Chapter 11 - Where Did the Bright Moon Go?
The night was deep. The world was covered in darkness.
Because tonight, there was no bright moon.
Was tonight’s bright moon already dead?
Yan Nanfei whipped the horse into a mad gallop, while Fu Hongxue sat next to him, unmoving.
What a beautiful horse-carriage. What a somber carriage interior.
“Why must we ride the carriage?”
“Because we have a carriage!”
“The horse is already tired. An exhausted horse can’t carry two people, but it can pull a carriage!”
“Because the carriage has wheels?”
“Correct. We have legs as well. Why can’t we walk?”
“Because we are tired as well. We need to conserve our energy.”
“Conserve it for killing?”
“As long as they are people to kill, as long as there are people who should be killed.”
The peacock was dead.
The Peacock Manor was no longer the Peacock Manor.
There were a few spots of light in the darkness. The faint light of the stars shined down upon the ruins, making the scene appear even more desolate.
The horse which had galloped to and fro for hundreds of li finally collapsed.
Nobody was in the underground cellar. There was nothing at all in there. Everything which could be removed had been removed!
The torch light was flickering, because the hand with which Yan Nanfei was holding the torch was shaking.
It is said that when the peacock dies, the bright moon would go down with it as well.
Yan Nanfei gnashed his teeth forcefully. “How did they know? How did they know that there would be people here?”
The hand with which Fu Hongxue was gripping his sabre did not tremble, but the muscles on his face were twitching. His pallid face had already begun to turn red, a bizarre red, a frightening red.
Yan Nanfei said, “When we came, there was definitely nobody following us. Who was it…”
Fu Hongxue suddenly howled, “Get out!”
Yan Nanfei was startled. “Are you telling me to get out?”
Fu Hongxue did not speak again. His lips were already closed tightly.
Astonished, Yan Nanfei looked at him. One step at a time, he retreated from the cellar. Before he had fully exited, Fu Hongxue suddenly collapsed, as though an invisible whip had struck him.
As soon as he collapsed, he started to go into convulsions.
That invisible whip seemed to continue to strike him, lashing him without end.
Fu Honxue’s entire body was contorted and twisted in his agony. Low growls constantly emanated from his throat, sounding like the dying growls of a wild animal. “I was wrong, I was wrong…”
With one hand, he scratched and clawed at the floor, appearing as though he were a man about to drown to death who was trying to grab an invisible wooden log to hold on to.
The ground was strewn with stone rubble. His fingernails disintegrated. His hand was starting to bleed.
His other hand continued to tightly clench his sabre.
The sabre was still the sabre!
The sabre is heartless, and so it endures perpetually.
Yan Nanfei knew that he definitely did not want anyone to see his current agony and his chronic illness.
But Yan Nanfei did not leave, because he knew that although the sabre was still the sabre, Fu Hongxue was no longer Fu Hongxue.
Right now, anyone who walked in could kill Fu Hongxue.
Why must heaven torment him so? Why must a man like this suffer an illness such as this?
Yan Nanfei was just barely able to control himself, preventing himself from shedding tears.
He extinguished the torch. He no longer could bear to watch any more.
But his hand was already gripping the hilt of his sword, hidden under his clothes.
In the middle of the darkness, the hole in the middle of the stone cliff appeared as though it were the mythical evil eye of some vile beast.
He swore an oath. If anyone wanted to charge into that hole right now, that person would immediately die underneath his sword!
He was certain of himself.
No one entered from the hole. But suddenly, the darkness was split by torch light.
Where did the torch light come from?
The torch light entered from the door. The door was opened. Five people came out.
Two of them held torches high. They stood at the entranceway. The other three strode inside.
The first person’s right wrist was wrapped in white cloth. He wore a ribbon around his neck. His left hand was carrying a scimitar. His eyes were filled with hatred and enmity.
The man by his side was wearing a pitch-black Daoist robe. His footsteps were very sure and stable. He gave the appearance of being fully prepared for anything.
The last person’s face was criss-crossed with scars. Although a hint of a smile played about his lips, it only made him look all the more insidious and cruel.
Yan Nanfei’s heart sunk, while bile rose from his stomach. It tasted both sour and bitter.
He should have realized that although others might not be able to open those thirteen locks, Gongsun Tu was able to open them. The hole in the wall wasn’t the only way by which one might enter or depart from this cellar.
None of them thought of this. All of them had been too certain of themselves. Thus, they had committed a fatal error.
Gongsun Tu suddenly stretched his hand out. He opened his palm, revealing a golden object sparkling in it. It was the awe-inspiring Peacock Plume.
The Peacock Plume was in his hands. What about Mingyue Xin?
Yan Nanfei was barely able to restrain himself and prevent himself from vomiting.
Gongsun Tu laughed. “You shouldn’t have let her use this hidden projectile weapon to guard the hole. We are men, not mice. We don’t know how to burrow through the ground or dig holes.”
His laughter was extremely joyful. “If it hadn’t been for the fact that she whole-heartedly focused on guarding that hole, it wouldn’t have been easy for us to enter.”
Yan Nanfei was unable to prevent himself from letting out a long sigh. “I was wrong.”
Gongsun Tu said, “You really were wrong. You should have killed me!”
Yang Wuji lightly said, “Thus, in the future, you must remember my words. If you want to kill somebody, you should abstain from nothing at all.”
Gongsun Tu said, “You shouldn’t remind him. If he has a second chance, I’m a dead man for sure.”
Yang Wuji said, “Will he have a second chance?”
Gongsun Tu said, “No.”
Yang Wuji shook his head. He leisurely said, “The only person he is now capable of killing is himself.”
Gongsun Tu said, “He could kill Fu Hongxue at least.”
Yang Wuji said, “Fu Hongxue belongs to Zhao Ping. He isn’t even able to move.”
Yan Nanfei looked at them. He suddenly felt as though their words were coming from far away!
He should have concentrated all of his energy to defend against them.
He should have known that this was a critical, life-and-death point for him. They definitely wouldn’t let him off, nor could he cower back.
Even if there were a place he could retreat to, he would not.
But he suddenly felt very weary.
Was it because, in his heart, he had already admitted that he wasn’t a match for these two?
The bright moon had sunk and vanished. The undefeatable god of sabres had fallen. What hope could he still have?
Gongsun Tu was asking Zhao Ping, “Who cut off your hand?”
Zhao Ping said, “Fu Hongxue.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Do you want to gain revenge?”
Zhao Ping said, “I do.”
Gongsun Tu said, “How do you plan to handle him?”
Zhao Ping said, “I have a way.”
Gongsun Tu said, “Why haven’t you made your move yet? Can’t you tell that this is your best chance?”
Yang Wuji said, “When a good opportunity is missed, it never comes again. If you wait for Fu Hongxue to wake up, it’ll be too late.”
Gongsun Tu said, “At this moment, you no longer need to worry about Yan Nanfei.”
Zhao Ping couldn’t help but ask, “Why not?”
Gongsun Tu said, “Because if he moves, Fu Hongxue will immediately turn into a peacock.”
Zhao Ping said, “A peacock?”
Gongsun Tu said, “No matter who is struck by this Peacock Plume, that person will turn into a peacock. A dead peacock.”
Zhao Ping laughed. “But I don’t want for him to die so quickly.”
Gongsun Tu laughed as well. “Neither do I.”
Zhao Ping suddenly set down his scimitar, then charged in. He grabbed Fu Hongxue by his hair, lifted up his knee, then slammed it against his jaw. Next, he launched a chopping attack against his neck.
Just as Fu Hongxue’s head was drooping down, Zhao Ping sent out a kick. It sent Fu Hongxue flying into the stone wall.
Next, he rushed over and put his right elbow across Fu Hongxue’s throat. In a fierce voice he said, “Open your eyes and see who I am!”
The blue veins on Fu Hongxue’s forehead were bulging out. He could neither resist nor breathe.
Zhao Ping sneered, “You chopped my right hand off, but I intend to use my left arm to break your neck.”
The blue veins on Yan Nanfei’s forehead were beginning to bulge out as well, as though he was unable to breathe as well.
Gongsun Tu grinned hideously. “Why don’t you go rescue your friend? Can it be that you are just going to stand here and watch him die?”
Yan Nanfei couldn’t move.
He knew that if he moved, Fu Hongxue would die even more quickly.
But he couldn’t be still either.
Zhao Ping was using his other hand to ferociously slap Fu Hongxue’s face. It seemed that he didn’t intend to immediately take Fu Hongxue’s life.
But this sort of humiliation was even worse than death.
Yan Nanfei tightly grasped the handle of his sword. Sweat dripped down from his head like rain. He suddenly said, “Even if you can kill him, you won’t necessarily be able to kill me.”
Gongsun Tu said, “What do you propose?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I want you to release him.”
Gongsun Tu said, “What about you?”
Yan Nanfei said, “I am willing to die!”
Gongsun Tu laughed. “Not only do we intend for you to die, we do not intend to allow him to live.”
Yang Wuji coldly said, “If you wish to kill someone, abstain from nothing at all.”
Gongsun Tu’s laughter stopped. He loudly shouted, “Zhao Ping, kill him! Kill him immediately!”
Zhao Ping gritted his teeth, then exerted strength with his elbow.
Just at this moment, there was a flash of sabre light.
It was Fu Hongxue’s sabre!
In heaven or on the earth, it was a sabre without equal!
They all thought that this battle was practically a guaranteed victory, because they had all forgotten something.
Fu Hongxue’s hand remained tightly clenched around his sabre.
Just at this moment, Yan Nanfei suddenly swept his sword about. Scarlet points of sword light sprayed about the room like rain, surrounding Gongsun Tu.
Yang Wuji’s sword appeared as well.
His sword-drawing technique was skilled and ingenious, and his strike was accurate and efficient. His sword stabbed out at precisely the point which would be fatal for Yan Nanfei.
Even if Yan Nanfei was able to kill Gongsun Tu with his attack, he himself would definitely die to Yang Wuji’s sword.
He had no choice but to retract his assault and defend himself.
Gongsun Tu’s body immediately emerged from the ring of blood red light. He immediately flipped away and out past the door.
With a flourish of his sword, Yang Wuji retreated as well.
Naturally, there was no way Yan Nanfei would let them off. Just as he was about to chase them out, he suddenly heard a frightened cry and a loud shout. “Catch!”
A human shadow flew towards him. Her hair disheveled and her face bloody, it was Zhuo Yuzhen.
Fortunately, although Yan Nanfei’s sword was quick, his eyes were even quicker. Just as his sword was about to pierce her, he pulled back at the last moment.
With a miserable cry, Zhuo Yuzhen fell against his body. At this moment, with a clanking sound, the steel door swung shut!
From behind the door, a series of clanging sounds could immediately be heard as all thirteen locks were once again locked. Aside from Gongsun Tu, no one else in the world could reopen this door.
Yan Nanfei stamped his feet. Not paying any attention to Zhuo Yuzhen, who was leaning against him, he turned around and immediately charged out from the hole in the wall.
“You take care of Miss Zhuo. I will come back and meet you with Gongsun Tu’s head!”
Fu Hongxue’s sabre had already left his scabbard. What misgivings might he have?
Now, the only thing he wanted to do was kill a person!
Kill a person who killed other persons!
The tip of his sabre was still dripping with blood.
Zhao Ping had fallen beneath his sabre. Zhuo Yuzhen had fallen by his side. All she needed to do was to lift her head, and she would see blood dripping from that blade.
Blood dripped onto the stone floor, then splattered, breaking apart into a bloody mist.
Fu Hongxue stood there without moving. He watched as the fresh blood dripped down from his sabre.
Unexpectedly, his sabre remained unsheathed this time.
Zhuo Yuzhen forced herself to sit up. Her eyes remained locked onto that sabre.
She really wanted to see what was so remarkable and astonishing about this sabre.
When this sabre killed people, it always seemed as though it had been blessed by all the divinities in heaven, or cursed by all the demons of hell!
There must be many incredible magical inscriptions on this sabre.
She was disappointed.
The long and narrow blade of the sabre was crooked and curved. The edge of the sabre was sharp. The blood groove was shallow. Aside from that pitch-black handle, this sabre was no different from any other sabre.
Zhuo Yuzhen lightly let out a breath. “No matter what, at least I’ve seen your sabre. Should I feel grateful to this person who died to it?”
Her words were very slow and very soft, as though she were speaking to herself. Naturally, she actually wasn’t.
She only wanted Fu Hongxue to know that if there was something she wanted to do, she would do it.
But as soon as she said these words, she knew that she had misspoken, because she saw Fu Hongxue’s eyes.
Just a moment ago, his eyes had appeared to be very exhausted and very sorrowful. Now, they appeared even colder and sharper than the edge of his sabre.
Zhuo Yuzhen’s body unconsciously shrunk back from him. She haltingly asked, “What did I say wrong?”
Fu Hongxue stared at her, as though he were a wild panther staring at his prey, ready to throw himself at her at any moment.
But after the flush from his face receded, he only let out a sigh. “We were all wrong. I was even more wrong than you. Why should I blame you?” Zhuo Yuzhen tried a question. “You were wrong too?”
Fu Hongxue said, “You spoke the wrong words. I killed the wrong person.”
Zhuo Yuzhen stared at the corpse by his side. “You shouldn’t have killed him? Didn’t he intend to kill you?”
Fu Hongxue said, “If he really wanted to kill me, the corpse lying on the ground would be mine.”
He lowered his head. His eyes were filled with deep remorse and sorrow.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Did he not kill you, in order to repay the kindness you showed him last time when you spared his life?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
That definitely wasn’t repayment. If you chopped off someone’s hand, the only way they could ‘repay’ you was by chopping off one of your own.
Perhaps it was just a strange sense of gratitude. Gratitude for making him think things he had never before thought of. Gratitude for allowing him to retain a little bit of dignity and self-respect.
Fu Hongxue understood his heart, but couldn’t speak it aloud.
Some complicated but subtle emotions could never be articulated by anybody.
All the blood on his sabre had dripped off it.
Fu Hongxue suddenly said, “This is the first time. It is also the last time.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I know. This is the first time you’ve killed the wrong person, and it is the last time as well.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “You are wrong again. A person who kills other people can kill the wrong person at any time.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Then what you are saying is…”
Fu Hongxue said, “This is the first time you have seen my sabre. It is also the last time.”
His sabre finally entered the scabbard.
Zhuo Yuzhen summoned up all her courage. Laughing, she said, “This sabre isn’t pretty at all. It’s only a very ordinary sabre.”
Fu Hongxue no longer wanted to continue speaking. But suddenly, he turned around. His pale face suddenly tightened. “How did you see this sabre?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “It was right in front of me. I’m not blind. How could I not see it?”
Her words were very reasonable, but she forgot something.
There was no light in here at all.
Fu Hongxue started training his eyesight when he was five. He spent day after day, year after day, in a hidden room that was dark and stuffy.
After ten years of training, he could see the ants and the mosquitoes in the hidden room. Now, he could obviously see Zhuo Yuzhen’s face.
Precisely because he had trained his eyesight, he knew that this wasn’t something easy to do at all.
How could Zhuo Yuzhen see his sabre?
Fu Hongxue’s hand tightened around his sabre anew.
Zhuo Yuzhen suddenly laughed. “Maybe you haven’t thought of this, but some people are born with night vision.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You are one?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Not only do I have good night vision, I can see straight into the hearts of others.”
Her laughter was very gloomy. “Right now, you must be wondering to yourself, am I the real Zhuo Yuzhen. Naturally, you won’t think that I am a ghost or a monster, but I might be a spy sent to you by Gongsun Tu and the others. Maybe I am a very famous female assassin, and I might even have betrayed Mingyue Xin, because no one else knew that we were here.”
Fu Hongxue could not deny it.
Zhuo Yuzhen looked at him. Tears appeared in her eyes. “Why do you never trust me? Why?”
Fu Hongxue was silent. After a long time, he slowly said, “Perhaps you shouldn’t be so clever.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Why shouldn’t I? How could a man like Qiu Shuiqing find a stupid woman to bear his children?”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth.
But Zhuo Yuzhen was unwilling to be silent. “My child will definitely be smart as well. Thus, I cannot allow him to be born without a father. I can’t allow him to be regretful and in agony all his life.”
Fu Hongxue’s face began to twitch.
He understood her feelings. No one understood better than he did. He, too, was someone born without a father.
A smart child born without a father is a tragedy in and of himself. After he grows up, he will definitely create many tragedies for others.
Because he will always have more hatred in his heart than love.
Fu Hongxue finally sighed. “You can find a father on behalf of your child.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I already found one.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Who?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “You.”
The underground cellar was very dark. In the middle of the darkness, Zhuo Yuzhen’s voice seemed to be coming from very far away.
“Only you are worth of being my child’s father. Only you can guarantee that my child will live to grow up. Aside from you, there’s definitely nobody else.”
Fu Hongxue stood there like a log in the darkness. He only felt as though every muscle in his entire body was gradually becoming hard.
Zhuo Yuzhen then did something which was even more shocking.
She suddenly snatched Zhao Ping’s scimitar. “If you refuse to agree, I might as well kill the child in my belly right now.”
Fu Hongxue involuntarily cried out, “Right now?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Right now, because I feel that he is about to come out soon.”
Although she was doing her best to restrain herself, her face was already becoming distorted with pain.
The pain women go through in childbirth is one of the most unendurable forms of pain known to humanity.
Fu Hongxue was even more shocked. “But you said you were only seven months pregnant!”
Zhuo Yuzhen laughed. “Children are disobedient by nature. A child in the stomach is even more so. When he wants to come out, no one can stop him.”
Although her laughter was pained, it was filled with an indescribable maternal love and tenderness.
She softly continued, “Maybe it’s because he is impatient to see the world. Maybe it’s because he was made nauseous by the shaking those people gave him, and so…”
She no longer continued. The pain of childbirth had contorted her entire body.
But her hand continued to tightly grip that scimitar, much as how Fu Hongxue’s own hand continued to grip his own sabre earlier.
She clearly had already made up her mind.
Fu Hongxue said, “I…I can be his foster father.”
It seemed as though he had to use all the strength in his body to say these words. His voice was hoarse.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “A foster father cannot take the place of a true father. Unacceptable.”
Fu Hongxue said, “What do you want from me?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I want you to let me be your wife. Only then will my child be your legal child.”
Her labor pains came again. She gritted her teeth and forced out a laugh. “If you don’t agree, I definitely won’t blame you. I only ask that you bury our corpses within the graveyard of the Peacock Manor.”
Could it be that these were her last words? If Fu Hongxue did not agree, she would immediately die!
Fu Hongxue was frozen with shock.
He had run up against the most powerful opponents and the most dangerous crises.
But he had never run up against such a tough problem.
It could be said that Qiu Shuiqing died because of him. It could be said that Zhuo Yuzhen was Qiu Shuiqing’s wife.
Qiu Shuiqing’s corpse had barely grown cold. How could he agree? How could he do something like this?
But from another perspective, it could be said that since Qiu Shuiqing died because of him, and since the four-hundred year long fame of the Peacock Manor had been destroyed in one night because of him, leaving behind this last vestige of their bloodline in Zhuo Yuzhen, no matter what sacrifices he might make, he must agree to protect her and let her smoothly give birth, and protect her child as he grew up.
How could he not agree?
If you ran up against something like this, what would you do?
The time between each contraction grew steadily shorter. The pain became more acute. The sharp tip of the scimitar had already pierced her clothes.
Fu Hongxue finally made a painful decision. “I agree!”
“Agree to be my husband?”
Was this the correct decision?
Nobody can make that judgement. He himself could not either. Only, at this point in time, he had no other options.
If you were him, would you do the same thing?
Panting, groaning, crying…suddenly, all of it came to a halt. Everything became as silent as death.
Then, there was suddenly a loud and clear sound of a baby crying. It pierced the sudden stillness, bearing with it a new life into the world.
Fu Hongxue’s hands were covered with blood, but it was the blood of life!
This time, his hands brought life, not death!
Life was hopping about.
As he looked at his hand, he felt as though his heart was filled with a leaping energy as well.
Zhao Ping’s corpse remained there, fallen underneath his sabre. In that moment, he had stolen away a man’s life.
But now, new life had been given birth to, a livelier, more dynamic life.
His earlier pain and sadness had been dispersed by the cry from the infant.
That bloody crime from earlier had been washed away by the blood of new life.
In this brief period of time, he had taken away a life as well as welcomed a new one.
This strange experience gave him a sudden, powerful, incomparably bright stimulus. His life had, without a doubt, become more lively and vigorous.
He had been baptized by blood, much like how a phoenix was baptized by fire. He had gained a new life.
Although this sort of experience is painful, it is part of growing up. It is the most precious, the most irreplaceable thing in the world.
Because this is life!
The old die, the new are born. This is how life is.
Only now did Fu Hongxue truly gain a new understanding of life. A correct understanding!
He listened attentively to the sounds of life leaping about in his arms. He suddenly felt a sense of tranquility and joy which he had never before felt.
The real purpose of life and living, does it not center around bringing new life into the universe?
Zhuo Yuzhen asked him in a weak voice, “Is it a boy or a girl?”
Fu Hongxue said, “It is both a boy and a girl!”
His voice was extraordinarily happy. “Congratulations, you’ve given birth to twins.”
Zhuo Yuzhen let out a satisfied sigh. A happy smile appeared on her weary face. “I should congratulate you as well. Don’t forget that you have become their father.”
She wanted to stretch out her hands to hold her children, but she was too weak. She couldn’t even lift her arms!
Just at this moment, there was suddenly a loud rumbling sound, as though Mt. Taishan had collapsed. Thousands of jin of stone tumbled down, striking the floor of the hidden cellar. Crushed stones shot out like arrows from the hole in the stone wall.
And then, the sole way out of this place was sealed once more.
Fu Hongxue almost lost control of himself and nearly let out a crazed howl.
New life had suddenly been born. Could it be that he would need to meet up with death anew?