"Stay back!" Liu Ye yelled, leaning against the broken wall for support. "Retreat to the temple!"
"B- But grandmaster—"
"Do as I say!" Liu Ye broke into a series of coughs. "Retreat." He glared at his other disciples. "Now."
When neither of them moved, Liu Ye flew away from the wall and planted himself between Mo Ahshi and the younger fox spirits. They were the future of the Fox Zen School, and he would guard them with his life.
With a flick of his arm, Liu Ye unleashed a powerful wave of Zhenqi at the young fox spirits.
His disciples were forced back into the school's compound through the gates.
Liu Ye was now fully prepared to sacrifice himself to prevent even more casualties. When he told Wushuang that the Fox Zen School would stay and fend off the Great Six's assault instead of fleeing, he really didn't expect things to turn out this way. The plan was to activate the Barrier of Disintegration (a spell of his own creation) as soon as the attack began. Nobody other than himself knew of the spell's existence until he had actually cast it, and it was meant to be such. The barrier was the ultimate trap that Liu Ye had set for the Great Six. Its purpose was not only to protect the school, but also to significantly reduce the Great Six's numbers—caught unawares, the members of the Great Six would charge right into the invisible barrier and got turned into dust. He'd only brought Wushuang back as a contingency, just in case someone managed to work out a counter-spell. He really thought that the plan would work, that the Fox Zen School could finally take a stand against such blatant oppression.
Alas, no barrier could hold back a threat on the inside.
The plan had failed.
Hopefully, Gu Feng would take charge and lead the others to safety while he held off the attack as long as he could.
There was a loud moan followed by a series of gurgles.
Ye Yu was writhing on the ground with Mo Ahshi standing directly over her.
Liu Ye struggled against the myriad of emotions swirling inside his chest. So it was you, Shī'er… You were the traitor…
"W- What is… is… t-the… meaning of this… s-shījiě!" Ye Yu gritted out. "W- Why…"
Mo Ahshi burst into laughter. "So you're done, huh? Tsk, tsk, tsk. So weak."
"Enough, Mo Ahshi." Liu Ye forced himself to speak. "Let her go."
How could you, Shī'er? I trusted you… All these years, I trusted you…
Mo Ahshi spared Liu Ye a brief glance. "Let her go?" Mo Ahshi laughed again. "Too late for that, Liu Ye."
Mo Ahshi reached down and pulled at the Threaded Hairpin of Traversing Soul, which was stuck inside Ye Yu's lower belly. Liu Ye realized with dread that Ye Yu had just been struck by the hairpin at the Qihai.
Mo Ahshi laughed mirthlessly. "Tried the same trick on Ao Wushuang." Mo Ahshi kept pulling at the hairpin, causing Ye Yu to scream. "Didn't really work." Mo Ahshi snorted. "The bitch was still standing even after she got hit."
Blood spilled from Ye Yu's mouth once the hairpin was fully out.
Curling her lips, Mo Ahshi tapped Ye Yu's cheek with the tip of the hairpin. "It proves just how powerful Ao Wushuang is compared to you."
Mo Ahshi released the hairpin, which floated upwards until it was hovering directly above Ye Yu's writhing form.
Liu Ye charged forward, but he was too late. Green tendrils rose from every part of Ye Yu's body. And at that moment, Liu Ye knew that Ye Yu's Vital Orb was beyond saving. The tendrils drifted towards the hairpin where they were absorbed.
In a matter of seconds, Ye Yu was reduced to a bag of dry corpse and bones.
Liu Ye's knees hit the ground. All these years, Liu Ye had trusted Mo Ahshi. All these years…
"What have you done to Wushuang?" Liu Ye asked shakily.
"Well, I tried to kill her." Mo Ahshi replied almost flippantly. "But then I failed. Had to seal her away instead." There was a pause. "Then again… it's just as well." Mo Ahshi laughed. "She's still of some use to me. Plus, why kill her so soon when I can torture her some more by destroying every single thing she cares about…" Mo Ahshi grabbed the hairpin from the air. "You mark my words, Liu Ye. Tonight will be the end of your precious Fox Zen School!"
Liu Ye struggled to his feet. "I trusted you…"
"And you were a fool to do that," Mo Ahshi snarled.
"Why?" Liu Ye asked coldly. "Why are you doing this?"
Lead them to safety, Gu Feng… I'm counting on you.
"Why?" Mo Ahshi laughed humorlessly. "Revenge, of course."
Liu Ye frowned. "Revenge?"
"Enough!" Mo Ahshi pointed the hairpin at him. "Now I have a question for you."
Liu Ye slid his hand into the sleeve of his robe for his trusted opium pipe.
"How are you still alive?" Mo Ahshi asked coldly. "I'm certain that I landed a lethal hit on your Gaohuang just now."
It was then that Liu Ye realized something: this wasn't a betrayal.
He hadn't been betrayed; Mo Ahshi never betrayed the school.
That realization brought him a small amount of solace despite the grim circumstances.
Liu Ye's shoulders trembled as he began to laugh.
"What's so funny, you old fox," Mo Ahshi snarled.
"Tell me something," Liu Ye said coldly. "Who are you really? And what have you done to the real Mo Ahshi?"
The hairpin charged forward. Liu Ye's arm emerged from under his sleeve as he parried the strike with his opium pipe.
"What makes you think I'm not the real Mo Ahshi?" Mo Ahshi taunted. The hairpin circled around and returned to Mo Ahshi's hand. "Didn't you see how well I'm wielding this?"
"The real Mo Ahshi would've been aware of a simple fact concerning fox spirits." Liu Ye glared at Mo Ahshi's impostor. "In our human form, we can alter the positions of our acupoints. That's just basic fox spirit physiology, something that every fox spirit knows." Liu Ye pointed a finger at the impostor. "And yet you were confused as to how I managed to survive your first attack. The real Mo Ahshi wouldn't even have asked."
Mo Ahshi's impostor's eyes widened slightly before they were filled with anger.
"You old fox…" Mo Ahshi growled. "So you did notice something amiss…"
Liu Ye snorted. "A letter from Ao Wushuang saying that she was leaving the school with Su Chan?" Liu Ye sneered. "I knew the letter was fabricated the moment I read it!" Liu Ye glared at the impostor. "I've known Ao Wushuang since she was a little girl. I watched her grow up. She's the most loyal person I know! There's no way she would leave just like that!"
Mo Ahshi's shoulders trembled in quiet laughter.
"After reading that letter, I became aware of the fact that there's a traitor inside the school." Liu Ye stared at Mo Ahshi coldly. "I just didn't know who it was, or what their intentions were."
Mo Ahshi stopped laughing right then. "Fine! It was me. I planted that letter." She smirked. "Didn't expect it, did you?" Mo Ahshi laughed. "Mo Ahshi. One of your closest disciples."
"Where's the real Mo Ahshi?" Liu Ye gritted his teeth. "You killed her?"
"Of course I killed her." The impostor laughed. "She was no use to me alive. I needed her identity after all…" A smirk formed on the impostor's lips as she stroked the hairpin. "Although her weapon did serve me quite well…"
Zhang Tianhé's cold voice sounded from the other side of the barrier. "Enough chatter, Mo Ahshi. Release the barrier. Now."
The impostor snorted. "Have care how you speak, Zhang Tianhé," she said without even turning her head. "I don't answer to you."
"We had a deal," Zhang Tianhé said threateningly.
An uproar broke out among the mini army gathered behind Zhang Tianhé.
"Yeah! Lower this barrier, you bitch!" someone yelled.
"Silence!!!" The impostor turned around and glared at the Cultivator who had just spoken.
What happened next made Liu Ye's blood run cold: the Cultivator, and those in his vicinity, suddenly collapsed to the ground with blood gushing out of their mouths.
"You dare order me around?!" the impostor screamed at the crowd, which had suddenly gone exceedingly quiet. "None of you weaklings have the right to speak here."
Liu Ye frowned. Whoever the impostor was, she was powerful. Nobody could deal that much damage with just a look. And what disgusted him the most was her blatant lack of loyalty. Attacking her own allies?
Only the lowliest scum was capable of such treachery.
"How much time remaining till the counter spell is ready?" Zhang Tianhé asked one of his associates.
"Two minutes, my lord."
"Step on it," Zhang Tianhé ordered. "I'm going in myself."
Liu Ye kept his eyes on the impostor. He was in no condition for a drawn-out battle; he had to end this quickly. The impostor slowly turned away from the crowd, her fingers sliding along the length of the hairpin as she moved.
Liu Ye knew he had to time it perfectly; it was his only chance.
The impostor levelled her cold eyes on him.
"Time for you to die, old fox."
Horror coursed through Liu Ye when the impostor's face suddenly changed from Mo Ahshi's elegant appearance to that of a female rakshasa.
The woman's figure blurred as she moved.
Liu Ye's body morphed into wisps of green mist before the impostor's strikes could land. The mists swirled around the impostor who was trying swinging her arms wildly to free herself from the mist.
Liu Ye changed back to his original form the moment he saw an opening. His hands moved quickly as he delivered two quick strikes to the impostor's Qihai and Huagai.
The impostor crashed into the ground and rolled to a stop.
Liu Ye walked towards the impostor's limp form. "I don't know who you are," he said, "but you better tell me where you're keeping Ao Wushuang. Otherwise, I'll make your life a living hell."
The impostor moaned and crawled along the floor.
"It is futile, woman," Liu Ye said coldly. "That body is ruined." Liu Ye stopped walking and glared at the woman. "Reveal your Yin Spirit. Show me who you really are."
The impostor rolled over and looked straight into Liu Ye's eyes. Then, she started laughing.
"Ao Wushuang?" the impostor said in a mocking tone. "You want to rescue her?" She laughed again. "Dream on, you old fox."
Dread coursed through Liu Ye.
"What have you done to her?" he growled. "Answer me!"
The impostor's body suddenly twitched on the ground. "Gah! You're right!" She chuckled and spat out a mouthful of blood. "This body really is ruined."
Suddenly, Liu Ye's skin prickled. A sensation of threat had fired up his instincts, and he leaped away from the impostor's body.
The impostor's mouth dropped open, and she unleashed a blood-curdling shriek into the night. Green tendrils rose from Mo Ahshi's chest, swirling upwards until it formed a human-shaped cloud above her body.
Horror filled Liu Ye's psyche as the features of the cloud grew more and more distinct.
This wasn't just a Yin Spirit.
It was a Yang Spirit.
The green apparition morphed into the body of a beautiful young woman. And Liu Ye knew that woman. He knew her all too well.
"Y- Yan Fang?"
Translator's End Notes:
So. How many of you saw that coming?
The story was set up in such a way that make it seem like Mo Ahshi had murdered Yan Fang during the latter's visit nine years ago.
Not that there weren't hints dropped everywhere. If you've followed Li Yundong's thought processes closely, you would've suspected that it was the other way around.
Let me know what you guys think in the comments below.