Title: Did We Agree To Be Arch-Rivals?
Original Title: 说好成为彼此的宿敌呢[穿书]
Author: 轻风白杨 (Qingfeng Baiyang)
Translated by: ~PurpleLy~
The Central Plains martial arts troops led by Tengyun Pavilion, hastily withdrew to the settlements outside the Devil Sect as they gawked at the sea of flames that was Jun Hua Island from a distance.
Perhaps to avoid the fire from spreading onto the suspension bridges, the remaining flower aides and Lian Hall attendants in the Devil Sect quickly cut off all the suspension bridges leading to Jun Hua Island. Jun Hua Island thus became an isolated beacon on the water, emblazoning the Devil Sect’s headquarters within the gorge as bright as day.
The firelight was reflected on the surface of the water and also in Gu Ruohai’s eyes.
After some time, he said: “The Sword Sage Legacy and the Devil Sect Leader were buried together in the sea of flames. I was unable to obtain it and admittedly didn’t live up to expectations.”
Qianfeng Villa and Xuanji Temple had already been in communication with Tengyun Pavilion earlier. That left Tongyun Temple, who weren’t easy to find fault with. After all, more than one person had witnessed the box that had been held by the Devil Sect Leader fall into the fire. All they could do was to mumble some polite banalities.
Wujiangmen clearly had more misgivings than Tengyun Pavilion and proposed to locate and examine the Devil Sect Leader’s corpse on Jun Hua Island once the fire had burnt out.
“We don’t know how long this fire will burn for and besides, there are still many remnants from the Devil Sect.….. The elite troops that we’ve brought this time aren’t sufficient. If the battle continues, the casualties will probably increase.” The Xuanji Temple leader gave a timely interruption: “We also need to take into consideration the food and supplies required for the return journey. This Devil City in the Wasteland isn’t somewhere we should remain in for a prolonged time.”
The Wujiangmen fighters exchanged a few looks, huddled together, and deliberated in hushed voices for a while. Ultimately, they weren’t able to propose any favourable solutions.
It wasn’t long before Gu Ruohai led Tengyun Pavilion and Qianfeng Villa to pull back. Xuanji Temple and Tongyun Temple gradually followed them. The few from Wujiangmen had to give up the idea of staying behind and tagged along after the majority of the troops to depart the Devil Sect’s headquarters and return to Devil City.
It wasn’t until the eastern sky became suffused with white that the group from the Central Plains martial art circles who’d infiltrated into the Devil Sect’s headquarters safely exited Devil City at last and converged with the forces that had remained there.
Having learned that Tengyun Pavilion hadn’t acquired the Sword Sage’s Legacy, many martial artists’ expressions were disgruntled—clearly having more vicious conjectures and doubts with regards to this outcome.
Fan Xi gazed in the direction of Pu Lingyun, who’d safely returned and was standing next to Gu Ruohai. He finally sighed in relief and relaxed his taut nerves.
Hearing the whispers of the mob around him, he narrowed his eyes at Gu Ruohai, folded his arms, and smirked: “Alliance Leader Gu, you’re too much…… Here we are garrisoning, and you’re talking about the huge fire. How do we know whether or not the Sword Sage’s Legacy was burnt up or apportioned among all you larger sects?”
Having heard this, Pu Lingyun glared and raged: “You coward, you daren’t risk entering Devil City, and now you’re here spouting rubbish!”
Gu Ruohai said, “It’s fine. Even if the Devil Sect Leader’s Sword Sage’s Legacy is now gone, Eluo Ghost Tent possesses a similar copy.”
As soon as this word came out, there was chaos everywhere.
The first ones to doubt this announcement were those from Wujiangmen: “Where did Alliance Leader Gu get this information from? We, Wujiangmen, have never heard of Eluo Ghost Tent—”
Gu Ruohai laughed, “I obtained this information from the Devil Sect Leader. He’d previously cooperated with Eluo Ghost Tent to ambush our Central Plains martial artists so, of course, he had confidential dealings with Ghost Tent. Why would they conspire in secret if there was no reason for benefit?”
The Wujiangmen fighters were struck speechless by this question.
Gu Ruohai emitted a light laugh and continued: “The Devil Sect used the Sword Sage’s Legacy as a bargaining chip to collude with Eluo Ghost Tent, and therefore, it will be kept by Eluo Ghost Tent. If you’re all still interested in the Sword Sage’s Legacy, my Tengyun Pavilion can continue to lead you to infiltrate the Icefield and battle against Eluo Ghost Tent.”
Upon hearing that, Xuanji Temple’s leader said, “Eluo Ghost Tent aren’t the same as the Devil Sect. They are a foreign empire, and most of their citizens are soldiers. I fear that our Central Plains martial arts circles will be powerless against them.”
Gu Ruohai said: “This matter…… isn’t urgent at the moment. We can discuss this again when we return to the Central Plains border, or perhaps we may need to bring in more elite troops before heading out.”
With that, he threw a glance at Fan Xi before turning to the Tengyun Pavilion troops, saying”Prepare for the return journey.”
Tengyun Pavilion and the members of Qianfeng Villa quickly vacated. Tongyun Temple and Xuanji Temple didn’t linger for long either. Seeing as the allied troops were on the verge of scattering, Fan Xi led the Qinglian Sect to chase in the direction where the major sects had departed with ‘extreme reluctance’. Naturally, all the leftover minor sects and schools followed, as they didn’t dare to remain alone in the Wasteland.
Upon seeing this, the few Wujiangmen fighters huddled together to discuss quietly. A moment later, one of them separated from the group and left in secret, while the others trailed in the direction of the larger troops.
Su Yang and Gu Feidi followed Su Huaizhu along the secret passage beneath the Devil Sect’s Forbidden Area, travelling below the gorge lake to reach a natural underground river grotto. They snuck along the grotto all the way to somewhere narrow under an irrigation wellhead entrance.
“The Wasteland appears to lack water sources, but the underground water system is accessible from all sides. The river here has many wellheads spread all over—which is perfect for us to disseminate.”
As Su Huaizhu spoke, he received a phalanx-long bone whistle from Feng Lin and handed it over to Su Yang and Gu Feidi, “This is Eluo Ghost Tent’s bird training whistle. It was altered by a witch who’d fled to our Sect. Normal people aren’t able to hear any sound when you blow on it, but it can be used to scare away ghost owls.”
Su Yang took the bone whistle and asked, “Do we have to operate separately?”
Su Huaizhu nodded: “When we infiltrate the Icefield, our target is Eluo Ghost Tent. They are not so much a Jianghu power influence as they are a foreign empire. They possess armed forces, intelligence scouts, and also ordinary shepherd villages…… It’ll be easier to go into hiding when we operate separately, and there’s no need to worry about being discovered all at once…….”
Su Yang nodded and stowed the bone whistle away.
“Yesterday was the Winter Solstice. Around the Lesser Cold*, the Central Plains martial arts circles will pin down Ghost Tent’s military power in the south. There may be snowfall during the Lesser Cold. Once the snowfall turns heavy, that’s our opportunity to act.”
(*TN: 23rd of the 24 solar terms, 6th to 19th January)
Su Huaizhu deliberated for a moment: “We’ll need to detour towards the north to slip into Ghost Tent and proceed with the assassination. We need to find a way to survive in the Icefield for half a month…… Su Yang’s phoenix agate may lose its effectiveness after half a month. Therefore, the objective for both of you is Eluo Ghost Tent’s White Witch Tower. Gu Feidi, you should do your best to acquire the White Firework Gu before the phoenix agate loses its effectiveness.”
This timeline was terribly tight, and there was practically no room for error. Gu Feidi couldn’t help feeling a little anxious. He took a deep breath and nodded, saying: “I’ll definitely succeed.”
He didn’t say ‘do his best’. This involved Su Yang’s life or death; he couldn’t just do his best; rather, he had to prevail no matter what.
Seeing his steadfast determination, Su Huaizhu nodded slightly: “The Icefield is barren, and it’s also winter. You must take note of your safety.”
As he spoke, he gestured for Mei Shisan to bring over a bundle, which he passed to the two and said to Su Yang. “Previously, you ordered the kitchen to make a type of food. I saw it was suitable to be used as provisions, so I asked them to prepare a lot. There are also black and white clothing with coverings that are useful for camouflaging your presence in the Icefield. These were originally prepared for flower aides, and they may not fit well, but they’ll do.”
As Gu Feidi received the travel bag that had clearly been put together at the last moment, he lowered his eyelashes and raised his hands to salute: “Many thanks, Elder.”
“If you carelessly come across Eluo Ghost Tent’s intelligence scouts or rangers in the Icefield…… remember to do your best not to leave any survivors.” Su Huaizhu eyed Su Yang and emphasised, “Don’t be softhearted or soft-handed. You’ve got to realise that this is a battlefield. If they don’t die, the ones who die might be you…… as well as the ones you love.”
Su Yang chewed his lip and finally looked unwaveringly at Su Huaizhu as he tenaciously nodded.
Su Huaizhu’s gaze fell between the two and then slowly shifted to the Long-Cherished Heart at Gu Feidi’s waist.
All of a sudden, he handed the thin sword in his hand to Su Yang: “This ‘Lord Friend’ shall be entrusted to you from now on.”
Su Yang blankly received the thin sword from Su Huaizhu, unsure of what expression he should give.
It wasn’t until Gu Feidi prompted him under his breath that he removed the nameless, thin sword from around his waist and exchanged it with Su Huaizhu.
Su Huaizhu accepted the sword, and his gaze lingered for a moment on the two of them. He said in a serious tone, “Take good care of each other.”
Once he’d finished speaking, he turned and left in the direction of another wellhead of the underground river before either of them had the chance to respond.
Su Yang borrowed the weak morning sunlight trickling in from the wellhead to examine the shining white ‘Lord Friend’ in his hand. He still felt that the Devil Sect Leader’s behaviour of presenting him with the sword was a bit strange.
The Devil Sect Leader was aware that he wasn’t the original Su Yang, and from the way he’d spoken, he hadn’t meant that he was handing over the Devil Sect to him, and it didn’t have the implications that he was entrusting the sword to him at his deathbed. So why did he give this sword to him?
Gu Feidi also eyed the thin sword in Su Yang’s hand, and his gaze fell on the sword’s name engraved at the bottom of the hilt.
“This is……” He frowned slightly, reached out to take the thin sword, and stared at the two words on the hilt. He whispered, “……This is my father’s handwriting.”
Su Yang was astonished: “What?”
Gu Feidi didn’t reply, but quickly took out the sword from around his waist to scrutinise the bottom of the hilt where the words ‘Long-Cherished Heart’ were engraved.
The handwriting was clear and elegant, but had an indistinct deathly aura at the outline of the turns, which were exactly the same as the handwriting on the letter that Su Huaizhu had given him. He’d never paid any attention at first, but now, when he held the two swords together, these little details couldn’t prevent some preposterous thoughts from emerging.
It was said that back then that both elders were deeply fond of each other…… Just how close were they truly? Since they’d already had a falling out much earlier, why did they still continue to carry around the swords that had been engraved by each other, and…… consider them as legacies?
“What’s with the words?” Su Yang asked confusingly, “Is there a problem?”
Gu Feidi handed the Lord Friend sword back to Su Yang and said, “It’s nothing. When they were younger, they had a very close relationship when they were both in Lesser Jade House. Perhaps that’s when they engraved each other’s swords.”
Su Yang took no notice of that matter and gave an indifferent “Oh”. He raised his head and looked at the cliff-top wellhead: “Are we going out now? Dawn’s approaching.”
Gu Feidi nodded: “Let’s go now…”
The two changed into the white outfits from their luggage, wrapped up their black hair, and covered faces with veils. Then they clambered out of the crack in the irrigation wall and moved through the underground river grotto to get out.
They were still in the Wasteland, and there were many boulders towering all around. Devil City’s outline could be seen from a distance. The eastern horizon had begun to glow with the pale gold of the rising sun. There were no clouds in the sky, which was a deep azure blue.
“It’ll be more tiring on this journey without any horses.” Gu Feidi held Su Yang’s hand and asked, “Can you still bear with it?”
Su Yang gave a laugh and raised his chin: “Last time, I was in poor health because of Gu poison and Cold Pond Ice Spirit, but I wasn’t truly physically weak…… Now with Shizun’s phoenix agate, of course I’m alright! Aai, just because I let you…… whatever…… you really treat me like a lady. Take care that one fine day, I‘ll put up a fight and you won’t be able to hold me down…”
Gu Feidi just smiled at his words but didn’t contradict him.
The two of them held hands and trudged across the boundless expanse of Wasteland towards the northern border that was frozen all year round.
As the sun rose in the morning, both of their figures were lit up by the pink-orange sunshine, lengthening out their overlapping shadows……