Records of the Dragon Follower
First Published on Chaleuria
Chapter 36: Departure
Xiaodong followed behind Eldest Senior Brother. Eldest Senior Brother was tall and had long legs, so his steps were naturally bigger than Xiaodong’s. However, today his pace was slower and Xiaodong behind him didn’t struggle to keep up at all.
“Rest well for today. Right now, it’s not just hectic outside the mountain, I’m afraid intruders might still be on the mountain. Master has ordered that no one is to enter or leave. One, he is afraid that our sect members will be attacked again, and two, he is afraid more intruders will blend in.”
Xiaodong nodded with a blank look, not considering how Eldest Senior Brother would even see him nodding when he was walking behind.
Eldest Senior Brother’s apartment was indeed the widest on the mountain, but it was quite empty. With just a glance, it could be seen that the owner did not stay in the room often. Mo Chen poured out a pill from a porcelain bottle and gave it to Xiaodong. Xiaodong tasted a tint of spiciness from the pill, and after swallowing it, he felt a bundle of hot air slowly spreading out in his stomach. His stiff-cold arms and legs slowly began to tingle at this moment.
“Don’t worry. Senior Brother shall help look for that pendant of yours too. We will find it soon enough.”
He thought to himself, could Eldest Senior Brother actually be thinking that he was the disobedient sort? The sort of child that would only think about his own pendant even when such a huge commotion, involving deaths, had occurred on the mountain.
He had worn that pendant for a very long time and had gotten used to the sensation. Now that it was lost, not only on his neck, he felt his heart was a little empty too.
“Get some rest. You haven’t slept for a night.”
“Eldest Senior Brother, are you not going to sleep too?”
Mo Chen stroked his head. “Stop pouting already, hurry and lie down.”
Ever since he was young, Xiaodong never had a fixed place to stay in. From tall beds to soft pillows, he had slept in all sorts of places. He would not even mind sleeping next to a fireplace inside an abandoned temple in the wild.
However, he was now about to sleep on his Eldest Senior Brother’s bed, with his head lying on his Eldest Senior Brother’s pillow, covered by his Eldest Senior Brother’s blanket.
Eldest Senior Brother’s blanket and pillow had the same scent as his body. It was very fresh and clean, carrying the fragrance of honey locust.
Xiaodong suddenly recalled how dirty he was after bustling about the entire night. Though the bloodstained outer garment had already been taken off, his undergarment was not exactly clean either. His hands and legs were dirty, and his hair and face were dirty too.
However, Mo Chen simply stood next to the bed, covered him properly with the blanket, and softly spoke, “Sleep well.”
Xiaodong looked at Eldest Senior Brother. For some reason, his voice seemed to carry a sort of power that could prevent anyone from rejecting him.
Xiaodong obediently closed his eyes.
Mo Chen looked after him for a short while. After ascertaining that Xiaodong had gradually fallen into deep sleep, he walked out of the room and gently closed the door with the back of his hands.
Xiaodong felt like he could faintly hear people conversing.
The voices sounded like they were from very far away, making the words fuzzy and hard to discern.
When Xiaodong recognized that one of it was Eldest Senior Brother’s voice, the words instantly turned clearer.
Sometimes, he was unable to discern reality from a dream, and he was unsure if everything in his dream had actually happened. He found this secret of his incredible yet perplexing at first, but now, he was gradually feeling a little afraid. He did not know who he could turn to about this ability of his. When his uncle was still around, he had wanted to speak to him about it. However, seeing his uncle’s injuries slowly worsening, he was unwilling to make his uncle worry about his own problems. So, he endured, bottling it all to himself.
After that, his uncle was gone. His relationship with Master and his senior siblings were not that close either, and so there wasn’t anyone he could speak to.
Xiaodong saw Master, Eldest Senior Brother and Senior Brother Jiang together. Senior Sister Linglong and Fourth Senior Brother were not present.
Earlier, Eldest Senior Brother was in a hurry and had only managed to swap out his bloodstained outer garment. His shoes and headgear were still the same. Xiaodong could recognize that those shoes were the ones he wore last night while he was carrying Xiaodong on his back. When he sent Xiaodong to his room to rest, he had also worn this exact pair.
Li Fulin’s face had always been all smiles, wearing a kind-hearted appearance. Xiaodong had never known how Master would look with a serious expression.
However, he now knew.
Before coming to Returnflow Mountain, his uncle had mentioned that Spiritual Master Li was not an ordinary person. Though his name was not renown, his capabilities were genuine and his character definitely went without saying. Otherwise, his uncle would not have chosen Master to entrust him to.
In the past, Xiaodong had never minded these details. The moment he arrived, Master took pity on him and had always been kind towards him. Not to mention, Xiaodong spent most of his time in a daze after arriving on the mountain, caring about nothing else in the world.
Master was seated. The chair clearly was not that tall, but with it he exuded a presence which people couldn’t help but but to look up to, a presence in front of which people did not dare to even take a deep breath.
This time, he could clearly hear Master’s voice. “In these few years, I learnt to have compassion after I began to take in disciples, unlike the me of the past. Probably because of that, people are beginning to think that Returnflow Mountain is an easy target to bully. This incident is not coincidental. The perpetrators must have secretly plotted this for a very long time, maybe even more than a year or two. The incident last night is merely the beginning. Since they’re targeting Returnflow Mountain, they must have other, future plans.”
Eldest Senior Brother signalled Senior Brother Jiang to take out a box. When the box was opened, the waist plates of outer sect disciples were revealed.
“Master is right. Junior Brother Jiang and I investigated this throughout the night. These few people all carried ill intentions, and one of them had even been in the sect for over ten years.”
Xiaodong was stunned.
People that had been in the sect for ten years were actually planted here by the enemies? Of course, being reined into the enemy camp after entering the sect was a possibility as well. Either way, this matter was definitely difficult for Master to handle. Even if they were not direct disciples, they were still people belonging to Returnflow Mountain who had to call him Master. In the end, they were just treacherous wolf-hearted traitors. Wasn’t that akin to stabbing Master in the heart with a knife?
Xiaodong had also figured out that outsiders would not be able to enter the mountain without a waist plate, and that a traitor was definitely involved in order to let them in.
Since it was something that even Xiaodong could think of, Li Fulin would naturally be able to think of that too. Even after seeing those few waist plates, Master’s face did not even twitch.
Senior Sister Linglong called out from outside, “Master.”
Li Fulin replied, “Come in.”
Senior Sister Linglong had always been rash. This time, she was in much more of a rush when she entered the room and had almost tripped over the threshold.
“Master, Fourth Junior Brother isn’t in his room. Everyone else said they didn’t see him either. This is the only thing I found.”
Senior Sister Linglong was holding an envelope in her hand. She anxiously wanted to give it to Master. On the envelope, it was written that it should be personally read by Master, so she did not dare to open it herself.
The envelope was unopened, but this was definitely not a small matter. Linglong might not have taken a long time to get here, but all sorts of crazy thoughts had already tumbled about in her mind.
Linglong had never especially liked Chen Jingzhi.
She had heard of Chen Jingzhi’s family circumstances and had always sympathized with this Junior Brother of hers. Though Linglong did not even know who her actual parents were and was raised by Master since young, Master had always treated his disciples as if they were his children. Other people’s parents should be more or less the same, she believed. Yet, Junior Brother Chen had encountered so many obstacles. His mother died an unwilling death and he himself was this close to being killed by his new stepmother. After narrowly avoiding many deaths, he managed to escape. His arrival at Returnflow Mountain was not by choice, rather, it was because he no longer had a place in the Chen Family.
However, Junior Brother Chen constantly kept his thoughts to himself and seldom spoke. No matter how one saw him, he felt very ominous. Even if Linglong wanted to become a role model-like senior sister, she was unable to get close to him at all. His pair of black eyes always hid countless thoughts, and gradually, even Linglong began to feel uneasy upon seeing him.
After that, Junior Brother Yun came. He was even more tender and frail. Ever since his uncle’s death, he looked like he was in a constant daze. He would eat whatever he was given, and if no one were to speak to him, he would sit alone, unmoving, in his room. Linglong’s heart ached seeing him like that, otherwise, she would not have pulled him down the mountain to relax. She never expected that it would be detrimental to him instead, causing him to fall incredibly ill. Fortunately Eldest Senior Brother came back just in time, and Little Junior Brother could finally escape danger and get better.
Humans hated to be compared against one another, but if the two had to be compared, then naturally, she felt that she was treating Junior Brother Yun more intimately.
However, she never expected that Junior Brother Chen would choose to leave behind a letter and depart.
Had Returnflow Mountain ever let him down? Was he in cahoot with those people last night? Even if he was not, the sect was currently facing troubling times. This was the moment where the disciples of the sect should unite and work together, yet he actually left without saying a single word. Master took him in when he had nowhere else to go. Even if this act of kindness could not be said to be giving him a new lease of life, the sect had done nothing to let him down. How could he just leave like that?
When the envelope was handed over to Li Fulin, Xiaodong was stunned by Fourth Junior Brother’s decision to leave behind a letter and depart, and he did not think about stepping forward to sneak a peek.
Li Fulin opened up the envelope and unfolded the letter within. He glanced through the letter, looking as if he did not care about the contents written inside. Then, he placed it down next to him. “I understand, no need to care about him.”
Master’s reaction made the rest feel as if there was a bottomless pit in their hearts.
Chen Jingzhi actually left behind a letter and departed. A development like this could be said to be no different from betraying the sect. How could a huge crime like that be disregarded? Even if no one was to be sent to retrieve him so that he could be held accountable, at the very least, there was a need to investigate if he was related to the incident last night, right? When it came to people that practiced the Dao, a teacher’s kindness was larger than the sky. Acts like betraying Master could not be accepted in this world, and killing him for said betrayal would not be a wrongful punishment either.
Eldest Senior Brother asked, “Master, shall I send people to look for him?”
“We can speak of his matters in the future.” Li Fulin looked as if he was unfazed by this issue, not looking angered at all. It was as if he had long sensed that this would happen. “If his heart is not here, then there’s no point in keeping him here. He doesn’t have the guts to betray the sect anyway.”
Li Fulin looked at the three disciples before him. These three children were the ones he raised since they were young, and his relationship with them was not just merely imparting the knowledge of the Dao. In the past, he thought that they were too young, and there were many things that only he could consider on his own. However, it was different now. His disciples could now shoulder some responsibilities. His eldest disciple especially was calm and collected, possessing firm determination. Of course, there was no need to bring up his talent either. Even if in the worst case scenario where Li Fulin was gone, Mo Chen was capable enough to shoulder the heavy responsibility of being the Sect Master of Returnflow Mountain.
“There are a few things that your master has never brought up. However, now that outsiders are plotting against us, it’s about time I let you all know of these matters.”
When he said these words, not only were Mo Chen and the rest startled, even Xiaodong raised his ears, listening attentively with them.
“The name of Returnflow Mountain is not renown, and no one has brought up this issue in these few years either. You lot grew up on this mountain, so there’s definitely many things that you all don’t understand. Your master recalls Linglong being trapped in the maze formation outside the mountain for a day and being unable to leave. When you got back, you even threw a tantrum, complaining why the maze formation was set up in such a confusing manner.”
Jiang Fan and Linglong exchanged glances. All of them actually had this thought before. They did not know when they were young, but now that they had gotten older and had gone out of the mountain before, they found out that their great mountain-protecting array was probably the only one in the world. It was something to be proud of, so it was natural that they would have questions about it. Just which ancestor of Returnflow Mountain had the capabilities to set up a great mountain-protecting array like this? Someone with such capabilities could not possibly be a no-name among Dao practitioner. Why had they yet to hear of his name? Since the ancestor had such astonishing techniques, able to protect the sect with such a strong maze formation, why had the talents of Returnflow Mountain diminished to such an extent?
They also could not figure out who the nameless tombs at the back of the mountain belonged to.
Ever since last night, the incidents that happened one after another had shocked them to their cores. Why had the tombs at the back of the mountain attracted the intruders? Why was there also someone disguising herself as Lin Yan to kill Little Junior Brother? There were truly too many mysteries that needed to be solved.