Old Liu gasps deeply. Then, he asks, “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 contemplates 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 harrumphs, “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 muses for a moment and continues, “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 all?”
No one replies him. Old Liu smiles bitterly and scans 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 looks around and smiles bitterly once more before turning around to leave. As he departs, faint mutterings can be heard from his mouth, “From there on, the world will no longer be at peace…”
A rabbit suddenly thrown on the table scares Old Ma. He lifts his head to look at Lu Chen and asks, “What are you doing?”
Lu Chen sits opposite to him and says, “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 looks at him suspiciously, “Is it possible for you to be so thoughtful?”
Lu Chen replies, “It was convenient for me.”
Old Ma grabs the wild rabbit by the ear and scans it, “Is this rabbit poisoned?”
“It isn’t. I don’t do stuff like that.”
Old Ma spits and looks 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 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 directs a kick towards Lu Chen, and he dodges it without difficulty. Then, Old Ma carries the rabbit and walks pompously to the kitchen at the back.
An hour later, a large pot of steaming fragrant braised rabbit meat is placed on the wine table, inducing the salivation of others.
Lu Chen offers a rare praise to Old Ma, “Looks like your skills aren’t bad.”
Old Ma wipes the sweat off his forehead and gleefully says, “Of course!” Then, without inviting Lu Chen to dig in, he picks up the chopsticks, grabs a piece of the rabbit meat, dumps it into his mouth and starts chewing it with large motions.
Lu Chen chuckles and picks up his chopsticks as well. Just as he is about to stretch his chopsticks out, he hears an indistinct ‘hm‘ from Old Ma’s mouth, and he spits out the rabbit meat onto the table.
Lu Chen frowns, “What’s wrong? Can it be that you really managed to consume poison out of nothingness?”
Baji baji, Old Ma opens and shuts his mouth a few time, seemingly trying to get rid of the taste from his mouth. With a bizarre expression, he says, “There’s something wrong with the meat of the rabbit. Why is it so sour? It shouldn’t be though?”
Lu Chen is taken aback. He puts down the chopsticks in his hand and his gaze sweeps across the pot of rabbit meat. After a short moment, he asks softly, “Very sour?”
“Incomparably sour, that’s weird!” Old Ma grabs the wine by the side to gargle his mouth. Then, he shakes his head and says, “What ill luck! I have never ate such sour rabbit meat in my entire life. Where did you catch if from?”
Lu Chen stares at the rabbit meat quietly for a moment before replying, “On the tea mountain.”
Old Ma mumbles for a bit. After a momentary pause, he can’t resist giving it another try. In the end, in less than a split moment, he spits it out once more and curses, “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 is expressionless. After a moment, he says, “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 stands up and leaves the tavern.
Walking along the bluestone pavement, Lu Chen’s expression is awful. With his gaze fixated at the front, he continues walking silently all the way back to his straw cottage at the foot of the mountain.
At this moment, just as he is about to enter his cottage, his body suddenly stops and he raises his head to stare at the tea mountain.
At the faraway mountain peak, everything is serene as usual. The mountainous wind blows on the tea trees and the forests on top are silent. That is, except for the black smoke that is drifting up from the direction of the back mountain slightly further away.
There isn’t a flame or a torch, neither is there a figure waving anything. All he can see is a few wisp of black smoke rising upwards.
Lu Chen stands quietly on the spot as he stares at the black smoke in the distant mountain. After a short moment, he opens the door and walks in. Peng, he shuts the door tightly, as though shutting out the world behind him.
The sound of the wind gradually grows louder, and it contains a mournful tinge to it. The sky starts to dim and the dark night is about to set in.
The wind of this night is exceptionally strong.
The chilling wind blows across the tea mountain and past the straw cottage. A tinge of coldness seem to seep in through the walls, causing one to doubt that it is winter instead of summer in this instant. The wind is also exceptionally desolate, similar to the heart-rending cry of a female, echoing in the dark night.
It is already pitch black outside. Lu Chen lies completely still on the bed in the straw cottage. His eyes are shut, as though he is in a deep slumber. Even the howl of the cold wind outside is unable to awaken him.
Suddenly, a nearly imperceptible sound mixes in with the cold wind. In this world of darkness, it sounds like careful footsteps approaching this straw cottage. A few thatched grass on the roof of the cottage shivers in the face of the blowing wind.
A silhouette appear in the midst of the darkness as it approaches the straw cottage. The inaudible footsteps vary in terms of heaviness, as though an apparition of a demon in the night wind. When it reaches the door of the cottage, the silhouette suddenly stops its footsteps.
The frigid night wind continues to blow in this darkness-cloaked world. At this moment, the tea mountain seems exceptionally eerie, fearsome and towering. The shadow of the mountain is reminiscent of a giant, as though it would crush those standing below at any moment.
In the darkness, a breathing seems to hasten, and a heart seems to beat furiously. In this silence, the silhouette lifts its hand and brings it towards the door.
The night sky grows darker, and the exteriors of the straw cottage is veiled in complete darkness. Only a black figure that is reminiscent of a dense congregation of ink can be seen. When the silhouette is about to come into contact with the door, the door suddenly bursts open, and the crisp sound of which looms in the air.
Seemingly taken aback, the silhouette in the darkness freezes for a moment. In this split moment, a massive congregation of dark shadows from the interiors of the straw cottage surge outwards and covers the silhouette outside.