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On the nineteenth day of the third month of the first year of Southern Chu’s Tongtai era, Jiang Zhe’s close attendant, Li Shun, chased for a thousand li, beheading the assassin at the crossing of the Yangtze River. When this news was spread, all those who heard it were scared into submission. In the following several years, no one dared to copy Nie Jing …- Southern Chu Dynastic Records, Biography of Jiang Suiyun

Venomous Hand Evil Heart’s expression changed, as he coldly stated, “Li Shun, I would have believed that you have stayed by your master to attend to him. Unexpectedly, you have the courage to chase me here.”

Xiaoshunzi smiled slightly and replied, “Lord Black, although we have never met, I know that the Prince of De has such an individual by his side. You must also know of my existence at the side of my young master. By trying to assassinate my young master, then you are my mortal enemy. Even if I am not your equal, I must come here to send you off. Besides, I’m afraid that you are not my match.”

Venomous Hand Evil Heart shivered. He had already not used his name for years. Even the Prince of De did not know his name. Who would have thought that this Xiaoshunzi would know this information? However, his expression did not change, only indifferently replying, “Li Shun, you can be considered as a subject of Southern Chu. For years you served at the side of the sovereign and has received profound favors. Why have you betrayed your homeland? Could it be that you really place such heavy importance on high position and wealth? Even if there are riches and honor, you won’t receive any of it. You had once served in the army and went off to battle, and once accompanied and attended to the King, don’t tell me that you don’t understand the meaning of loyalty and righteousness?”

His speech caused everyone’s gaze, even those collapsed to the ground, to be filled with scorn.

Xiaoshunzi indifferently responded, his tone neither servile nor overbearing, “This servant is of humble origins and was also castrated. At best, in the palace, even cats and dogs are more respectable than us eunuchs. Lord Black, you are no more than an assassin, but haven’t you also despised this servant?” Speaking to this point, Xiaoshunzi’s expression became solemn and dignified, his eyes becoming radiant. One word, one sentence at a time, he said, “In this world, there is only person who has never looked down upon me. He regards me as a person and not as a servant. When we first met in the palace, the young master was newly appointed official of Southern Chu. I was only a negligible court eunuch, he still regarded me quite highly. After several years of interactions, I would have seen through it if there was even a hint of hypocrisy. However, the young master has been unswerving from start to finish, treating me as he would his own flesh and blood, teaching me to read and to understand the proper rites. He treats me as a confidant and blood relation. In all my life, only young master is deserving of my loyalty and devotion. Southern Chu has not treated me with any grace or favor.”

“Lord Black, you reproach me using righteousness. However, I must ask you a question. It could be said that young master has a clear conscience towards Southern Chu. However, has Southern Chu treated young master fairly?”

Venomous Hand Evil Heart was left speechless. How could he know of Jiang Zhe’s meritorious service? And yet, Jiang Zhe’s ultimate fate was to be dismissed from office. For whatever reason, it was unreasonable for him to attempt to assassinate Jiang Zhe.

Xiaoshunzi did not interrogate him further, instead coldly stating, “I know Lord Black is acting upon the orders of the late Prince of De. Each side serves their own master. Young master does not hate the Prince of De for being heartless, however we cannot permit you to return alive to Southern Chu. Therefore, I’m sorry, you must die here in Great Yong.”

At this moment, the unable to move Qiao Yan’er angrily shouted out, “What gall! You don’t know the immensity of the universe!”

When these words were spoken, everyone, including Venomous Hand Evil Heart, looked at her with strange expressions. In the present situation, it was obvious that Xiaoshunzi was standing on the side of these youths. If Xiaoshunzi could not win, then it was likely that all of them would die. Why would Qiao Yan’er contrarily say these words? Actually, Qiao Yan’er knew that she had misspoken as soon as the words flew out of her mouth. However, her natural disposition was headstrong and eager to win. For her to inexplicably be poisoned and for Xiaoshunzi to arrive so suddenly and save everyone, instead caused her heart to be filled with discontent and resentment. Seeing everyone’s gazes fall upon her, she could not help angrily state, “What is it? Can I not speak thusly?”

Everyone’s gaze moved away, trying to avoid laughing aloud. Xiaoshunzi’s expression was still as ice-cold as before. He did not have a favorable impression of Qiao Yan’er and company. In any case, they were all the young master’s enemies. It would be great if he could kill all of them. Were it not for the obstacle that his appearance would inevitably become known by everyone, he could not hit a person who was down. It was likely that he would have to kill these people one day. Glancing at Priest Bitter Bamboo, Xiaoshunzi’s gaze became somewhat gentle. Opening his mouth, he spoke, “Priest Bitter Bamboo, I originally should also kill you today. However, my young master has some words for someone to bring back to Southern Chu. Since your identity as already been revealed, this matter will be handed to you.”

Priest Bitter Bamboo did not mock Xiaoshunzi’s words. From the moment Xiaoshunzi appeared, he had begun to search for a flaw in Xiaoshunzi’s defenses. However, even though Xiaoshunzi was simply standing there, he could not detect a single flaw on his entire body.

Glancing at the sky to tell the time, Xiaoshunzi sighed and said, “The mist enfolds the tower and pavilion, the moon shines dimly on the ferry. Such enchanting scenery. Alas, Lord Black, you won’t be able to see this again.”

Finished speaking, his figure was like the void, like an illusion, pounced towards Venomous Hand Evil Heart. Already knowing that his life hung in the balance, Venomous Hand Evil Heart straightened his back and met Xiaoshunzi’s attack, his figure like an eagle spreading its wings. The two men intersected. Everyone witnessed the two men exchange palms, but there wasn’t the slightest sound. Apparently, the two men’s palm techniques were extremely ingenious and sinister. Exchanging over a dozen moves, each and every move were attacking and required defending. They spun in circles, unexpectedly not truly touching the ground. The two fought ferociously, rolling over and over in the space of a zhang,1 causing all the spectators to be dazzled. Although there wasn’t a single sound, the killing aura in the gusts of wind created by the palms were increasingly heavy. In this way, the two fought for about one hundred moves. Suddenly, the two figures stopped moving, standing and facing one another. Xiaoshunzi’s expression was cold and indifferent, while Venomous Hand Evil Heart’s complexion was ashen. The clothes covering his chest had been ripped to pieces, revealing several claw wounds. With one look, everyone could tell that he was at the disadvantage. Although the two stood silently, the tension between the two was increasingly tense like a pulled bowstring. At the end, Venomous Hand Evil Heart could no longer endure it, letting out a severe scream, his complexion changed several times. Suddenly, blood burst forth from his seven apertures. His appearance was extremely terrifying.

Seeing this from a distance, the Third Miss cried out in alarm, “This is the Third Transformation of the Demonic Dissection Skill! His power will rise tenfold! Your distinguished self be careful!”

Xiaoshunzi coldly smiled and replied, “Although the Demonic Dissection Skill increases one’s power, it has lasting calamitous aftermath. To use this skill twice within two months, it seems that even if you return to Southern Chu, you will not live long.”

Venomous Hand Evil Heart coldly responded, “Although your master has matchless ability and talent, if he does not have your protection, then he is no more than a hawk without wings. Although I could not kill him this time, as long as I am able to kill you, then I will have snapped off one of his arms. In the future, assassinating your master will be much easier.”

Xiaoshunzi’s complexion became ashen. It had not occurred to him that Venomous Hand Evil Heart was still thinking about assassinating the young master. The killing intent in his eyes thickened. At this moment, Venomous Hand Evil Heart had already pounced towards him. This time, the situation was greatly different. Xiaoshunzi seemed to have no opportunity to retaliate and could only rely upon his strange movements to defend himself. After observing for some time, everyone closed their eyes. Unexpectedly, the two combatant’s irregular and fluctuating movements caused them to feel dizzy. After a while, Xiaoshunzi suddenly took a deep breath of essential qi. Immediately, his body became as light as a feather, nimbly falling back before the gusts of wind caused by Venomous Hand Evil Heart’s palms. Unexpectedly, Xiaoshunzi ascended high into the sky and afterwards counterattacked. Venomous Hand Evil Heart urgently tried to defend himself, promptly raising his two palms to block the attack. To his surprise, Xiaoshunzi’s figure unexpectedly flipped over in thin air, dropping to the ground behind him. A pale palm pressed against his back. Venomous Hand Evil Heart could only feel an ice-cold and sinister essence qi pouring into his body. He used all of his internal energy to block this insidious invasion. That essence qi became like a fiery blaze, pouring into his arteries. Venomous Hand Evil Heart could not help but release a blood-curdling scream, his figure staggering as he tried to throw himself forward, falling to the floor.

At this very moment, Priest Bitter Bamboo attacked with the wind from the small boat. Xiaoshunzi had originally exhausted his qi, but unexpectedly it was like he was assisted by a deity, his figure strangely flipping and meeting the Daoist priest’s attack. Although Priest Bitter Bamboo’s aquatic skills were number one in the world, his palm technique and internal energy were lacking quite a lot. This time, if he hadn’t guessed that Venomous Hand Evil Heart would escape by water, then he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be invited to participate in this encirclement. Only using three moves, Xiaoshunzi had repelled Priest Bitter Bamboo. Retreating to the river bank, Priest Bitter Bamboo was trapped. If he retreated, then he could only watch Venomous Hand Evil Heart perish. If he were to continue to attack, it was clear that he was no match for Xiaoshunzi.

Venomous Hand Evil Heart had already regained his strength. With difficulty, he rose to his feet. Smiling bitterly, he said, “As expected, Shun gonggong possesses outstanding martial arts. How was Jiang Zhe so fortunate to attain such an expert to be his servant?”

Xiaoshunzi smiled faintly and inquired, “Properly, it should be how was Li Shun so fortunate to receive young master’s profound affection and be permitted to follow him? At present, your distinguished self is already at death’s door. I wonder if you have any dying words?”

Venomous Hand Evil Heart naturally understood that the arteries and veins of his heart were already broken and was only using his pure essence to stay alive. Without a trace of dread in his heart, he smiled and stated, “I know what Shun gonggong wishes to know – who rescued me? Myself will speak forthrightly, that man was Qin Qing. He was the assassin who shot Jiang Zhe with an arrow.”

Xiaoshunzi coldly replied, “Do you really have no other candidate to impute?”

Venomous Hand Evil Heart’s heart jumped, and yet he still said, “I am originally someone from Southern Chu, what reason do I have to lie? Therefore, my words are true. It was Qin Qing.”

Xiaoshunzi indifferently replied, “Originally, I should use torture to force you to speak the truth. However, since your life will end at any moment, then forget about it. You can die properly. In the underworld, when you see the Prince of De, please extend him my young master’s regards.”

Finished speaking, Xiaoshunzi bowed. Venomous Hand Evil Heart relaxed, already collapsing weakly to the ground. At this moment, Xiaoshunzi suddenly asked, “Whose martial arts are higher between Pei Yun and Xiahou Yuanfeng?”

Venomous Hand Evil Heart subconsciously answered, “Xiahou Yuanfeng …” Suddenly he sobered up, correcting himself, “I have never exchanged blows with Xiahou Yuanfeng, I do not know how deep his martial arts are.”

Xiaoshunzi indifferently glanced at him before stating, “Priest Bitter Bamboo, please pass along this message from my young master to Sir Rong and Duke Lu. Previously, although young master did not turn his back upon Southern Chu, due to old affections, he felt guilty in his heart. Now that young master narrowly escaped death, there is no longer any affection remaining towards Southern Chu. Henceforth, if we meet on the battlefield, then we are only strangers.”

Finished speaking, his figure moved in a flash. In a blink of the eyes, he was already several zhang away. After a short while, he had already completely disappeared into the night.

Priest Bitter Bamboo’s expression relaxed. Advancing to check, he discovered that Venomous Hand Evil Heart was already dead and no longer had a single breath remaining, his face had a tired smile, as if he had finally set down a heavy burden weighing thousands of catties. The Daoist priest picked up Venomous Hand Evil Heart’s corpse. He looked at the weak enemies on the ground. Priest Bitter Bamboo knew that if he killed these individuals, then he would have greatly offended Li Shun. Heaving a faint sigh, he boarded his boat. Picking up the oars, he quickly departed. Just as his small boat was concealed by the opposite shore’s clustered reeds, the most powerful of the group, the Third Miss of the Fengyi Sect, was already able to move. Standing to her feet, she gave everyone her sect’s secretly concocted antidote. Although the antidote was not specifically made to treat this particular poison, it was still useful. It wasn’t long before everyone could stand once again.

The Seventh Miss exclaimed in surprise, “Third Sister, unexpectedly there is such a young expert in the world! Even Big Sister and Ninth Sister cannot easily defeat him!”

Although the complexion of Duanmu Qiu and company were filled with shame, they all nodded their heads in agreement.

The Third Miss’s face revealed a look that seemed to bemoan the state of the universe and pity the fate of mankind. She said, “You lot only know that his martial arts are high and yet do not know the grievous price that he had to pay. From their conversation, that man is a eunuch. If that is the case, then there is only one martial art that allows him to be so powerful. It is the long-lost Sunflower Manual. We cannot know if he castrated himself to train this martial art or he began to learn this martial art after he became a eunuch. Alas, although this martial art is exquisite and profound, the temperament of those practicing it would inevitably become sinister and cruel. With such a man existing in jianghu, I’m afraid that he will ultimately be a calamity.”

Although Qiao Yan’er had spoken rudely earlier, she was still grateful to Xiaoshunzi for saving her life. This moment, she opened her mouth and retorted, “Older sister Ming is being too anxious. Since this man came to avenge his master, then he is the servant of Southern Chu’s number one gifted scholar, Jiang Zhe. Although I have never met Jiang daren, I know that he is magnanimous and refined with talent that surpasses others. How could his servant harm the world?”

The Third Miss sighed and replied, “This is why I am so uneasy. Although this man is formidable, he is only a warrior. That Jiang Zhe is a matchless minister of state. The two complement each other. I’m afraid that all levels of society in Great Yong will not be able to rest easily. I must report to master when I return. If matters get out of hand in the future, I’m afraid that only she can restore the situation.”

Hearing her words, everyone felt this was reasonable. The leaders of the Fengyi Sect were truly capable, possessing profound knowledge and understanding as expected.

After mutually exchanging farewells, they separated and departed. Although information about this battle was spread among the common folk, many in the imperial court knew what had happened. Venomous Hand Evil Heart originally was a top tier expert from Southern Chu. This time, he had attempted to carry how an assassination in the residence of the Prince of Yong and moreover managed to fight and flee, nearly escaping to Southern Chu. Able to defeat him in one go, Xiaoshunzi immediately became the focus of everyone’s attention. Were it not for his awkward status, it was very likely that he would have the qualifications to challenge the number one young expert in Great Yong throne. However, the present him was not thinking of this.

He had managed to confirm that Xiahou Yuanfeng’s suspicions were the heaviest. However, it was very likely that the young master would not permit him to make a move and kill Xiahou Yuanfeng. If this Xiahou Yuanfeng was let off so lightly, wouldn’t he be made to look foolish before the entire world? It would be better if he went first to kill Xiahou Yuanfeng. As long as there were no witnesses, who could know that he had killed him? As a result, Xiaoshunzi did not contact the people of the Prince of Yong’s residence, traveling night and day back towards Chang’an. After a mere few days, he had already returned. After slightly changing his attire and appearance, he chose one evening and head directly towards Xiahou Yuanfeng’s residence. He knew that Xiahou Yuanfeng should not have any assignments today and thus he intended to directly enter the inner residence. Unexpectedly, just as he was approaching Xiahou Yuanfeng’s residence, a figure stopped him. Just as he was about to make his move, the man removed his mask, revealing a slightly childish looking face. That man was Chiji, the head of the eight elite operatives of the Secret Camp. Xiaoshunzi’s complexion grew heavily, about to completely ignore Chiji and walk past.

Chiji promptly said, “This subordinate is here on the young master’s orders, waiting here for Lord Li. Young master has said that Lord Li cannot be impetuous and must first return to see him.”

The look on Xiaoshunzi’s face was ice cold, not saying a single word. Chiji could only continue, “Young master also said that if Lord Li does not return now, then there is no need for Lord Li to return in the future.”

Xiaoshunzi’s hands tightened into fists. He naturally knew that Jiang Zhe would not casually utter these words. It seems that he really must return. Ferociously glaring in the direction of the Xiahou residence, he turned and departed. Chiji hurriedly pulled down the mask and left, his figure very quickly disappearing into the night.

Hurriedly returning to the Prince of Yong’s residence, Xiaoshunzi made no effort to make himself presentable, directly hurrying to the Cold Courtyard. Seeing that the newly selected imperial bodyguards had made the courtyard impenetrable, he felt somewhat relieved. Entering Jiang Zhe’s chambers, Xiaoshunzi saw him reclined on the soft couch. Jiang Zhe’s bearing was relaxed, clearly and brightly reciting the Book of Songs.2 Roulan was leaning on his side, apparently fascinated with Jiang Zhe’s reciting.

Xiaoshunzi felt his entire mood relax. Fine, even if he did not kill Xiahou Yuanfeng right now, it was unlikely that the young master would let him off lightly. Advancing, Xiaoshunzi performed a deep bow before he said, “This servant has returned. I beg for young master’s forgiveness. This servant dares not act rashly again in the future.”

I set down the scroll, looking at the travel-worn Xiaoshunzi. I replied, “Thank you for your hard work. Sit first. Do you know how I knew you would go to the Xiahou residence?”

Puzzled, Xiaoshunzi inquired, “This servant was just guessing, how did young master know my whereabouts? Even if those witnesses had heard my words, there couldn’t possibly be enough time for this information to be spread.”

A slight wry smile appeared on my lips, as I replied, “Yesterday, Xiahou Yuanfeng personally came to pay a visit, apologizing humbly, explaining that he had indeed came to the Cold Courtyard that day. However, he stated that he was not the one who shot an arrow at me. He merely took away Venomous Hand Evil Heart. Because of the archer’s respected and honored identity, he did not dare to intervene. He only took away Venomous Hand Evil Heart to learn some inside information. However, Venomous Hand Evil Heart refused to say a word, seizing the opportunity to escape.”

Xiaoshunzi stared back blankly. It was quite a while before he asked, “Then doesn’t that just leave Li Hanyou?”

“I had originally already suspected that assassin was a woman,” I said with a faint smile, “From the eyes as clear as spring water and her slim, white hands. I didn’t expect that Xiahou Yuanfeng would go so far as to acknowledge his presence at the scene. In all likelihood, there was three individuals who came to assassinate me on that day. Venomous Hand Evil Heart came because of the Prince of De’s orders and does not merit much anxiety. Xiahou Yuanfeng is extremely close to the crown prince. I’m sure that the crown prince would not trouble the Fengyi Sect over this kind of matter. It’s very likely that Xiahou Yuanfeng was dispatched by the crown prince. However, by chance, he ran into the Fengyi Sect making a move against me. Li Hanyou personally took action, therefore, Xiahou Yuanfeng did not act that day. I believe that if Xiahou Yuanfeng was truly the archer, then he would have killed Venomous Hand Evil Heart long ago to silence him. It’s just that why does the Fengyi Sect wish to kill me? Could it be some traces of that matter have been exposed?”

The look on Xiaoshunzi’s face changed several times before he spoke, “Young master, the Fengyi Sect has fixed their attention on you. We need to be extra careful.”

I indifferently shook my head and replied, “There is no harm. They were unsuccessful this time. If the Fengyi Sect is as arrogant as they say, then they will not try again. If they cannot use other channels to deal with me, then it would unavoidably harm their reputation. After all, at present, if I were to die, everyone would know that my death was perpetrated by the Fengyi Sect. I believe that there will be no worries about my safety at least temporarily. However, we must guard against their other methods. At present, I have only recently suffered a serious injury and can avoid their sword point. On the contrary, your reputation is too prominent and conspicuous. You must be careful.”

Xiaoshunzi nodded his head and replied, “Young master speaks rightly. However, this servant will be careful.”

I stretched lazily, stating, “You have also spoken reasonably. I’m getting tired. Please carry Roulan back.”

Xiaoshunzi promptly said, “Young master, I acted recklessly. You haven’t punished me yet.”

“Okay, to punish you,” I lazily replied, “Oh, that’s right. I really want to eat Osmanthus Cake. I punish you by having you buy for a box of top quality Osmanthus Cake. I want the kind that I loved to eat before.” I was already half-asleep, completely unaware of what I was saying.

Xiaoshunzi looked at me blankly. Osmanthus Cake was the most famous snack from Southern Chu’s capital of Jianye. How could one eat this here in Great Yong? Even if he ran all the way to Jianye to purchase a box, when he returned, then the cake would have already gone stale.

In a daze, he walked out of the door. At this moment, the team leader of the fifty guards, Zhou Wu, walked over. Seeing Xiaoshunzi’s baffled expression, Zhou Wu asked, “Lord Li, what’s happened? Does daren have any orders?”

Vexed, Xiaoshunzi responded, “How can I get Osmanthus Cake?”

Zhou Wu stared blankly at Xiaoshunzi, muttering, “Osmanthus Cake?”

Xiaoshunzi had already left, carrying Roulan in his arms


丈, zhang – a measure of length, measuring about 3.3 meters诗经, shijing – known as the Book of Songs or the Book of Odes, it is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry dating to the 11th to 7th Century BC; it is included as one of the Five Classics (五经) that was said to have been compiled by Confucius Previous Chapter Table of Contents Next Chapter


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