Thank you for translating this interesting story.
So far it appears the only thing that could rival FHX sabre speed is your translation - fast and excellent as well. :-)
Thank you for translating this interesting story.
So far it appears the only thing that could rival FHX sabre speed is your translation - fast and excellent as well. :-)
Chapter 21: Emerging From the Cage
A flash of sabre light. But what it chopped wasn’t a human head. It was the zither strings!
Why did he chop the zither strings in half?
Grandmaster Zhong lifted his head up, staring at him in shock. Not just shock. Anger.
The sabre had been sheathed again. Fu Hongxue had already sat down. In the darkness, his pallid face appeared as though it had been cut out of marble. Firm. Callous. Noble.
Grandmaster Zhong said, “Even if my zither music is not pleasing to your ear, the zither is blameless. Sir, why don’t you directly chop my head off?”
Fu Hongxue said, “The zither is blameless, but the man is blameless as well. It is better for the zither to snap than for the man to perish.”
Grandmaster Zhong said, “I don’t understand.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You should understand. But there really are many things which you don’t understand.”
He coldly continued, “You make others realize how short life is, how death is unavoidable. But you don’t know that there are many ways of dying.”
Death could be both lighter than a feather as well as heavier than Mt. Taishan. How could Grandmaster Zhong not understand this?
Fu Hongxue said, “Since a person is alive, even if he must die, he must die with glory and honor, before he can die at ease.”
If a person cannot do well that which he likes to do in life, how can he die at ease?
The meaning of life always lay in struggling and fighting to endure. Only when you understand this point will your life no longer be meaningless. The sufferings of mankind await mankind to solve for itself.
“But my life is now nothing but shame.”
“Then you should think of a way to do something meaningful, something to wash away your shame. Otherwise, even if you die, you will still die shamefully!”
Death cannot solve any problems. Only cowards who can’t handle setbacks will use death to escape.
“I definitely have not given up any less of myself to this sabre than you have to your zither. However, I haven’t gained the comfort and the glory which you have gained. All I have gained is hatred and scorn. In the eyes of others, you are a god of the zither, but all I am is an executioner.”
“But you are still going to continue living?”
“So long as I can keep on living, I will definitely keep on living. The more others want me to die, the more I want to keep on living.” Fu Hongxue said, “Life isn’t necessarily shame. Death is!”
Light shone from his pale white face, making him seem all the more dignified and noble. An almost godlike nobility.
He was no longer that poverty-striken, blood-splattered, frustrated executioner. He had already found the true meaning of life. He had found it from another person being unable to endure the travails of life! Because the more powerful the attacks another launched on him, the more powerful his counterstrike was. The power from this counterstrike of his finally enabled him to release himself from the cage he had put himself into! Gongzi Yu definitely had never imagined this happening!
Grandmaster Zhong had never imagined it either. But as he watched Fu Hongxue, the shock and anger in his eyes disappeared. There was only esteem left.
A lofty, unique character was as worthy of respect as a lofty, unique skill with the fine arts.
He couldn’t help but ask, “Do you also want to do a meaningful thing which will wash away your shame?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I am trying my hardest as we speak.”
Grandmaster Zhong said, “Aside from killing people, what else have you done?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I have at least proved to him that I have not surrendered, nor have I been defeated by him.”
Grandmaster Zhong said, “Who is he?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Gongzi Yu.”
Grandmaster Zhong let out a long sigh. “For a person to have a zither-playing servant such as that man, he must be an extraordinary character!”
Fu Hongxue said, “He is.”
Grandmaster Zhong said, “But you want to kill him?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes.”
Grandmaster Zhong said, “Killing is also a meaningful act?”
Fu Hongxue said, “If this man remains alive, others shall be miserable and be coerced and bullied. In a case such as this, my killing him is a meaningful act.”
Grandmaster Zhong said, “Why haven’t you done this yet?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because I can’t find him.”
Grandmaster Zhong said, “Since he is an extraordinary character, he must be very famous. Why can’t you find him?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because although his name is famous all the world over, very few people have a chance to see his real face.”
This was also very strange. The more famous a person was, the fewer the people who could actually meet him.
This point, at least, Grandmaster Zhong should understand. He, too, was famous all the world over, but there were very few people who could meet him.
But he didn’t say anything. Fu Hongxue didn’t want to continue speaking either. All the words that should have been spoken, were spoken.
Fu Hongxue rose to his feet. “I only want to let you know that although this is a good place, this isn’t the place where we should stay.”
Thus, the outside was totally dark, he didn’t want to stay. As long as his heart was bright and guileless, why fear the darkness? He slowly walked out. Although his walking gait was still as clumsy and ugly as ever, his spine was as stiff and straight as a ramrod.
Grandmaster Zhong looked at his departing back. He suddenly said, “Wait.”
Fu Hongxue halted.
Grandmaster Zhong said, “Do you truly want to seek out Gongzi Yu?”
Fu Hongxue nodded.
Grandmaster Zhong said, “In that case, you should stay here. I’ll leave.”
Fu Hongxue’s features changed. “Why? You know that he will come here?”
Grandmaster Zhong did not respond. Instead, he hurried out in front of Fu Hongxue.
Fu Hongxue said, “How do you know? Who, exactly, are you?”
Grandmaster Zhong suddenly turned and looked back at him, chuckling. “Who do you think I am?”
His smile was strange and mysterious. His body suddenly disappeared into the darkness, becoming one with the night.
Only his voice could be heard coming from afar. “As long as you wait here patiently, you will definitely find him.”
“Who do you think I am?”
Can it be that he wasn’t the real Grandmaster Zhong? Was he actually Yu Qin? Otherwise, how would he know about Gongzi Yu’s travel information?
Fu Hongxue couldn’t be sure. He had never seen the real Grandmaster Zhong, nor had he seen Yu Qin.
Was Gongzi Yu truly going to come here? He couldn’t be sure of this either, but he had already decided to stay. This was his only lead. No matter what, he couldn’t let it slip.
The night became even darker. No sound could be heard in the empty mountains. No sound at all is actually a very terrifying sound. It would actually become difficult for a person to sleep under these circumstances.
Fu Hongxue had already lain down, but lying down wasn’t the same as falling asleep. There were no lights in the small cabin. Aside from a zither, a table, and a couch, there was nothing in the room at all. He was hungry and tired. He very much wanted to sleep. Over the years, the pain of insomnia had tormented him greatly. A peaceful night’s sleep was already a luxurious extravagance for him. Why was it so quiet? Why wasn’t there even the sound of the wind? There was only the sound of him coughing a few times. He even wanted to begin talking to himself, saying a few things to himself. Just at this moment, he suddenly heard a clanging sound in his dreams.
It was zither music! The zither was on the table in front of him. Aside from him, there was no one else in the room.
No one was playing the zither. How could it make music?
Fu Hongxue only felt a cold feeling rise up his back. He couldn’t resist turning around and staring at the zither on the table. Cold starlight was shining on that zither.
The zither sounded again. A ‘gong’ note, followed by a ‘shang’ note, a ‘gong’ note, a ‘chi’ note, a ‘gong’ note, and a ‘yu’ note.
Who was strumming the zither strings? Was it the spirit of the zither? Or was there a ghost in the room?
Fu Hongxue suddenly jumped up and saw a faint black shadow outside the window. Was it a human shadow, or a spectre? If a man was outside the window, how could he strum the zither on the table? Fu Hongxue laughed coldly. “Excellent finger strength.”
The shadow outside the window seemed to be startled. It quickly retreated.
Fu Hongxue was even quicker. He didn’t seem to prepare to move at all, but his body had already shot out.
The person outside the window somersaulted into the air, disappearing into the darkness.
The blank mountains were lonesome. The dark night was cold and silent. Fu Hongxue went forward for a bit longer, but couldn’t see anybody. But when he turned around, he saw a light.
The light flickered like a will’o’wisp. The light was in the window. Who lit a light in the room?
Fu Hongxue stopped using his lightness kungfu. He slowly walked back. The candle light didn’t disappear. It was right on the table. But the zither on the table had been broken, broken perfectly and evenly in half, as though it had been severed by a sharp blade.
There was no one in the room, but there was a short note pressed underneath the zither.
“If you do not leave by this evening, you shall become broken like this zither.”
The words were written very well, very elegantly. It was clearly authored by the same person who left the first note beneath the zither earlier.
Where did he go?
Fu Hongxue sat down. He faced the severed strings and the lonely light. His eyes suddenly shone with light as well. Only ghosts could come and go so easily and quickly. He never believed in ghosts. If there were no ghosts in the world, then this room must have hidden tunnels and false walls. Quite possibly, they were right in front of them. He couldn’t be considered an expert in this field, but he understood it. He knew a little about all of the various tricks and schemes which existed in the martial world. Although the study of secret mechanisms is a very complicated one, it wouldn’t be too difficult to discover a false wall or an underground tunnel in such a small cabin.
Had Gongzi Yu already arrived? Did he come from the tunnel?
Fu Hongxue closed his eyes and held his breath. First, he let his heart calm down. Only then could his senses become truly keen. And then, he started to search.
He couldn’t find anything.
If you do not leave by this evening, you shall become broken like this zither.
If I can’t find you, you will find me. Why shouldn’t I just wait for you here, and see how you intend to break me like the zither?
Fu Hongxue slowly sat down, making the lantern slightly brighter. Light could always stir a man to wakefulness and vigor. Sleep and him simply were not destined to be.
Sometimes, he couldn’t fall asleep when he wanted to. Sometimes, he wanted to sleep but must not sleep.
The man who broke the zither could once more enter from via the secret tunnel at any time and break him like a zither!
Was this person Gongzi Yu or not? What type of person was Gongzi Yu?
Fu Hongxue tightly gripped his sabre in his hand, that pitch-black sabre. He lowered his head, staring at his sabre. He felt as though he himself were slowly sinking down, sinking down into that pitch-black sheath. He suddenly fell asleep.
The night was deep and dark. A single light. Heaven and earth seemed at peace, without calamity, without blood, without sound.
When Fu Hongxue woke up, he was still perfectly seated on the chair. He didn’t know for how long he had been asleep. The first thing he did when he awoke was look at his sabre. The sabre was still in his hand. The pitch-black sheath glimmered with light underneath the lantern. Perhaps he had simply closed his eyes and dozed off for a moment. He was simply too tired. He wasn’t a man made from iron, after all. This sort of thing was hard to avoid. So long as his sabre was still in his hand, he feared nothing. But by the time he lifted up his head, he sunk down again, sunk down into an icy lake. He was still on the chair, his sabre was still in his hand, but he was no longer in that crude cabin in the mountains.
The first thing he saw was a painting, a four-foot, seven inch long painting, suspended from the wall in front of him.
This room naturally wasn’t only four-feet, seven inches wide. Aside from this painting, the snow-white walls also had all sorts of weapons hanging down from it. Amongst them were giant stone weapons which men had used to hunt with, in the times before copper and iron were discovered. There were weapons which soldiers had used during the Warring States period, such as pikes and lances. There was the ‘Green Crescent Blade’ which the legendary war god, Guan Yu, had used. There were also extremely rarely seen weapons of the martial world, such as curved scimitars and tiger-straddling baskets.
But the most common weapon was still the sabre.
Broadswords, double sabres, goose-plume sabres, demon-headed sabres, golden-spined mountain cleavers, Buddhist monk’s sabres, nine-ringed sabres, violet fish-scale sabres…it seemed as though there was even an extremely long Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch.
But what shocked Fu Hongxue the most was that there was also a pitch-black sabre! It looked just the same as the one he wielded. The hundreds and thousands of weapons actually hadn’t yet filled the wall. From this, one can imagine how large the room was. But the floor was covered with a very complete velvet carpet, making the room seem undescribably warm and comfortable. Everything in the room had been selected with the greatest care. In his entire life, Fu Hongxue had never been in such a magnificent, luxurious place.
Right now, he wasn’t sure how he had arrived here. This wasn’t a dream, but it was much more bizarre and absurd than the bizarrest, absurdist of dreams. His sabre-gripping hand was ice cold. The hilt had been soaked by the cold sweat from his palm.
But he didn’t cry out in alarm, nor did he run away. He still quietly sat in this chair, not even moving. Someone was able to quietly, stealthily bring him to this place. Naturally, it would have been easy to kill him. Since he was still living, why flee? Why move?
From outside the door, someone loudly laughed, “Young master Fu, what good self-control you have!”
The door opened. The one who laughed loudly was actually Grandmaster Zhong.
Only, this Grandmaster Zhong’s appearance had changed a bit. The cloth robes he had worn were now replaced by a golden mantle, his white hair had darkened somewhat, and his wrinkles had lessened somewhat as well. He looked at least ten or twenty years younger.
Fu Hongxue only coldly glanced at him, not showing the slightest bit of surprise, as though he had long since calculated that this person would be here.
Grandmaster Zhong bowed to the floor. “This humble one is Yu Qin. I pay my respects to young master Fu.”
So he was Yu Qin. So he was Gongzi Yu’s Yu Qin. The zither-playing servant in the marketplace was nothing more than an actor playing a minor role. That play had been put on for Fu Hongxue’s benefit. Fu Hongxue had never seen the real Yu Qin. Naturally, that play had seemed extremely real. Could it be that the entire purpose of that play was to get Fu Hongxue to listen to that heartrending music, to make him feel downcast and to pull out his sabre and chop his own head off? Right now, if he were to draw his blade, he naturally wouldn’t be cutting his own neck.
Seeing the sabre in his hand, Yu Qin stopped far away. He suddenly said, “What is this place? How did I get here?”
He chuckled, then continued, “These two questions should have been asked by young master Fu. But since you do not intend to ask, then it falls upon me to ask.”
He asked the questions. Naturally, he would answer them as well.
Unexpectedly, Fu Hongxue coldly said, “This is a good place. Since I am already here, why would I need to ask too many questions?”
Yu Qin was startled, then said, “Young master Fu, you really do not wish to ask?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Yu Qin looked at him. Hesitatingly, he said, “Young master Fu, do you want to kill me with a chop of your sabre, then leave through this door?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Yu Qin said, “Can it be that you don’t wish to leave, young master Fu?”
Fu Hongxue said, “It wasn’t easy for me to get here. Why would I leave?”
Yu Qin was startled yet again. When he entered, he originally thought that it would be difficult for Fu Hongxue to resist being startled or frightened. Unexpectedly, the one who ended up consternated was himself.
Fu Hongxue said, “Sit down.”
Yu Qin actually sat down. There was a white jade table next to the carved wooden chair. There was a zither on top of the table. It was the legendary, incomparable zither left behind from antiquity, the ‘Scorched Strings’ zither.
Fu Hongxue said, “Please play a melody for me to listen to.”
Yu Qin said, “Alright.”
With a clanging sound, the zither music arose. Naturally, he was no longer playing that sort of music which would make the listener feel cold and filled with grief. The zither music was filled with joy and happiness, riches and honor. Even people who simply could no longer keep on living would no longer want to die after hearing this melody. He himself, naturally, didn’t want to die either.
Fu Hongxue suddenly asked, “Gongzi Yu is here?”
Although Yu Qin did not respond, the sound of his music seemed to whisper, “Yes.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Does he also wish to meet me?”
The zither music once more carried an answer with it. “Yes.”
Fu Hongxue was originally a friend who appreciated his music. He wanted to continue to inquire, but a very strange noise suddenly came in from outside. Monotous, abrupt, shrill, and terrifying. One sound after the other, it rang out without stopping.
Yu Qin’s hand trembled. Two strings on the zither suddenly snapped. This abrupt, shrill sound carried within it an indescribable, fear-inducing sensation. No matter who heard this sound, they would feel their throat becoming dry, their heart rates elevate, and their stomachs contract. Not even Fu Hongxue was an exception.
Yu Qin’s face changed. He suddenly stood up and quickly strode out.
Fu Hongxue did not stop him. He never did things that were unnecessary. He had to conserve his energy, using all of his strength to keep himself calm and collected.
The weapons on the wall sparkled with cold light. That four-foot, seven-inch long painting on the wall was definitely a masterpiece as well. But he didn’t even spare it another glance. He definitely could not spare any attention to anything else. But he wasn’t able to fully concentrate all of his strength. That abrupt, shrill noise continued to cry out without stopping, as though it were an iron hammer repeatedly clanging against his mind. It wasn’t until the sound of a door opening was heard that he noticed there was a door behind him. A beautiful woman, dressed in white, was staring at him from outside the door. She actually seemed to be Zhuo Yuzhen. And yet, she was not Zhuo Yuzhen.
She was far more beautiful than Zhuo Yuzhen, so beautiful, pure, and noble. Her smile was warm and refined, and her graceful bearing was even more stirring. Even Fu Hongxue couldn’t resist tossing a few extra glances her way.
She already walked inside. She gently closed the door, then walked past Fu Hongxue’s form. She walked to the center of the great hall before turning to face him. Smiling, she said, “I know you are Fu Hongxue, but you definitely don’t know who I am.”
Her voice was just like her person; noble and graceful. But her words were very frank and candid. Clearly, she wasn’t one of those affectedly bashful women.
Fu Hongxue did not know who she was.
But she had already told him. “My surname is Zhuo. I can be considered the mistress of this place. Thus, you can call me Madame Zhuo. If you feel this manner of address is too vulgar, you can call me Zhuo Zi.” [There is a pun here; her surname, ‘Zhuo’, sounds just like the word for ‘table’. Zhuo Zi literally means ‘Table’.]
Smiling, she continued, “My nickname is ‘Table.’ My friends all like to address me by this name.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “Madame Zhuo.”
He wasn’t her friend. He had no friends.
Madame Zhuo naturally understood his meaning. And yet, she was still smiling cheerfully. “No wonder everyone says you are a weirdo. You really are.”
Fu Hongxue himself admitted to it.
Madame Zhuo’s eyes roamed about. “Don’t you want to ask me what relationship I have with Zhuo Yuzhen?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I do not.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Can it be that there really is nothing in the world which can move your heart?”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth. If he didn’t want to say a single word in response, he would immediately shut his mouth, very tightly.
Madame Fu sighed. “Originally, I thought that you would at least glance at these weapons. Everyone who has ever visited here have all been very interested in these weapons.”
These weapons truly were masterpieces. It definitely wasn’t easy to collect all of these weapons. It wasn’t easy to have a chance to see them either. Very few people who practiced martial arts would be willing to pass up such an opportunity.
She suddenly turned around and walked towards the wall. She removed a simple, unsophisticated metal sword which was heavy and black. “Do you recognize whose sword this was?”
Fu Hongxue took one glance, then immediately said, “This is the sword Guo Songyang used.”
Originally, he didn’t want to speak, but he couldn’t resist speaking. He couldn’t allow her to consider him an ignorant person.
Madame Zhuo smiled. “You truly do have good eyesight.”
There wasn’t too much praise hidden within these words. In past years, the Solar Apex Sword travelled the martial world with ease, and was ranked number four in the Book of Weapons. There truly were only a few people who did not recognize this sword.
Madame Zhuo said, “Although this is just a replica of the original, its shape, weight, length, and even the metal used to smelt it are definitely the exact same as that of the Solar Apex Sword of years past.”
She couldn’t help but reveal a sense of self-satisfaction in her laughter. “Even the tassel on the sword was personally made by the grand-aunt of the Guo family. Aside from the metal sword which they pass down from generation to generation, I’m afraid that in all the world, there’s no other sword like this one!”
She hung the sword back on the wall, then took off a long whip. Dark light gleamed from it, making it look just like a nimble serpent.
Fu Hongxue said, “This was used by Ximen Rou. The Serpent Whip of the God of Whips, ranked seventh on the Book of Weapons!”
Madame Zhuo laughed. “Since you recognized the whip, I am sure you recognize Zhuge Gang’s Diamond Crutch as well.”
She hung up the long whip, then removed a pair of meteor hammers which were next to the Diamond Crutch.
Fu Hongxue said, “The Twin Comets of Wind and Rain. Ranked thirty fourth on the Book of Weapons.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Good eyesight.”
This time, there was somewhat more praise in her tone. She suddenly walked to the corner of the room and removed two metal hoops. “In the past, the Golden Coin clan dominated the martial world. Their chief, Shangguan Jinhong, shook the world with his strength. These are his Dragon and Phoenix Double Rings.”
Fu Hongxue said, “They are not.”
Madame Zhuo said, “No?”
Fu Hongxue said, “These are the Rings of Great Affection. This is the unique weapon of the northwestern Iron Ring school.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Why would a weapon designed for killing be named ‘Great Affection’?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because once these rings settle around the opponent’s weapons, they will become entangled and never let go, just like people of great love and affection!”
A strange expression suddenly appeared on his pallid face. He continued, “When affection is concentrated, one is entangled to the marrow, even if the seas run dry and stones crumble, until death shall we part. Why is it that people of great affection are also people who kill as well!”
Madame Zhuo let out a soft sigh. “When affection is concentrated, to the point where it won’t stop until death, it can sometimes harm not only others, but also one’s self.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I’m afraid the one which is harmed is usually one’s self.”
Madame Zhuo slowly nodded. “Right. The one which is harmed is usually one’s self.”
The two of them faced each other silently. Only after a long time did madame Zhuo’s beautiful smile reappear. “There isn’t a weapon here which you do not recognize!”
Fu Hongxue said, “None.”
Madame Zhuo lightly said, “Every single weapon here has a history behind it. Back when they caused a stir in the martial world, it wouldn’t have been too hard to recognize them.”
Fu Hongxue said, “There isn’t anything which is truly hard in the world.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Unfortunately, although some weapons have become famous long ago and killed people without number, there has never been anybody who has seen its true features. For example…”
Fu Hongxue said, “Little Li’s Flying Dagger?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Right. Little Li’s Flying Dagger, Never Misses Its Mark! Even Shangguan Jinhong, said to be invincible, died to that dagger. It can truly be considered the best knife in the world.”
She let out another sigh, then said, “Unfortunately, up til now, no one has ever seen that dagger.”
With a flash of the dagger, it enters the enemy’s throat. Who, then can clearly see how long it is, or what shape it is?
Madame Zhuo sighed again. “Thus, to this very day, this is still one of the great secrets of the martial world. We have exhausted all of our efforts, but still have not been able to produce an identical flying dagger. A pearl has been lost in the great sea. Such a pity!”
Fu Hongxue said, “It seems there’s another weapon missing here.”
Madame Zhuo said, “The Peacock Plume?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Correct.”
Madame Zhuo chuckled. “There’s nothing which is perfect in the world. Fortunately, we finally have this sabre.”
She suddenly plucked down the pitch-black sabre from the wall.
With a flash of sabre light, the sabre left the sheath. Not only was its length and shape exactly the same as his, it even had three notches on the edge.
Madame Zhuo smiled. “I know that this sabre isn’t meant to be viewed by others. I fear even you yourself rarely look at it.”
Fu Hongxue’s face had turned so pale, it was almost translucent. He coldly said, “I know that some people are the same.”
Madame Zhuo said, “People?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Although some people have become famous long ago and killed people without number, no one has ever seen their real face. For example…”
Madame Zhuo said, “Gongzi Yu?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Right. Gongzi Yu.”
Madame Zhuo chuckled again. “You truly have never seen his face?”
Her laughter seemed very strange, very mysterious. But Fu Hongxue’s reply was very simple. “I have not.”
Madame Zhuo laughed. “Since you’ve already come here, you will see him sooner or later. Why be impatient?”
Fu Hongxue said, “How long is he going to wait before meeting with me?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Soon.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “Since he is coming soon, why the need for him training how to draw his sabre?”
That monotonous, abrupt, shrill sound was still continuing, one sound following the other. Can it be that this was the sound of drawing a sabre?
Fu Hongxue said, “There are thousands of transformations in sabreplay, but drawing the sabre is a very simple act.”
Madame Zhuo said, “You have practiced that movement for very long?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Seventeen years.”
Madame Zhuo said, “You practiced such a simple movement for seventeen years?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I only regret that I wasn’t able to practice it for a bit longer!”
Madame Zhuo laughed again. “Since you’ve already trained it for seventeen years, why can’t he train for a bit longer?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because even if he practices for a few more days, it won’t do any good!”
Smiling, Madame Zhuo sat down. Facing him, she said, “This time, you are wrong.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh!”
Madame Zhuo said, “He isn’t pulling out a sabre.”
Fu Hongxue said, “He isn’t?”
Madame Zhuo said, “This is pulling out a sword.”
She slowly continued, “Over the past few hundred years, famous swordsmen have been as common as trees. There are ninety three new sword styles, with thousands and tens of thousands of transformations. Each has its own brilliance. Some swords styles have extremely bizarre techniques, unimaginable techniques. But there is still only one way to draw a sword.”
Fu Hongxue said, “There isn’t only one way. There is only one way which is the fastest!”
Madame Zhuo said, “But finding this fastest way isn’t easy.”
Fu Hongxue said, “The easiest way is the fastest way.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Even though, the true simplicity and purity of the movement can only be returned to after thousands of transformations.”
All the changes and transformations within all martial arts, could not transform into the word ‘quick’.
Madame Zhuo said, “He bitterly trained for five years before he discovered this method. He has also already practiced this simple movement for seventeen years. To this very day, he is still practicing it. Every day, he practices for at least six hours.”
Fu Hongxue tightly gripped his sabre. His pupils contracted.
Madame Zhuo stared at him. Her gentle eyes had turned as sharp as knives. One word at a time, she said, “Do you know why he has been bitterly training this sword-drawing technique for so long?”
Fu Hongxue said, “To deal with me?”
Madame Zhuo swallowed a breath. “You are wrong again.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”
Madame Zhuo said, “He doesn’t necessarily want to deal with you in particular, or you as a person.”
Fu Hongxue finally understood. “He wants to deal with every single martial arts expert in the world.”
Madame Zhuo nodded. “Because he is determined to be the best in the world!”
Fu Hongxue sneered. “Can it be that he believes that if he defeated me, he would be the best in the world?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Up to this point in time, he has always believed this.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Then he is wrong as well.”
Madame Zhuo said, “He isn’t wrong.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “The martial world is filled with crouching tigers and hidden dragons, and the dusty world is filled with many marvelous people. Who knows how many people there are whose skills martial arts are far better than mine…”
Madame Zhuo interjected, “But up to this point in time, there still has not been anyone who can defeat you.”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth.
Madame Zhuo said, “I, too, can tell that defeating you isn’t an easy task. You are definitely the most extraordinary person who has come here.”
Fu Hongxue couldn’t help but ask, “Many people have come here before?”
Madame Zhuo avoided this question, instead saying, “Not only is the collection of weapons on the wall very complete, they are all masterpieces. Anyone who practices martial arts would find it hard to resist giving them a few glances. Only you can be totally unmoved.”
Sighing, she said, “The strangest thing of all is, you didn’t even glance once at the painting.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Why must I look at it?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Give it a glance, and you will understand.”
Suddenly, a voice could be heard. “Since he is going to see it sooner or later, why the rush?”
A calm, leisurely voice, clearly coming from a person of good breeding, refined and urbane.
Originally, being too polite was a sign of being unfriendly and cold. But this voice carried a strange warmth, such warmth that it almost approached being brutal.
If there was a power in the world which was capable of exterminating everything, without question it must have been birthed from this warmth. And only a type of person such as Gongzi Yu could have such terrifying warmth. He clearly thirsted to meet Fu Hongxue as well. He knew that the time when they met would be a time for extermination. At least one of them would be exterminated.
Now, he was already standing behind Fu Hongxue. Within his hands, he held a long sword which could be pierced through Fu Hongxue’s vital points at any time.
What type of person was he? Was it a sword that he held in his hands?
Awwww, no more bloodbath this time round.
Hrrmph. I thought Li left his flying daggers everywhere. It was never mentioned that he collected them back from him victims. If she was referring to the 'moves', then they don't have FHX's sabre as well.
Anyway, GL seems to really like hyping the Little Li legend in this series.
Chapter 22: Gongzi Yu
Fu Hongxue did not turn around. He did not move.
He couldn’t move. He already felt a sort of all-conquering, all-pervasive killing aura. If he moved, regardless of the movement, he might give the opponent an opening. Even a single twitch of a muscle might be a fatal mistake. Although he knew that a person like Gongzi Yu was definitely not the type of person to attack from behind, he couldn’t not take precaution.
Gongzi Yu suddenly laughed. His laughter was graceful and courteous. “You truly are worthy of being called an incomparable, elite master.”
Fu Hongxue was still silent.
But Madame Zhuo blinked her eyes a few times. “He didn’t even move, but you can tell he is a master?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Precisely because he did not move, he is an incomparable, elite master.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Can it be that not moving is harder than moving?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Much harder.”
Madame Zhuo said, “I don’t understand.”
Gongzi Yu said, “You should understand. If you were Fu Hongxue, and knew that I had suddenly arrived at your back, what would you do?”
Madame Zhuo said, “I would definitely be very surprised!”
Gongzi Yu said, “When surprised, you can’t help but put up your guard. You can’t help but move.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Right!”
Gongzi Yu said, “But so long as you moved, you would die!”
Madame Zhuo said, “Why?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Because you simply do not know from where I might attack. Thus, no matter how you move, you will have made a fatal mistake.”
Madame Zhuo said, “If an opponent like you suddenly appeared behind somebody, no matter who they are, they would be tense. Even if they didn’t move, the muscles on their back would tighten.”
Gongzi Yu said, “But his did not. Although I have been standing behind him for very long, not a single part of his body has changed!”
Madame Zhuo finally let out a sigh. “Now I finally understand. Not moving truly is much harder than moving.”
If you knew a man like Gongzi Yu was standing behind you, but could keep all the muscles in your body loose and slack, then you must be a man with nerves colder than ice.
Madame Zhuo suddenly asked again, “Can it be that if he doesn’t move, you won’t have an opportunity to attack?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Not moving is moving. The final destination of all movements is not moving.”
Madame Zhuo said, “If you have too many openings, you actually have no openings, because your entire body will have become open. Open and clear, as empty as a vast mist. So you actually won’t know where to make your move?”
Gongzi Yu chuckled. “I knew you would understand this reasoning.”
Madame Zhuo said, “I also know that you definitely won’t attack. If you wanted to kill him from behind, you had many better opportunities than this one.”
Smiling, she said, “Because your goal isn’t to kill him. It’s to beat him.”
Gongzi Yu suddenly let out a sigh. “Killing him is easy. Beating him is really very difficult.”
He finally walked out from behind Fu Hongxue. His steps were serene and stable. Just at this moment, Fu Hongxue suddenly felt as though he were about to collapse. Cold sweat soaked his clothes.
He definitely could not let Gongzi Yu see this. He suddenly said, “Why must you give up the easy path and take the hard one?”
Gongzi Yu said in a heavy voice, “Because you are Fu Hongxue, and I am Gongzi Yu.”
Gongzi Yu was finally facing Fu Hongxue now. But Fu Hongxue still could not see his true appearance.
From the back, his elegant bearing seemed perfect and unassailable. However, on his face he wore a ferocious, hideous bronze mask!
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “I didn’t imagine that Gongzi Yu doesn’t dare to use his own face to meet people.”
Madame Zhuo said, “You are wrong.”
Fu Hongxue sneered.
Madame Zhuo said, “What you are seeing right now is Gongzi Yu’s true face.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What I am seeing right now is but a mask.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Isn’t there a mask on my face right now? Have you always had this cold, frozen, bloodless pale look to your face? And yet, isn’t this still your true face?”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth again.
Madame Zhuo said, “Actually, you should understand that how he looks isn’t important, so long as you know that he is Gongzi Yu. This is the important point.”
This was the truth. Not even Fu Hongxue could deny it, because he couldn’t help but ask himself: “Am I currently showing my true features right now? What do my true features look like?”
Gongzi Yu lightly said, “I don’t necessarily want to see your true features. I just want to know that you are Fu Hongxue. That’s enough.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him. Only after a long time, did he say in a deep voice, “Now, you already know that I am Fu Hongxue. I also already know that you are Gongzi Yu.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Therefore, there is something I wish to resolve.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Between the two of us, only one of us can stay alive.”
His voice was still callous but polite. He was clearly very confident in himself. “Whoever is stronger is whoever shall survive.”
Fu Hongxue said, “There seems to be only one way to resolve this issue.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Correct. There’s only one way. Since ancient times, there’s only been one way.”
He stared at the sabre in Fu Hongxue’s hand. “So I must personally defeat you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Otherwise, you’d rather die?”
An unspeakable look of sorrow was suddenly revealed in Gongzi Yu’s eyes. “Otherwise, I must die.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I don’t understand.”
Gongzi Yu said, “You should understand. I don’t want others to kill you, in order to prove that I am stronger than you. I am definitely going to be the strongest in the world. Otherwise, I would rather die.”
His voice was suddenly filled with cynicism. “The martial world is like an independent country of its own. Only one ruler may be allowed to exist at any one time. If it isn’t me, it’d be you!”
Fu Hongxue said, “This time, I’m afraid you’re wrong!”
Gongzi Yu said, “I’m not wrong. There are many things which indicate that aside from me, you are the person with the highest level of martial arts in the martial world!”
He suddenly turned around, facing the painting on the wall. He slowly continued, “You were able to survive long enough to get here. That wasn’t an easy task. It wasn’t due to luck.”
Madame Zhuo let out a light sigh. “It definitely wasn’t.”
There were many people on the painting, almost lifelike in their perfection. The painting revealed a series of stories. There was a common person in every story. That person was Fu Hongxue. Facing the painting, the first thing he saw was himself.
Gloomy weather, a little town on the borderlands. There were two people locked in a vicious battle in the long street. One wore clothes as white as snow, but in his hand he wielded a scarlet red sword. The other wielded a pitch-black sabre.
Gongzi Yu said, “You should remember this. This is the Phoenix Market.”
Fu Hongxue naturally remembered. At that time, the Phoenix Market hadn’t become a dead settlement. That was also the first time he had met Yan Nanfei.
Gongzi Yu said, “In this battle, you defeated Yan Nanfei.”
In the second segment of the painting, the Phoenix Market had already become a ghost town. In the middle of the mist, two people knelt before Fu Hongxue.
Gongzi Yu said, “In this battle, you defeated the Twin Killers of the Five Elements.
And then it was the vipers in the horse saddle, Ghostly Granny’s poisonous cakes, and the poisoned wine in the bright moon’s building.
In the middle of the desolate Ni Family Garden, a young barefoot man was slowly falling down before his sabre.
Gongzi Yu said, “Du Lei originally was an expert of a rarely seen calibre in the martial world. His sabre was forged through bitterness and misery. Although it was a bit arrogant and artificial, I really did not imagine that you would kill him in one chop!”
Fu Hongxue said, “A sabre art designed to kill only has one chop!”
Gongzi Yu sighed. “Not to think of it, and yet when you think of it, the gods know . Striking later, but arriving first. Not changing despite thousands of transformations in front of you. One sabre chop really is enough!”
Not only did this single sabre chop shatter all of the various transformations of all sabre arts, it also overcame the boundaries of form and speed.
Madame Zhuo said, “What I really could not imagine was that you were actually able to escape from that secret room in the Peacock Manor!”
The Peacock Manor had turned into a heap of rubble, and Zhuo Yuzhen appeared on the painting. The Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch angrily chopped the horse in half, chef Hao chopped flesh in front of the cart, Mingyue Xin and Zhuo Yuzhen being sent into the secret room in the Peacock Manor, Gongsun Tu appearing, Zhuo Yuzhen giving birth in the secret room…
By this time, Fu Hongxue’s hand had already turned ice cold.
Madame Zhuo said, “She was a string. Originally, we wanted to use her to bind your hands. If your heart always pined after her and her two children, your hands will effectively have been fastened.”
A person whose hands had been fastened, naturally was not worth Gongzi Yu personally dealing with.
Madame Zhuo sighed again. “But we truly did not imagine that even in that situation, you were capable of killing the Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch!”
Fu Hongxue’s hands tightened. “At that time, you were already preparing to allow her to reveal her true identity. Why did you have her kill Du Shiqi?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Because we needed her to do one last thing.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You wanted her to use those two children to force me to hand over the Sorrowful Book of Yin and Yang and of Heaven and Hell Mingling?”
Madame Zhuo nodded. “Only then did we believe that the Sorrowful Book of Yin and Yang did not fall into your hands, because we knew that for those two children, you would be willing to give up everything.”
She sighed again, then said, “A pity that you actually were able to master the Great Acupoint Changing Technique. You actually didn’t die in her hands. The even greater pity is that you couldn’t steel your heart enough to kill her!”
The girl wearing the jasmine flowers appeared on the painting. She was feeding chicken soup to Fu Hongxue. The old lady next door was killing a chicken. Xiao Ting, wearing her jasmine flowers, was buying alcohol in the small store at the other side of the street. The obese store owner was staring at her chest, an obscene smile on his face. But he lay drunken in that small room, as though he had slowly become used to that lowly way of living.
Madame Zhuo said, “At that time, we originally thought that you were finished. Even if you could still kill, you would be nothing more than an insane executioner. You were already not worth Gongzi Yu personally dealing with you.”
The only person Gongzi Yu would personally deal with was the strongest person in the martial world.
Madame Zhuo said, “Even if you were already no longer the strongest person in the martial world, we wouldn’t have been happy if you died in a sewer. So at that time, we were planning to find someone else to kill you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Unfortunately, there aren’t many people who can kill me.”
Madame Zhuo said, “We at least have one person who can.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Who?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Yourself.”
Fu Hongxue suddenly once again thought of that bitter, cold, despairing melody. It was more than enough to make a person totally lose all his will to live. No one could have imagined that when he reached that point, he would still have the courage to keep living. Perhaps it was because he had that sort of courage, that he was able to live until today. If even he himself could defeat himself, why would Gongzi Yu need to personally deal with him?
Gongzi Yu said, “Thus, you should now finally understand that you were able to live until today, not because of luck.”
Fu Hongxue asked again. “Have you done this solely because you must prove you are stronger than me?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Right?”
Once more, that unspeakable sorrow and cynicism was in his eyes. “Because all of this can only be enjoyed by the strongest person. If you can defeat me, all of this is yours.”
Fu Hongxue said, “All of this?”
Madame Zhuo said, “What all of this refers to is everything. It not only includes all of his riches, his honor, and his glory, it also includes me.”
She laughed. Her laughter was very gentle, very warm, very sweet. “So long as you can beat him, even I am yours.”
Open the door and outside you would see a long hallway, so long that it seemed one could never reach the end. Gongzi Yu had already opened the door, walked out, then turned around.
“Please, come with me.”
Madame Zhuo didn’t follow Fu Hongxue out. Now, they had reached the end of this hallway.
At the end of the hallways was another flower-carved wooden door. It was exquisite but solemn. Within was a spacious grand hall. There was an enormous stone platform, with four enormous torches lit in each of the four corners.
Gongzi Yu slowly went onto the platform. Standing in the middle of the platform, he said, “This is where we shall fight.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Excellent.”
A perfectly smooth stone platform. Brilliant torchlight. No matter where you stood, no matter where you faced, everything was the same. There wasn’t even a hint of wind in the room. The preparations you made while striking, or the speed of your strike, definitely wouldn’t be interfered with by any outside factors.
Gongzi Yu clearly didn’t want to gain any unfair advantages from the weather or the terrain. For a person to do this much was already a very rare thing.
There were three large and comfortable chairs on each of the two sides of the stone platform. Every chair was precisely seven feet away from the stone platform.
Gongzi Yu said, “When we fight, only six people can be allowed to watch. They will also be the witnesses to our duel. You may choose any three people you please.”
Fu Hongxue said, “No need.”
Gongzi Yu said, “When experts fight, victory and defeat are often determined in a very brief period of time. With your own friends watching on the side, you would feel a bit more at ease. Why would you give up this right?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because I have no friends.”
Gongzi Yu stared at him, then said, “It’s best if you keep this right. If the people whom I bring make you feel uncomfortable, you have the right to reject them.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Very good.”
Gongzi Yu said, “You’ve been exhausted, day after day. You can’t help but not be as vigorous, as alert as you normally would be. It’s better if you rest here for some time. Thus, I will allow you to choose the day of our battle as well!”
Fu Hongxue hesitated, then said, “How about tomorrow, at this time?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Very good.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Then tomorrow, I will come again.”
Gongzi Yu said, “No need to leave. I have already prepared a room and a change of clothes for you here. You can rest in peace. There will definitely be no one who will come to disturb you. If you have any needs, we can carry them out for you.
Fu Hongxue said, “It seems this really will be a very fair duel.”
Gongzi Yu said, “It definitely will be.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I imagine you have already prepared my coffin as well.”
Gongzi Yu actually did not deny it. “It’s an excellent coffin made of nanmu wood. I had it specially imported here from Liuzhou. If you want to take a look at it, I can take you there.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Have you seen it?”
Gongzi Yu said, “I’ve seen it.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You are satisfied with it?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Very satisfied.”
Fu Hongxue dully said, “Then that’ll be all.”
Gongzi Yu’s reaction was even more flat. “Right now, perhaps the only thing you wish to see is your bed.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes.”
Gaudy, beautiful velvet curtains blocked the rays of the sun. The room as as dark as dusk.
From outside, the dull, monotonous sound of a sword being drawn could once more be heard. Fu Hongxue was totally awake and clear-minded.
Earlier, he had actually fallen asleep. He hadn’t been woken up by the sound of the sword. He suddenly woke up because someone had appeared in the room. A tall and slender human shadow, leaning against the window, back towards him. Beneath her soft silk gown, one could vaguely see her slender waist and limbs, and her perfectly straight legs.
She knew that Fu Hongxue had woken up, but did not turn around. Instead, she lightly let out a sigh, then slowly said, “Another day has passed. Day after day, year after year. When will this sort of life end?”
A noble, graceful voice. A gentle, exquisite posture. And yet, it carried an indescribable sense of weariness.
Fu Hongxue did not react.
Madame Zhuo slowly continued, “Perhaps you feel that I shouldn’t have come at all. After all, I am still his wife, but I truly am too tired of this life, and therefore…”
Fu Hongxue said, “Therefore, you hope that I can defeat him?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Right. I do hope you can defeat him. After all these years, you are the only person who has a chance to defeat him. Only after you defeat him can my life change.”
Fu Hongxue said, “The victor will get everything?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Absolutely everything.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Even his wife is included?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Yes.”
Fu Hongxue suddenly laughed coldly. “Since you aren’t a good wife, there’s no need for him to risk it.”
Madame Zhuo said, “But he still wishes to prove he is stronger than you.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “Prove it to who? Can it be that there is another master here who controls his life? Can it be that he is doing this because he simply does not have any room to choose otherwise?”
Madame Zhuo suddenly turned her head and fixed him with her stare. Her beautiful eyes were filled with shock. After a long time, she finally sighed, then said, “Why would you think these sorts of thoughts?”
Fu Hongxue said, “If you were me, what would you think?”
Madame Zhuo said, “At the very least, I wouldn’t think crazy thoughts like you are doing right now. I would focus all of my thoughts on how to defeat him.”
She slowly walked over, her limbs and her waist soft, her eyes like a pool of water. “Although I cannot be considered a good wife, I am still a very good woman. You should be able to see this.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I can’t.”
Madame Zhuo lightly let out a sigh. “Why don’t you take a look now.”
After she finished these words, the soft silk clothes on her body fell down.
Fu Hongxue’s breath stopped. He couldn’t help but admit that this was the most beautiful, flawless body he had ever seen in his life. A tall, noble woman, suddenly baring everything in front of you. This sort of temptation is all the more difficult for people to resist.
She quietly stood at the head of the bed, staring at him. “As long as you can win this battle, everything will be yours. But right now, it isn’t yet.”
Fu Hongxue’s pallid face had already flushed red. He knew the changes which were going on in his body. He also knew that she must have noticed as well.
A beautiful dusk. The room was so quiet, yet filled with the graceful aroma which her body emitted.
He was a man, after all.
But she suddenly lifted up her clothes, gliding out like a swallow. As she walked out the door, she suddenly turned and laughed, “Right now, I’m not yours yet. But if you need it, I can find someone else to accompany you.”
Fu Hongxue tightened his fist. He suddenly asked, “Is Zhuo Yuzhen here?”
Madame Zhuo nodded.
Fu Hongxue said, “Bring her here. Immediately.”
Shocked, Madame Zhuo stared at him. It seemed as though even in her wildest dreams, she had never imagined he would make this request.
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “You just said, if there is anything I need, you can provide it for me.”
Madame Zhuo laughed again. It seemed as though her laughter was filled with an indescribable sort of cunning. “Why do you insist on her? Why don’t you choose Mingyue Xin?”
Fu Hongxue’s body suddenly went stiff.
Madame Zhuo said leisurely, “You didn’t imagine that she would still be alive?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I…”
Madame Zhuo said, “She’s here. Do you want me to bring her here?”
Her face suddenly sunk. She coldly said, “I know you don’t want me to. You want Zhuo Yuzhen. You’ve always liked despicable, diabolical girls like her.”
With a slamming sound, the door closed heavily. This time, when she left, she didn’t look back.
Why did she suddenly turn so impulsive and angry? Just because Fu Hongxue wanted Zhuo Yuzhen?
A beautiful, cunning, yet level-headed woman, usually wouldn’t become angry over something like this.
Fu Hongxue was still quietly lying on his bed. That shrill, abrupt sound was still going on nonstop. The other was paying such a high price for this battle. If he were to become annoyed over a woman, wouldn’t that be silly?
But he couldn’t help but think of Mingyue Xin. If she really still had not died, and had fallen into the hands of these people, she might have met with a fate more miserable than death.
Only when he thought of this did he suddenly realize that it had been a long, long time since he had thought of her.
A person would always try to avoid thinking about things which made him feel guilty.
Suddenly, the night was deep and dark. The room was totally black. From outside, there was a sound of knocking.
“Who is it?”
“It is miss Zhuo, miss Zhuo Yuzhen.”
Two serving girls helped Zhuo Yuzhen walk in.
She had made herself up beautifully. Her beautiful black hair was adorned with pearl ornaments, and a beautiful scarlet red cloak covered her, dragging on the ground. She looked almost like the legendary beauty who was given away for a marriage treaty, Wang Zhaojun.
Right now, she obviously did not need to continue the pretense of being so pitiable. She coldly stared at Fu Hongxue. Her face was expressionless.
The serving girls put down the lantern. They giggled, then quietly crept away.
Zhuo Yuzhen suddenly coldly said, “Did you ask me to come?”
Fu Hongxue nodded.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “To get revenge on me?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I asked you to come, originally because I had a few questions I wanted to talk to you about.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “And now?”
Fu Hongxue said, “And now, I don’t want to ask anymore. So you can go.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “You don’t want to get revenge?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “You don’t want me to go to your bed either?”
Fu Hongxue closed his mouth. He didn’t actually blame her. For her to say these words wasn’t very surprising either. For women like her, when they were no longer capable of harming others with their actions, they would use poisonous words to harm instead. She hurt others, perhaps only to protect herself.
He didn’t blame her, but he suddenly felt very tired. He only hoped that she would leave quickly, and that they would never meet again. He suddenly realized that nothing else was important. Only tomorrow’s battle was important. He needed to defeat the man who was still practicing drawing his sword at this very moment. Only after defeating this person could he solve all of the mysteries, could he see Mingyue Xin again.
But Zhuo Yuzhen stubbornly stood there, staring at him. Her eyes were filled with grief and hatred. She suddenly said, “Since you don’t care about me at all, why did you insist on me coming?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Even if I shouldn’t have asked you to come, you can still leave now, just the same.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “It’s not the same anymore.”
Fu Hongxue said, “How is it not the same?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “It’s not the same, it’s not the same…”
It seemed as though she hadn’t even heard Fu Hongxue’s question. From her lips, that phrase simply continued without stopping. Who knows how many times she said it? Suddenly, her tears began to flow down her cheeks. Her body fell down as well. The scarlet red cape fluttered open, revealing a scarlet, blood-like color.
It was real blood. Fresh blood had already dyed her bare torso scarlet. On her entire body, there wasn’t a single part of her body that was whole.
Fu Hongxue jumped up, but his heart had already sunk down.
Zhuo Yuzhen ground her teeth. “By now, you should understand why it’s not the same anymore…”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because I asked you to come, she tortured you like this?”
Zhuo Yuzhen chuckled. “Actually, you should have realized long ago that although she didn’t want you to touch her, she didn’t want you to touch any other women, because…”
Her laughter was even more tragic than crying. She wanted to continue to speak, but could no longer say another word.
Fu Hongxue was still asking. “Why? Why?”
Zhuo Yuzhen chuckled again. Her eyes lifted up. A strong medicinal smell wafted up from her cloak. Her death wasn’t very painful, because her entire body had already been numbed by madame Zhuo’s medicine.
Supposedly, in far away Africa, in the fertile muds of the Nile river, there is a beautiful yet strange flower called the ‘opium’ poppy. Not only could it numb a person’s body, it could also numb a person’s soul.
Some women were just like that flower. The blood flowing within her noble, graceful body, was actually more venomous than the flowers of opium poppies.
Why did she do this? Just because she didn’t want Fu Hongxue to touch another woman?
She had only known Fu Hongxue for less than half a day. Why would she be so wildly jealous of him?
How could there be jealousy without love? How could there be love between people who had only known each other for half a day?
Fu Hongxue slowly stood up. He slowly walked over, then gently opened the door. If the door had been bolted from the outside, if the door had been made of iron, he wouldn’t have been surprised. He was already mentally prepared. No matter what happened, no matter what the situation, he was prepared to endure it.
Unexpectedly, with a light push, the door swung open. There was nobody outside the door, and there was nobody in the long hallway. There was only that monotonous, abrupt sound of a sword being drawn, still continuing without pause.
He headed towards the direction of this sound. The hallway was long but winding. There was a long distance between each room. After an unknown number of twists and turns, he finally saw a door. Inside the door, it was quiet. There was no one inside. There also was not the sound of a sword being drawn.
He still pushed the door open and went inside. He had once again arrived at the room he had just left. Zhuo Yuzhen, who had been in a pool of blood, had disappeared.
The room was still peaceful. Although a person was missing from it, a full table of dishes had been added to it.
It was time to eat dinner. Six exquisite dishes, all still warm, and a bamboo plate with small steamed buns on it. A pot of polished white rice, and a vat of not-yet-opened wine.
Right now, he really needed to drink a little wine, but he left again.
The hallway was the same, and as quiet as before. But his walking style had already changed. Originally, he walked very slowly. Now, he walked a bit faster. Originally, he was walking to the right; this time, he walked to the left.
After another unknown number of twists and turns, he once again saw a door. The room inside was still quiet. The carvings on the door were exactly the same as well. Only, when he left earlier, he hadn’t closed the door, while this door was shut.
He pushed the door open and walked in. He had already warned himself three times to be steady and keep calm. But once he entered the room, he couldn’t help but feel very unwell, because he once again saw that table of dishes. He once again had entered the room he had just left. The dishes were still warm. They seemed even warmer than they were earlier.
But beneath the vat of wine, there was a short note. The writing was very delicate. Clearly, it was a woman’s handwriting!
“The bright moon never had a heart. Why search for the moon?
A little drink can help you sleep soundly. Why don’t you drink alone?”
Fu Hongxue sat down. He had to force himself to sit down, because he had discovered that regardless of how he walked, the result was the same. He would still come back here, would still see that table filled with dishes which seemed to never grow cold.
He also wanted to force himself to eat a bit, but as soon as he lifted up his chopsticks, he found that something was amiss. Of the six dishes earlier, one dish had been squirrel and yellow croaker, while another was sweet and sour spareribs. Although he had only taken one look, he remembered it very clearly. He was always very sensitive to the sour taste of vinegar as well, but now, all six of the dishes were vegetarian. The full pot of rice had turned into a full pot of porridge.
He also finally realized that this room wasn’t the room he had just left. Not only was every room here identical, the utensils and the furniture were identical as well. Even he couldn’t tell if the room he originally was in was this one, or the previous one?
The bedding on the bed was in a mess. Clearly, someone had slept here. Was the person who had been sleeping on this bed earlier him, or someone else? If it wasn’t him, who was it?
What type of people lived in this mysterious, strange place?
I agree, I don't understand the dagger reference regarding Little Li. His dagger was nothing special at all; that was emphasized repeatedly.
Thanks for the translation. The speed is truly astounding! If you continue at this rate I won't have time to make random comments in the other sections anymore :)
Chapter 23: Mysterious Old Man
There was a small room behind the bedroom. The sound of water could be heard coming from it.
He couldn’t help but walk over. The door was open. He took only one look, before feeling all the warm blood in his body rush to his head.
The small room was actually a beautifully decorated and furnished bathing room. Steam rose from the hot water, and there were carved jade banisters in all directions. There was a large white robe on top of the banister.
A person stood in the middle of the water, back to him, snow-white skin as sleek and glossy as silk. Sleek waist and limbs, plentiful and round buttocks, tall and slender legs. She looked as though she had been carved from white jade.
Fu Hongxue couldn’t see her face. All he could see was that all of the hair on her head had been shaved off cleanly, leaving behind only the incense scars on her head.
This beautiful, bathing woman was actually a nun.
It wasn’t as though Fu Hongxue hadn’t seen a woman before. He had also seen naked women before. But a naked nun was something way different.
Although the beauty of this nun’s backside made his eyes dizzy and his heart tremble, he definitely did not dare to take another look.
He immediately rushed out. After a long time, his heartrate finally returned to normal.
He suddenly had a strange thought. “Can this nun be Mingyue Xin?”
This wasn’t impossible. After experiencing such traumatic events, Mingyue Xin very well could have left the secular world and become a nun. But he no longer had the courage to go back in and verify it.
Just at this moment, he noticed another door. It had the same carvings, and it also seemed unlocked. He was no longer able to verify whatsoever whether or not this room was the same room he had originally stayed in.
Perhaps Mingyue Xin was inside this room. Or perhaps madame Zhuo was inside the room, her heart as venomous as a pit of vipers.
Since he had already come here, he was definitely going to take a look. He first knocked on the door. No response. He lightly pushed the door open. There really was a table full of dishes inside. This was the time to eat dinner, after all. Any type of person would be eating.
A crisp, sweet taste wafted out from the door. Of the six dishes on the table, there really was one dish with squirrel and yellow croaker, and one dish with sweet and sour spareribs.
After spinning around in innumerable circles, he had once more arrived in his own room. Unexpectedly, he actually felt relieved. Just as he was about to push the door open and go in, he suddenly heard a thudding sound as the door closed inwards.
A cold female voice said from within, “Who is sneaking around outside? Leave now!”
Fu Hongxue’s heart leapt.
He could tell whose voice this was. It was Mingyue Xin’s voice. He couldn’t resist saying, “Mingyue Xin, is that you?”
After a long time, he once more reported his own name. He thought that Mingyue Xin would definitely open the door.
Who would have known that the female voice would coldly say, “I don’t know you. Leave now.”
Was she forced to act this way, due to a perilous condition? Was someone guarding her, causing her to not dare to meet with him?
Fu Hongxue suddenly rammed the door hard. A carved wooden door is always weaker than a plain one. As soon as he collided with it, it opened.
He walked in. A person was standing in front of the bed, staring at him coldly. But it wasn’t Mingyue Xin. It was madame Zhuo.
It seemed as though she too had just come from the bathing chamber. Her naked body had already been covered with a soft silk robe, but it made her body seem all the more alluring. Fu Hongxue was stunned.
Madame Zhuo said icily, “You shouldn’t have barged in like this. You should know that right now, I am someone else’s wife.”
Her voice really did have some vague similarities with that of Mingyue Xin’s. Fu Hongxue only stared at her, as though he were trying to discern some secret from her face.
Madame Zhuo said, “I’ve already sent Zhuo Yuzhen to you. Why did you come here to find me?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because you are the person I am looking for. You are Mingyue Xin.”
There was no sound in the room, nor was there any expression on madame Zhuo’s face. It was as though she was wearing a mask.
Perhaps this was her true face. Or perhaps this, too, was not. But this was already unimportant, because Fu Hongxue now already understood that how she looked was unimportant. So long as he knew that she was Mingyue Xin, the important point had been grasped.
She stood there without moving for an unknown period of time. She finally let out a long sigh. “You are wrong.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”
Madame Zhuo dully said, “There’s no such person as Mingyue Xin in the world. The bright moon never had a heart to begin with.” [Going back to the pun of ‘Mingyue Xin’ literally meaning ‘Bright moon’s heart’. These words were also spoken by Fu Hongxue long ago, when he first met Mingyue Xin.]
Fu Hongxue acknowledged that.
A bright moon with a heart was like a rose without thorns. It only appeared in legends and fairy tales.
Madame Zhuo said, “Perhaps you once saw Mingyue Xin in a different place, but that person is just like your old lover, Cui Nong. She no longer exists.”
A bygone love which is hard to forget, a wound which is eternal. Perhaps it was precisely because she knew that he would never dare to face that face that she chose that face to disguise herself as, so that he might never see through her disguise.
During times of sunlight, she would even put on a smiling, laughing mask. And then she suddenly disappeared. Mingyue Xin had disappeared forever. It was as though she had never existed.
Fu Hongxue said, “Unfortunately, you made one mistake. You should not have killed Zhuo Yuzhen.”
How could there be jealousy without love? How could there be love between people who had only known each other for half a day?
A strange red color had already begun to suffuse Fu Hongxue’s face. “You killed her, only because you hate me.”
That noble, graceful expression on her face had disappeared as well. Her eyes were suddenly filled with hatred.
How could there be hatred without love?
“Mingyue Xin died for you, but you never even mentioned her; Zhuo Yuzhen harmed you like that, and yet you always remembered her.”
She didn’t actually say these words. She didn’t need to say these words.
She suddenly loudly said, “Right, I hate you, so I hope you will die.”
Turning around, she entered the small room behind her. A splashing sound could be heard, as though someone leapt into the bath. But by the time Fu Hongxue entered to find her, the bathing pool was empty, and there was no one in the room.
The abrupt, monotonous sword-drawing sound continued. It seemed to be just outside the window, but when he pushed apart the drapes and pulled the window up, there was only a stone wall outside with only a few air holes. Through these air holes, only darkness could be seen, without any clue as to what type of place it was.
How did she leave? That small room definitely had a secret passage, but Fu Hongxue no longer cared to search for it. He had already found the person he was looking for, and he also knew why she killed Zhuo Yuzhen.
Now, the only thing he could do was wait. Wait for the battle tomorrow. Although waiting here was the same as waiting anywhere else, he wasn’t willing to wait here. Pushing the door open, he left. The abrupt, monotonous sword-drawing sound seemed even closer.
He knew that he definitely would not be able to rest peacefully, and that madame Zhuo definitely wouldn’t let him off. She definitely would think of all sorts of methods to harass him, to make him feel anxious and tense, to destabilize his mind. Even though he hadn’t mistreated her, even though she had gone missing of her own accord, and although they hadn’t come to any sort of secret accord or relationship in the past…she would never think of these things.
When a woman decides to hate a man, she could find a couple hundred excuses at any time. Although there were many inexplicable things in this situation, he was no longer willing to think about them. So long as he could defeat Gongzi Yu, every single mystery would immediately be revealed. Why should he overthink things now?
And if he were to die to Gongzi Yu, these matters would become even less worth thinking about. Death was the best answer to any sort of question!
At this time, he found yet another door. The sword-drawing sound came from this room.
This time, he was certain. The sword-drawing sound definitely was coming from this room.
He stretched his hand out to push the door open. As soon as his finger touched the door, he suddenly discovered that this door was cast from iron.
The room was bolted from inside. He couldn’t push it open, nor could he ram it open. Knocking had even less of a response. Just as he was about to give up, he suddenly noticed that the copper rings above the door were especially bright. Clearly, a person’s hand had often stroked them.
A copper ring wasn’t like a woman’s breast, nor was it a toy. If there was no particular reason for it, nobody would often play with a copper ring.
He immediately found the reason. He spun the copper rings around, testing tens of times, before finding the correct solution.
The iron door immediately opened.
The sword-drawing sound also immediately stopped!
When he entered the room, he didn’t see the sword-drawer. But he saw a gigantic treasury, the likes of which he had never seen before.
Pearls, green jade, crystals, catseyes, and all sorts of other gems which he did not know the name for were piled in a giant heap.
This was a room that was far larger than anyone could imagine. These priceless pearls and gemstones evidently did not seem to be very precious in the eyes of the host. There wasn’t even a chest in this room. The heaps of gems were like heaps of shining garbage, scattered messily all about.
There was a metal cabinet in one corner of the room. On top of it, there was a massive iron lock. What was hidden inside? Can it be that it was even more precious than all of these treasures?
In order to open the metal cabinet, the massive iron lock must first be opened. In order to open the lock, one must have the key.
But there was a type of person who did not need a key to open a lock. Although there weren’t too few people of this sort in the world, there weren’t too many either. In addition, this lock was exquisitely made. The artisan who made this lock once boasted that there couldn’t be more than three people in the world who could open this lock without the key, because he knew the three most godlike thieves in the world. But what he didn’t know was that there was a fourth person in the world.
Fu Hongxue was the fourth.
He picked the lock open very quickly. Within the cabinet, there was only a sword and an old ledger.
A scarlet sword, as crimson as fresh blood.
Fu Hongxue’s pupils contracted. Naturally, he recognized that this was Yan Nanfei’s ‘Rose Sword’.
‘If the sword is here, the man is here! If the sword is broken, the man perishes!’ His sword was here. Where was he?
The ledger was very old and very ratty. Clearly, someone often leafed through it. Why would such an old, ratty ledger be treasured so much?
He casually flipped it open, and then immediately found the solution. On top of this page, the following words were written:
Wang Feng, leader of the Magnificent Escort Agency, made a mistake in offering a poor tribute on February 18th. The young master did not like it.
On February 19th, Wang Feng was trampled to death.
Nangong Ao, second son of the aristocratic Nangong family, was slow to pay his respects when met on February 19th. His words were not courteous.
On the night of February 19th, Nangong Ao died by violence after drinking.
Peng Gui, heir to the ‘Five Tigers Shattering the Gate’ sabre technique, did not do his job properly on February 21st. He revealed classified information.
On February 22nd, Peng Gui committed suicide.
Just after seeing these few lines, Fu Hongxue’s hands were already cold.
To Gongzi Yu, no matter what mistake you made, the result would be the same.
Death! Only death can truly solve the issue at the root.
Gongzi Yu definitely wouldn’t give anyone the chance to make a second mistake. Even less would he allow anyone to retaliate. This ledger symbolized his power, his power over people’s life and death, an absolute, tyrannical power. This sort of power naturally was more intoxicating than that of pearls or wealth!
So long as you can win the battle, everything will be yours, including all the wealth, the glory, and the power!
Since time immemorial, heroes and valiant men had endured through hundreds of battles, piled up bones into mountains, caused blood to flow like a river, all for what?
Who could resist this sort of lure?
Fu Hongxue let out a long sigh. Lifting his head up, he suddenly saw a pair of eyes staring out at him from within the metal cabinet.
Originally, there was only a sword and a ledger in the cabinet. But now, a pair of eyes, sharper than knife edges, had appeared within it.
The four square-foot iron cabinet suddenly became both dark and mysterious. So dark, the bottom couldn’t be seen. That pair of eyes remained in the darkness, staring at him.
Fu Hongxue unconsciously took two steps back. His palm was already cold with sweat. He naturally knew that there was a door on the other side of the cabinet, and that there was a man outside the door.
Now, the door on that side was open as well. The man suddenly appeared.
But for such a pair of eyes to suddenly appear in the darkness, he still couldn’t help but be startled. And then, he immediately saw this person’s face. A face filled with wrinkles and white hair. It was an old man who had experienced the hardships of life. However, his eyes were still young and filled with a boundless intelligence and power.
The old man smiled. “I know you have night vision. You certainly have already seen that I am an old man.”
Fu Hongxue nodded.
The old man said, “This is the first time you have seen me. It is also the first time I have seen you with my own eyes. I hope this isn’t the last time.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You, too, hope that I will defeat Gongzi Yu?”
The old man said, “I at least don’t wish to see you die.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What benefit does my being alive bring you?”
The old man said, “No benefit. I only hope that this battle can be truly fair.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”
The old man said, “Only if the truly superior person wins, can this match been considered truly fair.”
His smile disappeared. His decrepit old face immediately became solemn and impressive. Only a person who is used to controlling power can have such a firm, tenacious expression.
He slowly continued, “The strongest will have everything. This has always been an unalterable, right and proper principle. Only the truly strongest man can be worthy of having everything.”
Fu Hongxue stared at his transformation in astonishment. He couldn’t help but ask, “Do you think I am stronger than him?”
The old man said, “At least, you are the only person who has a chance to defeat him. But right now, you are too tense, too tired.”
Fu Hongxue admitted to it. This entire time, he had been trying to keep himself calm and collected, but he had failed.
The old man said, “There is only sixteen hours from now to the time of your battle. If you cannot totally relax yourself, at this time tomorrow, your corpse will surely be ice cold.”
He did not let Fu Hongxue speak. He continued, “Walk out of this room and take three turns to the right. In the room to the left, there will be a woman waiting for you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Who?”
The old man said, “You don’t need to ask who she is. Nor do you need to ask why she is waiting for you!”
His voice had also turned sharp and grim!
“A man like you should always consider all the women in the world to be nothing more than tools.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Tools?”
The old man said, “She is the only tool which can make you relax.”
Fu Hongxue was silent.
The old man said, “If you won’t do this, after you leave, take three turns to the left. You can find another room there as well.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What is in that room?”
The old man said, “A coffin.”
Fu Hongxue’s hand tightened around his sabre. “Who exactly are you? What right do you have to command me?”
The old man laughed. His laughter was still mysterious and cunning.
Just as his laughter emerged, his face disappeared into the darkness, as though it had never emerged from it.
Fu Hongxue passed through all of the piles of gems. Without even looking back, he walked out. In his eyes, these priceless gems were nothing more than piles of garbage.
After he walked out of the room, he immediately turned left, three times in a row. He really did see a door.
It was an empty room. The only thing in it was a coffin. It was an excellent coffin of nanmu wood. In length and in width, it seemed to have been made based on measurements of Fu Hongxue’s body. There was a set of black trousers placed on top of the coffin as well. Its measurements were, of course, perfectly matched to his body frame.
These had all been prepared especially for him. Every aspect was prepared meticulously. This wasn’t the first time they had done this, after all.
He could even imagine how, after he died, a new page would be added to that ledger.
Fu Hongxue was too tired and exhausted, arrogant and stupid, on X day of X month. The young master was overjoyed.
On X day of X month, Fu Hongxue died to his sword.
He naturally wouldn’t see this ledger entry. The people who could see the entry would surely be very happy and cheerful.
The coffin was cold and hard. The newly applied black paint glimmered slightly.
He suddenly turned around, first returning to that gem-filled treasury. Once again, the dull, monotonous sound of a sword being drawn could be heard from within.
But he didn’t stop. He took three right turns in a row, then pushed open a door on the left.
Inside, the room was dark. Nothing could be seen, but a light fragrance could be smelled.
He walked in and closed the door. He knew where the bed was. He could already hear his own heart begin to jump.
Was there really someone on the bed? What type of person?
He was incapable of treating a living person as a tool. But he also knew that what that old man said was the truth.
If a person wanted to make himself relax, this definitely was the most efficacious method.
The room was very quiet. He finally heard a person breathing. It was a light, yet evenly spaced sound, like a gentle spring breeze blowing over the plains.
He couldn’t resist testing a question. “Who are you? Why are you waiting for me?”
He could only go over. The bed was warm and soft. Stretching his hand out, he found something which was even warmer and even softer, as smooth and as glossy as satin.
She was already totally nude. His finger gently stroked her smooth, sleek underbelly. The breathing sound immediately became rapid.
He asked again, “Do you know who I am?”
Still no response, but a pair of hands suddenly gripped him.
A long life of abstinence had made him extremely sensitive and easily excited. He was, after all, a man in the prime of his life. His body had already begun to change.
The urgent breathing sounds had already become overwhelming groans, gently drawing him in. He suddenly sank into a deep, warm joy.
Her body was as sweet, as warm, and as refreshing as the grasslands on a sunny spring day. Not only did it endure, it gave back.
In the midst of his obsession, he suddenly, dimly thought of the first time he had accepted this sort of joy. That time, it was in the dark as well. That woman was just as ripe and just as much to be longed for. But what she had offered, she had offered not for love, but to change him into a man, because it was the eve of the day when he was going to take revenge.
The next day, when he awoke, he really did feel filled with an unprecedented sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, as well as a greater sense of vigour.
Life really is such a marvelous thing. Some times, ‘expenditures’ could actually make a person more ‘replenished’.
The moist grassland was wriggling.
He stretched his hand out. He suddenly realized that this totally naked woman was wearing a piece of satin on her head.
What was that for? Can it be that she didn’t want for him to caress her hair? Or was it because she didn’t have any hair at all?
When he thought of the pure white back of the girl in the bath, he once more felt as though he were committing a sin, but this sinful sensation made him feel all the more stimulated.
And thus, he totally let himself sink into a sort of carnal pleasure which he had never let himself indulge in before. He finally managed to totally relax himself and extricate himself.
He finally woke up.
It had been many years since he had slept so sweetly. By the time he woke up, the person by his side had already gone, but her fragrance remained on the pillow. The music had disappeared, as though it was like a spring dream which no one could ever catch.
There was actually a light in the room, and the table was covered with dishes. On a banister in the pool inside, there was even a snow-white robe.
Can it be that the woman really was…
He forbade himself from thinking further. He soaked in the warm water for an hour, then ate some food. He then once again felt feeling of satisfaction, of vitality. He felt as though he had enough strength to deal with everything.
Just at this moment, the door opened.
Madame Zhuo was standing at the doorway, coldly staring at him. Her beautiful eyes were filled with cynicism. She coldly said, “You are already prepared?”
Fu Hongxue nodded.
Madame Zhuo said, “Good. Come with me.”
The sound of the sword being drawn was gone now. The hallway was as silent as a tomb.
Madame Zhuo was right in front of her. Her waist and her limbs were slender, and her bearing was graceful and charming, making her appear noble and mesmerizing.
But right now, in Fu Hongxue’s eyes, she was only an ordinary woman, no different from any other woman in the entire world.
Because he was totally calm, now. As cold as a sabre blade. As steady as a rock.
He had to be calm. Gongzi Yu was waiting for him past the door in front. This door could be the very last door he would cross.
Madame Zhuo had already stopped. Turning to look at him, she suddenly laughed. “Right now, if you wish to flee, I can still give you a few pointers on how to escape.”
Her laughter was graceful and elegant, her voice was sweet and warm.
But Fu Hongxue could neither see her nor hear her. He pushed the door open, walked in standing straight as a ramrod, but his walking posture was still as clumsy and laughable as ever.
But there was already nothing in the world which could hold him back. His hand naturally was still tightly gripping his sabre.
A pale white hand! A pitch-black sabre!
Gongzi Yu did not have his sword in hand. The sword was by his side, on top of the stone platform.
A scarlet red sword, as red as blood.
He was leaning against the stone platform, quietly watching as Fu Hongxue walked over. He still wore the terrifying bronze mask on his face. But his grim, callous eyes were even more terrifying than the mask.
But Fu Hongxue didn’t seem to notice, as though he had never before seen either this person, or this sword. He had already reached the state of forgetting the self, forgetting the world. These, at least, were the demands he made of himself: No life and death, no victory or defeat, no others, no self. This wasn’t just the highest level of understanding in being a person. This was also the highest level of attainment in martial arts. Only when the mind was totally clear and calm could one execute a sabre technique which surpassed everything. Not only would he surpass the boundaries of form, he would surpass the limits of speed.
Could he really achieve this? Out of the many master craftsmen and artisans from antiquity til now, how many were able to achieve this?
The flames of the torches rose high in the air.
Underneath the flickering light of the torches, Gongzi Yu’s bronze mask seemed to be alive, and the expressions on that mask seemed to be changing as well.
But his gaze was absolutely calm. He suddenly said, “Are you already determined to give it up?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Give what up?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Give up the right to choose your own witnesses!”
Fu Hongxue was silent. After a long time, he slowly said, “I only want to find one person.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Who?”
Fu Hongxue said, “An old man in a metal cabinet.”
A strange change appeared in Gongzi Yu’s eyes, but they immediately returned to its earlier calmness. “I don’t know who you are speaking of.”
Naturally, of course he knew. But Fu Hongxue didn’t argue with him. He immediately said, “Then I give it up.”
Gongzi Yu seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. “Since that is the case, the only option is for me to take the power to choose all six witnesses.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Very well.”
Madame Zhuo said, “The first person is me. Do you object?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
Gongzi Yu said, “The second man is Boss Chen.”
There immediately was a loud cry from outside the door.
“Boss Chen, please enter!”
People who could serve as witnesses for this battle would naturally be people of great status. The number of qualified people weren’t many.
But this Boss Chen looked like an ordinary, common person. Although there was a very friendly look on his fat, round face, he still couldn’t hide the terror he felt. Gongzi Yu said, “Naturally, you will recognize this Boss Chen.”
Fu Hongxue said, “This Boss Chen recognizes you as well.”
Boss Chen immediately smiled obsequiously. “I recognize you. We met a year ago at the Phoenix Market.”
A bleak and desolate ghost town. An old and shabby shop sign, waving in the wind.
Chen Family Winery.
Chen Family Inn.
Fu Hongxue naturally remembered this person. But he seemed to have become totally deaf and blind.
Gongzi Yu didn’t seem to care. He dully asked Boss Chen, “You are very familiar with each other?”
Boss Chen said, “Not very familiar. We’ve only met one time.”
Gongzi Yu said, “You can remember him after seeing him just one time!”
Boss Chen hesitated. “Because right after this guest entered my store, my store was destroyed. The Phoenix Market was wrecked as well. I…”
He seemed to suddenly feel that his throat was dry. He started to cough nonstop, to the point where all the veins on his head stuck out. It seemed as though tears were about to roll out of his eyes.
Fortunately, Gongzi Yu waved him in. “Please come in.”
Madame Zhuo immediately supported him. In a warm, gentle voice, she said, “Let’s sit over here. Where there is life, there is hope. There’s no need to let past events weigh so heavily in your heart.”
Boss Chen said, “I w-…won’t…”
Before he finished even a single phrase, he began to bawl loudly.
The two most peerless, undefeatable masters were able to do battle, but one of the witnesses was crying loudly. This was very rarely seen as well.
Gongzi Yu was unaffected. He dully said, “Not only is Boss Chen honest and sincere, he is also experienced and knowledgeable. He really is the perfect person to be a witness!”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes.”
He spoke very calmly, as though all this was perfectly normal and natural.
Gongzi Yu didn’t reveal any trace of disappointment either. “The third witness is the Master of the Pavilion of Hidden Treasure, elder Ni Baofeng, Elder Ni.”
Once again, there was an immediate loud cry from outside!
“Elder Ni, please enter!”
An old man with splendid clothing walked in with his head high. Upon seeing Fu Hongxue, his eyes became filled with hatred and enmity.
No matter what type of person you are, if you could sit down silently when you see the man who killed your son and daughter standing before you, you will have done a very difficult task.
Ni Baofeng had sat down as well. He was seated next to the still-blubbering Boss Chen, but his eyes were still fixed on Fu Hongxue.
Gongzi Yu said, “Elder Ni is an elder of the martial world. Not only can he know treasures, he also knows people.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I know.”
Gongzi Yu said, “It is truly our great honor to be able to invite Elder Ni to come here and serve as our witness.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Do you object to any of my three witnesses?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
Gongzi Yu said, “Masters doing battle is just like national chess masters competing. A single wrong move will lead to total defeat across the board. Thus, not even one’s frame of mind can be disturbed in the slightest.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I know.”
Gongzi Yu said, “None of them disturb you?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Gongzi Yu looked at him. His eyes still actually did not reveal even a slight hint of disappointment.
Fu Hongxue’s face was totally expressionless as well. It didn’t matter if these three were his enemies, or his loved ones. If they were crying, or laughing. He didn’t care at all, because he had reached the point of listening but paying no attention, looking upon but not seeing.
Whether this battle was fair or unfair, he no longer cared anymore either.
Madame Zhuo looked at him from afar. Ni Baofeng and Boss Chen looked at him as well. Each of them had a strange expression on their face. It wasn’t just surprise. It was also dread, and also admiration.
But Gongzi Yu didn’t seem moved in the slightest. “The fourth is Master Ruyi of Mt. Jiuhua.”
There of course came a loud cry from outside!
“Master Ruyi, please enter.”
When he saw this person slowly walk in, Fu Hongxue’s expression changed. It was as though a dam which had never before failed suddenly collapsed.
Darkcser, chapter 24 is the last chapter, so you should have time! This book is all but finished! ;)
It is taking great self-restraint to stop me from heading over to qiqi.com to finish the last chapter!
Anyhow, I'd bet there will be no fight as usual. Gongzi Yu would be defeated without the sabre being drawn.....
Chapter 24: The Last Battle
In the past, on the nine rivers, I gazed at the peak of Mt. Jiuhua,
The Milky Way hung within black waters, with nine lovely lotuses appearing within.
I wish to wave my hand about, who is willing to follow me?
Sir, you are the host of this party, and thus now I lie relaxed amidst the clouds.
Mt. Jiuhua was forty li southwest of Anhui province’s Qingyang city. It was next to where the two cities of Jingxian and Lingyang were during the Han dynasty.
In the Three Kingdoms period, the Eastern Wu kingdom established the Lincheng county. After the Sui dynasty collapsed, the Tang dynasty created the Qingyang prefecture. The mountain had already become famous and was considered part of Chizhou prefecture. The mountain was five li north of the county, past the Plum Family Ridge and bordered by Guichi province.
Mt. Jiuhang was north of Linyang, east of Qiupu, was five small streams south of Datong, and bordered the Twin Dragon-Mouth Peaks to the west. In ancient days, it was named Mt. Jiuzi.
The Tang dynasty’s Li Bai toured Mt. Jiuzi. When he saw the mountain peak, which appeared like a blooming, nine-petaled lotus, he changed its name to Mt. Jiuhua.
It is recorded in books that “the old name was Mt. Jiuzi. The Tang dynasty poet saw that the nine peaks of the mountain appeared like they had been whittled into the shape of lotus petals, and thus changed the name to Mt. Jiuhua.”
It is also recorded in the annals of Qingyang province that “the mountain is forty li west of the county. There are forty eight famous peaks, fourteen crags, five caves, eleven ridges, eighteen springs, and two river sources. There are a number of other different, unique stone platforms, ponds, ravines, and brooks.”
‘Knowing and Doing Becoming One’, Wang Yangming, once studied within the reaches of this mountain. Throughout the ages, the place has held equal fame with Li Bai’s study.
The god of poetry, Li Bai, ‘changed Mt. Jiuzi to Mt. Jiuhua’ in an orderly fashion.
“…the Grand Historian’s tour of the south was described but not recorded. This matter definitely happened as the old men say, but no virtuous man of ability recorded it. Celestial spirits inspired and moved his pen, causing him to scratch out the old name and bestow the new one, Mt. Jiuhua. Next, he paid a visit to the men nearby, travelling with them to Xiahou Hui’s home. They sat down upon the snow from the pines, and left behind two or three lines for posterity.”
This was their poem.
“The amazing west is divided in two, Mt. Lingshan opens to Mt. Jiushan.” – Li Bai.
“The layered mountain holds back the tardy sun, half the cliffs are covered with bright, rosy clouds of dawn.” – Gao Ji.
“The accumulated snow gleams across the gully, and the joyful sun flies across the cliff.” –Wei Quanyu.
“The dazzling, jade-like trees, a vast mist floats about.” – Li Bai
But Mt. Jiuhua wasn’t just a place for poets. It was also chief amongst the places where Buddhists held their sacred rites to honor Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha.
The Sutra of the Ten Wheels of Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha: “Tranquil endurance as still as the earth. Quiet pondering as deep as a deep depository.” Thus, the name taken was ‘Ksitigarbha’, meaning ‘earth depository’.
This was recorded in the Mahayana sutras: “Upon a request by the World Honored One, Ksitigarbha pledged that until he had saved all the living things of the Six Paths, he would not become a Buddha. He often submerged his own body into hell, and had saved countless lives from torment. Thus, he is called the ‘Patriarch of the Nether World.’”
There were two rolls to the sutra of the Original Vows of the Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha. It is very difficult to interpret this Tang scripture, but within it, this was recorded: “The Buddha ascended to Trayamatrimsa Heaven to expound on the dharma to his mother. Next, he called Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha to him and made him the eternal ‘Patriarch of the Nether World’, so as to eventually bring all the people in the world to ascend to the highest joy.”
This sutra talked a great deal about hell and how to pursue merit to avoid it. It was a mourning sutra of Buddhism.
The sutra also discussed how Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha rescued countless souls and brought them to salvation. He did not make an empty vow when he promised to not become a Buddha until his great work was done. And thus, the name of this sutra was the ‘Original Vows of the Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha.’
Thus, not only was the sword skill of the ‘Mt. Jiuhua Sword Sect’ exquisite, it also possessed the romanticism of poets and the mysterious secrets of Buddhism.
There were seven great sword sects in the martial world. Mt. Jiuhua wasn’t actually one of them, because they were always very few disciples of the Mt. Jiuhua sect, and even more rarely did they travel abroad in the martial world.
Long ago, the martial world conflated the Mt. Jiuhua Sect with the Netherworld Sect. Both of them worshipped the same two founders. The first was Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha. The other the dissolute man of poetry and wine, the eternal, unmatchable Li Bai.
It was said that the lay Buddhist Qing Lian was not only a god of poetry, but that also a god of the sword. The Mt. Jiuhua Sword Technique was passed down from him. After hundreds on hundreds of years, another amazing hero appeared in the martial world, Li Mubai. He was also a direct descendant of the Mt. Jiuhua sect.
These legends made the Mt. Jiuhua sect even more mysterious and mystical in the hearts of the people of the martial world. The whereabouts of the disciples of the Mt. Jiuhua sect became even more secretive, and in recent years, they seemed to have vanished from the martial world.
But none of these things were the reason for Fu Hongxue’s shock. What shocked him was Master Ruyi.
Master Ruyi wore a white robe, and was barefoot in grass shoes. A bald head, a solemn expression, and light radiating from the pupils. Master Ruyi was, without a doubt, a Buddhist of extremely great learning. A female Buddhist.
She looked as though she were already in middle age. Her figure was moderately covered, her appearances was upright, her bearing was respectable and polite. There was nothing particularly attractive about the solemn expression on her face, and even less was there something which should surprise people. No matter who looked at her, they would only see a middle-aged nun who strictly followed Buddhist rules, who was not one bit different from the thousands on thousands of other nuns in the world.
But in Fu Hongxue’s eyes, the situation was totally different.
Although her appearance was ordinary and sedate, her jade-white hands were as beautiful as spring scallions, so soft as to appear boneless. She was barefoot in grass shoes, not wearing any socks, revealing a pair of feet which were as white as the snow, so beautiful they could dazzle. Her white Buddhist robe was spacious and soft, without a speck of dust on it, concealing a large part of her body.
No one would fantasize about what the body and figure of a middle-aged nun would be like, underneath her Buddhist robe.
But Fu Hongxue couldn’t help but think about it.
The spotlessly white Buddhist robe on the railing. The beautiful, lush body in the bathing pool. The groans and moans in the darkness. The warm, smooth embrace. And those two hands which brought him into the dream world.
In his mind, he actually couldn’t separate this outwardly-moral appearing nun with the ripe woman, filled with longing, from last night. Although he forbade himself from thinking about it, he still couldn’t help himself.
Although he had already become indifferent to all things, unmoved and untouched, but this extremely solemn, rule-abiding nun caused his heart to be thrown into chaos. He could already feel his lips go dry, his heart rate increase, as though there was no way for him to control it.
Master Ruyi only dully glanced at him. Her dignified, solemn face did not reveal a single trace of an expression.
Fu Hongxue almost couldn’t resist rushing over there, tearing open her Buddhist robe to see if she was that woman from last night. But he still managed to force himself to stay still.
He seemed to hear her ask, “So this would be the world famous benefactor, Fu Hongxue?” [Benefactor is a term which monks and nuns use to address secular people.]
He seemed to hear his own voice reply, “Yes. I am Fu Hongxue.”
Madame Zhuo looked at them. The expression in her eyes was crafty and sly.
Did she already know about them?
She suddenly laughed. “Master, you have been stationed long at Mt. Jiuhua. I didn’t imagine that even you would have heard of Hero Fu’s name.”
Master Ruyi said, “Although this humble nun is located in distant lands, I am not totally unaware of the matters of the martial world.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Master, didn’t you meet him before?”
Master Ruyi mumbled to herself, then actually nodded. “It seems that I saw him once. Only, at that time, it was already very dark, and I did not see him clearly.”
Madame Zhuo laughed. “But although you did not see him clearly, master, he definitely saw you very clearly.”
Master Ruyi said, “Oh?”
Madame Zhuo’s laughter became even more mysterious. “Because this Hero Fu has perfect night vision. Even in the darkness, he can clearly perceive each hair on an animal’s body.”
It seemed as though a strange expression had appeared on Master Ruyi’s face.
Fu Hongxue’s heart was sinking as well. Last night, in the dark room, he hadn’t actually seen her clearly. He had only faintly seen the outlines of her body.
He hadn’t realized this up til now. Only now did he realize that his eyesight had unknowingly suffered damage. That must have happened after he saw the old man in the iron cabinet.
Could it be that within that old man’s eyes, there was a power which could make others slow and sluggish? Why wouldn’t he allow Fu Hongxue to see the woman in the darkness? Why was she waiting for him in the darkness?
The last two witnesses were also invited in by Gongzi Yu, but Fu Hongxue actually didn’t notice who they were.
His heart was thrown in turmoil again. He couldn’t forget the events of last night, nor could he turn a living woman into a tool.
Boss Chen’s grief and pain and Ni Baofeng’s hatred-filled gaze suddenly became intolerable to him as well.
And that scarlet red sword. How could this sword be in Gongzi Yu’s hands? If the sword was in his hands, where was Yan Nanfei?
What type of mysterious relationship was there, exactly, between these two? Why was it that Gongzi Yu, up to this very moment, was still refusing to reveal his true features?
The torch fires rose up high. The stone platform was as bright as daylight.
Fu Hongxue finally walked on to the stone platform. He tightly gripped his sabre, even more tightly than normal. When he was sorrowful, vexed, suffering, or helpless, only this sabre had the power to stabilize him.
To him, this sabre was far more important than a blind man’s walking stick. There was already a strange emotional bond between him and the sabre, one which no person in the world could ever understand. Not only did they understand each other, they also trusted each other.
Gongzi Yu stared at him. One word at a time, he slowly said, “You can draw your sabre at any time, now.”
Now, the sword was already in his hand. Anybody could tell that he had even more confidence than Fu Hongxue.
Fu Hongxue unexpectedly said, “You can’t just wait a bit longer?”
A cynical look appeared in Gongzi Yu’s eyes. “I can wait. Only, no matter how long I wait, victory and defeat will not be affected.”
Fu Hongxue did not listen to his words. He suddenly turned around, left the stone platform, and walked to Master Ruyi.
Master Ruyi lifted her head up to look at him, appearing surprised and uncertain.
Fu Hongxue said, “Master, from whence do you come?”
Master Ruyi said, “I come from Mt. Jiuhua.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Where did the Prince come from?”
Master Ruyi said, “He came from Silla.” [Part of modern Korea.]
Fu Hongxue said, “Why did he give up his riches and honor?”
Master Ruyi said, “To abandon all to study Buddhism.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Since he sacrificed everything to study Buddhism, why did he vow not to become a Buddha?”
Master Ruyi said, “Only to bring all life to salvation.”
Her expression had become peaceful, and her expression had become even more solemn. But others couldn’t understand at all what they were talking about.
As it was, when the emperor of the Tang dynasty sent out troops to help quell a rebellion in Silla, the prince of Silla, Jin Qiaojue, gave up his glories and came to China to study Buddhism. By himself, he scaled Mt. Jiuhua, where he cultivated himself and meditated. All the deeds he had done in his life were identical to those done by the Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha. In the eleventh year of Emperor Tang Dezong’s reign, he ascended to Parinirvana. Before departing, his appearance was exactly the same as that of the original appearance of the Bodhisatvva Ksitigarbha. According to legends, he left behind his flesh to future generations, as his body became a pagoda at the peak of the mountain. The pagoda was exquisitely made in all aspects, resplendent in gold and jade, with copper vases in each corner, the colors of cinnabar and jadeite. Within them, there was holy oil which can grant people peace and and tranquility. The disciples of the Mt. Jiuhua sect carried this oil with them at all times.
Fu Hongxue asked again, “Where is the Prince now?”
Master Ruyi said, “He is still at Mt. Jiuhua.”
Fu Hongxue said, “The Prince will bring all life to salvation. How about you, Master?”
Master Ruy said, “This humble nun has that desire as well.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Since that is the case, I hope that you, master, will give me your blessing and allow my heart to become pure and tranquil.”
Master Ruyi’s hands folded together. “Yes.”
She really did remove a small wooden vase from her clothes, poured out a few drops of holy oil, gently rubbing it against Fu Hongxue’s face and hands. She also repeatedly murmured Buddhist prayers, then asked again, “What desires do you have?”
Fu Hongxue chanted, “To be as stable and unmoving as the earth, as peaceful and as deep as an earth depository.”
Master Ruyi lightly tapped him on the crown of his head with the palm of her hand. “Alright. Go.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes. I go.”
He lifted his head. His pallid face was already gleaming with light. It wasn’t the light of oil. It was a holy light of serenity and peace.
He once more ascended to the stone platform, then walked to stand in front of Madame Zhuo. He suddenly said, “Now, I already know.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Know what?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Know it was you.”
Madame Zhuo’s face suddenly changed. “What else do you know?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I know everything which I should know.”
Madame Zhu said, “You…how could you know?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Quietly pondering deep secrets, like an earthen repository.”
He walked onto the stone platform. Facing Gongzi Yu, not only did he seem as calm as a huge boulder, he really did seem as unshakable as the earth itself.
Veins had already appeared on the hand with which Gongzi Yu gripped his sword.
Fu Hongxue looked at him. He suddenly said, “You have already been defeated once. Why must you insist on being defeated again?”
Gongzi Yu’s pupils contracted. Suddenly, with a loud shout, his sword left the sheath. Scarlet sword light flashed like a rainbow lightning bolt.
Only people with extremely strong eyesight could see that there seemed to be a faint flash of sabre light within in the rainbow lightning bolt.
With a ‘ding’, all movement seemed to coalesce. All things and all creatures on the earth came to a halt in that moment.
Fu Hongxue’s sabre had already entered his sheath again.
Gongzi Yu’s sword was only an inch away from his throat, but he didn’t pierce him through. His entire body seemed to have suddenly stiffened. And then, the bronze mask on his face slowly split apart, revealing his own face.
A handsome, spirited, and attractive face, but one filled with shock and terror.
That ‘ding’ was heard again as the mask fell to the floor. The sword fell to the floor as well.
This person was actually Yan Nanfei.
The fire light was still flickering without pause, but the great audience hall was as deathly silent as a tomb.
Yan Nanfei finally spoke. “When did you find out?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Not long ago.”
Yan Nanfei said, “When you drew your sabre, you already knew it was me?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes.”
Yan Nanfei said, “So you were already certain of victory.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because my heart was already orderly and unmovable.”
Yan Nanfei let out a long sigh. Dispiritedly, he said, “Of course you should have been certain, because I should have died to you already.”
He lifted up the long sword, then offered it forwards with both hands. “Please. Please finish it.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him. “Now, is your deepest desire ended?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Yes.”
Fu Hongxue dully said, “Then you are already a dead man. Why should I bother to kill you?”
He turned around, not sparing Yan Nanfei another glance.
Only to hear a sigh coming from behind him. A drop of blood splashed towards him, falling near his feet.
He still didn’t turn around, but an indescribable, unescapable sorrow appeared on his face.
He knew this result. Some results, nobody could ever change. Some people’s destinies were the same.
What about his own destiny?
The first to welcome him was Master Ruyi. Smiling, she said, “Benefactor, you won.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Master, do you truly act freely and as you wish?” [Ruyi means ‘as one wishes’.]
Master Ruyi was silent.
Fu Hongxue said, “Since you, master, aren’t truly free and act as you wish, how can you know that I have truly won?”
Master Ruyi let out a light sigh. “Well said. Victory or defeat, acting as one wishes or being restrained, who can truly tell?”
She folded her hands together, quietly murmured a Buddhist prayer, then slowly walked out.
When Fu Hongxue lifted his head up, the only person left in the great hall was Madame Zhuo.
She was looking at him. When he turned his head over, she slowly said, “I know.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Know?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Victory is victory. The victor gains everything, the defeated perishes. This can’t be faked in the slightest.”
She let out a sigh. “Now, Yan Nanfei is already dead. You, naturally, are already…”
Fu Hongxue interrupted her words. “Yan Nanfei is already dead. How about Gongzi Yu?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Yan Nanfei is Gongzi Yu.”
Fu Hongxue said, “He truly is?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Can it be that he is not?”
Fu Hongxue said, “He definitely is not.”
Madame Zhuo laughed. She suddenly stretched her hand out and pointed behind her. “Take another look. What is that?”
The smooth, flat stone platform behind her suddenly split open. An enormous bronze mirror was slowly rising from beneath the platform.
Fu Hongxue said, “A bronze mirror.”
Madame Zhuo said, “What else is in the mirror?”
There was a person in the mirror. Fu Hongxue was standing in front of the mirror. His reflection was in it.
Madame Zhuo said, “What do you now see?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I see myself.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Then you have seen Gongzi Yu, because now, you are Gongzi Yu.”
Fu Hongxue was silent. She said he was Gongzi Yu, but he was silent.
Although sometimes silence is a form of soundless protest, most of the time, it was not.
Madame Zhuo said, “You are extremely intelligent. From the hand which Master Ruyi used to anoint you with oil, you could guess that the woman from last night was not her, and was me.”
Fu Hongxue was still silent.
Madame Zhuo said, “Thus, by now, you definitely understand why you are Gongzi Yu.”
Fu Hongxue suddenly said, “Now, I really am Gongzi Yu?”
Madame Zhuo said, “At least, you are for now.”
Fu Hongxue said, “When will I no longer be?”
Madame Zhuo said, “When an even stronger person in the martial world appears. At that time…”
Fu Hongxue said, “At that time, I will be like today’s Yan Nanfei.”
Madame Zhuo said, “Right. At that time, not only will you not be Gongzi Yu, you will also no longer be Fu Hongxue. At that time, you will be a dead man.”
She laughed. Her laughter was tender and sweet. “But I believe that within the next ten years, there definitely will not be anybody in the martial world stronger than you. Thus, for now, everything is yours. You can enjoy all your wealth and fame, and you can enjoy me.”
Fu Hongxue tightly gripped his sabre. “You will always be Gongzi Yu’s woman?”
Madame Zhuo said, “Always.”
Fu Hongxue stared at her. His hand tightened even further, drawing out his sabre.
He suddenly drew his sabre. A flash of sabre light. The bronze mirror split in half, just like how the bronze mask on Yan Nanfei’s face split in half. When the bronze mirror fell apart, it revealed a man within it. An old man.
There was a small, exquisite room behind the mirror, with a small but magnificent couch in it.
This old man was reclining on the couch. He was already a very, very old man, but his eyes must have long ago received all the blessings and benedictions of all the spirits of heaven and ghosts of hell, because they had retained their youth. These two eyes were the eyes which Fu Hongxue had seen in the iron cabinet.
Those two eyes were staring at him right now.
Fu Hongxue’s sabre entered the sheath. Staring at him with blade-sharp eyes, he said, “Only one person knows who the real Gongzi Yu is.”
The old man said, “Who?”
Fu Hongxue said, “You.”
The old man said, “Why would I know?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because you are the real Gongzi Yu.”
The old man laughed. Laughter wasn’t necessarily a denial. At least, his type of laughter definitely was not.
Fu Hongxue said, “The fame and wealth which Gongzi Yu has, definitely was not easily acquired.”
There was no such thing as reaping without sowing in the world. Especially when it comes to fame, wealth, and power.
Fu Hongxue said, “A man will find it very difficult to part with things which he already owns.”
All people were like that.
Fu Hongxue said, “Unfortunately, you are already old, and your physical strength is failing you. If you want to preserve everything you have, you must find someone to take your place.”
Gongzi Yu was silent.
Fu Hongxue said, “Naturally, you must find the strongest person, and so you found Yan Nanfei!”
Gongzi Yu smiled. “He definitely was very strong, and also very young.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Thus, he couldn’t resist your lures and became your substitute.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Originally, he was a very good one.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Unfortunately, at the Phoenix Market, he was defeated by my sabre.”
Gongzi Yu said, “To him, that truly was a great pity.”
Fu Hongxue said, “And to you?’
Gongzi Yu said, “The same.”
Fu Hongxue said, “The same?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Since there was already a stronger person to replace him, why should I use him?”
Fu Hongxue sneered.
Gongzi Yu said, “But I promised him that if he could defeat you within this year, he could still have everything!”
He once more reiterated, “I wanted him to defeat you, not to kill you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because you want the strongest person.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Right.”
Fu Hongxue said, “He believed that the most fearful part of my sabreplay is my drawing of the sabre.”
Gongzi Yu said, “So he bitterly trained in drawing his sword. Unfortunately, after a year, he still wasn’t certain of beating you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “So that made him want the Sorrowful Book and the Peacock Plume all the more.”
Gongzi Yu said, “So he was wrong.”
Fu Hongxue said, “This was his mistake as well?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Yes!”
Fu Hongxue said, “Why?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Because he didn’t know that these two things had long ago fallen into my hands.”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth.
Gongzi Yu said, “He also didn’t know that these two things simply weren’t as terrifying as the legends made them out to be. Even if he had obtained them, he still wouldn’t be assured of victory against you.”
Legends made everything in them better than they actually were. Fu Hongxue understood this.
Gongzi Yu said, “I could tell long ago that you were stronger than him, because you have a strangely tough and resilient sabre.”
He explained, “You can resist pain which others cannot endure, and can withstand attacks which others cannot handle.”
Fu Hongxue said, “So you hoped that I would win this battle from the start.”
Gongzi Yu said, “So I had Zhuo Zi keep you company. I didn’t want you to be too tense before the final battle.”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth again. Now, he finally understood everything. All of the unexplicable mysteries suddenly became very simple in the blink of an eye.
Staring at him, Gongzi Yu said, “And so, you are now Gongzi Yu.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I am only Gongzi Yu’s body double.”
Gongzi Yu said, “But you already have everything!”
Fu Hongxue said, “No one can truly have this ‘everything’. This ‘everything’ will forever be yours.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Therefore…”
Fu Hongxue said, “Therefore, right now I am still Fu Hongxue.”
Gongzi Yu’s pupils suddenly contracted. “You aren’t willing to accept everything?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Right.”
His pupils contracted, and his hand tightened again. The hand with which he drew his sabre.
After a long time, Gongzi Yu suddenly laughed. “You can already tell that I am an old man.”
Fu Hongxue admitted to it.
Gongzi Yu said, “You are thirty five or thirty six years old this year, yes?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Thirty seven.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Do you know how old I am?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Sixty?”
Gongzi Yu laughed again.
A very strange laugh, one filled with an indescribable cynicism and sorrow.
Fu Hongxue said, “You aren’t sixty yet?”
Gongzi Yu said, “This year, I am thirty seven.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him in shock, looking at the wrinkles on his face and his snow-white hair.
He couldn’t believe it. But he knew that a decrepit-looking person wasn’t necessarily decrepit because of the passage of years. Many things could make someone old.
Longing could make one old. Sadness and pain could as well.
Gongzi Yu said, “Do you know what aged me?”
Fu Hongxue knew. If a person lusted after too much, he would age very soon. Desire is the greatest pain which man can know.
He knew, but he did not say it. Since he already knew, why say it?
Gongzi Yu did not explain either. He knew that Fu Hongxue definitely understood his meaning.
“It was precisely because I desired too much that I aged. It is precisely because I am old, that I am stronger than you.”
He spoke very tactfully. “If you will not be Gongzi Yu, then you will no longer be Fu Hongxue.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I will be a dead man?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Yes.”
Fu Hongxue sat down, on top of a low table in front of the short couch.
He was very tired. After going through that earlier battle, anybody would feel tired.
But his heart was very energetic. He knew that there must be another battle, and that this battle must be more dangerous than the earlier one.
Gongzi Yu said, “You can consider it a bit longer.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I don’t need to.”
Gongzi Yu was sighing. “You certainly know that I am very unwilling for you to die.”
Fu Hongxue knew. To find another body double such as he, definitely would not be very easy.
Gongzi Yu said, “Unfortunately, I already no longer have any room to do otherwise.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Neither do I.”
Gongzi Yu said, “You have nothing.”
Fu Hongxue couldn’t deny it.
Gongzi Yu said, “You don’t have wealth, you don’t have power, you don’t have friends, and you don’t have loved ones.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I only have my life.”
Gongzi Yu said, “You have one more thing.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What?”
Gongzi Yu said, “Your reputation.”
He laughed again. “If you refuse me, not only will I take your life, I will destroy your reputation. I have many ways!”
Fu Hongxue said, “You seem to have everything.”
Gongzi Yu did not deny it either.
Fu Hongxue said, “You have wealth, you have power, and the experts under your banner are innumerable like the clouds.”
Gongzi Yu said, “To kill you, I might not need them.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You have everything, save for one thing.”
Gongzi Yu said, “Oh?”
Fu Hongxue said, “You no longer have joy in life.”
Gongzi Yu was laughing.
Fu Hongxue said, “Even if Gongzi Yu’s fame shall last into perpetuity, you yourself are already a dead man.”
Gongzi Yu’s hands tightened.
Fu Hongxue said, “Without joy in life, one does not have a fighting spirit. So if you were to fight with me, you would be defeated without question.”
Gongzi Yu was still laughing, but his laughter had become very stiff.
Fu Hongxue said, “If you dare to stand up and fight me, and if you can defeat me, I will give my life to you without any complaints.”
He smirked, then continued, “But you don’t dare.”
He fixed his gaze upon Gongzi Yu. There was a sabre in his hands. There was a sabre in his eyes. And there was a sabre in his words as well.
Gongzi Yu truly did not stand up. Was it because he truly could not stand? Or was it because of Madame Zhuo’s hand? Her hand had already pressed down on his shoulder.
Fu Hongxue had already turned around. He slowly walked out.
Gongzi Yu watched him walk away.
His walking posture was still as clumsy, as stupid as ever, but when others watched him, their eyes would still be filled with reverence.
No matter who watched him, it would be the same.
His hand tightly clenched the sabre the entire time, but he did not draw it.
I am not going to kill you, because you are already a dead man.
If a person’s heart died, even if his body was still fine, it would be of no use. He knew why she pressed down on Gongzi Yu’s shoulder. Because she, too, didn’t want to keep on living this sort of life.
She would always be Gongzi Yu’s woman. In her heart, there was only one, real, Gongzi Yu. No one could ever replace him. Regardless of if he became old, or if he died, no one could ever replace him. So she was willing to do anything for him.
Could he understand this? When would he understand this? Why was it that the silkworms of spring were only able to release their silk after dying?
The sun set in the west. Fu Hongxue stood before the setting sun, in front of the ruins of the Peacock Manor. The twilight was cold and mesmerizing, revealing wounds and trauma everywhere around him.
He pulled out a white letter and placed it in front of the graves of his friends.
A snow-white letter. Deathly black words.
This was Gongzi Yu’s obituary notice. It was an obituary notice which had spread around the entire world, and without question, stunned the entire world.
Dust to dust, earth to earth. People will always die.
He let out a long sigh, then raised his head to look at the sky. Dusk had began to darken, and night was about to arrive.
He suddenly felt an inexpressible peacefulness in his heart, because he knew that just before the darkness arrived, the bright moon would rise.
The wine was within his cup. The cup was within his hands.
Gongzi Yu placed the cup facing the window. Outside the window, there were green hills, emerald gorges, and water flowing underneath a small bridge.
A pair of hands pressed down on his shoulder. So beautiful. So gentle and soft.
She lightly asked, “When did you make up your mind to do this?”
“When I really understood everything.”
“What did you understand?”
“What is the purpose of life?” His hand lightly pressed on top of hers. “The purpose of a person’s life is to be happy and content. If he doesn’t even have joy in life, even if his fame, wealth, and power shall forever endure, what’s the use?”
She laughed. Such sweet, warm, gentle laughter.
She knew that he really had understood.
Although others believed him to be dead, he was still alive. Truly alive. Because he had learned how to enjoy life.
If a person truly understood how to enjoy life, even if he could be alive for but a day, it would be enough.
“I know that Gongsun Tu and the others shall not be alive long.”
“Because I have already sown poisonous seeds in their heart.”
“My wealth and my power.”
“You believe that they will die due to fighting for these things?”
She laughed again. Her laughter was even gentler, softer, and sweeter than before.
She knew why he was doing this. It was because he was atoning for his crimes for her. He whole-heartedly hoped for their joy and peace.
Now, everything had succeeded.
He raised the cup to the wine sky, but no longer asked where the bright moon was.
He already knew where his bright moon was.
A lonely little room. A lonely woman.
Her life was lonely and arduous, but she didn’t blame heaven, because her heart was at peace. She already was able to use her strength to make a living for herself, and no longer needed to sell herself. Perhaps she wasn’t happy, but she had learned how to endure.
There are many things in life which are not as one wishes. Everyone should learn how to endure.
Another day had passed, a very dull day.
Carrying a basket of clothes, she walked to the head of a small stream. She definitely had to wash these clothes before she could rest.
She wore two small jasmine flowers on her own clothes. They were her one and only luxury items. The creek’s water was clear and clean. She lowered her head down and gazed into it. Suddenly, she saw that someone had appeared in the clear, clean water.
A lonely man. A lonely sabre.
Her heart began to jump. She lifted up her head and saw a pallid face.
Her heart immediately seemed to stop moving. She had long since no longer hoped for any more happiness in her life, but now, happiness had suddenly appeared in front of her eyes.
They silently stared at each other for a long, long time without opening their mouths. Happiness came to life between their mingled gazes, like a flower coming to bloom.
At this moment in time, what words could possibly suffice to express their happiness and contentment?
At this time, the bright moon rose up in the sky.
Where is the bright moon?
So long as your heart is alive, the bright moon is within your heart!
CC, you owe the master a shot.
Gentlemen, I give you the completed translation of 天涯，明月，刀.
Thank you Ren.
Thanks a million
Thanks for announcing your plan to pick up "Bordertown Wanderer"
Keep up the good work
Keep up the great job Ren Wo Xing, thanks for you time and dedication.
Yes, I owe the Master a shot at least. The ending was really cool. Without the usual convoluted GL twists.
And ha! I guessed it, the final fight was won without the sabre being drawn!
Quite pleasant that after all that Cui Nong and Mingyue Xin and other typical out-of-this-world GL females, FHX settled with some plain unknown that just popped out late into the story. I mean, when she made her first appearance, this ending was totally unexpected.
I was going to drink to the master, except i'll be working tonight.
Really happy that FHX got a second chance.
Amazing job RWX! You've completed one of my longest standing dreams of finishing this translation. I bow before you like Grandmaster Zhong after hearing a single zither note.
This really is my favorite wuxia novel and one of my favorite endings in any work. The ending is completely satisfying. It would've totally defeated the purpose if it were some generic battle with Gongzi Yu. How many wuxia novels end with the hero turning the villain's life around? And with both the hero and villain having happy endings!
Once again, great work RWX!
My guess is that Little Li's dagger was so infamous that people of later generations lost sight of the fact that the dagger was quite ordinary. The only people who knew were dead already. This fact was probably lost on later generations since both Li and Ye Kai disappeared quite abruptly after their fame. And if I recall correctly, I think Li only carried 1 dagger ... so he definitely had to keep collecting his daggers back.
Also, I think all the weapons in that hall were from people who were defeated and fell into their hands. Li never lost so naturally his dagger wouldn't be there. I think GL goofed up a bit when Madame Zhuo said that they were also missing the Peacock Plume, which Gongzi Yu claimed had long been in his possession.
I find the ending very satisfying too! It is certainly one of a kind and completely fitting.