Chapter 67: Don’t be mad at me, okay?
However, Yan Wushi stopped Murong Xun with only one sentence:
“The road branches out there. Without me, you won’t be able to leave this place.”
“Third young master!” Chen Gong stopped Murong Xun.
The latter reluctantly withdrew his weapon and retreated behind Chen Gong.
Chen Gong cupped his hand at Yan Wushi and said quite courteously, “Thank you very much for coming back, Sect Master Yan. We greatly appreciate it. If you agree to show us the way out, I promise I’ll hand over this cloth I just obtained right away and never ask for it back.”
Yan Wushi glanced at him. He didn’t say anything — he just turned around and started heading back the way he came from.
Murong Qin looked at Chen Gong and asked, “Lord, should we follow him?”
Chen Gong nodded, “I’ll lead the way. All of you can follow me.”
Murong Qin immediately opposed, “Lord!”
With a smile, Chen Gong said, “Stop the nonsense! Just come!”
Murong Qin and Murong Xun were both somewhat moved. They didn’t say anything else and followed Chen Gong in large strides.
Chen Gong did not win over people like Murong Qin for no reason. For a country boy like him with no money and no background, becoming the most favored person of the Emperor of Qi alone was not enough to make an arrogant martial expert like Murong Qin serve under him willingly. In fact, Shen Qiao had already nailed the key point earlier: Chen Gong was very talented. The ability to memorize everything he saw allowed him to not waste that precious encounter with The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang. In addition, he was also hard-working and didn’t contend with being the emperor’s favored minister. Judging by his accomplishments, he did have the potential to become a formidable leader.
Going one level deeper, people like Murong Qin who came from a royal family of the previous dynasty would have already lost their power and influence in the new era if it weren’t for his martial arts skills. Their family was not hereditary, so the emperor would not give them a lot of power. The only choice left for them was to become the imperial court’s hired hounds. Even the ordinary aristocrats in Qi looked down on them. Under such circumstances, Chen Gong offered them a new opportunity and won them over with what he had demonstrated. Therefore, it was only natural for them to switch to a wiser ruler and pledge their loyalty to Chen Gong.
Even though Shen Qiao didn’t know all the ins and outs, after living in the secular world for a long time under Yan Wushi’s influence, he now understood the political situation and people’s mindsets much better. Chen Gong was indeed a very capable person — he was able to rise to a high position and have so many people support him in such a short time. Let it be Yan Wushi, even though the person understood how everything worked, because he was arrogant and willful by nature, he might not be able to submit himself when needed like Chen Gong did.
The passage was purely cut out of the mountain, and Chen Gong still had fire sticks on him. He lit one up, and they could see candle holders lining both sides of the road. However, the collapsing and sinking of Ruoqiang City might have caused some of the rocks to cave in as well, so some places in the middle were blocked by boulders that had fallen from above. Only a narrow gap was left in between. They had to clear the stones first, then carefully slide through.
Murong Xun was still a little worried, “There are no spiders on this side, right?”
Murong Qin said, “Those spiders have a rotten smell to them. Since I don’t sense it here, there probably aren’t any.”
As they were talking, the road suddenly branched off in front of them.
Everyone stopped and stared at Yan Wushi’s back.
“Go left,” the latter said.
Murong Xun questioned, “Wait! How do you know we should go left?”
Yan Wushi said, “I’ve been to the right one already. There were spiders.”
“Why should we trust you? And how did you escape unscathed if you encountered the spiders?”
Yan Wushi ignored him and continued forward.
Murong Qin and said in a low voice, “He has jade cistanches.”
That’s right. Murong Xun just realized. Jade cistanches were the antidote for the spider’s poison, so it should be able to keep the spiders away from him as well.
However, if that was the case, why did Yan Wushi come all the way back to guide them out? It couldn’t be that he was suddenly moved by a guilty conscience, could it?
But would the Cleansing Moon sect leader have a guilty conscience like that? No one would believe it, not even Murong Xun himself.
The passage was a consistent gentle upward slope, indicating that they were approaching ground level. No one said anything, but they all started to believe what Yan Wushi said until they walked some more and reached another fork.
This time, it was a three-way split.
Yan Wushi suddenly stopped. “I only walked up to here before I started heading back.”
It meant that he didn’t know which way to go either from this point on.
However, everyone now understood that because they didn’t follow the normal path when they first came in, they were currently re-walking the inner passageways of the royal city. These paths and forks led to all directions, just like the ones within the royal palaces in the Central Plains. While some of them probably led to different palaces, there were also ones connected to the royal city, and those would be the real exit. If they chose any other ones, not only would they take a detour, but they might even get into more trouble than what they could handle if they encountered the spiders or the monkey pack again.
Chen Gong asked Yan Wushi, “Which one will you pick?”
Yan Wushi didn’t say anything.
Shen Qiao, who had been quiet all this time, suddenly spoke up, “Since none of us know, we can leave a mark here and choose a random one. Whether it be left or right, it’s all pure luck. So if someone happens to choose the wrong way, there’s nothing else but his own bad luck to blame.”
“That works too,” Chen Gong agreed.
He picked up a stone and drew a few marks on the stone wall.
This action made Shen Qiao do a double-take on him.
Although he knew the other person was quite good at martial arts, he was busy fighting the monkeys earlier and didn’t have enough time to observe. Chen Gong had obviously poured inner qi into each stroke he made. The white marks were inches deep into the stone wall, indicating how mature his skill was.
After the marks were ready, Chen Gong suggested, “How about we start with the middle one? Maybe this one leads outside.”
No one disagreed.
Seeing that Yan Wushi still hadn’t moved, Murong Xun couldn’t help but ask, “Why did you stop?”
Yan Wushi said, “I haven’t walked. This road before. I’m not leading.”
He seemed to pause slightly when he talked. The others didn’t notice it, but Shen Qiao did.
Murong Xun sneered, “Heaven knows whether you’ve gone through it or not. Now that you refuse to go first, how do we know if it isn’t because you have already set up traps in the middle for us?”
If it was before, Murong Xun would’ve never dared to speak to Yan Wushi like this. But this was just how humans were: once they saw a defeated man in dire straits, the man’s place in their heart would also drop a thousandfold to the point where they might even feel that the person must be worthless and that they could defeat him too.
Yan Wushi didn’t answer, because he responded with his action.
Murong Xun was standing next to him. The latter was so fast that Murong Xun didn’t even have time to draw out his sword before Yan Wushi already took him by his throat and pressed him up against the stone wall!
Murong Qin struck a palm at Yan Wushi but was blocked by a sword sheath that was as light as a feather.
Shen Qiao said emotionlessly, “The danger hasn’t been cleared, yet everyone cannot wait to kill each other already?”
Murong Xun grabbed at Yan Wushi, but before he could lift his hand, Yan Wushi had already released him and withdrawn back behind Shen Qiao.
Chen Gong shouted, “Everyone, stop!”
He said to Murong Xun, “Sect Master Yan didn’t have to come back, but since he was willing to do so, we should appreciate his kindness. You must not be rude to him again.”
Then he cupped his hands at Yan Wushi, “I apologize to Sect Master Yan on his behalf. I was the one who chose the middle road, so I’ll go first!”
After he finished, he held up the fire stick and went ahead.
Although he showed the courage to take the lead, Chen Gong walked step by step with exceptional caution. If he sensed anything that felt slightly wrong, he would immediately stop and observe for a long time.
Perhaps the Heavens really favored them, they bet on the right way this time. They went all the way through the tunnel with no impediments, walked through the royal city, and returned to the place where they first fell down to.
Finding an exit out here might be a difficult task for an ordinary person, but all they needed to do was leap upwards using their lightness skill, secure themselves on the stone wall using their weapons, then climb up step by step.
The moment they saw the sun again, everyone was almost blinded by the strong sunlight. But at the same time, anyone who had been underground for three days and almost lost their life would find the sunshine too precious.
Shen Qiao covered his eyes with a cloth to prevent them from being blinded by the sudden stimulation. A moment later, after his eyes became more used to it, he slowly removed the cloth and saw Yan Wushi standing right behind him: the other person had already lost his cloth, so he could only use his hands to cover his eyes while standing closely next to Shen Qiao as if he was afraid that Shen Qiao would run away —— it almost seemed a bit silly.
Chen Gong asked, “What’s Sect Leader Shen and Sect Master Yan’s plan afterwards? We’re going to pass Chang’an on our way back to the Country of Qi. Therefore, I can give you two a ride if you don’t mind. This way, you can also avoid exposing Sect Master Yan’s identity and causing unnecessary troubles.”
His original goal of this trip was to open the Tai’e Sword and take out the silk cloth within, but now, clearly knowing that the cloth was on Yan Wushi, Chen Gong didn’t even mention it. This could only mean that he had memorized everything on it already. However, the purpose of his speech was not only to express goodwill towards Shen Qiao and to show his generosity, but he also told Shen Qiao and Yan Wushi that he had no intention to reveal Yan Wushi’s whereabouts.
Everyone deserves a new set of appraisals every now and then: the Chen Gong today could no longer be measured through the old pair of lenses.
Shen Qiao glanced at Yan Wushi: “I appreciate your kindness, but I have another place to go to. As for Sect Master Yan, he will make his own decisions.”
“I’m following you.”
Chen Gong smiled, not seeming to mind, “Fine. We’ll part here then. The world is not very big. I’m sure we’ll see each other again someday. I hope by the next time we meet, Sect Master Yan will have already recovered fully and Daoist Priest Shen will have regained control over Mount Xuandu.”
Shen Qiao made no comments on Chen Gong’s words and only cupped his hands at them, “Bye.”
If they wanted to leave Tuyuhun, they must follow the same road they came from, stop at the little town to rest and buy horses there, return to the royal city of Tuyuhun, and then leave for other places afterwards. But Chen Gong and Shen Qiao had different plans from the very beginning. Shen Qiao still had many questions for Yan Wushi, so he didn’t plan on travelling together with them.
They watched as the other three people left, leaving a stream of deep or shallow foot imprints on the fine sand. Afterwards, a gust of wind blew past, and the imprints once again disappeared completely. Shen Qiao turned around and said to Yan Wushi, “Chen Gong is not a generous person. You took his silk cloth. Even if he can memorize its contents, he will still bear grudges against you in his heart. This will cause you trouble in the future.”
Yan Wushi stared at him fixedly. Suddenly, he said in a hurt tone, “Pretty Brother, I’m not the one who took it.”
“I know. It’s the…it’s the ‘Yan Wushi’ before you. But the item is still on you after all, isn’t it?”
Yan Wushi said happily, “Can you tell us apart?”
After a moment of silence, Shen Qiao said, “If it was one of your other personalities, I’m afraid he would never have turned back after he left.”
“I’m so happy you didn’t mistake me. I knew he had left you behind and I was so worried. I had to use all of my strength to take the control of this body and go back.”
He grabbed Shen Qiao’s hand: “Don’t be mad at me, okay?”
Shen Qiao heaved a long sigh, “He wouldn’t be Yan Wushi if he didn’t act that way. Neither would the real Yan Wushi say something like this to me. I just didn’t expect that a temperament like his could give rise to someone like you. It should have been impossible.”
Yan Wushi’s smile suddenly showed an almost unperceivable trace of slyness, “That’s not true.”
Shen Qiao didn’t understand what he meant, “What did you just say?”
“Nothing. When are we heading back? Do we need to wait till they are farther away? I’m hungry.”