Joy of Life - Chapter 380[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:43]
Chapter 380: Unwilling To Let Go
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
In the middle of April, spring was beautiful and heavy in the air, unable to be more so. All of Jiangnan was enveloped in a warm wind. The people walking on the road had already begun to wear lined clothing. Thousands of kilometers away from Suzhou, outside of Jingdou, a smear of snow was still visible on the top of Cang Mountain, as cold as the white cloth over a dead man’s face.
The tall and big man wearing a straw hat withdrew his gaze from the snow on the top of mountain. He silently drank the remaining tea and ordered a bowl of plain noodles. He began to eat it tastelessly.
This place was 15 kilometers outside of Jingdou, called Shipai Village. This big man wearing a straw hat was the Second priest of the Qing Temple, Great Master San Shi, who had made his way with great difficulty from Jiangnan to Jindou.
San Shi had not come to Jindou to preach or break off branches from the drooping willows. He was here to kill, he was here…to kill the Emperor.
Although Fan Xian had, intentionally or not, allowed him to leave Jiangnan, the Overwatch Council’s search was tight. Even though they had not put out heavy troops on the northwest roads, it still took San Shi a great deal of time to go around the Overwatch Council and Black Knights blockade to arrive in Jingdou.
The Junshang Conference was indeed a loose organization. When this organization had an exceptionally divine and important mission, its importance would clearly show. Very few knew exactly how many powerful figures under heaven this mysterious organization had collected.
Although San Shi held the venerable position of Second priest in the Qing Temple, he had very little speaking power in the Junshang Conference, furthermore, he personally objected to the Junshang Conference’s arrangements in Jiangnan. After having a taste of failure when trying to disturb Fan Xian’s administration, he sacrificed himself and left behind the arrangements of the Jungshang Conference. Alone, with a great goal in his chest like a red sun in his heart, he came proudly all the way to Jingdou. He came to Jingdou to kill the one who could not be killed.
As he thought, he silently ate his noodles. He followed his elder brother’s teaching from back in the day, ensuring that each strand of noodles was finely chewed into mush before satisfyingly swallowing it down.
For some reason, San Shi became felt sorrow rise in his heart. It was difficult to suppress. Two murky tears slid out from his old eyes and fell into his noodle soup. He was going to enter the capital to ask that Emperor, why.
After finishing his noodles, he put on his hat to hide his appearance and picked up a wooden staff the height of a man. He left the noodle shop and followed a little path at the foot of Shipai Village and began to walk in the direction of Jingdou.
In front of him was a dark and dim royal city, behind was a clean and white mountain. The Ascetic walked between them.
The woods became deeper and deeper, and the path became narrower and narrower. It was early morning, so there were not any diligent woodcutters up early to chop wood. In the wilderness, it was impossible for there to be many people passing by. It was silent on the mountain path, so silent that it was slightly strange. There wasn’t even the sound of birds and insects.
After all, San Shi was not a warrior skilled in assassination, he was only a highly cultivated Ascetic. Even though he felt in his heart there was something strange, he did not pay it much attention.
Neither the court nor the Junshang Conference would know he had come from Jiangnan to Jindou. The only person who knew was Haitang. No matter what, she would not reveal his movements. San Shi was confident in this point. He did not think someone could have gotten hold of his route ahead of time and laid down an ambush.
Thus, when that mournful and fatal arrow flew out from the dense woods and wanted to ruthlessly bury itself in his eye, he felt surprised.
The flight of that arrow was very strange. In the beginning, there was no sound at all; it was like a ghost. When it was only a meter away, it suddenly whistled. The whistling was soul-stealing and absolutely terrifying.
The long black arrow seemed to cry out, “Kill!”
San Shi let out a muffled grunt. His long wooden staff stabbed viciously into the ground. The carved bird head at the top of it extended very quickly, blocking the feathery arrow that seemed to have flown from the sky.
With a muffled thunk, the arrow ruthlessly sunk into the head of the wooden staff. The power contained in the arrow shocked San Shi enough that his wrist shook slightly. In a flash, the bird head of the wooden staff exploded.
He narrowed his eyes. A chill surged in his heart. This thunderbolt-like skill with an arrow seemed to be at the level of the Zhengbei Viceroy, Yan Xiaoyi. But he should be in Canzhou, thousands of kilometers away from Jingdou.
Through the leaves in the woods, San Shi’s bright eyes saw clearly the archer’s appearance. It was a young and unfamiliar face, but he knew the arrow he had personally caught must have received the true teachings of Yan Xiaoyi. This unfamiliar youth must be Yan Xiaoyi’s disciple.
As he was thinking of these things, San Shi borrowed the rebound power of the shock and launched himself into the air to position his body like a bird. His hand held the wooden staff, and he smashed downward like an insane demon.
Although he didn’t know why the other person wanted to kill him, before he entered Jingdou and asked the Emperor his question, he would not allow himself to die.
San Shi’s figure was tall and sturdy. He wore a bamboo hat. His intent to kill was very strong. His entire person was in the air like a ruthless big bird. His manner was imposing and conveyed a sense of having reached a point of no return.
When fighting against archers, the most important thing was to reduce the distance between oneself and the opponent. But he had opened himself up completely to the other person. While in the air, there was nowhere from which he could draw power. It was even more difficult facing demonic arrows. San Shi swept over. Seeing the archer’s calm expression, he knew the other person was going to use this opportunity to fire an arrow.
As expected, the archer made movements. His hands flew and drew an arrow from his back, nocked it, aimed, and fired. Three simple actions but completed naturally, harmoniously, and quickly. It was like it had been one beautiful, inseparable move. This simple appreciation of beauty came from hard practice and natural talent in archery.
Swoosh! The second arrow had already been fired toward San Shi’s throat. He was still in the air and had no way of dodging such a quick arrow. However, he had been waiting for this moment. He gave a muffled grunt and neither hid or dodged. He moved all his zhenqi toward his chest and used his stupidest, yet most powerful, Iron Skin to forcefully take the shot.
The arrows landed at his throat and made a strange clinking sound. A light flashed through San Shi’s eyes. His entire body had stopped in front of the archer, and his staff came down. There was only one meter of space between them. How could that archer dodge?
The archer’s expression remained calm. Faced with the insane demon-like staff, he took two steady steps back. He raised his longbow in front of his body and spat out one world, “Seal!”
Four golden knives appeared out of nowhere and dissolved into four streaks of light. They sealed the San Shi’s fatal blow. A loud explosion rang out. The knives shattered, and the power of the staff was scattered. A cloud of dust rose and permeated the woods.
Among the dust in the air, the bow rang out again. A soul-stealing arrow flew through the dust and trees and toward San Shi’s throat from a very short distance.
The distance was too close. San Shi didn’t have time to dodge, but he didn’t dare let his throat, the weakest part of his body, be continuously tested by the archer’s skills. He stretched out a palm and made a praying pose.
The archer had used four knives to seal his strike. He would use one palm to seal this shot. That narrow, but soul-devouring arrow, hammered into San Shi’s thick calluses. It was like a mosquito bite on a poor person’s flesh. It wobbled a little before falling down. It was only a light bite, a light hit, yet his entire body begun to shake violently.
He was pushed back a step by the arrow…another one came flying. San Shi raised his palm again, sealed, and took another step back. The arrows flew faster and faster out of the dust like there was no end to them. Who knew that the archer had such terrifying speeds.
It was the ninth arrow.
San Shi had been forced by those terrifying arrows back to the side of the mountain road. He gave a muffled grunt and straightened his arms. He swung his long staff and sent the last arrow flying. Then, he felt something tighten beneath his food. A horrifying animal trap closed with a snap bloodily over his right foot.
The animal trap was so big, it was probably used to catch tigers. Even though San Shi had the ability of Iron Skin, he had fallen into a trap. The flesh on his calf split, and fresh blood poured out. He let out a pained roar. He furrowed his brows, unwilling to give up. There was a small spot of blood on his throat. The hand clenching his wooden staff also had many little spots of blood, and they were slowly oozing out blood.
It was hard to fathom how many sharp arrows there had been. If it had been anyone else, they would have long been shot full like a hedgehog. Only he could have not suffered any true injuries. It was only a pity that he was forced into the trap by those arrows.
The dust gradually fell. In the woods opposite, the face of the young archer once again appeared, as well as four knife-wielding attackers.
San Shi looked at the other party coldly and said, “I never expected it was you who killed…”
He didn’t get to finish his words. The young archer was here to silence him and didn’t have the interest to converse with San Shi. Although he knew San Shi was a legendary figure, the younger generation grew up fiercely and did not have any extra reverence to give.
The youth used a steady finger of their right hand to nock the poisoned black arrow onto the string and once again took aim at the throat of the San Shi, who was unable to move.
He spoke but the arrow in his hand did not leave the string.
A din rose in the woods. Countless young archers surged from all around. Separated by a distance of a few meters, they encircled San Shi in the middle. They all held bows in their hands. Following the instruction to shoot, countless long arrows left their strings and flew in straight soul-stealing lines ruthlessly toward his body.
San Shi’s pupil contracted slightly. Seeing the other party’s arrangement, he knew he probably wouldn’t survive today. That many archers in the mountains had to be the work of the military. No matter how powerful an ace, in the face of the military’s merciless and cold-blooded continuous attacks, they would not be able to survive. Furthermore, his right foot had already been caught by that damnable animal trap.
He wasn’t Ye Liuyun, nor was he Ku He. San Shi sighed in his heart and swung the long staff around in his hand to block the oncoming rain of arrows from all directions.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Countless breaks rang out around his body. In barely a moment, over a hundred flying arrows had been broken by his wooden staff. The broken arrows piled up around him and looked unusually dismal.
Some of the arrows did make it through his defensive circle and pierced his body. Only, these archers were not as talented as the previous youth and were unable to pierce through San Shi’s Iron Skin.
That leading young archer was not in a rush. He only looked coldly at San Shi who was struggling for life like a wild animal. Looking at this Ascetic battling without help against a sky full of arrows, he knew that his zhenqi was solid and strong. If they wanted to shoot and kill him at a close range, they needed to be patient. They had to keep chipping away. No amount of skills would be able to maintain the zhenqi. As soon as San Shi’s showed any signs of weakening, once an arrow entered his body, that would be his time to die. He aimed at San Shi’s throat, coldly waiting for that moment.
The dozens of archers in the woods continued to coldly fire arrows. San Shi roared loudly and endlessly swung his wooden staff, fighting in the rain of arrows.
There would eventually be a point when his strength ran out. Thus, San Shi’s fierce might appear to be particularly tragic. Faced with the powerful weapon of the military, what use was a martial ace? The scene was chilling.
The merciless rounds continued, and the broken arrows piled up. They gradually mounted over his calf and buried the animal trap and his injured leg. It looked like a self-immolating monk who was continuously chopping firewood for his own imminent burning.
San Shi’s clothing was already wet with sweat. The speed at which he swung his wooden staff had slowed. It was clear that his zhenqi was not as abundant as before. This was the opportunity. The patient lead archer gently released his middle finger, and the arrow on the string shot out.
With a swoosh and a thunk, the entire woods seemed to have fallen silent in an instant.
San Shi held the arrow at his throat. A choking noise came from his mouth; he was already unable to talk. Fresh blood ran down from his palms.
The archers stopped firing.
The young archer furrowed his brows and said coldly and mercilessly, “Continue.”
The firing began again. In a flash, dozens of arrows were shot into San Shi’s body. Fresh blood dyed his whole body red.
San Shi slowly opened his eyes and sighed once again in his heart. He knew it would be pointless to play weak to lure in his enemy. That disciple of Yan Xiaoyi did things in the same cold and merciless style as his master.
He waved his hand, and his big sleeves brushed away countless arrows like illnesses. He opened his eyes revealing a sudden light. He roared, and the wooden staff he held in his hands splintered into pieces by his pure zhenqi. The wood shards flew and exposed the knife within…a huge knife.
In Suzhou, San Shi had once used the knife to cut through the long street. At this moment, this knife could only cut through himself. It came down on a slant. The edge of the sword entered the flesh without a sound, and he ruthlessly cut through his right calf.
He would never again be caught in an animal trap. San Shi was like a big bird with broken wings that once again took to the skies. Like an eagle hunting rabbits, he dove into the other party. Knife light splashed like snow, causing people to spray blood. In one move, he cut off three heads and sliced through a number of chests. The woods became covered in blood.
What a powerful knife!
When San Shi took out his knife, that cold, young archer had already turned and left. He quietly went up a tree and began to fire arrow after arrow. He knew San Shi was a spent force. As he had cut off one of his own legs, the blood flowed endlessly. He wouldn’t be able to last much longer.
As expected, after the knife light shone brilliantly, it began to dim.
After littering the ground with bodies, the poison in San Shi’s body began to act. His injuries flared and blood had run dry. He laid out his long knife and hilt on the grass, gave a muffled grunt, and then spat out his last turbid breath.
The Second priest of the Qing Temple was dead.
To confirm San Shi’s death, the archers gathered around. They were all elites in the military. Today they had come to ambush, or even to shamelessly murder, the Second priest of Qing Temple. Not everyone was able to maintain a calm expression. After San Shi had fallen into the trap yet was still able to cut through his own leg and kill so many of their brothers, they couldn’t help but feel a chill in their hearts.
“Clean it up. You guys return to camp,” the young archer said coldly. “Ding Han, you’re responsible for clean up.”
A soldier bowed and accepted in a low voice.
The woods once again became silent. These soldiers, adept at shooting, took off their disguises and found other hidden areas to change and return to camp.
After leaving the woods, that young archer had changed into a set of ordinary commoner’s clothing. He did not follow the group back to camp. Instead, he took a twisting path out of the mountain woods and found the official road to the capital. On the road, he hitched a ride with a carriage going the same way. Along the way he talked and laughed with the merchant, and thus he entered Jingdou.
Having entered Jingdou, the first thing the archer did was to eat two bowls of Chinese cabbage porridge. He then bought a paper pinwheel on the side of the street. He made his way through the big street in the south side of the city, walked past quiet alleys, and stopped to have a look at a storytelling hall. It seemed he could not resist the temptation of today’s story and entered the building. He ordered a bowl of tea, a plate of melon seeds, and began to listen to the story.
After listening for a while, he felt the need to relieve himself and went to the washroom.
He exited by the wall behind the toilet. After confirming there was no one following him, he entered a residence. Who knew who this residence belonged to, but he walked in it as easily and at ease as if it were his own.
He entered the study and kowtowed before the desk. He reported to the pair of small feet beneath the table, “Your Highness, he has been removed.”
“You’ve worked hard.” Qing Kingdom’s Eldest Princess, Li Yunrui, smiled slightly. This woman with inhuman beauty was even more charming when she smiled.
When the young archer had shot Great Master San Shi dead, he had appeared so cold and merciless. Now, he did not dare to meet the Eldest Princess’ eyes. After he rose, he stood to the side as custom dictated.
“San Shi…what a waste.” The Eldest Princess sighed with regret. “He didn’t listen to me and insisted on imitating the bravery of an ignorant man. In the current circumstances, how could we have the Emperor become suspicious of us? Everything is not yet prepared. Right now it is not the time to act. For those who refuse to do as they are told, they can only go.”
The young archer continued to remain silent. He knew these big matters should be the concern of the older generation. He only needed to carry out orders.
The Eldest Princess glanced at him and smiled slightly. “You are not able to follow Viceroy Yan and fight in the North. Do you have any resentment?”
The young archer smiled and said, “All father does in the North is drink all day. How can it compare in excitement to the capital?”
They spoke a bit more and then she let him leave the study.
This residence had no master nor name, no one knew the Eldest Princess occasionally stayed here. Her favorite thing to do was sit alone in this study and think about things. Often she would drive herself crazy with her thoughts.
Junshang Conference? A self-deprecating smile rose to the corner of her mouth. When she was young, what had been the purpose of organizing the Junshang Conference? It had been to do something for the Qing Kingdom. She wanted to help her brother, the Emperor, do the things he could not do, such as killing some of those officials amd taking family property.
Although her brother, the Emperor, never knew of the existence of the Jungshang Conference, it had helped him plenty in secret. For example, in the war against Northern Qi, he was unaware of the secret influence it had in Dongyi.
When did these things change so much? The objective of the Junshang Conference had undergone a great change in her own hands.
A trace of wretchedness flashed across the Eldest Princess’ face. She thought of Fan Xian far away in Jiangnan, the palace treasury, the Overwatch Council, the suspicion and bias the Emperor has shown these two years…I once gifted the ruler a bright pearl. What has the ruler gifted me?
She closed her eyes and then opened them again. They had recovered their calm. She smiled slightly and thought, Since the ruler cannot tolerate me, I’ll have to cherish myself. It is not unthinkable to pay a certain price for this. Sir Yuan’s words do indeed have their logic.
In that patch of woods, other than a faint scent of blood, there was no other trace to be found of the killing that happened earlier. It looked like the military’s ability to clean a scene was no worse than the Overwatch Council’s.
Everyone had left. Ding Han, who had been left responsible for the cleanup, was the last to the leave the mountain woods. Not long after he left, he silently made his way back around to the woods and found a broken arrow he had purposely hidden below a pile of mud. He carefully placed it into his clothing.
Following that, he spat into his hands and began to dig hard. After digging for an indeterminable amount of time, he finally dug to a deep place. He dug out the body that had already been burned beyond recognition. After confirming it was San Shi’s body, he pulled out a dagger from his boot and plunged it into the neck area, before very carefully cutting off Great Master San Shi’s head.
He refilled the earth, scattered leaves, and spread out moss. After checking there wasn’t any problem, only then did he let out a satisfied breath and turned to leave the mountain woods. He didn’t need to go into Jingdou. The place he was going to was just outside Jingdou.
At the back of the mountain at the back door of Chen Garden, an old servant took from Din Han’s hands a box and a package. Ding Han silently bowed and began his return to the camp.
In a dark room, Chen Pingping sat in a wheelchair and smiled slightly at the charred human head on the cloth. He asked, “Do you think…after being burned to this state, will the Emperor still recognize the idiot San Shi?”
The old servant chuckled and didn’t say anything. He only saw that his master seemed to be happy, so he was also happy.
Chen Pingping took out the broken arrow from the box and looked at it with narrowed eyes. Suddenly he said in a sharp voice, “San Shi is an idiot. Do you think the Eldest Princess is also an idiot? She could have used anyone, but she used Yan Xiaoyi’s son. It does bind him closer to her…but isn’t it too easily revealed?”
“It seems like it will be more difficult for the commissioner to act.” The old servant was Chen Pingping’s trusted aide and housekeeper. He knew much of the thoughts of this director and carefully reminded him.
Chen Pingping sunk into thought and said a moment later, “Fan Xian might still act too early…but let him do what he thinks is the right thing. As for those things he might be unwilling to do, I will do them.”
There were many things Chen Pingping would never tell Fan Xian because he knew Fan Xian’s heart was nowhere near as hard and strong as his own. He rolled his wheelchair to the window. From the distance faintly came the laughs of the beautiful girls the old man had collected.
He looked outside and thought of Yuan, who was always beside the Eldest Princess. He couldn’t stop himself smiling like an innocent child. “Often the things my enemies do not want me to know, I actually do know. However…”
A trace of self-deprecation flashed through the old man’s eyes and he sighed. “Being a person that knows everything is actually, at times, not a happy thing.”
The old servant gently squeezed his shoulders. He knew that tomorrow the director would take the head and broken arrow into the Palace, and the Junshang Conference would be revealed for the first time to the Emperor. The Emperor would have to finally make up his mind.
Chen Pingping slowly lowered his head. If he didn’t cause some big ruckus, if a few of the nobles in the Palace didn’t die, how could he be satisfied to let go and die?