Chapter 5 – Peacock
[originally translated by Chowbeng and edited by RWX]
The horse didn’t hurt anyone, and the carriage didn’t turn over flat.
This ordinary, unremarkable person had melted into the sea of people in a blink of the eye, the same way a small bubble disappeared in the vast ocean. Things like these were hardly noticeably at all.
Fu Hongxue slowly raised his head. Mingyue Xin saw that he was smiling, smiling in an odd way but yet very sweetly.
Out of the blue, he seemed to be lashed by an invisible whip and he instantly turned around and stepped back into the compartment.
Within that moment, Mingyue Xin had seen not only the dread and pain on his face but could also felt the unbearable sorrow buried deep in his heart.
Memories that had flowed away like running water and persons that had been blown away by the wind. Why had they resurfaced in his eyes?
She couldn’t stop herself and lightly touched her own face. That clay Buddha mask was jerked down when she shot out of the compartment, she let him see her face again.
She suddenly despised herself a little, hated herself for resembling that woman.
However, she hated that woman even more for causing others such deep pain.
Why must humans hurt each other? The deeper the love, the greater the hurt.
Her fingertip lightly caressed her eye, only then she realised that her eyes were already moist.
Who is she crying for?
Is it for ignorance of Man? Or for this lonely stranger?
She quietly dried her eyes and stepped back into the compartment, her face was once again covered by the always smiling Buddha mask. In her heart she only wished that she could be the same as this stout and carefree Bodhisattva and forget all the pain and sufferings in the world. Even if it was just for a single moment.
However, men are not gods. Even the Bodhisattvas no doubt have their own moments of pain. Their smile is perhaps only to deliberately hide that pain for the benefit of Man.
She comforted her heart with this.
Fu Hongxue’s pale face was still twitching in convulsion. She barely suppressed the sharp pain in heart, “You certainly recognise the person just now.”
He certainly recognised.
Mingyue Xin added, “But you never take any notice of him because he is genuinely too ordinary.”
As ordinary as a bubble in the ocean, a seed in the grain bin. Nobody would give him a second look.
Only when you were drowning with seawater in your mouth, would you discover that the bubble had turned a black finger stabbing in through the mouth into your heart.
Mingyue Xin exhaled, “That is why I always considered this kind of people as the most fearsome of all. If he had not shown himself, you might never notice him.”
Fu Hongxue acknowledged.
But why did he deliberately blow his own cover just now?
Mingyue Xin explained. “He did so to check us out.”
Thumb must have noticed someone spying from the carriage across the street so he purposely spat on his trouser leg. While pretending to clean up, he must had secretly informed him.
He then deliberately threw himself in front of the horse. For he knew, only by doing so, he could lure out the persons from inside the compartment.
Mingyue Xin lamented, “We had not yet checked them out but they had already known all about us. Within two hours, they would know where Yan Nanfei is.”
Fu Hongxue immediately asked, “Blackhand had a grudge with Yan Nanfei?”
Mingxue Xin replied, “No, they never kill for reasons such as personal grudges.”
Fu Hongxue, “Then they kill for what sort of reasons?”
Mingxue Xin said, “Only orders.”
On orders, they would kill, no matter whom.
Fu Hongxue said, “Where do they take orders from?”
Mingyue Xin said, “They only take orders from one man.”
Fu Hongxue, “Who?”
Mingyue Xin, “Gongzi Yu.”
Fu Hongxue tightened his grip.
Mingyue Xin, “By themselves, the five Fingers of Blackhand certainly would not have the power to establish such an organisation.”
Their organisation had gained control of almost all the top killers and assassins. Double Killers of Five Elements and Ghostly Granny were no doubt also members of this organisation.
Figures such as them would demand a high price for any single operation, to totally control them was thus not a simple task.
Mingyue Xin continued, “In the whole wide world, only one person alone have that sort of power”
Fu Hongxue guessed, “Gongzi Yu?”
Mingyue Xin stated, “Only him alone!”
Fu Hongxue stared at the hand on his sabre, the orbs of his eyes contracting.
Mingyue Xin was also silent for a long while before softly, “Stop killing with killing, you should have killed that man just now.”
Fu Hongxue laughed coldly.
Mingyue Xin said, “I know that you never draw your sabre easily, but he is already worthy of it.”
Fu Hongxue mused, “You suppose he is the Nameless Finger himself?
Mingyue Xin slowly nodded, “I even suspect him to be the Peacock.”
Fu Hongxue, “Peacock?”
Mingyue Xin, “Peacock is a kind of bird, a beautiful bird especially its plume…”
Fu Hongxue quipped, “But the Peacock you are referring is not a bird.”
Mingxue Xin admitted, “I was referring not to a bird but a person. A very fearsome person.”
The orbs of her eyes also contracted and slowly she continued, “I even feel that he is the most fearsome person under the heavens.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Why is it?”
“Because he has the Peacock Plume!” Mingyue Xin exclaimed.
When she said these words, her eyes momentarily shone with awe and fear.
Even Fu Hongxue’s face changed.
The plume of a peacock is just like the antlers of the antelope, not only precious but beautiful as well.
But the peacock plume they were referring to was not the tail feathers of a peacock but a hidden projectile!
A mystical, yet beautiful hidden projectile.
A fearsome hidden projectile.
Nobody could describe its beauty, nobody could also evade it, withstand it!
In that moment of its release, the mystical splendid and beauty was not only completely dizzying but also capable of momentarily banishing the fear of death! It was said that all the victims of this hidden projectile died with a mysterious and peculiar smile.
So, there were many people who were happy to die under this hidden projectile in same way as those who knew perfectly well that the wild rose has thorns, and yet still reached out to pluck it.
Because this kind of splendid beauty wasn’t something that mere mortals could refuse!
“You, of course know about the Peacock Plume!”
“But what you certainly don’t know is: Peacock Plume is no longer in the Peacock Manor.”
Fu Hongxue had always been a man who wasn’t easily flustered, but on hearing this, he was totally flabbergasted.
He not only knew about Peacock Plume, but had also visited Peacock Manor.
At that time, he felt like a pilgrim upon reaching the holy land.
It was then early autumn, autumn night.
He had never before seen such an extraordinary beautiful and stately place. The night scenery of Peacock Manor was near that of the mystical Imperial Palace.
“There were altogether nine large estates. The majority were built 330 years ago and experienced generations of change before achieving their present grandeur and scale.”
His host was the younger brother of the Master of Peacock Manor, Qiu Shuiqing.
Qiu Shuiqing was a man that was very conservative in speech.
The truth was this place was more than plain grandeur, it was simply miraculous.
“This was indeed miraculous. After being invaded countless times by war and plunder, the place still retained its tranquil peace.”
At the rear court, just in front of the gate, on the decorative wall facing the hall, thirteen coloured lanterns stood hanging.
Their magnificent light illuminated the huge painting on that wall. –
There were around a dozen of ferociously savage ruffians, each armed with a different kind of weapon. But their eyes were all cowering with awe and fear. All in fear of a golden sphere, in the hands of a pale scholar. A golden sphere radiating with rainbow-like rays. The radiance more gloriously beautiful than any rainbow.
“That was an event long passed. At that time, the 36 Death Stars of the underworld allied together and jointly attacked in order to destroy this place. With the combined strength of all 36, it was said that they were all but invincible.”
But not one of the 36 returned with their lives.
“From that day on, nobody in the martial world would dare to lightly violate the peace of Peacock Manor and the name, Peacock Plume spread all across the world!”
Even till this moment, Qiu Shuiqing’s words at that time were still ringing in his ears.
Never in his dreams, would he believe that Peacock Plume was now no longer in Peacock Manor.
“The secret …” Mingyue Xin declared. “The secret was something that no one in the martial world had known.
The head of the 13th generation of Qiu family had lost the Peacock Plume at the summit of Mount Tai!
“This secret was now only starting to be known because the Peacock Plume had suddenly reappeared in the martial world.”
Only appeared twice, only claimed two victims!
Both victims were certainly well known and highly skilled, the killer was however not from Peacock Manor.
“As long as the Peacock Plume existed, nobody in the martial world dared to violate Peacock Manor. Otherwise it faced destruction.”
“Peacock Manor’s 300 years of reputation, eighty li of property, and 500 human lives were all in fact built on the tiny Peacock Plume!”
But the Peacock Plume was now in the hands of a completely unknown stranger!
Fu Hongxue couldn’t hold it, “And that person is Peacock?”
The antelope was hunted and killed only because of its antlers. Graves were uncovered and robbed only because of its buried treasure.
More often than not, calamities avoided the clumsy and weak and ugly maidens kept their chastity.
Peacock understood this very well.
Only the most ordinary, the most anonymous could securely possess a weapon like Peacock Plume!
Actually he wasn’t such a person in the beginning; he was like most people who dreamed of wealth and fame.
Since that stuffy hot summer night, when he saw the girl of his dreams pressed down on the grass with a rich dandy, humping and grasping, he resolved to obtain undreamt of wealth and fame.
He had obtained something that was far more precious than he ever dreamt of – He had obtained the Peacock Plume!
Thus his resolve changed as well. For he was an intelligent person, he didn’t want to be hunted and killed like the antelope!
He wanted to kill!
Every time he remembered that stuffy hot summer night, every time he remembered that girl humping and grasping in sweat, he only wanted to kill.
But today he didn’t kill!
Not that he didn’t want to, but because he didn’t dare to!
Faced with that pale white face and callous icy stare, he instantly felt a little fear in his heart.
Since he obtained the Peacock Plume, this was the first time that he was fearful of a person.
His fear was not of the pitch black sabre, but the man holding the sabre. Although he just stood there quietly, he was by far sharper than a sabre out of its sheath.
That callous icy stare made his heart skip. His heart was still beating crazily when he reached his own house.
The fast beating of his heart was however not entirely out of fear and dread.
He was excited!
Because he really wanted to test it out, wanted to test if the Peacock Plume could kill this person.
But sadly he lacked exactly that kind of courage!
A very simple house, only with a bed, a chest and a table, a chair.
He collapsed the moment he made in past the door, collapsed onto the bed, the cold and hard bed board did nothing to calm him down. Abruptly, he discovered inside the pants his thing had already risen up from the root.
He was really too excited, because he wanted to kill again, because he again remembered that stuffy summer night…
The lust of killing actually would ignite his impulses and desires; this was something that he himself could not comprehend.
Most unbearably was that once aroused, this kind of impulse was all but impossible to suppress.
He had no women.
He had trusted no women, never allowed women to touch him. He resolved this kind of need with the only method he knows: Killing.
Unfortunately, now he lacked the courage to kill the person he wanted to kill.
That spring afternoon, suddenly turned as stuffy as the summer night.
He slowly reached out with his sweaty hands. At this moment, he could only ease his impulse with his hands. After that, he lay prostrated on the bed, vomiting without a pause.
Vomiting while in tears!
Dusk, nearing dusk but yet dusk.
A person pushed open the door silently, entering silently. His body was potty and clumsy, and yet his movements were quick and light as a wild cat.
Peacock was still lying motionlessly on the bed; he looked coldly at this person. He had always disliked this silly fatty, but now in his heart, there was an indescribable loathing.
This person was only a eunuch, a worthless being, a pig!
However, this pig was unfortunately immune to the stirring of lust and thus would never be tormented by such numbing ache.
Looking at the fat smiling face, he almost could not stop himself from giving him a good punch on the nose.
But he could only endure it.
Because he was his comrade as well as his thumb.
Thumb was still smiling away and silently sat down on the chair beside the bed. With a smile, “I know you certainly would have a way to lure them out, you never fail in your task.”
Peacock calmly remarked, “You see them, right?”
Thumb nodded, “The woman is Mingyue Xin. The man is Fu Hongxue.”
Peacock tightened his grip again.
He had heard of that name, also recognised this person and further acknowledged this person’s sabre!
The matchless fast sabre under the heavens!
Thumb said, “Yan Nanfei is still alive sorely because of Fu Hongxue, so…”
Peacock instantly jumped up, “In order to kill Yan Nanfei, Fu Hongxue must be first eliminated!”
His face was already flushed with excitement, even his eyes had too turned red.
Thumb looked at him in surprise, for none had ever seen him to be so excited and animated.
The Calm Peacock, The Ordinary Peacock, The Nameless Peacock, The Killer Peacock.
Thumb baited, “You want to kill Fu Hongxue that much?”
Peacock smiled and lightly said, “I have always like to kill humans, and Fu Hongxue is also one.”
Thumb said, “But he is not an ordinary human, it is not an easy thing to kill him.”
Peacock said, “I know that, that is why I, myself don’t want to act”
Thumb said, “If you don’t act, who else dare to.”
Peacock smiled again, “I don’t act, because I am not a famous person and also don’t wish to be famous.”
Thumb also smiled, with the twinkle in his eyes, “You are thinking of getting Du Lei to risk his life first and then take the winnings later.”
Peacock nonchalantly said, “In any case, whoever win or lose, I would not be discomforted.”
Mingyue Xin was much discomforted, discomforted like a snail that had hidden in its shell for a long time without sunning itself.
The mask on her face was bought at last year’s temple fair. Although the workmanship is superb, wearing it for long periods would still cause some itchiness on her face.
Once the face itched, the rest of the body would not be too comfortable.
However, she didn’t want to remove this mask. Presently, she was also somewhat frightful of allowing Fu Hongxue to see her face.
This subtle feeling was something that she could not comprehend nor did she wish to comprehend.
They came in when the setting sun was shining directly at the wild roses outside the window. The colour of the wild roses was even more striking after the rain.
Yan Nanfei’s face was however as white as a sheet of paper.
“Has Young Master Yan regain consciousness?”
“No,” The one who had been at Yan Nanfei’s bedside all the while was that same Young Girl with large eyes.
“Have you feed him the medicine?”
“No too,” Young Girl pursed her lips, hid her smile, “Without any instructions from Miss, I wouldn’t even dare to touch him.”
“Because…” Young Girl could no longer stop herself from laughing out loud. “Because I am afraid that Miss might be jealous!”
Mingyue Xin gave her a fierce stare, turned around to Fu Hongxue, “Is it time for him to take his medicine now?”
Fu Hongxue faced the window, slowly nodded.
The rays of setting sun filled up the whole window.
The window frame was as new as the newly glued window paper, shiny as a mirror.
The two window panels were set at an angle. The lower panel was reflected with a field of wild roses, the upper panel reflected that of the room.
Mingyue Xin was now standing at the head of the bed. She took a pill from the vial of antidote and dissolved it in warm water.
Her every movement was slow and careful as though fearing that spoonful of medicine’s effectiveness would weaken if she spilt a little.
But she did not feed Yan Nanfei with that spoonful of medicine!
Fu Hongxue’s back was still facing them. She gave him a fugitive glance and quickly dumped that spoonful of medicine into Young Girl’s sleeve. Then she helped Yan Nanfei up and put the empty spoon into his mouth.
What’s the meaning of this?
Her purpose of getting Fu Hongxue here was to save Yan Nanfei. But an empty spoon wasn’t going to save anyone.
Fu Hongxue was still standing there silently.
Although he didn’t turn his head, window panel was as reflective as the shiny mirror. He could very clearly see her each and very move.
But he didn’t show the slightest reaction.
Mingyue Xin fugitively glanced at him again, and then slowly lay Yan Nanfei down. Muttering, “After this dose of medicine, with a good sleep, I think he would wake up tomorrow morning.”
Of course, in her heart she knew that he certainly would not wake up.
She was sighing. However in that pair of eyes, clear as the moon betrayed a hint of cunning.
At this moment, someone from outside suddenly said, “A letter for Hero Fu.”
The envelope and the letter paper was both the most expensive kind available in the market!
The letter was very brief, the characters were very tidy. “Tomorrow noon. In the abandoned Ni Family Garden, outside the hexagonal pavilion, bring your sabre! One man, one sabre!”
Fu Hongxue had almost no need to read the signature at the bottom, for this letter was most certainly from Du Lei.
He could see that although Du Lei was very orderly, he was also extravagantly showy.
His assessment was not wrong.
Mingyue Xin breathed out deeply, “I know that Du Lei would certainly challenge you, but never thought that it would come so soon!”
Fu Hongxue folded the letter carefully using the hand not holding the sabre and then asked, “Where is the abandoned Ni Family Garden?”
Mingyue Xin, “Just right opposite here.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Very good.”
Mingyue Xin puzzled, “Very good?”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “I am a cripple, I don’t like to walk too far before a duel!”
Mingyue Xin said, “You intend to go?”
Fu Hongxue confirmed, “Certainly.”
Mingyue Xin, “Going alone?”
Fu Hongxue, “One man, one sabre!”
Mingyue Xin suddenly laughed coldly, “Good, very good!”
This was a puzzling statement, and a puzzling smirk. Fu Hongxue did not understand, but he did not ask.
Mingyue Xin, “Tonight, you could have a good sleep. Tomorrow after breakfast, you would reach the abandoned Ni Garden in just a few steps, certainly enough time for you check out the surroundings.”
When top experts duelled, the advantage of familiar ground was one of the decisive factors between victory and defeat.
Mingyue Xin said, “You had also observed Du Lei very well, knowing his character and habits while he didn’t know a thing about you.”
Knowing oneself and one’s opponent was of course even more decisive than knowing the ground.
Mingyue Xin said, “So, you already have all the decisive advantages in this duel. The moment you draw your sabre, there will be only 12 names left on the [Hall of Fame]. Even if you don’t really like to kill, it is still a very joyous situation!”
Again she laughed out very coldly and shouted, “What about Yan Nanfei? Have you given him a thought?”
Fu Hongxue said plainly, “The one with a death duel is not him.”
Mingyue Xin, “The one going to die is however certainly to be him!”
Fu Hongxue, “Certainly?”
Mingyue Xin, “Peacock and Thumb would have no doubt know his whereabouts by now, as soon as you stepped into the abandoned Ni garden, they would storm into this house.”
Fu Hongxue’s grip tightened again, the roots of green veins stood out like a pattern on the back of his pale white hands.
Mingyue Xin coldly stared at him and just as coldly mused, “Perhaps you had saved his life in the past, but he would have live longer if not for you.”
The green veins at the back of Fu Hongxue’s hand stood out even more distinctly, and suddenly he asked a question that he knew he shouldn’t ask.
“Do you really care for him?”
Mingyue Xin, “Certainly.”
She replied without thinking, replied immediately and replied very calmly.
She seemed to bear no resemble at all with the person who had just dumped a spoon of life saving antidote into the sleeve of the Young Girl.
Fu Hongxue didn’t check out the expression on her face. Even if he had looked, he could not see.
On her face, she was still wearing that ever smiling mask.
What kind of woman was hidden beneath this mask?
After another long while, Fu Hongxue softly said, “Unless I shouldn’t go?”
Mingyue Xin answered, “You certainly should go.”
Fu Hongxue said, “But…”
Mingyue Xin interrupted him, “But before you go, you should send him to a safe place.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Which is a safe place?”
Mingyue Xin chipped in, “Peacock Manor!”
A hidden weapon that no beings under the heavens could evade.
The radiance more gloriously beautiful than any rainbow.
Fu Hongxue exhaled, “You had said that Peacock Plume is no longer in Peacock Manor.”
Mingyue Xin acknowledged, “That’s right”
Fu Hongxue, “Then, is Peacock Manor still standing?”
Mingyue Xin, “There is still Qiu Shuiqing.”
A big tall silent man.
A prominent name.
Mingyue Xin declared, “Although he is always very conservative, but he would not refuse the people you sent!”
Fu Hongxue, “Oh?”
Mingyue Xin said, “Because he owed you.”
Fu Hongxue said, “Owed what?”
Mingyue Xin supplied, “Owed you a life.”
She did not give Fu Hongxue a chance to deny it and continued, “All the while, it is true that you seldom save people’s lives but you had saved him before. In fact, you had saved him twice. Once on the bank of River Wei, another at the foot of Mount Tai.
Fu Hongxue could not deny it, because she really knew too much.
Mingyue Xin added, “Presently, he is already the Master of Peacock Manor, and he now has enough strength to pay this debt.”
Fu Hongxue said, “But he no longer has the Peacock Plume.”
If the Peacock Plume is missing, Peacock Manor would face immediate destruction.
Mingyue Xin explained, “Everyone had long believed that the reputation of Peacock Manor is all built upon the Peacock Plume. It is only now that they realised that Qiu Shuiqing, this person is far more fearsome than the Peacock Plume.”
Fu Hongxue asked, “Why?”
Mingyue Xin said, “News that the Peacock Plume had fallen into the hands of someone outside the family spread very fast in the martial world. The Peacock Manor had many enemies, in the last two years there were at least six expeditions to sack Peacock Manor.”
Very slowly she continued, “These six expeditions had altogether 79 people, each of them highly skilled.”
Fu Hongxue, “The outcome?”
Mingxue Xin, “Once these 79 experts stepped into Peacock Manor, they disappeared like a pebble sunk into the vast ocean. No further news was ever heard of them again.”
Mingyue Xin, “The last expedition set off at last year Double Ninth Festival. Since then, no one in the martial world dare to violate Peacock Manor.”
Fu Hongxue had shut his mouth.
Mingyue Xin glanced at him with the corner of her eye, “Peacock Manor isn’t far away. If we travel lightly with a fast carriage, we would certainly reach there before tomorrow noon.”
But Fu Hongxue did not comply, neither did he refuse. After another long pause he suddenly said, “Don’t you fear that they would block our path?”
Mingyue Xin said, “In the martial world, who could block your path?”
Fu Hongxue said, “At least one.”
Mingyue Xin asked, “Who?”
Fu Hongxue replied, “Peacock with the Peacock Plume.”
Mingyue Xin assured, “He certainly wouldn’t dare to.”
Fu Hongxue, “Why?”
Mingyue Xin, “Although the Peacock Plume is the matchless hidden weapon under the heavens, Peacock himself was however not an unrivaled master. He was afraid that your sabre might be faster than his hand.”
No matter how fearsome the hidden weapon, it is as good as scrap metal if it couldn’t be released.
Fu Hongxue again fell into silence.
Mingyue Xin said, “If you really don’t wish that he died in the hands of others, you should bring us there now.”
Fu Hongxue finally made up his mind, “I can bring both of you there, but I have something to ask you.”
Mingyue Xin, “Go ahead.”
Fu Hongxue coldly said, “If you really care about him, why did you pour his antidote on a sleeve?”
With it, he turned and walked out without looking back, as though he knew that Mingyue Xin had no way to answer that question.
Mingyue Xin was indeed speechlessly shocked.
She indeed could not answer, neither was she willing to.
She only could look on helplessly as Fu Hongxue made his way out. Although he walked slowly, but he never stop.
Once he started to walk, he certainly would not stop.
The setting sun had gradually turned pale, pale as the moon.
The pale rays of setting sun, shined directly on Yan Nanfei’s face.
The wind blowing from the mountains afar carried the light fragrance of the forest. From the spot Mingyue Xin stood, one could see the green of the mountains afar.
But she was however looking at Yan Nanfei.
The deeply poisoned and long unconscious Yan Nanfei, unexpectedly also opened his eyes and looked at her.
She was unexpectedly again not surprised at all.
Yan Nanfei smiled abruptly, “I had said, I had said long ago, to deceive him is not easy at all.”
Mingyue Xin said, “I also know that it is not easy, but I must give it a try.”
Yan Nanfei said, “Now, have you tried?”
Mingyue Xin said, “I had tried.”
Yan Nanfei said, “What do you think?”
Mingyue Xin sighed gently, with a bitter smile, “I only feel that to deceive him is indeed not easy.”
Yan Nanfei said, “But I must give it another try!”
Mingyue Xin’s eyes has shone, Yan Nanfei’s eyes was also shinning brightly.
Why did they want to deceive Fu Hongxue?
What was their goal?
The setting sun in the western sky.
Fu Hongxue under the setting sun.
Under the setting sun there was only him, in the entire world there was only him.
He was completely alone.