"The rest of them are likely to be accomplices as well. Capture them and bring them to the City Lord Manor too!"

The guards quickly handcuffed Zhang Xuan and Elder Yi before leading them out of the residence.

Zhang Xuan didn't resist the arrest. Instead, he sent some more instructions over Dan Xiaotian, and the latter visibly calmed down upon hearing those words. With a hunched back to make him appear smaller, he limped his way out of the Dan Clan Residence. His cultivation was also concealed through a certain method which his teacher had just imparted to him. 

In the eyes of others, he was no different from an ordinary Saint 6-dan cultivator.

After leaving the Dan Clan Residence, they were escorted into a carriage, and it didn't take long for them to arrive at the City Lord Manor.

At this moment, the City Lord Manor was already completely packed. There were over a thousand people present discussing the issue concerning the bandits worriedly.

Clearly, Xue Chen's plan had worked out.

"The City Lord Manor is also very worried about the bandits entering the city. After careful investigation, we found that the Dan Clan has a hand in this matter as well. As you know, Dan Xiaotian is engaged to the Second Young Mistress. Thus, in order to ensure impartiality, we'll be holding a public trial so as to allay your fears that we might be biased in our judgement!" Xue Chen spoke up to calm the crowd.

"As expected of the City Lord Manor! They sure are efficient to root out the culprits so quickly!"

"Those who collude with the bandits deserve to die. I thought that Dan Xiaotian looked quite honest, but it seems like a wretched heart is concealed beneath his honest face!"

… 

When Dan Xiaotian was finally escorted into the court by the guards, everyone swiftly hushed down.

There was almost no one in the city who didn't know of the engagement. However, the very act of colluding with the bandits was a vile and unforgivable act. Countless lives could have lost if anything had gone wrong. Thus, they wanted to see if the City Lord Manor would still maintain its impartiality even when judging someone close to them.

After Dan Xiaotian limped into place and was forced to kneel down, Xue Chen glanced at the guards and ordered, "Bring in the evidence!"

Several guards immediately rushed in and placed the bloodied armor, bows, and arrows on the ground. Following this, a well-groomed middle-aged man walked into the court and said, "Lord, I have already inspected every article here, and the bows and arrows are indeed used by Cao Chengli and the others. There are clear signs that it had been used by them. As for the armor, there is no doubt that they are the ones used by the guards of the City Lord Manor too, and judging from the freshness of the blood, they were left on the armor last night!"

Another person stepped forward and added on, "Lord, I can also testify to this matter. While I was cultivating last night, I heard some movements outside. I secretly peeked through my windows and found many black-clothed individuals sneaking toward the Dan Clan. It does seem like they are conducting some kind of transaction between them!"


Dan Xiaotian shot a glance at the testifying witness, and he recognized the latter to be from a neighboring family not too far away from the Dan Clan Residence. They were usually on close terms with one another.

"Lord, I saw it too. There were several dozen people, and I couldn't help but feel that something was amiss. Thus, I recorded the entire scene!"

Another person stepped forward too, and he was Dan Xiaotian's neighbor as well.

That person activated his Record Crystal, and the video taken down was displayed before everyone's eyes.

Beneath the night of full moon, a group of black-clothed bandits was silently sneaking into Dan Xiaotian's residence. After they entered the premises, there was no commotion. There was only absolute silence, as if the owner of the residence had implicitly permitted their presence.

"I was still wondering if there were some other secrets involved in this issue, but to think that it's actually true!"

"But why would Dan Xiaotian collude with the bandits?"

"I also found that weird too. The Dan Clan might be declined, but Dan Xiaotian should still be able to live an ample life with the riches his predecessors have left behind. There shouldn't be any reason for him to take such a risk!"

A huge commotion broke out after the video in the Record Crystal was displayed.

Those who knew Dan Xiaotian's character and thought that there might be some conspiracy involved in the issue stared at the young man kneeling at the center of the court with a look of disbelief in their eyes.

The Dan Clan had its roots from Baiye City, but they had moved to Xuanjiang City several decades ago. Over the years, it grew swiftly, and it eventually reached its peak ten years ago, becoming an unrivaled power in Xuanjiang City.

Back in that era, there were countless experts in the Dan Clan. Just the three Dimension Shatterer realm experts that they had was enough to frighten any enemy into submitting to the Dan Clan. Not even the City Lord Manor would have dared to make an enemy out of the Dan Clan then, choosing to make peace through a marriage agreement instead. 

Everything had changed after that unfortunate incident that caused the deaths of nearly all of the experts of the Dan Clan. The fortunes of the Dan Clan were swiftly devoured by others shortly after. Nevertheless, it still held substantial wealth due to its massive accumulation over the years. There was no reason for it to collude with the bandits!

As such, most of the more rational-minded individuals amongst the crowd found the matter inexplicable.

"Second Young Mistress…" 

Just as everyone was harboring doubts, hurried footsteps suddenly echoed from afar. Raising their heads to take a look, the crowd saw the Second Young Mistress of the City Lord Manor, Xue Qin, rushing over with an anxious look on their faces.

This sight left bizarre looks on the faces of the crowd.

Considering that the marriage agreement between Dan Xiaotian and Xue Qin, it was only right for Xue Qin to stay out of this trial so as to avoid hindering the impartiality of the trial. Yet, she actually rushed out just like that… 

Sprinting behind Xue Qin were the maids of the City Lord Manor. They had flustered looks on their faces, as if they didn't expect the Second Young Mistress to act so recklessly as to barge into the trial.

"Why?"

Shaking away the grasp of the maids trying to hold her back, Xue Qin stared at Dan Xiaotian with reddened eyes, as if she was unable to accept the latter's betrayal.

"We have been engaged to one another since a young age. While you have become unable to cultivate, I have never snubbed you before and treated as per before. This time, the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion has come to our town to recruit disciples. I thought that it was an opportunity for us, so I worked hard to win Senior Huo's approval to become a menial disciple of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion… I was thinking that I could obtain even better herbs for you to recover from your affliction so that you can cultivate once again and rebuild the glory of your Dan Clan…" Xue Qin shook her head melancholically, disappointed by the betrayal of her loved one.

"I thought that you would be proud of me, so I sent my men to inform you of the matter. Yet, why did you collude with the bandits to stop this from happening? You even kidnapped me and had the bandits beat me up, attempting to force me to change my mind… Did you think that I would forget you just because I got into the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion? I'm doing this not just for myself but for our future! This would have been the key to changing our fates!"

As Xue Qin spoke, the tears brimming in her eyes began trickling down. She averted her gaze from Dan Xiaotian, as if she couldn't bear to look the man in the eye anymore.

"So, it was because the Second Young Mistress has cleared the selections for the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, and that had crushed Dan Xiaotian's self-esteem. Thus, he chose to collude with the bandits to stop it from happening…"

"Dan Xiaotian is truly foolish. Does he not know that there are many enemies of the Dan Clan out to kill him, and the only reason why he can live to this day is due to the City Lord Manor and the Second Young Mistress' protection? Or perhaps… it was because he realizes the fact that he worries about what would happen to him once the Second Young Mistress leaves. That's why he chose to make this risky move, hoping that he could retain the Second Young Mistress here!"

"As long as the Second Young Mistress goes missing, she wouldn't be able to enter the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion anymore once those from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion left. With that, as long as he seals the marriage as well, his safety would be guaranteed. No one would dare to touch him anymore!"

"Everything makes perfect sense now… That explains why the Second Young Mistress' face is slightly swollen. She must have suffered quite a bit under the bandits' captive."

"That must be the case. Who else would dare to lay their hands the Second Young Mistress of the City Lord Manor?"

"Those group of bandits would dare to do anything as long as one pays them enough. If not for his carelessness, no one would ever think of suspecting Dan Xiaotian. He really has thought things out carefully!"

… 

Hearing those accusations, everyone nodded in realization as they turned to look at Dan Xiaotian once more with looks of disgust on their faces.

A young lady had done so much for you, but you don't know the slightest thing about gratitude. Can you still call yourself a human after what you did?

"She would have won an Oscars back in my previous world!" Zhang Xuan was about to fall asleep from boredom when the Second Young Mistress entertained him with such a marvelous performance. 

With such a few words, she had managed to evoke the emotions of the crowd and win their sympathy. With such acting skills, he would have surely blamed the judging panel for under the table dealings if she hadn't won a prize.

It was human nature to sympathize with the weak and women, not to mention a person as beautiful as Xue Qin. All it took was some rousing words and a few tears to establish an emotional connection with the crowd.

Initially, the evidence and witnesses presented wouldn't have been enough to indict Dan Xiaotian of his crimes. After all, most of what was presented was circumstantial, and there was no clear motive that would justify his involvement. Who in the right mind would collude with the bandits to act against the City Lord Manor for no reason?

But with even Xue Qin testifying against him as well, the odds were way against Dan Xiaotian's favor. Even the City Lord Manor wouldn't be able to back down from this anymore. They would have no choice but to bow down to the will of the people and sentence Dan Xiaotian.

And this conveniently explained why the Second Young Mistress had been accepted as a menial disciple into the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion even prior to the official trial.

With this, not only was Xue Qin's reputation not sullied in any way, she would even be praised as a strong and sentimental lady! On the other hand, Dan Xiaotian would have become a jerk who snubbed the Xue Qin's kind intentions and even attempted to harm her. This would provide the City Lord Manor with the required justification to annul the engagement.

It was indeed a remarkable scheme with many layers to it. An ingenious ploy from a true villain indeed!

On the other hand, Dan Xiaotian was on the verge of exploding from rage.

I have agreed to cancel our engagement, but you were unsatisfied with just that and wanted to trample all over me so that you can walk out of it cleanly. When I rejected that, the first thing you thought of is to kill me instead. And when that failed too, you tried to pour dirty water over me to frame me of something I have not done… 

There really is nothing you wouldn't use against me!

"Second Young Mistress, don't waste your tears on a person like him! He isn't worthy of that!"

Seeing that they had managed to pull the crowd sentiment to their side, Xue Chen knew that his plan had already succeeded. At this point, no matter what else Dan Xiaotian said, he wouldn't be able to salvage the situation anymore. Heaving a sigh of relief on the inside, he consoled Xue Qin before ordering the maids beside her, "What are the two of you waiting for? Hurry up and bring the Second Young Mistress back!"

"Yes!" 

The two maids quickly escorted the crying Xue Qin out of the court.

Xue Chen finally his head back to Dan Xiaotian, and with a frosty look in his eyes, he said, "With the evidence in place, what else do you have to say for yourself?"

Knowing that whatever he said would be meaningless at this point, Dan Xiaotian calmly looked back at Xue Chen and said, "So, based on what you all have said so far, it's out of my low self-esteem that I was jealous of Xue Qin for clearing the trial of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion. Thus, I sought to collude with the bandits in order to stop her from going over?"

"Are you acknowledging your intentions? Or do you still intend to argue your way out of this even when there is an overwhelming number of evidence and witnesses testifying against you?" Xue Chen sneered.

"Acknowledging my intentions?" Dan Xiaotian shook his head and sighed a little, as if he couldn't be bothered to argue with someone of the likes of Xue Chen. "I wish to meet Senior Huo Jianghe from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion!"

"Audacious! Who do you think you are to dare ask for an audience with Master Huo?"

Xue Chen thought that Dan Xiaotian would raise the matter about them attempting to annul the marriage agreement previously. Regarding that, he had already prepared a countermeasure that would have the latter cornered in a single move!

But instead of that, the other party was asking to meet Senior Huo instead… Why?

"I am indeed unqualified, but I heard that the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion is accepting menial disciples. As long as one clears their trial, one would be able to join them. As someone from Xuanjiang City and is of suitable age, I believe I have a right to participate in the trial too, right?" Dan Xiaotian said.

"Anyone of Xuanjiang City would stand a chance to become a menial disciple of Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, but you, Dan Xiaotian, don't stand a chance at all. I don't know what you are trying to pull here, but the City Lord Manor is answerable to the citizens of Xuanjiang City. With the vile deeds you have committed, there's no way the City Manor will condone your crimes!" Hearing those words, Xue Chen immediately burst into laughter, as if he had heard the greatest joke in the world.

A Saint 6-dan trash actually wanted to participate in the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion's trial? How in the world did he find the courage to say something as ridiculous as that?

"Besides, do you think someone as important as Master Huo would specially conduct the trial for a trash like you?" Xue Chen continued.

"He really doesn't know his place at all!"

"All those who are allowed to join the trial are the greatest talent of our Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion. That fellow is a cripple and can't cultivate… Does he want to make our city a laughingstock in the region?"

"Master Huo is busy selecting the true geniuses from our city. How could he possibly have time to assess a cripple like him?"

"He must have knocked his head somewhere…"

Derisive laughter could be heard from amongst the crowd.

"You better drop whatever thought you have in your mind. There's no way Master Huo would come here to test a trash like you. I advise you to confess to your crimes, and we can at least spare you from some suffering…" Xue Chen bellowed loudly. 

But halfway through his words, a composed voice suddenly echoed from the courtyard outside… 

"Why can't I be here to conduct the trial for him?"

A tall figure walked into the court with widened strides.

Huo Jianghe.

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