Chapter 5: Leaning against the wall, he appeared calm and peaceful, with no signs of fear
About three days after the incident, the day came for Yu Shengyan to make his move.
Since the New Year had just passed not long ago and the Lantern Festival had yet to come, the entirety of Ye City, the capital of Qi, was enveloped in a jubilant atmosphere.
Yan Zhiwen’s official rank was not very high. In fact, the reason that the Harmony Sect had put him in this position was probably just to keep an extra eye on the court. Since his martial skills were only mediocre, and he left himself unguarded as well, with Yu Shengyan’s current level of skills, the task would be no more difficult than drinking a cup of water.
Nonetheless, Yu Shengyan still brought Shen Qiao along with him in accordance with Yan Wushi’s instructions and told him to wait outside the Yan Residence while he himself leaped straight onto the roof, moving towards Yan Zhiwen’s study in stealth.
According to the information he had obtained beforehand, despite Yan Zhiwen’s second-rate martial skills, he was a rather crafty man—the very reason he was able to obtain a position for himself in the Harmony Sect. Yu Shengyan’s assassination was only an act to warn their opponents, so he had not been paying much attention to this person until this point. Only after he entered did he realize that something was not right.
The servants were still here, and the guards occasionally patrolled around the outside of the residence. But whether it be in the study or the bedroom, Yu Shengyan could not spot a single trace of Yan Zhiwen.
Not only Yan Zhiwen, but even his wife and children seemed to have vanished into thin air as well.
Following the elusive and unpredictable style of the Cleaning Moon Sect, Yu Shengyan landed lightly inside the inner residence like a shadow. He stopped a servant and hit his mute acupoint  before the servant could even react, as if this was a dream.
“Where’s Yan Zhiwen?”
The servant’s eyes widened. He started to panic as he discovered that this handsome young man could bring him under control with nothing but a finger, but he was unable to make a sound.
Yu Shengyan smiled at him, “I will not kill you if you tell me where Yan Zhiwen and his family went. Alternatively, I can kill every single person inside this residence regardless of you calling for help, do you understand?”
Frightened out of his senses, the servant nodded repeatedly.
Yu Shengyan slightly loosened his grip, then unlocked the servant’s mute acupoint.
The servant immediately replied, “The mistress and the young masters left two days ago. Master said that he was sending them to stay at their spare mansion by the hot springs for a while.”
Yu Shengyan sneered, “Even if his family is not around, don’t tell me that Yan Zhiwen has left together with them. The Court Meeting  will be held tomorrow, is he not coming back?”
The servant stammered, “When master left, he didn’t tell us the details, so we do-do-don’t know…”
He lost the patience to listen any further and knocked him out directly with his palm. Then he found the butler of the Yan Residence and threatened him for the whereabouts of the Yan family, but the answer he got was exactly the same.
Yu Shengyan was not stupid. By this time, he realized that Yan Zhiwen had probably already been informed beforehand that he was coming to kill him.
But this command was given by Yan Wushi. Besides him, the only person who knew about it was Shen Qiao—even the butler of the Xie Residence was not aware of it.
It was obviously impossible for Yu Shengyan to have walked around talking about it thereby blurting out this piece of news himself.
An ice-cold murderous intent spread across his mind. At first, he wanted to simply crush the larynx of the butler. After giving it a second thought, however, killing a servant was meaningless at this point since he had already failed to eliminate the entire Yan family. Instead, it could end up alerting their enemies and open themselves up for ridicule from the Harmony Sect. He knocked out the butler as well, turned around, and left the Yan Residence. Boiling with anger, he went to find Shen Qiao who was still waiting for him in the alley next to the residence.
“It was you who conveyed the message to Yan Zhiwen?”
Shen Qiao nodded, without any hesitation or denial, “You’re right.”
Yu Shengyan hated him for ruining his plan. The faint, careless smile that was usually on his face had faded long ago, replaced with a cold expression filled with killing intent. “Why?”
Shen Qiao said, “I know there have been grudges between the Harmony Sect and us, and since Yan Zhiwen belongs to the Harmony Sect, I don’t have a say if Master wants to kill him. But what guilt does a child have? If the purpose is to kill Yan Zhiwen, what’s the point in involving his wife and children?”
Yu Shengyan replied coldly, “Whether to kill his family is not for you to decide. The only thing I want to know is how you managed to deliver a message to Yan Zhiwen as a blind man with a feeble body, when you can’t even tell directions once you’re outside?”
Shen Qiao answered, “You once said that Yan Zhiwen was a crafty man whose suspicion could be easily aroused by the tiniest detail that didn’t seem right. There was angelica root  in my prescription, so I managed to keep some of it. At first, I was going to find an opportunity to deliver it to the Yan Residence, but since I happened to run into Han E’ying that very day in front of the medicine shop, I decided to put what I wanted to give Yan Zhiwen inside the box and asked her to send it for me, using a return gift as an excuse. She just thought I was an acquaintance of Yan Zhiwen and thus didn’t ask anything else. I assume that Yan Zhiwen, after receiving the medical herb from me, probably realized that something was not right and therefore relocated all of his family beforehand.”
Yu Shengyan was extremely angry, to the point where it came out as a laugh, “I’ve really underestimated you. I didn’t expect you to be such a capable man!”
He reached out and took Shen Qiao by the throat, gradually tightening his grip, “You’ve ruined the mission given by Master. Do you know what the consequences will be?”
Shen Qiao was completely powerless against him. As it became difficult for him to breath, his complexion slowly turned ill, his chest heaving so rapidly that all he was able to stammer out was a disjointed sentence, “Actually… I’m not a disciple of the Cleansing Moon Sect, right?”
Yu Shengyan was caught off-guard and released his hand.
Shen Qiao immediately propped himself up against the wall and started coughing.
“How did you find out?”
Shen Qiao replied calmly, “Feelings. Even though I have lost my memories, my basic judgment is still there. Whether it is Master or Senior Martial Brother, the way you treated me didn’t feel like the attitude one would have towards their disciple or martial brother. Same for the servants at the spare mansion before, everyone was so cautious for fear of giving away something that they should not disclose. I have lost all of my martial arts and am nothing but an impediment to others, yet Master insisted on sending me to assist you. Also, I was injured so severely that it had already damaged the prestige of our sect, and yet all this time, no one breathed a single word on this subject even if it was due to my own incompetence. All of these are just unreasonable.”
Seeing that the other person did not respond, he continued, “Actually, the method I used could hardly be considered brilliant, since I was only able to get past the servant girls in the Xie Residence. Were you not completely looking down on Yan Zhiwen and had sent at least one person to keep track of him beforehand, he would not have been able to run away even if he wanted to.”
Yu Shengyan replied, “That’s right. Yan Zhiwen was nothing to me, and it’s true that I paid no attention to him, which provided you with this opportunity to seize. But do you know what the consequences would be if Master ever found out about it? You saved a few strangers who had nothing to do with you, and they didn’t even know that you were the very reason they could escape death. Even if they did know, they still might not be grateful for you. Do you think this is worth it?”
Shen Qiao shook his head, “Whether it’s worth it or not, everyone has their own standard. The injustice has its cause, and the debt has its debtor. Involving innocent people was not something to be praised. There are some people and some things that, if I did not save them, or take action, despite having the ability to do so, would cause guilt to haunt me for the rest of my life. As for whether others know about it, or whether they are grateful for it, that’s their business.”
Yu Shengyan had never seen the past Shen Qiao before, neither did he know what he was like before getting injured. Ever since he woke up, Shen Qiao had spent about nine out of ten days lying on the bed, appearing sickly all day long. Except for that face of his, there was absolutely nothing of Shen Qiao’s that was worthy enough for others to take note of. Even though Yu Shengyan had never spoken any harsh words, he probably despised Shen Qiao deep inside his heart as well, as he felt that Shen Qiao was indeed too incompetent to have ended up in a situation like this despite being a Daoist sect leader with positive prospects.
Yet, at this moment, he was leaning against the wall, his countenance appeared calm and peaceful, with no signs of fear, vaguely revealing the bearings of the former great grandmaster.
Yu Shengyan sneered, “You are unable to even fend for yourself, how come you still have the time to care about other people’s lives or deaths? If you really embrace so much benevolence and kindness in your heart, why don’t you think about how it was us who saved you that day when you lost all of your martial arts and was thrown to the bottom of the cliff? Your corpse would have otherwise been left exposed in the wilderness long ago, and this is how you repay us?”
Shen Qiao sighed, “I shall return the kindness of saving my life with all that I can do, but these two things are not related.”
Yu Shengyan frowned slightly.
At first, this seemed to him a job that could not possibly be easier. However, Shen Qiao did not follow his expectations at all and even managed to secretly send messages to Yan Zhiwen under his very nose despite having amnesia. If the news was passed back, his master would deem him incompetent as well, unable to finish even a trivial task like this.
Since Shen Qiao’s status was special, he could not kill him. His only choice was probably to bring him back for Master to deal with.
As if he had sensed his mood, Shen Qiao even tried to comfort him instead, “Don’t worry. I will explain everything to the Sect Master so it won’t implicate you.”
Yu Shengyan replied sourly, “You should worry about yourself first!”
Shen Qiao gave him a smile, then he suddenly asked, “Senior Brother Yu, since I’m not a disciple of the Cleansing Moon Sect, may I ask if ‘Shen Qiao’ is still my real name?”
Yu Shengyan was silent for a moment. “It’s real.”
Shen Qiao asked again, “Then, who was I before I was injured? Is anyone from my family still alive?”
Yu Shengyan replied, “You can ask Master yourself when we go back.”
But they were not able to meet Yan Wushi after they returned.
Not long after they took off for Ye City, Yan Wushi left the spare mansion as well. It was said that he had gone to the country of Zhou.
“Did Master leave any messages before he left?” Yu Shengyan asked the butler of the spare mansion.
The butler replied, “Master intended for you to return to the bottom of Half-Step Peak to practice. As for Mister Shen, Master said that if everything went well during the trip, he could continue to stay here to recuperate. If Mister Shen had spoiled anything in Ye City and brought you any troubles, then he would need to leave here by himself and will not be allowed to take anything with him.”
Yu Shengyan was a little surprised, “Is this really what Master instructed?”
The butler gave him a bitter smile, “How would a lowly one like me dare to fake it?”
At first, Yu Shengyan was worried about how to account for what had happened when they came back, but the matter unexpectedly came to an end in such an anticlimactic way.
He thought for a moment, then called Shen Qiao over and told him about the message that Yan Wushi had left.
Shen Qiao’s reaction was quite calm. “After all, I did bring you troubles and caused your failure to complete the task Sect Master assigned. The way that Sect Master handled it can even be counted as lenient already.”
Yu Shengyan knew his master well enough to realize that leniency had definitely nothing to do with this reception from Yan Wushi. He probably had other plans.
Shen Qiao was blind, and the situation outside was chaotic nowadays. Anything could happen out there. If he ended up being abducted by human traffickers and people found out that the sect leader of Mount Xuandu had ended up becoming an “abductee” one day, Mount Xuandu would probably be left with no face to lose. By that time, how would it still have the nerve to establish itself in the pugilistic world anymore?
Even though the way that Yu Shengyan handled matters was not as reckless and willful as that of his master, it was still impossible for him to disobey his master’s will just for Shen Qiao.
“If this was the case, then you should leave tomorrow morning. From here, there is Ye City in the north-eastern direction, and Southern Chen to the southwest. If you want to go to Jiankang, then you will need to head southwest, and it’s going to be a long journey too. You have been to Ye City already. In spite of its extravagance, disorder arises there frequently, and there are also a lot of refugees along the way. Hence, if you want to live a peaceful and steady life, Southern Chen would be a better choice.”
Shen Qiao nodded, then cupped his hand, “Thank you for telling me, Brother Yu. I want to ask for a favor, I hope you could please tell me my identity and origin so that I will have a place to go to.”
Yu Shengyan replied indifferently, “With things as such, telling you won’t matter anymore. Originally, you were the sect leader of the Purple Mansion of Xuandu on Mount Xuandu. During your battle with the number one expert in Tujue, Kunye, you fell off the cliff and was saved by Master. But I advise you to not go back and claim relations with them in a hurry. Up till now, I’ve never heard anything about Mount Xuandu sending people out there in search of you.”
“Mount Xuandu…” Shen Qiao furrowed his eyebrows and repeated with a mumble. A vacant expression appeared on his face.
Yu Shengyan sneered, “It’s true that our Cleansing Moon Sect is a Demonic Sect in the eyes of the public, but we are honest villains. If we want to kill, then we kill and will make no qualms about telling it, unlike some of the orthodox sects whose deeds could not be more different to their claims! However, it’s up to you if you want to listen to my advice or not. If you end up losing your life, don’t blame me for not warning you beforehand!”
Shen Qiao fell into silence.
Early the next morning, the servants woke him up and kindly asked him to leave the mansion.
Besides a green bamboo stick, he had nothing valuable on him. Not to mention money, there was not even a bite of rations.
Yu Shengyan obviously did not leave him any leeway, truly intending to let Shen Qiao live or perish on his own in the outside world.
The morning sun bathed him in warmth along with the smell of spring, not making him uncomfortable at all.
He squinted his eyes, then shaded them with his hands.
In fact, he was now gradually able to perceive a certain amount of light from the outside. Despite it still being a blur, making his eyes prick, and even causing him to tear up after a time, it was still better than being greeted by nothing but pitch-black darkness after opening his eyes.
Shen Qiao turned around and glanced at the spare mansion.
Even though the Cleansing Moon Sect had not had the best of intentions since the very beginning, it could not be denied that they did, in fact, take him under their shelter and offered him doctors and medicines. These were benefits that could not be simply wiped away.
If he could meet Yan Wushi again someday, he would like to thank him in person still.
 Mute Acupoint (哑穴 yaxue): An acupoint that can make a person unable to make a sound once it is hit and can be unlocked on the same spot. Often appear in wuxia novels.
 Court Meeting (早朝 zaochao): A meeting held by the Emperor in the morning in the palace to discuss government affairs with court officials.
 Angelica Root (当归 dangui): A plant used in Chinese medicine. The characters of its Chinese name “当归” can be literally interpreted as “should return.” Shen Qiao used this layer of meaning to warn Yan Zhiwen about danger coming.