Chapter 57: Misery Valley
Iron Claw Yang Jun went weak and broke out in a cold sweat when he saw the Yin-Yang Bone Sword and the girl in green's mystical movements before the tip of his iron claw.
He was floored when the girl in green confirmed his suspicion; it was like his spirit left his body as he sat heavily on the ground, nearly scared shitless.
Number One Hero of Chang'an, the Ace of Northwest Escort Agency had nearly been frightened out of his wits by a girl from Misery Valley, to the point where he went limp. It was really hard to believe. Was Misery Valley really so terrifying?
Years ago, two top figures within the martial fraternity, a man and a woman, roamed the jianghu. They were both excellent martial artists and fickle by nature, and they tended toward willfulness and eccentricity. Depending on their mood they might act as chivalrous heroes or vicious villains, which made them fearful devils in the public eye. The man was Fang Hui and his early nickname was One Stroke Soul Snatcher. His one-foot, eight-inch long Chief Star Brush was nearly invincible.
The woman was Dong Shuang'e. She was exceptionally beautiful and unusually wild and acerbic. Her sword was a precious object called Yin-Yang Bone Sword. Rumor had it that the sword had belonged to a water monster in Madang at Little Lonely Mountain before the founding of the current dynasty. The sword was said to have killed countless people and had already become a legend.
At the beginning of the dynasty, the founder had three extraordinary people helping him conquer the empire. One was Crazy Zhou, another Zhang Jinghua, also called Iron Crown. The third was Zhang Sanfeng the founder of the Wudang Sect. Crazy Zhou had a surname but no given name. He went mad at the age of fourteen and became a beggar in Jianchang City in Jiangxi, raving and acting strange and wild, so everyone called him Crazy Zhou.
Actually he was an eccentric person who was already halfway to becoming an immortal. When the founder campaigned against Chen Youliang, Crazy Zhou went with him. He told the founder that defeating Chen Youliang was not difficult. When the fleet reached Anqing the winds on the river died down, making it hard for the ships to advance, causing the founder to lose heart. Crazy Zhou, however, told the founder to send men to the shore and pull the boats along, saying a strong wind would be along to assist the boats shortly. Sure enough, as the boats moved the wind increased and the fleet were able to hoist their sails and continue on.
The ships neared Madang and a water monster appeared near Madang Mountain, it's many heads were about to emerge from the water in a show of force and Crazy Zhou knew there was trouble and said that defeating Chen Youliang this time would result in many casualties. The founder was narrow-minded and thought he was spreading rumors to shake the morale of his troops and ordered him bound and thrown into the river.
Actually, Zhou had already planned to go into the river to kill the water monster. He shook off the emperor's fetters and fought the water monster in the river, not only killing it, but also stealing its Yin-Yang Bone Sword. Boatmen never again after this disappeared in the water around Madang Mountain.
He knew the founding emperor's character, that this emperor was not a good man, and that once he had conquered the empire those had helped him would be slaughtered and wiped out, so he took the opportunity to look for an excuse to escape. The founder's ships arrived at the mouth of the lake and Crazy Zhou went to see Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder, and begged a meal from him and said from henceforth he was going to renounce the world. Then he floating away and secluded himself in Mt. Lu and no one ever heard from him again.
Zhu Yuanzhang warred with Chen Youliang at Poyang Lake. Without Crazy Zhou, his casualties were severe, and Zhu Yuanzhang nearly died himself. If it had not been for his subordinate officer Han Cheng donning Zhu Yuanzhang's clothes and jumping in the water to commit suicide, the history of the Great Ming might have been rewritten and the emperor might have been a Chen instead of a Zhu, and the dynasty would have been called "Han" instead of "Ming".
Flames lit the heavens at the Battle of Lake Poyang. A hundred thousand men, both sides combined, turned the huge lake red with their blood. It was catastrophic. Over 800,000 fought in the battle. Given the circumstances at that time one can imagine the casualties.
Afterwards, Crazy Zhou disappeared from the world of men. The founder cherished the eccentric and sought him out, perhaps wanting to make him an official, or perhaps to kill him. but there was no news of Crazy Zhou. A messenger was sent to Mt. Lu to seek him out, but the messenger returned with no luck. Later, the founder personally wrote "Legend of the Immortal Crazy Zhou" to memorialize him and spread his name to future generations. To have the emperor personally write a "legend" about him, you can tell how important his contributions really were.
No one knew what happened to the Yin-Yang Bone Sword after Crazy Zhou disappeared, or how it resurfaced over a hundred years later, or how it ended up in the hands of Dong Shuang'e.
With that divine sword, Dong Shuang'e was invincible. She took an unflattering nickname for herself, Devil Sword Demoness. Who knows how many heroic men have died under her Yin-Yang Bone Sword, both deserving and not.
This couple had been together for a long time and familiarity breeds fondness. They finally wed and settled down near Mt. Tianmu in Zhejiang.
Then, things changed. Not two years later they had a conflict of ideas. After marrying, Soul Snatcher believed they ought not get involved with worldly affairs and should stay secluded away and enjoy a happy life together. He was firmly against roaming the jianghu again. Especially since he had committed a lot of evil deeds and there was a lot of blood on his hands so he ought to hide out and lay low for a while and turn over a new leaf, and now that he was married he had the responsibility of raising a family and planning for his children. But Devil Sword Demoness thought differently. Not long after settling down peacefully she slipped back into her old ways and frequently roamed the jianghu and got into a lot of conflicts.
Soul Snatcher admonished her many times to no avail, and after several clashes, husband and wife were at odds and in a fit of rage he ran off to Sichuan and lived in seclusion on Whitecap Mountain in Yunyang. But he didn't find peace there. His old enemies thought he was alone and now was there chance. Within a year fifteen groups of highly-skilled enemies attacked nearly day and night so that he had no peace.
These provocations rouse his former lofty sentiments and stirred his latent tyrannical and bold disposition. In a fit of pique he summoned his old friends and subordinates and erected a frightening place in a valley of Whitecap Mountain which they called "Misery Valley". Traps were laid everywhere and any enemy who entered was slaughtered, his body left exposed to the elements as a warning to others. His ruthless vengeance swept through the jianghu and the members of Misery Valley became feared throughout. Some men who entered the valley and were captured lived to tell the tale, but it was only because they had been purposely released so they could go back and warn everyone else; otherwise, they never would have been able to escape Misery Valley on their own. And those who made it out of live were forever changed beyond recognition, now tragic, tortured creatures. And so Misery Valley became a frightful place that rocked the martial fraternity.
Soul Snatcher also changed his nickname, now calling himself Forsaken Pilgrim. What it meant was he would from now on follow his own path and no longer try to mend his ways and turn over a new leaf, and he regarded himself as a pilgrim of the world, often coming and going throughout the jianghu.
Later, his wife, Devil Sword Demoness, returned to his side. But he had one condition: his daughter was not allowed to take initiative in causing trouble unless they were forced to.
They had to kids, a boy and a girl. Both were married and settled down in the valley and did not roam the jianghu. From then on, Misery Valley people vanished from the jianghu. They didn't go out unless someone came to them to cause trouble.
The formidable reputation of Misery Valley faded and their members no longer roamed the jianghu so that they seemed to be completely detached from it. But stories of the horrible events of the past still circulated among the jianghu, and the stories of violent retaliation still lingered in the minds of men of the jianghu; they were difficult to forget.
No one had seen the juniors of the Misery Valley people in recent years, and the Yin-Yang Bone Sword and Chief Star Brush gradually faded from the younger jianghu generation's memory.
Until the Yin-Yang Bone Sword finally appeared in the ancient city of Chang'an, held by a young, ethereal beauty. Misery Valley was no longer content to remain out of the limelight and were once again present in the jianghu.
Iron Claw had invited disaster in thrusting his iron claw at this Misery Valley girl. Shit! Chief Yang of Northwest Escort Agency had a family and a business. If he dared fight Fang Xiaojuan, even if he sent all his top men after her, he might get lucky and kill her and the two servants, but Misery Valley's frighteningly violent retaliation would attract notice within the jianghu, and even if Northwest Escort Agency could be saved, there would no doubt be a bloodbath. There were not many willing to risk all that.
Iron Claw was terror-stricken. "Miss Fang, I… I have eyes but failed to see, and… offended… offended…"
Fang Xiaojuan sighed faintly and put away her sword. "Misery Valley's rule is if I am not attacked I must not attack others. You were too rash. Businessman must be affable if they want to make money. Why must you be so arrogant? You'd better watch yourself from now on, or else you know what will happen. Go on, I won't kill you. Please remember to instruct your men to show leniency to that little beggar and his two friends, or else I will come looking for you."
Iron Claw rejoiced and jumped to his feet, picked up his iron claw and bowed at the waist. "Miss Fang has shown mercy. I am grateful and in your debt, I offended you just now…"
"Young master, please see yourself off." Fang Xiaojuan smiled and did not salute him in greeting, but just stepped to the side.
Carefree Cloud and White Dragongirl were not yet far off and they turned around in shock at this sudden change of events. This Misery Valley girl was not as fearful as people said! And this Xiaojuan girl was not only strikingly beautiful, she was even more magnanimous, and with her gentle, elegant smile she didn't look at all like a heroine, letting Iron Claw off so lightly. Her tolerance was really rare.
"That's one good-natured girl," Carefree Cloud muttered to himself, nodding. "The jianghu is fortunate that Misery Valley has a girl like that."
Iron Claw didn't know if Fang Xiaojuan was really letting him go or if she had something up her sleeve, but getting out of there as quick as possible was the most important thing; he could deal with whatever aftermath there might be later. He quickly saluted and withdrew and mounted up and led his men out onto the public road and they whipped their horses and galloped off like their lives depended on it, all the while wishing their horses had four extra legs so they could get out of there faster.
Fang Xiaojuan and her two servants led their horses out. She eyed White Dragongirl and smiled with a nod, wanting to greet her. But Carefree Cloud was with her and a girl would not initiate conversation with an unfamiliar person. Even though Carefree Cloud was much older, he was still a man.
White Dragongirl, however, stared Fang Xiaojuan down. She had heard the latter warn Iron Claw not to give Wenchang and the others any trouble, so she must be friends with Wenchang. This girl was thoroughly infatuated and had taken a liking to Wenchang, but she didn't want some other girl to like Wenchang. Especially one with such graceful beauty as Fang Xiaojuan. She was not having that at all! Fortunately, she was intimidated by Misery Valley's reputation so she didn't do anything. Otherwise she'd definitely go up and ask Fang Xiaojuan what her relationship was to Wenchang, even if it meant making an enemy! Women are really odd.
But Fang Xiaojuan didn't know about any of that. She just felt White Dragongirl's unfriendly eyes on her, returning her friendly smile and nod with a harsh glare. But she didn't care, she just held her gentle smile and mounted up and left.
Carefree Cloud waited until the three girls were gone before he got their horses and mounted up and galloped toward the city.
Fang Xiaojuan and her two servants reached Benediction Temple and sent word out. Five miles ahead and behind them two groups of merchants were out on the road. Among them were a dozen invincible masters from Misery Valley. They were disguised and had been charged with protecting the young lady, but their actual strength was immense.
Inside the city, two groups of traveling merchants began to disperse, secretly searching for Wenchang and the others' whereabouts and spreading an inescapable dragnet.