“Yiren, perfect timing.” Confused and indecisive, Emperor Yuansheng reported, “The elder attacked everyone as soon as he came in. Dugu got clobbered three times trying to reason with him. I would have several bumps on my head by now if State Preceptor Lai didn’t protect me.”
Lai Jingzhen, with a straight face, expressed, “It is your subject’s duty. There is no need for thanks. What is this about a thousand taels? What is this about a thousand taels?”
Shen Yiren simpered at the shaking tiger and cool village chief: “Why don’t you show your real self? Your plot has been unearthed.”
“What plot are you talking about?” inquired the indifferent village Chief.
Emperor Yuansheng tapped his empty scabbard at his belt: “Don’t feign ignorance! Want me to do the maths for you?! We agreed to pay you one hundred taels to rent your place for a night and would settle it once we check out, correct? We never violated any of the policies laid out during our stay, correct? What warrants this attack?! If you can’t justify your attack, my broadsword won’t spare you even if I do! Men, bring me my Five-Rings Dragon Head Great Broadsword!”
In response to Li Fangzhang’s scripted speech, all the village chief had to say was, “How did my table end up in parts.”
“Ah… Ahaha…” Emperor Yuansheng ducked behind Lai Jingzhen.
Lai Jingzhen swept his eyes around. “Don’t look, or don’t blame me for gouging out your slits… In other words, your tiny eyes.”
Emperor Yuansheng: “Yiren takes command. I’m going to do up my shoelaces.”
“You don’t need to say anything. The clown in the tiger disguise is with you. You told us there’s a tiger on the mountain and had him lure us up there so that you could attack my uncle while we were gone,” Shen Yiren exposed.
“I’m curious: how did you find out?” questioned the village chief, no longer speaking with a heavy accent.
“Will you show your true faces if I tell you?”
“I’ll consider it.”
“First, how do you know there’s a tiger on the mountain when you’re not on the mountain? Most likely, I’m first to wake up in the village, so how do you know there’s a tiger before I do when you don’t know how to fight?”
“A valid point.”
“Second, the two times you showed up, you showed up without a sound. Your qinggong proficiency gave you away. Perhaps you did try to hide your abilities, but choosing to pose as an elder ruined that. How can an elder tread so lightly. Brother Bodhi and I can discern you’re hiding your true age based on the sounds of your footsteps.”
“Can’t help it. Where I trained, heavy steps would’ve cost me my life. I can’t change a habit ingrained since childhood.”
“Third, your Jiangnan dialect, can you stop embarrassing yourself?”
“Not too shabby.” The elder, grinning, clapped. “I thought I had it in the bag, but the trapped heroine has turned the tables on her enemy, while the heroes have gone to zeroes. You’re very sharp, Miss Shen.”
“Cut the crap. Who are you?”
“I have another question. Why did you come up the mountain when you knew those three facts prior to ascending?”
“Ever heard of throwing a long line to catch a big fish? Would you have revealed your true nature if we didn’t come up? If I didn’t come up, I wouldn’t have known you have a death wish. You’re overestimating yourself.”
The elder raised his hand, misleading them into thinking he launched a projectile. Upon lowering his hand, all of his wrinkles had smoothed out, unraveling his young face.
Mountain Monster: “Looks pretty handsome.”
Su Xiao: “Haven’t I seen him somewhere before?”
The village chief’s most notable features were his cold eyes and the sense of mystery surrounding him. Whenever anyone in the room locked eyes with his squinted eyes, they felt they were facing off against their predator.
“This is just how my eyes are when I look at people.” The village chief smirked and then whipped his hand, scaring them back a step. He slipped his hand into his shirt and wore on a pair of spectacles from Western Regions. “Because I have bad eyesight.”
Numerous people: “You want to get smashed?”
Shen Yiren: “Shut up! Stay on task. Who are you? Why are you hindering us? How did you know our whereabouts? Seeing as you targeted Hero Li, you should be aware that you won’t leave this place alive unless you explain yourself.”
“I need to take my time responding given how many questions you posed. Where shall I start? How about starting with self-introductions?” The young man stroked his chin and then yanked the tiger fur off his comrade, revealing the glossy head of the latter.
His baldness was a foregone conclusion since he employed Shaolin’s disciplines. What nobody expected was that he didn’t even look twenty years old; his combat prowess wasn’t something that anyone in his age bracket could replicate.
Long Zaitian: “My fur!”
Mountain Monster: “I lost to a snotty-nosed brat?!”
Su Xiao: “Haven’t I seen him somewhere before?”
As usual, Shen Yiren showed respect to all monks: “May this one ask which temple you are with?”
The baldy frantically waved his hands and, letting his nervousness around strangers slip, replied, “I’m not a monk! I just had to shave because I lost a bet! I drink and eat meat. By the way, do anyone of you have food on you? I’m starving…”
His comrade said, “We are from the same sect. I’m third. He’s fourth. Let us not waste your memory remembering his modest name.”
Long Zaitian: “Hahaha, his name isn’t God something, is it?”
“This one’s junior’s surname is Tianfeng. His name is Xuanyuan. His alias is Vajra Indomitable Empyrean.”
“He really is a god?!”
“As for this one… His surname is Sima.”
Prior to the pause, they heard his voice from directly in front of them. Everything enunciated after the pause came from Emperor Yuansheng’s side. Had Lai Jingzhen not dispersed his energy, the young man would’ve taken Emperor Yuansheng’s head.
Upon returning to his original spot, the young man finished, “First name Huai. This one is a nobody. You need not remember him.”
Dugu, next Emperor Yuansheng, rubbed his head as he roared, “Why does your self-introduction require hitting me?!”
“When the tall gentleman there discharged his energy, he blasted everyone outside away but also trapped those within. The two of you couldn’t move. Sadly, I couldn’t tag Mr. Li, while you happened to be in the right place, at the right time, at the right distance. I couldn’t resist.” Sima Huai tried to sneakily hide his spiked mace behind him.
“That’s no reason to hit someone with a spiked mace! Hero Li, requesting permission to challenge him!”
“You can stop with your act.” Shen Yiren folded her arms, fixing her gaze on Sima Huai at the same time. “Your first brother has mentioned your names to me already. Is this mutiny?”
Sima Huai held his gaze against Shen Yiren’s for a while, then voiced, “That being the case… Hmph, Fourth.”
The two burst through the windows behind them, showing a clean pair of heels along their predetermined escape route. Shen Yiren stopped their members from giving chase, expounding, “They’re not hostiles, though they aren’t allies, yet. They’ll be back, and there may be more of them. Leave them. Get some ointment to treat our wounded… Give Dugu extra because he’s… taken rather a lot of damage.”
According to their plan, the two runners hid inside a location of the mountain, though Tianfeng Xuanyuan was wheezing on the ground since he struggled to keep up with his senior boasting superior qinggong.
“… Third Brother, why do we have to fight them? I’m starving. Let’s make peace with them.”
“Not possible,” Sima Huai calmly objected. “They want to exterminate Six Evils. If they don’t have what it takes, they’re going to be more of a hindrance than helpful. If they want to work with Mount Daluo, they better be qualified.”
“But I’m really hungry.”
“Hungry? You think your brother would let you starve?” Sima Huai took out a handful of money. “Go buy something to eat and some new clothes.”
Tianfeng Xuanyuan rubbed his eyes as he flipped the coin around. “If I’m not mistaken, isn’t this a penny?”
Sima Huai nodded: “If you prefer, you can call it one copper. Go buy some food. I’m also hungry. Don’t forget the change.”
Tianfeng Xuanyuan started musing deeply.
Incomprehensible (literally translated), “Not three, not four,” which is also a play on Third and Fourth’s denial in addition to referencing the confusion of those partaking in their scheme. I don’t know of any English phrase that can replicate that, so…
Tianfeng Xuanyuan – His surname means “heavenly wind”, while his first name is the name of a deity in Chinese mythologies (Yellow Emperor) – Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, plus Five Forms of the Highest Deity.