Full Moon Scimitar -translation (Updated thread)

I realized I post the wrong versions. I will post the most updated edits here.

Please don’t post in this thread. There is another where comments will be appreciated. I am posting the translation here. I will try to put up a chapter every 2-3 weeks. I have redone the first chapters that I posted in the other thread. So I feel they are worth rereading.
Note’s are at the end of each paragraph. IOW means “In other Words” Translation of names, idioms, etc are in parenthesis ( ). I give the pinyin the the definition/translation or the IOW.
Comments are in brackets [ ].
I tried to preserve the symmetry and unique turns of phrase as best as possible.

I also put the Chinese characters in the notes for a few things I just couldn’t really get. Any thoughts, suggestions on this or anything else would be greatly appreciated [here:]Translating Full Moon Scimitar-need some help - WuxiaSociety Community
I would especially appreciate anyone who wants to take a crack at the chapter titles.



Full moon.

There are full moons and missing moons. We are talking about the full moon now, because this story takes place on the night of the full moon. The moon was even more beautiful than usual on this night, beautiful in its mystery, its poignancy, its heartbreak.

The story we are about to tell is just as attractive, full of beautiful and mysterious fantasies. In an ancient and mysterious legend, it is said that whenever the moon rises, some spirits always appear with the moonlight, spirits of flowers and trees, spirits of precious stones, even underground spirits* and fox spirits will come out to worship the full moon and absorb its essence.
*(yōu hún-ghosts, spirits {of the dead}) ^(guǐ-ghost, demon)

Sometimes they would even transform into human beings, appearing on earth in many different guises and doing things that people would never expect.

These things are sometimes surprising, sometimes touching, sometimes frightening, sometimes joyful, and sometimes unimaginable. They can save a person from the abyss, or push a person off a mountain.

They can give you all the glory and wealth in the world, or they can make you lose everything.

Though no one has ever seen their true appearance, no one can deny their existence.


There are straight sabers and curved ones. The saber we are talking about is a scimitar, curved like Qing Qing’s eyebrows.

The scimitar originally belonged to Qing Qing, a girl as beautiful and mysterious as the full moon on that day.

The saber is a killing weapon.

Qing Qing’s scimitar is the same. As long as the scimitar light flashes, disaster will come. No one can avoid this disaster, because no one has ever been able to avoid this curved saber light.

The light of the saber is not quick, yet just like seeing the moonlight, once you have seen it, it has already fallen upon you.

There is only one moon in the sky and only one scimitar on earth.

When it appears on earth, it does not necessarily bring disaster. Sometimes it also brings justice and happiness to people.

What will it bring to people this time when it appears on earth?

No one knows.

Qing Qing’s scimitar is green, green like distant mountains, green like spring trees, green like tears in the eyes of lovers.

On Qing Qing’s scimitar, there is a line of very small words: ‘Listen to the Spring Rain All Night in the Small House”*. Fortune is as unpredictable as the weather**, the moon has its yin and yang.
*Found the Chinese of the poem here, but no title or name:

**(tiānyǒubùcèfēngyún-idiom meaning ‘sth unexpected may happen at any moment’)

This matter is hard to come by.
It’s hard to be perfect.

I hope it will last forever and we will share a beautiful life together.

I wish for a long life and a thousand miles to share a love story with you.

[I really couldn’t make out these last 2 lines]

Chapter 1: Standing Out From the Masses

Early morning, fog, thick fog.

Ding Peng pushed open the window of his small room, and the milky white fog drifted in like cotton wool, brushing against his face.

His face was very beautiful and his body was very healthy. When he spoke, he appeared energetic and vigorous. When he smiled, he often revealed a child-like innocence. He was like a big kid you’ve watched grow up.

But Ding Peng was no longer a child.

In the past three months, he had defeated three expert swordsmen in jianghu.

Sunshine and water make plants and flowers grow healthy and strong, but fame and success can also make a boy mature.

Not only was he now a real man, he was calm, steady and full of self-confidence.

He was born in March, this year he was exactly twenty. On the day of his birthday, he’d defeated the famous swordsman Shi Ding of Baoding with a move called “Heavenly Meteor”.

Shi Ding was an expert of the Qingping* Sword from the Northern School. Ding Peng used this victory as a gift to congratulate himself on his birthday - and in the fourth month, he defeated The Wind Chasing Sword Ge Qi^, with the same ‘Heavenly Meteor’ move. Ge Qi was a senior disciple of the Huashan Sword School, with a swift and unusual style of swordsmanship and an even more aggressive style of attack. He was a very proud person.
*(qīng píng -green duckweed)

But in that duel, he was defeated so convincingly that he actually publicly admitted, “Even if I practiced for ten more years, I would never be able to block his sword.” In the fifth month, his “Heavenly Meteor” also defeated the master of the Iron Sword School, ‘Song Yang Swordsman’ Guo Zhengping.

Guo Zhengping’s evaluation of this sword move and him as a person was, “Like a cornered antelope, there is no trace to be found*. Within a year, this young man famous throughout jianghu and he will make a name for himself^.” Although the Iron Sword School was not a prominent sect in jianghu, it had a long history and an upright style. Thus the weight of Guo Zhengping’s words as the head of a sect was naturally different.
*(如 羚羊 挂 角 , 无 迹 可 寻- Rú língyáng guà jiǎo, wú jì kě xún. Could really make this out)
^(出人头地 chūréntóudì-to stand out among one’s peers (idiom); to excel [I will use “make a name for _self” throughout])

To this day, Ding Peng still felt an unexplainable excitement when he remembered that sentence.

"Famous throughout jianghu and he will make a name for himself!”

He’d practiced hard for thirteen years, seven hours a day, until his palms and soles were worn through.

Especially on those bitterly cold winter nights, in order to revive himself, he used to take a ball of ice and snow, and as soon as he realized that he had the intention of slacking off, he would stuff it into his trousers, a form of nuisance that no one else could ever imagine.

He tortured himself this way only because he was determined to make a name for himself, and for his father, who had never accomplished anything in his life.

His father was a nameless escort agency guard who had inadvertently come across the tattered page of a sword manual.

It was a single page, also a whole book.

On the page was this move, ‘Heavenly Meteor’…

A meteor from beyond the heavens. The sudden release, that split-second of blinding light and speed, there wasn’t a single thing you could do to stop it. But by then, his father was already getting old, his mind wasn’t as sharp as it has once been, his reflexes had slowed, and he could no longer practice this kind of swordsmanship. So he’d passed this page from a sword manual to his children.

On his deathbed, his final words were, “You must practice hard to perfect this move, and you must strive on my behalf, to let others know that I Ding also have an outstanding son.” Whenever he thought about this, Ding Peng would feel his blood boiling. He couldn’t hold back his tears.

Now he would never shed tears again. Those who were weak shed tears. If a man wants to shed something, let him shed blood!

He took a deep breath of the morning air and drew his sword from beneath his pillow. Today, he would again use this sword technique to gain another victory for himself.

If he could win today, he would be truly successful.

Although Shi Ding, Ge Qi, and Guo Zhengping were famous heroes in jianghu, those three victories were nothing compared to today’s battle.

His opponent today was Liu Ruosong.

Liu Ruosong, the ‘Qingsong (Pine Tree) Swordsman’ of the world-famous ‘Three Friends of Suihan’#, was the owner of the ‘Wansong (Ten Thousand Pines) Villa’. He was the only lay disciple of (Taoist) Master Tian Yi, head of the Xuanzhen Monastery on Wudang Mountain. He’d already heard this name many years ago. At that time he would have said that it was as heavy as Mt. Tai and as bright as the Big Dipper*, towering, unshakeable. But it was different now. He was sure he could defeat this person. He’d asked for advice on swordsmanship (iow- requested a duel) from this senior master in the most proper way, so that Liu Ruosong could not refuse. For he must defeat this man in order to take that next step and join the ranks of true masters in jianghu. Liu Ruosong had chosen the time and place of the duel: “The fifteenth day of the sixth month, noon, Wansong Villa.” Today was the fifteenth day of the sixth month.
#(suì hán sān yǒu-Three Friends of… Winter? Age & Cold?)
*(TàishānBěidǒu-idiom meaning ‘giant among men’)
^( qiánbèi-senior, from an older [martial] generation; míngjiā-renowned expert, master [of an art])

Today’s battle would determine his destiny in life.

The clothes he’d washed, smoothed, put on a bamboo pole, and hung in the window last night, were almost dry.

Although they hadn’t completely dried through yet, they would soon after he put them on.

It was the only set of clothes he had ever owned, sewn carefully for him by his old, sickly mother on her deathbed. They were now faded and frayed in places, but as long as they were clean, they were still good enough to go out and meet people.

There was no shame in being poor. The shame was in being lazy and dirty.

He put on his clothes and took out a moneybag, also sewn from blue cloth, from under his pillow.

Only one small piece of silver was left inside.

It was all he had. After paying the inn’s bill, all he had left was a few dozen qian.
*(qián –coin, worth a 1/10 of a tael)

He usually slept where he didn’t have to pay rent; under a table in a shrine, a meadow in the woods, all were his beds.

He had reluctantly stayed at this small inn for the sake of today’s fight. He must have enough sleep to have the mental and physical strength to win this battle.

After he paid the bill for the inn, he actually took the remaining money to buy half a kilogram of marinated beef, ten pieces of dried tofu, a large bag of peanuts and five large mantou (steamed buns).

To him, this was not only an extravagant treat, it was simply an unforgivable waste. He would normally only eat three hard cakes a day.

But today he decided to excuse himself this once, because today he needed to eat well to build up his stamina.

Besides, after today, the situation might be completely different.

Not only would fame bring glory and self-esteem, it would bring many things you normally wouldn’t dream of, wealth and status would follow.

He understood this well. So he had always gritted his teeth and endured poverty and hunger.

He would not allow himself to be tarnished by any dishonorable deed. He was determined to follow the proper path to make a name for himself.*

There were still more than two hours before noon. He was determined to find a nice place to enjoy this food.

In the foothills near Wansong Villa, he found a place with a spring, a meadow, red flowers and a garden, surrounded by flowers and trees, under a clear blue sky.

The fog had lifted, the sun had just risen, and the green leaves were glistening with dew as bright as pearls.

He sat down on the soft grass and tore off a piece of beef, which tasted even better than he had imagined.

He found it pleasant.

Just then, a girl walked into his secret little world like a gazelle being chased by a hunter.

The girl was completely naked.

The woman was delicate and young.

Ding Peng felt as if all the air had been sucked out of his lungs, but his heart was beating three times faster than usual.

He had never been close to a woman before.

It wasn’t as if there weren’t young girls in his hometown. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t looked at them either.

He had always struggled to maintain his self-control. He had tried everything: stuffing snow into his underwear, dunking his head in a stream, pricking his legs with needles, running, climbing, somersaulting…

Until he achieved fame, he would never let anything distract him from his goals, never let anything sap his energy.

That white skin, that firm bosom, those firm, round legs…

It took every ounce of strength he had to make himself turn his head, but the woman ran over and hugged him, gasping, “Save me, you’ve got to save me!” She was so close to him, her breath so warm and sweet, he could even hear her heartbeat.

His mouth went dry. He couldn’t even get a word out.

The girl noticed a change in his body*. She blushed and covered herself with her hands, "Would you… would you take off your shirt and lend it to me?” This shirt was the only one he had, but he took it off without a second thought. After she draped the shirt over her body, the girl calmed down a bit and said solemnly, “Thank you!”
*[he was getting an erection]

Ding Peng was also a little calmer. He was finally able to speak, “Is someone chasing you?” The girl nodded her head, tears in the corner of her eyes.

Ding Peng said, “This place is remote, so it’s hard for others to find it. Even if someone is chasing you, you don’t have to be afraid.” He was a man, born with a natural instinct to protect women, let alone a woman this beautiful.

He held her hand, “With myself and this sword, you don’t have to be afraid.”

The girl was more reassured and said “Thank you", so softly, it was as if she had mouthed the words. When she was done, she lowered her head and closed her mouth.

Ding Peng didn’t know what to say.

He should have asked, “Why did you run away? Who was chasing you? Why were they chasing you?” But he didn’t ask, and she didn’t say.

Although she draped the shirt over her body, such a short garment could never entirely cover a mature girl.

There were so many things that were appealing about a girl like her.

His heart was still thumping, still thumping very fast.

It took him a long time to realize that she had her eyes on his bag of beef.

This meal would likely be his last. He was already down to his last copper.

But, without a second thought, he said, “These things are fresh, you must eat some.”

The girl said, “Thanks!” again.

Ding Peng said, “Make yourself at home.”

The girl didn’t stand on ceremony.

Ding Peng had never thought of a girl so beautiful eating like a wolf.

She must have been hungry for some time and endured many hardships.

He could even imagine her tragic situation now—

A lonely girl, stripped naked and locked in a cellar by a group of evil men who didn’t even feed her. She did everything in her power to take advantage of the opportunity to escape.

While he was contemplating her ordeal, she had already eaten all of his food.

Not only had she eaten all the beef and dried tofu, she had even finished the steamed buns, leaving only ten or so peanuts.

She seemed to be a bit embarrassed of her behavior. She playfully handed over these few peanuts and quietly said, “These are for you to eat.” Ding Peng laughed.

Unsure of whether to laugh or cry, he couldn’t help but laughing.

This girl also laughed, blushing so much that she was like a flower in the sun.

Laughing not only made one’s self and others happy, it also reduced the distance between people.

They became a little more comfortable. The girl finally revealed what had happened to her.

Ding Peng’s own fantasy wasn’t too far off from what she told him.

The girl was indeed kidnapped by a group of villains, stripped naked and locked in a kiln. She hadn’t eaten a grain of rice for several days. The villains had figured that she was too hungry to move, so they had relaxed their guard against her. She took the opportunity to escape.

Ding Peng kept his hand on the hilt of his sword, “Where are those people? I’ll go with you to them!”

“You can’t go!” she said.

Ding Peng asked, “Why?”

The girl hesitated, “There are some things I can’t tell you now, but I’ll definitely tell you later.” It seemed that there was more to the story than she could say. Since she couldn’t say, he thought it inappropriate to ask.

The girl added, “Now that I can go find someone, I can set my mind at ease.”

Ding Peng asked, “Who are you looking for?”

She said, “It is one of my elders, who is already seventy years old but still wears bright red clothes. If you meet him, you will definitely recognize him.” She raised her head, her beautiful eyes full of pleading, and asked softly, “Can you find him for me?” Ding Peng certainly couldn’t afford to strike out on this task, he really couldn’t go, absolutely couldn’t go.

It was now less than an hour away from the battle that would determine his destiny in life.

He was still hungry and had yet to practice his sword. He must cultivate his emotions and conserve his stamina to deal with Liu Ruosong. How could he go to find an old man he had never met before for a strange girl?

But he couldn’t say “no” without saying “no”. It was not easy to say “no” to a beautiful girl. It required not only great courage, but also thick skin. A man must go through many painful experiences before he can learn this “no”. Ding Peng sighed to himself and said, “I wonder where this old gentleman is?”

The young woman’s eyes immediately lit up and she said, “You’re willing to help me find him?” Ding Peng just nodded his head. The girl jumped up and hugged him, “You’re such a good man. I’ll never forget you!” Ding Peng realized that it would be difficult to forget this girl in his lifetime. “You walk up the stream, and when you reach the mouth of the river, you will see an oddly shaped old tree. When the weather is good, he will definitely play chess* there.” It was a fine day. “When you see him, you must first disrupt the game of chess he is playing before he will listen to you and come with you!” This was how all chess matches were, even if the sky was falling, you had to finish a game of chess before you say anything.
*[This is not European chess, it is Go. I will use chess as it is more familiar and also connotes ‘strategy’ for westerners]

“I will wait here. Whether you can find him or not, you must come back soon.”

The stream was clear.

Ding Peng travelled along the stream. walking quickly.

Of course he had to come back quickly, he still had a lot to do. The sun had gradually risen, and he suddenly felt very hungry, terribly hungry.

Today might be the most important day of his life. The moment that would decide his fate was at hand.

Instead, like a fool, he was starving, seeking an old man in red, for a girl without clothes.

If anyone else had told him this, he would never have believed it.

The only thing that was true was that the girl was indeed beautiful. Not just beautiful, she also had a very special aura that made it impossible to bear to refuse her request.

There were not too many men who could say “no” in the presence of this girl.

Fortunately, the stream was not long.

There was an old tree at the end of the stream. Two people were playing chess. One was an old man in red.

Ding Peng was very obedient. He stretched out his hand, and suddenly stepped in a hole under. There was a hole in the ground, and he fell into it.

Fortunately, the hole wasn’t too big, and he managed not to fall in. Unfortunately, as soon as he pulled his foot out of the hole, his other foot was caught. There was a loop of rope on the ground.

His other foot was still hanging in the air, and as soon as it was trapped, his whole center of gravity became unstable.

Even more unfortunately, the loop was tied to a branch that had been bent to the ground, and when the loop was moved, the branch sprung up and so did he.

The most unfortunate thing was that when as his body was lifted up, it just happened to hit another branch. The place it hit happened to be a soft spot near his waist. As soon as it was lightly struck, he couldn’t exert any strength. So he was hung up in a muddle, head and feet, like a fish dangling on the hook.

This hole in the ground. This loop of rope, this branch, was it all arranged on purpose?

Had the girl that sent him here, deliberately asked him to come here and take the bait? They had no enmity. Why would she want to harm him?

The two individuals under the tree were engrossed in their game of chess and hadn’t so much as glanced at him. It was as if they hadn’t even realized that someone had come and been hung up.

These two people were definitely chess aficionados.

Chess aficionados were always reluctant to be disturbed when they were playing chess.

Perhaps they had only laid this trap as a precaution against anyone else interrupting them, rather than to deal specifically with him.

Surely, the girl hadn’t known there was such a trap.

With this in mind, Ding Peng finally felt a little better, and said calmly, “Two old sirs, please be so kind as to put me down.” The chess players didn’t hear him at all. Ding Peng repeated his words two or three times, but they didn’t seem to hear a single one. Ding Peng couldn’t control himself and shouted, “Hey…”

As soon as he opened his mouth, something flew over and gagged him.

Something foul and soft and slimy and fishy. He didn’t know if it was rotten mud, or something far worse?

Whatever it was flew from a branch opposite him. A little monkey in a red suit was sitting in the tree, grinning at him.

What else could a red monkey throw out of his hand! He would have been lucky if it was mud. Ding Peng almost fainted with anger.

After all those years of hardship, the moment he was on the verge of success, he had to deal with something like this.

Chapter 2: One Move Ahead

棋 高 一筹Qí gāo yīchóu

A hole, a rope, and a branch were all that was needed to hang up a man who had diligently trained his wugong* for thirteen years.
*(wugong-martial arts ability/skill)

Ding Peng was furious with himself. Why had he been so careless, so rash, so useless!

In fact, the orientation, distance, and power of this hole, this rope, and this branch were precise calculations that required not only a superior mind, but also years of experience to calculate with such precision.

The red-robed old man’s head was a lot bigger than the other’s. It was full of hair so white it was like silver, but his face was as ruddy as a baby’s, and his body was built like that of a fat child.

The other old man, however, was slight and thin, with a sullen face and a black robe. He looked like a shriveled fig.

The two men were completely engrossed, considering each move for a long time.

The sun gradually rose and went west, noon had long since passed. If not for this incident, Ding Peng would have already defeated Liu Ruosong and become famous in jianghu.

Unfortunately, he was still hanging from a tree.

How long were they going to keep playing chess? Were they thinking of a way to deal with him?

The sullen old man in the black robe, also played chess sullenly. With a black chess piece in his hand, he considered his move for a long time, before slowly, gently letting it fall gently onto the board.

The red-robed old man stared at the move, beads of sweat breaking out on his head.

Anyone looking at the expression on this old man’s face knew that he had lost this game.

He’d played a little carelessly in this game. His mind had been divided*, He had deliberately conceded the match.
*[he was distracted]

The loser will always find many reasons to justify his loss. He will never admit defeat.

Of course, he wanted to play another game.

Unfortunately, the black-robed old man had already stood up and walked away without looking back.

The red-robed old man jumped up and shouted, calling after him.

“You can’t leave! We must play another game.” One of the two men was walking away and the other was chasing after him. They didn’t seem to be using qinggong ability*, nor were they walking very fast, but in the blink of an eye, the two men had disappeared without a trace.
(Qinggong-lightness skill-martial arts that allow someone to effortlessly move very fast, jump high, climb, etc. shēnfǎ- motion of one’s body in martial arts. I will translate this as ‘ability’, indicating when it is shenfa)

The little monkey in red had also disappeared from the on the tree across from him.

It was getting dark. It was beginning to seem like they were never actually coming back, as if they hadn’t even known that there was someone still dangling there.

They hadn’t looked at Ding Peng even once.

The deserted hills were silent, night was gradually approaching. Of course, no one else would come here.

A man hanging in such a place, could hang there for seven or eight days with no guarantee that anyone might come and rescue him.

It’s not uncommon, for a person who has been left hanging, to die.

Ding Peng was truly worried.

Not only was he worried, he was also cold and hungry, his head was throbbing and his limbs were numb.

He suddenly realized that he was simply a pig, the stupidest pig in the world, the unluckiest pig in the world.

He didn’t even know how he had gotten so unlucky.

So far, he didn’t even know the girl’s name. He had given her the only shirt he had ever owned. She had even eaten all his food. Now he had been strung up like a dead fish for her. He had no idea how long he was going to be stuck here.

He simply wanted to slap himself seventy or eighty times and cry again.

Unexpectedly, at this moment, the rope actually broke. He dropped from midair. Though the fall was not light, it unsealed his acupoints.

Was it possible that someone had calculated all of this?

They merely wanted him to suffer for a while, not to be hung to death.

But they had no past grievances, no recent grudges, so why had they treated him like this?

He couldn’t believe it, nor could he figure it out.

Now the first thing he had to do was to pull the muck out of his mouth.

The second thing he had to do was to quickly return to that place and ask the girl to clear things up. Unfortunately she had already left and taken the only shirt he had.

After parting, it was quite possible he may never see her again, and certainly not the old man in the red robe.

What was this all about?

He would probably never be able to figure it out in his lifetime.

The only thing he could do now was to go to Wansong Villa, shirtless, with an empty stomach, a foul smelling mouth and a belly full of grievances, to make amends.

Although it was already a little late to go now, it was better late than never.

If anyone asked him why he was late, he would have to make up a story.

Because people would never believe him if he told the truth.

The grandeur of the Wansong Villa was even more imposing than he had imagined. Even the gatekeeper who opened the door was dressed in a dignified patterned satin robe.

After learning that he was “Ding Peng shaoxia”, the gatekeeper was very polite to him, extremely polite. He never even glanced at his unclothed body, let alone the mud on his face.
*(shàoxiá-young hero)

The gatekeeper of a great man is usually a very polite, very decorous* person.
*[essentially someone well versed in the rigid social customs of the time]

But this decorum, this politeness, was more that a person could stand.

He was led into the reception hall. The gatekeeper said courteously, “Ding shaoye^ has come too early. It’s still the fifteenth, and it’s not yet the sixteenth. The lord of the house* and those friends he invited should have been here, waiting to greet the young master. Even if we had to wait for three or five days, it’s really no big deal.”
^(shàoye-young master)
*[he’s actually saying ‘our villa master’ or ‘our owner of the villa]

Ding Peng’s face was a little red, he shivered involuntarily and said, “I had already…”

He had already made up a story but this very polite gatekeeper didn’t want to hear it, and very deliberately continued, “It’s just a pity that the lord of the house happens to have some business and must be in the city
today.” He was smiling, smiling very politely, “The lord of the house has repeatedly instructed me to ask for young master Ding’s forgiveness, for he had only waited three shichen* before going out.” Ding Peng considered this.
*(Shíchen- time; one of the 12 two-hour periods of the day; 3 shichen is 6 hours)

He couldn’t blame Liu Ruosong. Regardless of who he was waiting for, he had waited for more than three shichen, which was more than any could expect.

But what about him?

He was down to his last copper, with nothing to wear and he was starving.

Where could he go?

The gatekeeper was very courteous to him, but he had absolutely no intention of inviting him in.

Finally, Ding Peng finally couldn’t help but asking, “Can I wait here for him to return?”

The gatekeeper smiled, “If young master Ding wants to wait here, of course you can!” Ding Peng was relieved, yet the gatekeeper had already continued, "But we dare not let young master Ding stay.”

He was still grinning, “Because this time the lord of the house will be delayed outside for at least twenty to thirty days. How dare we make Ding shaoye wait here for twenty or thirty days?” Ding Peng’s heart sank again. The gatekeeper went on, “But the lord of the house has also given instructions that he will definitely return before the fifteenth day of next month. He will be free then, even if he waits for three or five days.”

Ding Peng endured this and said, “Fine, I’ll come back next month on the fifteenth. I’ll definitely come before noon.”

The gatekeeper smiled and said even more politely “I told you, the lord of the house will be free that day. It doesn’t matter if Ding shaoye is delayed.” Ding Peng turned around and rushed out without looking back. He really didn’t want to look at the smiling face of this courteous and well-mannered man. He couldn’t stand it. He vowed that one day, when he had fulfilled his ambition of becoming famous, he would come back and make this gatekeeper look at his smiling face. That would come later, but for now he couldn’t smile, as he didn’t know how he was going to spend the next month. Whatever else, he still had one copper coin. One copper coin could buy a hard cake, and by drinking plenty of cold water, he could fill his belly. But when he thought of taking out the last of his money, he realized that even that was gone. Had it just slipped out of the bag while he was hanging upside down? No. He suddenly remembered that he hadn’t put the copper in his moneybag. After buying the beef, he had put the coin in a small pocket on his shirt. Now the girl had gone with his shirt, and of course his last copper had gone with her. He didn’t even know her name. Ding Peng suddenly laughed, so much so that he almost burst into tears.

Night, summer night. Moonlit night.

The moon shone high, the sky was full of stars. The spring was like a ribbon of brocade under the moonlight . The evening breeze was filled with the fragrance of flowers, leaves, and a fragrance coming from the distant mountains. A moonlit night was naturally beautiful. The most beautiful was during the full moon. It was a full moon, however, Ding Peng wished this round, full moon was a round, full charcoal grill. He wasn’t completely devoid of refinement, but one forgets the word refinement when one is too hungry. This was where he’d last met the girl. He’d only come back here because he really had nowhere else to go. With his skills, it would be easy for him to rob and steal. But he mustn’t do such a thing. He mustn’t leave a stain on himself that could never be washed away. He must follow the righteous path to make a name for himself*. Could that copper have fallen out of his shirt? He might still be able to find it if he dropped it here. He didn’t find the copper, but he did find a peanut. He carefully picked it up, split it in half, and was about to eat it, one piece at a time. Just then a girl suddenly leapt up like a gazelle being chased by a hunter and snatched the last peanut from his hand. This time however, Ding Peng did not feel unlucky, but rather jumped up in joy, “It’s you!” The girl who had caused so much trouble had returned.

Ding Peng had never expected to see her again. She seemed even more beautiful under the moonlight than she had that morning.

Although it was only the second time they had met, Ding Peng looked at her as if he were seeing a very close friend.

The girl also appeared very happy. She held Ding Peng’s hand firmly, as if afraid that he would suddenly slip away.

“I thought I’d never see you again.”

This was exactly what they both of them had in their minds to say. They both said it at the same time.

They both laughed.

Ding Peng also held her hand tightly. As if he was also afraid that she would suddenly slip away.

But she looked at him and said, “Just now I was reminding myself that if I see you this time, I must remember one thing.”

“What is it?”, Ding Peng asked

She said sweetly, “Remember to ask your name.”

Ding Peng smiled again. He had just reminded himself that he must ask her name this time.

Her name was Kěxiào
(Kě-extremely; xiào-laugh, smile. Kěxiào-Ridiculous. Can also be laughable, very funny. There is a lot of word play around this name).

“You mean it’s ridiculous?”

“En*!” *(En-an interjection indicating agreement)

“Very possible, but a joke?”


Ding Peng smiled and said, “This name is really strange.”

Kexiao said, "It’s not only strange, it’s ridiculous. Adding my last name makes it even more ridiculous.”

“What is your surname?”, asked Ding Peng

“My surname is Li.”

She sighed, “A person’s name is actually Li Kexiao (Plum Ridiculous), do you think it’s funny?” Ding Peng actually managed to refrain from laughing.

Kexiao said, “I really can’t understand how my father went and picked such a name for me?”

“Actually, there’s nothing wrong with this name."

She said, "But ever since I was a child, people have been asking me, ‘Li Kexiao, what’s so funny about you?’ As soon as I heard someone ask me that, I blew my top! How can you laugh?” Ding Peng could no longer help but to laugh.

But he was laughing at himself as well.

All the misfortunes of the day were completely forgotten in this one laugh.

Unfortunately, there were some other things that could not be forgotten. Even if they were forgotten for a moment, they would soon be remembered.

For example, hunger!

Laughing was not going to fill their bellies or solve their problems.

But Li Kexiao still had another problem.

She was still wearing Ding Peng’s shirt, the one that didn’t cover her figure completely.

The moonlight shone on the parts of her body that her clothes couldn’t cover, making her look even more attractive.

Ding Peng had more problems of his own.

But it was not about the road ahead. Right now his main concern wasn’t himself, but her.

Li Kexiao said, “I know you must want to ask me why I asked you to go to that old man in red clothes. Why didn’t I wait here? Where have I been this half a day?” Ding Peng acknowledged she was right.

“But it’s best you don’t ask," she said


“Because even if you ask me, I will not tell you.” She took his hand again, “There are some things you are better off not knowing. The more a person knows, the more worries he’ll have. I don’t want to add to your worries.” Her hand was soft and smooth, her eyes gentle and sincere.

Even though Ding Peng had never been so close to a woman before, it was clear to him that she was being sincere. For Ding Peng, that was enough.

He also held her hand and said, “I’ll do as you say. If you don’t tell me, I won’t ask.”

Kexiao smiled sweetly, “But there is still something I want you to do for me.”

“What is it?”

“Down along this stream, there is a small house with green tiles on the roof.”

He asked, “You want me to go there?”

“I want you to go there now.”

“And then what?”

Kexiao said, "When you get there, someone will take you to the owner of the place. You must listen to what she says. What’s more, you must even do what she wants you to do.” She gazed at him, “You must trust me. I will never harm you.”

Ding Peng said, “I trust you.”

Li Kexiao smiled, “Are you going or not?” No, of course not, never. The last time he did something for her, the last time he’d gone to do a job for her, he’d suffered enough, he had enough regret. This time it was even more ridiculous, how could he go! Yet here he goes again. Last time it was ‘up the stream’, this time it was ‘down’. Last time it was ‘an old man in a red shirt’, this time it was ‘a little house with green tiles’.

Last time he was hung up like a dead fish and ate a mouthful of mud. What would happen to him this time?

Would he have worse luck than last time?

He’d already spotted the little hut.

Under the moonlight, the small house seemed quiet and peaceful. Who could tell what kind of trap there might be there? There were no traps in the small building, only soft lighting, ornate furnishings, and fine furniture.

If you had to say there was a trap in this place, it must be a tender trap.

A person could die in a tender trap, but at least it was better than dying from being hung from a tree.

The person who opened the door was a little girl with a big auburn braid and a lovely smile that revealed two large dimples.

Ding Peng thought she would’ve been scared and surprised that a large, half-naked stranger suddenly knocked on the door in the middle of the night.

Who would have thought that she wouldn’t look the least bit frightened? She just chuckled, as if she had known such a large, half-naked man was coming, “Who are you looking for?”

“I’m looking for the owner of this place.”

“I’ll take you there.” Not only did she readily agree, she took Ding Peng’s hand and left, as if she and Ding Peng were already old friends.

The owner was upstairs.

The upstairs room was more ornate, with a beaded curtain draped in the brocade boudoir. The owner was behind it.

It wasn’t that she was trying to be mysterious, but in the middle of the night a woman’s house was always a little wary of a strange adult man. Perhaps she had already changed her clothes and was ready for bed, and certainly didn’t want to be seen by a strange man.

Although Ding Peng was not very knowledgeable about the world, he understood this point quite well.

He already knew she was a woman, of course, for she spoke in a voice that, though a little husky, was coquettish and pleasant to the ear, “Who asked you to come to me?”

“It was a Li Zhanniang*.”
*(zhànniáng-some type of honorific for a woman)

“Who is she to you?”

“She’s my friend.”

“What did she say to you?”

“She says I have to do what you want me to do.”

“You will do what she says?”

“I’m sure she would never hurt me.”

“No matter what I want you to do, you will do it?”

“You’re her friend, so I trust you too.”

“Do you have any idea what I’m going to ask you to do?”

“I don’t know.”

The owner’s voice suddenly changed and became fierce, “I want to plunge you into a tub of very hot water, use a big brush to scrub all the mud off your body; put a new set clothes on you, cover your feet with a new pair of shoes, push you into a chair, and fill your belly with a pot of beef loin that has been cooking for hours, to the point where you won’t be able to walk.” Ding Peng laughed.

He had heard her voice.

Someone chuckled and walked out from behind the beaded curtain. It was Kexiao.

Ding Peng sighed deliberately and said, “I am good to you. Why do you want to harm me like this?”

Kexiao put on a stern face and said, “Who told you to be so obedient? If I don’t hurt you, who will?”

“Actually, I’m not afraid of any of these things.”

“What are you afraid of?”, she asked.

He said, “I’m afraid of drinking. If you fill me with a few catties of good aged Shao alcohol, you’ll really be hurting me.”

Aged good alcohol, braised beef.

If someone really were to use these things to harm someone, there would be many people who would be willing to be harmed.

Now Ding Peng had taken a hot bath and was fully clothed, head to toe, inside and out, in new clothes.

Only a belt had not been changed.

It was a belt sewn out of blue cloth, one inch wide and four feet long.

For a man already faint with hunger, the alcohol was a little too aged and the beef a little too fatty.

He really couldn’t walk anymore.

Kexiao sweetly said, “Now you know that you really shouldn’t be too good to me, because the better someone is to me, the more I want to harm him.”

Ding Peng sighed, “Actually I can’t be considered to have been very good to you, I merely gave you a shirt and treated you to a bit of cold beef and a cold mantou (steamed bun).”

Kexiao smiled, “What you gave me wasn’t a piece of clothing, but your only shirt. What you treated me to wasn’t a bit of beef, but all your food.” She gazed at him, her eyes filled with tenderness and gratitude, and said, “If a man gave you all he had, how would you treat him?” Ding Peng didn’t say anything.

He suddenly felt that life was still lovely and the world was still full of warmth.

Kexiao said, “If a man gave me everything he had, I would have only one way to deal with him.”

“What method?”, he asked.

She lowered her head and said softly, “I’ll give him everything I have, too.” She really did give him everything she had.


When Ding Peng woke up, she was still beside him, laying on his chest like a dove.

Looking at her black hair and snow-white neck, he felt only a happiness and satisfaction that he had never felt before. For this beautiful woman was now completely his. He was not only satisfied, but also proud. Because he was a real man now. He didn’t know when she had woken up, looking at him with big, soft eyes.

He gently stroked her soft hair and murmured, “Do you have any idea what I’m thinking about?”

Kexiao asked “What are you thinking about?”

“I was thinking that if I were rich and famous, I would take you on a tour of the world and make everyone in the world envy us and be jealous of us. Then you would definitely feel proud of me as well.” He sighed and said, "Too bad I’m just a poor boy with nothing.”

Kexiao smiled beautifully, “I like the fact that you’re a poor boy.”

Ding Peng was silent and suddenly said aloud, “I forgot, I have something else I can give you.” He suddenly jumped up. From the pile of messy clothes under the bed, he found his trouser belt, "I want to give you this belt.”

Kexiao said softly, “As long as you give it to me, I will definitely treasure it.”

Ding Peng said, “I don’t want you to treasure it, I want you to cut it open.” Li Kexiao was also obedient. She cut open this belt, only to find a tattered and old piece of paper sewn inside. The paper was yellowing, and the top half of the page had simple diagrams drawn on it. The lower half of the page was densely packed with words. She only read two lines: "This move is the secret of Yu Ping’s life, breaking swords as easily as breaking bamboo. Qingping, Huashan, Songshan, Kongtong, Wudang, Huangshan, Diancang and other schools of swordsmanship, they will all be defeated by this move.”

After reading these two lines, she didn’t look any further, and asked with a smile: “Is this move really that powerful?”

Ding Peng said, “I wasn’t sure about this, and I didn’t dare to ask a real expert to try it, but now I know. When Qingping, Huashan and Songyang’s swordsmanship meets this move, it’s like tofu meeting a fast sword, there’s no resistance at all.” He was impassioned and excited, "Once I defeat Liu Ruosong, I will go find someone even more famous than him.”

“One day, I’ll want all the famous swordsmen in jianghu to be defeated by my sword. Then I will become as famous as the Third Young Master of the Xie Family of the Divine Sword Villa."

After looking at it a couple more times, Kexiao returned the piece of paper and said, “This is your most precious possession. I can’t accept it.”

Ding Peng said, “I simply want to give you my most precious possession, why don’t you want it?”

She replied softly, “I’m a woman, I have no desire to fight with those famous swordsmen in jianghu. As long as you have the heart for it, I’m already happy.” She hugged him tightly and cooed softly, “I only care about you as a man.”

The full moon had already passed. The waning moon would soon be full again. As the days went by, Ding Peng had almost forgotten about his appointment with Liu Ruosong. But Kexiao hadn’t forgotten. “I remember you still have an appointment on the fifteenth of the seventh month.”

Ding Peng said, “When that day comes, I will go.”

Kexiao smiled, “It’s already the eighth day, you should go practice your sword these next few days. It would be best to go to another place to practice alone. I know that as soon as you see me, you’ll…you’ll think of other things.”

He laughed, “I’m thinking right now.” Li Kexiao didn’t laugh or say anything else. But when Ding Peng woke up the next day, she had left the little house, along with her smiling maid with the two deep dimples… leaving behind only a letter.

She asked Ding Peng to practice hard and conserve his strength in the next few days. They would meet again once his appointment on the fifteenth had passed.

This made Ding Peng even more grateful.

Although his heart was inevitably a little sad at their parting, when he thought of how they would be together very soon, his spirit was lifted. He practiced his sword, trained his strength and exercised.

For her sake, this was a fight he could not afford to lose.

He found his strength had greatly improved. After a man has a woman, he can be regarded as a real man, just as the earth becomes richer and fuller after being nourished by rain.

By the fifteenth day of the seventh month, his spirit and physical strength had reached its peak.

For this battle, he already had the confidence and the certainty of victory.

It was the fifteenth of the seventh month.


The weather was clear and sunny. Ding Peng’s mood was the same. He was so full of energy and vitality that he would manage to survive even if the sky were to come falling down.

The courteous and well-mannered gatekeeper of Wansong Villa was also taken aback upon seeing him.

Being able to be the gatekeeper of a prominent family is no easy task. It is one that requires not only a pair of eyes that can tell at a glance whether someone is poor or rich, but also a face that is naturally like a coffin board*.
*(IOW a blank, unreadable expression)
But now, not only was there an expression on his face, it was a very telling expression.

He couldn’t have imagined that this well-dressed, radiant young man was the unlucky-looking poor kid from last month.

Ding Peng was even more delighted seeing his expression.

After he defeated Liu Ruosong, the expression on this good fellow’s* face would definitely be even more pleasing.
*(honorific-akin to ‘my good man or ‘there’s a good fellow’)

The only thing troubling Ding Peng’s mind was that he and Liu Ruosong had no grievances and no grudges. He never wanted to ruin Liu Ruosong’s long-standing reputation.

Not only had he had heard that Liu Ruosong was a famous hero in jianghu, but that he was also well-liked, and considered a true gentleman.

Liu Ruosong was tall, slender, well-groomed, exquisitely dressed, refined and courteous. He was a very cultured, very elegant middle-aged man.

For most girls, this kind of man is far more attractive than young lads.

He made no mention of last month’s events. He also made a point of not mentioning that Ding Peng had come too early today.

Ding Peng had to admit that he was a gentleman.

His steps were steady, his movements agile, his fingers were long and powerful, and his reflexes quick.

This, in turn, made it impossible for Ding Peng to deny that he was a formidable opponent, that his reputation in jianghu was not undeserved.

The martial arts training ground, paved with a layer fine sand, had been prepared earlier that morning. The weapon racks on both sides were filled with all sorts of gleaming blades, while six or seven rosewood chairs were placed in the shade of the trees.
[This scene should be familiar to anyone who has seen kungfu films. It is generally an open-air courtyard, lined with weapons racks, training equipment and a dais with chairs for the master & his guests to observe.]

Liu Ruosong explained, “There are a few friends who have long admired Ding Shaoxia’s* sword skill. They wanted to come and observe it. I took it upon myself to invite them, only hoping that Ding Shaoxia wouldn’t be offended.” Of course Ding Peng wouldn’t be offended.
*(young master Ding’s)

When a person becomes famous and shows his face, he always wants people to come and see him. The more people that come, the happier he is.

He just wanted to know, “Who are these people that are coming?”

Liu Ruosong said, “One is a senior in wulin*, Mr.^ Zhong from Cangshan.”
*(Wulin-the martial world, martial arts social circles)
^(Xiān sheng-honorific for Mister, could also be teacher, doctor. Throughout this section, when you see Mr., this is what is being used.)

“Wind and Cloud Swordsman Zhong Zhan!”

Liu Ruosong smiled. “Unexpectedly, Ding shaoxia knows this old gentleman.” Of course Ding Peng knew that Zhong Zhan’s integrity and his sword skills were equally respected.

It was really Ding Peng’s luck to have someone of his caliber as a witness to this fight.

Liu Ruosong said, “Mei Hua laoren* and Mo Zhuo will also be here. In jianghu we are known as the Three Friends of Suihan. Actually, I don’t dare (be so presumptuous as to accept this honor).” He smiled again, showing a smugness that even a gentleman would find hard to avoid, “There is also Mr. Xie^, who is not well known in jianghu, as he rarely ventures about.” He smiled again, "The people of Divine Sword Villa rarely roam about in jianghu.”
*(Mei Hua-Plum Blossom; laoren-Old man-formal address for an older man)
^(Xiān sheng again)

Ding Peng was impressed, “The Divine Sword Villa? This Mr. Xie is someone from the Divine Sword Villa?”

Liu Ruosong replied indifferently, "Yes.” Ding Peng’s heart began to pound. For a young man learning swordsmanship, the words ‘Divine Sword Villa’ themselves had a shocking effect on the heart.

Divine Sword Villa, Cuiyun (Jade Cloud) Peak, Lushui (Green Water) Lake, Xie Clan. The third young master of the Xie family, Xie Xiaofeng. The divine sword among swords, the sword god among men. Was this Mr. Xie, who was coming today, him?

The first one to arrive was Cangshan’s Zhong Zhan. The Wind & Cloud Swordsman had long been famous. Even Liu Ruosong called him old mister. But he didn’t seem that old; his back was still ramrod straight, his hair was still black, and his eyes were still bright.

He was not very polite to the young swordsmen who had defeated the three great masters of Zhanping, Huashan, and Songyang. Only later did Ding Peng learn that he was not very courteous to anyone, no matter who he was. It seemed like a man of integrity always had this kind of temperament, believing that others should treat him with extra respect because of his integrity. Was this because upright men in jianghu were very rare? But he didn’t take the top seat. The seat of honor was, of course, reserved for Mr. Xie from the Divine Sword Villa.

Before Mr. Xie arrived, Mei Hua and Mo Zhu of the ‘Three Friends of Suihan’ had already arrived.

Ding Peng was startled at the sight of these two people.

One was red-robed and silver-haired, with a face as ruddy as a baby’s. The other was sullen-faced and thin as bamboo. They were obviously the two people who were playing chess under the ancient tree at the end of the spring that day. However, it was as if they had never seen Ding Peng before.

Ding Peng really wanted to ask Mei Hua laoren*, “Why didn’t you bring that little monkey that likes to wear red clothes just like you?” But Mei Hua laoren didn’t even seem to be aware of the matter and was actually very polite to Ding Peng.
*(laoren-literally ‘old man’ -polite way of referring to an older person)

Ding Peng also wanted very much to forget about this incident, but unfortunately there was one thing he absolutely could not forget—

Why would Kexiao go looking for them? What was the relationship between her and these two men?

He was regretting that he hadn’t asked her to clarify this matter. Why had he promised Kexiao, “If you don’t tell me, I won’t ask.” Now of course he couldn’t ask any more, because Mr. Xie from the Divine Sword Villa had already arrived.

This Mr. Xie had a round face, a plump figure, a wide smile, and was very friendly, looking like a wealthy businessman.

This Mr. Xie obviously wasn’t the number one swordsman of the current age, the man whose name shook the world, Xie Xiaofeng, the third young master of the Xie family.

The others, however, still treated him with respect, and even Zhong Zhan of Cangshan insisted that he take the top seat.

He persisted in his refusal, always saying that he was merely a subordinate in the Divine Sword Villa, nothing more. In the presence of these famous heroes, he already felt honored to occupy the last seat.

Ding Peng’s heart pounded again. His blood was hot again.

He vowed, one day he would also go to Divine Sword Villa, with the three foot blade in his hand, to call upon that famous hero, unmatched under heaven. He would ask for advice (request a duel) on his (Xie Xiaofeng’s) swordsmanship that was unmatched under heaven. Even if he lost under his sword, his life would not have been in vain.

But this fight absolutely must not be lost.

He slowly stood up, looked at Liu Ruosong and said, “Wanbei (junior) Ding Peng* requests Qianbei (senior)** show me his skills, but I hope that Senior will be merciful with the sword."
*(Wanbei=junior-formal address for someone of the younger generation. Can be used when referring to oneself. Ding Peng is saying ‘I, Ding Peng, of the younger generation’)
**(Qianbei=senior- formal address for someone of an elder generation)
+I will only use these terms when someone is speaking. I will put (junior) or (senior) next to the relevant term.
[I have also done my best to preserve the extremely formal structure of these conversations.]

Zhong Zhan unexpectedly said, “You are still young, there is one thing you must always remember.”

Ding Peng said, “Yes.”

Zhong Zhan, his face calm, coldly said, "The sword is inherently a merciless object. Once it is drawn from the sheath it cannot be merciful.” Two boys with topknots, dressed in purple clothes, stood solemnly behind Liu Ruosong holding an ornately decorated sword case.

Liu Ruosong opened the box, removed the sword, drew the sword. A ‘qiang’ sound was heard. The long sword was unsheathed. The sound was like the cry of a dragon.

Mr. Xie smiled and said, “Good sword.” This was indeed a good sword. The sword light flowed with a cold, sinister force that threatened the eyes.

With a sword in hand, Liu Ruosong still had a very elegant and carefree air about him.

Ding Peng’s hand firmly gripped the hilt of his sword. His knuckles had turned white with the force. His palm was already sweaty.

His sword was just an ordinary blue steel sword, absolutely no match for the sharp weapon in Liu Ruosong’s hand.

He also did not have the calm and elegant demeanor of Liu Ruosong.

So even though he was convinced that his move, “Heavenly Meteor”, would definitely defeat Liu Ruosong’s Wudang sword technique, he still felt very nervous.

Liu Ruosong looked at him and smiled, “In my humble home, I have another sword, although it’s not a divine weapon, it’s still passable. If Ding shaoxia* doesn’t look down on this suggestion, I’ll ask someone to bring it.” He took great pride in his status as a senior (qianbei) master, and would never take the smallest advantage.
*(Shaoxia=young hero)

Ding Peng, however, refused to accept his kind offer and said matter-of-factly, “Wanbei (junior) will use this sword, it is a relic of his late father, and wanbei (junior) does not dare to discard it lightly.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Is Ding shaoxia’s sword skill also a family legacy?”


Zhong Zhan suddenly asked again, “Are you a son of the Ding family of Taihu (Lake Tai)?”

Ding Peng said, “I’m a native of Jibei.”

“That’s odd,” said Zhong Zhan

He continued coldly, “The word in jianghu is that not only is Ding shaoxia’s swordsmanship unusually high, it’s as if his most accomplished move flew down from heaven (was heaven sent), absolutely miraculous. I’ve been studying the sword for fifty years, but I didn’t know there was a Ding family in northern Jibei that had such an exquisite sword technique."

Mr. Xie nodded, “Actually, there is nothing strange about this. There are many people in jianghu who do not want to be known, and although Mr. Zhong is knowledgeable, he may not know everything.” Zhong Zhan shut his mouth.

Liu Ruosong said no more, returned to his sword, squaring his chest, he said, “Please!”

Chapter 3: Heavenly Meteor

The fifteenth day of the seventh month, noon, blazing sun.

The ground, paved with fine sand, glittered under the blazing sun, the radiant sword was even more dazzling.

Ding Peng’s sword had been unleashed.

His swordsmanship, with the exception of the “Heavenly Meteor” move, was a family tradition passed down from one generation to the next. At most, it could only be described as commonplace, simple, really quite an ordinary sword technique.

Wudang’s swordsmanship was the pinnacle of the orthodox schools in wulin. It was subtle, elegant, profound, and mysterious. In the hands of Liu Ruosong, it was even more fluid and unpredictable.

He only executed the three strokes of poking, slashing and thrusting, but the sword was so light and agile, the body followed the sword as the sword rose, so that it had already pushed Ding Peng to the point where he couldn’t breathe.

Everyone was a little disappointed with this young swordsman who had just risen so quickly in jianghu.

But Ding Peng had more confidence in himself.

He has seen at least three flaws in Liu Ruosong’s swordplay, and if he used the ‘Heavenly Meteor’ move, he would be able to break Liu Ruosong’s swordplay. It would be as quick as a sword splitting bamboo.

He was going to give Liu Ruosong a few more moves; he didn’t want the senior* swordsman to be too embarrassed.
*(qianbei-of a senior generation)

But once the true sword was unsheathed, there was no mercy!

He had remembered that.

His ordinary swordsmanship suddenly transformed, an ordinary bronze sword suddenly became a brilliant, dazzling meteor.

A meteor that flew from beyond the heavens, unfathomable, irresistible.

A merciless sword. There is no mercy under the sword.

He suddenly felt bad again, for he knew that Liu Ruosong would surely be wounded by his sword!

But he was wrong.

“Dang”, sparks scattered everywhere. Liu Ruosong actually managed to receive this move that he definitely should not have been able to receive, the Heavenly Meteor.

He was truly a master of Wudang internal arts*. Liu Ruosong was the only lay disciple of the Tian Yi Zhenren**, Ding Peng definitely couldn’t compete with his profound inner strength.
*(Wǔdāng; nèi-internal; jiā-specialist; zhēn-true, genuine. This is a rough translation)
**(zhēnrén-Taoist spiritual master)

The two swords collided and Ding Peng was nearly knocked down. Yet he did not fall.

Although his sword had been jolted out of his grip, and his tiger’s mouth* had been split open, he had not fallen. Because he was determined not to let himself fall.
*(web of skin between thumb & finger)

Determination, although not visible, was a significant factor in determining victory or defeat. Sometimes it was even more important than inner strength.

He hadn’t lost and would continue to fight. He must have been negligent just now, that single strike should have been a winning strike.

But Liu Ruosong had halted his sword stance and looked at him with a strange look in his eyes.

Zhong Zhan suddenly said, “He hasn’t lost yet.” He was indeed an honorable man, and with these words, Ding Peng’s dislike for him had turned into gratitude.

Liu Ruosong finally nodded and said, “I know he hasn’t lost yet”.

He was still looking at Ding Peng with a strange look in his eyes, and asked word by word, “Was that move you used just now was the same one you used to defeat Songyang Guo Zhengping?”

Ding Peng said, “Yes.”

Liu Ruosong said, “This is the same move you used when you defeated both Shi Ding and Ge Qi?”


Liu Ruosong asked, “Is this really your family’s sword technique?”


Liu Ruosong became serious and asked, “Who is your father?”

Ding Peng said, “My father died eight years ago.” He did not give his father’s name, and Liu Ruosong did not ask any further questions.

His expression was even stranger as he suddenly turned to ask Mr. Xie, "I’m sure Xie Guangsheng must have gotten a good look at the sword technique that Ding shaoxia used just now?

Mr. Xie smiled, “I really don’t understand much about this kind of exquisite and sophisticated swordsmanship, but fortunately I was finally able to witness it.”

Liu Ruosong asked, "What did Mr. Xie think of that particular stance?”

Mr. Xie said, “That strike was so fierce, so strange! It approaches the power of that peerless hero of days gone by, Yan Shishan’s, “Thirteen Deadly Stances”.* The methods are also similar, unfortunately it is only his (Ding Peng’s) skill that is lacking.” He laughed and added, “This is nothing more than me just casually spouting nonsense. My knowledge of swordsmanship is quite shallow.” Of course he wasn’t just casually spouting nonsense. How could there be anyone within the Divine Sword Villa who didn’t understand swordsmanship? Thirty years ago Yan Shishan crossed the world, enduring more than a hundred battles, taking on all comers. He was universally recognized as the only one who could compete with the Third Young Master of the Xie Clan. Had he and Xie Xiaofeng ever fought each other? Who would win and who would lose, remains a mystery to this day.
*[Yan Shishan=Yan Thirteen-I think this may be a reference to Yan Nantian in ‘The Legendary Siblings’]

Mr. Xie’s mention of Ding Peng’s swordsmanship in the same breath as Yan Shishan’s “Thirteen Deadly Stances” was truly an honor for Ding Peng. Liu Ruosong smiled, “Mr. Xie speaking like this, my (humble) self in truly flattered by senior’s praise!” Ding Peng was startled, everyone was startled. It was Ding Peng who should be flattered. How could it be him?

Zhong Zhan said coldly, "Mr. Xie praised Ding Peng’s swordsmanship, what does it have to do with you!”

Liu Ruosong said, “It’s a little related.” Zhong Zhan snickered.

Before he could say anything, Liu Ruosong said, “Everyone in jianghu knows that senior has seen and heard so much that he is on par with Bai Xiaosheng, who wrote the ‘Weapons List’ in the past.”

Zhong Zhan said, “Although I cannot compare to Bai Xiaosheng’s profound knowledge, I have seen all the sword techniques of the various sects under heaven!”

“Has senior ever seen that sword move?” asked Liu Ruosong.

Zhong Zhan said, “No”

Liu Ruosong then asked, “What about Mr. Xie?”

“My knowledge and experience have always been shallow.” Mr. Xie said, “I don’t know how many sword techniques I haven’t seen.”

Liu Ruosong grinned wryly and said, " The reason why neither of you have seen this technique is was created by my (humble) self!"

This statement was truly shocking. Of course Ding Peng was the most shocked, he could barely contain himself, “What did you say?”

Liu Ruosong said, "Ding shaoxia should have heard what I said quite clearly.”

The blood had rushed to Ding Peng’s head and he said, “You, you have proof?”

Liu Ruosong slowly turned around and instructed the servant boy, “Go ask Madam to bring out my sword manual.” For a man who studied the sword, there were only two things in the world that were absolutely not to be shared with anyone else. They also absolutely must not be violated by anyone else. Those were his sword manual and his wife. Liu Ruosong was a man. Liu Ruosong also studied the sword. So of course he cherished his sword manual and his wife equally.

Now that he asked his wife to bring out his sword manual, it was quite obvious that he had meticulously planned how to handle this matter. Nobody said anything, nobody could say anything. Liu Ruosong always did things in way that left people speechless*. The sword manual was soon brought out, by Madam Liu herself. The sword manual was concealed in a sealed box, with two seals pasted across the top, while Madam Liu’s face was concealed behind a veil. Although the veil hid her face, it could not conceal her peerless elegance. It goes without saying that Madam Liu was a famous beauty in jianghu, who came from a prominent family. Not only did she have a good reputation, she also had a virtuous reputation. She would never reveal her true features^ in the presence of strangers. Of course, she already knew what this was all about, so she presented the sword manual to Zhong Zhan and Mr. Xie. Mr. Xie’s status and Zhong Zhan’s integrity were absolutely unquestionable, nobody could doubt them. Madam Liu looked down, it seemed she also did things in way that left people speechless*. The sealed box had been opened. The sword manual was made of pale plain silk. It was quite thin, extremely thin. Because this was not WuDang’s sword manual, this was Liu Ruosong’s own creation, the ‘Qingsong (Green Pine) Sword Manual’. Wudang’s sword techniques were vast and profound, while Liu Ruosong’s original sword technique consisted of only six moves. “The last page was that move.” Mr. Xie and Zhong Zhan immediately turned the to the last page of the sword manual. Given their status, they would certainly never look at something they shouldn’t have. This was evidence, however, so for the sake of Ding Peng and Liu Ruosong’s lifelong reputations they had to look at it. After only a few glances, their faces had changed color. Thus Liu Ruosong asked. “Did both of you clearly see the sword move that Ding Shaoxia used just now?”
*(wú huà kě shuō- to have nothing to say; idiom meaning something is done so well, there is nothing anyone can say about it; above criticism; perfect)
^(zhēnmiànmù-can also mean ‘true colors’)


“Hero Ding just said that this was exactly the same sword technique that he used to defeat Shi Ding, Ge Qi and Guo Zhengping. Both of you clearly heard this?”


“The formula, variations and refinement of that sword technique are different from those of the ‘Wudang Songxia Style’?”


“Is this the first time Ding shaoxia & I have met?” This was something that Zhong Zhan and Mr. Xie were unable to establish, so they asked Ding Peng.

Ding Peng acknowledged the truth of this with a nod.

Therefor Liu Ruosong asked, “Could this sword manual be a forgery?”

“Not likely.”

Even if someone had witnessed Ding Peng using this technique, there was no way they could glean its elegance. Both Mr. Xie and Zhong Zhan were quit certain of this.

Thus Liu Ruosong heaved a deep sigh and said, “I have nothing more to say.” Ding Peng was even more speechless*.
*(wúhuàkěshuō-same as above)

Even though he felt like an adult, he was actually still a child. He had grown up in a simple village and had only been away from home for three months. How could he understand the machinations of jianghu?

He felt like his heart was sinking, like his whole body was sinking into a deep, dark hole. It was as if his whole body was tightly bound. He wanted to struggle, but he couldn’t. He wanted to shout, but he couldn’t.

All his hopes were shattered. His once bright future had become dark.

He really didn’t know what to do.

Zhong Zhen was asking Liu Ruosong, “Since you have created this sword technique, why have you never used it?”

“As a subordinate of Wudang, I am proud of Wudang. This move was just something I inadvertently created and I casually wrote it down. It was nothing more than a passing fancy that I wanted to preserve, that’s all. Wudang swordsmanship is vast and profound enough to last me a lifetime. I will never use a second swordstyle and have absolutely no ambition to found my own sect. If it were up to me, I would never even take this sword manual out.” This explanation was not only fair and reasonable, but also open and aboveboard*; no matter how you stack it up, it must be accepted.
*(idiom meaning without tricks)

Mr. Xie smiled and said, “Well said, Tian Yi Zhenren must be proud to have a disciple like you.”

Zhong Zhan said, "Since you created this technique yourself, where did Ding Peng learn it?”

Liu Ruosong said, “That’s what I was going to ask Ding shaoxia.” He turned to Ding Peng, still very calm, “Is this move actually your family’s sword technique?”

Ding Peng hung his head and said, “It’s not.” Saying these two words, he felt like he was flogging himself.

However he could no longer deny it. He was, after all, an honest young man whose conscience would not permit him to lie.

Liu Ruosong said, “So where did you learn it?”

Ding Peng said, “My father inadvertently came across a page of an incomplete sword manual containing this “Heavenly Meteor” move.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Whose sword manual is it?”

Ding Peng said, “I don’t know.” He really didn’t know.

There was no name written on the sword manual. Since he didn’t know who the sword manual belong to, he couldn’t help but believe Liu Ruosong.

He was being completely honest.

Liu Ruosong sighed and said, “Who would have thought, a young man has learned to lie.”

“I did not lie.”

Liu Ruosong said, “Where is your page from the sword manual?”

Ding Peng began, “It’s right…” He didn’t go on because he didn’t currently know where that page was.

He remembered that he had given that page to Kexiao. Although she had returned it to him, he then asked her to put it away for him. She had given everything to him, and he had given everything to her.

Those days had been so sweet. How could a young man who has just had his first taste of tenderness think of anything else? Liu Ruosong stared at him coldly and sighed, “You are still young and haven’t made any major mistakes. I don’t want to be too hard on you. So long as you promise me one thing, I will not inquire further into the origin of your page from the sword manual.” Ding Peng hung his head.

It was now obvious to him that none of them would believe him, no matter what he said. He could see the contempt in their eyes.

Liu Ruosong said, “As long as you promise me that you will never again use a sword, for the rest of your life, that you will never roam jianghu, I will let you go.” His expression became very grave, “But if you go back on your word in the future, no matter where you flee to, I will also go, to take your life.”

For a young man who had learned swordsmanship with the intention of making a name for himself* in jianghu, if he can never again use a sword or roam jianghu, what was the point of living?” But at the moment, Ding Peng had no choice but to promise. At the moment, he had no choice at all. He suddenly felt very cold, as at that moment chill wind suddenly blew in, blowing up his shirt, also lifting the veil on Madam Liu’s face…

The weather was about to change. The bright sunlight had been hidden by dark clouds.

Ding Peng’s suddenly felt like his whole body was frozen stiff, yet at the same time he felt like it was on fire.

An indescribable grief and rage spread like fire from his toes to his throat, his face and eyes burned red.

The moment the veil was lifted by the wind, he had seen the true face* of Madam Liu.
*(zhēnmiànmù-can also mean ‘true colors’)

This Madam Liu was obviously Kexiao*.
*(Kexiao means ridiculous, funny, it can all mean ‘laughable’, this will lead to some wordplay in the following conversation)

Everything was all so clear now.

He never could have imagined that the truth of the matter would be so despicable, so cruel.

He was suddenly laughing, looking at this Madam Liu, he was laughing hysterically. His laughter sounded like the dying scream of a wild beast.

He was pointing at her, laughing hysterically, “Yes, so it’s you.” Everyone looked at him in shock.

Liu Ruosong said, “Do you recognize her?”

Ding Peng said, “Of course I recognize her, if I don’t recognize her, who will.”

Liu Ruosong said, "You know who she is?”

Ding Peng said, “Li Kexiao.”

Liu Ruosong frowned and sneered, “I am not laughing, nor should you laugh. This is no laughing matter, not the least bit funny.* This is a crying matter, but you’re can’t cry.”
*(This whole sentence is a play on ‘Kexiao’)

Ding Peng should have told the truth about everything that had happened from the minute she had scampered naked into his heart until he had gone to find the old man Mei Hua for her and been hung up…until she had given him everything and he had given her everything in return. But he couldn’t say it. The facts really were so preposterous, so absurd, that if he spoke them, people would surely consider him to be a madman; an obscene and perverted madman. No matter how cruelly such a madmen was dealt with, nobody would say a word. He’d once seen with his own eyes, one such madman being lynched. Only now did he realize that the black hole he’d fallen into was a trap. This gentleman and virtuous woman didn’t just want his sword manual; they also wanted to completely destroy him as a person. Because he surely would have won this fight, he had been a threat to them. By now he should be famous in jianghu, have made a name for himself.* But now… Ding Peng suddenly lunged with all his might, throwing himself at this not at all ridiculous Madam Liu. He was ruined now, utterly ruined by her. He wanted to destroy her too. Unfortunately, some nameless youngster could never ruin a highborn, virtuous lady like Madam Liu. No sooner than he had leapt, there were already two swords thrust at him.

Mei Hua laoren shouted sternly at the top of his lungs, “I’ve kept my mouth shut throughout this, because Liu Ruosong is my younger brother*. But this is the last straw.”
*(Xiongdi-younger sworn brother).
Liu Ruosong sighed, “I had no intention of making things difficult for you. Why must you court death?”

Thunder clapped and torrential rain poured down. Sword light and lightning struck. Ding Peng’s blood stained his clothes red. His eyes were also red. He had already disregarded everything. His life was already ruined anyway, so he might as well die here, die in front of this woman. Mr. Xie didn’t intervene, neither did Zhong Zhan.

They didn’t want to deal with this anymore. This young man really didn’t deserve any sympathy. If he had rank, status and fame, if he had be born the son of some prominent family, then perhaps someone might have spoken up on his behalf, listened to his explanation.

Unfortunately he was just a poor fellow who didn’t have two sticks to rub together. The sword light glinted and pierced his shoulder. He didn’t feel any pain. He was already frantic, disoriented & numb. When a man has reached this point his survival instinct will take over. No one wants to die, indiscriminately stabbed like a mad dog stabbed. Unfortunately he was already on the road to death and it was to late to turn back. Mei Hua and Liu Ruosong’s swords encircled him like a viper. Now that he had discovered their plot, they weren’t going to let him reveal it. Now that they all believed he was guilty and deserved to be punished*, it was heaven’s law and earth’s principle** that they kill him. Liu Ruosong had already begun the fatal strike that would pierce Ding Peng’s throat.
*(zuìyǒuyīngdé-idiom meaning ‘punishment fits the crime’)
**(tiānjīngdìyì-idiom meaning ‘right and proper’)

Suddenly there was another clap of thunder, lightning and thunder struck together, and a tree on the martial arts field was blown apart. Lightning, thunderclap, thunder and fire. The huge trunk split into flames with a thunderous overwhelming force. This was the might of heaven and earth, the wrath of heaven and earth. No matter who you were, it was truly terrifying to behold. Amid the tumult, everyone involuntarily took a step back. Liu Ruosong drew back as well. Only Ding Peng rushed forward, dashing through roar and flames of the split tree trunk. He had no idea whether or not he would be able to get away or even where he was going. He had no purpose or direction. His only thought was that he must escape this trap, escape wherever he could. He used every ounce of strength he had, and when it was exhausted, he collapsed and fell into a gully. In the heavy rain, the sky was dark. The last thought he had was neither his hatred of Liu Ruosong and Kexiao (Madame Liu), nor of his own grief. His final thought was of the look in his dying father’s eyes. In the darkness those eyes had shone with love and faith. Now it was as if those bright eyes were looking at him again, still brimming with love and faith. He had cherished the thought that his son would fight to honor his name and was sure make a name for himself*. He was telling his son that he must survive.

It was the fifteenth day of the seventh month.

It was a moonlit night, a full moon.

The rain had stopped and the full moon had risen. The moon that night seemed unusually beautiful; mysteriously, coldly and heartbreakingly beautiful. Ding Peng opened his eyes and saw this full moon. He was not dead and the people who wanted him dead had not found him. Who knows if it was the will of heaven, or mere coincidence? He had fallen into that gully, the torrential rain had triggered flash floods that surged through the valley and had swept him away as well. It was a long way from where he had fallen, and climbing up from the valley, he could see a deep cave. There were mountains and trees on all sides, and the valley was damp and fresh after the rain, like a maiden (virgin) in her first bath. And like a beautiful maiden it also carried an air of mystery. This cave was like a maiden’s eyes; deep, dark and brimming with an air of mysterious attraction. As if compelled forward by this mysterious attraction, as if drawn in by this mysterious attraction, Ding Peng could not help but to enter this foreboding place. Moonlight shone in from outside revealing the murals that covered the four walls of the cave. However, these paintings did not depict the human world, rather heaven. Only in heaven could one behold such a magnificent palace, a warrior adorned in golden armor holding a golden spear, his topknot flowing, and the plumed clothes of a royal maiden. There were jewels and treasures, the likes of which could not be found on earth, spread out everywhere. The fragrant smell of flowers and fruits permeated the air. The men were like majestic gods, the women like noble immortals.

Ding Peng had been made to look foolish. All his dreams had been shattered; the once bright future had turned to darkness. On earth he had been deceived, humiliated, belittled and wronged. He had been forced down a dead end. There were no prospects for him on earth, no future, he had been completely ruined. The stain on his honor could never be washed away in this lifetime. He was never going to get ahead, even if he kept his word, he would have to watch those who had deceived, insulted and wronged him flaunt their power*. He could never defeat these people. So what was the point of living? Although the human world is hot and there is no natural justice, there is always some in heaven. Injustices suffered on earth can only be appealed in heaven. He was still young and should not think like this. But when someone has finally reached the end of his rope and has fallen to the point of no return, how could he think otherwise? He suddenly wanted to die. Dying was indeed much easier than living like this, also more agreeable. Being deceived, deceived by the first woman he’d fallen in love with would be too much for anyone to endure; enough to make it impossible for a young man to go on living. He suddenly found his sword still firmly grasped in his hand. This sword could not lift him up to fame and glory, so it would be better to die under it. He raised the sword, preparing to pierce his throat with the tip of the blade.
*(Yàowǔyángwēi-to show off one’s military strength; idiom meaning strut around, bluster)

Just then, a gust of wind suddenly blew over. There seemed to be a shadow within the wind. A dim shadow, with a faint fragrance, flew past him, then just as suddenly disappeared. The sword had also disappeared from his hand. Ding Peng was startled. He felt a chill rising from the soles of his feet, and suddenly his whole body was ice-cold. Could there be a ghost here? This cave was already mysterious enough, but now the flickering shadows of ghosts seemed to fill the darkness. But since he was already determined to die, why should he fear ghosts? A ghost is nothing but a dead person. One can die without a sword. Ding Peng hated that not only did people want to bully him, but on the point of death, even ghosts wanted to play tricks on him. He gritted his teeth and used all his strength to ram his head into the rock wall. Whether a human owed him an apology or a ghost played tricks on him, he must settle these accounts after he died. But he did not die. His head did not hit the wall, because another gust of wind blew and a person appeared in front of it. His head collided with this person’s body. This was worse than hitting the wall, because no person on earth could have appeared so quickly. He was shocked and drew back. That’s when he finally saw this ‘person’, a stunning beauty with a high (hair) bun and plumed garments, just like the immortal in the mural. Had she come out of the mural? Her left hand held a wicker basket full of flowers, her right hand held a sword. Ding Peng’s sword. She was looking at Ding Peng, smiling. Her smile was sweet, soft, pure and noble. Whatever else she may be, at least she didn’t look frightening. Once Ding Peng finally caught his breath and could speak again, he immediately opened his mouth to ask, “Are you a person or a ghost?” It was a ridiculous question, but one that anybody in this situation would ask.

With a hint of amusement in her eyes, she retorted, “Do you know what day today is?”

Ding Peng said, “It’s the fifteenth day of the seventh month.”

This stunningly beautiful woman who appeared to have come out of the mural said, “Do you know what the fifteenth day of the seventh month is?”

Ding Peng finally remembered that today was the Mid-Autumn Festival*, it was the festival of ghosts. Tonight the Gates of Hell are opened. Tonight all the ghosts from the Mansion of Hell have arrived in the world. Ding Peng blurted out, “Are you a ghost?”
*[Mid-Autumn Festival-traditional moon viewing festival. I am a little confused here. Everything in the text says it is the fifteenth day of the seventh month, but according to the net the Mid-autumn fest is the fifteenth of the eighth month]

This beautiful woman sweetly said, “Do I look like a ghost?” She didn’t seem to be.

Ding Peng couldn’t help but to ask, “Are you a heavenly immortal?”

The beauty’s smiled faded a bit, “I very much want you to believe I’m a heavenly immortal, but I dare not lie. Because if I pretend to be an immortal I will be taken prisoner and cast into the 18th level of hell.”

Ding Peng said, “Whatever you are, you’re not a person.”

She said, “Of course I’m not person.”

Ding Peng involuntarily took two steps back and said, ”You… what are you?”

“I am a fox.”

“A fox?”

“Could it be that you have never heard of a ‘fox’ on earth?” asked the beauty. Ding Peng had heard of them. There were many legends related to “foxes”. There were some who were very beautiful, some who were very frightening. Because ‘foxes’ were enigmatic.

If they liked you, they would give you all the glory and wealth in the world and luck beyond your wildest dreams. But they can also charm you, til your soul vanishes and your bones are scattered, charm you to death.

Even if no one had ever seen them, no one could deny their existence either.

The only constant in all the legends was that foxes often took human form, moreover, they liked to take the form of a beautiful woman.

Ding Peng looked at the beautiful woman in front of him with amazement, his freshly dried clothes were now damp with cold sweat.

Had he really met a “fox”?

The pale moonlight shone in and illuminated her beautiful pale face, so pale that it seemed transparent.

Only someone who had never seen sunlight would have a complexion like her. Of course a ‘fox’ wouldn’t have been exposed to sunlight.

Ding Peng suddenly laughed.

The beauty seemed slightly baffled. No one who met a fox immortal had ever been able to laugh.

She couldn’t help but to ask, “Do you think this is funny?”

“This is no laughing matter,” Ding Peng said. “But you also don’t scare me either.”


“Because I’m not the least bit afraid of you.” Ding Peng said, “Whether you’re a ghost or a fox, I am not scared of you.”

“Everybody is afraid of ghosts and foxes.” She asked, “What makes you so unexpectedly fearless?”

Ding Peng said, “Because I want to die anyway.” He was still laughing. “If you are a ghost, I will also become a ghost after I die, why should I be afraid of you?”

The beauty sighed, “It’s certainly true that after someone dies, there is nothing to be afraid anymore.”

Ding Peng said, “That’s right!” The beauty said,

“But why should such a young man want to die?” she asked.

Ding Peng also sighed, “Sometimes young people want to die.”

“You really want to die?”


“You must die?”

“I must die.” The beauty said,

“Too bad you forgot one thing,” said the beauty.

“What?” he asked.

She said, “You haven’t died yet. You’re still a person.” Ding Peng acknowledge this.

“The fact is I am a fox, a fox immortal, and I have magical powers, you don’t,” she said. “So if I don’t want you do not die, you will never die. Unless…”

“Unless what?”

“Unless you first tell me why it is you must die?”

Ding Peng suddenly jumped up and shouted, “Why should I tell you? Why do you want me to tell you?” Whenever he thought about that incident he was immediately overcome with grief and anger, “I refuse to tell you. Can you drag it out of me? Nothing matters except death. If a man is determined to die, why should he be afraid of what others can do to him?”

The beauty looked at him intently and suddenly smiled again, “Now I ‘m convinced. It seems that you truly want to die.”

Ding Peng said, “I absolutely do.”

She suddenly asked, “What is your name?”

“Why do you ask my name?”

“When you die and become a ghost, we’ll be just like neighbors,” she said. “Maybe we’ll see each other often, so of course I want to know your name.”

“Why not tell me your name first?” He said, “A fox must have a name too.”

The beauty sweetly said, “I have a name. I will tell you.” She said, “My name is Qing Qing.” Qing Qing was dressed head to toe in a dress as blue as a clear spring sky, as blue as a clear lake under clear sky. Her beauty was as mysterious and hazy as a distant mountain reflected in the lake. Qing Qing’s waist was as slender and supple as a willow in a spring breeze. Her scimitar was sheathed in a sterling silver scabbard, the top of its hilt inlaid with a lustrous, rounded pearl. Her eyes were even brighter and gentler than the pearl. Ding Peng was not the least bit scared of her. Whether she was a human or a fox, she was not frightening. If Qing Qing was a human, she’s certainly a beautiful one. If she was a fox, she was a kind, gentle and beautiful fox, who would never hurt anyone. Her scimitar also looked like it would not hurt someone.

Ding Peng suddenly asked, “You use a saber (dāo) too?”

Qing Qing, "Why can’t I use a saber?

He asked, “Have you ever killed anyone?”

Qing Qing shook her head, “A person who knows how to use a saber, doesn’t necessarily want to kill people.”

Ding Peng sighed and said, “People who kill don’t necessarily use a saber.” He now realized that some people could kill people with using a saber. This was a far crueler way to kill someone.

Qing Qing asked, “Have you met this person?”

Ding Peng grunted, “En!”

”So even though he didn’t kill you with a saber, you still have to die,” she said.
Ding Peng smiled bitterly, “I’d rather he had killed me with a saber.”

Qing Qing said, “Can you tell me what happened to you, so I can seen whether or not you must die?” He couldn’t tell anyone about this, because no one would believe it even he did.

But Qing Qing was not a person. She was a fox.

A fox is far cleverer than a person and could surely tell if he was telling the truth.

Ding Peng was afraid of her laughing at his ignorance, so he finally told her of the calamity that had befallen him.

If you reveal what is in your heart, telling someone even though you really don’t want to say it, then even if you die, you will die without regrets.

Ding Peng heaved a deep sigh and said, “Do you think that a person who has gone this ought to die?

Qing Qing listened quietly then let out a soft “yes.”

Ding Peng asked, “Can I die now?”

Qing Qing said, “You can die!” Whether it was a person or a fox, both thought he really should die. It was indeed better to die rather than go on living like this.

Ding Peng sighed again and said, “Just go!”

“Why do you want me to leave?” she asked.

“When a man dies, he won’t look good,” he said. “Why would you want to stay here to watch?”

She replied, “There are many ways to die, however. You should choose a more attractive way to die.”

Ding Peng said, “Death is death. All death is the same. Why should I choose an attractive way to die?”

She said, “For me!”

Ding Peng didn’t understand, “For you?”

“I have never seen someone die.” Qing Qing said, “I’m begging you to die a pretty death. Let me watch, okay?”

Ding Peng laughed bitterly. He’d never imagined that anyone would actually make such a ridiculous request of him. Unexpectedly, he did not refuse, “I’m going to die anyway, it doesn’t matter how.”

Qing Qing sweetly replied, “That’s really kind of you.”

He said, “It’s just a pity that I really don’t know which the best way to die is.”

Qing Qing said, “I know.”

Ding Peng said, “Okay, I will die how you want me to die.”

Qing Qing said, “Not far from here, there is a place called the Valley of Sorrow.* In the valley there is a Forgetfulness Grass^. An ordinary person will forget all their worries and sorrows after taking only one leaf of Forgetfulness Grass.” She looked at Ding Peng, “The people of the world are so foolish. Who can truly forget all their worries and sorrow?”
*(Yōuchóu-worry, sadness, troubles, sorrow; gǔ –could be valley of or (_ ) valley. I went with Valley of Sorrow as it was more poetic)
^(wàng yōu cǎo-lit. forget sorrow (worry) grass; daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)].

Ding Peng replied, “Only the dead!”

She sighed softly, “What you say is true, only dead people have no worry.”

“That kind of death is beautiful?" asked Ding Peng.

She said, “As far as I know, this is the sweetest way to die, whether in heaven or on earth.”

Ding Peng asked, “Is that place far from here?”

She said, “Not far!” She turned around and walked slowly towards the darkest part of the cave. Sadness and darkness are always inseparable. The Valley of Sorrow was naturally located in the darkness, an endless darkness that seemed to go on forever. Ding Peng couldn’t see Qing Qing, nor could he hear the sound of her footsteps. He could only smell the faint, delicate, scent of her body. He followed her scent and walked on. The cave was far deeper than he imagined. He didn’t know how long he’d been walking or where he was going. The smell became stronger. Besides hers, there was also the fragrance of flowers. The smell of the flowers seemed to become vulgar when compared to her sweet scent.

“Is she really a fox?” Ding Peng didn’t believe it. He didn’t want to believe it. He was still young, if she was a person…

“I am already going to die anyway. Whether she is a human or a ghost, what does it have to do with me?” Ding Peng sighed to himself and stopped thinking about it. “Are there also flowers in the Valley of Sorrow?”

Qing Qing said, “Of course there are. There are all kinds of flowers. I guarantee you have never seen so many flowers.” Her voice was gentle, like a spring breeze wafting in from a distant mountain. “I guarantee you’ve never seen such a stunningly beautiful place.” She hadn’t lied or even exaggerated. The Valley of Sorrow was indeed an unfortunate and very beautiful place, even more so under the moonlight, as beautiful as a dream.

A person who has just emerged from the endless darkness and suddenly finds himself in this beautiful place, would find it hard to believe they weren’t dreaming.

Ding Peng couldn’t help but ask, “This is not a dream?”


“Why is this place called the Valley of Sorrow?”

“Because this is the other side of the boundary between mortals and gods, neither can come here as they please.”


“Because when a god comes here, he is demoted to being a human. When a man comes here, he becomes a ghost.”

“Only dying men and gods who have been demoted to mortals have the ability to come here?”


“That’s why this place is called the Valley of Sorrow?”

“Yes.” Qing Qing said, “Whether it is god or man, so long as you come here, you will meet misfortune. Only we foxes, who are neither human nor ghost, can come and go as we please.” What she said was really too astonishing and mysterious.

But Ding Peng did not doubt it.

This was not the human world. There was no trace of mortals ever having been here.

No matter how they die, if a person could die here, then they should no longer have anything to complain about.

Ding Peng said, “Where is that Forgetfulness Grass?” Qing Qing did not respond to his words. She was staring at block of bluestone (a type of limestone) off in the distance. The white jade-like block of stone towered like a lonely giant under the moonlight. There seemed to be no flowers on the rock, only one tuft of dark green grass, greener than an emerald and more beautiful than a flower.
*[The text says “a kind (type) of white jade rock” Yīkuài báiyù bān de yánshí. I am just using white jade rock/stone and it reads better.]

Ding Peng asked, “That’s the Forgetfulness Grass?”

Qing Qing finally nodded and said, “Yes.” She took his arm and led him towards that block of stone, “The leaves of the Forgetfulness Grass only blossom once a year, only three at a time. You have come a little late, its leaves are about to wither.”

Ding Peng said, “This is merely a poisonous weed, nothing more, it’s hard to believe it’s so precious.”

Qing Qing said, “This is not a poisonous weed. This is Forgetfulness Grass. Forgetting one’s sorrows is no easy thing.” She asked Ding Peng, “Wouldn’t you say so?”

Ding Peng said, “Yes.”

Just then, a dark shadow suddenly flew in, blocking the moonlight like a black cloud.

Of course, it was not a black cloud, merely a pale eagle.

The eagle circled under the moonlight. It hovered like a black cloud above the white jade rock.

Suddenly there was a puzzled expression on Qing Qing’s pale face. She furrowed her brow and said, “It seems like you’re not the only one who’s looking for this Forgetfulness Grass today!”

Ding Peng looked up at the eagle in the moonlight and said, "Could that actually be a god?”

Qing Qing shook her head and said, “It’s just an eagle!”

Ding Peng said, “Why would an eagle look for Forgetfulness Grass? Do eagles also have worries and troubles?”

Before Qing Qing could open her mouth to respond, the eagle suddenly swooped down like a meteor towards the Forgetfulness Grass on the rock.

The eagle’s movements were much faster than anyone else, and even more accurate.

Unbelievably, Qing Qing was even faster. She gently scolded, “Go.”

As she uttered the rebuke, her body had already flown up like a drifting cloud, floating up onto the rock.

He sleeves also like a floated like a cloud as she brandished them towards the eagle’s eyes.

The eagle let out a long cry, soaring off in a dignified manner. In the blink of an eye it had disappeared into the sinister, distant darkness.

The full moon regained its brightness.

Ding Peng sighed to himself.

If he had her ability*, why would he need to be afraid of Liu Ruosong? Why would he want to die?
*(shēnfǎ- pose or motion of one’s body in martial arts)

Unfortunately, ability like hers was something that no mortal could ever aspire to.

He saw Qing Qing beckoning to him, “Can you come up here?”

“I’ll try!”

The smooth, mirror-like rock was slippery and unforgiving. He wasn’t sure if he could make it to the top.

But he definitely had to try.

Whether she was a human or a fox, she was always a female, and he didn’t want her to look down on him.

He tried over and over. His whole body was beaten black and blue.

She stood leisurely on the rock and watched him fall again and again. She did not pull him up, nor did intend to.

“No matter what it is you want, you must rely on your own ability.”

“A person without ability won’t live a good life, nor will he die a good death.”

He gritted his teeth and began climbing again. This time he almost succeeded. He nearly reached the flat top of the rock.

Just then the eagle suddenly flew back. The wind from its wings struck him head on.

He fell again. This fall was worse. The higher you climb, the harder you’ll fall.

Dazed, he seemed to hear the eagle sneer, ““Is someone like you fit to seek the Forgotten Grass?”

However, this was only an eagle, not a god. An eagle can’t sneer, much less speak. A man riding on the eagle’s back had spoken.

The eagle was circling, and the man had flown down, like a leaf landing lightly on a rock.

A mortal would never have such ethereal ability*.
*(qīngmiào de shēnfǎ-wonderfully gentle movement in his martial arts).

His body gave off a golden light under the bright moonlight. He wore a three-foot long robe* woven from golden silk.
*(páozi- Chinese style lined gown)

Because this man was only three feet tall, his three-foot long gown dragged on the ground.

His beard was even longer than his golden robe. His sword was longer than his beard.

The three-foot tall man carried a four-foot-long sword on his back, its golden scabbard dragged on the ground.

The man really didn’t look like a person either.

Maybe he was not a man at all, but a god. This was never meant to be a place where mortals could come.

Why should a man who couldn’t succeed on earth come here?

If a man couldn’t defeat another man, how could he compete with a god or a fox?

Ding Peng suddenly regretted ever having come here.

The golden robe, golden beard and golden sword all emitted golden light.

The old man’s (laoren) body was less than four-feet tall, but his demeanor and aura were like those of a ten-foot tall giant.

He suddenly asked, “Are you the one who scared my son away just now?”

He was asking Qing Qing, yet he hadn’t so much as glanced at her, as if there was no one in the world worthy of bestowing his gaze upon.

“You’re son?” Qing Qing laughed, “Is that bird your son?”

The old man said, “That’s not a bird. It is an eagle, a divine eagle, a god among eagles.”

He spoke with a solemn and thoughtful expression, for what he said was in now way a lie or a joke.

Qing Qing was still laughing, “Isn’t an eagle also a bird, your son is a bird. Are you also a bird?”

The old man was furious. He was already half bald and when he was enraged his remaining hairs stood up one by one.

It is said when a person has practice qinggong to a very high level, his hair will literally stand on end when he is angry.

However, there was no one in the entire world who had trained their qinggong to such a high level. No person could even hope to reach this level of power.

Yet Qing Qing didn’t seem the least bit afraid, because she was not human.

She was a fox.

It was said that foxes were not afraid of anything.

Unexpectedly, the old man’s anger quickly subsided and he said coldly, “You are able to startle my eagle son (yīng er), your power is really not weak.”

Qing Qing said, “Oh!”

The old man said, “But I won’t kill you!”

He proudly said, “Because there are only two people left in the world who are qualified enough to be killed by me.”

Qing Qing said, “Aiya! (damn)”

“What do you mean by ‘aiya’?” asked the old man.

She said, “Oh, that means you can still kill me if you really want to.”


Qing Qing said, “Because I am not a human being at all.”

The old man asked, “What thing are you?”

“I am not a thing. I am a fox,” she replied.

The old man sneered and said, “Fox spirits are something else altogether, not even fit to allow your old man to draw his sword.”
(wǒ laorenjia-cocky way of referring to self)

Not only was he extremely imposing, he was also extremely bold.

He still had not even glanced at Qing Qing, strolling towards the Forgetfulness Grass with his hands behind his back.

–Could someone like him have sorrows to forget?

Qing Qing suddenly blocked his way and said, “You must not disturb this Forgetfulness Grass. You can’t even touch it.”

The old man didn’t even bother to ask her why.

Now that she was right in front of him, he couldn’t help but look at her. But he still did not look up at her face.

He kept his focus on the saber* in her belt, the light green handle of the curved saber. Qing Qing’s scimitar brightly glinted under the full moon. The old man suddenly stretched out a bird claw-like hand and said, “Bring it here!”
*[Dāo-a single edged bladed weapon, as opposed to jian-sword-a double edged weapon. Dāo is often translated as knife, but knife has a different connotation in the west. So I went with saber. Dāo can also refer to a blow from a saber.]

Qing Qing asked, “Bring what?”

“You’re saber.”

“Why should I allow you to hold my saber?” she asked.

The old man said, “Because I want to see it.”

“You have already seen it.”

“I want to see the saber,” he said, “not the scabbard.”

Qing Qing said, “I advise you, it’s quite enough to just look at the scabbard, never at the saber.”

The old man said, “Why?”

Qing Qing said, “Because this saber is absolutely not to be seen.”

She sighed softly, “Because everyone who has seen this saber has already died under it.”

The old man suddenly lifted his head to look at her face. Her face was pale and beautiful, so poignant and mysterious, so beautiful that any man could not help but be moved by a single glance at it. This old man’s reaction was completely different. His pupils suddenly contracted, and his eyes suddenly revealed an expression of extreme fear. He involuntarily gasped and cried out, “It’s you!”

Could this old man have seen Qing Qing before? Could he have known Qing Qing before? Suddenly, the old man shook his head again and said, ““No it’s not, absolutely not. You are still young. You are too young.”

Qing Qing was also felt slightly bewildered and said, “"Do I remind you of someone?”

The old man said, “I don’t recognize you, I only recognize this saber. I could not be mistaken, could I?”

He suddenly asked Qing Qing, “Are there seven characters engraved on this saber?”

Qing Qing answered his question with a question, “Which seven characters?”

The old man said, ‘Listen to the Spring Rain All Night in the Small Building’.

‘Listen to the Spring Rain All Night in the Small House.’ This was a poem, a very beautiful poem, so poignant and heartbreakingly beautiful.

Ding Peng had also read this poem.

When he read or heard this line of poetry, his heart would be filled with a sense of melancholy; a melancholy of “wanting to say more, wanting to say no more”, a beautiful feeling.

But Qing Qing and the old man reacted differently when the seven characters were spoken. The old man’s hand trembled and his face changed. When she heard these seven characters, Qing Qing’s face also changed. She suddenly dropped the basket of flowers in her hand and grabbed the hilt of the saber.

The curved hilt of the saber.

The hilt of the Qing Qing’s scimitar was also curved.

Chapter 4-Scimitar

The basket of flowers tumbled down from the top of the bluestone, scattering the flowers like colorful rain.

It was floral rain, not spring rain.

There was no spring rain here, only the moon, the full moon.

Why did they have such a strange reaction to hearing this line of poetry under this full moon?

Qing Qing’s hand tightly grasped the curved hilt of the green scimitar.

The old man kept his eyes on her hand.

He no longer needed to ask. She never would have reacted this way if the seven words hadn’t been on the saber.

There was an extremely strange look in the old man’s eyes. Was it surprise, joy or fear?

He suddenly looked up at the sky, laughing manically, “This is indeed the saber. Heaven has eyes*. I have finally found this saber.” He unsheathed his sword while laughing maniacally.
*(there is justice, justice has been done)
A three-foot man with a four-foot long sword, but there was absolutely nothing funny about the sword in this man’s hand.

Once this sword made its move, absolutely no one would still notice that he was a dwarf.

For as soon as this sword was unsheathed, a powerful aura of compelling sword energy (qi) was unleashed.

Even at the bottom of the rock, Ding Peng could already feel this sword qi. The bone-chilling, murderous sword qi forced him to shut his eyes. When he opened is eyes again, all he could see was the sword light flying everywhere. The sword light enveloped Qing Qing. The sword whistled as the sword qi split the air.

The old man’s voice could still be heard could amid the whistle of the sword wind. He heard him say word for word, “You are not going to draw your saber (now that I’ve drawn mine).” Qing Qing had yet to draw her saber.

With Qing Qing’s scimitar still in its curved scabbard, the old man suddenly shouted, “Kill!” The shout was like thunder, the sword light like lighting, but even lightning was not so bright, so fast! In the instant the sword flashed, Qing Qing’s body dropped from the top of the rock, like a flower petal that suddenly withered and fell from the stem. She dropped to the ground from the top of the ten-foot rock and collapsed. The old man didn’t let her off. He dropped down from the rock as gently and slowly as a leaf. He wielded his unsheathed sword, pointing the tip right at Qing Qing’s heart. This move was absolutely a deadly move, accurate, vicious, fast and merciless. Ding Peng never would have thought that such swordsmanship could exist in the mortal world. This old man was definitely not human. He was a god. A god of death. Qing Qing lay fallen beside him. She had absolutely no ability to resist or dodge. When he saw the sword coming down, Ding Peng had suddenly leapt over and threw himself across Qing Qing’s body. “I already want to die, I might as well die already.” He had suddenly felt an uncontrollable urge. No matter what, he and Qing Qing came here together. Regardless of whether she was a human or a fox, in the end, she was good to him. How could he possibly watch her die under someone else’s sword? But there was no harm in him dying under another person’s sword. Since he already intended to die, what did it matter how he died. He threw himself across Qing Qing. He was willing to take a sword for her. The sword light flashed and pierced his back, but he did not feel any pain. Real pain, on the contrary, does not cause people to suffer. He only felt very cold; an irresistible chill suddenly pierced his back and penetrated to his marrow. Just then, he saw Qing Qing pull out her saber. Qing Qing’s scimitar was green. By the time the green sword light flew up, Ding Peng’s eyes were already closed. He did not see her scimitar, he only heard the old man cry out in alarm. Then he fell into darkness, vast, bottomless, infinite darkness.

Suddenly there was a light in the darkness, moonlight, a full moon. When Ding Peng opened his eyes he saw a full moon like a circle of ice. He also saw Qing Qing’s eyes, which were even gentler than the moonlight. Whether in heaven or on earth, there would never be a second pair of eyes this beautiful. He was still beside Qing Qing. Regardless of whether he was dead or alive, in heaven or on earth, Qing Qing was still beside him, her eyes glistening with tears. She was crying for him. Ding Peng suddenly laughed and said, “It seems like I no longer need the Forgetfulness Grass, but I feel like this is a much better way to die anyway.” He reached out his hand to gently wipe the tearstains from her face. “I never thought that there would be someone to cry for me when I died.”

Qing Qing’s expression changed, however, even her body began to tremble and she suddenly asked, “Am I really crying?”

Ding Peng said, “Really. Not only are you crying, you are crying for me.”

Qing Qing’s expression became even stranger, as if she’d become unspeakably afraid. It seemed like, to her, shedding tears was akin to something terrifying. However, it seemed that in the midst of her fear were born seeds of indescribable joy. This was an extremely strange reaction. Ding Peng could not guess why she had reacted this way. He couldn’t help but say, “No matter what, I will always die for you, you weep for me…”

Qing Qing suddenly interrupted him and said, “You have not died, nor will you die.”

He asked, “Why?”
“Because you already died once,” she said. “Now that you’re already here, you will not die again.”

Ding Peng finally realized that this was not the beautiful Valley of Sorrow, but somewhere even more beautiful. The full moon was outside the window, which was full of fresh flowers. He was lying on a bed that was softer than snow. A pearl hung before the bed, so bright, its light outshined the moonlight. He felt as if he had been here before, but he also knew that if he had been here, it must have been in a dream. For there was never such a magnificent palace on earth, much less such a pearl.

“What is this place?”

Qing Qing bowed her head and quietly said, “This is my home.”

Ding Peng finally realized why he’d just had a feeling of déjà vu about this place. He had seen this place before. He had seen it in the pictures. The four walls of the cave had been covered in murals, not of earth, but of heaven. He couldn’t help asking, “Are you the only one here?” Qing Qing didn’t answer.

“There is no one here," said someone outside the little door with the beaded curtain draped over it. A grannie* with hair so white it looked silver lifted the beaded curtain with a cane and slowly walked in. She was tall with a dignified and noble manner. Her hair was completely white, but her back was still straight and her eyes still bright. *(lǎopópo-term of endearment for an old woman)

Qing Qing stood up with her head hanging down and quietly cried out, “Grandma!”* This grannie was Qing Qing’s paternal grandmother (zǔmǔ). A young and beatuful fox lady^ returns to her fox den with a down and out young man to meet her strict and eccentric grandmother… This kind of thing was only supposed to happen in mysterious folk tales, but it actually happened to Ding Peng. What else will happen in the future? What will they do to him? Ding Peng could not predict? A mortal like him was helpless in a place like this.
*(Nǎinai-informal address for paternal grandmother)
^ (húnǚ-fox lady- in folk stories, a beautiful girl who will seduce you then reveals herself as a ghost)

Grannie looked at him coldly and added, “You should know that there isn’t even a single person here, because none of us are human, we’re foxes.”

Ding Peng only acknowledged, “I know.”

Grannie said, "Do you know that this is not a place where mortals should come?

Ding Peng said, “I know.”

“Now that you’ve come, you don’t regret it?” asked the old woman

Ding Peng said, “I don’t regret it.”

He was telling the truth.

What was there to regret for someone who was already about to die?

The only way he could remain on earth was to be bullied and wronged. So why shouldn’t he come to this other world?

Although they were foxes, they treated him much better than those who considered themselves to be gentlemen.

Grannie asked, “If we want you to stay, will you stay?”

“I will.”

She asked, “Have you really grown weary of the world of men?”


Grannie asked, “Why?”

He replied, “I…I have neither friends nor loose acquaintances out there. Even if I die in the gutter, no one will collect my body or shed a tear for me.” The more he talked, the worse he felt, until even his voice was all choked up.

Grannie’s gaze gradually softened and she said, “You took that sword on Qingqing’s behalf, and you did it willingly?"

“Of course I’m willing to die,” Ding Peng said, “even if she wants me to die for her now, I’ll still die.”


Ding Peng said, “I don’t know why. I only know that after I die, at least she will shed tears for.”

She had a strange look in her eyes, and suddenly asked Qing Qing, “You have already shed tears for him?” Qing Qing nodded silently, and a faint red blush actually rose on her pale face.

Grannie stared at her for a long time, and then turned her head and stared at Ding Peng for a long time as well.

Her stern gaze gradually softened, and she suddenly heaved a long sigh and murmured, "Is this fate, or is it evil?.. Is this fate, or is it evil?..” She tossed the words around and said them who knew how many times, as if even she didn’t know the answer to that question herself.

She sighed deeply and said, “You have now died once for her, and she has shed tears for you.”

Ding Peng said, “But I…”

Before he could speak, grannie suddenly shouted, “You come with me!” Ding Peng stood up, only to find that his wound had been bandaged, and a refreshing medicinal smell emanated from the clean white cotton cloth.

That blow should have been absolutely fatal, but now was he able to not only stand up, he didn’t feel any pain.

He followed the old woman out of the small door with the beaded curtain. He couldn’t help but look back.

Qing Qing was also watching him furtively, with an even stranger expression in her eyes. He didn’t know whether she was shy or happy he was being scolded.

Outside was a garden, an enormous garden.

The full moon was hanging high and all kinds of flowers were in full bloom. The flowers that should bloom in the seventh month were all here and in full bloom. The flowers that shouldn’t bloom in the seventh month were also here and in full bloom.

The paths between the flowers were lined with glittering jade cobblestones. At the end of the path was a small house.

Grannie took Ding Peng up to the small building. A man in black stood with his hands clasped behind his back. He was staring at a scroll* hanging on the wall, lost in his thoughts.
*(tiáofú- wall scroll {for painting or calligraphy})

There were only seven words on the banner, and each character was written in a solitary and refined manner: ‘Listen to the Spring Rain All Night in the Small House’ When she saw the back of this man in black, grannie’s eyes became tender.

When the man turned around, Ding Peng was taken aback by what he saw.

If he were not a man, if he was not older, Ding Peng would absolutely believe this was Qing Qing.

His brow, his eyes, his mouth, his nose and his expression were all identical to Qing Qing.

Ding Peng was thinking, “If this man is not Qing Qing’s father, he must be her older brother.” He seemed a little too old to be Qing Qing’s big brother, and a little too young to be her father.

Ding Peng couldn’t actually tell how old he was.

His complexion was exactly like Qing Qing’s, so pale it was almost transparent.

He was not as respectful as Qing Qing when he saw the grannie. He merely smiled faintly and said, “Well?”

Grannie sighed and said, “I don’t know what should be done. It’s up to you.”

He laughed, “I knew you push this matter off on me!”

She also laughed, “If I can’t push it off on you, who can I push it off on?” Even though they were conversing lightly, their expressions seemed to carry an overwhelming affection.

Their manner seemed like neither that of mother and son, nor grandmother and grandson.

This surprised Ding Peng.

Grannie then said something that surprised him even more, “You are Qing Qing’s grandfather and the head of the family. So it is natural to yield to you to decide in a matter like this.” This man was actually Qing Qing’s (zǔfù-paternal) grandfather.

At most, he seemed to be no more than close to middle aged. Ding Peng would never have dreamed that he and this grannie were a married couple.

The man was looking at him as if he could clearly see what was going through Ding Peng’s mind. With a smile he said, “You should know by now that we are foxes. So you should not be too surprised by anything you see here.” He smiled pleasantly, “Because we do have some remarkable abilities* that mortals couldn’t dream of.” Ding Peng was also smiling.
*(shéntōng-magical powers, remarkable abilities)

He seemed to have gradually grown accustomed to being around them. He realized that these foxes weren’t as scary as the legends made them out to be.

Although they were foxes, they had humanity, and were even gentler and more kind-hearted than most people.

The man in black was clearly satisfied with his attitude and said, “I never thought I would marry Qing Qing to a mortal. But once you died for her, she shed tears for you.” His smile faded, “You must understand: Foxes never shed tears. Fox tears are more precious than blood. She wept for you, which means she was genuinely moved by your true love. If you were able to meet her, it means that you two are fated* for each other." In both the human world and the fox world, ‘true love’ and ‘fate’ are inseparable.
*(yuan-fate, karma, predestined affinity)

The man in green said, “This is why I am unwilling to break up this fated love* between you.” Grannie suddenly butted it, “You’ve promised to allow Qing Qing to marry him?” He said, “I promise.”
*(qíngyuán-predestined love, love affinity)

Ding Peng hadn’t said a word because he was completely bewildered.

He never thought he would come to a fox world, much less that he would marry a fox girl. —

What would happen to a mortal who took a fox girl as his wife? —

Was it possible for a mortal to survive in the world of foxes? —

Could the fox’s magical abilities help this mortal?

These questions had never crossed his mind before, and were now simply unimaginable.

All he knew was that his destiny was undoubtedly going to change from then on.

Whatever future fate had in store for him, he had nothing to complain about.

Because he had been at the end of his rope, a dead man.

Most importantly, he was convinced that Qing Qing did indeed have true feelings* for him.
*(zhēn-true qing-love, feelings, affection; ie-True Love)

Amidst his confusion, he seemed to hear the man in black explain, “Although you may enjoy many things a mortal could never dream of after you become our granddaughter’s husband, and although we have always been carefree here, we also have one taboo.” “If you become our granddaughter’s husband, you can never again return to the mortal world.” “It is only because we know that you are tired of the human world that we have taken you in.” “As long as you promise that you will not violate our taboo, you are now our grandson-in-law." He no longer had any family or friends in the world of men. He had only been insulted, bullied and humiliated in the world of men.

But this fox girl had true feelings* for him.

“I promise!” Ding Peng heard himself saying, “I promise.”

Grannie also smiled and came over to hug him, “We don’t have anything for you either, so considered this our engagement gift to you.” What she gave him was a scimitar.

A green scimitar.

A green scimitar with a blade that was also green, as green as the distant hills, as green as the spring trees, as green as a lake in the eyes of lovers.

Sure enough, there were seven characters engraved on the green scimitar: ‘Listen to the Spring Rain All Night in the Small House’. This was a deep valley, serene and secluded, bounded by unattainable precipices. It seemed as if there was simply no way out.

Even if there was a way out, it was by no means accessible to mortals.

The valley was not large, even though there were palaces, gardens and pavilions. Although the scene was the same as the one in the cave murals, it was only a fraction of what was in those paintings.

Qing Qing’s parents had both passed away. ----

Foxes can also die?

Qing Qing had a clever servant called Xi’er who liked to smile, revealing two very deep dimples. ----

Was Xi’er a fox too?

They had eight devoted servants, all with grey hair, that were nevertheless vigorous and spry. ----

Were they all foxes?

They were the only people in the valley. No stranger had ever steeped foot in the place.

Life in the valley was comfortable and peaceful, far more than in the human world…

Now that Ding Peng had become accustomed to life in the valley, he became accustomed to the habit of carrying the scimitar on his waist.

He always carried the scimitar in his belt, except when he was sleeping.

It was a belt made of gold and white jade.

But he knew the scimitar was far more precious than this belt.

On their third day as newlyweds, Qing Qing said to him, “Grandma must be really fond of you, that’s the only way she would give you this scimitar. You must cherish it.” He also hadn’t forgotten what Qing Qing had said to that mysterious old dwarf in the Valley of Sorrow that day, “This saber must absolutely not be looked at. Anyone who has seen this saber has died under it.” That old dwarf had certainly died under the saber as well.----

Was he a man, a ghost or a fox?----

How did he know that the saber was engraved with the words, ‘Listen to the Spring Rain All Night in the Small House’? —

What exactly was the mysterious origin or this saber, its mysterious power?

It wasn’t that Ding Peng hadn’t asked these questions, but Qing Qing always cautioned him, “This is something you’re better off not knowing. There’s bound to be disaster if you know.” Now, he had not only seen the saber, he possessed it.

He should have been quite content.

However, one day he wanted return it to Qing Qing.

Qing Qing was baffled, “Why don’t you want this saber?”

“Because it’s useless to me!" He said, “This saber is basically just scrap metal in my hands.”

“Because I have not learned your saber technique!”

Qing Qing finally understood what he meant.

“If you want to learn my saber technique, I will teach you!”

She didn’t really want to impart this saber technique to him, because she knew there was no benefit to a mortal in mastering it.

Although this saber technique could bring a man infinite power, it could also bring him disaster.

Yet, in the end, she still taught it to him, because she never refused him, never disappointed him.

Although she was an orphan, she was far more virtuous* and tender than most men’s wives in the mortal world.
*(xiánhuì-perfect in traditional roles of a wife)

Anyone with a wife like her should be content.

This kind of saber technique was not of the human world. It’s variations and power was beyond the dreams of mortals.

It never crossed Ding Peng’s mind that he would be able to train in such a miraculous, exquisite saber technique. But he had perfected it.

In terms of practicing martial arts, even Qing Qing had to admit that he was a genius in this respect.

She trained for seven years to perfect this technique. He accomplished it in three.

Life in the valley was not only comfortable and peaceful, not to mention the smell of flowers in all four seasons and fresh fruit for the taking.

The rarest treasures of the human world would seem worthless here.

There was a cellar in the small house* filled with silk from Tianzhu, gems from Persia, pearls and antique jade; all kinds of unimaginably rare and exquisite objects.
(小楼, xiǎo-small lóu- a {storied} house; like in the poem)

Qing Qing was not only a gentle, beautiful and virtuous* wife, she was also docile and obedient to her husband.

He should be very content.

However, he had lost weight.

Not only had he lost weight, his complexion was pallid and he was often melancholy and distant.

And he also had frequent nightmares.

Every time he woke up from a dream, he would suddenly jump out of bed covered in cold sweat.

Qing Qing questioned him repeatedly before he finally said, “I dream about my father. He wants to strangle me with his own hands.”

“Why does he want to strangle you?”

“He said I was unfilial and useless” his expression was sad and pained “because I was able to completely forget the last words of a dying old man*.”
*(lǎorénjiā-polite address for an old man/woman)

“Actually you haven’t forgotten!”

“I haven’t!” Ding Peng said, “In fact, I always keep them in mind.”

“What was his final request?”

“Ding peng clenched his fist and said, word for word, “He wanted me to make a name for myself* and fight for him^.”
^(iow-do what his father couldn’t & bring honor to his name)

Of course, Qing Qing understood what he meant. But she didn’t know that this wasn’t the only nightmare he was having. The other one was even more terrifying. But he could not speak of it, he dared not speak of it. He dreamed that he suddenly fell into a fox den, and his wife, his father-in-law and his mother-in-law, all transformed into a pack of foxes, tearing him apart and devouring him piece by piece. He desperately wanted to forget they were foxes, unfortunately he couldn’t. The soft light of the pearl gently shone on Qing Qing’s pale beautiful face, illuminating the glistening tears on her cheeks. “I know what you are saying!” She burst into tears, “I have always known that sooner or later there would come a day when you would want to leave. You wouldn’t be able to live here forever because eventually you could not not live like this anymore.” Ding Peng couldn’t deny it.

With his current skill* in swordsmanship, Liu Ruosong, Zhong Zhan, Hong Mei and Mo Zhu were not even worth the effort.
*(wugong-martial arts skill/ability)

Relying on this sword on his waist, it would be very easy to roam jianghu and make a name for himself*.

All he had to do was think about these things and his blood would boil!

He couldn’t be blamed for this. He wasn’t at fault.

Everyone had the right to fight for their future, no matter what anyone else thought.

Ding Peng said sadly, “Unfortunately, I know that your grandfather and grandmother would never let me leave.”

Qing Qing, hesitating, lowered her head and asked tentatively, “Do you want to go alone?”

He said, “I want you to come, of course!”

Qing Qing’s eyes lit up and she held his hand tightly. She said “You’ll take me with you?”

Ding Pend replied gently, “We are already husband and wife, no matter where I go, I’ll take you with me!”

She asked, “Do you really mean it?”

“Of course I do!”

Qing Qing was biting her lip, finally she made up her mind, “If you are determined to leave, then we will go together.”

He asked, “How do we do it?”

She said, “I’ll think of something.”

She hugged him tightly, “As long as you are true to me, I am willing to die for you if I need to.” Of course, in order to leave they needed a plan. So they discussed it quietly in the middle of the night, when no one was around.

They were most of afraid of Qing Qing’s grandfather.

“Except for the great Da Luo Jinxian*, this laorenjia’s abilities are unmatched on heaven and earth.” Ding Peng was unconvinced. After all, he had also perfected the same magical sword technique.
*(Dà Luō Jīnxiān-great golden immortal Luo- a Taoist immortal)
^(laorenjia-polite term for old man/woman)

But Qing Qing said, “Even with your ability, he (laorenjia) only has to stretch out his hand and you’ll fall before you can make a single move.” Ding Peng was of two minds about it.

She went on, “So if we’re going to leave, we have to slip away while he’s gone.”

He said, “He never seems to go out.”

Qing Qing said, “But every year on the night of the fifteenth day of the seventh month, he locks himself in that little room of his. No matter what happens outside during that time, he wouldn’t care!”

Ding Peng said, ““But he’ll still chase us once he knows we’ve gone.”

She said, “He can’t!”

Ding Peng asked, “Why?”

She said, “Because he made a heavy vow. He will never step foot outside of this valley.”

He added, “Your grandmother also seems like she isn’t an easy person to deal with?”
Qing Qing said, “I actually have a way to deal with her.”

He asked, “How?

She said, “Even though she (laorenjia) seems strict, she actually has a soft heart. Also…” She suddenly changed the topic, “Do you know how my parents died?” He didn’t know. He had never asked and they had never brought it up. It was undoubtedly a secret, a memory filled with sadness.

Indeed, the sadness was already visible on her face as she said, “My mother was also a mortal and like you. She always wanted my father to take her away from here.” She sighed softly, “She died before my first birthday. But I know that she had not only been an extremely famous hero in jianghu, but also a famous beauty. She certainly couldn’t live an ordinary life like this one."

Ding Peng said, “Your father refused to take her away?”

Qing Qing said, “Although my father promised her, my grandfather and my grandmother were adamant that they could not leave. They ran twice but were unable to get away, so my mother…” she didn’t continue, but Ding Peng had gotten the picture.

If her mother hadn’t died of depression and despair, she must have quietly killed herself.

Qing Qing said, “A few months after my mother died, my father also fell gravely ill.” Although they were foxes and had supernatural abilities, there were some illnesses that are beyond any abilities, especially those of the heart, which are caused by guilt and grief.

Ding Peng could also picture this.

Qing Qing said, “Although my grandmother never mentions this, I know she must be heartbroken. When push comes to shove, all I have to do is mention this incident and she’ll definitely let us go.” An old woman in her twilight years certainly couldn’t bear the thought of her granddaughter and her husband suffering the same tragic fate of the previous generation.

The fact that Qing Qing was able to bring such a thing up meant that she and Ding Peng had the same profound feelings for each other as her parents did.

Ding Peng’s eyes sparkled with excitement eyes as he said, “So it seems that there might be hope for us yet”

She said, “But we also have problems, at least eight of them."

He asked, “Eight problems?”

Qing Qing said, “No more, no less, exactly eight.” Ding Peng finally realized that she must have been talking about their eight loyal servants.

Not only did they rarely speak, they had always kept Ding Peng at arm’s length.

It seemed like they didn’t want to be anywhere near a mortal, even their master’s grandson-in-law was no exception.

They all seemed to harbor deep pain and a great secret in their hearts.

“Are they also very difficult to deal with?” Ding Peng asked.

Qing Qing said, “You must absolutely not take them lightly. Even if they don’t have my grandfather’s remarkable ability*, if they ventured into the human world, on the basis of their wugong alone, they would rank as the top experts in jianghu.” She went on, “I know there are many famous heroes and swordsmen in jianghu, and I’ve seen a few of them, but none of them can compare to those eight.”

Ding Peng asked, “Who have you seen?”

She answered, “I have seen those two that you mentioned, Hong Mei and Mo Zhu.”

He said, “They can’t compare to them?”

Qing Qing said, " Any one of them can defeat these two within ten moves." Ding Peng frowned.

Hong Mei and Mo Zhu were undoubtedly first-class experts in jianghu. It was inconceivable that someone could defeat these two within ten moves. No one would believe it.

But Ding Peng believed it.

Qing Qing said, “Fortunately, every year on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, they drink a lot of alcohol.”

“Do they get drunk?” he asked.

Qing Qing said, “Sometimes they get drunk, sometimes they don’t. They all have a large capacity for alcohol.” She laughed and said, “But I happen to know of a kind of alcohol that no matter how good the drinker is, they always get drunk.”

Ding Peng said, “Do you also happen to know where you can find some of this alcohol?”

“I can find it,” she said.

Ding Peng’s eyes lit up again, “What day is it today?”

“The 30th of the sixth month.”

In half a month’s time, it would be the fifteenth of the seventh month. In half a month’s time, Ding Peng would have been here for exactly four years.

Ding Peng couldn’t help but sigh, “The days have passed so quickly. I never thought that four years would have passed in the blink of an eye. I never thought that I would live for another four years.”

Qing Qing caressed his face and said softly, “You will continue to live, I don’t know how many more four years you will live, because if I live, you can’t die, and if you live, I can’t die either. There is no me without you, there is no you with me.”

Chapter 5 - Full Moon Again

The fifteenth of the seventh month, clear.

It was a moonlit night, a full moon.

Ding Peng trusted Qing Qing completely.

If she said there’s a kind of liquor that if someone drinks it they will get drunk, no matter how good a drinker they were, he, for one, was absolutely convinced that whoever drank this liquor would get drunk.

He believed these eight taciturn and devoted old men would get drunk, and sure enough they did.

However, he really didn’t expect that Qing Qing’s grandmother would be the first one to get drunk.

She seemed to have something on her mind today. Her heart was heavier than anyone else’s, so she drank with them, faster and more than anyone else.

So she got drunk first.

And yet they kept drinking, not saying a word, a cup for you, a bowl for me, non-stop.

They seemed determined not to stop until they were drunk.

The way they drank, even if they hadn’t been drinking this kind of liquor, they would still have been drunk.

They were all drunk now.

The reception hall of the small house in the flower garden was smaller than the one in the palace, but far more ornate. There were only two sober people left there.

They were also the only two sober people in the entire valley.

Qing Qing looked at Ding Peng. Ding Peng looked at Qing Qing. His eyes were bursting with excitement and joy.

However, the expression in Qing Qing’s eyes was conflicted.

This was her home. She was born and raised here, all her family was here.

Now she was leaving, going to a world that was completely foreign to her. It was unlikely that she would ever return again, nor could she.

Naturally, she was very confused.

She certainly couldn’t leave as easily as Ding Peng could.

Ding Peng suddenly sighed and said, “I know what’s on your mind. I also know that you are reluctant to leave here.”

She forced a smiled, “I really am a little reluctant to leave this place, but I am even more reluctant to leave you.” Ding Peng definitely wasn’t going to encourage her to stay.

He wouldn’t even say it as a gesture of goodwill.

Qing Qing stared at him and asked, “Are you really willing to take me away?”

He answered, “Of course I am.”

She said, “It’s still not to late to change your mind. I can let you go alone.”

Ding Peng said, “I told you, wherever I go, you go. If I am there then you are there!”

She asked, “You don’t regret it?”

Ding Peng said, “Why would I regret it?”

Qing Qing finally smiled. Though her smile was tinged with the sorrow of parting, it was brimming with tenderness and honeyed feelings.

All a woman asked for was someone she could rely on and stay with for the rest of her life.

Whether she was a woman or a female fox, it was all the same.

Before she left, Qing Qing couldn’t help but wanting to go look upon her stern, yet kindly grandmother.

She couldn’t resist kneeling down and kissing her wrinkled face.

This goodbye may be forever, even Ding Peng felt a little heartsick, but he couldn’t help saying, “If we want to leave, we’d better go fast, before they wake up…”

Qing Qing said, “They absolutely won’t come to.”

She stood up, saying, “This liquor is made from my grandfather’s secret recipe. Even if a Daoist immortal drank this liquor he wouldn’t wake up for six shichen*.”
*(shichen-two hour period)

Ding Peng was relieved and said, “If we have six shichen (12 hours), that should be plenty of time.”

He had barely finished speaking when he heard someone laugh heartily, “That’s right. Six shichen is enough.”

Everyone laughed.

There were people laughing everyday. There were people laughing everywhere.

But Ding Peng had never heard such laughter before. It hadn’t ever occurred to him that such laughter could even exist in the world.

The booming laughter resonated, as if hundreds or thousands of people were laughing at once.

The laughter was suddenly in the east, then in the west, as if there were people laughing in every direction.

But one person had made all this noise, one person only.

Because Ding Peng had already spotted this person.

He was an extremely thin, very dark, black-robed old man who looked like an air-dried black date.

There had been no one at the door, absolutely no one.

But now this black-robed old man was blocking the doorway.

Ding Peng was not blind or bleary-eyed, but he still hadn’t seen this old man appear, let alone where he came from.

He was just suddenly standing there.

He was still laughing, shaking the cups and dishes on the table, until they made a ‘ding ding’ sound. Some of them even shattered.

Not only were Ding Peng’s ears numb from the shock, his skull felt as if it was about to split open.

He would do whatever this old man asked to get him stop laughing.

He had never imagined that a man’s laughter could contain such terrible power.

Qing Qing was pale, her eyes full of terror, she said, “What are you laughing at?”

Although her voice was shrill, it pierced the laughter like a needle.

The black-robed old man laughed forcefully, “These eight little foxes* all have two arms and this old female fox is even harder to deal with. To be honest, it wouldn’t be easy for me to take them all down one by one. Who would have thought that someone would’ve already done it for me? It saves me a lot of trouble.”
*(húli-fox meaning a sly & dangerous person. He uses húli as opposed to Hu {fox} here)

Qing Qing’s face changed and she said sternly, “Who are you? What do you want?”

The old man stopped laughing and coldly said, “I came to peel your fox hides and make a coat for my grandson.” Qing Qing sneered and moved suddenly, pulling out the scimitar Ding Peng had slung on his belt.

The green sword light, curved, started off like a hooked crescent moon, then suddenly became a flying rainbow.

Ding Peng knew the might of this saber. He believed that no one in the world could receive this blow.

Unfortunately he was wrong.

The old man’s sleeves rolled out like black clouds and the flying rainbow was suddenly swept away.

Qing Qing flipped out of the way, so shocked that she flew back three zhang*, landing unsteadily.
*(zhang=ten feet, so 30 feet)

The black-robed old man scorned, “Going by this little bit of fox (húli) ability, you’re not even close (to mine).” Qing Qing’s face turned deathly pale and she edged back one-step at a time. There was still a door behind her.

From the other doorway the old man sneered, “Are you think of getting that old fox (húli) to help? Have you forgotten that on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when the moon is full, yin and yang intertwine and his training reaches a critical point. Even if I skinned you right in front of his face, he wouldn’t dare move, otherwise he risks fire-deviation with no hope of reprieve.” Qing Qing hadn’t forgotten. All the blood drained from her face.

She knew they couldn’t escape this catastrophe.

The old man suddenly turned and stared at Ding Peng, “You are a human, not a fox (hú)?” Ding Peng couldn’t deny it.

The old man said, “I only kill foxes (hú), not humans.”

He waved his hand, “Just go. You better leave quickly. Don’t wait for me to change my mind.” Ding Peng was shocked. He really couldn’t believe this old man was willing to let him go.

He was a human, not a fox (hú). This was a fox (hú) calamity; it really had nothing to do with him.

He was still young. With the wugong he had mastered, he could easily roam* jianghu, looking down^ on wulin.
*(zòng heng-move about unhindered)
(ào shì-turn up one’s nose; show disdain for; regard superciliously)

As long he could return to the human world, he could breath easy, and make a name for himself*.

Now that the old man had let him off, he would certainly want to leave.

The black-robed old man coldly said, “Why haven’t you left? Do you want to die along with them?”

Ding Peng suddenly shouted, “Yes!”

He dashed forward and stood in front of Qing Qing, “If you want to kill her, you have to kill me first.” Qing Qing’s whole body softened, as it seemed to melt, becoming one with Ding Peng.

She looked at him and didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry?

Her heart was filled with joy, wonder, gratitude, and a tenderness so deep it could not be melted.

Tears ran down her cheeks again, “Are you really willing to die with me?”

“I have said, there is no me without you, there is no you with me. No matter where you go, I’ll be with you.”

The black-robed old man asked, “You really want to accompany her in death?”

Ding Peng said, “Absolutely!”

The black-robed old man scoffed, “It’s not easy for you to die!”

Ding Peng said, “I’m afraid it’s not very easy.”

He pounced, using every ounce of his strength to lunge at the old man.

He was no longer the Ding Peng of four years ago.

His movements* were subtle and miraculous, his strikes precise and swift. His wugong was in no way below that of any of the renowned experts in wulin.
*(shēnfǎ- pose or motion of one’s body in martial arts)

Whether this old man was a man, a ghost or a fox, it wouldn’t be easy to kill him (Ding Peng).

Unfortunately, he was wrong again.

His body had barely left the ground, when he saw a dark cloud flying right at him. He wanted to dodge it, but couldn’t.

Once again he fell into darkness, vast, bottomless, infinite darkness.

Suddenly there was light in the darkness, moonlight, a full moon.

When Ding Peng opened his eyes he saw a full moon like a circle of ice. He also saw Qing Qing’s eyes, which were even gentler than the moonlight.

Whether in heaven or on earth, there would never be a third pair of eyes this gentle.

Qing Qing was still by his side.

Whether he was dead or alive, whether he was in heaven or on earth, Qing Qing was still by his side.

There were sill tears in her eyes.

These eyes, the full moon, and the scene were all almost exactly the same as the last time Ding Peng had woken up again after dying under the sword of that golden-robed, golden-bearded old dwarf.

But last time he didn’t die.

What about this time?

He hadn’t died this time either. Not only did he not die, neither did Qing Qing. Why did that dreaded black-robed old man let them go?

Was it because of their true love, their foolishness?

Ding Peng asked, “I’m really not dead?”

Qing Qing said, “I’m still alive, how can you be dead? If you die, how can I live?” There were tears in her eyes, but they were tears of joy. “As long as we’re together, we won’t die, we’ll be together for all eternity.”

He said, “But I don’t understand!”

“What can’t you understand?”

Ding Peng said, “I can’t figure out how that old monster in the black robe could let us get away.”
Qing Qing smiled. Her smiling face shimmered with tears that glistened in her dimples as she said, “Because that old monster isn’t really an old monster.”

“Who is he?”

She said, “He is none other than my (paternal) grandfather.”

Ding Peng was even more confused.

She went on, “He knew that sooner or later you would want to leave. He was aware of every move we made, so he made a bet with my grandma.”

He asked, “What did they bet?”

She said, “If you were really good to me, if you were still willing to die for me, he would let us go.” She did not go on, nor did she need to.

The whole thing was merely a test, a test to see whether Ding Peng truly loved Qing Qing.

If Ding Peng had abandoned her in the middle of a crisis, he would undoubtedly be a dead man by now.

Qing Qing held his hand.

His palms were clammy with cold sweat.

She gently said, “Now they are finally convinced that you didn’t lie to me, that you will not abandon me wherever you go. That’s why they let me go with you.”

He rubbed his eyes, “What is this place?”

Qing Qing said, “This is earth.”

Ding Peng asked, “We have really returned to the human world?”

She said, “Really!”

Ding Peng realized for the first time how beautiful the earth was, how delightful.

He had once been so fed up with this world that he didn’t want to live anymore. At this moment he realized just how beautiful life really was. It was a blessing just to be alive.

The full moon had been talked about.

The dark firmament had gradually been painted white by the dawn. There were already sounds of people in the distance.

The sound of a baby crying, the sound of a mother scolding, the sound of a bucket being lowered into a deep well to lift water, the sound of a spatula stir-frying in an iron pot, the sound of a wife forcing her husband to get up to farm, the sound of a husband looking for his shoes under the bed, the sound of a young couple in love, the sound of an old couple bickering, the sound of a chicken crowing and a dog barking…

These were the sounds of a teeming city coming to life, bursting with human love.

Some of these sounds Ding Peng could hear, some he could not. But even though his ears could not hear them, they resonated in his heart.

Because these sounds were already familiar to him.

He had heard them in his hometown, a small, humble village, when his mother got him up in the morning to get dressed.

Ding Peng suddenly said, “The first thing I must do is go and see my mother.”

As soon as he said these words, he suddenly thought of something that he didn’t want to think about—

She’s a fox—

How could he bring a fox wife to meet his stubborn old mother? Yet how could he not bring her?

Qing Qing hung her head. Her powers of perception were far keener than a normal person’s. She had clearly sensed what was on his mind.

She gently asked, “Can you take me with you?”

Ding Peng said, “I will definitely take you with me.”

Thinking of how she truly loved him, about all the sacrifices she had made for him, he couldn’t help but hug her and said, “I told you, no matter where I go, I will absolutely take you with me.”

Qing Qing gazed up at him, her eyes filled with gratitude and tenderness, “I will certainly go and meet your mother, but I don’t want to meet anyone else. No matter who you are going to meet in the future, it is better if I don’t show my face.”

He asked, “Why?”

Qing Qing forced herself to smile, “You should know why.”

Ding Peng said, “But there’s no way that they could tell that you…”

She said, “I know it’s unlikely that anyone would figure out that I’m a fox, but… that doesn’t change the fact I’ll always be a fox. I’m better off not meeting mortals if I can avoid it.” She still seemed troubled. Of course, having suddenly arrived in a completely unfamiliar world, it was inevitable to be troubled.

Ding Peng held her hand and gently said, “I will never force you to do anything you don’t want to do.”

She laughed and said, “But sometimes I must force you, and you must listen to me.” Before he could say anything, she asked, “What do you intend to do after you see your mother?” He didn’t answer.

His blood was already hot. He was bursting with great ambition. There were many things he wanted to go do.

Qing Qing said, “I know what you want to do. Not only do you want to make a name for yourself*. You want to vent your anger even more.” Ding Peng admitted as much.

The injustice he had suffered must be wiped clean. The insults he suffered must be avenged. Not for one day had he ever forgotten these things.

Qing Qing said, “Before we left, my grandfather repeatedly told me that if you wanted to become famous, to seek vengeance, there are a few things you must remember.”

Ding Peng said, “What? Tell me!”

Qing Qing said, “You must never make a move, unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re dealing with someone who’s not worth fighting, you shouldn’t fight.” She added, "You must carefully choose a good target for your first fight. As long as you defeat him, your name will spread in jianghu. Then you don’t need to make anyone else your enemy!” She further explained, “According to my grandfather, no matter how good your wugong is, how famous you are, if you have too many enemies, sooner or later the day will come when you’re forced into a dead end*.”
*(iow-left with no way out figuratively or literally)

Ding Peng said, “I understand your grandfather’s meaning. I will definitely do what he says!”

She said, “So your actions should not be too merciless, you must never kill to the last one*.” She cautioned, “If you want people to sincerely respect you, you must leave others an avenue of retreat******.”
*(gǎnjìnshājué-idiom meaning ruthless, wipe out the opposition)
**(the opposite of forcing people down a dead end)

“I understand!”

Qing Qing said, “There is still one more thing that is even more important!”

Ding Peng asked, “What?”

Qing Qing’s scimitar still on his waist!

She said, “My grandmother gave this to you, so my grandfather allowed you to take it with you. But you must not use this saber, except as a last resort.” She looked more cautious, “If you have to use this saber, your opponent absolutely must die under it. Once it has been unsheathed, you cannot leave your opponent’s mouth alive.”

Ding Peng asked, “If the other person isn’t someone I want to kill, if they haven’t forced me down a dead end, I cannot use this saber?”

Qing Qing said, “You absolutely can’t use it!”

She smiled again and said, “But you can rest assured that with your current wugong, you will be unrivalled under heaven, no matter what saber you use.”

By then the sun had risen. The sunshine illuminated the beautiful mortal world.


October, Indian summer.


Liu Ruosong pushed open the window. The sun was shining outside, the air was fresh, and today would undoubtedly be another sunny day.

He was born in the Year of the Dog and was now 47 years old, but there were still no wrinkles on his face. He always stayed in peak physical condition for a man in his sexual prime. Not only was he still attracted to women, women were also attracted to him.

He was rich, healthy and handsome. In recent years, his heroic reputation had flourished in jianghu. People frequently addressed him as ‘Great Hero’. People had great respect for him, whether they knew him or not.

Although his many friends couldn’t match his status, wealth and reputation, they were still a good match for him. On every beautiful spring and autumn day, they would come to have a good time with him.

He was always very well received, wherever he went.

He believed that if the Wudang Sect could have a lay disciple* as its Zhengmen**, he was the only choice.
*(someone who hadn’t taken religious vows. IOW not a Taoist priest/monk)
**(Zhengmen- of a religious sect)

This was originally nothing more than a fantasy, but now there was a possibility of it being realized.

His Wansong Villa had spacious grounds with an excellent view. It was a famous institution in jianghu.

His wife was a famous beauty in jianghu, as well as being intelligent and capable.

Husband and wife had always shared a very intimate relationship. If he ever had any difficulties, she would deal with them for him, no matter what.

He had everything a man could wish for and was quite satisfied.

But recently there was something making him quite unhappy.

His room was at the highest point of Wansong Villa. If he opened the window, he would see a green hillside across from him, covered with beautiful trees and lush green grass, not a soul in sight.

Whenever he beheld this scene, he felt a sense of pride in his heroic belief of ‘Being Supreme Under Heaven’*. Even if something were bothering him, all his worries would be forgotten.
*(tiān-heaven; tǔ dì-land; xià-under, hóu-throat; -I; dú zūn-hold supremacy, dominate: ‘Under Heaven, My voice is supreme’; iow-I think its something like ‘master of all he surveys’)

Unexpectedly, major construction had recently begun on this hillside.

Early every morning, the racket began on the opposite hillside, which not only shattered his tranquility and disturbed him all day, but also wounded his pride.

Because the house being built there was even larger than his Wansong Villa.

Workmen came from all over the area around the two rivers, the northern part of Guanzhong and Shanbei (in Shaanxi province). Even the famous civil engineers and master carvers from far south of the Yangtze River had been invited.
(also possible that it is …carvers from as far south as Lianjiiang (in Fuzhou, far to the south)

The manpower involved in building this house was twenty times that which was used to when Wansong Villa was built.

With so many people to help, of course the house was going up quickly.

Every morning when Liu Ruosong opened the window and looked at the unfinished villa, he would find either an additional pavilion or a (storied) building on the opposite side of the hill, either an additional pond or a grove of flowers.

If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he would have believed it was a miracle.

The general manager overseeing the construction of this remarkable estate* was surnamed Lei. He was the second boss of the capital’s ‘Model Lei^’ family.
*(zhuāng yuan-lit ‘manor compound’. I will use estate)
(“样子雷”-yàngzi léi-I’m open to better suggestions)

The Lei family was the oldest and most prestigious civil construction firm in the capital. They had even built the inner courtyard of the Imperial Palace.

According to Foreman Lei, a ‘Ding gongzi’* was paying for the construction of this estate.
*(gongzi-literally your (honorable) son [honorific]; iow-essentially a formal, polite way of referring to a young man of means as Mister or master. Often translated as ‘young master’.)

Ding gongzi had decided to have a banquet in his new residence on the fifteenth day of the twelfth month. Therefore, this villa must be completed by the middle of the month.

He would spare no expense to as long as the work could be completed by this deadline. The cost was immaterial.

He had already opened accounts with the four major banks in the capital. Foreman Lei only had to issue a note* and he could withdraw the money at any time.
*(iow-a withdrawal slip)

Foreman Lei was a man of the world, but he said, “I have never met anyone as extravagant as Ding gongzi.” What kind of person was this Ding gongzi? What were his origins? How was it possible to be so grandiose and spend so ostentatiously?

Liu Ruosong couldn’t help but be curious.

He must get to the bottom of this Ding gongzi’s history and background, even right down to the roots.

What he has decided he wants to do, must be done.

He had left the matter in his wife’s hands. Madam Liu had never disappointed him.

Madam Liu’s maiden name was Keqing* —
*(-very; qing- passionate)

Not Kexiao (ridiculous), it was Keqing—

Qin Keqing.

Madam Liu was also born in the Year of the Dog. She was 35 this year, a full thirteen years younger than Liu Ruosong.

But even the most discerning person would never be able to tell her true age.

Her waist was still slim and supple, her skin was still soft and smooth, her belly was still flat. There was not a single wrinkle on her face.

She was more charming and attractive now than she was when she first married Liu Ruosong.

Even the most jealous person had to admit that she was an extraordinary, rare beauty.

Only a man who had slept with her could truly understand the meaning of these two words ‘rare beauty’.

Even now, Liu Ruosong could clearly picture the charming scenery of their honeymoon, the lustful ecstasy she gave him. There wasn’t a second woman on earth that could compare to her.

But time was a harsh mistress. Liu Ruosong wasn’t getting any younger after all*. He had gradually begun to feel that the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.^
*(Literally says ‘But time is merciless. After all, Liu Ruosong was gradually getting older.’ )
(lì bù cóng xīn-idiom-lit. ‘strength disobeys the heart’. IOW-he could no longer get it up like he used to)

He had even begun to get a little worried.

Just like most middle-aged husbands invariably become a little henpecked by their wives, because they have gradually become unable to satisfy them.

Even though they had been living separate lives for many years, husband and wife still had extremely deep affection for each other.

It was a very deep, yet very subtle affection.

Madam Liu frequently went off on her own. He never concerned himself with where she was.

Because he knew his wife was rare beauty. He also believed that she would never betray him.

As long as she didn’t betray him, why couldn’t he let her have a little bit of purely physical pleasure?

He often told himself he was an unusually ‘open-minded person’. Maybe this was the reason their relationship had lasted this long.

Only a man as open-minded as him could marry a ‘rare beauty’.

If a man was married to a ‘rare beauty’, he could never fully enjoy it.


High noon.

Sunlight filled the window as Madam Liu sat in a pear wood* chair, using a handkerchief to wipe her perspiration.
*(**huālí-**a kind of rosewood)

Although it was already the end of the tenth month, the weather was still quite warm.

Madam Liu dreaded the cold, she also dreaded the heat, because she had never endured the slightest hardship. (iow-she had always been pampered)

Some women were unlikely to ever have to endure hardships, because they were far more intelligent and beautiful than other women.

She unbuttoned her jacket, revealing her beautiful jade-like white puffy breasts, and panted softly.

Liu Ruosong had to force himself not to look at her.

Around some young girls, he was still very manly and could still make them swoon, but he was utterly defeated in the presence of his wife.

So he had to control himself to avoid experiencing another ‘crushing defeat’.

Madam Liu smiled and said with a chuckle, “Don’t tell me the tiger penis* I brought you back from Guandong last time didn’t work either?” Liu Ruosong pretended not to hear.
*(used in traditional Chinese medicine-basically a cross between an aphrodisiac & Viagra)

The tiger penis wasn’t useless. It just didn’t work on her.

Changing the subject, he asked, “Have you found out the origins of that gongzi?”

Madame Liu said, “Yes.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Who is he?”

Madam Liu said, “He is an old acquaintance of ours. But you’ll never guess who he is.” Her eyes lit up like she was remembering something that excited her.

He asked, “Who is he?”

“He is called Ding Peng,” she answered.

“Ding Peng?” gasped Liu Ruosong. “Is it that Ding Peng?”

Madam Liu said, “That’s him…”

Liu Ruosong’s expression changed. He was certainly unlikely to forget this ‘Ding Peng’ person and he was even more unlikely to forget that ‘Heavenly Meteor’ move.

It wasn’t like he didn’t know the method his wife had used to swindle this ‘Heavenly Meteor’ move.

Madam Liu certainly had her reasons for looking so excited.

Although he had always believed that the price she had paid was worth it, his heart was nevertheless a little sour. He said indifferently, "I can’t believe he’s still alive, aren’t you happy?”

Madam Liu scowled fiercely and sneered, “What do I have to be happy about? You’re not the one he hates the most, I am.”

Liu Ruosong sighed, “Since he is not dead, he was bound to seek us out eventually. But I really can’t think of how a poor boy like him suddenly became so grandiose?”

Madam Liu coldly replied, “If you manage to cheat death, you will certainly be lucky in the future. The fact that he was able to escape back then and we couldn’t find him, shows that this brat is lucky. People with good luck will find a yuanbao* while they’re just walking down the street” This was said in the heat of anger.
*(yuánbǎo-a gold or silver ingot used as a form of currency)

When a woman is angry, it’s best to ignore her.

A smart man knows this. Liu Ruosong was a smart man. He kept his mouth shut.

In the end, of course, it is the woman who will speak first, as they are always more impatient.

Madam Liu finally couldn’t help but saying, “Since he wants to settle accounts with us, why not just simply come here? Why would he build that grand home across the way form us? What exactly is he planning?”

Liu Ruosong said, “Peoples hearts are separate from their stomach*. Other people can never guess the plans in a living person’s heart."
*(rén xīn gé dù pí idiom-means ‘there is no way to divine what is in a man’s heart’)

Madam Liu’s eyes lit up again and she immediately asked, “What if this living person suddenly died?”

He smiled, “A dead man has no plans.”

She sighed, “It’s just a pity that it is not easy* for him to die. Since he was able to live this long, it’s not easy for him to die now.”
*(róng yì-easy, likely, liable to. I use ‘easy’ because it’s clear from the next sentence this is what Gu Long was using)

“Although it’s not too easy,” said Liu Ruosong, “neither is it too difficult.”


He said, “It’s only been four years since that incident. If a person is especially lucky during those four years, he might be able to make a fortune.” He smiled and went on, “But wugong* is different. To perfect one’s wugong requires painstaking daily practice. Unlike a large yuanbao, it can’t just fall from heaven.”
*(wugong-martial arts skill)

“He doesn’t dare darken our doorstep,” she said, “because even if his fortune has improved, his wugong hasn’t.”

He said, “With his wugong, even if he met a great master and trained for a thousand years, he will never be a match for Little Song.”

“Little Song?” She asked, “Are you talking about Song Zhang?”

Liu Ruosong laughed and said, “Family name Song, name Zhong, one sword delivers death*. Who else but him?”
*(a play on his name-yī jiàn-one sword (blow); Song-delivers; Zhōng-death; sòngzhōng-together is also an idiom meaning ‘pay your last respects’. IOW- ‘once he draws his sword, someone dies’, or ‘he kills with one blow’)

Madam Liu took a bowl of lotus seed soup that was sitting on the coffee table beside her, slowly took a few sips and leisurely said, “I know this person.”

Liu Ruosong said, “I know you know him.”

She said, “It seems like you also know him.”

Liu Ruosong said, “My knowing him is useless. You knowing him is useful.”


“Because he only listens to you.” He said, “If you ask him to go east, he would never dare go west.”

Madam Liu said, “So what you’re saying is that if I ask him to kill someone, he would do that as well?”

Liu Ruosong smiled, “If you ask him to kill one person, he would never dare to kill two. If you want him to kill Zhang San*, he would never dare to kill Li Si*.”
*(Zhang San & Li Si are generic names- like saying ‘any Tom, Dick or Harry’)

She said, “If I ask him to kill Ding Peng, Ding Peng won’t see it coming."

Liu Ruosong clapped his hands and said, “Not bad at all.”

Madam Liu suddenly sighed, "It’s a pity that he has been enjoying the limelight* the past two years. He has become arrogant and wild. Why would he listen to an old woman like me?”
*(Chūfēngtóu-enjoying the limelight; creating a sensation. I used limelight to preserve symmetry with the following sentence)

Liu Ruosong laughed, “I’ve been in the limelight a lot in the past two years. If even I have to listen to an old woman like you, how dare he not listen to you?”

Madam Liu slowly put down the lotus soup, and using two slender* fingers, picked up a piece of candied fruit, put it into a mouth that was smaller than a cherry and sweeter than honey, bit it gently with a row of snow-white teeth, and with a ‘ge’, bit it in half.
*(it actually says spring scallion-like)

Then she glanced at Liu Ruosong from the corner of her eye, and asked softly, “Is he really obedient?” There was another glow in her eyes, a fiery light. Her eyes were glowing again, smoldering with passion.

Her teeth were snow white, her lips cherry red.

Her whole body looked like a ripe cherry waiting to be plucked.

Liu Ruosong sighed inwardly, knowing that he was screwed again…

Liu Ruosong was lying on his special soft couch, drenched in sweat, unable to move.

He had been preserving and nurturing his spirit since the beginning of the tenth month with a regimen of tonics. For the past two days he had consumed two tiger penises and several sets of magic pills prepared according to the Great Lama of Huangjiao’s* secret recipe. All this with the intention of being ready to ‘deal’ with a ‘special flower’ that a friend bought as a present for him for several thousand liang (liang=~50g) of silver from a procurer in a pleasure house (brothel) in Jiangnan^. He had carefully prepared to ‘deal’ with her for a few days to show her he’s not old yet.
*(Huangjiao-Yellow hat or Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism)
(Jiangnan-area south of the Yangtze River)

[Essentially the preceding paragraphs are saying that he had been taking tonics to build up his sexual stamina to have sex with a virgin who just reached puberty, in order to feel like a man, iow an ego boost. He’s upset because he’s going to blow it all on his wife who always makes him feel inadequate. So all that work was for nothing. This whole section before and after is filled with euphemisms; basically it’s all about sex. If I haven’t mentioned, Ruòsōng means ‘likes to relax’, M Liu is Kěqing-very passionate. Basically they like to indulge in in the pleasures of the flesh.]

That’s all over now.

Madam Liu looked more delicate, like a flower that had been moistened by rain and dew.

She was looking at him with a bewitching smile (a come hither look).

She must have been counting on the fact that he had been ‘tonicing’ for the past two days.

She smiled gleefully, triumphantly.

Liu Ruosong had no choice but to smile with her, he smiled bitterly, “Now you should know if I’m really obedient."

Madam Liu smiled enchantingly, “There will always be benefits for a man who is obedient.”

She suddenly asked, “Do you want to know where that Ding Peng gongzi has been for the past two days?”

He asked, “Where?”

Madam Liu said, “He’s been touring West Lake these past two days and is staying at the Banxian (half idle, half free) Hall (suite) of Hongmei (Red Plum) Pavilion where Jia Sidao used to live.”

Liu Ruosong said, "This Ding gongzi really knows how to live it up.”

Jia Shidao was a traitor to the Southern Song Dynasty, the richest man in the country with the power to overturn society. At least half the territory of the Great Song was under his control. One could well imagine the grandeur of his Banxian Hall.

He said, “Of course you wouldn’t know where Little Song (Song Zhong) has been these past two days.”

Madam Liu asked, “Do you want to see him?”

Liu Ruosong said, “Very much so.”

She sighed again and said, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier. If I had known you wanted to see him, I would have brought him.”

“What about now?” he asked.

"I’m afraid that it won’t be too easy to find him now,” she said.


Madam Liu said, “Because I’ve asked him to go somewhere far, very far away.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Where is this far, far away place, anyway?”

“Hangzhou, West Lake, Hongmei Pavilion, Banxian Hall.”

He laughed, “Although I’m a living person, you can guess what I’ll have in mind without waiting for me to tell you.”

Madam Liu gently bit her cherry red lips with a row of snow-white teeth, “You really are a living person." Her eyes were burning with passion again.

Liu Ruosong hurriedly shook his head with a bitter laugh, “I’m already dead. Even if I haven’t completely died yet, at most I only have half my life left.”


Song Zhong reclined in the carriage as if he had already fallen asleep.

The movement of the carriage was very stable. The wheels, panels, axles and coach were all meticulously designed and specially manufactured. The horses pulling the carriage were also well trained.

The interior of the carriage was spacious and confortable, because Song Zhong must conserve his strength before every killing.

Only a smooth and comfortable carriage would keep him from exhausting his strength on the road.

So Madam Liu had prepared this carriage for him.

She treated him with more consideration and care than a mother would her son.

Song Zhong’s mother had died when he was very young.

For a long time, he didn’t know who his father was, and never wanted to talk about his mother.

If someone used this to ridicule him, or insult him, the result was usually a sword blow.

Family name Song name Zhong, one sword delivers death.

Song Zhong didn’t like killing at all, but he couldn’t not kill. Whether he wanted reputation, wealth or women, then he must kill.

These were all the things he longed for. This was his only way of getting everything he longed for.

The thing he longed for most was not reputation, nor was it wealth. What he most longed for was a woman, another man’s woman.

He obviously knew she was someone else’s wife, but he was completely obsessed and couldn’t control himself at all.

Her flattering smile, her liquid eyes, her flesh, were like unbreakable shackles that kept him locked up.

If she wanted him to kill two people, he would never dare to kill just one. If she wanted him to kill Zhang San, he would never dare to kill Li Si.

Desire was like a bottomless pit he had fallen deeply into.

He could kill!

Because he had no love in his heart, only hate. Because he had lived this long without ever knowing the meaning of “love”.

He could kill!

Because he had certainly had paid the price, had certainly trained diligently. Those who had seen him in action considered his speed and accuracy as almost not below ‘Jing Wuming’.
[Jing Wuming is a character in Sentimental Swordsman, Ruthless Sword. It’s been a while since I read it but I think he was known for killing with an unbelievably quick-draw & strike. Wúmìng means lifeless. I think it’s used in the sense of ‘having no human feelings’ as opposed to the Sentimental swordsman]

Zhong Zhan had also seen him in action. Even Zhong Zhan thought that the way he drew his sword was comparable to Jing Wuming.

Jing Wuming was a swordsman whose name shook the world in the past, as famous a swordsman as ‘A Fei*’. He was the second best expert in the ‘Gold Coin Gang’, second only to ‘Shangguan Jinhong’. [see Sentimental Swordsman, Ruthless Sword]
*(A Fei means Hoodlum or hooligan)

Jing Wuming was ruthless (wúqíng) and lifeless (wúmìng). Not only did he despise other people’s lives as low as grass, but also regarded his own life as equally cheap.

Song Zhong was the same.

It was said that every time he struck he disregarded life, not wanting to leave anyone else’s life behind, nor his own life.

The people who become famous the fastest in jianghu are usually the kind of people that disregard their own life.

That’s why he became famous—

Surname Song name Zhong, one sword delivers death.

After he killed Lu Zhenggang, the great hero of Hexi*, there were very few people in Jianghu who didn’t know of this person.
*(**Hexi-**land west of the Yellow (Huang He) River; Shaanxi, Qinghai and Gansu provinces)

Lu Zhenggang had been prominent in Hexi for twenty years. The might of his Golden Saber and Iron Palm shook the world, but he had killed Lu Zhenggang in one move.

Now the person he wanted to kill was Ding Peng.

He didn’t know Ding Peng. He had never seen this person, had never even heard of this name.

But he was going to kill Ding Peng because she wanted Ding Peng killed.

He believed he could kill this man with absolute certainty. He had absolute confidence in his sword.

This sword had already killed many people more famous than Ding Peng, and in his eyes, Ding Peng was already a dead man.

Chapter 6- Borrowing A Saber

Song Zhong was already a dead man.

Even though Song Zhong wasn’t dead yet, he was already a dead man.

When Liu Ruosong saw him, he was utterly astonished. When Madam Liu saw him, she too was utterly astonished. Anyone could see that he had changed. The cold-hearted and arrogant Song Zhong had suddenly become gaunt and listless.

Surprisingly, Song Zhong, who never to touched a drop of liquor, was looking for liquor to drink. He found a cup of liquor and drained it in one gulp.

Once he had drunk three cups, Liu Ruosong smiled, "You must have worked hard this time, I drink another cup to you.” He still had confidence in Song Zhong. He was sure that the mission had been a success.

Madam Liu also smiled, "I’m going to drink three cups to you, because you never used to drink.” She had even more confidence in him because she had seen him kill someone with her own eyes. Not only did he kill cleanly, he never failed to kill. Not only was he precise and swift when he killed, but also graceful. She had yet to see another person better than him. Song Zhong was drinking, incessantly drinking. He didn’t drink before, not because he couldn’t drink, but because he unwilling to drink. A man who kills must have steady hands. If he drinks too much liquor, his hands will definitely not be steady. He’d seen a lot of drunks with hands so shaky they couldn’t even hold a glass. He was always baffled, why did they still drink? He felt they were not only pitiful, but ridiculous. But now he knew why those drunks had become drunks. At the moment, he wasn’t drunk yet, but with the way he was drinking, he would certainly get drunk sooner or later.

Liu Ruosong finally got to the point, “The autumn scenery of West Lake is ideal just now, have you been there already?”

Song Zhong said, “I’ve been there!”

Liu Ruosong smiled, “Clear and refreshing autumn weather, trying swords by the lakefront you must have enjoyed your trip to try out your sword by the lake.”

Song Zhong said, “It was not pleasant.”

Madame Liu said, “But I seem to recall you saying that clear and refreshing autumn weather is perfect weather for killing. The famous lake and its scenery is the perfect place to kill. The right time, the right place, killing at will, how could this not be something pleasant?”

Song Zhong said, “It was not pleasant.”

Madame Liu asked, “Why?”

Song Zhong said, “Because the person I’m going to kill is someone who can’t be killed.”

Madam Liu said, “Ding Peng is a man who cannot be killed?”

Song Zhong said, “He absolutely cannot be killed.”

Song Zhong said, “Because I don’t want to die yet!”

He drank two more cups, then suddenly slammed the table hard and said loudly, “I only have one life. Why should I die!”

Liu Ruosong frowned, Madam Liu said, “Obviously you tried, could it be that you are not Ding Peng’s match?”

Song Zhong said, “I don’t have to try, I also shouldn’t try,” he said. “If I did, I’d be a dead man by now.” Madam Willow looked at Liu Ruosong, who was looking at his own hand.

Madam Liu suddenly laughed, “I don’t believe that with your sword skills, with your temper, how can you be afraid of others?”

Song Zhong sneered, “When have I ever been afraid of anyone? I’m not afraid of anyone.” After a few more cups, his heroic spirit grew again, and he loudly said, “If it weren’t for those four people, no matter how skilled Ding Peng is, he would have died under my sword.”

“Which four people were there?” she asked.

Song Zhong said, “Sun Fuhu*, Lin Xiangxiong^, Nangong Huashu#, Zhong Zhan.” Liu Ruosong’s face changed. When most people heard the names of these four people, their faces would change.
*(fúhǔ- to subdue a tiger; fig. to prevail over sinister forces)
(Xiang -auspicious xióng-bear)
#(huá-splendid shù-tree)

However, Song Zhong still had to ask, “Do you know them too?”

Liu Ruosong sighed and laughed bitterly, “I’m afraid there aren’t many people who don’t know about them.” There were indeed not many people in jianghu who didn’t know about them.

Sun Fuhu was an elder lay disciple of the Southern Shaolin Sect. With innate divine power, he perfected Shaolin’s Tiger Subduing Spirit Fist*.
*(fú hǔ shén quan)

Not only could he subdue tigers, but still more, he could also subdue people, and was quietly the leader of wulin in the Lingnan region.

Lin Xiangxiong was the younger sworn brother of Sun Fuhu, with a body of steel and bones of iron. He behaved with integrity, while being smooth and slick.

Five years ago, the eight major escort agencies of the six Jiangnan provinces joined forces and unanimously elected him as the first overall chief escort. Not a friend from the black and white paths (iow-right & wrong sides) of wulin in Jiangnan raised a single objection.

Nangong Huashu’s status was even higher.

Although the Nangong family has gradually declined in recent years, however many undesirable creatures had died hard deaths, his wugong and imposing manner were not something ordinary people could compare to.

As for “Flying Cloud Swordsman” Zhong Zhan, his name was already famous in jianghu twenty years ago.

Madam Liu said, “They’re all at West Lake?”

Song Zhong said, “Not only are they all in West Lake, but they are all in Banxian Hall, Hongmei Pavilion.” He drank again, “I was there for five days, and they seem to be around that Ding gongzi all the time.”

Madam Liu sighed as well, “Three days of farewells. I really should be impressed. I never thought Ding Peng would be able to invite four of them as such distinguished guests.”

Song Zhong said, “They aren’t his distinguished guests.”

Madam Liu said, “They’re not?”

Song Zhong said, “They’re nothing more than his bodyguards at most.”

He sneered, “Looking at them, it seems that they will kneel down and kiss his feet at any time.” Madam Liu said nothing.

She looked at Liu Ruosong again. Liu Ruosong was no longer looking at his hand. Instead, he was looking at Song Zhong’s.

Song Zhong clenched his fist so tightly that his fingernails turned white, as if he was holding an invisible sword, facing an invisible opponent.

An opponent he knew he could never defeat.

Liu Ruosong suddenly said, "If I were you, if I saw the four of them there, I would never dare to make a move.”

Song Zhong said, “You’re certainly not joking.”

Liu Ruosong said, “There’s nothing shameful about this.”

Song Zhong said, “Of course it wasn’t.”

"But you, on the other hand, seem to feel so ashamed, so miserable,” Liu Ruosong said, “I really can’t figure out why.” Song Zhong didn’t speak, he only drank, drank like his life depended on it.

Only a person who feels ashamed of himself would be so hard on themself.

"What exactly did you encounter there?” Liu Ruosong asked, “Why are you suffering like this?”

Song Zhong suddenly stood up and said loudly, “Yes, I am suffering, because I know myself that I am already finished.” The cold liquor all turned into hot tears.

This cold, stubborn, and proud youngster could also shed tears, could also cry.

He cried like a baby.

He spoke honestly, also like a child, and said what was in his heart, “I’m actually not afraid of them, Sun Fuhu and Lin Xiangxiong are merely suits of flesh, and Nangong and Zhong Zhan can only put on act. In my eyes, they aren’t even worth a qian (tenth of a tael-iow a cent).” “But I am afraid of Ding Peng!” “I realize now that even if I practice harder for the rest of my life, I’ll never be able to match him.” “I went to find him, to fight him according to the rules of the Jianghu, so he couldn’t refuse.” “This is what I got for going to him.” He suddenly tore open his shirt, exposing his chest.

His chest was broad and strong.

“She” had seen his chest, and had moaned and gasped and whispered on it.

Now there were seven scars from knife wounds on his chest, curved blade scars resembling a crescent moon.

“He used a saber, a curved saber. I’ve never seen a saber like that before, and I’ve also never seen a saber style like that before.” “I gave him seven times seven, forty-nine sword thrusts, and he only returned one." "That was the result of that one slash.”

“I’ve never lost so miserably in my life. I never thought I’d suffer a crushing defeat like this.” “I knew that even if I practiced hard for another hundred years, I would never be able to catch his saber.” “I begged him to kill me, to force him to kill me."

“But he just smiled at me.”

“Even though he didn’t say anything, I could tell he did not kill me only because I am not fit to die under his saber.” “From that moment on, I knew I was finished.”

Liu Ruosong listened in silence, no longer asking any questions or saying anything. After listening he started drinking too, dinking incessantly.

He drank no less than Song Zhong.

So they were all drunk, rotten drunk. Getting drunk doesn’t solve anything, but it can at least make one forget a lot of things for a little while.

This was the sixteenth day of the eleventh month.

From that day on, Liu Ruosong encountered a series of events he couldn’t forget even when he was drunk.

The sixteenth of the eleventh month.

When Liu Ruosong woke up, not only did he have a splitting headache, but he also had a rising fever. The first person he thought of was not Ding Peng; rather it was that young woman his friend had bought from a pleasure house (brothel) and given to him.

That woman was only fifteen, really no more than a girl. But a girl, who grew up in a pleasure house, was already a (sexually) mature woman at fifteen.

He thought of her long legs and slender waist, of the pained and happy expression she wore when she moaned tenderly. melodious coquettish wail

So he ran off like a stallion in heat, to go find her.

What he found was a bitch (female dog).

He had used a small house in the corner of the back garden as a hidden golden house, and specially prepared a large, comfortable and soft bed in the exquisitely furnished boudoir.

He thought she would be waiting for him in the bed.

The very young girl with the long legs and slender waist had actually disappeared.

Although Wansong Villa was not as tightly guarded as the Tang School’s Stronghold in Shuzhong or the Twelve Linked Docks* of the Yangtze, it still had fifty or sixty highly trained retainers, most of whom had very strong wugong.
*(probably refers to heavily guarded warehouses for goods shipped on the river)

Among them there were forty-eight men, divided into six shifts, patrolling the villa day and night.

None of them had seen her leave the garden.

No one knew how she’d disappeared or how the bitch had wound up in her bed.

It was a strange incident.

So Liu Ruosong thought of Ding Peng.

Nineteenth day of the eleventh month.

After two days of searching and questioning, there still was the slightest clue about this strange incident.

Liu Ruosong decided to drop the matter for the time being.

He wanted to drink again.

The married couple liked to drink a few cups; naturally they only drank the finest liquor. In this regard, they could both be considered experts, and the wine* cellar of Wansong Villa had always been famous!
*[It is actually ‘alcohol’ or ‘liquor’ not grape wine. But I will use ‘wine cellar’ & ‘wine steward’.]

According to the most recent records of the wine cellar steward, there were two hundred and twenty-two (clay) jars of Meisa* in their cellar, twenty-five catty (catty=. 5kg, ~1lb) jars, which if poured out, could drown a dozen people.
*(Meisa -type of liquor)

Today when he asked for the liquor, there was not even a drop left in the wine cellar.

The two hundred and twenty-two jars of liquor that he had kept in his cellar for years had all turned into sewage.

Women don’t suddenly become bitches; likewise fine liquor doesn’t suddenly become sewage.

Where was the liquor? Where had the sewage come form?

No one knew. The steward of the wine cellar swore to heaven that no one had been in the cellar for two days.

Even if someone had been in there, replacing more than 200 jars of liquor with sewage was no simple matter.

This was another strange incident.

So Liu Ruosong thought of Ding Peng again.

There is a piece of land behind the kitchen of Wansong Villa. Besides drying clothes there they also raised some pigs, cows, chickens, and ducks.

When the kitchen steward got up that day, he suddenly found that all the pigs, cows, chickens, and ducks had neatly and cleanly died overnight.

In the wake of those two strange incidents of the previous two days, everyone was already on edge. Now there was a general feeling of alarm, although they wouldn’t dare come out and say it, what they said to themselves was even more dreadful.

Everyone had come to the conclusion that the master had an extremely powerful enemy at his door.

Now that the livestock were dead, would a person be next?

Even Liu Ruosong himself couldn’t help but think so. The thought was unbearable.

The twenty-second of the eleventh month.

The gatekeeper who has served Liu Ruosong for twenty years woke up in the morning and suddenly found himself naked and sleeping in a pigsty with a mouthful of mud stuffed in his mouth.

The twenty-sixth of the eleventh month.

Many strange things had happened in the last few days. People who had certainly lay down to sleep in their beds at night, were hanging from trees when they woke up in the morning.

A pot of rice that had clearly been washed had seventeen or eighteen dead mice in it when it was cooked.

Several of Liu Ruosong’s favorite servant girls suddenly stripped naked together and jumped into the lotus pond.

Suddenly there was a fire in the wood storehouse, and the rice storehouse was suddenly flooded. Several bolts of silk placed in the storeroom were suddenly cut into rags and hung on the branches of the trees.

Madam Liu got up in the morning and pushed open the window to see the garden full of red and green rags flying in the wind, and some of them were actually her clothes.

The twenty-seventh of the eleventh month.

Of sixty retainers and forty young and old female servants, more than half had quietly slipped away.

No one wanted to go through that again.

Getting up in the morning to find out one was no longer sleeping on the bed, but was now sleeping under it.

Who could stand this kind of thing?

Those who hadn’t left were now scared of their own shadows. They were scared half to death every time someone knocked on the door. How could anyone continue to live like this?

The twenty-eighth of the eleventh month. First snowfall.

The snow had stopped; the weather was cloudless and sunny, cold and dry. Usually at this time of year, Liu Ruosong had already been up for a long time.

He always got up very early.

Because he had resolved to be a respected man, it was important that his conduct be an example to others.

But today he was still lying under the covers.

He had been tossing and turning last night, unable to sleep, and only fell asleep after dawn.

He actually couldn’t get up, nor did he feel like getting up.

What would happen after he got up? Maybe there was bad news waiting for him again.

The house was warm, but the air was dank, as all the windows had been sealed up.

He didn’t want to look at the estate on the opposite hillside that grew more magnificent by the day.

He was no longer the vital, vigorous, happy-go-lucky, supremely self-confident man he once was.

Now he had become irritable and restless, startled at the sound of a knock on the door.

He was afraid, afraid that Ding Peng would be the person coming through the door.

Someone was knocking on the door right now. The person opening the door was not Ding Peng, it was his wife, Qin Keqing.

He could see that she had lost weight too, and her cheeks, which had been plump and sweetly red, were now pale and hollow.

Although she was smiling, her smile was not as sweet and moving as before.

She sat down on his bed, looked at him, and suddenly said, “Let’s go.”

Liu Ruosong said, “Go?”

Madam Liu said, “You must know in your heart as well as I do that those things were all Ding Peng’s doing.”

Liu Ruosong sneered and said, “Do you really believe that he has suddenly become so powerful?”

Madam Liu said, “If he can make men like Sun Fuhu and Zhong Zhan obey him, what couldn’t he do?” Liu Ruosong didn’t speak.

He really couldn’t think of anyone else. The couple had always been very popular, always spending very generously. Very few people in jianghu could make friends as easily as them.

Madam Liu said, "I’ve been thinking a lot about it over the past two days. As long as he has a single breath left in his body, he will never let us off.” She sighed and said, "So now he wants us to suffer for our sins, deliberately using this method to torture us first, driving us mad, before he makes his move.” Liu Ruosong still didn’t speak. Madam Liu said, “If we stay here, we’ll never have another good day.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Where can we go?”

Madam Liu said, “We still have money, and friends, and we can go anywhere we want.”

“Since he has such great ability, he can still find us wherever we go." He sneered, “Unless we hide like turtles with our heads down, and never show up for the rest of our lives.”

Madam Liu turned, “At least it’s better than being hounded to death.”

Liu Ruosong was silent again.

Madam Liu said, “Why don’t you go to Wudang?”

Liu Ruosong was silent, and after a long time he shook his head and said, “I can’t go, because…”

Madam Liu said, “Because you want to be the head of Wudang, and if this kind of thing gets out and your fellow Wudang disciples find out, you’ll have no hope at all!” Liu Ruosong didn’t deny it.

She went on, "You also can’t bear to give up this family property, let alone your name, and you still want to fight with him.”

He said, “"Even if I can’t fight him on my own, I can still go find a friend.”

She asked, “Who can you go to? Who wants to wade into these muddy waters? Even Zhong Zhan has joined him now, not to mention that it’s easy to dodge an open spear and hard to defend against a hidden arrow. Even if you can live your life in this state of constant fear, other people will not stay with you forever.”

“What about you?”

Madam Liu said, “I can’t take it anymore, if you don’t go, I’m going.” She slowly stood up and slowly walked out, “I can wait two more days for you, I have to go before the end of the month. We are husband and wife, but I don’t want to die here yet.”

Husbands and wives are birds of the same feather, each flying their own way in the face of disaster

Watching her walk away without looking back, brought these words to mind, and Liu Ruosong didn’t know how he felt. All of a sudden, he heard someone laughing, “Husband and wife are birds of the same feather, each flying their own way in the face of disaster. Have you thought of this saying by now?” Madam Liu had closed the door as she went out.

The windows had been sealed five days ago.

If someone was hiding in this room, they must not be able to get out.

Although Liu Ruosong couldn’t tell who was speaking, or where they were speaking from, this person was undoubtedly in this room.

Because the voice was very close to him, he heard each word clearly.

He stood up slowly, bolted the door from the inside, and then started looking.

He had already passed through many dangers in his life, and he believed he would not panic no matter what the circumstances.

He had already heard that the person was a woman, and a strange one at that, because he had definitely never heard her voice before.

How could a strange woman have come into his room without him detecting even a bit of noise?

This was yet another strange incident.

But this time he’d find out the truth.

He searched very carefully. He searched every corner of the room, even the wardrobe and under the bed. Apart from himself, there wasn’t the slightest trace of a shadow in the room.

Where was the woman who had just spoken?

It was starting to snow again outside.

Snowflakes hit the window paper one by one, and the beating “ding ding dong dong” continued on the opposite hillside.

There was not even a sound in the room. It was as quiet as a tomb where a ghost could appear at any moment.

Most people wouldn’t have stayed there in this situation, but Liu Ruosong was not one of those people.

He actually lay back down.

Whoever the woman who had spoken just now was, since she had come here, so she would never have come just to make a sarcastic remark.

He was sure she’d have something else to say. He wasn’t wrong.

Barely had he laid down, when he heard her wandering and graceful laughter once again.

She said, “I really haven’t misjudged you. You’re no ordinary man, yet you still can’t find me.” The voice was still very close to him. He was now sure that the speaker was on top of his canopy.

But by the time he jumped up to look again, there was no trace of anyone atop the canopy.

Liu Ruosong suddenly felt a chill on his back, as he had sensed someone behind him.

He hadn’t been able to see her only because he didn’t have eyes on the back of his head.

He turned around as fast as he could; yet she was still behind him. This woman’s ability* was actually demonically swift and agile.
*(shenfa-pose or motion of body in martial arts)

Liu Ruosong sighed and said, “I admit defeat.”

The woman laughed, "Good, a man who is willing to admit defeat to himself defeat, is an intelligent man. I like intelligent men.”

Liu Ruosong said, “You also like me Liu…”

The woman said, "If I didn’t like you, you’d be a dead man by now.” Her voice was still gentle and elegant. Liu Ruosong’s hair stood on end when he heard it.

She was right behind him, he could even feel her breathing as she spoke.

But he couldn’t see her.

If she really wanted his life, it didn’t seem like a very difficult thing to do.

He couldn’t help but ask, “You already know who I am?”

“Of course I know. I came here precisely to find you.”

“And you? Who are you?”

“I am a woman, a very good looking woman.”

She laughed like a silver bell, “I guarantee you’ve never seen a woman as good looking as me.” Liu Ruosong had always been very interested when it came to good-looking women.

He was convinced she was not lying. It was unlikely that an ugly woman would have such a pleasant voice.

He couldn’t help but to tentatively ask, “Will you permit me to look at you?”

“You really want to see me?”


"But what if you’re infatuated by me after you see me?”

“Even if I am bewitched* by you, I am still willing.”
*(lit. obsessed to death)

To be bewitched by a good-looking woman certainly cannot be considered a painful experience.

“You won’t regret it?”

“I will never regret it.”

“But if you don’t listen to me in the future, you’ll regret it.” She said concisely, “I loathe disobedient men.”

“I am obedient.”

"Then lie down on the bed now and cover your head with a quilt.”

“How can I see you, if I cover my head with a tattered cotton cloth.”

“What is invisible now, will be revealed tonight.”

She continued coldly, “If you are not obedient, don’t think that you will see me in your lifetime.” Liu Ruosong immediately lay on the bed and covered his head with a quilt.

She smiled again, “If you go out in the back garden at midnight tonight, you will definitely see me.”

“I will go.”

Liu Ruosong was no longer a child.

Even when he was the age when other people are children, he was already not a child.

But tonight he actually seemed to be a child again, as obedient as a child, as excited as a child.

It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen women before. He’d been exposed to all kinds of women since he was actually a child.

He had always been very interested in women, and women also seemed to be interested in him.

His wife was a woman among women.

But today he had suddenly turned into a child for this woman he hadn’t even seen yet.

This woman was really too mysterious, coming and going mysteriously, and her wugong was even more mysterious.

Most of all, he believed that this woman meant him absolutely no harm.

Who was this woman? Why come to him?

Women want to use men, just as men want to use women. She may want to use him to do a certain thing.

He wanted to use her even more.

He had always believed that human relationships are inherently built on mutual exploitation of one another.

If the relationship were mutually beneficial, he would not object.

So before midnight he was in the back garden, and sure enough he did see her.

She really was a woman, an extremely attractive woman.

The eleventh month was already cold, cold when it snowed, and even colder when the snow stopped.

She was only wearing a thin muslin dress, so thin it might as well be transparent.

But she wasn’t cold.

She came like a gust of wind, a cloud, a snowflake, suddenly appearing right before Liu Ruosong’s eyes.

When Liu Ruosong saw her, she took his breath away, leaving him speechless.

Liu Ruosong had seen countless women, but he’d never seen a woman so beautiful, so noble.

Although her face was still covered with a veil and he could not yet see her face, her grace, her poise, were nowhere to be found on earth.

He just stared at her as if he’d been struck dumb.

She just let him stare at her foolishly.

Who knows how long it was, but she suddenly laughed that bell-like laugh again, “Have you seen enough?” Liu Ruosong nodded and shook his head again.

“If you’ve seen enough, I will take you to see someone.”

“Who?” Liu Ruosong asked, "Is there anyone in this world who looks better than you?”

“This person is not good looking, but I know you certainly want to look at him.” She suddenly floated over and took his arm.

He immediately felt his body being lifted up to soar like clouds and driven fog*, no couldn’t help but floating away with her, over snowy gardens, high walls, icy brooks….
*(téngyúnjiàwù-idiom meaning ‘to soar, or ride high’)

His body seemed to have become very light, as if he’d become a snowflake or a cloud.

He’d had this dream, a dream that he could fly. Almost every child has had this dream.

But he was definitely not dreaming now.

By the time he snapped out of his confusion, they were on the opposite side of the hill, and had arrived at the gorgeous, magnificent estate.

In the snowy night, the estate seemed like a dreamland. Compared to this estate, his Wansong Villa was nothing more than a shabby little wooden hut.

The magnificent mansions and gardens were nearly finished. As they were no longer working against the clock, the workmen were asleep on such a cold night.

She took him from place to place. He had almost begun to wonder if he was still on earth.

She suddenly asked, “Do you know whose estate this is?”

“I know.”

“Do you want to see the owner of the place?”

“He’s here?”

“Because the estate was completed ahead of schedule, he came early as well.” She suddenly dropped, landing on a snowy treetop. The snow was not was even disturbed by their landing.

He also practiced qingqong, but it had never occurred to him that such excellent qinggong existed in the human world. She had only used one hand to carry him, but his body seemed to have become as light as air. Was it magic?

It was starless and moonless, but he could still see far away by the reflection of the snowlight. There was a large bluestone in the distance that seemed smooth and hard.

Liu Ruosong couldn’t help but ask, “Will Ding Peng come here?”

“He will come.”

“What’s he doing here so late at night?”

“He comes to test his saber on this stone!”

“How did you know?”

She smiled, "Of course I know. As long as I want to know something, I will know.”

Everyone has many things they want to know, but unfortunately not many of them are really known. Why did she know everything she wanted to know? Was it because she had a magical power that transcended ordinary people? Liu Ruosong dared not ask, nor was there a chance to ask.

He had seen Ding Peng.

Ding Peng had changed. He was no longer the impulsive and ignorant youngster he used to be. Not only had he become mature and steady, but he also had a kind of self-confidence that transcended everything. He walked over, as if unable to get to sleep, he had just decided to go for a stroll in the snow, but he couldn’t see tracks in the snow he walked through. There was a saber slung diagonally across his belt, a saber of peculiar form, with a blade that seemed a little curved—

But no matter what saber he used now, he was bound to be unmatched under heaven.

When he walked past the bluestone, the saber was suddenly unsheathed. Liu Ruosong absolutely didn’t see him draw the saber, but the saber was unsheathed. The blade light flashed, tracing a fantastic arc, hacking down on that bluestone block.

It was merely casual strike, but a miracle appeared after the saber slashed. The bluestone, which seemed to be harder than steel, was cut in half under the light of a knife.

The saber was in sheathed. Ding Peng was already far away, while seemingly still just strolling. In a split second he have moved quite distance. There wasn’t a single footprint in the snow, as if no one had even been there.

She had brought Liu Ruosong down from the treetop, “Go examine that chunk of stone.” After touching it with his hand, he realized that the rock was far harder than it looked.

But now this stone, taller than a man and bigger than a round table, was actually split in half by Ding Peng’s casual slash.

In the dark of night, the wind was even colder, yet Liu Ruosong was still sweating. His whole body broke out in a cold sweat.

The woman who was dressed in a pure white muslin dress, as white as fresh driven snow, said, “He did not use magic. What he used was a saber.”

Liu Ruosong nodded slowly, “I can see that it was a saber.”

The woman in white* asked, “Could you see the change in that (saber) move?”
*[Gu Long calls her the snow-clad woman (woman in clothes having the appearance of snow). I went with woman in white, as it sounds better.]

Liu Ruosong said, “I couldn’t see it.”

The white-clad woman said, “Of course you can’t, because that one move has no variations at all.” Although it was the most astonishing and terrifying move that Liu Ruosong had ever seen in his life, that move had definitely not changed.

That slash was simple, pure and direct, yet it had already exerted the maximum power a blade could exert.

If Liu Ruosong hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he would never believe that a saber made of ordinary iron could have such terrifying power.

The woman said, “Although this move has no variations, it contains the essence of all the variations in this saber technique.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Why?”

The woman said, "Because of the saber technique used when this move is made, the position, timing, power, and speed were all precisely calculated, perfectly enough that his power reaches its limit.”

This was a not a subtle way of saying that speed, technique, and timing can inherently change the power of an object. This is precisely the true essence of wugong. Why wugong can be slow to beat fast, or use the weak to defeat the strong. If you can use an object to full extent of its power, you can penetrate armor with a piece of dry grass.

She said, “If you want to succeed in perfecting this changeless stroke, you must first penetrate all the variations in this saber technique. I know that Ding Peng has been practicing for a long time." She laughed, " “But this move of his is not meant to be used against you.”

Liu Ruosong said, “I know there is no need for such a move to deal with me.”

She said, “He practiced this move in order to try to deal with the Third Young Master of the Xie family.”

He gasped, “Xie Xiaofeng of Divine Sword Villa?”

The woman in white said, “Because he had exhausted all the variations in his swordplay, Ding Peng had only this one completely unchanging move of this saber technique to use against him.”

Liu Ruosong laughed bitterly, “If I hadn’t seen that move of his, I would have thought he was crazy.”

Only a madman would think of trying to defeat Xie Xiaofeng.

But now that he had seen this move, whether or not it could defeat Xie Xiaofeng, it wouldn’t be difficult to take his (Liu’s) head.

The woman in white asked, ““Did you ever think he could perfect this kind of saber technique in just four years?”

Liu Ruosong said, “I never would have thought so.”

He sighed and added, “I couldn’t even imagine it in my dreams.”

The woman in white said, “Of course you couldn’t imagine it, because there is no saber technique like this in the human world.”

“If there is no such saber technique in the human world,” he said, “how did he perfect it?”

The woman in white didn’t answer and asked instead, “Would you have ever thought that he could build such an estate in just a few months?”

“I never would’ve guessed.”

The woman in white said, “Yet this estate is now complete.” She continued slowly, “He has done all these things that were never meant to be humanly possible, and if he wants to use that power against you, what are you going to do?”

Liu Ruosong was puzzled, “I…I seems like I can only wait to die.” “Do you want to die?”


The woman in white sighed and said, “It’s just a pity you seem to be dead.”

“Why hasn’t he done it yet?”

She said, “Because he’s waiting until the fifteenth of next month.”

He asked, “Why does he have to wait until that day?”

She said, “He will be holding a welcome feast here that day. In front of all the heroes of the world, he will first expose your plot. Not only does he want you to lose your life, he first wants you to lose your reputation.”

Liu Ruosong said, “My plot? What plot?”

“You should know what plot,” she said. “You don’t need to hide it from me.” She went on coldly, “Perhaps you still think that since he has no proof, he won’t be able to convince others. But his word is proof, because he is already richer and more powerful than you. It if he says he created that ‘Heavenly Meteor’ move, who wouldn’t believe it? Who would dare not believe it?”

Hearing the words ‘Heavenly Meteor’, Liu Ruosong looked miserable. “How do you know about this?”

“I told you,” she said, “if there is something I want to know, I can find out.”

“Just who are you?”, asked Liu Ruosong.

The woman in white said, “I’m your savior, your only savior.”

“My savior?”

She said, “Although you’re a dead man now, I can still save you.” She continued softly, “Only I can save you now, because there is no one else on earth besides me who can deal with Qing Qing.”

Qing Qing.

This was the first time Liu Ruosong heard this name, and of course he couldn’t help but ask, "Qing Qing? Who is Qing Qing?”

“Qing Qing is Ding Peng’s wife. Ding Peng is able to do all these things that would never have been humanly possible just because he has Qing Qing." “The truly frightening thing isn’t Ding Peng, it’s Qing Qing. I can assure you that you could never imagine how scary she is.”

He said, “But I’ve never heard of a person like her in jianghu.”

The woman in white said, “Of course you’ve never heard of her, because she’s not even human.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “She’s not human?”

She said, “She’s not a person, and I can guarantee that she is definitely not a human.”

“Is she a ghost?” he asked.

The woman in white said, “She’s not a ghost either, ghosts aren’t as powerful as she is.” She thought for a moment, then continued, “I know of a ghost in Shaoxing who once secretly drank all the twelve jars of Nu’er Hong* buried in the ground, and then filled them with water. A ghost in Zhangjiakou once killed a group of fat sheep.^ Absolutely no ghost can turn a living young girl into a bitch.”
*(Nu’er Hong- ‘daughter’s red-wine’. Alcohol made when a daughter is born then buried until her wedding feast)
^[There’s actually more to this sentence but I couldn’t figure it out. ]

Liu Ruosong was dumbfounded.

He thought of the girl with slender waist and long legs, and thought of her pained, yet joyous expression when she moaned with pleasure. He thought of the bitch again, of the dog meat he had once eaten He didn’t know whether to cry, to laugh, or to vomit. He decided to send the bitch far away, to a place where he would never see her again. If he ever saw the bitch again, he might go crazy.

The woman in white sighed, “Now you should always know how scary she is. Not only are people afraid of her, even ghosts are afraid.”

He asked, “What is she?”

The woman in white said, “She is a fox!”

Liu Ruosong said, “A fox?”

She asked, “Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of a fox?”

There were those ridiculous and bizarre legends about foxes that he’d often heard since he was a child. He’d always thought that only old crones from the country would believe these tales. But now he couldn’t help but believe it himself, for what he had seen with his own eyes was far more absurd and bizarre than those legends. Was this noble and beautiful woman standing next to him now also a fox?

He didn’t dare ask. Whether the woman was human or fox, it did seem that she was his only hope for salvation. Apart from her, he could not think of second person who could save him.

But he couldn’t help but asking, “Why did you come to save me?”

The woman in white smiles, “This is a really important point, and you should indeed ask."

Liu Ruosong said, “Of course you wouldn’t come to save me without a reason.”

She said, “I certainly wouldn’t.”

She laughed again and said, “If I said that I was attracted to you so I came to save you, of course you wouldn’t believe me. I can see that you are not a very self-absorbed man.”

Liu Ruosong also laughed and said, “I used to be self-absorbed when I was younger, but fortunately that time is now over.”

She said, ““There is a big tree there. As long as you hide behind the tree and wait, you will know why I am saving you.” She went on, "“But you must remember that no matter what you see, you must not make a sound, let alone move, or else even I can’t save you.” So Liu Ruosong hid behind a tree and waited, and after a short time, he saw a person come out of the darkness.

It was a graceful woman, wearing a pale blue dress, as beautiful as an immortal in a picture.

Chapter 7 Saving Stars

Qing Qing.

The person who had come must be Qing Qing.

She saw the woman wearing a muslin dress as pure white as fresh driven snow and laughed from a distance. Here laughter was a clear as a silver bell.

The woman in white greeted her from afar and said, “Qing Qing, Qing Qing, do you know how much I’ve missed you?”

“Lan Lan, I’ve missed you too.” (Qing=green; Lan=blue)

Only now did Liu Ruosong know that his savior’s name was '‘Lan Lan’.

One of them was called Qing Qing and the other Lan Lan. They seemed to be very intimate.

Qing Qing was his enemy’s wife. She was preparing to take his life.

Why did Lan Lan want to save him?

Could this actually be some kind of set-up?

Liu Ruosong could barely to resist the urge to run away.

He didn’t run, not because he was obedient, but because he knew he wouldn’t be able escape.

Regardless of whether Lan Lan had just used qinggong or magic, catching him would be as easy as an eagle catching a chick.

He didn’t dare to move.

Qing Qing and Lan Lan were still smiling, sweetly and affectionately.

Lan Lan asked, “Did you really miss me?”

Qing Qing said, “Of course I miss you, I’ve missed terribly.”

Lan Lan said, “I also missed you terribly.”

Since the two missed each other so much, they would certainly have much, much more to say.

When two women run into each other, they would certainly not run out of things to say to each other.

Unexpectedly they had actually finished speaking.

They had suddenly finished speaking.

All of a sudden Qing Qing turned around and walked into the darkness.

Lan Lan suddenly fell down.

Liu Ruosong was startled.

Qing Qing had left as unexpectedly as she had come.

This outcome was even more unexpected. He wanted to go over and see why Lan Lan had suddenly collapsed, but he didn’t move.

Fortunately, Lan Lan suddenly flew up like a swallow and floated over to grab his arm, “Let’s go! Quickly!” She moved very fast, even faster than before.

She took him back to the rear garden of Wansong Villa before letting out a long breath, “That was close!” After saying those two words, she fell back down.

It dawned on Liu Ruosong that Lan Lan had probably fallen into Qing Qing’s trap.

If wasn’t as if he hadn’t done this ‘honeyed words, sword in the belly’, ‘a dagger hidden in smiles’ kind of thing himself.
(idioms meaning ‘hypocritical and murderous’ [kǒu mì fù jiàn] & ‘friendly manners belying hypocritical intentions’ [xiào lǐ cáng dāo] respectively)

He just hoped Lan Lan wasn’t seriously wounded.

Because he was now convinced that only she could save him. She was his only hope for salvation.

Lan Lan had finally sat up and was sitting in the snow in the most standard Taoist meditation position.

After a moment, wisps of steam were emerging in short bursts from the top of her head. The snow beneath her also melted, but unexpectedly the water from the melted snow was not white, rather it was an ominous bluish-green color.

The snow dissolved quickly, just like a sheet of white paper in the middle of a fire, in a split second a large hole was burned.

A sickly bluish-green circle appeared in the snow, larger than a round table.

Lan Lan suddenly stretched out her hand and rolled up her sleeve, revealing a snow-white arm.

She stretched out her left arm.

When Qing Qing had expressed affection with her just now, she seemed to have gently patted her arm.

She stretched out her right hand and used two slender fingers to pull out a three-cun (cu=an inch) long silver needle from the Quchi acupoint her left arm.

Liu Ruosong had been staring at her hand, but still couldn’t see how she managed to draw out the silver needle.

But he could see that she must be out of danger, because she stood up and breathed a sigh of relief, saying, “That was close! If I hadn’t been prepared, I would have died in her hands today.”

Liu Ruosong also breathed a sigh of relief, and said with a wry smile: "Now I finally understand, when she said she missed you, turns out she wanted you dead; when she said she missed you so badly, it turns out she wanted your life.”
(This is a play on words- ni xiǎng sǐ can mean both ‘miss you extremely’ & ‘want you dead’)

Lan Lan sweetly said, “You’re so clever.”

“But I can’t figure it out,” he said. Since her plan was successful, why did she suddenly leave?”

Lan Lan said, “Because when I said I missed her very much, I also wanted her to die.” Her laughter rang with pure joy again, “So she gave me a needle, I gave her one right back. I don’t think she’ll suffer any less than I did, and if she didn’t leave right away, I’m afraid she would have died sooner than I did."

Liu Ruosong laughed too.

He’d done this sort of thing, but compared to them, he was an apprentice at best.

Lan Lan said, “You should also understand why I want to help you.”

“Because of Qing Qing?”

Lan Lan said, “Not bad at all!”

She went on bitterly, “I have only one enemy in my life, and my enemy is her. If she wants to harm you, I will save you. If she wants to help Ding Peng, I will help you.”

Right away Liu Ruosong said, “I won’t let you down.”

Lan Lan said, “I can see you are in no way inferior to Ding Peng, therefore I chose you, just as Qing Qing chose Ding Peng.” Liu Ruosong’s heart was pounding. Qing Qing had chosen Ding Peng, so she married him. Why had she chosen him? Lan Lan said, “Not only can I save you, I can also do things for you that you can’t even dream of.” Suddenly she gently took his hand and said softly, “I could even marry you." His heart beat even faster.

Lan Lan said, “If it weren’t for the fact that you already have a wife, I would definitely marry you.” She sighed softly, “Unless…”

Lan Lan said, “Unless your wife suddenly dies.”

She went on casually, “Everyone must die. It doesn’t really make much difference if you die sooner or you die later.”

Liu Ruosong didn’t say anything.

He certainly understood what she meant.

Lan Lan said added, "Besides, she is going to leave anyway, whether she is dead or alive, it makes no difference to you either.”

Liu Ruosong said, “If she’s already gone, it really doesn’t make much difference whether she’s dead or alive.”

Lan Lan said, "But she can still come back after she leaves. Since she is still Madam Liu, she can come back anytime she wants to.”

He asked, “What if she is no longer Madam Liu?”

Lan Lan said, “Then it’s no big difference.”

She gently let go of his hand, “I just want you to remember that whatever you want, you must first pay the price.”

Twenty-ninth day of the eleventh month.

Liu Ruosong hadn’t slept all night, all night. He was thinking of Ding Peng, of Qing Qing, of the fox, of his wife, of Ding Peng’s saber striking like lightning.

Of course, he mostly thought about Lan Lan.

About Lan Lan’s mystery, Lan Lan’s beauty, Lan Lan’s miraculous ability, the sweet tenderness when she took his arm, the glistening snow-white skin of her bare arm…

He couldn’t help but thinking about it.

When he thought about her bare arm, he couldn’t help thinking about other parts of her body as well.

Thinking about her other parts, he suddenly had the urges of a young man.

If she actually married him, she would share a bed with him all day long.

If he could have a wife like her, what else in the world could make him worry?

And he certainly couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said: whatever you want, you must pay for it.

So he got up early in the morning and went to find the wife he hadn’t shared a room with for so long.

He couldn’t help but wonder again - if she had suddenly turned into a bitch too.

He did not go on thinking about it.

It wasn’t a very pleasant thought after all.

His wife hadn’t turned into a bitch, but seemed to have become a “mother”.

Not the mother of their children.

They had no children.

She seemed to have become Song Zhong’s mother, because Song Zhong was sleeping in her arms like a child.

Seeing him coming, Song Zhong took off like a rabbit hit by an arrow.

It was like he hadn’t seen anyone at all.

The couple had long since come to a mutual understanding, and he shouldn’t have barged into her room so early in the morning.

He didn’t seem angry at all, because quite frankly, he had no right to be angry.

She wasn’t angry either; not because she had no reason to be angry, but because she was just too tired.

How does it feel for a man to see his wife so “tired”?

Liu Ruosong didn’t seem to have any feelings at all. Even if he felt something in his heart, it did not show on his face.

Madam Liu stretched out languidly, yawned, then forced herself to smile, “You’re up early today.”

Liu Ruosong said, “En.” (En=a grunt of agreement)

Madam Liu asked, “Do you want to sleep here for a while?”

What a wonderful question she asked.

Liu Ruosong’s answer was not so wonderful.

Suddenly he said, "Go away! You don’t have to wait till tomorrow. Just go now.” Most women who heard their husbands say such things to them would ask, -Why do you want me to leave now? -Are you coming with me?

Most women in this situation probably couldn’t stop themselves from speaking!

But she was different from most women. She didn’t even say a word.

Liu Ruosong said, “Feel free to go anywhere, do whatever you want, I’ve always left you alone before, and I’ll leave you alone from now on. From now on, your surname is your Qin, and my surname is my Liu. We are not related to each other, and you don’t have to come back.” He had made his point.

Most women hearing their husbands say such heartless words, if they’re not jumping up and crying and cursing them out, making a scene, they would be half-dead with grief.

But she still hadn’t reacted at all. She just quietly stared at him for a long time.

Her expression was blank.

No expression was sometimes an expression.

This was often what one looked like when a person’s grief and disappointment have reached the extreme.

Liu Ruosong slowly turned away, and stopped looking at her.

His heart felt a little heavy; after all they had been married for many years. But when he thought about Lan Lan, his heart hardened and he stood up, and said coldly, “You have already violated the Seventh Article*, you’re lucky if I don’t kill you, you still…” Before he could finish his sentence, he suddenly felt his lower back go numb, the four acupoints near the lumbar spine were all sealed in a split second, using Wudang’s unique acupoint sealing technique.
*(I think this may be a reference to the Three Obedience’s and Four Virtues of the Confucian moral code for women. But he’s basically saying her misbehavior justifies his attitude; conveniently ignoring his own)

On his wife’s thirtieth birthday, he taught her this skill as a congratulatory gift.

He was very pleased with himself at the time, because she had asked him for a string of pearls.

The smallest pearl on that string was the size of a walnut, worth at least 50,000 taels, and she’d had her eye on it.

This acupoint sealing technique had not cost him a qian (qian=1/10 of a tael).

He was not generous to his wife.

He had always believed that if a wife was to be meek and loyal to her husband, she should not be allowed to get her hands on too much money, otherwise she would have too many tricks up her sleeve.

He thought it was a very dangerous thing to do, just as dangerous as handing over a weapon to an enemy.

A wise man would never do such a thing, and he was undoubtedly a wise man, extremely bright.

That’s why he fell down now.

As Qin Keqing regarded him, the sweet, touching smile returned to her expressionless face.

“Now I realize that the gift you gave me is actually far more precious than that string of pearls. I really should thank you.” She smiled as she walked out and came back in holding Song Zhong’s hand.

Song Zhong still didn’t dare to look him in the face.

Keqing smiled, “He is no longer my husband, why should you still be embarrassed?”

Song Zhong asked, “He divorced you?”

She replied, "He not only divorced me, but he also kicked me out.” She sighed softly, “I’ve been married to him for over ten years, and I’d have been better off as dog in someone else’s house for over ten years. If he wants to kick me out, I’ll have to be good and get lost.”

“Then let’s go!”

“You will take me away?” she asked.

“He doesn’t want you,” Song Zhong said. “I do.”

She asked, “You’re really willing to take this old woman?”

Song Zhong said, "Even if you do turn into an old woman, I will never change my mind.”

Keqing smiled again, even more tenderly, “You are so good, I really did not misjudge you, it’s just a pity… "

“It’s just a pity what?"

She went on, “I don’t really want to become an old woman yet, so I have to use twenty taels of pearl powder every day to avoid getting wrinkles on my face. My clothes are made of silks imported from India and Persia, making me appear younger to others. I have to bathe in goat’s milk every day, and I need several maids to wait on me."
She stroked Song Zhong’s hand, “You should know that I am a woman who is accustomed to the finer things in life, the best foods, nicest clothes, and finest flowers.”

"I know.

Keqing asked, “If I married you, would you be able to afford to keep me?” Song Zhong was startled. He was momentarily at a loss for words, before finally saying, “I could become a bandit to support you.”

She said, “Why do you want to become a bandit? That’s not your forte.” She went on softly, “Your specialty is killing men. You only need to kill one man and we can live comfortably for the rest of our lives.”

“Who do you want me to kill?”

Keqing just smiled. She didn’t respond.

Song Zhong wasn’t stupid.

He should know who she wanted him to kill.

He didn’t like to kill, but he was in no way afraid to kill, regardless of who the person he was to kill. It was all the same to him.

Keqing took a sword down from the wall, she handed it him, “You only have to wave your hand and I will become a poor widow. No matter how fierce Ding Peng is, he would never deal with a poor widow.” She added sweetly, “Luckily this poor widow is also a rich widow. Whoever marries her won’t have to worry for the rest of their life.” Liu Ruosong knew he was as good as dead.

Not only had he underestimated this woman, he’d also greatly overestimated himself. Anyone who made that mistake deserved to die.

With a “clang”, the sword was out of its sheath.

Song Zhong finally turned around to face him and said coldly, "You can’t blame me, you have only yourself to blame.” Liu Ruosong knew it was true.

His heart was not hard enough. His hands weren’t ruthless enough. He should have killed Song Zhong first.

The sword light flashed, then stabbed at his throat.

Surname Song name Zhong, one sword delivers death; his strikes were not only accurate, but also ruthless. If wants he to kill a defenseless person, he certainly won’t miss.

Unless a miracle happened, Liu Ruosong was definitely dead.

Unexpectedly, a miracle actually happened.

Suddenly someone scoffed ‘chi’*, a pressing wind broke the air, then a ‘ding’ was heard as sparks flew everywhere and the sword in Song Zhong’s hand was broken in two.
*(a jeering interjection)

Something fell to the ground along with the broken half of the sword and rolled far away. It turned out to be a pine nut.

This sword was Liu Ruosong’s sword. He had spent 1,800 taels of silver to have it forged by Wu Daogu, a famous craftsman from outside the pass.

Wu Daogu had made swords for thirty years, and all the swords he had made were exquisite works of art. It wouldn’t break even if an iron hammer struck it repeatedly.

This sword was actually broken by a pine nut.

Song Zhong’s hand was numb from the shock. He drew back five steps. But Qin Keqing had a Seven-pointed Cold Star in her hand.

Liu Ruosong knew what kind of hidden weapon this was. He’d paid someone a lot of money to forge this kind of hidden weapon for her. He also paid that person to temper it in a strong poison.

Although her skill at firing hidden weapons could not be compared to those of top hidden weapons experts like Hua Shigou and Thousand Hands Guanyin, she rarely missed within two feet.

Unexpectedly, a miracle actually happened again.

The Seven-pointed Cold Star was originally headed right for Liu Ruosong’s throat and solar plexus. It suddenly changed direction and flew towards the window.

A person suddenly appeared in the window, wearing a dress as soft and white as the fresh driven snow.

She gently flicked her sleeve and the Seven-pointed Cold Star disappeared without trace. Another ‘chi’ sound was heard, a wisp of swift wind flew out from her sleeve, striking Qin Keqing’s knee.

Qin Keqing had sprung up, when she suddenly fell back to her knees, straight down on the ground, unable to move.

Liu Ruosong suddenly stood up.

It turned out that although there was only a single sound of wind, two pine nuts were shot out, one hitting Qin Keqing’s ‘Huantiao (Ring Jumping) Acupoint’ and the other unlocking Liu Ruosong’s acupoint.

This woman whose veil was as light as feather and whose dress was as white as snow had shot two pine nuts simultaneously. Not only was the power astonishing, but the techniques and force used for each one were also entirely different.

Song Zhong stared in awe.

He’d never seen such a miraculous hidden weapons technique. He’d never even so much as heard about one.

Hua Shigou, Thousand Hands Guanyin, those names shook the world of hidden weapons experts. Compared to this woman, they were like children who only crawled on the ground and played with marbles.

He could hardly believe his own eyes.

Liu Ruosong believed.

He had witnessed the more astonishing and miraculous things that Lan Lan had done.

Lan Lan said, “Why haven’t you killed her yet?”

Liu Ruosong said, “I…”

Lan Lan said, “If she wants to kill you, you can kill her. If you don’t kill her, she’s going to kill you.” With a move of her hand, the half-sword on the ground suddenly flew up and into her hand.

She gave it to Liu Ruosong, “The must have been forged by Wu Daogu. Even if only a three cun (~inch) long section remains, it can still kill a person." The broken sword was still over a foot long. Liu Ruosong pinched it with three fingers, the edge of the blade pointing right at Qin Keqing’s throat.

Qin Keqing suddenly smiled and said, “You look vicious, but I know you would never kill me.”

Liu Ruosong said, “Oh?”

Keqing said, "Because I know you better than anyone. You’ll only wear a robe worth 80 silver taels and drink a jar of good liquor worth 90 taels, sit comfortably in that house of yours with a good-looking woman in your arms, and ask someone else to kill. No matter how many people are killed, you’ll never feel bad.” She sneered, "But tell you to kill someone with a knife in your own hand and you won’t dare do it!”

Song Zhong suddenly said, “He doesn’t dare. I do!”

Keqing looked at him in shock and said, “You, you have the heart to do it?” Song Zhong didn’t say anything. He suddenly rushed over, the broken sword in his hand and stabbed her in the chest.

Her eyes had not yet closed. She stared at him in shock.

She died not believing that he really had the heart to do it.

Song Zhong said, “You must have never thought that I could kill you.”

Keqing asked, “You…you why?”

Song Zhong said, “Because I’ve wanted to die for a long time. If you don’t die, how can I die?” He pulled out the sword.

By the time her blood spurted, the broken sword had already pierced his own chest.

If she died, he could die too.

Song Zhong suddenly looked up and laughed uncontrollably, "I have killed countless people in my life. This is the first time I’ve enjoyed it!” Qin Keqing’s eyes had closed.

She suddenly realized that she had never understood Song Zhong. She had entirely misjudged him.

She had always believed that Song Zhong was a sheep in wolf’s clothing, although he looked fierce on the outside, he was actually very weak.

Not only weak, but also incompetent, which was why she had been leading him around like a puppy dog.

She had never thought he was like this because he was in love with her, sincerely, wholeheartedly in love with her.

For her, he did not hesitate to die.

For her, he could also live with the humiliation.

She had never thought of this, because she simply had not believed that such deep affection existed on earth.

But now she believed it.

She suddenly had a feeling in her heart that was far stronger than fear, making her forget about the fear of death.

She suddenly felt that dying wasn’t so frightening.

If one dies without knowing ‘love’, that’s what is truly frightening.

“You’ve paid the price, and I promise you will surely get the reward.” These were Lan Lan’s parting words.

She always left as suddenly as she came.

Liu Ruosong did not know how to get her to come, nor did he know how to keep her there once she did.

But he had learned very quickly that if she said something, it was not a lie.


He had given the bitch to ‘Gourd’.

Gourd was the nickname of the steward Wansong Villa’s wine cellar. He was a gourd without a mouth.

Because he was not only loyal and reliable, guarding his mouth like a closed bottle*, but he also never touched a drop of liquor.
*(idiom=tight lipped)

That’s why Liu Ruosong had put him in charge of the wine cellar.

Gourd had locked the bitch in the wine cellar, the one that no longer had even a drop of wine in it.

When Liu Ruosong wanted to send the bitch away, he had found that the bitch was no longer a bitch.

He had ordered Gourd to take him to the wine cellar to find the bitch, but what he actually found was a woman.

It was a slender woman with a tapered back. When she saw him, her face wore that familiar expression that was a combination of fear and joy.

She didn’t know how she had come to be in this wine cellar.

When she had fallen asleep, she was still lying in that big, soft bed.

She was already here when she woke up.

Once again, miracles happened one after another. Sewage had become fine liquor again. The pigs, cows, chickens and ducks that had died violently and had then been taken to the barren hills behind the villa to be cremated, now, one by one, they had come back alive.

But Lan Lan had yet to show her face again.

She was certainly responsible for these miracles. Liu Ruosong had paid the price. She hadn’t forgotten her promise.

In order to demonstrate his fidelity to her, he didn’t even touch the long-legged, slender girl.

He was determined to have her, whether she was human or not. He didn’t even care if she was actually a fox.

If he could marry a wife like her, he wouldn’t have to be afraid of anyone or worry about anything anymore.

Day after day had passed, and the estate on the opposite hillside was fully completed. When there were lights on at night, from a distance, it looked like a celestial palace in the sky.

The master of ‘Full Moon Villa’ had also sent over an invitation to a feast.

Of course, Ding Peng was the owner of this Full Moon Villa. The day of the feast was indeed on the eve of the full moon.

Today was already the fourteenth and Lan Lan still hadn’t shown her face.

She was sure to come. She would not forget him like this.

Even though Liu Ruosong was comforting himself, he couldn’t help but being anxious, worried.

If she didn’t come, he would probably die tomorrow in that celestial palace-like Full Moon Villa.

He could only to console himself with the thought, “Tonight at the latest, she will definitely come.” So at dusk he prepared a fine table of wine and food, and sat alone in the house to wait.

Lan Lan certainly didn’t disappoint him.

The house was suddenly filled with a fragrance, like the fragrance of flowers, only more fragrant and sweeter than a flower.

The window that had been sealed shut, suddenly opened without a breeze. Outside the window the sunset filled the sky. Lan Lan floated in gently, like a beautiful cloud.

She said she hadn’t come in the last two days simply because there were so many important matters to arrange, since it wasn’t going to be easy to deal with Qing Qing. Whether Qing Qing’s ability was heavenly or came from earth, very few people could withstand it. But now everything had been arranged.

She said, "Now I have a way to control her. As long as I can restrain Qing Qing, Ding Peng is no cause for concern.

As long as you heed my plan, do it properly, not only can I help you defeat them, I can help you achieve whatever you heart desires.” Liu Ruosong’s biggest dream in life was to be the Zhangmen (head) of Wudang.

Liu Ruosong couldn’t help but saying, “Wudang has never had a lay disciple as its Zhangmen, but I…”

“You want to be the Zhangmen of Wudang,” Lan Lan finished his thought.

Liu Ruosong sighed, "But I don’t have the greatest hope (of success) right now, Ling Xu does.”

Lan Lan sneered, “What’s so great about being the Zhangmen of Wudang? You are thinking much too small.” She suddenly asked, “Do you know of Shangguan Jinhong?”

Of course Liu Ruosong knew of him.

Shangguan Jinhong was a hero of the past, famous across China, a ruler in Wulin. No one in jianghu dared to be rude to him. When he spoke it was like an order, no one ever dared to disobey.

Although he later died at the hands of Xiaoli Feidao*, the leading hero in jianghu, to this day no one has matched the prestige he enjoyed when he was alive.
*(Xiǎo Lǐ Fēi Dāo-Little Li Flying Dagger)
[These are characters & events from 'Sentimental Swordsman, Ruthless Sword]

Lan Lan said, “As long as you are willing, when the time comes I can make sure your achievements surpass those of Shangguan Jinhong and Xiaoli Feidao. They will even surpass Xie Xiaofeng, the leading hero in jianghu today…” Liu Ruosong’s heart was pounding, pounding very fast.

"The Ling Xu you were talking about just now,” asked Lan Lan, “isn’t that the senior disciple of Tian Yii daoren*?”
*(dào rén -Taoist devotee [honorific]; Tian Yi is the zhangmen [head] of Wudang Pai [pai-school, sect])

“He is.”

She said, “He’ll also be at Full Moon Villa tomorrow. He may have already arrived.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Why would he come?”

Lan Lan said, “Ding Peng invited him specially, of course.” She smiled. “In fact, it should be obvious to you why Ding Peng would specifically invite him to come.”

Liu Ruosong understood. Ding Peng was going to destroy him in front of Ling Xu, to let Ling Xu know he had a damn good reason. With his senior fellow apprentice to bear witness about what transpired, no matter how Ding Peng dealt with him, nobody could say a word. Not even Wudang could say anything, let alone avenge him.

Liu Ruosong sighed, “I never imagined that Ding Peng would suddenly be so careful in how he handles his affairs.”

Lan Lan said, “People who have been fooled once will always become more careful in how they handle their affairs.”

Liu Ruosong was smiling, bitterly. He could only smile bitterly.

Lan Lan asked, “If Ding Peng was going to kill you, would Ling Xu help you out?”

“He wouldn’t.”

“Would he speak up for you?”

“Not likely.”

In that situation, no one could say anything.

Lan Lan asked, “Would he be very upset in you die?”

“Not at all.”

“Because he also knows that if he dies, you wouldn’t be the least bit upset.”

Liu Ruosong didn’t deny it at all.

Ling Xu didn’t eat, didn’t drink, didn’t gamble, didn’t whore (visit prostitutes). His sole purpose in life was his hope of one day inheriting the mantle of Tian Yi Zhenren*, succeeding him as Zhangmen of Wu Dang. Because he was a man of flesh and blood, he also had ambitions. He was no less worried about this than Liu Ruosong. Each of them knew in their heart that the other was their only competition.
*(zhēnrén-Taoist spiritual master)

Liu Ruosong sighed again, "It’s just a pity that he’s always been healthy. He could live at least another thirty to fifty years.”

“I can guarantee that he will never live that long.”


Lan Lan said, “He will die tomorrow night!”

Liu Ruosong said, “He’s always been free of illness and pain. How could he die?”

Lan Lan said, “Because someone pierced his throat with a sword.”

“Who is this person?”

“It’s you!”

Liu Ruosong was stunned.

He had actually wanted to pierce Ling Xu’s throat with a sword for a long time. This thought had often crossed his mind, but the notion was so shocking, that not only did he dare not speak of it, he didn’t even dare to think about it too much. Ling Xu was his senior apprentice brother after all. Killing him was tantamount to betraying his teacher. Being a traitor was something that was absolutely disgraceful*. This concept was deeply ingrained in his heart.
*(**dà nì bù dào-**of behavior that is unfilial, rebellious or otherwise in grave breach of the norms of society)

“If you don’t dare do it,” Lan Lan said, “I won’t force you.”

She went on indifferently, “In any case, I’m not married to you yet, so I won’t feel too bad if you die.” She seemed like she was going to leave.

How could Liu Ruosong let her go, he immediately said, “It’s not that I don’t dare, I’m just afraid that…”

“Afraid of what?” she asked.

“Ling Xu has been practicing kungfu since childhood. When he’s not eating, chanting or sleeping, he’s practicing kungfu. I, on the other, have many other things I want to do.” He certainly had many things he wanted to do. There are many things in the world that are far more interesting than practicing kungfu.

It’s just a pity that the more interesting something is, the less you can do of it. Otherwise it will become boring.

Liu Ruosong sighed, “Perhaps I have done too much of those other things, so I am afraid that I’m not his match now.”

“Of course, you’re not his match.” She said, “He can probably kill you within fifty moves!” He couldn’t deny it.

For the past few years Ling Xu had practiced even more diligently, his internal strength was more profound, his swordsmanship even more refined. He was already generally acknowledged in jianghu as the leading expert in the upcoming generation of Wudang disciples.

Lan Lan said, “But I am here, so what are you afraid of?”

She smiled, "As long as I’m by your side, you can kill him within ten moves…”

Liu Ruosong’s eyes lit up.

Lan Lan said, “Tomorrow at noon, I’ll await you at Huixian House* in the city and accompany you.”
*(huì-meet, gather; xiān-immortal; lóu-multi-strory bldg. IOW-something like Immortals Gather House)

“Why are you going to wait for me in the city?”

“Because I want you to pick me up in a sedan chair,” she said. “I want people to know that I was picked up by you in a sedan chair.” This was not an unreasonable request.

A woman who is not yet married always hopes the man she likes will pick her up in a sedan chair.

There was undoubtedly a deeper meaning to this.

Liu Ruosong’s heart was pounding again, pounding even faster than before, “I will surely prepare the biggest sedan chair to pick you up, but you…” He looked at the veil on Lan Lan’s face, “Why are you still not willing to let me see your face?”

“You will see it tomorrow.”

She went on, “Tomorrow when you arrive at Huixian House, you will see a woman wearing a lake-blue dress, a beaded flower on her head, and a pair of red embroidered shoes on her feet.”

“That woman is you?” he asked.

“That’s right.”


The fifteenth of the twelfth month, a fine day.

The midday sun was as warm as early spring. Liu Ruosong stood in the sun watching his servants cover the sedan chair with gold beadwork. He was feeling quite satisfied.

Eighteen years ago, he had escorted Qin Keqing to their wedding in this sedan chair. He’d had this sedan chair made by a famous craftsman in the capital according to the lady of the house’s wishes. After being refurbished overnight, it looked as good as new once again. But the person who had arrived in this sedan chair back then, would never be seen again. Although Liu Ruosong inevitably felt a little pain in his heart when he thought about this, fortunately, he quickly forgot about these unpleasant things.

Today was a good day for him, also a big day. He wouldn’t let anything spoil his mood.

His servants had all changed into brand new fox fur coats. Their waists were tied with dazzling red belts. Each and every one of them looked joyful and reinvigorated.

Lan Lan might already be waiting for him at Huixian House. He was sure she wouldn’t disappoint him.

Old Guo, who was in charge of the stables for him, had already brought out his tall, spirited steed ‘Thousand Li Xue*’, the newly fitted saddle and bridle trimmed in bright red satin.
*(name for a white horse with great speed & endurance)

He leapt onto his horse, still as vigorous and agile as a youngster.

He really was extremely happy.

Chapter 8-Full Moon Villa

He was even happier when he arrived at Huixian House.

Lan Lan really hadn’t let him down. He saw her as soon as he got upstairs.

Sure enough, she was wearing a lake-blue dress, sitting calmly in a corner waiting for him.

The sunlight shone in obliquely from outside the building, illuminating the beaded flower in her black hair, making her look even more radiant.

She looked even more beautiful than Liu Ruosong had imagined. Not just beautiful, but alluring. Not just alluring, but charming.

If Qin Keqing was a rare beauty, she was an even rarer beauty.

If there really was a woman in this world that a man found unbearable to look at, she was surely that type of woman.

‘Unbearable’ means a shortness of breath, a racing heartbeat, even physiological changes due to her.

‘Unbearable’ means that even when she was wearing clothes, it could make a man so lustful, that it was almost more than he could bear to not slip out and find some way to vent his frustration.

There were a lot of men upstairs. Liu Ruosong recognized quite a few of them.

The men he recognized were all good fellows* he had mingled with for years in jianghu.
(~~~~yīng xióng hǎo hàn***-idiom-lit. brave man, good fellows)

Usually, when he saw these people, he would walk over shake hands and exchange pleasantries, letting everyone know that he was not only modest, but that he loved to make friends.

Today, however, he wasn’t as polite as he normally was, because he knew that Ding Peng had invited these people. It was also because he really didn’t want to introduce Lan Lan to them.

He could see the lust and longing in their eyes and could imagine what some of them were thinking.

That repulsive change in a certain part of their body.

Everyone was looking at him of course.

He was a celebrity.

Celebrities were meant to be seen by other people.

Only today, there was an odd look in everyone’s eyes when they looked at him----

Maybe everyone knew he was coming to meet her, that she waiting for him as well----

That fact alone was enough to make everyone envious and jealous.

Liu Ruosong smiled as he walked over to Lan Lan.

Lan Lan smiled and looked at him.

She laughed very sweetly.

When she laughed, the beaded flower in her hair gently trembled, the red embroidered shoes on her feet swayed gently like a pair of red water caltrops* in a spring.
*[Water caltrop is a type of plant with turned up arms. So think of red shoes with pointed upturned toes.]

He said, “Hello.”

She said, “Hello.”

“You must have been waiting for me for some time,” said Liu Ruosong.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Can we go now?”

“When you say it’s time to leave,” she said, “we will leave.” So he extended his hand in the most gentle and courteous manner.

Lan Lan extended her hand as well, placing it on top of his.

Her hand was more beautiful.

So he assumed his most elegant and carefree manner as he held her hand and walked out of the Huixian House.

He knew that everyone was jealous and envious of him.

He was very happy indeed.

The only thing that was making him unhappy now was Ling Xu.

Even though he was convinced that Lan Lan definitely had a way to ensure that Ling Xu died by his hand.

But it was as if a shadow crossed his heart as soon as he thought of this person, remembered this matter.


Ling Xu was fifty-two years old this year, but he looked older than he actually was.

Many years of painstaking cultivation, year-round vegetarianism and abstinence (from lust), all contributed to his old age.

But his body was still as vigorous and nimble as that of a twenty-year-old. He had broad shoulders, a slender waist and there was not an ounce of fat on his stomach and buttocks.

If he took off his clothes and stood naked in front of a woman, that woman would be quite surprised, to the point of being shocked.

Fortunately this had never happened.

He had never been close to a woman. After years of abstinence, he longer even thought about it.

All the pleasures of life that regular men enjoyed were sins to him.

He consumed only coarse tea and plain rice**. He wore only coarse, plain cotton** clothing. The only thing on his body that he could show off to others was his sword.
(~~cū chá dàn fàn***-idiom denoting an aesthetic diet. IOW ‘Bread & Water’)
**~~(bù yī****-plain cotton; can also mean of ‘the common people’)

It was an ancient pine patterned sword of an archaic design with a bright apricot yellow tassel.

This sword not only indicated his rank, but also symbolized his respected status.

He was wearing his sword now, sitting in an exquisite water pavilion in the dreamlike garden of the Full Moon Villa.

He was currently sizing up the legendary owner of Full Moon Villa, Ding Peng.

The magnificence and grandeur of Full Moon Villa was far beyond most people’s expectations. There were far more guests here today than most people would have expected.

The majority of the guests were well-known figures in jianghu, their prestige shook the region, laughing proudly at the world, drawing swords on the long street*, happily repaying gratitude and grudges#.
~~(****zhǎng jiē bá jiàn~~-idiom meaning ‘fight to the death’)
ēn chou**-debt of gratitude coupled with duty to avenge)

Yet there were only eight people in the Water Pavilion—

Sun Fuhu, Lin Xiangxiong, Nanguan Huashu, Zhong Zhan, Meihua, and Mo Zhu.

Ling Xu recognized these six individuals.

Sun Fuhu and Lin Xiangxiong had prominent veins on their hands and smiles on their faces. They were equally proficient in external skills and self-cultivation.

Nanguan Huashu still lived in the past, carefree, straightforward, fashionably dressed. No matter when or where you saw him, he always had a glass of liquor in his hand, as if only in this glass could one see the glorious past of the ‘Nangong Family’.

Zhong Zhan seemed even more solemn, more arrogant, and much thinner.

Only Ling Xu knew why he had lost weight, because they were enduring the same sufferings.

Painstaking cultivation, vegetarianism, abstinence. Only Ling Xu knew how much pain and suffering went into accomplishing these three things.

Perhaps Mo Zhu was also like them. People like this were not rare in jianghu.

There were many people who tortured themselves like this, for an ideal, for a goal.

There were others who seemed predisposed to torture themselves.

Mei Hua was certainly not this type of person.

As long as he could eat, he would eat as much as possible. As long as he could sleep, he would sleep as much as possible.

The only thing he did in moderation was not letting himself work too hard.

Ling Xu had never been able to understand how someone built like Mei Hua could have become a top expert in wulin or had such a beautiful and elegant name.

If Mei Hua and Mo Zhu were here, Qingsong* would certainly come.
(~~~~Qingsong***=Pine Tree-Liu Ruosong’s nickname.)

Ling Xu had a vague feeling that the owner of this place had not invited them purely out of goodwill.

He had never heard of the name ‘Ding Peng’ before.

Before seeing this person, he hadn’t taken him very seriously either.

Now he knew that he had been wrong.

Not only did this young man have a lot of peculiar qualities that he had never seen in others, he also had a deep and strange confidence, as if he was sure that there were no problems in this world that he couldn’t solve, and there was nothing he couldn’t do.

Ling Xu did not know his history or what school of wugong he belonged to. Yet he could see he was not an easy person to deal with.

Just then he heard someone report, “Liu Ruosong, the master of Wansong Villa, has arrived with his wife.”

Ding Peng’s face did not betray the slightest expression when he heard the name ‘Liu Ruosong’. He just said indifferently, “Ask him in.”

Ling Xu suddenly understood that Ding Peng had invited them here in order to deal with Liu Ruosong.

Liu Ruosong was Ding Peng’s true target.

Because no (facial) expression was actually sometimes the most terrifying expression. Ding Peng had probably planned a long time for today’s affair.

What was going to happen today?

Ling Xu’s hand, intentionally or unintentionally, lightly touched the hilt of the sword.

No matter what, Liu Ruosong was always his younger martial brother*. No matter what was going to happen today, as long as his sword was there, no one would be allowed to violate the reputation of ‘Wu Dang’ in any way.
*(younger fellow apprentice of the same master)

He slowly stood up, stared at Ding Peng and said, “You know that Liu Ruosong is a fellow poor Taoist*?”
*(a humble way of saying a fellow member of the same Taoist school/sect.)

Ding Peng smiled and nodded.

Ling Xu asked, “Are you old friends?”

Ding Peng smiled and shook his head.

There was suddenly a strange look in his calm, clear eyes that no other person could ever interpret.

Ling Xu turned his head, followed Ding Peng’s gaze, and saw a sedan chair.

It was a magnificent eight-person sedan chair, usually only used when the wife of an official was going to the imperial court, or when a wealthy family was welcoming a bride.

Liu Ruosong was walking in front of the sedan chair. He also had that same expression of peculiar self-confidence as Ding Peng had.

He had always been a very sensible person. So why would he ask his wife to come in this sedan chair today, and moreover, carry it into someone else’s courtyard?

Ling Xu furrowed his brow as he watched the sedan chair pass through the garden and stop outside the Water Pavilion, at the head of the Jiuqu* Bridge.
(~~jiǔ***-nine ****~~qū****-songs, curves)

The curtain on the sedan chair was lifted and a hand so white and delicate, it seemed to have no bones, stretched out from the sedan chair.

Liu Ruosong immediately took the hand to help her down.

Ling Xu furrowed his brow even harder. The woman that Liu Ruosong helped down from the sedan chair was not even his wife!

But he was far gentler with this woman than he was with his wife.

Wudang was a righteous sect*, respected by everyone in jianghu. How could a disciple of Wudang do such a thing?
(~~~~Míngménzhèngpài***-idiom- famous and upright school/sect)

Ling Xu frowned, walked out of the Water Pavilion, and said coldly, “Tell her to go back.”

Liu Ruosong said, “Tell who to go back?”

“This woman.”

“Do you know who she is?” asked Liu Ruosong.

“Whoever she is,” said Ling Xu, “tell her to go back.”

He had noticed that many people had a strange look on their faces when they saw the woman.

He couldn’t let her stay here and create a scene*.
(~~~~diūrénxiànyǎn***- to make an exhibition of oneself; to be a disgrace)

Liu Ruosong suddenly laughed, “There is indeed someone who should go back, but it’s definitely not her.”

Ling Xu asked, “Who is it, if not her?”

“It’s you!”

He went on casually, “If you kneel down and kowtow to her thirty times, then leave immediately, I might just spare you.”

Ling Xu’s face changed, “What did you say?”

“I spoke quite clearly,” said Liu Ruosong, “you should have heard it clearly as well.”

Ling Xu had indeed heard every word very clearly, but never would have even dreamed that these words would come out of Liu Ruosong’s mouth.

He tried his best to control himself and said, “Have you forgotten what the first precept of the sect is?”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Which sect is this?”

Ling Xu sternly said, “Don’t tell me you have forgotten what sect you are a disciple of?”

Liu Ruosong sneered, “It is true that I formerly lingered under Wudang, but now I have nothing to do with Wudang at all.”

Ling Xu bit back his anger, “You are no longer under the authority of Wudang?”


“Who expelled you from Wudang?” asked Ling Xu.

“I was the one wanted to leave.”

“You are going to betray master and leave?”

Liu Ruosong said coldly, “I come and go as I please. There is no question of betraying master and leaving?” Wudang was the head of the inner circle of four major sword sects. It was universally accepted within the inner circle of orthodox sects that anyone in jianghu would be proud to be listed as a member of Wudang. No one would have imagined that Liu Ruosong would do something like this.

Everyone stared at him in shock, believing this man must be mad.

Ling Xu’s face turned blue and kept grinning angrily as he said, “Good, very good, extremely good.”

Liu Ruosong asked, “Do you have anything else to say?”


“Then why haven’t you drawn your sword?”

He mouth was speaking to Ling Xu with, but his eyes were looking at Lan Lan.

Lan Lan was also looking at him and smiling, smiling so sweetly, it was as if she was telling him that, “You have done well. With me by your side, you can kill him in less than ten moves!” No one would believe her.

No one would believe that Liu Ruosong could defeat Ling Xu, the top expert among the younger generation of Wudang disciples, within ten moves.

But Liu Ruosong believed it.

Although Ling Xu had seized the initiative in his first five moves, and had him breathing hard, he still believed that Lan Lan would never let him down.

By the ninth move, he had been backed into a corner. No matter what move he used, he would never be able to break through Ling Xu’s attack.

They were using the same Wudang sword techniques. In this respect, Ling Xu was for more proficient and refined than him.

He suddenly thought of the ‘Heavenly Meteor’ move.

‘Heavenly Meteor’ was not a Wudang sword technique. His sword position changed, the sword wind cut through the air. ‘Chi’, the blade had stabbed through Ling Xu’s left chest and pierced out his back.

Everyone was stunned.

Liu Ruosong was stunned himself.

He himself knew that at most this move could only break through Ling Xu’s attack. It absolutely should not have put Ling Xu on deadly ground*.
(~~~~Zhìzhīsǐdì***-idiom-lit. ‘put him on deadly ground’. meaning to place sb on field of death; to confront with mortal danger; to give sb no way out; with one’s back to the wall.)

But Ling Xu had died under this move.

Ling Xu’s pupils had begun to dilate. His eyes were filled with shock and fear.

He definitely could have avoided this move, yet he hadn’t avoided it.

Why was this?

Liu Ruosong hadn’t seen it when Ling Xu collapsed.

He was looking at Lan Lan.

Lan Lan was also looking at him and smiling, smiling even more sweetly, it was as if he was telling him that, “As long as I am here, as long as you believe in me, no matter what you want to do, you can certainly do it.”

Now the one thing Liu Ruosong most wanted to do was to kill Ding Peng, permanently heading off future troubles.

He suddenly realized that Ding Peng was already in front of him.

Liu Ruosong smiled and said, “Hello.”

Ding Peng also smiled and said, “Hello.”

“I’m quite good,” said Liu Ruosong, “but you surely aren’t so good.”


“I killed your invited guest in your newly completed estate. How can you be good?” He smiled and added, “I can see not only is your mood not good, your luck is also not so good.”

Ding Peng asked, “Why?”

“Because you’ve met me again.”

Ding Peng sighed, “Correct. Every time I meet you, it seems like I’m going to be unlucky."

Although it was four years ago, the impression left in Liu Ruosong’s memory was still very vivid.

He could even remember the look of surprise, pain and misery on Ding Peng’s face when he found out that ‘Kexiao’ was Madam Liu.

From Liu Ruosong’s point of view, it had been a masterful plan, simple yet ingenious, every detail flawlessly planned.

He had never put himself in Ding Peng’s place. “What had Ding Peng felt at that time? Anyone who had been deceived, humiliated and treated in such an unjust way, would never easily forget it. He was undoubted thinking of this matter at the moment. But he was actually smiling, a smile unique to successful people, full of ridicule and self-confidence. He had indeed changed, becoming so deep, so terrifying, that even Liu Ruosong had felt his how dreadful he was. Luckily, Lan Lan was right behind him. Every time Liu Ruosong turned around, he could see that sweet, touching smile on her face, as if she were telling him—“As long as I’m here, whatever you want to do, you can feel free to do it.”

Liu Ruosong exhaled gently and smiled, “You’re right. Whenever you see me, it will be unlucky.”

Ding Peng asked, “And this time?”

“It’s the same this time.”

“I’m afraid it’s not quite the same this time.”

“Because this time it’s at your place,” said Liu Ruosong. “Do you have a helper?”

“This is between the two of us.” Ding Peng said, “I would never let a third person take action.”

Liu Ruosong said, “Very good.”

“You killed Priest* Ling Xu. Wudang sect will naturally come looking for you.”
(~~~~Dào Zhǎng***-Taoist Priest)

“And if I kill you?”

Ding Peng smiled, “If you can kill me in a single move, not only can you cut off my head any time you like, this estate is yours. A dead person would no longer need such a big place.”

Liu Ruosong’s eyes lit up, “Correct.”

“No matter who dies, seven feet of yellow earth is enough. So…”

Liu Ruosong quickly responded, and immediately said, “So if I lose, I’ll also give you my Wansong Villa.”

Ding Peng smiled, "That’s a fair deal!”

Liu Ruosong said, “That’s settled then*.”
(~~~~yī yán wéi dìng***-idiom-lit. ‘one word and it’s settled’)

“There are heroes from all over the world here to bear witness,” Ding Peng said, “even if you wanted to, you could not go back on your word.”

Liu Rousing said, “Very good.”

His hand tightly gripped the hilt of his sword. Ling Xu’s blood had dried on the blade. Now it would again be stained red by the blood another person.

He turned his head. Lan Lan was looking at him smiling again, as if to assure him: Within ten moves, Ding Peng will surely die under your sword.

Liu Ruosong’s spirit surged, “Draw your sword!”

Ding Peng said, “I have sworn I will no longer use the sword again in this life.”

“What do you use?”

“I use the saber.”

Liu Ruosong laughed heartily, “If you use the saber, I can yield three moves to you.” The saber is also a killing weapon.

However, the saber technique is easy to practice yet difficult to refine. People who practice martial arts know, “A thousand years to learn the sword, a year to perfect the saber.”

The art of the sword is indeed far more exquisite and profound than the art of the saber. The sword itself is a symbol of nobility and elegance.

It had been many years since a renowned saber expert had appeared in jianghu.

If a man who learns the sword suddenly begins using the saber, his saber technique tends to be limited.

Liu Ruosong said, “Draw your saber!”

Ding Peng’s saber was already in his hand.

This was an ordinary saber. Its blade would not split a hair, nor did it have any history worthy of boasting of.

The saber was curved. The blade was curved. The hilt was curved.

Ding Peng caressed the blade and said, “This is my saber.”

Liu Ruosong said, “I can see.”

"This saber has not yet tasted human blood,” Ding Peng said, “because today is the first time I have tested it.”

Liu Ruosong sneered, “You’re using me to test the saber?”

“Since I am going to use you to test the saber, I can allow you a small advantage.” He went on casually, “As long as you can receive my three strikes, then you will be considered the victor.” Liu Ruosong looked at him as if he was looking at a man who had suddenly lost his mind.

Lan Lan was smiling again, an even sweeter smile, even more cheerful.

Liu Ruosong said, “Good, I will look at your three moves.”

Ding Peng said, “You can’t see them.” With a wave of his hand, the saber had flown up.

The full moon sets, the saber rises.

A hundred thousand miles across the earth.

The saber light was as cold as snow. Where to listen to the spring rain?*
*[何处听春雨?-probably a reference to the poem on Qing Qing’s saber]

The curved blade, the curved blade light, began like a crescent moon, suddenly transforming into a flying rainbow.

Nobody could see the variations in this strike. Nobody could see the saber either.

The saber had disappeared within the saber light.

It had been many years since a renowned saber expert had appeared in jianghu. It had been many years since people in jianghu had seen such glorious saber light.

No one knew what formidable variations his second strike would have.

There was not a second strike.

The saber light only flashed once! Ding Peng only struck once!

The saber light flashed and disappeared.

Liu Ruosong hadn’t collapsed.

His sword was still in his hand. His body still stood rooted to the ground. Only the blood had drained from his face.

There was no second strike.

Victory or defeat had yet to be determined. Why was there no second strike?

Ding Peng caressed the blade and casually said, “I know you can’t see it.”

Liu Ruosong didn’t make a move, didn’t make a sound.

Just then, with a “ding”, the sword in his hand fell to the ground.

Ding Peng said, “You must practice at least another ten years to be able to see my three strikes.” Liu Ruosong didn’t make a move, didn’t make a sound.

Just then, a trickle of blood appeared on his wrist.

Ding Peng said, “One strike from me is enough for now.”

Liu Ruosong didn’t make a move, didn’t make a sound.

Just then, a bright red ‘+’* appeared on his pale face.
*(the text actually says ‘十’字 which means ‘symbol for the number 10.’)

The bright red was blood.

No one cheered.

Everyone’s hands and feet were ice-cold. Everyone’s palms were covered in cold sweat.

Everyone* now knew, that strike had not only cut open Liu Ruosong’s wrist, it had also cut a ‘+’ in his face.
(~~~~dà jiā***-everyone, call also mean ‘great expert’ different from above)

But the wound hadn’t bled until now.

Because that strike had not used an ounce of strength more than necessary, because that strike had been so fast.

No one cheered, because not had ever seen a saber technique like this.

The saber had already been sheathed.

Ding Peng merely said three short words, “You have lost.”

Eventually Liu Ruosong slowly nodded, turned slowly around and walked slowly towards Lan Lan.

Lan Lan was still smiling, but her expression no longer seemed as sweet and touching as it had been.

Her smile seemed somewhat forced.

Liu Ruosong was standing in front of her, looking at her. The blood had clotted in the ‘+’ on his face.

As soon as the blood came out, it immediately clotted.

The expression on Liu Ruosong’s face seemed to have frozen as he said one word at a time, "I have lost!

Lan Lan sighed softly and said, “It looks as if you lost.”

Liu Ruosong said, “You said I would not lose.”

“I said that?” she asked.

He said, “You said that as long as you’re here, I absolutely will not lose.”

“You surely misheard,” she said. “Why would I say such a thing?”

“I have not misheard,” he said, “you said you would help me. Why didn’t you?”

“What could I do? How can I help you?” she asked.

Suddenly there was someone laughing in the distance, his laughter full of contempt, “The only thing she can do for you is to help you get your pants down.”

Lan Lan was actually laughing too, “Good point. This seems to be the only thing I can help you do. This is what I am best at.”

Liu Ruosong suddenly looked at her, a look of terror on his face, “You…just who the hell are you?”

She said, “You spent sixty thousands taels of silver to redeem me from ‘Mancui Court’! You told me to wait for you at Huixian House, to accompany you here as your guest, even picked me up in a sedan chair like that!” She chuckled, “How can you not know who I am?” Mancui Court was a brothel, a very famous brothel. The most popular prostitute in Mancui Court was called Cuixian.
**-full; **cuì****-jade; **yuàn****-courtyard-it’s the name of a brothel)
Cuì****-emerald; **~~Xiān****-immortal, fairy)

She used a slender* finger to point at her dainty nose, “I am Cuixian. There are at least a hundred people here who recognize me.” Liu Ruosong’s expression changed, his face suddenly contorted. The scarlet ‘+’ tore open again, a trickle of blood ran down his face.
*(it actually says spring scallion like finger)

He was not stupid. He finally understood now, understood everything.

When others had looked at him with that odd expression in their eyes, it wasn’t envy, and it certainly wasn’t jealousy.

There were at least a hundred people here that recognized her, knew she was Cuixian from Mancui Court.

Maybe she had pulled down the pants of these hundred men.

And yet he had picked her up in an eight person sedan chair, carried her here like a fairy, in hope that she could fulfill his dream of glory and wealth.

This was simply a joke, a joke that could make a man laugh their bitter guts* out.
*(actually says gall bladder. It implies he is laughing bitterly)

This joke was simply as ridiculous* as the one he had played on Ding Peng four years ago.

Now he finally knew what Ding Peng had felt then.

This was ‘revenge’.

Ding Peng’s revenge was clever, cruel, and complete.

Just like Liu Ruosong’s plan to deal with him, this plan had also been meticulously designed, with every detail flawlessly* designed.
(~~~~wán měi wú quē***-idiom perfect and without blemish; flawless)

The most important aspect of this plan was that Liu Ruo Song had to feel the pressure first.

The incessant banging day and night from the mansion on the opposite hillside had frayed Liu Ruosong’s nerves.

A person whose nerves are frayed will inevitably suspect god and ghosts*.
(~~~~Yíshényíguǐ***-idiom meaning suspect everyone, paranoid)

Take a woman with slender waist and long legs lying on the bed and replace her with a bitch.

Bribe a wine steward to replace all the baijiu* with sewage overnight.
(~~~~baijiu***-lit. ‘clear liquor’ also shaojiu-a clear alcohol that is the most popular liquor in China)

Add a bit of deadly poison to the feed of pigs, cows, chickens, and ducks.

These things were not difficult.

But from the perspective of a nervous and paranoid* person, all these things become seemingly inexplicable.

All of these things had turned into a pressure that was so overwhelming that Liu couldn’t even breathe.

Then ‘Lan Lan’ had appeared, like a piece of driftwood suddenly appearing in front of a drowning man.

There was no ‘Lan Lan’ at all.

Lan Lan was Qing Qing.

Qing Qing had put on a light blue robe, covered her face with a veil, and told Liu Ruosong, “I am Lan Lan. I am the only one that can save you. Only I can fight off Qing Qing.” Of course Liu Ruosong wouldn’t doubt it.

To say nothing of the astonishing magical ability that she had let Liu Ruosong witness with his own eyes when she fought off ‘Qing Qing’.

The ‘Qing Qing’ Liu Ruosong had seen then was just another woman, of course.

He didn’t know what ‘Qing Qing’ looked like, nor what ‘Lan Lan’ looked like.

After a succession of those ‘miracles’, his faith in ‘Lan Lan’ was even more resolute.

So he wouldn’t have even dreamed that the woman that Lan Lan told him to pick up in an eight-person sedan chair was actually a prostitute from Mancui Court.

Although he understood now, understood all the key elements of this plan, he could not bring himself to say it.

Because he knew that even if he said such a thing, no one would ever believe it.

His wife was dead now, moreover she had died in the arms of another man.

His ancestral estate* belonged to someone else.
(~~~~Jiā yè***-family property)

He had killed his senior martial brother* with his own hands, betrayed his master, violated the greatest taboo of people in jianghu.
(~~~~shī xióng***- senior male fellow student or apprentice)

Not only would others never forgive him for the things he had done, he could not even forgive himself.

Even if Ding Peng didn’t kill him, he would have no place to stand in jianghu.

Liu Ruosong suddenly did something that no one would have expected him to do.


The fifteenth of the twelfth month, night.

Moonlit night, full moon.

The full moon had yet to rise, the twilight had faded, darkness gradually descended on the room.

The time had come when lamps should be lit, but Qing Qing hadn’t lit the lamp.

She liked to sit quietly by herself in the dark, enjoying the unique seclusion of dusk on this winter evening.

She had grown accustomed to being alone as a child, because she simply had no other choice.

The small house was elegant, everything in the room had been chosen with the utmost care.

She could never enjoy anything that was vulgar or impure.

Because she had grown up in such an environment, she was never exposed to the troubles and misfortunes of the human world.

But now she suddenly realized that she was beginning to have troubles, human troubles.

Any proper young married woman will inevitably have troubles.

She suddenly felt extremely lonely.

The faint sound of voices came through the window.

Although this small house was quite far from the courtyard where Ding Peng received his guests, the voices from over there could still be heard quite clearly.

She knew that many guests had come today. Among them were many brave and chivalrous heroes whose fame shook jianghu, surpassed only by their bold and unrestrained passion. She had looked forward to this for a long time.

She was dying to join in, enjoy the pleasures of the human world with them, drink a big cup (of liquor) with them, and listen to them chatting about the inspiring, exciting news of jianghu.

For a girl who had never experienced these things before, it was really a hard temptation to resist.

But she could not go.

Because she was a ‘fox’, a freak, she was destined to never know human joy.

She and Ding Peng had been together for four years.

For the past four years, they had been together almost day and night. Without Ding Peng by her side, she could barely sleep anymore.

Ding Peng was born into poverty. He was not the distinguished and refined, kind and caring sort of man.

He had struggled to make a name for himself* since he was a child. He didn’t know much about certain pleasures in life.

Although he was young and healthy, his passion for her had seemed to gradually decline over the past two years. The frequency of their marital intimacy had also declined.

But she still loved him just the same.

He was the only man in her life. She was willing to do anything for him.

She was proud to be his wife, even dreaming that he might take her hand, introduce her to his friends, his guests, and tell others that she was his wife, Madam Ding.

“Madam Ding”, this was such a beautiful and glorious title, unfortunately she would never be able to hear others call her by this name in her life.

Because she was a ‘fox’, a freak, she could never go out in public with Ding Peng—

Am I really a ‘fox’?—

Why do I have to be a ‘fox’?

Tears filled Qing Qing’s eyes, a stabbing pain in her heart.

Because she had a secret in her heart, a secret she could never tell anyone, not even Ding Peng.

This secret was like a needle, piercing her heart day and night, all the time.

If not for this, she would be happy.

As long as there was nothing especially important, Ding Peng always tried his best to spend time with her.

It seemed that he had arrived now. The sound of his footsteps could be heard on the stairs.

Qing Qing wiped the tears from her eyes and stood up. Ding Peng had gently pushed the door open.

“Why don’t you light the lamp?”

Qing Qing didn’t answer when she suddenly threw herself in his arms, holding him tightly. It was as if they hadn’t seen each other for days, even though they’d only been apart for a few shichen.

She was terrified of losing him.

Because she was just a fox woman, yet this was the human world, so she always had a feeling of inferiority in her heart that she couldn’t bring herself to speak of.

Even though Ding Peng didn’t know what was on her mind, he could feel her tender sentiments.

“Everyone is drinking now, so I found an opportunity to slip away and come see you.” Qing Qing was all choked up, her heart full of warm gratitude.

She wanted him to say more, to tell her that wherever he was, in his heart he was thinking of her.

But what Ding Peng said was not what she wanted to hear.

“I had to come back to tell you our plan succeeded. I completely ruined Liu Ruosong.” He had only come back to tell her this. She had nearly forgotten about it.

Even though she had participated in his plan, and had done everything she could to help him accomplish it.

But she had only done it for him, nothing more.

For him, she would not hesitate to cheat, to lie, to do anything she would normally never do. But as far as she was concerned, she couldn’t care less about the gratitude* and grudges^ of the human world.
(~~ēn chou***- debt of gratitude coupled with duty to avenge)
**~~yuàn hèn****- to resent; to harbor a grudge against)

Ding Peng, however, looked excited and relayed everything that had just happened.

It was indeed very exciting once one was able to vent years of resentment.

In order to make him happy, she feigned interested in listening to him. Although in her heart she just wanted to quietly cuddle with him and enjoy this moment of tranquility.

Ding Peng was still speaking, "If you could’ve seen the look on Liu Ruosong’s face when he found out that the fairy he thought was going to save his life was actually a prostitute, you would have felt happy too.”

Qing Qing understood how he felt, for he had suffered the same painful blow.

“And then what?” she couldn’t help but asking.

“What would you do if you were him?”

“I don’t know.”

She really didn’t know about the viscous and cunning matters of the human world. She had simply never thought too much about it.

“Take a guess!” Ding Peng was in high spirits, “Guess what he did?”

“He fled?”

“He knew he couldn’t escape.” Ding Peng said, “Even if he could escape, he was at the end of his rope, there’s nowhere to go.”

“He fainted?”


“Ling Xu’s friends killed him?”

“Also no.”

“He killed that woman then turned the sword on himself?

This was a quite reasonable guess.

For a man in his condition, living was really not better than dying.

Ding Peng shook his head and said, “He’s not dead. Even now, he can’t bring himself to die.” He laughed, “He did something that no one, no matter who they are, could ever imagine that anyone in the world could do.”

Qing Qing asked, “What did he do?”

Ding Peng said, "When everyone else thought he would come to fight me to the death, he suddenly knelt down and begged me to accept him as my apprentice.”

Chapter 9 – Shocking

Liu Ruosong was old enough to be Ding Peng’s father, nor was he some nobody in jianghu, but he had actually made such a declaration in front of the world’s heroes.

Other than him, who would do such a thing?

Qing Qing sighed, “This man’s cheek* is man is truly thick.”
*(IOW-the nerve of this man)

Ding Peng said, “No matter what he begged me for, I would never agree to it. I never would have dreamed that he would beg me to accept him as a disciple.”

“Did you promise him?”

Ding Peng smiled, “It’s not bad to have such a disciple.” Qing Qing didn’t say anything else.

Even though she felt there was something a little fishy about this, she never opposed anything Ding Peng wanted to do.

This was all quite different from what she had hoped for. She had only hoped that Ding Peng would be a man with a clear conscience* and would be content to spend his life with her in some quiet place.
*(wèn xīn wú kuì-idiom lit. ‘look into one’s heart, no shame’)

But Ding Peng had ambition.

Every man had ambition. Every man should have ambition. In other words, ‘ambition’ is ambition*. A man without ambition and grand plans cannot be considered a man at all.
*(the second ‘ambition’ is xióng xīn which literally means ‘male heart’)

She couldn’t blame Ding Peng, but he was far too ambitious, far more than she had imagined.

‘Ambition’ was like a monster from the age of famine & floods. As long as you let it, it would grow bigger every day, until it was so big you couldn’t control it.

From an ambitious man’s perspective, someone like Liu Ruosong was undoubtedly useful.

But Qing Qing was somewhat concerned.

She was afraid that when Ding Peng’s ambition was so big that he couldn’t control it, his ambition would control him instead.

With this in mind, she immediately thought of something even more frightening.

She suddenly asked, “Did no one from Divine Sword Villa come today?”


“I seem to recall you specifically sent someone to deliver an invitation card.”

There was more than one invitation card. Beside Xie Xiaofeng, the current master of Divine Sword Villa, the leading swordsman of the current age, whose name shook the world, there was also one for another ‘Mr. Xie’.

This Mr. Xie had a round face, chubby body, wide smile and was very friendly.

This Mr. Xie had also been present on the fifteenth of the sixth month four years earlier when Ding Peng had been humiliated at Wansong Villa.

“But none of them came today.” As soon as he thought about this matter, Ding Peng’s mood soured, “Not only did nobody from Divine Sword Villa come, no one from that area came.”

Qing Qing asked, “Who did you invite from that area?”

Ding Peng said, “Tian Yifei and Shang Zhen.”

“I know of this Shang Zhen. He is the master of Shang Fortress*. He is currently the last of the great masters of the ‘Five Element Sword Style’”. She thought for a while, then went on, “The Five Element Sword Style is incomprehensible and obscure. If I was going to list the ten people with the highest swordsmanship in the world today, Shang Zhen would definitely not be counted among them.”
*(In this sense ‘master’ means ‘owner’. Also Gu Long switches between Shang Fortress and Five Element Fortress. They are the same place.)

Ding Peng laughed, “Are you trying to comfort me, asking me not to take offense over someone like him?”

Qing Qing laughed as well.

“Actually, even if I am angry with him,” Ding Peng said, “I still wouldn’t look down on him.”


“Even though the Five Element Sword Style is incomprehensible and obscure, it is extremely formidable when used.”


“The Five Elements are strong because they engender and overcome each other.” Ding Peng said, “Within them are some variations that others would simply never imagine, and certainly couldn’t resist.”

Qing Qing smiled and said, “That’s reasonable.”

Ding Peng said, “Although Shang Zhen is not ranked among the top ten swordsmen today, he can definitely be regarded as a top expert in jianghu. What’s more, he has an extremely deep foundation in his family’s wugong and his rich internal strength also makes up for the deficiency of his swordsmanship.”

Qing Qing said, “You seem to know quite a bit about him.”

‘If they are a top expert in jianghu,” said Ding Peng, “I know a lot about everyone.” He laughed again, “Because every one of them could be my opponent.” Qing Qing was still smiling, but the smile was somewhat forced.

She could see that Ding Peng not only considered things more carefully and saw things more accurately, he was also more emotionally mature and stable, unlike before when he would get angry over trivial things.

Because his ambitions had grown.

Ding Peng said, “Only when you know yourself and your enemy can you win a hundred battles.”

His eyes were glowing with excitement again, “I will never again allow myself to suffer defeat at the hands of other people.”

Qing Qing was sighing to herself, but asked with a smile, “Who are these other people?”


“Does this include the Third Young Master of the Xie Family, Xie Xiaofeng?”

“The same goes for Xie Xiaofeng,” Ding Peng said. “No matter what, he is also a person.” His eyes burned even hotter, “Sooner or later the day will come that I am going to compete with him.” Qing Qing was looking at him with a worried look in here eyes.

She got this look in her eyes every time Ding Peng mentioned Xie Xiaofeng.

She seemed to have a fear of Xie Xiaofeng that she must never tell to others.

She was a fox. Foxes are omnipotent.

Even though Xie Xiaofeng was a divine sword among swords and a sword god among men, he was, after all, just a man.

Why should she fear a mortal?

This was undoubtedly her secret as well.

If the secret in a person’s heart must never be told to others, it will become a kind of pain and pressure.

Ding Peng did not notice her expression. He said, “Shang Fortress is near Divine Sword Villa. Shang Zhen didn’t come. So it’s likely because of Xie Xiaofeng’s influence.” He went on indifferently, “Xie Xiaofeng is unmatched under heaven. Of course he wouldn’t take an unknown youngster like me seriously.”

Qing Qing clearly didn’t want to talk about this Xie Xiaofeng person anymore. She immediately changed the subject and asked, “What about Tian Yifei? What kind of person is he?”

Ding Peng said, “You know that there is woman in jianghu called the Shadowless Flying Lady*?
*(wúying-Shadowless; wúshuāng- incomparable, matchless; fēi-to fly; niángzǐ-polite form of address for a woman; Shadowless Matchless Flying Lady just sounded cumbersome)

“Are you talking about Tian Ping?”

“That’s exactly who I am talking about.”

“Of course I know about her,” said Qing Qing. “I have often heard the legends about her.” There were certainly many legends about Tian Ping in jianghu.

She was one of the three most beautiful women in jianghu. She was also one of the three most formidable women in jianghu.

Her qinggong was so high that not only could no woman compare to her, very few men could.

She had long been famous. Considering that, she must be at least forty or fifty years old.

But according to someone who had seen her recently, she looked to be twenty-seven or twenty-eight at most.

Ding Peng said, “Tian Yifei is Tian Ping’s only disciple. Some say he is he nephew. Some say he is her cousin. Some even say he is her illegitimate child.” He went on, “Nobody knows what the relationship between them is. The only thing they know is that Tian Yifei’s qinggong is certainly her technique*. He can already be considered a top expert.”
*(zhēn chuán- authentic tradition; handed-down teachings or techniques)

Qing Qing asked, “Does Tian Yifei also live near Divine Sword Villa?”

“Tian Ping’s whereabouts are secretive.” Ding Peng said, “No one knows if she has a home, let alone where her home is. The same is true for Tian Yifei, except that he has recently been living in a family’s guesthouse near Divine Sword Villa. He’s lived there for at least half a year.”

“Why is he staying there?”

“Because he wants to be the son-in-law of Divine Sword Villa,” answered Ding Peng.

He smiled and went on, “Therefor, since Xie Xiaofeng didn’t come, he certainly wouldn’t come either.”

“If Xie Xiaofeng has not taken a wife yet,” Qing Qing asked, “how could he have a daughter?”

Ding Peng smiled, “That is a personal matter. You should know that I never concern myself with the personal matters of other people.” This was his principle, also his virtue. It had never changed one little bit.

The window was open because Qing Qing had never feared the cold.

From the window, one could see the moon just rising in the sky as well as the pond over by the Water Pavilion.

The water in the pond was frozen.

The ice reflected the moonlight in the sky and the surrounding light like a dazzling large mirror.

Just as Ding Peng walked to the window, a silhouette suddenly appeared in the mirror.

This person came so fast that even with Ding Peng’s eyesight, he didn’t see where he came from. He only saw the flash of a dark gray silhouette that had swept across the 20 to 30 zhang (60-90 meter) wide ice pond.

Tonight the Full Moon Villa was filled with experts in swordplay, saber technique, palm strength, hidden weapons and qinggong. Nearly all the top masters in every kind of wugong were present.

From the looks of this person’s qinggong, absolutely nobody here could even compare with him.

Ding Peng wanted Qing Qing to come over to see what was going on, but before he could look back, he saw something that he would never forget.

All of a sudden, the silhouette actually split in half from the middle, like a paper silhouette torn apart from the middle.


There was only one table of liquor in the Water Pavilion. There were only nine guests, but about ten servers off to the side.

The guests who could sit at this table were naturally first-class masters in jianghu.

The person sitting in the host seat was tall, with a sonorous voice, a ruddy face and a headful of hair. He drank liquor like a whale sucking water and ate meat in a single bite. No one could tell that he was eighty or ninety years old this year.

It wasn’t just because of his age that everyone let him occupy the top seat. ‘Mighty Axe King’ Meng Kaishan* had been a highly respected person from a very young age.
*(kāi shan-split open a mountain)

He had washed his hands* and retired twenty years ago. He seldom moved about in jianghu.
*[in Jin Yong’s ‘Laughing Proudly at the Wind’ there is a ceremony where a person washes his hands to signal his retirement from public life.]

Ding Peng was able to invite him on this occasion. Everyone felt the host’s (DP) face* was really not small.
*(Miànzi-face; as is the concept of face. In this context it can be read as Ding Peng’s ‘reputation’ or ‘social standing’)

Liu Ruosong was actually serving him liquor.

Now that Liu Ruosong had actually appeared in his capacity as the host’s disciple, he still looked the same, talking and laughing as if nothing had just happened.

Meng Kaishan suddenly patted him hard on the shoulder and laughed heartily, “My boy, I admire you, I really admire you, one can bend and stretch* only if he is a man of character*.”
*(néng qū néng shēn-lit. ‘can bend, can stretch’; idiom from the Book of Changes meaning ‘can bow and submit, or can stand tall’)
*(dà zhàng fu-lit. ‘big 10-foot man’; can mean ‘a manly man’ or ‘man of character’. I went with ‘man of character’ because Meng Kaishan is clearly being sarcastic.)

Amazingly, Liu Ruosong didn’t even blush, and he actually compensated with a smile, “Then I also depend on the seniors* to educate more.”
*(qiánbèi- senior; address used for member of an older generation)

Mo Zhu coldly said, “Now we have become your seniors?”

Liu Ruosong smiled and said, "From now on, I have been a person for two generations, and my master’s friends are all my seniors.”

Meng Kaishan laughed again, “Good, well said! A man who can say such things will definitely be successful in the future.”

Hong Mei sighed, “Meng laoyezi* spoke correctly. Even I can’t help but admire him now."
*(lǎoyézi- my (you etc) old father; polite appellation for an elderly male)

Mo Zhu sneered, “It’s just a pity…”

He didn’t go on, not because he no longer wanted to embarrass Liu Ruosong, but because he suddenly saw a silhouette.

The silhouette had appeared astonishingly fast.

The windows on all four sides of the Water Pavilion were all built high up. All those present were heroes* with profound internal strength. They certainly weren’t bothered by the cold, not to mention that everyone had all drunk quite a lot of alcohol.
*(yīngxiónghǎohàn-lit. ‘brave male good fellow’)

There was a frozen pond outside the window, a full moon on the ice.

The figure had appeared suddenly and was just as suddenly outside the window of the Water Pavilion.

Not only were his movements* fast, his bearing was impressive. He was also very good-looking, tall, with delicate features, though his face looked a little green in the moonlight.
*(shēnfǎ- pose or motion of one’s body in martial arts)

Lin Xiangxiong had a wide circle of friends. He recognized almost all the masters in jianghu.

Of course he recognized this person. Tian Yifei could certainly be considered a master in jianghu. His qinggong was high, so much so that he was an expert among experts.

As soon as the silhouette of the man appeared, Lin Xiangxiong had raised a cup and laughed, “The penalty for being late is three cups, you…” His laughter suddenly died, as if someone had slit his throat. The full moon was in the sky. The moonlight was shining on Tian Yifei’s face. Under his hair, a small bright red drop of blood suddenly appeared in the center of his forehead. The drop of blood had barely oozed out, when it suddenly became a trickle. The bright red blood trickled down from his forehead, between his eyebrows, down the bridge of his nose, through the philtrum, over his lips, down his chin, ending up in his clothes. What had begun as a thin trickle, suddenly became thicker and thicker…all of a sudden, Tian Yifei’s skull split open from the spot where that little drop of blood had just appeared. Then his body was slowly splitting down the middle as well. The left half fell to the left, the right half fell to the right, blood suddenly splattering out of the middle. A person who was perfectly fine just moments ago, had suddenly been cleaved to death! Nobody moved, no one spoke, no one even dared to breath. In the blink of an eye, their clothes were drenched in cold sweat. Even though everyone present were well-known figures and veterans of jianghu, none of them had ever seen such a thing. Off to the side, half of the servant girls had fainted; the other half had wet themselves. A stench suddenly filled the Water Pavilion, but no one had detected it yet. After who knows how long, Meng Kaishan suddenly took charge of the situation, raised a full pot of fine Old Shaoxing liquor, then emptied it down into his stomach, before exhaling deeply and saying, “Very fast saber!”

Lin Xiangxiong asked, “Saber? Where is the saber?”

Meng Kai Shan didn’t even hear what he was saying, and with another long sigh, he said, “I haven’t seen a saber this fast in forty years!”

Nangong Huashu suddenly said, “I once heard my late father mention such a fast saber, but I’ve never seen it.”

Meng Kaishan said, “I’ve lived for 86 years, but I only saw it once.” His red face turned white. Every wrinkle on his face seemed to deepen, a look of fear in his eyes.

He remembered something he had personally witnessed forty years ago.

Even though ‘Mighty Axe King’ was a hero who feared nothing in Heaven or Earth, at the mere thought of that incident he felt a shiver of cold fear, felt his blood run cold*.
*(máo gǔ sǒng rán-idiom lit. ‘hairy bones, scared stiff’)

“At that time I was not very old, and I often moved about in jianghu. One day I passed the Long Bridge in Baoding Prefecture…” At that time, it had also been bitterly cold, the bridge was covered with frost, and there were few people on the road.

He suddenly saw a man running wildly, as if there was an evil spirit chasing him.

“I recognized the man,” he said.

“That man was also a famous hero in jianghu, extremely skilled in wugong and known as Iron Guts.” “So I really can’t imagine why he’s so terrified. Who is chasing him?” “Just as I was about to ask him, someone had caught up to him from behind, blade light flashed, striking down on the top of my friend’s head.” “My friend hadn’t been cut down. He was still doing everything he could to escape.” “The Long Bridge is hundreds of zhang (~10ft) long.” “My friend ran all the way to the end of the bridge before he suddenly split in half down the middle.” The cold sweat broke out on everyone’s backs again after hearing him speak about hair-raising* event.
*(jīng xīn dòng pò-shaking one to the core; extremely disturbing; hair-raising [idiom])

Lin Xiangxiong had drunk several cups in a row before he was able to say, “Is there really a saber this fast in the world?"

“I saw it with my own two eyes,” said Meng Kaishan. “Although forty years have passed, even now, if I close my eyes, it’s like my friend is alive again, split in half to death again.” He said sadly, “Who would have thought after forty years, what happened that day would happen again.”

Lin Xiangxiong asked, “Who was the person that killed your friend?”

Meng Kaishan said, “I didn’t see. I only saw a flash of blade light. That person had already disappeared.”

Sun Fuhu asked, “Who was your friend?”

“I only recognized him. I didn’t even know his name.” Meng Kaishan was a blood and guts man, straightforward, never lied.

When he lied, everyone could tell.

Now that everyone had seen that he wasn’t talking about real life, he certainly knew who the murderer was, not to mention his friend’s name.

But he didn’t dare say it.

Why wouldn’t he dare to speak about something that had happened forty years ago?

Why was he also as scared as that friend of his!

No one asked him these questions again, of course, but someone posed them in a different way, “Do you think Tian Yifei and your friend died under the same person’s blade?” Meng Kaishan still didn’t answer.

He had clamped his mouth shut, as if he was determined not to speak again.

Sun Fuhu sighed, “In any case, that was forty years ago. How many heroes from forty years ago are still alive today?”

Lin Xiangxiong said, “Isn’t Mr. Meng still here?”

Since Meng Kaishan was still alive, that person who killed his friend certainly might not be dead.

Who the hell was this person?

Everyone was hoping that Meng Kaishan would speak up. Everyone was looking at him, hoping he would speak again.

But what they heard was another voice speaking, clear and sweet, like a little girl, saying, “Meng Kaishan, come pour me a glass of liquor.” Meng Kaishan was 87 years old this year. From the time he was 17 he had roamed the world with a big sixty-two catty* Xuanhua axe in his hand, rarely encountering a worthy opponent.
*(jīn-catty, a unit of weight equal to .5kg; roughly a pound)

The ‘axe’ is big and heavy. It is inevitable that there is not much flexibility in the changes of the moves. Not many people in jianghu use it.

But if a man could be respected as ‘The Axe King’, it was not easy.

In the past few decades, most likely only other people had poured liquor for him. There were probably not many people alive who could let him pour liquor for them.
(This is a status thing. The lower status person pours for the higher status person.)

Now someone had actually asked him to pour the liquor and the person who had asked was actually a young girl.

Lin Xiangxiong was standing across from Meng Kaishan, and he had the best view of Meng’s face.

He suddenly noticed that Meng Kaishan’s face had changed. His once ruddy face had suddenly become like the pool of ice outside, revealing little color. His eyes were suddenly full of fear.

This little girl wanted him to pour a drink and he didn’t even get angry.

He was actually scared.

Lin Xiangxiong couldn’t help but look back over his shoulder, following his gaze. What he actually saw was an old woman.

There was no little girl in the Water Pavilion. There was only a thin, dark little old woman* standing beside a thin, dark little old man.
*(Lǎo tài pó-old woman (at times contemptuous). Used throughout)

Both of them were dressed in dull grey coarse clothing. Standing there, they were barely taller than the people seated around them. They looked like an old couple that had just come from the countryside with nothing special about them.

The only strange thing was that with so many people in the Water Pavilion, all of them veterans in jianghu, not a single person had seen where they came from.

When the old woman spoke, everyone was startled again.

She looked like she was even older than Meng Kaishan, but she spoke with the voice of a young girl.

She was the one who had just told Meng Kaishan to pour the liquor, and now she was repeating herself.

This time she hadn’t even finished her sentence, but Meng Kaishan was already pouring-- first wiping a glass clean, pouring a glass of liquor, holding it in both hands, and respectfully presenting it to the old woman.

The old woman narrowed her eyes at him, sighed softly and said, “I haven’t seen you in many years. You are getting old.”

Meng Kaishan said, “Yes.”

The old woman said, “It is said that once a man has gotten old, they will gradually become gossipy*.” Meng Kaishan’s were shaking already, so much that the liquor in the cup splashed out.
*(duō zuǐ-talkative; to speak out of turn; to blab; to shoot one’s mouth off; rumors fly)

The old woman went on, “It is said the if a person has become gossipy, death is not far off.”

“I didn’t say anything,” said Meng Kaishan. “I really didn’t say anything.”

“Even though you didn’t say anything,” she said, “everyone here must have guessed by now that we are the people you met outside of Baoding forty years ago.” She sighed once more, “No one in here is a fool. If they have guessed that, then it certainly would have occurred to that the young man named Tian also died under our saber.” She had spoken correctly. There were indeed no fools here. This had indeed occurred to them.

It was just that everyone still found it very hard to believe that these two wizened, elfin old people could actually use such a fast saber.

Meng Kaishan’s expression made them believe it.

He was so terrified that his whole body had gone limp. The cup in his hand was long since empty, the liquor in the cup splashing all over his body.

The old woman suddenly asked, “Are you are already over eighty-years-old this year?”

Meng Kaishan’s teeth chattered. He finally managed to utter a single word, “Yes.”

“You were able to live past eighty-years old,” the old woman said, “it cannot be considered an injustice to die. Why should you also want to kill everyone else?”

“I…I don’t.”

She said, “You obviously know that if a single person here can guess our backgrounds*, then not a single person can walk away from here alive. If you’re not harming people, what are you doing?” She spoke casually, as if she regarded everyone in this room as a trash*, and if she wanted these people’s lives, it would be easier than crushing an ant.
*(lái lì-history; antecedents; origin)
*(fèi wù-rubbish; waste material; useless person)

Zhong Zhan suddenly sneered, “Lunatic!”

He rarely ever opened his mouth. He would never use three words to say what could be said in two.

“You are saying there is a lunatic here?” asked the old woman.

*(interjection indicating approval, appreciation or agreement)

She asked, “Who is a lunatic?”

Zhong Zhan said, “You!”

Hong Mei suddenly laughed and said, “You’re absolutely right! If this old woman isn’t mad, how could she say such a thing?”

Sun Fuhu slammed the table, “Right!”

Lin Xiangxiong laughed as well, “She wants us all to die here. Who does she think we are?”

Mo Zhu coldly said, “Who does she think she is?”

Nangong Huashu sighed and said, “You shouldn’t have said that.”

Mo Zhu asked, “Why?”

Nangong Huashu said, “Considering the status of everyone here, there is no need to lower oneself to the level of this mad old woman.”

These men were speaking among themselves, not paying the least bit of attention to the old couple.

Strangely enough, the old woman didn’t even get angry. Meng Kaishan, on the other hand, looked happy—

Only someone who didn’t recognize this couple would dare to be so rude to them—

Since no one recognized them, everyone had a way out.

Eventually the old woman sighed and said, “Our old man* always said, the less one knows, the longer one lives. What he said always seemed quite reasonable.” The old man had not said a single word. There wasn’t the slightest expression on his face.
*(jiā lǎo tóu zi-she’s saying ‘the head of our house/family’. She’s talking about the old man, her husband)

Maybe it was because his wife had said everything he wanted to say.

The old woman said, “Since you don’t recognize me, I can’t be bothered to talk with you anymore.”

Liu Ruosong suddenly laughed, “Since you’re already here, why not just sit down and have a cup of liquor.”

She scoffed, “Is this place fit for my old man to sit down and drink?”

“Since this place is not fit for the two of you to sit down and drink,” asked Liu Ruosong, “why did you come?”

“We are here to ask for someone.”

“You want someone?” Liu Ruosong asked, “Who do you want?”

The old woman said, “One surnamed Shang, Shang Zhen. There is also a young girl surnamed Xie.” At the mention of these two people, she looked angry again, “As long as you hand these two over, even if you kneel down and beg me, I won’t stay here for a moment longer!”

Liu Ruosong asked, “What do you two want with them?”

The old woman said, “I don’t want to do anything. I just want them to live a few more years.” Her eyes were full of spite, “I’m going to make sure they don’t even die.”

“There are many girls here,” said Luo Ruosong. “There are probably a few surnamed Xie. I also know Shang Zhen.”

“Where is he?” asked the old woman.

“I don’t know.”

The old man, who yet to open his mouth, suddenly said, “I know."

The old woman said, “When did you know?”

“Just now.”

The old woman asked, “Where is he?”

The old man responded, “Right here.”

Sun Fuhu couldn’t help but ask, “Are you saying Shang Zhen is here?”

The old man slowly nodded, still no trace of an expression on his face.

Sun Fuhu said, “How come we didn’t see him?”

The old man had closed his mouth, refusing to say even one more word.

"If my old man said he was here, he must be here.” The old woman said, “If my old man said it, he’s never once been wrong.”

“He can’t be wrong this time?” asked Sun Fuhu.

The old woman said, “Never.”

Sun Fuhu sighed, “If you can find Shang Zhen here, then I will…”

She asked, “What will you do?”

“Then I…”

Before he could say anything, Lin Xiangxiong suddenly jumped up and covered his mouth.

The old woman sneered, “Shang Zhen, even this man has seen you, yet you still won’t come the hell out?”

But someone merely snickered and said, “With his eyesight, it would be strange if he could see me coming.” Shang Zhen was indeed supposed to come, and if he did, he would certainly be in this Water Pavilion.

He obviously hadn’t shown his face yet.

The odd thing was that this voice was clearly Shang Zhen’s voice.

Everyone had clearly heard him speak, but they had yet to seen him.

Even though the Water Pavilion couldn’t be considered small, it also couldn’t be considered large. Where could he be hiding?

He had been in this Water Pavilion the whole time, right in front of these people. These people were not blind, yet none of them had seen him.

No one would have imagined that the esteemed master of the Five Elements Fortress, whose name shook jianghu, would turn out to be someone like this.

There were only nine guests seated in the Water Pavilion, but there were twelve servants* off to the side waiting on them, six men and six women.
*(núpú-servant; jiā-home/family. Household servants.)

The men were in blue clothes and white socks, the women in short jackets and plain skirts. They all looked like porcelain figurines fresh out of the kiln, taciturn, well-behaved and neat.

Each one was undoubtedly carefully chosen, rigorously trained. It was definitely not very easy to be a servant in the home of a great family.

But no matter how rigorously trained a person was, if they suddenly saw a living person split it half, they would be afraid.

Of the twelve, at least half of them were so frightened that their legs gave out and they collapsed to the floor, unable to stand up at all.

No one blamed them. No one paid them any mind. No one even spared them a glance.

In the Water Pavilion, their status was below that of a braised fish.

Therefore no one had seen Shang Zhen.

Shang Zhen was someone who had always attached great importance to his status and had a very imposing manner. No one would have ever believed that he would lower his dignity by falling to the floor and playing dead with a bunch of servants.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t pretend any longer. He could only stand up, stand up in these blue clothes and white socks he had never in his life worn before. He complexion was green.

It was only now that everyone could see that he was wearing an exquisitely crafted human skin mask on his face.

Lin Xiangxiong sighed deliberately, “What Lord Shang* said is true. With my eyesight, I really couldn’t tell this is the Lord of Shang Castle. Otherwise how could I dare allow the Lord Shang pour liquor for me?”
*(It is actually Master (owner) of Shang Fortress (or Castle). I will just use Lord Shang as it reads better, and also carries more of the sarcasm intended.)

Nanguan Huashu said in turn, “The mask on Lord Shang’s face was personally made by the Seven Skillful Children in the past. You and I are only human*, of course we can’t see through it.”
*(ròuyǎn-naked eye **fántāi-**human body; ròuyǎnfántāi-all together can also mean ‘ignoramus’)

Mei Hua laoren* said, “It is said that this kind of mask was already extremely precious back then. There were originally not many circulating in jianghu. Now, there are three or four sets at most.”
*(Lǎo rén-old man)

Mo Zhu coldly said, “I can’t believe that the ever open and honest Lord Shang, was also actually secretly concealing a set.”

Mei Hua said, “Why can’t an open and honest person have a mask like this? Why hide it in secret?”

Mo Zhu said, “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what this mask is made of?”

“I seem to have heard,” said Lin Xiangxiong, “that it seems to be made of the skin from a dead person’s ass.”

Mei Hua vigorously shook his head and said loudly, “Wrong, wrong! How could a person of Lord Shang’s status wear the skin off a dead man’s ass on his face! You must have heard wrong.” These guys were exchanging sarcastic* remarks.
*(lěngcháorèfěng-lit, ‘frigid irony and scorching satire’; idiom-to mock and ridicule)

Shang Zhen finally piped up, “Have you guys finished?”

Lin Xiangxiong said, “Not yet. There’s still a something I’m not clear about.”


Lin Xiangxiong said, “Today the owner of this place has a big banquet with hundreds of tables. The more people there are the easier it is to hide. Why didn’t you go to a crowded place, and chose to come here instead?”

Shang Zhen responded, “Because I was under the impression that you are my friends and even if my whereabouts was exposed, you chivalrous heroes from righteous, prestigious schools would not let me die at hands of someone from the demonic path*.”
*(xiémó-demonic; wài-foreign; dào-path, way-referring to someone from a heretical school, sect, clan etc, believed to have roots outside of China, as opposed to righteous, IOW orthodox schools, sects, etc)

Sun Fuhu suddenly leapt up and said sternly, “Demonic path! Who is on the demonic path?”

Shang Zhen scoffed, “Don’t tell me that you don’t know that these two are…” He didn’t go on, because he couldn’t go on. In that instant, there were already twenty or thirty cold rays of light coming at him, striking at his fatal vital points.

Lin Xiangxiong was the first to strike. Sun Fuhu, Zhong Zhan, Mei Hua, Mo Zhu, and Nangong Hua Shu were not much slower than him. These people were from famous schools, and few people in jianghu knew they could use hidden weapons. Because they always said that hidden weapons were heretical, they always looked down on those who made their names using hidden weapons. But now, their hidden weapons were not only extremely fast, but also vicious and cruel. They were in no way inferior to those they usually looked down upon. They had obviously already made up their minds to never let Shang Zhen finish that sentence alive. Everyone had already palmed their hidden weapons some time earlier. All of a sudden they attacked at the same time.

How could Shang Zhen know that they would all strike at the same time? How could he avoid them? Even he thought he was a dead man, surrounded as he was, he could not imagine that someone would come to his rescue.

Just then a saber light flashed. The silvery white saber light cut through the air. Twenty-seven hidden weapons of various different types immediately fell to the ground, becoming fifty-four pieces. Every hidden weapon was perfectly cut in half by this saber.

Among these twenty-seven hidden weapons were Iron Lotus Seeds, Plum Blossom (Mei Hua) Needles, Golden Rib+, Three Corner Bone Penetrating*, square and round, pointed and flat, large and small, but each of them was cut in half by the wave.
+(子 母 金 棱- zǐ mǔ jīn léng)
*(三 棱 透 骨镶- sān léng tòu gǔ xiāng)

This saber was so accurate, so fast!

The saber light flashed, then suddenly disappeared again. That old man’s face was still completely expressionless. Yet the old woman’s eyes seemed to be flashing, like the saber light that had just cut through the air.

But there wasn’t a saber in either person’s hand. How did that saber strike just now? How could it suddenly disappear? No one got a good look at it.

Everyone’s face changed.

Shang Zhen suddenly looked up and heaved a deep sigh, “Twenty years of mutual respect and intimate friendship, yet you’re going to push me down a dead end, just like that. Who would have believed this?” He laughed bitterly and said, “But I should have anticipated it, because I have seen more than you have.”

The old woman asked, “Why do you see more than us?”

“Because when I was falling to the floor just now,” said Shang Zhen, “I could see what was going on under the table.”

“What did you end up seeing?” she asked.

Shang Zhen said, “While their mouths were calling you a lunatic, a pair of hands were secretly tugging on the corner of a jacket, making a signal. Some people’s hands were even shaking.”

The old woman said, “Go on.”

He said, “Of course it’s because they’d already figured out who you are, but they absolutely couldn’t let you know that.”

“Because if even one person here guesses who we are, then no one can walk away alive,” she said.

“Therefor they had to put on that act in front of you, to let you think they certainly didn’t know who you are. Otherwise how would they dare be so rude to you?”

The old woman smirked and said, “There really are no fools here.”

Shang Zhen said, “I can’t believe I’m actually here, but also that I’m also friend of theirs.”

“Since they know our true backgrounds*,” said the old woman, “they certainly won’t recognize you as a friend.”
***(Láilì-**history; antecedents; origin)

He said, “So they have to mock and ridicule* me, to let everyone know that they despise me as a person. If someone wants to kill me, they certainly won’t meddle in other people’s business.”

“It’s just a pity that I’m not actually in any hurry to take your life,” said the old woman.

“Since I not dead and can still speak, then I might state your backgrounds at any time.”

She said, “As long as you say it, they will also accompany you to your death.”

“Since they don’t think of me as a friend,” Shang Zhen said, “I certainly won’t make it easy for them."

“They surely thought of this ahead of time. They are not fools.”

“But they never imagined that someone would actually intervene to save me.”

The old woman said coldly, “Most likely they also couldn’t imagine it was even possible that I actually could save you.” There were indeed few people in the world who could instantly cut down twenty-six hidden weapons with a single blow.

Shang Zhen said, “Lin Xiangxiong didn’t cover Sun Fuhu’s mouth just now because he’d already seen that I was here.”

“Was it because he’d already guessed who our old man was?”
*(jiā lǎo tóu zi)

Shang Zhen said: “He also knows, of course, that Elder Tie* never said anything in his life that he wasn’t sure of, never did anything that he wasn’t sure of.”
*(the surname Tie means iron)

She said, “I afraid there are even fewer people who do not know of our old man’s temperament.”

“That’s why they couldn’t let me say that this old man is one of the Four Elders of the Devil Cult, the fastest saber under heaven* forty years ago.” He had said it after all. Before he had even finished speaking, Mo Zhu had already leapt up, leapt out like an arrow.
*(tiānxiàdìyī-first under heaven; number one in the country)

The only key to qinggong is ‘lightness*’. You must be light to be fast.

Mo Zhu was thin as a reed*, and also quite short.

Mo Zhu was definitely much ‘lighter’ than most people.

Mo Zhu could definitely be considered as one of the ten best at qinggong in today’s jianghu.

When he leapt out, nobody stopped him. Nobody could stop him. Only the saber light was there. The saber light flashed, he still leapt out. In the blink of an eye, he had already flitted across the frozen pond.

The full moon was in the sky.

There was a moon in the sky. There was also a moon in the pond. The moonlight in the sky and in the pond reflected each other. Everyone could clearly and distinctly see the skinny, small silhouette sweep lightly and swiftly across the frozen pond. Everyone could also clearly and distinctly see him, his body suddenly split down the middle.

Nobody moved any more. Mo Zhu was the first one to leap out. When he leapt out, all the others were also gathering their qi, preparing to leap out. But now the breath of true qi they had just gathered suddenly turned into cold sweat.

The saber light flashed and disappeared, but this time everyone had seen it fly out of the sleeve of the silent* old man. His sleeve was very wide, very big and very long. The silvery-white saber light that flew out of the old man’s sleeve seemed to linger in the old woman’s eyes at that moment.
*(Yīshēng bù xiǎng-to keep totally silent; noiselessly)

The old woman suddenly said, “You’re wrong.”

Shang Zhen said, “He was indeed wrong. He should have known that no one could escape from the Swallow Blade.”

“You are wrong as well,” she said.


“You should have also heard a saying.”

Shang Zhen asked, “What saying?”

“Iron Swallows Flying in Pairs*, male and female iron swallow*, one saber strike splits down the middle, left and right farewell.” She went on casually, “In other words, this saying means that when our saber splits you down the middle, your left half and your right half will say farewell to each other.”
*(shuāng fēi-flying in pairs; also means ‘close union as husband and wife’)
*(tiě-iron; yàn-swallow {the bird})

Shang Zhen said, “It is not good to talk about this saying, but I have actually heard it.”

The old woman said, “Since you’ve heard it, you should know that among the Four Elders of the Devil Cult, Tie Yan (Iron Swallow) is two of them.” She went on, “Although our old man’s saber is fast, I still must act to show its power."

“I have also heard this.”

“But even if the both of us act together, the Iron Swallows Flying in Pairs still cannot be considered the fastest saber under heaven.”

“It still cannot be considered the best?”

“It absolutely can’t”, said the old woman.

Shang Zhen sighed, “But your saber is really fast enough!”

“You consider our saber fast enough,” said the old woman, “only because you have never seen the truly fastest saber under heaven.” She suddenly had a strange expression on her face, “That is a curved saber, it is…”

The old man who rarely opened his mouth suddenly interrupted her and said coldly, “You’re getting old too.”

Few women were willing to admit that they were getting old, but this time she actually admitted it right away, “I’m getting old, I’m really getting old. How else could I have become so gossipy!” The expression on her face still seemed quite strange. One didn’t know if it was respect, or resentment? Was it envy, or was it anger?

Feelings like these were never supposed to be seen on the same face at the same time. But she had these different feelings about the curved saber all at once. Was that curved saber, Qing Qing’s curved saber? No one could answer this question, because the old woman had already changed the subject.

All of a sudden she asked Shang Zhen, “Can I kill you with one strike?”

“You can.” Shang Zhen was a man who was never willing to show weakness, yet this time he readily conceded it.

The old woman sighed, “You’re not a very cute person. You often put on an act, not only do you think you’re extraordinary, you also want others to think you’re extraordinary.” Shang Zhen actually conceded this point too.

She said, “Your Five Elements Sword Style is basically useless. Your living in this world is no benefit to anyone.” Shang Zhen didn’t even bother to defend himself.

The old woman went on, “But you have a little advantage. You are at least a little better than those pretentious hypocrites, because you are speaking the truth.” Naturally, Shang Zhen was even less likely to dispute this.

She said, “So I don’t want to kill you. As long as you hand over that little girl, I will let you go.”

Shang Zhen was silent for a long time, and suddenly asked, “Can I talk to them first?”

“Who are they?”

He replied, “They are the people I always thought of as my friends.”

The old woman asked, "Now that you know what kind of friends they are, you still want to talk to them?”

Shang Zhen said, “Just one word.”

Before she could say anything, the old man suddenly cut her off and said, “Let him talk.” The words of people who rarely speak usually carry more weight.

“If our old man is letting you speak, who else can tell you not to speak?” She sighed, “Even if you don’t want to speak yourself, I am afraid that won’t do*.”
*(This line can also be read as “I am afraid you’re on the point of dying.’)

So Shang Zhen whispered a word in the ears of five people: Sun Fuhu, Lin Xiangxiong, Meihua, Zhong Zhan, and Nanguan Huashu. He spared Meng Kaishan and Liu Ruosong.

No one knew what he was saying, but the faces of those who heard him changed again, becoming even more frightened than they were a moment ago.

Chapter 10 - Lady Iron Swallow

The old woman narrowed her eyes at them. She couldn’t guess what Shang Zhen was whispering in their ears.

‘Madam Tie Yan (Mrs. Iron Swallow)’ was still a famous beauty in jianghu until she was thirty, especially her seductive* eyes.
*(Gōuhúnshèpò-lit. ‘attract the soul, absorb the soul’)

If she had looked at a man like that forty years ago, he would have said whatever she wanted him to say, but now she was old.

Everyone kept their mouths shut, as if they had made up their minds to never speak the words Shang Zhen had just told them.

Shang Zhen suddenly said, “Although Iron Swallows Flying in Pairs kills people like grass, they have always kept their word.”

Madam Tie Yan said, “Of course we keep our word.”

Shang Zhen said, “You seemed to have said just now that if I handed over that Xie girl, you would let me go.”

“Correct. I said that.”

“In that case, I guess I can go now.”

He clapped his hands, and patted the dust on his clothes clean with this hand, as if this matter had nothing to do him: “Because I’ve handed her over now.”

Madam Tie Yan asked, “Handed over to who?”

“I handed her over to them.”

He pointed at Lin Xiangxiong, Sun Fuhu, Zhong Zhan, Mei Hua and Nangong Hua Shu, “I indeed brought her here. She’s hiding here in a very secret place. I just told them about that place. Now any one of them can easily find her.”

Sun Fuhu suddenly bellowed, “How do we know you’re telling the truth?”

Shang Zhen said, “As soon as one of you goes there to find out, you’ll know if what I’m saying is true or not.” Sun Fuhu was blue in the face, and large beads of cold sweat were forming on his face.

Shang Zhen, however, laughed. He was laughing very happily. No one knew why he had suddenly become so happy.

Madam Tie Yan said, “They will certainly grab her for me.”


“Since they know who I am now,” Madam Tie Yan said, “they are as good as five dead men.”


Madam Tie Yan said, “But they don’t want to die.”

Shang Zhen said, “All these years, they’ve had a very good life. Of course they don’t want to die.”

Madam Tie Yan said, “Whoever doesn’t want to die will look for her.”


“Because whoever finds that little girl, I will let them go.”

Shang Zhen said, “I believe you definitely mean what you say.”

“Then you think they will go grab her?”, she asked.


Madam Tie Yan sneered, ““Do you think they are all people who are not afraid of death?”

Shang Zhen said, “It’s precisely because they are afraid to die that they won’t go.”


“Because if they don’t go, they may live a few years longer.” Shang Zhen said, “If they go, they’re as good as dead. They all certainly know this in their hearts.” He actually asked them, “Right?”

Surprisingly, none of them objected.

Madam Tie Yan was somewhat offended, also slightly confused, “Don’t tell me they think I won’t dare kill them?”

Shang Zhen said, “Of course you dare. If they don’t go, you will definitely do it. They know that as well.” He continued casually, "Unfortunately, that Miss Xie still has an honorable elder. If they go to find her and hand her over to you, that person will never let them go.”

Madam Tie Yan asked, “They would rather offend me than dare to offend that man?”

He said, “They are al masters in jianghu today. If they join forces to deal with you, they may have a little hope. There isn’t the slightest chance of dealing with that person."

She asked, “Who is that person?”

Shang Zhen said, “Xie Xiaofeng. Jade Cloud Mountain, Green Water Lake, Xie Xiaofeng of Divine Sword Villa.” He sighed and went on, “That Miss Xie that you are looking for is Xie Xiaofeng’s daughter.” Madam Tie Yan’s expression changed. Her eyes were immediately full of surprise, anger and resentment.

Shang Zhen casually said, “Although Iron Swallows Flying in Pairs’ Devil Saber is formidable, the Third Young Master Xie’s Divine Sword is not too shabby either.”

Madam Tie Yan said sternly, “Are you telling the truth? How could Xie Xiaofeng have a daughter?”

He asked, “If the two of you can have a son, why can’t he have a daughter?”

Madam Tie Yan’s expression became even more frightening. She said one word a time, “Now that we no longer have a son, Xie Xiaofeng can’t have a daughter either.” Her voice was somber. There was suddenly a blade-like light in her narrowed eyes, fixed on Sun Fuhu’s face, “Where is that girl named Xie hiding? Are you going to say it?” Sun Fuhu’s face turned deathly pale. He clamped his jaw shut to keep from speaking.

Shang Zhen said, “He will never speak. Shaolin disciples have always been respected in jianghu. If he betrays Xie Xiaofeng’s daughter to the Devil Cult, not only won’t Xie Xiaofeng let him off, his own fellow disciple brothers will never let him off either.” He smiled and went on, “Since everyone must die all the same, why not die beautifully?”

Sun Fuhu hissed, “We have no grievances or grudges, why do you want to harm me?”

Shang Zhen said indifferently, “Because I am shameless. If I can even wear the skin of a dead man’s ass on my face, what else can’t I do!"

Sun Fuhu sighed and said, “If your friends in jianghu knew that the master of Five Elements Fortress was such a person, who can say what they would feel.”

“I know,” said Shang Zhen. “It must be the same way I feel about all of you.”

Zhong Zhan suddenly said, “He won’t speak. I will.”

Madam Tie Yan laughed grimly, “I knew that one of you were bound to speak up sooner or later.”

Zhong Zhan said, “It’s just that I also want to have a word with the Lord of Shang Castle first.” He slowly walked to Shang Zhen’s side.

Shang Zhen wasn’t completely off his guard against him. It was just that he never expected such a famous swordsman to actually bite him.

Shang Zhen had been staring at Zhong Zhan’s hands, his own hands behind his back.

Zhong Zhan leaned in and whispered in Shang Zhen’s ear, “There is something you surely never expected, just as I never expected that you would actually borrow a saber to kill*. That’s why you will hear me say this.” He suddenly bit off Shang Zhen’s ear.
*(**jiè-**borrow; dāo-saber; shā-kill; rén-person; idiom- to get sb else to do one’s dirty work; to attack using the strength of another. IOW he was using the Tie Yan couple to kill them.)

Shang Zhen jumped in pain. Sun Fuhu exhaled audibly* and punched him in the chest.
*(IOW-Sun Fuhu was releasing his store up qi, indicating he put all his power behind this punch)

No one could take this fist. By the time his body had fallen, at least twenty-six or twenty-eight bones had been broken.

Zhong Zhan spit his bloody ear on him, “I know you certainly never expected that I am also such a person.”

Madam Tie Yan suddenly sighed and said, “Not only didn’t he expect it, I didn’t even expect it.” She had an odd expression on her face, “It would be wonderful if all the brave and chivalrous heroes in jianghu today are like you.”

All of a sudden, Elder Tie Yan said, “Kill one to warn a hundred*. Kill one first.”
*(shā yī jǐng bǎi- lit. kill one to warn a hundred; (idiom) meaning ‘to punish an individual as an example to others’)

Madam Tie Yan said, “I’m aware that I have to kill one first before they will say anything.” Faced with an important decision, she would always consult with her husband, “Who should I kill first?” Elder Tie Yan slowly extended a bony, wrinkled finger from within his sleeve.

Everyone knew that no matter who he pointed that finger at, that person was as good as dead.

Everyone was retreating backwards except Nangong Huashu. The fastest to retreat was Mei Hua.

He was just about to hide behind Nangong Huashu, when this wrinkled finger pointed at him.

Madam Tie Yan said, “Good. It’s him then.”

By the time she had finished saying these four words, a saber had suddenly appeared in her hand.

It was a four chi (~ foot) nine cun (~ inch) long saber, as thin as a cicada’s wing, as cold as clear autumn water. It seemed as if it were transparent.

This was the Iron Swallows Flying in Pair’s Devil* Saber.
*(-magic, devil. I went with devil because of they are from the Devil Cult.)

At one time, the Devil Cult had spread across jianghu, looking down on wulin. They treated all the heroes of the world as pig-dogs and fish-flesh*, just because they had a sword, a whip, a fist and two sabers under the altar of their Jiaozhu*.
*(pig-dogs & fish-flesh are insults)
*(Jiàozhǔ-founder or leader of a religious sect)

Normally no one could see this saber. Because it was made of Burmese iron refined hundreds of times, it could be rigid or flexible. When not in use, it could be rolled into a circle and hidden in the sleeve.

Whenever this saber appeared, it would surely bring blood and disaster.

Madam Tie Yan caressed the blade and leisurely said, “I haven’t used this saber in years. I’m not like our old man. My heart has always been soft.” She narrowed her eyes at Mei Hua again, “So you luck is really not bad.” Mei Hua was someone who had always been conscientious about taking care of himself. He had always looked good.

But now the blood had completely drained from his face. He really couldn’t see what was so good about his luck?

Madam Tie Yan said, “I still remember, the last person I killed was Peng Tianshou*.” Peng Tianshou was the master of the ‘Five Tigers Breaking Down Doors Saber+’.
*(Tiān-day; sky; heaven. Shou-long life; old age; age; life)
+(-five; -tiger; duàn- to break; to snap; to cut off; mén-door; gate; school, sect; dāo-saber)

The Five Tigers Breaking Down Doors Saber was the secret sword technique of the Peng family, which was unyielding, formidable and overbearing*. “One saber to break down doors, one saber to break down souls.’ They had asserted their dominance in jianghu for eighty years, very rarely relinquishing their hold.
*(gāng liè- resolute and upright in character; unyielding; wēi meng- bold and powerful; bà dào- despotic rule; rule by might; overbearing; tyranny. These all convey a sense that the power of this technique led the Peng family to be somewhat high-handed.)

With this saber in his hand, Peng Tianshou swept away the heroes of the two rivers. He had suddenly disappeared forty years earlier. No one knew if he had died beneath the Swallow Saber.

Peng Tianshou was a close friend of Meng Kaishan.

Hearing this name, Meng Kaishan’s expression changed. Was it because he had recalled the incident forty years ago on the Long Bridge outside Baoding that he would never forget?

Madam Tie Yan said, “I will use this saber I used to kill Peng Tianshou to kill you next, allowing your souls be attached to this saber. Isn’t your luck good?” Mei Hua was already an old man. He had recently begun to feel many things were not right. Not only would his heart beat rapidly if he exerted himself, he would frequently have stabbing pains.

He himself knew he didn’t have long to live.

He should not be afraid to die.

But he suddenly yelled, “I’ll talk! I’ll say whatever you want me to say!” The old man didn’t have long to live. He had already enjoyed most of the things a man could enjoy.

These days, there were very few things he could still enjoy.

It was strange, the older the man, the more he fears death.

Madam Tie Yan asked, “You’re really willing to talk? You’re not worried Xie Xiaofeng will deal with you?” Mei Hua was certainly scared, scared to death.

However, at the moment, Xie Xiaofeng was still thousands of miles away. This saber was right in front of him.

For a man who fears death, it is good to live even a few moments longer.

Mei Hua said, “Shang Zhen just told me, he hid that Xie girl in…” He did not finish this sentence.

Saber light suddenly flashed. His throat was suddenly cut.

The more a man fears death, the faster he dies. This was also a very strange thing.

Extremely strange.

There was a saber in Madam Tie Yan’s hand.

A saber had cut Mei Hua’s throat, but it wasn’t this saber.

She had seen this saber, but there was no time for her to block it. Mei Hua had also seen this saber. He had even less chance of avoiding it.

This saber came too quickly.

This saber was in Ding Peng’s hand.

When they saw the blade light of the saber in his hand, they had yet to see him.

By the time everyone saw him, his saber had already cut Mei Hua’s throat.

The point of the saber was still dripping blood.

This was not the kind of saber that split a hair blown against it*, a divine weapon that kills without blood.
*(IOW a saber so sharp that it would split a strand of hair that was blow against. A rare, very high quality blade)

This saber was just an ordinary saber, only the blade was curved.

Madam Tie Yan smiled.

Even though she was an old woman now, her narrowed eyes were still quite enchanting when she smiled, as if she had the grace of forty years ago again.

Not many people still alive had seen this enchanting grace of hers.

Most of the people that had seen her grace had died by her saber forty years ago.

Had those people died by her saber, or by her smile?

Perhaps they weren’t entirely sure themselves.

Only one thing was not in doubt.

At that time, her saber was indeed fast, her smile indeed enchanting.

Those who saw her smile back then, usually forgot that she held a saber that killed quickly.

These days her saber still killed quickly, quite possibly faster than it did forty years ago. But her smile was nowhere near as enchanting as it was forty years ago.

She was also aware of this.

It was just that old habits are always hard to break.

She still laughed when she was about to kill. When her smile was at its most enchanting, she was about to make her move.

Now it was time for her most enchanting smile.

She still hadn’t made her move.

Because she suddenly thought that there was something strange about this young man she was about to kill.

This young man also used a saber. He had just killed someone with it.

The strange thing was that, if not for the fact he had a saber still dripping blood in his hand, no one whatsoever would be able to tell that he had just killed someone, never mind how fast his saber was.

He looked like a big kid fresh from the country. A very well bred, well-brought up, mild-manned big kid, like a bumpkin* still covered in the mud of the country.
*(A (country) bumpkin is someone fresh from the country, an unsophisticated or simple person from a rural environment.)

It was Ding Peng who showed up.

Ding Peng’s smile was gentle and courteous, making it easy to forget that he had a murderous saber in his hand.

He smiled and said, “My family name is Ding. My name is Ding Peng. I am the owner of this place.”

Madam Tie Yan was also smiling. She sighed softly and said, “I can’t believe you finally showed up.”

Ding Peng, “I really should have come earlier.”


“I was aware the moment that the worthy husband and wife arrived.” He smiled even more gently and courteously, “I should have been waiting respectfully to greet the two of you* at that time
*[xián- worthy or virtuous person {honorific}; dà jià-you {formal} These sentences are extremely polite. Many of the words, like ‘you’, have the same translation, but carry meanings of respect. He maintains this tone throughout the following conversation]

“Why didn’t you come then?” asked Madam Tie Yan.

“Because, at the time, there were still a few things I didn’t understand.”

“What things?”

“Knowing your identities and backgrounds*, why would the two of you suddenly honor us with your presence? Who were you looking for here? At the time, I wasn’t quite sure.”
*(**lái lì-**history; antecedents; origin)

Madam Tie Yan asked, “And now you understand everything?”

Ding Peng said, “At one time, the most prominent* and thriving, most powerful faction in jianghu was neither Shaolin nor the Beggars Clan. It was a mysterious sect that had emerged in the east. In ten short years their power had already swept across jianghu. The world was at their feet.”
*(wēi ming-fame for fighting prowess; military glory)

“It wasn’t even ten years,” said Madam Tie Yan. “It was only seven eight years at most.”

Ding Peng said, “In those short seven or eight years, there were at least seven or eight hundred heroes in jianghu who died at their hands.”

“But perhaps less than seven or eight of them were fit to truly be called heroes,” responded Madam Tie Yan.

“At the time, people in jianghu hated and feared them,” said Ding Peng, “so they called them the Devil Cult.”

Madam Tie Yan said, “Actually, this name isn’t bad.”

Ding Peng said, “Legend in jianghu has it that everyone said the Jiaozhu* of the Devil Cult is an extraordinary person. Not only does he have great wisdom and knowledge, but also supernatural ability+. His wugong is transcendent.”
*(Jiàozhǔ- founder or head of a religion, figure worshipped by a religious sect)
+(shéntōng-remarkable ability; magical power)

Madam Tie Yan said, “I guarantee that in the past five hundred years, no one in jianghu has ever been able to surpass his wugong.”

“But he has rarely ever shown his face,” said Ding Peng, “so very few people in jianghu have ever seen his true face*. Even fewer have seen him in action.”
*(zhēnmiànmù-true identity; true colors)

Madam Tie Yan said, “Quite possibly not even one.”

Ding Peng said, “Apart from him, there are four Guardian* Elders in the Devil Cult. It can be said that it is because of these four Guardian Elders that the Devil Cult was able assert it dominance in jianghu.”
*(hùfǎ-protect the law; keep the law)

“That’s not wrong at all.”

“The worthy couple is one of these four Guardians,” said Ding Peng. “The Iron Swallows Flying in Pairs have always been inseparable*, so two people are counted as one.” He sighed and added, “There aren’t many young couples these days that are as loving as the two of you!”
*(xíngyǐngbùlí-idiom-lit. ‘form and shadow never distant’)

Madam Tie Yan said, “Not many at all.”

Ding Peng said, “I’m sure everyone else already knows everything I just said.”

“Do you also know something that the others don’t?

He said, “I know a bit more.”

“Say it!”

Ding Peng said, “The worthy couple were married* sixty years ago. Madam’s maiden family name was Yan. Her give name was Lingyun+. She was originally the female companion of the Jiaozhu’s wife.”
*(jié wéi liánlǐ- it’s actually something like ‘formed a conjugal union’ or ‘bonded like two trees that grow together as one’.)
+(Yān-swallow; Líng-fast, spirit; Yún-cloud)

Madam Tie Yan kept smiling.

Those other things that Ding Peng had known didn’t surprise her at all.

But now she had begun to wonder. She couldn’t understand how this youngster could possibly know her maiden name.

Ding Peng went on, “The two of you criss-crossed jianghu in your younger years, but after the Devil Cult withdrew from jianghu you gave birth to your son*. But he unexpectedly died at the hands of a young Miss* Xie three days ago.”
*(gongzi-your son (honorific), Young master.)
*(guniang-girl; young woman; young lady. IOW ‘Miss’)

Madam Tie Yan’s expression had changed, she said coldly, “Go on!”

“At the time Miss Xie didn’t know his background*, nor did Lord Shang or Tian Yifei. That’s why she could move to injure him.”
*(lái lì-history; antecedents; origin)

Madam Tie Yan sneered, “As long as one doesn’t know someone’s background, then they can strike at will?

“That’s only because your esteemed son* also didn’t know Miss Xie’s background. Miss Xie is also, unfortunately, a rare stunning beauty in jianghu.” He spoke just cryptically enough that everyone could understand what he meant.
*(lìnggōngzǐ-Your esteemed son (honorific))

Only now did everyone understand why the Tie Yan couple must put Xie Xiaofeng’s daughter to death.

Because she had killed their only son.

He name was Xiaoyu*.
*(Xiǎo-little; young -jade)

Everyone who knew her said she was a gentle, meek, obedient and well-behaved girl.

Only this time she had done something not so well-behaved.

This time she was sneaking off, or at least she had thought she was sneaking off.

She was sixteen years old this year.

Seventeen is the age when one loves to dream. Every sixteen-year-old girl will inevitably have a lot of beautiful fantasies, whether she’s a well-behaved girl or not.

The name ‘Full Moon Villa’ conjured up many beautiful fantasies.

That’s why when she saw the hand-delivered invitation that Ding Peng had sent, her heart was stirred—

Beautiful Full Moon Villa, heroes and heroines from everywhere, young heroes.

The temptation was too much for a sixteen-year-old girl.

But she knew her father would never let her come, so she had sneaked out.

She thought she could hide it from her father, but she didn’t realize that there were very few people on this earth that could hide anything from Xie Xiaofeng.

Yet he hadn’t stopped her.

He himself had also done many things in his youth that other people had considered ‘rebellious’.

He knew that, for the most part, restrictions and pressure were more likely to create ‘rebellious’ children.

But a sixteen-year-old daughter wandering alone in jianghu would inevitably cause a father to be a little uneasy.

Fortunately, the master of the Five Elements Fortress, who lived in the area, also happened to be going to Ding Peng’s. He just so happened to entrust Shang Zhen with looking after her.

With such a great veteran of jianghu looking after her on the road, she certainly wouldn’t run into any problems.

Not to mention that Tian Yifei was also there.

Tian Yifei would certainly never miss any opportunity to be near her, nor would he let her suffer the least bit of difficulty.

So Xie Xiaofeng felt quite reassured.

He had never expected that someone from the Devil Cult would be wandering about jianghu. And he had certainly never expected that the Tie Yan couple had such a lecherous son, who would actually peep on a bathing girl.

That day had been the twelfth day of the twelfth month. It was quite cold.

She had asked the servant at the inn to boil a cauldron of hot water and build a large fire in the room.

She’d had the habit of bathing every day since she was a child.

She bolted all the doors and windows and soaked comfortably in the hot water for nearly an hour*.
*(it actually says half a shichen {2 hour time period})

Just as she was about to get dressed, she suddenly discovered someone was outside peeping.

She saw a pair of gleaming eyes in the crack below the door.

She screamed.

By the time she got dressed and ran out, Tian Yifei and Shang Zhen had already trapped the peeping tom.

The man was cross-eyed and crippled. He was also ugly and oddly deformed.

A person like this probably doesn’t have the courage to glance at a girl when she is in front of him, but he wouldn’t miss the chance to peep.

The strange thing was that this person’s wugong was not weak. Shang Zhen and Tian Yifei working together had not yet managed to get him under control.

So she just stabbed him.

She just happened to have a sword in her hand. She just happened to be the daughter of the peerless* swordsman Xie Xiaofeng.
*(tiānxià-land under heaven; whole world wúshuāng-incomparable; matchless)

At the time, Shang Zhen never would have dreamed that this lecherous cripple was the only son of a Devil Cult Elder.

How could an irreproachable*, chaste+ young girl bear to suffer such an insult!
*(yù jié bīng qing-lit. ‘clear as ice and clean as jade’; (idiom) spotless; irreproachable; incorruptible)
+(shǒu shēn rú yù-lit. ‘guard one’s body like jade’; to keep oneself pure; to preserve one’s integrity; to remain chaste)

From anyone’s perspective, she had ample reason to kill.

Ding Peng said, “I really should have come sooner, but I had to first clearly investigate this whole matter.” Because he was the host* here.
*(zhǔrén-master {of the house}; host; owner)

He must be very fair in his handling of this matter.

He went on, “To get the bottom of this matter, I naturally had to find Miss Xie first.”

Madam Tie Yan asked, “Have you already found her?”

Ding Peng said, “I don’t know where Lord Shang hid her. There are quite a lot of places to hide here. That’s why I searched for so long.” He continued, “Fortunately, Lord Shang was in a hurry when he came. Being unfamiliar with the layout here, there weren’t many hiding places he could find. So I eventually found her.” It was not easy to find someone on an estate as big as this, regardless of the circumstances.

But he made light of the whole episode, as if it was really no big deal.

Madam Tie Yan looked at him and suddenly realized that this big bumpkin was not someone to be taken lightly.

He was actually much shrewder that he looked.

He said, “I knew Lord Shang would never hand her over. He had received Mr. Xie’s trust and would rather die than do such a thing.”

Madam Tie Yan said coldly, “And of course you’re just like him. You would rather die than tell us where she is?”

Ding Peng said, “I don’t need to tell you.”

He smiled and went on casually, “I’ve brought her here.” Everyone was startled by these words. Even Madam Tie Yan was quite surprised.

He had slit Mei Hua’s throat in order to stop him from revealing where Xie Xiaoyu was.

Yet he had brought her here himself.

The Water Pavilion had a door.

He opened the door, revealing a dainty looking girl. She walked through the door with her head down.

There were still tearstains on her face. The tearstains made her seem even more delicate, more beautiful.

A quick glance was enough to see that she was a well-behaved girl.

If a girl like this could kill someone, that person surely deserved to die.

Ding Peng suddenly asked, “You are Miss Xie Xiaoyu?”

“I am.”

“Did you kill someone the day before yesterday?”


She suddenly raised her head and looked straight at the Tie Yan couple, “I know you are his parents. I know that you must be heart-broken right now. But if he wasn’t dead, given the chance, I would still kill him.” No one would have expected such a delicate girl would speak such strong words. When it came down to it, the blood in her veins was the blood of the Xie family. No one in this family would ever bow their heads, no matter what the circumstances.

Ever since she and Ding Peng had showed up, Madam Tie Yan had actually calmed down.

An expert in wulin, a veteran of a hundred battles*, just like a famous general who leads his army to a decisive battle a thousand li (Li~.5km) away, will actually become especially calm when finally confronted by a great enemy.
*(shēn jīng bǎi zhan- lit. veteran of a hundred battles (idiom); fig. experienced; seasoned)

She had been listening calmly, waiting for them to finish speaking, before coldly asking, “You had to kill him. Was it because he did something wrong, he deserved to die?”

Xiaoyu said, “Yes.”

Madam Tie Yan asked, “Does the person who killed the wrong person also deserve to die?”


“What if you killed the wrong person?”

“I deserve to die as well,” said Xiaoyu.

Madam Tie Yan suddenly laughed, a terrifying laugh of unspeakable sadness. She suddenly shrieked, “Since you deserve to die, why aren’t you dead yet?”

With the sound of that mournful laughter, a blade light flashed, a saber struck down toward Xiaoyu’s head.

Everyone had seen this strike of hers.

With this single strike, this gentle and beautiful girl was about to be split in half.

No one could bear to see it again.

Some turned their heads. Some closed their eyes.

Who would have thought that after this strike, nothing actually happened. There wasn’t even a sound.

Everyone couldn’t help but to look back again.

To their surprise, Xie Xiaoyu was still standing there. Not even a single hair on her head had been cut.

Madam Tie Yan’s Swallow Saber, which was as thin as a cicada’s wing and unbelievably fast*, had been stopped, stopped by Ding Peng.
*(chuīmáoduànfā-lit. ‘blowing one’s hair off’)

When the two blades struck each other, they didn’t make a sound. The two sabers struggled as if they were suddenly stuck together.

The veins on the back of Madam Tie Yan’s hand bulged one by one, as did the veins on her forehead.

Yet Ding Peng still seemed quite calm. He casually stated, “This is my home. They are all my guests. As long as I am here, no one can kill anyone here.”

Madam Tie Yan gravely asked, “Even those who deserve to die cannot be killed?”

Ding Peng asked, “Who deserves to die?”

“She deserves to die. She killed the wrong person. There is no way my son would peep on her taking a bath. Even if she knelt down and begged my son to look, my son wouldn’t look.” She let out that terrifying, mournful laugh again, said one word at a time, “Because he can’t see at all!”

This laughter was truly unbearable. Even Ding Peng was so horrified to hear it, that he couldn’t help but ask, “Why can’t he see?”

“He’s blind!”

She was still laughing.

The laughter was full of sorrow, anger, injustice and resentment. Her laugh was like the shriek of a dying beast.

“How can a blind man peek at other people bathing?”

Xiaoyu seemed unable to stand, her whole body practically collapsed on Ding Peng.

Ding Peng asked, “He’s really blind?”

Xiaoyu said, “I didn’t know. I really didn’t know”

Madam Tie Yan said, “Even if she really didn’t know, there is surely someone who did.” Her voice was still more mournful, “So not only did they kill him, they also slandered him.”

Xiaoyu’s pale face had lost all its color, her voice trembled as she said, “I didn’t know, I really didn’t know.”
Elder Tie Yan, who had been standing there like a stone statue this whole time, suddenly lifted Shang Zhen up.

He seemed like he hadn’t moved from the spot he was standing in, and the place where Shang Zhen had collapsed was definitely quite far away from him.

But as soon as he reached out his hand, Shang Zhen was lifted up like a crumpled sack.

Shang Zhen had appeared to be dead. Now he suddenly let out a bitter groan. He hadn’t died after all.

He had deliberately taken that punch because he wanted a chance to feign death. Because while he knew he could take Sun Fuhu’s punch, he knew there was no way he could ever take Iron Swallow Flying In Pairs’ saber.

Elder Tie Yan said, “I can see that you don’t want to die. You’re willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive.” Shang Zhen couldn’t deny it. In order to stay alive, he had already done many things that nobody would have ever expected he could do.

Elder Tie Yan said, “You must know that the Devil Cult’s Demonic Sacred Blood Ointment* is the unsurpassed wound-healing elixir+ in the world. Shang Zhen knew.
*(天魔圣血膏-tiānmó-demonic sheng-holy, sacred; xuè –blood; gāo-ointment)
+(Jiù-save; shang-injury, wound; língyào-elixir, legendary magic potion of immortals; panacea; fig. wonder solution to a problem; Jiùshānglíngyào-taken together could be read as ‘miracle cure’)

Elder Tie Yan went on, “You should also know what Great Demonless Soul Seeking Technique feels like.” Shan Zhen knew.
*(无魔搜魂大法-wú-no,-less -magic, devil sōu-search hún-soul, spirit; -great, big; -law, technique)

Elder Tie Yan said, “So I can see to it that you go on living properly, or I can see to it that no longer want to live and yet you can’t beg for death.”

Shan Zhen understood what he meant. He suddenly hissed, “I’ll tell the truth. I’ll surely tell the truth!”

“Who was it that peeked under the door to watch Xie Xiaoyu bathing that day?” asked Elder Tie Yan.

“It was Tian Yifei!”

Shan Zhen was shedding tears as he told the other side of the story.

“It was very cold that day. I wanted the waiter to bring a pot of liquor to the room. As soon as I walked out, I saw Tian Yifei leaning under Xie Xiaoyu’s door. At the same moment, Miss Xie had also just noticed that there was someone outside peeping. She was already screaming inside.” “At first, I wanted to grab Tian Yifei, but he knelt down and kept begging me, asking me not to ruin his life.” “He also said that he had always secretly adored Miss Xie, thus he had done this shameful on the spur of the moment.” “His aunt and I had been good friends of for many years. I also believed he had not intended to do something like this.” “So my heart had softened. But unexpectedly, someone else had actually heard what we said.” “The person was deformed, nor did we know where he had come from. As soon as Tian Yifei saw him, he jumped up in order to kill him to silence him*.” “Not only was his wugong extremely high, Tian Yifei was definitely no match for him.” “I couldn’t just watch as this person killed Tian Yifei, I had to go help him.” “But I swear, I never meant to kill, I had absolutely no ill intentions+.” “By then Miss Xie had already dressed and run out. Tian Yifei was shouting at the top of his lungs because he was afraid that he (the cripple) would expose this secret in front of Miss Xie. That’s why he (the cripple) couldn’t hear the sword Miss Xie had thrust out.” “At the time I had no idea that he was blind, let alone that he was Master Tie Yan gongzi* (your son).” “I swear, I really did not know.”
*(shā-kill; -him; mièkǒu- to kill sb to prevent them from divulging a secret, to silence sb)
+(dúshǒu-lit. ‘poison hand’; evil scheme)
*(gongzi- your son (honorific))

This was a sickening story. When he finished telling it, Shang Zhen even vomited.

In order to make sure he went on speaking, Elder Tie Yan had forced him to swallow a spoonful of the incomparable wound-healing, life-saving elixir ‘Demonic Sacred Blood Ointment’.

But now he vomited again.

Nobody gave him a second glance.

The master of Five Elements Fortress, who was as rich as a prince, whose name shook the world, was now worthless in the eyes of others.

Shang Zhen suddenly shouted again, “If you were in my situation, wouldn’t you also have done what I did?” No one paid any attention to him, but they had all already secretly asked themselves—

Would I sacrifice some unknown cripple for the sake of the Flying Lady’s* nephew? Would I then reveal the secret to save my own life?
*(fēi-to fly; niángzǐ-lady, polite form of address for a woman)

No one could say for certain that he wouldn’t do the same thing in that situation.

So no one paid any attention to him. No one glanced at him, because everyone was afraid to see themselves in him.

Shang Zhen’s screams had stopped.

People who don’t want to die can also die. The more they don’t want to die, the faster they sometimes die. The cold wind outside the window was like a knife. Everyone’s hands and feet were ice-cold. They also felt a chill in their hearts.

There was still not the slightest expression on Elder Tie Yan’s face. He was staring coldly at Ding Peng and coldly stated, “I am a member of the Devil Cult, naturally so is my son.”

Ding Peng said, “I know.”

Elder Tie Yan said, “The heroes and heroines in jianghu all believe that as long as someone is part of the Devil Cult, they deserve to die.”

Ding Peng said, “I know.”

“Did my son also deserve to die?”


He couldn’t say otherwise. He’d been wrongly accused himself. He deeply understood this kind of pain.

“You are the host here. You are also the youngest expert I have seen in the past fifty years.” Elder Tie Yan said, “I only ask you, who deserves to die in this matter?”

“Those who deserve to die are already dead,” responded Ding Peng.

Elder Tie Yan said, “Not yet.”

His voice was ice-cold, “There is still one who deserves to die that isn’t dead yet.”

Xie Xiaoyu suddenly shouted, “I know who this person is!”

There were tears on her pale face again. She seemed so wretched and week, as if she was barely able to stand up. But she would never back down.

She slowly went on, “I now know that I killed the wrong person. Anyone who killed the wrong person deserves to die.”

Elder Tie Yan asked, “What are you going to do about it?”

Xie Xiaoyu didn’t speak anymore, not even a word.

She suddenly drew a dazzling dagger from her sleeve and thrust it towards her heart.