From Taibai Mountain to Songhu Island, it usually took only three or four days on foot. Qianqian now was moving like an arrow. In the force of grief, she moved day and night with the help of light power. It took her less than two days to return home.
Qianqian stopped at the gate in front of the great river, looked up to the nine peaks of Songhu. The peaks were sharp and steep, wearing the afterglow with their shadow floated. The nothingness appeared to was left out from the dusty world. Qianqian walked in the evening haze through the bridges and caves. She went through the Luomei waterfall, in which she missed her mother whom she has never met. She crossed the Yuesong bridge, thought of her evergreen love that has far gone. After passing the silver fox road, across the swallow river, she got on the bridges of nine swords. On the nine swords platform, there were nine bridges crisscrossed. Under the bridges, water was diverted into a pool, grown nine different kinds of flowers and plants for different seasons. Now were lotus with their board leaves and green buds in the early summer. Here was the place where the island masters practiced swords, but Qianqian has never seen anyone ever practiced here. The nine swords were also known only for their names of mysterious legend in the rivers and lakes. It was said that the seventh generation of the island master, that was, the grandfather of Ren Wanli, Ren Tingyun, defeated the eight famous swordsmen of the Eight Great Schools, including the uncle of Guo Shangtian of Qingcheng school, with these nine swords. But since then, the nine swords had never appeared again. Ren Wanli has never worn sword either. Therefore, in the rivers and lakes. it was speculated that the nine swords had been lost before Ren Wanli.
Qianqian walked on the stone steps to the top of the Huaiyu Peak where was the habitation of Ren Wanli. He lived alone here for more than a decade. Sometimes he shut himself here for several months. No one had ever seen him. Qianqian and her sisters lived in the huts below the cliff, facing the study room of their father, in between with a stone bridge, called cold pine. Under the bridge, there were waterfalls hanged on the abyss.
In the hut, the firewood was crackling. Qianqian slowly moved to the door, gently pushed the door opened. The room was dim, and a woman was seen under the candle light. About fifty years old, leaning against the window, doing some needlework. When she saw a figure at the door, she stood up and said gently, “Is it you, Qianqian?”
Once Qianqian heard her calling, she ran in the room, fell under her feet and started crying. She wailing off all the grievances, all the scourges and woes of these years. After wailing enough, she whimpered and sobbed. The woman touched her hair softly, said: “Hey! You naughty girl! Where have you been all these times?”
Qianqian took off the black cloak, stopped sobbing, but a doubt raised in her mind that she couldn’t wait to ask. She wiped clean her tears, looked up at the woman, asked seriously: “Aunt Mi, you have to tell me honestly… am I not a daughter of dad?”
Aunt Mi, surname Zhou, was a nanny of Qianqian. Her family has been working for Songhu Island since grandfather. She herself was grown up in Songhu Island too. She served Qianqian’s mother since she came to the island. When the madam passed away, she was consigned to take care her daughter. She loved Qianqian like her own. Perhaps, too pampered, she was developed to be capricious.
Listened to her question, she immediately shook her head and laughed: “You stupid girl, always asked this kind of oddity. If you were not the daughter of Island Master, to whom could be? Your temperament is as same as the Island Master. Both are straight outside and bended inside.”
Qianqian felt a bit settled, but not satisfied yet, asked again: “Why do all of my eight sisters, their names started with Xi, but do not I alone?”
Aunt Mi laughed first before she explained: “Isn’t that I said you are bended inside? Ok! for this question, it was a long story. Before you were born, the Island Master thought that this time must be a boy, so he decided a name of a boy for you. It was Qianli, means thousand miles. The Island Master said, the best horses are only run thousand miles. Why is it necessary to have ten thousand miles as him? He only wished that you can have one-tenth of his achievements. But, unexpectedly, it was a girl. when the midwife asked what is the name for the new born. The Island Master stammered, he said Qian…. so, the midwife asked again, then he said again Qian… that is. The midwife misunderstood that your name is Qianqian….so!”
When Qianqian heard that, she couldn’t help but laughed and said, “It was like this! really! what an easy-going midwife she was!” Just finished laughing, she frowned and asked again: “Why did I later called Ren Zhenyi?”
Aunt Mi replied honestly: “It was like that. The Island Master later thought that he should name you seriously. How could he just let the midwife scribbling? He checked the book and found there was a poem using Zhenyi these two characters. He thought it was good for you. Then On your one-month birthday, you were officially renamed as Zhenyi, but we all used to call you Qianqian, couldn’t change after that.”
Qianqian nodded and thought: If this was the case. Although he didn’t like me, but he prudently renamed me. It is impossible that I am not his daughter!
She felt settled then found herself dungy and smelly. Aunt Mi was handing her a damp towel, said: “You are now back to Songhu Island. No one dares to bully you again.”
Listened to her console, Qianqian was abruptly trembled and teary. Aunt Mi said, “Look at your stinky smelly muddy duckling, I go boil water to bathe you, and then made a few dishes you like the most. Last year, the chestnut harvest was very good. I can make chestnut roast chicken. You love this Jiangnan famous dish…”
While she was saying and preparing fire, she looked back and saw Qianqian has slept on the floor already, she sighed: “Poor child.”
When Qianqian woke up in the morning and found herself sleeping in her own room, on her own bed. She then was sure that she really home. She saw the layout of the room was the same as before. It was also spotless. Must be Aunt Mi cleaned every day. She looked outside the windows, the pines were hanging upside down on the cliff besides the waterfall, with scattered clouds around it.
Qianqian was sitting on the bed, still dazed. Aunt Mi came in and said: “Well! You woke up! Don’t you sleep for a little longer?”
Qianqian scratched her itchy body and said, “How could I sleep in my bed? I obviously fell asleep on the ground.”
Aunt Mi smiled mysteriously and said: “It was the Island Master brought you here. He said that don’t wake you up, just let you sleep.”
“Is it?” Qianqian was excited to hear that was him.
Aunt Mi put down the breakfast and said, “Of course, you are so heavy now, how could I move you?”
Qianqian sat at the table and asked: “Where are Xihui, Xiguang and Xibiao? Why I didn’t see them?”
Aunt Mi laughed then answered: “Of course you didn’t see them. They are all married.”
Qianqian halt the chopsticks and said surprisingly: “Are they? Why? So early! Then I won’t see them anymore?”
Aunt Mi smiled and said: “It was not early, it was late. Don’t you know that? They are almost thirty years old. Is there any daughters got married so late? I am afraid that only the daughters of Songhu Island.”
Qianqian thought that her comments were interesting, she smirked: “Wow! they are that old already? I can’t believe it. Xihui was always fighting with me, without her, there was no more fun here!”
Aunt Mi while was preparing water for bath, said, “Don’t laugh, the next one is you. Look! These things are the gifts from the major schools and great families of the martial arts society, just waiting for you to come back to choose.”
Qianqian now then noticed that by the wall were filled with various sizes of brocade boxes and silk scrolls. Qianqian glanced at them randomly, suddenly she felt pain keenly in her heart. Thinking of what had happened in Taiba mountain, she suddenly trembled, a bird egg on her chopsticks fell off. Aunt Mi looked at her, touched her forehead immediately and asked, “What’s wrong with you? Are you sick?”
Qianqian smiled with red eyes, said: “No, I’ve just missed my sisters.”
Aunt Mi sighed: “Girls eventually have to married and left home. I remembered when they were small, Songhu Island was much livelier! But since the Madam died, your eldest sister Xiyang began to marry, and then one in a year almost. If not because of Xihui, Xiguang were so picky, they couldn’t have waited until recently.”
Qianqian pull the sleeve of Aunt Mi, grimaced and said: “Don’t worried! I am still here. I will not marry. I will stay in Songhu Island forever.”
Aunt Mi laughed and said: “Don’t talk nonsense, be careful let the Island Master hear it. You better hurry up, finish the breakfast and bathe and change clothes, then go to the study room to greet the Island Master!”
Qianqian held a cup of tea, passing the cold pine bridge. The morning clouds were still lingering under the bridge, holding up the peaks, made them really looked like islands on the sea. Qianqian stopped and watched, reminded her the sisters were leaping and tumbling between the crests with the ropes when they were practicing the light work. Every time when she saw dad was watching by his window, she was particularly attentive. Just wished that he would have praised her, but he never. When she was told that it was he held her back to the room last night. She was still excited because he had never been so close to her. Thinking of that, she has already come in front the study room. She glanced inside through the window, knocked on the door and said: “I am Qianqian, come and greet you!”
He didn’t answer as usual. Qianqian entered the front hall by herself. She looked around, the layout was still the same, with a wooden table, two wicker chairs, that is! He was always hiding in the back hall, where she has never been. Through the bamboo fence, she saw his figure faintly, sitting in between three sides of bookshelves, reading with his head down.
When he talked, his voice was low, but very loud. He said, “What a unworthy daughter you are! Where have you gone for making trouble? You will be not going anywhere from now.”
Qianqian knew that he would never have good words to her, but she didn’t want to argue with him since she has just come back. She stood there miserably, idly, skimming around without purpose. Ren Wanli unexpectedly turned around, walked to the bamboo fence, said: “You will not be allowed to step out of Songhu Island anymore. I have already promised the Nangong family for your marriage. They will come to pick you up as soon as possible. You should be ready!”
Qianqian wanted to yield him, but when she listened he has agreed her marriage all by himself. She was very angry and said: “What is the Nangong family? Who am I going to marry? You have not told me yet! Nangong family is so big, am I going to marry them all?”
Ren Wanli was irritated by her words: “Do you know what are you talking, do you feel shame?”
When he mentioned of shame, Qianqian instantly teary, but hold back, said with grudge: “I don’t feel shame? If it was not because of you, I would not become like this? Is all a good deed done by your enemy?”
After that, she slammed the tea cup on the table, turned around, rushed out of the study room.
Ren Wanli walked out from the back hall, saw the tea cup fell over on the table. Thinking of the last sentence she said, he asked himself doubtfully: “My enemy?”
Ren Wanli has always been free from that. He was not aware of people. Although he knew that there was someone in the rivers and lakes didn’t like him. There were people defied Songhu Island, but he never put these people in heart. There was because he was superb in martial arts. Even there were enemies, he never had trouble with them. So, when he heard that he has enemy, he couldn’t figure out who he was.
When Aunt Mi saw Qianqian rushing back irately, she knew that she must had quarreled with the Island Master. She comforted her: “In fact, the Island Master is very happy that you are back.”
Qianqian sat down harshly, said crisply: “Yes! he can send me off right away, isn’t he?”
When Aunt Mi saw that Qianqian was as childish as before, she smiled and said: “The only wish of the Island Master is that all of your sisters have a good husband.” Qianqian wasn’t paying attention to what she said, she was looking outside the window slackly, then she changed topic: “If you don’t like the Nangong family, you can pick another one… Look! There are so many people who came to propose you, you can always pick what you like!”
Qianqian moved her eyes back to the room, saw a long sword lying among these gifts, appeared to as if they had met before. Qianqian stared at it, slowly walked closer. The long sword looked so familiar, and suddenly her heart was pounding. She picked it up, gazed at it unspeakably sad.
Aunt Mi saw her picking up the long sword, she smiled and said: “What a pity that the long sword is not a proposal gift. It is someone called… Baling…. Mr.Teng….. this person has been to Songhu Island twice, for the first time. It was Xihui received him, the second time he…. came up to here and said that he just wanted to return the sword to you. After he finished, he turned around and left right away. I saw him came all the way here to return the sword. I was trying to invite him to come for a cup of tea. But he didn’t look back, just disappeared like smoke……”
Aunt Mi has been talking so much, but Qianqian was still staring at the sword without responding. She realized that this Mr. Teng who returned this sword must be someone unusual to her. This girl must have a special encounter in the rivers and lakes, that is why she didn’t want to marry the others. Aunt Mi was about to ask her, Qianqian suddenly turned around and said: “Aunt Mi, throw away all these gifts for me!”
Speaking while picking up the sword, she strode out the room blissfully. Aunt Mi shook her head and smiled: “It is not easy to find someone who can fit the temperament of our Qianqian. The Island Master can’t just get anyone for her!”
Qianqian came with the sword to the nine tombs of the ancestors. where was right under the nine peaks. Nine tombs buried nine generations of the Island Masters and their wifes. Qianqian came to her mother’s tomb. On the tombstone, her name Madam Ren, Liu Yiyi was written on one side, with the other side blank for her husband Ren Wanli. They will be buried here together one day. Qianqian was soaked into memories of when she was a child. She always escaped from what she didn’t like to here. Once….
Qianqian had a fight with her eighth sister Xihui. She ran all the way up here, but Xihui was following. When she came over, she saw that little Qianqian was jumping on the top of the tomb. She was very angry. She yelled: “Come down! You come down right away!” Qianqian was looking down to her sister, said:” No! you want to catch me, come up here!” Xihui of cousre would not, she was already sixteen when Qianqian was only six. She was clear that what would be the outcome if she did that. The tombs here were like houses for the dead. They were built to fit a couple living like alive. The tombs were high and wide. Qianqian stood on the top like on the roof of it. She felt she was together with her mother. She felt like mother was still alive. She imagined that mother was living, cooking or sewing inside the house, not the tomb. She wanted her alive so much. But, suddenly, her feet were swept by a bamboo stick. Xihui held a long bamboo stick sweeping her down. Xihui was much stronger and bigger. Qianqian fell on the ground immediately. She studied some light power already, she wasn’t hurt. But Xihui was furious. She jumped on her and slapped her. Qianqian was shocked but didn’t cry. Xihui suddenly looked very sad. She was almost crying. She released her, and said: “I will not tell dad, this time. but you can’t get on there anymore, do you know that?” Qianqian nodded immediately like a fool and then started crying with her sister.
Qianqian now stood in front her mother’s tomb after she has learned the pass of her. She was very confused. She felt that she was much more a stranger to her now than before. She couldn’t understand why she would be in love with such a person like Duan Hunling. She would prefer to die or never born if he was really her biological father.
She held the sword, thinking of what had happened last two years. She was extremely bewildered. Suddenly she pulled the sword and slammed and swayed with all her strength. The internal force inside was pushing her crazily. She was dashing with the sword in the air like there were full of enemies. Suddenly she heard that a person walking closer to her. She thought it was Ren Wanli, but when she turned around, she was stunned. A man in front of her, looked at her with a pair of sluggish eyes of blood. It was him, Duan Hunling.
Qianqian quickly slashed the sword and shouted: “What are you doing here?”
Duan Hunling has never set his feet on Songhu Island. Today, he didn’t know where the courage came from. He went all the way up here. Now he saw Qianqian, but he has nothing to say. He hated and regretted, and now he wanted to fix it, said solemnly: “I am here to ask you to forgive.”
Qianqian slammed the sword and shouted: “I don’t want to forgive you, you get out of here right now!”
Duan Hunling strode forward, madly said: “Daughter, you don’t have to be afraid, I have killed Bai and Weng. No one knows what happened that day.” He said while his hand swayed in the air with a bag, one bloody human head instantly rolled out, dropped down in front of Qianqian. She was already incensed when he called her daughter. Now she saw the head, she was almost collapsed. She screamed to Duan Hunling: “You are crazy! You are sick! You keep making mistakes and you never repented. I think you are absolutely worthless! Why don’t you kill yourself too?”
Qianqian hated this person from bones, even if he really died in front of her, she would not even frown. However, Duan Hunling was so brazen. He stepped forward and said: “You don’t have to forgive me now, but there is one thing you must make it clear.”
Qianqian stumbled back, and he tearfully took out a letter from his collar and said: “This is written by your mother, she said that you are my own flesh and blood, you are my daughter, you read the letter and will understand…”
He kept saying that she was his daughter, Qianqian was severely anxious and annoyed. She shouted: “You are nonsense! I will kill you if you said it again!” She was too agitated that she couldn’t even raise the sword. She fell the sword down and inserted it into the soil.
Duan Hunling looked calmer than her. He took a few steps back when he handed the letter out. He said resolutely, “How difficult is it to kill me? If you wanted. But you have to read the letter first before you kill me!”
Qianqian stared at the letter only a second, then raised the sword, picked the letter with the tip, swayed it into the air, and smashed it with the blade. The letter was instantly shredded, flying in the dusk like gray moths. Duan Hunling was standing surrounded with the ashes of the only letter from his beloved woman. Every word that Yiyi has said in the letter was already imprinted in his mind, but nothing seemed was believable and matter now.
Suddenly, a few notes of Qin was tuned from the distance, Duan Hunling frighteningly looked up, he saw that where he was standing in front was actually a tomb. He looked at the tombstone, that was written Liu Yiyi but under the family name of Ren. He was finally aware that she was a wife of Ren Wanli. It has been the fact for thirty years. Even after she died, it wasn’t changed and it would be forever.
The tuning of the strings was becoming a song, and a man holding a Qin was appeared in the pine forest. Duan Hunling was terrified. He whispered tremblingly: “Ren Wanli!”
He stepped back, looked around fearfully, suddenly he turned around and ran down the hill like a loser dog.
Qianqian put down the sword, and found that obnoxious head was still on the ground. She felt disgusting. She simply picked a stone and shot it. It bounced up and rolled down to the cliff. For a long time, there was no an echo.
Qianqian closed her eyes, listening to the Qin. She was gradually appeased, and reminded all the swordsmanship she has learned last two years. She gracefully danced with the sword of Xiangzhi, recalling the Dongting in the spring. She was fluttering and soaring along with the melody of the Qin. Ren Wanli saw Qianqian was practicing with the swords, he was surprised and inspirited. He swayed his fingers on the seven strings earnestly and swiftly. He has never seen such a beautiful swordsmanship for a long time. He was wondered how Qianqian could manage this kind of skills, that so fabulous and dynamite. He was watching joyfully. He abruptly pressed stop the Qin, held it in his arm, fluttered out the pine forest, landed under Qianqian’s sword. Qianqian was unaware. She continued to stab and dash. The two leapt over high among the tombs, swaying swords and sleeves without leaving their shadows. Qianqian hit the Qin with the sword tip. Ren Wanli retreated and she did it again. Ren Wanli quickly lifted the Qin. But her sword has inserted between the seven strings, picked up and down, made a rhyme like a song. Ren Wanli jumped off, Qianqian followed, the two were like playing with the sword and music. They looked happily and foolish. Nothing else was bothering them anymore. The fragments of the rhyme eventually became music. Suddenly the seven strings were broken, then it was the end of it. Qianqian has just retreated her sword, Ren Wanli glared at her and sneered: “Your swords are intricate and impure, your internal strength is reverted and jumbled. If you were going on like this, you will eventually get mad.”
His words were just finished, Qianqian turned over and fainted. Ren Wanli immediately flew to catch her with his right hand while his left hand was still holding the Qin. He caught her waist before she fell. Ren Wanli looked at her face in coma. Her nose was straight, and lips was tightened, looked so unconvinced and uncompromising. He sighed: “This girl is too untamed, it is not a blessing.”
The fifth chapter is finished