Chapter 26 – Ye Zhen
A shadow suddenly emerged under the flickering candlelight, “Palace Master.”
Qi Qiqi had just frowned, when someone called her.
“Uncle Teacher Ye…” Qi Qiqi sighed, massaged her temples, and looked up from a scroll.
Standing not far away, Ye Zhen’s face was as expressionless as ever, his thoughts inscrutable.
Ye Zhen’s figure swam in her vision, and Qi Qiqi became slightly dazed.
At times, this uncle teacher of hers was a real pain in the but.
She didn’t know what this uncle teacher of hers, whose cultivation base was much higher and whose was much better at trickery, thought of her. That alone was enough to make her feel uneasy and restless like a duckweed without roots.
“Elder Liu came today to ask me how the investigation was going.”
Ye Zhen’s words brought Qi Qiqi back to her senses, and she sighed: “How many time has it been already?”
“Practically once a day.”
“Does Elder Liu think that I’m not busy enough…” Qi Qiqi put down the scroll and massaged the bridge of her nose.
It has been more than six days since Qin Chen’s body was found. Every day, Liu Chengzong would go to ask Ye Zhen or Qi Qiqi about the progress of the investigation.
Qi Qiqi naturally knew that Liu Chengzong was angry and urgently wanted an explanation, but she also knew that this covert pressure was deliberate, and Ye Zhen was probably the one behind this.
She who had taken the position of the sect master out of the blue, had authority to speak of, and Liu Chengzong only paid her lip service.
Needless to say, Ye Zhen’s attitude towards her wasn’t like that of a subordinate towards his superior. On the contrary, at times, he put on the air of a senior and opposed her regardless of her prestige.
“… Elder Liu is just anxious about this matter.”
“I know this of course!” By the time she reacted, she had shouted out emotionally.
“It seems that you’re tired, Palace Master.” Startled, Ye Zhen sighed.
“It’s nothing, Uncle Teacher.”
Ye Zhen took a deep look at Qi Qiqi and said no more.
After a long silence, Qi Qiqi asked: “Are there still no news about Senior Disciple Sister Li?”
“There are none, as if she had vanished from the face of the earth.”
Where did Senior Sister Ting go? She wouldn’t… Uneasy and under great pressure, Qi Qiqi breathed a long sigh and uttered in a stifling tone: “What’s going on? How can someone disappear without a trace?”
“There’s no point in continuing with this stalemate. All evidence points to Elder Li…”
What does he mean? Is he trying to pressure me?! An obscure fire spontaneously arose in her heart, and Qi Qiqi slapped the table and stood up.
“Enough, Ye Zhen! You want me to pass judgement before understanding the whole story?” She didn’t know why she was this angry. She had never been this emotional and angry in front of others before.
This was probably the last straw… But it didn’t matter.
Not expecting such an outburst from the rather well-behaved Qi Qiqi, Ye Zhen was struck dumb for a long time, and then spoke apologetically: “I didn’t meant that, Palace Master.”
What’s wrong with me? Qi Qiqi took a few deep breaths to dispel the anger in her heart.
“No, I’m just…” She sat down dispirited and shook her head.
Qi Qi lifted her head and said wearily: “You understand, but you have no intention of being considerate.”
Ye Zhen stared deeply at Qi Qi and said indifferently: “… As the Palace Master, you should take a panoramic view of the situation, and not mix in personal feelings. Qin Chen was an Elder. As such, his death is of great importance. If you don’t settle this matter as soon as possible, it will affect the Merak Palace’s reputation, and will make it difficult to make an account to the entire Merak Palace.”
“Even if the dead person deserved it?” Qi Qiqi pretended to ask casually.
“Your words are inappropriate, Palace Master.” Ye Zhen frowned and uttered sternly.
Qi Qiqi scoffed at his statement, “We’re both well aware of that.”
“It seems that you don’t understand why I defended Qin Chen at the time, Palace Master.”
Qi Qiqi raised her eyebrows and asked defiantly, “… Is there any reason other than to oppose me?”
Ye Zhen showed a look of surprise, and then he shook his head in disappointment, “Palace Master, you still can’t trust me…”
For some reason, when she noticed the bitter look flash past Ye Zhen’s face, Qi Qiqi had an odd feeling. She felt that she might be prejudiced against Ye Zhen.
But she soon dismissed that thought, and then lowered her eyes and said faintly: “… You have never explained yourself, so tell me how could I trust you?”
“…” Ye Zhen was silent for a while before sighing deeply.
“Now the critical point lies in Elder Luo.” Maybe he felt that it was useless to talk about the tangled relationship between the two of them, but Ye Zhen suddenly changed the subject, going back to proper business.
Aware of the other party’s intentions, Qi Qiqi nodded, receptive.
“Elder Xia should have arrived at Jinling by now. Has she sent any news back?” Before Li wanting went missing, the last person who saw her was Luo Qing, so she might know something.
In addition to asking Xue Qilin back, the other reason why Qi Qiqi had Xia Xue rush to Jinling was for Luo Qing. Ye Zhen naturally knew this. After all, Qi Qiqi didn’t purposefully hide it from him. And even if she did, she couldn’t deceive Ye Zhen.
“Not yet.” Qi Qiqi shook her head, fidgety.
“But with Senior Disciple Sister Xia’s speed, I guess she should have met the Young Ancestor in Jinling by now.” She added.
“That’s good. I feel like I soon won’t be able to bear the pressure from Elder Liu.”
“…” Qi Qiqi didn’t respond. As for what Ye Zhen said, she naturally also knew that that old stick-in-the-mud Liu Chengzong was really vexing.
… At this time, Ye Zhen suddenly raised his head and looked outside, and a puzzled gleam flashed past his eyes.
“What’s the matter?” Qi Qiqi frowned and asked doubtfully.
“Elder Xia seems to be back… But she’s alone.”
Alone? What happened? She hasn’t met the Young Ancestor? Qi Qiqi felt a little uneasy for some reason.
Maybe Senior Disciple Sister Xia returned first… Qi Qiqi tried to come up with a reason, but this reason was so unconvincing that she couldn’t even persuade herself.
Qi Qiqi stood up restlessly and walked outside, and Ye Zhen slowly followed behind her.
She just walked out, when she saw a figure rushing towards her. It was Xia Xue.
Qi Qiqi was just bout to greet her, when the other side has already landed in front of her.
When she saw Qi Qiqi, the anxious Xia Xue felt relieved for some reason.
“Senior Disciple Sister Xia, where’s the Young Ancestor?” Just like Ye Zhen had said, Qi Qiqi didn’t see the Young Ancestor, so she asked directly.
But this question made Xia Xue’s face fall.
Apparently apprehensive of him, she cautiously glanced at Ye Zhen standing beside them.
“Palace Master, I’ll take my leave first.” Apparently aware of Xia Xue’s vigilance towards him, Ye Zhen spoke.
Qi Qiqi wanted to nod and say something in agreement, but for some reason a sentence popped up in her head… “Palace Master, you still can’t trust me…”
Have I really no trust for Ye Zhen? Qi Qiqi was silent for a while and sighed, saying: “It’s okay. Vice-palace Master Ye, please stay… It’s nothing that needs to be kept a secret”
Stunned, Ye Zhen stood still.
“Is this okay?” Xia Xue frowned and whispered into Qi Qiqi’s ear.
“It is…” Qi Qiqi gave Xia Xue a look to reassure her, and then continued to ask: “Where’s the Young Ancestor? Didn’t she come back with you?”
A dignified look on her face, Xia Xue enunciated each syllable clearly: “The Young Ancestor was captured by the Heavenly Sword Gate.”
“Ah…” Qi Qiqi couldn’t react for a moment. What Xia Xue said was beyond her expectation.
Instead, Ye Zhen immediately reacted and asked Xia Xue gravely, “What happened?”
Xia Xue’s eyebrows creased tightly, and she explained in an uncertain tone: “I’m not sure. Qing’er said that the Heavenly Sword Gate suddenly attacked them. In order to let them escape, the Young Ancestor stayed behind… But there are no further news of her.”
“What do you mean by they caught her?”
“Qing’er said that this was Senior Disciple Sister Luo’s conjecture. Senior Disciple Sister Luo thinks that so long as the the Young Ancestor is still in their clutches, we will hold back. Thus, the Heavenly Sword Gate won’t kill her, as that would be the beginning of a full-scale war. The current Heavenly Sword Gate has no assurance that it can win a full-scale war against us. Therefore…” Xia Xue relayed the information she got from Gong Tianqing.
“What about Martial Grandniece Gong?”
“We ran into each other on the road. When I met her, she was exhausted. Seeing this, I found an inn for her to stay. After inquiring about the situation, I returned to notify Palace Master first.”
“And Senior Disciple Sister Luo?” Qi Qiqi, who has already come back to her senses and was silently listening to the conversation, interjected.
“According to Qing’er, Senior Disciple Sister Luo stayed in Jinling in order to gather information. Qing’er still wanted me to relay Senior Disciple Sister Luo’s words, to ask…” Xia Xue glanced at Ye Zhen, and then continued,”Vice-palace Master to go rescue the Young Ancestor at once.”
Qi Qiqi quickly figured out why Luo Qing had such a request.
If the Young Ancestor was caught alive by the Heavenly Sword Gate, then Ye Zhen was needed to rescue her. After all, the Heavenly Sword Gate had Hua Tianji.
The reason why Luo Qing said “at once” was to save time. She stayed in Jingling to gather information, and had Gong Tianqing return first to ask Ye Zhen to leave the sect. By the time Ye Zhen arrives at Jinling, Luo Qing would have probably unearthed the relevant information. In this way, a lot of time can be saved.
But… will Ye Zhen agree to leave the palace? Qi Qiqi couldn’t help but glance at Ye Zhen, whose gaze was lowered, apparently contemplating something.
Although Ye Zhen advocated for the all out revitalization of the Merak Palace, but in fact, he wasn’t a high-profile person, as could be seen from his reticent character. In fact, Qi Qiqi thought that he was quite cautious, which was why he didn’t trust a weak 16-year-old weak girl the Merak Palace.
The Merak Palace is still clouded in suspicion due to Qin Chen’s murder. Under such circumstance, will Ye Zhen really leave the palace?
No, now wasn’t the time to think about the possible ramifications.
The matter of life and death of the Young Ancestor was very important for the Merak Palace. Her presence could not only gain more time for the Merak Palace’s revitalization, but also make many second-class sects who covet the Merak Palace’s position to be more wary.
More importantly, Qi Qiqi was the one who sent Xue Qilin travel towards Jinling. Now that she had a mishap, Qi Qiqi couldn’t help feeling responsible and guilty. Therefore…
“Elder Xia, I have something to talk with Vice-palace Master Ye, please leave us alone.”
“Is…” Xia Xue looked doubtfully at Qi Qiqi and Ye Zhen.
“It’s okay, there’s nothing to worry.” Qi Qiqi gave a tranquil smile, which contained a trace of bitterness.
“Okay then.” Although Xia Xue looked unconvinced, but she still complied.
When Xia Xue’s back disappeared, Ye Zhen took the lead in saying: “Palace Master, you want to ask me to go save the young Ancestor, right?”
“Do you think the Young Ancestor has to be rescued?” Qi Qiqi asked.
“She naturally has to be rescued. But…”
“I know what you want to say. Before the truth behind Qin Chen’s murder is uncovered, you, the sole Heaven Realm expert, cannot leave – am I right?”
Ye Zhen didn’t answer, clearly tacitly agreeing.
What should I do? How can I persuade Ye Zhen? He said that I don’t trust him, but is that really the case? Do I really not trust him? No, before that, there is still Qin Chen’s matter. Ah! How annoying.
Qi Qiqi scratched her head in vexation, not caring whether Ye Zhen standing next to her was stupefied.
At this moment, Qi Qiqi suddenly remembered what she had overheard the other day… “there are times when there is no right choice to make. Often times, it’s not a question of whether you should or not.”
“It’s a question of whether you want to or not…” Qi Qiqi uttered blankly.
What do I want to do? Yes… I want to save the Young Ancestor. And then? If I want to save the Young Ancestor, then just like Senior Disciple Sister Luo has said, I have to convince Ye Zhen. How should I go about it?
Qi Qiqi contemplated again, yet could not come up with a good idea, which left her a little jittery.
I’m sick of it! How annoying! Qi Qiqi scratched her head again. She only stopped after her hair was a mess.
It’s all that Ye Zhen’s fault! Qi Qiqi gave Ye Zhen a vicious look.
“Palace Master, you…”
“It’s all your fault!” Qi Qiqi already didn’t care about the “the bearing befitting of a Palace Master”.
To hell with “the bearing befitting of a Palace Master”.
“My fault…” Ye Zhen apparently didn’t know how to react.
Qi Qiqi put a hand of her hips and pointed pointed with the other at Ye Zhen and said indignantly: “Ye Zhen, you said I didn’t trust you, right?! To be honest, I really don’t trust you! However, you’re also at fault! You see, you often look like a piece of wood, not saying a word. Your face always looks so expressionless. People never know what you are thinking. And you still ask people to believe in you? Do you think that you’re some noble character? Guess what, you’re not!”
Qi Qiqi dumped one complaint after another on Ye Zhen. As if a fed up child, she didn’t conceal her feelings. She had no trace of the demeanor befitting of a Palace Master.
But Qi Qiqi couldn’t care less! She must give him a good scolding today, “What’s with that expression? Are you surprised? What’s so surprising? Let me tell you, I’ve discovered a long time ago that you’re out of sorts! I also suspect that you’re the one who murdered Qin Chen, to use this as an excuse to force me to abdicate, or to drag my name through the mud!”
Unwittingly, her face was red from the scolding. When she spoke emotionally, she even stamped her feet, as if the floor was Ye Zhen.
Ye Zhen opened his mouth to say something, but Qi Qiqi spoke first: “I’m not done with you yet! I not only suspect that you’re the real culprit behind Qin Chen’s death, but also suspect that you played a part in the Young Ancestor’s incident in order to eliminate all obstacles hindering you from dealing with me!”
Qi Qiqi did indeed had her suspicions, but she had no evidence.
“Okay, I’m finished.” She took several deep breaths to pacify her chest moving violently up and down.
At this time, she just felt carefree.
Qi Qiqi recalled Xue Qilin whom she labeled as a blabbermouth – no wonder that scoundrel scolds people whenever she feels like it!
Ye Zhen apparently steel hasn’t recovered from the shock. He stared blankly at Qi Qiqi and opened his mouth, yet no words came out.
“What’s the matter? Cat swallowed your tongue…”
“… Although there are many disagreements between you and I, but I would never do something to harm the Merak Palace. I have never though about harming you, Little Qi…”
Qi Qiqi was stunned when she heard Ye Zhen call her “Little Qi”.
“… I remember that you used to have such a temper. If you had something to say, you would say it directly, instead of beating around the bush like you do now.” Ye Zhen uttered with a sigh.
Qi Qiqi recalled that Ye Zhen watched her grow up. Before she became the Palace Master, he used to call her Little Qi.
When did I forget it? Qi Qiqi didn’t know.
When did I begin to doubt the other party? Qi Qiqi didn’t know.
Ye Zhen shook his head in relief, and then said with a wry smile: “I’m someone who doesn’t know how to express myself, so it’s not surprising that you don’t trust me. I just didn’t expect you to think of me so badly.”
Qi Qiqi stared blankly for a while, but then immediately curled her lips, “You don’t trust me either, right?”
“I…” Ye Zhen said a word, but then shook his head and uttered bitterly: “Indeed.”
Ye Zhen was silent for a moment, and then continued: “Before I knew it, I started doubting you.”
For some reason, Qi Qiqi understood what he meant.
When two people are always at odds, a crack will gradually form, and trust will be broken, is that it? Qi Qiqi mused.
“… The Young Ancestor must be rescued.” Ye Zhen said suddenly, putting on that deadpan expression again.
“I know that, but are you willing to take action?”
“It’s not that I’m not willing, it’s just that I’m apprehensive of the one who murdered Qin Chen.”
“Do you really suspect Senior Sister Ting?” Qi Qiqi frowned.
Not giving a hoot, Ye Zhen responded in a natural manner: “I’m not familiar with her, so it’s normal for me to suspect her, just as you suspected me.”
“…So, have you ever suspected me?”
“At that time, it was for the sake of the Merak Palace’s overall strength that I protected Qin Chen. I know that you were very dissatisfied with this. As such…”
“I won’t engage in these intrigues. Beside, Senior Sister Ting and I are as close as real sisters! I won’t harm her!” Perhaps Ye Zhen has stepped on her toes, but Qi Qiqi stated in an unhappy and solemn tone.
Ye Zhen remained silent, and so Qi Qiqi spoke unhappily: “So, our biggest problem now is that we don’t trust each other.”
“Yes, and then there’s Qin Chen’s death, which has restricted our actions.”
“… Then, we save the Young Ancestor?”
“Of course we do.”
“If there’s a way, then spill it out!” Looking at the leisurely and complacent Ye Zhen, Qi Qiqi felt a little impatient.
“It depends on whether you are willing to trust me and put your life in my hands, Palace Master.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can go out to save the Young Ancestor, but you have to come with me, Palace Master. Just you and me, no one else.”
Qi Qiqi frowned. Ye Zhen is trying to find out whether I’m willing to believe in him.
After all, once they left the palace together, even if something happened to her, Ye Zhen could shift the blame onto another. He could say that the Heavenly Sword Gate was responsible for her death.
On the other hand, for me to go out with him, he wants to have peace of mind.
Otherwise, once he leaves the Merak Palace, Liu Chengzong and Yang Yuening will not be enough to contend against Xia Xue and myself. He also admitted that he suspects Li Wanting, so he naturally would think that she might return to the Merak Palace at any time if he gave her the opportunity, or that she’s in the Merak Palace all along, just that I’m hiding her.
…Being this the case, he doesn’t dare to leave the palace because Qin Chen’s death has not been unraveled yet. However…
Can he really be trusted? But if I don’t trust him, then he won’t go out, and I’m afraid that the Young Ancestor… Qi Qiqi sighed again.
As things stand now, do I still have a choice? More importantly, she inexplicably wanted to save Xue Qilin. She didn’t know why, she just thought that way, “All right, I agree.”
Ye Zhen showed a rare expression of gratification, and then said lightly: “We shouldn’t dally. Let’s head out now.”
“Make a mystery of something… If we were to go missing at the same time, what do you think the culprit behind Qin Chen’s murder would do?”
Qi Qiqi pondered for a moment, and then responded with uncertainty: “He wouldn’t dare to act rashly.”
“You hit the nail on the head.” The corners of Ye Zhen’s mouth rose slightly, as if everything was under control.