Peerless Chapter 141-150

Chapter 141

Two streams of blood flew down slowly from his nose

Xiao-Liu had seen, with his very own two eyes, Feng Xiao walking out of the posthouse and knew that he would not be returning so soon. Even if the other man was informed now and hurried back, he could not save Cui Buqu in time.

At this moment, Cui Buqu’s back was facing him, and he was lowering his head, preparing to drink the soup.

A sharp dagger coated with position revealed itself. Xiao-Liu’s hand was very steady, moving like a flashing light, without hesitance.

From Rong Qing’s angle, all he could see was blocked by Cui Buqu’s back. He was still ignorant of what was happening.

Xiao-Liu knew Cui Buqu had some luck.

Naturally, other than luck, his brain was the key to what kept him alive. A few times he had escaped death, turning every calamity into blessings, and most of them were because Cui Buqu himself had anticipated danger beforehand, manipulating the entire situation.

Yet this time, all his subordinates were lying in the adjacent house, and all that was left with him was a useless Rong Qing. Who could he ask to save him?

Just as the dagger was about to pierce into Cui Buqu’s back, Xiao-Liu’s smile froze all of a sudden. A sudden wind attacked; Xiao-Liu gritted his teeth as he was forced to abandon that impending success, turning around to attack the incoming intruder instead.

He couldn’t understand; how did this person appear all of a sudden? Unless, he had been hiding there all this time, observing from the dark. Rong Qing’s face blanked out.
He didn’t understand. He had just only yawned once, yet a sharp turn of events had taken place all of a sudden?!

Even if Xiao-Liu refuses to let Master Cui drink his soup, surely there was no need to take a dagger out?

Something wasn’t right. Since when has Xiao-Liu’s skill turned so incredible?!

And who was that person who engaged in a fight with him?!

Xiao-Liu realized that he was being withheld everywhere. In such a huge courtyard, he was very quickly forced to a corner.

His enemy’s attacks were swift and brutal, but his skills in martial arts weren’t extraordinary. Xiao-Liu was an excellent assassin, but he wasn’t a top-tier martial artist. So his enemy’s martial arts were enough to keep him in place.

Since he had lost his advantage, it would be difficult to assassinate his target. However, if he failed to accomplish this task today, death would similarly await him once he returned.

As his thoughts progressed to this point, Xiao-Liu gritted his teeth, leaping high into the air, falling midair to lunge himself at Cui Buqu, paying completely no heed to the enemy behind him!

He was taking a gamble. A gamble that his enemy was not as quick as himself, a gamble that before he was taken down, he could kill Cui Buqu first!

Xiao-Liu pushed his qinggong to his limit.

Between himself and Cui Buqu, only another zhang1 was left! So he stuck his dagger out.
The dagger was quick, practically touching Cui Buqu’s elbow. Although the latter had already realized it and took a step back, he would not be on time.

A wave of strong wind swept past, knocking that dagger out from his hand and sending it rolling to the ground. There was a loud jingling sound, followed by a few moments of silence.

The hot stew was spilt on the ground, its container hitting the floor the same moment the dagger did, shattering into a few pieces.

Xiao-Liu looked up at Rong Qing’s innocent gaze, almost spitting out blood.

In the blink of an eye, everything changed. Before he could take his next step, the enemy behind him arrived. Xiao-Liu felt a striking pain from his back, forcing him down to the ground. It was dyed red with the blood he had spitted out. Xiao-Liu was in such pain that he almost passed out. Both his shoulders were jerked backwards, making him unable to move.

“Break his jaw!” Cui Buqu said.

Xiao-Liu hadn’t expected the other to be so familiar with his intentions. He was unable to bite the poison pill in his mouth. Saliva trailed down from his broken jaw; was not for both his eyes glaring in pure hatred, he would have looked silly.

Rong Qing had a look of disbelief: “This is not Xiao-Liu! Where is the real Xiao-Liu? Where is he?!” Regardless of how wildly he used his strength to shake him, the assassin refused to speak, responding with simply cold laughter.

Pei Jingzhe let out a long breath of relief, couldn’t help leaning back straight and feeling a sharp pain on his back that made him grit his teeth. He practically brought shame to the Jiejian Bureau’s image.

When Feng Xiao came to Guangqian Prefecture, he had brought Pei Jingzhe along with him. He hadn’t the chance to put himself to use, because, in places where martial arts were needed, Feng Xiao could handle it himself and do a better job of it. However, after Feng Xiao’s identity was exposed, Pei Jingzhe became a chess piece that remained in the dark. So he had been laying in hiding all this time, waiting for the chance to show himself.

Before leaving, Feng Xiao left Pei Jingzhe behind and Cui Buqu had let Pei Jingzhe follow him in the dark. And so Pei Jingzhe had hidden in the closet, the beams, the trees, all sorts of hiding places, feeling his back could practically snap. Thankfully, Cui Buqu did not have the intention to play around with him. Xiao-Liu very quickly exposed himself, and Pei Jingzhe could finally escape from the fate of feeding himself to the mosquitoes.

That wasn’t all. Cui Buqu’s predictions were quite accurate. Xiao-Liu’s martial arts weren’t excellent; he would only use them to take care of Cui Buqu, so one Pei Jingzhe would be enough to overpower him.

Rong Qing had shaken Xiao-Liu so much that the latter spat out a mouthful of blood.

He refused to reveal the location of the real Xiao-Liu, or perhaps, he couldn’t in the first place.

Cui Buqu said: “The real Xiao-Liu was most likely already switched out before you people came into the array.”

“He had been with me for a whole six years, from my old hometown to the capital.” Rong Qing let go of the assassin and with his eyes brimming red, he turned his head around. “He is honest. A man of few words. With excellent culinary skills.”

Pei Jingzhe felt some sympathy, and so patted his shoulder: “We will avenge him.”

Rong Qing understood now why Cui Buqu ordered everyone around him away from himself on purpose, so it would be convenient for Xiao-Liu to attack. A suspicion was only a suspicion; he cannot lock Xiao-Liu up and question him just because of that.

“Master Cui, after this matter was through, I wish to return to look for Xiao-Liu. I want to see him, dead or alive, even if… I would like to bury him back home.” He begged.

“It can be done.” Cui Buqu wasn’t heartless, as long as Rong Qing’s request did not affect the big picture.

Pei Jingzhe stepped forward, using a wet cloth to rub the assassin’s face. Finally, he managed to rub off a thin layer of transparent skin. One side of Xiao-Liu’s face was rubbed away, revealing a skinny complexion.

“Should we question him?” Pei Jingzhe asked, then something came to his mind, “Or I could ask Maiden Qiao to disguise me as Xiao-Liu, so they would think that Xiao-Liu hasn’t made his move yet, and wait for them to contact me? This way, he will have another lead!”

Cui Buqu shook his head and said: “It wouldn’t be of much use. First of all, he is a suicide warrior. Other than his assassination target, he wouldn’t know much. Secondly, this type of suicide warriors will be discarded once their purpose was served. If you don’t make your move over a long period of time, they will notice that something is wrong, and that is all the more reason not to contact you.”

“Then, what should we do now?” Rong Qing asked Pei Jingzhe’s concern. They were like soft-shelled turtles being locked in their nest, and everywhere were walls. They couldn’t see the scenery outside and could only run about and be led by instinctive judgements. Even if this difficult trial was braved through, there was another one waiting for them. They cannot guarantee that every time, they would come out safe.

The most worrisome fact was that not much time was left for them. Yang Yun had proposed war, and after two days he would make his move. However, before that time came, he had already taken the first step. Huang Lue was dead; Qixia Villa was burned; the refugees’ locations were unknown, whether they were dead or alive. From their side, the leads were broken, the evidence was gone, yet on the enemy’s side, their standings were as solid as gold, their secrets tightly capped.

The endgame was clear.

Rong Qing was depleted of ideas that could turn the tides.

He looked at Cui Buqu eagerly with hope: “Master Cui, when will your Zuoyuar guards arrive?”

Who could have guessed that Cui Buqu glared at him, and gave an earth- shaking, sky-shattering answer: “I am just threatening Yang Yun with a paper tiger. There is no way to mobilize people here.”

Rong Qing stiffened.

Truth to be told, one cannot blame Rong Qing for being startled.

After all, he hadn’t become an Imperial Censor for long. Guanqian Prefecture had been his first task. Originally, it should have been an ordinary task, but who could have guessed that he’d run into such a difficult enemy. Let alone Rong Qing, even the present Zuoyue Bureau Commander and Second Commander Feng were also trapped here. If they failed to find a clear answer to this, neither of them would end up well.

Rong Qing didn’t know these treacherous waves hiding behind the case, the way the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai shifted the clouds. He only knew that Yang Yun was alarmingly bold, daring to not even take an Imperial Envoy seriously. However, with just him alone, how would he come out with such an earth-shaking scheme, concealing all his deeds with a single palm? Until layer by layer the mystery is lifted, and little by little the truth was revealed. Only then, he realised, the depths of these waters were no longer something he could play in.

Pei Jingzhe also felt a little stunned. He asked Cui Buqu: “If the Zuoyue guards can’t arrive here, with just a few of us and Maiden Qiao wounded, if Yang Yun possesses the urge to eradicate us all, even if I could escape here alive, there’s no guarantee you would be completely unharmed!”

Cui Buqu remained calm, sticking out a finger at him.

Pei Jingzhe opened his eyes wide, fixing his gaze on this finger, trying his best to understand what the other meant.

Yet Cui Buqu shakes his finger: “You are wrong.”

Pei Jingzhe: “…”

Perhaps he’d gotten used to the way Cui Buqu spared Feng Xiao in a battle of words with a cold face, for a moment he found it very difficult to imagine that even Commander Cui could be quite childish.

However, the words that left Cui Buqu’s mouth were very dull: “The Zuoyue Bureau no longer has people to spare.”

Pei Jingzhe was tongue-tied: “This, how could this be possible?”

The Zuoyue Bureau was a very secretive existence.

However, Pei Jingzhe knew that although the Zuoyue Bureau did not have as many people as the Jiejian Bureau, they had sentries everywhere in the North Dynasty as well as the Southern Dynasty.

Leaving everything else out, in just the capital alone, there were already a few hundred Zuoyue guards. A few hundred common citizens, of course, would be simply a gathering of motley crews, but these people were trained, they were Zuoyue guards equipped with a standard of skills. These were elites.

If one were to gather people like them, whatever Yang Yun wanted to do, he would still have concerns, wouldn’t he?

Cui Buqu watched the concern on his face and said slowly: “Now the waters have not receded, the news will spread very slowly. The people I have sent took a detour in the North of the city the same way we came. Even on a swift horse, they would only arrive after a few days. When that time comes, Yang Yun would already have made his move. It would be too late.”

Pei Jingzhe thought that this reason was very far-fetched, so far-fetched that it wasn’t like Cui Buqu.

Aren’t you the Cui Buqu who can always guess the enemy’s move beforehand, creating victory from miracles? Why all of a sudden, you’re behaving like your ears and eyes are closed, doing nothing?

However, Cui Buqu’s following words disrupted his thoughts.

“In the few sentences you said just now, you mentioned Qiao Xian twice.” Cui Buqu gave him a half-smile, “Do you miss her so?”

“How—how can that be?!” Pei Jingzhe didn’t know how hard he was stammering when he spoke, let alone knowing where to put his hands and legs.

Cui Buqu said: “She also misses you.”

Pei Jingzhe’s eyes brightened for a moment. Cui Buqu: “Just pulling your leg.”
Pei Jingzhe: “…” Cui Buqu: “She can walk now. If you have the heart, there’s no harm in paying her a visit and convincing her to let go.”

Pei Jingzhe felt his face flush red, his gaze flickering. Originally, he wanted to be careful of what he said, yet now he couldn’t stop himself from wanting to know more.

Upon their first meeting in the outskirts of the city, the white-robed immortal had left a deep impression on him. It’s a pity that when the Xiang King dreams, the goddess is unwilling2; Little Lord Pei was thin-skinned, dared not bother her too much. After returning to the capital, when the Jiejian Bureau and the Zuoyue Bureau had dealings, Pei Jingzhe would offer himself out, just so that he could speak more frequently with Qiao Xian, and that was all.

Without someone to give him a push, he would have beat around the bush for eternity.

Listening to Cui Buqu putting it in this way, Pei Jingzhe was really moved.

“Go.” Cui Buqu simply said.

Pei Jingzhe’s face was beet red, behaving like a rascal at his first awakening of love yet didn’t know how to express it. He nervously excused himself and marched his leave.

Rong Qing asked curiously: “What does Maiden Qiao have to let go of?”

Ever since she and Guan Shanhai returned, Rong Qing hadn’t seen them. At that moment, he couldn’t help feeling strange that Cui Buqu’s sudden decision to bring Pei Jingzhe and Qiao Xian together was a little strange, yet he couldn’t quite lay his finger on it.

Cui Buqu smiled vaguely: “Why, does Rong Qing also have the dream of a Xiang King?” “It’s a misunderstanding! A misunderstanding!” Rong Qing waved his hand. He was just conveniently asking; after that, he pointed to the suicide warrior, “How will this person be taken care of?”

“Cold with dressing. Steamed. Grilled. Whichever you like on the menu!”

He who answered laughed aloud; Feng Xiao returned, striding inside with wide steps.

In a flash, it was as if the ghastly courtyard had brightened up. Cui Buqu blinked.
He couldn’t refrain from admitting that this fellow’s exterior truly was the best from the edge of Heaven and Earth. There was no need to speak, he could just stand there and that was enough for him to look like a deity.

Naturally, it was the best if he didn’t open his mouth.

“Master Cui, I realize that your gaze on me just now lingered a breath longer than usual.”

That voice that was begging for ill-will suddenly rang; Feng Xiao remained at the gate of the courtyard, refusing to move. He’s certainly skilled in choosing the angle — the look of osmanthus flowers fluttering down onto his shoulders above his head and the sway of his fan that remained in a state of inert, in a moment of romantic elegance, where its wind was just at the right range and wouldn’t send the osmanthus petals flying.

“Should I stand here longer and let you enjoy the sight to your heart’s degree?”

“There is no need.” Cui Buqu answered coldly.

He thought in his heart: next time, he will never look at him more than necessary. As if Feng Xiao could read his thoughts, the corner of his lips curled like he was laughing at his ability to concentrate.

Cui Buqu’s gaze had fallen down, impatiently he said: “I’m guessing that Second Commander Feng’s return will certainly bring good news.”

“I do have something.” Feng Xiao smiled, “I’ve gone and done a philanthropic deed, obtaining the immense gratitude of Li Yan’s wife. To think that your charity was rewarded is actually true.”

He conveniently tossed the baggage in his hand onto the stone table. Rong Qing listened until his head was clouded with confusion.
Cui Buqu sighed, not looking forward to talking civilly with this Peacock Feng who’s train and feathers were already pointing into the sky.

He told Rong Qing from the beginning.

It would be impossible to pocket grains for three subsequent years in Guangqian Prefecture without leaving any traces behind. The reason Huang Lue was eliminated was because he knew too much, and what’s more, was that there would have been a lot of evidence in his hands. Although he’s dead, these accounts cannot vanish into thin air, and so they could only be entrusted to someone else. For example, Li Yan or Wu Yi.

One can guess the hearts of people, just like how Yang Yun makes use of Huang Lue but also guards himself around him. Huang Lue’s death was similar to ringing an alarm for Li Yan and the others; they would certainly need to hold on to the evidence, whether it was to hold it against Yang Yun or turn it into something of use themselves.

Even the most perfect plans would have a weakness. The more intelligent a person was, the more they would overthink; Cui Buqu wasn’t afraid that they thought too much, he was only afraid if they stopped thinking.

As long as the enemy made a mistake, there was a chance to turn the tides. Prior to this, it’s said that Li Yan had a mistress outside and his wife was a tigress, so he dared not bring the matter back home, forcibly keeping it a secret.

But since Feng Xiao knew about it, there was no reason for him to not turn the world upside down. Otherwise, wouldn’t he feel sorry for himself? And so, he took evidence of Li Yan’s mistress, including the address of the manor that Li Yan had given her, and passed it on to the servants of the Li family, bringing it to his wife, Madam He.

Madam He had also been suppressing her fury. Although she was furious, it didn’t immediately erupt. She had instead looked for an opportunity when Li Yan paid a visit, bringing people in a ferocious commotion, to catch him red-handed, beating the mistress and Li Yan with a stick as they ran around the manor in person. The neighbours left and right were all alerted, and it’s been rowdy for some time.

Li Yan knew he was in the wrong, as well as he was guilty at heart. So with an ashen face, he begged pitifully, yet Madam He refused to forgive him, ordering people to smash the manor into a ruin. Li Yan was driven into so much fury he almost fainted, and so he mustered his strength to reason with his wife, yet he was hit on the head with a pole by Madam He, and thus fell unconscious.

Madam He discovered that Li Yan not only had a mistress all these years, but he had even given her quite a lot of valuables. In a fit of rage, she confiscated all of them, allowing her servants to go through everything inside out, gold and silver and pearls, everything was taken.

When it happened, Second Commander Feng had been sitting on the beam watching the crowd. When the servants of the Li family were confiscating all those items, he had watched clearly from above. Whether or not Li Yan has hidden rations related to the calamity’s case, he could make use of this chance to find out.

From the way Li Yan did things prior to this, he loved his mistress, yet both feared and respected his wife. Humans, when keeping secrets, would unconsciously make the decision to keep it in a place where they feel most comfortable. Because they think that only in this way, it would be the safest.

Cui Buqu and Feng Xiao understood this, so they came to the same conclusion without prior planning to set Li Yan’s mistress’ manor as their prime target.

However, there was no such thing as absolutely. If it cannot be found at the mistress’ place, then they would turn their gazes on Wu Yi.

Thankfully, everything goes to those who wait, for their guesses were proven right.

The strings came undone on the baggage. A few scrolls rolled out.

In a blue sky on a bright day, those scrolls unfolded slowly, showing themselves before the half-dead suicide warrior.

The suicide warrior’s eyes opened wide, finding it difficult to believe. Two streams of blood flew down slowly from his nose.
Who could have guessed this was a very innocent suicide warrior?

What was drawn on these scrolls, were fine elegant lines and well- balanced colours, from behind the screens and in the rooms inside, to under the grape hedges in the courtyard, from the inside of horse carriages in the wilds to taverns where thousands of people were looking. All sorts of scenery and all sorts of men and women copulating, shy and reserved, open and unrestrained, solicited and unsolicited, or aggressively rejecting. Only those that cannot be imagined weren’t drawn.

Rong Qing starred in a daze like a wooden chicken, pointing at those drawings repeating, “this, this, this” non-stop.

Cui Buqu: “…”

For the first time in his life, he felt clueless. Feng Xiao even laughed, cockily claiming his credit as he said: “Hm?
Even you are baffled?”

Cui Buqu was expressionless: “Is this all the clues you’ve managed to get after squatting for half a day on the beam?”
[1] ⼀丈: Chinese unit of measurement that equates to around 10 foot. [2]
襄王有意神⼥⽆⼼: refers to people with unrequited love.

Chapter 142

Cui Buqu, you’re blushing!

What answered him was Feng Xiao’s innocent look.

“All forms are hollow yet all who see in forms are hollow1. Master Cui, you’ve lost yourself.” Feng Xiao tapped those drawings with his fan, “On the surface, it looks like an erotic painting, but in reality, they are not just any erotic paintings.”

After the soon-to-be-dead suicide warrior listened to this, he couldn’t help descending into deep thinking: If they are not just any erotic paintings, then could it be that these positions contained some peerless martial art techniques? If he could have found these drawings earlier, could he have escaped the fate of a suicide warrior and walk the path of grandmasters?

Feng Xiao didn’t know that a few words he babbled would drive the suicide warrior into a deep episode of reflecting his own life. But, in contrast to the suicide warrior and Rong Qing who was rendered speechless, Cui Buqu certainly lived up to his name. He wasn’t led astray by Feng Xiao, and after a moment of silence, Cui Buqu had an inkling regarding the erotic paintings.

All the faces of the man, with no exceptions, were drawn from the very same model.

“Is this Li Yan commissioning someone to paint his mistress and himself having intercourse?” “Clever!” A slap of the fan on a palm was heard, then Feng Xiao said, “I said it, didn’t I? They’re not just any erotic paintings!”

It’s a custom-made erotica of painting oneself on it, a romantic gesture not many under the sky would know. Li Yan looked like a proper person on the surface, it was difficult to guess he was such an open-minded person behind closed doors.

Cui Buqu asked: “Did you see from where they brought out these scrolls?”

Feng Xiao smiled. “It seems you have already realized the point. These paintings were placed in a box, and that box was hidden under the steps of the bed, beneath a brick. There were quite a number of small and large boxes on the brick, gold and silver all inside of them. Li Yan’s salary taken into account, even with another two decades, it’s impossible for him to accumulate such wealth.”

Cui Buqu pondered over it for a moment. “Although these paintings are illegal, they are hardly worth anything. He chose to hide these worthless paintings in the most secretive place, yet puts out these invaluable treasures for all to see. It’s strange.”

Feng Xiao: “Not bad. I even waited until after Li Yan woke up before leaving. Guess, what was the first thing he did after he woke up?”

Cui Buqu raised his eyes to look at him.

When Cui Buqu was focusing on someone, there was a unique look in his gaze.

Emotionless yet sentimental, an autumn spring beneath a sheet of ice.

Feng Xiao stole a glance as he thought, yet couldn’t help himself taking two more glances, or three.

Up until Cui Buqu’s suspicious gaze turned back at him, and he coughed lightly. “After Li Yan woke up, he didn’t check on the gold and silver scattered all over the ground, nor did he run after the servants asking them how much valuables they had taken. He had instead gone looking for those erotic paintings. In the end, Madam He even thought he’d still be missing those erotic paintings. Furious, she chased him while threatening to beat him. You didn’t see the scene taking place, tsk, tsk, how entertaining!”

“Accounts.” Cui Buqu skipped Feng Xiao’s delightful tone in someone else’s misfortune, and immediately said, “These paintings must have been the accounts we are searching for.”

……

“Someone has taken those accounts!”

Wu Yi watched Li Yan’s swollen nose and leaking mucus, and couldn’t help looking sideways. He tossed a napkin over, disgusted. “Use it!”

Yet how would Li Yan pay attention to cleaning his nose? All he felt in his mind was fear of the item he lost.

“I asked around, those servants denied that it was their doing! Speak for yourself, those are paintings that don’t worth anything. They couldn’t be sold even if they were taken, so why take them?”

Wu Yi snorted. “Who let you hide such an important thing in Spring Palace Portraits? To hide them even more covertly than gold and silver, isn’t this blatantly telling someone that something is off about them?”

Li Yan cried his face raw. “How would I know Madam He would bring people there? When common thieves find their way there, even they cannot find them! What should we do now? You were the one who suggested keeping those accounts to use against Yang Yun. But before something happens to Yang Yun, harm comes to us first!”

“Look at yourself!” Wu Yi sneered coldly, “Even if they could find the accounts and their corresponding places, the Governor has taken care of everything. They’ve paid Qixia Villa a visit, and look at how it ended up? Even if the Zuoyue Bureau is backing Rong Qing from behind, so what? A powerful dragon cannot crush a snake in its old haunts; as long as the Governor doesn’t want them to find it, they wouldn’t find it!”

Li Yan was stunned. His look, accompanied by two eyes with blue-black frames, he looked extremely comical. However, he paid it no attention and instead said immediately: “Do you know something? Yang Yun, no, the Governor, has he told you something?”

“Before you came, I paid the Governor a visit. He told us to be at peace.” Perhaps his mood was quite good, even if he’s disgraced by this Li Yan who is both cowardly yet ambitious. Wu Yi poured him a cup of tea in person, “In a few days, all will come to an end.”

The more Li Yan listened to it, the more confused he was. “An end? To what end? Even if they fail to find the rations, isn’t Huang Lue’s death unusual? The Governor says he wants to push all the blame onto them, but who can do as they please? It would still depend on His Majesty, and whether or not the Imperial Court thinks they’re believable!”

Wu Yi darkly said: “Then what if, all of them are dead?”

An inspiration hit Li Yan.

Both his eyes were so swollen he couldn’t open them. Even if he opened them as wide as possible, it would just be two lines.

Wu Yi, in these two lines, smiled quite devilishly.

“What do you want to do?”

With a bit of boldness, what can one do? Huang Lue at least had the courage for an undercover, yet this fellow surnamed Li behaved like the sky was falling just because his accounts were stolen and attempted suicide, how worthless! Wu Yi scolded him inwardly, his expression calm, pushing the cup of wine towards the other.

“It’s not me who wants to do something, but the Governor.” “What does that mean?” Li Yan asked suspiciously.

“Rong Qing still thinks of delivering an edict, but that edict will never be on its way. As for the Zuoyue Bureau, even if Cui Buqu filed a suit, there would be people in the capital to take care of arrangements. Although Cui Buqu is deeply trusted by the Empress, the Governor is a member of the Yang family. Moreover, if not for having no one in the capital, could we have sailed such a smooth journey? This time, it’s mostly because of Cui Buqu’s continuous interference. If Rong Qing had come alone, everything would have been settled earlier on.” Wu Yi spoke with reassurance, “As for the members of the Zuoyue Bureau, there’s no need for us to worry. The Governor has plans to shut their mouths for eternity. When a person dies all things would come to rest, and after that, nothing is set in stone; wouldn’t it be up to the onlookers to gloss it up?”

Li Yan watched the confidence and unhurried expression on Wu Yi, and for a while, he said nothing.

He still remembered that two days ago, the other was different. Wu Yi was similar to himself: agitated and restless, fearing that everything would fail and they would be exposed, fearing that they would be pushed out by Yang Yun to be scapegoats. However, Wu Yi’s behaviour suddenly took a sharp turn, and this proved that the other knew much more than he himself did.

Cui Buqu was the Empress’ most trusted subordinate. The Zuoyue Bureau are the jaws and claws of the Empress. But from the way Wu Yi worded it, Yang Yun did not even take them seriously. Li Yan thought that since the Zuoyue Commander came in person this time, he had surely brought a good number of grandmasters of the martial arts with him. Although Yang Yun usually managed to conceal all his deeds in Guangqian Prefecture, now he might not have enough juice to gather troops and capture grandmasters, annihilating Cui Buqu and all his men at once, unless

Unless an even greater power is backing Yang Yun, someone powerful with a complicated amount of strength even he himself could not think of. Li Yan suddenly felt a chill surge through his body.

He suddenly grabbed that cup of wine and drank it all, as if he could calm himself down with this. Yet when the wine reached his throat, his heart only beat faster.

“Did the Governor say when will everything be settled?”

Wu Yi raised two fingers.

Li Yan was tongue-tied with his jaws opened. “Within two days?”

Wu Yi smiled once, his meanings unknown.

……

“There are no hidden layers in these paintings.” “Nothing is hidden in the scrolls either.”
“Then the mystery should be inside the painting.”

If someone pushed open the door at this moment, they would have thought they mistakenly entered some pleasure quarters of a brothel.

On the table, the ground, the wall, were all kinds of Spring Palace Secret Play Paintings.

Yet there were no women within the room, only two men.

Both men were sitting opposite of each other, their expressions strict, inspecting them closely.

To put it specifically, Cui Buqu was the only one looking serious. Feng Xiao could neither sit properly nor lie down properly. He was leaning against soft cushions with a leg propped up, admiring these erotic paintings from Li Yan’s residence. “Truth be told, if I was Li Yan, I definitely could not have thought about an idea like hiding these accounts in things like Spring Palace Secret Play Paintings.”

“So for the time being, you will not be chased around by a tigress.” Cui Buqu didn’t even raise his head.

Feng Xiao chuckled and replied in ridicule: “I also couldn’t have thought that Master Cui loves these things so much that he refuses to put them down. If I knew early on that you like these sort of things, I would have given you a bunch of them, guaranteeing that you’ll look at them until you’re satisfied.”

Cui Buqu shot a mockery back at him: “If the one in the painting is you, not only would I like it, I would even give everyone in the Zuoyue Bureau a copy, guaranteeing that everyone on sight will have one in their hands.”

Feng Xiao nodded his head: “Then how would it be if the other one in the picture is drawn as you?”

Cui Buqu gave him a “Do you want to die straight or bent?” kind of look. He coldly said: “I found where the accounts are hidden.”
Feng Xiao rose up in keen interest, ignoring the urge to bicker. “Where?” “This piece.” Cui Buqu pointed at the piece in front of him, “It’s signed
Kaihuang Third Year, Twelfth Month, Twenty-First day. This date has not come yet. Why did Li Yan want to sign one that will take place two months later? Looking back at the painting, these two people are having copulation in the wild, far away from uneven terrains. There is also a villa that sits halfway up the mountains. Isn’t that the Qixia Villa we visited before?”

Feng Xiao practically laughed out loud when he said: “copulation in the wild” with a straight face. In order to avoid Commander Cui seething at him, he suppressed his laughter and gave the painting a serious look. “Do you mean that the signature is the figure of the number of rations embezzled during the calamity?”

“It is at least one of the figures. Because we have been to Qixia Villa before, it’s easy to tell from the painting by using the causes to deduct the means. As for the rest,” Cui Buqu turned to look into the direction of the house, “Presently, I could only tell three places. They are the Stormy Tavern in the city, the Zhao Family’s Teahouse, and a villa under the Ding Family’s name. As for the others, we would need old veterans here who knew their way around Guangqian County and all its buildings and residences to tell. However, we don’t have much time left. The third location is located at the outskirts South of the city. Now, it’s already flooded, so we can exclude that. Only the Stormy Tavern and the Zhao Family’s Teahouse are left.”

Feng Xiao asked curiously: “How were you able to tell these two places?”

A long index finger tapped on his head. Cui Buqu said: “Before I came, I have already seen the map of Guangqian Prefecture and vaguely memorized all the locations within the city. After arriving here, we’ve taken a saunter around the city, and still, these two are the only ones I could recall.”

Having only seen the map once, Cui Buqu could match the corresponding locations and names, engraving them to memory. Let alone two locations, if he could remember one of them, it’s already quite the trumpet to blow. Because other people, including Feng Xiao, would not have paid attention to even one of them.

The Zuoyue Bureau truly did not need anyone else. With only Cui buqu, it’s enough.

In reality, Feng Xiao watched Cui Buqu do this a few times before. However, with each time it happened again he’d still been surprised, going so far to even feel admiration. Because Cui Buqu would always pay attention to details that others would never have noticed. These details looked inconsequential, but sometimes they could be brought onto the game, an asset that determines the victory and loser.

“Pick one: the Stormy Tavern or the Zhao Family’s Teahouse.” Cui Buqu said.

Feng Xiao was displeased. “Why does it have to be me? This old man is dead tired from playing Li Shisi and the grandson for so many days, and he even fought a battle with Xiao Lu at Qixia Villa, and now I still need to run errands for you?”

Cui Buqu calmly acknowledged him with an “Oh.” then adds, “Should I go then? I am absolutely fine with it, but I’m afraid even if I don’t tire myself out on the way, I will not even be able to take a hit from the enemy when I arrive.”

Feng Xiao sneered through his nose. “Stop using this on me! Ask your Qiao Xian to go.”

Cui Buqu: “Qiao Xian is wounded.”

Feng Xiao: “It’s just a wound, not broken limbs. She can still fight after mustering a breath. If she can’t win, she can run. Your heart aches for your beloved subjects and cherished subordinates, but you’re not even willing to spare half of that for me?”

As he finished speaking, he leaned in close, his breath practically brushing the other’s face. Cui Buqu was caught unprepared, but just as he stepped backwards, it was as if the other could anticipate his actions, Feng Xiao reached out to press the back of his head, couldn’t wait to look the other into the eye.

As they stared at each other, Cui Buqu slowly, gently, blinked once. His Adam’s apple was rolling in his throat, so slight that it could be missed.

Feng Xiao suddenly laughed out loud, taking a step back before the other could be provoked. “Cui Buqu, you’re blushing!”

Cui Buqu kept a poker-face: “It’s the heat.”

Feng Xiao gave a face full of uncertainty: “You truly fell for my beauty and acted the part!”

Cui Buqu: “It’s the heat. You pick one location, and as for the other, I will send Guan Shanhai.”

“You would rather let the heavily wounded Guan Shanhai make the trip, but you are not willing to let Qiao Xian go. Is it really because your heart aches for her, or—” Feng Xiao dragged on the tone, hinting something between the lines, “You suspect her?”

Cui Buqu said nothing.

Feng Xiao slapped his fan. “Every time you give this damn little unfathomable look, I know I nailed it right. I even thought that you would never suspect her. Since when did it happen?”

Cui Buqu’s memory was dragged back to the time before they left the capital.

During that time, he entered the palace to beg an audience with Empress Dugu, so he could relay the details of his investigation of the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai to her. Empress Dugu asked him what help he would need, and so he asked for one person.

Everyone thought that he was forced to accept Guan Shanhai by Empress Dugu as an indication that the Empress no longer trusted him, and thus using Guan Shanhai to spy on Cui Buqu. But no one could have known that it was Cui Buqu who asked for Guan Shanhai himself.

When faced with a misunderstanding such as this, he hadn’t explained himself to Guan Shanhai, because they needed this misunderstanding from society. Feng Xiao had thought the same before, but he discarded this thought very quickly. Because taking Empress Dugu’s character and methods into consideration, as well as her trust on Cui Buqu, she wouldn’t have used such a childish method to manipulate her own subject and officials nor her trusted aides.

Guan Shanhai wasn’t meant to spy on Cui Buqu, he was meant to spy on Qiao Xian.

[1] ⾊即是空,空即是⾊: ⾊ can either refer to worldly forms or lust. A monk would not see all things in forms nor would they give in to lust
because they have achieved a certain understanding, and for those who hadn’t, they would understand nothing.

Chapter 143

Would you entrust your back to me?

“When did you begin to suspect her?”

“Back in Tiannian Mountain, you reminded me that I had an insider.”

Feng Xiao raised a brow. “I thought your suspicions ended after Fan Yun showed himself.”

Cui Buqu said: “At the beginning, it did. But Fan Yun would only know my past. This is the reason the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai set up the trap for me in Boling. Yet after that I slowly realized, they didn’t only know about my past, they even know about my whereabouts, where I’m heading, and what I’m doing. It’s as if the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai could predict the future and set a trap a step ahead.”

Feng Xiao: “The most obvious evidence is that before you arrived in Qixia Villa, the enemy already knew where you’re heading.”

Cui Buqu nodded. “Xiao Lu is not a god regardless of how clever he is. He cannot be informed of all matters large or small. The only explanation to this is that someone among us is a traitor, and this traitor isn’t just any Zuoyue guard, because it’s as if they have been walking side by side with me.”

Feng Xiao: “But this is not enough to prove it was Qiao Xian.”

Cui Buqu: “That is right. So I brought her on his journey, as well as Guan Shanhai. The journey to Guangqian Prefecture is a secret, so other than Guan Shanhai and Qiao Xian, there would only be Empress Dugu, as well as both Rong Qing and his servant who were only informed at short notice.”

“After Rong Qing arrived in Guangqian County, he was hindered from all directions, as well as cheated and ambushed by Huang Lue and his people. The enemy even pinned the crime of Huang Lue’s death on his head and killed Xiao-Liu. This proved that they cannot be people of Xiao Lu’s.”

“I picked out Guan Shanhai through effort. He served the army through three generations, had few dealings with the capital, and his background is clean. Regardless of how superhuman Xiao Lu is, he cannot reach out so deep into Guan Shanhai.”

“So, there is only Qiao Xian. Only she could achieve all of these. She had been delivering information in the dark, passing information of my whereabouts to the enemy, so they could conveniently lay their traps.”

Feng Xiao snorted. “She didn’t know you still have a backup hidden in the dark. Originally, she could have had a countless number of opportunities to attack you, yet she hasn’t made her move. This means that she still reminiscences in old sentiments.”

Cui Buqu looked calm. “Since I have already raised my guard on her, how would I give her the chance? Even if she wants to assassinate me, she would not succeed. I would never entrust my back to the people I suspect.”

Feng Xiao clapped his hand. “This is truly the all-resolute Cui Buqu!
Speaking of which—”

Propping himself up with his elbow, he moved forward, fixing his gaze on Cui Buqu. “Would you entrust your back to me?”

As they met eye-to-eye, Cui Buqu could not escape it. He could see his own reflection in Feng Xiao’s eyes. It was too close, practically filling up Feng Xiao’s irises.

A moment of silence.

“Master Cui, what did you find…” Rong Qing came running in as he panted. His voice stopped abruptly after discovering the strange atmosphere lingering in the room.

When both of them turned to look at him at the same time, Rong Qing forced a stiff smile onto his face and laughed. “Ah, keep going, the both of you. I will come back shortly!”

After he finished speaking, without waiting for their response, Rong Qing turned around and left, his footsteps quicker compared to when he came, like his tail had caught fire.

Feng Xiao reached out with a hand, holding Cui Buqu’s jaw, turning it gently from Rong Qing’s silhouette to look back at himself.

Cui Buqu wouldn’t stand it, he lashed out cruelly, aiming for the back of his hand.

He caught thin air.

Feng Xiao was even quicker at drawing his hand back.

Cui Buqu laughed coldly, and then spoke slowly: “I would never entrust my back to an arrogantly unbridled, self-conceited and presumptuously narcissistic bloke.”

Feng Xiao snickered, “Cui Buqu, you listed out so many virtues of mine, hasn’t this just proved that you care, and how much I mean to you?”

Cui Buqu: “Feng-er, have you ever heard of a saying?”

Feng Xiao: “I’m listening with open ears.” Cui Buqu: “The first to ask, loses.”

Feng Xiao nodded his head. “What you mean is that you originally wanted to ask me the same thing? I know that although you’re sharp- tongued, behaving like you’re an entity high on a pedestal, untouchable by smoke and embers who take no one seriously, in truth, you’d bow the same way in front of the one and only graceful young gentleman like myself.”

Cui Buqu gave an unbelievable look. “How can a thick-skinned person like you exist in this world?”

Feng Xiao sighed. “You’re just jealous of my grace and envious of my face.”

The “jealous and envious” Cui Buqu looked like he was forced to eat a rotten egg, and because that egg is stuck in his throat, he was forced to swallow it. The corner of his lips twitched vaguely.

He said with genuine earnestness: “Feng-er, sometimes there is something I really want to do to you.”

Feng Xiao, “Feel me up? Molest me? Deflower me?”

Cui Buqu, “Poison your throat mute. Just by looking at your face alone would improve my appetite.”

Feng Xiao laughed boisterously: “That can’t do! If I was mute, who would play a battle of wits with you, Cui Buqu?”

Cui Buqu: “Xiao Lu wouldn’t be bad.”

Feng Xiao twitched his lips. “A little fella who hides in the dark refusing to show himself. A firefly like him wants to fight the moon for glory? Since you know Qiao Xian is one of his people, why haven’t you made your move? Are you reeling out the line further to catch an even bigger fish?” Cui Buqu remained silent for a while, “Four years ago when she just met me, she was so down in the dumps that it was difficult to put into words.”

Feng Xiao, “It was faked.”

Cui Buqu, “All along the way, she had quite a lot of opportunities to assassinate me, but she didn’t do that.”

Feng Xiao, “Just to make it more believable. If you can’t bear to do it, let me do it.”

Cui Buqu, “There is no need. I will give her a chance, and let her make her own choice.”

Feng Xiao sighed, “How cold an exterior and how warm a heart you have, Cui Buqu!”

Cui Buqu laughed coldly, “How outspread your feathers are, Feng Yuntian.”

“I like it more when you describe me being elegant and graceful.”

Feng Xiao spread his fan open, rising to his feet. “I like to drink, but I don’t like tea. So, I choose the Stormy Tavern. However, what about your trump card? They might have already made preparations on these two places. Whether this is a trap or new lead, we wouldn’t know. Cui Buqu you’re known for excellent strategies. Surely you wouldn’t let Guan Shanhai and I fight a battle of one-man armies?”

Cui Buqu waved his hand. “I’ve no cards left. Xiao Lu has forced me to a tether’s end. Otherwise, how would I ask you for Pei Jingzhe? I even wanted to ask if you could deploy a few people from the Jiejian Bureau here and help us live through this stage!”

“I’m terribly sorry. The Jiejian Bureau has no more people to spare, otherwise how would I, the Second Commander, come myself?” Feng Xiao gave a profound look as if he wanted to penetrate into the other’s heart and read his thoughts, “Not leaving behind a path for yourself to fall back on? This doesn’t sound like you, Cui Buqu.”

Cui Buqu sighed. “Yang Yun is like an agitated dog that wants to jump over the wall. Xiao Lu fears that long nights would be haunted with dreams. He would definitely make his move within these two days. There’s no time to mobilize Zuoyue guards from other places. Even a man of wisdom with a thousand worries would slip his foot; with a powerful enemy like Xiao Lu present, perhaps I even have to make up for it using my life.”

Feng Xiao sighed with him, looking like he truly sympathized: “That is to say, Master Cui truly is quite pitiful this time.”

Cui Buqu also said sorrowfully: “Truly. Truly.”

Two old sly foxes, one sitting and one standing, were giving out the same sorrowful and bitter laugh as they looked at each other.

……

Inside another room.

There were similarly two people.

The two people looked at each other. One practically as expressionless as Cui Buqu, and the other beneath her gaze didn’t know what to do.

“You don’t look very happy.” Pei Jingzhe spoke slowly.

“Since when have you come?” Qiao Xian finally opened her mouth.

Pei Jingzhe sighed inwardly. “I came with my Lord. He let me follow Master Cui closely before, and just now, someone really did try to assassinate him! Though, I stopped him.”

“Sent by whom?” Qiao Xian’s expression changed, “Is the Commander alright?” Pei Jingzhe would honestly answer any question, so he replied honestly: “Nothing happened this time, but if the enemy does not succeed, they will definitely try again. I’m afraid my skills are insufficient, but it might not be the case next time.”

Qiao Xian didn’t hesitate before getting down the bed to put on her shoes. Pei Jingzhe immediately stopped her.

“Now that my Lord is present, you can rest assured and take care of your wounds!”

“Right, with Feng Xiao’s presence, naturally I shouldn’t worry.” Qiao Xian laughed at herself.

Pei Jingzhe could hear the undertone of her words, so he couldn’t help asking: “Are you harbouring prejudice against my Lord?”

Qiao Xian twitched her lips. She said nothing, as if everything she was disgusted by was compressed into this gesture.

Pei Jingzhe blinked and had no choice but to change the subject. “On the last trip, my pay was almost fully cut.”

Qiao Xian really did raise a brow. “Is the Jiejian Bureau so poor that they’d even embezzle their own member’s pay?”

Pei Jingzhe smiled: “Not really embezzling. I failed to do a good job, and my Lord simply used this as a punishment.”

Qiao Xian grumbled: “Feng Xiao really is a miser!”

Pei Jingzhe chuckled as he listened. “My Lord only often frightens me that way, but there are not many times he actually does it. To me, he is my teacher. Without him, I wouldn’t have learned so much. Perhaps I might even have turned into an ignorant little rogue who had no goals. What about you? How did you join the Zuoyue Bureau and be under Master Cui? He never trusts people easily, but those who are able to gain his trust would surely have virtues that surpassed others.” He didn’t know which sentence he said touched Qiao Xian, but the latter was stunned for a moment.

……

“So, we can only wait for the prey, like wolves and rabbits waiting for the enemy to make their first move?”

Feng Xiao had already left the room.

Pei Jingzhe and the others were talking inside another room.

Rong Qing and Cui Buqu both sat under a tree facing each other. The first couldn’t sit still, his heart was wandering. After some time, he couldn’t help but ask.

The entire post house was quiet in the day. So quiet that it didn’t look like someone was living there.

“No.” Cui Buqu shook his head. Rong Qing was filled with hope.
Cui Buqu: “The enemy is the wolf. We are the rabbit.”

Rong Qing: “…”

Cui Buqu: “Wait, that isn’t right either. You and I, we are two rabbits.”

Rong Qing laughed bitterly. “I have already written the edict and sent it out of the city on a fast horse.”

Cui Buqu: “Do you have a copy of the edict?”

Rong Qing curiously: “No, why?”

Cui Buqu replied sympathetically: “Your edict will never be delivered out. If we are lucky, we might still be alive after a few days. Then you’d need to write a new one. If you have a copy, then you can save the breath.”

Rong Qing’s tongue formed a knot, glaring at him for half a day. He couldn’t help saying: “How would you know my edict will never be delivered out? The post official who helped me even received an additional letter from me, so that he could receive a bonus from my residence once he arrived at the capital. He would definitely ride through day and night to make it in time—”

Wheeze!!!

Before he could finish his words, he watched in shock as a flying arrow flew from the outside into the courtyard, pinning something onto the pillar not far away from them.

It pierced three inches into the wood, and pinning on it was a very thick letter. Rong Qing remembered very clearly that it was the letter he’d given to the post official.

Presently, the arrow was dull and devoid of light. The letter held traces of blood. There were even a few strands of hair.

Rong Qing abruptly turned around to look at Cui Buqu. Cui Buqu consoled him: “This is only the beginning.” Rong Qing: “…”
[DB: There’s a big scene coming in 4 chapters, stay tune! ^_^ also p.s.: Everything said in this chapter is important to the next 4 chapters aside from Feng-er brightening the day with his theatrics.]

Chapter 144

How about begging them using my peerless elegance?

Qiao Xian recalled that it was a rainy night when she met Cui Buqu.

During that time, she had just been expelled from her sect and was left with nowhere to go. All of a sudden, she saw a lantern radiating in the night.

The light belonged to a posthouse in the outskirts, prepared for the people who arrived too late and were forbidden to enter the city. Below the lantern was located a stall selling hot soup.

There weren’t many people. Other than the stall’s owner, there was only one more person.

That person looked like he was sick and not fond of moving around. He was sitting there quietly, thinking profoundly as he watched the bowl of hot soup on the table.

When the other raised his head, he conveniently met her wandering gaze.

Through the thick curtain of rain,   Qiao Xian could hear the other’s voice: “Want to have a bowl of hot soup?”

And so, she said yes.

There were many people in the Zuoyue Bureau who laughed at her for being overly dependent on Cui Buqu, and some of them even suspected that Qiao Xian’s admiration for Commander Cui surpassed that of normal people.

Qiao Xian snickered at all these rumours, refusing to explain herself.

Cui Buqu pulled her up when she was at her most distressing moment, brought her to his side, and taught her how to do things, allowing her to become the Qiao Xian of the Zuoyue Bureau that she is today, and not the Qiao Xian who was condemned by everyone as a traitor.

If Feng Xiao was Pei Jingzhe’s saviour, then Cui Buqu was Qiao Xian’s. For the gratitude, for the debt she owed, as well as their relationship as teacher and student, Qiao Xian was willing to leap into a cauldron of boiling water and blazing fire for him.

But, she too had times when she was forced to act against her will.

She hadn’t expected that four years ago, that act would turn scarier and scarier as the days passed. After that, the matter had reached a point where she could no longer control it. Like a wild horse that had lost its reins who galloped forward with an indomitable will, no longer able to be pulled back.

She thought that this path up the mountains, though uneven, would still lead to the top. But Qiao Xian realized that she had erred greatly. From the beginning, this path was heading towards a cliff, and she was walking along the edge, with all the paths behind her cut off. She could neither move forward nor backwards, leaving her uncertain of what to do.

The abyss parted its bloody mouth open wide, staring at her with a frozen gaze, preparing to swallow her at any moment.

“Maiden Qiao?”

“What did you say?” Qiao Xian pulled herself back and mumbled.

“I said, if you have something in your heart that you cannot tell me, why don’t you tell Master Cui? He has a lot of ideas. Surely he can help you solve them.” Perhaps with a superior like Feng Xiao, who was wild and unbridled, compared to him, Pei Jingzhe is a lot more gentle and patient.

Qiao Xian lowered her gaze. “What if, it’s something even the Commander couldn’t solve?”

Pei Jingzhe blinked. He began to understand why Cui Buqu wanted him to come in the first place.

“It’s not too late to mend the fold after the sheep have been stolen.”

……

Rong Qing didn’t expect Cui Buqu’s words to be fulfilled so quickly.

The posthouse’s territory was like an invisible border. Outside, no one dared to reach in at the moment, but the enemy would make every attempt to kill the ones inside.

At noon of the same day, the blood-covered unopened edict was delivered back, the little courtyard of the posthouse welcomed a wave of four assassins in total.

The assassins weren’t bad fighters. In the scenario that Rong Qing was alone, he would have already died a few times. But as Pei Jingzhe was leading two Jiejian members, into the attack, they managed to overpower three assassins while the remaining one escaped carrying heavy wounds, though he probably wouldn’t live for long.

When night came, someone lit the back courtyard on fire. As everyone busied themselves with putting it off, someone tried to poison the food in the kitchen but he had been discovered by Cui Buqu and was seized.

Two incidents happening subsequently made them fall into a state of anxiety that Cui Buqu might as well dismiss every servant, maid, and guard in the posthouse, leaving behind only people from the Zuoyue and Jiejian Bureaus. For a while, everything was quiet. Rong Qing was afraid, but Cui Buqu, superior to him in power and rank, was quiet as if all was peaceful. Rong Qing was affected by this, and hence slowly calmed down.

From morning until evening, Feng Xiao hadn’t returned. Guan Shanhai, too, didn’t show up. Slowly, Pei Jingzhe felt the pressure coming in from the outside.

He felta premonition that a horrendous wave of explosive rain would be coming.

As the night swallowed up the final wisp of cloud on the horizon, the world of mortals fell into moonless darkness.

When Pei Jingzhe walked into the living hall, Cui Buqu was sitting next to the fire for warmth.

He truly did have the mood to read, and the book wasn’t just for show. Because Pei Jingzhe obviously saw him flip a page, and the corner of his lips curled slightly.

“Is there a reason Master Cui is smiling?”

Pei Jingzhe felt himself sweating as he walked close to the fire, and so couldn’t help himself taking a few steps backwards, picking a place further away to sit down.

Although it was already autumn, in this weather, usually people would not need a brazier. Cui Buqu feared both the heat and the cold, so he found it best to remain next to the brazier.

“I am reading a short classic that tells of two brothers fighting for a wife.” Cui Buqu replied to him.

Pei Jingzhe found it difficult to believe that Cui Buqu still had the mood to read fiction. He couldn’t help asking: “Sir, my Lord has already left for half a day. When do you think he would return? Would he be in danger?”

Cui Buqu shook his head. Pei Jingzhe relaxed, before hearing the other say: “Danger; it is inherent.”

“Then why are you shaking your head?” Pei Jingzhe twitched his lips.

Cui Buqu: “Shaking my head meaning, I do not know when he will return. However, disasters live a thousand years1; you may find solace in this.”

Pei Jingzhe: “…”

He wanted to protest that his Lord is a good person, but saying that would make him fall into the other’s “Good people don’t often live long” pit.

These two archenemies walk a narrow road side by side. When they’re together, they’d feel itchy if they don’t dig a pit for each other. Pei Jingzhe had long grown numb to that.

“Sir, there is something I don’t understand. These few assassination attempts are just like wounds that neither hurt nor itch. This doesn’t seem like the way the Thirteen Pavilion of Yunhai’s style. They wouldn’t have used underhanded methods like this, or have I overrated them?”

“You didn’t overrate them.” Cui Buqu finally placed the book down,
“Because they are not people from the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai.”

Pei Jingzhe immediately said: “What do you mean?”

Cui Buqu raised two fingers. “Yang Yun and the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai are two different groups of people.”

Since they came to Guangqian Prefecture, the enemy has made a few moves.

Trying to form ties with Rong Qing at the banquet.

Take an initial move and murder Huang Lue, then try to place the blame on Rong Qing. Wounding Guan Shanhai and the others heavily, stalling Feng Xao during the ambush at Qixia Villa. They have even changed Cui Buqu’s array.

And now they’re repeatedly facing attempted assassination.

These moves are sometimes incredibly cunning, yet sometimes plain and unoriginal. They’re obviously not from the same person.

“Yang Yun and Xiao Lu are working together, but they have no dependence on one another. Yang Yun has his own plans, he would not listen to Xiao Lu’s every order. As for Xiao Lu, he is bidding for time, so he is more patient than most. Once he attacks, he wouldn’t hold back. So up till now, these few assassination attempts should, by right, come from Yang Yun.”

“Now, although our side is the weaker one, Yang Yun is oblivious to this. He wouldn’t know how many trump cards we have, so with each time he tests us, he is searching for our limits. Once he thinks that we no longer pose a threat, he will emerge from his nest and annihilate us, to ensure that we came here alive, but leave this place dead.”

“Yet, if Yang Yun makes a move, it does not mean Xiao Lu has made a move. Now, Yang Yun is practically like an agitated dog trying to leap over the wall, yet Xiao Lu remained quiet. He, Xiao Lu, still remains our greatest enemy.”

Pei Jingzhe has been enlightened.

He too felt that something was strange, but as to what was strange about the entire matter, he couldn’t lay a finger on it. With just a few sentences, Cui Buqu could smother the concerns he could not put into words.

“That means now we need to wait for Xiao Lu to make his move?”

Yet Cui Buqu shook his head: “Xiao Lu is still observing because Yang Yun hasn’t made his final move. This time he would most certainly give his all to annihilate us as we stand.” Pei Jingzhe gave a sullen expression. “My Lord hasn’t returned, and Guan Shanhai isn’t here. The two Zuoyue guards who came with you have already been sent out. Presently, there’s only me, Qiao Xian, and two Jiejian members. We could deal with five or six assassins, but I fear Yang Yun has more people than that. If he sends a few dozens more, we will have difficulties.”

Cui Buqu laughed. “A few dozens? You have underestimated Yang Yun. He has been operating in Guangqian Prefecture for three years. How many of his own private soldiers has he bred using the rations that the Imperial Court gave him, as well as those from distinguished families? Additionally, his alliance with Xiao Lu has surely given him quite a few benefits. Those assassins from before and that fire were all little theatres made to test us. Even if Yang Yun couldn’t move one soldier or horse, a few hundred people surrounding this posthouse would be enough to swallow us whole!”

The more Pei Jingzhe listened, the paler he got. “Then, should I go find my Lord now and ask him to come back?”

Cui Buqu smiled vaguely. “I fear it’s too late.”

As he spoke those words, Pei Jingzhe heard a deep rumbling sound. It came from afar, rolling forth, yet in the end, it didn’t explode.
This situation carried on for a few breaths. Suddenly, he realized that it’s not some rumbling sound of thunder. They were the sound soldiers riding here on horses!

Judging by the sound, even if there weren’t thousands, they would be hundreds.

A few hundred people on the battlefield would naturally be swallowed up whole until nothing was left, but they were just a few people in a post house. This is like butchering a chicken with knives meant for cows, enough to spare and plenty more left. Pei Jingzhe was aware that his martial arts were only above average. In the Jianghu, he would perhaps be a Second-grade grandmaster. But faced before such heavy ranks of soldiers, he might not even escape on his own, let alone taking Cui Buqu and Rong Qing out of harm’s way.

A few plans to escape came to his mind, but they were very quickly discarded. Pei Jingzhe spoke quickly, “Mister Cui, from the way I see it, now we only have two choices: either Qiao Xian and I clear out a path while we defend you, or Imperial Censor Rong and you could go hide in the cellar while we deal with them here. Once the danger is over, you people can come out.”

The sounds of horse hooves from the outside drew nearer, almost reaching their doors. His tone unconsciously brought a sliver of agitation.

Yet Cui Buqu said: “I refuse. It’s too cowardly and lacks a striking image.”

Pei Jingzhe practically pulled his hair out, in his heart he said: It’s already come to this! It wouldn’t be bad if we could keep our lives, what striking image do you want?!

“Then, do you have a better idea?”

Cui Buqu cocked his head to the side thoughtfully and surprisingly said:
“How about begging them using my peerless elegance?”

Pei Jingzhe: “…”

His expression was blank, almost suspecting that his speaking adversary was Feng Xiao in disguise.

Thunder roared and shook the grounds in the silent and dark night.

Every door of every house was shut tight, no one dared to throw away their life because of curiosity.

Pei Jingzhe’s mouth foamed. He was prepared to drop everything and just stuff Cui Buqu and Rong Qing into the cellar when he saw Cui Buqu rising to his feet and smothering the wrinkles of his robes.

“Just kidding. Those words are what that oleander fairy would say.
Come.”

“Where?” Pei Jingzhe asked on instinct.

“Open the doors wide and welcome the guests.”

Rong Qing remained silent, following behind them.

His journey through the last few days was bumpy and uneven, experiencing everything he had never experienced before in the last twenty years all at once. He originally felt panic-stricken and disoriented, but now he’s slowly growing numb to it.

However, his steadiness improved. This time he wouldn’t be rash and hasty again. Xiao-Liu’s death had made him learn how to take the winding road to ponder over how he should deal with his enemies.

Until this second, he was willing to let Cui Buqu make the decision, let Cui Buqu lay the orders—but of course, even if he screamed his throat raw now, no one would listen to him.

The thundering rumbles continued.

At any time now someone would burst through the doors.

Yang Yun was on horseback on a high pedestal. He raised a hand, and all the knocking and shouting stopped.

“Cui Buqu, I know you are inside. As long as you come out and cease to put up a fight, everyone inside will be spared.”

There was no need for Yang Yun to shout. The night itself was silent to begin with, he refused to believe Cui Buqu couldn’t hear him.

He refrained from bursting in now only because he didn’t know whether there were traps Cui Buqu had deployed inside. He had heard about this sly and dangerous Commander of the Zuoyue Bureau before, but since they hadn’t bantered face-to-face at least once, he had only heard of most of the things, from sources like the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai no less.

As he thought about the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai, Yang Yun felt trouble rising up in his chest again.

As Cui Buqu had expected, he didn’t share any dependence with the Thirteen Pavilion of Yunhai, and that both of them were just working together.

To put it in an unpleasant way, they were just using each other.

When the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai first came to him, it was because they valued his rebelling ambitions, and thus offered to him a vast scheme. But Yang Yun wasn’t willing to continue being dragged by them, neither was he willing to obey them and turn himself into an informational puppet and so he discreetly categorized their relationship as mere teamwork. Thus, even if he used the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai to pave his own path, there was no need to be linked with them.

But the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai was no fool. They obviously felt Yang Yun’s disobedience of going his own way, and so from the day before yesterday, they weren’t willing to divulge any information. Yang Yun didn’t know whether they would deal with Cui Buqu and Rong Qing, but in order to ensure nothing fails under any circumstances, he could only do it himself and keep them here forever.

Following behind Yang Yun was Wu Yi.

Li Yan didn’t come, because he was a coward with a worrying heart. But Wu Yi had more guts, and ever since he sailed the same boat with Yang Yun, he knew he could never turn back. After Huang Lue’s death, Wu Yi was enlightened that he was determined to live on and live better. So he prayed that Yang Yun’s boat could ride through the winds and storms, and not strike a reef. “Governor, why don’t we shoot a few fire arrows in and take a look.”
Wu Yi suggested.

Yang Yun vaguely nodded his head.

Wu Yi gestured a hand to call for subordinates, wanting them to make the move, yet he saw the posthouse’s gates opening slowly, the fires inside bright.

The mastermind they were searching for, Cui Buqu, was sitting in the centre of the room, a table in front of him, alone, and with a complete tea set in front of him. The steam from the cup was still fuming. Cui Buqu raised the cup against Yang Yun, greeting him from afar.

“There is neither wind nor rain, perhaps the flood will recede in a few days. Is Governor Yang interested in drinking tea with me? To celebrate that the old man in the sky has finally come to his senses?”

Wu Yi immediately urged in a hushed tone: “Governor, don’t fall for it.
He is trying to goat you into action!”

Yang Yun naturally wouldn’t enter. He snorted coldly. “Cui Buqu, Commander of the Zuoyue Bureau, I have long heard of your name. It’s a pity that tonight is the moment of your death! Even if you put up ten unfortified cities2, it would be to no avail.”

He was completely uninterested in listening to Cui Buqu’s nonsense. With a wave of his hand, the bowmen on his left and right climbed the surrounding walls.

In a twinkling, a few dozen arrows pointed at Cui Buqu in the centre of the courtyard in an orderly manner. As soon as Yang Yun’s hand fell, the arrows would be released, turning Cui Buqu into a dead human sieve.

The doors shut tightly.

Rong Qing, Pei Jingzhe and the others, were sitting and waiting inside the room, facing one another. They didn’t go out. It was Cui Buqu’s orders.

In this kind of situation, whether how many people were outside, or how many less, it would not make a difference. Unless a few of them had martial arts like Feng Xiao’s, they wouldn’t have to worry about the arrows raining from above or spears from forests. But in the end, there was only one Feng Xiao in this world.
Rong Qing heard the commotion outside, his heart leaping into his throat. He was thinking: If he had been Cui Buqu, under his kind of situation,
what should he do to escape such a dangerous situation?

But regardless of how much he slept on it, he could think of nothing.

The most Cui Buqu could do was to just say a few words. If he used them to say something that would make those bowmen’s conscience wake up, abandon Yang Yun and surrender themselves, it was feared that he would be dead before he could finish speaking.

But if not this, then what more could he do? Pei Jingzhe was also thinking.
Could it be that he was waiting for Feng Xiao and Guan Shanhai’s return? To shoot them back?

Impossible. Even if Feng Xiao could come back in time, within the blink of an eye, he cannot rescue Cui Buqu from the rain of arrows.

What did Cui Buqu have that he would bet everything on, so that they could all remain inside and not come out?

He surely wouldn’t have thought that by sacrificing himself, the others would be spared, right?

If Yang Yun could kill even the Zuoyue Commander, then the others were nothing more than just small fishes and shrimps. Pei Jingzhe’s forehead had begun to ooze sweat. His palms were slippery, his expression nervous and jumpy.

He opened his eyes to look at Qiao Xian and Rong Qing.

Both of them looked pale; Qiao Xian’s teeth were gritted, looking like she’d rush out at any moment. However, as Pei Jingzhe had tapped her acupoints and Cui Buqu had given the order, she remained quiet.

The three of them looked more like sorry figures compared to Cui Buqu, but neither of them could find it in themselves to laugh at the other. They would have given anything to stare outside the window.

The weight of a thousand, hanging by a strand of hair.
[1] 祸害遗千年 (lit. Disasters live behind a thousand years) from 好⼈不
⻓命, 祸害遗千年 means that good people usually don’t live long, but disasters (bad people) usually have prolonged lives. In this context, Cui
Buqu means that Feng Xiao would live a thousand years and there’s no need for Pei Jingzhe to worry he’d die. If Pei Jingzhe protests against it and wants to say that Feng Xiao is a good person, then he’s cursing his own
Lord to have an early death. [2] 空城计: (lit. Empty City Strategy) refers to a strategy to lure curious enemies into your own territories by behaving as if no one is watching.

[Dust Bunny: I’m today’s days old when I found out I could phrase my translations better by using dictionaries. I’ve been taught that when I was still in school. Why did I forget the existence of dictionaries? It made the outcome more satisfying for certain but costs more time. On that note I realize how we’re approaching the last arc soon and I’m kind of sad. Wushuang was not the best first novel for a beginner to translate considering the length and elements, though it will always have a special place in my heart and it’s not the end for me, since I’ll be going back for editting and ironing out the obvious flaws. It’s been almost a year since I started translating it after all and bonds are formed. As always, feel free to contact me for errors or leave it in the comments!]

Chapter 145

I believe the love of your mother’s ass!

Surrounded by formidable enemies, under their gaze, iron arrows gave off cold glares and a second would decide if everything was lost.

Cui Buqu had only one opportunity to say two sentences. And it was what he did.
The first sentence was: Have you seen the bureau’s great prison?

The second sentence was: Before you came out, are you sure you left enough subordinates in your study?

The first sentence made Yang Yun furrow his brows, and the second one made his expression pale.

The hand he’d raised high froze in the air.

“Governor!” Wu Yi urged from behind.

“What did you do?” Yang Yun knew that he should ignore it, lay the orders and turn Cui Buqu into a porcupine, but he didn’t know why he was hesitating.

“Governor!” Wu Yi anxiously stamped his foot. He would give everything to grab Yang Yun’s hand and pull it down himself.

“Cui Buqu!” Yang Yun roared. Cui Buqu smiled: “You are caught guilty, Governor Yang.”

People of ambition would never feel guilty. They see power as their ultimate goal, and wouldn’t hesitate even at the cost of their legacy and life. The best example would be Liu Bang of Han1. Even as Xiang Yu kidnapped his father, wife, and children, holding them hostage, he would still calmly request Xiang Yu to give him a piece of the spoils after he slaughtered his family.

At first Cui Buqu thought Yang Yun was also such a person. He had no children and shared no memorable relationship with his wife—these could all be just to minimize his weaknesses and avoid being blackmailed by others. But just now, when both of them stared at each other, he knew that he overestimated Yang Yun. Perhaps the other cared not for children to succeed his legacy, but he did loved himself incredibly.

Yang Yun was over thirty years old with a short mustache and beard that was trimmed tidily. Even during such a windy and stormy night, neither his hair or clothes were messy. He didn’t tolerate untidiness. Moreover, his location in the array also had a catch: there were guards on his left and right, yet none behind him. Because once something happens, he could quickly retreat into the protection of his troops and secure his safety.

This is a man who paid attention to appearance and valued his own life.

He loved himself more than he loved anyone else, so he was completely fine with having no wife or children. As long as he was living well, it would be enough.

“Governor Yang, I’m guessing that from the beginning you only wanted to embezzle some provisions and sell them for wealth. You have never thought that it would turn into the situation today, am I right?” Cui Buqu said.

When Yang Yun’s hand didn’t fall, he saw through Yang Yun’s weakness, and so he had enough to spare to turn defeat into victory. “If it was just corruption, you would only just be dismissed from your office if you confessed to His Majesty. But it would be different if it was treason. You collaborated with the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai, yet didn’t know that they were using you. Step by step they lured you into a trap, turning everything into a big deal and pushing you towards a cliff. You have no choice but to be lead on by the nose.”

“Kill him!” Wu Yi howled, “Kill that sickly bastard! He merely spouts nonsense with his mouth, what is so scary about him?!”

Carrying his knife he rushed forwards, raising his knife to cut down Cui Buqu.

Cui Buqu roared: “Pei Jingzhe!”

Practically at the same time he called, Pei Jingzhe leaped out of the house!

Wu Yi’s speed was a lot slower than the arrow. Very quickly, he was thrown to the ground, rolling. Pei Jingzhe seized him down and placed a knife onto his throat.

The archers by the walls should have shot at Cui Buqu the moment Wu Yi ran out, but they didn’t.

Many of them were already looking back with surprise. Their formation has already become disoriented.

It was unknown since when the darkness they came from had lit up with fire. It flourished as it burned and grew brighter as it dragged on; from scattered little fires they turned into a bundle of flames, and following it from afar were voices howling like rolling thunder!

That place was situated neither far away or near. They didn’t rush where they stood, but Yang Yun’s face turned as pale as snow all of a sudden. He knew where those howlings from the mountains came from.

The Governor’s Residence! “For two consequent years you lied to the Imperial Court with the strategy of waiving taxes via donating grains. Through colluding with distinguished families, you obtained no little amount of benefits. If you had turned back and stopped here, you wouldn’t have brought such a disaster upon yourself. But the heart is impossible to satisfy; this year, an explosive wave of rain came, the Imperial Court unexpectedly issued rations, yet as greed rose in you, you embezzled these rations as well, resulting in the loss of homes for thousands of flood victims. Many of them were left with nowhere to go, thus went to the county town and practically raised a riot. At the same time, the Imperial Court delivered an Imperial Envoy to supervise the cause. You feared that long nights would be haunted by dreams, so you rather go big or go home, killing everyone to get over with it. But because there were too many victims, you couldn’t kill them all at once, and so you locked up some of them into the great prison, deciding to wait for the Imperial Censor to leave first before deciding their fate. When that time comes, it would be assumed that when the flood came, the people couldn’t escape in time and most of them are drowned. Those embezzled rations would no longer be needed. It was the best for both worlds, and all beneath the sky is at peace.”

Cui Buqu’s spoke at the speed of light, laying out all Yang Yun’s plans clearly with just a few words as if he had witnessed them himself.

What made Yang Yun more shocked was that Cui Buqu had dared to take the perilous road, letting his people release those victims and condemned prisoners in the great prison so they would attack the Governor’s Residence!

Here, he brought people to kill Cui Buqu, yet over there, his own residence was being destroyed!

One can imagine those cornered victims and condemned prisoners howling as someone let them out, or someone might even inform them that there would be food in the Governor’s Residence. Knowing that if something happened there would be an Imperial Envoy to take the blame, those people would burst into the Governor’s Residence like madmen, turning the place upside down. Cui Buqu’s people would be among them, finding their way to his study…… The commotions not far away got louder and louder.

People who were originally cowering in their homes had begun coming out to steal a glance through opened windows.

Noise rose up all around, the sound of slaughter rushed into the sky.

Yang Yun even heard there were sounds of knives and spears grinding against each other among them.

Weapons in the great prison seemed to have all been taken by them, and he himself had brought almost everyone out with only a few left in his residence. He could not have guessed that Cui Buqu would be so cruel, using the strategy of “Surrounding Wei to save Zhao2” to bring himself out this difficult situation.

If the Governor’s Residence was destroyed, then all the secrets he had hidden there would be destroyed as well!

Yang Yun’s eyes cracked, his eyes brimmed red, cruelly glared at Cui Buqu’s gaze as if he was looking at his father’s murderer in the eye and hating the fact that they live beneath the same sky.

“Do you know what are the consequences of letting out those victims?! The entire Guangqian County would be destroyed. Cui Buqu, for your own selfish desires, you would rather be condemned through the ages as Guangqian’s bringer of calamity?!”

He could even convey such a false account of facts in such a rightful manner.

The soldier’s hearts were all tossed into frantic disarray, exchanging whispers. They did not even pay attention to those high-sounding words of Yang Yun’s.

From not far away, the commotion grew. A great fire rose from the Governor’s Residence and quickly turned into a cluster of dense smoke. Yang Yun knew this cannot carry on. Even if Cui Buqu already had his secrets in his hands, as long as this fellow died, those secrets would forever be safe.

“Archers! I order you to—”

Before he could say the words “release the arrows”, he was like a cockerel being grabbed by his throat. His eyes opened wide, turning into a mute in the spilt of the moment.

A knife was suspended on his neck, clean-cut and clear.

Cries from all around rose with Yang Yun and the executor in the center.
Everyone took a step back at once.

The man wearing the uniform of soldiers from the Governor’s Residence raised his head slightly, revealing the face beneath the armour.

Guan Shanhai.

When the commotion from inside the city reached them, Yang Yun and everyone around him had unawarely been affected by it. Guan Shanhai who stood around the outer fringe blended in. When everyone was worried that the rebels would conquer the Governor’s Residence, no one noticed Guan Shanhai had quietly got close to Yang Yun, standing near enough to pose a threat to him.

Pain spread from his neck. Yang Yun really did believe that the other now habours the intention to kill. At that moment, he prioritized his desire to live and shouted loudly: “Everyone stop!”

Two words, curt and brief, exposed his thoughts, allowing Cui Buqu to be more determined that his guesses were right.

He’s not afraid that his enemies were afraid of dying; he’s only afraid if his enemies weren’t afraid of dying.

Cui Buqu glanced all around and coldly stated: “Put down your weapons and surrender. The principal culprit shall be questioned, but all accomplices under duress shall go unpunished!”

As all the surrounding soldiers were perturbed by the commotion in the city, they couldn’t help giving in to the panic.

Other than Yang Yun’s trusted soldiers, the rest were not his deadly loyal soldiers.

As for Yang Yun’s personal guards, their incompetence was the reason he was seized, and so they dare not act rashly.

Qiao Xian, who stood by the gates, was a step too late to seizing Wu Yi. Because the name Cui Buqu shouted was Pei Jingzhe’s, and not hers.
She had also seen Guan Shanhai, who should have gone to the Zhao Family’s Teahouse to gather information. Yet, here he is, masquerading as one of his soldiers to blend in.

When she was confused and oblivious, when everyone thought Cui Buqu really would give in without a fight this time, he has already deployed all his chess pieces, completing the entire board of chess and securing its endgame.

This moment, Rong Qing was finally put to use.

A reasonable clarion digress to denounce Yang Yun and guarantee that everyone else would go unpunished. After an episode of warm-heartedness, the archers finally toss their weapons to the ground. Following were the surrounding soldiers, row by row they tossed their weapons, until only Yang Yun’s personal guards were left, yet they were already powerless.

Qiao Xian originally thought she knew the extent of Cui Buqu’s capabilities, but at this moment, she realized she had underestimated him.

In the recent few times Cui Buqu often worked together with Feng Xiao, Second Commander Feng’s bombastic and flashy high-profile appearance near him would give a lot of people the delusion that the reason of their success was mostly because of Feng-er’s martial arts. After all, no one could turn a blind eye to Feng Xiao’s dazzling figure.

Even the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai would naturally place their focus on Feng Xiao, but they were all wrong. Even though Cui Buqu didn’t know martial arts, his chronic illness could serve as his camouflage.

Yang Yun learned that he underestimated his enemy, but it was too late.

As if Cui Buqu could sense it, he turned around to meet Qiao Xian’s gaze.

“You…… since when did you send people to attack the bureau’s great prison?” Qiao Xian forcibly pushed herself to say the latter half of the sentence, “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“From illusion the truth is revealed; in the truth lies an illusion.” Cui Buqu’s expression was unreadable.

Nobody had noticed that those two Zuoyue guards had vanished. Their martial arts were mediocre, and they couldn’t help much but serve as errand boys. To disappear for two to three days were common for them. Even Qiao Xian hadn’t realized it, but when Yang Yun came rolling with a ferocious aura, both of them were enough to attack the bureau’s great prison and let out the convicts as well as victims.

Qiao Xian should have been the first one informed, but now she was left in the dark no different from Rong Qing.

As she thought until this point, she inhaled sharply, piercing through the other’s ice-cold gaze like a crumbling icy cellar.

“Commander……” You already knew everything?

Cui Buqu did not reply to this question of hers. He didn’t even look at her. Turning around, summoning the wind as he raised his cloak, he resolutely gave a command, a follow-up to the movement Yang Yun was never given the chance to execute tonight. “In presence of the Emperor’s orders, take down all Yang Yun’s personal guards!”

It was as easy as blowing off dust.

Yang Yun’s face as white as ash, quivering as he watched knives pierced his own soldier’s chests, screaming as they fell.

Defeat spread like a contagious disease; in the blink of an eye, all the morale of the soldiers crumpled, and what’s more was that the figure they’ve pledged loyalty to was already in the enemy’s hands.

Watching as the big picture settled down, Pei Jingzhe tied Wu Yi’s hands behind his back, before walking forward to help Guan Shanhai take care of Yang Yun. He watched as Cui Buqu rode on Yang Yun’s horse, ordering everyone to advance to the Governor’s Residence to clean up the situation. Pei Jingzhe immediately grabbed a horse and followed.

“We are going to the Governor’s Residence. Come along?” As he passed by Qiao Xian, Pei Jingzhe bent to give her a hand.

Qiao Xian was stunned. “The Commander didn’t allow me to go.”

Pei Jingzhe curiously asked: “You are from the Zuoyue Bureau. Even I could go, why not you?”

Qiao Xian hesitated for a moment. Without taking Pei Jingzhe’s hand, she flipped herself onto the horse, landing behind him as she took the reins and rode forward.

“Go!”

Pei Jingzhe: ……

At once, Pei Jingzhe felt that from Qiao Xian’s perspective, he resembled more the beautiful maiden being protected in her arms.

Qiao Xian wasn’t able to empathize his difficulty. She only saw him looking around, so she raised a brow and asked: “What are you looking at? Stop squirming.”

“Strange. Where is my Lord?” Pei Jingzhe could not find the familiar silhouette among the group of people.

From the way he saw it, regardless of how difficult it is to deal with in the Stormy Tavern, Feng Xiao has already left for half a day, surely, he should be back by now?

From the beginning to the end, there was not a single role meant for Feng Xiao.

……

When Feng Xiao walked into the Stormy Tavern, the sky was still a gradient of purple and blue as night hung at the horizon.

There was only one tavern. Before he entered the tavern he could already smell the scent of sweet wine.

There were not many people inside, but there weren’t a few either. There were ten sitting on three to four different tables chatting and reminiscing.

When Feng Xiao arrived, nobody noticed him.

Nobody turned to his direction. Everyone chatter among themselves, as if Feng Xiao didn’t exist.

Feng Xiao was upset by this. How could he, a dignified, elegant, peerless, unbridled and suave   gentleman who nobody would dare own up to first if he was second in this world, was ignored like this?

He crossed his leg and sat down, slapping the table and yelled: “Where is the host? And the employees? Is everyone dead? Bring the wine!”
Perhaps he had been too abrupt, for everyone finally turned his way. Feng Xiao felt a little cocky. Others would be afraid to deliver a high-
profile, yet it was his favourite thing to do. After the others looked and looked at him, he not only didn’t feel irritated, but even smiled back at them.

The employee finally brought him a jar of wine.

“What does my Lord wish to drink?” “Wine from Lanling!”
The employee gave a troubled look. “Lanling is too far away from this place. I beg your Lord’s forgiveness, we do not have wine from Lanling.”

Feng Xiao: “Then what wine do you have? As long as it’s good wine, bring them up! I have nothing but money.”

The employee raised the jar of wine in his hand. “We sell the best type of wine. Amber’s Light. My Lord, have a try?”

Feng Xiao smiled and said: “I don’t want Amber’s Light, I want wine from Lanling. If there is no wine from Lanling, let me drink the hard way3.”

The employee gave a strange look. It’s not the first time he encountered a customer searching for a fight, but it’s the first time he heard a customer saying he wants to drink the hard way.

Feng Xiao: “Don’t you have a hard way for me to drink?”

The employee twitched his lips. “…… My apologies, my Lord. We really do not have it.”

Feng Xiao’s expression changed, morphing from joy to anger as he immediately raised his hand to flip the wine case!

The porcelain bowl and cups all shatter on the ground.

“Why run a tavern if you have nothing!” He reached out to grab the employee’s throat, yet the latter’s fearful expression morphed. He reached out with a hand to fling the wine jar in his hand at Feng Xiao, turning around to avoid the attack.

At the same time, the customers inside the tavern suddenly rose to their feet in unison. With bare fists and handheld weapons, they all attacked Feng Xiao!

Feng Xiao laughed boisterously. He leaped into the air as quickly as lightning, avoiding everyone’s assaults on the spot. Then, with a gesture as quick as lightning he grabbed the employee’s throat, landing on the roof’s beam as light as a feather, looking at everyone.

“Having spread such a big net, yet Xiao Lu wouldn’t even show himself?” He mocked.

“Dealing with you, these eleven first-tier grandmasters from the Jianghu would be enough. There is no need for the Pavilion Lord to show himself.” a familiar voice reached him. Yuan Sansi stepped out from the corridor at the rear, leaping with a gesture.

But because Feng Xiao stood too high, Yuan Sansi had to raise his head to speak with him. This made him look too nimble, so he leaped onto the beam as well.

Feng Xiao exclaimed: “An old friend, ah, Old Yuan! Many days passed since our separation, and you’ve grown thin. Could it be that Xiao Lu was mad at your failure in Tiannian Mountain, that he refused you meals?”

All would have been well if he was quiet, but when he started rubbing it in, fury rose in Yuan Sansi. The incident in Tiannian Mountain, the change of sides of Fan Yun, the Zuoyue and Jiejian Bureaus’ revenge, had all made the Thirteen Pavilion of Yunhai suffer great losses. Yuan Sansi’s years of serving as an undercover Prefectural Magistrate could no longer carry on. He could only change into another identity as a dormant hidden in the dark. But he had got used to living in the light, and so having to live in the dark all of a sudden….. How could he be pacified with just luxurious clothes and delicacies? “Feng Xiao, do you believe that Cui Buqu knew all along there was a trap here, and so let you come on purpose?” Yuan Sansi snorted coldly.

“Of course I believe it.” Feng Xiao snickered, “I believe the love of your mother’s ass!”

Before he finished his words, he dashed towards Yuan Sansi!

Below the beam, eleven grandmasters glared, simply waiting for Feng Xiao to show his weakness, and then they’d take the opportunity to strike, going for the kill!

[1] 汉时刘邦: Liu Bang was an Emperor who prioritized himself over anything else. One time he was pursued by enemies, he pushed two of his own children off his carriage three times in an attempt to lighten the weight.
Even though the driver of the carriage eventually saved them. [2] 围魏救赵的法⼦: During the Warring States period, when Wei attacked Zhao, the Qis sent out troops to surround the Kingdom of Wei so they were forced to
retreat from attacking the Zhaos to save themselves. [3] 罚酒 (lit. wine of punishment): usually a punishment in drinking games but could also mean to threaten someone if they wanted to deal with matters the hard way instead of any alternative. Feng Xiao is probably messing around with wordplay.

Chapter 146

They were the combined strength and wisdom; the closing of gaps between flaws and virtues.

Yuan Sansi remembered that a senior had told him once. During that year when five top-tier martial artists ambushed the Huanyue Sect Leader, regardless of how excellent Yan Wushi’s martial arts were, under the combined power of those five top-tier martial artists, he lost his life in the end.

Presently, what awaited Feng Xiao wasn’t just a potentially formidable enemy like Yuan Sansi. There were also another eleven first-tier martial artists. Yuan Sansi believed that in such a situation, let alone Feng Xiao, even if the number one grandmaster beneath the Heavens came, they would be similarly helpless.

The Pavilion Lord had given orders that Cui Buqu’s life was to be remained, but as for Feng Xiao, he was to be killed if he put up resistance.

Since that was the case, there was no need for him to show mercy today. Feng Xiao must die.
All eleven martial artists embarked at once, himself including; regardless how the incident progressed, Feng Xiao’s death is set. It was impossible for him to walk out of this tavern.

The tavern’s gates were not closed, but the commotion within was enough to make everyone who was smart enough to stay away. Moreover, the subsequent days of horrendous rains and the rise of flood waters had made life hard for the citizens inside the city. Nobody had the mood to come to the tavern.

The fight was rowdy on the beam. Yet there was still someone who walked in.

Someone of a casual mood, who walked at a leisurely speed and waving a fan in black robes.

Those eleven martial artists turned their gazes, fixing them on the person who walked in.

Instead of teaching this ignorant fool of an uninvited guest a lesson, they gave a strange look as if they had seen a ghost.

Although the sky hasn’t turned fully dark, it was already evening. As the eye watched the impending curtain of night, it was the time where the demons and ghosts came out to roam.

This uninvited guest walked in as if the tavern was empty, as if he couldn’t see the fighting going-on on the beam. He picked a place to sit down and tap the table with his fan.

“Why is no one selling wine in such a pleasant tavern?”

Looks aside, even his tone and voice were identical to Feng Xiao.

Could it be that the one prior wasn’t the real Feng Xiao, but this one that had just come in is the real deal?

Let alone those eleven top-tier martial artists, even Yuan Sansi could see the new Feng Xiao.

If one person saw wrongly, perhaps something was wrong with their eyes, but when twelve people saw the same thing, then it can only mean that an identical Feng Xiao had truly appeared. The most taboo element when fights between top-tier martial artists take place was distraction. Yuan Sansi was just distracted by the new Feng Xiao for a moment, and in the next tick of second, the palm he had launched was penetrated. A soundless and breathless zither string launched into his direction, aimed at his face!

Yuan Sansi raised a hand to block it without any hesitation. He didn’t expect his enemy to attack through the other side. A groan emerged, his shoulders hurt and his posture wavered. He fell from the beam before lending support from a circular pillar midair and launched at Feng Xiao again.

At the same time, all eleven martial artists on the ground, who were of the same mind together, lunged at the other Feng Xiao, who was sitting as steadily as a mountain!

That Feng Xiao laughed boisterously, yet refused to fight them head-on. He instead danced around swiftly, fleeing to the cabinet where wine jars were placed. In the disarray of sword shadows and flying palms, the wine jars all fell to the floor and shattered, its fragrance spreading through the air into everyone’s nostrils tipsily like a country of wine.

Among these eleven martial artists, they did not lack people who are sensitive to smell. Even if both Feng Xiaos looked, behaved, and spoke similarly, their scents were different and could be detected from their scanty differences. But once the wine jaws shattered, everyone smelt like wine and they could no longer be told apart.

Someone else stepped into the door. It was another Feng Xiao.
Everyone has already seen the second one, so they wouldn’t be too surprised at the third one.

The third Feng Xiao laughed boisterously: “What a coincidence, Old Yuan. Have you been well?” Yuan Sansi: ……

The two fighting on the beam separated, landing on different sides.

Three Feng Xiaos: one on top of the beam, one among the shattered pieces of wine jars, and one at the door. All of them are identical.

There are already three Feng Xiaos. Who knows if there would be a fourth?
Yuan Sansi snicked: “Such petty tricks! You, Feng Xiao, had always raised your standards so high. Since when have you gone to use such tricks just to keep yourself alive?”

He would never believe that there would truly be three Feng Xiaos in this world. It was just the art of disguise.

Even if these three Feng Xiaos couldn’t be told apart by exterior and mannerisms, it was impossible for their weapons to be the same.

The Feng Xiao who stood by the door said: “Old Yuan, you sent eleven people to ambush me, yet you disapprove of me having helpers? Isn’t this the same as allowing only a state magistrate to set a fire, but forbidding the citizens to even light lamps?”

The Feng Xiao on top of the beam sighed: “Why the need to expose them? The Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai is at their wit’s end!”

The Feng Xiao near those broken wine jars exploded into laughter: “Xiao Lu that sonny dared not show himself, so he could only send you as his frontliner. Old Yuan, you are considered number one yourself, surely there’s no need to be in such a sorry state?!”

Yuan Sansi behaved as though he heard nothing. Suspended in midair, he swooped down at the speed of a diving eagle, turning one wave of attack into ten, and ten into a thousand. A thousand shadows of himself coming from all four directions aimed at Feng Xiao! The colour of the sky outside has completely darkened. The lanterns of the tavern swayed in the breeze as their candles flickered, threatening to go off. The fluctuating brightness cast its light upon the sorry place of a scattered mess.

Those eleven top-tier martial artists turned into flickering shadows, splitting up to attack two different Feng Xiaos. They each held their own weapons of all varying shapes and sizes, all equipped with different sets of skills.

Those who were half a step too late would forever be grateful that their skills were more inferior to others, for it has saved their lives.

The Feng Xiao next to the broken wine jars leaped into the air, a wave of attack that could topple mountains and overturn seas surged, welcoming the approaching three people.

Feng Xiao who stood by the door grabbed the zither on his back. The zither flew up with the support of real qi, spinning in midair. The zither was then caught by a strong, slender, long arm, and in the next moment the zither strings vibrated. Waves of music spread out. Although the music waves were monotone, normal people could not withstand music waves infused with real qi. The frontmost three martial artists felt both their ears bled. They only felt buzzing near his ears, forbidding them from listening to all that happened around them.

Like fluttering snow and flowers, like a pouring huge rain, the loud noise turned into quietness when it reached its peak. The world spun, and fresh blood brimmed up the nose, their actions slowed down similarly. Feng Xiao who was holding his zither snorted coldly. This snort was like a resonating ring to them, hitting their chest heavily. All of a sudden, they became stagnant. They were depleted of strength from holding their knives and swords, before a zither hit their chests continuously. None of them were fortunate enough to avoid it. As cries resounded, they were hit far away.

On the beam, Yuan Sansi watched the happenings below midway, couldn’t help but snorted coldly. When Feng Xiao first joined the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai, he had once relayed his background. Yuan Sansi also knew that among the three Demonic Sects, the Fajing Sect used zithers for weapons, setting their own sail. Presently, since the one on the ground is using a zither to fight, then that must be the real Feng Xiao without a doubt! Thus, the one in front of him is surely a fake!

Two cold glares flew out of his sleeves; one was in front, heading towards his target’s neck, and the other aimed for his dantian. When the Feng Xiao who was fighting with him saw this, he let his figure fall, but Yuan Sansi anticipated him to make this move. A cold smile hung by his lips as he flourished his hand and shot two three cold glares. In the midst, his wave of attack followed, aiming to give a thundering clap on Feng Xiao’s head.

Feng Xiao falling as his moment was to remove his internal strength. If he mustered his internal strength to block that last cold glare, then he would surely have nothing left. He wouldn’t be able to strike back. If Yuan Sansi’s wave of attack landed, even if his head wasn’t split open, it would at least cause his blood to circulate backwards, thus causing him heavy injuries!

A pained cry sounded nearby.

A large cloak has been lifted highly; the black-robed man, like a black phoenix ready to take flight, spread its wings wide towards the great lands. Its proud and glaring gaze was unique and unmatched.

The razor-sharp zither string in his hand was like a cutting blade, and where it went, two other martial artists’ heads fell!

As for the phoenix, it recklessly bent its body like a broken bamboo and pressed forward with indomitable will.

The tavern was in chaos just like before the world was born. Whenever the black robe passed, it left behind a bloody path, cutting through the primordial world, making a thousand ghosts cry in the split of a second in the lonesome night! It was unknown since when the dense scent of fragrant wine has been overcome by the thick scent of blood. Feng Xiao did not spare mercy. Standing here, these eleven top-tier martial artists were no different from being fresh out of the thatched cottage, being withheld and limited in all perceivable circumstances.

It was unknown when it began, these three Feng Xiaos figures blended together, allowing one to feel an illusionary sense that one had split into three.

Could it be that there really are three Feng Xiaos? One of the eleven suddenly thought.
His surname is Zhu, and his name Yeqing. He came from the Songshan Sect and used a sword.

Although Songshan Sect was not on a big scale, Zhu Yeqing was gifted in talent. At the age of twenty-five he defeated the three Heroes in the North of the Gobi Desert. He made a name for defeating three of them alone. After that, he showed up at rank thirty-seven of the Wulin scoreboard by the Liuli Palace of Fangzhangzhou. Everyone aimed for the first, but as number thirty-seven of high society, he wasn’t just one of the normal caste.

Tonight he had wanted to use Feng Xiao’s death to make a name for himself, rising up to a stage above, but he had never expected his enemy to be so powerful.

Since he was young, all his bitter training was for the sake of making a name for himself that was known by the world. But Zhu Yeqing knew that his long-cherished wish would never be fulfilled in this life.

Ghost shadows danced, lights flickering in disarray, and when the last light disappeared like the crippling last candle in a lantern had finally been blown out, Zhi Yeqing’s vision darkened, before finally losing all his senses.

His death didn’t mean the war had ended. The leftover top-tier martial artists knew that the fight today would not end without death.
If Feng Xiao didn’t die, then every one of them present would have to. So Feng Xiao could only die. There was no option for begging for mercy,
taking a step back, or truce.

Yuan Sansi’s palm clashed with one of the Feng Xiaos.

As real qi surged between them like a torrential wave. After that clash of palms, both of them floated backwards and landed on the ground stably.

But Yuan Sansi knew inwardly that blood and qi flipped inside of him. He forcibly swallowed a mouthful of blood, thankful they hadn’t spilled out. He didn’t know whether Feng Xiao was the same, but he dared not assump.

From the beginning, victory had been in his grasp, but now he was doubtful. Yuan Sansi knew very well that this sort of change is not favourable.

He suddenly recalled the words the Pavilion Lord had told him before he left.

The Pavilion Lord said that after Feng Xiao used those two Śarīras, his martial arts would improve and he would not be the same. He has already turned into a formidable enemy of the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai, and now he must be eliminated.

During that time, although Yuan Sansi knew Feng Xiao’s martial arts surpassed normal people, he refused to admit that the Pavilion Lord’s words were right, simply taking it for his distrust in his own abilities.

But presently, he cannot deny himself from admitting that the Pavilion Lord’s words are the truth.

Feng Xiao’s improvement in the martial arts, the nature of his talents, is something he rarely saw all his life. The other was even in possession of the Jiejian Bureau and seemed to share an affair with Cui Buqu.

They were the combined strength and wisdom; the closing of gaps between flaws and virtues.

How can an enemy as powerful as this be left alone? The tavern suddenly quietened down.
Even the horrendous wind outside had quelled, not moving an inch as if it had been held by the throat.

There were still six people in total including Yuan Sansi.

Yet Feng Xiao and his doppelgangers remained three in number. The enemy had killed half of his own people.
Yet the doubts in Yuan Sansi were growing.

After all, “a breath of anger would bring three qings1” could only exist in myths. It was impossible for Feng Xiao to truly have two doppelgangers, but martial artists who have achieved his level in the martial world were few in numbers. Even if they exist, who would let themselves be hastily invited here and willing to pass themselves off as his doppelganger?

Superiority and inferiority in the martial arts must exist between the three of them. They would most certainly have weaknesses as well. As long as he could tell them apart, allowing the other martial artists to attack them, then he could focus on Feng Xiao himself entirely. This would increase their chances of success.

Yuan Sansi calmed himself down, closing his eyes. He could hear the enemy’s movements in the dark.

Both sides were soundless.

As if even breathings had stopped. Blood on the zither’s string became thicker and thicker. They drip down the string, hardening at a certain point, before finally falling off from its own weight onto the ground.

Among the three Feng Xiaos, one of them couldn’t stop themselves from shifting.

That was an instinctive move. That one is the one with the poorest martial arts!

As Yuan Sansi’s mind spun, he blew a whistle and two top-tier martial artists attacked that one.

As for the other two Feng Xiaos, one of them couldn’t hold himself back, taking off to save his ally.

That person was also a doppelganger! Another three more martial artists attacked.
Yuan Sansi no longer hesitated. As the cold glare from both his hands shot out, a sword appeared in his grasp, and then he lunged at the last one!

……

The chaos in the Governor’s Residence was pacified very quickly.

The victims and the convicts have both been imprisoned for very long, barely having any strength. However, with just a breath of outrage and under the Zuoyue guards’ guidance, they attacked the practically empty Governor’s Residence. Once Cui Buqu brought soldiers, the entire situation was stabilized quickly.

Pei Jingzhe rushed over at the last minute, and after seeing Cui Buqu hadn’t let his people harm those victims, he let out a breath of relief.

Perhaps his expression was far too obvious, even Cui Buqu himself noticed it. Cui Buqu gave him a half-hearted smile: “You are afraid after I made use of these victims to save myself, I’d kill them afterwards to pacify the riot?”

Pei Jingzhe’s face reddened: “I’ve disgraced myself.”

Cui Buqu: “Although I’m not some good person, I have no interest in harming defenseless citizens. Had it not been for Yang Yun’s greed and this wave of calamity, they were normal citizens to begin with. In the future, they would even be the best witnesses against Yang Yun, Wu Yi, and the others. Go gather all of them somewhere and count their numbers. Do not let them run about seeking for trouble. Then search the Governor’s Residence; Yang Yun must have kept a portion of the rations here. Take them and cook some congee to distribute to these people. Let them fill their stomachs first and leave discussions for later.”

Pei Jingzhe mustered his strength, nodded his head and left in a hurry. He had completely forgotten that Cui Buqu is the Zuoyue Commander, and he shouldn’t have been commanding him.

Rong Qing couldn’t help interfering: “Master Cui, is there anything I can help with?”

Cui Buqu: “Those convicts are still blended among the victims. Take the name list and differentiate them out; which are the ones that deserve their deaths, and which ones were framed by Yang Yun. All of them would depend entirely on you, Imperial Censor Qingtian2.”

This was Rong Qing’s profession to begin with. He gave a happy look, rubbed his hands together and left.

The Governor’s Residence was already ripped apart by the victims. Many of them took advantage of the riot and stole quite a few valuables. However, both of those Zuoyue guards were there on Cui Buqu’s orders. They placed their focus on searching Yang Yun’s study, and came to report back at this moment, saying they found something strange in the study. Yang Yun was brought here with his hands tied behind his back. He followed Cui Buqu into his own study.

The floor tiles beneath his bookcase were already lifted up, revealing an inky-black hole.

Many people of higher-offices had secret cellars of varying entries. Due to having a countless number of secrets, they would certainly have a place such as this that allowed them to conceal anything that they wanted to keep hidden.

Seeing the secret cellar opened, Yang Yun didn’t feel surprised. His face was ashen gray all along the way, not uttering a word. Yet at this moment he immediately spoke for the first time: “Cui Buqu, I know I cannot stop you from entering, but I beg you to be the only one to enter, please! This matter concerned the pride of the Royal Family, it cannot reach a third person!”

Cui Buqu curiously asked: “When you were doing these things, how could you not have thought of the Royal Family’s pride?”

And now all of a sudden, he remembered he belonged to the Yang family?

Yang Yun roared at him in a hoarse and hushed voice: “I guarantee there are no traps inside, but only you are permitted to see everything inside!”

Cui Buqu coldly stated: “The Zuoyue Bureau is bound by duty. There is nothing they cannot know.”

Under the firelight, as both of them drew closer to each other, the more he looked the more he thought Yang Yun looked like someone.

But Cui Buqu said nothing. He allowed both his Zuoyue guards to push Yang Yun down to light the fire, while he followed behind. Step by step he went down stone steps leading to the dark cellar. Following the light of the candles, both Zuoyue guards, as well as Cui Buqu, were stunned.

Author’s Notes: Couldn’t write hero (fox) saving the beauty (feng) in time. So, I could only leave it for the next chapter. There should also be a real confession progress in the next chapter.

[1] ⼀⽓化三清: from the Chinese classic “The Divestiture of the Gods”. It’s said that when Laozi is angered, he would split into three. The three Qings are referring to three Daoists. [2] 御史⻘天 (lit. Imperial Censor Qingtian): Cui Buqu is probably doing a wordplay on Bao Qingtian, a fair and just judge from the Song Dynasty.

Chapter 147

Are you simply just afraid that I would turn my attack on Cui Buqu?

Both Zuoyue guards were very surprised, because they realized that this little room wasn’t filled with gold and silver like they thought it would be. It was instead, occupied by many paintings—on the table, on the ground, and even a few more scrolls that were scattered or unopened.

Cui Buqu was shocked, because he recognized the person in the painting.

Her head was turned back as she stood with the upper half of her body naked.

Half-sprawled on the bed, with half her chest peeking out. Light and fluttering like she was there and wasn’t.
They were not like Li Yan’s vulgar and explicit Spring Palace Paintings. The woman in these paintings was either looking at them with half-lidded eyes or she was smiling behind a fan, from the tenderness of a young lady to the grace of a woman, the same person illustrated in different charms through the years. The painter had surely grasped the romantic charm of the person in the picture; every knit of brow and every smile lively.

Cui Buqu did not even need Yang Yun to admit it himself. He could guess the person in the paintings.

“Couldn’t have believed, you and Princess Leping had such a thing.” Cui Buqu gave Yang Yun a half-hearted smile, “No wonder once I look at you, I think of Princess Leping’s kept man.” Yang Yun closed his eyes as he sat, feigning deaf and mute.

As things have progressed now, there is nothing he could stop, and so he could only divulge such a face.

Both Zuoyue guards exchanged looks and felt a chill up their necks.

These sorts of secrets within the royal family were not something they should know about.

Yet Cui Buqu didn’t allow them to leave. He pointed to the brick behind them instead: “Use your knives to crack open that wall.”

Yang Yun’s expression wavered. He opened his eyes, finally stopped feigning mute. “How did you know about that?”

Both Zuoyue guards obeyed their orders. After sharp knives scraped the wall a little, white debris fell, very quickly revealing the gold behind it.

“Commander?” “Continue.”
Blades trailed along the scratch as they scraped its surroundings, quickly revealing something.

Behind a thin layer of debris was a shining golden wall. A golden wall formed by bricks of gold.
Even if it was only one side, it was incredibly shocking.

“Something is strange in the crevice!” The other Zuoyue guard suddenly shouted.

He reached out with five fingers and inserted them into the crevice. Under his strength, both walls split open bit by bit, finally revealing a tunnel. Light flickered brightly in the tunnel. Candlelight wavered. It was obvious there was another exit.

Cui Buqu gasped in surprise: “Governor Yang, this secret cellar of yours is certainly more well-built than the Hero of the Northwest’s, Duan Qigu. You should really show that brute what it means to be royalty!”

Yang Yun said angrily: “It doesn’t fall upon you to degrade the Yang Clan. You are just a dog my sister-in-law raised……ah!”

A Zuoyue guard kicked him to the ground and gave him a beating. Not long later, he had a blue-black nose and a swollen face.

Cui Buqu watched, but denied acknowledgement. He placed all his attention on admiring that golden wall, as if flowers would bloom from the gold.

He waited until Yang Yun’s cursing turned into begging for mercy before turning around to examine him and feigned surprise. “Governor Yang, although you are embezzling rations, devalued human lives and desecrated a princess, the country has its own laws. Even if you beat yourself up like that, the Ministry of Justice wouldn’t beg for mercy from His Majesty on your behalf.”

Yang Yun no longer wished to talk.

“Commander, the tunnel leads to a manor and inside lived a woman and two mute maidservants!”

The Zuoyue guard who went forward to investigate returned quickly. He also brought the woman back with him.

The woman dressed in palace robes was around two decades old. She had a lithe and graceful figure, her face like one out of a painting. Only because she looked quite startled, it lacked a bit of beauty.

Cui Buqu gave her a look, then smiled: “Governor Yang, the sky is lofty and the Emperor sits afar, how carefree you are to do as you please!” This woman was obviously a much younger version of Princess Leping. Yang Yun hoarsely said: “Now can you make them leave?”
Cui Buqu waved his hand, and both Zuoyue guards, taking that woman, walked soundlessly back up.

That woman turned around to look at Yang Yun again and again, as if she was completely clueless and ignorant to her current situation.

Yang Yun did not look back at her.

“Speak.” Cui Buqu adjusted his robes and found a seat.

Yang Yun naturally did not get to enjoy such luxuries. Both his hands and legs were tied, and he was forbidden to sit, neither could he stand. He could only lean against a wall squirming, so it was needless to say how difficult it was for him.

“What do you want me to say?” Yang Yun said coldly, “Haven’t you seen it for yourself? What more can I say?”

Cui Buqu: “I have no interest in knowing whether it was one-sided or mutual between you and Princess Leping. As for the emblezzing of rations, naturally the Ministry of Justice and the Imperial Censorate would take care of them. What I want to know is the relationship between you and the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai.”

Yang Yun bargained: “If I confessed, what would I have in return?”

Cui Buqu curled his lips. “I would burn every single painting here and release that woman. Everything in this cellar of yours will be forever a secret.”

An affair between an uncle and niece naturally could never see the light, especially when Princess Leping carried both the identity of a princess and the Empress of the former dynasty. Yang Yun protested: “Since the first year of Kaihuang after I left for Guangqian, I have never met the princess. These paintings cannot prove anything!”

Cui Buqu laughed coldly. “What about that woman outside? And the former kept man of the princess? The Emperor and Empress have seen him before. What do you think they would think? Originally, for the sake that you are a Yang, the most you would get is banishment to a thousand li away. But if they knew about this, I fear you can drop the hope of staying alive.”

Yang Yun viciously sneered: “Neither would they let you go!”

Cui Buqu coughed twice: “Since Governor Yang refused to say, then I could only ask someone else, like County Official Wu Yi, as well as people around you. They should know at least a little bit.”

He rose to his feet, yet Yang Yun couldn’t hold back.

“Wait!”

Cui Buqu turned around.

Yang Yun spoke reluctantly: “I only wanted to sell those grains for money. I have never thought of treason. The idea of waiving taxes by donating grains was also given to me by a person with the surname Xiao!”

Now that everything was exposed, he naturally pushed all the responsibilities onto the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai. Cui Buqu did not question whether that was the truth or a lie, he only asked: “What is his name? Why would you believe what he said?”

Master Xiao came to Guanqian Prefecture three years ago. He found Yang Yun who had just assumed the role through ties with the Li family, and knew that Yang Yun liked nothing but golds and silvers. Thus, he gave him what he liked: two golden statues of Buddha. He got close to Yang Yun swiftly, and offered the newly assumed Yang Yun ideas as he was hasty to prove himself. Slowly, Yang Yun could feel that this Master Xiao was a crafty man, and so both of them grew closer.

Master Xiao claimed to be a Southerner who came to the Great River of the North and South to conduct business with spice. Yang Yun knew that Xiao was the surname of an aristocratic family in the South, but he didn’t ask about it much, because when Master Xiao visited him, each time he gave him quite an amount of benefits. However, this cannot satisfy Yang Yun’s greed, and so he set his gazes on the Imperial Court’s granary.

As he listened to this, Cui Buqu knew for certain that Master Xiao was Xiao Lu.

Three years ago, during the process of strengthening the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai, they would need gold and grains for support. Xiao Lu used two golden Buddha statues to bribe Yang Yun, but in reality he obtained even more benefits through the grains obtained from waving taxes. He knew for certain even without asking that two years ago, the permit to waive taxes given to Yang Yun by the Imperial Court was instead sold to the native distinguished families by Yang Yun. Xiao Lu definitely had a hand in this, and earned his fill.

If they knew how to stop here and not embezzle the grains from the Imperial Court this time, or if Rong Qing wasn’t so serious about it, everything would have gone as usual.

Yang Yun said: “After this flood, it was also Master Xiao who urged me to pocket all these grains……”

Cui Buqu raised his hand, forbidding Yang Yun to continue.

“Something isn’t right.”

Yang Yun found it baffling: “What isn’t right?”

“I think that Master Xiao would not be such a short-sighted person. He has already obtained a lot of benefits from you, and should know the saying that one should not bite off more than they could chew. It is only when streams go a long way, can one travel far. But this time you people impatiently embezzled all these grains, leaving nothing to those flood victims. This is the reason you exposed yourselves. Even Huang Lue knew of the severe consequences, that he’d rather send us information in the dark rather than burden himself with such a bad reputation.” Cui Buqu looked at him, speaking slowly, “I reckon you’d best be honest. Do not think that now that Master Xiao isn’t here, you can escape your crimes. Is this your idea, or his?”

Yang Yun’s gaze flashed. He dared not look him into the eye. “It’s naturally his idea!”

Cui Buqu laughed coldly and stated: “Governor Yang, Master Xiao is from the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai. He habours evil intentions, strived for something big. Two years ago he allied with you because there is something on you he can take. He would never do it just for the sake of grains. If you hadn’t turned against him this time, we would not have caught you so easily. With Master Xiao’s abilities, he could at least fight a few rounds with me. Now that you’re like an abandoned child, this means that he knows you have nothing left to give.”

Yang Yun’s expression paled. “I don’t know what you’re saying!”

Cui Buqu: “That is fine. We can seize Master Xiao, then you can take your time confessing everything. It wouldn’t be too late. The Zuoyue Bureau lives to deliver methods that can make you speak the truth. These paintings and that woman, I will submit them to the Empress as promised.”

Yang Yun was furious: “Cui Buqu! What did you promise me before?
You cheating little scoundrel!”

Cui Buqu gave him an innocent expression. “What did I promise you before? I don’t remember anymore.”

Yang Yun: “You son of a bitch…… Help me! This is murder!” Those golden bricks in the wall were not solid to begin with, and Cui Buqu easily took a brick out, aimed it at Yang Yun’s shoulders and head before hitting him. Yang Yun’s hands and legs were tied, he couldn’t even move and whenever he tried to run he fell. Hence, his cussing turned to pained howls.

“Please stop hitting! Please stop hitting! I’ll tell you everything.” Governor Yang’s hair fell unruly around him, mucus trailed down his nose as he cried. Where was the suave look he once had?

“Shouldn’t you be happy that I am using   your beloved gold bricks to hit you?” Cui Buqu sighed, felt a little regrettable, “It’s a pity I have insufficient strength, otherwise you would have been happier.”

Yang Yun said in his heart: Thankfully your ailing prick has insufficient strength, otherwise I’ve been beaten to death.

Just as he was thinking about this, his lapels were violently grasped and pulled forward!

“With the number of lives you forfeited for those rations, it wouldn’t be enough even if I killed you here.”

Cui Buqu looked at him with the same gaze he’d use to look at a dead man. Yang Yun’s heart froze for half a moment, his body growing stiff.

“But unfortunately, I am an subject of the Great Sui. So I need to obey the rules and refrain from punishing you in private.” Cui Buqu patted his face, “Governor Yang, do you have epileptic seizures? Why did you run into the wall just now all of a sudden and injure yourself like this?”

Yang Yun: ……

Cui Buqu gently said: “Come, after we’ve gone up, I will let a physician treat you.”

He reached out to help Yang Yun, yet the latter fearfully backed away as if he had seen a ghost or a demon. Cui Buqu paid him no attention. He went up himself first, before allowing the Zuoyue guards to bring him up.

At this moment, the guards of the Governor’s Residence timidly delivered a letter.

He didn’t raise his head, there was no signature, only one sentence.

It’s been a long absence, you are missed. The Zhao Family’s Teahouse, an old friend awaits.

Pei Jingzhe and Qiao Xian caught him holding the letter silent for a long time, so they made their way here.

“Master Cui, whose letter is it?”

Cui Buqu gave them a look and said in disinterest: “Xiao Lu.”

Qiao Xian’s expression changed slightly.

Pei Jingzhe instead inhaled a cold breath. “The Pavilion Lord of the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai? That biggest devil?”

Cui Buqu thought that the ‘biggest devil’ nickname Pei Jingzhe had given the other was interesting, so he couldn’t help smiling.

Xiao Lu’s exterior and mannerisms are identical to his conduct. It was very difficult for someone else to link him to a devil. Perhaps Feng Xiao looked even more like a devil than him.

Cui Buqu had only met Xiao Lu once, and the few times they fought were from a distance, each of them had lost and won in their own right.

The Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai had lost Yu Xiu, Gao Yun, Duan Qigu, Fong Xiaolian and other capable people. But Gao Yun, as a Goguryeon, Xiao Lu had used Feng Xiao to eliminate him so he could acquire the resources of the Fuyu Sect. Duan Qigu had wandered astray, no longer wished to participate in the operations of treason of the Thirteen Pavilions, and thus was eliminated as well. On the other hand, on Cui Buqu’s side, the Jade of Heaven’s Lake was found and lost again, falling once more into the enemy’s hands, yet Cui Buqu hasn’t even captured Xiao Lu until this moment.

When they met their match, each time, before the last second of their collision came, even Cui Buqu could not determine who would be the victor and who would be the loser.

“Commander, let me go.” Qiao Xian suddenly knelt, her head hung low as she pleaded.

“You want to go?” Cui Buqu looked down at the top of her head, his expression unreadable, unable to tell whether he was happy or furious.

“Yes.”

“Xiao Lu’s martial arts are not beneath Feng Xiao. This time it’s possible he is making the move in person. Fighting against him, you don’t have any chances of victory. Even if this is the case, would you still choose to go?”

“Yes.”

Pei Jingzhe watched both of them, as if there was something unresolved between them, but he hadn’t opened his mouth to interfere.

Cui Buqu said lightly: “Good, then go.”

Qiao Xian grasped her sword tightly, rising to her feet as she left. Cui Buqu: “Come back alive.”
Qiao Xian’s heart shook: “This subject will try her best.”

Pei Jingzhe immediately said: “Xiao Lu’s level of martial arts are unfathomable. How can you let her…… alone……”

Qiao Xian heard him, but didn’t listen. She flipped herself onto a horse running past next to her, urged it on, and drove forth, disappearing into the foggy dark night.

“You are sending her to suicide!” Pei Jingzhe could no longer hold back and shouted at Cui Buqu, before running towards another horse, mounted it and followed after her.

Cui Buqu watched them leave, then told Guan Shanhai: “Let us go to the Stormy Tavern.”

Guan Shanhai didn’t understand. “Hasn’t Second Commander Feng gone there?”

Cui Buqu sighed. “It was exactly because of that, I had to go. This letter from Xiao Lu made it clear that no one is at the Zhao Family’s Teahouse. That means he would give all he could to ambush Feng Xiao and kill him at the Stormy Tavern.”

Guan Shanhai was enlightened. “So, as you send Qiao Xian to the Zhao Family’s Teahouse on purpose, it has instead saved her life.”

“Since she has made her choice, I will protect her.” Cui Buqu pulled the reins, “Let us go pull off a “hero saving the beauty”!”

Guan Shanhai’s severe wounds haven’t healed. Once he heard these words, he practically choked to death. In his heart, he said: Both of us, one is ill and one is wounded, how can we still save a beauty? We would just be serving ourselves on a platter!

But Cui Buqu was already driving into the distance. Guan Shanhai could only thicken his skull and abandon his life to accompany his Lord, following closely on horseback.

……

Guanqian County has a street with a very beautiful name, called the Long Street of Peach Blossoms.

The Stormy Tavern was situated at the end of this street. It was midnight at the long street. At the doors of the Stormy Tavern stood three people. Their height, figure, exterior and face are identical.

Their bodies gave out the thick scent of blood. Had it not been for their black robes, blood stains would be visible all over their robes.

It might be their own blood, or the enemy’s.

One Feng Xiao was holding the blood-stained fan in his hand, he said in disgust: “Can I not hold this plaything anymore?”

Another Feng Xiao kindly reminded him: “Even if you threw that fan away, your robes are also soaked in blood.”

The first Feng Xiao stomped his feet: “You little rascal! Hinting me to take off my clothes?”

The second Feng Xiao felt wrongfully accused. “Since when have I said that?”

The third Feng Xiao could stand it no longer. “Can you people please refrain from making those expressions with my face?!”

The first Feng Xiao spoke tenderly with giggle: “Second Commander ~ I just want to switch back into myself, but look at those dogs who don’t know what’s good for them, blocking the path and refusing to leave no matter what. Help me chase them away so I could take a shower and change my clothes. This scent is just making me want to vomit!”

Feng Xiao warned: “Qin Miaoyu, try using my face to play coquettish again and see where that gets you.”

The first Feng Xiao finally stopped talking.

The second Feng Xiao wanted to say something, but Feng Xiao stopped him. “Ming Yue, shut your mouth.”

In the center of the long street, not far in front of them, the Jinhuan Group’s Young Master Leng Dou was leading six top-tier martial artists waiting.

This was the second stage.

Just now Feng Xiao, Ming Yue, and Qin Miaoyu used a whole four hours to kill every single one of the eleven top-tier martial artists in the tavern. The only fish that escaped was the heavily wounded Yuan Sansi.

But they paid a high price for it.

Qin Miaoyu’s arm was twitching unnaturally, blood dripping down drop by drop. Her joke just now was just an attempt to shift her focus off the pain.

Ming Yue’s stomach suffered a wound. Although he had tapped his acupoint to stop the bleeding for now, his cultivation was damaged and was in urgent need of treatment.

As for Feng Xiao, no one could see whether he was injured. He looked normal, his expression unchanged.

“Leng Dou, Ning Shewo refused to show himself, and so he sent a foster son like yourself to your death. If I were you, I’d turn around and leave.” Qin Miaoyu sighed and told the one leading the opposition.

“Leng Dou, Ning Shewo joined the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai but in reality he has tossed the entire Jinhuan Group’s lives into a rich gamble. Although you are his foster son, you are also the Young Master of the Jinhuan Group. Whether it’s for a righteous cause or personal benefits, you should know when to lift and when to put it down.” Ming Yue also said.

Although the two of them pulled off practically life-like Feng Xiaos, Qin Miaoyu’s martial arts were average to begin with, Ming Yue wasn’t used to using a zither. Among the three of them, Feng Xiao contributed the most.

But the same trick cannot be used again, for the enemy would not be deceived twice. Leng Dou lived up to his name; his face was cold and passive like water. He slowly unsheathed his knife, his gaze focused on the real Feng Xiao from the beginning.

“Even though you defeated twelve top-tier grandmasters just now, you have already been injured. Even if you can pass my stage, there is more awaiting you soon after. Why not surrender now, so I can turn it over to the higher-ups?” He told Feng Xiao.

Qin Miaoyu suddenly said: “Second Commander, I have no clue how to use a zither. Just now, I’m thankful that I didn’t cut my own hands. This time, let me use something I find convenient ~”

Feng Xiao gave a cold laugh. “Try using this old man’s face to play coquettish again, I will sew your mouth up!”

Just as his words were spoken, he already leaped out, appearing right in front of Leng Dou!

Leng Dou’s eyes opened wide.

He knew Feng Xiao’s martial arts were excellent. Before this, even masters like Yu Xiu and Fan Yun could do nothing to him, so let alone himself and six martial artists from the Jinhuan Group. Perhaps it gives off a pleasant sound on the lips, but in reality, when faced before such a highly skilled martial artist, they would not even last a few moves.

But that was only usually.

Just now, Feng Xiao has just braved through a ferocious battle in the Stormy Tavern. Regardless of how excellent his martial arts were, he would be weared down. Even if he couldn’t kill Feng Xiao, as long as he could make the other heavily injured, this trip he made tonight would not be in vain.

But Leng Dou has never thought that Feng Xiao’s qinggong would have achieved such imaginable speed! Like a ghost, like flowing clouds, soundless and breathless.

From the moment he saw his enemy appearing before him, Leng Dou’s knife had already left its sheath, but following it was a force that forcibly pressed it back into its sheath and kept it in place. Leng Dou felt a piercing pain through his chest.

The pulses of his heart have stopped.

Until his death, Leng Dou maintained that look of disbelief on him.

As for those six martial artists behind him, they all howled and attacked at once, avenging their Young Master!

Feng Xiao suddenly leaped into the air.

With a single step, he has already reached the backs of those six people. Turning around and launching a hand, zither strings shot out towards three of them.

What had been originally five zither strings, two were depleted in the tavern. Presently, only three were left.

These three zither strings would carry at least six lives on them. Had it been usual, Feng Xiao would have tossed them away in disgust, but now he has no choice but to pinch his nose and deign himself using them.

Six martial artists. Three zither strings. There are three more people left. Ming Yue and Qin Miaoyu also attacked.
One held a long sword, the other with fluttering sleeves. Their killing aura morphed into an overflowing cold glare rolling towards their enemies.

Thunders rumbled and layers of lightning sparked, as if an omen that an impending storm was coming and that the bloody rain and foul wind had come to liven up the atmosphere with rolling drums. On the Long Street of Peach Blossoms, at this moment, falling atop the green bricks were not peach blossoms but spots of blood.

Fresh blood splattered atop the rock, like the blooming of peach blossom petals.

Perhaps from today, the Long Street of Peach Blossoms would have a new meaning behind it.

A slaughter was happening on the long street glares and shadows of swords and knives as the scent of blood filled the air.

Yet both sides on their street were soundless, so quiet that everyone has forgotten citizens still lived in those houses.

Six people took their turns falling along with their Young Master, sharing the same place of burial, denied to die in everlasting peace.

Qin Miaoyu staggered two steps. Her legs gave away, they could no longer support her body, and she fell limp straight to the ground, spitting out a mouthful of blood.

When Feng Xiao saw this, he suddenly added: “Cui Buqu’s spitting blood out looks much better compared to you.”

Qin Miaoyu: ……

She really wanted to grasp one of those Jinhuan Group’s knives from her side and hurl it at Feng Xiao, but she dared not.

Ever since she abandoned the dark side for the light one, she was taken in by the Jiejian Bureau and worked under Feng Xiao.

Additionally, someone who did not even pant his face red after killing so many people, behaving as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, was truly scary.

Ming Yue didn’t spit out blood, but he was feeling a little light-weighted. His face turned pale green, helping himself against the wall, he quickly regulated his breathing. Because he knew that there were even more difficult stages behind waiting for them.

Qin Miaoyu shouted loudly: “Who else is there?! Scamper out to your momma!”

Ming Yue warned her: “You are already injured, save your breath.”

Feng Xiao couldn’t help himself nudging him with the tips of his toes. “Could you not make such an honest and straightforward expression with my face?”

In the next second, the enemy Qin Miaoyu invited truly “scampered”
out.

There was only one person.

He walked out from the other end of the long street. As if he had all the time in the world.
He looked like he came to the Long Street of Peach Blossoms to watch the flowers, and not for a slaughter.

This person even held an umbrella in his hand. Perhaps it was prepared due to the weather.

Qin Miaoyu thought he was a passerby who lost his way and couldn’t help but warn gently: “Sir, this place is dangerous. Leave quickly.”

Feng Xiao raised an eyebrow. “Although his face is reluctantly acceptable, why would you think that a normal person wouldn’t be sleeping in the dead of the night and came here instead? If you do that again, there’s no need to remain in the Jiejian Bureau. My place doesn’t accept fools.”

Qin Miaoyu felt wronged. “Everyone is already so tired, what use is there to keep fighting and killing? If saying something nice could make him leave, wouldn’t we have saved our breaths?” Feng Xiao didn’t show her any mercy nor allowed her to keep her fantasy. “Stop dreaming, that’s the Pavilion Lord of the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai!”

What? Qin Miaoyu felt stunned, turned around to stare and stare again at the person who came, as if she found it very difficult to believe that such an elegant-looking, gentle, handsome, and mannerly person could be their most difficult enemy.

Xiao Lu laughed lightly. He stopped at a distance.
“Commander Feng, how have you been faring?”

Feng Xiao snorted impatiently: “If you want to fight, then let’s fight.
Stop the nonsense.”

Xiao Lu was extremely understanding. “You are injured just now. If you fight again now, I fear you are not my match. Take some rest. I would never take advantage of it.”

Not taking advantage? When why did you send so many people before you in the first place?

Feng Xiao wanted to curse him this way, but thought he should just leave it and save his strength for the fighting.

Because he knew that Xiao Lu wasn’t wrong.

The drawing of breaths of top-tier masters could be felt by another. He felt Xiao Lu’s, and Xiao Lu felt his.

Qin Miaoyu was equal to none, so there’s no hope there.

Although Ming Yue had excellent skills, he wasn’t Xiao Lu’s match.
Moreover, he’s wounded. As for Feng Xiao himself, had it been before, perhaps he had the strength to fight a battle with Xiao Lu, but the fight in the tavern with the last batch of people really watered his strength down. Although it was easier fighting Leng Dou and his people compared to Yuan Sansi and the others, his prior wounds were worsened by this fight and were getting out of hand.

Xiao Lu had taken everything into his calculations.

But he couldn’t retreat. Feng Xiao thought, for once his side retreated, then Cui Buqu’s side would be in danger.

“The last time we met, how difficult was it for you to hide your true strength and feign losing to me? A person as proud as you must have felt very embarrassing, and so you accumulated enough energy determined to win me. It’s a pity that top-tier martial artists riddled the lands. Even if you defeated me, you cannot be considered number one.” Feng Xiao said.

Xiao Lu smiled slightly. “Why would I want to be number one under the Heavens for? This humble man Xiao only wants to commit treason, not roam the Jianghu. Are you simply just afraid that I would turn my attack onto Cui Buqu? Commander Feng, there is no need for you to worry. I would not kill him. Today, the one I want to kill, is you.”
As he finished his words, the sound of horse hooves came from afar. Both of them gave a moment of silence as they listened to the sound,
their gazes frozen.

Yet what they saw in the midst of the night fog, was a person on horseback riding forth in rustling robes, his figure thin and tall.

Xiao Lu could recognize that person and he couldn’t help feeling stunned. He turned around to look at Feng Xiao who looked similarly surprised.

The incoming guest pulled the reins, his horse raised its hooves into the air, its neigh stopping abruptly. “Commander Cui, your nose really is like a dog’s. You go wherever there is trouble!” Second Commander Feng snorted a laugh, mockingly said, “Xiao Lu is my prey. Today the Jiejian Bureau must seize him. If you fight with me for it, I will kill you first!”

“Feng Yuntian.”

His figure was indistinct through the curtain of foggy darkness. He was intangible, but his voice alone hasn’t changed one bit.

“Of what you asked me yesterday, I answer you now:” “I say, yes.”
Feng Xiao’s breath abruptly jerked! What had he asked yesterday?
He had asked: Would you entrust your back to me?

Author’s Notes: P.s: Qin Miaoyu is the concubine of that Khotan Ambassador who showed up in the first arc. After that, she was taken in by the Jiejian Bureau.

Chapter 148

Is everything worth it? All for just one Feng Xiao?

Fog-like mist of the night illustrated the outline of that person. Feng Xiao did not even need to look to imagine it.
A skinny frame lifting wide sleeves, robes rustling in the Autumn wind.

Feng Xiao would not even doubt that if the wind was stronger, or if perhaps a continuous snowstorm began now, it would be enough for this ailing invalid to stay in bed for at least ten days or half a month. If he lacked medicinal treatment, it was even possible for him to be snuffed out like a blown-out candle. Perhaps the world of mortals would have one calamity less.

This ailing man’s lips were thin, pursuing them tight at this moment in the midst of chilled winds. Similar to his character, it spoke vicious words with disregard to other people’s feelings, sharper than even a sword’s blade. It could choke the life out of a living person.

The hand grabbing those reins was glimmering with white and bluish- green. It wasn’t because it was grabbing on too tightly, but because it was cold. This weather that signalled the arrival of Autumn wasn’t anything much to a normal person, but to Cui Buqu, it was extremely hard to bear.

The chaos from Yang Yun’s side had already been mostly taken care of, and to others perhaps, that might be a test during their ups and downs in life. However, Cui Buqu has long since experienced it. He read the feelings of people to the extreme, and appearing here in person meant that Yang Yun was never his match.

So, this person should have been sitting in the safety of the Governor’s Residence, holding a brazier in his hand and giving commands as he waited for the report of success. But he had instead ridden all the way here on a horse, sending himself once more into a dangerous situation.

The corner of Feng Xiao’s lips curled, yet when he spoke, his words were like the wind that cuts like a knife that pierces the flesh, bitingly cold.

“You would what? Fall for my grace? Cui Buqu, you think too highly of yourself. You brag about being clever, but in my eyes, you have fallen so far from grace that you are beyond saving on the verge of annihilation. If not for the Zuoyue Bureau’s name, would I have humoured you? Why don’t you take a mirror and look at your own reflection, and see from which part of your body would Ι have taken a fancy on you?”

In the midst of darkness, there was silence from all directions; Feng Xiao’s disgusted voice being the only thing that echoed.

“Seeing your face alone would make me lose half my appetite. Scram before I find the time to get rid of you.”

“Did you hear that or not? Scram!”

Cui Buqu didn’t bulge, neither did he get down his horse. He didn’t even talk back, as if he was hurt by these words and for a moment, he couldn’t pull his focus back.

Ming Yue gave a blank look. He stole a glance at Feng Xiao, parted his lips as if he wanted to advise him, but said nothing in the end.

Qin Miaoyu sighed.

Who said only women don’t speak their hearts? When men do the same, they are not above beneath women. “Brother Cui, you heard Commander Feng’s words.” Xiao Lu gentle said, not a lick of anger. “I obviously left you a message to wait at the Zhao Family’s Teahouse.”

“It was exactly because you asked me to go to the Zhao Family’s Teahouse, I knew you would come to the Stormy Tavern looking for Feng Xiao.” Cui Buqu calmly said. Nobody was able to hear if he was affected by the words Feng Xiao said just now.

Xiao Lu also sighed. “I am not willing to kill you and thus have misled you. Since you knew, why tread into muddy waters?”

Cui Buqu: “Although Yang Yun has been captured, he hasn’t surrendered the whereabouts of most of those rations. So, I could only ask Pavillion Lord Xiao for them.”

As expected, Xiao Lu straightaway replied: “I’ve had them delivered away.”

Cui Buqu: “Everything?”

Xiao Lu smiled and said: “I offered you Yang Yun in exchange for those rations, isn’t that a fair deal? The one who embezzled those rations has been caught, and you have something to hand over to your Emperor. Those rations, I take them as my contribution.”

Cui Buqu nodded his head. “It is very fair.”

Xiao Lu politely said: “Brother Cui, although Fan Yun has betrayed me, I have always admired you. I know that you and I are the same kind of person. With your pride, it would be impossible for you to surrender to me. This time, I will first take care of Feng Xiao. With the Jiejian Bureau gone, you get rid of   a competitor in the future. It’s the best of both worlds, isn’t that good?”

At a glance among everyone present, other than Feng Xiao, no one was his match. He could kill Cui Buqu as easily as lifting a finger, but Xiao Lu has chosen to patiently explain to him. Feng Xiao snorted coldly, giving a pissed look.

Cui Buqu looked at Xiao Lu’s right hand. It was covered by his sleeve, but Xiao Lu hadn’t hidden it on purpose. His right and left sleeves had the same length, but the reason one couldn’t see his right hand was because that hand has wilted and shrank, and it wasn’t as long as his left hand.

If not for being taken for a joke due to his defectives, he would have already occupied a high position in the Chen Imperial Court. Even so, if he was willing to curry favours, lower his pride, and show submission to the ones above, with his capabilities, being conferred a title of nobility was only a foregone conclusion.

But Cui Buqu knew that Xiao Lu was far too proud, just like Cui Buqu himself. He would rather take his chances in the wild and die in a desolate place than remain in the Cui family living on reluctant handouts.

In the midst of a turbulent world, anyone could say that a life of luxury was given at birth, anyone could become a hero. Xiao Lu’s pride forbade him to lower his pride, and so he picked the most difficult path.

The most chaotic times of the Central Plains had gone. Presently, although they were yet to be united, there were only the Northern and Southern Dynasties, unlike two hundred years ago when Huaxia was split into sixteen little kingdoms.

Xiao Lu waited for Cui Buqu’s answer patiently. Even if he knew that Cui Buqu was perhaps just trying to stall for time.

Just as Cui Buqu and Yang Yun fought each other, Xiao Lu has already allowed a batch of people to deliver those rations from the county town. During that time, the incident at Qixia Villa took place, and Yang Yun was worried that Cui Buqu and the others would find those rations, so he agreed to Xiao Lu’s request.

Killing Feng Xiao was simply spoils of war in passing. In reality, Xiao Lu knew he had already won the game and returned to the city. “There is something I have forgotten to tell you.” Cui Buqu suddenly said.

“Were you surprised when this time I came, I had only brought a few people and hadn’t even moved a group of Zuoyue guards to stand guard nearby, making it look like we were manipulated by Yang Yun from the beginning?”

“Because I have moved them to someplace else to accomplish a far more important task.”

“Fan Yun knew the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai like the back of his hand. Owing to his helpful participation, as well as a common enemy like Pavilion Lord Xiao, both of us worked together and destroyed another villa by the name of Lingbo. Perhaps Pavilion Lord Xiao is familiar with the name.”

“I heard Linbo Villa housed most of the powers Pavilion Lord Xiao had gathered during his many years in the Southern Dynasty. Although the thirty-three Pavilion Lords inside could not compare to the Thirteen Pavilion Lords, they were also elites among elites. Among them were also quite many who knew the arts of astrology, geography, the bagua, mathematics, and other miscellaneous. I received a letter before this that eighty to ninety percent of these people have been eliminated, and the ones remaining escaped through the chaos, but they probably shouldn’t have gone far.”

“Pavilion Lord Xiao must have spent a lot of effort gathering these people, but it’s a pity that while you busied yourself fighting with me here, your rear has already caught fire.”

“Using those rations in exchange for the destruction of one of your strongholds, speak for yourself, was it worth it or not?”

Xiao Lu squinted his eyes, his smile gradually fading.

When Xiao Lu wasn’t smiling, the corners of his mouth fell flat, giving off a lingering coldness and cruelness. “Cui Buqu, you really can surprise me each time. Had I found you earlier and pulled you to the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai’s side, the one acknowledging defeat now would have been the Sui Empire. After Fan Yun betrayed me, I switched out all the powers I had of the Southern Dynasty. I could not have guessed that he could still find his way there.”

Cui Buqu said: “Pavilion Lord Xiao, don’t forget, Fan Yun and the Chen Emperor shared a past. Although he wasn’t willing to see the Sui Empire grow strong, he wouldn’t wish to see the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai becoming a threat to the Southern Dynasty. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, how much would it cost to work together once?”

“If your goal is to provoke me, then you have succeeded.”

Xiao Lu ran towards his direction. It looked like nothing had moved just now, but in the blink of an eye, he was already in front of Cui Buqu. With a flourish of his hand, Cui Buqu had already fallen off his horse unwillingly, being held on the shoulder by Xiao Lu. Cui Buqu couldn’t move, and when Guan Shanhai who stood next to him attacked, he was already a step too late. Xiao Lu flung him away with his sleeve, and he immediately flew a few zhang away.

The sound of his body falling heavily made everyone grit their teeth.

“To you, I am the greater enemy, not Feng Xiao. I am the Empress’ trusted aide; the Zuoyue Bureau has always kept many secrets and leads through solving cases. Don’t you want to bring me away, to be tortured and questioned, in order to obtain more secrets of the Northern Dynasty?”

Cui Buqu guessed that his shoulder blades had been crushed. The pain made him unable to form fully coherent sentences, but the pain cleared his consciousness instead. He was certain that Xiao Lu would not kill him, otherwise, it wouldn’t have been his shoulder blades that shattered, but his throat.

“It doesn’t matter when Feng Xiao dies, but having one Cui Buqu alive should be worth a lot more than Feng Xiao, isn’t that right?” Xiao Lu gently said: “You don’t have the desire to surrender to the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai. Why would I want a Cui Buqu who refuses to bend the knee?”

Cui Buqu closed his eyes, trying his best not to allow the pain to affect his breathing.

“I can join the cause if Pavilion Lord Xiao accepts me.”

Xiao Lu smiled. “Then what? Become the next Fan Yun and betray me?”

“Within three years, I will aid you in destroying the Southern Dynasty.” Cui Buqu coughed a few times, his face as pale as a ghost, “The requirement is that you cannot harm one soul present here.”

Xiao Lu inwardly sighed and said: “Is everything worth it? All for just one Feng Xiao?”

Cui Buqu’s lips moved, but there was no sound. Xiao Lu, however, saw it.
He saw the other saying: Yes, worth it. Feng Xiao moved.
He shouldn’t have moved at this time to begin with.

With his injuries, he should rest for at least half a day, and only then he could muster enough strength to fight a battle.

But he suddenly launched an attack, dashing towards Xiao Lu at the speed of a thunder that lightened, fluttering in the clouds.

When faced with a top-tier martial artist like Feng Xiao, even if Xiao Lu had chances of winning, it was impossible for him to hold Cui Buqu and fight with a single hand. So he naturally let him go.

The battle tonight was necessary because Feng Xiao started it.

Cui Buqu fell to the ground, his shoulder shattering. He couldn’t move on one side of his body and could only lie on the ground.

Qin Miaoyu knew what she had to do and went over to help him. She gently touched the other’s wounds, wanting to see they were severe. In the end, she found her hands coated in blood and couldn’t help but inhale sharply.

“I have some medicine with me, for both internal and external wounds.” Cui Buqu said, “One person each, give one to Guan Shanhai and Ming Yue.”

Prolonged illnesses make a good doctor; this Zuoyue Commander knew he was often hurt, and so brought medicine with him everywhere.

Qin Miaoyu didn’t dare delay. She quickly fished out the bottle and poured a pellet out for Cui Buqu.

“Should this humble one go to the tavern to get you some water?” “There is no need.”
Seeing Feng Xiao’s face calling himself a ‘humble one’, Cui Buqu felt that his shoulder hurt more, so he quickly sent her away to bring medicine to the others.

Feng Xiao and Xiao Lu’s battle had just begun.

From an onlooker’s perspective, both of their figures resembled flying shadows that never stopped. Sometimes they were fighting in midair, and sometimes they appeared on the roof of the tavern.

To counter speed with speed, and strength with strength. Whenever the tips of their toes passed, the roof cracked and shattered. In the midst of the thundering noise, the entire roof collapsed.

The walls split open and broken bits flew everywhere, turning into a wasteland along with the rest of the tavern that was basically destroyed.

Both of them hadn’t realized that from the time they fought at the tavern to the Long Street of Peach Blossoms, the green bricks beneath their feet cracked open and flew up inch by inch, suspending in midair due to the manipulation of their real qi. Acting like their weapons, they formed a wall, keeping Cui Buqu and the others outside.

But Feng Xiao and Xiao Lu’s speed had slowed down.

Just like a stretch of unbroken mountains and rivers spreading onto a paper by a brush of black ink gradually fading out, it turned into two dangerous rocks standing on the cliff. Their situation precarious as they drew near, and a second of carelessness could send them falling into a thousand zhang into the abyss.

Feng Xiao’s martial arts were already extremely powerful.

After making use of those two Śarīras, his martial arts improved further, achieving the true extent of a grandmaster.

But Xiao Lu was getting there as well. Not only hasn’t he shown a bit of weakness, but he was also exactly the way he claimed himself to be: having enough energy to spare that it was unimaginable.

Although Ming Yue and Guan Shanhai’s martial arts were excellent, their sight could not tell how strong Xiao Lu’s true ability really was.

But a top-tier martial artist like him, unexpectedly, had no interest in pursuing higher extents of the martial arts, he had instead set his heart in usurping the throne. It was impossible for anyone to not feel preposterous about this. However, top-tier martial artists in the Jianghu were unnumbered. How many of them were only strong for a moment, then fell in the battlefield while on their path to the peak of martial arts? Who could say that Xiao Lu’s choice would definitely be wrong?

It’s just that everyone had different ambitions.

“He— Xiao Lu used the Jade of Heaven’s Lake!” Qin Miaoyu shouted after staring at him for half a day, her expression couldn’t help but change.

As Ming Yue listened to this, his expression changed as well.

Last time, in order to prove his sincerity in joining the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai, Feng Xiao had taken the Jade of Heaven’s Lake from the palace and gave it to Fan Yun.

After that, in the midst of the chaos, Fan Yun busied himself with fighting against others, and the jade was lost. Presently, it must have fallen into XiaoLu’s hands and used.

When Qin Miaoyu was in the City of Six Crafts, she once had the Jade of Heaven’s Lake for a period of time. During that time, she secretly used the jade to train herself and knew what the best parts of it were. If not for this, her prior level in the martial arts could have never allowed her to pass off as Feng Xiao and cheat the enemy for a long time.

But if the Jade of Heaven’s Lake could abruptly improve a poorly informed Qin Miaoyu’s martial arts, then with Xiao Lu, he should have known how to utilize it further. He might have even absorbed the entire jade already.

It was no wonder Xiao Lu had such confidence.

And so, today and presently, his inner strength was strong. At a glance the whole of Jianghu, it was difficult for him to ever meet another match.

Although Feng Xiao had the help of the Śarīra, could he be Xiao Lu’s match? Qin Miaoyu no longer dared to speak. She was afraid that if Feng Xiao heard it, it would distract him. Anything could end up in defeat when one is fighting such a terrible enemy.

As her thoughts wandered, Feng Xiao and Xiao Lu attacked at the same time!

But quicker than their responses were the broken bits of green bricks that surrounded them.

Like an invisible arm holding them in their grasp, it suddenly contracts! Boom!
Those broken pieces exploded towards all directions.

Chapter 149

For as long as he remembered, Feng Xiao has never begged the Heavens nor the Earth.

Qi sent off broken bricks into all eight cardinal directions, drawing large and tiny scars all over spectators of the fight that could not block them out in time.

However, qi protectected the bodies of those two people inside the battle ring, so they were instead unharmed.

This didn’t mean that their pressure was any lesser than the spectators’.

Feng Xiao did not know what Xiao Lu felt now, but he knew there was only one thing he felt:

Going against the currents, and to not advance is to go back.

The last time they fought, Xiao Lu kept his identity at bay and feigned weakness to stop Feng Xiao from delivering a proper judgement of his true abilities.

Even if this time he was prepared, he was still inwardly taken aback by the abilities that the other displayed.

Xiao Lu, who had absorbed the Jade of Heaven’s Lake completely, would have a depthless amount of inner strength. With such strength, his martial arts would also be a step above.

Presently, Feng Xiao truly did not have the confidence to really win him. However, even if his chances of winning are slim, he couldn’t lose.

The Stormy Tavern has thoroughly been reduced into a wasteland. Both of them fought three moves above it, clashing three palms. Xiao Lu was hit on the shoulder, and Feng Xiao was injured on his waist. Both of them took three steps back, but one could see the differences between them.

Xiao Lu’s three steps were smaller than Feng Xiao’s.

But Xiao Lu withdrew at the chance; he hadn’t pressed on for victory. Because he was waiting. Waiting for the enemy to err.
Feng Xiao didn’t force himself to return the attacks, because he was also taking breathes inwardly.

Qi originated from the dantian and once it reached the Baihui acupoint1 it would split into two streams, flowing into all parts of his body. Before, the meridian Feng Xiao was injured in before felt better, feeling like it had been slightly healed.

But this wasn’t enough. Xiao Lu would not give him enough time to heal himself. The reason he hadn’t moved was because he was waiting for an opportunity.

Qi swirled around them, as if it were winds that came from different directions, testing one another as it flowed in gentle currents, but once they realized the opposition had taken a step back, they would immediately tear down its warm and gentle facade, roaring ferociously all of a sudden.

The dark clouds on top of their heads were getting thicker. It was unknown since when raindrops as large as beans began falling continuously.
Both of them hadn’t noticed it, allowing the rain to dampen their robes. Feng Xiao closed his eyes, and that light shadow went off all of a sudden,
turning into an endless expanse of darkness. The qi around his body weakened, similar to wild winds that pursued dark clouds and knowing there was no hope, yet had to gather in a single place in futility.

Xiao Lu finally attacked!

A long sword appeared in his hand. The sword’s sheath had already been lost; his figure was as quick as the sword’s glare itself, dazzling in the rain and dashing at Feng Xiao like starshard!

Feng Xiao didn’t move, as if he had already given up struggling. The sword’s glare was drawing close, and yet he only placed a hand over the wounded side of his stomach as if he didn’t realize the impending attack.

Qin Miaoyu couldn’t help letting out an “Ah,”. The sweat that originally oozed out of her palms had already turned cold. She had even forgotten that she was still sitting in a mire filled with rainwater.

For the sake of this moment, Feng Xiao was already their only hope. Once Feng Xiao lost, Cui Buqu might still be kept alive, but Xiao Lu would never pity either one of them here. Moreover, she was from the Fuyu Sect from the Thirteen Pavilions of Yunhai to begin with. To Xiao Lu, she was a traitor.

Although Qin Miaoyu joined the Jiejian Bureau at first for the sake of her own life, as days carried on she gradually got used to it. Missions done by the members of the Fuyu Sect could never be exposed in the light. The Jiejian Bureau too required accomplishing secret missions, but it was different from the cold and strict atmosphere of the Fuyu Sect. At the very least, she had a gentle superior like Ming Yue, and even though Pei Jingzhe was a little dumb, he was a very fun-to-bully colleague……

But if she couldn’t live through tonight, then nothing was hers to decide.

Qin Miaoyu could only hope that Feng Xiao, who usually praised himself as number one beneath the Heavens, could unleash his martial prowess today. At least pitying these little lives of theirs who often go running about without much wage. She couldn’t help turning her head to look at the person next to her.

Cui Buqu was also watching the battle. Qin Miaoyu has tapped his acupoints to stop the bleeding on his shoulder, but even though the bleeding had stopped, it didn’t mean the pain did as well. His shoulder blades still hurt.

Qin Miaoyu knew this type of pain. She had once brushed her arm when she was fighting, and it was impossible to put the pain into words. She could only vent her paint through crying and shouting. But let alone crying, Cui Buqu did not even groan. He was just focusing silently as he watched the progress of the battle, as if the one injured wasn’t himself.

What sort of willpower would one need to have, only could they ignore the pain of shattered bones on their bodies? Qin Miaoyu couldn’t imagine it.

The thundering clash of qi reached them. She immediately turned around to look again, and realized that Xiao Lu’s sword glare stopped two inches away from Feng Xiao. The hand Feng Xiao had over his stomach turned around and with a flicker of fingers, the string of a zither shot out.

The loud thundering clash just now was the aftersound of a zither string infused with qi and the force of a sword!

Both of them separated, their figures like light feathers, landing on two different sides of the roof. They stuck fast on top of the roof like steady mountains.

After a while, fresh blood spilled from the corner of Feng Xiao’s lips. Yet Xiao Lu lightly held his sword, his other hand behind his back.
Qin Miaoyu starred in terror. In her heart, she said: It’s finished. Her superior is obviously more inferior in skill.

Yet the strangest thing was that Xiao Lu didn’t press on to push Feng Xiao to his death. When the sword’s glare and zither string fought again, both of them seemed to have shared some synchronization, for each of them saved themselves some amount of strength. They walked in circles around each other, testing the enemy. Sword glares clashed with the curtain of rain, exploding into an upsurge of qi. Even though it was dazzling and blinding and heart-stirring, it lacked the exciting resolve of killing an enemy.

Could it be that Xiao Lu turned kind all of a sudden? Or had he fallen for the charms of her superior and convinced into having a tender heart for him?

No. It was impossible. According to what she had seen just now, Xiao Lu might have felt sympathetic for Cui Buqu, but he would never show mercy to Feng Xiao.

With Feng Xiao’s pride, it was also impossible to make him kneel and beg for mercy.

There must be something she missed!

Qin Miaoyu watched in confusion from the side, yet Feng Xiao knew clearly in his heart.

Because he had used a deceit; he had weaved three zither strings into one, but allowed them to spread back out into three once they were launched. Under the cover of the curtain of rain, one of them injured Xiao Lu’s stomach.

The other was also injured now, so at least they were on fairer grounds.
Feng Xiao laughed soundlessly.

Xiao Lu pivoted his wrist, and the sword’s glare was like the rising of ocean waves, coming forth as high as mountains, like the falling of boulders from mountain cliffs, the collapsing of Mount Tai, and the bursting of waters from the Yellow River. The mountains and grounds shook, the waters surged and the boulders crumpled.

It caused the gods and demons to panic as all things on earth manifested. Feng Xiao felt like he was walking alone beneath a crumpling mountain while the currents against it froze. An enormous energy pressed down from all eight cardinal directions, pushing him backwards as if it was forcing him to kneel against his will, to beg this merciless way of the world to spare him so he may retain his life.

How would Feng Xiao be willing to? He snorted a cold laugh!
For as long as he remembered, Feng Xiao had neither begged the Heavens nor the Earth, so let along begging for mercy.

All along, there were only people who begged him, but never he who begged others.

He came as he pleased and left as he pleased. As for the so-called privileges of the wealthy, the peaks of the martial world, the Heaven’s decree of the mortals on earth, he desired none of them!

If he couldn’t win tonight, that ailing man would be brought away. Without his permission, since when could anyone decide whether Cui Buqu should live or die?

Not the Gods, not those in power high above, and not Xiao Lu!

As if Feng Xiao had freed himself from some form of shackles at this moment. From being subjected to human rules, he was suddenly aware of something: who cared about the natural ways of the world? Since one had to destroy their bonds first to break through, why couldn’t he break through first then destroy his bonds?

Since absorbing two Śarīras, his martial arts have immensely improved, but it was also because of this he had paused at a certain stage; like a foggy screen was before him and he could no longer advance. Until this moment, when he was left with no alternatives to escape from and had to fight for his life, the fog receded to reveal a blue sky. As the steady stream of war surged continuously, his heart, mind, and soul was clear. There was no enemy in front of him, no Xiao Lu, and no surging glare of the sword. All it had was a mountain.

Since this is the case, then he would split the mountains he finds, and break the rivers he meets.

Feng Xiao waved his hand and five strings of the zither shot out like spears, shooting towards the burst of torrential floods!

Xiao Lu’s attack was perfect in his eyes, as if it had reached a perfect state no one in this world could counter.

The only flaw was the direction of the attack and the other’s qi and his sword clash. But top-tier martial artists often live on the verge of death, they cannot anticipate everything that comes. These flaws should not be a threat.

He refused to waste more strength fighting with Feng Xiao. Although the other’s martial arts were excellent, he was still a little inferior, and this time it was enough to determine the victor and loser.

The sword’s glare was like a passing rainbow, lighting up the sky in the middle of the night. Five zither strings shot back from different directions, and one which deflected the sword from its direction.

Precisely!

Xiao Lu was surprised. He hadn’t thought Feng Xiao would   have such an unexpected counter, and thus he became even more determined to kill the other where he stood.

In the blink of an eye, the other made the first move. Using the zither strings to hinder the sword’s chance to attack, he flew into his direction, infusing nearly his qi into his palm so that Xiao Lu could not avoid it.

Qin Miaoyu’s eyes opened wide and saw two shadows like smoke suddenly separated. Light coughs ensued; it was unknown who it belonged to. Just as she was clueless about how to judge it, Ming Yue responded more swiftly than her. He must have been saving his energy enough, for he abruptly rose to his feet and lunged himself at Xiao Lu with a wave of attack!

When Xiao Lu and Ming Yue’s waves of attack clashed, the latter fell to the ground like a broken paper crane, but Xiao Lu too took a few steps back.

There was no longer a smile on his face, only a callous determination to kill.

With only a single look from him, Qin Miaoyu already felt cold.

But Xiao Lu’s gaze didn’t stay on Qin Miaoyu for long. He looked past her and fell onto Cui Buqu.

It was only for a moment.

Xiao Lu’s cold voice came, but he has already leapt far away.

“It seems like I could only pay Brother Cui a visit another day. The shame of Linbo Villa’s destruction will not be forgotten!”

Qin Miaoyu was stunned for a moment. She blankly asked: “He just left like that?”

Ming Yue spitted out blood as he knelt on the ground. There were even pieces of flesh in them. He had probably received quite a heavy damage from the wave of attack just now.

“He was heavily injured. Although he still has strength left, Feng Xiao too has it. Xiao Lu cannot guarantee a victory for himself, so he left.” Cui Buqu lightly said.

Feng Xiao gave a look of disbelief. “Obviously I was the reason he suffered a setback, but why does he only remember you before he left?” Cui Buqu looked dispirited, but his eyes were sharp, even smiling. He softened his words when he spoke, that even the raindrops seemed to have turned into a drizzle.

“Perhaps, it was because the only enemy he takes seriously, was me?”

Feng Xiao snorted coldly.

“Both of you really are attached to each other, then why didn’t you just follow him off?”

Step by step he walked towards Cui Buqu, carrying a heavy scent of blood on him. The killing aura about him hasn’t receded like an evil spirit, the ruler of the Yellow Spring.

Qin Miaoyu raised her gaze and saw Feng Xiao’s emotionless eyes, similar to how she saw Xiao Lu just now. She felt her blood freeze, shouting for her to stay away, yet her body couldn’t move.

Yet Cui Buqu still has the breath to say regrettably: “He left too quickly, I couldn’t catch up in time.”

Feng Xiao walked up to his side and knelt, all for the sake for looking at the other from a taller perspective.

“You could originally sit back and wait to reel in the benefits. You could sit inside of the Governor’s Residence waiting as we both destroy ourselves. Why did you come all the way here on purpose?”

Cui Buqu: “I was just passing by.”

Feng Xiao: “I saw you said I was worth it.”

Cui Buqu: “Then you are blind.”

Feng Xiao squinted his eyes: “You said you could entrust your back to me.” Cui Buqu said expressionlessly: “I say I would assume the Jiejian Bureau after you are dead. There is no need to thank me, to help another is my honour. After all, both of us have come a long way.”

He denied everything in an instant! Feng Xiao laughed furiously. Refusing to say any more nonsense, he immediately grabbed the other’s jaw roughly, lowering his head to swallow all those words that were never spoken.

Author’s Notes:

Cui *inserts cuss word*: I am not. I did not. Don’t ramble blindly.

Feng-er: When facing these types of people, don’t waste your breath, just get into the action.
[1]百会⽳: The tip of the head.
[Dust Bunny: When leaving comments, please keep common courtesy in mind – don’t write ambigious comments or abtract humour that might be easily misunderstood or not understood at all. Keep in mind translators only translate, but they can’t change the story themselves. Also, RL is a little busy for me lately, so future updates will be a little slower.]

Chapter 150

I will strip you naked in front of everyone

The rain wasn’t heavy. It was drizzling, carrying with it sticky and greasy dust. His hair and robes were all damp, but due to the wind, his half-dried robes were dampened once more. Why not fleetingly endure a big rain pour? It would have been better compared to being wet now, where his robes stuck fast to his body as heavily as golden rocks, weighing his bones down.

Mud and pebbles pooled all around him, it wasn’t comfortable lying down. Cui Buqu lost his control over one of his shoulders; even when he tried to get up, he could only use one arm. His shoulder blade hurt like his heart was being torn apart—even until now, it still vaguely hurt. Each time he took a breath, what he inhaled wasn’t the scent of mud or rain, neither was it the fragrance of the wine from the tavern, but it was the scent of blood coming from his own body.

This deadweight of a body hasn’t fully healed its wounds, and new wounds were already added. Not only did his limbs hurt; old wounds from long ago hurt the same, it felt like an invisible hand was holding a pocket knife as it dismembered his body.

But the pain on his body could not compare to the fresh kiss on his lips.

Cui Buqu opened his eyes wide, and for a moment he had forgotten to fight back. He found it hard to believe that the other would do such a thing during a time like this.

Heavily wounded, with everyone watching except for Guan Shanhai who had passed out, there were also two pairs of bright gazes staring at them.

Two faces identical to Feng Xiao, giving a very unlike Feng Xiao blank look, as they stared dumbfounded like two blocks of wood.

Cui Buqu’s irises rolled to the corner of his eyes and blinked, and suddenly felt his bones ache even more.

Yet Feng Xiao didn’t pay them any attention, as if there was no one present.

He was even displeased by Cui Buqu’s distraction and so he deepened the kiss, refusing to stop after a tiny one, insisting to savour everything he could before leaving satisfied and happy.

Cui Buqu’s uninjured arm pressed itself onto Feng Xiao’s shoulder, using his strength to push it in the other direction, yet Cui Buqu was neither welcoming nor rejecting. It was a pity that Feng Xiao, though heavily injured, did not budge an inch, sticking fast to him stubbornly. His grip on his jaw had even tightened, making Cui Buqu emit an overwhelmed groan.

Should he just feign passing out? Since it was a tactic he knew well from experience.

He pondered over the thought, but it was as if Feng Xiao knew of his thoughts, he muttered a barely audible threat, “If you feign passing out again, I’m going to strip you naked in front of everyone.”

Cui Buqu: “…”

He didn’t doubt that Feng-er would really do such a thing, but Cui Buqu could not afford to lose.

As he pondered, the other person recklessly swept up, finally retreating when Cui Buqu’s breathes were ragged and his face reddened. However, his warm breath lingered on his currently puffy and red lips, that usually looked rather pale and ashen. As the Zuoyue Commander raised his head slowly, it was unknown whether it was the rain dampening the corner of his eyes, or the fog from his breath, forming a misty red patch as if he looked mad. Feng Xiao was close, taking this into his gaze. Knowing that onlookers might not notice these little details, he couldn’t help feeling cocky, feeling comforted from his defeat of fighting a draw with Xiao Lu and allowing him to escape.

Ming Yue’s mouth parted, clueless that rainwater was falling into it.

He thought that it might have been an illusion from his qi deviation, resulting from overburdening wounds and so quickly pulled his gaze away from those two people. Suppressing down his pain and turning his head to the side with difficulty, he looked at Qin Miaoyu who sat closest to him, hoping to ask for her help to stand, yet he caught sight of Qin Miaoyu looking blanker than himself, her eyes wide and round, unable to pull her gaze away.

Ming Yue turned around again in curiosity and saw that Feng Xiao and Cui Buqu had separated. Feng-er coughed a few times before spitting out a mouthful of blackened blood, then held Cui Buqu’s arm as he helped him up.

They were normal. It seemed like what happened just now had really been an illusion. Ming Yue sighed and thought.

“So, is it true that the Second Commander and Commander Cui shared such a relationship?” Qin Miaoyu leaned close and whispered.

“What relationship?” Ming Yue didn’t understand, but as he recalled what he saw just now, all the hairs on his body stood and felt his wounds hurt more.

“Cut-sleeves sharing bitten peaches1.” Qin Miaoyu spoke in a soft voice. Her wounds were the least severe among everyone. Other than the tavern, the battles that ensued didn’t require her efforts. Now, after some rest, she has almost fully recovered, so naturally, she had much more strength than the others to look into these details.

Ming Yue hadn’t answered. Feng Xiao turned to look in their direction, the killing aura around him hasn’t receded, and his usual teasing demeanour hasn’t returned. At his stare, Qin Miaoyu immediately quietened down. After Feng Xiao turned around to leave, she let out a long breath and told Ming Yue quietly, “Third Commander, are we still going to fight the Zuoyue Bureau for credits in the future?”

Once this question was asked, Ming Yue felt his head spinning. His stomach still churned, so his internal wounds were more severe. He’d give everything to spit another mouthful of blood out.

He knew Feng-er had always been fearless and unrestrained, and took no general etiquette seriously, but he could never have guessed that Feng-er would be so fearless and unrestrained to this degree.

Generally speaking: of all the people you could have taken a fancy on, you had to choose the leader of the Zuoyue Bureau.

Ming Yue had heard about how difficult Cui Buqu was to get along with before, yet what he cracked his head on wasn’t just how difficult Cui Buqu was, but the Zuoyue Bureau behind him, as well as what the Emperor and Empress would think about this after they find out.

Although the Emperor and Empress were a married couple who was very much in love, who would be willing to see their own subordinates having an affair with each other? Would this method between the Emperor and Empress to balance each other out still work then?

This matter could no longer be leaked out—Ming Yue who had always been honest and true to his duties had even begun to think about alternative strategies.

And so, his wounds hurt even more. Those weren’t even normal wounds. The palm he had clashed with Xiao Lu practically drained all Ming Yue’s energy which he didn’t have much left to begin with. His meridians were shaken, and had it not been for the fact that Xiao Lu fought with Feng Xiao before, and was worn thin there, Ming Yue would not have been alive at this moment.

“Third Commander?” Qin Miaoyu didn’t know what he was thinking about, she even found it strange that he was staring blankly in front as if he was in a trance.

“This won’t do. I’m so tired, I should take a nap.” Ming Yue mumbled, closed his eyes and lied down on the mud, refusing to move.

Qin Miaoyu: “…”

Should she help her superior up or return?

She was also very tired. If she chose to help Ming Yue walk back… once they returned they would be reprimanded.

Qin Miaoyu looked left and right, and found a dry spot under a roof to lie down as well, closing her eyes as she felt at ease.

She had also ‘passed out’ from her wounds. Cui Buqu stood up.
Feng Xiao held one of his hand, but in reality they were mutually supporting each other.
If not for this, Feng Xiao might not even hold up until they were back. Cui Buqu laughed coldly, showing no mercy. “Wasn’t the Second
Commander quite majestic just now? Why are you at the brink of death now?”

Feng Xiao sighed. “The saying goes that when a peony dies, it morphs into a beautiful ghost; but if I truly die, wouldn’t I have been unworthy of your words “worth it”?” Cui Buqu: “If you die, I will let the Zuoyue Bureau hang up great big lanterns for half a month, burn three strips of firecrackers a day, put up decorations and put their hands up to celebrate.”

Feng Xiao: “Ah, QuQu, if a woman doesn’t speak her heart, it makes her cute, but when a man does it, it’s contentious. Of course, you cannot be compared to those people, but was it so difficult for you to say that you would miss me if I died?”

Cui Buqu coldly said: “If you can speak so much nonsense, then it seems like your body is in a good condition.”

Before he finished his words, he released his hand with no ounce of sympathy.

Feng Xiao used all his strength speaking, so as he was caught unexpectedly before he could inhale a breath, he immediately fell onto the ground and got mud all over himself.

His insides were burning like fire and ash, and once he placed all his focus onto his wounds, the pain forbade him to even speak.

Second Commander Feng, who had always fussed over cleanliness and would change into a new set of robes even if there was a speck of dirt on it. Since when could he ever look so sorry?

He sighed slowly and vaguely heard Cui Buqu’s footsteps sounding farther away.

It seemed like he really did infuriate Cui Buqu. But, this weather was truly cold.
Why was Feng Xiao so hasty to decide that it was wise to wear a piece of clothing less so he could save time? Or else even in a cold, windy autumn rain like this, he wouldn’t have been so cold that his teeth clattered.

But when he thought about how that one named Xiao probably wasn’t in any better condition, he felt happier. Even the loss he felt from being abandoned by Cui Buqu was no longer obvious.

The sound of footsteps returned.

Walking unevenly, like their owner was wounded on one side, their strength uneven.

He was struck by a thought, he turned his eyes forcibly to take a look.

Before he could see the person, a blood-coated robe had fallen on his shoulders. It was very thick, though half-damp.

Feng Xiao furrowed his brows, yet a bamboo stick was tucked into his hand. He wasn’t sure where Cui Buqu had found it.

“Who’s robes?” his voice was weak, but it didn’t hide his scornful tone.

“The Young Master of the Jinhuan Gang.” Cui Buqu coldly said, “Best you use more strength yourself. I couldn’t feel half my shoulder.”

“I don’t want a robe from a dead man.” Feng Xiao remained disgusted, but there was a vague coquettish tone about his voice that came from nowhere.

Cui Buqu coughed a few times, and when the other sat up with great difficulty, he grabbed one of his arms and used strength to help him up. This movement hurt his shoulder, but he didn’t make any move other than feeling his body go stiff.

Feng Xiao, however, felt it. He mustered a breath, using the bamboo stick to steady himself, and shifted most of his body weight away from the other. Although his words still scorned: “Take off your own robes and switch it for his, I’ll wear yours.”

Cui Buqu snorted and spat out three words: “In your dreams.”

The two then deigned themselves to help each other, as they returned to where they came from. Their footsteps were slow because part of their strength was wasted on bickering, with neither sides willing to take a step back.

“Cui Buqu, since your mouth is so poisonous, and your looks are lackluster, if you continue like this, you really will be alone until the end of your days.”

“There is no need for yours respectfully to worry about it.”

“Then for mercy’s sake, I should sacrifice myself to remain by the tiger’s side, so the world of mortals can avoid a calamity.”

“Is Leng Dou’s robes that warm?”

“Still manageable. Why? Are you finally feeling cold and want to exchange with me now? No way.”

“I heard that man has a strange habit. Before he leaves for a fight, each time he would first sleep with a beauty. Who would have known whether this robe you’re wearing now was placed under that beauty, and who would have known when they were in the act, how much scent of their love-making had clung onto it. It feels like it still holds some fishy smell on it.”

“…Speak some more, and I will vomit on you. If we’re to die, we die together.”

“…”

The rain finally stopped.

The Autumn wind billowed, the clouds stacked up one another. Although there was no moon, it brought a refreshing breath of fresh air.

A clear sky that hadn’t visited for many days finally came.

Naturally after that, when Cui Buqu returned he allowed the Zuoyue Bureau and Pei Jingzhe to come here searching for people. They used a carriage to give Qin Miaoyu, Ming Yue, and Guan Shanhai a comfortable ride home.

But before Qin Miaoyu could applaud herself for her brilliant decision, there was a cluster of state affairs waiting for her when she returned. She couldn’t help crying and wishing she was as heavily wounded as Ming Yue.

All the rations were transported away by Xiao Lu, leaving them not a single grain. Thankfully, the water had receded, and with Yang Yun bearing witnesses, those distinguished families who allied with him were caught one by one. Cui Buqu gathered them all according to his name list and forced them to surrender the rations they had gathered in their homes before Pei Jingzhe was put in charge of distributing them.

Those distinguished families gave many excuses; who would be willing to surrender the rations they have embezzled? The Li family even proclaimed that they were blood-related to the Longxi Li Clan, and to everyone’s understanding, the Longxi Li Clan’s patriarch was the sister of Empress Dugu. Qin Miaoyu hadn’t joined the Jiejian Bureau for long, so she wasn’t familiar with the relationships in the Central Plains. Hence, she went looking for Cui Buqu.

When Qin Miaoyu arrived, Cui Buqu was being under the effects of medicine just now and had passed out while a physician was mending his bones. His lips were pursed right, his eyebrows furrowed as if the pain would affect him even in his sleep.

Qiao Xian stood guard by his side; Qin Miaoyu couldn’t help staring at her.

She heard that when Qiao Xian returned, she knelt in front of Cui Buqu’s room for half a night. Pei Jingzhe that dumb boy also held an umbrella for her for half a night. It carried on until the sky was about to brighten, then Cui Buqu called her inside. Qin Miaoyu didn’t know what they said, but she could see Qiao Xian’s sense of relief, practically glowing as if she had placed down a burden that she’s carried on for many years. Then, that dumb boy Pei Jingzhe couldn’t look away. Qin Miaoyu sighed on behalf of the Jiejian Bureau for having such a member like Pei Jingzhe who failed to live up to its name.

Qiao Xian noticed her gaze, and so turned her head, her gaze cold and dazzling with a faint sense of hostility.

Qin Miaoyu was stunned, but then she thought, after their return, she had been busy for half a night. Feng Xiao and Ming Yue were both receiving medical assistance due to overly severe wounds. She hadn’t even taken off her disguise, and so she was still using Feng Xiao’s face.

In that case, could she use Second Commander Feng’s identity to do something bad? And let him take the blame once he woke up? Qin Miaoyu sneakily thought, and then felt that maybe she was truly seeking death.

Cui Buqu vaguely opened his eyes. The pain only made him slow, but he hadn’t even let out a groan.

He looked at the gauze cloth over his head for a good fifteen minutes before his gaze slowly fell upon Qiao Xian and Qin Miaoyu.

Qiao Xian gently said: “Commander, the physician just came and left behind a prescription. The medicine has been cooked, do you want a bowl of it first?”

What does ‘do you want a bowl first’ mean? It made the medicine sound like soup. Qin Miaoyu inwardly stated, and just as she felt playful, she imitated Feng Xiao’s voice and spoke:

“I have candy.”

She magically took out a box of candy and opened its cover, letting out the fragrance of Maltose Candy2.

Cui Buqu spared her a look and took the box. “Qin Miaoyu, do you have nothing to do?” Qin Miaoyu: “…” She didn’t know where she had exposed herself, but this person had seen through her.

“Commander, you are clever.” Clever Qin Miaoyu laughed, and dared not pretend further. Feng Xiao was healing in seclusion, so he had allowed her to temporarily obey Cui Buqu’s orders. In the end, Cui Buqu truly did order her around, making Qin Miaoyu run about like a dog.

“I have already done according to your orders.I gathered the victims and they were as you said, they refused to live outside the city.”

Cui Buqu plainly said: “They have been locked up for many days. They no longer trust the officials. To them, leaving the city is equal to waiting for death. Only within the city, they have a chance to live.”

His voice was hoarse beyond recognition, his tone soft yet steady.

Qin Miaoyu patiently waited until he finished. She nodded her head and said: “Yes, so we allowed them to live in the county’s bureau temporarily. Huang Lue is dead, that place is empty. The constables are also keeping watch, so nothing will happen for the time being. However, it’s an issue that no rations are left. The distinguished families refuse to surrender them, saying that the official must support the victims, and there was no reason to ask them from the citizens. Among them, the Ding and Li families are the most determined. They have relatives who served the Imperial Court, so this humble subject cannot make the decision, thus having to trouble you.”

[1] 断袖分桃 (lit. Cut-sleeves sharing bitten peaches): a byword for homosexuality of males. Bitten peaches: when a courtier shared a bitten peach with his lord due to the peach tasting extremely sweet, his lord claims that he loved him for offering him such a sweet peach. Cut-sleeves: when an Emperor didn’t want to wake up his sleeping male partner, he cut his
sleeve off before he left. [2] ⻨芽糖: Maiyatang is a treat made from maltose.
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