San Shaoye De Jian
Sword of the Third Master
by Gu Long
Translated by Justin Lu
Chapter 46 - The Unending Confusion
"So all you have to know is that I am Yan Shisan, and that is enough."
Xie Xiaofeng's eyes were fixed on him for quite a while. He suddenly smiled, "Actually, all I wanted to see was your sword, and that is enough."
He had seen the [Soul Snatching Thirteen Swords Technique] before. You could say that he was thoroughly familiar with every minor shift and every little change in the sword technique's movements. But this would have no impact on the outcome of their duel. Because this sword technique, when executed by Tie Kaicheng, would never have the full power, force, and accuracy that it was capable of. What he really wanted to witness was the [Soul Snatching Thirteen Swords Technique] as executed by Yan Shisan.
But he also understood that the most important sword would be the one he never gets to see. The most important move would be the move that decides life and death. If the [Soul Snatching Thirteen Swords Technique] really had evolved into a 15th sword, then that 15th sword would definitely be the one that delivered him to his doom.
Of course he would never be able to see it.
Because when that move came out, he would already be dead! As long as that sword existed, then his death was certain.
The one sword that he hoped most to see in his entire life will be the one sword that he will never get to see.
Could it be anything else but fate?
Why do our creators choose to be so cruel? It wasn't something he wanted to dwell on, so he suddenly spoke, "There are swords in both our hands, you can attack at any time."
"But you won't make your move that easily."
"Because you'll definitely wait, you'll wait for my neglect, you'll wait for your chance."
"And you will wait the same way?"
"Yes." He sighed and continued, "It's a pity that such an opportunity won't come that easily."
Yan Shisan nodded in agreement.
"So the both of us will wait, we will probably wait until the both of us are exhausted. Only then might such an opportunity arise, and I'm certain that both of us can remain patient."
Xie Xiaofeng sighed and continued, "But why must we wait here like two idiots!"
"So what do you want to do!"
"We can have a look around, we can go for a stroll." A smile came over Xie Xiaofeng's eyes as he added, "The weather is so beautiful, the scenery is so magnificent. The two of us are standing on the verge of death, the least we can do is to enjoy life for just a bit."
As they started to walk, their steps hit the ground at the exact same time. The two of them didn't want to gain an advantage over the other. Because to them, this duel wasn't about victory and defeat, or life and death. To them, this duel was about obtaining an answer. That's why the two of them didn't want the other to be at a disadvantage, and most importantly, the two of them didn't want to cheat themselves.
The leaves were a beautiful shade of red. The setting sun was indescribably resplendent.
Just before the darkness of the night enveloped the land, the sky would always surrender its most surreal exquisiteness to the world. Just like a person before his death will always appear full of utmost serenity.
Such is life. If you really understood its meaning, your sorrow would definitely be much less, and your happiness would definitely be much more bountiful.
Leaves that were drifting down from the maple trees crunched under their feet as they made their way forward. Their steps became wider and wider the farther they went, but at the same time their steps became lighter and lighter. Their vitality and energy were slowly building up to its peak.
When the two of them finally reached the peak, they would make their move.
Whoever reached the peak first would be the one to make his move first.
Both of them no longer wanted to wait for an opportunity because both of them knew that the other would never give them one.
No one was capable of seeing them draw their swords.
Their swords suddenly flashed out like bolts of lightning.
In that single instant, the weight of their bodies seemingly vanished, it was as if they could soar freely through the sky. Because they had entered the state of forgetting the self. Their awareness had surpassed the world around them. They were in complete control of everything.
Flashes of their swords leaked into the sky. Shredded leaves rained down like torrential blood from above.
But they saw none of it. In their eyes, nothing else in the world existed, not even their own bodies.
The only thing that existed was the opponent's sword.
The tall firm maple trees around them instantly split in half upon touching their swords. Because these trees simply didn't exist in their eyes. The thick dense forest around them was nothing but a level plain in their eyes. Wherever their swords wanted to go, their swords went.
There was no longer anything in the world that could obstruct their blades.
Tree after tree toppled over in the forest, the sky rained blood in a riotous profusion. An awkward and heavy change suddenly emanated from the neverending flashes of light.
With a loud *DING*, sparks splashed in every direction.
The flashes of light suddenly disappeared. Their movements suddenly paused.
Yan Shisan stared at the sword in his hands. There seemed to be an inferno blazing in his eyes. There seemed to be a glacier freezing in his eyes.
Although the sword was still in his hands, it had inevitably exhausted its variations.
He had already executed his 14th sword. Now, his sword was devoid of life.
The point of Xie Xiaofeng's sword was directly facing the point of his.
If his sword was a viper, then Xie Xiaofeng's sword was a nail. That nail had planted itself into the viper seven inches deep, nailing it on the verge of certain death.
The duel should have ended then and there.
But at that exact moment, the already lifeless sword suddenly began to tremble.
The fluttering leaves that drifted in the sky all dropped down to the ground simultaneously. Everything that was moving suddenly fell still.
There was no other movement in the entire world, except for his sword that wouldn't stop trembling.
A look of utter dread came over Xie Xiaofeng's face. He suddenly realized that although the sword was still in his hands, it was totally devoid of life.
As soon as his opponent's sword began to regain its life, his sword would start to die, his movements would have no chance of ever changing again. Because all the changes were now in his opponent's control.
All the life and vitality around them had been snatched away by that one sword.
And now, that sword could pierce through him at any time it wished. No force in the entire world could stop it.
Because that one sword was [Death].
When [Death] itself approached, what in the world could stop it?
But that one sword didn't strike out.
A look of dread suddenly came over Yan Shisan's eyes as well, dread that was a hundred times worse than the dread in Xie Xiaofeng's eyes.
Then, he did something that no one would've ever believed, something that no one could've ever imagined.
He suddenly turned the blade of his sword around and slashed at his own throat.
He didn't kill Xie Xiaofeng, he had slain himself! But at the moment that the blade met his throat, the look of dread in his eyes had subsided. In that exact moment, his eyes looked clear and bright.
Full of happiness and serenity.
Then, he fell over.
Until the very moment his body hit the ground, until the very moment his heart stopped beating, the sword in his hand was still shaking incessantly.
The evening sun had departed. The fluttering leaves had been scattered away.
But he couldn't even move. He couldn't understand it. He couldn't figure it out. He couldn't believe that a person on the summit of victory would instead choose defeat and take his own life. But there was nothing he could do but believe it. That person was indeed dead, that person's breath and heart had both stopped, his hands had fallen as cold as ice. The one who should've died was Xie Xiaofeng, not him.
But in that very instant before his death, there really wasn't a single hint of hatred in his heart, there was only peace. He wasn't crazy. At that very instant, he was already invincible. No one in the world was stronger than he.
Then why would he do something like that?
Why did he do it?
Why? ... the night had become dark. Very, very dark.
Xie Xiaofeng still stood motionless.
He still didn't understand, he still couldn't figure it out. When that person fell, the black veil had already fallen from his face.
Xie Xiaofeng had seen his face, that person was Yan Shisan. It was the same person who had pretended to be a feeble, old medicine man, it was the same person who had saved his life before.
That person saved his life because he was Xie Xiaofeng.
If Yan Shisan never had the chance to duel with Xie Xiaofeng, then he wouldn't have been able to die with his eyes closed.
Xie Xiaofeng hadn't forgotten Jian Chuanxue's death, and he hadn't forgotten Jian Chuanxue's words.
This person will save you, but this person will also die under your sword.
The long night dragged on, and finally passed by. The first rays of light from the east shined through the forest and onto Xie Xiaofeng's face.
Wind rustled through the branches and leaves. Sunshine enveloped the land. Like how that one sword enveloped everything around it.
Brightness suddenly came over Xie Xiaofeng's tired, listless eyes as he mumbled, "I understand now, I understand now ..."
A voice behind him suddenly said, "But I still don't understand."
Xie Xiaofeng turned around and saw someone knelt down behind him with his head to the floor and his garments soaked in the morning dew. That person had obviously been kneeling for quite a while.
He was so absorbed in thought that he never noticed that someone had come.
That person slowly lifted his head and looked at him. His eyes were filled with red veins, full of unspeakable weariness and sorrow.
Xie Xiaofeng suddenly grabbed him by the shoulder and said, "It's you! You've come as well!"
"Yes, it's me. I've been here for some time, but I still don't understand."
That person turned towards Yan Shisan's body and said, "You should've known that I would've wanted to see him one last time."
"I know, of course I know."
He had never forgotten what Tie Kaicheng had said either.
He had no friends and no family, although he taught me his swordsmanship, he never allowed me to befriend him. Nor did he ever let me know where he came from or where he would go.
Because he was afraid of having sentiments towards another person. Because if a person wanted to become a swordsman, he couldn't have any sentiments.
Only Xie Xiaofeng knew that the comradery between the two of them really did exist, because he knew that Yan Shisan wasn't really emotionless.
He let out a long sigh and said, "He really woudld've wanted to see you as well. Although you aren't officially his disciple, you are the one person whom he had passed his swordsmanship to. He would've wanted you to see that last sword of his."
"That one sword was the epitome of his swordsmanship?"
"Correct, that was the 15th variation of the [Soul Snatching Thirteen Swords Technique]. No one in the entire world could withstand that one sword."
"Not even you!"
"Not even me."
"But he didn't kill you."
"If he had really struck out, then my life would've been forfeited. But even until the very end, he never struck out."
"Because he didn't have the intention to kill!"
"Because he had saved my life before!" Xie Xiaofeng knew Tie Kaicheng wouldn't understand so he continued, "If you've saved a person's life, it will be very hard for you to take that life back. Because you will already have developed a level of sentiment between the two of you."
This was indeed a very difficult sentiment to explain. Only humans are capable of developing this kind of sentiment. But it is because humans have this sentiment that they are human.
"Even if he didn't want to kill you, why did he have to kill himself?"
"At first, even I couldn't figure out why he took his own life."
"And you've figured it out now?"
Xie Xiaofeng slowly nodded his head, "Now I finally understand, he really didn't have any other choice."
Tie Kaicheng was even more confused.
"In that one moment, although he didn't want to kill me, although he couldn't bear to kill me, he already had no way of controlling the sword in his hands. Because the power of that one sword couldn't be controlled by anybody. Once it was unleashed, someone had to die under its blade!"
Everyone can't avoid encountering at least something once in their lives that is totally out of their control and totally out of their comprehension. There will always be some things in this world that no one can control or understand.
"I still don't understand why he had to destroy himself."
"He wasn't trying to destroy himself, he was trying to destroy that sword."
"If that one sword was the epitome of swordsmanship, the peak of martial arts, then why did he have to destroy it?"
"Because he suddenly realized that that sword only brought with it ruin and destruction. He simply couldn't allow such a sword to remain in this world. He didn't want to become swordsmanship's ultimate sin."
A look of sorrow came over Xie Xiaofeng as he continued, "But the power and force of that sword was already out of his control. It's like someone discovering that the snake that he was raising was really a poisonous dragon! Although it was still a part of him, it no longer listened to his beckons. He couldn't discard it even if he tried. All he could do was let this dragon suck his blood and and bones dry."
That same look of dread came over Tie Kaicheng's face, "So all he could do was destroy himself first."
"Because his flesh and blood had already melded into one with that poisonous dragon. And because that dragon was once his essence, in order to destroy it, he had to first destroy himself."
A sad and tragic story, full of strange and mysterious dread, yet at the same time full of the deepest and sincerest wisdom. As surreal as it sounded, that was what had transpired. No one could deny what had happened.
He had already destroyed the number one swordsman of this generation. Now, his indomitable sword technique would vanish with him.
Xie Xiaofeng stared at Yan Shisan's body and said, "But at that moment, he really had reached the pinnacle of swordsmanship. There wasn't a match before him, and there will never be a match after him. He can die with no regrets."
"You wish the one that died was you, don't you?"
"Yes!" There was an indescribable sadness and loneliness in his eyes. "I would've rathered the one that died be me."
Such is life. Life was full of contradiction. The line between having and losing was impossible to define.
Tie Kaicheng wiped the dew off his sleeves, looked at Yan Shisan's body, and thought to himself, "If the dead could have thoughts, would he have rathered the one that died be Xie Xiaofeng?"
He couldn't reply. He lightly opened Yan Shisan's hand that was clasping onto his sword, and slid it back into its ornate sheathe that was decorated with thirteen pearls.
Although the swordsman was gone, the sword still remained.