Sect Master Zhang closed his eyes, cursing inwardly. Then, he kicked a chair over for Ao Jing to sit down but didn’t take a seat himself. Instead, he started to pace up and down in the room, the worry in his heart not dissipating in the least. Before Ao Jing could say anything, the Sect Master turned to the two disciples and motioned outside. “Call the Elders together.”
The disciples nodded and then rushed out, immediately going to inform everyone.
Sect Master Zhang rubbed his hands against each other, wondering if there was anything else. When he couldn’t think of anything, he turned to Ao Jing. He gave him a long look and then rubbed his forehead. “Alright, just get it out with. What exactly happened?”
Ao Jing closed his eyes and his hands clenched into fists. “We had just left the camp and were on our way back to the sect with senior martial brother Shen and senior martial brother Yu after the Sect Master’s orders had arrived. A few li away, we were ambushed by a large group of demonic practitioners. There were at least a dozen of them and several were of a high level, making it impossible for us to win even if we hadn’t been completely outnumbered. I think there were several nascent soul stage disciples.”
Zhang Guan Yu closed his eyes again and just held his head. He had already expected that but to have Ao Jing say it directly … it made it even worse. “Did any of the others make it through?”
Ao Jing hesitated. “I … I saw them kill senior martial brother Yu. He … he tried to set off a flair but they had prepared some kind of array that they suddenly activated in the middle of the fight. We were trapped inside and the signal likely couldn’t be seen from the camp. After that, they killed him.
“Senior martial brother Shen somehow managed to break the array afterward so that the other three of us could flee. We all took to a different direction in the hope that they wouldn’t be able to get us. I saw them hit Di Huan Bo. I’m not sure if he still managed to make it any further after that but I don’t think it’s likely.
“I only managed to shake them off because I let myself get hit and then pretended to be dead. They didn’t check on me. I don’t know what happened to Yang Wu Huang. And I can’t say for sure what happened to senior martial brother Shen but he probably didn’t make it either. He engaged the disciple that was leading them and the demonic practitioners mostly focused on him in return. So I don’t think …”
Zhang Guan Yu nodded, not sure what to do for a moment. He had just talked to Shen Lei two days ago. At that time, that boy had still joked around, telling him about the gossip in the sect and speaking about his lover. And now, he would never come back.
Even though he had seen things like this happen hundreds of times in his life, it still hit him every time. In this world, no matter how talented you were, no matter what your level was, there would always be somebody more talented, somebody stronger, somebody who was able to snuff your life out just like this.
“Anything else? Any kind of clue that could help us …” He trailed off, not even sure what he was supposed to say. In any case, the disciples were already dead. They could maybe use this to make sure that the disciples traveling from now on would be more careful but they couldn’t change what had already happened.
Ao Jing thought for a moment. “Before it happened, senior martial brother Shen and senior martial brother Yu seemed to notice that something had happened. They stopped right at that place. That was exactly where they wanted us to be though. They should’ve prepared that for quite some time.” He fell quiet again and then tried to think of something more but couldn’t really come up with anything. Well, save for maybe one thing … “The disciple leading them, I think he was one of Elder Feng’s disciples. His name should have been Qu Yijun.”
Zhang Guan Yu lowered his hand and turned around to Ao Jing, staring at him. “Qu Yijun?” In that case, it was really no wonder. Qu Yijun was one of Elder Feng’s oldest disciples and definitely one of the most talented. There had never been any evidence that he had joined the other side but it had been clear that he should have. In any case, it seemed that now they knew for sure.
“Alright, if there is nothing else … you should go back first. I’ll tell the Elders. If you think of anything else, come back here if you feel up to it or tell your Master.”
Ao Jing nodded and got up, holding onto the chair for a moment.
Zhang Guan Yu glanced at his leg and then sighed. “Right, you were injured. You should go and get that treated first.”
Ao Jing nodded faintly and then bowed in his direction as well as he could before he hobbled out of the hall.
Standing outside, he looked in the direction of the medicine hall where he could get treatment. He took a single step but stopped again, finally turning around and leaving in another one.
There was one thing that he still needed to do. Since he was the only one who had made it back, he had to take care of this even though it would probably be quite awkward.
He made his way over to a small valley with only four houses and hesitated for a moment before he went to one that was close to a small grove. Wobbling over to the door, he stopped again and then slowly raised his hand, knocking.
Finally, from inside, there was the sound of faint steps and then a beautiful youth in a red robe opened the door, giving him a confused look.