Thanks for more of the translation!!!
Thanks for more of the translation!!!
Brilliant! I'm really enjoying this. Thanks for the translation!
Chapter 8: Peacock Manor
A person’s face is a mask to begin with! If one can change one’s face at will based on one’s environment or mood, no one can read that person’s expressions and discover what secrets lie hidden in that person’s mind.
What type of mask could possibly be more clever and ingenious than one’s face?
The faces of people with high status and of high standings are usually unreadable masks.
When Mingyue Xin saw Qiu Shuiqing, the first question in her mind was, “I wonder what type of mask he wears on his face?”
Regardless of what mask he might wear, for the master of the Peacock Manor to personally welcome them is certainly something to be happy about.
Brilliant and beautiful are the plumes of a peacock. Brilliant and beautiful is the Peacock Manor.
Dark green tiles glowed with jade brilliance under the rays of the setting sun. The white stone steps were as beautiful as jade, passing between golden walls. It seemed as though this entire place was built out of gold, pearls, jewels, and jade.
Several peacocks spread their plumes beneath a peach tree in the garden. Upon the pond floated mandarin ducks.
Several girls dressed in silks quietly walked past the soft, verdant grass, disappearing into the depths of a forest of flowers, disappearing into this multicolored, splendid garden.
The wind carried the faint scent of drunken pleasure. From afar, it sounded as though someone were playing the flute. The world seemed filled with peace and harmony.
All three great gates to the house were wide open. Nary a single gatekeeper could be seen.
Qiu Shuiqing was right there, standing on top of those white stone steps, calmly gazing at Fu Hongxue.
He was a very conservative person, in words and deeds. Even if his heart was bursting with joy, he definitely wouldn’t reveal any hint of it.
When he saw Fu Hongxue, he only lightly smiled. “I didn’t imagine that you would come, but you came at a perfect time!”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Why is this a perfect time?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “We happen to have a guest here tonight, and he’s not any ordinary guest.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Who?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Gongzi Yu.”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth. No expression could be seen on his face whatsoever. Unexpectedly, Mingyue Xin also remained composed.
Qiu Shuiqing glanced at her, then glanced at Yan Nanfei, who had been carried to this place. “They are your friends?”
Fu Hongxue neither admitted to it nor denied it. Even he wasn’t sure whether they were friends or enemies.
Qiu Shuiqing didn’t ask again. He only turned his body sideways and said, “Please enter.”
Two people carried Yan Nanfei into the room, with Mingyue Xin following behind them. She suddenly came to a stop. Staring at Qiu Shuiqing, she said, “Manor-master, aren’t you going to ask why we are here?”
Qiu Shuiqing shook his head.
Since you are friends of Fu Hongxue, there is no need for me to ask. Since there is no need for me to ask, there is no need for me to speak.
He was always a man of few words.
Mingyue Xin, however, refused to shut up. She said, “Manor-master, even though you didn’t ask, I am still going to tell you.”
Since she insisted on telling him, Qiu Shuiqing listened.
Mingyue Xin said, “We have come for two reasons. First, to avoid misfortune. Second, to beg for medical assistance. Manor-master, can you take a look at his illness?”
Qiu Shuiqing finally spoke. “What type of illness is it?”
Ming Yuexin said, “Anxiety.”
Qiu Shuiqing suddenly turned his head and stared at her. “Anxiety can only be treated with mental medicine.”
Mingyue Xin said, “Yes, I know…”
Just as she spoke these three words, Yan Nanfei shot out of his stretcher like an arrow from a bow.
Mingyue Xin made her move as well!
One of them was in front of Qiu Shuiqing. The other was behind him.
With one in front, and the other behind, they had sealed away all of Qiu Shuiqing’s escape paths!
There is no such thing as a perfect, flawless technique. This assault of theirs, however, approached flawlessness.
No one could discover a flaw in their movements, and no one could block or dodge this attack. As a matter of fact, nobody could have possibly imagined that they would suddenly attack like this.
Their attack was undoubtedly carefully planned in advance, and undoubtedly had been practiced many times.
And thus was the master of the Peacock Manor, whose fame shook the world, defeated on the doorsteps of his very own home, without even a chance to counter-attack.
In the blink of an eye, the two of them sealed several major acupoints on his arms and his legs.
Qiu Shuiqing actually didn’t fall down, because they were supporting him.
Although his body was now stiff and inflexible, the expression on his face was still calm. Even if you searched the whole world over, you couldn’t find more than ten people who would be able to maintain their calm in this situation.
After Mingyue Xin launched her attack and struck out with her palm, she lightly took another breath, then finished her earlier words. “It’s precisely because I know that anxiety can only be cured with mental medicine, that we have come here to find you.”
Qiu Shuiqing didn’t even glance at her. He only coldly stared at Fu Hongxue.
Fu Hongxue remained totally expressionless.
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Do you know why they came here?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
Qiu Shuiqing said, “But you brought them here.”
Fu Hongxue said, “That’s because I too am curious as to why they wanted to come here.”
The two of them only spoke three sentences. The flower garden which had been filled with peace and tranquility suddenly became filled with a murderous air.
The killing aura came from the blades of forty nine swords and sabres. Light reflecting off the the sabres and shadows cast by the swords flickered, but the people wielding the weapons did not. With the life of the master of their manor in the hands of others, no one dared to make any rash moves.
Qiu Shuiqing suddenly let out a sigh. “Yan Nanfei, Yan Nanfei. How could you do something like this?”
Yan Nanfei was very startled. “You knew who I was all along?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “All the land within an eighty li radius belongs to the Peacock Manor. As soon as you entered my territory, I knew who you are and learned everything about you.”
Yan Nanfei also let out a sigh. “It seems as though the Peacock Manor really isn’t a place where one can come and go as one pleases.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “It’s precisely because I know too much about you and your origins, that you were able to subdue me thusly.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Because you didn’t imagine that I would act like this?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “I truly did not.”
Yan Nanfei forced a smile. “To be honest, even I can’t imagine it.”
Mingyue Xin interjected, “He had no other choice. His illness really is too severe.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Do I have medicine that can save him?”
Mingyue Xin said, “You do. Only you do.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “What medicine is it, exactly?”
Mingyue Xin said, “A secret.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “A secret? What secret?”
Mingyue Xin said, “The secret of the Peacock Plume.”
Qiu Shuiqing shut his mouth.
Mingyue Xin said, “This isn’t solely a case of us coercing you. This is a trade.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “What will you use to trade?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Another secret. It’s also a secret of the Peacock Plume.”
Dusk had fallen. Lanterns were lit. The room was quiet, tastefully laid out, and peaceful. Qiu Shuiqing undoubtedly was a man of elegant tastes.
A pity that his guests were not here to appreciate his refined tastes. As soon as they entered the room, Mingyue Xin went straight to the main point. “Actually, I too know that the Peacock Plume was lost during the era of your great-grandfather, Qiu Fengwu.”
This was a secret. A secret that no one in the martial world knew.
For the first time, Qiu Shuiqing’s expression changed. “How do you know this?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Because Qiu Fengwu took the Peacock Painting and went to find a person. He begged that person to build a second Peacock Plume.”
The Peacock Painting was another secret. It contained within it the graphs and charts needed to build the Peacock Plume.
No one knew whether the Peacock Painting came first, or the Peacock Plume came first. Everyone was certain, however, that with the Peacock Painting, it would be possible to create a second Peacock Plume.
Mingyue Xin said, “However, this line of thinking is wrong.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “How do you know this line of thinking is wrong?”
Mingyue Xin said, “The construction of the mechanisms in a hidden projectile is a very complicated procedure that requires a very high degree of skill.”
Not only did it require a calm, steady, sure hand, it also required metallurgical knowledge as well as an understanding of the principle tenets of hidden projectiles.
Mingyue Xin said, “The person whom Qiu Fengwu sought out was naturally the best artisan of his time.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “The best artisan of that time was said to be Madame Xu of Sichuan’s Tang family.”
The poisonous hidden projectiles of the Tang family had been world-famous for over four centuries. It was taught to daughter-in-laws, but never to daughters.
Madame Xu was the elder daughter-in-law of the Tang family at that time. Embroidery and manufacturing hidden projectiles were said to be her two consummate, unequalled skills.
Mingyue Xin said, “However, although Madame Xu spent six years of painstaking care and labor, exhausting herself so utterly that even her hair turned white, she was unable to create a second Peacock Plume.”
Qiu Shuiqing simply watched her, waiting for her to continue.
Mingyue Xin took out magnificent, resplendent golden tube before she continued. “Within those six years, Madame Xu did produce four Peacock Plumes. But although they looked identical to the original, and were constructed strictly in accordance with the design mandated by the Peacock Painting, for some reason they lacked the mysterious, magical power of the original.”
Gazing at the golden tube in her hand, Qiu Shuiqing said, “This is one of them?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Correct.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Recently, a person nicknamed ‘Peacock’ appeared in the martial world…”
Mingyue Xin said, “His Peacock Plume is one of them as well.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “You gave it to him?”
Mingyue Xin said, “I didn’t personally give it to him. I only arranged for him to stumble across it.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Because you intentionally wanted the rumor to be spread throughout the world the secret of the disappearance of the Peacock Plume.”
Mingyue Xin did not deny it.
Since the Peacock Plume appeared in the hands of others, naturally it could not be at the Peacock Manor.
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Why did you do this?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Because I began to suspect something.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Suspect what?”
Mingyue Xin said, “The Peacock Plume is the lifeline of the Peacock Manor, and every successive master of the Peacock Manor has been an extremely careful, extremely steady person. Thus…”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Thus you always doubted whether or not the Peacock Plume actually went missing.”
Mingyue Xin nodded. “Supposedly, the Peacock Plume was lost by Qiu Yifeng, the father of Qiu Fengwu. Qiu Yifeng possessed amazing intelligence and ability. How could he possibly have done something so foolish? Perhaps he was merely testing his son’s ability to deal with sudden, unexpected situations when he claimed he lost it.”
Although her words were logical, there was no real proof behind them.
Mingyue Xin continued, “Thus, I intentionally revealed this secret, so as to cause the enemies of the Peacock Manor to come here.”
Qiu Shuiqing coldly said, “Not a single person was able to leave alive.”
Mingyue Xin said, “Thus, I felt that my conjecture was certainly correct. The Peacock Plume must still be in your hands.”
Qiu Shuiqing once more shut his mouth, but his sharp, keen, eagle-like gaze never left Mingyue Xin.
Mingyue Xin continued, “Afterwards, Qiu Fengwu did not seek out Madame Xu again. Naturally, this was because he found the original Peacock Plume.”
Qiu Shuiqing was silent for a long time. Finally, he said unhurriedly, “Perhaps he never should have sought her out to begin with.”
Mingyue Xin said, “But he trusted her. Before Madame Xu was married, the two of them were friends.”
Qiu Shuiqing coldly laughed. “There are many people in the world who would sell out their friends.”
Mingyue Xin said, “But Madame Xu did not sell him out. Aside from the direct heirs of the Tang family, no one else knows this secret!”
The light in Qiu Shuiqing’s eyes grew even more keen. “And you? What relationship do you have to the Tang family?”
Mingyue Xin grinned. “I never intended to hide this from you to begin with.”
She slowly continued, “I am the eldest daughter of the Tang family. My original name was Tang Lan.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Why is it that a child of the Tang family would become a courtesan?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Although the Tang family specializes in using poisonous hidden projectiles, our rules are much stricter than that of the Seven Great Sects. The children of the Tang family have never been allowed to get involved in the matters of the martial world.”
Her voice was tranquil but unyielding. “But we are determined to come out and do something.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “What is your target?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Oppression. Our goals can be summarized in four words.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “To revolt against oppression?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Right! To revolt against oppression!”
She continued, “We do not dare to go against the rules of our family. So as to allow ourselves to move about more freely, I have hidden myself within the courtesan’s world. Over the past three years, we have organized ourselves into a force which can resist oppression. Unfortunately, we still aren’t strong enough.”
Yan Nanfei said, “This is because our enemy is even more tightly organized, and their force is even greater.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Who is their leader?”
Yan Nanfei said, “A person who deserves to die.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “He is the source of your anxiety?”
Yan Nanfei admitted to it.
Qiu Shuiqing said, “You want to use my Peacock Plume to kill him?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Use violence to defeat violence, and kill to stop a killer!”
Qiu Shuiqing looked at him, then looked at Fu Hongxue. He suddenly said, “Release the acupoints on my legs, then come with me!”
They walked past a giant, beautiful mural, passed through a maple grove, and a clump of bamboo. Just after they crossed a bridge with nine bends, the lamp light seemed to scatter and dissipate.
The dark courtyard seemed to carry an unspeakably gloomy, sinister, desolate aura. Even the lamp light shied away from it.
Compared to the magnificent, splendid, palace-like pavilion from earlier, this was a totally different world.
The tall, lofty building was filled with a ghastly cold.
There were over a hundred small lanterns lit within the room. Giving off a sad, eerie light, they looked like so many will’o’the’wisps.
In front of every small lantern was a memorial tablet.
A name was carved onto every memorial tablet. Each and every single name belonged to an illustrious figure. Several of the names belonged to people who, not long ago, were brief celebrities of the martial world who considered themselves without peer!
After seeing the row of memorial tablets, Mingyue Xin’s expression also became very solemn.
She knew that these were all people who died to the Peacock Plume. She hoped to add another memorial tablet and another name to this place.
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Our ancestors feared that their descendants would accumulate too much evil karma through their killings, and so set up a memorial site here, so as to help expiate their sins and propitiate the souls of the damned!”
Next, he took them into the heart of the Peacock Manor. They entered through a paved path through the tomb.
The path they took was tortuous and winding. An innumerable number of iron bars and railings could be seen.
Everyone silently followed behind him. They felt as though they had suddenly entered the mausoleum of some ancient, long-dead emperor. The place was gloomy, damp, and mysterious.
The very last iron gate was formed from a steel plate which was over three feet thick. It weighed more than a thousand jin.
There were thirteen locks on the gate.
“The thirteen keys were originally guarded by thirteen different people. Nowadays, though, trustworthy friends are become fewer and fewer in number.”
Thus, nowadays only six people guarded the keys. All of them were old men with white and gray hair. They numbered amongst them trusted family friends of the Peacock Family and illustrious old veterans of the martial world.
They all had different backgrounds and various statuses. However, their friendship and loyalty were equally trusted by Qiu Shuiqing.
Their proficiency in martial arts, naturally, was even more worthy of trust. Qiu Shuiqing simply clapped his hands, and all six of them appeared out of nowhere like ghosts. The person who appeared the fastest had a gaze like an eagle, and moved like an eagle as well. His experienced, wizened face was crisscrossed with scars and healed wounds. He appeared to be the “Immortal Eagle of Heaven,” Gongsun Tu, whose fame shook the world in years past.
The keys were attached to them with an iron chain. The very last key was held by Qiu Shuiqing.
Mingyue Xin watched as he opened the very last lock. By the time she turned her head around, the six guardians had disappeared. It was as though the ancestors of the Qiu family had specially sent the six of them from the netherworld, to act as guardian ghosts over this forbidden area.
Behind the steel gate was a large stone room. The walls were covered with bluish green moss, and six lamps burned.
Underneath the ghastly, gloomy glow of the lamps, all sorts of strange, exotic weapons could be seen on many wooden racks. Some of them not even Yan Nanfei had seen before, and it was unknown as to whether they had been used by the ancestors of the Qiu family, or by the Qiu family’s enemies. Although these weapons were still here, their skeletons and framework had long since rotted away.
Qiu Shuiqing pushed aside a giant boulder, revealing a steel cabinet hidden behind it. Could it be that the Peacock Plume was hidden in here?
Everyone watched with bated breath as he opened the steel cabinet and reverently, respectfully withdrew a wooden box from within.
No one imagined that within the wooden box, there lay not the Peacock Plume, but a thin yellow skin.
Mingyue Xin didn’t try to hide her disappointment. Wrinkling her forehead, she said, “What’s this?”
The expression on Qiu Shuiqing’s face became even more solemn and respectful. “This is a person’s face.”
Disappointed, Mingyue Xin said, “Is it skin that was carved from a person’s face?”
Qiu Shuiqing nodded. His eyes were filled with sorrow. In a dejected voice, he said, “This person lost something that was extremely important. He felt as though he no longer had any face or any right to continue living. Before he committed suicide, he told his servants to carve his skin from his face after his death, to serve as an admonition for future generations.”
He did not say this person’s name, but everyone knew who it was he was speaking about.
The news of Qiu Yifeng’s sudden death was, in that time, a story which caused great suspicion. Only now did Qiu Shuiqing reveal the truth of the matter.
All the hairs on Mingyue Xin’s body began to rise. After a long time, she let out a long sigh. “You shouldn’t have revealed something like this to me.”
With a calm expression, Qiu Shuiqing said, “I didn’t want to reveal this either, but I needed for you to believe me. The Peacock Plume disappeared long ago from the Peacock Manor.”
Mingyue Xin said, “But those people who recently died at the Peacock Manor…”
Qiu Shuiqing interrupted her. He coldly said, “There are many ways to kill someone. It isn’t necessary to use the Peacock Plume.”
Mingyue Xin stared at the human-skin within the wooden box. When she thought of the tragic and pitiful suicide of that man, who took his own life to atone for his sin, she wished that she had never come here.
Yan Nanfei clearly felt a similar regret in his heart. Just at this moment, a clanking sound could be heard as the metal gate swung shut!
Next, a series of clicking sounds could be heard. Obviously, the thirteen keyholes outside had all been locked.
The expression on Mingyue Xin’s face changed. Yan Nanfei sighed. “As we should not have come here, nor heard this secret, much less disturbed the rest of this elder’s spirit. We do deserve to die.”
Qiu Shuiqing calmly watched them, not revealing any expression on his face.
Yan Nanfei said, “But my life still belongs to Fu Hongxue. Fu Hongxue doesn’t deserve to die.”
Qiu Shuiqing coldly said, “I do not deserve to die either.”
Yan Nanfei stared at him, astonished. Mingyue Xin interjected, “This wasn’t your intention, then?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “It is not.”
Mingyue Xin was even more shocked. “Then who locked us in here? Who could possibly enter such a secret area?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “There are at least six people who do.”
Mingyue Xin said, “But all of them are your good friends.”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “As I said earlier. There are many people in the world who are willing to sell out their friends!”
Fu Hongxue finally spoke. “Out of those six people, there only needs to be one traitor.”
Mingyue Xin said, “Who are you referring to?”
Fu Hongxue did not reply. Instead, he asked Qiu Shuiqing, “Was the person who opened the very first lock Gongsun Tu?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Yes.”
Mingyue Xin interrupted, “Is it that ‘Immortal Eagle of Heaven’, the Gongsun Tu who should have died many times over by now?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Yes.”
Yan Nanfei asked, “His very last duel to the death, was it with Gongzi Yu?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “Yes.”
Yan Nanfei looked at Mingyue Xin. Mingyue Xin looked at Fu Hongxue. All three of them shut their mouths.
There was no need to ask anything further.
Everyone in the martial world was astonished at how Gongsun Tu managed to survive his fight with Gongzi Yu.
Only now did they realize that there was nothing astonishing about it at all. Gongzi Yu intentionally let Gongsun Tu live, while bribing him at the same time.
Now, the only question which needed to be asked was, “Is there a second way out of here?”
Qiu Shuiqing’s response was very succinct. A secret storehouse for precious goods really should not have a second way in or out!
Mingyue Xin let out a breath. It seemed as though her entire body was about to collapse.
The metal gate was three feet thick. The stone walls were six feet thick. No matter who was locked within this stone room, the only thing they could do was to await death.
Yan Nanfei suddenly asked, “Is there any wine here?”
Qiu Shuiqing said, “There is. There’s only one jug of wine. Poison wine!”
Yan Nanfei grinned. “Poison wine is better than no wine.”
Why would a person waiting for certain death be afraid of poisoned wine?
He located the jug of wine, then broke open the seal. But suddenly, there was the flash of a sabre and the jug of wine was also shattered.
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “Don’t forget that your life still belongs to me. Even if you want to die, you need to allow me to kill you.”
Yan Nanfei said, “When do you plan to make your move?”
Fu Hongxue said, “When all hope is lost.”
Yan Nanfei asked, “What hope do we have right now?”
Fu Hongxue said, “As long as you are alive, there is hope!”
Yan Nanfei laughed loudly. “Wonderful! Well said! So long as there is a single breath left in my body, I won’t forget those words.”
Fu Hongxue didn’t say so much as another word. It seemed as though he had suddenly become fascinated by the various weapons on the wooden shelves.
He slowly walked over to them, carefully examining every single weapon.
The cold, gloomy room gradually became hot and suffocating. Qiu Shuiqing blew out three of the lanterns. Fu Hongxue suddenly removed a chain whip from one of the shelves.
The chain whip was made out of links of pure steel. It should be extremely heavy, and yet it didn’t seem as heavy as it appeared to be!
Fu Hongxue muttered to himself, then asked, “What is the origin of this weapon?”
Qiu Shuiqing didn’t directly answer him. First, he withdrew a very thick accounting book from a cabinet. He blew the dust off of it, then flipped for ten or so pages before unhurriedly saying, “This was left behind by Hai Dongkai.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Hai Dongkai, of Jiangnan’s Thunderbolt Hall?”
Qiu Shuiqing nodded. “The explosive devices of the Thunderbolt Hall were hidden projectiles that were famous throughout the world. But after the appearance of the Peacock Plume, their prestige began to decline. Thus, Hai Dongkai organized people to come attack us, intending to destroy the Peacock Manor. Unfortunately, he died to the Peacock Plume before he even had a chance to strike.”
A ray of light suddenly seemed to shoot out of Fu Hongxue’s eyes. After repeating this to himself, he asked again, “He died to the Peacock Plume before he even had a chance to strike?”
Qiu Shuiqing nodded again. “Although this happened more than a century ago, the events were recorded in this ledger very clearly.”
Mingyue Xin said, “I’ve heard of this elder before as well. I seem to recall that his nickname was something like the ‘Thunderbolt Whip’?”
Fu Hongxue slowly nodded, then once more began to walk along the wall!
With his right hand, he gripped his sabre. With his left, he held the whip. Suddenly, he closed his eyes. Although the way in which he walked was very peculiar, his face seemed as calm and peaceful as that of an old monk.
Watching him, everybody held their breaths. The stone room became as quiet as a tomb.
Suddenly, there was a flash of a sabre.
This sabre flash was much brighter than any which Yan Nanfei had ever seen before.
With this slash, Fu Hongxue clearly used his internal energy. Although his eyes were firmly shut, this strike landed precisely on one of the cracks on one of the stone walls.
He didn’t use his eyes to see. He used his heart!
As soon as his sabre struck out, it sank into the stone wall.
Fu Hongxue let out a long sigh as he pulled the blade of his sabre from the wall. Just as he finished sighing, he struck out with the chain whip in his left hand, forcefully inserting it into the opening his sabre made in the wall.
At this moment, there was a sudden booming sound. The chain whip exploded within the opening in the stone wall.
The stone wall which had been fashioned using six feet of solid rock exploded as well. Broken stones scattered all over the place, flying about like rain.
And then, everything was quiet once more. A large hole had been blown into the stone wall.
Fu Hongxue had already sheathed his sabre. He only said in a light voice, “The explosive weapons of Jiangnan’s Thunderbolt Hall are really without peer.”
Qiu Shuiqing, Mingyue Xin, and Yan Nanfei quietly gazed at him. Their eyes were filled with respect. “How did you know that this chain whip was filled with explosives?”
“I didn’t know!” Fu Hongxue said. “I only felt that the whip seemed to weigh less than it should. Thus, the insides of it were probably hollow. As fortune would have it, I suddenly thought of Hai Dongkai.”
Hai Dongkai’s midnight assault on the Peacock Manor was one of the most famous war stories of the martial world.
Of the seventy two greatest battles the martial world had ever seen, at least seven occurred at the Peacock Manor!
And yet, the Peacock Manor almost miraculously continued to remain standing in good health. But as soon as they walked out, they discovered that the Peacock Manor which had braved fire and misfortune for so long had turned into a large pile of rubble. Its nine great courtyards, thirty six towers, and eighty square li of terrain had been turned into debris!
The fresh blood had not yet fully dried. And so, Qiu Shuiqing stood in the middle of blood-soaked rubble.
Eighty square li of land. Five hundred lives. Thirty generations of fame. They had all been destroyed!
It was as though an evil miracle had taken place!
Qiu Shuiqing neither moved, nor shed tears. This sort of hatred and enmity could no longer be washed away by tears.
The only thing he wanted to shed was blood!
But he could not find the person who had caused this disaster. The sky was gloomy and dark. The land all around them was barren and still. It seemed as though the four of them were the only living things in the world.
Yan Nanfei stood off to one side, far away. It seemed as though he were even more pained than Qiu Shuiqing.
Fu Hongxue had been staring at him for a long time. He coldly said, “You are blaming yourself and condemning yourself. You feel you brought this misfortune upon him?”
Yan Nanfei slowly nodded his head. Several times, he wanted to speak, but forbore. Contradictions wracked his heart, increasing his pain.
Finally, he was no longer able to resist. He suddenly said, “This is the third time!”
Fu Hongxue said, “The third time?”
Yan Nanfei said, “The first time was the Phoenix Assembly. The second time was the Ni Family Garden. This is the third time.”
He spoke very quickly, because he had already decided to reveal all of the secrets.
“In this day and age, the person with the highest level of martial arts ability isn’t you. It is Gongzi Yu.” His words were very honest and frank. “Although your sabre has nearly reached the level of being all-conquering and unstoppable, you yourself still have weaknesses.”
“How about you?” Fu Hongxue said.
“I practice the sword of the heart, the sword of the intention. When heart and mind come together, there is nothing one cannot do. Originally, this is a style which approaches the highest levels of swordsmanship. If I can master it, I will be invincible.”
“You cannot master it?”
“It is as though mastery of this style is blocked by thirteen locks. I know I have all the keys to the locks, but after I open twelve of them, I cannot find the thirteenth.”
Yan Nanfei forced a laugh. “Thus, whenever I execute my strikes, I feel as though my power does not come from the heart. Sometimes, when I send out an attack, it clearly is about to land on target, but when it actually reaches the target, it’s actually off by an inch.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “How about Gongzi Yu?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Not only is his martial arts all-conquering and unstoppable, it is invulnerable as well. In the entire world, there are perhaps only two things which can defeat him.”
Fu Hongxue said, “One is the Peacock Plume?”
Yan Nanfei said, “The other is Sorrowful Book of Yin and Yang and of Heaven and Hell Mingling.”
Within this book was recorded the seven most vile, vicious martial arts techniques in the history of the world. According to legends, when this book was written, the heavens wept blood, ghosts wailed at night, and after the author finished the very last word, he himself vomited blood and died.
Fu Hongxue naturally heard of this legend as well. “But as soon as this book was written, it disappeared. No one in the world has ever seen it!”
Yan Nanfei said, “This book definitely was lost a long time ago, but it just as definitely resurfaced recently!”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Where did it reappear?”
Yan Nanfei replied, “The Phoenix Market.”
A year ago, when he went to the Phoenix Market, he went for the purpose of finding this book. Fu Hongxue happened to be there as well.
Yan Nanfei said, “At the time, I was certain that you must have gone there to find the book as well. I felt that it was very likely that you too had been bought and paid for by Gongzi Yu, which is why I attacked you.”
But he had lost.
Although he wanted to kill Fu Hongxue, Fu Hongxue hadn’t wanted to kill him. Thus, all of these tragic, mysterious, and dangerous events had occurred.
Yan Nanfei said, “After I battled you, my mind fell apart. It took me four hours before I was able to go to the Phoenix Market again.”
But by then, the Phoenix Market had been turned into a ghost town. Without question, it had been sacked by the subordinates of Gongzi Yu!
Yan Nanfei said, “That morning, four of the Seven Heroes of the Ni Family had visited the Phoenix Market. They arrived and left in a hurry, and at first they didn’t arouse anyone’s attention. But I couldn’t help but want to go talk with them and find out what was going on. I didn’t imagine that as a consequence of my trip, their precious courtyard, which had been painstakingly maintained for over thirteen generations, would be turned into a barren wasteland.
After thinking for a moment longer, he added, “That was the day I first met Mingyue Xin. She hadn’t been there for more than five days.”
Fu Hongxue clenched both his fists tightly. After a long time passed, he finally said slowly, “Although to this very day you still have not actually seen the Sorrowful Book, who knows how many people have been destroyed due to it.”
Yan Nanfei’s fists were also tightly clenched. “Thus, I must kill Gongzi Yu and avenge the deaths of those murdered souls.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Thus, he must kill you as well.”
They stopped speaking, because at this time, Qiu Shuiqing slowly walked over towards them.
His face was still expressionless. Even his sharp, keen eyes had turned hollow and dull.
He stood in front of them for a long time, as though he were a man made from wood. Only then did he mumble, as though he were sleepwalking, “The members of the Qiu family are all dead now. But their corpses remain. Only one person is missing.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Gongsun Tu?”
Qiu Shuiqing nodded. “It isn’t an easy feat to totally eradicate every member of the Qiu family. They must have casualties of their own as well. However, they’ve taken them all away!”
Yan Nanfei couldn’t resist saying, “These people have always been very neat and tidy in handling their affairs, not leaving behind any trace.”
Fu Hongxue said, “But this many people couldn’t have simply disappeared. No matter where they go, they’ll have left some clues of their passing behind.”
Qiu Shuiqing looked at him. In his eyes could be seen an expression of gratitude. He suddenly said, “My wife is often sick, so I have another woman in the city. By now, she is six month’s pregnant. If she gives birth to a son, he will be the last descendant of the Qiu family.”
He slowly added, “Her surname is Zhuo. Her name is Zhuo Yuzhen. Her father’s name is Zhuo Donglai. He is a master of darts.”
Fu Hongxue quietly listened to him. He paid very careful attention to every word.
Qiu Shuiqing let out a long breath. “I should attend to these matters personally, but I no longer am able to. If I bear more shame and cling to life, in the future, when I go to the netherworld, I will have no face left to meet the ancestors of the Qiu family.”
Yan Nanfei shouted in a fierce voice, “You cannot die. Don’t you want to get revenge?”
Qiu Shuiqing suddenly let out a laugh. His laughter was even more miserable than weeping. “Revenge? You want me to get revenge? Do you know what type of person Gongzi Yu is? Do you know how great his power is?”
Yan Nanfei naturally knew. No one knew better than him.
Aside from the Beggar’s Clan and the Seven Great Sword Sects, which had been long established historical organizations, at least half of the thirty nine other most powerful organizations of the martial world had extremely close relationships with Gongzi Yu. At least eight or nine of them were secretly under the direct command of Gongzi Yu.
In addition, the number of first-class masters who had been bought and paid for by Gongzi Yu were innumerable. In addition, there were one or two masters amongst his bodyguards who possessed a level of martial arts that was unfathomably deep.
Yan Nanfei was about to reveal everything he knew about Gongzi Yu, but Qiu Shuiqing was no longer interested in listening!
Qiu Shuiqing still stood there unmoving, but suddenly, fresh blood began to spurt from his ears, his eyes, his nostrils, and his mouth.
Just as he fell down, from far away the sound of a rooster crowing could be heard.
The Peacock Manor was surrounded on two sides by mountains and a third by water. The mountains were very steep. There was no one that injured people could be brought across them. The river water moved at a torrential pace. Even rafts covered by sheepskin could not pass it.
The Peacock Manor had been guarded tightly, and did not lack for experts. To totally eradicate everyone in the manor would have required at least thirty or fifty first class masters.
Even if the invaders had come by water or through the mountain passes, there was only one way they could have left!
In front of the manor was a thick forest. There was a wide, paved road by it, but not a single wheel track or hoofprint could be seen, nor was there any blood or footprints.
Mingyue Xin gritted her teeth. “No matter what, we must find a third person today.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Aside from Zhuo Yuzhen and Gongsun Tu, who else is there?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Peacock. I’ve already subdued him and sent him back undercover. I’m sure he can provide us with some clues.”
Yan Nanfei coldly said, “Unfortunately, every clue he gives us is possibly a trap.”
Mingyue Xin said, “A trap?”
Yan Nanfei said, “He fears you, but I guarantee that he fears Gongzi Yu more. If he didn’t leak out secrets out to Gongzi Yu, how could Gongzi Yu have come to the Peacock Manor at such a perfect time?”
Mingyue Xin said with hatred, “If your guess is correct, all the more reason for me to hunt him down.”
Fu Hongxue said, “But the first person we must find is not him. It is Zhuo Yuzhen.”
None of them knew Zhuo Yuzhen, but Zhuo Donglai was a famous person. He was a famous alcoholic.
He was already drunk when they found him. He lay drunk beneath the shade of a tree in his courtyard. However, as soon as he heard Qiu Shuiqing’s name, he jumped to his feet and cursed, “That old bastard! I treated him as a friend, but he went around behind my back and tricked my daughter into falling for him.”
They didn’t try to shut him up. The more angrily he cursed, the more he proved that the affair was real. As long as they could preserve this last bit of flesh and blood of Qiu Shuiqing’s family, it didn’t matter how much Zhuo Donglai cursed.
His daughter, however, couldn’t take any more. All of his cursing had caused her to be driven away. On top of her boudoir in her room, she had left a letter. A young girl with long pigtails was bent over the dressing table, weeping nonstop.
On the letter was written, “Your daughter was unfilial, and has disgraced your home. Because of this piece of flesh growing inside of me, I cannot kill myself to redeem the shame…”
The young girl said, “So the young miss left. I couldn’t stop her.”
“You don’t know where she went?”
“If I knew, I would have gone as well. Why would I stay here?”
If there was a drunken demon in the house, no one would want to stay. And so they left as well!
However, they still needed to find Zhuo Yuzhen. How were they supposed to find her within the sea of people?
Mingyue Xin suddenly said, “There’s a place where I’m sure we’ll find her.”
Yan Nanfei immediately said, “What place?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Since he didn’t want her father to know about their affair, Qiu Shuiqing certainly must have prepared a secret place for the two of them to have their trysts.”
Even the boss of the small drapery shop outside could find a lovers meeting place for his mistress, much less the master of the Peacock Manor.
Unfortunately, that place must be extremely well hidden. “Qiu Shuiqing has always been a very prudent, circumspect person. Aside from himself, who might know about this?”
“There’s one person who must know!”
“That little girl with long pigtails.” Mingyue Xin’s spoke with great certainty. “The relationship and affection between a young miss and her personal serving girl can be very close, almost like that between sisters. If I did something like this, there’s no way I could hide it from Xingxing!”
Xingxing was the name of her own personal serving girl.
“That little girl had a sly, clever look about her. She was just putting on an act for us earlier. Within the hour, she’ll go out to look for her.”
Mingyue Xin wasn’t wrong.
Before an hour had passed, the little girl secretly snuck out from the back door and crept down a side alley.
Mingyue Xin secretly watched her, while Fu Hongxue and Yan Nanfei watched Mingyue Xin.
“It’s never easy for an unmarried maiden to travel around by herself, so their trysting place can’t be too far away!”
Mingyue Xin was right once again. The place was only two alleys away, with high walls and a narrow doorway. It was a quiet and secluded courtyard, with a ginkgo tree growing in the middle and around ten or so Chinese roses growing on top of the wall.
The door wasn’t latched; evidently, the little girl was expected. The little girl glanced all around, then quietly pushed the door open, entered, then closed and locked the door.
A delicate fragrance floated down from the Chinese roses on the top of the wall, and the leaves of the ginkgo tree were blown to and fro by the wind. No human voices could be heard at all within the courtyard.
“Go inside first. We’ll wait for you outside!”
Mingyue Xin knew all along that the two men would not be willing to rashly charge into a young girl’s private bedroom. This is because they were real men, men amongst men.
They watched as she jumped over the wall. They waited for a long time. The roses still smelled just as sweet, but from within the yard could be heard a cry of alarm.
It was Mingyue Xin’s voice.
Mingyue Xin definitely wasn’t the type of woman who would be easily frightened.
The leaves of the ginkgo tree were so thick, they cast a shadow into the room, the insides of which were as dark as dusk. The body of the serving girl was bent over on the table. Her dark, oily pigtail had been wrapped around her throat. Her hands and her feet were as cold as ice.
Mingyue Xin’s hands and feet were cold as well. “We came just a little too late.”
The little girl had been choked to death. Zhuo Yuzhen was nowhere to be seen.
No one would choke themselves to death with their own pigtail. Who was the killer?
Yan Nanfei clenched his fists. “It seems as though the affair between Zhuo Yuzhen and Qiu Shuiqing isn’t something which was kept totally secret after all.”
Thus, Gongzi Yu’s subordinates arrived one step ahead of them!
Fu Hongxue’s face was pale white, but a hint of red could be seen in his eyes.
He was searching. He hoped that the murderer, in his haste, might have left some clues behind this time.
Just one act of negligence. Just a single clue. If it was there, Fu Hongxue would not miss it!
This time, he almost missed it, simply because this clue was too obvious.
There was a small mirror on top of the dressing stand. Someone had written three words on the mirror with rouge. The words were written very hastily and sloppily. Clearly, they had been left behind by Zhuo Yuzhen. In his haste, the man who had kidnapped her didn’t notice.
Why is it that the most obvious things are the things people pay the least attention to?
Blood red rouge. Blood red words. “Zi Yang Temple!”
Ziyang Temple was a very ordinary name. There were many Daoist temples named Ziyang Temple. But as luck would have it, there was only a single temple in this city by that name.
“How did she know they would take her to the Ziyang Temple?”
“Perhaps she overheard it. Perhaps her kidnappers numbered amongst them a priest of Ziyang Temple. She was born and raised here. Naturally, she’d recognize them.”
Either way, they would have to go and check it out. Even if this was a trap, they still had to go.
Unexpectedly, the courtyard of the Ziyang Temple was also covered by a vibrantly growing ginkgo tree. Incense smoke curled around about the main hall. Not a single person could be seen. But as soon as they entered the backyard, they could hear voices.
What a cold, desolate courtyard. What a cold, icy voice. It only said two words. “Please enter!”
The voice came from a guestroom towards the left. It seemed as though the people inside were waiting for them all along.
It seemed as though this was a trap after all. But when were these three ever afraid of others’ traps?
Without even thinking, Fu Hongxue walked over. The door was left unlocked. With a light push, he opened it.
There were four people within the room.
As long as he decided to do something, and as long as his sabre was in his hand, even if there were thousands of soldiers in front of him, Fu Hongxue wouldn’t shrink back in the slightest. Much less just four people!
One of the four was drinking wine. Two were playing chess. The fourth was a young man in white who was using a small knife to trim his nails.
No lamps were lit in the room. The young man’s face looked just like the blade of his knife; white with black showing through. So black, it was frightening.
Of the two playing chess, one was indeed a Daoist priest. His beard and his hair were all white, but his face was as red and ruddy as a baby’s. The other player wore black clothes and white socks. He was dressed simply, with only a ring on his finger. But the ring was made out of priceless Han jade, the value of which was enough to purchase several cities.
Fu Hongxue’s pupils suddenly contracted. His ashen pale face suddenly became flushed with a red color.
This was because the person who had been drinking with his head lowered, had begun to slowly lift up his face.
After she saw this person’s face, Mingyue Xin’s hands and feet turned ice cold again.
His face was criss-crossed with scars and wounds. His eyes were as keen as an eagle’s. It was the ‘Immortal Eagle of Heaven’, Gongsun Tu!
He was watching them as well, and within his keen gaze there was a hint of cruel mockery. “Please sit.”
There really were three empty seats in the guest room, and Fu Hongxue actually sat down.
It was always good to conserve a little bit of energy just before a vicious life-and-death battle was about to break out.
Yan Nanfei and Mingyue Xin both sat down as well. They too knew that the time had come for a battle where life and death would be determined in the blink of an eye.
Last edited by Ren Wo Xing; 05-28-09 at 06:46 PM.
So fast ! =D
Phoenix Market is translated as Phoenix Settlement in the earlier chapters.
Let me know which one you prefer and I would switch it.
Chapter 9: Betting One’s Life on a Single Sabre
The sound of the apricot tree in the courtyard gently rustling in the wind could be heard. The sound of chess pieces being placed on the chessboard were gentle and tasteful, as though they were a musical instrument. There was no expression at all on the face of the young man in white who was trimming his nails. The two who were playing chess didn’t even bother to raise their heads.
Mingyue Xin couldn’t keep herself from saying, “We didn’t come here to watch you play chess.”
Gongsun Tu said, “I know you have come here to find me. I am the one who bathed the Peacock Manor in blood. You didn’t find the wrong person.”
Mingyue Xin’s hands clenched into fists, her fingernails piercing into her flesh. “And the other three?”
Gongsun Tu didn’t directly answer. Instead, he first introduced the young man in white.
“This is the son of Luoyang’s Xiao family, Xiao Siwu [Si Wu means ‘four withouts’].” He explained, “The ‘four withouts’ means this. His flying dagger skill is without equal, he has killed people without number, and when angered, without mercy.”
“The fourth without?”
“Even when he isn’t angered, he’s still without mercy.” Gongsun Tan continued, “He also has another nickname, a very long and strange one. ‘He’ll go to heaven or hell to seek out Little Li, and whole heartedly wishes to kill Ye Kai’.”
In former years, Little Li’s flying dagger overawed the world. Once his flying dagger was sent out, it would never miss! His glorious, magnificent fame had not yet been matched to this very day by any.
Ye Kai received tutelage from him, and gained the essence of his flying dagger. He roamed the martial world for thirty carefree years, and although he didn’t kill a single person without good reason, no one dared to offend him.
Mingyue Xin said, “Not only is this merciless young man certain that he can kill Ye Kai, he also wants to seek out Li Tanhua and compete in martial arts against him?”
Gongsun Tu said, “That seems to be so.”
Mingyue Xin laughed. “He seems to be very arrogant.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Very arrogant people tend to have the ability to back up their arrogance.”
Mingyue Xin said, “That seems to be so.”
Gongsun Tan smiled. “But actually, it isn’t?”
Mingyue Xin laughed. “The more arrogant one is, the less actual ability one has. There are many people in the martial world who are like that.”
Gongsun Tan’s smile was meant to sow discord, but her laughter was nothing short of a direct challenge. These words of hers clearly were meant for Xiao Siwu to hear.
But it seemed as though this haughty young man hadn’t even heard her words. His features remained totally emotionless. The dagger in his hand moved very slowly, and every single motion was extremely careful, as though he were very much afraid that he might cut his hand.
His hand was very steady, and his fingers were long and very strong.
Fu Hongxue never paid attention to people’s hands, but he now paid attention to this person’s. He observed every single movement very carefully.
Trimming one’s fingernails isn’t really all that exciting. It’s not worth watching.
However, Xiao Siwu seemed to become very uncomfortable underneath Fu Hongxue’s stare. He suddenly said in a cold voice, “Watching a person trim his fingernails isn’t as good as watching people play chess.”
Gongsun Tu laughed. “Especially since these two chess players are grandmasters of our time.”
Mingyue Xin blinked a few times. “This Daoist priest would be the boss of the Ziguan Temple?”
It seemed as though Gongsun Tan once more wanted to cause trouble. He intentionally asked, “What boss does the Ziguan Temple have?”
Mingyue Xin laughed. “In a Daoist temple, the head Daoist priest would be the boss. In a *****house, the madame would be the boss. ‘Boss’ is a title that can be applied to all sorts of people.”
The white haired man picked up a chess piece, then suddenly turned his head and smiled towards her. “That’s right. I’m the boss of this place.”
Mingyue Xin sweetly said, “How has business been recently?”
The white haired man said, “Passable. No matter what time it is, there’s always some stupid husband or stupid wife who comes here offering incense or fragrant oils. And of course, during beautiful spring and autumn days, business is very brisk.”
When he spoke, he really sounded as though he were a boss.
Laughing, Mingyue Xin became even more cheerful. “Bosses are usually very boring people. I didn’t expect you to be such an interesting boss.”
The white haired man said, “I’m the sort of man who abstains from nothing at all.”
He also smiled very cheerfully, but Mingyue Xin’s laughter suddenly seemed very forced. “Abstains from nothing at all? Boss, what is your surname?”
The white haired man said, “My surname is Yang.”
Mingyue Xin said, “Yang Wuji?”
The white haired man said, “That seems to be so.”
Mingyue Xin was no longer able to laugh.
She knew of this person. Thirty years ago, he shared an equal amount of fame with the sect leader of Wudang, the Daoist priest Bashan. He was known as one of the ‘Seven Great Swordsmen of the Outer Regions’.
She also knew that there were four lines in a poem which described him. The first line was ‘Abstains from nothing at all’, and so was the fourth.
Very few people knew these four lines.
‘Abstains from nothing at all, as soon as he laughs he kills, if he intends to kill someone, he abstains from nothing at all.’
Supposedly, if this Daoist were to treat you very coldly, that means he considers you a friend. But if he were to laugh at you and treat you very kindly, there usually is only one reason for that: He will kill you!
In addition, it was said that after he had decided to kill you, he would abstain from nothing at all and would kill you regardless of the relationship you had with him. In addition, no matter where one went, he would hunt you down and kill you.
Just now, he laughed with her, and in fact he was still laughing. When was he planning to make his move?
Mingyue Xin stared at him, not daring to look away for a second.
Unexpectedly, Yang Wuji turned his head around again. With a light clinging sound, he placed the chess piece in his hand on the board.
After playing that chess piece, he swept all the pieces on the board off. With a sigh, he said, “You truly are a grandmaster. I admit defeat.”
The middle aged man in black clothes with white socks said, “That wrong move is wholly due to the fact that you were distracted by others. How can it count as a defeat?”
Yang Wuji said, “A single wrong move can cause total disaster. How can it not count as a defeat? In addition, playing chess is like swordsmanship. One should be totally focused and not allow one’s self to be distracted. If one can be distracted by others, how can he be considered an expert?”
Gongsun Tu laughed, “Fortunately, although it is easy for you to be distracted while playing chess, you are never distracted while wielding your sword.”
Yang Wuji lightly said, “Fortunately, that is the case. That’s the only reason why I’ve been able to stay alive up till now.”
The middle aged man in black clothes with white clothes sighed. “Unfortunately, although I am never distracted while playing chess, when I begin competing in swords with others, my mind becomes as muddled and chaotic as the spring grass.”
Mingyue Xin said, “Your surname, sir?”
The man in black said, “I can’t say, I can’t say.”
Mingyue Xin asked, “Why can’t you say?”
The man in black said, “Because I’m a nameless, ordinary fellow. The only thing I am good at is chess.”
Mingyue Xin asked, “You are a chess prodigy? Whose chess prodigy?”
Yan Nanfei suddenly chuckled. “Naturally, he is Gongzi’s chess prodigy.”
The man in black seemed to just notice him. He immediately chuckled, then cupped his hands and said, “Oh, so it’s young master Yan.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Unfortunately, I’m not your young master.”
The man in black smiled. “Young master, do you play chess?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I barely have the time to flee for my life these days. How could I have the energy to play chess?”
The man in black laughed. “I, on the other hand, would be willing to lose my life for the sake of playing chess. Why worry about running for my life?”
Yan Nanfei laughed loudly, and the man in black smiled as well. Evidently, the two of them were already acquainted.
With a chess prodigy like this, what type of person might his young master be?
Yan Nanfei asked again, “Does your young master play any chess?”
The man in black said, “He does not.”
Yan Nanfei smiled. “I imagine it isn’t because he is too busy fleeing for his life. It’s because he’s too busy taking the lives of others.”
The man in black laughed loudly, and Yan Nanfei smiled. Was the person they were speaking of Gongzi Yu?
Yan Nanfei and Gongzi Yu used to be friends?
The man in black cupped his hands again. “Young master, rest here for a bit longer. I must bid you farewell.”
Yan Nanfei asked, “Why don’t you sit for a while longer as well?”
The man in black said, “I came to play chess. Now that there’s no chess game going on, why should I stay?”
Yan Nanfei said, “In order to kill people!”
The man in black said, “Kill people? Who wants to kill people?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Me!”
His face suddenly sank, and he turned to stare coldly at Gongsun Tu. “The person I want to kill is you.”
Gongsun Tu didn’t seem surprised at all. He let out a sigh, then said, “Why do you want to kill me?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Because you have killed far too many people.”
Gongsun Tu lightly said, “And there are quite a few people who want to kill me. But I am still alive.”
Yan Nanfei replied, “You’ve lived for far too long. I’m afraid that today will be the day you must die.”
Gongsun Tu said leisurely, “Today is a day of dying. I just don’t know who will be the one to die!”
Yan Nanfei laughed coldly. At that very moment, he drew forth his sword from beneath his clothes, the Rose Sword!
This soft sword could actually be stuck around one’s waist normally, as though it were a belt. The soft leather scabbard was dyed red using some unknown material, so red that it looked like a spring rose in full bloom.
When he saw this sword, Gongsun Tu couldn’t help but reveal a look of respect in his eyes. “I recognize this sword. It was refined a hundred times and smelted a thousand times over. It is soft, yet unyielding. It really is a rare, incredible tool!”
Yan Nanfei said, “I also know about your hook. Where is your hook?”
Gongsun Tu laughed. “When did you ever see a person using a hook to pick flowers?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Pick flowers?”
Gongsun Tu said, “Isn’t a rose a flower?”
The man in black suddenly said, “If you want to pick a rose, you had best remember that roses have thorns. The thorns can do more than just prick one’s hand; they can also prick one’s heart.”
Gongsun Tu said, “I have no heart to be pricked.”
The man in black said, “But you have a hand which can be hurt.”
Gongsun Tu laughed again, then said without a care, “If he pricks my hand, I shall prick his heart.”
The man in black said, “What will you use to prick his heart?”
Gongsun Tu said, “A person.”
The man in black asked, “Who?”
Gongsun Tu said, “Zhuo Yuzhen.”
The man in black asked, “So if he hurts you, you will kill Zhuo Yuzhen?”
Gongsun Tu nodded. “Zhuo Yuzhen cannot die, and therefore I cannot die either. The only one who can die is him!”
The man in black said, “So you have placed yourself in an invincible position for this battle?”
Gongsun Tu said, “That was the case all along.”
Smiling, he looked at Yan Nanfei. “So by now, you should have realized who will be the person to die today.”
Yan Nanfei said, “You!”
He coldly continued, “Only a dead person can be guaranteed to not kill others. I intend to make sure that Zhuo Yuzhen stays alive, but even more do I intend to make sure that you die.”
Gongsun Tu let out a sigh. “It seems you still don’t understand, since you didn’t hear the words I said earlier.”
The man in black said, “But I heard them.”
Gongsun Tu said, “What did I say?”
The man in black said, “You said that as soon as you see blood, immediately kill Zhuo Yuzhen.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Who did I say that to?”
The man in black said, “I don’t recognize that person. All I know is that you called him ‘forefinger’.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Where is he right now?”
The man in black said, “He took Zhuo Yuzhen with him and left.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Where did he go?”
The man in black said, “I don’t know!”
Gongsun Tu said, “Who knows?”
The man in black said, “It seems nobody knows!”
Gongsun Tu said, “No one knows to begin with!”
Smiling, he looked at Yan Nanfei. “Do you fully understand now?”
Yan Nanfei nodded, but still did not bat an eyelid.
Gongsun Tu said, “So whose death day shall today be?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Yours!”
Gongsu Tu shook his head, smiling wryly. “It seems that not only is this fellow very stubborn, he’s also very stupid. Even now, he doesn’t understand.”
Yan Nanfei said, “The one who doesn’t understand is you, because despite all of your calculations, there is something you have forgotten.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Oh?”
Yan Nanfei said, “You forgot that I cannot die and do not want to die. What’s more, if I die, I still won’t be able to save Zhuo Yuzhen. Why would I let you kill me? Why wouldn’t I kill you?”
Gongsun Tu was startled. “Since nobody can die, what do you propose?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Pull out your hook and give my sword a try. If I cannot defeat you within ten stances, I will give you a person’s life!”
Gongsun Tu said, “Whose life?”
Yan Nanfei said, “My life.”
Gongsun Tu said, “And if you defeat me, I must give you a life as well?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Naturally.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Whose life do you want? Zhuo Yuzhen’s?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I want to see you respectfully presenting her to me.”
Gongsun Tu mumbled to himself for a while, then asked the man in black, “Did Yan Nanfei personally say those words just then?”
The man in black said, “He did.”
Gongsun Tu asked, “Is Yan Nanfei the type of person who keeps his word?”
The man in black said, “His promise is worth its weight in gold. Even if he dies, he won’t go back on it!”
Gongsun Tu suddenly began to laugh again. He loudly laughed, “Actually, everything I have said up till now was to get you to make that promise.”
By the time his laughter ended, his hook appeared in his hand.
A hook as bright as snow. Eyes as keen as an eagle’s. A smile as cruel as a hawk’s. Although his weapon was very heavy, it’s transformations were light and complicated.
Gongsun Tu smiled. “Do you know what’s the good thing about this hook?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Go ahead and tell me.”
Gongsun Tu lightly stroked the tip of the hook. “Although this hook is very heavy, in a small room, it can be used freely. How about your sword?”
Yan Nanfei said, “If you can force me out of this room, you can consider me as having lost.”
Gongsun Tu laughed loudly. “Great. Why haven’t you drawn your sword yet?”
Yan Nanfei said, “There’s no need for me to draw my sword.”
Gongsun Tu said, “No need?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Even a sheathed sword can still kill. Why should I draw it out? After I pull it out, perhaps it’ll become unable to kill.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Why is that?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Because the ingenuity of this sword lies not in the tip but in the scabbard.”
Gongsun Tu did not understand. “Can it be that the scabbard of the sword is even sharper than its point?”
Yan Nanfei gently stroked the bright red scabbard. “Do you know what was used to dye the scabbard red?”
Gongsun Tu did not know.
Yan Nanfei said, “The juice of the ‘Blood Rose’.”
Gongsun Tu clearly did not know what a ‘Blood Rose’ was. He had never heard of it.
Yan Nanfei said, “The ‘Blood Rose’ is a rose that has been irrigated using five different types of poisoned blood.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Five types of poisoned blood? What five?”
Yan Nanfei said, “The seven-inch serpent, the hundred-sectioned centipede, the thousand-year old cold snake, and the blazing red poisonous scorpion.”
Gongsun Tu said, “And the last one?”
Yan Nanfei coldly said, “The last one is the blood of unfilial, unjust traitors and villains!”
Gongsun Tu was unable to laugh this time.
Yan Nanfei said, “The creatures which the Rose Sword kills are these five types. If it meets a filial son, a loyal official, or an honorable man, then there is no way for the power of the sword to be released.”
Gongsun Tu sneered, “The power of the scabbard?”
Yan Nanfei didn’t deny it. “If it meets with the five poisons, the flower soul of the Rose Sword come to life.”
Staring at Gongsun Tu, he said, “If you are one of the five poisons, at this moment you will smell a strange, mystical fragrance. The flower soul of the Rose Sword will be silently draining away your soul.”
Gongsun Tu laughed loudly. As he laughed, every single scar on his face writhed and contorted, as though they were poisonous snakes.
Yan Nanfei said, “You don’t believe me?”
Gongsun Tu said, “Your sword might have a flower soul, but my hook has a soul as well.”
Yan Nanfei said, “What is it?”
Gongsun Tu said, “The soul of wrongfully killed ghosts!”
His laughter sounded ferocious, and his features were terrible to behold. “I don’t know how many lives have been lost to this hook and have been trapped in it. All of them are waiting for me to find a replacement fall guy for them, so that they might escape and reincarnate.”
Yan Nanfei said, “I believe it. I can also believe that the person they want to find the most is you.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Why haven’t you made your move yet?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I already have!”
The smile on Gongsun Tu’s face disappeared. It was as though all the poisonous serpents writhing on his face had suddenly been frozen.
Yan Nanfei’s sword really had started to move. It was moving very slowly, carrying with it a very strange rhythm. It was as though the petals of a rose were slowly blooming in the spring wind. There wasn’t a hint of any force which could be used to take someone’s life.
Gongsun Tu sneered, and struck out with his hook. His strike was fast and accurate. His many years worth of life and death experiences had caused him to discard the usage of flowery, pretty-to-behold techniques. Every single attack of his was definitely effective.
But his attack was somehow drawn into that strange, bizarre rhythm of the Rose Sword, as though a sharp shell was drawn into the waves of the ocean.
When the tides retreated, all of his attacking force was dissipated with it.
And then, he smelled a strange, mysterious fragrance. Everything in front of him turned a scarlet red color, and aside from this bright red, he couldn’t see anything else. It was as though a red curtain had suddenly been draped in front of his eyes.
His heart trembled. He wanted to use the hook in his hand to brush aside this red curtain, to pierce through it, but his reflexes had slowed down and his movements had become sluggish. By the time the bright red curtain disappeared, the Rose Sword was already resting on his throat.
He suddenly felt his throat go dry, and his mouth was filled with a bitter, astringent taste. In addition, he felt exhausted. So exhausted that he could vomit.
With a dinging sound, his hook fell to the floor.
Yang Wuji let out a long sigh. Clearly, he too had felt that mysterious power which had radiated from the sword earlier.
He had practiced the sword for more than forty years, but he actually couldn’t tell what type of technique Yan Nanfei had used.
The man in black also let out a breath. He slowly said, “This is the sword of the heart? Can it be a flower soul really exists in that sword?”
Yan Nanfei said, “It hasn’t come to life yet; it just briefly woke up.”
The expression on the face of man in black’s changed. “What if it really did come to life?”
A solemn look was on Yan Nanfei’s face. He slowly said, “If the flower soul were to come to life, then a long cherished dream of mine would have been achieved. I would die without any regrets.”
The man in black said, “When the flower soul comes to life, must someone die?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Beyond a doubt, someone would die.”
The man in black said, “What type of person would die?”
Yan Nanfei said, “At least two people. One person is myself. The other is…”
He didn’t finish, and the man in black didn’t push him to continue.
On both men’s faces suddenly appeared very strange expressions. Suddenly, both of them laughed.
Yan Nanfei’s laughter was more joyful.
The Rose Sword continued to rest on Gongsu Tu’s throat. He knew that he would soon be able to see Zhuo Yuzhen.
“Harness a horse to a carriage. First have Miss Zhuo escorted into the cart, then escort us out.”
Gongsun Tu totally acceded to his demands.
Smiling, Mingyue Xin rose to her feet. She couldn’t help but feel relieved as well. This time, at least, they weren’t defeated.
Xiao Siwu was still trimming his fingernails. His hand remained just as steady as before, but his cold eyes revealed a hint of impatience and anxiety.
This was because Fu Hongxue was still staring at him. Even when Yan Nanfei made his strike, Fu Hongxue’s gaze hadn’t flickered in the slightest.
It seemed as though aside from this young man’s hands, there was nothing else in the world worth Fu Hongxue paying attention to.
Faint blue veins were gradually revealing themselves on the back of Xiao Siwu’s hands. It seemed as though he were using a great deal of strength to keep his hands so steady.
His movements were still very meticulous, and even his posture hadn’t changed. This really was not easy to do at all.
Fu Hongxue suddenly said, “Your hands are very stable.”
Xiao Siwu lightly said, “They always have been stable.”
Fu Hongxue said, “When you make your move, you are very quick. In addition, even after the dagger leaves your hand, the dagger itself continues to hold variations.”
Xiao Siwu said, “You can tell?”
Fu Hongxue nodded. “I can tell that you throw your dagger using three fingers, which is why you are able to impart a circular force to your dagger. I can also tell that you throw your dagger using your left hand. First you throw the dagger, and then you aim at the target.”
Xiao Siwu said, “How can you tell?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Your thumb, index finger, and middle finger on your left hand are exceptionally strong.”
Xiao Siwu forced a smile to his face. “Good eyesight.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Good dagger!”
Xiao Siwu arrogantly said, “Of course it is.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Although it is a good dagger, it still cannot compare to Ye Kai’s.”
Xiao Siwu’s movements came to a halt.
Fu Hongxue finally stood up as well. “After Ye Kai’s flying dagger leaves his hand, there is perhaps only a single person in this day and age who can defeat it.”
The blue veins on the back of Xiao Siwu’s hand bulged. “And my dagger?”
Fu Hongxue dully said, “At the very least, there are three people in this room alone who can defeat your dagger!”
Xiao Siwu said, “Are you one of the three?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Naturally.”
He slowly turned around. Without even bothering to look back, he walked out.
Xiao Siwu watched him leave. Unexpectedly, he did not move, and did not say another word.
His knife was present! So were his hands! But his dagger would never leave his hands that easily!
He looked at the footprints on the ground and smiled coldly.
The footprints were very deep. Fu Hongxue had left them behind. When he had walked out of this door, he had already concentrated the force of his entire body.
Because only by concentrating all of the force of his body could he defend against Xiao Siwu’s dagger.
But Xiao Siwu’s dagger did not leave his hand.
Fu Hongxue walked outside. Raising his head towards the sky, he let out a long sigh. It seemed as though he felt disappointed.
Not only was he disappointed. He was worried.
He suddenly realized that youngster was more terrifying than any of the people he had met over the past few years.
He had already seen through the dagger style of the youngster, and wanted to provoke him into striking.
If the youngster were to strike now, Fu Hongxue would be able to handle it. He was certain of it.
Unexpectedly, this youngster was even colder and more fearful than the dagger in his hands.
“Three years later, if he throws his dagger at me, will I still be able to handle it?”
The neighing of horses could be heard in front of him. The courtyard was still very peaceful and secluded. Fu Hongxue was gripped by a sudden impulse to go back and kill that youngster, but he did not turn back.
He slowly walked out of the courtyard.
Gongsun Tu and Yan Nanfei were walking in front of him.
The Rose Sword was still resting on his throat. Yan Nanfei was facing Gongsun Tu, and slowly walking backwards step by step.
Gongsun Tu was unwilling to face him. He had already closed his eyes. It was as though Yan Nanfei was using a bamboo cane to beat a blind man.
But this blind man really was too dangerous. He couldn’t slacken off in the slightest.
Mingyue Xin was the last to leave the guest room. She was just about to hasten her steps and catch up to Fu Hongxue.
At this moment, Yang Wuji appeared by her side. He said, “Do you know what is behind that wall?”
Mingyue Xin shook her head.
Yang Wuji grinned at her. “You’ll find out soon.”
Watching him smile, Mingyue Xin’s hands were covered with cold sweat.
Yang Wuji took two steps back. Smiling, he nodded. Just at this moment, nine people appeared from behind the short wall.
The nine of them wielded thirteen different hidden projectiles. Each type contained at least three projectiles. The sound of bowstrings and springs being released sounded together in unison, as thirty flashing points of light streaked towards her like raindrops in a torrential storm.
Mingyue Xin’s reaction speed wasn’t slow. As soon as the sounds were heard, she immediately used her skills to try and dodge.
A flash of sabre light flew towards her, sweeping away most of the projectiles for her.
She had already moved her body, retreating to the left. None of the remaining projectiles were able to land on her.
Just as she was about to let out a sigh of relief, a sword suddenly pierced into the left side of her chest. She barely felt the pain at all.
The edge of the sword was cold and sharp. She only felt a sudden chill, and saw that a strange expression had appeared on Fu Hongxue’s pale face. He suddenly stretched out his hand and pulled her towards him.
And then, she fell into Fu Hongxue’s bosom.
Yang Wuji used an ancient, soft-lined sword. His sword had left the scabbard, and was still dripping with fresh blood.
As he stared at the fresh blood on his sword, his face suddenly became totally emotionless.
His attack was sure to land!
He had calculated from the very beginning that Fu Hongxue would pull out his sabre, and had calculated where Mingyue Xin would dodge to.
His sword was there, waiting for her.
Everything which had happened was within his calculations. He had already calculated that this attack of his was sure to land!
The nine men had disappeared. Fu Hongxue did not pursue them. He only coldly stared at Yang Wuji.
Yan Nanfei also came to a stop. The hand he was wielding his sword with seemed to tremble.
Yang Wuji suddenly said, “You had best be careful not to hurt him. If he dies, so does Zhuo Yuzhen.”
Yan Nanfei gritted his teeth. “You are a famous swordsman with a lofty reputation, and this is your very own monastery. Yet you would actually use this sort of despicable method to plot against a lady? What type of creature are you?”
Yang Wuji lightly said, “I am Yang Wuji, and I am going to kill her!”
From far away, the man in black was standing in the middle of the guest room’s doorway. He sighed. “If he intends to kill someone, he abstains from nothing at all. Yang Wuji really is Yang Wuji.”
Yang Wuji said, “If I don’t kill her right now, I’ll have missed a golden opportunity. In the future, I’m afraid I won’t have a second chance.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him. With one hand, he clenched his sabre. With the other, he held the fainted Mingyue Xin to him.
He could feel that Mingyue Xin’s body was slowly growing cold.
Yang Wuji said, “Do you intend to take revenge for her?”
Fu Hongxue didn’t say another word. He was already beginning to walk backwards.
Yan Nanfei looked at Mingyue Xin, held in Fu Hongxue’s embrace. Then he looked at Gongsun Tu, who was still pinned by his sword.
Gongsun Tu’s eyes were still closed. His scarred face looked like a mask.
Yan Nanfei suddenly began to walk backwards as well.
Yang Wuji wasn’t surprised at all. He lightly said, “The carriage has been prepared. Zhuo Yuzhen is waiting for you in the carriage. I wish you a pleasant trip.”
Yan Nanfei couldn’t resist saying, “Aren’t you afraid that I’m going to kill Gongsun Tu after I get on the carriage?”
Yang Wuji said, “Why should I be afraid? What does his life and death have to do with me?”
He suddenly turned around and went back to the guest room. Arriving at the doorway, he tugged on the man in black’s sleeves. “Let’s go play some chess.”
The man in black immediately nodded. Smiling, he said, “My purpose in coming was to play chess, after all.”
The horse carriage really had been prepared. A young maiden, six months pregnant or so, was sitting in a corner of the carriage, crying.
Fu Hongxue brought Mingyue Xin into the carriage, but the Rose Sword remained on Gongsun Tu’s throat.
Yan Nanfei said in a ferocious voice, “Open your eyes and look at me!”
Gongsun Tu immediately opened his eyes.
Yan Nanfei glared at him with hate-filled eyes. “I really wanted to kill you.”
Gongsun Tu said, “But you won’t, because you are Yan Nanfei, whose word is as good as gold.”
Yan Nanfei glared hatefully at him for a long time. Suddenly, he kicked Gongsun Tu in the stomach.
Gongsun Tu’s body immediately crumpled inwards, as though he were a shrimp. Tears, snivel, and cold sweat began to flow.
Yan Nanfei didn’t even spare him a single glance. Turning around, he said to the carriage driver, “Whip the horse and go. Don’t stop for even a moment. If you want to try any tricks, do remember that my sword is at your back.”
The carriage was very large, and the seats were very soft. The carriage driver was very skilled.
This was a carriage which people should be very happy to ride in. But there wasn’t a single happy person in the carriage.
Fu Hongxue suddenly said, “I should have killed Xiao Siwu.”
Yan Nanfei said, “You didn’t move against him.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because I had some misgivings, therefore…”
Yan Nanfei said, “Therefore, you were too slow.”
Fu Hongxue slowly nodded. “If you intend to kill someone, abstain from nothing at all. When a golden opportunity is missed, it won’t come again.”
He spoke very slowly, as though he had already carefully pondered every single word.
Yan Nanfei was silent for a long time, before he let out a sigh. “I’m afraid I won’t have many more chances to kill Gongsun Tu either.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Fortunately, Mingyue Xin is not dead yet. Miss Zhuo is also safe and sound.”
Zhuo Yuzhen, who was seated in a corner, was no longer crying. She looked at him, then suddenly said, “You are Fu Hongxue?”
Fu Hongxue nodded.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I’ve never met you, but I often heard Qiu…big brother Qiu talk about you. He often said that you were the only friend who could be trusted. He also said…”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Said what?”
Downcast, she said, “He told me time and time again that if something happened to me where he wasn’t able to help me out, I was to seek you out. That’s why he carefully described you to me and had me memorize your features.”
She lowered her head. Tears falling, she said, “I never imagined that I would still be alive, but he would already…”
At this point, her sobs overwhelmed her voice. Bowing down in her seat, she began to bawl loudly.
She was a beautiful girl. Her beauty was of the delicate and weak type, which easily lent itself to making others empathize with her.
Although Mingyue Xin was smart and tough, if it weren’t for the fact that Fu Hongxue had staunched the flow of blood in time, she would have died by now.
Gazing at them, Yan Nanfei couldn’t help but let out a light sigh. “No matter what, at least we have now done right by manor-master Qiu.”
Fu Hongxue said, “We have not done right by him!”
Yan Nanfei was very astonished. “We haven’t?”
Fu Hongxue’s dagger-like gaze was focused on the girl beside him. He coldly said, “This girl is not Zhuo Yuzhen. She definitely is not!”
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Chapter 10: Changes
The crying sound suddenly stopped.
Zhuo Yuzhen raised her head. She stared at Fu Hongxue with an astonished look on her face. “I’m not Zhuo Yuzhen? Why do you say that I am not Zhuo Yuzhen?”
Fu Hongxue did not answer her. Instead, he asked a question he should not have asked. “How many months pregnant are you?”
Zhuo Yuzhen hesitated for a while, before finally saying, “Seven months.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You’ve already been pregnant for seven months, but your father only just found out about it today? Is he blind?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “He isn’t blind, but he also isn’t my real father.”
Her voice was filled with hatred. “He knew about this all along. He was the one who arranged for me to meet with Qiu Shuiqing, because Qiu Shuiqing was a famous figure of the martial world and the master of the Peacock Manor, as well as the person whom escort-chief Liu admired the most.”
Yan Nanfei interjected, “Escort-chief Liu? Liu Zhenguo, of the Zhenyuan escort agency? Your father is a trainer for the Zhenyuan escort agency?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “He used to be.”
Yan Nanfei said, “And now?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “He drinks too much alcohol. No escort agency wants a martial arts instructor who is drunk all the time.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Escort-chief Liu dismissed him from his service?”
Zhuo Yuzhen nodded. “Escort-chief Liu wasn’t necessarily against drinking alcohol, but after drinking, father actually mistook one of his fellow dart-instructors for a thief and even chopped off one of his hands. That was too excessive.”
Yan Nanfei said, “He wanted to make use of the relationship you had with Qiu Shuiqing to return to the Zhenyuan escort agency?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “He really wanted to! Even if I truly was his daughter, he still would have done the same thing.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Unfortunately, Qiu Shuiqing wasn’t willing to do this. In addition, Liu Zhenguo wasn’t a person who showed favoritism.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Thus, even though Qiu Shuiqing gave him a hundred taels of silver as drinking money every month, he still was not satisfied. Whenever he became drunk, he would think of ways to torment me.”
Yan Nanfei said, “And it wasn’t until today that you felt you could take no more?”
Zhuo Yuzhen forced herself not to cry. “I am female. Officially, I am his daughter. No matter what he does to me, I can take it. Only, this morning…”
Yan Nanfei said, “What did he do this morning?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “He wanted to beat the baby in my stomach to death. He didn’t want me to give birth to Qiu Shuiqing’s child, because…because he knows about the destruction of the Peacock Manor.”
Yan Nanfei’s face changed. “But that happened only last night. He shouldn’t have known about it.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “But he did know.”
Yan Nanfei’s face sunk. Fu Hongxue’s face became all the more pale.
Only one type of person would get the news so soon.
Even if he himself hadn’t personally gone to the Peacock Manor to kill people last night, he definitely was a lookout.
Yan Nanfei said, “If I saw so many innocent people being wrongfully killed, when I got back home, I would’ve wanted to get really drunk as well.”
Fu Hongxue was silent. Suddenly, he said, “Do you know Liu Zhenguo? What type of person is he?”
Yan Nanfei said, “The Zhenyuan escort agency covers a lot of territory. It isn’t an easy task to become the leader of the agency.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Is he good at using human resources?”
Yan Nanfei said, “All of his subordinates are experts and first-class experts.”
Fu Hongxue’s hands tightened.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “My foster-father’s martial arts abilities are not weak. If alcohol hadn’t harmed him, he might have become the leader as well.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “It is very hard to be the leader of an escort agency. It is very easy to kill people.”
Yan Nanfei said, “You believe him to be one of the killers?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Not a killer, an accomplice!”
Yan Nanfei said, “Then we should go find him right now.”
Fu Hongxue said, “When we got into the carriage, I already issued orders to the driver. We are already headed in the right direction.”
Zhuo Yuzhen looked directly at him. Liars definitely would not dare to stare into his eyes, and they definitely wouldn’t be so calm and collected.
Yan Nanfei looked at her, then looked at Fu Hongxue. It seemed as though he too had some opinion he wished to speak.
But before he had even opened his mouth, a person loudly said, “We definitely cannot go to the Zhuo family right now.”
Mingyue Xin was awake.
She had lost too much blood and her body was too weak. Clearly, she had used all of her available energy to say these words.
Yan Nanfei helped her lie down in a more comfortable position before asking, “Why is it that we cannot go to the Zhuo family?”
Mingyue Xin panted, “Because there definitely must be a trap there.”
In her urgency to explain her line of thinking, her pallid face began to turn red. “Gongsun Tu definitely wouldn’t let us off so easily. Naturally, he’ll realize that we’ll want to hunt down Zhuo Donglai. They have many people, all of whom are experts, and now I am injured.”
Yan Nanfei wouldn’t let her finish. “I understand what you are trying to say, and so does Fu Hongxue.”
Mingyue Xin said, “No, you do not understand. I’m not saying this out of fear for myself, and I know that the two of you are definitely enough to deal with them. But what about Miss Zhuo? You two will have to defend against Yang Wuji’s sword, Gongsun Tu’s hook, and Xiao Siwu’s flying dagger. How will you have the extra energy to look after her?”
Fu Hongxue did not speak, nor did he respond.
Mingyue Xin looked at him. “You absolutely must listen to me this time. We should have the carriage come to a stop immediately.”
Fu Hongxue said, “No need.”
Mingyue Xin said, “Why…why aren’t you willing?”
Fu Hongxue’s features were still totally expressionless. He dully said, “Because this road isn’t the road which will take us to the Zhuo family.”
Mingyue Xin was startled. “It isn’t? Why isn’t it?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because from the very beginning, I ordered him to take this carriage out of the city as quickly as possible. How would he dare to go on any other road?”
Mingyue Xin let out a relieved breath. “So you had the same line of thought as I did.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “I never take risks with the lives of others.”
Mingyue Xin said, “But just a while ago…”
Fu Hongxue said, “I only said what I said in order to test Miss Zhuo.”
But before he finished his words, the carriage came to a halt.
The carriage driver turned around. Grinning, he said, “We’ve already reached the outskirts of the city. Hero Fu, which road do you want to take?”
Fu Hongxue coldly stared at his smiling face. He suddenly asked, “Have you learned the martial arts of the Boundless Pre-Heaven Sect?”
The carriage driver’s smile suddenly turned stiff. “I’ve never learned any martial arts at all.”
Fu Hongxue ignored him. He asked again, “Are Zhao Wuji and Zhao Wuliang your teachers or your family elders?”
The carriage driver stared at him in shock, as though he had seen a ghost.
He was very skilled at driving carriages. This entire time, he had sat in the front, driving the carriage. Not only had he not performed any actions, he had been very obedient.
He really could not understand how this pale-faced freak managed to determine his origins with a single glance.
Fu Hongxue said, “The color of your skin is smooth, and the texture is finely detailed, as though it had been boiled in oil. Only a person who has practiced the martial arts of the Boundless Pre-Heaven Sect would be like this.”
What a keen eye this freak had!
The driver finally let out a sigh. With a forced smile, he said, “I am Zhao Ping. Zhao Wuji is my father.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Are you nicknamed ‘forefinger’?”
Zhao Ping forced himself to nod. He could already tell that lying to this freak would be extremely unwise.
Fu Hongxue said, “Based on your family background, you should not be doing such shameless things in secret. I should help the Boundless Pre-Heaven Sect purge itself.”
Zhao Ping’s countenance changed. “But I…”
Fu Hongxue didn’t let him speak. He coldly said, “If it weren’t for the fact that you are the only son of Zhao Wuji, you would already be dead and underneath the wheels of this carriage.”
He was sitting in the carriage. He hadn’t even moved.
The most flexible finger was the forefinger.
How could a man sitting in a carriage without moving kill Zhao Ping, who was as flexible as a forefinger?
Zhao Ping finally understood. He was about to rise up.
Fu Hongxue said, “I will not kill you today. I will only require that you leave behind one of your murderous hands!”
Zhao Ping suddenly laughed loudly. “I apologize. My hands are still useful, and so I cannot give them to you.”
Suddenly, a saber flash could be seen, followed by a flowering explosion of blood.
Zhao Ping’s form rose up in alarm. He suddenly saw a bloody hand fall down from thin air.
He still hadn’t realized that this was his own hand.
The sabre was too fast. He still hadn’t felt any pain.
He even was still laughing.
Only after the hand fell to the floor did he realize that he was missing one.
The sound of his laughter immediately turned into a miserable cry. His body tumbled down heavily.
The sabre flash had disappeared. The sabre had been sheathed.
Fu Hongxue still remained seated in the back without moving.
Zhao Ping bound his severed wrist with fabric from his clothes. With his sole remaining hand, he rolled up the window of the carriage, staring at Fu Hongxue.
Fu Hongxue said, “You still aren’t leaving?”
Gritting his teeth, Zhao Ping said, “I am not leaving. I want to see your sabre.”
Fu Hongxue said, “My sabre isn’t for viewing.”
Zhao Ping said, “You chopped off my hand. You should at least allow me to see your sabre.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him, then suddenly said, “Fine. Look!”
A sabre flash. Strands of severed hair floated in the air.
It was Zhao Ping’s hair.
By the time he saw these strands of severed hair, the sabre flash had disappeared.
The sabre had been sheathed.
He still hadn’t seen the sabre.
His face was contorted with terror. He suddenly took one step backwards after another. He cried out in alarm with a hoarse voice, “You aren’t human. You are a vicious ghost. You are using an evil sabre!”
A pitch-black sabre. A pair of pitch-black pupils.
Zhuo Yuzhen was also staring at the sabre. She also stared at it for a long time. Her eyes were filled with terror as well.
It seemed as though this sabre had become physically grafted onto Fu Hongxue’s hand. It had become part of his body.
Zhuo Yuzhen asked probingly, “Have you ever put this sabre down?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Never.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Can you let me see it?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Have you ever let anyone see it?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Never!”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Is this really a evil sabre?”
Fu Hongxue said, “The evil lies not in the sabre. It lies within the heart. If a person holds evil within his heart, he will not be able to avoid this sabre!”
He did not move. The carriage did not move either.
Yan Nanfei let out a sigh. “It seems as though there’s no longer any place for us to go.”
Fu Hongxue said, “There is.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Where?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Peacock Manor.”
Yan Nanfei was very surprised. “Peacock Manor again? What’s left there?”
Fu Hongxue said, “A secret cellar.”
Yan Nanfei immediately understood. “You want Mingyue Xin to hide herself there to recuperate?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No one will guess that she is there. That place is a place of death.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Would this, then, be considered rebirth in a place of death?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Will we still use this carriage?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Carriages cannot reveal secrets, nor can they betray people.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Only people can betray people. That’s why you got rid of Zhao Ping.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Correct.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Who will drive our carriage now?”
Fu Hongxue said, “You.”
Although a big hole had been blown into the stone wall of the hidden cellar, the rest of it was as solid as it ever was.
Yan Nanfei said, “Now, the only way a person can leave this place is through this hole.”
Fu Hongxue said, “There can be leaving, but there cannot be a person leaving.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Why?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because Mingyue Xin still has the Peacock Plume.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Her Peacock Plume is still useful?”
Fu Hongxue said, “It is.”
Yan Nanfei said, “So long as she stands guard here with her Peacock Plume, nobody will be able to charge in?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Nobody.”
Yan Nanfei sighed. “No matter what, I hope that no one else will come here.”
Zhuo Yuzhen couldn’t help but say, “Do you intend to leave her here by herself?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Who will stay behind with her?”
Fu Hongxue said, “You.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “How about you guys? Are you leaving?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Where are you going?”
Fu Hongxue said, “We are going to kill people!”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Are you going to kill those murderers?”
Fu Hongxue nodded. “Gongsun Tu won’t let us off. Nor can I let him off!”
Zhuo Yuzhen stared at the sabre in his hand. “Do all murderers have evil in their heart?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yes.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Will he definitely be unable to avoid your sabre?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Definitely.”
Zhuo Yuzhen suddenly knelt down, and her tears began to flow. “I beg you, bring his heart back here. I want to use his heart as a sacrifice to memorialize the father of my child.”
Fu Hongxue stared at her. He suddenly said, “I can do this sort of thing, but you cannot say that sort of words.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Why?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because those words contain a murderous aura.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Are you afraid that the child in my belly will be contaminated by the murderous aura?”
Fu Hongxue nodded. “A child with a murderous aura will find it difficult to avoid killing others when he grows up.”
Zhuo Yuzhen gritted her teeth. “I hope he will kill others. It’s better to kill others than to be killed.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You are forgetting one thing!”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Go ahead.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Killers will themselves be killed, sooner or later!”
The room was gloomy and dark. Even the tables and the chairs were made out of stone. They were both hard and cold.
Mingyue Xin, however, was seated very comfortably, because before he left, Fu Hongxue gave her all of the mattresses in the carriage.
Zhuo Yuzhen also was given one of the soft mattresses from the beautiful carriage.
As soon as Fu Hongxue left, she couldn’t help but sigh. “I didn’t imagine he was such an attentive person.”
Mingyue Xin said, “He’s a weird person. Yan Nanfei is weird as well. But both of them are people, and both of them are men, real men.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “It seems that both of them treat you pretty well.”
Mingyue Xin said, “I treat them pretty well as well.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “But in the end, you’ll have to choose between them. One woman can’t be married to two men.”
Mingyue Xin forced out a laugh. “I’ve already made my choice.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Who have you chosen?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Myself.”
She lightly continued, “Although a woman can’t be married to two men at once, she can refuse to marry either.”
Zhuo Yuzhen shut her mouth. Naturally, she could tell that Mingyue Xin was unwilling to discuss this any further.
Mingyue Xin gently stroked the Peacock Plume. Her hands were even colder than gold. Something was weighing on her mind.
Did the words of Zhuo Yuzhen provoke her thoughts?
After a long time, Zhuo Yuzhen suddenly asked, “Is the Peacock Plume in your hands real?”
Mingyue Xin said, “It is not.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Can I see it?”
Mingyue Xin said, “You cannot.”
Zhuo Yuzhen couldn’t resist asking, “Why not?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Because even though it isn’t the real Peacock Plume, it is still a tool for killing people, and it carries a murderous aura. I, too, am unwilling to allow the child in your stomach to be contaminated with a murderous aura.”
Zhuo Yuzhen looked at her. She suddenly laughed, “Do you know why I am laughing?”
Mingyue Xin said, “I do not!”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I suddenly feel as though your speech mannerisms are absolutely identical to those of Fu Hongxue. Therefore…”
Mingyue Xin said, “Therefore?”
Zhuo Yuzhen laughed again. “Therefore, if you absolutely had to marry someone, I think you would definitely marry him.”
Mingyue Xin laughed as well, but her laughter was very forced. “It’s a good thing that I do not absolutely have to marry someone.”
Zhuo Yuzhen hung her head. “But I do.”
Mingyue Xin said, “Why?”
Zhuo Yuzhen sadly said, “Because of my child. I can’t allow him to be without a father.”
Mingyue Xin also couldn’t resist probing further. “Who do you want to be his father?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Naturally, I would want a real man, a man who could protect me.”
Mingyue Xin again couldn’t resist asking, “A man like Fu Hongxue?”
Zhuo Yuzhen actually did not deny it.
Mingyue Xin’s laughter became even more forced. “Do you know how heartless he is?”
Zhuo Yuzhen faintly smiled. “Sentimental or heartless. How can one really tell?”
“Are we still riding this carriage?”
“Who should be the driver now?
Yan Nanfei finally couldn’t control his anger. “Why is it still me?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because I don’t know how.”
Yan Nanfei started. “Why is it that whenever I hear your words, I am startled?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because I speak the truth.”
Yan Nanfei could only leap onto the front of the carriage. Whipping the horse, he said, “See? This isn’t very hard at all. Everyone knows how. Why don’t you learn how?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Since everyone knows how, then anyone can drive for me. Why must I learn?”
Yan Nanfei was startled yet again.
“You really do speak nothing but the truth.” He shook his head, a wry smile on his lips. “But I wish you would tell a lie once in a while.”
“Because the truth never seems to be as comfortable as a lie.”
The carriage moved forward. It travelled for a very long time. Fu Hongxue was meditating the entire time. He suddenly said, “You recognize the person who was playing chess with Yang Wuji?”
Yan Nanfei nodded. “He is called Gu Qi. He one of Gongzi Yu’s major subordinates.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I hear he has four master martial artists in his employ. Together, they are known as ‘Zither [Qin], Chess [Qi], Calligraphy [Shu], Art [Hua]’.”
Yan Nanfei said, “There are five master martial artists. Yu Qin, Gu Qi, Wang Shu, Wu Hua, and Xiao Jian [Sword].”
Fu Hongxue said, “You have met all five of them?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I only met three. At that time, Gongzi Yu hadn’t met Yu Qin and Xiao Jian.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him. “When was that?”
Yan Nanfei shut his mouth.
Fu Hongxue refused to let it drop. He continued to ask, “Was it when you and Gongzi Yu often met with one another?”
Yan Nanfei’s mouth was still shut.
Fu Hongxue said, “You know all of his secrets. You are very familiar with all of his highest ranking subordinates. Naturally, the two of you had many dealings in the past.”
Yan Nanfei did not deny it. He could not deny it.
Fu Hongxue said, “What type of relationship do the two of you have, exactly?”
Yan Nanfei coldly said, “Everyone always says that you value your words as highly as gold. Why do I always feel as though you are an overly talkative person?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Because you will not lie, but are afraid to tell the truth.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Right now, I am talking about you, not me.”
Fu Hongxue said, “But the one I am talking about is you.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Can we talk about something else? Even now, I still have no idea where you are taking us!”
Fu Hongxue said, “You know. In order to kill a hunter, you must go to the place where he has set his traps.”
Yan Nanfei said, “The home of Zhuo Donglai then?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Originally.”
Yan Nanfei said, “No longer?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Dead people have no homes.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Zhuo Donglai is already a dead man?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Thus, that place is now nothing more than a trap.”
Yan Nanfei let out another sigh. “I only hope that those hunters are still there and have not left.”
Fu Hongxue said, “They probably have not yet left. To be a hunter, the first thing one must learn is patience.”
Zhuo Donglai really was a dead man. Even his corpse was ice cold.
This wasn’t strange at all. If one’s chosen profession is murder, the first thing one should learn is how to silence witnesses! So long as you join assassins in even one of their activities, you should be prepared to be killed and silenced at any point in time. In their eyes, a person’s life definitely was not worth more than that of a wild dog.
Zhuo Donglai had been killed like a wild dog, beneath the tree in the courtyard.
Fu Hongxue saw him from afar. His eyes were filled with sorrow and melancholy.
Life was originally a precious thing. Why is it that some people simply refuse to cherish it?
He pitied this man, perhaps only because he himself had been ruined by the word ‘alcohol’ before.
Alcohol wasn’t a bad thing in and of itself. The problem lies within one’s self.
If you yourself are willing to sink into vice and are unable to extricate yourself, then there is definitely no one in the entire world who can rescue you.
Yan Nanfei’s thoughts and feelings on this clearly were not as deep as his. He was still young. His heart was still filled with lofty ideals and aspirations.
Thus, he only wanted to ask, “The trap is here. Where are the huntsmen?”
Fu Hongxue was silent. Before he had a chance to open his mouth, there was a light cry from the back of the house. “Ware the dagger!”
The dagger gleamed, looking like a bolt of lightning as it flew towards his back. Fu Hongxue did not dodge, did not move. It was his sabre which moved!
With a clanging sound, sparks exploded in all directions. A dagger flash filled the sky, appearing as though it had pierced through the clouds and left the world.
Fu Hongxue’s sabre was already sheathed.
Yan Nanfei let out a breath. “Looks like at least one person remains here.”
Fu Hongxue dully said, “I can tell that he has long since learned the art of patience.”
Just as they finished these two sentences, the dagger flash fell down from the heavens. When it fell down, it fell down in two parts as the parts crashed down to earth like meteorites.
It was the handle and blade of a flying dagger!
The four inch long flying dagger had been snapped in half.
The flying dagger had attacked him, but his sabre had countered the dagger. The dagger flew many meters up into the air.
Who could imagine the speed with which this flying dagger had been sent out?
But with a backwards flip of his sabre, Fu Hongxue had deflected this knife, snapping in half its blade, which had been refined and smelted a hundred times over.
Someone sighed from within the room. “Truly an incomparable sabre technique. You did not misspeak.”
Fu Hongxue slowly turned around. “Why haven’t you left yet.”
As soon as he turned around, he saw Xiao Siwu.
Xiao Siwu walked out empty-handed. He coldly said, “The ‘four withouts’ of my name does not include ‘without shame’. Even if I were to leave, I would leave openly and with dignity.”
He had no dagger in his hands, appearing as though he were a virgin who had suddenly been stripped naked. He didn’t even know what he should do with his hands now.
But he did not flee.
Fu Hongxue looked at him. “You have only one dagger?”
Xiao Siwu said, “The person I came to fight today is you. I can only bring one dagger!”
Fu Hongxue said, “Why?”
Xiao Siwu said, “Because I know that the first dagger is the last dagger. Thus, when I strike out with that first dagger, I must use all of my strength.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You forced yourself into a deadly situation, so that when you strike, you would strike whole-heartedly?”
Xiao Siwu said, “Precisely so.”
He slowly added, “In addition, after I strike with that first dagger, I must succeed in landing the strike. Otherwise, even if I had hundreds or thousands of other daggers, none of them would land.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him. He suddenly waved his hand. “Well said. Leave!”
Xiao Siwu said, “You are letting me leave?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I am not going to kill you this time, only because you said three words.”
Xiao Siwu said, “What three words?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Ware my dagger!”
Before he sent out his flying dagger, he had given a warning. This definitely was not how a despicable, contemptible man would act.
Fu Hongxue said, “My sabre only kills evil, deceitful people. Your dagger is evil and deceitful, but you yourself are not.”
Xiao Siwu’s hands suddenly clenched. A strange expression suddenly appeared in his eyes. After a long time, he slowly said, “If I had not said those three words, would you have been able to defeat my dagger?”
Fu Hongxue said, “You regret it?”
Xiao Siwu said, “Not regret. I just want to know the truth.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him for a long time. He coldly said, “If you had not said those three words, you would be a dead man right now!”
Xiao Siwu did not say a single word further. He turned around and left. He walked very quickly, and did not look back.
Someone else sighed in the room. “Even if he does not regret it, you will regret it.”
A man slowly walked out, dressed in black clothes and white socks. It was Gu Qi.
Fu Hongxue said, “Regret it? Regret what?”
Gu Qi said, “Regret not killing him!”
Fu Hongxue’s hands clenched tightly. He had two chances to kill that arrogant youngster, but he had given up both of them.
Gu Qi said, “Once a golden opportunity is missed, it will never come again. If you want to kill someone, abstain from nothing.”
He laughed, then continued. “This time, you did not kill him. I fear that next time, you will die to him.”
Fu Hongxue stared at him. He suddenly laughed coldly. “And you? Should I kill you this time?”
Gu Qi said, “That depends. Do you want to kill my central pieces, or the great dragon I have to the right? Are you playing the white pieces, or the black pieces?” [These are, obviously, all chess references.]
Fu Hongxue did not understand. He did not play chess. Only people of leisure played chess. Whenever he had free time, he gripped his sabre.
Thus, Gu Qi could only laugh alone. “What I meant to say is, you cannot kill me, you can only kill my chess pieces, because I only know how to play chess. In addition, this chess game is between you guys. I am not involved. You cannot even kill my chess pieces.”
Smiling, he walked past Fu Hongxue. He knew that Fu Hongxue definitely would not strike, because he did not guard himself at all and anyone could kill him. But Fu Hongxue was not anyone. Fu Hongxue was Fu Hongxue.
Yan Nanfei watched as he walked away. He suddenly laughed. “Looks like you didn’t make the wrong move.”
Gu Qi said, “But I lost three games in a row today.”
Yan Nanfei said, “You lost to Yang Wuji?”
Gu Qi said, “He is the only one who can beat me.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Why?”
Gu Qi said, “Because he treats killing chess pieces the same way as he treats killing people. He abstains from nothing at all, whereas I have burdens on my mind.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Burdens on your mind?”
Gu Qi said, “I am afraid of losing at chess.”
Only people who fear losing at chess will lose chess matches that they should not have lost. The more they are afraid, the more they will lose. The more they lose, the more afraid they become.
Only people whose hearts are filled with fear will kill people they should not kill. Fear of justice. Fear of truth.
The night was very deep.
Gu Qi walked out the door. He suddenly turned around, then said, “I recommend that you two leave as well.”
Yan Nanfei said, “There is no longer anyone here?”
Gu Qi said, “None living. Only the dead.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Gongsun Tu and the others are not inside?”
Gu Qi said, “They didn’t even come, because they were impatient to go to another place.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Where did they go?”
Gu Qi said, “Wherever you came from, that is the place they went.”
Yan Nanfei wanted to ask further, but Gu Qi had already departed. Yan Nanfei chased out the door, but he had already disappeared.
He could only hear Gu Qi’s voice float towards them from far away. “The legends say that when the peacock dies, the bright moon [Mingyue] will sink down as well. It will sink to the ground, sink to the sea…
Chapter 11: Where Did the Bright Moon Go?
The night was deep. The world was covered in darkness.
Because tonight, there was no bright moon.
Was tonight’s bright moon already dead?
Yan Nanfei whipped the horse into a mad gallop, while Fu Hongxue sat next to him, unmoving.
What a beautiful horse-carriage. What a somber carriage interior.
“Why must we ride the carriage?”
“Because we have a carriage!”
“The horse is already tired. An exhausted horse can’t carry two people, but it can pull a carriage!”
“Because the carriage has wheels?”
“Correct. We have legs as well. Why can’t we walk?”
“Because we are tired as well. We need to conserve our energy.”
“Conserve it for killing?”
“As long as they are people to kill, as long as there are people who should be killed.”
The peacock was dead.
The Peacock Manor was no longer the Peacock Manor.
There were a few spots of light in the darkness. The faint light of the stars shined down upon the ruins, making the scene appear even more desolate.
The horse which had galloped to and fro for hundreds of li finally collapsed.
Nobody was in the underground cellar. There was nothing at all in there. Everything which could be removed had been removed!
The torch light was flickering, because the hand with which Yan Nanfei was holding the torch was shaking.
It is said that when the peacock dies, the bright moon would go down with it as well.
Yan Nanfei gnashed his teeth forcefully. “How did they know? How did they know that there would be people here?”
The hand with which Fu Hongxue was gripping his sabre did not tremble, but the muscles on his face were twitching. His pallid face had already begun to turn red, a bizarre red, a frightening red.
Yan Nanfei said, “When we came, there was definitely nobody following us. Who was it…”
Fu Hongxue suddenly howled, “Get out!”
Yan Nanfei was startled. “Are you telling me to get out?”
Fu Hongxue did not speak again. His lips were already closed tightly.
Astonished, Yan Nanfei looked at him. One step at a time, he retreated from the cellar. Before he had fully exited, Fu Hongxue suddenly collapsed, as though an invisible whip had struck him.
As soon as he collapsed, he started to go into convulsions.
That invisible whip seemed to continue to strike him, lashing him without end.
Fu Honxue’s entire body was contorted and twisted in his agony. Low growls constantly emanated from his throat, sounding like the dying growls of a wild animal. “I was wrong, I was wrong…”
With one hand, he scratched and clawed at the floor, appearing as though he were a man about to drown to death who was trying to grab an invisible wooden log to hold on to.
The ground was strewn with stone rubble. His fingernails disintegrated. His hand was starting to bleed.
His other hand continued to tightly clench his sabre.
The sabre was still the sabre!
The sabre is heartless, and so it endures perpetually.
Yan Nanfei knew that he definitely did not want anyone to see his current agony and his chronic illness.
But Yan Nanfei did not leave, because he knew that although the sabre was still the sabre, Fu Hongxue was no longer Fu Hongxue.
Right now, anyone who walked in could kill Fu Hongxue.
Why must heaven torment him so? Why must a man like this suffer an illness such as this?
Yan Nanfei was just barely able to control himself, preventing himself from shedding tears.
He extinguished the torch. He no longer could bear to watch any more.
But his hand was already gripping the hilt of his sword, hidden under his clothes.
In the middle of the darkness, the hole in the middle of the stone cliff appeared as though it were the mythical evil eye of some vile beast.
He swore an oath. If anyone wanted to charge into that hole right now, that person would immediately die underneath his sword!
He was certain of himself.
No one entered from the hole. But suddenly, the darkness was split by torch light.
Where did the torch light come from?
The torch light entered from the door. The door was opened. Five people came out.
Two of them held torches high. They stood at the entranceway. The other three strode inside.
The first person’s right wrist was wrapped in white cloth. He wore a ribbon around his neck. His left hand was carrying a scimitar. His eyes were filled with hatred and enmity.
The man by his side was wearing a pitch-black Daoist robe. His footsteps were very sure and stable. He gave the appearance of being fully prepared for anything.
The last person’s face was criss-crossed with scars. Although a hint of a smile played about his lips, it only made him look all the more insidious and cruel.
Yan Nanfei’s heart sunk, while bile rose from his stomach. It tasted both sour and bitter.
He should have realized that although others might not be able to open those thirteen locks, Gongsun Tu was able to open them. The hole in the wall wasn’t the only way by which one might enter or depart from this cellar.
None of them thought of this. All of them had been too certain of themselves. Thus, they had committed a fatal error.
Gongsun Tu suddenly stretched his hand out. He opened his palm, revealing a golden object sparkling in it. It was the awe-inspiring Peacock Plume.
The Peacock Plume was in his hands. What about Mingyue Xin?
Yan Nanfei was barely able to restrain himself and prevent himself from vomiting.
Gongsun Tu laughed. “You shouldn’t have let her use this hidden projectile weapon to guard the hole. We are men, not mice. We don’t know how to burrow through the ground or dig holes.”
His laughter was extremely joyful. “If it hadn’t been for the fact that she whole-heartedly focused on guarding that hole, it wouldn’t have been easy for us to enter.”
Yan Nanfei was unable to prevent himself from letting out a long sigh. “I was wrong.”
Gongsun Tu said, “You really were wrong. You should have killed me!”
Yang Wuji lightly said, “Thus, in the future, you must remember my words. If you want to kill somebody, you should abstain from nothing at all.”
Gongsun Tu said, “You shouldn’t remind him. If he has a second chance, I’m a dead man for sure.”
Yang Wuji said, “Will he have a second chance?”
Gongsun Tu said, “No.”
Yang Wuji shook his head. He leisurely said, “The only person he is now capable of killing is himself.”
Gongsun Tu said, “He could kill Fu Hongxue at least.”
Yang Wuji said, “Fu Hongxue belongs to Zhao Ping. He isn’t even able to move.”
Yan Nanfei looked at them. He suddenly felt as though their words were coming from far away!
He should have concentrated all of his energy to defend against them.
He should have known that this was a critical, life-and-death point for him. They definitely wouldn’t let him off, nor could he cower back.
Even if there were a place he could retreat to, he would not.
But he suddenly felt very weary.
Was it because, in his heart, he had already admitted that he wasn’t a match for these two?
The bright moon had sunk and vanished. The undefeatable god of sabres had fallen. What hope could he still have?
Gongsun Tu was asking Zhao Ping, “Who cut off your hand?”
Zhao Ping said, “Fu Hongxue.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Do you want to gain revenge?”
Zhao Ping said, “I do.”
Gongsun Tu said, “How do you plan to handle him?”
Zhao Ping said, “I have a way.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Why haven’t you made your move yet? Can’t you tell that this is your best chance?”
Yang Wuji said, “When a good opportunity is missed, it never comes again. If you wait for Fu Hongxue to wake up, it’ll be too late.”
Gongsun Tu said, “At this moment, you no longer need to worry about Yan Nanfei.”
Zhao Ping couldn’t help but ask, “Why not?”
Gongsun Tu said, “Because if he moves, Fu Hongxue will immediately turn into a peacock.”
Zhao Ping said, “A peacock?”
Gongsun Tu said, “No matter who is struck by this Peacock Plume, that person will turn into a peacock. A dead peacock.”
Zhao Ping laughed. “But I don’t want for him to die so quickly.”
Gongsun Tu laughed as well. “Neither do I.”
Zhao Ping suddenly set down his scimitar, then charged in. He grabbed Fu Hongxue by his hair, lifted up his knee, then slammed it against his jaw. Next, he launched a chopping attack against his neck.
Just as Fu Hongxue’s head was drooping down, Zhao Ping sent out a kick. It sent Fu Hongxue flying into the stone wall.
Next, he rushed over and put his right elbow across Fu Hongxue’s throat. In a fierce voice he said, “Open your eyes and see who I am!”
The blue veins on Fu Hongxue’s forehead were bulging out. He could neither resist nor breathe.
Zhao Ping sneered, “You chopped my right hand off, but I intend to use my left arm to break your neck.”
The blue veins on Yan Nanfei’s forehead were beginning to bulge out as well, as though he was unable to breathe as well.
Gongsun Tu grinned hideously. “Why don’t you go rescue your friend? Can it be that you are just going to stand here and watch him die?”
Yan Nanfei couldn’t move.
He knew that if he moved, Fu Hongxue would die even more quickly.
But he couldn’t be still either.
Zhao Ping was using his other hand to ferociously slap Fu Hongxue’s face. It seemed that he didn’t intend to immediately take Fu Hongxue’s life.
But this sort of humiliation was even worse than death.
Yan Nanfei tightly grasped the handle of his sword. Sweat dripped down from his head like rain. He suddenly said, “Even if you can kill him, you won’t necessarily be able to kill me.”
Gongsun Tu said, “What do you propose?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I want you to release him.”
Gongsun Tu said, “What about you?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I am willing to die!”
Gongsun Tu laughed. “Not only do we intend for you to die, we do not intend to allow him to live.”
Yang Wuji coldly said, “If you wish to kill someone, abstain from nothing at all.”
Gongsun Tu’s laughter stopped. He loudly shouted, “Zhao Ping, kill him! Kill him immediately!”
Zhao Ping gritted his teeth, then exerted strength with his elbow.
Just at this moment, there was a flash of sabre light.
It was Fu Hongxue’s sabre!
In heaven or on the earth, it was a sabre without equal!
They all thought that this battle was practically a guaranteed victory, because they had all forgotten something.
Fu Hongxue’s hand remained tightly clenched around his sabre.
Just at this moment, Yan Nanfei suddenly swept his sword about. Scarlet points of sword light sprayed about the room like rain, surrounding Gongsun Tu.
Yang Wuji’s sword appeared as well.
His sword-drawing technique was skilled and ingenious, and his strike was accurate and efficient. His sword stabbed out at precisely the point which would be fatal for Yan Nanfei.
Even if Yan Nanfei was able to kill Gongsun Tu with his attack, he himself would definitely die to Yang Wuji’s sword.
He had no choice but to retract his assault and defend himself.
Gongsun Tu’s body immediately emerged from the ring of blood red light. He immediately flipped away and out past the door.
With a flourish of his sword, Yang Wuji retreated as well.
Naturally, there was no way Yan Nanfei would let them off. Just as he was about to chase them out, he suddenly heard a frightened cry and a loud shout. “Catch!”
A human shadow flew towards him. Her hair disheveled and her face bloody, it was Zhuo Yuzhen.
Fortunately, although Yan Nanfei’s sword was quick, his eyes were even quicker. Just as his sword was about to pierce her, he pulled back at the last moment.
With a miserable cry, Zhuo Yuzhen fell against his body. At this moment, with a clanking sound, the steel door swung shut!
From behind the door, a series of clanging sounds could immediately be heard as all thirteen locks were once again locked. Aside from Gongsun Tu, no one else in the world could reopen this door.
Yan Nanfei stamped his feet. Not paying any attention to Zhuo Yuzhen, who was leaning against him, he turned around and immediately charged out from the hole in the wall.
“You take care of Miss Zhuo. I will come back and meet you with Gongsun Tu’s head!”
Fu Hongxue’s sabre had already left his scabbard. What misgivings might he have?
Now, the only thing he wanted to do was kill a person!
Kill a person who killed other persons!
The tip of his sabre was still dripping with blood.
Zhao Ping had fallen beneath his sabre. Zhuo Yuzhen had fallen by his side. All she needed to do was to lift her head, and she would see blood dripping from that blade.
Blood dripped onto the stone floor, then splattered, breaking apart into a bloody mist.
Fu Hongxue stood there without moving. He watched as the fresh blood dripped down from his sabre.
Unexpectedly, his sabre remained unsheathed this time.
Zhuo Yuzhen forced herself to sit up. Her eyes remained locked onto that sabre.
She really wanted to see what was so remarkable and astonishing about this sabre.
When this sabre killed people, it always seemed as though it had been blessed by all the divinities in heaven, or cursed by all the demons of hell!
There must be many incredible magical inscriptions on this sabre.
She was disappointed.
The long and narrow blade of the sabre was crooked and curved. The edge of the sabre was sharp. The blood groove was shallow. Aside from that pitch-black handle, this sabre was no different from any other sabre.
Zhuo Yuzhen lightly let out a breath. “No matter what, at least I’ve seen your sabre. Should I feel grateful to this person who died to it?”
Her words were very slow and very soft, as though she were speaking to herself. Naturally, she actually wasn’t.
She only wanted Fu Hongxue to know that if there was something she wanted to do, she would do it.
But as soon as she said these words, she knew that she had misspoken, because she saw Fu Hongxue’s eyes.
Just a moment ago, his eyes had appeared to be very exhausted and very sorrowful. Now, they appeared even colder and sharper than the edge of his sabre.
Zhuo Yuzhen’s body unconsciously shrunk back from him. She haltingly asked, “What did I say wrong?”
Fu Hongxue stared at her, as though he were a wild panther staring at his prey, ready to throw himself at her at any moment.
But after the flush from his face receded, he only let out a sigh. “We were all wrong. I was even more wrong than you. Why should I blame you?” Zhuo Yuzhen tried a question. “You were wrong too?”
Fu Hongxue said, “You spoke the wrong words. I killed the wrong person.”
Zhuo Yuzhen stared at the corpse by his side. “You shouldn’t have killed him? Didn’t he intend to kill you?”
Fu Hongxue said, “If he really wanted to kill me, the corpse lying on the ground would be mine.”
He lowered his head. His eyes were filled with deep remorse and sorrow.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Did he not kill you, in order to repay the kindness you showed him last time when you spared his life?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
That definitely wasn’t repayment. If you chopped off someone’s hand, the only way they could ‘repay’ you was by chopping off one of your own.
Perhaps it was just a strange sense of gratitude. Gratitude for making him think things he had never before thought of. Gratitude for allowing him to retain a little bit of dignity and self-respect.
Fu Hongxue understood his heart, but couldn’t speak it aloud.
Some complicated but subtle emotions could never be articulated by anybody.
All the blood on his sabre had dripped off it.
Fu Hongxue suddenly said, “This is the first time. It is also the last time.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I know. This is the first time you’ve killed the wrong person, and it is the last time as well.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “You are wrong again. A person who kills other people can kill the wrong person at any time.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Then what you are saying is…”
Fu Hongxue said, “This is the first time you have seen my sabre. It is also the last time.”
His sabre finally entered the scabbard.
Zhuo Yuzhen summoned up all her courage. Laughing, she said, “This sabre isn’t pretty at all. It’s only a very ordinary sabre.”
Fu Hongxue no longer wanted to continue speaking. But suddenly, he turned around. His pale face suddenly tightened. “How did you see this sabre?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “It was right in front of me. I’m not blind. How could I not see it?”
Her words were very reasonable, but she forgot something.
There was no light in here at all.
Fu Hongxue started training his eyesight when he was five. He spent day after day, year after day, in a hidden room that was dark and stuffy.
After ten years of training, he could see the ants and the mosquitoes in the hidden room. Now, he could obviously see Zhuo Yuzhen’s face.
Precisely because he had trained his eyesight, he knew that this wasn’t something easy to do at all.
How could Zhuo Yuzhen see his sabre?
Fu Hongxue’s hand tightened around his sabre anew.
Zhuo Yuzhen suddenly laughed. “Maybe you haven’t thought of this, but some people are born with night vision.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You are one?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Not only do I have good night vision, I can see straight into the hearts of others.”
Her laughter was very gloomy. “Right now, you must be wondering to yourself, am I the real Zhuo Yuzhen. Naturally, you won’t think that I am a ghost or a monster, but I might be a spy sent to you by Gongsun Tu and the others. Maybe I am a very famous female assassin, and I might even have betrayed Mingyue Xin, because no one else knew that we were here.”
Fu Hongxue could not deny it.
Zhuo Yuzhen looked at him. Tears appeared in her eyes. “Why do you never trust me? Why?”
Fu Hongxue was silent. After a long time, he slowly said, “Perhaps you shouldn’t be so clever.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Why shouldn’t I? How could a man like Qiu Shuiqing find a stupid woman to bear his children?”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth.
But Zhuo Yuzhen was unwilling to be silent. “My child will definitely be smart as well. Thus, I cannot allow him to be born without a father. I can’t allow him to be regretful and in agony all his life.”
Fu Hongxue’s face began to twitch.
He understood her feelings. No one understood better than he did. He, too, was someone born without a father.
A smart child born without a father is a tragedy in and of himself. After he grows up, he will definitely create many tragedies for others.
Because he will always have more hatred in his heart than love.
Fu Hongxue finally sighed. “You can find a father on behalf of your child.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I already found one.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Who?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “You.”
The underground cellar was very dark. In the middle of the darkness, Zhuo Yuzhen’s voice seemed to be coming from very far away.
“Only you are worth of being my child’s father. Only you can guarantee that my child will live to grow up. Aside from you, there’s definitely nobody else.”
Fu Hongxue stood there like a log in the darkness. He only felt as though every muscle in his entire body was gradually becoming hard.
Zhuo Yuzhen then did something which was even more shocking.
She suddenly snatched Zhao Ping’s scimitar. “If you refuse to agree, I might as well kill the child in my belly right now.”
Fu Hongxue involuntarily cried out, “Right now?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Right now, because I feel that he is about to come out soon.”
Although she was doing her best to restrain herself, her face was already becoming distorted with pain.
The pain women go through in childbirth is one of the most unendurable forms of pain known to humanity.
Fu Hongxue was even more shocked. “But you said you were only seven months pregnant!”
Zhuo Yuzhen laughed. “Children are disobedient by nature. A child in the stomach is even more so. When he wants to come out, no one can stop him.”
Although her laughter was pained, it was filled with an indescribable maternal love and tenderness.
She softly continued, “Maybe it’s because he is impatient to see the world. Maybe it’s because he was made nauseous by the shaking those people gave him, and so…”
She no longer continued. The pain of childbirth had contorted her entire body.
But her hand continued to tightly grip that scimitar, much as how Fu Hongxue’s own hand continued to grip his own sabre earlier.
She clearly had already made up her mind.
Fu Hongxue said, “I…I can be his foster father.”
It seemed as though he had to use all the strength in his body to say these words. His voice was hoarse.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “A foster father cannot take the place of a true father. Unacceptable.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What do you want from me?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I want you to let me be your wife. Only then will my child be your legal child.”
Her labor pains came again. She gritted her teeth and forced out a laugh. “If you don’t agree, I definitely won’t blame you. I only ask that you bury our corpses within the graveyard of the Peacock Manor.”
Could it be that these were her last words? If Fu Hongxue did not agree, she would immediately die!
Fu Hongxue was frozen with shock.
He had run up against the most powerful opponents and the most dangerous crises.
But he had never run up against such a tough problem.
It could be said that Qiu Shuiqing died because of him. It could be said that Zhuo Yuzhen was Qiu Shuiqing’s wife.
Qiu Shuiqing’s corpse had barely grown cold. How could he agree? How could he do something like this?
But from another perspective, it could be said that since Qiu Shuiqing died because of him, and since the four-hundred year long fame of the Peacock Manor had been destroyed in one night because of him, leaving behind this last vestige of their bloodline in Zhuo Yuzhen, no matter what sacrifices he might make, he must agree to protect her and let her smoothly give birth, and protect her child as he grew up.
How could he not agree?
If you ran up against something like this, what would you do?
The time between each contraction grew steadily shorter. The pain became more acute. The sharp tip of the scimitar had already pierced her clothes.
Fu Hongxue finally made a painful decision. “I agree!”
“Agree to be my husband?”
Was this the correct decision?
Nobody can make that judgment. He himself could not either. Only, at this point in time, he had no other options.
If you were him, would you do the same thing?
Panting, groaning, crying…suddenly, all of it came to a halt. Everything became as silent as death.
Then, there was suddenly a loud and clear sound of a baby crying. It pierced the sudden stillness, bearing with it a new life into the world.
Fu Hongxue’s hands were covered with blood, but it was the blood of life!
This time, his hands brought life, not death!
Life was hopping about.
As he looked at his hand, he felt as though his heart was filled with a leaping energy as well.
Zhao Ping’s corpse remained there, fallen underneath his sabre. In that moment, he had stolen away a man’s life.
But now, new life had been given birth to, a livelier, more dynamic life.
His earlier pain and sadness had been dispersed by the cry from the infant.
That bloody crime from earlier had been washed away by the blood of new life.
In this brief period of time, he had taken away a life as well as welcomed a new one.
This strange experience gave him a sudden, powerful, incomparably bright stimulus. His life had, without a doubt, become more lively and vigorous.
He had been baptized by blood, much like how a phoenix was baptized by fire. He had gained a new life.
Although this sort of experience is painful, it is part of growing up. It is the most precious, the most irreplaceable thing in the world.
Because this is life!
The old die, the new are born. This is how life is.
Only now did Fu Hongxue truly gain a new understanding of life. A correct understanding!
He listened attentively to the sounds of life leaping about in his arms. He suddenly felt a sense of tranquility and joy which he had never before felt.
The real purpose of life and living, does it not center around bringing new life into the universe?
Zhuo Yuzhen asked him in a weak voice, “Is it a boy or a girl?”
Fu Hongxue said, “It is both a boy and a girl!”
His voice was extraordinarily happy. “Congratulations, you’ve given birth to twins.”
Zhuo Yuzhen let out a satisfied sigh. A happy smile appeared on her weary face. “I should congratulate you as well. Don’t forget that you have become their father.”
She wanted to stretch out her hands to hold her children, but she was too weak. She couldn’t even lift her arms!
Just at this moment, there was suddenly a loud rumbling sound, as though Mt. Taishan had collapsed. Thousands of jin of stone tumbled down, striking the floor of the hidden cellar. Crushed stones shot out like arrows from the hole in the stone wall.
And then, the sole way out of this place was sealed once more.
Fu Hongxue almost lost control of himself and nearly let out a crazed howl.
New life had suddenly been born. Could it be that he would need to meet up with death anew?
Is anyone reading this, btw? I just posted three chapters in a row. If this isn't a very interesting novel, I'd be happy to translate something else (although I'm still going to be reading it!).
I'm reading it and i must say that i loved it.
I loved the change and redemption of FHX.
I am going to love it when the next few chapters bring the book to its climatic ending.
I'm reading it and i must say that i loved it.
I loved the change and redemption of FHX.
I am going to love it when the next few chapters bring the book to its climatic ending.
There's a total of 24 chapters, so we're only halfway there!
I'm reading it. But slowly! Since I start from the beginning. But please continue! I come around eventually :-D
I'm reading it! *lurk lurk* I also keep checking your fiction thread, Ren
I'm not reading it yet because I have developed a backlog in my to-read list. I will read it, though. I can help you find something more interesting if you like.
First. You quit to start something else that is more interesting
Step 2. People will find this half finished translation to be very interesting and want to see the rest. It may even become the most interesting thing on the forum.
Part C. You will want to translate it because it is so interesting.
Of course, you can save 2 steps by continuing.
In short I am looking forward to reading this, and would love for you to continue.
Last edited by missouri.slim; 06-08-09 at 10:28 AM.
LOL@ missouri's reasoning.
Horizon is all about FHX, about the man and freak, all in one. Admitedly, I am more of a Ye Kai's fan than FHX. But they both live off each other and FHX is more believable and maybe it is some kind of reflection on Gu Long's rl experience with women and alcohol.
If I remember correctly, the next 10 chapters would be basically a trail of blood. Hehee..
Thanks Chowbeng. I am glad that made sense to someone.
I just want to see it all translated, and by all I mean everything. Not this book, but the entire body of work. I enjoy the interconnections between Gu longs novels (even if they can stand on their own) and would love to one day be able to read them all back to back so I can see the connections while everything is fresh in my memory.
I understand what hard work it is to translate (okay so I don't really understand from a first hand perspective-- but I heard through the grapevine it can take a lot out of you), but it is always a shame to see a story reach the halfway point and disappear. When it is close to the end someone may com along to finish up a couple of chapters. When it ends in the first couple of chapters someone may just start over.
When the translation ends in the middle people are afraid the translator is just on a break and will come back so they will not step on his or her toes. It would be a shame to walk away when you have 12 chapters of your time invested.
I beg of you, Ren Wo Xing, if you won't do it for me then please do it for the children and their children and their children's children.
Chapter 12: Between Life and Death
A fatal darkness! A deathly stillness!
True fear is not being without light or sound. True fear is being without hope.
The children were drinking milk. Only the sound of their suckling gave testament to the fact that life still existed here.
But how long could their lives be preserved?
Fu Hongxue was once more tightly gripping his sabre, but caught in this deadly trap, even his sabre was useless to break them out of here!
He should have gone and comforted Zhuo Yuzhen, but he didn’t know what he should say. His mind was in turmoil.
He had always viewed life and death very lightly. But he couldn’t do so for the children.
Although he wasn’t their true father, they now had a miraculous connection to each other, a connection which was even more intimate than between children and their real fathers.
Because he had personally delivered these children with his own two hands, it was almost as though they were a continuation of his own life.
This sort of emotion was both complicated and subtle. The only reason why the world can continue to exist is because humanity is capable of this sort of emotion.
Zhuo Yuzhen suddenly said, “I heard Mingyue Xin say that you all were once trapped in here before.”
Fu Hongxue grunted in agreement.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Since you were able to think of a way out in the past, you’ll definitely be able to think of another way this time.”
Her eyes were shining with light, filled with hope.
Fu Hongxue truly could not bear to extinguish that hope. But he also couldn’t hide the truth from her.
“The reason we were able to escape last time was because there was a perfect weapon for smashing walls here.”
But now, this place was empty. Aside from the four of them, there was only a corpse.
The corpse had already become cold and stiff. Sooner or later, they would be as well.
But a gleam of hope remained in Zhuo Yuzhen’s eyes. “I often hear people say that your sabre is an unparalleled weapon!”
Fu Hongxue looked at the sabre in his hand. His eyes were filled with bitter hatred. “This is a tool for killing people, not saving people.”
His bitter hatred wasn’t directed towards others. It was directed towards himself. So long as he could save the children, he would be willing to do anything.
But there was nothing he could do at all.
Zhuo Yuzhen’s hope finally died away. With an effort, she actually forced a smile to her face. “At least we still have one hope.”
She consoled Fu Hongxue, “Yan Nanfei wanted you to wait here. He will definitely return.”
Fu Hongxue said, “If he was going to return, he would have done so by now. Now, even if he returned, he would definitely assume that we weren’t inside.”
Zhuo Yuzhen shut her mouth.
Of course she knew that Fu Hongxue’s words were true. Yan Nanfei definitely wouldn’t think of the possibility that they would have stayed here for so long. Even less would he think of Fu Hongxue being buried alive here.
Based on Fu Hongxue’s senses and reaction time, if anybody above them made the slightest movement, they should not have been able to hide it from him.
But who could have imagined that right at that moment, he was busy delivering those children? Who would have imagined that there would be the sound of infants crying here?
There are many things in the world which no one can predict at all. True events are sometimes more bizarre and fantastical than the events in legends.
The children started to cry again.
Cold sweat dripped down from the palm of Fu Hongxue’s hand. He suddenly thought of something he could do for them.
Something which he originally would rather die than do.
But now, he definitely would have to do it.
Zhao Ping was also a well-travelled, world-wise person. Such a person would definitely carry certain emergency tools on his body.
Rifling through a dead man’s possessions was something which made him nauseous just thinking about it.
But now, he was already doing just that.
He found a matchbook, a long roll of rope, a realgar gem designed to repel snakes and drive out disease, a bottle of medicine for cuts, a half-eaten piece of ginseng, a keychain, a pearl flower, a few ingots of gold, several banknotes for silver, and a letter.
Pearls and yellow gold were things which people originally would do anything to get their hands on, to the point where they would even exchange their dignity for them. But right now, they had become worthless instruments.
Could it be that this was a form of satire?
After giving birth, a person would be weak. The children were drinking milk.
Anyone would know that right now, that which Zhuo Yuzhen needed the most was ginseng.
Fu Hongxue quietly pulled out his sabre, slicing away the parts which had been gnawed on. This was the first time he had pulled out his sabre for something which was not alive, and the second time Zhuo Yuzhen saw the sabre. He did not care.
The barriers which existed between him and her had been shattered during the childbirth.
A miraculous relationship existed between the two of them as well, now.
Zhuo Yuzhen didn’t bring this up. She quietly accepted the ginseng, but her eyes were focused on that pearl flower.
It was a peony flower. Every single pearl on it was perfectly formed and without flaw.
A soft, sleek sheen. Ingenious workmanship. In the middle of the darkness, it appeared all the more beautiful and extraordinary.
Light appeared in her eyes again.
She was a girl after all.
The glamour cast by jewels and pearls is something which no girl can resist against.
Fu Hongxue hesitated for a while. Finally, he gave it to her.
Perhaps he shouldn’t have done this. But at this moment in time, why bother preventing her from enjoying this last bit of pleasure, this last bit of joy?
Zhuo Yuzhen laughed. Her laughter was like that of a child’s.
The children who were crying fell asleep.
Fu Hongxue said, “You should sleep as well!”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I can’t fall asleep.”
Fu Hongxue said, “As long as you close your eyes, you will be able to fall asleep.”
He could tell that she was already very tired. She had lost too much blood, and had undergone too much suffering and fear.
Her eyes finally closed. She immediately sunk deeper into the sweet, peaceful darkness.
Fu Hongxue silently watched her. A mother sleeping with her infants should be something of great joy and beauty. But now…
He gritted his teeth and made up his mind to not allow himself to shed tears.
Right now, he definitely would seek out every single thing which might help them escape. But although he had a pair of eyes that could see in the dark, he too was very tired right now.
He lit the match. The first thing he saw was eight characters on the seal of the letter.
“To Yan Nanfei, my little brother. Yu.”
Can it be that this letter was given by Gongzi Yu, for Zhao Ping to deliver to Yan Nanfei?
My little brother?
What relationship, exactly, did they once have?
Fu Hongxue mastered his curiosity. He folded the letter, then stored it in his clothes.
Zhao Ping hadn’t had the chance to deliver this letter. He hoped to still have a chance to see Yan Nanfei again.
But he himself knew that the chance of that was really very small.
To Fu Hongxue, aside from this letter and the ginseng, the things found on Zhao Ping’s body were totally worthless.
Because he had neglected something. There should not have been a pearl flower on the body of a man like Zhao Ping.
But when he thought of this, it was too late.
The mother and her children were still sleeping. A strange sound could suddenly be heard in the dark.
Fu Hongxue once more lit the match. He saw a snake scurry out from a stone cupboard, scurrying towards the dim left corner of the room.
They couldn’t stand the smell of the realgar.
The cellar had no ventilation. The air gradually grew stale. The smell of the realgar became especially powerful.
Fu Hongxue immediately discovered something terrifying. Perhaps they wouldn’t have to wait for hunger and thirst to kill them. They might suffocate to death.
Especially the children.
The children didn’t yet have the ability to adapt to the environment.
At this moment, he discovered something else. Something which made him very happy.
After several snakes wriggled into that dark corner, they disappeared.
There must be a way out there.
If there was a crack in that corner of the wall, was it recently created by his actions, or had it always been there?
Even though he wasn’t a snake, and didn’t know whether the outside of the wall was above ground or underground.
As long as he had the opportunity, he definitely wouldn’t let it slip.
He struck out with his sabre!
By the time Zhuo Yuzhen awoke, Fu Hongxue had been chopping at the stone wall for a long time. The cracks in the wall had gradually grown bigger, to the point where even the fattest of mice could get out.
Unfortunately, they weren’t mice.
After the children woke up, they cried again. After they cried, they fell asleep once more.
Zhuo Yuzhen took off her outer clothes, laying it on the floor. She gently laid down the sleeping infants, then forced herself to stand.
Fu Hongxue was gasping. His clothes were sopping wet. A sleeping person might not notice, but he had expended too much energy. The thinning air seemed to have become intolerable to him.
He needed to escape immediately. He used even more energy. Suddenly, with a cracking sound, a notch appeared on the blade of his sabre.
This sabre had become part of his body, even a part of his life.
But he did not stop.
Zhuo Yuzhen bit off a piece of ginseng. She silently handed it to him.
Fu Hongxue shook his head. “The children need milk. You need it more than me.”
Zhuo Yuzhen mournfully said, “But if you collapse, who can live?”
Fu Hongxue gritted his teeth. Another notch appeared on his sabre.
Zhuo Yuzhen’s tears began to flow.
This was originally a matchless, incomparable sabre, even to overawe even the wind and the clouds and fill heroes with terror. But right now, it wasn’t even as useful as a metal spade.
What a cruel, sorrowful thing this was!
Naturally, Fu Hongxue himself could understand this sentiment. He almost was really about to collapse.
Zhuo Yuzhen’s hands suddenly silently moved towards him, filled with a sweet fluid.
As soon as Fu Hongxue opened his mouth, the fluid flowed past his lips. An indescribably sweet and refreshing feeling filled his heart.
This was her breast milk.
Fu Hongxue had sworn an oath to never again shed tears. But at this moment, he couldn’t prevent the hot tears from forcing their way out from his eyes.
But just at this moment, something suddenly appeared in the middle of the crack on the stone wall. It was a sword.
A scarlet red sword!
There was a cloth wrapped around the sword, upon which was written ten words. These words were written with blood. “I have not died yet. You cannot die yet either!”
The children began to cry again.
A loud, sonorous boom stirred life awake!
Sunlight filled the sky.
The children finally saw the sun.
Fu Hongxue only hoped that all the children of the world who were born into darkness would be able to live under the sun.
“I actually already left. I left three times.”
“But you came back three times.”
“I don’t know why I came back either. At first, I thought that you definitely wouldn’t be inside here.” Yan Nanfei was laughing. “Because even in my dreams, I never could have imagined that a day would come when Fu Hongxue would be buried alive by someone.”
There wasn’t the slightest hint of ill-will in his laughter. His heart was truly filled with joy. “The last time I came, I was planning to leave as well.”
“Why didn’t you go?”
“Because I suddenly heard a very strange sound. It sounded like someone eating fava beans.”
“That was the sound of a sabre starting to chip.”
Yan Nanfei’s eyebrows rose and his mouth hung open. Shocked, he stared at Fu Hongxue, appearing as though he were even more shocked than he would be upon hearing that the world itself had chipped.
But Fu Hongxue only laughed. “My sabre is only a very ordinary sabre.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Your hand?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I still have my hand.”
Yan Nanfei said, “So long as you still have your hand, even a chipped sabre can kill people.”
Fu Hongxue’s laughter suddenly disappeared. “Where are they?”
Yan Nanfei sighed. With a bitter smile, he said, “They aren’t here. I’m afraid I don’t know where they are.”
Far away, a carriage could be seen, but no one was there.
Fu Hongxue asked, “You rode a carriage here?”
Yan Nanfei chuckled. “I rode a carriage here all three times. I hate walking. If I have a chance to ride, I definitely won’t walk.”
Fu Hongxue looked at him. “Only because you hate walking? Not because of your leg?”
Yan Nanfei looked at him as well. He suddenly sighed. “Why is it that I cannot hide anything from you?”
The infants were wrapped in Fu Hongxue’s outer garments. Yan Nanfei was suppressing his amazement the entire time. He didn’t ask about it.
Because Fu Hongxue didn’t bring it up at all.
He knew that if Fu Hongxue didn’t want to bring up something, you had best pretend you don’t know about it!
But Zhuo Yuzhen, smiling, was already calling out to him. “Uncle Yan, why don’t you come see our children?”
Yan Nanfei finally could no longer contain himself. He couldn’t help but ask, “Your children?”
Zhuo Yuzhen glanced at Fu Hongxue out of the corner of her eyes. “Can it be that he did not tell you?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Tell me what?”
Zhuo Yuzhen smiled beautifully. “One of these two children is surnamed Qiu, the other is surnamed Fu. The boy is the heir to the bloodline of the Qiu family. His name is Qiu Xiaoqing. The girl was born first. Her name is Fu Xiaohong.”
Her eyes were filled with pride and satisfaction. “We already agreed to this. We have already…”
Her face blushed, and she lowered her head.
Yan Nanfei looked at her, then looked at Fu Hongxue. He looked even more shocked than earlier, when he heard that the sabre had chipped.
Fu Hongxue had turned around. He pulled the clothes firmly around the children, then said, “Why don’t you get on the carriage first?”
Zhuo Yuzhen already sat inside the carriage. Only then did Fu Hongxue and Yan Nanfei slowly walk over.
The entire time, neither of them opened their mouths. After a long time, Fu Hongxue suddenly said, “You didn’t think it possible?”
Yan Nanfei forced a laugh. “There are many things which are unthinkable in this world.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You are opposed?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I know that you definitely had your own difficulties which are hard to discuss. Perhaps…”
Fu Hongxue interrupted his words. “If time could go back, I would still have made the same choice. The children cannot be without a father. Somebody must be their father.”
Yan Nanfei’s smile became genuine and optimistic. “Aside from you, I really can’t think of anyone else who could be their father.”
He walked very slowly, and his posture seemed to have become similar to that of Fu Hongxue’s. He was coughing nonstop as well.
Fu Hongxue suddenly came to a stop. Staring at him, he said, “How many wounds did you take?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Not many.”
Fu Hongxue suddenly reached out and pulled his clothes open. Across his firm and strong chest, there were two fingernail markings.
Purple fingernail scratches, appearing as though they had been dyed into his skin.
Fu Hongxue’s pupils immediately contracted. “This is the ‘Great Violet Palm of Decapitating Heaven and Shattering Earth?”
Yan Nanfei grunted in agreement.
Fu Hongxue said, “Were you struck on the leg by the ‘Bone Penetrating Nail’ or the ‘Soul Hunting Needle’?”
Yan Nanfei smiled bitterly. “If it was the ‘Soul Hunting Needle’, would I still be standing here?”
Fu Hongxue said, “People came from the Xingxiuhai plateau of the Western Regions?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Just one person!”
Fu Hongxue said, “Was the person who came Duo Qingzi, or Wu Qingzi?”
Yan Nanfei sighed. “Duo Qingzi is just as merciless when making his move.” [This is a pun; Duo Qingzi means ‘man of great tenderness and affection’, while Wu Qingzi means ‘man without mercy’.]
Fu Hongxue said, “Is the ‘Bone Penetrating Nail’ still in your leg?”
Yan Nanfei said, “The only thing in my leg is a hole.”
He stretched out his hands, revealing a hidden projectile that sparkled in his palm with cold light.
If one were to choose the top ten most deadly hidden projectile weapons in the world, beyond a doubt the ‘Bone Penetrating Nail’ would be one of them. Yan Nanfei suddenly chuckled. “Fortunately, my luck isn’t half bad. He shot out thirteen ‘Bone Penetrating Nails’. I only got hit by one, and it didn’t hit a vital point. I was able to run a bit faster than they were. Otherwise, even if Duo Qingzi didn’t kill me, Yang Wuji would have taken my life.”
His laughter seemed very cheerful. “Let me tell you a little secret. Although my skill in killing isn’t as good as yours, my skill in running for my life is number one in the world.”
Fu Hongxue reached into his clothes. Only after Yan Nanfei was finished speaking did he remove his hand, pulling the letter out with it. “Read it after you get in the carriage.”
“Who will be driver?”
Yan Nanfei laughed. “I seem to remember that you didn’t know how to drive in the past.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Now I do.”
Yan Nanfei said, “When did you learn?”
Fu Hongxue stared at him. Suddenly, he said, “Did you always know how to run for your life?”
Yan Nanfei thought a moment, then shook his head.
Fu Hongxue said, “When did you learn how?”
Yan Nanfei said, “When I reached the point where I had no other choice but to do so.”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth again. He believed that Yan Nanfei knew what he meant.
When a man reached a point where he must do something, he would do it.
The letter was very long, stretching across three scrolls of paper. Even before they got on the carriage, Yan Nanfei began to read.
He was always an impatient sort.
Fu Hongxue was very good at tamping down his curiosity. He didn’t ask what the letter contained.
Evidently, it was a very amusing letter, as Yan Nanfei’s eyes were filled with a hint of laughter.
Filled with a sort of cynical laughter.
He suddenly said, “It seems Gongzi Yu really is a good person. He really cares very much about me.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”
Yan Nanfei laughed. “He advises me to leave your company immediately, because you have become an almost pestilential creature. Anyone in your company will suffer misfortune.”
He laughed loudly, then said, “He even wrote out a list for me.”
Fu Hongxue said, “A list?”
Yan Nanfei said, “The list includes the names of all the people who wants to kill us. The people who want to kill you numbers one more than the people who want to kill me.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “One person isn’t very much.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Sometimes it isn’t very much, sometimes it isn’t very little. It depends on who this person is.”
His laughter was very unhappy. “Strictly speaking, the person who wants to kill you can’t even be considered a person.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What is he, then?”
Yan Nanfei said, “He should at least be counted as ten people.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Is it Wu Qingzi, of the Xingxiuhai plateau?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Compared to this person, Wu Qingzi can at most be considered a kid who just learned how to kill people.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Who is this person?”
Yan Nanfei went into the carriage and closed the door, as though afraid that he himself might jump out. “It is a man who uses a sabre, a very special sabre.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What sabre?”
Yan Nanfei pulled the carriage door a little tighter shut. Only then did he say, one word at a time, “The ‘Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch’!”
The carriage was very spacious. Zhuo Yuzhen put the girl on her knee while holding the boy in her hands. Her eyes were focused on Yan Nanfei. Finally, she couldn’t help but ask, “What type of sabre is the ‘Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch’?”
Yan Nanfei forced out a laugh. “Strictly speaking, it cannot be considered a sabre.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “It should be considered ten?”
Yan Nanfei didn’t directly respond. Instead, he asked her, “Did you see Xiao Siwu’s dagger?”
Zhuo Yuzhen thought for a moment, then nodded. “I saw him before. He always uses a dagger to trim his nails.”
Yan Nanfei said, “It would take at least five hundred daggers like that to forge a single ‘Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch’!”
Zhuo Yuzhen sucked in a breath. “Five hundred daggers?”
Yan Nanfei asked again, “Do you know how many people he’s killed with that sabre in a single blow?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Two people? Three? Five?”
Yan Nanfei let out a sigh. “With one chop, he killed twenty seven people. Every single one of their heads was split in two.”
Zhuo Yuzhen’s countenance changed. She tightened her grip around the child in her bosom. Staring out the window, she forced a laugh. “Are you trying to scare me?”
Yan Nanfei smiled bitterly. “If you see that sabre, you’ll know whether or not I’m trying to scare you.”
He suddenly shook his head. “But naturally, you won’t see it. Heaven, bless and protect us. Don’t let her see that sabre.”
Zhuo Yuzhen asked no more questions, because she saw something very strange. “Look, there’s a wheel there.”
It wasn’t at all strange for a carriage to have a wheel, but why would a wheel be rolling down the road by itself?
Yan Nanfei couldn’t help but stick out his head to take a look. The expression on his face changed as well. “This wheel is from our carriage.”
Before he finished speaking, the carriage began to tilt, slowly beginning to tilt towards one side of the road.
Zhuo Yuzhen cried out loud, “Look! Why is there half a horse there?”
Half a horse? How could there be such a thing as half a horse?
What was even more frightening was that this horse was still galloping forwards on two legs.
Suddenly, a storm of blood rain sprayed forth from it.
That half-horse ran for another seven or eight steps before falling down. Its liver, intestines, and internal organs fell onto the floor.
Yan Nanfei shouted loudly, “Careful!”
Before the sound of his voice dissipated, the carriage suddenly flipped around in mid-air, as though it had somersaulted.
Yan Nanfei rushed over, gathered Zhuo Yuzhen and the children to himself, then kicked the door open.
A hand stretched out from outside the door. Fu Hongxue’s voice could be heard. “Grab hold.”
Their two hands joined. Fu Hongxue gripped Yan Nanfei’s hand, while Yan Nanfei held Zhuo Yuzhen and the children. With an exploding sound, both the adults and the children flew out from the door.
Next, with a thundering sound, the carriage crashed into a large tree by the side of the road.
The weather was sunny and cheerful. The sunlight was gorgeous.
The fresh sunlight was shining on the road. But suddenly, a dark cloud covered it, blocking off the sunrays. It was as though even the sun couldn’t bear to watch what had just happened.
The carriage had been shattered into many pieces.
The horse pulling the carriage had been chopped in twain. The back half was still attached to the carriage. The front half lay fallen by the road.
What had happened just then?
Zhuo Yuzhen tightly held her children, not letting her children cry. Although she herself didn’t know what had just happened either, she was simply too frightened, so frightened that she forgot all of her pain.
Although she felt as though all the bones in her body had been ground to dust, fear had rendered her totally numb. And then, she couldn’t help but vomit.
A young woodcutter was standing by the side of the road. He couldn’t help but vomit as well.
He was just about to go on this road earlier, but he took a step back, because he saw this carriage charging this way.
The carriage-driver had a pallid face and appeared as though he wished he could make this carriage immediately travel eight hundred li.
“Can it be that this person is rushing to a funeral?”
The young, vigorous woodcutter was just about to curse at him, but before he even started, he saw a gleam of sabre light.
As a matter of fact, he couldn’t tell if it was sabre light, or lightning.
All he saw was a gleam of light fly out from within the forest, and then…it suddenly split apart. The front half and the back half actually split apart.
The front half of the horse was actually still running with its two front legs.
What happened afterwards, the woodcutter didn’t notice at all. He couldn’t believe this was real.
He hoped this was a dream, nothing more than a bad dream.
But he was already vomiting.
Since it's for the children!
Great translation, thanks RWX. TYMYD is an example of great wuxia writings by GL.
The ending left me speechless though
http://www.wuxiasociety.org/forum (Your gateway to the global wuxia discussion on web)
Chapter 13: Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch
What type of sabre would be able to chop a horse in half at a blow?
No one saw it. The sabre light flew out from within the woods to the side of the road. The carriage was over a hundred meters away from it. From here, neither man nor sabre could be seen. Fu Hongxue stood guard in front of Zhuo Yuzhen and the children. His eyes were still focused on that dense, forested area. His ashen pale face was so white, it was nearly translucent.
Yan Nanfei let out a breath. He immediately asked, “Did you see that sabre?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
Yan Nanfei said, “But you must know what sabre that was.”
Fu Hongxue nodded.
Yan Nanfei sighed. “It seems Gongzi Yu’s information is extremely accurate. Miao Tianwang really has come.” [Tianwang means ‘Heaven’s Monarch’].
Miao Tianwang’s sabre would naturally be the ’Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch’!
Fu Hongxue tightened his hands. He coldly said, “I’m afraid that plenty of people have come.”
Just at this moment, two large wagons rolled up on each side of the road, sealing off both sides.
On top of one wagon was placed several wooden planks, upon one of which two people were playing chess. The second wagon had two people on top as well. One was trimming his nails, and the other was drinking. Each seemed to be very intent on what they were doing, and nobody so much as glanced aside.
It seemed as though Fu Hongxue and Yan Nanfei didn’t see them either.
On top of the wagon to the right, there were several women seated. Some were old, some were young. Some were embroidering, others were peeling melon seeds. Some were even combing their hair. The oldest one was the Ghostly Granny. On top of the second wagon was an open wooden coffin, as well as a large copper pot which hung off a steel peg.
It was said that the largest pot in the world was Shaolin’s rice-cooking pot. Shaolin had many monks who never tasted grease or oil, but worked hard all day. Naturally, the amount of rice they could eat was prodigious. If we estimate each monk as eating five bowls of rice per meal, how much rice would five hundred monks eat? How large must the cooking pot be, in order to allow all those monks to be full?
Yan Nanfei had gone to Shaolin once, just to see that pot. He was a curious man by nature.
It seemed as though the red copper pot on the car was no smaller than that of Shaolin’s cooking pot. What was even stranger was that there actually was someone in the pot. With a large face, a plump head and big ears. Many scars criss crossed his forehead, dropping down from it like venomous snakes. They stretched down, all the way from his forehead to his mouth. They made his face, which looked as though it originally would seem very gentle, appear unspeakably foul and evil.
The wagons were not moving very quickly. The copper pot gently waved, almost as though the man inside were resting in a hammock.
The dark clouds went far away. The sun once more rose up, but Yan Nanfei’s heart was sinking.
But he absolutely had to force himself to maintain a smile. He muttered to himself, “Unexpectedly, Duo Qingzi didn’t come after all.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “If the first strike does not land true, fully withdraw. This is the long-established rule of their Xingxiuhai sect.”
Yan Nanfei’s laughter seemed to become more cheerful. “Aside from him, it seems as though everyone who should come has come. Everyone who shouldn’t have come, came as well.”
He stared at the fatty with the scarred face in the copper pot. Smiling, he continued, “Chef Hao, why did you come as well?”
The ‘vipers’ on the fatty’s face were wriggling. He was smiling, but his smile made his face look all the more vicious and cunning. “I came to receive the remains.”
Yan Nanfei said, “What remains?”
Chef Hao said, “Any remains. I’ll receive a dead horse’s remains into my belly, and receive a dead man’s remains into a coffin.”
The wagons came to a full stop. The chess players continued to play chess, the drinker was still holding his cup, and the ladies brushing their hair continued to brush their hair.
Chef Hao laughed, “Looks like all of you will be lucky diners today. Chef Hao’s ‘Five Spices Horseflesh’ isn’t something that just anybody can taste.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Your specialty dish doesn’t seem to be the ‘Five Spices Horseflesh’.”
Chef Hao said, “It’s hard to find the materials needed for my specialty dish. It’s best if we just make do with the ‘Five Spices Horseflesh’.”
After he finished speaking those words, he hopped out of his pot and got off the wagon. If the people present hadn’t witnessed it with their own eyes, they would never have imagined that a fatty who weighed several hundred jin could move so quickly and agilely.
He also had a large knife on him. A vegetable knife.
Zhuo Yuzhen couldn’t help but ask, “Is Chef Hao really a good chef?”
Yan Nanfei said, “He’s a sham.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Then why do they call him ‘chef’?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Because he likes to cook, and because he uses a vegetable knife.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “What is his specialty dish?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Flame-roasted human hearts, lightly fried human waists.”
The young woodcutter had just finished vomiting. As soon as he lifted up his head, he froze. Even in his wildest dreams, he never would have imagined that this place would have suddenly become so crowded.
Today, all he had eaten was two steamed buns and a few salted vegetables. He had already thrown up everything, leaving nothing behind in his stomach. But after he took a few more glances, he began vomiting again, even more than last time.
Chef Hao brandished his knife. With a single chop, he cut off a large piece of horseflesh and horse skin, then threw it into that copper pot. He chopped downwards with his right hand, and tossed meat upwards with his right. His hands moved up and down in tandem, his movements skillful and practiced. In the twinkling of an eye, the horse was chopped into over a hundred and thirty pieces, as easily as others chop tofu.
The horseflesh was in the pot. What about the five spices?
Chef Hao wiped the blood from his sabre off on the sole of his shoes, then walked back and opened up the coffin. The coffin was filled with all sorts of ingredients, oils, salts, sauces, vinegar, fennel, aniseeds…any ingredients you could think of were in that coffin.
Chef Hao mumbled to himself, “We can use the broken, splintered carriage as kindling. By the time all the wood is burnt down, the flesh should be fully cooked.”
The man who was playing chess, Yang Wuji, suddenly said, “No need to make my share too sodden and mashed. My teeth are strong.”
Chef Hao said, “Daoist priests eat horse meat as well?”
Yang Wuji said, “Sometimes, I even eat human flesh, much less horseflesh.”
Chef Hao laughed. “Priest, if you really want to eat human flesh, if you’ll just wait a bit longer, there will be some ingredients here soon.”
Yang Wuji said, “I have been waiting this entire time. I’m not impatient at all.”
Chef Hao laughed loudly, then glanced at Fu Hongxue out of the corner of his eyes. “Human flesh enriches the blood. If you ate more human flesh, your face wouldn’t be so pale.”
While laughing, he lifted the more than three hundred jin heavy copper pot off the peg, then used the splintered wood from the crashed carriage to form a pile of firewood underneath the pot. The fire burned merrily, crackling and popping as the flames danced about.
The children began to cry again. Zhuo Yuzhen could only quietly open up her garments and feed them milk again.
Gongsun Tu, who was holding a wine cup in his hand, suddenly let out a breath. “What fair white skin.”
Chef Hao laughed. “What tender flesh.”
Ghostly Granny, who was cracking melon seeds, also let out a sigh. “What adorable children.”
Fu Hongxue only felt his stomach contract. The blue veins began to bulge out on the hand he was holding his sabre with, as though he had already pulled the sabre out.
But Yan Nanfei pressed his hand down. In a low voice, he said, “You can’t make your move now.”
Of course, Fu Hongxue could also tell that now wasn’t the time to move. Although these people were pretending to be leisurely, they were like a hornet’s nest. As soon as they moved, the consequences would be unthinkable. But so what if they didn’t move? If they continued to just waste time like this, would they really wait for them to eat horse flesh, then human flesh?
Yan Nanfei’s voice dropped even lower. He suddenly asked, “Do you know Du Shiqi, ‘Eight Lives and Eightfold Courage’?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
Yan Nanfei said, “Although this man isn’t a great hero, in my opinion, he has a more heroic air than any ‘real’ hero. I already arranged for him to meet with me in the ‘Heavenly Fragrance Teahouse’ of the town up ahead. So long as we can find him, anything can be accomplished. I am very good friends with him.”
Fu Hongxue said, “That is your business.”
Yan Nanfei said, “My business is your business.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I don’t know him.”
Yan Nanfei said, “But he knows you.”
The chess players were still playing chess. Everyone was still absorbed in their own activities, and paid them no mind at all, as though they were already dead men walking.
Yan Nanfei asked again, “Are you a very reasonable person?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Sometimes I am. Other times, I’m not.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Right now, are you at the point where you can’t help but be reasonable?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Seems so.”
Yan Nanfei asked again, “Can Zhuo Yuzhen and her child be allowed to die?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Yan Nanfei let out a sigh. “As long as you can remember this, everything will be fine. Let’s go.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Go? Go where?”
Yan Nanfei said, “As soon as you hear me say the words, ‘little doggy’, take Zhuo Yuzhen and her children onto that wagon and hide them in the coffin. I’ll handle everything else!”
He chuckled. “Don’t forget, my skill in running for my life is the best in the world.”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth. Naturally, he understood Yan Nanfei’s meaning. Right now, he had no leeway whatsoever. No matter what, he could not allow Zhuo Yuzhen and the children to fall into these people’s clutches.
On the wagon where Ghostly Granny was seated, there were four other women. Aside from her, all of them were young, and all of them weren’t the slightest bit unattractive.
That is to say, they were attractive. The most attractive one was combing her hair. Her long hair was both black and gleaming.
Yan Nanfei suddenly said, “I hear that all in all, Miao Tianwang has over seventy or eighty wives.”
Ghostly Granny said, “He has eighty. He likes whole numbers.”
Yan Nanfei said, “I hear that no matter where he goes, he’ll bring four or five of his wives with him, because at any place and at any point in time, he might have need for them.”
Ghostly Granny said, “He is a vigorous and energetic man. His wives are all very fortunate.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Are you one of them?”
Ghostly Granny let out a sigh. “I very much want to be, but he scorns me for being too old.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Who says you are old? I think you are at least ten years younger than that old granny who is brushing her hair.”
Ghostly Granny laughed loudly, while the countenance of the girl brushing her hair changed. She glared hatefully at him.
Yan Nanfei grinned towards her. “Actually, you aren’t very old either. Aside from Ghostly Granny, you are the youngest one here.”
By now, everyone could tell that he was causing trouble on purpose. But none of them could guess what he wanted or what he was planning. Everyone who was earlier purposefully staring away from him couldn’t help but send a few glances his way.
Next, he went to Chef Hao. “Aside from cutting meat and chopping vegetables, what else is this knife of yours good for?”
Chef Hao said, “It can also kill people.”
The ‘vipers’ on his face began to wriggle again. “There’s not much of a difference between using a vegetable knife to kill people or a precious bejeweled sabre to kill people.”
Yan Nanfei said, “It’s a little different.”
Chef Hao said, “A little different?”
Yan Nanfei ignored him. Turning around, he opened the coffin, then mumbled to himself, “I didn’t expect you’d even have ground onions in here. I wonder if you have any hot peppers?”
Chef Hao loudly said, “How is it different?”
Yan Nanfei still ignored him. “Ah hah, here are the peppers. Looks like this coffin really is just like a full kitchen.”
Chef Hao was originally sitting, but now he rose to his feet. “Why won’t you speak? What, exactly, is the difference?”
Yan Nanfei finally turned around. Smiling, he said, “I’m not sure what the difference is, exactly, either. All I know is that ‘Five Spices Horseflesh’ braised in soy sauce should have some hot peppers in it.”
Carrying a string of peppers, he walked to the side of the copper pot. “There’s pretty much nobody who dislikes spicy food. Anyone who doesn’t eat spicy food is a little doggy.”
Chef Hao was so furious that his face had turned white with rage. Just at this moment, the sound of a horse neighing softly could be heard.
Fu Hongxue had already carried Zhuo Yuzhen, who was holding her children, onto the wagon!
Zhuo Yuzhen placed the children in the coffin. Fu Hongxue whipped the horses, while Yan Nanfei lifted up the frame upon which the copper pot was resting.
Gongsun Tu threw away his cup and rose. He loudly shouted, “Careful!”
Before he finished saying the word, Zhuo Yuzhen also burrowed into the coffin before covering them with the lid.
With a flip of his hand, Yan Nanfei brandished about both the metal frame and the copper pot filled with boiling hot horseflesh. With a whooshing sound, he flew towards the opposite wagon!
The boiling juice splattered everywhere. The healthy horse neighed in surprise, tipping over the wagon. The pieces of boiling hot horseflesh, along with the soup, shot out from the pot like arrows. Wherever it touched flesh, it immediately produced blisters.
Covering their faces with their clothes, the people on the wagon flew to their feet.
Fu Hongxue held his sabre with his right hand while brandishing the whip with his left. He had already charged out from within the two overturned wagons!
Xiao Siwu’s body was in midair. He suddenly flipped over, concentrating all of his power in his right arm.
His flying dagger was in his right hand.
By the time Yang Wuji’s body straightened, he had already seized his sword as well.
Xiao Siwu’s dagger had already left his hand.
This time, he didn’t make a single sound at all when he threw this dagger with all his force, and it was aimed towards Fu Hongxue’s back.
Although the wagons had been overturned, the space between them wasn’t very wide. Fu Hongxue needed to use all of his concentration in driving the carriage, and he didn’t have eyes in his back either. He had no idea at all that this lightning bolt-like dagger had shot towards his back. Even if he knew, he couldn’t turn around and dodge it. Otherwise, even if he were able to avoid the dagger, he wouldn’t be able to avoid the wagons up ahead!
Just at this intolerable moment, his sabre suddenly struck out from underneath his armpit. With a clanging sound, the pitch-black scabbard suddenly gave off sparks. The four-inch long flying dagger was knocked beneath the carriage.
Yang Wuji’s sword left his sheath very quickly. Like a jade maiden weaving a tapestry, he attacked from the sky.
Fu Hongxue gripped the scabbard underneath his arm. He withdrew his sabre with a backhand motion. A flash of sabre light greeted the sword light.
The sabre and the sword did not actually intersect. Although the sword light was very quick, the sabre light was even quicker. Yang Wuji’s sword had already just barely touched Fu Hongxue’s throat. If it went in another inch, it would have taken his life. But a miserable cry was suddenly heard and fresh blood spewed about. The sky was filled with a rain of blood. An arm suddenly fell down from the sky, with a sword still tightly gripped in it. An ancient, elegant sword of Damascus steel!
When Yang Wuji’s body descended, it fell straight into that boiling hot copper pot.
In his entire life, this was the best chance he would ever have of killing Fu Hongxue. This time, his sword had almost pierced Fu Hongxue’s throat.
Only, he missed by an inch.
The horse neighed loudly. The wagon was already travelling forward, past the overturned wagons. A sword light as red as crimson blood appeared, blocking off the road behind them!
Fu Hongxue did not turn his head. He heard the sound of Yan Nanfei coughing. It seemed as though Yan Nanfei used all of his energy in this sword attack to cover their retreat.
He didn’t dare to turn his head. He was afraid that if he did, he would stay behind and fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Yan Nanfei in this deadly battle.
Unfortunately, some people could not be allowed to die.
They definitely could not!
A cold night. A barren grave.
A carriage came to a halt in the midst of a cluster of tombs. The stars gleamed with pulses. There was no trace of life in the wild, barren graveyard.
Someone suddenly sat upright in the coffin on the cart. She had long hair and wore a cape, and her eyes were as liquid as autumn waters. Even if she was a ghost, she was definitely a beautiful female ghost. She was more than enough to mesmerize any scholar studying late at night.
Her eyes flickered about, as though she were seeking someone. She wasn’t looking for a scholar. She was looking for a man with a sabre.
Where did Fu Hongxue go? Why did he leave her here alone?
Just as fear began to appear in her eyes, Fu Hongxue appeared by her side.
A fog began to arise in the barren graveyard. The fog was pallid white, as pallid as Fu Hongxue’s face.
When she saw his pallid face, although Zhuo Yuzhen let out a sigh of relief, she was still very shocked. “Why did we come here?”
Fu Hongxue didn’t directly respond. Instead, he asked, “What is the safest place to hide a bag of white mice?”
Zhuo Yuzhen thought for a moment, then said, “In a large heap of white rice.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “What is the best place to place a coffin, if one wants to avoid it being noticed?”
Zhuo Yuzhen finally understood his meaning. Hide white rice in the middle of a pile of rice; hide a coffin in a graveyard.
But there was something she still didn’t quite understand. “Why don’t we go seek out Yan Nanfei and his friend, Du Shiqi?”
Fu Hongxue said, “We cannot go.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “You don’t trust him?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Someone Yan Nanfei trusts, I too trust.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Then why can’t you go?”
Fu Hongxue said, “The ‘Heavenly Fragrance Teahouse’ is a large teahouse, and Du Shiqi is a famous man. If we meet with him, Gongsun Tu will find out within six hours!”
Zhuo Yuzhen let out a sigh. In a soft voice, she said, “I didn’t imagine that you are even more meticulous than I am in handling matters.”
Fu Hongxue evaded her gaze. From within his bosom, he withdrew a parcel wrapped in oilpaper. “This is a baked chicken I bought on the way. No need to give me any. I’ve already eaten.”
Zhuo Yuzhen quietly accepted it. As she opened the parcel, her tears began to fall onto the chicken.
Fu Hongxue pretended to not see her tears. “I already took a look around. There’s no signs of human life within two or three li, and there’s nobody following us. You must take a good nap. When dawn breaks, I need you to do something for me.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “What?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Find out where Du Shiqi sleeps at night. When I go find him, I cannot allow anyone to see me.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “We are still going to go find him?”
Fu Hongxue nodded. “My appearance is too conspicuous. There’s not many people who recognize you, and I know a few things about the art of disguise.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Relax. I’m not the type of weak girl who can be blown down by a gentle breeze. I can take care of myself!”
Fu Hongxue said, “Do you know how to ride horseback?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “A little!”
Fu Hongxue said, “Then go on horseback tomorrow morning. When you reach a place with people, immediately release this horse, then call for a carriage on the road. On the way back, you can buy a donkey.”
The people of the north are vigorous and hardy. There were plenty of women who ride donkeys.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I will definitely be extra cautious. Only, the children…”
Fu Hongxue said, “I will take care of the children. Leave after you give them their fill of milk. Thus, you must get a good night’s rest tonight.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “And you?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No need for you to worry about me. Sometimes, I can fall asleep while I am walking!”
Zhuo Yuzhen looked at him, her eyes filled with tenderness and a cherishing look, as though there were many things she wanted to say to him.
But Fu Hongxue had already turned around, facing the dark earth, as though he had already fallen asleep.
The children had finally fallen asleep. Zhuo Yuzhen had left six hours ago.
Fu Hongxue sat in the shadow of a tomb. He stupidly stared at a tombstone in front of him. He hadn’t moved in a long time.
What was he thinking about?
What type of people were buried in these tombs? How many of them were nameless heroes? How many were lonely wanderers?
If people were lonely while living, wouldn’t they be even more lonely when dead?
After he died, would there be anybody to bury him? Where would he be buried?
Who can answer these questions?
Fu Hongxue let out a long breath. He slowly rose to his feet, and saw a donkey walk up the side of the hill.
A thin, weary donkey. An ordinary, emaciated woman.
Watching her, Fu Hongxue couldn’t help but feel pride in his disguising skills.
Finally, Zhuo Yuzhen had safely returned. No one recognized her, and no one had followed her.
As soon as she saw Fu Hongxue and the children, her eyes shone. Just like every worthy mother and virtuous wife in the world, she first went over and kissed her children. Then, she took out a parcel wrapped in oilpaper. “This is the roast chicken and beef I bought at the market. No need to share it with me. I’ve already eaten.”
Fu Hongxue quietly accepted the parcel.
Her fingertips gently brushed across his hand. His hand was ice cold.
If a person’s hand was ice cold despite staying underneath a fierce sun for six hours, they must have things on their mind.
Looking at him, Zhuo Yuzhen said in a soft voice, “I know that you must have been worrying about me. So I came back as soon as I got the news.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You’ve already find out where Du Shiqi…”
Zhuo Yuzhen interjected, “No one knows where Du Shiqi sleeps at night. Even if someone knew, they weren’t willing to tell me.”
Du Shiqi was definitely a person who liked making friends. Naturally, he had many friends.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “But I overheard news about something else.”
Fu Hongxue was listening!
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Although he has many friends, he has quite a few enemies as well. The most fierce one amongst them is named Hu Kun. Everyone in the city knows that Hu Kun plans to kill Du Shiqi on the first day of the next month. In addition, it seems he is very assured of victory.”
Fu Hongxue said, “It seems today is the twenty eighth.”
Zhuo Yuzhen nodded. “So I thought to myself that Hu Kun must know more about Du Shiqi’s movements these days than anyone else.”
If you want to find information on someone, it is far better to seek out his enemies than his friends.
Fu Hongxue said, “Did you seek out Hu Kun?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I did not.”
She smiled, then continued. “But you can go seek him out. In fact, you can go seek him out openly and brazenly, with no need to fear Gongsun Tu and the others finding out. In fact, it might be even better if they did find out.”
Her smile was warm and sweet. She looked like a warm, sweet little fox.
Fu Hongxue looked at her. He suddenly understood her meaning. Admiration immediately appeared in his eyes.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “The largest teahouse isn’t the ‘Heavenly Fragrance Teahouse’. It is the ‘Ascendant Immortal Teahouse’.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Hu Kun often goes there?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “He goes there every day, almost from dawn to dusk, because he opened the ‘Ascendant Immortal Teahouse’!”
After the sky darkened, Fu Hongxue left Zhuo Yuzhen and the children behind in the mountainside graveyard. How could he feel safe leaving them behind in such a ghastly, desolate, dark, terrifying place? Perhaps it was because that place was too dark, too desolate. There was definitely no one who would imagine them hiding there, and so he felt at ease.
Was he truly certain of this decision? No. But he definitely had to arrange many matters for them, so as to make sure they would live peacefully and happily. He knew that he definitely couldn’t always be by their side!
No person in the world could always be by the side of another person.
No matter how long people are with one another, in the end they will separate.
If it wasn’t separation caused by death, it would be separation in life.
He suddenly thought of Mingyue Xin.
He was forcing himself to be controlled this entire time, forcing himself not to think of her.
But on this unpopulated hillside, in this quiet, lonely night, the more one should not think of something, the more easy it was to think of it.
Thus, not only did he think of Mingyue Xin, he also thought of Yan Nanfei. He thought of how, when they parted, Mingyue Xin stared into his eyes. He also thought of the sound of Yan Nanfei’s dry, rough coughs, and his blood red sword.
Where were they now? Were they at the ends of the world, or in a furnace?
Fu Hongxue didn’t know!
He didn’t even know where he was. Was he in a furnace, or at the ends of the world?
He tightly gripped his sabre. He knew that this sabre was tempered from within a furnace!
Could it be that he himself was like a sabre being tempered within a furnace?
For the children! Enjoy!