Turning to the curve of autumn, the colorful leaves began to fall. They were dancing in the wind, tumbling with the water, leaving the spot light of their stage. Qianqian has been reading every day in Ren Wanli’s study room. She has read many books and discussed with him opened mind. It was an amazing discovery that how much knowledge only to know, but not comprehend for a single life. She found the fun of reading of reading randomly without pressure, that made her happy. Ren Wanli has seen her reading passionately though she changed her interest frequently. He never interrupted but only explained when she asked. Today, he finally concluded: ” Which of these books do you most like?”
Qianqian thought for a moment, answered: “The Book of Songs.”
“Why?” Ren Wanli asked.
Qianqian swayed her head to reply: “The poems are resentful but not wrathful. They are sad but not hurt. They are passionate but not lascivious.”
Ren Wanli nodded with compliment then continued to ask: “What about The Doctrine of Mean?”
“What heaven has granted is called the nature. Following the nature is called the path of goodness. Select the goodness and determined, deliberate and then eloquent.”
“What about The Book of Change?”
“I don’t know.” Qianqian suddenly looked baffled. Ren Wanli seemed understood. He patiently waited until she explained: “It seems that there are no rules. Everything can be changed. It’s just up to you. Misfortune, adversity, poverty, success, wealth and happiness, nothing is doomed if based on the theory of change…” She didn’t know how to explicate her thought but she sensed that the bitterness in her heart was gradually diluted after reading for months.
She gazed at Ren Wanli of his tranquil expression. She just smiled and stopped talking.
“What about the Analects of Confucius?”
After reading this book, Qianqian finally realized that where the original lines that Teng Kuanrou always reproached. Then she grinned: “The husband is awkward. If you couldn’t ask for it, you just do your own way.”
After saying that, she took a book from the shelf and smirked: “Well, let’s start reading The Grand History by Tai Shigong today, how about it?”
Ren Wanli saw that Qianqian was reading and was remembering, he was happy. But he was afraid that she would be too clever, so he advised: “You can’t be taken out partially of the context, you have to comprehend as a whole.”
When he said that, Qianqian has already opened The Grand History of Tai Shigong and started reading it. She appeared was immediately immersed and overlooked what he said. Ren Wanli just smiled and didn’t mind. He also took a book out the shelf and started reading on his own without bothering her.
In the days of reading, time soared. The winter of Songhu Island has quietly descended. The goose feather like snow falling from sky without any sound. The mountains looked more solemn in the purity of total white. Today was the winter solstice, it was also Qianqian’s birthday, as well her mother’s memorial day. Qianqian woke up in the morning. Once opened her eyes, she immediately flipped the embroidered pillow as other winter solstice. Promisingly, two red eggs were placed under the pillow. When she was a child, she didn’t know why they were there on this special day. Every winter solstice, she woke up and found two crushed red painted eggs under her pillow. The red eggs, were usually made for the one on his birthday, especially for children. But she didn’t realize that it was her birthday, because it was also the day her mother died for giving birth to her. Therefore, nobody wanted to mentioned it. She wasn’t told about that until she was seven. Aunt Mi said she secretly placed the eggs under her pillow just for asking a blessing. After that, she decided not to sleep on the pillow the night before winter solstice. She was afraid to crush the eggs. This year was no exception.
Qianqian held the two red painted eggs on palms, smiled and remembered: “Well! Today is our mother’s memorial day, the sisters will definitely come back for the ceremony.” When she thought that she could see them soon, she was excited and jumped up from bed. She heard Aunt Mi was talking to someone outside the door, she immediately ran out and asked: “Hey, sisters, are they coming back?”
But she only saw Ren Wanli. He looked grave and formal today, standing by the side of Aunt Mi. The two of them were already dressed in pale and neatly combed their hair. In the arm of Aunt Mi, was carrying a basket of flowers and offerings. Qianqian instantly froze her smile and stood upright. Ren Wanli said faintly: “They will not come back this year.”
Qianqian was disappointed, lowered her head and asked: “Why?”
“I told them not to come back.” He said in a very soft tone.
In the chilly morning of winter, the path was covered with new snow, as well as the tombs that so white looked exactly like steam buns left over. The offerings were placed in front of the tomb of Liu Yiyi, and the incense were also ignited. Aunt Mi put the libation on the stone plate then stood by the side quietly. Ren Wanli turned his face to Qianqian, said: “You go to propose a toast to your mother!”
Qianqian then walked to the front, kneeled, picked up the cup, held it in the air, looked dignified, and whispered: “Mother, this cup is your daughter toast to you.” While speaking, the cup was respectfully pouring on the ground.
Ren Wanli said: “Madam! I brought Qianqian here today for you. She is already seventeen years old. She is the only daughter who has not married yet. She said that she doesn’t want to marry. She only loves to practice martial arts. So I promised to pass the martial arts of Songhu Island to her. Madam, please protect her and bless her with your spirit in heaven, to be a good person. Although she is a daughter, if she inherited the martial arts of Songhu Island, she must not ruin its name by any wrongdoing or misconduct.”
Ren Wanli saw that Qianqian has been studying earnestly for a few months. She was cultivated and improved of her mind and behavior. She didn’t act so resentful as she has just come back. He took the advantage of today’s his wife memorial day to clarify his expectation to her. The purpose was to restate the responsibility of conveying the martial arts, bearing the duty of the rise and fall of Songhu Island. The higher the martial arts, the greater the responsibility, she must know.
Ren Wanli stepped in front of Qianqian, said sternly: “If you swore in front of your mother’s tomb, you will stay away from evil roads and concentrate on learning the martial arts of Songhu Island. You will act inculpable, never bullying, and never killing innocent. Then from now on, I will pass you all the martial arts of Songhu Island, and will no longer be grumbling.”
Qianqian finally realized that how serious a matter to inherit the martial arts of Songhu Island. If she did not swear, it was difficult to gain the trust from him. She immediately lifted the three fingers and swore: “I, Ren Zhengyi, swear to the heaven, from now on, stay away from evil roads, concentrate on learning the martial arts of Songhu Island, act inculpable, never bullying, and never kill innocent. If there was a violation, I would be… stuffer in the fire and ice forever.”
After listening to her spiteful curse, Ren Wanli immediately stepped ahead to raise her, laughed with relief: “Good!” Then he pulled her arms, lifted her up, flying together to the top of the icy peak.
It was in the middle of winter, the nine peaks were heavily snow covered. Over there, it was unable to separate the cloud, the snow or the fog. Only the icy peaks jabbed their steep cliff with no trace of snow remained.
Ren Wanli took Qianqian up to the peak, danced in the lofty blowing wind. Qianqian was silvering but couldn’t use any internal strength to protect from freezing. She patiently watched Ren Wanli displaying his tricks. He naturally became part of the nature, such as the milky way, the cascading waterfall, the lightening when he showed his martial arts. Qianqian of any instant could froze to an iceberg but she bore it. As Ren Wanli finished the listening of the pine wave thirteen styles in a series, he turned around and said to Qianqian: “You display it again after me.”
Qianqian was cold and frigid, but she couldn’t compliant of it for the swear she has just made. She barely bent her waist and straighten her chest. But she still displayed it again according to what Ren Wanli instructed. In the frosty wind, she couldn’t use internal power, it was almost impossible to move. She was struggling hard.
Suddenly, Ren Wanli was reciting aloud an article: “All things were born from small. A tiny seed could grow to be a hundred feet tree tall. The land is borderless, fertile and fruitful. The gentleman walks, loses first the way, then regain. When something humble itself, it would be big. When there is darkness, it contrasts in it the brightness …”
Qianqian immediately thought of the image of yin and yang in the book of change, knowing that Ren Wanli was reminding her to use the principle of yin, to soften the brake, to follow the path. Qianqian then stopped resisting against the wind, instead she released herself to the nature. However, it was difficult to control without using any internal strength. Nevertheless, Qianqian refused to use any of those. She made up her mind, even died right now, she would not break her promise.
Qianqian finally completed displaying the listening to the pine wave thirteen styles, but was also exhausted all her strength. Her body was like melting ice and fluttering as a piece of snow flake. A blast of wind blew along her, she was instantly carried away in the air. Then, she fell from the peak. Ren Wanli immediately flew to pick her up, and brought her back to the cemetery. The cemetery was over casted, and fresh snow was falling. Qianqian has just landed and kneeled in front of Ren Wanli, said softly: “Dad! Please forgive me, your unfilial daughter.”
Ren Wanli smiled and said: “For what you said that?”
Qianqian looked up at Ren Wanli, tearfully said: “Today I finally realized that the painstaking effort that you have of guarding Songhu Island, as well as my mother.”
Ren Wanli listened, thought for a moment, then raised Qianqian with both hands, said: “I was willing to do so.”
The entanglement between she and Ren Wanli for years was unraveled eventually. She felt relieved and coherent, said: “Dad! you must live a long life to compensate the time we have lost.”
Ren Wanli gazed at Qianqian, recalling the eighteen years of husband and wife with Liu Yiyi. It was sometimes like wine, sometimes like water. Even he was never doubt whether Liu Yiyi had ever loved Ren Wanli? But he has to admit that whatever how much he loved her, she still had someone else in her heart. He didn’t know if it was destined. Liu Yiyi gave birth to this daughter before she died to testify his integrity. And seventeen years later of today, because of this daughter, the shackle that has been locked for thirty years was resolved. Ren Wanli held his tears, wordlessly looked at Qianqian, just nodded and smiled.
The spring of Songhu Island was the most beautiful season in a year. When the plum flower petals were dancing in the air, the waterfall of Luomei hang from the cliff of melting ice elicited. On the terraced fields of the hillside, a few farmers were busily seeding the rice.
Qianqian and Ren Wanli sat under an old plum tree, enjoying the blossom and drinking wine. They appreciated the picturesque scenery of Songhu with full heart. Ren Wanli smiled and said: “Before we had more people in Songhu Island. At the busy spring time, over hundred of people working on this hillside terraced field. The terraces were piled with crops, layers by layers of green grain waved in the breeze. It was so gorgeous.”
However, since Liu Yiyi was gone, the area of the terraced fields has been shrinking year by year. After all the eight sisters were married, Ren Wanli dismissed the remaining workers and farmers. Therefore, Qianqian has never seen the layers and layers green grain waved in the breeze. She was trying to imagine how it looked now. Ren Wanli continued: “Your mother was brought up by a rich merchant family, but she loved to labor. I remembered that one year in the spring, suddenly all the farmers were sick, the whole family had to work on the field. Your mother seemed feeble, but when she worked in the field, she was very diligent. On the contrary, I am a seven-feet man, as well a martial arts master, looked so clumsy standing in the field, holding the seedlings cluelessly. Your mother and your sisters teased me, they thought I didn’t hear.”
He stopped right here, Qianqian of course wanted to know more: “What did they say?”
Ren Wanli looked a bit embarrassed when he answered: “Your third sister Xihua said I am a useless big foot of number eight!”
Qianqian smiled only, she didn’t dare to laugh. Ren Wanli instead of feeling humiliated, he continued the story with pleasure: “Well, for saving my face, I invented the plum pile seeding method.”
Qianqian winked, asked earnestly: “What is the plum piles seeding method?”
Ren Wanli stood up, took Qianqian’s hand, walked to a piece of paddy rice field. Ren Wanli picked up a huddle of rice seedlings, divided into two, clung one in left hand and one in right. Then he leaped and jumped to the air, lay himself across the paddy field. While he was rolling his body, he scattered the seedlings on the paddy field. They were arranged in a row with the same depth into soil. When Ren Wanli landed, he smiled and said: Qianqian, you can also do one roll!”
Qianqian was eager to try. She immediately picked up two bunches of seedlings, started in the position as him. However, when rice seedlings were placed, they were in the shape of plum flower. She landed and said: “I think this is the genuine plum pile seeding method!”
Ren Wanli frowned, said gravely: “Well! This looked beautifully, but it was totally wrong. If you mother was here, she must…” Before he finished, someone working on the other paddy field shouted to them: “Please! you two, if were not here to help, just don’t mess it up!” It was Aunt Mi.
Qianqian tongued out and Ren Wanli laughed. Then they walked back to the plum forest delightful. Ren Wanli was still indulging in those beautiful memories. The corner of his mouth was solidified with a happy smile: “Your mother was actually quite serious person. She said I was cheating. She said that if you didn’t plant the seedlings handful by handful, the rice won’t be sweet and tasty.”
While talking, the two were sitting under the old plum tree again. Qianqian poured two cups of warmed wine. One cup was handed over him, said fondly: “The wine is warm, drink it before it gets cold, dad!”
Ren Wanli took the cup, the corner of his mouth still hanging the smile that he didn’t want to put down. Being with him like that, Qianqian was overwhelming emotionally. These days, he talked a lot about her mother. More she knew about their relationship and his personality, the more she was worried about him. Seeing that he has been immersed in the memories recently, she was so afraid.
Ren Wanli drank the cup, said formally: “The hidden weapon of Songhu Island is mainly used by natural things. Flowers, leaves, stones and even rice seedlings can be used.”
Qianqian collected herself, listened carefully when she knew that he was giving a lesson of hidden weapon. He asked: “What do you say the most we have in Songhu Island?”
Qianqian looked around the mountains, were pine trees mostly, so she replied: “Pine trees.”
Ren Wanli smiled and nodded: “Yes, the scatter of pine needle of Songhu Island has long been famous in the rivers and lakes, but what if there were no pine trees?”
Qianqian surprised that he was making fun of Songhu Island. He seemed really relaxed today. She smiled heartily, and Ren Wanli answered by himself: “After all, the pine needles are slender, hard and with the sharp tip. They are indeed the best natural material used for hidden weapon. However, you have to remember, never use hidden weapon in the dark, hurt people from their back.”
After saying that, he leaped and thrust into a pine tree. When he came out, he raised his hand shoot an old plum tree. Instantly there were dropped many plum blossoms with a pine needle stuck in the middle. But the plum blossoms were intact, none of them were broken. Qianqian stood up and shouted: “Amazing!”
After Ren Wanli landed, he said: “The plum petals are delicate and soft. Although the pine needles are slender, hit on the petals without breaking them, you need to be fast and gentle. That takes a lot of soft internal strength.”
Qianqian were practicing martial arts on the frozen mountain ridges for the whole winter. She has accumulated the soft internal strength what Ren Wanli talked about now. The internal strength naturally developed was called soft internal strength, which was different from the hard one that used for competition, as the soft one was used for self-cultivation. The internal strength of Songhu Island was mainly soft, although it was not that powerful, but it was an indispensable inner potential for the natural and elegant work of Songhu Island.
Qianqian fully understood now about the hardship she bore was so necessary if she really wanted to inherit the martial arts of Songhu island. She also noticed that more Ren Wanli passed her over the martial arts, less he cared about it for himself. She felt that he was letting go a lot of things inside him. He sometimes even confused and forgot.
Ren Wanli suddenly picked up a petal of a plum flower from the ground, surprisingly said: “Oh! This one is broken!”
Qianqian immediately came over to see. She didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t find a word to comfort him instead of just looking at his disappointment and exclamation.
Ren Wanli mocked himself: “See! Whatever how much you care the flowers, they won’t stop falling and breaking. They didn’t know you love them.”
At this moment, Qianqian couldn’t hold on any longer and blurt out: “She knows!”
Ren Wanli looked at her mystified as if he didn’t hear. When Qianqian subsided and she assured it: “Dad! Mother knows you love her, and she loves you too, only.”
Ren Wanli didn’t expect these kinds of conversation with his daughter, he swayed her sleeve, laughed, then said solemnly: “I’ve never doubt about it.”
In the moment of silence, Qianqian suddenly grabbed a bundle of pine needle shot to a plum tree. Something heavy dropped from it right away, and turned out to be a man. Qianqian immediately asked: “Who are you? What are you doing hiding up there?”
The man’s heel was stabbed by a few pine needles. He quickly kneeled and begged: “Miss Ren, forgive me!”
Qianqian was angry, grilled: “Why are you doing this? What do you want from us?” While she was questioning, she intended to shoot him more pine needles. But Ren Wanli stopped her, said: “Don’t be rude.”
Qianqian immediately held back and stood aside. Ren Wanli then walked slowly to the man and carefully looked at him. When he saw him dressed like a peasant, he was quite sure. He recognized that he was the farmer who employed by Songhu Island before. He smiled: “Songhu Island is not forbidden palace, anyone can come and go. But I am old now, if he wanted to see me, he has to come soon!”
The man heard that what Ren Wanli said, he was horrified and ashamed. He crouched on the ground, burst into tears, said: “Is the island master, my lord! It was me ignorant. I actually made such dirty deal to sell my lord! Damn it, I am not forgiven…”
When he said that he raised his hand to slap himself. Ren Wanli kept smiling kindly: “You go back and tell the person who sent you today. He has been monitoring Songhu Island for 20 years. Why doesn’t he come by himself?”
After saying that, he just turned around and left the man. Qianqian followed tightly, asked anxiously: “Is there anyone monitoring Songhu Island for 20 years?” She at once thought of a person, said fearfully: “Is that the old thief Miaoyin?”