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The Vast Desert Chapter 32


Chapter 32 – The Feast to Celebrate Heroic Deed

Hu Tiehua cast Princess Pipa a glance, suddenly he whispered to Ji Bingyan, “Could it be that this kid is afraid to be entangled by the Passionate Princess [orig. princess with lots of passion/affection, see previous note, but in this case, it is a real ‘princess’], unexpectedly he slipped out secretly?”

Knitting his brows, Ji Bingyan replied, “You think everybody is just like you?”

“Humph!” Hu Tiehua replied, “It’s not necessarily so, this kid can do anything. I say we’d better go look for him first!”

Ji Bingyan’s confidence was slightly shaken as well; he whispered back, “Let’s slip out separately; we’ll meet outside.”

“All right,” Hu Tiehua said, “Let’s do it that way.”

He suddenly remembered that the ‘Star of Happiness’ was still in his possession. Since the King of Qiuci considered this object to be very precious, how could he take it away? Besides, he promised that beautiful Queen that he would ask about the secret behind it anyway! Thereupon he took the ‘Star of Happiness’ out and presented it up; he said with a laugh, “Fortunately Zaixia did not bring disgrace to the king’s order by taking this treasure back. Wangye, please accept.”

Who would have thought that the King of Qiuci unexpectedly laughed? He said, “Zhuangshi has rendered great merit, Xiao Wang has no hope of paying it back, so I give this gem to you; just consider it a souvenir!”

Unexpectedly he seemed to have forgotten how many lives this ‘Star of Happiness’ had sacrificed, how much did it cost to bring it back, unexpectedly he gave it to Hu Tiehua so casually.

Hu Tiehua was so shocked that he was speechless. It was only half a day later that he forced a laughter and said, “If Wangye feel that I have some meritorious service, just give me a few pots of good wine for me to drink and that should be enough. This ‘Star of Happiness’ I really do not dare to accept it.”

“Why?” the King of Qiuci asked.

Rubbing his nose, Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “I am a poor kid, if I have such a precious thing on me, do you think I will still be able to sleep?”

The King of Qiuci smiled and said, “Two or three days ago, indeed no one could estimate its value, and this king would definitely not give it to you. But now, its value had suddenly been reduced. Such precious stone, this king does not know how many I have in my treasury. Just don’t worry and accept it.”

As soon as he said that, even Ji Bingyan and Princess Pipa were stunned.

Hu Tiehua’s eyes grew big, he stammered, “Isn’t this gem related to some great secret?”

The King of Qiuci laughed and said, “That was nothing more than a rumor that this king deliberately manufactured, to let other people think that this gem carried some great secret. Only by relying on this would this king have the hope of restoring my country, because while their attention was completely focused on this gem, this king had already, in secret, used the treasure left by the previous king to hire the five-way army, the gods did not know, the ghosts did not perceive, to accomplish the great undertaking of restoring the nation.”

Stroking his beard, he laughed heartily and said, “This is called repairing the plank road by day while secretly crossing the Wei River at Chencang [idiom, referring to the stratagem used by Liu Bang in 206BC against Xiang Yu of Chu: feigning one thing while doing another], the threatening-the-east-and-striking-to-the-west stratagems.”

Ji Bingyan and Hu Tiehua looked at each other in dismay. They were both amazed and admired him. They originally thought that this king, who loved wine and women, was nothing more than front-ranking romantic Son of Heaven after Shu Tang [can’t find reference on this]; only now did they know that the depth of his shrewd mind was unexpectedly not inferior to Emperor Han Wu. He deliberately indulged himself in wine and women, indulged himself in sound and color, naturally it was only a tactic to confuse people’s eyes and ears.

Hu Tiehua finally sighed. Smiling wryly, he said, “No wonder Chu Liuxiang always felt it strange that since the Star of Happiness was holding the secret related to the kingship of Qiuci nation, why did he send it under armed escorts of the Central Plains’ escort agency from inside the Pass to the outside? If this moment he heard Wangye’s explanation, he must be full of admiration to Wangye.”

But Princess Pipa pursed her lips; feigning anger coquettishly, she said, “But Diedie, why did you keep me inside the drum as well? Could it be that as the father you distrust even your daughter?”

The King of Qiuci laughed and said, “It’s not that I distrust you, darling daughter, it’s just that the tighter I kept this secret, the more the others would be more suspicious in a hundred and one ways. One more day I did not reveal the secret, one more day my life would not be in danger. Those people who are bent to find out the secret would also protect me in the dark.”

Princess Pipa sighed and said, “It seems that being a king’s daughter is not necessarily a fortunate thing. No wonder a certain princess from the previous dynasty, at the death’s door she covered her face and cried loudly, saying, ‘I hope for from life to life, from age to age, never to be born in a monarch’s family’.”

The King of Qiuci could not help sighing as well. “That’s right,” he said, “If one wants to be a good monarch, then he may not be able to be a good father.”

This remark was indeed a wise saying. It should be noted that a monarch rules all the people, with ten thousand affairs in a day, how could he have the time to be a parent?

Therefore, three-chi grass hall, each produces filial son. The monarch’s family often produce a lot of unworthy younger generation. [This is literal translation, must be some kind of sayings.]

Ji Bingyan suddenly laughed coldly and said, “Wangye indeed has great skill and strategy, which no one can match. Only I feel sorry for those several muddleheaded armed escorts who lost their lives for the sake of several taels of silver without knowing anything.”

The King of Qiuci’s expression also became extremely grave; he spoke indifferently, “Military affairs and politics of a country, these are dreadful things to begin with. A general rendering meritorious deed, still his dried-up bones fill the mountain, much less the monarch of a country? It has been like this since ancient times, inevitable and tragic. Even the founding emperors of the Tang and the Song dynasties could not avoid these things, why did Xiansheng single out this king to receive the blame?”

Ji Bingyan was silent for half a day. Hanging his head low, he said, “Momentarily Zaixia had a slip of the tongue; I wish for Wangye’s forgiveness.”

Hu Tiehua stretched out his neck, he poured a large bowl of wine entirely down his throat. Throwing his head back, he laughed aloud and said, “Therefore, may I offer a bit of advice to everybody, drinking the wine in the cup is better, don’t ask about the past. Since ancient times, a lot of emperors and kings are lonely, how could it match me, a poor kid taking things less seriously and so free?”

Suddenly someone laughed and responded, “Well said, ‘drinking the wine in the cup is better, don’t ask about the past’. But when the cunning rabbit is dead, the hunting dog will be cooked; when the birds are gone, the bow will be stored away. Could it be that you have never heard this saying?”

A burst of fragrance floated inside, intoxicating everybody, in the tent suddenly appeared a picturesque absolute beauty. Under the lantern light, it was like a celestial fairy descending upon the earth.

No one would have imagined that this fairy materializing under the lantern light was unexpectedly the confined-on-the-sickbed-all-year-long, the too-weak-to-stand-up-to-the-wind Queen of Qiuci.

They saw her face was still covered in light muslin, which made her beautiful countenance even more like a Chinese peony in the fog, a peach blossom in the mist; her beauty simply took the breath away.

The King of Qiuci was pleasantly surprised; unexpectedly he seemed to forget that his tender wife was sick, how could she have such magical shenfa like this? Hurriedly leaving his seat, he said, “How did you get here?”

The Queen of Qiuci laughed and said, “I am here; are you not happy?”

The King of Qiuci said, “But … but your body is weak, how could you withstand so much wind and cold?”

Ji Bingyan suddenly laughed coldly and said, “Forget about trivial cold wind and icy dew, even saber wind and arrows rain, Wangfei could not possibly take it seriously; am I right?”

The Queen of Qiuci laughed and said, “That’s right.”

Ji Bingyan’s eyes flickered, he said, “The birds are over, the bow is put away, the hound is boiled once the rabbit is caught. Could it be that Wangfei is also thinking of getting rid of us?”

The King of Qiuci laughed aloud and said, “This king absolutely does not have this intention, gentlemen do not need to worry.”

But the Queen coldly said, “Although you do not have that intention, I do.”

The King of Qiuci was stunned. “You …” he said.

The Queen slowly lifted up her veil, revealing a pair of limpid autumn waters [traditional description of girl’s beautiful eyes] divine eyes, as she looked at the King of Qiuci and said, “Do you recognize me?”

The King of Qiuci laughed and said, “How could I not recognize you?”

The Queen suddenly reached out her delicate lily-white hand again to touch her face; a thin, cicada-wing-like light yellow mask immediately fell off her face like a snake shedding its skin.

Under the lantern light, her face changed fantastically.

The King of Qiuci used to think that his beloved queen was a matchless stunning beauty in the world, who could have thought that the face appeared in front of his face at the moment was ten million times more beautiful than his wife? He could not help blurting out in alarm, “Who are you?”

The ‘Queen’ replied indifferently, “You don’t recognize me, do you?”

But Hu Tiehua suddenly jumped up and shouted, “But I recognize you, you are …”

The Queen’s gaze turned to his face, she spoke word-by-word, “You recognize me? Who am I?”

Hu Tiehua actually found out that surprisingly this woman was the ‘new bride’ who had spent a passionate evening with him in the past; he also finally realized why whenever he saw this ‘Queen’ before, his heart was always like a frisky monkey, his mind like cantering horse [idiom], he indulged in fantasy [another idiom]. Yet this moment, her pair of beautiful fluid glances unexpectedly suddenly became as sharp as an eagle’s, as vicious as a wolf’s, as callous as a blade.

Hu Tiehua suddenly shuddered. His mouth could not even say a single word.

The ‘Queen’ smiled sweetly and said, “I know you don’t recognize me either. In fact, there is no one in the world who recognize me; because as soon as someone recognizes me, there is no way for him to keep on living.”

The originally warm tent suddenly became as if it was plunged into the ice. Everybody’s hands and feet became icy-cold; so cold that they were shivering.

It was only this moment that everybody had guessed who she was.

Shi Guanyin! You are Shi Guanyin!’

Yet unexpectedly no one dared to utter these words.

The King of Qiuci fell back into his seat. Grieved, he said, “I don’t care who you are, but my Wangfei … did you kill her?”

The Stone Guanyin spoke softly, “You do not need to feel bad, although she died, but I have not died; could it be that I still can’t compare with her? Could it be that you are dissatisfied?”

“You?” the King of Qiuci blurted out.

The Stone Guanyin laughed and said, “I already took her place; naturally I can take her place forever.”

The King of Qiuci looked at her exceptional graceful bearing; he was dumbfounded again.

Ji Bingyan suddenly laughed coldly and said, “That’s right. I also knew that she will take her place forever.”

“You … you know?” the King of Qiuci stammered.

Ji Bingyan said, “Wangye has no son, only a daughter. If Wangye and Gongzhu met any mishap, while a country cannot without a ruler even for a day, naturally there will be a new king. Everybody was fighting for this throne; I don’t know how much effort, how much suffering they had to go through. But she, as easy as blowing off dust, would then stretch her hand to grab it. Only I feel sorry for Hong Xuehan, An Deshan, those people; they became her puppet for nothing, even in their death they became confused ghosts.”

All along the Stone Guanyin has been staring coldly at him; this moment she suddenly said, “I never thought that unexpectedly you are able to correctly guess my intention; I have been underestimating you.”

“Are you going to kill me?” the King of Qiuci’s voice cracked.

The Stone Guanyin smiled and said, “A monarch has a monarch way to die, I must not break the rule. As long as you drink the cup of wine before you, afterwards, there will be nothing that can make you worry.”

The King of Qiuci said, “You … Could it be that you put poison in the wine?”

The Stone Guanyin replied indifferently, “Although I did not put much, it is enough for you, father and daughter, two persons.”

The greenish-black-bearded man was also drinking in this tent, all along he had not made any noise, only waiting for the opportunity. Seeing the Stone Guanyin did not pay any attention to him, he quietly slipped out.

Who would have thought that the Stone Guanyin unexpectedly really seemed to have a thousand hands and a thousand eyes? Any person, any movement, nothing could escape her eyes. Without even looking back, she coldly said, “Are you going out to find help?”

The greenish-black-bearded man was startled. “That’s right,” he spoke sternly, “Don’t you forget that I have eight hundred brothers under my command, all are veterans of a hundred battles, all good men who absolutely are not afraid of death. Only by relying on your one person’s strength, you want to kill us all, I am afraid it won’t be easy. As long as we have one person alive, you can forget about your crafty scheme succeeding. I advise you to give up on your idea!”

The Stone Guanyin suddenly said, “Well said. Zha Muge’s former subordinates are indeed valiant heroes who are unafraid of death. Only too bad unavoidably your feast to celebrate heroic deed is being held a bit too early; your brothers are now so drunk that they don’t know the ways of the world anymore.”

The greenish-black-bearded man ’s countenance changed, he said, “Did you put poison in their wine as well? Unexpectedly no one saw you?”

The Stone Guanyin smiled and said, “Our side have just put poison in front of you, did any one of you see it?”

Letting out a wild roar, the greenish-black-bearded man brandished his saber and pounced right up.

Although his martial art skill could not be compared with first-class Wulin martial art master, but he was fully deserving, without any reservations [idiom] the four-word title ‘veteran of a hundred battles’ [shen jing bai zhan]. As the saber chop out, evidently there was nothing fancy about it, and there was no follow-up move either, but it carried his entire heart, mind, and strength – to chop the opponent’s head.

Because he knew that to fight the Stone Guanyin, he was really far too inferior. If this saber chop could not succeed, it was practically useless to continue the fight. He had resolved to stake his own life all on one throw; if he failed, then he would die for a good cause.

This valiant man, who lived on the saber’s head and enemy’s blood all year long, loved to do everything in a straightforward and delightful way. If he must die then he would die; he would definitely not wade in mud and water [idiom: doing sloppy job]. Therefore, once this saber was chopping, although the style was not pleasant to the eyes, it carried some kind of terrifying formidable power, it was indeed ferocious, making people’s heart alarmed, trembling in fear [idiom].

When the saber in his hand flew up, Princess Pipa also flew up.

She had not said anything, because she was ready to make her move early on. This moment her figure flashed, a silver light flickered from her hand as a dagger suddenly appeared.

They saw silvery light flew up like the starry rain filling the sky. As soon as she made her move, she sent three strokes in succession, stabbing the three major acupoints on the Stone Guanyin’s back.

Her move was precisely the opposite of the greenish-black-bearded man’s; it was abundantly agile, although the strength was lacking. Furthermore, each stroke carried a follow-up change, so that one stroke failed, she could immediately change her style.

Strictly speaking, although this kind of style was extremely fancy and pleasant to watch, but against a real martial master, it did not have any real use.

However, right now she and the greenish-black-bearded man were facing the same enemy; although the two’s martial arts were not the same, plus they did not have prior experience in fighting together, but this moment as they made their move, there was some kind of tacit understanding between the two. Therefore, albeit unintentional, the two’s styles, one hard the other soft, unexpectedly they were able to work together just right.

They saw the silver rain filling the air, across a streak of blue-green rainbow light, one in front, the other behind, were pressing down on the Stone Guanyin. But the Stone Guanyin remained fixed on the spot without moving.

Right this flint-spark instant, when the greenish-black-bearded man and Princess Pipa’s heart was bursting with ecstasy, suddenly they heard a thunderbolt-like shout. And amid the shout, Hu Tiehua was rushing over.

His entire body was like a bent arrow; it started later but it arrived sooner. When the greenish-black-bearded man made his move, he had not made any movement, but before the greenish-black-bearded man’s saber chopped down, he was already by the greenish-black-bearded man’s side. His left hand made a fist and punched out, ‘Bang!’ the greenish-black-bearded man was hit and flew out, his right hand bent and snapped, like a light catching a shadow, Princess Pipa’s wrist was caught and pinched by him, her arm and her body went numb.

The King of Qiuci blurted out in shock, “Hu Zhuangshi, how could you rebel?”

“Are you mad?” Princess Pipa bellowed.

Yet Hu Tiehua did not answer; he dragged Princess Pipa straight seven, eight steps backward, before halting his steps. The Stone Guanyin was still standing there with a smile on her face.

Since Princess Pipa’s hand still could not move, she used her other hand to backhandedly slap Hu Tiehua on the face. Who would have thought that she just stretched out her hand, it was immediately grasped firmly by him?

The greenish-black-bearded man suffered the heaviest setback. Only this moment did he catch his breath, and also bellowed, “Aren’t you Xiao Wangye’s friend? Why did you hit me?”

Hu Tiehua sighed. Smiling wryly, he said, “I really did not mean to hit you, I don’t want to hurt you even more. But just now it was really an emergency, I did not have time to hold back, hence momentarily I lost control.”

Stamping her feet, Princess Pipa said, “But why did you make your move against us? Could it be that you are her accomplice? Perhaps you saw incorrect turn of events, you want to face the wind and turn the rudder, and cast your lot on her side.”

Since she could not move her hands, she used her leg to kick Hu Tiehua. While kicking, she rained curses on him, “You are a beast, I never thought that you are such a despicable, shameless, nasty person.”

The Stone Guanyin suddenly laughed and said, “You saved them, but you received their scolding instead. Why bother being meddlesome?”

Princess Pipa sternly said, “The one he saved was you, not me. If he was not being meddlesome, do you think you are still alive now?”

The Stone Guanyin said, “You think that relying on those two moves, you can hurt me?”

“Why can’t I hurt you?” Princess Pipa asked.

Her face still could not help revealing a proud look; she continued loudly, “Just now it could be said that our move was without any flaw. Your entire body, from top to bottom, have been shrouded under our style, practically you could not even dodge.”

The Stone Guanyin sighed. She said, “You are really just a child who don’t know how high is the sky, how thick is the earth. Why don’t you think: if your move just now was really perfect, how could Hu Tiehua only need to raise his hands and he immediately had you under control?”

Princess Pipa was stunned. She really did not have anything to say.

The Stone Guanyin calmly said, “To tell you the truth, if your saber just now really chopped down, the two of you would fall together. You think your style was like seamless heavenly clothes, but there were at least seven or eight holes in it.”

Her long sleeve suddenly flew up, like a mountain peak coming out of the cloud, rising upward and moved around. In the blink of an eye it already changed seven, eight different postures, while her mouth spoke indifferently, “Look, if I used this move against you just now, do you think you could still alive?”

Princess Pipa looked with blank expression on her face; she only felt that Stone Guanyin’s move, no matter from which direction, she was absolutely unable to parry. If the Stone Guanyin wanted to take her life, it would really be easier than feeling in her pocket and taking something out. After just one glance, already her countenance became deathly grey, while cold sweats dripped down her head.

The Stone Guanyin smiled and said, “Now, it’s time for you to know the real invulnerable style. Not only you can’t execute it, it could be said that you practically have never seen it.”

Her eyes suddenly turned toward Hu Tiehua, her countenance sank, she spoke coldly, “You saved them; it may be assumed that you are fighting me, right?”

Hu Tiehua was rooted on the spot, as if he did not hear her at all. Actually, he was also petrified by the move that the Stone Guanyin demonstrated just now.

The move appeared to be like a dancing courtesan with magnificent style that was unmatched it her generation, who was dancing lightly and gracefully in the most pleasant mood, following the most beautiful music.

No matter who, anybody who saw such a wonderful dancer’s posture and movement would be bewitched, his heart would feel happy. And then, when you are in your most pleasant mood, she would simply take your life.

Hu Tiehua racked his brains, thinking back and forth, unexpectedly he was unable to think of any martial art that could defeat this move. If the Stone Guanyin used this move to attack him, perhaps he would have to fall down.

He no longer needed to see if the Stone Guanyin still had some other exquisite style, just because when martial art masters were facing each other, one move was already enough.

He saw that although Ji Bingyan’s expression was still completely calm, but beads of sweats were seeping out of the tip of his nose; obviously he was unable to break the Stone Guanyin’s move either.

Half a day later, finally Hu Tiehua could not help asking, “The one you just demonstrated, what martial art was that?”

“There is no harm in me telling you,” the Stone Guanyin replied, “That move is called ‘should not be exposed to men’.”

Hu Tiehua was stunned, “‘Should not be exposed to men’? What kind of martial art is that?”

The Stone Guanyin laughed and said, “This can’t be considered any formidable martial art. But no matter who, as long as he is a man, coming across this move he will lose his life; therefore, men absolutely must not see it.”

Frowning, Hu Tiehua said, “Which school’s or which sect’s is this martial art?”

The Stone Guanyin said, “All over the world, which school or which sect would be able to create such style? Take the two currently most prestigious in the world big school and sects; Shaolin Pai’s martial arts are too dense and too clumsy, like a big bowl of simmer-fried streaky pork. Although it is very satisfying, but it’s nothing more than for letting the peddlers and carriers to gorge themselves. Those who really understand gourmet food will never like such greasy stuff.”

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