Chapter 11 Building a Wall
The disciples of the Wan clan were flustered for a while. But how could they find the enemy?
Wan Zhenshan instructed Qi Fang that she was not mention how they found and lost the sword manual to the other disciples. Qi Fang promised without reservations. Over the years, Qi Fang became more and more aware of the relationships between the various disciples of the clan. Each one of them had their own plan, and they would always be wary of each other. Wan Zhenshan collected his anger and returned to his own room. All he thought about was the butterfly insignia. Who could his enemy be? Why would this person bring the manual and then take it back? Is this person the one who saved Yan Daping? Could it be Yan Daping himself?
Wan Gui exerted a lot of energy to chase the enemy. Consequently, his blood flow circulated quicker and his hand began to hurt again. He lied down on the bed to rest and slept for a while.
Qi Fang pondered: “My father must have some use for this book. It has been submerged in blood water so long, it must be ruined now!” She went inside the room and called for “San’ge” twice but saw that he was in a deep sleep, so she went to get the copper bowl and emptied the bloody water in the well outside, revealing the book. She thought: “Water Spinach is really clever!” Her face was full of joy.
This book was completely immersed in bloody water and had a really bad smell that assailed the nostrils. Qi Fang unwillingly picked up the book and wondered: “Where should I hide it?” She thought of the side room in the back garden that was always filled with sieves, hoes, rock mortars, fans, and other miscellaneous items. She figured that nobody would go there, so at once she picked a few leaves from a chrysanthemum to cover up the book. It now looked like a dish of chrysanthemum leaves. Then she went to the back garden. She entered the west room and concealed the book in the middle of a fan and thought: “This fan is only used when we collect rent. If I hide it here, nobody should find it.”
She threw away the bowl and began to whistle a light tune, pretending as if nothing happened. She passed through the corridor when all of a sudden, a person appeared at the junction of two walls and spoke softly, “Tonight at the third watch, I will wait for you in the firewood room. Don’t forget!” It was Wu Kan.
Qi Fang was already a bit frightened. When he saw him just suddenly appear and said these words her heart rate shot up the roof. She spat in disgust. “You really have the nerves of a wild dog, do you not value your own life?”
Wu Kan salivated and said: “I am most willing to lose my life for you. Martial sister-in-law, do you want the antidote?”
Qi Fang clenched her teeth and with her left hand she reached for the handle of her dagger. She wanted to attack him when he least expects and take the antidote away from him.
Wu Kan laughed and said softly: “If you execute a stance of ‘The Mountain Approaches from the Face’ and brandish your blade to attack, I will evade with a stance of ‘The Cloud Approaches the Pier’ and conveniently through the antidote into the pond.” As he said this he extended his hand forward holding the bottle of antidote. He was afraid that Qi Fang would try to take it and backed away two steps.
Qi Fang knew that she would not be able to take it by force and walked over to his side. Wu Kan said: “I will only wait until the third watch. If you do not come on the third watch, by the fourth watch I will take the antidote with me and run away, I will never return to Jingzhou. If I surnamed Wu have to die, I will definitely not die at the hands of the Wan family.”
Qi Fang returned to her room and was greeted with the painful moans of Wan Gui. It was evident that the scorpion poison was acting up again. She sat on the bedside and thought: “He caused so much suffering for martial brother, his methods are extremely despicable. But the deed has already been committed, what more can be done? Either martial brother has a life full of hardships, or I have a life full of hardships. I have been treated so well all these years. A woman should follow whatever her husband orders. I will be his wife for the rest of our lives. But that scoundrel Wu Kan is extremely repulsive, how can I take the antidote from him?”
She saw that Wan Gui became more pale and withered, and both his eyes sunk deeply. “San’ge is seriously injured, if I tell him now, he will fight a battle with Wu Kan to the death. That would only make things worse.”
The sky slowly turned dark. Qi Fang absentmindedly ate her dinner, then she settled her daughter to sleep. She kept pondering whether she should tell her father-in-law, thinking that since he is such a rigorous schemer, he would have a way to deal with the problem. But she could not let her husband know about it, so she had to wait until he was asleep before telling her father-in-law. Qi Fang slept beside Wan Gui. In the past few days of attending for her husband she did not get a single good night’s sleep. She waited until Wan Gui was in a deep sleep before she quietly got up and went outside to find Wan Zhenshan.
The house was lighted and there were some weird sounds coming from inside, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” it sounded like as if someone was using a lot of energy to do something. Qi Fang felt strange, originally she already arrived at the door and called for her father-in-law, but then she withdrew. From the narrow slit of the window she peeked into the insides of the room. The moonlight illuminated through the window into the room. She saw Wan Zhenshan lying supine on his bed, both hands slowly pushing against the air. Both his eyes were shut tightly.
Qi Fang thought: “Father-in-law must be practicing some profound martial arts. He must not be interfered by external affairs or he might fire deviate. I should not call him now. I will wait until he finishes his training.”
She saw Wan Zhenshan pushing against the air with both hands, then he slowly sat up and placed his feet on the ground. He walked a few steps before crouching down and appeared to be grabbing something in midair. Qi Fang thought: “Father-in-law must be practicing a capturing technique.”
After watching for some more time, she saw Wan Zhenshan’s movements were more and more strange. Wan Zhenshan repeatedly grabbed something in the air and placed it neatly in a row. It appeared as if he was piling up a lot of bricks together, but under the moonlight it was clear that there was nothing there at all.
All of a sudden, she recalled what Tao Hong said to her at the memorial hall. “Master builds walls in the middle of the night!” But Wan Zhenshan’s movements did not look like he was building a wall. It appeared more as if he was tearing down a wall.
She saw him grabbing for a while, comparing the size to his hands and figured that it was big enough, then with both hands he stroke a posture as if he was picking up something heavy and placed it in front of him. Qi Fang watched, incessantly perplexed. She saw that both his eyes were closed and his movements did not appear to be that of practicing martial arts. It looked more like a mute putting on a play.
After a while Qi Fang became worried. She thought: “Father-in-law has contracted somnambulism! According to physicians, people with this disease will get up in their dreams to do something. Some people will walk around the roof without any clothes on, others will even commit arson and murder. But when they wake up they won’t remember anything about it.” She continued to watch as Wan Zhenshan stuffed these imaginary items into the imaginary hole that he created in the wall. After he finished stuffing these items, he exerted some force to pile it firmly together, before he picked up the imaginary bricks on the ground and set the wall back together.
Indeed, he really was building a wall! There was a faint smile on his face with an air of complacency as he piled the bricks.
At first when Qi Fang saw the gloomy expression on his face she was absolutely horrified, but when she realized that he was building an imaginary wall, her heart had already figured as much so she was relieved. “According to Tao Hong, father-in-law has had somnambulism for a while now. Naturally, he would not want anyone to know this. Tao Hong sleeps with him, so naturally she must have known. Father-in-law must have been very unhappy about this.” When she realized this, it helped solve a chain of suspicions in her heart, as she figured out why Tao Hong was kicked out of the house. Then she thought: “I wonder how long he will build this wall for. If he continues past the third watch, then Wu Kan will really take the antidote and run away, then there will be trouble.”
She saw Wan Zhenshan place the bricks he took down and stuff it into the hole in the wall. Then followed that he sealed it with quicklime and continued working until he was satisfied. His face revealed a smile and he went back to sleep.
Qi Fang thought: “Father-in-law has been working hard, he is probably not very conscious. I will let him rest for a while before I call him.”
At the same time, she suddenly heard someone lightly knock on the front door, softly calling, “Father! Father!” It was the voice of her husband Wan Gui. Qi Fang thought: “Why is San’ge here? What is he doing here?”
Wan Zhenshan got up immediately and asked: “Is it Gui’er?”
Wan Gui replied: “It is me!”
Wan Zhenshan got off the bed and opened the door latch to invite Wan Gui inside. “Have you found any news of the sword manual?”
Wan Gui shouted: “Father!” He extended his left hand to hold the back of a chair. The moonlight seeped in through the window slits and reflected the hazy figure apparently slightly swaying.
Qi Fang was afraid that her own shadow would be seen, so she ducked beneath the window to listen. She did not dare to watch their movements.
She heard Wan Gui say: “Your daughter-in-law… your daughter-in-law… she is not a good person.”
Qi Fang was startled. “Why would he say such a thing?”
She heard Wan Zhenshan ask: “What’s that? Have the two of you got into an argument?”
Wan Gui said: “I found the sword manual. It was your daughter-in-law who took it.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “You found it? That’s good! Where did you find it?”
Qi Fang was extremely perplexed. “How does he know? It must be that Water Spinach could not help but reveal it.” But the next thing Wan Gui said immediately told her that her suspicions were incorrect. Wan Gui said that she saw Qi Fang and his daughter winking at each other and became suspicious. He thought there was something strange about it and pretended to fall asleep, then from the window slit he observed Qi Fang’s movements. He saw her taking the copper bowl to the back garden and followed along. He saw her put the sword manual inside a fan in the west room of the back garden.
Qi Fang sighed inwardly. “My poor father, in the end, the book will still be taken by father-in-law and San’ge. It will be next to impossible for me to take it back. Very well, I admit defeat. San’ge has always been more difficult to deal with than me.”
She heard Wan Zhenshan say, “Very well then, we will take the manual. You will pretend as if nothing happened and see how she reacts. If she does not mention it, you do not need to expose her. I am still suspicious as to where the book came from, I’m afraid… I’m afraid… I’m afraid..” He said “I’m afraid” three times but did not continue.
Wan Gui called: “Father!” His voice was somewhat painful.
Wan Zhenshan asked: “What is it?”
Wan Gui said, “Your daughter-in-law… your daughter-in-law stole our sword manual, she did it for…” As he said up to this point, his voice trembled.
Wan Zhenshan said: “For whom?”
Wan Gui said: “She did it for… for that dog thief Wu Kan!”
Qi Fang’s heart trembled violently. She could hardly believe what she heard. “I did it because of father, why would I do it for Wu Kan? Would I do it for that dog thief Wu Kan?”
Wan Zhenshan’s voice was too full of disbelief. “She did it because of Wu Kan?” he repeated.
Wan Gui said, “Yes! I saw that bítch hide the sword manual in the back garden and I followed her. Then I saw her… saw her at the winding corridor. She was flirting with that bastard Wu Kan. That whóre… she is shameless!”
Wan Zhenshan muttered to himself and said: “I can see that she is usually an upright and well-behaved person. It doesn’t look like she would do such a thing. Are you sure you saw her? What did the two of them say?”
Wan Gui said, “Your son I was afraid that they would notice so I did not dare to get too close. There are no hidden areas around the corridor, so I could only hide behind the junction of the walls. The two of them spoke very quietly so I could not hear everything, but… but I heard a good half of it.”
Wan Zhenshan groaned and said: “My son, you do not need to be angry. How can a gentleman suffer from a loss of a wife? Now that we have the sword manual, we only have to decipher the secret inside, then we will be showered with wealth. Even if you want to buy a hundred concubines that would be incredibly easy. Sit down and explain everything to me slowly!”
Qi Fang heard the groaning of the board mattress as Wan Gui sat down on the bed. He said: “That whóre concealed the manual and was so proud of herself she even sang a little tune. As soon as that whóremonger saw her, his face was full of delight and said: ‘Tonight at the third watch, I will wait for you in the firewood room. Don’t forget!’ I heard him say these exact words very clearly.”
Wan Zhenshan was enraged. “How did the whóre reply?”
Wan Gui said, “She… she said: ‘You really have the nerves of a wild dog, do you not value your own life?’”
Qi Fang was totally confused and upset. “The two of them keep calling me a whóre, how… how could they wrong me like this? San’ge, I am doing this all for you, I want to get the antidote to cure your injuries, yet you dishonour me in such a way. Do you have any conscience?”
Wan Gui continued: “I... when I heard this, I was so mad that I wanted to kill them both immediately with a sword. But I did not bring a sword and I am also weak from my injuries, so I could not fight them head on. I returned to my room at once in case that whóre doesn’t see me when she returns and becomes suspicious. What the whóre and whóremonger said after that I did not hear.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Hmph, like father like daughter, the two of them are both shameless! We will first take the sword manual, then we will wait for them outside the firewood room. We will catch that cheating couple in the act, then the two of them can’t complain after death!”
Wan Gui added: “That whóre was so horny she could not even wait until the third watch. She went out a long time ago. Now… now…” As he said up to this point, he clenched his teeth hard.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Then we will go right away. Go get a sword first. You do not need to attack first. Wait until I cut off their arms and legs, then you can personally take their worthless lives.”
Qi Fang watched as the door opened. Wan Zhenshan helped Wan Gui by the shoulder, and the two of them rushed to the back garden.
Qi Fang leaned her body against the wall, her tears constantly dripping on her sleeves. All along she had only hoped that her husband would recover from his injuries, yet now her husband suspects her. Her father left her and never returned, her martial brother has too suffered his own injustices, now… now even her husband is treating her like this. How can anyone live in such despair? Her heart was completely torn, she no longer wished to live. She did not consider explaining herself to her husband, nor did she consider confronting Wu Kan to reveal the truth. She only leaned herself against the wall, completely paralyzed.
After a while she heard the sounds of footsteps approaching. Wan Gui and his father returned and discussed quietly. Wan Gui said: “Father, why did you not kill Wu Kan just now?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Only the whóremonger was there. The whóre must have got wind and escaped ahead of time. We were unable to catch both of them in the act. We are a prestigious family in Jingzhou, how can we so casually kill a person? After we get the manual, there are still many things that we have to do, there is no time to meddle in such petty affairs! We cannot act arbitrarily.”
“So we are just going to let them go? How am I supposed to repress my anger?” complained Wan Gui.
“If you want to vent anger, how hard is that? We will use the old trick!”
“What old trick?” inquired Wan Gui.
“The same old trick we use to deal with Qi Zhangfa!” He paused for a moment. “Return to your room first. I will assemble the disciples together and then you will come with the rest of them outside my room. Don’t arouse any suspicions.”
Qi Fang’s mind was still in a complete mess. She did not have half a clue what to do next. She only thought: “I don’t want to live, but what about Water Spinach? Who’s going to take care of her?” When she heard Wan Zhenshan say something about using an old trick he used to deal with Qi Zhangfa to deal with Wu Kan, her mind felt as if an ice chunk was placed on it, at once she was wide awake and thought: “How are they going to deal with my father? I must find out until the water recedes and the rocks appear. Father-in-law will gather all his disciples outside his room, then I must not delay. Where can I eavesdrop?”
She heard Wan Gui agree and leave. Wan Zhenshan went outside the hall and called loudly for his servant to light a lamp. Not before long voices came from both the front and back, the various disciples and the servant assembled from all directions. Qi Fang knew that after only a bit more time someone would pass by the window, she hesitated and then at once as quick as lightning entered Wan Zhenshan’s room and tore open the curtains and squeezed herself under the bed. The curtains of the bed were drooping low to the floor, if no one intentionally tried to uncover it they would not find her.
She reclined herself under the bed. After a while she saw light translating through the curtains; someone had lit a lamp and went inside the room. She saw Wan Zhenshan’s shoes enter the room, both feet making their way to a chair. The chair gave off a slight hindrance as Wan Zhenshan sat down. Then she heard him tell the servant to close the door.
The eldest disciple Lu Kun and fifth disciple Bu Yuan were injured on the left leg and right arm by Yan Daping back in Yuanling. But fortunately only their bones were broken and they did not suffer too heavily. Right now they were in recovery, but because of their teacher’s urgent gathering they were still on bandages and walking sticks to await their orders.
She heard the eldest disciple Lu Kun say, “Teacher, we are all here now. We await your orders.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Very good, you come in first!”
Qi Fang saw the door pushed open, Lu Kun’s feet walking inside. Then the door closed.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Our enemies are here for us, do you know that?”
Lu Kun asked, “Who is it? Your disciple does not know.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “This person disguised himself as a physician and came to our house today.”
Qi Fang thought: “Could it be that he knows who that physician is? Who is he?”
Lu Kun said: “Your disciple heard from Brother Wu. Teacher, who is our enemy?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “This person likes to disguise himself. I did not take a good look so I could not figure out his background. Early next morning I want you to search the north part of the city. You may take your leave now. I will give you further instructions later.”
Lu Kun agreed and left.
Wan Zhenshan called his fourth disciple Sun Jun and fifth disciple Bu Yuan inside. He said similar things to them; he asked Sun Jun to search the south part of the city and Bu Yuan to search the east part of the city. He also added: “Let Wu Kan search the west part of the city, Feng Tan and Shen Cheng will work together in coordination for information. Your Brother Wan has not yet recovered from his injuries and cannot leave.”
Bu Yuan said: “Right, Brother Wan should get some more rest.” He opened the door and left.
Qi Fang knew that these words were intentionally said for Wu Kan’s ears so that he would not harbour any suspicions. Then Wan Zhenshan said: “Wu Kan, come inside!” This was said the same way he called the other disciples. It was not especially strict or gentle.
Qi Fang saw the door open again. When Wu Kan placed one leg in the room he felt a bit hesitant, but eventually came in. He slowly walked a few more steps, Qi Fang had a clear view of the lower half of his gown and saw a slight tremble. She knew that he was very scared.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Our enemies came for us, did you know that?”
Wu Kan said: “Your disciple heard from outside the room. It is that physician who sold us the medicine. It was your disciple who asked him to take a look at Brother Wan’s condition. I did not realize that he was our enemy. Your disciple asks for forgiveness.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “This person has disguised himself, I cannot blame you for not being able to recognize him. Early next morning, I want you to investigate the west parts of the city. If you see him, pay attention to his every move.”
Wu Kan said: “Yes!”
All of a sudden, Wan Zhenshan stood up with both legs. Qi Fang could not resist the temptation to extend her hands to uncover a corner of the curtain to look outside. What she saw made her so pale with fright that she almost cried out.
She saw that Wan Zhenshan had already clutched Wu Kan by the throat with both hands. Wu Kan used his hands to resist Wan Zhenshan’s clutch, but it was completely ineffective. She saw Wu Kan’s eyes protruding outwards like a goldfish, opening wider and wider. Wu Kan scratched and clawed so frantically that the back of Wan Zhenshan’s hands started to bleed from his fingernail attacks. But he continued his hold on Wu Kan’s throat and would not let go no matter what. Wu Kan could not even utter half a noise, and soon his body began to sway. After a while, both his hands slowly dropped down. Qi Fang saw his tongue was extended out, his expression very terrifying. She became extremely frightened. It was not until Wu Kan was completely motionless before Wan Zhenshan let go of his hold and placed him on the chair. Then from the table he grabbed two cotton cloths that he had wet beforehand and placed it on his mouth and nose. This way Wu Kan could not breathe and would definitely not wake up.
Qi Fang’s heart was bouncing all over her chest. She thought: “Father-in-law said that they are an aristocratic family and will not easily kill people. I heard that Wu Kan’s father is a local gentleman, he will not let this matter drop easily. I think this will become a serious issue.”
At this same time she suddenly heard Wan Zhenshan’s coarse yell: “You better confess to everything that you’ve done, or do you want me to take action?”
Qi Fang was startled. “So it turns out that father-in-law saw me.” But in her heart she was not frightened. “I will die by his hands then, I don’t want to live anyway!”
She was about to reveal herself from under the bed when suddenly she heard Wu Kan say, “Teacher, what… what do you want disciple to confess?”
Qi Fang was completely startled. How could Wu Kan speak again. Did he come back to life? That was clearly not the case; he was still on the chair completely motionless. She peeked from under the bed and saw Wan Zhenshan’s lips move. She thought: “What? So it is father-in-law who is speaking, not Wu Kan. But how come I heard Wu Kan’s voice?”
She heard Wan Zhenshan shout: “Confess what? Hmph, Wu Kan, you really have some guts. You sent a mole inside and colluded with bandits. Are you planning on a big trade in Jingzhou?”
“Teacher, what… what trade is your disciple doing?”
This time Qi Fang saw everything very clearly. It was Wan Zhenshan mimicking Wu Kan’s voice. She was startled that the voice was actually so alike. “So father-in-law actually has the ability to mimic the voices of his own disciples, I never knew this. But what’s the point of scolding Wu Kan so loudly?” She faintly remembered something, but it was a very hazy reflection that she did not understand. She only felt an unfathomable fear in her heart.
She heard Wan Zhensan say, “Hmph, you think I don’t know? You were the one who brought that physician to Jingzhou; that person is actually a local bandit. Wu Kan, you collaborated with him, you wanted to infiltrate…”
“Teacher, what does your disciple want to infiltrate?”
“You wanted to infiltrate into the mansion of Magistrate Ling. You wanted to steal a classified document, am I right? Wu Kan, you… you are still denying this?”
“Teacher, you… how did you know? Teacher, please consider my filial piety for you over all these years, please forgive me, your disciple does not dare to do such a thing again!”
“Wu Kan, how can such a serious matter be forgiven so easily?”
Qi Fang figured out that Wan Zhenshan’s imitation of Wu Kan’s voice was actually not that similar. It’s just that he lowered his voice and spoke with extreme obscurity, and every sentence was uttered with formal addresses of “teacher” and “disciple” so naturally others would think that Wu Kan was speaking. Everyone saw Wu Kan enter the room and heard him converse with Wan Zhenshan. Even if the voice was not completely alike, besides Wu Kan, who else could be speaking? Furthermore, Wan Zhenshan constantly addressed this speaker as “Wu Kan”.
He saw Wan Zhenshan lightly tap Wu Kan’s body. Then he slowly bent his lower back and reached for the bed curtain with his left hand. Qi Fang was so scared that her heart nearly stopped beating. She thought: “Father-in-law must have discovered me. He is going to strangle me to death!”
From the hazy lighting she saw a head drilling into the area under the bed, it was Wu Kan’s head. His eyes were wide open and really looked like a dead goldfish. Qi Fang could only do her best to get out of the way, but Wu Kan’s body kept forcing itself inside and hit both her legs and waist.
She heard Wan Zhenshan sit down on the chair and with a very stern voice and scolded: “Wu Kan, why haven’t you kneeled down? I will tie you up and send you to Magistrate Ling. Whether you will be forgiven or not is up to him, I cannot decide.”
“Teacher, will you really not forgive your disciple?”
“To think that I taught such a disciple, you have really shamed the Wan family to no end. I… how can I forgive you?”
Qi Fang peeked from the curtains and saw Wan Zhenshan take out a dagger from his waist area, lightly stabbing it into his own chest. Although the chest part of his garment was cushioned by softwood and moist clay and items like pastries, when the dagger stabbed into his chest it still went in and didn’t budge.
Qi Fang now understood his intentions. She heard Wan Zhenshan say, “Wu Kan, will you not kneel!” Then he lowered his voice to imitate Wu Kan’s voice. “Teacher, you made me do this, do not fault your disciple!” Wan Zhenshan let out an “Aiyo!” then with a flying kick he kicked open the window and shouted: “Little thief, you… you dare to attack me?”
A loud crash was heard, someone kicked open the door. Wan Gui was the first to enter. (He already knew beforehand that now was the time to break and enter.) Lu Kun, Sun Jun, Bu Yuan, and the others followed closely behind. Wan Zhenshan held his chest, fresh blood dripping from his fingers. (This is likely from a bottle of red water that he carried with him.) He began to sway and pointed at the window, shouting: “Wu Kan that thief, he… he stabbed me and ran away! Quick… chase him!” After he said this, he slanted his body and fell on the bed.
Wan Gui cried out in fear. “Father! Father! How is your injury?”
Lu Kun, Sun Jun, Bu Yuan, Feng Tan, and Shen Cheng all rushed outside the window, shouting and quarrelling as they rushed out. Various people from the mansion began to cry out in alarm and shout in grievances.
Qi Fang remained under the bed, she felt Wu Kan’s body colder and colder. She was extremely frightened and did not dare to move in the slightest. Her father-in-law sat on the bed while her husband was standing beside him.
She heard Wan Zhenshan quietly say: “Is anyone suspicious?”
Wan Gui said, “Nope. Father, that was a really good ruse. Just like Qi Zhangfa, not a single trace of error.”
Just like Qi Zhangfa, not a single trace of error! These words stabbed into Qi Fang’s heart like a sharp dagger. Originally she had already faintly understood this extremely terrible truth, but she did not dare to believe it. She thought: “Father-in-law always treated me in an amiable manner, my husband has always been tender and considerate, why would they harm my father?” But this time she saw it with her very own eyes, she saw how they set up such a brilliant trap to kill Wu Kan. That day when she heard outside the study room how Qi Zhangfa and Wan Zhenshan were arguing, how Wan Zhenshan was stabbed by her father, and how her father escaped from the window”, obviously, all of this was planned beforehand by Wan Zhenshan. This time it was no different. Then it must be the case that her father was killed a long time ago, he… he imitated her father’s voice. No wonder her father’s voice was so hoarse and completely different from usual. If not for this coincidence that she just happened to witness the incident, how would she ever have figured out the truth?
She heard Wan Gui say, “What about that bítch? What shall we do with her?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “We will find her and torture her slowly. But we must do it with obscurity such that no human can know about it and no ghost will feel it. We cannot tarnish the reputation of the Wan family, our reputation.”
Wan Gui said: “Yes, father has really planned this out carefully. Ayo…”
Wan Zhenshan said: “What is it?”
Wan Gui said: “The wound on the back of my hand is hurting again.”
Wan Zhenshan sighed. Although he was full of multifarious schemes, he was completely helpless against this situation.
Qi Fang slowly extended her hands to reach for Wu Kan’s bosom. That little bottle was coldly placed inside his pocket. She took it out and put it in her own bosom. She felt really bitter inside. “San’ge, oh San’ge, you only heard half the story and already accuse me of committing adultery with that thief. You did not want to understand the whole truth hence you did not listen to everything. This antidote was on him the whole time. Your father has killed him now. Originally to take back the antidote would be as easy as lifting a finger, but now you don’t even know about it.”
Lu Kun and the others could not catch up to Wu Kan and returned one by one. All of them made their way to Wan Zhenshan’s room to await further orders. Wan Zhenshan exposed his chest, he was bandaged from neck to chest and to his back then back to his neck.
This time, the “injury” he suffered was not as “severe” as before. Wu Kan’s martial arts were not as high as Qi Zhangfa’s, so naturally the dagger did not penetrate deeply and caused no serious injuries. The various disciples felt at ease, they all cursed Wu Kan for being so ungrateful. They all said that they would find his father tomorrow to settle the matter. They wished their teacher a speedy recovery and left the room. Wan Gui sat on the bed alongside his father.
Qi Fang wanted to find an opportunity to escape. She was reclining next to Wu Kan’s body and felt an indescribable fear in her heart. She was afraid that the two would notice her, but she could not figure out a good way to escape.
Wan Zhenshan said: “We will first take care of the body in case we give ourselves away.”
Wan Gui said: “Should we deal with him just like we did with Qi Zhangfa?”
Wan Zhenshan muttered to himself and said: “We will use the old trick.”
Qi Fang was in tears. “How did they deal with my father?” she wondered.
Wan Gui said: “You built it here? You sleep here too, that wouldn’t be too good!”
Wan Zhenshan said: “I will temporarily move out and sleep at your place in case of trouble. How would others so easily put the sword manual on our hands? We will deal with this menace together. In the future when we are showered with wealth, do you think we won’t be able to find a place to live?”
When Qi Fang heard the word “build”, an image suddenly flashed through her mind like lightning. She understood completely. “He… he hid my father’s body inside a wall, hiding any traces of the body. No wonder after father left there was no more news of him. No wonder father-in-law… no, not father-in-law… no wonder the treacherous Wan Zhenshan began to build walls in the middle of the night. He has done so many bad deeds he must feel guilty at heart and conceived somnambulism. Even in his dreams he would wake up and build walls. That treacherous bandit… that treacherous bandit would actually feel guilty… that is really strange. No, he does not feel guilty. He is very proud of himself, he keeps repeating the same action of building a wall unconsciously, but he was building it in his dreams, yet he was smiling the whole time?”
She heard Wan Gui say, “Father, what is the secret behind that sword manual? You said that we will become showered with wealth and overwhelm the world? Could it be that… that it is not a martial arts manual, but a treasure?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Of course it is not a martial arts manual. In the sword manual is written the location of a great treasure. The old Mei Niansheng’s thoughts must have been clouded by pig oil, he actually passed the sword manual to an outsider. Haha, well he is dead now. Gui’er, quickly take out the sword manual.”
Wan Gui hesitated slightly and then took out the book from his bosom. It turns out that as soon as Qi Fang hid the book inside the fan, Wan Gui had already taken it out.
Wan Zhenshan glanced at his son and took the book. He skimmed through the pages. The pages near the front and back covers of the book were not yet dried, but the middle of the book was dried.
Wan Zhenshan said softly, “It is hard to say whether the two of us can protect this book. We must first discover the secret within this book, then even if someone takes it from us it’s not a big deal. Get a pen, you must write this down carefully. The first stance of Liancheng Swordplay comes from Du Fu’s poem ‘Spring Returns’. He extended his fingers to his mouth and wet it with saliva, then smeared it on the page beside this poem. He gently cheered and said: “It is the number ‘4’! Very good, ‘Moss track nears river bamboo’, the fourth word is “river”, you must remember. The second stance is also from Du Fu’s poem, it comes from ‘Heavy Scripture Manifests Tomb’. He wet his finger again and smeared the page. “Hmm, it is the number ‘41’! He counted to the number. “5, 10, 15, 20… ‘The Emperor’s tomb builds empty songs, valiant warriors prefer jade miniature’, the forty-first word is ‘tomb’… ‘Jiangling’, excellent! So it is in Jingzhou!”
Wan Gui said: “Father, don’t speak so loud!”
Wan Zhenshan smiled gently. “Right! I must not be so pleased yet. Gui’er, your father’s entire life of efforts are finally not in vain. We have finally discovered this great secret!” All of a sudden, he hid the book and slapped his thigh and softly said: “I finally understand why our enemy gave us the sword manual!”
Wan Gui said: “What is the reason? I never figured it out.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Our enemy found the sword manual, but he could not figure out its secret, what use is that? Our Liancheng Swordplay, every stance is named after a verse from a Tang poem. People from other clans or sects, even if their martial arts were through the roof, they still won’t be able to figure it out. In this world, only Yan Daping and I know what poem the first stance comes from, what poem the second stance comes from. That is how I know to search the first number from the poem ‘Spring Returns’ and to search for the second number from the poem ‘Heavy Scripture Manifests Tomb’.
Wan Gui said: “The name of the stances from Liancheng Swordplay, haven’t you already explained that to us?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “It is completely out of sequence.”
Wan Gui said: “Father, you didn’t even teach your own son the actual swordplay.”
Wan Zhenshan felt slightly embarrassed and said: “I have eight disciples and we are together day and night. If I only teach it to you the others will notice, that won’t be good.”
Wan Gui groaned and said: “That must be our enemy’s plan. He knows that the numbers will appear when the pages are soaked in water, hence he purposely soaked some pages in water and handed the book to us so we could figure out the secrets of the book. He will wait until we search for this treasure and then use the stratagem of ‘The mighty bandit encounters the grandpa of bandits’.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Correct! We must be extremely cautious, otherwise not only will we not get the treasure, we may lose our lives as well.”
He wet his finger again to find the third number. “The third stance comes from Chu Mo’s ‘Sacred Fruit Temple’, the thirty-third word… ‘Underneath the city near, the clock sounds mixed with music’; the thirty-third word is ‘city. ‘Jiangling City’, right. Right! What is there to be dubious about? Hmm, why am I so itchy?” He extended his right hand to scratch the back of his left hand; he felt his right hand was itchy too so used his left hand to scratch his right. Then he looked at the sword manual and continued: “The fourth stance, twenty-eighth word, hmm, 5, 10, 15… the twenty-eighth word is “south”. Now we have “Jiangling City South”; haha! Hey! It’s very itchy! He lowered his head to look at his right hand, he saw the back of his hand had three distinct black lines, he felt very surprised. “I did not write today, why would I have ink marks on the back of my hand?” He felt the back of his hand became itchier and itchier, he looked at his left hand and also saw several streaks of black criss-crossed.
Wan Gui gasped and said: “Father, where… where did that come from? That looks like the poison from Yan Daping’s scorpion!”
Wan Zhenshan was reminded by this and felt his hand became even more itchy. He could not resist and began to scratch it.
Wan Gui said: “Don’t scratch it, it’s… it’s your fingernail that is carrying the poison.”
Wan Zhenshan shouted: “Aiyo! That really is the case.” At once he understood the reason. “That little whóre hid the sword manual inside the bloody water… your blood has scorpion poison… that little brat Wu Kan simply would not die in short order, he left several scratches on my hand. Damn it! The scorpion poison is going to seep into my wounds. Fortunately it has not been too long, it should not be too serious. Ayo! Why is it getting more itchy? Aiyo!” He could not help himself and began to moan loudly.
Wan Gui said: “Father, you did not contract much of the scorpion poison. I will get some water for you to clean your wound.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Right!’ Then he shouted loudly, “Tao Hong! Tao Hong! Get me some water!”
Wan Gui raised his eyebrows and thought: “Father is so scared he’s lost his mind. He kicked Tao Hong out of the house a long time ago, yet he is still calling for her.” He carried a copper washbowl out of the room and fetched scooped up a bunch of water from the well outside. Then he went back inside and placed the bowl on the table. Wan Zhenshan hurriedly dipped both hands in water. After some ice-cold sensation, his pain and itchy reduced.
It should be noted that when the scorpion poison on the back of Wan Gui’s hand came into contact with the antidote, the black blood that seeped out of the wound too carried poison. In fact, this poison was even more toxic than the original scorpion poison. When Wu Kan was being strangled by Wan Zhenshan, he scratched frantically and left some deep marks in Wan Zhenshan’s hand that penetrated deep into the flesh. As soon as it made contact with this poison, it was even more serious than Wan Gui’s condition. When he dipped both his hands in water, it was not long before the water in the entire bowl grew dark. After a while, it became a dense concentration of black ink.
Both Wan Zhenshan and his son turned pale at sight of this. Wan Zhenshan took his hands out of the water and let out an “ah” and almost lost his voice. He saw both hands were swollen like two black beads. Wan Gui said: “Ayo, this is not good. I’m afraid you can’t use this water anymore!”
Wan Zhenshan was in so much pain that he kicked his son on the waist and scolded: “If you know that I can’t use water, why did you get me water? Are you trying to screw me over?”
Wan Gui was in so much pain he kneeled down and said: “I did not know this originally, why would I harm you?”
Qi Fang listened to the two of them bicker from under the bed. She did not know whether to feel desolate, or happy that she would have her vengeance.
She heard Wan Zhenshan say, “What now? What now?”
Wan Gui said: “I have some painkillers upstairs. Although it won’t cure the poison it can still momentarily ease your pain. Do you want to use some?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Yes! Yes! Yes! Get it for me now!”
Wan Gui said: “Whether it will work or not, your son does not know. It’s possible that it could make things even worse, then father will kick me again.”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Son of a lamb turtle! At this point you are still acting like this? Your daddy I gave birth to you, is it such a big deal if I kick you once? Go now! Get it for me!”
Wan Gui replied, “Yes!” and turned to leave.
Wan Zhenshan’s hands were swollen so badly, the skin on the back of his hands were dark but also appeared light, not a single trace of wrinkle. It was like inflated pig urine foam. He saw that it became more swollen, he thought his skin would definitely crack and shouted: “I will go with you! It… it can’t be delayed.” He stuffed the sword manual in his bosom and rushed out of the room to catch up with Wan Gui.
Qi Fang heard the two of them were quite far away and urgently crawled out from under the bed. She mused: Where should I go now?” At this time she was completely out of her wits, she thought the world was so boundless yet there wasn’t a single safe haven for her. “They killed my father, how can I not take my revenge? But how do I go about taking action? In terms of martial arts and intelligence, I am much inferior to father-in-law or San’ge. Besides, they believe that I have an affair with Wu Kan. As soon as they see me they will kill me, how can I resist? The only thing to do is to… to find martial brother and then decide. But how would I know where he is? What about Water Spinach? How can I just leave her behind?” As soon as she thought about her daughter, she sped up her pace and rushed to the back building. She intended to take her daughter to escape with her, then come up with a plan for revenge.
In her heart, she still could not completely believe that it was the Wan family who caused the death of her father. Wan Zhenshan was a vicious and merciless person, but what about Wan Gui? She was very tender and sweet to her husband, she could not simply just suddenly sever all ties with him.
She rushed to the first floor and heard Wan Zhenshan’s coarse voice shouting and crying. She thought: “If he keeps yelling like this, he will wake up Water Spinach!” As soon as she thought that her daughter may be scared, she could not simply just worry about her own safety. She swiftly went upstairs, careful not to emit any noises from the staircase. Water Spinach slept in a room behind where she and her husband slept, it was separated only by a thin layer of metal sheet. Qi Fang slipped into the small room. The room was lighted inside, she saw that her daughter had awoken a long time ago, her face full of fright. As soon as she saw her mother, her mouth was flat as if she was about to cry. Qi Fang hurriedly rushed forward to pick her up. She made a gesture with her hands to signal her daughter not to make any noises. Water Spinach was smart and obedient, and she did not make a single sound. Qi Fang embraced her daughter and reclined on the bed.
The voice of Wan Zhenshan was heard. “No good, this is no good. The more I use this painkiller the more pain I feel. We must find the physician and use his antidote, it’s the only way.”
Wan Gui said: “Yes, only that antidote is capable of curing this poison. As soon as the sky turns bright I will ask Brother Lu and the others to set out to search for him. The wound on the back of my hand is in great pain too.”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “How can we wait until morning!? Ah.. Ah! I can’t take it! I can’t take it!” All of a sudden his legs became numb and he collapsed on the floor. He was in so much pain he began rolling on the ground. He shouted: “Quick! Get the sword, cut off my hands! Cut off my hands!” Qi Fang heard as the sounds of various furniture inside the room crashed and banged across the room, the vases and bowls clanged against each other and shattered on the floor.
Water Spinach was so scared she hugged her mother with all her might, her face deathly pale. Qi Fang gently comforted her with her hands and did not dare to make a noise.
Wan Gui was deeply troubled and panicked. “Father, you… you must endure a bit longer. How can I cut your hands off? We must find the antidote.”
Wan Zhenshan was in so much pain he simply could not take it anymore. “Why won’t you cut off my hands and relieve me of my pain? Ah, I know, you… you want me to die, then you can take the manual and find the treasure yourself…”
Wan Gui reprimanded: “Father, you are in so much pain you mind is unclear. Quickly rest on the bed. I don’t even know the sequence of the sword stances, what use do I have for the sword manual?”
Wan Zhenshan constantly rolled on the floor. “You say I am unclear, I say you have malicious intentions. I… I am in so much pain I am about to die… I am about to die… I will make sure neither of us gets the treasure!”
Suddenly both his eyes turned red, he pulled out the sword manual from his bosom and extended his hands to rip out the pages. All ten of his fingers were swollen like roots of red carrots, he could barely move them, but he still managed to rip out a few pages.
Wan Gui was startled. “Don’t tear it! Don’t tear it!” He extended his hands to take the manual away. He took hold of half the manual while Wan Zhenshan held the other half, unwilling to release his grip. Wan Gui was blank for a moment and Wan Zhenshan took the opportunity to pull. Wan Gui was unwilling to let go of the treasure that he had right in front of him turn into passing mist, so he hurriedly extended his hands to push away his father. The two of them were on the ground stealing and seizing, rolling and flipping about on the floor. The manual became even more torn.
All of a sudden Wan Gui screamed loudly: “Ah… damn it!... my wound has contracted poison again. Ah! It hurts so much!” The two of them pulled and dragged on the manual, the poison smeared on the sword manual had once again seeped into Wan Gui’s original wound on the back of his hand. In an instant, Wan Gui’s hand was swollen again, the pain shook his heart and pierced into his bones. Since he had been sick, his endurance was weak, as soon as the poison went into his wound, it immediately followed the circulation of blood and flared out remarkably fast. The two of them rolled on the floor shouting and screaming in pain.
Qi Fang listened for a bit longer; after all they were husband and wife, she could not simply just ignore his cries. She got up from the bed and walked in front of the room and said coldly, “What’s going on? What are you two doing?”
The two of them saw Qi Fang, but under such excruciating pain they did not have the time to be angry. Wan Gui cried: “Fang’mei, quickly find the physician, tell him to make the antidote, ah… ah… I really… I really can’t take it anymore. Please… I beg you…”
When Qi Fang saw he was in so much pain that his head was covered in sweat, her heart softened even more. From her bosom she took out the bottle and said: “This is the antidote!”
Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui both saw the antidote, the both of them crawled forward at the same time and shouted: “Excellent! Excellent! Quick, quickly apply it on me!”
Qi Fang saw Wan Zhenshan’s eyes were fierce and malicious and greedy like a wild beast. She thought that she could take this opportunity to threaten him, she could find out the truth. She said: “Not so fast, don’t move! If any one of you make a move, I will toss this antidote out the window into the water. Both of you will die!” As she said this she opened the window and unscrewed the porcelain bottle. She suspended the bottle of antidote by the window. All she would have to do is lightly shake her hand and the bottle would fall into water, rendered completely ineffective.
The two Wans stopped moving instantly. They looked at each other, at a loss for words. Wan Zhenshan said: “My good daughter-in-law, if you give me the antidote, I will let you run away with Wu Kan. I will not pursue you. I will even give you a thousand taels of silver for the two of you to spend on your journey… ah, it hurts… since you have the heart and he has the feelings, Gui’er cannot keep you here… you are free to leave.”
Qi Fang thought: “This person is truly shameless and despicable. Wu Kan was strangled to death by his own hands, yet he is actually lying to me right now.”
Wan Gui said: “Fang’mei, although I cannot bear to part with you, there is no other way. I promise I will not make things difficult for Wu Kan.”
Qi Fang laughed coldly and said: “The two of you are completely muddleheaded. You still harbour such and vile and repulsive desire. I am only going to ask you one thing. If you two answer me honestly, I will hand over the antidote.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Right! Right! Ask away! Ayo! Ayo!”
A breeze of wind came from outside through the window, it blew the various paper and butterfly figures dancing on the ground. The fragments of paper were from the torn from the sword manual, and thin slices flew out the window. All of a sudden, a pair of colourful butterflies flew up, it was the butterfly cut out that she made that year that was placed in the middle of the book. The two paper butterflies began dancing around the room swiftly and followed the wind out of the window. Qi Fang felt her heart sour as she recalled the happy moments she spent with Di Yun that day back in the cave. How lovely the world was back then, in all of heaven and earth there wasn’t a thing that she was unhappy about.
Wan Gui rapidly urged: “Ask away! What is it? There is nothing I won’t say.”
Qi Fang trembled slightly then asked: “Where is my father? What did you do to him?”
Wan Zhenshan forced out a laugh and said: “You ask me about your father, I—I don’t know either. Ayo—I also miss my martial brother dearly—ayo! And martial brother is my in-law now, ayo! It hurts so much.”
Qi Fang remained calm and collected. “Even now you are still lying to me, what’s the use? My father was killed by you, am I right? You killed him with the same trick you used to kill Wu Kan, am I right? You have already stuffed his corpse inside the wall, am I right?”
Qi Fang repeatedly asked “am I right” three times, both Wans were so startled and in complete disbelief. They did not expect that not only did she know about her father’s death, but she even knew about how they dealt with Wu Kan. Wan Gui trembled in his speech and said: “How… how did you know?”
When he uttered the words “how did you know?” it was basically confirming everything that she said. Qi Fang’s heart turned sour and her rage shot through the roof. At once she wanted to release her hold on the bottle of antidote and let it fall out the window into the water outside. Wan Gui saw that the situation was urgent and wanted to pounce himself forward to take it. Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Gui’er, don’t act rashly!” He knew that in such a circumstance, trying to force things to happen would only make matters worse.
All of a sudden, collapsing footsteps were heard, Water Spinach walked towards them from her room with her bare feet. She shouted: “Mama! Mama!” She wanted to pounce herself to be embraced by her mother.
Wan Gui came up with a bright idea. He extended his left arm, catching her daughter half way as she ran across the room. With his right hand he took out a dagger and aimed directly at the top of her daughter’s head and scolded: “Very well, it looks like our family, both old and young, will perish tonight! I will kill Water Spinach first, then talk!”
Qi Fang was extremely startled and urgently said: “Release her now! What does this have to do with our daughter?”
Wan Gui said in a severe tone, “Since none of us will come out alive, I might as well kill Water Spinach first!” The dagger was hovering slightly above Water Spinach’s head. Wan Gui made a few gestures of fake stabbing in the air, aiming at the direction on top of her head.
Qi Fang shouted, “No! No!” She rushed forward to rescue her daughter and extended her hand to grab Wan Gui by the wrist.
Although Wan Zhenshan was in so much pain, after all he was very experienced. When he saw his son lure Qi Fang over, at once he thrust his elbow forward and hit her hard on the waist. Then with both hands he reached to grab the bottle that she was holding and poured the powder on the back of his hand. Wan Gui also extended his hands for the antidote. Qi Fang rushed forward for her daughter and embraced her tightly.
With a flying kick, Wan Zhenshan knocked Qi Fang down on the ground. Then he followed to untie his belt and tied Qi Fang’s hands behind her back. He also tied both her legs. Qi Fang exclaimed: “Mama! Mama!” Wan Zhenshan flipped his hand to smack her so hard that she passed out. But this slap hit himself hard on his wound and he let out another “Ayo!”
The antidote was really remarkable and effective. After the two of them applied it, in a short period of time blood began to seep out of their wounds and their pain slowly reduced and turned into numbness and itchiness. After some more time, the numbness and itchiness also reduced. Both father and son became relieved and knew their lives were saved. They saw the various fragments of paper flying out the window and gasped, “Uh oh!” and pounced themselves forward to grab the pieces of paper dancing around.
But the pieces of paper on the ground had been completely scattered, more than half of it had already flown out the window, spiralling above the water. Wan Zhenshan shouted: “Quick, quick! Get it!” The two of them rushed downstairs and with all their efforts grabbed the various fragments of paper flying about with the wind. But there were several hundreds of pieces scattered, fluttering about in the wind that blew out the enclosure. Some blew very high up the sky, the two of them rushed east and west, appearing demented, but how was it possible for them to collect all the fragments, let alone put together the sword manual back in its original form?
Although the pain at the back of Wan Zhenshan’s hands had reduced greatly, the pain in his heart was indescribable and he could not repress his anger. He vented: “It is all your fault! Why did you fight over the manual with me? If you did not try to take it from me, how would the manual be torn?”
Wan Gui sighed and did not further pursue the fragments. “If your son did not try to take it away, father would have already torn the manual to shreds.”
Wan Zhenshan replied: “Bullshit!” In his heart he knew that his son was speaking the truth, but he could not help but say, “Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!”
Wan Gui said: “Fortunately, we know that it is located somewhere south of Jiangling. Once we search further into the bits and fragments of the sword manual, we may be able to find more clues, it is not necessarily the case that we won’t find the treasure.”
Wan Zhenshan became more alert when he heard this. “You are right, it is in ‘Jiangling City, South’…”
All of a sudden from outside the wall a voice softly repeated: “Jiangling City, South!”
The two Wans were taken aback. They jumped over the wall and looked outwards. They saw the back of two people making their way to a small alley.
Wan Gui scolded: “Bu Yuan, Shen Cheng, don’t move!”
The two of them did not turn their heads around, nor did they stop moving. In fact they began to run even faster. Wan Zhenshan quickly lowered himself from the wall and made chase. Wan Gui said: “Father, the… the whóre is still upstairs.”
Wan Zhenshan changed his mind and nodded in agreement.
The two of them made their way back upstairs. They saw that the little girl Water Spinach had already woken up and was hugging her mother and crying. Qi Fang’s hands and legs were tied so she was unable to comfort her daughter. Water Spinach saw that her grandfather was coming back and let out a “Wah!” and began to cry even louder.
Wan Zhenshan ran forward and kicked her from behind, scolding: “If you cry anymore I am going to cut open your stomach!”
Water Spinach was so scared that she turned deathly pale, she did not dare to make any more noise.
Wan Gui said softly: “Father, that whóre knows everything. We can’t let her live, how shall we deal with her?”
Wan Zhenshan muttered to himself then said: “Those two people outside just now, you saw clearly it was Bu Yuan and Shen Cheng?”
Wan Gui said: “It is definitely those two, I can’t be wrong! I’m afraid that the secret is leaked and they both know the treasure is in Jiangling.”
Wan Zhenshan said: “We can’t waste any more time then, we will take action now. We will deal with this whóre the same way we dealt with her father.”
Qi Fang had long cast away her life, but she could not bear to part from her daughter. “San… San’ge, you and I are a couple after all, I don’t mind if you kill me, but after I die, please take good care of Water Spinach!”
Wan Gui said: “Very well!”
Wan Zhenshan said: “We must cut the weeds and eliminate the roots, how can we let her offspring remain in this world? This little girl is intelligent and erratic, she saw everything that happened today. How can we be sure that she won’t leak this information to outsiders?”
Wan Gui faintly nodded his head. He really loved his daughter dearly, but his father also spoke true words, if he were to keep her alive there could be extremely severe consequences.
Qi Fang began to cry from both eyes, her voice choking with sobs. “You… you are very cruel, you won’t even… even spare a little girl?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “Stuff something in her mouth, don’t let her speak. If she screams the whole world will know about it!”
Qi Fang remembered how her daughter’s life was in jeopardy. At once she raised her voice and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Help! Help!”
In the stillness of the night, these two screams of “Help!” pierced across the empty sky and travelled far into the distance.
Wan Gui pounced himself forward and covered her mouth with his hands. Qi Fang continued to yell, “Help! Help!” but because her mouth was covered, her voice was greatly reduced. Wan Zhenshan tore a portion of his son’s long robe and passed it to him. Wan Gui immediately stuck this piece of garment in her mouth.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Bury her in the same place we buried Qi Zhangfa. Father and daughter will share the same burial place, excellent!”
Wan Gui nodded his head and picked up his wife, taking big strides as he made his way downstairs. Wan Zhenshan carried Water Spinach. The four of them made their way to the study room.
Qi Fang looked at the white wall on the west side of the room and thought: “So that old thief stuffed my father inside the hole in this wall?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “I will break the wall now, bring Wu Kan here! Be careful not to let anyone see you.”
Wan Gui replied: “Yes!” and rushed over to Wan Zhenshan’s bedroom.
Wan Zhenshan pulled apart drawer in the desks, including the chisel, hammer, and spade knives and other sort of equipment, every variety imaginable. He took them all out and placed it beside the wall. He looked at the white wall for a moment before rubbing it with both hands. Then he turned his head to look at Qi Fang, his appearance looking extremely complacent. Qi Fang could not help but shiver at his gaze. Wan Zhenshan picked up the iron hammer and chisel, and after looking at the correct position in the wall, he stuffed the chisel at a crack between two bricks. The chisel cracked one of the bricks in the wall. He extended his hand to shake it a few times and pulled the brick out. It appeared that he was very familiar with this procedure. After he took out the brick, he sniffed it a few times with his nose.
When Qi Fang saw the way Wan Zhenshan took out the bricks, she recalled how he saw him to the same thing during his dreams, digging bricks, pushing out corpses, building walls, the entire procedure. She was so scared that she trembled all over. When he saw how he was sniffing the brick that held her father captive for the odour of a corpse, she was even more afraid and saddened. She was also very angry. She abused roundly, “You traitor! You shameless old thief!” But because her mouth was stuffed, she could only make out faint mumbling sounds.
Wan Zhenshan reached for the second brick when suddenly the sound of urgent footsteps fast approached, Wan Gui entered and said: “Father! This is not good, Wu Kan… Wu Kan…” His body crashed against the edge of the table and choked on himself, then the oil lamp fell on the ground and the entire room was completely dark. There was nothing left but a very faint moonlight piercing through the window paper.
Wan Zhenshan asked: “What about Wu Kan? You make such a big fuss about nothing. How can you lose your cool so easily?”
Wan Gui exclaimed: “Wu Kan has disappeared!”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Bullshit! How can he disappear?” But his voice trembled, it was obvious that he fear was flourishing in his heart. With a loud clap, the brick that he held on his hands dropped on the ground.
Wan Gui said: “I extended my hands to reach under the bed where you placed the body, but there was nothing there. I lit the oil lamp and shined it under the bed, but the body had disappeared without a trace. I searched thoroughly throughout the room… the back of boxes, tables… I searched everywhere, but I could not find anything.”
Wan Zhenshan muttered to himself irresolutely. “That… that is very strange. It must be Bu Yuan and Shen Cheng who are playing tricks on us.”
Wan Gui said: “Father, could it be… could it be that Wu Kan was not completely dead? Maybe he temporarily sealed his breathing and then came back to life?”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Bullshit! Your father’s nickname is ‘Five Cloud Hand’, how proficient am I with my hands? Do you think I can’t even kill a mere disciple?”
Wan Gui said: “That’s true, it is logical that Wu Kan was definitely killed by father, but why is it that his corpse has disappeared? Could it be that his departed spirit is demanding vengeance for grievances…”
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Don’t let your imagination run wild! Let’s deal with the whóre and little demon quickly, then we will find Wu Kan’s body. I’m afraid that if this incident gets known to the public, it will be hard for us father-and-son to find a safe haven in Jingzhou…” After he said this he increased his pace to take out all the bricks. In his dreams he had already practiced this procedure extremely thoroughly, and now when actually doing it he was very proficient, even without a light source his movements were fast and nimble.
Wan Gui answered, “Yes!” and with knife in hand, he walked in front of Qi Fang and trembled as he said: “Fang’mei, you wronged me first. After you die, you cannot blame me!”
Qi Fang was speechless. She turned her body and rammed him hard with her shoulder. She had nothing to complain about the Wans wanting to kill her, but to even go so far as to kill Water Spinach, such people with the heart of a wolf and lungs of a dog were truly hard to come by in this world.
Wan Gui was rammed by her shoulder and got knocked back several steps. He raised his sabre and shouted: “Little whóre! You are at the verge of death and still dare to play rough with me!”
At this time, footsteps were suddenly heard approaching. The door in the study room slowly creaked open. Wan Gui was startled and he turned his head to look. In the dimness of the moonlight, he could only see that the door was open, but nobody was there.
Wan Zhenshan shouted: “Who is it?”
The door creaked a few more times, but nobody responded.
In the glimmer of light, it could be made that someone suddenly jumped inside the room. This person jumped forward several times in succession, his body straight and his knees not curving the slightest. Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui were both startled by this, and they could not help but retreat two steps each. They saw that this person had their eyes wide open, his tongue sticking out, and his nose and mouth were covered in blood—it was none other than Wu Kan.
Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui both shouted, “Ah!” When Qi Fang saw such a frightening sight, she too was so scared that her heart nearly stopped beating. Water Spinach was so scared that she stuffed her head in her mother’s bosom and did not dare to make a noise. Wu Kan did not move in the slightest, both his arms slowly raised up and extended forward to reach for Wan Zhenshan.
Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Wu Kan you little thief, you think your daddy I will be afraid… afraid of your zombie?” At once he took out his sabre and aimed to crack open Wu Kan’s head. However, he suddenly felt both his wrists were numb, he could not even grasp his sabre properly, and with a loud clank it fell on the ground. Then followed that his waist felt numb, and his entire body could not move in the least bit.
Wan Gui was already so scared that his entire body was paralyzed. Now upon seeing what Wu Kan’s zombie did to his father, it then followed that the zombie extended both hands to grab him slowly. He wanted to shout: “Brother Wu! Brother Wu! Forgive me!” But his voice was clogged in his throat and he could not even yell out no matter how hard he tried. He retreated two steps; his legs became numb and collapsed on the floor. Then he saw Wu Kan’s right arm drooping down, feeling his face, its fingers cold as death without any hint of warmth. Wan Gui was so scared that he completely lost his soul and passed out at once.
All of a sudden, Wu Kan’s body pushed forward and pounced itself on Wan Gui’s body, completely lifeless. There was someone standing behind Wu Kan.
This person walked beside Qi Fang and took out the ragged garment that was stuffed in her mouth. With both hands this person pulled and easily broke the rope the cord that tied around her arms and legs. Then this person turned around and kicked Wan Gui hardly on the waist. The internal energy of this kick was so profound that Wan Gui felt pain all over his body.
Qi Fang picked up Water Spinach then trembled and said: “May I ask for the name of benefactor who saved my life?”
This person’s hands extended forward. Under the moonlight one could make out that in each palm there was a cut out of a butterfly. It was the butterfly cut out that was placed between the pages of the manual. This person caught these cut outs as it was flying out the window.
Qi Fang glanced at these butterflies and saw that this person’s right hand was missing all five fingers. She almost lost her voice as she called out, “Brother Di!”
This person was indeed Di Yun. When he suddenly heard Qi Fang call out “Brother Di!” his heart was filled with an indescribable warmth. Tears began to fall from his eyes as he called out, “Fang’mei! Heaven has pity, you… you and I can finally see each other again!”
At this point, Qi Fang was like a small boat drifting along the vastness of the great ocean. Under the compounded effects of fierce winds and torrential rain, she miraculously found a tranquil harbour where the breeze was calm and the waves were quiet. She pounced herself to be embraced by Di Yun and said: “Martial brother, this… this… this… is this a dream?”
Di Yun said: “This is not a dream. Fang’mei, for the last two nights I have kept watch around here. I have witnessed everything those two have done. In regards to Wu Kan’s body, I was the one who took it out to scare them!”
Qi Fang shouted: “Father! Father!” She placed Water Spinach down and rushed in front of the opening on the wall. She extended her hand to feel the insides but there was nothing there. She let out an “Ah” and softly said: “There… there is nothing!”
Di Yun lit the oil lamp and illuminated the opening in the wall. He saw that between the walls there was nothing but lime plaster and bricks, where could one find the body of Qi Zhangfa? He said: “There is nothing there, nothing at all.”
Qi Fang took a candle from Wan Zhenshan’s bed and lit it from Di Yun’s light, then raised the candle and looked closely at the cracks between the bricks. Where could one find Qi Zhangfa’s body, or anyone’s body? She was both startled and delighted, for she now had a string of hope in her heart. “It could be that father was never killed by them.” She turned around to look at Wan Gui and said: “San… San’ge, where is my father?”
Wan Gui and Wan Zhenshan did not realize that she did not find the body inside the wall. They thought that she saw her father’s corpse and wanted to take revenge. Wan Zhenshan remained upright and unafraid, he said: “A gentleman bears the full consequences of his own actions. I was the one who killed Qi Zhangfa, if you want to take revenge you can kill me.”
Qi Fang said: “Father was really killed by you? Then… where is his body?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “What’s that? Does the dead body inside the wall not belong to him?”
Qi Fang said: “Where is there a dead body?”
Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui looked at each other in dismay, their faces deathly pale, they could not believe it. Di Yun picked up Wan Zhenshan and pushed him forward to stick his head inside the wall to take a look.
Wan Zhenshan trembled and said: “In this world there really… really exists a zombie that can walk? I definitely… definitely…” Then immediately he changed his words. “My good daughter-in-law, I… I deceived you. Although my martial brother and I are not on good terms, I would not go so far as to kill him, why would you believe that’s what actually happened? Haha! Haha!” Usually he was pretty good at telling lies, but at this point he was so startled and afraid his words were all over the place and weren’t even remotely believable. If he insisted on continuing his lie, perhaps Qi Fang and Di Yun would carry a very small glimmer of hope, but with the way he spoke, it only served to further confirm that he was the one who killed Qi Zhangfa.
Di Yun extended his hand forward to reach for Wan Zhenshan’s shoulder and said: “Uncle Wan, you have caused me so much grief. I will not settle the score with you now, but I only ask you: Did you kill my teacher or not?” As he said this he utilized the internal energy of the Heavenly Glow. In an instant, Wan Zhenshan felt as if his entire body fell into a large fiery furnace, it felt that even his blood was burning so hard it was about to boil. He was in so much pain, and when he further thought about how Qi Zhangfa’s body disappeared without a trace, he became even more frightened and alarmed. His thoughts were all over the place and did not dare to resist his opponent. “That… that is correct. I was the one who killed Qi Zhangfa.”
Di Yun asked, “Where is my teacher’s body? Where did you put him?”
Wan Zhenshan said: “I really did stuff him inside the wall, his body has changed… changed into a zombie?”
Di Yun glared at him violently. He recalled all the vast and endless pain and grief he suffered throughout the years, it was all because of him and his son. And now that Wan Zhenshan had just admitted that he was the one who killed his teacher, how could he not be in raging fury? If he had not just reunited with Qi Fang which caused his heart to be filled with more happiness than bereavement, he would have instantly killed this person with one palm strike. He clenched his teeth and picked up Wan Zhenshan. Wan Zhenshan was a big person and the hole in the wall was small, several bricks had to be knocked down before he was able to stuff his body inside.
Qi Fang let out an “ah” and cried out lightly. Then Di Yun picked up Wan Gui’s body and also stuffed it inside the hole and said: “One revenge follows another, the two of them father-and-son killed my teacher in such a way, now we will deal with them in the exact same way.” He picked up the loose bricks on the ground and began to stick it back in the wall. In no time at all, the wall was completely sealed up again.
Qi Fang trembled and said: “Martial… martial brother, you have finally avenged my father’s death. If not for you… martial brother, what should we do with this person’s body?” As she said this, she pointed at Wu Kan’s corpse on the ground.
Di Yun said: “We should leave now! We don’t need to care about anything that happens here anymore.”
Qi Fang said: “The two of them are stuffed inside the wall but they aren’t dead yet. What if someone saves them…”
Di Yun said: “How would others know that there would be someone inside a wall? We will take Wu Kan’s body outside for others to see, then nobody would even think about coming in here to investigate. The two of them can’t live inside the wall for very long.” At once he lifted up Wu Kan’s body and threw it out of the study room. Then he made a hand gesture at Qi Fang and said: “Let’s go!”
The two of them rushed out of the enclosure of the Wan residence. Di Yun let go of Wu Kan’s body and said: “Martial sister, where should we go now?”
Qi Fang said: “You think my father was really killed by those two?”
Di Yun said: “Hopefully teacher is still alive, but judging from what Wan Zhenshan said, I’m afraid that… that teacher has already ran into misfortune. But we should investigate and seek out the truth.”
Qi Fang said: “I have to go back and get something. Wait for me near that ruined memorial hall.”
Di Yun said: “I will go with you.”
Qi Fang said: “No, that is not good! If anyone sees us, that will cause for some trouble.”
Di Yun said: “It is best if I stay with you. There is not a single good person amongst Wan Zhenshan’s disciples.”
Qi Fang said: “It’s not a problem, hold Water Spinach and wait for me.”
Water Spinach was so frightened by the events that had just occurred that she had long fainted and slept under her mother’s embracement.
Di Yun usually listened to Qi Fang’s instructions. When he saw that she was determined, he did not dare to disobey her. He could only take hold of her daughter and watch as Qi Fang once again went inside the Wan family, entering through the memorial hall and pushed the door inside.
After the time it took to eat a meal had passed, Qi Fang still did not return. Di Yun became anxious and wanted to go inside to look for her. But he was afraid that she would be unhappy, so he only carried Water Spinach and walked back and forth around the corridor. He thought about how he finally reunited with his martial sister after all this time, it was really a feeling of joy that he could not describe. But in the most inner depths of his heart he felt an indistinct sense of fear, would his martial sister stay with him forever? He constantly wished in his heart, “Heaven please bless and protect us, I have already suffered endless tragedies, I wish that I can spend the rest of my days with her, to protect her and to take good care of her. I do not dare to become her husband, I only hope that I can see her every day, and that every day she would call me once ‘martial brother’. Heaven, in my entire life I will never ask you for anything ever again.”
All of a sudden, there was a rustling noise coming out from the window in the memorial hall, it appeared that there was someone there. Di Yun turned his body and stood near the window without moving. After a while, the long window creaked open as someone came outside.
In the darkness Di Yun could faintly make out that this person had messy hair draping over her shoulders, it was a beggar woman. Di Yun did not pay much attention to her and only thought: “Why has Fang’mei not come out yet after so much time?”
Water Spinach began to cry out in her sleep, she was so scared that she cried out: “Mama! Mama!”
The beggar woman was taken aback. She withdrew to the corner of the corridor and hugged her own head. Di Yun lightly tapped Water Spinach on the shoulder and said: “Don’t cry, don’t cry! Is mama here yet? Is mama here yet?”
The beggar woman listened and made out that a little girl was screaming; Di Yun appeared to have no intention of harming her in the least bit. She mustered up her courage and got up to slowly walk forward, helping him console Water Spinach. “My darling is a good girl, your mama will come out soon!” She spoke softly to Di Yun, “A person will see ghosts at night, someone will build walls in the middle of the night, no… no… don’t ask me about it…”
Di Yun asked, “What are you talking about?”
The beggar woman said: “No… nothing. Master kicked me out of the house, he doesn’t want me anymore. Once upon a time I was young and beautiful, he liked me very much. As the saying goes, a day of man and wife is worth a hundred nights of grace, a hundred nights of grace is deeper than the ocean… Master will one day ask me to return, I know it. A night of man and wife is worth a hundred nights of grace, a hundred nights of grace is deeper than the ocean…”
Di Yun was startled and thought: “Martial sister and her husband, would she not care about her old affection?” All of a sudden it felt as if his chest was clogged and could not breathe. He felt a bit dizzy and carried Water Spinach closely. Then he rushed inside through the memorial hall.
He never would have guessed that the beggar woman just now was in fact Tao Hong, the same beautiful lady who framed him that year.
The word “river” is pronounced “Jiang” and the word tomb is pronounced “ling”. Jiangling is a county in Jingzhou.
Chapter 12 Liancheng Treasure
Di Yun jumped over the outer wall and made his way to the Wan family’s study room. At this point it was about daybreak, under the haziness of the light he could see someone was lying on the ground. This person vaguely looked like Qi Fang. Di Yun was startled, immediately he took the fire knife and the flint to light a fire and lit it on the candle on top of the table. Under the candlelight he saw that Qi Fang’s body was completely covered in blood, there was a short knife stabbed on her lower stomach.
There were piles of bricks all around her, the wall had cracked open and the two Wans were nowhere to be seen.
Di Yun knelt down beside Qi Fang and shouted: “Martial sister! Martial sister!” He was so scared that he trembled throughout his whole body. His voice was nearly inaudible. He extended his hands to reach for Qi Fang’s face, he felt that there was still some warmth and there was very faint breathing in her nose. He calmed himself and called out again, “Martial sister!”
Qi Fang slowly opened her eyes. She revealed a very bitter smile on her face and said: “Martial brother… I… I’m sorry.”
Di Yun said: “You don’t have to say anything, I… I’m here to save you.” He gently put Water Spinach on the side then with his right hand he reached for Qi Fang’s body. With his left hand he picked up the short knife by its handle and wanted to pull it out, but after a glimpse he saw that the knife was stuck really deep in her stomach. If he were to pull it out, she would definitely lose her life at once, so he did not dare to act rashly. He was urgent but was completely powerless at this situation. He did not know what to do and asked: “What can I do? What can I do? Who… who did this to you?”
Qi Fang smiled bitterly and said: “Martial brother, as the saying goes, a night of man and wife… ai, I won’t say it, I… please don’t fault me. I could not bear it in my heart, I let my husband out, he… he… he…”
Di Yun clenched his teeth and said: “He… he… he stabbed you with a knife, is that right?”
Qi Fang smiled bitterly and nodded her head.
Di Yun was in so much emotional pain that it felt as if the knife was stabbed in his own heart. He could do nothing but watch as Qi Fang’s life was hanging by a thread. Wan Gui’s strike stabbed into her very deeply, no matter what she could not be saved. In his heart there was a faint hint of a jealous snake gnawing at his insides as he said: “You… you really do love your husband. You are willing to save him at the expense of your own life.”
Qi Fang said: “Martial brother, promise me, take good care of Water Spinach. Treat her like your own… your own daughter.”
Di Yun did not respond and nodded his head. Then he said: “That little thief… where did he go?”
Qi Fang’s expressions were messy and her voice was ambiguous, she softly said: “From that cave, the two big butterflies flew in here. Liang Shanbo, Zhu Yingtai, martial brother, look, look! One of them is you, the other is me. We will… we will fly together, hither and thither, just like that. We will never separate, what do you say?” Her voice was barely audible, her breathing became more faint and weak until it came to a full stop.
Di Yun carried Water Spinach on one hand while he carried Qi Fang’s body with the other. He jumped out from the enclosure of the Wan residence. At first he wanted to set the Wan residence completely on fire with one torch, but he changed his mind and thought: “If I burn down this house, the Wans will never come back again. If I want to avenge martial sister, I’d better leave this place intact.”
Di Yun made his way to the abandoned garden that he stayed in with Ding Dian that year. He walked under the plum tree and dug a hole and placed Qi Fang inside. He kept the short sabre with him. He intended to use this short sabre to take the lives of both Wan Gui and his father.
He was in so much grief that he could not even cry out. All he could do was fault himself. “Why didn’t I just kill those two villains and then seal the wall? Why was I so careless as to cause martial sister to lose her life?” He did not fault her martial sister, he only faulted his own actions.
Water Spinach kept crying “Mama! Mama!” she cried so loud that Di Yun was distraught with anxiety. Thereupon he found a peasant family outside Jiangling and gave them ten taels of silver to the couple to look after the little girl.
Day and night he camped outside the Wan residence. Half a month passed. He did not see any trace of the Wan family. The strange part was that even Lu Kun, Bu Yuan, Sun Jun, Feng Tan, and Shen Cheng had disappeared completely, never returning to the Wan residence. The remaining servants in the Wan family became like a housefly without a head, some began to steal things while others began to fight and argue with each other.
Inside Jiangling City there were many characters from the martial world who assembled from all directions.
One night, Di Yun heard the conversation of several grand characters from the realm:
“It turns out that A Deadly Secret is hidden inside a ‘Tang Poem Anthology’. The first four words are ‘Jiangling City, South’.”
“That is correct, these past few days the wind has sure blown quite a few people here after hearing this news. Except that nobody knows what follows after those four words.”
“Who cares what follows afterwards? All we have to do is camp south of the city. As soon as someone digs out the treasure, we will impede their path and rob them.”
“Correct, even if we can’t rob the whole thing, we will at least get a small portion. Anyone who sees it will take it, how will we be missing out?”
“Haha! In the past few days, many people have bought the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’ from the local bookstore in Jiangling. Today I walked by the bookstore and before I even said a word the shopkeeper asked me: ‘Elder, are you here to buy the Tang Poem Anthology? This book we have just imported from Hankou, if you want to buy it come early. If you come late it will be sold out.’ I was very curious so I asked him, ‘How do you know I wanted to buy the Tang Poem Anthology?’ What do you think he answered?”
“I don’t know! What did he say?”
“Damn it! That shopkeeper said: ‘I will not hide the truth from you, elder. Several days ago there were many folks who wielded swords and sabres, sticking out their chest and belly in a shocking manner. They all came to the bookstore, whether it was 10 or 11 people, they all wanted to buy this book. I sold them for five taels of silver each, do you want that book too?”
“Damn it! How can a book be so expensive?”
“Do you know how much the book is worth? Have you looked at its contents?”
“Haha, your daddy I have never entered a bookstore my entire life. Books… books, your daddy I am a gambler, I only buy something that will let me win, why would I buy a book? Haha! Haha!”
Di Yun thought: “It looks like the secret of the Liancheng Manual has leaked out. I wonder who leaked it out? Right, the exchange between the Wan Zhenshan and his son was heard by Lu Kun and the others. Wan Zhenshan wanted to investigate, and his several disciples escaped as well. In such a way, the news spread and more and more people knew about it.”
He recalled how during the years he spent in prison with Ding Dian, there would often be realm folks who came, but they were all effortlessly killed by Ding Dian. “Hmm, I have not fulfilled Brother Ding’s wish yet. Brother Ding’s business is even more important than my own affairs of vengeance.”
Lady Ling’s father was the prefectural magistrate of the Jiangling Prefecture. Di Yun made his way to the largest coffin store and largest tombstone store in Jiangling to investigate. He found out that Lady Ling was buried on top of a small hill about twelve li east of the city.
He bought an iron shovel and a crane-mouth hoe and made his way eastwards. It did not take him very long to find the tomb. On the tombstone was written the seven words “Resting place of beloved daughter Ling Shuanghua”. There were no flowers or trees in front of the tomb. During her life, Ling Shuanghua loved fresh flowers the most, yet her father did not even place any on her tomb.
“Beloved daughter… beloved daughter… haha! Do you really love your daughter?” He laughed coldly and then he thought about Ding Dian and Qi Fang. He could not help but cry, tears falling from his eyes.
His lapel had long been wet throughout from Qi Fang’s tears, now in front of the tomb of Ling Shuanghua, he added another layer of tears.
Nobody lived near this small hill, and it was distanced very far from the main road, so nobody would ever come here. But no matter what he could not dig out her tomb in the light of day. He waited until the sky was completely dark before he began digging at the grave. He dug open the large rock that was sealed by concrete mortar and the coffin was revealed.
After experiencing several years of distress and misery, Di Yun was no longer a person who would easily cry or be overcome with grief. But seeing the coffin under such gloomy moonlight, he thought about how Brother Ding died because of this very coffin, he could not help but become sad. He could not help but become teary again.
Ling Tuisi had once smeared the coffin with the poison of the “Golden Ripple Flower”, but after so much time had passed and the fact that the coffin was taken all the way here to be buried, it was expected that the poison had long been wiped off. But nonetheless, Di Yun did not dare to extend his hands to touch the coffin. He took out his blood sabre and slightly shoved it in the opening between the coffin and case. The blood sabre was capable of scraping gold and slicing jades, as soon as it made contact with the coffin, it was like slicing tofu. He did not even need to use any strength and the tenon on the cover of the coffin was already cut off. He exerted some strength on his right arm until it was enough to send the cover flying out of place.
In a split second, he saw that two rotten hands were pointing upwards, but as soon as the cover flew off, the two hands drooped down again, just as if it was moving lifelike. Di Yun was slightly startled and thought: “When Lady Ling entered the coffin, how come her hands would be raised in such a way? That is very strange.” He saw that there were no burial clothes or beddings inside the coffin that was typical of a burial. Lady Ling wore nothing but an unlined garment.
Di Yun silently prayed: “Brother Ding, Lady Ling, the two of you could not become man-and-wife during your lifetimes, but now you two are buried together after death, your wishes will finally be fulfilled. The two of your spirits will smile in the golden springs.” He undid the burden on his back and opened it. He took out Ding Dian’s ashes and scattered it completely on Lady Ling’s body. He kneeled down and respectfully kowtowed four times. Then he got up and conveniently tossed the cloth wrapper that contained the ashes into the coffin. Then he sealed the coffin again.
Under the gloomy moonlight, he saw that there were some faint words written on the back of the coffin. Di Yun got closer to look and saw that these words were a trembling scrawl of writing:
“Darling Ding, Darling Ding, in our next life we will become man and wife.”
Di Yun trembled in his heart. He sat down on the ground cross-legged. These few words were clearly written by fingernails. He only thought for a moment before he came to a realization. “Lady Ling was buried alive by her father. When she was placed in the coffin, she was not dead yet. These few words must have been written right before she died. That is also why when she died, her hands were still upwards facing the cover. It’s hard to believe that in this world there could actually be such a heartless father! Brother Ding was unyielding and Lady Ling never betrayed Brother Ding. Her father became more and more ruthless and even went so far as to bury her alive.” He also thought: “When Magistrate Ling realized that Brother Ding escaped from prison, he should know that Brother Ding would definitely settle the score with him, that’s why he rapidly smeared the poison of the Golden Ripple Flower on the outsides of the coffin. The heart of this person is actually a hundred times more deadly than that of the Golden Ripple Flower.
He leaned closer to the coffin to take a closer look at the next two lines of writing. He saw under several words were written three lines of numbers, written “4, 41, 33, 53” and other various numbers. Di Yun inhaled a cold breath of air and thought: “Right, even before Lady Ling died, she remembered her wish of being buried together with Brother Ding. She promised Brother Ding that if there was anyone capable of burying the two of them together, she would reveal the secret of the Liancheng Manual to this person. Brother Ding also spoke to me about these numbers in the abandoned garden, but he passed away before he finished speaking. The secret on the manual that teacher took was uncovered by martial sister’s tears, but this book was then ripped to shreds by Wan Gui and his father. I only know that from now on the secret will be like passing mist, who knows the significance of the numbers written here?”
He prayed in his heart: “Lady Ling, you really are an honest person. I thank you for your kindness, but my heart is like dust, I wish for nothing more than to kill myself and bury myself beside you and Brother Ding. Just that I have not yet sought my revenge, I have not yet killed the Wan family and your father. Gold and silver mean nothing more to me than dirt or clay.” After he said this, he took the cover of the coffin and was about to seal it up when suddenly a thought flashed through his mind. “Ayo! Right! I don’t know where the Wans have hid themselves, it may be that for the rest of my life I won’t be able to track them down. But right now the secret of the great treasure is written right in front of my eyes, and naturally the Wans will go and check it out. Right, this secret is actually a very pleasant pastry; even if the Wans were suspicious, even if they were ten times more careful, they would not be able to resist the temptation of the secret.”
He placed the cover down and looked carefully at the numbers written. With the blood sabre he carved each number on the back of the shovel. After engraving all the numbers he matched it with the numbers on the coffin to make sure he did not make a mistake, then he wrapped a cloth around his hands and covered up the coffin and placed the stone slab carefully. Finally he piled the dirt around the tomb neatly.
“This desire has finally been fulfilled! After I take my revenge, I will scatter hundreds of different chrysanthemums around the tomb. Brother Ding and Lady Ling loved chrysanthemums more than anything else. It’s best if I can find the ‘Spring Water Jade Ripple’ flower!”
Early next morning, three lines of numbers were remarkably written using calcium oxide on the west city wall of Jiangling. Every number occupied about ten feet of space and could be seen from afar. “4, 41, 33, 53…” The strange part is that these several rows of numbers were separated nearly 20 feet from the ground, it’s unlikely that in Jiangling there would be such a big ladder. For someone to be capable of climbing their way up the wall to write these numbers, it would only be possible if this person tied a rope around their body and wrote it from top down.
Several hundred feet away from the numbers on the wall, Di Yun disguised himself as a beggar and took off his jacket, sitting under the sun and pretending to catch lice.
Many people entered and exited through the south city gate. In only the span of several hours, discussion erupted all throughout various markets and restaurants, they were all talking about the numbers on the wall. Many people went in front of the city gate to take a look. The position in which these numbers were written was really strange, but besides that there was nothing fancy about it. Most people would take a look, make a random guess, and then head on their way. But there were still several formidable folks from the realm who remained.
These people all held a “Tang Poem Anthology” in their hands. They copied down the numbers on the wall and creased their eyebrows in deep contemplation.
Di Yun saw Sun Jun had arrived and Shen Cheng had arrived too. After a while, Lu Kun arrived as well. But they did not know the sequence of the stances of the Liancheng Swordplay, although they each had a copy of the Tang Poem Anthology, even though the numbers on the wall were written so remarkably, and even though they knew that the numbers had something to do with the secret of the manual, and even though they eavesdropped and heard their teacher and his son talk about the method to discover the secret, it was impossible for them to figure it out without knowing which number applies to which poem.
In this world, the only ones who knew the answer to this were Wan Zhenshan, Yan Daping, and Qi Zhangfa.
Lu Kun and the other three got together for a discussion. Di Yun was separated quite a distance from them and could not make out what they were saying. He only watched as the three of them discussed for a while and then returned inside the city. After some time, the three of them changed into a disguise and came out again. One disguised himself as a fruit salesman and carried a bucket of tangerines, another disguised himself as a vegetable dealer, and the third disguised himself as a local peasant carrying a shovel. The three of them camped near the city wall and watched attentively for anyone who passed by.
Di Yun knew of their intentions. They were waiting for Wan Zhenshan to appear. They could not figure out the secret of the manual, but they knew that if they followed Wan Zhenshan they would be able to find the location of the treasure. Even if they could not take the whole thing, at least they could get a portion of it. Naturally it would be extremely dangerous for them to see their teacher again, but if they wanted to become filthy rich, how could they not take such a risk?
The first four numbers of the Liancheng Manual had long been revealed to the general public. “4, 41, 33, 53” which was decoded to mean “Jiangling City, South”; even if a person was more stupid they would realize that the numbers following those four numbers would naturally reveal the location of the treasure.
More and more people came near the city wall. Some disguised themselves while others kept their everyday appearance. Di Yun counted that there were 78 people in total. After a while, Bu Yuan and Feng Tan also came. The two of them were for some reason flushed with anger, it appeared as if they were about to fight but finally quieted down. They sat next to the moat.
It was now afternoon. The Wans still did not show up. Then night began to fall, but the Wans were still nowhere to be seen. Many people began to curse profanities out loud. All of Wan Zhenshan’s ancestors were abused roundly, especially Wan Zhenshan’s grandmother.
The sky was getting dark now, a scholarly person held a piece of paper and an ink case and a pen. He shook his head as he copied down the numbers written on the city wall. A big person was so bored that he did not have any place to vent his anger, he came forward and scolded: “What are you copying down the numbers for?”
The scholar said: “I will naturally have my own use for it, others need not care.”
The big man said: “Will you tell me or not? If you don’t speak up, I will hit you.” He raised his large fist and swayed it back and forth around the tip of the scholar’s nose. The scholar was afraid and said: “Alright… alright… someone told me to copy it down.”
The big man said: “Who told you to copy it down?”
The scholar said: “This old fellow, I do not dare to deceive you, this person is the renowned and venerable Wan Zhenshan, you… you cannot offend this elder.”
As soon as the name “Wan Zhenshan” was uttered, there was much hubbub from the crowd. Di Yun was also delighted, but amidst his delight, most of his emotions consisted of enmity and grief.
This scholar trembled back and forth in front, one foot high and the other foot low, he staggered along his way and continued walking east. Over a hundred people followed closely behind. Since Wan Zhenshan did not show up, the only solution was to find Wan Zhenshan. He is the only man capable of figuring out the secret behind these numbers. The news of the secret had long spread across the city. Many people wanted to pressure Wan Zhenshan into leading them to the treasure. Many people complimented the big man: “It is fortunate that elder brother was so smart, otherwise we could have waited here for three days and three nights and Wan Zhenshan would have already taken the treasure for himself.”
The big man was very proud of himself and said: “That little fellow was sneaky and secretive, I knew that there was something up with him.” He talked as if he did a good deed for everyone.
Di Yun mixed himself with the rest of the crowd and thought: “Wan Zhenshan is an old and extremely cunning person, he would not be as careless as to let others find the secret. There must be some kind of scheme behind this.” At this point the group had already travelled several li away from the south gate. Di Yun turned his head to look and looked at the city wall, in a glimpse he saw a shadow rushing past the city wall heading westward.
Di Yun thought: “All of these people have their attention fixed on the scholar and won’t let him escape. If they find Wan Zhenshan, they won’t separate from him. In such a big city, it would be extremely difficult to find Wan Zhenshan and his son, but to find such a messy crowd would be as easy as flipping my hand, why do I have to merge myself with the crowd?”
He changed his thoughts and in a flash hid himself behind a tree. Then he exerted his lightness martial arts and turned around to head towards the south gate. He headed westward and followed the direction that the shadow went. He caught up to this person before the time it took to drink a cup of tea. Although this person’s lightness martial arts were decent, it paled in comparison to Di Yun’s. He did not even notice that he was being followed, he only kept on running.
Di Yun saw as this person made his way in front of a small house. The person went inside the house and Di Yun kept watch outside and waited for this person to come out. After a while, he saw through the window that a lamp was lit from inside the house.
He made his way under the window and peeked through the narrow window slit. He saw there was an old person sitting on a chair inside the house. This person had his back against the window so Di Yun could not make out who it was.
This old person took out and began reading a book on the table. Di Yun only took one glance and knew that it was the “Tang Poem Anthology”. In the past few days this book was incredibility popular in the city, evidently even an old person was unable to break the custom, he too had a copy. Di Yun watched as this old person took out a writing brush and on a piece of yellow paper wrote words “Jiangling City, South”, then this person faintly counted the numbers “5, 10, 15, 16…” Then on the piece of paper he wrote the word “inclined”.
Di Yun was startled at what he saw. He thought: “There is actually someone capable of deciphering the numbers from the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’, could it be that he knows the Liancheng Swordplay?” But judging from the back of this person it was not Wan Zhenshan. This person wore very old and shabby gray clothes, Di Yun could not figure out who it was.
Di Yun watched as this person continued to read the book, counting on his fingers the number of words every now and then, and then writing down the corresponding word. This person wrote down 26 words in total, Di Yun read the words one by one:
“Inclined West, Tianing Temple, Main Hall, Buddha Statue Facing the Pious and Sincere Worshipper. The Praying Spirit Informs Buddha Will Bless a Future Life of Bliss”.
The old person became very angry and slammed the brush hard on the table. “What ‘Facing the Pious and Sincere Worshipper, the Praying Spirit Informs’ and what ‘Buddha Will Bless a Future Life of Bliss’! Damn it! ‘Future Life of Bliss’, are they telling me to see to go see Yama or what?”
As Di Yun listened he felt that this person’s voice was quite familiar. He was just thinking who it could be when this person turned around to face the window. Di Yun ducked under the window and thought: “It is second uncle, no wonder he knows the sword stances. But what is the secret then? It seems to be nothing more than a joke.” He could not help but chuckle in his heart. “So many people spent so much effort, they were willing to kill their teachers, kill each other, and in the end, it is nothing more than a phrase meant to make a fool of you.”
He did not actually laugh out loud, but inside the room Yan Daping began to laugh. “Haha! This phrase is telling me to sincerely worship Buddha, then that damn filthy clay statue will bless me and wish me a future life of bliss. Haha! Damn it! It’s telling me to live a future life of bliss. The three of us combined our forces to kill our teacher, the three of us martial brothers engaged in a fierce rivalry all these years, and we were fighting for nothing more than a ‘future life of bliss’. The hundreds of heroes and courageous people in Jiangling City, the various turtle thieves and bandits, all of them have tried to take this manual, and it was all for nothing more than a ‘future life of bliss’, haha! Haha!” His laughter was filled with sadness and grief. As he laughed, he tore the yellow paper to shreds.
All of a sudden he stood there motionless, his gaze completely fixed outside the window.
Di Yun thought about his own misfortunes. He thought about Qi Fang’s tragic death and how it was all because of this secret. But in the end this secret was nothing more several phrases of a big joke. Under such extreme grief and indignation, he could not help but start laughing out loud.
At the same time, he saw Yan Daping fixed his gaze outside the window, as if he was staring at something. Di Yun heard him mumble to himself, “Now that it has come to this, might as well go to Tianning Temple and take a look, what harm can it do? Jiangling City, South… this is correct, there is indeed an old temple there.” He brandished his hand to extinguish the candlelight. He pushed open the door and executed his lightness martial arts to travel westward.
Di Yun became hesitant in his heart. “Should I look for Wan Zhenshan or follow Uncle Yan? Ai, such a big group of people can’t be hard to find. I should go after Uncle Yan first.” At once he looked at Yan Daping and followed closely behind.
It did not take a full hour before Yan Daping reached the outskirts of the old Tianning Temple. He first stayed outside the temple for a very long time to listen for any activity, then he toured once around the outside. He realized that the temple was completely empty before he pushed the door open to go inside.
This Tianning Temple was located in a very desolate area and had been abandoned and worn down over the years. There were no acolytes or monks inside this temple. Yan Daping reached the main hall and lit up a torch, he wanted to light the candle in front of the altar. Under the firelight, it appeared that the candle wax was somewhat fresh. His thoughts changed and he extended his hands to pinch the wax, indeed it was still soft and mushy. It was obvious that someone lit this very candle not too long ago. He became suspicious and blew out his torch. He was about to go outside to investigate when suddenly he felt a pain on his back, a sharp blade was plugged in through his back. He let out a loud screech and lost his life immediately.
Di Yun hid behind the double doors. He only saw that the flame was extinguished and Yan Daping let out a miserable screech. Di Yun realized that Yan Daping had met with an unfortunate accident. All of this happened so fast that Di Yun did not have time to come to his rescue. Di Yun remained where he was, unmoving; he wanted to see who it was who killed Yan Daping. In the darkness, all he could make out were the sounds of faint cold laughters. When the voice of this person reached his ears, Di Yun was absolutely horrified. This voice was gloomy and extremely frightening, but it was also extremely familiar.
All of a sudden, a fire was set ablaze. Someone had lit up the candle. The candlelight reflected directly on the body of this person. This person slowly turned his head to face the front. Di Yun narrow blurted out, “Teacher!”
This person was indeed Qi Zhangfa. Di Yun watched as his teacher gave a hard kick at the body of Yan Daping. Then he took out the long sword from his back and stabbed this body from behind several times in succession.
When Di Yun saw how cruel and vicious Qi Zhangfa could be towards his own martial brother, the word “teacher” reached the tip of his mouth, but was immediately swallowed back in.
Qi Zhangfa laughed coldly and said: “Martial brother, it looks like you have also found the secret of the Liancheng Manual, am I right? Haha! ‘Inclined West, Tianing Temple, Main Hall, Buddha Statue Facing the Pious and Sincere Worshipper. The Praying Spirit Informs’. Haha! Martial brother, the sword manual says ‘Buddha Will Bless a Future Life of Bliss’, are you not heading to your afterlife now? Was this not blessed by Buddha?”
He turned his head to face the appearance of the benevolent Buddha statue, his face full of violent rage, very fiercely he scrutinized: “Damn it! You sorry excuse of a stinking Buddha have capered your daddy I for my entire life, you have caused me so much suffering!” He leapt on top of the altar and raised his long sword. Ting! Ting! Ting! He slashed the belly of the statue three times.
This Buddha statue was made from clay and engraved in wood, yet when these three slashes stroke firmly on the statue, it emitted a clang of metals like the sound of gold clashing. Qi Zhangfa became very suspicious and slashed the statue two more times. He only felt the more he slashed the statue the tougher the substance became. He took the candle and looked closer at the statue. He saw that the sword slashes left a deep scar in the statue, the scars glittered a brilliant golden light. Qi Zhangfa was shocked. He extended his fingers to reach for the two sword scars and peeled off the nearby clay. What he saw was sparkling gold, the inside of the statue was actually completely made of gold. He could not help but yell out, “Golden Buddha! It is all gold! It is all gold!”
This Buddha statue stood over 30 feet tall, it was very thick and solid and definitely exceeded any ordinary Buddha statue. If it was true that the entire statue was made of gold, there would be at least fifty or sixty thousand catties worth of gold, would that not be a great treasure or what?
Under great ecstasy, Qi Zhangfa pondered for a bit and then turned the statue around. He raised his sword and began hacking at the statue, he saw that the waist area of the statue had a very small hidden contraption. He repeatedly hacked away at this contraption, the clay flying in all directions. He made over a dozen cuts on the statue before he completely cleared up the clay surrounding the contraption. He saw that this contraption was also made of gold. Qi Zhangfa extended the tip of his sword to pry it open. He was unable to contain his joy, his heart rate was off the charts. He got so excited that his sword unexpectedly broke in half.
He picked up the remaining half of the sword and continued to pry open the hidden contraption from another side. After several attempts, the contraption gradually began to loosen itself. Qi Zhangfa threw away his long sword and extended his finger to lightly open it. He illuminated the insides of the statue with the candle and saw that inside the stomach of the Buddha was filled with the glowing aura of sparkling gems piled up in grandiosity. He could not even figure out how many gems and other treasures were stuffed inside this Buddha.
Qi Zhangfa spat out some saliva. He was about to extend his hand inward to reach for the various gems to take a look, when suddenly he felt the altar slightly tremble. He knew there was something going on and dropped back down on the ground. As soon as his left foot reached the ground, he felt a faint pain on his lower stomach, someone had already sealed his acupoint. With a loud crash he fell on the ground.
Someone came out from under the altar who laughed coldly. “Brother Qi, you have finally found it. Since Old Second found this place, why didn’t you consider that your eldest martial brother would find it too?” The speaker was none other than Wan Zhenshan.
When Qi Zhangfa unexpectedly discovered this great treasure, no matter how intelligent and crafty of a person he was, when he saw so many precious gems in front of him, he was completely overjoyed with his discovery. Now that his mind was back to reality he figured he should have known that Wan Zhenshan would indeed have come here. He toughly said: “The first time you failed to kill me, who would have thought that I would end up dead by your hands after all.”
Wan Zhenshan was complacent and said: “I was very perplexed about this too. Brother Qi, I know I strangled you to death and stuffed you inside the wall, how did you come back to life?”
Qi Zhangfa closed his eyes and did not answer.
Wan Zhenshan said: “Even if you don’t answer, you think I don’t know the answer? Back then you weren’t my match, so you sealed your own breathing and faked your death. After you were sealed inside the wall you were still able to make your way out! Excellent! Impressive! Back then when I saw there was a piece of brick sticking out of the sealed wall, I knew that something wasn’t right, but I would never have guessed that it was the result of you breaking yourself out of the wall.”
Ever since Wan Zhenshan sealed Qi Zhangfa inside the wall, the next day he saw one of the bricks was sticking out, that incident had made his heart ill-at-ease ever since. It went so far as to give him somnambulism and he would be building walls in the middle of the night during his dreams. All along he was afraid that Qi Zhangfa became a “zombie” and would jump out of the wall. That’s why even in his sleep, every single night he would build the same wall over and over again, he wanted to seal the wall completely.
Wan Zhenshan laughed coldly. “Haha, you are really impressive. You looked on helplessly as your daughter became my son’s wife, yet you never revealed yourself. I ask you, what is it all for? Why?”
Qi Zhangfa spat out some phlegm in his direction.
Wan Zhenshan slanted his body to evade the spit. He laughed: “Old Third, would you rather die an easy death or have me cut you piece by piece? If you want to die an easy death, then tell me, how were you able to take out the sword manual from the inn. How were Old Second and I unable to find it after all these years?”
Qi Zhangfa felt a chill and said: “Do you think it was easy? That night I waited until the two of you were asleep like a pig, then I quietly got up and opened the box. I took out the sword manual and put it inside the interval between the drawer and the table. The next day, the sword manual naturally disappeared without a trace. The three of us bickered with each other for a very long time and then went our separate ways. You followed Yan Daping, Yan Daping followed me, and I followed you. The three of us tailed each other for over a month before going our separate ways. Then I returned to the inn and took out the sword manual from the hidden compartment. I returned home and put the manual inside a box of old clothes. But for some reason my daughter took the manual. You surnamed Wan, just end my life quickly!”
Wan Zhenshan laughed maliciously and said: “Very well, I will give you a quick death. Logically, I should not let you go so easily, but your martial brother I do not have any time to waste. I must use some dirt and seal up the Buddha statue again. Very well then my martial brother, it is time for you to move on!” He raised his sword and was about to strike down at Qi Zhangfa’s chest.
All of a sudden a red light flashed across the scene, Wan Zhenshan’s right arm was completely sliced off from his elbow and along with the sword all fell on the ground. Then his body was kicked away violently. It was Di Yun wielding the blood sabre to rescue Qi Zhangfa.
He lowered his body and unsealed the acupoint on Qi Zhangfa’s body and said: “Teacher, you have been startled!”
All of this happened so fast; Qi Zhangfa was completely dumbstruck for a long time before he could clearly see that this person was Di Yun. He said: “Yun… Yun’er, is it you?”
Di Yun and his teacher had been separated for such a long time. When he once again heard someone call him “Yun’er” he could not help but begin to grieve and said: “Yes, teacher, it is Yun’er.”
Qi Zhangfa said: “So you have seen everything.”
Di Yun nodded his head. Then he said: “Martial sister, martial sister… she… she…”
Wan Zhenshan lost one of his arms, he struggled to pick himself up and then began to rush out of the temple. Qi Zhangfa rushed ahead of him and stabbed Wan Zhenshan squarely from behind and it pierced completely through his heart. Wan Zhenshan let out a painful cry and died immediately.
Qi Zhangfa looked at the dead bodies of his two martial brothers and slowly said: “Yun’er, fortunately you arrived just in time and saved your teacher’s life. Hey, who else is here? Is that Fang’er?” As he said this he pointed his finger to the side of the hall.
When Di Yun heard the words “Fang’er” his heart trembled violently. He turned around to look but there was nobody there. He was surprised when suddenly he felt a sharp pain from his back. He flipped his hand over to grab his enemy by the wrist. He turned around and saw that this person was holding a very sharp and dazzling dagger. It was none other than his teacher Qi Zhangfa.
Di Yun was perplexed. “Tea… teacher… what crime did your disciple commit that you would want to kill me?” He saw that this dagger had already stabbed him firmly from behind, but because he had the protection of the dark silkworm vest, he did not lose his life.
Qi Zhangfa was seized by the wrist and half his body became numb, he could not even exert the slightest bit of strength. Under such alarm and anger he said fiercely, “Very well, you have learned a set of profound martial arts, naturally you no longer take your teacher seriously anymore. Kill me then. Kill me! Kill me! Why haven’t you killed me yet?”
Di Yun released his hold but he was still at a loss for words. “How would I dare to kill my own teacher?”
Qi Zhangfa shouted: “Why are you so insincerely courteous? This Buddha statue is filled with gold and precious gemstones, do you not want it all for yourself? If I don’t kill you, then you will kill me. What is so strange about that? This is a remarkable Gold Buddha, inside its stomach are invaluable gemstones and jewels, why won’t you kill me? Why won’t you kill me?” The way he shouted so hoarsely, his voice was filled with greed, anger, and lament. This voice did not even sound like the voice of a human, it sounded like the voice of a wounded beast howling in the wilderness.
Di Yun shook his head and retreated a few steps. “Teacher wants to kill me because of this Gold Buddha?” Then in an instant he came to a startling realization. He understood everything: Qi Zhangfa was willing to go so far as to kill his own teacher, his own martial brothers, he was even suspicious of his own daughter, what does a mere disciple mean to him? In his heart he suddenly recalled what Ding Dian once told him: “His nickname is ‘Iron Lock Across the River’, what isn’t he capable of doing?”
Di Yun retreated another step and said: “Teacher, I have no intention of taking away any part of your Gold Buddha, you can take it all for yourself.”
Di Yun really did not understand, how could a person in this world actually care for nothing but riches? This person did not care for his teacher, he did not care for his martial brothers or his disciples—he did not even care for his own daughter. Even if he possessed such a priceless treasure, what does it really mean in the end?
Qi Zhangfa did not even believe his own ears and thought: “In this world there is actually someone who is not moved by so many precious gems and jewels? This little brat Di Yun must have some other sort of scheme up his sleeves.” At this point he had already completely lost his cool and shouted: “What trick are you pulling now? This here is a gigantic Gold Buddha, its stomach is completely filled with pearls and gemstones, why do you not want it? What scheme are you trying to pull?”
Di Yun shook his head. He was just about to exit the temple when suddenly he heard the sounds of a lot of footsteps fast approaching. There were lots of people entering the temple. Di Yun jumped up to the roof and looked outside. He saw over a hundred people holding torches shouting with much hubbub, they were all heading towards the temple. It was the group of realm folks from earlier.
He heard someone shout: “Wan Gui, damn it! Let’s go! Let’s go!”
Di Yun wanted to leave, but as soon as he heard the name “Wan Gui” he stopped himself. He still had yet to avenge Qi Fang.
The crowd of people stormed and fought their way into the temple. Di Yun watched very carefully; Wan Gui was captured by several big fellows and was beaten to a pulp, his nose was swollen and his eyes were darkly bruised. But he was still wearing a very scholarly outfit. It turns out that he was the one who dressed up as a scholar in order to lure away the group of people crowding around the city wall so as to let his father go to Tianning Temple and take the treasure for himself. But under the constant interrogation of the crowd he finally revealed his tracks. The crowd of people beat him to a pulp and threatened to kill him if he did not lead them to Tianning Temple.
Qi Zhangfa heard that people were approaching and urgently jumped up the altar. He wanted to cover up the sword markings on the statue that revealed the various hidden gemstones but he was too late, the crowd had already seen him standing on the altar and hugging the Gold Buddha’s big stomach with both hands. At once under the illumination of several dozen torches, the temple was as bright as day. Everyone saw the dazzling reflection of gold and let out a roar as they rushed forward. Everyone rushed forward in a complete mess and cut off all the clay from the statue. Everyone had their own sabre or sword and slashed mindlessly, in no time at all the statue was completely naked and emitted a radiant gold light.
Then followed that someone discovered the hidden contraption in the statue and extended his hand to reach for it, fishing out large quantities of precious gemstones. The ones that were standing at the back used their strength to push this person aside, the various gemstones were taken out large quantities at a time. The stronger people stole the gemstones from the weaker people.
All of a sudden, from outside a bugle horn sounded repeatedly and the door of the temple was kicked open; over a dozen soldiers rushed inside and shouted: “The prefectural magistrate is here! Nobody make a move!” From behind someone in an officer’s outfit proudly walked inside, it was none other than the prefectural magistrate of Jiangling, Ling Tuisi. He had many followers outside the city and several were in the group of people that came to the temple. As soon as he heard the news, he immediately dispatched soldiers and rushed to the scene.
Ling Tuisi caused the death of Ding Dian and even forced his own daughter’s death, yet he did not have a single clue about the mysteries of the sword manual. But nonetheless his desires for the great treasure never decreased. He knew that it was definitely related to Mei Niansheng, only he did not know that the crux of the secret lied within the ‘Tang Poem Swordplay’. He continued to part with large quantities of bribes and continued to serve his term as the prefectural magistrate of Jingzhou. In addition, using his position as the leader of the Raspy Dragon Sect, he dispatched many of his sect followers to search. Eventually he found news that the ‘A Deadly Secret’ had to do with the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’.
Ling Tuisi came from a background of academics and imperial secretaries, his education and literature was remarkably impressive. As soon as he looked at the Tang Poem Anthology he found out that this poem was written by late Tang poets that lived sometime during the reign of Emperor Liangyuan around 500 to 600 A.D. Emperor Liangyuan’s treasure could definitely not have evidence that could be found inside the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’, so he further investigated thoroughly. Then he figured out that after Emperor Liangyuan concealed the treasure, he completely eradicated all of the soldiers who ever came in contact with this treasure. Later he was killed by soldiers of the Northern Zhou Dynasty, and from then on the location of the treasure was unknown.
It wasn’t until the reign of Kangxi that a senior monk with supreme martial arts stayed in the Tianning Temple in Jingzhou and accidentally discovered the treasure. He wanted to give it to the Heaven and Earth Society in their quest to destroy Qing and restore the Ming Dynasty. But he was afraid that the secret would leak out, so he encoded the location of the treasure into a set of numbers located in a bunch of sword mnemonics, then he put it inside the popular ‘Tang Poem Anthology’. Then he gave it to Wu Liuqi, who was a disciple of his elder martial brother from the same clan. Just like the senior monk, Wu Liuqi also knew the ‘Tang Poem Swordplay’ and knew the sequence of stances in this swordplay. Unfortunately, when he was about to pass on the secret code, he met with an accident and was killed. From then on the secret code of the sword mnemonics leaked outside.
From then on the information passed around outwards, but the information did not connect the treasure to the ‘Tang Poem Anthology’, so it was useless. The ones who knew of this information did not know the Tang Poem Swordplay. Although they knew the mnemonics of the swordplay, they did not know the sequence of the stances, so they had no way of finding the treasure.
Mei Niansheng belonged to the same clan as Wu Liuqi and the senior monk. Naturally he knew the Tang Poem Swordplay. Later on he received the sword mnemonics, but the news leaked and he suffered at the hands of his three traitorous disciples.
Now that the various realm folk saw so many treasures in front of them, how would they be afraid of the authorities? Everyone exerted all their efforts to steal the gemstones in front of them.
Various pearls, gemstones, white jades, green jades fell on the ground. All of the heroic people of the realm and soldiers all reached to grab the treasure at all costs. Some began to fight each other, others even jumped on the Gold Buddha...
How would Ling Tuisi’s subordinates not fight for the treasure? The soldiers bent their bodies to pick up the treasures, and the officials too took the treasures. Nobody dared to fall behind and lose out on anything. Qi Zhangfa was plundering the treasures, Wan Gui was fighting over the treasures, even the great magistrate Ling Tuisi could not resist and stuffed handfuls of treasures into his bosom.
To fight for the treasures in such a way, fights and casualties could not be avoided. Some people managed to win their fights, some people bled, some people died…
The fights became more and more intense. Some people even pounced themselves on the Gold Buddha and began biting at it, some people rammed their heads against the statue.
Di Yun was extremely perplexed. “What’s going on? Even if they love these treasures so much, they should not go so far as to be this crazy?”
Indeed, all of them had lost their minds. Their eyes became red; they were fighting mindlessly and biting mindlessly, scratching mindlessly. Di Yun saw that ‘Twin Knights of Bell Sword’ Wang Xiaofeng was amongst the group, as was the remaining member of ‘Luohua Liushui’, Hua Tiegan. They had all become crazy as wild beasts, they were all clawing and biting frantically. They put the various precious stones in their mouths.
Di Yun understood the truth. “There must have been extremely deadly poison smeared on these jewels. Back then the emperor who concealed the treasure was afraid that soldiers of the Zhou Dynasty would come and take it away, so he smeared poison on these jewels.” He wanted to save his teacher, but it was too late.
After these people contracted the poison, they were suffering endlessly and would not live long. Ling Tuisi, Wan Gui, Lu Kun, Bu Yuan, Shen Cheng and the others had committed endless atrocities. Now that they finally got their hands on the treasure, there was no need for Di Yun to finish them off. They would not live for much longer.
Di Yun went back to Ding Dian and Lady Ling’s grave and brought with him several hundred varieties of flowers. He did not hire anyone to help him out, he did everything by himself. He grew up in the countryside as a farmer, naturally he specialized in digging. The only problem was that he was not very knowledgeable about flowers, what he usually grew consisted of hot peppers, cucumbers, winter melons, cabbages, eggplants, water spinaches…
He left Jingzhou and took Water Spinach with him. He took a horse and set forth on a long journey. He no longer cared about the various events of the realm. He only wanted to find a place where nobody would find him and raise Water Spinach into an adult.
He returned to the snowy valley.
Qi Fang gave him a hundred taels of silver back in the Wan residence. This money not only served to help tidy up the tomb of Ding Dian and Lady Ling, it also served as expenses to the family who took care of Water Spinach during his absence, and also served to pay out the expenses of food and resting along his journey. He bought some new clothes and shoes for Water Spinach. He also bought some cotton-padded clothes and trousers and over a dozen straw sandals for himself. He stuffed it all into a big bundle and carried it on his back. By the time he reached the snowy valley near Sichuan, he only had about thirty taels of silver left on him.
He weighed the remaining silver in his hands and then exerted his strength to throw it far away, casting it into the deep canyon near the side of the road. “Even if I have a million taels of silver, even if I have an exorbitant amount of precious treasures, what use would it be in a snowy valley?”
But his martial sister did not come with him. She would never ever come with him. He could not even see her one more time. He felt very lonely and desolate.
“Uncle, Uncle, why are you crying? Do you miss my mama? We promised each other that neither of us are allowed to cry anymore!”
The snow began to pour down from the sky again, making its way to the cave he once resided.
All of a sudden, from afar he saw a young girl standing outside the cave.
It was Shui Sheng!
Her face full of delight, she rushed forward, laughing and calling, “I have waited a long time! I knew you would eventually return. If you don’t come back, I will wait ten years. If you don’t come back in ten years, I will search across the realm for a hundred years!”