Chapter 38: Small clues (Part One)
The sky had turned dark. Wangyue and the others gathered more firewood and made the fire in the stove burn brighter. In the chilly night air and under the quiet night sky, they sat around the warm stove and felt as cozy as if they were at home. Xia Qiu helped Ouyang Hongye ladle the soup into bowls and took her seat between Ouyang Xiaoleng and Qianqi.
Ouyang Hongye opened the bag of solid food for them to help themselves. Remembering Qianqi’s discovery in the city, he said, “Qianqi found something. Let’s hear about it!”
“Okay!” Qianqi inhaled deeply and began to describe his discovery eagerly, “This place looks to be deserted for a long time, right? But it turns out that’s not the case!”
Fenghuo asked, “Do you have any proof?”
Instead of answering him, Qianqi asked, “What’s the most obvious sign of an uninhabited place?” Xia Qiu thought for a moment and said, “Well, I guess the place must be dusty!”
“Right. I found heavy dust and cobwebs in other bird houses, which reminded me…”
Before he could finish, Xia Qiu understood him and said, “But the city master’s bird house is not dusty!”
“Right! Right! Don’t you guys find it strange?” Qianqi asked.
Fenghuo said indifferently, “It’s nothing strange. Maybe a random traveler passed this place.”
“I agree.” Wangyue sipped his soup and said in an ambiguous tone, “The soup is delicious! Hongye is such a good cook!”
Seeing their lack of interest in his discovery, Qianqi was a little disappointed; he continued, “Travelers wouldn’t have cleaned the dust from the rooms, right? The city master’s bird house is messy, but it looks like someone did it intentionally to disguise the fact it’s been inhabited.”
“Interesting!” Ouyang Hongye said, “In fact, I felt something was wrong when I entered the city but couldn’t name it.”
“An uninhabited place has a certain smell with it, but there’s no such smell in this house,” Ouyang Xiaoleng, who had been silent during the conversation, said suddenly. It showed that he had found the usualness in the bird house earlier on.
“Yeah. There’s no such smell in here. Xiaoleng is very sensitive.” Ouyang Hongye nodded.
“I noticed that someone had lived for some time in the house lately,” Ouyang Xiaoleng said with his usual coolness.
“Why didn’t you mention it earlier?” Qianqi said in a huff.
“I can’t determine if they are friends or enemies or just homeless spirits, and I didn’t want to alarm you guys,” Ouyang Xiaoleng said calmly.
Ouyang Hongye was still worried since Green Cloud had taken the Bird Concealment Platform as his stronghold for some time. Green Cloud’s minions had been very active lately; if they wanted to be stationed in a place far from the capital city, the deserted Bird Concealment Platform with its advantageous natural position was their best choice.
But he guessed staying one night here shouldn’t pose great danger for them. He instructed the others, “Anyway, we’ll take turns to keep watch tonight.”
Fenghuo was also worried. In fact, He feared this possibility more than anyone else but didn’t want to reveal it. In the past, he had never feared anyone. When he was young, he liked to challenge people to duels. In the spirit world, the winner of a duel had the right to kill his opponent but couldn’t insult him. Even when Fenghuo lost a duel, he had never feared because he knew the worst result was death.
He wasn’t afraid of death, but he hated the sense of terror and the feeling of absolute darkness which could swallow a person little by little; it would erode one’s resolve and make one want to flee and hide from this darkness. But eventually one had no place to run to and would wish for a quick death. The person who had struck this hopeless fear into him was Green Cloud, the embodiment of darkness.
As usual, Ouyang Xiaoleng fell silent after expressing his opinion. No one knew what he was thinking. When they hinted at the name Green Cloud, emotions surged up in his heart despite his calm veneer. He knew their priority and the purpose of the trip was finding the sky rune as soon as possible and solving the current crisis in the spirit world; after that, he’d ascend to the throne as Lord Yong and Ouyang Hongye had planned.
But now he got restless for a tiny clue about Green Cloud. If the clue about Green Cloud was proven true, he’d put down everything and hunt down Green Cloud at all costs even though he knew Green Cloud was a powerful rival he had never met before and he knew his current strength was no match for Green Cloud. He just couldn’t control his desire to get revenge. All his life, Green Cloud was his greatest obstacle. He didn’t know if he’d achieve the end by all means at hand, fair or foul; he didn’t know if he’d sacrifice people’s lives and even the future of the entire spirit world as he sought mutual destruction with Green Cloud. Despite Lord Yong and Ouyang Hongye’s great expectations for him, he didn’t know what he’d do if he encountered Green Cloud.
Xia Qiu was engrossed firstly in Ouyang Hongye’s explanation about Alchemy and then in the clue that possibly led to Green Cloud. She glanced at Ouyang Xiaoleng and saw the turbulent emotions in his eyes. Others might not notice it, but she could see his eyes looked differently and he was bothered by something; his grey blue eyes looked like a quiet ocean with hidden currents surging beneath.
Ouyang Hongye continued, “Tonight the six of us will take turns to keep watch; two people in one shift for two hours!”
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