Happy Heroes 38 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 July 2008 20:21

Chapter 37 – The Imposter Shall Die

--------------------------------------------------

The purple-dressed girl unexpectedly called out loudly after him, “Wait!”

“Wait for what?” Lin TaiPing questioned in a cool tone.

The purple-dressed girl was gnawing on her own lip. “You… do you really plan on just leaving like this?” She seemed to have suddenly grown very distressed. Even her hands and legs were trembling.

Lin TaiPing hesitated for a moment before finally turning around slowly. “What do you want?”

Purple-dressed girl: “I…… I…… I only want to ask you one thing.”

Lin TaiPing: “Ask.”


Her hands were clenched together. “Are you…”

Lin TaiPing cut off her question abruptly. “Yes.”

The purple-dressed girl stomped her foot. “Fine. Then let me ask you: that day, why did you run off?”

Lin TaiPing: “I felt like it.”

Her fists balled up even tighter, and even her lips had grown pale as she asked in a quivering voice, “What is it about me that you think does not deserve you and you had to make me lose face like that? “

In a distant tone, Lin TaiPing replied, “It is I who does not deserve you, and the one who has lost face is also me, not you.”

Purple-dressed girl: “Now that I have found you, what do you plan to do?”

Lin TaiPing: “I do not plan on doing anything.”

Purple-dressed girl: “You still are not willing to go back?”

Lin TaiPing: “Unless you kill me and carry my corpse back, you should just give up on that idea.”

Her eyes had grown red and her lips were bleeding because she had bit down so hard on them. “Fine,” she spat hatefully. “You can set your mind at ease. I will not send someone here to force you to go back. But I swear, one day, you will be on your knees begging me. One day…” Her speaking turned to sobs. She had completely forgotten about hunting down NanGong Chou. With another sudden stomp of her foot, she flipped into the air and swept over the wall. In the blink of an eye, the people who had come with her also disappeared. All they left behind was a ground littered with fragrant flowers and a roll of red felt.

It was deep into the night. The light was faint. In the darkness, the look on Lin TaiPing’s face could not be seen. There are some subjects where it is inappropriate, and also unnecessary, to ask.

After a long time had elapsed, Lin TaiPing at last turned his head back and gave Guo DaLu a forced smile. “Thank you.”

Guo DaLu: “It should be me who is thanking you. Why would you thank me?”

Lin TaiPing: “Because you did not ask who she is or how I knew her.”

With a grin, Guo DaLu told him, “If you wanted to tell me, I would not need to ask. If you do not want to tell me, then why should I ask?”

Sighing, Lin TaiPing remarked, “Some things, it is just better not to say anything at all.” He slowly turned around and walked back into his room.

As Guo DaLu stared after the gaunt-looking outline of his back, there was a great sense of shame in his heart. He had not asked only because he was already able to guess who that purple-dressed girl was. He knew much more than Lin TaiPing imagined. In certain matters, it was him hiding things from Lin TaiPing and not the other way around – up until now, Lin TaiPing had still been kept in the dark about the time he and Yan Qi had met Lin TaiPing’s mother. Although their intentions for this were good, in his heart, Guo DaLu had always felt uncomfortable it. He had never concealed anything from his friends before, no matter what the reason.

A breeze wafted by, blowing the remnants of the blossoms up from the ground. And then, he heard Yan Qi’s voice. In a gentle tone, Yan Qi said, “You must know now who that girl in purple is.”

Guo DaLu nodded. Of course he was able to guess that she was Lin TaiPing’s betrothed. It was precisely because Lin TaiPing was unwilling to take such girl as his wife that he run off.

Yan Qi sighed, “Only now can I completely understand why Lin TaiPing chose to run away.”

“Even I wouldn’t be able stand such a girl, let alone Xiao Lin,” Guo DaLu replied with a wry smile.

Yan Qi: “So there are girls out there that you cannot stand.”

Guo DaLu: “Of course.”

Yan Qi: “Isn’t she very pretty, though?”

Guo DaLu: “What good is it that she is pretty? When a man looks at a girl, he does not just look at her face.”

Yan Qi blinked. “Then how do men look at women?”

Guo DaLu: “He looks to see if she is gentle and kind, if she is virtuous and intelligent, and if she would understand how to be considerate to her husband. Otherwise, even if she is beautiful as a fairy, no one will like her.”

Yan Qi stole a look at him out of the corner of his eye. “And you? What sort of girl do you like?”

“The type of girl I like is different from other men,” Guo DaLu chuckled.

Yan Qi: “Oh?”

Guo DaLu: “If there is a girl who truly understands me and cares for me, even if she is a little ugly and a little fiery, I would still love her just the same with all my heart and soul.”

An enchanting smile filled Yan Qi’s face. With his head lowered, he brushed past Guo DaLu and walked over to the flower bed in the corner. The dim light of the night suddenly seemed to have grown soft and gentle again. The peonies growing in the corner were blooming in brilliant color. Yan Qi gently caressed the dewdrops on the petals. After quite some time passed, he finally turned his head and discovered that Guo DaLu had been gazing fixedly at him the whole time. His brows furrowed slightly as he said, “I am not a girl. What is there to look at? Why are you always staring at me?”

Guo DaLu: “I… I was thinking that the way you are walking tonight seems a little different from normal.”

Yan Qi: “What is different?”

Guo DaLu chuckled, “The way you are walking today seems particularly attractive to watch, more attractive even than a girl’s way of walking.”

Yan Qi’s face seemed to turn a slight tinge of pink, but he deliberately pulled it into a scowl and said in a chilly tone, “It seems that you have changed a bit of late too.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Yan Qi: “You seemed to have developed some sort of bizarre problem lately. You are always doing bizarre things and saying bizarre words. We really should find a doctor and bring him here to check you out.” Guo DaLu was quiet for while. His eyes seemed to give off a melancholy and fearful look, like he really was a person who knew that he had developed a grave illness. Yan Qi, on the other hand, was giggling as he said charmingly, “But you do not need to be too worried. In reality, everyone, to some extent, has got problems.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Yan Qi: “Do you know who has the biggest problem?”

Guo DaLu: “Nope.”

Yan Qi: “That Yu guniang [Miss Yu].”

Guo DaLu: “Who is Yu guniang?”

Yan Qi: “Yu guniang is referring to that girl who came here just now. Her surname is Yu, and her given name is LingLong.”

Yan Qi: “Yu guniang is referring to that girl who came here just now. Her surname is Yu, and her given name is LingLong.”

Guo DaLu: “Yu LingLong?”

Yan Qi: “Don’t tell me you have never heard of her before.”

Guo DaLu: “Never.”

Shaking his head, Yan Qi sighed, “It seems you really are ignorant and uninformed and don’t have the slightest bit of knowledge on anything.”

“I could also tell that she has a serious problem,” Guo DaLu protested, “but why should I have heard of her?”

“Because by the time she was nine years old, she was already famous within jianghu,” Yan Qi replied.

Guo DaLu echoed, “Nine years old? Did you say nine years old?”

Yan Qi nodded. “She comes from a prominent family background and moreover, she is a female child prodigy. Supposedly, she had not even passed her second birthday before she started practicing martial arts. By the time she was five, she had already completely learned the skill, ‘49 Stances Returning Breeze, Dancing Willow Sword’, a martial art where the most complicated variations are contained within the stances.”

Guo DaLu: “She said that she had already killed by the time she was nine years old. Based on what you have said, it seems that her words are probably not untrue.”

Yan Qi: “Not one bit untrue. Not only did she really kill someone when she nine, but furthermore, that person was actually a very well-known swordsman in jianghu.”

Guo DaLu asked, “From that point in time on, she had to kill one person every month?”

Yan Qi: “That is true too.”

Guo DaLu could not help bursting out into laughter. “How could there be so many people in the world who would allow themselves to be brought before her for her to kill?”

Yan Qi: “People did not bring them to her; she sought them out.”

Guo DaLu: “Where would she go to find them?”

Yan Qi: “Everywhere. Once she heard that someone had did something that deserved to be punished by killing, she would immediately hurry there to seek that person out and settle the score.”

Guo DaLu: “But could she really have succeeded every time?”

Yan Qi: “You saw for yourself just now how good or bad her martial art is. Plus, those two Kunlun slaves and two non-Han girls are also first-class fighters. Actually, even the martial arts of those four servant girls carrying the lanterns are not weak either. And hence, it is very rare that anyone is able to escape from her if she goes knocking on their door.”

Guo DaLu: “Does no one keep her in check?”

“Her father died when she was very young,” Yan Qi explained. “Her mother is the nastiest woman that you could cross in jianghu, but she always gives in to whatever this precious daughter of hers wants. Therefore, even if people are capable enough that they are not scared of provoking the daughter, they still dare not provoke her mother.” Yan Qi gave a sigh before carrying on, “In addition, the people she killed deserved to die anyways, so not only did the older generation of jianghu not condemn her, they actually only commended her.”

Guo DaLu: “And that is why by the time she was thirteen, fourteen years old, she had already become the girl with the grandest air and the highest martial arts – the more people you kill, logically, the higher your martial art is. It is precisely for these reasons that, even when someone like NanGong Chou knew that she was coming to give him trouble, he could only hide and dared not show his face.”

Yan Qi: “Correct answer.”

Guo DaLu: “NanGong Chou had obviously already known about her relationship with Xiao Lin and hence, hid and refused to show his face.”

Yan Qi: “Correct answer.”

Guo DaLu: “But if NanGong Chou did not really deserve to die, she would not have come here to find him?”

Yan Qi: “Yes. She has never wrongly sought out anyone in the past.”

Guo DaLu heaved a long sigh and said with a bitter smile, “And so, the one who is wrong is not her, it’s me.”

“You were not wrong either.” In a gentle voice, Yan Qi added, “A kindness is always repaid. A promise is worth a thousand in gold [one’s word is always kept]. These have always been qualities of a true man. No one will blame you for what you did.”

Guo DaLu: “Only one person will.”

Yan Qi: “Who?”

Guo DaLu: “Myself.”



The sky would be bright soon. The long robe was still draped on Guo DaLu’s shoulders as he sat in that place by himself, staring at the milky-white morning fog rising slowly from the courtyard and listening to the faroff call of a rooster carried in on the dawn breeze.

And then, he heard the sound of a door opening. He did not turn his head. No expression could be seen on his face. The sound of very slow footsteps came up behind him and then stopped. Still, he did not turn around, but merely asked indifferently, “Your sleep was not bad?”

The black-clothed man stood behind him gazing intently at his neck. “In these last ten years, I have never slept so peacefully and comfortably.”

Guo DaLu: “Why is that?”

Black-clothed man: “Because there has never been someone like you to stand watch outside the door for me.”

With a little chuckle, Guo DaLu asked, “If there is no one to guard your door, you are not able to sleep?”

Black-clothed man: “Even if there is someone to guard my door, I still cannot sleep.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Black-clothed man: “Because I do not trust anyone.”

Guo DaLu: “But yet, you seem to trust me.”

The black-clothed man laughed unexpectedly, “It appears that you quite trust me also.”

Guo DaLu: “Why do you say that?”

“Because aside from you, no one has ever dared let me stand behind them,” the black-clothed man answered casually.

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Black-clothed man: “I am not a noble gentleman. I have frequently killed people from behind their back.”

Guo DaLu nodded his head slowly. “It is indeed much more convenient to kill someone from behind.”

Black-clothed man: “Especially when they are nodding.”

Guo DaLu: “When they are nodding?”

Black-clothed man: “On the back of every person’s neck, there is one spot that is particularly good to bring a blade down onto. You only need to find this spot and then you will be able to lop off the head in one chop. Experienced executioners all know this point.”

Nodding his head slowly again, Guo DaLu agreed, “Logical. Truly very logical.”

The black-clothed man was quiet for another while before speaking in a low tone, “You did not sleep this whole time?”

Guo DaLu: “If I slept, would you have been able to sleep?”

The black-clothed man began laughing again. His laughter was short and piercing, like the sharpening of a blade. All of a sudden, he walked up in front of Guo DaLu. “Why are you letting me stand behind you?” Guo DaLu asked curiously.

“Because I do not want to be tempted by you,” the black-clothed man answered.

Guo DaLu: “Tempted?”

Black-clothed man: “When I stand behind you and see you nod your head, my hands start to itch.”

Guo DaLu: “When your hands start to itch, you must kill?”

Black-clothed man: “There has only ever been one time where that was an exception.”

Guo DaLu: “Which time was that?”

Black-clothed man: “Just a moment ago.” After he finished speaking this, without even turning his head back, he strode forward to leave.

Guo DaLu stared after him until he reached the door. “Wait,” he called out.

Black-clothed man: “What else do you have to say? Anything that should have been spoken seems to have already been said.”

Guo DaLu: “I only have one thing that I want to ask you.”

Black-clothed man: “Ask.”

Rising to his feet slowly, Guo DaLu articulated each word very clearly: “Are you NanGong Chou?” The black-clothed man did not reply, nor did he turn his head back, but Guo DaLu could tell that the muscles on his shoulders had suddenly tensed. The breeze seemed to have halted abruptly, and the courtyard suddenly grew dealthly still and silent. After a long time had passed, Guo DaLu said, “If you are not willing to speak, nodding will work fine. You can relax, too, because I have never had any experience in chopping off someone’s head, and I will not kill someone from behind their back either.”

There was still no wind, no sound.

Another lengthy moment went by before the black-clothed man said in a deliberate tone, “In these ten years, you are the seventh person to ask me that question.”

Guo DaLu: “And are the previous six people all dead?”

Black-clothed man: “Yes.”

Guo DaLu: “The reason that they died was because they asked this question?”

Black-clothed man: “Anyone who asks that question, no matter who it is, must pay a price. Therefore, it is best if you reconsider before asking.”

Guo DaLu gave a sigh. “I really want to reconsider but unfortunately, I have already asked the question.”

All of a sudden, the black-clothed man whipped back around and stared at him with a gaze like daggers. “What if I am NanGong Chou?” he barked.

His voice nonchalant, Guo DaLu replied, “Last night, I had already promised you that so long as you entered through this doorway, you would be my guest. No one would harm you or kick you out.”

Black-clothed man: “What about now?”

Guo DaLu: “Those words are just as valid now. It is just that I would like to keep you here to stay for a little while longer.”

Black-clothed man: “And I would stay until when?”

In that indifferent tone, Guo DaLu answered, “Until you have thought things through and are aware that the things you did in the past are wrong. When you feel ashamed and remorseful, then you may leave.”

The black-clothed man’s pupils seemed to be contracting. “What if I am not willing?” he challenged in a sharp tone.

“That’s simple too,” Guo DaLu laughed. Walking over unhurriedly to the black-clothed man, he said with a light smile, “Is there a spot on the back of my neck where it is particularly easy to bring a blade down onto?”

Black-clothed man: “Every person has one.”

Guo DaLu: “If you are able to find mine and chop off my head in one blow, then you can go.”

The black-clothed man gave a cold smirk. “I do not need to try and find it.”

Guo DaLu: “You had already found it just now?”

Black-clothed man: “Just now, I did not make a move at you because I was repaying your kindness of last night.” His body suddenly retracted and, like an arrow, was sliding backwards.

Guo DaLu, too, darted immediately after him.

The black-clothed man flew into the sky, and with a flip in the air, the sword was already out of its scabbard – a seven foot long sword, clear like the deep waters of autumn.

 

The black-clothed man flew into the sky, and with a flip in the air, the sword was already out of its scabbard – a seven foot long sword, clear like the deep waters of autumn.

Out of nowhere, a “qiang” sound was heard. Then, this long sword like the autumn waters suddenly had another scabbard on it. The scabbard had come from beneath Guo DaLu’s robe. As the black-clothed man slid backwards, he had also dashed right after him. When the sword had come out of its scabbard, he had also pulled out his own scabbard from beneath the robe and, thrusting it forward, sheathed it onto the sword.

The sword was seven feet in length; this scabbard was only three feet seven inches. However, the black-clothed man’s sword was still encased by it and could no longer be put to use. His body continued to withdraw back because he had no choice but to retreat – Guo DaLu was gripping tightly onto the scabbard with both hands and pressing forward forcefully. If he did not let go of his long sword, then all he could do was allow himself to be shoved backwards. If he did release his hold, then it would be unavoidable that he would be struck in the chest by the hilt of his own sword. His body had been travelling backwards to begin with, and now, even if he wanted to change the direction his force was being applied and push out in front of him, it was already too late. And so, he really had no control over his own actions. As Guo DaLu pressed forward one foot, he could only move back one foot.

All that could be heard was a “bang” as his body was shoved backwards and struck the wall. Guo DaLu’s hands were still firmly grasping the scabbard, pinning him against the wall. At this time, he was not able to continue retreating, or more importantly, let go of his long sword – the instant he let go, the hilt would smack solidly into his chest.

This situation was set-up so ingeniously that unless someone saw it with their own eyes, they would not even be able visualize it.

Grinning, Guo DaLu asked, “You probably never even conceived of this move before?”

Through grit teeth, the black-clothed man spat, “What kind of kung fu is that?”

“This really cannot be considered any sort of real kung fu,” Guo DaLu admitted with a laugh, “because, aside from using it to deal with you, this skill would be completely useless on other people.” As if he was afraid the black-clothed man still did not understand, he explained further, “That is because, besides you, no one else in the world would use this method to unsheathe their sword.”

The black-clothed man’s voice was icy. “You specifically invented this move just to deal with me?”

Guo DaLu: “Correct answer.”

Black-clothed man: You had intended on keeping me here all along?”

Guo DaLu: “Really, there is nothing bad about staying here. At the very least, you are able to have a peaceful sleep every day.”

Black-clothed man: “Hmph!”

Guo DaLu: “All you have to do is promise me that you will stay here and then I will immediately release my grip.”

Black-clothed man: “Hmph!”

Guo DaLu: “What does ‘hmph’ mean?”

A cold sneer on his face, the black-clothed man retorted, “Even though I have no way of killing you right now, you are also powerless against me. The instant you loosen your hold, I will still be able to put you in a place of death.”

Guo DaLu: “Yes, that is not completely out of the question.”

Black-clothed man: “Therefore, you should give up on any ideas that you can intimidate me. Even if I am willing to agree to your terms, you must still let go first before we negotiate.”

Guo DaLu looked intently at him for a long time. With an unexpected little chuckle, he said, “Alright. I might as well trust you one more time. As long as you…” Before he could finish what he was going to say, he saw something suddenly bore out from the black-clothed man’s chest.

The short point of a sword.



The tip of the sword was dripping blood. As the black-clothed man stared down at the sword point, the expression in his eyes was exactly the same as the one that had been in Ghost Gentleman’s eyes before he died. Guo DaLu, too, was gazing at it as if in a daze. All that could be heard was a “ge ge” sound coming from the black-clothed man’s throat, like he wanted to speak but yet was not able to.

Guo DaLu let out a sudden loud shout, soared up into the air, and swept over the wall. Sure enough, that sword had first stabbed in through the wall’s exterior before piercing through the black-clothed man’s chest. The hilt was still stuck there on the outside of the wall.

But there was only the sword hilt. There was no person.

The wind was blowing again. The long grass growing on the mountain rippled like waves. But not even half a human shadow could be seen.

A strip of white silk was tied onto the hilt of the sword, dancing and undulating with the breeze.

Guo DaLu had wanted to go up and yank out the sword, but he suddenly noticed that written in ink that had soaked through fabric were seven characters:

“The imposter shall die.
– NanGong Chou"
 The bloodstain on the sword tip had dried by now. The black-clothed man, however, still stood there with his head lowered, appearing as if he was deep in thought while gazing down at that sword point. The expression on his face was also identical to Ghost Gentleman’s when he died.

Yan Qi, Wang Dong, and Lin TaiPing stood in the corridor, staring at the corpse from a distance.

His arrival had been sudden; his death even more surprising. The most shocking point, though, was that he, too, was not NanGong Chou.

Guo DaLu stood next to him, his eyes fixed on that sword point. He also seemed to be lost in contemplation. Yan Qi walked quietly over to him and asked, “What are you thinking?”

Sighing, Guo DaLu answered, “I was thinking, if he is not NanGong Chou, why would he willingly be his scapegoat?”

Yan Qi: “What do you mean by scapegoat?”

Guo DaLu: “If he was not NanGong Chou, Yu LingLong would not have wanted to kill him, he would not have needed to take cover here, and now, he would not be dead here either.”

Yan Qi: “Are you feeling bad for him?”

Guo DaLu: “A bit.”

Yan Qi: “But I am only feeling sorry for NanGong Chou.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Yan Qi: “It’s not even known how many people he has killed or how many evil deeds he has committed under NanGong Chou’s name and yet NanGong Chou may not even have any hint of all this. In reality, you should have said that NanGong Chou is his scapegoat, not the opposite.”

After mulling over this for a while, Guo DaLu nodded. “But no matter what, he was still my guest and he still died inside our courtyard.”

Yan Qi: “And as a result, you are still feeling bad for him?”

Guo DaLu: “There is still a little bit.”

Yan Qi: “If you had really released your grip a moment ago, do you think he would be feeling bad for you right now?”

Guo DaLu: “If I had let go, do you really think he would have seized that chance and killed me?”

Yan Qi: “You think he wouldn’t have?”

Guo DaLu: “Regardless of what you say, I still believe that human beings are human beings and will always have some sort of humanity in them. You may not be able to see it or touch it, but you absolutely must believe that it exists. Otherwise, what significance is there in being a person?”

Yan Qi’s eyes were on him. With a sudden sigh, he remarked, “I actually also hope that your perspective is more correct than mine...”

Tilting his head, Guo DaLu gazed deeply into the cloudy sky. He was silent for a long while. “Now I only hope for one thing,” he spoke up unexpectedly.

Yan Qi asked, “What are you hoping for?”

“I only hope that, one day, I can meet the real NanGong Chou and see what sort of person he really is…” His eyes seemed to shine as he mused, “I think, compared to any of the people we had previously seen, he must be much more mysterious and much more fearsome.”

But did this person, NanGong Chou, really exist in the world? No one knew; no one had ever seen him.



End of Chapter 37