(5) Nine Swords
This summer, Songhu Island was particularly hot and humid. The mosquitoes were breeding enormously. Many villagers in the vicinity have infected with malaria. Even Aunt Mi has a fever and vomiting. Qianqian and Ren Wanli carried a rattan basket, walked around in the steaming mountain to find herbs.
Ren Wanli was giving lesson about herb medicine while they were looking for it, said: “When it comes to collecting herbs, there are more in Lushan but Songhu is stronger. Otherwise you go a little further to Emei. There are more rare and precious herbs. However, it is no need to go so far for this kind of malaria.”
Qianqian listened attentively, while paying attention to find the suitable herbs. She suddenly saw a plant hiding in the weeds on the hillside resembling the one in the medicine book of her hands, she called: “This is the one, isn’t it?”
Ren Wanli smiled and asked: “In addition to the appearance of the herb, is there any other way to distinguish them?”
Qianqian then squatted, cut a piece of root and bark with a knife, sniffed it, touched it, put it into mouth, tasted it, and read the book carefully again. After studying for a while, she nodded and said: “The red thorowax root is brownish red on the surface, yellowish white inside, hard wood and solid, tasted sweet and spicy. It shouldn’t be wrong!”
When she finished, she pulled out a red thorowax root and dropped it into the rattan basket. But when she noticed that Ren Wanli did not say anything, she immediately asked: “Oh, am I wrong!”
Ren Wanli saw that she was so confident, but still carefully examine and check and taste the herb. In the end, she was also not ashamed to ask. She could have this kind of academic attitude. Ren Wanli was really pleased. But he has to remind her: “Look, smell, touch, taste is the four main tips to distinguish an herb, but some herbs are so toxic that they can’t be tasted.”
“Can’t be tasted, how should I do?”
“Bring it home, take the antidote before you taste it.”
“Well! Of course, it wasn’t so simple as I said. In the ancient time, the god of medicine Shennong, tasted all the herbs and was poisoned seventy-two times every day. He didn’t die was amazing. ”
“That is why he became god! ”
Ren Wanli laughed when he heard the interesting remark from Qianqian. Then the father and the daughter talked and laughed while they were looking for herbs, they seemed getting along very well now. They collected all the herbs they needed by the evening and returned home.
Qianqian personally boiled and extracted the herbs to medicine. She quickly brought it to Aunt Mi’s room. She was reclining on the edge of bed, chatting causally with Dad. Then she took the medicine to her, touched her forehead and checked with her pulse carefully, said: “How can you still have so much to talk even when you got sick? Come and eat the medicine soon, then take a good sleep, no more talking!”
Aunt Mi was contented to see Qianqian serving and taking care of her. She received the herb bowl and smiled sweetly, but she teased her instead: “Is that all right! Island Master! Do you really let her to use me as a trial?”
Ren Wanli just laughed without comment. Qianqian looked grim and serious, said to Aunt Mi: “Hey, you see you, you have fever and cold, your mouth is dry and inflamed, and you have also bone pain, Aren’t you? After taking this medicine, you will be just fine.”
By saying that, Aunt Mi has no choice but took the medicine reluctantly. After she finished the bowl, Qianqian lay her down and urged her to sleep. After Ren Wanli left, she took care of her by the bed side until dawn.
One morning of another autumn, Qianqian carried the chicken cage and rattan basket, rustled the dried leaves on the path, hurriedly walked back home from the mountain. She ran into the kitchen, dropped the cage and basket, nervously took out a chopper, ready to cook. The kitchen of the Songhu Island was very big with eight burners. In the past, a dozen people cooked here, prepared food for a hundred of mouths. The rusty giant pot was still on the stove.
Qianqian cleaned up the pot and poured out the things in the rattan basket. There were actually snakes and fungus. Qianqian took out a book from her collar, turned it opened on the table, sharpen the chopper while reading it. She looked excited and uncertain about what to do next.
She grabbed a snake in one hand, held it high and ready to chop. Unexpectedly, the snake was slipped from her hand while she bumped her elbow on the chicken coop. Hastily the pheasant in the cage flustered and flew around the kitchen. In a hurry she picked up a firewood stick, threw at the pheasant and hit the shoulders of its. The pheasant fell off, looked hurt. Qianqian shouted, “You can’t die! You can’t die now! It’s not good for taste if you died too early.”
But the pheasant seemed to have no sign of life. Qianqian immediately put it on the table, flipped through the book, and then took a small bag from her waist, opened it and there were many silver needles. She read the book again to make sure her mind. Then took out a few needles, sprinkled them under the shoulders of the pheasant. In a moment, the pheasant indeed came back to life. When it flapped the wings and wanted to fly. She grabbed it with one hand, quickly returned to the cage, as the snakes were crawling on the cross beam. They looked like falling on the top of her head anytime. Qianqian swiftly turned over, jumped onto the stove, held the silver needles. When she flicked, the snakes were nailed and dropped. Qianqian immediately raised the chopper, cut their heads in the air, let them fell into the pot and bleed. After a few hours of busy working, smoke was rising from the chimney, and a few delicious dishes were finally made.
Qianqian delicately placed the dishes on the plates, quickly carried to Ren wanli’s study room. Today was his 78-year-old birthday. Qianqian said that she has to cook for him. For the first time of her life she cooked, it was an overwhelming and throbbing experience.
Ren Wanli and Aunt Mi have been waiting for hours in the patio of the study room. Ultimately, they saw Qianqian holding the dishes coming. They watched at her putting down the dishes that smelled good, looked rich, and the color was appealing. Aunt Mi looked surprised and relieved. Ren Wanli has no show on his face. Qianqian arranged the table and sat down anxiously. For a while no body started yet, until Ren Wanli picked up the chopstick, then Aunt Mi. Qianqian was still staring unbelievably. How were they tasted? She was worried. but they were just eating slowly, quietly, without making any comment. Qianqian was going crazy, she finally picked up a dish in front of her, the moment she shoved into her mouth, she put down the chopstick despondently. Aunt Mi smiled and said: “They aren’t so bad, after seasoning will be good. ” Then she stood up, picked the dishes and walked away.
Qianqian rolled her eyeballs aimlessly, the moment caught the sight of Ren Wanli, he said: “Qianqian, you come with me.”
Qianqian was unprepared and looked out of mind. Ren Wanli has already stood up and walked inside the room. Qianqian of course walked after him right away.
Ren Wanli returned to his study room, lit the lamp, held the candle stand, stood in front of a bookshelf, then pushed it with palm. The bookshelf filled with books from bottom to top slowly glided backward to reveal a door. Qianqian whispered shockingly: “There was a secret room inside, I knew that this room kept all the secrets of Songhu Island.”
Ren Wanli opened the secret door and led Qianqian into it. She was amazed the size of this secret room was smaller than the study room and it was indeed empty with only four sides of cold stone walls. Until Ren Wanli pushed and clicked a piece of stone on the wall, revealing a rectangular partition, she didn’t know there was something. She saw books inside the partition, but they were not just books like those on the shelves. Those were secret books of martial arts of Songhu Island. Qianqian has learned many martial arts of Songhu Island, but never has seen any secret books of them. She was looking bizarrely. Ren Wanli raised his voice, declared: “Songhu Island has six major schoolings…”
There were actually seven schoolings in Songhu Island. However, since Ren Wanli was unable to save Liu Yiyi with all his knowledge of medicine. He removed the medicine schooling to show the pain of losing his wife.
“…you have already learned five of them, such as fists, internal strength, light power, acupoints and hidden weapons, and what you have not learned yet?”
Qianqian immediately replied: “Sword.”
“Yes,” Ren Wanli smiled and asked: “How long have you not picked up the sword?”
Qianqian clearly answered: “More than two years.”
Ren Wanli asked again: “Do you know how long I have not picked up the sword?”
Qianqian was startled. She didn’t know he ever picked up a sword for she has never seen it. So, she answered according to the truth: “I don’t know.”
Ren Wanli nodded and snorted: “Sixty years.”
Qianqian thought that he has never used sword but now appeared that he did use sword when he was young. Why didn’t he use it anymore?
Ren Wanli explained: “When I was 18 years old, after I contested the sword with my father in the nine-sword platform, he took me here in this secret room, told me a secret about the sword.”
Qianqian listened attentively. Ren Wanli turned over the partition and it fell a long object on his hand. It was perceived to be a long sword. Qianqian felt her heart pounding while he pulled the sword out of sheath. His face revealed an invincible spirit of youth that Qianqian has never seen. She stepped back, looked at the sword still trembling with a wave of groaning. She then noticed that it was not sharp at the tip but round and flat. It looked dull at the first glance like a fox tail. Qianqian abruptly shouted excitedly: “Is that the legendary foxtail sword that was lost with the nine swords?
Ren Wanli looked at the tip of the sword, said coldly: “This is indeed the foxtail sword, but it has never lost.” He put down the sword and recounted: “After my father passed the soul fox nine swords to me, he took me to this secret room, returned the foxtail sword back to this partition, told me that to forget all the swordsmanship I had learned, as well, when I walked in the rivers and lakes, couldn’t use any of them, not even one style. I was young, I felt like I was fooled. The swordsmanship was passed to me, but I was not allowed to use it. Isn’t it ridiculous?”
After Qianqian listened to the effect, she reflected to the cause, asked prudently: “Is it related to the sword completion of our grand grandfather with the Eight Great Schools?
Ren Wanli nodded, said: “My grandfather, your grand grandfather, Tingyun competed with the Eight Great Schools. He won the eight masters, including the first sword of the Qingcheng School. This was a noticeable event; however, the hidden story was not that simple. My father told me that grandpa won the Eight Great Schools, but he accidentally injured one of them. This person was poisoned and killed on the spot. The Eight Schools immediately accused grandpa of poisoning the sword. Grandpa saw the wound was black, his sword seemed was poisonous even he didn’t do so. Facing the reproach of the eight schools, he couldn’t prove that he was innocent. For keeping the name of Songhu Island, Grandpa was forced to swear that the Nine Swords and the Foxtail Sword would be vanished from the rivers and lakes. Everyone knew that the Soul Fox Nine Swords has been created since the founder of Songhu Island. It has been seven generations in succession. Grandpa made such an oath. It was a big harm to Songhu Island. He didn’t expect that the Eight Great Schools were not satisfied. They urged him to swear that the descendants of Songhu Island would no longer use sword. If he didn’t, they would publicize the matter. It was unbelievable that Grandpa promised all the conditions. Since then, the Nine Swords could only be passed on inside the family. It has never appeared again in the rivers and lakes. In the generation of my dad, Songhu Island was silent and retired. In my generation, I couldn’t use sword then I developed my fist styles. At the age of 28, I created the listening pine wave of thirteen styles. Songhu Island has recovered her status to some degree. However, Songhu Island cannot be known for its swordsmanship. It has always been a repentance for me.”
After knowing this hidden history of the family, Qianqian felt more honored to be part of her, she said: “Even without swordsmanship, the light work of Songhu Island is still recognized as the best in the world. Dad combined the light work with your thirteen styles, it was eminent in the rivers and lakes for years, you should be proud of yourself.”
Ren Wanli of course was proud of himself, but he still sighed and said: “The Soul Fox Nine Swords have been extinct for more than a hundred years. If Grandpa did not poison, it was really unworthy and degrading. But for now, the only thing I can do is passed it to you to keep the succession, but Qianqian, you must know that you have to do the same as I and Grandpa did. You cannot use a single style of it. For a person who loves sword, this is a painful temptation, do you understand?”
Qianqian realized that why he enforced her to forget the swordsmanship before he promised to teach any martial arts. It emerged that the sword was a painful mark in his heart. Qianqian moved forward, looked at Ren Wanli, nodded eagerly: “Dad, you can be assured, I has promised you, I must do it.”
Ren Wanli noticed that Qianqian has changed significantly these couple years. Her personality as well her martial arts has developed a prototype of qualification. She will be a character in the future. He was assured that she will not ruin the name of Songhu Island. Then he handed over the foxtail sword to her, and said: “Qianqian! from tomorrow, I will pass the essence of Nine Swords to you.”
Qianqian held the sword with both hands resolutely. She always believed that she has untold link with Songhu Island. Today, received the legendary foxtail sword, she was certain of this thought.
The next day, Qianqian came with foxtail sword to the nine-sword platform, has already seen Ren Wanli standing on the bridge. Qianqian has just stepped on the curved bridge, Ren Wanli suddenly jumped and flew. Swiftly he stood behind her. Immediately he clenched her wrist. When he snorted, he took the foxtail sword from her hand, swirled in the air and swung the sword among clouds. Out of the blue the morning glow broke through the clouds, illuminating where the sword has just crossed over, and the sky turned into a seven-colored rainbow. At this time, Ren Wanli has already made the first sword of the nine, the fox out of cave. And the second then the third, the forth were displayed. Ren Wanli was elated and shouted in the sky: “Sixty years, this sword is as it is always.” After that, he swayed himself over the nine bridges. Qianqian stood by and watched quietly. She did not look at his swords, but himself. She watched whole hearted, and said to herself: “He hasn’t picked up the sword for sixty years, but it was still breathtaking. Seeing him with a sword today, immersed in it completely…that is a swordsman supposed to be.”
Now she began to look at his swords. Seeing this swordsmanship is very secluded. There is nothing similar to the boldness of the three swords or the lingering of the sunrise, or the ecstasy of the murals. It is just sedate and mellow. This swordsmanship was used to counter enemy, and defeated the most famous eight masters? She was astonished.
Watching Ren Wanli dancing swords alone with his long-sleeves, flying in the mist of the morning glow, as if he was immortal. She couldn’t help but applauded: “Does Songhu Island really has a fairy…”
Saying about it, Ren Wanli has finished the Nine Swords in a series. He stopped in front of Qianqian and was looked fresh and rejuvenated. He said delightfully: “Have you seen it all?”
Qianqian smiled, said: “I saw it, but I didn’t look at it.”
Ren Wanli supposed Qianqian was trying again to be amusing, he only smiled and asked: “What do you mean by that?”
Qianqian replied earnestly: “I didn’t look at the sword styles. I only saw the sword. The swordsmanship usually tended to be vigorous. However, although the nine swords are also magnificent to see, but are they only for self-satisfaction? The moves seemed to be like the hanging cloud, like the misty fog. How can this sword be used for competing?”
Ren Wanli admitted that although she is still young, she has seen many wonderful swordsmanship. She was qualified to judge the nine swords. He was not offended. He said with sureness: “Have you ever heard of the benevolent invincible?”
Qianqain opened her eyes widely, waiting of his explanation. Ren Wanli continued: “When our ancestor opened the island, there was one fairy fox. She was different from what we believed that normal fox was considered cunning. Her fur was white as snow, her temperament was mild. She was kind, she never hunted. After a long period of observation, our ancestor discovered this set of swordsmanship. He believed that swordsmanship could be soft and gentle. The benevolent could be invincible. Like drum and bell, to soothe than to kill. He created nine swords, but he said he only discovered them, for they have been there in the nature. A hundred years after him, the nine swords have not met a rival yet…”
Ren Wanli handed over the sword to Qianqian and said: “If you looked at this sword, although it looked sharp, but there is no tip. It is not good at assassinate. The blade is muted and dim, deliberately hidden. You can see the intention of their inventor. Qianqian, your swordsmanship is refined, but you can’t forget the original connotation of it.
By this time, the sky was clear, revealing the autumn colors of the mountain. Qianqian picked up the sword and flew, jumping over the nine bridges, playing the remaining five swords, following the instruction of Ren Wanli. The spirit of fairy fox seemed entered into the sword to protect the Songhu Island. However, it was forced to be extinct in the rivers and lakes. Thought of that, Qianqian was feeling very sad. When she came to the last sword, the soul fox died when looked back at the cave of her birthplace with love and reverence. Qianqain was unbearable sorrowful. When she flapped the last stroke of nine swords, she knelt down and pledged to the sky from heart. She will devote her life to wash the shame and recovered the fame of the foxtail sword.
When she thought of the soul fox, she always came with a question. She stood up and asked: “Dad! Are the soul foxes extinct? Why have I never seen one?”
Ren Wanli didn’t expect she asked such a question, he answered frankly: “The soul foxes have guarded Songhu Island for two hundred years, but they have suddenly disappeared in the past thirty years. I wonder if Songhu Island would be also vanished.”
Ren Wanli sounded so pessimistic, Qianqian immediately consoled: “Even if the soul foxes were no longer guarding the Songhu Island, there is still me!”
Ren Wanli felt her sincere dedication to Songhu Island. He was grateful and said: “You will be appreciated by our ancestors. The soul foxes were regarded as an island protector. Now that they are extinct, it is inevitable that makes me uneasy.”
Qianqian loved the island so much. She didn’t want to accept her fate of declining. She said determinedly: “All things are depended and determined to the change of us. aren’t they? Dad!”
Ren Wanli felt gratified. He thought of when he was young, he was also ambitious and determined like her. He hoped that she could really fulfilled her promises. He just nodded and smiled: “It’s awesome to hear that!”
With a blink of eye, another winter was about to end, when the first plum flower blossomed on the snow-covered branch. Ren Wanli stood on Huaiyu Peak, overlooking Qianqian practicing the nine swords. She has learned all the styles and has grasped the essentials. He assumed that it was about time to set her free. Suddenly he saw that she was flying into the pine forest. Ren Wanli wondered why she did that. He jumped down to the nine-sword platform and looked up. He found her in the pine forest, cutting off the ripen fruit of the pine tree with the foxtail sword. The pine cones that she cut off dropping down from the tree. When they were still in the air, she returned the sword and shattered the pine cone. In a moment, all the pine nuts hidden in the cones popped out and scattered. The pine nuts that sprinkled like rain with their opened wings, swiveling down slowly, elegantly. They fell like parasols, landed on the meadow of snow. When the spring came, a baby pine tree would ready to grow. Qianqian floated under the pine forest, hung down the sword, looked up at the sky and descended with a smile. Ren Wanli quietly watched the scene, he was struck by an inexplicable throb. He suddenly decided. It was today to say what he prepared to say. He jumped to the front of Qianqian, said eagerly: “Qianqian, you come with me.”
After saying that, he flew away. Qianqian followed him. The two were landed on the cemetery. Ren Wanli said: “Qianqian, you kneel down to the graves of the ancestors of Songhu Island.”
Qianqian didn’t know what was going on, but she looked collected and composed. She just did what he asked. She knelt in front of the ancestral graves respectfully. Ren Wanli then announced: “The ancestors of Songhu Island receiving, the tenth-generation Island Master of Songhu Island, Ren Zhenyi, bowed to the ancestors.”
Although Qianqian knew that she will inherit the Island, but the moment when she heard Ren Wanli announced that she became the tenth generation Island Master of Songhu Island, she was still shocked and felt incredible. She looked up at him suspiciously as in a dream. But the solemnity and resoluteness of his attitude guaranteed her what he just said was truth and reality. She then bowed three times beautifully to the graves of the ancestors with all her heart.
When Ren Wanli saw her finished bowing, he quickly lifted her up and said deliberately: “Qianqian, you’ve just bowed to the ancestors of Songhu Island. From now on, you are the tenth generation of successor of Songhu Island. You will be taking over everything that I have. From now on, whenever, where ever, to whom ever, you act and talk, you must remember that your identity, you are the successor of the Songhu Island!”
Qianqian became the master of the Songhu Island in a day, her heart was still pounding. She responded faintly: “I know it, dad!”
Although Ren Wanli said so, he knew that it was the most difficult to hold on the tongue. When he was young, he wasn’t act and talk correctly so that some people hated him. He understood the personality of Qainqian. He was afraid that she would made her life more difficult than his. That was why he has to remind her again and again. Today, he has spoken what he needed to said and felt completed. He looked around the nine peaks of Songhu. Suddenly, he changed his tone, severely said: “Qianqian, you have to leave Songhu Island.”
Qianqian thought she didn’t get it right, asked uncertainly: “What?”
Ren Wanli raised his arm and said strictly: “You see that the nine peaks of the Songhu Island has been named. You don’t have your place here, can you see! You have to leave! Do you know? You already have everything of Songhu Island. You are Songhu Island yourself. Why you have to be here? You must go now?”
After he finished he just walked away, Qianqian quickly stood up and chased and shouted: “Don’t go! Please, dad! Where are you going?”
Ren Wanli stopped, turned back answered with a smile: “My responsibility is over, it is time to go to see your mother.”
Qianqian has prepared that once Ren Wanli finished teaching all the martial arts, he would leave her. But she still couldn’t help feeling desolate and wretched. She knelt in front of him, said softly: “Your responsibility is over, you should enjoy your life like a fairy crane.”
Ren Wanli looked at Qianqian, thought of Liu Yiyi, the woman he loved only in his life. He remorsefully said: “I am a martial art master, but I couldn’t hold on to myself. I wronged about your mother. I deluded her of the happiness she deserved. On the day she died, I has determined to follow, and today I am happy to pay for it, you should be happy for me.”
After saying that, he returned to HuaiYufeng, shattered the cold pine bridge to show his determination. After doing that, he flew back to the tomb of Liu Yiyi, pushed to open the door then he just simply walked in. He buried himself in the tomb, when the tomb door closed and locked, he was unable to see anymore.
The snow curtain was falling from sky, presented the end of his extraordinary but regretful life. Qianqian could do nothing but just watching him disappeared. She gazed at the tombstone he prepared long ago for himself. The ninth generation of the Island Master, Ren Wanli and Madam Liu Yiyi. She recalled that the twenty years of her life with Songhu Island. All of a sudden everything was gone. How could she go on by herself? She didn’t know. She was just kept kneeling and let the snow totally covered her up.