Sixty chapters! We’re halfway through now, everyone!
In the silence of the dark night, the clouds parted in the sky, like ink dispersing on a page, revealing a round, full moon like a precious treasure.
The small courtyard was filled with silver light, and the nighttime colors gradually calmed and stilled.
Ye You had changed into a black robe and was sitting on the stone bench in the courtyard, unhurriedly twirling a chess piece in his hands. Lady Tao was sitting across from him and was staring at the chessboard under the moonlight. After pondering for a while, she set down a piece. The corners of Ye You’s mouth twitched, as if he had already anticipated such a move, and he followed immediately with another one.
Lady Tao stared for a moment and said, “I fell for your trick again.”
Ye You said, smiling, “If I purposely let you win, wouldn’t I just be making you angry?”
Lady Tao said, “You could not let me see it happen.”
Ye You was willing to concede to her words and said, “All right, then I’ll let you win the next game.”
Lady Tao refused to comment, focusing entirely on playing this game to its conclusion. In the end, when they finished, she found that she had lost by only half a point. She then understood that Ye You had originally been letting her win at the beginning, and sure enough, he hadn’t let her see it happen. She immediately let out a helpless sigh. “You really are…”
Ye You said, “What?”
A voice came from nearby, “Really are someone who invites too much hatred.”
As this voice fell, Qin Yuemian stepped in from the moon gate, smiling as he walked towards them.
Following Ye You and Wenren Heng’s plans, he had gone, early in the morning, to find Lady Tao to drink tea. After mentioning Ye You with a few words, he successfully managed to invite this beauty out, and under the envious stares of the crowd, he and Lady Tao went down the mountain to play. In addition, the Demonic Sect Elders had long already received the Sect Master’s orders and had sent Elder Mei and Elder Bai to the small county town to receive them. Those two people had then replaced them to return to Shaolin.
He had originally thought it would’ve been Elder Mei disguised as Lady Tao and Elder Bai disguised as him, but he quickly discovered that he had been too naive. This kind of Demonic Sect had let Elder Bai change into Lady Tao and had Elder Mei change into him. When he asked, the answer he received was that Elder Bai’s martial skill was high and so could easily fight back.
He silently followed their departure with his eyes, and only after a long while did he say, “Was that the main issue?”
The main issue was that a fully-grown man was disguised as a woman, even sporting an appearance as if not yet fully awake. Were they really not afraid of being exposed? And could Elder Mei not use such feminine hand gestures while using his face?
Lady Tao said, “They’re always like this. There’s no need to worry. When it comes to the big things, they’re always very reliable.”
Qin Yuemian said, “They won’t be recognized?”
Lady Tao said, “They probably won’t. Disguise is their specialty. Just now, it was because there wasn’t anyone else around that they didn’t put on an act.”
Qin Yuemian internally thought a simple hopefully that’s true and came to the Demonic Sect’s small courtyard with Lady Tao. They had then waited all the way up until nightfall.
He slowly walked over to the two people playing chess and sat down beside them. “There’s still no news?”
“No.” Ye You returned the pieces before lifting up the teacup on the side and drinking a sip. “It’s also not certain that it’ll be tonight.”
Qin Yuemian said, “If they don’t move tonight, then that crowd of Junior Sect Masters will have already stayed here a night. If they stay another, won’t they invite suspicion?”
Ye You said, “They’re young, so it’s understandable that they’ll occasionally play a little too much.”
Qin Yuemian doubtfully looked at him.
When this person returned, he had put on his iconic mask.
The mask covered his whole face, exposing only the eyes, nose, and lips, but it was different from the usual masks. The mask was broken open on its left side, drifting down to the nose, and then stretching horizontally across, winding and circling around the lips before angling up and away to the left cheek, with this last twist looking akin to a phoenix’s tail. On the black surface were embroidered red lines, following along his slightly smiling lips. Its appearance was ostentatious, full of a wicked air. In the entirety of Jianghu, it was one of a kind.
Qin Yuemian saw him simply smile wordlessly and guessed that he probably had a countermeasure, internally thinking why was it that these disciple-brothers were both so hard to handle, while changing the words in his mouth to, “Today, I seem to have seen the people from Wuwang Temple come over?”
Ye You said, “They came to tell me about Sir Zhong’s whereabouts.”
Qin Yuemian and Lady Tao were both startled, and they said, almost at the same time, “Don’t tell me that Sir Zhong is in Temple Master Xie’s hands?”
Ye You said, “Yes, the exact specifics I still don’t yet…”
Before he even finished speaking, he lifted his head and saw that Elder Baili, who had gone with the people of Wuwang Temple to check on the hostage, had returned and so asked, “What excuse did Xie Junming use to keep that person?”
“Temple Master Xie found a tall and sturdy man to watch Sir Zhong.” Elder Baili’s lips twitched. “I heard that when Sir Zhong awoke, that large man professed to falling in love with him at first sight and so kidnapped him as a wife. None of the threats or promises from Sir Zhong had any use whatsoever, so he could only claim that he’d rather die than agree. The large man also didn’t force him, simply standing guard at the house day and night. It’s said that Sir Zhong had been continuously trying to talk sense into him for the past two days. Today, while I was watching in secret, Sir Zhong finally gave in and said he was willing to bring the person to see his dad, and that if his dad agreed, he’d also agree.”
Qin Yuemian, “…”
Lady Tao, “…”
Ye You said, “And then?”
Elder Baili said, “And then that large man asked him ‘didn’t you say that your dad was the Alliance Leader of the martial arts circle.” Sir Zhong said ‘yes’. The large man then said that the Alliance Leader of the martial arts circle was too incredible, and that if the other disagreed and then beat him up and threw him out, then he would no longer have a wife. So he’d rather continue standing guard and wait for feelings to develop before talking further. At that time, Sir Zhong’s entire face turned green.”
Qin Yuemian, “…”
Lady Tao, “…”
Ye You laughed out loud and praised, “As expected of Xie Junming.”
Elder Baili asked, “Then this person…?”
Ye You said, “Continue watching him. When the time comes, we’ll ‘rescue’ him.”
Elder Baili said a word of ‘understood’ and turned around and left.
Ye You ordered someone to bring a jug of wine and then poured a cup for both himself and Qin Yuemian. He then played two more games with Lady Tao before finally receiving his subordinates’ news. He couldn’t help but lift the corners of his mouth.
Qin Yuemian gave him a look. “What?”
Ye You handed the strip of paper over to him. Standing up, he said, “There’s movement. Let’s go.”
Midnight had already passed, and Shaolin Temple was blanketed by stillness. The majority of people had already gone to bed.
Having heard an entire pile of things, Wei Jiangyue didn’t have the least bit of desire for sleep and simply sat, straight-backed, on the chair underneath the moonlight shining in from outside, silently drinking tea.
Upon seeing that this person wasn’t going to sleep, Wenren Heng didn’t bother to be polite again and simply laid down on the bed, clothes and all — he and his Junior Brother had just slept on this bed yesterday, and they had done the thing that he had spent countless times in these past ten years dreaming about, so truth be told, he hadn’t truly wanted to let someone else sleep on this bed.
The room turned quiet. An unknown amount of time passed before sudden bits and pieces of a noisy clamor echoed in from the outside, even carrying with it some indistinct sounds of shrieking. And then, a shout resounded through the heavens, sounding almost as if it was penetrating into one’s internal energy, “Come, get out right this instant, people of Shaolin!”
This moment was akin to water entering a boiling pot, and the entirety of Shaolin boiled over.
Wenren Heng swiftly opened his eyes.
Although he hadn’t slept that steadily, he had still closed his eyes to recover some energy for a while, and right now his spirits weren’t too bad. At least, it was completely different than those outside who had been so startled that they didn’t know which way was up and down.
He turned over and got out of bed, straightening his clothes very simply, before saying gently, “Let’s go out and look.”
Wei Jiangyue sucked in a deep breath before standing up and following the other out the door.
Just as he stepped out of the small courtyard and raised his head, he saw a black shadow flashing by extremely fast from the small courtyard next door, disappearing in a mere blink. Wei Jiangyue was somewhat shocked. “That was Manor Lord Qin?”
Wenren Heng said, “Considered to be.”
Wei Jiangyue said, “How is it ‘considered to be’…”
As he spoke, he suddenly reacted and asked, “Don’t tell me that he also found someone to disguise as him?”
Wenren Heng said, “Yes.”
Wei Jiangyue said, “What’s the reason? Where is he going?”
“To Lady Tao’s residence,” Wenren Heng said, “This time, if the white piece was really going to use drugged people, a flute player will definitely come. Lady Tao’s qin playing can break through the sound of the flute. If you were the white piece, at this time, would you allow Lady Tao to come out and act as a hindrance?”
Wei Jiangyue wrinkled his brows. “Will he get there on time?”
Wenren Heng calmly said, “Definitely on time.”
Wei Jiangyue was just about to doubtfully ask a few more words when he heard Wenren Heng add that, regardless, that also wasn’t the real Lady Tao, and he immediately fell silent. Internally, he thought that these pair of disciple-brothers have really planned out every possibility.
His mind couldn’t help but flash to Sir Xiao’s figure.
That person had already seen through all of the white piece’s moves, so was his grieving these past few days real or not? Had he already accepted and let go, or was he simply doing his utmost to suppress those feelings? Otherwise, they’d already set up all these things, so Sir Xiao definitely left because he also had something to do, right?
Wei Jiangyue asked, “What does he want to do? Will he be in any danger?”
“He won’t.” Wenren Heng glanced at the fork in the road in front and reminded, “It’s the Abbot and the others.”
Wei Jiangyue then stopped speaking, lowering his head to follow Wenren Heng, doing his best to look like Sir Xiao’s usual appearance.
Matters had happened so suddenly that Abbot Ciyuan’s party were all urgently hurrying outside to get to the bottom of things and so had no time to spare on greetings, simply nodding their heads as they walked by. Wenren Heng and Wei Jiangyue slowed their steps, maintaining a perfectly acceptable distance, following behind the crowd neither too fast nor too slow, going towards the main gates of Shaolin.
At this time, those gates were already full of people, standing both inside and out.
Everyone saw that the Abbot and the others had come and conscientiously opened up a path.
Those elders lifted their heads to look and found that a group of black-clothed men were standing right outside Shaolin. The first row consisted of many people holding up torches, lighting up every which way as bright as daylight. One black-clothed, masked man stood in the center with hands clasped behind his back, currently quietly waiting for them.
Abbot Ciyuan put his palms together. “Amitabha. What noble errand brings this benefactor up the mountain this late at night?”
The black-clothed man didn’t respond and then, contrary to expectations, pulled down the mask from his face before coldly letting out a laugh.
This person’s facial features were very good and didn’t allow anyone to guess his specific age. Although the left side of his face was lined with a scar, he still looked extremely pleasing to the eye. It was only that, right now, carrying a cold smile while acting aggressive and overbearing made people lose much of their good impressions.
Everyone first startled before they, one after another, recognized his identity and sucked in a cold breath.
“It’s Ghost Gentleman! Ah, it’s Ghost Gentleman!”
“What? Ghost Gentleman?”
“Impossible, didn’t he die? How could he still be alive!”
“Before was Blood-sucking Ghost, now it’s Ghost Gentleman…”
“Can anyone tell me what exactly is going on?”
Abbot Ciyuan and the others were similarly shocked.
But at this time, persisting in asking the other party about why he’s still alive would obviously be of no use, and the black piece had already reminded them before that the dead could still be alive. If they weren’t fools, then they’d clearly see that this was the white piece’s work.
Ghost Gentleman looked around the circle. “Really, all of you from the righteous faction look hateful no matter how I look at you.”
Xie Junming said, “I agree with that sentiment.”
Why are you always here when things happen!
Ghost Gentleman hadn’t thought that there’d be someone who’d follow up on his words, and he looked over and said, “Wuwang Temple’s Xie Junming?”
“Yes, it’s me.” Xie Junming was wearing a large nightgown which exposed the majority of his chest, and he had come out like this without the slightest bit of shame. He waved his hand and said, “There’s no need to exchange any more conventional greetings. Since all of you came swaggering over like this, that means you’ve definitely brought along some drugged men, right? Quick, hurry and get them out. The earlier we finish, the earlier I can go back and sleep. Really, next time, can’t you choose instead to make a move during the day? How can you be so shameful?”
Although this rascal’s words were still ugly to hear, standing here on the sidelines like this while watching him choke someone else was still… was still quite a decent stress relief.
Everyone fell silent.
Most likely because Ghost Gentleman had not heard many people use this tone of voice with him, his expression turned cold, though he didn’t erupt in anger, and he raised his hand to direct those behind him.
No one knew what he wanted to do and so everyone watched in anxiety. Then, the faint sounds of a flute drifted over, and those black-clothed men made identical moves to take off their masks. The bright torch flames shone onto their faces, letting people see them openly and clearly.
“That’s… that’s the adventurer Three-Layered Meaning! Already been missing for four years! I didn’t think that he’d be found here!”
“Senior Brother, that’s my Senior Brother! Senior Brother! Senior Brother! Look at me, look at me!”
“Heavens… They can’t hear anything, there’s no reaction…”
The expressions of Abbot Ciyuan and those elders were grave.
After being forced back step-by-step by the black piece, the white piece finally had all this hidden strength uncovered and revealed, but although they had made preparations, they could have never imagined that they’d encounter something this dense and sinister after barely making it to this corner.
The drugged men did not have any awareness and so could face them with swords drawn without the least bit of misgivings, while these fully awake, flesh-and-blood people couldn’t wage a life-and-death battle with them.
This fight wasn’t able to be fought.
The crowd of people still had those who were attempting to shout and scream at those drugged men, while those remaining had been shocked into blankness on the spot.
And then, before they even had the time to recover their senses from this unexpected event, they heard the echoes of whimpering. When they turned to follow these sounds, they found that there was a group of people being escorted forward by the black-clothed men. Within these people were some of the adventurers who had left Shaolin some days ago to eat a good meal and had never returned as well as disciples from many Jianghu sects. All of them had been kidnapped, with cloth stuffed into their mouths, and a knife hanging at their necks.
Ghost Gentleman said his fourth sentence since coming to this place as he pointed at these hostages and looked at the Abbot, “Our goal for coming tonight is very simple: we want to trade people for people.”
 月洞門 lit. “hole shaped like a moon gate”. Those open circular doors you see in Chinese architecture, which wikipedia informs me is called “moon gate” in English. Author has never mentioned the shape of doors before now, but I guess she wants to lean into the “moon is full, trouble is brewing” imagery of this chapter.
 蘭花指 lit. orchid fingers. This is a specific hand gesture where one puts the thumb and middle two fingers together. It comes from Chinese opera, and is supposed to be an elegant and beautiful gesture (basically to show off how long/slender one’s fingers are). Here’s the baidu page.
 鬼相公 So Baidu informs me that 相公 is actually what wives refer to their husbands in ancient times, but “Ghost Husband” sounded way strange. It can also be translated to “lord”, “master”, etc., but “gentleman” just seemed the least painful one of the choices. Again, if there comes a time where this story explains how he gets his title, and I turn out to be way off-base, I’ll come back and change it, but for now… Well, he’s a bad guy, so I’m not going to be too fussed about what to call him lmao.
 迭意三俠 What the heck kind of title is this and why have you inflicted this upon me, author.
Why have all the monsters in this story so far used 鬼 (ghost) as part of their supervillain name?? If I ever become a supervillain, I’d name myself something more interesting like “Neverending Blooming Flowers” to signify my desire for immortality, y’know. Instead of all this weird ghost stuff. No culture, these guys. Tsk, tsk.