Sword Stained With Royal Blood English Translation
Novel by Jin Yong
Chapter 4 - Part 2
Wen Qing wiped the bloodstains off his sword, sheathed it, and bowed to Yuan Chengzhi with a sweet smile, saying, "Brother Yuan, thanks to your timely warning earlier, allowing me to avoid the hidden weapons. Thank you." Yuan Chengzhi blushed, returned the bow, and felt embarrassed, unable to respond. He couldn't fathom the true nature of this young man, who could be courteous and refined at one moment and fierce as a wolf and tiger the next.
Wen Qing called for the boatman to come out and instructed him to clean the bloodstains from the bow and immediately set sail. The boatman, having witnessed the brutal fight, didn't dare to show disrespect and washed the deck before hoisting the anchor and setting sail into the night.
Wen Qing then had the boatman bring out the wine and food belonging to Long Delin, taking charge of the situation and enjoying the moonlight at the bow of the boat with Yuan Chengzhi. He made no mention of the fierce battle that had just taken place, drank a few
cups of wine, and said, "When will the bright moon appear? Raise your cup to the sky. Hmph, as if the sky cares. When the moon decides to come out, it will come out. If it doesn't want to, it won't. What do you think, Brother Yuan?"
Yuan Chengzhi, listening to his sudden poetic remark, could only respond with a vague sound. Although he had studied with Ying Song for several years during his childhood, and occasionally perused books since studying martial arts with Mu Renqing, he did not consider it as formal education and had limited proficiency in literary matters.
Wen Qing said, "Brother Yuan, with the moon shining brightly and the wind high, it's such a beautiful night. Shall we compose a poem together? How about that?" Yuan Chengzhi asked, "Compose a poem? What does that mean? I don't know how to do it." Wen Qing smiled and didn't answer, pouring a cup of wine for Yuan Chengzhi. Suddenly, they noticed a small boat approaching them on the river, despite going against the current, it sailed quickly. Wen Qing's face changed, and he coldly chuckled a few times, focusing on drinking his wine.
The boat sailed smoothly with the wind and current, heading downstream. In the blink of an eye, the two boats drew closer. Wen Qing threw down his wine cup and suddenly leaped up, his feet tapping on the boat's canopy, landing at the stern. He snatched the helm from the boat's leader in one swift motion, turning the boat sharply to the left and aiming directly at the small boat. The small boat tried to evade, but it was too late. A loud crash echoed as the two boats collided.
Yuan Chengzhi exclaimed, "Ah!" and saw three figures leaping from the small boat and landing on the bow of the larger boat, displaying remarkable agility. Meanwhile, the small boat capsized, its bottom facing the sky. From a distance, Yuan Chengzhi could make out that there were originally five people on the small boat. Apart from the three who had leaped onto their boat, two individuals—one steering and one rowing—had fallen into the water, shouting for help before sinking to the riverbed. In this area, the river was treacherous with many rocks. Even if they were skilled swimmers, it was unlikely they would survive the night.
Yuan Chengzhi silently cursed Wen Qing for his cruelty, needlessly causing harm. As soon as the two individuals resurfaced, he reached out, snapped the rope, bit it with his teeth, and braced his feet against the side of the boat. He dived into the river, grabbing the two people by their hair, using the force of the rope between his teeth to propel himself in a circle on the water's surface. With his "Mix Element Art" internal strength and the lightness skills taught by Mu Renqing, he effortlessly brought the two individuals back onto the boat. The four of them cheered in unison. One was Wen Qing, who had returned to the bow of the boat after leaping from the stern, and the other three were the individuals who had jumped from the small boat.
After releasing the two individuals, Yuan Chengzhi looked at the three figures under the
moonlight. One was an old, skinny man in his fifties with sparse facial hair, another was a sturdy middle-aged man, and the third was a woman in her thirties.
The old man gave a sinister smile and asked, "Young man, you have impressive skills. May I ask for your name and the master you follow?"
Yuan Chengzhi clasped his fist and replied, "This humble one is surnamed Yuan. I pulled these two individuals out of the water out of concern for their safety. It was not my intention to boast of my meager skills in front of esteemed seniors. Please forgive me."
Surprised by his humble demeanor, the old man assumed he was intimidated and sneered, turning to Wen Qing and saying, "No wonder you've become bolder, boy. So you've acquired such a strong helper. Is he your lover?"
Wen Qing's face flushed red, and he angrily retorted, "I address you as a senior, show me some respect in your words!"
Yuan Chengzhi thought to himself, "These people are far from righteous individuals. I must not get entangled in their disputes." He spoke aloud, "I happened to meet Mister Wen by chance and have no personal relationship with him. I advise everyone to discuss matters peacefully without resorting to violence, so as not to strain our relations."
The old man, hearing Yuan Chengzhi's tone, realized he was not Wen Qing's ally. Delighted, he said, "Since Mister Yuan has no connection with this Wen person, that is excellent. After we settle our business, I would like to have a detailed conversation with Mister Yuan. We can become acquainted as fellow wanderers of the martial world. It's only natural to abide by such rules." His words implied a potential alliance and the possibility of sharing the spoils. Yuan Chengzhi didn't respond directly but bowed and stepped back behind Wen Qing.
The old man turned to Wen Qing and said, "You, at such a young age, are ruthless in your actions. If Brother Sha couldn't defeat you and you drove him away, that would have sufficed. Why did you have to take his life?"
Wen Qing replied, "I'm just one person, and you all attacked me together. Shouldn't I be a little ruthless? And what about him? Aren't you afraid of being mocked for skinny maning the weak? If you have the ability, then take the gold from him. Once I pick it up, his vengeful spirit will relentlessly pursue me. Do you want to benefit from my hard work? Do you have any shame?" His voice was sharp and full of retorts, leaving the old man speechless.
The woman suddenly raised her eyebrows and cursed, "You little brat! The Wang family has spoiled you to the point where you have no manners. I need to ask your grandfather who taught you to disrespect your elders like this." Wen Qing replied, "Elders should also behave like elders. If you want to put on airs and take advantage of others, it won't work."
The old man became furious and slammed his right palm on the table at the bow of the boat, shattering it. Wen Qing said, "I already knew about Elder Rong's martial arts prowess. It's nothing more than this. Why show off in front of a younger generation like me? If you want to display your skills, go show them to my grandfathers." The old man said, "Don't bring up your grandfathers to suppress others. So what if your grandfather is formidable? If they were truly capable, they wouldn't let their daughter be mistreated, nor would they have a bastard like you." Wen Qing's face turned pale, and he reached for the hilt of his sword. His trembling hand, like white jade, revealed his extreme anger. The big man and the woman burst into laughter.
Yuan Chengzhi, seeing tears streaming down Wen Qing's cheeks, couldn't bear it and thought, "He handles situations much more adeptly than me, so why did he start crying when provoked? This old man argues with others without reason, saying all sorts of offensive things." Initially, Yuan Chengzhi had decided not to intervene, but witnessing Wen Qing being bullied, he felt compelled to help the weak against the strong.
The old man menacingly said, "What use is crying? Hand over the gold quickly. We don't want it for ourselves, but we will give it to Sha Lao Da's widow. Besides, our friend Yuan should also have a share." Yuan Chengzhi hurriedly shook his head and said, "I don't want it!"
Enraged, Wen Qing's body trembled as he cried, "I refuse to give it to you."
The big man snorted and, seeing that the large boat had already lowered its sails but was still drifting downstream, he lifted the heavy iron anchor at the bow and swung it in the air, casting it towards the shore. The anchor, connected by an iron chain, weighed around a hundred catties, indicating his considerable strength. The anchor hooked onto the shore, bringing the large boat to a sudden stop. The big man shouted, "Will you or will you not bring it out?"
Wen Qing raised his left sleeve, wiped away his tears, and said, "Fine, I'll give it to you." He rushed into the cabin and returned after a while, holding a heavy-looking package with both hands. The big man was about to reach out and take it when Wen Qing shouted, "Spit! It's not that easy!" With a forceful motion, he flung the package, which made a loud splash as it landed in the river. He exclaimed, "If you dare to kill me and want to get the gold, you're delusional!" The big man was furious and drew his sword, ready to strike at him.
Wen Qing quickly grabbed his sword and made two swift stabs towards the big man. The old man shouted, "Stop!" and the big man parried the attacks and stepped back.
The old man glanced sideways at Wen Qing, sneeringly saying, "Indeed, a dragon begets a dragon, a phoenix begets a phoenix, but a tortoise is nothing more than a turtle. With a father like yours, it's no wonder you turned out to be such a wretch. If you continue to act recklessly in front of me today, I won't be surnamed Rong anymore." Without any visible movement, the old man suddenly stood in front of Wen Qing. Wen Qing thrust his sword, but the old man deflected the attack with his empty hand, unleashing a fierce onslaught. Despite wielding a long sword, Wen Qing was forced to retreat repeatedly. After more than ten moves, the old man's finger struck Wen Qing's right wrist, causing the long sword to clang as it fell to the ground. The old man kicked the sword into the air, caught the hilt with his left hand, and steadied the blade with his right hand, its light pointing toward Wen Qing's face as he approached him.
The old man shouted, "If I don't leave a mark on you today, I'm afraid you'll forget how formidable I am!" Holding the broken sword, he slashed towards Wen Qing's face. Startled, Wen Qing called out and dodged, but the old man continued to advance, unrelenting. Extending his left hand, the tip of the sword emitted a green glow, seemingly about to strike Wen Qing's face.
Yuan Chengzhi, witnessing the old man's ruthless attack, thought, "If I don't intervene now, his face will surely suffer severe injuries." He shouted, "Senior, stop! Don't harm anyone." He took out a copper coin from his bag and threw it towards the old man's broken sword. With a loud clank, the old man felt a strong impact on his hand as the hidden weapon hit the blade. The force caused his hand to ache, and the long sword slipped from his grasp. Wen Qing, who was initially terrified and pale, suddenly exclaimed in joy. He swiftly moved behind Yuan Chengzhi, grabbing his arm as if seeking his protection.
The old man, named Rong Cai, was the leader of the Youlong Gang. In the southern Zhejiang region, his martial arts prowess was considered high, second only to a few individuals like the five ancestors of Qixian sect and Mister Lu Qi. He had developed powerful claw techniques with his ten fingers, surpassing ordinary swords and knives. However, he was astonished that a small hidden weapon caused him to lose his weapon. Feeling immense shame and anger, his face turned red, but he couldn't help but feel a sense of trepidation: "How is this young man so incredibly strong?"
The big man and the woman had also realized that Yuan Chengzhi possessed formidable martial arts skills. They thought that since the gold had already been thrown into the river, they wouldn't gain any advantage today with this skilled opponent present. It would be better to exchange a few polite words and leave. The woman said, "Old man, let's go. Considering this friend Yuan, let's spare this kid today. We can settle the score with the Qixian sect's faction in Jingyan, Quzhou, tomorrow."
Wen Qing exclaimed, "You think you can just leave after showing off your skills? The Youlong Gang only knows how to skinny man the weak and fear the strong. Aren't you ashamed?" Yuan Chengzhi frowned, thinking that this person had just narrowly escaped a calamity but was now being so sarcastic and cutting, not leaving any room for redemption. The woman appeared embarrassed and angry, her face filled with fury.
Rong Cai also found it difficult to retreat gracefully. He forced a smile and said, "This young friend is truly exceptional. Our encounter today is a fated one. How about we have a friendly bout of martial arts?" He had practiced the powerful Eagle Claw technique for more than twenty years and was quite confident. He thought that while this young man might be skilled in hidden weapons, he wouldn't surpass him in hand-to-hand combat.
Yuan Chengzhi pondered, "If I engage in a fight with this old man, it would be as if I've taken Wen Qing's side. This youth from the Xianpai faction has a narrow and cunning mindset, ready to kill indiscriminately for a small amount of gold. He can't be a beneficial friend. Why should I needlessly antagonize someone for his sake?" With that in mind, he cupped his hands and said, "As a newcomer in the martial world, I am ignorant and inexperienced. How can I dare to show my rudimentary skills in front of such a senior?"
Rong Cai smiled faintly, thinking, "This young man knows how to handle himself." Seizing the opportunity, he said, "Friend Yuan, you're too modest!" He glared fiercely at Wen Qing, then turned to the big man and the woman, saying, "Let's go."
Wen Qing retorted, "I already know how formidable you are. When you see someone with superior skills, you're too afraid to act and just want to escape, eager to rush back home, take some medicine to calm your nerves, and shiver under your blanket." He refused to give an inch and deliberately tried to provoke a duel between Yuan Chengzhi and himself. Seeing that Yuan Chengzhi possessed superior martial arts skills, Rong Cai realized he was no match. This not only made Rong Cai extremely embarrassed, but it also displeased Yuan Chengzhi.
Rong Cai angrily said, "Although this friend Yuan is young, he values friendships. Come, let's have a little game and prove that I'm not a coward, despite what ignorant youngsters may say." Yuan Chengzhi replied, "Old sir, why bother stooping to his level? He's just talking." Rong Cai retorted, "Rest assured, I won't take it seriously."
Wen Qing coldly remarked, "You talk big but hesitate to take action. You're more interested in establishing rapport before engaging in a fight. Hmph, what a joke! I've never seen anything like this before. Rong old man, you're so afraid. Why not invite this Mr. Yuan to become the leader of the Youlong Gang?"
Rong Cai's face turned stern, about to explode in anger, when suddenly they noticed flickering flames on the shore. Dozens of people wielding weapons and torches were approaching rapidly. The leader shouted, "Rong old man, have you caught that kid? Let's tear him apart and avenge Brother Sha!"
Although Wen Qing was bold and audacious, he couldn't help but feel a sense of trepidation as the opposing group closed in. Rong Cai called out, "Brothers Liu, come over here!" Two men on the shore responded and, without hesitation, leaped into the river, swiftly swimming towards the boat. Their water skills were exceptional, and with a single hand gripping the boat's railing, they effortlessly hoisted themselves on board. Rong Cai instructed, "That package was thrown into the middle of the river by this kid. You two, go retrieve it!" He pointed towards the river. The Liu brothers leaped into the water, disappearing beneath the surface.
Wen Qing tugged at Yuan Chengzhi's sleeve and whispered in his ear, "Please save me. They want to kill me!" Yuan Chengzhi turned around and saw the distressed expression on Wen Qing's face under the moonlight. He nodded in agreement. Wen Qing held onto Yuan Chengzhi's hand and said, "They outnumber us. Find a way to cut the iron chains, and we can escape on the boat." Before Yuan Chengzhi could respond, he noticed that Wen Qing's hand was soft and smooth, surprisingly delicate. He couldn't help but feel amazed, thinking, "This person's palm feels as soft as cotton, truly extraordinary."
At that moment, Rong Cai became aware that the two of them were secretly discussing something. He turned his head to look, and Wen Qing suddenly lifted the table at the front of the boat with all his might, pushing it towards Rong Cai and the other two.
The big man and the woman were focused on watching the Liu brothers retrieve the gold underwater when they were caught off guard. They were struck by the table and let out a startled cry as they both fell into the water. Rong Cai leaped into the air, extending his palm with fingers embedded in the tabletop. With a forceful pull and lift, there were two crisp sounds as the table leg that Wen Qing was gripping snapped. Rong Cai knew that the big man and the woman couldn't swim, and with the fast-flowing river, the Liu brothers were too far away to rescue them in time. He hurriedly threw the table into the river, allowing them to cling to it and prevent sinking. Immediately, he launched two powerful punches towards Wen Qing's face.
Wen Qing used the two table legs to protect his face and urgently shouted, "Quick! You—" Yuan Chengzhi lifted the iron chain, using the internal energy of the Mix Element Art technique.
With each pull and tug, the large iron anchor whooshed through the air, detaching from the shore and flying towards the boat's bow. Rong Cai and Wen Qing were taken aback and quickly leaped to the sides, narrowly evading the incoming anchor. When they turned to look at Yuan Chengzhi, they saw him holding the iron anchor, slowly placing it on the boat's bow. With the anchor in place, the large boat began to drift downstream, gradually distancing itself from the people on the shore. Rong Cai realized that with Yuan Chengzhi's impressive skills, staying longer would only lead to trouble. He stopped in his tracks, gathered his energy, and leaped towards the shore.
Yuan Chengzhi observed Rong Cai's movements and knew he wouldn't be able to jump onto the shore. He picked up a piece of boat plank and threw it towards the edge of the river. As Rong Cai descended, seeing nothing but a vast expanse of water beneath him, he panicked. However, he suddenly noticed the plank flying towards him, landing perfectly on the water's surface. Delighted, he exerted force with his left foot, leaping onto the plank and safely reaching the shore. He felt grateful for Yuan Chengzhi's kind gesture and couldn't help but admire his martial prowess. Rong Cai's companions had already jumped ashore, while he had thrown the plank, allowing him to arrive in time.
Wen Qing snorted and said, "You indiscriminately help anyone, regardless of right or wrong. Are you helping me or this old man in the end? It wouldn't hurt to let him soak in the water for a bit and have a few mouthfuls of river water, would it? It's not like it would drown him."
Yuan Chengzhi knew that this person was peculiar and didn't want to engage with him any further. He thought it would be best to avoid such individuals. Having saved his life, the person not only showed no gratitude but also spoke disrespectfully. Yuan Chengzhi decided not to respond and went back to his cabin to rest.
The next afternoon, the boat arrived in Quzhou. Yuan Chengzhi expressed his gratitude to Long Delin and took out five silver coins to pay the boat's fare. Long Delin insisted on covering the expenses, but Yuan Chengzhi politely declined and bowed in thanks once again.
Wen Qing said to Long Delin, "I know you won't pay for my fare, hmph, even if you were to pay, I wouldn't accept it from you." He took out a ten taels silver from the package and threw it to the boat's owner, saying, "Here, take it." The owner was astonished by the large silver and stammered, "I don't have change." Wen Qing replied, "Who said I want change? It's all for you." The owner couldn't believe it and said, "You don't need to give so much." Wen Qing scolded, "Stop blabbering! I want to give this much, so I'll give this much. If you provoke me, I'll punch a few holes in the bottom of your boat and sink it!" The owner, who had witnessed his brutality the previous night, dared not say much and quickly accepted the silver.
Wen Qing opened the package on the table, and a dazzling golden light filled the room. The package was filled with countless pieces of gold, each weighing ten taels. He used his right
fist to cut through the stack of gold bars, splitting them into two equal parts. He wrapped one part in the package and carried it on his back, while he pushed the other stack of gold bars towards Yuan Chengzhi, saying, "Take it!" Yuan Chengzhi was puzzled and asked, "What's this for?"
Wen Qing laughed and said, "Did you really think I threw the gold into the river? You're so gullible! Let them search the riverbed aimlessly; all they'll find is a ballast stone wrapped in clothes." Saying that, he burst into laughter, leaning forward and trembling with amusement, his body shaking on the table.
Yuan Chengzhi couldn't help but admire his wit. He thought to himself that this person, who was a year or two younger than him, had even deceived someone as experienced as Rong Cai. Yuan Chengzhi said, "I don't want it. You can keep it all. I helped you not for the sake of gold." Wen Qing said, "This is my gift to you. It's not something you took for yourself, so why pretend to be a false gentleman?" Yuan Chengzhi shook his head repeatedly.
Although Long Delin was a wealthy merchant, he was faced with a pile of gold on the table. One person refused to take any, while the other insisted on giving it away. Such a situation was unheard of. Seeing it with his own eyes, Long Delin still couldn't believe it and thought that Yuan Chengzhi found the amount insufficient.
Wen Qing angrily said, "Whether you want it or not, I've given it to you." Suddenly, he jumped up and leaped ashore.
Caught off guard, Yuan Chengzhi hesitated for a moment and then quickly chased after him. With a few leaps, he managed to block Wen Qing's path, saying, "Don't go, take the gold with you!" Wen Qing tried to rush
to the right, but Yuan Chengzhi blocked him on the right side. When Wen Qing attempted to go left, Yuan Chengzhi preemptively blocked his path again. After several unsuccessful attempts, Wen Qing grew frustrated and raised his palm to strike Yuan Chengzhi's face. Yuan Chengzhi gently raised his left palm, effortlessly blocking the attack. Wen Qing couldn't resist the force and took three steps back, finally standing still. Knowing that he couldn't break through, he suddenly sat on the ground, covered his face with his hands, and burst into loud sobs. Surprised, Yuan Chengzhi asked, "Did I hurt you?" Wen Qing sneered, "You're the one in pain!" and laughed before jumping up. Yuan Chengzhi didn't dare to chase after him again and watched as he disappeared along the riverside.
Witnessing his extraordinary martial skills and his mercilessness towards others, Yuan Chengzhi couldn't help but be amazed. This person appeared to be a formidable martial artist, yet he cried and laughed so oddly. He shook his head and returned to the boat,
packing the gold bars and bidding farewell to Long Delin.
Yuan Chengzhi found accommodation in an inn on the main street of Quzhou city. He thought to himself, "This thousand taels of gold has an illegitimate origin, and I cannot accept it. I only helped him out of pity; how could I take his rewards? That old man mentioned that their Qixian sect is located in Jingyan in Quzhou. Why not visit his home? If he causes trouble again, I'll leave the gold behind and go."
The next day, after inquiring about the route to Jingyan and carrying the gold, Yuan Chengzhi set off with long strides. Jingyan was just over twenty li away from Quzhou. In less than half an hour, he arrived in Jingyan.
Jingyan was a small town, located near Lanke Mountain. Legend has it that during the Jin Dynasty, a woodcutter named Wang Zhi entered the mountain to gather firewood. He witnessed two immortals playing a game of chess, but when the game ended and he returned home, he discovered that decades had passed and everything had changed. The handle of his axe had rotted away. Between the two peaks of Lanke Mountain, there was a huge stone bridge connecting them. It was a magnificent sight that was believed to have been magically transported there by the immortals. Another town near Jingyan was named Shiliang, after the stone bridge. It was likely that the name "Qi Xian Pai" originated from the immortals' chess game.
Upon arriving in the town, Yuan Chengzhi encountered a peasant woman and asked, "Excuse me, madam, do you know where the Wen family lives?" The woman was taken aback and replied, "I don't know!" She had a disgusted expression on her face and quickly walked away.
Yuan Chengzhi entered a shop and asked the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper responded indifferently, "What business do you have with the Wen family, my friend?" Yuan Chengzhi explained, "I want to return something to them." The shopkeeper sneered, "So, you're a friend of the Wen family now. Why are you asking me then?" Yuan Chengzhi felt discouraged and thought to himself that the people here were incredibly rude. He noticed two children playing on the street and took out ten copper coins, handing them to one of the children, saying, "Young lad, will you lead me to the Wen family?" The child had already taken the money, but upon hearing his words, he returned the coins and angrily said, "The Wen family? The big house over there? I won't go to that cursed place." Yuan Chengzhi then realized that the surname Wen had caused trouble and no one was willing to deal with them, so it wasn't the fault of the local residents' lack of manners.
Following the directions of the child, Yuan Chengzhi walked towards the large house. From a distance, he could hear the clamor of voices. As he approached, he saw hundreds of peasants holding hoes and iron targets, surrounding the front of the house, shouting, "You've severely injured people and put their lives at risk. Isn't that enough? Wen, come out and take
responsibility!" Among the crowd, there were seven or eight women sitting on the ground, crying with disheveled hair.
As Yuan Chengzhi approached, he asked a farmer, "Brother, what is happening here?" The farmer replied, "Ah, you must be a passing nobleman. The surname Wen here is ruthless and tyrannical. Yesterday, when he went to collect rent in the countryside, Old Man Cheng asked him for a few more days of grace, but he immediately pushed him into the wall, causing serious injuries. Old Man Cheng's son and nephew fought back desperately but were beaten to the point of being covered in injuries. I'm afraid all three of them won't survive. Tell me, isn't this landlord vicious? What do you think about this, noble sir?"
In the midst of their conversation, the commotion grew louder. Some people were smashing the door with iron rakes, while others were throwing stones at the walls. Suddenly, the main gate creaked open, and a skinny figure rushed out. Before the onlookers could clearly see who it was, seven or eight peasants had already been thrown out, landing several zhangs away, their heads bleeding.
Yuan Chengzhi thought to himself, "This person is incredibly quick and agile!" When he looked closely, he saw that the person was tall and skinny, with a yellowish complexion and slanting eyebrows, giving off a fierce and audacious aura.
The person shouted, "You bunch of pigs and dogs dare to come here and act wild? Are you tired of living?" Before anyone could reply, the person took a step forward and effortlessly threw several individuals aside.
Yuan Chengzhi observed that he was tossing people around like straw, without exerting much effort. He wondered about the relationship between this person and Wen Qing. If they had been together the previous night, this person would have easily been able to deal with Rong Cai and the others, rendering his assistance unnecessary.
Among the crowd, three farmers stepped forward and loudly exclaimed, "Is this how you settle things after injuring someone? Are we, the poor, not entitled to our lives?" The skinny man burst into a few cold laughs and said, "If I don't kill a few of you, you won't understand the severity of the situation." With a swift movement, he grabbed the back of a middle-aged farmer and flung him towards the corner of the eastern wall. At that moment, two young farmers simultaneously raised their hoes and swung them down at him. The skinny man horizontally waved his left hand, causing the two hoes to fly into the air, and then he grabbed the chests of the two farmers and threw them towards the flagpole stone near the entrance.
Yuan Chengzhi was annoyed to see this man bullying the villagers, but he also recognized his formidable martial arts skills. Engaging with him would only invite trouble. He decided to
wait until the situation was resolved and then seek an audience with Wen Qing to return the gold. Little did he know that the skinny man would suddenly turn violent. Seeing the three men about to collide with the stone wall, Yuan Chengzhi couldn't help but be moved by a sense of chivalry. He swiftly intervened, using his martial arts to save them from harm. Utilizing his exceptional agility, he employed the "Yue Wang Divine Arrow" technique taught by Daoist Musang, swiftly rescuing the two young farmers. Knowing that this act would surely draw the skinny man's anger, Yuan Chengzhi resolved to secretly return the gold to Wen Qing later that evening. After gently placing the farmers on the ground, he turned and left without giving the skinny man a second glance.
The three farmers were left dumbfounded, unable to utter a word.
The skinny man, astonished by Yuan Chengzhi's martial prowess, hurriedly chased after him and attempted to strike his shoulder, exclaiming, "Friend, wait!" He used a powerful and forceful technique in his attack. However, Yuan Chengzhi calmly lowered his shoulder, neutralizing the force of the blow, without retaliating. The skinny man was even more surprised and asked, "Are you here on behalf of these scoundrels, causing trouble for us?"
Yuan Chengzhi cupped his fists and said, "I apologize for the inconvenience. I didn't want the situation to escalate into bloodshed and trouble for everyone, so I took the liberty of helping them. I hope I haven't offended you. With your skills, brother, there's no need to lower yourself to the level of these villagers."
Hearing Yuan Chengzhi's humble words, the skinny man's hostility diminished significantly. He asked, "May I ask for your surname? What brings you to our humble abode?" Yuan Chengzhi replied, "My surname is Yuan, and I have a young friend surnamed Wen. I wonder if he resides here?" The skinny man replied, "I am also surnamed Wen. Do you seek someone specific, Brother Yuan?" Yuan Chengzhi said, "I'm looking for Wen Qing, Mister Wen."
Seeing the villagers dispersing upon witnessing Yuan Chengzhi and the skinny man becoming friendly, Yuan Chengzhi couldn't understand their furious cursing as they retreated. Their local dialect was difficult for him to comprehend.
However, the skinny man paid no attention to the villagers' actions. He invited Yuan Chengzhi to enter his residence and led him to a spacious hall with two rooms. A large plaque in the center bore the three characters "Ba De Tang" (Hall of Eight Virtues). The hall was adorned with banners, flower vases, and meticulously arranged furnishings, exuding the atmosphere of an affluent manor.
The skinny man invited Yuan Chengzhi to sit at the main seat, and a servant brought tea. The skinny man repeatedly inquired about Yuan Chengzhi's background and martial lineage.
Although his words seemed polite, Yuan Chengzhi could sense the underlying hostility. He then said, "Please summon Mister Wen Qing to come and meet me. I have something to return to him."
The skinny man responded, "Wen Qing is my younger brother, and I am called Wen Zheng. My brother is currently away but will return soon. Please wait a moment, my friend." Yuan Chengzhi had no intention of engaging with a family known for its violent and oppressive behavior towards the villagers. However, since Wen Qing was absent, he had no choice but to wait. Yet, there was little to talk about with Wen Zheng, and both fell into a silent and tedious state.
By noon, Wen Qing still hadn't returned, and Yuan Chengzhi was unwilling to entrust the large amount of gold to someone else. Wen Zheng ordered the servant to bring out a meal, including ham, cured meat, fat chicken, and fresh fish. The dishes were abundant, and they both ate casually.
In the late afternoon, as the sun was starting to set, Yuan Chengzhi grew impatient. He thought that since he was in Wen Qing's house, he could just leave the gold there. So he placed the wrapped gold on the table and said, "This belongs to your younger brother. Please take care of it for him. I bid you farewell."
Just then, laughter could be heard outside the door. It was the voices of women, mixed with Wen Qing's laughter. Wen Zheng exclaimed, "My younger brother is back!" and rushed out. Yuan Chengzhi wanted to follow, but Wen Zheng said, "Please wait here, Brother Yuan." Yuan Chengzhi had no choice but to stop.
However, Wen Qing did not come in. Wen Zheng returned to the hall and said, "My younger brother needs to change his clothes. He will be out in a moment." Yuan Chengzhi thought to himself, "Wen Qing is really fussy. Why does he need to change his clothes just to meet a guest?"
They waited for a while longer until Wen Qing finally emerged from the inner hall. He was now wearing a purple robe with a yellow silk sash tied around his waist. There was a pearl embedded in his headdress, and his face was filled with joy. He said, "Brother Yuan, you honor us with your presence. How fortunate we are." Yuan Chengzhi replied, "Brother Wen, you forgot this package. I came specifically to return it." Wen Qing frowned and said, "Do you look down on me?" Yuan Chengzhi hurriedly said, "Brother, I have no such intention. I simply dare not accept such a generous gift. I will take my leave now." He stood up, bowed to Wen Zheng and Wen Qing, and prepared to leave.
But Wen Qing grabbed his sleeve and said, "You're not allowed to leave." Yuan Chengzhi was
taken aback. Wen Zheng's face also turned sour.
Wen Qing smiled and said, "I have an important matter to discuss with Brother Yuan. Please stay at my place for the night." Yuan Chengzhi said, "I have some matters to attend to in the city of Quzhou. If there's another chance, I will visit again." However, Wen Qing insisted that he stay. Wen Zheng said, "Since Brother Yuan has matters to attend to, let's not delay him." Wen Qing said, "Fine, if you really want to leave, then take this package with you. You refuse to stay at my house no matter what. Hmph, I know you look down on me." Yuan Chengzhi hesitated for a moment, feeling the sincerity in his invitation. He said, "Since Brother Wen insists, I won't be polite then."
Wen Qing was overjoyed and quickly ordered the kitchen to prepare some snacks. Wen Zheng's face showed displeasure, but he didn't leave. He kept accompanying them, engaging in idle chatter without any specific topic.
Wen Qing talked with Yuan Chengzhi about literary matters, but Yuan Chengzhi was unfamiliar with poetry and literature. However, he had studied history and military strategy since childhood. Wen Qing noticed his interest and began discussing historical events such as the Battle of Feishui and the Battle of Guandu. Yuan Chengzhi secretly admired Wen Qing's knowledge but thought, "This person has a strange temper. He has read many books, unlike me, a fake scholar who knows nothing." On the other hand, Wen Zheng was completely ignorant in literary matters. He found it tiresome to listen and participate in the conversation, but he refused to leave. Feeling awkward, Yuan Chengzhi briefly talked to him about martial arts. Wen Zheng was about to interject, but Wen Qing interrupted and changed the topic.
Yuan Chengzhi found the peculiar relationship between the two brothers intriguing. Despite Wen Zheng being the older brother, he seemed to have a considerable amount of respect and fear towards his younger brother. He didn't dare to offend him in the slightest and often had his words rudely interrupted by Wen Qing. In response, he would force a smile and try to please him. When Wen Qing expressed even a slightly amicable sentiment towards him, Wen Zheng would smile and become extremely pleased.
As evening approached, a sumptuous feast was served. After the meal, Yuan Chengzhi said, "I'm tired from the day's activities and would like to rest early." Wen Qing said, "I live in a remote area and rarely have the opportunity for guests like Brother Yuan to visit. I was hoping to have a late-night conversation by candlelight and gain some insights from you. Since Brother Yuan is tired, we can continue our discussion tomorrow."
Wen Zheng said, "Brother Yuan, sleep in my room tonight." Wen Qing replied, "How can this room accommodate guests? Naturally, you should sleep in my room." Wen Zheng's face darkened, and he said, "What?" Wen Qing said, "What's wrong with that? I'll go sleep with Mother." Wen Zheng became greatly displeased, didn't bid farewell, and went straight into
the inner room. Wen Qing muttered, "Hmph, no manners, not afraid of being laughed at."
Yuan Chengzhi felt uneasy seeing his brothers quarrel over him and said, "I'm used to living in the remote mountains and forests. Wen Xiong doesn't need to bother." Wen Qing smiled faintly and said, "Alright, I won't bother then." He picked up the candlestick and led him inside.
They passed through two courtyards and arrived at the third one, climbing up from the eastern side. Wen Qing pushed open the door, and Yuan Chengzhi was dazzled by the sight. He immediately caught a faint fragrance and saw a red candle illuminating the room, creating a spring-like atmosphere. The bed had a gauzy canopy with a white satin quilt embroidered with a yellow phoenix. The room was adorned with splendid decorations, and on the wall hung a meticulous painting of a woman. On the table in front of the bed, there was a carved inkstone, several pieces of jade ornaments, and a pen holder with six or seven pens of different sizes. In the western corner, a pot of orchids was placed on a shelf, and a white parrot perched on a stand. Yuan Chengzhi, who came from the depths of the mountains, had never seen such luxury and splendor before and couldn't help but be stunned. Wen Qing smiled and said, "This is my bedroom. Brother Yuan, please rest here for the night." Without waiting for his response, Wen Qing had already lifted the curtain and left the room.
Yuan Chengzhi inspected the room, finding nothing unusual, and was about to undress and go to sleep when he heard a light knock on the door. Yuan Chengzhi asked, "Who is it?" A maid of fifteen or sixteen entered, carrying a lacquered tray in her hands, and said, "Master Yuan, please enjoy some refreshments." She placed the tray on the table, and inside was a bowl of a gelatinous substance.
Although Yuan Chengzhi was the son of warlord, he had grown up in a poor and remote village and had never seen wallet nest before, so he didn't recognize what it was. The maid smiled and said, "My name is Xiaoju, and I've been instructed to serve Master Yuan. If there's anything you need, please let me know." Yuan Chengzhi replied, "I... I don't need anything." Xiaoju slowly exited but suddenly turned back, giggling, and said, "This wallet nest was specially stewed for Master Yuan by my young master." Yuan Chengzhi was bewildered and didn't know how to respond. Xiaoju smiled and left, gently closing the door behind her.
Yuan Chengzhi finished the wallet nest in three mouthfuls, finding it sweet, smooth, and fragrant, but he couldn't quite determine whether it was delicious or not. He undressed, got into bed, shook open the canopy, and the rich fragrance became even more intense, making him feel intoxicated. The bed was soft and warm, unlike anything he had ever slept on before. In a drowsy state, he fell asleep.