Book 13: Chapter 13
Shen Yiren didn’t expect to hear that name.
“I told you, Ye, Tingzhu and his sister, and a few other kids years ago that, among all of you, at the end of your martial arts journeys, Yi Ya would be the strongest. It’s a pity he’s stupid. He was doing fine in the capital, but, no, he runs off to suffer with Wang Muren at the border. Accounting for your potentials, he was around 30% to 40% better than you. However, because of his stupid decision to serve at the border, he’s had more opportunities to polish his skills, so he’s now much farther ahead of you. A few years ago, he was ranked fourth on Seventeen Hidden Dragons. Now, I don’t think anyone besides that Leng kid can match him.”
Shen Yiren didn’t just know the Qilin Guards’ lauded fighter; he even mentally defeated her. Shen Yiren’s toughest obstacles in the capital were the Qilin Guards, not Wang Muren. Their standings were too far apart to cross paths; Shen Yiren never assumed she’d be able to challenge him. When Yi Ya emerged on the scene, though, she started questioning if she was qualified to lead Liu Shan Men.
Wang Muren wasn’t sending his right-hand man back to the capital because the problems were too trivial to warrant his intervention. To the contrary, sending Yi Ya was a sign that Wang Muren took the situation serious.
“With Yi Ya’s return, you know how much free time Liu Shan Men will have on its hands.” Ye Yu knew what was going through Shen Yiren’s mind even though his attention was on feeding the fishes. “There’s no room for Liu Shan Men’s involvement in this case. Huang Yuzao isn’t only the patriarch of Canghai Sect, but he’s also a symbol for scholars. There is more than one meaning to His Majesty having Huang Yuzao preside over Daren Academy.”
When scholars had peace, everyone in the world had peace. Emperor Yuansheng asked for Huang Yuzao’s help in the first place with many intentions in mind. If their leader was in trouble, scholars would lose trust in the imperial court and begin attacking the imperial court, as well. That would lead the nation onto the course for disaster.
Shen Yiren’s palms felt cold despite it being a true summer day. She inhaled deeply before questioning, “This is your work?”
“This old one isn’t an official in the imperial court, and it has nothing to do with him. I never said it, but His Majesty understands. This is not the time and place for kids to be playing house. He’s the sovereign of a kingdom; he knows what he should do for his nation’s sake and who should be dealing with what task. I know I’m proud, upright and aloof; your mother’s highest evaluation of me was ‘Still can be considered human’, and I feel her praise is too high. I’m more often less human than I am human.
“Wang Muren is hubristic, and he’s also loyal to His Majesty. Ever seen a prince, earl or duke pick a fight with him? They’d be more than happy to erect a statue in his likeness at their door.
“I don’t have the noble aspiration to serve the people like Liu Shan Men, but I can incite chaos in the pugilistic world at will. Wang Muren can kill anyone and everyone in the pugilistic world. He doesn’t care, and I don’t care, but you care.
“He’s an eagle. I’m a dog. We serve His Majesty and are willing to get our hands dirty. What can you do? Right now, the imperial court doesn’t need Liu Shan Men, especially your Liu Shan Men. So my questions for you are, what is your destination? What do you want to achieve? And what should you do?”
Shen Yiren got the message from when Yi Ya was reported to be returning to the capital. Yi Ya’s return implied that the Qilin Guards would have a provisional commander to fill in the void in the central area. In other words, Yi Ya would be given the reigns in the capital, and Liu Shan Men’s assistance would be redundant. It signified that everything Liu Shan Men had achieved to restore their glory had been washed away, banishing Liu Shan Men back to oblivion.
The worst part for Shen Yiren was that she was aware that Liu Shan Men was of little help under the current circumstances – even with Feizhen’s firepower. To solve the problems they were presently facing, they needed manpower – several times more than what they currently had. She had neither the manpower nor Ming Feizhen.
Shen Yiren returned to Liu Shan Men without any recollection of what happened between her conversation with Ye Yu and journey back to Liu Shan Men. She was so lost for direction following the conversation that she decided to go home and sleep. There was a blank period in her memory from then until the next morning, when she woke up.
Nobody and nothing came for Shen Yiren while she was sleeping; it was just as if Liu Shan Men had just vanished without any consequences. The employees were still as busy as usual. Howbeit, instead of feeling proud and pleased, it was extremely frustrating to see. Not one thing they did had any bearing on the anarchy taking place outside their walls. It was a reminder to her that their efforts were futile.
What took years of work and sacrifices was but a mundane task for the Qilin Guards who took over. The jobs that they would throw out, consider no skin off their back, were the jobs Shen Yiren would accept without hesitation. It had never been so apparent – or perhaps she hadn’t stopped to check until now – that the Qilin Guards and Emperor’s Entourage still didn’t consider her Liu Shan Men a threat. She was still just a powerless girl; nothing had changed.
Shen Yiren exhaled at the heavens, got out of bed, got dressed, washed her face and then made her way out of her room.
“My humble respects, Sir.”
“There’s tea over there. There’s no medicine for you. Although medicine could expedite your recovery, you’re not getting any for embarrassing yourself. Sit. I assume you want to bring up Yiren? There’s nothing to fret about. What hasn’t she been through?”
“Oh.” Had Dugu not grown used to his superior answering all the questions he had before he could ask, he’d have issues coming up with topics on the spot. “But…”
“This tea is a gift to His Majesty, so you can’t drink it. As for what you want to ask, listen to this story. Once upon a time, there was a man called Jia Chong who admired a man named Xia Tong. Jia Chong rearranged the military, adorned the steeds and carriages, ordered horns be blown louder as they passed Xia Tong. He then had beautiful maidens dance and sing before Xia Tong, yet Xia Tong didn’t budge. Thus, Jia Chong said, ‘This youngster of Wu has a body of wood and a heart of stone.’ Understand now?”
Leng kid – In case you have forgotten, I’m hedging my bets on him referring to Leng Jingliu, Shen Wuzheng’s disciple, who gave Ming Feizhen quite the challenge back in Miguo arc.
Jia Chong and Xia Tong story – I ended up writing out the whole explanation and background information in this section, only to find out it was explained in the next chapter… For now, don’t worry about understanding the story because the section before this section is assumed knowledge. In the old days, not having the assumed knowledge was a sign that you didn’t read enough, a sign that you were less literate, or possibly even not very knowledgeable at all. This is one reason reading archaic texts can be a headache. The author has to explain it in the next chapter as not even native speakers know it since it’s no longer necessary to understand archaic Chinese.
I tried my best to translate it in a way that doesn’t remove too much of the flavour, alas… This is derived from Volume 4 of “Book of Jin”, which was initially published in 648, so you can imagine how different the writing style is compared to what you see now in the most webnovels.