Senior Liu looked helpless. “Fine, it doesn’t count then. Want to compete again?”
Master chuckled and said, “Let’s rest a little. We can talk about it again after a little rest. Oh right, you’ve yet to tell me about what happened on your trip to Upper Plain Mountain.”
Though Master seemed to have naturally shifted the topic of conversation, for some reason, Xiaodong felt that Master was afraid that he would lose again, and to save face, he was unwilling to compete once more.
Xiaodong was not the only one who noticed this. Senior Liu had noticed it as well. Even Eldest Senior Brother turned his head to the side. Xiaodong wondered if he was afraid that Master would notice him suppressing his laughter.
Senior Liu did not elaborate much and answered briefly, “I wasn’t able to climb the mountain. Though it’s been many years since the array was established, no one has been able to break through it yet.”
“Next time I shall accompany you there. Who knows? I might be capable of climbing it.”
Why had Xiaodong never noticed that Master was such a boastful person?
Though, Xiaodong had previously not paid any attention to how Master was like. After all, he was depressed all day long back then, and he could even stare at the stream next to the bridge for over half a day. He did not concern himself with the people or matters of Returnflow Mountain at all.
“That youngest disciple of yours…”
The moment he heard that he was brought up, Xiaodong instantly paid attention. Though he felt a little uneasy, he wanted to hear what Senior Liu was about to say.
He knew that he had poor aptitude, and that Senior Liu was someone who did not consider feelings of others when he spoke, so his next words might sound nasty.
“Where is he from?”
Xiaodong was momentarily stunned. He was waiting for Senior Liu to pass some sort of judgment, and hadn’t expected that Senior Liu would simply ask such a question.
“He’s Yun Cong’s nephew, you’ve met him before. There’s no longer anyone in the Yun household, so he had no choice but to entrust the child to me.”
“He’s from the Yun household? He doesn’t look like it.”
Xiaodong felt a little depressed.
He indeed did not resemble his uncle. He once heard that his uncle was very famous when he was young. After that, because he received a grave injury, which turned into a chronic condition, he began to live in seclusion with Xiaodong. From the way Senior Liu spoke, it could be seen that others from the Yun household were all very talented as well, while Xiaodong alone was mediocre. His uncle never had any high expectations of him, and right before he passed away, he simply wished that Xiaodong could live a long and peaceful life.
In his uncle’s heart, he must have been very disappointed, right?
If only he could be a little more talented, Xiaodong thought. He didn’t desire much. All he wanted was to be a little smarter than he was now. That way, his uncle would definitely feel more reassured when he passed away, and Master and his senior siblings would not have to be dragged down that much either.
“That child is not suitable for learning the way of the sword. I’m afraid it would just be a waste of his efforts if he stays at your place. Why don’t I go around and find him somewhere else to live?”
Xiaodong paled instantly from shock.
Find him somewhere else to live?
Then, did that mean, he wanted to send him away? Could he not stay on Returnflow Mountain?
Xiaodong was at a loss.
Where else could he go if he left Returnflow Mountain? Even if Master could find him a new place to take him in, he didn’t want to leave.
If he had heard such words a month ago, he might have felt indifferent. In any case, everywhere would feel the same without his uncle.
However, it was different now.
Now, he didn’t want to leave. He couldn’t bear to leave Master and his senior siblings. He couldn’t bear to leave Returnflow Mountain. He couldn’t bear to leave the room that he had gotten used to living in. He couldn’t bear to leave the piece of wood which he hugged every night for warmth, the one that Eldest Senior Brother had given him.
However, Master kept quiet. It seemed as if he had really taken Senior Liu’s words seriously.
This made Xiaodong even more anxious.
Master couldn’t really be thinking of sending him away, right?
Even after he woke up, Xiaodong felt dispirited.
At dusk of that day, Master and Senior Liu returned from Sword Conferring Peak.
Two outer sect disciples had been on the look out as they guarded the entrance. They reported it the their figures were sighted. Senior Brother Jiang brought Xiaodong and the rest, while the three disciples that Senior Liu brought along accompanied them as they welcomed the trio back.
Master waved his hand with a smile, signalling for them to enter the residence.
“Causing such a huge commotion does make me feel uncomfortable.”
Xiaodong followed behind Senior Master Jiang. He was acting a little cowardly, not daring to step to the front.
He was afraid.
He was afraid to see Master’s and Senior Liu’s expressions, afraid of seeing their scrutinizing gazes again.
He was afraid of really hearing Master announce that he would be sent away.
Xiaodong’s eyes shifted past Master and Senior Liu, landing on Eldest Senior Brother.
Eldest Senior Brother was behind the two seniors, and he quietly walked over. He did not look overly tired, nor did he look the slightest bit haughty or content.
When Xiaodong looked at him, he looked back at Xiaodong as well.
The moment their eyes met, Xiaodong stiffened. He felt guilty as if he had been caught peeking.
Did Eldest Senior Brother know that he could possibly be sent away?
However, he could not get any clues from Eldest Senior Brother’s face. All he could see were the wrinkles and bits of dirt on Eldest Senior Brother’s blue cloak.
Eldest Senior Brother nodded in his direction, his face showed a familiar smile that comforted Xiaodong a little.
After Master, Senior Liu and Eldest Senior Brother washed up and changed their clothes, they came out to talk to the crowd. Master asked about what everyone had done in the past two days, and the status of the new year preparations. Senior Brother Jiang answered fluently. They did not head out for too long anyway, and the new year preparations had been close to completion for a while.
“There was one incident though.” After Senior Brother Jiang finished with his status report, he hesitated for a moment. In the end, he still informed Master of the truth. “The whereabouts of an outer sect disciple is unknown. It’s been several days, but everyone has said that they haven’t seen him. This disciple had people search for him as well, but to no avail.”
Master asked, “Who?”
“It’s Chu Er.”
Master did not question any further and simply said, “We can talk about this later.”
Xiaodong was not that familiar with the outer sect disciples. For one, their residences were not here but a little further away. They usually did not practice martial arts together either. Secondly, those outer sect disciples never had any free time. They were assigned many tasks that required manual labor.
Eldest Senior Brother’s brows were slightly raised. He lifted his head up and glanced at Jiang Fan. Right after, he glanced at Chen Jingzhi.
If it was someone else, Mo Chen wouldn’t have been this concerned. However, this involved that particular Chu Er.
Ever since Junior Brother Chen was injured, Mo Chen felt that Chu Er was definitely related to that incident. Mo Chen had wanted to summon him for interrogation, but he had already gone missing then. Initially, Mo Chen thought that he was hiding because he felt guilty about something. However, even after so many days, he still couldn’t be found. He must have long left the mountain.
Did he really have to leave Returnflow Mountain because of this incident?
Just what kind of mistake did Chu Er make? Was Junior Brother Chen aware?
Chen Jingzhi was kept his head lowered, his eyelids drooping. When he heard the name ‘Chu Er’, he did not make any movements, as though he was not concerned with this person at all.
That was even more strange.
Chu Er clearly came out from Junior Brother Chen’s room the other day. Even if the two of them did not have a close relationship, at the very least they still knew each other. After hearing that a person he knew was missing, Junior Brother Chen lacked the slightest reaction. This was clearly strange. Junior Brother Chen’s behaviour was too unnatural.
After leaving Master’s residence, Mo Chen asked Jiang Fan about this matter.
“Who was living with with Chu Er? Did he mention anything?”
“I’ve already asked Lin, who lived with him, about this matter. Chu Er’s belongings are still there. Even the silvers that he had saved up were left behind. It did not seem like he had secretly fled the mountain, though it’s indeed been several days since he last showed himself. Lin and the rest are worried as well. They’re afraid that he might have fallen down the mountain cliff due to a misstep amidst the heavy snow. Otherwise, with his martial prowess and with how cold it is currently, he basically wouldn’t be able to survive on his own.”
“Then, are there any extra things among his belongings, or anything missing?”
Jiang Fan shook his head.
In his heart, he actually agreed with the guesses made by Lin and the rest.
There was a huge possibility that Chu Er met with some kind of accident during the sudden heavy snowfall the other day. The terrains of Returnflow Mountain were dangerous. Putting aside the ones at the side, the mountain had several cliffs. The moment one were to slip and fall, one would truly disappear without a trace. With such terrains and during such a season, how were they going to conduct a search? It would be impossible to even find a corpse. They would have to wait till the ice melted and the flowers bloomed before they could attempt a search, but by then, the search would be meaningless.
“Have everyone continue to stay attentive. Do not be careless.”
His guesses might not be wrong, as there were indeed such cases on the mountain before. Though, the people involved then were not from their sect, but rather hunters living on the mountain. Because they did not have food at home, they risked the heavy snow and headed out to hunt some wild game. In the end, they misstepped and died falling off the cliff. They were only found the next year when the ice and snow melted.
However, Mo Chen felt that the situation was not as simple as it seemed.
Junior Brother Chen usually did not have contact with other people. Just why did Chu Er look for him that day? When Mo Chen wanted to ask Chu Er about it, he had already disappeared. Could all these incidents be purely coincidental?
After saying that, Jiang Fan said with a smile, “Eldest Senior Brother, go look for Little Junior Brother too. During the two days you weren’t here, he was unfocused during meals. Everyday, from morning till night, he would glance in the direction of Sword Conferring Peak. He was really eager to see you all return. He was even afraid that you and Master would feel cold and get hungry. Though, now that you’ve returned, for some reason he didn’t sprint over to you. Now that’s rather strange.”
Mo Chen missed Little Junior Brother as well. He did not have to worry about the others in the sect except for Little Junior Brother. Because of his young age and weak constitution, Mo Chen could not help but feel worried.
“Then I shall go take a look at him.”
Xiaodong actually had many things to say to Eldest Senior Brother.
He did not know if the situations that he saw in his dreams were real. He wanted to praise Eldest Senior Brother’ great sword techniques. He wanted to know if Master really had lost to Senior Liu but shamelessly did not want to admit defeat.
He also wanted to ask… if Eldest Senior Brother knew if Master had any plans to send him off.
However, the more he thought about it, the more cowardly he felt. He was afraid that the answer he received would be the worst one.
Mo Chen saw Little Junior Brother standing next to the bridge from a distance. Amidst the snow-covered ground, he was covered in a thick coat from top to bottom. He looked just like a fat cotton ball.
As he stepped across the accumulated snow, his every step let out a crisp, creaky noise. Xiaodong could hear someone coming from afar. The footsteps were both light and heavy, and both quick and slow. He recognized who the person was in an instant.
“Eldest Senior Brother.”
“The weather is so cold, why are you daydreaming out here? Come, let’s talk in the room.”
After entering the room, before letting Xiaodong speak, Eldest Senior Brother pulled something out from his sleeve. “This is your gift.”
“This is… for me?” Xiaodong raised his head, a little startled.
Xiaodong was holding a little monkey made of translucent quartz. “There are rocks not made of ice and snow on Sword Conferring Peak. I carved this out with a small dagger, but I didn’t so well. You can have it.”