Passing Minor Turbulence at the Edge of the Cliff
The silhouette of the elder trekking through the forest would blend in with the shadows one moment, then stand out the next. Despite the slopes changing in steepness constantly, he showed no signs of struggling to traverse the trail. His relaxed pace made it appear as though he was riding the warm winds that moved the white puffs high above the flowing water. Despite the muddy path forcing him to set his foot firmly each step, he barely left any visible footprints.
Although most people would struggle to put a name to his face, he was far from being a nobody. Descendants of prestigious martial arts clans would address him as “Master” or “The Master”.
Shen Yiren’s whereabouts came onto the radar when she visited The Master, but instead of worrying, he left Hangzhou and made his way to Mount Qixia. As a resident of Nanjing, he had been to Mount Qixia plenty of times, except he wasn’t in a good mood this time. To the contrary, he was more vigilant than someone on vacation would need to be. He went down the mountain after climbing it, then repeated the process multiple times. He had been at it since the morning, but he suddenly stopped at a vacant slope once the sun reached its peak. Given there was no water or shade there, he couldn’t have stopped for a respite.
The Master gazed to the sun with his eyes squinted. “How sunny. It took all morning, but I’ve finally found you. If you keep hiding, you’re bullying an elder,” he voiced in a cordial tone that wasn’t even loud enough for there to be an echo.
“We never expected anyone to notice us. Please wait a moment. The two of us shall greet you right away.” The tone in which he used to provoke The Master was annoying to listen to because he kept alternating between loud and soft.
The wind began to billow harder as two objects violently approached in spiral motions. The Master turned sideways, giving the two iron chestnuts the slip, only for them to somehow come zooming back. The Master waved his arm, using the gale generated through his sleeve to decelerate them into the ground. Despite their thin shape and light weight, they made the wind whistle as if it was crying for help. Even The Master’s internal energy wasn’t sufficient to deflect them backwards.
As the hidden duo’s laughter echoed across the entire mountain range, the duo in their fifties had already found themselves a spot face to face with The Master. The taller and relatively leaner one had the sort of smile that screamed “I’m a villain”, while the shorter and stockier one switched his villainous smile for a friendly one.
The shorter one held his hands in salute and expressed, “It was surprising that you could see through our ‘Hidden Dragon’ skill so easily when we have mastered it for a long time. There is no doubt your searching ability is extraordinary. We made a fool out of ourselves with our performance. We offer our humble respects.”
The Master glanced down to the muscular duo’s weapons on the ground and simpered. “Hmph, you sure did put on a performance, but I don’t know about the respect part. Is sneak attacking an elder your idea of showing respect?”
The shorter one responded, “Hahaha, not at all. Howbeit, had we not greeted you, we would have not had any means of measuring your true capacity. Without knowing your capabilities, we cannot show respect.”
While the taller one continued trying to pierce The Master with his gaze, the shorter one cordially continued, “The legends say The Master is all knowing. May we ask if the purpose of your visit is to enlighten us?”
The Master: He’s a perceptive one.
If there was a prize for hiding one’s traces, The Master would be a champion. This was one of the very rare occasions where someone would confront him without him giving away himself.
“You flatter me. I am but an old man with a peculiar hobby. Friends merely share things here and there on account of my age. I am in no position to enlighten anyone. However, I was born in Nanjing and spend most of my time here, so visiting Mount Qixia is a common excursion. How can I turn a blind eye to a distinguished guest?”
The shorter one: They say this old man knows everything despite being a hermit. Could he be here to investigate one of our organisation’s secrets? Surely he couldn’t have known where we were hiding as soon as he arrived… Surely…
The duo believed that no soul knew about the months they had been hiding at Mount Qixia, not to mention their real identities hadn’t been mentioned in ages. Therefore, it made no sense for someone to visit them purely to check up on them.
Though the shorter man’s mannerisms suggested he was affable, he was actually considerably more ruthless than the taller impulsive killer. For their safety’s sake, the shorter man had already made up his mind to kill The Master there. Even so, he continued with his salute and polite tone. “The two of us may be living in solitude here. However, we are but unimportant people; by extension, it would be inappropriate for us to be your esteemed guest. That being said, please come inside our humble abode so that we may serve you some tea as a means of expressing our respect.”
The duo was stalwarts at their academy in their younger days and had achieved mastery over their disciplines in the last two decades. At this point in time, they were dangerous alone, let alone when they worked together as a team. Why, then, would they invite someone into their hideout full of secrets? The Master proved his internal energy wasn’t to be underestimated. If they started a big fight in the open, their plans to stay hidden would likely fall through.
The Master wagged his hand. “No, no.”
The short man queried, “You do not wish to share some tea with us?”
The Master shook his head. “No, no.”
“May this one ask what you are saying ‘no’ to?”
“Mount Hua and Qingcheng’s stars were ranked among the best of the orthodox sects twenty years ago. What do you mean by ‘unimportant people’?”
The lanky man thundered, “What nonsense are you spouting?!” without hiding his hostility whatsoever.
Contrary to the rumours that the pair perished twenty-odd years ago, they actually deserted their respective sects so that they could learn unorthodox skills. Prior to then, they didn’t have shiny and muscular bodies, fight the way they fought now or wield projectiles that misled people into thinking they hailed from the same sect. Suffice to say, they didn’t hide their true identities just because they didn’t want to be dragged into worldly affairs.
“You two are ‘dead’. You ‘died’ many years ago. Why are you back?”
Unlike his comrade, the shorter man would exhibit friendlier mannerisms as his bloodlust burgeoned. And right now, he was beaming. “They say there is nothing The Master does not know, only that which he does not wish to know. It is an honour to know The Master would spare us a spot in his mind.”
“You’re wrong.” The Master shook his head as though he was lamenting. “Who cares who wins between a three-legged cat and four-legged dog or if the neighbour’s daughter is able to have an affair or not? What honour is there to speak of?”
The short man smiled even brighter. “That being the case, what do you intend to do with your knowledge of our secret? Spread the word?”
“Nothing. This old man isn’t here for you, either.”
Chuckling as he ambled forward, the short man surreptitiously concentred internal energy to his hand behind his back, while his partner followed in perfect synchrony.
“What are you here for, then?”
The Master shook his head. “Did I not answer this question already? I am here to visit a distinguished guest.”
Although the duo had no clue what The Master was playing at, they assumed advantageous positions to The Master’s right and left to swiftly finish him.
The Master shook his head once again and sighed. “Too soon.”
The shorter man flashed a corner of his teeth. “What crazy nonsense is that before your death?”
The Master didn’t bother moving once the duo launched themselves toward him. Instead, he looked at them as if they were pitiful and said, “Didn’t I say I’m not here for you? And… I don’t like speaking to the dead.”
“Y-” The shorter man suddenly saw The Master split into a left and right half that wasn’t symmetrical. Try as he may, he couldn’t get figure out what happened as a red waterfall poured down from his skull that impaired his vision. Try as he may, his body wouldn’t obey his will.
The duo had no idea what cut open their heads or what pushed their bodies into the ground.
From next to the two lifeless bodies on the ground, a man politely conveyed, “How unbecoming for you two to let an elder stand in the harsh sunlight for so long.”
Sitting on a big rock, the middle-aged man wore a smirk that suggested he was ready to make a sarcastic remark to anything despite his legs not being fit for walking.
Qingcheng – The sect name, like Wudang, derives itself from the mountain it was located on, which, in this case, was Mount Qingcheng.