Zhang Wuji sighed and said, “Actually, I cannot bear to say it, but I am really worried that my cousin was … was … killed by Yifu.”
Zhou Zhiruo jumped up and with a shaky voice said, “Xie Daxia [great hero Xie] is a chivalrous hero who always upholds justice; he has always shown kindness and love toward us, his juniors. How can he kill Miss Yin?”
“It was a wild guess,” Zhang Wuji replied, “Totally unfounded. Even if my cousin were really killed by Yifu, it was because of his chronic illness breaking out suddenly, just like a nightmare; certainly it was not his [orig. lao3ren2jia1] true intention. Ay, come to think about it, it was all because of Cheng Kun that evil villain.”
Zhou Zhiruo was deep in thought for half a day before shaking her head and said, “Something is not right! Are you telling me that all of us being poisoned by the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ was also because of him? Where did he get the poison from? Someone suddenly losing his sanity and killing people is not a strange occurrence, but how can he cautiously put poison in our food and drink?”
Zhang Wuji felt as if there was a thick fog hanging over his head, through which he could not see the least bit of bright light. He heard Zhou Zhiruo coldly say, “Wuji Gege [brother Wuji], you are doing your best to free Miss Zhao from any suspicion.”
Zhang Wuji replied, “Supposing Miss Zhao was the real killer, it would be better for her to avoid Yifu. Why did she insist on seeing Yifu, saying that she had some important questions she’d like to ask him?”
With a cold laugh Zhou Zhiruo said, “This Miss’ shrewdness is unparalleled. She wanted to clean herself from all charges. Don’t you think she could not concoct some ingenious way?” All of a sudden her tone turned gentle and soft; she cuddled close to Zhang Wuji’s body and said, “Wuji Gege, you are the most honest and upright person in the world. Speaking about shrewdness and resourcefulness, how can you be Miss Zhao’s match?”
Zhang Wuji sighed, thinking that her words made perfect sense. He stretched out his arm to gently embrace her soft body; in a tender voice he said, “Zhiruo, I only feel that there are endless troubles in this world. Even someone close to me like Yifu cannot avoid my suspicion. I only wish we can accomplish our main task of driving out the Tartars, and then you and I will live in seclusion in some remote mountain, sharing a peaceful life and forget about the matters of this mundane world.”
“You are the Jiaozhu of the Ming Cult,” Zhou Zhiruo said, “Supposing the Heaven blesses us that we can really drive the barbarians away, at that time, all important affairs of this world will fall into your Ming Cult’s hand, how can they let you live a peaceful life?”
“I am incompetent to be the Jiaozhu, and I don’t want to be the Jiaozhu,” Zhang Wuji said, “If the Ming Cult gains power, there must be a wise, righteous hero who would undertake the Jiaozhu position.”
“You are still young,” Zhou Zhiruo said, “Although your competence is currently lacking, can’t you learn? Besides, I am the Sect Leader of Emei Pai; there is a heavy burden on my shoulders. When Shifu bestowed this Sect Leader’s iron ring to me, she commanded me to work hard for the glory of our school. Even if you could live in seclusion in some remote mountain, I am afraid I would not have that luxury.”
Zhang Wuji gently stroked the iron ring on her finger and said, “When I saw this ring in Chen Youliang’s hand, I was extremely anxious; I was afraid you might have been disgraced by those villains. I was wishing that I had wings so I could fly to you. Zhiruo, I was not able to rescue you sooner that you had to suffer wrongdoings longer. When did they return this iron ring to you?”
Zhou Zhiruo said, “It was Wudang Pai’s Song Qingshu Shaoxia [young hero] who returned it to me.”
Hearing her mentioning Song Qingshu’s name, suddenly Zhang Wuji remembered seeing her sitting side by side with Song Qingshu on the banquet table, eating and drinking together in the hall full of Beggar Clan people. “Song Qingshu treated you very well, didn’t he?” he asked.
Zhou Zhiruo could hear the difference in his tone. “What do you mean by ‘treat you very well’?” she asked.
“Nothing,” Zhang Wuji replied, “I am just asking. Song Dage [big brother Song] is infatuated with you, so much so that he did not hesitate to betray his school and rebel against his father, killing his martial uncle and scheming against his grandmaster. But to you, he was very good.”
Zhou Zhiruo looked up toward the crescent moon rising on the eastern horizon and quietly said, “I will be satisfied if you can be half as good to me as he did.”
Zhang Wuji replied, “I definitely cannot show you the kind of feeling Song Shige [martial (older) brother] has for you; I cannot commit these ufilial and unrighteous acts for your sake.”
“For my sake, you certainly cannot. For Miss Zhao’s sake, you can,” Zhou Zhiruo said, “On that little island you have made a heavy oath to kill this witch to avenge Miss Yin. However, as soon as you saw her face, you forgot your pledge completely.”
“Zhiruo,” Zhang Wuji replied, “If after careful investigation I find out that it was indeed Miss Zhao who stole the Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword, and that my Biaomei [(female) cousin] did indeed perish under her hands, I definitely will not spare her. But if she is innocent, I certainly cannot kill her without any reason, can I? Perhaps I made a mistake when I made that heavy oath on the island that day.”
Zhou Zhiruo was silent.
“Did I say anything wrong?” Zhang Wuji asked.
“No!” Zhou Zhiruo replied, “I only remember on the Wan An Temple’s pagoda, I also made a very heavy oath in Shifu’s presence. I hate myself for not telling you about this heavy oath when you proposed to me on that island.”
Zhang Wuji was alarmed. “You … what heavy oath did you make?” he asked.