unsheathed – Chapter 89: Two Heads

Chapter 89: Two Heads

Chapter 89: Two Heads

The short yet voluptuous woman pulled out a string of brand new, intricately crafted keys, using one of which she opened the yard gate, and as she made her way inside, she smiled as she mused, "Finally, there's an opportunity for me to put my skills to good use."

The woman took a glance at the birdcage sitting at the foot of the wall, and much to her surprise, the sound of flapping wings rang out from within. "They still haven't starved to death?"

However, she then quickly realized what had to have happened for the chicken to survive to this point, and she mused, "You have to thank me for finding such a good neighbor for you. Harmonious neighbors ensure joy for everyone."

After that, she turned her gaze to the neighboring yard, but due to her short stature, she was unable to see to the other side. Hence, she had no choice but to make her way over to the earthen wall, where she got up on the tips of her toes to see what was on the other side.

However, she was only greeted by the sight of an empty yard, which was a rather boring sight, so she quickly withdrew her gaze. She made her way toward the door of the main room, then pulled out another key to open the door before making her way inside. She reached out a finger before stroking it over the table, only to find that it was completely devoid of dust.

A hint of displeasure appeared on her face upon seeing this. It was like someone applying makeup to her daughter's face without her permission. Sure, the daughter could look better for it, but as a parent, she was naturally not going to be happy.

Out of the three servants who had accompanied the woman to Clay Vase Alley, the imposing man stayed on Clay Vase Alley outside the yard and closed his eyes to rest.

Meanwhile, the old man strode into the yard, while the woman carrying the sword made her way into the main room as well.

The woman made her way into Song Jixin's bedroom alone before inspecting her surroundings. The room was furnished with a bed and a desk, and there were some valuable antiques and trinkets sitting on the desk. Song Jixin had most likely left these things behind as he didn't want to bring them with him.

The woman strode over to the desk to find that there was a stack of three books sitting in the middle of the desk, and she gave them a brief inspection to find that there was nothing remarkable about them, and they were merely the three elementary books normally assigned to schoolchildren, namely Principles of Life for Children, Rites and Music, and An Anthology of Literary Essays.

These books were used by children of privileged and underprivileged upbringings alike in the Great Li Empire. The woman discovered that the books were quite old, but they were completely clean and spotless, and the image of a certain figure sprang into mind upon making this observation.

She shook her head, then casually asked, "Yang Hua, how much does this Principles of Life for Children cost in the capital city?"

The woman holding the sword had her back facing the bedroom, and she replied in a respectful voice, "Somewhere between 40 to 60 copper coins, Your Majesty."

The woman nodded in response as she mused, "It looks like the loftier the principles preached by these wise men of Confucianism, the less valuable they are."

The woman stacked the three books back down on their original spot on the desk, then gently rested her hand on "An Anthology of Literary Essays", which was sitting on the top of the pile.

A hint of mockery appeared on her face as she sneered, "If it wasn't for those Fictionists[1] doing everything in their power to promote these books wherever they could over the past centuries and millennia, even stooping as low as to become petty officials tasked with creating unofficial historic chronicles, there's no way that Confucianism would've been able to reach its current heights."

The old man in the yard gently cleared his throat, then cautioned, "Your Majesty, this is not a place where you can speak your mind as you please, so do be careful."

The woman smiled as she replied, "Don't worry so much. Following his death, Qi Jingchun made an agreement with those people up above, so this place will no longer be under any scrutiny. Do you really think an insignificant place like Jewel Small World would be worthy of any attention from those mighty figures now that Qi Jingchun is no longer here?"

"Even so, it would still be in our best interests to exercise caution, Your Majesty," the old man insisted.

A faint smile appeared on the woman's face as she said in a gentle voice, "Fine, fine, I'll hold my tongue for now then. Xu Hunran, when it comes to observing others, you really need to learn from Liang Song. Even though he's your disciple in the imperial court, he truly has emerged to excel above you, and that's a fact.

I know my uncle was intentionally taking jabs at you by proclaiming that your disciple has surpassed you, but don't pay him any heed, that's just how he is. He thinks he's well-educated after reading a few books, and he goes around dropping quotes without considering if they're appropriate or not."

The old man by the name of Xu Hunran was rather exasperated to hear this, and he didn't know if the woman was actually trying to console him.

All of a sudden, the thought of their brief encounter with Song Changjing during their journey to the south sprang into Xu Hunran's mind, and a grim look immediately appeared on his face. At the time, Song Changjing had appeared quite exhausted, looking as if he were still yet to recover from major injuries that he had sustained during a grueling battle, but the fact that he had dared to voluntarily show himself to Xu Hunran by lifting the curtain of his carriage indicated that there was a very good chance that he had progressed further on the path of martial arts.

It was extremely unlikely that he had already reached the 10th tier, but after reaching the pinnacle of the ninth tier, each tiny step that he advanced from there could be equivalent to a disparity of an entire tier for martial artists at the seventh and eighth tiers.

Xu Hunran was vastly renowned across the Great Li Empire's imperial court as the empire's number one swordmaster. The fact that he was referred to as a swordmaster rather than a swordsman didn't seem to hold very significant meaning, but in reality, there was a massive disparity between the two titles.

The prodigious swordsman who had perished at Song Changjing's hands, Liang Song, was Xu Hunran's most prized disciple. Xu Hunran saw Liang Song as a son, so there was naturally a major vendetta between the two.

Xu Hunran liked to nurture his sword within his sleeve, and the sword's name was White Bird. It was only just over an inch in length, but it possessed immense destructive capabilities, and it was said that the sword could fly over a distance close to 100 kilometers in the blink of an eye. Even after the sword had already flown back up Xu Hunran's sleeve, the target still wouldn't be dead yet, and that was quite a harrowing concept to consider.

The woman sat down onto the bed, then rested a palm down on it as she remarked, "It's not exactly the most privileged lifestyle, but it does grant a great deal of freedom."

Yang Hua said in a gentle voice, "Your efforts in ensuring a good upbringing for His Highness have not gone to waste, Your Majesty. Through these hardships, he's sure to have developed a strong character."

The woman smiled as she rose to his feet and replied, "That's a rather pretentious way of putting things. If we want to talk about hardships, then that orphan from next door has experienced far more than Mu'er." [2]

She strode over to a wall, and after a moment of contemplation, she murmured to herself, "The mystical abilities recorded on those pages of that ancient book given to us by the Lu Clan on Fortune Street are too old, so it's impossible to verify their authenticity, and they're very different from what's being advocated by the top Daoist sects that specialize in talisman creation.

I recall that an interesting little mystical ability was recorded on one of the pages. What was the incantation for that again? Ah, I remember it now, let me see."

The woman had her back to Yang Hua outside the room as she instructed, "Go and wait for me to open the gate of the neighboring yard."

She then began to chant an incantation. "Heaven and earth are connected, and the faces of mountains are conjoined. Soft as an apricot blossom, thin as a sheet of paper, this finger of mine is a sword that opens all doors. In the name of the Master of Three Mountains and Nine Lords!"

The woman was chanting the incantation, despite the fact that she wasn't holding the all-important talisman, and she extended a finger forward before casually strolling right through the wall, leaving a series of slight ripples behind her.

The woman made her way into Chen Ping'an's bare and dilapidated house, and she mused, "Some people are blessed with good fortune and remain in the good graces of the gods no matter how much they squander those blessings, while others were born to lead lives of hardship. It's not your fault for choosing the wrong parents, but who can you complain to?

Even if they find those responsible for your ill fortune, would you dare to say anything? Before you find out the truth and come after me for vengeance, I suggest you stay far away from Dawn Cloud Mountain, Sun Scorch Mountain, and Lake Shujian. Who knows how long it'll be before you find me, and you'll only have a chance if you manage to leave the Great Li Empire alive."

She then turned to the wall as she murmured to herself, "Who is this Master of Three Mountains and Nine Lords? No such person exists on our Eastern Treasured Vial Continent. Could it be an ancient immortal who lost their lineage and invulnerable body? If that's the case, then why is it that this little spell technique still works?"

She was unable to think of an answer, so she decided that she was going to conduct further research after returning to the capital, or she could also seek out Cui Chan and ask him. In any case, he was nearby, so she may as well ask him. She made her way to the yard gate, but even after pulling the deadbolt across, the gate still refused to budge. VSit no(v)3lb/!n(.)cm for new ovl

Only then did she realize that the gate had to have been locked from the outside, so she exerted a bit more power and tugged on the gate to break the copper lock by force. After opening the gate, she discovered Xu Hunran and Yang Hua standing outside.

"How could you just break in by force like this? This is completely unacceptable! Make sure to find someone later to repair the gate, and make sure to replace the lock with an identical one as well!" she scolded.

Xu Hunran and Yang Hua were clearly already accustomed to this, but the burly man standing on Clay Vase Alley couldn't help but furrow his brows slightly.

Upon emerging from the yard, the woman suddenly stopped in her tracks, then instructed, "Yang Hua, take 63 steps to your right, and make sure that your stride length matches that of Mu'er's back when he was seven years old."

Yang Hua did as she was instructed, taking 63 steps to the right before stopping.

The woman behind her turned to face the wall, and she concluded, "This must be the spot."

This particular patch of the wall didn't appear to be remarkable in any way, but the woman was glowering at it with a resentful expression as she spat through gritted teeth, "Song Yuzhang deserves to die 1,000 deaths!"

She then quickly reverted back to her usual regal and elegant expression as she said, "I've told you about what happened back then. Where do you think the crux of the problem lies, and what do you think I can do for Mu'er?"

Yang Hua shook her head in response. "I don't know, and I wouldn't dare to comment carelessly on something so important."

The woman heaved a slightly dejected sigh. "There are two events that are constantly weighing on Mu'er's heart, the first of which was naturally that time when that piece of lowly scum chased him all the way here from outside the alley during that heavy storm, then grabbed him by the throat and pinned him against the wall.

Given his personality, he definitely wouldn't have been able to stomach something like this. At the time, Mu'er was still just a small boy, so aside from being humiliated, I'm sure he would've been terrified of the killing intent being displayed by that boy as well."

A cold gleam suddenly appeared in the woman's eyes as she extended a hand forward, then gently pressed it against the rough and uneven earthen wall. "The second thing that's weighing on his heart is quite interesting. In fact, it was most likely that event that introduced to Mu'er what guilt felt like for the first time in his life.

That's why during that meeting between him and Fu Nanhua of Old Dragon City, he couldn't decide on who he wanted Fu Nanhua to kill for him, ultimately switching his target from Liu Xianyang to that boy."

Yang Hua was rather curious about the backstory behind all of this, but she knew that serving a powerful mistress was no different from serving a tigress, so she had to be careful and know when it wasn't right to ask questions.

The woman withdrew her palm, then wiped it on Yang Hua's sleeve before turning to make her way toward the entrance of the alley.

All of a sudden, a displeased look appeared on her face, and even though she was well past the age when little girls were considered to be adorable while throwing tantrums, there was still a unique sense of allure about her as she grumbled, "All Mu'er said was that Chen Ping'an cursed his parents to die because he was born on the fifth day of the fifth month, and that because he was living in the ancestral residence, his parents couldn't enter the cycle of reincarnation, so he should move out for their sake!"

The more she talked about it, the more infuriated she became. "All he did was make a joke, what's the big deal? It's not Mu'er's fault that Chen Ping'an was stupid enough to believe the joke and broke some stupid vow about not going to the dragon kilns to become a potter! Besides, a vow from a worthless piece of scum is just as worthless! In contrast, Mu'er is more precious than anything in this world.

He was like a pristine and spotless piece of jade, yet he's been tarnished because of this nonsense! Even if he can go on to become a cultivator of the Upper Five Tiers, just the slightest flaw in his mental state would prevent him from attaining a true Untainted Physique. How could a worthless brat possibly compensate for that? What a worthless piece of filth!"

Yang Hua's expression remained completely unchanged upon hearing this, as was the case for Xu Hunran, and it seemed that neither of them were paying any heed to what was being said.

However, the brows of the burly man trailing along behind them furrowed once again.

Right as the woman was about to emerge from Clay Vase Alley, she abruptly turned around, and almost at the exact same moment, Yang Hua and Xu Hunran parted down the middle, one to the left and one to the right, so that they wouldn't obstruct the woman's view.

There was a smile on the woman's face that was both pure and seductive, presenting a sense of conflicted allure, and she asked in a gentle voice, "Do you think there's something wrong with what I said, Wang Yifu?"

"I don't know much about this situation, but from what I've heard, I do indeed think you're wrong," Wang Yifu replied in a solemn voice.

The woman wasn't surprised at all to hear this. Instead, she burst into laughter as she praised, "As expected of the Lu Empire's fiercest general!"

Xu Hunran had a habit of looking at things through narrowed eyes, and at this point, his eyes had narrowed into slits, while his sword qi was ravaging the narrow alley, causing flakes of clay to clatter down incessantly from the nearby earthen walls.

Meanwhile, Yang Hua took a step back, as if to give Xu Hunran more space to do battle in, and a mocking sneer appeared on her face as she cast her gaze toward Wang Yifu.

A homeless dog like you should learn that you can't just bark as you please!

Wang Yifu was once one of the Lu Empire's most powerful generals. His ancestors had all been generals as well, and prior to his surrender, he was equivalent in status to the pillar general of the Great Li Empire. Song Changjing was known as a god-like figure in the Great Li Empire's military, and a very long time ago, he had picked out Wang Yifu in particular and challenged him to a battle.

Wang Yifu wasn't a particularly outstanding leader on the battlefield, but he possessed exceptional combat prowess. Even though he was a cultivator, his physique was as powerful as that of an eighth tier martial artist, and he was also extremely skilled with the saber. Furthermore, he was able to summon a powerful Yin god to assist him in battle, and he was one of a handful of the most formidable figures in the Lu Empire.

The woman extended a petite hand that was as fair and delicate as mutton fat jade, then waved it as she said, "There's no need to get so worked up, Xu Hunran. General Wang is a reasonable person, he just has too strong a sense of justice. We're all in the same camp at the moment, so don't just turn to violence at the first sign of a disagreement. I really don't like that."

Xu Hunran silently withdrew the vast sword qi emanating from one of his sleeves.

Meanwhile, the woman continued, "Wang Yifu, I hear that there's someone that you've sworn to protect, even at the cost of your own life and honor. How about instead of sending that person to the place we agreed upon, I send them to the imperial palace or the brothel division instead?"

Wang Yifu's hands immediately balled up into tight fists upon hearing this, and veins began to bulge on his forehead, while his eyes turned completely bloodshot.

The woman continued in a casual voice, "All I promised was that I would keep them alive. Don't take my kindness for granted, Wang Yifu."

All of a sudden, Wang Yifu smiled and said, "Forgive me, Your Majesty. I am the one at fault here."

The woman smiled as she said, "I'm glad you've realized your mistakes. There's no need for you to follow us any further after we leave Clay Vase Alley. Go and collect the former kiln supervision official's head, then put it in a wooden box and bring it to me. I may have a use for it in the future."

Wang Yifu was very much taken aback to hear this. "Song Yuzhang was designated by His Majesty to come here, and he has backers in both the ministry of rites and the ministry of astronomy, that's something that you said yourself. Why do you want to have him killed?"

The woman smiled as she countered, "Do I need a reason to have someone killed? Don't forget who I am!"

Wang Yifu heaved a faint sigh, then cupped his fist in a salute as he lowered his head. "I'll be sure to carry out your orders, Your Majesty."

With that, the four of them emerged from Clay Vase Alley, following which Wang Yifu parted ways with the others.

After Wang Yifu had completely disappeared from view, Xu Hunran jeered, "The fierce and righteous Wang Yifu doesn't even have a spine anymore!"

Instead of making her way toward the busy streets, the woman went down a more quiet alley as she said in a self-deprecating voice, "Does he really think I don't know the difference between right and wrong?"

Xu Hunran didn't know how to respond to this, so he ultimately decided to remain silent and not say anything.

The woman raised her head to look up at the sky as she mused, "Only now, when I'm in the same position that he's in, do I come to realize that Qi Jingchun was truly an extremely impressive man. Our Great Li Empire owes him a great debt.

It's very regrettable that our Great Li Empire couldn't make use of such an extraordinary man. No wonder His Majesty has been in such a dejected mood lately, and it's an even greater pity that Qi Jingchun ultimately still died, despite his incredible powers."

All of these sentiments were coming straight from the woman's heart.

After she finally fell silent, a thought suddenly occurred to Xu Hunran, and he swept a sleeve through the air to fill the surrounding area with his sword qi, then asked, "Your Majesty, that boy may have recently stumbled upon extravagant wealth, but even so, he's still just an ordinary young boy. Isn't it overkill to be sending such powerful assassins after him?"

It seemed that the woman couldn't even be bothered to answer this type of question, and she casually instructed, "Yang Hua, you tell him."

Yang Hua replied in a cold voice, "Even a lion must go all out when hunting a rabbit."

Xu Hunran had no response to this.

A faint smile appeared on the woman's face as she said, "My uncle may be a martial artist, but there's one thing that he said that's extremely wise: in the face of any enemy, the first thing that you have to ensure is that you don't gift them your head."

In contrast with his colleagues from the ministry of rites, who were staying on Peach Leaf Alley, Song Yuzhang was living alone on Dragon Riding Alley in a residence that had recently been vacated by its previous owner.

The door of the room was open, and he was seated beside the table with only a wine flagon, a plate of salt-brined peanuts, and a large bowl of baijiu in front of him. Having served as the former kiln supervision official in the town for 15 years, everything that he consumed here struck him with a sense of immense nostalgia.

He had only just raised his bowl when he noticed the burly man that had appeared in his yard without any warning, and he smiled as he remarked, "You're finally here."

He then raised his bowl up high as he asked, "Can you wait for me to finish my drink first?"

Wang Yifu hesitated momentarily, then nodded in response.

It seemed that Song Yuzhang didn't want to keep Wang Yifu waiting, and he downed close to half of the bowl's contents in one go. His cheeks became flushed from the alcohol, and he said, "Can you pass on a message to Song Jixin for me? Actually, from now on, he's most likely going to be referred to as Song Mu."

A pleading look appeared in Song Yuzhang's eyes as he asked, "Can you tell him that in all these years, I've always really wanted a pair of couplets from him?"

Wang Yifu shook his head resolutely in response. "I'm afraid I can't do that."

Song Yuzhang took a deep breath, then closed his eyes as a look of relief appeared on his face, and he mused in a quiet voice, "In my youth, I liked to read chronicles detailing other people's travels. I read that Old Dragon City at the southernmost part of Eastern Treasured Vial Continent often had large waves crashing onto its shores, presenting a spectacular sight to behold. Let this bowl of wine be the crashing waves of the South Sea!"

Wang Yifu lunged forward, then promptly snapped Song Yuzhang's neck.

Wang Yifu didn't feel any joy from killing Song Yuzhang, and he gently lowered the former kiln supervision official onto the table, making it appear as if he had passed out drunk.

Wang Yifu poured a bowl of wine for himself and drank it in silence as he thought about his own situation. In the end, he remarked to the already deceased Song Yuzhang, "It seems that not all scholars are so insufferable."

1. This is one of the Hundred Schools of Thought, and disciples from this school of thought record the conversations and folklore from the common world.

2. Mu'er is a pet name for Song Jixin's original name, Song Mu.

Chapter end

Chapter 31: Beating Around the Mountain
Chapter 32: Peach Leaf
Chapter 33: White Dragon Disguising as a Fish
Chapter 34: Gathered Together
Chapter 35: Licorice Root
Chapter 36: Ancient Book
Chapter 37: Fist Technique
Chapter 38: Ninth Tier
Chapter 39: Cursing the Locust Tree
Chapter 40: Returning the Courtesy
Chapter 42: Prodigy
Chapter 43: The Young Boy and the Old Dog
Chapter 44: Coming to Light
Chapter 45: Sunlight
Chapter 46: Skirt Dagger
Chapter 47: Going Alone
Chapter 48: The Hunter and the Hunted
Chapter 49: Porcelain Shard
Chapter 50 (1): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 50 (2): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 51: Confrontation
Chapter 52: Shudder
Chapter 53: Gift
Chapter 54: Facing the Enemy
Chapter 55: Feeling Proud in the Spring Breeze
Chapter 56: Nodding Bodhisattva
Chapter 57: Sword Nurturing Gourd
Chapter 58: Teacher
Chapter 59: Sleep
Chapter 60: There's a Ghost
Chapter 61: Helpless Pawn
Chapter 62: Falling Tree
Chapter 63 (1): So That's How It Is
Chapter 63 (2): So That's How It Is
Chapter 64: The Three Chens
Chapter 65: Jewel
Chapter 66: Looking Up
Chapter 67 (1): Long Journey
Chapter 67 (2): Long Journey
Chapter 68: Spring Under the Heavens
Chapter 69: Night
Chapter 70: Daylight
Chapter 71 (1): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 71 (2): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 72: Black Cloud
Chapter 73: Wooden Figure
Chapter 74: The Fire Dragon Roams the Water
Chapter 75: Mountain Selection
Chapter 76: Back to Back
Chapter 77: Entering the Mountains
Chapter 78: Another Dream
Chapter 79: Spring Welcome Seal
Chapter 80: Leaving the Mountains
Chapter 81: Imperial Preceptor
Chapter 82 (1): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 82 (2): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 83: Dreams
Chapter 84 (1): I Have a Sword
Chapter 84 (2): I Have a Sword
Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 85 (2): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 86 (1): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 86 (2): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 87 (1): Little Teacher
Chapter 87 (2): Little Teacher
Chapter 88: Grand Entrance
Chapter 89: Two Heads
Chapter 90: Heavy Rain
Chapter 91: Jade Hairpin
Chapter 92 (1): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 92 (2): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 93 (1): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 93 (2): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 94: A Feast for the Eyes
Chapter 95: Too Small a Place
Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers
Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain
Chapter 98: The Meddlesome Mountain God
Chapter 99: The Mountain God and the Bamboo Saber
Chapter 100 (1): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 100 (2): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 101: Guard the Mountain
Chapter 102: Soaring White Ray
Chapter 103: Bamboo Building
Chapter 104: Sharing the Spoils
Chapter 105: Rootless Duckweed
Chapter 106: People from All Walks of Life
Chapter 107: Fishing Net
Chapter 108: Spring Hunting
Chapter 109: The Young Boy Has Some Words to Say
Chapter 110: All Good Things Must Come to an End
Chapter 111: Bamboo Hat
Chapter 112: Powerful Individual
Chapter 113: Unparalleled Might
Chapter 114: Seeing A'Liang Again
Chapter 115: There's an Old Scholar In the World (1)
Chapter 116: There's an Old Scholar In the World (2)
Chapter 117 (1): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 118 (1): There's Righteousness In The World
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