Phoenix's Requiem - Chapter 193: Identifying the Culprit
“Why not?” Pei Ziao retorted, giving Yi Qianying a strange look.
“Because Young Master Wang doesn’t act as if he likes Sister Ruoyao at all!” Yi Qianying said with certainty. “If he really likes her, it would be obvious from his expression, tone, and even customary habits. However, Young Master Wang hasn’t expressed any of these tells, and it’s clear that he doesn’t have any interest in Sister Ruoyao.”
As Pei Ziao had surmised, Yi Qianying was very good at observing people. During the past day since they had teamed up, she had paid extremely careful attention to Wang Meng’s actions. He didn’t give off any impression of liking Yun Ruoyao at all; instead, he looked at her in a rather funny manner—as though he were suspicious of her and were trying to probe her, but not in an obvious manner.
As for what sort of feelings he felt toward her, Yi Qianying couldn’t be entirely sure. However, she was certain that it wasn’t love or infatuation.
However, Pei Ziao only responded impatiently, “Brother Wang handed the high-grade beast core to Yun Ruoyao to keep. If that’s not an expression of love, then what is?”
Yi Qianying shook her head. “The reason Young Master Wang gave the giant rock monkey’s beast core to Sister Ruoyao is to cause her to let down her guard.”
Although Yun Ruoyao had agreed to team up with Wang Meng and Pei Ziao, she still felt some sort of wariness against them. After all, it wasn’t unheard of for teams to turn against their own members so that they could take the fruits of their labor all for themselves. Furthermore, she wasn’t familiar with Wang Meng, and his cultivation exceeded hers.
From Yi Qianying’s perspective, Wang Meng’s actions were undoubtedly to cause Yun Ruoyao to let down her guard—and he succeeded. Yun Ruoyao had clearly become less wary of Wang Meng, or he wouldn’t have agreed to inspect the oasis alone with him.
“You’re really something,” Pei Ziao sneered. “If you insist on distorting and misunderstanding someone else’s heartfelt emotions, then there’s nothing I can do.” Pei Ziao glanced at Yi Qianying and continued. “Brother Wang told me himself that he liked Yun Ruoyao. Otherwise, why would he leave his original team and team up with the two of you instead?”
Pei Ziao’s tone was somewhat demeaning toward Yun Ruoyao and Yi Qianying. However, Yi Qianying’s focus was on something else entirely: Wang Meng had said that he liked Yun Ruoyao himself?! Could she really have been mistaken?
No! Her woman’s intuition told Yi Qianying that she hadn’t misunderstood anything! If he truly liked her, he definitely wouldn’t look at her with a gaze filled with suspicion and probing. In that case, what could have caused Wang Meng to leave his own team…?
The thought that popped up in Yi Qianying’s mind left her back drenched in cold sweat. Could… Could Wang Meng have found out about the truth behind his brother’s death?
When Pei Ziao saw Yi Qianying suddenly freeze, he frowned, turned around, and asked impatiently, “What’s the matter now?”
Yi Qianying raised her head and looked at Pei Ziao. “Has Wang Meng ever asked you anything regarding Wang Kuang?”
Yi Qianying’s sudden question caused Pei Ziao to hesitate.
“No,” he answered truthfully.
“Don’t you think that’s rather suspicious?” Yi Qianying continued. “Wang Meng is Wang Kuang’s brother. Wang Kuang died during the imperial expedition, and we were all involved in that expedition. Why wouldn’t Wang Meng have asked any of us about what happened to Wang Kuang?”
Initially, Pei Ziao was a little guilty to Wang Meng about Wang Kuang’s death, but this guilt had vanished after seeing how Yun Ruoyan behaved by Wang Meng’s side. Yun Ruoyan had killed Wang Kuang herself, and yet she was able to behave calmly even in front of his brother. What had he to be scared of?
Furthermore, Pei Yingxiong’s favors and bribes to leave Wang Meng with a good impression of him had forged a rather close relationship between Wang Meng and the Pei household, so Pei Ziao didn’t find it unusual that Wang Meng hadn’t asked him about his brother’s death.
Furthermore, Pei Ziao had heard Wang Kuang mention that Wang Meng was single-mindedly focused on pillmaking, and wasn’t close at all to his brothers and sisters. It wasn’t certain that Wang Meng would care greatly about his brother’s death.
“No, I haven’t found it particularly strange.” Pei Ziao reviewed his interactions with Wang Meng and surmised that there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. “Furthermore, neither of us killed Wang Kuang, so we don’t have to feel any guilt.”
Yi Qianying had no other choice than to continue trudging behind Pei Ziao, her emotions heavy. Pei Ziao might not think anything was amiss, but she still felt strongly that they needed to be more careful.
According to Wnag Meng, spiritual treasures of particular potency could be felt with spiritual energy. From time to time, both of them would emit spiritual energy to boost their senses, trying to carefully identify whether that treasure was located near their surroundings.
On the other path winding deep into the oasis, Wang Meng and Yun Ruoyao walked side by side. Yun Ruoyao was fully engrossed in treasure-hunting, and she was trying hard to pay attention to her senses.
“Miss Yun.” Wang Meng suddenly turned to Yun Ruoyao.
Yun Ruoyao hesitated for a moment before looking back at Wang Meng, who was smiling at her suspiciously with narrowed eyes. Faced with this unusually charged gaze, Yun Ruoyao’s heart palpitated. For some reason, meeting his gaze head-on always seemed to cause her some amount of unease.
“You—Young Master Wang, what’s the matter?” Yun Ruoyao asked, before looking away.
In comparison to Yun Ruoyan’s artless tranquility, Yun Ruoyao’s seeming guilt and unease was magnified in Wang Meng’s eyes.
“Miss Yun, is there a reason you seem to be afraid of me?” Wang Meng’s smile became somewhat wolfish, but Yun Ruoyao had turned away and couldn’t see his face.
“Why would I be?” Wang Meng’s direct attitude caused Yun Ruoyao no small amount of panic. She truly was a little fearful of him, but as for why, she couldn’t be entirely sure. She smiled embarrassedly. “Young Master Wang, what reason would I have to be afraid?”
Yun Ruoyao naturally knew that Wang Kuang was Wang Meng’s brother. At the beginning, she was a little afraid that Wang Meng would ask him about Wang Kuang, and she had already rehearsed what to say to him in this scenario.
She had even thought of revealing Yun Ruoyan as the culprit behind the entire affair in order to get rid of her, but this wasn’t something she could do in practice. Once Wang Meng found out that Yun Ruoyan was Wang Kuang’s killer, Yun Ruoyan would naturally be the target of his revenge. At the same time, however, the Yun family and the Wang family—and likely even the merchant coalition of the Chenyuan continent, led by the Wang family—would end up as enemies.
And if the truth behind Jin Fei’er’s death were to be revealed in the process, that would be even more disadvantageous. After all, back in the imperial territory, it was she and Pei Ziao who slaughtered Jin Fei’er and her companion together.
As a result, this was a secret that had to remain hidden till her death.
Luckily, Wang Meng had never asked any of them about Wang Kuang. In fact, he hadn’t even brought Wang Kuang up in their presence. Sometimes, he behaved so ordinarily that Yun Ruoyao would even forget that Wang Meng was Wang Kuang’s brother.
Her fear of Wang Meng was therefore unlikely to be due to Wang Kuang. Instead, it seemed like Yun Ruoyao was, for some reason, particularly sensitive to Wang Meng’s aura.
“In that case, why won’t you look me in the eye?” Wang Meng asked.
“I…” Yun Ruoyao was even more flustered.
“Is it because of your guilt?” Wang Meng pressed.
Perhaps because of his condemning tone, Yun Ruoyao suddenly flew into a rage. She finally turned around and looked Wang Meng in the eye. “Young Master Wang, what could you mean? Why would I be guilty?”
Wang Meng didn’t speak. Instead, he looked at Yun Ruoyao without blinking or flinching. After a pregnant silence, he finally continued, “Miss Yun, please don’t be angry. I was just playing a joke on you.”
Yun Ruoyao’s anger dissipated almost as quickly as it had appeared under his scrutiny, and she became flustered once more.
“Young Master Wang, I’m afraid I don’t see the humor.” Yun Ruoyao turned away. “It’s almost evening, so let’s hurry up and search for this spiritual treasure. We’ll have to head back and meet up with Young Master Pei and Qianying soon.”
She hurriedly rushed to the front of the path, and Wang Meng’s smile once again turned sinister from her back.
As Jin Fei’er died, she had told Wang Meng that her brother’s killer was “Yun Ruo—”, so it had to be one of Yun Ruoyan, Yun Ruoyao, and Yun Ruoyu.
Before entering Kongming Academy, Wang Meng had investigated all three girls. The first girl he eliminated as a suspect was Yun Ruoyu. She was neither particularly talented nor particularly good at concealing her emotions, and she had a vanishingly small probability of being the killer.
Furthermore, based on Wang Meng’s investigation, Yun Ruoyan had been considered trash for much of her childhood. Only right before entering the imperial expedition did her cultivation suddenly improve, but even then, it was only at the level of a fourth-rank blademaster. She was still a far cry from Wang Kuang’s sixth-rank cultivation. That left the most likely culprit as the fifth-rank Yun Ruoyao.
On the way to Kongming Academy, Wang Meng had spoken to Yun Ruoyan in an attempt to test her. Her behavior was so natural and so guileless that Wang Meng was all but convinced that she was innocent.
Although the careful Wang Meng wouldn’t strike her off his list of suspects completely, he was more and more convinced that the culprit was none other than Yun Ruoyao. After these two days of interaction, Wang Meng discovered that Yun Ruoyao’s cultivation was already at the peak of sixth-rank, and she seemed about to break through to seventh-rank.
Wang Meng was shocked by Yun Ruoyao’s meteoric rise in cultivation, and he had even been concerned that his own investigations beforehand were flawed.
According to those investigations, Yun Ruoyao was only a fifth-rank blademaster when she entered the imperial territory. But after only a short month, how had she already reached the peak of sixth-rank? Perhaps she had already been sixth-rank upon entering the imperial territory.
If that were the case, then it wasn’t impossible for her to defeat Wang Kuang, who had had a peak sixth-rank blademaster’s cultivation. Furthermore, Wang Meng had discovered that Yun Ruoyao was both ambitious and exceedingly cautious. Although they had spent the majority of the day killing beasts together, Wang Meng could still feel that Yun Ruoyao was somewhat on guard against him.
There had to be a reason that she was this defensive, and Wang Meng couldn’t think of any other reason save that she was indeed Wang Kuang’s killer. Her guilt was all but evident in his eyes!