Thousand Autumns Chapter 11-20

Chapter 11

Quality Check: Kai
First published on Ainushi. Translator’s Rambling:
Ahh, I finally finished the background setting chapters. From now on, the story will pick up and we get to see INTERACTIONS finally!!!!
Synopsis: Shen Qiao: My heart is too tired to love again.

Not only was the little monk not in a mood to appreciate it, in fact, she was extremely horrified.

Because she had absolutely no idea where this hand had come from and all she could do was to let the other person hold her wrist between his fingers since she was absolutely powerless against him!

“Ahhh!!!” A sharp sensation of pain burst out of her wrist. She could not help but cry out in pain.

Any man who heard this voice would, if not have protective feelings towards the woman, then at least slightly pause their movement. However, it was a pity that since she had the simple and honest face of a little monk, the effect was not very ideal and the
 person she had run into had a heart of stone. As her wrist bone was brutally crushed by the grip, her body flew up immediately afterwards. But it was not due to her taking the initiative to run away–she was actually thrown off.

The delicate body crashed straight into the porch column so hard that even the pillar seemed to have shaken a little with the impact. The little monk tumbled down and vomited out several mouthfuls of blood, looking wretched.

One of her wrists was broken by the crushing grip and the other hand had just been pierced by the Cicada Wing Blades. With a pair of badly mangled hands, she was as pitiful as one could possibly be.

But she did not seem to take such a devastating condition into her heart. Instead, she fiercely gazed at the person who had injured her and asked, “Who are you…”, her voice muffled by the blood in her mouth.

The black-robed man replied, “There’s no need to stare at me like this. Sang Jingxing and Yuan Xiuxiu would not have dared to boast about winning against me for sure even if they were to team up, let alone you?”

Bai Rong’s expression changed a little, “May I know your honorable name, Sir?”
 On the other side, someone had already answered her question, “May I ask what would be the reason for Sect Master Yan to appear at this place?”

Sect Master Yan… Yan Wushi?!

Bai Rong’s eyes slightly widened. She could hardly believe it.

As the most prominent disciple of the Harmony Sect, she had often heard the name of Yan Wushi. Even though the three Demonic Sects had originated from the same root, they had been on bad terms since long ago. In particular, the Harmony Sect had frequently caused troubles for the Cleansing Moon Sect during the ten years that Yan Wushi had been missing due to his Closed Door Meditation, taking the opportunity to hit them harder while they were down. Now that Yan Wushi had re-appeared in the pugilistic world, her injury… To be honest, it was not unjust.

Yan Wushi sneered, “Why can’t I be here when even an old bald donkey [1] like you can come?”

Accompanied by his voice, the monk who was holding a jade bell in his hand slowly walked out of the shadows. However, he was nothing like the “old bald donkey” Yan Wushi had called him. He had a jade like countenance, appearing to be in the early thirties and attired in a snow-white monk’s robe so clean that not even a speck of dust could be found on it. Without the need to speak, his entire body was already portrayed with the four words: “A Well-Respected
 Senior Monk”.

His appearance did not create a big stir among the younger generation such as Murong Xun and Tuoba Liangzhe. However, the expression on Murong Qin’s and Yun Fuyi’s faces changed abruptly on seeing him.

Murong Qin shouted, “I didn’t expect that two otherworldly experts as noble as the Great Perceptor of Zhou Dynasty, Master Xueting, and the grandmaster of the generation, Sect Master Yan, would also act so furtively, hiding in the dark and secretly sneaking into the country of Qi in order to seize the remaining book of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang! Wanting to take advantage of our disputes to steal it away, do you still want to save your faces or not?”

Master Xueting replied, “There’s no need for Patriarch Murong to get so excited. The Emperor of Zhou Dynasty has banned both Buddhism and Daoism ever since Duke Jin passed away. This old monk [2] is no longer the Great Perceptor of Zhou. The only reason that I came tonight is because of a request from an old friend of mine. I hope that Vice Chairman Yun could hand over the item to me so that I can return it to its rightful owner in order to fulfill his long-cherished wish.”

Bai Rong spat out some bloody foam and giggled, “I’ve never seen a monk who has a face as thick as yours. It’s obvious that you have conceived a scheme after seeing the treasure, but you just said it was a request from some old friend. Everybody knows that The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang
 has become a treasure with no owner after the death of Tao Hongjing. Could it be that Tao Hongjing has visited you in your dreams, asking you to collect the books and burn it for him [3]?”

Zen Master Xueting showed neither grief nor happiness. He put his hands together [4], as if he simply didn’t hear Bai Rong’s words.

Since there were two more people, Murong Qin and Bai Rong didn’t dare to hurriedly attack Yun Fuyi again, though Yun Fuyi did not feel relaxed because of it. Instead, her heart became even heavier.

Ever since the death of Qi Fengge, there was no greater martial artist than the top ten.

Both Zen Master Xueting and Yan Wushi had their names on the list among the ten people. The former’s martial arts level was a profound mystery, and it was very likely that he had already made it into the top three. As for the latter, although he had gone missing for many years, he had crushed Kunye, the new generation expert who had once defeated the sect leader of Mount Xuandu, right after his return to the pugilistic world.

Yun Fuyi would not be able to handle either one of them. Who would have expected that they would both come?

Thinking about the task which the chairman, Dou Yanshan, had
 entrusted to her, her mouth was filled with bitterness.

It wasn’t that she did not strive her hardest, but the situation tonight was just way beyond what she had anticipated.

It was true that these people did not get along with each other, but all of them had a common goal–the remaining book of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang that was on her.

The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang written by Tao Hongjing consisted of five books, each using one of the five elements to correspond to one of the five viscera in human body. It was divided into five sections: Knowledge of Mind, Demonic Souls, Wandering Spirits, Turbid Energy and Free Will, integrating the philosophies of the Three Schools and was claimed to be an unprecedentedly marvelous book. The three books that were currently known were located in the Imperial Palace of Zhou Dynasty, Mount Xuandu, and the Tiantai Sect respectively, while the whereabouts of the other two books remained a mystery.

Relying on the remaining books in their hands, Mount Xuandu and Tiantai Sect each held steadfast their leading position among the Daoist sects and the Buddhist sects as if they were the grandmasters among all martial artists in the world. Qi Fengge even became the number one martial artist under the heaven through serendipity.

Although his disciple, Shen Qiao, fell quite short and was actually pushed down the cliff by other people’s attacks, it was Shen Qiao’s
 own fault for not having studied well. It had nothing to do with The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang. Even if one could possess just one book of it, by learning the essence within it and comprehending the mysteries inside, it might not be impossible for someone to achieve the strength to become the number one martial artist under the heavens, like Qi Fengge.

All of the three books for which the locations were known were stored with great security by the respective sects. It was not that easy for others to seize them by force. The other two books had no owners and were reserved for the capable. Therefore, when the news that Yun Fuyi carried the remaining book of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang on her body was secretly spread out, they had attracted groups after groups of robbers.

The people in the Six Harmonies Association hadn’t known the truth. They had simply thought that there were some rare treasures hidden in those two chests. After hearing that Yun Fuyi was carrying The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang on her, they had all been dumbfounded and were unable to react even till then.

In the silence of the confrontation, all those involved had concerns and fear towards one another. Nobody was willing to take action first.

Murong Qin had had the intention to snatch it by force, but he also knew that once he attacked, the monk Xueting and Yan Wushi would definitely strike to stop him.
 Being at the center of the vortex, Yun Fuyi was deeply worried inside, but she was already at the end of her tether.

She knew at heart that even if she could survive the crisis tonight, after the news got out tomorrow, there would only be more people coming for the treasure instead of less. In the worst case, even people from the Jade Cloud Sect on Mount Tai and the Linchuan Institute would be drawn there. By that time, it might as well be said that the Six Harmonies Association could never have peaceful days again.

She made a plan in her mind and settled for the second best option, choosing the person who seemed to be the most trustworthy among all present: “The saying is right. ‘Things are always reserved for the capable.’ Since Six Harmonies Association does not have enough strength, hiding the treasure would be more of a misfortune to us rather than a fortune. I’m willing to hand over the book of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang in exchange for peace. May I ask if master can guarantee the safety of me and my subordinates if I were to give the book to you?”

Zen Master Xueting declared Buddha’s name [5], “Vice Chairman Yun is a highly principled person. How would this old monk dare to not put in all of my efforts?”

After going through several rounds of serious considerations, Yun Fuyi secretly clenched her teeth and took out a small bamboo tube from her clothes. Hu Yan and Hu Yu couldn’t resist stretching their necks for a peek and Bai Rong could not help but straighten up. It
 was hard to believe that this ordinary bamboo tube which was slimmer than a woman’s wrist actually contained the remaining book of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang, something that everyone in the world wanted.

Bai Rong had no strength to compete with them since both of her hands were injured, therefore she simply rested against the porch column to enjoy the show.

But Murong Qin had already turned into a shadow, flashing straight toward that bamboo tube.

However, before he could get near Yun Fuyi, the wind created by Zen Master Xueting’s palm had already arrived from behind like a breeze accompanied by the endless sounds of the jade bell, with each sound seeming to pound straight on people’s hearts. In Murong Qin’s ears, it was no different from what Yun Fuyi had experienced just a while before. His steps suddenly became a thousand pounds heavier and his chest felt so tight that it made him sick.

He knew that it was definitely the jade bell affecting him, so he simply closed his ears and stopped listening. But the movement of his hand did not stop. It was still reaching towards the bamboo tube in Yun Fuyi’s hand.

No one knew what Yan Wushi was thinking as he also put a hand in the fight. His figure shifted slightly. He had flashed behind Murong Qin so fast that even the shadow of the flowers had not yet moved
 from the breeze of his passing.

He reached out his hand. But instead of preventing Murong Qin from grabbing the bamboo tube, it was to stop Zen Master Xueting.

In a blink of eye, the two people had already thrown out more than a couple dozen moves. Not to mention Chen Gong, who was already dazzled and had absolutely no idea what was happening, even young talents like Hu Yan and Hu Yu were also utterly mystified.

Chen Gong got dizzy from just watching, but he could not move his eyes away. Just as he was becoming deeply entranced, Shen Qiao suddenly pressed onto his shoulder, whispering, “Get up, go!”

Normally, whenever Shen Qiao said one sentence, Chen Gong had to argue back with at least three. It was rare that he listened to him obediently this time. Clenching his teeth, he got up after a great deal of struggling and was about to leave without a word.

However, right after he stood up, Chen Gong felt a vigorous power lifting him up by his back as his whole body flew high up into the sky. He was extremely frightened and couldn’t restrain his screams. By the time when Yan Wushi threw him on top of the roof, his legs were so weak that he knelt straight down and nearly fell off the roof.

He had been utterly out of luck ever since the beginning of tonight. Chen Gong started to become desperate. He looked down as he
 trembled and saw an extra person next to Yan Wushi.

Shen Qiao had also been fetched onto the roof.

He even had a bamboo tube in his hand–it had been forced onto him by Yan Wushi, something that he neither wanted to hold on to nor was able to throw away. He looked puzzled and helpless. “We are only two little men who happened to stayed here for the night and are not related to the business in the pugilistic world at all. The debt has its debtor. Could Sect Master Yan please not tease us like this?”

Yan Wushi smiled as he replied, “How could you call this teasing? I’m giving you an enormous benefit. Now, something that everyone in this world wants is right in  your  hands. Aren’t you feeling a little happy at least?”

No one had expected that Yan Wushi involved himself in the fight just to give the bamboo tube to two irrelevant small potatoes who happened to be present. For a moment, everyone there stared at Shen Qiao with burning gaze, wishing they could burn a hole on him.

Zen Master Xueting frowned, “Why the need for Sect Master Yan to involve non-related people into this?”

Yan Wushi fiddled with the jade accessory tied on his clothes in a careless manner. “Aren’t you all dying to see what’s written in
 there? We’re not going to reach an end if we keep fighting like this, so why not let everyone have a share of it? If I’m the one reading it out loud, the rest of you definitely won’t believe what I say. If you’re the one reading it, I can’t trust your words either. Then it’s better to let him read it. How much you hear out of what he reads, however, depends on your own luck then.”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Old bald donkey (老秃驴 Lao Tulü): An insulting way to call a monk.
[2] This old monk: He’s referring to himself.
[3] Burn it for someone: In Chinese culture, it is believed that if you burn something for a deceased person, they will receive it in the underworld.
[4] Put his hands together: A salutation used by monks by putting palms together.
[5] Declare Buddha’s name: Usually refers to saying Amitābha.

Chapter 12

Quality Check: Noa
First published on Ainushi. Synopsis: Everyone was stunned.
Many people had heard since long ago that Yan Wushi handled matters in rather eccentric and unpredictable ways. In fact, Bai Rong was quite happy deep down after hearing him giving such a speech.

She was the only one from the Harmony Sect tonight. In the presence of Zen Master Xueting, Yan Wushi and the others, there was no way that she would be able to gain the remaining book of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang even if she were in her best condition, not to mention the fact that she had also been injured.

If they did what Yan Wushi said, she would have the opportunity to hear a word or two. Not to mention how much she herself would benefit from it, she could at least have something to turn in after she went back.

After thinking it through, she stared closely at the bamboo tube in Shen Qiao’s hands, without moving her gaze even an inch.

Murong Qin and the others all had the same reaction as Bai Rong.
 Zen Master Xueting was the only one not in favor of it, saying, “Sect Master Yan, this person does not belong to the  pugilistic world. If he reads aloud the content of the book today, then as the news gets spread out in the future and when other people covet The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang yet can’t find it, it’s inevitable that some malicious evildoers would choose to lay their hands on him. You may not have killed him yourself, but he would die because of you!”

Yan Wushi replied lazily, “Old bald donkey, isn’t it hypocritical for you to say this? You must have read the book kept in the Imperial Palace of Zhou while you were still their Great Perceptor. Also, you were originally a disciple of the Tiantai Sect. Your master Huiwen hadn’t died yet when you betrayed the sect. Judging by how much he valued you, you’ve probably read the one kept in the Tiantai Sect as well. In addition to the book tonight, you’ve already obtained three out of the five books. Aren’t you precisely the kind of person that ‘Pretending to be a victim after taking advantage’ refers to?”

Surprisingly, Murong Qin also agreed to Yan Wushi’s words and sneered at Xueting, “Great Master, you sure have the demeanor of an expert. You can just leave if you don’t want to listen to it. Why the need to hinder other people’s future? Could the reason that you insist on giving lengthy lectures here be that you’re dissatisfied because you didn’t  get  to have it all to yourself?”

Zen Master Xueting let out a sigh and eventually stopped talking.

Yan Wushi only pressed two fingers against the crucial acupoint on Shen Qiao’s back and said to him, “Read.”

To other people’s eyes, it appeared as if Yan Wushi was threatening him, but only Shen Qiao knew that the person seemed to have used some sort of secret art and opened up part of his clogged meridians in a flash. A warm stream of inner qi flowed across his entire body immediately afterwards. As the view in front of his eyes gradually became clear, he started to see just like a normal person.

Nobody would have thought that Yan Wushi was the one who saved Shen Qiao’s life. However, despite having such a relationship between them, Shen Qiao would never believe that Yan Wushi would treat him favorably. A vague idea came to his mind and his opinion towards this person was shaded by one more layer of coldness.

Shen Qiao resigned himself to picking up the bamboo tube and slowly unscrewed it open, taking out a set of bamboo slips [1] rolled up into a scroll.

The bamboo slips were made extremely thin. After the scroll was fully unfolded, it was actually about one meter long.

The writing on it was tiny, but since Shen Qiao had temporarily recovered his eyesight, he could still roughly read it with the help of the moonlight.

Everyone stared at him with shining gazes.

If those gazes could materialize, they would have burned countless holes all over Shen Qiao already.

He narrowed his eyes to read the sentences carefully, then slowly and clearly read out every single word and phrase, “The spleen harbors the Will. In Houtian stage, it is Free Will, while in the Xiantian stage, it is Belief…”

A person who didn’t have any inner qi would naturally have a rather normal volume, but most of the people present had outstanding hearing abilities. Thus, they could still hear him clearly.

There wasn’t much content on the bamboo slips. Even though Shen Qiao’s reading speed was slow, it only took him an hour at most to finish.

His mouth had become dry from all the talking, as he handed the bamboo slips back to Yan Wushi. The latter then took his hand off Shen Qiao’s back and Shen Qiao felt that warm stream of inner qi suddenly vanish completely. Darkness slowly resumed before his eyes and perhaps because he had just overstrained them, a burning sensation broke out in his eyes as if they had been burnt by fire.
 He was forced to cover his eyes with one hand while using the other to stabilize himself with the help of the bamboo stick, his back slightly arched as he panted.

Yan Wushi didn’t bother with him. He took over the bamboo slips and shook his sleeve. Without another word, he flipped his hand, and the bamboo slips immediately turned into powder, dissipating into the air.

Everyone was stunned.

Murong Xun was still young and hot-blooded. He could not restrain himself from shouting, “The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang is such a precious treasure and yet you destroyed it!”

Yan Wushi’s voice sounded indifferent, “Only something that no longer exists can be called ‘precious.’ He has already read it out just now. How much you have remembered would be your own business.”

Murong Xun panted as he stared at him. For a moment, he was speechless.

Yan Wushi clapped his hand and dusted off the last remnants of powder on his sleeve. Then he turned around and left without any hesitation.
Not many people in this world were able to stop him. Zen Master Xueting did not move. Therefore, other people could only stare blankly as his figure disappeared into the darkness.

Bai Rong immediately followed after him and left without even taking care of the wounds on her body. However, it was not to chase after Yan Wushi, but to hurry and find a place to write down what she had memorized just then.

Both Murong Xun and Tuoba Liangzhe turned their eyes to Murong Qin. The latter pondered for a moment and also made his decision, “Let’s go!”

Without giving Yun Fuyi and her men another glance, the three of them turned and left right away.

Zen Master Xueting sighed softly and said to Yun Fuyi, “Vice Chairman Yun has been quite startled tonight. Please send this poor monk’s regards to Chairman Dou on my behalf.”

He also took part in the process of holding back Yun Fuyi, but since the remaining book had been destroyed already, she completely lost interest in criticizing him and merely replied dully, “Master, take care.”
 After Zen Master Xueting had left, she asked Hu Yan and Hu Yu to help the two hall managers up. She then said to Shen Qiao and Chen Gong, “Your unexpected misfortune tonight was all because of Six Harmonies Association and I’m very sorry about it. May I know where you two are heading to next? If it’s convenient, we can drop you off on our way.”

If it was back then, Chen Gong would definitely agree happily. But what had happened that night showed him what the saying that “there is always someone better out there” meant. His spirit had diminished a lot, but he still couldn’t let go of this opportunity to enter the pugilistic world and was thus pondering on how to answer her.

However, Shen Qiao who was next to him answered before he could, “Thank you very much for your kindness. Originally, we were going to go down south to seek refuge with our relatives, but we didn’t expect to come  across  things  like this. We’re quite scared now and all we want is to hurry to the south. We’re not from the pugilistic world, nor do we want to be involved in its business. So, please forgive us.”

Yun Fuyi thought for a bit and asked, “Do you still remember the content you have just read?”

Shen Qiao shook his head, “We come from a poor family. My cousin is illiterate, while I myself only know a few characters and haven’t read many classics. Besides, my eyes are also bad. I don’t know what kind of magic that expert had used. He pressed his hand against my back, making me able to see
 the characters. But right after I finished and his hand left my back, I can’t even see clearly, let alone remember anything.”

Yun Fuyi saw that his eyes had no focus. There sure seemed to be problems with them as the white parts were suffused with a faint blue, so she knew what he said was true. She felt a bit sorry that they had refused her offer, but she did not force them. “That’s fine. We’ll leave first since we need to hurry on with our journey tonight. If the two of you have any urgent needs, you can go to the Six Harmonies Association’s sub-hall in the city and tell them my name [2], Yun Fuyi.”

Shen Qiao thanked her. Chen Gong glanced at Shen Qiao and then thanked her as well.

Yun Fuyi and her men didn’t stay for long. They weren’t even concerned with the two chests anymore. Hu Yan and Hu Yu brought the two injured hall managers with them and headed to the inside of the city as fast as they could. All of a sudden, such a big monastery became even more desolate.

After he saw their figures disappear from his sight, Chen Gong softly gave Shen Qiao a pat. He was still speaking in a really low voice as if he was afraid that other people might overhear him, “Why didn’t you agree when she asked  us  to  go  together with them? Won’t it be safer if we did?”

The pain in Shen Qiao’s eyes hadn’t stopped yet, but he laughed
 after hearing Chen Gong’s question, “Then, why didn’t you stop me and straightforwardly request to go with them when I was speaking back then?”

Chen Gong hesitated for a second, “Comparing to them, of course you’re more trustworthy.”

Shen Qiao sighed, “I guess the only reason that Vice Chairman Yun had invited us to travel along is that she was afraid that the content she heard was incomplete and wanted us to help her to write the book down from memory. After the event tonight, the outside world will soon find out about the news. People will try to obtain a copy of the book by all possible means. If we travel along with them, when danger arises, we would be the first ones thrown out by them.”

Chen Gong suddenly realized the truth. He could not help but curse, “No wonder that woman suddenly became so kind- hearted. So, it turns out that she has a bellyful of evil tricks hidden already. If you didn’t stop me in time, I would have really followed after them!”

“This is just my guess. Since The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang is such a precious treasure, they are afraid they will forget something they heard while it was read out loud and will definitely stop and write it down first. These written versions would surely become hot items that everyone wants to seize. We’re not martial artists. Travelling together with them won’t bring us any benefit. It will only draw disaster upon us.”
Chen Gong was dejected, “You’re right. I wanted to join the Six Harmonies Association after seeing how majestic they looked in Funing District. But after tonight, I’ll no longer hold on to this delusion. I don’t know a thing about martial arts and would probably just end up being a handyman for the rest of my life even if I can get in!”

The two of them went back together. It was more than an hour since the incident before Shen Qiao finally felt the pain in his eyes slightly alleviate. However, he could not see anything when he opened his eyes. His sight was back to the worst condition that he had started with.

He pondered about it. Regarding what Yan Wushi did just then, it was highly probable that he somehow managed to quickly improve his eyes–which would originally have needed several months or even several years to recover–to their best condition. But in the end, he might need even more time to recover now as a compensation for the brief moments of light he had seen.

Shen Qiao couldn’t help but smile bitterly.

He had finally experienced thoroughly how heartless this person was. It was probably not some kind of good intention either that led Yan Wushi to save Shen Qiao back then.

But tonight… Was it really a coincidence that Yan Wushi had
 appeared here?

Suddenly, Chen Gong pulled Shen Qiao’s sleeves. His tone sounded a bit chilling, “You see, since someone else was impersonating that little monk back there, what about the abbot and the two little monks who were originally living in the monastery? It can’t be… It can’t be that they were already silenced, right?”

Shen Qiao did not say anything.

As if his silence conveyed some kind of message, Chen Gong turned pale and became quiet as well.

He had always flaunted himself as a fearless person, but this was the first time that he deeply realized the importance of power.

In a world like this one, anyone who did not have the corresponding strength could end up becoming a sacrifice with a shady death at any time.

As expected, both the abbot and the two monks were dead.
 The corpses were right in the old abbot’s room. The murderer hadn’t even tried to cover it up and simply left them lying there in disorder. Chen Gong was so scared when he saw this that even his legs went soft. He had no strength to collect their corpses and ran straight back, rolling and crawling along the way. Only after seeing Shen Qiao did he finally calm down a little.

Even though Shen Qiao was blind, he could still somehow give people strength just by quietly sitting there.

Chen Gong’s lips trembled as he asked, “Were they killed by the woman who had disguised herself as the little monk? She’s so strong. She could have just made them unable to speak or move. Why did she still need to kill them?”

“Maybe, this is the way she does  things.” Shen Qiao was silent for a moment. “Some people don’t need reasons when they act. They believe they can rule over other people’s lives, thus whether they decide to do good or evil solely depends on their own preference.”

Chen Gong blankly stared at the ground. The dried up bloodstain on the old abbot’s corpse was still flashing before his eyes. Everything that had happened tonight had completely overturned what he had known or experienced in the past dozen or so years. Still deeply immersed in the shock, he was unable to come back to reality for a long time.
 ‘I must not become a person who places themselves at the mercy of others. I have to become the one who can domineer over others,’ Chen Gong thought as he recalled those great experts he had seen tonight.

Compared to the calm and mature Zen Master Xueting who appeared to be out of this mortal world, the extravagant, self-willed Yan Wushi would naturally stir up more of his admiration.

Shen Qiao didn’t know what he was thinking. He thought Chen Gong was just frightened, so he patted Chen Gong’s shoulder a few times and said softly, “Every encounter is the result of fate. Since the old abbot lent out his monastery for us to stay, it should be counted as him doing us a favor. Why don’t we bury them together tomorrow morning?”

Chen Gong let out a long breath. “Sure.”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Bamboo Slips (竹简 zhu jian): Bamboo and wooden slips were the main media for documents in China before the widespread introduction of paper (see image).
[2] Tell them my name : A way of saying that they had a connection with her.

Chapter 13

First published on Ainushi.
Synopsis: What taste of ecstasy would it be?
Early the next morning, they hastily buried the abbot and the two little monks before entering the city.
After the event that happened last night, Chen Gong was like a bird that would be startled by the mere twang of a bow. He didn’t want to stay in the city any longer. Even when he saw the distant sign of the Six Harmonies Association’s sub-hall, he had no intention to go forward and only wanted to drag Shen Qiao to walk faster. Caught between a laugh and a cry, Shen Qiao said to him, “Nobody will notice us. They don’t even know our names and will only go after the others. You don’t need to worry this much.”

Right after he finished, they heard someone tittering from the wall next to them. “I would say his concern is necessary. But again, the light was so dim last night that I didn’t even notice what a charming face this mister has. I almost missed it!”
The voice was sweet and cute. Most importantly, it sounded extremely familiar.
Chen Gong thought he recognized the voice. As he raised his head, he saw a young girl sitting on top of the wall, smiling at them sweetly. She was wearing a red dress, her black hair was held up in two buns by two gold rings. Apart from her voice, there was not even one spot on her resembled the little monk from last night.
Were it in the past, if such a beautiful woman was to walk on the street, Chen Gong would definitely give her quite a few glances.
 However, now as he thought of the horrible deaths of the three monks in Beyond Cloud Monastery, he only felt a chill creep over him and didn’t even have the courage to give her another look.
Bai Rong smiled, “Why are you so scared? Shouldn’t you be happy that you get to meet an old friend again? I came here just for you two!”
Shen Qiao couldn’t see, so he only cupped his hands towards the source of the voice. “May I know why this lady is looking for us?”

Bai Rong pouted, “What do you mean by ‘this lady’? It sounds like we’re strangers. My family name is Bai, Bai Rong. It’s another name for ‘peony’, therefore you can also call me ‘Little Peony’!”

As she spoke, her body moved and appeared in front of them in a flash.

Bai Rong seemed to have a greater interest in Shen Qiao, she even tried to touch his face.

Just as her finger was about to caress his face, Shen Qiao seemed to have noticed her intentions and took two steps back.

Bai Rong giggled and said straightforwardly, “Last night, one of you was reading the script, while the other heard the entire thing, so I assume both of you must have remembered a lot
 of its contents. I’m going to write them down from memory now, but there are some places that I can’t recall accurately, therefore, I need your help. As for the reward… after we finish, no matter which one you prefer, beauty or wealth, you will get what you wish for~”
She dragged out the last sentence. There was an underlying current of seduction in her coquettish voice, it was enough to sway the heart of any man.

Chen Gong felt his ear burn and he was about to agree, but he suddenly felt a vice-like grip from the hand on his shoulder. He recovered from his muddled state and started to shake his head at once so rapidly like it was like a rattle-drum. “But I can’t read!”

Shen Qiao also said, “You’re looking for the wrong people. He’s illiterate, and I’m blind. All I did last night was to read word by word from the book. I already forgot everything after I finished reading, so I’m afraid that we can’t offer any help.”

Bai Rong smiled, “Of course you can’t remember because you are so nervous and alarmed right now. You can take your time to think it through after you go back with me, maybe you can remember a lot by then. Do you really have the heart to reject such a pretty girl like me?”

She didn’t wait for them to answer after she finished, instead, her hand grabbed right towards them.
 Alarms in Chen Gong’s head went off. His body wanted to run away, but as he saw that slender white hand approach him, he lost all of his strength and could only watch that hand brush across his shoulder. His legs went soft and his entire body collapsed onto the ground, paralyzed.

“Junior marital sister, you are in such a good mood. Are you planning to kill someone again?” An extremely handsome face but with an old voice appeared at that same moment.

A man jumped off the wall and landed as light as a feather on the ground. Bai Rong’s face turned slightly pale as he smiled at her. “We don’t see each other often. Isn’t junior martial sister happy to see me?”
Bai Rong had to put Chen Gong and Shen Qiao aside for now and focus on dealing with the unwelcome guest before her eyes. “What is senior martial brother talking about? I was unable to react just now because I was too happy  with  surprise.  I haven’t seen you for such a long time.”

Huo Xijing glanced at her with a faint smile. After passing Chen Gong, his gaze landed on Shen Qiao. His expression changed, revealing his interest in the latter. “Such a pretty mister. Junior martial sister is going to kill him anyway, why don’t you give me his face first and kill him afterward?”

Bai Rong stepped forward in between Shen Qiao and Huo Xijing unobtrusively. “Junior martial brother sure likes to joke, I’ve never thought about killing them. Speaking of which, why is
 junior marital brother here? Don’t tell me that you traveled thousands of miles just to chat with me about the good old days?”

Huo Xijing answered, “I’ve heard that junior martial sister had an extremely big stroke of luck last night. I happened to be passing by, so I decided to drop in and take a look.”

Bai Rong replied, “What kind of riddle is senior martial brother talking about? I don’t seem to understand~”

Huo Xijing gave a light snort, “Last night, the Six Harmonies Association appeared outside the monastery in the city outskirts with the remaining script of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang, but the script was destroyed by Yan Wushi. You were also present at the time. I’ve heard that before the script was destroyed, Yan Wushi asked someone to read it aloud once. According to how smart junior martial sister is, I believe you’ve already written it down and are ready to hand it over to Master, am I right?”

Bai Rong stuck out her tongue like how little girls coquettishly feigned anger. “Considering how much I respect Master, for something like this, of course, I have to hand  it  over  to Master directly and let him decide how to handle it. It can’t be that senior martial brother wants to steal my credit after hearing the news, right? Because I certainly  won’t  allow that~”
 Huo Xijing said, “Your senior martial brother actually has a good idea. Why don’t you let me keep it for you? We can then go back and report to Master together. This way, we won’t have to worry about you losing it.”

Bai Rong laughed, “Senior martial brother, do you think I’m stupid?”

Huo Xijing also laughed, “It breaks my heart that you distrust your senior martial brother this much!”

This pair of martial brother and sister were laughing and talking while smiling, but the truth was that there were swords and blades hidden behind each of their words. Both of them stared at the other’s unguarded weak spots as they spoke.

Bai Rong didn’t dare lower her guard for even a split second. She knew clearly that Shen Qiao had run away with Chen Gong, but she was too busy to take care of them. She had to put all of her focus on Huo Xijing for fear that she would fall into his traps before she was even aware.

Huo Xijing raised his eyebrows, “They left. Isn’t junior martial sister going to chase after them?”

Bai Rong smiled, “I think senior martial brother is more important than them.”
The conversation sounded extremely loving and sentimental, but both of them knew in their heart that was not the case at all.

Chen Gong didn’t know how Shen Qiao managed to pull him up, drag him along and escape together. Shen Qiao couldn’t see, even with the help of his stick, he had been running into this and that as he moved. Chen Gong had no strength left and could only give Shen Qiao directions from behind. The two of them ran for over an hour before Chen Gong finally panted, “S-Stop, I can’t run anymore…”

Shen Qiao slowed down, but his expression didn’t become any less dignified, as he walked towards the nearest inn.

Chen Gong hurriedly asked, “Are we not exiting the city? Let’s hurry and get out, so that devilish woman can’t catch up with us!”

Shen Qiao explained, “All the more reason for us to stay here. They are definitely expecting us to leave the city as well. There are more people in the city, so it won’t be that easy for them to find us. Let’s put up at the inn for a night first and find a chance to leave the city tomorrow. She won’t be able to pay any attention to us for a while with that man there.”
 They walked into the inn and asked for a room. Chen Gong noticed that despite Shen Qiao had been walking pretty fast, he looked utterly exhausted. He remembered that Shen Qiao’s body was much weaker than his and how normally Shen Qiao had to stop to catch his breath every time they walked a little far. Feeling a bit sorry for him, Chen Gong suggested, “I’ll sleep on the floor tonight, you can take the bed.”

Shen Qiao didn’t decline the offer out of modesty like he normally would because he really couldn’t hold on much longer. Ever since Yan Wushi poured inner qi into his body and made him strain his eyes last night, he had been feeling weak from head to toe. He was merely holding onto his tension prior to this, and now once he was able to relax, he immediately became dizzy and was about to collapse.

Chen Gong was quite curious, “They’re martial brother and sister, but how come they act like they are enemies? That guy is a little weird, too. His voice sounds like an old man, but his face is so young!”
Rubbing his temples, Shen Qiao replied, “Because he practices ‘Solar Scheme’ [1].”
Chen Gong asked, “What’s ‘Solar Scheme’?”

‘That name sounds quite imposing,’ he thought.

Shen Qiao explained, “It’s a face-switching art. Peeling the skin of other people and fusing it with his own using some
 kind of secret arts in order to stay young and beautiful forever. For those two people, either one of them would be a thorny person to deal with. If it weren’t for them not getting along with each other, we would not have escaped successfully today.”

Chen Gong felt his blood run cold from listening and couldn’t restrain himself from crying out, “How can there be skill this malicious?!”

Shen Qiao couldn’t force himself to stay awake anymore and lay down with his clothes on. He turned to his side, his body slightly curling up and his eyebrows faintly furrowed together on his pale face–it almost looked like he was in his final days.

When Chen Gong first started to travel with Shen Qiao, he was worried that Shen Qiao would collapse at any moment, but he got used to it afterward, seeing that Shen Qiao was like that all the time.

He suddenly thought of something and asked, “Didn’t you say that you don’t remember anything? How do you know he’s practicing face-switching art?”

“Oh, I can remember a little sometimes.”

Chen Gong’s mouth twitched.
“Let’s sleep. We still need to get up early tomorrow.” Shen Qiao clearly didn’t want to talk about it anymore. He turned over, his back facing Chen Gong.

Chen Gong was left with no choice but to lie down after him.

He had a nightmare that night. In it, his face was peeled off and replaced by a wrinkled face of an old man. He couldn’t even recognize himself from the mirror. He was horrified and woke up at the end with a shock. It was almost noon, and the bed was already empty.
Shen Qiao was gone.

It gave Chen Gong a start. He jumped up while his head was still muddled and touched the bed. It was already cold. Just when he was trying to decide whether he should go out and look for Shen Qiao, he saw Shen Qiao push open the door and walk in.
He heaved a sigh of relief, “Where have you been?”

After these days of traveling together, even though Chen Gong never said anything, but deep in his heart, he was already used to having Shen Qiao as a companion without knowing it.
In the eyes of the others, since Shen Qiao was blind and his health was not good either, there had to be a lot of inconvenience in his everyday living that needed Chen Gong’s help. However, the truth was that Chen Gong often listened to Shen Qiao. Thanks to Shen
 Qiao, they had avoided many wrong paths.

Shen Qiao closed the door and said softly, “Let’s part here today.”

Chen Gong went blank for a moment, then he jumped up.

Shen Qiao explained, “After Bai Rong finishes  dealing  with her senior martial brother, she might turn around and look for us. As for the Six Harmonies Association, even though I managed to send them away last night when they offered to travel together with us, it’s not guaranteed they won’t regret it afterward.”

He paused for a second and sighed, “Also, that Murong Qin should be an expert from the imperial court.  Catching  us would be a piece of cake for him if he sends out people from the government to look for us. It’s true that one of us is blind while the other is illiterate, but the temptation of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang is simply too tremendous. We end up hearing something that many people want so badly all their lives yet can’t get a hold of. Compared to the other people who were present, we could not be any less of a pushover–any martial artist is capable of taking away our lives.”

Chen Gong stammered, “T-then what should we do? It’s not
 like we want to hear it. That thing sounds so abstruse, no one wants to hear it!”

“It is not a man’s guilt, but the wealth he carries. We appeared last night together, and it has already created an impression for the others. The only way out for us now is to part and be on our own way.”

After a moment of panic, Chen Gong realized that this was indeed the only possible way out. If they were to really be involved in a confrontation, other people could probably beat them to ground with no more than a punch. This sense of powerlessness surged inside him and became an even greater sense of despair — Chen Gong hated himself for his incompetence, but there was nothing he could do.

“…Fine then.” Agreeing reluctantly, he looked at Shen Qiao.
“But will you be alright by yourself?”

Shen Qiao laughed, “Why wouldn’t I? Back then  when  we were in Funing District, you saw how well I could do by myself.”

Chen Gong agreed, but he couldn’t feel happy about it no matter what. “Will we be able to meet again after we leave the city?”

“It would depend on fate then. Are you still going to Six
 Harmonies Association?”

Chen Gong shook his head. He was quite clear on that. “Their vice chairman already knows me. It’s like walking right into a trap if I were to go there again. Everyone knows I’ve heard that stupid script, and they would certainly try to dig up something from me.”

“Where are you planning to go then?”

Chen Gong was disheartened. “I’ll see as I go. Perhaps there would be a time when I run out of money, then I might just settle down at the place I’m in. Anyway, people have to eat.”

“The Six Harmonies Association is a big sect after all and therefore has a high threshold. You might not be treated well even if you can make it. It’s better to find a small sect that has moral standards which are upright and just. With your wisdom and talent, I think you’ll stand out soon enough.”

“Whatever. I don’t want to go south anymore. I want to head to the north, all the way towards Ye City. I heard it’s pretty prosperous there, so maybe there are more opportunities for me to make my mark.”

Chen Gong wasn’t very spirited when he said it. He didn’t have many things to pack–only two sets of clothes with him that he could
 just tie his bundle and leave. Before he left, he looked back and saw Shen Qiao quietly sitting there, with his bamboo stick placed in front of him. Even though his eyes had no focus, he was faced towards him, as if he was seeing Chen Gong off.

Chen Gong couldn’t tell why, but he felt his nose twitch and his voice caught in his throat as he said, “Y-you, you take care.”

Shen Qiao nodded, “You too.”

They were two strangers who came together by chance, happened to travel together, and due to some reason, parted and went their own way in the end. This was something that could not have been more common, but Chen Gong, who was only a teenage boy, had yet to learn how to take it calmly.

Shortly after Chen Gong left, Shen Qiao also started to pack his clothes in preparation for exiting the city. He was going to leave from the southern gate so that he wouldn’t run into Chen Gong. It was true that by leaving separately the targets would be dispersed, but he had another reason for it.

Chen Gong was alert and high strung all the way as he exited the city. Only after seeing that no one followed after him or tried to stop him did he finally feel relieved.

Huai Prefecture was not far from Zhou Dynasty. Travelling merchants frequently passed by here, and there were people carrying and selling goods during daytime even outside the city gates. Cries for customers could be heard here and there, making it quite a bustling scene. Chen Gong didn’t have time to look closely since he had been focusing on avoiding those powerful people. Now that he was within the prosperous fair, the mindset of a teenage boy that loved bustling scenes emerged again.
However, he didn’t dare spend too much time looking around. After taking a cursory walk around, he bought two freshly baked steaming hot pancakes to eat on his way and headed out to the north along the official road.

After he was about a hundred steps out of the fair, he heard a burst of stampeding sounds of horses from behind, with screams and wails mixed in it. Chen Gong hurriedly turned around and saw a few people sprinting out from the city towards him, followed by a large troop of men on galloping horses with bows in their hands.

He didn’t know what was going on and stood still where he was for a moment, but the sight of those people getting closer and the people that followed after them even started preparing their bows to shoot his way frightened him out of his mind. He started to run together with them subconsciously, even though his head was still muddled, unable to understand why such a scene would suddenly appear out of nowhere.

Not only him, all the commoners around the city gate were thrown into disorder, screaming incessantly as they fled in all directions.

Chen Gong didn’t dare to even turn back his head. He ran forwards as fast as he possibly could while thinking in his head that his luck really could not be worse. Incidents kept happening wherever he went.

After he had been running for a while, Chen Gong suddenly heard the sound of an arrowing piercing through the air as it whizzed past his ear and disappeared into the bush in front of him.

His leg became soft and he almost fell forwards.

Sounds of people screaming and falling to the ground could be heard from behind him. Laughter from people riding the horses came from a distance, they sounded quite pleased with themselves.

Someone flattered, “Commandery Prince’s [2] archery skill is amazing! I would say Prince could hit any target within the distance of a hundred steps and would never miss!”

The laughter suddenly came to a stop. The person raised his voice, “No one is allowed to touch the fastest  one  in  front.  I’m going to shoot him!”

Who else was running faster than Chen Gong? No one!
 He suddenly realized what was happening!

Most of the high officials and noble lords were fond of hunting, but some of them were extremely perverse. They didn’t like to hunt animals but had a special interest in hunting live people. They would release prisoners and slaves and command them to run as fast as they could, then they would shoot them with arrows and didn’t care whether their prey would die. This was called human-hunting.

Chen Gong had only heard about it after he left Funing District. At that time, he thought it was something rare and clicked his tongue together with the others as he listened. Now when the story became real and happened right to him, it was not interesting at all!

After realizing what was happening, his heart was beating faster than the drumbeats and was about to jump out of his chest!
Chen Gong suddenly stopped, turned around and prostrated on the ground as he begged in loud voice, “Please spare my life, Your Highness! Please spare my life! I’m not a game! I’m not even a prisoner or a slave! I’m a person in good standing!”

“So what? I can kill you if I want to!” The leader laughed casually, but after he saw Chen Gong’s face, he let out a sound of surprise. “Raise your head and let me see.”

Chen Gong mustered up the courage to raise his head, his face filled with dread and fear.
But Mu Tipo found him amusing. “The skin is a little dark, but still pretty. The limbs seem flexible, too. If I am to spare your life, what do you have to repay me?”

Chen Gong was confused. “I would happily do anything  at Your Highness’s order…”

Mu Tipo laughed softly, “All right then. Someone bring him back and clean him up!”

Chen Gong left home since he was young, and it was not like he didn’t understand anything about the society out there. Seeing that everyone on the side looked at him with a strange expression, along with the words the person just said, he suddenly realized that this person took a liking to him as a boy-toy [3]!
In the country of Qi, among the upper-class nobility in particular, a boy-toy was not something rare. For several generations, the emperors of Qi had been interested in both sexes. Since subordinates tended to follow the example of their superiors, homosexuality was practiced in large-scale at the lower levels, too.
Chen Gong wasn’t aware that he had met the most famous one among the emperor’s favored officials, but it didn’t stop him from being frightened out of his wits after realizing what just happened. He shouted as he kowtowed, “Please spare my life, Your Highness! I, I don’t look good. I don’t want to go back with you!”
 Mu Tipo’s face darkened.

Chen Gong’s heart was thumping.

He learned a few punching and kicking moves from Shen Qiao, but the other party had a group of people with him, each of them had blazing eyes and brought weapons on the side. The few martial arts tricks he had were absolutely useless against them. Before he could even get close to the nobleman, his heart would have been pierced by thousands of arrows already.

Chen Gong once thought he feared nothing, but at this very moment, he finally realized how naive and ridiculous he was. He wasn’t afraid before because he was capable of coping with those situations, and he was afraid now because he didn’t even need to figure out who were these nobles in front of him to know that they were definitely not someone he could afford to offend.

The servant on the side started to laugh again, “Commandery Prince, I’ve never seen anyone as insensible as him!”

Another person echoed, “That’s right. It’s not like he’s exceedingly beautiful either. It was his fortune that Prince is interested in him. How could he dare to refuse! It’s better to just shoot him here!”

Mu Tipo’s eyes narrowed. He slowly raised the bow in his hand.
 “Your Highness! Please let this lowly person  explain  to you!”

Chen Gong’s head went blank with a buzz. He didn’t have time to think it through before he blurted out, “This lowly person doesn’t have good looks and thus is not worthy to  be  treated  so highly by Your Highness, but this lowly person does know, does know a person! He’s a lot prettier than me… No! He’s even prettier than all of these people you brought combined!”
All of the people following Mu Tipo were good looking men. After hearing Chen Gong’s words, they all burst into laughter, ridiculing how little Chen Gong knew about the world.

“Look how rustic he looks, yet he’s saying he has seen people prettier than us!”

Mu Tipo didn’t say anything. His hand pulled out an arrow decorated with white feathers, and it seemed like he was about to draw the bowstring and shoot it.

Chen Gong was covered in cold sweat. In a life and death crisis, he was unable to think of anything else before he shouted, “That person is right in the city. We’ve just parted. If Your Highness doesn’t believe me, I can bring you there. He has a good appearance, it’s just that his eyes aren’t very good. I- I’m just a-afraid that Your Highness won’t like him because he’s blind!”
Hearing the word ‘blind’, Mu Tipo finally felt a bit interested. “That being said, I’ve never played with a blind person before. I would assume that you don’t have to blindfold him when you tie him up in bed?”

His frivolous tone stirred up a burst of filthy laughter.

Chen Gong had finally witnessed that these officials had absolutely no moral principles. But his words were already out, and it was too late for him to regret them. He said to himself that Shen Qiao’s skill was better than his, maybe he could fight off these people. Or maybe by the time they got there, Shen Qiao would have already left.

All kinds of thoughts flashed across his mind in a hideous mess as he blankly sat there without moving. The servant approached Chen Gong on his horse, holding his chin up as he commanded, “Hurry and bring us there!”

Chen Gong clenched his teeth, “Your Highness. Actually… actually that person’s health is not good. Even though he’s pretty, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed…”

Mu Tipo ridiculed, “Looking sickly… that’s even better. Playing with him would be a whole different feeling. Even if he dies while playing, it would be his own problem, and no one can blame me for it! It’s fine if you don’t want to show us the way. Why don’t we replace him with you? Your body is
 strong, so presumably, there will be no problem however we play with you. How about making you take off your clothes and play together with my wolfhounds? They happen to be in heat right now, and I was worried that I couldn’t find them something to mate with!”

Chen Gong’s eyes widened. He could never imagine that there were people so ruthless and savage in this world. He was trembling from head to toe from Mu Tipo’s description and could no longer bear to put up any resistance.

‘Don’t blame me, Shen Qiao. I have no other choice.’ He thought to himself.

Chen Gong led the large troop into the city and arrived at the inn they had been staying in. Only half a day had passed since he left.

The innkeeper still remembered him. Seeing that he had returned with an entire troop behind him, the innkeeper didn’t dare to treat him shabbily. He hurriedly came up to greet him, “Would you like to…”

Chen Gong couldn’t help but to turn around and look at Mu Tipo. The latter had covered his nose, frowning from the sight of the inn’s crude interior. He was reluctant to enter, so he only ordered a few of his underlings to enter with Chen Gong to investigate.
“Is the person who checked in with me still here?” Chen Gong made a gesture with his hand. “His eyes are bad, and he was holding a bamboo stick.”

The innkeeper immediately replied, “Yes, yes. He’s still here in his room. He hasn’t come down yet.”
Chen Gong’s heart thumped with joy, but then a sense of guilt rose from within it. However, the sense of guilt didn’t last long before someone interrupted.

The underling that came with Mu Tipo frowned and barked at Chen Gong, “What’re you waiting for? Hurry and bring us upstairs!”

The underling had makeup on his face. His manner was somewhat unnaturally affected and flowery. Chen Gong didn’t even want to give him a second look. However, he could not disobey the person’s words, therefore, he had no choice but to slowly lead him upstairs, hoping that Shen Qiao had already left and yet at the same time that Shen Qiao was still there.

Chen Gong brought him upstairs and knocked on the door.

After the third knock, he heard a familiar voice answer from inside.
“Who is it?”
 Chen Gong was unable to describe the feeling in his heart at that particular moment. He swallowed hard before replying, “It’s me.”

“Chen Gong? Why are you back? Come in.” Shen Qiao was a little surprised, but his voice was as gentle as always.

Chen Gong’s feelings became extremely complicated, his sense of guilt welled up inside him all at once.

“Why don’t you go in?” Mu Tipo’s underling became impatient and gave him a hard push.

Chen Gong staggered forward and pushed the door open.

Shen Qiao was sitting by the window, his face turned slightly outwards as if he was appreciating the scenery outside. But Chen Gong knew he had lost his sight completely after that night.

“Tut. So this is the beauty you were talking about? He’s not very…”

The underling paused mid-sentence and didn’t know how to continue as Shen Qiao turned around.
Mu Tipo’s eyes brightened as he walked upstairs by himself after his impatience got the better of him from waiting downstairs.
 He came from a poor family and started to lead an over- extravagant life only after his mother had gained power and he started to hang out together with the emperor later. Therefore he paid extreme attention to people’s attire and would disregard anyone whose manner of dressing wasn’t gorgeous enough.

Shen Qiao’s clothes weren’t made of good materials, and he only tied his hair up simply. There wasn’t even a jade hairpin. He simply wrapped it in a cloth piece that had the same azure color as his clothes.

However, Mu Tipo couldn’t move his eyes away at all.

The course materials could not hide the outstanding quality of the beauty himself.

His mouth felt dry even as Shen Qiao expressionlessly ‘looked’ at him. He could barely hold back the urge to step up, press him down, tear his clothes, and violate him against his will.

“Chen Gong, who else did you bring with you?”

Hearing his slightly ignorant voice, Mu Tipo felt himself becoming even more excited.
 What taste of ecstasy would it be when this person cried while knitting his brows? He couldn’t even imagine.

Mu Tipo even thought it through, he would first keep the person in Huai Prefecture till he was done playing with him and then give him to the emperor of Qi, Gao Wei. Just like him, Gao Wei also liked to play with things that were different. If he could send over such a blind beauty, the emperor would definitely be pleased.

“What’s your name?” He asked Shen Qiao.

Shen Qiao slightly frowned, but instead of answering, he just repeated, “Chen Gong?”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Solar Scheme (偷天换日 tou tian huan ri): Literally means to steal the sky and put up a sham sun, or putting up a gigantic fraud/scheme.
[2] Commandery Prince ( 郡王 jun wang): High title of nobility, ordinarily prefixed with a place-name (Mu Tipo’s full title was Chengyang Commandery Prince or Commandery Prince of Chengyang) designating the noble’s real or nominal fief. Normally granted to the sons of Imperial Princes, but in this case, Mu Tipo was very much favored by the Emperor.
[3] Boy-toy ( 娈宠 luan chong): Males, usually young boys, who were kept and used as sexual objects by the wealthy and the powerful ones.

Just want to let you guys no I didn’t drop this serie, but with the
 rapid expansion of our site, we are running a little short on editors currently! Sorry for the long delay of this chapter. We welcome anyone if they are willing to help out in our group, and please refer to the contact page if you’re wishing to join! Yes, we are recruiting! Our dear Yan Wushi who has almost stayed missing since the beginning will start to hang out more with all of us MC beginning next chapter! And woa we finally got to see how this Chen Gong guy, who has been hated by the readers for so long for taking up ML’s space, turns out!
? Enjoy~

Chapter 14

Quality Checker: Mochimochi First published on Ainushi.
Synopsis: How does it feel to be a good person?
Even though he clearly knew that Shen Qiao was blind, Chen Gong still subconsciously avoided making eye contact with him.

Upon seeing this, Mu Tipo chuckled, “Chen Gong told me there was a beauty here who was a hundred times prettier than all of my men combined. I didn’t believe him at first, thinking that this boy hadn’t seen much of the world and only knew how to brag, so I followed him to have a look. But now after seeing you, I finally know that  he  wasn’t  really exaggerating.”

Shen Qiao remained silent, his face was expressionless.

Mu Tipo didn’t mind it. “I am Mu Tipo, the Commandery Prince of Chengyang. His Majesty is very fond of me, so if you are willing to go back with me, you will live a luxurious life with wealth and honor from now on, and you won’t have to live in such a crude place anymore.”
 Only then did Shen Qiao finally let out a sigh, “Chen Gong, you are the one who told him my whereabouts?”

Knowing that there was no turning back, Chen Gong steeled his heart and replied, “I had no other choice! If I didn’t bring them here, then I would have to serve Mu… Commandery Prince Mu myself!”

Shen Qiao shook his head. “Do you really think you can get away with it just by bringing them here? Why don’t you ask Commandery Prince of Chengyang whether he is willing to let you go or not?”

Mu Tipo laughed, “You’re right. Even though this boy is nothing compared to you, at least he’s not crippled. He’s smart, and his face is fairly good-looking. I’d say making him a servant would be nice too!”

Chen Gong was shocked. “You just said you would let me go!”

Mu Tipo didn’t pay any attention to him. With a wave of his hand, people from his left and right stepped forward and seized Chen Gong.

Meanwhile, he walked towards Shen Qiao himself.
 Perhaps Shen Qiao felt him approaching, he finally got up with the help of the table. It seemed like he was about to greet Mu Tipo with a salutation.

A smile climbed up the corners of Mu Tipo’s mouth. Everything went just as he expected.

When it came to power and authority, everyone in the world either dreaded or envied it. The ones who dreaded it trembled with fear while the ones with envy chased after it like a moth to a flame. Even though the other person appeared to be reluctant right now, he too would soon get used to or even fall in love with wealth, power, and fair ladies. At that point, if he wanted to get out, it would no longer be up to him to make the decision.

Mu Tipo asked, “What’s your name?” “I’m Shen Qiao.”

“Is it the ‘Qiao’ as in ‘Da Qiao’ and ‘Xiao Qiao’[1]? It suits you well indeed.”

“It’s the ‘Qiao’ with a ‘Shan (Mountain)’ on its left.”

Mu Tipo raised his eyebrows and laughed, “As in ‘I came to appease all gods in the world, including the ones in rivers and high mountains (Qiao)’? This ‘Qiao’ feels a little too
 fierce. It’s not a name a beauty should have.”

But Shen Qiao didn’t laugh. “I think this name is good.”

“Fine, fine, as long as you like it. Do you have a courtesy name [2]? Or should I just call you Xiao-qiao? Ah-qiao?” Mu Tipo laughed. His tone unconsciously held some humor and compliance.

Shen Qiao bent down to pick up the bamboo stick, and part of his neck was revealed underneath the collar. It was fine and slim, arousing all kinds of fanciful thoughts in others.

It made Mu Tipo’s heart itch. He couldn’t hold himself back from reaching out his hand to help Shen Qiao, thinking that he could use the opportunity to pull that person into his arms so that he could come to him.
Shen Qiao’s body temperature was low. He was emaciated due to sickness. When Mu Tipo was holding Shen Qiao’s wrist, he could even feel the bones underneath the thin layer of skin.
Normally, for someone like Mu Tipo who had seen all kinds of beauties, he sure would have disliked how bony Shen Qiao felt in his hand. But at this very moment, his mind was blown away by it, and he became even more eager to have him.

“Ah-qiao…” He only said two words.
And he only had time to say these two words.

Before he felt a sting on his chest.

He looked down. That bamboo stick had somehow appeared in front of him and was pointing right at where his heart was.

Mu Tipo’s reaction was not slow. Right after he felt the sting, he immediately took advantage of the momentum and leaned backward, grabbing the bamboo stick with one hand while attacking Shen Qiao with the other.

He was not a broad-minded person in the first place. Even more so, he hated this seemingly harmless beauty who dared to backstab him; therefore, by the time he attacked, there was no mercy left.

Mu Tipo also practiced martial arts. Despite the fact that his skill was only second or third-rate, if his palm were to really hit Shen Qiao, the latter would be at least severely injured, if not killed.

However, much to his surprise, the bamboo stick which undoubtedly should have fallen into his hand swiftly slipped to the side, escaping Mu Tipo’s range of control.
 Not only that, but Mu Tipo’s other hand also failed to hit the target.

The person he thought to be a sick, fragile beauty actually dodged his attack using some exquisite footwork, he even managed to strike back and hit his waist with the bamboo stick.

He didn’t have any inner qi, so the hit could not inflict much damage on Mu Tipo. However, it hit him right on the weakest spot between his ribs. Mu Tipo was taken by surprise and thus failed to use inner qi to defend himself. As a result, the pain inflicted by the strike almost made his eyes water. He could not restrain himself from letting out a cry before retreating hastily.

Only then did his servants finally realize what had happened. Some of them stepped forward to support Mu Tipo, while the others rushed up in a crowd, ready to take down Shen Qiao.

Mu Tipo had never expected that he would suffer losses at this place, his face sunk to the point that he was about to explode. Gazing at Shen Qiao ferociously, in his mind he already had more than a hundred ways to torture the man. “Catch him alive!”

Some of the servants he brought were quite skilled in martial arts. Relying on the fact that they were overwhelming in numbers, they didn’t take the blind, sickly person seriously; yet unexpectedly, they were all defeated.
 With just one bamboo stick, he kept all of them away. No one was able to approach him.

But that was not all. Knowing that Mu Tipo had more people on his side, Shen Qiao did not intend to spend more time with them either. His attacks became more and more ruthless, his countenance which normally appeared rather delicate due to him being blind was now veiled in coldness. One of them secretly moved behind Shen Qiao in an attempt to capture him, but Shen Qiao took him straight down with a whip of his stick. The person stumbled backward, and without any mercy, Shen Qiao immediately followed up and pushed him out the window.

A shrill scream pierced the air as the person fell off the second floor, and everyone was somewhat intimidated. For a moment, they even forgot to move.

“Who else?”

Shen Qiao “looked” at all of them, his face expressionless. The tip of the bamboo stick touched the ground, whereas he stood there, steadfast and unmoved.

His face was still pale, but one could faintly discern an extra trace of sternness on it.
Chen Gong stood at where he was and gasped.

The last time he saw Shen Qiao fighting off a few beggars was back
 then when they were still in the shabby temple. At that time, he knew Shen Qiao was most likely an expert martial artist before he lost his memory and became sick. However, after he witnessed the fight between Yan Wushi, Zen Master Xueting, and the others at Beyond Cloud Monastery, his outlook seemed to broaden as well, and he no longer felt Shen Qiao was that strong.

Until this moment, he seemed to have finally caught a glimpse of Shen Qiao’s many secrets, yet it also seemed like he was still kept in the dark, not knowing anything at all.

Mu Tipo felt embarrassed, and his hatred and resentment toward Shen Qiao grew. For a moment, he wanted to kill this person, but at the same time, he thought killing him alone was not enough to quench his abhorrence. He had to catch him alive and f*ck him at least a good number of times after they returned. In the end, he could dump him and let his subordinates f*ck him to death—only then would he be able to vent this festering hatred in his heart.

He looked around. Seeing that all of his men appeared hesitant and no one dared to come up, he couldn’t help but cursed, scolding them, “Don’t tell me that you can’t even fight a blind person! You could just crush him with weights!”

But they still didn’t dare to move, mainly because they were too afraid of him now since each one of them had been more or less injured in the previous fight. No one had expected that the person could brilliantly utilize a bamboo stick to such an extent.
 Shen Qiao’s face appeared indifferent. He just stood there without any words, as if he was waiting for them to either leave or continue to come up and provoke him.

Mu Tipo laughed grimly, “You didn’t use any inner qi just now, and exquisite moves alone don’t last for long. I’ve already asked them to surround the inn. If you know your place, you should just kneel down and beg me, maybe I’ll show you a way out then. Otherwise…”

“Otherwise what will happen?”

Mu Tipo’s expression became fierce, “Otherwise…”

But before he could finish, he saw Shen Qiao striking a palm towards the side.
Everyone who thought Shen Qiao didn’t possess any inner qi was astounded. As the air created by the palm passed by, the cabinet fell down at once.
They didn’t see it coming, so they had to dodge, and Mu Tipo was no exception. Since the cabinet was not far behind him, he couldn’t step backward, and the only choice left for him was to lean sideways. However, while he was dodging, Shen Qiao took the opportunity and stroke another palm toward his back at once.
Mu Tipo turned around for a counterattack, but he unexpectedly fell straight into Shen Qiao’s trap. The latter immediately rolled up his sleeve and caught him by his wrist. Shen Qiao dragged him back
 as he retreated to the window, then clutched his neck with his other hand.
Upon seeing this, the other people dared not to move even more.
Mu Tipo didn’t expect his bony wrist to be so powerful that he was completely unable to breathe under its grip; Shen Qiao’s other hand firmly restrained his gate of vitality, leaving him afraid to even to use his inner qi.
“By doing this, you’re only–cough, cough–only heading to your own doom!” Mu Tipo had never thought that in the end, he would have his eyes pecked out by an eagle after spending his life training and toying with them. He was pissed to death, yet he dared not to act rashly.
But who would have thought that Shen Qiao could still fool around with everyone even with a body like this?
“I don’t know if I’m heading to my own doom, but I do know if you don’t let me go today, you’ll probably meet your doom here first.” Shen Qiao’s tone was almost flat, his voice was not loud either. Occasionally, a soft cough could be heard, but there was no anger in his voice. “To be able to have your noble life in exchange for my insignificant one, it’s a great  bargain indeed.”
How the hell did he mistake this person for someone who was harmless and delicate!
Mu Tipo had no choice but to order those servants, who were staring at them and ready to take action, to retreat. “Go out and tell all of them to withdraw!”
Shen Qiao sighed, “Wouldn’t it be better if Commandery Prince acted so readily earlier? Let’s go. Please accompany me all the way to the outside of the city, and then give me a

Mu Tipo sneered, “How is a carriage going to help a blind person like you? Don’t tell me that I have to assign you a coachman too!”
Shen Qiao thought for a moment and said, “Commandery Prince Mu is right. Then please excuse me for keeping you a little longer. I’m sure this way the coachman would not dare to disobey.”
Mu Tipo was exasperated.

Thus they went all the way out of the city. Mu Tipo was forced to get on the carriage, and with him in Shen Qiao’s hand, the coachman did not dare to resist.
The carriage headed west for two days and one night until they were close to the border of Northern Zhou. Shen Qiao made sure that Mu Tipo’s servants would not be able to catch up with them for a while before he let the coachman return with the carriage, whereas he went into an inn while holding Mu Tipo as his hostage. He first knocked Mu Tipo out, and then rendered his offspring maker useless to prevent him from harming other people in the future. After leaving him in one of the guest rooms, Shen Qiao finally left all by himself.
After he came out of the inn, Shen Qiao quickly walked toward the city gate. However, he could only make a few steps before having to stop. He found a corner in an empty, remote alley. Leaning against the wall there, he could not hold onto this state of a spent arrow any longer. He bent over and coughed up a big mouthful of blood.
A sneer came from the side.

Without lifting his head, Shen Qiao already knew who the person was. He erased the bloodstains on his lips with his sleeves and simply sat down against the wall.
 A black-robed person had appeared, yet no one could tell when it had happened. His face was handsome, and his manner was overbearing. A few wrinkles sprinkled along his long and narrow eyes, but they rather enhanced his stature with an indescribable charm.
Yan Wushi stood there with his hands clasped behind him. Seeing how pale Shen Qiao looked as if the person was going to burn out at any moment, he clicked his tongue, “It’s so obvious that you parted with Chen Gong because you didn’t want to implicate him. But your heartfelt kindness was repaid with  betrayal right at the next second. That Chen guy didn’t want to be Mu Tipo’s boy-toy himself, so he threw you out at once. Well, how does it feel to be a good person?”
Shen Qiao felt extremely nauseous inside his chest. He covered his mouth, wishing he could spit out a couple more mouthfuls of blood just to make himself feel better.
“What you said is wrong. I was the one reading the script that night at Beyond Cloud Monastery, and I am the only one who’s literate out of the two of us. Even if Chen Gong has an outstanding memory and remembers a few sentences, he doesn’t know the meaning behind them. If the people from Six Harmonies Association decide to look for us afterwards, they must be coming after me. Therefore, the reason I parted with him is because I don’t want to involve him in my troubles. It would bother my conscience if he suffered because of me.”
He didn’t have enough energy to finish, so he had to pause for a moment and catch his breath before continuing:
“But I’m not a prophet. I didn’t know he would run into Mu Tipo, and even more so, I didn’t know he would lead the disaster to me for the sake of freeing himself. But even then, I can’t use him as my scapegoat without feeling guilty just
 for the possibility that he might do something in the future that will cause me harm.”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Da Qiao, Xiao Qiao (大乔, 小乔): Two famous beauties from the Three Kingdoms Period.
[2] Courtesy Name ( 字 zi) : A name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one’s given name, generally used instead of one’s given name as a form of respect.

Chapter 15

Quality Checker: Kittsune First published on Ainushi.
Synopsis: Shen Qiao felt that this person probably had mental problems.

Yan Wushi was so angry that he ended up laughing, “Sect Leader Shen really has a mind that’s as wide as the sea. It’s a pity that not everyone on Mount Xuandu is like you. Otherwise, how come you, Qi Fengge’s disciple, would have fallen off a cliff from Kunye’s attack?”
Shen Qiao shook his head, but made no reply.

His memory was still vague and intermittent. He could remember some things but not the others. Since he wasn’t quite clear about the truth behind that particular event, he didn’t have much to say about it.

But Yan Wushi suddenly struck a palm out toward him.

This palm was not a light strike. It was not like child’s play intended to test Shen Qiao, but rather carried a solid thirty percent of his martial power.
 Judging by the difference between their current states, not to mention the thirty percent, even if Yan Wushi was to use only ten percent, Shen Qiao would still be powerless against him.

If anyone else was present, they certainly would not doubt that Yan Wushi had the intent to kill, and they certainly would agree that it was impossible for Shen Qiao to escape his doom.

Shen Qiao’s breath became heavier. A mouthful of blood welled up all the way to his throat, but he managed to hold it back firmly. Yan Wushi’s inner qi was just like the person himself. It was extremely overbearing, surging onward violently like the racing current of a great river nearly materializing into real substance.

It was a moment of life or death –– an extreme crisis –– but Shen Qiao actually calmed down inside. A strange feeling of spaciousness emerged within him.

It was still pitch-black in front of Shen Qiao’s eyes, but at that moment, a whole new galaxy revealed itself outside that endless darkness.

The universe was so vast and desolate. The world was so huge. Nature had been evolving endlessly ever since the beginning of time. How insignificant was the human living within them! If a person could become one with the Heavens, ascend as a god, and return to nothingness, then the mountains and the rivers would be him, the sun and the moon would be him, the sky and the clouds would be him, and there would no longer be barrier separating him from everything else.
 This was exactly what Shen Qiao was feeling now.

He couldn’t tell whether it was because his fragmented memories had finally come to fruition or because the script from The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang was etched deep into his mind. Along with the words and sentences emerging in his head, his heart entered a state of perfect tranquility — much like the moonlight leaking through the leaves –- even the tiniest glitter was clearly reflected.

Even the inner qi which had long been stagnate started to wander around his limbs and bones vaguely, though continuously like silk threads.
The palm Yan Wushi had pressed towards him was as weighty as a mountain and was as fast as the wind. An ordinary person would not even be able to see it clearly with their naked eye. However, Shen Qiao could. His back was against the wall. There was nowhere for him to escape. His only choice was to directly face his enemy.

— To face thirty percent of Yan Wushi’s martial power with his sick and weak body.

The former once crossed swords with the world’s top martial artists and grandmasters such as Qi Fengge and Cui Youwang without being forced into a disadvantageous position. One could just see how terribly strong he was. Not to mention Shen Qiao, even if the Imperial Family of Qi’s number one martial arts expert Murong Qin was here, he would also have to handle it carefully when facing thirty percent of Yan Wushi’s strength.
 Yet Shen Qiao actually stood up to such a pressure.

He was not smashed into the wall, and he did not spit out blood and die either.
His face was so pale that it almost seemed translucent, but his feet didn’t budge even an inch. The sleeves were puffed up due to the forces created by the qi. Even the cloth he used to tie his hair was loosened. His long hair draped down over his shoulders, fluttering crazily in the wind.

The two forces of qi confronted each other, one side strong and one side weak. However, for a while, the weak side didn’t show any signs of coming up short.
Yan Wushi slightly raised his eyebrows. He wasn’t too surprised; in fact, his expression revealed that he was rather expecting it.

The Meditation Ways of Mount Xuandu is peaceful and passive. It stays away from all worldly affairs. It’s weak when it encounters the weak; it’s strong when it encounters the strong. Once it’s fully integrated and flows smoothly, your Heaven’s Heart[1] will be clear like water.

These sentences suddenly flashed across Shen Qiao’s mind.

Yet he soon realized that the reason why his potential could be brought out didn’t have much to do with Mount Xuandu, it was rather because…
The inner qi he exerted out slightly showed a sign of blending with Yan Wushi’s. The two strands of inner qi were confronting each other and yet influencing each other at the same time. They were obviously from the same origin!

However, the difference in their strengths was indeed too huge. Yan Wushi basically didn’t need any other movements. He only increased the pressure by a little, and Shen Qiao was already unable to take it anymore. His face turned ghastly as he spurted out another mouthful of blood.

Yet at this moment, Yan Wushi withdrew his hand.

“Just as what I thought,” he said with extreme interest, “I suspected it when I took your pulse back then. You have cultivated the remaining books of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang before on Mount Xuandu. It was passed onto you by Qi Fengge, wasn’t it?”

Shen Qiao could only hear the buzz in his ears, and Yan Wushi’s voice sounded like it came from the distant horizon. His whole body slid along the wall until it hit the ground. “So that night at Beyond Cloud Monastery, you let me read the script on purpose?”

Yan Wushi said, “You’re right. The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang has five books, and the Book of Wandering Spirit was kept on Mount Xuandu. Since you’re the mantle disciple of Qi Fengge, you must
 have studied it before. Otherwise, it would be lucky enough for you if you didn’t die immediately after falling down from a place like Half- Step Peak. There was no way you could have kept that slim chance of survival. Even your eyes and martial arts are able to recover gradually. Don’t you find it strange?

“That’s because your body remembered the studied material in The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang. Even though you have temporarily lost your memories, that strand of inner qi has already become part of you since long ago, slowly recuperating your health for you. The reason why I let you read the Book of Free Will that night was precisely to stimulate you with the content so that you could remember the sections you had learned before. I wanted to see if you could integrate the content from both books and bring them together.”

Shen Qiao barely had the strength to breathe as he struggled to reply: “I’m just a useless person. How do I deserve the effort that Sect Master Yan has spent on me?”

Yan Wushi smiled sinisterly, “The Book of Free Will of The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang appeared in the world, causing all parties to fight over it. Unfortunately, I destroyed the original copy at Beyond Cloud Monastery. Only a few people present at that time were able to hear it, and they definitely will write down the content after they return. In order to mislead the public, they will definitely  mix  some false parts in there as well, and spread out a few extra versions to lure other people to fight over them. There are lots of sects that didn’t make it to the monastery that night.
 After they hear the news, they won’t be able to sit still and will try every possible method to obtain the copy with the real content. To be able to see them fighting both openly and secretly and repeatedly arousing disturbances in the world — don’t you find it quite interesting?”

Shen Qiao closed his eyes. “How will it benefit you?”

“Of course there are benefits, but it doesn’t concern you, so you don’t have to worry about it. All you need to know is that you’ve also gained an enormous benefit because of the event. After all, it’s already a huge fortune for anyone in this world to be able to have a peep at even one of the remaining scripts. Extremely few people have the chance to study two of the books like you did. If you can continue studying it, it’s not impossible for your martial arts to recover to your prior level. Speaking of which, shouldn’t you thank me more properly?”

“Sect Master Yan…”

Yan Wushi grabbed his chin and forced him to raise his head. “Weren’t you calling me Master before? Why did you change so fast?”

“I want to…” Shen Qiao mumbled, his voice a little indiscernible.
 Yan Wushi bent down slightly and lowered his head to listen.

The other person suddenly spat out another big mouthful of blood. Yan Wushi didn’t have time to let him go, and spots of blood splattered onto his hand.

Killing intent bursted out of Yan Wushi’s eyes.

Shen Qiao feebly said, “I told you I wanted to cough blood.
That was definitely not on purpose…”

Before he could finish, he fell straight to the side and fainted.

While he was lethargic, he felt as if he was floating in midair drifting around, that even his thoughts had followed and drifted to somewhere far away. He wasn’t sure how long had passed before it finally floated back and fell into his current outer form.

As soon as he opened his eyes, Shen Qiao heard someone heaving a sigh next to him, “Life is so hard. Why are you still alive then? Always failing to die, doesn’t it make you sick at heart?”
 It was Yan Wushi’s voice.

“…” Shen Qiao felt that this person probably had mental problems.

Yan Wushi’s way of doing things was already free-willed and unconventional to a certain extent. For a rare script as precious as the Book of Free Will of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang, he could destroy it without any warning beforehand, leaving no leeway.

Yet for things that everyone had been looking for such as to peek at the content of the script, Yuan Wushi had let him obtain this opportunity so easily.

While he was being besieged by Mu Tipo and his men due to Chen Gong’s betrayal, Yan Wushi had probably been there too. However, he simply looked on without lifting a finger and didn’t do anything to stop those men. Only after Shen Qiao left with his own power did Yan Wushi finally appear again, attacking him suddenly as if he wanted to take Shen Qiao’s life but invoking the remaining inner qi that The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang had left in Shen Qiao’s body in the end.

But Shen Qiao would never be so self-sentimental as to imagine himself being worthy enough to be treated so favorably by Yan Wushi that the latter would spend all of this effort just to train him. Therefore, the only explanation was that this person’s temperament was too erratic and moody, making it hard to predict using common sense.
Yan Wushi said, “Mu Tipo’s servant came looking  for  him, and Chen Gong is among them. He  is  the  reason  why  you have fallen into the eyes of a sycophantic official like Mu Tipo. If you want to kill him, there’s still time.”
Shen Qiao shook his head in silence, then slowly sat up on the bed with the support of his elbows. He found out that after spitting out those blood, his chest felt a lot better; the stuffiness and pain were gone as well. He realized that he probably happened to spat out the extravasated blood by chance, and it ended up helping him recover from his injuries.

“Many thanks to Sect Master Yan,” he said.

Yan Wushi was rather honest, “I didn’t expect you to spit out the extravasated blood so fast either. I simply wanted  to force you to use the inner qi from The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang.”

Shen Qiao knew what he was implying: If you didn’t pull through then, you would just die in vain.

“Then what plan does Sect Master Yan have next?”

“I’m going back to Mount Xuandu with you.”
 “…………” The corner of Shen Qiao’s mouth twitched. “Sect Master Yan has too much business to attend every day, why would you waste your precious time on someone like me?”

Yan Wushi touched his cheek ‘affectionately’. Shen Qiao couldn’t dodge it anyway, so he had to let Yan Wushi grab his chin and look him up and down like looking over a private property of his. “The Book of Wandering Spirit is hidden in Mount Xuandu, but I don’t know where. Mount Xuandu is so big, even though none of the people are my match, it’s still troublesome to search there. With you in my hand however, everything will be solved.”

“You want me to write it down for you after I recall the content?”

Yan Wushi sneered, “Only those with mediocre minds need to write down things sentence-by-sentence and then read it word-by-word. I’ve already absorbed the script hidden in Northern Zhou’s Imperial Palace. As for the Book of Free Will, I’ve read it too. Since I’ve already obtained two out of the five books, I already have an idea of the structure of the book. Rather than reading something you write which may not even be reliable, it would be better to let you fight with me directly. In that case, I don’t need to worry about not deciphering the mysterious wonder inside the script hidden at Mount Xuandu.”

He then said to Shen Qiao, “The real Xiantian realm cannot be found through forms or mimicking. Paths are made by men. If
 Tao Hongjing can integrate the merits of the Three Schools and write The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang, then of course I can create martial arts that are even more brilliant than his.”

Those words might sound utterly haughty, or even insufferably arrogant at first, but if he pondered it carefully, Shen Qiao actually agreed with him too.
There must be a reason that Yan Wushi could become the leader of a sect, with his martial arts reaching the state of Divinity. He must have his points. Looking at it from this view, he really deserved to rank among the world’s greatest, grandmaster-level martial artists.

There was only one problem: staying together all day long with someone like him was really a torture rather than a pleasure.

Yan Wushi let go of his hand and said indifferently, “Since you’re awake, let’s start off tomorrow.”

Shen Qiao felt a bit helpless. “Do I have any other choice?”

“You can choose to walk by yourself while the condition of your injury is still manageable; otherwise, we can have another fight right now and I’ll bring you with me after I injure you or render you disabled.”
 Shen Qiao: “…”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Heaven’s Heart ( 天心 tianxin): A Daoist term. The heart of Heaven, or the heart of Dao/the Way. One can find and follow his own Daoist heart when cultivates. The term Daoist Heart will appear later, which basically refers to the same thing here. In this novel, such “Heart” is a martial artist’s foundation where the rest of his martial arts are built upon.

Chapter 16

Quality Checker: MochiMochi First published on Ainushi.
Synopsis: Why should I waste my breath?
With Yan Wushi’s presence, they no longer needed to take the official roads which were safer. In order to take a shortcut, instead of passing through Chang’an, Yan Wushi went straight down south to Luo Prefecture, then went toward Yu and Sui Prefectures from there.
This road shortened the distance a lot, but because these places were close to the border between Qi and Zhou, they were not very peaceful. Since the disasters at the end of last year, lands that were affected by the drought expanded for thousands of miles, and every place was filled with refugees rushing toward nearby ration storages. Yan Wushi didn’t need to ride a carriage, so he didn’t even rent one. He simply walked ahead by himself, with much of an attitude of ‘If you can follow up, then you should, if you can’t, you still have to’.

They traveled like this for several days, with one person following the other. As they were about to enter the capital of Xiang Prefecture, they met another group of refugees outside of the city.

These people were originally from Guang Prefecture. Because of the famine there, they had to trudge through thousands of miles to the more affluent Xiang Prefecture. However, who would have thought that not only did the Regional Inspector here refuse to open
 the city gate for them, he even ordered the soldiers to be strictly on guard, not allowing even one refugee into the city.

The refugees didn’t have the strength to try their luck at the next place, so they had to stop and settle on the spot — practically waiting for their slow deaths.

From the perspective of the regional government, it was totally understandable that the Regional Inspector of Xiang Prefecture would do so because the amount of food in a city was limited. If he let the refugees in, then he had to be responsible for settling them down. But these people should have been under the jurisdiction of other regions. By doing so, it would only add more pressure to his own Xiang Prefecture. Locals would end up being implicated the day that Xiang Prefecture no longer had enough food. Nowadays, the emperor of Qi, Gao Wei, was busy seeking pleasure and not in the mood to manage national affairs. Before the food allocated by the Imperial Court could reach its destination, it was already exhausted through layers of exploitation. Even if the Regional Inspector of Xiang Prefecture were to accept all of these refugees into the city, he would not get any reward or commendation from the Imperial Court.
Xiang Prefecture was already very close to Mount Xuandu. If one traveled southwest for a few more days from here, they would arrive at Mount Xuandu that was located next to Mian Prefecture.

The closer they were to Mount Xuandu, the better Yan Wushi’s mood seemed to become.

He even slowed down his pace to wait for Shen Qiao to catch up
 while getting quite interested in pointing out the local sights and cultures to him. At first glance, people who weren’t aware of their relationship would probably think that they were a pair of old friends traveling together.

He told Shen Qiao, “In the Warring States period, Xiang Prefecture belonged to Chu, therefore it has kept a lot of Chu culture. The place could be regarded as a populous and affluent land, but unfortunately, Gao Wei wasn’t in the mood to operate it. The Gao family’s several generations of meticulous care would probably decline in his hands.”

Yan Wushi obviously didn’t have any respect for the emperor of Qi; he addressed him directly by name the moment he opened his mouth.
Shen Qiao squinted his eyes. He vaguely saw a lot of people gathering outside of the city — most of which were elders, children, and women. Fortunately, the weather was not very hot yet. Otherwise, there would probably be a large outbreak of pestilence because of it. He couldn’t help but shake his heads and sighed, “So many hardships in a peasant’s life!”

Yan Wushi commented indifferently, “In fact, these scenes can be found in other countries as well. Since the uprising of the five barbarians at the end of the Western Jin Dynasty, all parties have been engaging in power struggles, with countless bloodshed and lives thrown into them already. This kind of famine appears every year, especially around the borders. In order to avoid responsibility and divert the pressure, each country is rather eager to push refugees to
 other countries. When a prosperous year comes by, they would then declare wars and annex the cities of neighboring countries. Mutiny occurs frequently within countries, and political powers alternate easily, changing the country’s official name [1] every few years. Then of course, no one really puts their thoughts into ruling a country, and Northern Qi is just more so compared to others.”
Shen Qiao replied, “But I heard that Sect Master Yan holds some kind of high official position in Northern Zhou and their emperor relies heavily on you. I suppose in your heart, you must think that Northern Zhou is more likely to unify the world?”
With his hands clasped behind his back, Yan Wushi slowly said, “There is never much to choose from among the emperors, whether it is the wise ones or the incapable ones. The only difference is that some are able to restrain their desires while the others either can’t or don’t want to. Even though Yuwen Yong is addicted to war and killing, he banned both Buddhism and Daoism and is not fond of Confucianism either. He leans toward none of the parties, so there aren’t many choices left for him. I also need his help to unify the three sects. The Yuwen family has settled in the Central Plains for many years. Even though their ancestors were the Xianbei people, they were sinicized long ago. All of the systems in the Zhou Dynasty are the same as the Han systems [2]. As an emperor, he’s not necessarily inferior to the one in Southern Chen.”

After so many days, based on hearsay, Shen Qiao more or less had a general understanding of the powers in this world.
 Zen Master Xueting who tried to stop Yan Wushi that night at Beyond Cloud Monastery used to be a supporter of Northern Zhou as well. But he was supporting the ex-regent emperor, Yuwen Hu, instead of its current emperor, Yuwen Yong.

Zen Master Xueting was once a disciple of the Tiantai Sect. He was the martial brother of Tiantai Sect’s current Sect Master, Fayi. However, the original position of the Tiantai Sect itself leaned more toward Southern Chen. This matter was related to the internal turmoil within the Tiantai Sect, and narrating it would lead to another lengthy story.
After Yuwen Yong reclaimed the power that should have been his in the first place, in order to remove the remnants of Yuwen Hu’s influence, it was impossible that he would continue to put the Buddhist school in an important position. Therefore nowadays, Xueting and his disciples were actually in somewhat of an awkward position in Northern Zhou. They did not completely lose their status, but as long as Yuwen Yong was on the throne, Zen Master Xueting would not be able to reclaim his past honor and glory.

For Yuwen Yong, the Three Schools each had their own demands. Once involved with them, his own administration would inevitably bring about the color of one of the schools. This was something that he, an emperor with a strong sense of autonomy, detested to see. In comparison, even though the Cleansing Moon Sect also had their own objective, they were obviously a better partner to work with than the others; they would neither require Yuwen Yong to promote a certain school’s doctrine nor influence his way of thinking.

The two of them talked as they walked toward the city gate.
 Ordinary people or traveling merchants often needed to find companions to travel together with to guard against harassment from the refugees. It would be the best to have a male guard with the group, because extremely starved refugees had the capability to turn into bandits. When they realized that begging was no use, they would then start to rob. In the most desperate situations, if a good-looking woman or child fell into the refugees’ hands, not only would they lose their chastity, they could even end up in pots as meat stew.
Under such a circumstance, Yan Wushi and Shen Qiao became a quite peculiar and conspicuous combination.
One of them was empty-handed while the other supported himself with a bamboo stick, appearing to have just recovered from a serious illness. They didn’t look like ordinary travelers no matter what.
From time to time, there would be refugees on the sides staring at them with yearning looks. One could tell from a glance that Yan Wushi was not someone to be trifled with. The refugees didn’t dare to walk up to him to beg for favors, so they could only turn to the seemingly mild and easygoing Shen Qiao.
Among them were a husband and a wife, dragging three to four kids as they walked along the road. They were practically nothing but bones, and one could hardly tell if they were still human. They seemed more like puppets or zombies — even their expressions looked dead. The oldest child was but six or seven years old, and the youngest one was at most two or three. She was tottering, but her parents had no strength to carry her. Hence, she only grabbed the corner of her mother’s clothes and followed after, shaking as she walked.

If the situation were to continue like this, the youngest child would ultimately be the first one to be traded for children from other families to increase her parents’ rations. Or perhaps she would be cooked and eaten by her parents directly. For people living in wartime, when the most desperate circumstances arose, even blood
 relations and familial love could be put aside for the sake of survival.

Seeing Shen Qiao pass by, the couple knelt down right away to beg him for some food. Shen Qiao thought for a moment, then fumbled around his bosom. He took out a pancake [3] wrapped in oil-paper and handed it to the youngest child.
The couple went into rapture. They kowtowed and thanked him again and again. The husband seized the pancake directly from the kid and immediately took a big bite. Seeing his wife and children all staring eagerly at him, after a long period of hesitation, he finally broke off a small piece and reluctantly gave it to his wife.
The wife didn’t eat the pancake herself after taking it. Instead, she broke it into a few pieces with utmost care and cautiousness, as if she was holding some kind of treasure, before distributing them to the kids.
The pancake was not big and was wolfed down after a few gulps. Other refugees on the side were envious after seeing it. They all glared covetously at Shen Qiao.
The husband begged Shen Qiao, “The children have been starving for many days. Could this noble sir please grant us one more cake so that they can make it to the city!”

But Shen Qiao refused, “I’m not rich either. I only brought two with me. After giving one to you, I have to keep one for myself too.”

After he heard that Shen Qiao still had food on him, the husband’s expression changed at once. As he saw that there were no lights in Shen Qiao’s eyes and how he had to support himself with a bamboo stick, a wicked thought sprouted from the husband’s heart. He threw
 himself at Shen Qiao.

Who would have thought that before he could touch the other person’s sleeve, he would already be flying toward the opposite direction — he fell hard onto the ground, letting out a miserable shriek.

As for Shen Qiao, he still appeared utterly sick and weak just like before. One would not be able to tell at all that he had just sent someone flying.
Apparently he never expected his momentary altruism to lead to such a result. He looked at the man’s wife and children. They had already huddled together into a lump out of fear.
After witnessing this scene, the other restless refugees naturally didn’t dare to act so rashly.
The man struggled to get on his feet. He didn’t beg for mercy but cursed back instead: “If you can beat me to death, then do it! People like you are the most hypocritical. You just want to exchange our kowtows and gratitude with charity, isn’t that right? Then why don’t you save us all the way to the end? You clearly have one more cake, why don’t you take it out then?! If you don’t want to then just don’t start it! Letting us taste sweetness but not making us full — how is it different from killing us?!”

Shen Qiao sighed. He shook his head, turned around, and left without a word.

All this time, Yan Wushi had been standing at a place neither too far nor too close to him, watching with cold eyes and his hands clasped behind his back. He did not interfere or leave. It was like he
 was waiting for Shen Qiao with a faint smile on his face.

Because of the skill that Shen Qiao had just revealed, even though the others knew there was food on him, they could only helplessly watch him leave.
Yan Wushi waited until he walked closer before saying, “‘A cup of rice is kindness, but a picul of rice leads to enmity.’ [4] Have you heard of this saying before?”
Shen Qiao sighed, “That was reckless of me. There are lots of people who are suffering. It’s impossible for me to save all of them by myself.”
Yan Wushi satirized, “Even their father doesn’t care about his children’s lives anymore, but you actually went to help him take care of them. Sect Leader Shen sure has a heart for great love [5], but unfortunately, human nature and desires are a bottomless pit that can never be filled. He’ll never understand your kindness. If you hadn’t been able to defend yourself today, you might have been cooked into meat stew already.”
Shen Qiao thought about it seriously: “If I hadn’t been able to defend myself today, I wouldn’t have chosen  this  path.  I would rather take a detour and walk a little farther just to avoid places with refugees. It’s human nature to seek advantages and avoid disadvantages. I’m not a saint, and therefore I am no exception. It’s just that I cannot find it in my heart to see people suffering.”

He chose what was good and held fast to it, while Yan Wushi believed that humans were inherently bad. They could not come to an agreement since their beliefs differed right from the get-go. It was true that Yan Wushi could have killed Shen Qiao in terms of martial
 strength, but even if he were to clutch Shen Qiao’s neck, he could not have changed Shen Qiao’s way of thinking.
With this little episode, the tense atmosphere between them which had finally quieted down had now fully returned.

A small, weak voice came from behind.

Shen Qiao turned around, but all he saw was a vague figure. It was petite and short — a figure that probably belonged to a child.
The child ran up and knelt before him, kowtowing three times earnestly, “Mister, thank you so much for granting  us  the cake. Dad was rude to you, I, I could only give you a kowtow! A great person like you must be generous  as  well.  Please don’t mind him!”

How could he fuss about it with a child? Shen Qiao let out a sigh, then stepped forward to help him up. “I didn’t take it to heart. I heard that it’ll be Buddha’s birthday in a few days. People in the capital of Xiang Prefecture worship the Buddha. At that time, they will set up charity booths to give out congee, and they will also let a certain amount of refugees into the city. You still have a slim chance at survival.”
The boy’s eyes brightened. He kowtowed repeatedly, “Thank you for telling me, Mister. If there’s a chance in the future, I’ll definitely repay you. I’ll set up a longevity tablet [6]  for you!”
Shen Qiao patted his head and gently replied, “There’s no need for those. You take good care of your mother and your younger siblings.”
The boy nodded vigorously. Then he whispered, “You may rest assured. Actually, I didn’t eat the cake Mom gave me.  I secretly passed it to my little sister!”

Shen Qiao felt sad listening to him and sighed internally at how thoughtful the boy was. After thinking about it a little, he still decided to feel around his bosom and take out the last pancake. He handed it over to the boy. “Take this back to eat. Don’t let you father find out again.”
The child was malnourished and sickly from starvation, but with a strength that came out of nowhere, he refused to accept it no matter what. In the end, Shen Qiao had to force it into his hand. “If you continue to refuse, there will be more trouble when other people see it.”

By then the boy had no choice but to accept it. He then knelt down and kowtowed to Shen Qiao again, insisting, “Mister, please tell me your name!”

“My name is Shen Qiao.”

“Shen Qiao…” The child repeated it a couple times. He probably had mistaken the word “Qiao” as some other word with other
 meanings, but Shen Qiao didn’t specifically emphasize or correct him.

The boy left, looking back several times after each step.

Yan Wushi said, “It’s getting late, let’s enter the city soon.”

Shen Qiao was actually a bit surprised to see Yan Wushi not satirizing him this time. He laughed, “You don’t have anything to say?”

Yan Wushi replied coldly, “A certain someone just likes to do stupid things and won’t listen even if I tell him. Why should I waste my breath then?”

Shen Qiao simply smiled as he touched his nose, but he didn’t comment a word.

It was true that there was a lot of malice in this world, but he didn’t want to deny the existence of goodwill and kindness just because of the malice.
Even for only this little bit of kindness, he felt it had been very worthwhile to trade the pancake for it.
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Change in a country’s official name means a change in
 country’s ruler-ship.
[2] Han systems(汉制 han zhi): Han refers to Han Dynasty, which is considered the “legitimate” Chinese people back then. Han systems refer to the various systems used by the Han dynasty.
[3] Pancake (煎饼 jianbing): Here is a picture of what these look like.
[4] ‘A cup of rice is kindness, but a picul of rice leads to enmity.’/斗米恩升米仇: It means if you give people a small benefit, they will be thankful, but if you give them too much, they will become jealous and hate you.
[5] Great love (大爱 da ai): A universal love for everyone in the world.
[6] Longevity tablet ( 长生牌位 changsheng paiwei) : spiritual tablets are usually placed to worship and remember the dead, but this kind is set up for a living person to pray and wish them a long life.

Chapter 17

Quality Checker: LadyBlue First published on Ainushi.
Synopsis: Junior Brother Yu, it’s me.
Xuandu Town was at the foot of Mount Xuandu. It had been a quiet place for many years. Despite being right next to the world-renowned orthodox Daoist sect, it didn’t seem to have much to do with the townspeople. At most, when they saw the Daoist priests coming down the mountain, they would be especially courteous and treat them with due respect.
Of course, as the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens, Mount Xuandu always paid according to the marketed price during their occasional shopping trips down here. The deals were fair. They never used their power or influence as a large sect to bully the commoners. Therefore, over these years, all of the people living in Xuandu Town were extremely proud that they could be neighbors with the Daoist priests from the Purple Mansion of Xuandu.
But that was all. A Daoist sect was a Daoist sect after all. Once you set foot on the path of Mount Xuandu, you no longer belonged to the secular world. Compared to the life of the common people living at the foot of the mountain who would get up to work at sunrise and rest at sunset, they were still in two different worlds.
When Shen Qiao and Yan Wushi arrived at Xuandu Town, however, this little town had never appeared more bustling. People were coming and going. There were martial artists within the crowd as well as quite a number of people who were dressed like Daoist devotees.
 Yan Wushi explained, “In ten days time, the Purple Mansion of Xuandu will hold the Jade Terrace Daoist Conference and set the Daoist orthodoxy for the world. All philosophers and scholars have been invited to participate in this great undertaking. It has been said that all the well-known sects will send people over. There will even  be  representatives from the Linchuan Institute and Tiantai Sect.”
Shen Qiao asked, “What does it mean by ‘setting the Daoist orthodoxy for the world’?”
At the moment, the two of them were sitting in a teahouse, looking out the window.
Sipping his tea, Yan Wushi said, “Since you’re not there, someone has to be in charge of Mount Xuandu. As long as his identity is not announced to the world, the others won’t be knowledgeable about his current status. So, he has to find an excuse to come out in public, right? When you were the sect leader, you were so low-key that you wanted no one to know of you, but you can’t count on the others to be the same as you.”
Shen Qiao was already used to the other person’s light sarcasm whenever he spoke.
With Yan Wushi’s status and position, there were indeed few people who could catch his eyes. Apart from the deceased Qi Fengge, no one else from Mount Xuandu would be worthy enough for him to cast a direct look at them.
Even though one of them was quite moody, it was still not easy to start a conflict when the other side was an extremely good-tempered person who basically wouldn’t get angry regardless of what you said. The two of them seemed to be neither friends nor enemies, yet they also seemed to be both at the same time. Surprisingly, they were actually able to maintain some kind of subtle balance in their
 relationship throughout the journey.

“What are they doing over there?” Shen Qiao suddenly noticed a place not too far down. He squinted his eyes but could not see clearly no matter what. After all, it was impossible for his eyes to revert back to their initial state within a short time. Even though there was enough lighting during the day, it actually prevented him from staring for too long since his eyes would not stop tearing otherwise.
“Distributing congee and  medicine.” Yan Wushi didn’t have the ability to foretell, but for things he wanted to know, someone would have already passed on the information to him way ahead of time.
He picked up a slice of sweet osmanthus root [1] with his chopsticks and delivered it into his mouth, slowly saying, “After Yu Ai became the substitute sect leader, on the  first  and fifteenth of each month, he would send disciples to set up altars in Xuandu Town to perform rites and preach Daoist scriptures. It’s said that the rain prayers conducted by the disciples from the Purple Mansion of Xuandu are very efficacious. Nowadays, whenever there  isn’t  enough  rain, even the Regional Inspector of Mian Prefecture will  send people over, inviting them to come down  the  mountain  to pray for rain. Mount Xuandu has more and more believers now. Not to mention the other places, in Xuandu Town alone, most of the people here already have the utmost reverence for the Purple Mansion of Xuandu.”
In contrast to the expression on Yan Wushi’s face which seemed like he was ready for a good show, Shen Qiao knitted his brows even harder.
Yan Wushi said, “You remembered everything.”

The sentence was not a question, but rather an assertion.
 Shen Qiao’s body was still a little sick, but ever since he was able to spit out the clotted blood in his chest, the lost expression appeared less frequently on his face with each passing day. Regaining his memories would just be a matter of time.
Yan Wushi saw it all, but he didn’t say anything because he wasn’t sure how much Shen Qiao had remembered. However, from the looks of it now, Shen Qiao should have regained most of them.
Shen Qiao didn’t deny it. Instead, he sighed, “For generations under its sect leaders, Mount Xuandu has never set foot in secular affairs. Therefore, it remained peaceful and steady like before regardless of the alternation of dynasties  out there. Just think about Tao Hongjing. Despite being the number one martial artist under the Heavens, an unparalleled talent as he was, just because of his involvement in political affairs, the entire Shangqing Sect of Mount Mao fell into pieces after his death with its disciples scattered everywhere. What is Yu Ai trying to do?”
Yan Wushi raised his eyebrows, “So this is what Qi Fengge has taught you? How is his way of thinking different from a turtle refusing to come out of its shell? If he’s alone, then it’s fine for him to only mind his own morality. As the leader of a sect, however, not only was he not striving to make progress, he instead indulged in such pessimism as to lead the sect into reclusion. If this continues, how is Mount Xuandu going to keep its position as the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens? I think that junior martial brother of yours, who is now the regent sect leader, is actually much more clear- headed than you.”
Mount Xuandu’s reputation and status as ‘the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens’ was inseparable from its generations of efforts and management. Its successive generations of sect leaders all carried out the Daoist ideology of quietism and inaction. They
 were determined to continue withdrawing from society till the very end, and would absolutely not involve themselves with the world’s state of affairs. Even Qi Fengge, the best martial artist of his time, was no exception.
Later, after Shen Qiao took over the position of the sect leader, he even brought this kind of low-keyness to its greatest extent. People around the world didn’t know much other than that fact that Mount Xuandu had a new sect leader whose last name was Shen. Hence, even though Shen Qiao was following Yan Wushi everywhere, nearly no one recognized him.
Yan Wushi was an extravagant and egotistical person in nature who only acted as he pleased, so it was not a surprise for him to look down his nose at this way of handling matters.
Shen Qiao didn’t become angry after he heard it. He only said, “I want to find a chance to go up  the  mountain  tonight  and have a talk with Yu Ai face-to-face. I’m not sure if Sect Master Yan wants to come with me. Or would you rather wait for me down here?”
Yan Wushi asked, “Why don’t you wait till the Jade Terrace Daoist Conference, and then question Yu Ai in front of everyone to take back the position of  sect  leader  which should have been yours?”
Shen Qiao shook his head, “In that case, the reputation of Mount Xuandu would inevitably be  greatly  affected.  I’m afraid there are other stories behind it. I need to go ask Yu Ai first so that I can make clear what happened.”
Yan Wushi was neither in favor nor opposed to it, “Oh, then you can go and ask.”
With its awe-inspiring prestige as the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens, few people dared to force their way up Mount
 Xuandu single-handedly. However, Yan Wushi said it in such a casual manner, as if he was saying he would eat one more bowl of rice today–he said it without even thinking about it, not taking the matter to his heart at all.

He had a careless look on his face. As his fingers slid over the edge of the dish, the plate of scattered fried peas immediately piled up into three neat and tidy layers, with the exact same amount of peas in each layer. Using only his inner qi to control the items through the air, this skill alone had already attained a superb or even frightening state.
Since the Demonic Sovereign’s reappearance in the pugilistic world, only his fight with Kunye was in fact well-known. Simply because Kunye had defeated Shen Qiao before, as a person who had crushed Kunye, the rumors had already made Yan Wushi someone miraculous even though only a few had really witnessed the current state of his martial arts themselves.
What would people think if they saw him using the martial arts which could easily take away a person’s head for piling up some fried peas?
He asked Shen Qiao, “Right now, your martial power is probably no more than thirty percent of what it was at its peak; can you go up by yourself?”
Shen Qiao replied, “There’s a small path along the cliff at the backside of the mountain. The terrain is steep there. No one is guarding the place. It uses arrays as protective barriers. If outsiders rashly charge in without knowing, they will only become confused and disoriented and might even fall off the cliff. No matter how skilled they are in martial arts, it would be useless.”
Yan Wushi was indifferent towards it and was only going to watch the scene at first, but after hearing this, he actually became a little
 more interested, “In that case, I have to go see it.”
Night fell. The once lively Xuandu Town quieted down, gradually sinking into the slumberland under the starry sky.
There didn’t seem to be any pattern among the routes that Shen Qiao took to go up the mountain. He sometimes turned here and there, while other times he would intentionally avoid some easy-to- walk stone steps and go up the steep incline on the side. It was all because these stone paths and plants were already integrated into the Divination Arrays. If someone who was unaware of the ins and outs were to walk here, they would most likely get caught–if not by falling into the traps directly, then at least by triggering the alarms and then being detected by the disciples of Mount Xuandu.

Whether it was the conversation between Yu Ai and Shen Qiao or the internal grudges within Mount Xuandu, Yan Wushi had no interest in either of them. What he was interested in was actually the hidden Arrays along the road. He followed Shen Qiao from a distance, carefully observing the path Shen Qiao picked while mulling over it himself, something he considered to be a way of having fun.
They walked like this for about two hours–in fact, they should have been thankful that Shen Qiao, though barely, had recovered thirty percent of his martial power so that they could arrive at the top of the mountain in such a short amount of time.
Mount Xuandu stood high and precipitous, and it was much colder at the top of the mountain than at its foot. As far as one’s eyes could see, there were quite a lot of Daoist temples and halls located there with layers upon layers. Within the serene mist, they appeared cold and lonesome–a feeling that mirrored Daoism’s otherworldly, spotless purity.

Shen Qiao had grown up here as a child and had long been used to
 the scenery. While revisiting to his old haunts this time, however, he didn’t feel even the slightest warmth on the inside. Instead, it was as if stones were piled up inside his chest; he only wished he could breathe out a long sigh.

But he had no time to sigh. Using the forest as cover, he took the small trail and rushed directly toward a two-flat building.
He stopped before he even got close to the building. Squinting at it from afar, he was somewhat surprised in his heart.
The place was called the Yuxu Pavillion. It was the sect leader’s residence for the past many generations. Originally, he was the one who lived there.
After he fell off the cliff, Yu Ai took over Mount Xuandu as the regent sect leader. From Mount Xuandu’s all kinds of high-profile actions nowadays, it was not hard to make out Yu Ai’s ambition and intents. Therefore, Shen Qiao once thought he would definitely make Yuxu Pavilion his residence.
But when he came to check, the pavilion’s doors were tightly closed. There was no candlelight, so presumably, no one was living in there. Could it be that Yu Ai wanted to wait till the rectification of his name at the Jade Terrace Daoist Conference before moving in?
Shen Qiao pondered for a moment, thinking that since there was no one inside the Yuxu Pavilion, he should go take a look at where Yu Ai originally resided.
Right after the idea sprung to his mind, there seemed to be a figure walking towards Yuxu Pavilion in the distance with his clothes draped over his shoulders and a candle in his hand.
The figure looked quite familiar, but Shen Qiao’s eyesight was much worse than before so he didn’t dare to verify. He had to watch attentively for a long time with his eyebrows knitted before he could
 finally confirm that the person was very likely his junior martial brother, Yu Ai.
It was a cold and quiet night, and the buildings around here were mostly the tranquil places used by its sect leaders for cultivation, so that miscellaneous personnel weren’t allowed to enter anyway. Since it was also protected by the Arrays, normal disciples couldn’t find the way in either–it actually made it somewhat convenient for Shen Qiao to move about.

After a moment, he decided to get closer and ascertain the actual situation first.
Yu Ai went in the Yuxu Pavilion while holding a candle in his hand. Soon, Shen Qiao saw a faint light through the window being lit up in a room on the second floor.
That was the exact room he lived in before.

It was just that Shen Qiao had both overestimated his current martial power and underestimated Yu Ai’s ability. He had just walked a little closer before a voice fell into his ears, “Which friend has decided to visit without being invited?”
The voice came from the distant Yuxu Pavilion, and yet Shen Qiao felt like it had exploded right next to his ears. His ear buzzed. Dull pain immediately burst within his chest. He was forced to take three steps back, knowing in his heart that it was because of the other person who had used inner qi while transmitting the sound.
“Junior brother Yu, it’s me,” he composed himself and gave a reply.
He knew Yu Ai could hear him.

Just as he expected, in the next moment, a light sound came out from the Yuxu Pavillion, while the figure of a man had already appeared in front of him.
 “Senior brother, the Sect Leader?!”

There was surprise in his voice, but there was also a happiness that Shen Qiao did not expect.
It was like even though Yu Ai was surprised by his appearance, he was also looking forward to it from the bottom of his heart.
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Lotus root stuffed with sticky rice in syrup.

Chapter 18

Quality Checker: LadyBlue First published on Ainushi. Synopsis: I won’t let you go.
Even though Mount Xuandu was the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens, there wasn’t any scheme or plot going on among its disciples as outsiders might have imagined.
Shen Qiao had grown up in a gentle and peaceful environment ever since his childhood.
His master was compassionate, he was both a teacher and a father to him. His martial brothers were all so friendly that there was often no difference between the seniors and the juniors when they played together in private. Even Qi Fengge was not as awe-inspiring when facing his disciples as others might have expected him to be.
Since Shen Qiao was treated with gentleness and softness by everyone around him, he too had grown to be a gentle and soft person.
The timing when he joined the sect was not very good. He was neither Qi Fengge’s eldest disciple, nor was he the last one.
Out of Qi Fengge’s five disciples, Shen Qiao was the second, a supposedly awkward position. However, since both his nature and talents were excellent, and he himself was very kind and forgiving when dealing with others, he actually became Qi Fengge’s favorite disciple. In the end, Qi Fengge passed his mantle onto him.
 Yu Ai ranked the third among the disciples. He was two years older than Shen Qiao, but because he joined the sect at a later time, he had to address Shen Qiao as ‘Senior Martial Brother’. He was bothered by it for a long time during their childhood, so he would often pester and tease Shen Qiao, trying to make Shen Qiao call him senior brother. Though, of course, he failed at the end.
The two of them were similar in age. They played together ever since they were still little children, so their relationship was the most intimate. If someone were to ask Shen Qiao which person he trusted the most in this world, the answer would definitely be his master, Qi Fengge, and all of his martial brothers.
If he had to rank his martial brothers by the intimacy of their relationships, Yu Ai would probably be ranked number one.
Prior to going up the mountain, Shen Qiao also imagined what it would be like when they met each other again. Yu Ai might be surprised that someone like him who should have been dead came back to life, or he might feel a little guilty and terrified, or he might even wear a look of disgust due to his unwillingness to see Shen Qiao.
But it never occurred to Shen Qiao that the other person would be so happy. Even though he couldn’t see Yu Ai’s expression clearly, Shen Qiao could tell from his voice that it was not fake.
There were many things he wanted to say at first. But as the words reached his tongue, he didn’t know which question to start with. Yu Ai didn’t say anything else after shouting out,“Senior brother, the sect leader”. Shen Qiao guessed he was probably observing him carefully, so he could only pick the most common sentence as his opener, “How’s everything in the sect?”
The other person didn’t reply. Shen Qiao slightly tilted his head, asking with uncertainty, “Third Junior Brother?”
 “What happened to your eyes?”

When the other person opened his mouth again, the voice was already close by. Shen Qiao subconsciously wanted to step back, but someone had already grabbed him by his wrist.
“What happened to your eyes?” Yu Ai asked again.

“I fell off the cliff during the battle with Kunye. After I woke up, they were already like this.” Shen Qiao dismissed the topic lightly.
The hand grasping his wrist didn’t come loose. Yu Ai said, “Stay still. I’ll take your pulse for you.”
Shen Qiao wanted to say there was no need, but since he wasn’t able to free himself, he had to let Yu Ai have his way.
Yu Ai felt his pulse with rapt attention. After some time, he finally asked, “Your inner qi is so weak that it’s almost indiscernible. What happened?”
Shen Qiao emotionlessly asked back, “Didn’t you foresee such a result already when you poisoned me?”
The other person’s hand paused for a second because of his words.
Taking the opportunity, Shen Qiao pulled back his own hand.

When a person’s martial arts reached the state where Yu Ai was at, no matter how dark the night was or how dim the candlelight was, it wouldn’t affect his eyesight.
He looked Shen Qiao up and down attentively. The other person’s complexion was cold and pale, and his figure was a lot thinner compared to before. It was clear that during these days, that person had suffered a lot of hardships out there. His wrist which was holding the bamboo stick was half-exposed under the sleeve. It was so emaciated and bony that looking at it would make people’s hearts

Yu Ai breathed out a soft sigh, “Since you’re back, don’t leave again. Let me slowly explain this to you, all right?”
Shen Qiao shook his head. “Mount Xuandu is going to elect its new sect leader. Wouldn’t it make things difficult for you if an old person like me who has shamed Mount Xuandu stays here?”
Yu Ai found it strange, “Who said Mount Xuandu is going to have a new sect leader?”
“Isn’t the Jade Terrace Daoist Conference happening ten days later also a ceremony for Mount Xuandu to establish its new sect leader?”
Yu Ai was going to shake his head, but he realized that the other person couldn’t see his action. So he said, “Ever since you went missing after falling off the cliff, I have been sending people everywhere to secretly search for you, but we couldn’t find you no matter what. If you’re alive, I need to see you in person; even if you’re dead, I have to see your corpse. As long as you’re not dead, Mount Xuandu’s sect  leader  will never change. It’s true that I’m managing all of the affairs on your behalf, but it’s only as a regent leader. I’ve never intended to overstep and replace you.”
If it was in the past, Shen Qiao would firmly believe in everything Yu Ai said without any doubts. However, the time and situation were different now, and the Shen Qiao today did not dare to say these words anymore.
He remained silent for a moment before he said, “When I was fighting with Kunye that day, I already found out that more than half of my inner qi had disappeared, and the qi that was left was so stagnated that it didn’t flow smoothly. I tried my
 best to hold myself against Kunye, but in the end, it was still to no avail. At that time, I also tried to recall everything carefully, but from beginning to end, I couldn’t understand when was I poisoned, and where I was poisoned. At all events, I never suspected it was you.”
Yu Ai stood with his head hanging. He didn’t say anything, but his hands that were covered by the sleeves were trembling almost unnoticeably.
That was right. Ever since their childhood, to him, or in fact to everyone on Mount Xuandu, Shen Qiao never stinted his trust.
This was not because Shen Qiao was stupid and ignorant, nor was it because he was naive and gullible. It was because he believed in them. He believed that there was always kindness in this world. He believed in the people and things that accompanied him as he grew up. Moreover, he believed that these martial brothers who were like his siblings could never betray him. That was why he did not guard himself against them at all, and thus Yu Ai was able to easily find success.
Shen Qiao continued, “Later, I fell off the cliff and became unconscious. After I woke up, I lost my memories, and was ignorant and absent-minded all day long. Only recently did I finally recall many of the details. The night before my battle with Kunye, you came to me saying you wanted to sleep together. You talked a lot about things in the past, saying that you were attracted to our Little Junior Sister, but she was so cold and didn’t really talk to anyone. You were troubled by it, so you could only come and tell me, hoping that I could go talk to her on your behalf after my battle with Kunye.”
Yu Ai didn’t make any comment.

Shen  Qiao  continued, “When  Kunye  sent  us  the  written
 challenge for the duel, I didn’t want to take it up at first. However, you brought up the fight between Kunye’s master, Hulugu, and our master, saying that if I didn’t take up the challenge, it might hurt Master’s and Mount Xuandu’s reputations. Afterwards, you  repeatedly  expressed  your liking for little junior sister in front of me, but what was strange was that you never had any impulsive expressions or behaviors in front of her. I didn’t suspect that you had other motives back then. I even kept comforting you, creating opportunities for you two to spend  time  alone.  Thinking about it now, all of those were also fake, weren’t they?”
Yu Ai finally sighed, “You’re right. I’ve never had any amorous thoughts for little junior sister. The reason why I said those words was just to lead you to a misunderstanding so that you would be even less suspicious of other things. It was also for creating an opportunity for me to talk to you alone before the final battle. You have inherited Master’s mantle, and your martial arts skill is the best amongst all our martial brothers. Normal poison has no effect on you, so I had to use one of the world’s most rare poisons, Quietus [1] . Quietus won’t kill people immediately. If the dosage is controlled well, it can work its way in silence without anyone realizing. After a long period of time, the poison will infiltrate into one’s bones, making it look like a natural death.
“But I never thought of taking your life. I only used a little bit just to make you lose the battle with Kunye. I thought that with your level of martial arts, even if you fell off the cliff, you wouldn’t die from it. At most, you would be injured a little more seriously, and that could be fixed within a few months. But to my surprise, things still didn’t go as I had planned. After you fell off the cliff, I immediately sent people to search for you, but we couldn’t find you at all.”
Shen Qiao frowned even harder. “Quietus is extremely rare. It was said that this poison was first brought to the Central
 Plains by Zhang Qian through his trip to the Western Regions and was lost later on. Even the Imperial Palace might not have it, let alone Mount Xuandu. Where did you get it?”
Before Yu Ai could answer, Shen Qiao’s look suddenly changed. He was stunned, “Kunye? You obtained it from Kunye?”

“You even colluded with the Tujue people just to remove me from the position of sect leader?!”
A faint anger finally appeared on Shen Qiao’s face. “It was true that Master passed the position of the sect leader to me, but you know very well that I never had much ambition for it. Over these many years, I also relied on you a lot for helping me handle the affairs of the sect. If you had only said it, I would certainly have yielded the position to you. I just don’t understand why you would rather seek what is far away than take what is offered to you, going after the Tujue people instead?!”
His state of mind was in rage mode, so his tone was quite harsh.
After he finished speaking, he couldn’t help but start to cough.

Yu Ai wanted to stroke Shen Qiao’s back to help him breathe. As soon as he reached out his hand, however, he paused for a second. Then he pulled it back at last and slowly said, “Because, Mount Xuandu cannot go on like this. Shutting itself away from all other worldly affairs, even the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens like Mount Xuandu is going to lose its advantage eventually!
“Just take a look around this world. Amongst all the Daoist sects, Chunyang Daoist Monastery of Mount Qingcheng appears to be rising in power. Their Monastery Leader, Yi Bichen, is also one of the top ten martial artists, and his fame is even much greater than yours. In contrast, look at us, the Purple Mansion of Mount Xuandu. Ever since
 Master ascended as an immortal, what else do we have left besides his remaining prestige?
“Your martial arts skill is not any inferior to Yi Bichen’s. If you are willing to enter the secular world, you might even have a chance to strive for the place as the top martial artist. But you willingly kept yourself mute, indicating  that  you would rather stay as a nobody deep in the  mountains.  If things continue on like this, no matter how profound and rich Mount Xuandu’s foundation is, it will eventually be replaced by others!”
Speaking to this point, Yu Ai’s tone started to become passionate, “The world is in chaos now. All Daoist sects are establishing their own Daoist orthodoxies, while the other two schools, Buddhism and Confucianism, each have come up with their own moves in order to become the leading voice, intending to assist a wise ruler to seize the power of the world. Even the Demonic Sects have had their hands in it! All except our Mount Xuandu, withdrawn from the society, turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the outside world. We have a great sword in our hand, and yet we refuse to put it to use. If a lord supported by the Buddhist sects or the Confucius sects aimed to unify the world one day, by that time, do you think there will still be a place for our Daoist sects to live in?!”
He calmed his voice, “Senior brother, I’ve never once thought about replacing you. I’m also aware that those who are not our kin are sure to be of a different heart. Working together with the Tujue people is but a part of my plan. However, if you were still here, you definitely wouldn’t allow me to do this, so I had no choice but to come up with this bad idea. Since you’re back now, don’t leave again. Stay here and have a nice recovery, all right?”
Shen Qiao asked, “What about ten days later?”
 Yu Ai was taken by surprise, “What?”

“How are you going to explain to the other martial brothers and disciples in the sect about my return to Mount  Xuandu? Ten days later, at the Jade Terrace Conference, how are you going to explain it to everyone else around the world?”
For a short while, Yu Ai wasn’t able to answer him.

Shen Qiao further asked, “After all, what are you scheming with with the Tujue people?”
“I’m sorry. I can’t tell you anything at this moment.” “What if I’m against it?”
Yu Ai didn’t reply.

“If I oppose, you will put me under house arrest. From then on, I will only stay as a nominal sect leader who never appears in the daylight again, so that I won’t hinder your great plan. Am I right?”
He was answered with silence again.

Shen Qiao sighed, “Your health was not good when you were young. Even though you are two years older than me, it was hard to tell from your appearance. You always liked to act spoiled when you were sick. Only because you were afraid that the younger generations would  take  you  lightly  since you were not steady enough did you embrace this dignified and mature face all day long. Even to this day, I still remember the scene of you chasing after me, insisting that I call you ‘Senior Martial Brother.”
As the events of the past were brought up, Yu Ai’s expression slightly softened. “That’s right, I remember it too. My temper was not good when I was young, and I would pull a cold face
 in front of everyone and my words often put other people in awkward positions. Even Little Martial Sister avoided me. Out of all the martial brothers, you are the one with the best temper, and you have always been the one to tolerate me.”
“No matter how good my temper is, there’s going to be a bottom line. I have nothing to say regarding you wanting to be the sect leader and scheming my defeat to Kunye. I can only blame myself for trusting you too much. But the Tujue people are obsessed with ambition. They have long been coveting the Central Plains. Even though Mount Xuandu has never helped any country fight over the rulership of the world, it won’t cooperate with the Tujue people either!”
Yu Ai gave a bitter smile, “I knew that you would never let me do this. Otherwise, why would I go through the painstaking effort of planning all this?”
Shen Qiao said, “The recluse principle pursued by the generations of our sect leaders might be wrong, but it’s definitely not because we didn’t cooperate with the Tujue people. You still have time to stop here and repent.”
Yu Ai replied angrily, “Mount Xuandu is also where I grew up, so of course, I wish it could become better. My heart and feelings for it isn’t any less than yours, so why do you need to assume this look of a saint then? Are you saying that you are the only one who is right in the world, and all the other people are wrong?!
“Why don’t you go ask the other disciples in the sect? Even though they didn’t say anything, do they also feel discontented on the inside about Mount Xuandu’s reclusion over these years? After the Jade Terrace Daoist Conference, I can officially announce that we will open our gates and take in more disciples. By that time, Mount Xuandu’s reputation and status will only go up higher, and I will never let the Tiantai Sect and the Linchuan Institute monopolize all the

For a long time, Shen Qiao didn’t say anything. Yu Ai’s chest was heaving from him fully venting his anger. The two of them faced each other in silence amidst the night winds.
Yu Ai suddenly felt a little sad. No matter what, they could never go back to the close relationship they had before.
Shen Qiao finally said, “Since you’ve already made up your mind, there’s nothing else for me to say.”
Yu Ai asked, “Where are you going?”

Shen Qiao replied indifferently, “My defeat in Kunye’s hand has already ashamed Mount Xuandu in all aspects. Even if the others don’t say anything, I don’t have the face to be the sect leader anymore. As for the poisons, I don’t have any evidence besides my own testimony. Even if I were to accuse you in public, people probably won’t believe it. They might even think I am blurting out nonsense because I’m unwilling to accept my defeat. You have calculated everything already. Why do you still care about where I’m going? Wherever I go, it won’t hinder your great undertaking.”
Yu Ai softly persuaded, “You’re seriously wounded. You need to stay here to recuperate.”
Shen Qiao shook his head and turned around, ready to leave.

However, Yu Ai’s slightly chilly voice sounded behind him, “I won’t let you go.”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Quietus: The original name for the poison was 相见欢, which literally means “happy to see each other”, and is also a title/lyric template for poems and songs during the Song Dynasty. The name
 doesn’t connect with the effect of the poison in particular and is very hard to translate, so I took my friend’s suggestion and named it Quietus instead.

Chapter 19

First published on Ainushi. Synopsis: I’m not very fond of it.
Shen Qiao asked, “What if I insist on going?”

Instead of answering, Yu Ai asked back, “This is the place where you grew up, and there are martial brothers and sisters who have accompanied you since your childhood. Are you telling me that you have the heart to abandon Mount Xuandu and walk away from all of these things just like that?”
Yu Ai tried to persuade him with affection and reason at the same time, but Shen Qiao’s reply was the same as before, “If you are referring to collaborating with the Tujue people,  I’m  not going to approve it.”
After he saw that Shen Qiao was still holding fast to his original opinion, Yu Ai’s tone chilled, “What difference does it make whether you approve it or not? There are now seven elders on Mount Xuandu, and four of them have agreed to my plan. The other three are cultivating in Closed Door Meditations. They don’t care about secular affairs anymore. Among our martial brothers, eldest senior brother is a peacemaker. Telling him about it would be useless. Fourth junior brother and little junior sister will be very happy to see you back, but they are not necessarily going to agree with you either. Mount Xuandu’s reform is a must. I don’t want to witness the greatest sect of its generation slowly decline during my lifetime, and neither do they.
“Otherwise, why do you think I was able to stabilize the situation and become the regent sect leader in such a short amount of time?
 Without their acquiescence and support, could I have succeeded all by myself?
“You, Master, and even the previous generations of sect leaders’ way of thinking is not going to work anymore. How is it possible for Mount Xuandu to mind only ourselves if the world we’re in is filled with chaos?”
The night was very quiet, as if even the birds had vanished. Winds stopped as well. The rustling sound of the leaves could no longer be heard. Everything seemed to have come down into a still.
No one could tell when the moon had hidden itself behind the clouds. The world sunk into an immense darkness. The candlelight in Yu Ai’s hand flickered. It gradually dimmed, and then suddenly went out.
Ever since he became blind, the days and nights had been the same for Shen Qiao.
He was still human after all. He also felt hurt when injured, and distressed when running into predicaments. But he always believed that there was hope ahead of him, and he was always willing to face everything with an optimistic attitude. After his memories returned, he didn’t become downhearted despite the many questions piling up inside him. He kept thinking about going up Mount Xuandu and requesting an answer from Yu Ai face-to-face.
However, at this very moment, when the truth was placed in front of him, Shen Qiao suddenly felt a profound weariness welling up from the bottom of his heart; it was as if a hand had grasped him and was dragging him into an icy ocean.

He couldn’t help but tightly grip the bamboo stick in his hand.

Yu Ai felt a little sorry after seeing Shen Qiao’s expression, but since things had reached this stage already, he felt that he had to
 state these words clearly, “Senior brother, no one would willingly shackle himself to loneliness. Mount Xuandu is the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens, and it has the strength to support a wise ruler, spreading the Daoist school’s influence to the entire world. Then why should we stubbornly keep ourselves deep in the mountains like those hermits? Almost everyone in Mount Xuandu thinks so, except for you. You’re the one who is too naive!”
Shen Qiao drew a deep breath, “Kunye is from Tujue. Your cooperation with him didn’t go as far as to assist the Tujue people in entering and ruling over the Central Plains, did it?”
Yu Ai replied, “Of course it didn’t. I have said before that cooperating with Kunye was but one of the steps in my plan. No matter how badly I want Mount Xuandu to once again step into the secular world, I won’t choose someone like Tujue. Violent and ruthless as they are, how could they be counted as wise rulers?”
Shen Qiao’s brows tightened into a knot. He had a vague feeling that Yu Ai was leading Mount Xuandu into an enormous plan, but his brain was a little confused right now, and he couldn’t figure it out at the moment.
Yu Ai said again, “If you come back now, we can still be the close brothers we used to be. There won’t be any estrangement. Your eyes haven’t recovered yet, and you still have internal injuries. It must have taken you a great effort to even climb up the mountain. How much farther can a body like this still travel? Only Mount Xuandu is your home.”
Shen Qiao slowly shook his head. “You can take the thoroughfare, but I’ll pass my single-plank bridge. [1]  A puppet sect leader as it is… I’d rather not take a position like this. From now on…”
 He wanted to say some fierce words to break all of their friendly ties, but scenes of them spending time with each other since they were young unexpectedly flashed across his eyes.
Those memories were so vivid in his mind that they were not something that he could really cut off just by saying a sentence like ‘We’re done with each other.
Shen Qiao sighed in silence. In the end, he didn’t say anything. He just pursed his lips, turned around, and left.
Back in those years when these martial brothers were taken as disciples by Qi Fengge, Shen Qiao had the best aptitude among all of them. However, with someone like ‘the number one martial artist under the Heavens’ as their master, it was impossible for the other people to be really bad. For a person to be taken as a disciple by Qi Fengge, both his talent and constitution must have been excellent.
If the former Shen Qiao was leaving, Yu Ai probably wouldn’t be able to stop him, but the present Shen Qiao surely didn’t give Yu Ai any reason to not attack!
He appeared in the front of Shen Qiao in a flash and blocked the other person’s path without even thinking about it.
“Senior brother, don’t go.” He said in a low voice as he raised his hand, ready to knock out the other person with a chop.
However, as if Shen Qiao had already anticipated his action, he retreated first while holding his bamboo stick in the air, seemingly to parry.
Yu Ai didn’t care about this move of his of course. He reached out towards the bamboo stick.
This snatch should have been guaranteed to succeed, but it simply missed!
 The bamboo stick slipped away and passed his hand. Instead of retreating, it actually advanced, striking at Yu Ai’s wrist.
Yu Ai slightly frowned. He flicked it with his finger, while his other hand went towards Shen Qiao’s shoulder. There was no wind, but his sleeves moved, and he himself shifted towards Shen Qiao’s back in an attempt to block Shen Qiao’s way out.
Shen Qiao’s shoulder fell right into Yu Ai’s hand. Yu Ai exerted a little power, and it inflicted a slight pain in Shen Qiao. But Shen Qiao paid no attention to it — the bamboo stick in his hand still hit Yu Ai’s waist. Yu Ai had an old wound there from falling off a tree when he was young. He broke his bone at that time. Therefore, even though he had recovered completely from it, it still left a shadow in Yu Ai’s mind so that he would subconsciously dodge when this place was attacked.

Shen Qiao only had thirty percent of his martial power left. He was not Yu Ai’s match at all. However, since they had known each other since childhood, even though he couldn’t see with his eyes, he still knew inside out about the other person’s each and every move and what martial art movements he might use. He was also confident that Yu Ai was not going to take his life, and therefore Shen Qiao could attack without misgivings.
Yu Ai clearly knew about Shen Qiao’s plan. After fighting hand to hand for a moment, he gradually became somewhat fretful and he didn’t want to drag it on like this. He struck out a palm at the other person’s shoulder, using his inner qi this time.
Shen Qiao heard the wind created by the palm and subconsciously raised his bamboo stick to block it. However, it was useless. The inner qi came right at his chest. The bamboo stick broke into two pieces with a ‘crack’, while he himself took several steps backward. He stumbled for a little while and then fell to the ground.
“Ah-qiao, stop fighting and go back with me. I can’t even
 imagine how happy little junior sister and the rest  will be when they know you’re back!” Yu Ai took a few steps forward and was about to pull him up.
Shen Qiao didn’t say a word.

Right after Yu Ai grabbed his wrist, he saw the other person holding half of that bamboo stick and sweeping it at him with a momentum that faintly resembled lighting and thunder.
Shen Qiao had been saving his power to wait for such an opportunity when the other person’s guard was down!
Yu Ai never expected that he would still have energy left over to resist despite being seriously injured to the point of becoming blind.
He didn’t know Shen Qiao only had thirty percent of his martial power left in him. The bamboo stick stirred up a spiral of wind around it. With a chill like a cold spring, its iciness seemed to deeply pierce into one’s bones. He didn’t dare to take the strike physically, so he turned his body to the side to dodge. To his surprise, however, Shen Qiao didn’t get into a fight with him at all. He immediately withdrew his palm in midway, then retreated towards the path he came from!
Having grown up here ever since he was young, even though Shen Qiao couldn’t really see right now, he was still able to barely distinguish the environment. At this moment, he dashed forwards using his lightness skills, not turning back his head even as Yu Ai chased him from behind. By listening to the sound, he tracked down Yu Ai’s position, then he threw the rest of the bamboo stick back- handedly towards his behind.
Yu Ai was determined to keep the person here, so he stopped being soft-hearted. He rolled in the bamboo stick with his sleeve and tossed it straight back at Shen Qiao.
As an air-piercing sound came from behind him, the bamboo stick
 brushed past Shen Qiao’s shoulder and cut open the clothes. Blood instantaneously streamed out. He didn’t dodge and decided to keep on running despite the pain, but his figure inevitably swayed a little.
Like this, Yu Ai had already caught up to him in a blink of an eye. He struck a palm out backhandedly at Shen Qiao. Shen Qiao didn’t dodge it in time. It hit him right at the center of his back. He spat out a large mouthful of blood, and his entire body fell down, curling up on the ground as he gasped for breath.
“Stop running!” Yu Ai was really angry. He reached out again to pull him up. “Since when did you become so stubborn? I don’t want to hurt you, why won’t you just listen!”
“Who doesn’t run after knowing he is going to be confined?
He must be an idiot then!”

A sneer was heard in the dark. It sounded indistinct and cold, but no one could tell where it had come from.
Yu Ai was overwhelmed with shock. He stopped and looked around, but he failed to find the other person’s trace.
“Which rat is it? Come out!”

“At first, I thought that for a proud son of the Heavens like Qi Fengge, his disciples shouldn’t be too much a failure no matter what. To my surprise, not only did Shen Qiao become a half-useless person, even Yu Ai who has become the regent sect leader is just so-so in terms of martial arts. If Qi Fengge knows about this in the netherworld, he’s probably going to turn even in his grave.”
The next moment, Yan Wushi appeared with banter and ridicule on his face.
Yu Ai realized that with his martial arts, he couldn’t even see clearly where the person had just come out from nor where he had
 been hiding before that.

He was shocked on the inside, but on the surface, he was still calm. “May I know the honorable name of this distinguished mister? And what has brought you to visit Mount Xuandu at midnight? If you are an old friend of my respected Master, then please have some tea in the main hall.”
Yan Wushi replied, “A Mount Xuandu without Qi Fengge is really too insipid. I’m fine without the tea. Also, you’re not qualified to enjoy tea with me face to face yet.”
Yu Ai had the intention to let Mount Xuandu step into the secular world again, therefore he had done a lot of preparation for it beforehand. Seeing how ridiculously arrogant the way this person’s words were, in addition to his unfathomable martial arts, he searched for a while in his mind and suddenly came up with a name, “Yan Wushi? You’re the ‘Demonic Sovereign’, Yan Wushi?!”
Yan Wushi frowned. “‘Demonic Sovereign’… I’m not very fond of this nickname.”
Yu Ai skipped over the topic of fondness. His face became dignified as he questioned, “May I ask what has brought Sect Master Yan to Mount Xuandu? Yu is dealing with some internal affairs within the sect right now and therefore  might  not  have looked after you well. Please come back for a visit during daytime, Sect Master Yan.”
“I can come whenever I want. Since when do you have the right to order me around?”
Yu Ai was taken aback by his sudden appearance just now so he didn’t think it over. Now it finally occurred to him that Mount Xuandu was not a place that people could easily break in as they wished. Even grandmaster-level experts like Yan Wushi and Ruyan Kehui could not come whenever they wanted like entering an unmanned
 place. The only possibility was that he had come from the path at the backside of the mountain edged by a cliff.
He suddenly turned around and looked at Shen Qiao.

The other person’s head was slightly hanging, his expression indiscernible. He felt the tree trunk next to him with his hand and made an effort to stand up with its support. It seemed like a flurry of wind was enough to blow him away.
The wind had gradually become stronger in fact, and people’s clothes started to rattle with it. However, he still stood there steadily, seemingly unbendable under any devastation.
Seeing that he wasn’t surprised about Yan Wushi’s appearance, Yu Ai suddenly thought of another possibility. He was startled and enraged at the same time, “Ah-qiao, how could you hang out together with people from the Demonic sects?!”
After he heard this sentence, Shen Qiao slowly let out a turbid breath with a bloody odor mixed with it. He wiped the blood that had spilled out of the corner of his mouth and asked with a hoarse voice, “If you can collude with the Tujue people, then why can’t I stay together with people from the Demonic sects?”
Author’s Notes:
I’m not sure if any cuties didn’t understand the relations here. I’ll sort it out for you: Yu Ai is executing a plan, and this plan requires him to cooperate with the Tujue people. He knows Shen Qiao won’t agree to it, so he must remove Shen Qiao from the leadership position. In Yu Ai’s mind: the hundred-year plan for Mount Xuandu is more important than senior brother, and therefore I shall do what is right even at the cost of my family. Let’s do it!After Shen Qiao fell off the cliff, Yu Ai naturally became the regent sect leader. Of course, other people also agreed to the idea that Mount Xuandu needs to step into the secular world, so Yu Ai is widely supported. But they
 don’t know that Yu Ai poisoned Shen Qiao, and they don’t know he has been cooperating secretly with Kunye.
The reason Shen Qiao chooses to leave is that Yu Ai behaved too well before. He doesn’t have any evidence, and other people may not believe him even if he tells the truth.
Therefore, Shen Qiao didn’t get tricked because he was too stupid. He just put too much trust in Yu Ai’s personality. It’s the same for the others. All of them grew up together since they were young and they are closer than real brothers, so they don’t have any guards against each other.
Because this was such a gentle environment, it was able to nurture such a gentle Qiao Qiao~
I also have to mention this by the way:
Now is the end of Northern and Southern dynasties. (420-580 A.D)

Because of the Uprising of the Five Barbarians, all kinds of minority groups have established regimes in the Northern area.
At this time, the influence of the Tujue people was tremendous. They occupy a vast territory. They even formed an alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) to fight the Persian Empire.
Even Northern Zhou and Northern Qi can’t take them head-on and have to yield to them occasionally. It’s not something that is shameful for the northern regimes.
But they cannot represent everyone. There are still many people who have adhered to the orthodoxy of the Central Plains and want to restore its lost territory.
That includes Puliuru Jian. After he obtained rulership of the world, he immediately resumed his Han surname (Yang, so his name become Yang Jian), and etc..
 This novel is not a historical novel. I mainly want to explain that because it’s under such a big background, Yu Ai himself doesn’t feel that collaborating with the Tujue people is a very serious matter. Shen Qiao has his principles and bottom line, and he believes it’s not right to back down.
It’s like like what Qiao Qiao says in the novel. He also thinks that it might not be appropriate for Mount Xuandu to seal the mountain and shun the world like they were doing before, but he will never agree to collaborate with the Tujue people for any reason.
And this is where they differ. Translator’s Notes:
[1] You can take the thoroughfare, but I’ll pass my single-plank bridge: You look after your own concern and leave me to my own affairs.

Chapter 20

First published on Ainushi. Synopsis: This shameless bastard!
For a moment, Yu Ai was rendered speechless by his words.
And Yan Wushi’s sarcastic comments made the situation even worse:“Qi Fengge decided to let Hulugu off, which eventually led to his own disciple being pushed off the cliff by Hulugu’s disciple. Qi Fengge decided to take a disciple, but  that disciple was so ambitious that he actually colluded with the Tujue people and schemed against his own martial brother to become the sect leader. I’m afraid if Qi Fengge knew about all this in the nether world, he would probably be exasperated to the point where he would jump out of his coffin.”

Yu Ai became even more furious on the inside as he listened to Yan Wushi’s taunts. He was barely able to press it down and replied in a chilly tone, “It’s rather impolite for Sect Master Yan to pay a visit at midnight without being invited. I still  have  some family affairs that need to be taken care of, so please excuse me for not keeping you company before seeing you off!”
Yan Wushi laughed, “What a joke! I can come and go as  I wish, and there is yet to be a place in this world that can stop me. If Qi Fengge had said these words today, I might have to give him some respect still, but who the hell are you?”
It had never happened in Yu Ai’s life that someone would point their finger at his nose and scold him with “Who the hell are you?” He didn’t have a very good temper. Under Shen Qiao’s imperceptible
 influence over these years, he had already become a quite gentle person, but after being stimulated by the event from tonight, the once extinguished flame inside him showed signs of flaring up again.
His finger that was hiding inside his sleeve moved a little. He wanted to call other people over, but he gave up in the end —Shen Qiao had pretty good relations with the disciples on Mount Xuandu and a high reputation amongst them. Even though they were in favor of Yu Ai’s proposition of hoping that Mount Xuandu could once again enter the secular world by assisting a wise ruler and participating in the fight for the hegemony, they wouldn’t necessarily want to see Mount Xuandu change hands. Not to mention that with Shen Qiao’s current state, it was hard to say if those Elders and martial brothers would turn soft-hearted and change their minds after seeing him. In that case, the situation would only become more chaotic and even harder to control.

As he thought to this point, with a shake of his sleeve, there was already a long sword in his hand.
This was one of the three swords Qi Fengge had passed on to his disciples. “Celestial Grief” was given to Shen Qiao, “Heavenly Spring” was given to his youngest female disciple Gu Hengbo, and there was another sword, the “Saintly Principle”, which was the one in Yu Ai’s hand. [1]
The long sword vibrated, creating layers of shimmering light like rainbows in the dark night. Only a person who had perfected Mount Xuandu’s Azurewave Sword Arts to its ultimate state could exert such exceptional dazzling sword light. The billows arose and surged forwards one after another, breaking from stillness into movement like the sudden arrival of a lightning storm, engulfing the world into its waves.
At this moment, his opponent must feel like a tremendous storm was showering down everywhere around him. The raindrops were crashing down so heavily that it felt like they were going to even
 break the ground. Cold winds spanning for thousands of acres cut through like knives, each of them piecing deep into people’s bones and bowels, bringing horror onto everyone’s faces!
No one could tell when it happened, but Yan Wushi’s figure also began to drift and his feet were hardly touching the ground. At a quick glance, it almost seemed like he was being blown away by the wind. One of his hands was still behind his back, while the other pushed straight out towards the front. With a simple twist and flick of his sleeve, he first disintegrated most of the sword rain bearing down on him, and then pointed with his index finger.
This finger was exactly the same as the one he used against Yu Shengyan that day under the Half-Step Peak.
What was different was that he was using eighty-percent of his martial power now as opposed to only fifty percent when facing Yu Shengyan.
The sword light all over the sky simplified into a light ring which was drawn with the tip of the sword and came right towards Yan Wushi’s finger!
With this point of contact being the center, the inner qi which had exploded from their bodies spreaded out in circles in a flash. Robes and sleeves flipped and turned in the air for the two people inside the battle circle, but for people standing outside of it, it was even harder to bear.
Shen Qiao had already moved to the side when the two people first confronted each other, but he still ended up being affected and he nearly lost his balance.
Inner qi poured into the tip of the sword. Like tremendous waves, it surged up violently and came right down at Yan Wushi’s face!
Azurewave Sword Arts wasn’t just a name. Back then, Qi Fengge
 traveled east and was enlightened with this set of sword arts as he stood before the azure sea. Numerous revisions later, it became an introductory set of martial arts that every disciple on Mount Xuandu practiced. Although it was only an introductory skill, because the people using it were different, one could still tell the superior from the inferior, and the good from the bad.
For example, Yu Ai had already reached the superior state of spiritual similarity rather than concrete similarity. He was able to integrate many of his own comprehensions into the Azurewave Sword Arts and had thus gained a truly perfect command of it to the point where he had practically become one with the sword.
However, such an attack had to stop in front of a single finger from Yan Wushi!
If one looked closely they would have realized that this one finger of Yan Wushi’s didn’t just stay still after it was pressed against the point of the blade. It was just the opposite: he was moving extremely fast, so fast that his finger nearly left no afterimages in people’s eyes. It might have seemed motionless, but in fact his hand had never stopped moving. It was almost like his finger had eyes. It touched upon a few different places, and those were precisely the weakest points on the barrier Yu Ai had created with his inner qi.

Yu Ai suddenly remembered that when Qi Fengge, his master, was still alive, he had once commented on the world’s finest martial experts of their time. Among the people he mentioned was Yan Wushi. At that time, everyone thought Qi Fengge’s biggest rival was the Tujue grandmaster, Hulugu, but Qi Fengge said that with Yan Wushi’s aptitude, that person would surpass Hulugu in just a few years. He even said that Yan Wushi might be able to defeat Qi Fengge himself since his martial arts was already to the state where it was following his heart rather than clinging to the set forms.
For other people, The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang would allow them to learn a profound martial art and even aim at the summit in
 the field of martial arts. As for Yan Wushi, he only saw it as a reference book. He only used it to remedy the shortfalls in his own martial arts instead of copying everything over and practicing inner qi from the start.
Among all of Yan Wushi’s martial arts, there was a quite well- known one that was called “Spring Water Fingering.” Qi Fengge who had fought with Yan Wushi before once described it with two verses of a poem: The tender wave of the spring water pities the reflection on it, that all of the infatuation has turned to dust.

These two verses sounded like a girl chanting over her romance that had ended early. When Yu Ai heard it back then, he didn’t understand what they meant.
However, at this very moment, he finally understood what the second half of the poem was referring to.
Because along with the other person’s finger came the inner qi that violently surged like tides. Not only did it stop his offense, but it even brought the barrier which Yu Ai had worked so hard to construct with his sword energy to its near collapse. Right now, his feeling and the pressure on him were just like what Qi Fengge had said: all of his “infatuation” had turned to dust!

Yu Ai had to exert the sword energy to its extreme.
It all blasted like an explosion only a second later. Haze started to closed in as water vapor densified and shrouded the place — wind came out of nowhere, and huge rocks cracked and bursted, which created deafening sounds!

The explosion made Shen Qiao’s ear buzz. For a moment, he couldn’t hear anything.
The sound was loud enough to alarm anyone on Mount Xuandu on a quiet night like this. Lights appeared one after another in the
 distance, and many people threw on their robes as they rushed this way.
The situation was already beyond Yu Ai’s original anticipation. He wanted to finish it as quickly and as quietly as possible, but what he didn’t foresee was that Yan Wushi would meddle in it, leading the matter to get out of control.
Both of them pulled back their attacks. Yu Ai took three steps backwards, and Yan Wushi retreated for two.
However, while the former had gone all-out, the latter only used eighty percent of his power. It was self-evident on who had come out on top.
Yan Wushi stood composed in the midst of this chaos, it seemed like he was waiting to see a good show.
Yu Ai clenched his teeth and didn’t say anything. On the one hand, he felt that since the other people were coming, if he joined hands with the Elders, they could at least keep this crazy trespasser Yan Wushi here, but on the other hand, deep in his heart, he didn’t really want the other people on Mount Xuandu to see Shen Qiao.
Just as he was mulling over it, someone had already rushed over before everyone else.
It was Qi Fengge’s eldest disciple, Tan Yuanchun.

He was the eldest martial brother of Yu Ai and Shen Qiao. His aptitude was merely average, and he had a rather mild temperament
— a peacemaker who tried never to offend anybody. This kind of
disposition and level of martial arts were definitely unsuitable for a sect leader, but all martial brothers, including Shen Qiao, respected him greatly for his tolerance and generosity. After Shen Qiao became the sect leader, Tan Yuanchun naturally became an Elder and every day he busied himself disciplining the next generation of disciples.
 “Junior brother Yu?” Tan Yuanchun saw Yu Ai at once and seemed a little surprised, “That sound just now, were you…? Who is this mister?”
Yu Ai answered, “Sect Master Yan of the Cleansing Moon Sect.”
After hearing Yu Ai’s casual introduction, Tan Yuanchun gave a gasp of astonishment.
Why would the Demonic Sovereign from the Demonic Sect show up here?!
Yan Wushi’s mood was quite good. He even took the initiative to greet the other person, “So you’re Qi Fengge’s eldest disciple? You master fought with me once, and I lost to him. But now all of his disciples turn out to be useless. How about you have a fight with me as well?”
Tan Yuanchun: “…”
He turned around and looked at Yu Ai. The latter lowered his voice, “Sect Master Yan’s martial arts sure is unsurpassed, but we have so many people on Mount Xuandu that we can at least keep you here. Could it be that Sect Master Yan finds the scenery on Mount Xuandu so exceptionally beautiful that you would rather stay here for longer?”
Yan Wushi gave a light sneer, “Without Qi Fengge, Mount Xuandu is simply worthless in my eyes.”
He turned to Shen Qiao and satirized, “Unwilling to leave still, huh? Are you waiting for your junior brother to first imprison you and then chat together about the good old brotherhood between you two?”
Only then did Tan Yuanchun realize there stood yet another person under the tree not far from them. Because the other person was half-
 hidden in the shadows and had rather faint breaths in addition to his attention being immediately drawn by Yan Wushi’s presence just now, he didn’t notice it.
However, as he looked, he couldn’t help but be shocked as he bursted out, “Junior Brother, the Sect Leader?”
Supporting himself with the tree trunk, Shen Qiao nodded towards where the voice came from as a greeting, “Eldest Brother, I believe you’ve been well since we last parted?”
Tan Yuanchun was happily surprised. He took a few steps forward, asking, “Are you all right? When did you come back? Why…”
Yu Ai stopped him, “Eldest brother!”

This blockade actually reminded Tan Yuanchun of what Yan Wushi had just said. He immediately held his tongue and looked at Yu Ai, “What is going on here?”
Yu Ai didn’t answer. Instead, it was Shen Qiao who actually asked back, “Eldest Brother, is it true that all of you are already planning on electing Junior Brother Yu as the new sect leader?”
Tan Yuanchun appeared to be reluctant to answer. He first looked at Yu Ai, then at Shen Qiao. He didn’t know how to say things that sounded official and tactful, so he had to tell the truth, “We’ve been relying on Junior Brother Yu to take care of the affairs in the sect when you were not here. He was helping you with these things before anyway, and he is the one who knows Mount Xuandu the best. After you fell off the cliff, the Elders had a discussion and decided to let Junior Brother Yu become the regent leader of the sect until… Well, it’s good that you’re back. Have a nice recovery first, and the rest can wait till some time after!”
 Shen Qiao was very aware that even if he really were to stay tonight, since he had lost to Kunye and was also seriously wounded, there was no way he could continue to shoulder the duty of a sect leader. Even if the other people didn’t mind, he himself definitely wouldn’t have the face to keep the position. The Purple Mansion of Mount Xuandu would undoubtedly continue to be controlled by Yu Ai. In that case, he couldn’t stop Yu Ai’s cooperation with the Tujue whether he chose to stay or not. In fact, with his current condition, staying would simply be the same as placing himself at the mercy of others.
Thinking to this point, he sighed to himself and didn’t hesitate anymore, “Sect Master Yan, may I trouble you to take me along!”
“Ah-qiao!” “Junior brother!”
They called out simultaneously, Yu Ai with anger, and Tan Yuanchun with shock. He couldn’t understand how and when Shen Qiao had involved himself with the people from the Demonic sects.
Yan Wushi raised his eyebrows. He didn’t seem to be surprised by Shen Qiao’s decision and found it especially interesting. He deliberately suggested, “You still have time to regret.”
Lights could faintly be seen from the distance as they approached.
Those were the disciples of Mount Xuandu who were hurrying over.

A blind man’s ears were exceptionally keen. Shen Qiao couldn’t see very well, but he was able to hear it.
He shook his head, “No.”

Seeing that Yan Wushi was going to take the person and simply walk away from it all, Yu Ai was shocked and enraged by it at the same time. He lifted his sword and was going to step forward to stop
 them, “Wait!”

To his surprise, Yan Wushi did not dodge or step aside. He grabbed Shen Qiao by his waist and sent him forward, immediately making Shen Qiao the target for Yu Ai’s attack.
Tan Yuanchun was terrified: “Third junior brother, stop!”
Yu Ai was greatly alarmed. He withdrew his hand and retreated at once. Yan Wushi laughed heartily, taking the person with him. They disappeared without a trace in the blink of an eye.
Only laughter continued to echo in the open space.

Yu Ai almost blew his top, “This shameless bastard!”
Translator’s Notes:
[1] Names of the three swords: It’s interesting to see how the name of the swords correspond to their owners.
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