On the other side, within Hidden Brocade Court, Zhan Qisheng followed Sun Boyi as they travelled along a mountain path towards an obscure area.
Zhan Qisheng walked with his hands behind his back, seemingly uncomfortable. The experience Zhan Jinbao gave him of the area had traumatised him.
“Where does this path lead to?” Zhan Qisheng frowned, stopping and refusing to walk ahead.
Sun Boyi stopped too. “We’ll arrive at the prison soon.”
Zhan Qisheng looked around only to see nothing but green mountains. If it was not for the stone steps beneath his feet, he would not believe that Spiritual Mountain Sect had a prison nearby.
Every cultivator sect was a self-sufficient ecosystem. They had their own administrative system, law enforcement, executioners, prisons, judges, guards etc. They were a small but complete ecosystem.
A large sect naturally had bad apples who broke laws, malicious infiltrators, or people captured to be interrogated. They were all locked up in this prison.
Zhan Qisheng could barely believe that such an important place would be built so far away from everyone else without any guards nearby.
He smirked. “This place is so quiet and obscure, are you sure there’s a prison nearby? Unless… Hmmph!”
Sun Boyi clenched his teeth. “Junior Brother Zhan, don’t worry! I hate the Li family with my bones, just like you! How would I know that sly fox would stay for a day in Hidden Brocade Court and then slip off into Hidden Sword Court?”
Zhan Qisheng cried angrily, “So what if it’s Hidden Sword Court? I thought you guys never took them seriously anyway!”
Sun Boyi said, “Junior Zhan, you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg! At this moment, with Hidden Brocade, Hidden Modesty and Hidden Beauty Courts working together, we technically should be able to squash Hidden Sword Court with just one finger!
“Then why haven’t we made a move yet? Sigh, it’s all because of the absolute rules set by the martial uncles! According to these rules, it doesn’t matter how much we bicker, they wouldn’t care but if we cross the line, the martial uncles will definitely interfere!”
Zhan Qisheng furrowed his brows. “Why don’t the martial uncles directly destroy the Hidden Sword Court?”
Sun Boyi’s eyes darted around, then he lowered his voice. “Actually, the martial uncles’ hatred towards Hidden Sword Court has long dissipated. Now all they care about is suppressing the three other courts.
“They’re all half-immortals now. Anyone who has attained such heights naturally has pride. They’re afraid of gossip talking about them bullying their younger counterparts. That is why they will only let the system automatically eliminate Hidden Sword Court upon ranking last five consecutive times during the ranking evaluation.
“Once that happens, Hidden Sword Court will no longer be protected by the sect rules. Then everyone can do whatever they want without fear!”
Zhan Qisheng clenched his teeth in anger. “That won’t do, Chengfeng will surely escape when the time comes! I must catch him, I want him to kneel before my feet, I want him to beg me on his knees! I want him to regret being born!”
The green vein on his forehead bulged like a wriggling snake while his eyes filled with visible blood vessels. All his suppressed anger suddenly erupted, startling Sun Boyi who was privately terrified.
‘What’s there to be afraid of? My cultivation base is much higher than his!’ thought Sun Boyi, privately comforting himself.
But when Zhan Qisheng looked at him, he instinctively looked away and dared not meet his eyes.
After a while, Qisheng continued, “Let’s go. Lead the way. I’ll trust you one last time! If I find that you’re lying… the Zhan family will never forgive enemies who dare challenge us!”
Sun Boyi smiled uncomfortably, “You must be joking, I’m just a poor little cultivator, why would I dare challenge the Zhan family?”
“Good! Lead the way!” Qisheng huffed coldly.
Both of them continued ahead until they arrived at a flat valley. Sun Boyi clapped a specific rhythm. After a while, two silhouettes suddenly appeared. Both faces were covered with black cloth. They were clad in black Spiritual Mountain Sect cultivator robes without any court symbols, their sleeves bore no stripes. Both of them looked identical.
Sun Boyi explained in a flattering tone to Zhan Qisheng, “These are Spiritual Mountain Sect Ghostrunners. They are chosen from each court every five years, then entering this secretive group. During these five years, they will give up all previous identities and are banned from talking to outsiders, revealing their faces or leaving this place.”
Zhan Qisheng was from an influential clan so he understood immediately. “This is similar to the Zhan family prison.”
The Zhan family prison recruited their best disciples as guards. During their service period, they must not communicate with the outside world and temporarily abandon their previous identities, names and families. During their seven-year service period, they were put in charge of one of the most important prison cells in the world: the Nine Hells.
When Zhan Qisheng mentioned the Zhan family, both Ghostrunners’ eyes darted at him in surprise.
The Ghostrunner on the left extended a hand at Sun Boyi. “You shall only pass with the token, or die!”
Sun Boyi hurriedly fished out the token he brought. After the Ghostrunner looked at it, it was passed to the other Ghostrunner, who matched it with his own. When both pieces matched together perfectly, he nodded and made way for Sun Boyi to pass.
The Ghostrunner on the left walked towards a stone wall on the side of a mountain and pressed with his palm.
A deep rumble came from within the mountain and a large cave slowly appeared. Within was a dark tunnel.
Sun Boyi flicked his wrist and made a mudra for a simple illuminating spell. A blinding white light came from his hand as he turned to Zhan Qisheng. “Junior Brother Zhan, stay close. Don’t get lost.”
Zhan Qisheng followed him in awe as the cave entrance closed behind him. He followed Sun Boyi downwards as they passed all the tunnel with many entrances to other tunnels, as well as many motionless mechanical stone statues and quietly patrolling Ghostrunners.
A fiery glow danced around the cave, each spot a varying degree of darkness. Zhan Qisheng suppressed the questions within him and followed Sun Boyi for a while. They soon arrived at a smaller entrance which had a shut metal door. There was a sunken shape in the wall, where Sun Boyi placed his token inside. A mechanism clicked and the metal door opened. The fiery glow from outside leaked into the dark stone chamber.
Sun Boyi and Zhan Qisheng instinctively covered their noses from the horrible stench inside. There was a stone pillar within the room with a person tied to it. This person was a bloody mess but his facial features were still distinguishable. This was the Cleansing Moon Li family’s butler: Uncle Kun!