Book 13: Chapter 11
“His chop should’ve been fatal… Unlike common true qi armours, I can use my shield skill at will, but I didn’t expect a blow to the back of my head, so the shield I produced wasn’t as sturdy as it needed to be. Without it, I would be dead.
“Based on what I gleaned from the corpses, there are many things to consider. Sometimes, he attacked with as much precision and speed as conceivable. Otherwise, he used his blade as though it was blunt. In particular, the way he butchered Xianyu Tuo was no better than a clumsy and untrained man’s work.”
Upon scrutinising Dugu’s wounds and further rumination, Shen Yiren questioned, “Your shield skill is without equal. Your injuries would not be severe to this extent if the strike came front on, correct?’
Dugu smiled. “I dare not claim it is without equal. Nevertheless, I should have gotten away unscathed.”
Among the Seventeen Hidden Dragons, nobody had a defensive skill that could rival Dugu’s; there were very few Non-Divine Realm people who could break it. Tianhu would have to use some degree of trickery on top of more than fifty exchanges to break the shield. Dugu’s ranking on Seventeen Hidden Dragons could be solely attributed to the shield that protected Emperor Yuansheng alone.
“The fact that you are here now means that the killer simply caught you with something you didn’t see coming, and you didn’t have enough time to erect your best defence. I believe the reason for all this is due to the lack of time.”
“Are you suggesting that he couldn’t utilise his full power because he was in a hurry to leave? So, he was unable to kill me in that situation, not just incapable of killing me?” Dugu pondered the feasibility of the theory, then shook his head. “We didn’t have even trade blows once during the pursuit. He moved in a way I had never seen before; I even had trouble keeping up. Therefore, he had no reason to rush. In the scenario that he didn’t know about my technique and couldn’t confirm I was dead, what about Brother Xianyu?”
Dugu was many levels above Xianyu Tuo, so why would the killer be pressed for time when killing someone considerably weaker than someone he could beat in one attack?
“But you have evidently considered the possibility. The only reason you didn’t mention it is because you’re not convinced.” Shen Yiren noticed Dugu was constantly contemplating whether to voice his thoughts.
“Indeed. However… it sounds like we are suspending reality too far.”
“This is what you meant by seeking my insight, I assume?”
Dugu wore on a stern visage as if he was reliving that night. “As I mentioned just before, he was, at least, three hundred steps away from me; I’m absolutely certain of that. There’s no movement discipline in existence that can empower someone to move hundreds of steps in a second. Sir Tianhu is exceptional in the speed domain, but there is no way he could hit someone with a blade and then leap a hundred steps away in the next second. If the criminal is superior to Sir Tianhu, what are we even trying for? How many people in the capital could offer him a challenge?”
“That’s why you believe what makes him dangerous isn’t his movement abilities but his broadswordplay? What sort of broadswordplay do you think it is?”
“… That’s right. Accordingly, I have a theory. What if… he was already a hundred or two hundred steps away when he attacked me?”
“Hurting someone with a blade from a hundred steps away? That…”
“Based on my observation of his qinggong, if he delivered the attack from two hundred steps away, then he could leap dozens of steps as I dropped to create the impression that he leapt three hundred steps away. Miss Shen, have you heard of any blade discipline that contains techniques where the practitioner executes their target from a hundred steps away?”
Shen Yiren thought long and hard, but she shook her head in the end. “I have heard of wielding a sword using qi. Patriarch Luo is one of my shifus. He was called ‘Heavenly Swordsman’ when he was active in the pugilistic world precisely because of that skill. If he didn’t use the Enlightenment of legends, though, it’d be impossible for him to kill someone from a hundred steps away. The broadswordplay you speak of is unimaginable…”
Despite what she said, Shen Yiren continued thinking under the assumption that the method existed. As long as the idea was supported, then it’d logically explain why they couldn’t find any traces as well as why Dugu Ye and Xianyu Tuo weren’t killed as easily as other victims. If the killer was wielding his weapon through qi from afar, then controlling his output would be a challenge. If he was a hundred steps away, then the only trauma he could inflict on targets came from his arm strength, accuracy and the weapon itself. While the idea was wild, Shen Yiren had been surprised enough times to not speak in absolutes.
On her way out, Shen Yiren came across a middle-aged man in a wheelchair, prompting her to stop. He was watching the fish in the pond, taking his time feeding them and enjoying their efforts to leap out of the water. “Shall we have a chat?” he suddenly queried.
Shen Yiren gave a small bow. “Hello, Uncle Ye.”
Even though he was stuck in a wheelchair, Ye Yu emanated a playful aura similar to that of a kid enamoured with some toy. The man with his hair casually splayed said, “Huang Yuzao has been abducted. Are you worried? Look at how on edge you are. Instead of taking after your father, you’ve taken after Yan Shisan.”
“I am n-”
“Ming Feizhen was his name, wasn’t it? I hear you two get along quite well. That’s nice. Yan Shisan and your father would approve.”
“Sorry, but may I ask what you are saying is nice?”
“Nice is nice. In any case, it can’t be ‘not nice’. Where are you headed?”
“I am off t-”
“You don’t need to go. There’s nothing to see at Daren Academy; you’ll just be wasting your time.”
It wasn’t the first time Shen Yiren had been subjected to Ye Yu’s confusing, disconnected way of speaking akin to a child switching moods. Still, she had no clue how to communicate with him. When her late father was still alive, he could keep the man under control. Now, he was a menace in the eyes of every civil servant.
“You don’t need to visit the scene where Huang Yuzao was abducted, either. It’s a waste of time, too.”
“I’m not saying the two places aren’t worth a look. They should be examined, but you don’t need to go.”
“May Yiren ask what insight you have for her?”
“You aren’t the only one this case has triggered. Of course, His Majesty isn’t the only person angry, either. His Majesty must be struggling to fend off all the attacks coming his way. Liu Shan Men doesn’t need to get involved.”
“Why is that?”
“By the way, have you worked it out?” Ye Yu turned his head to make eye contact. “Wang Muren is going to start.”