Chapter 73: Body as Blade
Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Shen Jue was sprinting in the forest.
Thirteen underlings were guarding around him. He had originally brought twenty people, but seven had died in the battles before, and two had been wounded. There were few people left around him, and there were at least five hundred imperial guards hunting him down in the mountain field. He was also injured, as he had accidentally gotten his right forearm cut when they had encountered imperial guards on the mountain path. Blood had flowed over his entire hand, and it was only thanks to his first-rate ability to endure pain that he hadn’t let go of Jingtie and had lifted the saber, stopping the soldier’s next blow that had nearly been fatal.
In thousands upon thousands of calculations, he hadn’t calculated that he would fall ill. The mountain wind was too strong, and it made his head swell. Cold waves surged up in waves inside his body. He was clearly sweating, yet his hands and feet were as icy as if they were submerged in cold water. His head was dizzy, and the cold had lowered his reaction speed. In several battles, he had even felt that his strength couldn’t match his ambitions.
Hold on a little longer, he told himself. He only had to make it until tomorrow, and this matter would be solved and he would be able to return to the Eastern Depot. Xiahou Lian would be on duty under the sun, so he could casually walk over, saying a few words to Xiahou Lian as usual. He had always concealed things so that even a drop of water wouldn’t leak, so Xiahou Lian wouldn’t know about his danger from today, nor would he discover the wound on his arm. Perhaps he would notice that he was sick, but that didn’t matter much. He could invite him over for a meal at his manor as if nothing had happened, and ask him about what he had done today.
Xiahou Lian would definitely answer with a smile, the sunlight spilling on his face, yet his smile was even more brilliant than the sunlight. Shen Jue remembered his appearance of wearing yesa robes. He wasn’t as reserved as when he wore jet-black ramie clothes, and the golden silk added a bit of a noble aura to him. The colorfully embroidered qilin added a bit of fierceness, and along with such a tall height and such a straight figure, there would always be maids sneakily looking him up and down when he stood there.
Xiahou Lian. Xiahou Lian.
Shen Jue gritted his teeth as he continued to run. Wind and leaves that filled the mountain fluttered on his face, but he forgot the pain, and he forgot the exhaustion.
However, slowly, there were faint shouts behind him once again. The imperial guards had discovered them again, chasing behind like rabid dogs. There must be a spy in the team, otherwise the imperial guards couldn’t have found his whereabouts so quickly. But he didn’t have time to think, nor did he have time to screen them. He could only get to the cliff as soon as possible.
“Governor!” Xu Ruoyu suppressed his fear as he shouted.
“Don’t talk nonsense, run!” said Shen Jue.
They quickened their speed, rapidly running through the forest. Withered leaves crunched beneath their feet, and the sky was filled with the bleak soughing of wind. The shouts behind them became closer and closer, and the instant he turned his head, he glimpsed in his peripheral vision the piercingly cold glints of the enemies’ goose quill sabers, containing the crimson color of blood. Two underlings who had fallen behind were cut down by the imperial guards, and they called “Governor, hurry and run.” The instant they fell, blood splashed everywhere behind them.
“Governor, they’ve caught up!” roared Xu Ruoyu.
Shen Jue turned a deaf ear and still ran forward wildly. The trees gradually became sparse, and the mountain breeze became stronger and stronger. They ran a few hundred steps forward at full speed, and it suddenly became spacious and bright, a clear expanse before their eyes. They had exited the forest, and the daylight shone directly on the tops of their heads. However, the road ahead abruptly came to an end; it was actually a cliff.
“Dammit, we went in the wrong direction! This is Wanfo 1 Cliff!” someone exclaimed.
Shen Jue stepped on the cliff and looked down; below was a deep pool. The pool water was pale blue, and the daylight and cloud shadows wandered back and forth in it, the steep cliff and green and yellow bushes surrounding it. The mountain breeze blew past, raising bursts of fine ripples. Many Buddha statues could be faintly seen at the bottom of the cliff, either sitting or lying down; they were cliff inscriptions.
He looked back. The imperial guards were already on the cliff, licking their lips as they slowly approached, like a beast grinding its teeth and sucking blood, all of their eyes filled with a bloodthirsty light. The underlings lined up, blocking in between Shen Jue and the imperial guards. The goose quill sabers in their hands reflected the sunlight, which wandered back and forth unsteadily on the ground.
The squad leader grinned hideously as he said, “Eunuch Shen, you have nowhere to retreat!”
Shen Jue didn’t make a sound and merely looked at him coldly.
“Why don’t you kneel down and call me father, and perhaps I’ll leave you as an intact corpse!”
Shen Jue scoffed coldly and slowly backed away. The back of his heel rubbed a stone on the ground, and he heard the stone fall down the cliff with a rustle.
“Squad Leader, what nonsense are you saying to him! This lapdog killed countless loyal and upright people, exploited the common people, and did all kinds of evil. If he calls me father, I wouldn’t want to answer him!” a soldier gnashed their teeth as they said. They suddenly laughed. “However, if he’s willing to lie down and pleasure me, I’d be happy to!”
“Shut your damn mouth!” An underling roared loudly, “Brothers, let’s fight them!”
The underlings roared in unison with him and swung their sabers, running toward the imperial guards. However, there was suddenly a sharp pain at the center of his back, as if flames had spread on his back. He heard the sticky sound of a blade piercing flesh and blood, and a bit of the bright point of a saber pierced through his chest. He was dumbfounded and struggled to turn his head. The sharp pain seared his chest, but he still persisted in looking back.
Xu Ruoyu’s bloodstained cheeks came into view, and the saber in his chest was abruptly pulled out. He fell to the ground, his eyes still wide open, yet they gradually dimmed.
At the same time, the other underlings in the team suddenly burst out, cutting the center of their companion’s backs. The companions were unprepared and fell to the ground one by one. The spies held their sabers and turned around, facing Shen Jue, who was on the cliff.
“Sorry, Governor,” Xu Ruoyu said in a low voice.
Shen Jue’s entire army had been destroyed, with only the four spies left standing in the pile of corpses.
The squad leader laughed loudly. “Eunuch Shen, you didn’t expect there would be our spies in your people! How about it, you have no way out at all now.”
Shen Jue’s gaze was as cold as a cup of ice and snow. “Xu Ruoyu, I treated you well. I already knew that there were spies in the Eastern Depot, but I didn’t think that the spies would actually be among my trusted aides.”
Xu Ruoyu said, “I had no choice, Governor.”
“Did the empress dowager use all of the spies for today’s killing?” Shen Jue’s smile had no temperature.
“That’s right, the imperial guards will surround and kill all of the underlings in the mountain. Today will be your death.”
“Creating such a large karma of killing under Buddha’s nose,” Shen Jue let out a short, low laugh, “she is worthy of being the empress dowager. However, to kill the seal-holder of the Directorate of Rites, it always has to have a decent name. What’s your name for killing me?”
“Colluding with a rebel from Garan, intending to defy superiors and start a rebellion!” Xu Ruoyu sighed as he shook his head, with a look of pity. “Governor, you shouldn’t have kept that person, he will become the death of you.”
Shen Jue maintained his composure as he slowly backed away. “Is that so?” His back heel had already touched the edge of the cliff, and he glanced with his peripheral vision at the deep pool at the bottom, inhaling deeply.
He had already prepared a corpse wearing the same clothes as him at the bottom. The appearance of the corpse that had drowned to death was bloated, so they wouldn’t be able to tell if it was him or not. He had already foreseen today’s killing a long time ago, and he had turned the trick to meet his own use in order to clean the faction. Only if he went deep into the tiger’s mouth could the spies in the Eastern Depot rise to the surface. In the end, he would jump off the cliff and fake his death, and thus be able to escape.
Everything had proceeded perfectly according to his plan. He gripped Jingtie tightly, about to jump off the cliff.
Xu Ruoyu continued, “I lured him in, since if you and the rebel from Garan died in one place, it would be more convincing. The empress dowager also needs the Zhaoye in his house as proof. He entered the mountain alone and the mountain is full of imperial guards, so I expect that he’s already dead at this moment.” He smiled and said, “Governor, don’t be too sad, you’re also on your way soon anyway. If you hurry on the road to the netherworld, you’ll be able to catch up to him.”
Shen Jue’s retreating steps paused, and he was suddenly shocked.
“What… did you say?”
Xiahou Lian had entered the mountain? His heart abruptly tightened, and his vision became black. All of his plans collapsed at this moment. No… No, Xiahou Lian was very strong, he was a named assassin on the List of Ghosts, and he had even killed Shi Xin. He definitely wouldn’t die so easily. He was going to find him, and he was going to save him!
Shen Jue clenched his teeth, stopped backing away, and drew Jingtie. The jet-black blade slid out of its scabbard, reflecting his grim and cold eyes.
“You want to resist? You already don’t have anyone, Governor.”
Xu Ruoyu and the imperial guards approached slowly, the lights of their sabers intertwining into one expanse, bone-piercingly chilly.
Shen Jue adjusted his breathing. There were twenty-four enemies. The saber techniques of the imperial guards were so-so, as most of them had no order. The saber skills of Xu Ruoyu and the remaining three underlings were slightly better. If it was him at his best, defeating them wouldn’t be difficult. However, he was sick now. His head was muddled, the sunlight was glaring, and it was strenuous to even open his eyes.
But he couldn’t back away, he definitely couldn’t.
Shen Jue completed his breath and opened his eyes, his killing intent as bright and clear as withered frost.
Xu Ruoyu also crouched down slowly and beckoned, smiling slightly. “Governor, please!”
The autumn wind carried withered leaves, whirling in the sunlight, and the sharp leaves were like dancing blades. The air was filled with silent killing intent, and everyone was a dormant and fierce tiger. Xu Ruoyu shouted loudly and was just about to step forward and swing his saber. Suddenly, a hoarse voice came from the forest.
“Hold on. Who said he doesn’t have anyone?”
His voice wasn’t loud, yet it was slow and clear, and everyone could hear it.
The soldiers paused in their footsteps, and Xu Ruoyu looked back in surprise. Did Shen Jue still have people rushing to his rescue?
They saw a person walk out from the depths of the clumps of weeds and lush leaves. His body was covered in blood and his bun was already loose, his black hair draped over his shoulders and sparse bangs blocking his eyes. He was holding a saber in both hands, the point of the saber dripping with blood. Every step he took, a blood-red footprint was printed on the ground.
Perhaps he couldn’t be called a person. He was more like an evil spirit that had come from bathing in blood in the purgatory of Asuras. He came closer, and the soldiers could practically smell the overwhelming smell of blood on him. His entire body was covered in blood, and even his hair was dripping with blood. He seemed to have come out from a pool of blood, unable to tell if it was other people’s blood or his own blood. The soldiers were extremely frightened, and every step forward he took, the soldiers took a step backward.
The squad leader saw that he was only one person and laughed loudly nonstop. “I was still wondering how many people would come to save him? It turns out that it’s a muddy monkey…”
Before he even finished speaking, the man lifted his hand and fired a crossbow arrow. The icy light plunged into the squad leader’s mouth that was wide open and pierced out from the back of his neck. The squad leader fell to the ground with his mouth open, blood flowing out.
“It’s that lunatic… It’s that lunatic!” someone said.
“What lunatic?” Xu Ruoyu gripped his goose quill saber.
The soldier answered, “This lunatic kills upon seeing people, he killed a lot of our people!”
The man continued to walk toward the crowd. Everyone couldn’t help but back away, clearing out a path. Their goose quill sabers were pointed at him, yet they didn’t dare to swing. The man walked toward Shen Jue, step by step. Shen Jue stood on the cliff and unconsciously widened his eyes, his black pupils reflecting the man’s bloody figure.
“Xia… Xiahou Lian.”
Xiahou Lian finally walked up to him. He pulled up his injured right hand and looked at it for a while, and lifted his face that was stained in blood, tugging out a smile and showing his white teeth. Even under the cover of blood, his smile was as warm as the brilliant sun.
“Young Master, I’ve come to save you.”
The rims of Shen Jue’s eyes were red. He grabbed Xiahou Lian’s shoulder, and his hand was covered in blood. “You… You idiot! How come you turned yourself into this!”
“No matter, don’t worry.”
Shen Jue composed himself and said in a low voice, “Jump off the cliff with me, hurry!”
Xiahou Lian was stunned and turned around, saying, “I won’t jump.”
“Do not worry, Young Master.” Xiahou Lian held his saber across his chest, a bit of a golden light flashing past on the blade like a crescent moon. “As for those who bullied you and those who betrayed you, I, Xiahou Lian…” he gritted his teeth, enunciating each word to the bone, “will kill them all!”