“If the Jade Moon Serpent isn’t here, then should we just go back and report the situation to his majesty? We can change the exam then.” Zu An recalled Jiang Luofu’s warning before he had left, as well as the various red-marked dangerous areas. On top of all of that, he had no idea what kind of sinister schemes King Qi had waiting for them. He felt a strange sense of unease.
The others immediately complained about Zu An’s suggestion.
“Are you kidding me? Are we going to return in defeat after just setting out? How humiliating is that?”
“Exactly! If we went back, wouldn’t that mean we failed? How can we stand that?”
“If you’re scared, you can go back first.”
The others spoke while shooting Zu An looks of disdain. The crown princess trusted him so much, yet he had ended up being a good-for-nothing coward.
Zu An didn’t pay them any attention and looked at Bi Linglong, asking, “Crown princess, what do you think?”
Bi Linglong shook her head. “We can’t go back. The crown prince’s exam was in the works for a long time, and we used too many resources. Returning in defeat would be too great of a loss. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that King Qi’s faction won’t harass us if we return without completing the mission. Our crown prince’s side would be in a hard spot then.”
“Exactly, exactly!” The Gu clan brothers straightened their backs and stuck out their chests. “Who knows, perhaps the Jade Moon Serpent not being here might also be part of the crown prince’s test. Otherwise, wouldn’t this mission be too easy if the Jade Moon Serpent were killed so quickly? After all, this is the crown prince’s great exam; it’s related to the imperial throne. How can it be that easy of a task?”
“Indeed, the Gu clan brothers make sense.” The others quickly voiced their agreement. It was clear that they were thinking the same thing.
Zu An said sternly, “But the Jade Moon Serpent isn’t here, and we don’t even know if the creature exists in this secret dungeon anymore. If we can’t find it and leave later, it’ll only make us look even worse. Furthermore, this dungeon isn’t as safe as you might think. There are vicious beasts everywhere.”
Meng Pan harrumphed and said, “It’s just a trifling beast. We have so many people on our side; we can easily overwhelm something like that.”
Zu An said calmly, “If we really run into any formidable beasts, I reckon all of you might not even be enough to get stuck in the gaps of their teeth.”
“What did you say?!” Meng Pan erupted into fury. “You can throw away your own life if you want to; don’t think everyone else is as much of a wuss as you!”
You have successfully trolled Meng Pan for +311 +311 +311…
These young masters were all born from distinguished backgrounds. They had hardly ever encountered any setbacks and were insufferably arrogant. That was why they all agreed with what Meng Pan said.
Pei You spoke up and said, “We don’t need to worry about the Jade Moon Serpent’s whereabouts; I have a way to track it. I’ve just examined our surroundings. It most likely took residence deep in the mountains.”
“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s hurry and chase after it! Otherwise, all of the clues will disappear if we keep waiting!” the others exclaimed noisily. Everyone looked toward the crown princess. They all knew that the crown prince was only here to eat and defecate.
Bi Linglong remained silent for a moment. In the end, she said, “Alright. Most of the troops will continue towards the mountains to search for the Jade Moon Serpent. Also, just in case, we’ll send someone to the dungeon entrance to let the others know what’s happening inside.”
Everyone felt deep admiration. The reason why a pig like the crown prince could even face King Qi all these years was because of the crown princess after all. She always considered the bigger picture.
Zu An nodded in approval inwardly. What Bi Linglong had proposed was indeed the best choice at the moment. He hoped he was just worrying too much.
Their group continued on their mission. Pei You searched for the Jade Moon Serpent’s traces at the forefront of the group.
Bi Linglong took the chance to move over to Zu An’s side, asking, “You’re not mad that I didn’t listen to your opinion, right?”
Zu An chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not that petty.”
Bi Linglong smiled as well. She asked with a hushed voice, “Is this secret dungeon really that dangerous?”
Zu An nodded. He gave her a rough recount of the map Jiang Luofu had shown him. “The closer we get to the mountain, the more dangerous it becomes. In the past, the students of the academy only trained in the area around. Only rarely would they head into the mountain depths.”
Bi Linglong’s expression changed. She gave Pei You, who was at the very front, a look. “I’ve always been worried about one thing. Do you still remember what I told you before?”
“You’re worried about the Pei clan being a neutral faction?” Zu An followed her gaze and looked at the taciturn Pei You.
Bi Linglong said, “I’m a bit worried that he might be taking us to a dangerous place… No, this won’t do; I have to take some precautions.”
She didn’t wait for Zu An to reply and called everyone back. Then, she said seriously, “This mission is extremely important, so we can’t be careless at all. That’s why we all need to be on guard. The secret dungeon’s mountains are full of dangers, so you must obey orders and not act on your own. So, I’m going to officially introduce this person to everyone. This is the Eastern Palace’s Chamberlain Sir Zu An. He’s familiar with this dungeon, and he also has abundant experience in dangerous places. During the remainder of our time here, everyone needs to listen to his arrangements.”
Zu An was stunned. He hadn’t expected her to give him such an important task. However, when he thought of the unknown dangers they were about to face, he didn’t reject it either.
However, how could the others willingly accept that?
“What right does he have to tell us what to do?”
“What ability is he going to command us with?”
“There are so many people with higher cultivation ranks than him. Why do we have to listen to his opinion?”
Bi Linglong harrumphed. “Silence! What is this? Do this crown princess’ words not mean anything?”
Those who had objected immediately expressed that they didn’t dare.
Bi Linglong then said, “This matter is decided; we won’t discuss it any longer! I understand Sir Zu’s cultivation and skills well. You’ll all come to understand during the rest of this journey, so I won’t say anything else. We’re setting out!”
Only then did the group’s thoughts return to the trip. The crown princess had already said those things, so they could only respect her wishes.
When Pei You and the other clans’ scouts decided on a path, they asked for Zu An’s opinion. Zu An saw that the area was still considered the outer region of the mountain, and that it was still quite far from those truly dangerous areas, so he didn’t tell them to stop. As such, their original plans didn’t change.
After that process repeated a few times, the group developed contempt for him. They had expected some good opinions, yet he wasn’t doing anything.
Zu An could sense how these people were feeling, but he didn’t care at all. He only needed to protect Bi Linglong and the crown prince. As for the Jade Moon Serpent, with his current cultivation, facing it alone wasn’t an issue at all. He didn’t need these people to be in the way. On the contrary, what he was more concerned about was whether there were any traitors among them.
After all, everyone had been watching when the dungeon was opened. There were countless pairs of eyes watching, and King Qi hadn’t sent anyone in at all. That was why they were the only ones who had come inside. What could King Qi even do?
The biggest possibility was that there might be a mole in their party. However, these individuals were all important figures in their respective clans and had been carefully selected. That was why he wasn’t sure whether his suspicions were correct or not.
He didn’t care about his relationship with these people, but Bi Linglong couldn't do the same. When she sensed their resentment, she approached Zu An and quietly said, “Sir Zu, these people are all from distinguished clans, so they’re a bit proud and not too willing to submit to others. It’s not that they harbor any bad thoughts against you, so please don’t take it to heart.”
Zu An said with a smile, “Don’t worry, I won’t use my public duty to avenge any private wrongs.”
Bi Linglong thus gave Zu An an introduction to each person and their personalities, including their interpersonal relationships, cultivations, and other information. Too many things had happened on their way here, so she hadn’t had the time to tell him all of those things yet.
In the distance, those young masters all felt terrible when they saw how close Zu An and the crown princess seemed as they chatted and laughed with each other.
The Gu clan brothers were even more enraged. They had grown up with Bi Linglong, so they keenly sensed that the way she treated Zu An was entirely different from how she treated others. Even though such suspicion was a bit too outrageous, they still didn’t lower their guard.
Gu Xing moved over to his brother, saying, “Big bro, hurry and think of something! I don’t know what the heck that Zu An fella did to Linglong for her to be so friendly with him.”
A flicker of light passed through Gu Heng’s eyes. He quickly came up with an idea. He found a chance to move over to the crown prince’s side and said, “Crown prince, Sir Zu and the crown princess seem to be a bit too close to each other. This really seems to go against what an official should be like. Furthermore, this would easily harm the crown princess’ reputation. Crown prince, are you not going to do anything about it?”
In his opinion, no man could tolerate another man approaching his wife, let alone being that close to each other. This crown prince might be stupid in other ways, but he definitely had a strong sense of protectiveness for his own things.
The Gu clan brothers exchanged a look when they saw the crown prince look in Zu An and Bi Linglong’s direction. They smirked. Let’s see how you deal with this one, Zu An!
But they could never have expected that what the crown prince would say after looking for a while was, “In my opinion, they’re not that close to each other.”
“That’s not even close?” The Gu clan brothers were shocked. The two were shoulder to shoulder, and they even bumped into each other from time to time!
“What’s the big deal? Zu An has even carried Linglong before.” The crown prince quickly lost interest. He continued to chew on the spiced pig trotters the eunuchs had given him.