Long Jin knew Yun Qian Yu wouldn’t know. Even he didn’t know that the legendary 6th wangye, Bei Tang Gu Qiu is here. Only after the death of the 4th wangye did he finally comes to that knowledge.
Yun Qian Yu raises an eyebrow; so it is indeed him.
This Bei Tang Gu Qiu is pretty much a living legend; he is very famous. It is said that he is supremely talented, a famous prodigy of Jiu Xiao Kingdom. He is said to be very smart and handsome, also talented in martial arts. Unfortunately, he did not receive the love of Jiu Xiao Kingdom’s Emperor. He is only 20 years old, but has already experienced myriads of hardship. To be able to shine under such condition shows that he must be truly talented.
“So what?” says Yun Qian Yu casually.
The smile on Long Jin’s face turns stiff. He was originally pretty confident that he could recruit Su Huai Feng. Only after he heard that Jiu Xiao Kingdom’s 6th wangye is here that the confidence dropped to only half. How could Yun Qian Yu treat that fact as though it is nothing? Is it because she does not know how outstanding Bei Tang Gu Qiu is or is it because she is already confident that victory is within her palm?
“From the look of it, Princess Hu Guo really has an ace card up your sleeves,” Long Jin is not worried. After all, all the kingdoms are in on this competition. Someone will win and the others are bound to lose.
Yun Qian Yu tips her chin with a smile.
“Then, this prince will just have to wait to see how Princess Hu Guo secure this win.” After saying that, Long Jin turns around and walks away.
Yun Qian Yu sniffs twice. The cold really is getting to her. Her eyes look at a spot not too far away. Someone is standing there, hiding amongst the darkness. Had it not been for her Zi Yu Xin Jing, she would not have sensed him.
When that person realized that she has noticed him, his breathing falters a little. Then, he composes himself and turns around and leave.
Yun Qian Yu narrows her eyes. If she is right, that person ought to be Bei Tang Gu Qiu.
A gust of cold wind blows by. Yun Qian Yu shrinks her neck and turns around to enter Gong Sang Mo’s palace. It is then that two people in white fly by. One of them, she already knows; Gong Sang Mo’s Eldest Senior Brother, Qing Yuan Xian. The other old man ought to be his Second Senior Brother, Qing Yun Xian, who is also Su Huai Feng’s teacher. She watches them as they enter Sheng Xue Tian Zun’s residence. Why does she have a bad feeling about this?
She stops for a moment before turning around and entering Gong Sang Mo’s residence.
Gong Sang Mo’s palace is carved from stone as well, the layout is very similar to Sheng Xue Tian Zun’s palace.
Chen Xiang and the rest are already busy doing chores. The smell of cooked rice from the kitchen can be smelled from where she is standing. All of them are dividing the chores equally; one is brewing tea, one is boiling water, one is busy watching the stove, while the other is cleaning up.
All four curtsy in front of Yun Qian Yu when she enters, “Dinner will be ready soon. You should rest first, Mistress.”
Yun Qian Yu nods and pushes open one of the doors there. Gong Sang Mo is not here, even if dinner is ready, she will still have to wait for him. Might as well get some alone time for herself.
She walks along the stone corridor. As expected, it leads to another room.
Hot water are boiling on a portable stove as San Qiu and Yi Ri bustle around, cleaning the room.
Both of them bow at her when she walks in.
The smell of jasmine tea fills the air as San Qiu promptly brews a pot of tea.
Yun Qian Yu looks at the stone bed. These people sleep on rock bed despite the weather? How cold and hard would it be?
San Qiu pours some tea on a cup as he says, “This is a jade stone bed, they are very warm.”
Yi Ri, on the other hand, takes out some bedding materials from the closet and spreads them out for Yun Qian Yu.
Yun Qian Yu looks at them before saying, “Do you know what the punishment for breaking the rules of this mountain will be?”
A certain light flashes on those two’s eyes as one of them reply, “This subordinate has never seen anyone receiving their punishment here, and thus, does not know what sort of punishments there are.”
She looks at their faces, comprehension dawning her. Gong Sang Mo told them not to tell her anything. This serves to tell her one thing: the punishment will be severe.
“Both of you can go,” Yun Qian Yu knows that neither of these two will say anything no matter how hard she tries.
“You should rest, Your Highness. This subordinate will call Chen Xiang to wait on you,” says San Qiu.
Yun Qian Yu waves them away, “No need. I would like to rest by myself.”
San Qiu and Yi Ri exchange a look before bowing and leaving.
Yun Qian Yu walks over to the stone bed and sits there. It is indeed warm. The kind of warmth that spreads throughout your body.
She picks up the tea cup and takes a small sip of the tea, warming her from the inside.
After finishing the cup, she gently lies on the bed even though she does not feel tired at all.
At this moment, in Sheng Xue Tian Zun’s residence, three white-bearded old men kneels in front of the old Shifu as he sits on his bed.
“Shifu, please spare Sang Mo this one time!”
“Just take it as this disciple was the one who killed that wretched disciple! Please,” begs Qing Yuan Xian.
Even the usually indifferent Qing Yun Xian speaks up, “There are only four of us. Three have been learning Xue Lian Han Gong from you for over four decades and only managed to reach the 8th level. When it comes to other disciples, only Su Huai Feng managed to reach the 5th level. Junior Brother Sang Mo, on the other hand, is the only one who managed to reach the 9th level, and he only took 13 years. At this rate, he is the only one who can completely master Xue Lian Han Gong. Shifu, for the last hundreds of years, people have only been entering Nine Deaths for One Life, none of them managed to return. If anything happens to Junior Brother, the art will become extinct!”
“He is right, Shifu! Please reconsider your decision!” Qing Yuan Xian and Qing Ling Xian speak up.
Gong Sang Mo watches them quietly from the sideline. His heart is warmed by the sight of his three seniors begging on his behalf.
Years ago, when his heart grew cold by his parents and brother’s death, it was his Shifu and Senior Brothers who warmed his heart back again. Back then, they were all like a father figure to him, doting on him like he was a treasure. These people as well as his grandfather were the ones who gave him enough courage and confidence to protect the kingdom in the battlefield.
Sheng Xue Tian Zun is quiet as he looks at the three disciples. Then, he rubs his beard and turns to Gong Sang Mo, “What do you think, Mo Er?”
“This disciple think that punishment is only right,” replies Gong Sang Mo.
All three Senior Brothers look at him panickingly. This Junior Brother was usually slippery like a fox, why is he suddenly so uncharastically honest now?
Gong Sang Mo turns to them, “Sang Mo understand that Senior Brothers dote on Sang Mo, but please get up first. Listen to Sang Mo, first.”
The three old men exchange looks. They slowly stand up.
“Shifu’s biggest wish in life is to see how Xue Lian Han Gong looks like when it is fully mastered. We have tried our best to do that for him. First Senior Brother and Third Senior Brother even started taking in disciples. Sang Mo have always wanted to give ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’ a try, perhaps it can help my cultivation. But Sang Mo never truly made up my mind about it. Now that Sang Mo has someone to protect, Sang Mo wants to try his best for her. Killing Long Xiang Luo will not only get rid of that threat for Yu Er, but it will also force Sang Mo to go through the route that Sang Mo have always wanted to try.” When he speaks of Yun Qian Yu, his eyes becomes gentle. He becomes even more resolute to give ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’ a try.
All three men becomes stumped.
Qing Yun Xian is the first to recover from his stupor, “You mean, in order to master Xue Lian Han Gong, one must go through ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’?”
“Perhaps,” Gong Sang Mo nods. “I reached the ninth level when I was fifteen. That was three years ago and until now, I cannot sense any further development. I had traveled to other kingdoms in hopes for other arts that might be able to help me pierce through the 10th level, but no such luck.”
Gong Sang Mo turns to Sheng Xue Tian Zun, “That day, I was under Tian En Temple’s pagoda with Yu Er. Just when I thought I was going to die, Yu Er managed to master the art. She channelled her power to me and gave me time to master the art on my own. But because of that, her own power never truly recovers. Even until now.”
He becomes a little agitated when he remembers that. That was the first time he ever saw the indifferent Yun Qian Yu losing control over her emotions. His heart aches for her.
“That actually happened?” the three Senior Brothers exchange looks. No wonder their Junior Brother is so taken by the girl. Turns out, they already went through life and death together.
Sheng Xue Tian Zun’s eyes light up, “Show it to Shifu.”
Gong Sang Mo channels his power out and a beautiful lotus hovers above his palm. The petals are half white and half gold. Yun Qian Yu would have been shocked if she sees this. Their inner power are both in the shape of lotus. Just, Gong Sang Mo’s is exceptionally cold.
“After that experience, Sang Mo finally understands why our ancestors left the punishment site for ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’ as it is and puts out the rule that only the exceptionally good students are eligible for that punishment. Because only the best of us could conquer ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’ and master Xue Lian Han Gong,” guesses Gong Sang Mo.
“If it is so, Sang Mo must go for it no matter what!” Sheng Xue Tian Zun is very agitated. He himself can only master up to only the 9th level. At this age, never mind him, even his three other disciples are not fit for ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’. The only reason two of his disciples started taking in disciples for themselves is in order to find the one who can continue the art of Xue Lian Han Gong.
Unfortunately, no matter how many disciples Qing Yuan Xian and Qing Ling Xian takes, none of them are talented enough to even come close to mastering the art. The only disciple that Qing Ling Xian took, Su Huai Feng is talented, but even he can only master it to the 5th level.
Since all of his three disciples are famous, the common people began calling the sect Mount San Xian instead of just Mount Xian.
(TN: Mount San Xian = Mount Three Celestials. Mount Xian = Mount Celestial.)
Luckily, the heavens does not permit the art to go extinct yet. When Sheng Xue Tian Zun was 93 years old, he stumbled upon a young martial arts prodigy, Gong Sang Mo. He was ecstatic and took in the boy as a disciple immediately. He personally taught him as best as he could. Gong Sang Mo did not disappoint; he reached the 9th level of Xue Lian Han Gong when he was just 15 years old. He is this close to fully mastering the art.
So many years have passed, he dotes on Sang Mo more than anything in this world. He does not want him to undergo ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’ and loses him in the process. That was why he never told Gong Sang Mo that he would need to go through ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’. Seems like the heavens are not on his side; Gong Sang Mo has come to that realization by himself.
The other three disciples are quiet. If this is indeed the only way to master Xue Lian Han Gong, they are completely powerless to stop Sang Mo. In fact, they ought to encourage him even more. However, they do not want anything bad to happen to him.
“Senior Brothers, danger will definitely be there, but so will the possibilities. I managed to leave Tian En Temple alive, I believe I can leave ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’ alive as well. Besides, I have all of you and Yu Er waiting for me. I must succeed,” Gong Sang Mo comforts his Senior Brothers, and secretly, his shifu too.
Sheng Xue Tian Zun has lived for over a century. He has seen a lot of things. How could he possibly not see what Gong Sang Mo is trying to do? “This child, ah.”
Gong Sang Mo smiles, “Shifu, Sang Mo wants to try it tomorrow.”
Sheng Xue Tian Zun looks at Gong Sang Mo. After a while, he says, “Since you have made up your mind, then go as soon as you can.”
Gong Sang Mo nods. He thinks so too. Since he has decided to go, he should go as soon as he can. After all, a slight show of hesitation from him will send waves of panic to his Senior Brothers.
“There is a favour Sang Mo would like to ask from Senior Brothers,” says he.
“What is it?” asks Qing Yuan Xian.
Qing Yun Xian speaks up, “If it’s regarding Su Huai Feng, I cannot help you. I already promised him I will not interfere.”
Qing Yun Xian thought Gong Sang Mo is going to ask for favour on behalf of Yun Qian Yu.
“When it comes to Huai Feng, Yu Er can handle it with her own ability. What I want to ask of you is to never tell Yu Er that I am going to face ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’. If anything, tell her that I was only going to reflect and meditate for three days. She will be very busy because of Huai Feng, so she might not noticed it is a lie if it comes from all three of you.”
The three Senior Brothers grow quiet. One needs to pass ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’ within three days. If you can’t make it out within three days, you will no longer have the chance to get out alive.
“Alright,” Qing Yuan Xian nods.
Gong Sang Mo bows to them in gratitude.
Now that everything is set, the three Senior Brothers left to give Gong Sang Mo some time alone with their Shifu.
Sheng Xue Tian Zun looks at this beloved disciple of his and pats the space next to him, “Come sit here, Mo Er.”
Gong Sang Mo walks over and kneels next to Sheng Xue Tian Zun.
The warmth of the jade stone reminds Gong Sang Mo of one of his early experiences in the mountain. Of his Shifu letting him sit on the warm stone while patiently teaching him Xue Lian Han Gong.
In the blink of an eye, 13 years have passed. Shifu is already 106 years old. Even though learning Xue Lian Han Gong can help extend one’s lifetime, his shifu is still a man at the dusk of his life.
Sheng Xue Tian Zun is also lost in memory. The pretty little child that he used to carry around is now a handsome young man. That child is now going to do something that he himself could never do. His heart is wrought in worry, for the first time in decades.
The two of them look at each other for a while.
Then, Sheng Xue Tian Zun breaks the silence, “Go back. The girl must be waiting for you.”
Gong Sang Mo stands up before kowtowing in front of Sheng Xue Tian Zun, “Don’t worry, Shifu. This disciple will return safely.”
Sheng Xue Tian Zun’s eyes sting a little as he waves Gong Sang Mo away.
Gong Sang Mo turns around and leaves.
When he walks out of his Shifu’s abode, his eyes falls on his own residence that is lit brightly by lanterns. Something warms up his heart. The woman that he loves is waiting for him over there.
So this is what happiness feels like.
He glances at the snowflakes descending from the sky. Then, he walks to his own residence.
Inside, the servant girls, his guards, and Feng Ran and Yun Nian are all circling the main heater, trying to warm themselves up.
When they see him coming, they stand up to greet him.
“Where is Yu Er?” asks Gong Sang Mo as he shakes the snow off of him.
“Mistress is resting in the chamber. She said she wants to wait for wangye for dinner,” replies Chen Xiang.
Gong Sang Mo looks at the dishes that are being warmed on the stove, “Bring the food to our room.”
Gong Sang Mo pushes open the door and walks through the stone corridor. When he reaches another door at the end of the corridor, he pushes it open. The first thing he sees is Yun Qian Yu lying on the jade bed with her eyes closed.
She slowly opens her eyes, “You are back.”
“En. You must be hungry. I asked Chen Xiang and the rest to bring dinner here,” Gong Sang Mo takes off his coat and walks to the bed to help Yun Qian Yu stand up.
Yun Qian Yu sits up and leans her head on his shoulder, wrapping her arm around his waist.
Something flashes in Gong Sang Mo’s eyes as he wraps his arms around her tight. “Yu Er, you actually took the initiative to run into my arms,” teases Gong Sang Mo.
Yun Qian Yu quietly rests her head on his chest, not saying a word.
When the servant girls arrive, they do not know whether they should walk in or just leave.
“Come in,” says Gong Sang Mo.
Yun Qian Yu sits up and lets go of Gong Sang Mo. She puts on her shoes.
When Chen Xiang and the rest are done serving the dishes, they retreat as fast as they could.
Yun Qian Yu regards the dishes in disinterest.
“What’s wrong? Are you tired?” asks Gong Sang Mo.
Yun Qian Yu glances up at him before lowering her eyes, “A little.”
“Eat first, and then you should rest early,” Gong Sang Mo puts some of her favourite dishes into her bowl.
“En,” says Yun Qian Yu as she eats.
After dinner, Man Er brings in some water for her to wash with. After bathing, Yun Qian Yu lies down on the bed, facing sideway.
When Gong Sang Mo returns after bathing, he lies next to her and spoons her from behind. “Don’t worry, it’s just a little confinement.”
Yun Qian Yu’s eyelashes tremble a little as she asks, “How long?”
“3 days. I would be out by the time Yu Er secured Su Huai Feng,” Gong Sang Mo cracks a rare joke.
“When will it start?” Yun Qian Yu does not smile.
“Tomorrow.” Gong Sang Mo helplessly sighs: this clever girl.
“Go to bed.” Yun Qian Yu surprisingly did not pursue the matter. All the excuses that Gong Sang Mo has prepared ended being unused.
Both of them fall asleep while in each other’s embrace.
Early after breakfast next morning, Gong Sang Mo turns to Yun Qian Yu, “Yu Er, San Qiu will take you to see Huai Feng. I will attend to my punishment first, we’ll see each other after three days.”
Yun Qian Yu nods, “Alright.”
Qing Ling Xian’s voice can be heard outside, “Sang Mo, it is time for your confinement.”
“Coming!” replies Gong Sang Mo loudly. He leans down and give Yun Qian Yu’s forehead a kiss, “Wait for me.”
After Yun Qian Yu’s reply, Gong Sang Mo turns around and leaves.
“San Qiu,” calls Yun Qian Yu.
“Your Highness,” San Qiu appears in front of her.
“Take me to Su Huai Feng,” Yun Qian Yu puts on her fox-fur robe.
San Qiu looks at Yun Qian Yu suspiciously; isn’t it to early to go to Su Huai Feng’s place right now?
When he sees that she is set to go, he has no other choice but to lead her to Su Huai Feng’s house.
Only when they get there that San Qiu realized that they are not early at all. The representatives from Mo Dai Kingdom and Jiu Xiao Kingdom are already there.
Long Jin eyes Yun Qian Yu, before looking at Bei Tang Gu Qiu who is sitting beside him. He smiles helplessly; these two people are not ordinary people. With them around, he does not feel confident at all.
When Yun Qian Yu walks in and sees Bei Tang Gu Qiu, she is now sure that he was the man from yesterday.