Chapter 1: Exceptional
In the early morning, there was 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 is very beautiful and his body is very healthy. When he speaks, he appears energetic and vigorous. When he laughs, he often reveals childishness and innocence like a child you’ve watched grow up.
But Ding Peng is no longer a child.
In the past three months, he has defeated three renowned swordsmen in the realm of jianghu.
Sunshine and water make plants and flowers grow strong, but fame and success can also make a boy mature.
Not only is he now a real man, but he is also calm, steady and confident in himself.
He was born in March, this year he is exactly twenty. On the day of his birthday, he defeated the famous swordsman Shi Ding of Baoding with a trick called “Heavenly Meteor”.
Shi Ding was a master of the Pingding Sword of the Northern School. Ding Peng used this victory as a gift to congratulate himself on his birthday - and in April, he defeated Ge Qi, the Sword Chaser, with the same move of “Heavenly Meteor”. Ge Qi was a proud disciple of the Huashan Sword School, with a swift and unique style of swordsmanship and an even more aggressive style of attack.
But in that duel, he was so convincingly defeated that he actually admitted in public, “Even if I practiced for ten more years, I would never be able to block his sword.” In May, the Iron Sword Gate’s master, Song Yang Swordsman Guo Zhengping, was also defeated by his “Heavenly Meteor” move.
Guo Zhengping’s comment on his sword and his person was, “Like an antelope with horns, there is no trace to be found. Within a year, this young man will be famous in the world and rise to the top.” Although the Iron Sword Gate was not a prominent sect in the 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.
To this day, Ding Peng still felt an unexplainable excitement when he remembered that sentence.
“Famous all over the world, make a name for yourself!”
(" Renowned and distinguished!")
He practiced hard for thirteen years, seven hours a day, until his palms and soles were worn through.
Especially on those bitterly cold nights of winter, 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 in 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 an unknown escort master who discovered a tattered page of a sword manual.
It was a page, and a book.
On the page was this move, “Heavenly Meteor”…
A meteor from out of the sky. The sudden release, the moment of light and speed, this is not a thing you can stop. But his father was already old, his intelligence had declined, his reaction was slow, and he could no longer practice this kind of swordsmanship, so he passed this page of swordsmanship to his own children.
When he was dying, the last words he left behind were, “You must be better at this sword, and you must fight for me to let others know that Ding also has an outstanding son.” As soon as he thought of this, Ding Peng would feel his blood boiling, and he couldn’t help but shed tears.
Now he would never shed tears again. Tears were shed by those who were weak. If a man wants to shed, let him bleed!
He took a deep breath of the morning air and drew his sword from beneath his pillow, a sword he would use today to gain another victory for himself.
If he can win today, he will be truly successful.
Shi Ding, Ge Qi, and Guo Zhengping, although they were also famous warriors in Jianghu, those three victories were nothing compared to today’s battle.
His opponent today is Liu Ruosong.
The world-famous " Young Pine Swordsman" of the “Three Friends of the Age of Cold”, Liu Ruosong, was the master of the “Ten Thousand Pines Villa”. [名满天下的"岁寒叁友"中的"青松剑客"柳若松－－万松山庄"的主人柳若松, Míng mǎn tiānxià de"suì hán sān yǒu"zhōng de"qīngsōng jiànkè"liǔ ruòsōng–wàn sōngshān zhuāng"de zhǔrén liǔ ruòsōng.] In the Wudang Mountain Temple of Xuanzhen, he was the only lay disciple of Tian Yi Zhen Shi (Taoist Master Tian Yi). He had already heard of this name many years ago, and at that time, it was as high and unshakeable as Mount Tai. But it was different now, and he was sure he could defeat the man. He asked for sword instruction 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 go one step further and enter the ranks of the true masters of Jianghu. The time and place of the duel was decided by Liu Ruosong: “The fifteenth day of the sixth month, noon, Ten Thousand Pines Villa.” Today was the fifteenth day of the sixth month.
Today’s battle will determine the course of his life (his destiny).
The clothes he washed, smoothed, put on a bamboo pole, and hung on 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, and it was now white-washed and frayed in places, but as long as it was washed clean, it was 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 a small piece of silver was left inside.
It was all he had, and after paying the inn’s bill, all he had left was a few dozen coins.
He usually slept where he didn’t have to pay rent, under a shrine, on the grass in the woods, all were his beds.
It was for the sake of today’s battle that he had endured the pain of staying at this small inn, for 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 of money, as he would normally only eat three hard cakes a day.
But today he decided to excuse himself this once, for 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 in glory and self-esteem, it would bring many things that one could never dream of in a normal day, and wealth and status would all follow.
He knew this, and so he endured poverty and hunger through gritted teeth
He would not allow himself to be tarnished by any dishonorable deeds, and he was determined to make a name for himself in the proper way.
There were still more than two hours before noon, and he was determined to find a good place to enjoy this food.
In the foothills near Wansong (Ten Thousand Pines) Villa, he found a place with a spring, a meadow, red flowers and a garden, surrounded by flowers and trees on all sides, and the sky was clear blue.
The fog had lifted, the sun had just risen, and the turquoise leaves were glistening with mist, 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 he had stopped breathing, but his heart was beating three times faster than usual.
He had never approached a woman before.
It wasn’t as if there weren’t young girls in his hometown, and it wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen them either.
He always struggled to restrain himself. He had tried everything: stuffing snow and ice into his trousers, dipping his head in a stream, stabbing his legs with needles, running, climbing, somersaulting…
Until he achieved fame, he would never let these things distract him from his goals, never let anything sap his energy.
That white skin, that firm bosom, those firm, round legs…
It took all the strength he had to make himself turn his head, but this 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 fragrant, he could even hear her heartbeat.
His mouth went dry and he couldn’t even get a word out.
The girl had noticed the change in his body, her own face flushed and she covered herself with one of her hands, "Would you… would you take off your clothes and lend them to me?” This garment was the only one he had, but he took it off without a second thought. The girl calmed down a bit more after she put on his clothes and said solemnly, “Thank you!” Ding Peng was also a little calmer, and was finally able to speak, “Is someone chasing you?” The girl nodded her head, tears already in 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 an instinct to protect women, not to mention that the girl was so beautiful.
He held her hand: “With myself and this sword, you don’t have to be afraid.” The girl was more reassured and said softly. “Thank you." 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 neglected to ask, and she didn’t say.
Although she was wearing a dress, such a short dress would never be able to entirely cover a mature girl.
There are so many things that can be appealing about a girl like her.
His heart was still beating, still beating 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, and he was already down to his last copper.
But he said without a second thought, “These things are fresh, you must eat some.”
The girl said again, “Thanks!”
Ding Peng said, “Make yourself at home.”
This girl was really unceremonious.
Ding Peng had never thought of a girl so beautiful eating like a wolf.
She must have been hungry for a long time and had 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 herself; playfully she 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 happy and others happy, but it also reduced the distance between people.
They became a little more comfortable, and the girl finally revealed what had happened to her.
Ding Peng’s own fantasy just now 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, and the villains had figured that she was too hungry to move, so they relaxed their guard against her, and 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!” The girl said, “You can’t go!” Ding Peng said, “Why?”
The girl hesitated, “There are some things I can’t tell you now, but I’ll definitely tell you later.” It was as if there was a secret story that she could neither say, nor was he at liberty to ask.
The girl added, “Now I can find someone, so I can feel at ease.” Ding Peng said, “Who are you looking for?” The girl said, “It is one of my elders, who is already seventy years old but still wearing 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 decide his destiny in life.
He was still hungry and hadn’t practiced his sword yet. 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 requires not only great courage, but also a thick skin. A man must go through many painful experiences before he can learn this “no”. Ding Peng sighed in his heart and said, “I wonder where this old gentleman is?” The young woman’s eyes immediately shone and said, “You’re willing to help me find him?” Ding Peng only nodded his head. The girl jumped up and hugged him, “You’re such a good man, I’ll never forget you!” Ding Peng believed 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 can see an old tree with a very strange shape. When the weather is good, he will definitely play chess there.” The day was fine today. “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 is how all chess matches are, even if the sky is falling, you have to finish a game of chess before you say anything.
“I am waiting here. Whether you can find him or not, you must come back soon.” The stream was clear.
Ding Peng travelled along the stream and walked 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 only beautiful, but she also had a very special aura that made it impossible to bear to refuse her request.
There were not too many men who can say “no” in the presence of this girl.
Fortunately, this stream was not long.
There was an old tree at the end of the stream, and two people were playing chess, including an old man in red.
Ding Peng was really obedient. He stretched out his hand, and suddenly stepped on a hole under his foot. 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 again, and there was a rope loop 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 unsteady.
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 as soon 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 even exert any strength, so he was hung up in a muddle, head and feet, like a fish being suspended in the air.
This hole in the ground. This loop of rope, this branch, was it all arranged on purpose?
Did the girl that sent him here, deliberately ask him to come here and take the bait? They had no enmity, why would she want to harm him?
Those two people under the tree were just concentrating on their game of chess and didn’t even look at him. It was as if they didn’t realize in the midst of the tree that someone had come and was already hung up.
Those two were really chess aficionados.
Chess fans are always reluctant to be disturbed.
Perhaps they had laid this trap only as a precaution against anyone else interrupting rather than to deal with him.
Surely the girl hadn’t know there was such a trap.
With this in mind, Ding Peng finally felt a little more comfortable, and said calmly: “Two old gentlemen, 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 hold his breath and shouted, “Hey…”
As soon as he opened his mouth, something flew over and gagged him.
Something foul and soft and slimy and fishy, and he didn’t know if it was rotten mud, or something far worse?
Whatever it was flew from a branch opposite him, and 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! If it was mud, he would have been lucky; Ding Peng almost fainted with anger.
After all those years of hardship, when he was on the verge of success, he met this situation.