Chapter 28: Ghost Valley Talks About the Sword
On that day, at the Dongzhan Pavillion’s poetry meeting, the poem ‘Butterflies in Love with Flowers’ was unveiled. The context was a mixture of affection and anguish, making for an unforgettable tale.
Naturally, word of this spread like wildfire.
In this era of subtle emotions, this love poem and its bluntness moved many hearts.
A talented scholar, surnamed Gu, wrote a love poem to a prostitute, earning him a lovestruck reputation. This emotional story led to many shed tears from young girls, some stitching it onto their handkerchiefs, often taking it out to read.
Indeed, in just a few lines, such deep thoughts could be conveyed.
To this, many could only shake heads and sigh at Young Master Gu’s and Painting Fairy’s bitter life.
The work circulated through the streets and around the city, growing more ubiquitous with each mention. Eventually, it even reached the royal palace.
King Zhaoxiang looked through the report in his hand, laughing as he reached the end, shaking his head.
“This Lord Wu’an is old yet still mighty. On the eve of a campaign, he’s out snatching girls from under my administration, haha. But I cannot say I care. So long as he can contain his fierce wife, when did he ever fear me? Hahaha.”
As he was laughing, the eunuch walked up beside him.
“Your majesty, there’s been a poem spreading around the city, and it’s related to this Painting Fairy girl that Lord Wu’an took away.”
“Oh?” The king’s eyes flashed some interest. “Well, read it to me already.”
“Yes.” The eunuch bowed. “It goes like this, ‘Long I stand on a balcony in the gentle breeze, saddened spring everywhere I see, the horizon is overcast, all is bleak. Surrounded by grass at sunset. Who understands my mutely longing?
I’d drown in wine as parting grief. One sings with wine in hand, but strained mirth brings no comfort. I do not mind that my clothes are getting looser. The lover is worthy of desire but no regret.’”
The king thought for a long time, looking deeply and muttering, “The lover is worthy of desire but no regret.”
“Good words.” The king nodded slightly. “Who is this poet? Don’t you dare tell me it’s that old Bai Qi. For him to write this, it’s simply impossible.”
Seeing the king speak somewhat angrily, the eunuch quickly wiped the sweat off his forehead. He continued to bow and didn’t dare look up.
“Your Majesty is correct, it is not Lord Wu’an. It is rumored to be from a talented scholar with the surname Gu who presented this to the Painting Fairy.”
“Talented scholar surnamed Gu?” The king felt it strange. For there to be such a talented prospect, why had he never heard of this person?
The eunuch quickly said, “Your Majesty, Lord Wu’an also has a disciple surnamed Gu. And a while ago, she also composed a poem. ‘Fine wine in a jade moonlight cup; urge to drink but the pipa player orders us onwards. If we are drunk, crouching on the battlefield, do not laugh; since olden times, how many men return from war?’”
“Both are excellent literary talents, and Lord Wu’an also went to pick up the Painting Fairy the day after. Therefore, I think the two people are likely to be the same person.”
Having said this, the eunuch lowered his head again and didn’t dare talk excessively.
“Since olden times, how many men return from war?” The king touched his beard in thought. “An interesting person. No wonder that old man would ever accept a girl as his disciple.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting this disciple of the ‘God of War.'” The king’s eyes squinted slightly. “If she can come back alive from Changping, that is.”
“Master.” In the middle of a valley, surrounded by dense forests, a white-haired child kneeled in front of an old man, bowing heavily.
This disciple ceremony is now concluded.
Ghost Valley sat with an ordinary bronze sword by his side. Also beside him was another child, about ten years old. He had black hair and an unassuming face. His height was slightly taller than the boy currently kneeling down.
Ghost Valley looked sternly to the white-haired boy. Squinting, he said, “Little Zhuang, to enter the Ghost Valley [Directionist Sect] there are rules to abide by, have you thought it over?”
The boy continued to kneel with his head down. “Master, Wei Zhuang understands.”
[TL: Wei Zhuang is the kid that tried to steal Gu Nan’s money.]
“Good.” Ghost Valley closed his eyes and sighed deeply.
“As of now, you are the second student in my Ghost Valley Sect. You will learn, horizontal!”
“He is your martial brother, Gai Nie. He learns, vertical!”
“You two must remember the pillars of Ghost Valley. I will teach you in the vertical and horizontal way. After you have finished studying, you will go out and find your path, one to the heavens and one down to failure. The vertical or the horizontal, only one can live, and only the one survivor can become the next generation of Ghost Valley. Do you understand?”
Both boys shouted in unison.
“Today, we will talk about swords.” Ghost Valley sat on a cushion, facing his two disciples. Wei Zhuang and Gai Nie sat next to each other and listened carefully.
“I will ask you this first.” His eyes swept over the two young faces, as he held his bronze sword forward. “What is the sword?”
A short silence.
Gai Nie responded first. “Sword, lord of a hundred soldiers. A swordsman, a gentleman, a path to advance or retreat, vertically and horizontally, it searches for the moment. Up and down as the blade, it stands straight like the body. It breaks rather than bends, and it holds humanity in its form. Retreat, it returns to the sheath, hidden, but sharp and complete.”
The answer was very neat and also very reasonable. It was an answer befitting Gai Nie’s personality.
Wei Zhuang replied a bit slower and took a while to think about it. Finally, he gave only one sentence.
“Sword, a tool for killing.”
Ghost Valley did not say which was right or wrong, only nodding.
“Alright, I will teach you what the sword is.”
He extended out his sword in front of him and said, “And where the sword resides.”
Wei Zhuang and Ge Nie remained silent, but their eyes displayed their attentiveness, even trying to memorize each word.
Speaking of the sword, Ghost Valley couldn’t help but think of his half-disciple. His mouth twitched at the thought of that lazy girl. But regardless of here faults, in terms of comprehending the sword, there is perhaps no one with a better understanding than her.
And her five swords concept, sooner or later it will become the core theory for all swordmen.
“A master of the sword recently taught me the concept of the five swords, and I will teach that to you today.”
The first sentence startled the two boys. Their teacher already possessed knowledge reaching the heavens, but actually learned from someone else? Just what status has this person reached?
“The path of the sword is divided into five realms. It is the Sword, Shifting Sword, Heavy Sword, Wooden Sword, and no sword.”
“The Sword is fierce and aggressive, unstoppable…”
“The Shifting Sword is soft and flexible. Its focus is speed. Attacking and retreating…”
“The Heavy Sword has no edge and is simple and faultless. Such a realm…”
“The wooden sword is invisible and formless. The wielder is no longer limited by the sword. Objects of nature, such as the grass and bamboo can become swords…”
“The final realm is no sword. It requires nothing, a mere thought can form blades. It is the primordial sword, free from the laws of heaven or earth.”
Ghost Valley finished speaking and took a deep breath.
Gai Nie and Wei Zhuang stared as they sat in place. Just from hearing this explanation of the five swords, they felt a faint feeling of comprehension appear, benefitting them greatly. But this also shocked them without exception.
“Master.” Wei Zhuang raised his gaze and asked, “Who created this concept of five swords?”
He made up his mind. If possible, he absolutely must learn from this person. If he doesn’t accept, kowtow for a day. If he still doesn’t accept, then kowtow for three days!
Ghost Valley touched his beard, apparently thinking of something.
“The person who created the five swords theory is also your half-martial sister.”
“Your teacher only taught her swordsmanship, so she’s not a disciple of Ghost Valley. But, she is still my student. In swordsmanship, she can be considered reasonably talented. But in regards to understanding the sword, even I am not as profound as her.”
Gai Nie and Wei Zhuang looked at each other with wide eyes.
After a long time, Gai Nie cautiously asked, “Teacher, this senior martial sister… what is her name?”
“Her? She’s called Gu Nan. If you’re lucky, you might meet her one day.”