Translators: MomoePom, Tin
Chapter 38 – Done looking yet?
In the past, Xiao Se definitely would not have let such a beauty off without playing with them for awhile, or having a taste of the person at least. This time, however, he didn't even have the time to take a good look at the person's face.
Killing Yuwen Qing was a must tonight, and Bai Rong had abandoned that already. Failure was no longer an option for him. Even though he knew how slim his chances were in the presence of Yan Wushi, he had no choice but to make an attempt.
Xiao Se drew out the hand fan he kept in his belt. With a shake of his wrist, a number of sharp blades appeared at the ends of its leaves. He threw it out and the fan swept across the air toward the other person. Meanwhile, he tapped on the ground and sprung toward Shen Qiao as well. Amidst the wind created by his palm, he made his comeback.
Shen Qiao wasn't planning to join the fight at first. His body now required a longer recovery period after each fight, and it might even cause irreversible damage to his foundation. Also, there was no need for him to fight since Yan Wushi was here. But, at this very moment with Yuwen Qing dragging Yu Zi to his carriage looking for shelter, and with a dangerous enemy closing in step by step, Shen Qiao had no choice but to take on the fight himself.
Xiao Se thought that with Yan Wushi's ways of doing things, he would never bring any other helpers. Only heaven knew that the carriage hid such a person who could not be underestimated! He remembered the recent rumor in the pugilistic world, and, comparing it to the characteristics of the person in front of him, he immediately figured out the identity of the person, "Sect Leader Shen, as a grandmaster of the Daoist sects, don't you feel ashamed to be ordered around by someone like Yan Wushi?"
He let out a malicious sneer, but his hands moved faster and faster. The waves of the wind brought up by his palms surged like the tide, crushing forward one after another, allowing his enemy no time to breathe. The fan seemed to have its own consciousness. It worked alongside Xiao Se's inner qi, filling whatever gaps were left by his attacks, aiming only at the enemy's weak points. As if being attacked from both ends, anyone fighting with Xiao Se had an additional layer of threats to deal with.
Shen Qiao did not wish to make the fight any longer than it needed to be. He didn't use the bamboo stick, but he immediately drew out the Celestial Grief Sword.
The sword lights overlapped on top of each other, weaving into a curtain that could almost cover the sky. Not only did they cut through the fierce winds created by the other person's palms, but the lights also fended off the blades of his fan. Xiao Se tried to break through the 'sword curtain', but he ended up discovering that, like a flawless barrier, it left him with no loopholes to seize.
What was more was that Shen Qiao was doing unto Xiao Se what Xiao Se had done to him. The winds wrapping Xiao Se's palms bounced off the 'sword curtain' back to himself and almost suffocated him. His defense faltered for a second, and with a hard blow to his chest, Xiao Se immediately vomited a mouthful of blood.
Didn't they say that Shen Qiao was seriously injured to the point where he had even suffered a great loss in his martial arts?!
Xiao Se was both shocked and enraged. He realized that he could not gain any advantage even if he continued. There was no way that the four elders could hold Yan Wushi back any longer, and once Yan Wushi was able to free himself, he would be the one in trouble.
He couldn't keep himself from glancing up the tree – Bai Rong, who had been sitting over there, was already nowhere to be found. Xiao Se clenched his teeth and said, "Sect Leader Shen indeed has a well-deserved reputation. Xiao will come back and ask for your advice some other time then!"
As soon as he finished, he spotted an opening and struck a palm toward it. While Shen Qiao was raising his sword, Xiao Se retrieved the fan blades and disappeared in a fleeting instant, not even leaving a word to those four elders.
This moment was a vivid and thorough depiction of how selfish and cold-hearted the people from the Demonic Sects were.
Yuwen Qing crawled out from behind Shen Qiao, still trembling with fear, and asked, "Many thanks to this young mister for saving us! May I have your name, please?"
Shen Qiao slid his sword back into the sheath. "Shen Qiao."
Seeing his lifeless eyes, Yuwen Qing suddenly realized, "So you're that, uh, that Mister Shen!"
During this period of time, the battle in the Residence of Su spread Shen Qiao's name around like wildfire. Whenever his name was brought up, people could not avoid talking about Yan Wushi, and the conversation would always end with an ambiguous smile from everyone. Yuwen Qing did not belong to the pugilistic world. He had only heard some rumors about it. After seeing the person in real life, he couldn’t help but exclaim to himself what a beauty Shen Qiao was. Despite his slight sickly look, there was a distinct lingering charm to him.
Especially when the beauty drew out his sword and fought the other person a moment ago, he had changed all of a sudden from his vulnerable, delicate appearance. Heavy and steady while embodying a grand presence, his sword arts were such a feast to one's eyes that people would find it difficult to look away. However, Yuwen Qing could feel nothing but deep pity that someone else had already picked up such a beauty.
Shen Qiao didn't know what Yuwen Qing was thinking about, so he was still able to maintain his usual gentle and placid expression as he smiled and nodded at Yuwen Qing, "Senior Official Yuwen, would you like to check on the madam behind you first?"
Yuwen Qing said, "She seems to have passed out."
"Let me see."
Yuwen Qing put Yu Zi's hand into Shen Qiao's.
Shen Qiao took her pulse and said, "She's fine. Someone hit her sleeping acupoint. That's all."
He unblocked Yu Zi's acupoint, and the latter slowly woke up. The sight of Yuwen Qing and Shen Qiao right in front of her gave Yu Zi a good scare, and her heart was clearly still palpitating with fear.
Yuwen Qing pressed her down at once. "Everything's fine now. Junior Preceptor Yan and Mister Shen saved us!"
Yu Zi asked, "Xiao-lin, she…she…"
Yuwen Qing said, "Someone from the Harmony Sect disguised themselves as Xiao-lin in order to approach you. They wanted to assassinate me through you. The chance of Xiao-lin still being alive by now is probably very slim."
Shen Qiao suddenly said, "That's not necessarily true. Since Madam is fine, your servant may not be in danger. Senior Official Yuwen, could you please send your men to conduct a search? They might be able to find something."
Yu Zi pulled Yuwen Qing's sleeves, her eyes brimming with tears, "Xiao-lin has been with me for many years. She has always been very loyal to me. Master, please send someone to look for her!"
Yuwen Qing's heart softened at once, "Sure, sure! I'll go tell them to search for her right now!"
On the other side, the four elders of the Harmony Sect lost to Yan Wushi at last. One of them was killed right then and there, another gravely injured, while the other two were more or less wounded as well, barely clutching onto their lives to escape. Before the gravely injured one was able to slip away, Yan Wushi dealt yet another blow to him. The remainder of his days would most likely be brief unless he encountered something miraculous.
As Yuwen Qing turned his head, he saw Shen Qiao sitting there and cradling his sword with blank eyes. An unbidden feeling of pity welled up within him, and he completely forgot the fierce display of martial arts the other had demonstrated earlier.
"Mister Shen, are you tired? Would you like to rest in my carriage? There's still some food in it."
Shen Qiao shook his head, "Senior Official Yuwen doesn't need to trouble yourself for me."
Yuwen Qing laughed, "No, no! It's not troublesome at all! I still have to thank you for saving my life just now. You look pale, mister. I'm sure it must be due to Qi and blood deficiency. I still have some cakes made with donkey-hide gelatin. I’ll tell them to send it to your carriage later. Just eat one slice every day. It helps with blood regeneration. Oh, and that thing is sweet. It's very toothsome…"
Shen Qiao held his forehead in silence.
Yuwen Qing thought he was feeling dizzy. Just as he was about to reach out and support Shen Qiao, they heard Yan Wushi's lazy voice, "Such pain it causes me, to watch my Ah-qiao being seduced away while I struggle in a bloody battle!"
Shen Qiao: "…"
He didn't even need to see to know that there was no 'bloody battle' at all, and that the other's clothes had not even a speck of blood on them.
Yan Wushi's words weren't convincing at all. Yet they still made Yuwen Qing feel somewhat guilty and embarrassed, so he hurriedly retracted his hand. "Junior Preceptor must be joking. I only thought Mister Shen looked a bit tired. Tonight, it's all thanks to Junior Preceptor! I can't imagine what the situation would be like otherwise!"
From outside came the noise of chaos and confusion. It wasn't only Yuwen Qing's guards that were hurt, but the merchants travelling along with them had also faced misfortune. Although the opponent's only target was Yuwen Qing, the Demonic Sects never followed any moral standards when they acted and cared merely for like or dislike. Anyone who stood in their way would not escape the fate of being slaughtered. The merchants originally thought that travelling with the government's procession would be safer, but who knew that a catastrophe would swoop in out of nowhere? Now they could only try to soothe their fellow merchants with tearless grief, which led to even more panicked commotion.
Yuwen Qing followed Shen Qiao's instructions and sent someone to search. As expected, they found Yu Zi's maid by a rock next to a nearby creek. The girl had gone to urinate, walking a little farther to avoid being seen, but was then suddenly knocked out. After she woke up, she didn't even know what had happened.
A place that had Yan Wushi was a place that contained formless intimidation. The entire fleet stayed awake the whole night with constant noise, but around the carriage which Yan Wushi and Shen Qiao rode on was an eerie silence. Yuwen Qing took Yu Zi with him as they left the carriage, but he then ordered others to send over a bunch of food as a show of gratitude. It was inconvenient to cook in the wild, but Yuwen Qing had brought quite a lot of stewed meat and candied fruit for the trip along with some fresh fruits. He was obviously a man who knew how to enjoy life.
Shen Qiao was not interested in the stewed meats, but he had quite a few candied fruits. His little habit of having a sweet tooth never changed no matter where he went.
Leaning against a soft cushion, Yan Wushi placed a piece of beef jerky in his mouth. The honey tea that Ruru just boiled was placed next to him, and compared to the ruckus outside, the interior seemed all the more serene.
"The assassination wasn't successful this time, so there may be a second attempt. Senior Official Yuwen has too many gaps around him. He may not be able to defend all of them," Shen Qiao said.
Yan Wushi said, "It's fine. Yuwen Qing has people at his side testing poison for him. He's the one being stupid this time, insisting on bringing a woman with him which left a loophole for others. He'll be more careful after this event. Besides, it doesn't matter even if he dies. I have another copy of the credential on me. It will be the same if I let the deputy envoy present it to the Emperor of Chen. It's just that Yuwen Qing is extremely eloquent and thus not easily replaceable, which is also the very reason that the Emperor of Zhou cares about him this much."
Shen Qiao thought of the other's earlier unceasing torrent of words and couldn't help but purse his lips with a hint of a smile.
Yan Wushi lamented, "My Ah-qiao is truly loved by all. Yuwen Qing is a lascivious man, so that is expected, but even a devilish woman like Bai Rong also has an affection for you! If I don't watch you closely, I'm afraid that you'll vanish at any time!"
Shen Qiao frowned, "Please stop joking like this, Sect Master Yan. Since when does Bai Rong have anything to do with me?"
Yan Wushi said, "She went to assassinate Yuwen Qing disguising herself as that little maid. If it was in the past, neither that little maid nor Yuwen Qing's concubine would have survived. But she unexpectedly showed mercy to them. If it wasn't because of you, could it possibly be because of someone like Yuwen Qing? She's a smart girl. She probably has guessed that you would be on this trip too and therefore wants to leave a good impression, lest you be more disgusted with her."
He said this and then clicked his tongue. "How difficult it is for my Ah-qiao! He was born an oblivious blockhead, only thinking about morals and cultivation his entire life, and has no understanding of love. If I didn't lay it out for him, he probably would never truly understand it!"
He was always saying 'my Ah-qiao' like Shen Qiao was a possession of his. Shen Qiao had protested a few times, but it was to no avail. So he grew numb towards it and just let Yan Wushi do whatever.
Yan Wushi said, "Unfortunately, this love of hers is foreordained to wilt before it can even sprout. It's hard to imagine how Sang Jingxing will torment her if he finds out what she thinks."
Puzzled, Shen Qiao asked, "Are the disciples of the Harmony Sect not allowed to have affection for others?"
"Do you really not know? The Harmony Sect is famous for their sexual cultivation. Everyone in the sect, man or woman, practices dual cultivation. From what I see, Bai Rong is no longer a virgin. Presumably, her nephron-yin  has already been taken away by her master, Sang Jingxing!"
There was shock on Shen Qiao's face. After a long time, he finally said, "But he's her master…"
Yan Wushi said, "So what? Could it be that you think that Sang Jing, a person who has had many lovers and has consistently enjoyed stealing people's virginity, would just let someone else freely take his pretty disciple's nephron-yin? I don't know how many people Bai Rong has practiced dual cultivation with, but Sang Jing is definitely one of them."
Shen Qiao frowned and did not speak.
Yan Wushi laughed. "Ah-qiao's tendency of pitying the weak is showing itself again. Sang Jingxing is out of the question, but if she really didn't want to dual cultivate with the others in her sect, she could've thought of a way to back out. However, if you look at the speed at which her martial arts have grown, you'd realize that she must have supplemented it with sexual cultivation. Most likely, she did it all willingly. And you even start to pity her? What about this kind of woman is worth your pity? If you want to feel bad for someone, why not me?"
Shen Qiao felt a little speechless. "Are you saying that Bai Rong doesn't deserve to be pitied, but Sect Master Yan somehow does?"
Yan Wushi said, "I fought four enemies by myself tonight. Do I not deserve to be pitied?"
He caught Shen Qiao's hand and pressed it onto his chest, "Look, my little heart is still thumping even till now!"
Just then, they heard Yuwen Qing's voice from the outside, "Junior Preceptor! Mister Shen! Can I come in?"
Shen Qiao tried to yank his hand away from Yan Wushi, but the other forcefully tugged him all of a sudden and Shen Qiao ended up falling towards him.
Yuwen Qing heard no sound coming from within and took it as a tacit agreement. As he pushed open the door and raised the curtain, he suddenly witnessed the scene and it completely astounded him.
Because from his point of view, it didn't seem like a trick from Yan Wushi, but more like Shen Qiao throwing himself into Yan Wushi's arms.
Glancing at his stupefied expression, Yan Wushi slightly raised an eyebrow and impulsively came up with a malicious plan. He grabbed Shen Qiao's chin and immediately pulled him into a deep kiss.
Shen Qiao froze for a second, then shoved a palm towards the other without hesitation. However, Yan Wushi had predicted this, effectively neutralizing his attack while tapping his acupoint at the same time. Just like this, taking advantage of Shen Qiao's now powerless position, Yan Wushi gathered Shen Qiao into his arms. He lowered his head and pried open the person's lips, forcing Shen Qiao to accept the invasion.
"Mmn…" Shen Qiao tightly knitted his brows, not because he had lost himself in it, but because he was suffering from the restraint placed on his acupoints and could not retaliate. However good-tempered he was, he was already incensed at the moment. Unfortunately, his martial arts were not as good as the person in front of him, so he could only let him have his way. He was forced to tilt his slender neck upwards while his waist was tightly clutched. Shen Qiao's jaw was somewhat sore, lacking the strength to completely close his mouth, and as a result, a silvery thread of saliva slid from the corner of his lips. But his tormentor paid it no mind and deepened the kiss even further.
The scene was so erotic that Yuwen Qing could not move his eyes away from it. He even felt his mouth getting a little dry.
"Done looking yet?" Yan Wushi asked after he finally released the person in his arms and turned to Yuwen Qing.
"Y-yes…" he stammered. Though Yuwen Qing liked to boast of himself as a romantic man, as well as an experienced veteran with the ladies, he didn't know if his voice came out unevenly because he had seen something he shouldn't have, or if he was terrified by Yan Wushi's imposing manner.
"Then why're you still here?"
Yuwen Qing: "…"
He turned around and frantically scrambled away, thoroughly spooked.
Yan Wushi turned back to look at Shen Qiao, momentarily speechless. It was because the aforementioned person had already fainted.
More precisely speaking, that kiss was unlikely the main cause of his fainting. It was probably due to the inability to resist in addition to temporary suffocation — in short, being enraged to the point of passing out.
Yan Wushi had never seen such a thing happen before. He couldn't help but laugh out loud with a few clicks of the tongue to express his sympathy, "What a poor thing!"
He didn't think he had overdone it. Instead, he felt that Qi Fengge's disciples just didn't know how to have fun at all.
 Nephron-yin/Yuan Yin [元阴]: Chinese medicine term, or the Primal Yin. In some wuxia or cultivation novels, it is believed that girls and boys keep some kind of primal spiritual energy in them while they're still virgins, and it is possible for people who take away their virginity to gain this and use the energy to cultivate.