When the group arrived back in the town, they immediately made their way over to the two Elders.
Currently, Elder Xing and Elder Baili were sitting in the courtyard of the house Elder Xing had been given for the time being, discussing some matters that they needed to report back to the sect. When they heard somebody come over, they looked up, wondering just who it might be.
They had originally expected somebody from the village but noticing the spiritual energy accompanying their guests, they realized that those would either be people from another sect that had come over to ask some questions or some of their disciples that had already returned. The former wouldn’t be a problem but the latter definitely was.
Seeing Mei Chao Bing and his group arrive at the door, the two of them exchanged a glance, feeling that this was even worse than expected.
Considering the relationship Elder Baili had with Mei Chao Bing and Yun Bei Fen, Elder Xing was the one to turn to them and nod. “Mei Chao Bing, you’ve returned very early. What could be the matter?”
Mei Chao Bing cupped his fists and bowed before taking out the painting of the mural. “We were investigating the area that had been assigned to us, paying some more attention to places that the others had noticed before. Because of that, we happened upon something strange.”
Elder Xing furrowed his brows and took the painting, taking a closer look. “This is …?”
“There’s an area in the border region that looks somewhat like an abandoned city but with the stone structures fully preserved. Close to a well in that city, we found a structure that looked a little like a chest or bench that was empty underneath. Upon closer inspection, we found a mural on the underside. As it turned out, there was some resemblance to the symbol of the Jian Chu Sect in there. We did this painting so that the Elders could check.”
“The Jian Chu Sect’s symbol?” Elder Xing furrowed his brows. This wasn’t good news regardless of how he looked at it. “Did you find anything else?”
Mei Chao Bing shook his head. “Nothing. We do suspect that there might be more murals like this but it is difficult to say for sure. We would need to investigate some more places.”
Elder Xing looked at Elder Baili and then nodded. Indeed. Whether or not there was a relationship with the Jian Chu Sect in this, they would likely find out if they looked for more clues like this. If they found something, it was very likely that there was more to this. If they didn’t … Well, they still couldn’t deny that there was some possibility but it would at least be less likely. “Do you have any thoughts on where to look for more clues like this?” He glanced at Mei Chao Bing and the rest of the group, trying to see if they had already come to some kind of conclusion.
“We wondered if this kind of trace could be spread over several distinct marks in the border region. As I said, this one was found in something like an abandoned city. In our previous group under Gongsun Chen, we found some kind of stone desert where the array was located. Maybe there’s also one of those murals.”
“I see.” Elder Xing turned to Elder Baili again. “What do you think about this?”
“It looks important. It’s hard to say with just this one painting though. We’d need more than one. That way, we could make sure if they are deliberately targeting the Jian Chu Sect or if there is some other plan behind this.”
The Elders looked at each other for a moment longer before Elder Xing nodded again. He could imagine what Elder Baili was thinking of. There were four great sects on the righteous side. While the Teng Yong Sect was one of them, the Jian Chu Sect was another one. If there was more than one mural and one of them corresponded to the Jian Chu Sect already, then there might be others that were somehow targeted at the other three great sects, including their own Teng Yong Sect. If that was the case … They didn’t even want to think about what that would mean.
Elder Baili cleared his throat but kept quiet on what he had thought of so as to not scare the disciples. “Well, this is definitely an important piece of information. Just like with the array, this might lead to finding other important clues. We should definitely investigate this as soon as possible. How about one of us goes to see that stone desert with them? After all, the other disciples will need time to return. We could call them back with the flutes but if we do, they might panic after what happened the other time.”
Elder Xing nodded. “Then I’ll go with them. You can wait here and inform the other disciples of what has happened should they return early as well. Maybe some of them have already noticed something similar.”
Elder Baili nodded and then returned to his own house while Elder Xing got up and motioned for Mei Chao Bing to lead the way. “You and Yuan Lei have been in the area with that stone desert. Please, you go first then.”
Mei Chao Bing nodded and led the way, Yuan Lei close behind him. The other disciples fell into the places they had occupied before with Yun Bei Fen being more or less next to Mei Chao Bing, Yi Ju keeping to Yuan Lei’s side and the two martial sisters and two martial brothers each staying together while Song Mu brought up the rear.
Elder Xing raised his brows in surprise. Back when he and Baili Chao had discussed whom to put into Mei Chao Bing’s group, they had worried that things might go out of hand if the disciples didn’t listen to him. On a mission taking place on enemy territory, that kind of thing could cost lives.
While he had argued that they should be more cautious because of that and at least change a few of the members of this team, Elder Baili had sworn up and down that Mei Chao Bing would be able to make them listen to him. Maybe not immediately but soon enough that it wouldn’t lead to any injuries.
He had been skeptical but now … Even if the members of his team were not completely listening to him without any doubts yet, everyone had at least found their place. That was much more than he had ever thought possible. It seemed that Elder Baili still knew this young man best.