Thousand Autumns Chapter 1-10

Chapter 1

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
My new work is finally released! This is one of my all-time favorites, and I really hope that I can deliver it nicely so that you can all have the chance to experience what I once felt when I was introduced to it. I’ve read this story a lot of times and was impressed in these well-developed characters every single time. Even though this is a Danmei/BL piece, I sincerely suggest anyone who is not strongly against this genre to at least give it a try. It’s so worth it!
Footnotes on important explanations of terms in Red. Informational Footnotes in Blue, so you don’t have to read these.
They are just some additional facts on history since this story is set in
a real historical period of China. XD

The novel is in wuxia genre. It’s just those high-end wuxia setting that’s very close to xianxia, so don’t feel surprised if you see a lot of cultivation terms.
Synopsis: This story tells us to take a walk, and you’ll get a surprise.

Half-Step Peak, as its name suggested, had only a few square inches of space for one to stand such that just half a step forward would bring you to the edge of a cliff thousands of meters high. On top of it, queer rocks towered aloft and odd trees grew wildly, while below it fogs and mists billowed boundlessly. The image of a
 screaming god or a standing ghost would not be bizarre compared to this jagged and perilous scenery; even the sky and earth seemed unable to touch each other here.

Across from this was another peak called Regret Peak, which was no less cloud-piercing and precipitous than Half-Step Peak. Its ridge rose hundreds of meters high vertically as if it had been sliced with a knife and left seemingly no space for one to set their feet on. Although there was still some greenery, all was rooted shallowly on the stones without any dirt to cover their roots, making anyone who dared take a glance tremble and regret climbing to the top of the peak. This was exactly where the “regret” in its name came from.
Between the two peaks was a natural barrier. Looking down from the top of it, the sea of clouds seemed stagnant, making it impossible to tell the depths of the crevice. Vaguely, one could hear the sound of water from a river flowing endlessly in a powerful momentum like that of a thirsty tiger or a running lion. Even ordinary woodsmen and hunters dared not climb it. If a Xiantian [1] expert [2] was ever to stand there, he too would be moved by the insignificance of men’s will compared with that of the Heavens.
Yet, down below the clouds and haze, at the bottom of the cliff and between the river and the mountainsides, lay a narrow and rugged stone path paved with strange-shaped rocks. At that moment, two people were walking on it, one following the other.
The turbulent river surged onwards, with its waves occasionally curling up and smashing themselves onto the wet and slippery rocks. It was easy for the ones who walked along the path to become soaked, if not by falling into the river then from the forcefully splashing waves of it at least. But if one tried to lean into the cliff, they would end up hitting the sharp, jagged rocks on the surface of the tilting, steep stone walls. In such a difficult situation, anyone would be stuck like a drowned mouse. It was utterly impossible to remain carefree and graceful while strolling leisurely as though one
 was pacing in a courtyard — like the two people right here.
“It was said that twenty years ago, the Daoist Master Qi of Mount Xuandu defeated Hulugu, the number one expert in Tujue [3], right here on top of Half-Step Peak, and forced him to swear not to enter the Central Plains [4] again for the next twenty years. It was a pity that I was too young to witness the fight back then, though I imagine its brilliance must have been unequalled.”
The young man who had spoken was the one followed behind. Their pace was moderate, yet they remained three steps apart from each other.
The man in front took small steps, appearing to be at such ease that it truly seemed as though he was walking on flat ground. The young man behind had slightly larger steps; though he was also as graceful as an immortal when seen alone, it was not difficult to distinguish the minute difference if one was to compare them together.

Yan Wushi sneered, “Considering all that was under the Heavens, Qi Fengge in those years truly deserved to be called ‘number one’. Hulugu, who was just an uncivilized barbarian, had only himself to blame as it was his overconfidence that brought shame onto himself. It was just that Qi Fengge held on too tightly to the aloofness of the Daoist sects and refused to deliver killing blows to him, insisting on making some twenty-year covenant instead. Besides planting the seed of future troubles for Mount Xuandu, in what way was it helpful?”
Yu Shengyan asked curiously, “Master, are Hulugu’s martial skills really that good?”
“If I were to fight him right now, there would still be no certainty of my victory.”
 “Is he really that strong?!” Yu Shengyan’s expression turned fearful. He knew exactly how strong and unfathomable his master’s martial skills were. Since Hulugu received a comment like this from Yan Wushi, his level must have been just as dreadful. Perhaps he could even make into the top three under the Heavens.
Yan Wushi’s voice sounded indifferent: “Otherwise why would I say that Qi Fengge had left his generations of disciples endless troubles? It was true that twenty years ago, Hulugu was slightly inferior compared to Qi Fengge, but this gap was not something impossible to make up within two decades. Now that Qi Fengge is dead, Mount Xuandu can never find a second Qi Fengge.”
Yu Shengyan let out a soft sigh: “That’s right, Daoist Master Qi ascended to the Heavens [5] five years ago.”

“Who’s the sect leader of Mount Xuandu now?” “It’s a disciple of Qi Fengge named Shen Qiao.”
Yan Wushi barely showed any reaction to the name. He had met Qi Fengge only once, and that was twenty-five years ago. At that time, Shen Qiao had just been accepted by Qi Fengge as his personal disciple [6].
Even though Mount Xuandu was called “the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens,” in the eyes of Yan Wushi, who had just come out from a ten-year Closed Door Meditation [7], besides Qi Fengge, there was no one in Mount Xuandu that was worthy enough to be his match.
But Qi Fengge was already dead.

Seeing his master not showing much interest, Yu Shengyan continued, “I’ve heard that Hulugu’s disciple, Kunye, the Tuqi King of the Left [8] and also the number one expert in Tujue
 nowadays, had challenged Shen Qiao for a duel today on the top of Half-Step Peak, claiming it as revenge for the humiliation back then. Would Master be interested in going for a look?”
Yan Wushi did not bother to reply, but instead asked, “During the ten years while I was in Meditation, was there  any  other major event besides Qi Fengge’s death?”

Yu Shengyan thought for a moment: “Not long after you entered Meditation, Gao Wei ascended the throne as the new Emperor of Qi [9]. But he is a man wallowing in sensual pleasures and indulges in high living, so over the past ten years, the national power of Qi has  declined  drastically. There are rumors that Yuwen Yong, the Emperor  of  Zhou [10], is planning on attacking Qi. I’m afraid that the northern area will soon fall into the hands of Zhou.”

“After Qi Fengge’s death, the rankings of the top  ten experts have also changed. Among them, Yi Bichen of the Chunyang Daoist Temple of Mount Qingcheng, Zen Master Xueting of Zhou, and Master-in-Charge Ruyan Kehui of the Linchuan Institute [11] are generally  acknowledged  as  the top three, and the three of them happens to represent the Three Schools [12] of Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.”
“But some say that Sage [13] Jushe of Tuyuhun [14] should also be one of the top three. Hulugu as well. If he has advanced further in skills over the past twenty years, then when he re-enters the Central Plains this time, it might not be impossible for him to even strive for the position of number one. ”
Seeing that his master was still moving forward without responding, Yu Shengyan further persuaded: “Master, Kunye has
 challenged Shen Qiao to a duel today, presumably a splendid fight hard to come by. Shen Qiao as a person lives a very secluded life. Ever since he took charge of the Purple Mansion of Xuandu [15], he engages even less in fights with others. Simply because of his master Qi Fengge’s illustrious reputation, he is also ranked within the top ten experts. If Master wants to take a look at the actual strength of Mount Xuandu, the fight today is  definitely  something  we  don’t want to miss. I’m afraid that at this moment, the summit of Regret Peak is already packed with experts who have come to watch it.”
“Do you think the reason that I came here today was to watch the fight?” Yan Wushi finally stopped.
Yu Shengyan was a bit nervous: “Then Master’s plan is?”
He was only seven years old when Yan Wushi took him as his disciple. Three years later, Yan Wushi was defeated in the battle against the Grand Master of the Demonic Sect, Cui Youwang, and entered Closed Door Meditation while wounded — a Meditation that had lasted ten years.

In that ten years, Yu Shengyan had continued to practice as Yan Wushi had instructed and also traveled to many places. His progress was far beyond what it had been, as he was already among the first- rate experts since long ago. However, it had been ten years since they had last seen each other, naturally, there were some gaps and unfamiliarity between them. Moreover, as the martial state of Yan Wushi became deeper and more profound, the awe in Yu Shengyan’s heart became greater as well. Even his usual casualness in front of others had turned into a sort of careful caution in front of his master.
With his hands clasped behind his back, Yan Wushi said with a plain voice, “I saw the duel between Qi Fengge and Hulugu many years ago. Both Shen Qiao and Kunye are their disciples, but still young; no matter how skillful they are, it’s
 impossible that their fight will surpass the spectacle of the fight between Qi and Hu. I brought you here because, with the rapid flow of water and its arduous landscape, this place connects upwards to the shadows of the heavens and downwards to the spirit of the earth–an optimum place for practicing and comprehending martial arts. When I was in Meditation, I didn’t have time to take care of you. Now that I have come out, I can no longer let you linger in your current progress without any breakthroughs. Until you can comprehend and reach the fifth stage of the Fundamental Records of Phoenix-Qilin, you shall remain here.”
Yu Shengyan suddenly felt a bit wronged. Over the past ten years, even throughout his travels, he had never missed even one day of practice. Now he was barely twenty, yet he had already reached the fourth stage of Fundamental Records of Phoenix-Qilin and was acknowledged among the best of the younger generation. He was quite satisfied with himself, but after his master’s words, it seemed like he had accomplished nothing of merit.
As if he was aware of Yu Shengyan’s feelings, a sarcastic smile appeared on Yan Wushi’s face as he curled up the corner of his mouth: “By the time I had reached your age, I had already attained the sixth stage. What is it that you are so proud of? Rather than competing with those little fishes and shrimps, why don’t you compete against me?”

Some grizzle was scattered among his sideburns, but that did in no way reduce his charms. In fact, the traces of that faint smile made it even harder to take one’s eyes off his handsome appearance.
The white robe rustled in the gale, but the person in it remained unshakable. Just standing there with his hands clasped behind his back, an invisible aura of deterrence formed with such an arrogance as though he was looking down from the top of the world, challenging anyone who entered.
 In that moment, Yu Shengyan stood across him and felt a sense of suffocation that compelled him to take a few steps backward. In profound reverence and fear, he said, “Master possesses heavenly talents, how dare I, your disciple, compete against you!”
“Greet me with your most powerful moves. I want to see your progress during these years.”
Ever since his master’s Meditation, Yu Shengyan had never tested his martial skill, thus he was slightly hesitant after hearing the challenge, but at the same time itching to try. However, that hesitation vanished as soon as he saw the hint of impatience that flashed across Yan Wushi’s face.
“Then please excuse your disciple for his rudeness!” Before his voice could fade, his body had already moved in accordance with his mind, and the sleeves of his robe flew up in the air. Without much movement, he was already close enough to Yan Wushi.
Yu Shengyan raised his sleeve and attacked with his palm. In the eyes of others, his move was not in the least powerful, much like picking up a flower on a spring day or swiping away dust on a summer night. Its lightness was almost otherworldly.
Only those close to it were able to feel that as his palm was striking out, all the plants within a meter shook and the river started to backflow, its waves tempestuous and foam flying in a flow of air that surged up with a roar and rushed towards Yan Wushi!

However, this flow, with a momentum that could stop the rivers or even turn the tide of the sea, split and ran off to either side as it reached Yan Wushi, as if it were blocked by an invisible screen.
He was still standing there. His posture had not changed even a bit. As Yu Shengyan’s palm approached his eyes, he simply struck out with a finger.
 One finger only, and nothing more.

This single finger literally stopped Yu Shengyan’s offensive in mid- air.
Yu Shengyan felt that the entire airstream surrounding the palm he had just thrown out was turning back towards him. The counter- charged reflux that blasted back at his face was several times more powerful than he had created just now. Astonished, he used the power of the flow to assist his feet in a hurried retreat!
This retreat carried him back more than ten steps!

Until he finally stabilized himself on one of the stones, he was still palpitating with fear. “Thanks Master for your mercy!”
There were few people in the pugilistic world that could withstand this palm strike of his. Yu Shengyan had been quite complacent with it prior to this.
But Yan Wushi, with only one finger, was able to force him to withdraw the palm in self-defense.
‘Fortunately, Master was only testing my progress and did not push the advantage with further attacks. If it had been an enemy…’
Considering this point, Yu Shengyan was covered in cold sweat as he panicked and dared not walk on air anymore.
Knowing that he had already attained his objective, Yan Wushi did not intend to say more. “Don’t waste your superb talents. In a few days, I will leave for Tujue for some time. After you reach the fifth stage here, if there is nothing else to do, you can go find your senior martial brother. Don’t spend too much time loitering outside.”
Yu Shengyan replied most respectfully, “Yes.”
 Yan Wushi continued, “This place’s views are crafted by nature and is seldom visited. I wish to take a tour around, so there’s no need for you to…”
Before he finished, a rattling sound came from not far above them. They looked in the direction of the sound and saw someone, as if he had been thrown from above, breaking layers of branches and hitting the bottom of the cliff. Even Yu Shengyan could not hold back an “ouch!” after hearing the muffled thud of the landing.
Falling from such a high peak, even for a Xiantian master, would still be hard to survive.
Not to mention that this person definitely did not fall without reason: it must be because he had been severely wounded.
“Master?” He looked at Yan Wushi for instructions.

“Go take a look,” said Yan Wushi.

His Daoist robe was torn in many places, likely by branches and jags while he was falling. With the bloodstains and fresh blood crisscrossing his torn flesh, it was even harder to recognize his original appearance.
The person had already passed out and was unconscious, unable to even hold onto his sword. As he hit the ground, his sword followed after and fell not far from him.
“I’m afraid that a number of his bones were broken.” Yu Shengyan examined the fallen man for a while with his eyebrows wrinkled and expressed his sympathy with some clicks of his tongue. He took his pulse, then felt there was still a slim chance of survival.
But for a person like this one, even if his life could be saved, the result might not be much more pleasant than death to him.
Yu Shengyan was a disciple of the Demonic Sect after all. In spite
 of him being still young, the amount of kindness he had was quite limited. Therefore, even though he had the Great Healing Pills on him at the time, he showed no intention of using it on the person.
But…
“Master, today is the date of the duel between Shen Qiao and Kunye. This person fell down from above, could it be…”
Yan Wushi came over. Instead of looking at the man, he picked up his sword first.
Its blade was cold like the autumn water, without the least bit of damage, and the reflection of the rivers and the mists on it made it appear as if the blade itself was rippling. Near the handle of the sword were four seal characters [16].
Yu Shengyan came closer for a look, then let out a shout in surprise: “Grieving Celestial [17] Sword! This sword belongs to the sect leader of the Purple Mansion of Xuandu, so he is indeed Shen Qiao!”

Staring at Shen Qiao, who was seriously wounded to the point of dying, he felt it almost incredible: “Qi Fengge was the strongest martial artist. How come Shen Qiao, his personal disciple as well as the sect leader of Mount Xuandu, was defeated so completely?”

Yu Shengyan squatted in front of Shen Qiao and his eyebrows furrowed. “Could it be that Kunye’s martial skills have reached a point where he has even surpassed his master Hulugu?”
If any other person from Mount Xuandu had fallen, Yan Wushi would take no interest or even give them another glance. But Shen Qiao, who was the sect leader after all, was indeed special.
He threw the Grieving Celestial Sword to Yu Shengyan, then stared at Shen Qiao’s unrecognizable countenance for a moment. Suddenly,
 a meaningful smile appeared on his face.

“Give him a Great Healing Pill to take for now.”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Xiantian/Houtian ( 先天/后天): the names of two cultivation stages which appear in several novels, with the Houtian stage preceding the Xiantian stage. Houtian can mean Posterior Heaven / Post-celestial / Acquired. Xiantian can mean Anterior Heaven / Pre- celestial / Innate. Very roughly, the idea is that something “Xiantian” is primordial and thus close to the Dao, while something “Houtian” is degraded or further away from the Dao.

These two terms are derived from Daoism and Internal Alchemy. There’s a belief that people are born with a small amount of Xiantian treasures (Essence, Qi and Spirit). By practicing Daoist cultivation and internal alchemy, they can absorb and refine the Houtian Qi of the natural world to steadily increase their supply of Xiantian treasures (which grant health and longevity benefits). [Source]
[2] Expert: From now onwards, “expert” will often be used as an abbreviation for “expert of martial arts”.

[3] Tujue ( 突厥): A nomadic confederation of Turkic people in medieval Inner Asia, also known as the Göktürks/Celestial Turks/Blue Turks/Kok Turks. [Source (wiki)]

[4] Central Plains (中原 zhongyuan): The area on the lower reaches of the Yellow River which formed the cradle of Chinese civilization. In was considered to be the center of the world by ancient Chinese, and in a broader context, the term also refers to Chinese civilization and China proper, regions directly governed by centralized Chinese governments and dynasties. [Source (wiki)]
[5] Ascended to the Heavens ( 登遐 dengxia): A polite term for
“death”.
 [6] Personal Disciple (入室弟子 rushi dizi): Also referred to as in- house disciple, a disciple who has a very intimate relationship with their master and is chosen to be taught by their master personally. Usually, their master passes down everything they know to their personal disciples as well.
[7] Closed Door Meditation (闭关 biguan): Also called Closed Door Training or Closed Door Cultivation. Training done in seclusion, usually to focus on breaking through a bottleneck, to heal injuries/wounds, or to avoid becoming distracted at a crucial moment and suffering a backlash as a result. [Source]
[8] The Tuqi King of the Left (左屠耆王 zuo tuqi wang / 左贤王 zuo xian wang): A high office of the Xiongnu, a title also knowns as “the left worthy/wise prince/king”, which is the expression used by Chinese analysts in reference to the Eastern Turkic Khaganate (aka Tujue here) in the 6-8th centuries, which is the historical settings this novel is in.

The Tuqi King of the Left was generally designated as the successor of the Chanyu/Khan, the leader of the confederation of the nomadic groups (Xiongnu/Tujue). Two titles were awarded with each of them a commander-in-chief who derived his power from the eastern and western territories respectively. These served as two wings alongside the leader’s main domain. The Chinese annalistic explanation was a “Worthy Prince of the Left (East)” and “Worthy Prince of the Right (West)”. This organization of the state was traditional for the Eurasian nomadic states from the Khans to the Turkic Khanates. [Source (wiki)]
[9] Qi: Referring to the Northern Qi, one of the Northern dynasties during the period of Southern and Northern Dynasties in Chinese history. For more information, a wiki page for it is here.
[10] Zhou: Referring to the Northern Zhou. Wiki page can be found here.
 [11] Institute (学宫 xuegong): An official Confucian school founded by government. In this novel, this school also serves as an Confucian Sect.
[12] The Three Schools: From now onwards, it will be used as an abbreviation for “the Three Schools of Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism”.
[13] Sage ( 智者 zhizhe) : An honorific given to monks from the Tibetan Buddhism with high ranks.
[14] Tuyuhun ( 吐谷浑): A powerful kingdom established by Eurasian nomads related to the Xianbei in the Qilian Mountains and upper Yellow River valley.
[15] Purple Mansion of Xuandu ( 玄都紫府 Xuandu Zifu): Purple Mansion (Zifu) is often used to refer to the place/palace/state where
the Immortals live. The Purple Mansion of Xuandu (Xuandu Zifu), is the place where “the Grand Supreme Elderly Lord (太上老君Taishang Laojun)” lived, who is also known as “the Universally Honoured Virtuous One (道德至尊 Daode Zhizun)” or the Taoist Ancestor. In here, it is used as a name for the Daoist Sect on Mount
Xuandu.
[16] Seal Character ( 篆体): An ancient style of writing Chinese characters that was common throughout the latter half of the 1st millennium BC, evolved originally out of the Zhou dynasty script. Later, it is widely used for and only appears in decorative engraving and seals. [Source (wiki)]
[17] Grieving Celestial (山河同悲 Shanhe Tongbei): Literally means “The Mountains and Rivers grieves together [with them/it]”, while “Mountains and Rivers” is a term often used to refer to “the World/the entire land/the Nature”. There are four characters in Chinese, hence the “four seal characters” in the paragraph above.

Chapter 2

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
We finally get to meet MC this week!!! Yeah!!! Right now, we are working to see if it’s possible to put out two chapters per week since this is a longer project, so it won’t be a pain to wait.
There will also be a Halloween event from Ainushi, and we’ll be releasing more that day as a gift to everyone as well~\o/
If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the novel, feel free to drop it in the comment or the spoiler thread on NUF. XD
Also, if anyone is interested in joining a discord server and discuss with others about danmei/BL works, well, you got one right here~ Come and join our Secret Danmei Confederation!
Synopsis: Not an idiot, but a blind man.
There was no way that Yan Wushi would carry a wounded, dying man on his back, despite that man being the leader of Mount Xuandu.
A disciple was at hand to do the hard jobs. Thus, the task fell to Yu Shengyan.
The Cleansing Moon Sect had a spare mansion in Funing District near Half-Step Peak. It was not easy to walk with someone like Shen Qiao on one’s back, since almost all of his bones had been broken.
 Especially, one had to also bear in mind the power they were exerting to make sure that Shen Qiao’s condition would not be worsened by it. Although Yu Shengyan’s lightness skills [1] and footwork were top-notch, it still took him almost two hours to reach the mansion.
Yan Wushi had gone on ahead of him. At the moment, he was already having tea at ease.
“Master, are you really saving Shen Qiao?” After settling down the wounded man, Yu Shengyan came to report.
“Should I not?” Yan Wushi asked in reply.

“Pretty much all of his meridians [2] are broken. Many of his bones are fragmented as well. It’s true that he has retained some of his inner qi [3], but even if we can save his life, there is little hope that he would be able to gain his martial arts back. Besides, the back of his head is also cracked from the fall. He may even wake up as an idiot.”
Yan Wushi smiled faintly, although the smile had no warmth to it, and said, “Qi Fengge’s disciple. The sect leader of Mount Xuandu. The commander of all the orthodox sects. He was once bathed in the highest glory, yet with only one defeat, he ended up being worse than useless. Even if he could return to Mount Xuandu, he can never be the sect leader again. Once he wakes up and knows the situation he’s in, I wonder what his feelings will be?”
Yu Shengyan sighed, “That’s true. Even an ordinary person would not be able to accept a fall like this, not to mention someone like Shen Qiao, who has always been favored by the Heavens. The higher one stands, the harder they fall!”
He then doubted, “But after all, since Shen Qiao was a disciple of Qi Fengge and the leader of Mount Xuandu, who
 also ranked in the top ten, his martial skills must have been outstanding. Even if Kunye was able to defeat him, how could he defeat him in such a crushing way? Could it be that Kunye’s martial skills are even better than that of Hulugu from the past?”
Yan Wushi smiled once again and replied, “As for this question, if Shen Qiao does not wake up as an idiot, then you can ask him.”
Yu Shengyan had a feeling that ever since they picked up Shen Qiao, his master seemed to be in such a good mood that even the number of times he smiled had increased compared to before.
But this was definitely not enough to give him the wrong impression that his master had a soft spot for Shen Qiao, someone he had just met for the first time without even seeing his face clearly.
He asked tentatively, “Did Master decide to save Shen Qiao in order to make Mount Xuandu indebted to us?”
Yan Wushi explained with quite some gusto: “If he died upon his defeat, it could be seen as a good way to end his future troubles. But what if he wakes up and finds out that not only is he still alive but he has also lost  everything he  once owned, with his body seriously injured, all his  meridians broken and his martial arts completely gone–how will he feel? The more power and authority he once held, the harder it will be to accept a blow like this. His mentality will definitely break down. If I then take him as my disciple,  gradually turning this once hypocritical, kind-hearted sect leader of Mount Xuandu into a disciple of the Demonic Sect as someone who knows no moral baselines in the eyes of the public, won’t it be quite interesting?”
Yu Shengyan stood aghast as he listened: “…What if he becomes an idiot?”
 Yan Wushi replied as if the matter had little importance, “Then just bury him alive wherever you like.”
Yu Shengyan hesitated: “Master, Shen Qiao’s status was quite special. Why don’t we trade him with Mount Xuandu for a favor? For their reputation’s sake at least, they will not leave their sect leader stranded outside, right?”

Yan Wushi sneered faintly. If the person who was here today was Bian Yanmei, his eldest disciple, he certainly would not have asked a question as naive and laughable as this. Yu Shengyan was still too green.
But his mood was rather good today, so he did not stint to explain further: “You know as well that Shen Qiao stands among the top ten martial artists of the day. Even if he dwells in deep seclusion so that only few people have actually seen his skills, since he was able to take over the mantle [4] of Qi Fengge, how bad could he possibly be? After all, Kunye is not Hulugu, who has reached the realm of Xiantian experts. Even if Shen Qiao has lost to Kunye, it still shouldn’t have been a problem for him to retreat safely. Why did he end up like this instead?”

Yu Shengyan was not that dumb indeed. Upon hearing it, he immediately followed up, “Something unforeseen must have happened. If it’s something internal to Mount Xuandu, then even if we hand over Shen Qiao to them, they  might  not accept him. At that time, it is very likely that not only will we not get a favor from them, but we may even bring unnecessary troubles to ourselves.” 
‘At least he is not completely hopeless.’ Thinking that, Yan Wushi looked askance at his disciple, “As long as I’m here, the Cleansing Moon Sect need not consider anyone else’s opinion and there will never be a need to trade for any kind of favor.”
 It was true that Shen Qiao’s status was quite special, but for Yan Wushi, he was no different from a somewhat rare plaything.
What he said sounded extremely overbearing, but the Yan Wushi today was truly qualified enough to say something like this.
Ten years ago, although he was defeated and injured in his fight with Cui Youwang, the Sect Master of the Demonic Sect, his opponent did not leave safe and sound either. Moreover, at that time, Cui Youwang’s martial power was already unfathomable to the point that it was keeping up with that of Qi Fengge, with hardly any match for him in the entire world.
Ten years later, Cui Youwang and Qi Fengge were both dead, yet Yan Wushi, after seeing the truth of the ninth stage of the Fundamental Records of Phoenix-Qilin, had scaled new heights. Even though his progress in martial power was yet to be tested, it would definitely not be any lower than that of ten years ago.
Nowadays, only very few people knew that he had reappeared in the pugilistic world, otherwise it would have caused a greater stir.
Perhaps, the rankings of the top ten would need an update as well.
Thinking to this point, Yu Shengyan felt a rush of blood in his heart and became a bit excited: “While you were in Meditation, the Harmony Sect has been  causing  us  troubles  almost  every day. I fought hand to hand with Sang Jingxing once and was injured, having to leave for somewhere far away, which was the reason for my many years of loitering outside. Fortunately, you are finally back…”

The term “Demonic Sect” that the others used, was in fact only a general name.
Initially, the Demonic Sect referred to the Sun Moon Sect located at Mount Sun Moon on Phoenix-Qilin Isle. Later, the Sun Moon Sect split
 into three smaller ones: the Cleansing Moon Sect, the Harmony Sect, and the Mirror of Arts Sect [5]. Even though the three of them all belonged to the Demonic Sect, they remained friendly only in appearance, while in fact they had never stopped fighting with each other both openly and secretly.

After Yan Wushi entered Closed Door Meditation ten years ago, seeing that the Cleansing Moon Sect was now without a leader, the Harmony Sect had intended to merge the Cleansing Moon Sect into itself. However, the disciples of the Cleansing Moon Sect were not only few in number but also scattered, making it hard for Harmony Sect to take care of every place at the same time. The eldest disciple, Bian Yanmei, had ways to handle matters while staying low- key, thus secretly creating a considerable amount of troubles for people of the Harmony Sect as well.
With their efforts canceling out on each other, the Harmony Sect did not gain much advantage in reality.
It was only Yu Shengyan, since he had entered the sect the most recently and was still young in age, that had suffered quite a few losses.
Now that Yan Wushi was out, the people of the Cleansing Moon Sect, much like lost children who had finally found their mother, naturally flew into raptures.
Yan Wushi said, “Ordinary servants will not be able to handle the wounds of Shen Qiao. You stay here and take care of him for a few days till he wakes up, then return to the foot of Half-step Peak and make sure to fully grasp the fifth stage of Fundamental Records of Phoenix-Qilin.”
Yu Shengyan complied respectfully: “As you command.”
 Shen Qiao’s injuries were very serious, but most of the wounds on his face were mere scratches created during his fall. After all the blood was cleared, his true appearance was revealed.
Even with the wounds on his face and a stripe of gauze circling his head, his handsomeness was in no way damaged. Whether it be his arched nose bridge or the lips that were tightly pressed together, all his features gave him a rather abstinent flavor, fully in keeping with the impressions people had of the Daoist priests of Mount Xuandu–oblivious to the filth of the human world.

It was not hard to imagine what kind of grace this pair of eyes would bring to his current splendor when they opened.
Yu Shengyan was definitely not ugly since he had been taken as a disciple by Yan Wushi. He had traveled all over the world and had seen rather a lot of outstanding beauties himself. But even though this face of Shen Qiao in front of him was covered in wounds, he still spaced out quite a while before he could pick up the ointment and apply it while sympathizing with him inside.
Even though fractured bones could be set and broken meridians could be reconnected, the seriously wounded internal organs were not that easy to repair. Moreover, his level of cultivation [6] had been greatly reduced, and he would probably remain weaker than even ordinary people for the remainder of his life. Just imagining the loss of all of his martial arts that he had gained through many years of hard work over a single night, Yu Shengyan found it hard to picture and even more so to accept. Putting himself in others shoes, the conflicts that Shen Qiao was experiencing could only be greater than what he had imagined.
‘What a pity.’ Yu Shengyan said to himself, staring at Shen Qiao’s pale complexion.
The reason that Yan Wushi decided to reach out to save him was merely a sudden impulse. After the saved one was brought back,
 everything became Yu Shengyan’s responsibility, and Yan Wushi had never asked about it again.
Funing District was a rather small district. Normally only a few travelers would stop by, but because the fight on Half-Step Peak had caused such a sensation in the pugilistic world, a number of martial artists came down from Half-Step Peak these days and, while passing by the Funing District, decided to put up at an inn for the night. Yu Shengyan was able to hear plenty of news during his occasional trips outside.
For example, the fight between Shen Qiao and Kunye was splendid. But after all, Shen Qiao was not Qi Fengge, and his level was still very distant from that of his master. On the other hand, even though Kunye was not as good as his master Hulugu yet, he had rather amazing talents. Hence, not only was the Daoist Reverend Shen unable to compete against Kunye, he even fell down the cliff due to Kunye’s attacks, with his remains nowhere to be found.
Prior to it, a lot of people were filled with righteous indignation after hearing Kunye Lama [7]sending the letter of challenge to Shen Qiao, eager to give it a try and wishing to deflate the Tujue people’s arrogance. However, after the fight, seeing that even the sect leader of Mount Xuandu had suffered such a overwhelming loss, all of those who had once offered to stand up for Shen Qiao now yielded spontaneously and dared not brush against Kunye’s spear anymore.
After this battle, Kunye’s reputation was greatly boosted as he had replaced Shen Qiao in the rankings of the top ten. It was said that during his trip in the Central Plains this time, he would challenge the masters of the Central Plains in order, and it was very likely that his next target would be the Zen Master Xueting of Zhou.
Since the Jin people’s migration to the south and the uprising of the five barbarians, there had not been a grand unification on the land. These days, in the north there were Zhou, Qi, and in the south there was Chen Dynasty, with Tujue and Tuyuhun on the side, each
 occupying a vast expanse of land around the border area. Sects and families each served their own master, and Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism all had their factions set up separately, making a clear distinction between each school.
As the head of all Daoist sects, Mount Xuandu had held fast to its neutral position since Qi Fengge, staying away from all power struggles. Now since Shen Qiao had been defeated by Kunye and his life was still uncertain, no one knew who would succeed him as the sect leader of Mount Xuandu or whether the successor would continue the standpoints of his predecessors.
The main character in the center of the vortex, Shen Qiao, however, was still lying in bed. Yu Shengyan and the servants in the spare mansion would come everyday to change his dressings and apply medicine. Without consciousness or sense, feeling neither grief nor joy, he was totally unaware of what was happening in the outside world.
It was not until half a month later that he finally made his first movement.
Yu Shengyan, who was brought by the servants in a haste, was watching Shen Qiao gradually opening his eyes.
“You are seriously injured. The broken bones have not yet recovered, so you’d better not move.”
The other frowned slightly. His lips touched once in an attempt to move them, as if he wanted to say something, but then it was replaced by a vacant look that had appeared on his face.
‘Don’t tell me he really became an idiot from the fall?’

Yu Shengyan thought as he asked, “Do you still remember your name?”
He slowly blinked once then gradually shook his head. The arc it
 made was too small to even notice.

Amnesia? Actually it would be normal, since his head had experienced such a serious trauma. Yu Shengyan still remembered that on the day Shen Qiao was brought back, the opening on the back of his head was so deep and long that he could almost see the white skull beneath it.
“This brother…” Speaking seemed to be a very strenuous task for him. Yu Shengyan had to move himself closer in order to hear him clearly. “As I can only find darkness around me, perhaps, I have lost the ability to see…”
Yu Shengyan was shocked. ‘So he did not become an idiot, but a blind man instead?’
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Lightness Skills ( 轻功 qinggong): often left untranslated as “Qinggong”. The ability to lighten the body and move with great agility and swiftness. At high proficiency, practitioners of this skill can run across water, leap to the top of trees, or even glide through the air. [Source]
[2] Meridians ( 经脉 jingmai): the network of vessels/channels in the body through which Qi flows. Like blood vessels, but for Qi instead of blood.
[3] Inner Qi : Used in place of Inner Breaths (内息 neixi), which is also referred to as Inner Power (内力 neili) sometimes. It is the foundation of how much power one can exert on their moves and can be increased through cultivating inner arts.
[4] Mantle (衣钵 yibo): A buddhist term that is often used to depict the passing down of position and knowledge. The disciple who is chosen by their master to succeed their position is often referred to as their “mantle disciple”. As in here, it means since Shen Qiao
 was able to take over the position of Qi Fengge as the new leader of Mount Xuandu.
[5] Mirror of Arts ( 法镜 fajing): A more accurate translation is Mirror of Dharma, as in “the Dharma of Buddha is like a mirror”.
[6] Level of cultivation: This is not an xianxia novel, but it’s a high- end wuxia novel that borrows a lot of terms from xianxia. Cultivation refers to cultivating in martial arts here.
[7] Lama: “chief” or “high priest”. It’s a title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism.

Chapter 3

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
Managed to get this chapter out on time!!! Yay!!! Great thanks to Draygan and Kai!!!
LOL, SQ is so cuteeee!! So is his “senior martial brother”. You guys will see more and more of it later XD.
Enjoy the chapter!
Synopsis: Gentle and amenable, beautiful and kind.
“Your name is Shen Qiao, originally a disciple of our Cleansing Moon Sect. Somehow, you were injured severely, but luckily I found you while passing by so I was able to bring you back in time. The enemies who hurt you are from Harmony Sect. Since I was no match for them either, I had to bring you to safety first. You can take revenge on them after you recover and gain your martial skills back.”
Yu Shengyan was talking gibberish solemnly, but Shen Qiao listened to him in true earnestness as well.
In the end, he asked, “Then…how should I address you?”

“My family name is Yu. Yu Shengyan. I’m your senior martial brother.”
This sentence was truly said without conscience. Yu Shengyan was
 just over twenty this year. Even though Shen Qiao’s appearance did not give away his age, since he was the disciple of Qi Fengge and had been the head of Mount Xuandu for five years, it was impossible that he would be younger than Yu Shengyan.
It was obvious that Yu Shengyan was intentionally exploiting his blindness for an advantage in the form of address.
But Shen Qiao really greeted him tamely: “Senior martial brother.”

“…” Looking at his innocent face, Yu Shengyan somehow felt a bit guilty.
He cringed with a laugh: “Be good. Since you can’t get up yet, you should stay in bed and rest. After you are fully recovered, I will bring you to pay respects to Master.”

Shen Qiao responded, “Alright.”

He closed his eyes but re-opened them soon after. Due to the lack of focus, his eyes appeared a little slack and the usual brightness within them had vanished as well. “Senior martial brother…?”
“Is there anything else?” Yu Shengyan believed himself to be someone with a tender heart for fair beauties. Seeing Shen Qiao, he said “pity” to himself once again and thought: ‘It is indeed a pity that the once glorious leader of all Daoist sects would end up like this. If it was back then when he was in charge of the sect with his martial powers in full bloom, what kind of bearing and demeanor would he have?’
“I want to drink some water…”

“Don’t drink water for now. Your medicine will be ready soon. Right now, you need to consider medicine as  your water.”
 Right after he finished, a servant girl came over with a decoction in her hands. Perhaps it was his faking of Shen Qiao’s history just now that had evoked a rare sense of guilt deep inside him; Yu Shengyan took the soup bowl, asked the girl to elevate Shen Qiao’s head with a pillow behind his neck, then fed the decoction to him spoon by spoon.

Not all of Shen Qiao’s bones were broken, but it was not far from it. On top of the injured meridians, his chances of survival were close to none. The good foundation of his health was the sole reason that he could wake up within only one month. Now, without at least three more months in bed, he should not expect to be able to move around.
Even though Yu Shengyan suffered a hard time during practice ever since he became a disciple of Yan Wushi, since the lifestyle of the demonic sect had always been extravagant, his everyday food and clothing was by no means lower in standard than that of the young masters of noble families. For someone like him to feed decoctions to others with his own hands, no matter how careful he was, there were still occasional spills onto Shen Qiao’s robe. But Shen Qiao drank every spoonful he was fed without any signs of discontent. After he finished drinking, Shen Qiao even flashed Yu Shengyan a faint smile and gratefully said, “Thank you, senior martial brother.”
Gentle and amenable, beautiful and kind.

Even though it was merely a slight smile, it was enough to bring out a warm color onto his pale face. The servant girl on the side blushed quietly and immediately averted her eyes.
He did not ask about anything, which actually made Yu Shengyan wonder. If he were to wake up with no memories in his head, blind and seriously injured to the point that he could not even get out of bed, even if he were to not break down mentally, it would still be impossible for him to stay calm the way Shen Qiao was.
 “Why don’t you ask me when you will fully recover?”

“Master and senior martial brother must have been running about, exhausted both physically and mentally, because of me.” Shen Qiao coughed a few times, pulling the muscles around his wounds, causing his eyebrows to furrow. “If I am to ask, won’t it add even more grief to you and Master?”
As though he had never seen someone so attentive and considerate of others, or maybe it was because Shen Qiao’s face could easily evoke one’s guilt, Yu Shengyan was speechless for a moment, unsure what to say. After a while, he finally said, “Then you should have a good rest. I’ll leave for today, but I’ll come again tomorrow to help you with the treatment.”
“Thank you, senior martial brother. Please deliver my greetings to Master on my behalf.”
“I will.” Suddenly, Yu Shengyan had a feeling that if he was going to stay any longer, it would only increase the awkwardness. Touching his nose a few times, he threw out the sentence and left.
At first he was a little suspicious whether Shen Qiao’s amnesia was merely an act of playing dumb. But since that day, he would visit Shen Qiao almost daily, and just like the way he was the first time he woke up, he remained gentle, optimistic, and extremely grateful towards Yu Shengyan.
Whatever Yu Shengyan said, he believed it all without a single doubt, as innocent and pure as a piece of white paper.
After he was able to get out of bed and move around a little, Shen Qiao even suggested a visit to “his master” Yan Wushi to thank him personally.
If Yu Shengyan did not remind him, Yan Wushi would have already
 forgotten the presence of Shen Qiao.

Within the ten years of his Meditation, lots of things had changed in the world. It was not something that could be summed up by others into a few sentences.
There were many sects in this world, and each of them had their own faction and political influence backing them.
The Gao family of Qi was known for their absurd and unreasonable behavior, thus every generation of its emperor tended to affiliate more with the Demonic Sect. Now it was the generation of Gao Wei, who had a very close relationship with Harmony Sect, therefore Harmony Sect’s influence in the country of Qi had risen greatly.
In the country of Zhou, when Yuwen Hu was in charge of the court before, he had respect for Buddhism, therefore Zen Master Xueting was once honored with the position of the Grand Preceptor of Zhou. However, after Yuwen Yong ascended to power, the trend changed. This new emperor believed in neither Daoism nor Buddhism. He even banned both schools throughout the country, therefore the influence of Buddhism in Zhou right now was much weaker compared to the past.
As for the Chen Dynasty in the south, it was headed by the Linchuan Institute of Confucianism. Master-in-Charge Ruyan Kehui assisted the Emperor of Chen in governing the country wholeheartedly and was greatly respected and heavily relied upon.
Before Yan Wushi entered Meditation, he had been an official in Zhou under a different identity–the assistant-in-governing for Yuwen Yong, who was the Duke of Lu at that time. Later he escaped far away after he was injured in the battle with Cui Youwang, but before he left, he ordered his eldest disciple, Bian Yanmei, to stay by Yuwen Yong’s side.

Now that he had emerged from Meditation, surely he would take a
 trip to the country of Zhou and pay a courtesy call to Yuwen Yong, who had already ascended the throne as the Emperor and taken back his power from the hands of Yuwen Hu.
In these years, the Northern Zhou had strengthened itself step by step, which was not something the other countries were happy to see. Moreover, even the Three schools of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism were not on intimate terms with this Emperor of Zhou, since he not only banned the latter two but also disallowed the first from setting up public teachings to gain followers.
It was exactly this kind of background that allowed the Cleansing Moon Sect to approach and support Yuwen Yong, while at the same time, Yuwen Yong also needed the Cleansing Moon Sect to maintain his rule.
After his meeting with Yunwen Yong, Yan Wushi left Northern Zhou and paid a visit to Mount Xuandu along the way, and then went to check out Kunye, the so-called number one expert of Tujue who had defeated Shen Qiao.
Fighting hand to hand with each other for one round, Kunye was defeated. The name Yan Wushi the “Demonic Sovereign” reappeared, reverberating throughout the entire marital world. Everyone was saying that in addition to Cui Youwang, the Demonic Sect would give birth to another powerful yet dreadful man.
Only this time, without Qi Fengge, there was one less person able to equal him in force.
In Yan Wushi’s opinion, Kunye’s skills were good and his talents were outstanding as well, yet he was still nowhere near the Hulugu in those years. Even when compared with the others on the current list of the top ten, he could not be considered as distinguishable. The fact that someone like him could severely injure the sect leader of Mount Xuandu was itself somewhat strange.
 But this was not the key point of his concerns. What exactly was behind Shen Qiao’s injury or whether it had anything to do with Kunye–Yan Wushi had no interest to find out. The only reason that he made Kunye his first target was to spread the news of his re- emergence in the pugilistic world. Since Kunye had just defeated the sect leader of Mount Xuandu recently and became the focus of everyone, he was the optimum choice.

More importantly, the biggest gain of Yan Wushi’s journey this time was neither to make a name of himself nor to defeat Kunye, but to find out the whereabouts of one of the remaining books of The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang.
Legend has it that fifty years ago, the grandmaster of that generation, Tao Hongjing, encountered an immortal on Mount Mao and was handed-down a book named The Key to Ascend the Truth. The book consisted of a total of four parts. Tao Hongjing reorganized three of them into another book and named it The Secret Key to Ascend the Truth.
For the small part that was left out, because the content was obscure, with most of it related to cultivation between Man and the Heavens, Tao Hongjing organized it into a separate book, mixing in the essence of the learnings and understandings of his lifetime–this was the well-renowned The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang.

Tao Hongjing delved deeply and studied the relationship between Man and the Heavens. Although a Daoist priest himself, he was a true expert in all of the Three Schools, and was also blessed with all of the learnings of the Immortal Master Danyang, Sun Youyue. Thus, as a man whose martial skills had attained the acme of perfection that even Qi Fengge would willingly acknowledge defeat against him, he was indeed the number one martial artist beyond dispute.
Since it had such an origin, The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang naturally became a treasured script that people fell over each other in their eagerness to read. It was said that if one could fully
 comprehend all of its five books, they would be able to see through the ultimate of martial artists since time immemorial and enter a whole new realm that even ascending to heavens [1] would no longer be impossible.
Unfortunately, after Tao Hongjing ascended to the land of the Immortals, the Shangqing Sect of Mount Mao suffered enormously due to its involvement in politics. With each of its disciples in their own differing standpoint, together with the civil disorder that would later seize the Liang Dynasty, the five books of The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang were scattered everywhere and were unable to be retrieved.
It was not until ten years later, when Qi Fengge admitted himself that his martial arts, besides the legacy of Mount Xuandu, also included the help from The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang, that the whereabouts of the scripts were finally discovered one after another. Rumors said that one book was the treasure of the country of Zhou, one book was owned by Tiantai Sect in Zhejiang, one book was kept in Mount Xuandu, while the locations of the other two remained a mystery over several decades and were still nowhere to be found till today.
Yan Wushi had the chance to come in contact with the one treasured in the Imperial Palace of Zhou in his early years. The substantial increase in his cultivation after the Meditation should be partially credited to that one book of The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang.
Only by experiencing it themselves, could one truly understand how ingenious The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang really was. From the one, the whole could be divined. In The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang was embodied the fruit of painstaking efforts of Tao Hongjing’s entire lifetime. It gathered together the martial arts and meditation ways [2] of all Three Schools, complementing and integrating them with each other, therefore was truly comprehensive and flawless. If it
 was possible to read through the remaining four books, not only was claiming the sovereignty of the martial artists only a matter of time, but even penetrating the ways of heavens and reaching the state of unity between Man and the Heavens would not be impossible anymore.
The purpose of Yan Wushi’s trip this time was to sneak in Mount Xuandu, making use of the opportunity that it was in a state of turmoil without a leader, to search for the book of The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang. However, during his fight with Kunye, he happened to realize that although Kunye’s martial skills succeeded the direct lineage of the western regions, his inner arts and qi appeared there yet not there. It seemed like it was from the same origin as his, leading Yan Wushi to suspect that it was highly probable that the reason Hulugu was able to barely match Qi Fengge in power and only lost by half a move in the end was that he had gained help from The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang.
As one of the new generation experts of Tujue, given enough time, it would not be impossible for Kunye to match in strength with Hulugu. Since the combination of the meditation ways of the Western Regions [3] and The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang had brought up one Hulugu, it could definitely bring up a second.
This aroused a great amount of interest in Yan Wushi, therefore in the following days, he followed Kunye everywhere and would challenge him to a fight whenever he felt like it. Unable to win over him yet also having no chance to escape, Kunye almost had all of his nerves frayed and decided that he might as well return to Tujue in the end.
Yan Wushi had no plans to chase him all the way to Tujue at the moment, so he leisurely returned to the spare mansion.
Right after he returned, he heard from his disciple that Shen Qiao had awoken and now was able to get out of bed and walk around.
 When Shen Qiao appeared, he had a bamboo cane in his hand.
Step by step, he walked slowly, but steadily.

A servant girl was supporting him while softly explaining to him the different paths inside the mansion.
“My respects to Master.” After the girl showed him the direction, Shen Qiao bowed toward where Yan Wushi was sitting.
“Sit.” Yan Wushi put down the Weiqi [4] piece that was in his hand. Yu Shengyan, who was sitting across him, looked so miserable that one could hardly bear the sight of his expression. But at the same time, he was so joyful as well, as if he had just been granted amnesty. Obviously, he was currently at a disadvantage in the game.
Shen Qiao sat down with the servant girl’s assistance.

After he woke up, the memories he had for most of the things appeared to be vague. He could not even remember his own name and where he had come from. As for Yan Wushi and Yu Shengyan, he had no impression of them at all.
“How do you feel?” asked Yan Wushi.

“Thanking Master for your care, I can get out of bed and walk around already. Just that my hands and legs still feel weak, and my martial arts…seems like it hasn’t recovered yet.”
“Hand.”

Shen Qiao gave him his hand obediently. Yan Wushi’s fingers immediately pinched his ‘gate of vitality [5]’ point.
He inspected the pulse for a moment, and a trace of surprise appeared on his formerly inattentive face.
He glanced at Shen Qiao meaningfully, though the latter, due to his
 inability to see, had a vacant and innocent look.

Yan Wushi asked, “Do you feel any discomfort?”
Shen Qiao thought for a moment: “Every night at around midnight, my body has alternating sensations between cold and hot, accompanied by a pain in my chest, sometimes to the point that I can hardly walk.”
Yu Shengyan added: “I’ve already had the doctor look at it. The doctor said that it was probably because junior martial brother has been seriously wounded that the process of recovery would take some time.”

Yan Wushi sneered faintly at the “junior martial brother” that seemed to slip out rather smoothly, then he said to Shen Qiao, “Your martial arts is not completely ruined. I sensed that there is still a faint trace of qi left inside your body that seems weak yet strong. Given enough time, it might not be impossible for your martial arts to recover. However, our Cleansing Moon Sect does not support good-for-nothings. I have an errand for your senior martial brother to run. You can go with him to assist.”
“Yes.”

He did not ask what the errand was about. Just like how he had treated Yu Shengyan, he agreed with whatever others said. For the rest of the time he just sat there serenely, without any excessive movements.
But Yan Wushi was by no means moved by all the indignity that Shen Qiao was experiencing after his fall. The weakness that Shen Qiao revealed had only caused an even richer malice to be conceived, making him want to violate and tainted this snow white from head to toe more than ever.
 “You can go back and take a rest now,” he said plainly.

Shen Qiao stood up and excused himself docilely, then slowly left with the assistance of the servant girl.
Yan Wushi retrieved his line of sight from the back of Shen Qiao, and said to Yu Shengyan, “Make a trip to Qi directly and eliminate the entire family of the Grand Master of Remonstrance [6] Yan Zhiwen.”
“Yes.” Yu Shengyan accepted the order without hesitation. “Has he displeased Master in any way?”
“He’s a disciple of the Harmony Sect, and also one of the eyes that Harmony Sect has planted in Qi.”
Yu Shengyan was also excited after hearing the words: “Yes! The Harmony Sect has been acting arrogant for  too  long,  and Yuan Xiuxiu, taking the advantage of your Meditation, has caused us much trouble. If we don’t teach her a lesson, won’t our Cleansing Moon Sect seem way too useless? I’ll take off within the next couple days!”

Pausing for a moment, he held back the smile on his face and asked perplexedly, “Master wants me to bring Shen Qiao along? He has lost all of his martial arts. I’m afraid that he won’t be able to help with anything.”
With the shadow of a smile, Yan Wushi said, “Now that you have called him your ‘junior martial brother’, you should at least show him the world. It’s true that his martial arts hasn’t recovered yet, but killing one or two people should not be a difficulty for him still.”
Yu Shengyan finally understood; Master was treating Shen Qiao like a piece of white paper and wanted him dyed completely black. Even if one day Shen Qiao came around to his senses or was able to
 regain his memories, since there was no way to undo what had been done, by that time it would be impossible for him to return to the orthodox side even if he wanted to.
How was being like them anything bad? One would handle matters with no constraints or scruples, do whatever they pleased, and was free from all of society’s rules. Moreover, Yu Shengyan firmly believed that the nature of man was evil and that a dark side existed deep within everyone. It all came down to whether there was a chance to express it or not. All those so-called Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian sects spoke profusely of virtue and morality and how one should always embrace benevolence, when they were in fact merely covering up their own selfish desires with righteous causes. Not to mention that when it came to the competition for the throne of the world, the winner took it all. Under such circumstances, was there even a country’s ruler whose hands were not covered in blood? And who could claim being cleaner than the others?
“Yes. I’ll make sure to guide junior martial brother well.”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Ascending to Heavens ( 飞升): The term directly refers to becoming an immortal here, though it is often used as a way to avoid saying someone is dead by wishing them to achieve immortality.
[2] Meditation Ways (心法 xinfa): Literally means the art of hearts, or ways of mental cultivation. It is the specific ways to cultivate one’s inner martial arts through meditations, such as specific paths for circulation of qi, and etc.
[3] Western Regions (西域 xiyu): A term used in ancient China referring to the area west of the Yumen Pass, most of Central Asia nowadays.
[4] Weiqi (围棋): A chess game played in ancient China, which also known by the name “go” nowadays. (Yes! It’s the game played by
 AlphaGo.)
[5] Gate of Vitality (命门 mingmen): Refers to a position on the wrist of someone’s right hand in wuxia novels, as opposed to the actual acupoint in Chinese medicine which is located on the waist. It is a critical position for martial artists since it can be used to seriously injure or even kill someone easily.
[6] Grand Master of Remonstrance (谏议大夫 jianyi dafu): One of the category of prestigious officials called Remonstrance Officials or Speaking Officials whose principal function was to attend and advise the emperor, and especially to remonstrate with him about what they considered improper conduct or policy. [Source]

Chapter 4

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
Happy Halloween Everyone! There’s also an extra chapter released for FRS XD.
Synopsis: Shen Qiao’s Three Views [1] received a 100-point critical hit.

Yu Shengyan did not inform him about the objective of their trip when he brought Shen Qiao out.
Funing County was not very far from Ye City, the capital of the country of Qi. With Yu Shengyan’s speed, he could have made it there within three days or so. But taking Shen Qiao’s condition into consideration, he purposely slowed down and arrived at Ye City in seven days.
However, no matter how slowly they traveled, the current state of Shen Qiao’s body was still inadequate for such a long and arduous journey. Right after they arrived in Ye City, he was stricken ill with a low fever.
Although Cleansing Moon Sect had few disciples, it was not short on money and owned a residence in Ye City, where Yu Shengyan and Shen Qiao stayed. The owner of the residence was Yan Wushi. Therefore when the servants saw Yu Shengyan and Shen Qiao, they addressed them as young masters and planned all things well, taking every care with them.
 Shen Qiao was very quiet throughout the trip. He would walk whenever Yu Shengyan asked him to do so and stop when told. He did not even say anything about him being sick – rather, Yu Shengyan found out about it himself. When Yu Shengyan asked about it, Shen Qiao just smiled, “I know the purpose of senior martial brother’s trip this time was to go on an errand for Master. Now, with my crippled body, I am already feeling guilty about not being able to help. How could I bother senior martial brother with even more troubles?”

When he was saying these words, his face was cold and pale, yet there was such a gentle smile on it that made him appear quite pitiful but lovely at the same time.
After all, Yu Shengyan was not Yan Wushi yet. His heart slightly softened, though it was still something rare for him.
“If you feel sick, just tell me. I’m not an unreasonable person, though we still need to make sure that we finish the task Master has assigned. Regarding the thing that Master wanted us to do, I’ve already inquired about it. Even though Yan Zhiwen is a disciple of the the Harmony Sect, his wife and children know nothing of martial arts. He himself can only be considered a second-rate expert within the sect. On top of that, the Yan family is unguarded, therefore I can easily finish it alone. However, since Master has required the elimination of his entire family, I will bring you with me when the time comes. After I kill Yan Zhiwen, I’ll fetch a woman or a child for you to finish off.”
This was obviously the first time that Shen Qiao was told about the actual task that Yan Wushi had assigned. He looked surprised. “May I ask senior martial brother what is the history of the Harmony Sect? And what exactly is our grudge against Yan Zhiwen?”

Yu Shengyan recalled that Shen Qiao still knew nothing at the
 moment, so he explained to him, “Our Cleansing Moon Sect, Hamorny Sect, and Mirror of Arts Sect all originated from the Sun Moon Sect in the Phoenix-Qilin Isle. Later on,  the  Sun Moon Sect was torn by dissension and disintegrated, splitting into these three sects. Normally, we should unite as one against other forces since we all share the same root, if it was not for the fact that we all wanted to reunify the Holy Sect [2] under our own banners, with the Harmony Sect being the most ambitious one. Their leader is called Yuan Xiuxiu, and the disciples there are just like her: happy to use their beauty as a means to achieve their goals. However, their martial skills are good, so if you ever run into them in the future, it would be better to stay away.”
“Yuan Xiuxiu also has an adulterer named Sang Jingxing, who was once a disciple of Cui Youwang.  This  shameless whore and her scumbag are partners in crime, scheming here and there all day long. During these  past  ten  years,  they even made several attempts to take over our Cleansing Moon Sect, taking advantage of the opportunity with Master in Meditation.”
Shen Qiao nodded: “But since Yan Zhiwen is only a second- rate master in Harmony Sect and also serves as an official of Qi, I guess he has never caused troubles to the Cleansing Moon Sect. Why did Master still decide to kill him?”

With a faint smile on his face, Yu Shengyan said, “Junior martial brother, after your injury, you are almost like a little white rabbit now! Yan Zhiwen’s status is quite special. As he is an official of Qi, very few people know that he actually belongs to the Harmony Sect. If we kill him, firstly we could use his death as an example to frighten our enemies. Secondly, after the Harmony Sect realizes that we know everything about them, they won’t dare to act rashly again. Thirdly, they have caused us so much trouble while Master was not here; now
 that Master has returned, if we don’t teach them a lesson, won’t others think that the Cleansing Moon Sect is just an easy pushover? Back then, after Cui Youwang’s death, the Cleansing Moon Sect was originally the most powerful sect among the three and also the one most likely to reunify the Holy Sect. It’s just that Master was injured later, so he had to escape the world and enter a Closed Door Mediation, thus giving Harmony Sect opportunities to exploit for their benefits.”
“What about the Mirror of Arts Sect? Have they ever caused us any trouble?”
“In fact, among these three sects, only the Harmony Sect has many hands and is thus more aggressive. The Mirror of Arts Sect is just like the Cleansing Moon Sect, with its disciples scattering everywhere, each doing their  own  task and not gathering together very often. Master informed only me after he came out from the Meditation, which was why I hurried over. As for you,” he hemmed, “of course it was because you were injured. Therefore, to sum up, it’s true that the three sects do not get along with each other, but Harmony Sect is the only one that has been constantly stirring up trouble, going too far with it.”
Shen Qiao sighed, “Every wrong has its cause, and every debt has its debtor. Since Yuan Xiuxiu is the leader of the Harmony Sect, why doesn’t Master deal with him directly? Even if he turns to Yan Zhiwen, his wife and children don’t belong to the martial world, so where is the need to get them involved?”
Yu Shengyan fiddled a bit with the fringe in front of the bed, not taking his words seriously. “Since this is Master’s order, let’s just follow it. What’s the point of asking so many questions? If you cut down the grass without pulling up the roots, they
 will grow back eventually when  the  next  spring  breezes come. In the same way, if we don’t kill Yan Zhiwen’s wife and children, should we just wait for them to come for revenge on us in the future?”
He stood up after finishing those words. “That’s enough. Anyway, this is not a business to hurry. There are still a few days left before the 7th. Meanwhile  you  should  get  some good rest. After you recover, I’ll find someone to accompany you so you can take a walk around the city. In my opinion, among all capital cities now, the extravagance of Ye City is nothing less than that of Jiankang [3]; besides, it also gives you a rather generous and vast feeling that Jiankang does not offer. Overall, it’s a city that’s well worth a look around, especially its red-latern district [4] …”
Yu Shengyan was only a little over twenty, but he was indeed an talented and romantic man. While keeping his identity a secret, he discussed poetry and literature in Southern Chen and made friends with famous scholars, which had earned himself quite some reputation as well. Right now, just as he was getting enthusiastic and about to go on, Shen Qiao’s condition suddenly came to mind. Even if Shen Qiao wished, he probably would not have the strength for it anyway. So he stopped himself short and gave Shen Qiao a meaningful smile: “Since you have amnesia now and don’t remember anything from your past, it’s alright. Anyway, the disciples in our Cleansing Moon Sect are mostly distinguished and charming men who live a life doing as they please. Thus, there will be plenty of opportunities in the future for you to slowly experience it.”

The identity that Yan Wushi used for traveling outside was a wealthy businessman with a last name of Xie, so the words written on the wooden plaque above the residence read Xie Residence.
Yu Shengyan was often not here, leaving Shen Qiao by himself.
 Shen Qiao treated everyone gently, yet he was suffering from shattered health at the same time, making the servants of the mansion unable to restrain themselves from being rather sympathetic towards him.
Especially those girls who were assigned as Shen Qiao’s personal servants. After only a few days, their relationship with him had become much closer already, telling him in detail of all sorts of scenes and local customs around the Xie Residence in order to divert his boredom.
Once he started to get better, there were a few times when Shen Qiao would ask them to take him out for a walk while he had time. Ye City was just like what Yu Shengyan had said: the streets were paved with white jade, and the roofs were covered with vitreous tiles. Since the Gao family of the country of Qi were sinicized Xianbei [5] people, their city walls, buildings, clothing and customs naturally retained the styles of their ancestors. Compared to the delicacy and elegance of the South, this city had a bit more of generosity and broadness to it. It was said that even for the same kind of wine, the ones sold in the taverns of Ye City would taste more mellow than the ones sold in the city of Jiankang.

The extravagant clothing, the beautiful women, the luxurious carriages they were sitting in… Though Shen Qiao was unable to witness this with his own eyes, he could still feel the prosperity and splendor of this capital city in the air, with a warm aroma mixed in with it, that filled every street and alley of Ye City.

The servant girl assisted his entry into the medicine shop. He sat down for a rest in the side hall, while the girl went in to fill the prescription.
The prescription was written for Shen Qiao. Right now, he was not much different from a pot for herbal medicine as he needed to take at least a large bowl of the decoction every day. Even though Yan Wushi had no intention to help him recover his martial skills, he did
 not let Shen Qiao stay half dead either. All the decoctions that he was currently taking were mainly for the purpose of recouping his vital energy, blood, and meridians while strengthening his bones and warming his yang at the same time.
As for the current state of Shen Qiao, his inner qi was completely empty, without even a single trace left. In addition to the amnesia, he should not expect to gain his martial skills back any time soon. However, the fact that he was able to move around smoothly at the moment was actually the result of these couple months of recuperation.
Since the servant girl needed to fill the prescription today, Shen Qiao came out along with her to breathe some fresh air. However, in spite of being blind and sickly, he still drew much attention merely by sitting there inside the medicine shop.
Shen Qiao’s countenance was pretty in the first place. Though it now looked a bit emaciated, his appearance and manner was not the least damaged. With an ordinary bamboo-green robe and only a wooden clasp instead of a headpiece securing his hair, he sat there at leisure, listening quietly as the servant girl talking to the manager of the medicine shop. A faint smile climbed up the corner of his mouth.
As if he was not worried that Shen Qiao would be recognized when he went outside, Yan Wushi allowed him to appear in public directly, without ordering Yu Shengyan to cover up his face.
The reason was that whether it was before or after Shen Qiao became the sect leader of Mount Xuandu, he rarely appeared outside of the mountain. It was said that not even all the disciples of Mount Xuandu were able to recognize their new leader. None of the several disciples who were more well-known to the public prior to that day ended up succeeding the position of the sect leader – Shen Qiao, who was still a nobody at that time, did. Perhaps, only the already ascended Qi Fengge knew the reason behind all of this.
 Secondly, on the day that Kunye had challenged Shen Qiao, the space on Half-Step Peak was so limited that it was barely enough for the two of them, and the audience had all gathered on Regret Peak directly across from it. With the distance between them, the others might not be able to remember Shen Qiao’s appearance well, not to mention that ever since his serious illness, his complexion was not as great as it was before.
But these were all conjectures that Yu Shengyan had come up with himself.
Privately, he even felt that according to his master’s temper, Shen Qiao was probably just an impulse, someone that could be tamed and play with.
“Mister, the prescription is filled. Shall we go?”

Shen Qiao nodded, and the servant girl assisted his walk out. When the two of them reached the entrance of the medicine shop, they heard someone saying, “This mister is so charming and handsome, yet somehow I’ve never met you  before.  May  I have your honorable name?”
The voice was not able to cover the surprise within it. The servant girl paused for a second; Shen Qiao then realized that it was addressed to him.

“My name is Shen Qiao.”

“So it’s Mister Shen.” The woman’s voice was clear and lively, pleasing to the ears. “Is Mister Shen a resident of the capital? Or perhaps I should ask which noble family do  you  come from?”
The servant girl whispered in Shen Qiao’s ear, “She is Han E’ying, the maiden of the Chief Servant Han’s family.”
The Chief Servant Han was not the chief servant of some family
 but the Palace Attendance [6] of Qi, Han Feng. He was a very illustrious man in the country, with his sons marrying the princesses, while he, along with Mu Tipo and Gao Anagong, were referred to as the “Three Nobles [7]” of Qi, together keeping the government under control. As the daughter of the Han family, Han E’ying naturally had the right to do whatever she pleased.
Shen Qiao smiled: “I’ve heard of Lady Han’s name since long ago. It’s just that my eyes are currently suffering from diseases, so please forgive me for not being able to see Lady Han’s elegant demeanor. I will definitely pay a visit to Lady Han’s residence some day after I recover.”

Han E’ying had also realized how his eyes had neither brightness nor emotions in them. Feeling slightly sorry for it, she thought to herself how pitiful that such a handsome young mister would happen to be blind. Then, with flagging interest, she said, “That’s all right. You should take a good rest then. Xiao-lian [8], go tell the manager to bring over some ginseng for Mister Shen to take along. Charge everything to me!”
Shen Qiao replied, “Thank you, Lady Han, for your present. Since it would be impolite to not return a favor one receives, I have something for you as well. Please kindly accept this small gift of mine.”
Han E’ying interests were slightly aroused: “Oh? What is it?”
Shen Qiao said, “Ah-miao [9], go bring that box in the carriage to me.”
The servant girl hurried off to bring over the box that Shen Qiao had just mentioned.
Even though Shen Qiao was blind, the way he spoke was gentle, and the style of his conversation was well-organized, with a kind of disposition that naturally made people fond of him. Even a noble
 daughter like Han E’ying, who would stop handsome men on street and flirt with them as she pleased, softened her tone unconsciously in front of him.
When the servant girl brought back the box, Shen Qiao and Han E’ying were just finishing their short conversation and bid farewell to each other. Han E’ying asked for Shen Qiao’s address, saying that she would visit his residence some other day, then got on her horse and left.
After he returned to the Xie Residence, Yu Shengyan, hearing about the event, clicked his tongue in surprise: “You have talents indeed. Going out just once, and you get to know someone like Han E’ying. She is the martial niece of Zhao Chiying of Jade Cloud Sect on Mount Tai. Her martial skill is just so-so, but she has a good father and a good sect that allows her to bully around the capital city.”
Shen Qiao smiled: “From what I experienced, she’s fine. I wouldn’t count it as bullying.”
Yu Shengyan laughed: “She’s a beauty indeed, but  it’s  too bad that her personality is simply unbearable. Not even one person in this capital doesn’t feel this way. Only you could say that she’s fine!”
Shen Qiao only smiled but made no reply. Translator’s Notes:
[1] Three Views: View of World/Worldview, View of Life, View of Value

[2] Holy Sect : An honorific way of addressing the Sun-Moon Sect by its disciples, while others usually refers to it as the Demonic Sect.
[3] Jiankang (建康): The capital of Chen Dynastyn.
 [4] Red-lantern District (烟花巷 yanhua xiang): A term referring to the red-light district in ancient China.
[5] Xianbei (鲜卑): were proto-Mongols residing in what became today’s eastern Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Northeast China. Along with the Xiongnu, they were one of the major nomadic groups in northern China since Han Dynasty. [Source]
[6] Palace Attendance ( 侍中 shizhong) : Supplementary title awarded to officials of the central government chosen by the Emperor as his confidential advisers. They sometimes also served as officers of the Imperial Bodyguard under 4 Directors of Palace Attendants, later rose to the position of Junior Grand Councilors. [Source] 
[7] The Three Nobles of Qi (齐国三贵 qiguo sangui): the name was taken from wiki. [Source]
[8] Xiao-lian: Xiao” literally means “little.” An affectionate way of calling people who are younger / lower in status than oneself. Often used to call children of younger generations or personal servants.
[9] Ah-miao: “Ah”, also spelled as “a”, is also an affectionate way of calling people. Can be used to call personal servants or as a nickname for other people one is in close relationship with.

Chapter 5

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
Here’s the regular chapter for the week! The first incident has come to a close, and SQ finally set out on his journey~ How does everyone like him so far? Also, two changes will be made regarding the future translation. Funing County will change to Funing District, and the martial world will change to the pugilistic world onwards. Enjoy the second chapter in a row!
Synopsis: Leaning against the wall, he appeared calm and peaceful, with no signs of fear.

About three days after the incident, the day came for Yu Shengyan to make his move.
Since the New Year had just passed not long ago and the Lantern Festival had yet to come, the entirety of Ye City, the capital of Qi, was enveloped in a jubilant atmosphere.
Yan Zhiwen’s official rank was not very high. In fact, the reason that the Harmony Sect had put him in this position was probably just to keep an extra eye on the court. Since his martial skills were only mediocre, and he left himself unguarded as well, with Yu Shengyan’s current level of skills, the task would be no more difficult than drinking a cup of water.
Nonetheless, Yu Shengyan still brought Shen Qiao along with him in accordance with Yan Wushi’s instructions and told him to wait
 outside the Yan Residence while he himself leaped straight onto the roof, moving towards Yan Zhiwen’s study in stealth.
According to the information he had obtained beforehand, despite Yan Zhiwen’s second-rate martial skills, he was a rather crafty man—the very reason he was able to obtain a position for himself in the Harmony Sect. Yu Shengyan’s assassination was only an act to warn their opponents, so he had not been paying much attention to this person until this point. Only after he entered did he realize that something was not right.

The servants were still here, and the guards occasionally patrolled around the outside of the residence. But whether it be in the study or the bedroom, Yu Shengyan could not spot a single trace of Yan Zhiwen.
Not only Yan Zhiwen, but even his wife and children seemed to have vanished into thin air as well.
Following the elusive and unpredictable style of the Cleaning Moon Sect, Yu Shengyan landed lightly inside the inner residence like a shadow. He stopped a servant and hit his mute acupoint [1] before the servant could even react, as if this was a dream.
“Where’s Yan Zhiwen?”

The servant’s eyes widened. He started to panic as he discovered that this handsome young man could bring him under control with nothing but a finger, but he was unable to make a sound.
Yu Shengyan smiled at him, “I will not kill you if you tell me where Yan Zhiwen and his family went. Alternatively, I can kill every single person inside this  residence  regardless  of you calling for help, do you understand?”
Frightened out of his senses, the servant nodded repeatedly.

Yu Shengyan slightly loosened his grip, then unlocked the servant’s
 mute acupoint.

The servant immediately replied, “The mistress and the young masters left two days ago. Master said that he was sending them to stay at their spare mansion by the hot springs for a while.”
Yu Shengyan sneered, “Even if his family is not around, don’t tell me that Yan Zhiwen has left together with them. The Court Meeting [2] will be held tomorrow, is he not coming back?”
The servant stammered, “When master left, he didn’t tell us the details, so we do-do-don’t know…”
He lost the patience to listen any further and knocked him out directly with his palm. Then he found the butler of the Yan Residence and threatened him for the whereabouts of the Yan family, but the answer he got was exactly the same.
Yu Shengyan was not stupid. By this time, he realized that Yan Zhiwen had probably already been informed beforehand that he was coming to kill him.
But this command was given by Yan Wushi. Besides him, the only person who knew about it was Shen Qiao—even the butler of the Xie Residence was not aware of it.

It was obviously impossible for Yu Shengyan to have walked around talking about it thereby blurting out this piece of news himself.
An ice-cold murderous intent spread across his mind. At first, he wanted to simply crush the larynx of the butler. After giving it a second thought, however, killing a servant was meaningless at this point since he had already failed to eliminate the entire Yan family. Instead, it could end up alerting their enemies and open themselves
 up for ridicule from the Harmony Sect. He knocked out the butler as well, turned around, and left the Yan Residence. Boiling with anger, he went to find Shen Qiao who was still waiting for him in the alley next to the residence.
“It was you who conveyed the message to Yan Zhiwen?”

Shen Qiao nodded, without any hesitation or denial, “You’re right.”
Yu Shengyan hated him for ruining his plan. The faint, careless smile that was usually on his face had faded long ago, replaced with a cold expression filled with killing intent. “Why?”
Shen Qiao said, “I know there have been grudges between the Harmony Sect and us, and since Yan Zhiwen belongs to the Harmony Sect, I don’t have a say if Master wants to kill him. But what guilt does a child have? If the purpose is to kill Yan Zhiwen, what’s the point in involving his wife and children?”
Yu Shengyan replied coldly, “Whether to kill his family is not for you to decide. The only thing I want to know is how you managed to deliver a message to Yan Zhiwen as a blind man with a feeble body, when you can’t even tell directions once you’re outside?”
Shen Qiao answered, “You once said that Yan Zhiwen was a crafty man whose suspicion could be easily aroused by the tiniest detail that didn’t seem right. There was angelica root
[3] in my prescription, so I managed to keep some of it. At first, I was going to find an opportunity to deliver it to the Yan Residence, but since I happened to run into Han E’ying that very day in front of the medicine shop, I decided to put what I wanted to give Yan Zhiwen inside the box and asked her to send it for me, using a return gift as an excuse. She just thought I was an acquaintance of Yan Zhiwen and thus
 didn’t ask anything else. I assume that Yan Zhiwen, after receiving the medical herb from me, probably realized that something was not right and therefore relocated all of his family beforehand.”
Yu Shengyan was extremely angry, to the point where it came out as a laugh, “I’ve really underestimated you. I  didn’t  expect you to be such a capable man!”
He reached out and took Shen Qiao by the throat, gradually tightening his grip, “You’ve ruined the mission given by Master. Do you know what the consequences will be?”
Shen Qiao was completely powerless against him. As it became difficult for him to breath, his complexion slowly turned ill, his chest heaving so rapidly that all he was able to stammer out was a disjointed sentence, “Actually… I’m not a disciple of the Cleansing Moon Sect, right?”
Yu Shengyan was caught off-guard and released his hand.

Shen Qiao immediately propped himself up against the wall and started coughing.
“How did you find out?”

Shen Qiao replied calmly, “Feelings. Even though I have lost my memories, my basic judgment is still there. Whether it is Master or Senior Martial Brother, the way you treated me didn’t feel like the attitude one would have towards their disciple or martial brother. Same for the servants at the spare mansion before, everyone was so cautious for fear of giving away something that they should not disclose. I have lost all of my martial arts and am nothing but an impediment to others, yet Master insisted on sending me to assist you. Also, I was injured so severely that it had already damaged the prestige of our sect, and yet all this time, no one
 breathed a single word on this subject even if it was due to my own incompetence. All of these are just unreasonable.”
Seeing that the other person did not respond, he continued, “Actually, the method I used could hardly be considered brilliant, since I was only able to get past the servant girls in the Xie Residence. Were you not completely looking down on Yan Zhiwen and had sent at least one person to keep track of him beforehand, he would not have been able to run away even if he wanted to.”
Yu Shengyan replied, “That’s right. Yan Zhiwen was nothing to me, and it’s true that I paid no attention to him, which provided you with this opportunity to seize. But do you know what the consequences would be if Master ever found  out about it? You saved a few strangers who had nothing to do with you, and they didn’t even know that you were the very reason they could escape death. Even if they did know, they still might not be grateful for you. Do you think this is worth it?”
Shen Qiao shook his head, “Whether it’s worth it or not, everyone has their own standard. The injustice has its cause, and the debt has its debtor. Involving innocent people was not something to be praised. There are some people and some things that, if I did not save them, or take action, despite having the ability to do so, would cause guilt to haunt me for the rest of my life. As for whether others know about it, or whether they are grateful for it, that’s their business.”
Yu Shengyan had never seen the past Shen Qiao before, neither did he know what he was like before getting injured. Ever since he woke up, Shen Qiao had spent about nine out of ten days lying on the bed, appearing sickly all day long. Except for that face of his, there was absolutely nothing of Shen Qiao’s that was worthy enough for
 others to take note of. Even though Yu Shengyan had never spoken any harsh words, he probably despised Shen Qiao deep inside his heart as well, as he felt that Shen Qiao was indeed too incompetent to have ended up in a situation like this despite being a Daoist sect leader with positive prospects.
Yet, at this moment, he was leaning against the wall, his countenance appeared calm and peaceful, with no signs of fear, vaguely revealing the bearings of the former great grandmaster.
Yu Shengyan sneered, “You are unable to even fend for yourself, how come you still have the time to care about other people’s lives or deaths? If you really embrace so much benevolence and kindness in your heart, why don’t you think about how it was us who saved you that day when you lost all of your martial arts and was thrown to the bottom of the cliff? Your corpse would have otherwise been left exposed in the wilderness long ago, and this is how you repay us?”
Shen Qiao sighed, “I shall return the kindness of saving my life with all that I can do, but these two things are not related.”
Yu Shengyan frowned slightly.

At first, this seemed to him a job that could not possibly be easier. However, Shen Qiao did not follow his expectations at all and even managed to secretly send messages to Yan Zhiwen under his very nose despite having amnesia. If the news was passed back, his master would deem him incompetent as well, unable to finish even a trivial task like this.
Since Shen Qiao’s status was special, he could not kill him. His only choice was probably to bring him back for Master to deal with.
As if he had sensed his mood, Shen Qiao even tried to comfort him instead, “Don’t worry. I will explain everything to the Sect
 Master so it won’t implicate you.”

Yu Shengyan replied sourly, “You should worry about yourself first!”
Shen Qiao gave him a smile, then he suddenly asked, “Senior Brother Yu, since I’m not a disciple of the Cleansing Moon Sect, may I ask if ‘Shen Qiao’ is still my real name?”
Yu Shengyan was silent for a moment. “It’s real.”

Shen Qiao asked again, “Then, who was I before I was injured? Is anyone from my family still alive?”
Yu Shengyan replied, “You can ask Master yourself when we go back.”
But they were not able to meet Yan Wushi after they returned.

Not long after they took off for Ye City, Yan Wushi left the spare mansion as well. It was said that he had gone to the country of Zhou.
“Did Master leave any messages before he left?” Yu Shengyan asked the butler of the spare mansion.
The butler replied, “Master intended for you to return to the bottom of Half-Step Peak to practice. As for Mister Shen, Master said that if everything went well during the trip, he could continue to stay here to recuperate. If Mister Shen had spoiled anything in Ye City and brought you any troubles, then he would need to leave here by himself and will not be allowed to take anything with him.”
Yu Shengyan was a little surprised, “Is this really what Master instructed?”
 The butler gave him a bitter smile, “How would a lowly one like me dare to fake it?”
At first, Yu Shengyan was worried about how to account for what had happened when they came back, but the matter unexpectedly came to an end in such an anticlimactic way.
He thought for a moment, then called Shen Qiao over and told him about the message that Yan Wushi had left.
Shen Qiao’s reaction was quite calm. “After all, I did bring you troubles and caused your failure to complete the task Sect Master assigned. The way that Sect Master handled it can even be counted as lenient already.”
Yu Shengyan knew his master well enough to realize that leniency had definitely nothing to do with this reception from Yan Wushi. He probably had other plans.
Shen Qiao was blind, and the situation outside was chaotic nowadays. Anything could happen out there. If he ended up being abducted by human traffickers and people found out that the sect leader of Mount Xuandu had ended up becoming an “abductee” one day, Mount Xuandu would probably be left with no face to lose. By that time, how would it still have the nerve to establish itself in the pugilistic world anymore?
Even though the way that Yu Shengyan handled matters was not as reckless and willful as that of his master, it was still impossible for him to disobey his master’s will just for Shen Qiao.
“If this was the case, then you should leave tomorrow morning. From here, there is Ye City in the north-eastern direction, and Southern Chen to the southwest. If you want to go to Jiankang, then you will need to head southwest, and it’s going to be a long journey too. You have been to Ye City already. In spite of its extravagance, disorder arises there
 frequently, and there are also a lot of refugees along the way. Hence, if you want to live a peaceful and steady life, Southern Chen would be a better choice.”
Shen Qiao nodded, then cupped his hand, “Thank you for telling me, Brother Yu. I want to ask for a favor, I hope you could please tell me my identity and origin so that I will have a place to go to.”
Yu Shengyan replied indifferently, “With things as such, telling you won’t matter anymore. Originally, you were the sect leader of the Purple Mansion of Xuandu on Mount Xuandu. During your battle with the number one expert in  Tujue, Kunye, you fell off the cliff and was saved by Master. But I advise you to not go back and claim relations with them in a hurry. Up till now, I’ve never heard anything about Mount Xuandu sending people out there in search of you.”
“Mount Xuandu…” Shen Qiao furrowed his eyebrows and repeated with a mumble. A vacant expression appeared on his face.
Yu Shengyan sneered, “It’s true that our Cleansing Moon Sect is a Demonic Sect in the eyes of the public, but we are honest villains. If we want to kill, then we kill and will make no qualms about telling it, unlike some of the orthodox sects whose deeds could not be more different to their claims! However, it’s up to you if you want to listen to my advice or not. If you end up losing your life, don’t blame me for not warning you beforehand!”
Shen Qiao fell into silence.

Early the next morning, the servants woke him up and kindly asked him to leave the mansion.
Besides a green bamboo stick, he had nothing valuable on him.
Not to mention money, there was not even a bite of rations.
 Yu Shengyan obviously did not leave him any leeway, truly intending to let Shen Qiao live or perish on his own in the outside world.
The morning sun bathed him in warmth along with the smell of spring, not making him uncomfortable at all.
He squinted his eyes, then shaded them with his hands.

In fact, he was now gradually able to perceive a certain amount of light from the outside. Despite it still being a blur, making his eyes prick, and even causing him to tear up after a time, it was still better than being greeted by nothing but pitch-black darkness after opening his eyes.
Shen Qiao turned around and glanced at the spare mansion.

Even though the Cleansing Moon Sect had not had the best of intentions since the very beginning, it could not be denied that they did, in fact, take him under their shelter and offered him doctors and medicines. These were benefits that could not be simply wiped away.
If he could meet Yan Wushi again someday, he would like to thank him in person still.
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Mute Acupoint ( 哑穴 yaxue): An acupoint that can make a person unable to make a sound once it is hit and can be unlocked on the same spot. Often appear in wuxia novels.
[2] Court Meeting (早朝 zaochao): A meeting held by the Emperor in the morning in the palace to discuss government affairs with court officials.

[3] Angelica Root (当归 dangui): A plant used in Chinese medicine. The characters of its Chinese name “当归” can be literally interpreted as “should return.” Shen Qiao used this layer of
 meaning to warn Yan Zhiwen about danger coming.

Chapter 6

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
Thanks for all the helps from my editors and quality checkers so I can push this chapter out in time! Well, we get to meet a new character this chapter, and I’ll spoil that this guy is quite involved in several parts of the story, so… Remember him! Now jump to your chapter XD.
Synopsis: Three donkey meat burgers.
More than two hundred years had passed since the Jin people’s migration to the South. After the uprising of the five barbarians, the territory distribution of the North gradually settled.

The two countries, Qi and Zhou, occupied the eastern and western regions respectively. The Emperor of Qi, Gao Wei, was a rather absurd man whose negligence in regard to national affairs caused Northern Qi to gradually decline in power, with refugees scattered around the country. While at the same time, Northern Zhou became more prosperous day by day under the leadership of its Emperor, Yuwen Yong, increasing its stability and affluence as well.

There was quite some distance from Funing District to the country of Zhou, with a lot of refugees along the way. If one were to set off on
 the road without being fully prepared, that would surely be the definition of “the heavens and earth answered to no prayers”.
Northern Qi had been experiencing a severe drought in the past year. There wasn’t much snow even during winter, extending the drought from the previous year to this year. Refugees could be seen everywhere along the road extending southwards from Ye City all the way to the border of Chen. It was said that in some places, people even started to exchange children to eat. After mulling it over in his mind, Shen Qiao felt that he would probably be the first to be captured and thrown into a pot if the situation were to ever turn cannibalistic, due to his poor eyesight and lack of fighting ability.
Since Funing District was located in the northern region and was relatively close to Ye City, there had been no severe disasters nearby and the situation was comparatively stable despite the lack of rain throughout the past year. The district town was quite big; the temple fair [1] was under way, making the town extremely lively with many people coming and going.

The two countries of Qi and Zhou were both located in the north, and Xianbei [2] customs prevailed in their early years. After a long period of time, the customs were gradually sinicized and as a result, their clothing and accessories incorporated Xianbei elements on top of the Han people’s sophisticated style. The upper-class nobility sought after elegant and exquisite attire, thus their clothes were often adorned with long ribbons on the side that would flutter in the wind and dangling pearls and jades that would rattle as one walked. This kind of pursuit had also influenced the masses, so members of wealthy families would also wear long dresses that reached the ground, while some others would wear hats and flowing dresses that mimicked foreign designs. During the course of the temple fair, this variety of patterns in clothing painted the picture of a “Little Capital” in this district town of Funing District.
The Duke Jiang Temple where the temple fair was held was built at
 a later time in respect to no one else but the Duke Tai, Jiang Shang [3]. The original Duke Jiang Temple was in the southern part of the city. It was said to have been first built during the Han Dynasty, however, after the damages caused by warfare, it had completely fallen into disuse, left with nothing but a dilapidated shell, and even the statue of Duke Jiang was nowhere to be found. This empty, shabby temple then became a shelter for beggars and paupers.
Recently, a new member had joined the group of people living here, a man named Chen Gong.
In the daytime, he worked a temporary job at a rice shop in the city, loading and unloading rice sacks off carts and doing other manual labor of this sort. Since the wage was low, he was unwilling to spend all of it on rent, so he would return to this shabby temple at night—a life quite free and pleasant for him. The only thing was that there were two other beggars living in the temple, making it unsuitable as a long-term dwelling; he had to carry his money on him all the time and even watch his food, so that they would not be snatched away when he let his guard down.

When he returned that evening, he immediately noticed an extra person inside the shabby temple.

A man in a greyish-white robe was sitting there.

Chen Gong subconsciously frowned at first. The space in the shabby temple was rather limited. With one more person here, it was like another part of his territory would be taken away.
 Then he noticed that the person had something wrapped in paper in his hands. He was eating from it slowly, one bite at a time, with his head lowered. A tasty smell wafted out from the paper wrap.
It was the enticing smell of donkey meat burgers. He could tell with a mere sniff. When his father was still alive, Chen Gong had eaten them a couple of times. But after his father passed away, his step- mother joined forces with her own children and cast him out of the house. As for the few coppers [4] he earned everyday from carrying rice sacks, he already hated how cutting them in half could not double their value, how could he afford to eat something like this?

At a second glance, Chen Gong saw another bulging paper wrap next to the person.

This meant that there was still one more donkey meat burger.

Chen Gong was not the only one who had noticed, the other two beggars appeared to as well, as one of them was already shouting, “Hey! Have you even asked us about living here? This temple is too small for so many people. Hurry up and get out!”

Chen Gong knew that they were picking a quarrel with him on purpose. Without saying anything, he walked straight to the spot where he usually slept and started to gather up the heap of straw, while his ears remained pricked and his gaze stayed fixated on the donkey meat burger out of the corner of his eyes.
 The grey-robed man said gently, “I have nowhere to go either. Seeing as this place still had some space, I thought about coming in for a rest. If this brother could kindly do me a favor, I’d be deeply grateful.”
The beggar said, “If you want to take a rest here, that’s fine too. Just give us everything you’ve got!”

Chen Gong sneered disdainfully, “I don’t need your belongings. If you can pay me with food, I’ll be willing to keep those two off your case!”
The beggar was enraged, “Eldest Chen [5]. We have done nothing to you, why can’t you just stay out of our way!”

Chen Gong was rather young. Being only sixteen, he did not have a very large stature, but his flexibility and endurance were outstanding, along with an almost cruel fortitude that was deeply rooted in the marrow of his bones. If not for these, he could not have gained the upper hand as a newcomer, seizing the largest “territory” within the temple.

“So what? Only you are allowed to talk, and I’m not?” Chen Gong replied lazily.

Even though the two were just beggars, the truth was that all of the beggars in the city had banded together while keeping in touch with one another. Counting on the fact that it was two against one, they figured that it might not be necessary for them to cower before Chen Gong.
 
The beggar did not bother with Chen Gong any further. Instead, he stood straight up and reached for the donkey meat burger by the grey-robed man. “Cut the crap! Just give me everything! You want to stay here? Well, it’s me, your Grandpa Lai, who gets to decide that!”

But before his hand could touch the food, someone had already grabbed him by the wrist. The beggar exploded with rage, “Eldest Chen! You’re poking your nose into other people’s business again! Is wanting to eat some food also getting under your feet?”

Chen Gong quickly picked up the donkey meat burger single- handedly. “I want to eat too. How come you didn’t ask me?”

Right after saying these words, he tore open the paper wrap and took a bite, then said triumphantly, “It’s my leftover already. Do you still want it?”

The beggar threw himself at Chen Gong, and the latter promptly tucked the paper wrap into his clothes. The two of them grappled with each other. The other beggar joined too, changing the two- person fight scene into a threesome. Chen Gong was neither more powerful nor any taller than the other two, but his secret to winning fights was that he fought at the cost of his life—in other words, very savagely.
 After trampling ruthlessly onto the stomach of one of the beggars, Chen Gong clapped his hands. Then, with his hands on his hips, he spit, “I’ve had enough of you two, picking on me all the time just because you were here first! Don’t think that I never noticed you secretly spit in my food before! You want more fights? Then come on! I have nothing to lose anyway. If worst comes to worst, the only thing I have to lose is my life. Bring it on if you dare!”
This recklessness was exactly what his opponent was terrified of. After hearing Chen Gong’s words, he glanced at his companion who was still sprawled flat on the ground, unable to get up, and immediately chickened out. Supporting his waist with his hands, he turned around and ran away at once.

Seeing that his comrade had already escaped, the other beggar did not dare to continue the fight either. He covered his stomach with his hands and stood up with a stream of painful groans, then lamely fleeing with some threats such as “you dumbass, just wait for me!”
Chen Gong took out the donkey meat burger that he hadn’t finished eating from inside his clothes and took another bite, then said in perfect contentment, “Not bad! Did you buy this from Li’s Shop in the southern city? The meat is indeed chewy, and it’s still hot as well. It almost burned my chest!”
For the sake of this bite of donkey meat, he felt that everything about that fight just now was totally worth it. In any case, those two had been unpleasing to his eyes for a long time now. It would be great if he could have this place all to himself in the future just by seizing this opportunity that he happened to come across today.
 Seeing that the grey-robed man was unresponsive, he asked again,
“Hey! I was asking you a question. Are you dumb?”

The other person raised his head. “Since you fought them off, are you not afraid that they’ll come back for revenge?”

By this time, Chen Gong had finally realized that there seemed to be some problem with the other person’s eyes. There was a dull look within them, and as the man looked at him, it felt like his focus was somewhere else.

After his gaze shifted to the bamboo stick next to the person, it suddenly became clear to him: ‘So he was not dumb, but blind instead.’

With a click of his tongue, he snorted, “Afraid? I’ve never been afraid of anything! Just look at them! What can they be capable of?”

Chen Gong looked the grey-robed man up and down. He was wearing crude clothing, with nothing rare about the material nor the style; the only thing on him that was worthy of a glance was his face.

Frankly speaking, instead of a homeless person like him, the person resembled a traveling scholar more.
 “What’s your name? You don’t look like someone in dire straits. Why did you come here then? Even rats aren’t willing to dig holes in this place!”

The grey-robed man nodded towards him with a smile, “My name is Shen Qiao. I ran out of money due to my sickness and was thus forced to come seek shelter in this place for a few days. I’ll head back home once I save up enough money for the journey. Thank you a lot for driving away those people for me just now. May I know how I should address you?”

What Yu Shengyan said was only a half truth, therefore he could not believe all of it. However, was it not for Mount Xuandu, Shen Qiao would have nowhere else to turn to. Hence, after thinking over it a few times, he still decided to first head to Mount Xuandu for a look.

Mount Xuandu was located at the border between Northern Zhou and Southern Chen. In order to get to it from here, there were two routes: one was heading all the way to the south and turning northeast after they entered the territory of Southern Chen, which was a very roundabout way, while the other was to travel directly south, which was closer and more convenient as well.

Shen Qiao chose the latter.

Although the world was in chaos, since Funing District had not experienced many disasters, it remained somewhat peaceful and affluent, a Pure Land that was hard to find in such a disordered world. Just like what Shen Qiao had said, he had no choice but to first straighten himself up a bit in this place due to the fact that he was
 now penniless.

His eyesight was recovering rather slowly, but at least there was some progress. During the daytime, when there was adequate amount of light, he could see some vague outlines. In comparison to the pitch-darkness back when he had just woken up, it was way better already.
Chen Gong sat down. “Whatever you like. My family name is Chen, and my given name is Gong. You can just call me Eldest Chen. I ate one of your donkey meat burgers just now, which can be considered your fee for staying here tonight. Since I also helped you drive those two away, including tomorrow’s share, you’d better give me a total of three donkey meat burgers tomorrow!”

Shen Qiao laughed, “Sure.”

Seeing how quickly he agreed, Chen Gong felt a bit suspicious, “Didn’t you say that you were out of money already? Then where do you get the money to buy donkey meat burgers?”

Shen Qiao replied, “I can always earn more!”

Chen Gong laughed at his words, “You? I’ve heard that scholars can be accountants or write letters for others, but how can you write when you can’t even see? Are you going to carry rice sacks like me? I’m telling you. Three donkey meat burgers, and not one short! Don’t you think that you can cheat your way out of this. Feel free to go and ask around, you’ll find that even though I, Eldest Chen, am good at nothing else, even demons would be terrified of me when it
 comes to fighting! If you can’t give me three burgers tomorrow, then just get out and eat the wind!”

Shen Qiao’s temper was good. After hearing Chen Gong talking like this, not only was he not angry, he even agreed to it with a smile.
The shabby temple was truly shabby, with drafts leaking in from all sides and not a single one of its windows were in good condition. But fortunately, there were plenty of pillars in addition to several altars that could be used to block the wind, and some stacks of hay and firewood that Chen Gong had carried and piled here himself—the former was used as a blanket to fend off the wind and the latter was burnt to warm himself. But all of these were for his personal usage. Now, considering Shen Qiao was willing to “make offerings” to him, Chen Gong reluctantly spared him some of his hay and firewood.

Seeing that Shen Qiao was, to his surprise, fully prepared, even bringing with him in his personal bundle a thick piece of old clothing to use as a blanket, Chen Gong could not help but to harrumph.

The two beggars had not returned since, supposedly having found new places to stay already. Without a trace of politeness, Chen Gong brought the clothes that they had originally used as blankets over. He sniffed at them, but they gave off a sour stink so he threw them away with pursed lips, then moved his body closer to the fire.

At first, he wanted to snatch Shen Qiao’s clothes as well, but after giving it a second thought, he felt that it would not be too late if he waited to give him a hard time when the other person failed to bring him “offerings” tomorrow.
 Having this thought in his mind, he fell asleep unwittingly.

Chen Gong was already awake early the next morning, planning to work at the rice shop as usual.

He looked around, but Shen Qiao was already out of sight, leaving behind only the heap of straw with the indent left by his bodyweight and a pile of black ashes that was what remained of the burnt wood.

Chen Gong did not care about it much and went to the rice shop to work as usual. He absolutely did not believe that Shen Qiao could really bring back three burgers today, since if he was to have the extra money, there was no need for him to live in such a shabby temple that even ghosts were unwilling to visit. Moreover, Shen Qiao was not only weak but also blind. What could he do to make money?

‘Don’t you come back empty-handed,  otherwise  I’ll  beat you to the point where even your mom can’t recognize you anymore!’

Chen Gong thought to himself while walking towards the shabby temple in the evening.
Before he stepped through the gate, he smelt a familiar scent.

It seemed like the sound of his footsteps had attracted Shen Qiao’s attention, as the latter raised his head and gave him a smile, “You’re back.”
 

“Donkey meat…” With a grim face, Chen Gong was only able to let out two words before he stopped short.

Because he saw three donkey meat burgers wrapped in paper piled neatly on the heap of straw where he slept.
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Temple Fair (庙会 miaohui): Also known as temple gatherings, a religious gatherings held by fold temples around Chinese New Year or birthday of the gods enshrined. Activities usually include rituals celebrated in the temple, opera on a stage facing the temple, processions of the gods’ images on carts throughout villages and cities, performance of musical and ritual troupes, blessing of offerings brought to the temple by families, and various economic activities. [Source: Wiki]
[2] Xianbei (鲜卑): Proto-Mongols residing in what became today’s eastern Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Northeast China. Along with the Xiongnu, they were one of the major nomadic groups in northern China during the Han Dynasty and subsequent dynastic periods. [Source: Wiki]
[3] Duke Tai, Jiang Shang ( 姜太公/姜尚/姜子牙): Also known as Duke Tai of Qi or Jiang Ziya. A famous historical figure in Chinese history who also appears in some of the legendary stories and mythologies. For detail check the wiki page. [Source: Wiki]
[4] Copper: Refers to 铜钱 (tongqian), also known as copper coins, or wen, the cheapest currency in ancient China.

[5] Eldest Chen ( 陈大/陈大郎): Literally means Chen the Eldest Son, as he was probably the eldest son in his family.

Chapter 7

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
Sorry I’ve been busy recently IRL, hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with the progress in the next couple weeks…;w; We’re all waiting for Yan to show up…
Synopsis: Do you want to be blind like me?
Chen Gong stood in a daze for quite some time before he could respond, “Did you bring these back?”

Shen Qiao nodded. “Didn’t you ask me to bring back three donkey meat burgers?”

Chen Gong noticed that the clothes the other person had been wearing was now replaced by a brand new blue robe. The grey one he had originally worn was now spread underneath as a bedding. The man remained clean and neat, the same way as before. He might have taken a bath and tidied himself up somewhere.

“Where did you get the money?” Chen Gong asked suspiciously. 
 

Shen Qiao laughed, “Through moral means, of course. Just take a look at my condition. Do you think I’d be able to steal or rob?”

Chen Gong grunted, “Who knows?”

Nevertheless, he still picked up a burger. It felt warm and soft as he touched it, obviously fresh out of the oven. He opened the paper wrap and readily took a bite. The burger was baked to a golden crisp; the gravy inside dripped out as the bun was bitten into, diffusing the surroundings with a mouth-watering aroma [1].

Chen Gong’s craving was so greatly aroused that he ate two of them in one breath. As for the remaining one, he didn’t want to finish so soon and, after a moment of thinking, decided to save it for breakfast tomorrow, so that he could eat it right before going to work.

He turned his head to look at Shen Qiao. The latter was still sitting there cross-legged, holding the bamboo stick in his hands. His eyes were lightly closed. Chen Gong was not sure whether he was just resting with his eyes shut or actually thinking about something.

“Hey, where are you from?”
 Shen Qiao shook his head: “I don’t know. I tumbled during the trip and injured my head. There are lots of things that I can’t remember.”

“If you don’t want to talk about it, then don’t! Why bother coming up with excuses! You think it’s  that  easy  to  trick me?” Hardly acknowledging it as an answer, Chen Gong lost interest in the conversation and laid straight down.

However, perhaps it was because he had eaten too much, Chen Gong tossed and turned but just could not fall asleep. He failed to hold back from opening his mouth again, “Hey! Seriously, where have you been during the day? How did you manage to make money?”

A soft voice came from the other side: “Fortune telling by bones.”

Chen Gong sat up towards him with a thump: “You know how to tell fortunes by bones?”

Shen Qiao was still sitting there, with his legs crossed, as he laughed, “I wouldn’t call it ‘tell’ really. Whether a person is rich or poor, there are always some clues on one’s hand. It’s just a small trick to get by.”

Chen Gong became interested, “Then why don’t you take a look at mine to see whether I’ll be rich in the future?”
 Shen Qiao replied, “Let me touch your hands.”

Chen Gong gave him his hands, and Shen Qiao ran his fingers through them for a moment. “You are used to carrying heavy objects, so you should have a temporary job in either rice shops or on the pier, right?”

“What else?” Chen Gong was not stupid. He knew that there were thick calluses on his hands and the other person must have made an assumption based on that.

“You are stubborn, with an unyielding  disposition  that won’t easily admit defeat. Yet, you are also somewhat skeptical; you must have fallen out with your family at  a young age, and it’s likely that you have a stepmother or a stepfather back at home.”

Chen Gong’s eyes widened in spite of himself, “Anything more?”

Shen Qiao smiled, “In troubled times like now, there are indeed many opportunities. With your temper, if you join the army, you might be able to achieve great accomplishments in the future.”

Chen Gong asked, “How did you figure out all of this?”

Shen Qiao explained, “You have a local accent, therefore it’s
 impossible that you are a refugee who fled here from other places because of the famine. Local residents usually have houses, unless something happened to your family. Considering your temperament, it’s more likely the situation that I’ve just said, that you fell out with your family. But even if you have fallen out with your family, if your  biological father or mother is still around, it’s unlikely that they will just sit by and watch you stranded outside in wind and rain. Therefore, it should be the case that either your father married a harsh stepmother or both of your parents have passed away when you were young.”

Chen Gong was finally somewhat convinced after hearing Shen Qiao patiently account for his reasonings one by one.

He asked again, “Then how do you know that I can make something of myself by serving in the army?”

Shen Qiao said, “You don’t want to be bullied by your stepmom, so you left home out of resentment  and  would rather live here. Also, you fought with the beggars for a donkey meat burger last night. It’s clear that you are someone who is ruthless to others as  well  as  to  yourself. With a temper like this, you should be able to adapt well to the military environment.”

Chen Gong harrumphed, “So, you simply look down on people like me after all, don’t you? Someone like me who can’t even fill their own stomach yet still plan to rob you. Talking in such a roundabout way only to make fun of me!”
 
Shen Qiao laughed, “Having experienced misfortunes like this myself, how could I make fun of other people? Didn’t you ask me about fortune telling by bones just now? I’m just using you as an example to explain. It’s quite accurate, isn’t it? Even though you can’t make a lot of money with it, at least it’s enough for a meal.”
Chen Gong said, “Since you make it sound all pretty like you know about everything, then why are you still so down-and- out? Did you get robbed by bandits somewhere on the way?”

Shen Qiao replied, “I guess you could say that, since I can’t remember it myself. Sometimes my brain works  just  fine, while other times not so well. Many things appear to me only as vague memories. Fortunately you let me stay here, otherwise I really don’t know where to spend these nights. In fact, I still have to thank you very much for it!”

After such flattery, Chen Gong felt much better that even the three donkey meat burgers that he had received seemed like a matter of course to him, as if he had really defended Shen Qiao.
“Well then, three burgers for tomorrow still!  Don’t  you think that you can get away with it just by chatting with me for so long!”

“Alright.”
 When Chen Gong returned to the shabby temple the next evening, there were three donkey meat burgers in the same place as before. On the other side, Shen Qiao also had one in his hand. He was eating it in such a composed manner that it seemed like he was eating some kind of exotic delicacy rather than a donkey meat burger.

‘What an affectation!’ It was hard for Chen Gong, who was in his rebellious years, to not make a humph in his mind, as he turned his head to open the paper wrap, then took a bite ferociously.
The next evening when Chen Gong came back, there were again three burgers just as before. Even though Shen Qiao answered every question Chen Gong asked and was extremely good tempered, Chen Gong simply felt that they did not belong together, and their conversations were disagreeable to him as well. What the other person said was rather unintelligible to him, while his ferocity and bullying were ineffective on Shen Qiao. Like punching a pile of cotton, even though he was the one showing off his power, in the end, the sullen one was also himself.

His intuition told him that Shen Qiao was not a simple man, not only because of his clothes, which remained clean and neat all this time, nor his gentle and frail appearance that resembled much of a scholar–it was a gut feeling that was hard to explain or to understand.

Even though both of them had to live under the shelter of this shabby temple, somehow he just felt like he was inferior in front of the other.
 Chen Gong did not like this feeling, therefore he did not like Shen Qiao either.

This place was extremely cold at night, with winds passing through all sides of it. Apart from the two living men, rats would probably be the largest population in here. His shoes were worn out, and something might have bitten his toe. Chen Gong cried out an “Ouch!”, but, unwilling to get up just to vent his anger on a rat, he simply curled up more tightly.

Besides the whistling wind, there seemed to be sound of footsteps coming from outside.

But on a hellish windy night like this, who would come to such a shabby place?
Chen Gong was about to doze off when he suddenly heard Shen Qiao’s voice: “Someone is coming.”

Right as he opened his eyes, he saw a few figures slipping in sneakily with clubs and staffs in their hands. The two leading ones looked awfully familiar. He scrutinized them again–they were clearly the two beggars that he fought off the other day.

A shiver ran through Chen Gong and it instantly woke him up completely. He quickly got up on his feet: “What do you want?!”
 One of them laughed, “Eldest Chen, ah, Eldest Chen. Weren’t you acting all haughty that day that you even threw us out? We’ve called the Beggar Sect bros in the city today. Let’s see if you still dare act arrogant!”

Chen Gong spit on the ground. “What Beggar Sect?! A bunch of beggars hanging out together and you are shameful enough to call it the Beggar Sect?”

The other person shouted angrily, “Still talking shit even at death’s door, huh? Don’t beg for forgiveness later! Bros, this brat was the one that took our territory! Oh, there’s also a newcomer on the side. He has money on him. Let’s take them down together, collect their stuff and get everyone some drinks with it!”

Even at a glance, Chen Gong was obviously penniless. If he had money on him, at most it was probably just enough for a few buns. However, the other person was different, with how clean and neat his clothes looked. Those clothes alone, after they rip it off him, would probably sell for at least a few dozen coppers.

Five or six figures pounced on Chen Gong all at the same time. While Chen Gong did have brutal powers and a ruthless fortitude, he was still just a teenage boy less than twenty, who would not even be considered bulky. The other party was much more powerful with the number of people they had, and he was knocked down after only a few exchanges, receiving heavy blows on both his face and body. Even though they had no intention to take his life, they still beat him with all their might that even the corner of Chen Gong’s mouth
 started to bleed. He had no other choice but to try to protect the vulnerable parts of his body as much as he could from their attacks.

The beggars savagely searched all of Chen Gong and found only thirty wen [2] in the end. One of them spit and then complained, “What bad luck! He’s such a pauper! Eldest Lai, didn’t you say he had at least fifty wen on him?”
Eldest Lai smiled apologetically, “Maybe he spent it all? Look, isn’t another one right there?”
The group all cast their eyes toward Shen Qiao and found him still sitting there quietly. Holding a bamboo stick in his arms, he did not move at all, as if he was frozen from fright.

One person asked suspiciously, “How come it seems to me that something’s wrong with his eyes? Is he blind?”
Relying on the number of people he had, Eldest Lai shouted at Shen Qiao, “Hey! Give me your money! And we, your grandpas, shall spare you from a beating! You hear me?”

Shen Qiao shook his head, “I earned all of my money through hard work. I can’t give it to you.”

Eldest Lai sneered, “Yoho? You got some bones! That’s fine, you can keep it then. You wouldn’t even give us a donkey meat burger two days ago. Today, your grandpas will make you bleed money!”
 They pounced upon Shen Qiao together, the same way as they did to Chen Gong.

They weren’t taking this weak-looking scholar seriously at all.

Eldest Lai was the fastest. He punched directly at Shen Qiao’s face, while trying to grab the edge of his opponent’s robe with the other hand.

According to his posture, the fist should have arrived first, followed up by his opponent toppling backwards onto the ground, so that he could throw himself on top of the other person and sit on him.

A searing pain suddenly emanated from his wrist!

Before he could realize what had just happened, he was hit once again on his waist, making him involuntarily fall onto his side, knocking over the comrade next to him. Bumping into each other, the two of them ended up twisted into a lump.

There was no light inside the shabby temple. On a windy night like this, the moon was vaguely visible, occasionally covered by passing layers of clouds.

No one was able to see clearly how Eldest Lai fell down, therefore
 none of them stopped their rush–they were still throwing themselves at Shen Qiao.

Yet, within a few smacks, several more fell onto the ground, one after another.

“What kind of sorcery is this?” Eldest Lai was unwilling to give up. He shouted as he recovered his balance and tried to jump on Shen Qiao.

Shen Qiao’s eyes were recovering rather slowly. During the night, when the light was dim, all he could see was a blurry block of shadow. In a moment of carelessness, he was shoved to the floor by Eldest Lai. A punch immediately landed right on his chest, the pain of which caused a sharp intake of cold air.

Pulling it off with only one blow, Eldest Lai went straight to seize the bamboo stick in Shen Qiao’s hand. However, his waist suddenly went numb. The bamboo stick from the other person poked towards him, though as simple as it seemed, he just couldn’t grab it as he reached out his hand, and ended up getting poked firmly on his nose bridge. Crying out of pain, he covered his nose with both hands and fell to the side. The blood that flowed from his nose streamed out between his fingers.

No one could have expected that this situation would take such a turn. Shen Qiao was striking here and there alone with his stick. His moves seemed completely random, yet the beggars were unable to
 come close to him at all. Instead, they soon fell apart under Shen Qiao’s offense, wailing all over the temple.
Shen Qiao said coldly, “I’m showing mercy to all of you already, yet you are still not leaving. Are you waiting for me to stab your eyes, so that you will be blind like me?”

His voice was light as a feather, yet amidst the howling of the wind, it sounded particularly horrifying, as if it was coming from a ghost.

Eldest Lai and the others did not dare to stay any longer. They jumped on their feet and ran out immediately. This time, they did not even dare leave any ferocious parting shots. Wetting their pants in terror, they disappeared in a flash.
“You should just stab their eyes and make them blind!” Chen Gong complained resentfully, “There’s no need to be polite to those kind of guys!”

Shen Qiao was supporting himself with the bamboo stick and did not respond. One could vaguely see his shoulders moving up and down, as if he was panting lightly.

Chen Gong had finally realized at this moment, that since Shen Qiao could even fight off all of those beggars, he himself would be nothing more than a piece of cake. Luckily, the other did not bother with him giving orders about this and that before, otherwise…
 A panic slightly seized him after these thoughts, that even his tone became more courteous as he uttered, “Hey! Umm, Shen Qiao? Mister Shen? Senior Shen?”
Right after his words, the other person suddenly slid down along the pillar behind and collapsed to the ground.
“…”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Mouth-watering Aroma: Original words was 焦香, a burned aroma.
[2] Wen (文): Unit of money, the coppers mentioned above.

Chapter 8

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
Super Super Busy… So please excuse me for the occasional lay releases ;w;
Synopsis: The current Shen Qiao is not the whole Shen Qiao.
When Shen Qiao woke up, he saw an old beam above his head.
Rotting for years, it seemed ready to fall down at any moment.

Someone next to him was shaking him by his shoulders.

Unable to determine where he was at the moment, he murmured subconsciously, “Junior martial brother, stop it.”
“Who’s your junior martial brother?” Chen Gong was not in a good mood. “You slept for a good two days! I spent all of my money paying for you, but it was still not enough, so I took yours for now. Even that was only just enough for three days. If we can’t pay by tomorrow, they’ll drive us out! Then we have to go back to living in the shabby temple!”
Shen Qiao answered with an “oh” and spaced out for quite some time, staring at the beam across the roof with blank eyes. Chen Gong had no idea what he was looking at.
 It irked him to see Shen Qiao acting in such a way, as if nothing in this world concerned him. He could not help but to give Shen Qiao’s shoulder another push. “Say something at least! Stop staring! We are now staying in an inn! I was afraid that they’d come back for revenge, so I moved you out of that shabby temple. I even invited a doctor for you. The doctor said that your qi was … umm … stag-something and there was …. errmm … some kind of coldness inside your body–a very difficult situation anyway–and wrote a lot of prescriptions. I even spent all of my money on them!”
Shen Qiao composed himself and replied, “Tell him to stop prescribing medicine. They are useless. It’s my body, so I know, it’s not something that can be cured in such a short time.”
“What’s the use of saying that now? I already brought the medicine back. Do you think it’d be possible to return it?!”
“Oh, then forget about it.”

Chen Gong switched to a half-squatting position, bringing himself to Shen Qiao’s eye level. “Hey! Since your skills are so  good, how about we go perform martial arts on the streets for a living? Or we might as well join the Six Harmonies Association. There is a Sub-Hall of their sect right here in this district. With your martial arts skills, there’s no doubt you’ll find a good position. You can bring me in together with you at that time…”
Shen Qiao asked, “What is the Six Harmonies Association?”

Meeting Shen Qiao’s vacant and innocent eyes, Chen Gong had no choice but to hold back his temper and explain patiently, “It’s a sect that does business on both land and water. Their main business on land is the convoying of goods. I’ve heard  that they gather information for others as well. In short …
 Anyway, it’s this big sect that’s really amazing! I got to know about this only because I happened to hear other people talking about it. What do you think? Let’s go join the Six Harmonies Association! Then you won’t have to go fortune telling everyday, and I won’t need to carry rice sacks either!”
By the end of his explanation, he had already grown excited.

Shen Qiao shook his head. “I have told you before that I can’t remember much. That move last night was nothing more than a flash of intuition. Not to mention that my eyes are bad, what job can I get even if I go? It would be better to stay quiet and continue to make money here.”
This sentence was like a bucket of cold water dumped on Chen Gong–even his smile was completely washed away.
Although Shen Qiao was unable to see clearly, he could still sense the boy’s dismay. “You are still young. Don’t dwell on how to accomplish things with just one move. We are not people in the pugilistic world. Hastily joining a martial sect like this without knowing its rules and customs, don’t you find it inappropriate?”
Chen Gong was very unhappy. “I don’t know what is ‘inappropriate’. I only know that the money I make from carrying rice sacks everyday is not enough to even pay for our rent. Filling the prescription costs money. Food also costs money. Sure! You are the noble and virtuous one! But will money just come to us out of nowhere? It’s not like I steal or rob. Don’t make it sound like I have nothing else to  do besides dreaming about money falling on my head everyday… Hey! Hey! What’s wrong? Don’t freak me out! All I did was to chide you a little!”
 Holding his head with both hands, Shen Qiao waited till the burst of pain had passed before he slowly said, “I won’t go to the Six Harmonies Association. I’m going to Mount Xuandu.”

Chen Gong asked curiously, “Mount Xuandu? Where is that?”

Having grown up in the Funing District without ever receiving an education, his knowledge was quite limited. The reason that he had heard of the Six Harmonies Association was that it had a Sub-Hall right in this district. As for the other sects, he knew little of them.

For him, the pugilistic world was just too far out of reach.

Shen Qiao shook his head without a word and started spacing out again.
Chen Gong complained snappishly, “Hey! Say something at least! I used my own money for the doctor and your medicine! Don’t tell me that you’re not going to pay me back!”
Shen Qiao assured, “I will set up a fortune telling stall in the next few days just like before. It won’t take long before I can pay you back.”
Seeing that he had zero interest in turning to the Six Harmonies Association, Chen Gong could not help but to feel dispirited. Having nothing but the little strength he gained from carrying rice sacks, who would even spare him a glance without Shen Qiao?
“What kind of place is Mount Xuandu?”
 “A mountain.” “…”
He was so pissed off that he almost thought that Shen Qiao would be the death of him, “Bullshit! Of course I know it’s a mountain! I’m asking you why you would want to go there!”
“I don’t know either. Someone said that I came from there, so I want to go back to see.”

“Where is that mountain?”

“Near the tri-border between Qi, Zhou, and Chen.”

Chen Gong was shocked, “THAT far? Then how did you end up here, all the way from there?”

Shen Qiao felt a bit of helplessness as he explained again, “Didn’t I tell you before? I forgot a lot of things. Even now, I still haven’t recalled them all yet. If I knew the reason, why would I still say something like going back to check?”

Chen Gong thought for a moment and suggested, “How about this? I’ll go together with you. You don’t have to pay me back either, as long as you can teach me a few moves so that I can bring down six or seven guys like you. After we arrive at Chen Dynasty, I’ll go join  the  Six  Harmonious  Association, and you’ll go to your Mount Xuandu. What do you think?”
 
Shen Qiao asked, “Funing District is your hometown. This is a peaceful place that is rarely exposed to warfare, somewhere distinctly different from the outside world. I’m heading all the way to the west. The closer we get to the border between Qi and Zhou, the more chaotic it will become. I have no other choice, but why should you go on such a dangerous journey?”
Chen Gong kept a straight face as he answered, “Both of my parents are dead, and my house was taken by the children of my stepmom. Rather than staying here, carrying rice sacks in Funing District, it’s better for me to go find a way to make a living out there. Didn’t you say that I’m suitable for joining the army? Then at least I have to get to places where wars break out often and soldiers are urgently needed in order to join one, right? I don’t want to live my whole life like this, being a coward so useless that even beggars can bully and look down on me!”
Shen Qiao fell into silence for a moment. Then he conceded, “Fine then…”
His sentence had barely started, but Chen Gong had already knelt down right before his bed with a plop. “Esteemed Master, please accept this bow of respect from your disciple!”
“…” The corner of Shen Qiao’s mouth twitched a bit, as he was torn between crying and laughing. “You may get up. I don’t take disciples, and I can’t take disciples. As for the moves I know now, since I might not be able to remember them completely, I can only teach you the ones I do recall at most. I don’t even know myself whether they are effective, so there’s no need to take me as your Master.”
 Hearing these words, Chen Gong quickly got up and said outright, “Alright. But you’re older than me, so I’ll call you ‘elder brother’ from now on. If someone bullies me  again,  you’ll have to step up for me!”

Shen Qiao only smiled. Without replying, he spaced out again.

Chen Gong looked at him speechlessly for a moment. Seeing that he showed no sign of snapping out of it, he had no choice but to turn around and leave for now.


Shen Qiao had been seriously injured during his fall from the cliff. It was true that his condition was utterly dangerous back then, since all of his bones were broken, but these injuries had more or less recovered during the three months of recuperation in the spare mansion.

The parts that were truly damaged all the way to the fundamentals were his internal organs and martial arts, with the latter almost completely vanished during that accident. Since he was left with nothing at the moment except fragmented memories and a half- crippled body, recovery was easier said than done.

Were it to happen to any other people, this would be a blow not much less compared to a thunderbolt. However, during the time when Shen Qiao and Chen Gong stayed together, Chen Gong was the
 one actually getting mad most of the time.

The two of them did not go back to the shabby temple. Instead, they bargained with the innkeeper for a good price and rented straight for a month. During the month, Shen Qiao continued his fortune telling in front of Duke Jiang Temple; Chen Gong carried on with his temporary job of carrying rice sacks, while at night he would study martial arts under Shen Qiao. His foundation and aptitude were good, so after a month, his moves actually resembled those of a real martial artist. But without the help of inner qi, it was just an empty shell after all–enough for handling normal bullies and rogues but useless if he were to run into real martial artists.

When the month ended, Shen Qiao and Chen Gong left Funing District and set out on a journey to the west.
Ever since he had left the spare mansion, Shen Qiao had not seen Yu Shengyan and the others again. Even though Funing District was not far from the spare mansion he had previously lived in, at the fortune telling stall he set up at Duke Jiang Temple, all that he heard and saw everyday was market activities which could not possibly be more mundane and commoners who could not possibly be more ordinary.

The martial world seemed extremely far away to him, so far that sometimes Shen Qiao felt there was no need for him to go to Mount Xuandu. Spending the rest of his life in Funing District would not be a bad choice actually.

Nevertheless, the occasional faint tightness in his chest , the
 stabbing pains in his bones, which were just reconnected not long ago, during cloudy and rainy days, the past that flashed across his mind, and the inner qi that roamed all over his limbs and bones from time to time, all reminded him– the current Shen Qiao was still not the whole Shen Qiao.

To the west of Funing District was Huai Prefecture. It was a large prefecture and was also close to Zhou, thus the security there was tight. Since the Regional Inspector [1] of Huai Prefecture was usually directly appointed by the Emperor, in addition to Inspecting Censors frequently coming over for inspection tours, the area was often under martial law.
The world had stayed divided for a long time already, but the countries issued no prohibitions on border trades between each other. Yet the Regional Inspector of Huai Profecture, Shen Buyi, was the only one who handled matters strangely. After he took office, he immediately ordered closure of all mutual trade districts along the border between the two countries and that merchants who were caught participating in the mutual trades would be severely punished without exceptions. He also reported to the Emperor, claiming that the mutual trade districts were easily accessible means for the spies of Zhou to sneak in and investigate the layout of the border defense of Qi. He even suggested to close mutual trades in other regions of Qi as well. Even though the Emperor of Qi, Gao Wei, did not adopt his proposal, he still highly praised Shen Buyi’s loyalty and even issued a decree in recognition of it.
Not only did Shen Buyi overextend himself in government affairs, he also excessively fawned on the high officials and nobles of Qi. As a result, often someone from the Emperor’s inner ministerial circle would speak on his behalf, which was the very reason he was able to ascend from a petty District Defender, all the way to the Sir Governor
[2] now of an entire prefecture, striding on the road of success.
 Considering the high expenses if they were to enter the city, Chen Gong and Shen Qiao decided to put up in the monastery outside the city instead, and then enter the city to resupply the next day. This way, they could leave the city and be off on the road again by afternoon.

The name of the monastery was Beyond Clouds Monastery. It was called a monastery, though in fact it was not much better than the shabby temple they stayed previously in Funing District. There were only three monks in it: an old monk who was the abbot, and two little monks that were adopted by him.

The monastery was rather humble with only two side rooms. One of them was for the elder abbot, while the other one was for the two little monks. Besides these two rooms, a common sleeping quarter
[3] was all it had.

Chen Gong was used to living a hard life. In that shabby temple in Funing District, not to mention common sleeping quarters, there wasn’t even a blanket. So for him, the current condition here was already great. Shen Qiao was rather easy going and took things as they came, thus he naturally had no complaints.

Only after they entered the common sleeping quarter, did they find out that another group had arrived before them. It was a group of four young men, and they had two huge chests inside the room with them.
 Chen Gong held a hostility and wariness towards strangers, therefore it was not likely for him to open his mouth just to scrape up an acquaintance with them. Shen Qiao’s eyes were not good; even if he wanted to greet them, he could barely see clearly what they looked like. The four people had no intention for a closer relationship either. They sized Chen Gong and Shen Qiao up and down inconspicuously, and after seeing their unsteady steps [4] and plain clothes, they paid no further attention to them.

Not long after, the two little monks came over, carrying their beddings in their hands.

With two additional people, the common sleeping quarter that was not very big in the first place, appeared even more crowded.

Displeased from deep down, Chen Gong was unable to hold back his mutterings: “Six people is already a lot, yet now there are two more!”

The little monk heard it and whispered to him, “Benefactor, there was a young lady among the benefactors over there. Since it would be inconvenient for her to rest in the same room with us, we left the side room to her. After all, to help others is to help oneself.”

Women would certainly stay seperated by themselves, so Chen Gong could not say anything else in spite of him not feeling happy about it. By then, he noticed that those four people all carried weapons on them, he dared open his mouth even less. However, as he stole a glance from the corner of his eye, he seemed to have
 discovered something all of a sudden and was incessantly excited. Taking the opportunity when leaving for dinner, he pulled Shen Qiao closer and whispered, “Did you see? Those guys are from the Six Harmonious Association! I saw the symbol of the association on their clothes and those chests! It’s exactly the same as the one in Funing District!”

Shen Qiao responded with a smile, “Since my eyes are not good, how could I see?”

Chen Gong’s excitement was not affected in the least. “If I find a chance to strike up a conversation with them, and they end up feeling pleased with me, do you think that they will agree to let me join the Six Harmonious Association?”

Shen Qiao knew that Chen Gong yearned wholeheartedly to join the Six Harmonious Association. Even after they had traveled such a long distance, his original intention had not changed.

He slowly responded, “I think it would be the best for you to not try.”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Regional Inspector ( 刺史 cishi) : a regular supervisory post intended to provide disciplinary surveillance over personnel in all units of territorial administration in a geographically prefixed Region.
[2] Sir Governor ( 使君 shijun) : An honorific title given to the officials of a region.
 [3] Common Sleeping Quarter (通铺 tongpu): basically a big wide wooden plank bed that allows multiple people to sleep together on it side by side.
[4] Unsteady Steps: An expression indicating they have no inner qi in them.

Chapter 9

Quality Check: Puissansa First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
Sorry for the delay of updates. I should be back on track soon. This is more like a transitonal chapter, but ML will come in two chapters~ And man, I suck at action scenes.
PS: I know the first couple chapters seem to be a little confusing without a prevailing main story, and I think it’s partly because, first of all, Shen Qiao has lost his memory and is still recovering from it, so he himself is not really sure what to do either. He just started to remember things after the fight in the temple, and then decided to travel down to find his memory back. Secondly, even though this is tagged as a BL novel, relationship does not seem to be the main focus of the story. It is rather a story of character developments in a big wuxia setting.

So just a head-up for people who wants to get to the main story quickly. The male lead will come out again in chapter 11, and they really start to interact around chapter 14.
Synopsis: You’re blind! Chen Gong asked, “Why?”

Shen Qiao explained, “I saw that they weren’t bothered with you when you were trying to scrape together an 
 acquaintance with them just now. Also, they stayed perfectly silent when we were present. So, it’s clear that  they  are either guarded against us or unwilling to talk  to  us.  No matter which one it is, I’m afraid that your wish will die on the vine.”

Chen Gong was quite unhappy, although he had to admit that what Shen Qiao said was true. “Humph! I know these people all look down on people from the lower classes, like me. But there will be a day that I, too, will step on everyone else and make them kneel before me!”

Shen Qiao knew that the sore point in Chen Gong’s heart was from what he had experienced while growing up, and that there was no way for it to be remedied by just a few words from him. So he stopped trying to talk him around.

Beyond Clouds Monastery was so humble that even its vegetarian food could not have been simpler: a bowl of white rice congee and a couple of small side dishes. The side dishes were pickled by the monks themselves though and tasted pretty good.

Shen Qiao ate rather slowly, but Chen Gong was fast. He couldn’t strengthen his relationship with the people from the Six Harmonies Association, so he was in a bad mood. He only shoved down a few mouthfuls hastily before going back to the side room.

Not long after he left, two of the people staying in the same room
 with them also came in for dinner.

Although Shen Qiao was able to perceive some light now, he still couldn’t see things clearly. Besides, his eyes would hurt if he stared for too long, so he simply kept them mostly closed and would only use them if he had no other choice.

At the moment, he vaguely saw four figures – two of which seemed to be women judging from their dresses. They walked towards him and sat down at another long table.

Shen Qiao had some idea about the situation. He knew that the Six Harmonies Association must be escorting some cargo that was quite important in this trip. Therefore, instead of all four of them coming here for dinner together, they had to leave two people in the side room to guard it. These two women were actually the two ladies who borrowed the little monks’ room.
He did not interfere in their business. After finishing his congee by feel, he reached for the bamboo stick next to him.

Bang! The bamboo stick slid to the side and fell on the ground.

Shen Qiao frowned slightly. His hand hadn’t touched the stick yet, so it was impossible for it to fall over just like that.

“I ran into it accidentally. Please excuse me, Mister,” a woman said softly as she bent over to pick up the stick and handed it over to Shen Qiao.
 
“No worries,” Shen Qiao took the stick. Nodding in her direction, he got up to leave.

The woman continued, “Since every encounter is the result of fate, is it possible for me to have Mister’s honorable name?”

“My family name is Shen.”

“Is Mister Shen going into the city?”

“Yes.”

“There are a lot of taverns and inns inside the city. Why did Mister choose such a shabby monastery to stay the night instead of finding a place after entering the city?”

She was obviously probing for Shen Qiao’s identity. If it was any other person, they would surely ask her back, “Aren’t you also staying here? Who are you to mind other people’s business?” But Shen Qiao was good-tempered and so he still answered, “We don’t have enough money and lodging inside the city would cost even more. This way, we can enter the city early tomorrow morning and don’t need to spend the night inside.”
 His voice was quite pleasant to the ears. There was something in him that naturally gave off a good impression to others; something that made people want to befriend him. It was hard for anyone to ignore him – despite his rough clothes – and even harder to regard him as the same type of person as Chen Gong.

Therefore, when these two people – who were totally incompatible in terms of style and manners – came together to travel on the same road as companions, it inevitably led to others suspecting them and testing them with words.

However, they were indeed ordinary people who did not have the least bit of martial arts.

His answer was reasonable and fair. Yun Fuyi could not find any flaw in it, so she gently apologized, “Please forgive me for being presumptuous. My family name is Yun, Yun Fuyi.”

Shen Qiao nodded, “Please enjoy your meal, Lady Yun, as I will excuse myself first.”

Yun Fuyi replied, “Mister, take care.”

Shen Qiao felt his way with the stick and walked towards the door.
 Looking at his receding figure, Yun Fuyi slightly furrowed her eyebrows, but said nothing.
Hu Yu, who was sitting by her, suggested, “I’m afraid that it was not a coincidence that these two people showed up here at this time. The other boy is not a big deal, but this Shen guy – he seems blind, but why would a blind man be walking around? Maybe he’s after the goods we are escorting.”

His twin elder brother, Hu Yan, rolled his eyes at him, “If you can see through it, do you think Vice Chairman can’t?”

Yun Fuyi explained, “I just tested him. He has no inner qi, nor has he heard of my name. It doesn’t look like he’s faking it. Anyway, let’s be careful tonight. At first, I thought it would be safer if we did not enter the city since there are too many people inside the city and people talk. But now it appears that this way might not work either.”

Hu Yu asked, “What kind of rare treasure is in the  cargo after all? Ever since we took off, two groups of people have tried to seize it already, one after another, and the robbers are getting stronger too. We still have to go down south for quite a long way from here to Jiankang. The only thing I’m afraid of is of something happening to the goods. Losing the item is a small matter, but ruining the reputation of the Six Harmonies Association would surely be a big thing.”

Even though they were not large in number, this group of people could be considered as the elites of the Six Harmonies Association.
 Just imagine, even Yun Fuyi, their vice chairman, came on the trip herself. How weak could they be?

Even so, everyone still dared not lower their guard.

Yun Fuyi shook her head, “Chairman gave a strict order. We must deliver it to Jiankang no matter what. He sent a message previously, saying that he would catch up with us and meet us in Luo Prefecture, then we will go down south together.”

Hearing that the chairman was not far ahead of them, both Hu Yan and Hu Yu felt a lot more spirited. They continued their discussion on what was in the two boxes that deserved such a serious attitude from the association.

The Six Harmonies Association’s branches could be found all over the north and south sides of the Long River, and they had conducted countless business transactions over the many years. Amongst the goods they had escorted, there were also treasures from the Imperial Palace; but even towards that kind of cargo, they had never seen the higher-ups attach such great importance.

Being escorted by the vice chairman in person and received by the chairman himself – this was the first time, ever.

Hu Yan and Hu Yu were disciples of the Dragon Gate Sect and they
 were also well recognized experts in the pugilistic world. In addition to that, they were also still young. Two groups of robbers in a row in no way dispelled their fighting spirits; on the contrary, it made the brothers even more eager to face the challenge.

Unlike them, Yun Fuyi actually had secret concerns. “No matter what, we’d better stay on high alert till we meet chairman.”

That night.

The outskirts was quieter than inside the city. So quiet that it felt somewhat frightening.

There wasn’t much entertainment at night in the tiny monastery; hence everyone went to bed early.

Other than the pair of brothers, Hu Yan and Hu Yu, there were also two hall managers of the Six Harmonies Association, both of whom exceeded the Hu brothers in martial arts. All four of them slept in the same bed with Shen Qiao. A lineup like this would still be considered impressive even in the scope of the pugilistic world. Chen Gong knew little of that world, but he was aware that all these people were quite something.

In order to join the Six Harmonies Association, he tried every trick
 he could think of, hoping to worm his way into being friends with them by any possible means. However, despite his great effort, it was to no avail. They simply turned cold shoulders to him, attending to him only halfheartedly – they were actually kinder towards Shen Qiao compared to Chen Gong.

After a few tries, Chen Gong became discouraged. He lay on the bed, his mind alternating between indignation and the thought that he was still not sincere enough. If he was to tell them tomorrow that he wished for nothing else but to join the Six Harmonies Association as a handyman, doing chores like sprinkling water and sweeping the floor, maybe they would agree then.

A person would naturally find it difficult to fall asleep with a jumble of thoughts flying around in their head. Chen Gong tossed and turned a couple of times. Then, all of a sudden, he sensed someone   from the Six Harmonies Association stirring next to him.

Their movements were light and quick. Throwing on their robes and putting on their shoes, they disappeared at the blink of an eye. Chen Gong felt strange. He wanted to get up and take a look too, but a hand suddenly appeared from his side and pressed him down.

It gave Chen Gong quite a start. Then he realized that it was Shen Qiao who had pinned him down.

“Don’t go out. Stay here.” Shen Qiao said quietly.
 Chen Gong replied, “I’ll just open a slit and peek between the doors. It’ll be fine.”

Right after he finished the sentence, sounds of shouting and fighting came from outside.

Nervousness as well as excitement seized Chen Gong all at once as he realized abruptly that he was again one step closer to the pugilistic world of his imagination.
However, his hands had barely opened the door before his fingertips suddenly went numb. The entire door sprang wide open with a loud rumble and a wind swept in from the outside like a hurricane!

There wasn’t enough time for Chen Gong to move out of the way. He cried out in pain and tumbled backwards, his lower back hitting the edge of the bed, immediately turning his cry into a scream!

But this was not the end. In the next moment, someone firmly grabbed him by his throat!

The person gave him a light lift with his arm, and Chen Gong involuntarily “flew” up after him. With that turn changing his point of view, the scene outside the room replaced the scene of the inside.

Chen Gong’s eyes widened in terror, but he could not make any
 sound at all. By the time he had finally stabilized his feet with great difficulty, he heard someone laughing, “Third young master, aren’t you stupid? A glance is enough to tell that this boy knows nothing of martial arts. He’s not from the Six Harmonies Association. What’s the point of catching him?”

“What? He’s not from Six Harmonies? Damn it! No wonder it felt so easy to get hold of him! So I caught a useless rubbish!”

The other broke out into curses and tightened his grip, causing Chen Gong to be inflicted by so much pain that tears started to stream out of his eyes.

‘It’s over! I’m going to be killed!’

He realized this point and started to really regret not listening to Shen Qiao just now and insisting on going for a peek instead of quietly hiding inside the room.

The pugilistic world was still far away from him, though death was now really close.

A short while later, a sharp pain burst out from Chen Gong’s neck –
a sign that his throat was about to be crushed.
 But after a moment, the person who had wanted to kill him unexpectedly withdrew his hand with a sound of surprise and moved away. The pressure on Chen Gong was immediately relieved. He dropped to his knees and coughed incessantly, feeling weak from head to toe.

When Murong Xun was about to kill Chen Gong, he knew that there was another person inside the room, though he did not take these two nobodies seriously. What he did not expect was that the other person would dare to make an opening move by sneak attacking him as he was finishing off the boy.

The bamboo stick was light as a feather, without a single trace of inner qi attached to it. Murong Xun originally thought that he could easily catch it, but just as his hand touched the edge of the stick, it slipped away to the side in a strange manner, striking towards a crucial acupoint in his back.

Murong Xun had no choice but to let go of Chen Gong and step aside to dodge it.

“Who are you?!” He squinted his eyes, looking the other person up and down.

“We are not members of  the  Six  Harmonies  Association, nor are we martial artists. We just happened to put up for the night at this place. Since we are unrelated to the grudges happening here, could you please lift your hand in mercy and
 let us go?” said Shen Qiao.

There wasn’t enough light at night, so he couldn’t see Murong Xun. He could only roughly guess where the other was and cupped his hands towards that direction.

But Murong Xun found out at a glimpse: “You’re blind!”

Within one night, turbulence rose and surged forwards vigorously in the small Beyond Clouds Monastery.

Although Yun Fuyi had anticipated an attack in advance, the situation that night still went greatly beyond her expectations.

Her sleeves swirled up as she stroked out with a palm, while she herself drifted backwards. The posture was elegant and utterly fairy- like. In the eyes of others, it would seem like she was dancing gracefully instead; they would never have suspected the amount of power contained in her palm.

Her opponent raised one of his sleeves aloft while rolling the other one up, dissolving Yun Fuyi’s attack with ease. But Yun Fuyi saw clearly that two Cicada Wing Blades, as thin as willow leaves, had slid out of his sleeves. The light of the blades flitted by and disappeared soon after, along with the fierce energy created by her palm, which had also been dispelled before one could notice.
 
‘This opponent is dreadful’, Yun Fuyi realized.

“A rain of flowers passed by, carried by clouds, yet left no petals on one’s clothes. [1] You deserve to be called the deputy leader of the Six Harmonies Association. The outsiders all say that Yun Fuyi is a woman and hence probably just a puppet. But I’m afraid   those who said so never had the chance to experience Vice Chairman Yun’s capability!”

Along with his words, a soundless stream of air rolled like a carpet towards Yun Fuyi. Her face changed slightly. The calmness that had been on it when she was fighting with Murong Qin was no longer present.
Her hands fluttered in the wind, creating palm prints shaped like lotus flowers. The inner qi carried by them rose straight up and in a flash, formed into a wall that was then pushed out flat.
The two streams of air clashed with each other. Only then did Yun Fuyi realise that the other person’s inner qi had such rapidly- changing, unpredictable forms. Much like needles, it would thrust in wherever it could find a gap, getting in through every opening. Right after her palm reached it, she immediately felt waves of cold drafts permeating into her flesh through the skin and then penetrating further, straight into her bones.
It was already too late to withdraw her hands. The other person had clearly left her no chance to react. His inner qi pushed forward, layer upon layer, with one wave succeeding another like the tides of a river in spring. Since Yun Fuyi had suffered some hidden injuries, she was reluctant to take it head on and drew back instead, despite
 knowing that doing so would leave her front open.

By the time she landed on the ground, her chest was already feeling some tightening pain. A taste of blood welled up in her throat, but instead of spitting it out, she swallowed it as if nothing had happened. “Who are you, Sir?”

Seeing that Yun Fuyi’s complexion still seemed normal, the other person let out a sound of surprise, revealing some astonishment and appreciation: “Out of all the people in the country of Qi, only a few are able to take this palm of mine. You’re indeed quite capable.”

“Who are you, Sir?” Yun Fuyi asked once again.

The other person clasped his hands behind his back arrogantly and sneered, “You and your men are now inside the territory of Qi and trying to transport Qi’s items out of the country. Shouldn’t the court of Qi give this some attention? As for today’s matter, if the Six Harmonies Association agrees to leave the item here, I’ll no longer make it difficult for you and will guarantee that all of you can leave the country of Qi safely!”

Hearing him mentioning the court of Qi, Yun Fuyi’s heart skipped a beat, but she soon came around, “You’re from Qi? You’re Murong Qin?!”
 After the destruction of the Yan Dynasty, the Murong Clan had wandered from place to place for several dynasties. The current Patriarch of the Murong Clan, Murong Qin, became nothing more than a henchman of Qi, serving its emperor, Gao Wei, despite claiming to be a descendant of the imperial family of Murong. Others would show him a good deal of respect and flattery in his presence, in order to curry favor with him, only because he held the reputation of being the number one expert in Qi.

If it was some other day, even if Murong Qin came, Yun Fuyi would not be afraid to fight him. But now, he was obviously coming after the goods she was escorting and was quite determined to get it, which meant…

“Where is Liu Qingya and Shangguan Xingchen?!” Her expression changed slightly as she asked after the other two hall managers who were on the trip with her.

Hu Yan was also startled when he heard the question. He replied, “Both Hall Manager Liu and Hall Manager Shangguan are in the side room guarding the goods. There shouldn’t be any… ”

Yun Fuyi said, “I didn’t expect that the Patriarch of the Murong Clan, the great, foremost expert of the country of Qi, would bring subordinates even for sneak attacks. This would surely be laughed at by others if the news ever gets out!”
Murong Qin sneered, “Vice Chairman Yun came personally, how would I dare to act arrogant? Besides, we are not the only people here tonight… Which rat is still hiding in the
 dark? It’s time to show yourself!”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] A rain of flowers…: The original line is “云拂花雨不留衣”, a line from poetry written with Yun Fuyi’s name in it (云拂衣), which served as a title and praise for her lightness skills.

Chapter 10

Quality Check: Puissansa First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
I’m embarrassed to say I’m sorry for the delay in updates now. But, I’m trying to get back on track, really trying… T_T. And Happy New Year everyone!
Synopsis: I’m proud of you.
After the words were spoken, it became quiet everywhere around him. Nobody answered him.

Yun Fuyi frowned, as the abbot of the monastery and the two little monks crossed her mind. All of them still hadn’t appeared so far. She was unsure if they had fainted out of fear or if some other unforeseen events had happened.

Instead, Murong Xun and Tuoba Liangzhe, who were sent out to search around, returned clutching Shen Qiao and Chen Gong in their hands along with the two hall managers of Six Harmonies Association.
“Patriarch, there’s only junk in those chests. What we want is not there!” Tuoba Liangzhe reported as he ruthlessly flung Chen Gong to the ground.
 

Chen Gong had been groaning painfully all the way here, so they had also locked his mute acupoint as he was too noisy. Now he was unable to even cry out, the entire face of Chen Gong was distorted by pain.
Shen Qiao was treated slightly better. Perhaps because of the skill he had just revealed made Murong Xun somewhat fearful, the latter held him firmly by his shoulder.
Liu Qingya and Shangguan Xingchen, the two hall managers of the Six Harmonies Association, who would normally also be considered awe-inspiring, now appeared rather beaten and dejected at this moment with all of their major acupoints locked. But they clenched their teeth and refused to utter a word.
Murong Qin glanced at them and said, “If Vice Chairman Yun still cares about the life of these subordinates of yours, then just give me the item.”
Yun Fuyi sighed, “If Patriarch Murong is only after the goods we are escorting in this trip, the two chests are right there in the side room where Hall Manager Liu and the others were staying. Just bring your men over and take them. I’ve got nothing to say since my martial skill is inferior to yours.”
Murong Qin sneered, “Do you think that everyone else are idiots? Those two chests of yours are just there as decoys. I’m afraid that the real goods that you’re escorting has been kept on your body all this while, am I right?”
After these words, even the people of the Six Harmonies Association turned to look at Yun Fuyi in astonishment.
Yun Fuyi’s face darkened. “Where did Patriarch Murong hear these rumors from and to even take them to be the truth?
 These two chests were entrusted to us to be sent back to Southern Chen. The owner of the goods is also clearly known to us and speaking of which, is actually your deceased colleague, the Junior Preceptor of the Crown  Prince,  Xue Rong. After he passed away due to an illness, his wife and children asked the Six Harmonies Association to help them transport his possessions back to his birthplace. Our Chairman had a good relationship with Junior Preceptor Xue and therefore ordered me to escort it myself. That’s all!”
“Those two chests are filled with nothing but Xue Rong’s old belongings, most of which are books. Two boxes of books can be gotten rid of on the spot. Why the need to transport them all the way from Qi to the South?”
“You’re asking me, but who should I turn to for the answer?”
“Your team has encountered schemes and hijacks repeatedly ever since you set off for the journey. Don’t tell me that those people were all coming after two boxes of Xue Rong’s old books?”
“Perhaps some people believe that Junior Preceptor Xue had accumulated much wealth while he was alive and think that those two boxes are full of gold and treasures. Little do they know that Junior Preceptor Xue had clean hands. He didn’t even leave much money behind.”
Murong Qin responded coldly, “Amongst the remaining personal effects of Xue Rong, there’s a book titled Supplement to the Azure Sea. I would like to ask Vice Chairman Yun to hand it over please.”

“All the books are in those two chests. If it’s in there, then
 it’s there. If it’s not, then it’s not. The chests are already at your disposal. What else can you still ask me to hand over?”
Murong Qin looked at Tuoba Liangzhe and Murong Xun. The latter reported, “I [1] have already searched everything. There isn’t a book titled Supplement to the Azure Sea.”
A gurgle came from mid-air, “Patriarch Murong is indeed patient. If you go on beating around the bush like this, I’m afraid that Vice Chairman Yun will be determined to play dumb till the end. It would be better if you would just say straight out that the Supplement to the Azure Sea is only a cover, while concealed within it is the Book of Free Will of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang. Ask her to hand over The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang directly instead!”

Were more people hiding around here?!

Surprise and bewilderment appeared on the faces of the Hu brothers. They quickly raised their heads to look around, but all they could find were dense, ghastly branches and the quiet monastery. Not even half a soul was seen.
However, at the next moment, they caught sight of an extra figure behind the porch column.
Chen Gong listened carefully to their conversation for quite a while in spite of his pain, but realized that he did not understand even one sentence of it. The lofty aspirations he originally had of joining the Six Harmonies Association was already deserted long ago. He was hurt a good deal, sweating all over from the aches. Only because the pain was now slightly mitigated was he finally able to spare some energy to raise his head and take a look at the figure who had spoken. However, the glance freaked him out so much that he felt it would have been better if he hadn’t seen anything
 The bald figure under the moonlight was wearing a monk’s garment—it was clearly one of the little monks from Beyond Clouds Monastery!

Since there were female guests in the monastery, the two little monks gave their side room to Yun Fuyi for her to stay and moved over to sleep with Chen Gong and the others in the common sleeping quarters. When Chen Gong got up to watch the scene just now, it was pitch dark. He only knew that the people from Six Harmonies Association went out and did not pay attention to whether the two little monks were still there.
But listening to it now, the little monk’s voice was totally different compared to before. In fact, it was the pretentiously sweet voice of a woman!

Chen Gong felt like his mind was in a complete mess, as if his head was filled with rice paste and was completely unable to figure out what was going on.
The key concern of the others, however, was not whether someone had replaced the little monk later or if there was never a real one from the beginning.
Everyone’s look changed drastically when the words “The Strategy of Vermillion Yang” left her mouth!

Yun Fuyi asked, “And who are you, Madam? Hiding and dodging around like this, could it be that you are scheming something scandalous?”

The “little monk” replied coquettishly, “My original plan was
 indeed to sneak in and then sneak out with the item, but what can I do when Vice Chairman Yun simply wouldn’t give me the chance? With Patriarch Murong stepping in as well, I’m left with no choice but to show up.”

Yun Fuyi could not figure out the other person’s background. As she was scrutinizing her up and down with furrowed eyebrows, the other person giggled again, “Vice Chairman Yun, you thought that you were prudent enough, keeping everything quiet and low profile. Little did you know that countless people have been watching all of you attentively ever since you departed the Capital. Those two groups before were nothing but little fishes and shrimps that aren’t worthy to be mentioned, while this one tonight is indeed a real gathering of talents. I’m afraid that other than my Harmony Sect and Patriarch Murong, there are still experts who haven’t revealed themselves yet. Since the stars and the moonlight  are perfect and this opportunity for us to get together all at once is rare as well, why don’t we call the others out and have a nice chat? Let’s deepen our friendship and also settle this remaining book of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang? How should we distribute it after all? Should the strongest person get it? Or should we tear it apart so that each of us gets a piece?”

She teased as she spoke. It sounded rather humorous, but no one present laughed.

Yun Fuyi’s heart sank.
 She could still handle Murong Qin by herself although it might be difficult, but the situation was quite thorny if the Harmony Sect, known for its rather eccentric and wild conduct, also entered the scene. Besides, from what the mysterious woman had implied, it seemed as if there were still other people hiding in the dark who had not revealed themselves yet.

Murong Qin said in a deep voice, “You have seen it yourself, Vice Chairman Yun. There are too many experts in Beyond Clouds Monastery tonight for you to handle by yourself. If you agree to hand over The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang to me, I will let you off in the name of the Imperial Court and guarantee that all of you can leave the country safely.”

“It’s true that Patriarch Murong works for the Imperial Court, but I’m afraid that our Harmony Sect is more qualified to say these words, considering our influence in the country of Qi,” smiled the honest and ordinary looking little monk as she came over from behind the porch column.
She didn’t seem to move much before Murong Xun cried out an “Ouch!” on the side. He released Shen Qiao in a rush and retreated several steps rapidly.
Murong Qin’s figure moved a little, blocking in front of Murong Xun in a flash. Two glimmering rays shot out from the inside of his sleeves, followed by Murong Qin himself as he pounced on the little monk.
Chen Gong stared blankly at the two people in the moonlight; their flipping robes and sleeves in the air, together with the lights and shadows looming over them, painting the life-or-death crossing of swords as if it was a bloom of peach blossoms. He suddenly realized
 how ridiculous his indignation had been when the Six Harmonies Association had rejected him earlier, as well as how ignorant and naive was his understanding of the so-called pugilistic world.
He couldn’t help but look at Shen Qiao.

The latter was still standing there quietly with the bamboo stick in his hand. Half of his body was cloaked by the shadows, making him almost unnoticeable to others.
At a glance, Shen Qiao appeared to be a man who could not have been simpler. But at the same time, there seemed to be layers of mysteries hidden inside him as well, so that others were not only unable to gain insight from him but also incapable of fathoming anything from him at all.
On the other side, Murong Qin and the little monk started to fight hand to hand. Yun Fuyi glanced over at everyone around her; an idea came to her mind and her steps followed it.

One must say that her footwork was fast. One step of hers was comparable to ten steps of an ordinary man. A flower seemed to bloom at each of her steps, brushing against her clothes but leaving no trace on them.
Nevertheless, she was only able to move one step before a pressure as heavy as a mountain came from behind her, pushing her down right into her face.
Without any prior consultation, Murong Qin and the little monk, who were fighting with each other intensely, had both decided to attack Yun Fuyi!
The little monk giggled, not forgetting the sarcasm as she spoke, “Vice Chairman Yun is indeed too insincere, trying to walk away like this while your subordinates are still here. Is this how the chairman of an association should behave? If word
 gets spread out, who would dare to follow you again in the future, right?”
Yun Fuyi knew that since the item was on her, the rest of her men were insignificant. Murong Qin and the others would totally disdain from paying any attention to them and hence they would not be in danger for quite some time. That was why she had decided to leave first by herself. At the moment, even with the little monk deliberately inciting disharmony between her colleagues and followers, she remained silent. Murong Qin alone made her busy enough; with an additional ‘demonic woman’ from the Harmony Sect, the pressure doubled.

Three streams of inner qi mingled and clashed within the circle centered on the three of them. The others had to retreat further away in fear  of getting caught in the crossfire. Liu Qingya and Shangguan Xingchen, on the other hand, were not as lucky. They were unable to move and, as unfortunate as it sounded, one of the streams of inner qi crashed into them, making them spit out a mouthful of blood at once. Hu Yan and Hu Yu were greatly shocked. They stepped forward in an attempt to drag them away, only to discover that they had absolutely no chance of approaching the battle circle around those three people.
The little monk and Murong Qin seemed to have joined forces, though in fact they were wary of each other as well. Guarding against each other’s backstabbing, they were somewhat reserved in their moves. Yun Fuyi was originally in the losing position, fighting the two of them by herself, but since the other two had their own sinister ideas, she was able to find a subtle balance within the fight and held onto it strenuously.
This dangerous situation of equilibrium was soon broken when Murong Qin somehow suddenly changed his plan. The light of his Cicada Wing Blades switched its route after it swept past Yun Fuyi’s face and shot towards the little monk, bringing with it vigorous cold
 winds, frosting everything along its way. In response, the little monk, who was blocking Yun Fuyi’s route of escape, had to slide to the side to dodge it. But the thin blade followed her relentlessly, unyielding till the last gasp.
Judging by their actual strength, Murong Qin was slightly more skillful than the “little monk”. It was just that the gap was not revealed because the two of them had had a common objective until then. Now that the situation had changed, the little monk ended up becoming overwhelmed. With the porch column behind her and eaves above her head, she had no way to retreat. She glanced around. and out of the corner of her eyes she spotted Chen Gong on the ground next to her. Without a second thought, she reached towards him, intending to use him as a shield.
The scene lasted no more than a twinkling of an eye. In the eyes of people who knew little or no martial arts, their movements were like the shades flashing by, something they were utterly unable to perceive clearly.
Chen Gong hadn’t even realized that the little monk was reaching towards him. His head was still facing to the side as he stared over at Yun Fuyi and Murong Qin.
Shen Qiao saw it.

He did not have a single trace of inner qi inside his body. As for the so-called martial arts, he could only remember a little bit of it and would often forget about this and that. His health was not good either as he would cough blood from time to time and his eyes were blind as well. But he couldn’t convince himself to just stand by and watch.
So he chose to save him.

When Chen Gong was brutally pushed to the ground, he was still unaware of what had happened.
 Seeing that the person she had originally wanted to grab had been replaced by a bamboo stick, the little monk let out a sound of surprise.
Within that instant there were a myriad of changes. The light of the blade had already arrived and the little monk could only let go of the stick as she cupped her fingers to form a flower with her delicate hand, forcibly taking the thin blade head-on.
The thin blade penetrated the shield of her inner qi, piercing right into the palm of the little monk. Had she not been firmly gripping it with all her might, the momentum of the blade surely would not have ended there.
The little monk’s hand immediately became a mess of blood and gore.
If it wasn’t for that bamboo stick ruining her good plan, she would have caught a scapegoat long ago. How would she have ended up injuring herself in that case? A ferocious killing intent appeared on her face. Ignoring Yun Fuyi and Murong Qin over there, she immediately curled her fingers into a claw, grabbing towards Shen Qiao’s head!
The reason why Murong Qin chose to give up on Yun Fuyi and scheme against the little monk instead was because he knew that Yun Fuyi could hardly get away tonight. So it was unimportant who was the one that would keep her here.
As expected, the sound of a jade bell [2] came out of the gloom. To other people, it sounded so distant and yet so clear that even their vision and hearing felt cleansed by it. In Yun Fuyi’s ears, however, it was no different from hundreds of needles pricking her flesh or thousands of swords piercing her heart. Her entire body fell victim to extreme pain and even the inner qi that was about to circulate inside her was forced into stagnation.
 ‘And who is it this time?!’

Yun Fuyi was deeply terrified. She no longer cared about anything else and just wanted to escape with all her might, only to find herself unable to move even a single step, as if she was blocked by an invisible net.

She once used to think that even if the competence of her martial arts was not enough to make it into the top ten, it would not be completely useless. Only at this very moment did she realize how excessively wrong she was. Without even making an appearance, someone had already firmly suppressed her.
Was she destined to lose the item on her tonight? Thinking to this point, Yun Fuyi could not help but feel a shred of despair rising inside her.

On the other side, the little monk grabbed towards Shen Qiao, her fingers as fast as lightning, without any hesitation.

She might be inferior to Yun Fuyi or Murong Qin when fighting alone, but to dealing with someone like Shen Qiao, her skill was certainly more than enough to make it an easy capture.

The reason why Shen Qiao was able to stop the little monk from catching Chen Gong earlier was because, apart from it being an exquisite move, it also took advantage of the timing and caught her off guard.
 
When the little monk attacked seriously, he had absolutely no power to resist.

With the momentum of an avalanche, the force of qi swept its way over, carrying with it a monstrous killing intent. Even though they were still five or six steps apart from each other, Shen Qiao already found it hard to breathe. Waves of pain started to burst inside his ribs as he fell into complete darkness, unable to even feel the ground under his feet. His whole body went soft, except for the one place around his chest which, as if being roasted by fire, felt so tight that the only way he could free it was to spit out a big mouthful of blood.

The little monk did not care about Shen Qiao at all. For her, this person truly deserved to die for not weighing his own capabilities before sticking his nose into other people’s business.
A person like him was worthless, no matter how pretty he looked.

In her eyes, Shen Qiao was already dead.

Yet another incident occurred as the tip of her finger barely reached his neck.

The incident did not come from Shen Qiao.
 A hand suddenly appeared out of the darkness and pinched towards the little monk’s wrist.

It was not fast, its style prosaic as well. There was nothing fancy about its movement.

The hand was fair and thin, with smooth skin that had no trace of scars. One could tell that it belonged to a man, and certainly a man who lived a comfortable and luxurious life for years in a high position.
Translator’s Notes:
[1] I : Original Chinese word used is “your nephew”, which is used instead of “I” to show respect.

[2] Jade Bell (玉磬 yu qing): A bowl-shaped inverted bell that is mostly used for meditation and religious purposes in Buddhism.
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