A Deadly Secret - Chapter 9
Di Yun stayed in the valley for another half-month. He thoroughly practiced the sabre techniques and internal energy cultivation methods inside the Blood Sabre Sutra. When he had fully memorized it by heart, he burnt the scripture and placed the ashes on the Blood Sabre Elder’s tomb.
During this time, he continued to sleep on a large rock outside the cave. Although Shui Sheng left, he still did not dare to sleep inside the cave, much less use her mattress or cushion.
Di Yun thought: “I should leave now! I do not need to take the feather coat with me. After I complete my affairs I will return. The people in the outside are sure intelligent, I don’t understand what they are thinking. No one will ever come here, it is best if I live here.”
Thereupon he left the valley and travelled east. The first thing he wanted to do was return to the cottage in Maxi, Xiangxi to find his teacher. Since he was young he was brought up by his teacher, he considered his teacher as his only close relative in the world.
To get to Xiangxi, he would first have to pass through Sichuan. He thought that if he were to encounter any heroes from the Central Plains a battle would be unavoidable. Although he had never wronged them in any way, it all began when he shaved his head and wore Bao Xiang’s monk outfit. Although at this point his martial arts were superb, he lacked confidence and presumed that if he were to meet one or two experts from the Central Plains, he would certainly perish. Hence he bought and wore an ordinary outfit of a village person while he burnt the monk outfit. He further smeared his face with coal to disguise himself. The various commoners throughout Xiangxi and Sichuan liked to wear a white headband, supposedly a result of mourning for Zhuge Liang. Di Yun too found a piece of filthy white cloth and wrapped it around his head. He continued to travel east. Once in a while he would encounter a few fellows from the realm, but nobody could recognize him.
He was most afraid of encountering Shui Sheng, Wang Xiaofeng, or Hua Tiegan. Fortunately, that never happened.
He travelled quickly. It took him about a month or so to reach his teacher’s cottage in Maxi. By now the weather had turned warm, the grain and sprouts in the fields grew over four inches tall. The closer he got to his hometown, the more nervous he felt. Slowly, his face turned warm and his heart rate accelerated.
He travelled a path that he had grown accustomed to during his youth. When he reached the entrance of his hometown, he could not help but feel shocked, as if he could not believe his own eyes. It turns out that beside the three cottages next to the willow trees, the streamlet had turned into a large house with white walls and a black roof. This house was at the very least three times larger than the old cottage. From a glance, one could tell that it was built hastily, but it nevertheless imposed a magnificent aura.
He was both startled and delighted. He looked closer at the scenery and confirmed that it was indeed his teacher’s residence. He thought: “Teacher must have become rich and returned home. That is great!” Full of delight, he shouted, “Teacher!” But he only called out once before he stopped, thinking, “I wonder if there is anyone else in there? With the way I am dressed I may make my teacher lose face. But I will go in first to have a look.”
After suffering so much hardship throughout the years, he had learned to take extra caution. He was lost in thought when suddenly someone came out of the house and glared at him. His face was full of resentment and asked: “What do you want?”
Di Yun saw that this man wore his hat at an angle and his body was filled with dirt. It did not look like this person matched the owner of the house at all. Upon further inspection, Di Yun thought that this man must be a mason boss and asked: “May I ask if Master Qi is at home?”
The man snorted and replied, “What seventh master or eighth master, they are not here.”
Di Yun was startled and asked: “Is the owner of this house not surnamed Qi?”
The man countered: “What are you talking about? If you are trying to beg for food, don’t pretend to be a relative. There is nothing, there is nothing here! Little beggar, get lost!”
Di Yun was deeply concerned about his teacher. After travelling for such a long time, how could he leave solely based on this man’s words? He asked: “I am not here for food. I would like to ask you, in the past there used to be a person surnamed Qi who lived here, do you know if this elder still lives nearby?”
The man laughed coldly. “Look at you, you little beggar. So talkative are you? The owner is not surnamed Qi, nor is he surnamed eight, or nine, or ten. You should take your leave now.”
As he said up to this point, another person came out from the house. This person wore a skullcap and his clothes were fresh and bright; he had the appearance of a rich housekeeper. This person asked: “Old Ping, what are you shouting for? Who are you arguing with?”
The man replied: “Look at this little beggar and tell me if he’s wordy or not? If he wants to beg for food that’s fine, why does he have to ask for the owner’s surname?”
When the housekeeper heard this, his face changed colours and he measured up Di Yun. After a while, he said: “Little friend, why do you seek the surname of the owner?”
If this was five or six years ago, Di Yun would have gone straight to the heart of the matter, however, he was now experienced and understood the treachery of humankind. When he saw the expression of the housekeeper full of suspicion, he thought: “I will not tell him. It won’t hurt to inquire at a later date. It could be that there has been some misunderstanding.” He asked: “I only wanted to ask for the surname of the owner so that I can utter his name loudly and request him to spare me some rice. Are you the owner?” He intentionally pretended to be a fool to lower the housekeeper’s suspicions.
The housekeeper laughed heartily. Although he felt this person was foolish, he was delighted that someone would think of him as the owner. He smiled and said, “I am not the owner. Hey, young fellow, why would you think of me as the owner?”
Di Yun answered: “You… you impose the appearance of an awe-inspiring authority, the looks of a wealthy gentleman.”
The housekeeper was even more delighted and smiled. “Silly fellow, if I, Old Gao, really become rich one day, I definitely won’t forget you. Hey, little fellow, I can tell that you are young and vigorous. Why would you beg for food instead of finding a proper job?”
Di Yun replied: “No one will hire me. Rich master, would you been kind enough to offer a job to me?”
The housekeeper shook the one surnamed Ping on the shoulder and smiled. “Did you hear that? He called me a rich master. If we don’t offer him a job we would be much too rude. Old Ping, tell him to carry dirt and give him an according salary.”
The one surnamed Ping said: “Right, I will act according to your orders.”
Di Yun listened to the two of their dialects and concluded that the foreman surnamed Ping was a local of Xiangxi, but the housekeeper surnamed Gao was from the north. At once he collected his thoughts and respectfully said: “Rich master, rich master, I thank both of you.”
The foreman laughed and teased: “Damn it! You speak nonsense!”
The housekeeper was laughing so hard that he almost slipped and remarked: “I am a rich master, you are also a rich master, then… then haven’t we become your sugar daddy?”
The foreman pulled Di Yun by the ear and smiled: “Come inside! Have a good meal first, you will work during the night.”
Di Yun did not resist but wondered: “Why do I have to work at night?”
When he went inside the large house and passed through the main hall, he could not help but be startled. What he saw was extremely perplexing and out of place. In the center of the house an extremely large hole was dug; the circumference was so big that it nearly stretched across the four walls. There was only a narrow passage left to pass through. The pit was filled with iron shovels and spades and other digging equipment. It was obvious that they were still digging. When he saw the grandiose of the house from outside, how could he ever have guessed that there would be such a large pit inside?
The foreman said: “You cannot tell anyone outside what goes on in here, alright?”
Di Yun nodded. “Of course! This place must be blessed with good fortune. The owner wants to dig a tomb and doesn’t want outsiders to know about it.”
The foreman grinned and said: “Not bad, you are pretty smart for such a young fellow. Follow me to your meal.”
Di Yun ate a full meal inside the kitchen. The foreman told him to wait by the corridor without wandering around. Di Yun agreed but he was actually full of curiosity and suspicion. He saw that the interior design of the house was surprisingly ordinary and the kitchen did not even have proper place for a furnace. It only had a large furnace leaning against a boiler; the tables and benches were also of extremely low-quality and did not match the exterior of the house in the least bit.
When it was night time, fewer people went inside the house. It all consisted of young and strong village people, everyone was clamorous during mealtimes. Di Yun followed the others and ate. Although he spoke the local dialect with extreme precision, the foreman and housekeeper were not in the least suspicious, thinking that he was just a local idler without a job.
After everyone finished their meal, Foreman Ping ordered everyone to gather round the main hall. “You should all put more effort into digging. Hopefully we will be blessed with good luck tonight. Whoever digs up anything useful will be rewarded generously.”
Everyone agreed and picked up their tools. The sounds of shovels and spades digging against the earth sound filled the room. One young man spoke softly, “I have been digging for two months but haven’t got anything at all. If there is really a treasure here, you will have to be really fortunate to excavate it.”
Di Yun thought: “They want to dig for treasure? Why would there be a treasure in here?” He waited for the foreman to turn away before asking a senior fellow beside him, “Uncle, what treasure are they trying to dig?”
The senior replied: “This treasure is extraordinary. The owner of this house is hoping for good luck. He is not a local, but from afar he sensed an illumination of treasure gushing to the surface. He figured there must be a treasure here so he bought this piece of land. He was afraid that this information would be leaked so he first built a large house and ordered us to work at night and sleep during the day.”
Di Yun nodded. “So that’s how it is. Does senior know what kind of treasure this is?”
The senior said: “The foreman said that it is some sort of mythical treasure bowl. It is said that if you put one copper coin in the bowl, after one night, it will turn into a pot of copper coins; if you place one tael of gold inside the bowl, the next day it will become a pot of gold. Is that remarkable or what?”
Di Yun nodded repeatedly and said: “It really is a treasure! It really is a treasure!”
The senior continued: “The foreman told us to dig gently. It would be a disaster if one were to break the treasure bowl. The foreman said that after we dig up the treasure bowl, everyone will get to use it for one night. You can place whatever you want inside it. Young fellow, you should plan for yourself too and see what you would like to put.”
Di Yun thought for a moment and said: “I am always hungry. I will place a grain of rice and it will become a pot of white rice the next day, wouldn’t that be great?”
The senior laughed heartily and answered: “Very good! Very good!”
The foreman heard the sounds of laughter and shouted: “Don’t waste time talking! Keep digging!”
Di Yun wondered: “There is actually such a treasure bowl in this world? If the owner is not crazy, he must have fabricated this story to deceive people.” He asked: “What is the surname of the owner? You said he is not a local?”
The senior replied, “Look over there, isn’t the owner coming out right now?”
Di Yun followed the direction of the man’s gaze. He saw someone coming out from the back hall. This person was slim, his eyes glimmered lively, his apparel was extremely gorgeous. This person was about 50 years old. Di Yun glanced at him once and felt his heart bouncing around his chest. He turned his head and did not dare to look again. He repeated to himself, “I’ve seen this person before… I’ve seen him before… who is he?” He felt that this person looked awfully familiar but he could not immediately recall where he saw him before.
That person said: “Everyone, tonight you should dig another three feet deep to the west. No matter if it is a scrap of paper or tiles and bricks, you must give them all to me.”
Di Yun listened to his voice and came to a realization. At once he remembered. “Right, so it is him.” He lowered his head and looked askance at him and thought: “Indeed, it really is him.”
The owner of the house was in fact the old beggar who taught him the three sword stances.
Back then the beggar was wearing extremely ragged clothes with messy hair. His entire body was extremely filthy and sordid. Now at this point he was dressed as a luxurious rich man, his entire outfit was different, hence Di Yun could not recognize him until the man spoke out.
At once Di Yun jumped out of the pit and wanted to reunite with him. However, to tell him of everything he suffered throughout all these years in a serious manner could not be spoken impulsively. He thought: “This old beggar treated me very well. Back then I was already completely defeated by the bandit Lu Tong, it was thanks to him lending a hand. Later, he even taught me three stances of remarkable sword techniques which was why I managed to overcome the various disciples of the Wan clan. Now that I think of it, the three sword stances he taught me are really ordinary, but back then it was enough to save me from humiliation.”
Now that he had fully completed the various martial arts of the Blood Sabre Sutra his knowledge increased drastically; even the three stances of “Liancheng Swordplay” that he learned back then were considered extremely mediocre.
Di Yun thought: “When I reunite with him today, I should really thank him. However, this is my teacher’s old residence, what is he digging here for? Why did he build such a big house to deceive others? He used to be a beggar, how did he get so rich?” As he pondered further, he decided: “I should wait for another time. Although he is my benefactor, I am in no hurry to thank him. Isn’t he afraid that my teacher will return? Could it be that… that my teacher is already dead?”
He had been raised by his teacher since childhood. When he thought that it was likely his teacher had already passed away, his eyes turned red.
All of a sudden, from the southeast direction a soft sound was heard. One of the diggers had come across something. The owner ventured into the pit and bent down to pick something up. Everyone in the group stopped digging and went over to see what it was. All they saw was that he was holding a very rusted piece of iron nail. He looked at it carefully for a long while before casting it aside and said: “Get moving, dig faster! Dig faster!”
Di Yun and the rest of the group spent the entire night digging. The owner concentrated his attention completely supervising on the side and it was not until daybreak before they stopped. The various villagers returned home; seven or eight of them lived too far away and opted to sleep on a mat in the east porch. Di Yun also slept in the porch. When afternoon came, everyone ate together. Di Yun was filthy all over and nobody wanted to stay close to him. Even during dinner they stayed far away from him. Di Yun could not have asked for more. He had learned to be cautious and prudent, he would no longer trust anyone easily. However, he had to pretend to be a worker and found it difficult. He knew that as time passed he would eventually give himself away. The fact that other people did not want to get close to him worked to his favour.
After dinner, Di Yun ventured into three small villages nearby to seek the whereabouts of his teacher. He saw several of his childhood friends who had now become thick and well-built adults working in the fields. He did not want to reveal his identity and did not greet them. He found a young teenager and asked him about the situation inside the large house.
The teenager said that the house was built last autumn; the owner of the house was very rich and wanted to dig the treasure bowl. However, he still had no luck in doing so. The youngster laughed as he explained, it was evident that the case of the treasure bowl had become the laughing stock around nearby areas. The youngster said: “What happened to the small cottages? Nobody has lived there for a long time. Naturally, when the large house was built, they took these cottages down.”
After talking to this youngster, Di Yun felt depressed and full of doubts and suspicions. He could not figure out the intent behind the old beggar’s actions. He wandered aimlessly around the open fields and passed by a vegetable field. The entire field was covered in dark green, it was filled with water spinaches.
“Water Spinach! Water Spinach!”
All of a sudden, he remembered the crisp and melodious voice that called out these words. Water spinach was a very common vegetable produced around Xiangxi. It grew very thick and long, and the stalk of the vegetable was hollow. His martial sister chose this nickname for him to mock his straightforward and carefree nature. He had not seen any water spinaches since leaving Xiangxi. He stared blankly for a long while before leaning over to pick one up. He smelt the juices of the vegetable and walked westward.
The west side was covered with desolate mountain ranges. The surface was rugged and filled with rocks and rubble, even wood-oil trees and tea trees could not be grown. Somewhere in the mountain range was a cave that nobody would ever go into. That was the place that he and Qi Fang would often play. He reminisced those days and slowly wandered toward the cave. He passed through two hills and passed by a large cave before he arrived at the smaller desolate cave. There was a cluster of tall grass that reached up to his shoulders that obstructed the cave entrance completely.
He felt depressed as he went inside the cave. He saw that the various objects around the cave were exactly the same as it used to be without the slightest movement, only that it was covered in dust.
Qi Fang used clay to build a clay person and used it to as a catapult to sling at birds. She also had a trap to capture wild rabbits. The short flute that she would play when she released the oxen was still placed on top of a rock inside the cave. On the other side was a basket of threads and needles, the scissors inside the basket was yellow and rusted.
During those years, every time winter came and the fields were closed, Di Yun would always weave straw-sandals or bamboo baskets. Qi Fang would sit beside him and make shoes. She would find various fragments of cloth and make it together into the sole of the shoe, then seam it together with a needle. Di Yun and his teacher’s shoes both had dark green soles, while Qi Fang’s own shoes would sometimes have an embroidered flower on top, while other times it would be an embroidered bird. That was what she would wear during New Year’s, in ordinary times she would also wear shoes with green soles. If she were to work in the fields, then she would just be barefooted.
Di Yun casually picked up an old book from inside the basket. The title of the book was the four words “The Tang Poem Anthology”. Di Yun and Qi Fang were not very literate and did not bother reading the Tang poetry, the book was only used by Qi Fang to press the shoes together and for embroidery. He casually opened the book and took out two paper patterns. It was a pair of butterflies that Qi Fang cut out as embroidery. In his heart he still remembered very clearly all the events that took place:
A pair of large black and yellow butterflies would fly inside the cave. Sometimes it would fly east while sometimes it would fly west, but the two butterflies never separated. Qi Fang yelled: “Liangshan Bo, Zhu Yingtai !” These butterflies must be a couple and fly together wherever they went, never separating.
Di Yun was in the middle of making a straw sandal when the pair of butterflies flew next to him. He raised the unfinished sandal and swatted the butterfly. One of the butterflies died at once. Qi Fang cried out in alarm and scolded: “What… what are you doing?”
Di Yun did not expect her to be so angry all of a sudden and did not know what to do. He said: “You… you like butterflies, I… I swatted one for you.”
The butterfly dropped dead on the ground without moving while the other butterfly constantly spiralled around its body.
Qi Fang shouted: “Look at what you’ve done! You have sinned! The two of them were a couple, yet you separated them like this…”
When Di Yun saw her dim expression and heard her depressed voice, he felt very apologetic and sighed: “Ai, it is really my fault.”
Later on, Qi Fang copied the patterns on the dead butterfly and embroidered a paper butterfly on her shoes. Whenever it was Chinese New Year’s, she would embroider a small wallet for him that had a pair of butterflies on it; yellow and black wings, the part of the wing near its body had a tint of red and green strings. He carried this wallet with him the whole time, until he went to prison in Jingzhou, when it was taken away by the guards.
As Di Yun held onto the paper butterfly, he could faintly hear the sounds of Qi Fang reprimanding him,“Look at what you’ve done! You have sinned! The two of them were a couple, yet you separated them like this...”
He stared blankly for a while before placing the paper butterfly back inside the book. He turned the pages and found that there were various red paper figures, there was a carp and three goats. It was used to decorate the windows during Chinese New Year, it was all cut out by Qi Fang.
He was about to take a closer look at one of the figures when he heard the sound of rocks being thrown several hundred feet away; someone was approaching. He thought: “Nobody ever comes here, could it be a wild animal?” He put the paper figure in his bosom.
He heard someone say: “This area is very desolate, no one will come here.”
Another old voice replied: “Heh, the more desolate a place, the more likely someone will hide a treasure. We should search carefully.”
Di Yun thought: “Why would they look for treasures here?” He snuck out of the cave and hid behind a large tree.
Shortly after, more people arrived at the scene. Di Yun made out that there were seven or eight people in total. He looked out from the tree and saw the person in front wore fresh and bright clothes. This person had an oily head and a powdery face and looked quite familiar. The person following behind him was holding an iron shovel. This person was tall with an imposing appearance. When Di Yun saw this person, anger surged out of his heart and he wanted to go out and strangle him to death.
This person was the one who took away his martial sister and sent him to prison. This person was the one who caused him so much suffering. It was Wan Gui.
What was he doing here?
There was a young fellow beside him. It was his younger martial brother, Shen Cheng.
The two of them approached together. Behind them were all the disciples of the Wan clan—Lu Lu Kun, Sun Jun, Bu Yuan, Wu Kan, and Feng Tan—they were all here.
The Wan clan had eight disciples in total. Second disciple Zhou Qi was killed by Di Yun inside the abandoned garden in Jingzhou, so only seven remained. Di Yun was very perplexed. “What are they all trying to dig? Could it be the treasure bowl?”
He heard Shen Cheng say, “Teacher, there is a cave over there.”
The old voice replied: “Is that so?” His voice was filled with joy that he could hardly suppress. This person followed behind a very tall person over there. It was “Five Cloud Hand” Wan Zhenshan. Di Yun had not seen him for many years but saw that he was full of spirit and his footsteps were firm. He did not look very old at all.
Wan Zhenshan entered the cave first, then his disciples followed behind. Voices were heard inside the cave.
“There is someone living here!”
“The dust is so thick, nobody has come here for many years.”
“No, no. Look! There are new footprints over there.”
“Hmm, if there are new footprints, that means someone was here not too long ago.”
“It must be Uncle Yan, he… he stole the Liancheng Manual.”
Di Yun was both startled and laughed: “Why do they want to find the Liancheng Manual? How come they can’t find it after looking for so long? Who is Uncle Yan? My teacher said that his second martial brother Yan Daping had disappeared for many years without a trace, it’s likely that he is no longer in this world, how could he steal the Liancheng Manual? Those footprints were clearly left by me, they are guessing in the completely wrong direction.”
He heard Wan Zhenshan say: “Everyone, do not panic. Search carefully around the vicinity.”
Another said: “If Uncle Yan was here, why didn’t he take these things with him?”
“That Qi Zhangfa is really a crafty schemer. He hid the sword manual here so that people wouldn’t find it easily.”
“Of course he is a crafty schemer, else why would he be called ‘Iron Lock Across the River’?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Just now we followed that country folk here. That person was extremely swift and disappeared quickly without a trace. That person may be up to something.”
Wan Gui said: “The locals know the mountain paths well, he probably took a shortcut somewhere. If not for him, even if we searched for another year and a half, we would still not find this place.”
Di Yun thought: “So they actually followed me here, no wonder they were able to find such a remote cave in the mountains.”
He heard booming and roaring inside the cave. The people inside were searching thoroughly, but all they did was throw around a few pieces of ragged items and move its position. Then followed that they used an iron shovel to start digging, but under the cave was completely filled with hard rocks, how could they dig? Wan Zhenshan said: “There is nothing here. Let’s go out and come up with another plan.”
Di Yun saw the various disciples follow Wan Zhenshan out of the cave. They reached a creek beside the mountain and sat on top of a rock. Di Yun did not want to be discovered so he did not dare to get too close. He could not hear what the eight of them were saying. After a while, the eight of them got up and left.
Di Yun thought: “They are looking for the Liancheng Manual and suspect that my Uncle Yan Daping has stolen it. My teacher’s cottage has become a large house and the old beggar wants to look for a treasure bowl… ah! That’s it, that’s it!”
A ray of light flashed through his mind as he suddenly came to a startling conclusion. “The old beggar is trying to find the treasure bowl, but he is actually trying to find the sword manual. He believes that the sword manual was taken by my teacher, that’s why he is digging there. Because he wanted to prevent others from noticing, he built a large house in place of the cottage and dug inside the house to prevent suspicion. The rumours that he is digging for a treasure bowl are obviously fabricated by the country folk.”
Then he thought: “That day when Wan Zhenshan celebrated his birthday, the old beggar appeared both during the day and at night. It turns out that he actually has an ulterior motive. Hmm, if Wan Zhenshan and his group cannot find the sword manual, have they tried searching inside the large house? It is likely that they have already searched there. This incident is not over yet, I should go back to the house and wait and see what happens next. There is definitely something wrong!
“But what about my teacher? His house has been completely torn down by others, how could he be unaware of this? And what about martial sister? Heh, she’s probably still in Jingzhou living a happy and prosperous life as the lady of the house. If the Wan family wants to search her father’s cottage, they would most likely not let her know about it. I wonder what she’s doing right now?”
At night, the large house was once again illuminated by oil lamps. Over a dozen country folk picked up their shovels and began digging. Di Yun mixed in with the crowd and began to dig as well. He did not put much effort into it, nor did he slack off. He wanted to be as unnoticed as possible. His hair was fluffy and he did not shave his facial hair; over half his face was covered with hair, and he also smeared plaster around his face, so he was changed beyond recognition. He recalled when Wan Zhenshan and the others followed him during the day, and wondered if they actually recognized him. Thereupon he took the white headband and the green belt around his waist and swapped its positions. Tonight, they were digging closer to the north. The old beggar put both hands behind his back and paced himself around the site. Obviously, he looked nothing like an old beggar now; his clothes were gorgeous and he wore a jasper ring on his left hand. There was also a large piece of jade hanging on his belt.
All of a sudden, Di Yun heard the sound of someone approaching from outside. There were people approaching from all directions. As these people were still some distance away, the old beggar did not notice yet. Di Yun turned around and looked askance at the beggar; he heard the sounds of footsteps approaching closer and closer. Five… six… seven… eight… eight people in total. It was Wan Zhenshan and his seven disciples. The old beggar still did not notice, but Di Yun had long listened attentively, as if the eight of them were right in front of him, but it seemed as if the old beggar was deaf.
Five years ago, Di Yun respected the old beggar like a deity. He merely learned three stances from the beggar and it was enough to utterly defeat the eight disciples of the Wan clan without giving them any leeway. But now Di Yun thought: “How could his martial arts have gotten so much worse? Could it be that this isn’t actually him? Did I mistake him for someone else? No, I’m definitely not mistaken.” Di Yun never would have guessed that his martial arts had reached such an extremely high level. What he heard as distinct sounds were merely whispers to others.
The eight of them got closer and closer. Di Yun was perplexed. “The eight of them are sure laughable, who wouldn’t be able to tell that they were coming? Yet they are still pretending to be sneaky and stealthy.” The eight of them got closer by another hundred feet or so when all of a sudden, the old beggar trembled slightly and slanted his ear to listen for any movement. Di Yun thought: “Now he hears it? Is he deaf or what?” In truth, the eight of them were still very far away. If it were one or two years ago, Di Yun still would not have heard it even if they were closer.
The eight of them gradually approached. They would walk and stop every few steps. It was obvious that they were trying to prevent themselves from being discovered. However, the old beggar had already figured it out; he turned around and picked up a crutch leaning against the wall. It was an extremely thick dragon-wood cane.
All of a sudden, the eight of them rushed forward and encircled the beggar on all sides. With a loud crash, Wan Gui was the first to strike, while Shen Cheng and Bu Yuan followed behind. The seven of them all wielded long swords and surrounded the beggar.
The old beggar laughed: “Very good, my martial brother is here too. Brother Wan, why don’t you come in?”
A long sound of laughter came from outside the house as this person slowly walked in. It was indeed ‘Five Cloud Hand’ Wan Zhenshan. The two of them were on the opposite sides of the large pit and sized each other up. After a while, Wan Zhenshan laughed and said: “Brother Yan, we have not seen each other for many years. Looks like you’re a rich man now.”
These words deeply drilled itself into Di Yun’s ears. At once he was thrown into a state of confusion. He thought: “What? This old beggar is actually… actually Second Uncle… Second Uncle Yan Daping?”
He heard the old beggar reply: “Brother, I have made a little bit of money. I take it that you have completed many good trades throughout the years.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Thanks to your lucky influence. Hey, little brats, why haven’t you kowtowed to your martial uncle?”
Lu Kun and the others kneeled down and said: “Your disciple kowtows in salute to Uncle Yan.”
The old begger laughed: “Good… good. It is quite inconvenient to kowtow while holding a sword in hand, you may be excused.”
Di Yun thought: “This person is really Uncle Yan. Him… him?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Brother, are you operating a coal mine here? Why did you dig such a large pit?”
Yan Daping chuckled and said: “Elder Brother has guessed wrong. Your younger brother I have a lot of enemies, I am here to seek refuge. There are two purposes to digging this pit. Firstly, if I successfully kill my enemy, I can bury him here without having to dig. And supposing that your brother I am killed by my enemies, this pit will also serve as my burial place.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Excellent, younger brother has really thought this through. But you are not a fat person, I think this pit is large enough, you don’t have to keep digging.”
Yan Daping smiled gently and said: “It is enough to bury one person, but I am afraid it won’t be enough for eight.”
Di Yun listened as the two of them crossed verbal swords, opposing each other measure for measure. He remembered what Ding Dian once told him. “’The three of them were responsible for killing their teacher. They are ruthless enough to kill their benefactor, what sort of camaraderie would they have for each other?’ According to Brother Ding, they found the Liangcheng Manual but did not find the mnemonics. The mnemonics are a bunch of numbers; the first number is “4”, the second number is “41”, the third number is “33”, the fourth number is “53”. Brother Ding passed away before he finished saying all the numbers. Did they not already find these numbers? Why are they still searching?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “My good martial brother, we have been in the same clan for many years, I trust that you know my intentions. I have long seen past your scheme, what is the use of beating around the bush? Hand it over!” As he said this, he extended his hand forward.
Yan Daping shook his head. “I have not found it yet. The schemes of Old Qi the Third, the two of us martial siblings cannot compare. I cannot figure out where he hid the sword manual.”
Di Yun trembled again. “Could it be that the three of them combined forces to take the sword manual, but my teacher took it away from them? But after so many years, how come there wasn’t any news? Right, it must be that my teacher is extremely clever, they could not find it. Since my teacher is not here, naturally he would take the sword manual with him, why would he hide it inside the house? Wouldn’t it be foolish to search around like this?” However he knew that Yan Daping and Wan Zhenshan were not idiots, they were probably ten times smarter than he was. So what kind of scheme was hidden in this plot? He could not guess, and he knew he didn’t have to.
Wan Zhenshan laughed out loud and said: “Brother, why do you insist on playing dumb? Everyone calls third martial brother ‘Iron Lock Across the River’ and claims that he is the greatest schemer, but I say that actually you second martial brother are even more superior! Hand it over!” He extended his right hand forward again.
Yan Daping patted his pocket and said: “The three of us have been martial siblings for so many years, is there really a need to separate our belongings? Elder brother, if your younger brother I have found this manual, I would not be able to handle it by myself. I would definitely need you to take care of the situation, I can only help you from the sidelines and reap some small benefits. However, if elder brother is the one who finds it, hehe, elder brother has so many disciples in his clan who have decent martial arts, I’m afraid that even if I want to lend a hand, it would be redundant.”
Wan Zhenshan creased his eyebrows and said: “What did you get from the cave?”
Yan Daping was perplexed. “What cave? There is a cave nearby?”
“Brother, the both of us are getting up there in age now. Is there really a need to be so impolite to each other? I ask that you take it out and we can discuss it in detail together. Henceforth we will endure both fortune and misfortune together, what do you say?”
“That is strange. Why do you insist I was the one that took it? If I already found it, why would I still be digging here?”
“You are full of devilish tricks and cunning stratagems, how would I know?”
“How can the belongings of third brother be so easily recovered? From the looks of it, it’s probably not in this house. If I dig for another three days and nothing comes up, I will not persist.”
“Hah! From the looks of it, you want to dig for another half a month or so, there’s no need to pretend.”
Yan Daping’s face changed colors as if he was to become hostile. But after having second thoughts, he regained his composure and said: “What will it take for you to believe me?” At once he put his crutch on the side and took off his gown. He shook the gown hard several times, some clanging sounds were heard as two taels of silver and a snuff bottle fell on the ground.
Wan Zhenshan said: “How would you be dumb enough as to hide it on your person? Even if it was on your person, it would not be in your gown, it would be close to your skin.”
Yan Daping sighed. “If elder brother really does not believe me, then you can search around if you want.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Excuse me then.” He signalled Wan Gui and Shen Cheng with his eyes. The two of them nodded and put their swords back in its sheaths, then walked to both sides of Yan Daping. Wan Zhenshan gave a glance at Bu Yuan and Lu Kun and the two of them walked in front of Yan Daping, tightly holding onto their sword hilt.
Yan Daping patted his shirt pocket and said: “Please search!”
Wan Gui said: “Pardon me then, uncle.” He extended his hands to feel Yan Daping’s pocket. All of a sudden, he let out a shriek and immediately withdrew his hands. Under the flame one could see a three-inch long scorpion crawling on his finger. At once he flipped his hand and smashed it against the side of the pit, and with a loud clap, the scorpion was smashed into pieces. But the back of his hand was struck with poison and swelled up at once. He wanted to flaunt heroism and did not groan, but beads of sweat were seeping out of his forehead like soya beans.
Yan Daping was alarmed. “Ow, Niece Wan, where did you find this poisonous creature? This is a mottling poison scorpion, it is extremely toxic. You cannot play with these things! Brother, quickly, do you have an antidote? If you don’t hurry, it will be too late! This is no good!”
The back of Wan Gui’s hand was swollen from red to purple, then purple to black. A thin red line slowly extended upwards toward his arm. Wan Zhenshan knew that he had fallen into Yan Daping’s trap. He could do nothing but hold in his anger and said: “Your elder brother is impressed, I surrender to you. Please take out the antidote and we will go our separate ways. I won’t bother you anymore.”
Yan Daping said: “Once upon a time I had the antidote, but it’s been so many years ago, now I have misplaced it. I will look for it in a few days, maybe I will find it. Otherwise, I can go to the Daming Prefecture and look for the prescription for you, that could work too. I greatly value our brotherhood.”
When Wan Zhenshan heard this, he was so angry he felt his chest was about to explode. The toxic of such a poisonous scorpion was extremely lethal and capable of taking one’s life in the matter of a few hours. Once the red line makes its way to a person’s heart, that person would die immediately. When he said what “I will look for it in a few days” and spoke of going to the Daming Prefecture in Hubei to find a prescription over a thousand li away, it was clearly intended to insult him and even went as far as to say “I greatly value our brotherhood”. But at this moment as he watched the life of his beloved son hang by a thread, he could do nothing but suppress his anger. When a gentleman seeks revenge, ten years is not too late.
Wan Zhenshan finally said: “Looks like I have no choice but to succumb to your requests. Why don’t you tell me what you want?”
Yan Daping slowly put his gown back on and buttoned it. Then he said: “Brother, what could I possibly want from you? You can do whatever you want.”
Wan Zhenshan thought: “Today I will let you take the advantage, in the future you will realize what I am really capable of.” Then he said: “Very well then, henceforth the one surnamed Wan will never see you again. If I ask anything of you, I will no longer be considered a person.”
Yan Daping said: “I dare not accept such a condition. Your brother only has one request: the Liancheng Manual ought to be given to me. If in the future I am lucky enough to find it, naturally there is nothing more to say, but even if you find it, you should let me have it.”
The toxicity level of Wan Gui was slowly increasing. He began to feel faint and he could not help but stagger wildly in pain. Lu Kun shouted: “Brother! Brother!” He extended his hands and ripped open his sleeves. He saw that the red line had already made its way to his underarm. He turned around to Wan Zhenshan and shouted: “Teacher! We should agree to anything today!”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Very well, the Liancheng Manual will belong to you. Congratulations! Congratulations!” The last two words were uttered with extreme feelings of injustice.
Yan Daping said: “Very well then, I will go inside and search. Who knows? Maybe I will find the antidote you are looking for. That will depend if Niece Wan has been blessed with good luck.” After he said this he turned around and went inside. Wan Zhenshan signalled Lu Kun and Bu Yuan to follow him inside.
After a long while, the three of them still didn’t come out, nor were there any noises. Wan Gui was unconscious and was supported by Shen Cheng, he couldn’t even move anymore. Wan Zhenshan became anxious and said to Feng Tan: “Go inside and take a look.”
Feng Tan replied, “Yes!” He was about to go inside when Yan Daping came outside, his face full of glee.
“Not bad! Not bad! Looks like I found it after all!” he raised a small porcelain bottle with his hands and continued: “This is the antidote best used to cure the toxicity of scorpions. Niece Wan, you are very fortunate. From now on you should not play with these things!” He walked beside Wan Gui and removed the bottle cork and smeared the black powder on the back of his hand.
This antidote was really effective. In no time at all, black blood started seeping out of the wound, slowly dripping on the ground. The more black blood that dripped, the more the red line on his arm regressed, until it turned to his elbow and back down to his wrist.
Wan Zhenshan breathed a sigh of relief and felt more relaxed. He was also very angry; although his son’s life was no longer in jeopardy, he had lost this battle miserably, already subdued by his opponent without so much as a chance to fight back. After a while, Wan Gui’s eyes slowly opened and called out, “Father!”
Yan Daping sealed the porcelain bottle and placed it back in his bosom. He got his crutch and stomped it a few times, laughing: “This is good. Niece Wan, from now on you should be a good person. Whenever you extend your hand into someone’s pocket to search, you must be extra careful!”
Wan Zhenshan said to Shen Cheng: “Tell them to come out.”
Shen Cheng said, “Yes!” He went inside the hall then shouted: “Brother Lu, Brother Bu, come out! We are leaving now.”
All he heard were sounds of moaning but they did not come out. Sun Jun and Shen Cheng did not wait for their teacher’s orders and rushed inside at once. They supported Lu Kun and Bu Yuan back outside. The two of them were deathly pale; one had a broken leg while the other had a broken foot. It was obvious that they suffered at the hands of Yan Daping.
Wan Zhenshan was extremely furious. He already had the intent of taking Yan Daping’s life, but now he felt even more justified in doing so. How could he possibly repress this surging stream of anger in his heart? At once he unsheathed his long sword, the edge of the blade glimmering a dark color as he rushed to pierce Yan Daping’s throat.
Di Yun had never seen Wan Zhenshan execute his martial arts. When he saw how this attack was so fierce and steady, he thought: “This strike does not seem to have any flaws.” At this point Di Yun’s cultivation was already at an extraordinary level. Although he was not taught by anyone, when someone attacks, he can still naturally tell if this person’s strike had any weaknesses or not.
Yan Daping slanted his body to evade, then with his left hand he grabbed the lower end of the crutch while his right hand held its dragon head. As soon as he separated his hands, a soft click was heard; a white flash of dazzling light appeared as he produced a long sword in his hand. It turns out that the dragon head of the crutch was actually the hilt of the sword, the crutch hid the sword and acted as a scabbard. Now that he had a sword, at once he countered the attack. Ting! Ting Ting! The sounds of sword clashes were relentless, the two martial brothers fought on the side of a slope and fought intensely. After exchanging several stances, they both felt that the terrain was narrow, and at once both leaped into the pit.
When the villagers saw the two of them vie against each other, they were already startled. Now that they saw they were engaged in such an intense battle, the villagers were so scared they hid in the corner of the room, not daring to make any noise. Di Yun also pretended to be afraid, but he watched his two martial uncles very carefully.
After the two of them exchanged seven or eight stances, Di Yun thought: “My two martial uncles’ internal energies are inadequate; although their stances have been exhausted, even if they receive the Liancheng Manual, I’m afraid that they won’t find any use for it, unless this manual was capable of boosting one’s internal energy. But it is a sword manual, so it is likely only for sword techniques.”
He watched another few stances and became even more perplexed. “The martial arts of Liu Chengfeng, Hua Tiegan, and the other members of Luohua Liushui are much higher than that of my two martial uncles. My two martial uncles only focus on the exquisiteness of techniques, disregarding their compatibility with internal energy, what sense does that make? When my teacher taught me swordplay, he also taught me the same way. It looks like those three martial brothers all learned the same moves. This type of martial arts will be very effective if they encounter someone much weaker than them, but if their opponent has powerful internal energy, their extremely exquisite and fluctuating techniques would be rendered useless. What’s the point of learning swords? What’s the point of learning swords?”
Then followed that Sun Jun, Feng Tan, and Wu Kan all unsheathed their swords and rushed forward, making a battle of four-against-one.
Yan Daping laughed heartily and said: “Good! Good! You have really made significant progress elder brother, resorting to gathering the younger generation to assault your younger brother.” He pretended as if it was no big deal, but it was obvious that his sword movements became more sluggish.
Di Yun thought: “In terms of swordplay, my martial uncles each have their own strong points. The ‘Piercing Shoulder Stance’, ‘Slap-in-the-face Stance’, and ‘Releasing Sword Stance’ that Uncle Yan taught me are incredibly effective in dealing with disciples of the Wan clan. However, it is completely useless when matched against Uncle Wan himself. Ai, they don’t understand that if they only focus on the exquisiteness of sword techniques, without the proper internal energy foundation, what use would it be? It is completely useless. This is really strange, even a dumb person like me understands this principle; they are incredibly intelligent, how could they not understand? Could it be that I am the one who’s confused?”
All of a sudden, a flash of light crossed his mind. “Brother Ding once told me the origins of the Heavenly Glow Manual. If my grand-teacher Mei Niansheng understands this principle, why did he not teach it to his three disciples? Could it be… could it be… could it be…” As he said repeated himself three times, a cold sweat exuded from his back, he shivered and his body trembled slightly.
An old man beside him constantly prayed. “Amitabha, Amitabha, please let there not be any casualties. Young one, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid.” The old man saw Di Yun trembling as he watched the battle and offered comforting words, but actually the old man was really scared as well.
Di Yun already realized the truth in his heart. But the truth was so treacherous and sinister that he did not want to think about it, nor did he want to establish a logical conclusion with this truth. But since he realized the crux of this scheme, naturally the bits and pieces would all come together. Wan Zhenshan, Yan Daping, Sun Jun, Feng Tan… every time these people executed a sword stance, it would further verify his conclusions. “This is right, this is right… it must be like this. But, what if it isn’t? Could my teacher really be this vicious? It can’t be, it can’t be… but, if it wasn’t like this, then how could this happen? This is extremely perplexing.”
Many pictures flashed through his mind as they pieced themselves together. “All these years, it had been the case that I would practice swordplay with martial sister while teacher gave pointers from the sidelines. Every time my teacher taught me a technique, it would be ingenious. I would practice it thoroughly; the second time my teacher taught it, it would be completely different. Although the sword techniques were profound, it would be very different from the first technique. Back then, I thought it was because teacher’s swordplay was so exquisite that it could not be predicted, why the two sword stances were completely different, I never understood.”
Then a surge of pain struck his heart. “Teacher intentionally pointed me in the wrong direction, he intentionally taught me second-rate sword techniques. His ability is actually much higher, but the sword stances he taught me were not impressive at all. His… his… Uncle Yan’s martial arts should be around the same as my teacher’s, yet the three stances he taught me were much superior to anything my teacher taught me…
“Why did Uncle Yan teach me these three sword stances? Clearly he did not harbour good intentions. Right… right, he wanted to raise Uncle Wan’s suspicions. He wanted Uncle Wan to fight with my teacher…
“Uncle Wan did the same thing. His sword techniques are much different from those of his various disciples, but… why would he even lie to his own son? Ai, obviously if he isn’t teaching his other disciples, he can’t teach his son, otherwise his scheme would be easily seen through.”
Yan Daping pushed forward and twirled the sword with his right wrist. He made seven full circles in rapid haste and attacked Wan Zhenshan’s chest. Wan Zhenshan slanted his body to dodge the attack, overcoming the circles horizontally; stabbing and slashing, he completely overcame all seven circles.
Di Yun watched from the side and thought: “These seven circles were completely redundant. The last strike was aimed to pierce the left side of Uncle Wan’s chest, but why not just pierce through directly? Wouldn’t that be faster and more intense? Uncle Wan inclined his body to strike and stab consecutively, with seven stances he managed to overcome the seven sword circles of Uncle Yan. Although it appears clever, it is actually extremely stupid. If he had just attacked Uncle Yan’s stomach, he would have won already.”
Suddenly, a scene swept past his ocean of thoughts:
When he would practise swords with his martial sister, she would have many kinds of varied sword stances. He did not remember everything that his teacher taught him and would be forced into a state of confusion, retreating constantly. Qi Fang would swipe three times with her sword in succession, causing him to be flustered and faint with blurred vision. When he saw that he could not counter his opponent’s moves, he would no longer be able to think of the stances his teacher taught him. Instead he would casually defend and then counterattack with his own strike...
When Qi Fang unleashed the two stances of “The Wind Suddenly Blows” and “The Mountain Escapes like a Cloth” and brandished her sword in a circular motion to defend, although Di Yun’s stances were simple and spontaneous, not in the least complying with his teacher’s instructions, yet Qi Fang’s complex and exquisite sword stance could actually not handle it. He would stab directly to his martial sister’s shoulder. Without having time to retract his attack, his teacher suddenly leapt into the fray and holding a stick of firewood in his hands, knocked the sword out of his hands.
He and Qi Fang were both so startled their faces changed colours. Qi Zhangfa reprimanded him greatly for not following with his teachings, saying how it was outrageous that he would just brandish and slash his sword in such a disorderly fashion.
At that time he once thought: “I did not use the sword according to his method, yet why was I able to win?” But once that thought passed he understood. “Obviously, it is because martial sister’s swordplay is not up to par. If I had encountered a formidable opponent, there is no way I would be able to win attacking in such a way.” Back then, there was no way that he could have figured out that his own simple sword techniques were actually more practical than the various complex and fancy stances taught by his teacher.
Now that he thought about it, he had a completely different mindset. With his current martial arts abilities, he could clearly see the truth: Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping executed various fancy sword stances that were actually completely useless, and further, the stances Wan Zhenshan taught to his disciples, and the stances taught to Di Yun and his martial sister by his teacher, consisted of even more useless stances. It goes without saying that grand-teacher Mei Niansheng had long realized his three disciples were schemers, so when he passed on his swordplay, he deliberately guided them towards a devious path. And when Wan Zhenshan and Qi Zhangfa taught their disciples, whether intentionally or unintentionally, they too brought their disciples even deeper into this path.
When executing a useless sword stance during a battle, not only is it a waste of time, it also gives your opponent an opportunity to strike back and gain the upper hand. It is like putting your life at the hands of your opponent. Why are his grand-teacher, teacher, and martial uncles so vicious? Why are they so sinister?
“Would they have animosity towards their own children? Would they intentionally mislead their disciples to a devious path? That can’t be it. There has to be an even greater reason, it must be an extremely treacherous conspiracy. Could it be all for the Liancheng Manual?
“That should be it. Uncle Wan and Uncle Yan are even willing to kill their own teacher for the manual, and now they are willing to kill each other.”
Indeed, they both wanted to kill each other. The battle in the pit became increasingly pressing and intense. It was hard to tell who had better swordplay between Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping, but with the disciples of the Wan clan assisting alongside, it obviously increased the pressure on Yan Daping. The battle made its way to the edge; Sun Jun aimed to stab Yan Daping from behind. Yan Daping returned his sword to resist, the edge of the blade following its momentum downwards. Sun Jun let out a screech as his web was injured, then followed that his long sword fell on the ground. At the same time, Wan Zhenshan seized the opportunity to strike and stabbed Yan Daping squarely on his right arm.
Yan Daping sustained injuries on his right arm and urgently switched the sword to his left hand, but naturally, he was not used to using a sword with his left hand, nor could the would on his right arm be considered minor. Blood kept spurting out of his wound and covered half his body in blood. After another seven or eight stances, he was stabbed on the left arm as well.
The crowd of villagers watched in horror and their faces turned deathly pale. They all wanted to run away from the house, yet no one dared to make a move.
Wan Zhenshan was determined to slaughter his martial brother today, and each strike was executed with increasing intensity. Chi! The left side of Yan Daping’s chest was stabbed.
It would only be a matter of another few stances before Yan Daping would be killed by the sword of Wan Zhenshan, yet he clenched his teeth and continued the battle soaked in blood, not once begging for mercy. He had been in the same clan as his martial brother for over a dozen years, and after leaving the clan, the two of them vied against each other for another dozen years. He knew his martial brother extremely well; if he were to beg for mercy, he would only be humiliated even further—it would be completely ineffective.
Di Yun thought: “That year in Jingzhou, Uncle Yan helped me defeat the bandit Lu Tong with a simple rice bowl, and he further taught me three sword stances so that I would not be humiliated by the disciples of the Wan clan. Although it is likely that it was done with a malicious intent, I still received his favour. I cannot simply let him die like this.” At once he pretended to tremble violently, then he picked up a shovel full of dirt on the ground.
Wan Zhenshan was about to stab Yan Daping again. Yan Daping’s body was swaying and would not be able to dodge this attack. Di Yun lightly shook the shovel on his hands and sent a cluster of yellow dirt towards Wan Zhenshan. This cluster of dirt was reinforced with profound internal energy; when Wan Zhenshan was hit by its force, he could not keep his balance and fell backwards on the ground.
Everyone in the room was taken by surprise. Nobody knew where this cluster of dirt came from. Di Yun followed through with another few shovels of dirt and threw it on several oil lamps on the wall. In an instant, the entire room was covered in darkness. Everyone cried out in horror. Di Yun leapt forward and rushed outside with Yan Daping.
When Di Yun made his way outside the house, he carried Yan Daping on his back and galloped his way up the mountain.
Di Yun was extremely familiar with the surrounding area. He made his way up a very desolate and difficult path in the mountain. Yan Daping rested on his back and felt a gust of wind blowing past his ears, as if he was like mist soaring above the clouds. He thought he was in a dream, he did not believe that a person with such a high level of martial arts existed in this world. Wan Zhenshan and his disciples shouted and made chase, but they trailed further and further behind Di Yun.
Di Yun carried Yan Daping on his back and climbed the highest mountain peak nearby. The peak was extremely precipitous and steep, Di Yun had never made his way up here before.
From afar, he gazed on a mountain peak with Qi Fang. This peak was completely obscured by clouds. They discussed whether there were monsters or deities on the peak. Qi Fang said: “If there comes a day where you wrong me, I will climb up this peak and never come down.”
Di Yun said: “Alright then, I won’t come down either.”
Qi Fang teased: “Water Spinach! If you are willing to stay on the peak with me and never come down, then I won’t have to climb the peak in the first place!”
Back then Di Yun laughed foolishly, but now he thought: “I am forever willing to be with you, yet you don’t want to be with me…”
He placed Yan Daping down on the ground and asked: “Do you have any pain relief medicine?”
Yan Daping bent his body to pay his respects. “May I ask for benefactor’s honourable surname? I, Yan Daping, have been graced with benefactor’s assistance today. How could I ever repay your kindness?”
Di Yun did not dare to accept his martial uncle’s courtesy and kneeled down to return his politeness. “Elder need not be too courteous, junior is not deserving of such an honour. Junior is a nameless individual, there is no need for you to repay such a small favour.”
Yan Daping wanted to know his name, but Di Yun did not want to fabricate a name, nor did he want to give out his real name.
Yan Daping figured that his benefactor would not reveal his name so he did not persist. He took out some pain relief medicine from his bosom and gently smeared it on his three wounds. He was a bit fearful as he recalled: “If he did not rescue me in time, I would no longer be in this world.”
Di Yun said: “Junior has a few things he does not understand and wishes to ask for elder’s guidance.”
Yan Daping urgently said: “Benefactor should not call me an elder anymore. If you have any questions, I, Yan Daping, will wholehearted inform you without half a word of deception.”
Di Yun said: “That is for the best then. May I ask elder, were you the one who built that big house?”
“Yes,” replied Yan Daping.
Di Yun asked: “Elder employed many villagers to dig a large pit, naturally in search for the Liancheng Manual. May I ask if this manual has been uncovered?”
Yan Daping trembled inwardly as he thought: “So he only rescued me because of the Liancheng Manual.” Then he answered: “I have spent countless efforts but have yet to find even a trace of it. Benefactor is intelligent, I do not dare to hide the truth from you. If I really had the manual, I would offer it to you at once. You saved my life, how would I dare to cherish such worldly possessions?”
Di Yun shook his hands repeatedly and explained: “I am not looking for the manual. To be honest, although my martial arts cannot be considered exceptional, I do not believe that this Liancheng Manual is capable of benefiting my martial arts progression greatly.”
Yan Daping said: “Right! Right! Benefactor’s martial arts have reached perfection, you could be considered to be matchless under heaven. This Liancheng Manual is merely an ordinary sword manual. The reason my martial brothers and I seek this manual is because it belongs to our clan and we respect it greatly. But from the perspective of outsiders, this manual is not worth mentioning.”
Di Yun could hear from his tone that it was spoken tongue-in-cheek, although he did not want to expose him at this moment. He asked: “I heard that your younger martial brother Qi Zhangfa used to live in this house. This elder’s name is ‘Iron Lock Across the River’, may I ask what this means?” He had been with his teacher since he was young and respected his teacher greatly as an honest and sincere countryman. But Ding Dian said that his teacher was extremely treacherous, he had to ask this question to confirm whether Ding Dian was misled by rumours.
Yan Daping answered: “My younger martial brother’s nickname is indeed ‘Iron Lock Across the River’. This nickname was made because others believe he is a multifarious schemer and an extremely cruel individual. He is like a long iron chain locked on a boat in the river; the meaning is that the boat can neither move forward or backwards.”
Di Yun grieved inwardly. “Brother Ding was right, my teacher is really such a person. I have been deceived by him since I was small, and he never revealed to me his true colours. But… but he has always treated me well, he didn’t really deceive me.” He held on to a glimmer of hope and asked: “This nickname that people in the realm gave to him may not be reliable, maybe it was given to him by his enemies. But you are his martial brother and practiced the same skills as him, you must know his character quite well. What is he like as a person?”
Yan Daping sighed: “I do not want to speak poorly of my martial brother, but since benefactor raised the question, I must answer truthfully. Although my Brother Qi looks like a sluggish person, he is actually an intelligent schemer, else how would the Liancheng Manual fall into his hands?”
Di Yun nodded his head. After a long while, he said: “How do you know the Liancheng Manual is in his possession? Did you see it with your own eyes?”
Yan Daping said: “I did not see it with my own eyes, but I have carefully considered and know that he definitely has it.”
Di Yun asked: “I heard that you like to pretend to be a beggar, is that true?”
Yan Daping was taken aback and mused: “This person is impressive, he even knows this.” Then he answered: “Benefactor sure has a way to get reliable information. It looks like I can’t hide anything from you. Back then I thought that if the Liancheng Manual was not in the hands of Brother Wan, then it must be in Brother Qi’s possession. Hence I disguised myself as a beggar and lived near Xiangxi and Hubei to investigate.”
Di Yun said: “Why did you think that the two of them had it?”
Yan Daping said: “Before my teacher died, he passed the manual on to the three of us…”
Di Yun recalled Ding Dian told him about the night at Yangtze. The three of them Wan, Yan, and Qi joined forces to kill their teacher, Mei Niansheng. He snorted in contempt and said: “Did he really give it to you personally? I’m afraid that… that is not likely. Did he die of natural causes?”
Yan Daping jumped up suddenly in alarm. He pointed and asked: “You… you are… Ding… Ding… Mister Ding?” The news of Ding Dian burying Mei Niansheng had eventually leaked, so when Yan Daping heard his benefactor accuse him of killing his own teacher, he thought this person was Ding Dian.
Di Yun replied calmly, “I am not Ding Dian. Brother Ding loathes injustice greatly. He… he personally saw the three of you join forces to kill your own teacher. If I was Brother Ding, I would not have saved you today. I would let you die by the hands of Wan Zhenshan.”
Yan Daping was bewildered and asked: “Then who are you?”
Di Yun replied: “You do not need to worry about that. If you do something bad, people will inevitably hear about it. After you joined forces to kill your teacher, you stole the Liancheng Manual. What happened next?”
Yan Daping trembled and asked: “Since you already know everything, why do you have to ask?”
Di Yun said: “I only know some things but not the whole story. I ask that you answer me truthfully. If you lie to me, I will have a way to find the truth.”
Yan Daping was both startled and afraid. “How would I dare to deceive my benefactor? After the three of us martial brothers got the Liancheng Manual, we looked into it and realized that we only had the sword manual but not the mnemonics, it was rendered useless. Hence we tried to pursue the mnemonics…”
Di Yun thought: “According to Brother Ding, this sword mnemonic has a hidden relation with a great treasure. Mei Niansheng, Lady Ling, and Brother Ding are no longer in this world. There is no one left who knows the secret, you guys are searching in vain.”
Yan Daping continued: “The three of us did not believe each other. Every night we would sleep in the same room, and the sword manual would be locked in an iron chest. We threw the key to the chest into the river and placed the chest inside the drawer of a table. The iron chest was also linked to three small iron chains connected to each of us. Whoever moved their iron chain, the other two would definitely know.”
Di Yun sighed. “You have really thought this through carefully.”
Yan Daping said: “We never would have guessed that chaos would ensue.”
Di Yun asked: “What happened exactly?”
Yan Daping said: “That night, the three of us slept in the same room. The next morning, Wan Zhenshan shouted loudly, ‘Where is the sword manual? Where is the sword manual?’ I was startled and woke up. I saw that the iron chest placed in the drawer had been pulled open, and the manual inside disappeared without a trace. The three of us were completely startled and searched mindlessly, but how could we find it? This matter was extremely strange; the window inside the room was locked from the inside and was never moved, so the manual was definitely not stolen by an outsider. If it was not the doing of Brother Wan, then it must be Brother Qi.”
“If that is true, why would he not open the window to make it look like an outsider did it?” reasoned Di Yun.
Yan Daping sighed. “The three of us are linked together by an iron chain. It is possible to take the case from the drawer, but the chain does not extend long enough to reach the window.”
Di Yun said: “If that is so, what did you do next?”
Yan Daping replied: “It was not easy for us to get the sword manual, of course we would not let this matter rest. The three of us blamed each other for responsibility, but after a huge argument it was still inconclusive without evidence, so we could do nothing but go our separate ways…”
Di Yun said: “There is something I still don’t understand, I ask for your guidance. Since your teacher possesses such a sword manual, he should have passed it on to his disciples a long time ago. Would he actually take it with him to his grave? Is that why you had to take strike first? Is that why you had to take his life?”
Yan Daping said: “My teacher… my teacher, ai, he… he is really muddled. He firmly believed that the three of us were malicious schemers, so he never passed the sword manual to us. When we saw that he was looking for an alternate successor, and even went as far as to pass on our clan’s sword manual to an outsider, the three of us could not bear it any longer, hence… hence we took action.”
Di Yun asked: “So that’s how it is. How did you determine that Brother Qi was the one who took the manual?”
Yan Daping explained: “At first I suspected Wan Zhenshan because he was the first one to shout and declare thievery, so he was most suspicious. I secretly tailed him for some time and realized that he was not the one, because he was also following Brother Qi. If Brother Wan was the one who took the manual, he would not need to tail someone else, he would find a desolate place somewhere deep in the mountains to practice it. However, every time I tailed him I saw that he gnashed his teeth with an extremely impatient and loathsome expression, hence I changed my target and followed Qi Zhangfa.”
Di Yun asked: “Did you find any clues?”
Yan Daping shook his head. “Qi Zhangfa is much too sophisticated, he did not leave any clues at all. I once watched his disciple and his daughter practise martial arts. He intentionally played dumb and changed the mnemonics of his Tang Poem Swordplay into a nonsensical mess. It really made me laugh my teeth out. But the more he pretended to be dumb, the more I suspected him. I followed him for three years, but he never revealed any evidence. Once he left home, I secretly went into his cottage to search. But there was no sword manual, it was difficult to even find a common book. Hmph, he is really crafty. Impressive!”
Di Yun asked: “What did you do next?”
Yan Daping said: “After that, Wan Zhenshan suddenly wanted to celebrate his birthday, and sent one of his disciples to invite Qi Zhangfa over to Jingzhou. Obviously, the birthday banquet was a scheme to test his martial brother. Qi Zhangfa brought his daughter and his foolish disciple called Di Yun or something together with him to Jingzhou. After the banquet, Di Yun fought with the eight disciples of the Wan clan and revealed remarkable sword stances which aroused Wan Zhenshan’s suspicions… benefactor, did you say something?”
Di Yun shook his head.
Yan Daping continued: “Thereafter, Wan Zhenshan brought Qi Zhangfa over to his study room to discuss. The two of them got into a heated argument and completely flipped faces. Qi Zhangfa attacked first and wounded Wan Zhenshan. After that he disappeared without a trace. It is strange, extremely strange.”
“What is so strange about it?” asked Di Yun.
“Qi Zhangfa disappeared without a trace, never to be heard from again. When Qi Zhangfa went to Jingzhou, he would definitely not carry the sword manual with him. He must have hid it in an extremely secluded place. Originally I thought that after he wounded Wan Zhenshan he would return for the manual that same night and then escape to a faraway place. So as soon as the incident occurred, I prepared a fast horse and arrived before he did. I wanted to see where he hid the manual before I made my move. However, I waited for a very long time but he never showed up. After a few years, I figured that he would never come back, so I no longer played nice with him. I turned his cottage upside down and began digging for the manual. However, all my efforts were in vain, I did not find anything at all. If not for benefactor, I surnamed Yan would have lost my life today. Heh, my Brother Wan is really a ruthless person!”
“According to you, where do you think your Brother Qi is now?” asked Di Yun.
Yan Daping shook his head. “I really don’t have a clue. Although the web of Heaven has many openings, the way of Heaven is fair, the guilty will not escape. Perhaps he contrived a sickness, or maybe he got into an accident and was eaten by a wild animal.”
Di Yun saw that his face was full of delight, as if to rejoice at the thought of his teacher’s misfortune. He became extremely angry, but upon thinking that his teacher was indeed without a trace all these years, it was actually likely that he was no longer in this world. He stood up and said: “Thank you for being honest with me. I have to take my leave now.”
Yan Daping respectfully greeted him three times and said: “I, Yan Daping, will never forget benefactor’s kindness.”
Di Yun said: “Such a small matter you need not take to heart. Besides… besides… you once… you should stay here to tend your wounds, Wan Zhenshan will never find you here. You don’t have to worry.”
Yan Daping laughed. “He’s probably as hasty as an ant on a frying pan, he will never find me.”
Di Yun asked: “Why is that?”
Yan Daping smiled. “My poisonous scorpion wounded his son’s hand. He needs to apply the medicine ten times in order to completely purge the poison. He only applied it once, what use is that?”
Di Yun was taken aback. “So Wan Gui will lose his life?”
Yan Daping appeared complacent. “The poison of a mottling scorpion is no small matter. The cleverness lies in the fact that Wan Gui will not die easily. He will cry and moan for a full month before the deal is sealed. Haha, excellent! Excellent!”
Di Yun said: “If it takes him one month to die, then he need not worry. He can find a skilled physician to cure his poison.”
Yan Daping said: “Benefactor does not understand. This poisonous scorpion was bred by me and was fed various antidotes since it was small. The scorpion understands the medical nature of various antidotes, so ordinary medicine will not be of any use. Even if he finds a very skilled physician, he would use the poison of various insects to treat the wound, what use is that? There is only one antidote that the scorpion has never eaten before, and that is the only one that can be used. Besides me, there is no second person in this world who knows the formula to produce such an antidote. Haha! Haha!”
Di Yun raised his eyebrows and thought: “This person can actually be so malicious, it is scary! It’s possible that next time I will fall victim to his scorpion. Brother Ding always said that when wandering the realm, one should not harbour malicious intents, but one must be wary of others’ malicious intents. It is best that I ask him to give me the antidote just in case.” Then he declared: “That bottle of medicine, give it to me!”
Yan Daping said: “Of course! Of course!” He could not help but ask, “May I ask why benefactor wants the antidote?”
Di Yun said: “Your scorpion is extremely lethal. If I am not careful I may be bitten as well. It is best that I have a bottle of medicine just in case.”
Yan Daping felt embarrassed and laughed: “Benefactor saved my life, why would I ever harm you? Benefactor is too skeptical.”
Di Yun extended his hand forward and said: “I must have it just in case.”
Yan Daping said, “Yes! Yes!” and at once took out the medicine and handed it over.
Di Yun descended the peak and went inside the house to take a look. The various villagers in the house had long disappeared. The housekeeper and foreman were nowhere to be seen. There was not a single person to be found.
Di Yun thought: “Teacher is dead, martial sister is married, I will never return here again.”
He left the house and followed the creek to the northwest direction. After walking several hundred feet, he turned to look at the sun rising from the east, shining on the various poplar and locust trees in front of the house, the creek too illuminated flashes of light. He had seen such a scene many times in his youth. He could not help but mutter to himself, “From now on, I will never see this place again.”
He gently felt the package on his bosom and thought: “In front of me there is still one task I have to fulfill: I must bring Brother Ding’s ashes together with Lady Ling. I will have to make a visit to Jingzhou. That little scoundrel Wan Gui has caused me so much suffering. Fortunately, an evil person will meet a tragic end, I do not need to personally take revenge. Yan Daping said that he will have to suffer an entire month before he dies, but who knows if that will happen or not. If he manages to find a skilled physician to cure his poison, then I will personally supplement his body with another strike and take his pathetic life.”
Ever since he seeing the battle between Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping last night, he became confident in his own skills.
Zhuge Liang (181-234) was a renowned Shu strategist during the Three Kingdoms period. He is very well-respected even to this day.
A pun on words; the word “seven” in Chinese is also pronounced “qi”, so that person thought he was asking for seventh teacher.
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06-18-11, 02:49 PM#11
Chapter 10Chapter 10
The Tang Poem Anthology
Jingzhou was not very far from Xiangxi. After several days of travel, Di Yun arrived at Jingzhou. He had travelled this path once before with his teacher and martial sister. The river creek was the same. The path was also the same. That year when he traversed this path, the journey was filled with Qi Fang’s cheerful laughter. This time, when he went from Maxi to Jingzhou, there was not a single sound of laughter. Of course, people did laugh, only that Di Yun didn’t hear it.
When Di Yun reached the outskirts of the city, he inquired and found out that Ling Tuisi was still the prefectural magistrate. Di Yun smeared dirt across his face to conceal his identity when he went in the city.
“I need to see for myself how much Wan Gui is suffering. I wonder if he has recovered? It could be that he is still in Hunan treating his injuries and hasn’t returned.”
Di Yun made his way to the Wan residence. From afar, he saw Shen Cheng rush out the front door looking extremely urgent. He thought: “If Shen Cheng is here, Wan Gui is probably here as well. When night comes, I will go in and take a look.” Thereafter, he made his way to the abandoned garden.
The abandoned garden was not far away from the Wan residence. The day Ding Dian died and Zhou Qi, Geng Tianba, and Ma Daming were killed, all happened in this abandoned garden. Being in this garden made him reminiscence these events. The grass was grown tall as before, and there was rubble and debris everywhere. He made his way beside a plum tree and felt the various depressions and bumps of the tree. “That day, Ding Dian passed away beside this very tree. This plum tree still looks the same, nothing has changed, but Ding Dian has become a pile of ashes…”
Thereafter, he sat below the plum tree and slept until the second watch. Then he produced some food from his bosom and ate it. When the time came, he left the abandoned garden and made his way to the Wan residence. He leapt over the wall to get in. When he reached the garden, he could not help but feel a sense of bitterness in his heart. “That day when I suffered injuries I hid in this firewood room. Not only did my martial sister not save me, she was even heartless enough to tell her husband to come kill me.” As he was about to continue walking, he suddenly saw three sources of fire light up next to the river.
Di Yun hid behind a tree and looked toward the direction of the light. He saw that the three sources of light were actually three incense sticks lit by an incense burner. The incense burner was placed on a small table. In front of the table, two people were kowtowing to Heaven. When they got up, Di Yun saw clearly who they were. One of them was Qi Fang, the other was her daughter, Water Spinach.
He heard Qi Fang pray softly, “For the first incense stick, I pray that Heaven will bless and protect my husband from suffering, and to purge the toxic from his body so he no longer suffers from the pain of scorpion poison. Water Spinach, speak up, tell Heaven that you wish your papa will recover.”
The little girl said: “Okay mama. I ask that Bodhisattva blesses my father and alleviates his suffering so he no longer cries.”
Although Di Yun was not very close, he heard all the words very clearly. Upon hearing that Wan Gui was suffering so much, he naturally rejoiced at his misfortune, but he also resented how affectionate Qi Fang was to her husband.
He heard Qi Fang say, “For the second incense stick, I pray that Heaven will bless and protect my father. I hope that my father will be free of disasters and calamities. I hope that my father will return soon. Water Spinach, tell Bodhisattva you wish your grandpa will live a prosperous life.”
The little girl said: “Right. Grandpa, please return soon. Why haven’t you returned?”
Qi Fang said: “Ask Bodhisattva to bless and protect your grandfather.”
The little girl said: “I ask that Bodhisattva bless and protect my grandpa. Please bless and protect my papa and grandpa.” She had never seen Qi Zhangfa before. When Qi Fang asked for her prayers, she naturally only considered her father and her paternal grandfather.”
Qi Fang paused for a moment before she said: “For the third incense stick, I pray that Heaven will bless and protect him. I hope that everything goes well for him, and that he will soon find someone he truly loves and start a happy family…” As she said up to this point, her voice was filled with sobs. She raised her sleeves to wipe her tears.
The little girl said: “Mama, you are thinking of uncle again.”
Qi Fang said: “Tell Heaven you wish Water Spinach uncle will be safe and sound…”
When Di Yun heard the prayers of her third incense stick, he was perplexed. “Who is she praying for?” But when he heard her say “Water Spinach uncle”, a buzz went through his ears as he thought: “She’s talking about me? She’s really talking about me?”
The little girl said: “Mama really misses Water Spinach uncle. I pray that Bodhisattva will bless uncle with a great fortune so he will buy a big doll for me. He is Water Spinach, I am also Water Spinach. Mama, where is Water Spinach uncle? Why has he not returned?”
Qi Fang said: “Uncle Water Spinach is in a very faraway place. Your uncle abandoned your mama, your mama misses him dearly…” As she said up to this point, she carried her daughter back into the house.
Di Yun made his way in front of the incense burner. Watching the three incense sticks glisten in the dark, he became lost in thought.
He stood motionless in front of the three sticks. The sticks had burnt out into ashes, yet he still did not move.
The next morning, Di Yun left the garden and began wandering aimlessly around Jingzhou. All of a sudden, he heard some banging sounds and saw in front of him a physician selling medicine on the street. Di Yun decided that he wanted to personally see how badly Wan Gui was suffering, so he took out ten taels of silver and bought the physician’s clothes, medicine box, and fucheng. The physician was surprised, for he knew that all of his items were not worth more than three or four taels of silver. He was more than delighted to sell everything to him.
Di Yun returned to the abandoned garden and put on the physician’s attire. He took out some herbs from the box and smeared it on his face, he smeared especially much right under his left eye. He was changed beyond recognition. Then he began to shake his fucheng and made his way to the Wan residence.
When he neared the entrance, he shook the fucheng very heavily and walked close to the entrance and shouted with a very coarse voice, “I specialize in curing extremely difficult diseases, illnesses and nameless poisons. Insect and snake bites can be cured immediately!”
He walked back and forth for three orbits before someone came out urgently from the front door, waving, “Hey, physician, come over here.”
Di Yun recognized that this was one of the Wan clan disciples. It was actually the one who sliced off his five fingers that year, Wu Kan. But Di Yun had completely disguised his appearance so he could not be recognized. Di Yun was afraid that his voice would be recognized, so he slowly trotted over and lowered his voice even further. “What do you have to ask of me? Have you contracted any strange illnesses or nameless poisons?”
Wu Kan spat out in disgust. “Does it look like I have contracted a poison? I ask you now, are you capable of curing scorpion bites?”
Di Yun said: “The poisons of green bamboo snakes, golden feet snakes, and iron spade snakes, all of the most poisons of the most deadly snakes under heaven, I can cure. Haha, what is a mere scorpion to me?”
Wu Kan said: “Don’t be so confident. This is not an ordinary scorpion. Even a very famous Jingzhou physician shook his head when he saw it, how can you do better?”
Di Yun creased his eyebrows and said: “Is it really that deadly? The most poisonous scorpions in this world are merely gray haired scorpions, black and white scorpions, golden scorpions, pocked head scorpions, red tailed scorpions, white leg scorpions…” He spewed a bunch of nonsense and named 20 scorpions before continuing: “Every scorpion has a different kind of poison, and each has its own way of treatment. Even a famous physician may not necessarily be skilled; he may not be fully knowledgeable.”
Wu Kan saw that this person’s appearance was ugly and his clothes were shagged. Although this person was capable of naming many types of scorpions, it sounded like a bunch of inarticulately stuttered nonsense. He figured that this person was likely not very skilled at all, and said: “Very well then, go in and have a look. I will just pretend it’s a dead horse being treated like a live horse.” Di Yun nodded his head and followed him inside the mansion.
Wu Kan raised his head and shouted: “Third martial sister-in-law, there is a grass head physician here. He claims that he can cure a scorpion’s poison. Should we let him take a look at martial brother?”
With an “ah!” the window opened. Qi Fang stuck her head outside the window and said: “Yes, please! Thank you, Brother Wu. Your martial brother is suffering even more today. Please bring the physician upstairs.”
Wu Kan said to Di Yun, “Go on ahead then.” He did not go up himself.
Qi Fang said: “Brother Wu, please go up as well so you can help keep an eye.”
Wu Kan complied and went upstairs.
When Di Yun went upstairs, he saw the center by the window was placed a very large desk. On top of the desk was placed a brush and blotting paper with about a dozen books. There was also a half-sewn child’s garment. Qi Fang came out from the inner room to welcome him. She was not wearing any cosmetics and looked rather wan and sallow. Di Yun glanced at her once and did not look again. He was afraid that she would recognize him and quietly followed her into the room.
Inside the room, a person slept on a large bed, moaning in pain. It was Wan Gui. His daughter sat on a small stool beside him, gently massaging her father’s legs. When she saw Di Yun’s filthy and strange appearance, she became startled and hurriedly cowered behind her mother.
Wu Kan said: “My martial brother was bitten by a poisonous scorpion. The poison in his body will not purge. There seems to be a serious problem.”
Di Yun mumbled: “Mm, is that so?” Earlier when he spoke to Wu Kan outside he was cool and collected, but now that he saw Qi Fang, his heart was bouncing around his chest, both his cheeks felt warm, and his lips and tongue felt dry. He could not even speak properly. He went to the bed and gently patted Wan Gui’s shoulder.
Wan Gui slowly got up. When he saw Di Yun’s appearance, he became slightly startled. Qi Fang said: “San’ge, this is the physician that Brother Wu found for you, he… he may have some kind of miraculous antidote to treat your poison.” The way she said these words, it was clear that she had no confidence in this physician.
Di Yun did not say a word. He looked at Wan Gui’s swollen hand and saw that there were round black spots, it was extremely repulsive. He spoke in a coarse voice, “This poison was contracted from a mottling scorpion from Xiangxi. We do not have this type of scorpion in Hubei!”
Qi Fang and Wu Kan both said: “Right, this wound was indeed contracted from Xiangxi in Hunan.” Qi Fang continued: “Mister, since you are able to determine the type of poison just by looking at it, are you able to cure it?” Her voice was full of hope.
Di Yun counted on his fingers and said: “He was bitten at night, hmm, it has now been seven days and seven nights.”
Qi Fang glanced at Wu Kan then said: “Mister really has supernatural accuracy. He was indeed bitten at night, and it really has been seven days and seven nights.”
Di Yun continued: “Did this gentleman turn his hand over to crush the scorpion? If he did not do this, there would be a cure for him. But because he crushed the scorpion with his hand, its poison has completely forced itself into his hand. It is useless to help him now.”
When Qi Fang heard that this physician was even accurate enough to determine the number of days, she thought there really was a cure and her face was full of delight. But upon hearing this, she felt anxious. “Mister has spoken very clearly. But I ask that you please save his life at any cost.”
The whole point of Di Yun disguising himself as a physician was to enter the Wan residence so he could personally see how pathetically Wan Gui was suffering. He wanted to see him moaning and groaning in his pitiful state in order to relieve the accumulated anger in his heart. He really had no intention to save his life at all. But since he was small he had listened to Qi Fang’s every word, and never once did he disobey her. Now when he heard her desperate plea, his heart softened and he opened up the medicine box intending to take out the antidote he took from Yan Daping. But upon further consideration he thought: “This Wan Gui has caused me so much suffering, he even took my martial sister away from me. I am already being extremely kind for not killing him myself. How could I go so far as to save him?” He shook his head and said: “It is not that I don’t want to save him, it’s just that after so many days, the poison has slowly made its way to his brain. There is nothing that I can do now.”
Qi Fang hung her head down and began to cry. She pulled her daughter beside her and said: “Water Spinach my dear, kowtow to this uncle and beseech him to rescue your papa.”
Di Yun hurriedly shook his hand and said, “Please, there is no need…” But the little girl was very obedient and always listened to her mother’s words. She also knew that her father was gravely injured so she felt very anxious. At once she kneeled down and gave him a resounding kowtow. As Di Yun had lost the five fingers on his right hand, he hid it inside his sleeve the entire time. Instead he extended his left hand and brought the girl up. When he saw the little girl’s full body, he saw a golden locket hung on her neck. On the gold piece was inscribed the words “Virtuous Appearance, Double Luxuriance”.
When Di Yun saw this, he became confused. He recalled the day he fainted in the firewood room. When he later woke up on a boat in the middle of the Yangtze, there were various gold and silver jewelleries beside him. One of them was a little girl’s locket which also inscribed these four exact words. Could it be…?
He only looked once and did not dare to look again. His thoughts were all over the place. Eventually he cleared his mind and collected his thoughts. “I fainted in the firewood room in the Wan residence. It must have been martial sister who saved me, there can be no other person. In the past I thought she intentionally harmed me, but last night… last night she prayed to Heaven and revealed her thoughts. She still cares about me very much. There is no way she hurt me that day. Could it be… could it be that Heaven has eyes, after all the suffering that I’ve been through, can I really reunite with my martial sister?”
When he thought of the word “reunite” his heart began to bounce wildly. He tilted his head sideways to look at Qi Fang and saw that her face was full of worry and troubles, staring intensely at Wan Gui, her eyes showing great tenderness and affection.
When Di Yun saw her expression his heart came to a halt, he felt an ice-cold sensation on his back. He remembered very clearly the events that happened that day, how he fought with the eight disciples of the Wan clan, how he was completely humiliated by them, how his martial sister mended his garment back together with the same brimming tenderness in her eyes. But now her eyes were all for her husband, it was no longer for him.
“If I don’t give him the antidote, no one can blame me. I can wait for Wan Gui to die an excruciating death and then leave with her at night, who can stop me? I don’t care about the past, we… we can become man and wife. I will take her daughter along with me. Ai, this is not right. No! Martial sister has been the lady of the house all these years and lived a luxurious life, how can she go back to farming with me? Besides, I am ugly and I don’t even know past a few hundred words and my hand is crippled, how do I deserve to be with her? How would she be willing to leave with me?” He felt very ashamed of his own inferiority and became depressed.
How would Qi Fang know that this physician would have so many thoughts in mind? She could do no more but stare at him intensely, hoping that he would utter the words “There is a cure!”
Wan Gui groaned in excruciating pain. At this point the poison had already made its way to the joint of his arm, his entire arm and palm was swollen and the pain was unbearable.
Qi Fang waited for a very long time but Di Yun did not respond. She pleaded: “Mister, please give it a try. Even if you can only… only lessen his suffering, then that is fine, we won’t fault you.” The intent was that even if Wan Gui could not keep his life, she would still hope that the physician can lessen his pain. She did not want her husband to die in such an anguishing way.
Di Yun interjected and his mind came back to the moment. In a split second his mind was completely empty, completely disheartened. He wished he could just die right now. He wholeheartedly cared for his martial sister, yet she married his arch nemesis and even went as far as to plea him to rescue his own enemy. “I would rather be in Wan Gui’s position. I would rather suffer endless pain and misery. If I can have martial sister care for me this much, even if I only have a few days left to live, what does it matter?” He opened the medicine box and took out Yan Daping’s antidote bottle. He turned over the bottle and let the black powder fall on the back of Wan Gui’s hand.
Wu Kan exclaimed: “Ah… it… it is this antidote, he… he can be cured!”
Di Yun heard that there was a hidden meaning in his words. The words “he can be cured” should have been uttered with extreme happiness, yet his voice seemed to suggest a hint of disappointment and even some resentment. Di Yun felt it was extremely strange. He turned his head slightly to look at Wu Kan and saw that his expression was full of cruelty and viciousness. Di Yun was extremely perplexed. But then he thought that there was not a single good person amongst the eight disciples. If Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping were willing to kill each other, how strange would it be if Wu Kan and Wan Gui weren’t on good terms? However, why would he waste time to find someone to cure him?
Not long after the medicine was applied, a lot of black blood began to seep out of the wound on his hand. His suffering was gradually reduced and said: “Thank you, your antidote is really effective.”
Qi Fang was extremely pleased and fetched a copper bowl to receive the blood. The blood constantly dripped into the bowl. Qi Fang thanked Di Yun repeatedly.
Wu Kan said: “Martial sister-in-law, has little brother not done a good service?”
Qi Fang said: “Right, I must also thank Brother Wu.”
Wu Kan smiled. “Just saying thanks is not enough!”
Qi Fang ignored him and asked Di Yun: “What is your surname? We must thank you greatly with a gift.”
Di Yun shook his head. “No need to thank me. The medicine needs to be applied ten times to completely cure the poison.” His heart felt very sour, he thought everything in the world was miserable. “I will give the rest to you!” He handed over the bottle.
Qi Fang did not expect that the matter would end so simply. She did not dare to accept the antidote. “We will buy it from you, may I ask how much it is?”
Di Yun shook his head. “There is no need to pay.”
Qi Fang was extremely pleased. She received the bottle with both hands and bowed respectfully, offering her most heartfelt gratitude. “Mister is really an honourable person, I really do not know how to thank you. Brother Wu, please see him out of here.”
Di Yun said: “There is no need. I will leave now.”
Qi Fang said: “No, Mister is our saviour yet we have no good way to repay you. At the very least we should treat you to a cup of wine. Mister, please don’t leave yet!”
As soon the words “please don’t leave yet!” made its way to Di Yun’s ear, his heart softened. He thought: “Looks like I won’t be able to take my revenge. After burying Brother Ding, I will never return to Jingzhou again, nor will I ever see martial sister again. If she wants to treat me to a cup of wine, it will give me a chance to look at her a few more times, nothing bad could come out of that.”
He nodded his head.
The banquet was prepared in a little guest room downstairs. Di Yun sat on the central seat of honour while Wu Kan sat opposite of him. Qi Fang repeatedly thanked the physician for his efforts and prepared the meal herself. It appeared as if everyone else in the Wan residence was not at home; the other disciples did not attend this banquet.
Qi Fang respectfully treated Di Yun to three cups of wine. Di Yun accepted all three cups. His heart became sour and his eyes started to become teary. He knew he could not hold his feelings much longer, if he were to stay any longer he would reveal himself. At once he got up and said: “I have had enough wine, it is time for me to take my leave. I will never come back again!”
Qi Fang was extremely perplexed by his choice of words, but felt that this physician was weird to begin with, so she did not take it to heart. “We will never be able to thank Mister for what he has done. Here are 100 taels of silver for mister to buy wine during his travels.” As she said this she passed on a bag full of silver with both hands.
Di Yun turned his head and laughed heartily. “I was the one who saved him! Haha! Haha! This must be some kind of joke. Is there anyone in this world who is more foolish than me?” Amidst his laughter, two streams of tears flowed down his cheeks.
Qi Fang and Wu Kan were both shocked at his expression. The little girl said: “Uncle don’t cry! Uncle don’t cry!”
Di Yun became startled. He was afraid that he would reveal his identity, so he did not dare to talk to Qi Fang anymore. He thought: “From now on, I will never see you again.” He felt the poetry that he got from the cave in Yuanling on his bosom and put his sleeve on the chair, not daring to look at Qi Fang again. He made his way downstairs without once turning back to look at her.
Qi Fang said: “Brother Wu, please escort this Mister on his way out.”
Wu Kan said, “Certainly,” and followed through.
Qi Fang held the bag of silver in her hands, her heart thumping anxiously. She thought: “Who is this person? How come this person’s smile looks so much like his? Ai, what is wrong with me? San’ge is in pain yet my heart is all over the place, I am still thinking of him…” She placed the bag of silver on the table and sat on the chair.
She sat on the chair that Di Yun sat on earlier. She felt there was something on this chair and stood up right away. She saw an old yellow book. On the cover were the three words “Tang Poem Anthology”.
She gasped slightly and picked up the book. She casually opened the book and a shoe fell out, it was the cut out that she made that year back in her hometown in Xiangxi. At this point her mouth was wide open in disbelief, both hands trembled. She turned another several pages and saw a cut out of a pair of butterflies. She remembered the events that year when she sat next to Di Yun in the cave and cut out these butterflies, all of these thoughts entered her mind at once. She could not help but gasp in disbelief and thought: “Where did this… this book come from? Who brought it here? Could it be the physician?”
The little girl saw her mother’s expression change and became startled. “Mama, what are you doing?”
Qi Fang stared blankly. She put the book in her bosom and rushed downstairs. She rushed outside and continued pursuit. Ever since she had married into the Wan family, she had been very refined and educated, but now she was running around the halls like a wild woman, something she had never done before. The various servants of the mansion saw their lady exert her lightness martial arts and went past several courtyards, rushing her way out. They were astonished.
Qi Fang made her way to the lobby and saw Wu Kan enter from outside. She hurriedly said: “Where is the physician?”
Wu Kan said: “That person is really strange, he did not say a word and just left. Third martial sister-in-law, why are you looking for him? Has something happened to martial brother?”
Qi Fang said, “No!” and rushed outside the front door. She looked all around but did not see any trace of the physician.
She stood motionless at the front door for a long time. She took the book out of her bosom and turned through the pages. Every time she saw the various figures and cut outs that she made in her youth, her thoughts rushed forth like ocean waves. She could not help but become teary.
She thought: “How can I be so foolish? Father-in-law and San’ge have recently visited Uncle Yan in Xiangxi. They may have unexpectedly ventured into the cave and took the book. That must be it. How could that physician be in any way related to this book?” But then she thought: “No! How could there be such a coincidence? That cave is extremely remote, even my father doesn’t know about it. In this world, besides me, only my martial brother knows about it. How could father-in-law and San’ge possibly find it? They only went to find Uncle Yan, why would they go in a cave? Just now when I set up the banquet I remember cleaning all the seats, how could there be a book there? If the physician was not the one who brought the book, then how did it end up there?”
She was in a haze of doubts and suspicions. She went back inside and saw that Wan Gui looked a lot better after applying the medicine. She held the book tightly in her hands and wanted to ask her husband, but thought: “I can’t be impulsive, what if that physician is really…”
Wan Gui said: “Fang’mei, that physician really is my benefactor. You must reward him gracefully.”
Qi Fang said: “Right, I gave him 100 taels of silver, but he would not accept it. He is really a strange person. That antidote… where is that antidote? Did you put it away?” After the physician gave her the antidote, she placed it on the table next to the bed, but now it was nowhere to be seen.
Wan Gui said: “I did not. Is it not on the table?”
Qi Fang searched the table, bed, vanity table, chairs, cabinets, under the bed, and other various places, but the antidote was nowhere to be found. She felt anxious. “Could it be that I unconsciously dropped it on the ground when I rushed outside? No, I remember very clearly that I placed it on the table, right beside the bowl.”
Wan Gui became anxious too. “You… you must find it, how can it disappear? Before I took a nap, I remember very clearly the bottle was placed on the table.”
When he said this, Qi Fang became even more anxious. She rushed out of the room and asked her daughter, “Just now when mama went outside, did anyone come in this room?”
The little girl said: “Uncle Wu came upstairs. He saw that papa was asleep so he left!”
Qi Fang took a very deep breath. She knew there was something wrong, but she did not want to worry her sick husband. “Water Spinach, stay with your papa. Tell him that mama went to find the physician to buy another bottle of medicine for papa.”
The little girl nodded. “Mama, come back soon.”
Qi Fang gathered her thoughts and opened the desk drawer. She took out a dagger and concealed it. Then she went downstairs. She thought: “Wu Kan must have saw that I was not around so he harboured malicious intentions. But he was the one who invited the physician, could it be that the two of them have colluded and planned some sort of crafty scheme? Otherwise, how could the bottle of antidote disappear after the physician left?”
She pondered deeply as she made her way to the garden. She reached the cloister and saw that Wu Kan was leaning against the railing, looking at the goldfish in the pond. Qi Fang said: “Brother Wu, you are here alone?”
Wu Kan turned around, a smile stretched across his whole face. “I was wondering who it is. So it is sister-in-law. You should be upstairs with martial brother, what brings you here?”
Qi Fang sighed. “Ai, I feel very bored staying beside this sick man all day. Your martial brother is in great pain and his temperament has changed for the worse. If I do not come outside to get some fresh air and find someone to talk to, I will suffocate.”
Wu Kan was very surprised to hear this. He laughed. “Martial brother is never content; he is like a snake trying to swallow an elephant. He has such a flowery and jade-like beauty to accompany him, yet he is throwing temper tantrums. He is truly hard a hard person to please.”
Qi Fang walked beside her and too leaned against the railing. She looked at the pond full of goldfish and said: “Your martial sister-in-law is an old woman, how can she be said to be flowery or jade-like? I’m afraid other people would take that as a joke.”
Wu Kan said: “What? Where? When sister-in-law was a maiden she had the elegance of a maiden, now that she is the lady of the house she has the charm of a lady. Like everyone says, the most beautiful and elegant flower lies in the Wan family.”
Qi Fang smirked and turned around and reached out with her hands. “Hand it over!”
Wu Kan laughed. “Hand what over?”
Qi Fang said: “The antidote!”
Wu Kan shook his head. “What antidote? The one used to treat Brother Wan’s injuries?”
Qi Fang said: “Yes, you were the one who took it.”
Wu Kan laughed craftily. “I was the one who found the physician. I was the one who found the antidote. Brother Wan has already applied it once, he will be relieved of pain for several days.”
Qi Fang said: “The physician said that it needs to be applied ten times.”
Wu Kan shook his head. “I repent too early. I repent too early.”
Qi Fang said: “What are you repenting for?”
Wu Kan said: “When I saw the filthy appearance of that physician no different from a beggar, I thought he was incapable. The only reason I brought him upstairs was so that I could find a reason to see you one more time. I did not expect that there would actually be a cure for this poison. This is completely against my original intent.”
Qi Fang was extremely angry when she heard this. However the antidote was on this person’s hands, so she would have to find a way to take it back before settling the score. At once she calmed herself and smiled. “According to what you said, you want your martial brother to personally thank you, then you will hand over the antidote?”
Wu Kan sighed. “Martial brother has had the benefit of your romance for so many years. He should have died a long time ago.”
Qi Fang’s face changed colours. She bit her lips and did not speak out. Wu Kan continued: “That year when you went to Jingzhou, out of us eight martial siblings, which one of us was not completely infatuated by your appearance? That little fool Di Yun followed you the entire day, the eight of us could do no more than repress our anger. We came up with a plan to beat him to a pulp.”
Qi Fang said: “So it turns out that the reason you hurt my martial brother is all because of me!”
Wu Kan laughed. “Everyone said this, but naturally the reasoning was different. We said how he meddled in our affairs to fight the bandit Lu Tong, making the disciples of the Wan clan lose face. But in fact, it was all because of you! The way you mended his clothes, the way you spoke to him so intimately, the way you treated him so affectionately, when the eight of us saw this, we were completely enraged. Which one of us did not drink until all of our teeth became sour?”
Qi Fang was startled. She thought: “Could it be that I was the cause of all this? San’ge, San’ge, why did you never tell me?” She pretended not to care and laughed. “Brother Wu, you really know how to tell a joke. Back then I was a little girl from the countryside and was nothing more than a rustic, my appearance must have been completely laughable. How could I be so worthy?”
Wu Kan said: “No! Why would a true beauty like you need make up or gorgeous attire? If you did not cause the eight of us to lose our souls for you, then…” All of a sudden he shut his mouth and did not continue.
Qi Fang asked: “What is it?”
Wu Kan said: “We kept you in the Wan family. I surnamed Wu have contributed a lot to this cause. But sister-in-law, when you see me you don’t even smile, how can I not feel indignant?”
Qi Fang spat in contempt. “I stayed in the Wan family and married your martial brother because I wanted to. What does that have to do with you? You did nothing to convince me to do such a thing. What nonsense do you speak of?”
Wu Kan shook his head and laughed. “I… I did not contribute? You really do not understand.”
Qi Fang became even more fearful. She spoke softly, “Brother Wu, tell me what you contributed. Your martial sister-in-law I will definitely not forget your grace.”
Wu Kan shook his head. “Why should such an old matter be spoken of again? Even if you know it now, it won’t make a difference. We should only speak of the future.”
Qi Fang said: “Well then, if you don’t want to talk about it that’s fine. Give me the antidote. If anyone sees the two of us here, that won’t be appropriate.”
Wu Kan laughed. “In the day of light someone would see us, but not at night.”
Qi Fang backed away one step, her face cold as frost. Her tone became very strict. “What are you talking about?”
Wu Kan laughed. “If you want to cure Brother Wan’s injuries, that is not very hard. I will meet you inside the firewood room tonight on the third watch. If you satisfy my desires, I will let you use the antidote once.”
Qi Fang clenched her teeth and scolded: “Dog thief, you actually dare to speak of such things! You have some nerve!”
Wu Kan remained calm and collected. “I have long thrown caution to the wind. This is called being willing to cut off flesh to pull the emperor off the horse. In what way does that little brat Wan Gui exceed I surnamed Wu? It is only that he is teacher’s son, he was born to a good life. All of us contributed, yet he is the only one who gets to enjoy the results?”
Qi Fang has now heard several times now of how he spoke about contribution. She became really curious but did not dare to ask. “When father-in-law returns, I will report to him everything that’s happened, let’s see if he will not tear your skin off.”
Wu Kan said: “I will stay here. As soon as teacher calls me, I will throw the bottle of antidote into the lotus pond to feed the goldfish. I have asked the physician, he told me that there is only one bottle, and it takes over a year to make another one.” As he said this he took out the bottle from his bosom. He removed the stopper and extended his hand over the pond. All he had to do was tilt his hand slightly and the bottle would fall. Wan Gui’s life would be lost just as easily.
Qi Fang spoke urgently. “Hey! Put away the antidote. We can talk this over.”
Wu Kan laughed. “What is there to discuss? If you want to save your husband, you will listen to me.”
Qi Fang said: “Even if you really treated me in the past, but… unless you tell me what happened, I won’t care about you.”
Wu Kan was delighted. He sealed the bottle and said: “So I just have to tell you the truth, then you will spend the night with me?”
Qi Fang said: “That will depend if you are lying or not. If you lie to me, what good is that?”
Wu Kan said: “I will speak nothing but the absolute truth. This plan was conceived by Brother Shen. Brother Zhou and Brother Bu pretended to be rapists and sneaked into Tao Hong’s room to lure that fool Di Yun to save her. The various jewelleries that we found under his bed were placed there by me personally. If we did not execute such a crafty scheme, how could we keep you with us?”
Qi Fang went into a daze. Her vision became dark. What Wu Kan said felt like a sharp blade stabbing into her heart. She could do nothing but say, “I… I have faulted you, I have wronged you!” All along she did not understand why her martial brother, who had grown up with her and had a deeply affectionate relationship with her, would so easily fall for a woman he didn’t even know. Could it be that she was flirting with him? Could she have ingratiated and seduced him? Brother Di had always been a faithful person. Even if it was something as small as a piece of cake or a grain of sugar, he would not dare to take it from someone else. If someone were to give it to him, without his teacher’s permission, he would definitely not take it. How would he dare to take other people’s jewellery? Could it be that when he went to a rich family and saw all this jewellery, he became overcome with greed and desires for wealth?
This was something she did not understand all along. Although she eventually married Wan Gui, she cared for her martial brother all along. Fortunately, Wu Kan had finally untied the knot in her heart this entire time.
“I… I have wronged martial brother. I must find him, I must tell him I’m sorry! I… I should die in front of him!” She swayed her body and nearly fell over. She supported herself with the railing and said: “I don’t believe you. How could such a thing happen? You are lying to me.” Her voice was bitter and astringent.
Wu Kan said: “You don’t believe me? You don’t have to ask anyone else, just ask Tao Hong. She is in the memorial hall. After you ask her, you must not tell anyone. My martial brothers and I vowed that nobody is allowed to leak out this secret. If not for our meeting at the third watch, if not for you, my sister-in-law, how would I Wu Kan reveal this to you!”
Qi Fang screamed and rushed outside. She pushed open the back door of the garden and continued running away.
Her thoughts were all over the place. She continued running past several gardens before she regained her composure. She found a small worn out memorial hall in the northwest corner and pushed open the door to go inside.
She saw that the floor was covered by a thick layer of dust and the tables and chairs were broken. She thought: “How could the concubine of father-in-law, Tao Hong, live in such a place? Wu Kan is a deceiver, could it be that… that he lied to me for some evil purpose? I should leave right away.”
All of a sudden she heard the sound of slow footsteps treading on the floor, a woman came out from the inner hall. It was a middle-aged beggar lady, her head was low and her back was crooked. Her hair was messy and drooped over her face. And her clothes were filthy and ragged.
When this beggar lady saw someone was here, she was startled. At once she turned around to leave. As she made her way inside, she turned her head to take another look and saw very clearly that it was Qi Fang. She gasped in surprise, retracted two steps and kneeled down. “My lady, please don’t… don’t tell anyone that I am here.”
Qi Fang was perplexed. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The beggar lady said: “What… what? I… I…” When she said up to this point she immediately got up and rushed back to the inner hall.
She heard the sound of footsteps were urgent, the beggar lady escaped through the rear door. Qi Fang thought: “I wonder what’s wrong with this lady, she was so scared when she saw me… oh! Now that I think about it, she must be Tao Hong!” As soon as she thought of this she hurriedly pursued her and rushed through the memorial hall. She stepped on debris and made her way to the rear exit, then she fetched the dagger from her waist and shouted: “Tao Hong! What are you being so secretive for?”
This beggar lady was indeed Tao Hong. When she heard Qi Fang yell out her name, she panicked. She turned and saw that Qi Fang was holding a sharp and shiny dagger in her hand and became even more afraid. Her knees trembled and she kneeled down at once. In a trembling voice she said, “Lady, please… please spare me.”
Qi Fang had only seen Tao Hong a few times before. After a while she never saw her again. Every time she saw her she would think of how Di Yun wanted to bundle up valuables and abscond with this lady, it felt like a stab in her heart. So she never cared to ask what happened to this lady. Even if someone were to bring up the topic, she would not listen, so as to prevent her heart from being traumatized further. But she did not expect that Tao Hong would hide in such a place. This memorial hall was not far away from the mansion, but ever since Qi Fang became the young lady of the house she was cautious in all matters, much different from back when she was a maiden in her hometown in Xiangxi, she would never dare to wander off away from home. A few times she saw the entrance to this memorial hall from outside, but she never once went inside.
Tao Hong had a dirty face and messy hair and looked very thin and pallid. Qi Fang had not seen her for only a few years, but it was as if she aged 20 years. Wu Kan told Qi Fang to go to the memorial hall to seek the truth from Tao Hong. Although she saw her face-to-face now, if Tao Hong had remained calm and collected, Qi Fang would not have recognized her.
Qi Fang hoisted the dagger on her hand and threatened: “Why are you hiding here? Tell me now.”
Tao Hong said: “I… I don’t know. My Lady, Master kicked me out of the house. He said that if he ever saw me in Jingzhou, he would kill me. But… but… I have nowhere to go, so I had to resort to begging for food around here. My Lady, apart from Jingzhou, there is no place that I know of. Where am I supposed to go? Please do a good deed, don’t tell Master about this.”
Qi Fang listened to her pitiful words and put the dagger away. “Why did father-in-law kick you out? How come I didn’t know about this?”
Tao Hong spoke with teary eyes, “I don’t know why Master suddenly stopped liking me. That incident regarding that man surnamed Di from Hunan, it was not my fault. Oh… I shouldn’t speak of it.”
Qi Fang said: “Very well then. If you won’t speak, I will take you to see father-in-law.” She reached for her lapel with her left hand. Qi Fang was naturally a clean person, Tao Hong’s clothes were filthy and full of grease; when she grabbed her garment it was extremely slippery and unpleasant to touch. But she urgently wanted to know the truth behind Di Yun’s unjust treatment. Even if this lady was ten times filthier she would still not care.
Tao Hong trembled and urgently said: “I will talk, I will talk. My Lady, what do you want me to say?”
Qi Fang said: “Di… Di… regarding the incident about the one surnamed Di, what is that all about? Why did you want to elope with him?”
Tao Hong was extremely startled and frightened by her question. Her eyes opened wide and she did not speak out.
Qi Fang fixed her gaze on Tao Hong and too felt frightened. In fact, what she felt was probably ten-fold greater. She did not dare to listen to Tao Hong speak the truth. If Tao Hong said that Di Yun really did want to elope with her and really did rape her, what happens then? The fact that Tao Hong did not speak out right away caused Qi Fang to turn deathly pale, and her heart skipped a beat.
Finally, Tao Hong said: “That… that wasn’t my fault. Young Master forced me to do this. He told me to hug tightly onto that countryman surnamed Di. He told me to frame him for trying to rape and elope with me. I told Master about this before. It is not that he doesn’t believe me, he only told me that I cannot speak of this to anyone. He also returned me my clothes and money. Yet… yet I did not say a word, but Master still kicked me out.”
Qi Fang felt gratefulness, broken-heartedness and pity. She thought: “Martial brother, it is all my fault. I should have known that you only cared about me all along. You have really suffered too much, you have suffered too much!” At this moment she did not hate Tao Hong, she was actually really grateful. She was happy that the tight knot in her heart was finally untied. She was even grateful to Wu Kan, it was he who spat out the truth, it was he who directed her to find Tao Hong.
Between feelings of grievance and desolation, she also felt a burst of agony and sweetness. Although she was married to Wan Gui, in her heart she loved Di Yun all along. No matter how unfaithful he was, no matter how shameless and despicable he was, even if he had a thousand faults and every possible kind of fickle, she only cared for him, she only longed for him, he was the one who Qi Fang cried and missed so dearly for.
All of a sudden, her various distresses and resentments turned into repentance and remorse. She thought: “If I had knew this since the beginning, even at the risk of being hacked to pieces, I would have rescued him from prison. He has suffered so much… he… what does he think of me?”
Tao Hong looked at Qi Fang’s expression and spoke in a trembling voice, “My Lady, thank you. Please let me go. I will leave Jingzhou and never come back.”
Qi Fang sighed. “Why did father-in-law kick you out? Was he afraid that I would find out the truth? Ai, today I have finally come to a resolution.” She let go of her hold on her sleeves. She wanted to give her some silver but she ran over here in such a hurry that she did not bring any with her.
When Tao Hong saw Qi Fang release her, her fear changed and she urgently hurried to leave, mumbling, “Master saw ghosts at night, he wanted to build a wall, can he fault me? It… it is not my assertion.”
Qi Fang caught up with her and asked: “What ghost? He’s building a wall?”
Tao Hong knew that she said something she shouldn’t have, and urgently said: “Nothing, it’s nothing. Master always sees ghosts at night, he builds a wall late in the depth of night.”
Qi Fang heard that what she said seemed like a bunch of nonsensical drivel. She thought that it must be because she had suffered so much after being kicked out that she started to go crazy. Why would father-in-law build a wall in the middle of the night? She had never seen him build a wall before.
Tao Hong was afraid that she wouldn’t believe her and said: “It is a fake wall, Master… Master wants to become a mason late at night. I talked to him before, but he got very angry at me and beat me to an inch of my life and kicked me out. He said that if he saw me again he would kill me…” She chattered garrulously as she walked away with a crooked back.
Qi Fang thought: “She could not even be ten years older than me, yet she has become like this. I wonder why father-in-law kicked her out? Speaking of seeing ghosts and building walls, this woman must be insane. Ai, because of a foolish girl, martial brother has suffered for a lifetime!”
As she thought up to this point, she could not help but become teary. Eventually she wailed loudly without restraints. She cried for a very long time leaning against a parasol tree. Eventually she calmed herself and slowly returned home. She avoided the garden and went in from the side door on the east and went upstairs.
When Wan Gui heard the sound of her footsteps, he urgently asked: “Fang’mei, have you found the antidote yet?”
Qi Fang went inside the room and saw Wan Gui sitting up and looking somewhat anxious. He put his wounded hand on the bedside, black blood seeping out the back of his hand. It took a while for the blood to finish seeping into copper bowl. The little girl was sleeping next to her father’s legs on the bed.
When Qi Fang heard the words of Wu Kan and Tao Hong, originally she resented Wan Gui extremely, she hated him for using such a despicable method to set up Di Yun. But when she saw how pale and delicate he looked, their conjugal love of several years softened her heart. She thought: “After all, it is because San’ge loves me that he set up martial brother. Although the method he used was extremely treacherous and despicable and caused my martial brother endless suffering, he did it all because he loves me.”
Wan Gui asked: “Have you bought the antidote yet?”
Qi Fang could not at that moment decide whether she wanted to inform her husband about Wu Kan’s shameless words, she casually said, “I found the physician and gave him some silver for him to buy the ingredients to formulate the antidote.”
Wan Gui breathed a sigh of relief, his heart immediately relaxed. He smiled: “Fang’mei, you saved my life.”
Qi Fang forced a smile, she saw that the air of poisonous blood inside the washbowl was extremely sensitive to her nose, hence she switched to a new bowl to take in the blood and took away the copper bowl. She only walked two steps when the odour rushed right to her nose, she felt a bit dizzy and thought: “The scorpion poison is really powerful!” She quickened her pace out of the room and placed the washbowl on the floor beside a table. She turned around and took out a handkerchief from her bosom to cover up her nose before throwing out the blood.
When she felt her bosom she also felt the Tang poem book she had with her. She was dumbfounded and her heart began to bounce around her chest. She took out the book and placed it on the table, turning it page by page. She remembered very clearly that day when she was checking on some old clothes, under a suitcase of old clothes she found this book. Her father’s knowledge of words was incredibly limited, she did not know from where he got such a book. After she finished cutting up two embroideries she conveniently put it in the book. That afternoon she went with her martial brother to the cave and took the book with her and left it there ever since. How did it end up here? Was it Brother Di who told the physician to bring it over?
“That physician, could it be… could it be… the five fingers of his right hand were sliced off by Wu Kan. That physician… that physician… why? Why did he never… never take out his right hand?” As she thought up to this point, she remembered something. She recalled how the physician helped her daughter up, how he opened the medicine box and got the bottle of antidote, how he pulled out the cork and smeared the powder. She also recalled how he accepted her wine, and how he placed the cup of wine next to his lips, all these things were done using his left hand. Only at that time she did not really pay attention and did not notice.
“Could it be… he is martial brother! Why does he look so different?” Her heart was distracted and her thoughts were in turmoil, she could not hold back her grief and her tears dripped on the book on her hands.
As the tears dripped on the page, it also dripped on the two paper butterflies. It was ‘Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai’, they could not reunite until after death…
Wan Gui said from the other room, “Fang’mei, it is extremely stuffy in here. I want to go out for a walk.” But Qi Fang was completely immersed in her thoughts and did not hear him. She thought: “That day he killed a butterfly and broke up a pair of butterflies. Is it that Heaven wants to punish him to have him suffer so much…”
All of a sudden, a voice beyond him cried out in disbelief. “That… that is… that is the Lian… Liancheng Manual!”
Qi Fang was startled. She turned her head and saw Wan Gui’s delightful expression who excitedly said: “Fang’mei, where did you get this book from? Look, ah, so that’s how it is, right, that’s how it is!” He pressed both his hands on the “Tang Poem Anthology” and saw that the title of one of the pages was “Sacred Fruit Temple”, its words revealed the number “33”, the characters were a damp yellow from Qi Fang’s tears.
Wan Gui was so happy that he lost all self-control. He shouted: “So that is the secret! The book must be wet for the words to appear! Excellent! Excellent! This is definitely the book. Water Spinach! Water Spinach!” He called out loudly and woke the little girl up. “Water Spinach! Go and find your grandpa, tell him that I have something urgent to say.” The little girl agreed and went her way.
Wan Gui held the book tightly in his hands and forgot all about the pain. He said: “This must be it. Father said that the sword manual was actually a ‘Tang Poem Anthology’, how could this not be it? No one could figure out the secret. You actually have to wet the pages in order for the secret to appear.”
When he talked in this way, Qi Fang figured out over half of the truth. She thought: “So this is the ‘Liancheng Manual’ that father and father-in-law are looking for? So it is actually my father who had it, but I did not even realize it and used it to clip together my shoes? If father lost his book, why did he not look for it? He must have looked for it but could not find it. He must have thought that it was martial uncle who took it. Why did he not ask me? That is really strange!”
If this was Di Yun, he would not be baffled at all. He knew that Qi Zhangfa was an extremely crafty and calculating man, even in front of his daughter he would not reveal his intentions. When he lost the book, he searched frantically but to no avail. He pretended as if nothing happened and slowly observed, using various methods to investigate and probe potential suspects. Was it that little brat Di Yun who stole it? Was it his own daughter who stole it? However, Qi Fang did not actually “steal” it, so she did not feel the least bit guilty. Naturally, Qi Zhangfa could not figure this out.
Wan Zhenshan returned from the streets. He was just eating dimsum at a restaurant when he heard his granddaughter calling for him. He thought that his son’s condition had changed for the worse and at once, without even finishing his bowl of beans, he put down his chopsticks and rushed home while carrying his granddaughter. He made his way upstairs and heard Wan Gui’s delightful voice. “There is actually such a remarkable technique in this world. Fang’mei, how did you splash water on the book? This is fate, it was really meant to be!”
When Wan Zhenshan heard the tone of his son’s voice he became more relaxed and made his way inside the room. Wan Gui was holding up the “Tang Poem Anthology” and called out: “Father, look at what I have!”
Wan Zhenshan saw the thin yellow book and his heart immediately trembled. He urgently put down his granddaughter and took the book from his son. His heart was bouncing all over his chest. The “Liancheng Manual” that he had been searching for for over a dozen years was right in front of his eyes.
Indeed, this really was the book! This was indeed the book that he and his martial brothers took after they combined forces to kill their teacher. The three of them tossed and turned at the inn and stared at this book day and night. But this was nothing more than an ordinary book of Tang poems, no different from any other “Tang Poem Anthology” that can be bought from the market. Their teacher had taught them the Tang Poem Swordplay, the verses of the Tang poem served as names to the sword stances. All these verses were in this book. But what does the Liancheng Manual of legend have anything to do with this?”
The three of them had once put the book under sunlight to shine trying to discover if there was some kind of hidden layer. They tried to read the dozens of poems in the book in chronological order, in reverse order, reading horizontally, reading diagonally, reading every other word, reading every other two words… they wanted to find the hidden secret in the book, but all their efforts were in vain. The three of them began to suspect each other. They were afraid that one of them had already figured out the secret but did not want to share it. At night the book would be locked inside an iron chest. The iron chest was held together by three iron chains, and each chain was tied on each of their wrists. But one morning the book simply disappeared without a trace and never appeared again.
And that was the start of their endless strife for the next dozen or so years. He tried every method to find the book, yet all of a sudden, it is right in front of his eyes.
Wan Zhenshan flipped to the fourth page. Indeed, the top left corner was slightly torn. That was the mark that he left when he took the book that year. He was afraid that Brother Yan or Brother Qi would replace the book with a fake copy and keep him in the dark.
Wan Zhenshan flipped to the sixteenth page. Indeed, the fingernail print that he left was still there. This really was the book! He nodded his head and tried his best to supress his inner happiness. He said: “This is the book. Where did you get it from?”
Wan Gui turned to look at Qi Fang and said: “Fang’mei, where did you get the book?”
Qi Fang looked at Wan Gui’s expression the entire time. She only thought of her father. “I wonder where father is? I am really an unfilial daughter—I hid his book inside a cave and caused him to expend so much effort to look for it. Father must treat this book like his most prized possession. I wonder what this book is used for? Since I took this book from my father, it naturally belongs to my father. I can’t let father-in-law take it away.”
If this had been just one day ago, she would not have known the inner story of Di Yun’s tragedy. She would be full of tenderness and consideration for her husband. Her love for her husband may not necessarily be inferior to her love for her father. Besides, she doesn’t even know where her father is, nor did she know if he would ever return. But now it is an entirely different story. “I must not let father’s book fall into their hands. Even if I am not doing this for father, I am doing this for Brother Di!”
When Wan Gui asked her where she got the book from, she only thought: “How can I take the book back?” The book was now in her father-in-law’s hands. Wan Zhenshan had outstanding martial arts and her husband was right beside her, obviously she could not simply just take it. Her thoughts changed rapidly and her eyes skated across the room.
She saw that the copper bowl was beside the book, and the bowl was half-filled with bloody water. This was the bowl that Wan Gui used to wash his face and a lot of the poisonous blood dripped from the back of his hand. The water in this book was a dark purple colour… if she quietly put the book inside the bowl, they may not be able to find it. However, she was afraid that the book would be ruined. But if she did not take the opportunity now, she would not have another chance. She would rather ruin the book than let them have their way…
Wan Gui and his father both stared intensely at Qi Fang. Wan Gui repeated: “Fang’mei, where did you get this book from?”
Qi Fang shivered and said: “I don’t know. A moment ago when I left your room I saw this book placed on the table. Is it not yours?”
Wan Gui did not understand and momentarily did not pursue further. He had to tell his amazing discovery to his father. “Father, take a look. When the page is soaked with water, the words will appear.” He extended his hand to point at the handwriting beside the poem “Sacred Fruit Temple” that was written “33”.
(If he knew that this was his wife’s tears. If he knew that she cried because she longed for Di Yun, what would he think?)
Wan Zhenshan extended his fingers to point at the poem and recited the words of the poem:
“The road follows the peak, examining the Ficus pumila.
Reaching the end of a lake, distant coasts climb over mountains.
Ancient wood clusters green mists, remote sky immerses white waves.
Underneath the city…”
The thirty-third character was “city”. Wan Zhenshan slapped his thigh and said: “Right, this is the correct way! So that is where the secret lies. Gui’er, you are really intelligent. To be able to come up with such a method! We have to use water, that’s right, we never tried using water!”
(If he knew that this was his daughter-in-law’s tears. If he knew that she cried because she missed another man so dearly, what would he think?)
Qi Fang saw that father and son were so happy that they were mad, discussing together the secrets of the book. She brought her daughter back to the inner room and hugged her. She asked: “Water Spinach, look at this washbowl, do you see it?”
The little girl nodded her head. “I see it.”
Qi Fang said: “In a moment your grandpa and your papa and mama will rush outside. Mama will place grandpa’s book in the drawer. You will take it quietly and throw it inside the bowl and let it sink in the bowl. Don’t let papa and grandpa see this so they can’t find it.”
The little girl was delighted. She thought her mama was playing some kind of amusing game and shouted: “Ya! Ya!”
Qi Fang said: “You cannot let grandpa and papa know, nor can you tell them about it!”
The little girl said: “Water Spinach will not tell. Water Spinach will not tell!”
Qi Fang walked to the outside of the other room and said: “Father-in-law, I think there is something really strange about this book.”
Wan Zhenshan turned around asked, “What is so strange?” He had already thought that it did not make much sense for this book to just randomly appear in front of him, it all seemed too easy. He was afraid that there was a bad omen. When his daughter-in-law spoke such words, it furthered his suspicions.
Qi Fang said: “It is over here!” She reached out with her hands. Wan Zhenshan handed the book over to her.
Qi Fang opened the book and took out the two paper butterflies. “Father-in-law, did this book originally have these two butterflies?”
Wan Zhenshan received the two butterflies and inspected it carefully and answered, “No!”
Qi Fang said: “Then what is the meaning? In the martial world, is there anyone nicknamed ‘Flower Butterfly’ or a Butterfly Sect? I fear that they harbour malicious intentions when leaving behind this book.”
It was very typical of realm folk to leave a warning sign of vendetta. Wan Zhenshan had committed so many crimes in his life, naturally he had many enemies. When he heard Qi Fang say these words, he saw that the pair of butterflies were cut out with extreme precision, he became slightly fearful and startled. He thought: “Do I have an enemy nicknamed ‘Flower Butterfly’ or a clan called ‘Butterfly Sect’?”
He was muttering to himself irresolutely when suddenly he heard Qi Fang shout: “Who is it? Who is being sneaky?” She pointed at something on the roof outside the window. Wan Zhenshan and his son both looked outside the window at the same time. Qi Fang turned and grabbed two long swords leaning against the wall. She gave one to Wan Zhenshan and the other to Wan Gui and shouted: “There is someone on the rooftop!”
Wan Zhenshan and his son took the weapons. Qi Fang opened the drawer and threw the book inside. She said quietly, “We can’t let our enemies take it!” The other two nodded in agreement.
The three of them jumped out the window together and climbed over the rooftops. They looked all around but there was no one to be seen. Wan Zhenshan said: “Let’s look at the back!”
The three of them rushed to the back garden and saw a shadow at the junction of two walls. Wan Zhenshan shouted: “Who is it?” He leapt forward and saw that it was his sixth disciple Wu Kan. He asked: “Did you see the enemy?”
Wu Kan saw his teacher, martial brother, and martial sister-in-law all rushing forward with sword in hand and knew that something had happened. He turned deathly pale when he heard his teacher’s inquiry. He urgently said: “Someone ran from over there, your disciple rushed forward to investigate.” He was trying to conceal his own faults but unwittingly reinforced Qi Fang’s lie as well.
The four of them rushed all the way outside the rear door. Wu Kan repeatedly called out for help and beckoned Lu Kun, Bu Yuan, and the others to join the search. However, they could not find any trace of this “enemy”.
Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui were concerned about the Liancheng Manual and ordered Lu Kun and the others to continue searching and told Qi Fang to go back inside with them. Wan Zhenshan opened the drawer and extended his hands…
How would the book still be in the drawer?
The ones surnamed Wan were completely startled. They searched frantically around the room, but how could they find it? They asked the little girl, “Did anyone come inside?”
The little girl replied: “No one!” She turned her head and winked at her mama, extremely proud of herself.
Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui clearly saw that Qi Fang placed the book in the drawer, and during their pursuit of the enemy they did not once leave her side. Naturally she was not the one who took it. It must have been the enemy who carried out a stratagem of “moving the tiger out of the mountain” and stole the sword manual!
The two of them looked at each other in dismay, incessantly depressed.
Qi Fang winked at her daughter. Her daughter winked back at her. It was a happy sight.
A fucheng (虎撐) is a pole with an iron hoop that emits small jingling sounds. It's a symbol that you're a physician.
Qi Fang calls him “San’ge” which means “third brother” because Wan Gui is Wan Zhenshan’s third disciple.
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06-18-11, 02:53 PM#12
Chapter 11Chapter 11
Building a Wall
The disciples of the Wan clan were flustered for a while. But how could they find the enemy?
Wan Zhenshan instructed Qi Fang that she was not mention how they found and lost the sword manual to the other disciples. Qi Fang promised without reservations. Over the years, Qi Fang became more and more aware of the relationships between the various disciples of the clan. Each one of them had their own plan, and they would always be wary of each other. Wan Zhenshan collected his anger and returned to his own room. All he thought about was the butterfly insignia. Who could his enemy be? Why would this person bring the manual and then take it back? Is this person the one who saved Yan Daping? Could it be Yan Daping himself?
Wan Gui exerted a lot of energy to chase the enemy. Consequently, his blood flow circulated quicker and his hand began to hurt again. He lied down on the bed to rest and slept for a while.
Qi Fang pondered: “My father must have some use for this book. It has been submerged in blood water so long, it must be ruined now!” She went inside the room and called for “San’ge” twice but saw that he was in a deep sleep, so she went to get the copper bowl and emptied the bloody water in the well outside, revealing the book. She thought: “Water Spinach is really clever!” Her face was full of joy.
This book was completely immersed in bloody water and had a really bad smell that assailed the nostrils. Qi Fang unwillingly picked up the book and wondered: “Where should I hide it?” She thought of the side room in the back garden that was always filled with sieves, hoes, rock mortars, fans, and other miscellaneous items. She figured that nobody would go there, so at once she picked a few leaves from a chrysanthemum to cover up the book. It now looked like a dish of chrysanthemum leaves. Then she went to the back garden. She entered the west room and concealed the book in the middle of a fan and thought: “This fan is only used when we collect rent. If I hide it here, nobody should find it.”
She threw away the bowl and began to whistle a light tune, pretending as if nothing happened. She passed through the corridor when all of a sudden, a person appeared at the junction of two walls and spoke softly, “Tonight at the third watch, I will wait for you in the firewood room. Don’t forget!” It was Wu Kan.
Qi Fang was already a bit frightened. When he saw him just suddenly appear and said these words her heart rate shot up the roof. She spat in disgust. “You really have the nerves of a wild dog, do you not value your own life?”
Wu Kan salivated and said: “I am most willing to lose my life for you. Martial sister-in-law, do you want the antidote?”
Qi Fang clenched her teeth and with her left hand she reached for the handle of her dagger. She wanted to attack him when he least expects and take the antidote away from him.
Wu Kan laughed and said softly: “If you execute a stance of ‘The Mountain Approaches from the Face’ and brandish your blade to attack, I will evade with a stance of ‘The Cloud Approaches the Pier’ and conveniently through the antidote into the pond.” As he said this he extended his hand forward holding the bottle of antidote. He was afraid that Qi Fang would try to take it and backed away two steps.
Qi Fang knew that she would not be able to take it by force and walked over to his side. Wu Kan said: “I will only wait until the third watch. If you do not come on the third watch, by the fourth watch I will take the antidote with me and run away, I will never return to Jingzhou. If I surnamed Wu have to die, I will definitely not die at the hands of the Wan family.”
Qi Fang returned to her room and was greeted with the painful moans of Wan Gui. It was evident that the scorpion poison was acting up again. She sat on the bedside and thought: “He caused so much suffering for martial brother, his methods are extremely despicable. But the deed has already been committed, what more can be done? Either martial brother has a life full of hardships, or I have a life full of hardships. I have been treated so well all these years. A woman should follow whatever her husband orders. I will be his wife for the rest of our lives. But that scoundrel Wu Kan is extremely repulsive, how can I take the antidote from him?”
She saw that Wan Gui became more pale and withered, and both his eyes sunk deeply. “San’ge is seriously injured, if I tell him now, he will fight a battle with Wu Kan to the death. That would only make things worse.”
The sky slowly turned dark. Qi Fang absentmindedly ate her dinner, then she settled her daughter to sleep. She kept pondering whether she should tell her father-in-law, thinking that since he is such a rigorous schemer, he would have a way to deal with the problem. But she could not let her husband know about it, so she had to wait until he was asleep before telling her father-in-law. Qi Fang slept beside Wan Gui. In the past few days of attending for her husband she did not get a single good night’s sleep. She waited until Wan Gui was in a deep sleep before she quietly got up and went outside to find Wan Zhenshan.
The house was lighted and there were some weird sounds coming from inside, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” it sounded like as if someone was using a lot of energy to do something. Qi Fang felt strange, originally she already arrived at the door and called for her father-in-law, but then she withdrew. From the narrow slit of the window she peeked into the insides of the room. The moonlight illuminated through the window into the room. She saw Wan Zhenshan lying supine on his bed, both hands slowly pushing against the air. Both his eyes were shut tightly.
Qi Fang thought: “Father-in-law must be practicing some profound martial arts. He must not be interfered by external affairs or he might fire deviate. I should not call him now. I will wait until he finishes his training.”
She saw Wan Zhenshan pushing against the air with both hands, then he slowly sat up and placed his feet on the ground. He walked a few steps before crouching down and appeared to be grabbing something in midair. Qi Fang thought: “Father-in-law must be practicing a capturing technique.”
After watching for some more time, she saw Wan Zhenshan’s movements were more and more strange. Wan Zhenshan repeatedly grabbed something in the air and placed it neatly in a row. It appeared as if he was piling up a lot of bricks together, but under the moonlight it was clear that there was nothing there at all.
All of a sudden, she recalled what Tao Hong said to her at the memorial hall. “Master builds walls in the middle of the night!” But Wan Zhenshan’s movements did not look like he was building a wall. It appeared more as if he was tearing down a wall.
She saw him grabbing for a while, comparing the size to his hands and figured that it was big enough, then with both hands he stroke a posture as if he was picking up something heavy and placed it in front of him. Qi Fang watched, incessantly perplexed. She saw that both his eyes were closed and his movements did not appear to be that of practicing martial arts. It looked more like a mute putting on a play.
After a while Qi Fang became worried. She thought: “Father-in-law has contracted somnambulism! According to physicians, people with this disease will get up in their dreams to do something. Some people will walk around the roof without any clothes on, others will even commit arson and murder. But when they wake up they won’t remember anything about it.” She continued to watch as Wan Zhenshan stuffed these imaginary items into the imaginary hole that he created in the wall. After he finished stuffing these items, he exerted some force to pile it firmly together, before he picked up the imaginary bricks on the ground and set the wall back together.
Indeed, he really was building a wall! There was a faint smile on his face with an air of complacency as he piled the bricks.
At first when Qi Fang saw the gloomy expression on his face she was absolutely horrified, but when she realized that he was building an imaginary wall, her heart had already figured as much so she was relieved. “According to Tao Hong, father-in-law has had somnambulism for a while now. Naturally, he would not want anyone to know this. Tao Hong sleeps with him, so naturally she must have known. Father-in-law must have been very unhappy about this.” When she realized this, it helped solve a chain of suspicions in her heart, as she figured out why Tao Hong was kicked out of the house. Then she thought: “I wonder how long he will build this wall for. If he continues past the third watch, then Wu Kan will really take the antidote and run away, then there will be trouble.”
She saw Wan Zhenshan place the bricks he took down and stuff it into the hole in the wall. Then followed that he sealed it with quicklime and continued working until he was satisfied. His face revealed a smile and he went back to sleep.
Qi Fang thought: “Father-in-law has been working hard, he is probably not very conscious. I will let him rest for a while before I call him.”
At the same time, she suddenly heard someone lightly knock on the front door, softly calling, “Father! Father!” It was the voice of her husband Wan Gui. Qi Fang thought: “Why is San’ge here? What is he doing here?”
Wan Zhenshan got up immediately and asked: “Is it Gui’er?”
Wan Gui replied: “It is me!”
Wan Zhenshan got off the bed and opened the door latch to invite Wan Gui inside. “Have you found any news of the sword manual?”
Wan Gui shouted: “Father!” He extended his left hand to hold the back of a chair. The moonlight seeped in through the window slits and reflected the hazy figure apparently slightly swaying.
Qi Fang was afraid that her own shadow would be seen, so she ducked beneath the window to listen. She did not dare to watch their movements.
She heard Wan Gui say: “Your daughter-in-law… your daughter-in-law… she is not a good person.”
Qi Fang was startled. “Why would he say such a thing?”
She heard Wan Zhenshan ask: “What’s that? Have the two of you got into an argument?”
Wan Gui said: “I found the sword manual. It was your daughter-in-law who took it.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “You found it? That’s good! Where did you find it?”
Qi Fang was extremely perplexed. “How does he know? It must be that Water Spinach could not help but reveal it.” But the next thing Wan Gui said immediately told her that her suspicions were incorrect. Wan Gui said that she saw Qi Fang and his daughter winking at each other and became suspicious. He thought there was something strange about it and pretended to fall asleep, then from the window slit he observed Qi Fang’s movements. He saw her taking the copper bowl to the back garden and followed along. He saw her put the sword manual inside a fan in the west room of the back garden.
Qi Fang sighed inwardly. “My poor father, in the end, the book will still be taken by father-in-law and San’ge. It will be next to impossible for me to take it back. Very well, I admit defeat. San’ge has always been more difficult to deal with than me.”
She heard Wan Zhenshan say, “Very well then, we will take the manual. You will pretend as if nothing happened and see how she reacts. If she does not mention it, you do not need to expose her. I am still suspicious as to where the book came from, I’m afraid… I’m afraid… I’m afraid..” He said “I’m afraid” three times but did not continue.
Wan Gui called: “Father!” His voice was somewhat painful.
Wan Zhenshan asked: “What is it?”
Wan Gui said, “Your daughter-in-law… your daughter-in-law stole our sword manual, she did it for…” As he said up to this point, his voice trembled.
Wan Zhenshan said: “For whom?”
Wan Gui said: “She did it for… for that dog thief Wu Kan!”
Qi Fang’s heart trembled violently. She could hardly believe what she heard. “I did it because of father, why would I do it for Wu Kan? Would I do it for that dog thief Wu Kan?”
Wan Zhenshan’s voice was too full of disbelief. “She did it because of Wu Kan?” he repeated.
Wan Gui said, “Yes! I saw that bítch hide the sword manual in the back garden and I followed her. Then I saw her… saw her at the winding corridor. She was flirting with that bastard Wu Kan. That whóre… she is shameless!”
Wan Zhenshan muttered to himself and said: “I can see that she is usually an upright and well-behaved person. It doesn’t look like she would do such a thing. Are you sure you saw her? What did the two of them say?”
Wan Gui said, “Your son I was afraid that they would notice so I did not dare to get too close. There are no hidden areas around the corridor, so I could only hide behind the junction of the walls. The two of them spoke very quietly so I could not hear everything, but… but I heard a good half of it.”
Wan Zhenshan groaned and said: “My son, you do not need to be angry. How can a gentleman suffer from a loss of a wife? Now that we have the sword manual, we only have to decipher the secret inside, then we will be showered with wealth. Even if you want to buy a hundred concubines that would be incredibly easy. Sit down and explain everything to me slowly!”
Qi Fang heard the groaning of the board mattress as Wan Gui sat down on the bed. He said: “That whóre concealed the manual and was so proud of herself she even sang a little tune. As soon as that whóremonger saw her, his face was full of delight and said: ‘Tonight at the third watch, I will wait for you in the firewood room. Don’t forget!’ I heard him say these exact words very clearly.”
Wan Zhenshan was enraged. “How did the whóre reply?”
Wan Gui said, “She… she said: ‘You really have the nerves of a wild dog, do you not value your own life?’”
Qi Fang was totally confused and upset. “The two of them keep calling me a whóre, how… how could they wrong me like this? San’ge, I am doing this all for you, I want to get the antidote to cure your injuries, yet you dishonour me in such a way. Do you have any conscience?”
Wan Gui continued: “I... when I heard this, I was so mad that I wanted to kill them both immediately with a sword. But I did not bring a sword and I am also weak from my injuries, so I could not fight them head on. I returned to my room at once in case that whóre doesn’t see me when she returns and becomes suspicious. What the whóre and whóremonger said after that I did not hear.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Hmph, like father like daughter, the two of them are both shameless! We will first take the sword manual, then we will wait for them outside the firewood room. We will catch that cheating couple in the act, then the two of them can’t complain after death!”
Wan Gui added: “That whóre was so horny she could not even wait until the third watch. She went out a long time ago. Now… now…” As he said up to this point, he clenched his teeth hard.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Then we will go right away. Go get a sword first. You do not need to attack first. Wait until I cut off their arms and legs, then you can personally take their worthless lives.”
Qi Fang watched as the door opened. Wan Zhenshan helped Wan Gui by the shoulder, and the two of them rushed to the back garden.
Qi Fang leaned her body against the wall, her tears constantly dripping on her sleeves. All along she had only hoped that her husband would recover from his injuries, yet now her husband suspects her. Her father left her and never returned, her martial brother has too suffered his own injustices, now… now even her husband is treating her like this. How can anyone live in such despair? Her heart was completely torn, she no longer wished to live. She did not consider explaining herself to her husband, nor did she consider confronting Wu Kan to reveal the truth. She only leaned herself against the wall, completely paralyzed.
After a while she heard the sounds of footsteps approaching. Wan Gui and his father returned and discussed quietly. Wan Gui said: “Father, why did you not kill Wu Kan just now?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Only the whóremonger was there. The whóre must have got wind and escaped ahead of time. We were unable to catch both of them in the act. We are a prestigious family in Jingzhou, how can we so casually kill a person? After we get the manual, there are still many things that we have to do, there is no time to meddle in such petty affairs! We cannot act arbitrarily.”
“So we are just going to let them go? How am I supposed to repress my anger?” complained Wan Gui.
“If you want to vent anger, how hard is that? We will use the old trick!”
“What old trick?” inquired Wan Gui.
“The same old trick we use to deal with Qi Zhangfa!” He paused for a moment. “Return to your room first. I will assemble the disciples together and then you will come with the rest of them outside my room. Don’t arouse any suspicions.”
Qi Fang’s mind was still in a complete mess. She did not have half a clue what to do next. She only thought: “I don’t want to live, but what about Water Spinach? Who’s going to take care of her?” When she heard Wan Zhenshan say something about using an old trick he used to deal with Qi Zhangfa to deal with Wu Kan, her mind felt as if an ice chunk was placed on it, at once she was wide awake and thought: “How are they going to deal with my father? I must find out until the water recedes and the rocks appear. Father-in-law will gather all his disciples outside his room, then I must not delay. Where can I eavesdrop?”
She heard Wan Gui agree and leave. Wan Zhenshan went outside the hall and called loudly for his servant to light a lamp. Not before long voices came from both the front and back, the various disciples and the servant assembled from all directions. Qi Fang knew that after only a bit more time someone would pass by the window, she hesitated and then at once as quick as lightning entered Wan Zhenshan’s room and tore open the curtains and squeezed herself under the bed. The curtains of the bed were drooping low to the floor, if no one intentionally tried to uncover it they would not find her.
She reclined herself under the bed. After a while she saw light translating through the curtains; someone had lit a lamp and went inside the room. She saw Wan Zhenshan’s shoes enter the room, both feet making their way to a chair. The chair gave off a slight hindrance as Wan Zhenshan sat down. Then she heard him tell the servant to close the door.
The eldest disciple Lu Kun and fifth disciple Bu Yuan were injured on the left leg and right arm by Yan Daping back in Yuanling. But fortunately only their bones were broken and they did not suffer too heavily. Right now they were in recovery, but because of their teacher’s urgent gathering they were still on bandages and walking sticks to await their orders.
She heard the eldest disciple Lu Kun say, “Teacher, we are all here now. We await your orders.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Very good, you come in first!”
Qi Fang saw the door pushed open, Lu Kun’s feet walking inside. Then the door closed.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Our enemies are here for us, do you know that?”
Lu Kun asked, “Who is it? Your disciple does not know.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “This person disguised himself as a physician and came to our house today.”
Qi Fang thought: “Could it be that he knows who that physician is? Who is he?”
Lu Kun said: “Your disciple heard from Brother Wu. Teacher, who is our enemy?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “This person likes to disguise himself. I did not take a good look so I could not figure out his background. Early next morning I want you to search the north part of the city. You may take your leave now. I will give you further instructions later.”
Lu Kun agreed and left.
Wan Zhenshan called his fourth disciple Sun Jun and fifth disciple Bu Yuan inside. He said similar things to them; he asked Sun Jun to search the south part of the city and Bu Yuan to search the east part of the city. He also added: “Let Wu Kan search the west part of the city, Feng Tan and Shen Cheng will work together in coordination for information. Your Brother Wan has not yet recovered from his injuries and cannot leave.”
Bu Yuan said: “Right, Brother Wan should get some more rest.” He opened the door and left.
Qi Fang knew that these words were intentionally said for Wu Kan’s ears so that he would not harbour any suspicions. Then Wan Zhenshan said: “Wu Kan, come inside!” This was said the same way he called the other disciples. It was not especially strict or gentle.
Qi Fang saw the door open again. When Wu Kan placed one leg in the room he felt a bit hesitant, but eventually came in. He slowly walked a few more steps, Qi Fang had a clear view of the lower half of his gown and saw a slight tremble. She knew that he was very scared.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Our enemies came for us, did you know that?”
Wu Kan said: “Your disciple heard from outside the room. It is that physician who sold us the medicine. It was your disciple who asked him to take a look at Brother Wan’s condition. I did not realize that he was our enemy. Your disciple asks for forgiveness.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “This person has disguised himself, I cannot blame you for not being able to recognize him. Early next morning, I want you to investigate the west parts of the city. If you see him, pay attention to his every move.”
Wu Kan said: “Yes!”
All of a sudden, Wan Zhenshan stood up with both legs. Qi Fang could not resist the temptation to extend her hands to uncover a corner of the curtain to look outside. What she saw made her so pale with fright that she almost cried out.
She saw that Wan Zhenshan had already clutched Wu Kan by the throat with both hands. Wu Kan used his hands to resist Wan Zhenshan’s clutch, but it was completely ineffective. She saw Wu Kan’s eyes protruding outwards like a goldfish, opening wider and wider. Wu Kan scratched and clawed so frantically that the back of Wan Zhenshan’s hands started to bleed from his fingernail attacks. But he continued his hold on Wu Kan’s throat and would not let go no matter what. Wu Kan could not even utter half a noise, and soon his body began to sway. After a while, both his hands slowly dropped down. Qi Fang saw his tongue was extended out, his expression very terrifying. She became extremely frightened. It was not until Wu Kan was completely motionless before Wan Zhenshan let go of his hold and placed him on the chair. Then from the table he grabbed two cotton cloths that he had wet beforehand and placed it on his mouth and nose. This way Wu Kan could not breathe and would definitely not wake up.
Qi Fang’s heart was bouncing all over her chest. She thought: “Father-in-law said that they are an aristocratic family and will not easily kill people. I heard that Wu Kan’s father is a local gentleman, he will not let this matter drop easily. I think this will become a serious issue.”
At this same time she suddenly heard Wan Zhenshan’s coarse yell: “You better confess to everything that you’ve done, or do you want me to take action?”
Qi Fang was startled. “So it turns out that father-in-law saw me.” But in her heart she was not frightened. “I will die by his hands then, I don’t want to live anyway!”
She was about to reveal herself from under the bed when suddenly she heard Wu Kan say, “Teacher, what… what do you want disciple to confess?”
Qi Fang was completely startled. How could Wu Kan speak again. Did he come back to life? That was clearly not the case; he was still on the chair completely motionless. She peeked from under the bed and saw Wan Zhenshan’s lips move. She thought: “What? So it is father-in-law who is speaking, not Wu Kan. But how come I heard Wu Kan’s voice?”
She heard Wan Zhenshan shout: “Confess what? Hmph, Wu Kan, you really have some guts. You sent a mole inside and colluded with bandits. Are you planning on a big trade in Jingzhou?”
“Teacher, what… what trade is your disciple doing?”
This time Qi Fang saw everything very clearly. It was Wan Zhenshan mimicking Wu Kan’s voice. She was startled that the voice was actually so alike. “So father-in-law actually has the ability to mimic the voices of his own disciples, I never knew this. But what’s the point of scolding Wu Kan so loudly?” She faintly remembered something, but it was a very hazy reflection that she did not understand. She only felt an unfathomable fear in her heart.
She heard Wan Zhensan say, “Hmph, you think I don’t know? You were the one who brought that physician to Jingzhou; that person is actually a local bandit. Wu Kan, you collaborated with him, you wanted to infiltrate…”
“Teacher, what does your disciple want to infiltrate?”
“You wanted to infiltrate into the mansion of Magistrate Ling. You wanted to steal a classified document, am I right? Wu Kan, you… you are still denying this?”
“Teacher, you… how did you know? Teacher, please consider my filial piety for you over all these years, please forgive me, your disciple does not dare to do such a thing again!”
“Wu Kan, how can such a serious matter be forgiven so easily?”
Qi Fang figured out that Wan Zhenshan’s imitation of Wu Kan’s voice was actually not that similar. It’s just that he lowered his voice and spoke with extreme obscurity, and every sentence was uttered with formal addresses of “teacher” and “disciple” so naturally others would think that Wu Kan was speaking. Everyone saw Wu Kan enter the room and heard him converse with Wan Zhenshan. Even if the voice was not completely alike, besides Wu Kan, who else could be speaking? Furthermore, Wan Zhenshan constantly addressed this speaker as “Wu Kan”.
He saw Wan Zhenshan lightly tap Wu Kan’s body. Then he slowly bent his lower back and reached for the bed curtain with his left hand. Qi Fang was so scared that her heart nearly stopped beating. She thought: “Father-in-law must have discovered me. He is going to strangle me to death!”
From the hazy lighting she saw a head drilling into the area under the bed, it was Wu Kan’s head. His eyes were wide open and really looked like a dead goldfish. Qi Fang could only do her best to get out of the way, but Wu Kan’s body kept forcing itself inside and hit both her legs and waist.
She heard Wan Zhenshan sit down on the chair and with a very stern voice and scolded: “Wu Kan, why haven’t you kneeled down? I will tie you up and send you to Magistrate Ling. Whether you will be forgiven or not is up to him, I cannot decide.”
“Teacher, will you really not forgive your disciple?”
“To think that I taught such a disciple, you have really shamed the Wan family to no end. I… how can I forgive you?”
Qi Fang peeked from the curtains and saw Wan Zhenshan take out a dagger from his waist area, lightly stabbing it into his own chest. Although the chest part of his garment was cushioned by softwood and moist clay and items like pastries, when the dagger stabbed into his chest it still went in and didn’t budge.
Qi Fang now understood his intentions. She heard Wan Zhenshan say, “Wu Kan, will you not kneel!” Then he lowered his voice to imitate Wu Kan’s voice. “Teacher, you made me do this, do not fault your disciple!” Wan Zhenshan let out an “Aiyo!” then with a flying kick he kicked open the window and shouted: “Little thief, you… you dare to attack me?”
A loud crash was heard, someone kicked open the door. Wan Gui was the first to enter. (He already knew beforehand that now was the time to break and enter.) Lu Kun, Sun Jun, Bu Yuan, and the others followed closely behind. Wan Zhenshan held his chest, fresh blood dripping from his fingers. (This is likely from a bottle of red water that he carried with him.) He began to sway and pointed at the window, shouting: “Wu Kan that thief, he… he stabbed me and ran away! Quick… chase him!” After he said this, he slanted his body and fell on the bed.
Wan Gui cried out in fear. “Father! Father! How is your injury?”
Lu Kun, Sun Jun, Bu Yuan, Feng Tan, and Shen Cheng all rushed outside the window, shouting and quarrelling as they rushed out. Various people from the mansion began to cry out in alarm and shout in grievances.
Qi Fang remained under the bed, she felt Wu Kan’s body colder and colder. She was extremely frightened and did not dare to move in the slightest. Her father-in-law sat on the bed while her husband was standing beside him.
She heard Wan Zhenshan quietly say: “Is anyone suspicious?”
Wan Gui said, “Nope. Father, that was a really good ruse. Just like Qi Zhangfa, not a single trace of error.”
Just like Qi Zhangfa, not a single trace of error! These words stabbed into Qi Fang’s heart like a sharp dagger. Originally she had already faintly understood this extremely terrible truth, but she did not dare to believe it. She thought: “Father-in-law always treated me in an amiable manner, my husband has always been tender and considerate, why would they harm my father?” But this time she saw it with her very own eyes, she saw how they set up such a brilliant trap to kill Wu Kan. That day when she heard outside the study room how Qi Zhangfa and Wan Zhenshan were arguing, how Wan Zhenshan was stabbed by her father, and how her father escaped from the window”, obviously, all of this was planned beforehand by Wan Zhenshan. This time it was no different. Then it must be the case that her father was killed a long time ago, he… he imitated her father’s voice. No wonder her father’s voice was so hoarse and completely different from usual. If not for this coincidence that she just happened to witness the incident, how would she ever have figured out the truth?
She heard Wan Gui say, “What about that bítch? What shall we do with her?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “We will find her and torture her slowly. But we must do it with obscurity such that no human can know about it and no ghost will feel it. We cannot tarnish the reputation of the Wan family, our reputation.”
Wan Gui said: “Yes, father has really planned this out carefully. Ayo…”
Wan Zhenshan said: “What is it?”
Wan Gui said: “The wound on the back of my hand is hurting again.”
Wan Zhenshan sighed. Although he was full of multifarious schemes, he was completely helpless against this situation.
Qi Fang slowly extended her hands to reach for Wu Kan’s bosom. That little bottle was coldly placed inside his pocket. She took it out and put it in her own bosom. She felt really bitter inside. “San’ge, oh San’ge, you only heard half the story and already accuse me of committing adultery with that thief. You did not want to understand the whole truth hence you did not listen to everything. This antidote was on him the whole time. Your father has killed him now. Originally to take back the antidote would be as easy as lifting a finger, but now you don’t even know about it.”
Lu Kun and the others could not catch up to Wu Kan and returned one by one. All of them made their way to Wan Zhenshan’s room to await further orders. Wan Zhenshan exposed his chest, he was bandaged from neck to chest and to his back then back to his neck.
This time, the “injury” he suffered was not as “severe” as before. Wu Kan’s martial arts were not as high as Qi Zhangfa’s, so naturally the dagger did not penetrate deeply and caused no serious injuries. The various disciples felt at ease, they all cursed Wu Kan for being so ungrateful. They all said that they would find his father tomorrow to settle the matter. They wished their teacher a speedy recovery and left the room. Wan Gui sat on the bed alongside his father.
Qi Fang wanted to find an opportunity to escape. She was reclining next to Wu Kan’s body and felt an indescribable fear in her heart. She was afraid that the two would notice her, but she could not figure out a good way to escape.
Wan Zhenshan said: “We will first take care of the body in case we give ourselves away.”
Wan Gui said: “Should we deal with him just like we did with Qi Zhangfa?”
Wan Zhenshan muttered to himself and said: “We will use the old trick.”
Qi Fang was in tears. “How did they deal with my father?” she wondered.
Wan Gui said: “You built it here? You sleep here too, that wouldn’t be too good!”
Wan Zhenshan said: “I will temporarily move out and sleep at your place in case of trouble. How would others so easily put the sword manual on our hands? We will deal with this menace together. In the future when we are showered with wealth, do you think we won’t be able to find a place to live?”
When Qi Fang heard the word “build”, an image suddenly flashed through her mind like lightning. She understood completely. “He… he hid my father’s body inside a wall, hiding any traces of the body. No wonder after father left there was no more news of him. No wonder father-in-law… no, not father-in-law… no wonder the treacherous Wan Zhenshan began to build walls in the middle of the night. He has done so many bad deeds he must feel guilty at heart and conceived somnambulism. Even in his dreams he would wake up and build walls. That treacherous bandit… that treacherous bandit would actually feel guilty… that is really strange. No, he does not feel guilty. He is very proud of himself, he keeps repeating the same action of building a wall unconsciously, but he was building it in his dreams, yet he was smiling the whole time?”
She heard Wan Gui say, “Father, what is the secret behind that sword manual? You said that we will become showered with wealth and overwhelm the world? Could it be that… that it is not a martial arts manual, but a treasure?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Of course it is not a martial arts manual. In the sword manual is written the location of a great treasure. The old Mei Niansheng’s thoughts must have been clouded by pig oil, he actually passed the sword manual to an outsider. Haha, well he is dead now. Gui’er, quickly take out the sword manual.”
Wan Gui hesitated slightly and then took out the book from his bosom. It turns out that as soon as Qi Fang hid the book inside the fan, Wan Gui had already taken it out.
Wan Zhenshan glanced at his son and took the book. He skimmed through the pages. The pages near the front and back covers of the book were not yet dried, but the middle of the book was dried.
Wan Zhenshan said softly, “It is hard to say whether the two of us can protect this book. We must first discover the secret within this book, then even if someone takes it from us it’s not a big deal. Get a pen, you must write this down carefully. The first stance of Liancheng Swordplay comes from Du Fu’s poem ‘Spring Returns’. He extended his fingers to his mouth and wet it with saliva, then smeared it on the page beside this poem. He gently cheered and said: “It is the number ‘4’! Very good, ‘Moss track nears river bamboo’, the fourth word is “river”, you must remember. The second stance is also from Du Fu’s poem, it comes from ‘Heavy Scripture Manifests Tomb’. He wet his finger again and smeared the page. “Hmm, it is the number ‘41’! He counted to the number. “5, 10, 15, 20… ‘The Emperor’s tomb builds empty songs, valiant warriors prefer jade miniature’, the forty-first word is ‘tomb’… ‘Jiangling’, excellent! So it is in Jingzhou!”
Wan Gui said: “Father, don’t speak so loud!”
Wan Zhenshan smiled gently. “Right! I must not be so pleased yet. Gui’er, your father’s entire life of efforts are finally not in vain. We have finally discovered this great secret!” All of a sudden, he hid the book and slapped his thigh and softly said: “I finally understand why our enemy gave us the sword manual!”
Wan Gui said: “What is the reason? I never figured it out.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Our enemy found the sword manual, but he could not figure out its secret, what use is that? Our Liancheng Swordplay, every stance is named after a verse from a Tang poem. People from other clans or sects, even if their martial arts were through the roof, they still won’t be able to figure it out. In this world, only Yan Daping and I know what poem the first stance comes from, what poem the second stance comes from. That is how I know to search the first number from the poem ‘Spring Returns’ and to search for the second number from the poem ‘Heavy Scripture Manifests Tomb’.
Wan Gui said: “The name of the stances from Liancheng Swordplay, haven’t you already explained that to us?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “It is completely out of sequence.”
Wan Gui said: “Father, you didn’t even teach your own son the actual swordplay.”
Wan Zhenshan felt slightly embarrassed and said: “I have eight disciples and we are together day and night. If I only teach it to you the others will notice, that won’t be good.”
Wan Gui groaned and said: “That must be our enemy’s plan. He knows that the numbers will appear when the pages are soaked in water, hence he purposely soaked some pages in water and handed the book to us so we could figure out the secrets of the book. He will wait until we search for this treasure and then use the stratagem of ‘The mighty bandit encounters the grandpa of bandits’.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Correct! We must be extremely cautious, otherwise not only will we not get the treasure, we may lose our lives as well.”
He wet his finger again to find the third number. “The third stance comes from Chu Mo’s ‘Sacred Fruit Temple’, the thirty-third word… ‘Underneath the city near, the clock sounds mixed with music’; the thirty-third word is ‘city. ‘Jiangling City’, right. Right! What is there to be dubious about? Hmm, why am I so itchy?” He extended his right hand to scratch the back of his left hand; he felt his right hand was itchy too so used his left hand to scratch his right. Then he looked at the sword manual and continued: “The fourth stance, twenty-eighth word, hmm, 5, 10, 15… the twenty-eighth word is “south”. Now we have “Jiangling City South”; haha! Hey! It’s very itchy! He lowered his head to look at his right hand, he saw the back of his hand had three distinct black lines, he felt very surprised. “I did not write today, why would I have ink marks on the back of my hand?” He felt the back of his hand became itchier and itchier, he looked at his left hand and also saw several streaks of black criss-crossed.
Wan Gui gasped and said: “Father, where… where did that come from? That looks like the poison from Yan Daping’s scorpion!”
Wan Zhenshan was reminded by this and felt his hand became even more itchy. He could not resist and began to scratch it.
Wan Gui said: “Don’t scratch it, it’s… it’s your fingernail that is carrying the poison.”
Wan Zhenshan shouted: “Aiyo! That really is the case.” At once he understood the reason. “That little whóre hid the sword manual inside the bloody water… your blood has scorpion poison… that little brat Wu Kan simply would not die in short order, he left several scratches on my hand. Damn it! The scorpion poison is going to seep into my wounds. Fortunately it has not been too long, it should not be too serious. Ayo! Why is it getting more itchy? Aiyo!” He could not help himself and began to moan loudly.
Wan Gui said: “Father, you did not contract much of the scorpion poison. I will get some water for you to clean your wound.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Right!’ Then he shouted loudly, “Tao Hong! Tao Hong! Get me some water!”
Wan Gui raised his eyebrows and thought: “Father is so scared he’s lost his mind. He kicked Tao Hong out of the house a long time ago, yet he is still calling for her.” He carried a copper washbowl out of the room and fetched scooped up a bunch of water from the well outside. Then he went back inside and placed the bowl on the table. Wan Zhenshan hurriedly dipped both hands in water. After some ice-cold sensation, his pain and itchy reduced.
It should be noted that when the scorpion poison on the back of Wan Gui’s hand came into contact with the antidote, the black blood that seeped out of the wound too carried poison. In fact, this poison was even more toxic than the original scorpion poison. When Wu Kan was being strangled by Wan Zhenshan, he scratched frantically and left some deep marks in Wan Zhenshan’s hand that penetrated deep into the flesh. As soon as it made contact with this poison, it was even more serious than Wan Gui’s condition. When he dipped both his hands in water, it was not long before the water in the entire bowl grew dark. After a while, it became a dense concentration of black ink.
Both Wan Zhenshan and his son turned pale at sight of this. Wan Zhenshan took his hands out of the water and let out an “ah” and almost lost his voice. He saw both hands were swollen like two black beads. Wan Gui said: “Ayo, this is not good. I’m afraid you can’t use this water anymore!”
Wan Zhenshan was in so much pain that he kicked his son on the waist and scolded: “If you know that I can’t use water, why did you get me water? Are you trying to screw me over?”
Wan Gui was in so much pain he kneeled down and said: “I did not know this originally, why would I harm you?”
Qi Fang listened to the two of them bicker from under the bed. She did not know whether to feel desolate, or happy that she would have her vengeance.
She heard Wan Zhenshan say, “What now? What now?”
Wan Gui said: “I have some painkillers upstairs. Although it won’t cure the poison it can still momentarily ease your pain. Do you want to use some?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Yes! Yes! Yes! Get it for me now!”
Wan Gui said: “Whether it will work or not, your son does not know. It’s possible that it could make things even worse, then father will kick me again.”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Son of a lamb turtle! At this point you are still acting like this? Your daddy I gave birth to you, is it such a big deal if I kick you once? Go now! Get it for me!”
Wan Gui replied, “Yes!” and turned to leave.
Wan Zhenshan’s hands were swollen so badly, the skin on the back of his hands were dark but also appeared light, not a single trace of wrinkle. It was like inflated pig urine foam. He saw that it became more swollen, he thought his skin would definitely crack and shouted: “I will go with you! It… it can’t be delayed.” He stuffed the sword manual in his bosom and rushed out of the room to catch up with Wan Gui.
Qi Fang heard the two of them were quite far away and urgently crawled out from under the bed. She mused: Where should I go now?” At this time she was completely out of her wits, she thought the world was so boundless yet there wasn’t a single safe haven for her. “They killed my father, how can I not take my revenge? But how do I go about taking action? In terms of martial arts and intelligence, I am much inferior to father-in-law or San’ge. Besides, they believe that I have an affair with Wu Kan. As soon as they see me they will kill me, how can I resist? The only thing to do is to… to find martial brother and then decide. But how would I know where he is? What about Water Spinach? How can I just leave her behind?” As soon as she thought about her daughter, she sped up her pace and rushed to the back building. She intended to take her daughter to escape with her, then come up with a plan for revenge.
In her heart, she still could not completely believe that it was the Wan family who caused the death of her father. Wan Zhenshan was a vicious and merciless person, but what about Wan Gui? She was very tender and sweet to her husband, she could not simply just suddenly sever all ties with him.
She rushed to the first floor and heard Wan Zhenshan’s coarse voice shouting and crying. She thought: “If he keeps yelling like this, he will wake up Water Spinach!” As soon as she thought that her daughter may be scared, she could not simply just worry about her own safety. She swiftly went upstairs, careful not to emit any noises from the staircase. Water Spinach slept in a room behind where she and her husband slept, it was separated only by a thin layer of metal sheet. Qi Fang slipped into the small room. The room was lighted inside, she saw that her daughter had awoken a long time ago, her face full of fright. As soon as she saw her mother, her mouth was flat as if she was about to cry. Qi Fang hurriedly rushed forward to pick her up. She made a gesture with her hands to signal her daughter not to make any noises. Water Spinach was smart and obedient, and she did not make a single sound. Qi Fang embraced her daughter and reclined on the bed.
The voice of Wan Zhenshan was heard. “No good, this is no good. The more I use this painkiller the more pain I feel. We must find the physician and use his antidote, it’s the only way.”
Wan Gui said: “Yes, only that antidote is capable of curing this poison. As soon as the sky turns bright I will ask Brother Lu and the others to set out to search for him. The wound on the back of my hand is in great pain too.”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “How can we wait until morning!? Ah.. Ah! I can’t take it! I can’t take it!” All of a sudden his legs became numb and he collapsed on the floor. He was in so much pain he began rolling on the ground. He shouted: “Quick! Get the sword, cut off my hands! Cut off my hands!” Qi Fang heard as the sounds of various furniture inside the room crashed and banged across the room, the vases and bowls clanged against each other and shattered on the floor.
Water Spinach was so scared she hugged her mother with all her might, her face deathly pale. Qi Fang gently comforted her with her hands and did not dare to make a noise.
Wan Gui was deeply troubled and panicked. “Father, you… you must endure a bit longer. How can I cut your hands off? We must find the antidote.”
Wan Zhenshan was in so much pain he simply could not take it anymore. “Why won’t you cut off my hands and relieve me of my pain? Ah, I know, you… you want me to die, then you can take the manual and find the treasure yourself…”
Wan Gui reprimanded: “Father, you are in so much pain you mind is unclear. Quickly rest on the bed. I don’t even know the sequence of the sword stances, what use do I have for the sword manual?”
Wan Zhenshan constantly rolled on the floor. “You say I am unclear, I say you have malicious intentions. I… I am in so much pain I am about to die… I am about to die… I will make sure neither of us gets the treasure!”
Suddenly both his eyes turned red, he pulled out the sword manual from his bosom and extended his hands to rip out the pages. All ten of his fingers were swollen like roots of red carrots, he could barely move them, but he still managed to rip out a few pages.
Wan Gui was startled. “Don’t tear it! Don’t tear it!” He extended his hands to take the manual away. He took hold of half the manual while Wan Zhenshan held the other half, unwilling to release his grip. Wan Gui was blank for a moment and Wan Zhenshan took the opportunity to pull. Wan Gui was unwilling to let go of the treasure that he had right in front of him turn into passing mist, so he hurriedly extended his hands to push away his father. The two of them were on the ground stealing and seizing, rolling and flipping about on the floor. The manual became even more torn.
All of a sudden Wan Gui screamed loudly: “Ah… damn it!... my wound has contracted poison again. Ah! It hurts so much!” The two of them pulled and dragged on the manual, the poison smeared on the sword manual had once again seeped into Wan Gui’s original wound on the back of his hand. In an instant, Wan Gui’s hand was swollen again, the pain shook his heart and pierced into his bones. Since he had been sick, his endurance was weak, as soon as the poison went into his wound, it immediately followed the circulation of blood and flared out remarkably fast. The two of them rolled on the floor shouting and screaming in pain.
Qi Fang listened for a bit longer; after all they were husband and wife, she could not simply just ignore his cries. She got up from the bed and walked in front of the room and said coldly, “What’s going on? What are you two doing?”
The two of them saw Qi Fang, but under such excruciating pain they did not have the time to be angry. Wan Gui cried: “Fang’mei, quickly find the physician, tell him to make the antidote, ah… ah… I really… I really can’t take it anymore. Please… I beg you…”
When Qi Fang saw he was in so much pain that his head was covered in sweat, her heart softened even more. From her bosom she took out the bottle and said: “This is the antidote!”
Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui both saw the antidote, the both of them crawled forward at the same time and shouted: “Excellent! Excellent! Quick, quickly apply it on me!”
Qi Fang saw Wan Zhenshan’s eyes were fierce and malicious and greedy like a wild beast. She thought that she could take this opportunity to threaten him, she could find out the truth. She said: “Not so fast, don’t move! If any one of you make a move, I will toss this antidote out the window into the water. Both of you will die!” As she said this she opened the window and unscrewed the porcelain bottle. She suspended the bottle of antidote by the window. All she would have to do is lightly shake her hand and the bottle would fall into water, rendered completely ineffective.
The two Wans stopped moving instantly. They looked at each other, at a loss for words. Wan Zhenshan said: “My good daughter-in-law, if you give me the antidote, I will let you run away with Wu Kan. I will not pursue you. I will even give you a thousand taels of silver for the two of you to spend on your journey… ah, it hurts… since you have the heart and he has the feelings, Gui’er cannot keep you here… you are free to leave.”
Qi Fang thought: “This person is truly shameless and despicable. Wu Kan was strangled to death by his own hands, yet he is actually lying to me right now.”
Wan Gui said: “Fang’mei, although I cannot bear to part with you, there is no other way. I promise I will not make things difficult for Wu Kan.”
Qi Fang laughed coldly and said: “The two of you are completely muddleheaded. You still harbour such and vile and repulsive desire. I am only going to ask you one thing. If you two answer me honestly, I will hand over the antidote.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Right! Right! Ask away! Ayo! Ayo!”
A breeze of wind came from outside through the window, it blew the various paper and butterfly figures dancing on the ground. The fragments of paper were from the torn from the sword manual, and thin slices flew out the window. All of a sudden, a pair of colourful butterflies flew up, it was the butterfly cut out that she made that year that was placed in the middle of the book. The two paper butterflies began dancing around the room swiftly and followed the wind out of the window. Qi Fang felt her heart sour as she recalled the happy moments she spent with Di Yun that day back in the cave. How lovely the world was back then, in all of heaven and earth there wasn’t a thing that she was unhappy about.
Wan Gui rapidly urged: “Ask away! What is it? There is nothing I won’t say.”
Qi Fang trembled slightly then asked: “Where is my father? What did you do to him?”
Wan Zhenshan forced out a laugh and said: “You ask me about your father, I—I don’t know either. Ayo—I also miss my martial brother dearly—ayo! And martial brother is my in-law now, ayo! It hurts so much.”
Qi Fang remained calm and collected. “Even now you are still lying to me, what’s the use? My father was killed by you, am I right? You killed him with the same trick you used to kill Wu Kan, am I right? You have already stuffed his corpse inside the wall, am I right?”
Qi Fang repeatedly asked “am I right” three times, both Wans were so startled and in complete disbelief. They did not expect that not only did she know about her father’s death, but she even knew about how they dealt with Wu Kan. Wan Gui trembled in his speech and said: “How… how did you know?”
When he uttered the words “how did you know?” it was basically confirming everything that she said. Qi Fang’s heart turned sour and her rage shot through the roof. At once she wanted to release her hold on the bottle of antidote and let it fall out the window into the water outside. Wan Gui saw that the situation was urgent and wanted to pounce himself forward to take it. Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Gui’er, don’t act rashly!” He knew that in such a circumstance, trying to force things to happen would only make matters worse.
All of a sudden, collapsing footsteps were heard, Water Spinach walked towards them from her room with her bare feet. She shouted: “Mama! Mama!” She wanted to pounce herself to be embraced by her mother.
Wan Gui came up with a bright idea. He extended his left arm, catching her daughter half way as she ran across the room. With his right hand he took out a dagger and aimed directly at the top of her daughter’s head and scolded: “Very well, it looks like our family, both old and young, will perish tonight! I will kill Water Spinach first, then talk!”
Qi Fang was extremely startled and urgently said: “Release her now! What does this have to do with our daughter?”
Wan Gui said in a severe tone, “Since none of us will come out alive, I might as well kill Water Spinach first!” The dagger was hovering slightly above Water Spinach’s head. Wan Gui made a few gestures of fake stabbing in the air, aiming at the direction on top of her head.
Qi Fang shouted, “No! No!” She rushed forward to rescue her daughter and extended her hand to grab Wan Gui by the wrist.
Although Wan Zhenshan was in so much pain, after all he was very experienced. When he saw his son lure Qi Fang over, at once he thrust his elbow forward and hit her hard on the waist. Then with both hands he reached to grab the bottle that she was holding and poured the powder on the back of his hand. Wan Gui also extended his hands for the antidote. Qi Fang rushed forward for her daughter and embraced her tightly.
With a flying kick, Wan Zhenshan knocked Qi Fang down on the ground. Then he followed to untie his belt and tied Qi Fang’s hands behind her back. He also tied both her legs. Qi Fang exclaimed: “Mama! Mama!” Wan Zhenshan flipped his hand to smack her so hard that she passed out. But this slap hit himself hard on his wound and he let out another “Ayo!”
The antidote was really remarkable and effective. After the two of them applied it, in a short period of time blood began to seep out of their wounds and their pain slowly reduced and turned into numbness and itchiness. After some more time, the numbness and itchiness also reduced. Both father and son became relieved and knew their lives were saved. They saw the various fragments of paper flying out the window and gasped, “Uh oh!” and pounced themselves forward to grab the pieces of paper dancing around.
But the pieces of paper on the ground had been completely scattered, more than half of it had already flown out the window, spiralling above the water. Wan Zhenshan shouted: “Quick, quick! Get it!” The two of them rushed downstairs and with all their efforts grabbed the various fragments of paper flying about with the wind. But there were several hundreds of pieces scattered, fluttering about in the wind that blew out the enclosure. Some blew very high up the sky, the two of them rushed east and west, appearing demented, but how was it possible for them to collect all the fragments, let alone put together the sword manual back in its original form?
Although the pain at the back of Wan Zhenshan’s hands had reduced greatly, the pain in his heart was indescribable and he could not repress his anger. He vented: “It is all your fault! Why did you fight over the manual with me? If you did not try to take it from me, how would the manual be torn?”
Wan Gui sighed and did not further pursue the fragments. “If your son did not try to take it away, father would have already torn the manual to shreds.”
Wan Zhenshan replied: “Bullshit!” In his heart he knew that his son was speaking the truth, but he could not help but say, “Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!”
Wan Gui said: “Fortunately, we know that it is located somewhere south of Jiangling. Once we search further into the bits and fragments of the sword manual, we may be able to find more clues, it is not necessarily the case that we won’t find the treasure.”
Wan Zhenshan became more alert when he heard this. “You are right, it is in ‘Jiangling City, South’…”
All of a sudden from outside the wall a voice softly repeated: “Jiangling City, South!”
The two Wans were taken aback. They jumped over the wall and looked outwards. They saw the back of two people making their way to a small alley.
Wan Gui scolded: “Bu Yuan, Shen Cheng, don’t move!”
The two of them did not turn their heads around, nor did they stop moving. In fact they began to run even faster. Wan Zhenshan quickly lowered himself from the wall and made chase. Wan Gui said: “Father, the… the whóre is still upstairs.”
Wan Zhenshan changed his mind and nodded in agreement.
The two of them made their way back upstairs. They saw that the little girl Water Spinach had already woken up and was hugging her mother and crying. Qi Fang’s hands and legs were tied so she was unable to comfort her daughter. Water Spinach saw that her grandfather was coming back and let out a “Wah!” and began to cry even louder.
Wan Zhenshan ran forward and kicked her from behind, scolding: “If you cry anymore I am going to cut open your stomach!”
Water Spinach was so scared that she turned deathly pale, she did not dare to make any more noise.
Wan Gui said softly: “Father, that whóre knows everything. We can’t let her live, how shall we deal with her?”
Wan Zhenshan muttered to himself then said: “Those two people outside just now, you saw clearly it was Bu Yuan and Shen Cheng?”
Wan Gui said: “It is definitely those two, I can’t be wrong! I’m afraid that the secret is leaked and they both know the treasure is in Jiangling.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “We can’t waste any more time then, we will take action now. We will deal with this whóre the same way we dealt with her father.”
Qi Fang had long cast away her life, but she could not bear to part from her daughter. “San… San’ge, you and I are a couple after all, I don’t mind if you kill me, but after I die, please take good care of Water Spinach!”
Wan Gui said: “Very well!”
Wan Zhenshan said: “We must cut the weeds and eliminate the roots, how can we let her offspring remain in this world? This little girl is intelligent and erratic, she saw everything that happened today. How can we be sure that she won’t leak this information to outsiders?”
Wan Gui faintly nodded his head. He really loved his daughter dearly, but his father also spoke true words, if he were to keep her alive there could be extremely severe consequences.
Qi Fang began to cry from both eyes, her voice choking with sobs. “You… you are very cruel, you won’t even… even spare a little girl?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Stuff something in her mouth, don’t let her speak. If she screams the whole world will know about it!”
Qi Fang remembered how her daughter’s life was in jeopardy. At once she raised her voice and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Help! Help!”
In the stillness of the night, these two screams of “Help!” pierced across the empty sky and travelled far into the distance.
Wan Gui pounced himself forward and covered her mouth with his hands. Qi Fang continued to yell, “Help! Help!” but because her mouth was covered, her voice was greatly reduced. Wan Zhenshan tore a portion of his son’s long robe and passed it to him. Wan Gui immediately stuck this piece of garment in her mouth.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Bury her in the same place we buried Qi Zhangfa. Father and daughter will share the same burial place, excellent!”
Wan Gui nodded his head and picked up his wife, taking big strides as he made his way downstairs. Wan Zhenshan carried Water Spinach. The four of them made their way to the study room.
Qi Fang looked at the white wall on the west side of the room and thought: “So that old thief stuffed my father inside the hole in this wall?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “I will break the wall now, bring Wu Kan here! Be careful not to let anyone see you.”
Wan Gui replied: “Yes!” and rushed over to Wan Zhenshan’s bedroom.
Wan Zhenshan pulled apart drawer in the desks, including the chisel, hammer, and spade knives and other sort of equipment, every variety imaginable. He took them all out and placed it beside the wall. He looked at the white wall for a moment before rubbing it with both hands. Then he turned his head to look at Qi Fang, his appearance looking extremely complacent. Qi Fang could not help but shiver at his gaze. Wan Zhenshan picked up the iron hammer and chisel, and after looking at the correct position in the wall, he stuffed the chisel at a crack between two bricks. The chisel cracked one of the bricks in the wall. He extended his hand to shake it a few times and pulled the brick out. It appeared that he was very familiar with this procedure. After he took out the brick, he sniffed it a few times with his nose.
When Qi Fang saw the way Wan Zhenshan took out the bricks, she recalled how he saw him to the same thing during his dreams, digging bricks, pushing out corpses, building walls, the entire procedure. She was so scared that she trembled all over. When he saw how he was sniffing the brick that held her father captive for the odour of a corpse, she was even more afraid and saddened. She was also very angry. She abused roundly, “You traitor! You shameless old thief!” But because her mouth was stuffed, she could only make out faint mumbling sounds.
Wan Zhenshan reached for the second brick when suddenly the sound of urgent footsteps fast approached, Wan Gui entered and said: “Father! This is not good, Wu Kan… Wu Kan…” His body crashed against the edge of the table and choked on himself, then the oil lamp fell on the ground and the entire room was completely dark. There was nothing left but a very faint moonlight piercing through the window paper.
Wan Zhenshan asked: “What about Wu Kan? You make such a big fuss about nothing. How can you lose your cool so easily?”
Wan Gui exclaimed: “Wu Kan has disappeared!”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Bullshit! How can he disappear?” But his voice trembled, it was obvious that he fear was flourishing in his heart. With a loud clap, the brick that he held on his hands dropped on the ground.
Wan Gui said: “I extended my hands to reach under the bed where you placed the body, but there was nothing there. I lit the oil lamp and shined it under the bed, but the body had disappeared without a trace. I searched thoroughly throughout the room… the back of boxes, tables… I searched everywhere, but I could not find anything.”
Wan Zhenshan muttered to himself irresolutely. “That… that is very strange. It must be Bu Yuan and Shen Cheng who are playing tricks on us.”
Wan Gui said: “Father, could it be… could it be that Wu Kan was not completely dead? Maybe he temporarily sealed his breathing and then came back to life?”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Bullshit! Your father’s nickname is ‘Five Cloud Hand’, how proficient am I with my hands? Do you think I can’t even kill a mere disciple?”
Wan Gui said: “That’s true, it is logical that Wu Kan was definitely killed by father, but why is it that his corpse has disappeared? Could it be that his departed spirit is demanding vengeance for grievances…”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Don’t let your imagination run wild! Let’s deal with the whóre and little demon quickly, then we will find Wu Kan’s body. I’m afraid that if this incident gets known to the public, it will be hard for us father-and-son to find a safe haven in Jingzhou…” After he said this he increased his pace to take out all the bricks. In his dreams he had already practiced this procedure extremely thoroughly, and now when actually doing it he was very proficient, even without a light source his movements were fast and nimble.
Wan Gui answered, “Yes!” and with knife in hand, he walked in front of Qi Fang and trembled as he said: “Fang’mei, you wronged me first. After you die, you cannot blame me!”
Qi Fang was speechless. She turned her body and rammed him hard with her shoulder. She had nothing to complain about the Wans wanting to kill her, but to even go so far as to kill Water Spinach, such people with the heart of a wolf and lungs of a dog were truly hard to come by in this world.
Wan Gui was rammed by her shoulder and got knocked back several steps. He raised his sabre and shouted: “Little whóre! You are at the verge of death and still dare to play rough with me!”
At this time, footsteps were suddenly heard approaching. The door in the study room slowly creaked open. Wan Gui was startled and he turned his head to look. In the dimness of the moonlight, he could only see that the door was open, but nobody was there.
Wan Zhenshan shouted: “Who is it?”
The door creaked a few more times, but nobody responded.
In the glimmer of light, it could be made that someone suddenly jumped inside the room. This person jumped forward several times in succession, his body straight and his knees not curving the slightest. Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui were both startled by this, and they could not help but retreat two steps each. They saw that this person had their eyes wide open, his tongue sticking out, and his nose and mouth were covered in blood—it was none other than Wu Kan.
Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui both shouted, “Ah!” When Qi Fang saw such a frightening sight, she too was so scared that her heart nearly stopped beating. Water Spinach was so scared that she stuffed her head in her mother’s bosom and did not dare to make a noise. Wu Kan did not move in the slightest, both his arms slowly raised up and extended forward to reach for Wan Zhenshan.
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Wu Kan you little thief, you think your daddy I will be afraid… afraid of your zombie?” At once he took out his sabre and aimed to crack open Wu Kan’s head. However, he suddenly felt both his wrists were numb, he could not even grasp his sabre properly, and with a loud clank it fell on the ground. Then followed that his waist felt numb, and his entire body could not move in the least bit.
Wan Gui was already so scared that his entire body was paralyzed. Now upon seeing what Wu Kan’s zombie did to his father, it then followed that the zombie extended both hands to grab him slowly. He wanted to shout: “Brother Wu! Brother Wu! Forgive me!” But his voice was clogged in his throat and he could not even yell out no matter how hard he tried. He retreated two steps; his legs became numb and collapsed on the floor. Then he saw Wu Kan’s right arm drooping down, feeling his face, its fingers cold as death without any hint of warmth. Wan Gui was so scared that he completely lost his soul and passed out at once.
All of a sudden, Wu Kan’s body pushed forward and pounced itself on Wan Gui’s body, completely lifeless. There was someone standing behind Wu Kan.
This person walked beside Qi Fang and took out the ragged garment that was stuffed in her mouth. With both hands this person pulled and easily broke the rope the cord that tied around her arms and legs. Then this person turned around and kicked Wan Gui hardly on the waist. The internal energy of this kick was so profound that Wan Gui felt pain all over his body.
Qi Fang picked up Water Spinach then trembled and said: “May I ask for the name of benefactor who saved my life?”
This person’s hands extended forward. Under the moonlight one could make out that in each palm there was a cut out of a butterfly. It was the butterfly cut out that was placed between the pages of the manual. This person caught these cut outs as it was flying out the window.
Qi Fang glanced at these butterflies and saw that this person’s right hand was missing all five fingers. She almost lost her voice as she called out, “Brother Di!”
This person was indeed Di Yun. When he suddenly heard Qi Fang call out “Brother Di!” his heart was filled with an indescribable warmth. Tears began to fall from his eyes as he called out, “Fang’mei! Heaven has pity, you… you and I can finally see each other again!”
At this point, Qi Fang was like a small boat drifting along the vastness of the great ocean. Under the compounded effects of fierce winds and torrential rain, she miraculously found a tranquil harbour where the breeze was calm and the waves were quiet. She pounced herself to be embraced by Di Yun and said: “Martial brother, this… this… this… is this a dream?”
Di Yun said: “This is not a dream. Fang’mei, for the last two nights I have kept watch around here. I have witnessed everything those two have done. In regards to Wu Kan’s body, I was the one who took it out to scare them!”
Qi Fang shouted: “Father! Father!” She placed Water Spinach down and rushed in front of the opening on the wall. She extended her hand to feel the insides but there was nothing there. She let out an “Ah” and softly said: “There… there is nothing!”
Di Yun lit the oil lamp and illuminated the opening in the wall. He saw that between the walls there was nothing but lime plaster and bricks, where could one find the body of Qi Zhangfa? He said: “There is nothing there, nothing at all.”
Qi Fang took a candle from Wan Zhenshan’s bed and lit it from Di Yun’s light, then raised the candle and looked closely at the cracks between the bricks. Where could one find Qi Zhangfa’s body, or anyone’s body? She was both startled and delighted, for she now had a string of hope in her heart. “It could be that father was never killed by them.” She turned around to look at Wan Gui and said: “San… San’ge, where is my father?”
Wan Gui and Wan Zhenshan did not realize that she did not find the body inside the wall. They thought that she saw her father’s corpse and wanted to take revenge. Wan Zhenshan remained upright and unafraid, he said: “A gentleman bears the full consequences of his own actions. I was the one who killed Qi Zhangfa, if you want to take revenge you can kill me.”
Qi Fang said: “Father was really killed by you? Then… where is his body?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “What’s that? Does the dead body inside the wall not belong to him?”
Qi Fang said: “Where is there a dead body?”
Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui looked at each other in dismay, their faces deathly pale, they could not believe it. Di Yun picked up Wan Zhenshan and pushed him forward to stick his head inside the wall to take a look.
Wan Zhenshan trembled and said: “In this world there really… really exists a zombie that can walk? I definitely… definitely…” Then immediately he changed his words. “My good daughter-in-law, I… I deceived you. Although my martial brother and I are not on good terms, I would not go so far as to kill him, why would you believe that’s what actually happened? Haha! Haha!” Usually he was pretty good at telling lies, but at this point he was so startled and afraid his words were all over the place and weren’t even remotely believable. If he insisted on continuing his lie, perhaps Qi Fang and Di Yun would carry a very small glimmer of hope, but with the way he spoke, it only served to further confirm that he was the one who killed Qi Zhangfa.
Di Yun extended his hand forward to reach for Wan Zhenshan’s shoulder and said: “Uncle Wan, you have caused me so much grief. I will not settle the score with you now, but I only ask you: Did you kill my teacher or not?” As he said this he utilized the internal energy of the Heavenly Glow. In an instant, Wan Zhenshan felt as if his entire body fell into a large fiery furnace, it felt that even his blood was burning so hard it was about to boil. He was in so much pain, and when he further thought about how Qi Zhangfa’s body disappeared without a trace, he became even more frightened and alarmed. His thoughts were all over the place and did not dare to resist his opponent. “That… that is correct. I was the one who killed Qi Zhangfa.”
Di Yun asked, “Where is my teacher’s body? Where did you put him?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “I really did stuff him inside the wall, his body has changed… changed into a zombie?”
Di Yun glared at him violently. He recalled all the vast and endless pain and grief he suffered throughout the years, it was all because of him and his son. And now that Wan Zhenshan had just admitted that he was the one who killed his teacher, how could he not be in raging fury? If he had not just reunited with Qi Fang which caused his heart to be filled with more happiness than bereavement, he would have instantly killed this person with one palm strike. He clenched his teeth and picked up Wan Zhenshan. Wan Zhenshan was a big person and the hole in the wall was small, several bricks had to be knocked down before he was able to stuff his body inside.
Qi Fang let out an “ah” and cried out lightly. Then Di Yun picked up Wan Gui’s body and also stuffed it inside the hole and said: “One revenge follows another, the two of them father-and-son killed my teacher in such a way, now we will deal with them in the exact same way.” He picked up the loose bricks on the ground and began to stick it back in the wall. In no time at all, the wall was completely sealed up again.
Qi Fang trembled and said: “Martial… martial brother, you have finally avenged my father’s death. If not for you… martial brother, what should we do with this person’s body?” As she said this, she pointed at Wu Kan’s corpse on the ground.
Di Yun said: “We should leave now! We don’t need to care about anything that happens here anymore.”
Qi Fang said: “The two of them are stuffed inside the wall but they aren’t dead yet. What if someone saves them…”
Di Yun said: “How would others know that there would be someone inside a wall? We will take Wu Kan’s body outside for others to see, then nobody would even think about coming in here to investigate. The two of them can’t live inside the wall for very long.” At once he lifted up Wu Kan’s body and threw it out of the study room. Then he made a hand gesture at Qi Fang and said: “Let’s go!”
The two of them rushed out of the enclosure of the Wan residence. Di Yun let go of Wu Kan’s body and said: “Martial sister, where should we go now?”
Qi Fang said: “You think my father was really killed by those two?”
Di Yun said: “Hopefully teacher is still alive, but judging from what Wan Zhenshan said, I’m afraid that… that teacher has already ran into misfortune. But we should investigate and seek out the truth.”
Qi Fang said: “I have to go back and get something. Wait for me near that ruined memorial hall.”
Di Yun said: “I will go with you.”
Qi Fang said: “No, that is not good! If anyone sees us, that will cause for some trouble.”
Di Yun said: “It is best if I stay with you. There is not a single good person amongst Wan Zhenshan’s disciples.”
Qi Fang said: “It’s not a problem, hold Water Spinach and wait for me.”
Water Spinach was so frightened by the events that had just occurred that she had long fainted and slept under her mother’s embracement.
Di Yun usually listened to Qi Fang’s instructions. When he saw that she was determined, he did not dare to disobey her. He could only take hold of her daughter and watch as Qi Fang once again went inside the Wan family, entering through the memorial hall and pushed the door inside.
After the time it took to eat a meal had passed, Qi Fang still did not return. Di Yun became anxious and wanted to go inside to look for her. But he was afraid that she would be unhappy, so he only carried Water Spinach and walked back and forth around the corridor. He thought about how he finally reunited with his martial sister after all this time, it was really a feeling of joy that he could not describe. But in the most inner depths of his heart he felt an indistinct sense of fear, would his martial sister stay with him forever? He constantly wished in his heart, “Heaven please bless and protect us, I have already suffered endless tragedies, I wish that I can spend the rest of my days with her, to protect her and to take good care of her. I do not dare to become her husband, I only hope that I can see her every day, and that every day she would call me once ‘martial brother’. Heaven, in my entire life I will never ask you for anything ever again.”
All of a sudden, there was a rustling noise coming out from the window in the memorial hall, it appeared that there was someone there. Di Yun turned his body and stood near the window without moving. After a while, the long window creaked open as someone came outside.
In the darkness Di Yun could faintly make out that this person had messy hair draping over her shoulders, it was a beggar woman. Di Yun did not pay much attention to her and only thought: “Why has Fang’mei not come out yet after so much time?”
Water Spinach began to cry out in her sleep, she was so scared that she cried out: “Mama! Mama!”
The beggar woman was taken aback. She withdrew to the corner of the corridor and hugged her own head. Di Yun lightly tapped Water Spinach on the shoulder and said: “Don’t cry, don’t cry! Is mama here yet? Is mama here yet?”
The beggar woman listened and made out that a little girl was screaming; Di Yun appeared to have no intention of harming her in the least bit. She mustered up her courage and got up to slowly walk forward, helping him console Water Spinach. “My darling is a good girl, your mama will come out soon!” She spoke softly to Di Yun, “A person will see ghosts at night, someone will build walls in the middle of the night, no… no… don’t ask me about it…”
Di Yun asked, “What are you talking about?”
The beggar woman said: “No… nothing. Master kicked me out of the house, he doesn’t want me anymore. Once upon a time I was young and beautiful, he liked me very much. As the saying goes, a day of man and wife is worth a hundred nights of grace, a hundred nights of grace is deeper than the ocean… Master will one day ask me to return, I know it. A night of man and wife is worth a hundred nights of grace, a hundred nights of grace is deeper than the ocean…”
Di Yun was startled and thought: “Martial sister and her husband, would she not care about her old affection?” All of a sudden it felt as if his chest was clogged and could not breathe. He felt a bit dizzy and carried Water Spinach closely. Then he rushed inside through the memorial hall.
He never would have guessed that the beggar woman just now was in fact Tao Hong, the same beautiful lady who framed him that year.
The word “river” is pronounced “Jiang” and the word tomb is pronounced “ling”. Jiangling is a county in Jingzhou.
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06-18-11, 03:00 PM#13
Chapter 12Chapter 12
Di Yun jumped over the outer wall and made his way to the Wan family’s study room. At this point it was about daybreak, under the haziness of the light he could see someone was lying on the ground. This person vaguely looked like Qi Fang. Di Yun was startled, immediately he took the fire knife and the flint to light a fire and lit it on the candle on top of the table. Under the candlelight he saw that Qi Fang’s body was completely covered in blood, there was a short knife stabbed on her lower stomach.
There were piles of bricks all around her, the wall had cracked open and the two Wans were nowhere to be seen.
Di Yun knelt down beside Qi Fang and shouted: “Martial sister! Martial sister!” He was so scared that he trembled throughout his whole body. His voice was nearly inaudible. He extended his hands to reach for Qi Fang’s face, he felt that there was still some warmth and there was very faint breathing in her nose. He calmed himself and called out again, “Martial sister!”
Qi Fang slowly opened her eyes. She revealed a very bitter smile on her face and said: “Martial brother… I… I’m sorry.”
Di Yun said: “You don’t have to say anything, I… I’m here to save you.” He gently put Water Spinach on the side then with his right hand he reached for Qi Fang’s body. With his left hand he picked up the short knife by its handle and wanted to pull it out, but after a glimpse he saw that the knife was stuck really deep in her stomach. If he were to pull it out, she would definitely lose her life at once, so he did not dare to act rashly. He was urgent but was completely powerless at this situation. He did not know what to do and asked: “What can I do? What can I do? Who… who did this to you?”
Qi Fang smiled bitterly and said: “Martial brother, as the saying goes, a night of man and wife… ai, I won’t say it, I… please don’t fault me. I could not bear it in my heart, I let my husband out, he… he… he…”
Di Yun clenched his teeth and said: “He… he… he stabbed you with a knife, is that right?”
Qi Fang smiled bitterly and nodded her head.
Di Yun was in so much emotional pain that it felt as if the knife was stabbed in his own heart. He could do nothing but watch as Qi Fang’s life was hanging by a thread. Wan Gui’s strike stabbed into her very deeply, no matter what she could not be saved. In his heart there was a faint hint of a jealous snake gnawing at his insides as he said: “You… you really do love your husband. You are willing to save him at the expense of your own life.”
Qi Fang said: “Martial brother, promise me, take good care of Water Spinach. Treat her like your own… your own daughter.”
Di Yun did not respond and nodded his head. Then he said: “That little thief… where did he go?”
Qi Fang’s expressions were messy and her voice was ambiguous, she softly said: “From that cave, the two big butterflies flew in here. Liang Shanbo, Zhu Yingtai, martial brother, look, look! One of them is you, the other is me. We will… we will fly together, hither and thither, just like that. We will never separate, what do you say?” Her voice was barely audible, her breathing became more faint and weak until it came to a full stop.
Di Yun carried Water Spinach on one hand while he carried Qi Fang’s body with the other. He jumped out from the enclosure of the Wan residence. At first he wanted to set the Wan residence completely on fire with one torch, but he changed his mind and thought: “If I burn down this house, the Wans will never come back again. If I want to avenge martial sister, I’d better leave this place intact.”
Di Yun made his way to the abandoned garden that he stayed in with Ding Dian that year. He walked under the plum tree and dug a hole and placed Qi Fang inside. He kept the short sabre with him. He intended to use this short sabre to take the lives of both Wan Gui and his father.
He was in so much grief that he could not even cry out. All he could do was fault himself. “Why didn’t I just kill those two villains and then seal the wall? Why was I so careless as to cause martial sister to lose her life?” He did not fault her martial sister, he only faulted his own actions.
Water Spinach kept crying “Mama! Mama!” she cried so loud that Di Yun was distraught with anxiety. Thereupon he found a peasant family outside Jiangling and gave them ten taels of silver to the couple to look after the little girl.
Day and night he camped outside the Wan residence. Half a month passed. He did not see any trace of the Wan family. The strange part was that even Lu Kun, Bu Yuan, Sun Jun, Feng Tan, and Shen Cheng had disappeared completely, never returning to the Wan residence. The remaining servants in the Wan family became like a housefly without a head, some began to steal things while others began to fight and argue with each other.
Inside Jiangling City there were many characters from the martial world who assembled from all directions.
One night, Di Yun heard the conversation of several grand characters from the realm:
“It turns out that A Deadly Secret is hidden inside a ‘Tang Poem Anthology’. The first four words are ‘Jiangling City, South’.”
“That is correct, these past few days the wind has sure blown quite a few people here after hearing this news. Except that nobody knows what follows after those four words.”
“Who cares what follows afterwards? All we have to do is camp south of the city. As soon as someone digs out the treasure, we will impede their path and rob them.”
“Correct, even if we can’t rob the whole thing, we will at least get a small portion. Anyone who sees it will take it, how will we be missing out?”
“Haha! In the past few days, many people have bought the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’ from the local bookstore in Jiangling. Today I walked by the bookstore and before I even said a word the shopkeeper asked me: ‘Elder, are you here to buy the Tang Poem Anthology? This book we have just imported from Hankou, if you want to buy it come early. If you come late it will be sold out.’ I was very curious so I asked him, ‘How do you know I wanted to buy the Tang Poem Anthology?’ What do you think he answered?”
“I don’t know! What did he say?”
“Damn it! That shopkeeper said: ‘I will not hide the truth from you, elder. Several days ago there were many folks who wielded swords and sabres, sticking out their chest and belly in a shocking manner. They all came to the bookstore, whether it was 10 or 11 people, they all wanted to buy this book. I sold them for five taels of silver each, do you want that book too?”
“Damn it! How can a book be so expensive?”
“Do you know how much the book is worth? Have you looked at its contents?”
“Haha, your daddy I have never entered a bookstore my entire life. Books… books, your daddy I am a gambler, I only buy something that will let me win, why would I buy a book? Haha! Haha!”
Di Yun thought: “It looks like the secret of the Liancheng Manual has leaked out. I wonder who leaked it out? Right, the exchange between the Wan Zhenshan and his son was heard by Lu Kun and the others. Wan Zhenshan wanted to investigate, and his several disciples escaped as well. In such a way, the news spread and more and more people knew about it.”
He recalled how during the years he spent in prison with Ding Dian, there would often be realm folks who came, but they were all effortlessly killed by Ding Dian. “Hmm, I have not fulfilled Brother Ding’s wish yet. Brother Ding’s business is even more important than my own affairs of vengeance.”
Lady Ling’s father was the prefectural magistrate of the Jiangling Prefecture. Di Yun made his way to the largest coffin store and largest tombstone store in Jiangling to investigate. He found out that Lady Ling was buried on top of a small hill about twelve li east of the city.
He bought an iron shovel and a crane-mouth hoe and made his way eastwards. It did not take him very long to find the tomb. On the tombstone was written the seven words “Resting place of beloved daughter Ling Shuanghua”. There were no flowers or trees in front of the tomb. During her life, Ling Shuanghua loved fresh flowers the most, yet her father did not even place any on her tomb.
“Beloved daughter… beloved daughter… haha! Do you really love your daughter?” He laughed coldly and then he thought about Ding Dian and Qi Fang. He could not help but cry, tears falling from his eyes.
His lapel had long been wet throughout from Qi Fang’s tears, now in front of the tomb of Ling Shuanghua, he added another layer of tears.
Nobody lived near this small hill, and it was distanced very far from the main road, so nobody would ever come here. But no matter what he could not dig out her tomb in the light of day. He waited until the sky was completely dark before he began digging at the grave. He dug open the large rock that was sealed by concrete mortar and the coffin was revealed.
After experiencing several years of distress and misery, Di Yun was no longer a person who would easily cry or be overcome with grief. But seeing the coffin under such gloomy moonlight, he thought about how Brother Ding died because of this very coffin, he could not help but become sad. He could not help but become teary again.
Ling Tuisi had once smeared the coffin with the poison of the “Golden Ripple Flower”, but after so much time had passed and the fact that the coffin was taken all the way here to be buried, it was expected that the poison had long been wiped off. But nonetheless, Di Yun did not dare to extend his hands to touch the coffin. He took out his blood sabre and slightly shoved it in the opening between the coffin and case. The blood sabre was capable of scraping gold and slicing jades, as soon as it made contact with the coffin, it was like slicing tofu. He did not even need to use any strength and the tenon on the cover of the coffin was already cut off. He exerted some strength on his right arm until it was enough to send the cover flying out of place.
In a split second, he saw that two rotten hands were pointing upwards, but as soon as the cover flew off, the two hands drooped down again, just as if it was moving lifelike. Di Yun was slightly startled and thought: “When Lady Ling entered the coffin, how come her hands would be raised in such a way? That is very strange.” He saw that there were no burial clothes or beddings inside the coffin that was typical of a burial. Lady Ling wore nothing but an unlined garment.
Di Yun silently prayed: “Brother Ding, Lady Ling, the two of you could not become man-and-wife during your lifetimes, but now you two are buried together after death, your wishes will finally be fulfilled. The two of your spirits will smile in the golden springs.” He undid the burden on his back and opened it. He took out Ding Dian’s ashes and scattered it completely on Lady Ling’s body. He kneeled down and respectfully kowtowed four times. Then he got up and conveniently tossed the cloth wrapper that contained the ashes into the coffin. Then he sealed the coffin again.
Under the gloomy moonlight, he saw that there were some faint words written on the back of the coffin. Di Yun got closer to look and saw that these words were a trembling scrawl of writing:
“Darling Ding, Darling Ding, in our next life we will become man and wife.”
Di Yun trembled in his heart. He sat down on the ground cross-legged. These few words were clearly written by fingernails. He only thought for a moment before he came to a realization. “Lady Ling was buried alive by her father. When she was placed in the coffin, she was not dead yet. These few words must have been written right before she died. That is also why when she died, her hands were still upwards facing the cover. It’s hard to believe that in this world there could actually be such a heartless father! Brother Ding was unyielding and Lady Ling never betrayed Brother Ding. Her father became more and more ruthless and even went so far as to bury her alive.” He also thought: “When Magistrate Ling realized that Brother Ding escaped from prison, he should know that Brother Ding would definitely settle the score with him, that’s why he rapidly smeared the poison of the Golden Ripple Flower on the outsides of the coffin. The heart of this person is actually a hundred times more deadly than that of the Golden Ripple Flower.
He leaned closer to the coffin to take a closer look at the next two lines of writing. He saw under several words were written three lines of numbers, written “4, 41, 33, 53” and other various numbers. Di Yun inhaled a cold breath of air and thought: “Right, even before Lady Ling died, she remembered her wish of being buried together with Brother Ding. She promised Brother Ding that if there was anyone capable of burying the two of them together, she would reveal the secret of the Liancheng Manual to this person. Brother Ding also spoke to me about these numbers in the abandoned garden, but he passed away before he finished speaking. The secret on the manual that teacher took was uncovered by martial sister’s tears, but this book was then ripped to shreds by Wan Gui and his father. I only know that from now on the secret will be like passing mist, who knows the significance of the numbers written here?”
He prayed in his heart: “Lady Ling, you really are an honest person. I thank you for your kindness, but my heart is like dust, I wish for nothing more than to kill myself and bury myself beside you and Brother Ding. Just that I have not yet sought my revenge, I have not yet killed the Wan family and your father. Gold and silver mean nothing more to me than dirt or clay.” After he said this, he took the cover of the coffin and was about to seal it up when suddenly a thought flashed through his mind. “Ayo! Right! I don’t know where the Wans have hid themselves, it may be that for the rest of my life I won’t be able to track them down. But right now the secret of the great treasure is written right in front of my eyes, and naturally the Wans will go and check it out. Right, this secret is actually a very pleasant pastry; even if the Wans were suspicious, even if they were ten times more careful, they would not be able to resist the temptation of the secret.”
He placed the cover down and looked carefully at the numbers written. With the blood sabre he carved each number on the back of the shovel. After engraving all the numbers he matched it with the numbers on the coffin to make sure he did not make a mistake, then he wrapped a cloth around his hands and covered up the coffin and placed the stone slab carefully. Finally he piled the dirt around the tomb neatly.
“This desire has finally been fulfilled! After I take my revenge, I will scatter hundreds of different chrysanthemums around the tomb. Brother Ding and Lady Ling loved chrysanthemums more than anything else. It’s best if I can find the ‘Spring Water Jade Ripple’ flower!”
Early next morning, three lines of numbers were remarkably written using calcium oxide on the west city wall of Jiangling. Every number occupied about ten feet of space and could be seen from afar. “4, 41, 33, 53…” The strange part is that these several rows of numbers were separated nearly 20 feet from the ground, it’s unlikely that in Jiangling there would be such a big ladder. For someone to be capable of climbing their way up the wall to write these numbers, it would only be possible if this person tied a rope around their body and wrote it from top down.
Several hundred feet away from the numbers on the wall, Di Yun disguised himself as a beggar and took off his jacket, sitting under the sun and pretending to catch lice.
Many people entered and exited through the south city gate. In only the span of several hours, discussion erupted all throughout various markets and restaurants, they were all talking about the numbers on the wall. Many people went in front of the city gate to take a look. The position in which these numbers were written was really strange, but besides that there was nothing fancy about it. Most people would take a look, make a random guess, and then head on their way. But there were still several formidable folks from the realm who remained.
These people all held a “Tang Poem Anthology” in their hands. They copied down the numbers on the wall and creased their eyebrows in deep contemplation.
Di Yun saw Sun Jun had arrived and Shen Cheng had arrived too. After a while, Lu Kun arrived as well. But they did not know the sequence of the stances of the Liancheng Swordplay, although they each had a copy of the Tang Poem Anthology, even though the numbers on the wall were written so remarkably, and even though they knew that the numbers had something to do with the secret of the manual, and even though they eavesdropped and heard their teacher and his son talk about the method to discover the secret, it was impossible for them to figure it out without knowing which number applies to which poem.
In this world, the only ones who knew the answer to this were Wan Zhenshan, Yan Daping, and Qi Zhangfa.
Lu Kun and the other three got together for a discussion. Di Yun was separated quite a distance from them and could not make out what they were saying. He only watched as the three of them discussed for a while and then returned inside the city. After some time, the three of them changed into a disguise and came out again. One disguised himself as a fruit salesman and carried a bucket of tangerines, another disguised himself as a vegetable dealer, and the third disguised himself as a local peasant carrying a shovel. The three of them camped near the city wall and watched attentively for anyone who passed by.
Di Yun knew of their intentions. They were waiting for Wan Zhenshan to appear. They could not figure out the secret of the manual, but they knew that if they followed Wan Zhenshan they would be able to find the location of the treasure. Even if they could not take the whole thing, at least they could get a portion of it. Naturally it would be extremely dangerous for them to see their teacher again, but if they wanted to become filthy rich, how could they not take such a risk?
The first four numbers of the Liancheng Manual had long been revealed to the general public. “4, 41, 33, 53” which was decoded to mean “Jiangling City, South”; even if a person was more stupid they would realize that the numbers following those four numbers would naturally reveal the location of the treasure.
More and more people came near the city wall. Some disguised themselves while others kept their everyday appearance. Di Yun counted that there were 78 people in total. After a while, Bu Yuan and Feng Tan also came. The two of them were for some reason flushed with anger, it appeared as if they were about to fight but finally quieted down. They sat next to the moat.
It was now afternoon. The Wans still did not show up. Then night began to fall, but the Wans were still nowhere to be seen. Many people began to curse profanities out loud. All of Wan Zhenshan’s ancestors were abused roundly, especially Wan Zhenshan’s grandmother.
The sky was getting dark now, a scholarly person held a piece of paper and an ink case and a pen. He shook his head as he copied down the numbers written on the city wall. A big person was so bored that he did not have any place to vent his anger, he came forward and scolded: “What are you copying down the numbers for?”
The scholar said: “I will naturally have my own use for it, others need not care.”
The big man said: “Will you tell me or not? If you don’t speak up, I will hit you.” He raised his large fist and swayed it back and forth around the tip of the scholar’s nose. The scholar was afraid and said: “Alright… alright… someone told me to copy it down.”
The big man said: “Who told you to copy it down?”
The scholar said: “This old fellow, I do not dare to deceive you, this person is the renowned and venerable Wan Zhenshan, you… you cannot offend this elder.”
As soon as the name “Wan Zhenshan” was uttered, there was much hubbub from the crowd. Di Yun was also delighted, but amidst his delight, most of his emotions consisted of enmity and grief.
This scholar trembled back and forth in front, one foot high and the other foot low, he staggered along his way and continued walking east. Over a hundred people followed closely behind. Since Wan Zhenshan did not show up, the only solution was to find Wan Zhenshan. He is the only man capable of figuring out the secret behind these numbers. The news of the secret had long spread across the city. Many people wanted to pressure Wan Zhenshan into leading them to the treasure. Many people complimented the big man: “It is fortunate that elder brother was so smart, otherwise we could have waited here for three days and three nights and Wan Zhenshan would have already taken the treasure for himself.”
The big man was very proud of himself and said: “That little fellow was sneaky and secretive, I knew that there was something up with him.” He talked as if he did a good deed for everyone.
Di Yun mixed himself with the rest of the crowd and thought: “Wan Zhenshan is an old and extremely cunning person, he would not be as careless as to let others find the secret. There must be some kind of scheme behind this.” At this point the group had already travelled several li away from the south gate. Di Yun turned his head to look and looked at the city wall, in a glimpse he saw a shadow rushing past the city wall heading westward.
Di Yun thought: “All of these people have their attention fixed on the scholar and won’t let him escape. If they find Wan Zhenshan, they won’t separate from him. In such a big city, it would be extremely difficult to find Wan Zhenshan and his son, but to find such a messy crowd would be as easy as flipping my hand, why do I have to merge myself with the crowd?”
He changed his thoughts and in a flash hid himself behind a tree. Then he exerted his lightness martial arts and turned around to head towards the south gate. He headed westward and followed the direction that the shadow went. He caught up to this person before the time it took to drink a cup of tea. Although this person’s lightness martial arts were decent, it paled in comparison to Di Yun’s. He did not even notice that he was being followed, he only kept on running.
Di Yun saw as this person made his way in front of a small house. The person went inside the house and Di Yun kept watch outside and waited for this person to come out. After a while, he saw through the window that a lamp was lit from inside the house.
He made his way under the window and peeked through the narrow window slit. He saw there was an old person sitting on a chair inside the house. This person had his back against the window so Di Yun could not make out who it was.
This old person took out and began reading a book on the table. Di Yun only took one glance and knew that it was the “Tang Poem Anthology”. In the past few days this book was incredibility popular in the city, evidently even an old person was unable to break the custom, he too had a copy. Di Yun watched as this old person took out a writing brush and on a piece of yellow paper wrote words “Jiangling City, South”, then this person faintly counted the numbers “5, 10, 15, 16…” Then on the piece of paper he wrote the word “inclined”.
Di Yun was startled at what he saw. He thought: “There is actually someone capable of deciphering the numbers from the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’, could it be that he knows the Liancheng Swordplay?” But judging from the back of this person it was not Wan Zhenshan. This person wore very old and shabby gray clothes, Di Yun could not figure out who it was.
Di Yun watched as this person continued to read the book, counting on his fingers the number of words every now and then, and then writing down the corresponding word. This person wrote down 26 words in total, Di Yun read the words one by one:
“Inclined West, Tianing Temple, Main Hall, Buddha Statue Facing the Pious and Sincere Worshipper. The Praying Spirit Informs Buddha Will Bless a Future Life of Bliss”.
The old person became very angry and slammed the brush hard on the table. “What ‘Facing the Pious and Sincere Worshipper, the Praying Spirit Informs’ and what ‘Buddha Will Bless a Future Life of Bliss’! Damn it! ‘Future Life of Bliss’, are they telling me to see to go see Yama or what?”
As Di Yun listened he felt that this person’s voice was quite familiar. He was just thinking who it could be when this person turned around to face the window. Di Yun ducked under the window and thought: “It is second uncle, no wonder he knows the sword stances. But what is the secret then? It seems to be nothing more than a joke.” He could not help but chuckle in his heart. “So many people spent so much effort, they were willing to kill their teachers, kill each other, and in the end, it is nothing more than a phrase meant to make a fool of you.”
He did not actually laugh out loud, but inside the room Yan Daping began to laugh. “Haha! This phrase is telling me to sincerely worship Buddha, then that damn filthy clay statue will bless me and wish me a future life of bliss. Haha! Damn it! It’s telling me to live a future life of bliss. The three of us combined our forces to kill our teacher, the three of us martial brothers engaged in a fierce rivalry all these years, and we were fighting for nothing more than a ‘future life of bliss’. The hundreds of heroes and courageous people in Jiangling City, the various turtle thieves and bandits, all of them have tried to take this manual, and it was all for nothing more than a ‘future life of bliss’, haha! Haha!” His laughter was filled with sadness and grief. As he laughed, he tore the yellow paper to shreds.
All of a sudden he stood there motionless, his gaze completely fixed outside the window.
Di Yun thought about his own misfortunes. He thought about Qi Fang’s tragic death and how it was all because of this secret. But in the end this secret was nothing more several phrases of a big joke. Under such extreme grief and indignation, he could not help but start laughing out loud.
At the same time, he saw Yan Daping fixed his gaze outside the window, as if he was staring at something. Di Yun heard him mumble to himself, “Now that it has come to this, might as well go to Tianning Temple and take a look, what harm can it do? Jiangling City, South… this is correct, there is indeed an old temple there.” He brandished his hand to extinguish the candlelight. He pushed open the door and executed his lightness martial arts to travel westward.
Di Yun became hesitant in his heart. “Should I look for Wan Zhenshan or follow Uncle Yan? Ai, such a big group of people can’t be hard to find. I should go after Uncle Yan first.” At once he looked at Yan Daping and followed closely behind.
It did not take a full hour before Yan Daping reached the outskirts of the old Tianning Temple. He first stayed outside the temple for a very long time to listen for any activity, then he toured once around the outside. He realized that the temple was completely empty before he pushed the door open to go inside.
This Tianning Temple was located in a very desolate area and had been abandoned and worn down over the years. There were no acolytes or monks inside this temple. Yan Daping reached the main hall and lit up a torch, he wanted to light the candle in front of the altar. Under the firelight, it appeared that the candle wax was somewhat fresh. His thoughts changed and he extended his hands to pinch the wax, indeed it was still soft and mushy. It was obvious that someone lit this very candle not too long ago. He became suspicious and blew out his torch. He was about to go outside to investigate when suddenly he felt a pain on his back, a sharp blade was plugged in through his back. He let out a loud screech and lost his life immediately.
Di Yun hid behind the double doors. He only saw that the flame was extinguished and Yan Daping let out a miserable screech. Di Yun realized that Yan Daping had met with an unfortunate accident. All of this happened so fast that Di Yun did not have time to come to his rescue. Di Yun remained where he was, unmoving; he wanted to see who it was who killed Yan Daping. In the darkness, all he could make out were the sounds of faint cold laughters. When the voice of this person reached his ears, Di Yun was absolutely horrified. This voice was gloomy and extremely frightening, but it was also extremely familiar.
All of a sudden, a fire was set ablaze. Someone had lit up the candle. The candlelight reflected directly on the body of this person. This person slowly turned his head to face the front. Di Yun narrow blurted out, “Teacher!”
This person was indeed Qi Zhangfa. Di Yun watched as his teacher gave a hard kick at the body of Yan Daping. Then he took out the long sword from his back and stabbed this body from behind several times in succession.
When Di Yun saw how cruel and vicious Qi Zhangfa could be towards his own martial brother, the word “teacher” reached the tip of his mouth, but was immediately swallowed back in.
Qi Zhangfa laughed coldly and said: “Martial brother, it looks like you have also found the secret of the Liancheng Manual, am I right? Haha! ‘Inclined West, Tianing Temple, Main Hall, Buddha Statue Facing the Pious and Sincere Worshipper. The Praying Spirit Informs’. Haha! Martial brother, the sword manual says ‘Buddha Will Bless a Future Life of Bliss’, are you not heading to your afterlife now? Was this not blessed by Buddha?”
He turned his head to face the appearance of the benevolent Buddha statue, his face full of violent rage, very fiercely he scrutinized: “Damn it! You sorry excuse of a stinking Buddha have capered your daddy I for my entire life, you have caused me so much suffering!” He leapt on top of the altar and raised his long sword. Ting! Ting! Ting! He slashed the belly of the statue three times.
This Buddha statue was made from clay and engraved in wood, yet when these three slashes stroke firmly on the statue, it emitted a clang of metals like the sound of gold clashing. Qi Zhangfa became very suspicious and slashed the statue two more times. He only felt the more he slashed the statue the tougher the substance became. He took the candle and looked closer at the statue. He saw that the sword slashes left a deep scar in the statue, the scars glittered a brilliant golden light. Qi Zhangfa was shocked. He extended his fingers to reach for the two sword scars and peeled off the nearby clay. What he saw was sparkling gold, the inside of the statue was actually completely made of gold. He could not help but yell out, “Golden Buddha! It is all gold! It is all gold!”
This Buddha statue stood over 30 feet tall, it was very thick and solid and definitely exceeded any ordinary Buddha statue. If it was true that the entire statue was made of gold, there would be at least fifty or sixty thousand catties worth of gold, would that not be a great treasure or what?
Under great ecstasy, Qi Zhangfa pondered for a bit and then turned the statue around. He raised his sword and began hacking at the statue, he saw that the waist area of the statue had a very small hidden contraption. He repeatedly hacked away at this contraption, the clay flying in all directions. He made over a dozen cuts on the statue before he completely cleared up the clay surrounding the contraption. He saw that this contraption was also made of gold. Qi Zhangfa extended the tip of his sword to pry it open. He was unable to contain his joy, his heart rate was off the charts. He got so excited that his sword unexpectedly broke in half.
He picked up the remaining half of the sword and continued to pry open the hidden contraption from another side. After several attempts, the contraption gradually began to loosen itself. Qi Zhangfa threw away his long sword and extended his finger to lightly open it. He illuminated the insides of the statue with the candle and saw that inside the stomach of the Buddha was filled with the glowing aura of sparkling gems piled up in grandiosity. He could not even figure out how many gems and other treasures were stuffed inside this Buddha.
Qi Zhangfa spat out some saliva. He was about to extend his hand inward to reach for the various gems to take a look, when suddenly he felt the altar slightly tremble. He knew there was something going on and dropped back down on the ground. As soon as his left foot reached the ground, he felt a faint pain on his lower stomach, someone had already sealed his acupoint. With a loud crash he fell on the ground.
Someone came out from under the altar who laughed coldly. “Brother Qi, you have finally found it. Since Old Second found this place, why didn’t you consider that your eldest martial brother would find it too?” The speaker was none other than Wan Zhenshan.
When Qi Zhangfa unexpectedly discovered this great treasure, no matter how intelligent and crafty of a person he was, when he saw so many precious gems in front of him, he was completely overjoyed with his discovery. Now that his mind was back to reality he figured he should have known that Wan Zhenshan would indeed have come here. He toughly said: “The first time you failed to kill me, who would have thought that I would end up dead by your hands after all.”
Wan Zhenshan was complacent and said: “I was very perplexed about this too. Brother Qi, I know I strangled you to death and stuffed you inside the wall, how did you come back to life?”
Qi Zhangfa closed his eyes and did not answer.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Even if you don’t answer, you think I don’t know the answer? Back then you weren’t my match, so you sealed your own breathing and faked your death. After you were sealed inside the wall you were still able to make your way out! Excellent! Impressive! Back then when I saw there was a piece of brick sticking out of the sealed wall, I knew that something wasn’t right, but I would never have guessed that it was the result of you breaking yourself out of the wall.”
Ever since Wan Zhenshan sealed Qi Zhangfa inside the wall, the next day he saw one of the bricks was sticking out, that incident had made his heart ill-at-ease ever since. It went so far as to give him somnambulism and he would be building walls in the middle of the night during his dreams. All along he was afraid that Qi Zhangfa became a “zombie” and would jump out of the wall. That’s why even in his sleep, every single night he would build the same wall over and over again, he wanted to seal the wall completely.
Wan Zhenshan laughed coldly. “Haha, you are really impressive. You looked on helplessly as your daughter became my son’s wife, yet you never revealed yourself. I ask you, what is it all for? Why?”
Qi Zhangfa spat out some phlegm in his direction.
Wan Zhenshan slanted his body to evade the spit. He laughed: “Old Third, would you rather die an easy death or have me cut you piece by piece? If you want to die an easy death, then tell me, how were you able to take out the sword manual from the inn. How were Old Second and I unable to find it after all these years?”
Qi Zhangfa felt a chill and said: “Do you think it was easy? That night I waited until the two of you were asleep like a pig, then I quietly got up and opened the box. I took out the sword manual and put it inside the interval between the drawer and the table. The next day, the sword manual naturally disappeared without a trace. The three of us bickered with each other for a very long time and then went our separate ways. You followed Yan Daping, Yan Daping followed me, and I followed you. The three of us tailed each other for over a month before going our separate ways. Then I returned to the inn and took out the sword manual from the hidden compartment. I returned home and put the manual inside a box of old clothes. But for some reason my daughter took the manual. You surnamed Wan, just end my life quickly!”
Wan Zhenshan laughed maliciously and said: “Very well, I will give you a quick death. Logically, I should not let you go so easily, but your martial brother I do not have any time to waste. I must use some dirt and seal up the Buddha statue again. Very well then my martial brother, it is time for you to move on!” He raised his sword and was about to strike down at Qi Zhangfa’s chest.
All of a sudden a red light flashed across the scene, Wan Zhenshan’s right arm was completely sliced off from his elbow and along with the sword all fell on the ground. Then his body was kicked away violently. It was Di Yun wielding the blood sabre to rescue Qi Zhangfa.
He lowered his body and unsealed the acupoint on Qi Zhangfa’s body and said: “Teacher, you have been startled!”
All of this happened so fast; Qi Zhangfa was completely dumbstruck for a long time before he could clearly see that this person was Di Yun. He said: “Yun… Yun’er, is it you?”
Di Yun and his teacher had been separated for such a long time. When he once again heard someone call him “Yun’er” he could not help but begin to grieve and said: “Yes, teacher, it is Yun’er.”
Qi Zhangfa said: “So you have seen everything.”
Di Yun nodded his head. Then he said: “Martial sister, martial sister… she… she…”
Wan Zhenshan lost one of his arms, he struggled to pick himself up and then began to rush out of the temple. Qi Zhangfa rushed ahead of him and stabbed Wan Zhenshan squarely from behind and it pierced completely through his heart. Wan Zhenshan let out a painful cry and died immediately.
Qi Zhangfa looked at the dead bodies of his two martial brothers and slowly said: “Yun’er, fortunately you arrived just in time and saved your teacher’s life. Hey, who else is here? Is that Fang’er?” As he said this he pointed his finger to the side of the hall.
When Di Yun heard the words “Fang’er” his heart trembled violently. He turned around to look but there was nobody there. He was surprised when suddenly he felt a sharp pain from his back. He flipped his hand over to grab his enemy by the wrist. He turned around and saw that this person was holding a very sharp and dazzling dagger. It was none other than his teacher Qi Zhangfa.
Di Yun was perplexed. “Tea… teacher… what crime did your disciple commit that you would want to kill me?” He saw that this dagger had already stabbed him firmly from behind, but because he had the protection of the dark silkworm vest, he did not lose his life.
Qi Zhangfa was seized by the wrist and half his body became numb, he could not even exert the slightest bit of strength. Under such alarm and anger he said fiercely, “Very well, you have learned a set of profound martial arts, naturally you no longer take your teacher seriously anymore. Kill me then. Kill me! Kill me! Why haven’t you killed me yet?”
Di Yun released his hold but he was still at a loss for words. “How would I dare to kill my own teacher?”
Qi Zhangfa shouted: “Why are you so insincerely courteous? This Buddha statue is filled with gold and precious gemstones, do you not want it all for yourself? If I don’t kill you, then you will kill me. What is so strange about that? This is a remarkable Gold Buddha, inside its stomach are invaluable gemstones and jewels, why won’t you kill me? Why won’t you kill me?” The way he shouted so hoarsely, his voice was filled with greed, anger, and lament. This voice did not even sound like the voice of a human, it sounded like the voice of a wounded beast howling in the wilderness.
Di Yun shook his head and retreated a few steps. “Teacher wants to kill me because of this Gold Buddha?” Then in an instant he came to a startling realization. He understood everything: Qi Zhangfa was willing to go so far as to kill his own teacher, his own martial brothers, he was even suspicious of his own daughter, what does a mere disciple mean to him? In his heart he suddenly recalled what Ding Dian once told him: “His nickname is ‘Iron Lock Across the River’, what isn’t he capable of doing?”
Di Yun retreated another step and said: “Teacher, I have no intention of taking away any part of your Gold Buddha, you can take it all for yourself.”
Di Yun really did not understand, how could a person in this world actually care for nothing but riches? This person did not care for his teacher, he did not care for his martial brothers or his disciples—he did not even care for his own daughter. Even if he possessed such a priceless treasure, what does it really mean in the end?
Qi Zhangfa did not even believe his own ears and thought: “In this world there is actually someone who is not moved by so many precious gems and jewels? This little brat Di Yun must have some other sort of scheme up his sleeves.” At this point he had already completely lost his cool and shouted: “What trick are you pulling now? This here is a gigantic Gold Buddha, its stomach is completely filled with pearls and gemstones, why do you not want it? What scheme are you trying to pull?”
Di Yun shook his head. He was just about to exit the temple when suddenly he heard the sounds of a lot of footsteps fast approaching. There were lots of people entering the temple. Di Yun jumped up to the roof and looked outside. He saw over a hundred people holding torches shouting with much hubbub, they were all heading towards the temple. It was the group of realm folks from earlier.
He heard someone shout: “Wan Gui, damn it! Let’s go! Let’s go!”
Di Yun wanted to leave, but as soon as he heard the name “Wan Gui” he stopped himself. He still had yet to avenge Qi Fang.
The crowd of people stormed and fought their way into the temple. Di Yun watched very carefully; Wan Gui was captured by several big fellows and was beaten to a pulp, his nose was swollen and his eyes were darkly bruised. But he was still wearing a very scholarly outfit. It turns out that he was the one who dressed up as a scholar in order to lure away the group of people crowding around the city wall so as to let his father go to Tianning Temple and take the treasure for himself. But under the constant interrogation of the crowd he finally revealed his tracks. The crowd of people beat him to a pulp and threatened to kill him if he did not lead them to Tianning Temple.
Qi Zhangfa heard that people were approaching and urgently jumped up the altar. He wanted to cover up the sword markings on the statue that revealed the various hidden gemstones but he was too late, the crowd had already seen him standing on the altar and hugging the Gold Buddha’s big stomach with both hands. At once under the illumination of several dozen torches, the temple was as bright as day. Everyone saw the dazzling reflection of gold and let out a roar as they rushed forward. Everyone rushed forward in a complete mess and cut off all the clay from the statue. Everyone had their own sabre or sword and slashed mindlessly, in no time at all the statue was completely naked and emitted a radiant gold light.
Then followed that someone discovered the hidden contraption in the statue and extended his hand to reach for it, fishing out large quantities of precious gemstones. The ones that were standing at the back used their strength to push this person aside, the various gemstones were taken out large quantities at a time. The stronger people stole the gemstones from the weaker people.
All of a sudden, from outside a bugle horn sounded repeatedly and the door of the temple was kicked open; over a dozen soldiers rushed inside and shouted: “The prefectural magistrate is here! Nobody make a move!” From behind someone in an officer’s outfit proudly walked inside, it was none other than the prefectural magistrate of Jiangling, Ling Tuisi. He had many followers outside the city and several were in the group of people that came to the temple. As soon as he heard the news, he immediately dispatched soldiers and rushed to the scene.
Ling Tuisi caused the death of Ding Dian and even forced his own daughter’s death, yet he did not have a single clue about the mysteries of the sword manual. But nonetheless his desires for the great treasure never decreased. He knew that it was definitely related to Mei Niansheng, only he did not know that the crux of the secret lied within the ‘Tang Poem Swordplay’. He continued to part with large quantities of bribes and continued to serve his term as the prefectural magistrate of Jingzhou. In addition, using his position as the leader of the Raspy Dragon Sect, he dispatched many of his sect followers to search. Eventually he found news that the ‘A Deadly Secret’ had to do with the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’.
Ling Tuisi came from a background of academics and imperial secretaries, his education and literature was remarkably impressive. As soon as he looked at the Tang Poem Anthology he found out that this poem was written by late Tang poets that lived sometime during the reign of Emperor Liangyuan around 500 to 600 A.D. Emperor Liangyuan’s treasure could definitely not have evidence that could be found inside the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’, so he further investigated thoroughly. Then he figured out that after Emperor Liangyuan concealed the treasure, he completely eradicated all of the soldiers who ever came in contact with this treasure. Later he was killed by soldiers of the Northern Zhou Dynasty, and from then on the location of the treasure was unknown.
It wasn’t until the reign of Kangxi that a senior monk with supreme martial arts stayed in the Tianning Temple in Jingzhou and accidentally discovered the treasure. He wanted to give it to the Heaven and Earth Society in their quest to destroy Qing and restore the Ming Dynasty. But he was afraid that the secret would leak out, so he encoded the location of the treasure into a set of numbers located in a bunch of sword mnemonics, then he put it inside the popular ‘Tang Poem Anthology’. Then he gave it to Wu Liuqi, who was a disciple of his elder martial brother from the same clan. Just like the senior monk, Wu Liuqi also knew the ‘Tang Poem Swordplay’ and knew the sequence of stances in this swordplay. Unfortunately, when he was about to pass on the secret code, he met with an accident and was killed. From then on the secret code of the sword mnemonics leaked outside.
From then on the information passed around outwards, but the information did not connect the treasure to the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’, so it was useless. The ones who knew of this information did not know the Tang Poem Swordplay. Although they knew the mnemonics of the swordplay, they did not know the sequence of the stances, so they had no way of finding the treasure.
Mei Niansheng belonged to the same clan as Wu Liuqi and the senior monk. Naturally he knew the Tang Poem Swordplay. Later on he received the sword mnemonics, but the news leaked and he suffered at the hands of his three traitorous disciples.
Now that the various realm folk saw so many treasures in front of them, how would they be afraid of the authorities? Everyone exerted all their efforts to steal the gemstones in front of them.
Various pearls, gemstones, white jades, green jades fell on the ground. All of the heroic people of the realm and soldiers all reached to grab the treasure at all costs. Some began to fight each other, others even jumped on the Gold Buddha...
How would Ling Tuisi’s subordinates not fight for the treasure? The soldiers bent their bodies to pick up the treasures, and the officials too took the treasures. Nobody dared to fall behind and lose out on anything. Qi Zhangfa was plundering the treasures, Wan Gui was fighting over the treasures, even the great magistrate Ling Tuisi could not resist and stuffed handfuls of treasures into his bosom.
To fight for the treasures in such a way, fights and casualties could not be avoided. Some people managed to win their fights, some people bled, some people died…
The fights became more and more intense. Some people even pounced themselves on the Gold Buddha and began biting at it, some people rammed their heads against the statue.
Di Yun was extremely perplexed. “What’s going on? Even if they love these treasures so much, they should not go so far as to be this crazy?”
Indeed, all of them had lost their minds. Their eyes became red; they were fighting mindlessly and biting mindlessly, scratching mindlessly. Di Yun saw that ‘Twin Knights of Bell Sword’ Wang Xiaofeng was amongst the group, as was the remaining member of ‘Luohua Liushui’, Hua Tiegan. They had all become crazy as wild beasts, they were all clawing and biting frantically. They put the various precious stones in their mouths.
Di Yun understood the truth. “There must have been extremely deadly poison smeared on these jewels. Back then the emperor who concealed the treasure was afraid that soldiers of the Zhou Dynasty would come and take it away, so he smeared poison on these jewels.” He wanted to save his teacher, but it was too late.
After these people contracted the poison, they were suffering endlessly and would not live long. Ling Tuisi, Wan Gui, Lu Kun, Bu Yuan, Shen Cheng and the others had committed endless atrocities. Now that they finally got their hands on the treasure, there was no need for Di Yun to finish them off. They would not live for much longer.
Di Yun went back to Ding Dian and Lady Ling’s grave and brought with him several hundred varieties of flowers. He did not hire anyone to help him out, he did everything by himself. He grew up in the countryside as a farmer, naturally he specialized in digging. The only problem was that he was not very knowledgeable about flowers, what he usually grew consisted of hot peppers, cucumbers, winter melons, cabbages, eggplants, water spinaches…
He left Jingzhou and took Water Spinach with him. He took a horse and set forth on a long journey. He no longer cared about the various events of the realm. He only wanted to find a place where nobody would find him and raise Water Spinach into an adult.
He returned to the snowy valley.
Qi Fang gave him a hundred taels of silver back in the Wan residence. This money not only served to help tidy up the tomb of Ding Dian and Lady Ling, it also served as expenses to the family who took care of Water Spinach during his absence, and also served to pay out the expenses of food and resting along his journey. He bought some new clothes and shoes for Water Spinach. He also bought some cotton-padded clothes and trousers and over a dozen straw sandals for himself. He stuffed it all into a big bundle and carried it on his back. By the time he reached the snowy valley near Sichuan, he only had about thirty taels of silver left on him.
He weighed the remaining silver in his hands and then exerted his strength to throw it far away, casting it into the deep canyon near the side of the road. “Even if I have a million taels of silver, even if I have an exorbitant amount of precious treasures, what use would it be in a snowy valley?”
But his martial sister did not come with him. She would never ever come with him. He could not even see her one more time. He felt very lonely and desolate.
“Uncle, Uncle, why are you crying? Do you miss my mama? We promised each other that neither of us are allowed to cry anymore!”
The snow began to pour down from the sky again, making its way to the cave he once resided.
All of a sudden, from afar he saw a young girl standing outside the cave.
It was Shui Sheng!
Her face full of delight, she rushed forward, laughing and calling, “I have waited a long time! I knew you would eventually return. If you don’t come back, I will wait ten years. If you don’t come back in ten years, I will search across the realm for a hundred years!”
The word “book” is pronounced the same as the word “lose” in Chinese. So he would not buy any books because he does not want to “lose” when he gambles.
Yama is the King of Hell in Chinese mythology.
For more information about Wu Liuqi, read <The Deer and the Cauldron>.
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06-18-11, 03:01 PM#14
In my youth, back in my home at Haining county in Zhejiang province there was a servant by the name of He Sheng. He was a hunchback that tended to tilt to the right, giving off an oddly appearance. Although I am calling him a servant, he was not responsible for any heavy duty work. He only swept floors, cleaned off dust, and took the kids to school. When my brother’s classmates would see him they would sing: “He Sheng He Sheng half hunchback, call him three times he will get angry, call him another three times he will turn a somersault, when he flips over he looks like a paralyzed basket. Paralyzed basket is a native slang from home which refers to rice baskets that have been broken.
At that time I only held He Sheng’s hands and shouted at my brother’s classmates to not sing. I even cried once as a result. As such, He Sheng was especially close to me. Even in the case of rainy or snowy days, he would still take me to school. Because he was a half hunchback, he could not carry me on his back, and he was already very old at the time. My parents urged him not to carry me for the fear that both of us would fall and hurt ourselves, but he insisted.
One day, he contrived a great sickness. I went to his room to give him some dim sum, and he told me about his life story:
He was a person from the Danyang county in Jiangsu province. His home operated a family business of tofu, and his parents helped him find a pretty lady from the neighbourhood as his wife. He had to save up money for a few years before he had enough to complete the marriage. In December of that year, the family man told him to grind the rice vermicelli used to make year cakes. This rich man in the family opened a pawn shop and a seasoning store, and his home had a big garden. Whether it be grinding tofu or grinding rice vermicelli, both required similar amounts of effort. The rich man wanted the rice to be finished grinding by New Year’s. The work of grinding was done in the back section of the rich man’s house. I have seen people grind vermicelli before. They would grind for a few days, and there would already be a circle of dull footprints to be seen around the mill from the grinder. The social customs around Jiangnan was pretty similar throughout, so I understood as soon as he said it.
Because he was in a hurry to finish, he would have to work until 10 or 11PM. One day after he was finished work, it was already very late and he was about to go home when suddenly several people from the rich man’s family shouted: “There’s a thief!” and ordered people to capture the thief in the garden. He ran into the garden and was beaten with a stick by several people who called him a thief. There were quite a few people beating him with a stick causing him to bruise up severely and even broke his ribs. That was how his half hunchback was caused. He took several strokes to the head and fell unconscious. When he woke up, there were many good and silver jewelleries that they said they found on his body. And someone also found copper coins and gold hidden in the rice basket so they took him to the government office. As the spoils were there, he could not deny his accusations, and was hit with several dozen strokes before being sent off to prison.
Originally, even if he was accused as a thief, it would not be any sort of unforgivable crime, likely to be kept in prison for two years and then released. During this time, his father and mother both died of shock, and his unwed wife married the son of the rich man.
After he was released from prison he realized that he was framed by the rich man’s son. One day, they came across each other on the street, and he took out a sharp knife that he hid in his pocket and stabbed the man. However, he could not escape and was once again arrested. That man suffered serious injuries but he did not die. But his father consistently contacted various officials and gaolers, intending to murder him inside prison for the fear that he would seek revenge once he was released.
He said: “It is really a blessing from Bodhisattva, within a year, Master became a high ranking official in the office of Danyang county. His greatness saved my life.”
Who he referred to as his master was actually my grandfather.
My grandfather was Wen Qing (originally his surname was “Mei”, but when he went to school and during exams he used “Wen Qing” as his name), his knowledge of literature was vast as coral, back in his hometown the elders would call him “Mr. Vast Coral”. He graduated middle school during the twenty-second year of the reign of Qing emperor Guangxu and continued his service examination in the middle of the twenty-third year. He was sent to Danyang to become a magistrate. He had strong achievements as a county magistrate and moved up in rank. Not long after, the incident called “Danyang Religous Case” occurred.
The fifth scroll of Mr. Deng Zicheng’s “Two Thousand Years of Chinese History” mentions this incident:
“The Treaty of Tianjin permitted foreigners to preach, hence many religious people spread all over China. Vicious people joined religions, and treated foreigners as protection from the functionary of the government. The people hated the arrogance of the preachers, and also claimed that this operation was sly and there was much speculation causing much dispute and controversy. There were many casualties amongst local preachers, and the foreign preachers made the excuse to threaten them, extort a huge sum of money, and even blamed the officials. They threatened the Qing court to punish harshly, the regional general removed them from their positions and can never come again. The internal affairs was meddled, and the country was no longer a country.
“Danyang Religious Case”. In August of the seventeenth year of the reign of Guangxu, Liu Kunyi made a resolute. That year in Jiangsu, the counties Danyang, Jingui, Wuxi, Yanghu, Jiangyin, and Rugao each had a church and were each burnt down in succession. People were sent to investigate this case in Jiangsu. Danyang was first to be investigated, and the screening of Wen Qing caused him to be expelled…” (The Guangxu Records, p. 105)
Before my grandfather was expelled, he tried to appeal the decision. His superior told him to behead the two criminals who set the churches on fire in public in order to satisfy the foreign preachers. However, my grandfather sympathized with the citizens who burnt down the churches and notified the two criminals to escape. Then he explained to his superior that this incident was caused by foreign churchmen bullying our good citizens which caused public anger. Several hundred people rushed at once to burn down the churches, there was no leader in this act. Following this, he was formally removed from his position.
Later, my grandfather went back to his hometown to study and write poems. He provided many services to the public. He wrote a “Haining Cha Clan Poem Compilation” which consisted of several hundred scrolls, but he passed away before it was completed (This copy was placed in two houses and later became the entertainment of me and my cousins). At the time of the funeral, Danyang sent a dozen or more priests to provide libation. The two men who were responsible for the burning down of churches attended and were crying. According to my uncle and my father, the two of them went from Danyang to my hometown, and every half a kilometer they would give a respectful kowtow. Even today I am suspicious of this statement, let alone during the time of my childhood. However, those two men were indeed very grateful, so it’s not out of the question that they did these kowtows for the last several kilometers of the journey.
A while back I went to Taiwan and saw my older cousin Mr. Jiang Fucong. He was the head of the National Palace Museum and he used to be classmates with my second uncle back in Beijing University. He mentioned to me the deeds of my grandfather and praised him greatly. Had he not told me I would not have known this.
He Sheng said that after my grandfather became the magistrate of Danyang, he reinvestigated the cases of every prisoner and realized that He Sheng was innocent. However, the incident of him stabbing the rich man’s son was completely true and could not be denied, hence he could not be released. After my grandfather resigned from his position to return home he brought He Sheng with him and raised him in my family.
He Sheng did not pass away until the war began. My father and mother would not mention his deeds to anyone. When He Sheng spoke to me he thought that he would not recover from his illness, so he did not instruct me not to release this information.
This incident has always been stuck in my heart. “A Deadly Secret” was developed from this real life story to serve as a memory of an elder that was very near and dear to me in my childhood. What He Sheng’s surname was, I never knew; He Sheng was not his real name. Obviously, he did not know any martial arts. I only remember that he would often not speak for one or two days. My parents treated him with much generosity and respect and never ordered him to do anything.
This novel was written in 1963. At that time, Ming Pao newspaper and Singapore’s Nanyang Business Paper cooperated to do a weekly publication called “Southeast Asia Weekly”. This novel was written for that newspaper. This novel was originally entitled “Su Xin Jian”.
The title is “素心劍”, literal translation “Pure Heart Sword”.
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