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The First Death

Today was just another day in my abysmal life.

When I woke up in the morning, I had a sore throat and ate a bowl of porridge. After quenching my thirst, the incalculable sense of emptiness still tingled inside me. Then, I walked out after a while and began practicing "Liuhe Swordsmanship (六合劍法)" like my usual habit.

Liuhe Swordsmanship focuses on the six directions: east, west, south, north, heaven, and earth; the world or universe.



It is the most common swordsmanship within the community of martial artists, and is treated as the most basic entry level form of elementary expression. Liuhe Kaishan (六合開山) is to cut into a mountain and it is a sword form consisting of movements such as after quickly twisting half to the left, it is to be raised to the right in a reverse backlash. In plain words, it is a diagonal cut. If you follow through the movements two or three times, you can see how it works.

What about the formula of the Liuhe Swordsmanship including Liuhe Kaishan?

Liuhe Swordsmanship consists principally a total of thirty two actions and includes eight different ways. For the public it usually takes about one month to learn. This martial arts is generally used by third-grade (三流) bodyguards in the marketplace.

In addition, it is necessary to have more than five years of practical experience using Liuhe Swordsmanship in a realistic way without anything superfluous. In order to attain the delicate mastery of the forms, Neigong (內功) must also be supported, but it is piled up by exercises to benefit the internal organs through breathing. Therefore, it may take more than forty years to enter first-grade (一流).

It is the forty fifth year since I've trained in this martial arts. However, I could never dream of reaching first-grade; instead, in a humble condition, I just repeated and repeated practicing every day. Although being considered best in my field, it was only within second-grade (二流).

What happened?

“….”

Shiiiiiiiing!

If I open my mouth, I feel like I will swear, so I deliberately closed my mouth and continued to wield my sword. No matter how much I curse at the heavens, my life will never change, and so I remained silent. After living a good-for-nothing life for a very long time, I have realized that these sword movements provide me with at least some form of comfort.

Why not cultivate another swordsmanship rather than Liuhe Swordsmanship?
I would earnestly love to, but I could not.

What my accumulated knowledge consists of only Liuhe Swordsmanship, and Sancaituhui Mental Cultivation Method (三才心法) – this breathing method is based on three types of talent.

I stopped wielding the sword. Perhaps I thought, no matter how much I felt, I eventually swore due to this shitty life.

“Fuck!”

I wanted to become a master.

However, from the beginning, I did not come from a well-known martial arts family. I was not taught or trained under a master of high repute. With an unrelenting nature, I worked my butt off and learned the martial arts as a bodyguard for a courier company. There was only one reason why I learned the martial arts.

I believed it was the only way I could ever succeed in my life…

I was so ugly… Since I was a little boy, whenever people looked at my face, they would often frown at me and the girls would sometimes spit at me. Even amongst the men, the discrimination was not that different, and a few handsome guys now and then took off my pants while ridiculing me as a fool.

I did not have a good family background, and I lived in mediocrity as well as poverty. When I was twelve years old, my beloved parents died and I was taken in by the chief of the village. From that time on, he worked me arduously and I had to keep living like a personal servant for his son too. Although it was a little better when I finally became independent of them and found employment as a bodyguard, it still lingered as a state of psychological stigma.

Yes, as soon as I was old enough to be able to wield the sword properly, I applied to become a bodyguard, and for decades I worked within the courier company. To a bodyguard, the basic martial arts would be taught, and I thought I could succeed if I tried practicing really hard every day.

After all this, I realised that I was merely under a false impression.

It was because one first-grade martial artist had destroyed our entire company last year. Xue Linshou who held great fame in the region of Zhongding, was commissioned by another courier company to attack our company. So, many bodyguards died miserably by Xue Linshou and eventually the boss of our company rushed over and killed him, but the damages could not be easily restored.

In the end, the boss disbanded the company, and I was kicked out with my only option to travel the world with what little money I had earned. All the money I had was only five hundred copper coins (one copper coin is worth one dollar), which was not enough to eat and live off to a ripe old age. In the end, I became a farmer, which was not different from being a peasant.

But I refused to live that kind of peasantry life as my only option in the last twilight years. Since my late teens, I continued to train myself for decades. Therefore, I thought that: "Although I have only learnt the Liuhe Swordsmanship and Sancaituhui Mental Cultivation Method, it is possible to reach the highest echelon and hit the jackpot all of a sudden." With such a notion, I built a small cottage in the mountain and started to cultivate the way of the sword endlessly.

” …achoo! ”

Nevertheless, just two years after I had started, I could barely swing the sword anymore, and I was shaking, lying down on one end of the cottage. But, it was too cold to endure.

"Is, Is it a cold?"

It’s so outrageous I can’t even say a word. Many of first-grade martial artists lived secluded within the mountains, and cultivated the sword with good health. Don't they? But I noticed that this outcome would be appallingly obvious. I had no money, I hunted nearby wild animals, and I ate grass roots and mushrooms for roughly two years. In my late fifties with declining bad health, and with my slow, weary body, I might even break a bone while moving around recklessly.

A cold was dangerous to me. It was not a severe illness, but I had no way of restoring my physical strength in order to expel the cold. If this were to continue, I would end up being found as a common mountain corpse. Thinking so, I hurriedly prepared to organize my belongings in the cottage.

While packing all my tools, suddenly tears flowed out.

“Achoo, achoo…! Sniff… sniff … uhhhk ….”

Then I cried bitterly.

Because of the cold sensation, I felt out of my senses and loneliness overwhelmed me in that moment.

What happened to me in order for things to become like this?

When I came into the mountain, I was determined to refine my swordsmanship and challenge the world, but what now?

Because of the lack of stamina and malnutrition, I had no strength to climb down the mountain. It caused me to feel confused.

Still, I had to live so I eventually wiped away my tears, and began to descend down from the mountain trails with only a bag carried on my back. To travel to the village, it would take only half an hour, and I took the mountain trails carefully through the bushes.

I was walking for a while.

“Ahkkkkkkkkkkkk….”

Falling

Suddenly, it felt like nothing was below my feet, and my body seemed to be dragged beneath the earth. Before falling down, I hurriedly grabbed a branch and soon dangled on that same life saving branch. When I looked down, I found a cliff of which the height was only about ten meters or so.

Fear threatened to overwhelm me. First-grade martial artists of Wulin (武林:the community world of martial artists) could easily land from a height of ten meters, but I am not such a first-grade martial artist – if only with my Neigong, I cannot expel even the cold, and if I fall, I will surely be dead or injured. Seeing that the branch was about to break, I reluctantly threw down my bag to the ground.

"Clank…."

With the sound of the impact, all of my household tools were now broken. But I would not die here and fall off the cliff. I was carefully moving my hands and feet towards the side of the cliff and thankfully found a stepping stone. At the end of a few more attempts, I was successful in placing myself on a stepping stone, fortunately before the branch finally broke and fell.

Now I was faced with two possible options: either move down or climb up. I imagined what would be the easier of the two, finally weighing out that it would be easier climbing down to the bottom. This cliff face luckily held a few stepping stones, and there was no guarantee that I would be safe if I climbed up. Forgetting I had a cold, I exhausted all of my strength.

"Brr Brr…."

Finally, with my whole body drenched in sweat, I stepped down on one of the stones one step at a time. When I was breathing a sigh of relief, I discovered a cave embedded within the cliff. A cave in the middle of the cliff was downright strange, and feeling curious, I shuffled my body towards the cave. It was an unavoidable choice since I could not very well be hanging around on top of a cliff forever.

I felt suddenly alive once I entered the cave. I wanted to sleep, but I had to confirm what this cave was about. So, I decided to enter further inside the cave a little bit more. The dark cave was quite deep and thus I had to walk quite a bit further to pass the outer walls.

Thud

I smacked into a stalactite and a lump formed on top of my forehead. I choked out a scream because of the pain and sat down there for a while recovering. Then, noticing a light leaking out from far away, I began to cautiously crawl towards the light.

The light leaked out from a hidden room, where the beads poured out the bright light. This was a place that someone had artificially created! When I found the scene, I had gone nearly crazy because of the ecstatic joy in the discovery.

“Hurray!”

This is a strange feeling of destiny!

This only happened in those novels!

I was so excited that I felt like I was flushed with a hot sensation of anticipation throughout my body. A little more I began to move closer to the beads.

At that moment,

Shoo… pop.

“….”

What happened, what the heck just happened?

I felt a terrible sharp pain, and my eyes were slowly becoming weary. Then, after that brief memory loss, I noticed what happened. Suddenly, an iron stake came flying out from the front, and it pierced my intestines, and the terrible burst of pain had begun to surge within me. The blood was pouring out of my body and mouth.

“U, uh ….”

I slumped down and waited for death's cold embrace to come soon. I regretted this decision from the depths of my heart. I would not have died if I did not enter this cave… It’s now too painfully apparent, just how bloody obvious that – of course there had to be a hidden trap in this strange twist of fate…

How could I be in all my life become so foolish and unlucky!

…die?
Am I dying like this?

“Kh… uh….”

No, I cannot.
Even if I die, I want to know what is inside that box!

I crawled towards the box with all my strength and opened it with what little remaining strength.

“This… this….”

Right before my death, I put my right hand inside the box, and grabbed ahold of a book. At the same time, I had spilled out too much blood, and my consciousness was slowly fading.
I will die now…

This is my first death.
 

Translator: Khan
Editors: T0ngan, Calvis

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