Unreserved Loyalty
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Elder Feng frowned. He certainly hadn’t wanted his disciple to see this. Mei Chao Bing was a serious person that always upheld the teachings of the sect. Convincing him to leave the Teng Yong Sect would have been hard in the first place. Now, with the lifeless body of Elder Wu in front of him and the dagger in his hand, it might even be impossible.
The worst thing was that he didn’t have much time. He couldn’t have a lengthy discussion with his disciple. Maybe Elder Wu had alarmed somebody else already and even if he hadn’t the disciples guarding the soul palace would notice that Elder Wu’s soul jade had broken. They had to leave immediately or it would be too late.
He cursed inwardly, put the dagger away and took a step toward Mei Chao Bing. "Chao Bing. Come with your Master. We’re going to leave the sect and start anew at a better place."
Mei Chao Bing didn’t acknowledge what his Master said. "What happened?" he questioned instead, still staring at Elder Wu’s body. He wanted to hear it. He wanted to hear the truth and personally from his master, at that.
"There is no need for you to worry about that." Elder Feng reached out to grab him and just haul him off but his disciple sidestepped to evade him. Elder Feng cursed. Mei Chao Bing couldn’t be underestimated. He was one of the top talents of their sect. He wouldn’t win in a fight against him but it definitely wouldn’t be easy to subdue him and take him away against his will. Well, if he hadn’t had that much strength the Wu Yun Sect never would have shown interest in him. They had enough disciples of their own, after all. "Chao Bing, let’s leave now. There isn’t much time."
Mei Chao Bing’s eyes dulled. His master obviously wouldn’t admit what was happening. He wouldn’t explain anything. He just trusted that he would blindly follow him. But how could he do that?
Yes, this was the person that had taken him in, raised him and taught him all he needed to know about cultivation. He would be eternally grateful to him and he knew that it was wrong to question him.
But … he was also a disciple of the Teng Yong Sect. He was supposed to live and die for this sect and its honor. Leaving with his master, especially after what he did … How could he do that? How could he casually abandon the place that had given him the chance to lead his life in the right direction?
With a heavy heart, Mei Chao Bing cupped his fists and bowed. "Master has taught me painstakingly all these years. I’m very grateful for this and will never forget Master’s kindness but I can’t leave the sect. I’m sorry, Master, for not living up to your expectations."
Elder Feng frowned. He had feared that it would be like this. Originally, he had wanted to slowly instill the idea of leaving the Teng Yong Sect in his disciple but now that was impossible. If convincing him wouldn’t work …
"Aren’t you afraid to end up like him?" He nodded to Elder Wu’s body behind him.
Mei Chao Bing smiled without humor. "If Master thinks that your disciple deserves death for defying you, then this disciple will gladly give his life."
Elder Feng clenched his fists. Could it be that he had raised this boy for nothing? If he really had to kill him now …
"Just leave him be." The voice of the man in the dark cloak sounded from behind him.
Elder Feng turned around with an incredulous gaze. "What did you say?"
"Just leave him be. He’s attached to his sect. That’s also a good thing. But you’re his master nonetheless. He wouldn’t do anything to harm you. I trust that he will merely stand aside." He lifted his chin and looked at Mei Chao Bing, a smile playing around his lips. "Isn’t that right?"
Mei Chao Bing frowned. He had no idea who that man was but he instantly had a bad feeling when he saw him. Well, the man was right though. He wouldn’t betray his sect but he also couldn’t betray his master. He was … stuck in a dilemma without a way out. He could only do what that man had said and stand aside.
He didn’t answer and just looked away. His stance was clear enough.
Elder Feng sighed. This wasn’t what he had wished for but it was better than nothing. He stepped forward and patted his disciple’s shoulder. "Alright. Then stay here and do what you think is right. I hope you won’t regret the choice you made today. But in the case you do …" He took out a black stone that was engraved with a complicated carving on one side. "Bring this to the Wu Yun Sect and ask to see me or Elder Shi. There will be a place there for you so don’t hesitate too much. It’s not betraying the Teng Yong Sect if they’re making things difficult for you first." Elder Feng shoved the stone into Mei Chao Bing’s hands, turned around and left the Teng Yong Sect behind forever.
Mei Chao Bing looked at that familiar back with a hint of worry. He had never wanted to see this kind of situation. He had never expected that it could come to this either. He had always believed his master to be an upright and honest person. Now that it turned out that this belief had been a fallacy … How would he go on?
He knelt down beside Elder Wu. His body had already turned cold and his eyes still stared into emptiness with horror. He, too, had obviously been unable to comprehend what was going on.
"I’m sorry for what my Master did and I’m sorry that I was just that one step too late. If maybe I had returned sooner … Maybe you could still be alive."
Mei Chao Bing sighed. He gently closed the Elder’s eyes, bowed and left the hut.
A few moments later, the gong in front of the sect master’s palace sounded, alarming the whole sect that disaster had struck while they were unaware. When the Sect Master and the Elders finally hurried over they only found one disciple silently kneeling there, his expression grave. Nobody could understand just what might have happened.
Mei Chao Bing looked up at them. "Elder Wu was killed."
"Elder Wu …" Sect Master Zhang blanked for a moment before frowning. "By whom?"
Mei Chao Bing lowered his head and closed his eyes. He never would have thought that he’d ever have to utter these words. "My master." He looked up at the sect master. There were no excuses he could put forth for his master’s sake. It was already too late. His master had made his decision, now he’d have to live with the consequences. "He left with someone from the Wu Yun Sect."
In other words, he had already long betrayed the Teng Yong Sect.

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