Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
The mountains were extremely quiet in the night, there were not many bird and cricket sounds. Once in a while a howl of a wolf would break the silence of the night, signaling the lurking dangers in the mountains. It was a new moon that night, and the moon has already slept behind the clouds. Looking up at the dark clouds, one would wonder when a silver of moonlight would peek out. Fortunately, Shitu Ping and gentleman Ma are people with martial arts background; their eyesight is sharper than ordinary people, which is why they could traverse across the darkness of the mountains.
Once they reached five claw peak, only the deadly quiet scenery was before them, apart from sound of the wind. Five claw peak’s thumb peak is a fat and short peak, and one cannot discern its height in the darkness. At the east of the mountain was a flat square area, covered in weeds and fallen leaves which would rustle when stepped on. Upon seeing the place, gentleman Ma said to Shitu Ping, “Yes, this is the place. Let us wait here.” Then, he walked across the field to an ox-sized rock and sat on it, not saying another word. Shitu Ping also followed behind him, but she did not jump on the rock, but instead stood beside it her hands clutching on her precious sword, her eyes staring warily and observing this familiar place on an unfamiliar night.
The wind kept blowing, but the couple remained motionless, and the time taken to boil a kettle of tea passed just like that.
Suddenly, gentleman Ma opened his eyes and glanced towards the north side of the forest. Sensing gentleman Ma’s movement, Shitu Ping followed suit and strained her ears, but was unable to discern anything. Just as she was feeling curious, she could hear people flying from the north forest using their qinggong. Again she could not help but feel that disciples from prestigious sects are truly worthy of their reputation.
Not long later, the people who were travelling through the darkness of the night appeared in front of their eyes, and indeed, they were Wen Wenhai and his junior sister. From their figures, it was apparent that they had also freed their horses at the base of the mountain and climbed up the mountain themselves. Wen Wenhao did not jump off the tree immediately and instead observed the scene in front of them before he signaled his junior sister to descend from the tree. Instead of greeting the other party, he followed gentleman Ma’s behavior and sat under the tree and closed his eyes. His junior sister did not choose to stand, but instead took out a mat from her bundle and laid it on the ground, before sitting on the mat. From her behavior, it looked as if she was resting.
Gentleman Ma then closed his eyes again, as if he did not notice the other party’s arrival, and Shitu Ping had no choice but to stand beside quietly.
Not long after again, everyone opened their eyes again and looked towards the small trail that was across the field. From the small trail was the sounds of footsteps, but in the stillness of the night where one could only hear the sounds of the wind blowing, these footsteps sounds stood out clearly. The footsteps continued in a steady rhythm and continued to become louder, but the figure of the person was still not visible. The four people were filled with anticipation; they wanted to know who could be walking in the mountains.
When the person walked close enough, everyone was even more surprised that it was actually two people with the exact same rhythm, walking shoulder to shoulder, although one could not see in the darkness if they were twins. Nevertheless, seeing that their steps were larger than ordinary people by half a foot, everyone could already guess their identities, and they all thought at the same time, “I see, the other party is them.”
As the two people neared the clearing, they saw the other two parties and chose to remain silent as well. Instead of continuing to walk onto the clearing, they just stood there completely motionless.
Another time taken to boil a kettle of tea passed, and just as everyone was feeling anxious, a sound descended from the sky above, “The chilly surrounding state, old me has arrived late, please pardon for the wait.” The figure of a person suddenly appeared in the middle of the clearing, and all the six people opened their eyes at the same time, as though they did not anticipate the arrival of this figure, but at the same time they asked, “Sir Yanming?”
In the middle of the clearing, with a long large body, while wearing a head scarf in addition to his robes which colors were not visible in the night, a thin face with a long beard; it did match the appearance of a famous figure in Jianghu. Without any hesitation, everyone greeted, “We pay our greetings to Sir Yanming.”
Sir Yanming combed his right hand through his beard and smiled, “Old me has arrived late and caused everyone some inconvenience. Since we are not acquainted yet, shall everyone make a short introduction of themselves, as the mission later would require co-operation from each other.”
The brocaded robe gentleman Ma cupped his fits towards everyone and said, “The humble me is Thousand Swords Peak’s Ma Xiangyang. This is Shitu Ping from the Fierce Tiger sect.” Then, to preempt any misunderstandings, he continued, “The Fierce Tiger sect is headquartered in the vicinity, she is my subordinate who will be our guide later on.”
Sir Yanming smiled, “Young hero Ma sure is meticulous; we shall be relying on sect master Shitu later.”
Shitu Ping immediately answered politely, “To assist everyone, I am extremely honored.”
Next, Wen Wenhai cupped his fists and greeted, “The humble me is Piaomiao sect’s Wen Wenhai, and this is my junior sister Xue Qing.” Xue Qing then took her veil off to reveal her appearance, but no one could make out her features in the darkness of the night, and she chose to remain silently and only cupped her fists towards everyone.
Sir Yanming replied, “I have long heard of Wen Wenhai and Xue Qing’s great name, and now that we have met, I see that your reputation is deserved.”
Lastly, the two quiet men who were standing aside cupped their fists and said, “Tan family, Tan Wen” “Tan Wu” Their rough voices resounded one after another, and with their matching tall heights, they looked awe-inspiring.
After listening to everyone’s introduction, Sir Yanming kept back his smile and said, “Good, it is my turn. I am Yanming mountain sect master Sir Yanming. From now on, everyone is acquainted, and we are aware of each other’s backgrounds, so we can begin our mission.”
“To have come here, you must have received orders from your respective elders to follow my instructions. I have also formed an agreement with your elders, and as for the details, I shall explain as we walk over. Now, bring out the items in your hands.”
After he spoke, Sir Yanming took out a square piece of leather parchment from his breast, while Ma Xiangyang, Wen Wenhai and Tan Wen followed suit. Sir Yanming passed his parchment over to Ma Xiangyang and said, “Piece them together.” Thus, everyone handed their parchment to Ma Xiangyang, while Sir Yanming took out a glowing night pearl and passed it to Shitu Ping, saying, “Please take a look at the map.”
Thus, Shitu Ping received the glowing pearl and assisted Ma Xiangyang to piece the map pieces together. Under the light of the glowing pearl, everyone could see the map of an area which looked like a palm with five fingers, and there was a circle on the thumb of the hand. Shitu Ping observed the map, looked at Ma Xiangyang, and then said, “Indeed, this is a map of five-claw peak. This circle is at the position of the middle finger.”
Everyone looked towards Sir Yanming who said, “So far so good, everyone had brought the things that they should.” Ma Xiangyang then returned each piece to their respective owners, while Shitu Ping returned the glowing night pearl to Sir Yanming. Receiving the pearl back, Sir Yanming asked, “Does Shitu Ping recognize the circled area in the map?”
Shitu Ping replied, “That is a forest of jujube trees, I have been there before and set a wolf dog inside but it never returned.”
Sir Yanming said, “In that case, we will rely on sect master Shitu to lead us to the area.”
Shitu Ping replied, “Understood. Everyone please follow me.” Saying which, she demonstrated her qinggong and flew over to their destination.
Sir Yanming took a glance at Ma Xiangyang, Wen Wenhai and Tan Wen, and they nodded their heads in reply, using their qinggong to follow their guide.
Finally, Sir Yanming looked at his surroundings, and seeing nothing peculiar, he shot off and followed behind everyone else, leaving behind the ox-sized rock in the clearing. As the wind blew over the leaves and weeds, all the signs they left there would be erased soon after.
Thus, a row of seven people were using qinggong to follow behind Shitu Ping like a jolt of electricity through the pitch darkness of the night. Within the time for two incense sticks to be burnt, they finally reached the entrance of the aforementioned jujube forest. By this time, the moon should have crossed its peak, and only dark clouds would be in the sky, signaling that in a while morning is about to come, now is the darkest period of the night.
The jujube forest was not clearly visible in the night. But to Shitu Ping, this area was like a huge monster entrenched into the mountain. Although she did not know its secret, she could guess that it was something important and dangerous for four major factions to co-operate and covertly enter.
Stopping her footsteps, Shitu Ping waited until everyone has arrived, and respectfully said, “Everyone, this is the jujube forest which was circled on the map according to my deductions.”
Sir Yanming replied, “There should be no mistakes.” Then, without looking any further, he sat on the ground and seeing the puzzled looks on everyone’s faces, he explained smilingly, “There is still some time before we commence our operation. Everyone should take a rest, and I will explain the backstory to you. Otherwise, with what you know now, I am afraid there may be some accident when you enter later.”
Thus, the other six people followed his lead and sat on the ground in a semi-circle surrounding Sir Yanming.
Sir Yanming paused to organize his thoughts, and then looked at the younger generation who were seated beside him, and asked, “Have either of you heard of the single-armed sword master from three hundred years ago?” Everyone shook their heads. “Before the February of last year, neither did I nor your elders heard of him too.”
“On the February of last year, my wife and I went to Dragon god shrine to pray. In the shrine, I actually met your thousand swords peak’s sect master Wan Jiucheng and his family, as well as your Piaomiao sect’s sect head Ou Peng, and Tan family’s master Tan Yefeng. Even though we have heard of each other’s names, we have yet to meet before and to take advantage of this rare opportunity, we all decided to ditch our family members and find a place to exchange pointers while comparing who could hold their liquor best.”
“We took our swords and wine and went to Wutong mountain which was beside Yu city, and were prepared to spend a few days there then unexpectedly, we had a peculiar encounter there.”