Flying Dagger, the Flying Dagger Appears Again Sept 25, 2022 11:07:04 GMT texture likes this
Post by kyc on Sept 25, 2022 11:07:04 GMT
PART FIVE: MOONLIGHT LIKE SNOW, MOONLIGHT LIKE BLOOD
Chapter One: The Small Building
A room in the bustling heart of the city. On a floor in the bustling heart of the city.
No one in the city knew this family or this room existed in the small building. They knew even less about the household residing in this room of this building.
There used to be a silk textile shop on the ground floor. The owners were honest traders, fair and conscientious in their dealings with all—even with children and old folks.
Which was why the silk textile shop went bust, all of a sudden.
An armed escort and his young wife used to live in one of the higher-storied rooms. Rumor had it that the man was just a veteran "road parter" for a large armed escort agency. But his escort chiefs trusted him and he was rarely at home.
As a result, his young wife suddenly vanished after three to four months. They said she eloped with that handsome young waiter from the restaurant just down the street.
The storeroom was just one story above theirs, used for storing silk and satin fabrics. This storeroom used to be empty. But a month ago, neighbors who couldn't sleep at night would sometimes hear a newborn baby bawling.
—Was anyone staying in the room above theirs? What family was that?
A few curious people wanted to go up and take a look. They could not curb their curiosity.
But the officials had already sealed up that huge door of the textile shop.
There used to be three rooms in the uppermost story of this building. The largest room was a storeroom for storing silk and satin fabrics. The shop workers slept in the other room.
The proprietor and his wife—a hardworking and frugal elderly couple—lived in the third room.
But everything had changed. The rooms were now completely white, untainted by any other color.
From the back window of this small building, one could see the rear compound of the Li family. Three generations of the Li family had come in third in the imperial examinations.
There was another small building in the Lis' rear compound. For years, there would be a weak lamplight from that rear garden, often the only light of that small building throughout the night.
Almost all the long-time residents here knew the building housed the study room of Little Li, the bronze imperial graduate. After he left home, it became the bedroom of his one-time lover, Lin Shiyin. Old Mr. Manqing, the third heir of the Li family, was now convalescing in that room.
This was once an unknown alley. Curious people started flocking here in adulation, thanks to Little Li's great fame. Over time, it became a busy street.
The flying daggers were gone. So was the man. But his fame remained.
As a result, the place was visited by more and more people. But in the past few years, it was beginning to show signs of lassitude.
Which was why the silk textile shop went bust.
Why would a family move deliberately into a small building in this district, above a closed-down silk textile shop? And why did they furnish the three rooms like the place was a little ice palace?
Everything was snowy-white in this room: snowy-white walls, snowy-white ceiling. The bed canopy was spun from pure silk fabric, white as snow. Silvery-white fox hide covered the entire floor. Even the cosmetic items on the dressing table were all silvery-white.
Each time the lamp under the snowy-white gauze was lit, the light in the room would turn as gentle as moonlight.
There was no moon outside the window. Only a lady in a long, soft, snowy-white dress, sitting alone by the lamp under the white gauze.
Her face seemed far more bloodless and pale than the white gauze by the lamp.
A while ago, a baby seemed to be bawling in this room. But its cries could no longer be heard.
After a long time, someone quietly called out at the door.
A girl with two glossy black braids, wearing a long, snowy-white dress like her mistress, pushed the door open quietly and walked in.
"Young mistress," the girl said. "Our boy's asleep, very sound asleep. I'm here to see how you're doing."
"See how I am doing?" Her young lady's voice sounded very cold. "Why do you need to see how I am doing? What's there on me to see?"
There was so much sorrow in the girl's eyes, yet her compassion overwhelmed her sorrow. "I know you're hiding something in your heart all this time, young mistress. You seem to be hiding even more in your heart over the past few months. Why are you doing this? Why must you keep tormenting yourself?"
Young girls are always sentimental and melancholic. But her young mistress seemed even more sentimental and melancholic than her servant girl.
The window was open. There was nothing outside the window, only cold wind and chilling stars. Suddenly, firecrackers could be heard crackling in the dark after some time—crackling endlessly, one set resounding after another.
All of a sudden, the crackling of firecrackers could be heard echoing throughout the land.
This sad, melancholic young lady, who had been dreaming her beautiful, tragic old dream, now awoke with a start. She suddenly asked the girl beside her with the big braids:
"Xiaoxing, what day is it today? Why are there so many people setting off firecrackers?"
"It's the sixth day of the first month today. The day to receive the God of Wealth," Xiaoxing said. "Every household is receiving the God of Wealth tonight. What about us?"
Her young lady gazed intently at the darkness outside the window. She did not seem to hear those deafening firecrackers and only said quietly after a long time:
"We're not receiving the God of Wealth."
"What deity are we receiving, if not the God of Wealth?" Xiaoxing tried hard to wear a happy smile on her face. "Is it the Moon Goddess? Is it the Moon Goddess whose blade is like the moonlight?"
The young lady dressed in snowy white suddenly stood up. She walked to the window and looked up into the heavens shrouded in the darkness.
"Yes, I would like to receive the Moon Goddess. Because in some ancient myths, the moon represents death," she said. "The sun means birth, the moon means death."
There was no moon outside the window.
Not far away, which yet seemed very far away from this small building in the heart, a lamp was still flickering.
"I believe now, by that lamp in that small building over there, a man is also awaiting the moon and death." Her voice was cold and merciless. "Because there are only nine more days to the fifteenth day of the first month."
There suddenly came now again the bawling of a baby.
Chapter 2: Manqing the Old Man
This building was already very old.
All the residents of this small building had left, either because of their loneliness and sorrow, or because of the man's loyalty and arrogance.
The only one still living in this small building had almost depleted himself completely, both mentally and physically. He felt so lonely, he would prefer a quick death, at any moment and at any place.
He had not died, not because he didn't want to.
He had not died, simply because he was a son of the Li family. He could have died. But he couldn't let his family's glory and honor perish in his hands.
—In this world, how many people know that loneliness can sometimes be far more painful than death?
He once heard a very wise friend told him something he completely believed in, even until now.
—The most detestable thing in this world is loneliness.
When a happy man has a family, career, children, friends, and health...
When his wife brings their children back to her maiden home, when he gets a rest from work, when he doesn't want to see his friends and would rather be in idle solitude...
Picking up a glass of wine, he sits alone in his vast, elegant courtyard, so lonely that the wine can be heard clanging in his glass. Then he sighs quietly to himself and says,
"Loneliness is such great enjoyment."
Mr. Manqing was gripping his own hand. There was nothing else but cold sweat in his palm.
Chapter 3: Life and Death
Xiaoxing, too, was gazing at the lamplight at the opposite building. She said in a very determined voice:
"You must surely let me go with you on the fifteenth day of the first month, my lady. I want to see what Li Manqing is like. Why did he push Old Master down the edge?" Xiaoxing said. "I always wanted to see Li Manqing die under your blade, ever since I heard this story from my mother, young mistress."
Her young lady whose expression was like the moon gave a faint smile.
"Li Manqing won't die under my blade," she said. "Because on the fifteenth day of the first month, he won't be there to fight me."
"Why?" Xiaoxing asked. "Is Li Manqing really such a coward?"
"He's not afraid of death, he's afraid of defeat," the Moon Goddess said. "He is the son of Little Li, the bronze imperial graduate. He cannot lose."
Xiaoxing suddenly became quiet, her florid face suddenly turning pale. She asked only after a long time:
"Is Young Master Li Huai really a son of that Li family, young mistress?"
"Then surely he doesn't know you're the one who is issuing the challenge?"
"He knows," the Moon Goddess said quietly. "He's so smart, he must have guessed that by now already."
Xiaoxing bit her lip, making her speech sound like mumbling.
"If he really knows he has to fight you on the fifteenth day of the first month, he should just go far, far away," Xiaoxing said. "How can he have the heart to fight you?"
"Because he has no choice."
"Because all things said, he is still a descendant of the Li family. He won't allow his family's dignity and prestige to be destroyed in his hands," the Moon Goddess said. "In the same way, although I know he's surely going to be my opponent, I won't allow the Xues' dignity and prestige to be destroyed in my hands either."
She continued in a voice so calm that it bordered on cruelty. "There are too many things in this world you will find yourself helpless about. Even if someone knows he or she shouldn't be doing something, he or she may still have to keep doing it under certain circumstances."
The sound of the firecrackers had died away completely. A deathly silence reigned between the heavens and the earth. Yet there seemed a voice only the two were able to hear, echoing in the air in this voiceless, colorless, wordless silence.
A baby's bawling.
"Young mistress," Xiaoxing asked, "why don't you tell him you have given him a child?"
"Why must I?" the Moon Goddess said. "I bore him a child, not because I wanted the child to be the heir of the Li family. Although I did give him this child, he is a descendant of our Xue family as much as a descendant of the Li family. I did it out of my own free will. Why must I tell him that?"
"But if you were to tell him that, he might not fight you."
"If I told him that and he couldn't bear to kill me, I would still have to kill him. Because I must win. Since victory means life, defeat means death."
Xiaoxing suddenly bit her lip firmly. But she still could not keep tears from flowing down her pale cheeks.
"Young mistress, I have only one more thing to ask you."
"Ask it," the Moon Goddess said. "You may ask anything."
"On the day of your duel, when life and death, victory and defeat, survival and destruction have to be decided in a split second—would he have the heart to kill you?"
"I don't know."
"And in that split second, would you have the heart to kill him?"
No one knew how long the Moon Goddess remained quiet. Only after a long while did she give the answer:
"I don't know that either."
This is the way many things are in this world. Up until that instant when you have to decide between life and death, victory and defeat, survival and destruction, you wouldn't know the answer.
Still, what good would it do to know the answer?
What difference would it make if Li Huai won? What difference would it make if Li Huai lost?
Life and death, survival and destruction, are instantaneous. But their feelings remain forever.
Regardless of whether Li Huai lived or died, won or lost—for him, it was all a tragedy.
Regardless of whether the Moon Goddess lived or died, won or lost—for her, it was also a tragedy.
Birth, aging, sickness, and death—these are all tragic. There are already so, so, so many tragedies in this world. For someone who likes only to laugh and not to cry, why must he still write tragedies for others to shed tears over?
There must be at least one way to avoid every kind of tragedy. I hope everyone who hates shedding tears finds a way to avoid this kind of tragedy.