The bride’s pale arms parts the red clothing.
Zhang Wuji, Zhou Zhiruo and Han Lin’er three people went south along the main road, riding the steeds given to them by the rich men of the Beggar Clan. Han Lin’er was very respectful toward his Cult Leader, he did not dare to ride abreast, but followed some distance behind. Along the way he would serve tea and attend to Zhang and Zhou’s needs, acting as their servant. Zhang Wuji felt uncomfortable and said, “Han Dage, although within the Cult you are my subordinate brother, I do respect your character. In business matters you listen to my command, but in day-to-day relationship, we are of the same generation, just like brothers or friends.”
With a terrified look on his face Han Lin’er replied, “Subordinate holds Jiaozhu in the highest regard, how can I be worthy to be considered of the same generation with you? In normal time I am not fortunate enough to be close to Jiaozhu; today I can provide my insignificant service to Jiaozhu with all my heart and that is subordinate’s lifelong good fortune.”
Zhou Zhiruo smiled and said, “I am not your Jiaozhu, you don’t have to be this respectful to me.”
Han Lin’er replied, “Miss Zhou is like a deity. Xiao Ren [little/lowly person – referring to self] can speak with you, it is already the good karma of my previous life. I am asking Miss’ forgiveness for my uncouth behavior.”
Zhou Zhiruo could hear the sincerity in his voice, while his eyes showed utmost respect as if she were really a deity. She knew she was beautiful, enough to shake any man’s heart and make them beat faster; but she had never met somebody like Han Lin’er, who admire her almost to the point of worshipping her. It made her young heart extremely happy.
Zhang Wuji asked her how they were captured by the Beggar Clan. Zhou Zhiruo told him that not long after he left the inn that day, suddenly Xie Xun started shivering and became delirious. She was so scared and did all she could to comfort him, but apparently Xie Xun did not recognize her. He jumped madly around the room for a while before he collapsed to the ground and fainted. Right at that moment six, seven masters from the Beggar Clan broke into the room. She did not have enough time to pull her sword, and in the end the two of them were brought to Lulong.
When he was little, Zhang Wuji had heard that because of the main artery injury when training the ‘Qi Shang Quan’ [Seven-injury Fist], combined with the fact that his entire family was decimated by Cheng Kun, his Yifu would occasionally fall into mental confusion. However, Zhang Wuji had never expected that his Yifu’s illness would breakout suddenly in such an unfortunate time that he was unable to resist the Beggar Clan’s attack. Thinking of this, he could not restrain himself from sighing.
The two of them mulled over Xie Xun’s whereabouts, but neither of them had any clue. Zhang Wuji said, “The Capital is the meeting place of all kinds of people, it is in our way going south. Let us stop by Dadu [lit. grand capital, modern day Beijing] to find some information. I think the Green-winged Bat King Wei Xiong [brother Wei] might holds some clues in his hands.”
Zhou Zhiruo pursed her lips then she laughed and said, “Do you really want to go to Dadu to see Wei Yixiao?”
Zhang Wuji understood very well what she was saying, he could not help blushing while replying, “We might not see Wei Xiong, but if we can see Yang Zuoshi [left emissary Yang], Ku Toutuo, Peng Heshang [Buddhist monk] or the others, they might be able to give me some ideas.”
Zhou Zhiruo smiled and said, “I know someone with divine ability in strategy, plotting and scheming. If you go to Dadu to find her, she will help you find a good idea. Yang Zuoshi, Ku Toutuo, Peng Heshang and the others are simply not equal to this Miss in term of intelligence.”
Zhang Wuji did not dare to mention that he met with Zhao Min. This time she mentioned her name, he could not help but feeling bashful. “You always remember Miss Zhao,” he said, “And are always happy to make me feel awkward.”
Zhou Zhiruo laughed and said, “I am not the only one who always remembers her; there is someone else beside me. I wouldn’t be able to see what is in your heart unless you have guilty feelings.”
Zhang Wuji thought that Zhou Zhiruo and he were engaged [orig. bai2tou2zhi1yue1 – arrangement/agreement to live together until their heads are white]. This time they were facing a life and death situation together, their feelings could not be divided and he could not conceal anything from her. Thereupon he said, “Zhiruo, there is something I want to tell you. Please don’t be angry.”
“I will be angry if I deserve to be angry,” Zhou Zhiruo said.
Zhang Wuji’s heart sank. He thought that he had made a heavy oath in her presence that he would kill Zhao Min to avenge his cousin Yin Li, but when he saw Zhao Min, not only he did not kill her, he spent the night in the wilderness and traveled side-by-side with her instead. This matter was really difficult to explain. He was not good in fabricating lies, and he was ashamed of his own conduct, his awkward expression easily revealed his feelings.
While he was still musing, their rides had reached a small town. Noticing that the day was almost spent, they decided to lodge for the night in a small inn. After dinner, he massaged the acupoints on Zhou Zhiruo’s back. He was not familiar with the Beggar Clan’s sealing acupoint technique, but a long time had passed; after massaging her arteries all around, finally the acupoints were unsealed. He said in his heart, “Although the Beggar Clan Elders’ martial art skill was not extremely strong, their acupoint sealing technique is really marvelous. Zhiruo is too proud to ask them to unseal the acupoints during the banquet, and the man who sealed her acupoint pretended to forget. Hey, hey, these beggars wanted to save face at all cost; after suffering a crushing defeat from me, they wanted to show their superiority in acupoint sealing technique.”
Zhou Zhiruo did not like the musty smell of that inn. “Let us go out for a walk,” she said, “I need to work my blood circulation.”
“All right!” Zhang Wuji said. Holding her hand, he took her outside the town.
By this time the sun was setting, the western sky was as red as blood. They leisurely wandered for a while before finally sitting down under a big tree. They watched as the sun slowly disappeared behind the mountain and the sky gradually turned dark. Zhang Wuji gathered his courage and told her how he met Zhao Min at the Mi Le Temple, how they found Mo Shenggu’s corpse inside a cave, how he met Song Yuanqiao and the others, and how he followed the Ming Cult’s blazing fire signs in circle around the Hebei province; he told her everything. Finally he grabbed Zhou Zhiruo’s hands and said, “Zhiruo, you and I are not married yet, but we can be considered husband and wife already; I am not going to conceal anything from you. Miss Zhao insists to see my Yifu face to face; she says she has some important matters to ask him. At that time, a suspicion started to rise in my heart. Now, the more I think about it, the more afraid I am.” As he was saying the last few sentences, his voice started to tremble.
“What are you afraid of?” Zhou Zhiruo asked.
Zhang Wuji felt the pair of small hands in his palms was as cold as ice and slightly trembled. “I remember Yifu’s illness,” he said, “Whenever it breaks out, he would not recognize other people. In the past his madness suddenly flared-out, and he almost killed my Mama, thereupon Mama shot his eyes blind. When I was born, Yifu was about to kill my Papa and Mama, luckily he heard my cry and regained his consciousness. I am afraid … I am really afraid …”
“What are you afraid of?” Zhou Zhiruo asked.