Happy Heroes 37 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 July 2008 20:18

Chapter 36 – The Purple-Dressed Girl

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The night was cool, the stone steps even cooler. But he did not care because his heart was filled with warmth.

The sound of footsteps echoed lightly down the corridor as someone walked gently over towards him. He did not turn his head to look because he knew who it was. Of course, the one coming over was Yan Qi.

A long robe was draped over Yan Qi’s shoulders, and it dragged on the ground as he walked. He sat down on the stone steps also.

Countless stars filled the sky. The Milky Way looked like a glowing silver ribbon and the stars, Altair [star of the Cowherd] and Vega [star of the Weaver Girl] [13] resembled two pearls sewn onto it. Even though there were other stars in the sky that were brighter, none could be more beautiful than them. That was because they were not like other stars, cold and unfeeling. It was because they were not gods: they, too, experienced the same love and hardships that mankind knows. Though their hardships were many and the distance between them great, their love would exist forever.


Yan Qi breathed out a faint sigh. “You ought to know by now, right?”

“What is it I ought to know?” Guo DaLu asked.

Yan Qi replied, “Trouble. Last night you still thought it would not happen, but it has arrived now.”

Guo DaLu laughed, “Giving up my bed to a guest for one night cannot be considered a trouble.”

Yan Qi: “Whether it is trouble or not will depend on what sort of person the guest is.”

Guo DaLu: “What sort of person is he?”

Yan Qi: “A person who is in trouble and furthermore, that trouble is not trivial.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Yan Qi: “Because he is in trouble, he came here to hide out.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Yan Qi: “And because he needed to hide out here tonight, he came here last night and did a favour for us first, just like a renter who first puts down a deposit.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Yan Qi: “You don’t need to pretend to be dumb. In reality, you have understood this reasoning all along.”

Guo DaLu: “What is it that I understand?”

Yan Qi: “You know that someone will definitely be coming here to find him so that’s why you are standing guard here right now. You are prepared to fend off whatever it may be for him.”

Guo DaLu was silent for a while before saying, “Last night, when someone came to give us trouble, who fended it off for us?”

Yan Qi: “He did.”

Guo DaLu: “Then, even if it is true that someone is going to come here to give him trouble, why can we not deflect it away for him?”

Yan Qi: “Well, that depends on what sort of trouble it is.”

Guo DaLu disagreed, “It does not matter what sort of trouble it is. Since we have already accepted his deposit, we have to rent the house out to him.”

It was Yan Qi’s turn to grow quiet for a period of time. At last, he asked slowly, “How do you think his martial art ability is relative to you?”

Guo DaLu: “He seems to be superior to me by a little bit.”

Yan Qi: “Right now in this place of ours, there are only two people who are able to fight. If he is does not have the ability to fend off this trouble, do you think we would actually be able to do it?”

Guo DaLu: “We should at least give it a try.” By ‘give it a try’, he meant that he was prepared to put his life on the line.

Yan Qi: “What if he is a bandit or a murderer? You would still fight for him?”

Guo DaLu: “Those are two completely different things.”

Yan Qi: “What do you mean two different things?”

Guo DaLu: “The reason why people are looking for him is one thing; the reason why I am helping him is another thing.”

Yan Qi: “What is your reason?”

Guo DaLu: “Because tonight he is my guest and because I have already promised him a night of peaceful and secure sleep.”

Yan Qi: “And you do not care about anything else?”

Guo DaLu: “One way or another, tonight, I am only concerning myself with this one matter.”

Yan Qi scowled at him. Biting down on his lip, he spluttered, “You… what kind of person are you anyway?”

“I am just this kind of person,” Guo DaLu replied. “You should have known that long ago.” With a withering stare, Yan Qi gave a sudden stomp of his foot, stood up, and turned his head ready to leave. He took two steps, then stopped abruptly. Tugging off the long robe on his shoulders, he flung it over Guo DaLu. “If you are worried I will be cold, it would be best if you brought me a bottle of wine,” Guo DaLu advised with a grin.

Nibbling on his lip, Yan Qi snapped, “You think I would be worried that you are cold? I’m only worried that it is not cold enough and you won’t die.”

The robe was large and wide. It was rather curious who it belonged to. Unusual things always seemed to emerge from Yan Qi’s room. In the past, he would always disappear for a few days, but this habit seemed to have gradually changed of late. However, Guo DaLu still seemed to sense that there was an air of mystery surrounding him, and he always appeared to keep a slight distance between himself and everyone else. Being such good friends that they all were, though, this sort of distance should not have existed anymore. The robe was very old and very dirty with patches all over it, but it was not the least bit smelly. This, too, was something that Guo DaLu had always found to be odd. It seemed that Yan Qi never bathed, yet his room would always be tidy and clean. Guo DaLu resolved to himself that tomorrow he must ask him, “What sort of person are you anyway?”

By now, the light in Yan Qi’s room had been extinguished, but Guo DaLu knew for certain that he would not actually sleep. As he shifted the robe to cover his shoulders, warmness flooded his heart, for he knew that no matter how tough the words from Yan Qi’s lips may be, so long as there was anything that affected him, Yan Qi would always be more concerned and anxious than anyone else.

The night was still. A breeze rustled the rosebay flowers by the corner of the wall, their flowery shadows dancing. Guo DaLu really did want to go find some wine to drink, but right at that moment, he suddenly heard the sound of a strange sort of music. The music was amazingly light and seemed to flit about. At first, it had appeared to be coming from the east but all of a sudden, it shifted over to the west. And then, it seemed as if the music was resonating from every direction.

“They have come. The ones looking for trouble have come after all.”

Guo DaLu felt his entire body starting to burn up, and even his heart started beating two or three times faster than normal. What sort of person had come? Of course, he was not able to guess the answer to that, but he did know that these persons must be very formidable. Otherwise, why would the black-clothed man be so frightened that he needed to hide?

The more formidable these visitors were, the more exhilarating the situation was.

Guo DaLu’s eyes were opened wide. The robe that had been draped on him had now fallen to the ground.

With a loud “bang”, the front door flew open.

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[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi_Xi and http://www.china.org.cn/english/feat...vals/78315.htm

 

Two Kunlun slaves[14] [orig. Kunlun nu; term once used for dark-skinned, non-Chinese slave], suddenly appeared in the doorway. Their hair and beards were curly, their noses hooked, and their upper bodies completely bare. The only thing they wore were wide-bottom pants embroidered with gold, and from each of their left ears dangled a very large gold hoop. In their arms, they carried a roll of red felt, which they unfurled until it spread from the doorway all the way into the courtyard. Then, with a somersault in midair, the two men retreated out the door without so much as glancing over at Guo DaLu, as if there was not a single person in the courtyard.

Even though Guo DaLu was so excited that sweat had broken out onto his skin, he still managed to contain himself. This was because he knew that the real show was to follow. The arrival of these two Kunlun slaves may have been strange and mysterious, but they were merely minor characters, and it was certain that the main lead was yet to appear.

Sure enough, another two people immediately came in from outside the door: two non-Han [orig. man; literally means ‘barbarian’] girls adorned in bizarre fashions and with dark black hair plaited into seventy or eighty braids that swayed back and forth with the music. Each of them carried a large basket in their hand as their soft, rosy arms strewed colourful fresh flowers onto the red felt. Both girls were very beautiful. The snowy-white calves of their legs were exposed beneath the hem of their short skirts, and anklets of golden bells on each of their legs rang out chimes of “ding ding dong dong” in time with the music. Guo DaLu’s eyes grew even rounder. Unfortunately, they did not cast even a single glance in his direction. After they had finished scattering their flowers, they, too, did a flip in midair and withdrew back out the door.

“It seems that this whole situation is not only becoming more and more exciting but more and more interesting as well.” Any situation, no matter what it may be, involving beautiful woman would always be exciting and interesting. Plus, it seemed that there were more and more beauties arriving. Four maidens, dressed like palace maids in long dresses that swept along the floor, with hair twisted high on their heads in a cloud-like bun, and carrying four palace lanterns in their hands, walked in daintily. All four had graceful figures and elegant bearings and were lovely as fairies.

They had just halted their footsteps when the two tall, long-legged Kunlun slaves marched back in carrying a large armchair [orig. hu chuang; ancient folding armchair] between them. A regal-looking woman dressed in purple was reclining in the chair, a bright silver pipe propped in her palm as she inhaled idly from it. The light smoke dispersed out all around like a fog, and her face seemed to be lost in the cloud and mist. In one hand, she held a dragon-head walking staff and beside her chair, a young midget girl was gently hammering her legs with her fists to massage her.

Guo DaLu breathed out a sigh secretly. Although he was not able to see this purple-dressed noble woman’s face, after seeing the dragon-head staff and the young girl massaging her legs, anyone would have been able to deduce that she was not young of age. This was the one blemish in an otherwise ideal scenario. Up until this point, everything in the unfolding of this situation had been very appealing. If the main character was also a beauty whose countenance was like a flower or the moon, would that not be utterly perfect? Fortunately, Guo DaLu had always known how to comfort himself. “In any case, this old lady must be a very remarkable personage. Just based on the manner in which she entered, there are very few people of jianghu who could compare to her.” Therefore, this situation was still very fascinating.

As for this old woman, who was she? How had this enmity between her and the black-clothed man come to be? How deep was the hatred? Would Guo DaLu really be able to fend her off? It seemed that Guo DaLu had not bothered to even contemplate any of these points. Since he had taken everything onto his own shoulders already, even if he was not able to, he would still have to stop her. What good, then, would it serve to think about any of this? And so, he simply kept his patience and waited. If the other person was not going to open her mouth to speak, he would not either.

After a long time passed, the purple-dressed old woman’s lips parted and blew out a puff of thick smoke. Like an arrow, the smoke went flying in Guo DaLu’s direction. Such a very thick smoke. Even though Guo DaLu liked to drink, he had never smoked before. Tears nearly flowed from his eyes as he choked, and he almost could not stop himself from cursing out loud. But if a person was able to blow smoke out in such a straight line, it would be best for you if you were a little more polite to her.

Before the smoke had cleared, he heard a voice say, “Who are you? What are you doing sitting here in the middle of the night?” The voice was crisp and clear. It did not seem as if it should belong to an old lady, but neither was it pleasing to the ear, sounding fierce and unreasonable as it shouted out questions, like an officer interrogating a thief.

Guo DaLu heaved a sigh. With a wry smile, he returned, “It seems that this place is actually my home. It should not be against the law for a person to sit in his own home, right?” Before he had finished what he was saying, another breath of smoke came surging over into his face. The smoke was even thicker this time, and Guo DaLu could not hold back the coughing that overcame him. His face felt as if it was being pricked all over by needles.

“If I ask one question, you answer with one sentence,” the person said. “It would be best if you kept the clever words to yourself, understand?”

Forcing a smile, Guo DaLu answered, “Apparently, even if I do not want to understand, I have no choice.”

“Where is NanGong Chou?” the purple-dressed noble woman demanded. “Hurry up and tell him to roll himself out here now!” That black-clothed man really was NanGong Chou.

Sighing, Guo DaLu said, “My sincerest apologies. I cannot tell him to roll out.”

Purple-dressed noble woman: “Why?”

Guo DaLu: “One: because he is not a ball and will not roll. Two: because he is asleep and anyone who wants to wake him up must first do one thing.”

Purple-dressed noble woman: “What is that?”

Guo DaLu: “Knock me down first.”

The purple-dressed noble woman gave a cold smirk. “That is easy.” She had not finished speaking these three words when, out of the fog-like smoke, the shadowy figure of a person soared into the air. There was a flash of cold light that stabbed straight at Guo DaLu’s throat.

This person’s assault had come so swiftly, but fortunately Guo DaLu’s reactions were not slow either. However, he had just managed to evade the first attack from the sword when the second one followed after it. One stance flowed after another, rapid and furious.

Only after Guo DaLu had dodged the fourth sword attack did he notice that his assailant was actually the young midget girl. Her height was less than three feet and the sword she used was at most only one foot, six or seven inches in length, but the furiousness and shrewdness of her swordplay could already be considered as first-class skills in jianghu.

It was a pity that her body really was just too small and her sword too short. In one motion, Guo DaLu suddenly snatched up the long robe and tossed it forward. The robe was long and wide and was like a large dark cloud. For such a small person to avoid being enveloped by it would be an extremely difficult feat. The girl let out a little shriek and, with a dainty gasp, accused, “A big person bullying a little person. You’re shameless. Shameless!” After saying this, she withdrew back.

Smiling wryly, Guo DaLu acknowledged, “Having no shame is at least better than having no life.”

The purple-dressed woman gave a cold laugh. “You would dare to stick your nose in my business and yet, you still want to keep your life?” Amid the sound of that laugh, the two curly-haired, bearded Kunlun slaves had already appeared in front of him, standing there like two iron towers.

Guo DaLu sighed again. “The small one is overly small and the big ones are overly big,” he muttered under his breath. “What should I do now?” Without waiting for these two people to attack, his body tore forward and, like a fish, wriggled past them from underneath their ribs. In one step, he had scampered up in front of the armchair. He grinned, “On the other hand, you are neither too big nor too small. Now, if you were not too old, you would happen to be a good match for me.”

The purple-dressed noble woman laughed coolly, “You say I am too old?” By now, the smoke by her face had gradually dissipated, and Guo DaLu at last could see her face. He could not restrain himself from letting out a cry of astonishment, as if he had just seen a ghost. One step at a time, he backed away. He had never thought that what he saw would be such a face.


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[14]http://www.geocities.com/pieterderideaux/li_fang.html

 

A pretty and youthful face. Even though it was made up with rouge and powder, trying as much as possible to appear like a grownup, its childlike air still could not be concealed, just like no matter how thick the make-up is applied, an old lady will never be able to hide her wrinkles behind it. This “old woman” who had this grand and impressive air, who smoked, and who had someone massage her legs, was actually a sixteen, seventeen year old girl. Guo DaLu was utterly dumbfounded.

The purpled-dressed girl rose slowly from the armchair. A pair of eyes that looked like copper bells were staring at him. Step after step, he retreated; step after step, she pressed in on him, her hand still dragging the dragon-head staff behind her. This girl was obviously young and pretty. Why was it she insisted on putting forth the appearance of an old woman? From looking at her face, she was at most sixteen or seventeen years old. How could she possess such profound internal energy? Even her subordinate, a little servant girl, already had such high swordsmanship, and those two Kunlun slaves naturally were characters that would not be easy to handle either. What was it about this girl that made these people submit to her? How did she manage to develop an enmity between herself and NanGong Chou, who had already made a name for himself over twenty years ago? And why would a person with NanGong Chou’s reputation and swordsmanship be so dreadfully afraid of her?

Guo DaLu really could not figure any of this out, nor did he have the time to think about it right then. Though the purple-dressed girl’s eyes were stunning, when they were glaring at you, they resembled those of a tiger ready to gobble down a person. In her chilly tone, she asked, “Am I old?”

Guo DaLu: “Not old… not old at all.”

Purple-dressed girl: “Did you want to match up and be a couple with me?”

Guo DaLu: “No… no…” He really was not lying. No man could ever stomach being with such a girl.

Purple-dressed girl: “Would you like to keep your life?”

Guo DaLu: “Yes.”

Purple-dressed girl: “If you want your life, then hurry up and tell NanGong Chou to drag himself out here.”

Guo DaLu: “Why do you want him to drag himself out here?”

Purple-dressed girl: “To take his life.”

Guo DaLu: “Must it be tonight that you kill him?”

Purple-dressed girl: “Yes.”

“Must it be tonight that you kill him?” Guo DaLu asked again.

Purple-dressed girl: “I had said that if I could not kill him before daybreak, I would spare his life.”

Guo DaLu: “Your word must be kept but other people must keep their promises also.”

Purple-dressed girl: “What did you promise?”

Guo DaLu: “I promised him that tonight, he would be able to set his mind at ease and sleep until daybreak. Therefore…”

Purple-dressed girl: “Therefore what?”

Guo DaLu: “Therefore, if you want to kill him, then you must kill me first.”

Purple-dressed girl: “You are his friend?”

Guo DaLu: “No.”

Purple-dressed girl: “Do you know how many wicked deeds he has committedd?”

Guo DaLu: “No.”

Purple-dressed girl: “But you are still willing to risk your life for him?”

Guo DaLu: “Correct.”

The purple-dressed girl gave a cool smirk. “Do you believe that I do not dare to kill?”

Guo DaLu managed to force a smile as he responded, “You really do not look like you would kill anyone.”

“I started killing when I was nine years old,” she stated unemotionally. “Every month, I would take at least one person’s life. Why don’t you calculate how many there have been to date?”

With a sharp intake of cold air, Guo DaLu answered, “About seventy or eighty by now.”

Purple-dressed girl: “So adding you into that count would make no difference.”

Guo DaLu heaved a sigh. But before he could say anything, they heard an icy voice say, “If you want to kill him, you will have to kill me first.”

It was not Yan Qi’s voice. It was Lin TaiPing’s.

The night colours seemed sombre. Lin TaiPing, his face white as paper, had walked over at some time.

“Who are you?” the purple-dressed girl demanded with a fierce glare.

Lin TaiPing’s tone was chilly. “You do not need to know who I am. Since you have already killed seventy, eight people, adding me into that count would make no difference.”

The purple dressed girl sneered, “Who would have thought that the number of people in this place who do not fear death is actually not a small one?”

Lin TaiPing: “True, it really is not a small number.”

Purple-dressed girl: “If that is the case, then I will help you get what you wish.” Her body spun around abruptly, and the dragon-head staff in her hand stabbed towards Lin TaiPing in the stance, “Splitting the Blossoms, Caressing the Willow.”

She was using a sword art. Not only was it a sword art, it was the most graceful and nimble form of sword art. In those white and petite hands of hers, that long, heavy staff seemed to suddenly morph into something that did not even weigh four liang [1 liang = 50 grams].

Guo DaLu shouted, “Your injuries are not better yet. Let me!”

But though he wanted to rush in and fight, it was too late. Like a streak of lightning, the purple-dressed girl had already executed seven sword stances at Lin TaiPing, her swordplay light and rapid and containing within it limitless variations. Lin TaiPing was completely encircled by it. It was evident that he was not yet fully recovered and appeared as if he did not have the strength to retaliate. Yet, even though the purple-dressed girl’s sword moves were swift and tight as a silk cocoon, she was not able to even brush the corner of his garments.

Suddenly, the clear sound of a shrill cry could be heard, and then the nine foot long dragon-head staff was thrust straight up into the ground. The purple-dressed girl was now on top of the staff. Pivoting on it, she spun toward Lin TaiPing like a windmill. In this attack, she was using the staff as the backbone and her body as the weapon. This bizarre transformation in style of attack was far beyond human imagination.

Lin TaiPing’s footsteps faltered as he retreated back nine steps. With another loud shriek, the purple-dressed girl soared into the air. The staff was still stabbed into the ground, but in her hand, there was now a short sword that gave off a bright glare. The sword had originally been concealed within the staff, but now, the instant it was in her hand, it was as if sword and person had merged into one. Together, they propelled towards Lin TaiPing. This move was even more ingenious, more dangerous.

Guo DaLu had broken out into a cold sweat from anxiety. If he had been the one who encountered this move, his chances of escaping would have been slim.

However, it appeared as if Lin TaiPing was very familiar with every variation in her attacks. Her sword moved like an arcing rainbow across the sky, but just as it swept up in front of his face, Lin TaiPing suddenly spun his body, evaded the strike, and dashed forward to yank the dragon-head staff out of the ground.

The howls of the purple-dressed girl did not cease as she flipped in the air and reversed her sword to thrust it backward at him. Lin TaiPing did not even turn his head as he raised the staff. A “zheng” sound was heard. Sparks showered forth in all directions. And then, the short sword had been sheathed back into the staff.

The purple-dressed girl’s body was seen flying into the sky, somersaulting four times before floating lightly back down to land in front of the armchair. She was staring fixedly at Lin TaiPing as if in a daze.

Guo DaLu, too, was looking on in amazement. Just a moment ago, when Lin TaiPing had wielded the staff, if there had even been the slightest of error in its placement, the purple-dressed girl’s sword would very likely have plunged into his chest. Yet, he had calculated out the positioning so accurately that there was not even the tiniest error, as if he had sparred against this purple-dressed girl hundreds of times before. Before she executed any move, he already knew what she was going to do.

They all watched as, in a single motion, Lin TaiPing thrust the staff back into the ground, turned his head and left.



End of Chapter 36