Chapter 13: A Theft

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Jiang Ling was irritated by Gu Yun, and she had already lost her appetite, so she said to Yun He after a while, “Shijie, it’s too suffocating in here.
I’m going out to catch my breath.
I’ll be back soon.” 

Jiang Ling bid farewell to the people of the Yueluo Sect, then rose and left. 

As soon as she passed through the entrance and she stood in the mountain’s clear breeze, she suddenly felt refreshed and clear-headed. 

“Hua…” A flock of birds abruptly took flight in the distance. 

What wild animal was out there hunting for prey? The Qingshan Mountain was no stranger to rare and valuable fauna, so out of her curiosity, Jiang Ling lept up to the treetops and traveled toward the flying birds with her qinggong skills. 

As Jiang Ling drew closer, her heart began to palpitate.
She landed on a tree trunk and regulated her breath.
The tree branches were mottled with scattered moonlight, and the still surroundings created a gloomy, foreboding air.
Jiang Ling started to regret running out here by herself, and she made to withdraw. 

“Hua…” Nearby, another group of birds suddenly flew off; a storm was brewing. 

Jiang Ling’s heart continued to beat out of her chest.
She had never in her life been this frightened, and she wanted to flee from this haunted place immediately. 

Just as she was going to leave, she heard the faint sounds of fighting not far away. 

Jiang Ling silently drew closer; it was Gu Shi. 

Gu Shi was engaged in a fight with two masked figures, one tall and one short.
The short one was thin and slender, so the two were likely a man-woman pair. 

The pair was quite capable, and even though Gu Shi was highly skilled and talented, it was still two against one, and he was slowly losing his position. 

“Leave it behind.” Gu Shi yelled.
It seemed that the thieves had come to steal precious items from Qingshan Mountain. 

Jiang Ling focused her gaze and discovered that the woman was carrying a large sack on her back.
She was likely carrying, if not a saber, then a sword.
With this discovery, she would help Gu Shi ‘steal’ the item back, then run.
Gu Shi would have no scruples with the arrangement, as he could then rely on his skills to extricate himself from the two thieves. 

Jiang Ling thought through her strategy, then stealthily snuck behind the two thieves, waiting for the opportunity to strike. 

Gu Shi brandished his sword against the woman.
The woman’s footwork was nimble and agile, but as she thought to look for an opening to flee, Gu Shi engaged her in combat, so for the moment, she could not escape.
The man protected the woman, repeatedly hindering Gu Shi.
As Gu Shi was obstructed by the man over and over again, he grew angry, and his sword became imbued with killing intent as he bore down on the man. 

His sword, filled with Sword Energy, slashed across the man’s body.
The man was surprised and also seemed infuriated.
He gripped the blade in his hand, and with the piercing sound of air splitting, the man waved his blade at Gu Shi.
Gu Shi slanted his body then leapt high into the air, and as the edge of his sword hummed like a sleeping dragon, he carved his sword, as if splitting the heavens, downward toward the man’s nape.
Blood would spatter everywhere in an instant.
A ‘sisi’ sounded in the night; there were hidden weapons. 

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He only saw silver needles impact his sword, pinging off the surface with ‘tingting’ sounds.
Just as needles sank into his arms and abdomen, he changed the direction of his sword, and the man escaped his disastrous fate.
Gu Shi supported himself on his sword, vomiting a mouthful of blood. 

At that moment, when the woman’s full attention was on Gu Shi, Jiang Ling dropped out a tree with the speed of a lightning bolt and grabbed the treasure off the woman’s back.
Based on what she could feel, it was a blade of some kind.
The woman was stunned by Jiang Ling’s sudden appearance and was rooted in place, her irises dark and opaque. 

“Jiang Ling, hurry, bring it back! Let everyone know there’s something wrong on the mountain!” Gu Shi was astonished to see Jiang Ling appear here.
A chance to turn the situation around had arrived. 

“Mhm,” Jiang Ling hung the blade on her back, and without a moment’s delay, flew off with her qinggong. 

However, she had not made it far when countless silver needles caught up to her.
With no choice, she could only abandon her forward trajectory.
She turned to one side and landed on one side of a horizontal tree branch.  

The silver needles plunged into the tree trunk, shaking it until leaves fell off.
The man let out a whistle; they had backup!

Jiang Ling did not dare waste time.
Availing herself of the time before the woman caught up, Jiang Ling rushed forward without halting. 

Suddenly, Jiang Ling felt the wind of a palm strike in front of her.
She subconsciously dropped down to evade the strike, landing on the ground.
As it happens, the woman had taken advantage of the moment Jiang Ling dodged to overtake her.
Her qinggong was not inferior to Jiang Ling’s. 

Just as she landed, the woman already had her hands on the blade on her back.
Jiang Ling did not want her efforts to go to waste, so she reached a hand back to hold the blade in place, but she could only grasp the sack.
Jiang Ling turned her body to shake off the woman’s hand, but it was too late.
In the moment she had turned, she glimpsed the woman’s dark eyes and wondered where she had seen them before. 

In only one instant, the woman had pulled the blade out of the sack. 

On the surface of the silver blade were flame-like curling lines, and in the moonlight, Jiang Ling’s eyes were blinded by the flashing brightness.
While her attention was diverted, the woman’s palm reached Jiang Ling’s chest.
Jiang Ling could not avoid the blow, so she could only stretch out her hand and take it on.
Jiang Ling had never before confronted an internal force this strong before; the blow knocked the breath around in her chest, which felt like it would burst open.
With a pain like that of having her limbs and bones rearranged, even breathing was a laborious task. 

Jiang Ling was sent flying back by the blow, and as her back hit the tree trunk, the tree’s leaves once again rustled in the shaking and drifted down.
Jiang Ling vomited blood and slowly sank to the ground. 

The woman stood in the distance rubbing the center of her palm. 

“A Ling!” Gu Yun’s cry sounded from nearby.

“Shi…xiong.” Jiang Ling’s eyelids felt as heavy as iron, and her consciousness gradually dispersed into nothingness. 

Jiang Ling seemed trapped in one long dream.
In the dream, she was surrounded by raging fire, the scalding air making her unable to draw breath, yet her body was unharmed by the flames.
Nearby was a woman dressed in clothing of the west: He Xi.
It was He Xi standing in the flames. 

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“He Xi, it’s dangerous over there! Come over here, quickly!” Jiang Ling yelled. 

As if she had not heard her, He Xi walked deeper into the fire.
Jiang Ling flew over and pulled on He Xi’s hand: “He Xi, come with me quickly.
It’s not safe here!”

Jiang Ling took another look at her then dropped her hand, “You’re not He Xi.
He Xi’s eyes aren’t black.
Who are you?”

The person remained silent. 

“Who are you? Why do you look exactly like He Xi?” Jiang Ling grabbed her and continued her questions, but she only answered with her silence. 

In the span of an instant, the woman’s body went up in flames.
Jiang Ling panicked and reached a hand into the fire, but the flames only grew stronger.
Jiang Ling’s eyes went red with anxiety, “No!”

When the inferno reached the woman’s brow, those pitch-black irises were burnished in the flames, turning into amber. 

“Ah!” Jiang Ling woke from her nightmare with a start.
Badly shaken, she looked around; she was in her room in the Condensing Heart Courtyard. 

“Jiang-shijie is awake! Jiang-shijie is awake!” A Du hurriedly called Elder Sun of the Hall of Medicine. 

Elder Sun heard his cry and entered the room with urgency to take Jiang Ling’s pulse. 

“Strange.
The majority of your internal injuries have healed.” This was the first time Elder Sun had seen someone who had been more dead than alive in so much better condition after only a few shichen. 

Jiang Ling covered her chest as she sat up, thinking of everything that had happened before she lost consciousness.
She let out a shaky breath, not expecting to still be alive.
She had thought that she would meet her end in that place, losing her life in a moment of impetuousness.
Jianghu really was filled with people more talented than her; even little thieves’ martial arts were this capable. 

“Right, how is Gu Shi-shixiong?” Jiang Ling recalled that Gu Shi had been hurt.
Right now, she did not have any major problems, so Gu Shi should likewise be fine. 

“Eldest shixiong was heavily injured and hasn’t woken up yet.” A Du’s eyes gleamed with tears. 

Jiang Ling then found that A Du’s face was marked by tear tracks.

“I’m fine, no need to cry.” Jiang Ling stretched out a hand to wipe away A Du’s tears, “Then…”

“The disciples of the other sects have already gone to rest.
Shangguan-shijie wanted to wait until you woke up, but it grew too late, and she was brought away by Senior Han.” 

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“A Ling!”

Jiang Ling suddenly remembered that, before she lost consciousness, she seemed to have heard Gu Yun call out to her.
A Du jabbered for a while but did not once mention Gu Yun.
Jiang Ling’s heart constricted; without reason, panic surged in her heart.
She grabbed A Du’s shoulder, “And my shixiong?”

“Jiang-shijie…” Tears slipped out of A Du’s eyes. 

“What about Gu Yun, how is he?” Jiang Ling called Gu Yun’s name with urgency. 

“Jiang-shijie, Gu-shixiong…Gu-shixiong, he…he’s gone…” A Du stammered, then bent over beside the bed and started to sob. 

“What? What did you say?” Jiang Ling did not dare to believe her ears, “Who’s gone?”

“After you left, Gu-shixiong saw that you weren’t there, so he went to look for you.
Yun-shijie waited for a long time, then went to find the Sect Leader.
They both went out to look for you two.” A Du could not stop crying as he told Jiang Ling. 

“And then?”

“When we found you, the three of you were laying in the forest, on the return path…” A Du spoke with difficulty as his tears continued to overflow, “On the return path, Gu-shixiong…was dying.”

“Jiang-shijie! Where are you going, you’re hurt!”

Jiang Ling rushed out of the room. 

The moon hung in the sky as before, covered in fine, gauze-like clouds, the desolate moonlight spilling onto her body as she ran to the hall. 

Jiang Ling charged into the main hall, startling the crowd. 

Jiang Ling stood by the door.
A person was laying in the center of the main hall, covered in a white cloth.
‘Qian Shui’ lay motionlessly off to one side.
It was Gu Yun.
Yun He knelt next to him, her eyes glistening with tears.
Jiang Ling swept a look over the crowd; everyone wore expressions of mourning.  

“Shixiong…”

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Yun He saw Jiang Ling, “A Ling, you’re alright?” The heavens had sympathy and would not snatch another loved one from her. 

“Shixiong…shijie…what’s wrong with shixiong?” Jiang Ling walked over and knelt by Yun He’s side.
She still could not believe what had happened. 

“Get up, Gu Yun!”

As if she suddenly went mad, Jiang Ling went to lift the white cloth and pick up Gu Yun.

“A Ling.” Yun He hugged Jiang Ling from behind as tears once again filled her eyes, “Those villains put poison on the silver needles.”

“Who did it?” Jiang Ling gnashed her teeth, a hatred blooming in her heart. 

“Jiang Ling, do you know what happened?” Liu Qi asked Jiang Ling.
Right now, the Qingshan Sect was in chaos.
Jiang Ling and Gu Shi had been severely injured, and Gu Yun lost his life.
The murderer was unknown; the disciples sent to scour the mountain had turned up nothing.
He did not know how to explain this to Yun Yang nor to the Gu Family of Mingzhou.
Even Elder Ye of the Hall of Swords had been blindsided and remained unconscious.
There were no leads, so the moment Jiang Ling awoke, all he could do was ask her. 

“I only remember that two armed thieves and their partner stole something.” Jiang Ling fought to remember, “Gu Shi-shixiong tried to fight them off.
I went to help him and was injured.”

“What was stolen.”

“It was a blade, a blade of fire.”

“Blade?” Liu Qi thought of something and sent a disciple off to the hidden chamber of the Hall of Swords to check. 

“The blade looked like it was on fire”

Fire.
This fire was very familiar, like she had seen it somewhere before.
Jiang Ling was sure she had seen it.
She held her head in both hands and thought hard. 

Fire…

Cornelian!

Uhhh…Happy Easter?

I had a rare day off today because of Easter Break, so I got a few chapters done.

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