Chapter 3.1 A Xuan Mountain Night Passes Sudden as a Dream
alt title: A Xuan Shan Night’s Dream
Mount Xuan, North Peak
Looking at the empty cavern, Fengxi’s hands loosened, and the clothes she’d held tumbled to the floor.
That person hadn’t waited for her? He was injured so heavily, yet not only did he leave by himself, he didn’t even wait for her to come back with medicine?
“Why is he such an idiot?” Fengxi muttered angrily to herself, and walked to the entrance, whereupon she discovered herself suddenly surrounded by a large number of people.
“Bai Fengxi, hand over the Xuanzun Seal!”
They were the same lines, only this time, they were directed towards her. Fengxi sneered.
“I don’t have any Xuanzun Seal. You’d better leave quickly, lest you anger me!”
She swept disinterested eyes over the gathered crowd, some of whom she had not seen before, some of whom she’d already met at the foot of Mount Xuan. A quick count yielded one, two hundred people. They really didn’t know when to give it up! Did they really believe that some Xuanzun Seal was enough to command the world, to be the master of the land? Fools!
“Bullshit! You were the one who rescued Yan Yingzhou; it would have been the simplest thing in the world to take it from him while he was passed out! If you don’t have it, then who would?” a large man by the name of Ge bellowed.
He had just spoken when suddenly, his vision blurred, and his throat constricted, and it became hard to breathe, and when he looked down, he saw that a strip of white silk had wrapped itself around his neck.
“Let – let – cough – let go of me!” he railed, his face already startlingly red, and, coughing violently, he grabbed at the silk and pulled at it with all of his might, but it grew tighter the more he struggled.
“Hai, if I said that I don’t have it, then I don’t have it! When has Bai Fengxi ever told a lie? It’s not as if I’m that black fox!” Fengxi said coldly, and pulled her hand back, the white silk unraveling from around the man’s neck, letting him go.
He began to heave almost immediately, taking gulp after gulp of air, feeling rather like he’d just snatched his life back from the jaws of death.
“Miss Feng, since the Xuanzun Seal is not with you, then be so kind as to tell us where Yan Yingzhou is,” said a man of about thirty, with regular features and an air of righteousness about him.
“And you are?” asked Fengxi with a fleeting glance towards him.
“Your humble servant is Linghu Ju, and I’m under orders from my liege the King of Nan to return with the Xuanzun Seal, in order to calm the chaos of the world,” he replied, raising clasped hands in greeting. “I can give my word that I only seek the Xuanzun Seal, and have no intention of harming anyone.”
“‘Calm the chaos of the world?’ What lofty words!” Fengxi laughed mockingly, and then raised her head to gaze towards the sky, and sighed heavily. “Linghu Ju, your reputation as a as a swordsman is scattered far and wide, and I can believe that you have no ulterior motive, but your king…don’t make me laugh!”
“Since Miss Fengxi trusts me, then please tell me where Yan Yingzhou is.”
“I don’t know where he’s gone, either,” Fengxi said. “If you do find him, don’t forget to let me know – I’ve half a mind to skin him alive!” She couldn’t help gnashing her teeth in frustration.
“Master Linghu, you mustn’t be fooled by her!” A large, meaty man detached himself from the crowd, and almost immediately, the tall Linghu Ju seemed to shrink to only half the size of the other man.
“That’s right, don’t be fooled by her. Perhaps she’s hiding Yan Yingzhou, and perhaps she took the Xuanzun Seal from him long ago,” the crowd started to wildly guess.
“Silence!” Linghu Ju suddenly roared. “Bai Fengxi has always been an upright and honourable person, definitely not the lowlife you make her out to be; how dare you insult her thus?”
“Yi?” Hearing this Fengxi could not help but to look towards Linghu Ju, sizing him up carefully.
It must be known that even though she never did anything against the moral code, she was wild and unrestrained, frank and straightforward, certainly nothing like those upright models of integrity. Some people feared her, some people despised her, some people kept far away from her, and there were already few enough people who liked her at all, let alone held her in such high esteem, and certainly not any upright, honourable men like him! How could she not be surprised?
“How can you be so sure that I’m noble of heart and not some villain?” Fengxi looked towards Linghu Ju with eyes that seemed to smile, but were not smiling.
“I just do.” Linghu Ju did not say much, merely nodded his head. “Since Miss Feng doesn’t know the whereabouts of Yan Yingzhou, then I will take my leave.” Then he waved his hand and called, “Heroes of Nan Kingdom, if you still recognise me as your leader, then you will please leave with me!”
He took his leave of Fengxi and turned to leave, taking twenty, thirty people with him.
Seeing Linghu Ju leave, Fengxi turned her head towards the people who remained where they were, and she began to laugh. “Are you determined to force me to slaughter? I warn you, I’m not some virtuous and kindly person whose hands have never been stained with blood!”
Immediately after she spoke, the white silk began to encircle her entire body, as if a white dragon bursting through to the sky, and in but a moment, a gust of energy swept towards the crowd, and in their hearts there began to creep a coldness, and they could not help but to tense, to keep their eyes fixed upon Fengxi lest she make a sudden move.
Even Linghu Ju, more than thirty feet away, could feel its effects, and his hand jumped reflexively to the hilt of his sword. Then, suddenly, as if coming to his senses, he took it off, sighed, and with large strides, continued on his way out of the clearing. But was he sighing for Fengxi or for the heroes who surrounded her?
The white silk fluttered, gently as a feather, to the ground, and Fengxi wound it back towards her slowly, bit by bit, with deliberate movements. She said lightly, “You should all leave. I don’t want to see any blood.” And her face looked suddenly weary.
The others swallowed unconsciously. They could not help being frighted as they thought of the might with which silk had billowed, but they could not help feeling resentful at the thought of leaving just like that as they thought of the Seal.
In the midst of this impasse, Fengxi suddenly wrinkled her brow and cocked her head, as if hearing something. Fixing her gaze on something in the distance, she took off, quick as a flash, and hurtled across woods. By the time the crowd gathered their wits about them, she was already long gone.
Chapter 3.2 A Xuan Mountain Night Passes Sudden as a Dream
On the northernmost peak, Fengxi stood facing the wind, head bent to observe the situation below her.
Many antlike-soldiers were scaling the west face of Mount Xua – from their garb, they looked to be the elite forces of Bai Kingdom. To the west, black shadows flitted intermittently past in groups of two or three; they were nimble and strong, and with a single glance one could tell they were martial experts. To the north, there were the gathered valiants of jianghu, a patchwork of different clothing and characters. But to the east there was nothing, no movement at all. Yet her instincts told her that there, there more than the others was where the real danger lay.
“A single seal can draw such a crowd!” Fengxi sighed.
Upon raising her gaze to the heavens, Fengxi discovered that the day had already begun to slant westwards, painting the the sky resplendent with scarlet clouds, and the lushness of Mount Xuan was also stained with a light wash of colour. At this moment, the world was incomparably beautiful, but this was the kind of beauty that sank the stomach and left one with an inexplicable frustration.
“The sunset is beauty beyond compare/I moan only the dusk is near.”
A sleeve billowed in the wind, loose locks swung lightly in the wind, and on Fengxi’s face there was a rare look of sorrow.
“Yan Yingzhou, are you dead or alive?”
For herself, she knew that to evade the groups of people searching mountain would be an easy enough matter, but what of Yan Yingzhou? With such serious injuries, there was no way he could leave the mountain, but with so many people looking for him, where could he possibly hide? How long could he possibly remain hidden?
Fengxi looked towards the sunset one more time, and then turned to ascend the mountain with light, floating steps.
Tower of Intoxicated Immortals, Ruancheng
Since nightfall, the Tower of Intoxicated Immortals was more lively than usual. The famous Hei Fengxi had arrived, and had promised to drink until drunk with the heroes of Bai Kingdom. Thus not only had the revelers of the Han Family feast arrived, but others who hoped to share the honour of Fengxi’s reputation had shown up as well, each hoping to see Master Fengxi’s peerless elegance.
Between the bouts of drinking and toasting, between the platters of sheep and cow, between games and the music, everyone was drunk to the point of ecstasy.
They drank until the curtain of night dropped upon the world, until everyone grew intoxicated. Some were sprawled across the tables, while others had fallen upon the floor, and not a one remained clear-headed.
“Come! Drink up! Lambs and calves such happiness create, we’ll not stop drinking until we’ve drunk our weight! We haven’t reached three hundred cups of wine yet, everyone get up, start singing!” Bystanders could hear Fengxi’s clear voice raised in loud song, yet there was no response save the snores of those who were deep in a mist of drunken slumber.
“Yi? Why so useless?” Seeing that there was no response, Fengxi dusted himself up and stood in one elegant motion, his handsome face showing no signs of drunkenness, though his eyes were overbright, more limpid than the stars that hung above the night sky.
“Master, a letter for you.” Zhong Li walked into the tower and passed him an envelope.
Fengxi took it from him, and skimming its contents, curled his lips in satisfaction.
With a look around the rooms, Fengxi smiled lightly and said, “Since all these fine heroes are all drunk, I’ll take my leave.”
A rush of cold wind embraced the three as they departed from the Tower of Drunken Immortals, and Hei Fengxi lifted his head to regard the insipid moon and the sparse smattering of stars.
“Tonight’s night sky doesn’t seem to be as brilliant as yesterday’s,” he remarked casually, and turned to leave, with Zhong Li and Zhong Yuan trailing close behind.
On the southern side of Mount Xuan, Bai Fengxi slipped noiselessly through the trees like a wisp of white smoke, so quick that she was nigh invisible.
Suddenly, she heard a low gasping sound, almost like that of an injured beast, and Fengxi stopped short, and listened closely. But she heard nothing more.
The forest at night was darker than it was during the day, and in the spaces between the trees there sometimes entered the faintest sliver of light, and when the wind brushed past, the leaves rustled, but apart from this, it was an expanse of silent darkness.
Fengxi froze, quietly waiting.
At last, she heard another one of the quiet gasps, and she was headed immediately toward the direction of the sound with the glint off a blade of a sword came piercing straight at her. But she had come prepared, and her white silk wrapped itself around the blade with but a flick of her hand. She smelled fresh blood.
“Yan Yingzhou?” she called quietly. The silk loosened, returned to her sleeve.
“Miss Feng?” a hoarse voice croaked, and the light off the blade disappeared.
Relying on the dim light that seeped into the forest and the augmented sight of a martial artist, Fengxi could see that Yan Yingzhou was half-kneeling on the ground. She rushed over and crouched by his side, but she could see that he was sweating profusely, and his face had turned paper-white, while his lips had turned a dull black.
“The injuries have worsened.”
Fengxi sighed quietly, and hurriedly fed him two of the Buddha’s Heart Pills, and then extended a hand to his ribs, where she felt something wet. She didn’t have to look to see that her hand had come away with blackened blood. Her heart shook, and without time to think about much else, she tore the clothes away from his ribs and crushed one of the precious pills over the wound, then poured some of the Purple Mansions Powder over it, and quickly undid her girdle to wind it tightly around him.
“Take off your clothes; I’ll apply some medicine to the rest of your wounds,” Fengxi instructed.
This time, Yan Yingzhou put up no protest.
“He he…” Fengxi seemed to be reminded of something and suddenly began to chuckle. “I’d thought that you’d run naked from the cave, but who knew that you’d be wearing clothes? Where’d they come from?”
“Stole it off a person I killed,” he said quietly, and then sucked in a sharp breath, for the dried blood had crusted his clothes to his wounds, and though they were peeled carefully away, it was still a pain that was hard to bear.
“Serves you right,” Fengxi scolded, but her hands were extraordinarily gentle, carefully helping him remove his robes so that they wouldn’t jostle the bandages. “Why didn’t you wait for me to come back?”
But Yan Yingzhou didn’t respond, only looked at Fengxi through the darkness with a pair of bright eyes.
“Am I a person who fears implication?” Fengxi asked, sprinkling the powder deftly over his injuries.
Still he did not speak.
Both of them fell quiet then, as one was fixed on applying medicine, and the other stayed still in appliance.
Only…the first time she had helped him heal his wounds, he was passed out while the she was only occupied with saving his life, and had no real concerns beyond that, never once realising that this was a way for a man and a woman to get to know each other physically.
This time, however, both of them were clear-headed, and in the darkness they were so close to each other, close enough to feel each other’s breath. One could feel the pair of cool hands meandering around his body, and could only feel his heart beginning to pound, while a sense of comfort seemed to overwhelm him. The other was keenly aware of the solid muscles that existed on the powerful body under her hands, and instead of feeling revulsion or fear, she felt instead a warmth infiltrating her heart. And in each of their hearts they could feel the beginning of some small feeling, and they very clearly understood that the other possessed a body so different from their own. Something warm blossomed between the two that made their faces burn with heat, their hearts thump like drums. This feeling was like nothing they’d ever experienced before.
When the medicine was finally applied, one put his clothes on in silence, and the other sat to the side with a stillness she rarely experienced. Neither talked to the other, and both seemed to want to express something, seemed to feel in their hearts the creation of a feeling that was new, that was strange.
Suddenly, they felt a sense of impending crisis, and, without thinking, reached to grab each other by the hand and pull themselves up.
A gleam as bright a snow flashed towards them, and the two swept backwards in unison. Then a length of white silk flew out, and a green spear blade thrust forward, meeting the black-robed men head-on as they descended from the sky.
Unlike the vagrants from earlier, these black-robed men were masters of the highest class. Of the ten who surrounded them, four leapt at Yan Yingzhou, while the remaining six entangled with Fengxi, a Soul-Breaking Sword in each of their hands. Their technique was exquisite, measured in both defense and attack, and it was easy to see that they had been trained in the same sect, for they worked together perfectly.
Against these six people, Fengxi did not seem to need to exert effort, attacking and defending as needed.
But Yan Yingzhou was in no such position. If the black-robed men had been fighting him one on one, they would have been nowhere close to his match, but because of this disparity, the four men attacked him all at once, and Yingzhou was forced to exert great effort. This, added to the strain of his earlier wounds and the injury done to both his physical and mental well-being caused him to be much less focused than usual, and before long there were two more open wounds on his body.
Noticing this, Fengxi furrowed her brows, and could not leap immediately to his defense. But that white silk split through the heavens, at times like a sharpened sword, keen and penetrating, at times like a long whip, merciless and fierce, and at times like a sabre, bent on annihilation. Like rain, the silk fell upon the six she was fighting.
Their offense changed immediately to defense, but Fengxi’s attack did not give them even a minute to breathe. Snakelike, the silk whipped towards the three swordsmen on the left, but the swordsmen reflexively leapt backwards to avoid the attack. In that moment, Fengxi struck towards the three swordsmen on the right. They quickly brandished their weapons in anticipation of her attack, but who knew that when Fengxi struck, the blow hit like lightning, and with three startled cries, their sabres hit the ground.
Before she hit the ground, Fengxi turned to attack the other three. They began to move their sabres, bright and flashing, building them into a wall. But Fengxi’s white silk was a rainbow through the blue, piercing through the wall, and with a sharp, ringing sound, the sabres snapped. And before the three could refocus themselves, Fengxi stood before them. A delicately postured left hand fluttered through the air, and they felt their chests numb, and before long, they had collapsed onto the ground.