Chapter 301: Starting from Today, Because of You

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Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr

Jiang Qingsong was standing under a large tree.

He looked at Shu Mingyang, his eyes cold but unthreatening.
On the contrary, they were tinged with derision.

He said, “I told Helian Hu to go back first while I stayed to look for Tang Jie's trail.
Thus, you don't need to put any hopes on him coming back.”

Shu Mingyang glared at Jiang Qingsong.
“Who are you? Why are you doing this to me? Are you the Basking Moon Sect's spy in the Beast Refining Gate?”

Jiang Qingsong chuckled.

A moment later, Shu Mingyang bore witness to a shocking sight.

In the blink of an eye, Jiang Qingsong's face changed.

It wasn't just his face, but his hair, skin, and even his height.

Jiang Qingsong disappeared, to be replaced by the more familiar face of Tang Jie.

“Tang Jie!” Shu Mingyang shrieked.
“This is impossible.
I clearly saw you leave…”

He had seen Tang Jie leave using the Violet Lightning Lunge with his own eyes, so how could he have instantly turned himself into another person and accompanied Helian Hu?

Shu Mingyang felt like his brain was no longer working, unable to comprehend what was going on.
But when he saw Tang Jie's face change into You Shaofeng's, he trembled in realization.

“Illusion… an illusion spell… So you already know an illusion spell, and a very high-level one, too… Just who are you?”

The person's face changed once more, this time going back to Tang Jie.

Shu Mingyang was startled.
“If you're Tang Jie, then the one who left just now was…”

Tang Jie walked forward a few steps and sat down next to Shu Mingyang.
“On Old Crow Ridge, there's a fiend fox known as the Illusion Fox.
If you kill it, take its fiend pellet, and use a secret processing method on it, it can be used to create an avatar with the ability to transform.”

These words were enough to explain everything.
Shu Mingyang said in realization, “I see… I see…”

He looked at Tang Jie.
“This should probably be your biggest secret, right? By telling me this, it seems that you don't intend to let me survive.”

Tang Jie sighed.
“I've been trying my best to avoid this, but alas… I couldn't.”

“You've been trying to avoid this?” Shu Mingyang was shocked.
“In other words, you already knew that I was Fierce Ape?”

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“Mm.” Tang Jie nodded.

“Was it Gu Changqing?” Shu Mingyang felt like he had been careful, so he concluded that only Gu Changqing could have exposed him.

To his surprise, Tang Jie shook his head.
“Even before dying, Gu Changqing never said who Fierce Ape was.
But just because he didn't say it doesn't mean I can't guess.”

Tang Jie chuckled.
“Actually, if you change your perspective, some things become very easy to surmise.
For example, what sort of spy would a master of the Hawk Hall remember to safeguard in that situation? It could only be a spy with great potential, a spy that's hard to come by.”

Shu Mingyang's face went stiff.

He had never expected this sort of reasoning!

In the battle between them, Gu Changqing truly had died without revealing who Fierce Ape was, but Gu Changqing could have never imagined that his refusal to talk to the point of death was a hint to Tang Jie in its own way: Fierce Ape was a spy that was hard to come by, a spy with great potential.
Otherwise, Gu Changqing would not have cherished him so.

And what did it mean to be hard to come by and to have great potential?

It meant someone with high-grade aptitude, a seven-cycle Jade Gate or higher.

According to the rules of Basking Moon Academy, those of high-grade aptitude could enter the academy without regard for the quota.
This meant that those outstandingly talented students of the Sageheart Kingdom did not need to sell out the Basking Moon Sect to someone else in exchange for their help in entering the academy.

This was why Godhead Palace tended to recruit from lower-level students for its manpower needs.
Trying to get a man of their own among those geniuses was excruciatingly difficult.

Such people had a far greater hope of becoming the backbone of the Basking Moon Sect in the future.

This was exactly why Fierce Ape was different from all the other spies.
He existed for far more than just dealing with Tang Jie.
He was intended for long-term infiltration, eventually becoming a core member of the Basking Moon Sect, so he could not be exposed lightly.

Thus, the mission Godhead Palace had assigned to Shu Mingyang was to observe and report, but not do anything concrete.
It was precisely to protect him.

Having him participate in this operation was solely to get him accustomed and habituated to the feeling.
After all, the typical modus operandi of a sleeper agent, to remain inactive for decades for the sake of causing trouble for a single day, was the most unreliable method of all.
The vast majority of sleeper agents who had to remain undercover for decades to a century would turn traitor the moment they reached a high position.

Ensuring the loyalty of a spy involved keeping them in a constant state of activity, creating inertia.
This was the reasoning behind having Shu Mingyang take part.

But it was this excessive protection that had indicated to Tang Jie Fierce Ape's importance.
He could easily deduce that Fierce Ape was highly likely to be a genius student with a seven-cycle or greater Jade Gate.

Thus, with the assessment of “hard to come by” and “great potential”, Tang Jie had declared that he had seen through the heart of the matter, and Shu Mingyang instantly understood.

But he was still somewhat unwilling to give up, saying, “But I'm not the only one with a seven-cycle or greater Jade Gate.
Why were you so sure that it was me?”

“Naturally, it was based on your everyday behavior.” Tang Jie smiled.
“In truth, I actually started to suspect you even before I killed Gu Changqing.”

“Before that?” Shu Mingyang was shocked.

“Mm.” Tang Jie nodded.
“Do you remember that time we met at Spirit Platform Pavilion?”

“Which time?”

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Tang Jie coolly said, “That one time I had received the Heartbreak Saber and was planning to head into Tiger Roar Valley.
I happened to run into you at Spirit Platform Pavilion back then.”

Shu Mingyang thought it over and finally remembered.
“I remember now.
I was going to Spirit Platform Pavilion to sell talismans and ran into you.
You even bought a few talismans from me at the time.”

“Correct.”

“Did I make a mistake that time?” Shu Mingyang couldn't think of any errors he had made back then.

Tang Jie chuckled.
“This incident happened after the Lin Clan invited me to their party.
If my guess is correct, you were the one behind the scenes who commanded Lin Dongsheng to invite me, yes?”

Shu Mingyang sighed.
“Yes.
On Gu Changqing's order, I mobilized the spies in the academy.
Gu Changqing's mission was to draw you out of the academy, and to protect myself, I naturally couldn't do this out in the open, so I gave the task to Lin Dongsheng.
But what does that have to do with Spirit Platform Pavilion?”

“It's nothing.
It's just that before then, I set a new record at Celestial Defense Hall, using that as a pretext to have Cai Junyang find Lin Dongsheng and ask for an increase in pay for me to attend the banquet.”

“I know of that.”

“But after that, I went to the Forging Platform and didn't come out.
Lin Dongsheng sent Junyang a reply, and Junyang wanted to find me and tell me the news, but he was never able to find me.
Only after I returned from Tiger Roar Valley did he manage to find me and inform me of the matter.
But do you know what he said to me back then?”

Tang Jie looked at Shu Mingyang and said clearly and firmly, “He said: 'He agreed a few days ago, but you were holed up in the Forging Platform for the last few days, so I didn't get the chance to tell you.
I even had everyone I knew try and pass on the word to you, but in the end, the message never reached you.
Lin Dongsheng is beside himself with anxiety.
And right after I heard that you came out, you go and kill the mother tiger.
You really are something else!'”

Shu Mingyang trembled.
“I get it!”

Back then, Cai Junyang had been looking all over for Tang Jie but had been unable to find him, so he had notified others to pass on the message to him.
But only one person had encountered Tang Jie in between his departure from the Forging Platform and his trip to Tiger Roar Valley: Shu Mingyang.

Yet he hadn't mentioned it at all!

Tang Jie continued, “When I heard this from Cai Junyang, I was truly stunned.
Why? Why was it that you didn't mention the matter despite knowing that Cai Junyang was looking for me? You forgot? Impossible! My setting a record in the Celestial Defense Hall and increasing my social value wasn't some small event in the school.
Even for our current selves, several hundred spirit coins isn't something we can just ignore…”

“I didn't say it because I wanted to distance myself as much as possible…” Shu Mingyang muttered.

“Yes.
It was a habit, a habit to keep yourself out of the vortex.
A habit to keep yourself uninvolved and protect yourself no matter what happened.
This sudden increase in price originally wasn't a good thing, but I did it so that I could force out the schemer behind the scenes.
To keep yourself safe, you naturally wouldn't implicate yourself, but in doing so, you forgot about Cai Junyang's request… a cover-up that only made matters worse!”

Tang Jie continued, “Of course, it's a little arbitrary to pin you as Fierce Ape based on just that.
But once my guard was up, I naturally began to notice many other things.
For example, when Gu Changqing captured me, why didn't he kill you guys? He wanted to use you guys to force me to hand over the Martial Mirror, but even though I didn't ask, he still spared your lives.
This only made me even more certain that Fierce Ape was among you four.
During the True Inheritor struggle, I found out that Liu Hongyan was part of the Law Hall and Ping Jingyue belonged to the Thousand Passions Sect.
While there were problems with both their identities, none of it had to do with Fierce Ape.
And that just left you and Junyang as the most suspicious.
After Gu Changqing died, you lost your commander and stayed low for two years.
In fact, in that period of time, you became a lot more distant with me, though you didn't notice it yourself.
Cai Junyang, meanwhile, continued to be as friendly as usual.
And when the Immortal Fortune Conference was about to start, you received new orders and began to frequently come and see me… Your interactions with me were almost entirely in line with the attention Godhead Palace paid toward me.”

Tang Jie chuckled.
“I don't have any direct evidence to prove that you're Fierce Ape, but when you put together all this indirect evidence, these various hints, it would be very difficult not to guess at your true identity.
To tell the truth, isn't that how Godhead Palace decided it was me? It was just that I prepared new evidence for them to make them look at things in a whole new light.
But you lacked the same method to overturn my judgment.”

“I see… That's how it was…” Lying on the ground, Shu Mingyang weakly looked up at the sky.
“Since you already know that I'm Fierce Ape, why haven't you killed me?”

Tang Jie hesitated, and then he slowly said, “You have an eight-cycle Jade Gate, so even without any secret support from Godhead Palace, you would have a great future in the Basking Moon Sect so long as you properly cultivated… The risk of joining Godhead Palace is too great.
I presume that you wouldn't do it unless you had some reason.”

A smile finally appeared on Shu Mingyang's face.
“You want to know?”

“I just feel like you should have some reason that forced your hand.”

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Shu Mingyang exhaled.

He silently looked up at the sky for a while before finally beginning to speak.

“I'm from Mengmen Gully, a little village located in the Ling Province, administered by Yangmen County.
The village wasn't very rich, but it also wasn't very poor.
With cultivators around, the weather was good every year, and there were no natural disasters.
Though the taxes were a little high, it was a passable life.”

Tang Jie quietly listened.

Shu Mingyang went on, “Next to Mengmen Gully is a river called the Numb River.
When I was little, I loved to play on its shore.
When I was nine, a turtle fiend came to the Numb River, causing trouble and creating a flood.
In one night, the waters of the river rose several dozen meters, engulfing many of the homes.
The villagers sent someone to seek aid from the county, but to their surprise, the presiding cultivator refused to move, claiming that it wasn't convenient to move at night, putting things off until the next day.”

Tang Jie frowned.
“That's a dereliction of duty!”

Shu Mingyang chortled.
“So what? You think everyone in the world faithfully carries out their duty? In the academy, we're taught to abide by the rules, so we consider the law to be as great as the heavens.
But once we leave that small place and enter the world of the unknown, there are far too many places that the sect can't see, and so there is bound to be too much darkness.
Dereliction of duty? It's nothing much, a small trifle.
But this small trifle caused half of the fields of Mengmen Gully to be flooded and sixteen people to be swept away in the river waters.
But this would have been fine.
While the people of my Mengmen Gully had suffered from a disaster, they did not dare to accuse an honored master of anything.
That master simply needed to give a truthful account of the matter so that the village's taxes could be reduced for the year.
But to our shock…”

Shu Mingyang's voice suddenly turned cold.
“I don't know what that bastard got from that turtle fiend, but he didn't want to hand it over, so he didn't want to report it.
Thus, he covered up the entire matter of the flood.
As a result, the court sent someone to collect the usual taxes, and our village had nothing to give.
The quarreling of the two sides went from verbal to physical, and the royal court decided that it was a rebellion and had 248 villagers executed!”

Shu Mingyang's eyes were almost popping out, red with endless anger.

Even Tang Jie couldn't help but sigh.
“This simply chills the blood! What's the name of that bastard?”

“Bai Tanzhen.”

Tang Jie nodded.
“I've remembered it.
If I have the chance, I will definitely take vengeance for you!”

Shu Mingyang smiled.
“Thank you!”

Tang Jie said, “After that incident, you joined Godhead Palace?”

Shu Mingyang replied, “Mm.
At the time of the incident, my Jade Gate hadn't been opened, so nobody cared about this village.
And Godhead Palace needs spies, and it loves to find refugees from places like this.
After the incident, Godhead Palace came to find me and opened my Jade Gate.
When they discovered that I had an eight-cycle Jade Gate, they regarded me as a supreme treasure and were simply ecstatic.
They immediately mobilized considerable manpower to pave a path for me.
I was a Sageheart native, and my background was clean, and then they helped in wiping away everything that had happened at Mengmen Gully.
Currently, besides me, there are probably few people who know what happened at Megmen Gully,” Shu Mingyang said.

He looked at Tang Jie and said, “When I came to know that I had eight cycles, I swore an oath on my Heart Demon that I would kill all evil beings so long as I lived, to return peace and justice to this world! Although I am a Godhead spy, the heavens and earth have borne witness to my heart of justice!”

Tang Jie sighed.
“In the end, you're just finding an excuse for yourself.”

“What did you say?” Shu Mingyang was stunned.

Tang Jie explained, “Do you really think there is some spotless land in this world? There are evil people in Sageheart and Nadir Hill alike.
You can kill the people of Basking Moon, but can you kill the people of Nadir Hill too? It's one thing to join Godhead Palace because of your personal grudge, but why drag in justice and righteousness?”

Shu Mingyang snorted, unwilling to be persuaded.
Although he had joined Godhead Palace, he still felt like he was standing on the side of justice.
He was naturally unhappy that Tang Jie was saying that he only had his personal grudge on his mind and not any sort of justice.

Though he wanted to argue, Tang Jie changed the subject.
“That said, your situation is truly worth sympathizing over.
When I realized that you might be Fierce Ape, I guessed that something like this might have happened that would make you sell your life to Godhead Palace.
With this in mind, I didn't want to try and deal with you, and your account today has confirmed my thoughts.”

“But in the end, you still decided to kill me,” Shu Mingyang said.

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“Yes, because killing you benefits me more,” Tang Jie sighed.
“That's why I said that you shouldn't try and find reasons to justify your behavior.
We're all self-interested creatures.
A conscience only works simply because it hasn't been tested enough.”

“Then what sort of benefit would make you decide to kill your conscience and kill me?” Shu Mingyang asked.

Tang Jie smiled.
“You're wrong about one thing.
Killing you doesn't go against my conscience.
After all, in these last few years, everything you've done has caused me trouble, even almost killed me.
I didn't kill you because I was being generous, but I'm taking back my generosity now.
As for the benefits…”

Tang Jie cast his gaze onto Shu Mingyang's body.
“You fought with Helian Hu, and then you died right after Helian Hu left…”

Shu Mingyang's eyes erupted with light as he stared at Tang Jie.

Tang Jie casually went on, “Thus, everyone will know that you died at Helian Hu's hands.
And that isn't even the most important part.
Importantly, you already told Helian Hu who you were before your death.
Helian Hu knew that you were a Godhead spy, and he still killed you, all because… you participated in the creation of the Spirit Seal Talisman.”

Tang Jie took out that token proving that Shu Mingyang was a Godhead Palace spy and pressed it onto his body.

“This is the physical evidence,” he said.
“Besides that, there's the witness, which is me.
Helian Hu and Jiang Qingsong pursued you, and you died at Helian Hu's hands while I killed Jiang Qingsong.”

Shu Mingyang glared at Tang Jie.
“Helian Hu won't admit to it.”

“Of course, but no matter how much he denies, he won't be able to explain the wounds on your body.
This place is covered with the marks of your battle against Helian Hu, and many of your wounds were created by tiger claws.
I used medicine to poison you not because I couldn't beat your injured self, but in order to avoid ruining this most natural and real battlefield.
Whether it's the Beast Refining Gate or Godhead Palace or anyone else, they will come here and will be able to see that you fought with Helian Hu… It's completely real and not fabricated at all.
Of course, the same will be true for your death.”

He snapped his fingers, and little Bao'er came out of the forest.

Tang Jie continued, “Alas, no matter how sharp their eyes are, they can't possibly tell the difference between the claws of different fiend tigers.”

The little tiger came over and extended a paw.

Tang Jie grabbed his foreclaw and carefully placed it on one of the claw wounds on Shu Mingyang's body.

Fwish!

The claws extended, penetrating into Shu Mingyang's chest through the original wounds.
Shu Mingyang trembled as blood once more flowed out of his body.

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His heart had been pierced.

Tang Jie softly removed the claw, and the little tiger flapped his wings and flew off.

Tang Jie went on, “The evidence is all here.
No matter how Helian Hu argues, he can't remove the fact that he killed you.
Even he might suspect that he was too heavy in his blows, leaving behind some fatal injury that caused your death.
But no matter what the truth is, he's the genius with the greatest potential in the younger generation of the Beast Refining Gate, so the Beast Refining Gate could not possibly hand him over.
And that's exactly what I want.”

Shu Mingyang's body was trembling.

This wasn't the final spasms before his death, but trembling at the shock he felt from Tang Jie's plan.

Tang Jie callously said, “Godhead Palace's most valuable spy, the one with the greatest potential, did not die at the hands of the Basking Moon Sect, but at the hands of its greatest ally… The animosity between Godhead Palace and the Beast Refining Gate will begin to grow starting from today, all because of you!”

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