Old Liu gasped deeply. Then, he asked, “Who is the demonic cult looking for?”
“No idea. Most of the identities of these Shadows have been concealed, to the point that even we don’t know much about them.”
Old Liu contemplated for a moment before flashing a bitter smile, “If it was to hunt down a Shadow that the demonic cult is willing to kill in the Immortal City, then the identity of the Shadow must be exceptionally important. Who could it be?”
Someone suddenly harrumphed, “There are only 72 sentinels in the Fleeting Cloud Division, but the number of Shadows beneath, be it in the open or in the shadows, are multiple times of our numbers. How can it be easy to find an individual of the lot?”
Old Liu contemplated for a moment and continued, “Old Zhang is a capable worker. If I recall correctly, the number of Shadows he is in contact with should be the most numerous of us.”
No one replied him. Old Liu smiled bitterly and scanned the surroundings before speaking quietly, “Perhaps, it might just be a coincidence. But if it isn’t, then… there is a traitor among us.”
Old Liu looked around and smiled bitterly once more before turning around to leave. As he departed, faint mutterings could be heard from his mouth, “From there on, the world will no longer be at peace…”
A rabbit suddenly thrown on the table scared Old Ma. He lifted his head to look at Lu Chen and asked, “What are you doing?”
Lu Chen sat opposite him and said, “I have been drinking your wine for free all along. So, today I went to the mountain to catch a wild rabbit for you so as to accompany the wine.”
Old Ma looked at him suspiciously, “Is it possible for you to be so thoughtful?”
Lu Chen replied, “It was convenient for me.”
Old Ma grabbed the wild rabbit by its ear and scanned it, “Is this rabbit poisoned?”
“It isn’t. I don’t do stuff like that.”
Old Ma spat and looked at Lu Chen in disdain, “I don’t think that there is anything that you won’t do. The poison that you had used against others back then should be enough to kill everyone in this village!”
Lu Chen answers seriously, “I didn’t say that I had never poisoned others. What I meant was that there isn’t any need to poison you. Never will I do pointless stuff like that.”
“The hell!” Old Ma directed a kick toward Lu Chen, and he dodged it without difficulty. Then, Old Ma carried the rabbit and walked pompously to the kitchen at the back.
An hour later, a large pot of steaming fragrant braised rabbit meat was placed on the wine table, inducing other customers’ salivation.
Lu Chen offered a rare praise to Old Ma, “Looks like your skills aren’t bad.”
Old Ma wiped the sweat off his forehead and gleefully said, “Of course!” Then, without inviting Lu Chen to dig in, he picked up the chopsticks, grabbed a piece of the rabbit meat, dumped it into his mouth and started chewing it with large motions.
Lu Chen chuckled and picked up his chopsticks as well. Just as he was about to stretch his chopsticks out, he heard an indistinct ‘hm‘ from Old Ma’s mouth, and he spat out the rabbit meat onto the table.
Lu Chen frowned, “What’s wrong? Can it be that you really managed to consume poison out of nothingness?”
Baji baji, Old Ma opened and shut his mouth several times, seemingly trying to get rid of the taste from his mouth. With a bizarre expression, he said, “There’s something wrong with the rabbit meat. Why is it so sour? It shouldn’t be though?”
Lu Chen was taken aback. He put down the chopsticks in his hand and his gaze swept across the pot of rabbit meat. After a short moment, he asked softly, “Very sour?”
“Incomparably sour, that’s weird!” Old Ma grabbed the wine by the side to gargle his mouth. Then, he shook his head and said, “What ill luck! I have never ate such sour rabbit meat in my entire life. Where did you catch if from?”
Lu Chen stared at the rabbit meat quietly for a moment before replying, “On the tea mountain.”
Old Ma mumbled for a bit. After a momentary pause, he couldn’t resist giving it another try. In the end, in less than a split moment, he spat it out once more and cursed, “The heck, this isn’t a wild rabbit but a sour rabbit! Hm, Lu Chen, why aren’t you trying it?”
Lu Chen’s face was expressionless. After a moment, he said, “You have already tried it. Can I possibly not trust your word? There is no way to consume this rabbit meat like this, let’s just dump it.”
After which, he stood up and left the tavern.
Walking along the bluestone pavement, Lu Chen’s expression was awful. With his gaze fixated at the front, he continued walking silently all the way back to his straw cottage at the foot of the mountain.
Just as he was about to enter his cottage, his body suddenly stopped and he raised his head to stare at the tea mountain.
At the faraway mountain peak, everything was serene as usual. The mountainous wind blew on the tea trees and the forests on top were silent. That was, except for the black smoke that was drifting up from the direction of the back mountain slightly further away.
There wasn’t a flame or a torch, neither was there a figure waving anything. All he could see was a few wisp of black smoke rising upward.
Lu Chen stood quietly on the spot as he stared at the black smoke in the distant mountain. After a short moment, he opened the door and walked in. Peng, he shut the door tightly, as though shutting out the world behind him.
The sound of the wind gradually grew louder, and it contained a mournful tinge to it. The sky started to dim and the dark night was about to set in.
The wind was exceptionally strong that night.
The chilling wind blew across the tea mountain and past the straw cottage. A tinge of coldness seem to seeped in through the walls, causing one to doubt that it was winter instead of summer in that instant. The wind was also exceptionally desolate, similar to the heart-rending cry of a female, echoing in the dark night.
It was already pitch black outside. Lu Chen lied completely still on the bed in the straw cottage. His eyes were shut, as though he was in a deep slumber. Even the howl of the cold wind outside was unable to awaken him.
Suddenly, a nearly imperceptible sound mixed in with the cold wind. In this world of darkness, it sounded like careful footsteps approaching this straw cottage. A few patches of thatched grass on the roof of the cottage shook in the face of the blowing wind.
A silhouette appeared in the midst of the darkness as it approached the straw cottage. The inaudible footsteps varied in terms of heaviness, as though an apparition of a demon in the night wind. When it reached the door of the cottage, the silhouette stopped its footsteps suddenly.
The frigid night wind continued to blow in this darkness-cloaked world. At this moment, the tea mountain seemed exceptionally eerie, fearsome and towering. The shadow of the mountain was reminiscent of a giant, a giant that would crush those below at any moment.
In the darkness, a breathing seemed to hasten, and a heart seemed to beat furiously. In the silence, the silhouette lifted its hand and brought it toward the door.
The night sky grew darker, and the exteriors of the straw cottage was veiled in complete darkness. Only a black figure that was reminiscent of a dense congregation of ink could be seen. As the silhouette was about to come into contact with the door, the door burst open suddenly, and the crisp sound of which loomed in the air.
Seemingly taken aback, the silhouette in the darkness froze for a moment. In this split moment, a massive congregation of dark shadows from the interiors of the straw cottage surged outward and covered the silhouette outside.