Chapter 48: Who is it? Shen Qiao.
“The Purple Mansion of Mount Xuandu used to have quite a few sets of sword arts until the time of my master, Qi Fengge, who believed that all martial arts, no matter how much they appeared to be different from each other, shared certain core principles. Rather than getting blinded by the dazzling collection and ending up with too much on one’s plate, he thought it would be better if people mastered only one set to perfection. Therefore, he reorganized the swords arts from all past generations and condensed them into the two sets we have now.”
“One of them, the Azurewave Sword Arts, was composed during his trip to the East Sea. Inspired by the sunrise, the moon-set, and the clouds surging back and forth alongside the waves, he combined his personal experience with the essence of some of the former sword arts of Mount Xuandu and created the Azurewave Sword Arts. Since we happen to be passing by the Yellow River today and are experiencing a scene similar to the one at its time of creation, I’ll demonstrate this set of sword arts to you. You don’t have to memorize the moves. Just focus on understanding the feeling and the artistic concepts behind them.”
Shiwu’s chubby face looked very earnest. He cupped his hands in obeisance and replied, “Yester, Master Shen. I’ll try my best to feel it.”
With a smile, Shen Qiao drew the sword out of its sheath!
The section of river they were at had not yet recovered from the dike breach last year. The flood had drowned farmland on both sides, and even till today, most of the houses remained uninhabited and everywhere one’s eyes could reach spoke of desolation. Only the billows of the Yellow River which still surged forward tirelessly remained.
Currently, Shen Qiao stood on a solitary rock jagging out of the bank. Beneath him was the never resting flow of the Yellow River, howling and roaring as if it was going to devour everything in the world.
The river glistened under the sunlight, splashing and glittering. In front of nature’s magnificent power, Shen Qiao’s figure appeared tiny and frail. However, the instant he unsheathed his sword, the imposing momentum which had broken out from within him was no less than that of the surging river around him. Under the reflection of light, Griefing Celestial Sword also shone with dazzling brilliance. The sword started to move, and the Qi it created was evident everywhere, driving even the river more tempestuous; amidst all the turbulence, Shen Qiao himself looked extremely elegant and free, as if he was an Immortal Being about to depart from the mundane world.
It completely blew Shiwu’s mind.
When he was living together with the abbot, the latter also taught martial arts. But since the abbot was only a mediocre practitioner himself, it was hard for him to depict what a profound martial state was like. Shiwu once heard his master describe to them that a real martial arts expert could use his inner qi to influence the surrounding world, making every stalk of grass react to their state of mind.
Both Chuyi and Shiwu were very much fascinated by what their master said and thought to themselves, ‘I wish I could one day see such an expert myself.’
And now, the scene he dreamt of was happening right in front of his eyes.
Looking at Shen Qiao’s every move, even someone like Shiwu, who had just started on the path of martial arts and who couldn’t even be said to have had the first glimpse of it yet, could feel the power inside them capable of hauling the world. It was a scene that his limited vocabulary could not describe, but it was also a scene he would never forget in his life.
Master, Chuyi, did you see it?
Warm tears filled Shiwu’s eyes. He had the impulse to kneel down and cry his heart out.
Apart from Shiwu who was watching from the side, Shen Qiao, who was standing at the center of the storm, also found himself sinking into an indescribable, mysterious state.
He could feel his Sword Energy and the river influencing and intertwining with each other, becoming each other’s driving force as if they were meant to be one. The Sword Intent flowed through his limbs and bones, then gushed out from the Griefing Celestial Sword in his hand. His heart followed his will, while the sword followed his heart. The tangible Sword Intent turned into a blinding halo, piercing right through the vapours. Wherever the Sword Intent went, the river would explode with a loud bang, its shining, iridescent splashes forming a sight that was particularly spectacular and magnificent to behold.
Shen Qiao’s sword quivered. Without warning, he suddenly leaped down from the rock. Shiwu, who had been deeply enthralled by the scene, screamed as he quickly ran to the bank, but all he saw was Shen Qiao landing swiftly at the center of the turbulent river. The sword in his hand did not stop. It continued uninterruptedly, while the person holding it glided across the water with such ease and carefreeness as if he was strolling in his backyard and picking up a flower with his sword.
The Yellow River, always eager to devour everything in its way, never stopping for anyone’s sake, continued to race forwards below Shen Qiao. However, within one meter’s distance around him, the river was as gentle as the moonlight stroking the spring breeze, letting it come and go.
Heaven did not intend to create spring. It let everything be, and there was spring.
The flowing water was insensate and heartless, but the sword was affectionate and sentimental.
With the affectionate sword he led the heartless water, as he stood alone against the tempest and the storm.
The Sword Light shrouded the world, gathering all of its beauty into a single spot.
After he finished, Shen Qiao leaped from the rock in the river back onto the shore. He squinted his eyes and looked back. Perhaps the poison had remained inside his body for too long; his eyes were still not very good. Even after he had rebuilt his foundation, he still could not see as clearly as before.
But it didn’t matter anymore. Because when he demonstrated the sword arts, he was using his own perception of the surrounding world and maintaining such a connection with Sword Intent. Therefore, he was able to land each step accurately in spite of his poor eyesight, which could be considered a gain out of all the misfortunes.
Shiwu on the side asked timidly, “Master Shen, is it really possible for me to reach your level one day?”
Shen Qiao gently stroked his head and smiled, “Of course it is possible. The Way is not definite, but different for every person. As long as you study and practice diligently, success will follow naturally.”
Shiwu couldn’t help but smile.
It was the first time he smiled ever since they left White Dragon Monastery.
Shen Qiao lowered himself and looked Shiwu in the eye, “I know you didn’t forget your master’s death, neither did I. Let’s keep it in heart together. But if your master’s spirit is watching you from above, he must wish for you to be happy. Promise me, will you? After we cross the Yellow River, we’ll toss away all the grievous memories and move on happily.”
The mentioning of his master wetted Shiwu’s eyes once more. But he quickly nodded, “I promise you. I’ll take good care of myself and practice hard. I’ll be a good person. I won’t disappoint Master, and I won’t disappoint you.”
Shen Qiao didn’t say anything. He merely held the boy tightly in his arms for a while before letting him go. Then he grabbed his hand, and the two continued slowly along the river.
As for the Yellow River, it was still surging forward like it had always been since times immemorial.
The two of them traveled rather slowly. After spending several months on the road, they finally arrived at the foot of Mount Tai at the beginning of August.
Mount Tai had hundreds of peaks of various altitudes. The Jade Cloud Sect was not located at the highest peak where all past emperors held their Feng Shan ceremonies, but a rather little known peak at the northeast side named Zhunan.
Zhunan Peak was not particularly high in elevation, but its location was very much blessed by nature. Strange rocks and clear streams scattered all around the peak. Due to the fact that it was dangerously steep, it had few tourists and woodcutters. After Shen Qiao and Shiwu took a brief break at the mountain foot to get ready, they began their way up.
As they got closer and closer to their destination, Shiwu’s unease grew into a sort of restlessness. While Shen Qiao was leading him up the mountain track, the boy couldn’t stop himself from asking, “Master Shen, do you know what the Jade Cloud Sect is like?”
Shen Qiao smiled, “The Jade Cloud Sect was founded in the Han Dynasty. Its current sect leader, Zhao Chiying, is one of the Top Ten martial artists in the world. Since Brother Zhu said Zhao Chiying was his martial niece, then seniority-wise, you would rank the same as Sect Leader Zhao.”
Shiwu clung tightly onto Shen Qiao’s robe, but it wasn’t because he was afraid of falling down. He had been studying martial arts and sword arts under Shen Qiao for the past few months and made great progress. In fact, he was already starting to grasp some of the essence of the ‘Rainbow Shadow’, the lightness skill of Mount Xuandu.
“Are you going to leave after you drop me off at the Jade Cloud Sect?”
“Do you not want me to leave?” Shen Qiao teased him.
Shiwu was a little embarrassed. He flashed a toothless smile and didn’t say anything.
Ever since the abbot and Chuyi passed away, Shen Qiao had been taking care of him throughout the journey both as a master and as a father. Shiwu had long regarded him as his only family and had developed a lot of dependence and admiration towards him. Now, the Jade Cloud Sect was just around the corner, and his master’s will would soon be fulfilled. But when he thought of the possible separation that would very likely follow after, Shiwu didn’t feel happy at all.
“Don’t worry. After we get there, I won’t leave immediately. We’ll see how it goes first.”
What he didn’t tell Shiwu was that even though the Jade Cloud Sect was once a large sect, it had declined greatly over these years. The only reason it could regain some of its former glory was because of one of their disciples: Zhao Chiying. She was the type of martial arts genius one would expect to find once in a blue moon. However, a sect could not thrive on a single person. No matter how powerful Zhao Chiying was, she could hardly turn a raging tide. It was said that Zhao Chiying had entered a Closed Door Meditation in recent years, and her martial brother, Yue Kunchi, was the one managing the sect affairs. There must be a reason why Zhu Lengquan left the sect —— a reason not so pleasant, but what concerned Shen Qiao the most was how they would react to Shiwu. If they didn’t like Shiwu, he would not leave the boy there to suffer.
Shiwu didn’t know that Shen Qiao had been thinking about nothing but him. Various thoughts kept the boy both anxious and frightened. On one hand, he was afraid of not being able to get along with the people in the Jade Cloud Sect, while on the other hand, he also dreaded that Shen Qiao’s departure would come too soon.
Just like that, they were soon about halfway to the top when Shen Qiao suddenly sensed something strange.
Sects that were located on mountaintops usually had disciples guarding the path. Those sects with tighter security would even put guards at the foot of the mountain, while the relatively inattentive ones would at least have someone halfway up the hill.
Right now, they were almost at the gate, yet they still hadn’t seen anyone. This was definitely unusual.
Shiwu, who also realized that something was not right, secretly let go of Shen Qiao’s robe. He didn’t want to become Shen Qiao’s burden when something happened.
“Master Shen, look!”
Shen Qiao couldn’t see clearly, but Shiwu spotted a broken sword hidden underneath the high grass along the stone path. He picked it up and handed it to Shen Qiao.
Shen Qiao felt the fracture on the broken sword —— it was clearly broken by force. Since they didn’t see any dead body, it was hard to tell whether its owner had fallen off the cliff or run away.
“Be careful and stay behind me. There may be more in the front.”
Just like he expected, the further they went, the more weapons they saw. They even started to see dead bodies. They couldn’t tell whether they belonged to the disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect or not.
Suddenly, behind them came a distant but thundering voice: “Who’re you?! Stop right there!”
Before the sentence finished, a sword was already thrusting towards Shiwu’s back!
Shen Qiao heard the voice. Without the slightest change in expression, he pulled Shiwu toward him and quickly turned around, swapping their positions almost instantly, while he himself charged forth towards the blade.
He didn’t even unsheath the Griefing Celestial Sword. The wind brought up by his palm pushed the blade to the side, and, with a simple twirl of his sleeve, he had already caught the attacker’s wrist.
“Daoist Priest Shen?” The other person let out a sound of surprise.
“And you are…?” Shen Qiao squinted his eyes but could only make out a blurry face.
“I’m Fan Yuanbai, a disciple of the Jade Cloud Sect. We met once in the Residence of Su,” the other person replied.
Shen Qiao thought for a moment and vaguely recalled something like that. On the day he attended Lady Qin’s birthday banquet on Yan Wushi’s behalf, he had indeed met a disciple of the Jade Cloud Sect.
Fan Yuanbai asked, “May I ask the reason for your visit?”
There was obvious anxiety in his voice, but he was still able to stay patient and ask Shen Qiao politely. Part of it was because Fan Yuanbai was naturally good-tempered, and part of it was because Shen Qiao’s fight with Duan Wenyang that day impressed many people, and he was one of them.
Shen Qiao briefly explained to him Shiwu’s relationship with the Jade Cloud Sect. He even let Shiwu show the wooden plaque to him as proof.
Fan Yuanbai took over the piece of wood and studied it for a brief moment. “I have heard Grandfather Zhu’s name before, but I know very little of what happened to him. Since this is the case, why don’t you two follow me up the mountain so that we can report this to my seniors?”
Shen Qiao said, “Thank you very much, Mister Fan. By the way, we have found quite a few broken swords and dead bodies on our way here. I’m sure you must know what’s happening up there.”
Fan Yuanbai gave him a bitter smile, “What an unfortunate coincidence. I was back home visiting my family for the past half year and just came back today. As soon as I reached the mountain foot, I realized that something was not right —— the disciples that our sect had originally assigned to guard the spot were nowhere to be seen. I was panic-stricken on my way up and happened to run into you two. I thought…”
He thought they were enemies, not friends.
Shen Qiao said, “If that’s the case, let’s not waste any more time here and hurry up to see what is happening. If everything is fine, then it would at least set our minds at rest.”
Fan Yuanbai agreed repeatedly and immediately joined Shen Qiao and Shiwu as they headed towards the Jade Cloud Sect.
However, the higher they climbed, the more they found themselves on tenterhooks. Because as they went, more and more weapons and corpses appeared. At first, Fan Yuanbai was still able to stay composed, bending over and investigating the bodies to check if anyone was still alive, but by the end, both his face and lips were pale and he could not utter a single word.
Through Fan Yuanbai’s explanation, Shen Qiao and Shiwu learned that some of the corpses —— or most of the corpses, rather —— belonged to the disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect. The others’ identity remained a mystery. However, looking at the weapons around them, they also used swords, and their swords were all engraved with two characters: “East Island”.
Shiwu asked out of curiosity, “What kind of sect is ‘East Island’?”
He thought the reason that he didn’t know was due to his inexperience and ignorance of the pugilistic world, but Fan Yuanbai only frowned and didn’t say anything either.
In the end, Shen Qiao was the one to answer, “There isn’t an East Island Sect in the Central Plains, but there is one in Goguryeo.”
Only then did Fan Yuanbai speak up, “That’s right. They claimed to be the biggest sect in Goguryeo. I’ve also heard of them before. But Goguryeo is a foreign country and never has any business with the Jade Cloud Sect. Why would they show up here?”
The conversation didn’t slow down their speed. As the three of them got closer and closer to the mountaintop, they even started to hear the clashing of blades from the distance.
As for someone like Shen Qiao, he could even hear people’s shouting and cursing.
Fan Yuanbai sped up and hurried to the front; the sword in his hand was already unsheathed.
Shiwu, on the other hand, pulled Shen Qiao’s robe a few times and whispered, “Master Shen, you can follow me. There are a lot of dead bodies on the ground.”
A warm feeling filled Shen Qiao’s heart. He nodded, not wanting to reject the boy’s kindness, “Sure.”
Even though he was already prepared for this, what he saw still made Fan Yuanbai’s heart ache.
The former tranquil and peaceful sect had now turned into a living hell —— the number of dead bodies had reached the peak, and blood gathered into small streams, slowly flowing to unknown destinations.
Those disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect whose eyes were already closed were still unrelated to Shiwu at the moment; therefore, with Shen Qiao accompanying him on the side, Shiwu could still keep his cool and composure. But Fan Yuanbai could barely hold himself together, all because these were the martial brothers and sisters whom he had known for years and regarded as his real siblings. When he left the mountain half a year ago, some of them even teased him, asking him to bring back souvenirs, but now they all lay on the icy ground, not able to speak anymore.
Fan Yuanbai’s eyes were bloodshot. Grief and hatred gradually accumulated inside him until he saw two groups of people not far from him fighting at close quarters. Holding the sword in his hand, he stepped forward without the slightest hesitation. But just as he was about to join the fight, he again froze in shock.
To his surprise, they were all dressed as the disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect, and he recognized some familiar faces in each group.
“Senior Brother Li! Senior Brother Qiao! Stop! What’s going on?!”
However, no one paid attention to him. They were all deeply wallowing in the fights, single-mindedly focusing on the enemies before them. The clashing of weapons resounded continuously, and the flashing light reflected by the metals could almost dazzle the people next to them.
Fan Yuanbai couldn’t understand what was happening. He couldn’t understand why, after he left the mountain and came back, he would witness the disciples of his own sect killing each other.
The turbulent riot in his mind left him in a momentary trance. He didn’t notice there was a sword approaching him from behind.
However, before the sneak attacker could drive the sword into Fan Yuanbai’s body, he dropped the sword with a shrill cry. Holding his wrist with the other hand, the attacker wailed and twisted about the ground in pain.
“Watch out behind you.” Fan Yuanbau heard Shen Qiao say behind him. There was no sign of indignation or anger in his voice.
Fan Yuanbai recovered from his surprise. He expressed his gratitude towards Shen Qiao, then seized the person who attacked him. To his surprise, the person was also a disciple of his own sect.
“Xue Qi? Aren’t you a disciple under Elder Lu? Why did you ambush me?!”
The other person saw Shen Qiao who was standing behind him and was immediately frightened by the thought of how the guy had just cut the tendons on his wrist with a single attack. He couldn’t help but said timidly, “The-the real sect master is back, but your master, Elder Yue, held onto the position of the regent sect leader and refused to resign. He even ordered his disciples to fight us…”
The more Fan Yuanbai listened, the more confused he became. In the end, he couldn’t help but interrupt him and chided, “Nonsense! Master’s heart and soul has always been devoted to the interests of the sect. He would never refuse to give up the position if the other person is more worthy!”
Xue Qi shouted, “I don’t know! I don’t know anything! I just followed orders. Please don’t kill me!”
Shen Qiao pressed his hand onto Fan Yuanbai’s shoulder, signaling him to calm down. “We’re still at the outer section of the sect. Let’s go to the inner court first.”
He then asked Xue Qi, “Where’s your master?”
His voice was not loud, but Xue Qi heard him clearly. The latter shivered slightly and replied, “He’s in the inner court, fighting against Elder Yue…”
Fan Yuanbai lost the patience to listen to him. With a big leap, he grabbed his sword and rushed directly to the inner court.
As he proceeded, many people came forward with weapons to stop him. Some were disciples of his own sect, some were disciples of the aforementioned East Island Sect, and some were black-clothed people with prominent noses and deep-set eyes whose identities remained unknown. After a few rounds, Fan Yuanbai started to run out of strength, and his martial moves also began to lose accuracy. He was almost hit by another person. Luckily, Shen Qiao was following behind and taking care of him.
Compared to Fan Yuanbai, Shiwu who was still a beginner seemed to be much more at ease. The sword in his hand was just an ordinary longsword he picked up on the road, but he managed to make use of all the martial arts techniques Shen Qiao had recently taught him. He wasn’t as perturbed as Fan Yuanbai was, and Shen Qiao was next to him. As his head stayed calm and clear, his hand became more and more stable. In fact, these people who came up to attack him were nothing but training opponents in his mind.
But Shiwu was only a beginner after all. In the beginning, he was still a little nervous and flustered. As soon as he finally subdued an enemy with great difficulty, he immediately turned back just so that he could see the person behind him show an approving smile. “Master Shen, how did I do?”
Sure enough, Shen Qiao smiled, “Very good. But remember to be careful.”
Shiwu felt a soft touch on his shoulder. The slight warmth it brought greatly encouraged him.
Inside the inner court, the sword in Yue Kunchi’s hand was sent flying by Ruan Hailou, while he himself was also hit by the other’s palm on the waist. He couldn’t help but stumble three steps backward, crashing into the pillar behind him.
He ignored the disciples on the side who were trying to help him, nor did he turn his eyes to Ruan Hailou. Instead, he roared at the elder of the sect, Lu Feng, “Lu Feng! How dare you collude with outsiders to assault your own sect?! You disloyal, cruel bastard! You don’t deserve to be a disciple of the Jade Cloud Sect!”
Lu Feng frowned, “Deserve or not, you have no say over it. Let Sect Leader Zhao come out and tell us herself.”
Yue Kunchi clenched his teeth. These people clearly knew that Junior Sister Zhao was in a Closed Door Meditation and was vulnerable to even the smallest disturbance, so they purposely chose to attack at this time.
Ruan Hailou said, “When you were young, you cried a lot because of your master’s scoldings, and I was the one to run down the mountain and buy you candy every time. Your master called you stupid, and it was me who taught you those moves hand by hand. I’m sure you already forgot about all of these.”
Yue Kunchi said, “I didn’t. I will forever cherish your kindness to me! But you’re now a member of the East Island Sect and you married the princess of Goguryeo. You brought with you their disciples and slew your way up the mountain, and you even consorted with the Tujue people and the elders in the sect, scheming for the position of the sect leader —— Is this how you treat your sect?!”
Ruan Hailou sneered, “Had your master not stabbed me in the back, I wouldn’t have been condemned by everyone. I wouldn’t have been unable to return to my own sect, with no choice but to flee as an outcast. Were it not for him, I wouldn’t have wandered all the way to Goguryeo! You don’t want to know how much I suffered since that day to finally gain the attention of the leader of East Island Sect and eventually become his personal disciple. Twenty years have passed since then. It is a pity that your master has already passed away. Otherwise, I’d be more than happy to seek justice directly from him!”
Pu Anmi, who had been spectating on the side for a while, suddenly interrupted, “Gentleman Ruan, Gentleman Lu, I say there’s no need to explain so much to him. Zhao Chiying is in a Closed Door Meditation and cannot come out. Yue Kunchi, being in a position of great power as the regent sect leader, couldn’t be more happy about it. You are now asking him to give up such a position, so of course he wouldn’t want to. We have already killed so many anyway, we might as well slaughter to our heart’s content and replace anyone who doesn’t listen to us. As the only one left, Zhao Chiying won’t be able to cause a stir even if she comes out from the Meditation.”
Lu Feng agreed categorically, “That’s right. Senior Brother Ruan, Yue Kunchi is already at the end of his strength. He’s just buying time with all the nonsense. We should disable him first. Hui Leshan owed you a lot in the past, and now it’s his disciple’s turn to pay you back!”
Ruan Hailou said no more. He immediately charged forward and struck a palm towards Yue Kunchi.
Completely drained of energy and having no place to retreat, Yue Kuchi could only close his eyes and wait for his death. However, Zhou Yexue, his disciple who was next to him, suddenly threw herself in front of him, hoping to block the attack for her master.
Fan Yuanbai stumbled in just in time to see this. The scene overwhelmed him with grief and terror at once, and he couldn’t stop himself from crying out, “Sister!”
He was still some distance away from the group. There was absolutely no way he could get to her in time no matter what.
But before he knew it, a white band of Sword Light had brushed past his ear, separating Zhou Yexue from Ruan Hailou in an instant.
It went so fast that no one even realized what had happened.
Ruan Hailou’s palm was already on its way. Even though he sensed it and was alarmed almost instantly, it was still too late for him to withdraw. The Sword Light came down like a sovereign descending onto the world and firmly suppressed Ran Hailou’s attack.
He felt a sharp pain in his palm and quickly retreated. After he landed on the ground and looked down, he saw that it still left a long, deep, bloody cut on his palm.
Among those present, almost all elite disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect were either wounded or killed during the internal conflict, and the rest were all down-spirited. As a result, no one even realized that Shen Qiao’s swordstrike just now was a tangible Sword Intent that was almost at the level of Sword Heart. As for others like Ran Hailou, even if they could tell, they would never say it out loud to boost their enemy’s morale.
“Who are you?!” Ruan Hailou groaned while pressing firmly onto the bleeding wound on his hand.
He returned the sword to its sheath. His voice was gentle and soft, but everyone heard him.
The others didn’t give much reaction, but Pu Anmi’s face looked rather horrified. “You are Shen Qiao?!”
“It seems like you recognize me, mister. May I have your name?”
Pu Anmi repeated to himself that it was impossible. After he regained control of himself, he pulled a smile. “My master is Kunye. I’m sure he’s no stranger to you, Daoist Priest Shen.”
Shen Qiao was well bred after all. He didn’t make a big reaction even when he heard the name of the person who made him fall off the cliff and severely wounded. He only nodded and said, “An old friend indeed.”
The name of his master once again filled Pu Anmi with confidence. “Master has missed Daoist Priest Shen very much ever since the fight on Half-Step Peak. He was worried that you would lose your life because of the fall. Luckily, Heaven has blessed you, and Daoist Priest Shen was able to escape death. Master is not far from here and is going to arrive by tomorrow. At that time, Daoist Priest Shen can get together with your old friend again!”
Hearing the battle on Half-Step Peak, most people realized who Shen Qiao was.
The way some of them were looking at Shen Qiao made Shiwu sick. He frowned and stepped forward slightly, hoping to block these glances.
Shen Qiao seemed to have sensed Shiwu’s intention. He smiled and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder, his voice remained mild, “An old friend indeed, and we really should get together sometime.”
He then redirected the conversation, “I’m sure all of you didn’t come here today because of me. It’s important that we settle the real matter first.”
Ruan Hailou said coldly, “Daoist Priest Shen, I’ve heard of your name even in Goguryeo. It is a great pleasure to finally meet you today. However, this is the Jade Cloud Sect’s internal affair. How would you explain yourself for taking a hand in something that is none of your business?”
If the person wasn’t Shen Qiao but someone else, he would have attacked them already. It was just that Shen Qiao’s preemptive strike just now had frightened everyone and deterred Ruan Hailou from making a move.
Shen Qiao sighed, “I do not intend to get involved with the internal affairs of the Jade Cloud Sect. But today I am bringing a junior back to his sect and acknowledging his forefathers. I can’t just stand here and watch you slaughter the entire Jade Cloud Sect, right?”
Yue Kunchi asked, slightly confused, “Daoist Priest Shen, who is this ‘junior’ you’re talking about?”
Shen Qiao briefly explained who Shiwu was. Yue Kunchi gasped and cried out involuntarily, “He’s Martial Uncle Zhu’s disciple?!”
Ruan Hailou on the side suddenly started to laugh, “Good! Very good! Today’s a good day. All our old friends are here. Zhu Lengquan didn’t come himself, but he sent his disciple. If he was still here, I would really like to ask him to do me justice and tell everyone the truth —— Whether I truly deserved to be expelled from the sect or if it was all because of Hui Leshan’s selfish and unjust act!”
Yue Kunchi slowly breathed out the turbid air in his chest. “Martial Uncle Ruan, this will be the last time I refer to you as my martial uncle. Before Master passed away, he once told me about the past grudges. I could sense the great regret within his words. He too felt guilty for what happened back then, and he told me that if I were to meet you in the future, I should still treat you with respect as my martial uncle. However, all these past grudges belong to the last generation. Even if you have no feelings for these disciples who were from the same sect as you, you should at least keep in mind the benevolence of the sect for raising you. But now, you-you even…”
Looking around at the corpses on the ground and the war-worn place, he found it difficult to continue. In the end, he said with deep sorrow in his voice, “What fault do these disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect have? They never experienced or participated in that event. Why should they die in vain?! Lu Feng! You’re an elder of the sect, yet you decide to collude with outsiders…”
Lu Feng stopped him impatiently, “Enough whining! This is exactly why I hate you so much! If Zhao Chiying was willing to put in a little more effort in managing the sect, then the Jade Cloud Sect won’t be in the dying state it is in right now. Those people died because they’re too incompetent! So what? If you’re smart enough, you should hand over the sect leader position now. No matter who takes over the Jade Cloud Sect, they’ll sure do a better job than you!”
Yue Kunchi asked, “What if I refuse?”
Pu Anmi laughed, “Zhou is on the verge of declaring war against Qi. Their menacing armies could show up at any moment. There’s nothing Qi can do at this point. Sect Leader Ruan and Elder Lu have already pledged their loyalty to Erfu Khan of Eastern Tujue and both were granted official posts and titles of nobility. If Elder Yue is a smart person and can convince the entire Jade Cloud Sect to submit to us, you’re guaranteed a promising future.”
After he finished, he turned to Shen Qiao as if something suddenly came to his mind, “I almost forgot this. Congratulations! Erfu Khan has just conferred the title ‘Immortal Sect Master of Peace of Yuyang’ upon your junior martial brother, the current sect leader of Mount Xuandu, Yu Ai. If you hadn’t lost to my master that day, you would be the one to be honored with such a title, right?”