Chapter 33: Hiding under Sect Master Yan’s shelter… A stray dog lives a better life than you.
There were four stages in sword arts: Sword Energy, Sword Intent, Sword Heart, and Sword Spirit.
The amateurs saw a man using inner qi to wield his sword and its sword energy running boundless, and they thought the man must have profound skills, when in fact it was only the first stage to the unfathomable realm of sword arts.
Of course, not everyone could achieve the first stage of Sword Energy so easily. Some people spent their entire lives searching for it and yet they still couldn’t find the way in. Most people still depended on countering their opponents through sword moves and techniques in order to win. Shen Qiao too did not find his way easily. Previously, he had been pushed by Yan Wushi to his limit and lingered between the edge of life and death, and only after he found a way out the impasse was he finally able to comprehend the Sword Intent.
Since Li Qingyu had already reached the stage of Sword Intent at such a young age, one could see just how incredible his aptitude towards martial arts was.
However, it might have something to do with the fact that he had just comprehended the Sword Intent and was still inexperienced, or perhaps because he hadn’t reached that stage yet at that time, that he would lose to Yu Ai by a hair’s breadth on Mount Xuandu.
All in all, the two words, “Sword Intent”, were enough to make everyone view Li Qingyu a little differently.
On top of Yi Bichen who was already one of the Top Ten, there now was Li Qingyu. The rise of the Chunyang Daoist Temple was simply unstoppable.
Duan Wenyang didn’t just resign to his defeat. Even though he couldn’t figure out which “shadow image” was the real Li Qingyu for a period of time, but instead of trying to identify the images, he chose to thrash his whip at the floor and use the counterforce to leap high into the air. He jumped at the branch next to him, his whip wrapping itself around the branch as he himself immediately tapped on the tree with his foot. He then turned around and dived down right at Li Qingyu. The afterimages left by his whip spread out layer upon layer, covering all the shadow images below!
Before his body arrived, his inner qi was already coming down together with the images of his whip, shrouding the entire space underneath it. No matter which “shadow image” was the real Li Qingyu, one thing was certain: he must first break through the “wall” which Duan Wenyang had constructed around him in order to resolve the passive situation he was in.
However, just like the impression Duan Wenyang left on others, his inner qi was confident and unrestrained, yet at the same time, it was unreasonable and tyrannical. It was everywhere, but at the same time, like climbing a precipice covered with ice, or finding an antelope hiding among the trees, there was no place to start. It went in with every opening, yet there was no trace to be found. The inner qi was simply unstoppable.
Rolled up by the inner qi, the leaves in the courtyard all parted their branches and started to circle around the two of them rapidly, wrapping them inside and leaving the others blind to the battle progress within.
No one knew what feelings those who were battling right now had, but the onlookers were all extremely nervous.
Those from the Chunyang Daoist Temple knew that Li Qingyu was a tough swordsman, but they still feared the possibility of unexpected results, especially Su Qiao. He had just fought with Duan Wenyang in person a moment ago, and he knew better than anyone else how strong that man was. It was still unclear whether his martial brother could win the battle or not.
If Duan Wenyang defeated Li Qingyu, probably no one else present would be his match. By that time, whether they could take away Su Wei’s cousin and her husband was just a small matter. If news got out, it would definitely boost the Tujue people’s morale while reducing the Central Plains’, which was probably the reason why they had chosen today to pick a fight.
Just when Su Qiao was coming up with all these conjectures, the fallen leaves around them suddenly stopped and fell back to the ground.
The two of them were standing face to face. Li Qingyu was still standing where he was when he started, but the sword he held originally dropped not far from him, while Duan Wenyang’s whip was still in his hand.
Both of them looked absolutely normal without any sign of injuries. Li Qingyu’s face was expressionless, and Duan Wenyang looked the same as before.
Everyone felt a little confused.
Duan Wenyang broke into a laugh and spoke first, “Just as I expected, Mister Li’s reputation is well-deserved. Being able to reach the stage of ‘Sword Intent’ at such a young age, your future prospects must be limitless. I’m willing to admit my defeat!”
Li Qingyu said slowly, “I’m not your match. There’s nothing for me to say.”
Everyone was shocked by the conversation, their eyes wandering back and forth between Duan Wenyang and Li Qingyu.
One of them said “willing admit my defeat”, while the other person said “not your match”. So who was the winner after all? And who lost?
Duan Wenyang laughed, “I was coming to ask for Yuan Xiong’s family, but I was granted the chance to exchange martial arts with one of the most famous contemporary new talents. At least my trip wasn’t wasted this time!”
Xie Xiang suddenly spoke up, “If Brother Duan wishes to continue, the Linchuan Institute would be more than willing to keep your company.”
Duan Wenyang looked around. Clasping his hands behind his back, he said in absolute arrogance, “Oh? What can the Linchuan Institute do? I might give it a thought if Ruyan Kehui himself comes over, but you’re definitely not my match. I heard that there was going to be a gathering of talented martial artists here. The Linchuan Institute, the Chunyang Daoist Temple, and the Six Harmonies Association are all far-famed sects and associations in the pugilistic circle of the Central Plains. To my surprise, there are too many exaggerations in the rumors that these sects are better known by repute than in face. Among all people present, only Mister Li is worthy enough to be my opponent, and the rest are not worth thinking much of.”
He paused a little bit and continued, “Ah, I almost forgot. There is also Sect Leader Shen. Your skill might be better than theirs, but that was before your defeat in the hand of my junior martial brother, Kunye. The Shen Qiao right now is just a tiger without its teeth. What was that saying that you people from the Central Plains had? Oh, if a tiger went down to level land, even dogs could assault him. Look at you right now. Not only are you unable to return to Mount Xuandu, you even have to hide under Sect Master Yan’s shelter. A stray dog lives a better life than you. If I were you, I wouldn’t have the face to live in this world anymore, and I probably would have killed myself out of shame a long time ago!”
He had a smile on his face, but the eyes he was looking at Shen Qiao with were utterly cold and indifferent.
Obviously, Shen Qiao was no longer an “opponent” in his eyes, but rather an insignificant “passerby” or even “trash”.
It was extreme public humiliation. Puliuru Jian felt that he would not have been able to tolerate it himself if it happened to him. Yet Shen Qiao only stood there looking so docile and meek as if he didn’t hear it, looking more like he had fallen asleep while standing. The kind of endurance and self-cultivation he had was simply impressive, but at the same time, it made people look down on him.
Xie Xiang could watch Duan Wenyang humiliating Shen Qiao with cold eyes, but he couldn’t ignore the fact that this person regarded the Linchuan Institute as worthless. Judging by the way Duan Wenyang said it, it seemed like he only thought the Chunyang Daoist Temple worthy to be his opponent and made little of all the rest of the sects. Xie Xiang responded with a sneer and was about to justify his anger.
But Su Wei suddenly spoke up, “Duan Wenyang, you’ve made my mother’s birthday party your personal training ground and brought enough mess to it already. Since you came as a representative of the Empress, I’ll definitely report what happened here today to the Emperor and seek justice from His Highness. Now, I request you to please leave this place immediately.”
Duan Wenyang laughed heartily, “I’ve already experienced Mister Li’s Sword Intent and am very satisfied. Even if the Duke of Meiyang District hadn’t ordered me out, I was going to leave myself anyway. But I’m sure we’ll meet again soon!”
Upon finishing, he turned around and left at once. Unable to stand it anymore, Xie Xiang shouted, “Stop there! Xie Xiang from the Linchuan Institute would like to ask Brother Duan for your advice!”
Before his voice faded, he had already unsheathed his sword, and his body turned into a rainbow charging toward Duan Wenyang!
However, Duan Wenyuan seemed to be expecting such an action from him. Without even looking back, he tapped on the ground and leaped right onto the roof. Then he disappeared without a trace, leaving only a lingering laugh behind him: “Mister Xie wants to use me to make a name for yourself, but please excuse me for not wishing to keep you company. I’ll wait till you also reach the stage of ‘Sword Intent’! Hahaha!”
Xie Xiang lost his target. He had no choice but to retrieve his sword and land back onto the ground, gazing in hatred at the direction where the other person had disappeared.
On the other side, someone suddenly exclaimed, “Mister Li, are you alright?”
Everyone immediately turned their heads to where the voice came from. Li Qingyu took out a handkerchief and spat some bloody spittle on it. He shook his head: “I’m fine, just some internal injuries. A few days of rest would be enough.”
Only then did the other people realize what he meant by “I’m not his match.” If Li Qingyu wasn’t Duan Wenyang’s match even after he had comprehended the Sword Intent, then to what extent could that Tujue man’s martial arts be? Would he become the second Hulugu?
They all looked at each other with ghastly expressions at the thought of it.
Xie Xiang felt his heart sinking as well.
He believed that his aptitude wasn’t bad, and over the years when he was traveling in the pugilistic world, the opponents he had encountered gave him an illusion that even if he couldn’t make it to the Top Ten, he wouldn’t be far from it. However, all of a sudden, experts sprung out one after another. First there was Li Qingyu who had already comprehended the “Sword Intent”. Then there was Duan Wenyang who was even stronger than Li Qingyu. It was said that ‘The new generation excelled the old’, but even within the current generation, the new people were already replacing the older ones, like the constant discovery of taller mountains.
He felt slightly depressed, while on the other side, Li Qingyu had already walked over to Shen Qiao. “Sect Leader Shen.”
Shen Qiao said, “Shen is no longer the sect leader. Mister Li doesn’t need to address me like this.”
Li Qingyu ignored him and continued by himself, “I’ve already comprehended the stage of Sword Intent, yet I’m still slightly inferior to Duan Wenyang. Could it be that his junior martial brother Kunye is even stronger than Duan Wenyang?”
Shen Qiao shook his head and answered, “Kunye is strong, but not as good as Duan Wenyang.”
Li Qingyu said, “Back in those years, Qi Fengge was the best martial artist in the world. I always looked up to his martial arts and his bearings. However, Sect Leader Shen, as the mantle disciple of his, you couldn’t even defeat Kunye.”
Shen Qiao didn’t say anything.
Li Qingyu softly sighed, “‘ When you were born, I was not. When I was born, you were already old.’ What a pity that I couldn’t witness Qi Fengge’s martial arts and his bearings myself! I once thought that there would be qualified successors in Mount Xuandu to carry on his legacies, but, what a misfortune, what a misfortune!”
His face was still indifferent as usual. But when he said the word “misfortune”, one could really feel the sense of regret in his voice which couldn’t have been more sincere.
This was a person who followed the Way of martial arts with utmost sincerity. He would not belittle those who were only mediocre in aptitude or those who were unable to study under a good master. From Li Qingyu’s point of view, Shen Qiao had the advantage of both: he was way ahead of others in both aptitude and education along with the training he received later, yet he still ended up like this. Therefore, not only did he look down on Shen Qiao, there was also a faint anger that resulted from extreme disappointment.
First there came Duan Wenyang’s contempt, then Li Qingyu’s sigh, not to mention all the strange looks from people all around him. Anyone with pride and guts, if not burst with anger, would have at least pulled their faces and felt too ashamed to stay at this place any longer.
However, Shen Qiao was simply able to endure what normal people couldn’t, or perhaps he wasn’t enduring anything at all. He was not shaken even a bit; his face as calm as usual. In fact, he even nodded and agreed to what Li Qingyu said, “Master indeed had extraordinary bearings, and few could compare with him. It was a pity that Mister Li didn’t have the chance to see him when he was alive. Otherwise, with Mister Li’s astounding talents, Master surely would have appreciated you very much.”
Even Puliuru Jian had to respect Shen Qiao’s self-restraint for the fact that he was able to say something like while at the same time playing down and eventually avoiding the other person’s judgement at him.
Li Qingyu didn’t seem to be expecting such a reaction from Shen Qiao. He only said flatly, “You were a fine man, why did you choose to dance with the devil thus abandoning yourself?”
The “devil” he was referring to was Yan Wushi of course.
Shen Qiao was the sect leader of a Daoist Sect, but he ended up tagging along with a “devil” like Yan Wushi– a degenerate for sure in other people’s eyes.
However, Yan Wushi, the sect master of a demonic sect in other martial artists’ eyes, was in fact the Junior Preceptor of the Crown Prince appointed by the Emperor. Puliuru Jian frowned. Before Shen Qiao could answer, he interjected, “Mister Li’s skill is superb, and Jian admires you very much. However, the more talented a person is, the more modest and open-minded he should be. Mister Shen’s health is not good, and he hasn’t offended you in any way. I don’t think it’s right for someone coming from a prestigious sect to be so outrightly aggressive and provocative when starting a conversation.”
Ling Qingyu glanced at Puliuru Jian. He didn’t say anything, nor did he intend to stay longer. He turned around and decided to leave right away.
Su Wei stopped him. He first bowed toward Ling Qingyu, then said out loud, “The birthday party today has turned out a little disappointing due to an unwelcome guest, and we take full blame for that. I couldn’t thank you all enough for standing up for us and helping us out. Since my brother is injured, I’m very sorry that we have to cancel the banquet. I apologize to all guests and promise that I’ll arrange another dinner some other day, so I hope you all could please forgive us.”
The incident today was out of everyone’s expectations. They naturally wouldn’t blame the host for it and even offered their consolations. Some of the aristocrats who were close to the Su Family were already discussing with him regarding the memorial to present to the Emperor about what happened.
Some other guests took their leave, while Ling Qingyu was guided by one of Lady Qin’s servant girls to the back to take a rest and treat his wound.
Puliuru Jian suggested to Shen Qiao, “Mister Shen, why don’t we leave too?”
Shen Qiao nodded, but before he said anything, something expected happened!
“I thought of a good idea before I left. Since you all refused to turn in Yuan Xiong and his wife, I’ll just invite Lady Qin over to my place first. Let’s see which person is more important to you — your mother or your cousin?!”
The voice sounded from afar, but it came through so crisp and clear as if it was spoken right next to their ears. This skill to concentrate one’s voice into a beam was even harder than the art of Secret Acoustic, a more widely-known skill for sending one’s voice directly into another person’s ear without other people hearing it.
Su Qiao and Su Wei’s face changed in shock at once. The former was a pure scholar who didn’t even have the strength to truss a chicken, while the latter had just lost to Duan Wenyang a moment ago. His right hand was still temporarily disabled, but he didn’t have time to think that much and immediately charged towards the direction of his mother.
But before he was able to get close, he was suddenly thrown to the opposite direction and fell heavily onto the ground. The others couldn’t even tell how he was injured!
No one had expected that Duan Wenyang would return immediately after he had left!
Yet thinking about it carefully, he never agreed to give up taking Yuan Xiong and his wife with him when he left. Therefore, it was clearly part of his plan, and he didn’t go that far at all.
In such a critical moment, it would be useless to play with words anymore, scolding him for how despicable and shameless he was for not keeping his word. Let it be the pugilistic world or the imperial court, or even the political situation of the world as a whole, it all came down to the law of the jungle. Whoever had a bigger fist had the final say.
Therefore, the moment when Su Qiao was thrown to the side, Li Qingyu, Dou Yanshan, Xie Xiang and some of the others all lunged at the same time, trying to stop Duan Wenyang.
These people were all first-rate experts in the current world of martial arts. Even if there was still a difference between them and the Top Ten, they were not very far from it. Like Li Qingyu, he was probably already qualified to be listed among the Top Ten. He might have been slightly inferior to Duan Wenyang when they fought alone, but now, with several people launching attacks at the same time, there was no way that they would miss.
However, they had miscalculated.
Duan Wenyang didn’t go for Lady Qin. He changed his target in the middle and went straight for Su Wei!
Lady Qin was a disciple of Hulugu in her early years. Even though it had been many years since she last fought, her martial arts still wouldn’t be that bad. But Su Wei was different. This Duke of Meiyang District was a pure scholar who knew nothing of martial arts. Duan Weiyang’s movement was straightforward and crisp without any hesitation. He clearly had a plan in his mind and the words just now were just a bait.
They were already a little behind, and now they were stopped once again as the other person swung his sleeves and struck another palm. By the time they managed to attack again, Duan Wenyang’s fingers were already touching Su Wei’s neck. There was simply no way for them to save him in time.
Su Qiao let out a cry, “Brother!”
Lady Qin’s face changed drastically as she snapped, “Don’t hurt my son!”
But Duan Wenyang suddenly made a sound of surprise.
It was not because of Su Qiao and Lady Qin’s scolding, nor did it have anything to do with Li Qingyu and the others arriving on time.
A bamboo stick came out of nowhere and blocked him right from the front.
Duan Wenyang subconsciously reached out to push it away, but the stick was able to slide away each time like a mudfish. It was so slippery that it left people with no place to apply force. The inner qi rippled along the movement of the bamboo stick. It was not all that overbearing. Instead, it was soft, continuous, and vigorous, forcing Duan Wenyang to give up on Su Wei temporarily in order to concentrate on dealing with this opponent who had suddenly arrived.
When he saw who his opponent was at last, his face almost overflowed with surprise.