Editor: Areth Kyntaul
Five Black Robe Elders
While Princess Hongzhuang came under attack by the mysterious three Indians, another five people were whispering behind Ming Feizhen’s back, as they planned a mysterious operation.
The five of them looked, particularly, odd. They were of different ages, but the youngest one among them had snow-white hair by his ears.
The five mysterious elders tailing him were famous in the pugilistic world.
If there was somebody from the martial world present, they might be able to identify the five with a mere glance, as the five elders in black robes of Nanjing’s Qinhuai.
“By the Rose Finch Bridge now grow flowers and weeds running wild,
At the end of what used to be the Black Robes Row the sun makes its incline.
Sparrows that used to gather in the courts of Wang and Xie of the Jin dynasty,
Now scattered around commoners’ huts, cottages and their ordinary street life.”
“At the end of the Black Robes Row, is Qinhuai’s everlasting glory.”
Dark Robe Sect was one of the Seven Champion White Princes; however, they had a more prestigious aura about them and had experienced more ups and downs in life compared to the other six.
Their sect was a concentration of the everlasting Black Robes Row. Their lifeline was inherited by a venerated clan centuries ago and is still revered today.
The difference between their sect and others was that they were closely related to the royal family.
Between the Wang and Xie Clans, the Xie Clan was connected to the royal family by marriage. Of the Empresses, two were from Xie Clan. One of the Imperial Consorts of the reigning Emperor was from the Xie Clan. She had given birth to the Red Prince and the Second Princess, Princess Hongzhuang, so their clan had very tight ties with the royal family.
The Head Instructor for the Imperial Guards, tasked with guarding the Inner Court, was also from the Wang Clan. Besides that, they were also connected with the Qilin Guards.
Thus, among the Seven Champion White Princes, the Gold and Silver Sect is the richest, and Lushan Jianguan was the strongest, while the Dark Robe Sect was the most respected.
All else aside, the Dark Robe Sect was the only member of the Seven White Champion Princes within the vicinity of the Capital. Yes, such a powerful combat organisation was situated by the Emperor’s side, and they had been there for over a century. The fact that they are situated so closely is proof that they are highly trusted.
One of the elder’s eyes lit up. It was clear that his internal energy was profound and that he was highly skilled. Using Voice Transmission, he said, “Big Brother, we came to apprehend Lord San, but we haven’t done anything but watch people sell paintings of that bastard Ximen. We’ve waited for days. Lots of people have come to buy the paintings, but none of them was Lord San Shen. Do you think His Majesty’s plan is going to work?”
A somewhat younger man piggybacked off that to say, “Exactly, Dad. His Majesty shows us too little respect, do you not agree? I mean, look at what he is making us Five Dark Robe Elders do.”
Though he called him “Dad”, he was actually in his fifties, so he wasn’t young.
The leader of the group was in his seventies. Two among the group were his brothers, and one was even his biological son. However, his beard and eyebrows were dark black. He didn’t have a single strand of white hair, nor did he look old. He was the leader of the five, and the eldest among the Wang and Xie Clans. He belonged to the Xie Clan, and they called him Ancestral Master Xie.
He still had very young facial features, and his internal energy was still as profound as if he were still young. His internal strength is at the supremacy level. He could cause people’s ears to feel as though they were being bombarded, inducing an extremely uncomfortable sensation, with just his voice.
“There is no better plan than this plan, which His Majesty has come up with. Lord San Shen is from the western regions. Subsequently, he is most likely to be moving about here, in Bright Lane. He’s also in cahoots with old bastard Ximen. There’s no reason he wouldn’t come to check things out, upon finding out that his painting was being circulated. You, young people, are far too impatient. Back then, your eldest brother, your dad, your uncle, and I went through life and death with His Majesty. Back then, when we charged through the enemy ranks seven times, it was a most intense…”
Ancestral Master Xie’s eldest son was also part of the five elders. He was called Master Xie. He quickly wet to stop Ancestral Master Xie from retelling the past.
“Father, do not be so agitated. You are too fiery. I was saying… You are an Elder Statesman, the father of Virtuous Consort, after all, yet he is making you do this. Moreover, Hongzhuang is your niece. She is about to be married, and yet she is searching for another man. This is not right.”
Ancestral Master Xie glared at his son after he rambled.
“Stupid! You say that sort of nonsense, yet you don’t believe me when I say you’re stupid, brat?!”
Master Xie was in his fifties and was now the head of the clan. He was also the Vice Chief of the Dark Robe Sect, so he was a high-ranking individual. However, being scolded by his old man made him go red in the face.
In a muffled voice, he remarked, “She is your granddaughter and the clan is yours. Do as you please. I dare not be nosy.”
Ancestral Master Xie didn’t waste his breath on him; instead, he gave him a kick which almost ended up revealing the three of them.
“You think I can’t hit you and reproach, just because you’re married and a Prince’s maternal uncle?! Why did His Majesty have us come here to search for Lord San Shen? It’s just to let Hongzhuang meet him.”
“Look at how haggard she has become. She used to be full of life, training with her sabre daily, yet she now complains about being tired after a few swings, she’s always frowning and has no appetite. Your heart might not ache to see her like that, as her maternal uncle, but as her grandfather, I can’t stand it!” Ancestral Master Xie gave him a stern scolding.
His son no longer dared to speak, but he continued, “Furthermore, that guy, Lord San Shen, fought with our Chief, back then. You know what his skills are like. Forget you alone; even if I was to fight him with you, our chances of winning would still be minuscule. If there weren’t five of us, how would we stop him?”
Another elder then said, “But, Big Brother, that Lord San Shen is formidable and from the west. He’s not even thirty, so how powerful could he be? Plus, this guy is clearly from the Central Plains, so what are we watching him for?”
Ancestral Master Xie replied in a deep voice, “That might not be so. When Lord San Shen fought with our Chief, back then, his voice was the voice of a very young man. Additionally, I haven’t seen his true appearance, so I don’t know for certain if he’s from the west. However, based on what my eyes tell me, he has a superb body for learning martial arts, one you wouldn’t find among ten-thousand people. He’s a good candidate for learning martial arts, so his skills aren’t poor. Also, did you not see how superior his Qinggong was when he moved just now?”
The other two nodded.
They weren’t young anymore. They had gone through lots of turbulence in the pugilistic world and had met many revered seniors. They were done with trying to make gains and attain fame at this stage of their life. Nowadays, they put more emphasis on their clan and family. Everything else was insignificant to them.
Master Xie worriedly asked, “If he really is Lord San Shen, won’t he discover us when we’re conversing so close to him?”
“Hmph. So old and yet so ignorant.”
Ancestral Master Xie angrily replied, “We’re about thirty metres away from him and conversing using Voice Transmission. He wouldn’t be able to hear a thing, even if he was right opposite us, given the way we use it. You think he can hear from so far away like that? You think he’s a deity?”
‘Hello. This is the deity.’
I looked up and then looked down. I scanned the painting in my hand and heard the conversation the three had while I was at it.
I listened in for a long while, but couldn’t figure out who they were until later. It turned out that the Princess’ family had shown up.
‘No wonder… ‘
‘Let’s see these two paintings, now.’
Ximen Chuideng is drawn so well, while my drawing looks like a mess. It turns out that Ximen Chuideng’s painting was provided by the Imperial Court to lure me out.
‘It seems that these two paintings aren’t from the same group, but… Who, exactly, is this Indian guy? Why did they draw him?’ I deliberated it many times, but couldn’t wrap my head around it.
‘Whatever. I’ll worry about it later. I need to find the Princess first. I did hear the depiction of the Evil Bandits Gang, but I reckon the Princess is playing along with them, to try and catch them all in one fell swoop. But she’s a girl, after all, so it’s better if I go to check up on her.’
‘The problem is how I am going to lose these seniors.? I’ll be suspected if I’m too flashy…’
A large group suddenly came running over from up ahead, just as I went to fold my arms to think. Judging from their clothing, they weren’t from the same group. There were at least eight or nine different gangs running over with an overwhelming murderous intent.
One of the leaders aggressively asked, “Is your name Ming Feizhen?”
I snuck a glance at the group. They all had blades at their waist and an overwhelming murderous intent, so I surmised they weren’t good guys.
I waved my hand and pointed to a building behind me, while I was at it. In a stifled voice, I added, “Ming Feizhen just ran over there.”
“Then you are…”
“Ah, you’re welcome.” I smiled and said, “I am Zhong Ning. Helping others for a just cause is nothing to worry about.”
*Qinhuai is a district in Nanjing
**The poem is Black Robes Row by Liu Yuxi, with the last line written as a separate paragraph, because it’s not part of the poem, but an elaboration by the author.
***Charging through the enemy ranks seven times is a famous scene in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, whereby Zhao Yun charges through the ranks of Cao Cao’s armies seven times to search for Liu Bei’s son. The battle was the Battle of Changban, in case you wanted more reading.