Chapter 766: On the Contrary
“I won’t hold it against him. It’s just that I thought we should be stricter in regard to respecting seniority and hierarchies. Since time immemorial, rules have been indispensable in kingdoms and families. Without rules, society would collapse. Jiang Xiaosheng has repeatedly stepped on the Flying Star House’s bottom line with his behavior. Therefore, he should be punished. I’m impressed that you’re willing to stand on the side of justice, Elder Ye.” Lu Zhou had never had thoughts about pretending to be Meng Changdong. It did not suit his ways of doing things even though he had changed his appearance.
Ye Zhen maintained the faint smile on his face as he said, “You’re right, Elder Meng. Under one roof, there’s a need to establish rules that enforce respect according to one’s seniority. It’s like that for commoners, and it’s how it should be for the Flying Star House that has tens of thousands of members.”
It was just as Lu Zhou had been told, Ye Zhen was an exceptionally cunning man. He kept his cool even after the change in the way Lu Zhou spoke and the way Lu Zhou addressed him. He did not give away his thoughts and seamlessly went with the flow. His emotions or displeasure were all buried in the depth of his heart. This was not the conduct someone as young as him usually had.
Nevertheless, Lu Zhou remained unperturbed. He calmly asked, “Is there a reason you asked to see me, Elder Ye?”
Ye Zhen said, “Elder Meng, you led 1,000 cultivators to annihilate the Thousand Willow Monastery today. The Twelve Sects of Cloud Mountain’s elite, Xie Xuan, was killed by a golden lotus cultivator. Where were you when that happened, Elder Meng?” He spoke calmly. He was interrogating Lu Zhou, but there was no hint of blame in his tone.
Lu Zhou replied, “The Thousand Willow Monastery is being guarded by elites. Even Xie Xuan lost his life. Naturally, I chose to retreat.” He did not think there was anything shameful about this.
For someone like Meng Changdong, it was not surprising that he fled. If Yu Shangrong had caught him, he would have died. Alas, who knew he would run into Lu Zhou?
Based on Ye Zhen’s words, it was clear to Lu Zhou that Ye Zhen had informants among the cultivators who had gone to the Thousand Willow Monastery. He was not at the monastery, but he spoke as though he was there and knew the situation like the back of his hand.
“Now that Xie Xuan is dead, the Twelve Sects of Cloud Mountain will surely launch an inquiry. How do you plan to explain yourself, Elder Meng?”
“Elder Ye, surely you’ve got a plan…” Lu Zhou was fearless. He kept his tone even as he said, “You knew about the relationship between the Thousand Willow Monastery and the Ninth Temple, and yet, you stubbornly insisted on the annihilation mission. Why’s that?”
Ye Zhen did not seem angered by these words; his expression remained unchanged. He said, “You’re wrong. The housemaster and I went to the Ninth Temple because we were confident we’d be able to take down Sikong Beichen. We decided to seize the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and annihilate the Thousand Willow Monastery as well.” The way he addressed ‘Meng Changdong’ had changed now.
“Seize the opportunity?” Lu Zhou smiled. “Lu Song, Liang Zidao, and Daoist Master Xuan Ming were capable members of the Flying Star House. They died in vain, and you call this seizing the opportunity?”
Ye Zhen, naturally, heard the rebuke in Lu Zhou’s words. However, he said with a smile, “The three of them were reckless and made a move without my permission. They only have themselves to blame for their deaths. Of the 1,000 cultivators who were sent on the mission to annihilate the Thousand Willow Monastery, 300 were from the Sky Martial Court, 500 from the Twelve Sects of Cloud Mountain, 150 rogue cultivators, and only 50 from our side. When the retreat order was given, all 50 of our members returned alive. There’s no casualty on our side.”
“…” Lu Zhou had to admit Ye Zhen had a certain ability to control and manipulate things. On the surface, the leader and person in charge of the campaign against the Thousand Willow Monastery was Meng Changdong. However, in truth, Ye Zhen was the one pulling all the strings from behind. He was truly cunning.
Ye Zhen continued to say, “However, I’m curious. How did you escape with your life, Elder Meng?”
“I’m skilled in escape techniques. It’s easy for me to escape,” Lu Zhou answered.
Ye Zhen nodded. “Elder Meng, aren’t you going to ask about what happened to the housemaster and me at the Ninth Temple?”
Something stirred in Lu Zhou. He had a feeling that Ye Zhen was privy to something. Ye Zhen rarely acted according to convention so it made him difficult to predict.
Nevertheless, Lu Zhou’s expression remained neutral. There was only one thing he had to remember: Faced with absolute power, schemes and plots were nothing.
“If you want to talk about it, Elder Ye, I’m all ears,” Lu Zhou said.
Ye Zhen raised his arm.
The wooden doors on both sides of the dojo creaked as they closed.
“Are you worried about the ears on the wall?”
The dojo was located in the five-story courtyard at the middle peak; it belonged to Ye Zhen. Who would be so bold to eavesdrop at this place?
Ye Zhen said, “The times are different.” He stood up slowly, and his Confucian robes hung loosely on his frame. His straight body cast a slender shadow on the floor. He continued to say, “The housemaster and I went to Ninth Temple to see if Sikong Beichen was telling the truth and to get to the bottom of Chen Beizheng’s death…”
“Oh?” Lu Zhou seemed puzzled.
“Although Sikong Beichen mastered a new sword path, he did not have the ability nor the boldness to kill Chen Beizheng. After all, he would incur the wrath of the palace. The Ninth Temple is waning. None of its five First Seats has mastered the karmic fire. Therefore, there’s no doubt an unknown elite had killed Chen Beizheng,” Ye Zhen said as he paced with his hands on his back.
“You have a point,” Lu Zhou replied.
“Sikong Beichen says the elite has the surname Lu, has the power to kill Chen Beizheng, and is most likely at the Thousand Willow Monastery.” Ye Zhen continued pacing. “The disciples who went to annihilate the Thousand Willow Monastery reported that they saw two Nine-leaf golden lotus cultivators. Did you see them, Elder Meng?”
“I did,” Lu Zhou said.
“Alright.” Ye Zhen nodded. He returned to his spot and sat down with his legs crossed. “In that case, I’d like you to do two things, Elder Meng.”
Lu Zhou kept quiet. He wanted to see what tricks Ye Zhen would play.
Ye Zhen said, “First, the Flying Star House would rather not lose capable members. If there’s no official business, you should remain here. Second, the memory crystal is of utmost importance. I’ve informed the Sky Martial Court that we’ll leave the crystal with them. With this, you no longer have to trouble yourself with it, Elder Meng. What do you think?” After he finished speaking, he waited silently for Lu Zhou’s reply.
Lu Zhou was in no hurry to answer him. After thinking to himself for a moment, “You’re only trying to make me surrender the crystal…” He was puzzled about Ye Zhen’s apparent dislike of Meng Changdong. He had a strong feeling that there was something fishy about this matter. ‘Why did he keep Meng Changdong around for so long then? He’s even trying to protect Meng Changdongs…’
Ye Zhen smiled. He extended his hand slowly in front of Lu Zhou. “I’ll have to trouble you, Elder Meng.”
“You want the crystal so badly?”
Ye Zhen replied with a smile, “Truth be told, this crystal means nothing to me. If the Sky Martial Court wants it, I’ll oblige. However, it’s not impossible if you want to keep it… What do you say… friend?” He had spoken slowly when he said the word ‘friend’. It was obvious he knew the person sitting in front of him was not the real Meng Changdong. He kept his eyes trained on Lu Zhou when he spoke, expecting to see shock on Lu Zhou’s face or signs of being flustered.
Contrary to Ye Zhen’s expectations, Lu Zhou remained calm. The crystal was already in his hand so he did not care much about how the situation developed. Moreover, as soon as he met Ye Zhen, he knew Ye Zhen would be difficult to deal with. He said, “You have good eyes.”
Ye Zhen smiled and said, “From the moment you first stepped into my dojo, I knew you’re not the real Meng Changdong.”
Lu Zhou was slightly surprised by this. It was normal if Ye Zhen had discovered he was an impostor based on their conversation, especially when he did not make much of an effort to hide his identity. However, he was rather impressed Ye Zhen was capable of seeing through his disguise so quickly.
“Elder Meng is only an early Nine-leaf cultivator. His aura wouldn’t remain so stable if he entered the dojo. Your cultivation base is greater than Elder Meng, sir,” Ye Zhen said.
No wonder Ye Zhen was not angered earlier.
Ye Zhen continued to say, “Under the heavens, there are many who mastered appearance alteration techniques. You merely altered your appearance, but you didn’t change your manner of speech and movements. I can tell you’re not worried about exposing your identity; you’re only here to take the crystal.”
Lu Zhou nodded. “Intelligent people have the same weakness. You’re all too full of yourselves. You’re no exception to this as well.”
Ye Zhen did not deny this. He merely nodded. He waved his hand again. Veins appeared on the four scenic drawings in the dojo. They seemed like flowing water.
“The Ninth Temple is no longer what it once was. Why must you act contrarily, sir? The Flying Star House is like the sun during high noon. We’ll surely become the greatest sect in Great Tang one day. Why don’t you work with me, sir?”
“Work with you?” Lu Zhou studied Ye Zhen.
“You may keep the crystal as a token of my sincerity,” Ye Zhen said bluntly as he placed his palms on his lap, “When you return, please inform Senior Lu of this. Those who know how to select their friends will gain respect. I hope you’ll consider this matter thoroughly before you act.”
Lu Zhou thought that Ye Zhen’s unfathomable cultivation base and cunningness were the only things that made him difficult to deal with. After conversing with Ye Zhen, he discovered Ye Zhen was highly ambitious and harbored ulterior motives. ‘Those who can’t restrain themselves in the little things will ruin great plans. As expected of a Confucian scholar.’
“Meng Changdong is now a prisoner. All that’s left of the Flying Star House are you and the housemaster. On the surface, you’re not even comparable to the Ninth Temple. How can this be called a collaboration?” Lu Zhou asked.
“I, alone, am enough,” Ye Zhen said. After he said this, the scenic paintings around them flowed like water.
Faint Primal Qi hung in the air.
Lu Zhou saw the Daoist veins flowing in the air.
The Daoist veins swirled, and their surroundings brightened up.
Ye Zhen folded his palms.
Behind Lu Zhou, a miniature avatar appeared. His Nine-leaf golden lotus blossomed slowly. He looked at the scenic paintings again. This dojo had used these four paintings to form a Formation.