Chapter 13 - Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven's Monarch
What type of sabre would be able to chop a horse in half at a blow?
No one saw it. The sabre light flew out from within the woods to the side of the road. The carriage was over a hundred meters away from it. From here, neither man nor sabre could be seen. Fu Hongxue stood guard in front of Zhuo Yuzhen and the children. His eyes were still focused on that dense, forested area. His ashen pale face was so white, it was nearly translucent.
Yan Nanfei let out a breath. He immediately asked, “Did you see that sabre?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
Yan Nanfei said, “But you must know what sabre that was.”
Fu Hongxue nodded.
Yan Nanfei sighed. “It seems Gongzi Yu’s information is extremely accurate. Miao Tianwang really has come.” [Tianwang means ‘Heaven’s Monarch’].
Miao Tianwang’s sabre would naturally be the ’Demon Decapitating Sabre of Heaven’s Monarch’!
Fu Hongxue tightened his hands. He coldly said, “I’m afraid that plenty of people have come.”
Just at this moment, two large wagons rolled up on each side of the road, sealing off both sides.
On top of one wagon was placed several wooden planks, upon one of which two people were playing chess. The second wagon had two people on top as well. One was trimming his nails, and the other was drinking. Each seemed to be very intent on what they were doing, and nobody so much as glanced aside.
It seemed as though Fu Hongxue and Yan Nanfei didn’t see them either.
On top of the wagon to the right, there were several women seated. Some were old, some were young. Some were embroidering, others were peeling melon seeds. Some were even combing their hair. The oldest one was the Ghostly Granny. On top of the second wagon was an open wooden coffin, as well as a large copper pot which hung off a steel peg.
It was said that the largest pot in the world was Shaolin’s rice-cooking pot. Shaolin had many monks who never tasted grease or oil, but worked hard all day. Naturally, the amount of rice they could eat was prodigious. If we estimate each monk as eating five bowls of rice per meal, how much rice would five hundred monks eat? How large must the cooking pot be, in order to allow all those monks to be full?
Yan Nanfei had gone to Shaolin once, just to see that pot. He was a curious man by nature.
It seemed as though the red copper pot on the car was no smaller than that of Shaolin’s cooking pot. What was even stranger was that there actually was someone in the pot. With a large face, a plump head and big ears. Many scars criss crossed his forehead, dropping down from it like venomous snakes. They stretched down, all the way from his forehead to his mouth. They made his face, which looked as though it originally would seem very gentle, appear unspeakably foul and evil.
The wagons were not moving very quickly. The copper pot gently waved, almost as though the man inside were resting in a hammock.
The dark clouds went far away. The sun once more rose up, but Yan Nanfei’s heart was sinking.
But he absolutely had to force himself to maintain a smile. He muttered to himself, “Unexpectedly, Duo Qingzi didn’t come after all.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “If the first strike does not land true, fully withdraw. This is the long-established rule of their Xingxiuhai sect.”
Yan Nanfei’s laughter seemed to become more cheerful. “Aside from him, it seems as though everyone who should come has come. Everyone who shouldn’t have come, came as well.”
He stared at the fatty with the scarred face in the copper pot. Smiling, he continued, “Chef Hao, why did you come as well?”
The ‘vipers’ on the fatty’s face were wriggling. He was smiling, but his smile made his face look all the more vicious and cunning. “I came to receive the remains.”
Yan Nanfei said, “What remains?”
Chef Hao said, “Any remains. I’ll receive a dead horse’s remains into my belly, and receive a dead man’s remains into a coffin.”
The wagons came to a full stop. The chess players continued to play chess, the drinker was still holding his cup, and the ladies brushing their hair continued to brush their hair.
Chef Hao laughed, “Looks like all of you will be lucky diners today. Chef Hao’s ‘Five Spices Horseflesh’ isn’t something that just anybody can taste.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Your specialty dish doesn’t seem to be the ‘Five Spices Horseflesh’.”
Chef Hao said, “It’s hard to find the materials needed for my specialty dish. It’s best if we just make do with the ‘Five Spices Horseflesh’.”
After he finished speaking those words, he hopped out of his pot and got off the wagon. If the people present hadn’t witnessed it with their own eyes, they would never have imagined that a fatty who weighed several hundred jin could move so quickly and agilely.
He also had a large knife on him. A vegetable knife.
Zhuo Yuzhen couldn’t help but ask, “Is Chef Hao really a good chef?”
Yan Nanfei said, “He’s a sham.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Then why do they call him ‘chef’?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Because he likes to cook, and because he uses a vegetable knife.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “What is his specialty dish?”
Yan Nanfei said, “Flame-roasted human hearts, lightly fried human waists.”
The young woodcutter had just finished vomiting. As soon as he lifted up his head, he froze. Even in his wildest dreams, he never would have imagined that this place would have suddenly become so crowded.
Today, all he had eaten was two steamed buns and a few salted vegetables. He had already thrown up everything, leaving nothing behind in his stomach. But after he took a few more glances, he began vomiting again, even more than last time.
Chef Hao brandished his knife. With a single chop, he cut off a large piece of horseflesh and horse skin, then threw it into that copper pot. He chopped downwards with his right hand, and tossed meat upwards with his right. His hands moved up and down in tandem, his movements skillful and practiced. In the twinkling of an eye, the horse was chopped into over a hundred and thirty pieces, as easily as others chop tofu.
The horseflesh was in the pot. What about the five spices?
Chef Hao wiped the blood from his sabre off on the sole of his shoes, then walked back and opened up the coffin. The coffin was filled with all sorts of ingredients, oils, salts, sauces, vinegar, fennel, aniseeds…any ingredients you could think of were in that coffin.
Chef Hao mumbled to himself, “We can use the broken, splintered carriage as kindling. By the time all the wood is burnt down, the flesh should be fully cooked.”
The man who was playing chess, Yang Wuji, suddenly said, “No need to make my share too sodden and mashed. My teeth are strong.”
Chef Hao said, “Daoist priests eat horse meat as well?”
Yang Wuji said, “Sometimes, I even eat human flesh, much less horseflesh.”
Chef Hao laughed. “Priest, if you really want to eat human flesh, if you’ll just wait a bit longer, there will be some ingredients here soon.”
Yang Wuji said, “I have been waiting this entire time. I’m not impatient at all.”
Chef Hao laughed loudly, then glanced at Fu Hongxue out of the corner of his eyes. “Human flesh enriches the blood. If you ate more human flesh, your face wouldn’t be so pale.”
While laughing, he lifted the more than three hundred jin heavy copper pot off the peg, then used the splintered wood from the crashed carriage to form a pile of firewood underneath the pot. The fire burned merrily, crackling and popping as the flames danced about.
The children began to cry again. Zhuo Yuzhen could only quietly open up her garments and feed them milk again.
Gongsun Tu, who was holding a wine cup in his hand, suddenly let out a breath. “What fair white skin.”
Chef Hao laughed. “What tender flesh.”
Ghostly Granny, who was cracking melon seeds, also let out a sigh. “What adorable children.”
Fu Hongxue only felt his stomach contract. The blue veins began to bulge out on the hand he was holding his sabre with, as though he had already pulled the sabre out.
But Yan Nanfei pressed his hand down. In a low voice, he said, “You can’t make your move now.”
Of course, Fu Hongxue could also tell that now wasn’t the time to move. Although these people were pretending to be leisurely, they were like a hornet’s nest. As soon as they moved, the consequences would be unthinkable. But so what if they didn’t move? If they continued to just waste time like this, would they really wait for them to eat horse flesh, then human flesh?
Yan Nanfei’s voice dropped even lower. He suddenly asked, “Do you know Du Shiqi, ‘Eight Lives and Eightfold Courage’?”
Fu Hongxue shook his head.
Yan Nanfei said, “Although this man isn’t a great hero, in my opinion, he has a more heroic air than any ‘real’ hero. I already arranged for him to meet with me in the ‘Heavenly Fragrance Teahouse’ of the town up ahead. So long as we can find him, anything can be accomplished. I am very good friends with him.”
Fu Hongxue said, “That is your business.”
Yan Nanfei said, “My business is your business.”
Fu Hongxue said, “I don’t know him.”
Yan Nanfei said, “But he knows you.”
The chess players were still playing chess. Everyone was still absorbed in their own activities, and paid them no mind at all, as though they were already dead men walking.
Yan Nanfei asked again, “Are you a very reasonable person?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Sometimes I am. Other times, I’m not.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Right now, are you at the point where you can’t help but be reasonable?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Seems so.”
Yan Nanfei asked again, “Can Zhuo Yuzhen and her child be allowed to die?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No.”
Yan Nanfei let out a sigh. “As long as you can remember this, everything will be fine. Let’s go.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Go? Go where?”
Yan Nanfei said, “As soon as you hear me say the words, ‘little doggy’, take Zhuo Yuzhen and her children onto that wagon and hide them in the coffin. I’ll handle everything else!”
He chuckled. “Don’t forget, my skill in running for my life is the best in the world.”
Fu Hongxue shut his mouth. Naturally, he understood Yan Nanfei’s meaning. Right now, he had no leeway whatsoever. No matter what, he could not allow Zhuo Yuzhen and the children to fall into these people’s clutches.
On the wagon where Ghostly Granny was seated, there were four other women. Aside from her, all of them were young, and all of them weren’t the slightest bit unattractive.
That is to say, they were attractive. The most attractive one was combing her hair. Her long hair was both black and gleaming.
Yan Nanfei suddenly said, “I hear that all in all, Miao Tianwang has over seventy or eighty wives.”
Ghostly Granny said, “He has eighty. He likes whole numbers.”
Yan Nanfei said, “I hear that no matter where he goes, he’ll bring four or five of his wives with him, because at any place and at any point in time, he might have need for them.”
Ghostly Granny said, “He is a vigorous and energetic man. His wives are all very fortunate.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Are you one of them?”
Ghostly Granny let out a sigh. “I very much want to be, but he scorns me for being too old.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Who says you are old? I think you are at least ten years younger than that old granny who is brushing her hair.”
Ghostly Granny laughed loudly, while the countenance of the girl brushing her hair changed. She glared hatefully at him.
Yan Nanfei grinned towards her. “Actually, you aren’t very old either. Aside from Ghostly Granny, you are the youngest one here.”
By now, everyone could tell that he was causing trouble on purpose. But none of them could guess what he wanted or what he was planning. Everyone who was earlier purposefully staring away from him couldn’t help but send a few glances his way.
Next, he went to Chef Hao. “Aside from cutting meat and chopping vegetables, what else is this knife of yours good for?”
Chef Hao said, “It can also kill people.”
The ‘vipers’ on his face began to wriggle again. “There’s not much of a difference between using a vegetable knife to kill people or a precious bejeweled sabre to kill people.”
Yan Nanfei said, “It’s a little different.”
Chef Hao said, “A little different?”
Yan Nanfei ignored him. Turning around, he opened the coffin, then mumbled to himself, “I didn’t expect you’d even have ground onions in here. I wonder if you have any hot peppers?”
Chef Hao loudly said, “How is it different?”
Yan Nanfei still ignored him. “Ah hah, here are the peppers. Looks like this coffin really is just like a full kitchen.”
Chef Hao was originally sitting, but now he rose to his feet. “Why won’t you speak? What, exactly, is the difference?”
Yan Nanfei finally turned around. Smiling, he said, “I’m not sure what the difference is, exactly, either. All I know is that ‘Five Spices Horseflesh’ braised in soy sauce should have some hot peppers in it.”
Carrying a string of peppers, he walked to the side of the copper pot. “There’s pretty much nobody who dislikes spicy food. Anyone who doesn’t eat spicy food is a little doggy.”
Chef Hao was so furious that his face had turned white with rage. Just at this moment, the sound of a horse neighing softly could be heard.
Fu Hongxue had already carried Zhuo Yuzhen, who was holding her children, onto the wagon!
Zhuo Yuzhen placed the children in the coffin. Fu Hongxue whipped the horses, while Yan Nanfei lifted up the frame upon which the copper pot was resting.
Gongsun Tu threw away his cup and rose. He loudly shouted, “Careful!”
Before he finished saying the word, Zhuo Yuzhen also burrowed into the coffin before covering them with the lid.
With a flip of his hand, Yan Nanfei brandished about both the metal frame and the copper pot filled with boiling hot horseflesh. With a whooshing sound, he flew towards the opposite wagon!
The boiling juice splattered everywhere. The healthy horse neighed in surprise, tipping over the wagon. The pieces of boiling hot horseflesh, along with the soup, shot out from the pot like arrows. Wherever it touched flesh, it immediately produced blisters.
Covering their faces with their clothes, the people on the wagon flew to their feet.
Fu Hongxue held his sabre with his right hand while brandishing the whip with his left. He had already charged out from within the two overturned wagons!
Xiao Siwu’s body was in midair. He suddenly flipped over, concentrating all of his power in his right arm.
His flying dagger was in his right hand.
By the time Yang Wuji’s body straightened, he had already seized his sword as well.
Xiao Siwu’s dagger had already left his hand.
This time, he didn’t make a single sound at all when he threw this dagger with all his force, and it was aimed towards Fu Hongxue’s back.
Although the wagons had been overturned, the space between them wasn’t very wide. Fu Hongxue needed to use all of his concentration in driving the carriage, and he didn’t have eyes in his back either. He had no idea at all that this lightning bolt-like dagger had shot towards his back. Even if he knew, he couldn’t turn around and dodge it. Otherwise, even if he were able to avoid the dagger, he wouldn’t be able to avoid the wagons up ahead!
Just at this intolerable moment, his sabre suddenly struck out from underneath his armpit. With a clanging sound, the pitch-black scabbard suddenly gave off sparks. The four-inch long flying dagger was knocked beneath the carriage.
Yang Wuji’s sword left his sheath very quickly. Like a jade maiden weaving a tapestry, he attacked from the sky.
Fu Hongxue gripped the scabbard underneath his arm. He withdrew his sabre with a backhand motion. A flash of sabre light greeted the sword light.
The sabre and the sword did not actually intersect. Although the sword light was very quick, the sabre light was even quicker. Yang Wuji’s sword had already just barely touched Fu Hongxue’s throat. If it went in another inch, it would have taken his life. But a miserable cry was suddenly heard and fresh blood spewed about. The sky was filled with a rain of blood. An arm suddenly fell down from the sky, with a sword still tightly gripped in it. An ancient, elegant sword of Damascus steel!
When Yang Wuji’s body descended, it fell straight into that boiling hot copper pot.
In his entire life, this was the best chance he would ever have of killing Fu Hongxue. This time, his sword had almost pierced Fu Hongxue’s throat.
Only, he missed by an inch.
The horse neighed loudly. The wagon was already travelling forward, past the overturned wagons. A sword light as red as crimson blood appeared, blocking off the road behind them!
Fu Hongxue did not turn his head. He heard the sound of Yan Nanfei coughing. It seemed as though Yan Nanfei used all of his energy in this sword attack to cover their retreat.
He didn’t dare to turn his head. He was afraid that if he did, he would stay behind and fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Yan Nanfei in this deadly battle.
Unfortunately, some people could not be allowed to die.
They definitely could not!
A cold night. A barren grave.
A carriage came to a halt in the midst of a cluster of tombs. The stars gleamed with pulses. There was no trace of life in the wild, barren graveyard.
Someone suddenly sat upright in the coffin on the cart. She had long hair and wore a cape, and her eyes were as liquid as autumn waters. Even if she was a ghost, she was definitely a beautiful female ghost. She was more than enough to mesmerize any scholar studying late at night.
Her eyes flickered about, as though she were seeking someone. She wasn’t looking for a scholar. She was looking for a man with a sabre.
Where did Fu Hongxue go? Why did he leave her here alone?
Just as fear began to appear in her eyes, Fu Hongxue appeared by her side.
A fog began to arise in the barren graveyard. The fog was pallid white, as pallid as Fu Hongxue’s face.
When she saw his pallid face, although Zhuo Yuzhen let out a sigh of relief, she was still very shocked. “Why did we come here?”
Fu Hongxue didn’t directly respond. Instead, he asked, “What is the safest place to hide a bag of white mice?”
Zhuo Yuzhen thought for a moment, then said, “In a large heap of white rice.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “What is the best place to place a coffin, if one wants to avoid it being noticed?”
Zhuo Yuzhen finally understood his meaning. Hide white rice in the middle of a pile of rice; hide a coffin in a graveyard.
But there was something she still didn’t quite understand. “Why don’t we go seek out Yan Nanfei and his friend, Du Shiqi?”
Fu Hongxue said, “We cannot go.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “You don’t trust him?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Someone Yan Nanfei trusts, I too trust.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Then why can’t you go?”
Fu Hongxue said, “The ‘Heavenly Fragrance Teahouse’ is a large teahouse, and Du Shiqi is a famous man. If we meet with him, Gongsun Tu will find out within six hours!”
Zhuo Yuzhen let out a sigh. In a soft voice, she said, “I didn’t imagine that you are even more meticulous than I am in handling matters.”
Fu Hongxue evaded her gaze. From within his bosom, he withdrew a parcel wrapped in oilpaper. “This is a baked chicken I bought on the way. No need to give me any. I’ve already eaten.”
Zhuo Yuzhen quietly accepted it. As she opened the parcel, her tears began to fall onto the chicken.
Fu Hongxue pretended to not see her tears. “I already took a look around. There’s no signs of human life within two or three li, and there’s nobody following us. You must take a good nap. When dawn breaks, I need you to do something for me.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “What?”
Fu Hongxue said, “Find out where Du Shiqi sleeps at night. When I go find him, I cannot allow anyone to see me.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “We are still going to go find him?”
Fu Hongxue nodded. “My appearance is too conspicuous. There’s not many people who recognize you, and I know a few things about the art of disguise.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Relax. I’m not the type of weak girl who can be blown down by a gentle breeze. I can take care of myself!”
Fu Hongxue said, “Do you know how to ride horseback?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “A little!”
Fu Hongxue said, “Then go on horseback tomorrow morning. When you reach a place with people, immediately release this horse, then call for a carriage on the road. On the way back, you can buy a donkey.”
The people of the north are vigorous and hardy. There were plenty of women who ride donkeys.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I will definitely be extra cautious. Only, the children…”
Fu Hongxue said, “I will take care of the children. Leave after you give them their fill of milk. Thus, you must get a good night’s rest tonight.”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “And you?”
Fu Hongxue said, “No need for you to worry about me. Sometimes, I can fall asleep while I am walking!”
Zhuo Yuzhen looked at him, her eyes filled with tenderness and a cherishing look, as though there were many things she wanted to say to him.
But Fu Hongxue had already turned around, facing the dark earth, as though he had already fallen asleep.
The children had finally fallen asleep. Zhuo Yuzhen had left six hours ago.
Fu Hongxue sat in the shadow of a tomb. He stupidly stared at a tombstone in front of him. He hadn’t moved in a long time.
What was he thinking about?
What type of people were buried in these tombs? How many of them were nameless heroes? How many were lonely wanderers?
If people were lonely while living, wouldn’t they be even more lonely when dead?
After he died, would there be anybody to bury him? Where would he be buried?
Who can answer these questions?
Fu Hongxue let out a long breath. He slowly rose to his feet, and saw a donkey walk up the side of the hill.
A thin, weary donkey. An ordinary, emaciated woman.
Watching her, Fu Hongxue couldn’t help but feel pride in his disguising skills.
Finally, Zhuo Yuzhen had safely returned. No one recognized her, and no one had followed her.
As soon as she saw Fu Hongxue and the children, her eyes shone. Just like every worthy mother and virtuous wife in the world, she first went over and kissed her children. Then, she took out a parcel wrapped in oilpaper. “This is the roast chicken and beef I bought at the market. No need to share it with me. I’ve already eaten.”
Fu Hongxue quietly accepted the parcel.
Her fingertips gently brushed across his hand. His hand was ice cold.
If a person’s hand was ice cold despite staying underneath a fierce sun for six hours, they must have things on their mind.
Looking at him, Zhuo Yuzhen said in a soft voice, “I know that you must have been worrying about me. So I came back as soon as I got the news.”
Fu Hongxue said, “You’ve already find out where Du Shiqi…”
Zhuo Yuzhen interjected, “No one knows where Du Shiqi sleeps at night. Even if someone knew, they weren’t willing to tell me.”
Du Shiqi was definitely a person who liked making friends. Naturally, he had many friends.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “But I overheard news about something else.”
Fu Hongxue was listening!
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “Although he has many friends, he has quite a few enemies as well. The most fierce one amongst them is named Hu Kun. Everyone in the city knows that Hu Kun plans to kill Du Shiqi on the first day of the next month. In addition, it seems he is very assured of victory.”
Fu Hongxue said, “It seems today is the twenty eighth.”
Zhuo Yuzhen nodded. “So I thought to myself that Hu Kun must know more about Du Shiqi’s movements these days than anyone else.”
If you want to find information on someone, it is far better to seek out his enemies than his friends.
Fu Hongxue said, “Did you seek out Hu Kun?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “I did not.”
She smiled, then continued. “But you can go seek him out. In fact, you can go seek him out openly and brazenly, with no need to fear Gongsun Tu and the others finding out. In fact, it might be even better if they did find out.”
Her smile was warm and sweet. She looked like a warm, sweet little fox.
Fu Hongxue looked at her. He suddenly understood her meaning. Admiration immediately appeared in his eyes.
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “The largest teahouse isn’t the ‘Heavenly Fragrance Teahouse’. It is the ‘Ascendant Immortal Teahouse’.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Hu Kun often goes there?”
Zhuo Yuzhen said, “He goes there every day, almost from dawn to dusk, because he opened the ‘Ascendant Immortal Teahouse’!”
After the sky darkened, Fu Hongxue left Zhuo Yuzhen and the children behind in the mountainside graveyard. How could he feel safe leaving them behind in such a ghastly, desolate, dark, terrifying place? Perhaps it was because that place was too dark, too desolate. There was definitely no one who would imagine them hiding there, and so he felt at ease.
Was he truly certain of this decision? No. But he definitely had to arrange many matters for them, so as to make sure they would live peacefully and happily. He knew that he definitely couldn’t always be by their side!
No person in the world could always be by the side of another person.
No matter how long people are with one another, in the end they will separate.
If it wasn’t separation caused by death, it would be separation in life.
He suddenly thought of Mingyue Xin.
He was forcing himself to be controlled this entire time, forcing himself not to think of her.
But on this unpopulated hillside, in this quiet, lonely night, the more one should not think of something, the more easy it was to think of it.
Thus, not only did he think of Mingyue Xin, he also thought of Yan Nanfei. He thought of how, when they parted, Mingyue Xin stared into his eyes. He also thought of the sound of Yan Nanfei’s dry, rough coughs, and his blood red sword.
Where were they now? Were they at the ends of the world, or in a furnace?
Fu Hongxue didn’t know!
He didn’t even know where he was. Was he in a furnace, or at the ends of the world?
He tightly gripped his sabre. He knew that this sabre was tempered from within a furnace!
Could it be that he himself was like a sabre being tempered within a furnace?