Mei Chao Bing could only sigh when he finally left the Sect Master’s palace. The Sect Master and Elders had thanked him for reporting this case even though it had been his own master who betrayed their Teng Yong Sect. They had even assured him that he would still be a treasured disciple of their sect despite what happened. There wouldn’t be any repercussions to him. After all, this was his master’s fault, not his.
But, well, what they said and what would happen were certainly two completely different things. Maybe the Sect Master would indeed instruct the Elders not to slight him because of what happened and maybe they would even comply but none of them would be happy about it.
It would always leave a bad taste in their mouth that someone without a master or, no, worse, someone with a traitor as his master was eligible for the same resources their disciples fought for. And if that was how the Elders who had gotten the instructions of the Sect Master thought, then it was obvious how their disciples would react.
Wouldn’t they feel that it was unfair to them? Wouldn’t they feel that they lost out on something because of him? How could they cope with that? Maybe they had in the past but now he wasn’t the lofty head disciple of one of the high ranking Elder Feng anymore. He was just the disciple of a traitor. There would be no repercussions in making things difficult for him.
Mei Chao Bing gripped the handle of his sword, his expression grim. Well, if they wanted to challenge him, they could. He would prove to all of them that he was more than the disciple of a traitor. He would make sure that he became a superb cultivator, someone able to stand on the righteous side with his head held high. This setback, he wouldn’t let it ruin his whole future. If he had to work double as hard as he had before, then he would do so. He wouldn’t —
"Senior Martial Brother Mei!"
Mei Chao Bing stopped in his tracks and turned around. His lips lifted into a gentle smile. "So it’s Junior Martial Brother Yun."
"Mn." The boy looked up at him with sparkling eyes. "Senior Martial Brother … is going to train?" His gaze flitted to the sword and then back to Mei Chao Bing’s face. His own cheeks reddened and he hurriedly turned around. "Then I won’t disturb you any longer!" And with that, he ran away.
Mei Chao Bing coughed, trying hard to hold back his laugh. He looked at his retreating back with fondness.
Well, even if the other disciples would shun him in the future, he didn’t mind too much. It was to be expected and he couldn’t fault them for their thoughts. They hadn’t been close anyway so what was there to be angry about? Whatever they did he wouldn’t care. As long as there was at least one person who was different, as long as that one person didn’t turn away from him and despised him he could live with what had happened.
"Yun Bei Fen."
Mei Chao Bing shook his head and headed to his courtyard to do what Yun Bei Fen had said and train. He couldn’t give up just because of one setback. He needed to become stronger. Not only because he needed to stand up against what the other disciples would do, but also so that the next time he was faced with such a situation he would be able to prevent it.
At the same time, Yun Bei Fen happily skipped back to his own place. He turned the corner and crashed right into another person.
"Ah!" Yun Bei Fen fell to the ground and rubbed his head with a moan. He looked up only to meet with the slightly reproachful face of his master. He blinked his eyes, pursed his lips and reached out, tugging at the hem of Baili Chao’s robe. "Master! I didn’t know you would come."
Baili Chao sighed, grabbed the youth’s hand and pulled him to his feet. Never mind, he couldn’t work up any anger if his disciple looked at him like this and even called him master this cutely. He cleared his throat and turned away, slightly lifting his chin to give at least a bit of the awe-inspiring impression a master should have.
"Fen’er, what are you doing running around like this? Haven’t you heard the gong? You’re merely in the Qi Refining stage. Something could have happened to you!"
Yun Bei Fen shuffled to his master’s side and grabbed his sleeve, fiddling with the hem while giving his master an engaging smile. "Master … Don’t be like this! Fen’er did hear the gong but it was so long ago already and you weren’t there. Fen’er was really worried so he went out to look for master."
Baili Chao looked at the boy and was met with a pair of fluttering eyelashes. "You …" He sighed again and shook his head. How had he managed to take in a disciple that was so good at acting cute? He couldn’t even get angry at him if he looked like this! Wasn’t he supposed to scold him now?
Baili Chao looked away again. "You seemed quite happy when you came back. Your master not returning must not have been such a huge shock to you."
Yun Bei Fen hugged his master’s arm. "How could that be? Fen’er was really worried. But then …" Those fingers tugged at Baili Chao’s sleeve. "Who knew I’d meet Senior Martial Brother Mei on the way? He seemed alright so …"
"So you forgot all about your master."
Yun Bei Fen nodded before startling awake. "Ah? No! No, that wasn’t it! Fen’er thought it would be better to return an—"
"Yes, yes, yes. Spare me your sweet-talk. Listen to me first. Mei Chao Bing’s master betrayed the sect."
"Ah?" Yun Bei Fen’s brows knitted together. "How could that be? Uncle Feng is —"
Baili Chao knocked his disciple on the head. "I dare you to call him 'uncle' once more! That man is branded as a traitor now. You shouldn’t even think about him or it won’t do you any good."
"Then … Then what about Senior Martial Brother Mei?" Tears welled up in Yun Bei Fen’s eyes. How could it be that this person he had always looked up to, that he had held in his heart for the last few years could suddenly meet with such misfortune? Not only had he lost his master so suddenly, but he might also not be allowed to speak about him any longer. Wasn’t this terrible?
Baili Chao sighed. "The Sect Master will have us investigate this further but, well, it might be that Mei Chao Bing will be implicated by this. It’s his master, after all. So … It would be better if you stayed a little further away from him lest you cause trouble for yourself." He ruffled Yun Bei Fen’s hair, knowing fully well that his disciple even though he was obedient normally would never listen to him in this case.
In Yun Bei Fen’s heart, from the day they first met Mei Chao Bing had always been more important than his own master. Nothing would change about that.