Chapter 49: What right do you have to look down on me?
Shen Qiao slightly frowned, but it was obviously not because he wasn’t conferred with the honor. “So is Yu Ai coming to the Jade Cloud Sect together with Kunye this time?”
Pu Anmi laughed, “Immortal Yu isn’t coming. Only my master is. If Daoist Priest Shen is interested, you might as well wait till my master arrives. Then you can follow us to have an audience with Erfu Khan. I’m sure he’ll be very happy to see you.”
“I am now a castaway, but not so much so as to the extent of having to depend on a bandit who only knows how to rob and slaughter the innocent.”
The smile on Pu Anmi’s face disappeared instantly. “Do you know what you just said? Do you really think you can look down on others as you like just because you’ve got Yan Wushi to back you up?”
Shen Qiao quietly returned, “I never thought that way.”
Pu Anmi suddenly smiled again, “Daoist Priest Shen better know this —— Yan Wushi soon won’t be able to save even himself. Rather than depending on him, the powerful and prosperous Tujue would be a wiser option. It looks like Daoist Priest Shen has already regained most of your martial arts. If you agree to serve Erfu Khan, as someone who always has a heart for talented people, he would definitely be willing to grant you an honorable position, and you will be able to stand up against your junior brother as an equal at that time. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“I appreciate your kindness, but please allow me to reject the offer.”
Seeing how Shen Qiao could not be persuaded no matter what, Pu Anmi felt himself burning with anger. Just as he was about to say some more, Lu Feng on the other side started to lose patience and suggested: “Mister Pu, whatever grudges you have against him, can you please wait till another day? The most important thing right now is to finish off the Jade Cloud Sect so that they don’t give rise to other problems later.”
Pu Anmi nodded and turned to Ruan Hailou. “I will follow Sect Leader Ruan’s opinion on this matter. What do you say?”
Ruan Hailou was now a member of the East Island Sect. He held a relatively high position in the sect, and since he also married the princess of Goguryeo, his status became rather special. The Eastern Tujue wanted to take advantage of Zhou’s declaration of war against Qi to seize the eastern part of Qi’s territory, a plan which happened to match Goguryeo’s interests. The two countries immediately discussed the matter in secret and even agreed on how to divide the territory afterwards. All they needed right now was to wait for Zhou to launch a massive attack. As Qi busied themselves putting out the fire on their western border, they could easily get their share from the east.
What happened in the Jade Cloud Sect today was but an unremarkable and unimportant part of the greater scheme. It was just that since Ruan Hailou had pledged his loyalty to Tujue as the son-in-law of the Goguryeo King, Tujue also needed to show him respect by assisting him when he set off to the Jade Cloud Sect to settle old scores.
Ruan Hailou turned to Yue Kunchi and said, “I’ll give you one last chance: surrender, and you don’t have to die.”
Clutching his chest, Yue Kunchi breathed heavily, “The Jade Cloud Sect might not be particularly famous or prosperous, but it is the fruit of many generations of our forefathers’ painstaking efforts. As a disciple of the Jade Cloud Sect, I, Yue Kunchi, cannot bring shame to them. I would rather die than surrender!”
Ruan Hailou burst into laughter, “Very good! Hui Leshan was a hypocritical, deceitful, nasty little person, but he has a disciple who is a man of iron! I will grant you your wish then!”
He was still worried about Shen Qiao’s interference just now, so he glanced at the side and was about to say something. But Pu Anmi seemed to know what Ruan Hailou’s concern was. The next second, he stepped in between Shen Qiao and Yue Kunchi and said, “Let me check how much martial arts Daoist Priest Shen has recovered!”
Kunye was Hulugu’s personal disciple as well as the Left Wise King of Tujue, which made his status very honorable and well-respected. Pu Anmi was Kunye’s eldest disciple. Coming from a noble family in Tujue, he had always been an arrogant and self-important person. Even though he had witnessed the Sword Qi from Shen Qiao, he didn’t take it too seriously. After all, everyone knew that Shen Qiao had been seriously injured not long ago, and that there was no antidote to Quietus. While they were talking just now, he could see that Shen Qiao’s eyes stayed unfocused, likely due to bad vision, and he had made the judgement in his mind. Therefore, as soon as he decided to attack, he immediately made a fierce, killing move, intending to gain the initiative and eliminate this unstable factor named Shen Qiao who suddenly appeared.
Pu Anmi’s weapon was a blade. His style of blade arts was extremely overbearing, like a lone wolf on a boundless prairie. When his blade flashed by, the wind howled and the cranes cried, and anyone who heard them would shudder and flee instantly!
The blade thundered down with tremendous vigor like a mountain bearing down from above. Its pressure made people breathless.
The blade flashed through like lightning, but by the time it hacked down, Shen Qiao was no longer at his original place. He quickly took three steps back and dodged the murderous blade.
But these three steps didn’t puff Pu Anmi up with pride, because he saw that Shen Qiao didn’t unsheathe his sword.
What did it mean?
It meant that the other person felt the situation wasn’t dangerous to the point where he needed to draw his weapon. In order words, it meant that the other person didn’t feel the need to draw his weapon just to deal with an opponent like him.
Pu Anmi’s expression changed slightly. A sense of humiliation welled up in his heart.
He felt Shen Qiao was too self-important!
You were once defeated by my master, but now you dare to belittle me?!
What right do you have to look down on me?
His first attack missed, so he had to make another one. With a quick turn of thoughts, Pu Anmi charged forward, raising a cloud of Blade Light —— this time, it didn’t bear down abruptly like before but surged forwards like countless tides of waves. It looked like he only made one strike, when in fact there were six layers of Blade Qi, each one more powerful than the previous.
An ordinary blade master who could make four or five layers of Blade Light at his age could already be considered to have an extraordinary aptitude, but Pu An Mi was able to create six. Therefore, it was not surprising for him to be so confident in himself.
Shen Qiao finally unsheathed his sword.
When Shen Qiao drew the Grieving Celestial Sword out of its sheath, it was vibrating. No one could tell whether it was just resonating under the influence of the Blade Light, or whether the years of nourishment from Shen Qiao’s Sword Qi had given it its own spirit and it could not wait to face its enemy.
Shiwu opened his eyes wide in surprise. He realized that this was one of the moves in Azurewave Sword Arts which Shen Qiao had demonstrated to him next to the Yellow River.
It was the Mellow Breeze!
As the bright moon descended behind the pine woods, the night breeze came uninvited. A person was sitting underneath a pine tree, his back as straight as the tree. He plucked a string on the zither, and this absent-minded, innocent move suddenly brought forth a chilly, mellow breeze, gently stroking his face amidst the flower rain.
It was an extremely fast move, but it had such a picturesque name. Shiwu didn’t understand the reason at first, but when he saw Shen Qiao’s seemingly careless strike, he suddenly apprehended something.
It only took one sword strike to dispel six layers of Bade Light!
Pu Anmi almost couldn’t believe his eyes. He froze only for a brief moment, but Shen Qiao’s sword was already before his eyes, aiming right at his face.
His only option was to withdraw his attack and retreat. Shen Qiao, unlike his usual self however, pressed in step by step. The two of them, one retreating and one advancing, traversed the entire inner court in an instant! Just as Pu Anmi’s back was about to hit the wall, he used the momentum to leap onto the beam, then, with his upper body hanging upside down from the beam, swung his blade at Shen Qiao.
On the other side, Yue Kunchi was in no way a match for Ruan Hailou. Yue Kunchi’s martial arts skill could only be considered as good among ordinary people, not to mention that Ruan Hailou was also one level higher than him seniority-wise. The only reason he was appointed to manage the affairs within the sect was because Zhao Chiying was in a Closed Door meditation and could not leave. Since he was always busy with all the sundry duties, he became more and more negligent in martial arts training and therefore naturally was not Ruan Hailou’s match. In just a twinkling of an eye, he was again seriously injured as he fell to the ground and spat out a mouthful of blood.
This time, Ruan Hailou didn’t leave him any space for manoeuver. He raised his hand and was going to make the killing move.
Seeing that Lu Feng was holding up Fan Yuanbai and Zhou Yexue, the only two people present who technically knew how to fight, and that the rest of the disciples were but mediocrities whose martial arts skill was not even presentable, Shiwu had no choice but to brace himself to come forward and hold back Ruan Hailou for Yue Kunchi.
Ruan Hailou didn’t even care about him. He sneered and immediately pushed Shiwu aside with his sleeve.
“Ah!” Shiwu fell backwards. His sword dropped to the ground.
Shen Qiao heard the noise over there. He didn’t even have to look back to know what happened. He shook his head in his mind and sighed to himself at how a large sect like the Jade Cloud Sect had fallen to such a state. As he swept Pu Anmi’s blade attacks to the side, he turned back to help Yue Kunchi at the same time, which happened to nullify the energy from Ruan Hailou’s palm. For a moment, the situation turned into one where Shen Qiao was fighting against both Pu Anmi and Ruan Hailou by himself.
Pu Anmi sneered, “Daoist Priest Shen is an able man indeed, always wanting to handle everything by yourself!”
As soon as he realized that Shen Qiao could not be used by him, he had the intention to kill Shen Qiao. Now, with Ruan Hailou joining him, the pressure on him was immediately alleviated. He hesitated no more and turned every attack into a killing move. The eight layers of Blade Qi whose momentum could overturn a mountain and upset the sea rushed forth at the other person.
In other people’s eyes, Shen Qiao had to deal with both Pu Anmi’s almost impeccable Blade Qi and Ruan Hailou’s fierce and powerful palms. Two fists were no match for four hands —— no matter how skilled he was, it was very unlikely that he could cope with the situation.
Shiwu’s heart was in his mouth. He dared not shout out for fear that it would distract Shen Qiao and affect his hearing judgment. He held his hands tightly together, totally unaware that they were already covered in sweat.
Shen Qiao made a sword strike.
This sword strike appeared to have the power to wipe out an entire army before it. Wherever the tip went, Sword Qi roared around freely and its white glow soared up, piercing right through the sky.
After one attack, he immediately retreated. His toes tapped on the ground, and he leaped up and exerted the lightness skill of Mount Xuandu, “Rainbow Shadow”, to its extreme. In a split second, he disappeared from everyone’s sight. When he showed up again, he had already landed behind Ruan Hailou. The blade in Pu Anmi’s hand fell to the ground. There was a bleeding cut across his wrist, but he didn’t even look at it. His face was full of disbelief, as if he still couldn’t accept the fact that he lost.
Ruan Hailou was in a slightly better state than him. He withdrew his attack in time and pulled himself out of the fight with Shen Qiao, then went back to killing Yue Kunchi.
But Shen Qiao stopped him again. Ruan Hailou felt vexed, but he had no choice but to continue fighting him. He scolded with an angry expression, “Do you even know how despicable and shameless Yue Kunchi’s master was? You can’t even tell right from wrong, and helping him is no different from taking the side of the evildoers!”
Shen Qiao said in a deep voice, “Since I don’t know the details of your grudges with him, I should not have the right to interfere. But are you saying that those disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect whose corpses are still laying outside also deserve to pay the price for your resentment?”
Ruan Hailou said hatefully, “The entire Jade Cloud Sect owes me. I’ve endured it in silence for more than ten years. Now that Hui Leshan is dead, is there anything wrong with asking his descendants to pay for it?!”
Shen Qiao said no more.
If a person was wholeheartedly whelmed in hatred, no matter how much other people tried to comfort and talk them out of it, it would be to no avail. Not to mention, Ruan Hailou also allied himself with Tujue and killed almost all disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect. He obviously didn’t want to end it peacefully either.
Their moves became faster and faster. Even though Ruan Hailou was not very well known among the pugilistic circle in the Central Plains, he was not someone who was easy to deal with. When he was young, he was once the most talented disciple of the Jade Cloud Sect. For some reason, he later left the sect and went to Goguryeo. He then re-established himself in the East Island Sect and eventually became one of their elders. Today, he was already one of the top-rate martial artists in the world.
As for Shen Qiao, even though he was able to rebuild his foundation, it was impossible for him to fully recover to his previous state overnight. At the moment, his martial power was about more than half of what he had in his full bloom. It was just that without the constant harassment from the poison and those old injuries, he could fight with more ease and fewer concerns.
Seeing how the fight between the two flared like a raging fire, Pu Anmi realized that Shen Qiao could not possibly attend to other things right now. A plan came to his mind. He squinted his eyes and carefully observed the fight for a while. As Shen Qiao turned around to deal with Ruan Hailou’s palm, he suddenly drew out his blade and thrust it down Shen Qiao’s back!
“Daoist Priest Shen! Be careful!”
Yue Kunchi, Shiwu and some others shouted out at the same time. They were all watching the battle attentively, so they all saw it.
Unfortunately, one of them was seriously injured, while the other’s martial arts skill wasn’t good enough. Shiwu had already got up and was running towards him, but he had just started learning martial arts not long ago. How could someone like him stop Pu Anmi from attacking? The blade was going to land on Shen Qiao’s back at any moment!
A cool breeze suddenly arrived with a faint fragrance. Shiwu blinked. Before he realized what happened, he felt he saw a blue belt floating by in front of his eyes.
Pu Anmi’s blade didn’t land on Shen Qiao but on a slim and fair hand instead. At first glance, it looked like the other person had caught the blade bare-handedly, but in reality, there was a layer of inner qi separating them. The blade then bounced away, and Pu Anmi was hit by a palm. His body flew backwards; stone tiles cracked inch by inch underneath his feet, their fragments spattering in all directions. It didn’t stop until he reached the gate.
“Zhao Chiying?” Pu Anmi guessed the other person’s identity almost immediately.
“Yes, it’s me.” A woman donning blue answered. She quickly moved forwards, closing in on Pu Anmi with every step. Soon, she snatched the blade in Pu Anmi’s hand and locked the other person’s acupoints.
Zhao Chiying went forth and helped Yue Kunchi up, asking anxiously, “Senior Martial Brother, are you alright?”
Yue Kunchi pulled a bitter smile, “I’m fine. It’s just that I am too useless and have made you waste all previous efforts.”
Zhao Chiying shook her head and didn’t say anything. Seeing that Shen Qiao had already gained an upper hand against Ruan Hailou, she didn’t take a hand in their fight but chose to help Fan Yuanbai defeat Lu Feng first.
Lu Feng and Ruan Hailou had been in touch with each other privately for a long time. In fact, a major reason why Ruan Hailou’s invasion on the Jade Cloud Sect went so smoothly was because of Lu Feng’s help. He had been in the Jade Cloud Sect for many years; therefore, he naturally had a group of loyal disciples. However, after over half a day of intense fighting, he too suffered a great loss. Only a few of his men remained. They were still fighting with Fan Yuanbai and the others, but with the help of the East Island Sect and Pu Anmi, Lu Feng was quite certain that he could seize the sect leader’s throne today if nothing else happened.
Who would have expected that Zhao Chiying, who was originally in a Closed Door Meditation and was said to have reached a critical moment, would suddenly appear?
Fan Yuanbai, Zhou Yixue, and the rest of the disciples were covered in wounds. They had almost used up all of their strength. The only reason they could still hold themselves together was because of pure determination. Zhao Chiying’s appearance had undoubtedly given them the utmost encouragement. Lu Feng couldn’t be angrier about it. Without thinking, he turned his sword at Zhao Chiying. Wrapped in a frightening halo and piercing Sword Qi, it charged right at Zhao Chiying’s face!
Zhao Chiying held both hands in front of her and traced out the Yin-Yang symbol with her fingers. She had long, tapering fingers, and it was a great pleasure to look at them as they danced in the air. But Lu Feng’s expression changed drastically. He couldn’t drive his sword any further, and, under the manipulation of Zhao Chiying’s hands, the entire sword exploded and shattered into pieces!
“Ah!” He let out a blood-curdling scream. His body involuntarily flew backwards, crashing into the wall behind him, and the major acupoints all over his body were locked immediately afterwards.
On the other side, Shen Qiao also defeated Ruan Hailou. He cut the tendon on one of Ruan Hailou’s hands. The latter sat on the ground, his face ashen, with Shen Qiao’s sword next to his neck.
The result was certain.
Once Lu Feng, Ruan Hailou and Pu Anmi were defeated and under control, the rest of the enemies posed no threat. The remaining disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect, after having their mainstay, quickly stabilized the situation. All people from the East Island Sect were arrested. However, looking at the scene in front of them, with the majority of the disciples dead and blood flowing through the ground, no one felt the joy of victory. There was only a deep sense of heaviness and exhaustion.
Zhao Chiying looked at Lu Feng and said, “Elder Lu, I know you used to have a good relationship with Ruan Hailou. But how could you harden your heart to such an extent as to turn your back upon the lives of our disciples, collude with outsiders and destroy the entire Jade Cloud Sect just because of that?”
Lu Feng sneered and said stubbornly, “For so many years, you’ve paid no attention to the affairs in the sect, solely focusing on cultivating in a Closed Door Meditation. You’ve always been an unfit sect leader. What right do you have to question me?! Yue Kunchi’s skill in martial arts is rather inadequate, and his ability to manage affairs is just so-so. The Jade Cloud Sect has had better days in the past, but now it has already declined to nothing but a third-rate sect. If we still don’t take drastic actions to reform it, I’m afraid that it won’t take many years for this sect to disappear completely from this world! Brother Ruan is originally a disciple of our sect, and now he is also the son-in-law of the Goguryeo King; why can’t he lead the Jade Cloud Sect to regain its glory?! You’re one who knows how to profit from other people’s struggles. People have been fighting here for a while, some of them even lost their lives, and you came out at the last moment to pick up the pieces. No wonder you’re the sect leader. The victor writes the tale, and the defeated becomes the villain —— I have nothing else to say!”
Zhao Chiying shook her head. She didn’t want to argue with him and only told Fan Yuanbai and the others to take him into custody first, then she turned to Ruan Hailou, “Ruan Hailou, what you have done today is a blood debt to the Jade Cloud Sect that can only be atoned with your life. Do you have any other words to say?”
Ruan Hailou stared at Zhao Chiying, “Yue Kunchi told me that Hui Leshan said something about me to you before he died.”
“That’s right. Master told us everything before he passed away.”
Ruan Hailou asked coldly, “What did he say? I’m afraid it can’t be anything else than how greedy I was and how I let down his kindness.”
Zhao Chiying shook her head and said slowly, “Master said that out of all martial brothers, he had the closest relationship with you. At that time, there were so many young talents in the Jade Cloud Sect. Everyone thought the sect was going to thrive in all of your hands. Among all the talented disciples, you and my deceased master were the two most outstanding ones, which made Grandmaster very hesitant on who to appoint as the next sect leader.”
“The competition for sect leader was exceedingly intense. Grandmaster and some of the Elders assigned many tests, all of which, however, were solved by you two one after the other. It was said that one of the exams was to let you two make it to Chang’an from two different starting points —— whoever reached there first would win. At that time, every place was under the flame of war, and the trip was very dangerous and difficult. Master fell ill in Province Yi, and you happened to be passing through there. In order to take care of Master, your trip was delayed, and the first person to make it to the destination was neither of you but another disciple.”
As she talked, Ruan Hailou seemed to have sunk into those old memories, “Right, he had always been a stubborn boy ever since he was a child. He never admitted defeat, and would at least take a bet no matter what. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was too sick to even get up, he would’ve never delayed his plan. I couldn’t leave him in the hotel knowing he would be all alone.”
Zhao Chiying said, “Master said he had always been a competitive person ever since he was a kid, extremely obsessed with winning and losing. It was you who always yielded to him on everything. He never had the time to thank you properly.”
Ruan Hailou laughed scornfully, “I don’t need his gratitude! He really knows how to act as a good man in front of you guys. I’m sure he must have covered up many of the things he’s done!”
Zhao Chiying, making no reaction to the indignation in his voice, continued, “The competition and trials for the sect leader positions became more and more intense. Victory became Master’s only goal —— he even ignored the past friendship between you two and used some dishonorable means…”
Yun Kunchi cried out, “Sister!”
Zhao Chiying said calmly, “This is what Master told us before he died. You also heard it. I’m only conveying what he said.”
Yue Kunchi insisted, “But…”
The dead deserved to be respected —— such a way of thinking was too deeply ingrained in his mind that he could not see himself speak ill of his diseased master no matter what.
Zhao Chiying continued, “True blue will never stain, and history will judge if one is truly innocent or guilty. Truth will not disappear over time. It is and will always be there. The mistake Master made back then indirectly led to the situation the Jade Cloud Sect is facing today. As his disciples, we ought to bear the consequences. This was also Master’s dying wish before he passed away.”
What she said completely astounded Fan Yuanbai and the others on the side.
This secret and little-known history finally came to an end at that chaotic night. Even Zhao Chiying and Yue Kunchi were but two young disciples at that time and couldn’t get a glimpse of the stories behind it, let alone Fan Yuanbai and the others who hadn’t even joined the sect around then.
She said to Ruan Hailou, “Master once told you that he thought you were more capable than he was. You should be the one to inherit the position of the sect leader, and he would not participate in the competition anymore. You believed him. The two of you turned up completely intoxicated that night. When you woke up the next morning, you found yourself lying right next to your master’s youngest daughter. Your master believed you lost control over yourself and had sex with her when drunk, thus incompetent of holding important positions. You couldn’t explain yourself, so you asked Master to testify in your favor. However, what you didn’t expect was that Master turned around and accused you instead. Many years later, Master said on his deathbed that he purposely got you drunk that night. He also knew that your master’s daughter admired you greatly. Therefore, he plotted with her and they put up this play together to trap you. They were able to deceive everyone, even your master. However, you were a person of integrity and an unyielding spirit. Bristled with anger, you clashed with your master and left the sect in a rage…”
Ruan Hailou showed a bitter smile, “That’s right. I will never forget how the person I trusted the most in the world secretly framed me and made such nasty moves on me!”
“Because of this, the disciples started to lose faith in the sect. Not long after you left, Martial Uncle Zhu left as well. The sect, which was already in its last glow, declined even more. Grandmaster passed the sect leader position to Master, but Master’s heart remained unsettled all these years. He told us the truth before he passed away and said to us that if you ever came back, he wanted to make sure that we told you that he owed you justice for half of your life.”
Ruan Hailou’s face turned deathly pale. There was a strange smile on his lips. “Owed me? If he really thought he owed me, why didn’t he come out himself? Why did he send you instead?!”
His expression suddenly turned ferocious. “He’s not dead, is he?! He has been hiding in the dark and watching us all this time, right? Go make him come out! Call Hui Leshan out!”
There was unnoticeable pity in Zhao Chiying’s eyes. She said, “Master lived in guilt for half his life because of this. He couldn’t get it out of his mind and ended up dying early.”
Ruan Hailou shook his head, “Impossible. How can someone as cunning as him possibly die so early?!”
Zhao Chiying heaved a sigh, “I’m afraid that even my master didn’t know that what he owed you in those years had to be repaid with the blood of most of the disciples of the Jade Cloud Sect. Every debt should be accounted separately. As for the score between us, I’ll settle it with you today.”
But Ruan Hailou seemed like he didn’t hear her, “I don’t believe he’s dead. Where is his grave?”
Yue Kunchi couldn’t stand it anymore. “After each generational sect leader passes away, their remains are cremated and the ashes are sprinkled on the various peaks of Mount Tai. Only their memorial tablets are enshrined in the House of Ancestors. Have you lived as a foreigner for too long that you’ve even forgotten about these things?”
Ruan Hailou slowly closed his eyes. After a while, tears streamed down his cheek, and he didn’t say anything after that.
Zhao Chiying said to Fan Yuanbai and the others, “Go strap up your wounds first, then search around to see if any of our disciples are still alive. Finally, lock these people up separately, and we’ll find another day to deal with them.”
They agreed immediately.
Pu Anmi couldn’t stop himself from saying out loud, “My master, Kunye, will soon come up to visit Sect Leader Zhao. Please release me first. We can talk over it.”
Zhao Chiying asked curiously, “Who is Kunye?”
She had been in a Closed Door Meditation for too many years that she hadn’t even heard of the name Kunye.
“My master is the Left Wise King of Tujue and the disciple of Tujue’s Grand Master, Hulugu. He also defeated the sect leader of Mount Xuandu.” He paused for a second and casted a glance at Shen Qiao. “Oh, yes. I mean this Sect Leader Shen in front of us.”
Zhao Chiying frowned, “What is going on?”
Yue Kunchi, fighting against his injuries, briefly explained the whole sequence of events to Zhao Chiying. Then he added, “We have to thank this Daoist Priest Shen. If it weren’t for him, we would have lost control of the situation before you arrived.”
Zhao Chiying nodded and saluted to Shen Qiao, “Thank you very much for your help, Daoist Priest Shen. The entire Jade Cloud Sect will bear firmly in our mind the great kindness you have done us.”
“Sect Leader Zhao, that was too courteous of you.”
Zhao Chiying said, “There are too many things waiting for me to settle. If Daoist Priest Shen doesn’t have anything important right now, would you mind taking a rest in our guest room first? Please allow me to settle the other things before hearing your advice.”
The battle had greatly undermined the strength of the Jade Cloud Sect. Not to mention ordinary disciples, even among those whose martial arts skill was slightly more presentable, Fan Yuanbai and Zhou Yexue were the only two who survived. Even they were both injured to some degree. As for the rest, their bodies were scattered all over the ground, a scene that was simply heartbreaking to behold.
Even clearing and gathering those disciples’ corpses wasn’t an easy task.
Shen Qiao expressed his understanding of the situation, “I’ll be bothering you for a few more days. Sect Leader Zhao can deal with the important matters first, and we can talk afterwards.”
Pu Anmi was not happy to be ignored. Just as he was about to speak up, the sheath of Zhao Chiying’s sword suddenly shot out and directly hit his acupoint, successfully shutting the other person’s mouth.
What was going to happen next was not something Shen Qiao could interfere with. He brought Shiwu to the guest room. No one was available to receive them, and they could not ask a sect leader like Zhao Chiying to perform trivial tasks for them. Luckily, a disciple was at service for the hard work; the diligent little Shiwu ran back and forth between the rooms and soon finished boiling hot water for Shen Qiao as well as getting a plate of pastries from the kitchen.
Shen Qiao, finding it both funny and slightly awkward, made Shiwu sit down next to him and said, “I’m not hungry. You can have them all.”
But Shiwu refused to sit. “I’m not hungry either. Master Shen must be tired from fighting all those people. Let me give you a shoulder massage!”
Shen Qiao stopped his hand and asked, “Shiwu, are you afraid of something?”
Shiwu froze for a moment, then mumbled, “No-not at all.”
Shen Qiao gently stroked his head. “My eyes may not be good, but my heart isn’t blind. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid that I will abandon you?”
The rims of Shiwu’s eyes immediately turned reddish. He lowered his head and didn’t say anything. After a long time, he finally said, “I shouldn’t be like this. Master wants me to come to the Jade Cloud Sect, and now I am here. I should be happy. But every time when I think about how you are going to leave soon, I can’t help but feel sad.”
Shen Qiao smiled with a sigh, “You silly boy!”
Just before he was about to say something, they heard a faint uproar outside.
There was no time for Shen Qiao to think closely about it. He brought Shiwu with him and went out to check.
The two of them followed the source of the clamour all the way to the hill behind the sect, which wasn’t far from the rear court they resided in anyway. Right next to it was the library and House of Ancestors of the Jade Cloud Sect.
They heard Zhao Chiying shouting angrily, “Ruan Hailou! What are you doing?!!”
She was always the extremely calm type, not blinking an eye even if a mountain was to collapse in front of her. Her way of handling the affairs had left a deep impression on Shen Qiao. However, what was happening right now made her unable to stay composed anymore. Even her voice cracked.
When Shen Qiao and Shiwu arrived, they saw Ruan Hailou standing on the edge of the cliff, facing away from them. He seemed to be holding a wooden plaque in his arms.
The mountain wind was blowing heavily, making it hard for people to open their eyes. Their robes danced and rustled in the air.
Yue Kunchi’s face was turning both pale and black from rage. It looked like he was about to spit out blood at any moment. “Put down Master’s memorial tablet, you bastard!”
Ruan Hailou didn’t even look at them. He only lowered his head and spoke to the item he was holding, “Hui Leshan, you owe me half of my life, yet you died so early to get yourself out of it. You really calculated it well, didn’t you?”
“I killed countless disciples in your sect. You’re going to hate me from the bottom of your heart this time. It doesn’t matter anymore, however, since I’m going to pay you back with my life. But how are you ever going to make up for the half of my life that you owe me?!”
Suddenly, he looked up and laughed sardonically. Those laughs were filled with endless misery and gloom.
“Hui Leshan! How cruel you are! I really, really hate you!”
As soon as he finished, he jumped off the cliff!
Someone in the crowd shouted out in surprise. Everyone stared at the scene and was completely stunned, unable to utter a word.