Chapter 40: Why not spend a night with me?
Separated from him by an alley, the clamor on the street along with those vendors’ noisy cries for customers gradually receded like the tide, until Shen Qiao could no longer hear anything.
He did not need to open his eyes to know that he was still standing in the same spot and had not suddenly switched locations.
However, there seemed to be an invisible power around him that was continuously affecting him, urging him to make an incorrect judgement, making him think that he was already elsewhere.
It was a rather curious feeling. When a person’s inner qi reached a certain level, it could even manipulate the surrounding space and confuse their opponent’s senses, causing them to feel disordered.
The other party had obviously chosen to announce their presence in such a way to pressure Shen Qiao, but since Shen Qiao could not sense any hostility from them, he did not move.
There was also the tinkling of jade pendants, sometimes afar as if from ten miles away and other times so close as if they were merely a few steps apart. The sound was coming at him from all directions, echoing in each and every inch of space, unrelenting like a shadow tailing its projection, or gangrene attached to the bone.
The jade clacked crisply and melodiously, but even a sound so pleasant to ears would inevitably incite an unsettling feeling inside people if they listened to it for a certain period of time. Shen Qiao held onto the bamboo stick and stood utterly still with his head down and eyes closed — almost as if he had fallen asleep.
Suddenly, he moved.
Like a quick thunder leaving no time for people to cover their ears, the bamboo stick darted forward!
Following the movement of his hand, his body also flew forward like an arrow leaving the bowstring, an image completely different from his usual sickly appearance. Similar to a leopard that had spotted an opening, he lunged accurately towards his target.
The place where the bamboo stick went towards clearly was an empty space, but as the stick charged with internal qi transformed into a white arc and reached that spot, the invisible barriers surrounding the space instantly shattered to pieces. The sounds that had been cut off poured back at once.
“Where is this expert from? Why not come out so we can meet each other?” he asked.
“I have waited long at the Linchuan Institute for my honored guest. Since he did not show up, I decided to come and greet him myself. I hope you would please forgive me for my rudeness just now.” A mild and warm voice approached from afar.
The other person didn’t try to hide the sound of his footsteps. Step by step, it pounded on people’s hearts, its sound clear and resonant like that of a chime.
Shen Qiao knew it was the result of a mixture of inner qi and illusion. Like how it “blocked” outside sound just now, it could intimidate the opponent and thus grant its user an advantage.
“So it is Master-in-Charge Ruyan. I have long heard of your name. It is my pleasure to meet you today.”
As the leader of the Confucian School and also one of the Top Three martial arts experts in the world, Ruyan Kehui’s name was known to the whole world, but he himself had a rather simple dress code. Plain cotton clothing, cloth shoes, with his hair wrapped in a piece of cloth and a quite average countenance — he would be just as normal as any other middle-aged man if he was placed in the crowds and he wouldn’t draw any extra attention.
However, at this very moment, as he strolled over so leisurely from the other end of the alley, no one could have doubted his identity.
Because not many in the world had the same kind of bearing he had.
“Back then when the news of Immortal Qi’s ascending to Heaven came, I was in a closed door meditation myself and couldn’t send people over with a message of condolence in time. It was after I came out from the meditation that I was shocked to hear this. Sect Leader Qi has a heavenly bearing and his martial arts are unrivalled in this world. He was a figure admired by all, and it was indeed too unexpected for him to pass away so suddenly. Kehui’s heart was filled of the deepest sorrow and regret. I hope Daoist Priest Shen was not overwhelmed by the grief.”
When a person’s martial arts reached the state Ruyan Kehui was in, they would more or less appreciate and sympathize with others who were on the same level as them. Therefore, his speech just now was not so much overstated flattery. In fact, most of it was sincere.
Shen Qiao cupped his hands and made a courtesy salute as he greeted the man, “I would like to thank Master-in-Charge Ruyan’s great kindness on my master’s behalf. He once said that even though he didn’t get to live as long as a Xiantian expert could have lived, he still felt it was well worth it to die for the sake of pursuing the ultimate Way of Martial Arts. Therefore, please don’t feel sad for my master’s death, Master-in-Charge Ruyan. As my master has said, ‘Our Way is not a lonely way, for Heaven and Earth are together with us.’”
Ruyan Kehui sighed, “‘Our Way is not a lonely way, for Heaven and Earth are together with us.’ Good! Immortal Qi really isn’t an ordinary person to be able to say things like this!”
Afterwards, he fixed his eyes back on Shen Qiao. “People in the tea hut were boiling water when I left; the tea must be ready by now. Would you be interested in a tour of the Linchuan Institute?”
Shen Qiao replied, “Having lived in the North for too long, I’m afraid I can’t get used to the southern tea.”
Not many in this world were worthy enough to receive Ruyan Kehui’s personal invitation. Yet, just like that, he politely rejected what would have been deemed by others as a tremendous honor.
Ruyan Kehui gave a smile and did not seem the least bit offended, “The southern tea has its own exquisiteness. It’s tolerant and all-embracing. Only then can it take in all the rivers and streams and eventually turn into a boundless ocean.”
Shen Qiao smiled back, “But I fear for the reckoning that comes after the dinner. By that time, it would be hard not to accept your requests since I’ve already had your tea, and the trip will be ruined instead by a dilemma like that.”
“The northern state sure occupies a vast amount of land, but the southern state is not any less rich in resources. After you’ve tasted the tea from the Linchuan Institute, maybe you won’t want to leave even without my urging you to stay?”
If that’s the case, did the Linchuan Institute drug all of the previous visitors, thus making them not want to leave? Shen Qiao couldn’t stop himself from laughing out loud at the thought of this.
Ruyan Kehui asked curiously, “What is Daoist Priest Shen laughing about? Do you find my words laughable?”
Shen Qiao waved his hand in denial, “Sorry, that was inappropriate of me. It has nothing to do with you, Master-in-Charge, please forgive me for it.”
If Yan Wushi was here, he would definitely use those words to taunt the other person, but that obviously was not something Shen Qiao would do.
Before today, Ruyan Kehui had never expected Shen Qiao to be so stubborn. Because no matter whether it was due to the concern about his own future or for some other reason, a former sect leader who was no longer in the position usually would not have a close relationship with those from the demonic sects. The word on the street was that Yan Wushi had saved Shen Qiao’s life and had used this favor as an excuse to keep Shen Qiao around him, while Shen Qiao also depended on Yan Wushi to defend him. Ruyan Kehui did not believe in these rumors at first, but Shen Qiao’s reactions forced him to start thinking otherwise.
He said, “I had the honour of meeting Immortal Qi before he passed away. We talked for only a few days, yet we felt like old friends. I once asked your master if he would like to join me and support a wise ruler together to return peace and prosperity to everyone living in this world. Even though your master was reluctant to involve Mount Xuandu with secular affairs, he too approved of the principle of orthodoxy, and that was what caused him to make that twenty-year covenant with Hulugu. Priest Shen is no longer the sect leader of Mount Xuandu, but you’re still Immortal Qi’s disciple. Are you really going to abandon your master’s principle and position just like that?”
Shen Qiao replied, “I’m afraid that Master-in-Charge Ruyan is wrong on that. My relationship with Sect Master Yan is not like what other people think, but even with that aside, the Country of Zhou which the Cleansing Moon Sect assists is becoming more and more prosperous with each passing day. Are you saying Yuwen Hong cannot rule the Central Plains and unify the world just because he is of the Xianbei race? What my master opposes is collaborating with other nations at the cost of the Central Plains residents’ interests. If a foreign nation comes to our land and learns the Han culture, if they can treat all people, both the Hans and the foreigners, equally, why can’t they be a good ruler?”
Ruyan Kehui shook his head. His voice now sounded more grave, “Foreign barbarians are forever barbarians, and this fact cannot be changed by their entering and settling in the Central Plains. Just take a look at the Country of Qi. Their royal family, the Gaos, aren’t even descendants of foreigners. The entire family has been foreignized only because they’ve been accustomed to foreign culture for too long. There’s not even a bit of Han etiquette left! The Emperor of Qi is so fatuous that he allows those women and little minds to mess with the laws and discipline of the imperial court. The Gao’s reign is probably at its end. As for the Country of Zhou, it came to power with Tujue’s help. Later, they enhanced the relationship further through marriage and tried every possible way to fawn over it. As for Tujue’s harm to the Central Plains, Priest Shen, I’m sure you understand it very well.”
After all, Ruyan Kehui believed the Emperor of Chen to be a wise ruler capable of unifying the country in the future. Therefore, he wanted to persuade Shen Qiao to leave the wrong path and join him on the moral side. Strictly speaking, since Shen Qiao was no longer a sect leader and his martial arts much worse than before as well, his status did not match Ruyan Kehui’s anymore. It was not worth it for Ruyan Kehui to come all the way in person, but he still came. Considering Ruyan Kehui’s position and status, this was a very sincere action indeed.
If this had happened a few months ago when Shen Qiao had just entered the world and had little understanding of the overall state of affairs, such a speech might’ve moved him. However, he had developed his own views by now. After listening to it, he only shook his head and didn’t really elaborate any further, “I’m not representing any sect at this moment. I’m just a person drifting alone in this world, trying to stay alive in a time of chaos. Be it the Linchuan Institute or the Chen Dynasty, pledging my allegiance is of little significance to both of them. Therefore, even if the reason that Master-in-Charge Ruyan has decided to persuade me in person is because of my master, I still can’t thank you enough for it. It’s just that I can only appreciate your great kindness in my heart.”
Ruyan Kehui let out a light sigh, “I sensed some disturbance in the flow of your voice. Presumably, you’ve got internal injuries that have not recovered completely for a while. If you’re willing to come to the Linchuan Institute to recuperate, I can invite the best imperial physician in the Chen Imperial Palace, and we together will try our best to help you treat your wounds!”
Shen Qiao once heard from Yan Wushi that the current Empress of Chen, Liu Jingyan, was Ruyan Kehui’s junior martial sister from the same sect. Therefore, Ruyan Kehui had a very close relationship with the Chen imperial household. Now it seemed like what he said was true; otherwise, ordinary people would not be able to make such casual promises on the behalf of the imperial physicians.
However, Shen Qiao was still slightly moved by the fact that Ruyan Kehui would say something like this, “Many thanks to you, Master-in-Charge Ruyan. A person shouldn’t receive a reward that they do not deserve. Since I have neither the virtue nor capability to receive such an offer, I’m afraid I dare not accept.”
To be honest, Ruyan Kehui really did not expect his visit today to end in vain. Because whether it be emotion or logic, he just could not see any reason as to why Shen Qiao would reject him.
He suddenly thought of that rather absurd rumor about Yan Wushi and Shen Qiao, but he soon felt that it was indeed absurd to the point of being ludicrous. It was simply impossible.
“Don’t mind it. The Linchuan Institute never forces people to do what they don’t want to.” Ruyan Kehui showed a faint trace of regret.
Shen Qiao looked rather apologetic, “I’m sorry that my stubbornness has made you come all the way over here for nothing.”
Ruyan Kehui smiled, “The guest villa is not far from here, but finding it will be difficult for those who aren’t familiar with the area. The peddler next to you was knocked out with a drug. Do you need me to take his place and walk you there?”
“How bored must have you been, Master-in-Charge Ruyan, that you decided to come all the way here to persuade Ah-Qiao to join your side instead of chatting about the old times with your junior martial sister who’s now the empress in the royal palace! Unfortunately, I’m afraid you’ll be greatly disappointed, for Ah-Qiao is determined to follow me around!”
These words were obviously not from Shen Qiao.
A person appeared from the corner at the end of the alley and walked toward them step by step.
Unlike the jade-like sounds which Ruyan Kehui had intentionally made a moment ago, Yan Wushi walked with complete quietness. His robes and sleeves fluttered behind him, but he looked so graceful and confident as if no one in the world was able to make him stop or was worth a second of his attention.
It was a silent arrogance.
Ruyan Kehui’s expression did not change. In fact, he even showed a hint of a smile, “I think we haven’t seen each other since Sect Master Yan’s Closed Door Meditation. Now, I see that Sect Master Yan’s martial power has indeed progressed by a lot by what I can only assume as rapid speed.”
Yan Wushi stopped a step away from Shen Qiao. He didn’t advance any further but instead slightly squinted at Ruyan Kehui for a moment. “Meanwhile, you’ve been marching in the same spot and have made no progression from where you were ten years ago.”
They stared at each other. Neither of them spoke after that sentence.
If people who didn’t know what was going on saw this scene, they would probably think the two people had that kind of ambiguous relationship.
Yan Wushi’s clothes were fluttering although there was no wind, while not a single corner of Ruyan Kehui’s clothing wavered.
Shen Qiao suddenly said, “If you two are going to fight, I’ll ask you to choose a different location. There’s still a person who doesn’t know any martial arts here, and we’d better not hurt him because of it.”
As soon as he finished, Ruyan Kehui moved!
However, he was not moving towards Yan Wushi’s direction, but rather towards the outskirts of the city, leaving behind a sentence from the distance, “There’s open space outside the city!”
He had applied inner qi to the sentence. Ruyan Kehui’s martial power was not to be doubted, and the sentence spread through half of Jiankang in almost no time, astonishing everyone who heard it.
Yan Wushi coldly snorted, and without any noticeable movement, was already many meters away.
At the same time, countless silhouettes tailed after them.
Those were the martial artists rushing over to watch the fight after hearing their words.
This battle was bound to create a stir in the world!
Ruyan Kehui’s call didn’t just alarm one or two people. Anyone inside Jiankang who heard him speak was roused and people rushed over one after another. Even if they didn’t know who Ruyan Kehui’s opponent was, they knew that someone who received a duel request from Ruyan Kehui in person wouldn’t be a nobody.
It would be an incredibly rare opportunity if they could spectate such an exquisite confrontation, and no one wanted to miss it.
However, following them to the fighting location wasn’t easy. As soon as Ruyan Kehui said those words, he and Yan Wushi, one after the other, headed far beyond the city. Their forms were light and graceful, appearing as blurry afterimages in the blink of an eye, then vanishing without a trace in another. Many who were slightly lacking in lightness skills could only gape helplessly in the direction the two had left in and stomp their feet or wring their hands in frustration.
But there were still more than a few who could match their speed, like the chairman of the Six Harmonies Association, Dou Yanshan. He had also heard it and invited himself in. Right now, he could even call out to Yan Wushi while following after them, “Sect Master Yan! Do you still remember the good deal of trouble you caused our Six Harmonies Association that night at the Beyond Cloud Monastery? Dou Yanshan here would like to try pitching my skills against yours as well!”
Not many people in this world were worth Yan Wushi’s attention, and Dou Yanshan definitely wasn’t one of them.
Therefore, after Dou Yanshan’s words, people immediately heard Yan Wushi sneer, “I don’t fight nobodies.”
He also used inner qi while speaking, so the sentence traveled very far. Not only did Dou Yanshan hear it while chasing after him, but even Shen Qiao who hadn’t moved from his original place heard it, let alone all the others.
Many people were laughing secretly inside.
And the mean ones laughed out loud at once.
Dou Yanshan’s face darkened.
Not many people had seen Dou Yan fight before. He was the chairman of the biggest pugilistic association after all. Considering his position and the power he had, the association would seem a little too pitiful if he had to personally handle everything. Nonetheless, his level of martial arts was at least first-rank, if not one of the Top Ten.
Despite all of these, however, he was still not worthy enough to be noticed by Yan Wushi.
One could see how arrogant and self-conceited this man was.
But it could not be helped when he had the strength to act this way. After those words were spoken, except for Dou Yanshan, no one else seemed to find them inappropriate.
Dou Yanshan didn’t stop chasing and shouted again, “Sect Master Yan, have you ever heard the saying, ‘Pride goes before a fall’?”
He put no less than ninety percent of his inner qi into that sentence. Those who were close to him could almost immediately hear the sound pounding their eardrums, making them dizzy and sick.
Struck by a sense of fear, they no longer dared look down on Dou Yanshan.
Shen Qiao didn’t chase after them.
He knew that even if Yan Wushi and Ruyan Kehui differed in strength, the difference would be negligible. For experts at their level, the deciding factor for a battle was not a small amount of inner qi or a few exquisite moves. It was the ability to grasp opportunities and understanding their opponents. Sometimes, a difference of a hairbreadth could completely overturn the game.
Those two knew this as well. Therefore, even if they didn’t go all out for the fight, they would have to use at least eighty or ninety percent of their martial power. Shen Qiao’s current martial power was barely enough to catch up with them, and even if he could, he would have to waste a lot of inner qi.
Anyway, once those two started fighting, it would take a while at least. He would find the place sooner or later if he just followed the direction the other people took, so he was not in a hurry. He first helped the peddler to his feet and walked him to the street. Then he asked the other stall-keepers to look after him before he headed toward the city gate himself.
Right after he passed the gate, he heard the lovely giggles of Bai Rong, “Shen-lang, are you ever going to get to the place if you walk step by step like that?”
Shen Qiao raised his eyebrows, “Why hasn’t Young Madam Bai gone to watch the duel yet?”
Bai Rong chided, “Is this the first time we’ve met? You keep calling me Young Madam Bai. If you don’t want to call me Rong-niang , at least you can call me ‘Peony’!”
Seeing how Shen Qiao was still walking forward without paying attention to her, she stamped her feet and shouted, “Come on. Dragging it out like this! You’re not worried about making it on time, but I’m starting to feel worried on your behalf! This fight is such a rare opportunity to come by. Many people are now desperately trying to catch up to them. There won’t be any good positions left later!”
Then she reached out with her hand to grab Shen Qiao. He was about to dodge it when he suddenly heard her coquettish cry, “Aiya! I’m giving you a ride. What are you dodging for? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of me taking advantage of you!”
Shen Qiao was momentarily speechless, and Bai Rong firmly grabbed onto him during his second of inattention.
Bai Rong clutched onto one of his arms, almost effortlessly taking him along with her as she glided forward with her lightness skill. Their speed was incredibly fast, not at all slower than Dou Yanshan’s dragon-like appearance just now.
Nonetheless, having someone bring him was much more convenient than walking by himself, so Shen Qiao thanked her for it. Bai Rong, however, giggled, “Isn’t just saying ‘thanks’ too cold? If you really want to thank me, why not spend a night with me? Yan Wushi hasn’t done that with you yet, right? A virgin like you who still has Primordial Yang in your body is very good for my cultivation. Even though you’ve lost some of your martial power, I’m not going to be nitpicky about it. I’ll teach you the art of dual cultivation. Maybe there’s hope for you to regain your martial powers! Then, you don’t have to go through all that trouble of practicing that Strategy of the Vermillion Yang anymore!”
Shen Qiao: “…”
Bai Rong was still trying to convince him, “What do you think? It’s a deal that benefits both of us! Well, I’ll get my share, but you won’t lose anything either. Shen-lang, are you really not going to give it a thought?”
Shen Qiao replied, “…Thank you for your kindness, but there’s no need.”
Bai Rong pouted her lips and did not continue.
After a while, she asked, “Who do you think will win the battle today? Who will lose?”
That was a good question.
Those who went to watch the fight were thinking the same question.
Some of the well-informed casinos in Jiankang City were probably already taking bets on it by now.
Shen Qiao seriously thought about the question and replied, “Barring accidents, Yan Wushi will win.”
Bai Rong chuckled, “Aren’t you biased towards your lover boy! Ruyan Kehui is not like those ordinaries who fish for compliments. Previously, I tried to sneak into the Linchuan Institute since I wanted to disrupt their lecture the next day in advance. However, Ruyan Kehui caught me. He himself chased after me across a distance greater than half of Jiankang City. I was seriously wounded and almost lost my life before I finally escaped. Since then, I’ve never wanted to provoke this guy anymore. Can you believe an honorable grandmaster such as him would haggle over such a small event with a weak woman like me?! It’s truly too petty and undignified of him!”
Shen Qiao thought to himself, “You’re certainly not a weak woman. Besides, you even went into their territory. If they just let you come and go as you wish, then there’s no need for the Linchuan Institute to have their door threshold anymore. They can just wait for people to tramp around every day.”
Despite carrying Shen Qiao with her, Bai Rong was moving so swiftly that there was not even a mud spot on her white socks. It didn’t seem to slow her down at all. In fact, she wasn’t even short of breath as she talked, “From what I see, with Ruyan Kehui’s level of strength, even if Qi Fengge or Cui Youwang come back to life, he still would have a chance against them. This time, since they are fighting on the outskirts of Jiankang, he’s familiar with the surrounding landscape. Your lover boy is not necessarily going to win!”
When people first misunderstood his relationship with Yan Wushi, Shen Qiao still felt the need to explain it. But he soon found out that such explanation was totally unnecessary, for people only believed in what they wanted to believe. Whether he explained it or not, they would just continue to misunderstand based on their own wishful thinking.
As for the kind like Bai Rong who was making the mistake knowingly as a form of teasing, Shen Qiao felt all the more lazy to explain. He simply took her words as wind passing by the ears.
Seeing what she said have no effects on him, Bai Rong made a coquettish humph and spoke no more.
After exiting the city, the two of them traveled for a long time until they left the plain and entered a forest. From the depth of the forest, they headed all the way north to a valley with a stream passing in between, which was at least fifteen kilometers away from Jiankang. Only then did the they finally see two distant figures fighting each other on a mountain cliff.
They were standing on nothing but some rocky crags off the cliff, some of which were smaller than the size of a palm. An ordinary person would be struck with fright even when they looked at it, let alone accurately landing on them during the intervals in a fight. A moment of carelessness would cause them to fall off the cliff.
However, Yan Wushi and Ruyan Kehui were no ordinary people. Not only did they show no difficulty or stagnation as they moved, but their movements were so smooth that people hardly saw them stopping on any particular stone. Their figures flew as their inner qi surged back and forth, together with the crushed stones splattering in all directions — wherever the winds created by their palms went, it seemed like clouds were coming out of their sleeves and waves were rising to the same level as their bodies, making it a truly dazzling sight to witness.
Affected by the two people’s raging inner qi, the river which was originally flowing slowly southwards suddenly rushed upwards. Yan Wushi took the opportunity and guided it, using the flow of water as a median together with the Spring Water Fingering, turning the water into thousands of sharp blades, each of which was directed straight at Ruyan Kehui.
The water splash brought up by the inner qi filled the whole sky. Among it, Ruyan Kehui’s figure appeared to be almost half-hidden. At least from where Shen Qiao and Bai Rong were, even though Bai Rong was straining her eyes to look in that direction, she could only make out a few blurry shadows and had no idea where Ruyan Kehui would appear or how he was going to counterattack.
The mountain wind was already strong, plus both of them were using the majority of their inner qi. As the two powerful steams of inner qi met in the valley, they intertwined with each other like an enormous vortex, causing even the river to backflow! Everyone’s robes bloated and rustled and stirred high amidst the strong airstream.
Bai Rong didn’t want to use her inner qi to block it, because that way, if her inner qi was weaker than this stream of air, she would end up hurting herself.
Therefore, she could only continue to bear the torture of all the steam and leaves blowing together at her. She turned around and saw Shen Qiao covering his face with his sleeve, keeping all the steam and dust which would otherwise hit him in the face on the other side of his sleeve.
Bai Rong wanted to make fun of him and ask how he was going to watch the battle like this, but she soon remembered that he was blind. She couldn’t help but ask curiously, “Are you listening with your ears? What can you hear?”
“I can hear the flow of their inner qi. If what I have is right, it’s about time for Master-in-Charge Ruyan to strike with his sword.”
“How do you know?”
Shen Qiao only smiled.
Almost as soon as she finished asking, Bai Rong looked up and saw Ruyan Kehui split the water trap Yan Wushi had specially built for him with his sword. Absolute power could overcome all tricks. The enormous stream which Yan Wushi had deliberately brought up with his inner qi fell straight apart under Ruyan Kehui’s sword light, crumbling and splashing in all directions like showering flowers or a heavy downpour.
Upon seeing this, Bai Rong couldn’t help but rejoice in other people’s misfortune while trying to take credit for herself at the same time, “Look at what a good spot I’ve chosen for us! At least we have something to cover our heads with. Those people don’t even know how to choose a place when watching a fight, and neither do they dare to protect themselves with inner qi, so they can only get splashed all over!”
The fight over there continued, one of them using a sword and the other person bare-handed. The whole place was enshrouded with sword light as if the ocean had surged up and covered the sky. However, despite being within it, Yan Wushi moved with ease. His hands didn’t display any specific skills — he only displayed four basic types of movement: grasping, pushing, pulling, and plucking. Yet he already appeared so confident; it didn’t seem like he was at a disadvantage at all.
Bai Rong slightly frowned, “What he uses doesn’t seem like the Spring Water Fingering.”
Shen Qiao answered, “It is, just in a different form. It has only one move, but within it are myriads of changes. It has myriads of changes, but all of them follow the same principle. It’s the same with Ruyan Kehui’s sword arts. If you observe carefully, he is using the same move back and forth as well. But this one move is enough to handle all circumstances, fending off thousands of enemies while it remains firm and still.”
Bai Rong watched carefully for quite some time and realized that it was indeed the case. Her view of Shen Qiao had changed yet again.
Everyone knew of Shen Qiao’s original status, but after his one loss to Kunye, there were doubts towards his martial skill. Some constantly felt that he could not compare with Qi Fengge, but it would also be hard to say if he even ranked among the Top Ten. Although Bai Rong had suffered a defeat by his hands, she always felt that he was sickly frail and injured, that he wouldn’t be able to keep going for long and could collapse at any time. Upon hearing his words, she now realized that a grandmaster was ultimately still a grandmaster. His observation and judgement alone far exceeded what a normal person could muster.
“You said Yan Wushi would win, but you haven’t told me why yet~” Bai Rong approached him, her orchid-scented breath brushing his ear.
Shen Qiao moved one step to the side along the stone cliff.
Bai Rong: “…”
Shen Qiao even seriously scorned, “I don’t like this. If you do it again, I’m not going to talk to you anymore.”
Bai Rong deliberately laughed, “What’s that all about? I’ve never even touched you! Are you even more delicate and precious than a virgin maiden?”
She then reached out with a hand and was about to touch Shen Qiao.
If a delicate beauty like her wanted to seduce someone, not to mention people like Yu Wenqing, even normal men who weren’t the frivolous type would all be under her spell. If they didn’t fall for her, they would at least be momentarily intoxicated by her. However, Shen Qiao had to be an exception. She never dared to test her charms on grandmasters like Yan Wushi or Ruyan Kehui, and yet Shen Qiao had turned her down so many times.
Shen Qiao blocked and pushed her hand away with his bamboo stick, his face cold like still water. He really did not speak again.
Bai Rong knew he kept his words. Feeling a little angry inside and somewhat regretful as well, she also refrained herself from talking further.
In just a moment, Yan Wushi and Ruyan Kehui had already exchanged a thousand or so moves, but neither of them showed any signs of exhaustion. They fought from this end of the valley all the way to the opposite end. The sun was gradually moving to the west. The people who were fighting forgot about time, and the people watching them were so immersed that they also forgot themselves. Without anyone realizing, it was already past noon. The two of them had been fighting for more than four hours, yet one still couldn’t tell who was better.
Bai Rong’s martial arts were already first-rated in today’s pugilistic world, but she still benefited a lot from this battle. This was a state she had never seen before, yet today, it was like a gate opening into a slit, allowing her to catch a glimpse of the scene behind it.
It was just a narrow slit, but it was enough to shock her from within.
She finally realized where the gap between her and the grandmasters lay, and why she could not exceed that limit after all this time. While her martial arts were nothing but martial arts, Yan Wushi and Ruyan Kehui’s martial arts had already become a part of their bodies. It was in each exhale and inhale, each pull and release. When they exhaled, it was as if the whole world existed only in the small space around them, and when they inhaled, air flowed to them like rivers meeting the sea. When they pulled their hand back, they pulled in the sun and wind together with it, and when they released, the vast expanse of the mortal world stretched out right underneath their feet.
Fascinated by what she saw, Bai Rong couldn’t help but mutter, “Can I ever reach their level before I die?”
This time, Shen Qiao actually replied to her, “Your aptitude isn’t bad.”
Bai Rong thought of her own cultivation method and somehow became dispirited. She laughed at herself, “Their Ways are not for me, and they deign not to practice mine.”
To which Shen Qiao replied, “The Ways are many. They differ only in the order of arrival, but not in superiority.”
Bai Rong flashed him a sweet smile, “You were so mad at me just now and said you wouldn’t talk to me anymore. But now you’re talking to me again!”
Shen Qiao said, “If you talk properly first, I’ll naturally answer properly.”
Bai Rong tucked the stray hairs behind her ears. Even a small action like this held an endless and romantic charm to it. Unfortunately, since the person next to her was half-blind, no one was there to appreciate it.
“Considering the guidance you just gave me, I’ll return the favor to you. Remember how I asked you to stay away from Yan Wushi before? Shen-lang, you’d better take my words to heart. Don’t just let it go in through one ear and out the other! Otherwise, you’ll get involved in it innocently and die an unworthy death. What a pity it would be if people like you die before you even get to know what sex is like!”
Shen Qiao frowned, “Can you elaborate?”
Bai Rong replied with a big grin, “I can’t. It’s a big risk for me to come and warn you of it. If you don’t take it into heart, then there’s nothing else I can do!”
With a surprised gasp, she asked, “The fight is over?”
While they were speaking, the two silhouettes suddenly parted and each landed on a jagged rock on the side of the cliff.
Bai Rong was a little confused, “Is it a draw?”
If even she could not tell, it was less likely that the others present could. All the spectators suddenly began to quietly discuss the same question: Was it Ruyan Kehui that won, or was it Yan Wushi?
Or perhaps, most people were more interested in the question of whether or not Ruyan Kehui could defeat Yan Wushi.
 Niang: Like the female counterpart for lang, niang is a more intimate way to address a woman.