Edited by renderedreversed
“Happy endings don’t come from an elopement!”
This was the first sentence I said to Zihui, after I woke up. I tightened my grip on his clothes and said with a serious face: “Shengling Sect’s butcher once told me that there was a widow in the village who eloped with a man. Later, they were caught and then drowned in a pig’s cage.”
I was also afraid that Shifu would drown me in a pig’s cage, just like them. In that case, even my bones wouldn’t be found.
Zihui stared at me for a moment, stunned. Then, he laughed and said: “If that’s the case, then we should not elope.”
“Alright,” I nodded immediately. Even though I still had some complaints against Shifu, I had never thought about leaving his side before.
“Let’s go back and ask Shifu for forgiveness.”
I wanted to leave, but Zihui grabbed me.
“If you want to go back to Shengling Sect from here, it’ll take half a month.”
I was shocked: “I actually slept for half a month?!”
“No, a Xiang lady only slept for a night,” Zihui said. “You must already know that I’m not an ordinary person. I’m a stone turned into essence. Traveling thousands of miles in a blink of eye is just one of the spells I practiced.”
I nodded in understanding: “This is better; we can go back to Fengxueshan Manor in a blink of eye.”
“A Xiang, seeing your Shifu like that just yesterday, do you really think your Shifu would let us marry, even if we admitted to our faults?”
I thought for a moment and dejectedly shook my head.
“But we still shouldn’t elope.”
“Of course,” Zihui said with a laugh.
“We eloped because we didn’t get the consent of the elders. If we can obtain your parents’ consent, even if Shifu isn’t willing, he won’t be able to say anything.”
I blinked and thought for a moment. Zihui’s words did have some truth in them, but my childhood memories were vague and unclear. I couldn’t remember where my home was. I couldn’t remember the appearance of my father and mother.
Zihui said in a strange way: “Over the years, hasn’t a Xiang lady thought about going home and visit your parents?”
I scratched my head.
“I have thought about it, but Shifu said that my parents entrusted me to him. If I didn’t master the arts, I couldn’t go home. In so many years, my skills didn’t improve much, so I didn’t dare to go home. Then I thought that accompanying Shifu was also pretty good, so I buried the desire in my heart.”
Zihui stared at me thoughtfully for a while and then he hung his head and quietly whispered: “So, that was the case…Darn, your Shifu is really shameful…”
Zihui smiled and said: “Nothing. Along the way here I heard some news. I probably know how to get to a Xiang’s home. Stopping here isn’t the answer. Let’s go and see.”
I nodded and didn’t think much. I just followed him from behind.
It didn’t take long before the scenery slowly began to seem familiar to me. I happily tugged at Zihui’s sleeve.
“Right, right, this seems to be the road!”
I picked up my pace and began to run in my excitement.
“It shouldn’t be far from here. Turning around a corner, there should be a river. Across the river is the front door of my house. In front of the front door, there are stone lions…”
When we turned, across the river there was a dilapidated front door. I froze for a moment and then foolishly walked a few steps forward.
“This isn’t it,” I whispered as I walked. “The bridge wasn’t this small; the stone lions were more imposing.”
After crossing the bridge, I stood in front of the manor. There was a broken plaque hanging on the front door with the words “Yang Manor” on it. The closed doors were sealed; an official’s yellow note read “forbidden”.
I just stood there, my mind completely blank.
“A Xiang,” Zihui called to me and touched my head. “Maybe I found the wrong place…”
He hadn’t finished speaking yet when a man hastily walked by. Seeing me and Zihui, the man gave us a strange look as he said: “Aiyou, you two, how can you stop here? Let’s go quickly. This place is famous for being haunted. If it isn’t because I needed to pass this road to get to the herbs on the mountain, I wouldn’t have come here even if they killed me.”
I hadn’t even reacted yet when he turned around and scurried away, but before he could leave, I grabbed his hand. The man was scared to death and repeatedly exclaimed: “Lady, what are you doing?! What are you doing?! Could it be that a ghost went into your body?!”
“You…do you know where here is?”
“Yang…Yang Manor, ah.”
I clung to him like a straw and kept asking: “Do you know who used to live here?”
“A business family with the surname Yang. Ten years ago, the whole family was slaughtered by their enemies.”
I loosened my hand. My head felt dizzy. Behind me, a hand was supporting my back because I was barely able to keep standing. I foolishly asked: “What is…slaughtering?”
The man looked at me for a moment and sighed: “You must be a distant relative of this family. Ten years ago, I don’t know who the Yang family offended, but thirty people of Yang Manor were silenced. I heard their enemy hired the famous Shengling Sect’s assassins to kill them. Those killers came and left without a trace. They didn’t even leave the slightest trace of evidence. The officials had no way of finding the truth and it turned into an unsolved case. Pity those resenting ghosts of Yang family, ah!”
I thought there was a problem with my ears, so I dug into my ears before asking: “Can you say it again?”
The man looked at me strangely for a moment and then said: “Shengling Sect ah. Ai, little girl, those mysterious things of the jianghu are not something that we can understand. You, a distant relative, must not waste your efforts.”
I dug really hard into my ear and slapped myself twice on the cheeks. Zihui grabbed my hand.
I dug into my ear till it was ringing. But I didn’t feel the slightest bit of pain and foolishly asked again: “You said Shengling Sect?”
The man was so scared that he took a step back and talked to himself: “Really, a ghost has entered her body…”
“Did you say it was Shengling Sect,” I yelled. I was about to go after him when Zihui embraced me. I could only watch the man flee in panic.
I pushed Zihui.
“Why are you grabbing me? I haven’t finished asking. He said that it was Shengling Sect, who slaught…slaughtered this family, but, but Hujia uncle, Tangzhu sister and the butcher, and Shifu, they…” were obviously so good.
My throat was choking. I couldn’t continue. In my mind a scene flashed. It was the day I climbed out of the barrel. The day I saw blood everywhere and people in black holding swords. The coldness of the shining blade and the warm blood that fell on my face. I was in a trance. Compared to these burning feelings, it felt like I was walking through a fog these past ten years. The images were clear and lucid as if they only occurred yesterday, burning me through the bone with pain.
I covered my face. My thoughts were a mess.
“A Xiang, let’s leave for today.”
Zihui patted my back and said: “You need to rest.”
I pushed Zihui. My hands were trembling.
“No, I’m going home.”
Leaving Zihui’s embrace, my legs were slightly trembling. Slowly, step by step, I walked toward the front door. I tore the seal away and pushed hard, but the dusty door was motionless. I knocked and shouted: “Mother…”
After those words left my mouth, my voice turned hoarse: “I’m back.”
Childhood memories broke through the fog like sunlight.
Dim light shone on the ruined door, wiping away the dust and making it as bright as ever. I firmly knocked on the door.
“Open the door! Open the door…”
A grey shadow fell on my face. Zihui grabbed my hand. I heard a barely audible sigh: “Let me do it.”
He put his hand on the door and gently pushed. The old door made a “zhiya” sound and slowly opened. Looking past the door, I could directly see the hall. The furniture inside was just like those in my memory. I walked in with my head down and looked at the red spots on the ground. Then I lifted my head and looked at the highest place in the hall. That day, Shifu was standing there high above the others, and he took me to Shengling Sect. Shifu was always high above others, so I didn’t dare to be disrespectful. However, the Shifu I respected…
I shook my head, wanting to throw all the confusing voices from my mind. But shaking, my face became wet. I wiped my face. Not long after, my tears were streaming down again. I stood in the centre of the hall, silent, wiping my tears over and over until Zihui patted me on my shoulder.
“A Xiang, don’t cry.”
“I did not cry,” I said. “It’s just…I can’t stop them from falling.”
Zihui sighed. I didn’t have the time to speak; he turned and moved two steps away from me. A “pa” sound rang in my ear. I was shocked. Shifu, dressed in full white, landed outside the hall. In his hands was a crimson whip. With a cold expression and extremely dark eyes, he glared at Zihui.
“Considering that cultivating for ten thousand years must not have been easy, I wanted to let you off the hook. But you didn’t take it and kept challenging xiaoye’s limits.”
Shifu coldly bit his lip.
“If you’re deliberately seeking death, I will make your wish come true, alright?”
Zihui didn’t speak. I knew that Zihui wouldn’t be able to beat Shifu. In a hurry, I jumped in front of Zihui and stretched my hands out to protect him. I stared at Shifu and saw his face turn pale like he had just been slapped.
“Xiao Xiang Zi,” Shifu’s eyes narrowed. “You putting up this stance, is it to protect your ‘husband’ by fighting me?”
His tone was frivolous, but I knew that Shifu was really angry. At this point my mind was cluttered. I just shook my head and didn’t know what to say. Shifu’s expression was slightly angry. He held out his hand and yelled gently like how he used to when he was taking me home: “Come here.”
But here and now, my legs wouldn’t move. Shifu was also not urging me. He hand was still there, waiting for me to grab it. I stared at Shifu for a moment. My throat hurt and I blurted out: “Shifu…my parents…”
Shifu frowned: “The matters that had happened here, I’ll explain them to you when we go back.”
Looking at Shifu’s eyes, I couldn’t help but get chills. The Zihui behind me gently held my shoulder and softly said: “A Xiang, don’t be afraid, I’m here.”
Shifu’s hand tightened around the whip.
“What identity do you have?” (What rights do you have to be speaking?)
It’s the first time I interrupted him. I asked: “My father and mother, did Shifu kill them…”
I stared at Shifu and didn’t dare to blink. He was silent and didn’t say anything to refute it.
“Was it Shifu?”
After saying those words, I choked.
“Was it Shifu?”
Knowing that his silence meant that he was admitting to it, my world collapsed.
“Xiao Xiang Zi,” Shifu’s voice was a little numb. “There are a lot of things that you don’t understand. After we go back, I’ll explain them to you. But today, you should not rely on this demon’s embrace. He’s not a good thing. Come here, we’ll go back.”
I shook my head. I just wanted to grab something and hit him. I didn’t care, pulled the hairpin out of my hair and run to him.
“Shifu, you liar! Big liar! You go away!”
My hair was loosened and turned into a mess. It pasted on my wet face. I didn’t know how this embarrassed look looked like. The tears blurred my sight. I couldn’t see Shifu’s face clearly anymore. Only knew that he stood there transfixed and didn’t move.
The hand on my shoulder tightened. Zihui pulled me into his arms. He patted my back and said: “Shifu doesn’t want to go away, so we should go first. Nowadays, it’s better if you don’t meet.”
I kept nodding. His chest turned wet from my tears and snot. This time, I didn’t know if Shifu had come to stop me or not. Maybe if I heard him grit his teeth in anger then, I would’ve known.