Joy of Life - Chapter 325[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:22]
Chapter 325: The Cloth-Clothed Grandmaster Battle
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Wu Zhu slightly lowered his head and allowed the cold night wind to blow as it pushed against the black cloth on his eyes. His steady and terrifying right hand slowly wrapped around the handle of the iron rod at the side of his waist. Step by step he walked towards the direction of the noodle shop.
The thin clothing the man in front of the noodle shop wore was made of rough cloth, of a dirt-yellow color with half sleeves. It was exactly the outfit of a hard labor worker at a river wharf south of Jingdou. There was nothing strange about it at all. He blinked, and the coldness in his eyes did not change at all; neither did the expression on his face. Only with the sound of Wu Zhu’s footsteps did he slowly rise from the bench.
There was a straight knife in the cloth-clothed man’s hand. He swung his hand and the sharp tip sliced through the air with a whistle. The straight edge swung through the neck of an old drooping man, the shop owner, who was stooped over picking up noodles. The neck of the noodle shop owner made a sputtering sound and fresh blood sprayed out from his neck, landing perfectly in the noodle pot!
Closely following that, the head of the noodle shop owner clicked and, like an autumn tree heavily laden with fruit, detached from the body and landed with a splash in the noodle soup. The landing sent up a spray of hot, bloody soup.
Without warning, without reason. An unusually cold and steady strike. The shop owner was beheaded and his old head bobbed up and down in the soup which had already been dyed a dusky red. Under the light of the flickering oil lamp, this scene appeared to be unspeakably scary and strange.
At this moment, Wu Zhu stood forty feet in front of the cloth-clothed man. The half of his face not covered by the black cloth did not move at all, as if he did not care that the other person had just killed an innocent noodle shop owner in front of him.
“You come from the south.” The blind man’s voice was always this monotonous, lacking a sense a rhythm.
The cloth-clothed man slowly drew back his straight knife. That pair of cold eyes focused on Wu Zhu, and although neither his eyes nor expression revealed any emotions, they somehow gave people the impression he had already entered a state of high alertness.
“Routine inspection.” The cloth-clothed man spoke in a very monotone voice. “Bringing you back.”
Wu Zhu said, “You are here to kill Fan Xian.”
The cloth-clothed man said, “You purposely released the information.”
“Because I couldn’t find you in the south, so I had to use this method to force you to show yourself.” Wu Zhu stared coldly at him like he was looking at a dead man. “Once you knew Fan Xian was her descendant, you would rush to Jingdou to kill him.”
The cloth-clothed man’s eyebrows moved oddly, as if they wanted to express surprise and confusion; it was clear his expression was a bit stiff, and so it appeared a little strange. The two eyebrows twisted like two little worms.
“You knew the reason, so you had me come.”
Why did this cloth-clothed man have to come to Jingdou to kill Fan Xian after learning he was Ye Qingmei’s son? From the conversation between Wu Zhu and this cloth-clothed man, it was clear that these two people knew each other.
Furthermore, Wu Zhu knew that once this man learned of Fan Xian’s past, he would stop at nothing to come to Jingdou to kill him, and so had purposely waited outside the Fan Manor.
So it seemed that the recent upheaval in Jingdou was caused by Wu Zhu pretending to miscalculate, and secretly tipping off Ku He, so he could reveal Fan Xian’s past from the distant Northern Qi. This also ensured he would be able to do so without leaving any trace of himself.
If uncle blind had the ability to concoct this beautiful plan, then the only reason for all this was to draw this cloth-clothed man to Jingdou.
Who exactly was the cloth-clothed man?
A number of months ago, on the southern seaside of the Qing Kingdom, there appeared a nameless man. He searched everywhere for a blind man, and when his question was met with no answer, he would very simply kill everyone who had seen him. He gave no excuse and asked for no reasons.
He was the Nanjiang serial killer that Fan Xian and Yan Bingyun could not forget.
Once the Ministry of Justice were at their wit’s end, the Overwatch Council finally began investigating these strange and bizarre killings. However, each time an ace of the Overwatch Council tracked down the nameless man, they would be counter-attacked and killed without mercy. And so, until now, no one knew what the nameless man looked like. Yan Bingyun had once thought about borrowing troops from Fan Xian to take the Tiger Guards south; the reason was this man.
He had just appeared out of nowhere, and seemed unfamiliar with the way he should behave and the norms of this world. Thus, he had unnecessarily killed too many people. It was not until later that he gradually understood more things; so he put his wild hair into a common bun, his bare feet into common everyday grass shoes, and chose a straight knife commonly used by the martial arts people of Qing. At the same time, he also changed into inconspicuous, rough cloth clothes.
Wu Zhu took a step forward and was a little bit closer to the noodle shop. He lowered his head slightly and said, “I went to find you in the south, but failed.”
The cloth-clothed man said something haunting: “I looked for you in the south, and also failed.”
Wu Zhu’s feet were bare, the cloth-clothed man’s feet wore grass shoes. Wu Zhu’s hair was tightly bundled behind his head, it moved not an inch. The cloth-clothed man’s hair was bundled into a bun, slightly higher on the head.
The aura around the two of them was very similar. Although different in clothing and appearance, these two things seem to be the only things setting them apart. The aura on their bodies showed these two were both merciless killing machines; they were two hunters hidden in the night. Each was clearly searching for the other, yet they cared greatly about who first found who.
They demanded themselves to first find the other, and not be discovered by the other. Although this appeared to be the same, it was like the battle of life and death between the hunter and the injured tiger. Whoever had the advantage was the one who would continue existing in this world.
“Someone told you I was in the south,” Wu Zhu said.
The cloth-clothed man did not reply to his question; instead, he said, “Cannot leave a trace.”
Wu Zhu said, “She has already left too many traces. Go back to the temple, I won’t kill you.”
The cloth-clothed man seemed to think Wu Zhu’s words were rather inexplicable, and was in great conflict with the truth he had always followed. A strange emotion flashed through that pair of eyes, bright and cold as ice. This kind of emotion was rare to see in people’s eyes.
“You come back with me.” The cloth-clothed man’s voice remained emotionless.
Wu Zhu’s voice was actually a bit angry. “I forgot some things—wait until I remember.”
The conversation between the two men had used a strange rhythm the entire time; furthermore, if closer attention was paid, it could be discovered that these two had not asked a single question. They had only spoken in very certain tones. Perhaps they were both very confident in their ability to judge logically; more likely it was that these two strange men had difficulty understanding normal conversation with such leaps of logic.
The lips of the two people moved but no sound came out. It was as if they were conducting a final soundless negotiation.
The negotiation broke, and Wu Zhu took another step towards the noodle shop. The distance between the two people shrank from 40 feet to 20 feet.
The cloth-clothed man wore no expression and did not take a single step back. He only stared at the iron rod in Wu Zhu’s pale white hand, as if waiting for the rod to sprout flowers.
A low spluttering sound came from the stove with the pot of noodles. The soup with the human head boiled over with red bloody bubbles; they followed the rim of the pot and fell into the stove. They spluttered as they came into contact with the cherry red coals and a smoky stench rose.
Wu Zhu moved. The black cloth around his eyes immediately dissolved into a streak of black silk. The iron rod in his hands did not sprout flowers; it was as sharp as a bamboo point after winter, and it speared straight towards the cloth-clothed man’s chest!
What was strange was that, today, Wu Zhu did not choose to aim his rod at the throat.
At almost the exact same moment, the cloth-clothed man with the straight knife also moved. The two people moved towards each other with the same strength and speed; no one would be able to tell the difference between them.
The distance of 20 feet disappeared in the blink of an eye. Wu Zhu and the cloth-clothed man suddenly crashed together.
Their speed was too quick, appearing to exceed the limits of what the eye could observe. It seemed that in one moment, the two were still separated by two dozen feet, and in the next, the two were standing nose to nose!
Their speed was so fast that they seemed to meet as suddenly as two streaks of light. Fan Xian before his injury; that shadow assassin from the Sixth Bureau; even if Haitang were here: none would have reacted in time. They could have only waited to die. Other than the four Great Grandmasters, no one else had ever experienced such a realm.
Yet as the streaks of light clashed together, they didn’t produce brilliant fireworks; rather, their came a deathly silence.
The point of a knife emerged, terrifyingly, from Wu Zhu’s right rib area. Something was dripping from the tip of the knife onto the floor.
An iron rod was, with incomparable accuracy, stabbed through the cloth-clothed man’s abdomen. There was not the slightest deviation.
Wu Zhu had moved first, and his speed seemed to be slightly faster than his opponent. When the two clashed together, his left knee took the extra time to kneel down. He was only slightly quicker, but it was enough to save his life.
At that moment, he maintained his half-kneeling position. The iron rod in his hand pointed upwards slightly, as if he were holding a torch to honor the heavens, and was pierced through his opponent’s abdomen.
There came faint voices in the garden behind the little alley. The sounds were extremely light, yet they landed in Wu Zhu and the cloth-clothed man’s ears.
Like sawing through wood, the two people silently moved apart and the weapons in their hands slowly slid out of the other person’s body. At this moment, a click came from the cloth-clothed man’s abdomen—it seemed like something was broken!
After receiving such a heavy injury, there was still no expression on the cloth-clothed man’s face; it was as if there was no pain at al. He only examined the injury in his abdomen like a child, as if pondering why he would be just a little bit slower than Wu Zhu.
Wu Zhu defeated his enemy in one strike, but also took a heavy injury; yet he, like his opponent, remained expressionless. Only at the edge of his mouth, uncovered by the black cloth, there was the sense of a little bit of distance from the mortal world.
He knew the cloth-clothed man would no longer be able to exist on this earth. He had been a little faster than the cloth-clothed man because he had used Fan Xian’s past to lure his opponent out today. So he had prepared more thoroughly: he hadn’t worn shoes, and he hadn’t brushed his hair into a bun.
“Do not stain oneself with the world of mortals.” Those words from the temple indeed made some sense.
At night the snow began again. A few human shadows jumped over the garden wall, and landed without a sound in the small alley. After landing, each person drew a long knife from their back and arranged themselves into a striking formation, vigilantly observing each direction.
The people who had just arrived were the Tiger Guards responsible for Fan Xian’s safety.
After confirming everything was safe, Gao Da sheathed his knife. He walked through the sparse snowflakes to the noodle shop. He furrowed his brows as he saw the terrifying human head in the soup left on the stove.
Closely following that, his gaze fell onto the wound that separated the head from the body. He only glanced at the wound before a chill and horror involuntarily flashed through his eyes—what a clean strike!
Gao Da’s neck suddenly felt an icy chill, as if some snowflakes had fallen into his clothes. He knew the battle that took place earlier was definitely not one that people like him could rashly interfere in. Although he did not witness it personally, he could guess what unbelievable realms the two people battling had reached.
The snow fell heavier and heavier, and gradually froze the bloody soup; it also froze the spirits of the people in the alley.
The noodle shop stood wretched in the alley. The shop owner had died, the stove had cooled, and the blood had dried. No one else on this earth saw the two nameless people—not Grandmasters, yet possessing their skill—who tried to kill each other in this alley.
The night watchman at the Overwatch Council was currently taking a nap. The building appeared even colder and more solemn in the night through the wind and snow. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew past and shocked the guard awake. He slapped his face with the lingering shock and ordered himself to wake up.
Usually there were more guards on watch at night in the garden, particularly in recent days. Because of Commissioner Fan’s matter, Director Chen had not gone back to the Chen Garden at all. Instead, he took direct charge of the Council to control everything. If the Director knew he had been sleeping earlier, there would not be pleasant consequences.
Chen Pingping was, at this moment, dozing off in his chair. The old man’s body had not been well these past few years. Although the fireplace in his room was burning fiercely, he would, unconsciously, use his dry and thin hands to tug his sheep wool blanket on his knees up to his chest while he slept.
The door opened, and then closed.
Chen Pingping woke up and slowly blinked his murky and tired eyes. He looked at the piece of black cloth in front of him and said quietly, “How come you’re here?”
It was only then that he noticed the horrifying wound on the left side of Wu Zhu’s chest. The messy snow white eyebrows immediately leapt up. Although he wasn’t angry, he asked with great vigilance, “What happened?”
To be able to injure Wu Zhu? It had to have been one of the Great Grandmasters who struck. No matter how arrogant Chen Pingping was, it would be difficult for him, in the mess that Jingdou was in today, to handle the news that the enemy suddenly had an extra Great Grandmaster’s help.
Wu Zhu did not answer his question, he only said three very straightforward sentences.
“Let the Shadow return.
“The person who injured me knew I was in the south.
“If Fan Xian dies, the Qing Kingdom falls.”
Wu Zhu knew that the old cripple in front of him had enough intelligence to understand those three sentences. He was not able to last much longer after the horrifying wound he had sustained today, and so once he finished talking, he quickly and quietly left the Overwatch Council.
Chen Pingping sat in his wheelchair and sunk deep into thought for a long time. In the fireplace not far from him, the red firelight leapt like fairies, and bathed his usually white and sallow face red.
Although Wu Zhu’s three sentences were simple, they revealed very important information.
The first sentence told him to have the Shadow return. This meant that his injury was very severe, and he was unable to stay beside Fan Xian to protect him. He wanted Chen Pingping to fulfil his promise early, and summon the Shadow back to protect Fan Xian’s safety.
However, the person who was able to injure Wu Zhu must have already died. Otherwise, given Wu Zhu’s personality, and for the sake of Fan Xian’s life, he would not leave Jingdou with an enemy that powerful around regardless of how heavy his injury was.
Who could have injured Wu Zhu? It must not have been one of the Great Grandmasters. Otherwise, Wu Zhu would not have purposely hidden the other person’s identity. Chen Pingping’s heart stuttered a little, and he vaguely suspected something. He had this suspicion many years ago, only he still did not have any evidence.
On the night Wu Zhu had carried Fan Xian out of Jingdou, the two of them had considered how to have Fan Xian escape from that unknown danger. Only… how did the Temple know that Wu Zhu was in the south? Chen Pingping furrowed his brow and began to make sense of all of this.
In the two years that Fan Xian had been in the capital, Chen Pingping had asked him, more than once, what had happened to Wu Zhu. Fan Xian always lied very carefully, saying Wu Zhu was in the south looking for Ye Liuyun. The only other person besides Chen Pingping who knew this false information was the Emperor, whom he had told.
Wu Zhu’s second sentence was reminding Chen Pingping of this point. And so it seemed that the threat in the third sentence was something that would naturally happen.
“The Emperor.” The wrinkles at the corners of Chen Pingping’s eyes twitched, and he sighed softly, “You always manage to surprise me. Bravo, bravo.”
It was only an instant, and he had already guessed the Emperor’s true thoughts. Although he wasn’t sure how the Emperor was able to connect with the Temple of the Void, he was very clear on one thing. The mighty Emperor very much wanted Wu Zhu to disappear.
As the Emperor of a dynasty, perhaps it was very difficult to endure your illegitimate son having a person next to them at the same level as the Great Grandmasters.
A Great Grandmaster, if crazy, had enough power to shake the rule of the court. This was something anyone could imagine. Even if he couldn’t charge into the palace alone and slaughter all of the royal family, he definitely could travel by himself through the world, and wipe out all of the officials of each region guarding the borders. He also didn’t have to worry about being trapped by the army.
He could also hide in Jingdou for ten years and kill each time he left. This would scare the Emperor into staying inside his palace forever, his edicts never leaving the city. In a scenario such as this, in which no one dared to be an official, the Emperor did not dare to show his face, other than for the court to fracture and collapse, what else could be done?
And so it was possible for Ku He to single handedly oppress all the princes and aristocratic families in the north who wanted to rebel.
And so Sigu Jian was able to protect Dongyi City for all these years by himself, able to spread the might of his sword, and to support those small countries caught between two powerful ones.
Although appearing to be undisciplined and careless, the actually highly intelligent Ye Liuyun only needed to keep traveling the world without end, and the Qing Kingdom would have to treat the Ye family well. Even if the Emperor wanted to change out Jingdou’s defenses, he would be forced to use laughable, secret methods like creating disturbances himself. Of course, Ye Liuyun understood the fear of the royal family clearly, and so, in all these years, he had never returned to Jingdou.
If war broke out, the Emperor could use the Ye family to threaten Ye Liuyun, could use the lives of the tens of thousands of people from Northern Qi to persuade Ku He, and could use the ongoing existence of Dongyi City to remind Sigu Jian, so that both sides could reach a balanced agreement.
But Wu Zhu was different from those three Great Grandmasters. He had no great family as a burden, and no country or people that needed him to protect. Everything he did was for Fan Xian, so he had much more freedom, and could not be threatened or persuaded to help each other. In fact, the other party didn’t even have any space to bargain.
If something were to happen to Fan Xian and Wu Zhu went crazy, the world would go crazy with him.
And so, as long as Wu Zhu was around, the Emperor must treasure Fan Xian. He must behave like the past years, acting the part of a remorseful but helpless father, and the part of an Emperor who was full of sorrow yet also full of lofty aspirations.
Perhaps deep down in the depths of his heart, the Emperor very much admired his son, Fan Xian. However, after all was said and done, he was still an Emperor. He could not allow for a Great Grandmaster who was loyal to Fan Xian to remain by his side as a servant. Even if he hadn’t taken advantage of the person from the Temple, there was a day the Emperor would find a way to get rid of Wu Zhu.
Of course, Chen Pingping knew that this was only one of the reasons. The other reason was probably the faint fear in the Emperor’s heart.
The Temple never interfered with the mortal world, and no one had truly seen the people of the Temple. The people in the Temple might not be seen for centuries if Wu Zhu and the man from the Temple were to perish together; and Fan Xian’s connection to the Ye family could be hidden forever. If what happened that year could be buried away, for the Emperor, this was probably the best ending.
Only, the Emperor had not expected Fan Xian’s past as a descendant of the Ye family to be discovered so quickly. His own son had become the main target of the Temple. He had wanted to use the Temple to kill Wu Zhu—instead, Wu Zhu had used Fan Xian’s past and successfully lured out and killed the visitor from the Temple, and had saved Fan Xian’s life.
Chen Pingping did not know of Wu Zhu’s involvement in this matter, but he thought, with a trace of sorrow, the Emperor clearly knew that there was someone from the Temple in the mortal world. Yet after Fan Xian’s past was exposed, he had never warned him or Fan Xian. Besides himself, did the Emperor only have faint traces of sorrow and sympathy for people?
The old man smiled coldly. He rolled his wheelchair to the fireplace, and greedily stretched out his hand a little closer. While he warmed, he yawned, and muttered indistinctly to himself, “You sure know how to enjoy things. You even managed to get a fireplace. Everything about you is great, except you were caught up in this matter, like a little girl…”
At dawn, it was pitch black at the place called “Wai Sanli,” a remote and quiet place in Jingdou. The shadow of a round circular structure could faintly be seen. It was made completely of black wood, and it was a temple. Snowflakes fell one after another, and it gave the temple a transcendental feeling of being removed from the world.
This was the Temple of Qing, rumored as the only place to contact the Temple of the Void; the temple where the royal family worshiped heaven.
The temple door squeaked as it was pushed open. The Qing priest, who had not been seen in Jingdou for a long time, walked out. Compared to Ku He of the Qi Temple, this hardworking monk was unknown. His expression showed a moment of shock before it was hidden again. He silently and sadly lifted a corpse from the snowy ground, and staggered into the temple. The corpse wore commonly-seen cloth clothing.