Chengfeng and Yuehan nervously followed the noise, and saw a figure approaching from the other end of the cave, illuminated by a blue light.
This figure was enveloped in a brilliant blue light around him, as if a halo surrounded him.
In Chengfeng’s eyes, this light shone behind the figure, making it difficult for Chengfeng to recognize the figure. The figure was hunched over, his tattered clothes torn and dirty. It resembled that of a cultivator’s uniform from the Spiritual Mountain sect. There was a hole in the clothing which revealed his thigh. It seemed dirty from dirt and mud, as if it hadn’t been washed in ages.
The figure was holding a stick, which seemed to be four feet long and two inches wide. It rapped loudly against the ground, which made it sound like it was made of stone.
He hobbled closer towards them, using the stick in his hand as a crutch. Upon getting closer, his face was finally revealed.
His face indicated that he was an extremely old man, etched with numerous wrinkles and scars. But the most striking feature wasn’t his deep wrinkles and scars that made his face resemble a terrain, instead it was his gray eyes.
"Is, is he blind?" Yuehan whispered into Chengfeng's ear.
Chengfeng nodded slightly, and pulled Yuehan behind him to shield her.
Chengfeng whispered, "Step back a little, we don’t know if he’s a friend or foe.”
The old man suddenly quipped, “Step back? You know how tight this place is, how are you going to step back?”
The voice was gravelly but powerful, it echoed and oscillated in the cave. The old man raised his head to identify the direction. He smiled and said, “I have lived under Shiwu Mountain for over fifty years. This is the first time I’ve seen another person… no, two living people!”
He paused, raised his head and sniffed. He smiled and exclaimed, “And one of them is a girl?”
Yuehan’s expression darkened, she sensed there could be danger from the old man.
The old man walked to the middle of the cave. Chengfeng saw it clearly now, he was wearing a Hidden Sword Court cultivator’s uniform. Chengfeng was taken aback, and asked, “If you don’t mind me asking, were you a member of the Hidden Sword Court?”
“Hidden Sword Court?” the old man pondered a while. He suddenly laughed, and answered, “Ah yes, I remember now. I was once an elder of the Hidden Sword Court.”
Chengfeng exclaimed gleefully, “It’s you, master! I’m a new disciple of the Hidden Sword Court, Li Chengfeng! I recognize you!”
The old man was amused, “Hidden Sword Court still stands? Man, the folks at Hidden Brocade Court are slow!”
Chengfeng replied with a bitter smile, “You may not know this sir, but the other three courts have been cornering the Hidden Sword Court for some time now… the numbers in Hidden Sword Court have dwindled. We’ve lost our greatness!”
The old man clenched his fists. His blind eyes were devoid of any emotion, but there was an angry and terrifying air to him. “The three courts have overstepped their boundaries!”
Chengfeng excitedly suggested, “Our meeting today was definitely a culmination of the fates! As long as we can escape, you can help us restore the court’s former glory!”
The old man’s angry energy gradually dissipated. He grinned, revealing rows of jagged yellow teeth. “Escape? Where to?”
Chengfeng was taken aback, “Sir, there is a month left to the evaluation. If the Hidden Sword Court is rated as the lowest ranked Court for the fifth year in a row, Hidden Sword Court would be disqualified and cease to exist!”
The old man cocked his head and “looked” at Chengfeng with a smile. “Oh? You think if I follow you out, I can help the court pass the evaluation?”
Chengfeng said cautiously, “There’s no morale nor sufficient manpower in Hidden Sword Court. Your return will greatly boost their spirits and throw the other courts off their footing. Ah, where are my manners, how should I address you sir?”
The old man paused for a while. He then slowly replied, “My surname’s Chen.”
Chengfeng hurriedly addressed him, “Martial Uncle Chen!”
Uncle Chen sneered, “Hold your horses. You really think that after we get out, I can revive Hidden Sword Court?”
Chengfeng said hesitantly, “I dare not… but there is always hope.”
Uncle Chen snorted in response, “Hope? Ever since Chao Tianque went missing, there wasn’t any hope left for Hidden Sword Court! Without Chao Tianque, Hidden Sword Court is like a tiger without its fangs and claws! Plus, with the three other courts around, what makes you think there’s any hope left for Hidden Sword Court?”
“But…” Chengfeng was anxious. In his opinion, he was overjoyed that he had a chance encounter with an elder of the Hidden Sword Court. With an elder in Hidden Sword Court, he’d guess that the other members will be just as excited.
But why was Uncle Chen so pessimistic?
Chengfeng asked, “Do you want the watch Hidden Sword Court get completely wiped out during the evaluation a month from now?”
Uncle Chen mocked Chengfeng, “You think that when I get out of here and all will be well? Why didn’t you ask, why I stayed here in this cave for fifty years? Is it because I’m blind, can’t get out? Or is it because there are too many holes and passages, so I got lost?”
Chengfeng was at a loss of words. He felt something didn’t add up, and his excitement slowly died down. He stammered, “Then…”
Uncle Chen slowly started, “Without a Court Master, Hidden Sword Court was like a group of dragons without their heads. We were helpless. We couldn’t stop the siege by the other three courts.”
As he slowly explained, it seemed as though scenes of past events floated through his gray eyes. He continued heavily, “Even if I return, I can’t stop the three courts from suffocating Hidden Sword Court. Furthermore, I’m not strong enough to defeat the three courts’ Court Masters. Furthermore, I’ve heard Hidden Brocade Court has a young man by the name of Qian Shanxue. Apparently his cultivation skills are so good they rival that of a Court Master’s.”
“Oh, and there’s this girl from Hidden Beauty Court… the one with the red hair. I’m sure her skills must have improved by now? When she first arrived at Spiritual Mountain, I could sense that she wasn’t like any other person. Alas… she even killed Brother Zhao. It was horrible, horrible!”
Chengfeng understood now. The elder that stood before him was traumatized by the other three courts, hence his self-imposed exile in the cave. He was afraid.
He was afraid of the outside world!
Chengfeng was disappointed.
He assumed the elder would be a saviour for the Court, but he turned out to be a coward?
Uncle Chen murmured a little, and then said, “The younger generation will be the death of me!”
Chengfeng thought about something, and then decided to urge Uncle Chen, “So you’d rather spend the rest of your life here in this cave, and idly watch Hidden Sword Court get disqualified?”
Uncle Chen laughed knowingly, “Hmph, wait ‘til I find Hidden Sword Court’s most coveted treasurer, and then I’ll turn the tide in our favour! Even if Hidden Sword Court ceases to exist anymore, I can stage a comeback for them!”
Chengfeng was taken aback and asked, “You’ve been here for so many years, all of it just to search for this treasure?”
Uncle Chen snorted, but remained silent. Chengfeng asked again, “What kind of treasure is it? Have you found it?”