Chapter 6: Songhu Island
(1) Marriage (2) Temptation (3) Studying (4) Instructing (5) Nine Swords (6) succeeded (7) Qingcheng
Qianqian fainted and slept for three days. When she woke up, she found herself in her own room surrounded with ethereal smoke of medicine. Aunt Mi was sitting by the bed, holding a tea bowl, smiled and said: “Qianqian, take the medicine.”
Qianqian sat up faintly, watched the tea as black as ink, frowned and asked: “What kind of medicine is this?”
Aunt Mi comforted her and said: “Don’t be afraid, it is just a tonic.”
Qianqian heard that it was tonic, hastily asked: “But why? Should I take tonic? Am I?”
“Are you what?” Aunt Mi asked while looking at her so flustered. With a bit of reproachful tone, she said: “What the hell were you doing in the outside? The Island Master was so worried about you after he had diagnosed your pulse…”
Suddenly Qianqian felt so scared and refused: “I don’t want to take this medicine.” She thought that she was pregnant as the way her mother did. Ren Wanli would not keep her child in order to maintain the good name of family. The medication must not be just a tonic. She was so sad that when she believed in the moment Ren Wanli must not her father because he was so cruel to her. Then she grabbed Aunt Mi’s hand and cried: “Oh, you lied to me, did you?”
Looked at Qianqian acted so nonsense, Aunt Mi was very worried, asked: “What did I lie to you?”
Qianqian must clarify it today. She asked seriously: “Do you know that there is a person named Duan Yelang?”
Aunt Mi Heard that she suddenly asked about this person, her hands were shaken, the medicine splashed onto the bed. She put down the tea medicine first, and exclaimed: “Has this person finally come?”
After Liu Yiyi gave birth to Qianqian, she hemorrhaged. Although Ren Wanli was well-versed in medical practice, he has exhausted all kinds of method to save her but it didn’t work. Liu Yiyi knew that her life was not lasting. When she noticed that Wanli’s attitude toward her new born was uncaring, she was afraid that once she died, her child would be dejected. Therefore, she wanted to return her to Yelang. In the night before she passed away, she secretly wrote a letter and begged Aunt Mi bring it to Master Zhitong of the Baiyun Temple in Taibai Mountain.
Aunt Mi held Qianqian’s hands and whispered: “Madam told me that you are not a child of our Island Master, but of a man named Duan Yelang. I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe it. She begged me to take care of you, oh! I saw that you were so pitiable, and you shouldn’t be blamed. So, I had not left you for a second after your birth. Until you were one year old to be weaning, I found an excuse to bring the letter to the Baiyun Temple. The day I left, when I passed through the waterfall of Luomei. I didn’t expect the Island Master was there waiting for me. I had no choice but handing over the letter to him. I thought that he would tear the letter, but he only glimpsed at it and returned to me. He just told me to be careful on the road and come back quickly.”
When she said about that, she was repented: “Oh! It was actually better the Island Master torn the letter off, I have been worried about that person would come to Songhu Island to take you away for the past sixteen years. Fortunately, he has never been in here…” When Aunt Mi told about this, she was tearful: “How much I wish that you have never known about him, but…”
When Qianqian was listening, she sobbed and fell into her arms, just like when she was wronged ever.
Aunt Mi wiped her tears, said thoughtfully: “You have grown up now, do you want to accept him, you decide, but you must understand that the Island Master was never unkind to you. He just felt hurt whenever he saw you. He deliberately alienated you to avoid thinking of Madam.”
Qianqian shed tears, stunned, sad, nevertheless was callous by knowing all the truth. Her heart was hollowed out, and felt nothing now. Suddenly, a figure standing in front of the door, scolded: “Why don’t you take the medicine?”
Qianqian looked up and found that it was Ren Wanli. She was silently watching him but no action for a while before she stammered: “I am… I am…”
Ren Wanli stood thirty feet away from the bed yet his voice was still clearly heard for he spoke with dantian. He said: “What did you do? When you were outside, except with Lv Jiannan, with whom you have practiced martial arts secretly? to become such meridian retrograde, yin and yang reverting, and the five elements relapsing!”
After listening to these questions, Qianqian was baffled and asked: “What?”
Ren Wanli angered: “What are you still asking?” but seeing her sickening face of blue and red, he retrieved his anger, softened his tone and said: “You have to take this medicine now. And come to my study room tomorrow, I will teach you the formal internal healing methods. After saying that, he just turned around and walked away.
Qianqian was vacant for a moment, but at least she knew that this medicine was really a cure but nothing else. Thus, Aunt Mi picked up the tea bowl and touched it, said: “The medicine is cold, I take it to warm it up.”
Qianqian briskly stopped her and said: “No necessary, I will eat it now.” She said that at the same time, reached out and took the tea bowl, poured it into her mouth, finished it in one shot, then smiled and said: “Aunt Mi, Hey, is there anymore?”
Aunt Mi saw her recovered and back to normal so soon so sudden, she was relieved and laughed: “Yes, tomorrow.”
In the early morning when the sun still not yet shone on the peaks, Qianqian has come to the front of Ren Wanli’s study room. Before she knocked on the door, she has already heard his voice: “Come in!”
Qianqian pushed the door and stepped into the room, saw Ren Wanli was meditating on the floor with his knees folded. The table and chairs were moved outside of the garden. Qianqian was looking around slackly without a clue, Ren Wanli has opened his eyes and said sternly: “You also sit down.”
Qianqian then do what he said, sat herself down on the mat in front of him. Right after she pulled her legs together, Ren Wanli swiftly pushed her shoulder and turned over her back. He promptly punched her meridians of Ren Duo. Qianqian felt chest pain severely after a while of working. Ren Wanli said: “You felt chest pain, cold and sweat, do you?”
Qianqian whispered: “How could it be?”
Ren Wanli asked distantly: “You tell me honestly, what kind of internal skills do you practice, and who taught you?”
Qianqian thought that it has come to this end, she has no way to conceal from him any longer. Then she turned around and told the truth: “It’s the internal method taught by Miaoyin Tianjun.”
Ren Wanli heard that it was the internal works of Miaoyin Tianjun, he was so surprised: “Why did he want to teach you?” Qianqian then told him about roughly how the giant eagle picked her to the Icy Jade Palace from Dongting Lake. But of course, she deliberately removed the section what Miaoyin Tianjun commented about Songhu Island. She said: “He wanted to exchange the swordsmanship of… Lv Jiannan with me…” She almost said master, but she didn’t dare to say in front of Ren Wanli. So, she swallowed back the word “master”, continued: “… that was why he taught me his internal method.”
Ren Wanli now realized that what the enemy she mentioned the other day. He sneered: “You are too naïve. Miaoyin Tianjun hated Songhu Island for his life. How could he do something good for you? What you practiced the so-called internal method which actually cannot be practiced until you have more than ten years’ experience of practicing. The smarter you are, the better you practice, the more internal strength increases, the more harm would do to your body. One day you will suddenly become diverted and die without knowing why.”
Qianqian listened to his explanation, finally she realized that how serious the problem was. She whispered with remorse: “I knew that the old thief would not do good to me.”
Ren Wanli continued: “Fortunately, you are not practicing too deep yet. From now, you have to get up every early morning to practice it with the opposite direction. Remember that to stop before you enter the final breath. If you kept practicing like this, you could offset all the strength you have already practiced.”
Qianqian understood but she asked: “So, doesn’t it also mean I would lose all of the internal strength? Without internal strength, the swordsmanship I have learned would not be able to execute?”
Ren Wanli was startled that Qianqian was so persistently obsessive to martial arts. He strongly remarked: “Do you want martial arts or life?” Looking at her unyielding expression, he slightly mocked: “Your encounters outside these couple years were really extraordinary! In addition to Lv Jiannan and Miaoyin Tianjun, who else have you learned martial arts from? Your swordsmanship is quite magnificent and striking. I have retired for 30 years. I have never seen such a profound swordsmanship. The person who taught you must be somewhat a world class master!”
Qianqian dropped her head and thought: What kind of world class master is Teng Kuanrou? The mural painting styles are really unfathomable, but how could I explain to him all of these weird stuffs? During her hesitating, Ren Wanli stated again: “You don’t want to say, I won’t force you. Everyone has his chance to gain or lose. It is your own destiny. I don’t teach you martial arts but I can’t stop you from learning it. However, you have to know that, one day you will be on your own in the rivers and lakes, you cannot and no longer rely on the name of Songhu Island, do you understand what I mean?”
Even he didn’t state it clear, it seemed that he has no longer blamed her from learning martial arts without his permission. But, when he said that he doesn’t teach her martial arts personally and she has no longer rely on the name of Songhu Island, she sharply felt rejected. She was sour and bitter, she couldn’t help but asked: “Why? Why don’t you teach me martial arts?”
Ren Wanli casually excused: “The martial arts of Songhu Island does not pass on women, you should know that.”
Qianqian was not happy with this answer, she asked again: “But you also taught my eight elder sisters martial arts, but why never you taught me a trick or a stroke?” This question has been in her mind for many years, and today she finally collected courage to ask.
When Ren Wanli did not reply right away, Qianqian answered for him: “Is it because I am not your biological daughter?”
Ren Wanli saw the man came over Songhu Island few days ago. Although he wasn’t clear what the entanglement between them, but it was inevitable that one day she will ask about him. He replied honestly: “I have seen that you were bestowed the talent to learn martial arts from your early age. However, I am afraid that after you grown up, you will become like that person. Your temperament is eccentric and arrogant, I supposed that you will be off the track of goodness. So, I don’t want to provoke your interest of learning martial arts.”
Although Ren Wanli has retired from the rivers and lakes for decades, he still has full influence in the martial arts world. His daughters were all married to famous men from famous families. Sixteen years ago, he had assigned one of his sons-in-law to investigate the background of the man who was supposed to be Qianqian’s father. Knowing that he was a Jinling gang, and even later was expelled for his notorious acts in the rivers and lakes. He recognized her father was such a character, he felt humiliated as well he was to be more prejudiced against Qianqian.
After listening to what his confession, Qianqian was only feeling detached and impassive, she smiled bitterly: “I was always in your mind, a person who will be off the track of goodness?”
Ren Wanli sighed: “You have to know, because you are not my own, I have greater responsibility to ensure that you are happy.” Ren Wanli was trying to be expressive, but Qianqian did not take the way it was, she responded indifferently: “How can you ensure my happiness? By What?”
Ren Wanli naturally answered: “Of course to have a good husband.” Ren Wanli was dashing and carefree when he was young, but his family concept was very traditional. He saw no corresponding reaction from her, then he decided to do it his own: “I have chosen this person for you. It is Nangong Murong from one of the seventh most well-known martial arts family in Luoyang. I have already investigated him. He is a man of all merits, gentle and honest. He is the seventh son at home. He has five brothers. After you married him, you don’t have to worry about the heirs. Moreover, you have seen this person.”
Qianqian has no impression of this person at all, just said reluctantly: “Isn’t he?”
In order to settle her marriage, Ren Wanli was extremely patient. He smiled again and said: “Do you remember that three years ago, you rushed into the Nangong family to make trouble?”
Qianqian shook her head. Whether if she really forgot, or deliberately refused to remember, Ren Wanli continued with a smile: “You have let go of the 300 homing pigeons raised by the Nangong family, and you have also had a fight with Nangong Murong, have you forgotten?”
When it was said that she let go 300 homing pigeons, Qianqian finally got some idea, but she was still frigidly said: “oh! I remembered, Nangong Murong, is that big turtle talking, eating, walking so slow!”
Ren Wanli was so cordially guiding her but did not expect that she would still be unconstrained. He decided to cut it off, spoke with authority: “Marriage is a big event, parents are the masters, no matter whether you agreed or not, the flower sedan of the Nangong family is already on the road, and they will arrive at Songhu Island in a few days. If you didn’t go on the sedan, don’t call me father anymore!”
Qianqian heard that the last sentence he said, her heart was in great pain. She stood up, angrily disapproved: “I can’t marry!”
Ren Wanli also stood up but asked: “Why?”
When she was asked about why, she was tearful and speechless. Looking at the opacity of Ren Wanli, she was inexplicably agitated, she blurted out: “If mother didn’t want to marry you in those days, would you still force her to marry you?”
Ren Wanli was questioned by Qianqian in such a manner, he was shocked, but was not angry. He held on the ache and grief, said somberly: “Why do you want to toss me like this?”
Qianqian instantly gushed with tears. She has never seen him looked so despair. She dropped her head, closed her lips, she was about to give in and promised, but eventually, she desolately said: “Why do you force me like this? ” After saying that, she turned around and dashed out of the study room.
Ren Wanli watched her back until she disappeared at the end of the cold pine bridge. She looked alike her mother so much, but was not her own child. He was always disturbed and unsettled. He wished to marry her quickly, to pay off what he owed to her mother.
After a few days, there was a messenger came to report first, saying that the Nangong family’s flower sedan has entered the zone of Shu. By the day after tomorrow, they will arrive at Songhu Island. The bride was asked to prepare, because the way of returning was far that they have no time to waste. She has to get on the sedan in the best designed time.
After thanked the messenger with pleasure, Aunt Mi hurriedly took out the wedding gown from the trunk and rushed to the Qianqian’s room to report the good news, but seeing her was still dreamy and drowsy, lying on the bed sluggishly, she shook her head and smiled: “The flower sedan of Nangong’s family will arrive soon, are you going to lying yourself on the sedan!”
When Qianqian heard that the flower sedan will arrive soon, she bounced from the pillow and said: “Oh, no! even you have to force me!”
Aunt Mi sighed: “When a man is married, a woman is married, there is always such a day in life. The Island Master surely chose the best man for you.”
Qianqian said with grudge: “But did he ever ask me if I liked it or not?”
Aunt Mi smirked and said: “It doesn’t matter you like him or not. The most important thing is that he likes you!”
Qianqian felt ridiculous to hear such a paradox, jeered: “It’s just like no matter my mother likes him or not, isn’t it?”
Aunt Mi was astonished to hear hers such a disrespectful comment to the Island Master, she immediately looked around to check whether if he suddenly appeared. She pressed the door closed before whispered: “How could you say this? The Island Master has done everything for Madam. It was not his fault but your mother disconnected it.”
Qianqian jumped up from bed, abruptly felt that there was nothing she can believe in this world anymore. What the everlasting love! What the fairy tale couples, were all fake. She could neither forgive Duan Hunling or Ren Wanli. She felt that she hated them both. What different are they? They are the same, no one really cares about my happiness, even Aunt Mi said the same thing! She was getting more and more biased, and felt completely no way out. She doesn’t even want to talk to her anymore. She just rushed out of the room without a word.
Aunt Mi held the wedding dress in her hands helplessly, sighed and regretted: “The Island Master must be desperate. He should know that forcing never work on her.”
As soon as the day after tomorrow, the Nangong family’s ceremonial team has come to the gate of Songhu Island. On the sides of the red saffron sedan, there were a road opening guards on the left, and flag holding guards on the right with drummers. They released firecracker while they were marching, along with a matchmaker swinging her fan by the side of the bridegroom. The rowdy blaring cheery welcoming team in red then rushed up to the unruffled mountain.
From the early morning, Qianqian has faintly heard the noisy music. She was lying on bed without action until suddenly she woke up earnestly. She quickly washed and changed. She put on the red wedding gown which has been hanging on the screen for two days. She sat in front of the mirror, wore the rouge, drew the eyebrows and also printed her lips with cinnabar paper. But after all, she took her sword of Zhangzi and flew out from the window.
Nangong Murong led the welcoming team, looking forward to see his bride blissfully. When he was about to pass the bridge of returning, he saw a shadow of woman standing in total red, blocking his way ahead. He was all in a sudden unprepared.
The clever and experienced matchmaker instantly stepped forward gleefully said: “Wow! Wow! Wow! It turned out to be our new bride. How could you my lady personally welcome our groom? The sedan will arrive in a short time. My dear you just can’t wait for a moment!”
Speaking while laughing, the people besides her couldn’t help but sniggering and giggling too. Nangong Murong was looked a bit embarrassed, but he could see the bride earlier and was also overjoyed. However, Qianqian, the bride did not smile at all. She glimpsed at him and said coldly: “Mr. Nangong! has been a long time.”
Nangong Murong was polite and gentle. He responded slowly: “Miss Ren, it has been three years since last time we met.” He said while he was watching her in the red dress with a bit of red on lips, he suddenly felt dizzy and heart beating. He lowered his head shyly.
Qianqian thought: This person seems to be a gentleman, but I am not innocent. If he married me and found out what it was, I could only end up of insulting myself and him. It would be better to get rid of him right now rather than being regret later.
Then she said: “I am going to ask you a few questions. If your answers did not satisfy me, you will not need to go on to Huai Yufeng. For you can go back and save your time.”
His followers thought that this might be the rules of martial arts world in term of testing the literacy of the new bridegroom, so they were happy to watch the show. They were looking forward to see how their young master respond. Nangong Murong smiled with confidence and said: “Then, Miss Ren, please ask!”
Qianqian held the sword tightly, and asked significantly: “Why are you fond of me?”
What a straight-forward question asked in the public! The followers, guards and matchmaker were all tittering. Though, Nangong Murong was poised and responded generously, said: “Because Miss Ren is beautiful and innocent and kind and lively and lovely.” After saying that, he smiled gently and lowered his eyebrows to avoid looking at her directly, that shown his decency.
Qianqian knew that he was a decent man, but that wasn’t she wanted now. She deliberately walked closer to him, glared at him and tempted: “Oh! That is to say that I am beautiful inside out, right?”
Nangong Murong was discomfited to be asked face to face, he bowed slightly, answered uneasily: “Yes!”
Qianqian was getting impatient. She believed if she didn’t take some action, he would never understand. Thus, she swiftly changed her tone and said hoarsely: “If I scooped your eyeballs out, would you still think I am beautiful?”
Nangong Murong was surprised but he seemed didn’t take it seriously. He looked up at her, calmed himself down, then slowly replied: “I believed that Miss Ren is kind, would never be such ruthless?”
Qianqian was so frustrated to deal with this insensible big turtle. She was out of idea to scare him off: I am afraid if I didn’t really shock him, he would never give up. Then she said reversed: “Mr. Nangong is really handsome and gentle!”
Nangong Murong abruptly heard such a praise from his beloved girl, he was actually overwhelming and mindlessly blushing. He suddenly lost control of himself and let go of his weakness. He stammered only: “I… Ren… Miss… how…” He couldn’t finish a sentence for a long time. This person spoke slowly normally was just fine, but once he was in a hurry or nervous, his words became stuttered. Today, Qianqian teased him intentionally in order to uncovered him. Qianqian saw that it was the chance to take just one more action to get rid of him, then jeered: “But if you became ugly! Do you still dare to marry me?” When the last word came out, everyone was stunned. Nangong Murong was disciplined generally, he did not even know how to deal with such unreasonable offend. He plainly stood like a dummy without moving a step. Qianqian was thwarted, screamed without voice: Why don’t you just go away!
She lost patience completely, yelled at him: “Ok! If you didn’t know? Then I will let you know, right now!” With a slam, she pulled out the sword and jumped up. Everyone startlingly dispersed. They’ve never expected a happy event would cause a bloody disaster. However, as soon as they saw Qianqian pulled back the sword, they immediately splashed into laughers while they were looking at the top of their young master’s head. Nangong Murong felt his long hair was swaying on his shoulders but still he didn’t know what had actually happened. He only felt his top was very cool, then he grabbed a follower hurriedly asked: “What are you laughing at?”
Qianqian has already slid her sword back into sheath. She stood in front of them, looked so indifferent. Nangong Murong was panic, looking around his scattering hair on the ground. He pathetically touched his head, felt like a piercing rough brush. The followers found that their young master was fatally miserable now, they gradually stopped laughing. The matchmaker sighed and kindly took out two bronze mirrors to show him what has really happened. He finally saw his long hair was cut to root, and on the barren top, was depicted a turtle.
Nangong Murong realized that he was crudely insulted. He cried out loud and pointed at his bride, hatefully said: “You… you… bully… me…you…you…are… too…too!”
Finally, he turned around and dashed away instead of completing his sentence. The followers and guards saw that the bridegroom has already darted, only they could do was picking up the flower sedan and ran after him.
Qianqian tediously watched them all gone when felt woeful in heart. She muttered: “I humiliated you under the sun today better than humiliating you in a dark room the other day.” She looked back at the monument stood by the bridge of returning, sighed: “You still have a way back, but I don’t.”
With a glare of sunbeam, she saw someone flashed in the forest on the hill. His shadow blocked the sunlight, it was actually Ren Wanli. He was watching all the event probably, Qianqian thought. He was looking at her but she couldn’t see his face since he was standing against the falling sun. After a while, he disappeared, leaving only the afterglow of the day in a circle of halo.