Chapter 56: Shen Qiao could only think of one way.
It happened so suddenly, completely taking Shen Qiao by surprise.
Since even people like Guang Lingsan and the others had walked away so readily, Yan Wushi’s chance of survival must be so slim that it was practically impossible for him to still be alive. Shen Qiao was already prepared to bury his body and set up a tombstone for him. He totally did not expect to see this.
The other person didn’t use much strength, as if that one action had exhausted all the energy he ever had in his life. Right after his hand touched Shen Qiao’s, it relaxed and slid to the side, then never moved again. His eyes were still tightly shut, his pale face suffused with a lifeless lividness. The blood that came out of his body was still there. Yan Wushi appeared in front Shen Qiao in such a wretched and tragic state never before known to the other person, as if he was telling Shen Qiao the move just now was but the last struggle before death.
Shen Qiao put his hand over Yan Wushi’s heart. Just as he expected, there was not even the slightest hint of warmness. Nothing but coldness remained. Shen Qiao tried to pass inner qi into the other person’s body, but it immediately vanished like clay oxen thrown into the sea —— never to be found again.
He untied Yan Wushi’s hair and, running his fingers through the silky strands, he soon felt a noticeable fissure around the Baihui Acupoint.
A normal person would definitely have been killed by such a blow, but one could not take Yan Wushi as someone ordinary. This was a person who had stood against five top martial experts including grandmasters like Zen Master Xueting and yet was still able to hold his own. Shen Qiao arrived too late to witness the fierce battle himself, but he could imagine how marvelous and matchless it must have been.
The fissure was not long, but it was very deep. The person who inflicted it must have used all of their martial power. Shen Qiao too agreed that even though there was no splashing of brain matter, the impact must have fractured his skull —— even Yan Wushi could not have survived such a strike.
Shen Qiao was not a doctor. There was nothing he could do with this level of injury. He could only release his hand and hold the nape of Yan Wushi’s neck carefully as he continued to examine the rest of his meridians.
His bones were not broken, his meridians intact as well. The fatal damage came from the sword piercing through his chest in addition to the several strikes which had severely injured his organs. As for the fissure on his head, it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
The more Shen Qiao checked, the deeper his heart sunk.
Is there really no way to save him?
Suddenly, he let out a sound of surprise.
The sound was so faint that it was only audible to himself.
But it was enough to reveal how extremely astonished he was inside.
He suddenly discovered that there was a faint, almost imperceptible trace of inner qi quietly circulating in what should have been Yan Wushi’s already cold and fragmented Dantian.
He thought for a moment, wrapped the other person’s arms around his shoulder and walked forward carrying him on his back.
The capital of Tuyuhun was unfamiliar territory to Shen Qiao. This area was said to be windy and dusty all year round, surrounded by the endless Gobi Desert, and the oasis where the royal capital was located was the only city of scale within miles. However, since this was also the only way to Gaochang, Yutian and other countries in the western regions, the population was not entirely concentrated inside the city. If one went west from the city and looked down from the hill, they would find scattered villages and households as far as the eye could see.
The boundless expanse of the Gobi Desert didn’t even have many caverns to keep away the sandstorms. Not to mention, Shen Qiao was also bringing with him a person no different from a living corpse. Finding water and food would be a big problem. They could not just hide in random caves like they did in the fields of the Central Plains. No matter how much he did not want others to find them, he had no choice but to first settle down in a place that was both inhabited and also kept far away from the pugilistic world.
Under the blinding sunlight, Shen Qiao squinted his eyes and searched for a long time. In the end, he chose a place in the distance and headed there with Yan Wushi on his back.
Staying in the royal city where there were far too many men and too many mouths was out of the question. The only nearby options he had were these villages scattered around the city.
Shen Qiao brought Yan Wushi to a small village next to the Zhaling Lake. The village had a few dozen households. It was close to the main road often used by traveling merchants. Occasionally, some travelers would come to stay. As a result, the village was not very lively, but neither was it too detached for people to feel hostile towards an outsider like Shen Qiao.
Shen Qiao chose this place mainly because of Yan Wushi’s current state: if the other person still had a chance of survival and could come back to life at last, then the news must not be disclosed for the time being. Yan Wushi’s enemies were all over the world. If Guang Lingsan and the others knew that Yan Wushi did not die, they would certainly come to kill him. Even Qi Fengge could not deal with hundreds of martial experts all by himself, let alone Shen Qiao who had only recovered half of his martial power.
It was almost nightfall. The families in the village lit up their dwellings one after another. Carrying Yan Wushi on his back, Shen Qiao knocked on the door of one of the houses.
A young lady opened it. She was wearing a red dress, with a long braid over her shoulder hanging in front of her chest. Her face was tanned from being exposed to the sun for years, a common characteristic among the local people, but her facial features were not ugly. She must also laugh a lot, for the dimples on her cheeks would show up whenever she chuckled, which was quite cute.
Shen Qiao told her why he was here, saying that his friend was seriously injured and asking if they could stay at her place for some time to recuperate. He also promised to leave as soon as his friend got better and not to cause any trouble to the host.
The Central Plains currency was generally accepted here, but people living near the outskirts were more used to battering. Shen Qiao took out a big chunk of salt and a small, delicately forged golden flower. This kind of golden flower could be found in any jewelry shop in the Central Plains, but it was a rare item here. In fact, Zhao Chiying asked her disciples to prepare it for Shen Qiao before he left, and it turned out to be quite handy.
The girl was obviously used to merchants coming to ask for lodging, but she did not expect such a handsome man to knock on their door this time. She felt her face getting hot as she listened to him talking gently, and her eyes were immediately attracted to the golden flower. However, she did not agree right away. She told Shen Qiao with a mixture of the local Qiang language and some broken Han Chinese along with hand gestures that she lived together with her grandfather, so she had to ask him first.
Shen Qiao expressed his understanding and waited outside, still carrying Yan Wushi on his back. He thought he needed to wait a long time, but not soon after, the door opened again. A grey-haired old man walked out, followed by the young lady.
The old man was very fluent in Han Chinese. He asked Shen Qiao a few questions, then opened the door and let them in. After a brief conversation, Shen Qiao finally learned that the old man had lived in the Central Plains when he was young, saved some money and built the biggest house in the village. Unfortunately, his son and daughter-in-law died early, leaving him only a granddaughter to live with.
The reason why Shen Qiao chose this household was because they had large courtyards and a lot of rooms. This way, even if he needed to heal Yan Wushi using his inner qi, they could avoid unnecessary attention from others.
The old man had seen a good deal in his life and was not surprised at people carrying weapons around like Shen Qiao. The girl, however, seemed to be quite curious of this young man in a Daoist robe. She stood behind her grandfather and gazed and gazed. But every time Shen Qiao looked over, she would lower her head and blush.
They exchanged a few words of courtesy, then the old man hesitantly said, “You have traveled a long way here, and we welcome you sincerely. However, it seems like your friend is injured quietly badly. His enemies must be strong, I’m afraid? As you see, my granddaughter and I are just a normal family. We’ve never caused any big troubles. Please be honest with us, Daoist Priest, so I can make my decision.”
“I will be honest with you. This friend of mine has indeed provoked quite a big trouble. Now his enemies all think he is dead, but I wish to give it another try. However, due to the distance, we can’t return to the Central Plains immediately, and thus we have no choice but to ask for your hospitality. My friend is safe as long as no one knows he’s here. If anything goes wrong, I promise to take him away immediately and not cause you any problems.”
The old man was still hesitating, when Banna tugged the corner of his clothes. “Papa, he doesn’t look like a bad guy. They’re in trouble. Since we can help, we should help!”
Seeing his granddaughter speak up for them, the old man sighed, “Never mind. If that’s the case, you two can stay here, and we’ll make sure no one knows who you are. I’ll just tell them that you’re two traveling scholars from the Central Plains. I would also like to ask you to not go out unless it’s absolutely necessary to avoid causing trouble for us.”
Shen Qiao felt greatly indebted. Ever since what happened to the abbot and Chuyi, he refused to involve innocent people unless it was absolutely necessary, so now he naturally expressed his profuse gratitude. He planned to only stay for a short while. Once the Coiling Dragon Fair ended and the pugilistic people left, he could take Yan Wushi back to Bian Yanmei in Chang’an.
Banna took a slight fancy to Shen Qiao and wanted to talk to him more. Seeing that he was carrying Yan Wushi to the side yard, she went up to help them open the door. Her finger accidentally touched Yan Wushi’s arm, and she was immediately startled by its iciness. She stepped back and pointed at Yan Wushi, panic-stricken.
“Mi-mister Shen, is the person on your back really still alive?”
Shen Qiao laughed bitterly to himself, thinking he too didn’t know whether Yan Wushi could still be counted as “alive”. But on the surface, he could only comfort her by saying, “He’s not dead, just fainted from severe injuries.”
Banna left, not quite convinced. The girl saw Yan Wushi several times afterwards, and the man looked just as dead as before. He didn’t rot or reek like normal corpses, but he was ice-cold from head to toe and gave no vibe about being alive. What was even more creepy was that once she put her finger under the other person’s nose when Shen Qiao was not looking, but she didn’t feel any breaths.
She almost suspected that Shen Qiao was overly grieved by his friend’s death and refused to admit the fact that the other person was already dead. However, there was also an advantage to it —— apart from delivering meals twice a day, she stopped coming to their courtyard every now and then. Otherwise, for someone like Shen Qiao, he really didn’t know how to stall her off or make her leave.
After everything was settled, Shen Qiao finally started focusing on studying Yan Wushi’s situation.
The inner qi in his Dantian seemed to increase gradually day after day, a promising signal for coming back to life. Apparently, The Strategy of the Vermilion Yang’s inner qi had been acting inside Yan Wushi, similar to what happened to Shen Qiao. There was a difference, however. Yan Wushi didn’t lose all of his martial arts, which meant he could not break through and rebuild everything like Shen Qiao did, nor was his fatal wound caused by a collapsing foundation. One could rebuild their foundation, but one did not just hear about people’s heads growing back after they were cracked open. If Yan Wushi stayed like this, he would eventually die.
Turning it over and over in his mind, Shen Qiao could only think of one way.