Chapter 26: Meeting Again After a Long Separation
That old monk was silent for a long time before finally letting out a long sigh. "You are correct. Yan Shisan. Of course it must be Yan Shisan."
Zhu Yeqing said, "In all the world, aside from the Lady herself, only he knows the flaw hidden within Xie Xiaofeng's sword technique."
The old monk said, "But ever since he threw away his sword into the Green Water Lake while on the boat, no one in the martial world has seen any traces of him. Why would he possibly kill Xie Xiaofeng on someone else's behalf?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "He would not."
The old monk said, "Xie Xiaofeng will go find him?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "He would not as well."
Smiling, he continued, "But I can guarantee that they will run into each other by accident."
The old monk said, "A genuine accident?"
Zhu Yeqing brushed his clothes off as he rose. Dully, he said, "Passionate or heartless? Intentional or accidental? Who has ever been able to clearly differentiate between the two?"
The pavilion was dark, secluded, and silent. But Xie Xiaofeng was walking very quickly. He didn't need a single lamp to find this place.
In this very same courtyard, in quiet nights exactly like this one, he had come more times than even he himself to count. In the middle of the night, he would throw on his clothes and arrive here to quietly experience the loneliness of the night wind.
Tonight, the stars were not the same as the stars of last night. And today's Xie Xiaofeng was already no longer that good-for-nothing Ah Ji of the past.
This is how the world it. There are endless changes and complications. And who can predict what he experiences he will have tomorrow?
Right now, the only thing he cared about was the person by his side.
The Kid slowly walked by his side. After entering the dark courtyard, he suddenly stopped. "You can go!" Xie Xiaofeng said, "You aren't coming?" The Kid shook his head. In the darkness, his face appeared as pale as a sheet of paper. After a long time, he slowly said, "Since the very beginning, we have walked on separate roads. You walk on yours. I'll walk on mine."
Staring at his pallid face, Xie Xiaofeng once more felt a surge of piercing pain in his heart. Another long period of time passed before he softly asked, "Can't you take a different road!"
The Kid balled his fists tightly. He loudly said, "I cannot!"
He suddenly turned around and stormed out, but as soon he jumped up, he collapsed in mid-air. Cold sweat poured down from his pale face like rain. He again wanted to try and jump away, but he was no longer even able to stand steadily.
At first, he thought that he would be able to withstand that thrust of Liu Kuzhu's sword. But now, he was discovering that the pain from his wound was becoming harder and harder to bear.
He fainted away.
By the time he awoke, a single light had been lit, the size of a small pea. Xie Xiaofeng was beneath the light, staring at a broken sword tip roughly a half-inch long.
The tip of Liu Kuzhu's sword.
When Liu Kuzhu pulled his sword out, he had actually left this sword tip embedded in the joints of the Kid's scapula.
Who was capable of enduring pain such as this?
And if it weren't for the fact that Xie Xiaofeng had a pair of exceptionally stable hands, how could he have possibly pulled it out?
But even up until now, his clothes still had not dried. His palms were still sweaty.
Only now did his hands start to tremble.
The Kid watched him. Suddenly, he said, "This sword should have pierced your body, not mine."
Xie Xiaofeng forced out a smile. "I know."
The Kid said, "Therefore, even though you treated my wound, there's no need for me to thank you."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "You don't to-" The Kid interrupted, "Therefore, when I intend to leave, you shouldn't detain me."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "When are you leaving!"
The Kid said, "Right now."
But he didn't leave. He still wasn't strong enough to stand.
Xie Xiaofeng slowly rose to his feet and walked to the head of the bed. Staring at him, he suddenly asked, "You saw me before, in the past!"
The Kid said, "Although I've never met you, I've seen a painting someone made of you."
Xie Xiaofeng didn't ask who drew the painting. He knew who that person was.
He only asked, "Did you tell anybody that you had already recognized me!"
The Kid said, "I only told one person!"
Xie Xiaofeng asked, "Who!"
The Kid said, "Heaven's Sovereign."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "So he came up with this plan to kill me."
The Kid said, "He knew that killing you would be no easy task."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Dan Yifei, Liu Kuzhu, the Immortal Hand of Riches and Glory, and that old monk all belong to Heaven's Sovereign!"
The Kid said, "Second Master Chou as well."
Xie Xiaofeng was silent for a long time. Only then did he gently ask, "Heaven's Sovereign is your mother." He clearly had wanted to ask this question long ago, but didn't dare to.
But the Kid's response was very quick. "Correct. My mother is Heaven's Sovereign. There's no longer any need for me to hide it from you."
Xie Xiaofeng sadly said, "You should never have hid it from me from the beginning. There should never have been any secrets between us."
Staring at him, the Kid said, "Why!"
A look of pain appeared in Xie Xiaofeng's eyes. He mumbled, "Why! You really don't know why?"
The Kid shook his head.
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Then let me ask you. Since your mother wishes to kill me, why did you save me?"
The Kid was still shaking his head unceasingly. On his own face as well, appeared a look of both suffering and bafflement. Suddenly, he jumped to his feet. Throwing the blanket over Xie Xiaofeng's head, he kicked the room door open and stormed out.
If Xie Xiaofeng wanted to pursue him, even if he had used a thousand or ten thousand blankets, it still would not have been enough to prevent his pursuit.
But he didn't pursue, because when he pulled the blanket away, he saw Murong Qiudi.
Under the desolate light of the stars, blanketed within the desolate darkness of the night, and standing within the desolate courtyard, there was a single, withered white poplar tree. She stood beneath the tree, a quiet, silent figure. Her clothes were simple and distinct, but her eyes appeared to be hazy. Nobody knew from whence she came, and nobody knew when she came. When she wanted to come, she would come. If she wanted to go, nobody could detain her. There were those who said she was a goddess from heaven, while others said that she was a ghost from hell. No matter what others said about her, she cared not.
It had been fifteen years.
A rather long fifteen years. Over these four thousand or so days, there were those which passed quickly and those which passed slowly, those which were cold and those which were hot, those which were sweet and those which were bitter. Over those four thousand days, how many people were born? How many died? How many changes had there been in the world? But she didn't change. Fifteen years ago, the first time he saw her, she was exactly the same type of person she was now.
But how much had he changed?
The withered tree in the courtyard swayed, as the light in the room flickered.
She didn't walk in, nor did he walk out. They just quietly stared at each other.
Their relationship had always been like this. Both close and distant, simply unfathomable.
Nobody could understand the love he felt towards her, and nobody could guess what he was thinking.
But no matter what he was thinking, he didn't show the slightest hint of it on his face.
He had already learned how to hide his emotions in front of women, especially this woman.
There was wind. A gentle wind.
She raised her hand and gently stroked her wind-blown hair. She suddenly laughed. She very rarely laughed.
Her laughter was like her as a person; beautiful, refined, and ephemeral. Just like the gentle breeze in the spring night, nobody could grasp it.
Her voice seemed to be as soft and gentle as the spring wind as well. "How many years has it been? 15 years? Or has it been 16 years?"
He didn't respond, because he knew that without question, she remembered more clearly than him. Perhaps she even remembered everything which had ever happened on every day.
Her laugh became even softer, even gentler. "It looks like you still haven't changed. You still don't like to talk."
He coldly stared at her. After a long time, he coldly asked, "What more do we have to say to each other!"
Her laughter disappeared as she lowered her head. "Nothing...nothing..."
Did they really have nothing to say to each other? Nothing at all?
She suddenly raised her head. Staring at him, she said, "If we really had nothing more to say to each other, why would I come looking for you!"
He should have been the one to say these words to her, but she said these words first. And then she answered her own question. "The only reason I came was to take this child away. Since in the past you did not want him, why must you provoke him now and make him suffer?"
His pupils shrank, as though needles had suddenly pierced his heart.
Her pupils were shrinking as well. "The other reason I came was to tell you that I will definitely see you dead."
Her voice was as cold as ice, as though she had suddenly transformed into a totally different person. "And this time, I will have you die in my hands."
Xie Xiaofeng coldly said, "Why does Heaven's Sovereign need to personally get her hands dirty when she wants someone dead!"
Murong Qiudi said, "When it comes to killing others, I never get personally involved. But you are the exception."
Another gust of wind blew past. Her hair became even messier, even more wind-blown.
Before the wind had disappeared, she threw herself towards him. She threw herself towards him as though she had gone insane, as though she had turned into a totally different person.
She was no longer that ephemeral, beautiful, and refined young lady who appeared like the spring breeze.
Nor was she that cold, intelligent Lady Murong, who looked upon the martial arts world with disdain.
Right now, she was nothing more than an ordinary woman, entangled in the silk web of love, entrapped by love and hate, without any ability to control herself.
She didn't wait for Xie Xiaofeng to strike, nor did she wait for him to reveal that tiny, lethal flaw in his technique. She didn't even use the slightest bit of martial arts. Because she had once loved this man, and she now hated this man. She loved him to death, and hated him to death. And so she just wanted to stake everything, including her own life, to attack him. Even if she couldn't win, she would still attack.
Against a woman like her, how could he unleash his world-famous, merciless sword techniques?
He had experienced over a hundred battles and dealt with all sorts of martial arts experts and undergone countless dire emergencies. But now, he had no idea as to what he should do.
The candle on the table was overturned.
Murong Qiudi had already rushed towards him like a torrential wave, appearing as though she wanted to use her teeth to bite of his ears, then bite off his nose, followed by every bit of flesh on his body. She also appeared as though she wanted to use her nails to claw at his hair, claw at his face.
He could knock her out with a single fist, because this attack had revealed flaws everywhere.
But he couldn't strike, nor could he bear to.
He was, after all, a man. She was, after all, once his woman. He could only retreat, but there was not much place to move within the room to begin with, and he no longer had any place to retreat to.
Right at this moment, a flash of sword light appeared in her hands as it pierced towards him like a venomous serpent!
This sword strike was no longer the strike of a furious woman. It was a life-taking strike!
The very quintessence of a lethal blow!
Not only was this strike fast, vicious, and accurate, it was also shot out at the moment when the opponent was least expecting it, and was aimed at a point which the opponent had not anticipated.
This stroke was not only the purest, highest display of martial arts, it also fully encompassed and displayed the genius contained within the 'Art of War'.
This originally was a 100% effective fatal blow. But this blow...this blow did not land on the target.
Aside from Xie Xiaofeng, there was definitely nobody in the world who could dodge this blow, because nobody in the world understood Murong Qiudi better than him.
The reason he was able to dodge this blow was not because he had calculated its timing and positioning. It was because he had calculated how Murong Qiudi would act.
Perhaps he knew her even better than she knew herself.
He knew that she was not an angry shrew. He also knew that there would never be a situation in which she would lose total control of herself.
As the tip of the sword pierced past his side, he seized her by the wrist. His strikes were definitely accurate as well.
The shortsword fell down and she went soft. Her entire body went soft as she fell into his arms. Her body was graceful, warm, soft, and supple. But his hands were as cold as ice.
The long night had almost come to an end. The first faint rays of dawn happened to come through the window at just this moment, illuminating her face.
Tears glistened on her face. Her blurry, hazy eyes were staring at him, bewildered and infatuated.
He saw nothing.
She suddenly asked, "Do you still remember? The first time we met, I also wanted to kill you. You also dodged my sword and held me in your arms like right now!"
He heard nothing as well. But he could never forget that day. It was a spring day.
The green mountain grass looked as comfortable as a bed. Standing beneath the shade of a large tree was a pure, ephemeral girl.
He saw her smile towards him, her smile as beautiful as the spring wind blowing past.
He also smiled towards her.
Seeing her smile become even sweeter, he walked over and gathered a camellia to present her with. But she had given him a sword blow in return.
When the tip of the sword passed by his throat, he seized her by the hand. Shocked, she stared at him and asked, "You are the Third Young Master of the Xie family?"
"How did you know?" He countered. "Because aside from the Third Young Master of the Xie family, nobody in the world can take my sword from me in a single move."
He didn't ask if many men had been wounded by her sword, nor did he ask why she attacked others.
Because that was a perfect spring day, with the flowers perfectly blooming, and her body was so soft, so soft...
Fifteen years of hardship and suffering had quietly slipped away from him.
Did he still now have the same feelings in his heart as he had then?
She was still murmuring in a low voice, "No matter what you believe, I've never been able to forget that day, because on that day, I gave everything, including myself, to you. In a bewildered haze, I gave everything to you, but after you left, I heard nothing more from you."
He still seemed to hear nothing.
She continued, "By our second meeting, I was already engaged. You came to give us gifts."
"Although at the time, I hated you and blamed you, as soon as I saw you, my mind went blank."
"And so the second night of my engagement ceremony, I left with you in yet another hazy, bewildered state. I didn't expect you to discard me once again, and that I would once again hear nothing from you."
"Although right now, I hate you even more, I...I...I still hope that you will lie to me one more time, like in the past, and take me away with you. This time, even if you kill me, I won't blame you."
The soft beauty of her voice, combined with her grief and resentment, formed a melody all its own. Could he still not listen to her? Could he still hear nothing?
He really did deceive her twice, but she still treated him like this. Had he once truly been so fickle, so heartless? "I know you think that I've changed!"
Tears had covered her face. "But no matter how much I've changed in front of others, towards you, I will never change."
Xie Xiaofeng suddenly pushed her away. Without even looking back, he walked away. But she still didn't give up, still followed him.
The light of the sun shone across the earth. The grass of the faraway hills once more looked as soft and as inviting as a bed.
He suddenly turned his head and coldly looked at her. "Are you insisting that I kill you!"
The tears on her face had not yet dried, but she managed to force out a smile. "As long as it makes you happy, you can go ahead and kill me."
He again turned to walk away, but still she followed him. "But your wound is still bleeding. At the very least, you should let me treat it first."
He ignored her.
She continued, "Although I ordered people to injure you, that's a totally separate matter. All you have to do is nod, and I can go kill those people for you at any time."
His footsteps became slow again. He could no longer refrain from turning. Emotions appeared within his cold, grim eyes.
Was it love? Or was it hate? Whatever it was, it was an emotion which had etched itself within his very bones, a passion which he would never be able to forget.
The levees had collapsed. The iceberg had melted.
Although he knew very well that once the levees burst, disaster would follow, when a levee was about to burst, who could stop it? She once again fell into his bosom. It was spring once again, and there was another sea of grass, as soft and as inviting as a bed.
On the mountainside, Xie Xiaofeng slowly sat up and watched the person by his side. He was asking himself, "Was I the one who did wrong by her? Or was she the one who did wrong by me?" Nobody could answer this question. Not even he himself could.
All he knew was that regardless of whether she was a good or bad person, regardless of who had done wrong by whom, only when he together with this person could he forget those past miseries and sufferings, could his heart be at peace.
He, too, didn't know what sort of feeling this was. All he knew was that if this sort of emotion appeared between two people, regardless of whether they suffered or were lied to, they would still be willing to accept it happily.
Even death would be no big deal.
She once again raised his head and stared at him, lost. "You know?"
"You want me to disband 'Heaven's Sovereign', take that child back and live together peacefully for a few years."
"I know what you are thinking!"
She really had spoken his exact thoughts.
Even if he was a born wanderer, even if his blood vessels were filled with a wanderer's blood, even he would feel weary at times.
This was especially true, each time he woke up from a drunken stupor, in the middle of a silent night. Who would not want to have an understanding companion by their side, to whom one could pour out their miseries and loneliness?
She gently gripped his hand and suddenly asked again, "Do you know what I am thinking?"
He didn't know. The hearts of women have always been difficult to fathom, especially women such as her.
She suddenly laughed, a very strange laugh. "I'm thinking that you are such a blockhead."
"A blockhead." He didn't understand.
"Do you know how much bitter, painstaking effort it took for me to found Heaven's Sovereign? How could I casually disband it just like that? Since you no longer want that child, why would I bring him to you?"
Xie Xiaofeng's heart sank. His entire body had become as cold as ice, from his toes to his heart.
Looking at the expression on his face, Murong Qiudi's laughter became all the wilder. "At the very least, you should consider this. Right now, what is my status? My position in life? Can it be that I would go back to cook and clean for you?"
I just finished catching up to the latest chapter. Thanks Kara and RWX for doing the translation!
Chapter 27: Short Meetings, Long Partings
She continued to laugh. "You actually expect me to disband Heaven's Sovereign. If you aren't a blockhead, who is?"
Was Xie Xiaofeng really a blockhead?
He began learning the sword at age five, and at age six, fully understood everything in their sword manual. At the age of seven, he could recite Tang dynasty poems clearly and easily. Most children at such an age had barely been potty trained! But in front of Murong Qiudi, he really seemed to have turned into a 100% blockhead.
In front of a certain someone, everyone in the world would turn into a blockhead, as though they owed the other a debt from the previous life.
He slowly stood up and looked at her. "Are you done speaking?"
Murong Qiudi said, "So what if I am done speaking? Are you going to kill me?"
Her laughter suddenly turned into bitter crying. Crying loudly, she said, "Fine, go ahead and kill me! If you are going to treat me like this, I don't want to go on living anyhow!"
Her sobbing sounded extremely heartbroken, and her voice grew louder and louder. But there wasn't the slightest bit of sadness on her face. She suddenly lowered her voice and whispered, "Too many women fall for you. I know that you will slowly forget about me, which is why every few years, I need to teach you a lesson to make sure that you'll never forget about me."
After saying these words, her sobbing became even louder. She suddenly slapped herself heavily on the face twice, so heavily that her face turned purple, then shouted loudly, "Why don't you just go ahead and kill me? Why are you beating me up like this and torturing me?"
Bitterly crying, she covered her face and rolled down the hill, as though he really were chasing after her and beating her.
Xie Xiaofeng didn't even move his fingernails, but some people suddenly appeared at the bottom of the hill.
The first person was a richly dressed noble lady with many jade ornaments in her hair. She took the sobbing girl into her embrace.
Three people followed from behind. One was an old man with billowing white hair but a perfectly straight spine who was carrying a yellow burlap sack.
Although the second person was middle-aged, he appeared to already be old and doddering. His face was heavily weather-beaten, as though he had just travelled a long distance.
Behind them was a young girl with a very fragile figure. As she walked, tears dripped from her eyes.
Xie Xiaofeng seemed to almost be unable to refrain from calling out.
"The Girl." The young lass who brought up the rear of the procession was actually the Girl he had been worrying about all this time. The only reason he didn't shout out was because he also recognized the other three. He had known them for a long time.
That white-haired yet vigorous looking old man was his uncle, Hua Shaokun.
Twenty years ago, the 'Roving Dragon Swordsman', Hua Shaokun, struggled against the eight eldest disciples of Mt. Wudang and defeated them all at one go. Afterwards, he married the younger sister of Xie Wangsun, who was the master of the Manor of the Divine Sword. Her name was Xie Fenghuang, the 'Flying Phoenix Swordswoman'. The twin swords of the Dragon and the Phoenix were a perfect pair, and everybody in the martial world considered their marriage to be the most ideal of all marriages.
That was the point in time in which Hua Shaokun felt the most self-satisfied and contented. He didn't expect that right at that point in time, he would have been defeated by the sword of a boy of around 10 years of age, so young that the stink of mother's milk hadn't yet died away from him. The boy who defeated him was named Xie Xiaofeng.
The noble lady who had taken Murong Qiudi into her arms and was wiping her tears away was none other than his aunt, Xie Fenghuang.
The doddering middle-aged fatty also had the surname of Xie and was a distant relative of his, who had watched him grow up.
Ever since he was young, he would secretly sneak out to the small tavern by the grassy lakeside and ask for wine. This middle-aged fatty was the shopkeeper of the tavern.
Why did they come here? Why would they be together with the Girl? Xie Xiaofeng couldn't guess why, nor did he wish to try to. He just wanted to move away quickly so as to not be seen by these people.
Unfortunately, they had already seen him. Hua Shaokun was staring at him, a sneer on his lips. The Girl was staring at him as her tears flowed.
Gasping for breath, Shopkeeper Xie had already climbed up the hillside. Bending down at the waist, he smiled and called out in greeting, "Third Young Master, long time no see! Have you been well?"
Xie Xiaofeng was not well at all. His mood was bad, and so was the look on his face. But in front of this old man who had been secretly giving him wine since he was eight or nine, he couldn't help but smile and ask, "Why is it that you came to this place?"
Shopkeeper Xie didn't know how to tell a lie, and so he could only tell the truth. "Miss Murong invited all of us to come."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Why did she invite you all here!"
Shopkeeper Xie hesitated, not knowing if he should tell the truth once again.
Xie Fenghuang coldly sneered, "To look at the wonderful things you have been doing."
Xie Xiaofeng shut his mouth.
He knew that not only was this aunt of his bad-tempered, she also had a bad opinion of him. There was no woman in the world who would look favorably upon a man who defeated her husband, regardless of whether or not that man was her nephew.
Unfortunately, his aunt was still his aunt. Regardless of how poor her impression of him was, she remains his aunt.
Although he had shut his mouth, Xie Fenghuang was not willing to let him off. "I didn't expect that our Xie family would produce a prodigy such as yourself. Not only can you abuse and bully women, you can even abandon your own son."
She pointed at the finger marks on Murong Qiudi's face. "You've already deceived her twice, but she still treats you with whole-hearted sincerity. Why did you beat her like this?"
Shedding tears, Murong Qiudi said, "He...he didn't..." Xie Fenghuang angrily interrupted, "Shut your mouth! We overheard quite clearly all the words the two of you said in that tavern earlier. Since he himself doesn't dare to refute a single word of it, why are you still trying to cover up for him?"
She continued, "Shopkeeper Xie, did you hear those words clearly as well?"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "Yes."
Xie Fenghuang said, "If it were some other woman, we wouldn't intervene, and couldn't be bothered to intervene. But Gusu's Murong family has a very unique relationship with our own Xie family. Even if you don't want to recognize this child, our Xie family cannot refuse to recognize him, much less this daughter-in-law."
Xie Xiaofeng didn't open his mouth, but his lips were trembling. He finally understood Murong Qiudi's plan.
She intentionally invited these people here and arranged for them to be stationed near the innhouse, intentionally said all of those words for them to hear, so as to put him in a situation where there would be no possible way for him to explain things.
Right now, she was the leader of both Heaven's Sovereign as well as Jiangnan's Murong family, but she still was not satisfied. She had designs on the Manor of the Divine Sword as well.
If the Xie family accepted her and her son into its fold, it would be very easy for her to slowly work her way towards becoming the hegemon of the Xie family.
Xie Fenghuang asked, "What other words have you to say for yourself!"
Xie Xiaofeng didn't speak. Even though he already understood the situation, he didn't say a single word.
Xie Fenghuang said, "What is the first rule of the Xie family!"
Before Xie Xiaofeng's expression changed, Shopkeeper Xie's expression changed first.
He, too, knew that the first rule of the Xie family was to guard against licentiousness. A person who seduced someone else's wife would have both his legs chopped off.
Xie Fenghuang sneered, "Since you have breached this commandment, even if my elder brother still wishes to protect you, I wouldn't forgive you!"
With a wave of her hand, a young child immediately rushed towards her from the bottom of the hill, carrying a sword.
As soon as the sword left the scabbard, cold air began to attack everyone's skin.
Xie Fenghuang said in a fierce voice, "Right now, I am going to purify the Xie family and cleanse it! Why haven't you knelt down and accepted your punishment yet!"
Xie Xiaofeng didn't kneel.
Xie Fenghuang sneered, "Both human testimony and material evidence are here. Are you still unwilling to admit to your mistakes? Can it be that you dare to flout our family's rules?"
She knew that nobody would dare to not submit to their own family's rules.
Anybody who disregarded his own family's rules would be spurned and held in contempt by all the heroes of the world. Right now, she didn't wield just a sword; she also wielded a string, formed from hundreds and thousands of years of the martial world's traditions, which she had tightly wound around Xie Xiaofeng.
Who would have expected that Xie Xiaofeng simply would not submit.
Xie Fenghuang's expression changed. She was a very lucky woman. Not only did she come from a very good family, she also had a very good husband. There weren't many people who would dare look her straight in the face. Thus, she had always been arrogant and conceited, always putting on the airs of a rich young lady and had never held others in any respect. She did anything she wanted to.
The sword trembled and was about to strike.
But she didn't expect that Shopkeeper Xie, who panted whenever he took more than a few steps, suddenly became very swift. In the blink of an eye, he moved to block her as he smiled. "Madame Hua, please calm yourself!"
Xie Fenghuang said, "What do you want?"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "I believe that the Third Young Master must be in a difficult predicament which he feels is improper to reveal in front of outsiders. Madame Hua, even if you wish to punish him in accordance with family law, there's no reason we shouldn't first return with him to see the old master first."
Xie Fenghuang sneered, "You keep on addressing me as Madame Hua. Are you reminding me that I am no longer a member of the Xie family?"
Shopkeeper Xie naturally had that exact meaning in mind, but of course he wouldn't admit it openly. He immediately shook his head. "I wouldn't dare."
Xie Fenghuang said, "Even if I am no longer a member of the Xie family, this sword is still the Xie family's sword."
Brandishing the longsword, she said in a fierce voice, "This sword represents family law!"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "Madame Hua, your words are reasonable. Only, there's one thing I don't understand."
Xie Fenghuang said, "What?"
Shopkeeper Xie's face was still filled with smiles. "I don't understand why the family laws of the Xie family would have fallen into the hands of the Hua family."
Xie Fenghuang's expression changed. She angrily said, "What audacity! How dare you be so disrespectful to me?"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "I would not dare."
As soon as he finished speaking those four words, his left hand struck out and clawed at Xie Fenghuang's eyes. With a bump and a pull from his right hand, the sword in Xie Fenghuang's hand suddenly appeared in his own.
He had already retreated thirty feet back as well.
This technique was simple, clean, fast, accurate, but filled with countless marvelous transformations, making it indescribable.
When Xie Xiaofeng took Liu Kuzhu's sword from him, he used precisely this technique.
Xie Fenghuang's entire body turned rigid. So livid that her face was turning green, she said in a fierce voice, "Where did you learn that technique from!"
Smiling, Shopkeeper Xie said, "Madame Hua, I'm glad to hear that you recognize this technique as well."
He slowly continued, "This is the old master's unique skill, which he alone transmits to others. He had admonished me many times never to use this technique lightly. But if I were to see the Xie family's sword fall into the hands of a person from another family, I must use this technique to take it back."
He chuckled again. "Naturally, I dare not disobey the old master's words." Xie Fenghuang was so furious that she was unable to speak, but all of the jade ornaments in her hair were shaking loudly.
The reason her sword was stolen from her in the blink of an eye just now was because she didn't understand the marvelous intricacies of this technique.
Hua Shaokun suddenly said, "Sir, what relationship do you have with the Xie family?"
Although he looked very tall, bold, and strong, he had a very soft, refined voice. He didn't use to be this way. Ever since he had been defeated by the Third Young Master's sword, he had been focusing on conserving and cultivating all of his strength. His skill in self-restraint had already reached a very high level, which is why he was able to remain calm earlier.
Shopkeeper Xie said, "If we map out the relationship, I am nothing more than one of the old master's distantly related nephews."
Hua Shaokun said, "Do you know what this sword is?"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "This is the ancestral sword of the Xie family, one of four which have been handed down over time."
With a flash of sword light, the sword air could be felt pressing against everyone's eyebrows.
Hua Shaokun let out a long sigh. "Superb sword!"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "It really is a superb sword!"
Hua Shaokun said, "Sir, are you worthy of wielding this sword?"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "Not worthy."
Hua Shaokun said, "Then sir, why haven't you yet returned this sword to the Third Young Master?"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "I was just thinking the same thing."
He was telling the truth. That was his intention to begin with, but he didn't understand Hua Shaokun's meaning.
But he could tell that Xie Fenghuang did. They were a married couple which had endured danger together and had lived together for twenty years. Right now, her husband wanted someone to give this sword, which originally belonged to her, to someone else, but she didn't look the slightest bit angry or upset. Instead, a look of indescribable tenderness and concern appeared on her face. They only silently stared at each other.
After a long period of time, Hua Shaokun said, "In a few days time, it will be November 15th."
Xie Fenghuang said, "I believe that will be in eight days."
Hua Shaokun said, "By that date, you will have been married to me for fully twenty years."
Xie Fenghuang said, "I remember."
Hua Shaokun said, "Ever since I was young, I made a vow that I would first become famous before becoming married."
Xie Fenghuang said, "I know."
Hua Shaokun said, "By the time I was famous, I was slightly over forty. When I married you, I was fully twenty years your senior."
Xie Fenghuang chuckled. "You are still twenty years my senior." There were more people than just the two of them present, but they had suddenly begun discussing their private affairs.
Their voices were very gentle, and their expressions were very strange. Even their laughter seemed to be very strange.
Hua Shaokun said, "Over the past twenty years, only you alone know what type of life I lived."
Xie Fenghuang said, "I know. You...you always felt as though you failed me."
Hua Shaokun said, "Because I lost. I am no longer the same Hua Shaokun who married you. No matter where I go, I no longer dare to reveal myself. But you..." He walked towards her and took his wife's hands in his own. "You've never complained the slightest, and have always willing endured my strange tempers. Without you, I probably would have died in some gutter long ago."
Xie Fenghuang said, "Why would I complain about you? Over the past twenty years, every morning when I awoke, I could see you by my side. To a woman, what could be a more blessed thing than this?"
Hua Shaokun said, "But I am old now. Perhaps some morning, when you wake up, you will discover that I have already left you."
Xie Fenghuang said, "But..." Hua Shaokun didn't let her speak. "Every person will have to face that day, sooner or later. I've always viewed that very lightly, but I refuse to allow anyone to say that the young madam of the Xie family was married to a good-for-nothing husband. I must do something for you!"
Xie Fenghuang said, "I understand."
Hua Shaokun tightly gripped her hands. "You truly understand!"
Xie Fenghuang nodded, tears already beginning to flow down her face.
Hua Shaokun let out a long breath. "Thank you."
These two words are so common and ordinary. But when they came from his lips, who can describe the amount of warmth and emotion hidden with them? An artist wouldn't even be able to paint it all.
The Girl's tears had drowned her sleeves. By now, even she understood his intentions. Even she couldn't help but feel sorrow and pity for them.
Hua Shaokun had already seated himself on top of the grass. The grass had turned a withered yellow long ago. Although to the eyes of young lovers, the grass still appeared green and as comfortable as a bed, that was only because in the hearts of lovers, every day is a spring day, and every season is spring.
They had been married for many years now, but their love was still this deep, this flourishing.
He lifted up the yellow burlap sack and placed it across his knees. Slowly, he raised his head as he faced Xie Xiaofeng.
Xie Xiaofeng understood his intention as well. He was only waiting for the other to speak.
Hua Shaokun finally said, "I no longer use the sword."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Oh!"
Hua Shaokun said, "Ever since I was defeated by your sword, I swore that I would never use a sword ever again."
Staring at the burlap sack on his knees, he said, "Over the past twenty years, I mastered a different type of weapon. Every day and every night, I've been hoping that I could do battle with you once again."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "I understand."
Hua Shaokun said, "But I have already been defeated by your sword. A general who has been defeated in battle does not have the right to speak bold words. Thus, if you disdain to do battle once again with an old man such as myself, I won't blame you."
Staring at him, a look of respect and esteem appeared in Xie Xiaofeng's eyes. But his face remained emotionless. He only said a single, simple, dull word. "Please."
The burlap sack made from yellow cloth was sown very tightly. Outside of it was a thick belt, also knotted very tightly around it.
A very hard to open knot. The fastest way to open such a knot would be to snap it with a tug, or cleave it with a blade. But that isn't what Hua Shaokun did. He had learned patience long ago. He was willing to spend a little more time to slowly unwind the knot.
Was this because he knew that meetings only lasted briefly, while partings were long, and so he wanted to spend a little more time with his wife? Watching him, Xie Fenghuang suddenly wiped her tears and said, "I'll give you a hand." She was the one who had tied the knot. Naturally, she untied it very quickly. She knew very well that victory or defeat, glory or humiliation, would be very hard to predict in this battle.
She knew very well that when her husband went to battle this time, it would be hard for him to return. Why, then did she want to hasten it? It was because she didn't want for his courage and confidence to be slowly worn away while he opened the knot.
She hoped that he would prove victorious in this battle. He understood his wife's intentions, and she knew he understood. How hard is it to achieve such a level of understanding? And how blessed is it! How precious!
Everyone present was moved by their emotions. Only Murong Qiudi didn't even spare them a glance. Her attention was focused on that yellow burlap sack.
She was thinking to herself, "What weapon is hidden within this sack? Can it defeat Xie Xiaofeng?"
In his younger years, Hua Shaokun was a universally acclaimed master martial artist. After having been defeated by Xie Xiaofeng, his natural strength would have decreased as well. It would be very hard for him to compare to his earlier strength.
But after someone has experienced defeat for the first time, their actions will become more prudent and their plans become more careful. They definitely will not be as rash and impetuous as they were in their youth, and they definitely won't do anything they don't feel certain about. In addition, he had already experienced the terrifying power of Xie Xiaofeng's sword. It definitely was no easy task to come up with a weapon with which he could face the Third Young Master's sword.
Judging by the way he treasured that burlap sack, one could tell that the weapon inside it was one which was rarely seen in the martial world, and an extremely sharp, extremely ferocious weapon to boot. He had exhausted all of his energies and trained for twenty years. To this very day, he didn't mind risking his life, or even risk parting from his beloved wife of twenty years, for the sake of battling Xie Xiaofeng one more time. From this it could be seen that he felt a commensurate level of certainty in winning this battle.
Murong Qiudi let out a light breath. She, too, felt very certain, in her analysis. At this moment, if someone were to bet with her, she would probably bet on Hua Shaokun. And the odds? Seven to three, or six to four at best. She believed that her judgment definitely would not be wrong.
The bundle was finally opened. The weapon inside was nothing more than a wooden stick!
A very ordinary wooden stick. Although wood is very strong and hard, it cannot compare to a precious sword smelted hundreds of times over.
This is the weapon he painstakingly trained with for twenty years? With this wooden stick alone, he would be able to deal with the Third Young Master's sword? Staring at the stick, Murong Qiudi didn't know if she was feeling surprised or disappointed. Perhaps everybody would feel both shocked and disappointed. But Xie Xiaofeng was the exception.
Only he alone understood the painstaking care Hua Shaokun used in selecting this weapon. Only he felt that Hua Shaokun's selection was definitely correct.
Wooden sticks were originally one of the very first weapons which humanity has ever used. Since ancient days, when mankind hunted beasts for food or wished to protect themselves, they would use this weapon. And precisely because this was one of the oldest weapons, which everyone knew how to use to hit people with or to scare away dogs with, it was hard for people to avoid underestimating its power. But they forget that all the weapons in the world are derived from it. Although the techniques which one can use with a wooden stick may be very simple, in the hands of an expert, it can be used as a spear, a sword, or a judge's pen. All the techniques and transformations of every weapon could be displayed by this stick.
For Hua Shaokun to take such exquisitely good care of this ordinary stick, he was probably doing more than just putting on a fancy act. It was a form of psychological warfare, directed towards himself.
He absolutely must make himself treasure and honor this wooden stick, because only then would he feel confident in using it.
'Confidence'. This has always been a type of weapon. The sharpest, most effective of all weapons.
Typing from iPhone, so can't cut n paste.
Editing prob to fix-
1) listen - lesson
2) niece- nephew
Chapter 28: Having Experienced A Hundred Battles
Murong Qiudi was also an extremely intelligent person. She, too, would quickly understand this point. But there was still one thing she didn't quite understand.
She didn't understand why Hua Shaokun didn't use a golden stick, a silver stick, or an iron stick, but would rather pick a wooden stick which would snap at one blow.
The sun rose. The tip of the sword gleamed under the sun, appearing even brighter than it.
Hua Shaokun had already risen to his feet. After only giving his wife a single glance, he walked towards Xie Xiaofeng.
This entire time, Xie Xiaofeng had been standing there, quietly watching. There was no expression on his face whatsoever, and he seemed to have been totally unmoved by the earlier events. In order for one to become an outstanding swordsman, the first requirement is the ability to be callous and merciless.
Especially before a titanic battle, a swordsman cannot allow anything to affect his mood.
"Even if your wife were sleeping with another man in front of your very eyes, you need to pretend as though you didn't see it."
This was a very famous saying that had spread far and wide amongst swordsmen. Nobody knew who was the first person to say it, but everyone admitted that it had truth to it. Only a person who could act in such a way would be able to live a bit longer than everyone else.
Xie Xiaofeng seemed to have already become able to act in such a way. Watching him, a look of respect appeared in Hua Shaokun's eyes.
But Xie Xiaofeng was staring at the wooden stick in his hand. He suddenly said, "This is a superb weapon."
Hua Shaokun said, "It is."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Please."
Hua Shaokun nodded. He had already pulled out the wooden stick and, in the blink of an eye, launched three attacks.
These three strikes were chained together and fluctuated rapidly in a marvelous way. But not a single strike was a sword technique.
Murong Qiudi sighed in her heart. She could tell that Xie Xiaofeng could shatter the wooden stick with a single move.
But she didn't expect that he didn't use the technique she thought he would. Instead, he used the back of the blade to strike at Hua Shaokun's hand.
Murong Qiudi's eyes lit up. Only now did she understand why Hua Shaokun used a wooden stick.
It was because he knew that Xie Xiaofeng definitely wouldn't use his sword to chop his wooden stick apart. The Third Young Master of the Xie family would never allow himself to gain an unfair advantage through superiority of weaponry.
Since he was unwilling to use his sword to chop at the wooden stick, his strikes naturally would not be as fluent and his movements would be restricted.
Thus, Hua Shaokun's selection of a wooden stick as his weapon was a choice that was far more intelligent than others might have suspected.
Murong Qiudi couldn't help but smile. She walked over and took Xie Fenghuang's ice cold hands in her own. She softly said, "Don't worry. Mr. Hua definitely won't lose again, this time."
When experts battled, victory and defeat often would be determined within a single stance. But the stance which would determine victory and defeat in this battle wasn't necessarily the first stance. In all likelihood, it would taken tens of stances, or perhaps hundreds.
By now, they had exchanged fifty different stances. Hua Shaokun had used thirty seven stances, but Xie Xiaofeng had countered with only thirteen stances.
This was because the tip of his sword had to avoid Hua Shaokun's wooden stick at all times.
To a swordsman, the most important goal was obtaining victory. Regardless of what tactics one used, one must arrive at this goal.
But Xie Xiaofeng wasn't able to act in such a manner. He was too arrogant. "The arrogant are doomed to defeat." When Murong Qiudi thought of this saying, she felt even happier. But right at this moment, with a cracking sound, the wooden stick slapped the sword on its spine. Xie Xiaofeng's sword was actually shaken out of his hand and sent flying into the sky.
Xie Xiaofeng took half a step back and said three words he had never before spoken. "I have lost!" After saying these three words, he turned around and walked up the mountain without looking back. Hua Shaokun neither stopped him, nor chased after him. The person who ran forward was actually Shopkeeper Xie.
The Girl wanted to pursue them as well, but Murong Qiudi stopped her. In a gentle voice, she said, "Come with me. Don't forget that there's someone at my place waiting for you to take care of him."
At this moment, the sword began to descend from the sky. It fell next to Xie Fenghuang's body, tip first. It stood up straight in the ground, hilt at the top. All she had to do was reach out and pulled the sword out. It was as though someone had delivered it to her on purpose.
Xie Xiaofeng had already disappeared into the distance, but Hua Shaokun stood there without moving.
He had defeated the peerless, incomparable warrior, Xie Xiaofeng and had managed to release a long-pent up breath filled with resentment which had been held for many years. But the light of victory didn't shine forth from his face. On the contrary, he appeared to be unspeakably dejected.
After a long time, he slowly walked towards them, his footsteps so heavy that he seemed to be bound with invisible iron chains.
Xie Fenghuang didn't congratulate him, nor did she pull the sword out. She only quietly walked towards him and took him by the hand.
She understood her husband, and also understand why he was so dejected after his victory.
Hua Shaokun suddenly asked, "You no longer want that sword?"
Xie Fenghuang said, "That sword belongs to the Xie family, but I am no longer a member of the Xie family."
Staring at her, a look of gentle love appeared in Hua Shaokun's eyes. After another long period of time, he suddenly turned around and said to Murong Qiudi, "Lady, I wish to ask a favor of you."
Murong Qiudi said, "Sir, please tell me what you wish."
Hua Shaokun said, "I don't know if you might be able to erect a stone monument next to this sword?"
Murong Qiudi said, "A stone monument? What type?"
Hua Shaokun said, "On the monument, write that this sword belongs to the Third Young Master. If anyone dares to pull it out and wield it, Hua Shaokun will definitely pursue him and retake it. Not only will I retake the sword, I will also take back the perpetrator's head. Even if I have to go to the most distant corners of the world, I will do it."
Why would he do something like this for his enemy?
Murong Qiudi didn't ask, nor did she think it was strange. She immediately responded, "I'll tell someone to prepare one right away. In less than half a day, it'll be ready. Only..."
Hua Shaokun said, "What is it?"
Murong Qiudi said, "What if some village urchin passes by here and pulls out the sword and takes it away? They wouldn't know who the Third Young Master is, nor would they know who you are, Mr. Hua. They might not even know how to read. What then?"
She knew that Hua Shaokun hadn't thought of this, and so she came up with another method. "I can erect a sword pavilion here, then order people to guard this place day and night. I don't know if you would find this solution to be acceptable?"
This was the most complete and thorough method. Aside from feeling grateful, what else could Hua Shaokun said?
Murong Qiudi let out another quiet sigh. "Sometimes, I really don't understand. Why is it that no matter how he treats others, others will always treat him so well?"
Hua Shaokun pondered this, then slowly responded, "Perhaps it is because he is Xie Xiaofeng."
Behind the hill, there was a grove of maple trees. The maple leaves were as red as fire.
Xie Xiaofeng found a rock and sat down on top of it. Shopkeeper Xie arrived as well. He neither sweated nor panted. Anybody who had been the owner of a tavern for tens of years would become very good at play-acting. Only, there were times for everyone where they would forget to act.
Only now did Xie Xiaofeng realize that he had never truly understood this person.
He couldn't help but ask himself secretly! Who have I ever truly understood?
Shopkeeper Xie was already sighing. "I watched you grow up, but only now do I realize that I had no idea as to what type of person you really are. I totally cannot understand any of your actions.
Xie Xiaofeng didn't tell him that this was exactly what he himself wanted to say as well. He just dully replied, "What don't you understand?"
Shopkeeper Xie stared at him. Instead of answering, he asked, "Did you truly lose?"
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Losing is losing. Whether it was 'true' or 'false' makes no difference."
Shopkeeper Xie said, "Your aunt is your aunt. No matter whom she becomes married to, it makes no difference."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "It is good that you understand!"
Shopkeeper Xie let out another long sigh. Forcing out a smile, he said, "It isn't a good thing to understand too much. It's better to live a muddle-headed life!"
Xie Xiaofeng clearly was not willing to discuss this matter any further. He immediately changed the topic. "How is it that you came to this place!"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "I heard that you were here and so rushed over here without pausing to rest. Before I had found you, Miss Murong found me first."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "And then?"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "And then she took me to the small tavern at the bottom of the hill. When she went to meet you, she told us to wait outside. Naturally, we didn't dare to rashly charge inside."
Xie Xiaofeng coldly said, "Were you afraid to rush in and interrupt us in the middle of our happy reunion?"
Shopkeeper Xie forced out a smile. "No matter what, the relationship between you and her is a bit more unique than the relationships of others."
Xie Xiaofeng sneered. He suddenly stood up and said, "You've already seen me now. You can go back."
Shopkeeper Xie said, "You aren't going back?"
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Even if I really intended to return, I don't need you to show me the way back."
Staring at him, Shopkeeper Xie said, "Why aren't you going back? What unspeakable pain are you hiding in your heart?"
Xie Xiaofeng was already preparing to leave.
Shopkeeper Xie said, "Where do you want to go? Do you still want to wander from place to place like in the past, still want to torment yourself?"
Xie Xiaofeng totally ignored him.
Shopkeeper Xie suddenly jumped to his feet and loudly said, "I don't want to meddle in your affairs, but there is one thing you definitely cannot ignore!"
Xie Xiaofeng finally glanced at him. "What."
Shopkeeper Xie said, "You cannot allow your son to marry a prostitute."
Xie Xiaofeng's pupils contracted. "Prostitute?"
Shopkeeper Xie said, "I know that Miaozi and his sister are your friends, and that they are good people. But…"
Xie Xiaofeng interrupted him. "How do you know of this?"
Before Shopkeeper Xie had a chance to answer him, someone else spoke from within the maple grove. "I told him."
The person was within the grove, and his voice came from far away, but Xie Xiaofeng immediately shot out, as quickly as an arrow, seizing the man by the hand.
An icy cold hand, much like a viper…was Zhu Yeqing the most venomous of all vipers?
Xie Xiaofeng coldly said, "You still aren't dead yet?"
Zhu Yeqing smiled. "Only the good die young. I'm not a good man."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "You want to die?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "No."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Then you had best go far, far away from here, now. Never let me see you again."
Zhu Yeqing said, "I was planning to leave at first, but there was a gift I had to rush to you first!"
Xie Xiaofeng's pupils were contracting again. "What gift?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "Naturally, it would be the wedding gift for the marriage between Miaozi's sister and the Kid. Since Lady Murong is presiding over the wedding, and the Roving Dragon Swordsman and his wife are there as witnesses, it is very important that I deliver a gift to them."
Smiling, he asked again, "Third Young Master, are you also intending to go and give them a gift?"
Xie Xiaofeng's hand had become ice cold.
Zhu Yeqing said, "The Lady took pity on the Girl's lonely, miserable life. The Lady also knew that she was someone whom the Third Young Master cherished and pitied. That was why she proposed engaging the Girl to the Kid."
Xie Xiaofeng's hands suddenly tightened. Cold sweat immediately appeared on Zhu Yeqing's face. He immediately changed his words. "But I know that the Third Young Master definitely will not approve of this wedding."
Lowering his voice, he said, "Only, the Kid was born with an arrogant and unyielding disposition as well. If someone were to forbid him from doing something, perhaps he would be all the more insistent on doing it. Thus, if you wish to solve this problem, the best solution is to take drastic measures to deal with it.
There is a certain type of person who seems to have born with the innate gift of solving the problems of others. Zhu Yeqing was indisputably such a person.
If you don't feed the flames with more fuel, the food in the kettle will never be fully cooked, no matter how long you wait. If there is no new bride, then naturally there will not be a wedding.
His tightened hands loosened. Xie Xiaofeng was already asking, "Where are they!"
Zhu Yeqing let out a breath. "Although everybody knows that there is a person called the Boss in the city, few people have met him. Those who know where he lives are even fewer."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "You know?"
Zhu Yeqing revealed a smile. "Fortunately, I do know."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "They are located there?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "Second Master Chou, Dan Yifei, the Roving Dragon Swordsman and his wife are all there. They all approve of this wedding very much, and definitely will not allow someone else's wife to be carried off."
Smiling, he continued, "Fortunately, they are all very tired. They will certainly go to bed very early tonight. By nightfall, if someone like me were to lead the way, it will be very easy for you to take away anybody you wish, no matter who that person is."
Staring at him, Xie Xiaofeng said coldly, "Why are you so concerned over this matter."
Zhu Yeqing sighed. "The Girl definitely does not have a good impression of me, while the Kid is the Lady's only child. If this wedding goes through, I'm afraid I won't have any more good days ahead of me in the future."
He looked at Xie Xiaofeng's wound. "But my life now cannot be considered to be too shabby. I know all of the good doctors in this city, and all of the places which serve fine wine."
Hua Shaokun stealthily got up from bed and dressed, stealthily opened the door and walked out. Xie Fenghuang hadn't yet fallen asleep, nor did she stop him and ask where he was going. She understood how he was feeling and knew that he wanted to walk alone for a while. Although in recent years, they rarely slept together as they had tonight, every time they did, she would feel satisfied and happy. Especially today. The tenderness he had shown her tonight was like that of a newlywed's.
He really was an excellent husband. He fulfilled a husband's duty to the utmost. To a sixty year old man, this definitely was no longer an easy task.
As she watched the silhouette of his tall, strong body walk away, her heart was filled with warmth. She only hoped that she took could fulfill her duties as a wife and make sure he stayed alive for a few more years. To pass a few more years by in peace and happiness, to forget about the feuds of the martial world, to forget about Xie Xiaofeng, to forget about that battle on the hillside.
She hoped that by the time he returned, he would have already forgotten. She herself didn't wish to think too much on the subject.
And then she fell asleep. She slept for a long time, but Hua Shaokun still did not return.
The wide courtyard was peaceful and dark. Hua Shaokun sat alone within the six sided pavilion within the garden. He had sat there for a long time. After an episode of boundless sexual love, he was still unable to fall asleep. He couldn't forget about that battle on the hillside. His heart was filled with regret and pain.
The night grew deeper still. Just as he was thinking of returning to his room, he saw a shadow flash by from off in the distance, next to the manmade mountain. It seemed to have a person on its shoulder as well. By the time he chased over, it had disappeared.
But he seemed to hear a low voice coming from within the false mountain. It seemed to be Zhu Yeqing's voice.
"Do you believe, now, that the person he took away was the Girl?"
Zhu Yeqing's voice was filled with a goading air. "The night your mother was engaged, he took your mother away. Now, on your engagement night, took away your wife. Even I do not understand why he does these things."
The other, youthful voice suddenly roared angrily, "Shut up!"
The young person was naturally the Kid.
But Zhu Yeqing didn't shut up. He continued, "I imagine that they are now going back to the Girl's old home. Although that place is old and shabby, it is very quiet and peaceful. Nobody will go there to look for them. You had best not go either, because-"
Before he finished speaking, another shadow shot out from the mountain like an arrow from a bow.
Fortunately, Hua Shaokun had jumped on to the top of the mountain. Lying on the top, he could tell that the person who left was the Kid. He could also tell that the person who walked out afterwards was Zhu Yeqing.
But for the moment, he didn't want to reveal his presence, because he had already decided to pull out this secret by its very roots.
He had made up his mind. He was going to do something for Xie Xiaofeng.
Holding his arm, Zhu Yeqing slowly walked away. Very soon, the light coming from his room's window could be seen.
He lived here, in this single, solitary courtyard not far from the manmade mountain. Outside, there were a few hundred stalks of bamboo and several rows of chrysanthemums.
Since the room was still lit, Zi Ling must still be inside, waiting for him. Today, everything had proceeded very smoothly. He had the right to fully enjoy this night. Perhaps he would even drink some wine first.
The door was unlocked. The person who lived here had no need for locks, nor would a lock be useful.
He could imagine Zi Ling already waiting for him, naked underneath the blanket. But he didn't expect that someone else was in the room as well. Second Master Chou was actually waiting for him.
There was wine in front of the light, but it was nearly all gone. Second Master Chou clearly had already drank a great deal and had waited a long time. The person pouring wine by his side was Zi Ling.
She wasn't totally nude. Not only was she wearing clothes, she was actually wearing two sets of clothes.
But even both sets combined served to hide less than mist.
Zhu Yeqing laughed. "I didn't imagine that Second Master Chou also knows how to enjoy himself."
Second Master Chou set down his wine cup. "Unfortunately, it's your wine and your woman. Now that you've returned, you can reclaim them at any moment."
Zhu Yeqing said, "No need."
Second Master Chou said, "No need?"
Zhu Yeqing smiled. "The wine is now yours, as is the woman. You might as well stay here and enjoy both for a while."
Second Master Chou said, "What about you?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "I'll leave!"
He really did turn to depart.
Second Master Chou watched him depart. His eyes were filled with surprise and suspicion. Just as he was about to pass outside the doorway, Second Master Chou loudly shouted, "Wait!"
Zhu Yeqing halted. "What else do you desire?"
Second Master Chou said, "I want to ask you a question."
Zhu Yeqing turned around to face him, waiting for the question.
Second Master Chou let out a sigh. "There are some questions which I should not ask, but I really want to know exactly what type of a person you are. What exactly are you plotting?"
Zhu Yeqing laughed again. "I'm just a person who loves to make friends. I especially wish to be your friend."
Second Master Chou laughed as well.
His face was laughing, but his pupils were contracting. He asked again, "How many of your friends have you failed to sell out?"
Zhu Yeqing lightly said, "What are you saying? I don't understand at all."
Second Master Chou coldly said, "You should understand, because you've all but sold me out once already."
He didn't let Zhu Yeqing speak. "The members of the Black Death used to be your friends, but you borrowed Mao Yiyun's hand to kill them. If Dan Yifei, Liu Kuzhu, the Immortal Hand of Riches and Glory, and that old monk had arrived according to our original plan, Mao Yiyun would not have had to die. But you intentionally delayed and did not make the signal, because you wanted to borrow Xie Xiaofeng's hand to kill Mao Yiyun."
Zhu Yeqing neither argued nor debated. He casually pulled a chair over and sat down to listen.
Second Master Chou said, "The Kid used to be your friend, but you took Xie Xiaofeng to him. Even if Xie Xiaofeng couldn't bear to kill him, I'm afraid that he himself might slam his head into a wall and kill himself. Aside from you, I'm afraid nobody else in the world can endure the feeling of having their woman being taken from them."
His hand had already tightened around the sword on the table. "Thus, I came here for the express purpose of asking you this. When are you going to betray me? And who will you betray me to?"
Zhu Yeqing laughed again. Smiling, he stood up and faced the window. "The wind outside is cold and harsh. Mr. Hua, since you've already come, why don't you come inside and have a cup of wine?"
The window wasn't moving, but the door had already opened by itself. After a long period of time, Hua Shaokun slowly walked in.
Even forty years ago, he had endured countless battles and had been plotted against by countless enemies.
The only reason he was able to live to the present day was because he had always been a very cautious man.
He coldly stared at Zhu Yeqing. "I shouldn't have come, but I came anyhow. I shouldn't have listened to those words, but I've already heard them anyhow. Thus, I want to ask you a question. What type of person are you? What exactly are you plotting?"
Zhu Yeqing smiled. "I was certain that Mr. Hua wouldn't be able to fall asleep today, and that you would be thinking about the battle earlier in the morning. That's why I prepared some wine for you long ago, for you to partake of for the sake of drowning your sorrows."
His response didn't address the question at all, as though he hadn't heard Hua Shaokun's words at all. With a few simple, casual words, he managed to downplay Hua Shaokun's fiery language and return it to him.
Really classic Gu Long... intrigue between short sharp bursts of action...
Chapter 29: Sharing Trials and Tribulations
Hua Shaokun's expression really did change. In a fierce voice, he said, "Why wouldn’t I be able to sleep? Why would I need to drink in order to drown my sorrows?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "Because Mr. Hua, you are a gentleman."
His laughter suddenly became filled with mockery. "Sadly, you aren't a genuine gentleman."
Hua Shaokun's hand was trembling. Clearly, he was forcibly suppressing his rage.
Zhu Yeqing said, "You yourself should know better than anyone else who the real victor of this morning's battle was."
Hua Shaokun's hand began to tremble even more violently. He suddenly lifted up the half-flagon of wine on the table and drained it all at one go.
Zhu Yeqing said, "If you really were a true gentleman, you should have immediately admitted that you had lost to your wife."
He sneered, "Unfortunately, you were afraid to."
Hua Shaokun tightly balled his fists. "Keep talking."
Zhu Yeqing said, "If you are like me, an unscrupulous rogue without honor, you wouldn't lose any sleep over this. Unfortunately, you aren't a genuine rogue either. That's why your heart is filled with shame and bitterness. That's why you feel as though you wronged Xie Xiaofeng."
He coldly continued, "That's why if someone were to now ask you what type of a person you are, you might as well respond that you are not only a hypocrite, but also a coward."
Hua Shaokun stared at him. Walking towards him one step at a time, he said, "Right, I am a coward. But I can still kill-" His voice suddenly became slurred, and his shrinking pupils suddenly dilated.
And then he fell to the ground.
Second Master Chou stared at him in shock. He wanted to move, but didn't.
Zhu Yeqing said, "You don't understand why he collapsed?"
Second Master Chou said, "He's drunk?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "He's already an old man in poor health, and he drank too quickly as well. But if the wine hadn't been laced with knockout medicine, it still wouldn't have been enough to get him drunk."
Second Master Chou's face changed. "Knockout medicine?"
Zhu Yeqing dully said, "Although the knockout medicine I used was both thick and bitter tasting, when soaked in aged Clear Bamboo Wine, it is very hard to detect. I had to practice many times before succeeding in doing so."
Second Master Chou roared loudly. He wanted to charge over, but collapsed across the table.
Zhu Yeqing smiled. "Actually, you should have thought of this long ago. A scoundrel like myself would never leave such fine wine out for others to enjoy!"
Second Master Chou had fallen to the ground. He wanted to pull himself up by his chair, but just as he rose, he collapsed again.
Zhu Yeqing said, "Actually, I should thank you. Hua Shaokun normally is a very careful man. If he hadn't seen you drink this wine already, he wouldn't have drank it either. Only, you had drank the wine very slowly, which is why it took this long to take effect."
Second Master Chou only felt Zhu Yeqing's voice grow distant and soft, along with his person. And then he could no longer hear anything at all, nor see anything at all.
Zi Ling suddenly let out a sigh. Forcing out a smile, she said, "At first, I thought that all you wanted to do was to remove the Boss and take his place. But now, even I don't know what type of person you are, and what you are plotting exactly."
Zhu Yeqing laughed again. "You will never know."
Xie Fenghuang awoke from her nightmare. Even her quilt was soaked with cold sweat. She dreamed that her husband returned, and stood at the foot of her bed, soaked in blood. His bloody figure pressed against her body, so hard that she couldn't even draw breath. But when she awoke, the only thing in front of her was darkness.
The lamp her husband had lit for her was already extinguished.
There was no light in the room. Xie Xiaofeng sat alone in the darkness, in the position she always sat when they ate together, the special spot reserved for the 'princess'.
She was born to be a princess. If you saw her, you too would definitely like her. We all honor and glorify her.
The lamp had been extinguished long ago. Even the embers were cold. There would never again be that sweet warmth within the narrow kitchen. Never again that fragrant broth, the smell of which would warm one's very heart.
But he really did receive a sense of peace and tranquility here which he had never experienced before.
My name is Ah Ji. Good-for-nothing Ah Ji.
Today, our princess is returning. Everybody will have meat to eat! Everybody will get a piece, a very, very big piece.
When the piece of meat was presented to them, everybody's eyes shone, even more brightly than the light from a sword.
A flashing sword. Sword-qi crossing the air. Blood flying out. The enemy collapsing.
I am the Third Young Master of the Xie family. I am Xie Xiaofeng.
The incomparable, peerless Xie Xiaofeng.
Who was happier?
Was it Ah Ji?
Or was it Xie Xiaofeng?
The door was quietly pushed open. A delicate, slender shadow slowly crept in.
This was her home. She was familiar with everything here. Even if she couldn't see anything, she could feel everything.
And now, she had returned.
The person who brought her back was a pudgy stranger, but who moved more swiftly and with greater grace than a swallow. As he carried her, she felt as though she had been travelling through the clouds and dancing in the mist.
She didn't know that man.
The only reason she had followed him was because he had told her that someone was waiting for her here, and only because the person waiting for her was Xie Xiaofeng.
Ah Ji slowly stood up. He quietly said, "Sit."
This was the seat which they reserved for her. Now that she had returned, they should give it back to her.
He could still remember the first time she sat on this seat. Her soft, jet-black hair fell down past it, and her bearing was graceful and gentle, just like that of a real princess. At that time, he had wished that he had never seen her in the past, and that she might be a real princess.
"You cannot allow your son to marry a prostitute."
He remembered the first time he saw her, remembered the feeling of how her small hand pressed against his stomach, of the heat from her hand. Remembered how she looked when she fell to the ground, her waist twisting.
I am only fifteen years old. I just look a bit older than others.
The Kid was only a child.
Nobody is willing to do those sorts of things. But everyone needs to continue living. Needs to eat.
She was the only hope her mother and her brother had. She wanted to let them have meat to eat.
But the Kid was only fifteen. The Kid was of the flesh and blood of the Xie family.
The Girl had already sat down, just like a real princess would. Her bright eyes were shining in the darkness.
Xie Xiaofeng hesitated. Finally, he said, "I saw your elder brother."
The Girl said, "I know."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "The wound he took is already healed. And now, there definitely will not be anyone looking for him."
The Girl said, "I know."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "I was afraid it wouldn't be convenient for you to go, which is why I asked Shopkeeper Xie to bring you here."
The Girl said, "I know."
She suddenly laughed. "I also know why you wanted me to come!"
Xie Xiaofeng said, "You know!"
The Girl said, "You wanted me to come because you don't want me to marry the Kid."
She was still laughing.
But in the darkness, her laughter appeared indescribably sad and desolate.
She slowly continued, "Because you feel I'm not worthy of him. You are good to me and take care of me, only because you pity me. But in your heart, you still look down upon me."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "I-"
The Girl interrupted him. "You don't need to explain. I understand quite clearly that the person you truly like is still that Lady Murong, because she was fated to be born as a lady, because she didn't need to sell herself to feed her family, because she didn't need to be a *****."
Her tears had already begun to flow. She suddenly began to sob loudly. "But have you ever thought that *****s are people as well? That we also hope for a good home, and for a person who will genuinely love them?"
Xie Xiaofeng's heart was twisting. Every single word she said was piercing at his heart like a dagger.
He couldn't help but walk over towards her and gently stroke her soft hair. He wanted to say something to console her, but didn't know what to say.
Crying bitterly, she had already thrown herself into his arms.
To her, being held in his arms was the greatest source of comfort she could have.
He knew it as well. How could he bear to push her away? Suddenly, with a crashing sound, the door was forcefully knocked open. A pale-faced youth suddenly appeared at the doorway, eyes filled with sorrow and pain. Filled with hate.
Who knows how powerful hate can be, and the terrifying things it can cause people to do? Who can understand what real sorrow tastes like?
Perhaps the Kid knew. Perhaps Xie Fenghuang also knew.
Hua Shaokun's corpse had been discovered two hours ago near the six-sided pavilion. His throat had been cut.
His clothes, his hands, and his pure white hair were all covered with blood. There was a bloody knife by his corpse as well.
Nobody can describe the sorrow, pain, and rage which Xie Fenghuang felt upon seeing her husband's body.
Right in that moment, she seemed to have suddenly transformed into a wild beast. She had to tear her entire body into two pieces, then burn herself alive, then chop the remnants apart with a knife and grind herself into powder, into bloody powder. Seven or eight strong hands held her down. Only after two full hours had passed did she slowly begin to calm down.
But she was still continuing to weep.
A married couple which had experienced trials and tribulations together for twenty years. Twenty years of love so deep it had been etched in their bones.
He was already an old man. Why did you make him die?
And die so miserably! Her sorrow suddenly transformed into hatred. She suddenly said in a cold voice, "Release me. Let me sit up."
Although it was almost day, a lamp was still lit. The light fell upon Murong Qiudi's face. Her face was also ashen pale.
Xie Fenghuang had already sat down next to her. Her tears had already dried. The only thing remaining in her eyes was hatred.
True sorrow could cause someone to go insane. But true hatred can make one calm.
She coldly watched the flickering light. Suddenly, she said, "I was wrong. You were wrong too!"
Murong Qiudi said, "Why are you wrong?..."
Xie Fenghuang said, "Because we had already been able to tell that the person who lost that battle wasn't Xie Xiaofeng. Rather, it was Hua Shaokun. But we didn't say it aloud."
Murong Qiudi couldn't deny it.
If Xie Xiaofeng's sword had really been knocked flying, how could it have landed so perfectly by Xie Fenghuang's side?
He borrowed his opponent's force and was able to deliver the sword directly to Xie Fenghuang's hand. How perfect did his skill need to be, to use the force in such a way?
Xie Fenghuang said, "Xie Xiaofeng could have not only defeated him, but also killed him. But Xie Xiaofeng didn't do it. Thus, the person who killed him definitely was not Xie Xiaofeng."
Murong Qiudi couldn't deny this either.
Staring at her, Xie Fenghuang said, "So I want to ask you. Aside from Xie Xiaofeng, who here is capable of severing his throat with a single strike?"
Murong Qiudi silently considered the question. After a long time, she slowly replied, "Only one person."
Xie Fenghuang said, "Who?"
Murong Qiudi said, "Himself."
Xie Fenghuang forcefully tightened her hands, her nails piercing into her palms. "Are you saying that he…that he killed himself?"
Murong Qiudi hummed in assent.
Xie Fenghuang suddenly shook her head forcefully. She loudly said, "No way, no way in hell. For my sake, he would never have done such a thing."
Murong Qiudi let out a sigh. "Perhaps he did it precisely because of you."
She continued, "Because he could tell that you knew the person who lost was him, but you couldn't bear to say it. He himself didn't have the courage to admit it either. The shame and bitterness must have been constantly eating away at him. How could an honest and upright person like him endure it?"
Xie Fenghuang lowered her head. She sadly said, "But-"
Murong Qiudi said, "But if it weren't for Xie Xiaofeng, he would not have died!"
She herself was a woman. Naturally, she understood other women very well. When women are filled with anger and sadness, but have no way to release it, they will often take it out on others.
Xie Fenghuang really did immediately lift her head up again. "Xie Xiaofeng knew what sort of person Hua Shaokun was. Perhaps he predicted from the very beginning that this would be the path taken, and acted in such a way on purpose."
Murong Qiudi lightly sighed. "That isn't totally out of the realm of possibility."
Xie Fenghuang stared at the flickering lamp light for another long period of time. She suddenly said, "I hear that only you know the secret weakness of Xie Xiaofeng's sword skills."
Murong Qiudi forced out a smile. "I do indeed know it, but what good does it do me?"
Xie Fenghuang said, "Why is it of no use?"
Murong Qiudi said, "Because I am not strong enough, and my blows are not quick enough. Although I know quite well where his weaknesses are, by the time I can strike, it is already too late."
She sighed and continued, "It's like how I can clearly see that sparrow stand on that tree branch, but by the time I get near it, it will have already flown away."
Xie Fenghuang said, "But at least you know how to capture the sparrow."
Murong Qiudi hummed in agreement.
Xie Fenghuang said, "Have you ever told anyone else?"
Murong Qiudi said, "Only one person, because his sword can perhaps deal with Xie Xiaofeng."
Xie Fenghuang said, "Who is that person?
Murong Qiudi said, "Yan Shisan."
The Kid had already stormed out, turning and charging away without saying a word. He had already personally seen the two of them in an embrace. What else was there to say?
Something you have seen personally isn't necessarily always true.
He didn't understand this saying yet, nor did he want to listen to others explain. He just wanted to walk far, far away by himself, the farther the better.
Because he felt as though he had been deceived, had been wounded. Even though he felt no love for the Girl, she still shouldn't have betrayed him. Even more so, Xie Xiaofeng shouldn't have betrayed him.
Xie Xiaofeng understood this sort of feeling. He, too, had once been deceived and been wounded. He once was a hot-blooded and stubborn young man too.
He immediately chased after him. He knew that Shopkeeper Xie would definitely take care of the Girl. He himself had to look after the Kid.
Only he could see the fragile emotions lurking beneath the stoic, cold exterior shell of this young man.
He had to protect him. He couldn't let him suffer anything.
The Kid knew that he was right behind him, but didn't turn to look back.
He didn't want to see this person again. But he also knew that if this person had made up his mind to follow someone, nobody would be able to shake him.
Xie Xiaofeng didn't speak.
Because he knew that if this youth had made up his mind not to listen to someone's explanations, no matter what he said, he would be ignored.
The sky had brightened. The moonlight slowly dissipated.
They passed through a humble alley and entered the noisy city center, then passed through it into a desolate region, and from the desolate region went on the main road.
All sorts of people hurriedly walked to and fro on the street.
The fall harvest had ended. This was the time where people would begin to calculate how much profit they had made. Some people were hurriedly planning how they would take their earnings home to share with their families. Others would only be able to take home a weary heart and a body of debts. Xie Xiaofeng couldn't help but ask himself: "Have I been working diligently this year? Have I earned anything? This year, do I owe a debt to others, or do others owe me?"
The accounts of some people simply cannot be calculated clearly.
They had entered a different city and passed into another busy street.
Different city. Similar people. They were still rushing around, struggling to live, struggling for fame and profit. They were still caught by the webs of gratitude and hatred, of love and enmity.
Xie Xiaofeng was sighing again in his heart. Raising his head, he realized that the Kid had stopped and was coldly staring at him.
He walked over. Before he opened his mouth, the Kid suddenly asked, "Are you following me because you have made up your mind to take care of me?"
The place he had come to a stop was right beneath a golden placard, upon which was written the words, the "Scholar's House". Upon turning around, he could immediately see the amiable, fat shopkeeper smiling and bowing towards them.
"Eight cooked dishes, four vegetarian, four meat. First bring out eight platters of appetizers to go with the wine, then bring six different dishes of vegetables. Shrimp eggs, black ginseng, bird's nest soup, fish fins, a full duck and a full chicken. Not a single dish can be missing."
This was what the Kid ordered.
Smiling, the fat shopkeeper bowed. "I don't wish to boast, but aside from my humble shop, I'm afraid that there's not a single restaurant here which can produce such a table of food."
The Kid said, "As long as the food is prepared quickly and well, you will not be lacking in pay."
The fat shopkeeper said, "How many guests are there? When will they arrive?"
The Kid said, "There are no other guests."
The fat shopkeeper said, "Only the two of you? Can you eat so much food?"
The Kid said, "As long as it makes me happy, it doesn't matter. If I can't eat it, I'll throw it down a ditch. That's none of your business."
Thank you Ren! Great story.
Hope you'll update this story soon Ren.
Chapter 30: The Swordsman of a Thousand Victories
The fat shopkeeper didn't dare to speak further. Bowing, he retreated. But someone at a different table sneered, "Is this kid from an upstart family, or has he gone crazy with hunger?"
The Kid seemed to have not heard them at all. He mumbled, "I love all of these dishes, but I rarely have the chance to eat them."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "So long as it makes you happy, eat as much as you want."
Nobody could finish that entire table of food. The Kid only ate a single mouthful from each dish. Putting his chopsticks down, he said, "I'm full."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "You didn't eat much?"
The Kid said, "If you can taste the flavor with a single mouthful, why do you need to keep on eating?"
He let out a long sigh. Slapping the table, he said, "Show me the bill."
There weren't many customers like him. The fat shopkeeper had been waiting by his side for quite some time now. Smiling, he said, "The dishes on this table costs eight taels of silver. When combined with the wine, the grand total is ten taels of silver."
The Kid said, "Not too expensive."
The fat shopkeeper said, "My humble shop has always played by the rules. We won't charge even a single cent extra from customers."
The Kid looked at Xie Xiaofeng. "Add a tip to the bill. Let's give him twelve taels of silver."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "That's not too much."
The Kid said, "If you intend to take care of me, then you should pay for my food."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "That's true."
The Kid said, "Then why haven't you paid yet!"
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Because I don't have even a single coin."
The Kid laughed, laughed loudly. He suddenly stood up and walked over to the table where the other customer had sneered at him.
There were four customers at this table. Aside from a rather stupid and clumsy looking young man who drank very little and spoke very few words, the other three were all proud, boastful, handsome and spirited young men, around twenty years or so of age.
There were three swords placed on the table, all of ancient make. Although the swords were still in their sheaths, it was obvious that they were very keen weapons.
The person who sneered earlier wore the gaudiest clothes and had the most arrogant expression. When he saw the Kid walk over, he began to sneer again.
But the Kid only looked at the sword by his hand. Suddenly, he let out a long sigh. "Nice sword."
The man sneered, "You understand swords?"
The Kid said, "I heard in the past, there was a swordsmith known as Master Xu Luzi. His sword forging skills were the best in the world. Supposedly, he was invited over to Mt. Wudang by the seventh-generation leader of Wudang Sect. Using the most elite refining techniques of the far west and the waters of Wudang's "Pool of the Borrowed Sword", he forged seven swords. The sect leader gifted those seven swords to seven disciples who had attained the highest levels of swordsmanship amongst his students. So long as they lived, their swords remained with them. Only when they died did they return the swords to the sect."
Smiling arrogantly, he asked, "Is this one of those swords?"
The sneering young man was still sneering, but a man dressed in royal purple by his side said, "Good eye!"
The Kid said, "Your honored surname?"
The man in violet said, "My surname is Yuan. His surname is Cao."
The Kid said, "Can it be that he is the youngest and most handsome of the seven senior disciples of the Wudang Sect, Cao Hanyu?"
The man in violet said once more, "Good eye!"
The Kid said, "Then sir, you must be the eldest son of Nanjing's ancestral 'violet-robed' Yuan family."
The man in violet said, "I'm the second. My name is Yuan Ciyun. That person over there, seated next to Cao Hanyu, is my eldest brother, Yuan Feiyun. He already has a mustache."
The Kid said, "And you, sir?"
He was speaking to that honest-looking young man who wore a simple looking cloth garment. "Radiant phoenixes do not fly with humble crows. I imagine you, too, must be a young lord hailing from a famous school or an aristocratic family."
The young man said only three words. "I am not."
The Kid said, "Very good."
Clearly, there was a hidden message to follow those two words. The young man in simple clothes waited for him to continue. Honest people generally don't like to say too much, nor do they like to ask too much.
The Kid really did continue, "It's good that there's at least one person here who doesn't have a feud with him."
Yuan Ciyun said, "Him who?"
The Kid said, "The person who should've paid the bill, but didn't have a single coin on him."
Yuan Ciyun said, "We all have a feud with him?"
The Kid said, "Seems like you have a bit of a feud with him, yes."
Yuan Ciyun said, "What sort of feud do we have with him?"
The Kid said, "Didn't Dai Kunzhong have a master whom the martial world titled the 'Swordsman of a Thousand Victories'?"
Yuan Ciyun said, "Yes."
The Kid said, "Mr. Cao, don't you have an elder martial-brother who had the surname of 'Bing'?"
Yuan Ciyun said, "Yes."
The Kid said, "Didn't the two of them die at the Manor of the Divine Sword!"
Yuan Ciyun's expression changed. "Are you saying that this person is-"
The Kid said, "The Peak of Jade-Blue Clouds, the Lake of Green Water, the Manor of the Divine Sword...he is the Third Young Master of the Xie family, Xie Xiaofeng."
With a whistling sound, Cai Hanyu's sword left its sheath. The brothers of the Yuan family had already tightly gripped their own swords as well.
"You are Xie Xiaofeng?"
With a flash of light, three swords surrounded Xie Xiaofeng.
Xie Xiaofeng's expression didn't change, but the fat shopkeeper's had. He was so terrified that his face turned blue. The Kid suddenly walked over to him and tugged him by the sleeve. He quietly asked, "Do you know the best method one should use if one wishes to eat for free?"
The fat shopkeeper shook his head.
The Kid said, "First, find a few people to fight for no good reason, and then sneak away."
The Kid had already snuck away. As soon as he said he would, he did. By the time the fat shopkeeper realized what he was saying, no trace of him remained.
The fat shopkeeper could only laugh bitterly. It wasn't that he didn't know of this method. There had been people in the past who had used it before, and there definitely would be people in the future who would use it.
Because this really was the best way to eat for free. It really was effective.
High noon. Broadway.
The Kid snuck out from a back alley behind the restaurant. To be able to shake off Xie Xiaofeng is something which should make someone happy, but the Kid didn't feel the slightest bit of joy at all.
He just wanted to flee into the wilderness and howl wildly, or charge up to the peak of a mountain and weep bitterly.
Perhaps only he himself understood why he felt like that. Or perhaps even he himself didn't know.
Would Xie Xiaofeng be able to deal with those three little arrogant bastards?
Regardless of who wins, why the hell would I care?
Even if they all die, they would still have their mothers and fathers to come cry over them. When I die, who will shed even a single tear for me?
The Kid suddenly laughed, quite loudly. Everyone on the street turned their head to stare at him in shock, taking him for a madman. But he didn't care at all. He didn't give one whit what others thought of him.
A large carriage turned the corner from the next street away. It was pulled by two horses, and the black lacquer coach had been shined to gleam even brighter than a mirror. A small red flag was placed in the window as well.
An expert carriage-driver who wore a red belt around his waist. His whip flashing about and his eyebrows raised up high, he cut an extremely dashing figure.
The Kid suddenly charged to the front of the carriage and stopped right in front of the horse. The horse neighed in alarm and instantly rose to its hind legs.
The carriage-driver roared and cursed loudly as he struck down with the whip.
"You want to die?"
The Kid didn't want to die, nor did he want to suffer a lash. With his left hand, he caught the lash as he pulled the reins with his right. The driver fell to the ground, even as the carriage and the horse came to a halt.
Someone stuck his head out of the window. The person had a head full of bright, lustrous hair, and a well-nourished face, but a pair of vicious eyes.
The Kid walked over to him. Letting out a light sigh, he said, "What nice hair you have. It smells very nice."
The person stared at him hatefully. In a fierce voice, the person said, "What do you want to do?"
The Kid said, "I want to die."
The person sneered. "That's very easy."
The Kid smiled. "I knew that I came to the right place and found the right person."
He saw the hands of the man within the car. The blue veins on his short, stubby fingers were bulging.
Only someone who had arduously trained for a long time and who had practiced a palm technique focused on external power would have hands such as these. They might not be appropriate for other tasks, but would definitely be very useful for breaking people's necks.
And so the Kid stuck his neck out, pulled the door open, and smiled. "Please."
But this person actually became somewhat apprehensive. After all, there's not that many people who will come and ask for death for no reason at all.
There was also a woman who was curled up like a cat in the carriage. Her crescent, moon-like eyes were squinting at the kid. Suddenly, she laughed. "Since he wants to die so badly, why don't you go ahead and fulfill his desire? Master Hu, since when have you become squeamish about killing?"
Her voice was as soft and supple as her person, but her words were sharp, like the claws of a cat.
A ferocious light once more appeared in Master Hu's eyes. He coldly said, "When have you seen me, Hu Fei, kill a nameless junior like him."
The young, cat-like lady laughed once again. "How do you know that he's a nameless kid? Although he is young, there are quite a few young people in the world who are more famous than you. Perhaps he is Cao Hanyu of Wudang Sect, or the eldest son of Nanjing's ancestral Yuan family. You are worried about them. That's why you haven't dared to strike yet."
Hu Fei's face was immediately suffused with blood. Each of the soft, gentle words of this young lady struck precisely upon his secret concerns.
He knew that Cao Hanyu and the brothers of the Yuan family were all here. If this youngster didn't have some background to him, how would he dare be so disrespectful?
The Kid suddenly said, "Master Hu, can it be that you are the 'Iron Palmed' Hu Fei of the Red Flag Escort Agency?"
Hu Fei immediately puffed out his chest. He loudly said, "I didn't imagine that you would have a bit of knowledge and experience."
When members of the martial world found out that someone had heard of them before, they would all feel somewhat pleased. If their fame was enough to cause someone else to flee, that would of course be even better.
But the Kid only sighed again. "I didn't imagine it either."
Hu Fei said, "Imagine what?"
The Kid said, "I didn't imagine that the Red Flag Escort Agency was so imposing and so awe-inspiring. Even such a small escort chief such as yourself can put on such an extravagant display."
Such an extravagantly made carriage, and such a beautiful, fragrant woman. A normal escort chief would never be able to afford these things.
Although the reputation of the Red Flag Escort Agency was grand, and although the 'Seventy Two Wind Pursuing Stances' and the 'Twenty Eight Cloud-Piercing Arrows' of the head of the agency, 'Fast Aerial Sword' Tie Zhongqi were elite skills which shook the martial world with their fame, the escort chiefs made at most a few dozen taels of silver a day.
Hu Fei's face was totally red. He angrily said, "What business of it is yours, whether or not I put on an extravagant display or not?"
The Kid said, "No business whatsoever."
Hu Fei said, "What's your surname? Your name? Your origins?"
The Kid said, "I have neither name nor origins. I…I…" These were his own hidden sorrows. Although his words were not meant to attack, they instead injured himself. If someone from a famous school such as Cao Hanyu were to discuss his origins, naturally he wouldn't have such a suffering, pained look on his face.
Hu Fei's heart immediately relaxed. In a fierce voice, he said, "Although I normally don't kill nameless juniors such as yourself, today, I might as well make an exception!"
He shot out of the carriage like an arrow. His palms criss-crossing in front of him, he aimed for the Kid's throat.
The Kid said, "Although you are willing to make an exception, I've changed my mind. I no longer want to die."
As soon as he finished speaking, he sidestepped Hu Fei's attack. He suddenly swiveled around, and with a whistling sound, struck out with his middle finger, precisely on Hu Fei's waist. Hu Fei only felt half his body suddenly go numb. His waist ached and felt soft, and, with one leg collapsing, he knelt down on one knee.
The cat-like woman said, "Escort Chief Hu, why have you suddenly become so polite?"
Hu Fei ground his teeth. He hatefully said, "You…you ungrateful ****!" The cat-like woman said, "I'm ungrateful? What have you ever done for me? How could a small escort chief such as yourself be capable of supporting me!"
Looking at the Kid, she continued, "Little brother, you were wrong about just one thing, earlier."
The Kid said, "Oh?"
The cat-like woman said, "I've been supporting him this entire time, not vice versa."
Hu Fei roared angrily. He wanted to walk towards them, but collapsed again.
The cat-like woman said, "You've been eating too much recently. You should walk more and ride less."
She stared at the Kid with her crescent-like eyes. "But I'm afraid to sit here, all by myself, in this carriage. Tell me, what should I do?"
The Kid said, "Do you want to find someone to accompany you?"
The cat-like woman said, "Of course I do, very much so! But I'm a stranger to this place and don't know anybody here. Who could I find to accompany me?"
The Kid said, "Me."
Hu Fei was still kneeling on one leg. He watched as the Kid entered the carriage, watched as it departed, kicking up a cloud of dust. But he didn't see someone walk up to him, moving without any sound at all.
The carriage was filled with intoxicating fragrances. Seating himself on the soft cushions, the Kid looked at the woman who was curled up, cat-like, in the other corner of the carriage. This woman had discarded a man as easily as blowing her nose.
The woman was looking at him as well. She suddenly said, "What type of person is pursuing you, for you to be so frightened of him?"
The Kid pretended not to understand. "Who says that someone is pursuing me?"
The cat-like woman laughed. "Although you aren't a good person, you wouldn't snatch away someone else's horse and carriage for no reason. You intentionally made trouble for Hu Fei, precisely because you saw the red flag on this carriage. Hiding yourself within the auspices of the Red Flag Escort Agency is better than hiding someone else, right?"
Her eyes were as sharp as a leopard-cat's as well, seeing through the schemes of others at a single glance.
The Kid laughed. "How do you know that I came because I fancied the carriage? How do you know that it wasn't you I took a fancy to?"
The cat-like woman laughed as well. "What an adorable child. What a sweet mouth."
Fluttering her lashes, her eyes looked as liquid as flowing water. "Since you've taken a fancy to me, why don't you come here and hold me?"
The Kid said, "I'm afraid."
The cat-like woman said, "Afraid of what?"
The Kid said, "Afraid that you'll discard me as easily as blowing your nose." The cat-like woman sweetly said, "I only discard men who are like snot to begin with. Are you like snot?"
The Kid said, "No."
He suddenly sat next to her and immediately embraced her. Embraced her very tightly.
His life had been harsh and strange, and his heart was filled with grief and discontent. The things he did would always be outside that which one might normally conjecture.
His hands were acting very inappropriately as well.
The cat-like woman's face suddenly sank. She coldly said, "How audacious of you."
The Kid said, "I've always been rather bold."
The cat-like woman said, "Do you know who I am?"
The Kid said, "A woman, a very beautiful woman."
The cat-like woman said, "All beautiful women have a man. Do you know whose woman I am?"
The Kid said, "It doesn't matter whose woman you used to be. Right now, you are mine."
The cat-like woman said, "But…but I don't even know your name."
The Kid said, " I have no name. I…I am a fatherless, motherless bastard child."
As he said these words, a surge of bitterness and grief welled up in his heart. He suddenly felt that no one in the world had ever done right by him Why, then, did he need to do right by others?
Seeing the expression on his face, the cat-like woman's face reddened. Appearing both embarrassed and frightened, she said, "What are you thinking? Are you thinking about raping me?"
The Kid said, "Yes."
His head snaked out, seeking her lips.
Suddenly, the carriage window opened with a cracking sound, as though a strong gust of wind had blown by. When he lifted his head, he saw that there was someone seated directly facing him. An inexpressible look of grief was on his ashen face.
The Kid let out a long sigh. "You came again."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "I came again."
The carriage was very large and could easily fit six people. But now, the three present suddenly felt as though it was very small and cramped.
The Kid said, "I know that you've been a playboy ever since you were young. You have so many woman that they can't even be counted."
Xie Xiaofeng didn't deny it.
The Kid suddenly jumped to his feet and loudly said, "Then why won't you let me have a woman of my own? Can it be that you want…want for me to be a monk for the rest of my life?"
The expression on Xie Xiaofeng's face was very strange. After a long time, he forced out a smile. "You don't need to go be a monk, but you can't have this woman."
The Kid said, "Why not?"
The cat-like woman suddenly let out a sigh. "Because I'm his."
The Kid's face turned ashen.
The cat-like woman had already seated herself next to Xie Xiaofeng. Gently stroking his face, she said in a soft voice, "It's been years since I last saw you. You've become even thinner. Is it because you've exhausted yourself with too many women? Or is it because you missed me so much, you've grown thin?"
Xie Xiaofeng didn't move. Didn't speak.
The Kid clenched his fists. Staring at the two, he neither moved nor spoke as well.
The cat-like woman said, "Why don't you tell me who this little kid is and what he is to you?"
The Kid suddenly laughed, laughed very loudly.
The cat-like woman said, "Why are you laughing?"
The Kid said, "I'm laughing at you. I knew all along who you are. Why would I need anyone else to tell me?"
The cat-like woman said, "You really know who I am?"
The Kid said, "You are a *****."
Laughing wildly, he pushed the door open and jumped out.
He laughed wildly. Fled wildly.
As to whether or not Xie Xiaofeng was pursuing him? If the people nearby thought him to be a madman? He no longer cared.
Thanks, Ren. Looking forward to enjoy your work.
Thanks for the update Ren!
I like the Kid. He's pretty cool in a depressive way. He's definitely XXF's son. Like father like son. :D
And foxs, nice to see here enjoying this translation.
OMG, already finished 13 chapters ( 18-30 ) Thanks Ren. eager to c remaining chapters ( i think total 46 are there ) so 16 more to go..
Where are you Ren? Update soon please? :D
Just want to up this thread. Hopefully Ren will come back and finish this translation soon.
Have been enjoying your translation for quiet sometime now, hope you continue with this great read.
Chapter 31: Intentionally Throwing One's Life Away
He once more charged back towards the city. The golden words on the plaque, 'Scholar's House', continued to flash brightly.
He charged inside, rushing upstairs.
There was no bloodstains upstairs, no corpses, no signs of a battle having been fought. The only thing he saw was that fat innkeeper staring at him in shock.
Did Cao Hanyu and the Yuan brothers not even attack, or had they already been defeated?
The Kid didn't ask. He just cracked his lips apart and smiled towards the fat innkeeper. "The kid who eats without paying comes again. Prepare another feast for me, identical to the previous one. If a single dish is missing, I'm going to demolish this inn."
The banquet was prepared.
Eight cooked dishes, four vegetarian, four meat. First came eight platters of appetizers to go with the wine, then came six different dishes of vegetables. Shrimp eggs, black ginseng, bird's nest soup, fish fins, a full duck and a full chicken. Not a single dish was missing.
But this time, the Kid didn't eat a single bit. He just drank wine.
The jug of Clear Bamboo Wine weighed at least twenty pounds. He seemed to have drank it down in a gulp. He seemed to have already become drunk.
Where was Xie Xiaofeng? Why hadn't Xie Xiaofeng come yet? Was he accompanying that *****? With a woman like that accompanying him, why would he come?
The Kid started to laugh again, quite loudly.
From outside, the rumble of a carriage could be heard, as an escort-carriage moved down the street.
An escort-carriage would naturally have a flag belonging to an escort agency.
The escort agency's flag was the sign of its protection. It also carried with it the honor and prestige of the agency. The flag on top of this carriage was a crimson flag.
A crimson flag, even more red than blood.
The crimson flag fluttered on top of the first carriage. A single, giant character was written on the flag. "Tie." [Iron]
This was the flag belonging to the leader of the escort agency. When this flag appeared, it signified that the man whose fame shook the martial world, known as the "Iron Banner's Swift Blade", had personally come to escort these carriages.
Once this flag appeared, many of the towering figures north and south of the Yangtze river would scurry away like the wind. Those who did not would still not dare to touch this carriage. This flag carried with it the power and prestige of the entire Red Flag Escort Agency, which covered all eighteen provinces north and south of the river. Thus, this was no longer a matter of any single person's honor, but the honor and life of the two thousand plus members of the agency, spread across the eighteen sub-agencies in the provinces. If anyone dared to insult or dishonor this flag, every single one of the two thousand plus members of the Red Flag Escort Agency would stake their lives to fight against that person.
The Kid continued to laugh, very loudly, as though he had suddenly thought of something very funny.
In the midst of his laughter, he threw himself out of the inn, rushed into the procession of carriages, and knocked down the escort chief riding in front with a single punch. Somersaulting into the air, he tore at the flag, actually ripping the 'Silver-Sworded Red Flag', of such great fame and prestige, in half!
The sound of the carriage wheel turning, the sound of hoof steps ringing, the shouts of the escort guards …suddenly, all went silent.
A dark cloud covered across the bright sun. A bolt of lightning suddenly flashed down from the dark cloud, thundering in everyone's ears.
But it seemed as though everyone present had become incapable of noticing even this thundering bolt of lightning. Everyone's eyes were stiff as they stared at the young man perched atop the carriage, and the two halves of the flag in his hand.
No one had imagined that something like this could actually happen. Nobody could imagine that a madman who cared so little about his life could exist, would dare do such a thing.
The escort chief guarding the carriage who had been knocked off the horse with a single punch had already struggled to his feet. His name was Zhang Shi. He had been with the agency for twenty years, and was an extremely seasoned and experienced veteran. In the past twenty years, his sabre had drank its fill of blood. He had endured countless life and death battles, and traversed past countless angry seas. Those in the same line of work had given him a nickname: "The Solid Block of Wood."
The nickname didn't signify that he was foolish and stupid. It signified that, no matter what happened, he would be able to maintain his calm and tranquilly deal with the situation. But now, this "Solid Block of Wood's" face had turned deathly ashen, and his entire body was trembling nonstop.
This was simply too unexpected, too shocking. When it was happening, nobody was able to interfere in time; everyone was simply too flabbergasted to respond. Otherwise, even if the Kid had godlike abilities, he wouldn't necessarily have been able to succeed in a single stroke. Even if by some good fortune he was able to succeed, he would have been dismembered by countless blades by now and ground into a meat paste.
Seeing the expression on their faces, the Kid could no longer laugh. He only felt as though a chill suddenly appeared in the air, causing his entire body to become as cold as ice.
Another bolt of lightning. As it thundered in everyone's ears, it seemed as though someone said the word, "Kill!" And then, with countless clanking sounds, dozens of sabres were drawn from their sheaths. The sound seemed even more terrifying than the earlier bolt of thunder.
As their sabres flashed, people threw themselves towards him from all eight directions, from the front and from the back, from the left and from the right. Although their movements were hurried, their formation wasn't the slightest bit chaotic as they surrounded his carriage in the blink of an eye.
Just based on this unhurried-in-the-fast-of-disaster movement, one could immediately understand the fame and reputation of the Red Flag Escort Agency definitely was no fluke.
Zhang Shi also slowly regained his calm. The forty-three escort chiefs and their guards were all waiting on him. As soon as he gave the word, their sabres would chop down and blood would stain the ground.
But the Kid was laughing again. He wasn't afraid to die. He came here for the purpose of throwing his life away. Although he was a little bit nervous and tense earlier, now he felt unspeakably relaxed and liberated.
All of the glories and disgraces of the world, its worries, its grudges and enmities, friendships and love, had all become a thing of the past.
It's alright if I'm a madman. It's alright if I'm a fatherless bastard. It no longer matters.
He casually sat down on top of the carriage. He loudly laughed, "Since your sabres have already left their sheaths, why haven't you come here to kill me yet?"
This was the question everyone wished to ask Zhang Shi as well. In the entire agency, he was the most senior and possessed the most experience. When the leader of the escort agency was not around, all the escort chiefs deferred to his leadership.
But Zhang Shi was still irresolute. He slowly said, "Killing you isn't difficult. We can turn you into meat paste with a flick of a finger. Only…"
A escort chief wielding a funeral sword by his side interrupted. "Only what?"
Zhang Shi muttered, "I think this person came with the intention of throwing his life away."
The chief wielding the funeral sword said, "So what?"
Zhang Shi said, "People who want to throw their lives away must have hidden motives. We must thoroughly question him, especially considering that it's possible that he might acting on the orders of others."
The chief wielding the funeral sword sneered, "Then let's chop off his arms and legs before questioning him."
Brandishing his sword, he was the first to charge forward. His blade flashed as it pierced directly towards the Kid's "Circular Leap" acupoint.
The Kid wasn't afraid of death, but in the moments before his death, he would not accept others humiliating him. His leg suddenly flew out, kicking the funeral sword aside. This kick came out of nowhere and disappeared without a trace. It was precisely the "Flying Meteor Kick", one of the seven ultimate skills of Jiangnan's Murong family, said to be capable of kicking aside a meteor. From this, one can imagine how swift it must be.
But aside from the funeral sword, there were twenty seven other swift sabres and fifteen sharp sword waiting for him.
When the funeral sword attacked, three other sabres and two other swords shot towards him as well, all aimed at his joints.
Their blades flashed and danced in the air. But suddenly, with a ringing sound, all three sabres and both swords were broken into two. Two round objects fell down from the top of the carriage and rolled in the dirt. It was actually two pearls.
Another person had suddenly appeared atop the carriage. His face was ashen white, and he held a pearl flower in his hands, the likes of which married women wore in their hair. Those observers with sharp eyes could already tell that the flower in his hand was missing five pearls.
All five weapons were shattered, but only one sound was heard. This person could actually use five tiny pearls to shatter all five weapons in a single moment. The escort agency was composed solely of experienced, grizzled veterans. But they hadn't even dreamed of a level of martial arts such as this, much less heard of it.
With another burst of thunder, the rain began to pour.
This person only stood there without moving, and his face appeared totally expressionless as well.
The Kid coldly stared at him. "You again."
The man said, "Me again."
The rain poured down, unleashing an onslaught of pearl-like raindrops, striking at their heads and rolling down their faces. Was that expression on their faces one of grief, or one of joy? Anger, or hatred? No one could tell.
The only thing everyone could tell was that this person must be a true master, with an unfathomably deep skill in martial arts. He must have some secret, intimate relationship with the young man who tore the flag in half.
Zhang Shi first calmed his comrades. Even the chief who wielded the funeral sword, his heart still filled with fury, dared not to act rashly. Only then did Zhang Shi ask, "Friend, what is your honored surname?"
"My surname is Xie."
Zhang Shi's face changed. Only one family of master martial artists had the surname of Xie. "Sir, can it be that you come from the Peak of Jade-Blue Clouds, the Lake of Green Water, the Manor of the Divine Sword?"
The man said, "Yes."
Zhang Shi's voice was beginning to quiver. "Sir, can it be that you are Third Master Xie?"
The man said, "I am Xie Xiaofeng."
Xie Xiaofeng! These three words seemed to be some sort of magical talisman. Nobody who heard these three words dared to move.
Suddenly, someone flew in from the midst of the rain. He loudly shouted, "The chief is here, the chief is here…"
Twenty years ago, when the eighteen bandit strongholds of Mr. Lianshan rose up and were filled with might and prestige, a man suddenly appeared. A single man, riding a single horse, who charged into the mountain by himself. Wielding a silver sword and with twenty-eight cloud-piercing arrows, he eradicated all eighteen strongholds, suffering at least nineteen serious injuries.
But he still didn't die. He actually had enough energy left over to pursue and kill the most ferocious bandit of Mt. Lianshan, "Heavenly Panther" Ba. He pursued for a full day and night, traveling over eight hundred miles to take the "Heavenly Panther's" head.
This person was the leader of the Red Flag Escort Agency. The "Iron Banner's Swift Blade", Tie Zhongqi.
Upon hearing that their leader had arrived, the forty or so escort-chiefs and their subordinates let out a collective sigh of relief. They all believed that their leader would definitely be able to resolve this situation.
Xie Xiaofeng sighed secretly. He knew that in this matter, the Kid was in the wrong, but he couldn't admit it; he didn't want to get involved in this matter, but he couldn't help but get involved. He definitely couldn't just stand by and watch as this child was killed, because the only person in the world whom he had horribly wronged was this child.
The pearls of rain seemed to form a curtain.
Four people holding umbrellas slowly walked towards them from the rain. The foremost man wore white socks, black shoes, and had a square shaped face. It was that honest-looking young man who sat at the same time as Cao Hanyu.
Why didn't Tie Zhongqi come? Why did this person come?
Upon seeing this person, every single escort agency member present respectfully bowed down and cupped their hands. Everyone's expression was solemnly respectful, showing extreme deference to this man.
Everyone deferentially and respectfully said, "Leader."
Could it be that the Red Flag Escort Agency had changed its leader to this slightly stupid-looking young man?
Many of the two thousand plus members of the Red Flag Escort Agency were experts who had once roamed the martial world freely, with illustrious and glorious reputations. How could such a stupid, honest looking young man subdue these fierce and hearty heroes?
Naturally, there was a reason behind this.
The agency's flag was torn. The agency had been humiliated. Even an experienced old veteran such as Zhang Shi, when faced with this situation, couldn't help but become panicked and at a loss.
But this young man was still capable of slowly, calmly walking towards them. His square shaped face didn't reveal even the slightest hint of fear or anger. This sort of absolute calm and motionless face could only be the product of intense training and self-cultivation, and was not something which twenty-year olds were normally capable of attaining.
The rain continued to pour as mud began to flow in the streets.
The young man slowly walked over. His white socks and black cloth shoes showed only a single speck of mud at its tip. If he didn't possess an elite master's skill in lightness kungfu and an infathomably deep shrewdness, how could this be possible?
Xie Xiaofeng's heart sank. He could already tell that this young man would possibly be more difficult to handle than Tie Zhongqi. It wouldn't be easy to resolve this matter.
But the young man didn't even spare him a glance. He knew that his flag had been torn apart, and that the person who had committed this deed stood before him, but acted as though he didn't know anything, hadn't seen anyone. Holding the umbrella in his hands, he lightly asked, "Who was in charge of guarding the escort-flag today?" Zhang Shi immediately flew out of the crowd and bowed. "Me."
The young man said, "How old are you this year?"
Zhang Shi said, "I was born in the year of the Ox. I'm fifty years old."
The young man said, "How many years have you worked for our agency?"
Zhang Shi said, "I've been here from the beginning, ever since the old leader founded the agency."
The young man said, "Right, twenty six years ago."
Zhang Shi said, "Then it's been twenty six years."
The young man sighed. "My late father had an extremely bad temper. It couldn't have been easy for you to follow him for twenty six years."
Zhang Shi lowered his head, a look of grief appearing on his face. After a long time, he still could not speak.
By this point in time, the Kid could tell that the old leader they were referring to must be the "Iron Banner's Swift Blade", Tie Zhongqi. Since the young man referred to him as his 'late father', then he must naturally be Tie Zhongqi's son.
When the father dies, his son succeeds him. This was why, despite the youth's youth, he had already taken mastery over the Red Flag Escort Agency. The old leader's power and prestige could still be felt, and so everyone couldn't help but submit to the youth. The strange thing was, the youth suddenly began to discuss their history, not mentioning the destruction of the flag and the humiliation of their agency at all.
But Xie Xiaofeng could already tell that in their normal, ordinary conversation, an extremely deep meaning lay hidden.
It appeared as though Zhang Shi's grief didn't come from his mourning over old leader Tie's death. It came from remorse and humiliation over failing in his job.
The youth sighed again. He suddenly asked, "You married when you were thirty nine, correct?"
Zhang Shi said, "Yes."
The youth said, "I hear that your wife is gentle, virtuous, and intelligent. What's more, she is an excellent chef."
Zhang Shi said, "She can make a few ordinary dishes."
The youth said, "How many children has she given you?"
Zhang Shi said, "Three. Two boys, one girl."
The youth said, "With such a good wife and loving mother taking care of them, your children will definitely accomplish great things in the future."
Zhang Shi said, "I hope so."
The youth said, "Just before my late father passed away, my mother constantly lamented that she didn't have any capable person by her side. If you are not in opposition, why don’t we have your wife enter my residence and accompany my mother?"
Zhang Shi suddenly knelt down. With a thudding sound, he kowtowed three times, appearing to be extremely grateful towards this youth.
The youth didn't stop him. After he was done kowtowing, the youth asked, "Do you have any other wishes?"
Zhang Shi said, "None."
Looking at him, the youth sighed again. Waving his hand, he said, "Then go."
Zhang Shi said, "Yes."
As soon as he said this word, a pearl-chain of blood spurted out, and Zhang Shi's body collapsed. The sword in his hand had already severed his own throat.
The Kid's hands were ice cold. Only now did he understand why the youth asked Zhang Shi all those ordinary questions.
Everyone in the world knew that the Red Flag Escort Agency's rules were legendarily severe. Zhang Shi had failed to protect the flag. By their regulations, he must be punished severely.
But with a few casual words, this youth was capable of making an old man who had served the agency for twenty six years commit suicide, and do so willingly and gratefully.
This youth possessed deep cunning, brilliant stratagems, and a callous style. It was really quite hard to imagine.
The fresh blood on the ground was washed away in the blink of an eye by the rain. But the look of dread on the faces of the escort-chiefs could not be washed away, no matter how hard the rain fell. Clearly, everyone was extremely terrified of their young leader.
But the youth's face was still totally expressionless. In a dull voice, he said, "Is escort-chief Hu here?"
Behind him, there was a man who had been hanging his head this entire time, and hiding his face behind an umbrella. Upon hearing these words, he instantly knelt down, prostrating himself in the bloody mud. "Hu Fei."
The youth didn't even turn to glance at him. "How long have you worked in the agency?"
Hu Fei said, "Not quite ten years."
The youth said, "How many taels of silver do you make each month?"
Hu Fei said, "According to regulations, I should earn twenty four. But thanks to the leader's benevolence, I am earning six extra taels per month."
The youth said, "How much are all the clothes on your body combined worth, including your hat, belt, shirt, and pants?"
Hu Fei said, "Ten…no, twelve taels."
The youth said, "How many taels of silver do you spend each month maintaining that residence of yours behind the east gate?"
Hu Fei's face was distorted with fear. As the ice-like rainwater flowed down his face, even his voice became hoarse.
The youth said, "I know that you are a very discerning and particular person. You even stole your chef from the "Scholar's House". I'm afraid that it'd be difficult to maintain that residence without spending at least two or three hundred taels."
Hu Fei said, "Those…those costs were paid for by others. I didn't pay a single cent."
The youth chuckled. "It seems as though you have quite some ability, for you to be able to convince someone to spend several hundred taels of silver a month for you. Only…"
His laughter slowly died away. "How would the people of the martial world know that you have such great ability? Upon seeing how extravagant a simple escort-chief of the Red Flag Escort Agency lives his life, they must find it strange. How could the Red Flag Escort Agency be so rich? Could it be that they secretly collude with bandits and thieves, earning large sums of ill-gotten gains?"
Hu Fei's entire body trembled as he listened. His face pressed to the ground, he said, "In the future, this will never happen again."
The youth said, "Why? Is it because the person who paid for your expenses has already been taken away by someone else?"
Blood flowed past Hu Fei's face. He didn't dare to admit it, nor did he dare to deny it. The youth said, "Someone gave you money and let you enjoy life. This was originally a good thing, and the agency wouldn't interfere. But you watched as this person was taken from you. You didn't even dare to take vengeance. Isn't that a case of increasing your enemy's prestige and lowering the prestige of the Red Flag Escort Agency?"
Hu Fei's eyes shone. He immediately said loudly, "That kid is the same person who tore our flag in half."
The youth said, "Then why don't you go kill him?"
Hu Fei said, "Yes."
He wanted to vent his anger long ago. Now, with the escort leader supporting him, what did he have to fear? Drawing his sabre, he rose to his feet.
A sudden sword flash. A sword pierced his way, not appearing to be especially quick. But by the time he tried to dodge, it had already pierced into his rib and exited from his throat. Scarlet blood splattered across the sky like bloody raindrops.
He didn't even manage to see who had struck out at him.
But others did. Just as Hu Fei's had stood up, the youth suddenly drew out the sword at his waist and had casually thrust it towards him, without even glancing backwards.
This strike was extremely accurate, and the positioning was extremely precise. But the sword was not what was truly fearful. His callous, merciless manner of striking was.
The Kid suddenly laughed again, loudly. "Do you think that you can frighten me by killing your own subordinates? Even if you killed each and every one of your two thousand subordinates, I wouldn't be the slightest bit disturbed."
The youth paid him no mind at all. Even up 'til now, he hadn't spared the Kid a single glance, as though he didn't know that the Kid was the one who had destroyed the flag. He asked, "Is Xie Xiaofeng, Hero Xie, present?"
The escort standing behind him holding an umbrella this entire time immediately replied, "Yes."
The youth said, "Which person is Hero Xie?"
The escort chief said, "The one standing on top of the carriage."
The youth said, "Wrong."
The escort chief said, "Wrong?"
The youth said, "Based on Hero Xie's status and dignity, if he came to a place like this and witnessed an event such as just happened, he would have long ago spoke out on behalf of righteousness and evaluated who is in the right and who is in the wrong. How could he stand there this entire time without making any noise? How could Hero Xie be this sort of fellow, who delights in others misfortunes and watches a fire rage from across the river without helping?"
Xie Xiaofeng suddenly chuckled. "Well spoken, well-cursed!"
The carriage was at least forty feet away, and there were at least seventeen or eighteen people between them. But as soon as Xie Xiaofeng finished speaking, he suddenly appeared in front of the youth. If he reached out with his hand, he could pat the youth on the shoulder.
Although the youth's expression changed slightly, he immediately reclaimed his impassivity, not taking a single step back.
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Escort leader, you are also surnamed Tie?"
The youth said, "I am Tie Kaicheng."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "I am Xie Xiaofeng."
Although every member of the agency present knew that this man's martial arts skill was unfathomably deep, and even though they knew that Xie Xiaofeng was present, upon hearing him say those three words, 'Xie Xiaofeng', they couldn't help but be moved.
Thanks for the long awaited update Ren! Hope there will be more to come soon.
Thank u for the update. Been waiting for a while.
hope next will follow soon.