It was only then that everyone recalled the strange reaction of that certain disciple.
The pale sweaty face was so agitated that even Liang Zheng assumed that Moyun Sect had met with some kind of calamity.
It stands to reason that practitioners were pure and indifferent and they were naturally much calmer than ordinary people when they encountered troubles.
Even if he didn’t participate in the battle on Jianghu, he would already be used to seeing sword wounds and shouldn’t be so concerned about a mere corpse.
Even Liang Zheng, who was a physician, only had a tight expression at first sight and didn’t appear as perplexed as that person.
“That should be Guo Qi from Tianxiang Peak,” Su Yanjun thought for a while and said, “I saw him once at the Sword Debate Convention last year.”
Su Yanjun had a strong memory.
Whether it be some classics of Immortal cultivation or the martial arts of Jianghu, he could easily recall, not to mention a mere disciple of the sect.
There were many disciples of Moyun Mountain, but Su Yanjun can basically remember them as long as he had seen them even if only once.
“It’s him, Guo Qi is now studying medicine at Moyun Medicine Hall, and he is my apprentice.” Liang Zheng said in a hoarse voice, “I’m afraid he knows something.
Go and ask him.”
A young disciple of the medicinal hall ran out, and soon came back to report, “Senior Brother Guo is not in the medicine hall.
I also sent a word to the mountain gatekeepers, and they all said that they had not seen him.”
At this time, all the Yamen runners dispatched on afternoon duty had returned.
They had gone door-to-door to ask questions, but still none of the families had lost a child.
Gu Mingshun also said that the population of Yiyun Town was not too large.
The government was clean and honest, and there were no major conflicts between them and the common people.
If a family truly loses a child, they will definitely seek help.
But in recent months, no such thing had occurred.
Mu Xiyun sighed and suggested to Su Yanjun, “Senior brother, why don’t we go to the place where the body was found again, maybe we’ll discover something else.”
Su Yanjun nodded.
Although this junior brother was relatively young, when he observed him today, there was something unexplainable from the other party.
It was not the sense of silence where he had nothing to say, nor was it a silence where he seemed indifferent to the things around him, but it was like a traveler standing on the edge of the long river of worldly affairs, watching it flow by and understanding its depthness.
This young man had a sense of perceptiveness beyond his age, which was a bit out of tune with his youthful appearance.
But when you see his calm eyes, you feel that this kind of heaviness was strangely integrated with his temperament.
Gu Mingshun immediately agreed, “I’ll take the immortals over there.” There were still patients in the medicine hall and Liang Zheng was also concerned about Guo Qi’s whereabouts, so he went back first.
Su Yanjun and Xiyun, accompanied by Gu Mingshun, went on their way out of town.
The three passed by a courtyard wall of gray tiles.
The wall was not high, and a Wutong tree can be seen in the courtyard.
Green leaves the size of a palm grew abundantly from the branches hanging outside the wall, while half of it was scorched and tangled branches.
Mu Xiyun stopped and asked suspiciously, “Is this a Shantang?” “Yes.” Gu Mingshun replied.
He followed Mu Xiyun’s gaze and looked at the dead tree, and took the initiative to explain.
“About two months ago, a fire broke out.
It is said that a child played with snow and wet his clothes, so he hung his outer robe above a charcoal fire to dry it.
Yet unexpectedly it caught fire.”
“Indeed.” Su Yanjun had also heard of this incident.
“It was also said that the fire was so severe that four children in the same room were not spared.”
A small life was lost just like that.
The fragility of life really makes people sigh.
Mu Xiyun glanced at the courtyard and saw a tall and thin man talking to an old man inside.
He didn’t know why, but the figure felt somehow very familiar to him.
His heart skipped a beat, as if something was wiggling outward, and a desire to go in and take a closer look arose spontaneously.
Su Yanjun and Gu Mingshun had already walked some distance.
Seeing that Xiyun was still standing there, they called for him aloud, “Junior Brother Mu, what’s the matter?” “Ah, nothing.” Xiyun immediately walked and caught up to them, continuing their way outside of town.
After a while, a figure flashed out of the door of the orphanage, staring at the backs of the three for a long time, seemingly pondering.
Going out of the town and up the mountain, mostly bamboo and pine trees covered the Cuiping Mountain.
Occasionally, there would also be a few camphor trees and ginkgo trees.
Because spring was warm, many shrubs sprouted under the trees.
There were also many dead branches everywhere.
It was indeed a good place for people to gather firewood.
Gu Mingshun led the two of them for about half a mile, then pointed to an empty space in the forest and said, “This is where the body was found.”
The clearing in the forest was not large.
Certain patches of weeds on the ground were crushed and there was a sharp hatchet on the edge of the clearing.
Uncle Wang might’ve panicked and ran away after noticing the dead body.
There was no blood on the grass or on the hatchet.
“After the body was discovered today, I did an autopsy and carried the body back.
There are only two constables in Yiyun Town and my master is already old.
He suffered from a cold some time ago and is currently recovering at home.” Gu Shun explained, “At the moment, I hadn’t truly investigated the situation because I sent the runners to encircle this place and not let the townspeople approach it.
If the two immortals don’t dislike it, why don’t we split up here and have a look around?”
“Alright.” Su Yanjun nodded and said, “Let’s look for it separately, everyone be careful.
If you find anything, send a signal.”
Then the three split up.
Mu Xiyun walked along the bushes to the depths of the woods, paying attention to his feet as he walked.
Inside the mountain forest in March, green grasses had already covered the soil.
Under the sunlight, the air after the rain was filled with the clear woody fragrance of camphor trees.
If such a terrifying case did not happen, it would be a good spring for children to go out for an outing.
Thinking of this, images of a group of children suddenly appeared in Mu Xiyun’s mind, those children in the orphanage who were running and holding toys made of paper, although these children in his mind were a memory of fifty years ago.
Nevertheless, the charred Wutong tree he saw just now made him feel faintly uneasy.
Before he could return to his senses, he suddenly heard a shout from Gu Mingshun, “Here! I found something!” Xiyun hurried over, so was Su Yanjun, who was in the opposite direction.
Gu Mingshun bent over and was looking at a bush.
Some bushes in the forest mountain were thorny, and when people walked by, their robes were often snagged.
He saw a small piece of cyan fabric hooked on the thorny bush, embroidered with a half huizi pattern on it.
The color and texture were very similar to the fabric of the shirt on the child corpse back in the Yamen.
The three of them straightened up and looked around.
This was already deep in the mountains.
What was a child doing here alone? Could it be that he was being chased by a wild animal?
Gu Mingshun put away the fabric, and the three looked around again, but they didn’t find any other clues, so they decided to go back to the Yamen first.
Back in the small room of the morgue, Gu Mingshun took out the cloth and compared it with the child’s clothes.
It turned out to be a piece torn from the child’s left sleeve.
Gu Mingshun pondered.
“According to the width of the snagged piece of cloth, the child must have been in a hurry.
If we assume that he was running forward at that time, then his direction should be down the mountain.”
“Then,” Su Yanjun considered, “He should have ran out of the mountain.” “But, it’s very strange.” Xiyun’s eyes were a little confused.
“What’s so strange?” “The child ran out of the mountain and fell into the clearing not too far.
If he was chased and then killed in the clearing, there must have been a lot of blood on the ground.
But we clearly didn’t see any blood a while ago.”
“But it’s impossible if the incident happened before running out of the mountain towards the clearing!” Gu Mingshun’s face turned pale at the thought of such a terrifying scene.
“It’s possible.” Xiyun pondered.
“What if the child was put into the clearing after being killed?” “But what is the purpose of this? Could it be some kind of ritual?” Su Yanjun shook his head, feeling that there was something odd about this matter.
It was already getting late and the case was still far from being solved.
The three agreed to continue investigating the next day and Su Yanjun and Mu Xiyun went back to the medicine hall together.
Liang Zheng had been busy all afternoon and the two relayed to him about the investigation that happened in the afternoon.
Liang Zheng sighed.
“Seeing the child’s face in the morning was terrifying and I lost my composure for a while.
But the deceased is dead, and I don’t have the ability to investigate the case.
Just this afternoon, I reported the situation to the head.
Being stationed in a town of common people, such a thing is inescapable.
Junior Brother Su was in charge of some mundane affairs back in Tianliang Peak and Junior Brother Mu had also went down the mountain to experience things, I ask the two of you to worked hard and stay for a few more days to assist the Yamen.”
“Senior martial brother, you’re too modest,” Su Yanjun said with a smile.
“Since the senior brother said so, we should stay for two more days to contribute.
Have you found senior brother Guo yet?”
“Not yet, I have sent a letter back to the mountain, asking whoever sees him must bring him to the medicine hall first.”
After dinner, Su Yanjun and Liang Zheng played chess, but Xiyun kept thinking about the incident in Shantang and the back of that familiar figure.
He sat and watched for a while, yet his heart was faintly anxious.
He simply stood up, excused himself saying that he wanted to go out for a breath of air, and then left the medicine hall.
On a spring evening, the wind was still cool, which relieved indoor stuffiness.
A little bit of dim yellowed warm light can be seen in the windows of every household.
People who come home late were in a hurry, eager to find their own places.
Mu Xiyun walked slowly towards the Shantang, the wind blew up his large disciple uniform and his silhouette appeared lonely in the night.
There were only a few old people living in Shantang now.
The lights were out, and the doorman, who didn’t know if he was going to drink or gamble first, had disappeared.
Mu Xiyun gently pushed the gate of Shantang and it made a slight squeak.
After hesitating for a moment, he jumped silently and landed firmly in the courtyard.
This Shantang in Yiyun Town was large, with two rows of bungalows housing more than 20 elderly and children.
The top room that caught fire had its half structure collapsed.
The Wutong tree near it was half charred.
The pale moonlight casted shadows from the charred branches on the blackened walls, looking like an outstretched arm of an evil spirit.
A yellow kitten with black spots squatted by the wall, watching Mu Xiyun with round eyes as he was slowly walking forward.
Mu Xiyun walked into the pile of debris.
Presumably, because it was in such dire financial state, that the burnt house had not yet been cleaned up.
The burning carbon stove was crushed under the collapsed bricks and tiles, and faint four notable burn marks were next to it.
Xiyun moved two steps forward and was about to take a closer look when the kitten squatting down on the wall, suddenly meowed.
He abruptly drew out its sword and looked around, yet he didn’t find nor noticed anything.
He closed his eyes and calmed down, returning his sword to its sheath.
Yet a strange feeling suddenly rose up, as if a string in his heart had been plucked fiercely, and his heartbeat accelerated.
Before he could tell what that feeling was, he twisted his body abruptly and took a half-step back.
Sure enough, a palm strike came just missing the tip of his nose coming from above and it was immediately followed by another.
Mu Xiyun greeted it this time with his own and the two of them had exchanged a dozen moves.
However they were very silent and did not alarm anyone inside.
The visitor’s face was covered with a cloth, but his eyes were surprisingly bright.
The two of them tacitly did not move around and only used their hands to fight in the narrow space.
After a few moves, the masked man suddenly approached and seemed to want to collide his head with his.
Mu Xiyun took a step back, but was tripped by an overturned chair.
The opponent immediately grabbed his right wrist to steady him.
He was about to fight back, but the masked man suddenly made a “shush” sign.
A sound of a door opening came from the gate of the courtyard. The middle-aged doorman hummed a little song drunkenly, pushed the door open and approached the courtyard.
Both of them quieted down, listening to the man closing the door, pouring water to wash his face, walking into his room, and snoring after.
It was only then that Mu Xiyun realized that while one of his wrists was being held, the other was already twisted behind him.
He was in a posture where he was almost being hugged by the stranger and the other person’s eyes were even staring heavily at him.
He blushed inexplicably and kicked the masked stranger.
The masked man seemed to chuckle lightly and raised his leg to block the kick.
His hands clenched tightly and whispered in Xiyun’s ear, “Stop hitting, this place is weird.”
The hot breath of air lingered in his ears making the tips of Xiyun’s ears turn red.
He forcibly broke free from his bind and immediately drew out his sword.
The man retreated three steps in a flash.
The sword’s edge caught the masked man’s sleeve and was cut into a large slit.
The masked man was stunned, but did not move anymore, letting Xiyun’s sword to eventually rest on his neck.
“Who are you?” Xiyun asked in a low voice.
The man raised his hand and gently pushed the blade away, and said softly, “I am not your enemy.
Look,” he pointed at the pit, “Don’t you find these four marks strange?”
Xiyun doesn’t know why, but his intuition tells him that the other party was not malicious.
On the contrary, there was a trace of… closeness.
This feeling made him quite embarrassed, so he had no choice but to turn his eyes away and look at the dirt pit.
When he entered the house just now, he could only judge that the four children were burned to death near the stove and that it would definitely leave some traces.
Yet looking closely now, the four traces were actually similar in color and very uniform.
“It’s really weird,” he thought.
“The fire started from the charcoal stove by the wall, therefore there would undeniably be smoke.
These few children will inevitably cough and choke on it no matter how fast asleep they are.
How can they still fall asleep neatly? Could it be that the children were comatose or dead at that time? Even if they were already comatose and the fire started to burn from one side of the wall, these four traces should not be so even.
“Indeed,” the masked man said, “but the incident happened two months ago, and nobody cares about some few orphans.
It is estimated that the Yamen just went through the motions and left it afterwards.
Now that their bodies have been burnt to ashes, I am afraid that it will be impossible to re-examine it.
“But what’s the point of killing a few orphans?”
“Who knows?” The masked man gave him a deep look and said, “People are unpredictable.
Some things in this world, even if you see them with your own eyes, are not necessarily the truth.”
“What do you mean?” Xiyun blurted out, “Who the hell are you?”
The masked man didn’t answer and took a few steps back out of the burnt and dilapidated room.
As soon as he jumped up to the wall, he turned his head and said softly.
“You are busy.
I will help you keep a look out of this place.” After speaking, he disappeared.
Zhang Jinjin was sitting at the table, examining a stack of scripts he bought from the town when the door suddenly opened.
A masked man in black ripped off the cloth on his face, holding his sleeves that were half torn open, and asked leisurely, “Profiteer, up for doing medicinal business in town?”
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