Luosang City, in the bathroom at Tie Shou’s Workshop.
Qin Yu sat in a large wooden tub filled with warm water. He was leaning against the side of the tub and enjoying the rare comfort with a handkerchief laid over his face.
Suddenly, he felt a short, sharp pain shoot through his heart and he immediately sat up. The water in the tub was displaced by his sudden movement, causing a loud splash. However, that stabbing pain was gone almost as soon as it came, and all returned to normal as if it had never been there.
“What was that about?” There was confusion on Qin Yu’s face as his hand rose to touch his chest. The pain seemed to return, but not as sharply as before; now it was only a faint stab.
What on earth could have happened? Was someone in trouble?
He felt a terrible sense of foreboding. It was a pity that he wasn’t an all-knowing god. There was no way he could have divined that his parents were in trouble and needed his rescue.
It was right at this moment that a creaking noise interrupted his thoughts. Someone pushed the doors open and entered the room.
It was Tie Shou. He brought Qin Yu a set of clean clothes.
“Young Master Qin, is there enough water? If there isn’t, I can get someone to add more.” Tie Shou said rather politely. If any outsider had been there to see the illustrious Master Tie Shou waiting upon this young man as he bathed, their jaws might just drop to the floor from shock.
Qin Yu gathered his wits and turned around to smile at Tie Shou, “I do have enough water so there’s no need to trouble yourself. Also, Master Tie, it’ll be better if you just call me Qin Yu. I’m no longer a young master of the Qin Family.”
“Mmhmm, alright then,” Tie Shou chuckled as he walked over and placed the clothes on a clothes stand next to the tub. “The set of clean clothes I’ve prepared for you will be right here.”
“Yes, thank you.” Qin Yu gave his thanks and casually asked, “Master, is Little Yue alright?” More than a year had passed, and he wanted to know how Murong Yue was doing.
When Murong Yue was mentioned, Tie Shou paused for a moment before forcing out a pained smile. “She’s… not doing very well.”
“What’s happened?” Qin Yu asked hurriedly once he recovered from the surprise.
Tie Shou heaved a long sigh, and his elderly face seemed to age visibly before Qin Yu’s eyes, “Up until half a year ago, the Princess often came to Luosang City in search of your news. Now, she can no longer come...”
“Why can’t she come anymore? Hey, Master Tie, why don’t you just spill everything out all at once? Don’t keep me in suspense!” Qin Yu said rather unhappily.
Tie Shou sighed once again, “The princess is being confined to her chambers.”
“What, confined?” Qin Yu was startled, “But she’s a princess. Who would dare to do that to her?”
“The Martial Examination a year ago caused the common people to seethe with anger and damaged their trust in their emperor. Taking advantage of this situation, a group of people with nefarious intentions went around stirring up negative emotion, tempting multiple parties into taking advantage of the chaos.” Tie Shou did not answer Qin Yu’s question directly. Instead, he continued describing the situation slowly, “At times like these, the Emperor ought to step up to suppress the various powers with a show of strength. But regretfully, he was unable to do anything. It was then that another person stepped forward and took control with an iron fist. The various parties cowered in the face of his power.”
At this point in the story, Qin Yu was beginning to sense the direction that the story was heading toward, “If I’m not wrong, this person is most likely Prince Qi, Mu Tian Qi, isn’t it?”
Tie Shou nodded. “That’s right. His popularity and prestige have risen above that of the Emperor’s, and he is the one truly in charge in Qiongxi now. The Emperor has been relegated to the role of a mere puppet. Ah…”
Tie Shou could only sigh helplessly. Although he was loyal to his ruler, with his current ability, there was nothing he could do.
“Right now, every random citizen in the streets of Qiongxi knows that the next Emperor will be Prince Qi for sure. As soon as the current ruler passes away, he will successfully ascend to the throne.”
Qin Yu twitched his nose and snorted disdainfully, “At this point, why is Prince Qi still bothering to pretend. Why not just have the current emperor thrown out and take the throne for himself. That’ll be the end of it right?”
Tie Shou shook his head and replied, “No. He still has to keep appearances up when it is needed. The struggle for power within the royal palace has always been a subtle dance in the light and shadows. If he directly unseats the Emperor, he will be accused of conspiring to usurp the throne. But if he waits till after the Emperor has died, he can either force his successor to write an abdication decree or forge a posthumous edict. This way, he can sit on the throne through legitimate means and seal the wagging tongues of his people. There is a significant difference between these two courses of action.”
“And besides, the emperor is already gravely ill and can hang on to life for another three months at most. It’s a mere three months. Mu Tian Qi can afford to wait.”
“Whew…” Qin Yu let out a breath and said with scorn, “So this is what the power struggle in the royal palace is like. How hypocritical.”
“Qin Yu, I fear you are the only one who can save the princess and Qiongxi,” said Tie Shou as he stared intensely at Qin Yu with eyes full of hope.
Qin Yu shook his head, “Naturally, I will go and save Little Yue. However, I don’t have the ability to save Qiongxi, and even if I did, I have no interest in its affairs.”
“You mustn’t say that.” Tie Shou sobered suddenly, “Mu Tian Qi intends to usurp the throne and he is sure to bring chaos to the current order in the imperial court. It is the duty of all the people, both officials and commoners, to bring down a traitor to the kingdom like him.” As he spoke, he grew more and more agitated. His loyalty to the ruling emperor was clearly deep-seated.
“A criminal such as himself ascending to the throne would mean the end of Qiongxi, the people of Qiongxi would be doomed, and even all you martial artists will be severely affected.”
“Qin Yu, the others may not understand but you must know that the Slaughter Array was a sinister scheme masterminded by Mu Tian Qi. He wants all of the young martial cultivators dead. If it weren’t for heaven’s blessings, I fear that all of you might have already suffered premature deaths at the hands of that vicious man.”
Tie Shou’s last statement was certainly true. Mu Tian Qi had been so cruel and merciless to all the martial cultivators, that even now, Qin Yu still remembered it with displeasure.
“Of course, if Mu Tian Qi were to be in the position of absolute power, the Princess would be stuck in a grim situation. As the remaining member of the previous dynasty’s royal family, and as the person who has always opposed Mu Tian Qi, two possible fates await her. The first would be a slow and painful public execution. The second would be to exile her to the borders as a plaything for the thirsty soldiers there. Can you bear to see her suffer either of such horrific ends?”
Qin Yu said nothing as he listened quietly. He did not need to, for Murong Yue’s situation was not one he could ignore.
“Qin Yu, I learned from the Princess that you have the authority to command the Divine Army of a hundred thousand soldiers stationed within the forbidden grounds of Ten Thousand Beast Mountain. With these soldiers, you can lead a direct attack on the capital, save the Princess, chase Mu Tian Qi away, and restore the royal family to its former glory.”
As Tie Shou’s excitement grew, a fire seemed to ignite and burn fiercely within his pupils. He waited for Qin Yu’s answer.
A hundred thousand Divine Soldiers. If it weren’t for Tie Shou’s timely reminder, Qin Yu might have completely forgotten about this particular resource. Although, right at this moment, he was thinking of using them for the extermination of the Qin Family rather than charging into the capital.
“What’s the time now?” Qin Yu’s words surprised Tie Shou. This was obviously not an answer he had been expecting. What could he possibly mean by asking for the time?
He did not know what Qin Yu was planning to do, but he answered honestly anyway, “Two more hours to dusk.”
“Right. Prepare a swift horse for me. I will set off for Ten Thousand Beast Mountain in two hours.”
The moment these words left Qin Yu’s mouth, Tie Shou quivered with excitement, ecstatic at Qin Yu’s unexpected straightforward agreement. In fact, he seemed to be in even more of a hurry than Qin Yu himself.
“Alright, no problem. I shall go with you!” Tie Shou said in agitation. He was so worked up that he trembled slightly.
“No, you need to stay here and help me investigate someone.” Qin Yu stopped him.
“Investigate?” He replied, puzzled. “Who?”
“Have you heard of Qin Yuandao bringing a young lady back from Baoding City?” Qin Yu asked instead.
Tie Shou furrowed his brows as he thought. After a moment, he answered, “I’ve heard of that matter. I think that lady might be called Su Yinxue. She is the daughter of Baoding City’s Su Family. Apparently, she’s as pretty as a fairy, so pretty that even that old asshole Qin Yuandao has designs on her.
“That’s Su Yinxue alright! How is she now?” Qin Yu’s voice got a little louder, out of both excitement and a little worry. He feared that Qin Yuandao might have done something untoward to Su Yinxue over the past few days.
The gaze that Tie Shou directed towards Qin Yu turned a little strange. He thought, “Could it be that besides the princess, this young fellow had also fallen for Su Yinxue? Ah, these young people. Although, Su Yinxue was the person Qin Yuandao had picked for himself, to attempt to snatch ‘his woman’... wasn’t that just looking for trouble?”
“Qin Yu, my advice to you is to not bother with that woman. Ever since he brought her back, Qin Yuandao has been treating her like his most precious treasure, insisting on according her the appropriate politeness and respect.”
It was evident from Tie Shou’s words that Su Yinxue was safe for now.
“Qin Yuandao is now a cultivator in the Spirit Realm, and he is second to none in Luosang City. No one dares to make trouble for him, not even with the utterance of a single nasty comment. Now, you want to get involved with the matter of his woman? Isn’t that just asking for death? Listen to this old man’s word of advice. There’s plenty of other fragrant grasses in the world out there. With your outstanding qualities, you can have any kind of woman you want. Let this one go.”
The more he spoke, the more Tie Shou sounded like an old grandmother.
Qin Yu was not convinced. He began coldly, “Master Tie, if you wish to have me deal with Mu Tian Qi, then you must do as I say.”
Those words were devoid of warmth and were laced with an irresistible command. At the same time, he allowed his aura as a Transformation Realm martial cultivator to shine through. A tremor went down Tie Shou’s spine and there was a hint of doubt and perplexity in the gaze he directed at Qin Yu.
It seemed that this young man had changed.
“Alright, then. I shall leave you to your bath.” Tie Shou did not dare say anything else. After setting down the clothes, he retreated from the room and immediately did as Qin Yu had instructed. He sent his men to find out more about Su Yinxue.
The Qin Family Mansion was the grandest and most luxurious family home located in the city center. Su Yinxue was confined within a spacious lady’s chambers furnished and decorated in the style of this mansion. Outside, a few guards who were rather skilled in martial arts stood guard for the whole day, while in the room, there were two serving girls stationed and ready to wait upon her at any hour. The two hardly dared to leave the room for fear that some accident might occur, for which they would have to pay with their lives.
Su Yinxue seethed with fury, yet she was completely helpless.
At least Qin Yuandao had been fairly polite to her for these past few days. Besides being confined to her room, she had not been manhandled or beaten. This reassured her a little. But this peace of mind was soon replaced by a sinking sensation that tonight would be the night for something to occur.
And it seemed her instinct was right because Qin Yuandao finally came.
“Greetings, Old Grand Master,” said the serving girls when he entered, and they hurriedly moved forward to curtsey.
“You may leave.” Qin Yuandao waved them away, turning his beady eyes toward the ethereal young lady.
“Yes, master.” They replied and left, closing the room doors carefully behind them.
The expression on Su Yinxue’s face remained cold as she faced Qin Yuandao. That unpleasant face of his disgusted her, though she had no choice but to face it head-on. She could only feel bitter at the fact that she was no martial artist. She was merely a weak woman who could only take things lying down. She greatly regretted only focusing on the four scholarly arts and ignoring martial arts. It was only now that she finally understood that a woman, especially a beautiful woman, needed a correspondingly high-level of combat abilities to protect herself.
“Shilan, have you considered my proposal while you’ve been here? Do you need more time?” Qin Yuandao allowed a kindly smile to take shape on his face as he spoke gently. That disagreeable face of his was still passably acceptable if he did not attempt to smile, but once he did, it appeared all the more hideous and disgusting.
“I am not Shilan. My name is Su Yinxue.” Su Yinxue emphasized in an icy tone for the umpteenth time over the past couple of days.
“No, now your name is Shilan. You are the Shilan I’ve always treasured.” Qin Yuandao said stubbornly. Shilan was a dream he once held dear, an old knot in the strings of his heart. And now he wanted Su Yinxue as a substitute to fulfill his fantasy and to undo the knot in his heart.
“I am Su Yinxue and I’ll never be that Shilan in your heart.” Su Yinxue was as chilly as ice and there was no trace of sympathy in her tone.
“You will be.” Qin Yuandao smiled confidently. “Shilan, I respect you and do not wish to use force on you, that’s why I’ve been letting you have your way for the past few days. But there is a limit to my patience. I’ve had a Priest find an auspicious day for us to have our wedding. That day is tomorrow, so tonight is your deadline. For the last time, will you agree or not?”
“Qin Yuandao, you’re wasting your effort. You massacred my family and killed my great grandfather. Right now, all I want to do is to make you pay for their deaths with your life. How could I possibly agree to marry an enemy, a despicable, wicked man like you?” Su Yinxue’s icy mask cracked, exposing her rage and disgust. “Just kill me, or else, for as long as I live, I will never give up on taking your life.”
“I know that you hate me, that you want me dead. I can let you have all of that, it doesn’t matter, what’s important is that you have to marry me tomorrow.” Qin Yuandao continued to smile pleasantly, completely ignoring Su Yinxue’s fury and hatred.
“Dream on and get lost. Scram!” Su Yinxue screamed, losing her last iota of control.
“Hmph. Since you can’t appreciate what’s good for you, don’t blame me. You’ve forced my hand.” Qin Yuandao’s smile disappeared without a trace. “Men, bring it in!” He shouted.
With a loud bang, the group that had been waiting outside entered through the doors.
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