Thousand Autumns – Chapter 10
Quality Check: Puissansa
First published on Ainushi.
I’m embarrassed to say I’m sorry for the delay in updates now. But, I’m trying to get back on track, really trying… T_T. And Happy New Year everyone!
Synopsis: I'm proud of you.
After the words were spoken, it became quiet everywhere around him. Nobody answered him.
Yun Fuyi frowned, as the abbot of the monastery and the two little monks crossed her mind. All of them still hadn't appeared so far. She was unsure if they had fainted out of fear or if some other unforeseen events had happened.
Instead, Murong Xun and Tuoba Liangzhe, who were sent out to search around, returned clutching Shen Qiao and Chen Gong in their hands along with the two hall managers of Six Harmonies Association.
"Patriarch, there's only junk in those chests. What we want is not there!" Tuoba Liangzhe reported as he ruthlessly flung Chen Gong to the ground.
Chen Gong had been groaning painfully all the way here, so they had also locked his mute acupoint as he was too noisy. Now he was unable to even cry out, the entire face of Chen Gong was distorted by pain.
Shen Qiao was treated slightly better. Perhaps because of the skill he had just revealed made Murong Xun somewhat fearful, the latter held him firmly by his shoulder.
Liu Qingya and Shangguan Xingchen, the two hall managers of the Six Harmonies Association, who would normally also be considered awe-inspiring, now appeared rather beaten and dejected at this moment with all of their major acupoints locked. But they clenched their teeth and refused to utter a word.
Murong Qin glanced at them and said, "If Vice Chairman Yun still cares about the life of these subordinates of yours, then just give me the item."
Yun Fuyi sighed, "If Patriarch Murong is only after the goods we are escorting in this trip, the two chests are right there in the side room where Hall Manager Liu and the others were staying. Just bring your men over and take them. I've got nothing to say since my martial skill is inferior to yours."
Murong Qin sneered, "Do you think that everyone else are idiots? Those two chests of yours are just there as decoys. I'm afraid that the real goods that you're escorting has been kept on your body all this while, am I right?"
After these words, even the people of the Six Harmonies Association turned to look at Yun Fuyi in astonishment.
Yun Fuyi's face darkened. "Where did Patriarch Murong hear these rumors from and to even take them to be the truth? These two chests were entrusted to us to be sent back to Southern Chen. The owner of the goods is also clearly known to us and speaking of which, is actually your deceased colleague, the Junior Preceptor of the Crown Prince, Xue Rong. After he passed away due to an illness, his wife and children asked the Six Harmonies Association to help them transport his possessions back to his birthplace. Our Chairman had a good relationship with Junior Preceptor Xue and therefore ordered me to escort it myself. That's all!"
"Those two chests are filled with nothing but Xue Rong's old belongings, most of which are books. Two boxes of books can be gotten rid of on the spot. Why the need to transport them all the way from Qi to the South?"
"You're asking me, but who should I turn to for the answer?"
"Your team has encountered schemes and hijacks repeatedly ever since you set off for the journey. Don't tell me that those people were all coming after two boxes of Xue Rong's old books?"
"Perhaps some people believe that Junior Preceptor Xue had accumulated much wealth while he was alive and think that those two boxes are full of gold and treasures. Little do they know that Junior Preceptor Xue had clean hands. He didn't even leave much money behind."
Murong Qin responded coldly, "Amongst the remaining personal effects of Xue Rong, there's a book titled Supplement to the Azure Sea. I would like to ask Vice Chairman Yun to hand it over please."
"All the books are in those two chests. If it's in there, then it's there. If it's not, then it's not. The chests are already at your disposal. What else can you still ask me to hand over?"
Murong Qin looked at Tuoba Liangzhe and Murong Xun. The latter reported, "I  have already searched everything. There isn't a book titled Supplement to the Azure Sea."
A gurgle came from mid-air, "Patriarch Murong is indeed patient. If you go on beating around the bush like this, I'm afraid that Vice Chairman Yun will be determined to play dumb till the end. It would be better if you would just say straight out that the Supplement to the Azure Sea is only a cover, while concealed within it is the Book of Free Will of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang. Ask her to hand over The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang directly instead!"
Were more people hiding around here?!
Surprise and bewilderment appeared on the faces of the Hu brothers. They quickly raised their heads to look around, but all they could find were dense, ghastly branches and the quiet monastery. Not even half a soul was seen.
However, at the next moment, they caught sight of an extra figure behind the porch column.
Chen Gong listened carefully to their conversation for quite a while in spite of his pain, but realized that he did not understand even one sentence of it. The lofty aspirations he originally had of joining the Six Harmonies Association was already deserted long ago. He was hurt a good deal, sweating all over from the aches. Only because the pain was now slightly mitigated was he finally able to spare some energy to raise his head and take a look at the figure who had spoken. However, the glance freaked him out so much that he felt it would have been better if he hadn't seen anything
The bald figure under the moonlight was wearing a monk's garment—it was clearly one of the little monks from Beyond Clouds Monastery!
Since there were female guests in the monastery, the two little monks gave their side room to Yun Fuyi for her to stay and moved over to sleep with Chen Gong and the others in the common sleeping quarters. When Chen Gong got up to watch the scene just now, it was pitch dark. He only knew that the people from Six Harmonies Association went out and did not pay attention to whether the two little monks were still there.
But listening to it now, the little monk's voice was totally different compared to before. In fact, it was the pretentiously sweet voice of a woman!
Chen Gong felt like his mind was in a complete mess, as if his head was filled with rice paste and was completely unable to figure out what was going on.
The key concern of the others, however, was not whether someone had replaced the little monk later or if there was never a real one from the beginning.
Everyone's look changed drastically when the words "The Strategy of Vermillion Yang" left her mouth!
Yun Fuyi asked, "And who are you, Madam? Hiding and dodging around like this, could it be that you are scheming something scandalous?"
The "little monk" replied coquettishly, "My original plan was indeed to sneak in and then sneak out with the item, but what can I do when Vice Chairman Yun simply wouldn't give me the chance? With Patriarch Murong stepping in as well, I'm left with no choice but to show up."
Yun Fuyi could not figure out the other person's background. As she was scrutinizing her up and down with furrowed eyebrows, the other person giggled again, "Vice Chairman Yun, you thought that you were prudent enough, keeping everything quiet and low profile. Little did you know that countless people have been watching all of you attentively ever since you departed the Capital. Those two groups before were nothing but little fishes and shrimps that aren't worthy to be mentioned, while this one tonight is indeed a real gathering of talents. I'm afraid that other than my Harmony Sect and Patriarch Murong, there are still experts who haven't revealed themselves yet. Since the stars and the moonlight are perfect and this opportunity for us to get together all at once is rare as well, why don't we call the others out and have a nice chat? Let's deepen our friendship and also settle this remaining book of The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang? How should we distribute it after all? Should the strongest person get it? Or should we tear it apart so that each of us gets a piece?"
She teased as she spoke. It sounded rather humorous, but no one present laughed.
Yun Fuyi's heart sank.
She could still handle Murong Qin by herself although it might be difficult, but the situation was quite thorny if the Harmony Sect, known for its rather eccentric and wild conduct, also entered the scene. Besides, from what the mysterious woman had implied, it seemed as if there were still other people hiding in the dark who had not revealed themselves yet.
Murong Qin said in a deep voice, "You have seen it yourself, Vice Chairman Yun. There are too many experts in Beyond Clouds Monastery tonight for you to handle by yourself. If you agree to hand over The Strategy of the Vermillion Yang to me, I will let you off in the name of the Imperial Court and guarantee that all of you can leave the country safely."
"It's true that Patriarch Murong works for the Imperial Court, but I'm afraid that our Harmony Sect is more qualified to say these words, considering our influence in the country of Qi," smiled the honest and ordinary looking little monk as she came over from behind the porch column.
She didn't seem to move much before Murong Xun cried out an "Ouch!" on the side. He released Shen Qiao in a rush and retreated several steps rapidly.
Murong Qin's figure moved a little, blocking in front of Murong Xun in a flash. Two glimmering rays shot out from the inside of his sleeves, followed by Murong Qin himself as he pounced on the little monk.
Chen Gong stared blankly at the two people in the moonlight; their flipping robes and sleeves in the air, together with the lights and shadows looming over them, painting the life-or-death crossing of swords as if it was a bloom of peach blossoms. He suddenly realized how ridiculous his indignation had been when the Six Harmonies Association had rejected him earlier, as well as how ignorant and naive was his understanding of the so-called pugilistic world.
He couldn't help but look at Shen Qiao.
The latter was still standing there quietly with the bamboo stick in his hand. Half of his body was cloaked by the shadows, making him almost unnoticeable to others.
At a glance, Shen Qiao appeared to be a man who could not have been simpler. But at the same time, there seemed to be layers of mysteries hidden inside him as well, so that others were not only unable to gain insight from him but also incapable of fathoming anything from him at all.
On the other side, Murong Qin and the little monk started to fight hand to hand. Yun Fuyi glanced over at everyone around her; an idea came to her mind and her steps followed it.
One must say that her footwork was fast. One step of hers was comparable to ten steps of an ordinary man. A flower seemed to bloom at each of her steps, brushing against her clothes but leaving no trace on them.
Nevertheless, she was only able to move one step before a pressure as heavy as a mountain came from behind her, pushing her down right into her face.
Without any prior consultation, Murong Qin and the little monk, who were fighting with each other intensely, had both decided to attack Yun Fuyi!
The little monk giggled, not forgetting the sarcasm as she spoke, "Vice Chairman Yun is indeed too insincere, trying to walk away like this while your subordinates are still here. Is this how the chairman of an association should behave? If word gets spread out, who would dare to follow you again in the future, right?"
Yun Fuyi knew that since the item was on her, the rest of her men were insignificant. Murong Qin and the others would totally disdain from paying any attention to them and hence they would not be in danger for quite some time. That was why she had decided to leave first by herself. At the moment, even with the little monk deliberately inciting disharmony between her colleagues and followers, she remained silent. Murong Qin alone made her busy enough; with an additional 'demonic woman' from the Harmony Sect, the pressure doubled.
Three streams of inner qi mingled and clashed within the circle centered on the three of them. The others had to retreat further away in fear of getting caught in the crossfire. Liu Qingya and Shangguan Xingchen, on the other hand, were not as lucky. They were unable to move and, as unfortunate as it sounded, one of the streams of inner qi crashed into them, making them spit out a mouthful of blood at once. Hu Yan and Hu Yu were greatly shocked. They stepped forward in an attempt to drag them away, only to discover that they had absolutely no chance of approaching the battle circle around those three people.
The little monk and Murong Qin seemed to have joined forces, though in fact they were wary of each other as well. Guarding against each other's backstabbing, they were somewhat reserved in their moves. Yun Fuyi was originally in the losing position, fighting the two of them by herself, but since the other two had their own sinister ideas, she was able to find a subtle balance within the fight and held onto it strenuously.
This dangerous situation of equilibrium was soon broken when Murong Qin somehow suddenly changed his plan. The light of his Cicada Wing Blades switched its route after it swept past Yun Fuyi's face and shot towards the little monk, bringing with it vigorous cold winds, frosting everything along its way. In response, the little monk, who was blocking Yun Fuyi's route of escape, had to slide to the side to dodge it. But the thin blade followed her relentlessly, unyielding till the last gasp.
Judging by their actual strength, Murong Qin was slightly more skillful than the "little monk". It was just that the gap was not revealed because the two of them had had a common objective until then. Now that the situation had changed, the little monk ended up becoming overwhelmed. With the porch column behind her and eaves above her head, she had no way to retreat. She glanced around. and out of the corner of her eyes she spotted Chen Gong on the ground next to her. Without a second thought, she reached towards him, intending to use him as a shield.
The scene lasted no more than a twinkling of an eye. In the eyes of people who knew little or no martial arts, their movements were like the shades flashing by, something they were utterly unable to perceive clearly.
Chen Gong hadn't even realized that the little monk was reaching towards him. His head was still facing to the side as he stared over at Yun Fuyi and Murong Qin.
Shen Qiao saw it.
He did not have a single trace of inner qi inside his body. As for the so-called martial arts, he could only remember a little bit of it and would often forget about this and that. His health was not good either as he would cough blood from time to time and his eyes were blind as well. But he couldn't convince himself to just stand by and watch.
So he chose to save him.
When Chen Gong was brutally pushed to the ground, he was still unaware of what had happened.
Seeing that the person she had originally wanted to grab had been replaced by a bamboo stick, the little monk let out a sound of surprise.
Within that instant there were a myriad of changes. The light of the blade had already arrived and the little monk could only let go of the stick as she cupped her fingers to form a flower with her delicate hand, forcibly taking the thin blade head-on.
The thin blade penetrated the shield of her inner qi, piercing right into the palm of the little monk. Had she not been firmly gripping it with all her might, the momentum of the blade surely would not have ended there.
The little monk's hand immediately became a mess of blood and gore.
If it wasn't for that bamboo stick ruining her good plan, she would have caught a scapegoat long ago. How would she have ended up injuring herself in that case? A ferocious killing intent appeared on her face. Ignoring Yun Fuyi and Murong Qin over there, she immediately curled her fingers into a claw, grabbing towards Shen Qiao's head!
The reason why Murong Qin chose to give up on Yun Fuyi and scheme against the little monk instead was because he knew that Yun Fuyi could hardly get away tonight. So it was unimportant who was the one that would keep her here.
As expected, the sound of a jade bell  came out of the gloom. To other people, it sounded so distant and yet so clear that even their vision and hearing felt cleansed by it. In Yun Fuyi's ears, however, it was no different from hundreds of needles pricking her flesh or thousands of swords piercing her heart. Her entire body fell victim to extreme pain and even the inner qi that was about to circulate inside her was forced into stagnation.
'And who is it this time?!'
Yun Fuyi was deeply terrified. She no longer cared about anything else and just wanted to escape with all her might, only to find herself unable to move even a single step, as if she was blocked by an invisible net.
She once used to think that even if the competence of her martial arts was not enough to make it into the top ten, it would not be completely useless. Only at this very moment did she realize how excessively wrong she was. Without even making an appearance, someone had already firmly suppressed her.
Was she destined to lose the item on her tonight? Thinking to this point, Yun Fuyi could not help but feel a shred of despair rising inside her.
On the other side, the little monk grabbed towards Shen Qiao, her fingers as fast as lightning, without any hesitation.
She might be inferior to Yun Fuyi or Murong Qin when fighting alone, but to dealing with someone like Shen Qiao, her skill was certainly more than enough to make it an easy capture.
The reason why Shen Qiao was able to stop the little monk from catching Chen Gong earlier was because, apart from it being an exquisite move, it also took advantage of the timing and caught her off guard.
When the little monk attacked seriously, he had absolutely no power to resist.
With the momentum of an avalanche, the force of qi swept its way over, carrying with it a monstrous killing intent. Even though they were still five or six steps apart from each other, Shen Qiao already found it hard to breathe. Waves of pain started to burst inside his ribs as he fell into complete darkness, unable to even feel the ground under his feet. His whole body went soft, except for the one place around his chest which, as if being roasted by fire, felt so tight that the only way he could free it was to spit out a big mouthful of blood.
The little monk did not care about Shen Qiao at all. For her, this person truly deserved to die for not weighing his own capabilities before sticking his nose into other people's business.
A person like him was worthless, no matter how pretty he looked.
In her eyes, Shen Qiao was already dead.
Yet another incident occurred as the tip of her finger barely reached his neck.
The incident did not come from Shen Qiao.
A hand suddenly appeared out of the darkness and pinched towards the little monk's wrist.
It was not fast, its style prosaic as well. There was nothing fancy about its movement.
The hand was fair and thin, with smooth skin that had no trace of scars. One could tell that it belonged to a man, and certainly a man who lived a comfortable and luxurious life for years in a high position.
 I: Original Chinese word used is "your nephew", which is used instead of "I" to show respect.
 Jade Bell (玉磬 yu qing): A bowl-shaped inverted bell that is mostly used for meditation and religious purposes in Buddhism.