They didn’t expect Yueqiao has gone for so long. Everyone was waiting for him. When Qianqian saw him coming back by the evening, slowly walking towards the yurt. She was upset. She strode ahead, glared at him, said: “You sneaked away for such a long time. Have you ever thought about the feelings of others?”
Yueqiao was used to be like that in the past, how could he know there are so many people care for him now. He honestly answered, “That is really no.” Qianqian pouted, muttered: This person immediately returned to what he was. Is it he has to see me suffer, then he would care for me?
Yueqiao saw that she was muttering, but he did not hear. So he looked up at everyone and smiled. “I am not good, let you wait for me.” When he saw everyone still standing without moving, he raised his voice: “Are we not going?”
The servant of the patriarch has been waiting for a long time. He immediately stepped out and led the way. Mulun and Cao Hook realized that they have been late for the banquet, so they just hurriedly followed after the servant.
Qianqian tapped the deel that he left in the yurt onto Yueqiao’s chest. Then walked away with Ahwu. Ahwu hooked her arms. The two whispered and chuckled. Yueqiao scratched his head then followed at the back. He was watching these people in front of him. His heart was fulfilled with some kind of unity that he never have before. He silently counting the figures of these people, with a mouthful of smile, whispering: “This is Papa, this is my little sister, Aunt Mu…” when he counted to Qianqian, he couldn’t help but stumbled… “This is… this is…” He this is this is for half a day, then eventually smiled and said: “The fool’s head!”
The patriarch saw that Mulun has come, he was very happy. He immediately pull her sitting in his table as well with Cao Hook. The mothers greeted and talked to Mulun. The patriarch went back to take after Yueqiao and Qianqian. He patted on their shoulders, hold their hands, embraced and laughed a few times. He told them to sit with his granddaughters and grandsons. So three young brothers pulled Yueqiao to their side. And several girls took Qianqian and Ahwu to their side. Once they just sat down, the music rose again. Some were pulling strings, some were playing Huqin, some were blowing flutes, Some were knocking drums. The music was frisky and bold, naturally unrestrained like the horses on the plain. Young men and young women quickly raised from their seats, holding hands together, dancing surrounding the campfire. Their dance were also bouncy and dashing, showing passionate hearts in their nature.
Yueqiao and Qianqian were gazing at each other through flames and the dancers’ long sleeves. For a long time, they have no action. Cao Hook sat next to Mulun, but he couldn’t understand their dialogue, so he changed his attention to see Yueqiao and Qianqian. He has just drunk the special cup of tea today offered by Qianqian. He considered, if she was not interested in Yueqiao, for a Han woman, in any case she wouldn’t be so impudent. But the two are so far apart, until when they will be really together? When he thought of this, he waved Ahwu. Ahwu saw that Dad was calling her, she slipped from the girls to him. Cao Hook said something to her ear. Ahwu burst into giggle, nodded, then sneaked away from the banquet. Cao Hook looked at the back of Ahwu, thought: “Tonight is the best chance, I could ask the Patriarch to be the matchmaker. With his status, the Island’s master should approve. Then even I died I would be at peace.”
After a long while, Ahwu has not yet come back. the banquet was in the upsurge. The grandchildren of the patriarch surrounded Yueqiao and Qianqian, urging then to dance together along the music. Qianqian was a bit shy, thinks: how can I dance in front of people like a big fool? Just thinking so, she saw the big fool of Yueqiao actually swayed his head, his waist and legs upon the long sleeves of deel, intoxicated in the music with the brothers. Qianqian couldn’t help but chuckling. With a push of the sisters, Qianqian was unconsciously dancing boldly too.
Cao Hook watched the two mixed in the group of brothers and sisters, singing and dancing, he was consoled: It must be the blessing of Elaine, so I could reunite with Bendt in my life, if tonight….. I could… thinking of that, he looked around again, wondering why Ahwu had gone for so long. He then stood up, left the banquet, back to the yurt to find her.
Cao Hook walked along the lake, the music of the camp gradually faded out. In June, the wilderness at night was still chilly. He walked faster unintentionally, sooner he returned to the yurt. The yurt was dark. Where is Ahwu? Did she come back? He flipped the curtain, there was no one inside! Cao Hook shouted: “Ahwu! Ahwu!” Suddenly, his experience of rivers and lakes told him that something is not good!
He kicked an object in front of the yurt. He looked down, picked it up. It was a shoe, a leather shoe of Ahwu. His heart pounded when he saw a black shadow flashing in the bush. Cao Hook chased after it without thinking. When he turned into the hillside, he picked up another shoe of Ahwu. His heart pounded again: this is a trick to lure the enemy. Ahwu must have fallen into the hands of villains.
On the hillside, apart from the woods, there was a sound of rustling, but no motion. he hatefully said: “What kind of sneaking vicious coward you are! I hate this kind of rat in my life. Hey! What are you afraid of?” Then, he jumped out of the woods, walking onto the hills. He immediately saw a black shadow by the river, holding something in his left hand, standing statically. Cao Hook then heard a scream: “Dad! Go away!” It was Ahwu. Cao Hook hurriedly leapt to rescue, but two black shadows slammed out in the air. One with eagle’s claws swept to his shoulder. One threw a red whisker rope around his neck. Cao Hook’s left hand was twisted and right hand was scratched by the claws of a man. Two of them glanced at each other in the air. The man was the despicable Duan hunling. When Cao Hook just landed, Weng wrapped around his neck with the red whisker rope. Weng jumped back and forth a few times over his head to make sure he was totally trussed up. This red-whisker rope was made of red silk spit from the blue silkworms of Dali, and it was extremely flexible and tough. One was tied up with it, whatever he struggled to pull, it didn’t break. He sighed with resent: “If I didn’t lose my internal strength for now. How could this whisker rope tie me? ”
Duan hunling was wondering: With the internal force of this old thief, how can this red whisker rope not break?
Duan hunling squinted, then kicked his back. Cao hook fluttered on the ground without any resistance. Duan hunling still didn’t believe. He slammed his shoulder with palms several times to make sure that he is really unable to defend. Well! seemed like he didn’t lie about that. Duan hunling was surprised but impassive. He was just standing and watching him using up all his strength, by grabbing, pulling, stretching, even mediating, but seems that nothing is work for him now. He eventually vomited a mouthful of blood for pushing himself too much. Duan hunling finally believed in him, laughed: “Cao Hook! How could you exhaust your internal force? you wasted my exquisite plan. I spent so much though was actually superfluous. I swear if you didn’t die in my hands tonight, I will changed my surname of yours.” He then laughed joyfully for a while. After he finished laughing, he pulled out the machete, pointing at Cao Hook. Cao Hook raised his eyelids, glared at him, said: “Do it! Your end won’t be better than mine.”
Duan hunling blinked, his eyes were hollow, his face was darkened and emotionless. He swept with the nine rings machete in one shot. The blade slanted from the forehead of Cao Hook to his left chest. In a click, he fell.
Duan hunling slid the machete back to sheath, without looking at him anymore. Weng saw Cao Hook died so fast, he retrieved his red whisker rope. And Bai also released Ahwu. The three brothers joined and walked together without talking, directly to the woods.
In the camp, music was slowing down. They were enjoying the feast. With the breeze of early summer night, Yueqiao noticed that Ahwu and Cao Hook have both left the camp. They have not returned until now. He felt something strange, then he took a chance to sneak away. Qianqian saw that he also left, so she made an excuse to leave the crowd, hurriedly followed him. Yueqiao was walking fast. He felt something creeping. When he returned to the yurt, he found nobody. When he went out the yurt, he saw Qianqian was coming. They just have eye contacted, a crispy bell rings passed along a cold breeze, Qianqian was frightened with this familiar sounds. She remembered one person. She has no time to doubt. Another cry from the bush came soon after the rings of bell. It was Ahwu. Qianqian and Yueqiao immediately rushed into the bushes.
After running for a while, Qianqian used light power to fly through the woods, turned into the hillside. She saw Ahwu, crying on one person’s body. Not far from there, three black shadows were walking away. Qianqian then used the cloud jumps tossed over the three men, blocked their way in front. She looked at them with grudge: “What was uncle Cao against with you? Why do you just have to put him to death ?”
Duan hunling sneered and said: “You are not worthy to ask me such a question?”
Qianqian knows that she is not their opponent, but she can’t let them walked away like this. From her sleeves, she slipped out the dagger, thrust to Duan hunling sneakily. The silver blade waved on his eyes. He was only dodging without attacking. Suddenly he grabbed the wrist of Qianqian, said sternly: “We are here tonight to revenge for our brother. It was the most righteous act. Cao Hook paid his life for what he did. He deserved it.”
After speaking, he twisted her wrist and slammed her shoulder. But she hold the dagger tightly. It didn’t dropped. Duan hunling gazed at the dagger intensively, his eyes were getting vague. In a moment, He pushed and released her. Qianqian retreated a few steps with the dagger still in hand. She was surprised why he didn’t hurt her, when he was able to. He then claimed: “Tonight, I let you go. But If you let me see you again, don’t blame me for being ruthless.”
With the words, the three dash out of the woods as the meteors fell into the night.
Yueqiao ran madly and finally turned into the hill. The cries of Ahwu was getting clear, and it gradually became sobbing. Yueqiao gasped, step by step walking to the side of Ahwu. He saw Cao Hook, Lying on the damp grass with his arms wide opened, face to the sky, eyes were closed like sleeping. A long bloody mark from his eyebrow to heart was clearly visible. The blood has already solidified. Yueqiao fell his kneel to the gound. His body was shaking, but he did not cry. The black cross in his collars dangling out, posed on his chest. Ahwu finally quitted crying, and the two stayed by his body, as if they were in a nightmare.
On the following day, Mulun hold a simple ritual for Cao Hook in accordance with the JingJiao ceremony. The patriarch’s servant sent two new blankets, wrapped the body of Cao Hook, buried in the frozen grassland. While Yueqiao was shoveling the soil into the tomb. Qianqian took the dagger to carve the tombstone. She carved Cao Hook his name, then looked at Ahwu. Ahwu said, “My Dad is from Gusu, Wu County. Qianqian put the words of Gusu Wu County next to his name. But she think it is still too simple, so she put the year he died. When Ahwu saw it, she said : “The birth year is unknown.” Qianqian listened to the birth year is unknown, her eyes abruptly turned watery, and then she could not continue.
At this time, Uncle Cao’s grave was filled with soil. Yueqiao took the tombstone from Qianqian’s hand, stood it on the grave. The three kneeled and bowed three times. Hence, Yueqiao asked: “Did he… has any last words?”
Ahwu affirmed: “Yes.” then said without a break: “He said that I have been unrighteous in my life. It is a matter of time to end like this. You don’t have to avenge for me. I know where I am going.”
Ahwu said with tearful eyes. Yueqiao listened, stood up but he didn’t know where to go. Qianqian looked around the scattered tombstones of Han soldiers, she whispered: “Uncle Cao won’t be too lonely here!”
The breeze was sloppy, and the lake was undulating. Suddenly, there was noise from the underground as if there were thousands of horses running upon. Everyone stood up and looked at each other, hold their ears to listen. Not very long, from the valley a horse was galloping across the grassland, a knight was riding it passing in front of them. He was holding a flag of Gaochang. He stopped at the patriarch’s camp, quickly jumped down from the horse, handed a letter to him. The patriarch immediately read it attentively, then he collected his family, kneeled together to this knight who was holding this special letter. At this time, a four horse carriage squadron stepped forward from the valley. Some Han Chinese, dressed up as officers, sitting inside the carriages, followed by dozens of military officers, all of a sudden matching in the plain. Behind them was a group of people, hundreds of them, all in white cloaks, moving slowly on foot. Everyone was amazed. Who are these people? Why are they coming? Mulun suddenly rushed forward and shouted: “The eight guardians!”
When everyone heard that, they noticed that among those white-cloaked people were the eight guardians whom helped Mulun regained the seven color glass cup in Dongting. Didn’t they return to Kaifeng? But Why? How could this people appear on this desolated grassland without a sign? Mulun was flustered when she saw the crimped face expression of the eight guardians. She has speculated what had happened. When the eight guardians and more than a hundred white cloaked monks passing by her, they clasped their hands and bowed towards her. Mulun immediately exerted herself, clasped hands and bowed back to them. The atmosphere was heavy and solemn, almost breathtaking. Qianqian, Ahwu, and Yueqiao were all standing aside, did not dare to move or talk.
The squadron finally entered the grassland and stopped by the lake. Among them, a Han Chinese officer who sitting on the carriage, holding a scroll of golden silk, walked towards Mulun, under the guide of a military officer of Gaochang. Mulun was cautious. She just clasped and bowed. When the officer looked at Mulun, he opened the scroll in his hand and said, “You are the bishop of Daqin Jing Jiao! Please immediately take the attention from the Empress of the Great Song.”
Thereupon, more than two hundard white-cloaked monks of Jing Jiao have been stationed behind Mulun. Mulun sternly led them to kneel. Then the Han Chinese officer recited the imperial decree: “The Empress considered, under the legislation and the righteousness of the Great Song, reopening the Daqin Temple could be initiating the chaos and violation. The ceremony is lost in the wild, the road floats in the sea, and it is not allowed to be in the same way. Therefore, the special task is to return the seven colors glass cup of the sacred objects. Grant horses and white cloaks to monks of Jing Jiao Returned two hundreds and twenty-seven of them from the Captial to the west of the Tianshan Mountains. Returned them to the Daqin where they came from. Abandoned the ancestral temples in the Central Plains and enshrined them in execution. There must be no mistakes of carrying out the mission, by the delgation of foreign affairs of the Great Song.”
After reading the sacred decree, Mulun led the monks of Jing Jiao, recieved: ” The greatest gratitude to her majesty of the Empress of the Great Song.”
Mulun has just stood up, the Han officer handed the sacred decree and returned the seven colors glass cup to her. He said: “I am the officer of foreign affair of the Great Song, Zhang Fushou. I took her majesty order to escort the JingJiao monks up to here. I will set up my camp on the north side of the lake, if there was any need for you, please come to my camp and discuss the matter. I will try my best to serve.” After that, he sighed and then asked: “After three days, Can you be ready?”
Mulun hold the seven colors glass cup prudently, replied, “Many thanks for Officer Zhang.”
Zhang Fushou bowed slightly and smiled, then led the civil officers and military officers to the camp which was still under built. For a while, on the grassland, people and horses, carriages and tents, campfires and flags, created a spectacular landmark of such a desolated bareland.
Qianqian looked back at Yueqiao, found that he was not there. She didn’t even notice when he walked away. It was difficult to spot him in such a crowded market. Suddenly she saw a person walking into the woods alone. It was him. Qianqian then applied the light power, instantly moved forward. She jumped over his head, landed right in front of him. Yueqiao was slightly shocked, but more was annoyed, said: “What a beautiful cloud jumps! I have seen it many times, aren’t you bored.”
Qianqian was reminded that he had lost all the martial arts. She actually shouldn’t use it at this time. She was about to pat his shoulder to comfort him, but let him shook away, and shouted: “Don’t touch me!” Qianqian freezed her hand in the air, looked at him innocently. Yueqiao immediately grinned and hold her hand, said: “Let’s go!”
The two walked slowly on the path. They went to the red plum tree, the tree was already full of leaves, and no more flowers. They passed through the cave where they had been hidden for half a year. The cave was full of ashes, bones and decay. It looked disgusting. Qianqian was feeling vomiting. Yueqiao quickly said: “Don’t see anymore!” He took her hand ran into the woods, unintentenally, they went to the protruding rock near the cliff where Qianqian was standing at her last bliss. They sat side by side, looking at the peaks and the hanging waterfall, pouring the melting spring into the valley.
Yueqiao asked: “He… my father is a bad person? Why should he said such a thing before he died?”
Qianqian knew that the sudden death of uncle Cao has dealt a heavy blow to him. To these questions he asked, she has to answer carefully: “Uncle Cao is certainly not a bad person, but sometimes good people will do something bad.”
Yueqiao asked like a child: “What bad things did he do?”
Qianqian heard about the deeds of Cao Hook when he was with the Qinglong gangs. Although she hesitated to tell the truth, she couldn’t lie to him either, said gently: “…he once killed some innocent people.” Yueqiao sunk his heart where he was silent for a long while, then coldly said: “If he was, I am also not a good person either.”
Qianqian stared at him with smile, thought: If he was not a good person, there will be no any good people in the world.
Yueqiao continued: “I followed Luqiao, my third brother, working for Master at the age of thirteen. The so-called work was actually to take care the opponents and the people offended my master. Usually, just to kill. I don’t know how many of them deserved to die, you know my master. He killed hundreds of innocent. I remembered the first man I killed was a Turkic man with big beard. I didn’t feel much but sometimes Master asked us to kill some unarmed women and children. Luqiao always left me with those evil looks. He took care those vulnerables. Once, I was dealing with a man with a machete scar on his face. Luqiao chased his four wives and eight children. I saw him killed them all in a blink of eye. I was so upset with him that I didn’t talk to him for a few days. Luqiao said that even if I didn’t kill them, Master will send others to kill. If it fell on the hands of Fengqiao and Leiqiao, It would be even worse.”
Yueqiao stopped to look at Qianqian. She seemed bored to hear this kind of things, then he changed his tone: “Well! Whatever, each time after killing people, Luqiao and I went to the grape ditch to find the big butt girls…”
Speaking of this, Qianqian widely opened her eyes, stared at him of an unbelievable expression. Yueqiao smirked, then corrected: “It was… .. Luqiao went to the grape ditch to find the big butt girls, and I was playing games, drinking wine with those sisters, whoever lost the game, took off…” He deliberately stopped, peeked at Qianqian first, saw her cheeks was blown and mouth was pouting, but eyes were full of curiosity. Yueqiao mysteriously said: “Then… took off the socks ….. scratch the bottom of the feet.” The words were just finished, Qianqian giggled pleasantly. Yueqiao made her so happy, but himself was full of sorrows.
Qianqian noticed that, she laughed, giggled was trying to please him. But unlikely it worked. When he was looked so sad, she was feeling hurt too. She took a breathe after a long pause, said: “Yueqiao, go to Songhu Island with me! My father was also the master of internal strength. He is certainly not worse than Miaoyin. I believed he can help you break through the acupuncture points sealed by him… ”
Yueqiao listened patiently until she finished. He was so thankful for her goodness. But he said firmly: “You are as innocent as Aunt Mu. For what the Island’s master will spend his life time internal strength to save a disciple of Miaoyin?”
Qianqian was like Mulun. They didn’t give up easily, said: “You haven’t tried it yet, how do you know that he won’t?”
Yueqiao was very sure he won’t. Although he had lost all the martial arts, but he didn’t lost his mind. He didn’t want to be regretted when it was too late. Going back to Central Plains or going to Songhu Island as a traitor of icy Jade Palace? I am not that foolish and ignorant yet. he thinks. But, Qianqian wouldn’t understand.
However, Yueqiao didn’t want to disappoint her, so he said briskly : “I am not going back to Songhu Island with you, instead, I would rather go out of the Tianshan Mountains. Maybe I will be lucky to meet some odd men with special power to save my life…”
Qianqian listened seriously. She knows the character of her father. He has always been apathetic for the unjust in the rivers and lakes, he would never be involved in the foulness of Miaoyin and his disciple. Then she nodded, smiled, responded positively: “That isn’t a bad idea! We can go together with Aunt Mu, out of the Tianshan Mountains. Maybe we will really meet some odd people..”
She sounded crazy and unrealistic. Yueqiao was grateful but annoyed. He stood up before she finished, said: “Who is we? You…” Qianqian was instantly discouraged. She stood up too, facing him, glaring him, see what else he wanted to say to break her heart.
Yueqiao has already heart-broken, as he has to say: “You go back to Songhu Island.”
Qianqian stared at him, knowing that he said that was all good for her, but when she thought of they have to part from now, it was unbearable. For a moment she was tearful. Yueqiao saw that, he immediately took his eyes off, pull something from his belt, handed to her and said: “I have long wanted to give you back.”
Qianqian saw it, it was the handkerchief. She thought it has been lost. she took it back and felt nothing for it. She said, “If it was lost, why did you pick it back for me?”
Yueqiao smiled bitterly: “You took it more important then your life, didn’t you? Don’t dropped it again! I can’t follow your ass all day, pick up this and that for you anymore.” After saying that, he turned around and leave. Just walked away not far, he heard Qianqian called: “Yueqiao!”
Yueqiao had no choice but look back. Seeing her standing in the wind, lifting the handkerchief up with one hand, then she just let go. The handkerchief was immediately blown by the wind to the direction of Yueqiao, happened to pass by his hair on the temples, and fell into the cliff behind him. In a moment, the time was stopped, the clouds, the wind, the waterfall, were just silent. Yueqiao and Qianqian stood apart about ten feet. He can point out her smile and the flying corner of her deel. Yueqiao was surged with passion from heart. He strode against the wind, back to her, grabbed her into his embrace. It took a long time before he could calm himself down to release her. After the two were deeply affectionate, he said what he had said before: “Go back to Songhu Island!”
When it finished, he turned and left, Qianqian was helplessly watching his back, following his footsteps, walked down the hill. Her heart was still filled with his heat, but the chill was in between them.