Aunt Mi heard the crashing sound when Ren Wanli destroyed the cool pine bridge. She was shocked and immediately ran out with a cloak. She rushed into the snow, walked up the hill, came to the family cemetery. She has not seen Ren Wanli but Qianqian only kneeling on the ground, snow covered, as well as herself. She put the cloak on her shoulder, flicked away the snowflakes on her hair, said gently: “Let’s go back. This snow would be falling all night.”
Three months later. In the misty rain, a woman was riding white waves between the mossy stones. The ragged water of Black River was rough with all the melting snow from mountains. The bamboo raft slid and thrust in the rolling tide. The woman bent her waist, lifted the pole, struck the jagged water to keep her balance. Her grass rain robe fluttered in the air, and the bamboo hat was almost dropped. She was busy with a long pole but still enjoying the waterfalls pouring vigorously from the snowy ridge on both sides of the river. Suddenly at the steep curve, the bamboo raft rushed over a round boulder. It mounted up a few feet as she was thrown to the air. She hurriedly bounced back with the pole pushing it through into the water. As soon as she settled, she saw the bamboo raft entangled a fishing line. The power of the rapids dragged a boy who fished on the shore to the middle of river. The boy was about ten years old, holding a fishing rod, dragged by the raft in the rapids. But he did not let go. The raft washed by the rapids swiftly and has been dragging the boy a mile away. The woman finally screamed: “How can you be so silly, if you hit a stone, you will be killed?”
However, the boy still clung on his fishing rod. The woman has no choice, she jumped and tumbled, picked up the boy from the river, brought him back to the shore, found a silver carp on his fishing hook. It was big, about two feet, rocked in the air freshly. No wonder he grabbed the line stubbornly. The scales of the carp were slippery, the boy grabbed it with one hand, slipped to another. He looked so funny that made the woman laughed. Then the boy took a basket from his waist to catch it. The carp jumped into it and settled.
The woman saw this boy smiled brilliantly that sweeten her heart, asked: “What is your name?”
The boy crisply replied: “My name is Yu Lang. What about you?”
The woman blinked, about to answer: “My name is…”
Her arm lifted with the pole, reminded her the bamboo raft. She immediately looked around, saw that it was on the other sandy shoal, about to be washed away. She hastily jumped to the air, hit the raft with the pole. In a moment, she was gone in the rapids, only her candid voice was heard: “My name is…Ren… Zhen… Yi!”
Yu Lang jumped up and shouted: “Ren Zhen Yi! Goodbye!”
Gone along with the rapids, the bamboo raft shortly flowed out the Black River, drifted into the mainstream of Yangtze. Down the stream, passed the dam, turned into the plains on both sides of River Jin, where was the well-known granary of world, the richest province Chengdu. The woman abandoned the bamboo raft, landed on the pier. Between the foggy mountains were all seedlings of rice fields. The sun break in the sky reflected the shadow on it. A narrow path behind the pier there were many farmers carried goods crossing the arch bridge. The woman passed through among them vibrantly. After entered Jinli, gradually congested with people in the bistros, teahouses and markets. Everyone looked conceited and supercilious. The gentlemen worn light fur rode on tall horses. The ladies sat in the sedan in their graceful dresses.
In front of many shops were hung with strings of dried chili, golden corn and crispy garlic. A hot and spicy aroma defused from a restaurant. A group of men with weapon from the alley rashly passing by, slightly rubbed the shoulder of the woman, she purposely pulled her bamboo hat down and flicked herself into a guest house. The waiter of the guest house immediately greeted her: “This guest officer, lodging or dinning?” The woman said: “Both, give me a quiet corner.” She intentionally suppressed her voice.
The waiter took her to the most secluded zone of the restaurant, wiped the table and chair with a rag, smiled and said: “What kind of dishes does the guest officer order?”
The woman took off her bamboo hat but was still wrapped in a blue towel with only half of her face shown, said headed down: “Just two small dishes and a pot of wine.”
The waiter noticed that the guest officer was actually a woman. Even she kept her face down, he saw that it was white as snow, red as plum. He grinned and said: “I go right now.”
The woman looked up slightly, observing the guests in the dining hall. They were mostly talked softly and looked gravely, with weapon on their tables, are mostly swords. She then lowered more her head to keep a low profile.
Suddenly, three men dressed extravagantly walked in with big noise. One of them wrapped his head with famous Shu brocade, hung a band ribbon on waist, tied leg with gaiter rope, said: “What the hell of this Nangong family, are they stupid or crazy? They don’t want my business they will be surely regret!”
When three of them entered the dining hall, they did not stop for the waiter to greet them. They sat down with their ass. The man with Shu brocade around head, shouted: “Wine! Bring wine right away!”
While the waiter was rushing to bring wine, the younger man among them smiled and said: “Master Xu, please don’t be offended. Mr. Nangong does not mean that.”
The elder man butted in crossly: “What an unfortunate! Our seventh young master was usually polite and normal. But three years ago, since he came back from Songhu Island, he suffered from a mania syndrome. Recently, he was better, but his temperament has changed ever. I heard that it was the cracked daughter of Ren Wanli did him such a harm.” This man was originally an administrator of the Nangong family. He heard from the witnesses who went together with Nangong Murong. Even though they were told not to mention about what had happen. Rumors were still flying and exaggerated.
When the younger man listened, he looked excited, immediately told his version: “Yes! Yes! I heard that it was the ninth daughter of Songhu Island…I heard that this woman was abnormal since was born. On the day of welcoming, she pulled the sword shattered the hair of her bridegroom. She even cut off his pant to show his butt. It was so humiliating. No wonder that Mr. Nangong went crazy after he came back. He covered his head all day, didn’t step out of his room for two years…” Although this person only heard about it, he felt like he witnessed the case.
Master Xu listened to such kind of thing, he countered astonishingly: “How could it be! There such a mad woman in this world?”
The elder man sneered and said: “Hey! Don’t say she is crazy, you still don’t know? Ren Wanli actually announced her, Ren Zhenyi, as the next successor of Songhu Island!”
When his words came out, both of his companies were taken aback. The younger man shouted: “No! Songhu Island is that desperate? As we all know, a woman? Ren Zhenyi? I think it is the most outrageous thing I ever heard?”
The elder man disdained and said: “If there you have no son, what can you do? Ren Wanli is old and foolish, passing to a daughter is not unprecedented, but to such an epileptic, it will surely shake the foundation of Songhu Island.”
The young man quickly went along: “No! Songhu Island has degrading herself to such a level. Isn’t it shameful?!”
Master Xu listened happily, said: “Ha! Ha! Whatever Songhu Island or epileptic island, seemed will be soon vanished in the rivers and lakes.” He raised the cup, continued scornfully: “What do I care? Songhu Island had never traded with Xu family! Don’t talk empty! Let’s drink!”
The three men then clinked their bowls and laughed. They spoke loudly, so the people in the entire dining hall heard clearly. The two guests sitting next to them, a man and a woman, seemed to be a couple. When they listened to their insulting words, they were looked incensed. The woman clutched the sword on the table tightly, but the men implied her to hold on.
Suddenly, the three men screamed, for the waiter who was holding the sizzling food tumbled over them. The dishes were spilled and splashed on their bodies. The waiter was in a hurry, but he knew that it was a mischievous hidden leg caused the trouble. When the men were infuriated at him, he pointed out his finger to the next table innocently.
The three men quietened, turned their attention to a man sitting behind them. They saw a scholar, wearing a green robe, lowering his head, drinking undisturbed, as if he heard nothing, saw nothing, knew nothing. He stayed completely out of the way.
The three men were dressed in expensive silk robes that were now dirty and greasy. They were so enraged. They stared at the green robe scholar for a while but somehow did not speak. Finally, the master Xu boldly said: “It’s you! Did that mischief? Aren’t you or not?”
The scholar now raised his head, looked at them, smiled casually before he said: “The Master of the most respectful family of Shu, Xu Weiting, how is he related to you?”
When Xu Ye, the men with a brocaded headband, heard he mentioning Xu Weiting, his eyes lit and said proudly: “He is my dad.”
The scholar kept beaming and said: “Oh! It turned out to be a son from the most respectful family. It is more inadequate and unforgivable to gossip other people business without proven.”
Xu Family was one of the most reverent family in the area of Shu. Their ancestors were the Ba minority. Although, they were customized with the people of Central Plain for long time, they still kept their tradition of wrapping their heads to show differences from them. This person, Xu Ye, was the third son of Xu Weiting, who was considered futile and irascible. He slammed the table, yelled: “Who are you? Busy body! trouble maker!”
The scholar in green robe, were still sitting unmoved, said softly: “I am just a no name. Even I said it, you won’t know.”
Xu Ye annoyed: “If just a no name idiot, you dare to mind my business?” After saying that, he was trying to turn his table over, but found that it was as heavy as a stone. He then saw the right hand of him pressing a sword on the table. The sword slightly revealed the blade. The elder man immediately recognized this sword and shouted: “The Qingyang demon sword of Qingcheng School?”
Xu Ye heard that it was from the Qingcheng School, he quickly withdrew his hand and said: “It turned out to be a disciple of Qingcheng School. No wonder you have such a gut?” While he was staring at him, he snorted: “Isn’t that the Qingcheng and Songhu was opponent? I said about Songhu. Why are you not happy?”
The scholar now stood up, picked up his sword, slowly said: “If brother Xu was a woman, I will not be unhappy whatever you said about anything, but unfortunately…” skimmed from head to toe, seeing him with mustache on face, tiger wide back, bear thick waist, of such a beefy man, he dismissed a smirk and said: “…you are not.”
When his words just came out, all the guests in the dining hall immediately blasted with laughter. Xu Ye was looked idiotic and exasperated, shouted: “What is your name! Hey! If you really did have gut, why don’t you just leave your fucking name! Are you afraid?”
The scholar raised his eyebrows, said instantly: “Afraid of what? You listened carefully! I am Bailing Teng Kuanrou.”
“What the heck of Teng Kuanrou? I have never heard of it. You are just an unnamed minor. How dare you…”
Seeing Teng Kuanrou turned around and left, Xu Ye pointed at him furiously, but did not challenge to stop him. He was not stupid as he looked. He knew that the person who wore the Qing Yang demon sword, although was unknown, wouldn’t be just a minor.
Teng Kuanrou walked by the shop keeper counter, unexpectedly saw a woman figure, vaguely covered with a blue towel, eating quietly at the table behind the stairs. He could not help but stop watching, then he shook his head and smiled: “People are similar, things are alike, even if she really came to Chengdu, now she is already the master of Songhu Island, how could she dress up as a village woman?”
As soon as he stepped out the guest house. Someone followed and called behind him: “Mr. Teng, please stay!”
Teng Kuanrou looked back, saw a pregnant woman standing in front of him. She was about thirty years old, dignified and beautiful, but he didn’t remember who she was, asked politely: “Did we met?”
The woman said: “The person who knows to return at the returning bridge, of course not an unnamed minor.”
Teng Kuanrou now remembered, walked forward, bowed and said: “It is the eighth daughter of the Songhu Island Miss Xihui, please forgive my umindfulless.”
Xihui said: “Mr. Teng has just stood up for the Songhu Island. Xihui has not yet thanked you?”
Teng Kuanrou heard that, he felt a little embarrassed, smiled and said: “I am just noisy and busy.”
Xihui suddenly reserved and said: “Mr. Teng! Are you also going to Qingcheng Mountain?”
Teng Kuanrou nodded. “After the spring palace examination, I went home from Kaifeng. On the way I remembered that I had not visited my master Fang Xianzi for a long time. Thus, I took a special detour to come to Chengdu. I didn’t expect to meet Miss Xihui here.”
Teng Kuanrou on the way going home from Kaifeng, heard that the tenth-generation successor of Songhu Island was announced to be Ren Zhenyi. He did not go home, instead he involuntarily came to Bashu. Came to Bashu, he was hesitated going up to Songhu Island. He wandered into Chengdu, and if he came to Chengdu. Of course, it was inexcusable not to visit his master in Qingcheng school. Now visiting his Master became the main reason why he came to Bashu. When he listened to what he said, he couldn’t bear the shamefulness.
Xihui heard that he has just attend the spring palace examination, she must politely respond, smiled and said: “Mr. Teng participated this year’s spring palace examination! With your talent and ability, certainly will be listed and nominated.”
Teng Kuanrou had not returned home after he went to Songhu Island four years ago. He was wandering around for half a year. At last he figured out what he should do. He went home. For three years, he did not leave the house. He paid the filial piety, inherited his father’s ambition, studied hard then went to the capital, took the palace examination. However, it seemed that he did not care much for himself. After listening to the blessing of Xihui, he only smiled and said: “I hope so.”
Xihui gathered and said deliberately: “Mr. Teng! Did you know that Qingcheng school has sent invitations to the eight major schools, the seven major families, the three manors, the five fortresses, and also the famous swordsmen, on the third day of March, the birthday of Zhen Wu, open the altar to examine the sword at Qingcheng School?”
“Which sword is it?” Teng Kuanrou asked remarkably.
Xihui was surprised that he, as a disciple of Qingcheng School, did not know about it. She said: “The head teacher of the Qingcheng School, Fang Xianzi claimed to the world. The former disciple of Qingcheng school, Lv Jiannan has died, and they obtained the sword of the pool, therefore, he invited all the martial arts friends come to examine the sword. Our recent assigned Island Master is also invited.”
When Teng Kuanrou heard that, he was felting so absurd. He pondered: “The death of Lv the senior, only I and Qianqian know about it. How could Master Yu find it out, and even claimed that he obtained the sword in the pool, it is really suspicious…”
Seeing that Xihui looked at him doubtfully, he restrained and said: “This is really unusual!”
Xihui immediately responded: “Yes, this matter is very suspicious.” By observing Teng’s ambiguous expression, she tempted: “It is rare that even Mr. Teng as a disciple of Qingcheng school, thought the same way as me.”
Teng Kuanrou sensed that she was implying something. He did not know how to respond, so he was just silent. Xihui then bowed and said: “I apologized. I have been asking too much. See you in Qingcheng Mountain!” Then she turned around and walked back to the guest house.
Teng Kuanrou looked at her back, thought of that unique, dashing style of Songhu Island. He couldn’t help but smiled. When he reconsidered what she has just said, he was inevitably worried. “Did she mean that was I, revealed the death of Lv the senior, and the location of the sword in the pool?” He reasoned and muttered: “No, I must check it out.”
Back to the guest house. The woman finished the dinner, hurried to her room in the second floor. Just at the door, a figure flashed behind her. She looked back, saw a strange man standing, holding a sword. She did not say anything, thrust her fists and made a move of the purple smoke. When the trick has just finished, the man said: “Is this the listening to the wave thirteenth styles? It’s so exquisite!”
When the woman heard that he recognized the thirteen styles, she retreated and looked at this person in his thirties, dressed neatly and appeared decent, then formally asked: “Your good self are…”
The man humbly bowed and smiled: “I am Jiang Di of Evergreen Manor, meet the Island Master.”
The woman immediately took off her bamboo hat, as well the blue towel to reveal her plain face, said: “Eighth brother-in-law, even you are teasing me?”
Jiang Di has not spoken, a woman came in front of her. When she saw this person, she couldn’t hold on anymore, she held her hand and hug her like a child: “Xihui, my sister! I miss you!” When they were embracing, Jiang Di looked around and said: “Let’s talk inside the room!”
When they got in the room, Xihui held Qianqian’s hand sat on the bed, said: “When we received the invitation from Qingcheng School, we came to Chengdu and waited for you to appear.”
Qianqian wondered: “Why don’t you go back to Songhu Island directly?”
Xihui explained: “It was dad told us not to go back. He wrote letters to the eight major schools, the martial arts families and our eight sisters, asserted that you have become the tenth-generation successor of Songhu Island. If he didn’t, nobody will believe you really under the traditional concept of inheriting only by son. Do you know?”
Qianqian now realized that Ren Wanli had prepared and opened a path for her future before he left. And now she could not see him anymore, she felt so mournful, said: “Xihui, dad had buried himself in the grave. I and Aunt Mi made fresh food every day, placed in front of the tomb. But he never took it for months. If he didn’t eat and drink, how could he survive inside the grave?”
Speaking of that, the sisters hugged and cried. Xihui sighed: “Qianqian, once mother’s tomb door was sealed, nobody can open it from inside out.” Xihui inspirited herself and continued: “From the letter he wrote to Evergreen Manor, he said he left the rivers and lakes, followed his wife, and will never be seen for life. I suspected that dad is unfathomable of his internal strength. Unless he took his own life. We might still have chance to see him again.”
Listened to what she said, Qianqian stopped crying and smiled. Even just a false hope, it comforted her. She now saw the belly of Xihui, instantly turned to be happy, said: “You are pregnant again.”
Jiang Di was quiet by the side, now he said: “Yes! We have already two sons, so I hope to have a daughter.”
Qianqian beamed: “You will definitely get what you want.”
Xihui collected and said severely: “Qianqian! About the invitation of Qingcheng School…”
Qianqian immediately took out a letter and said: “Yes, I received this invitation before I left Songhu Island. I have a lot of doubt in it. It must have something behind, so I disguised as a fisherwoman to cover up myself.”
Xihui nodded and said: “The Qingcheng School and the Songhu Island had deep crack before. Now, once dad is not here anymore, I am afraid that they will deliberately do something against you.”
Qianqian understood now to become the successor of Songhu Island, she has to bear the pressure under the spot light, said daringly: “Even though, I must go. Dad has kept the good name of Songhu Island for his lifetime. How can I ruin it right after he turned around?”
Xihui felt relieved to hear that Qianqian was ambitious and determined. She lowered her eyebrows and asked: “Is Teng Kuanrou reliable? He just stood up to defend for Songhu Island. You also heard it in the dining hall. But when I tried to ask him about Qingcheng School, he refused to reveal anything. If you asked him, would he say?”
Four years ago, when Teng Kuanrou went to Songhu Island to find Qianqian, Xihui has realized that he was not just a friend to her. But Qianqian was mute when she asked about him. She was thinking: “Must be Miaoyin released the death of Master Lv. Teng Kuanrou even is a disciple of Qingcheng School. He would never be despicable like them. This matter is pointed directly at me. I have to face it by myself.”
Seeing Qianqian was immersed in her own thought, Xihui supposed that she probably mistook about them. She smiled and said: “Qianqian! you are now the master of the Songhu Island. If you have anything need to do, just give us an order.”
Listened to what she said, Qianqian was astonished and overwhelmed, responded quickly: “Please don’t say that, how can I be giving order to you?”
Xihui lifted her eyebrows and said: “You don’t have to be afraid. Dad said you can then you can.” She paused and continued: “As far as I know, Xiguang, Xihua and Xibiao will show up on the third day of March. You can be assured that as long as our sisters are here, we will not allow anything unjust happened to you or Songhu Island.”
Qianqian couldn’t sleep at night. Thinking of what Xihui said, she was tossing on the bed. She opened her eyes, said to herself: “March 3, it is actually tomorrow. I can’t be completely unprepared and just go for it. If the Qingcheng School knew that Master Lv is dead, then they might also know that Master had passed me the swordsmanship, but they purposely make it unrecognized. Instead, they excused of examining the sword, in fact they just wanted to force me to return it. That is, they must believe that Master Lv passed me the swordsmanship as the same time passed me the sword. The sword of the pool represents the highest honor in the world of sword. The first sword Lv Jiannan, while he was alive, did not admit that he was the disciple of Qingcheng school. Qingcheng School for twenty years, was disgraceful and must be resentful. Now they know that Lv Jiannan is dead, of course, they wanted to possess the sword in the pool for themselves. On the day of examining the sword, they will definitely try everything to force me to return it…”
Thinking of this, Qianqian bounced from the bed, said: “No, I can’t sleep. I can’t just wait until tomorrow. I have to do something now.” Looking through the window, she saw the new moon was high and the wind was wild. She quickly changed to the night dress, jumped over the eaves, flew on the wall and went straight to Qingcheng Mountain.