Chapter 18 – When Affection Begins to Thicken, Affection Turns Flimsy
Fresh, warm, and sweet fluid flowed into his mouth. His convulsing, spasming stomach immediately relaxed and smoothed out, as though it were dry dirt which had gained nourishing water.
Fu Hongxue opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was a very white, very small hand. A very white, very small hand, holding a very white, very small soupspoon. One spoonful at a time, it was feeding him a bowl of thick, warm, fragrant, and refreshing soup.
Upon seeing him awaken, a look of pleasure immediately appeared on her face. “This is the chicken broth which I especially requested from the old lady who washes clothes next door. It’s dark boned chicken. I hear that it’s very effective in replenishing the body. Looks like it really does have a little effect.”
Fu Hongxue wanted to shut his mouth, but another spoonful of thick chicken broth once again arrived at his mouth. He simply couldn’t resist.
She was still laughing. “Don’t you think this is strange? All my life, I’ve never taken care of anyone else, nor has anyone ever taken care of me.”
There was a tiny window in the room. Outside, the sunlight was still as glorious and as bright.
Her eyes had already left Fu Hongxue’s face, and she stared foolishly at the sunlight outside.
Although the sunlight was very bright, her eyes were very dark and gloomy. Did she remember all those long-distant memories of times when there was nobody to take care of her?
Those times clearly did not pass underneath the sunlight. Perhaps her entire life, she had never spent a single day underneath the sun.
After a long time, she slowly continued. “Only now do I know that taking care of others or being taken care of is such…such a good thing.”
She wasn’t a girl who understood many things. She had to think a long time before coming up with the word ‘good’ to describe her current feelings.
Fu Hongxue understood her feelings. It definitely couldn’t be described with the word ‘good’. It also included the words ‘content’, ‘peaceful’, and ‘happy’, because she felt as though she was no longer lonely.
She didn’t necessarily demand that others take care of her. So long as she had someone to take care of, she would be satisfied.
Fu Hongxue suddenly asked, “What is your name? Your real name.”
She laughed again. She liked it when others asked her name. At the very least, this signified that they were treating her as a person.
A real person, an independent person, not someone’s tool, nor someone’s toy.
Laughing, she said, “My surname is Zhou. I’m called Zhou Ting. In the past, everyone called me Xiao Ting [Little Ting].”
For the first time, Fu Hongxue noticed how pure and sincere her laughter was, because she had already washed off that thick layer of rouge and powder, revealing her own face.
She knew he was looking at her. “When I don’t have make up on, do I look like an old granny?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Xiao Ting’s laughter became even happier. “You really are a weird guy. I didn’t think you’d come and find me.”
She wrinkled her forehead. “When you arrived, you looked so scary. I thought you were already dead at first. No matter what I asked you, you didn’t seem to notice, but as soon as I touched your sabre, you began to hit.”
She looked at the pitch-black sabre in his hand.
Fu Hongxue was silent.
She no longer asked questions either. She had long since become accustomed to others refusing her. She didn’t hold any high hopes towards anything. She no longer held any extravagant wishes or made any demands from this unfeeling, cruel world. She didn’t even ask his name, because…
“I know that you are a good person, because even though you lightly hit me, you didn’t humiliate me like any of the others. You even gave me that much money for no reason.”
To her, those things were already a great show of benevolence. It was already enough to make her forever grateful.
“I didn’t use any of the money you gave me. Even if I were to buy a chicken every day, it would last a long time, so you must stay here. You have to wait until you are no longer sick before you can leave.”
She held his hand. “If you were to leave now, I would be extremely, extremely miserable.”
In the eyes of others, she was a base, contemptible woman. For five silver coins, she was willing to sell herself.
But she asked nothing from him at all, only that he allow her to take care of him. That was enough to satisfy her. Compared to those self-styled ‘noble’ women, who was truly noble? Who was truly base?
She sold herself only because she needed to keep on living. Who didn’t want to keep on living?
Fu Hongxue closed his eyes. He suddenly asked, “Do you have any wine here?”
Xiao Ting said, “There’s none here, but I can go buy it for you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Fine, go buy some. I won’t leave.”
Sick people shouldn’t drink alcohol.
Why was he going to drink? Was it because there was an irreconcilable pain and worry in his heart?
But alcohol wouldn’t solve these problems. What good would wine do him?
She didn’t think about any of this.
She rarely thought about many things, nor did she ask for much. As long as he was willing to stay, no matter what he asked her to do, she would do it.
“So long as a person is alive, they should strive with all their might and work as hard as they can. They definitely cannot give themselves up and be hopeless and wallow in vice.”
She didn’t understand any of these words. She had lived for too long in the morass, and no one had ever given her the chance to crawl out from it.
To her, life wasn’t as noble or as complex as others made it out to be.
Life didn’t bring much that was good to her. How could it expect too much from her?
Fu Hongxue was drunk. He didn’t know for how many days he had been drunk.
When a person is drunk, he would naturally do some unreasonable, bizarre things, but she didn’t resent him in the slightest.
He wanted wine, so she bought wine for him, time after time again. Sometimes, she would go knock on the doors of winehouses at midnight. Not only had she never refused him, she didn’t ever even look unhappy.
Only, sometimes she left for very long periods of time, even though the alcohol selling places were nearby.
Fu Hongxue naturally was sober from time to time, but he never asked her why she had been gone for so long.
That day, he had only given her a few broken bits of silver, because that is all he had on him. He had always been poor, just like how he had always been lonely.
But he never asked her where she got the money for his alcohol. He couldn’t ask. He didn’t dare ask.
She never asked him about anything either, but she said something which he would never forget. One night, when she was a bit tipsy as well, she spoke these words.
“Although I don’t understand anything, I know you are definitely in great pain.”
Great pain? How could his feelings be summarized with those two words, ‘great pain’?
One day, she was exceptionally happy, because it was her birthday. She bought some extra things, and even the extremely rare old hen’s meat. But when she returned, he had already gone. He hadn’t say a single word before leaving.
The wine bottle lay fallen on the table. It had shattered into many pieces. She stupidly stood in front of the bed, until day turned into night, without even moving.
His hair still remained on the pillow. She picked it up, carefully wrapped it up, tucked it into her bosom, then went out to buy more wine.
Today was her birthday. How many birthdays can one have?
Why couldn’t she go and get drunk?
Fu Hongxue wasn’t drunk. He hadn’t been drunk for the past two days. He had been walking forward nonstop the entire time, without any objective or direction. He only wanted to leave her far behind, the farther the better.
Perhaps they had already sunken into vice, but he couldn’t bear to drag her down with him.
Although parting is always painful, she was still young. No matter how deep the pain, she would soon forget it. Young people always had a comparatively higher tolerance for pain. If he stayed there, he might never be able to leave again.
After he was tired, he randomly found a place to lie down for a bit, and then he began walking again. He didn’t eat a single grain of rice. All he did was drink a little water. His beard had grown long and straggly, and his foul stench could be smelled from far away.
He was punishing himself, punishing himself for all he was worth. He was all but no longer thinking of her, up until the point in time when he noticed that there was a small white handkerchief on his body.
An embroidered handkerchief of pure silk. It was one of her very few luxury items. Inside the handkerchief there was a few silver banknotes worth a not inconsiderable amount of money, and a few pieces of gold. These were also items which had been recovered from the corpse of ‘Forefinger’. He had casually put it in his bosom and had long since forgotten about them. During his illness, when he was writhing on the floor, they had fallen out. She had seen them, and so she had wrapped them for him in her most treasured handkerchief. She was willing to sell herself for five silver coins. She was even willing to sell herself for a bottle of wine. But she had never even touched these things. She would rather sell herself than touch his things.
Fu Hongxue’s heart was writhing in pain. He suddenly stood up and furiously ran back to her little room.
But she was no longer there.
In front of the house there were many people, all sorts of people. There was even an officer in a red hat.
“What happened here?”
He asked others, but no one paid any attention to him. Fortunately, a drunken beggar took him for one of their own.
“A little whore used to live here, but last night, she ran away, so the officer came to arrest her.”
“Why did he come to arrest her? Why did she run?”
“Because she killed someone.”
Killed someone? How could that kind, pitiable girl have killed someone?
“Who did she kill?”
“She killed the owner of that little bar down the street.” The beggar waved a fist. “That fat pig should’ve died long ago.”
“Why did she kill him?”
“She often went there to buy alcohol. At first, she gave money, but she drank too much, to the point where for whatever reason, she didn’t even do business. When she had cravings for alcohol, she had to buy on credit. That fat pig actually sold to her on credit.”
The beggar was laughing. “Because that fat pig didn’t know what she did, he had designs on her. Last night, for whatever reason, she actually ran to that place to drink alcohol by herself. She drank too much. That fat pig naturally was delighted. He thought it was an incredible opportunity. When she was drunk, he tried to force himself on her. No one would have imagined that although she ‘sold smiles’, she simply refused to let that fat pig touch her. She actually pulled out a butcher’s knife on the counter and cut that fat pig’s head in half with one blow.
He still wanted to keep talking, but the listener had disappeared.
The beggar could only bitterly laugh while mumbling to himself, “There’s a bunch of weird stuff in this day and age. A whore who would rather kill someone than take off her pants. Isn’t this ridiculously amusing?”
Naturally, he thought this was extremely funny. But if he knew the truth of the matter, he too most likely would have cried his eyes out on the ground.
Fu Hongxue did not cry, did not shed tears.
The winestore across the street was preparing a funeral. He rushed in, grabbed a pot of wine, wrecked the store, then drank all of the alcohol in one gulp before collapsing in one of the gutters of the alleyway.
For whatever reason, she didn’t even do business.
For whatever reason, she actually ran to that place to drink alcohol by herself, but simply refused to let that fat pig touch her.
Why did she do all of this? Who knows?
Fu Hongxue suddenly loudly screamed, “I know…I know…”
But so what if he knew?
Knowing only made it more painful!
She had already run away, but where could she run off to? At most, she could run from this bog to the next bog. An even filthier bog!
Fu Hongxue wanted to drink even more. He wasn’t drunk yet, because he could still think about this.
Who did Mingyue Xin and Yan Nanfei die for?
Who did Xiao Ting run away because of?
He forced himself to crawl to his feet, rushed out of the alleyway, charging out just as a horse galloped by. The horse neighed in shock, and the horseman cursed him out. A whip struck down at him like a poisonous snake.
Fu Hongxue grabbed the whip with the flip of his hand. He was wildly drunk, stinking drunk. He had already tortured himself until he no longer bore any resemblance to a human. But he was still Fu Hongxue.
The rider tugged on the whip with force. No one could seize anything from Fu Hongxue’s hand. With a puffing sound, the whip snapped.
Fu Hongxue was still standing, but the rider fell down from his saddle. But his reflexes weren’t slow, and so as he fell down, he somersaulted in mid air. The galloping horse continued to charge forward, but he himself had already landed on his feet on the ground. He stared at Fu Hongxue in shock.
Fu Hongxue didn’t look at him. He didn’t even glance at him. Right now, the only thing he wanted to look at was a pot of wine. A pot of strong wine which would help him forget everything.
And so he passed by in front of this man. His gait appeared clumsy and strange. A strange look suddenly appeared in this mans’ eyes, as though he had suddenly seen a ghost.
He immediately shouted loudly, “Wait!”
Fu Hongxue ignored him.
That man asked again, “You are Fu Hongxue?” Fu Hongxue still ignored him.
That man suddenly pulled his sword out, then pierced at Fu Hongxue with it. His attack was swift and clever. Clearly, he was one of the faster swordsmen of the martial world. But when his sword was still seven inches away from Fu Hongxue, Fu Hongxue’s sabre had already left its sheath.
A flash of sabre light. A splatter of fresh blood. A perfectly good head was split in two.
The man fell. The sabre was sheathed anew. Fu Hongxue didn’t even stop his steps, didn’t even look at that person.
It was already very late at night, but there were still plenty of people in this small winehouse, because anyone who came inside was not allowed to leave.
Because Fu Hongxue had spoken. “My treat. All of you drink with me. None of you may leave.”
He was carrying the stench of blood on him, and had a large fistful of banknotes and gold. His stench nauseated them, the blood terrified them, but the money made them respect him. So no one dared to leave.
After he drank a cup, everyone present had to drink a cup with him. Two more people entered from outside. He didn’t notice in the slightest what type of people they were, but they stared at him. One of them suddenly walked in front of him, then sat down.
He proposed a toast, then drank it in one gulp. Unexpectedly, he still was not looking at this person, not even a glance.
The man suddenly laughed. “Nice alcohol tolerance.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Yeah, nice alcohol tolerance.”
The man said, “Nice alcohol tolerance, but even better sabre techniques.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Nice sabre techniques.”
The man said, “You seemed to have once said that any sabre technique which can kill is a good sabre technique.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Did I say that?”
The man nodded, then suddenly asked, “Do you know who you just killed?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Did I kill someone just then? Who did I kill?”
The man looked at him, eyes filled with laughter, a laughter which could cause someone to wake up in the middle of the night. “You killed your elder brother-in-law.”
Fu Hongxue wrinkled his forehead, as though trying as hard as he could to remember how he might have an elder brother-in-law.
This man immediately reminded him, “Have you forgotten that you are already a married man? Your wife’s elder brother is your elder brother-in-law.”
Fu Hongxue thought for a long time again, then nodded, then shook his head. He seemed to understand, and yet not understand.
The man suddenly pointed at the person he had come in with. “Do you know who she is?”
It was a woman. She was standing far away at the bar counter, coldly staring at Fu Hongxue.
She was very young and very beautiful, with raven-like hair, and shining eyes. She was the type of daughter which every parent dreamed of having, the type of little sister every man wanted, the type of lover every yong man dreamed of. But when she stared at Fu Hongxue, her eyes were filled with hatred and enmity.
Fu Hongxue finally raised his head to look at her. He seemed to recognize her, and yet not recognize her.
The man laughed. “She’s your younger sister-in-law.”
He was afraid that Fu Hongxue wouldn’t understand, and so explained, “Your younger sister-in-law would be your wife’s younger sister, and your elder brother-in-law’s younger sister.”
Fu Hongxue began to drink again, as though he had become confused by those words, and had to drink a cup of wine before becoming sober.
That man asked again, “Do you know what she wants to do right now?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
The man said, “She wants to kill you.”
Fu Hongxue suddenly let out a sigh. He mumbled, “Why does everybody want to kill me?”
The man laughed again. “Your words are totally correct. There are thirteen people in this room. At least seven are here to kill you. They want to make their move after you are drunk.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Want to wait until I am drunk? How can I get drunk? I can drink for another three days and three nights without getting drunk.”
The man smiled. “Since there’s no point in waiting for another three days and three nights, it seems they are about to make their move right now.”
Just at this moment, with a clanging sound, a pot of wine fell to the floor and smashed to smithereens. A man who was originally holding a wine-cup, now held in his hands a ‘mountain-splitting cleaver’, with a thick spine and a narrow blade. When he charged towards Fu Hongxue, a white, silk-tasseled spear, a ‘goose plume’ sabre, a bamboo-linked whip, and a ‘funeral door’ sabre all rushed out as well.
The young man wielding a sword growled out in a low roar, “Gang members are taking vengeance. Friends from the martial world, don’t interfere!”
Just as he finished these words, he froze with shock. His four friends froze as well. The five of them stood there like stone statues, because the weapons in their hands had…disappeared? Their five weapons were all now in the hands of the person sitting in front of Fu Hongxue.
When they started to move, he had moved as well. With his left hand, he had clapped their shoulders. With his right, he wrested away their weapons. The five of them only felt their vision go blurry, only saw a flicker of a shadow, and the weapons in their hands had disappeared.
The man had already returned to his original seat, gently placing the five weapons on his table. Then, smiling, he said, “I’m not a friend from the martial world, so I can interfere.”
The young swordsman angrily said, “Who are you?”
The man said, “I never tell my name to dead people.”
The young man said, “Who are the dead people?”
The man said, “You!”
At first, they had been standing there, perfectly fine. But as soon as the man said that word, their five faces turned ghastly pale, feeling as though all of their blood and flesh had suddenly dried. Five vigorous, strong men had suddenly turned withered and thin. Suddenly, they all collapsed.
But Fu Hongxue didn’t seem to have seen anything at all.
The man let out a sigh. “I killed these people on your behalf. Even if you aren’t grateful towards me, you should at least offer me a few words of praise.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Praise you for what?”
The man said, “Can’t you tell what type of martial arts I used?”
Fu Hongxue said, “I can’t tell.”
The man said, “This was one of the sole two types of martial arts from the ‘Sorrowful Book of Yin and Yang and of Heaven and Hell Mingling’ which still remain in the world.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”
The man said, “This is the ‘Great Soul-Searching Hand of Severing Heaven and Shattering Earth.’”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”
That man said, “The other remaining technique, is one you have already learned: the ‘Great Acupoint Changing Technique of Shifting Heaven and Moving Earth.’”
He chuckled, then said, “For you to be able to shift your acupoints by an inch, you must have mastered at least ninety percent of this technique.”
Fu Hongxue said, “And you? Who are you?”
That man said, “I am Duo Qingzi, of the Western Region’s Xingxiuhai sect. I’m even more full of affection than you are.” [As mentioned in a previous chapter, ‘Duo Qingzi’ literally means, ‘man of great tenderness and affection’.]
Fu Hongxue finally lifted up his head. He looked at him, seeming to only just now know who the person seated before him was.
This man’s smile was very warm, very gentle. His eyebrows were delicate and pretty. He really did appear to be a man of great tenderness and affection.
“Even men of great tenderness and affection kill people?”
“When affection begins to thicken, affection turns flimsy. It is precisely because I am so filled with affection that it has become flimsier than paper.”
Smiling, Duo Qingzi continued, “However, I have never killed somebody for no reason at all before either.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”
Duo Qingzi said, “The only reason I killed these people was because I didn’t want you to die to them.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Why?”
Duo Qingzi said, “Because I want you to die to me.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You really want to?”
Duo Qingzi said, “I want to so much, I would die for it.”
The girl who was standing far away by the counter suddenly said, “Because if he kills you, I will marry him.”
Duo Qingzi said, “Look, I’m already thirty-five years old, but I still haven’t taken a wife. Naturally, I have no children either. There are three ways one can be unfilial; to not produce an heir is the greatest. You can’t expect me to be an unfilial person, can you?”
That young woman interjected, “He won’t.”
Duo Qingzi said, “How do you know?”
The young woman said, “I’ve seen him strike on three separate occasions. His sabre originally really did seem to be possessed by ghosts.”
Duo Qingzi said, “How about now?”
The young woman said, “Now, the ghosts in his sabre have instead entered his heart.”
Duo Qingzi asked intentionally, “Why did they go there?”
The young woman said, “Two things.”
Duo Qingzi said, “Wine and women?”
The young woman nodded. “Because of these two things, he had all but died once in the past as well.”
Duo Qingzi said, “But he didn’t die.”
The young woman said, “Because he has a good friend!”
Duo Qingzi said, “Ye Kai?”
The young woman let out a sigh. “Unfortunately, no one knows where Ye Kai has gone.”
Duo Qingzi said, “Then right now, he’s definitely in a perilous situation?”
The young woman said, “Extremely perilous.”
Duo Qingzi said, “Do you think I can receive his sabre blows?”
The young woman chuckled. “You can even capture real ghosts with your ‘Great Soul-Searching Hand’, much less a sabre which no longer has ghosts in it.”
Duo Qingzi said, “Even if I can catch his sabre, wouldn’t my hand break?”
The young woman said, “It won’t.”
Duo Qingzi said, “Why won’t it?”
The young woman said, “Because your catching techniques are very clever. Your hand won’t even touch the blade of the sabre, and your other hand will have caught his soul.”
Duo Qingzi said, “So what you are saying is, this man is doomed?”
The young woman said, “He still has a little bit of hope.”
Duo Qingzi said, “What hope?”
The young woman said, “So long as he tells us two things, we won’t even touch him.”
Duo Qingzi said, “Which two things?”
The young woman said, “Where is the Peacock Plume? Where is the Sorrowful Book of Yin and Yang and of Heaven and Hell Mingling?”
Duo Qingzi said, “If he had the Peacock Plume, or if he had mastered the arts in the Sorrowful Book, we would be doomed.”
The young woman said, “Perhaps his hands are no longer steady enough, and he is no longer able to use the Peacock Plume. Perhaps, despite him learning the ‘Great Acupoint Changing Technique of Shifting Heaven and Moving Earth’, he is not able to learn the other skills.”
Duo Qingzi laughed. “Judging by the look of things, he really doesn’t seem to be capable of learning other martial arts.”
The young woman laughed as well. “Now, the only skill he can train in is drinking.”
Duo Qingzi laughed. “But he seems to have trained this skill quite well.”
The young woman said, “Unfortunately, the only thing this type of martial arts can do is to turn him into an alcoholic, a dead alcoholic.”
Every single word they said was like a needle. They wanted to pierce his heart with every single one of these needles, to make him suffer, to make him weak, to make him collapse. Unfortunately, it seemed as though all of these needles had pierced a stone, because Fu Hongxue didn’t react at all. He was already totally numb.
The distance between being numb and collapsing is not great. The distance between collapsing and death is not great either.
Duo Qingzi let out a sigh. “From the looks of it, it seems he’s made up his mind not to talk.”
The young maiden let out a sigh as well. “Perhaps he is determined to wait until the point of death to speak.”
Duo Qingzi said, “Hasn’t that point arrived yet?”
The young maiden said, “As soon as you strike, it will have arrived.”
Duo Qingzi had already made his move. His hand was both white and delicate, like a woman’s hand. His hand movements were soft and graceful, as though he were plucking a flower, a very fragile and tender flower.
No matter how tough and vigorous the opponent, underneath his hands, they would turn as fragile and as tender as a flower.
It seemed as though his hand didn’t move very quickly. In fact, it was like a very gentle light. By the time you saw it, it was there.
But this time, before his hand arrived, the sabre left the sheath.
When the sabre light flashed, his hands opened just like a flower. It really did seize that sabre. Was his other hand going to seek out Fu Hongxue’s soul? Just like how he had withered the flesh and the blood of those five people earlier!
A flower-petal like hand. A soul-searching hand.
The sabre which no one could catch was actually caught by his hand. Unfortunately, no matter how fearsome the hand, when it came underneath this sabre, it would become as tender and fragile as a flower petal.
Sabre light flashed. Blood sprayed about.
His hand had already been chopped in half. His head had also been chopped in half.
The young woman’s eyes widened, but her pupils contracted.
She didn’t see the sabre at all. The sabre was already sheathed. It was like how lightning flashed across the dark firmament of the sky. No one could see it afterwards. She could only see Fu Hongxue’s deathly pale face.
Fu Hongxue had already stood up and walked over. His gait was still very clumsy and awkward, so clumsy it was terrifying.
He walked very slowly. He was already drunk. So drunk, it was terrifying.
In her eyes, every single place on his body and his every single movement had become unspeakably terrifying. She was so frightened, she felt as though her blood had coagulated. But she suddenly laughed. “Can it be that you no longer recognize me? I am the second young miss of the Ni family, Ni Hui. We are friends.”
Fu Hongxue ignored her.
She watched as he walked past her, her eyes still filled with dread. She definitely couldn’t let this person stay alive. If he were to live, she would die. Die in his hands.
This conclusion wasn’t perhaps correct. Originally, she was an extremely intelligent person, but right now, terror had stolen away her mind. But she hadn’t forgotten her ‘Celestial Maiden Flowers’. Aside from her, it seemed as though there was no one else in the martial world who could use this vile type of hidden projectile.
Once the hidden projectiles left her hand, not only could the flower petals shoot out and wound, there were lethal poisons hidden within the petals as well.
She only carried thirteen ‘Celestial Maiden Flowers’ on her, because she simply didn’t need to carry too many.
She had only used this hidden projectile a total of three times. Each time, she had only used one petal. One petal is enough to take a man’s life.
But right now, she actually shot out all thirteen of the petals, and then her body immediately flew backwards. Even if this strike didn’t land, she could at least retreat with her body intact. She always had a great deal of faith in her lightness kungfu.
But at this moment, the sabre had already left its sheath!