Chapter 9: You’re blind!
Chen Gong asked, “Why?”
Shen Qiao explained, “I saw that they weren’t bothered with you when you were trying to scrape together an acquaintance with them just now. Also, they stayed perfectly silent when we were present. So, it’s clear that they are either guarded against us or unwilling to talk to us. No matter which one it is, I’m afraid that your wish will die on the vine.”
Chen Gong was quite unhappy, although he had to admit that what Shen Qiao said was true. “Humph! I know these people all look down on people from the lower classes, like me. But there will be a day that I, too, will step on everyone else and make them kneel before me!”
Shen Qiao knew that the sore point in Chen Gong’s heart was from what he had experienced while growing up, and that there was no way for it to be remedied by just a few words from him. So he stopped trying to talk him around.
Beyond Clouds Monastery was so humble that even its vegetarian food could not have been simpler: a bowl of white rice congee and a couple of small side dishes. The side dishes were pickled by the monks themselves though and tasted pretty good.
Shen Qiao ate rather slowly, but Chen Gong was fast. He couldn’t strengthen his relationship with the people from the Six Harmonies Association, so he was in a bad mood. He only shoved down a few mouthfuls hastily before going back to the side room.
Not long after he left, two of the people staying in the same room with them also came in for dinner.
Although Shen Qiao was able to perceive some light now, he still couldn’t see things clearly. Besides, his eyes would hurt if he stared for too long, so he simply kept them mostly closed and would only use them if he had no other choice.
At the moment, he vaguely saw four figures – two of which seemed to be women judging from their dresses. They walked towards him and sat down at another long table.
Shen Qiao had some idea about the situation. He knew that the Six Harmonies Association must be escorting some cargo that was quite important in this trip. Therefore, instead of all four of them coming here for dinner together, they had to leave two people in the side room to guard it. These two women were actually the two ladies who borrowed the little monks’ room.
He did not interfere in their business. After finishing his congee by feel, he reached for the bamboo stick next to him.
Bang! The bamboo stick slid to the side and fell on the ground.
Shen Qiao frowned slightly. His hand hadn’t touched the stick yet, so it was impossible for it to fall over just like that.
“I ran into it accidentally. Please excuse me, Mister,” a woman said softly as she bent over to pick up the stick and handed it over to Shen Qiao.
“No worries,” Shen Qiao took the stick. Nodding in her direction, he got up to leave.
The woman continued, “Since every encounter is the result of fate, is it possible for me to have Mister’s honorable name?”
“My family name is Shen.”
“Is Mister Shen going into the city?”
“There are a lot of taverns and inns inside the city. Why did Mister choose such a shabby monastery to stay the night instead of finding a place after entering the city?”
She was obviously probing for Shen Qiao’s identity. If it was any other person, they would surely ask her back, “Aren’t you also staying here? Who are you to mind other people’s business?” But Shen Qiao was good-tempered and so he still answered, “We don’t have enough money and lodging inside the city would cost even more. This way, we can enter the city early tomorrow morning and don’t need to spend the night inside.”
His voice was quite pleasant to the ears. There was something in him that naturally gave off a good impression to others; something that made people want to befriend him. It was hard for anyone to ignore him – despite his rough clothes – and even harder to regard him as the same type of person as Chen Gong.
Therefore, when these two people – who were totally incompatible in terms of style and manners – came together to travel on the same road as companions, it inevitably led to others suspecting them and testing them with words.
However, they were indeed ordinary people who did not have the least bit of martial arts.
His answer was reasonable and fair. Yun Fuyi could not find any flaw in it, so she gently apologized, “Please forgive me for being presumptuous. My family name is Yun, Yun Fuyi.”
Shen Qiao nodded, “Please enjoy your meal, Lady Yun, as I will excuse myself first.”
Yun Fuyi replied, “Mister, take care.”
Shen Qiao felt his way with the stick and walked towards the door.
Looking at his receding figure, Yun Fuyi slightly furrowed her eyebrows, but said nothing.
Hu Yu, who was sitting by her, suggested, “I’m afraid that it was not a coincidence that these two people showed up here at this time. The other boy is not a big deal, but this Shen guy – he seems blind, but why would a blind man be walking around? Maybe he’s after the goods we are escorting.”
His twin elder brother, Hu Yan, rolled his eyes at him, “If you can see through it, do you think Vice Chairman can’t?”
Yun Fuyi explained, “I just tested him. He has no inner qi, nor has he heard of my name. It doesn’t look like he’s faking it. Anyway, let’s be careful tonight. At first, I thought it would be safer if we did not enter the city since there are too many people inside the city and people talk. But now it appears that this way might not work either.”
Hu Yu asked, “What kind of rare treasure is in the cargo after all? Ever since we took off, two groups of people have tried to seize it already, one after another, and the robbers are getting stronger too. We still have to go down south for quite a long way from here to Jiankang. The only thing I’m afraid of is of something happening to the goods. Losing the item is a small matter, but ruining the reputation of the Six Harmonies Association would surely be a big thing.”
Even though they were not large in number, this group of people could be considered as the elites of the Six Harmonies Association. Just imagine, even Yun Fuyi, their vice chairman, came on the trip herself. How weak could they be?
Even so, everyone still dared not lower their guard.
Yun Fuyi shook her head, “Chairman gave a strict order. We must deliver it to Jiankang no matter what. He sent a message previously, saying that he would catch up with us and meet us in Luo Prefecture, then we will go down south together.”
Hearing that the chairman was not far ahead of them, both Hu Yan and Hu Yu felt a lot more spirited. They continued their discussion on what was in the two boxes that deserved such a serious attitude from the association.
The Six Harmonies Association’s branches could be found all over the north and south sides of the Long River, and they had conducted countless business transactions over the many years. Amongst the goods they had escorted, there were also treasures from the Imperial Palace; but even towards that kind of cargo, they had never seen the higher-ups attach such great importance.
Being escorted by the vice chairman in person and received by the chairman himself – this was the first time, ever.
Hu Yan and Hu Yu were disciples of the Dragon Gate Sect and they were also well recognized experts in the pugilistic world. In addition to that, they were also still young. Two groups of robbers in a row in no way dispelled their fighting spirits; on the contrary, it made the brothers even more eager to face the challenge.
Unlike them, Yun Fuyi actually had secret concerns. “No matter what, we’d better stay on high alert till we meet chairman.”
The outskirts was quieter than inside the city. So quiet that it felt somewhat frightening.
There wasn’t much entertainment at night in the tiny monastery; hence everyone went to bed early.
Other than the pair of brothers, Hu Yan and Hu Yu, there were also two hall managers of the Six Harmonies Association, both of whom exceeded the Hu brothers in martial arts. All four of them slept in the same bed with Shen Qiao. A lineup like this would still be considered impressive even in the scope of the pugilistic world. Chen Gong knew little of that world, but he was aware that all these people were quite something.
In order to join the Six Harmonies Association, he tried every trick he could think of, hoping to worm his way into being friends with them by any possible means. However, despite his great effort, it was to no avail. They simply turned cold shoulders to him, attending to him only halfheartedly – they were actually kinder towards Shen Qiao compared to Chen Gong.
After a few tries, Chen Gong became discouraged. He lay on the bed, his mind alternating between indignation and the thought that he was still not sincere enough. If he was to tell them tomorrow that he wished for nothing else but to join the Six Harmonies Association as a handyman, doing chores like sprinkling water and sweeping the floor, maybe they would agree then.
A person would naturally find it difficult to fall asleep with a jumble of thoughts flying around in their head. Chen Gong tossed and turned a couple of times. Then, all of a sudden, he sensed someone from the Six Harmonies Association stirring next to him.
Their movements were light and quick. Throwing on their robes and putting on their shoes, they disappeared at the blink of an eye. Chen Gong felt strange. He wanted to get up and take a look too, but a hand suddenly appeared from his side and pressed him down.
It gave Chen Gong quite a start. Then he realized that it was Shen Qiao who had pinned him down.
“Don’t go out. Stay here.” Shen Qiao said quietly.
Chen Gong replied, “I’ll just open a slit and peek between the doors. It’ll be fine.”
Right after he finished the sentence, sounds of shouting and fighting came from outside.
Nervousness as well as excitement seized Chen Gong all at once as he realized abruptly that he was again one step closer to the pugilistic world of his imagination.
However, his hands had barely opened the door before his fingertips suddenly went numb. The entire door sprang wide open with a loud rumble and a wind swept in from the outside like a hurricane!
There wasn’t enough time for Chen Gong to move out of the way. He cried out in pain and tumbled backwards, his lower back hitting the edge of the bed, immediately turning his cry into a scream!
But this was not the end. In the next moment, someone firmly grabbed him by his throat!
The person gave him a light lift with his arm, and Chen Gong involuntarily “flew” up after him. With that turn changing his point of view, the scene outside the room replaced the scene of the inside.
Chen Gong’s eyes widened in terror, but he could not make any sound at all. By the time he had finally stabilized his feet with great difficulty, he heard someone laughing, “Third young master, aren’t you stupid? A glance is enough to tell that this boy knows nothing of martial arts. He’s not from the Six Harmonies Association. What’s the point of catching him?”
“What? He’s not from Six Harmonies? Damn it! No wonder it felt so easy to get hold of him! So I caught a useless rubbish!”
The other broke out into curses and tightened his grip, causing Chen Gong to be inflicted by so much pain that tears started to stream out of his eyes.
‘It’s over! I’m going to be killed!’
He realized this point and started to really regret not listening to Shen Qiao just now and insisting on going for a peek instead of quietly hiding inside the room.
The pugilistic world was still far away from him, though death was now really close.
A short while later, a sharp pain burst out from Chen Gong’s neck – a sign that his throat was about to be crushed.
But after a moment, the person who had wanted to kill him unexpectedly withdrew his hand with a sound of surprise and moved away. The pressure on Chen Gong was immediately relieved. He dropped to his knees and coughed incessantly, feeling weak from head to toe.
When Murong Xun was about to kill Chen Gong, he knew that there was another person inside the room, though he did not take these two nobodies seriously. What he did not expect was that the other person would dare to make an opening move by sneak attacking him as he was finishing off the boy.
The bamboo stick was light as a feather, without a single trace of inner qi attached to it. Murong Xun originally thought that he could easily catch it, but just as his hand touched the edge of the stick, it slipped away to the side in a strange manner, striking towards a crucial acupoint in his back.
Murong Xun had no choice but to let go of Chen Gong and step aside to dodge it.
“Who are you?!” He squinted his eyes, looking the other person up and down.
“We are not members of the Six Harmonies Association, nor are we martial artists. We just happened to put up for the night at this place. Since we are unrelated to the grudges happening here, could you please lift your hand in mercy and let us go?” said Shen Qiao.
There wasn’t enough light at night, so he couldn’t see Murong Xun. He could only roughly guess where the other was and cupped his hands towards that direction.
But Murong Xun found out at a glimpse: “You’re blind!”
Within one night, turbulence rose and surged forwards vigorously in the small Beyond Clouds Monastery.
Although Yun Fuyi had anticipated an attack in advance, the situation that night still went greatly beyond her expectations.
Her sleeves swirled up as she stroked out with a palm, while she herself drifted backwards. The posture was elegant and utterly fairy-like. In the eyes of others, it would seem like she was dancing gracefully instead; they would never have suspected the amount of power contained in her palm.
Her opponent raisone of his sleeves aloft while rolling the other one up, dissolving Yun Fuyi’s attack with ease. But Yun Fuyi saw clearly that two Cicada Wing Blades, as thin as willow leaves, had slid out of his sleeves. The light of the blades flitted by and disappeared soon after, along with the fierce energy created by her palm, which had also been dispelled before one could notice.
‘This opponent is dreadful’, Yun Fuyi realized.
“A rain of flowers passed by, carried by clouds, yet left no petals on one’s clothes.  You deserve to be called the deputy leader of the Six Harmonies Association. The outsiders all say that Yun Fuyi is a woman and hence probably just a puppet. But I’m afraid those who said so never had the chance to experience Vice Chairman Yun’s capability!”
Along with his words, a soundless stream of air rolled like a carpet towards Yun Fuyi. Her face changed slightly. The calmness that had been on it when she was fighting with Murong Qin was no longer present.
Her hands fluttered in the wind, creating palm prints shaped like lotus flowers. The inner qi carried by them rose straight up and in a flash, formed into a wall that was then pushed out flat.
The two streams of air clashed with each other. Only then did Yun Fuyi realise that the other person’s inner qi had such rapidly-changing, unpredictable forms. Much like needles, it would thrust in wherever it could find a gap, getting in through every opening. Right after her palm reached it, she immediately felt waves of cold drafts permeating into her flesh through the skin and then penetrating further, straight into her bones.
It was already too late to withdraw her hands. The other person had clearly left her no chance to react. His inner qi pushed forward, layer upon layer, with one wave succeeding another like the tides of a river in spring. Since Yun Fuyi had suffered some hidden injuries, she was reluctant to take it head on and drew back instead, despite knowing that doing so would leave her front open.
By the time se landed on the ground, her chest was already feeling some tightening pain. A taste of blood welled up in her throat, but instead of spitting it out, she swallowed it as if nothing had happened. “Who are you, Sir?”
Seeing that Yun Fuyi’s complexion still seemed normal, the other person let out a sound of surprise, revealing some astonishment and appreciation: “Out of all the people in the country of Qi, only a few are able to take this palm of mine. You’re indeed quite capable.”
“Who are you, Sir?” Yun Fuyi asked once again.
The other person clasped his hands behind his back arrogantly and sneered, “You and your men are now inside the territory of Qi and trying to transport Qi’s items out of the country. Shouldn’t the court of Qi give this some attention? As for today’s matter, if the Six Harmonies Association agrees to leave the item here, I’ll no longer make it difficult for you and will guarantee that all of you can leave the country of Qi safely!”
Hearing him mentioning the court of Qi, Yun Fuyi’s heart skipped a beat, but she soon came around, “You’re from Qi? You’re Murong Qin?!”
After the destruction of the Yan Dynasty, the Murong Clan had wandered from place to place for several dynasties. The current Patriarch of the Murong Clan, Murong Qin, became nothing more than a henchman of Qi, serving its emperor, Gao Wei, despite claiming to be a descendant of the imperial family of Murong. Others would show him a good deal of respect and flattery in his presence, in order to curry favor with him, only because he held the reputation of being the number one expert in Qi.
If it was some other day, even if Murong Qin came, Yun Fuyi would not be afraid to fight him. But now, he was obviously coming after the goods she was escorting and was quite determined to get it, which meant…
“Where is Liu Qingya and Shangguan Xingchen?!” Her expression changed slightly as she asked after the other two hall managers who were on the trip with her.
Hu Yan was also startled when he heard the question. He replied, “Both Hall Manager Liu and Hall Manager Shangguan are in the side room guarding the goods. There shouldn’t be any… ”
Yun Fuyi said, “I didn’t expect that the Patriarch of the Murong Clan, the great, foremost expert of the country of Qi, would bring subordinates even for sneak attacks. This would surely be laughed at by others if the news ever gets out!”
Murong Qin sneered, “Vice Chairman Yun came personally, how would I dare to act arrogant? Besides, we are not the only people here tonight… Which rat is still hiding in the dark? It’s time to show yourself!”
 A rain of flowers…: The original line is “云拂花雨不留衣”, a line from poetry written with Yun Fuyi’s name in it (云拂衣), which served as a title and praise for her lightness skills.