the last few days than in the previous year combined, “Ever since the Sect Leader got injured, his life and sustenance had become dependent on a precious herb that happened to grow exclusively within the Greenwich Kingdom’s territory. It would be far easier for the king of the Greenwich Kingdom to harvest these herbs than for the members of the Zephyr Sect to do so. This is also the other reason why Princess Linglong has so much latitude to do anything that she wants – it’s precisely because the Sect Leader’s life is pretty much in the hands of the Greenwich Kingdom’s king, and he can thus only choose to turn a blind eye to the things that Princess Linglong is doing.”

A sudden realization dawned on Jun Xiaomo. She had never expected things within the Zephyr Sect to be even more complicated than the politics within the Dawn Sect.

As expected, there would be conflict where people gather.

“Then, master, where are we going to go now?” Jun Xiaomo had not forgotten Tong Ruizhen’s earlier instructions for her to “gather her belongings” – was this a sign that they were about to leave the Zephyr Sect?

Tong Ruizhen was slightly taken aback by Jun Xiaomo’s query. After a moment of sullenness, he finally spoke, “We’re going to the Proving Grounds.”

“Proving Grounds?!” Jun Xiaomo’s eyes widened.

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