A Good Family Name, and a Great First Name
While Yun Yang did not pass the night peacefully, another soul in another place was equally disturbed. In the residence of the old marshal, Qiu Jianhan’s brows were locked together in a tight frown.
“Who was it that spirited Wu Wenyuan away, and sent his lifeless body back?”
“Who was it that rescued Wu Wenyuan’s mother and wife?”
The old marshal had difficulty trying to put a name to these two questions. If one had intended to do away with Wu Wenyuan, why bother saving his mother and wife? If this mysterious figure could do that, why not save Wu Wenyuan’s children as well? It was simply bewildering.
What greatly distressed the old marshal was that this figure was capable of not only removing a person from a guarded facility, he or she could also return the body and make away with another two other prisoners with apparent ease. It was a prison! How someone could perform such a vanishing act in one of the most secure places in the capital was beyond him.
By the marshal’s side stood a man, dressed in the ways of Confucianism. He had a serene look about him, as if the world’s problems were merely clouds, gently passing by.
“Marshal, I believe this is not an entirely important matter. After all, it could be said that the victim was somewhat deserving of his fate.” The man smiled, “There is, another issue that may warrant your attention.”
“Hmm?” Qiu Jianhan frowned in confusion.
“Killing Wu Wenyuan, returning his body, saving his wife and aged mother…” the Confucian scholar continued, “It is obvious that the individual or organization that undertook this does not side with Wu Wenyuan; as accomplices, they would not have killed him.”
Qiu Jianhan hummed in agreement.
“My guess it that they killed Wu Wenyuan but saved his wife and mother as conditions of a bet.” The scholar smiled, “That sounds entirely reasonable..”
“They further demonstrated their animosity towards Wu Wenyuan by leaving behind his children, so as to prevent his lineage from surviving.” The scholar said, “This was why they did something so inexplicable. After a while, I am inclined to think that this person is on our side; friend not fiend. Although his actions were a tad over the top, and contemptuous of the law, it was understandable.”
Qiu Jianhan gave a slow nod, “If so, what is this other matter that you speak of?”
“The other matter…” The middle-aged scholar spoke slowly, “Although Wu Wenyuan was convicted with concrete evidence, he had to have been backed by some formidable foes, as his other identity has not been exposed even until now! Has the marshal managed to look at the city gate’s record after the memorial ceremony today?”
For once, a slightly worried expression marred the scholar’s pleasant expression, “There are many underground martial artists entering Tiantang City from everywhere, and through all the four gates. A lot of these individuals were among the experts, but their names were not on any of the records. I believe that these people’s identities were all fabricated at the point of entry. So many people coming into Tiantang City with concealed identities, at a time when Wu Wenyuan was just executed? This would be too coincidental to be genuinely unrelated. I’m afraid that this mysterious organization has come for revenge. Or perhaps, they have some other malicious purpose in mind.”
The scholar concluded, “I just wanted you to be aware of this.”
Qiu Jianhan nodded grimly.
“It’s just, I still think…” Qiu Jianhan kept up, “The incident in the prison is still a little strange.”
“I feel that…”
After a moment’s hesitation, the scholar continued, “This incident is rather similar to when the Nine-Day Decree was ordained. In that particular year…”
He frowned uncertainly as his voice lowered, “There was the familiar feeling of an unstoppable tide, a series of incidents which we could do nothing about. It was as if someone had a hand in these events…”
Old Marshal Qiu Jianhan shot up from his seat, his eyes glinting brightly, “The Nine Supremes!”
It was barely dawn, but Yun Yang was already up and practising his swordplay. He was reluctant to use the Divine Edge just to familiarize himself with saber forms, so he held a practice saber instead.
The saber was now cleverly camouflaged as a purple lotus on the sleeve of his robe. For a magical weapon with such an ability; it would be tactically unwise to reveal all his cards so early in a fight. As for wearing it on his hip, well it would just be plain foolish to do so.
“First style, Merciless Saber.” Yun Yang rotated the ball of his foot and his knee moved along with the rotation of his calf to his hip, his body swiveled half a loop as the practice wooden saber in his hands slashed the air from top to bottom. He had been practicing this routine for a hundred or perhaps even a thousand repetitions.
From afar, Lao Mei looked on with tightly pursed lips.
This form… While it looked very impressive; it was too gaudy to be of any use in real-life combat. Yet, his young master had put in his all on the practice grounds.
“Hu!” Yun Yang dropped to the ground with weariness when the last of his energy had been used up, clothes soaked through with sweat and dust.
He kept his mouth closed, struggling to breathe with only his nose so as to cause the tiny amount of spiritual Qi in his dantian to flow through all his meridians through the use of the Endless Divine Art. He almost suffocated, but he flatly refused to breathe in through his mouth as that would nullify all his hard work this morning. Just a short while later, Yun Yang recovered his breath; his pale face gradually turning rosy again.
Lao Mei went from skepticism to grudging respect; not everyone could be so harsh on themselves. Since his young master had begun practicing and regaining his breaths, he had broken through the human body’s physical limits a dozen times; a feat which would become the driving force behind Yun Yang’s advancement in life – for he had chosen to train the hardest in his most exhausted moments!
“Young master will definitely become a great man in the future. It’s just…” Lao Mei had a question bothering him for too long, “Young master has always been cautious in doing things. Never rash, always planning before making his move. Beyond that, he is exceptionally intelligent and has always managed to avoid danger. What was it that had caused him to be injured so severely? To the point of losing all his cultivation base?”
“Young master, what have you gone through?”
Despite being the faithful manservant for three whole years now, Lao Mei felt like he had never really understood his young master. It seemed that a cloud of mystery had always surrounded the young man. Moreover, it was puzzling that all the jade the young master kept on his person were gone. Yun Yang had loved Frost Jade a lot, as it could invoke a sense of calm, but he carried none of them on him now.
Where had it vanished to?
Loud, resounding knocks came from the door.
“May I know if Young Master Yun is home?” a clear voice rang out.
Both Yun Yang and Lao Mei were equally startled. A visitor? This was a highly unusual occurrence. The Residence of Yun closed its doors to visitors, and had never entertained any social contacts; this was an arrangement everyone in Tiantang City knew of. It had been at least four to five years since they had someone come a-calling, and out of of the blue, there were guests at the gates once again!
“Chi! chi!” an excited chattering could be heard from doors.
A golden-furred monkey bolted into Yun Yang’s courtyard and hopped right into his surprised embrace, wearing an incredibly ecstatic look on its simian features.
“…” Yun Yang’s expression was the very definition of perplexion.
Had he not left this monkey behind yesterday? Why was he holding it in his arms again today? Do monkeys really like me that much?
While he looked at the small creature in his arms, it crawled around in his embrace and shot up his shoulders then slid down from his back. It then crawled through the space between his legs and scuttled back up into his arms.
Yun Yang rolled his eyes.
A breeze wafted in from the doors, bringing with it a soothing fragrance. There, a beautiful lady stood, smiling at Yun Yang. She had a beautifully proportioned body. The ordinary black clothing she wore looked as if it was made for a queen, as she had an air of elegance that was unlike any average person.
The face, however, was a little too commonplace.
Of course Yun Yang did not think for a moment that this was the real face of the lady.
“Pardon me for the impromptu visit, Young Master Yun,” the girl’s melodic voice was a pleasure to the ears.
“Not at all. It’s my pleasure to have you pay a visit to my humble home.” Yun Yang smiled gently, “Please come in.”
“Thank you.” The lady entered, her eyes glittered merrily upon seeing the monkey that had not left Yun Yang since it got in.
“Pardon my impoliteness last night, it slipped my mind to ask for your name,” Yun Yang spoke with an apologetic tone.
The lady in black was tempted to roll her eyes, thinking, “If I didn’t come today, you probably wouldn’t have thought of this for your entire life. My sudden visit would have served you well as an excuse for an opening line!” This was the perfect example of a man who looked intelligent, but was actually not and did not care for what a girl would think!
“My family name is Ji1, Jimou2’s Ji,” the lady answered in response.
“What a wonderful family name!” Yun Yang clapped, his expression and tone dramatized with a hint of sarcasm as he loudly laid on praise, “Just this one word makes me think of people from ancient times up till the present, all of which successful because of utilizing tactics. Ji, this is the foundation of society; nothing is ever achieved without… Ji!”
“The young master has flattered me too much,” the lady in black finally gave in, and rolled her eyes. If it were not for the Thousand Illusion Monkey and something regarding her own hidden agenda, she would have left immediately.
You have mockingly complimented my family name, and with such glaring insincerity! Such temerity deserves a solid punch in the face!
Yun Yang pinched his nose. “May I ask for your full name, as well?”
The lady almost let out a groan, “It’s a single first name, Ling3.”
“What a great first name!” Yun Yang praised loudly once again, “All Ji (tactics) have to be Ling (effective)! You have a amazing name! The saying goes, Ji Ling Ji Ling (effective tactic); Ji that is not Ling is not a Ji (tactics which are not effective are not tactics), only Ji Ling is a Ji (the only tactic is an effective one). Good name, a good name indeed! It represents the means behind every success…”
Miss Ji Ling only felt blinding anger building up in her mind, so tempted was she to flip the table over and leave! If it were not for the impropriety of using foul language as a lady, she would have cursed him with all her might! Certainly, she knew she was not welcomed, but did he have to be such a boor? After all, she was still a woman, could this cretin not show at least a little bit of chivalry?
Lao Mei, standing beside and listening to the entire tirade, heaved a sigh of exasperation.
“Young master, it’s no wonder you’re still alone even though you have seen nineteen summers. Despite your fine features, just listen to your conversation with this lady! At this rate, it would be a miracle if you could ever get married!”
1Ji (计jì): used as family name in this chapter; the word on its own also means tactic or scheme.
2jimou (计谋jì móu): tactic, scheme or plot.
3Ling (灵líng): used as first name in this chapter; the word on its own also means lark; effective.