Back in the Yun Zou Sect, Nian Hong Fang was pacing up and down. The more days went by, the more nervous he got. Why hadn’t Xiao Dong and Shao Hai not come back yet? Why hadn’t they sent a message? Just what had happened to them?!
He couldn’t, no, he didn’t dare to understand. Because if he did, then the consequences of what he had done might be unimaginable. Unfortunately, he could only try to convince himself that nothing bad had happened for a while. In the end, he still had to admit the bitter reality: In his desire to make Zhi Wu return home, he had endangered the lives of two of their junior martial brothers. He hadn’t intended to do so but it had still happened. And the worst thing was that he didn’t know where the two of them had gone. So now, three of their disciples had vanished without a trace.
When the Grandelder returned that day, he found his disciple sitting by the window, looking especially desolate. He sighed and went over, lightly patting his back. “Don’t worry about him. Ma Zhi Wu is strong. He’ll be able to prevail regardless of what he got himself into.”
“Master …” Nian Hong Fang turned around, his gaze complicated. “I’m afraid … I’m afraid I did something wrong.”
The Grandelder sat down and patted his disciple’s hands. “Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad, can it? Just tell me. I’m sure we’ll find a way to deal with it.” The Grandelder wasn’t worried. What kind of thing could his head disciple do wrong? At worst, he would have spoiled a rare ingredient because he hadn’t been concentrated enough.
It was a pity but nothing too bad. Nian Hong Fang had always been sentimental. With Ma Zhi Wu gone for so long, it was a given that his thoughts would be somewhere else every now and then. Until they got any information on what had happened to Ma Zhi Wu, things would likely continue like this. His disciple just needed closure for this. Even if … even if Ma Zhi Wu didn’t come back, it would still be alright as long as he knew.
Nian Hong Fang lowered his gaze, his brows tightly furrowed. He couldn’t help but feel guilty. Even until now, he still hadn’t told his Master. But now, there was no way to keep quiet any longer. “A few weeks ago, somebody delivered a letter from Zhi Wu.”
The Grandelder’s bushy brows raised. “That … should be good?” Although he didn’t quite understand why his disciple would only say this now.
“Yes. I … I was very happy. But in the letter, Zhi Wu wrote that he wasn’t doing too well. I couldn’t be too direct but he indicated he was being held captive. I was worried so I wanted to follow the messenger back to see where he was so that … that maybe the Yun Zou Sect could do something.”
The Grandelder nodded. “But things didn’t go well?” He also knew the strengths and weaknesses of his disciple. Nian Hong Fang was an excellent alchemist. On the other hand, he wasn’t a good fighter. He was able to use his spiritual energy to fly and use some attacks but he wasn’t cut out for this kind of life. “Did that person notice you?”
Nian Hong Fang shook his head. “I also know I’m not good at that. While I followed him, I saw junior martial brother Xiao and junior martial brother Shao return. I asked them to help out and … they followed him in my stead while I returned to the sect. But up until now, they still haven’t contacted me. There’s not a word from them. I’m afraid that … they suffered the same fate as Zhi Wu.” He looked up, the worry in his gaze evident. “It’s my fault. But I don’t know what to do. The Sect Master never had anybody search for Zhi Wu. At first, he didn’t even want to believe when I said something had to have gone wrong. And even when he finally believed it, as soon as something else happened, he once again pushed the search back. Until now, nothing had happened at all! I thought that if I didn’t do anything, then nobody would ever search for him!”
The Grandelder sighed and closed his eyes. He could understand where Nian Hong Fang was coming from. Sect Master Yuchi had indeed not handled this well. On the other hand, he had hardly had another choice. Ma Zhi Wu had disappeared on the training’s mission the Sect Master had their disciples do after the accident in the Leyuan region. By then, they had already lost the larger part of their most talented disciples. If even Ma Zhi Wu couldn’t handle whatever had happened, then who could? Sending somebody after him likely would have been a suicide mission. But nobody had dared to tell Nian Hong Fang about that.
And now that they had reacquired some strength and the search had been supposed to start, they had just antagonized the Yang Huo Sect and the relationship with the Chun Feng Sect had cracked. Maybe it could even be considered a falling-out. So what were they supposed to do? The Sect Master could hardly risk sacrificing several disciples just to get one back.
The Grandelder sighed again and patted his disciple’s hands. “You did what you thought was right. Anyway, if Ma Zhi Wu wrote you a letter, it means he isn’t dead. Since he wasn’t killed and is only being held captive, there should be a reason for it. So there’s hope that even if these two were also captured, they won’t be harmed and just held captive like him. It’s not ideal but it’s not the end of the world either.”
“But what should we do?”
The Grandelder gazed out of the window. In the end, this situation was also his fault. He should have shown more support for Nian Hong Fang. Maybe then, he wouldn’t have done something in secret. If he wanted to make sure that things didn’t go further downhill, then he had to support him now.
He pulled out of his thoughts and gave his disciple a smile. “Well, first of all, we should gather everyone who is involved. You go and get that letter and I’ll ask Elder Geng, Elder Wang, and Wu Min Huan to meet. Then we can discuss our next steps.”
Nian Hong Fang got up and bowed. “Thank you, Master!”
“Mn, that’s what I should do. Now, go. We shouldn’t lose any more time.”