The next day, Shen Yuan was struck with a sudden high fever. Any plans of investigation were immediately put on the side in favor of recuperating.
Shen Qingqiu's personal servant was a young inner disciple by the name of Ming Fan. He was a tall, unassuming youth with a wide-set face, and though he had a somewhat dull air to him he certainly looked reliable enough.
"Master," Ming Fan said, wringing a wet cloth in a rather foul-smelling medicinal soak. Mu Qingfang, who was evidently the resident pill master, had sent it over that morning.
Shen Yuan briefly toyed with the notion that Mu Qingfang was the murderer and had poisoned the medicine to silence him. A second later, he discarded the absurd thought; it would have been too obvious if he were to die of poisoning.
"En," he replied indifferently.
"Don't you think it's strange that the Sect Head died of a Qi deviation?."
So the rumors were already beginning to form.
"Why do you say that?" Shen Yuan asked.
Had what had transpired yesterday already leaked out?
Ming Fan folded the cloth neatly, before gingerly placing it over Shen Yuan's forehead. Shen Yuan resisted the urge to wrinkle his nose at the smell. "I thought he was known for having destroyed all seven emotions when he transcended to Nascent Soul."
"So," Ming Fan began, slightly flustered. He paused, and then continued, "Doesn't Master think it strange that someone with no emotional connections failed his ascension because of internal demons?"
Shen Yuan reconsidered his evaluation of Ming Fan. The youth in front of him looked dense, but it seemed he was more perceptive than Shen Yuan had given him credit for.
No wonder Shen Qingqiu had recruited him as a personal servant.
"And what of it?"
Ming Fan blinked. "Well, what does Master think happened?"
Shen Yuan's lips curled downwards into a grimace.
"Don't play with fire," he said coldly, "unless you wish to get burnt."
That line was really too cool™!
Shen Yuan had read it in a web novel once, where the main character had spewed those lines before accepting a duel. At the time, Shen Yuan had gone as far as to bookmark that page permanently, just to look back from time to time at how cool™ the stallion MC was.
Although the effect was somewhat diminished by the fact that he was currently immobilized and feverish, it didn't change the fact that it still added +10 Coolness™ points immediately!
Ming Fan looked convinced enough, either way.
"It's as Master says," he said, nodding vigorously. "This servant understands."
As for whatever meaning Ming Fan had gleamed from that cryptic statement, who knew. Shen Yuan, still basking in the glory of his sageness, didn't pay any more attention to the youth in front of him.
Instead, he was instantly reminded of the task at hand. His attention returned back to the cowardly-looking cultivator from the day before.
Who was he? His standing in the sect was obviously high, to have learned the Cangqiong Sword Art, and yet nothing in the original Shen Qingqiu's memories indicated that he knew of this man.
Either way, it was clear that this man was his first clue in investigating the murder.
All in due time.
In the late afternoon, Yue Qingyuan dropped by to visit him. Shen Yuan, still in the haze of sleep, wasn't aware of the man's presence until a cold hand pressed itself against his forehead.
"Your fever must be serious," Yue Qingyuan said, a visible frown on his face. "Normally, you would have protested against my presence here before I even arrived at the Peak."
He was talking mostly to himself. He seemed to think that Shen Yuan's silence was indicative of a severe illness, although Shen Yuan's lack of response was mostly because he had been too distracted to notice anything before, and now didn't know to proceed without exposing himself as too OOC.
Although, having thought about it, Shen Qingqiu probably would have been paranoid enough to be on guard at all times.
Shen Yuan sighed, but decided that perhaps Yue Qingyuan's arrival was a blessing in disguise. After all, there were gaping gaps in Shen Qingqiu's memory, and knowing more about the cold, indifferent man who had once resided In this body would make it easier for Shen Yuan to adapt.
"It's been a long time, shidi, since I've seen you so vulnerable like this," Yue Qingyuan continued monologuing. The hand on Shen Yuan's forehead trailed down the side of his face, until it lingered at the curve of his cheekbone. "Ever since you were young, you've always resisted other people seeing you in a weakened state. Although, perhaps I'm to blame..."
What kind of plot development was this? Being given hints by NPCs was one thing; being trapped in bed and forced to listen to a man rant about how the previous owner of this body wasn't was a cute enough shidi was another.
"...I should have done more..."
Just where was Yue Qingyuan's hand touching? Shen Yuan's eyes furrowed slightly, but he remained still.
Wasn't this too close for two brothers? Do normal brothers usually caress each other's neck like that?
"...Ah Jiu, you've suffered a lot, haven't you?..."
Could this be considered sexual harassment of an infirm person? Yue Qingyuan ah, I didn't know you were this kind of beast!
"...I should have done more for you regarding Shifu..."
Hold on, what was that last part?
Shen Yuan's mind suddenly sprang back into overdrive. It seemed like the plot writers hadn't failed him after all; the first clue regarding Shen Qingqiu and his old master had been delivered neatly into his lap.
Yue Qingyuan noticed Shen Yuan's change in expression.
"So it seems shidi still hasn't forgiven this Martial Brother for that," he said, sighing.
Shen Yuan reminded silent.
It wasn't like he wanted to; rather, he wanted nothing more than to question Yue Qingyuan now and drag all of the answers regarding Shen Qingqiu's tumultuous relationships out. However, that would definitely be OOC to the MAX, and he'd be struck down by Yue Qingyuan's sword before he could even get the odd word out.
"Then this Martial Brother won't disturb you rest," Yue Qingyuan sighed. "This Martial Brother can only hope that you recover soon enough. But you will not be faulted if the investigation goes nowhere."
The last part of the sentence seemed to carry some hidden meaning to it, of which Shen Yuan was unable to grasp.
Yue Qingyuan's hand patted Shen Yuan's shoulder fondly, and he sighed again.
And, with only those words, he was gone.
In the evening, Ming Fan returned to change the medicinal soak. This time, a large scowl was present on his face.
"That bastard Liu is definitely plotting something," he cursed, taking the cold towel off of Shen Yuan's head and replacing it with a warm, newly-pungent one.
Shen Yuan thought for a while, before realizing that Ming Fan was referring to Liu Qingge.
"Don't," he said, and coughed. His voice was hoarse from the fever, and the smell of the herbs was strong enough that it was a struggle not to gag. "Don't disrespect your Martial Grand-Uncle Liu."
Now that Shen Qingqiu was gone, it was time to amend all of the relationships the former him had destroyed. After all, he needed all of the suspects' cooperation to find out the truth, and keeping old grudges was one way to destroy any chances of returning back to his old world.
Ming Fan, however, was staring at him like he had seen a demon.
"Master's fever must have been worse than I thought," he muttered to himself.
Shen Yuan coughed lightly. "What was it that you wanted to tell me?"
Ming Fan walked over, sitting at the small stool beside the bed. "He's been stalking around Qingjing Peak all day. I even heard that he cursed Master to death at least thrice."
That was certainly a good start to their harmonious relationship as Martial Uncle and Nephew. Shen Yuan thought back to the cold, acerbic man in green robes that had sneered at him yesterday, and wondered if anyone had a positive relationship with him.
Perhaps it would be best to question Liu Qingge last.
"Has he tried to talk to you?" Shen Yuan asked. He wondered if Ming Fan was a target solely for his association with Shen Qingqiu. In that case, Shen Yuan would personally involve himself in the matter; he hated people who used lowly tactics the most.
Ming Fan shook his head. "I haven't seen him personally, but some of the shidi's did."
Without a reliable witness, it was impossible to know why Liu Qingge had been near the vicinity of Qingjing Peak. It could have been anything. What if — he was the guilty party behind Qiu Jianluo's death, and was here to dispose of evidence? Or better yet, of Shen Qingqiu himself?
He had heard Luo Qingge's sword work was some of the best in the continent. If he wanted to get rid of Shen Qingqiu, perhaps even Yue Qingyuan would be unable to save Shen Yuan's puny life.
But then, the truth would have been exposed, and perhaps whatever broken system had sent him here would be able to bring his soul back.
Disposing of evidence was a weak reason, as well. The only thing left behind at the crime scene was the injury on Qiu Jianluo's body, and it would have been a simple thing to clean the sword before the crime was discovered.
But what other reasons could it be?
Shen Yuan was slightly resentful of that fact that he was already bed-ridden on the first day. He had once heard the saying that the best time to solve a crime was when it happened, and the next best time was immediately afterwards. One day of having accomplished nothing could delay him out of so many clues.
And he couldn't even start questioning people out of the blue without looking ridiculous.
Although, what if —
A sudden thought occurred to him.
Hadn't people been mentioning how high his fever was all day?
Didn't fevers change some people's minds?
What if —