Phoenix’s Requiem - Chapter 236
Chapter 236: Black Box
Shui Yun followed the black-robed man into the tower. Following Cang Song’s map, the black-robed man successfully found the secret vault at the basement of the southern tower; allegedly, the first elder would spend the entire night cultivating within the vault.
At the moment, the vault’s door was half-open, as though the first elder had left in such a hurry after sensing something amiss with the all-seeing mirror that he didn’t even have the time to close the door.
The black-robed man walked into the secret vault.
Behind him, Shui Yun thought, Just as His Highness suspected, the black-robed man has another motive altogether…
Shui Yun didn’t follow the man into the vault. Instead, she turned and headed up the stairs.
Five of the elders had already gathered at the roof of the southern tower, where they saw the all-seeing mirror fixed in its usual spot. However, the air reeked of a magical beast.
“It looks like a beast tried to break in,” the second elder began, his eyes darting around his surroundings.
“But the beast’s cultivation was too low to do anything of note, and it was killed by the all-seeing mirror even before it could trigger the heaven and earth array…” The sixth elder’s eyes were slightly bleary, as though he weren’t fully awake from being interrupted midway through his cultivation.
“Where’s the first elder? Surely he sensed this disturbance before us?” the third elder wondered.
“He lives right here in the southern tower, so he must have arrived before we did. He probably went back to cultivate after noticing that nothing was amiss.” The sixth elder yawned, shrugging his shoulders. “With the all-seeing mirror around, there’s nothing we have to worry about. Why don’t we all head back? It’s the middle of the night, and I’m quite tired.”
“No, there’s something wrong!” the second elder said with certainty. He walked up to the all-seeing mirror, as though he were intending to activate it in the night.
“Second Elder, are you crazy?” The fifth elder stopped him before he could reach the mirror. “You know the mirror isn’t to be activated at night, or you’ll suffer heavenly tribulation! As the head of the hall of penitence, surely you know this.”
The second elder stopped short.
“Why don’t we find the first elder and ask him about the mirror?” the third elder suggested.
The other elders all agreed with the third elder’s judgment, and they were just about to head downstairs when they saw Shui Yun walk up.
“Elders, please wait.” Shui Yun blocked the path downwards.
“Shui Yun, what are you doing here?” The second elder frowned.
“The first elder has tasked me to wait here for you, Elders.” Shui Yun pulled out an identification token that glowed purple. The other elders all recognized that token—indeed, they each had one of their own, from when they had first been a student at Kongming Academy.
Now that they were elders, their identification tokens were all but useless, so they wouldn’t normally carry it with them. As a result, they were all quite surprised to suddenly see the first elder’s identification token in Shui Yun’s hand.
“Elders, the first elder requests that you stay at the tower’s roof for the moment,” Shui Yun said.
“Why all this trouble?” the third elder asked. “Did something happen?”
“Elders, please wait. Once everything’s over, the first elder will give all of you an explanation.” Shui Yun stopped replying to any questions. Although the elders were somewhat mystified by her behavior, they didn’t press her further and instead waited quietly by the rooftop.
Past the door of the secret vault was a rather long tunnel, with doors on either side. Behind the doors were the prized treasures of Kongming Academy. According to Cang Song, the manual of tactics was behind the third door to the left. The black-robed man took out the key that he had used to open the tower’s door and unlocked the third door.
Behind the third door on the right, Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo were observing the black-robed man’s actions through the door’s keyhole.
“The thousand-faced key,” Li Mo murmured.
“That man’s holding the thousand-faced key, crafted from the beast core of the mythical thousand-faced beast. It’s said to be able to unlock any lock in the world.”
“Such a marvelous treasure? It’ll be mine,” Yun Ruoyan laid claim to the key, then smiled. “Can we head out yet?”
Li Mo nodded, and the duo walked out from behind the stone door. In the opposite chamber, the black-robed man was slowly going through a bookshelf lined with books in search of that mythical manual of tactics. Finally, he found a black, rectangular box in an unassuming corner of the shelf, only about the size of a palm. Engraved on the box was the lifelike figure of a black dragon.
It must be this box! It’s exactly as was described, the black-robed man thought, then reached out for it.
“So that’s what you were after?” a low voice suddenly rang out from behind the black-robed man.
Startled, the black-robed man turned to the outside and saw that Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan had appeared out of nowhere, blocking the exit to the chamber.
“Yo-You… didn’t you leave?”
“I did leave,” Li Mo replied. “Then, I came back.”
“You were trying to draw me out!” the black-robed man accused, holding the black box tightly against his chest as he prepared to defend himself.
“You didn’t cover your tracks very well,” Yun Ruoyan commented idly. “The only reason we didn’t stop you beforehand was because we wanted to know what you were searching for. Hand over the box in your hands, and we might still spare your life.”
“You think you’ll be able to catch me?” the black-robed man snorted, tossing out a mysterious object from his hand. It smashed against the floor of the vault and gave off a blinding light. By the time the light had dissipated, so had the black-robed man.
“Where is he? How did he suddenly vanish?” Yun Ruoyan was very shocked.
“A teleportation scroll…” Li Mo was also somewhat startled. There were indeed teleportation arrays that could provide instantaneous transportation, but they were often very costly in terms of spiritual energy, and required two to three cultivators releasing their spiritual energy at once to activate. The amount of spiritual energy needed would increase with the distance; Kongming Academy’s trial grounds made use of teleportation arrays that required at least four advanced cultivators to support.
There were a few ancient artifacts from long ago—teleportation scrolls—that could provide instantaneous transportation without the associated spiritual energy cost, but they were so rare that Li Mo had only seen one such in his life. He hadn’t expected that the Farsighted King would be willing to give up such a valuable artifact for that small, black box.
“Damn it, they discovered me!” The black-robed man was vexed at having to spend a priceless artifact to escape. “At the very least, I obtained what I came for.”
“Did you succeed?” Just as the black-robed man was about to fly off on his sword, Cang Song suddenly appeared from behind.
“Yes, I did.” The black-robed man’s voice was visibly relaxed. “And now that I’m finally finished with my task, I can leave this ghastly place.”
“My congratulations.” Cang Song walked up to him with a smile on his face. “You played quite an important role as well, so once I return, I’ll be sure to praise you in front of the Farsighted King—”
Before the black-robed man could finish speaking, he suddenly felt a sharp pain by his abdomen, and he looked disbelievingly at Cang Song.
“You… you… why?!” The black-robed man grabbed Cang Song’s blood-stained hand, within which was a short dagger that had completely penetrated the black-robed man’s stomach.
“You’ve already been exposed,” Cang Song whispered. “You won’t be able to escape, so only if I kill you and mislead everyone will I be able to deliver the manual to the Farsighted King’s hands. As for you… rest in peace.”
Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo rushed to the scene just in time to see Cang Song pierce the black-robed man in the heart, then kick him down the cliffside.
“Master Cang Song, please wait!” Yun Ruoyan shouted, but it was to no avail.
Cang Song sheathed his sword and turned back to Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan, his face calm. Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan hurried to the side of the cliff. Yun Ruoyan glanced down to see what seemed like a bottomless pit, wreathed in mist. “If he fell from this height, there’s no chance that his corpse survived intact,” she muttered.
“Senior Cang, what are you doing here?” Li Mo frowned.
Cang Song replied placidly, “I woke up and suddenly saw a red sword aura flash past my window. Since the aura seemed foreign to me, I followed it all the way here. The black-robed man flying on his sword was attempting to run, so I fought him and knocked him down. He was struggling so fiercely that I had no choice but to use more extreme methods against him, and I misjudged my strength.”
Li Mo was about to interrogate him further when Yun Ruoyan interrupted, “Master Cang, did you see the black box the black-robed man was carrying?”
“A black box?” Cang Song pretended to be mystified. “Were you chasing after the black-robed man because of something he had on him?”
“Senior Cang, did you see it?” Li Mo pressed.
After thinking for a moment, Cang Song replied, “When I knocked the black-robed man off his sword, it seemed as though something fell out of his robe. As for what it was, however, I couldn’t say.”
“Where? Where did it land?”
Cang Song pointed at the grassy area behind him. “Right there.”
“Senior, the black-robed man stole the item from the southern tower, and it’s very important,” Li Mo emphasized.
“From the southern tower?” Cang Song gaped in shock. “Then it must be important. We have to search immediately!”
Cang Song turned around and pretended to search the grass thoroughly.
“I found it!” Moments later, Yun Ruoyan found a black box near a shrub. As her finger brushed against the engraved black dragon on its cover, a sudden coolness seeped into her skin.