Shen Qiang looked past Nian Hong Fang at the figure of Ma Zhi Wu lying on the table. He examined him for a moment, his gaze unreadable. “I guess … Those wounds are courtesy of the disciples of our sect, right?”
Nian Hong Fang didn’t answer so he turned to look at the other people. Finally, it was Zhangsun Xun Yi who nodded.
“That is what the ones who brought him back told us, yes. When they went into the dungeon, the Chun Feng Sect’s disciples started to kill the prisoners on the lowest level because they didn’t want them to escape. Apparently, they deemed it better to end their lives. Ma Zhi Wu tried to protect his two junior martial brothers that had been imprisoned together with him. That is why he got so seriously injured. The other two were able to leave unharmed afterward thanks to his sacrifice.”
Shen Qiang furrowed his brows and lowered his head. He was at a loss. He should have expected this and maybe he should even be alright with this but … He wasn’t. Even before all this, he had always believed that letting those with some demon blood live but restrict them so that they couldn’t hurt others would be the right thing to do. Killing them had seemed excessive since they weren’t full demons and still retained some humanity. And now, after all the time he had spent here in the Yun Zou Sect with Nian Hong Fang’s gentle influence …
“I didn’t want to believe it.” He shook his head. “After everything Nian Hong Fang told me, I still didn’t want to believe that the demons might not be as bad as we made them out to be. That somebody who is mixed-blood, can indeed be not much different from a human.
“But I guess I was too prejudiced. Maybe you were right. Maybe the real demons weren’t them but us all along.” He shook his head, trying to push the thought away. There was no way to change it anymore. He had realized too late.
Instead, he turned to look at Jinde. “I came over because I wanted to know what has happened. Seeing him, knowing that it was my sect that did this to him, knowing that I was complicit in this plan and actually helped them imprisoned some of these people, this is also my fault.
“You just said that the herb you need is in the demon realm, right? Tell me where. I will go there. Since I’m a demon hunter, I should be able to deal with the demons. And if I do get injured, then that will only be the retribution I get for my past bad deeds.”
Jinde looked at him and finally nodded. “Do you know anything about herbs?” Even while he asked that, he picked up a brush and hurriedly did a quick sketch of a flower with ten petals and a stamp with four corners. The leaves were strangely shaped, and thus easily recognizable. “This is a herb that is only native to the demon realm. They call it the red star flower because of the bright red color of its petals and the form it has. You should have no trouble at all recognizing it when you see it. As for the place where it grows … I’m afraid you will not like it.”
Shen Qiang went forward and took the sketch from him, shaking his head. “Whatever it is, I will go there.”
Jinde nodded. “There’s an old tomb in the demon realm. You might’ve heard of the place. Back in ancient times, when the society of the demons was still a different one, their royalty and several high-ranking dignitaries were buried there. You can find the flower on top of a hill that is among those tombs. You should be clear that nothing attracts some of the demon beasts like the deceased bodies of those ancient demons.”
Shen Qiang furrowed his brows but finally nodded. “That is certainly not a place that I would like to go if I had the choice but … I will do this. I’ll bring it back as fast as I can.” He turned to Nian Hong Fang, his gaze complicated. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything. There’s nothing I can do to make up for it.
“Even this … It is what I should do but I know that it won’t change anything. The pain I and the people of my sect inflicted on you and your lover … There’s nothing that will be able to change that.” He reached into his sleeve and then took out a scented satchel. “I know I said otherwise but I never gave this to him. You should do so yourself after he’s healed.” He pushed it into Nian Hong Fang’s hands, not daring to look into his eyes any longer and then turned around under Nian Hong Fang’s stunned gaze.
He walked out with that sketch in his hand, not looking back a single time. He had made all the wrong choices up until now. Well, maybe finally telling Nian Hong Fang about it had been the first right choice he made in a row of wrong ones. Maybe from there, he had managed to find back to his path.
In the future … If he did manage to get out of there, then he would be able to slowly figure out where to go from here on out. One thing was for sure: He never wanted to be a demon hunter again.
The last few weeks had made him realize just how stupid the believes he had held were. There was no honor as he had believed, there was no helping people. Instead, he had only helped to make them miserable. How could he have ever been so blind? Maybe he would never be able to answer that question.