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A Deadly Secret

Chapter 4: Water Spinach

Chapter 4: Water Spinach

Ding Dian gave a sideways glance at the three men across from him and asked: “Brother Di, do you remember the four numbers I just recited?”

Di Yun observed as their three enemies surrounded him in a circle. One of them wielded a sabre and the other wielded a sword. The third was empty-handed, but his face was filled with hatred and aggression. Di Yun looked back and forth and did not answer Ding Dian’s question.

Ding Dian reiterated his question again in a louder tone: “Brother Di, do you remember it?”

Di Yun shivered and replied: “The first number is…” He wanted to say “4”, but then he thought: “If I say it out loud, won’t our enemies hear it?” So instead he raised his left hand and held up four fingers.

Ding Dian acknowledged: “Very good!”

The sabre-wielding man sneered: “The one with the surname Ding, you can be considered an honorable man. Now that we have made it this far, why must you insist on blabbering endlessly like an old effeminate? Quickly follow me and my brothers home so we don’t have to resort to violence.”

The sword-wielding man added: “Brother Di, we haven’t seen each other for many years. How have you been? How is the comfort of prison life?”

Di Yun was shocked, as the sound of this man’s voice was awfully familiar. He stared at the man and it came back to him instantly—it was the second disciple of Wan Zhenshan, Zhou Qi. He had not seen him for many years. Di Yun could not recognize him easily, as he now grew a small beard on his upper lip and wore decorous attire. The grief and indignation he suffered for so many years suddenly rushed to his thoughts and his face flushed red. “I know who you are. You are Zhou… Zhou… Second Brother Zhou!” He wanted to utter Zhou Qi’s name directly, but instead added the respectful title of “Second Brother” to his surname “Zhou”.

Ding Dian could emphasize with how Di Yun felt and shouted: “Good!” They were about to engage in a battle to the death, yet Di Yun was still able to withhold his anger and call him “Second Brother Zhou”, hence he thought the latter could not be a violent or disrespectful man.” Immediately he continued: “This respectful Second Senior Zhou must be a high ranking disciple under Elder Wan. Very good… very good. When did you become a guard under Magistrate Ling? Brother Di, allow me to introduce: this is ‘Ten Thousand Victory Sabre’ clan’s Ma Daming, Elder Ma. This man over here is from the ‘Taixing Clan in Shanxi, his name is ‘Twin Sabre’ Geng Tianba. It is said that his iron palms are as sharp as a sabre, hence his nickname of ‘Twin Sabre’. But the truth is that he actually never wields a weapon.”

Di Yun asked: “How are the martial arts of these two?”

Ding Dian replied: “They are third class pugilists. They wish to climb to second class. However, it is a hopeless endeavour.”

Di Yun asked: “And why is that?”

Ding Dian answered: “They are only a block of material. Their martial arts aptitude is low and they do not have a renowned martial artist to teach them.”

Di Yun continued to ask questions while Ding Dian replied, paying no attention to the people around them. Geng Tianba became impatient and yelled: “You straight mother-thief! You are near the verge of death yet you gossip unnecessarily. Taste my sabre!” When he said “sabre” he really meant his palm. Before he even finished talking his right palm was already unleashed.

Ding Dian’s poison had interrupted his flow for a while and prevented him from being able to exert his full strength, so he did not dare to attack head on and tried to dodge instead. Geng Tianba’s right palm came to nothing, so he took another shot with his left palm. Ding Dian recognized that this technique was the “Changed Momentum Palm”, and hastily turned his hands over to resolve it. But the palm was already unleashed, and the force and momentum was to be reckoned with. With a loud bang, his under arm was hit by Geng Tianba’s right palm. Ding Dian’s body swayed and he spat out a mouthful of fresh blood. Geng Tianba laughed: “What’s the matter? If I am third class, what class are you?”

Ding Dian took a deep breath, then suddenly his internal began to unclog. It turns out that the poison of the “Golden Ripple Flower” had entered his bloodstream and his blood gradually began to coagulate. It flowed slower and slower. Although he had just spat out a mouthful of blood and his internal injuries were not weak, nonetheless the poison in his body came to a temporary halt. He felt pleased and immediately went forward to extend his palm to repel Geng Tianba. Geng Tianba raised his arm and blocked horizontally. Ding Dian made a circular motion with his left hand, and with a loud bang, he slapped Geng Tianba hard on the face. His right hand then followed in a circular motion and hit the top of his opponent’s head with a hard backhand. Geng Tianba yelled out “Aiya!” and rapidly moved backwards. Ding Dian continued to attack as he swiftly extended his right hand and hit Geng Tianba hard on the chest. Geng Tianba yelled out another “Aiya!” and moved back two steps.

Ding Dian’s three palms were filled with the energies of the Heavenly Glow and any single palm could have been enough to instantly kill any first class fighter. However, it was only because Geng Tianba’s external arts were formidable—his internal energy was not impressive—that he was actually able to withstand three palms without collapsing. Ding Dian knew that his death was imminent. Even though he was a man of dignity, and he was already determined to die in the name of love, at this moment he felt like he had no other alternative. He felt like a hero reaching a dead end and he could not help but feel depressed and dejected.

Geng Tianba had been hit by three palm strikes and as such he was startled and began to lose colour. He could feel immense pain on his face, chest, and top of his head. He thought that those three areas were all vital parts of the body. As he did not know how much damage he suffered, he could not help but worry.

Ma Daming gave a glance at Zhou Qi and said: “Brother Zhou, we will fight alongside each other!”

Zhou Qi replied: “Right!” He knew that he was no match for Di Yun, but he had a sword in hand while his opponent was empty-handed. Furthermore, his opponent had lost all the fingers in his right hand and his scapula was broken by iron chains. Even if his martial arts were more profound, he should not be able to unleash it. So he confidently aimed his sword and attacked Di Yun.

Ding Dian knew that Di Yun had not yet completed his training of Heavenly Glow, and at this moment his martial arts was still distant from what he was before he entered prison. To fight bare-handed against Zhou Qi would be losing his life in vain. Immediately, Ding Dian swayed his body and with his left hand he snatched Zhou Qi’s sword. This stance was executed with remarkable speed and was clearly outstanding, as Zhou Qi did not even notice as Ding Dian tapped the pulse on his right arm with the three fingers on his left hand. Zhou Qi became alarmed, as he knew that he had no choice but to let go of the weapon for the fear of losing his life. However, he did not know that the acupoint on his pulse unexpectedly went out of control. At once he swung his long sword backwards and aimed at Ding Dian’s chest. Ding Dian swayed his body and dodged and let out a deep sigh.

Ma Daming saw the battle engaged between Ding Dian, Geng Tianba and Zhou Qi. He saw that his comrades had twice gained the upper hand but did not manage to convert it to victory, and his mind began to ponder the reasoning. “Magistrate Ling said that Ding Dian was poisoned; it must be that the poison caused his strength to decrease substantially.” Geng Tianba saw that Ding Dian’s attempt at snatching the sword fell within the sight of success and he knew that his internal energy was insufficient at this moment. He thought: “The one with the surname Ding has such impressive stances, it is truly a case of the tiger falling in Pingyang[1] … no! His mother! The tiger that falls in Pingyang suffers against the dog: if I compare this prisoner to a tiger, wouldn’t that mean that I’m comparing myself to a dog?” The two of them shared the same thoughts and together they attacked Ding Dian.

Di Yun offered his assistance to Ding Dian, but the latter pushed his shoulder back gently and said: “Brother Di, please step back.” He stretched forward his left hand and grabbed Ma Daming by the neck. However, this grab only had an average amount of internal energy supporting it, so he squeezed his fingers tightly around his opponent’s vulnerable areas, hoping to take his life at any cost. Ma Daming was so scared he felt as if his soul left his body; he scurried off right away.

Ding Dian let out an obscure sigh, for he knew that his own internal energy was getting weaker and weaker. However, as his abilities were still far above that of his opponents, he could continue to hold them off for a short while. If he does not tell “A Deadly Secret” to Di Yun soon, then this secret will soon vanish from the face of the earth forever, and that would be such a pity. He said: “Brother Di, listen to me. Hide behind me and do not care about our enemies, only focus on remembering my mnemonics. This matter is extremely important and we must succeed at any cost. This is precisely the reason how your Brother Ding got to where he is today.

Di Yun complied and moved behind Ding Dian.

Ding Dian continued: “The fifth number is ‘18’…”

Ma Daming knew that Magistrate Ling issued an order for a search and arrest of Ding Dian. The reason for that was to uncover a martial arts secret that he knew, and so Zhou Qi became a guard under Ling Tuisi both for fame and fortune. He was under orders from his teacher to secretly investigate on “A Deadly Secret”. At this moment, when the two of them heard that Ding Dian said the fifth number was “18”, they became greatly intrigued and remembered it. They listened as Ding Dian continued to speak: “The sixth number is ‘7.’” Ma Daming, Zhou Qi, and Di Yun all listened well and remembered these numbers.

Geng Tianba was only under orders to apprehend Ding Dian and was unaware of anything else. He saw Zhou Qi and Ma Daming both paid close attention as they listened to the numbers “17” and “18”. He thought that Ding Dian was just mindlessly mumbling some sort of incantation. He shouted aloud: “Hey, don’t fall for his tricks!” and extended his hands to attack Ding Dian, but he was cautious as he knew that his opponent was formidable, so after one strike he backed off and did not dare to continue.

Ding Dian lost his stability and stroke forward with his legs. Ma Daming aimed his blade at Ding Dian’s shoulders. Ding Dian could only see darkness in front of him and did not know how to evade. Di Yun felt nervous as he watched. In such a desperate situation he did not know how to save Ding Dian, so he rammed his head towards Ma Daming’s chest.

Ding Dian felt faint for a moment. When he opened his eyes again he saw Di Yun and Ma Daming struggling with each other, while Zhou Qi released his sword intending to attack Di Yun from behind. Ding Dian quickly extended his left hand and two fingers and aimed at Zhou Qi’s eyes. Because he knew he was weak, he had to attack a soft spot in order to injure his adversary. Zhou Qi did not have the time to attack, and evaded to the left. Conveniently, Ma Daming attacked Di Yun’s head with his blade at the same time, and knocked him unconscious on the ground. Ding Dian shouted: “Brother Di, the seventh number is…” Before he could say anything, he had to catch his breath as Geng Tianba came at him with another palm. Ding Dian shook his head as he could see a white flash in front. Ma Daming and Zhou Qi were charging at him at the same time. Ding Dian’s body shook violently and he gasped in pain as he was stabbed by their sword and blade at once.

Di Yun screamed violently and rushed in to reinforce. As Ding Dian was gushing out blood, the poison in his system weakened briefly and he took advantage of this: with one palm he smashed Ma Daming’s left cheek, then followed through and his hand over to smash Zhou Qi with his palm. Originally, this palm was certainly going to hit Zhou Qi, but unexpectedly, Geng Tianba threw himself in front and yelled, he blocked Ding Dian’s palm with his chest. The force of this palm was enough to break all his ribs at once and he fell unconscious.

With the remainder of his strength, Ding Dian released another two palm strikes at Ma Daming, and the latter died instantly. Geng Tianba’s breathing slowly fainted. The only one who did not sustain any injuries was Zhou Qi. He grabbed his sword with his left hand and faked it at Ding Dian’s direction, then followed by aiming at Di Yun. Ding Dian pushed himself forward and hugged Zhou Qi tightly with both his arms and shouted: “Brother Di, leave quickly!” Zhou Qi stabbed into Ding Dian’s flesh several inches.

However, Di Yun was not inclined to leave alone. He threw himself at Zhou Qi’s back and choked him and said: “Let go of Brother Ding!” However, he did not realize that it was Ding Dian who got a hold of his opponent, and thought that it was Zhou Qi who did not want to release Brother Ding.

Ding Dian was slowly running out of breathe and he could not keep hold of his enemy much longer. Should he let his opponent draw his long sword and break out of his grip, Di Yun would most certainly die. He shouted: “Brother Di, do not worry about me, I won’t make it!”

Di Yun replied: “If you die, we will die together!” As he said that, he exerted all his strength to choke Zhou Qi. However, because his shoulders were previously pierced by the scapula, his muscles sustained severe damage. No matter how hard he tried, he could not make his opponent suffocate.

Ding Dian said: “My good brother, you are very honorable… I do not regret making friends with you. In regards to the sword manual… it is unfortunate I could not reiterate it fully. I am very happy… ‘Spring Water Jade Ripple’ … that basket of green chrysanthemums… ah! She placed it by the window… look at how beautiful it is… that chrysanthemum…” His voice slowly dissipated, the color of his face gradually faded, and he let go of his hold on Zhou Qi. Zhou Qi used his strength and pulled the long sword out of Ding Dian’s flesh. The edge of the blade was full of fresh blood and he quickly turned around. He was within a foot of Di Yun; he laughed maliciously and, holding his sword in his hand, aimed to stab at Di Yun’s chest.

Di Yun shouted loudly: “Brother Ding! Brother Ding!” Suddenly, his chest felt a sharp pain. He looked down and saw Zhou Qi’s long sword pointing at his chest. He heard the complacent laugh of his opponent: “Haha! Haha!”

At this moment, his mind reflected on the numerous events of his life. He remembered practicing under his master’s tutelage, he remembered his good relationship with his martial sister Qi, and how that was closely followed by the injustice he received at Wan Zhenshan’s residence and the miserable five years he spent in prison. All these various incidents came to his mind at once. Full of grief and indignation, he uttered: “I… I will take you down with me!” and extended his arms to grab Zhou Qi’s garment. Although he had not completed his training of the Heavenly Glow, he did have two years of foundation. At this moment he knew that he would soon perish, and gathered all the energy in his body to his arm, and strangled his opponent with all his might, like a pair of iron chains. Zhou Qi felt his breathing become urgent and tried to pull away, but to no avail.

Di Yun felt his increasing pain in his chest but he did not care. He used his full strength and squeezed on Zhou Qi. Whether or not he wanted to strangle his opponent to death at this moment, he did not even know, but he would definitely not release his grip on Zhou Qi. Although the long sword did not stab him further, it apparently met something that it could not pierce, and the blade actually gradually began to arch, bending slowly. Zhou Qi became worried and felt strange, he was exerting all his strength on his right arm to pull out his sword. He had intended to stab Di Yun with his long sword, but he still had another half an inch to go but the sword would not budge.

Di Yun’s eyes were filled with rage as he gazed at Zhou Qi, whose face was filled with cruelty and complacence. But it slowly became an expression of astound and fright, then gradually, it became an expression of fear and worry, before degenerating into an expression of indescribable horror.

Zhou Qi had already pierced through Di Yun, but it only pierced his flesh several inches and did not manage to cause any critical damage. He tried three times to use the inner strength in his right arm to attack Di Yun, but he still could not pierce his blade any further. Under great fright, he no longer cared about killing his opponent, he only wanted to escape. However, Di Yun’s grip on him was too strong and he could not get away.

Zhou Qi felt his right arm begin to bend, his sword hilt pressed against his own chest. The blade became increasingly curved and formed a half-circle. Suddenly, with a loud clap, the sword broke in half. Zhou Qi shouted, moved a few steps backwards and fell over himself. The two pieces of the broken sword stabbed into his stomach.

Zhou Qi fell down, causing Di Yun to fall down on top of him, while still maintaining his grip on his body with both arms. Di Yun could smell the strong scent of blood. He looked and saw tears flowing from Zhou Qi’s eyes, followed by fresh blood flowing out from his mouth, his head facing the side. Zhou Qi was completely motionless.

Di Yun was shocked; he was worried that his opponent was feigning death, so he did not dare to release his grip. However, as he felt that the pain in his chest had stopped and saw that blood was continuously flowing from Zhou Qi’s mouth, he reluctantly released his arms and stood up. He saw that two parts of the broken sword were stabbed into Zhou Qi’s stomach, only the sword hilt and edge of the sword was visible. He looked lower at his own chest and saw his outer garment was pierced and revealed the layer of black colored undergarment.

He looked at the sword wounds of Zhou Qi a few times, and looked at the wounds on his chest, and suddenly came to a conclusion: it turns out that it was the dark silkworm vest that saved his life, and consequently helped him kill his enemy. Di Yun panicked and instantly turned around and ran towards the side of Ding Dian. “Brother Ding… Brother Ding… how do you feel?” Ding Dian slowly opened his eyes, but there was no vigor or spirit in his expression. It was as if he did not even see him, or did not remember who he was. Di Yun continued: “Brother Ding… I said I will save you no matter the cost.”

Ding Dian replied softly: “Unfortunately… unfortunately the sword manual… from this point on… it will vanish… join me with… Shuanghua…”

Di Yun exclaimed: “Don’t worry! I remember… I will definitely bury you and Shuanghua together, in order to fulfill your wish.”

Ding Dian slowly closed his shut, his breathing became faint, but his lips were still moving as if he had something more to say. Di Yun put his ears by Ding Dian’s lips and vaguely heard him whisper, “The eleventh number…” but at that point there was no longer any noise; Di Yun could no longer feel Ding Dian’s breath by his ears. He extended his hand to feel Ding Dian’s chest, but there was no more heartbeat.

Di Yun already knew that Ding Dian was unlikely to survive, but it had to happen for him to truly understand that the friend he had for so many years had finally passed away. He knelt beside Ding Dian’s body and breathed constantly into his mouth. In his mind he continuously prayed: “Heaven, Heaven, if you let Brother Ding come back to life, I am willing to return to prison and never come out again. I am willing to forget about revenge… I am willing to be forever humiliated by the Wan clan’s students. Heaven… please… please let Brother Ding come back to life…” He felt with his hands that Ding Dian’s hands became stiffer as his internal temperature decreased, and realized that all of his wishes were fruitless.

At this moment, he felt inexpressible loneliness: he felt that the carefree and leisurely nature of the outside world was many times more dreadful than the prison cell, that the coming days would only be more and more difficult. He wished that he and Ding Dian could return to their prison cells and never step foot outside again. He hugged Ding Dian’s corpse and stood up, the thoughts of vast and limitless suffering and sorrow came surging to his head. He let out a very loud cry, a cry that he could no longer hold back, a cry that he no longer wished to hold back. He did not consider the possibility that such a loud cry would lure soldiers to him, nor did he consider that he could ever cry so pitifully. He only knew that he could no longer suppress the sorrow in his heart, that he could no longer suppress his cry.

When his tears dried up and his loud cries of sorrow became soft and quiet sobs, his mind became clearer, and he began to ponder: “What should I do with Brother Ding’s body? How will I bury him together with Lady Ling’s coffin?” At this point in time, there was nothing more important to him than fulfilling his promise to Ding Dian.

All of a sudden, the neighing sounds of horses were heard from the distance; about a dozen horses altogether. He heard someone remark: “Elder Ma, Elder Geng, Second Elder Zhou, have you found the escapists yet?” There were a dozen or so horses parked outside the abandoned garden.

One of the riders said: “Come have a look!”

Another said: “They won’t hide in a place like this.”

The first person replied: “How would you know?” This person dismounted his horse, his boots gnashing against the ground.

Di Yun did not want to think further. He carried Ding Dian’s body and exited through the abandoned garden’s side door. He was about to come across another door when he heard the exclamations and shouts of the riders who discovered the bodies of Ma Daming, Geng Tianba, and Zhou Qi.

Di Yun was moving around violently in Jiangling. He knew that he could not get very far while carrying Ding Dian’s body, and he knew that someone could find him at any time. But he would rather be captured, rather be tortured cruelly—he would rather be executed instantly—than abandon Brother Ding.

He ran for several hundred feet and saw on his left hand side a ramp that led to a small door; he kicked the door open and went in. What he saw inside was an enormous vegetable garden, filled with carrots, eggplants, and many other vegetables. He had been close to agriculture since childhood, but he had been separated from these fruits and vegetables for five years. Upon seeing these again, he could not help but feel a warm and intimate feeling in his heart.

He looked around all four directions, and saw on the northeast corner was a building used for firewood. Through the window he could see the pinewoods and straws that filled the room. He bent over and picked up a few carrots, then carried Ding Dian’s body into the room. He listened closely and could hear no noise around him, so he pushed the firewood aside and placed the corpse down carefully, discreetly covering it with straws. In his mind, he was still hoping: “Who can say for sure? Maybe Brother Ding will suddenly wake up.”

He peeled the skin off the carrot and took a big bite. The taste of raw carrots were sweet and spicy, the juice flowing down his throat. For five years he had not eaten a carrot. He reminisced the days of Hunan in the countryside. He could not even count how many times he and his martial sister Qi would pull out carrots in the open fields and eat them together.

He took another bite of the carrot, eating one after another. His eyes began to feel a bit moist. Suddenly, from the distance he could hear a voice. His whole body began to tremble, the remaining half of the carrot he was holding in his hand dropped to the ground. The whiteness of the carrot became contaminated with the straw fragments and dirt of the ground.

He could hear a melodious and fragile noise, calling out, “Water Spinach, Water Spinach, where are you?”

At that point he wanted to exclaim, “I’m here!” But he only uttered the word “I” halfway before he choked and swallowed it down his throat. He covered his mouth with his hands and his body trembled slightly.

This is because “Water Spinach” is his nickname. In this world, only he and his martial sister Qi knew of it—even their teacher did not know. Qi Fang told him that he was slow; honest but lacked creativity. Apart from training in martial arts, he did not know or care about anything else. She said that his heart was as hollow as a water spinach.

Di Yun chuckled slightly; he adored the “Water Spinach” nickname given to him. Every time he heard the name “Water Spinach”, his heart would fill with intense warmth and sweetness. This is because when a third person was at the scene, his martial sister would never call him by such a name. If she was calling him “Water Spinach”, that means the two of them are alone together.

When they are together, regardless of whether she was happy or sad, Di Yun felt a kind of happiness that he could not express in words. Indeed, he was a slow person who wasn’t good with words. Sometimes his expressions of slowness would cause Qi Fang to be mad, but when she called him “Water Spinach”, the two of them could not help but burst into laughter.

He remembered the time when Bu Yuan was at their teacher’s residence to deliver a message, his martial sister cooked to serve the guests. Among the foods there were chicken and fish, carrots and tofu, and a big bowl of water spinach. That night, when Bu Yuan and his teacher were drinking and discussing the recent events of the martial world, in a daze he incidentally saw Qi Fang. He saw her hold a water spinach with her chopsticks and placed it near her mouth, yet not eating it. She used her soft red lips to gently make contact with the water spinach; her eyes filled with delight. She was not intending to eat the water spinach, but rather kissing the several strips of spinach. At that time Di Yun thought: “Martial sister is happy that I am Water Spinach.”

Now in the firewood room, in his mind suddenly came a flashbulb moment; he realized the intent of her kissing the water spinach. The voice calling for “Water Spinach” sounded very much like the voice of his martial sister Qi, this much he knew. He was certain that it was not his own hallucination that caused his misjudgment.

“Water Spinach, Water Spinach, where are you?” The sound of this voice embodied a great amount of tenderness and exorbitant love. No, not only that; when martial sister Qi used to call him by this name, her voice was not only filled with friendship, intimacy, and relations, it also contained traces of willfulness, annoyance, and condemnation. Yet today’s voice of “Water Spinach” was completely filled with a deep sense of love. “She must know that I have suffered an unspeakable amount of misery and suffering throughout these years, that’s why she’s treating me nicer. That must be it.”

However, he did not dare to trust what he heard: “I am dreaming, why would martial sister be here? She has already married Wan Gui, why would she be looking for me?”

However, the voice called out again and again, each time getting louder as it approached closer: “Water Spinach, where are you hiding? You think I can’t catch you?” The voice was still filled with love and tenderness.

Di Yun began to feel all the veins in his body pop up; he began to feel short on breathe and he could not hold it anymore, his palms were filled with sweat. He got up, hid behind the straws, and peaked through the window to look outside. He saw a girl with her back turned against him, trying to look for someone. Without a doubt—with her slim shoulders and tender waists, her slightly tall but thin stature—it was definitely his martial sister.

He heard her say, “Water Spinach, why don’t you come out?” Suddenly, she turned around.

Di Yun could not believe what he was seeing. He felt a little faint. The woman in front of him was indeed Qi Fang. The jet-black yet shiny pupils, the slightly elevated nose… her face was whiter than before—unlike the rosy-color she had back at Hunan in the countryside—but this was indeed his martial sister. It was certainly his martial sister, the one he longed for in prison for so many years, the one he loved from an unreachable distance, the one he was angry at.

Her face still contained laughter as she said: “Water Spinach, will you come out now?”

When he heard this welcoming and adoring voice calling for him, he was exulted beyond control. He wanted to answer to this call, he wanted to once again see the martial sister he was thinking and longing of all this time, but when he took the first step, he remembered: “Brother Ding always told me that my honesty and honour made it too easy for me to fall into other people’s traps. Martial sister has already married the son of the Wan family, and today Zhou Qi died by my hands, how do I know she is not trying to lure me out of hiding?” As he pondered further, he did not take another step.

But he heard Qi Fang shout again: “Water Spinach, Water Spinach!” Di Yun was in a state of confusion, he thought: “The way she utters these words is filled with deep love and admiration, it is definitely not fake. Furthermore, even if she wants to take my life, I am willing to die by her hands. He decided to abandon his earlier thoughts and took a second step forward, when suddenly he heard the crisp voice of a little girl who said: “Mama, mama, I am over here!”

Di Yun was shocked; he peeked through the window sill. He saw a girl dressed in bright red approaching from the east. She was young, so her steps were careless and her movements were unstable. He heard the gentle voice of Qi Fang said: “Water Spinach, where are you hiding? Mama can’t find you.”

The little girl replied: “Water Spinach is at the garden, Water Spinach is looking at ants!”

Di Yun’s ears felt as if he heard a really sharp noise, his heart felt as if it was hit by a fist with all its might. “Is it really true that martial sister gave birth to a daughter? And she called her daughter ‘Water Spinach’? When she called for ‘Water Spinach’ she was really calling for her daughter, and not me?” Was it really the case that I stepped into the Wan residence by sheer coincidence?”

In all these years, deep in his heart he always had a wish. He hoped that one day he would discover that his martial sister did not actually marry Wan Gui, that Shen Cheng was lying to him the whole time. He never dared to tell this wish to Ding Dian, and only buried it deep inside his heart. Sometimes he would dream of this in the middle of the night, only to wake up with his heart pounding at an alarming rate. But at this point, he finally saw it with his own eyes and ears, this little girl calling her “mama”.

His vision became blurred by the tears in his eyes and he could barely make out what was happening through the window. He saw Qi Fang crouched on the ground with her arms open wide. The girl laughed as she was being embraced. Qi Fang kissed the little girl on the cheek, smiled and softly said: “Water Spinach will play by herself now, such a good girl!”

Di Yun could only see the side of Qi Fang’s face. He could see her thin and lengthy eyebrows and the curvature of her lips. Her cheeks were fuller and whiter than it was several years ago. Di Yun felt a sense of bitterness inside his heart and thought: “These last few years she has become the woman of the Wan family, naturally she no longer needs to farm by the countryside, no longer needs to be scorched and drenched by the sun and rain, of course she would be healthier and well.”

He heard Qi Fang say: “Water Spinach, don’t play anymore. Follow mama to your room.”

The little girl replied: “It’s fun here, Water Spinach wants to watch the ants.”

Qi Fang said: “No, today there are bad people outside, looking to kidnap children. Water Spinach is better off returning to her room.”

The little girl asked: “What bad people? Why would they kidnap little children?”

Qi Fang got up and grabbed the little girl by her hand and said: “Two escaped convicts escaped from prison and they are very, very bad people. Your papa went to catch these bad people. If these bad people come in, they will kidnap Water Spinach. Water Spinach, please listen to mama and go play in your room. Mama will make a doll for you, okay?” 𝐢𝗻𝑛𝓇𝚎𝚊𝘥. 𝙘o𝓂

But the little girl was hesitant, and said: “Don’t want a doll, Water Spinach wants to help papa catch bad people.”

When Di Yun heard Qi Fang call himself a “bad person”, his heart sank even deeper. At this precise moment, there were sounds of several horses approaching. Qi Fang pulled out her long sword from the sheath on her waist and went to the door of the backyard. Di Yun remained by the window and did not dare to move, for he was afraid to make noise and shock Qi Fang. No matter what he should not see his martial sister again, his heart was filled with grief and indignation that was hard for him to suppress. He had never done anything wrong, yet for no reason he received some of the greatness suffering in this world. She even declared him a “bad person”.

Di Yun saw the little girl approach the front door of the firewood room. He hoped that she would not enter the room, but the little girl for some reason unexpectedly stepped foot into the room. Di Yun hid his face amongst the straws at the back, and said to himself: “Get out! Get out!”

Suddenly, the little girl saw him. She sneaked a brief glance at his face: the facial hair that covered his face made for a frightening appearance. She was so startled she had a blank expression and her eyes were fully wide open. She wanted to cry out but did not dare to.

Di Yun knew he was in trouble, for if the little girl were to cry, he would definitely be discovered by Qi Fang. In an instant he reached forward and grabbed the little girl with his left hand, and with his right hand he covered her mouth. However, he was too slow, as the girl managed the utter an “Ah” and let out a cry. But her cry was cut half way by Di Yun when he grabbed her.

Although Qi Fang kept her attention at the outskirts of the garden, she heard the sound of the little girl’s cry and immediately turned around, but the girl was nowhere to be seen. Then as she heard the slight rustling sound of straws in the firewood room, she immediately made two big strides forward into the firewood room and saw that a man covered with fluffy facial hair and blood stains had captured her daughter, covering her mouth with one hand.

Qi Fang was so shocked that for a second she felt as if she lost her soul. Immediately, she released her long sword, aimed it at Di Yun and scolded: “Release the girl at once!”

Di Yun felt more bitterness in his heart, as if he had abandoned himself in despair. He thought: “If you want to kill me, then go ahead!” He saw her long sword approaching him but did not dodge.

Qi Fang was stunned and was afraid that she would hurt her own daughter, so she retracted her long sword. Then she repeated: “Let go of my daughter!”

Di Yun listened as she kept on demanding him to release her daughter, without any regards to their past relationship. In a fit of rage, he refused to let go of the girl, and conveniently picked up a long wooden stick amongst the wooden branches. He used it to hit the long sword of Qi Fang, then backed away one step.

As Qi Fang saw that the violent man would not release her daughter, she became more and more frightened and anxious; both her knees started to feel limp and weak. She took a deep breath and attacked Di Yun, aiming to pierce his right shoulder. Di Yun dodged the attack by moving his body, and with his right hand he wielded the wooden stick as his sword. He aimed downwards from his right shoulder and stabbed backwards.

Qi Fang was perplexed, for she felt this stance was awfully familiar. It was indeed her father’s stance of “Brother Weng Shouts Up”. However, at that moment she did not think too much of it. She lowered her head to dodge, and with her long sword executed the two stances “The Tiger’s Rapid Kick Alarms the Wind”, and “The Mountain Escapes Like a Cloth”.

The firewood room was actually very narrow and small; it was further piled up by stacks of firewood and straws. The remaining space was barely enough room for two people to cycle around, so when these stances were executed, it felt a bit unnatural and hindered.

Since they were young, Di Yun and Qi Fang had been practicing swords under the same teacher. There was not a single day where they wouldn’t be practicing swords; so naturally, these stances were executed thoroughly and without error. Upon seeing these two stances, Di Yun naturally followed through with what their teacher had taught them. He executed the stances “Falling Mud Welcomes Big Sister” and “The Horse Blows a Little Wind”. The wooden stick spread widely around the room as performed these stances.

Back in the days when these two martial siblings were practicing swords, this would be the point where Qi Fang could no longer endure. But this time when Di Yun scraped the wooden stick around the third time, his wrist felt an immense pain, and with a loud clap, the wooden stick fell on the floor. He was shocked, but then he immediately realized: “The fingers on my right hand have been sliced clean; I should never be able to wield a sword again, how can I forget?”

When he lifted his head up, he saw Qi Fang’s long sword was aimed directly within an inch of his chest. The blade of the sword did not tremble in the least, her expression shocked and dumbfounded, it was truly hard to describe. The two stared at each other intently for a very long time and neither uttered a single word. Finally, Qi Fang broke the silence and said: “Is… is it you?” Her voice sounded hoarse and astringent.

Di Yun nodded in reply, and handed over the little girl that he was holding with his left arm. Qi Fang dropped her long sword and rushed to hug the little girl, she did not know what to say. The little girl was so scared that she could not even cry. She buried her face in her mother’s embrace and no longer dared to look at Di Yun. Qi Fang said: “I… I didn’t know it was you. All these years…”

Suddenly, from outside came the loud voice of a man who shouted: “Fang’mei, Fang’mei! Where are you?” It was Wan Gui, the sound of his shouts getting more intense as he approached the direction of the vegetable garden. Qi Fang’s face instantly changed color, then she told her daughter, “Water Spinach, this uncle is not a bad person. Don’t tell your papa, okay?”

The little girl lifted her head and gave a sideways glance at Di Yun. She saw his frightening appearance and expression, and suddenly uttered a “wah” and began to cry. The man outside heard the sound of the girl’s cry, and said: “Water Spinach, don’t cry. Papa is here!”

Qi Fang gave Di Yun a look then turned around and began to walk away. She carried her daughter in her arms and pushed open the front door. Di Yun was stunned and stood there motionless. It felt as if there was a noise inside his head constantly telling him, “I might as well die, I might as well die!”

He heard the sound of the man outside, who asked: “Why is Water Spinach crying?” Di Yun wanted to move over to the window to take a look; he wanted to know what Wan Gui looks like now, but he felt as if his legs were nailed to the floor and he could not make another step.

He heard Qi Fang’s cheerful voice as she said: “I was playing with Water Spinach at the back when two horses passed through. The men on horseback wielded sharp weapons and looked extremely vicious. Water Spinach said they were bad people that wanted to kidnap her. She was so afraid she started to cry.”

Wan Gui laughed: “Those were the escaped convicts from the prefecture. Come, papa will hug Water Spinach. Papa has killed the bad people. Water Spinach does not need to be afraid. Papa has killed each and every bad person.”

Di Yun was startled. He thought: “A woman’s ability to tell lies is impressive. With the way she said it, even if the little girl claims she saw a bad person, her husband would not be suspicious. Hmph, why do I need you to lie for me? Go ahead and come get me, kill me if you want.”

He took two steps and looked out the window. He saw Wan Gui dressed in gorgeous attire, carrying the little girl and walking away. Qi Fang too leaned on his shoulders, the appearance of an affectionate family.

His martial sister has already married Wan Gui. In the past, Di Yun had considered this possibility many thousand times, but had always hoped that it wasn’t true. But at this moment, he saw this intimate family all with his very own eyes. He opened his mouth to utter “I…”, then he bent over to pick up the long sword that Qi Fang had left behind. He wanted to rush outside and engage in a duel to the death with Wan Gui. The time he spent in prison—the time he spent suffering endless injustices and miseries—was all because of this wicked man who framed him. Furthermore, the one he loved more than his own life had now become the wife of this man. At this point he no longer had any desires. Either he would go ahead and kill this man, or he would die by his blade.

But when he turned his body and bent over, he saw amidst the firewood and straws laid Ding Dian’s body. He saw Ding Dian’s eyes closed shut; the expression on his face appeared serene. He suddenly remembered: “Before he died, Brother Ding repeatedly told me to bury him together with Lady Ling. Even if I were to perish in a battle against Wan Gui, my life is not worth mentioning, but Brother Ding’s final wish would not be fulfilled.” And then he thought further: “I could beg martial sister to complete this task for me, she may be able to do it… bah! Di Yun, you insolent fool, the task you refuse to undertake on your own, you would rather let someone else do it for you? If you die now, how can you have any face to see your Brother Ding? Even if martial sister had a guilty conscience, she would still fulfill this task for you.” He thought more about it, and eventually was able to slowly suppress his desire for revenge.

However, the word “I” he uttered earlier had already caught the attention of Wan Gui, who remarked: “It sounds like there may be someone in that room.”

Qi Fang replied: “Is that so? Just a moment ago I saw Old Wang go in to move the firewood. Gui’ge, I stewed some bird’s nest soup for you, why don’t you go and eat it? Besides, Water Spinach is still crying endlessly, we should let her get some good rest.”

Wan Gui groaned and said: “The one in the room is really the chef Old Wang?” He continued to walk down the path with his daughter and wife.

Di Yun’s mind was dazed and empty, he did not know what to think. After a very long time, he scratched his head and thought: “I cannot hide in this room for very long. If the chef by the name of Old Wang really does come, then what will I do? I should secretly hide Brother Ding and then sneak out myself. When night falls, I will come back to retrieve Brother Ding’s body. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.”

However, he only took one step when his thoughts in his mind stopped him further. “Martial sister will certainly come back for me, if I leave now, I may never see her again.” “What good is it if I see her again? She has a husband and a daughter, they are one happy family. Why would she care about a heartless criminal like myself? If I see her again, wouldn’t I simply be inviting a rebuff?” “Hah, for so many years in prison, day and night I have been longing to see her just once, so how can I forfeit this opportunity today? Do I have any other wishes? Maybe I can ask her how our teacher is doing? I want to ask her, how can she like the new and hate the old, after I suffered repeated tragedies, how can she no longer care for me?” “What’s the point of me asking anyway? She won’t tell any lies, and only speak the truth. But even if she does lie, what does it matter? If she speaks the truth, I will only be hurt even more.”

His thoughts went back and forth consistently for some time. At once he wanted to leave, but he could not fully make up his mind. He was usually a straightforward person and definitely not the type who could not settle with a decision. Yet today he when he was faced with the greatest decision in his life, he did not know what to decide. He knew the risks of staying, but also knew that he would regret leaving.

As he continued to contemplate in his mind, he suddenly heard faint footsteps in the garden. This person seemed to be tiptoeing quietly. Every few steps that were taken, this person would stop before moving another few steps. This person’s movements were obvious extremely cautious as if afraid to be discovered.

As this person approached closer and closer, Di Yun’s heart beat faster and faster. He thought: “Martial sister has finally come back for me. But what does she want to say to me? Does she want to beg for my forgiveness? Perhaps she still cherishes our past relationship?” Then he thought further, “What do I have to say to her? Sigh, forget it. Forget it. She has a good husband, a good daughter, she is living a very happy life. I never want to see her again.”

All of a sudden, his heart was filled with desires of revenge. He felt ice-cold. “Originally I was just some poor folk in the countryside, supposing if I did not receive any injustice, martial sister and I would become husband and wife. Although I would be very happy, martial sister would spend the rest of her life working and exhausted, what good is that for her? If I want revenge, do I have to kill Wan Gui? Martial sister would become a widow, how can she marry me? How can she marry the one who killed her husband? For a long time she has already forgotten about me. In the past I could not compare to Wan Gui. Today, the difference is that of heaven and earth. I should forget about revenge and forget everything that’s happened. I should let their family of husband and wife and daughter live happily ever after.”

After he thought up to this point, he decided that he no longer wished to speak with Qi Fang. He turned around and reached for Ding Dian’s body when suddenly, with a ferocious roar and a loud bang, the door was kicked open. Di Yun was completely taken aback. He turned around and saw the reflection of a long sword wielded by a tall but thin man standing by the door—it was none other than Wan Gui. Di Yun took a deep breathe, then he leaned over to grab the long sword that Qi Fang had left behind.

Wan Gui appeared to be very furious. He had already known about Di Yun escaping from prison and had been feeling ill-at-ease for the whole day; now when he saw that the sword Di Yun was holding belonged to Qi Fang, he felt jealous and angry at the same time. He spoke coldly: “Hah! Meeting up in the firewood room, she even gave you her weapon. Planning to kill her own husband? I’m afraid it won’t be so easy!”

Di Yun’s thoughts were all over the place, and for a moment he did not understand what Wan Gui was saying. He thought: “Why did he come? How did he know that I’m here? Naturally, it must have been Qi Fang who told him this, telling her husband to arrest me in order to claim the rewards. How can she be so cold and heartless?”

Wan Gui saw that Di Yun did not respond, and knew that he was scared, and aimed at his chest with his long sword. Di Yun blocked with his sword, and naturally executed the stance that the old beggar taught him many years ago, “Stabbing Throat Stance”.In an instant the long sword was pointing at Wan Gui’s throat. This technique was extremely strange. In the past, Wan Gui was unable to counter this stance; now after five years, even though his martial arts has seen significant improvement, he was still unable to counter this stance.

Wan Gui was so stunned that he did not know what to do with the long sword in his hand. He would not have enough time to counter, and if he made the slightest move his opponent would have seized him at once. At this point, his life was at mercy of his opponent. He was extremely furious at this outcome and did not dare to make the slightest move. As he looked at Di Yun’s face full of dirt and facial hair, his expression of hate gradually became fear.

Di Yun was hesitant to strike him with his sword, thinking to himself: “Should I kill him or not?”

Wan Gui saw the hesitation and perplexity in Di Yun’s face. In a moment of desperation, the sword on his wrist began to tremble slightly. Suddenly, he came up with an idea and shouted: “Qi Fang, you have come!”

Di Yun heard him yell out Qi Fang loudly, and his heart was startled. He turned his head slightly to look at the side. He did not realize that he had fallen into Wan Gui’s trap. As soon as Di Yun turned his head, Wan Gui immediately lifted up his long sword and countered. Because the fingers on Di Yun’s right hand had been sliced clean, he could not maintain a good grip of his sword. As such, his sword fell out of his hands. Wan Gui was excited at this turn of events and immediately stroke forward with his sword. Di Yun dodged a few blows, and retreated to the pile of wood. He picked up one of the pieces of hard firewood in the pile and used it as a weapon and began to attack. Wan Gui too attacked, and the two weapons clashed, causing a piece of the wooden stick to be hacked off. Di Yun threw the remaining half of his stick at Wan Gui with enough force, so his opponent had to dodge it. Then he conveniently picked up another stick from the pile and attacked again.

Wan Gui saw that since Di Yun lost his sword, as long as he remained cautious he should win. Even if Di Yun uses a wooden stick as a sword and managed to hit him a few times, it would be no big deal. He remained focused and stayed sharp, then began to execute his sword stances to attack. After several stances, Di Yun let out a sharp cry as his right wrist was struck by a sword. Immediately, blood began gushing out of the wound. He no longer had any strength in his right hand, and the wooden stick fell out of his hands. Wan Gui followed through by stabbing his leg, then lifted his left foot and kicked him hard. Di Yun struggled and tried to climb back up, but Wan Gui kicked him again, this time on his cheekbone. Di Yun immediately fainted.

Wan Gui scolded, “Playing dead?” and followed through by stabbing Di Yun on his right shoulder. However, he saw that his opponent did not budge at all, and realized that he had really passed out. He thought to himself: “Magistrate Ling is offering five thousand taels of silver as a reward. If I am to capture these two prisoners, it is better off if I leave them alive. Besides, once I take them back to the prefecture, they would be extremely lucky should they be kept alive. Why should I be the one to kill them?” He gave a sideways glance and saw that the pile of straws exposed a leg. He was both startled and excited at the same time, shouting: “There’s someone in there!” He did not realize that Ding Dian was already dead, and in his excitement stabbed hard at the leg of the corpse.

Even though Di Yun was knocked out, there was a voice in his head that repeatedly shouted: “I can’t die! I can’t die! I promised Brother Ding that I would bury his body together with Lady Ling!” This thought was so intense that it caused him to quickly recover consciousness. He was bewildered and thought: “Several years ago, one night, he knocked me out cold before and my head suffered damages from his kicks.” As he slowly opened his eyes, he saw Wan Gui was about to stab at Ding Dian’s body. At this point he was not fully conscious, and did not process his thoughts clearly. But as soon as he saw Wan Gui pull Ding Dian’s corpse out of the pile of straws, he shouted: “Brother Ding!” All of a sudden, his entire body was filled with energy, and he immediately threw himself at Wan Gui’s back, with his right arm choking at his throat.

Wan Gui did not see this coming. He wanted to stab backwards with his sword, but there was no way for his wrist to curve at such an angle. He slashed with his sword but only managed to slash the pile of wood in front of him, and the lock that Di Yun had on his throat was getting tighter and tighter. When Di Yun saw that his nemesis was attacking Ding Dian’s body, he became extremely furious. This person had not only caused him a lot of injustice, but also took Qi Fang away from him. Not even mentioning that part of revenge, he was now disrespecting Ding Dian, a matter that definitely could not be put to rest.

At this point, he had no other wishes, he only wanted to strangle his opponent to death. However, he noticed that after a while, he was gradually losing energy trying to hold down Wan Gui. This was due to the fact that Di Yun had suffered numerous injuries and his wounds were bleeding. Furthermore, the strength of his wrist was being reduced significantly. He said to himself: “I only have to hold him a bit longer, then I will be able to kill him.” Soon, he felt as if he was seeing stars in his eyes; he began to feel very dizzy and faint, and eventually he lost consciousness. Although he passed out, the arm that was holding down Wan Gui did not retract. Wan Gui found it so difficult to breathe, that at the time Di Yun passed out, he too lost consciousness at the same time.

They both lied on the ground, facing each other, unconscious. It looked as if both of them were dead. However, their hearts were still beating and there was breathe coming out from their mouths and noses.

It is truly unpredictable what fate has to offer. Should Di Yun be the one to wake up first, he would immediately pick up the long sword and kill Wan Gui with one slash. However, if Wan Gui should be the one to wake up first, he would no longer have the intent of capturing Di Yun alive for the reward, as it would be too risky. He too, would end Di Yun’s life with one slash to the neck.

Anything can happen in this world. It is not necessarily the case that good fortune will come to good people, nor is it the case that bad fortune will befall on bad people. Likewise, bad people may not necessarily have good fortune, and good people may not necessarily have bad fortune. In the end, everyone has to die, but the ones who die later may not necessarily be blessed with good fortune.

But from the perspective of the people alive, from the perspective of Qi Fang and her daughter, the outcome of this battle would be extremely significant. If at this point Qi Fang were to choose, if she had to pick just one person to wake up first, who would she pick?

The two people in the firewood room remained still and unconscious; footsteps could be heard slowly approaching the room. Di Yun’s ears could hear the faint sounds of water dripping, drops of ice cold water falling on his face. He began to feel pain, followed by a feeling of intense cold, but he did not have any strength left in his body. Soon, he fell unconscious.


As soon as Di Yun regained consciousness, he channelled strength on his right arm and immediately said, “I will strangle you! I will strangle you!” but he was not holding onto anything. He felt his body shook as if he was moving. He opened his eyes and saw complete darkness. He felt drops of water falling on his face, hands, and body. It turns out that it was raining.

His body was still in motion, his chest felt congested and he wanted to throw up. Suddenly, there was a boat that rowed beside him. There was a sail on the boat, so he knew for sure that it had to be a boat. He felt extremely strange: why would there be a boat beside him?

He wanted to stand up and take a good look at his surroundings, but his whole body felt weak and he was unable to move a muscle. He was lying down, facing upwards looking at the sky. He saw from the corner of his eye that there were black clouds adrift; he was no longer in the firewood room. All of a sudden, a thought came to his mind: “Where is Brother Ding?” As soon as he thought of Ding Dian, his body regained a bit of energy. His hands pushed against the ground as he got up. It turns out he was on a small boat. The small boat was at the river bank slowly floating to the heart of the river. It was night time and the sky was covered in darkness. He gave a glance at the left and right sides of the boat, but his view was pitch-black, he could not see anything at all. He felt a sense of urgency and shouted: “Brother! Brother Ding!” He knew that Ding Dian was already dead, but he could not afford to lose his body. All of a sudden, his left leg kicked on something soft. He lowered his head to take a look, and became excited. “Brother Ding, there you are!” He opened wide both arms and hugged him. Ding Dian’s body was at the side of the ship, right on the side of his leg.

Di Yun felt so weak that he could barely breathe; he did not even have enough energy to think clearly. He felt his throat was very dry, so he opened his mouth wide and let the raindrops drip to his tongue. He felt very dizzy and half asleep. With both arms he hugged Ding Dian’s body and lied there until day. The rain poured throughout the night.

The brightness of morning daylight shone on his body, and he suddenly noticed that on his thigh was wrapped around by a long cloth strip. As he became more conscious, he realized this cloth strip was used to bandage his wounds. He then noticed that his arms and shoulders were also bandaged by cloths, and he could smell the faint scent of medicine under the bandages. Last night’s rainfall caused his bandages to become moist, but he was no longer bleeding from his wounds.

“Who was the one who bandaged me? Had I not been bandaged, even if no one went after me, I would have certainly died of excessive blood loss.” In that moment he felt a burst of loneliness and suffering that he could not describe. “In this world, who still cares for me and is willing to help me? Brother Ding is already dead, who else would want me alive in this world? Who would trouble themselves to help bandage me?”

He looked closely and saw that the bandages in his body were not applied neatly, it seemed as if the person who bandaged him was in a great rush. However, the bandages were not made of rough material, it was in fact made of high-grade satin cloth. On the side of the ribbons appeared an exquisite decorative border, and on the other side appeared a torn cloth, it was ripped from someone’s garment. It appeared to belong to a female.

Could it be his martial sister? His heart began to pound quickly, causing the injuries on his chest to warm up a little. From the corner of his mouth appeared an experience of coldness and self-mockery. He said: “She told her husband to come and kill me, why would she tend to my injuries? If it was not her that disclosed that I was hiding in the firewood room, how would Wan Gui know where to find me?”

However, he was currently on a small boat floating along the current. He had no idea how far away he was from Jiangling now. In any case, at the moment he was not in any danger and would not be harmed by the men from Ling Prefecture.

“Who was the one that bandaged my wounds? Who put me on the boat? This person even brought Brother Ding with me?” He no longer cared for his own well-being, but for this person to bring Ding Dian’s body together with him, he could not help but feel a sense of deep gratitude in his heart. He began to ponder deeply about the identity of this person, but he ended up having a headache, he no longer had any clue what was happening.

He tried his hardest to recall last night’s events. He remembered Wan Gui attacking Ding Dian’s body, and then he lunged himself at Wan Gui trying to strangle him with his arms. But he could not remember anything after that. The events afterwards felt like complete emptiness in his mind. He turned his head to the side and his forehead bumped into a very hard item. It was a bundle wrapped in light cloth. He became excited, as he felt that inside the bundle he could possibly find some clues. He struggled as he unwrapped the bundle with both hands. What he saw inside was five or six silver coins, and four pieces of woman’s jewellery consisting of a pearl flower, a gold bracelet, a gold necklace, and a precious gem ring. Besides that, there was a gold lock slice that children would often wear around their neck; the gold chain in the lock was hastily pulled off by someone. The part where the chain broke off hooked on the fragment of a small piece of cloth. Evidently, it was pulled from a little child’s neck and ripped off, as if this person’s possessions were robbed by a thief. On the gold lock slice engraved the four words “Virtuous Appearance, Double Luxuriance”. Di Yun was not very well educated. Even though he could read those four characters, he could not understand the meaning behind them. He thought: “Could it be the name of the child? Her daughter’s name is not ‘Virtuous Appearance’, nor is it ‘Double Luxuriance’. It is ‘Water Spinach’!”

He fiddled around with these five pieces of jewellery, and ended up being even more confused now than he was before he opened the bundle. He thought: “These coins and jewelleries were naturally given to me by the one who saved me, so that when I arrive at shore, I will have enough money to buy food. However, who was the one who gave it to me? These jewelleries do not belong to my martial sister, I have never seen her wear it before.”

In the vast ocean of water was that small boat drifting slowly ashore. In the days on the boat, Di Yun constantly pondered: “Who was the one who tended my wounds? Who was the one who gave me these silver coins and jewelleries?”


[1]Chinese idiom; literal translation “The tiger falls in Pingyang.” It means that the man who loses position and influence may be subjected to much indignity.

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