Heavy footsteps led its way back to the central courtyard of the sect, and the figure soon stopped in his tracks. Guiren was instantly met with probing eyes from the other disciples. Although everyone was still carrying out their chores, it could not be denied that their mouths were moving, engrossed.
Noting this, Guiren's heart hardened.
There was no absolute way to pull a cover over words once they left the mouth of the speaker. While he was able to play the situation off as a silly prank, rumors were still able to spread. Everyone had mouths, and words that were once heard couldn't be destroyed, only distorted into something new.
The damage was already done.
His hands tensed tightly, and his fingernails dug painfully into his skin.
There was only one way to stop it, and it was to bring the issue directly under the spotlight and making it widely known before destroying the source.
This way, rather than others proclaiming it and causing it to be something out of his power, he could control the direction others perceived it.
Walking briskly, Guiren made his way to the bucket of herbs he had abandoned. As he reached down for the herbs, his mind was racing quickly.
During the time, he appeared in his younger self, Guiren had agonized over Daiyu's death over and over again.
Although this second chance presented itself to him, it was no longer the same. There would no longer be the genuine relationship he once had, and every action behind his hand would be calculated. He would be creating the perfect love interest for her to see. If there would be love, would it be real love in the end? Would he take this step? Could he stay even when he was breaking down in guilt?
These memories, he stared at his hands, were both a blessing and punishment.
Every time he looked at this world's Daiyu, Guiren knew the girl he once knew no longer exist.
The timing was wrong, and the dull look in her eyes was strange.
This is... his fate?
Guiren collapsed, his back to a tree.
He had considered it over and over again, running information and dissecting each and every detail in his mind.
If he was accurate in his calculations, then Yanmei should be arriving within this month. It was highly likely that the other sect had already assigned a few spies to keep their eyes on the sect beforehand. At this thought, his eyes darkened.
You better hope I don't see you again.
In the central hall, all the disciples were promptly assembled. The sect master of the TianHua sect sat quietly in a wooden chair, his eyes roaming around the group of disciples. Just two hours ago, he was called from his room to an urgent call from a young boy claiming that Daiyu was injured. Opening his doors, he found a child crying while attempting to hold up an unconscious Daiyu. An hour later, after attending to Daiyu's internal injuries, he received a small written note. His gray eyes finally settled on a boy with bright eyes staring back at him.
"You. Step out."
Guiren removed himself from the rest of the group with two swift steps, and he looked down. The sect master frowned and finally asked, "Are you the one who claimed Daiyu was injured?"
"I am," Guiren echoed.
All the eyes turned to him in a flash, seeming to have pierced into his body. Finally, another elder stepped out and cleared his throat, "You?"
Guiren kneeled, "This disciple was jealous at heart of senior martial sister's newly picked junior brother, and I wanted to play a joke."
"A joke! This is how our sect trains our disciples?!" The elder cried out in anger, "Did you think you were funny? What if the sect were to be thrown into disorder because of your 'joke.'"
All the while, the sect master merely contemplated Guiren with watchful eyes, and he didn't utter a sound. His eyes were solely concentrated on Guiren's facial expression.
Guiren shook in fear, "This disciple admits his fault. This disciple didn't know it would be so severe. Please forgive me!"
Seeing that Guiren appeared to be honest and his sword skills were not terrible, it would be a pity to kick him out because of a minor mistake. The elder turned to the sect master, "This..."
The sect master kept his eyes on Guiren as he spoke clearly, "If everyone wanted to play such jokes, wouldn't our sect be thrown in chaos? This sect was built on the foundation of harmony. Seeing that you disobeyed this rule, you need to be punished. Carry out the punishment."
A metal paddling bench was carried into the open, and many disciples widened their eyes in shock.
Strapped onto metal paddling bench and with his hands tied up, a harsh pounding from the incoming paddle was sent right onto Guiren's back and behind. Guiren panted in shock, he nearly couldn't help yelling. His lower body muscles spasmed and clenched tortuously.
However, not once did he try to beg.
After all, he was the one who sent the note to the sect master. He knew this was what he needed to do— paint himself as the source and rid of it.
This was a small price, with this, he doubted there would be someone who would dare talk about Daiyu being injured.
Amidst the harsh punishment, Guiren couldn't help a bitter smile from appearing on his face. There were still twenty-nine hits he still needed to endure.
All the things he never said.
All the things he never did.
He would make it all up for her in this life.