# 152. The Monkey and the Secret Keeper The dark-red skinned hand lay silently on his bed, thick grey-blue veins protruding beneath its skin. Xu Qi’an felt as if he had just finished watching *A Wicked Ghost*[^1] in his living room, before returning to his bedroom afraid and wanting to sleep, and opening the door only to find Chu Renmei[^2] standing by his bed, staring at him with sinister, empty eyes. The fear in his heart exploded, and every fibre of his being was telling him: Run, Run, RUN! Just then, he saw the index finger of the severed hand move slightly. *Thud…* as it tapped the bedsheets. The next moment, the air became viscous, and Xu Qi’an felt as if he was an old cow that had fallen into mud; even though he had a powerful build, he could barely make a step. The five fingers on the severed hand twitched. Then, using its fingers as feet, it climbed up off the bed, and crawled towards Xu Qi’an. The horror of this scene, was like that right out of a horror movie. Xu Qi’an couldn’t move a muscle, his eyes rolling, looking with despair at the hand climbing over his feet, climbing up along his trousers, going up and up… *It wants to possess me, just like it possessed Henghui… why? Why did it pick me, I’m just a regular ordinary Bronze Gong…* Xu Qi’an’s thoughts flashed by in fright, as the severed hand climbed over his chest, still going up. And then, the thumb and index finger pried open Xu Qi’an’s small mouth. … Xu Qi’an could not fight back. His eyes became wide, his expression one of dread. His mouth was stretched wide open, as the severed hand violently thrust itself into him, its fingers pulling its way deeper into his throat. The corners of his mouth split, as blood dripped like rain. How could a man’s mouth fit an entire hand? Not to mention a throat, but the severed hand seemed to exactly have that idea. Very quickly, the severed hand entered his throat, as Xu Qi’an’s esophagus slowly bulged up, clearly showing the shape of fingers within. This process was very quick, because the severed hand didn’t consider Xu Qi’an’s tolerance in the slightest, like another creature, as it brusquely and quickly passed through Xu Qi’an’s mouth and throat. The moment it entered his body proper, Xu Qi’an cried out in pain, as his consciousness shattered into countless pieces. After a long, long haze, he finally saw a temple. There was no Buddha statue in the temple, and a young monk sat on the prayer mat within. Xu Qi’an tried his best to look clearly at the young monk’s appearance, but it was as if his face was covered with mist, and no matter how hard Xu Qi’an tried, he could not see clearly. *Why have I come here… am I dead? Am I going to the Land of Paradise in the west? … But that’s impossible, I’m not a Buddhist, all the Buddha would do would be to slam the door on my head, and then kick me out of Paradise…* Xu Qi’an thought mockingly, before hearing the young monk’s warm voice: “This small monk wishes to borrow the benefactor’s body, to nurture his severed arm, if the benefactor does not mind.” *…He’s that demon hand?* Xu Qi’an felt bewildered, as he tested, “What if I do mind?” The young monk sat silently, ignoring him. … Xu Qi’an said sternly, “Who are you? Why were you sealed under Sangpo Lake?” “This small monk’s name is Shenshu[^3], but why was I under Sangpo? Where did I come from?” At the start he was calm, but slowly, along with each question, he began to lose control of his feelings. The peaceful tranquility disappeared, as the entire space around them shook, as an indescribable, terrifying aura emanated from his body. That aura was like the aura of Hell, making Xu Qi’an’s hair stand on end, and his heart thump violently. *This familiar aura…* At this moment, Xu Qi’an could confirm that the young monk was indeed the severed hand. “This small monk lost control…” The young monk calmed himself, as that aura that made men tremble was restrained. With a kindly voice, he said: “My soul is broken, thus I cannot remember much of the past. I only know my dharma name, yet I do not know from whence I came, nor what happened before.” As he spoke, a helpless despair could be heard on his voice, as if he wanted dearly to know, yet was powerless to do so. *A broken soul? Because you’re only one severed arm? Mm, if the body is not whole, then the soul is not whole. This makes sense… Monk, you’re in a bad spot…* Xu Qi’an tested out again, “Master, I may know something, but I do not know if it is of use to you.” The young monk’s aura suddenly trembled, as from behind the mist, his eyes stared blazingly at Xu Qi’an. “The formation that sealed you in, was built with the help of the Royal Family of Feng, the Sitianjian, as well as the western Buddhist House. You should thus be of the Buddhist sect, and may come from the Western Realms.” As he spoke, he naturally began thinking: *The severed hand’s master is a monk, and the three powers that sealed him were the Great Feng’s Royal Family, the Buddhists of the Western Realms, and the Sitianjian… from the reactions of the Qinglong Temple monks, the Buddhists clearly are more worried about the sealed item… wait!* Xu Qi’an’s eyes suddenly lit up, as he thought through a few details of the Sangpo Case: The third day the Temple Eternally Suppressing Mountains and Rivers was destroyed, Wei Yuan told him, that Emperor Yuanjing dropped the curfew. On the second day, the old man Jianzheng pretended to be ill, and watched from the sidelines. After getting confirmation from him that the severed hand had reappeared, Abbot Panshu of Qinglong temple immediately set out west. From these details, he could deduce that the Buddhists were the main orchestrators of the seal under Sangpo. The young monk that was sealed there, almost definitely came from the Western Buddhist Sect. *No wonder, no wonder Emperor Yuanjing opened the curfew. No wonder the Jianzheng pretended to be ill… they were clearly taking a “not my problem” attitude.* Xu Qi’an in hindsight understood the Jianzheng and Emperor Yuanjing’s attitudes. Immediately, he remembered another detail: Wei Yuan had emphasised, that he ignore the sealed item, and only worry about finding moles in court. Wei Yuan most likely also knew about the severed hand’s identity, at least he knew that it came from the Buddhist House. *No wonder the high levels of the Capital did not care much for it, and put all their effort into rooting out spies… every one of them are LYBs!* *Thank goodness I’m quick-witted, investigating through a lieutenant’s homicide case to Baihu Zhou using a qi-concealing magic item, to Qinglong Temple, peeling this layer by layer.* At this time, the young monk sighed, “This poor monk wants to ask the benefactor for a favour.” “Master, I am just a Refining Qi martial artist.” Xu Qi’an wanted to decline tactfully. Wei Yuan had said, that the rank of the sealed item would at least be Second Rank, if not First Rank. A small ant like him had no hope of inserting himself into a conflict of this level. Furthermore, Xu Qi’an had not forgotten the reason why Jinlian Daozhang built the Heaven and Earth Society: to cancel the Earth Sect’s second rank Sect Leader. *Only barely easier than me becoming Emperor… and if because of you I get caught up in the gratitudes and grudges of the Buddhists, then I’d be better off usurping the throne…* Xu Qi’an thought. The young monk ignored him, continuing to speak, “Help this poor monk, find back his memories… “In this, this poor monk will help the benefactor.” *Help me?* Xu Qi’an thought back to the sight of the four Gold Gongs covered in bandages, as he became tempted. If he had the sealed item along with him, it would be like having an extra ace up his sleeve. In this world, where Imperial and Divine authority is absolute, he would better be able to protect himself. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about his house being raided, his family killed, as anyone that dared touch a hair on his family members, he would smash their brains out. Furthermore, when Zhou Chixiong is caught, he would almost certainly get promoted or a raise, thus his own influence would increase. However, before he answered the monk, there were two things he needed clarifying. “Master, do you need to constantly consume qi and blood?” Xu Qi’an tried his best to use neutral wording. “As long as I am in your body, I will not need any outside blood to supplement. Of course, if you want to use my power, then I will need blood to nurture me, ideally from cultivators.” *Thus to say, normally if you’re in my body everything’s fine, but if you need to work, then I need to feed you…* Xu Qi’an nodded, this equal exchange agreed with his principles. “Why, did you pick me?” Xu Qi’an asked. “Someone brought me here,” the young monk said, “Because we are the same kind of person.” Xu Qi’an hastily asked, “What same kind of person? Master, please enlighten this junior.” The young monk said, “My instinct feels this way, I can’t remember much more.” *You can’t remember…* Xu Qi’an’s mouth twitched, “Who brought you here?” The young monk conjured up an image. In the image, a figure in a black cloak and hood solemnly opened a brocade pouch, and placed the severed hand inside. From their figure, from the round, full breasts, the plump buttocks, they were female. On the brocade pouch was embroidered an animal, with a figure like a fox, full of liveliness, white tails fanning out like a peacock behind it. *A fox, tails fanning out… the Nine-Tailed Fox? Mm, from the confession of that fox in the Jiaofangsi, the Wanyao Kingdom remnants were conspirators in the Sangpo case… and the Wanyao Kingdom’s late Queen was a nine-tailed fox… hss, the Wanyao Kingdom’s people pushed the severed hand to me.* *Why?* *They’ve noticed me…* Xu Qi’an started to deeply worry. … Xu Qi’an opened his eyes, and found himself lying on the ice cold floor, the dim moonlight shining through the window lighting the room in a dim glow. He came to the bed, and lit the lamp. Bringing it to in front of the bronze mirror, he saw his own manly face in it, traces of blood left in the corners of his mouth. He gently wiped it off, and found no traces of injury. The injuries that that unreasonable monkey Shenshu left had all vanished. The water clock showed that the time was 9:15 PM. Xu Qi’an sat by the mirror, letting his thoughts wander, weighing up what he should do next. The most pressing issue is how would he deal with the severed hand, would he report this to Wei Yuan? *Wei Yuan prizes me greatly, but after all I’m not his son, there’s a limit to how much he would go. And this matter relates to the sealed item under Sangpo lake…* *If he can help me take out the severed hand, then that wouldn’t be a problem, but if not, then would he protect me, or would he seal me back up with it in tow?* *And I’m just a Refining Qi Bronze Gong, I can’t not eat and drink for five hundred years and not die.* *The Jianzheng must be able to help me take it out right? He’s a first-rank arcanist after all, but the problem is, I’m not that close with him… Xu Qi’an oh Xu Qi’an, how you’ve fallen, you’ve gotten so engrossed in Fuxiang’s warm tits that you can’t pull yourself out. Have you forgotten that Chu Caiwei is waiting for your directions? The earlier you can become the Sitianjian’s son in law, the earlier you’ll become one of them.* *The old man Jianzheng knows about my strange fortune, so I can’t reveal all my secrets to him, because he’s definitely scheming something in the dark…* Moreover, there was still one more far-away issue: The Wanyao Kingdom spent so much effort in releasing the sealed item, it would hardly be to give him a dowry? They must have some kind of goal, in pushing the severed hand his way, this, even his little toe could deduce. As for this goal, would it be good or bad for him? *The Monk Shenshu said, I can nurture his hand and that part of his soul… is this why the Wanyao kingdom brought him here?* *Then one day in the future, would he not come back to take his hand? At that time, god knows if I will live or die.* Just then, he heard Shenshu’s kindly voice inside his head: “Keep the secret!” … Xu Qi’an’s face stiffened. --- [^1]: Movie, released 1999 [^2]: 楚人美 is a female corpse from the movie [^3]: 神殊