Thousand Autumns Extra 1-13

Extra 1

Watching Hulugu fall, Yu Shengyan was first ecstatic, then aghast.

He knew, Hulugu was extraordinary, his wugong unsurpassed, pretty much number one under the heavens, no matter how strong shizun was, even being able to beat him, he himself would definitely not remain unscathed.

As this thought crossed his mind, he wanted to go over immediately to see shizun, but the distance between Banbu Peak and here was objectively one he could not surmount.

Just as he was about to head down the mountain, someone’s shadow moved faster than him.

It was Shen Qiao.

Yu Shengyan’s mouth hung open as he watched Shen Qiao rise in the air, leaping in the direction of the opposite peak, in the wind, he looked no different from a celestial.

The words that he was on the verge of screaming died in his throat, like the others in the crowd, he could only follow with his eyes as Shen Qiao drifted towards the opposite Banbu Peak.

Strictly speaking, he was really drifting.

On the mountaintop, the headwinds were merciless, the crowd was being blown every which way while standing still, without wugong, a commoner here would have to cling to the nearest tree, otherwise they’d have been blown cleanly away, even the Wang brothers who were among the talents, had to circulate their nieli constantly to remain in one place, one moment of inattention and they could be blown away too.

Yet in the chaotic winds, Shen Qiao’s sleeves danced, step by step he drifted towards the opposite peak, it appeared very slow, but was actually extremely fast, from this end to that end, he managed to cross the distance that to the average person was insurmountable!

Just on the merit of qinggong, there were probably few in the world that were his rival, he was possibly even a notch above his shizun.

These thoughts passed in Yu Shengyan’s mind, in the next moment, he came out of his stupor, and remembered his initial impulse to go down the mountain.

This time again someone was ahead of him, they were faster, they traversed the precipitous mountain path as if it were flat ground, quickly vanishing into the distance.

Earlier when they were climbing up, Yu Shengyan had caught sight of Duan Wenyang, while their shifu were fighting, the two of them had no heart to bicker, now Duan Wenyang seeing Hulugu fall, was of course extremely impatient wanting to rush over at once.

Yu Shengyan had heard stories about Duan Wenyang’s childhood being excluded from Tujue society, after being picked up by Hulugu, and becoming his disciple, his life circumstances changed drastically, Duan Wenyang was ambitious, he was also filial. Yu Shengyan’s current headspace was not that much better than Duan Wenyang’s, the two of them descended the mountain one after the other, when they reached the foot of Yinghui Peak and were about to continue up, from afar they saw Shen Qiao descending with Yan Wushi on his back.

“Shen-daozhang!” Yu Shengyan exclaimed, immediately rushing over to meet them.

When he saw Yan Wushi sprawled on Shen Qiao’s back, his eyes shut, face an ashen grey, Yu Shengyan’s expression changed: “Shizun!”

“Talk after we return.” Shen Qiao only said these four words.

“Shen-daozhang!” Duan Wenyang called after him: “How is my shizun?”

Shen Qiao looked at him: “I was solely focused on carrying Yan-zongzhu down, in the moment I didn’t have time to look to your master, I do not know his condition.”

Duan Wenyang had nothing to say, for a brief moment, he wondered if Shen Qiao was capable of using the opportunity to deliver a final blow on his shifu, after all there were only the three of them on Yinghui Peak, no one would know the truth, but this thought was refuted by Duan Wenyang as quickly as it appeared, although they held different interests, Duan Wenyang still had to admit, with Shen Qiao’s character, he would not do such a thing.

Some people had no way of becoming a friend, but even his enemies had nothing to say about his character, this was Shen Qiao.

In the end he still hadn’t said anything, just watched Shen Qiao and the others vanish into the distance, before he turned and headed up the mountain.

Yu Shengyan had no time to pay attention to him, he followed closely behind Shen Qiao, until they reached the residence.

Yan Wushi in others’ eyes was always all powerful, the head manager had never seen him like this, originally he’d come out all smiles to greet them, but was now frightened half to death.

Yu Shengyan bravely reached out to Yan Wushi’s hand, and his soul almost left him: “Why, why is it cold?!”

Shen Qiao said: “His injuries are too severe, I’ll write a prescription, you go and fetch three portions of the medicine: boil it over low heat, four bowls of water boiled down to one, to be taken two times a day.”

Yu Shengyan accepted immediately, he knew that in Xuandushan’s several hundred year history, there should be some secret, life-saving remedies, probably even better than what you’d get in the imperial court.

Shen Qiao carried Yan Wushi indoors, carefully lay him down, examined his meridians, wrote down the prescription, fed him some medicine, all of it he did himself.

Maybe it was Shen Qiao’s medicine, or maybe Yan Wushi’s inner cultivation, three days later, he finally woke.

“Shizun!” Yu Shengyan had just walked in with a steaming bowl of medicine, seeing this he cried out in delight.

His cry woke Shen Qiao who had been resting on the side with his hands propping up his forehead.

Yan Wushi opened his eyes, seeing that his disciple was about to help him up to take his medicine, said: “You, get out.”

Yu Shengyan: “Ah?”

His reaction wasn’t slow, he gave Shen Qiao a look.

Shen Qiao nodded: “You can take your leave, I’ll do it.”

Yu Shengyan looked at his shizun again.

The latter since waking had his gaze stuck on Shen Qiao, not even a little bit was spared in his direction.

Yu Shengyan suddenly thought of something like “rootless small grass in the bleak wind and bitter rain”, he handed the bowl over to Shen Qiao, and silently withdrew.

Shen Qiao hadn’t noticed his reaction, he held up a spoonful of medicine towards Yan Wushi, this motion he had been making for the last three days, it was a very familiar motion.

“How are you feeling?” Shen Qiao asked.

“Fine.” Yan Wushi said lazily, if not for his complexion being a little ashen, from his attitude you wouldn’t be able to tell he was injured at all.

Shen Qiao: “Your meridians have stabilized, but they are still weak, it will require some time, indeed the flaw in your demonic core was completely fixed, otherwise…”

He shook his head, and said no more.

Otherwise the one able to leave the mountain would not be Yan Wushi, but Hulugu.

The Hulugu from twenty years ago narrowly lost to Qi Fengge, twenty years later he could only be stronger, for Yan Wushi, this fight was very risky, even at the end when he saw the other’s opening, the two of them still had a difference in nieli, strength meeting strength could only have one outcome: you die I end.

If Shen Qiao had not directly jumped from Yinghui Peak, and instead descended before climbing the other mountain, in this interim, a difference of a few centimetres could lead to a thousand li discrepancy, and maybe Yan Wushi would not have been so lucky.

Yan Wushi gave him a soft smile: “A-Qiao, do you remember what you said before? You said if I wake up, you’ll do anything I want.”

Shen Qiao’s outstretched hand froze in mid-air: “I said that in a moment of desperation…”

Yan Wushi said cooly: “A virtuous man cannot take back his words.”

Shen Qiao, unable to deal with him: “Then, what do you want?”

Yan Wushi: “This medicine is so bitter.”

It was a pity that Shen-daozhang was so pure at heart, he hadn’t understood the implication: “Then I’ll go get some honey?”

Yan Wushi shook his head, suddenly he reached for the bowl and downed the contents in one go, then he grabbed the front of Shen Qiao’s robes and pulled him over, and with the utmost precision he met the other’s lips.

Shen Qiao opened his eyes wide, the next impulse was to push him away, but Yan Wushi was embracing him tightly, if he had to use force, it might injure the other…

Just one moment of hesitation, and Yan Wushi had already tasted once over the mouth that he had been thinking about for so long.

“Nn—En—“

Saliva that carried the slight bitter taste of medicine entered his mouth, Shen Qiao’s patience was at its limit, at this moment his hands were captured, and his centre of gravity was forced backwards, the other having gotten what he wanted kept pushing his luck, Shen Qiao’s waist couldn’t support the weight of two people and he was forced to straighten his torso and tilt his chin up, saliva brimmed over the corner of his mouth, winding its way down his pretty neck.

When Shen Qiao recovered enough to push the other aside, he didn’t realize how much of a mess he looked.

His hair was in disarray, his eyes wet and misty, like a pair of jade pools, his cheeks were still flushed, and his lips were clearly swollen and red, combined with this appearance —

He looked like the aftermath of someone who’d just been taken advantage of.

But the victim could not hold the instigator accountable, because the latter was clutching his chest, his brow furrowed, quietly moaning: “It hurts so much…”

Shen Qiao: “…”

Yan Wushi sighed: “I just overexerted myself, now it hurts to breathe, it looks like it will take a long time before I recover.”

This was clearly playing innocence after the fact, absolutely no sense of shame! 

Shen Qiao’s face flashed shades of green and white: “How come you still don’t show any self-respect even after you’re injured!”

It was better when you were unconscious these last few days.

Yan Wushi, meaningfully: “It was you who said as long as I woke up, you’ll do anything, how come a kiss is not allowed? You’re a Daoist, you value what your promised, since anything goes, and this act doesn’t go against your sense of justice, it should be allowed, right?”

When it came to words, one hundred Shen Qiao’s could not outargue one Yan Wushi.

“…I see that you’re mostly recovered, you don’t need to drink the medicine anymore, just sit here and rest!”

The beauty getting angry was a different kind of scenery, Yan Wushi smiled and admired it, he felt that everything on the other’s body was a delight to look at.

Shen Qiao, having suffered once, was no longer willing to get close to feed him medicine, not giving him another opportunity, in the days following he only stood at the door and shot him a few glances before leaving.

This way several more days passed, news from the outside world began to arrive intermittently.

Hulugu was certainly dead, Duan Wenyang had brought the body back to Tujue for burial, in the jianghu it was rumoured that Yan Wushi also died in that fight, only on account of being whisked away by Shen Qiao was there no body.

The people at the residence naturally knew that Yan Wushi was not dead, he had only one breath left coming down the mountain, but on account of his own ability, and Shen Qiao’s full efforts, the one foot that had stepped firmly into the afterlife was pulled back.

But no one knew this. The crowd that had been waiting for the outcome at the foot of Banbu Peak had watched Shen Qiao carry him down on his back, seen the look on Yu Shengyan’s face that was looked like he was attending his parent’s funeral, and after all this time there was still no representative from Huanyue Sect to provide an update to the situation, so logically they all assumed Yan Wushi had also lost his life.

Those who were not superstitious went to inquire after the masters who were fortunate enough to be present that day, the opinions of grandmasters like Ruyan Kehui and Yi Bichen were naturally held in high regard.

Ruyan Kehui didn’t seem to appear to express any sort of opinion on the life or death outcome, he only said that Hulugu and Yan Wushi were among the best martial artists in the world, and he respected them a great deal. 

In contrast, Yi Bichen’s response was clearer: he considered the two evenly matched, both sides losing, it was unlikely anyone gained an advantage.

Many people after hearing this were more convinced that Yan Wushi was already dead.

Then, if the number one and number two ranked martial masters under the heavens were both dead, then who was the strongest in the jianghu now?

More importantly, the bets at the gambling house, how would it be resolved?

Previously, it wasn’t like there was no one who bet on both sides losing, both sides dying, but that outcome seemed so unlikely and preposterous, most people wouldn’t have considered betting on it, the odds were thirty-seven to one, meaning, if you bet one liang, you’d win thirty-seven liang.

Rumour had it that many of the gambling houses in Funing County were crippled by this, filed for bankruptcy, however someone named Xixingke made a fortune, in one night they became immensely wealthy.

Who was Xixingke? No one knew.

“Shizun.” Yu Shengyan entered, handing over the account book in his hand. “This is the money we won, the total exceeds fifty thousand liang.” 

This fifty thousand liang sum, was made at the expense of all of the gambling houses in Funing County, within the year, likely no one would be brave enough to open another gambling house in Funing County.

Yu Shengyan laughed: “Everyone’s trying to guess who Xixingke is, how difficult can it be, Huanyue Xixing, cleansing the moon and washing the stars, it’s not hard to make the connection. It’s just that later when you appear in public again, those people will be so upset!”

No use being upset, they set up the bet themselves, the odds were also determined by them, would they dare to show up to Huanyue Sect looking for trouble, would they be that willing to part with their lives?

Yan Wushi made a sound of acknowledgement, didn’t place too much value on this sum: “Where is A-Qiao?”

Yu Shengyan: “Shen-daozhang is training in the courtyard, he seems to want to head to Chang’an.”

Yan Wushi beckoned him closer: “No matter, come here.”

He whispered a bunch of instructions into his disciple’s waiting ear, Yu Shengyan nodded again and again: “This disciple will carry it out immediately!”

Yan Wushi: “One more thing, from this fifty thousand liang, take out ten thousand liang and deliver it to Chunyangguan.” 

Yu Shengyan: “Yes!”

That sentence from Yi Bichen was not random. The most ascetic of Daoist sects still had to survive, Yi Bichen had only muddled his words a bit, gave a statement open to misinterpretation, helping Yan Wushi win the bet, along the way helping his own sect gain ten thousand liang, much to everyone’s happy ending.

Extra 2

Shen Qiao did intend to return to Chang’an, after all Yuan Ying was still in Chang’an helping him oversee Xuanduguan’s construction, the other lacked experience, he couldn’t just leave him there alone too long.

Once construction was complete, the Sui court would provide an imperial edict, perhaps the emperor would request an audience, when the time comes he’d have to make an appearance as the zhangjiao, if it was left to the inflexible Yuan Ying to face the emperor, Shen Qiao didn’t need to imagine to know it would not go well.

Shen Qiao, arriving at this point in his musings, went to find Yu Shengyan, he was ready to bid him farewell, but who knew that for two days in a row, Yu Shengyan either departed early or returned late, he was unable to catch him, on the third day, Shen Qiao finally blocked his way at the door.

Yu Shengyan laughed: “My master is currently bedridden, all matters are left to the disciple, I’ve been running back and forth, see—“ 

He waved the letter in his hand, “I have to help shizun deliver this letter to Yi-guanzhu, if there’s something Shen-daozhang wishes to discuss, you should tell it directly to shizun, I think shizun won’t say no to anything!”

Shen Qiao stopped him, coughed quietly: “Really there’s no need to seek him, I just want to say goodbye, it’s the same if I say it to you.”

Yu Shengyan, earnestly: “Shen-daozhang, your connection to my shizun isn’t a simple one, if shizun knew you bid farewell to me alone, he would probably be angry with me, if you plan to leave, why not say it to shizun, this will save me from being stuck in the middle!”

It was because Shen Qiao didn’t want to seek out Yan Wushi that he sought out Yu Shengyan.

Truthfully, in his heart, he didn’t know how to face Yan Wushi, so could only choose this method of evasion.

Yu Shengyan was about to say something, but just then someone rushed out, whispered something into his ear, Yu Shengyan’s expression changed drastically, his voice trembled: “How can this be, he was fine this morning!”

Shen Qiao heard it clearly, he snapped to attention at once: “What’s happened?”

Yu Shengyan forcefully regained his composure, in a complete reversal of his previous plea: “Nothing, I have something to do, apologies for leaving first!”

Saying this, he turned around and rushed off with the attendant, not giving Shen Qiao any chance to react.

Shen Qiao stood where he was, the more he thought about it the more he thought it had something to do with Yan Wushi, the more he thought the more he worried, finally he turned his steps in the direction of Yan Wushi’s room.

Before he had gotten close to the room, he could already see people rushing in and out, some were carrying basins of hot water, some had gathered bunches of clothing to be washed, Shen Qiao’s keen eyes picked up on the blood on the clothing. 

His heart missed a beat, tossing aside all of his reservations, he barged into the room.

Past the screen was the bedroom.

On the bed lay a person, it was Yan Wushi without a doubt.

The other’s eyes were shut tight, his complexion pale, it was no different than how he had appeared that day coming down Banbu Peak.

In that moment, Shen Qiao’s heart almost stopped, he rushed forward, intending to grab the other’s wrist to examine his meridians carefully.

Yan Wushi in the same moment slowly opened his eyes.

“Weren’t you leaving, why are you still here?”

His tone was cold, it had none of the earlier playfulness, even his gaze was a like a cold spring, deep and unfathomable.

Shen Qiao froze.

Words of parting stuck in his throat, and he couldn’t spit out a single one.

Yan Wushi closed his eyes again, blandly: “I’m fine, if you want to go then go.”

Whatever he wanted to do, whatever goal he wanted to accomplish, he could use any means, Shen Qiao had known him a long time and understood him enough, but now seeing this completely reversal in attitude, uncharacteristically distant manner, he didn’t feel any relief at all, only an indescribable awkwardness.

Shen Qiao gathered himself: “I will save a person the entire way, since I carried you down from Banbu Peak, I will wait until you are completely healed before departing.”

He had thought he was out of the worse of it, he hadn’t expected this turn at all, it made Shen Qiao worry again.

But Yan Wushi was unwilling to let him examine his meridians: “Thank you Shen-zhangjiao, you’ve gone to your limits saving this venerable one many times, this venerable one will remember it well, but there’s no shortage of skilled doctors in Huanyue Sect, there’s no need to trouble Shen-zhangjiao personally any longer.”

He pulled his hand back into the blankets, closed his eyes, feigning sleep.

Yu Shengyan stood at the side, perhaps he couldn’t bear to see Shen Qiao’s dazed expression, he spoke up: “Shen-daozhang…” 

Shen Qiao came back to his senses, asked him: “Just now I saw there was blood on the clothing, what happened?”

Yu Shengyan, embarrassed: “It was me peeling fruit, I accidentally cut my hand.”

He raised his hand to show him, there was indeed a cut across his palm, the bleeding had stopped, medicinal powder had been applied to it, the blood and white powder mixed together appeared quite gruesome.

But Shen Qiao had seen all manners of gruesome wounds, this one was not even worth a mention.

Yu Shengyan was a bright young man, in martial arts he resembled his master a great deal, what he lacked was experience and practice, a basic error like slicing his hand while peeling fruit, nevermind Yu Shengyan, anyone with wugong would be unlikely to make such an error, but Shen Qiao’s mind was currently in disarray, and he didn’t notice this obvious discrepancy.

He looked back at Yan Wushi one more time, the latter still had his eyes closed, as if he had truly fallen asleep.

With Shen Qiao’s character, he wouldn’t be able to do such a thing as shake someone awake, he suddenly felt a wave of self-pity: clearly you were the instigator, how come now you’ve turned your back and won’t own it?

Shen Qiao’s thoughts were not so direct, but it was this general meaning.

Yu Shengyan stuck between the two of them, feeling the strange mood, in order to break apart the awkwardness, he rushed to say something to resolve the stalemate: “Shen-daozhang, I’m also headed to Chang’an to see shixiong, why don’t we head over together?”

But Shen Qiao shook his head: “You should take good care of your shizun, I will depart first.”

He didn’t look at Yan Wushi again, he spoke quietly, clearly taking into consideration the resting patient.

Watching Shen Qiao’s retreating back, Yu Shengyan rubbed his nose: “Shizun, did we overdo it? Shen-daozhang seemed upset.”

Yan Wushi opened his eyes, lazily: “If I don’t use a harsh medicine, how will I get a good result?”

He looked at Yu Shengyan again: “I have my reasons for treating him coldly, but you should not disrespect him in the slightest.”

Yu Shengyan rushed to say: “This disciple wouldn’t dare!”

How would he dare, nevermind that Shen Qiao’s connection to his shifu was not simple at all, Shen Qiao also ranked among the top ten martial artists under the heavens, and he was also the leader of a sect, on all of these points, Yu Shengyan could only have the utmost respect.

“But what if Shen-daozhang really left…?” Don’t overplay it, Shen Qiao had a soft exterior but was unyielding, after you truly chase him away, you won’t be able to cajole him back.

Yan Wushi, a small smile: “In truth, he already knows his heart’s intention, but can’t give up face, unable to move past his Daoist teachings.”

Yu Shengyan thought: Really, how come I don’t see it at all?

Yan Wushi seemed to read his thoughts: “When it comes to people, you need to learn for a few more years from Bian Yanmei.”

To be read like that in one glance, Yu Shengyan imagined sticking out his tongue, he didn’t dare say anything further.

Shen Qiao really left, early the next morning, Yu Shengyan hadn’t even get a chance to send him off, someone already came to report that Shen-daozhang had departed.

Before Shen Qiao left, he didn’t forget to leave behind several prescriptions and medicines for Yan Wushi’s treatment.

He was kind and generous, but that didn’t mean he was a fool, Yan Wushi suddenly feigning illness, Shen Qiao didn’t have to examine his meridians, after he left he was able to figure it out, he was of course a bit upset, so instead of his original plan to depart in two days time, he left the next morning.

At first, Shen Qiao headed in the direction of Chang’an, however when he reached Fengzhou, he encountered Yuan Ying who had been looking for him.

After Shen Qiao regained leadership of Xuandushan, he had sent two elders to assist Yuan Ying, although Yuan Ying’s strengths did not lie in construction matters, but he still went over trembling with nerves everyday to oversee things, when Gu Hengbo arrived in Chang’an looking for Shen Qiao, Yuan Ying discovered that Gu Hengbo was much more capable and observant than him in these matters, at the same time news of Yan Wushi and Hulugu’s impending duel had spread everywhere, Yuan Ying worried about the possibility of Hulugu winning, and more about Hulugu going to find Shen Qiao after his victory, so he left the matter of Xuanduguan with Gu Hengbo, then he departed from Chang’an looking for Shen Qiao.

Of Qi Fengge’s five disciples, only Yuan Ying didn’t know how to manage sect matters, wholeheartedly devoted himself to training and studying, he had never stepped outside of Xuandushan previously, the other four all had their own strengths, even Tan Yuanchun and Yu Ai, in the time period right after Shen Qiao received the zhangjiao mantle from Qi Fengge, had helped out a lot left and right, Tan Yuanchun was adept and teaching disciples, Yu Ai was skilled with daily miscellaneous matters, Gu Hengbo was a woman, but Shen Qiao did not discriminate, he taught her the same way as he taught Yuan Ying, Gu Hengbo’s personality was a bit colder, but in her dealings she was as decisive as thunder, her methods swift and efficient, with her overseeing Xuanduguan and managing matters in the capital, Shen Qiao trusted her with the task even more than Yuan Ying.

After the two shixiongdi met, Yuan Ying was reassured that Shen Qiao was doing well, Shen Qiao upon learning Gu Hengbo was helping out in Chang’an didn’t feel the same urgency to press forward, he had Yuan Ying return first, he headed instead towards Yuanzhou, planning to detour around Chen.

Shen Qiao had only been to Chen once, back then Yuwen Qing had been sent as a representative of Zhou into the southern dynasty, Yan Wushi escorting him at Yuwen Yong’s request, Shen Qiao was also part of the assemblage, but back then his wugong hadn’t recovered, and neither had his eyes, in order to not cause others trouble, he’d only ventured out of the yiguan once, but the territory of Chen was vast, and he’d only caught a sliver, this he regretted, but now that he had a chance, of course he wanted to take another look with his own eyes. 

There was Chen in the south, Sui in the north, apart from Tujue, there was actually another small nation Liang with its capital Jiangling, and Pubu standing southwest of Chen, ever since the Jin dynasty moved south, the common people had suffered war and displacement, everyone wished to see a unified north and south, a stable central plains, a sovereign who could bring stability and peace to their days, but they’d held this wish for several hundred years, only for the Wuhu rebellion to arrive, then a new dynasty arrived in the south, Song followed by Chen, in the north too Sui following Zhou, but the day they hoped for still had not come, no one knew when this sovereign might arrive, or between Chen and Sui, who was more likely to unify the territories, or if in the end it would be Tujue who would gain the advantage.

In a chaotic world there were too many variables, the question of destiny to knit the world together, for now there was no scholar who could guarantee on their life the answer, even Yan Wushi couldn’t, before he thought it would be Yuwen Yong, but useless offspring, a careless generation, and the banners changed easily.  

Yang Jian in the northern dynasty had the makings of a sovereign, but the nobles in the south looked down on him, someone who used to be a subject of a Xianbei emperor, even his surname was a Xianbei surname, but now that he was emperor, he had immediately thrown on a Han surname, complicating his origins, linking his ancestors to prominent clans of the central plains, they considered this shameless behaviour, this type of person, how could he unify the world?

The Ru sects saw themselves as orthodox, and Linchuanxuegong this prominent of a Ru sect situated in the southern dynasty naturally considered the emperor of Chen’s rule as orthodox, and that he would be the sovereign that would stabilize the configuration of the world.

So far, the Chen emperor was methodical in his safeguarding of the work of his predecessors, his politics was mostly clear-headed, certainly he had promise.

The reason Shen Qiao supported Yang Jian was not entirely because he believed Yan Wushi’s words, he had really seen Yang Jian’s intelligence and strength, to lead a nation required not only intelligence, but also tolerance, Yang Jian had all of these traits. 

For Shen Qiao, he hadn’t seen enough, so he decided to take a detour around Chen, he could travel at ease and at the same time personally experience Chen’s landscapes and peoples, it would be a hundred times better than relying on rumours.

On the road to Jiankang, Shen Qiao met a family that was preparing to leave Jiangzhou to seek relatives in Jiankang, this Li family was very rich, for their journey they had hired bodyguards, meeting Shen Qiao and learning that he was headed similarly to Jiankang, they invited him to join them.

Jiangzhou currently was part of Sui, from Jiangzhou to Jiankang, would mean crossing from the northern into the southern dynasty, although travel between the two was not prohibited, the nations were keen on establishing their borders, many bandits had taken the opportunity to set up in the neglected inter-regions, travellers were easy targets, so most travelled in large groups.

The matriarch of the Li family was a widow, she intended to bring her daughter to Jiankang to seek refuge with her family, for their journey, they had brought along their servants, and recruited bodyguards, but still didn’t feel quite safe, and Shen Qiao had such an easy-to-approach appearance, and on his back he carried a long sword, so his skills couldn’t be too shabby, in this day and age on a journey, one more person was one more source of strength, Shen Qiao pitied the mother-daughter pair, they were definitely headed the same way, so he accepted their invitation, he rode a horse alongside the bodyguards.

The security organization had sent out four bodyguards, the lead bodyguard was surnamed Liu, this was on account of the plentiful renumeration from the Li family, otherwise they’d only have sent two bodyguards, as the organization saw it, they were only protecting two weak women and their servants, it was not complicated at all.

Liu-biaoshi was initially curious about Shen Qiao, and inquired after his identity, Shen Qiao didn’t tell the complete truth, he just said he was a drifting, clanless Daoist who had learned several years of martial arts, wandering the world.

In this day and age, there were lots of wandering Daoists, Liu-biaoshi had travelled extensively north and south, and had seen a lot, after hearing his explanation was no longer curious, instead he felt Shen Qiao might use his appearance to seduce the Li daughter, thereby gaining a hefty fortune, or perhaps he coveted the beauty of the daughter, and had other intentions.

It was not his fault he thought this way, the Li daughter was in her early teens, blooming her first interest in romance, towards Shen Qiao this kind of celestial Daoist she had no immunity, she couldn’t personally make an appearance with everyone watching, but she had sent over someone several times with gifts, sweetcakes, something else, each time a portion was included for Liu-biaoshi, but how could Liu-biaoshi not see that they were intended for Shen Qiao?

As for Liu-biaoshi’s misconception, it would be pointless even if Shen Qiao found out and explained, he could only dig the hole deeper, if everything went according to plan, they would part ways after Jiankang, this brief journey would only last several days, there was no need to talk extensively with strangers.

This group travelled together for several days until they reached the foot of Qianlongshan in Huainan, the next town that could provide overnight lodging was still far ahead, they would not be able to reach it before nightfall, Liu-biaoshi made a hand-motion, signalling the group that they would be resting here for the night.




The author would like to say:

<How to defeat your enemy in one move> —author: Yuan Ying

Yu Shengyan did not get along with Yuan Ying, every three sentences he’d find a fault.

Yuan Ying on account of his stutter had never won a argument, with Yu Shengyan was no exception.

But then he learned a boss move.

Yu Shengyan: You’re this slow-witted, it truly tarnishes Qi-zhengren and your shixiong’s face, if I were you, I’d keep to the mountain forever out of shame!

Yuan Ying (displaying an I-didn’t-hear-you-clearly, befuddled expression): Ha?

Yu Shengyan: I said, this slow-witted, it truly tarnishes Qi-zhengren and your shixiong’s face!

Yuan Ying: Ha?

Yu Shengyan: You’re stupid, a plague!

Yuan Ying: Ha?

Yu Shengyan: …do you seek death

Yuan Ying: Ha?

Yu Shengyan: …(foaming at the mouth)

Yuan Ying, reaching his conclusion: This method of arguing, unless they fight you physically, guarantees victory. If it comes to a fight, even if I can’t win I can still run, watch them rage-quit.

Extra 3

The ground was wide and even here, there was a mountain to one side, a natural wind barrier in the night, truly a good spot to rest, Liu-biaoshi did not choose this spot half-haphazardly, however Shen Qiao with his martial arts acumen sensed that not all was quite right.

He took a careful look of their surroundings in all directions.

The sun was setting, the world thrown into dusk, his injured eyes had gradually recovered with his niegong, he could see more or less as clearly as before, in his scan of the area, he didn’t uncover anything suspicious.

“Daozhang,” Liu-biaoshi came over to extend a personal invitation, “they’re boiling jerky, if daozhang doesn’t mind meat, do you want to join us?”

Truthfully he had no great interest in this kind of too-pretty Daoist, but the other always carried a sword, and that sword didn’t seem like mere decoration, he probably did have some skill, if something did happen on the road they’d at least have each other, for someone like him who was used to wandering the jianghu as a career, one more friend was better than one more enemy.

Shen Qiao didn’t mind meat, just that he preferred lighter fare, on the road however there was no room to pick and choose, so he didn’t turn down the invitation, after thanking him he walked over, sat down to drink pork soup together.

The mother and daughter of the Li family were sitting in the carriage, curtains drawn, blocking out the view of the inside, surrounding the carriage were the Li family servants and maidservants, Li-biaoshi and his group were very sensible and didn’t disturb them, the two groups remained about ten steps apart.

“Daozhang, after arriving in Jiankang, do you have somewhere to stay, if not, you could head to Baimenguan in the city, rumour has it that the new emperor has expressed interest in Daoist rituals, with your charm, if you went you would for sure be selected.”

Shen Qiao, laughing-crying: “…”

Although he was a Daoist, he was not the kind that brewed elixirs and drew seals! Truth was that there were many different types of Daoists.

But he didn’t refute Liu-biaoshi, only asked: “In my memory, Chen favours the Ru sects, how come the new emperor is interested in Daoists?”

It was only after Shen Qiao had crossed the Chen border that he learned the previous Chen emperor Chen Xu had recently passed, that the new emperor Chen Shubao was the son of Chen Xu and empress Liu Jingyan, formally and rightfully ascending the throne.

He also recalled, Chen was situated within the jurisdiction of Linchuanxuegong, the empress Liu Jingyan, now empress dowager, had another identity as Ruyan Kehui’s shimei.

Liu-biaoshi laughed and shook his head: “This matter, how would I know of it, perhaps the emperor’s temporary fixation, to brew elixirs? From antiquity to now, what emperor takes an exception to chasing after immortality, even among us jianghu people, isn’t there a belief that the pinnacle of martial arts cultivation is also the realm of the celestials?”

But an emperor not interested in political affairs, instead preoccupied with the intangible, fruitless lifelong task of brewing elixirs, it was nature standing on its head.

Shen Qiao was aware that someone like Liu-biaoshi wouldn’t know the details, so he didn’t ask too much, after chatting idly for some time, night had descended completely, they all got up one by one to go rest.

“Is Shen-daozhang not planning to rest?” Liu-biaoshi saw that he was still seated cross-legged under a tree, and asked after him.

It was a summer night, on the road there was no fuss, there were no tents to rest in, many people lay down directly on the ground to sleep, otherwise they lay on one of the luggage carts, covering themselves with a robe, spending the night like this, Liu-biaoshi and the others were used to this kind of life, and didn’t consider it a particular hardship.

“I’m used to meditating to rest, the nighttime is no exception, Liu-xiong doesn’t need to worry.” Shen Qiao smiled.

Liu-biaoshi, somewhat envious: “Ay, back when I was learning martial arts, I’d also use meditation in lieu of sleep, unfortunately after so many years of wandering left and right, the weariness from the day, after I lie down at night I lose all of my senses, after all this time, the sect gongfu that shifu taught me has all gone to waste!”

Shen Qiao asked: “Which sect does Liu-xiong come from?”

Liu-biaoshi: “I am a disciple of Zhongnan Sect.”

Shen Qiao, surprised: “That’s the same sect as Zhangsun Sheng?”

Liu-biaoshi, dejected: “Zhangsun-shixiong is the personal disciple of the sect leader, and is of high birth from a northern family, I’m just a son of a commoner, and only disciple-in-name, am unfit to enter the hallowed halls, how would I dare say I am from the same sect as Zhangsun-shixiong?”

Shen Qiao offered some comforting words, only then did Liu-biaoshi’s mood improve a little, seeing Shen Qiao meditate, he remembered the skill he had neglected for so long, his heart itched, so he sat down next to him, and prepared to meditate through the night.

He did have a practice of sitting to meditate, but many people considered meditation separate from sleeping, Liu-biaoshi had every intention of mimicking Shen Qiao, but before midnight, he couldn’t help himself, leaning against a tree, he fell soundly asleep.

At this moment, Shen Qiao suddenly leapt up, dove forwards!

Simultaneously, sound broke open the sky, arrows like shooting stars fell upon the Li family carriage!

No one had time to react, there had been sentries standing guard, but by this time of night most people couldn’t shrug off their fatigue, their reactions were much slower, even Liu-biaoshi someone who had trained in an orthodox martial arts sect, had just opened his eyes, raising his head to look in the direction of the noise.

That arrow was unable to strike the carriage before it was caught by a hand.

Shen Qiao snapped the arrow in his hand in two, more arrows followed!

“Bandits! Bandits!” Sharp whistles and yells started into the night, even the deepest sleepers were eventually roused, grasping their swords they prepared to enter battle.

By the time they had reacted, Shen Qiao had already intercepted five six arrows, the other side had not expected this group to have such a powerful asset, seeing that their ambush was unsuccessful, they were forced to step out into the light, bursting out of the night, they attacked.

This group wore all black, they were bandits clearly, Liu-biaoshi had said earlier that this stretch of road was in the inter-regions, not in the jurisdiction of the south or the north, bandits were common, The Li family mother and daughter didn’t expect their luck to be “so good”, encountering such a misfortune, they were screaming in fear in the carriage, the servants that had originally surrounded the carriage had on account of the arrows ducked and evaded every which way.

The scene was one of chaos.

The group consisted of thirty forty people, every single one was a capable martial artist who had trained from childhood, their statures large and menacing, their expressions frightening, after realizing the situation the bodyguards struggled against them, however their lethality was a notch below, very quickly they lost the advantage.

The Li family was very well-off, on this move to Jiankang they had brought along all of their possessions, anyone with eyes could see that this was a fat sheep for slaughter, naturally the bandits wouldn’t have given up on the opportunity, they had been able to mobilize such a large group.

What the bodyguards couldn’t deal with, there was still a Shen Qiao, Liu-biaoshi fighting one against two was already at his limits, but for Shen Qiao, these people were slightly more skilled but nothing impressive in his eyes, shanhetongbei leaving its scabbard, it swept away all enemies, these bandits who usually were victorious everywhere, how could they rival Shen Qiao?

Everyone watched dumbstruck as Shen Qiao, one against all, injured the bandits, felling them, Liu-biaoshi finally realized what was happening, he called over people to help, they sealed the bandit’s meridian points and bound them in rope.

“Aiya!”

Behind him an arrow sliced through the air, aimed at the back of Shen Qiao’s head, Shen Qiao hadn’t expected that there would still be bandits left hiding in the dark, but with his wugong, his reaction time was plenty enough, just as he was about to turn to intercept the arrow, there was someone faster than him, that aiya was from the pain of blocking that arrow.

Shen Qiao was stunned, he hadn’t expected the Li-xiaoniangzi who he’d barely met to appear and block the arrow for him, he could only take the person into his arms and set them on the ground, then went after the person who had shot that arrow, before coming back for the wounded.

Li-niangzi clearly did not expect her daughter to suddenly make this gesture, she’d descended the carriage frantic, and was currently clutching her daughter and sobbing, that arrow had hit Li-xiaoniangzi’s shoulder, blood quickly seeping into a large patch on her clothes.

Having no alternative, Shen Qiao carried the person into the carriage, first sealing the meridian points to stop the bleeding, then breaking off the arrow shaft, pulling out the tip, then personally dressed the wound.

Li-xiaoniangzi had lost a lot of blood, she tremulously blinked open her eyes, looked at Shen Qiao who was far away as the horizon and right before her eyes, said besottedly: “Daozhang, will I die?”

Shen Qiao, at a loss: “No.”

The position of her injury was remarkable, it hadn’t hit any tendon or bone, only the blood loss appeared excessive, but in reality the injury was not serious, Shen Qiao had no need at all for her to risk her life to block this arrow, but she had already done it, he couldn’t go against her good intentions.

He brought out the medicines that he carried with him and gave them to her, then explained to Li-niangzi to give it to her daughter three times a day, the ointment as well.

Li-xiaoniangzi tugged on Shen Qiao’s sleeve: “Can daozhang stay for another moment?”

The local customs of the day were not overly conservative, although not to the same degree as the brazen open sexual practices during the Qin and Han dynasties, but a girl could confess to someone she liked, and with her mother was right beside her, the intention behind Li-xiaoniangzi’s words was clear.

Shen Qiao shook his head: “This poor one is a Daoist, thank you xiaoniangzi for your earlier generosity, it’s just that this poor one has enough wugong for self-preservation, I implore xiaoniangzi to not make such a risky gesture in the future.”

Li-xiaoniangzi sighed: “Along this journey, I’ve grown to admire daozhang, I’ve observed you secretly for a long time, I also know daozhang’s heart is like a stone, has no intentions towards me, but a person living their lifetime, a tree reaching autumn, it won’t be more than a couple of decades, to have the occasion of meeting someone you like is already so rare, if it’s only to save face, losing it is no big deal. If daozhang is moved by my words, of course I’d be ecstatic, if not, then I was still true to my own heart!”

Li-niangzi hadn’t expected her daughter to declare such bold words, she almost wanted to clamp her hand over her mouth: “My child shut up!”

Shen Qiao paused: “Xiaoniangzi’s words capture the essence of Daoist teachings, to act in accordance with the heart, not conceding to expectation.”

Li-xiaoniangzi smiled weakly: “To arrive at a daoist principle, I didn’t expect to be ahead of daozhang.”

Shen Qiao didn’t say anything more to her, there was nothing to say, he left behind the medicines, exchanged a few more words with Li-niangzi, and then took his leave.

Outside Liu-biaoshi and his group had resolved the matter of the bandits, they were cleaning up the aftermath, in this era to turn in these people to the officials would be futile, they really didn’t care, the bandits all had lives on their hands, apart from executing them the only option would be to let the tiger return to his mountain, the next round of travellers on this road would be subject to their attack again, Liu-biaoshi didn’t choose the latter option.

After Liu-biaoshi dealt with everything, dawn was ghosting the horizon, all sleepiness had gone, he prepared to get everyone back on the road.

He saw Shen Qiao still standing under a tree, so he walked over and saw that the other was quite out of it, who knew what he was thinking, he couldn’t help but laugh: “The Li family is rich, Li-xiaoniangzi is also completely besotted with daozhang, if daozhang wants to resume secular life and enter their family, in the future you are certain to sit on a pile of riches.”

Only then did Shen Qiao return from his thoughts, throughout this journey his mind was a knot, only to be suddenly unraveled by Li-xiaoniangzi’s brief words, it was if he had solved at once many questions that he had thought about for so long, in this instant his face shone, under the warm brush of dawn, he was like clear jade, even Liu-biaoshi was struck by his countenance, he thought no wonder Li-xiaoniangzi would be besotted at first glance, willing to risk her life, this Daoist is indeed something to look at, nevermind his superior wugong.

“Liu-xiong, I have a question to ask you.” Shen Qiao said.

Liu-biaoshi, frazzled: “Earlier it was daozhang who saved us, I haven’t even had a chance to thank you for saving my life, no need to be so formal, daozhang can ask anything!”

Shen Qiao, with a serious expression: “Can I ask Liu-xiong, have you ever had a sweetheart?”

Liu-biaoshi, dumbstruck: “Ha?”

The author would like to say:

Extras are extras, light and fluffy, you don’t need to think about it too much ~

A-Qiao is about to have an epiphany

Extra 4

“What, what sweetheart?” Liu-biaoshi sputtered.

Shen Qiao shook his head, couldn’t help laughing: “It’s nothing, I was just speaking carelessly, I shouldn’t ask this kind of question.”

Liu-biaoshi recovered, ran his knuckles through his hair, he thought he more or less knew what he was alluding to: “Shen-daozhang has cultivated since you were young, clear of mind and desire, I bet you haven’t encountered much commonlife, Li-xiaoniangzi must have given you a fright, it’s perfectly normal to not know what to do next!”

The two of them had fought side by side just now, Liu-biaoshi had done an 180 of his earlier attitude, and seemed a lot more friendly: “Truthfully on this matter I have no response, there can’t be that much love and romance in this world, sweet murmurations, I was lucky enough to train in Zhongnan Sect, I only left the mountain and returned home at age seventeen, my parents arranged a marriage for me, I heard that the girl didn’t know wugong, but was brought up properly, was of good and kind character, of course I agreed to my parents’ request, so there was never the question of liking or not liking, after we got married, my wife diligently managed the household, I think extremely well of her, if you’re going to talk romance, that’s the stuff poets recite after they’ve eaten their meal and have nothing better to do, for those of us who traverse the jianghu, each day we’re beaten by the elements or fighting each other to survive, back there, if daozhang had not accompanied us on this journey, then we likely would’ve succumbed right here!”

Shen Qiao: “Liu-xiong need not thank me, since we are going the same way, we should watch out for each other.”

Liu-biaoshi laughed: “When we get to Jiankang, I must invite daozhang to a fancy meal, don’t you dare refuse!”

Shen Qiao: “That’s great, I don’t know anyone there, I’ll be counting on Liu-xiong.”

Liu-biaoshi: “Straightforward! Truth be told, when I first saw daozhang I thought you looked a little weak, I was afraid you were like those scholars, carrying a sword only as accessory, I didn’t expect, tsktsk, your gongfu is probably stronger than my shifu’s!” 

Shen Qiao: “Liu-xiong is too generous.”

Liu-biaoshi: “Since daozhang is not a stranger I’ll say it directly, a joke is a joke, but Li-xiaoniangzi is deeply enamoured with daozhang, it’s a good choice, these times are chaotic, daozhang’s wugong is enough for self-preservation, compared to wandering the jianghu, what about receiving Li-xiaoniangzi in marriage, with the Li family’s fortunes and support, even if you can’t be a hero, at least you’ll be a rich son-in-law that can eat and dress without worry!”

Shen Qiao, smiling-crying: “Liu-xiong misunderstands, I have no untoward intentions towards Li-xiaoniangzi, my heart already belongs elsewhere, it’s just that before it was all muddled, and I hadn’t been able to look at things carefully, back there it was as if Li-xiaoniangzi struck me directly over the head, that I came to a realization.”

Liu-biaoshi, taken aback: “So it’s like this, no wonder you asked me this question! This sweetheart of daozhang’s, what do they think of daozhang?”

Shen Qiao, a small frown: “…At first they kept pushing forward, I could only take every step back, later they seemed to be upset.”

Liu-biaoshi, speechless: “These days women are more daring than men!”

He turned the thought in his head, this daozhang was so charming, and had such strong wugong, no wonder women would fall for him, that Li-xiaoniangzi had only seen him a few times, spending most of her day in the carriage, but was still willing to jump out and risk her life blocking that arrow?

After all Liu-biaoshi was someone who had already crossed to the other side, he started giving Shen Qiao pointers: “Women tend to be shy, it’s not everyday that she declares her intention, but you weren’t willing to accept, after a few times, those with a thin face would be too ashamed to face you again, if you take the initiative and explain things to her, like bamboo meeting the ax, everything will be resolved!”

Shen Qiao’s mouth twitched: “That person’s face…is not very thin at all.”

Liu-biaoshi, laughing: “That’s even better, just say it directly, with daozhang’s looks, the other is certain to bashfully accept, then you can go ahead to the girl’s family and ask for her hand!”

Shen Qiao replied: “They are quite arrogant, after that reception it will be hard for them to be willing to acquiesce again.”

Liu-biaoshi: “That’s easy, as long as they’re human they’ll have something they like, go along that vein, gift her something she likes, everything else will follow!”

Shen Qiao, earnestly learning: “Liu-xiong please advise me.”

Liu-biaoshi: “What about a hairpin, don’t women love accessories and precious gems, if her style is simple, then you can gift one of peach-wood or jade, if she likes more glamour, then something gold or silver with encrusted gems, I tell you it’s guaranteed to work!”

Shen Qiao thought of Yan Wushi’s travelling clothes, all of it was overseen by his people, even a hairpin on his head would be equivalent to a commoner’s annual salary, and he didn’t even pay it that much attention, so Shen Qiao shook his head: “They don’t care much for these objects.”

Liu-biaoshi, furrowing his brow: “Then…food? The necessities of everyday life, there ought to be a preference?”

Shen Qiao thought about this, hesitating: “They like…tangren?”

But that was what Xie Ling liked.

Does Yan Wushi also like eating tangren? Shen Qiao imagined Yan Wushi’s arrogant face licking a tangren, immediately his own expression became very strange.

Liu-biaoshi also found it strange: “Tangren, isn’t that what little kids like to eat?”

Then coming to his own conclusion, was relieved again: “Daozhang’s sweetheart is a young person?”

Shen Qiao coughed quietly, felt a bit guilty: “I guess so.”

Liu-biaoshi thought to himself, his appearance definitely attracts xiaoniangzi, didn’t that Li-xiaoniangzi only need to see him a couple of times before being completely befuddled?

“Then that’s even easier, the younger the age, the less the experience, a couple of words and you’ll make her happy, it has to be said Shen-daozhang, the wife has intention, and you are also inclined, but how come you didn’t even find out what that xiaoniangzi likes?”

Shen Qiao actually did know, but knowing it was still not helpful: “…They like to train, and challenge others in martial arts.”

In the jianghu there was certainly no shortage of women obsessed with martial arts, Liu-biaoshi wasn’t surprised: “With daozhang’s wugong, if you wanted advise her, you would certainly have more than enough expertise.”

Shen Qiao rubbed his nose: “I cannot beat them in a fight.”

Liu-biaoshi was shocked, women these days were something else, no wonder Shen-daozhang kept pulling back, if it was me I also wouldn’t be brave enough to marry this tigeress!

“Then, then…” He was running out of words, “Just try all of the strategies once, as the old saying goes, sincerity will surmount all, even rock and steel, there must be some truth to it, if she’s also interested in you, even if the thing you gift her is not to her liking, she’ll still see your intention.”

Shen Qiao also realized that there was no more to be gleaned: “Thank you Liu-xiong for the lesson.”

Liu-biaoshi saw that although his wugong was impressive, in this matter he was totally clueless, and so gave him a lot of advice, he even told him about how he carried his wife around in their rooms: “Just because a woman has to keep up appearances in public, one is more serious than the next, but after the door is closed and with no audience, what’s the harm in letting her have her way, our lives are only a brief couple of decades, it’s not easy to meet someone you like, you have to cherish it!”

Shen Qiao held back his laughter: “Yes, I will remember.”

By this time everything had been more or less cleaned up, in order to hurry to the next town so they could rest, everyone sped up their pace, Shen Qiao and Liu-biaoshi fell to the end of the procession, covering the group from the back.

Their horses at a gallop, the wind flying by, no one said anything, they wouldn’t have known that in the carriage another private conversation was happening.

Li-xiaoniangzi, who should still be passed out, groaned and woke up, she asked the person beside her: “How did I do back there?”

Li-niangzi spoke honestly: “It was somewhat exaggerated.”

Li-xiaoniangzi rolled her eyes at her: “In order to have Shen-daozhang realize his true intention, I had to really make a ruse of physical injury, if this feat leads to Shen-daozhang’s epiphany, then my injury will not have been in vain!”

Li-niangzi, sympathetic: “It must have been hard on you, you actually took this arrow!”

Li-xiaoniangzi, forlorn: “Isn’t it the case, it hurts so much, but Shen-daozhang is so amazing, if I don’t make it convincing, he’ll see right through it!”

Li-niangzi reassured her: “Nevermind, you know this was our mission, the better we complete it, the better off we’ll be, zongzhu is generous, he’s certain to reward you well.”

After the bandit incident, everyone was on edge, if only they could arrive immediately in town, and avoid any further incidents.

On account of Li-xiaoniangzi’s injury, they stayed in town for a few more days, two three meals a day plus lodgings was no small sum, luckily the Li family was well-off, and didn’t take this additional cost to heart, Li-niangzi for her daughter to rest a couple more days didn’t care for any sum, even Shen Qiao received her multiple thanks for beating back the bandits, Li-niangzi didn’t blame him for her daughter’s injured body and injured heart, even forced a large sum of money onto Shen Qiao.

Pushing onwards, their group finally after half a month arrived in Jiankang.

After entering the city, the Li mother and daughter found their relatives, everyone was supposed to go their separate ways, but Liu-biaoshi was very enthusiastic, dragged Shen Qiao through all of Jiankang, then he invited him to a meal, gave him his address, made Shen Qiao promise that he would pay him a visit in the future when he had time, only then did he bid farewell.

After parting ways with Liu-biaoshi, Shen Qiao found the Baimenguan he had mentioned earlier, intending to stay there a couple of days, instead he ran right into the court official with the emperor’s decree summoning talented Daoists into the palace, Shen Qiao stood out from the others, so they approached him to inquire his history, Shen Qiao responded in kind, it was the same response he had given to Liu-biaoshi back then.

The official was in a hurry to meet the quota demanded by the emperor, so they didn’t inquire in any more detail, people were susceptible to outward appearances, and Shen Qiao’s appearance definitely met the criteria for what most people considered “celestial”.

“Can I ask daozhang, does your cultivation practice involve brewing elixirs?”

Shen Qiao was about to say no, the words on his lips, he realized something, and took a turn: “My cultivation path is the heart’s intention, it’s only distantly related to the brewing of elixirs, but in the practice of reading people and places I do have some knowledge.”

The official hearing that he had no expertise in elixirs was a little disappointed, but hearing he could read people, was happy again: “Then, daozhang can divinate the future?”

Shen Qiao, modestly: “I know a thing or two.”

Official: “The current emperor is inclined towards the Daoist arts, he’s looking for talented Daoists to advise him of common pitfalls, is daozhang willing to accompany me into the palace to have an audience with the emperor, if the emperor likes you, what awaits daozhang, is nothing less than a sea of riches!”

Shen Qiao coming to Chen, his purpose had been to get close to the new sovereign, to see how he compared against Yang Jian, who knew that as soon as he started getting sleeping somebody brought him a pillow, he was not close to Ruyan Kehui, if he missed this opportunity, it would not be easy to get a second chance at such a forthright opportunity to meet the emperor. 

He was now firmly in the secular world, knew how to interact with people, and so he accepted it without much thought, but he couldn’t appear too superior, it would only lead the official to underestimate him.

So his expression revealed some hesitation as he said: “This poor one has made an oath to my forefathers, I have to recite the scriptures aloud multiple times a day, I have not yet completed my task for the day, it appears my fate with the emperor continues, perhaps on another day.”

The Ru Sects were very influential in the Chen dynasty, so within Jiankang there was no large daoguan, this Baimenguan amongst all of the daoguan was not the most ostentatious, having been oppressed for so long the other Daoists upon hearing the summon from the emperor had all been extremely moved, their faces aglow, only this newcomer Daoist demonstrated equanimity. 

The official indeed seemed impressed with him, even the other Daoists from Baimenguan tried to convince him: “Daoyou why don’t you accept the invitation, you’re a guest of Baimenguan after all, if the emperor flies into a rage and wants to blame someone, we’ll suffer the disaster befalling all the fish in the pond!”

It was only then that Shen Qiao sighed: “Then I implore the official to lead the way.”

The court summoning Daoists, Shen Qiao wouldn’t be the only one summoned, once Shen Qiao accepted, his name was recorded on the registration, after three days, the official had amassed ten or so Daoists who had fit the description, Shen Qiao and two other Daoists from Baimenguan were at that time ushered into the palace.

The Chen palace was around the same size as the palace in Sui, but was much more ornate and refined in its details, displaying the splendor of jiangnan, most Daoists would never see such luxury in their lifetimes, although they tried hard to keep a straight face, their eyes revealed their surprise and delight.

Shen Qiao and his group after entering the palace were brought into Wangxiandian.

Inside on the left and right were eight seats, mostly occupied, the last three seats near the door were naturally left for Shen Qiao’s group.

Shen Qiao had no wish to fight for seat order with the Baimenguan Daoists, he gave the two at the front to them, himself he sat on the seat closest to door, winning grateful glances from the other two.

Closest to the door meant the least highly regarded.

The attendant declared: “The emperor has not yet arrived, everyone should stay calm and keep quiet.”

The Daoists of course wouldn’t dare cause a ruckus, but small whispers were inevitable, Shen Qiao’s gaze slid over his surroundings casually, when it fell on a particular person, his hair stood on end, and at first he thought his eyes had betrayed him.

That person had his eyes closed feigning sleep, not interacting with the people around him, the image of aloofness, but in the next moment he opened his eyes, and looked in Shen Qiao’s direction.

Their eyes met, and the other looked away as if nothing had happened.

Shen Qiao: “…”

Extra 5

Shen Qiao’s eyes were working, so there was no way he had the wrong person.

What surprised him was that the other had the nerve to appear here, apart from exchanging his usual outfit for a Daoist robe, he didn’t even modify his appearance in the slightest, still wearing that impassive face, sitting in the palace of Chen, as an esteemed guest of the emperor.

It was widely known that Chen was within the jurisdiction of the Ru sects, to put it bluntly, Ruyan Kehui saw it as his exclusive domain, not permitting the purview of outsiders, for example the Buddhist sect Tiantai Sect was similarly located within Chen’s borders, but was all but suffocated by Linchuanxuegong.

In hand-to-hand combat, Yan Wushi naturally didn’t fear Ruyan Kehui, but after all he had the local stronghold, the lofty Huanyue Sect zongzhu disguising himself as a Daoist to enter the palace to see the emperor, with intentions of snatching away some of Ru’s influence, drawing the Ru Sect’s enmity, this kind of rumour if it got out would do no good, as Shen Qiao saw it, the other really had no need to bring this trouble onto himself.

That being said, Yan Wushi was Yan Wushi, if everything he did could be anticipated by others, then he would no longer be Yan Wushi.

Maybe it was because Shen Qiao’s gaze lingered too long on Yan Wushi, the Baimenguan Daoist next to him took notice, and so turned his head and whispered: “Shen-daoyou, do you recognize that daoyou over there?”

Shen Qiao: “No, I just arrived in Jiankang, and still need Zhang-daoyou to introduce me to the others.”

Zhang-daoshi said: “I only recognize the two opposite you, they’re Daoists from Lanshuiguan in the capital, Lanshuiguan is even more decrepit than our Baimenguan, who knows how those two were able to trick the official into bringing them in here!”

Shen Qiao didn’t know how to react, it was said that those that walk the same path are easy enemies, although the Daoists appeared to cultivate towards equanimity and immortality, in actuality within the sects there were still a hundred variations of personality.

“I heard that previously several daoyou already had an audience with the emperor, was the emperor not satisfied with them?”

Zhang-daoshi: “The emperor seeks immortality, naturally seeks the expertise of the Daoist sects, but the Ru Sects firmly oppose this, within the capital Donghai is the largest daoguan, the emperor originally sought out Daoists from Donghaiguan, rumour has it that halfway through the session, the Ru sects found out, that Ruyan Kehui is so annoying, he had the empress dowager step in, exposed the Donghaiguan Daoist’s illusory demonstration, and chase them away.”

On this point, Zhang-daoshi appeared to revel in their downfall: “But if that hadn’t been the case, we would have never gotten a chance to prove ourselves, those Donghaiguan Daoists wanted to be the sole benefactors of the prize, and so were easily defeated, if all of the Daoists in Jiankang could stand together, why would we have anything to fear from Linchuanxuegong?”

Shen Qiao thought, even if we took the sum of all of you, you would still be no match against Ruyan Kehui.

“If that’s the case, how come we haven’t seen any people from Linchuanxuegong on our venture into the palace today?” 

Zhang-daoshi: “You’re new here, so you don’t know, not long after the new emperor ascended, Lord Shixing started an uprising, Ruyan Kehui is currently deployed with the troops to quash the rebellion, the empress dowager is overseeing things here in court, not wanting to bear the terrible heat today, she’s relocated to another hall to deal with political matters.”

Shen Qiao came to an abrupt realization, no wonder the emperor was so carefree, when there’s no tiger on the mountain, even the monkey can declare itself king.

“If the empress dowager were to discover this, she might throw a fit at the emperor, will we also be persecuted?”

Zhang-daoshi: “It’s not like that, I’ve looked into this, the empress dowager has her origins in the Ru sects, but she doesn’t discriminate against Buddhism or Daoism, not like Ruyan Kehui that old geezer, if it were up to him he’d burn all of the other sects within Chen to the ground, we have the emperor’s favour, as long as we’re careful, nothing bad should happen to us.”

He wasn’t a bad person, he’d been completely forthcoming with Shen Qiao, but even if the empress dowager did decide to persecute them later, it was no impediment against people’s ambitions, the allure of riches, after all, those Donghaiguan Daoists had only just been kicked out, one invitation from the emperor, and all the seats here were occupied again.

Of course, there was also a fake Daoist this time.

Shen Qiao couldn’t help casting another look at Yan Wushi, the other was looking straight ahead, still seated silently with brows knitted, he might have actually been a virtuous Daoist.

After a few moments, accompanied by the attendant’s pronouncement, a young person with a few hairs on his chin walked out from behind the screen.

Everyone rose to their feet to provide their formal greeting.

The emperor’s steps were not hurried nor slow, it carried the leisurely air of nobility, since antiquity this pattern of footsteps, resembling dynasties past, were considered by many esteemed personages to be the marker of a true sovereign. 

Unlike him, the other Daoists wouldn’t be thinking in this vein, seeing the emperor’s arrival, all they were thinking about was how to garner his favour, and come out a step ahead.

After the emperor was seated, he asked all of the Daoists present: “I have gone over the various books and teachings of the schools, the Ru sects value compassion, the Buddhist sects value reincarnation, only the Daoist sects value this life, all of the daozhang here today, what are your thoughts on this?”

The closer your seat the better the emperor regarded you, everyone gave their response in turn.

One of the Daoists surnamed Lin gave this response: “The Buddhists say we have three lifetimes, then the past life and the next life, who would know any of it, as for the saying past life accrues virtue, this life all riches, the Daoists have a different take, for example your highness is seated on the throne because your highness is the ziwei sovereign star incarnate, if a sovereign star, then how would it have a past and next life? So this poor one believes that saying is a falsehood! Your highness is of the heavens, if you cultivate diligently, there is no worry about not ascending, your return to the class of the celestials is certain.”

The emperor was very interested: “Then as this daozhang sees it, how should I cultivate, to return to the heavens?”

Lin-daoshi: “En, the Daoist method, with origins in the sect’s inner cultivation, that plus supplementation with rare elixirs, will naturally lead to immortality, this poor one has some knowledge with regard to brewing elixirs, I’m ready to serve your highness.”

Emperor of Chen: “Good good, then the niegong cultivation method you allude to, how to go about it?”

Lin-daoshi, a grimace: “This poor one is lacking, everyone has their own set of skills, this poor one specializes in elixirs, I do not know much about the sect’s inner cultivation methods, but Xuandushan and Qingchengshan are both hundred-year Daoist sects, if your highness sent someone over, I bet they’ll do everything to comply.”

Shen Qiao: “…”

He was speechless towards these Lin-daoshi types who dragged others down with them.

The emperor harrumphed coldly: “Xuandushan accepted the northern dynasty’s conferred title, rumour has it they’re erecting a daoguan in Chang’an, they’re nothing but lackeys for the north, how talented could those people be? I could send someone to Qingchengshan, if Yi Bichen has any skill, I have no qualms following Xuandushan’s example, and confer upon him a title, so that he may work to our benefit!”

Within the hall suddenly someone started to laugh softly.

Chen Shubao, enraged: “Who are you!”

Yan Wushi put down the wine cup he had in his hand, unaffected by the emperor’s rage, the guards at the ready, he said slowly: “I’m laughing at your highness’ inability to recognize the gem right in front of you, clearly there’s a master right here in this very hall, but you insist on pushing away what’s close for something far, Yi Bichen has a reputation to be sure, but he lost to Hulugu, is that really considered true power?”

Chen Shubao gave a cold laugh: “Oh? Then, the master you speak of, are you alluding to yourself?”

Yan Wushi: “No, not quite.”

Chen Shubao was born as the empress’ son, conferred the title of crown prince, his life entirely smooth sailing, apart from the fright he received at the actual ascension ceremony, he had never experienced any other hardship or setback, of course he was arrogant, moreover he was the emperor, this kind of attitude was only normal.

Yan Wushi didn’t wait for the other to explode before pointing in Shen Qiao’s direction: “The emperor seeks a master, but does not see this master.”

Shen Qiao: “…”

He finally knew the reason why Yan Wushi had barged his way in here.

It was to cause trouble, also could be considered to wreck general havoc.

Did his earlier evasiveness hurt him so deeply, that he was using this method to get revenge? Shen Qiao’s thoughts turned in this direction, and suddenly he was a little sad. 

The emperor’s attention was thus diverted, following the direction Yan Wushi was pointing, he looked in Shen Qiao’s direction.

Seeing him, he made a small noise of surprise.

Shen Qiao had been sitting by the door, due to the brightness outside, the emperor had not paid much attention, now looking more closely, he discovered that the other was actually extraordinary, the kind of person that fortune smiled upon.

The emperor inquired: “Who are you, which daoguan do you train under?”

Things as they were, Shen Qiao couldn’t pretend to not have heard, he stood up, folded his hands in greeting: “Thank you your highness for inquiring, this poor one is Shanqiaozi, I’ve travelled from the north, for the moment I am a guest at Baimenguan.”

The emperor’s foul mood on account of Yan Wushi had vanished, instead he was very amicable with Shen Qiao, smiling: “Since daozhang was able to receive someone’s recommendation, it’s certain you’re quite renowned on the outside, it’s just me that has never heard of you?”

Shen Qiao said: “Your highness is too kind, this poor one is merely a wandering Daoist, with no reputation to speak of, and of no one’s interest, this poor one does not know why just now that daoyou recommended this poor one.”

The ball was in his court was kicked back.

The emperor paid this no mind, he was absolutely uninterested in Yan Wushi, he asked Shen Qiao again: “Does daozhang have any expertise on brewing elixirs?”

Shen Qiao shook his head: “This poor one does not practice brewing elixirs, this poor one cultivates one path only.”

Emperor of Chen: “What cultivation path is that?”

Shen Qiao: “My cultivation path is the heart’s intention.”

These were the same words he had made up to flummox the official, this moment before the emperor, he didn’t change any of the packaging.

Emperor of Chen, perplexed: “What is the path that is the heart’s intention?”

Shen Qiao: “The usual Daoist cultivation values asceticism in mind and in desire, only distance from the secular world will allow progress, my cultivation however, requires that the body be situated in the extravagances of life, passing through the world’s luxuries, savouring every experience, only then will there be progress.”

He said everything earnestly, his expression serious, no one would think he was speaking nonsense, just that they themselves had never heard of such a cultivation method.

Yan Wushi merrily drank another sip of wine, he thought: our A-Qiao has learned to swindle people with a straight face.

The emperor was ecstatic: “Isn’t this just the cultivation method that I have been searching for all this time, I implore daozhang to stay a long time in court and teach me the way!”

Shen Qiao said: “This poor one wanders the world, my path is not fixed, it was only on account of hearing your highness’ interest in Daoist cultivation, that I ventured into the palace to aid your highness, please forgive me.”

The emperor chuckled: “There are some inconsistencies in daozhang’s words, since you cultivate the path that is the heart’s intention, you would of course relish the secular world’s luxuries, I can confer upon you every wealth, so why would you push back now, unless you mean to loosen the snare before tightening it, wanting it but still rejecting?”

This young emperor merely did not like managing political affairs, he preferred leisure that’s all, it didn’t mean that his brain wasn’t sharp, it was quite the opposite, he was accomplished in music, weiqi, poetry, arts, etc., he could be considered an extremely talented emperor, his interests far more broad than Yang Jian’s hunting ability. 

Shen Qiao’s expression didn’t change: “Your highness, that is not what I mean, to cultivate the path that is the heart’s intention, I do not need to live in the palace, otherwise I won’t be able to hear the clamour of the city, attend its wineshops, I can cultivate in any place, moreover, this poor one already had the fortune to look upon your highness today, I am quite satisfied, but I do have a few words that I would like to say.” 

The emperor raised a brow: “Speak.”

Shen Qiao: “The cultivation path that is the heart’s intention doesn’t prohibit luxury, just more the well-being of all of your subjects, their housing, clothing, food, and lives, everyone pursues the former, but your highness is the sovereign of a nation, and I hope you won’t forget the latter.”

This cultivation method that was the heart’s intention was actually made up by Shen Qiao as a test for the emperor, he didn’t think that the emperor would be so delighted, he was a little disappointed, and so said more just now to provide counsel.

The emperor was unimpressed: “Daozhang worries too much, with your celestial appearance, wandering the outskirts is truly a waste of the heavens, if you want to give me counsel, you ought to stay here, and discuss Daoism with me everyday.”

Towards the end of his words, the meaning became deeper, forcing people to ponder over them over and over.

Shen Qiao heard a hint of something unusual in his words, he hadn’t expected that the emperor would have other intentions towards him, he had only felt that seeing something in person was better than hearing about them, Chen was in the south its territory was no smaller than the north, but Chen Shubao had demonstrated today his inferiority to Yang Jian. The north was currently sharpening its knives, Yang Jian was busy stabilizing the Xiongnu, placating court factions, whereas Chen Shubao had done nothing to quell the uprising in his country, instead he became interested in elixirs, if things continued this way, in a couple more years, perhaps the outcome would be decided.

The two of them engrossed in their conversation, ignoring everyone else present, the Daoists who were trying to get ahead were ready to jump out of their seats, there were plenty of people willing to stand up for the emperor, they started to speak out of turn, some admonished Shen Qiao for his impertinence,  some rushed to recommend themselves to the emperor, to demonstrate their superiority over Shen Qiao.

Yan Wushi suddenly smiled: “A-Qiao, now you know why I don’t hold the south in high regard?”

Shen Qiao hadn’t had time to say anything before someone replied: “I did not know Yan-zongzhu and Shen-daozun had arrived, please forgive me for not coming out to greet you.”

In the next moment, a woman with a crowd of servants and guards made a grand entrance.

The emperor’s expression changed, he stood up to greet her: “Mother!”

The newcomer was indeed the Chen dynasty empress dowager Liu Jingyan, Ruyan Kehui’s shimei.




The author would like to say:

Because I started this scene in the extras, I have to complete it, for example A-Qiao seeking out the emperor, I have to describe the rationale clearly, but!

This author originally wanted to write a kiss kiss, but ran out of time —> __—>

Lao Yan your hugs and kisses can they be in the next chapter?

I knew you wouldn’t mind, you’ve been vegetarian so long, one more moment won’t make a difference.

Yan Wushi (turning his head to look at Shen Qiao): Why are you holding this venerable one’s hand, let this venerable one have the checkmate.

Shen Qiao, coughing softly: Don’t be rash, the rash one is the loser.

Yan Wushi: That’s true, a checkmate would mean in the next chapter there won’t be a “candlelight and curtain, bedsheets turned like red waves”.

Shen Qiao: …

Extra 6

Liu Jingyan was empress dowager, but she was not someone who’d retreated entirely from the outside world, she was born into an high-standing family, in her early years was also a disciple of Linchuanxuegong, Liu Jingyan certainly contributed no small part to these years that Linchuanxuegong were able to hold their position within the southern dynasty. 

Back then Yuwen Qing had come to the south on his ambassador mission, Yan Wushi had fought Ruyan Kehui, on that occasion Liu Jingyan had left the palace in plainclothes, so of course she would recognize Shen Yan the two of them.

She had been busy helping the emperor manage political tasks, unexpectedly caught wind of the emperor having an audience with a whole lot of Daoists, so she came right away to intervene.

Shen Qiao had gone with the direction of the river to muddle his way in here, he only wanted to see Chen Shubao, had no other intentions, now that his identity was exposed, he did feel a bit awkward about the whole incident. 

“This poor one came here bearing no ill will, where I was rude, I hope you’ll overlook it.” 

He was willing to offer a sentence of explanation, Yan Wushi however said nothing in reply, he remained sitting in the same position, his expression at ease, as if to him this splendid palace was no different from someone’s crude hut.

Liu Jingyan could scold the Emperor of Chen, but she could hardly scold Shen Yan these two, her expression didn’t change, she was also warm and compassionate, as befitting an empress dowager of a nation, she returned Shen Qiao’s greeting: “Shen-daozun is too polite, daozun finding the time in your busy schedule to offer pointers to my son, that is my son’s immense fortune.”

If she had called Shen Qiao “zhangjiao”, on the one hand it would seem inadequate coming from Chen, on the other hand, Shen Qiao and Yan Wushi sitting here, while Chen had nothing in terms of defences, if the rumour got out it would be weird, so Liu Jingyan using “daozun”, demonstrating her respect towards Shen Qiao as a person, was a brilliant move.

She said to Yan Wushi: “Yan-zongzhu as a grandmaster of a generation, your position is not an ordinary one, Shen-daozun as someone respected and admired by all, my son was unable to recognize Taishan right in front of him, didn’t have a chance to treat you courteously, where he was lacking, I implore you esteemed guests not blame him, I am willing to make up for his shortcomings.”

The crowd seeing the mighty empress dowager of a nation speak so politely to Yan Wushi and Shen Qiao were already very shocked, then hearing the two’s real identities, were even more stunned, the most affected being Chen Shubao.

How could he not know by now that he had been tricked, his anger swelled, his face flushed: “These people masked their identities, scoundrels who lied to the emperor, why is mother treating them so kindly, where are my guards, seize them at once!”

Liu Jingyan rebuked angrily: “Who dares move!”

The emperor and the empress dowager’s orders ran contrary, the guards looked at each other, caught in a tough situation, those that had marched out half a step, their feet paused mid-air, it was kind of awkward.

Yan Wushi laughed, finally stood up: “Liu-taihou is clearly no lesser than any man, no wonder this venerable one heard that Linchuanxuegong’s previous leader wanted to pass on the mantle to you, pity you later married into the palace, and gave Ruyan Kehui the prize, as I see it, if you had been the successor to Linchuanxuegong, perhaps Linchuanxuegong would have long expanded its influence through the south and north, perhaps even into the northern dynasty, and it would now be in a position to suppress the Buddhist sects, how would it still remain floundering in the southern dynasty like this!”

Knowing these words were meant to provoke her, Liu Jingyan’s expression stayed neutral, then she smiled: “Thank you Yan-zongzhu for your praise, Ruyan-shixiong’s wugong is stronger than mine, he’s also more knowledgable, logically he would be the successor to expand the Ru sect’s influence, I’ve ordered them to set up a banquet in another hall, if the two of you don’t mind, can we move to a different space so that I may host you properly.”

Liu Jingyan was courteous and respectful, she didn’t use her position to look down on others, she also hadn’t admonished them for entering the palace with fake identities, Shen Qiao didn’t want to make things more difficult for the other, before Yan Wushi could say anything nasty, he said: “Then we’ll be troubling you.”

The emperor burst from his seat: “Mother, these two view the imperial palace as their own backyard, going back and forth as they please, I won’t let them off so easily!”

Yan Wushi didn’t spare a single glance in his direction, but smiled at Liu Jingyan: “Chen’s previous emperor Chen Xu, this venerable one has seen him once before, his decisions were backed by evidence, he could be considered successful at guarding his inheritance, how come the father and mother are both such illustrious figures, but the son is just so-so, hence the saying like father like son, isn’t worth believing!”

Chen Shubao as mighty emperor, how had he ever been admonished by someone right in his face, immediately he flew into a rage: “How dare you, guards why haven’t you seized them yet!”

The emperor’s repeated orders, the guards didn’t dare hesitate anymore, in short order carrying their weapons they surrounded them.

The Daoists that had been seated beside Shen Qiao and Yan Wushi, seeing the evolving situation had no desire to be caught like thieves, they rushed to cower and hide, afraid that they were all going to end up as fish in the same pond.

In a blur, before everyone could react, the guards that had charged at Shen Qiao and Yan Wushi had all fallen onto the ground, their weapons clanging to the floor, they were leaning over and moaning in pain, looking to Shen Yan the two of them, they hadn’t moved an inch, calm and unfazed, even their sleeves showed no signs of disturbance.

Liu Jingyan could not bear to watch it any longer, she declared coldly: “The emperor is still recovering, he ought to go rest some more, he cannot hear anymore injurious words, guards, send these Daoists away from the palace!”

She originally wanted to say “chase them out”, but then she remembered Shen Qiao was also a Daoist, in order to prevent a misunderstanding, she took care to be more polite.

Only now did Chen Shubao discover that those he considered his best soldiers and guards were completely not worth a mention before these jianghu masters.

As a child he had learned from Ruyan Kehui, but as someone set to inherit the throne, no one thought he should learn wugong, or become a jianghu master, also rather than wugong Chen Shubao preferred music, calligraphy, and the arts, so although there were people around him who were highly skilled in martial arts, he was far removed from the jianghu.

And this jianghu that had always appeared distant, was now almost quite close.

He watched his mother chase the Daoists away, and then invite Shen Qiao and Yan Wushi elsewhere, the latter had never held him in any regard, and even his mother, through his whole incident had never asked for his opinion, in front of everyone, had completely ignored his self-respect as an emperor. 

“Your highness, do you want to return to Chengxiangdian?” An attendant approached, timidly asked.

Chen Shubao gave him a look: “Yes, of course, you dare go against the empress dowager?”

The attendant didn’t dare reply.

Chen Shubao: “Go bring the wine, I want to write poetry, can’t do it without wine!”

The attendant, troubled: “But the empress dowager said…”

He didn’t dare continue, because Chen Shubao was glaring at him: “Do you serve me, or the empress dowager, if you’re so loyal, go over to her palace to serve, wouldn’t that be better!”

The attendant kept apologizing and saying he didn’t dare, then rushed away to find wine.

Elsewhere Liu Jingyan had invited the two into another hall, an extravagant banquet had been laid out, she had the guards retreat, but the maidservants hesitated, Liu Jingyan smiled: “There’s really no need, with Yan-zongzhu Shen-daozun’s wugong, assassinating me would require less effort than blowing off some dust, there’s no need for them to wait until now, you don’t need to lower yourselves, you can all withdraw!”

After everyone else had left, Liu Jingyan said: “My son’s bad manners, apologies for the scene, can I ask why the two of you came to the palace, if it’s something I can do, please speak freely, I will do my best to help.”

Shen Qiao: “This poor one really did travel from the north, and is a guest at Baimenguan, I ran into the official extending the emperor’s invitation to Daoists, this poor one was curious, so I went along with them, that was it, you don’t need to worry, we have no bad intentions.”

Liu Jingyan was a little surprised, as she knew it, the two of them with their positions could not be so idle, coming to the palace they must have had a purpose.

“Then, Yan-zongzhu’s purpose is also this?”

Yan Wushi said: “If I wanted to kill Chen Shubao, there was no need to wait until now.”

Liu Jingyan smiled: “If it were anyone else saying this I might not believe them, but Yan-zongzhu’s words, I take them to heart, I daresay, under the heavens there’s no one worthy of being Yan-zongzhu’s opponent, I heard the news that on Banbu Peak, Yan-zongzhu defeated Hulugu, it’s cause for celebration on the central plains, I respect you greatly, I only regret that due to the limits of my position I wasn’t able to go see it myself, now that I have a chance to meet Yan-zongzhu, I raise to you this cup of wine.”

She saw Yan Wushi also raise his cup, although he didn’t drink from it, but his attitude was clear, and she was reassured.

Shen Qiao: “Those Daoists back there, although unskilled and untrained, they didn’t mean any harm, they only looked up the emperor that they entered the palace to seek his audience, I implore you on my behalf to spare their lives.”

Liu Jingyan: “This incident stemmed from the emperor, I understand that much at least, I have no intention of persecuting them, Shen-daozun can rest assured.”

She sighed: “The emperor was born into the palace, he’s never weathered a storm, and so clings to luxury and pleasure, towards political affairs his interest is just average, his father and I didn’t forsee this, apologies that you two had to witness it today.”

The other was so reasonable and generous, Shen Qiao felt bad instead, he consoled her: “His highness has a multitude of talents, it’s only that he is still young, unwilling to focus on proper affairs, if he can receive advice and direction, he is sure to find his voice, a voice that will stun the world.”

These words were right on the mark, she said gloomily: “If the people beside the emperor could be like Shen-daozun, I would have nothing to worry about!”

Shen Qiao was about to say something, but Yan Wushi had already interceded blandly: “Chen already has the Ru sects, Ruyan Kehui looks after his turf like treasure, who can get a foot in? Shen Qiao is soft hearted, before you ask this of him.”

To have her intentions exposed in one swoop, Liu Jingyan was taken a bit aback, but wasn’t angry, her expression remained kind: “It was I who was rash, don’t take it the wrong way.”

Yan Wushi: “You are smart, although you’re a stickler for convention, you’re way easier on my eyes than Ruyan Kehui.”

Liu Jingyan laughed: “My thanks to Yan-zongzhu’s high praise.”

She recognized that she was the empress dowager of a nation, but the other had no need to appease her, she adapted her attitude and reactions accordingly.

People who walk different paths have nothing to conspire, the three of them had no common topic of interest, Shen Qiao brought up taking their leave, Liu Jingyan did not keep them further, she even got up and walked them to the exit, and then ordered her maidservants to accompany them the rest of the way, and that they should maintain their courtesy and respect, etc. 

Finally Liu Jingyan said: “The two of you are esteemed guests, next time you want to enter the palace, you can let the guards relay your message, I will come greet you, masking your identities made your time here difficult.”  

Yan Wushi: “You don’t need to try to get more information from us, this venerable one coming to the palace today, the purpose was to find one person, now that I’ve found them, in the future I will not come this way again.”

Liu Jingyan, doubtful: “Who was Yan-zongzhu looking for?”

Yan Wushi smiled suddenly: “In this entire Chen palace, besides Shen Qiao Shen-daozhang, who else would be worth my while?”

Shen Qiao was forced to fill in the missing parts: “I parted ways with Yan-zongzhu in Funing County, he looked southward, I bet he also heard news of the Daoists gathering to enter the palace, knowing that I would attend, he came in to investigate as well, we didn’t plan on disturbing you, it was unforeseen on our part, please forgive us.” 

Liu Jingyan: “Daozun is too polite, if that’s the case, I will not interfere with you two catching up, Yan-zongzhu Shen-daozun, take care, I hope we meet again.”

She had few interactions with Yan Wushi, but she had heard that he was very arrogant, now that she had met him, he really lived up to his reputation.

In contrast it was Shen Qiao who demonstrated more restraint and manners, he said a few more cordial words, before they took their leave.

Outside the palace, Yan Wushi reverted back to ignoring Shen Qiao, Shen Qiao couldn’t do anything about it, he could only walk faster to catch up to the other.

“You really went to the palace to look for me?”

Yan Wushi said nothing.

Shen Qiao: “How did you know I would go for sure?”

The other still ignored him.

Shen Qiao had no choice but to reach out to grab hold of his sleeve: “Yan Wushi, I have something to tell you.”

By now the two of them had walked to the edge of the canal, here the willow leaves danced, verdant and tender, like clusters of plunging jade, ripple after ripple on the surface of the water, it was a balmy and beautiful day.

The two of them in Daoist robes, their handsome faces, they attracted the effusively tender gazes of many young women passing by.

It was a pity that neither of these two Daoists returned their gaze.

Yan Wushi finally stopped, purposefully unconvinced: “Shen-daozhang is calling me?”

Shen Qiao: “…Yes.”

Yan Wushi: “Then speak, afterwards I need to be on my way.”

Shen Qiao: “Where are you headed?”

Yan Wushi: “First say what you were going to say.”

Shen Qiao was shy, this one sentence had been turned over in his heart a hundred thousand times, and every time it reached his mouth he couldn’t say it, so he could only divert the topic.

He looked left and right, hesitating: “This place is too out in the open, it’s inconvenient to have a conversation, can we go somewhere else?”

Yan Wushi’s face showed his impatience: “If you’re not going to speak, I’m leaving.”

He turned and walked away.

Shen Qiao rushed to grab his hand: “You, you stop!”

At an angle the other couldn’t see, Yan Wushi’s mouth curved upwards, immediately after it disappeared without a trace, when he turned around his brows were furrowed. 

Shen Qiao’s head was lowered, wavering for a long time, finally he came up with a sentence: “Are you well?”

Yan Wushi: “…”

This line of inquiry didn’t seem right, Shen Qiao thought bitterly, then asked: “Do you like tangren?”

Yan Wushi: “…”

He laughed abruptly: “Xie Ling likes it!”

He turned to leave again.

Of course he said the wrong thing again, Shen-daozhang was completely stuck, understanding your intention was one thing, but to really say the words out loud, he just couldn’t do it no matter what.

He ground his teeth, and instead pulled the person away with him, he quickly led them to a deserted alleyway.

Yan Wushi didn’t put up any resistance, let himself be pulled along, but his expression grew colder.

“I helped you in the palace, does Shen-daozhang intend to pay me back like this?”

What help, clearly you went into the palace for your own amusement!

Shen Qiao slandered him in his mind, his heart horizontal in his chest, he didn’t say anymore, instead he cupped the other’s face with his hands, like a dragonfly alighting on the surface of the water he met his lips once.

Yan Wushi froze, in the next second that bit of purposeful coldness dispersed like smoke. 

The author would like to say:

The author has been working very hard, it was no easy feat to get Shen-daozhang to initiate a kiss, it’s like humankind going from discovering fire to ascending the heavens! (What the…

So the bedsheets turned like red waves will have to wait until tomorrow, after all it’ll be a fade to black, you guys can rehearse it once in your minds —>__—>

Extra 7

Shen Qiao went to step back, but the grip on his waist tightened, heaven and earth unsuspended, in the next moment he was pushed onto the stone wall to the side. 

Yan Wushi of course gave him no chance to hesitate, their two bodies were pressed tightly against each other, their shadows stretched on the ground were almost one, Shen Qiao didn’t realize what was happening before his legs were forced apart by the other, a single leg propped solidly in between, refusing to let him budge.

Shen Qiao became stupid, he suddenly felt he had been a little impulsive. But it was too late, the other shut him up with his lips and tongue, swallowing all of his sounds.

These ruthless gestures when Yan Wushi enacted them could really make people blush, it was as if he was tasting a premium meal, first a sweeping storm-through, establishing his total claim, then his movements slowed, chewing his food thoroughly, deepening his appreciation of the essence of this meal.

Compared to Shen Qiao, Yan Wushi without a doubt had more experience, but on account of his thousand sailings, he was able to strategize each step, plan meticulously, ultimately getting Shen Qiao to deposit himself at his doorstep, to be able to have this exquisite meal wholly belong to himself, the taste was even more worth savouring. 

He pried open Shen Qiao’s mouth, one hand gripping the other’s chin, his tongue prodding around to his content, after the other’s initial stupidity, Shen Qiao recovered enough to start learning his tongue’s trajectory, trying to mimic it clumsily, Yan Wushi didn’t allow him any chance to demonstrate his learning, instead he maliciously and resolutely withdrew, biting his chin, then sucked and licked slowly his way downward.

His mouth was busy, and so were his hands, the hand that had pinned Shen Qiao’s wrist to the wall, its thumb and forefinger traced small circles, playful, unable to tear itself away.

Shen Qiao’s hand was very sculpted from his martial arts practice, but it was not hard on the hands, instead it was like a sheep-fat jade figure, smooth and delicate, compared to the jade equivalent it had several parts more warmth and life, it was truly an unattainable, priceless treasure. 

Yan Wushi’s hand slipped inside a wide sleeve, slowly making its way up, he grasped the other’s elbow, his other hand made itself known groping Shen Qiao’s waist, his clothes remained immaculate in face of these unspeakable actions, Shen Qiao as someone who had never experienced these things, from this teasing had been rendered a puddle, his face fully flushed, his eyes misty.

“Do you know what I regret the most right now?” Yan Wushi said abruptly.

Shen Qiao looked at him in confusion, his thoughts were muddled as if turned into slurry by some unseen hand, his eyes revealed his disorientation, his hair was rumpled, he looked like a harmless and naïve small creature, waiting for a bad person to decisively ravage.

Yan Wushi: “If I had known, I would have bought this entire row of houses.”

What did buying houses and regret have to do with each other?

Shen Qiao turned this thought dazedly in his mind, the sensation of his throat being enclosed in a mouth and sucked on, he wanted to resist but was too weak, he raised his hands but was only able to put them on the other’s shoulders, it looked more like invitation than refusal.

Yan Wushi chuckled softly, he’d seen many people naïve in their affections, but there had been no one before like Shen Qiao, who could affect him, make him feel fondness from the bottom of his heart.

If only he could crush the other into his embrace, keep him by his side, carefully settle him there, somewhere no one else could see, for his eyes alone.

And yet Shen Qiao did not have this weak of an existence, he was someone who could stand as an equal to martial artists at their pinnacle, a gentle exterior and inner steel, in his marrow was a fierce will that would not stand down in the face of cruelty or punishment or ravaging storm, he walked his own Daoist path, willing to press forward without looking back. 

Yan Wushi did not align with this kind of Daoist path, in the previous decades of his life, towards this type of compassion and kindness, not only was it beneath his regard, he was more than happy to throw a rock in after it down the well, but this attitude somehow met a wall when it came to Shen Qiao, only for Shen Qiao was he willing to make way, even if it was something he didn’t look well upon, even if he didn’t favour it.

His bottom line, he was willing to make an exception for this person.

“Nn, there’s someone…”

Shen Qiao’s hearing was exceptional, he had heard the slight footsteps carried over from the streets, it was still far away, but it made him come to his senses a little, he extended a hand and pushed with a fair bit of force, from his mouth escaped a sound that was akin to a moan, only hearing himself did he realize his voice had changed, and was shocked.

Yan Wushi grunted in assent, but had no semblance of holding back in the slightest, when he decided to use ten thousand parts patience to tease a person, then the person he was teasing could only sink helplessly.

Nevermind Shen Qiao this kind of naive Daoist.

Yan Wushi’s superb skill quickly made Shen Qiao almost forget about those footsteps.

Almost.

After a moment, he seized one of the other’s hands, his face red: “In broad daylight…”

Yan Wushi: “In broad daylight, Shen-daozhang is taking advantage of me.”

Shen Qiao: “…”

Yan Wushi: “But I resisted on fear of death, fought back with everything I could, going back on the offensive, I made Shen-daozhang this kind of lecher give himself up without a fight.”

He really snatched Shen Qiao’s two hands and twisted them behind his back: “I didn’t expect Shen-daozhang with his proper appearance and virtuous reputation to secretly be a person that loses all self-control when he sees anyone beautiful.”

Shen Qiao: “…”

On the one hand he was shocked by this stunning reversal of black and white in his words, he didn’t think in this world there could be anyone so thick-skinned, on the other hand his thinking ability had been mostly thrown out the window by the other’s wandering, skilled hands.

The part that was left, naturally was no match for Yan-zongzhu.

The footsteps got closer, a young man in a short robe like he was just getting off from work, carrying a xianbing he had just bought at the street corner, was about to take a shortcut through here, he didn’t expect there to be others beside him in this alley, they met each other abruptly.

To be precise, most of Shen Qiao’s body, including his face, was blocked from view by Yan Wushi, only Yan Wushi raised his head from the crook of Shen Qiao’s neck, very assuredly, pleased with himself he turned his head and gave the other a look.  

The man yelped, his first thought was actually not: these two Daoists are doing such filthy things in broad daylight, but: his eyes are terrifying!

That piercing gaze shocked the other into backing away three steps, no time to say anything before he turned and ran.

Yan Wushi turned back to Shen Qiao and said: “Look, I’ve subdued the enemy without a fight.”

Shen Qiao: “…”

It wasn’t that he didn’t have anything to say, but that he couldn’t. 

Yan Wushi also felt that this location was not convenient, although doing it exposed to the sky and ground had its own illicit flavour, he couldn’t just continue against a wall.

He picked up Shen Qiao horizontally in his arms, his feet stepping off the ground, drifting up, he moved along people’s rooftops as if it were flat ground, towards the nearest inn.

The inn’s owner had been anxious recently, due to Lord Shixing’s revolt, the official routes were all used to ship supplies and rations, the peripheral routes were also a bit unsafe, the merchants in town doing business were fewer in number compared to other years, all this resulting in this very average inn being even quieter than usual.

When Yan Wushi entered with Shen Qiao, the owner was standing at the door with his arms folded, thinking hard.

Suddenly like a gust of wind, before he could react, he heard the worker standing behind him express surprise: “Are you two langjun looking to stay, this humble inn has excellent rooms, is the langjun in your arms ill, do you want this one to help call a doctor…”

The worker’s ramblings was cut off by Yan Wushi: “Where are the rooms?”

The inn’s owner finally caught up, rushed over and said: “On the second floor, all four rooms are available, take your pick, the price is a bit higher, a night is a hundred and fifty…”

Saying this he felt a bit guilty, this inn was not a large one, a room at a similar inn would not cost so much.

But before he had finished speaking, a weight fell onto his chest, the owner caught it, lowering his head, he saw that it was a large piece of silver, extremely hefty.

This was enough to stay for half a month!

The owner raised his head in delight, but the other had already disappeared to the second floor with the person in his arms.

The worker leaned over to ask: “Should I still go find a doctor?”

The owner hesitated a moment: “They didn’t ask for one, let’s not interfere, have the hot water prepared, the dishes prepared in advance too, when the guests request it, it’ll be ready!”

Yan Wushi had carried Shen Qiao into a room, the interior was indeed more spacious than a regular room, also it had been cleaned meticulously, even the bed was larger than the standard inn bed, the bedspread was soft, there was also the faint aroma of sandalwood, they had not cut corners here, no wonder the price was not cheap.

During this commotion, Shen Qiao had recovered a bit, he pressed a hand to Yan Wushi’s chest and jumped down, took two steps back, he faltered: “As I see it, let’s just leave it…”

Yan Wushi, a cold laugh: “You kissed me, now you’re going to abandon me after toying with me?”

Shen Qiao: “…”

This wasn’t quite the context for that phrase.

He settled his nerves: “It’s still light outside…”

Yan Wushi raised an eyebrow: “You mean to say when it’s dark we can proceed?”

Shen Qiao was flushed red, luckily he hadn’t noticed that his robes were slightly open, and that on his collarbone he had gained two red marks.

Half-exposed, half-covered, the story was just starting, but already he appeared endlessly enticing.

There was one type of person, even a smile, a blush, could make hearts flutter, killing self-restraint.

Although Yan Wushi had not reached the stage of no self-restraint, he was willing to see where desire led, willing to contentedly admire this beauty, letting his eyes trail after every frown and every smile.

Shen Qiao also didn’t know back there how he could have kissed the other with no reservation, even if he had thought about it a hundred a thousand times before, he was a man of restraint, if it was any other time he wouldn’t have been able to do it, now that Yan Wushi was pushing forward, he had the semblance of retreating back into his shell.

Of course Yan Wushi wouldn’t let him, he reached out to grab the other’s hand, Shen Qiao instinctively blocked it, they exchanged several moves, Yan Wushi after making several feints grabbed hold of his belt, pulled him directly into his arms, a tug, and the belt fell to the floor, he had him pressed against the table, looking down from above.

What followed was candlelight and curtain, bedsheets turned like red waves.

“Wha-what’s happening on the second floor?” The worker heard several bangs and clashes, followed swiftly by silence again. “When the two of them came in, wasn’t one of them being carried, how come now they’re fighting, should we go up to see? I don’t want someone to die!”

The owner had his eyes on his abacus, he didn’t even raise his head: “Gods fighting, don’t interfere!”

What gods fighting, I say it’s bedfighting! The worker muttered.

Extra 8

The author would like to say:

Attention, today’s extra has little to do with yesterday’s, and nothing to do with the main plot.

Since the main plot, this author really wanted to write A-Qiao becoming small and encountering Lao Yan →_→

Lao Yan gets his joy from teasing people to their limits…

Tomorrow I will finish writing this extra, then yesterday’s extra, we will see if I decided to continue it or not, because after the fact there’s nothing worth writing about, after all can’t have Lao Yan smoke a post-sex cigarette (~▔▽▔)~

Shiwu was standing outside, unsure if he should knock.

Usually by this shichen, shizun should long be up, either advising on sword training, or teaching them to write, even for the duration of the time when Yan-zongzhu was here this was the norm, the pattern uninterrupted, it had never been like this, where he had not even left his room.

“Shizun, are you awake?” Shiwu had stood a long while, hearing no noise from the inside, he started to worry and finally called out.

A crash, a muffled noise from the inside, it sounded like someone falling.

Shiwu no longer hesitated, he pushed the door open and rushed inside.

“Shizun, are you ok…”

Once he rounded the screen, and saw the scene in the bedroom, his face was momentarily frozen in shock, he couldn’t even finish his sentence.

There was no shizun on the bed, on the floor there was only a struggling, enveloped-by-robes…boy?

“Who are you!” Shiwu choked out.

The small boy was wearing only a single shirt and pants, it looked like he wanted to put his body into these clothes, but failed.

Shiwu’s arrival also caused him no less of a scare, he stared at the other for a moment, tried very hard to appear calm, only his child voice shook slightly, so the effect was not preserved.

“This one is Shen Qiao, who are you? Where is this?”

What, you are Shen Qiao? Then where is my shizun?

Shiwu stared blankly back at him, they looked at each other, the boy still wearing those oversized clothes, almost trapped in them, not moving.

Last night, Shiwu remembered clearly, it had been Qi-lang’s birthday, everyone was in good spirits, shizun had had people from the town bring up several dishes, the disciples had drunk plenty of wine, parted ways after thoroughly enjoying themselves, so everyone had gone to bed a bit late.

But Shen Qiao hadn’t given them a holiday today, Shiwu and Yuwen Yong and the rest had all gotten up as usual, but they had waited and waited without any sign of Shen Qiao— 

Shiwu would never have expected to find this kind of farce.

He calmed himself, walked forward a few steps, and the boy hurried back a few steps, but tripped over his clothes, his whole body falling backwards.

Shiwu reacted fast enough to grab him.

“Don’t be afraid, I’m not a bad guy, I’m a Xuandushan disciple, my name is Shiwu!”

The boy opened his eyes wide: “You’re also a Xuandushan disciple? How come I’ve never seen you?”

Shiwu directly skipped this question: “Do you know where my shizun has gone?”

The boy: “Who is your shizun?”

Shiwu: “Xuandushan’s zhangjiao.”

The boy opened his eyes even wider: “My shizun is also Xuandushan’s zhangjiao!”

Shiwu: “My shizun is Shen Qiao.”

The boy, unassuming: “I am Shen Qiao.”

Shiwu: “…”

He had no energy to bring a hand to his forehead: “Then who is your shizun?”

Although the boy was young, he wasn’t dumb: “You say you are a Xuandushan disciple, how would you not know who my shizun is?”

Shiwu slowly came to an unlikely conclusion: “Qi Fengge?”

The boy’s expression indicated that Shiwu’s answer was correct.

Shiwu wanted to cry, he asked carefully: “Then, then how old are you?”

Who knew, although the boy didn’t recognize Shiwu, the other gave him a sense of familiarity: “I’m almost seven.”

That means he was still six years old.

Heavens, my shizun turned back to a six year-old overnight!

Could he go back to normal, if not, then what!

This lightning strike on a clear day shocked Shiwu so much he wasn’t able to recover, could only look stupidly at the boy.

Shiwu had also considered the possibility that it was all an elaborate prank, but his shizun would never joke about this sort of thing, and with shizun’s wugong, there were very few people in the world who could kidnap him without a trace from Xuandushan, and this boy’s face really did resemble his shizun’s.

All this to say, he clearly was a shrunken mini version of shizun!

Xiao-Shen Qiao saw that he still hadn’t said anything, started to panic, he yelled: “I want to find  shizun!”

Then he ran towards the exit.

Shiwu stopped him, Xiao-Shen Qiao struck out a fist, but as of now he was no match for Shiwu, in short order Shiwu sealed his meridians.

Xiao-Shen Qiao was terrified that he did not recognize this person at all, but his moves and stances definitely came from Xuandushan.

His small mouth narrowed into a thin line, his round black grape eyes started to well up: “I want to find shizun!”

Shiwu also wanted to cry: “I want to find my shizun too, give me back my shizun!”

Xiao-Shen Qiao: “…”

News of the sect leader turning into a six year-old child soon spread throughout Xuandushan.

Everyone after going through the same tumultuous reaction as Shiwu, finally were able to accept this strange reality.

Xiao-Shen Qiao however could not accept this reality, he was hugging a rabbit that Gu Hengbo had found for him on the mountain, his expression unassuming, the only thing out of his mouth was asking for shizun.

Apart from that, Xiao-Shen Qiao behaved extraordinarily well, not wailing and not demanding people’s attention.

Because he was too cute, the people of Xuandushan after their shock, also didn’t want to miss this chance to “be acquainted with the young zhangjiao”, they all somehow found an excuse to come take a look Xiao-Shen Qiao, some of them even bringing various gifts.

Of course, they were also wracking their brains, thinking about possible ways to get Shen Qiao to recover, the elders tried to infuse Xiao-Shen Qiao with nieli, but the strange thing was, Xiao-Shen Qiao’s body was like a bottomless pit, pouring in zhengqi was like dirt sinking into the ocean, rendered traceless.

“Shishu, why did you give shi-…Xiao-shizun a rabbit, did shizun like rabbits when he was young?” Shiwu asked Gu Hengbo.

Gu Hengbo: “When me and Si-shixiong entered the sect, Er-shixiong was already much older than this, his personality was different too, he could even teach us in shizun’s place, naturally he wouldn’t spend all day cuddling small animals, on this matter I’ve only heard shizun speak of, he had previously given a rabbit to Er-shixiong, Er-shixiong liked it so much, even when sleeping he had to hold onto it.”

On the other end Xiao-Shen Qiao was seated quietly, his hand stroking the big white rabbit, seeing them chat, he didn’t come over to bother them, he only glanced over curiously.

But how can things continue like this!

Shiwu held his forehead, and asked Gu Hengbo: “Shishu do you have a plan?”

Gu Hengbo hesitated: “I’ve already sent a letter to Liuligong to inquire into this matter, Liuligong’s disciples have a broad knowledge base, maybe they’ll know, but Liuligong is faraway, there won’t be a response for quite some time, why don’t we send a letter to Yan-zongzhu?”

Yan Wushi had departed for Chang’an from the mountain only a few days ago, Shiwu shuddered to think what the other’s reaction to this might be.

Maybe he’ll fly into a rage, and blame them?

Shiwu was a little worried, but he was more afraid that his shizun would stay like this forever, never to recover.

“I’ll write the letter straight away!”

Yan Wushi’s reaction was different from all of their expectations.

Completely different.

When he first saw Xiao-Shen Qiao, he also paused for a long while, but a grandmaster was a grandmaster, he recovered right away: “If it’s not the result of anyone’s actions, it may well be a stroke of fate, when the time comes, he will return as before.”

Shiwu, dumb: “But what if he doesn’t recover?”

Yan Wushi gave him a look: “Your shizun taught you for so long, as the eldest disciple, you can’t even carry out the duties of the sect?”

Shiwu, embarrassed: “Thank you for the lesson Yan-zongzhu, Shiwu knows now.”

Yan Wushi gave a satisfied en, then walked towards Xiao-Shen Qiao.

Xiao-Shen Qiao naturally did not recognize Yan Wushi, he saw this handsome man walk closer step by step, his gaze held the usual wariness reserved for strangers, as well as some curiosity.

“I am Yan Wushi.” Yan Wushi cut straight to the point, he didn’t expect Xiao-Shen Qiao to open his eyes wide.

“Shizun said before, he fought you before.” Xiao-Shen Qiao said.

Yan Wushi: “That’s right.”

Xiao-Shen Qiao tilted his head and looked at him, a little perplexed: “But, but shizun clearly said Yan Wushi was a very young person…”

Yan Wushi: “Am I not a young person, you forget just a couple of days ago how you grumbled in bed about me being too energetic, imploring me to not go on for so long?”

This was said right next to Xiao-Shen Qiao’s ear, even Shiwu didn’t hear.

Xiao-Shen Qiao, a face of confusion, completely not understanding: “???”

Yan Wushi suddenly felt there was nothing bad about Shen Qiao’s temporary transformation, at least he was fun to trick and fun to tease, after he recovered and remembered, he’d probably flush to his ears and jump into a crack in the floor.

“I’ll bring you down the mountain to have fun.”

Xiao-Shen Qiao shook his head: “I want to stay here.”

These days although he hadn’t seen anyone he was familiar with, but at least he knew this place was Xuandushan, the people on the mountain were also very kind to him, —no bad intentions, naturally he wasn’t willing to leave.

Yan Wushi smiled: “This isn’t up to you.”

He wasn’t like Shiwu and Gu Hengbo in their approach, placating words and gestures, he directly knocked the person unconscious.

Shiwu: “…”

Seeing Yan Wushi pick up the person intending to leave, he rushed forward: “Yan-zongzhu, where are you bringing shizun!”

Yan Wushi’s gaze swept past him: “The time has arrived for your test, don’t let your shizun’s teachings go to waste, this venerable one is bringing him to town to play, once he recovers I will bring him back.”

That he was willing to give this explanation to Shiwu, was already giving Shen Qiao a lot of face.

Xiao-Shen Qiao didn’t expect that when he woke he would no longer be on the mountain, he looked at his unfamiliar surroundings, plus the one-time-encounter Yan Wushi, confusion and terror welled up, in a moment he was on the brink of tears.

Yan Wushi, calm: “If you cry, I will never bring you back, you know that I fought your shizun and that I am a bad guy.”

Xiao-Shen Qiao fought back his tears, he no longer dared to cry, but couldn’t help from retorting back: “Shizun didn’t say you were a bad guy, he said your calibre was extraordinary, that in the future your martial arts accomplishments were certain to be exceptional.”

Yan Wushi didn’t expect the other to be so young, and still be able to speak so eloquently in front of him.

He liked Shen Qiao so much, but this like was spent most of the time teasing and bullying the other.

This time was no exception.

Seeing Xiao-Shen Qiao’s tears well up, Yan Wushi held him close in his arms, said softly: “It’s going to be fine, we’re here to have fun, after two days I’ll bring you back.”

Xiao-Shen Qiao through his tears, pitifully pulled on his sleeves: “Yan-zongzhu, can you, you bring me to see shizun, I miss him.”

Yan Wushi: “Sure.”

Xiao-Shen Qiao was delighted, his little face radiated joy that was clearly visible.

The two of them got off the carriage, outside was the marketplace, people weaving back and forth, the streets bustling. 

A kid was a kid, with new things to look at, they’ll forget what made them sad temporarily, Xiao-Shen Qiao looked left and right, full of curiosity.

Yan Wushi carried him to a stall that made tangren.

“We’ll mold a shizun for you?”

Xiao-Shen Qiao looked at the lifelike, colourful tangren, and nodded in delight.

The stallowner smiled: “The person Xiao-langjun wants to shape, what do they look like, how tall, wearing what clothes?”

Xiao-Shen Qiao demonstrated earnestly: “This tall, likes wearing blue robes, on his back he carries a sword…”

The stallowner was very skilled, quickly completed the tangren: “Look Xiao-langjun, does this look like him?”

Xiao-Shen Qiao nodded his head continuously, his eyes unable to move away, in his hands he was unwilling to part with it.

Yan Wushi laughed: “I didn’t trick you right, I brought you to find your shifu.”

Xiao-Shen Qiao froze, his mouth slightly ajar, he looked at him, and then at the tangren, his brow twisted, he appeared to think this over for some time, looking almost wronged, but was able to hold it in.

Even Yan Wushi couldn’t help but admire his self-control, after all this wasn’t ten year-old Shen Qiao, not fifteen year-old Shen Qiao, he wasn’t even quite seven, in one night he had arrived in this strange world, not a familiar face in sight, and yet he was still able to maintain his basic judgment, it was not an easy feat.

No matter how well he held it in, when Xiao-Shen Qiao spoke next he sounded a little nasally: “Yan-zongzhu, you know where my shizun is don’t you, can I trouble you to help me find him?”

Yan Wushi: “He left you in my care for now, when the time is right he will naturally appear, he is that strong of a person, no harm will befall him.”

His comforting reassurances abated some of Xiao-Shen Qiao’s fears, the latter wrinkled his nose, arms around Yan Wushi’s neck, and nodded.

But in the next moment, Yan Wushi bent his head and opened his mouth, chomping off the tangren’s limb on one side.

Xiao-Shen Qiao was dumbstruck, he could no longer hold it in, he wailed!

Extra 9

In an instant, Yan Wushi was accosted by accusatory glares all around, including that of the stallowner.

He looked like an upstanding person, but stole a kid’s tangren, and took a huge bite out of it too, this situation, what kid wouldn’t cry!

The stallowner himself had two children, seeing the situation he felt pity, and rushed to console: “A-shu will make you another one, don’t cry don’t cry!”

Xiao-Shen Qiao hearing this stopped sobbing, wiped his tears with his sleeve, with his nose stuffy he said: “Thank you A-shu, but one is enough for me.”

Looking again at his limbless “shizun”, he couldn’t hold back a sniffle, Xiao-Shen Qiao held back his brimming tears, he looked very pitiful and very cute, nevermind the women with their overflowing maternal instincts, even the stallowner seeing him, wanted to make him a couple more tangren just to see him smile.

There were also bystanders who seeing this injustice wanted to chastise Yan Wushi, but the other’s eyes were too cold, his sense of presence startling, so they held it in until their faces burned, and didn’t say anything.

Yan Wushi said to Xiao-Shen Qiao: “It’s going to be fine, I was just teasing you, we’ll get them to make you another one, this crippled Qi Fengge you can leave with me.”

Xiao-Shen Qiao, enraged: “Shizun is not crippled, it was you who bit it off!”

Yan Wushi smiled: “If you’re still so mean, I’ll leave with you forever, and you’ll never see Qi Fengge again.”

Xiao-Shen Qiao’s mouth quivered, half-crying, tears brimming: “Shizun…”

“I want shizun!!!”

The frustration that he had held back for so long exploded all at once, Xiao-Shen Qiao instantly became a crying mess, now even ten tangren would not be enough to placate him!

Yan Wushi held this person, his face pulled taunt, finally getting a taste of the fruits of his own wrongdoing. 

For the first time, the eccentric and reckless Yan-zongzhu felt at a loss.

If the person in his arms was not Shen Qiao but someone else, he would have a hundred methods to get the other to shut up, but Shen Qiao in his eyes, was adorable whatever he did, it was only that Yan Wushi expressed his fondness in ways different from other people, he’d forgotten about the age difference between Xiao-Shen Qiao and Shen Qiao, a little carelessness and he’d gone overboard.


Everyone thought Shen Qiao turned into a child overnight, but this wasn’t the case.

Shen Qiao opened his eyes, and felt something was a bit off.

To be sure, he was still lying down in comfortable blankets, above him were familiar ceiling beams, outside the window it was a deep night, the moon bright above.

There was nothing wrong about nighttime, what was wrong was that as a martial artist attuned to his senses, in ordinary circumstances he would not have descended into deep sleep, and even if he did sleep, by this time it should have been morning.

No need for a candle, by moonlight, Shen Qiao was able to examine his surroundings, he discovered another remarkable thing: this place was definitely Xuandushan, but this house was clearly where he had lived as a disciple, and not the place where he had been before waking!

 The strange feeling intensified, but Shen Qiao was not Xiao-Shen Qiao, he was surprised, and at the same time he had already come up with a general idea.

Had he returned to the past in his dream?

He pondered this, got up, pushed the door open and walked outside.

The night was still, Shen Qiao raised his head to look at the sky, then left and right.

This look, froze him in place.

The place he was standing was in front of the small residence, and this residence was reserved for the living quarters of Qi Fengge’s disciples, after he became zhangjiao, he didn’t want to live in shizun’s house, and so lived in another house to the side.

In this moment, in the darkness of night, only the house in which shizun previously resided in, had a faint light burning.

The candlelight flickered, as if there was someone inside.

Shen Qiao was immensely moved all of a sudden, he dashed up the stairs, step by step he approached that house with the candle still burning.

Like he was dreaming, but afraid that he’ll be disappointed in the dream.

He did not try to conceal his footsteps, the person in the house quickly sensed his presence.

“Who is outside?” The other did not get up to open the door, his voice was even and warm, as if he might have been reading a book by candlelight, every bit the familiar cadence that Shen Qiao had heard numerous times.

He had no way of steadying his rapid heart, his eyes burned, his vision quickly became a blur.

“Who is it?” Not hearing Shen Qiao’s reply, the other was a bit perplexed, finally got up to open the door.

With the door ajar, the two of them faced each other, the face that had appeared so many times in his memories was now right before his eyes, Shen Qiao was stuck in place, unable to step away even half a step, he looked at the other steadily, not daring to even blink.

“You are…” Qi Fengge paused, “Who are you, what is the reason you have come to Xuandushan?”

This Qi Fengge was at the peak of his years, with crow-black hair, he might have just finished bathing, his hair tied, still wet, his appearance was not overtly striking, but could be said to be handsome, and with each season’s laundering, the richness of experience, his comportment and vast knowledge gave him an unknowable allure, if there was a type of person in the world, which would utterly be granted others’ trust upon meeting, that person would be Qi Fengge.

Shen Qiao remembered very clearly, when shizun failed to breakthrough the martial stage and was on his deathbed, Shen Qiao had followed orders to go see him one last time, the Qi Fengge then no longer retained his decades-unchanged visage, his face was haggard, even his hair was threaded with white, and his gaze was empty, so now when Shen Qiao saw again the shizun of the past, memory and sadness overwhelmed him all at once, his tears could no longer be held back, springing forth and flowing freely.

“Shizun…” Shen Qiao choked back a sob, realizing his state, lowered his head to hurriedly wiped away his tears, before raising his head again: “Shizun, this disciple is Shen Qiao, but the Shen Qiao after twenty years, this disciple doesn’t know what happened, when I woke I had returned to the past, maybe this explanation will surprise you, but this disciple harbours no other intentions…”

Qi Fengge: “I believe you.”

Shen Qiao was cut off mid-sentence, he looked at the other with some shock.

Qi Fengge smiled: “I believe you, although you’ve…grown, but you have the same profile, your voice and footsteps and everything else resembles the younger you, how could I not recognize you?”

Saying this, he extended a hand, gently patting Shen Qiao on the head: “So this is what A-Qiao looks like when he’s grown.”

Shen Qiao felt a warmth on his head, he wanted to cry again.

Qi Fengge: “But what magic is this, you say you are the Shen Qiao after twenty years, then where is six year-old Shen Qiao?”

No wonder with Qi Fengge, he’d discovered the crux of the matter at once.

Shen Qiao frowned: “This disciple doesn’t know either, I was meditating, then I must have fallen asleep, when I awoke I discovered that I had returned to twenty years before.”

Qi Fengge, engrossed: “Then after twenty years, where am I?”

Shen Qiao was silent.

Qi Fengge understood: “I must have already died.”

Shen Qiao: “Shizun…”

Qi Fengge found it amusing: “To die of old age and illness, nothing could be more common, martial artists have a few more years, but cannot age in time with the heavens, why would A-Qiao make this face, have you wasted your twenty some years, and now are unable to let things go?”

Shen Qiao took a deep breath in: “This disciple understands the lesson.”

Qi Fengge: “Who is the zhangjiao of Xuandushan then?”

Shen Qiao: “It’s this disciple.”

Qi Fengge wasn’t too surprised, he smiled and nodded.

Shen Qiao: “The details therein, it’s a long story, is shizun willing to hear this disciple explain?”

Qi Fengge shook his head: “No need, what will happen has already been set, knowing it will provide no advantage, instead it might not be a good thing.”

Most people if they had a chance to know the future wouldn’t be able to stay their curiosity, Shen Qiao was not surprised by Qi Fengge’s words, as the other was really this open-minded of a person.

Qi Fengge: “No one knows how long this magic will last, it’s no easy feat that I was able to encounter grown-up A-Qiao, how can we waste our time here, tonight is the Lantern Festival, your shixiongdi have all gone into town to play, do you want to take a turn there as well?”

Shen Qiao, delighted: “Of course this disciple is willing.”

The two of them descended the mountain one after the other, Qi Fengge used qinggong, his shadow drifting like an idle celestial, Shen Qiao found that in this dream his perception of his surroundings were just like real life, his wugong was not diminished at all, it almost didn’t feel like a dream.

Qi Fengge has just landed, when Shen Qiao appeared by his side, he was very happy: “The pupil surpasses the master, there is hope for the continuation of Xuandushan!”

Shen Qiao smiled: “Shizun is too kind, my wugong still cannot compare to shizun’s at his peak, Yan Wushi however…”

He found that after speaking this name, with all of the things that were to follow, some unknown force held him back, and he was unable to say anything else.

Qi Fengge didn’t sense his apprehension: “Yan Wushi? So his wugong twenty years later has ascended another level!”

Shen Qiao had no way of explaining, he could only nod.

Qi Fengge did not press further, his gaze fell upon the crowd, the lively, bustling atmosphere, he smiled and asked: “Xuandu Town after twenty years, it must be even more busy?”

Lanterns in every direction, riotous and colourful, the sound of children’s chatter and delight, it was indeed a lively Lantern Festival.

Shen Qiao: “It’s about the same.”

He had collected himself, not being able to say it was no regret, having one night in shizun’s presence was already a blessing.

Qi Fengge brought him before a kiosk that had lantern riddles, he joined in on the fun, got a lantern riddle right, and won a rabbit lantern, he handed the rabbit lantern over to him, joked: “When you came into town last year, you had your eyes on this rabbit lantern, but Yuanchun also wanted it, so you gave it up to him, this year you’re here on your own, so you get this rabbit lantern too easily.”

Shen Qiao no longer recalled what happened when he was six, but shizun’s sincere devotion to him made him feel very warm inside, he was so fond of the rabbit lantern in his hands he was quite unable to part with it.

The candlelight from the tummy of the rabbit lantern burned with warmth.

Twenty years ago, and twenty years later.

Shen Qiao’s eyes grew wet again, he was worried that shizun would find him weak, and rushed to blink away his tears, then he smiled: “Thank you, shizun.”

Qi Fengge patted him on the shoulder, his gaze soft, he didn’t say anything, but seemed to understand everything.

Past this street, the noise and bustle dwindled, the river flowed by quietly, several lanterns were appended to paper boats, drifting downstream, the wishes of many people entrusted to them.

The two of them took a break under the trees, Qi Fengge saw how he was unwilling to put the rabbit lantern down, couldn’t help but laugh: “How come our grown A-Qiao is still like a child.”

Shen Qiao also laughed: “It’s because shizun gifted this.”

Looking at it, was like having shizun by his side, Shen Qiao didn’t want to think this was all a dream, the existence of rabbit lantern perhaps made his own presence feel a bit more real.

Qi Fengge took the lantern from him, and used a thin branch to pry the wick a bit longer, prolonging its life, then gave it back to him: “Sorry.”

Shen Qiao paused: “Why does shizun say that?”

Qi Fengge, warmly: “Twenty years later you are zhangjiao, it must be that at the time you are the only one capable of such an undertaking, your character is humble and kind, you never like to be in the spotlight, so it is I who will make things difficult for you.”

Shen Qiao smiled: “I am a disciple of Xuandushan, I hope Xuandushan will be safe, since shizun thinks I am capable of the task, I will of course give it my all.”

Although the beginning was a detour, and the cost devastating and unbearable, ultimately he didn’t let anyone down.

The two of them chatted for a long time underneath the trees, Shen Qiao forgot when he succumbed to fatigue and fell asleep.

In the dream, he was lying on Qi Fengge’s leg, in his arms was the already burnt out rabbit lantern, someone was still smiling.

A hand was stroking his head, over and over, just like when he was younger.

Shen Qiao was woken by the piercing sunlight.

He opened his eyes, sunlight scattered through the spaces between the leaves, spilling onto his body.

Beside him someone was leaning against the tree trunk, but it wasn’t Qi Fengge, it was Yan Wushi.

Yan Wushi opened his eyes, rubbed his temple, he was trying to figure how with his martial arts level how he could have fallen asleep unknowingly, when he saw Shen Qiao he paused: “You’re back?”

The two of them compared their version of the events, Shen Qiao was alarmed to discover, he hadn’t been dreaming, but actually switched time flows with seven year old him, briefly returning to the past.

Shen Qiao, surprised: “But I do not remember this episode from when I was seven.”

Yan Wushi: “Perhaps because it was the past, so seven year-old you would not remember.”

Turning it over in his mind, this seemed the only possible answer.

Yan Wushi suddenly bent over him, most of his body covering Shen Qiao’s, he reached over to grab something behind Shen Qiao.

Shen Qiao looked, it was that rabbit lantern.

The author would like to say:

(laughs), I knew you guys wouldn’t be able to guess today’s contents!

Tomorrow I will continue extra 7, the postscript~ (but truthfully what’s there to see after the fact, why are our fans so stubborn →_→

Extra 10

Behind the folding screen, a bed.

On the bed was a beauty.

To be precise, the beauty had their eyes closed, sound asleep, beside them sat a person, who was looking at beauty.

Yan Wushi looked for a long while, brushed his finger upon the other’s eyelashes.

Shen Qiao’s closed eyes reflexively trembled, then a slightly furrowed brow.

It was rare for him to be so deeply asleep, usually nevermind touching his face, even a small disturbance in his surroundings would be enough to startle him.

This situation could only indicate, he was truly exhausted.

The corner of Yan Wushi’s mouth relaxed into a satisfied smile.

If there was a bystander at this moment, they would surely be shocked into their hair standing on end, because this smile was too tender, so tender that it was incompatible with his face.

Nevermind someone else, even Yan Wushi himself probably hadn’t noticed the appearance of this uncomplicated expression on his face.

His fingertip traced his eyelashes to the furrow of his brow, then sliding lower, until it reached the tip of his nose, he looked as if he was about to pinch the other’s nose.

Before he made the motion, he changed his mind, abruptly going lower, he pinched Shen Qiao’s mouth, the previous image of sleeping beauty was reduced to several parts farce, Shen Qiao’s upper and lower lip were pinched together, looking like a duck’s beak.

Shen Qiao had no awareness of this, perhaps because he had no guard up against the person beside him, he remained in his own dream realm.

Yan Wushi finally seemed to realize his behaviour was a little childish, he pouted and let go, then bent over to imprint a kiss upon the other’s lips, the periphery of his gaze snagged on the purple splotches on the other’s neck and shoulders, his smile grew wider, he pulled the blanket up on Shen Qiao’s body, covering up his neck.

Outside, someone knocked.

Yan Wushi rose and got out of bed to get the door.

He didn’t blush, the worker outside seeing him with his outer robe draped, hair mussed, looking content, was the one to blush first. 

“Langjun, greetings, the kitchen is open, the boss had me come ask you two if there’s anything you need?”

As he spoke, he snuck a look inside, several shichen ago they heard a commotion from inside, at the time they didn’t dare come up to inquire, now naturally they wanted to see if anything was broken.

Yan Wushi was going to decline, then changed his mind: “What’s there to eat?”

The worker smiled: “There’s hubing, roast chicken, duck, okra, and the rest, our kitchen is quite renowned in these parts, as long as you order it, we should be able to get it for you.”

Yan Wushi: “Then I’ll have a barley milk congee, garlic pig trotters, make sure it’s cooked until it’s tender, generous with the sauce, don’t worry I’ll compensate you well, then get a whole fish, doesn’t matter what kind, as long as it’s fresh, no need for garnish, steamed is fine, with garlic and spring onion, as for the rest send along a couple of vegetarian dishes.”

A moneypouch was tossed along with his words at the worker, quite hefty, the worker assumed it was some loose silver pieces.

The other had spouted of a whole slew of words without blinking, the worker bit his tongue, thinking, this one is a connoisseur, he must be an elite amongst the elites, after completing today’s order, it would be equal to doing three to five days of business.

“Yes yes, everything langjun wants, we have it, this one will go prepare at once, please wait a little, I’ll also send the hot water up!” The worker added, very attentive.

Yan Wushi also had the worker go to the bookshop to get him some leisure reading, with his generous compensation, the worker was of course willing, very quickly he fulfilled the tasks.


Shen Qiao was roused awake by the fragrance of food, the moment he opened his eyes he realized how hungry he was.

This sensation hadn’t occurred to him in so long, it was a bit strange and alarming.

Blinking, Shen Qiao took a slow appraisal of the room, several dishes were laid out on the table behind the folding screen, a shadow sat beside the table, reading, in a few moments, his gaze came out of sleep to clarity.

Behind the folding screen, Yan Wushi of course sensed his movements.

“A-Qiao is awake?”

He put his book down, got up and headed around the screen, in his mind he was regretting that he missed seeing the other’s appearance as he woke.

But in the next moment, Shen Qiao hid his head, wrapping himself entirely in the blanket.

The blanket became a big blob.

Yan Wushi: “…”

Watching the shifting blanket, he knew the other was putting his clothes on inside.

Yan Wushi’s stomach hurt from laughing, but he maintained a placid expression, purposefully putting on a worried air, he said: “Are you ok?”

Shen Qiao’s muffled voice was heard from inside the blankets: “I’m fine…”

Yan Wushi walked forward a couple of steps, placed his hand on the blanket: “A-Qiao, are you injured, can you come out so I can take a look?”

Shen Qiao: “I’m fine…”

The blankets jolted around, Yan Wushi suspected he might be looking for pants, very amused, he said: “A-Qiao, I forgot to tell you.”

Shen Qiao: “En?”

Yan Wushi: “Your pants were dirty from last night, I had the worker go buy you new ones, he’s not back yet.”

The blanket was flipped open abruptly, a flushed face appeared: “How could you have someone else buy them!”

Yan Wushi: “Then I should have gone personally?”

Shen Qiao held his forehead, his words in disarray: “That’s not what I meant, you…how does he know my size…”

Yan Wushi smiled: “I told him.”

Shen Qiao did not ask how Yan Wushi knew.

He could imagine, certainly last night he used his hands determine his measurements.

Thinking back to the frenzied nonsense of last night, Shen Qiao would rather jump into a crack in the floor.

Even now, when he covered himself with the blanket, he could still smell that pervasive smell everywhere.

He coughed quietly, awkward but forced himself to speak: “Yan-zongzhu…”

Yan Wushi cut him off, displeased: “You and I are so intimate, you still call me Yan-zongzhu?”

Shen Qiao asked haltingly: “Then what should I call you?”

Yan Wushi: “Yan-lang of course, didn’t you call it out so many times last night, and while you were crying!”

Shen Qiao flushed fully: “Stop!”

Yan Wushi sighed once, then sat on the edge of the bed: “You and I have been intimate together, if a man and a woman, I’d have you receive me formally in marriage into your family, unfortunately you’re not…”

“Wait!” Shen Qiao hearing this felt something was amiss, “Why am I the one receiving you into my family?”

Yan Wushi, surprised: “Unless you want me to receive you in marriage?”

Shen Qiao: “That’s not…”

Yan Wushi: “This venerable one likes you, I don’t care about official titles, if you want to receive in marriage, it’s all the same to me, if I can prevent other people from speaking poorly about the revered Xuandushan zhangjiao, I have no good name to speak of, for you, everything is worth it.”

These words sounded arrogant, but also pitiful.

Shen Qiao not-crying-not-smiling: “That’s not what I meant.”

Yan Wushi: “Then are you going to take responsibility or not?”

Shen Qiao: “…”

The matter of last night, in the end both sides were willing, and with Shen Qiao’s frank character, it would be impossible for him to pin the blame entirely on the other person, Yan Wushi recognized this, step by step luring him closer, until Shen Qiao willingly fell into the trap that had been set.

As expected, Shen Qiao furrowed his brow and thought at length, finally spitting out these words: “I will…”

Yan Wushi smiled, leaned over to kiss him on the cheek.

“Shen-lang.”

Shen Qiao shuddered: “…”

Yan Wushi, softly: “Shen-lang, you haven’t even put on your pants yet, aren’t you cold?”

Shen Qiao blushed, he held onto the blanket tightly.

By this time the worker had returned with the pants, he knocked on their door, Yan Wushi went over, and brought the pants over.

“Shen-lang, can I help you put it on?”

Shen Qiao, unable to bear it: “You can just call me A-Qiao!”

Yan Wushi, an innocent expression: “You’re not even willing to call me Yan-lang, now you’ll even deny me this?”

Shen Qiao wasn’t going to be teased anymore, he grabbed the pants, and continued to put them on inside the blanket, only then did he toss the blanket aside, ready to get up and tie his robes together.

If only he hadn’t looked, but he did, Yan Wushi couldn’t help bursting into laughter: “My good A-Qiao, you’ve put your pants on backwards!”

Shen Qiao: “…”

He was incapable of saying anything further, it would have been better if he didn’t know how to speak at all.



The author would like to say:

March 24th a mini theatre:

Yu Shengyan after finding out about Yan Wushi and Shen Qiao’s relationship, his mouth hung open for a quarter of an hour.

Bian Yanmei, amused: “You don’t look that stupid, how come you didn’t see it all this time?”

Yu Shengyan shut his mouth, bitterly: “It’s not like I didn’t see it at all, I’m just surprised…”

He’d never seen shizun like someone so much before, this fondness didn’t imply that they stuck together all the time, or that they talked about it constantly, but as disciples they did have eyes, of course they could see it, every time Shen Qiao was mentioned, or when Shen Qiao was present, shizun spared them not even a corner of his glance, his eyes would be taken over by tenderness and adoration.

Bian Yanmei: “I was also a little surprised, shizun looks heartless and unaffected, but towards Shen-daozhang such an exception, but it’s no wonder…”

No wonder what, he didn’t continue.

That day, Bian Yanmei received the news that Shen Qiao alone, with Yuwen Song and Dou Yan, broke through the ambush from Hehuan Sect and Chen Gong, out of the barricade of a thousand footsoldiers, this kind of scene that made the blood run hot, even if he didn’t see it with his own eyes, he could envision it, moreover Bian Yanmei knew that Shen Qiao and Yuwen Xian were not that close.

For a deathbed wish, he would still go to such lengths, even Bian Yanmei as someone from the demonic sects, like his shifu disdaining compassion and righteousness, couldn’t help but praise his spirit.

This person, his form like the moon, movements like a swift sword, Bian Yanmei wasn’t surprised at all that shizun would be moved.

But shidi to be this restless, that was more strange.

The more Yu Shengyan thought the more he worried, he pulled Bian Yanmei aside: “Do you think this time shizun harshly pushing me to train harder, has something to do with this?”

Bian Yanmei, confused: “Isn’t it natural for shizun to push you to train?”

Yu Shengyan, looking wronged: “Maybe shixiong is not aware, when Shen Qiao fell initially from Banbu Peak, seriously injured, all his bones smashed, it was I who carried him back the entire way, do you think shizun remembering this interval, will look at me unfavourably?”

Bian Yanmei regarded him oddly: “Is there something wrong with you, do you think shizun is so narrow-minded like you?”

Yu Shengyan, discouraged: “But I don’t want to train under Banbu Peak, even birds don’t shit there, there’ll be nothing to eat…”

Bian Yanmei snickered: “As I see it, you’re unwilling to give up any days you can bully Shen-daozhang’s shidi, just wait until their shidi complains to Shen-daozhang, then I don’t think your training period will only be half a month long.”

Yu Shengyan didn’t say anything more, he turned around and left: “I will depart immediately!”

At the same time in another location, Yan Wushi sneezed, he rubbed his nose, and said to Shen Qiao: “I think within the year we shouldn’t let Yu Shengyan come back.”

Extra 11

The side door of the daoguan was unlatched.

The osmanthus were in full bloom, a gentle breeze and drifting clouds, the sky refractive as glass, clear as ice.

Clusters of golden-yellow, light-yellow, and white blooms bursting from the branches, heavy-headed, weighing down the branch, which at this moment also had several riotous birds as guests.

Branches swaying, flower petals followed rustling in their descent, fluttering all over the head of the deer resting underneath.

The deer shook its head, and sneezed.

To the side on the short-table, the as-yet-unpoured cups received a scattering of petals, the teapot was simmering over a small fire, brewing tea, the fragrance of the tea was interwoven with osmanthus notes, the deeper and lighter tones achieving a remarkable balance, allowing people to relax completely. 

Osmanthus-falling-tea-brewing, the daoguan was still, no doubt it was a scene that brought joy to the senses, enough to be in a painting, but Yang Guang was not paying attention to any of this.

He was watching the person brewing the tea.

The other was wearing Daoist robes, hair in a topknot, the most plain manner of dressing, but Yang Guang had to admit, the simpler the style, the more it brought out that person’s qualities.

From the first time he met this person, how many years had it been? Yang Guang didn’t dwell on the matter, but growing up from a child to a young man it must have been at least several years in the interim, this person was truly like a celestial, showing no sign of the accumulating years.

Yang Guang was aware that once martial cultivation passed a certain stage, it would definitely be the case of youth that stayed, technically in the jianghu there were no shortage of people like this, but on account of this person being very good looking, everytime Yang Guang saw him he would spend extra time looking, thus he had a strong impression of this man.

“The back gardens are plain, and are unsuited for esteemed guests, if seeking guidance or immortality, please enter through the front doors.”

The clear voice sounded from behind the door, Yang Guang couldn’t help but feel awkward and glance to the person accompanying him.

The latter was looking down and frowning, his expression calm, he demonstrated no impatience on account of having waited with Yang Guang for so long, neither did he show any discomfort at having been called out, he might actually have been an aimless guest of Yang Guang’s, having suppressed his sense of presence to its lowest.

He’d been discovered, so Yang Guang laughed, and pushed the door wide open to enter: “This lord saw the serenity of the daoguan, and so casually came this way, I didn’t realize I walked this far, disturbing zhenren’s repose, please forgive me.”

He said this, but did not make any signs of retreating, instead he barged in loudly, he must have believed that the daoguan’s master could not refuse him.

Yang Guang’s life had been smooth sailing since his youth, his doting parents made it so that there were very few things that did not go his way, naturally his character was a bit self-centred.

“It turns out to be Lord Jin, please come in.”

Shen Qiao smiled, no hint of discontent — Yang Guang assumed this was because the other did not have the guts to show any discontent — if Xuandushan wanted to maintain their foothold in Chang’an, they would need the continued support of the court.

As he had just been standing outside staring rudely, Shen Qiao did not get up to greet him formally, Yang Guang had no face to insist on this small detail, he flipped the bottom of his robe up and sat down opposite the other, now it was as if he was no longer the guest but the host, he gestured to the person next to him to also take a seat.

“Just now from outside I saw zhenren brewing tea, the fragrance alluring, my feet wouldn’t stay in place, I think zhenren will not blame us for this sudden intrusion?”

Shen Qiao smiled: “Of course not. And who might this guest be?”

Yang Guang, intentionally: “It is I who forgot to make introductions, this is Zhizhe-dashi’s disciple monk Yu Xiu, technically he would be my father’s shidi!”

Zhizhe-chanshi was from Tiantai Sect, he was the shixiongdi of Fayi and Xueting, in the last couple of years, in order to subdue the Buddhist sects, Yang Jian had to use his position as emperor to acknowledge Zhizhe-chanshi as shifu, demonstrating his respect for the Buddhist sects, the reputation and standing of the Buddhist sects rose like a boat with the water level, in short order their prominence was unparalleled.

This monk Yu Xiu, he certainly did not have a single hair on his head, but he was dressed casually and not in monk robes, so after Shen Qiao heard who he was, his expression revealed a bit of surprise.

Yang Guang: “Bringing a monk into a Daoist sect, I hope zhenren won’t be displeased?”

Shen Qiao smiled: “Of course not, all visitors are guests, if Lord Jin and chanshi do not mind, try the crude tea that this poor one has brewed.”

Yang Guang, a dashing smile: “Tea brewed by zhenren himself, it’s worth a try regardless, only then can I go find my parents later to brag!”

He and Yu Xiu received their cups and bowed their heads to take a sip.

The tea was indeed crude, although it carried osmanthus notes, it wasn’t enough to cover-up the bitterness, Yang Guang was not accustomed to it at all, one sip and he had to frown, he put down his cup, glancing one more time at Yu Xiu, the latter was serenely holding his cup, sip after sip, not hurried nor slow, he drank it all.

Yang Guang derided himself: “It looks like it’s me who does not appreciate the art of tea brewing, this tea is wasted on me.”

Shen Qiao: “Lord Jin is too kind, since the tea leaves have already turned into tea, then it’s for people to drink, if Lord Jin drinks it, or a passerby drinks it, after being consumed it’s still present, if not consumed it’s also present, the question is not about what is wasted or not wasted.”

Yang Guang paused, for the moment he did not know how to continue this conversation.

It was monk Yu Xiu who spoke: “Zhenren’s words contain Buddhist teachings.”

Shen Qiao smiled: “Buddhism and Daoism are two paths open to each other, it looks like chanshi has some fate yet with the Daoist sects.”

Yu Xiu also smiled: “People say that zhenren is not one for words, unwilling to teach in a public forum, this poor one sees now that this is not true: zhenren is a skilled debater!”

He had delicate features, with this smile his face was like a new bloom, a sudden beam of sunlight.

Yang Guang: “After Yu Xiu became Zhizhe-dashi’s disciple, he trained in martial arts with shibo Fayi-dashi, it’s said that he’s a genius the likes of which has not been seen in some decades at Tiantai Sect, his calibre exceeding that of Xueting in his youth, I was born late, unable to see the monk Xueting’s prowess with my own eyes, would I have the luck today of seeing zhenren advising Yu Xiu in an exchange or two?”

Shen Qiao’s gaze swept past the two of them, landing on the tea cups in front, he said blandly: “With Yu Xiu-chanshi’s calibre, he’s sure to accomplish much in the next few years, this poor one is untalented, how could I dare give casual pointers?”

This was a refusal.

Yang Guang was quite upset.

He had purposefully tried to garner favour with Shen Qiao and Yan Wushi these two, the latter was hard to track down, on the rare occasion they would meet, he wouldn’t give Yang Guang any face anyway, Yang Guang had even complained about this to his parents, who knew the parents who always gave him his way this time were not on his side, this made Yang Guang even more vexed.

As for Shen Qiao, Yang Guang had paid him several personal visits, everytime he’d be given the cold shoulder, or a polite refusal, it was as if Shen Qiao was completely uninterested in establishing ties with Lord Jin, he was always courteous but distant. For Yang Guang who considered himself a proud son of the heavens, it was undoubtedly several invisible slaps in the face, Yang Guang had been so upset on several occasions that he’d smashed things in his own quarters, the vexation building up even more, almost to point of an unobtainable obsession. 

The only solace was that Xuandushan and Huanyue Sect, although they made no motion of accepting Yang Guang’s good graces, they also didn’t seem interested in getting closer to the crown prince.

Looking at Shen Qiao’s handsome and kind side profile, Yang Guang felt defeated, as well as resentful.

Shen Qiao had saved his life, this he was aware, that year when that scoundrel Chen Gong abducted him to escape the palace, it was Shen Qiao who intercepted and saved him, but Yang Guang felt that in these years his parents had given back enough to Xuandushan, enough to settle the debt of saving his life, so in the depths of his heart, he didn’t feel particularly indebted to Shen Qiao, this interval of fate between them was for Yang Guang more useful as leverage to gain a closer allegiance, so that Xuandushan would be more inclined towards him.

It was a pity, Shen Qiao was always tepid, Xuandushan when it came to Lord Jin, also kept their distance.

Thoughts were thoughts, but Yang Guang wouldn’t dare display any sign of discontent: “Zhenren is too humble, with respect to the martial generations of the jianghu, Yu Xiu is your wanbei, it’s only natural for him to receive pointers from you, if you don’t want to, of course I won’t force you, in a few days is the Chongyang Festival, I’ve already indicated to his highness that on that day I’ll be hosting a banquet on Cuihuashan, would zhenren be willing to grace that banquet with your presence, this lord would surely provide an enthusiastic welcome!”

Pausing here, he thought Shen Qiao might decline on account of there being too many people there, and so pointedly added: “There will be no extra guests at the banquet, only prominent members of the Buddhist and Daoist sects from the capital, in the conversational style of the Wei Jin scholars, it will be an elegant affair!”

Shen Qiao was apologetic: “It’s a shame, today this poor one will set off to return to Xuandushan, in a couple more days I’ll probably have arrived back on Xuandushan, it will be impossible for me to attend, I hope Lord Jin will not blame me.”

Rage flashed across Yang Guang’s face, but he recovered quickly, smiling, he drained the tea from his cup in one gulp: “It’s me who’s made things difficult, zhenren need not pay it any attention.”

Only after Yang Guang and Yu Xiu had taken their leave, did someone from behind the pillar speak up idly: “You’ve really insulted him.”

Shen Qiao didn’t bother turning his head, he took a few more sips of his tea, and said: “And yet Yan-zongzhu will hide inside like a turtle retreating into its shell, forcing me to be the bad guy.”

Yan Wushi laughed: “Who let Shen-daozhang be the one to carry all the compassion for the world, his heart every kindness, if I made an appearance, then that Yu Xiu would probably have been unable to leave through Xuanduguan’s front doors!”

Shen Qiao gave him a look, and didn’t say more.

Yan Wushi bent over, his lips ghosting his cheek, then traced their way across, leaving a trail of hot breath, stopping finally by Shen Qiao’s ear.

“I wanted to return on time to spend Qixi with you, but I wasn’t able to make it, at least I won’t miss winter solstice.”

Shen Qiao was slightly flushed, who knew if he was overwhelmed by the heat of the other’s breath or by sheer embarrassment.

“You were gone a long while this time.”

Yan Wushi chuckled lowly, and continued to flirt with him: “So Shen-daozhang missed me?”

Shen Qiao was struck by this, his blush deepening: “You know that’s not what I meant…”

“Then what do you mean?” Yan Wushi seemed to derive great joy from teasing him, and also seemed to be very interested in his ear, he bit it and wouldn’t let go, the shell of his ear to his earlobe, was quickly licked wet and teased, Shen Qiao’s body was frozen in place, as if someone cast a spell on him, immobilizing him completing. 

“Did you…” With difficulty he summoned conscious thought, “go deep into Tujue territory?”

“No, I went to Goguryeo.” Yan Wushi could still spit out a full sentence, because it was his hands that were occupied exploring an unmentionable place, encountering no resistance he did as he pleased. 

Shen Qiao: “Goguryeo? What were you…doing there?”

Yan Wushi: “They grow ginseng there, it’s one of the commodities that Huanyue Sect does business in, I took a detour to east Tujue, and decided to go since it’s along the way, Duan Wenyang is doing pretty good in east Tujue, Tulan Qaghan values his talents, he can be considered the second Hulugu.”

Shen Qiao shook his head: “His heart is not in martial arts cultivation, so he will never become the second Hulugu, but that monk Yu Xiu just now, he’s very interesting.”

Yan Wushi: “What, I’m not enough for you, you still want the monk?” 

In short order Shen Qiao became completely red, he gaped, upset and wanting to dispute this, but not knowing where to begin, he was truly pitiful and very cute.

Yan Wushi couldn’t help but roar with laughter, he picked up the person horizontally, and carried him inside.

The author would like to say:

This extra contains some foreshadowing, but won’t get into extensively, only briefly touch upon some things, after all this is an extra, saccharine is the focus, the plot is secondary ~~

Extra 12

The night of the winter solstice, the lanterns were all hung up.

Under the eaves the tiny orbs of light, seeping through the thin red paper, forming a red trail, illuminating the entire courtyard.

The snow continued its descent, not heavy-handed nor a fine dusting, enough to turn the world white, there was a thick layer forming on the rooftop, the ground and the trees also.

Martial artists were not affected by the cold, the door was open, no errant wind tracking the snow in, sitting indoors, with underground heating, they could enjoy the snowy scenery, two birds with one stone.

This was not Xuanduguan, but Chang’an Shaoshi Manor, now renamed Guogong Manor.

After Yang Jian ascended to the throne, like Yuwen Yong before him, he conferred the title of shaoshi upon Yan Wushi, with the rank of guogong, truth be told everyone knew this was merely a title, anything would do, even if it was general or some lordship, Yan Wushi was still Yan Wushi, Huanyue Sect was still Huanyue Sect, no one could change that.

Compared to Yuwen Yong, Yang Jian was more aware that in this world, not everything was decided by the emperor alone, there were still many noble families and bloodlines, their established histories and influence, even the emperor had to lend his ear, in order to breakthrough the influence of these powerful families, Yang Jian announced a revision to the imperial examination system to enter civil service that had been in place since Wei-Jin, so that suffering scholars everywhere could access the imperial exams as a step towards advancing themselves.

Under this new system, the power of the original officials in charge of selection no longer existed, this power had been returned to the emperor, the scholars were happy, the noble families not so much, to contend against their massive influence, for this long interim, it was impossible for Yang Jian to part ways with Huanyue Sect.

As for Xuandushan, as a cornerstone of the Daoist sects today, it was preferable to have them close rather than to give them up, as the founding emperor of a dynasty, Yang Jian naturally recognized this point, under the pretext of preferential treatment of the Buddhist sects, he didn’t neglect the Daoist sects, his intention was that between these two large authorities they would hold each other in check, on the other hand, he also supported the Ru sects, intending to compete with Chen, drawing up the talent from the south.

The power differential between the north and the south grew more apparent each day, a clash seemed inevitable, people’s allegiances seemed to waver, there were indeed no small number of scholars from the south who came to Chang’an, to participate in the northern dynasty’s imperial examinations.

The circumstances of the northern dynasty were good, many people believed, unless something drastic happened, after the Wei-Jin splitting of the central plains, the world was about to welcome another era of unification.

At this moment, the person sitting in Shaoshi Manor, facing the snowy courtyard, did not appear very happy.

That was because in front him was a bowl of dumplings.

To be precise, it was a bowl of lamb soup base dumplings, with sweet tangyuan.

Shen Qiao frowned, faced with this bowl of “hybrid-non-look-alike”, he didn’t know how to react.

A person walked out from behind the folding screen, seeing his expression, laughed: “Winter solstice is akin to the new year, in the north they eat dumplings, in the south tangyuan, in the Chuan region lamb soup, now all three varieties are represented, for you the world’s finest are gathered, why are you unhappy about it?”

Shen Qiao shook his head: “I don’t enjoy eating it like this, tangyuan ought to be sweet, how can it be mixed into lamb soup? Did someone come up with this to garner favour with the emperor?”

Yan Wushi clapped his hands: “Your guess is right, this year at the winter solstice banquet, Lord Jin came up with this to suck up to the emperor, he even named this dish “unity soup”, implying the unification of every region, Yang Jian was quite pleased, and rewarded him handsomely at the time, the crown prince was there too, his expression was something else!”

The winter solstice banquet had been held yesterday, Shen Qiao hadn’t been in the capital yesterday and had not attended, Yan Wushi had gone however, to him, it was like attending a piece of theatre.

Shen Qiao’s small exhale was visible in the air: “When they become an adult, their motivations grow complicated, Lord Jin speaks better than the crown prince, to receive more attention in front of his parents is only natural, I’ve seen that his expression is heavy, between his brows there is a viciousness, I fear he will not be content staying in the position of Lord Jin for long.”

Yan Wushi, a small smirk: “So when he was small his motivations were uncomplicated?”

Hearing this Shen Qiao recalled the sword that Yang Guang had thrust violently into Chen Gong.

“Does the emperor intend to rename the crown prince?”

Anyone else hearing this controversial topic would blanch, but for them it was just another triviality, a minor detail.

Yan Wushi: “For now maybe not, but who knows in the future, most likely, in the conquest next year against Chen, if Yang Jian and Dugu-shi favour Yang Guang, they will certainly make him the commander, to accrue more military accomplishments.”

He sat down opposite Shen Qiao, directly pulled him into his embrace, then bent his head to pick up a dumpling, taking a bite of it: “It’s not bad, come, let this husband feed you?”

Yan Wushi made a motion with the wooden spoon, of course Shen Qiao stopped him with a glare: “Yan-zongzhu, please respect yourself.”

No matter how many years had passed, this person’s face was still as thin as paper, unable to withstand the tiniest bit of teasing, but the more he was like this, the more Yan Wushi loved to tease him.

“What am I to do with all that self-respect, it’s too heavy, otherwise at night when I’m lying on top of you, you won’t be able to stand it.”

Before Shen Qiao could say anything else that could spoil the fun, Yan Wushi seized his chin, and passed him a mouthful of soup.

For a moment, all was still, except for the falling snow outside, and the movement of lips and tongues inside.

After a long while, Shen Qiao finally managed to push aside the person that “clung” to him, out of breath he huffed: “We were having a normal conversation, keep your hands to yourself!”

Yan Wushi: “This is more fun.”

Shen Qiao clearly did not agree to this definition of fun, the thing that made his expression sour was in fact the lingering aftertaste of lamb soup.

This type of tangyuan-dumpling lamb soup…made people run away while declining politely.

It can be imagined that at the winter solstice banquet, there was no shortage of people unaccustomed to this “unity soup”, but they were too focused on the emperor’s good spirits, and didn’t dare say anything.

Shen Qiao sighed: “When it comes to ruling as emperor, Yang Jian can be considered quite clear-headed, this leads me to believe that I was not wrong in my choice, but when it comes to his children, he appears quite confused, since the titles have already been conferred, he should not be so obvious with his preference of his second son in front of everyone, this will put the eldest son in a difficult position.”

Yan Wushi moved to touch him, seeing the other quickly retract his hands into his sleeves, gave a pitiful expression, then said: “It’s not hard to understand, many smart people, often on one thing will be blinded by the light, Yang Jian and Dugu-shi are like this, if things continue, a fight will be enacted eventually among the brothers, since antiquity, the royal family has no brothers, it’s hardly uncommon.”

Shen Qiao: “The crown prince’s personality is a bit weak, if he ascends the throne, he’ll still follow precedent, but it’s hard to say with Yang Guang, when I read his person…”

He shook his head and didn’t continue, only saying: “Sometimes it’s not good to be too smart, smart people feel like the world exists for them alone, they feel excessively lonely, and compelled to accomplish some thing, ultimately exhausting others and themselves, if the crown prince is renamed, for the Yang family, for the world, it may not turn out to be a good thing.”

Yan Wushi laughed: “A-Qiao, are you talking about me?”

Shen Qiao gave him a look: “Is Yan-zongzhu like this?”

Yan Wushi: “Not necessarily, after all I’m much smarter than Yang Guang.”

A smile slipped out from Shen Qiao.

When he smiled, his eyes curved, a blow to the heart.

Yan Wushi believed that even if he stood in the pouring rain, seeing this smile, he’d forget every misfortune, even the heavens and earth would become gentler.

“That Yu Xiu, he’s not quite what he seems.”

Yan Wushi had begun to imagine the beauty in his arms tonight, and where he wanted to lavish his affections, he replied absentmindedly: “Naturally not, I had Bian Yanmei look into it, from the information gathered so far, this person’s birth is like Duan Wenyang, mixed ancestry.”

Shen Qiao: “He is part Tujue?”

Yan Wushi nodded: “The events are very interesting, a person of part Tujue ancestry enters the Buddhist sects, becoming a Buddist disciple, and he sticks to Lord Jin’s side, his relationship with Lord Jin is ambiguous, the Sui dynasty and Tujue have a poor relationship, but Lord Jin has a half-Tujue monk by his side, what do you think he intends to do? Isn’t this a very interesting thing?”

Shen Qiao suffered no small a shock: “You’re saying…Yu Xiu and Lord Jin, have that kind of relationship?”

Yan Wushi bit back: “Surely you saw it?”

Shen Qiao was still digesting this piece of information: “I really wasn’t thinking in this direction…”

Yan Wushi clicked his tongue: “It’s because of your inexperience, that even this you weren’t able to notice.”

Shen Qiao: “…”

Yan Wushi: “It looks like this venerable one will have to take it upon myself to use my own body to teach you.”

Shen Qiao: “…”

Extra 13

Whether Yu Xiu was really entangled with Lord Jin, Shen Qiao wasn’t sure, perhaps Yan Wushi simply found him annoying, these were all trivial details, the important thing was that Yan Wushi’s words revealed a startling bit of news: that Tujue, the Buddhist sects, Lord Jin, these three were connected, it made Shen Qiao realize something he hadn’t before.

The current crown prince Yang Yong did not align with Buddhism, he preferred to converse and debate with Ru scholars, the Buddhist sects did not want to see their influence confined only to Yang Jian’s generation, so they had to hedge their bets on the next generation, they sent their best disciples to establish ties with Lord Jin, it was not an unusual gesture, if it wasn’t for the fact that Shen Qiao did not like Lord Jin’s character, perhaps he would have liked to see Shiwu and Yuwen Song friendly with the crown prince or Lord Jin.

The unusual thing was, Yu Xiu had Tujue blood, and the Buddhist sects likely had not realized this fact, which may lead people to wonder.

Shen Qiao, deep in thought: “Could it be a coincidence?”

Yan Wushi: “Yu Xiu lost his mother at age five, entered Tiantai Sect at age seven, Ronghe Village is separated from the outer regions by a mere wall, every year they’d be subject to Tujue’s skirmishes, Yu Xiu’s origins are no secret, the year he turned six, Ronghe Village suffered a massive drought, many people succumbed, those left were displaced, and it’s because of this that Bian Yanmei could follow the evidence trail to reveal all this.”

“What’s even more interesting,” Yan Wushi said, “when the drought happened, he was no longer in Ronghe Village.”

Shen Qiao knew there was more to the story, and patiently waited for the other to continue.

Yan Wushi: “After his mother died, the village people bullied him, one night he disappeared, even in the Ronghe Village drought after, he did not reappear, the villagers assumed that after he left he either starved to death or was carried off by wild beasts.”

Shen Qiao: “A small child, a thousand li from north to south, safely arriving at Tiantai Sect, this is quite an impossible task, unless someone helped him along the way.”

Yan Wushi: “The one who helped him, was Yuwen-shi.”

Shen Qiao: “Which Yuwen-shi?”

Yan Wushi: “Princess Dayi.”

Shen Qiao was surprised.

Princess Dayi was the princess of northern Zhou, at the time of the regime change she’d already been married into Tujue, as the wife of Tujue’s Ishbara Qaghan, at Yuwen-shi’s urging Tujue had a battle with the new Sui dynasty, Tujue lost, last year after Ishbara’s death, following Tujue custom she married Tulan Qaghan, currently she was still the Tujue Khatun.

Yan Wushi: “Yuwen-shi sees Yang Jian as the traitor who overturned Zhou, she wants him dead as soon as possible, but currently she doesn’t hold enough power, and had to bow her head to Yang Jian in the interim, plotting for the future in the dark, this Yu Xiu, is but one of her pieces on the board in the grand scheme.”

Yuwen-shi towards Yang Jian harboured personal and political resentment, fanning the flames of Tujue’s declaration of war against Sui proved futile, but her ties to Yu Xiu proved that she would not rest easy, she would only alter her strategy, using more covert tactics to shake up the foundation of Sui.

The current Sui was flourishing, if they were to declare war against Chen, leading troops south, victory would be imminent, the vision of Sui unifying the region was on the horizon, Tujue was undergoing internal strife, at the moment they had no potential to counter Sui, but the inner workings of Sui also had its weak points, for example between Yang Jian’s two sons, Yang Jian and Dugu-shi’s preference for the younger son, Yang Guang’s own ambitions, for the position of crown prince there would inevitably a struggle.

If Yu Xiu could stay by Yang Guang and plot a way forward, help him win the throne, he’d be certain to win Yang Guang’s trust, then gradually, step by step gain more influence with Yang Guang.

Logically, if Yang Jian’s generation could achieve unity in the region, then what the next sovereign should do would be to consolidate Yang Jian’s hard-won spoils, draw in the different factions, but with Yang Guang’s personality, it’d be unlikely he would settle for being a conservative ruler, if there was someone then that could fan the flames, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the direction things were headed in.

Shen Qiao in these years had been immersed in all sorts of matters, and he understood the inner mechanisms of these events, now he was lost in thought, finally he inhaled sharply: “What a plan: every step measured, the water forms the canal!”

Cuihuashan, on the outskirts of the capital, the two of them stood at the summit on a precipice,   against the wind, they looked towards the capital.

Here there were strange rock outcroppings, the mountain inclined stiffly, no matter how beautiful the scenery on Cuihuashan, most nobles and officials had their residences built at the mountainbase or mid-way, so up here there were few signs of human life, but on account of the plentiful greenery, the distant birdsong, it didn’t feel forlorn.

Below them, the landscape was exquisite, since Yang Jian’s ascension, Chang’an grew increasingly prosperous, its golden era was in sight, Shen Yan these two however had already forseen what was to come in the next few decades.

Yan Wushi stood with his hands clasped behind him, said blandly: “This is no small scheme of Yuwen-shi, but even if she’s able to overturn Sui so what, there’s no one left in the Yuwen family that can restore their country, just by herself as a woman married off to Tujue, it’s an empty threat!”

Shen Qiao sighed: “For the populace this peace was hard to come by, I really do hope it isn’t disturbed.”

Yan Wushi: “Yang Jian is a capable leader, but Sui’s fortune will likely not persist past two generations.”

Shen Qiao, surprised: “How can you be so certain?”

Yan Wushi asked him instead: “A-Qiao didn’t say anything contrary, doesn’t that mean you agree with what I said?”

Shen Qiao: “Xuandushan as a hundred-year Daoist sect has some knowledge when it comes to the reading of faces, I’ve examined Yang Yong’s face, prosperous to be sure, but not the face of a sovereign, Yang Guang may have the emperor’s sign in abundance, measures of the same, but…”

He shook his head, and did not continue.

Yan Wushi smiled: “There’s no need for face reading, see, if someone wanted to overthrow Sui, they must find a way for Yang Guang to ascend the throne, Yang Guang’s character is very different from Yang Yong, after he ascends he will pursue grand ambitions, when the time comes it can be Yu Xiu or any other cat or dog, as long as a war happens externally, it will drain the country’s finances, leading to dissatisfaction at the lowest rungs of society, and with Yang Jian having revised the imperial examination system, the nobles are already offended, so when the time comes the nobles and peasants will rise together against the emperor, where would this dynasty find the luck to survive, a changeover is to be expected.”

Shen Qiao was struck by his description of the events to come, he was silent for a long time.

All of this sounded alarming, but it wasn’t impossible.

Yan Wushi had never taken up a role in court, but his judgement was scathing, it’d be rare to find an equivalent in the world, and the more advanced Shen Qiao’s cultivation, the more accomplished he was in divination, the strand of fate that he had caught a glimpse of matched up exactly with what Yan Wushi had said.

Shen Qiao: “A lifetime two fortunes three fengshui, fate cannot be altered, but luck comes later, it’s not all inevitable.”

Yan Wushi: “If Yang Guang is willing to stay honest, and not harbour any will against us, even if it’s him that ascends the throne, Huanyue Sect can continue to work with him, but if he resents us for not willing to establish close ties now, and seek out revenge, then all of the perils lying in wait around him now will sink their teeth into him.”

Shen Qiao, in realization: “So that’s why you haven’t moved against Yu Xiu!”

Yan Wushi smiled: “That’s right, looking at it from this angle, Yu Xiu’s origins, what does it have to do with you and I?”

Shen Qiao slowly let out a breath, and let his eyes wander back to the far horizon.

Huanyue Sect followed Yang Jian’s orders, but they had a working relationship, and not one of subordination, Yang Jian was very aware of this, so he and Yan Wushi worked well together, Yan Wushi was happy to help him eliminate inconveniences and threats, but if Yang Jian’s successor did not understand this point, Yan Wushi’s character was not one to dwell on past sentiments.

If possible, Shen Qiao hoped for peace in the world, that there would never be again the chaos of war and displacement, that commonfolk could live out their lives undisturbed.

But he was also aware that this was impossible.

Just as a person had a lifespan, dynasties had their own lifespan, Sui’s span was perhaps a hundred years, or fifty, this was not decided at its founding, but with the decisions made by each generation’s sovereign, fortune and disaster countering each other, that lifespan would start to change, affecting the rise and fall of this dynasty.

What Yang Jian left to his descendants, how would that measure up in the span of the Sui dynasty?

Shen Qiao couldn’t help but think.

He thought he finally managed to assist a capable sovereign to the throne, but perhaps this was only the beginning.

Shen Qiao felt some regret, but it abated quickly.

Tides waxed and waned, clouds curled and unravelled, flowers bloomed and withered, it had been thus since the creation of the world, facing it all with equanimity, one could stand undefeated.

“What are you thinking?” Yan Wushi asked.

Shen Qiao smiled: “I’m thinking of taking a trip down south soon, I hear at the southernmost tip there are interesting rock formations, as if they were the corner of sky and sea, a most remarkable view, one can even see the vast and majestic tides, it must be very beautiful.”

Yan Wushi raised a brow: “Shen-daozhang will go alone?”

Shen Qiao: “Would Yan-zongzhu be willing to accompany this poor one?”

Yan Wushi: “This venerable one will think about it.”

Shen Qiao found this extremely funny, his mouth curved into a smile.

In the distance, the broad and open skies, a bright vitality, the beautiful landscape continued on.

This was the beginning of a dynasty, and also the beginning of an era.

There would be struggle and chaos, but also burning brilliance.


A number of years ago.

Xuandushan.

“I’m older than you, you have to call me shixiong!” Yu Ai had hold of Shen Qiao’s clothes and wasn’t willing to let go, Shen Qiao tried valiantly to walk away, but Yu Ai was like a tail behind him, the two of them one in front one behind entered the hall.

“No, Xuandushan rules state the order is from the time the disciple enters training, I am the shixiong!” Young Shen Qiao was kind, but on this point he refused to budge.

A tearing sound, Yu Ai used too much force, and had torn Shen Qiao’s clothes.

The two of them were immediately struck dumb.

Seeing Shen Qiao’s rapidly reddening eyes, Yu Ai didn’t know what to do: “I, I didn’t do it on purpose!”

Shen Qiao choked back a sob: “These clothes were made by shizun…”

A warm hand settled on his head and patted it, the other knelt down, and embraced both Shen Qiao and Yu Ai.

“What happened?”

Like seeing a family member, Shen Qiao burrowed his head into the other’s shoulder, crying: “Yu Ai ripped my clothes.”

Yu Ai knew he was in the wrong, lowered his head and didn’t speak.

Qi Fengge, a comforting smile: “It’s ok, it’s only split in one place, this teacher will mend it for you, today your Lin-shibo’s disciple, Zhou-shixiong is headed down the mountain to train, you two go send him off on my behalf, wipe your tears quickly!”

Shen Qiao was a good kid, hearing this he hurriedly wiped his tears with his sleeve, he raised his head and asked: “Will Zhou-shixiong be in any danger going down the mountain?”

Qi Fengge: “No, your Zhou-shixiong’s wugong is enough for self-preservation, our Xuandushan doesn’t wade into external affairs, but if a disciple requests to leave the mountain for training, it’s up to them, it’s not mandatory to train on the mountain all the time.”

Shen Qiao Yu Ai hearing this, had expressions of envy.

In their eyes, if someone could leave the mountain to train, it meant they were very accomplished already.

“Shizun, in the future would I be able to descend the mountain to train like Zhou-shixiong?”

Qi Fengge smiled: “Of course, just wait until you are fifteen, then you can make a request to descend the mountain. When you leave the mountain, what would you both like to do?”

Yu Ai snuck a glance at Shen Qiao, then averted his eyes quickly, in a quiet voice he said: “I want to leave the mountain to make money, and buy tangren for A-Qiao, make him happy, so he’s no longer mad at me.”

Truly a child’s words, Qi Fengge couldn’t hold back his smile.

“And what about A-Qiao?”

Shen Qiao considered this: “I might use the wugong that shizun taught me, to help the good guys, beat bad guys. But can I only leave the mountain for a month before I come back?”

How to distinguish between the good and the bad, more child talk, but Qi Fengge wasn’t disappointed, instead he inquired warmly: “Why return after only a month?”

Shen Qiao was a bit embarrassed: “Because I don’t want to be apart from shizun and shixiongdi for too long, I want everyone to stay together happily every day, for a long time.”

The wind swept past, the blooming tree swayed, these words were left in the passing years.

Trees do not speak, the sentiments remain.

—The End—

The author would like to say:

The last section was a timeskip, like a memory, not its own extra.

Most likely, <Qianqiu> main text and extras will end here, thank you everyone who has walked alongside these jianghu hours.

Sword glint and shadow, we will not age, sentiment remains.

See you in the next.
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