Happy Heroes 27 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 July 2008 11:47

Chapter 26 – Spring Has Arrived in the World


Morning. The golden sunshine pierced through the layers of cloudand shone upon the window. A breeze blew past the window, carrying on it a fresh and clean fragrance that had come from a distant hill. Mornings are always lovely, always brimming with hope. But you need not curse the darkness of the night either, for without the ugliness of darkness as comparison, how else could the loveliness of morning be emphasized?

Spring. The golden sunshine pierced through the layers of cloud and shone upon the tips of branches. A breeze blew past those gentle branches, the tips already showing a few new buds of green. Amidst the melting snow, there was the fresh and clean fragrance of spring. Spring is always lovely, always brimming with hope. But you need not curse the harshness of winter, for without that harsh and cruel cold, how else could the warmth of spring be emphasized?

Spring morning.

Lin TaiPing was lying down beneath the window. The window was open, and when the breeze blew by, he could smell that fresh and clean fragrance that had come from a distant hill. In his hand, he held a book, but his eyes were gazing out at the green buds on the tips of the branches outside the window. He had stayed there lying that way for a long time.

The injuries he had sustained had not been more serious than Guo DaLu’s, nor had his poisoning been more severe. However, when Guo DaLu was already able to go out and buy wine, he still had to remain in bed. This was because the antidote had come too late. The venom had already invaded into his internal organs and eroded away at his strength. Life has always been like this: there is good fortune and bad fortune. He was not complaining. He had now realized that good and bad fortune is not an absolute condition. He was sick, but it was also because of this that he was able to enjoy that slow, leisure feeling and serenity of seclusion that sickness brings. And plus, he had friends to look after and care for him. Life has always had many types of joys and enjoyments that require you to first set aside your biases and open up your mind before you can appreciate them.

He breathed a little sigh and closed his eyes. The door was pushed open lightly, and someone stepped softly into the room. It was a woman wearing a plain cotton dress and no make-up on her face. She appeared very neat and clean, very plain and simple. Her hands carried a wooden tray and on it was a piping hot bowl of congee and two other small dishes. Lin TaiPing appeared to be sleeping. She quietly walked in, gently set the tray down onto the table, as if she was afraid that she would startle him out of his sleep, and then immediately left the room quietly. But after a moment’s pondering, she went back in once again and picked up the wooden tray because she feared that if the congee grew cold, it would be bad for the patient.

Who was this woman? How she did things was really very thoughtful and with the greatest amount of care.


The snow had completely melted. Under the sunshine, the earth was gradually becoming warm and dry. Three wicker chairs and a leisurely game of chess [Go] had been set up in the courtyard. Wang Dong and Yan Qi were in the middle of a chess game right then.

Guo DaLu was next to them watching, sometimes picking at the loose strands of wicker on his chair, sometimes standing up suddenly and taking a few steps, sometimes stretching his neck and straining to see the distant hills on the other side of the wall. Basically, he was not able to sit still. The only way you would ever get him to sit there quietly and play chess was to chop off his legs. Telling him to sit there quietly off to the side and watch someone else play chess was as bad as killing him.

By now, Wang Dong’s white stones had completely surrounded Yan Qi’s black ones. Yan Qi held a black stone between the tips of his fingers, wracking hard at his brain and trying to find a way to revive this game. Guo DaLu, though, had been by his side the whole time, wandering back and forth. At last, Yan Qi was unable to restrain himself as he glowered at him and snapped, “Can you not just sit there quietly for a moment?”

Guo DaLu answered, “Nope.”

In annoyance, Yan Qi complained, “You have been making a non-stop ruckus. You are so noisy that my heart feels all irritated and my thoughts are in disarray. How do you expect me to play chess?”

“I haven’t even said a word,” Guo DaLu denied. “How can that be considered making a ruckus?”

Yan Qi: “This behaviour of yours cannot be considered a ruckus?”

Guo DaLu: “This is considered a ruckus? How come Wang Laoda is not blaming me for disturbing him?”

In a matter of fact tone, Wang Dong stated, “Because I am going to win this game soon.”

Yan Qi: “The battle is not over right now. It is still not set in stone who is going to win and who is going to lose.”

“It is set,” Guo DaLu interrupted.

Yan Qi glared at him. “What do you know?”

Guo DaLu grinned. “I may not know chess, but I know that lots of shortcomings come out in the person who loses the chess game.”

Yan Qi asked, “Who has lots of shortcomings?”

Guo DaLu: “You! So you have to be the one who is losing the game.”

“Correct answer,” Wang Dong chuckled. A smile had just appeared on his face when it immediately froze. That woman, dressed in plain, dark garments, was walking down the gravel pathway towards them. The wooden tray in her hand had three cups of hot tea on it. Wang Dong turned his head away, refusing to look at her.

The woman in dark garments offered up the first cup of tea right in front of him and said in a soft voice, “This is your favourite jasmine scented green tea. It was just steeped.”

Wang Dong did not hear her.

The woman in dark garments said, “If you would like to drink Dragon Well, I can steep a pot of that as well.”

Still, Wang Dong did not hear her.

The woman set the cup down lightly in front of him. “What would you like for lunch today? Are dumplings okay?”

Wang Dong suddenly rose to his feet and strode far away. The woman stood there staring after the outline of his back for a long time. Her heart seemed to be wounded and filled with sorrow.

Guo DaLu offered, “Dumplings sound great. I am just afraid it will be too troublesome for you.”

Only then did the woman in dark garments slowly turn around and walk back inside, but after taking a couple of steps, she could not help turning her head to cast another glance at Wang Dong. It seemed as if Wang Dong did not even acknowledge this person’s existence. The woman hung her head low and finally left. Although the pain she felt was quite evident, there was not a hint of bitterness or rebuke. No matter how Wang Dong treated her, she was willing to meekly bear all of it. Why would she do that?

Guo DaLu watched as she walked back inside the house before sighing, “This person changed so quickly.”

Yan Qi: “Mm.”

Guo DaLu: “Others have said that ‘rivers and mountains are easy to alter but an inherent nature is difficult to shift.’ From my observations, this saying is not too correct. Hasn’t she wholly and thoroughly changed?”

Yan Qi: “Because she is a woman.”

Guo DaLu countered, “ ‘Women are still people.’ Isn’t this something that you always say?”

Yan Qi gave a sigh before responding, “But when it comes down to it, women are still different from men.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Yan Qi: “A woman is willing to completely transform herself for the man she loves. As for a man, even if he changes himself for a period of time for the woman he loves, the change is still only on the surface.”

Guo DaLu contemplated over that for a moment. “These words seem to make sense.”

Yan Qi: “Of course they make sense. Everything I say always makes sense.”

Guo DaLu sniggered.

Glaring at him, Yan Qi demanded, “What are you laughing at? You do not admit that?”

Guo DaLu agreed, “I admit that no matter what you say, there is nothing that I will not agree with.” This was known as ‘everything has its conqueror; green vegetables go good with bean curd.’ Guo DaLu was neither scared of the Heavens or the Earth, but once he saw Yan Qi, he was helpless.

Only now did Wang Dong walk back and sit down. His face was still hard. Guo DaLu asked him, “She was being nice to bring food over to you. Could you not treat her a little better?”

“No,” Wang Dong answered curtly.

Guo DaLu: “Don’t tell me you get angry the instant you see her.”

Wang Dong: “Hmph.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Wang Dong: “Hmph.”

Guo DaLu: “Even if Hong NiangZi was not very nice in the past, she is no longer that Hong NiangZi now. Can you not tell that she has transformed into a completely different person?”

Yan Qi immediately chimed in with him, “Yup. If people saw her today, who would actually be able to guess that she is ‘Rescuer of the Poor and Needy’ Hong NiangZi?”

It truly was unthinkable. That careful, considerate, gentle, and longsuffering woman dressed in dark garments was actually Hong NiangZi.

Guo DaLu: “If anyone is able to guess, I will crawl around in a circle on the ground.”

Yan Qi: “I will crawl too.”

Wang Dong was frowning as he said icily, “If you two want to crawl all over the ground, that is your business and has nothing to do with me.”

Yan Qi: “But you…”

“Have you admitted defeat for this game yet?” Wang Dong cut him off.

Yan Qi snorted, “Of course not.”

Wang Dong: “Good. Then cut the bull. Hurry up and play chess.”

Sighing, Guo DaLu muttered to himself, “It seems like this guy’s problem is even worse than Yan Qi’s. I would be surprised if he doesn’t lose this game.”

As expected, Wang Dong lost that game. His stones clearly had blocked off the escape routes of Yan Qi’s, but for some baffling reason, he still ended up losing – by seven stones. Wang Dong stared fixedly at the board for quite a while. Suddenly, he challenged, “Come on. Play another game.”

Yan Qi: “No more.”

Wang Dong: “You have to. How can only one game determine a winner and a loser?”

Yan Qi: “We can play another ten games and you will still lose.”

“Who said?” Wang Dong denied.

Guo DaLu jumped in and answered, “I said so, because you not only have a problem, but the problem you have is not a small one.” Wang Dong stood up to leave, but Guo DaLu grabbed him, demanding loudly, “Why is it that every time we mention this subject, you try to run away?”

Wang Dong: “Why would I need to run away?”

Guo DaLu: “You will have to ask yourself that question.”

“That’s true.” Yan Qi pointed out casually, “If a person did not have a guilty conscience, then no matter what anyone said, he still would not need to run away.”

Wang Dong glared angrily at them. All of a sudden, he threw himself into the chair and growled, “Fine. If you want to talk, then let’s just say it out clearly. How do I have a guilty conscience?”

Guo DaLu countered, “Let me first ask you: who was the one who told her to stay?”

Wang Dong: “Who it was does not matter. In any case, it was not me.”

“Of course it wasn’t you,” Guo DaLu told him. “It was not me either, and it certainly was not Yan Qi.” No one had demanded that she stay. She, herself, wanted to remain there. She could have left.

Under those circumstances, if it had been any other people, they undoubtedly would have forced her to reveal the whereabouts of the wealth, and then, it was quite likely that they would have murdered her. However, Guo DaLu and his friends were not this type of people. They certainly would never kill someone who did not have the ability to fight back and definitely would never kill a woman. They especially would not slay a woman who, firstly, did not have the ability to fight back and more importantly, had a heart of repentence.

Anyone would have been able to recognize that Hong NiangZi had been moved by their great friendship. She had realized that the greatest suffering in the world was not having no money, but rather, it was having no friends. All of a sudden, she felt that the price she paid for all those things she did in the past and all that she gained was a life of lonlieness. She was a woman already in her thirties, and she understood how terrible loneliness could be. She also had come to the understanding that all the riches in the world could not fill the emptiness of a person’s heart. This is something that an eighteen, nineteen year old girl is not able to comprehend.

And so, Hong NiangZi did not leave.

Guo DaLu: “You had said that the profit you made in those few years was not a small amount.”

Wang Dong: “Mm.”

Guo DaLu: “And you also said that anyone who got that sum of money would be able to enjoy a lifestyle like an emperor for the rest of his life.”

Wang Dong: “Mm.”

Guo DaLu: “Yet, she would rather give up that emperor’s life and stay here to serve and care for you. Has she gone crazy?”

“Of course she is not crazy,” Yan Qi cut in. “Plus, even a lunatic would not do that.”

Guo DaLu added, “And so, even an idiot should realize the meaning behind her actions and should treat her a little better.”

This did not mean that Hong NiangZi never left the house. She had been gone for five, six days, and when she returned, she carried with her a small cloth bundle that contained a few garments of plain, dark cloth and some miscellaneous items. That was all that remained of her wealth and property. What happened to the rest? She had actually taken that sum of money that she had risked her life to obtain and donated it to some charities in the provinces along the coastal area of the Yellow River that were suffering from flooding. This was something that was simply inconceivable.

Wang Dong’s expression was still hard like steel.

Guo DaLu: “Even now, you still do not believe her?”

Yan Qi: “We even specially went out and inquired around for you. Do you think that we would help her lie to you?”

Guo DaLu: “Can you really not see why she is doing all this?”

Yan Qi: “Obviously, she is trying to make amends for what she has done wrong. But most importantly, it is because she wants to move your heart and hopes that you will change your mind.”

Guo DaLu: “If someone did all that for me, no matter what she did in the past, I would still forgive her.”

Wang Dong was silent; the whole time, he did not say anything. After much time had passed, he finally lifted his head and asked, “Are you guys done talking yet?”

Guo DaLu: “We have said everything we should say.”

Yan Qi: “We have even said things we should not have said. Now, it is up to you what you are going to do.”

Wang Dong: “What would you two like me to do? Kneel down and ask her to marry me?”

Guo DaLu: “Well, that is not necessary, but… but…”

Yan Qi finished for him, “But you should at least be slightly nicer to her.”

Wang Dong looked at Guo DaLu, then looked at Yan Qi. Suddenly, he exhaled a very long sigh. “You guys are so great; just great…” Before finishing what he was saying, he stood and left. This time, even though he walked away very slowly, Guo DaLu did not try to pull him back because Wang Dong rarely sighed like that. The sun had gradually risen up high, and it stretched out Wang Dong’s shadow on the ground. His back seemed to be a little hunched, as if it was supporting a heavy burden. Guo DaLu and Yan Qi had never before seen him like this and, out of the blue, they, too, felt their spirits grow heavy.

They did not know how much time had passed when they heard the pad of very light footsteps. Raising their heads, they saw Hong NiangZi standing before them. Forcing a smile onto his face, Guo DaLu invited, “Sit. Please sit.”

She sat down, then picked up the tea that she had poured for Wang Dong a moment ago and took a sip. Slowly setting it down again, she suddenly spoke, “I heard everything that all of you said a moment ago.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?” Aside from “oh,” he really did not know what else he could say.

Speaking softly, she said, “I am very grateful for the kindness you have shown me, but…” Guo DaLu and Yan Qi waited for her to continue. After a long moment passed, she finally carried on, “But you do not really understand what is going on between him and me.”

Neither Guo DaLu nor Yan Qi offered up any comments. They obviously could not say that they very much understood the matters of other people – no one is able to say that.

Hong NiangZi’s head was lowered. “We used to be… be really close… extremely close…” Her voice seemed a little choked up. She exhaled a long breath before continuing, “As you said, I decided to stay here because I hoped that I can change his heart back, and we could start over again, living the life we once had.”

“You still really cherish those times in the past, don’t you?” Guo DaLu could not help asking.

Hong NiangZi nodded. In a sorrowful voice, she replied, “But only now do I know that things of the past are in the past. They are like a person’s youth: once it is gone, it will never return.” As she reached this point, she seemed as if she finally could not restrain her tears any longer.

Guo DaLu suddenly felt an aching feeling in his heart. He wanted to say something, yet did not know what to say either. He glanced over at Yan Qi, whose eyes seemed to have grown red. Even though Hong NiangZi had harmed and plotted against them in the past, those thing had been long forgotten by now. All they remembered was that she was an unfortunate woman who sincerely wanted to repent. In their hearts, there was absolutely no hatred, only sympathy. No one could forget their hatreds as easily as Guo DaLu and his friends did.

Another period of time passed before, with difficulty, Hong NiangZi finally was able to stop her tears from falling. She told them quietly, “But if you believe that his heart really is hard as iron, then you are wrong. The more he treats me this way, the more it shows that he has not yet forgotten the love we shared in the past.”

Yan Qi suddenly nodded his head. “I understand.” Oftentimes, the deeper the people hurt each other, the more they actually love one another.

Still in a soft voice, Hong NiangZi continued, “If he was actually very nice to me and very polite, it would even be harder for my heart to bear.”

“I understand,” Yan Qi said again gently.

Hong NiangZi: “It is because he was too nice to me and too genuine with me in the past that he feels like I have hurt him very deeply – and that is why he now hates me that much.”

Guo DaLu comforted, “How could he hate you?”

Hong NiangZi smiled sadly. “I am actually happy that he hates me because, if his feelings for me were not true before, why would he need to hate me now?”

At last, Guo DaLu nodded his head also. “I understand.”

Hong NiangZi: “If you pierce a person’s face very deeply with a knife, then a very deep scar will definitely be left there and it will never be normal again.” Her voice was filled with sorrow. “A scar on the heart is just the same. And so, I know that we will never be able to go back to how we were in the past. Even if we somehow force ourselves to be together, there will always be a distance separating our hearts.”

Guo DaLu: “But…… you could at least still be friends?”

Hong NiangZi: “Friends?........”

The sorrow in her smile grew even deeper. “Any two people can be friends, but if these two people were once in love, they will never be able to be friends. Do you agree?”

Guo DaLu had to agree.

Hong NiangZi suddenly rose. “No matter what, though, all of you will always be my friends. I will never forget any of you.”

It was only then did Guo DaLu notice that she was carrying a small cloth bundle in her arms. In alarm, he cried, “You are leaving?”

Sadness filled her face. “If I make myself stay here, not only will it be difficult for him, it will also be hard for me. I have thought about it over and over before I decided that it would be best if I leave.”

Guo DaLu: “But... but do you have any plans? Where are you going to go?”

Hong NiangZi: “I have not thought about it yet.” She did not allow anyone else to speak as she quickly added, “But you do not need to worry. Someone like me can go many places, so for him and for me, please, it would be best if you did not try to stop me.”

Guo DaLu turned to look at Yan Qi. Yan Qi looked as if he was dazed.

Hong NiangZi gazed at the two of them. Her eyes seemed to be filled with envy and admiration. Speaking gently, she said, “If you really think of me as your friend, I hope that you will remember one thing.”

Yan Qi: “Tell us.”

Hong NiangZi stared off into the distance as she spoke slowly, “The hardest thing to come by in this world is not fame, nor is it wealth, but rather, it is the genuine relationships and love that can exist between people. If you get it, you must cherish it. Never let down that person or let yourself down.” Her voice had been getting softer and softer until she whispered, “Because only someone who has lost genuine love truly knows how much it is worth treasuring and understands how painful and lonely life is after it is gone.”

Yan Qi’s eyes really did grow red now and he asked, “What about you? Were you ever genuine in your love with him?”

She was silent for a very long time before finally answering in a low voice, “I actually was not clear about this myself.”

Yan Qi: “What about now?”

Hong NiangZi: “All I knew was that, after he left, I would always think of him. I… found many other people, but not one was able to replace him.” Before she could finish her words, she suddenly covered her face with her hands and dashed out wildly.

Guo DaLu wanted to run over and stop her but Yan Qi blocked him. “Let her go,” he said in a sad voice.

Guo DaLu: “Just let her leave like this?”

Yan Qi’s voice seemed distant. “Leaving is not a bad thing. If she did not go, it would probably be even more painful for both of them.”

Guo DaLu: “I am just afraid that she will… will…”

Yan Qi: “Do not worry. She will definitely not do something like that.”

Guo DaLu: “How do you know?”

Yan Qi: “Because she knows now that Wang Laoda’s feelings for her were genuine. That is sufficient.”

Guo DaLu: “Sufficient?”

Yan Qi: “At least, that is sufficient enough to enable a woman to keep on living.” Tears spilled out of his eyes as he continued softly, “So long as, in a woman’s life, there was one man who was genuine to her, then her life was not lived in vain.”

Guo DaLu was staring intently at him. A very, very long time elapsed. At last, he commented, “You seem to understand women very well.”

Yan Qi turned his head away, his gaze shifting to something far off in the distance. The sky was a deep blue; the sunshine was splendidly brilliant. Beneath that deep blue sky, a streak of light purple smoke suddenly shot into the sky. Furrowing his brows together, he wondered, “Why would someone be setting off flares at this time?” As he turned around, he saw Wang Dong standing beneath the eaves and staring at the purple flare. The wind blew over in their direction, and the smoke dissipated with the wind.

Guo DaLu: “As long as someone feels like it, flares can be set off at any time and any place. There is nothing the least bit strange.”

Yan Qi appeared to be deep in thought as he murmured, “Is it similar to how kites can be flown at any time and any place?”

Guo DaLu could not hear his words clearly and was about to ask him what he had been mumbling when, out of the nowhere, Wang Dong rushed up to him and demanded, “Where is she?” “She” obviously meant Hong NiangZi.

“She left already,” Guo DaLu informed him, “because she feels that you…”

In a sharp voice, Wang Dong cut him off. “When did she leave?”

Guo DaLu: “Just now…” These two words had just left his lips when Wang Dong leapt up and soared through the air. In a flash, he had already swept over the wall. Guo DaLu snickered, “So, it turns out that he does have feelings for her. She didn’t need to leave.” His voice was filled with mirth as he shook his head and wondered, “Why do women like to be so oversensitive?”

There was not even a hint of amusment on Yan Qi’s face. “Do you really think the flare was sent up into the sky just for fun?”

Guo DaLu: “What other reason could there be?”

Yan Qi sighed, “It seems that you really know nothing about the shady matters of jianghu.”

Guo DaLu: “I never was a veteran of jianghu.”

Yan Qi: “Let’s say you and I wanted to attack someone. You are staying guard up here and I am waiting at the foot of the mountain. When you get news of the person, what sort of method would you use to notify me?”

Guo DaLu: “Won’t happen.”

Yan Qi: “Won’t happen? What does that mean?”

Guo DaLu: “It means that a situation like that would never occur.”

Yan Qi: “Why?”

Guo DaLu batted his eyes. “Because if you were waiting at the foot of the mountain, I would definitely be at the foot of the mountain too.”

A tender look appeared in Yan Qi’s eyes, but his face was still pulled into frown. “We are talking about serious matters right now. Can you just answer with a few serious words?”

Guo DaLu: “Yes.” He mulled over it for a while before he answered, “There is quite a distance between the top and foot of the mountain. Even if I shout and yell, you probably would not be able to hear me.”

“Very smart, very smart,” Yan Qi scoffed, his voice filled with sarcasm. “You are absolutely brilliant.”

Guo DaLu chuckled. He pondered a little longer before suggesting, “I could send someone to alert you.”

Yan Qi: “What if there was no one else around?”

Guo DaLu: “Then I would run down the mountain myself.”

Yan Qi scowled and stared angrily at him. “What is your brain stuffed with? Straw? Or sticks?”

Guo DaLu grinned back at him. “Aside from straw and sticks, my brain is also filled with thoughts of how to tease you until you are mad. I had always thought that the look you get on your face when you are mad is like a seventeen, eighteen year old girl.” Without giving Yan Qi a chance to open his mouth in response, he quickly added, “Of course I actually know what you are trying to say. You believe that flare is just like those kites; it is one of the signals used in jianghu as a method of communicating information.”

Yan Qi was still glaring at him. Finally, after a quite some time passed, he gave a lengthy sigh. “One of these days, you are going to frustrate me to death.”

At this moment, another purple flare suddenly shot up into the sky from somewhere at the foot of the mountain. Guo DaLu’s expression also grew serious. “In your opinion, somebody of jianghu has come to this place of ours?”

Yan Qi: “And not just one.”

Guo DaLu: “You believe that they are here for Hong NiangZi?”

Yan Qi: “I do not know, but Wang Laoda must think so and that is why he rushed out.”

Guo DaLu’s expression changed and he cried, “If that is the case, what are we still waiting here for?”

Yan Qi: “Because I need to discuss something with you.”

Guo DaLu: “What?”

Yan Qi: “This time, could you not come with me and allow me to go by myself…”

He had not finished what he was trying to say before Guo DaLu shook his head vehemently. “No.”

Yan Qi knit his brow together. “If we all go, who will stay behind here with Xiao Lin [Little Lin]?” Naturally, they could not leave Lin TaiPing alone there. After the lesson they had learned from last time, no matter what the situation was now, they were all especially careful.

In a quiet voice, Guo DaLu asked, “This time, could you let me go and you stay here?”

Immediately, Yan Qi also shook his head. “No.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Yan Qi’s tone all of a sudden softened. “In the first place, your injuries have not yet completely healed. On top of that, you stubbornly did not care about your life and did not bother waiting for your injuries to get better before sneaking down the mountain by yourself to drink wine.”

Guo DaLu: “Who snuck down the mountain? Did I not bring some wine back…”

Yan Qi’s face was firm as he interrupted, “No matter what, you are not able to fight anyone right now.”

Guo DaLu: “Who said?”

Yan Qi: “I said. Do you want to disagree with me?”

Guo DaLu: “I…… I…..”

Yan Qi: “If you are not convinced, then fight me first. How about that?”

With a bitter little smile on his face, Guo DaLu spread his hands in surrender. “Who said I’m not convinced? I am terribly, extremely convinced.” He picked up the little table that the chessboard had been set on and muttered, “You hurry up and leave. I will go find Xiao Lin to play a game of chess with me. His poor chess skills [literally, ‘dog ***t chess’] are at about the same level as mine.”

Yan Qi watched him as he left. His eyes became filled with an indescribable tenderness and gentleness, like the spring breeze that had just melted the ice and snow covering the earth.

It was spring now. Spring should be the season that belongs to passionate young men and women. Spring is not a season for killing. It is only suitable for listening to the melodious chirping of birds or the sound of affectionate whisperings. It is definitely not fitting to hear cries of anguish. But right at that moment, he heard a cry of anguish – a dying person’s cry of anguish.


There are some places on the earth where spring seems to arrive particularly late. Then, there are some places that seem as if it is forever spring. In truth, if you want to know whether spring has come yet, you need not look for new buds of green on the tips of branches or ask the wild ducks in the spring river. You only need to ask yourself. True spring is not found on green-covered branches or in the warm waters. The true spring is found inside your heart.

Beneath a steel sabre, there is no spring. Nor is it in a pool of blood.

A person lay in a pool of blood. His breathing had already ceased; that dying cry of anguish had broken off. A steel sabre was still clutched tightly in his hand – a sabre that shone bright as snow. So repulsive, so heavy!

Nine people, nine sabres!

The breeze was saturated with a stench of blood that made people want to heave. Spring had arrived already in this dark grove, but now, it seemed to have departed to some far away place again.

Nine people, all tightly clenching sabres in their hands, surrounded Hong NiangZi. Nine fierce, burly men dressed in black, with malicious looks in their eyes. One was already lying facedown in a pool of blood. Hong NiangZi stared at them, the alluring smile of “Rescuer of the Poor and Needy” showing on her face again. With her slender finger, she pointed at the pool of blood and asked, “Which number was he?”

Seven of the men grit their teeth tightly together. Only one of these men in black, the skinniest one, spat through his teeth, “Old Eight.”

Hong NiangZi counted off on her fingers, “The first one who died seemed to be Old Six, then it was Old Two, Old Nine, Old Ten, plus now, Old Eight. Ai! Of the Thirteen Sabres, there are only eight left.”

The man in black answered, “Correct. Five brothers of the Thirteen Sabres have already died by your hand.” A hoarse growl was emitted from his throat and he rasped, “But eight sabres are sufficient enough to chop you to a pulp.”

Hong NiangZi laughed, her laughter like silver bells. Three of the eight men unconsciously retreated back a half a step. She chimed, “Beautiful women are best when they have a lively complexion that emits a fragrance. What a pity it would be to chop a beautiful woman like me, who has that lively complexion and
beautiful fragrance, into a pulp?” Her gaze flitted over the faces of the three men
who had backed away. Smiling enchantingly, she addressed them, “You know what sort of good stuff I have in my possession. Why didn’t you let your brothers know? You three are so selfish… Dead people cannot speak, but could it be that it is the same for you?” The three men’s faces changed, and they suddenly brandished their sabres and lunged forward.

That tallest and skinniest black-clothed man growled lowly, “Stop!” It was evident that, of these thirteen sabres, he was the number one sabre. The instant his order left his mouth, the sabres immediately halted in midair.

Hong NiangZi chortled charmingly, “See, everyone. I knew that your Zhao Laoda [biggest brother Zhao] would not have the heart to kill me. He may not be a person who is tender and protective to women, but he can still understand the difference between the good and bad of a woman.”

Zhao Laoda’s face was hard. “You are very good. Indeed, I am reluctant about killing you because I do not want you to die too quickly.”

Her eyes sparkled at him and her smile grew even more captivating as she said in a gentle voice, “Whatever time you would like me to die, then I will die at that time. You know that I would be willing to do anything for you.”

Zhao Laoda: “Good. Very good.” Anyone who wants to be laoda cannot be a person of many words. The less one says, the more value his words will have. Zhao Laoda was not one who liked lots of words, and the words he spoke were short and effective. “You killed five of our brothers. We will slash you five times with our sabres and then, the debt will be considered settled.”

Hong NiangZi batted her lashes. “Only five slashes?”

Zhao Laoda: “Mm.”

Hong NiangZi: “You do not even want to collect interest?”

Zhao Laoda: “Mm.”

Hong NiangZi sighed, “That cannot be considered an unfair exchange. I am very willing to accept it. Plus, right now there are eight of you against one of me, so even if I did not want to agree to it, I would still have to.”

Zhao Laoda: “It is good that you realize this.”

Hong NiangZi: “Although I understand it very clearly, there is one thing that is rather regrettable.”

Zhao Laoda: “What is that?”

Hong NiangZi: “I am afraid of pain.” She stared at those sabres in their hands, her face showing a very forlorn expression. “Such big sabres. It must hurt a lot if they slice down on your body.”

Zhao Laoda: “Does not hurt.”

Hong NiangZi: “It really does not hurt?”

Zhao Laoda: “At the very least, the second slash will not hurt.”

Hong NiangZi had a look that appeared as if she still did not comprehend what he was saying. “Do you guarantee?”

Zhao Laoda: “I guarantee.”

Hong NiangZi: “Of course I feel a lot more comfortable with your guarantee, but I still have one more condition.”

Zhao Laoda: “Say it.”

Hong NiangZi: “The first slash has to be from you.” With a pair of watery eyes, she gazed at Zhao Laoda and added, “Because I do not trust anyone else; I only trust you.”

Zhao Laoda: “Fine.” He walked over towards her slowly. His footsteps were so heavy that you could nearly hear the sand and stones being crushed beneath his feet. The sabre still hung by his side. His hand was wide and thin; veins bulged out on the back of it. And then, he utilized one hundred percent of his strength.

“The second slash will definitely not hurt.”

Once this sabre chopped down on its target, it was not possible for anyone to have any feelings of pain – it was not possible for there to be any feeling left at all.

Surprisingly, Hong NiangZi merely shut her eyes, her face still showing that faint smile that could melt souls. She chimed, “Come. Hurry!” There was a bright flash of light from the sabre, carrying with it the piercing sound of rushing wind as it came slicing down. Then unexpectedly, Hong NiangZi darted beneath that white light. Black silken strands flew up into the air against the flash of brightness. A large section of her hair had been sliced off.

However, one of her hands had already grabbed onto and raised Zhao Laoda’s elbow while the other hand was pressing down on an acupoint beneath his ribs. Nobody could determine which acupoint that was, but anyone could tell that it was certainly a fatal acupoint. The look on every person’s face was as if they had been kicked in their stomachs.

Hong NiangZi was still giggling, that awful sort of laughter. Like the sound of silver bells, she chortled, “Now you should realize why I insisted you had to be the one who made the first move. I knew that your hand would go weak because I had known all along that you have taken a fancy to me.”

Zhao Laoda’s hand had not gone weak. His sabre attack had been extremely fast and very fierce. It was just that, as his sabre came down, he had been unthinking and left himself open in that spot beneath his blade. When facing a woman that had already closed her eyes in anticipation of death, it was difficult to avoid being a little careless. He had learned another lesson: “If you plan to kill, then, at all times, you should also guard against someone trying to kill you.” Naturally, this was not a pleasant thing. “If you plan to kill, you should be prepared to live a life of anxiety and suffering.”

Zhao Laoda sighed. “What do you want?”

Smiling, Hong NiangZi replied, “Nothing much. I merely want to discuss a business transaction with you.”

Zhao Laoda: “What sort of business transaction?”

Hong NiangZi: “Use your one life as an exchange for my life.”

Zhao Laoda: “And how do you want to have this exchange?”

Hong NiangZi let out another laugh. “Very simple. If I die, you will have no hope of living either.”

Zhao Laoda: “What if I die?”

With a sweet smile on her face, she answered, “If you die, of course I will not be able to live either, but how could I ever have the heart to let you die?”

After considering for a moment, Zhao Laoda decided, “Fine.”

Nobody had a chance to grasp what the actual meaning behind his “fine” was. All they saw was the sabre in his hand suddenly coming down again – at his own head.

Hong NiangZi was an experienced person of the martial world. When a veteran of jianghu seizes and lifts up someone’s arm, he or she has undoubtedly taken into account the sabre in the hand of that person is no longer able to injure anyone. Hong NiangZi had calculated everything out very carefully, except she forgot one thing. Although the sabre in Zhao Laoda’s hand was not able to chop down on her, his arm was still able to bend so that it came down on himself. She had been solely focused on protecting her own life and had not remembered to protect the other person’s life. She had thought that everyone was the same as her, always regarding their own life as being more important than anything else. However, she had forgotten that, many times, people are willing to give up their lives for love or hatred. The power of love and hatred is often greater than anything else – so great that it was beyond anything she could imagine.

Fresh blood sprayed everywhere.

Dark red blood with bits of milky white flew out. Like drops of rain, it splattered onto Hong NiangZi’s face. Her eyelids were covered by the blinding red. All she saw were those eyes of Zhao Laoda, previously filled with rage and hatred, suddenly bulge out like a dead fish. And then, they were obscured by the blood.

At once, outraged cries, like wild beasts that had fallen into traps, rose up around her. The shrill noise of the wind created by sabres cutting through the air came forcing down on her from all directions. She threw herself into the air and dodged as she tried to force her eyes open. But still, she could not even catch of glimpse of the sabres’ light; all she could see was the red glow of blood.

She leapt up again. There was an unexpected cold sensation on her leg. It did not seem to be very painful, but the strength in her leg seemed to have disappeared suddenly. Her body immediately started to fall.

She knew that this descent would send her down into an endless darkness, a place beyond redemption. Strangely, though, there was no fear in her heart, only a peculiar sort of grief. She suddenly thought of Wang Dong again. Where do a person’s thoughts turn right before his death? Perhaps no one can actually answer this question because under such circumstance, what each person thinks of will be different. She thought of Wang Dong, remembered his face that was cold as ice and his heart that was warm like fire. A faint smile appeared on her face, as if she felt that, so long as she was able to hear the sound of his laughter again, life or death did not matter.

The crying sound was clear, like a hawk or crane in the heavens spiralling downwards. Hong NiangZi’s body was sinking downwards also. She felt herself unexpectedly relax, felt that she could let go of everything because now, all of it was unimportant. And so, she sank down like that, falling onto the ground, not even bothering to open her eyes.

It was fortunate that she did not open her eyes. If they had been open, her heart may have shattered and her insides may have torn apart. The brilliant light of the sabres interwove and came slicing down on Hong NiangZi.

All of a sudden, with a loud roar, someone soared down from the tops of the trees, charging into the light of the sabres. He seemed to have forgotten that he was made of flesh and blood and that sabres were used for killing. And just like that, he rushed into the middle of that light. A cry of alarm resonated out. “King of Eagles!”

“King of Eagles did not die!”

Another person shouted angrily, “Then he will die now!”

Naturally, there was a chance that Wang Dong was going to die. He understood this point very clearly. However, he also knew that, so long as he was still alive, no one would be allowed to take Hong NiangZi’s life in front of him. Using his body of flesh and blood as a shield in front of Hong NiangZi, he blocked those killing sabres. Though the sabres were sharp and heavy, he refused to draw back. This sort of courage was not only worthy of respect, it was also fearsome, very fearsome.

When Yan Qi arrived, Wang Dong’s body was already covered in seven, eight sabre wounds. Blood streamed out from each gash. Normally, the courage of any other person would have flowed out along with the blood. His did not. As Yan Qi looked upon him, even though his heart did not shatter and his insides did not tear apart, his blood started rushing up into his head and throat. In that instant, he suddenly forgot about his own life.

Where does courage come from? Sometimes, it arises because of honor; at times, it is because of hatred. Sometimes, it is for love; other times, it is for friends. Regardless of where the courage originates from, they all equally deserve to be respected and are equally admirable.


Guo DaLu had come also. No matter what the reasons or what the situation was, he still would never allow his friends to fight with their lives while he stayed at home playing chess. It was a shame that, by the time he got there, the bloody battle had already come to an end. There were only nine sabres remaining on the ground. Some lay in a pool of blood while others were stabbed into trees. Some of the edges of the blades had curled; others had completely snapped.

Wang Dong was caring for the wound on Hong NiangZi’s leg, having utterly forgotten about the injuries on his own body. Yan Qi watched them silently. It was uncertain whether that was happiness in his gaze or sorrow.

Quietly, Guo DaLu walked over and whispered, “Where are they?”

At the same time, Yan Qi asked him, “Where is he?”

Guo DaLu: “Who are you asking about?”

Yan Qi: “Xiao Lin.”

Guo DaLu: “Of course I would never leave Xiao Lin in the house by himself.”

Yan Qi: “You brought him along?”

With a nod of his head, Guo DaLu answered, “He is sitting in that large tree over there.” Because of where the tree was situated, everything that happened where they were could be seen from atop that tree, but the people here could not see up into it.

There are skills and techniques to hiding; it is actually an art. “At the proper time, find a proper place.” This is the essence of the entire meaning behind the two words, “to hide.”

Guo DaLu: “I was asking about those people with the sabres.”

Yan Qi: “They have all left.”

Guo DaLu picked up a sabre from the ground, weighing it roughly in his hand, as he grinned, “No wonder they left their sabres behind. You really cannot run very quickly with such a heavy sabre in your hand.”

Yan Qi: “Correct. That’s because they are not people who are known to flee.”

Guo DaLu: “You know them?”

Yan Qi: “Don’t know them, but I know of them. Thirteen Sabres is well-known both inside and outside the Central Plains.”

Guo DaLu: “Well-known bandits?”

Yan Qi: “Well-known as bold and unyielding men.”

Guo DaLu: “But the bold and unyielding men have fled this time.”

Yan Qi: “Are you thinking that they were afraid of dying?”

Guo DaLu: “If they were not afraid, why would they run away?”

Yan Qi gazed at Wang Dong. “What they feared was not death but was, in fact, a sort of courage that leaves people with no choice but to be afraid.” He continued slowly, “Maybe they were not actually afraid but rather, were touched… They are people, too. Each person has a chance of being touched by something at one point in time.”

Guo DaLu was silent in thought for a while until he suddenly wondered, “How did they know Hong NiangZi was here?”

Yan Qi: “The news that Cui MingFu and the others died here is already known by many people in jianghu.”

With a sigh, Guo DaLu remarked, “News in jianghu spreads very quickly.”

Yan Qi: “The ears of people belonging to jianghu have always been extremely sharp, let alone the fact that hatreds and enmities will cause a person’s ears to be even sharper.”

Guo DaLu: “The enmity between them had been very deep?”

Yan Qi: “Thirteen Sabres and Cui MingFu could actually have been considered associates, but Hong NiangZi betrayed them. One time, when they were being besieged by enemies, she actually…”

Abruptly, Guo DaLu cut him off, “I do not care to hear about those types of dog-eat-dog matters.”

Yan Qi: “Than what do you want to hear?”

As Guo DaLu turned his gaze over to Wang Dong and Hong NiangZi, a gentle sort of radiance gradually showed in his eyes. “Right now, I just want to hear something that will make my heart happy or maybe a joyful type of news. For example…”

Yan Qi looked at him, his eyes also softening as he asked quietly, “For example what?”

Guo DaLu: “For example, news of spring.”

Yan Qi’s tone grew even more tender. “You do not need to ask for news of spring anymore.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Yan Qi: “Because spring has already arrived.”

Guo DaLu blinked at him. “Already arrived?” he chuckled. “Where? How come I cannot see it?”

Turning his head to look over at Wang Dong and Hong NiangZi, Yan Qi answered softly, “You should be able to see it. It is right in this place.”

Guo DaLu’s voice became very gentle also. “You are right. It is in this place,” he agreed quietly. But what he was looking at was Yan Qi – Yan Qi’s eyes. He had suddenly discovered that spring was in Yan Qi’s eyes.

End of Chapter 26