Chapter 7 – The Duel
[Originally translated by Chowbeng and edited by RWX]
There was a small door at the corner of the back garden.
Fu Hongxue walked in from that door, and so did Du Lei.
They didn’t climb over the wall.
The path was swallowed with weeds, the distance would be shorter if one cut across the grass.
However, they rather walked on the winding path.
They were walking very slowly, but once they started, they definately would not stop.
From certain angles, they looked to share many similarities.
However, they were definately not the same type of people, you can tell simply from their sabre.
Du Lei’s sabre was richly bejeweled and glittering!
Fu Hongxue’s sabre was pitch black.
But these two sabres did share one thing in common.
The two sabres are both sabres, sabres that kill.
Did these two men share something in common?
The two men are both men, men that kill!
It wasn’t 4 PM yet but it was already time to draw the sabre.
Once the sabre was drawn, there would be death!
If it was not yours, than it was mine!
Du Lei’s footsteps finally stopped, faced Fu Hongxue and also faced the peerless sabre in his hands.
He was determined to have this person killed under his sabre, but deep in this heart, the person he respected most was also him!
Fu Hongxue however seem to be staring at the horizon, on the horizon a dark cloud had cover up the sun.
The sun was gone, but the sun would forever not die.
What about man?
Du Lei finally opened his mouth, “I am Du, Du Lei.”
Fu Hongxue, “I know!”
Du Lei, “I am late.”
Fu Hongxue, “I know!”
Du Lei, “I purposely made you wait, let you wait till you were anxious. Only then would I have a chance to kill you.”
Fu Hongxue, “I know!”
Du Lei suddenly laughed, “Too bad I had forgotten one point.”
He laughed bitterly, “While I was making you wait, I myself was waiting as well.”
Fu Hongxue, “I know!”
Du Lei laughed coldly again, “So, you know everything?”
Fu Hongxue, “At least one more thing.”
Du Lei, “Let hear it.”
Fu Hongxue coldly, “When I draw the sabre, you die.”
Du Lei clenched his hand tightly and his pupils contracted. After a long while, he asked, ” You are confident?”
Fu Hongxue, “Yes!”
Du Lei, “Then, why have you not draw your sabre?”
It was just after 2.45 PM. The dark clouds had just covered the sun, and the wind had just carried a little cold draft.
This was the most appropriate time for killing.
Mingyue was at the Bright Moon Mansion, while the bright moon was at the Bright Moon Lane.
When Thumb and Peacock stepped into Bright Moon Lane, they felt a gust of a breeze.
What a refreshing breeze.
Thumb took a deep breathe and smiled, “Today’s weather is great for killing, and now is also a great time for killing.”
Thumb, “After killing now, we still could take a unhurried, relaxed bathe and then have a comfortable drink.”
Peacock, “After that, find a woman to sleep with.”
Thumb laughed with slited eyes, “Sometimes, I even get two or three.”
Peacock also laughed, “You said before Mingyue Xin is also a whore.”
Thumb, “That’s what she is!”
Peacock, “Then, would you like to get her tonight?”
Thumb didn’t directly reply to the question but slowly said, “There are many type of whores!”
Peacock, “What type is she?”
Thumb, “She happens to the type I dislike!”
Peacock asked again, “Why?”
Thumb signed and bitterly said, “Because of all the woman I had seen, she is the most formidable. If I were to shut my eyes, she would kill me.”
Peacock, “What if you don’t shut your eyes?”
Thumb signed again, “Even if I don’t shut my eyes, she still could kill me.”
Peacock, “I know your martial arts is pretty good.”
Thumb, “But there are at least two women who could kill me in this world.”
Peacock, “She is one of them?”
Thumb signed and nodded.
Peacock, “Who is the other one?”
Thumb, “2nd Miss Ni, Ni Hui.”
As he finished this sentence, a pearl of laughter was heard. Crisp and clear, as lovely as silver bells.
The lane had high walls on both sides, and on top of the high walls were some foliage.
Spring was deep, as was the foliage.
The laughter came from deep within the foliage.
“Bad Fatty, how did you know I am eavesdropping”
“I didn’t know.” Thumb quickly denied.
“Then why are you purposely flattering me?” The laughter was beautiful, the girl was beautiful, and the lightness technique was even more beautiful. When she floated down from the top of the wall, it was like a cloud, like a petal.
A peach blossom petal just blown loose by the spring breeze, a piece of cloud that just flew out of the sky.
Thumb saw her shadow, but she herself had disappeared.
When Thumb followed her shadow to the other side of foliage, where it disappeared, his eyes slitted to a smile again.
“That is 2nd Miss Ni.”
“Why did she come and go so suddenly?” Peacock couldn’t help to ask.
“Because she wanted us to know that she is better than Mingyue Xin.” Thumb’s eyes were still centered at where her shadow disappeared. “So that we could set our minds to ease and kill Yan Nanfei.”
“There is one thing I don’t understand.”
“What is it?”
“Why must we kill Yan Nanfei?” Peacock probed, “What kind of man is he? Why nobody in the martial world has ever heard of his background?”
“That is something that you best not ask.” Thumb’s manner abruptly became very strict. “If you want to ask, you better prepare one item.”
“What do you want me to prepare?”
Peacock did not ask again. When he lifted up his head, a piece of dark cloud had covered up the moonlight.
When this piece of dark cloud covered up the moonlight, Mingyue Xin was facing a embroidery of wild roses by the window.
She was also embroidering wild roses, the wild roses of spring.
Spring was old.
The wild roses were also old.
Yan Nanfei was lying on the bed, not moving an inch, his pale face was not unlike Fu Hongxue’s.
The wind was blowing lightly from the window, the wind was cold, cold as the cruel autumn.
Suddenly, she heard their noises.
Their footsteps were lighter than the wind, their voices were colder than the wind.
“Tell Yan Nanfei to come down quickly.”
“If he doesn’t come down, we would go up.”
Mingyue Xin exhaled, she knew Yan Nanfei would certainly not go down and they would certainly come up.
That was because Yan Nanfei didn’t want to kill them. It was them that wanted to kill Yan Nanfei. Hence, Yan Nanfei could lie down comfortably in bed, while they had to bring their weapon, make their way to the lane, knock on the door and hurriedly burst in, for fear of missing the chance to kill.
The murderer and the murdered. Who is the noble one, while who was the despicable one? A question that no one could answer.
She again lowered her head to her embroidery.
She did not hear footsteps, nor knockings on the door, but she knew that someone was already outside the door.
“Come in.” She didn’t even lift her head “The door is unlatched, you only need to push.”
Although the door would be opened with a gentle shove, nobody opened it.
“Since the two of you are here to kill, you don’t really expect your victim himself to open the door in welcome, do you?”
Her voice was very gentle, but to Peacock and Thumb it was sharper than a needle.
Today’s weather was great for killing, and now was a great time for killing. They were initially in great spirits.
But now, they were feeling a little unhappy because the supposed victim seemed to be far more relaxed than they were. They were standing outside the door like fools, their heartbeat already doubled.
Alas, killing wasn’t such a happy thing after all.
Peacock looked at Thumb, Thumb looked at Peacock. Both of them were asking themselves: Is Yan Nanfei really poisoned? Is there an ambush behind the door waiting for them?
Actually, they both knew that all their questions would be answered by opening the door.
But neither of them made a move.
“When you enter, keep your footsteps light.” Mingyue Xin’s voice was even more gentle now, “Mr. Yan is poisoned and is now sleeping soundly. Please do not disturb his rest.”
Thumb abruptly laughed. “She is Yan Nanfei’s friend, she know we are here to kill Yan Nanfei. But it seems that she is worried that we don’t dare to enter and kill him. What do you think she is up to?”
Peacock coldly said, “That’s because she is a woman; a woman by nature would betray a man any time.”
Thumb, “Not so.”
Peacock, “Then what do you think she is up to?”
Thumb, “That is because she knew that the more that she acts in such a way, the more suspicious we would be and the more likely to back off.”
Peacock, “You are speaking quite reasonably. You’ve always understood women better than me.”
Thumb, “Then what are you waiting for?”
Peacock, “Waiting for you to open the door”
Thumb, “The one killing is you.”
Peacock, “The one opening is you.”
Thumb laughed again, “You never take any risk, do you?”
Thumb laughing, “Being partners with a person like you is really enjoyable, because you would surely live longer than than me. When I die, you could at least recover my body.”
Still smiling, he lightly tapped the door with his fingers. With just that, the door opened. Mingyue Xin was still embroidering in front of the window, and Yan Nanfei was still lying on the bed like a dead man.
Thumb breathed out, “Please enter.”
Peacock, “You would not go in?”
Thumb, “You kill people, I open doors. I’ve done my part, it is now your turn.”
Peacock stared at him for a long time, suddenly said, “There is something that I had never told you.”
Peacock coldly, “I loathed you the moment I set my eyes on you, and on at least three occasions I had wanted to kill you.”
Thumb however was still smiling, “Luckily for me, on this occasion the one you want to kill is not me, but Yan Nanfei.”
Peacock was silent.
Thumb pushed the door again to open it up wider. “This way, please.”
Inside, the room was very quiet and very dark. The moonlight outside the window was completely blocked out by dark clouds.
The time is 4 PM.
Peacock finally entered the room. When he entered, his hands had gone under his sleeves with the Peacock Plume in his fingers.
The ice-cold and glossy Peacock Plume is a hidden weapon without peer in the world.
His heart was again filled with confidence.
Mingyue Xin lifted up her head, looked at him and laughed, “So, you are the Peacock?”
Peacock, “Peacock’s aren’t funny.”
Mingyue Xin, “But you don’t look like peacock, really don’t.”
Peacock, “You also don’t look like a whore.”
Mingyue Xin laughed again.
Peacock, “Being a whore isn’t funny either.”
Mingyue Xin, “But there is something else which is funny.”
Peacock, “What is that?”
Mingyue Xin, “You don’t look like peacock, but are Peacock. I don’t look a whore but am a whore. A donkey looks very much like a horse but isn’t a horse at all.”
She smiled, “In this world, there are so many matters that are just like that.”
Peacock, “What do you really trying to say?”
Mingyue Xin, “For example, the hidden weapon in your person clearly looks like the Peacock Plume, but isn’t the Peacock Plume.”
Peacock laughed loudly, a big laugh.
A person would only laughed this hard if he had heard the most ridiculous and impossible joke.
Mingyue Xin, “The truth is that in your heart, you had long suspected this. Because you had felt that its power isn’t as fearsome as it wa said to be. That’s why you did not dare to use it against Fu Hongxue.”
Peacock was still laughing, but his laughter was a little forced.
Mingyue Xin, “It is a pity that although you had your suspicions, you couldn’t verify them, and also did not dare to verify them.”
Peacock couldn’t help but to ask, “Can you prove it?”
Mingyue Xin, “I can prove it, and only I am the only one who can, because…”
Peacock, “Because what?”
Mingyue Xin softly, “The kind of Peacock Plume you have, I have a few of them remaining. I can give you a few any time you like.”
Peacock’s face changed colour. Outside the door, Thumb’s face also changed colour.
Mingyue Xin, “I can give you another one right now. Here, take it.”
Incredibly, she really did reached into her sleeve and took out a glittering golden cylinder. Casually, she threw it at Peacock, just like when one bestowed a single copper coin to a begger.
Peacock reached out his hand and caught it. After a quick look, he looked someone who had been kicked in the stomach.
Mingyue Xin, “Why don’t you check if this Peacock Plume is exactly the same as the one you have?”
Peacock did not answer. He didn’t need to answer.
Anyone who could see his expressions, could already guess the answer.
Thumb already started to move stealthily backwards.
Peacock suddenly turned back and stared at him, “Why didn’t you strike out and kill me?”
Thumb with a forced laugh, “We are partners, why should I kill you?”
Peacock, “Because I want to kill you. All along I wanted to kill you, and now I have to kill you no matter what!”
Thumb, “But I don’t want to kill you, because there is no need for me to strike with my own hands.”
He really laughed, laughed so hard that his eyes had turned into slits. “In the martial world, if there is just a single person who knows that you are not the real Peacock, within six hours, you would be a dead peacock.”
Peacock, “Unfortunately, you’ve forgotten one thing.”
Peacock, “Although this Peacock Plume is a fake, to kill you, it is more than enough.”
Thumb’s smile hardened, and his body sprang up.
Although his reaction was slow at all, but he was still a step too late.
A ray of blinding light had already shot out of the golden cylinder in Peacock’s hands.
As magnificent as the setting sun, as beautiful as the rainbow.
Thumb ugly and fat body was instantly swallowed up by this ray of beautiful light, just like the ugly sand swallowed up by the beautiful tide.
When this ray of light faded, his life was also gone.
With a clap of thunder, raindrops started to fall from the dark clouds.
At last Mingyue Xin breathed out and said, “You are certainly right. Although this Peacock Plume is fake, it still has the power to kill.”
Peacock had already turned already and stared at her, “That’s why I could also use it to kill you.”
Mingyue Xin, “I know that. If you would kill even Thumb to ensure his silence, you certainly would not spare me.”
Peacock, “After you died, nobody would know if this Peacock Plume is real or fake.”
Mingyue Xin, “It is true that apart from me, nobody else knows this secret.”
Peacock, “Du Lei would wait till 4 PM before showing up, so if I rush there after I kill you, it would be just right. Regardless of who is the victor of that duel, he would also die under my hands.”
Mingyue Xin, “Your plan is very thorough. Unfortunately, you have neglected one thing.”
Peacock shut up and waited for her to continue.
Mingyue Xin, “You had neglected to ask me why I know that this Peacock Plume is fake.”
Peacock indeed asked immediately, “How do you know?”
Mingyue Xin softly said, “The reason why I am the only one that know this secret is because the one making these fake Peacock Plumes is me.”
Peacock was stunned again.
Mingyue Xin, “If I could make these kinds of Peacock Plume, and dared to give one to you so casually. Naturally, I am confident that I can defeat it!”
Peacock’s face had turned white. His hands were trembling.
His ability to kill was perhaps not because he had the Peacock Plume, but because he had a heart filled with self confidence and a steady pair of hands.
Now these two things had been destroyed.
Mingyue Xin, “The first Peacock Plume was also arranged by me for you to find. I had looked for a long time before I chose you to be my peacock. Because in the martial world there are not many people who are better suited then you, therefore I would not casually allow you to die. However…”
She stared at him, eyes that were as gentle as the bright moon had suddenly turned as sharp as a blade. “If you want to continue to be my peacock, you should learn to be as obedient as a peacock. If you have any doubt, you can strike now.”
Peacock clenched both his hands tightly but still couldn’t stop trembling.
He looked at both his hands and suddenly bended over and began to vomited!
A ring of thunder, raindrops fell from the dark clouds.
“I have not drawn my sabre because I am confident.”
Fu Hongxue’s voice seem very far away, far in the dark clouds. “When a person wants to kill, very often it is not unlike begging for a favour. He becomes very despicable. Because he does not have the utmost confidence, he would become very anxious in great fear of missing a good opportunity.”
He very seldom talked so much. He spoke very slowly, as if fearing that Du Lei could not bear it.
It was because he knew that every one of his words had pierced Du Lei’s heart like a blade.
Du Lei entire body had stiffened up. Even his voice had became coarse. “So you have the utmost confidence in yourself. That’s why you are not anxious?”
Fu Hongxue nodded.
Du Lei, “When are you going to draw your sabre?”
Fu Hongxue, “When you draw yours!”
Du Lei, “What if I don’t draw mine?”
Fu Hongxue, “You certainly will draw your sabre. In fact, you are very anxious to draw it!”
Because you want to kill me, but not me who want to kill you!
That’s why the true moment you really die is not when I draw my sabre, but when you draw yours.
Green veins had already protruded out of Du Lei’s sabre wielding hand.
He had not drawn, but he himself knew that he had to draw sooner or later!
The ice cold raindrops pelted on his body, on his face. He was facing Fu Hongxue, facing the most peerless sabre in the world. Suddenly his mind went back to his lowly childhood.
Heavy rain pounded the mud, the mud had soiled the whole street.
He ran barefooted in the mud, because someone was chasing behind.
He had escaped from the escort office, where he had stolen an escort officer’s new shoes. The shoes were too big for him and had fallen off before he made it halfway across the street.
But the officer still would not spare him. After the officer caught him, he stripped him naked, tied him to a tree and lashed him with a cane.
When he faced Fu Hongxue now, his heart suddenly had that feeling again, the pain of being lashed.
An agonizing pain that was beyond words, an agonizing pain that he could never forget.
The rain was getting heavier, and the soil on the ground had turned into mud.
Without warning, he took off the pair of soft soled shoes that cost him eighteen taels of silver, and stood barefooted in the mud.
Fu Hongxue seem to have turned into the escort officer who lashed him with the cane, turned into a symbol of his agonizing pain.
He roared madly and tore off his clothings.
He stood stark naked in the rain and mud, howling madly. All these years of self restraint and control had finally found a release.
So, he drew his sabre.
The moment he drew his sabre was the moment of his death.
So, he died!
Death was not only passion, but also pain. These two things were something that he had never able to attain at the same moment. But at the moment of “death”, he did.
The rain stopped as abruptly as it came.
The path was still caked with mud. Fu Hongxue walked slowly but steadily on the path, his hand clenched on his sabre.
The sabre was back in the sheath. The blood on the sabre was cleaned off. The sabre was still pitch black.
His pupils were also pitch black, deep and black, enough to conceal all the mercy and sorrow of his heart.
A ray of sunlight had broke through the cover of dark clouds, no doubt the last light of the day.
The sunlight shone on the high wall. Suddenly from behind the wall there was a peal of laughter. A laughter crisp and clear, and as lovely as silver bells, but carrying a strange ridicule.
Ni Hui appeared under the sunlight, “Not exciting, not exciting to watch at all.”
What was not exciting to watch?
Fu Hongxue did not ask. His footsteps didn’t even slow down.
But wherever he went, Ni Hui followed, “Your duel wasn’t exciting to watch at all. I had came to see your sabre-play, but who would have expected that what you used was a trick.”
She explained further, “You let Du Lei strike first. On the surface, it is letting him take the initiative. However, it was a trick.”
Why was it a trick?
Fu Hongxue did not ask, but his footsteps had stopped.
Ni Hui, “When a sabre in the sheath, it has hidden strength and power, and nobody knows its sharpness. When a sabre is drawn out of the sheath, its sharpness is revealed, and thus nobody would dare to take it lightly. Thus, a sabre is at its most priceless at the moment when it is about to strike but yet to strike.”
She continued, “You, of course understand this principle, that’s why you let Du Lei strike first…”
Fu Hongxue had been quietly listening but he suddenly cut her off, “That is also sabre-play, not a trick.”
Ni Hui, “No?”
Fu Hongxue, “Sabre-play has different techniques and variations, but all share one essence.”
Her expression was very solemn, “That is the highest level of the sabre-play?”
Fu Hongxue, “Not yet!”
Ni Hui, “Then at which stage can one achieve the highest peak of sabre-play?”
Fu Hongxue had yet again fallen silent and continued forward!
The sun was shining bright.
The last ray of sunlight is often the most the gloriously beautiful – sometimes life is also the same.
Ni Hui stood stumped at the wall for a long time, “Don’t tell me that highest peak of sabreplay is achieved only when there is no variations at all.”
The shinning bright sun had dimmed in a flash.
No variations at all, could that be to surpass the limits of variations? In that case, does that sabre still have any reason to exist?
Fu Hongxue sighed in this heart. Even he could not answer that question.
Why does the sabre need to exist? Why does man need to exist?
The sunlight had disappeared on the high walls, and Ni Hui had also disappeared with the sun.
But the sun still existed, and Ni Hui too still existed. What had disappeared momentarily was only their image – their image in Fu Hongxue’s vision.
Fu Hongxue pushed opened the door beneath the high walls and slowly walked in. As soon as he lifted his head, he saw Mingyue Xin at the high mansion.
Despite being on the tall mansion, Fu Hongxue’s head was hanging down.
Mingxue Xin asked, “You won?”
Fu Hongxue did not answer. By being alive, he had answered.
Mingxue Xin unexpectedly signed, “Why, why must it be like this?”
Fu Hongxue didn’t quite catch her, “Why?”
Mingyue Xin, “You went despite knowing that you would win for sure. He went despite knowing that he would die for sure.”
This is a deep and profound question but Fu Hongxue could explained it, “Because he is Du Lei and I am Fu Hongxue.”
His explanation was like his sabre. It cut into the heart of the question in one stroke. Mingyue Xin however was still not satisfied, “So, Du Lei had to die because there is a Fu Hongxue in the this world.”
Fu Hongxue, “No.”
Mingyue Xin, “Then, what did you really mean?”
Fu Hongxue, “Du Lei had to die because there was a Du Lei in this world.”
His answer on the surface seem more deep and profound than the question, but it was actually very simple, very reasonable.
Without life, there is no death.
With life, there is no escaping from death.
Mingyue could not help but to sign again, “It seems that with regards to life and death, you view them very lightly.”
Fu Hongxue did not deny it.
Mingyue Xin, “Regarding the life and death of other people, you definitely view it lightly. That is why you left Yan Nanfei back here.”
Fu Hongxue was silent. After a long while, he slowly asked, “Did Peacock come here?”
Mingyue Xin, “Yes.”
Fu Hongxue, “Yan Nanfei is still alive?”
Mingyue Xin, “Yes.”
Fu Hongxue softly said, “When I left him here, perhaps I already knew that he would not die.”
Mingyue Xin, “But, you…”
Fu Hongxue interrupted her, “As long as your decision has not changed, my promise to you also would not change.”
Mingyue Xin, “What is your promise?”
Fu Hongxue, “Bring you both to Peacock Manor.”
Mingyue Xin’s eyes lighted up, “Now?”
Fu Hongxue, “Now.”
Mingyue Xin jumped up and turned her back, “Do you want me to put on that mask?”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “Don’t you already have a mask on your face?”