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Book 22 Chapter 11 – Demonic Sect Hua Jian

After daybreak, under Bai Wenyuan’s guidance, Kou Zhong and Shang Xiuxun, leading the Ranch’s elite troops, finally arrived at the small valley where they would exchange their horses. The warhorses were under the care of more than a dozen Shaoshuai Army soldiers. None of horses was not in its optimum condition, which posed an extreme contrast to their strength-exhausted, muscle-weary warhorses that came with them.

After calculating the distance and time, Kou Zhong and Bai Wenyuan decided to rest for half a sichen.

The warriors felt as if they had just been granted an amnesty from the Emperor. The hardship of the all-night travel really need not be mentioned. In a split second they were already sprawled over the entire valley, creating an impressive sight. To let their horses rest more comfortably, they all unloaded the saddle. The officers and soldiers took off their armor, and either sitting or sleeping, they made themselves as comfortable as possible in light garment and simple adornment.

Kou Zhong went to the small brook in the valley to wash his face with the ice-cold water. Scooping up the water, he drank more than a dozen mouthful in one go; he felt extreme delight, free and easy, and satisfaction.

Shang Xiuxun’s graceful, clear and melodious voice suddenly rang out behind him. “Are you or are you not willing to accept the letter, and thus absolving me from this responsibility?” there was a slight anger in her voice.

Kou Zhong simply dipped his head into the water. Shang Xiuxun walked over; grabbing the back of his collar with one hand, she stuffed the letter into his neck with the other.

“Aiyo!” Kou Zhong cried out, stood up and blurted out, “Kong Laofuzi [i.e. Confucius] had said, indecent assault includes touching; some people also said that men and women should touch hands when they give or receive things [this one is actually a citation from Mencius]. Beautiful Changzhu, you disregard all these rules and regulations. Looks like in the future, I, Kou Zhong, will not need to abide by the rules toward you.”

Shang Xiuxun retreated three steps back. With a smile yet not a smile, with anger yet not really angry, she fixed her gaze on him, who was trying to fish the plain yellow letter from the back of his neck in panic, while his head was still dripping wet. Pouting her cute lips, she spoke with disdain, “Since when did a man like you ever abide by the rules? But if you dare not to behave toward me, I will punish you according to the house rules.”

Kou Zhong’s eyes fell onto the letter in his hand; he saw written on the letter was ‘Addressed to Mr. Kou Zhong for your perusal’, six polite, yet maintaining the distance, characters [Kou Zhong xian sheng guan yue], in beautiful calligraphic style. His heart ached, but pretending to be happy, he said, “Turns out Beautiful Changzhu is seeing me as belonging to your family, I just do not know you regard me in which capacity? Plus Changzhu must implement the discipline personally; contrary to what you might expect, this is something that I seek but fail to get. Just now your jade-hands groped my neck, this moving feeling will not be forgotten as long as I live.”

Shang Xiuxun’s pretty face blushed slightly, she spoke fiercely, “If you are babbling nonsense to me again, I will immediately take my men back to the Ranch, and will not pay any more attention you.”

Kou Zhong pondered deeply for half a day, before putting it together with Lu Miaozi’s treasured book inside his oilcloth bundle, which he hid well inside his pocket. Dejectedly he sat on a big boulder by the creek, wiped the traces of water from his face, and pointed to another big rock opposite him, he said, “Why don’t you sit down and have a chat with me?”

As Shang Xiuxun was cheerfully sitting down, Kou Zhong handed a dried ration to her and said with a laugh, “Changzhu, please do me the honor. Your demeanor when eating is the most beautiful sight in the world.”

Shang Xiuxun tore the dried ration he handed her, but her face did not show the slightest bit of displeasure; on the contrary, she asked blissfully, “What do you mean beautiful? Only you can say such thing.”

Kou Zhong already had good understanding of her temperament; although she loved to act aloof and remote, her fragrant heart was actually extremely lonely, dry and withered. After pondering quietly, he replied softly, “When I eat something, I swallow it in one gulp; when my tummy is full, that’s all there is to it. But when Changzhu eats, your expression is extremely adorable; it is brimming with curiosity and seeking-the-hidden-away, exploring-the-mystery look, but there is also the resistance of the desire to gobble up the food quickly. If the delicious food was a culinary delicacy and heavy, your eating posture was even more graceful beyond comprehension, as well as carrying the pure innocence of a little girl. Ay! Are you, or are you not, going to let me watch you eat? Do you want me to feed you? If I can obtain this superior task, it will bring me greater honor than unifying the world. It would be better if you’d just marry me! That way I can prepare some good food that I can serve to you every day.”

Shang Xiuxun laughed like a flower trembling on its stem; she scolded him in anger, “If I have nothing to do, looking for you to relieve boredom will be really good, you are able to talk about anything, and it will appear like a deluge of heavenly flowers [idiom: extravagant embellishments], and will sound really fascinating. What do you mean ‘resistance of the desire to gobble up the food quickly’? At most it’s just like before the battle we must scout the real situation first, before deciding on the advancing or retreating path. There is no such thing as the woman marrying the man; who do you think I am? Dong Ming Princess?”

Seeing her laughing and joking without restraint, plus noticing her absolutely-don’t-care charming attitude, Kou Zhong was greatly delighted; he said, “You have not even left your lady’s chamber for three steps, yet you knew about Dong Ming Pai’s social custom of the woman marrying the man into her family; it could be said that you possess great magical power.”

Clearly Shang Xiuxun was in a high spirit to chat; looking immensely proud of herself, she glowered at him and said, “Don’t you forget that Lu Miaozi favorite pastime was to play chess and chat with my Niang. And Niang loved to recount all kinds of strange things to me the most.”

Kou Zhong’s heart was moved, he said, “In that case, have you ever heard about the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Sects?”

Straightening up her waist, Shang Xiuxun said, “Of course I have.”

Kou Zhong happily said, “I am just gathering information about that; tell me quickly.”

Full of smile, Shang Xiuxun leaned her hazel tree head [I swear, this time it is not cicada; maybe a typo? 榛] sideways, appearing to be pondering over past memories, before saying smoothly, “The conduct of the people from the demonic way is secretive and unfathomable; therefore, only a handful people have any knowledge about this. Even martial art masters who came from the Two Sects and Six Ways of demonic schools would try in thousand ways, a hundred plans, to conceal their origin, lest they provoke those people who consider themselves of the orthodox ways to besiege and attack them.”

Astounded, Kou Zhong asked, “What are the Two Sects and Six Ways?”

Shang Xiuxun replied, “The two sects are Yin Gui Pai and Hua Jian Pai [lit. among the flowers, the title of this chapter] …”

Stunned, Kou Zhong said, “Hua Jian Pai, this name is fairly pleasant to hear, but I have never heard anybody mentioning it.”

Shang Xiuxun said, “Between the two sects, Yin Gui Pai is always the leader, not because Hua Jian is inferior to Yin Gui, but because in each generation, Hua Jian only has one disciple; therefore, the identity is highly secretive, even people of demonic schools do not know who the descendant of the Hua Jian Paiis.”

Kou Zhong was puzzled, “Supposing this descendant, because his training goes wrong and he pass away, or perhaps he suddenly die in battle, wouldn’t their teaching be cut short? Although this situation is very rare, but over many years, it is bound to happen.”

Shang Xiuxun crossly said, “You always love to call out ironic remark of flaws and loopholes; others naturally have a way to guard against that happening! They have the so-called ‘Hu Pai Zunzhe’ [Protector of the Sect, ‘zunzhe’ simply means ‘honored sir’], with the specific responsibility of preserving the notes, references and manuals that each generation’s disciple writes down based on what he has learned through experience and study, to ensure that Hua Jian Pai’s teaching will not be cut short.”

Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, “Wouldn’t that mean that there is more than one disciple per generation? At least there are two. Yet you blamed me for making ironic remark.”

“That is because you just don’t understand the details!” Shang Xiuxun said, “These ‘Hu Pai Zunzhe’ are not Hua Jian Pai’s disciples at all; they are just custodians of Hua Jian Pai’s library. To put it more strictly, they only have to know where those books and records are hidden; moreover, they must be women. It is because Hua Jian Pai’s martial arts are only suitable for men, and not women. If a woman forcibly trained it, there will be unexpected calamity.”

Kou Zhong was listening with eyes open wide and mouth agape. “This Hua Jian Pai is really strange,” he said, “The practitioner must be a lonely, secretive, and peculiarly eccentric person. Oh! Changzhu, you are so beautiful!”

The morning sun was rising behind Shang Xiuxun, framing her in its brilliant light. The effect was like raising her purity to a higher level, showing off her tenderness and beauty that was out of this world, causing Kou Zhong to blurt out in praise.

Shang Xiuxun’s jet-black eyebrows knitted slightly, she said, “Don’t change the subject. It’s not that Hua Jian Pai’s descendants are lonely by nature, rather, they are in pursuit of loneliness, because Hua Jian Paihas a belief, that is, the relationship between people is superfluous and meaningless, which is actually one step further, and has more profound and long-lasting implication than Lao-tze Li Er’s thought of ‘being old and dead, and do not have dealings with each other’.”

Greatly interested, Kou Zhong asked, “Such an extreme thought, yet they took such a romantic name. I wonder if Changzhu know who the disciple of this generation Hua Jian Pai is; could he be one of the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way?”

Shrugging her shoulders and shaking her head, Shang Xiuxun replied, “I already said that even demonic schools’ people do not know for sure, forget about people who are not from demonic school trying to find out who it is. As for the previous generation’s Hua Jian Pai disciple, Lu Miaozi had a guess that it was Shi Zhixuan, whose heart was moved by Bi Xiuxin of Ci Hang Jingzhai, so that he was reluctant to leave this world. None the disciples of the Hua Jian Pai are not elegant, fine gongzi [young master], smart, distinguished and accomplished. Only this way will they soar among the flowers. They use heartless to confront passion, to break the heart of women all over the world. Hey, why does your countenance become this unsightly?”

Taking a deep breath, Kou Zhong said, “I know who the Hua Jian Pai’s disciple of this generation is.”

Xu Ziling and Xuan Yong spurred their horses to inspect the arrangement on the eastern bank of the Zhang River. For the most part, everything was at its final stage, hoping to obtain some time to take a breather before the enemy arrived. The two galloped up a high hill, and looked around as far as the eye can see.

Xuan Yong suddenly asked, “Xu Ye is just at the prime of your life, right at the time when a man would have aspiration to travel far and make his mark in the world; why do you always have the heart to retired? With you helping Shao Shuai, who among the heroes of the world will be able to compete against you two?”

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