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Thread: Bai Ma Xiao Xi Feng - Rest of Chapter 3

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    Junior Member Goobernaculum's Avatar
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    Default Bai Ma Xiao Xi Feng - Rest of Chapter 3

    Heya all, I've been silently lurking in and reading these forums for a while now. Recently I've decided to try and improve my chinese by reading some martial arts novels, and i always wanted to know what happens in Bai Ma Xiao Xi Feng after Junzi's excellent translation.

    Anyway since I was reading it I thought I may as well give it a go at translating. Let me just say I got newfound respect for all you guys who dedicate your time doing this! Cheers!

    Anyways, here goes.......

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    Camel dug a pit for Li Wenxiu. He had great brawn and in his heart respected this Han hero, and so dug a pit for her. It lay between his and Su Pu’s pits. The 7 pits formed a circle and in the middle they built a large campfire.

    The sky above was blue and the bright stars were like sparkling eyes. A gust of wind blew by, curling the snow up from the ground and sending it dancing amidst the wind. Li Wenxiu watched the swirling dance of two snowflakes, saying to herself: “It’s really like a group of jade butterflies.” Su Pu followed saying: “Yes, very alike! A long time ago, there was a little Han girl who told me this story about butterflies. There once was a Han youth and a Han maiden who were in love, however the maiden’s father refused to let the youth marry his daughter. The youth was extremely depressed; he became very ill and died. Then one day, as the maiden passed by the tomb of her beloved, she sprawled over the tomb and cried in anguish.” At this point of the story, in the hearts of both Su Pu and Li Wenxiu, both were thinking back 8 or 9 years to that event: On a little hillock, a boy and a girl sitting shoulder to shoulder, herding a flock of sheep. The girl telling the story, the boy listening in rapt attention. At the stage in the story where the Han girl sprawled over her beloved’s tomb weeping, tears flowed freely from the girl’s eyes and the boy also felt heart-wrenching grief.

    It was just that Li Wenxiu knew that boy was the Su Pu before her whilst Su Pu believed that girl to be long dead.

    Su Pu continued: “That maiden sprawled on the tomb and wept sorrowfully, when all of a sudden the tomb split straight down the middle creating a large fissure and the beautiful maiden jumped in. Afterwards the two lovers became a pair of butterflies, always flying together, forever staying by each others sides.” A’man interrupted, saying: “This story is very nice. The person who told you this, was it the girl that gave you the handkerchief with the map? Isn’t she dead?” Su Pu gave a dejected reply: “Correct, exactly her. That old Han said she had already died.” Li Wenxiu asked: “Then do you still remember her?” “Naturally.” He replied, “How could I forget?” Li Wenxiu then asked: “How come you don’t go visit her tomb?” Su Pu replied: “Yes! After we kill that group of bandits, I’ll get that wine selling old Han to take me to visit her tomb.” Li Wenxiu then asked: “What if the tomb splits open? Would you or wouldn’t you jump in? Su Pu laughed and said: “That was just a story, it wouldn’t actually happen.” Li Wenxiu asked: “What if that girl really yearned for you day and night, hoping you would come and accompany her, causing the tomb to split open, would you jump in and stay by her side forever?” Su Pu sighed, and said: “No. That little girl was only a good friend from my childhood. In this life, I only want to be with A’man.” Saying this he stretched out his hand and grasped A’man’s hand.

    Li Wenxiu didn’t enquire further. She originally didn’t want to ask these questions, in fact she already knew the answers would be, but she couldn’t help asking. Now that she heard the answers, it only needlessly added to her sorrow.

    Suddenly the gentle call of a bellbird sounded in the distance, so forlorn with sorrow, as if to mediate their rift.

    Su Pu said: “Long ago I often used to catch bellbirds to play with, and afterwards I would kill them. But that little girl liked loved bellbirds, and sent a jade bracelet to me asking me to let my bird go. Since then I have never caught them again, only listened to them sing in the dusk. Listen everyone, how beautiful their singing is!” Li Wenxiu hmmphed, and asked: “That jade bracelet then, do you still carry it by your side?” Su Pu replied: “That happened long long ago in the past, the bracelet has long since broken and disappeared.” Li Wenxiu faintly echoed: “hmmph, That happened long long ago in the past, the bracelet has long since broken and disappeared.” The bellbird continued to sing. Bellbirds do not normally sing in the chilly winter evenings, yet who knows what kind of sorrow weighed in its heart that this bird could not resist pouring out? Su Luke, Che Erku, Camel and the others all started snoring, drowning out the singing of the bellbird.

    As soon as the sky began to lighten the second day, the seven people broke their fast and, following the footsteps, resumed their chase. The sunlight was faint, and only gave a hint of warmth as it shined on them. But as long as they had sunlight they did not fear evil ghosts.

    After chasing till the afternoon, the single set of footprints in the sand became two. It seemed that the second person could not longer be bothered stepping within the footsteps of the previous person. This is a person, not a ghost, but who could it be? The direction that the seven people have been travelling in, has long since taken them beyond the normal paths that Li Wenxiu has travelled with her master. She suddenly thought: “I doubt this bandit went to meet up with his fellow bandits, but is most likely following the map on the handkerchief, and has independently gone seeking for the Gaochang Labyrinth.” She voiced her mental conjectures, and after considering for a while Su Luke agreed.

    Sang Si’er said: “Normally this part of the desert doesn’t even contain half a drop of water, the Han bandits would not be here.” Su Luke said in a loud voice: “If he is fleeing for the labyrinth, then let us chase him to the labyrinth. Even if the Labyrinth is at the edge of the earth we must still catch this Han bandit.” According to tribal folklore, somewhere in the Gobi desert there is a Labyrinth, inside of which are countless treasures. Only no one knows the way to the labyrinth and becoming lost in the Gobi desert is no small matter, therefore no one has dared to take the risks of searching for it. However now that there is a map, and the snow and ice in the desert will not disappear for another 20 or 30 days, behind them is also following a large group of warriors, what is there to fear? Furthermore, Su Luke was conceited, believing himself to be the foremost warrior on the prairie. He hoped that Che Erku would show weakness, shrinking back in fear from chasing further. However Che Erku showed absolutely no signs of fear.

    Li Wenxiu said: “Yes, let us go have a look whether or not there really is a Gaochang labyrinth in this world.” She thought that since her parents gave their lives for this, if she herself could find the labyrinth, it could also be considered satisfying their unfulfilled wish.



    A’man said: “The tribal elders all say that the treasures of Gaochang labyrinth are enough to allow all thousands and ten thousands of people under the sky, between north and south, to live the rest of their days happily. This is the tale passed down for hundreds of years yet no one has been able to find it.” Su Pu happily said: “If we find it then everyone can pass their days in happiness, wouldn’t that be great!” A’man then asked: “Could it be that you are unhappy with our current days?” Su Pu shook his head and said with a smile: “Very blissful, very blissful.” He absolutely could not think of anything else in the world that could make his current days happier.

    However Li Wenxiu was thinking: “No matter how many rare wonders or precious objects there are in the Gaochang labyrinth, even they could not bring happiness to my life.” On the eight day, the seven people followed the footsteps into an unbroken range of mountains. The mountain rocks were jagged and the further they walked the more difficult the path. Luckily because of the snow the footsteps were quite obvious, only that the mountain path was perilous. In actual fact there was no path, merely a trail of footprints through the mountain slopes and vales. Before them seemed an exhaustive journey without end, the two pairs of footprints appearing to lead straight into the netherworld.

    Su Luke and Che Erku saw that the lay of the land around them was fierce and harsh, and in their hearts began to worry. However the two of them, still carried on mocking each other onwards. Su Luke said: “Che Erku, your whole body is shaking. It’s no laughing matter if your fear breaks the lining of your stomach. It would be better if you stay here and wait for me. In the event where we find riches, you will definitely get your share.” Che Erku said: “Now you are acting like a brave hero, later on when an evil ghost appears, it will be interesting to see whether it will be you who flees first, or you son who flees first?” Su Luke said: “Correct, when us father-son see an evil ghost we still have energy to run. At least not like you to be scared onto your knees, shaking.” As the two people quarrelled back and forth, they never left the topic of the evil ghost in the desert and after walking awhile longer, everything became murkily dark. Su Pu said: “Ey, let us just rest overnight in this spot and just keep going tomorrow!” Before Su Luke could reply, Che Erku laughed, saying: “Very good, you father and son rest overnight here, for fear of danger. A’man, come along with daddy. Camel, Sang Si’er, let us not fear ghosts, keep going!” Su Luke spat on the ground with a “Pei!”, yet was the first to move on with long strides. Li Wenxiu watched the two quarrel, displaying their fake courage. As neither could admit weakness, they could only follow behind each other. A’man became almost too tired to continue. Su Pu and Sang Si’er gathered up several dried sticks and made torches. In the midst of the forest, the seven people kept searching for the footprints in order to continue. In the darkness of night, the dense forest seem to contain an eeriness, everyone was on their nerves and jumpy. Once in a while a nocturnal bird would give a call, or some gathered snow would drop from a branch, all causing the people to be scared out of their wits. The strange thing is the forest unexpectedly contained a path and, although now overgrown by long grass, the imprints of the ancient track could still faintly be made out.

    The seven people walked for a long time in the forest, when suddenly A’man called out: “Aiyo, not good.” Su Pu hurriedly asked: “What is the matter?” A’man pointed further up the path at a shiny silver bracelet, saying: “I dropped my bracelet, and I thought I could search for it on the way back, how could it appear here?” Che Erku said: “Take a closer look, make sure whether or not it is yours.” A’man didn’t dare go and pick it up so Su Pu picked it up instead. Without even needing A’man to identify it, he already called out: “Correct, it is hers!” Saying this, he passed the bracelet towards her.

    A’man didn’t dare receive it and said with a quaver: “You……you throw it on the ground, I don’t want it anymore.” Su Pu said: “Could it really be an evil ghost playing tricks?” Under the firelight, everyone’s expressions looked terribly strange.

    After awhile, Li Wenxiu said: “Perhaps it is worse than an evil ghost, we walked along an old path to get here. Perhaps this path is the one we walked on before.” In a split second, everybody recalled the old saying: a traveler in the desert lost his way. He walked and walked and all of a sudden came across footprints. He became so excited as if crazy, and followed the prints. Unbeknownst to him they were his own and he followed them in one circle after another, until finally he passed away.

    No one wanted to believe her words, yet clearly A’man had dropped her bracelet a while ago, only to suddenly find it again after walking for half a day. Then naturally they had gone in a circle, returning onto their old road. In the darkness of the night, compounded by their exhaustion, nobody had payed attention to whether there were two sets of footprints or an additional seven. Camel walked another few steps, and casting his torchlight on the snow, shouted out in a voice filled with dread: “There are a lot of footprints, it’s ours!” The seven people gazed at each other. Su Luke and Che Erku could no longer blow their own horn’s and mock the other.

    Li Wenxiu said: “We have been following the footprints of the Han bandit and the other person, in the case that they are also going in circles, then after a while they will also walk past here. Let us just rest overnight here and see if they appear.” By this stage, everybody just agreed with her words. They brushed aside the firm snow, took out their hide rugs and sat down. Camel and Sang Si’er built a campfire and the seven people sat all around. Nobody could sleep and no one wanted to talk. They waited for Chen Dahai and the other person to walk by, yet were also afraid that they really would appear. Supposing they were also lost and walked in circles, then everyone’s fates would be the same as theirs.

    After waiting a long long time, suddenly they heard the sounds of footsteps.

    When the seven people heard the footsteps, they all sprang up; only to here the footsteps suddenly stop. In that tense short moment, the seven could even hear the sounds of their own heartbeat. Suddenly, the footsteps started again, but gradually heading in a northwest direction. At that moment a gust of wind blew past, sweeping a large mass of snow straight through the campfire. The campfire was instantly extinguished, surrounding them in inky darkness.

    Only to hear a whiiisst, whiisst, whiiist as Su Luke, Li Wenxiu and the others unsheathed their swords. A’man cried out “Ah” in fright, and threw herself into Su Pu’s arms. In the reflected light of the snow, the naked blades cast flashing rays of light. The sounds of the footsteps gradually got further and further away, until finally they could no longer be heard.

    Until the sky lightened, no other strange events happened in the forest. In the morning as the first rays of sunlight shone through the leaves, everybody’s spirits were all shaken as they started searching for the road again. After walking awhile, A’man found that the shrubs on the left side had a few branches broken, shouting out: “Look over here!” Su Pu brushed aside the branches revealing two sets of footprints, shouting out in jubilation: “they passed through here!” A’man said: “that bandit must have misread the map and circled himself, then left through here, scaring us for a whole night.” Su Luke gave a great laugh “Haha”, saying: “Yes, Che Erku’s family of cravens were scared for a whole night. On the other hand the two brave warriors of Su Luke’s family were just hoping for an evil ghost to appear, in order to give its ear a twist and have a clearer look.” Che Erku didn’t spare him a glance, appearing as if he hadn’t heard, when all of a sudden his arm flashed back and pinched an ear. Su Luke gave a great shout, and with a ‘Peng’ punched him in the middle of the back.

    Che Erku’s body gave a shudder, yet the hand twisting Su Luke’s ear didn’t loosen, only twisted so that fresh blood started flowing. If he pulled any harder the ear might be ripped off.

    Li Wenxiu watched the two people, both around forty years of age and still scuffling like urchins. Half serious, half playful, it was almost enough to make people laugh. With a ‘Peng’ ‘Peng’ ‘Peng’ they exchanged a few blows before separating. One had a bruised nose, the other a swollen eye.

    The two continued to quarrel as they journeyed onwards. By now the path twisted through elevations and depressions, making travelling terribly difficult. Sometimes they would have to traverse mountain ridges and at other times crawl through caves, if it wasn’t for the footprints in the snow leading the way navigation would have quite difficult. In her heart Li Wenxiu thought: “this labyrinth is terribly well concealed, if we did not have a map guiding us, what hope do we have of finding it? Traveling till noon, and after a sleepless night, everyone was terribly exhausted. Only Li Wenxiu whose internal energy had been cultivated to a substantially solid level still had a light expression. Su Pu said: “Dad, A’man cannot walk further, let’s rest awhile!” Su Luke still hadn’t replied, only to hear Che Erka shout in a loud voice: “Ah!” Su Luke hurriedly caught up and turning past a strand of trees saw before him a large gate embedded in the mountainside, the two fans cast out of iron. Rust stained and specked the doors, giving it an antique and time worn impression.

    Seven people all cheered: “Gaochang Labyrinth!” and rushed over with long strides. Su Luke reached out and gave the doors a strong push, yet the two door fans remained absolutely still. Che Erku said: “that evil thief has put up a crossbar on the inside.” A’man carefully searched around the door, but it was as if the door was an innate part of the mountain, without even half a seam. A’man pulled the knocker, turning it to the left till it could turn no further. It is unknown for how many centuries the labyrinth has existed within the dry desert atmosphere, but iron doors must rust. Even if there was a mechanism to move most likely it would be immovable by now. Despite this she turned it towards the right and it actually became slightly looser. After turning a few revolutions, Su Luke and Che Erku who were originally pushing with all their strength against the door suddenly felt it open, and caught off guard, the two tumbled in. After their surprise settled, they burst out in laughter and clambered up.

    Past the door was a dark and shadowy long corridor. Su Pu kindled a torch and one hand holding it, the other holding a sword, led the way. Three turnoffs appeared at the end of the passageway. Inside the labyrinth there were no footsteps to guide them, who knows which path the two people before them took. Everyone bent over to carefully scrutinize the ground, finding that faint footprints could be seen going down the left and right paths.

    Su Luke said: “4 people can go down the left path while 3 people can go down the right path, after awhile lets meet back here.” Li Wenxiu objected, saying: “that’s not good! Given that this place is called a labyrinth the pathways most certainly are bewildering, it is better if we all stay together.” Su Luke shook his head, saying: “Since it’s inside a cave, how big can this place be? Han people are by nature cowardly, leaving no real option.” Despite saying these words, the 7 people still stayed together, and seeing that the right side path was slightly wider, they chose to head that way.

    After they walked in about 10 zhangs, Su Luke thought: “This Han’s words are not bad.” Only to see a fork in the path ahead. All seven people could dimly identify footprints, and they followed these in only to see them proceed down both forks of the path. So they had to arbitrarily select a path. After walking half a day, they encountered uncountable branches in the path. At every fork, Aman drew some marks on the stone walls, lest they lose their original way. All of a sudden, the path ahead of them suddenly cleared up and a large open space appeared. In the distance another iron gate could be seen, embedded in the craggy rocks of the great mountain.

    The seven people walked over the open space and stopped in front of the gate. Su Luke again walked up to the door knocker, however contrary to his expectation the door had been left unlocked. At a light touch, the door opened with a screeching sound. When they walked in, only to see a palace before them, the four walls decorated with clay statues or engraved with the likeness of Buddha. Entering the palace before them was a long stretch of anterooms.

    Each room had a figure of Buddha. Incidentally on the walls were written a few Han words: King of GaoChang nation. Peace and Safety. DaTang loyally watched over for 13 years, etc, etc. One hall was filled with statues of Hans, in the middle was an old person, on a plaque was written: Filling the Sacrosanct Position of Ancestral Teacher Confucius. On both left and right were 10 people, each bearing names like Yanhui, Zilu, Zigong, Zixia, Zizhang. As soon as Suluke saw these Han Statues, his brows creased, and he turned around and left.

    Liwenxiu thought in her heart: the people here all believe in Islam, how come the labyrinth is filled instead with Buddhist statues and there are also statues of Hans? The words written on the walls are also Han words, this is really terribly odd. As they passed through one chamber after another, they saw that over half of them were already damaged. A few halls were filled with yellow sand, even the doorways were blocked. The labyrinth pathways were originally abnormally complicated and twisting, additionally with the collapsed walls and obstructing sand, the labyrinth became even more confusing and disorientating. Occasionally the passageways contained tools, bleached bones and skulls. The utensils and tools found in the palace were unlike those found back in HuiJiang. Li Wenxiu vaguely remembered that these were objects used by the Han people of the central plains (inner region of China). These just caused people to become dazzled and confused, and everyone couldn’t stop speculating what they were. As to the rumoured gold and gems, not even half a piece could be seen.

    The seven people followed a dark passageway forwards, when all of a sudden, from ahead came an eerie voice, saying: “I have lived here quietly and peacefully for a thousand years, no one dared to disturb me. Whoever would be brave enough to approach would die instantly! This was spoken in Kazak, pronounced perfectly correctly, and although not spoken loudly the words could be heard with absolute clarity.

    A’man said in fright: “it’s an evil ghost! He……he said that he has lived here for a thousand years.” And grabbing Su Pu’s hand, retreated back several steps. Camel shouted out: “It’s a person, not an evil ghost!” Then raising his torch aloft, advanced forward. Sang Si’er didn’t want to show weakness and hurriedly caught up, walking with him shoulder to shoulder. Just as they passed a corner, suddenly the two of them shouted in chorus, and their bodies fell backwards. The people watching were shocked. Su Luke and Che Erku cast aside the torches in their hands, and rushed up to help. Only to hear a spate of sinister laughter come from up ahead, the voice said: “I have lived here for a thousand years, a thousand years. Whoever has come has perished one by one.” Che Erku didn’t need to stop and think, he picked up Camel and dashed backwards, Su Luke picked up Sang Si’er, and followed out, but the weird laughter filled up the corrider. Arriving at the doorway they checked on Camel and Sang Si’er to find that both men had fresh blood trickling from the corner of their mouths. Unexpectedly both had met violent deaths. The remaining 5 people looked at each other in speechless despair, feeling both sorrowful and terrified at the same time.

    A’man said: “this evil ghost doesn’t allow people to……to disturb him, lets just leave quickly!” at this point, how do Su Luke and Che Erku still dare to show off their valour? Grabbing both bodies, following the markings they had previously made on the walls, they returned to the outside of the labyrinth.

    Che Erku had lost two beloved disciples. His heart felt heavy and he couldn’t stop wiping away his tears. Su Luke didn’t mock him, and on the contrary tried to console him, saying: “After those two Han bandits entered the labyrinth, neither hide nor hair can be found of them. They must also have been killed by the evil ghost in the labyrinth. That is also good; let these two bandits meet horrible ends.” A’man said: “let’s return back the way we came and afterwards……afterwards let’s never come to this place again.” Che Erku said: “Many warriors from our tribe will be here soon. We must let them know, lest our brothers charge into the labyrinth and are murdered one by one.” Su Luke replied: “Yes! As long as we stay outside the labyrinth, then……then we are free from implication.” As to whether or not they really were free from implication, nobody knows. To be on the safe side, the 5 people retreated 6 or 7 li, to a large open area, and only then stopped. Su Luke said: “Evil ghosts fear sunlight and to cross this open space, avoiding the sunlight is impossible.” A’man asked: “what about at night?” Su Luke scratched his head, but could not think of an answer.

    Luckily just before evening, the first group of warriors arrived. Su Luke told the story from finding the Labyrinth to the evil ghost that resided inside and the murders it committed.

    Though there were many brave and strong warriors, none dared to suggest venturing forward. After two Sichuan, the second group and third groups also arrived, and about a hundred people bivouacked in the open area. In groups of roughly 10 they each built a campfire, reckoning that no matter how fierce the evil ghost it must still fear this many campfires.

    Li Wenxiu leant against a large rock, and thought in her heart: “My father and mother travelled 10,000 Li from the remote central plains to come to HuiJiang, for the purpose of finding GaoChang Labyrinth. They didn’t manage to find the labyrinth, but instead paid with their lives. In fact even if they did find it, they most certainly would have been murdered by the evil ghost, unless they immediately retreat after hearing the Ghost’s warnings. And yet my parents lived their lives as martial artists, they most definitely wouldn’t be bullied by the apparition’s words. Ai, no matter how high a person’s martial arts, how can they defeat a ghost?” Suddenly footsteps could be heard from behind her back, a person walked over and said in a low voice: “Ah Xiu.” Li Wenxiu was elated and jumping up, called out: “Grandpa Ji, you have also come.” Old man Ji said: “I was worried about you, so I followed everyone to come look at you.” In her heart Li Wenxiu felt grateful and pulling on his hand said: “The path up was quite treacherous. At grandpa’s age, it must have been quite some hardship. Quickly have a seat and rest.” Just as old man Ji sat down next to her, suddenly the keening call of an owl could be heard from the west, its unusual harshness uncomfortable to the ear. Everybody could not help glancing towards the sound, only to see the flash of a white mass as it came hurtling over at an exceptional speed, charging to about 4 zhangs away from everyone then suddenly becoming still as a statue. It looked vaguely like a human shadow yet under the dancing firelight, the apparition’s body appeared to be wrapped in a white robe and fresh blood covered its face. It’s robe was also covered with fresh bloodstains and it had a tall and mighty physique, at least 5 Chi (Foot, I think) taller than the average man. In the stillness of the night it was an incomparably ghastly vision. Suddenly the apparition extended both hands, its 10 fingernails were even longer than its fingers, and its hands also dripped with fresh blood.

    Everyone held their breaths and watched it.

    The apparition gave a sinister laugh, and said in a shrill voice: “I have lived in the labyrinth for over a thousand years and no one is allowed to disturb me, who asked you-all to be so brave?” Spoken in Khazak, it was exactly the voice that Li Wenxiu heard earlier that day in the labyrinth. The apparition slowly turned around, both hands pointing towards a horse three zhangs away, shouting out: “Die!” then suddenly turned around and dashed away, and in an instant disappeared without a trace.

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    I am wandering where can I get to back the previous thread on this novel as I notice it had been removed from the forum.

    Ok, I found it. It is in the Forum Guidelines.
    Last edited by ken2004; 11-07-06 at 02:17 AM.

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    The original thread:
    http://spcnet.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=5470

    Continuing with chapter 4, split into 3 parts. This is the first installment.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    The sudden appearance and disappearance of the apparition left everyone awestruck. It was only until a while after it disappeared could everyone shout out in exclamation, only to see the horse which it had pointed to suddenly collapse to its knees, keeling over dead. When everybody crowded up to look, no wounds could be found anywhere on the body. Blood dripped from its mouth and nose but the cause was unknown. It appeared as if demonic arts caused its death.

    Everybody began saying: “It’s a ghost, it’s a ghost.” Some people said: “I’ve always said that the Gobi Desert has ghosts.” Some said: “That labyrinth has been undisturbed for a thousand years; naturally it must be guarded by an apparition.” Others also said: “I’ve heard apparitions don’t have feet, let us go look if it left any footprints.” So everyone grabbed a torch and followed the apparition’s path to have a look, only to find that every other 5 feet in the sand was a tiny round hole. It was impossible for a person’s footsteps to make such a small imprint and they were also spaced too far apart.

    Considering this there was now no longer any doubt. Everybody was certain it was the haunting of the labyrinth ghost, saying: “No matter what kind off objects are in the labyrinth, we cannot take them. Tomorrow morning, let us all quickly return home.” The whole night they shook with fear yet as soon as the sun came up on the second day, all of a sudden each person no longer felt fearful. A few youths began discussing about going into the labyrinth to have a look. Su Luke and Che Erku loudly objected, arguing that to approach the labyrinth at least a good plan is required.

    And yet after discussing for an entire day, what good ideas did they have? The only result was that everyone agreed to stay a night and to give the matter further thought on the next day.

    Approaching Hai hour (亥时- 9pm to 11pm), the time that the apparition appeared the day before, the keening call of the owl again sounded 3 times in the area, causing all the listener’s hairs to stand on end. Again they saw the apparition come hurtling over, long legged, robed in white and entire body stained in blood. It came to a standstill several zhangs away, saying in a sharp voice: “You still haven’t gone away? Hng, if you linger nearby for another night, one by one there will be horrific deaths. I have lived in the labyrinth for a thousand years with no one daring to come in. You all have great audacity!” Saying this, he slowly tuned and pointed with both arms towards a youth, shouting out: “Die!” Saying these three words (in Chinese it is three characters), it turned back the way it came and dashed off. Under the moonlight he could be seen further and further away, until finally disappearing.

    The youth slowly turned ashen and without saying a word was dead. Yet not even half a wound could be found on his body. Last night merely a horse was murdered, yet tonight it was a strong and healthy youth that was murdered.

    With this new development who still dared to stay further? Rather than listen to the story of Su Luke and the others, the labyrinth may as well not have any precious treasures at all, not even a piece of gold or silver. If it wasn’t already dark, everybody long would have fled back the way they came.

    The next day was dreary and washed-out. The camp was in an uproar as everybody prepared to rush home.

    Yesterday Li Wenxiu had gone to take a closer look at the corpse of the horse, this time she had a look at the youth’s corpse and was even more without a doubt, saying to herself: “This wasn’t a ghost!” All of sudden she heard a person behind her reply in a quavering voice: “It is a ghost, it is a ghost! Ah’ Xiu, this is more terrifying than a ghost. Let us leave quickly.” Without knowing when, Old man Ji had come up behind her.

    Li Wenxiu sighed: “Fine, let us go then!” when all of a sudden they heard Su Pu shouting out: “A’man, A’man, where are you?” Che Erku was surprised, “Wasn’t A’man with you?” He also began shouting out: “A’man, A’man! Let us go back.” And he ran back and forth searching for his daughter.

    As Su Pu calling out, “A’man!” he leapt up a small hill and gazed all around. All of a sudden on a path towards the west he spied a flower kerchief, similar to A’man’s. Hurrying over and picking it up, he saw that it was indeed A’man’s kerchief. This was no trivial matter and he immediately shouted out: “A’man has been captured by the evil ghost!” By now everyone in the tribe had long departed, carrying with them the bodies of Camel, Sang Si’er and the other youth. Only Su Luke, Che Erku, Su Pu, Li Wenxiu and Old man Ji were left. As soon as Su Luke heard Su Pu calling out, he dashed over to enquire.

    Holding the flower chief, Su Pu said in despair, “This belonged to A’man. She……She……She has been captured by the evil ghost.” Li Wenxiu asked: “When did she get captured?” Su Pu replied, “I do not now. It must have been last night, during the night. She……she was sleeping together with her female companions, then this morning I couldn’t find her.” He was as if dazed for a moment, then suddenly madly charged in the direction of the labyrinth, shouting: “I want to die together with A’man.” A’man having been captured by the ghost, he knew he wouldn’t be able to rescue her. But if A’man were to die then he no longer wanted to live.

    Su Luke shouted out: “Su Pu, Su Pu, you little fool, come back quickly, aren’t you afraid of death?” Seeing his son getting further and further away, affection for his son finally overcame his dread of the ghost and he began chasing after. Che Erku was stunned momentarily, then with an “A’man, A’man!” he too chased after.

    Old man Ji shook his head, saying: “Ah Xiu, let us return back.” Li Wenxiu replied: “No, grandpa Ji, I must go rescue them.” Old man Ji said: “You cannot overcome a ghost.” Li Wenxiu replied: “Not a ghost, a person.” Old man Ji suddenly stretched up his left hand, tightly clasping Li Wenxiu’s elbow and said in a shaking voice, “Ah Xiu, even if it is a person, he must be more fearsome than a ghost. Listen to me, let us return home and go someplace far away. We are Han people, let us not live any longer in HuiJiang. Let us return back to the inner plains.” Li Wenxiu saw Su Pu and the others getting further and further away and became impatient. She gave a strong jerk yet who would have thought that despite Old man Ji’s considerable age, the strength in his hands was extraordinary. She repeated with greater strength but still could not shake free and shouted: “Quickly let me go! Su Pu, Su Pu, will be condemned to die by you!” Old man Ji saw her face swelling and becoming redder, her personality become more agitated, couldn’t help but sigh and release her elbow, quietly saying: “for the sake of this Kazak youth you have disregarded everything else!” As soon as Li Wenxiu felt her elbow released, she immediately turned and flew off, and so did not hear Old man Ji’s words. In a single breath she dashed over to the labyrinth entrance, only to see Su Pu wielding a long sword and shouting at the top of his lungs, “d*mned ghost. You have murdered A’man so come murder me as well. A’man has died so I no longer want to live! I am Su Pu, come out and I’ll duel you! Are you afraid of me? He reached out to turn the door knocker, yet with his heart in turmoil he turned it back and forth but the door still did not open.

    Su Luke on the side was shouting: “Su Pu, you little fool, don’t go in!” Yet in his state would Su Pu listen? When Li Wenxiu saw how devoted he was, her heart ached, and said loudly: “A’man isn’t dead!” Suddenly hearing these words, Su Pu’s mind cleared and he turned around, asking: “A’man isn’t dead? How…… how do you know?” Li Wenxiu replied: “It isn’t a ghost inside the labyrinth, it’s a person!” Su Pu, Su Luke, Che Erku all asked at the same time, “Clearly it is a ghost, so how can it be a person?” Li Wenxiu replied: “It is a person in disguise. They shot an extremely fine hidden weapon, coated with an intense poison, at the horse and person thus making the wound very difficult to see. They also wore stilts which were hidden by their long robe, hence the prints in the sand were not footprints, their stature was so tall and they could move so fast.” Two sentences however, she left unsaid, “I know who this person is because I recognise the hidden projectile technique. On the corpses of the horse and youth, I also managed to find the wounds of the hidden projectile.” This explanation was fair and reasonable, yet after pondering it a moment Su Luke still had difficulty in believing. By now Old man Ji had also arrived, and delayed by saying: “I know it is a powerful ghost, everybody do not enter the labyrinth lest you deliver your lives. I am an elder and my words will not be false.” Su Pu said: “If it is a ghost then so be it, if it is a man than so be it. I must go…… must go rescue A’man.” He hoped that the ghost was indeed as Li Wenxiu said, a man in disguise. That way he could still presume upon trying to rescue A’man. He resumed turning the door knocker and this time it opened.

    Li Wenxiu said: “I will come with you.” Su Pu looked back over his shoulder, unable to describe the gratitude in his heart, “Hero Li, you don’t need to go, it is too dangerous.” Li Wenxiu replied, “Do not worry, I’ll accompany you so there will be no danger.” Warm tears filled Su Pu’s eyes and he chokingly said: “Many thanks, thank you.” Li Wenxiu thought in her heart, “Your gratitude towards me is purely because of A’man.” Turning towards Old man Ji, she said: “Grandpa Ji, wait for me here.” Old man Ji replied: “No! I’ll come with you, that……that person is very ferocious.” Li Wenxiu said: “You are quite elderly and do not know any martial arts so just wait for me here. I won’t be in any danger.” Old man Ji replied: “You have no idea, it is extremely dangerous. I want to take care of you.” Li Wenxiu was unable to dissuade him, and thought: “You want to take care of me? More likely it is I who will be taking care of you.” Immediately the five people lit torches and entered the labyrinth following the old path.

    The five people zigzagged along for a long while. The entire way Su Pu was shouting: “A’man, A’man, where are you?” yet all the while they didn’t hear any sounds. Li Wenxiu thought: “It is better to scare them away.” Saying: “Let us all shout loudly, saying a large group of warriors has come to rescue people. Perhaps we can scare the evil ghost away.” Su Luke, Che Erku and Su Pu complied with her plan, shouting: “A’man, A’man, don’t be afraid, a whole group of warriors has come to save you.” The chambers and halls of the labyrinth were huge and empty so their shouts reverberated and echoed in all directions.

    After walking a bit longer, suddenly they heard the shrill screams of a girl, vaguely sounding like A’man. Su Pu bounded towards the sounds, pushing open a door fan only to see A’man curled up in a corner of the room, both hands bound behind her back. The two were delighted to be reunited, both shouting out together.

    Su Pu leapt over to release her bonds, asking: “where is the evil ghost?” A’man replied: “He isn’t a ghost, he is a person. A moment ago he was still here, and hearing your voices he wanted to pick me up and run away. I struggled with all my might and hearing that you had many people he hurriedly fled away.” Su Pu felt more at ease, asking: “then…… what kind of person was he? How did he capture you?” A’man replied: “The whole way he bound my eyes and inside the labyrinth is pitch dark, all along I was unable to see his facial features.” Su Pu turned around to glance at Li Wenxiu, his eyes filled with feelings of gratitude.

    A’man turned to Che Erku, saying: “Daddy, this person said his name was Wa’erlaqi, do you know……” Before she could finish, Che Erku and Su Luke simultaneously shouted out: “Wa’erlaqi!” These two calling out implied not only did they know of Wa’erlaqi, but were also extremely familiar.

    Che Erku asked: “This person was Wa’erlaqi? Definitely cannot be. He himself said he was Wa’erlaqi? You did not mishear?” A’man replied: “He said he knew my mum.” Su Luke said: “It is him, he really is Wa’erlaqi.” Che Erku murmured, “He knew your mum? Wa’erlaqi? How…… how did he become the labyrinth ghost?” A’man said: “He is not a ghost but a person. He said when he was young he loved Mother, but Mother didn’t even glance at him and instead married my daddy that bastard…… Aiyo, daddy, don’t be angry, it was an evil villain that said it.” With a great laugh, Su Luke said: “Wa’erlaqi sure is an evil villain, yet he was spot on when he said this, your daddy sure enough is a bastard……” Che Erku lashed out with a fist. With another laugh Su Luke dodged, adding: “Wa’erlaqi had long competed with your daddy for your mother, and in the end lost. This person isn’t a true man, and in the middle of the night he came with a knife to murder your daddy. Have a look at that knife scar next to his ear, that was given to him by Wa’erlaqi.” The listeners glanced at Che Erku, and sure enough next to his left ear was a long knife scar. Everyone had long seen this knife scar but didn’t know the history behind it.

    A’man held her father’s hand, asking gently, “Daddy was your wound serious?” Che Erku replied: “although your daddy fell into his plot, I still defeated him, throwing him onto the floor and binding him up.” Saying this, his tone became filled with pride, continuing, “the next day the tribal elders gathered the tribe, declaring that this villain was expelled from the tribe and never allowed to return. And in the case he does sneak back he is immediately to be put to death. He hasn’t been spotted these several years. What is this fellow doing hiding inside the labyrinth? How did you get captured by him?” A’man replied, “Just before dawn this morning, I got up and went into the forest to relieve myself. Who would imagine this villain was hiding behind, suddenly pouncing on me and restraining my mouth before carrying me all the way here. He said he couldn’t have my mother so he would take me in her place. I begged him to let me go, saying if my mother didn’t love him then I definitely wouldn’t love him either. He replied: ‘It doesn’t matter if you love me or not, as long as you are mine. Those kazak cowards, no one dares to come into the labyrinth to save you.’ His was wrong though, daddy and Uncle Su Luke are both all heroes. And Hero Li, Su Pu and grandpa Ji as well have all come and luckily was able to save me.” Che Erku hatefully said: “You have murdered Camel and Sang Si’er…… let us quickly chase and capture him so we can put him to death.” Li Wenxiu originally thought she had figured out who this fake ghost was, how could she imagine that her guess was completely wrong? She couldn’t help but feel secretly ashamed at having unjustly blamed a good person. Just as well she hadn’t voiced her thoughts, again thinking: “How come this Kazak can also fire poison needles? And has exactly the same needle shooting technique? Could he have also learned from my master?” Su Luke having discovered that the evil ghost was faked by Wa’erlaqi, how could he still feel dread? Rather this person had plain mediocre martial arts, how could he not act and capture them? Che Erku desired vengeance for his disciples and so raised his torch aloft and led the way.

    Old man Ji pulled Li Wenxiu’s sleeve, quietly saying: “this is a Kazak matter that concerns their tribe, there is no need for us to be involved. Let us wait for them outside.” Li Wenxiu heard the quaver in voice, as if terribly afraid, and gently said: “Grandpa Ji, have a seat over there by that doorway and wait for me, okay? That Kazak villain has strong martial arts, I only fear that Su…… Su Pu and the others cannot overcome him, therefore I must aid them.” Old man Ji sighed, “then I will come as well.” Li Wenxiu gave him a gentle smile, saying: “This business is almost finished, don’t worry.” As they walked along shoulder to shoulder, Old man Ji asked: “This business is almost over, after it is finished I want to return back to the central plains. Ah Xiu, will you come back with me?” In her heart Li Wenxiu felt bad; her memory of the Central plains homeland had long since faded to a shadow. She had lived in the steppes for 12 years, growing to love the strong winds, heavy snows, yellow sand, and boundless wilderness with its flocks and herds, the bellbirds song in the dusk…… Old man Ji seeing she didn’t answer, continued: “We Hans live in the central plains, it is much better than here. There are better clothes to wear, better food to eat. Your Grandpa Ji has accumulated some money and going back we can live comfortably. The central plains are vibrant, many times more splendid than here. That’s the kind of life people should live.” Li Wenxiu asked: “If the central plains are so great, how come you never returned?” Old man Ji was startled and walked several steps before slowly replying: “In the central plains I had an enmity. I came to Huijiang to avoid disaster. After all these years, that enemy must have died. Ah Xiu, lets wait outside.” Li Wenxiu replied: “No, Grandpa Ji we must walk faster so we aren’t left behind.” Old man Ji grunted but his strides never paused. Seeing his advanced age, Li Wenxiu felt more urgency.

    Old man Ji said: “After returning to the central plains, we’ll live in Jiangnan. Let us buy a village and plant poplars, willows and peach blossoms all around it. Each tree next to another so that when spring arrives, the red peach blossoms mingle with the green poplars and willows, while black swallows weave between the willow branches. Ah Xiu, let us also build a big pond filled with goldfish; gold ones, red ones, white ones, yellow ones, you will definitely be extremely happy… much better than here……” Li Wenxiu slowly shook her head, thinking: “No matter how great Jiangnan is, I still love living here, except…… when this matter is concluded, Su Pu will marry A’man. At that time a regal celebration will be held, with wrestling competitions and singing and dancing beside the campfires……” She raised her head, saying: “Okay, Grandpa Ji, after we return home the next day we’ll set out to return to the central plains.” All of a sudden, Li Wenxiu felt some pity for that Wa’erlaqi. He could not win the woman he loved and also was expelled from the tribe, living in solitude in this labyrinth. A’man was 18 years old, had he lived in the labyrinth for 12 years? Perhaps even longer.

    Suddenly from ahead came Che Erku’s angry yell, “Wa’erlaqi! Come out!” Li Wenxiu couldn’t keep waiting for Old man Ji and hurriedly ran over following the voice.

  5. #5
    Junior Member Goobernaculum's Avatar
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    Walking up to the door of an audience hall, they saw in the middle of the audience hall a person flashing high and swooping low, in the middle of ferocious fight with a sword wielding Che Erku. That person was barehanded, wearing a long white robe and on his head was a white shroud, with two eye holes. The shroud and long robe were both so stained in blood as if it were dyed, none other than the apparel of the fake ghost of the previous two nights. The self proclaimed Wa’erlaqi that kidnapped A’man, only now there were no stilts underneath his feet, and the hem of his robe had been flipped up and wrapped around his waist.

    Su Luke and Su Pu seeing that Che Erku wielded a blade while his opponent was barehanded believed that victory was certain and so did not step forward to help. Instead both raised their torches, and loudly yelled out their moral support.

    Li Wenxiu was carefully watching their moves and realised the situation was not good, so she shouted: “Careful!” and just as she was about to help ‘Peng’, a punch landed on Che Erku’s right chest. He spewed out a mouthful of fresh blood and fell back. Su Luke and his son were greatly surprised. Both cast aside their torches and snapped their swords up to engage the enemy. When the two torches fell on the ground they spluttered but continued to burn. The hall was cast into shadows and distinguishing objects became difficult.

    Li Wenxiu lifted up her meteor hammer, shouting: “Su Pu step back! Uncle Su Luke step back, let me fight him.” Su Luke angrily shouted back: “You step back. Don’t talk nonsense.” He began slashing with his long sword, the whooshes of his sword strokes generating a wind. His Kazak swordsmanship was a distinct style, simultaneously sudden, fierce, firm and ruthless. However Wa’erlaqi was fearfully skilled and agile, suddenly kicking out a foot and kicked the sword in Su Luke’s hand into the air.

    Li Wenxiu flung the meteor hammer aside, leapt upwards and caught the falling long sword. With a Whiist whiist she chopped twice towards Wa’erlaqi. From her master she had learned boxing and meteor hammer techniques. She had never learned any sword techniques yet in the current four people melee there was no way to swing her hammer. If she utilised her meteor hammer, she could not avoid accidentally injuring Su Luke or Su Pu. So she could only complement her boxing skills with additional chops of the sword, yet she remained completely calm and focused on the fight. Having lost his blade, Su Luke began using his fists to strike out.

    Wa’erlaqi singularly faced 3 enemies yet remained composed.

    The contest was extremely close when suddenly Wa’erlaqi gave a great shout and shot out his left fist, directly striking the bridge of Su Pu’s nose. He followed with a leg, kicking Su Luke in the lower abdomen. Su Luke and his son fell over consecutively, unable to get back up. Actually Wa’erlaqi’s fist and kick contained profound inner strength and after landing a blow it was extremely difficult to defend against. Although Su Luke was bold and brave, and was also sturdily built, yet still he could not withstand it.

    Now the situation had turned into Li Wenxiu singly fighting a strong enemy. She was unable to cope and after a moment she fell into a disadvantageous situation.

    Wa’erlaqi shouted: “Leave quickly and I will spare your pitiful life.” Li Wenxiu saw that if she withdrew and retreated, at most she would be able to drag Old man Ji with her. Su Pu and the other two people would undoubtedly suffer under his murderous hands, so henceforth she dashed forward without regard for her own safety and fought with all her strength. Wa’erlaqi struck out with his left palm, Li Wenxiu dodged to the right, unaware that this strike was an empty move. His right palm followed with a fierce chop. With a ‘Tu’ it landed on her left shoulder. Li Wenxiu staggered, almost falling over. Suddenly a thought through her mind, “Master has taught this move [Look one way and row another] to me before, how could I have forgotten it?” Wa’erlaqi shouted out: “If you try again I will kill you!” Li Wenxiu suddenly abandoned herself to despair, shouting: “Kill me then!” She leapt forward again and immediately suffered a punch on her waist. It was so painful that she dropped her long sword and doubled over, thinking, “I am dead!” Suddenly from beside her came a shout and a person pounced towards Wa’erlaqi.

    As Li Wenxiu rolled on the floor, she looked backwards and almost couldn’t believe her eyes. Old man Ji had taken out a dagger, and with an open bodied stance, fought with Wa’erlaqi. Yet seeing that Old man Ji’s moves were strong and nimble, his moves like the wind, not a vestige of his aged condition was evident.

    Even stranger was that Old man Ji’s strikes and kicks could not be distinguished from Wa’erlaqi’s, again almost as if his martial arts had been taught by her master Hua Hui. With that Li Wenxiu concluded: “Yes, the martial arts of the central plains must all be like this.”

    “Grandpa Ji and this Kazak have both learned the central plains martial arts. Originally Grandpa Ji also knew martial arts, I never knew this.” It could be seen that the more the two fought, the closer they became. Wa’erlaqi suddenly gave a sharp shout: “Ma Jiajun, greetings!” Old man Ji’s body trembled and he retreated a step, Wa’erlaqi attacked with his left palm, as if half of the [look one way and row another] move. Old man Ji did not fall for his ploy, instead stabbing with his dagger towards the right. Yet who knew that Wa’erlaqi would not complete the second half of the move. His left hand continued to sweep down and with one stroke seized old man Ji’s face and tore off a large piece of skin.

    Li Wenxiu, Su Luke and A’man all shouted out exclamation and Li Wenxiu almost fainted.

    Yet they saw Wa’erlaqi jump up, kicking out with his left foot and his right foot, both kicks intimately interlinked, landed squarely on Old man Ji’s body. At that moment, with a flash of white light, Old man Ji threw the dagger in his hand. The dagger violently shot out and buried itself in the opponent’s lower abdomen.

    Wa’erlaqi let out a tragic cry, sending out both fists in the move [Five Thunders Striking the Peak], a violent bash to the crown of Old man Ji’s head. Li Wenxiu knew that if these two fist strikes connected, it would be extremely difficult for Old man Ji to survive, so immediately she roused all of her strength and leapt over, raising her forearms to block. There was a ‘crack’ and both forearms shook so hard as if they would snap. In that instant both people were evenly matched, Wa’erlaqi’s fists could not bash down, nor could Li Wenxiu block him aside.

    By now Su Luke could also move and jumping up, gathered all his strength and with a fist hit Wa’erlaqi in the lower jaw. Wa’erlaqi was thrown backwards, hitting the wall with a thump before collapsing limply to the ground.

    Li Wenxiu called: “Grandpa Ji, Grandpa Ji.” Supporting Old man Ji she didn’t dare to open her eyes, thinking his face surely would be a mess of blood and flesh, an extremely gruesome sight. Yet when she did open a slit, what she saw was actually the face of a man in his prime. She was greatly shocked and opened her eyes wider, only to see a face whose beard was completely shaven and features that could even be considered handsome. In the waxing and waning light of the torches, the face appeared deathly white, completely devoid of blood. This person was only slightly over thirty years of age. Only the expression of his eyes was similar to before, yet combined with this completely different set of features it actually gave an indescribable feeling of eeriness.

    Li Wenxiu sat in a daze for a moment, and then with an ‘Ah’ in exclamation, she pushed Old man Ji aside and sprang back. Her body however had suffered blows from fist and foot so when she landed she could not stand steadily, instead sitting heavily to the ground, saying: “you…… you……” Old man Ji replied, “I…… I…… I am not your grandpa Ji, I…… I……” Suddenly he gave a cry and spat a great mouthful of fresh blood, saying, “Correct. I am Ma Jajun and have always disguised myself as an old man. Ah Xiu, you don’t blame me right?” When he said “Ah Xiu”, it was said the same way as in the last ten years, filled with genuine feeling of affection.

    Li Wenxiu replied, “I don’t blame you, of course I don’t blame you. You have always cared very well for me.” She glanced at Ma Jajun, and then glanced at Wa’erlaqi who lay collapsed against the wall. In her heart she was filled with doubts and suspicions.

    By now A’man had assisted her father up and helped him massage his chest injury. Su Luke and Su Pu picked up long swords and both tottered and limped over to where Wa’erlaqi lay.

    Wa’erlaqi asked: “Ah Xiu, just then when I told you to leave, why didn’t you leave?” He spoke Han, and again his tone sounded exactly the same as her master Hua Hui. Without thinking Li Wenxiu immediately cried out: “Master!” Wa’erlaqi replied: “You finally recognise me.” Slowly he raised his hand and removed his head shroud and sure enough it was Hua Hui.

    Li Wenxiu felt both surprised and grieved. She scrambled over and knelt by his feet, shouting: “Master! Master! I really didn’t know it was you. I…… I originally suspected it was you, but they all said you were the Kazak Wa’erlaqi. You even admitted it yourself.” Wa’erlaqi bitterly replied: “I am a Kazak, I am Wa’erlaqi!” Li Wenxiu was surprised, “You…… You are not a Han?” Wa’erlaqi replied: “I am a Kazak, the tribe drove me out, never allowing me to return. I went to the central plains and learnt Han martial arts. Hehe, I accepted a Han disciple, Ma Jajun. Greetings, greetings!” Ma Jajun replied: “Master, although you were benevolent to me, yet……” Li Wenxiu was again greatly startled, “Grandpa Ji, you…… he…… he is your master?” Ma Jajun replied: “you should stop calling me Grandpa Ji. I am Ma Jajun. He is my master and taught me all of my martial arts. He brought me with him here to Huijiang and in the middle of the night took me to the Kazak’s Tietingbu (铁延部). He used poisoned needles to murder A’man’s mother……” He spoke all this in Han. The more Li Wenxiu heard the more puzzled she was, and she asked A’man in Kazak: “Your mother was killed by him with poison needles?” Before A’man could reply Che Erku jumped up, shouting: “Yes, yes. A’man’s mother, my beloved Ya Lixian. One night her whole body suddenly turned jet black, as if she caught a dreadful malady, and then she died. All along it was actually you Wa’erlaqi, you scoundrel, you murdered her.” He pounced over to contest again with Wa’erlaqi, yet due to his heavy injury, as soon as he slightly moved he felt severe pains in his chest and collapsed down again.

    Wa’erlaqi said: “Correct. Ya Lixian was killed by me. Who asked her to be born without eyes, marrying a bastard like you and then refusing to elope with me?” Che Erku loudly shouted, “you evil crook! You evil crook!” Ma jajun continued in Kazak, “Originally he also wanted to kill Che Erku, yet that night although we looked everywhere, Che Erku was nowhere to be found. As my master searched for Che Erku alone, he wanted me to put poison the well, in the process poisoning to death the entire tribe. Yet we were lodging with a Kazak family and the host was good to us, extending to us all forms of hospitality. The more I thought, I realised I could not commit the act. My master returned saying he couldn’t find Che Erku. As soon as he asked, knew I did not obey his commands to put poison the well. So he had a great fit of anger, saying that I would definitely divulge his secret, and that he would definitely kill me to shut my mouth. Thus he was compelled to become completely ruthless. Knowing this I resolved to follow the adage, ‘whoever strikes first prevails’, and as his attention was elsewhere I fired three poison needles into the middle of his back.” Wa’erlaqi hatefully said: “You ungrateful dog thief, today you have finally fall into my hands.” Ma Jajun said to Li Wenxiu: “Ah Xiu, that night when you exchanged moves with that bandit Chen Dahai, as soon as you revealed your martial arts I knew you had learnt them from my master so I knew that those three poison needles didn’t kill him.” Wa’erlaqi replied: “Hng, based on your pitiful level of martial arts, could you possibly kill me? Ma Jajun ignored him, continuing to li Wenxiu, “These ten or more years I hid in Huijiang, hid in Tietingbu, pretending to be an old man because I was afraid master had not died. Only this one place he did not dare come. As soon as I knew he was in the vicinity, my first impulse was to flee back to the central plains.” Li Wenxiu saw that his breathing was gradually becoming weaker and knew that he had sustained two consecutive kicks from Wa’erlaqi’s heavy leg techniques, his inner organs were likely ruptured; it was amazing that he was not already dead. Turning back to look at Wa’erlaqi she saw that in his lower abdomen the little dagger was buried to the hilt and he also had no chance of surviving. Living alone in Huijiang these ten years only these two people had really looked after her, cared for her, yet who knew that the kindness and grudges between these two were so intertwined. To the point of butchering their own, both had suffered fatal wounds. Her eyes filled with tears, and asked Ma Jajun: “Gran…… Uncle Ma, You…… Since you knew that he wasn’t dead, and furthermore was in the vicinity, why didn’t you immediately return to the central plains?” Mournfully, the corner of Ma Jajun’s mouth curved in a bitter smile, replying softly: “The willows in Jiangnan, are already sprouting tender shoots, Ah Xiu, you can return there by yourself. Henceforth…… henceforth you must be careful, Grandpa Ji, Grandpa Ji cannot take care of you anymore……” His voice became quieter and quieter, until finally his breath ceased.

    Li Wenxiu threw herself over his body, shouting: “Grandpa Ji, Grandpa Ji, don’t die!” Ma Jajun had died before he could answer her question yet in her heart Li Wenxiu already understood. Ma Jajun was terribly afraid of his master and really felt that he must flee back to the central plains, yet on the contrary had followed Li Wenxiu to the labyrinth. As long as the whole time he disguised himself as an old man Wa’erlaqi would never have recognised him yet he entered the battle, fighting against the very person he was most afraid of. All this was for her! During these ten years, she knew that Grandpa always cherished her, yet actually he was a man in the prime of life. In the whole world was there an actual grandfather that treated their granddaughter so nicely? Perhaps. Perhaps not. She did not know.

    Of the two torches in the hall, one had already extinguished and the other had almost burnt to its end.

    Su Luke suddenly said: “Really strange. Just then two Hans fought a Kazak, yet without thinking I went over and threw a punch, punching that Kazak in the face.” Li Wenxiu asked: “Why is that? Why do you suddenly help a Han person fight a Kazak person?” Su Luke scratched his head, replying: “I do not know.” After a while, he said: “You are a good person, he is a bad person!” He finally admitted it, that amongst Hans there are bad people like bandits and also good people like Hero Li, (That Han who had pretended to be an old man, who had been unwilling to poison the well could also be considered a good person right?) Amongst Kazak people there were also good people like himself, and also bad people like Wa’erlaqi.

    Li Wenxiu thought: “If only you knew this those years ago, then you would not have so viciously beaten Su Pu, then all would have been different. Yet, would things really have been different? Considering that when young Su Pu had been my best friend, after he grew up and saw A’man, would he still fall in love with me? People’s hearts are really strange, I don’t understand.” Su Luke loudly said: “Wa’erlaqi, I think this time you cannot survive so there is no need for us to kill you, goodbye!” Suddenly Wa’erlaqi’s eyes revealed a murderous light, and he raised his right hand up. Li Wenxiu knew that he was about to shoot a poison needle, shouted: “Master, don’t –“ at this moment, the fire gave a small burst as the end of the torch burnt out, the hall became so dark that if one stretched out their hand one could not see their fingers. Even if Wa’erlaqi had wanted to throw poison needles to murder people he could not acquire a target. Li Wenxiu called out: “Quickly leave, don’t make any noise.” Su Luke, Su Pu, Che Erku and A’man supported each other and stealthily retreated out. Everyone knew that Wa’erlaqi’s poison needles were extremely deadly and although he was at the very edge of life, he could still fire needles causing harm to others. Four people retreated from the hall and seeing Li Wenxiu had not came out, Su Pu called out: “Hero Li, Hero Li, quickly come out.” Li Wenxiu made a vague reply.

    Wa’erlaqi asked: “Ah Xiu, you…… are you also going to leave?” sounding extremely lonely. Li Wenxiu could not bear it, thinking that although he had committed several evil deeds he had always treated her well. To let him await death alone in the darkness was really too cruel, so she sat down, saying: “Master, I will accompany you here.” Su Pu called out a few times from outside. Li Wenxiu loudly replied: “You all can leave first; I will come out after a while.” Su Pu called: “This person is vicious and evil, Hero Li, you must be careful.” Li Wenxiu didn’t reply further.

    A’man said: “Why do you continue calling her Hero Li instead of Miss Li?” Su Pu was surprised, “Miss Li? She is a girl?” A’man replied: “Are you pretending to be stupid or can you really not see?” Su Pu said: “Why would I pretend to be stupid? He……his martial arts is so great, how could he be a girl?” A’man replied, “That evening during the snowstorm, in Old man Ji’s house, she seized me to be a female slave, and afterwards let me go. At that moment I knew she was a female.” Su Pu clapped, “Ah yes. If she were male, then she definitely would not release a female slave as beautiful as you?” A slight blush crept across A’man’s face, “Not that. That time I saw the glance she gave you, and knew she was a girl. Where in the world would a man glance towards you with that kind of silly expression!” Su Pu scratched his head, and then laughed, “I definitely did not see.” A’man smiled joyfully; her smile really was similar to a blossoming flower. She knew that Su Pu only had eyes for her, even if ten thousand maidens gave him silly glances, he would not notice.

    Inside the hall it was inky black, Li Wenxiu and Wa’erlaqi could not see each other. Li Wenxiu sat next to her master. In the quietness she heard Su Pu and A’man’s playful laughter slowly getting further away and also heard the footsteps of the four people slowly retreat.
    Last edited by Goobernaculum; 11-21-06 at 06:48 PM.

  6. #6
    Junior Member dark_oracle's Avatar
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    Default The end?

    Is this really the end? I am just filled with bitter sorrows reading your translation. Never knew Jin Yong wrote these type of stories. But is this really the end?

  7. #7
    Junior Member Goobernaculum's Avatar
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    Tiniest bit more. But yea, I agree, never expected it to end like this....

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    Junior Member Goobernaculum's Avatar
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    Inside the hall there only remained Li Wenxiu who was watching over the dieing Wa’erlaqi, and also Grandpa Ji’s dead body.

    Wa’erlaqi again asked: “Just then when I told you to retreat, why didn’t you listen? If you had left…… alas.” Li Wenxiu replied quietly: “Master, you could not be with your hearts love so you killed her. I could not be with my heart’s love, yet I could not bear letting someone kill him.” Wa’erlaqi gave a cold laugh, “So it was actually like this.” After a long while in the darkness, he sighed, “You Han people are really strange. There are ungrateful scoundrels like Ma Jajun who would slay their own masters; there are bandits like Huo Yuanlong and Chen Dahai who can kill people without batting an eyelid; then there are actually kind and benevolent maidens like you.” Li Wenxiu asked: “Master, what happened to that bandit Chen Dahai? We pursued him the entire way here, yet in the snow we saw the footprints of two people. Was the other person you? Wa’erlaqi replied: “Correct, it was me. Ever since I was poisoned by my unfaithful disciple Ma Jajun’s needles, my body became debilitated and weak. I spent over ten years in the cave tending to my injury till this life was almost finished yet unexpectedly you would appear and save me, pulling out those poisoned needles. After my injury healed in the middle of the night I would go to Tietingbu and spy on the tents. I wanted to kill Che Erku and kill the tribe that banished me. Only because of you I did not poison the well. That night during the blizzard I waited outside your house. I saw you capture Chen Dahai and heard how you discovered the map to the labyrinth. As soon as Chen Dahai fled, I followed behind him, all the way to the labyrinth. Then I gave him a punch in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious, before locking him inside the labyrinth the afternoon two days ago. From his waist I retrieved the handkerchief map and pulled out ten or so strands of thread before replacing it back in his possession. I then blindfolded him and tied him to the back of a horse before driving it far, far way.” Li Wenxiu thought how this person with the cruel personality could still spare a person’s life, asking: “Why did you remove the threads from the map?” Wa’erlaqi gave several hollow laughs before replying with great delight: “He does not know I pulled out the threads. With the map missing several strands the labyrinth can never be found again. This evil bandit, he will definitely return to his fellow bandits and based on the map come searching for the labyrinth again. They will end up wandering here and there in the great Gobi desert, haha, heehee, exciting, exciting!” Thinking of the terrible scene of a group of people under the blazing and baking sun, wandering in circles amidst several hundred Li of waterless desert, Li Wenxiu could not help quietly uttering a cry. This group of bandits had murdered her parents and were her personal enemies, yet to suffer thus cruelly; she could not but feel unhappy for them. If she had the opportunity to encounter them, would she say to them: “This map is incorrect?” She most probably would. Only Huo Yuanlong and Chen Dahai most certainly would not listen. Certainly they will be filled with notions of great wealth and would wander in the desert till one by one they die of thirst. They would continue believing they travelled towards the labyrinth because Chen Dahai had previously followed the map and personally been to the labyrinth, so it could definitely not be wrong. The Labyrinth had uncountable jewels and treasures, everyone said so, so how could it be false? Wa’erlaqi chortled incessantly, and then said: “Actually, the labyrinth does not even contain a piece of gold the size of a thimble. Of the supposed treasures contained in the Labyrinth, all the items are extremely common in the central plains. Tables, chairs, beds, bed curtains, many books, Go sets, seven-stringed instruments, kitchen utensils, bowls…… everything can be found, except treasures. Where the Hans live, these items are common everywhere. Those Hans actually laboured their entire lives to search here, heehee, it’s almost enough to make me die of laughter.” The two times that Li Wenxiu entered the labyrinth, she saw countless everyday tools. The Huijiang atmosphere was extremely dry and despite the long history, all the items had not decayed. Also, all over the ancient palace halls and antrums, as expected not a single bit of gold bullions or precious jewels could be seen. She said: “Other people’s stories cannot be relied on, despite the great size of this labyrinth yet it contains no treasures. Ai, even my mother and father, they also vainly gave their lives for this.” Wa’erlaqi asked: “Do you know the history of this labyrinth?” Li Wenxiu replied: “No I do not. Master, do you know?” Wa’erlaqi replied: “Inside the labyrinth I have come across two stone monuments, on them where chiselled the records of how the labyrinth was constructed. It was actually constructed during the time of Tang TaiZong.” Li Wenxiu also did not know what kind of person Tang Taizong was so Wa’erlaqi in intermittent snatches told her the history of the labyrinth.

    Originally during the Tang dynasty this area was the nation of Gaochang.

    Back then Gaochang was a great country of the western territory. Rich in produce, the nation was both prosperous and strong. During the years of Tang Taizong Zhenguan, the king of Gaochang who was called Ju Wentai submitted to the Tang. The Tang dynasty sent emissaries to Gaochang, wanting them to observe many Han traditions. Ju Wentai said to the emissaries: “The eagles soar in the sky, while pheasants bend over amidst the rushes. Cats wander the halls while mice call out from their holes. Each has their own place. Is there any evil in this?” His meaning was: although you are fierce eagles soaring in the sky, we are wild birds hiding in the tussocks. Although you are cats stalking the halls, yet we are small mice hiding inside holes and chirping. And yet if you really insist on doing something to us we cannot resist. Everybody lives their own lives, why must you coerce us into observing your Han traditions and conventions? When Tang Taizong heard these words he was filled with indignation, believing them to be barbarians and lacking imperial teachings, hence he dispatched the great general Hou Junji to suppress them.

    [Tang Taizong Zhenguan (唐太宗贞观年间 - Both names are the same person. When a person becomes emperor they become known by another name. In this case I think ‘Taizong’, probably meaning something like ‘founder’.)]

    When Ju Wentai received these tidings, he said to his hundreds of officials: “The great Tang are Seven thousand Li away from us, two thousand li of that is desert without water or grass. The cold winds are sharp as blades, the hot winds bake, how can they dispatch a large army here? If they send too many troops to come fight us, they will not be able to support supplying provisions so far. If they send over thirty thousand troops, then there is no need to fear. Let us wait at ease for an exhausted enemy and hold our ground at the capital. We only need to hold for twenty days, and then the Tang soldiers will have exhausted their food and will retreat.” He knew that the Tang soldiers were strong, so he settled on a strategy that only required defence, so they gathered a great many people and with the greatest secrecy constructed a labyrinth, in case the capital could not be held there would still be a place to retreat to. At the time the Gaochang national power was strong and prosperous, and the skilled worksman of the western territories gathered there. This labyrinth was created with many twisted paths and illusory paths. The treasures of the whole country were all hidden inside the labyrinth. Ju Wentai thought that in the situation of the Tang troops attacked to the labyrinth, they still might not necessarily find us.

    Hou Junji who had the opportunity to learn the art of warfare from Lijing, was extremely capable at troop deployment and smashed straight into enemy territory like splitting bamboo, advancing through the great desert. When Ju Wentai heard that the Tang Dynasty troops had arrived he was consumed by apprehension, and died due to fear. His son Ju Zhisheng succeeded as king. Hou Junji led his great army and advanced to the capital, fighting several battles in which the Gaochang troops were completely routed. The Tang troops had a tall siege engine for assaulting city walls. Tens of Zhangs tall, it was at the level of nesting birds, hence it was called the ‘Nest Engine’. The Nest Engine was pushed next to the city wall, giving the soldiers a higher position and allowing them to drop rocks and fire arrows from above, which was difficult for the Gaochang troops to resist. Before Ju Zhisheng could escape to the labyrinth the capital had fallen and he could only surrender. The nation of Gaochang which had been established by Ju Jia and spanned nine generations, a total of 183 years, was conquered in the 14th year of Emperor Tang Zhenguang. At that time the country spanned 800 Li from east to west and 500 Li from south to north, indeed a great country in the western territory.

    Hou Junji took captive the king Ju Zhisheng, the hundred civil and military officials and many people of exceptional ability from the nation, and returned to ChangAn (The then capital of the Tang). All the valuable treasures contained within the labyrinth were also taken. Tang Taizong said that the people of Gaochang had not adapted to Han culture and did not understand the benefits of the Chinese culture and clothing; hence he bestowed large quantities of Han books, clothing, tools, musical instruments etc, etc, to Gaochang. The Gaochang people privately said to each other: “Wild chickens cannot learn to fly like eagles. Mice cannot learn to call like cats. No matter how great these Han items are, we Gaochang barbarians will not like them.” They then took all that Tang Taizhong had given them; the books, cultural items, all sorts of tools, statues of buddha, Confucious, Elder Jun (Daoism) etc; they placed these inside the labyrinth and no one gave them a second glance.

    Over a thousand years, the sands shifted, the trees grew. This labyrinth which was originally well hidden became even more secretive. Without directions from the map no one would be able to find it. The Kazaks who currently live on this land are completely unrelated to the ancient Gaochang people.

    Wa’erlaqi learned literature and martial arts in the Central plains, read many Han books and subsequently was familiar with the history of the Tang era. Although Li Wenxiu was Han, on the contrary she knew nothing, nor felt any interest. She heard Wa’erlaqi’s breathing become weaker, and said: “Master, you should stop talking and rest. This Han emperor really was excessive. If other people liked their way of life, just let them be. Why must they be forced to give it up? Ai, what you truly desire in your heart is often unattainable. What other people insist on giving you, even if it is something good, if I don’t like it, in the end I still won’t like it.” Wa’erlaqi said: “Ah Xiu, I…… I am very lonely. Nobody has ever talked to me for so low, would you…… would you stay with me?” Li Wenxiu replied: “Master, I will stay here and accompany you.” Wa’erlaqi then said: “I am about to die, after I die you will walk away, never to return.” Li Wenxiu was unable to answer and feeling a sense of dreary sadness, stretched out her right hand to lightly hold her master’s left hand, only to feel his palm slowly growing colder.

    Wa’erlaqi said: “I want you to accompany me forever, never to leave my side……” While saying this, his slowly lifted up his right hand, holding two poison needles between his thumb and index finger. He thought: “Once I lightly prick you with these two poison needles you will forever accompany me in the labyrinth, never to leave my side.” He whispered: “Ah Xiu, you are both beautiful and gentle, you really are a good girl, stay with me forever. I have been isolated and lonely my whole life, no one ever paid attention to me…… Ah Xiu, you are really obedient, really are a good child……” The two poison needles slowly shifted closer towards Li Wenxiu. In the darkness she could not see anything.

    Wa’erlaqi thought in is heart: “I no longer have any strength in my arms, hence I must prick her very slowly. If my hand moves fast and she pushes me away then I will never get another chance to prick her.” Inch by inch the poison needles shifted closer towards Li Wenxiu’s face, separated by only a two feet, only one foot…… Li Wenxiu, still oblivious to the poison needles only 7 or 8 inches away from her, asked: “Master, was A’man’s mother extremely beautiful?” Wa’erlaqi’s heart was shaken, replying: “A’man’s mother…… Ya Lixian……” Suddenly the strength in his entire body vanished without a trace. His right hand, which had been lifted up, drooped down and in this lifetime he would never be able to lift it up again.

    As Li Wenxiu left she said: “Master, you have always taken good care of me so I will never forget you.” In the direction of the Jade checkpoint, a maiden rode a white horse through the desert, slowly travelling eastwards.

    [Jade Checkpoint (玉门关) – A point between the Central plains and western territories I think…]

    Her heart was recalling her farewell to the Kazak tribe of Tietingbu and their words: Su Luke said: “Miss Li, don’t go, live here with us. We have several nice lads; we will let you pick the best to be your husband. We want to give you lots of cattle, lots of sheep and build the best tent for you.” Li Wenxiu blushed red but shook her head.

    Su Luke said: “It does not matter that you are a Han, there are good people amongst Hans as well. Can a Han marry a Kazak? Ai.” He scratched his head, “Let us go ask the elder, Habulamu.” In the tribe, Habulamu was the most familiar with the [Koran], and was the wisest and most learned of all the elders.

    He bowed his head in thought for a moment, before saying: “I am lowly and insignificant person who does not understand anything.” Su Luke replied: “If the wise Habulamu also says he does not understand, than others would understand even less.” Habulamu replied: “In chapter 49 of the Koran, it says: ‘Everybody, indeed I created you from one man and one woman. I made you into many tribes and clans, and let you know each other. Under Allah’s judgement, the most exalted amongst you is the one that is kindest.’ All the tribes and clans of the world were created by the true God, Allah. He only says that the kindest people are the most exalted. Chapter 4 of the Koran says: ‘Love your close neighbours and distant neighbours like relatives. Be hospitable to them.’” Su Luke said: “Your words are correct. Can we let our daughters marry Han people? Or let our sons take Han wives?” Habulamu replied: “Chapter 2, page 221 of the scriptures says: ‘Do not take for wives those who worship many gods, until they believe in the truth. Do not let your own daughters marry the sons of those who worship many gods, until they believe in the truth.’ Chapter 4, page 23 of the scriptures strictly prohibits marrying women who have husbands and does not allow marrying direct relatives. Apart from these, all other forms are legitimate. If marrying a slave girl or captive is permissible, why would marrying a Han be unallowed?” As Habulamu recited these scriptures from the Koran, the entire tribe respectfully and reverently stood, listening attentively.

    The Holy Scriptures aided them in resolving the difficulty and everybody understood, saying: “The directions of the prophet Mohammed cannot be wrong.” Some people applauded Habulamu as wise and learned, “If we have anything we do not understand, we only need to ask Habulamu. He will always be able to enlighten us.” Yet no matter how wise or learned Habulamu was, there was one matter that he could not answer because all encompassing [Koran] did not address this; if the person that you deeply loved, deeply loved another, what options do you have? Step by step the white horse carried her back to the central plains. The white horse was already old and could only walk very slowly, but it would always be able to return back to the Central Plains. Jiangnan had willows, peach blossoms, swallows, goldfish…… Amongst the Hans were heroic, handsome and valorous youths, romantic and stylish youths…… yet this beautiful maiden was obstinate like the people of ancient Gaochang: “That is all very good yet I just don’t like it.”

    (The End)






    So how did everyone find the story?
    Last edited by Goobernaculum; 12-04-06 at 05:05 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member fastclock's Avatar
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    Well, thank you for taking the time to finish the story.
    It's a strange story and one that is very depressing...

  10. #10
    Junior Member Goobernaculum's Avatar
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    Thanks!

    Yeap I know what you mean. As the story went along I just kept wishing she would get something more, instead she ended up with nothing. So tragic...... On the other hand, I also enjoy the sad endings because they seem more realistic.

  11. #11
    Junior Member dark_oracle's Avatar
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    Thanks for the finishing it. The ending may not be what I hoped for but at least it wasn't as bad as what I thought. Initially, I thought she would remain in the labyrinth (luckily it didn't happen). I just wish that the ending is more clear. Does Su Pu know that Li WenXiu was his childhood friend? But then that wouldn't really matter, would it?

  12. #12
    Junior Member Goobernaculum's Avatar
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    hmmmmm.... now that you mention it, I don't think Su Pu does realise. He finds out shes a girl because A'man points it out to him, but i don't think he ever drew that connection.

    I imagined that her 'Grandpa Ji' would survive and they could have returned to Jiangnan together. But then he died -__-"

  13. #13
    Senior Member LuDongBin's Avatar
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    Thanks for finishing the story. Maybe she would find someone in the Central Plains? ..

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    Senior Member eliza bennet's Avatar
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    Thank you for finishing the story.

    It is a bittersweet story. I don't think it is a very sad ending. She is a capable girl with a kind heart and a brave soul. She just has to find her own way in life.

    And the words of Koran are really just as they are in Koran. Thanks to JY for putting them as they are.

  15. #15
    Senior Member christinatran's Avatar
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    God, what a depressing ending. I was so hoping that at least Su Pu would find out that Li isn't dead and see his reaction. But instead Su Pu continued to believe that Li had passed away. Maybe someone can rewrite the story. haha

    By the way, thank you very much for the translation. I like this story very much except I really did wish that our heroine would have a happy ending with Su Pu.

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