Book 13: Chapter 64
Following Fiends’ Genesis demise, they didn’t have any spare energy for recruiting new members. Furthermore, given their vast business endeavours, the majority of which were illegal, even without considering competence, loyalty was a fundamental trait they needed. They, therefore, refused to recruit outsiders. Instead, they trained and promoted members internally, resulting in a long and exhaustive process.
Tian Xiaogua, an official new member of Fiends’ Genesis from the selection pool during their two-decade hiatus, was eight when he first joined during the 22nd year of Yuansheng’s Reign and was from the third batch of children they found. Although he stuttered as a child, he had grown into one of the most notable members. Through diligent training and accumulating merit, he rose to the rank of captain of a small squad of five – excluding himself. His loyalty to them and disdain for orthodox sects made him the exemplary member for the faction.
Being assigned to guard duty at the new base was a good sign that Tian Xiaogua was on his way to becoming the right-hand man of one of the Seven Stars. Give him another two to three decades, and he might’ve been a candidate to become one of the Seven Stars. He and those around him believed so. Strangely, though, he always felt as antsy as if he was haunted.
On the same day Kuanggu Sheng perished, Tian Xiaogua randomly fell unconscious. When he woke up, Kuanggu Sheng’s blood and head were already misplaced. It took him a while to digest the sudden shock, and then he was busy on cleaning duty and protecting Tiangou, so he never had time to muse over why he was unconscious out of the blue. Once he finally had time to breathe, Tian Xiaogua put two and two together.
As a healthy martial arts practitioner, Tian Xiaogua seldom suffered any ailments and didn’t have a glass chin. It was freaky to think he was unconscious without rhyme or reason, so every time he withheld from bringing it up, it became harder and harder to broach the topic with anyone.
Extrapolating from the fact that he was unconscious during the window Kuanggu Sheng was assassinated, Tian Xiaogua reasoned the culprit in both instances was the same person. The most unsettling part was that he, a minor minion, was targeted. In addition, the location he was knocked out and the location of Kuanggu Sheng’s death weren’t remotely close; as a matter of fact, they weren’t even connected paths. Why knock out an average henchman who wasn’t even conveniently on the way to Kuanggu Sheng? There had to be some purpose to the attack. The question was “what”.
In his search for answers, Tian Xiaogua exhaustively searched the passageway Kuanggu Sheng met his end at, the place he woke up at in addition to the room Tiangou met with Kuanggu Sheng.
Tian Xiaogua woke up in a storage room for miscellaneous items. The only thing noteworthy about the room was that people rarely went there, so it was very unlikely anyone would’ve found him while he was out cold. People might’ve even assumed he was bludging work if they found him there. In turn, he couldn’t interfere with the intruder’s plans. Since the culprit deliberately picked him and the storage room, Tian Xiaogua knew he needed to leave no stone unturned.
The scarlet marks and trails in the passageway Kuanggu Sheng fell told everybody what happened. If the various factions were to have any friction that escalated into riots, it would only be Fiends’ Genesis’ issue, but it was infuriating to think the intruder would choose their timing the way they did.
Tian Xiaogua expected to be disappointed, but he discovered something. He wasn’t born sharp; he honed his attention to detail out of care and fear. Thanks to being able to see things from the perspective of an underling, he was able to see what even Zero missed.
As a guard, Tian Xiaogua needed to carry out patrol duties daily, leading to him familiarising himself with the place as well as developing habits that were conducive to the task. It dawned on him that the passageway was farthest away from the dungeon than anything else. Since Zero mobilised the majority of the forces to the dungeon during its exploration, this side’s defences were naturally thinner. Plus, who’d ever think Kuanggu Sheng and Tiangou of all people would be in danger? On top of that, owing to the curved design of the passageway, it was difficult to catch anyone hiding in the small room around the corner, providing an assassin a prime opportunity.
Tian Xiaogua couldn’t figure out why Kuanggu Sheng and Tiangou would move to the passageway, nor could he work out the motivations for their fight. Nevertheless, he cast those thoughts aside for the meantime as he didn’t have an answer for them.
Whatever the case, the culprit evidently designed the events; it wasn’t a heaven-gifted opportunity that they capitalised on. Through examination and thorough analysis, Tian Xiaogua came up with a bold hypothesis: the culprit disguised themselves as Tian Xiaogua.
The intruder left no traces of their presence. There was no chance, however, that they knew the compound better than Fiends’ Genesis’ members. Considering there weren’t many places to hide, the most efficient way of avoiding the patrols was to pose as one of them.
If they disguised themselves as me and then asked the two to move to the passageway… No, that’d require two people. Mr. Zero said the intruder escaped with the prisoner, though, so that’s two people, isn’t it? But given the time between the events, the prisoner should’ve been long gone. They could’ve disguised themselves as our members to bring the two here, and then they did something to provoke a fight. Yes, yes, that’s sounding right.
Tian Xiaogua subsequently investigated every nook and cranny of the room.
It’s said that there are experts of disguise in the pugilistic world who can have hundreds of appearances, and Xue Yanjun is supposed to be one of the best at the art. If she is the intruder, then it’s a simple matter for her to pose as one of us and lure the two of them. For all we know, she could’ve disguised as one of th-, how did I miss that?! I completely overlooked the possibility! They could’ve posed as one of them to lure the other out and sow discord! That explains why Sir Tiangou said he met Sir Kuanggu Sheng here initially and then fought outside… They switched out! The intruder knew we wouldn’t try to dig into the details!
Tian Xiaogua held his breath once he realised the truth he sought was in the very room he was in.