Book 1 Chapter 8 – In so much pain, wishing for death
Yuwen Huaji’s forceful voice came from the right shore, “I wonder which honorable person from the Song Clan presides over this fleet of ships, please pull toward the shore and halt the ships, let Yuwen Huaji get on board to send my regards.”
Inside the cabin, Fu Junchuo and the two boys looked at each other. They did not expect Yuwen Huaji would catch up with them this quickly.
This moment the four large ships were heading toward the left shore instead; obviously they were afraid Yuwen Huaji would fly toward their ship, or perhaps he would use arrows to attack from the distance.
From the bow Song Lu’s laughter soared to the sky, “Yuwen Daren, I trust you have been well since we last met. Song Lu pays his respect.”
While spurring his horse to pursue the ship, Yuwen Huaji laughed and replied, “Turns out it’s the Silver Beard with a Silver Dragon Cane, Song Xiong, now everything will be alright. Would Song Xiong please have your fleet pull toward the shore first, so that Xiongdi [brother, referring to self] can tell you the details?”
Song Lu laughed and said, “Yuwen Xiong flattered Xiaodi [little brother, referring to self] too much. If Yuwen Daren were in Xiaodi’s shoes, suddenly saw martial art masters from the Capital flocked in in the middle of the night, telling us to stop along the river, while Xiaodi’s ships are loaded with valuable goods, for the sake of safety, how could I not inquire clearly first the purpose of Yuwen Daren’s visit?”
Yuwen Huaji was extremely shrewd, he did not get angry at all; he said cheerfully, “That’s easy. This time this officer [referring to self] received the Sage’s [referring to the Emperor] order to capture three offenders to the throne. Reportedly the Fourth Gongzi has paid the bills of these offenders at a restaurant in Danyang, and later on he even invited them to come aboard his ship. I wonder if there is indeed such thing?”
Without even thinking Song Lu replied, “Someone must be trying to frame us up. Would Yuwen Daren please return and report to the Holy Sage that if I, Song Lu, see these offenders, I will personally capture them to bring them to justice, I will send them under escort to the Capital. It’s late! The Ol’ Song is going back to his cabin to sleep.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did not expect Song Lu to hold yi qi [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice, code of brotherhood] like this. Without the slightest hesitation he simply refused to hand them over to him; they did not even hear him asking whether the offender was male or female, he simply asked Yuwen Huaji to return to the Capital. Hence they knew that he would not betray them. Such character indeed deserved to be called a hero and a warrior.
Yuwen Huaji threw his head back and laughed aloud, “Song Xiong is quick to act and quick to speak. In this case Xiaodi won’t hide anything from you. Although for the time being Song Xiong can enjoy your peace, you will only invite endless trouble in the future. Furthermore, this officer can push the blame to your Song Clan. When the Sage’s dragon heart is angry, I am afraid Song Xiong and your family won’t feel better either.”
Song Lu said, “Yuwen Daren always loves to exaggerate, but you forget that mouth also grows on other people’s faces. Hearing Daren inflicts misfortune to my humble family, there will be another story in the Jianghu. It seems to me Yuwen Xiong’s consideration is less than thorough.”
Yuwen Huaji seemed to be listening with great delight; he laughed until he was out of breath and said, “In that case, this officer will not rush back to the Capital just yet. I will quietly wait Song Xiong’s honorable self at the Weeping Ghost Gorge ahead, where the river is comparatively narrower, so that we can talk a bit more conveniently, no need for us, brothers, to shout until our voices hoarse.”
Again Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s countenance changed. Fu Junchuo suddenly stood up and said, “I, Fu Junchuo, have received enough kindness from Han people, I will not implicate other people anymore. Come, let’s go.”
The two boys haven’t even had the chance to hear Song Lu’s response when Fu Junchuo grabbed their belts and broke out through the window. Like a big bird they flitted across the surface of the river over four zhang or so distance toward the left riverbank.
Song Lu’s surprised cry and Yuwen Huaji’s angry roar could be heard almost simultaneously before the three people entered the forest.
The wind cut through Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s ear as Fu Junchuo took them soaring like a cloud or like riding on the mist, entering deep into the forest. In just a short moment they have covered over ten li. They felt that they were climbing higher and higher, the terrain was gradually getting steeper and more rugged. It was not until Fu Junchuo set them down that they realized that they were up on a high mountain. The mountain breeze blew, the two boys were so cold that their teeth chattered.
Rounding around the mountaintop, Fu Junchuo brought the two boys to a shallow cave where on both sides the mountain rocks, the trees and the grass were tall, so that they could hide inside and were temporarily sheltered from the cold wind.
Kou Zhong let out a relieved sigh and said, “So dangerous! Fortunately we are on the other side of Yangtze River, Yuwen Huagu cannot chase after us.”
Fu Junchuo sighed and said, “Maybe it’s impossible for other people, but Yuwen Huagu only needs a piece of dry stick, and he could easily cross the Great River. You, this kid, really don’t understand anything.”
Shocked, Xu Ziling said, “Why don’t we quickly run away then?”
Fu Junchuo sat cross-legged. With a bitter smile she said, “If I have trained to the ninth level, I would surely be able to continue carrying you away, but with my ability, I can only bring you here.”
Kou Zhong probed further, “If Yuwen Huagu crossed the River and pursued to this place, where should we flee to?”
Fu Junchuo flatly replied, “Someone with strong martial art skill like Yuwen Huaji has a lot stronger sense compared to ordinary person. We only need to leave some scent and traces along the way, and we could forget about evading his eyes and nose. Alright, stop talking, I want to meditate to build up my qi, hopefully by the time he arrive, my strength will be restored, and then I can fight him to the death.”
Finished speaking, she closed her eyes and went into meditation.
The two boys dejectedly sat close to each other; they did not even dare to discuss their situation, for fear that they might agitate their Niang.
As time passed, the two boys’ anxiety slipped away bit by bit.
Suddenly Fu Junchuo stood up and whispered, “He’s here! He is alone.”
The two boys followed her standing up. Kou Zhong said in trembling voice, “Just give the book to him and be done with it.”
Fu Junchuo turned around and spoke sternly, “Are you still considered human being? How can you say such thing?”
Xu Ziling said softly, “He is only concerned over Niang.”
The bright moon high up in the sky shone its light down below. Fu Junchuo sighed. And then ‘Pfft!’ she laughed and said, “Xiao Zhong must not blame Niang, I am so used to scolding you!”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s whole body trembled. Under different circumstances, with Fu Junchuo willing to call herself their Niang, they would be utterly delighted; this time, however, they felt ill omened.
Fu Junchuo said in a low voice, “No matter what happens, you must not get out of here. Niang will definitely take you leave this place.”
Yuwen Huaji’s laughter was heard outside the cave, “For those two boys’ sake Miss has revealed your hiding place. It was really unwise. These past few years, Miss has twice disguised yourself as a palace maid and penetrated the Palace to assassinate the Holy Sage, yet we could not even touch the tail of your gown. I had never expected that this time, for the sake of a ghost book, Miss felt compelled to show off your trace. If not for Miss granting these two kids a favor, even I, Yuwen Huaji, have to eat dust, I would never overcome Miss’ lightness skill.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. Turned out their Niang has entered the Palace to assassinate Yang Guang; even more, for their sake she has made such a big sacrifice, otherwise, with her lightness skill, which even Yuwen Huaji was ashamed of being inferior, how could Yuwen Huaji catch up with her?
Fu Junchuo’s hand was already on the hilt of her sword. Under the hazy moonlight, she appeared majestic and stately. “Yuwen Huaji,” she said coldly, “You came here alone, aren’t you afraid that you may not be the sword in my hand’s match?”
Yuwen Huaji laughed and said, “Although the sword in Miss’ hand is formidable, but how much weight it carries, I think you and I are already well aware of. If you want to slaughter me, Yuwen Huaji, you’d better make your move right away. Otherwise, if my men catch up with us, Miss will lose this golden opportunity.”
Fu Junchuo said indifferently, “Since you, Yuwen Huaji, are so eager to die, let me help you fulfill your wish!”
Her silhouette flashed, Fu Junchuo had already flown out; followed by the continuous sound of qi clashing against each other.
Both sides carries the almost the same thought in their hearts; both were disregarding his and her life, and both were going all out. Under the moonlight shining on the mountain ridge, Yuwen Huaji was seen standing on top of a giant boulder, while Fu Junchuo looked like a ghostly smoke, attacking him from four sides, eight directions. The blade in her hand turned into myriad of sword tips, like tidal wave of mercury crashing against the opponent; it was a totally hard fight where both sides were staking everything they got.
The expression on Yuwen Huaji’s long face was solemn and respectful, his hands turned into fist or claw or open palm, interspersed with kicks here and there, as if he turned into an exorcist dealing with Fu Junchuo’s wild, out-of-this-world attacks.
The two boys vowed that they would never forget his appearance for as long as they live. Although they were separated by a good seven, eight zhang away from him, the wind generated by the fierce battle still assaulted them that they felt the burning pain was about to crack their skin open, and it was difficult for them to keep their eyes open.
When they could not take it anymore, they shrunk back into the rock crevices. By the time when they looked out again, the situation has changed. Fu Junchuo flew over Yuwen Huaji, her sword moved even faster, more vicious, and extremely ruthless; she was going on an all-out offensive without any defensive move at all. But the fact was that Yuwen Huaji could only defend without being able to counter. Apparently he was falling into disadvantageous position.
This time the two boys’ endurance was even worse; they could only blink several times, and were already forced to withdraw with eyes so painful that tears streaming down their face.
Right this moment, they heard Yuwen Huaji’s angry shout and Fu Junchuo’s muffled grunt outside. Forgetting the pain in their eyes, the two boys could not resist stretching out their heads to look. In a daze, they seemed to see white shadow floating over. By the time they realized what had happened, their belts tightened, as Fu Junchuo carried them up. Once again they felt like soaring above the clouds or riding into the mist as they flew down the mountain.
In their hearts the two of them were wild with joy, because once again Yuwen Huaji had been beaten back by their incomparably formidable Niang.
Chapter 8, Part 2
Jiraiyan, HPC, Zlack, Lawwoo, Jaya, Scrapper, you are welcome. Bocah, why didn't you read the existing work? Last I checked, Grundle and Xlandhenry reached early Book 4 already. Grundle, DongBin, Huang Yi's fight is not as detailed as Jin Yong's, but definitely more graphic than Gu Long's. Strawberry, everything. Mostly because of smoke damage. Our electronics, especially, did not survive. Isn't what you said the mantra of the advertisers? Go get it, you deserve it ... not 'you need it'. Oh well, at least you had fun, didn't you?
This time Fu Junchuo did not hold back at all, she carried them in wild rush toward the most desolate wilderness, without uttering a single word. By dawn they had reached a valley, where finally she set them down.
The two boys crawled up with weary waist and aching back, only to see Fu Junchuo dropped down and sat on the ground, her pretty face was deathly pale, without the slightest sign of life.
The two boys were so scared that their soul flew out and scattered away; they scrambled to her side and wailed, “Niang, you are hurt.”
Fu Junchuo revealed a trace of tender smile as she reached out to grab the two boys’ shoulders, and disregarding any taboo between men and women, she pulled them down into her bosom, letting their heads resting on her breasts. With a voice full of tenderness she said, “My, Fu Junchuo, two good children, listen to me carefully. Yuwen Huaji has received serious injury, he must immediately seek treatment, before a year or a half, don’t even think to recover. Therefore, in the end Niang has saved you!”
The two boys cried out together, “Niang, why don’t you heal first?”
Fu Junchuo sadly shook her head and said, “Niang also wish very much to spend more time to train you to become men who are worthy of respect, to see you get married and have children. I never thought that although I have always hated Han people, but when I saw you I have completely forgotten my country’s animosity and my family’s hatred, and was most willing to have you as my children. Niang has just stabbed Yuwen Huaji with a deadly strike, but I also received his full-strength punch. His Mysterious Ice Energy is indeed a well-deserved reputation, plus Yuwen Huaji himself is the most outstanding martial art expert in his Clan under Yuwen Shang. With Niang’s hopeless condition, even if Shifu personally took care of me, he could not save me. After Niang is dead, you may bury me here. Niang has always enjoyed solitude, later on you don’t need to visit me.” [Translator’s note: the last sentence refers to religious rites people pay respects to their dead ancestors.]
How could the two boys endure it? They burst into loud wailing while embracing Fu Junchuo with all their strength, until the front part of her gown was drenched with their tears.
Fu Junchuo maintained a serene expression; she said in tender voice, “Niang came all the way from Gaoli this time with bad intentions, my mission was to assassinate Yang Guang so that he can’t send troops to Gaoli in the future; who would have thought that the martial art masters in the Palace are as numerous as the clouds. It was only relying on my qinggong [lightness skill] that both times I was able to escape. Consequently, I changed plan. Using the treasure I found from Duke Yang’s treasure trove, I made appearance in Jianghu, inciting your Han people to massacre one another. But by chance I came across you.”
Right this moment the two boys were only concerned over Fu Junchuo’s life and death, they were not the slightest bit interested in any Duke Yang’s treasure-trove.
Fu Junchuo tenderly stroke their hair as she continued, “I went to Yangzhou to look for Shi Long, precisely because our informer within Yuwen Huaji’s men reported that Yang Guang sent him to find Shi Long, hence I came to investigate. As a result I met my two well-behaved darlings. Alright, Niang cannot hold on much longer. I still have a lot to say, but recalling how the Heaven often mess with people, saying it is as good as not saying it. I don’t know if it is because at the death door people become especially astute, but Niang suddenly have a feeling that in the future my two sons will not become mere ordinary men. You two must not let Niang down!”
The two boys looked up mournfully and cried in grief, “Niang! How could you leave us like this?”
Fu Junchuo suddenly called out, “Oh! That treasure-trove is in Yuema Bridge [lit. galloping horse] in the Capital …” Her voice suddenly ceased. Fu Junchuo, like a fallen jade or vanishing fragrance, in her youthful radiance, closed her eyes and passed away.
The two boys embraced the only family they had on earth, they wept until they lost consciousness.
Using the sword Fu Junchuo left behind, the two boys pared some trees to make planks, they managed to make an extremely simple and crude coffin. And then they buried Fu Junchuo in a clearing among the trees, with only her sword to accompany her.
They missed Fu Junchuo very much, while knowing that this deep enmity could not be avenged no matter what. In their inconsolable grief, their actions were a complete opposite of their normal state, they stayed all day next to the grave, and no longer interested in any rank, fame or fortune of the outside world. Even most talkative Kou Zhong suddenly became silent, he no longer talk.
Making primitive bow and arrow and spear, they caught fish in the river and hunted birds and beasts in the forest to allay their hunger. They even shed their clothes and together with their silver, bury it well. Just wearing shorts they lived a primitive life, devouring raw meat and fowl. Fortunately it was already the transition from spring to summer that in the south the weather was blisteringly hot, plus the two boys had healthy bodies so that they did not suffer any illness due to wind chill.
When night came they simply slept by the grave. They had the book ‘Secret to Long Life’ hidden underneath the rock they used as the tombstone; neither one was interested in even touching it.
That night when Fu Junchuo taught them the essence of Nine Mysteries Skill, she has not taught them how to do it when Yuwen Huaji came. Hence presently they only knew the essence, the locations of the acupoints, and the posture that they should assume in meditation; as for how to start practicing, they did not have the slightest idea. On top of that, in their hearts they wished they were dead; how could they have any mood to train? So every day they passed their days in daze, scorched by the sun and drenched by the rain, as if they did not know and did not even feel it.
One particular night, there was a heavy rain. It was cold outside, the two of them huddled together, their hearts were filled with endless misery; recalling Fu Junchuo who was buried right next to them, they wept silently.
When the cold was getting really unbearable, Kou Zhong pushed Xu Ziling to sit up; with his teeth chattering he said, “If we continue like this, sooner or later we will get sick, how could we fulfill Niang’s expectation then?”
In the past ten days or so, it was the first time that they talked.
Xu Ziling finally could not endure the cold; he clenched his teeth and asked, “What crafty idea do you have in mind?”
With a bitter smile Kou Zhong said, “If we did not bury Niang’s sword, we could at least build a tree house.”
Xu Ziling replied, “Even if I have to freeze to death, I won’t disturb Niang’s peace.”
Kou Zhong nodded his agreement. “That’s only natural,” he said, “But we’d better try practicing the meditation technique Niang taught us. Martial art master won’t be affected by heat and cold.”
“How do we start?” Xu Ziling dejectedly said.
Kou Zhong was speechless. He reached out to hold Xu Ziling, and that was how they endured the cold together until daybreak.
When the sun came out, the two boys slowly recovered. However, misfortune does not come singly; they have caught almost all the big fish in the creek that barely any was left. Birds and beasts also seemed to realize that they were dangerous, so none left in the valley. With no alternative, the two eventually decided to hunt for food outside the valley.
Taking their bow and arrow, they stepped out of the valley, only to see clusters of wild flowers, luxuriant fragrant grass, hills and plains, and the quiet open sky above. As far as their eyes could see, they did not see a single sign of other human beings. In all directions they were surrounded by bluish-green, dense mountain range; they could not stop their spirit from being roused, the grief loading their mind was considerably lightened.
Following the foot of the mountain the two boys searched for traces of their prey. Soon they had the luck of hitting a wild rabbit. In high spirits they returned to the valley.
Because it was a blisteringly hot day, Xu Ziling went to have a dip in the creek. When he returned to the grave, he saw Kou Zhong unexpectedly took the book ‘Secret to Long Life’ that was hidden underneath the tombstone out, and was reading it with rapt attention; he could not refrain from glaring at him. After all, if not for this ‘Secret to Long Life’, Fu Junchuo would not have died under Yuwen Huaji’s hands.
Kou Zhong beckoned him to come over. “Don’t get angry at me,” he said, “I am simply following Niang’s order, we must keep on living. Although these human figures are not any divine skill training method, at the very least it is a training instruction to prolong life. Although we can’t figure out these ghost hunting-like characters on the drawings, we can at least follow the dotted lines on the diagrams to circulate our qi, according to the theory Niang taught us, and the positions of the channels and acupoints. If we can reap a bit of benefit, then we won’t have to freeze to death.”
When Xu Ziling was about to argue, Kou Zhong suddenly threw the book to his face as if it was an ordinary, worthless book. Naturally Xu Ziling caught it. The opened page happened to show a picture of a human lying down. When he looked at the drawing in the past, because he did not know the Eight Extraordinary Channels, it was as if he was looking at a meaningless drawing. But as he looked at it now, he suddenly understood it much better. Unexpectedly his eyes were glued to the diagram, and he was deeply attracted to it.
Kou Zhong shouted, “The sixth diagram is the most useful. It is best if you don’t look at other pictures first.”
Xu Ziling turned the pages, and found out that the picture he was looking at was the last diagram. Looking at the sixth picture, it did not seem to be any easier than the seventh diagram, so he simply ignored Kou Zhong and sat down to study the last diagram.
From that day onwards, other than hunting and sleeping, the two boys sat in meditation to practice following the diagram that they picked, living carefree without any worries in nature, thoroughly lived a primitive life.
Perhaps due to their single-mindedness in studying, the sorrow in their hearts was also vanishing with each passing day. Without even thinking about it, they have entered the ‘ten-thousand thoughts reduction’ realm that was the requirement in the Nine Mysteries training.