Chapter 36 – Blackened Reputation 2
Shen Qingqiu narrowed his eyes and said, “As for what Cang Qiong Mountain Sect Qing Jing Peak successor’s character may be like, since when did other sects start jumping to conclusions based on a mere rumor?”
The old palace master said, “If it were just rumor and hearsay, then naturally we wouldn’t have believed it so easily. It’s just that these words were spread precisely from people of your respectable sect.” He surveyed his surroundings and continued, “Everyone here knows and would agree that it is common for disciples to have good relations with one another. It is also inevitable for some gossip and slander to spread. It’s only this matter of Peak Lord Shen deliberately suppressing how he beat and harmed his disciples, which makes him unworthy of being described as “a noble and unblemished moral character.”
Upon hearing this, Shen Qingqiu was incredulous.
Harming his disciples?
That was indeed the truth. When Luo Binghe was growing up, Shen Qingqiu would abuse him in every possible way, using him for child labor and the like. All those bygone days could be written into a tragedy novel of its own. As for the rest of the disciples who were outstanding enough to be picked on, treated harshly, or evicted by Shen Qingqiu… they were so numerous they could form their own gymnastics team. Only, the perpetrator of this cruel treatment wasn’t him, but the original goods!
Yue Qingyuan said solemnly, “Since you know they were just rumor and hearsay, then how can you not know there’s no benefit in dwelling on the subject? Admittedly, my younger sect brother does not habitually pamper his disciples, but to say he abuses them is crossing the line.”
Suddenly, a tender voice spoke up. Qin Wanyue could no longer resist the need to speak up for her crush: “If my humble self may be so bold to ask Sect Leader Yue… Ordering a teenage youth to fight against a demonic sect elder with hundreds of years of experience and armor bristling with poisoned spikes—could this not be counted as persecution and abuse?”
This time, Shen Qingqiu could not continue to stand by like a quiet wallflower.
Neither spiteful nor mild, he said, “Whether it is or not, I don’t know. But what I do know is, if a master pushed their disciple out of the way of the poisoned spike armor and blocked it with his own body, this probably can’t be counted as persecution. What do you think, Luo Binghe?”
Hearing this name, the faces of many cultivators present flickered in astonishment, especially those from Cang Qiong Mountain sect. Some had originally held some suspicions upon seeing his face, such as Qi Qingqi, and were now shocked by the reveal. As for those group leaders who had only just arrived at Jinlan City and been brought to their knees upon meeting Luo Binghe… they had already weathered the hail and storm and were now, in fact, calm and collected.
In the past, because Shen Qingqiu frequently punished Luo Binghe, Yue Qingyuan had also seen Luo Binghe a few times, but that was during Luo Binghe’s youth. Later, when Shen Qingqiu started putting Luo Binghe to good use, he would often be absent from Qing Jing Peak running various errands, making it even harder to meet him. During the Immortal Alliance Conference, he’d glimpsed Luo Binghe’s face in the crystal mirror, but only for a brief moment and through the mirror’s murky surface no less. Thus, this whole time he had not recognized that this handsome, commanding youth beside Huan Hua Palace’s Palace Master was, in fact, Shen Qingqiu’s “dearest disciple” from back then. Before this, Yue Qingyuan had heard that the Palace Master thought highly of his most senior disciple, so he had mistaken Luo Binghe for Gongyi Xiao this entire time. Now with Shen Qingqiu revealing this, he was also stunned.
Amongst the crowd, Luo Binghe stared at Shen Qingqiu, gaze fixed. Shen Qingqiu tilted his head, spread open his folding fan, and unexpectedly had the impulse to return a smile—though, the small curl of his lips probably would have been seen as a taunt or provocation.
To say he wasn’t angry at all was bullsh*t. Shen Qingqiu admittedly often worried about his own small life, so he was always overthinking everything when it came to Luo Binghe. But when he blocked that attack for Luo Binghe, he was acting on his own instinct. …Although Luo Binghe probably didn’t need any help from others to solve the crisis. No matter how you looked at it, in the three rounds of fighting, the person who had suffered the most damage was him. To go so far as to use even this matter to slander him (drench him in dirty water) incensed Shen Qingqiu.
Luo Binghe said slowly, “Shizun placed his life on the line to protect me; this grace I will never forget.”
Qi Qingqi incredulously said, “It’s really you? Shen Qingqiu, didn’t you say he died?” She looked at Luo Binghe again. “Since you’re alive, why didn’t you return to Qing Jing Peak? Don’t you know, for your sake, your Shizun was distracted…”
Shen Qingqiu burst into a fit of dry coughing, distracting enough that Qi Qingqi had no choice but to stop and glare at him.
Shen Qingqiu wanted to bow to her. He had a premonition that her next words would be “distracted like he lost his soul.” He never wanted to hear those ****ed words again! A sudden rush of goosebumps rose on his skin. If Luo Binghe heard this, he would laugh so hard his perfect male protagonist face would crack!
The old palace master persisted on the subject. “That’s precisely the point that puzzles people the most. He clearly didn’t die, so why insist he’s dead? And why is it that he clearly could return, but isn’t willing to?”
Shen Qingqiu was thoroughly annoyed by his insinuating tone. “If he isn’t willing to return, then I can’t do anything about it. He comes peacefully, he leaves freely, however it pleases him. If the old palace master wants to say something, please say it straight.”
The old palace master laughed. “What I want to say, Peak Lord Shen, you are already well aware. Those here with clear minds will also understand. These sower demons should be incinerated, but if there was someone operating behind the scenes—someone adding fuel to the fire—they should not be spared. No matter what, all of Jinlan City is owed an explanation.”
With just that, he succeeded in igniting the enmity of the Jinlan City survivors at the scene. They had just suffered through a big disaster; with their mood already sullen and terrified, they were itching for a target to take their anger out on. Quite a few people responded with hooting and jeering.
Luo Binghe said, “Shizun abhors evil. When it comes to demons, he can’t help but kill them on sight and rejoice afterward. How could he collude with them?”
These words seemed to absolve Shen Qingqiu of wrongdoing, except, of those present, only he could understand the hidden meaning behind the words “couldn’t help but kill them on sight and rejoice afterward.”
Now that the cat was out of the bag, Shen Qingqiu might as well come out with it and ask: “Luo Binghe, right now are you a disciple of Qing Jing Peak or a member of Huan Hua Palace?”
The old palace master sneered. “After all this, Peak Lord Shen, you’re willing to recognize this disciple of yours again?”
Shen Qingqiu said, “I never evicted him from the sect. If he is still calling me Shizun, I assume he’s willing to be recognized as my disciple.”
His words were said purely to annoy Luo Binghe’s psyche; however, it seemed he didn’t succeed. Luo Binghe’s eyes flickered. Shen Qingqiu didn’t know if it was his imagination, but the expression in Luo Binghe’s eyes appeared to clear.
In a moment, the two opposing factions were clear—standing opposite one another, distinctly separated. It was as if sparks collided, emitting an aura of hostility—swords drawn, bows bent. As for the sower demon who had triggered this conflict, he was forgotten to one side. No one cared to deal with him.
Suddenly, a coquettish female voice asked, “Shen Jiu? …Are you Shen Jiu?”
As soon as he heard this name, Shen Qingqiu’s unperturbed countenance was almost cracked into the Great African rift valley.
To hell with it all!
Is it heaven’s intention to kill me today?!
It’s over. It’s this woman. It’s Qiu Haitang!
In the original work, Qiu Haitang’s appearance signified only one thing: Shen Qingqiu’s complete fall from grace.
Though Qiu Haitang was no longer a young girl in the spring of her life, her face was as fair as a magnolia, painted gorgeously with makeup. Her body was slim, her bosom ample—her appearance was truly extraordinary. And because her appearance was extraordinary, she naturally could not escape the fate of becoming part of Luo Binghe’s harem.
The problem was, she once had a relationship with Shen Qingqiu.
Congratulations! To be involved in ambiguous relationships with two wives of a stallion novel protagonist, the original Shen Qingqiu was truly one of a kind!
At least from all the stallion novels Shen Yuan had read, he couldn’t find a second such character!
But thinking back, this revelation must have been the thing that sparked the second wave of the readers’ comments saying “Cut off Shen Qingqiu’s ‘family jewels’! If you don’t, I’ll quit reading!”
Shen Qingqiu’s heart broke into a barrage of endless “**** **** … ” in response to this perilous situation. Qiu Haitang drew her sword and leveled it horizontally before her chest with an attitude of: if all comes to worst, she’d kill him then herself. “I am asking you a question! Why do you not dare to look at me?”
Big sister, how can I dare look at you? You’re coming after my life!
Qiu Haitang’s expression was full of sorrow. “I was saying it was no wonder—no wonder I searched for so many years and never saw you again. It turns out—turns out you had long reached a higher place in life and became this lofty Qing Jing Peak Lord. Ha ha, how impressive!”
Shen Qingqiu truly didn’t know where to look or what to say. Consequently, he gazed steadily forward and did his best to school his expression into detached apathy.
The crowd was whispering amongst each other. Yue Qingyuan whispered, “Qingqiu, this young lady and you… are truly old acquaintances?”
Shen Qingqiu’s tears watered the fields of his heart. Shixiong… don’t ask…
On that side, Qiu Haitang spoke again in a distressed tone: “Old acquaintances? Not only were we acquaintances, I and this sanctimonious man were childhood sweethearts… I’m his fiancée!”
Hearing this, Luo Binghe’s brows twitched wildly.
You’re obviously Luo Binghe’s wife! Hurry and wake up!
Shang Qinghua exclaimed, “Huh? Is this true? How come I’ve never heard Shen Shixiong mention this before?”
Shen Qingqiu pulled at the corner of his lips and gave him a fake smile: Could you please not add fuel to the fire?
This melodramatic and hated part that painted him as a scum villain… who made it up again? And someone even had the nerve to stand there enjoying the show!
And these bystanders, aren’t they cultivators? How come they all love watching gossip— Everyone leave, leave, get out get out get out!
Qiu Haitang gave a bitter smile. “This person is a beast in human form, a refined-looking scoundrel. Naturally, he doesn’t dare to mention things that would give him a guilty conscience.”
Great Master Wu Chen had interacted with the three people of Cang Qiong sect for a period of time and received Shen Qingqiu’s care, so he had good feelings towards the latter. During Cang Qiong Mountain sect’s dispute with Huan Hua Palace, he didn’t have the opportunity to interject. This time, he opened his mouth and said, “A-mi-to-fo (merciful Buddha), whatever words this lady benefactor has to say, she should say them properly and clearly. Blind denouncements do not inspire trust.”
Shen Qingqiu’s heart streamed with tears. Great Master… I know you’re doing this for my own good, but I’ll actually suffer if she speaks her words clearly. This truly is the saying “not frightened of doing a shameful deed, just afraid the ghost (consequences) will come knocking”!
At this moment, Qiu Haitang became the focus of everyone’s attention. She was so excited that her face flushed. She puffed out her chest and shouted, “If there is half a phrase of a lie in the following words I, Qiu Haitang, will say… then let me be pierced by ten-thousand of the demons’ poisoned arrows and die a horrible death!” She pointed straight at Shen Qingqiu, flames of fury raging in her eyes. “This person right now is Cang Qiong Mountain Peak Lord Shen Qingqiu, the famous and reputed Xiu Ya sword. But no one knows what kind of thing he used to be!”
Her words were rather offensive; Qi Qingqi’s elegant brows furrowed. “Watch your words!”
Qiu Haitang right now was the hall master of some miscellaneous small sect. Reprimanded by one of the leaders of the large and influential Cang Qiong Mountain Sect, she subconsciously retreated a step. But the old palace master said, “Peak Lady Qi, there’s no need to be angry. Why not let this young lady finish speaking? You can’t block a person’s mouth, after all.”
Qiu Haitang looked at him and gritted her teeth. The hatred in her eyes concealed the fear. Her voice rose again: “When he was twelve, he was nothing more than a slave my family bought from a foreign human trafficker. Because he was the ninth (Jiu), he was called little Jiu. My parents, seeing he was mistreated by the slave-dealer, really pitied him. They took him back home, taught him to recognize words and study, gave him the means for food and clothing until he was full and warm without any concerns. My brothers looked after him like a part of the family. When he was fifteen, my parents passed away and my elder brother became chief of the household. He removed the slave title from him and considered him as a foster-brother. As for me, because I grew up with him, I was deceived by him … going as far as to truly think… we complemented each other (we were each other’s sunshine) … and as a result, set up an engagement.”
Shen Qingqiu was standing right there, forced to listen to “his own” black history along with several thousand other people. The countless unspoken words in his heart were completely changed into tearful silence.
Tears surfaced in her eyes. “When my elder brother was nineteen, a wandering cultivator came into town and settled there because of its nurturing spiritual energy. At the town gate, he set up a platform where young girls and boys under the age of eighteen could come and test their spiritual prowess. He wanted to choose an outstanding talent to become his disciple. That cultivator had a body full of immortal techniques—not a single townsperson didn’t exclaim with admiration and praise. Shen Jiu also went to the spirit testing platform. His aptitude was good so he was picked by that cultivator. Overjoyed, he ran home, wanting to leave my household.”
“My older brother naturally didn’t agree. In his eyes, cultivating immortality was an affair full of uncertainty. Besides, he was already engaged with me, how could he suddenly abandon his home and leave? He got into a big argument with my brother. At that time he was morose and cheerless. We thought it was just a temporary mood—we waited for him to understand and naturally accept matters.”
Her expression suddenly changed. “Who would have known, that very night, his true beastly nature would be revealed? He went berserk, killed my brother and many other household servants—the corpses littered the grounds of our home. Under the cover of night, he left the town with that cultivator!
“With this huge change in my family, I was only a weak little girl who was powerless to support the household. Such a big family and all the property—destroyed. I painfully searched for this person (object of my grudge) for so many years, always without finding any trace of him. The cultivator who took him under his wing back then had long died a violent death. From then on, the trail was even more broken… If not for today’s chance coming to Jinlan City, I’m afraid that for my entire lifetime I would not have been able to know that this villain, who bit the hand that fed him and back-stabbed his benefactors… was somehow climbing up in the world this entire time, and even climbed up to the position of a Peak Lord of the biggest sect under heaven! Even though he’s very different from the past… but this face, this face—even if it was turned to ash, I would never mistake it! I’m not afraid to name that cultivator who incited him to commit such a violent crime either. He was registered in the wanted list for many years, the one whose hands took innumerable lives—Wu Yanzi!”
This Wu Yanzi could be said to be notorious, with countless criminal records. Suddenly bursting out that one of the twelve Peak Lords was one of his disciples, the crowd couldn’t help but be terrified. But amongst the wide expanse of gasps, Shen Qingqiu instead calmed down.
His heart was actually faintly doubtful. At first glance, the experience Qiu Haitang relayed was full of eventful ups and downs. But it was not without its holes. It wasn’t that Shen Qingqiu discriminated against the original goods, but the original work had devoted lots of energy to Shen Qingqiu’s unpleasant personality: his repulsiveness and rigidity, narrow-mindedness and pettiness, impoliteness and lack of communication, inability to know how to win favors, aloofness, and vanity. This kind of personality made it hard to believe that the young Shen Qingqiu would be so lovable that a person with no blood relationship would see him as kin.
But when others interpreted these words, they could not catch these details.
Originally, Shen Qingqiu was most afraid of this part of the plot, but he was not extremely fearful. This kind of old event of bygone years didn’t have any definitive evidence. If the accusation relied solely on Qiu Haitang, he could convince Qiu Haitang that she recognized the wrong person as long as he bit fast and refused to confess. So in the end, it would just be a questionable, faint stain on Shen Qingqiu’s character vitae.
There was no choice. Shen Qingqiu truly did feel sorry for Qiu Haitang, but that was the original Shen Qingqiu! He really didn’t want to carry this black pot (carry this blame)! He much preferred to make it up to Qiu Haitang using other means. He didn’t kill Liu Qingge, didn’t molest Ning Yingying. No matter what, this shouldn’t go as far as to make his “sturdy as a thousand foot tall building” reputation collapse in a single night, muddling his way until everyone yelled to beat him up.
But right now it really was different.
The situation was bad because all these questionable, insignificant stains had amassed together. First, the sowers’ control. Then, the Old Palace master following close behind. Now, Qiu Haitang’s accusations could actually become the proof for his improper character. A scum man abusing a woman and then throwing her away, a traitor colluding with the Demons, a disciple of a wanted criminal… it was like adding extra flowers to an already perfectly configured brocade.
They were beautiful coincidences, each agreeing with the other. As a result, people wouldn’t find them to be mere coincidences anymore.
The Old Palace Master said, “Sect Master Yue, when taking care of these affairs, being swayed by personal convictions is unacceptable. Otherwise, if word gets out that this grand magnificent Cang Qiong Mountain sect covered up a person whose record is full of notorious stains… How can this be an outcome that’ll satisfy everyone?”
Yue Qingyuan’s tone was indifferent. “So the Palace Master means…?”
“In my opinion, it would be best to have Shen Qingqiu relocated to Huan Hua Palace for the time being. Wait until we’ve ascertained the truth before we come to a decision—how about it?”
Everyone knew the true meaning of “relocated.”
Beneath one of Huan Hua Palace’s temporary imperial residences lay an underground water prison. With complex terrain, coupled with Huan Hua Palace’s Labyrinth Formation, this “shoving to the bottom of the trunk” kind of method was not on the same level as those protective arrays only used to stop non-cultivators. The interior of the water prison was densely guarded, the equipment of the torture chambers comprehensive, specialized without compare. All those imprisoned inside were the cultivation world’s most heinous and reprehensible cultivators, their hands having been stained with blood or having violated prohibitions.
To put it briefly, Huan Hua Palace’s water prison was the cultivation world’s public prison.
Apart from this, if a place was needed to temporarily keep custody of cultivators suspected of endangering the human world while they were investigated, those cultivators would also be sent to this place. After the four sects held a joint trial, the punishment would then be meted out.
Liu Qingge sneered. “Said enough?”
After he had controlled his temper to listen to this nonsense for so long, his heart had long harbored fire. He turned his hand and grabbed the Cheng Luan sword behind his back, poised for a fight. Opposite him, Huan Hua Palace’s disciples each drew their swords and leveled them in front, glares meeting.
Yue Qingyuan said, “Junior apprentice brother Liu, stand down.”
Though Liu Qingge was not pleased or willing, if he had to listen to one person, he could only accept Yue Qingyuan’s words and so reluctantly let go of the sword handle.
Seeing him withdraw, Yue Qingyue nodded. “This sort of accusation cannot be supported by mere words.”
The long sword at his waist, its hilt as black as ink, suddenly sprung from the scabbard to reveal an inch of blinding white blade.
In an instant, it was as if a giant formless net was cast above the entire grounds. Within the net, spiritual energy undulated like the tide, rolling and rushing without pause.
The cry of the sword seemed to drone in the ear without respite. Quite a few relatively younger disciples inadvertently covered their ears, their hearts wildly pounding nonstop.
Xuan Su sword!
The people of various sects on the grounds were bowled over because of this.
Yue Qingyuan told Liu Qingge to stand down because he was going to enter the conflict himself?! Has the world turned upside down?!
It was said that since Yue Qingyuan took up the position of Cang Qiong Mountain’s highest peak lord, he had only drawn his sword twice. One time was the ceremony of receiving his office, the other time was in the battle with the descendant of the Heavenly Demon’s lineage (Luo Binghe’s father).
Though Xuan Su sword only emerged an inch from the scabbard, everyone suddenly understood.
To be able to sit on Qiong Ding hall’s highest place definitely needed more than just a mild and unflustered temperament!
The Old Palace Master said, “Lay formations!”
Was this the rhythm of war? The demonic clan hadn’t even fought their way here yet when humans began fighting first. Shen Qingqiu saw this situation was wrong. He hurried to grab his sword and threw it out in front. Xiu Ya sword flew straight and stuck into the ground in front of Huan Hua Palace’s Palace Master.
To throw away a sword was the same as surrender, indicating he’d comply with his sentence. The Old Palace Master immediately retrieved the sword. He waved his hands to make his sect’s people return to their places.
Yue Qingyuan said quietly, “Shidi!”
Shen Qingqiu said, “Shixiong, you don’t need to say more, the truth will speak for itself. Qingqiu is willing to be restrained.”
This Old Palace Master was like an old and confused person—biting fast and not letting go. Combining forces with the additional sower and Qiu Haitang, being imprisoned was an inevitability (final nail to the coffin). In any case, the original work also had this happen. He thought he had managed to avoid it, but didn’t anticipate he would still wind up traveling the fixed route of the original plot. There was no need to harm Cang Qiong Mountain and Huan Hua Palace to make two sects fall out (ripping their faces). Shen Qingqiu insisted, “Discussing any more is pointless. I offer myself up freely.”
After saying this, he didn’t look to see Yue Qingyuan’s expression but instead swept Luo Binghe a quick glance.
Neither happiness nor anger could be seen on his face. He stood steadily in his original place, a clear-cut contrast to the surrounding cultivators who had their ears covered while their heads spun.
After a long pause, Yue Qingyuan finally resheathed his sword. It was as if an invisible net was removed from the air.
Shen Qingqiu turned towards Yue Qingyuan and gave a deep bow. With all said and done, he had given this Shixiong a lot of trouble; it really was embarrassing.
Qiu Haitang was still sobbing. When Qin Wangyue walked past her, she consoled her: “Young lady Qiu, whatever the situation turns out to be, the three sects will give you proper retribution.” She said three sects, pointedly leaving out Cang Qiong Mountain to make her position clear. Qiu Haitang’s expression was moved, eyes brimming with tears, and raised her head to thank her. Upon catching sight of Luo Binghe standing to one side, both of her cheeks couldn’t help but flush.
Shen Qingqiu internally rolled his eyes. On that topic, he’d just been NTR’d right in front of his face, so why is it he didn’t feel unhappy at all!
Gongyi Xiao led some Huan Hua Palace disciples to walk up, and the thing he held in his hands was very familiar.
Hello Immortal-Binding Cable; goodbye Immortal-Binding Cable [wave bye-bye].
Gongyi Xiao’s tone was apologetic. “Elder Shen, please excuse me. This junior should treat you with respect. Before the truth comes to light, I will definitely not let Elder suffer the smallest slight.”
Shen Qingqiu nodded, said four words: “Thanks for your trouble.”
What good is it if only you treat me with respect? Looking at the expressions of all the Huan Hua Palace disciples present, he could tell that each one of them wanted to eat him raw. After all, back then during the Immortal Alliance Conference, the worst casualties were suffered by Huan Hua Palace; they had endured a great offense.
Once the Immortal-Binding Cable was looped around him and securely tied, Shen Qingqiu felt his body sink. Before, whenever the Without a Cure poison flared up intermittently, he would only feel a blockage of spiritual energy, like a remote control with a bad connection that barely worked when hitting it. As soon as the Immortal-Binding Cable was on his body, it thoroughly cut off his spiritual energy, directly reducing him to an ordinary, physical body.
The Old Palace Master said, “What does everyone think about setting the date of the public trial to one month hence?”
Liu Qingge said, “Five days.”
The longer one was imprisoned in the water prison, the more one would suffer. Liu Qingge saying “five days” was to compress the course of the public trial preparation to the shortest time. Of course, the old palace master wouldn’t agree. “With this speed, I’m afraid much will be overlooked.”
Mediation was Zhao Hua Temple’s specialty. An abbot suggested, “Why not make it ten days?”
Yue Qingyuan said, “Seven days. No further delay is possible.”
The haggling of a crowd of sect leaders could be mistaken as a vegetable market. Shen Qingqiu had his own considerations and hurriedly said, “No need to say more. Listen to the palace master’s arrangements. One month.”
Any further delay would actually be favorable to the growth of the Dew Grass. Out of the corner of his eye, he looked at Shang Qinghua and wriggled his eyebrows. Shang Qinghua understood tacitly, two hands hanging in front of his body, secretly giving a “no worries, let me handle it” gesture.
The only problem was… could he even survive in the Huan Hua Palace that was completely controlled by Luo Binghe?
- This chapter is by Wenq and Stella. You might have noticed that it’s double the length of the usual chapters. In the future, there will be many longer chapters.
- If you’ve forgotten who is who, check out the character list.
- What do you think will happen to Shen Qingqiu?