Chapter 26: Meeting Again After a Long Separation
That old monk was silent for a long time before finally letting out a long sigh. "You are correct. Yan Shisan. Of course it must be Yan Shisan."
Zhu Yeqing said, "In all the world, aside from the Lady herself, only he knows the flaw hidden within Xie Xiaofeng's sword technique."
The old monk said, "But ever since he threw away his sword into the Green Water Lake while on the boat, no one in the martial world has seen any traces of him. Why would he possibly kill Xie Xiaofeng on someone else's behalf?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "He would not."
The old monk said, "Xie Xiaofeng will go find him?"
Zhu Yeqing said, "He would not as well."
Smiling, he continued, "But I can guarantee that they will run into each other by accident."
The old monk said, "A genuine accident?"
Zhu Yeqing brushed his clothes off as he rose. Dully, he said, "Passionate or heartless? Intentional or accidental? Who has ever been able to clearly differentiate between the two?"
The pavilion was dark, secluded, and silent. But Xie Xiaofeng was walking very quickly. He didn't need a single lamp to find this place.
In this very same courtyard, in quiet nights exactly like this one, he had come more times than even he himself to count. In the middle of the night, he would throw on his clothes and arrive here to quietly experience the loneliness of the night wind.
Tonight, the stars were not the same as the stars of last night. And today's Xie Xiaofeng was already no longer that good-for-nothing Ah Ji of the past.
This is how the world it. There are endless changes and complications. And who can predict what he experiences he will have tomorrow?
Right now, the only thing he cared about was the person by his side.
The Kid slowly walked by his side. After entering the dark courtyard, he suddenly stopped. "You can go!" Xie Xiaofeng said, "You aren't coming?" The Kid shook his head. In the darkness, his face appeared as pale as a sheet of paper. After a long time, he slowly said, "Since the very beginning, we have walked on separate roads. You walk on yours. I'll walk on mine."
Staring at his pallid face, Xie Xiaofeng once more felt a surge of piercing pain in his heart. Another long period of time passed before he softly asked, "Can't you take a different road!"
The Kid balled his fists tightly. He loudly said, "I cannot!"
He suddenly turned around and stormed out, but as soon he jumped up, he collapsed in mid-air. Cold sweat poured down from his pale face like rain. He again wanted to try and jump away, but he was no longer even able to stand steadily.
At first, he thought that he would be able to withstand that thrust of Liu Kuzhu's sword. But now, he was discovering that the pain from his wound was becoming harder and harder to bear.
He fainted away.
By the time he awoke, a single light had been lit, the size of a small pea. Xie Xiaofeng was beneath the light, staring at a broken sword tip roughly a half-inch long.
The tip of Liu Kuzhu's sword.
When Liu Kuzhu pulled his sword out, he had actually left this sword tip embedded in the joints of the Kid's scapula.
Who was capable of enduring pain such as this?
And if it weren't for the fact that Xie Xiaofeng had a pair of exceptionally stable hands, how could he have possibly pulled it out?
But even up until now, his clothes still had not dried. His palms were still sweaty.
Only now did his hands start to tremble.
The Kid watched him. Suddenly, he said, "This sword should have pierced your body, not mine."
Xie Xiaofeng forced out a smile. "I know."
The Kid said, "Therefore, even though you treated my wound, there's no need for me to thank you."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "You don't to-" The Kid interrupted, "Therefore, when I intend to leave, you shouldn't detain me."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "When are you leaving!"
The Kid said, "Right now."
But he didn't leave. He still wasn't strong enough to stand.
Xie Xiaofeng slowly rose to his feet and walked to the head of the bed. Staring at him, he suddenly asked, "You saw me before, in the past!"
The Kid said, "Although I've never met you, I've seen a painting someone made of you."
Xie Xiaofeng didn't ask who drew the painting. He knew who that person was.
He only asked, "Did you tell anybody that you had already recognized me!"
The Kid said, "I only told one person!"
Xie Xiaofeng asked, "Who!"
The Kid said, "Heaven's Sovereign."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "So he came up with this plan to kill me."
The Kid said, "He knew that killing you would be no easy task."
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Dan Yifei, Liu Kuzhu, the Immortal Hand of Riches and Glory, and that old monk all belong to Heaven's Sovereign!"
The Kid said, "Second Master Chou as well."
Xie Xiaofeng was silent for a long time. Only then did he gently ask, "Heaven's Sovereign is your mother." He clearly had wanted to ask this question long ago, but didn't dare to.
But the Kid's response was very quick. "Correct. My mother is Heaven's Sovereign. There's no longer any need for me to hide it from you."
Xie Xiaofeng sadly said, "You should never have hid it from me from the beginning. There should never have been any secrets between us."
Staring at him, the Kid said, "Why!"
A look of pain appeared in Xie Xiaofeng's eyes. He mumbled, "Why! You really don't know why?"
The Kid shook his head.
Xie Xiaofeng said, "Then let me ask you. Since your mother wishes to kill me, why did you save me?"
The Kid was still shaking his head unceasingly. On his own face as well, appeared a look of both suffering and bafflement. Suddenly, he jumped to his feet. Throwing the blanket over Xie Xiaofeng's head, he kicked the room door open and stormed out.
If Xie Xiaofeng wanted to pursue him, even if he had used a thousand or ten thousand blankets, it still would not have been enough to prevent his pursuit.
But he didn't pursue, because when he pulled the blanket away, he saw Murong Qiudi.
Under the desolate light of the stars, blanketed within the desolate darkness of the night, and standing within the desolate courtyard, there was a single, withered white poplar tree. She stood beneath the tree, a quiet, silent figure. Her clothes were simple and distinct, but her eyes appeared to be hazy. Nobody knew from whence she came, and nobody knew when she came. When she wanted to come, she would come. If she wanted to go, nobody could detain her. There were those who said she was a goddess from heaven, while others said that she was a ghost from hell. No matter what others said about her, she cared not.
It had been fifteen years.
A rather long fifteen years. Over these four thousand or so days, there were those which passed quickly and those which passed slowly, those which were cold and those which were hot, those which were sweet and those which were bitter. Over those four thousand days, how many people were born? How many died? How many changes had there been in the world? But she didn't change. Fifteen years ago, the first time he saw her, she was exactly the same type of person she was now.
But how much had he changed?
The withered tree in the courtyard swayed, as the light in the room flickered.
She didn't walk in, nor did he walk out. They just quietly stared at each other.
Their relationship had always been like this. Both close and distant, simply unfathomable.
Nobody could understand the love he felt towards her, and nobody could guess what he was thinking.
But no matter what he was thinking, he didn't show the slightest hint of it on his face.
He had already learned how to hide his emotions in front of women, especially this woman.
There was wind. A gentle wind.
She raised her hand and gently stroked her wind-blown hair. She suddenly laughed. She very rarely laughed.
Her laughter was like her as a person; beautiful, refined, and ephemeral. Just like the gentle breeze in the spring night, nobody could grasp it.
Her voice seemed to be as soft and gentle as the spring wind as well. "How many years has it been? 15 years? Or has it been 16 years?"
He didn't respond, because he knew that without question, she remembered more clearly than him. Perhaps she even remembered everything which had ever happened on every day.
Her laugh became even softer, even gentler. "It looks like you still haven't changed. You still don't like to talk."
He coldly stared at her. After a long time, he coldly asked, "What more do we have to say to each other!"
Her laughter disappeared as she lowered her head. "Nothing...nothing..."
Did they really have nothing to say to each other? Nothing at all?
She suddenly raised her head. Staring at him, she said, "If we really had nothing more to say to each other, why would I come looking for you!"
He should have been the one to say these words to her, but she said these words first. And then she answered her own question. "The only reason I came was to take this child away. Since in the past you did not want him, why must you provoke him now and make him suffer?"
His pupils shrank, as though needles had suddenly pierced his heart.
Her pupils were shrinking as well. "The other reason I came was to tell you that I will definitely see you dead."
Her voice was as cold as ice, as though she had suddenly transformed into a totally different person. "And this time, I will have you die in my hands."
Xie Xiaofeng coldly said, "Why does Heaven's Sovereign need to personally get her hands dirty when she wants someone dead!"
Murong Qiudi said, "When it comes to killing others, I never get personally involved. But you are the exception."
Another gust of wind blew past. Her hair became even messier, even more wind-blown.
Before the wind had disappeared, she threw herself towards him. She threw herself towards him as though she had gone insane, as though she had turned into a totally different person.
She was no longer that ephemeral, beautiful, and refined young lady who appeared like the spring breeze.
Nor was she that cold, intelligent Lady Murong, who looked upon the martial arts world with disdain.
Right now, she was nothing more than an ordinary woman, entangled in the silk web of love, entrapped by love and hate, without any ability to control herself.
She didn't wait for Xie Xiaofeng to strike, nor did she wait for him to reveal that tiny, lethal flaw in his technique. She didn't even use the slightest bit of martial arts. Because she had once loved this man, and she now hated this man. She loved him to death, and hated him to death. And so she just wanted to stake everything, including her own life, to attack him. Even if she couldn't win, she would still attack.
Against a woman like her, how could he unleash his world-famous, merciless sword techniques?
He had experienced over a hundred battles and dealt with all sorts of martial arts experts and undergone countless dire emergencies. But now, he had no idea as to what he should do.
The candle on the table was overturned.
Murong Qiudi had already rushed towards him like a torrential wave, appearing as though she wanted to use her teeth to bite of his ears, then bite off his nose, followed by every bit of flesh on his body. She also appeared as though she wanted to use her nails to claw at his hair, claw at his face.
He could knock her out with a single fist, because this attack had revealed flaws everywhere.
But he couldn't strike, nor could he bear to.
He was, after all, a man. She was, after all, once his woman. He could only retreat, but there was not much place to move within the room to begin with, and he no longer had any place to retreat to.
Right at this moment, a flash of sword light appeared in her hands as it pierced towards him like a venomous serpent!
This sword strike was no longer the strike of a furious woman. It was a life-taking strike!
The very quintessence of a lethal blow!
Not only was this strike fast, vicious, and accurate, it was also shot out at the moment when the opponent was least expecting it, and was aimed at a point which the opponent had not anticipated.
This stroke was not only the purest, highest display of martial arts, it also fully encompassed and displayed the genius contained within the 'Art of War'.
This originally was a 100% effective fatal blow. But this blow...this blow did not land on the target.
Aside from Xie Xiaofeng, there was definitely nobody in the world who could dodge this blow, because nobody in the world understood Murong Qiudi better than him.
The reason he was able to dodge this blow was not because he had calculated its timing and positioning. It was because he had calculated how Murong Qiudi would act.
Perhaps he knew her even better than she knew herself.
He knew that she was not an angry shrew. He also knew that there would never be a situation in which she would lose total control of herself.
As the tip of the sword pierced past his side, he seized her by the wrist. His strikes were definitely accurate as well.
The shortsword fell down and she went soft. Her entire body went soft as she fell into his arms. Her body was graceful, warm, soft, and supple. But his hands were as cold as ice.
The long night had almost come to an end. The first faint rays of dawn happened to come through the window at just this moment, illuminating her face.
Tears glistened on her face. Her blurry, hazy eyes were staring at him, bewildered and infatuated.
He saw nothing.
She suddenly asked, "Do you still remember? The first time we met, I also wanted to kill you. You also dodged my sword and held me in your arms like right now!"
He heard nothing as well. But he could never forget that day. It was a spring day.
The green mountain grass looked as comfortable as a bed. Standing beneath the shade of a large tree was a pure, ephemeral girl.
He saw her smile towards him, her smile as beautiful as the spring wind blowing past.
He also smiled towards her.
Seeing her smile become even sweeter, he walked over and gathered a camellia to present her with. But she had given him a sword blow in return.
When the tip of the sword passed by his throat, he seized her by the hand. Shocked, she stared at him and asked, "You are the Third Young Master of the Xie family?"
"How did you know?" He countered. "Because aside from the Third Young Master of the Xie family, nobody in the world can take my sword from me in a single move."
He didn't ask if many men had been wounded by her sword, nor did he ask why she attacked others.
Because that was a perfect spring day, with the flowers perfectly blooming, and her body was so soft, so soft...
Fifteen years of hardship and suffering had quietly slipped away from him.
Did he still now have the same feelings in his heart as he had then?
She was still murmuring in a low voice, "No matter what you believe, I've never been able to forget that day, because on that day, I gave everything, including myself, to you. In a bewildered haze, I gave everything to you, but after you left, I heard nothing more from you."
He still seemed to hear nothing.
She continued, "By our second meeting, I was already engaged. You came to give us gifts."
"Although at the time, I hated you and blamed you, as soon as I saw you, my mind went blank."
"And so the second night of my engagement ceremony, I left with you in yet another hazy, bewildered state. I didn't expect you to discard me once again, and that I would once again hear nothing from you."
"Although right now, I hate you even more, I...I...I still hope that you will lie to me one more time, like in the past, and take me away with you. This time, even if you kill me, I won't blame you."
The soft beauty of her voice, combined with her grief and resentment, formed a melody all its own. Could he still not listen to her? Could he still hear nothing?
He really did deceive her twice, but she still treated him like this. Had he once truly been so fickle, so heartless? "I know you think that I've changed!"
Tears had covered her face. "But no matter how much I've changed in front of others, towards you, I will never change."
Xie Xiaofeng suddenly pushed her away. Without even looking back, he walked away. But she still didn't give up, still followed him.
The light of the sun shone across the earth. The grass of the faraway hills once more looked as soft and as inviting as a bed.
He suddenly turned his head and coldly looked at her. "Are you insisting that I kill you!"
The tears on her face had not yet dried, but she managed to force out a smile. "As long as it makes you happy, you can go ahead and kill me."
He again turned to walk away, but still she followed him. "But your wound is still bleeding. At the very least, you should let me treat it first."
He ignored her.
She continued, "Although I ordered people to injure you, that's a totally separate matter. All you have to do is nod, and I can go kill those people for you at any time."
His footsteps became slow again. He could no longer refrain from turning. Emotions appeared within his cold, grim eyes.
Was it love? Or was it hate? Whatever it was, it was an emotion which had etched itself within his very bones, a passion which he would never be able to forget.
The levees had collapsed. The iceberg had melted.
Although he knew very well that once the levees burst, disaster would follow, when a levee was about to burst, who could stop it? She once again fell into his bosom. It was spring once again, and there was another sea of grass, as soft and as inviting as a bed.
On the mountainside, Xie Xiaofeng slowly sat up and watched the person by his side. He was asking himself, "Was I the one who did wrong by her? Or was she the one who did wrong by me?" Nobody could answer this question. Not even he himself could.
All he knew was that regardless of whether she was a good or bad person, regardless of who had done wrong by whom, only when he together with this person could he forget those past miseries and sufferings, could his heart be at peace.
He, too, didn't know what sort of feeling this was. All he knew was that if this sort of emotion appeared between two people, regardless of whether they suffered or were lied to, they would still be willing to accept it happily.
Even death would be no big deal.
She once again raised his head and stared at him, lost. "You know?"
"You want me to disband 'Heaven's Sovereign', take that child back and live together peacefully for a few years."
"I know what you are thinking!"
She really had spoken his exact thoughts.
Even if he was a born wanderer, even if his blood vessels were filled with a wanderer's blood, even he would feel weary at times.
This was especially true, each time he woke up from a drunken stupor, in the middle of a silent night. Who would not want to have an understanding companion by their side, to whom one could pour out their miseries and loneliness?
She gently gripped his hand and suddenly asked again, "Do you know what I am thinking?"
He didn't know. The hearts of women have always been difficult to fathom, especially women such as her.
She suddenly laughed, a very strange laugh. "I'm thinking that you are such a blockhead."
"A blockhead." He didn't understand.
"Do you know how much bitter, painstaking effort it took for me to found Heaven's Sovereign? How could I casually disband it just like that? Since you no longer want that child, why would I bring him to you?"
Xie Xiaofeng's heart sank. His entire body had become as cold as ice, from his toes to his heart.
Looking at the expression on his face, Murong Qiudi's laughter became all the wilder. "At the very least, you should consider this. Right now, what is my status? My position in life? Can it be that I would go back to cook and clean for you?"