Chapter 3: Heavenly Meteor
The fifteenth day of the seventh month, noon, blazing sun.
The ground, paved with fine sand, glittered under the blazing sun, the radiant sword was even more dazzling.
Ding Peng’s sword had been unleashed.
His swordsmanship, with the exception of the "Heavenly Meteor" move, was a family tradition passed down from one generation to the next. At most, it could only be described as commonplace, simple, really quite an ordinary sword technique.
Wudang’s swordsmanship was the pinnacle of the orthodox schools in wulin. It was subtle, elegant, profound, and mysterious. In the hands of Liu Ruosong, it was even more fluid and unpredictable.
He only executed the three strokes of poking, slashing and thrusting, but the sword was so light and agile, the body followed the sword as the sword rose, so that it had already pushed Ding Peng to the point where he couldn't breathe.
Everyone was a little disappointed with this young swordsman who had just risen so quickly in jianghu.
But Ding Peng had more confidence in himself.
He has seen at least three flaws in Liu Ruosong's swordplay, and if he used the ‘Heavenly Meteor’ move, he would be able to break Liu Ruosong's swordplay. It would be as quick as a sword splitting bamboo.
He was going to give Liu Ruosong a few more moves; he didn't want the senior* swordsman to be too embarrassed.
*(qianbei-of a senior generation)
But once the true sword was unsheathed, there was no mercy!
He had remembered that.
His ordinary swordsmanship suddenly transformed, an ordinary bronze sword suddenly became a brilliant, dazzling meteor.
A meteor that flew from beyond the heavens, unfathomable, irresistible.
A merciless sword. There is no mercy under the sword.
He suddenly felt bad again, for he knew that Liu Ruosong would surely be wounded by his sword!
But he was wrong.
"Dang", sparks scattered everywhere. Liu Ruosong actually managed to receive this move that he definitely should not have been able to receive, the Heavenly Meteor.
He was truly a master of Wudang internal arts*. Liu Ruosong was the only lay disciple of the Tian Yi Zhenren**, Ding Peng definitely couldn’t compete with his profound inner strength.
*(Wǔdāng; nèi-internal; jiā-specialist; zhēn-true, genuine. This is a rough translation)
**(zhēnrén-Taoist spiritual master)
The two swords collided and Ding Peng was nearly knocked down. Yet he did not fall.
Although his sword had been jolted out of his grip, and his tiger's mouth* had been split open, he had not fallen. Because he was determined not to let himself fall.
*(web of skin between thumb & finger)
Determination, although not visible, was a significant factor in determining victory or defeat. Sometimes it was even more important than inner strength.
He hadn't lost and would continue to fight. He must have been negligent just now, that single strike should have been a winning strike.
But Liu Ruosong had halted his sword stance and looked at him with a strange look in his eyes.
Zhong Zhan suddenly said, "He hasn't lost yet." He was indeed an honorable man, and with these words, Ding Peng's dislike for him had turned into gratitude.
Liu Ruosong finally nodded and said, "I know he hasn't lost yet".
He was still looking at Ding Peng with a strange look in his eyes, and asked word by word, "Was that move you used just now was the same one you used to defeat Songyang Guo Zhengping?"
Ding Peng said, "Yes."
Liu Ruosong said, "This is the same move you used when you defeated both Shi Ding and Ge Qi?"
Liu Ruosong asked, "Is this really your family's sword technique?"
Liu Ruosong became serious and asked, "Who is your father?"
Ding Peng said, "My father died eight years ago." He did not give his father's name, and Liu Ruosong did not ask any further questions.
His expression was even stranger as he suddenly turned to ask Mr. Xie, "I'm sure Xie Guangsheng must have gotten a good look at the sword technique that Ding shaoxia used just now?
Mr. Xie smiled, "I really don't understand much about this kind of exquisite and sophisticated swordsmanship, but fortunately I was finally able to witness it."
Liu Ruosong asked, "What did Mr. Xie think of that particular stance?”
Mr. Xie said, “That strike was so fierce, so strange! It approaches the power of that peerless hero of days gone by, Yan Shishan’s, "Thirteen Deadly Stances".* The methods are also similar, unfortunately it is only his (Ding Peng’s) skill that is lacking.” He laughed and added, "This is nothing more than me just casually spouting nonsense. My knowledge of swordsmanship is quite shallow." Of course he wasn't just casually spouting nonsense. How could there be anyone within the Divine Sword Villa who didn't understand swordsmanship? Thirty years ago Yan Shishan crossed the world, enduring more than a hundred battles, taking on all comers. He was universally recognized as the only one who could compete with the Third Young Master of the Xie Clan. Had he and Xie Xiaofeng ever fought each other? Who would win and who would lose, remains a mystery to this day.
*[Yan Shishan=Yan Thirteen-I think this may be a reference to Yan Nantian in ‘The Legendary Siblings’]
Mr. Xie’s mention of Ding Peng's swordsmanship in the same breath as Yan Shishan’s "Thirteen Deadly Stances" was truly an honor for Ding Peng. Liu Ruosong smiled, "Mr. Xie speaking like this, my (humble) self in truly flattered by senior’s praise!" Ding Peng was startled, everyone was startled. It was Ding Peng who should be flattered. How could it be him?
Zhong Zhan said coldly, "Mr. Xie praised Ding Peng's swordsmanship, what does it have to do with you!”
Liu Ruosong said, "It's a little related." Zhong Zhan snickered.
Before he could say anything, Liu Ruosong said, "Everyone in jianghu knows that senior has seen and heard so much that he is on par with Bai Xiaosheng, who wrote the ‘Weapons List’ in the past."
Zhong Zhan said, "Although I cannot compare to Bai Xiaosheng's profound knowledge, I have seen all the sword techniques of the various sects under heaven!"
"Has senior ever seen that sword move?" asked Liu Ruosong.
Zhong Zhan said, "No"
Liu Ruosong then asked, "What about Mr. Xie?"
"My knowledge and experience have always been shallow.” Mr. Xie said, “I don't know how many sword techniques I haven't seen."
Liu Ruosong grinned wryly and said, " The reason why neither of you have seen this technique is was created by my (humble) self!"
This statement was truly shocking. Of course Ding Peng was the most shocked, he could barely contain himself, "What did you say?"
Liu Ruosong said, "Ding shaoxia should have heard what I said quite clearly.”
The blood had rushed to Ding Peng's head and he said, "You, you have proof?"
Liu Ruosong slowly turned around and instructed the servant boy, "Go ask Madam to bring out my sword manual." For a man who studied the sword, there were only two things in the world that were absolutely not to be shared with anyone else. They also absolutely must not be violated by anyone else. Those were his sword manual and his wife. Liu Ruosong was a man. Liu Ruosong also studied the sword. So of course he cherished his sword manual and his wife equally.
Now that he asked his wife to bring out his sword manual, it was quite obvious that he had meticulously planned how to handle this matter. Nobody said anything, nobody could say anything. Liu Ruosong always did things in way that left people speechless. The sword manual was soon brought out, by Madam Liu herself. The sword manual was concealed in a sealed box, with two seals pasted across the top, while Madam Liu’s face was concealed behind a veil. Although the veil hid her face, it could not conceal her peerless elegance. It goes without saying that Madam Liu was a famous beauty in jianghu, who came from a prominent family. Not only did she have a good reputation, she also had a virtuous reputation. She would never reveal her true features^ in the presence of strangers. Of course, she already knew what this was all about, so she presented the sword manual to Zhong Zhan and Mr. Xie. Mr. Xie's status and Zhong Zhan’s integrity were absolutely unquestionable, nobody could doubt them. Madam Liu looked down, it seemed she also did things in way that left people speechless. The sealed box had been opened. The sword manual was made of pale plain silk. It was quite thin, extremely thin. Because this was not WuDang’s sword manual, this was Liu Ruosong's own creation, the ‘Qingsong (Green Pine) Sword Manual’. Wudang's sword techniques were vast and profound, while Liu Ruosong's original sword technique consisted of only six moves. “The last page was that move.” Mr. Xie and Zhong Zhan immediately turned the to the last page of the sword manual. Given their status, they would certainly never look at something they shouldn't have. This was evidence, however, so for the sake of Ding Peng and Liu Ruosong’s lifelong reputations they had to look at it. After only a few glances, their faces had changed color. Thus Liu Ruosong asked. “Did both of you clearly see the sword move that Ding Shaoxia used just now?”
*(wú huà kě shuō- to have nothing to say; idiom meaning something is done so well, there is nothing anyone can say about it; above criticism; perfect)
zhēnmiànmù-can also mean ‘true colors’
“Hero Ding just said that this was exactly the same sword technique that he used to defeat Shi Ding, Ge Qi and Guo Zhengping. Both of you clearly heard this?”
“The formula, variations and refinement of that sword technique are different from those of the ‘Wudang Songxia Style’?”
“Is this the first time Ding shaoxia & I have met?” This was something that Zhong Zhan and Mr. Xie were unable to establish, so they asked Ding Peng.
Ding Peng acknowledged the truth of this with a nod.
Therefor Liu Ruosong asked, “Could this sword manual be a forgery?”
Even if someone had witnessed Ding Peng using this technique, there was no way they could glean its elegance. Both Mr. Xie and Zhong Zhan were quit certain of this.
Thus Liu Ruosong heaved a deep sigh and said, “I have nothing more to say.” Ding Peng was even more speechless*.
*(wúhuàkěshuō-same as above)
Even though he felt like an adult, he was actually still a child. He had grown up in a simple village and had only been away from home for three months. How could he understand the machinations of jianghu?
He felt like his heart was sinking, like his whole body was sinking into a deep, dark hole. It was as if his whole body was tightly bound. He wanted to struggle, but he couldn’t. He wanted to shout, but he couldn’t.
All his hopes were shattered. His once bright future had become dark.
He really didn’t know what to do.
Zhong Zhen was asking Liu Ruosong, “Since you have created this sword technique, why have you never used it?”
“As a subordinate of Wudang, I am proud of Wudang. This move was just something I inadvertently created and I casually wrote it down. It was nothing more than a passing fancy that I wanted to preserve, that’s all. Wudang swordsmanship is vast and profound enough to last me a lifetime. I will never use a second swordstyle and have absolutely no ambition to found my own sect. If it were up to me, I would never even take this sword manual out.” This explanation was not only fair and reasonable, but also open and aboveboard*; no matter how you stack it up, it must be accepted.
*(idiom meaning without tricks)
Mr. Xie smiled and said, "Well said, Tian Yi Zhenren must be proud to have a disciple like you."
Zhong Zhan said, "Since you created this technique yourself, where did Ding Peng learn it?”
Liu Ruosong said, “That’s what I was going to ask Ding shaoxia.” He turned to Ding Peng, still very calm, "Is this move actually your family's sword technique?"
Ding Peng hung his head and said, "It’s not." Saying these two words, he felt like he was flogging himself.
However he could no longer deny it. He was, after all, an honest young man whose conscience would not permit him to lie.
Liu Ruosong said, “So where did you learn it?”
Ding Peng said, “My father inadvertently came across a page of an incomplete sword manual containing this “Heavenly Meteor” move.”
Liu Ruosong asked, “Whose sword manual is it?”
Ding Peng said, “I don’t know.” He really didn't know.
There was no name written on the sword manual. Since he didn’t know who the sword manual belong to, he couldn’t help but believe Liu Ruosong.
He was being completely honest.
Liu Ruosong sighed and said, “Who would have thought, a young man has learned to lie.”
“I did not lie.”
Liu Ruosong said, “Where is your page from the sword manual?”
Ding Peng began, “It’s right…” He didn’t go on because he didn’t currently know where that page was.
He remembered that he had given that page to Kexiao. Although she had returned it to him, he then asked her to put it away for him. She had given everything to him, and he had given everything to her.
Those days had been so sweet. How could a young man who has just had his first taste of tenderness think of anything else? Liu Ruosong stared at him coldly and sighed, “You are still young and haven’t made any major mistakes. I don't want to be too hard on you. So long as you promise me one thing, I will not inquire further into the origin of your page from the sword manual.” Ding Peng hung his head.
It was now obvious to him that none of them would believe him, no matter what he said. He could see the contempt in their eyes.
Liu Ruosong said, "As long as you promise me that you will never again use a sword, for the rest of your life, that you will never roam jianghu, I will let you go." His expression became very grave, “But if you go back on your word in the future, no matter where you flee to, I will also go, to take your life.”
For a young man who had learned swordsmanship with the intention of making a name for himself* in jianghu, if he can never again use a sword or roam jianghu, what was the point of living?” But at the moment, Ding Peng had no choice but to promise. At the moment, he had no choice at all. He suddenly felt very cold, as at that moment chill wind suddenly blew in, blowing up his shirt, also lifting the veil on Madam Liu’s face…
The weather was about to change. The bright sunlight had been hidden by dark clouds.
Ding Peng’s suddenly felt like his whole body was frozen stiff, yet at the same time he felt like it was on fire.
An indescribable grief and rage spread like fire from his toes to his throat, his face and eyes burned red.
The moment the veil was lifted by the wind, he had seen the true face* of Madam Liu.
*(zhēnmiànmù-can also mean ‘true colors’)
This Madam Liu was obviously Kexiao*.
*(Kexiao means ridiculous, funny, it can all mean ‘laughable’, this will lead to some wordplay in the following conversation)
Everything was all so clear now.
He never could have imagined that the truth of the matter would be so despicable, so cruel.
He was suddenly laughing, looking at this Madam Liu, he was laughing hysterically. His laughter sounded like the dying scream of a wild beast.
He was pointing at her, laughing hysterically, "Yes, so it’s you." Everyone looked at him in shock.
Liu Ruosong said, “Do you recognize her?”
Ding Peng said, "Of course I recognize her, if I don't recognize her, who will."
Liu Ruosong said, "You know who she is?”
Ding Peng said, “Li Kexiao.”
Liu Ruosong frowned and sneered, “I am not laughing, nor should you laugh. This is no laughing matter, not the least bit funny.* This is a crying matter, but you’re can’t cry.”
*(This whole sentence is a play on ‘Kexiao’)
Ding Peng should have told the truth about everything that had happened from the minute she had scampered naked into his heart until he had gone to find the old man Mei Hua for her and been hung up...until she had given him everything and he had given her everything in return. But he couldn't say it. The facts really were so preposterous, so absurd, that if he spoke them, people would surely consider him to be a madman; an obscene and perverted madman. No matter how cruelly such a madmen was dealt with, nobody would say a word. He’d once seen with his own eyes, one such madman being lynched. Only now did he realize that the black hole he’d fallen into was a trap. This gentleman and virtuous woman didn’t just want his sword manual; they also wanted to completely destroy him as a person. Because he surely would have won this fight, he had been a threat to them. By now he should be famous in jianghu, have made a name for himself.* But now… Ding Peng suddenly lunged with all his might, throwing himself at this not at all ridiculous Madam Liu. He was ruined now, utterly ruined by her. He wanted to destroy her too. Unfortunately, some nameless youngster could never ruin a highborn, virtuous lady like Madam Liu. No sooner than he had leapt, there were already two swords thrust at him.
Mei Hua laoren shouted sternly at the top of his lungs, “I’ve kept my mouth shut throughout this, because Liu Ruosong is my younger brother*. But this is the last straw.”
*(Xiongdi-younger sworn brother).
Liu Ruosong sighed, “I had no intention of making things difficult for you. Why must you court death?”
Thunder clapped and torrential rain poured down. Sword light and lightning struck. Ding Peng’s blood stained his clothes red. His eyes were also red. He had already disregarded everything. His life was already ruined anyway, so he might as well die here, die in front of this woman. Mr. Xie didn’t intervene, neither did Zhong Zhan.
They didn’t want to deal with this anymore. This young man really didn’t deserve any sympathy. If he had rank, status and fame, if he had be born the son of some prominent family, then perhaps someone might have spoken up on his behalf, listened to his explanation.
Unfortunately he was just a poor fellow who didn’t have two sticks to rub together. The sword light glinted and pierced his shoulder. He didn’t feel any pain. He was already frantic, disoriented & numb. When a man has reached this point his survival instinct will take over. No one wants to die, indiscriminately stabbed like a mad dog stabbed. Unfortunately he was already on the road to death and it was to late to turn back. Mei Hua and Liu Ruosong’s swords encircled him like a viper. Now that he had discovered their plot, they weren’t going to let him reveal it. Now that they all believed he was guilty and deserved to be punished*, it was heaven’s law and earth’s principle** that they kill him. Liu Ruosong had already begun the fatal strike that would pierce Ding Peng’s throat.
*(zuìyǒuyīngdé-idiom meaning ‘punishment fits the crime’)
**(tiānjīngdìyì-idiom meaning ‘right and proper’)
Suddenly there was another clap of thunder, lightning and thunder struck together, and a tree on the martial arts field was blown apart. Lightning, thunderclap, thunder and fire. The huge trunk split into flames with a thunderous overwhelming force. This was the might of heaven and earth, the wrath of heaven and earth. No matter who you were, it was truly terrifying to behold. Amid the tumult, everyone involuntarily took a step back. Liu Ruosong drew back as well. Only Ding Peng rushed forward, dashing through roar and flames of the split tree trunk. He had no idea whether or not he would be able to get away or even where he was going. He had no purpose or direction. His only thought was that he must escape this trap, escape wherever he could. He used every ounce of strength he had, and when it was exhausted, he collapsed and fell into a gully. In the heavy rain, the sky was dark. The last thought he had was neither his hatred of Liu Ruosong and Kexiao (Madame Liu), nor of his own grief. His final thought was of the look in his dying father’s eyes. In the darkness those eyes had shone with love and faith. Now it was as if those bright eyes were looking at him again, still brimming with love and faith. He had cherished the thought that his son would fight to honor his name and was sure make a name for himself*. He was telling his son that he must survive.
It was the fifteenth day of the seventh month.
It was a moonlit night, a full moon.
The rain had stopped and the full moon had risen. The moon that night seemed unusually beautiful; mysteriously, coldly and heartbreakingly beautiful. Ding Peng opened his eyes and saw this full moon. He was not dead and the people who wanted him dead had not found him. Who knows if it was the will of heaven, or mere coincidence? He had fallen into that gully, the torrential rain had triggered flash floods that surged through the valley and had swept him away as well. It was a long way from where he had fallen, and climbing up from the valley, he could see a deep cave. There were mountains and trees on all sides, and the valley was damp and fresh after the rain, like a maiden (virgin) in her first bath. And like a beautiful maiden it also carried an air of mystery. This cave was like a maiden’s eyes; deep, dark and brimming with an air of mysterious attraction. As if compelled forward by this mysterious attraction, as if drawn in by this mysterious attraction, Ding Peng could not help but to enter this foreboding place. Moonlight shone in from outside revealing the murals that covered the four walls of the cave. However, these paintings did not depict the human world, rather heaven. Only in heaven could one behold such a magnificent palace, a warrior adorned in golden armor holding a golden spear, his topknot flowing, and the plumed clothes of a royal maiden. There were jewels and treasures, the likes of which could not be found on earth, spread out everywhere. The fragrant smell of flowers and fruits permeated the air. The men were like majestic gods, the women like noble immortals.
Ding Peng had been made to look foolish. All his dreams had been shattered; the once bright future had turned to darkness. On earth he had been deceived, humiliated, belittled and wronged. He had been forced down a dead end. There were no prospects for him on earth, no future, he had been completely ruined. The stain on his honor could never be washed away in this lifetime. He was never going to get ahead, even if he kept his word, he would have to watch those who had deceived, insulted and wronged him flaunt their power*. He could never defeat these people. So what was the point of living? Although the human world is hot and there is no natural justice, there is always some in heaven. Injustices suffered on earth can only be appealed in heaven. He was still young and should not think like this. But when someone has finally reached the end of his rope and has fallen to the point of no return, how could he think otherwise? He suddenly wanted to die. Dying was indeed much easier than living like this, also more agreeable. Being deceived, deceived by the first woman he’d fallen in love with would be too much for anyone to endure; enough to make it impossible for a young man to go on living. He suddenly found his sword still firmly grasped in his hand. This sword could not lift him up to fame and glory, so it would be better to die under it. He raised the sword, preparing to pierce his throat with the tip of the blade.
*(Yàowǔyángwēi-to show off one's military strength; idiom meaning strut around, bluster)
Just then, a gust of wind suddenly blew over. There seemed to be a shadow within the wind. A dim shadow, with a faint fragrance, flew past him, then just as suddenly disappeared. The sword had also disappeared from his hand. Ding Peng was startled. He felt a chill rising from the soles of his feet, and suddenly his whole body was ice-cold. Could there be a ghost here? This cave was already mysterious enough, but now the flickering shadows of ghosts seemed to fill the darkness. But since he was already determined to die, why should he fear ghosts? A ghost is nothing but a dead person. One can die without a sword. Ding Peng hated that not only did people want to bully him, but on the point of death, even ghosts wanted to play tricks on him. He gritted his teeth and used all his strength to ram his head into the rock wall. Whether a human owed him an apology or a ghost played tricks on him, he must settle these accounts after he died. But he did not die. His head did not hit the wall, because another gust of wind blew and a person appeared in front of it. His head collided with this person’s body. This was worse than hitting the wall, because no person on earth could have appeared so quickly. He was shocked and drew back. That’s when he finally saw this ‘person’, a stunning beauty with a high (hair) bun and plumed garments, just like the immortal in the mural. Had she come out of the mural? Her left hand held a wicker basket full of flowers, her right hand held a sword. Ding Peng’s sword. She was looking at Ding Peng, smiling. Her smile was sweet, soft, pure and noble. Whatever else she may be, at least she didn’t look frightening. Once Ding Peng finally caught his breath and could speak again, he immediately opened his mouth to ask, “Are you a person or a ghost?” It was a ridiculous question, but one that anybody in this situation would ask.
With a hint of amusement in her eyes, she retorted, “Do you know what day today is?”
Ding Peng said, "It's the fifteenth day of the seventh month."
This stunningly beautiful woman who appeared to have come out of the mural said, “Do you know what the fifteenth day of the seventh month is?”
Ding Peng finally remembered that today was the Mid-Autumn Festival*, it was the festival of ghosts. Tonight the Gates of Hell are opened. Tonight all the ghosts from the Mansion of Hell have arrived in the world. Ding Peng blurted out, “Are you a ghost?”
*[Mid-Autumn Festival-traditional moon viewing festival. I am a little confused here. Everything in the text says it is the fifteenth day of the seventh month, but according to the net the Mid-autumn fest is the fifteenth of the eighth month]
This beautiful woman sweetly said, “Do I look like a ghost?” She didn’t seem to be.
Ding Peng couldn’t help but to ask, “Are you a heavenly immortal?”
The beauty’s smiled faded a bit, “I very much want you to believe I’m a heavenly immortal, but I dare not lie. Because if I pretend to be an immortal I will be taken prisoner and cast into the 18th level of hell.”
Ding Peng said, “Whatever you are, you’re not a person.”
She said, “Of course I’m not person.”
Ding Peng involuntarily took two steps back and said, ”You.. what are you?”
“I am a fox.”
“Could it be that you have never heard of a ‘fox’ on earth?” asked the beauty. Ding Peng had heard of them. There were many legends related to “foxes”. There were some who were very beautiful, some who were very frightening. Because ‘foxes’ were enigmatic.
If they liked you, they would give you all the glory and wealth in the world and luck beyond your wildest dreams. But they can also charm you, til your soul vanishes and your bones are scattered, charm you to death.
Even if no one had ever seen them, no one could deny their existence either.
The only constant in all the legends was that foxes often took human form, moreover, they liked to take the form of a beautiful woman.
Ding Peng looked at the beautiful woman in front of him with amazement, his freshly dried clothes were now damp with cold sweat.
Had he really met a “fox”?
The pale moonlight shone in and illuminated her beautiful pale face, so pale that it seemed transparent.
Only someone who had never seen sunlight would have a complexion like her. Of course a ‘fox’ wouldn’t have been exposed to sunlight.
Ding Peng suddenly laughed.
The beauty seemed slightly baffled. No one who met a fox immortal had ever been able to laugh.
She couldn’t help but to ask, “Do you think this is funny?”
“This is no laughing matter,” Ding Peng said. “But you also don’t scare me either.”
“Because I’m not the least bit afraid of you.” Ding Peng said, “Whether you’re a ghost or a fox, I am not scared of you.”
“Everybody is afraid of ghosts and foxes.” She asked, “What makes you so unexpectedly fearless?”
Ding Peng said, “Because I want to die anyway.” He was still laughing. “If you are a ghost, I will also become a ghost after I die, why should I be afraid of you?”
The beauty sighed, “It’s certainly true that after someone dies, there is nothing to be afraid anymore.”
Ding Peng said, “That’s right!” The beauty said,
“But why should such a young man want to die?” she asked.
Ding Peng also sighed, “Sometimes young people want to die.”
“You really want to die?”
“You must die?”
“I must die.” The beauty said,
“Too bad you forgot one thing,” said the beauty.
“What?” he asked.
She said, “You haven’t died yet. You’re still a person.” Ding Peng acknowledge this.
“The fact is I am a fox, a fox immortal, and I have magical powers, you don’t,” she said. “So if I don’t want you do not die, you will never die. Unless…”
“Unless you first tell me why it is you must die?”
Ding Peng suddenly jumped up and shouted, “Why should I tell you? Why do you want me to tell you?” Whenever he thought about that incident he was immediately overcome with grief and anger, “I refuse to tell you. Can you drag it out of me? Nothing matters except death. If a man is determined to die, why should he be afraid of what others can do to him?”
The beauty looked at him intently and suddenly smiled again, “Now I ‘m convinced. It seems that you truly want to die.”
Ding Peng said, “I absolutely do.”
She suddenly asked, “What is your name?”
“Why do you ask my name?”
“When you die and become a ghost, we’ll be just like neighbors,” she said. “Maybe we’ll see each other often, so of course I want to know your name.”
“Why not tell me your name first?” He said, “A fox must have a name too.”
The beauty sweetly said, “I have a name. I will tell you.” She said, “My name is Qing Qing.” Qing Qing was dressed head to toe in a dress as blue as a clear spring sky, as blue as a clear lake under clear sky. Her beauty was as mysterious and hazy as a distant mountain reflected in the lake. Qing Qing’s waist was as slender and supple as a willow in a spring breeze. Her scimitar was sheathed in a sterling silver scabbard, the top of its hilt inlaid with a lustrous, rounded pearl. Her eyes were even brighter and gentler than the pearl. Ding Peng was not the least bit scared of her. Whether she was a human or a fox, she was not frightening. If Qing Qing was a human, she’s certainly a beautiful one. If she was a fox, she was a kind, gentle and beautiful fox, who would never hurt anyone. Her scimitar also looked like it would not hurt someone.
Ding Peng suddenly asked, "You use a saber (dāo) too?"
Qing Qing, "Why can't I use a saber?
He asked, “Have you ever killed anyone?”
Qing Qing shook her head, “A person who knows how to use a saber, doesn’t necessarily want to kill people.”
Ding Peng sighed and said, “People who kill don’t necessarily use a saber.” He now realized that some people could kill people with using a saber. This was a far crueler way to kill someone.
Qing Qing asked, “Have you met this person?”
Ding Peng grunted, “En!”
”So even though he didn’t kill you with a saber, you still have to die,” she said.
Ding Peng smiled bitterly, “I’d rather he had killed me with a saber.”
Qing Qing said, “Can you tell me what happened to you, so I can seen whether or not you must die?” He couldn’t tell anyone about this, because no one would believe it even he did.
But Qing Qing was not a person. She was a fox.
A fox is far cleverer than a person and could surely tell if he was telling the truth.
Ding Peng was afraid of her laughing at his ignorance, so he finally told her of the calamity that had befallen him.
If you reveal what is in your heart, telling someone even though you really don’t want to say it, then even if you die, you will die without regrets.
Ding Peng heaved a deep sigh and said, “Do you think that a person who has gone this ought to die?
Qing Qing listened quietly then let out a soft “yes.”
Ding Peng asked, “Can I die now?”
Qing Qing said, “You can die!” Whether it was a person or a fox, both thought he really should die. It was indeed better to die rather than go on living like this.
Ding Peng sighed again and said, “Just go!”
"Why do you want me to leave?" she asked.
“When a man dies, he won’t look good,” he said. “Why would you want to stay here to watch?”
She replied, “There are many ways to die, however. You should choose a more attractive way to die.”
Ding Peng said, “Death is death. All death is the same. Why should I choose an attractive way to die?”
She said, "For me!"
Ding Peng didn't understand, "For you?"
“I have never seen someone die.” Qing Qing said, “I’m begging you to die a pretty death. Let me watch, okay?”
Ding Peng laughed bitterly. He'd never imagined that anyone would actually make such a ridiculous request of him. Unexpectedly, he did not refuse, "I'm going to die anyway, it doesn't matter how."
Qing Qing sweetly replied, “That’s really kind of you.”
He said, “It’s just a pity that I really don’t know which the best way to die is.”
Qing Qing said, "I know."
Ding Peng said, “Okay, I will die how you want me to die.”
Qing Qing said, “Not far from here, there is a place called the Valley of Sorrow.* In the valley there is a Forgetfulness Grass^. An ordinary person will forget all their worries and sorrows after taking only one leaf of Forgetfulness Grass.” She looked at Ding Peng, “The people of the world are so foolish. Who can truly forget all their worries and sorrow?”
*(Yōuchóu-worry, sadness, troubles, sorrow; gǔ –could be valley of or (_ ) valley. I went with Valley of Sorrow as it was more poetic)
^(wàng yōu cǎo-lit. forget sorrow (worry) grass; daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)].
Ding Peng replied, “Only the dead!”
She sighed softly, “What you say is true, only dead people have no worry.”
“That kind of death is beautiful?" asked Ding Peng.
She said, “As far as I know, this is the sweetest way to die, whether in heaven or on earth.”
Ding Peng asked, “Is that place far from here?”
She said, “Not far!” She turned around and walked slowly towards the darkest part of the cave. Sadness and darkness are always inseparable. The Valley of Sorrow was naturally located in the darkness, an endless darkness that seemed to go on forever. Ding Peng couldn’t see Qing Qing, nor could he hear the sound of her footsteps. He could only smell the faint, delicate, scent of her body. He followed her scent and walked on. The cave was far deeper than he imagined. He didn’t know how long he’d been walking or where he was going. The smell became stronger. Besides hers, there was also the fragrance of flowers. The smell of the flowers seemed to become vulgar when compared to her sweet scent.
“Is she really a fox?” Ding Peng didn’t believe it. He didn’t want to believe it. He was still young, if she was a person…
“I am already going to die anyway. Whether she is a human or a ghost, what does it have to do with me?” Ding Peng sighed to himself and stopped thinking about it. “Are there also flowers in the Valley of Sorrow?”
Qing Qing said, “Of course there are. There are all kinds of flowers. I guarantee you have never seen so many flowers.” Her voice was gentle, like a spring breeze wafting in from a distant mountain. “I guarantee you've never seen such a stunningly beautiful place.” She hadn’t lied or even exaggerated. The Valley of Sorrow was indeed an unfortunate and very beautiful place, even more so under the moonlight, as beautiful as a dream.
A person who has just emerged from the endless darkness and suddenly finds himself in this beautiful place, would find it hard to believe they weren’t dreaming.
Ding Peng couldn’t help but ask, “This is not a dream?”
“Why is this place called the Valley of Sorrow?”
“Because this is the other side of the boundary between mortals and gods, neither can come here as they please.”
“Because when a god comes here, he is demoted to being a human. When a man comes here, he becomes a ghost.”
“Only dying men and gods who have been demoted to mortals have the ability to come here?”
“That’s why this place is called the Valley of Sorrow?”
“Yes.” Qing Qing said, “Whether it is god or man, so long as you come here, you will meet misfortune. Only we foxes, who are neither human nor ghost, can come and go as we please.” What she said was really too astonishing and mysterious.
But Ding Peng did not doubt it.
This was not the human world. There was no trace of mortals ever having been here.
No matter how they die, if a person could die here, then they should no longer have anything to complain about.
Ding Peng said, “Where is that Forgetfulness Grass?” Qing Qing did not respond to his words. She was staring at block of bluestone (a type of limestone) off in the distance. The white jade-like block of stone towered like a lonely giant under the moonlight. There seemed to be no flowers on the rock, only one tuft of dark green grass, greener than an emerald and more beautiful than a flower.
*[The text says “a kind (type) of white jade rock” Yīkuài báiyù bān de yánshí. I am just using white jade rock/stone and it reads better.]
Ding Peng asked, “That’s the Forgetfulness Grass?”
Qing Qing finally nodded and said, “Yes.” She took his arm and led him towards that block of stone, “The leaves of the Forgetfulness Grass only blossom once a year, only three at a time. You have come a little late, its leaves are about to wither.”
Ding Peng said, “This is merely a poisonous weed, nothing more, it’s hard to believe it’s so precious.”
Qing Qing said, “This is not a poisonous weed. This is Forgetfulness Grass. Forgetting one’s sorrows is no easy thing.” She asked Ding Peng, “Wouldn’t you say so?”
Ding Peng said, “Yes.”
Just then, a dark shadow suddenly flew in, blocking the moonlight like a black cloud.
Of course, it was not a black cloud, merely a pale eagle.
The eagle circled under the moonlight. It hovered like a black cloud above the white jade rock.
Suddenly there was a puzzled expression on Qing Qing’s pale face. She furrowed her brow and said, "It seems like you're not the only one who's looking for this Forgetfulness Grass today!"
Ding Peng looked up at the eagle in the moonlight and said, "Could that actually be a god?”
Qing Qing shook her head and said, "It's just an eagle!"
Ding Peng said, “Why would an eagle look for Forgetfulness Grass? Do eagles also have worries and troubles?”
Before Qing Qing could open her mouth to respond, the eagle suddenly swooped down like a meteor towards the Forgetfulness Grass on the rock.
The eagle’s movements were much faster than anyone else, and even more accurate.
Unbelievably, Qing Qing was even faster. She gently scolded, “Go.”
As she uttered the rebuke, her body had already flown up like a drifting cloud, floating up onto the rock.
He sleeves also like a floated like a cloud as she brandished them towards the eagle’s eyes.
The eagle let out a long cry, soaring off in a dignified manner. In the blink of an eye it had disappeared into the sinister, distant darkness.
The full moon regained its brightness.
Ding Peng sighed to himself.
If he had her ability*, why would he need to be afraid of Liu Ruosong? Why would he want to die?
*(shēnfǎ- pose or motion of one's body in martial arts)
Unfortunately, ability like hers was something that no mortal could ever aspire to.
He saw Qing Qing beckoning to him, “Can you come up here?”
The smooth, mirror-like rock was slippery and unforgiving. He wasn’t sure if he could make it to the top.
But he definitely had to try.
Whether she was a human or a fox, she was always a female, and he didn’t want her to look down on him.
He tried over and over. His whole body was beaten black and blue.
She stood leisurely on the rock and watched him fall again and again. She did not pull him up, nor did intend to.
“No matter what it is you want, you must rely on your own ability.”
“A person without ability won’t live a good life, nor will he die a good death.”
He gritted his teeth and began climbing again. This time he almost succeeded. He nearly reached the flat top of the rock.
Just then the eagle suddenly flew back. The wind from its wings struck him head on.
He fell again. This fall was worse. The higher you climb, the harder you’ll fall.
Dazed, he seemed to hear the eagle sneer, “"Is someone like you fit to seek the Forgotten Grass?"
However, this was only an eagle, not a god. An eagle can’t sneer, much less speak. A man riding on the eagle’s back had spoken.
The eagle was circling, and the man had flown down, like a leaf landing lightly on a rock.
A mortal would never have such ethereal ability*.
*(qīngmiào de shēnfǎ-wonderfully gentle movement in his martial arts).
His body gave off a golden light under the bright moonlight. He wore a three-foot long robe* woven from golden silk.
*(páozi- Chinese style lined gown)
Because this man was only three feet tall, his three-foot long gown dragged on the ground.
His beard was even longer than his golden robe. His sword was longer than his beard.
The three-foot tall man carried a four-foot-long sword on his back, its golden scabbard dragged on the ground.
The man really didn't look like a person either.
Maybe he was not a man at all, but a god. This was never meant to be a place where mortals could come.
Why should a man who couldn’t succeed on earth come here?
If a man couldn’t defeat another man, how could he compete with a god or a fox?
Ding Peng suddenly regretted ever having come here.
The golden robe, golden beard and golden sword all emitted golden light.
The old man’s (laoren) body was less than four-feet tall, but his demeanor and aura were like those of a ten-foot tall giant.
He suddenly asked, “Are you the one who scared my son away just now?”
He was asking Qing Qing, yet he hadn’t so much as glanced at her, as if there was no one in the world worthy of bestowing his gaze upon.
“You’re son?” Qing Qing laughed, “Is that bird your son?”
The old man said, “That’s not a bird. It is an eagle, a divine eagle, a god among eagles.”
He spoke with a solemn and thoughtful expression, for what he said was in now way a lie or a joke.
Qing Qing was still laughing, “Isn’t an eagle also a bird, your son is a bird. Are you also a bird?”
The old man was furious. He was already half bald and when he was enraged his remaining hairs stood up one by one.
It is said when a person has practice qinggong to a very high level, his hair will literally stand on end when he is angry.
However, there was no one in the entire world who had trained their qinggong to such a high level. No person could even hope to reach this level of power.
Yet Qing Qing didn’t seem the least bit afraid, because she was not human.
She was a fox.
It was said that foxes were not afraid of anything.
Unexpectedly, the old man’s anger quickly subsided and he said coldly, “You are able to startle my eagle son (yīng er), your power is really not weak.”
Qing Qing said, “Oh!”
The old man said, “But I won’t kill you!”
He proudly said, “Because there are only two people left in the world who are qualified enough to be killed by me.”
Qing Qing said, “Aiya! (damn)”
“What do you mean by ‘aiya’?” asked the old man.
She said, “Oh, that means you can still kill me if you really want to.”
Qing Qing said, “Because I am not a human being at all.”
The old man asked, “What thing are you?”
“I am not a thing. I am a fox,” she replied.
The old man sneered and said, “Fox spirits are something else altogether, not even fit to allow your old man to draw his sword.”
(wǒ laorenjia-cocky way of referring to self)
Not only was he extremely imposing, he was also extremely bold.
He still had not even glanced at Qing Qing, strolling towards the Forgetfulness Grass with his hands behind his back.
--Could someone like him have sorrows to forget?
Qing Qing suddenly blocked his way and said, “You must not disturb this Forgetfulness Grass. You can’t even touch it.”
The old man didn't even bother to ask her why.
Now that she was right in front of him, he couldn’t help but look at her. But he still did not look up at her face.
He kept his focus on the saber* in her belt, the light green handle of the curved saber. Qing Qing’s scimitar brightly glinted under the full moon. The old man suddenly stretched out a bird claw-like hand and said, “Bring it here!”
*[Dāo-a single edged bladed weapon, as opposed to jian-sword-a double edged weapon. Dāo is often translated as knife, but knife has a different connotation in the west. So I went with saber. Dāo can also refer to a blow from a saber.]
Qing Qing asked, “Bring what?”
“Why should I allow you to hold my saber?” she asked.
The old man said, “Because I want to see it.”
“You have already seen it.”
“I want to see the saber,” he said, “not the scabbard.”
Qing Qing said, "I advise you, it's quite enough to just look at the scabbard, never at the saber."
The old man said, “Why?”
Qing Qing said, “Because this saber is absolutely not to be seen.”
She sighed softly, “Because everyone who has seen this saber has already died under it.”
The old man suddenly lifted his head to look at her face. Her face was pale and beautiful, so poignant and mysterious, so beautiful that any man could not help but be moved by a single glance at it. This old man’s reaction was completely different. His pupils suddenly contracted, and his eyes suddenly revealed an expression of extreme fear. He involuntarily gasped and cried out, “It’s you!”
Could this old man have seen Qing Qing before? Could he have known Qing Qing before? Suddenly, the old man shook his head again and said, “"No it’s not, absolutely not. You are still young. You are too young."
Qing Qing was also felt slightly bewildered and said, “"Do I remind you of someone?”
The old man said, “I don’t recognize you, I only recognize this saber. I could not be mistaken, could I?”
He suddenly asked Qing Qing, “Are there seven characters engraved on this saber?”
Qing Qing answered his question with a question, “Which seven characters?”
The old man said, ‘Listen to the Spring Rain All Night in the Small Building’.
‘Listen to the Spring Rain All Night in the Small House.’ This was a poem, a very beautiful poem, so poignant and heartbreakingly beautiful.
Ding Peng had also read this poem.
When he read or heard this line of poetry, his heart would be filled with a sense of melancholy; a melancholy of "wanting to say more, wanting to say no more", a beautiful feeling.
But Qing Qing and the old man reacted differently when the seven characters were spoken. The old man’s hand trembled and his face changed. When she heard these seven characters, Qing Qing’s face also changed. She suddenly dropped the basket of flowers in her hand and grabbed the hilt of the saber.
The curved hilt of the saber.
The hilt of the Qing Qing’s scimitar was also curved.