RMN C104 What If?

The two Elders asked the other disciples of the group a few more questions but all their answers were almost perfect. Eventually, Elder Xing just motioned for them to go. The Elders sat there in silence after the door closed.

In the end, Baili Chao sighed. “It was him.”

Elder Xing nodded. “No doubt it was him. They were … way too well prepared. The details the others mentioned? No disciple would remember that so clearly. Not if they weren’t precisely paying attention.”

“I’m just afraid we’ll never be able to prove this. And the one to be blamed …”

“Yes. Well, there is hardly anything we can do. The only thing would be to return to the array and see if we can find clues there. But it’s unlikely it will yield any results.”

Baili Chao got up and paced up and down in the room. “So we’ll just have to let this matter go? Disciples died. He shouldn’t be allowed to go scot-free after something like this.”

“But we can’t do anything just because we feel that he is the one behind this. Without a single piece of evidence and merely based on conclusions … conclusions that Mei Chao Bing had, as I’d like to point out.”

Baili Chao turned back to the table and raised his brows. “Do you want to say that you think there is a chance Mei Chao Bing could have made this up to get rid of Yang Wu Huang? For what?”

“Revenge, maybe. And it’s not that I believe that. But Yang Wu Huang is a disciple of our sect and there never was an instance where his loyalty was doubted. Elder Zuo is also a reputable Elder of our sect. With that kind of personal position and backing, Yang Wu Huang won’t be doubted for long if all that we have are some thoughts. Especially if there is a … better suspect around.”

Baili Chao sat back down and sighed. “This isn’t fair to him.”

“It isn’t. And the worst thing is that if Mei Chao Bing is right about Yang Wu Huang’s motive for doing this, then this won’t stay the only time something like this happens. Yang Wu Huang will continue to try and sabotage the mission and put the blame on Mei Chao Bing. That means not only will the likelihood of Mei Chao Bing being branded a traitor become higher, the other disciples will also be in danger.”

Baili Chao rubbed his face. This wasn’t just a problem. This was a disaster. “Is there nothing we can do?”

“Well, we could report to the Sect Master nonetheless. Maybe he’ll believe us.”

Baili Chao lowered his hands and nodded. Yes, considering the conversation he had had with Sect master Zhang before, he was sure that he would be on their side. But … “That won’t solve the problem. It’ll just put it on his shoulders. And if the Sect Master decides to call Yang Wu Huang back or anything like that just to prevent further incidents, then he would be questioned about it. If he calls Mei Chao Bing back, then everyone will assume he was the perpetrator and shun him again. This won’t work.”

“But at least nobody else would die or get hurt.”

The two Elders fell silent again. They didn’t call in any of the other groups but continued to think the matter through on their own.

Eventually, Baili Chao got up again, rubbing his forehead tiredly. “You know, that’s not a given. The only one who got results back to us was Mei Chao Bing. The others didn’t find anything. It could have been just bad luck or maybe he was right when he said that none of them are prepared for this. Anyway, I would feel better if h was out there with them. We can’t forget that there are still the demonic practitioners. And after this episode, they might start to prey on the disciples.”

Elder Xing nodded slowly. “That is also true. Then what should we do? We have to prevent Yang Wu Huang from doing anything. But the others are his followers, they will always cover for him.” He furrowed his brows and his gaze grew subtle. “Unless …”

Baili Chao turned around to him. “Unless what?”

Elder Xing motioned to the door. “What if we … found in the investigation that — as unlikely as it is — the demonic practitioners did indeed get behind the disciples somehow? What if they had somehow found out about who was part of this mission and were trying to play us by making everyone suspect each other? What if they let Mei Chao Bing find that array to place the blame on him?”

“Just like that? But then Yang Wu Huang —”

“Yes, I know. It’s not fair. Those dead disciples deserve to be given justice by punishing him. But what can we do? We don’t have evidence. We can’t change that. We can only change what might happen in the future. We can only try and save the other disciples and make sure that the wrong person won’t be blamed. That … will have to suffice.”

Baili Chao hesitated but finally nodded. “Well, I guess you’re right. I don’t like it but it’s the only way. It won’t stop him though, will it?”

“No. But that is just the beginning. With the demonic practitioners actively working against us now and this ‘proof’ in front of us in form of their dead martial brothers, it is expected that we’ll try to come up with ways to make them less vulnerable to their attacks. For example, by putting groups together or maybe changing up who is in a group with whom so that their strengths and weaknesses will be distributed more evenly.”

“Then Yang Wu Huang won’t have any people backing him anymore.”

“Well, not to that degree. We won’t be able to justify that. But there will be less of his own people and more people that will notice that there is something off if he tried something. That should make things a little safer, shouldn’t it?”

Baili Chao nodded. “Yes. In the current situation, that is probably all we can hope for.”

« ToC »

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