Thousand Autumns – Chapter 19
First published on Ainushi.
Synopsis: I’m not very fond of it.
Shen Qiao asked, "What if I insist on going?"
Instead of answering, Yu Ai asked back, "This is the place where you grew up, and there are martial brothers and sisters who have accompanied you since your childhood. Are you telling me that you have the heart to abandon Mount Xuandu and walk away from all of these things just like that?"
Yu Ai tried to persuade him with affection and reason at the same time, but Shen Qiao's reply was the same as before, "If you are referring to collaborating with the Tujue people, I'm not going to approve it."
After he saw that Shen Qiao was still holding fast to his original opinion, Yu Ai's tone chilled, "What difference does it make whether you approve it or not? There are now seven elders on Mount Xuandu, and four of them have agreed to my plan. The other three are cultivating in Closed Door Meditations. They don't care about secular affairs anymore. Among our martial brothers, eldest senior brother is a peacemaker. Telling him about it would be useless. Fourth junior brother and little junior sister will be very happy to see you back, but they are not necessarily going to agree with you either. Mount Xuandu's reform is a must. I don't want to witness the greatest sect of its generation slowly decline during my lifetime, and neither do they.
"Otherwise, why do you think I was able to stabilize the situation and become the regent sect leader in such a short amount of time? Without their acquiescence and support, could I have succeeded all by myself?
"You, Master, and even the previous generations of sect leaders' way of thinking is not going to work anymore. How is it possible for Mount Xuandu to mind only ourselves if the world we're in is filled with chaos?"
The night was very quiet, as if even the birds had vanished. Winds stopped as well. The rustling sound of the leaves could no longer be heard. Everything seemed to have come down into a still.
No one could tell when the moon had hidden itself behind the clouds. The world sunk into an immense darkness. The candlelight in Yu Ai's hand flickered. It gradually dimmed, and then suddenly went out.
Ever since he became blind, the days and nights had been the same for Shen Qiao.
He was still human after all. He also felt hurt when injured, and distressed when running into predicaments. But he always believed that there was hope ahead of him, and he was always willing to face everything with an optimistic attitude. After his memories returned, he didn't become downhearted despite the many questions piling up inside him. He kept thinking about going up Mount Xuandu and requesting an answer from Yu Ai face-to-face.
However, at this very moment, when the truth was placed in front of him, Shen Qiao suddenly felt a profound weariness welling up from the bottom of his heart; it was as if a hand had grasped him and was dragging him into an icy ocean.
He couldn't help but tightly grip the bamboo stick in his hand.
Yu Ai felt a little sorry after seeing Shen Qiao's expression, but since things had reached this stage already, he felt that he had to state these words clearly, "Senior brother, no one would willingly shackle himself to loneliness. Mount Xuandu is the number one Daoist sect under the Heavens, and it has the strength to support a wise ruler, spreading the Daoist school's influence to the entire world. Then why should we stubbornly keep ourselves deep in the mountains like those hermits? Almost everyone in Mount Xuandu thinks so, except for you. You're the one who is too naive!"
Shen Qiao drew a deep breath, "Kunye is from Tujue. Your cooperation with him didn't go as far as to assist the Tujue people in entering and ruling over the Central Plains, did it?"
Yu Ai replied, "Of course it didn't. I have said before that cooperating with Kunye was but one of the steps in my plan. No matter how badly I want Mount Xuandu to once again step into the secular world, I won't choose someone like Tujue. Violent and ruthless as they are, how could they be counted as wise rulers?"
Shen Qiao's brows tightened into a knot. He had a vague feeling that Yu Ai was leading Mount Xuandu into an enormous plan, but his brain was a little confused right now, and he couldn't figure it out at the moment.
Yu Ai said again, "If you come back now, we can still be the close brothers we used to be. There won't be any estrangement. Your eyes haven't recovered yet, and you still have internal injuries. It must have taken you a great effort to even climb up the mountain. How much farther can a body like this still travel? Only Mount Xuandu is your home."
Shen Qiao slowly shook his head. "You can take the thoroughfare, but I’ll pass my single-plank bridge.  A puppet sect leader as it is… I'd rather not take a position like this. From now on…"
He wanted to say some fierce words to break all of their friendly ties, but scenes of them spending time with each other since they were young unexpectedly flashed across his eyes.
Those memories were so vivid in his mind that they were not something that he could really cut off just by saying a sentence like 'We're done with each other.
Shen Qiao sighed in silence. In the end, he didn't say anything. He just pursed his lips, turned around, and left.
Back in those years when these martial brothers were taken as disciples by Qi Fengge, Shen Qiao had the best aptitude among all of them. However, with someone like 'the number one martial artist under the Heavens' as their master, it was impossible for the other people to be really bad. For a person to be taken as a disciple by Qi Fengge, both his talent and constitution must have been excellent.
If the former Shen Qiao was leaving, Yu Ai probably wouldn't be able to stop him, but the present Shen Qiao surely didn't give Yu Ai any reason to not attack!
He appeared in the front of Shen Qiao in a flash and blocked the other person's path without even thinking about it.
"Senior brother, don't go." He said in a low voice as he raised his hand, ready to knock out the other person with a chop.
However, as if Shen Qiao had already anticipated his action, he retreated first while holding his bamboo stick in the air, seemingly to parry.
Yu Ai didn't care about this move of his of course. He reached out towards the bamboo stick.
This snatch should have been guaranteed to succeed, but it simply missed!
The bamboo stick slipped away and passed his hand. Instead of retreating, it actually advanced, striking at Yu Ai's wrist.
Yu Ai slightly frowned. He flicked it with his finger, while his other hand went towards Shen Qiao's shoulder. There was no wind, but his sleeves moved, and he himself shifted towards Shen Qiao's back in an attempt to block Shen Qiao's way out.
Shen Qiao's shoulder fell right into Yu Ai's hand. Yu Ai exerted a little power, and it inflicted a slight pain in Shen Qiao. But Shen Qiao paid no attention to it — the bamboo stick in his hand still hit Yu Ai's waist. Yu Ai had an old wound there from falling off a tree when he was young. He broke his bone at that time. Therefore, even though he had recovered completely from it, it still left a shadow in Yu Ai's mind so that he would subconsciously dodge when this place was attacked.
Shen Qiao only had thirty percent of his martial power left. He was not Yu Ai's match at all. However, since they had known each other since childhood, even though he couldn't see with his eyes, he still knew inside out about the other person's each and every move and what martial art movements he might use. He was also confident that Yu Ai was not going to take his life, and therefore Shen Qiao could attack without misgivings.
Yu Ai clearly knew about Shen Qiao's plan. After fighting hand to hand for a moment, he gradually became somewhat fretful and he didn't want to drag it on like this. He struck out a palm at the other person's shoulder, using his inner qi this time.
Shen Qiao heard the wind created by the palm and subconsciously raised his bamboo stick to block it. However, it was useless. The inner qi came right at his chest. The bamboo stick broke into two pieces with a 'crack', while he himself took several steps backward. He stumbled for a little while and then fell to the ground.
"Ah-qiao, stop fighting and go back with me. I can't even imagine how happy little junior sister and the rest will be when they know you're back!" Yu Ai took a few steps forward and was about to pull him up.
Shen Qiao didn't say a word.
Right after Yu Ai grabbed his wrist, he saw the other person holding half of that bamboo stick and sweeping it at him with a momentum that faintly resembled lighting and thunder.
Shen Qiao had been saving his power to wait for such an opportunity when the other person's guard was down!
Yu Ai never expected that he would still have energy left over to resist despite being seriously injured to the point of becoming blind.
He didn't know Shen Qiao only had thirty percent of his martial power left in him. The bamboo stick stirred up a spiral of wind around it. With a chill like a cold spring, its iciness seemed to deeply pierce into one's bones. He didn't dare to take the strike physically, so he turned his body to the side to dodge. To his surprise, however, Shen Qiao didn't get into a fight with him at all. He immediately withdrew his palm in midway, then retreated towards the path he came from!
Having grown up here ever since he was young, even though Shen Qiao couldn't really see right now, he was still able to barely distinguish the environment. At this moment, he dashed forwards using his lightness skills, not turning back his head even as Yu Ai chased him from behind. By listening to the sound, he tracked down Yu Ai's position, then he threw the rest of the bamboo stick back-handedly towards his behind.
Yu Ai was determined to keep the person here, so he stopped being soft-hearted. He rolled in the bamboo stick with his sleeve and tossed it straight back at Shen Qiao.
As an air-piercing sound came from behind him, the bamboo stick brushed past Shen Qiao's shoulder and cut open the clothes. Blood instantaneously streamed out. He didn't dodge and decided to keep on running despite the pain, but his figure inevitably swayed a little.
Like this, Yu Ai had already caught up to him in a blink of an eye. He struck a palm out backhandedly at Shen Qiao. Shen Qiao didn't dodge it in time. It hit him right at the center of his back. He spat out a large mouthful of blood, and his entire body fell down, curling up on the ground as he gasped for breath.
"Stop running!" Yu Ai was really angry. He reached out again to pull him up. "Since when did you become so stubborn? I don't want to hurt you, why won't you just listen!"
"Who doesn't run after knowing he is going to be confined? He must be an idiot then!"
A sneer was heard in the dark. It sounded indistinct and cold, but no one could tell where it had come from.
Yu Ai was overwhelmed with shock. He stopped and looked around, but he failed to find the other person's trace.
"Which rat is it? Come out!"
"At first, I thought that for a proud son of the Heavens like Qi Fengge, his disciples shouldn't be too much a failure no matter what. To my surprise, not only did Shen Qiao become a half-useless person, even Yu Ai who has become the regent sect leader is just so-so in terms of martial arts. If Qi Fengge knows about this in the netherworld, he's probably going to turn even in his grave."
The next moment, Yan Wushi appeared with banter and ridicule on his face.
Yu Ai realized that with his martial arts, he couldn't even see clearly where the person had just come out from nor where he had been hiding before that.
He was shocked on the inside, but on the surface, he was still calm. "May I know the honorable name of this distinguished mister? And what has brought you to visit Mount Xuandu at midnight? If you are an old friend of my respected Master, then please have some tea in the main hall."
Yan Wushi replied, "A Mount Xuandu without Qi Fengge is really too insipid. I'm fine without the tea. Also, you're not qualified to enjoy tea with me face to face yet."
Yu Ai had the intention to let Mount Xuandu step into the secular world again, therefore he had done a lot of preparation for it beforehand. Seeing how ridiculously arrogant the way this person's words were, in addition to his unfathomable martial arts, he searched for a while in his mind and suddenly came up with a name, "Yan Wushi? You're the 'Demonic Sovereign', Yan Wushi?!"
Yan Wushi frowned. "'Demonic Sovereign'… I'm not very fond of this nickname."
Yu Ai skipped over the topic of fondness. His face became dignified as he questioned, "May I ask what has brought Sect Master Yan to Mount Xuandu? Yu is dealing with some internal affairs within the sect right now and therefore might not have looked after you well. Please come back for a visit during daytime, Sect Master Yan."
"I can come whenever I want. Since when do you have the right to order me around?"
Yu Ai was taken aback by his sudden appearance just now so he didn't think it over. Now it finally occurred to him that Mount Xuandu was not a place that people could easily break in as they wished. Even grandmaster-level experts like Yan Wushi and Ruyan Kehui could not come whenever they wanted like entering an unmanned place. The only possibility was that he had come from the path at the backside of the mountain edged by a cliff.
He suddenly turned around and looked at Shen Qiao.
The other person's head was slightly hanging, his expression indiscernible. He felt the tree trunk next to him with his hand and made an effort to stand up with its support. It seemed like a flurry of wind was enough to blow him away.
The wind had gradually become stronger in fact, and people's clothes started to rattle with it. However, he still stood there steadily, seemingly unbendable under any devastation.
Seeing that he wasn't surprised about Yan Wushi's appearance, Yu Ai suddenly thought of another possibility. He was startled and enraged at the same time, "Ah-qiao, how could you hang out together with people from the Demonic sects?!"
After he heard this sentence, Shen Qiao slowly let out a turbid breath with a bloody odor mixed with it. He wiped the blood that had spilled out of the corner of his mouth and asked with a hoarse voice, "If you can collude with the Tujue people, then why can't I stay together with people from the Demonic sects?"
I'm not sure if any cuties didn't understand the relations here. I'll sort it out for you: Yu Ai is executing a plan, and this plan requires him to cooperate with the Tujue people. He knows Shen Qiao won't agree to it, so he must remove Shen Qiao from the leadership position. In Yu Ai's mind: the hundred-year plan for Mount Xuandu is more important than senior brother, and therefore I shall do what is right even at the cost of my family. Let's do it!After Shen Qiao fell off the cliff, Yu Ai naturally became the regent sect leader. Of course, other people also agreed to the idea that Mount Xuandu needs to step into the secular world, so Yu Ai is widely supported. But they don't know that Yu Ai poisoned Shen Qiao, and they don't know he has been cooperating secretly with Kunye.
The reason Shen Qiao chooses to leave is that Yu Ai behaved too well before. He doesn't have any evidence, and other people may not believe him even if he tells the truth.
Therefore, Shen Qiao didn't get tricked because he was too stupid. He just put too much trust in Yu Ai's personality. It's the same for the others. All of them grew up together since they were young and they are closer than real brothers, so they don't have any guards against each other.
Because this was such a gentle environment, it was able to nurture such a gentle Qiao Qiao~
I also have to mention this by the way:
Now is the end of Northern and Southern dynasties. (420-580 A.D)
Because of the Uprising of the Five Barbarians, all kinds of minority groups have established regimes in the Northern area.
At this time, the influence of the Tujue people was tremendous. They occupy a vast territory. They even formed an alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) to fight the Persian Empire.
Even Northern Zhou and Northern Qi can't take them head-on and have to yield to them occasionally. It's not something that is shameful for the northern regimes.
But they cannot represent everyone. There are still many people who have adhered to the orthodoxy of the Central Plains and want to restore its lost territory.
That includes Puliuru Jian. After he obtained rulership of the world, he immediately resumed his Han surname (Yang, so his name become Yang Jian), and etc..
This novel is not a historical novel. I mainly want to explain that because it's under such a big background, Yu Ai himself doesn't feel that collaborating with the Tujue people is a very serious matter. Shen Qiao has his principles and bottom line, and he believes it's not right to back down.
It's like like what Qiao Qiao says in the novel. He also thinks that it might not be appropriate for Mount Xuandu to seal the mountain and shun the world like they were doing before, but he will never agree to collaborate with the Tujue people for any reason.
And this is where they differ.
 You can take the thoroughfare, but I’ll pass my single-plank bridge: You look after your own concern and leave me to my own affairs.