(3) The truth
The secular Chixiazi, Guo Xiao was ambitious when he was young, and beloved by his master, Xuan Ruo immortal. In the year of twenty, he was already given the name Chixiazi, a symbol of eminence of sword. He became the leader of swordsmen in the Qingcheng School. The name was good but heavy. He was indorsed to compete with the other eight sword masters in the Qingcheng Mountain, Dragon Tiger Peak. The Island Master of the Songhu Island Ren Tingyun was leading the competition. Guo Xiao was the sixth swordsman rivaled with him. He lost at the one hundred and nine strokes under the foxtail sword.
Guo Xiao fell to the ground, looked at his sword, dull and dim. He was so unconvinced. Although Guo Xiao poisoned his sword, Ren Tingyun had never hurt any rival for he was able to retreat his sword freely. Guo Xiao was the second leading after him, what he needed to do was just a little more push to fail him. Hence, behind his back, he shot a small stone to his last rival, Jiang Erlang from the Haichao School. Jiang Erlang fell on the tip of his sword. Although Ren Tingyun could retreat the sword in time, but it still left a tiny cut on his wrist. He held the sword back and asked: “Brother Jiang, do you matter!”
Jiang Erlang said: “Small cut only!” Right after he said that, he was cramped and dropped dead in front of everyone. Before he died, he pointed at Ren Tingyun and shouted: “You… poisoned me…”
At the moment, the group was soaring. It didn’t matter whether if they really believed Ren Tingyun did the poisoning or they deliberately used this issue to get rid of him. They required him to pay the bloody debt. The Qingcheng School, as the host of the competition, they said that they would strictly investigate the matter. However, when Xuan Ruo immortal learned that the person who poisoned the sword was Guo Xiao, he thought of a better way to handle it. The next day, Xuan Ruo immortal gathered the Seven Great Schools in Dragon Tiger Peak, claimed that they had caught the culprit.
Ren Tingyun was relieved and thought that he could wash the suspect, but he never expected that the culprit that Xuan Ruo immortal mentioned was actually a woman. A female Taoist of the Qingcheng School, whose name was Nianzhu. She was the person who took care of Ren Tingyun while he was staying in Qingcheng. She brought food to him and cleaned his room every day diligently. The day before the competition, it was also her helped him took a bath, burned incense before purifying the sword. She was responsible and honest, she seemed candid and caring. As well she had no motivation to do the poisoning either.
However, Xuan Ruo immortal sternly approved: “She was instigated by someone, secretly poisoned the sword, killed Jiang Erlang of the Haichao School, and put the Island Master in the unrighteousness. Now the truth is disclosed, and the Qingcheng School must implement the duty of executing her in front of the Seven Schools and the Island Master.”
After saying that, he pulled the sword and pointed at Nianzhu. Nianzhu was all the time head downed, silent and never self-defensed. Seeing that the sword was above her neck, about to slash. No one amongst the seven great schools had spoken anything. Ren Tingyun couldn’t believe that this little girl would do poisoning such a vicious deed. He couldn’t be just watching her getting killed, he suddenly shouted: “Stop it! Who was the person actually instigating this girl? Have you ever asked her?”
Xuan Ruo immortal took the advantage of that Ren Tingyun was sympathetic for the weak and the female. He exploited his weakness, forced him to submit. He coldly said: “She was the Taoist of Qingcheng School, did you mean the Island master, it is, the Qingcheng School instigated her?”
Even though Ren Tingyun had thought like that, he couldn’t say without any evidence, he could only shake his head, and said reluctantly: “I didn’t mean that.”
Xuan Ruo immortal then said strictly: “Before the competition, it was her purified the sword for you. Except her, only you, the Island Master has chance to touch this foxtail sword. If the Island Master said it was not her, then would you mean that it is the Island Master yourself?”
When that was said, it was obviously a trap for Ren Tingyun. Everybody knew that, but no one from the seven factions had spoken justice. Even the victim, the Haichao School were threatened by the prestige of the Qingcheng School and did not dare to speak out. They all understood that now it was actually colluded, to compel the Songhu Island retreat from the rivers and lakes, ending the situation of that the Songhu Island dominating the swordsmanship for almost two hundred years. The great seven schools didn’t say anything for they were willing to see this happened.
In order to save the innocent Taoist, Nianzhu, Ren Tingyun promised all the unjust requirements from the Eight Great Schools. He thought: What the difficulty is of retreating from the rivers and lakes? Songhu Island is a school of permanence, she will come back one day for sure. But if this innocence once was killed. Her life couldn’t be recovered. The only condition he asserted was to take Nianzhu with him, because he knew that even if he promised all the circumstances, after he left, they would very likely still kill her. When Ren Tingyun brought this female Taoist Nianzhu back to Songhu Island, he founded out that her secular surname was Guo, first name Xiang. She was actually Guo Xiao’s younger sister. She bore all these humiliation and accusation for saving her blood brother.
After Qianqian heard the truth, she gnashed at the despicable means of the Qingcheng School, and deeply sympathized the Taoist Nianzhu. Suddenly she remembered that the madam of her grand grandfather has the same surname life hers, said suspiciously: “This Guo Xiang actually was…”
Chixiazi nodded: “Yes, my sister later married Ren Tingyun and became the Madam of the Songhu Island. Her later days were not bad I heard, so I was not feeling too guilty.”
Qianqian grudged: “You did the wicked poisoning, let your blood sister be the scapegoat for you, you should have felt guilty forever!”
Chixiazi smirked and said: “I have been living so long. Isn’t it enough for me? paused and continued: “In order to keep this secret, and punished me, my master forced me to secluded myself in this cave and never have touched with the outside world. I had a son already at that time, that is your grand master, Guo Ruyun…”
This was talking to Teng Kuanrou. The concept of learning martial arts for him was very simple. It was just chivalrousness. He never imagined that there was such a tangle behind the Qingcheng School.
Chixiazi said: “At the time he was still under nursery. My wife had died early. If I left, he would become an orphan, so I required my master to promise raising him to be a man, teaching him the best martial arts, and passed him the head position of Qingcheng School. My master actually promised and carried out. Although he degraded the Songhu Island, he did it only for the Qingcheng School, not for himself.”
Listened to his last comment, Qianqian felt a moment of sympathetic. She could understand what Xuan Ruo immortal did for the Qingcheng School, but she could not forgive. She must uncover it.
Chixiazi turned to Teng Kuanrou and said: “There is still one person in the Qingcheng School who knows about this secret, that is your master Ah Yu.”
Teng Kuanrou surprised: “My Master?”
When Chixiazi mentioned Ah Yu, he smiled and said: “Yes! Ah Yu is an honest man. It is rare for the Qingcheng School. He followed Guo Ruyun for 30 years faithfully, though he had not done anything particular. He brought me meals, talked to me, often drank and sang with me. In my last decades, my life finally has a little fun. I have changed and felt peace….”
Speaking of this, suddenly he angrily said: “On the contrary, Guo Ruyun, although it is my own child, but he is ruthless and unrighteous, Kuanrou! you must pay attention to this person!”
Teng Kuanrou answered straightway: “Yes, Grand grand uncle master.” After that, his heart was turned bitter and sorrowful. A long while after the grand grand uncle master finished that sentence, he has been no longer talking. Teng Kuanrou felt something weird, he stood up and went down to check him. Seeing him sitting on the rock, his eyes were hollow, his mouth was closed. Teng Kuanrou gently reached out and tested his breath, then he shrank his hand and kneeled down.
Qianqian saw him suddenly kneeled in front of him, quickly asked: “What happened to him?”
Teng Kuanrou sniffed and said: “The grand grand uncle master has just ascended to the heaven.”
Qianqian was surprised: “He was just talking; how could he suddenly ascend to the heaven?”
Teng Kuanrou replied: “The grand grand uncle master has been fasting for months, only because of his profound internal strength, he could be like normal, until a moment of prostration, he would just ascend to the heaven. This kind of thing is not abnormal for those who practice the Taoist austerity.”
Qianqian felt disappointed, sat down and exhaled: “No wonder he promised my condition without hesitation. He had foreseen that he would die today. Now I have no evidence nor witness, even though I have the truth.”
The two of them just sat silently and let the time passed by without any motivation or suggestion. The whole cave was depressed by suffocated atmosphere. Snappily a morning crow of a cock lifted from a distance, telling that it was already dawn. Qianqian abruptly stood up and said: “It’s dawn, I have to leave. ”
Teng Kuanrou hastily looked at her. He was confused, asked: “You have to leave? Are you going there?”
Qianqian exerted herself, replied positively: “Of course, go to the sword-testing conference.”
Teng Kuanrou immediately said: “No, you can’t go. This is obviously a trap. They will definitely hurt you.”
Qianqian said resolutely: “Though, I must go. I have to uncover the truth that the Qingcheng School had framed my grand grandfather.”
Teng Kuanrou admired her boldness, but anxiously said: “You have no evidence and witness, they will not believe in you. If my master realized that you had found out the truth, you will surely have to confront with him.”
Qianqian held back a moment, smiled and blinked, asked softly: “If you were willing to help me to testify…”
What a dilemma for Teng Kuanrou. He couldn’t answer a word. Qianqian knew that. She did not intend to embarrassed him. She just laughed and said: “It is all right! I better go now.”
After saying that, she turned around and left, but just moved a step. Teng Kuanrou suddenly asked: “Is that true what you said to my ear earlier?”
Qianqian stopped and reasoned: he must have thought that I was using him. She felt that she has always been misunderstood. She felt so dejected, but she didn’t argue or deny, just deliberately asked: “What did I say?”
In order to force her to be honest, Teng Kuanrou answered her question directly without feeling awkward: “You said… I am your only wish too…”
Qianqian listened, recalled just a moment before the affection between both, but now countered with coldness and distrust. She moved her lips slightly but no words were coming out. She could tell him that was fake, but she obviously knew that it was true. If It was only for the sake to pushing him away. He would hate me for a life time. She couldn’t bear it.
Teng Kuanrou was staring at her intently, waiting patiently for her answer.
Qianqian finally took a deep breath and said plainly: “It was true.”
When Teng Kuanrou heard that it was true. He rushed to her, grabbed her into embrace and gasped: “Qianqian! We could just immediately run away and left the Central Plains. We could go… go to the south, to the sea over, where the islands are evergreen, we could live there by ourselves without seeing any more people…”
“Teng… Big Brother…Teng…” Qianqian called him back from far away. But for a long while, he couldn’t respond, until a moment he was subdued: “What?” asked muddled. Qianqian has drawn herself out of his arms, stood straightly in front of him, calmly requested: “Can you?” Looking at his bewildered face, she said: “You are the one who read the book of the sages. If you could do this, even if we could be together, you will never be happy.”
After listening to her teaching, Teng Kuanrou calmed down at last and said: “But if we didn’t leave now, we will become adversaries in the future.”
Qianqian wry smiled, helplessly said: “Some things we can choose, others can’t.”
Suddenly another cock crowing was broken in, Qianqian decisively turned around, walked out of the cave. Teng Kuanrou only could run after her hurriedly. When the two ran out of the waterfall, a morning glow from the woods, shining across the pool, revealed that the wooden piles were shattered with traces of fire. The two were feeling something really bad. Teng Kuanrou saw a person lying on the grass by the other shore, looking at his clothes, he was shocked: “Oh, Master, he…”
The words were just out, he flew to the other shore, quickly ran to the man lying face down on the ground. Teng Kuanrou turned him over and saw that it was really Master Yu, he cried: “Master! Master!” Shook him a few times and found that his body was cold and stiff. It told that he has already died for a long time. Qianqian was standing aside, watching him holding the body of his Master crying, she didn’t know how to comfort him. She suddenly remembered that before Chixiazi died, he said there was one more person in the Qingcheng School knew about the truth of poisoning. This man was the master of Teng Kuanrou, so she suspected: “Must be Guo Ruyun! ”
“Qianqian!” Teng Kuanrou suddenly stopped crying and called her name loudly. Qianqian looked back and saw him gazed at her strangely, as he dragged down the collars of Master Yu to show a black color palm print on his chest. Immediately she shook her head and said: “I didn’t! I only used half of my strength when I hit him. And you know that, I have no poison of my palms, don’t you?”
Qianqian realized that she has been framed. She was panic, and was afraid that even Teng Kuanrou did not believe her. Teng Kuanrou sighed: “Of course I know, but your black palm is imprinted here. The evidence is conclusive. Who will believe you?”
Qianqian hatefully said: “There must be that Guo Ruyun did it. The famous Qingcheng school is really good at framing.”
Listened to her mocking, Teng Kuanrou felt very sad. He didn’t expect that the respectful school he has learned martial art was a place of indecency, but now there was no time to be sad. If the grand master killed Master Yu, the next person he would most likely to take care with, must be Qianqian. He quickly grabbed her hand and said: “No! The grand master has premeditated, you must not go to the sword testing conference.”
Qianqian sneered: “If I didn’t go, Guo Ruyun must be very disappointed! He was waiting for me to show up, so he deliberately ruined the July fire array. He was afraid that I couldn’t get out of the cave. You think can I not go to the sword-testing conference?”
Qianqian was speaking fearlessly and uprightly, Teng Kuanrou was moved, quickly nodded and said: “Good! I will accompany with you.”
When Qianqian heard that he will be with her, she was very heartened, but she smiled and refused: “You are still a disciple of Qingcheng School. And I am a suspect of murdering your master. If we appeared together, I am afraid it would be just more turmoil.”
Teng Kuanrou took her hand, looked at her eyes melancholy but speechless. Qianqian said: “Your kindness I have received and adorned.” glanced at the sun broken sky, and said: “If I didn’t die, we must meet again.” After saying it, she gently drew her hand back, and flew away.
Teng Kuanrou had no choice but let her go. He was standing there feeling disturbing solely. He didn’t know what he should do next. Then he heard a voice: “Hey! You just let her go.”
Teng Kuanrou looked back, saw a little man standing by the pool. He was carrying a fishing basket on left hand and a fishing rod on right shoulder. He looked at Teng Kuanrou and said: “She! Ren Zhenyi!”
Teng Kuanrou heard that he mentioned Qianqian’s name and was surprised, asked doubtfully: “Yes! But what about her?”
“She is in danger! You are still dreaming! The old Taoist is really a difficult fellow, he wanted something really big, even for a carp!” After saying that, he saw that person did not respond, he just walked away. Teng Kuanrou then quickly asked: “Who are you?”
Yulang raised the fishing basket in his hand, smiled and said: “I delivered fish.” Then he turned around and walked away.
Delivered fish! Teng Kuanrou was instantly reminded the two-foot-long carp on the altar of the Sanqing Hall last night. When the buddy walked by his Master’s body, he muttered: “Even though Master Yu was such a good man…”
Just a simple conscientious remark from a stranger， Kuanrou was knocked and encouraged, suddenly he recovered from the delusion.