Sword Stained With Royal Blood English Translation
Novel by Jin Yong
Chapter 4 - Part 1
Yuan Chengzhi, at the age of fourteen, accidentally discovered an iron box. Over the years, he had completely forgotten about it. Seeing the expressions of Zhang Chunjiu and the bald man, it was clear that "Golden Snake Secret Book" must contain significant secrets. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been searching for it continuously for eighteen years and resorting to fighting each other over it. The thought of what could be written in the secret manual couldn't be suppressed any longer. So, he searched for the dusty, spider-webbed small iron box in the corner of the bed. The box was much smaller, and Zhang Chunjiu and the bald man didn't notice it at first. When they saw the fake secret manual in the large iron box, they were ecstatic and no longer bothered to search for anything else.
Yuan Chengzhi opened the iron box and took out the genuine copy of "Golden Snake Secret Book," placing it on the table. He flipped it open and began reading. The beginning contained some cultivation techniques and methods for hidden weapons, which were similar to what his master and Daoist Musang had taught him. Furthermore, it detailed the various martial arts secrets of different schools and factions, as well as methods to counter them. There was also a martial art created by the Golden Snake Lord himself. Upon a rough skim, he found that some of the techniques mentioned in the manual were not as profound as what he had learned himself, but the methods employed were incredibly sinister and ruthless, surpassing his own. He thought to himself that this time, he had narrowly escaped falling into the enemy's despicable trap. In the future, when he traveled the martial world, he might encounter wicked opponents again. Though he disdained using such methods himself, knowing one's enemy was essential for self-defense. Therefore, he meticulously studied the techniques described in the manual.
As he continued reading, cold sweat began to trickle down his forehead. He couldn't believe that there were such venomous techniques in the world. It was truly unimaginable. Compared to them, Zhang Chunjiu and the bald man's use of stupefying drugs seemed insignificant. By the third day of reading, he realized that the martial arts mentioned in the secret manual were completely different from what he had previously learned. They not only had no resemblance to the martial arts of the Huashan Sect, but his master or Daoist Musang had never mentioned them either. It wasn't merely a different path; it was far-fetched and often contrary to the principles of martial arts, yet it possessed extraordinary means of overcoming enemies. With his extensive knowledge in martial arts, he quickly grasped the techniques from various schools. The bizarre and unconventional martial arts described in the manual kept pouring in. Once he learned one, he couldn't stop and continued to follow the manual step by step.
With a solid foundation in Mix Element Art, learning any martial art became effortless for him. However, after practicing for more than twenty days, he encountered a difficult obstacle. The key techniques in the secret manual were clearly described, but there were no accompanying illustrations for the fundamental postures. The instructions were concise, and without knowledge of the moves, he had to skip and not practice them.
Afterwards, in the following ten or so pages, it described techniques specifically designed to deal with a formation called the "Five Elements Formation." It required him to become familiar with the Bagua and the various interactions between them. This formation was incredibly intricate, with its five members constantly moving and complementing each other, and the Golden Snake Lord used extremely clever methods to dismantle it, showcasing several highly advanced martial arts techniques. Yuan Chengzhi thought to himself that he might not necessarily encounter the "Five Elements Formation" in the future, but the knowledge of breaking formations had wide applications and would be highly useful. So, he devoted several days to diligently mastering each technique.
Most of the other martial arts recorded in the manual were described in a calm and objective manner, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. However, the section on the "Five Elements Formation" spanning those ten or so pages contained a resentful and malicious tone, with a strong sense of animosity towards the five opponents involved. The martial arts techniques used by these enemies were ruthless and powerful, each move intended to kill. While practicing, Chengzhi shook his head inwardly, thinking, "Why harbor such great anger? Breaking the formation is all that's needed." He learned the techniques but disregarded their malicious intent, thinking, "As my master often taught me, even if my martial arts are strong, I should always hold the thought of 'showing mercy and leaving room for maneuver'."
Continuing to flip through the pages, he came across a set of sword techniques called the "Golden Snake Swordplay." Thinking to himself, "This swordplay is named after the 'Golden Snake,' so the Golden Snake Lord must have attached great importance to it and it must have its unique aspects." As he practiced the forms, at first, he didn't notice anything peculiar, but as the movements became more intricate, involving stabs, strikes, and slashes, he realized that some techniques seemed impractical, and repeated attempts left him unsatisfied. Suddenly, he recalled the numerous patterns on the walls of the cave where the Golden Snake Lord was buried. Could they be related?
Unable to resist any longer, he brought a torch and a rope, and returned to the cave. By this time, he had grown tall, and fortunately, the entrance of the cave had been widened years ago. He squeezed inside, raised the torch, and illuminated the patterns on the wall. Upon closer examination, they were indeed graphical representations of the key instructions from the manual. Although the rock wall was soft and easily marked, the drawings were rough, with shallow etchings, suggesting that the Golden Snake Lord lacked strength when he carved them. Chengzhi was overjoyed, studying the drawings, committing them to memory. After spending a few hours, he thoroughly memorized all the patterns. He then paid two more respects before the tomb of the Golden Snake Lord, thanking him for the teachings passed down in his written work.
As he was about to leave, he caught a glimpse of the sword hilt on the cave wall. When he was young and weak, he hadn't dared to pull it out, but now he tightly grasped the hilt, and with a sharp sound, he withdrew it, revealing the sword blade underneath. The insertion point of the sword blade had left a deep groove in the stone wall. Without this pre-existing
crack, it would have been difficult for the Golden Snake Lord to insert the sword with little strength.
Suddenly, a chilling sensation engulfed his entire body, as if a bone-piercing coldness was pressing upon him. He noticed that the sword's blade was golden in color and had a peculiar shape, reminiscent of the previously seen Golden Snake Darts. The entire sword coiled and twisted like a snake, with the snake's tail forming the hilt and the snake's head serving as the blade tip. The snake's tongue extended into a fork, resulting in a two-pronged tip. The sword gleamed with a brilliant golden light and felt incredibly heavy in his hand. It seemed to be crafted from a mixture of gold and other metals. A bloodstain adorned the sword's surface, emitting a dark, jade-like glow, creating an eerie aura.
After observing it for a while, a sense of unease crept into his heart. He pondered upon the emerald bloodstain, wondering whose blood had transformed into this green mark. Was it shed by a righteous and noble person or by a heinous villain? Or perhaps it represented the congealed blood of countless victims?
With a slight movement of his hand, while wielding the sword, he immediately grasped the peculiar nature of the "Golden Snake Swordplay." The twin-pronged tip could both stab and hook onto the enemy's weapon, allowing for oblique thrusts and diagonal strikes, all capable of inflicting harm upon the opponent. Compared to a conventional longsword, the "Golden Snake Swordplay" offered many additional techniques. The previously deemed useless moves now turned into formidable maneuvers when used with this unique Golden Snake Sword.
Lost in the heat of the moment, he unintentionally swung the sword towards the cave wall. A piece of rock effortlessly crumbled, as if it were soft mud. This sword was incredibly sharp. Surprised yet delighted, he reconsidered, thinking, "The Golden Snake Lord did not leave a message bestowing this sword upon me. Seeing this treasured sword, my desire to possess it is but greed. It is better to let it accompany its former master here." Lifting the sword, he inserted it into the wall. This insertion was not forceful, nor did it follow the fissures in the stone. Consequently, a considerable portion of the blade remained exposed outside the rock, unable to reach the hilt. The sword blade trembled slightly, and the emerald bloodstain on the sword reflected the torchlight, resembling a wriggling snake desperately attempting to burrow into the stone wall.
Once again, his gaze fell upon the words on the cave wall, "A precious secret technique, entrusted to those destined to possess it. Enter my gate, encounter misfortune, but do not blame me." He couldn't help but be captivated by these words, his mind drifting away. He wondered what the appearance of this esteemed Golden Snake predecessor was like and how many astounding feats he had accomplished in his lifetime. In the end, how did he come to die within this mountain cave?
Upon seeing it, his yearning for the martial arts contained in the "Golden Snake Secret Bookl" grew stronger, and unknowingly, his sense of affinity towards this eccentric hero deepened. Upon leaving the cave, he spent over twenty days diligently mastering all the martial arts techniques recorded in the manual. Among them, the technique of wielding the Golden Snake Darts was particularly marvelous, possessing its own merits distinct from Daoist Musang's concealed weapons technique.
As he reached the last three pages, he found them densely filled with verses and incantations. Some parts presented intricate variations that heightened his understanding and intuition, but more than half of it remained incomprehensible. He immersed himself in studying these three pages of verses, pondering over them for two days, yet contradictions seemed to permeate throughout. There had to be a crucial key that he was missing. Despite meticulously scrutinizing the entire manual, he had thoroughly grasped and comprehended all the techniques and methods described. Returning to the mountain cave and closely examining the inscriptions on the wall, he still found them perplexing.
Continuing to read further, he encountered many peculiar names for the techniques: "When I Bid Farewell to You Last Year," "Concealing Tears with a Pretense of Submission," "Half-lowered Eyebrows Blushing with Shyness," "Intertwined Intestines," "Countless Streams of Tear Stains," "Half-shy, Half-joyful," "Reluctant to Leave, Yet Desiring to Depart," "Tears Unable to be Sent," "Past Happiness like a Dream," "Persuading Me to Return Home Early," "The Lament of the Lonely Wild Goose," "Sharing Life and Death," "When Will I See You, My Beloved," and so on. These names were all expressions of love and intimacy between men and women, seemingly depicting the heartache of a young girl reminiscing about a departed lover. Yuan Chengzhi, lacking understanding of romantic emotions and having limited exposure to poetry, found these technique names excessively sentimental and rather tedious. Each move seemed to waver between advancing and retreating, appearing elusive, and abundant in feints but scarce in practical strikes. It seemed more like a game than a combat technique for life-or-death situations, offering little utility when facing real opponents.
But as he continued reading, he came across a move called "Feigned Intentions, Genuine Feelings." The manual described this move in ink, stating, "False intentions are abundant in the mortal realm, while true feelings are rare. Various tests are employed to discern the true intentions of others, yet genuine feelings are exceptionally difficult to discern. This is why nights are spent in melancholy, with the heartstrings twisting and turning, on the verge of breaking." This move incorporated numerous feints, with the final statement being, "Whether other people possess genuine feelings or not, even if you yourself do, the ultimate destination of this move remains unknown to all, including oneself." It was a strike that appeared both real and illusory, with an uncertain mindset. Yuan Chengzhi thought to himself, "My master often warned me to be cautious of falling into a demonic path while practicing martial arts. Once entranced by the demonic path, one's mental state becomes chaotic and difficult to regain composure. The Golden Snake Lord has already ventured close to the brink of falling into the demonic path. I cannot afford to follow in his footsteps."
Closing the manual, he suddenly realized that this move, with its ever-changing blend of reality and illusion, was incredibly clever. The one executing the move remained unaware of its target, and naturally, the opponent would be even more clueless. Since its origin and destination were unknown, it was nearly impossible to evade or counter.
That night, he struggled to find the underlying principles, tossing and turning in bed, unable to find rest. The bright moon outside the window cast its silver light into the room, and he suddenly thought, "I have already mastered the Mix Element Art, and yet, I have spent an additional two months on this Golden Snake Manual. Master once said that the eccentricity of the Golden Snake Lord's teachings is of no benefit. Techniques where one doesn't even know where the strike is aimed, with an uncertain mindset, what kind of martial arts are they? But this move, 'Feigned Intentions, Genuine Feelings,' is truly ingenious."
For someone who had achieved such a level of martial arts proficiency, it was indeed rare for him not to delve into the profound secrets of the techniques. He thought, "Out of sight, out of mind. I will just burn it." With a determined mind, he got off the bed, lit the oil lamp, and placed the manual on the flame. However, even after burning for a long time, the cover of the book only turned charred black, unable to catch fire.
He was greatly astonished, exerting force to pull and tear, but the book remained unscathed. By this time, his Mix Element Art had reached its pinnacle, and his hands possessed immense internal strength. Such force could stretch even an iron sheet, yet unexpectedly, the book showed no signs of damage. He realized there must be something peculiar about it. Upon closer examination, he discovered that the cover was woven with black and gold threads, consisting of two layers.
He took a small knife and cut the threads that held the cover together, dismantling it. He then continued to burn the manual in the fire, and instantly, flames roared, reducing the Golden Snake Lord's lifelong expertise to ashes. Turning his attention to the cover, it seemed to contain something within the layers. Carefully prying open the intertwined golden threads, he discovered two pieces of paper hidden inside.
On one piece, it was written, "Map of a Precious Treasure," accompanied by a detailed map and numerous markings. Below the map were two lines of text: "The one who obtains the treasure, please travel to Jingyan in Quzhou, Zhejiang Province, and seek out a woman named Wen Yi. Present her with a hundred thousand taels of gold." He thought, "How arrogant!" At the end of the note, there were two additional lines: "Even if all the world's treasures were gathered at this moment, how could they compare to half a day spent together? Placing great value on wealth while disregarding separation, it is the epitome of foolishness. Regret! So much regret!" The small words beneath were marked with numerous teardrops. After contemplating for a while, he still couldn't understand their meaning.
The other piece of paper, however, was densely filled with martial arts techniques, addressing the unresolved aspects from the manual. When compared and referenced together, instant enlightenment ensued, revealing endless ingenious applications.
He gazed at the bright moon in the sky, the profound martial arts secrets contained in the “Golden Snake Secret Book” flowing through his mind like a clear stream, transparent and free from impurities. It continued to flow until the red sun filled the window, and only then did he awaken. These martial arts techniques seemed excessively intricate and excessively ornate, likely due to the Golden Snake Lord's nature, delighting in bewildering others by making the path twist and turn, causing dizziness. The words on these two pieces of paper were written with ink, clearly not from the time he was confined in the mountain cave. They were the ultimate culmination of his martial arts, providing insight into the myriad of bizarre moves depicted later with charcoal.
After a night of contemplation, he not only deciphered the Golden Snake Lord's secret techniques but also gained a deeper understanding of the superior martial arts taught by his master and Daoist Musang. He stared at the two pages of white paper, now reduced to ashes, feeling amazed by the calculated nature of the Golden Snake Lord. The enigmatic aspects deliberately left in the manual were meant to entice the reader to explore further, eventually leading them to the treasure map. If the manual fell into the hands of ordinary people who didn't delve into the profound intricacies of martial arts, they would likely never discover the map. He tucked the two pieces of paper between the two book covers and retrieved the Golden Snake Sword from the cave, practicing the sword techniques until it was restored to its original position.
Two days later, Yuan Chengzhi packed his belongings and bid farewell to the mute man. Having lived on the mountain for many years, his sudden departure left a pang of sadness in his heart. Dawei and Xiaoguai, who possessed a certain level of spiritual understanding, clung to him, refusing to let him leave. Yuan Chengzhi found it even harder to part with them. The mute man with two giant apes escorts him down the mountain, and they tearfully bid farewell.
As Yuan Chengzhi descended the mountain with his accomplishments, everything he heard and saw appeared novel to him. Along the way, he encountered villagers dressed in tattered clothes, their faces pale and emaciated from hunger. After traveling over a hundred miles, he saw dozens of people digging tree roots to sustain themselves in the mountains. Though he had silver left by his master, there was nowhere to buy food, so he resorted to using his martial arts skills to catch birds and animals for sustenance. As he traveled several tens of miles further, he witnessed a continuous stream of starving people lying dead along the road, deeply moved by their pitiful state.
After several days, as he approached the border of Shanxi Province, he was astonished to see starving people cooking and eating the corpses of those who had died from starvation. He
dared not look too long and hurried past.
On that day, he arrived at a town where a large gathering of starving people sang in unison:
"Eat his mother, wear his mother, open the gates to welcome the Rebel King. When the Rebel King comes, he doesn't levy taxes."
"Seek advancement in the court, seek unity in the bureaucracy. Lately, it's hard for poor men to make a living. Open the gates early to pay respects to the Rebel King, ensuring everyone's joy."
A military officer accompanied by over ten soldiers shouted loudly, "You sing these rebellious demon songs, aren't you afraid of being executed?" He brandished his whip, striking the gathered people indiscriminately.
The starving crowd cried out, "If the Rebel King doesn't come, we will all starve to death. We have no choice but to rebel!" They surged forward, grabbing hold of the officer and soldiers, beating and biting them until all ten of them were beaten to death on the spot.
Witnessing this scene, Yuan Chengzhi thought to himself, "No wonder the Rebel King's power is growing day by day. The people are so hungry that they are forced to kill officials and rebel." He asked one of the starving people, "Brother, do you know where the Rebel King is? I wish to join him." The starving man replied, "I heard that the Rebel King's army is currently in the areas of Xiangling and Wenxi. They will be here soon. We are all planning to join the army." Yuan Chengzhi then asked, "The song you were all singing earlier was quite good.
Are there any others?" The starving man responded, "There are many more. They were all composed by Mister Li, a subordinate of the Rebel King." They proceeded to sing several more songs, all of which advocated killing officials, rebelling, and welcoming the Rebel King.
As Yuan Chengzhi continued on his journey, he inquired along the way and encountered a small contingent of the Rebel Army by the Yellow River. The leader in command, upon hearing that he was seeking the Rebel King, didn't dare to neglect him and promptly sent someone to accompany him to Li Zicheng's camp.
Li Zicheng, also known as the Rebel King, personally received Yuan Chengzhi when he heard that he was a disciple of the esteemed martial arts master Mu Renqing. Despite being occupied with military affairs, Li Zicheng found the time to meet with him. Impressed by Li Zicheng's imposing aura and amiable demeanor, Yuan Chengzhi held him in high regard. Li
Zicheng mentioned that his master had gone to the Jiangnan region, implying that Mu Renqing spoke highly of his talented young disciple. This led Li Zicheng to value Yuan Chengzhi greatly and showed an interest in recruiting him.
However, upon learning that his master was not present and that Cui Qiushan had also gone to Jiangnan to raise funds for the army, Yuan Chengzhi became disheartened. He expressed his desire to seek his master and serve Li Zicheng afterward. Understanding his predicament, Li Zicheng did not insist and assigned General Li Yan to take care of him. He also provided Yuan Chengzhi with fifty taels of silver as travel expenses, for which Yuan Chengzhi expressed his gratitude.
Li Yan, though a military officer in the Rebel Army, dressed like a scholar and displayed refined manners. He was the son of the former Minister of War, Li Jingbai, and had been a successful scholar. However, due to his assistance to famine-stricken civilians, he had offended local officials and wealthy families and was falsely imprisoned. A female swordsman, admired for her courage and admiration of Li Yan, led a group of people to storm the prison and rescue him. This woman, known as Red lady, often dressed in red, hence her nickname. Li Yan, faced with this situation and compelled to rebel, married Red lady and joined the Rebel Army. He proposed the equal distribution of land and exemption from taxes, advocating for the welfare of the common people. Li Zicheng wholeheartedly accepted his suggestions, greatly appreciating his loyalty. The Rebel Army, originally consisting of hungry peasants, mutineers, and unemployed postal couriers, rebelled out of desperation for food, lacking any grand ambitions. As they went from place to place, they inevitably engaged in looting, causing the people to be distrustful and scattered. They experienced periods of success and failure, struggling to establish a stable force. However, after Li Yan joined them, he reformed the army's discipline, strictly forbidding indiscriminate killing and rape, resulting in an immediate resurgence of their military strength.
Li Yan, known for his strict military governance, also composed numerous songs, which were taught to children and spread far and wide. As the common people suffered from famine and were oppressed by government officials demanding taxes, the news that "the Rebel King does not levy taxes upon his arrival" garnered widespread support. Consequently, even before the Rebel Army arrived, some cities surrendered without a fight.
Li Yan held great respect for Yuan Chonghuan, the famous military strategist. Upon hearing that the son of Yuan Chonghuan's deputy commander had arrived, Li Yan treated him with utmost courtesy, inviting him into the camp and introducing him to his wife, Red lady. Red lady exuded a spirited and heroic aura, matching that of any man. The three of them conversed harmoniously, as if they were old friends. Apart from his martial arts skills, Yuan Chengzhi had limited knowledge and understanding. Li Yan, well-versed in historical events and the rise and fall of dynasties, engaged him in discussions about the broader state of the world. This opened Yuan Chengzhi's mind, and he deeply admired Li Yan. The two men felt a strong connection and, after exchanging vows, became sworn brothers. Yuan Chengzhi stayed in Li Yan's camp for three days until the Rebel Army prepared to depart north, bidding
Yuan Chengzhi, a novice in the world, was inspired by Li Yan's demeanor and character. He bought scholarly attire and disguised himself as a scholar, intending to search for his master in Jiangnan. Unaware of his master's specific whereabouts, he embarked on a journey southward, relying on chance encounters for guidance.
Jiangnan, known for its wealth and prosperity, although plagued by corrupt officials who oppressed the people, still offered a relatively comfortable existence compared to the dire conditions faced by the famine-stricken populace in Qin and Jin. It was akin to stepping into paradise.
On that day, after arriving in Yushan in Ganzhou, Yuan Chengzhi had a meal and went to the pier to catch a boat heading east. He saw a large boat moored by the riverside and inquired about it. He learned that it was chartered by a wealthy merchant from Shangrao to transport goods to Jinhua in Zhejiang. Yuan Chengzhi requested to join the journey, and the boat owner, driven by greed for more fare, discussed it with the merchant named Long Delin. Seeing that Yuan Chengzhi was a scholar, Long Delin agreed.
Just as the boat owner was about to set sail, a young man hurriedly ran to the pier and called out, "Boat owner, I have an urgent matter in Quzhou. Please accommodate me and allow me to join you." When Yuan Chengzhi heard the clear and pleasant voice, he looked up and saw a handsome young man. This person appeared to be around eighteen or nineteen years old, dressed in a stone-blue long robe with a white jade ornament on his blue headdress. He had an elegant demeanor, carrying a package on his back. His fair skin was smooth and his face was rosy, as if powdered white. Long Delin also noticed the young man's luxurious attire and exceptional talent, developing a favorable impression. He ordered the boat owner to lower the gangplank and let him board.
As soon as the young man in the blue robe stepped onto the boat, it slightly sank, surprising Yuan Chengzhi. Although the young man appeared slim and weighed no more than a hundred catties, the boat seemed to bear the weight of over two hundred catties. Considering that the young man's package was not large, Yuan Chengzhi wondered why it was so heavy. After the young man boarded, the boat set off.
The young man in the blue robe entered the cabin and paid respects to Long Delin and Yuan Chengzhi, introducing himself as Wen Qing. He explained that he had learned of his mother's severe illness and was rushing back to visit her. While he showed no particular interest in Long Delin, his eyes couldn't help but linger on Yuan Chengzhi as he asked, "Brother Yuan, from your accent, it seems you are not a local?" Yuan Chengzhi replied, "I am originally from Guangdong but have lived in Shanxi since I was young. This is my first time visiting Jiangnan." Wen Qing inquired, "What brings you to Zhejiang, Brother Yuan?" Yuan Chengzhi replied, "I
am visiting a friend."
At that moment, two small boats rowed swiftly and approached from both sides of the boat. Wen Qing fixed his gaze on the small boats until they turned a bend, concealed by the mountain cliff ahead, and then looked away.
During lunchtime, Long Delin, being hospitable, invited both Yuan Chengzhi and Wen Qing to dine together. Yuan Chengzhi had three large bowls of food, eating plenty of chicken, fish, and vegetables, while Wen Qing only had one bowl, displaying elegance and refinement.
Just after the meal, there was a commotion in the water as two small boats approached the main boat again. One of the small boats had a big man standing at the bow, glaring fiercely at the large boat. Wen Qing's eyebrows slightly furrowed, showing anger on his face. Yuan Chengzhi wondered, "Why is he getting angry upon seeing these two small boats?" Wen Qing seemed to notice and gave a faint smile, his expression turning gentle. He took a cup of tea brought by the boat attendant, took a sip, frowned as if finding the tea leaves coarse, and placed the teacup on the table.
By evening, the boat anchored near a town. Yuan Chengzhi wanted to go ashore for a stroll, but Long Delin refused to leave the cargo unattended. When he invited Wen Qing, the latter curled his lips, showing disdain, and said, "What is there to see in this wilderness? Nothing worth exploring." It seemed he was mocking Yuan Chengzhi's lack of worldly experience. Yuan Chengzhi found the young man arrogant, but he didn't take offense. Knowing that the landscapes of Jiangnan were gentle and beautiful, unlike the majestic and treacherous scenery of Mount Hua, he never missed an opportunity for sightseeing along the way. Thus, he disembarked and wandered around, had a few drinks, bought some oranges to bring back to the boat, intending to treat Long Delin and Wen Qing. However, he found both of them already asleep, so he undressed and went to bed as well.
In the middle of the night, while still asleep, Yuan Chengzhi suddenly heard a faint whistle in the distance. He woke up immediately, recalling his master's teachings about the various troubles and situations in the martial world, realizing that something was amiss. Quietly, he put on his clothes while still in bed.
Before long, there was a rush of oars, and a boat approached from downstream. Wen Qing abruptly sat up; it turned out he had not undressed. He retrieved a shining long sword from his bed and leaped to the bow of the boat.
Yuan Chengzhi was startled, thinking, "Could he be an undercover pirate sent to rob this merchant named Long?" When his master left the mountain, he mentioned the chaos and unrest in the world, advising him to avoid drawing attention with a prominent sword to avoid
unnecessary trouble. Following his master's advice, Yuan Chengzhi only carried a dagger with him, leaving his long sword, which he usually practiced with, on Mount Hua. Now, he touched the dagger by his side and sat up.
From the approaching boat, a rough voice shouted, "Wen, do you still uphold the chivalry of the martial world?" Wen Qing retorted, "What does it matter if I do or don't?" The man yelled, "We have been diligently tracking you all the way from Jiujiang, and here you are, appearing halfway to cause trouble!"
At this point, Long Delin was also awakened, peering out and seeing four small boats with torches shining brightly. Each boat was filled with people, brandishing weapons, which made him tremble uncontrollably. Yuan Chengzhi discerned the situation and reassured him, saying, "Don't be afraid, it has nothing to do with you!" Long Delin stammered, "Th-they're not here to rob my cargo, are they... strongmen for the cargo?"
Wen Qing shouted, "All the wealth in the world belongs to all the people in the world. Do you consider this gold to be yours?" The man replied, "Quickly bring out two thousand taels of gold, and we'll split it evenly. Each side will get one thousand taels, consider it a bargain." Wen Qing sneered, "Do you think so?" Two burly men on the small boat growled, "Brother Sha, why waste words with this arrogant fellow! If he doesn't want one thousand taels of gold, then he won't get a single copper." They brandished their weapons and leaped onto the main boat.
Long Delin, already trembling in fear from their threats, now saw the two men from the small boat jumping towards them, and he screamed, "Y-Yuan... Mister Yuan, strongmen... strongmen are here to rob... robbery!" Yuan Chengzhi pulled him behind himself and whispered, "Don't be afraid." Then, Wen Qing shifted his body, his left foot flew up, and with a thud, he kicked one person off the boat into the river, followed by a downward strike of his right hand with the long sword. The attacker raised his blade to block, but to his surprise, Wen Qing's long sword swiftly turned, avoiding the edge of the blade, and then, in one motion, he struck it down. With a sharp sound, the man's shoulder and blade were sliced off, causing him to fall on the bow of the boat, unconscious. Wen Qing sneered, calling out, "Brother Sha, don't let these pus-filled boils cause any more trouble." The big man across the way snorted and said, "Go bring back Old Li." The two men on the small boat approached empty-handed, but Wen
Qing merely chuckled, paying them no attention. The two men carried the injured man with his right arm severed back, while the man who had fallen into the river climbed back onto the small boat, dripping wet.
Brother Sha shouted, "Our Youlong Gang and your Qixian Sect have always minded our own business. Our boss is giving you face for being a disciple of the Fifth Ancestor, so don't think
we're easy to mess with."
Upon hearing him mention the Qixian Sect, Yuan Chengzhi's heart skipped a beat. "That Zhang Chunjiu who came to Mount Hua claiming to be from the Qixian Sect, isn't Wen Qing from the same faction? I'm afraid he's also a villain."
Wen Qing said, "Don't try to butter me up. Can't beat me, so you want to beg for mercy?" Brother Sha angrily retorted, "Are you going to follow the rules of the martial world or not?" Wen Qing coldly chuckled, "I'll do as I please. Why all this unnecessary talk?" Brother Sha said, "We have spoken beforehand. Our Youlong Gang has shown courtesy, hoping that both sides can maintain harmony without causing further damage. Your Fifth Ancestor should not accuse us of skinny maning the weak or taking advantage of the small." Yuan Chengzhi sensed a hint of fear in Brother Sha's tone when mentioning Wen Qing's supposed Fifth Ancestor. Wen Qing sneered, "With your meager skills, do you think you can skinny man me?"
As Yuan Chengzhi listened to the escalating argument between both sides, he knew that a fight was inevitable. From the conversations, it seemed that the Youlong Gang intended to rob a shipment of gold but was intercepted by Wen Qing, who snatched it away. The Youlong Gang was now seeking to split the spoils evenly. Since both sides were unscrupulous individuals, Yuan Chengzhi decided to play ignorant of any martial arts abilities and simply observe from the sidelines.
Brother Sha loudly shouted and wielded a large wind-slashing circular blade as he leaped onto the boat. Over ten burly men followed suit, standing behind him. Brother Sha clasped his fists and said, "Your Qixian Sect is renowned for its martial arts skills in southern Jiangnan. Today, I, Sha, will learn from your exceptional techniques!" Wen Qing snorted, "Are you challenging me alone, or are you all coming at once?" Brother Sha angrily replied, "You're underestimating me! If you have any friends on your boat, ask them to come out and be witnesses, so that no one can accuse Sha of lacking dignity." He turned towards the cabin entrance and said, "Call our friends from the cabin!" Two burly men entered the cabin and told Yuan Chengzhi and Long Delin, "Our boss wants you to come out."
Long Delin trembled all over and dared not speak. Yuan Chengzhi said, "They want to fight, but they just want us to be witnesses. It's nothing serious. Let's go outside." He held Long Delin's hand and walked towards the bow of the boat.
Wen Qing seemed impatient, not allowing Brother Sha to explain further, and coldly chuckled, "If you insist on making a fool of yourself, don't blame me for being ruthless. Show me your skills." With two swift sword strikes, he targeted Brother Sha's left shoulder and right arm. Although Brother Sha had a robust figure, his agility was notable, using a move called "Iron Bull Rams Neck" with the back of his blade to avoid the sword strikes while
Wen Qing exclaimed, "Is that all you've got? Show me all your tricks! I won't go easy on you." As he spoke, his long sword launched a series of attacks.
Brother Sha momentarily lost focus and with a "tsk" sound, his clothes were pierced, and a cut appeared on his shoulder. He muttered a few curses, then wielded his wind-slashing blade with ferocity, launching fierce and venomous attacks. Wen Qing's sword movements were graceful, swirling around and enveloping his opponent, with the shimmering green light of his long sword trapping Brother Sha.
As Yuan Chengzhi watched their exchanges, he realized that Wen Qing's martial arts skills far surpassed Brother Sha's. Although Brother Sha had formidable strength, his swordsmanship was clumsy. Wen Qing employed his agility to subdue Brother Sha gradually, who now appeared less agile and breathless compared to the beginning of the fight.
Amidst the glimmering sword and blade lights, Wen Qing shouted, and his sword struck Brother Sha's leg. Brother Sha's face changed dramatically as he stepped back three paces. He raised his right hand, and three bone-piercing darts flew towards Wen Qing. Wen Qing deflected two of them with his sword, while he dodged the third by shifting his body. Among the two darts deflected, one flew straight toward Yuan Chengzhi's chest.
Wen Qing exclaimed in surprise, thinking that he might accidentally harm someone else this time. However, to his amazement, Yuan Chengzhi extended his left hand and effortlessly caught the dart between two fingers. The torches held by the men from the Youlong Gang illuminated the bow of the boat brightly, allowing Wen Qing to see clearly. He couldn't help but be stunned, "This skill is truly impressive! It turns out his martial arts are truly exceptional."
Seeing that Wen Qing was focused on Yuan Chengzhi, a look of astonishment appeared on Brother Sha's face. Seizing the opportunity, he quickly shot three more bone-piercing darts towards them.
Yuan Chengzhi couldn't help but shout urgently, "Wen, be careful!" Wen Qing quickly turned his head and saw three bone-piercing darts within three feet of him. If it weren't for Yuan Chengzhi's timely warning, he could have dodged only one dart, while the other two would have been unavoidable. He quickly leaned to the side to avoid one dart, swiped his sword to deflect the other two, and then turned his body to nod in gratitude to Yuan Chengzhi. He raised his long sword and thrust it straight towards Brother Sha.
Brother Sha, already prepared for Wen Qing's attack, raised his wind-slashing blade and fiercely swung it. Wen Qing, harboring hatred for Brother Sha's maliciousness, struck back with lethal force. After exchanging a few moves, Wen Qing's sword struck Brother Sha's right shoulder with a loud clang, causing the wind-slashing blade to fall onto the deck. Wen Qing quickly advanced and severed his right leg. Brother Sha let out a miserable scream and fainted, causing his subordinates to panic and rush to his aid. Wen Qing's palm strike and sword thrust instantly killed seven or eight of them.
Yuan Chengzhi couldn't bear to watch and said, "Wen, spare them!" Wen Qing paid no attention and continued his onslaught, injuring two more. Seeing his ferocity, the remaining men jumped into the river to save their lives. Wen Qing effortlessly swung his sword, stabbing Brother Sha's chest, and then kicked his lifeless body into the river.
Feeling unhappy, Yuan Chengzhi thought to himself, "You've already won, why be so merciless?" He turned to look at Long Delin, who had already been scared to the point of paralysis.
The Youlong Gang members who had jumped into the river scrambled onto a small boat and rowed away downstream.
Yuan Chengzhi said, "They wanted to rob your belongings, but since they failed, it's best to let them go. Why needlessly take lives?" Wen Qing gave him a disdainful glance and said, "Didn't you see their despicable and malicious acts earlier? If I had fallen into their hands, the outcome would have been even worse. Just because you saved me once doesn't mean you can casually lecture me. I don't care." Yuan Chengzhi remained silent, thinking that this person lacked reason and compassion.