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unsheathed – Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)

Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)

Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)

Before today, Cui Chan would have been willing to explain these intricate details and schemes to the woman. Now, however, he had no intention of suffering punishment alongside her.

He could tolerate some of the underhanded and dirty deeds that she did. After all, these matters were unrelated to him, and the more ruthless his ally was, the more hardships his enemies would face. Thus, Cui Chan wasn't foolish enough to persuade his ally to become as benevolent as a Bodhisattva. Being able to reach his current status, Cui Chan naturally hadn't relied on being kindhearted either.

If the emperor's plan had succeeded this time, then perhaps he would have only given her a warning. Now, however, the situation was completely different.

The woman was genuinely devoid of any feminine kindness, and she had ordered the general from the Lu Clan to behead Song Yuzhang and secretly place his head in a wooden box, such that she could use it if the need ever arose.

Who was she targeting? The answer was naturally her son, Song Mu or the young boy who had grown up in Clay Vase Alley, Song Jixin.

Song Yuzhang naturally deserved death. Constructing the covered bridge touched upon one of the biggest scandals of the imperial Song Clan, so it was only natural that this wasn't something that he could atone for. After returning to the capital, Song Yuzhang had barely started working as an official of the Ministry of Rites before he was hand-picked by the emperor to go to Jewel Small World.Vissit nvelbin(.)cm for ew ovels

The reason given was that he was more familiar with the local people and customs, so this would be beneficial when the emperor appointed new mountain gods and river gods. However, Song Yuzhang was well aware that this was simply an act of giving him a relatively dignified death he wouldn't be killed in his official residence in the capital, and he wouldn't be executed for some crime that he hadn't committed.

Song Yuzhang knew this, yet he still calmly accepted his death.

The imperial preceptor Cui Chan felt like Song Yuzhang was thoroughly foolish in his loyalty to the empire, yet he had to admit that he felt a slight sense of admiration toward this bookworm and loyal minister.

Cui Chan privately believed that the imperial court of an empire needed two things unremarkable stepping stones, and pillars that could hold up the entire empire. Both were equally as important.

Song Yuzhang belonged to the former.

Cui Can, Song Changjing, and the leading ministers of the Six Ministries all belonged to the latter.

However, this woman had actually "collected" the head of Song Yuzhang. For the first time, her actions crossed the bottom line of the emperor.

It was because of this that her loyal servant, Yang Hua, had been forcefully appointed as the river god of the Iron Talisman River. In reality, that court lady was indeed extremely talented. In normal circumstances, however, she wouldn't have been appointed to this position in such a hasty manner. With the emperor's thrifty and shrewd nature, he would have definitely chosen to better utilize her potential.

Yet, Song Jixin's mother had still mustered her courage and did everything she could to make Song Jixin become the owner of White Jade Capital, where he obtained the recognition of the 12 flying swords and ascended the tower level by level.

On the surface, it appeared as if she were a mother compensating her son for the many years that they had spent apart. In reality, however, the situation wasn't so simple. Song He was the one who she genuinely viewed as her own child, one who she had great hopes for in the future. After all, she had seen him grow up with her own eyes, and everything that he did left her feeling extremely satisfied. Meanwhile, the other child had grown up in the distant Jewel Small World, in a rundown alley that was covered in chicken ** and dog feces.

In the beginning, she had attempted to take a peek at the emperor's secret records, yet she had been severely punished for doing so. It was most likely at that moment that her sympathy and care for her son had been extinguished. This was only made worse by the fact that the words "premature death" were written next to Song Mu's name in the Imperial Clan Court of the Great Li Empire, with his name also crossed out by a bright red brush. This was a ghastly sight.

As for whether she felt torment or pain in the depths of her heart, Cui Chan had no clue at all. In fact, no one had any clue. A woman's thoughts were impossible to comprehend.

Moreover, Cui Chan had no interest in learning about why she wanted to use her eldest son Song Mu as a stepping stone for his younger brother, Song He. He didn't care about the bloody details, nor did he care about the mental transformation that she had undergone.

The woman smiled and said, "I already know where I went wrong. However, do you, Cui Chan?"

Cui Chan placed one hand behind his back and one hand on the city wall that was lined with arrow slits. "Of course I know," he said slowly. "I deactivated the city formation and opened the gates to welcome the enemy. Even though my intentions were good, in the sense that I was showing A'Liang the Great Li Empire's sincerity and concession, I was still forced between a rock and a hard place."

The woman looked at the imperial preceptor with pity in her eyes, and she gloated, "The emperor's destiny is also to become someone who aids the next emperor. Is his life something that you can freely gamble?"

Cui Chan nodded and replied, "Your words are indeed correct."

"As the mighty imperial preceptor of the Great Li Empire, and as the first disciple of the person who was once the Scholarly Sage, perhaps our emperor will show leniency toward you if you cry tears of remorse now," the woman said with "good intentions".

Cui Chan smiled and replied, "I'm a pitiful person who has fallen many times, so I'm someone who can endure hardships and also tolerate loneliness. However, Her Majesty is different, and you were born into a wealthy family where you enjoyed brocade robes and delicious foods ever since a young age. I'm afraid that things are going to get a little difficult for you."

The woman's expression became dark, and she finally discarded all pretenses of friendliness as she directly asked, "Is this the end of our alliance?"

"The acquaintance between those without virtue is as sweet as wine[1]. When interacting on the basis of benefits, is it strange to part ways after all benefits have been exhausted," Cui Chan answered calmly. "What, Her Majesty isn't thinking that the interaction between us is the refreshing and unsullied type between virtuous people, right?"

The woman gritted her teeth and spat, "Very well, very well... You sure are stony-hearted. Then you'll need to beg the emperor to kill me in a single blow. Otherwise..."

Cui Chan waved his hand and interrupted, "Don't try to scare me with words. Her Majesty is well aware of my personality, and no one knows what will happen in the future. If Her Majesty can overcome this challenge, then I'm naturally willing to become your ally again. If you can't overcome it, however, then there's no need to worry about me kicking you while you're down either. I have some shallow understanding of the emperor's thoughts, so I definitely won't do something that will harm others and not benefit myself."

The woman wearing a palace dress finally spoke from the bottom of her heart, saying, "Cui Chan, you're a truly terrifying person."

Cui Chan smiled and remained silent.

However, he suddenly recalled that familiar figure for some unknown reason.

When seeking knowledge from that old man, the young Cui Chan would often see that sword-wielding adventurer chatting away with his master. One would be expounding the teachings of the sages, while one would be describing the interesting world of cultivators. The two of them might as well have been speaking another language to each other.

Many years later, Cui Chan had decided to follow his own aspirations and defect from his master. Afterward, he had even committed the sins of deceiving his master and destroying his ancestors, as well as causing his fellow disciples to fight amongst themselves. However, Cui Chan didn't regret any of this. It was all for the purpose of attaining the Great Dao!

Yet, as cold-hearted as Cui Chan was, he still couldn't help but feel disappointed at the fact that he had lost that person's friendship. He felt so disappointed that he even felt a little regretful.

If he were given another chance, however, he would still make the exact same choices as before. Nothing would change.

When it came to the Great Dao, it was often impossible to take a backward step after committing to the first step.

Before Cui Chan could finish speaking, a golden-feathered hawk had already flown over to the city wall.

The hawk soared down and suddenly stopped above an arrow slit.

Cui Chan stepped back and bowed his head slightly. Meanwhile, the woman in the palace dress hurriedly turned to her side and performed a graceful curtsy.

The hawk stared at the woman.

A crisp and childish voice then sounded, saying, "Song Zhengchun has ordered you to head to the Palace of Eternal Spring to build a thatched house and cultivate. You can only leave and return to the capital when you reach the Upper Five Tiers. However, there won't be any restrictions on who you can interact with during this time. In addition, you need to hand all of the documents from Bamboo Leaf Pavilion over to Imperial Preceptor Cui. From now on, all you need to do is focus on cultivation."

Cui Chan bowed and cupped his hands in respect, saying, "My gratitude to the emperor's grand grace."

The hawk turned around to face the imperial preceptor, and it continued, "Song Zhengchun said to not let this happen again. Back then, he told you that a person couldn't make the same mistakes three times. You need to cherish your chances."

Cui Chan nodded and didn't say anything else.

The woman only asked a single question, "Can Mu'er and He'er come to the Palace of Eternal Spring to visit me from time to time?"

The hawk nodded and replied, "Of course. Song Zhengchun also said that Song He needs to remain in the mind cultivation room to continue studying. If you feel lonely in the mountains, you can bring Song Mu to the Palace of Eternal Spring to cultivate some thunder techniques. The decision is all yours."

There was hesitance in the woman's eyes.

The hawk was slightly impatient, and it continued, "Finally, Song Zhengchun also wanted me to tell you that the Great Li Empire has suffered a blow to its power because of that person. However, this was due to his own decision and has got nothing to do with you. You don't need to overthink this."

Tears brimmed in the woman's eyes, and she truly appeared charming and graceful as she gazed up toward the palatial complex and said in a gentle and quivering voice, "Your Majesty..."

The hawk's voice immediately became shrill, and it squawked, "Stinky bitch, filthy woman, evil vixen, hurry up and piss off out of the capital! I've already put up with you for far too long!"

The woman smiled and asked, "Is this also a message from the emperor?"

The hawk humphed coldly before flapping its wings and soaring into the sky. It wasn't long before it vanished into the distance.

Only after the golden-feathered hawk left did the woman stumble and place her hands on the city wall to stabilize herself. Her face was as white as a sheet.

Bamboo Leaf Pavilion was an intelligence agency that she had spent a great deal of effort to establish. It was a hidden pillar of the Great Li Empire, and it could almost be regarded as her third son.

Cui Chan felt slight sympathy for the woman, someone who was of a similar ilk to him.

Killing a person was as simple as separating their head from their body. However, torturing a person's heart would result in pain that lasted for all of eternity.

Cui Chan didn't feel any sense of joy even though the power to decide the life or death of Bamboo Leaf Pavilion had now been granted to him.

This was because his connection with that young body, which he had already recovered a while ago, had seemingly been severed again.

Even Old Man Yang had chosen to remain silent, not delivering a single sliver of news to the capital to explain the situation to him.

To the residents of the town, the turbulent section of the Rushing Tranquil River was just like a gate to the underworld. Thus, the boatmen would all make huge sums of money whenever they ferried passengers over these treacherous waters. After tying their boats down on the riverside that passed by the small town, what welcomed them once they disembarked would be taverns and brothels that were filled with silvery songs and seductive dancers.

In the surroundings, many merchants and traders would be offering their low-quality loose wine for extremely low prices. Meanwhile, those attracting customers for them would often be beautiful women, and these women would spur the boatmen to continue drinking until they eventually became drunk. If these boatmen could convince their passengers to visit the taverns or brothels they were familiar with, they could also receive a good sum of money under the table.

Today, another person hired a boatman to take them to the turbulent stretch of the Rushing Tranquil River, where they wanted to tour the stone forest that looked much like spears piercing through the surface of the water.

The boatman was a stocky man who looked to be around 50 years old. However, his body was still in shape, and the muscles on his arms were also bulging. He was also good at holding conversations. As for the passenger, this was an old man who exuded the aura of a poor scholar. However, he was still able to offer the boatman a decent price, paying him 10 taels of silver, not one more and not one less. He looked to be at least 60 years old. Even so, he still insisted on visiting the stone forest by himself. The boatman couldn't help but feel a little bewildered.

The small boat rocked with the turbulent flow of the river, and water continued to crash over the edges of the boat and onto the two men. The boatman wanted to laugh when he saw the old man turn around and tightly grab the gunwale of the boat with his hands. Scholars seemed to be the same no matter how old they were.

Meanwhile, the boatman was completely unable to understand what was so interesting about those stones in the water. Perhaps they could speak? Or perhaps they were more beautiful than the women on the two banks of Red Candle Town? Yet, these people insisted on paying good money to buy a bad time. He couldn't comprehend what went through the minds of these scholars.

After exiting the treacherous stretch of the Rushing Tranquil River, the boatman briefly covered the tired old story about the goddess shrine. Afterward, he casually asked, "Old man, are you from out of town? Where are you from? In any case, your ability to speak the official dialect of the Great Li Empire is quite passable."

"Me? My hometown is extremely far away, and I'm simply someone who likes to travel around and sightsee. Traveling around with no attachments and burdens is quite relaxing."

"Old man, you look quite elderly already, so you should probably take it easy."

"Oh, I'm still doing alright."

"Old man, let me ask you a question. After traveling around north and south, you've definitely been to many different places, right? What do you think about the Great Li Empire's scenery?"

"It's very good, very nice. The people are outstanding, and the land is brimming with spirit and beauty."

"How do you find our wine in Red Candle Town?"

"Simply delicious. It's just a little too dear."

"Then is our emperor also very impressive?"

"Yes, very impressive."

"Is our imperial preceptor more skilled in Go than those people from Great Sui Nation?"

"Probably..."

"Is the Great Li Empire the most powerful empire in the north?"

"Definitely! It has to be."

Apart from the first question, the remaining string of questions were all a result of the boatman purposely teasing the old man. This was because he discovered that the old man was a good person, a yes man. He liked to nod and agree with everything.

When they were about to dock at the riverbank, the boatman finally couldn't hold in his laugh anymore as he looked at the old man who was still nodding earnestly with an expression of sincerity. "Old man, your temper is good, but isn't it a little too good? How can someone be so agreeable? I've seen heaps of scholars before, both old and young. In fact, I've come across at least 100 of them. Which one of them wasn't sophisticated and pedantic in their speech? Their words were difficult to understand, and this made it feel like they were extremely knowledgeable.

"Ah... It's a shame that my comprehension ability is poor, and I didn't attend any private schools while I was young either. I certainly never had a teacher to point me in the right direction. As a result, it was difficult for me to even converse with them."

"The most important thing is to have determination. With this, nothing will be too difficult," the old man said with a loud laugh. He then asked, "Oh, that's right, have you heard of Mountain Cliff Academy's Mr. Qi before?"

The boatman hesitated for a moment before sighing softly and shaking his head, replying, "No."

The man nodded in understanding. He smiled with squinted eyes and remarked, "The Great Li Empire is a little bit different. Why do I say this? When traveling here, I passed a small beacon tower on the border that was only manned by two soldiers. However, some immortals suddenly descended and asked the two people for food.

If this were any other nation, the two people would have definitely fallen to their knees and kowtowed before respectfully offering the immortals food with both hands. However, the soldiers in the Great Li Empire are different. They stood up straight as they spoke to the immortals, though it was inevitable that alarm bells were going off in their minds."

"Say, old man, you've even come across gods and immortals before?" the boatman chuckled. "Then it seems like you haven't wasted your time traveling around so much. At the very least, you're more accomplished than me. The passengers from out of town always tell me there are water-dwelling ghosts and river guardians in the Rushing Tranquil River. However, I've never come across any of them in my 30 years ferrying passengers to and fro."

The old man smiled and replied, "I know, right? I've genuinely come across them before, though I must say that the temper of immortals is quite bad. The two soldiers were punished with a slap each, and this sent them flying back and obliterating the tables and chairs behind them. However, after eating and drinking their fill, the immortals tossed a gold ingot onto the ground before taking their leave."

The boatman clicked his tongue in envy and exclaimed, "Then they've struck it rich! If it were me, I would have been willing to take 10 slaps, to say nothing of one!"

The old man nodded and praised, "You're quite open-minded, aren't you? This is good, very good!"

"Oh, that's right, old man. Those immortals didn't trouble you, did they?" the boatman suddenly asked with an anxious expression.

Looking at the sincere expression of the middle-aged boatman, the old man laughed heartily and replied, "No, they didn't trouble me at all."

After easing his worry, the boatman suddenly felt like teasing the interesting old man again. "Old man, want to drink some wine?" he asked.

The boatman winked and tried his best to suppress his laughter as he whispered, "It's flower wine[2] I can even show you the way."

The old man's eyes widened, and he eventually squeezed out three words, "Is it expensive?"

The boatman chortled heartily and decided not to tease the old man anymore. "It's heaps expensive!"

After a long battle in his mind, the old man finally said, "That's fine. Wait for me after we return to shore. I'll borrow money from someone, and perhaps I'll even be able to borrow 20 or 30 taels of silver."

The boatman faltered upon hearing this. However, he was ultimately a simple and honest person, so he naturally wasn't willing to bring the old man to a place where one needed to spend exorbitant amounts of silver. "Old man, I was just kidding around with you. Flower wine isn't satisfying at all. My heart aches whenever I think about the fact that a single cup of wine will mean two or three taels of silver leaving my pockets.

At that point, even the wine will become flavorless. So let's not go. If you truly want to drink, then I can bring you to some small tavern on the bank of the river. You can enjoy some authentic wine from Red Candle Town, and the price of this wine is relatively fair as well."

The small boat slowly docked at the river bank. The poor old scholar stood up and patted the boatman's shoulder and chuckled, "Righteous in speech, sinful in execution, 'tis a demon of a nation[3]."

The color instantly drained from the face of the solidly built boatman. He wanted to retreat, yet he couldn't move at all. He wanted to leap into the water and revert to his original form to dash away, yet this was even more of a pipe dream.

The old man smiled and added, "Poor of speech, strong in execution, 'tis an instrument of a nation[4]. I hope you can guard your conscience and aim to do good."

It was as if a mysterious sense of righteousness suddenly welled up in the boatman's mind. He wanted to speak, yet he couldn't utter a single word.

The old scholar disembarked the boat and slowly walked away.

Tears of gratitude welled up in the boatman's eyes. When he could finally move again, he immediately leaped onshore and fell to his knees. Facing the direction that the old man had left in, he paid his greatest respects by kneeling three times and kowtowing nine times.

It was rumored that sages existed in the world, with their speech containing the decree of the heavens. The words that they uttered would be laws that were upheld.

Asking passers-by for directions as he walked, the old man eventually arrived at Pillow Relay Station. He inquired about whether the young boy called Chen Ping'an was still staying there.

The attendant in the relay station asked him who he was.

The old scholar thought for a moment before replying that he could be considered as half a teacher for that young boy.

However, the end result was the attendant in the relay station telling him to piss off.

For some reason, a handsome young boy with a red birthmark on his glabella had obediently sat in an old classroom to read for the past few days.

Even more strange than this was the fact that tears and snot would occasionally stream down his face as he read.

1. A phrase from Zhuangzi that refers to the existence of benefits between interactions of people without virtue. This is opposed to the unsullied interaction between people with virtue that is as pure as water.

2. Drinking flower wine refers to drinking in the company of a prostitute.

3. This is an extract from one of Xunzi's works, 'Great Strategy'. Xunzi was a Chinese philosopher of Confucianism often ranked as the third great Confucian philosopher.

4. Another line from 'Great Strategy' Eloquent of speech, strong in execution, 'tis a treasure of a nation. Poor of speech, strong in execution, 'tis an instrument of a nation. Eloquent of speech, weak in execution, 'tis a servant of a nation. Righteous in speech, sinful in execution, 'tis a demon of a nation.

Chapter end

<<Prev
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Catalogue
Chapter 31: Beating Around the Mountain
Chapter 32: Peach Leaf
Chapter 33: White Dragon Disguising as a Fish
Chapter 34: Gathered Together
Chapter 35: Licorice Root
Chapter 36: Ancient Book
Chapter 37: Fist Technique
Chapter 38: Ninth Tier
Chapter 39: Cursing the Locust Tree
Chapter 40: Returning the Courtesy
Chapter 42: Prodigy
Chapter 43: The Young Boy and the Old Dog
Chapter 44: Coming to Light
Chapter 45: Sunlight
Chapter 46: Skirt Dagger
Chapter 47: Going Alone
Chapter 48: The Hunter and the Hunted
Chapter 49: Porcelain Shard
Chapter 50 (1): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 50 (2): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 51: Confrontation
Chapter 52: Shudder
Chapter 53: Gift
Chapter 54: Facing the Enemy
Chapter 55: Feeling Proud in the Spring Breeze
Chapter 56: Nodding Bodhisattva
Chapter 57: Sword Nurturing Gourd
Chapter 58: Teacher
Chapter 59: Sleep
Chapter 60: There's a Ghost
Chapter 61: Helpless Pawn
Chapter 62: Falling Tree
Chapter 63 (1): So That's How It Is
Chapter 63 (2): So That's How It Is
Chapter 64: The Three Chens
Chapter 65: Jewel
Chapter 66: Looking Up
Chapter 67 (1): Long Journey
Chapter 67 (2): Long Journey
Chapter 68: Spring Under the Heavens
Chapter 69: Night
Chapter 70: Daylight
Chapter 71 (1): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 71 (2): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 72: Black Cloud
Chapter 73: Wooden Figure
Chapter 74: The Fire Dragon Roams the Water
Chapter 75: Mountain Selection
Chapter 76: Back to Back
Chapter 77: Entering the Mountains
Chapter 78: Another Dream
Chapter 79: Spring Welcome Seal
Chapter 80: Leaving the Mountains
Chapter 81: Imperial Preceptor
Chapter 82 (1): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 82 (2): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 83: Dreams
Chapter 84 (1): I Have a Sword
Chapter 84 (2): I Have a Sword
Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 85 (2): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 86 (1): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 86 (2): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 87 (1): Little Teacher
Chapter 87 (2): Little Teacher
Chapter 88: Grand Entrance
Chapter 89: Two Heads
Chapter 90: Heavy Rain
Chapter 91: Jade Hairpin
Chapter 92 (1): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 92 (2): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 93 (1): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 93 (2): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 94: A Feast for the Eyes
Chapter 95: Too Small a Place
Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers
Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain
Chapter 98: The Meddlesome Mountain God
Chapter 99: The Mountain God and the Bamboo Saber
Chapter 100 (1): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 100 (2): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 101: Guard the Mountain
Chapter 102: Soaring White Ray
Chapter 103: Bamboo Building
Chapter 104: Sharing the Spoils
Chapter 105: Rootless Duckweed
Chapter 106: People from All Walks of Life
Chapter 107: Fishing Net
Chapter 108: Spring Hunting
Chapter 109: The Young Boy Has Some Words to Say
Chapter 110: All Good Things Must Come to an End
Chapter 111: Bamboo Hat
Chapter 112: Powerful Individual
Chapter 113: Unparalleled Might
Chapter 114: Seeing A'Liang Again
Chapter 115: There's an Old Scholar In the World (1)
Chapter 116: There's an Old Scholar In the World (2)
Chapter 117 (1): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 118 (1): There's Righteousness In The World
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