Chapter 5: Swordsmanship
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
A small boat rowed towards the East Garden in a mist covered lake.
There were three people on the boat, Bai Zhijie was moving the oars while Zhuo Feiyang and Zhao Ying stood at the front of the boat with their sleeves flapping gently in the wind.
Zhao Ying wore a lake-green gown, stood there, her face was bright as jade. She asked gently, “Brother Zhuo Feiyang, what is it between you and brother Chu Li?”
Zhuo Feiyang furrowed his brows and pondered before saying, “He was already an unpleasant sight the first time I laid my eyes on him. He’s incompetent, and yet he’s still on his high horse all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could kill him with a tight slap! ”
“There’s nothing to cause you to be at each other’s throats all the time! Why are you two still like this!”
Zhao Ying smiled as she shook her head. Both of them had such pride, and Zhuo Feiyang had the substance to support it. While Chu Li was incapable of martial arts, he possessed something else and was therefore able to disregard Zhuo Feiyang’s hijinx, much to his Zhuo Feiyang’s chagrin.
A duel. This was no laughing matter.
The Public House imposed a ban on personal fights. If anyone involved was either crippled or killed, the lightest punishment was expulsion along with a lifetime ban from practising martial arts, while the heaviest was a death sentence. However, servants were allowed to issue challenges to each other. So long as nobody was crippled or dead by the end of it, the Public House would not even bat an eye.
Zhuo Feiyang scoffed, “It’s that aloof and arrogant look that he always has!”
Zhao Ying shook her head, her lips opening to a smile. Only an arrogant person would hate arrogance this much. “Zhuo Feiyang, are you really going to do this? ”
“Well, obviously!” Zhuo Feiyang replied, “If he has a death wish, I’ll be happy to oblige. I’ll turn him into a cripple! ”
Zhao Ying furrowed her brows. A mere difference in character between the two had caused them to put their lives on the line. It was simply too much!
“But why would Chu Li challenge you?”
“He probably got so mad he lost a nerve!” Zhuo Feiyang sang with glee, “There’s no way that arrogant bastard can take being my Scribe.”
“Ha…” Zhao Ying shook her head. “Zhuo Feiyang, you don’t have any reason to be this hostile towards one another, why go this far?”
“Zhao Ying, you wouldn’t understand,” Zhuo Feiyang cut her off with a wave of his hand.
“You have to bare your fangs when the situation calls for it. This bastard needs to die when a chance presents itself!”
“And you both even came from the same school…” Zhao Ying sighed.
“It’s a shame that you’re so kind, Zhao Ying,” said Zhuo Feiyang.
Zhao Ying sighed in helplessness yet again and decided to herself that she would be the one to stop him if it really came down to it.
She secretly complained of Chu Li in her heart. He was of a lower position, and ought to learn to back off when the need arose. Why did he insist on duking it out with Zhuo Feiyang?
“Master, Lady Zhao, we’ve arrived!” Bai Zhijie proclaimed.
A small island within the lake greeted them from a distance. It looked like it was floating as if it were swaying along with the wind. Willows trees dotted the shore, spotting hanging branches that reached to the surface of the lake, elegant and graceful in the mist.
“Bai Zhijie, wait for us on the boat.” Zhuo Feiyang ordered.
“Be careful, master!” replied Bai Zhijie, “This is still their domain, after all.”
“Which is why I’m here to see what kind of trick they’ve got up their sleeve.” Zhuo Feiyang waved his hand, dismissing Bai Zhijie’s concerns. “Tricks are nothing in the face of true martial arts!”
“Yes sir.” Bai Zhijie nodded and complied.
The boat approached a jade chime and mallet by the shore, which were placed under a particular willow tree. Zhao Ying moved the mallet across the jade pieces, to which a melody sung out throughout the East Garden.
Chu Li and Li Yue appeared. The former of which was equipped with a sword around his waist, an air of sharp elegance around him.
He stood on the higher ground, nodding from above. “Zhuo Feiyang, seems like you’ve some guts after all! Welcome, Zhao Ying!”
Zhuo Feiyang’s face darkened. It did not feel great to be looked down upon by Chu Li. “What’s there to be afraid of about a piece of trash?” He replied sarcastically.
Chu Li turned his head. “Zhao Ying, do come in for a cup of tea!”
But Zhuo Feiyang interjected, “Tea? Who knows if you’ve poisoned it? I believe you were here to challenge me. Enough with the chatter. Let us begin!”
“There’s no need to rush.”
“Don’t even think about it!” Zhuo Feiyang called out to him, “Chu Li! If you want to fight, let’s get it on now! If you’re not going to make a move, I’ll consider it as a forfeit, in which case come here and be an obedient little Scribe.”
“Oh you, always reckless and impulsive!” Chu Li shook his head. “I’d be surprised if you ever become somebody useful!”
“Who do you think you are, spouting all this nonsense!” Zhuo Feiyang said as his mouth twitched into a smile.
“Fighting is fine and all, but I think we need to spice it up a bit. Zhuo Feiyang! If I win, you’ll be my Protector instead!” Chu Li proposed.
“Nice dream there!” Zhuo Feiyang laughed. “You want me to be your guard? Have you not awaken from your slumber, my dear Chu Li?”
“What’s wrong? Think you’ll lose?”
“Of course not!”
“Then there’s no reason for you to reject my offer unless you aren’t as confident as you sound.”
“Don’t try me!”
“Oh! And that Moonlight Orchid! Return it to me if you lose!”
“You’re asking for a little too much, aren’t you,” Zhuo Feiyang said, the irony in his voice clear behind his gritted teeth. “That’s worth over eleven thousand taels!”
His blood immediately began boiling at the mention of that incident. Eleven thousand taels, gone!
Zhao Ying smiled. “As long as you win, the orchid goes to you.”
Chu Li wrapped his fists and smiled. “My gratitude goes to you, Sister Zhao Ying!”
This was not the time to stand on ceremony. The Moonlight Orchid was the key to changing his fate!
“Chu Li,I thought you were unable to practice martial arts?”
Chu Li shook his head. “I can’t train my inner strength or heart, but I can still train my swordsmanship!”
Zhao Ying looked at him. “Then why are you forcing yourself?”
Chu Li shot a steel-eyed look at Zhuo Feiyang. “Inner strength would be too much for a fool like him.”
Zhuo Feiyang laughed coldly. “Chu Li! Words from such a braggart! What’re you going to fight with without inner strength?”
“I’ve trained in the Delusion Split. It’s more than enough to deal with you!” Chu Li replied.
“The Delusion Split?” Zhuo Feiyang burst out into a hearty laugh. “Even with a sword capable of cutting through steel as if it were soil, what use would it be if the wielder was garbage?”
Although Zhao Ying would have much preferred a different form of delivery, what Zhuo Feiyang said was right; a wielder without inner strength would bottleneck any form of sword art.
“Zhuo Feiyang, just tell me if you agree to the terms,” Chu Li hummed.
“And what if you lose? It can’t possibly be just you who benefits from this exchange,” said Zhuo Feiyang, keeping his composure.
Chu Li thumped his own chest. “The ten thousand taels belong to you, and I’ll leave the Public House.”
“Money is a non-issue. Ten thousand taels matters not to me.” Zhuo Feiyang chided, “All you need to do is leave the Public House with your tail between your legs, and get out of my way once and for all!”
“That’s the deal. We shall let Zhao Ying be the witness!”
“Chu Li, why do you have to go to such lengths?” Zhao Ying questioned.
“There is no other way, Zhuo Feiyang is always out to cause me trouble. All I can do is use my skills to make him shut up!” Chu Li shook his head as he said.
“It is not a bad place to be, as a Scribe serving Zhuo Feiyang.” Zhao Ying pleaded.
Chu Li glanced at her with a helpless expression. “Your heart is truly pure and innocent!”
Zhao Ying smiled shyly. Zhuo Feiyang had made a request that crossed the line. Chu Li was a prideful man, hardly befitting the role of Zhuo Feiyang’s Scribe.
“Well, Zhuo Feiyang, draw your sword!” Chu Li exclaimed as he unsheathed his blade from its scabbard.
“Against an opponent like you, I don’t even need a weapon!” Zhuo Feiyang replied with an arrogant smirk, moving to face Chu Li in front of him.
“Get ready!” Chu Li thrust his sword forward.
Zhuo Feiyang whipped the sword away with his left palm, countering with a center strike.
Chu Li sidestepped the attack, following up again with another thrust.
“What!” Zhuo Feiyang was forced to change his stance. His moves had been read. His eyebrows furrowed in frustration.
Chu Li thrust again.
Zhuo Feiyang had once again been forced to change his style mid-combat. His palms were now reminiscent of flowing, gentle, yet crushing water. This was a style Chu Li was surely familiar with.
Chu Li thrust his sword forward again.
Zhuo Feiyang was pushed off balance and failed to react to Chu Li’s unrelenting barrage. He could only stare as the tip of Chu Li’s blade pierced his right shoulder.
Chu Li retracted his blade and asked mockingly, “Can you still fight?”
“Come at me!” Zhuo Feiyang exclaimed, with gritted teeth.
Chu Li struck out once again.
Zhuo Feiyang closed his palms into two fists, and with a fierce swing went for Chu Li’s blade.
“Ah!” Zhuo Feiyang yelled out in pain, but the blade was stopped.
Chu Li’s expression went pale. Zhuo Feiyang had stopped his blade with a fist, preventing himself from falling. Chu Li had put all his energy into one killing blow, and was now completely empty and exhausted, drained of all his energy.
Half-buried within Zhuo Feiyang’s palm was Chu Li’s blade.
Zhao Ying hastily fished out a small vial of medicine, applying it onto the wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding. There was an expression of worry etched on her face.
Zhuo Feiyang’s eyes brimmed with rage, his deathly gaze fixated on Chu Li.