Save for the bit of iron on his hand, he was unarmed.
There was no hilt, and the spine of the blade wasn’t formed. There was only an edge that might as well be as sharp as a fingernail, and the blade was only a foot and three inches long.
But even then, he was the world’s finest blade. Even when he had secluded himself in the snowy Yufeng mountain for twenty years, his sharpness had hardly worn down.
The sea breeze rolled over the mountain. A withered leaf wasn’t about to fall, but all of a sudden, it received a shock, then shriveled up and fell from the branch.
When the tent’s door was opened, the dancer’s singing came out from the crack. The cold wind that seemed to carry an unsettling meaning poured into the tent, and at once stirred the hearts of all those who were restless from the shouting and killing in the distance.
The young warriors didn’t know the gravity of the situation, or perhaps they had been repressing their unease or were just too presumptuous to care. Only the old dogs who had survived with scars all over their body narrowed their eyes as they waited for the wine jug to appear from behind the door.
At that moment, a middle-aged man near the door suddenly shot up and raised a hand to throw the table knife on the seat. It hit the wine jug and broke it cleanly with a bang, the wine spilling all over the floor.
He could see clearly that the back of the hand holding the jug was sinewy, definitely not a woman’s hand.
The Puya clan relied on twelve loyal dogs to run amuck on the continent. Even though things were different from twenty years ago, they were not to be trifled with.
The moment the jug shattered, two men from the left and right rushed over at the same time. One took on a beast form, and his roar almost lifted the tent off. The other one, in human form, smoothly cooperated with his companion. Coincidentally, he also had a horse-chopping saber. However, this saber had been especially tuned. The hilt was rather short, while the edge was a little long and narrow. It was smooth, round, and streamlined at the head. It could be used for both close and long range combat. The smith who made this saber must be quite skilled. It was a good blade.
Bei Shi was keen enough to move aside just as the giant beast pounced. Then he grabbed the mane on the giant beast’s neck and suddenly jumped up, nearly twisting the beast’s neck in the air. The saber that came after him grazed his shoulder, but he dodged it almost without a hitch.
The weight of a big man swinging over naturally couldn’t be considered as light. The giant beast’s neck was almost lifted off by him, cutting off his breath. However, before the beast could have time to brake his feet, he felt his neck being held.
When Bei Shi was still in the air, he performed this move extremely naturally, as if he was affectionately nuzzling his pet’s neck. The blade on his right hand passed through the neck of the giant beast almost gently. Then he landed on his feet, as light as a silent feather. The beast that was let go lunged forward thirty steps from the inertia and fell to the ground with a loud bang. The blood that spurted from the slit throat stained the ground red.
The man with the saber didn’t react to this unforeseen event. He just instinctively slashed at the air and chased after him with his saber, but only to hear a clang sound. His saber was held up, iron colliding against each other. The force of the collision was so strong, it caused a tremendous shock on his wrist holding the saber. He couldn’t help but take a half step back, and the curtain that had been lifted suddenly fell sharply on his face, blocking his view. The man with the saber took a few steps back and used his hand to lift the heavy curtain.
At this moment, a biting cold and almost tangible killing intent came from the air. The battle-hardened warrior’s hair stood on its ends for a moment, and he almost wanted to abandon his sword and flee.
But it was already too late.
The sound of bones cracking seemed to reach his ears through a different channel, and it was as clear as thunder. He lowered his head, only to see an unformed scrap blade passing straight through the thick felt curtain and smoothly into his chest, completely unstoppable.
At this time, the withered leaves swaying in the wind fell to the ground.
Bei Shi wanted to cough a little, but instead, he lightly licked the blood on the blade, tasted the cold, salty, and fishy taste, and suppressed the tightness on his chest.
The blood licked from the tip of the cold iron blade had the same taste as the wine buried under the apricot blossom trees in April for the winter.
It could make a man drunk in the most prosperous moment of his life. Nothing else could be so rapturing.
Hai Lan didn’t step in. He didn’t seem to be panicking seeing Bei Shi surrounded by ten people. He even stiffly stretched out his hand to stop Chang An, who was uneasy and wanted to go forward. He said rigidly, “The best blade technique can be as gentle as a hug, or as severe as splitting a boulder, so that even the hardest armor in the world has nowhere to hide. Things are rapidly progressing. Don’t make trouble, and watch carefully.”
His words were blunt, but his eyes were gentle.
However, Chang An’s eyes were fixed on Bei Shi, so he did not notice the expression of the man next to him. It was rare for him to hear this laconic1惜字如金 (idiom) – Literally, “one who cherishes words like gold.” renxiong2仁兄 – a polite term of address for a man speak up and explain, so he also did not hesitate to ask, “I do not have Shifu’s strength. If he can split a boulder with a scrap blade, I would have to borrow at least the weight of a saber to do it.”
Hai Lan looked at him in silence and asked calmly, “Have you not noticed that he was born left-handed?”
Chang An was taken aback, almost blurting out that it was impossible. But then those years of living with Bei Shi in the mountains flashed through his mind like lightning—No wonder he always felt that there was some awkwardness in Bei Shi’s movements!
Bei Shi’s left hand had been crippled for many years and could no longer hold a saber, but there was no problem in using it for day-to-day activities. He had covered it up very well, but people who were naturally left-handed usually had their left eye as their main eye. Even the foot that was lifted first when walking would be different from others. Chang An was very sensitive to people’s actions, but he was naturally single-minded. He wouldn’t think much about insignificant things, so he never noticed it until Hai Lan pointed it out.
Chang An had been learning the saber since he was seven. To this day, it could be said that he had not slacked off for more than ten years. His innate talent was extremely low, but also extremely high. It was low, because his frail body was so unlike a warrior’s. And it was high, because he had a high retentive memory and could understand things by inference.
However, perhaps because of his temperament, or perhaps because he was still more or less physically limited, he would always subconsciously lean towards using hard techniques and strong, rigid weapons to counter his innate weak qi. So although his precise kung fu had long been practiced to the core, it always looked as if he was charging around violently.
Chang An suddenly understood.
He suddenly understood why Bei Shi’s blade did not have a hilt and a polished spine. It was because the man took himself as the hilt and the spine, flowing freely3 行云流水 (idiom) as he pleased, without a hitch and without any stiffness4匠气 – The characters literally translate to “craftsman air,” and it refers to how one action’s are too stiff and unoriginal. All technique, but no style.. He was like nature itself, one with the East wind—a bladed wind.
Although Chang An was simple-minded and didn’t take to heart his burdensome body, this was, after all, a fact, an invisible barrier that was always there. Even Bei Shi didn’t let him bring his saber. Instead, he gave him a piece of iron that couldn’t be even regarded as a weapon. Chang An was like a tortoise that had been stripped of its shell. How could he not feel uncomfortable?
But if a person whose dominant hand was crippled could once again reach such great heights, then what of his little problem?
The barrier that was confining him seemed to have disappeared, and he felt optimistic. Chang An was on to something, but at the moment, he couldn’t explain it.
As he fell into a daze, the blade in Bei Shi’s hand crossed over a person’s neck just in time to meet another person’s long sword and throw it off. However, perhaps because he was exhausted from killing eleven people in a row, or perhaps the unformed blade really was useless in the end, but with a pa, the short blade in Bei Shi’s hand snapped into two.
Hai Lan rushed up without thinking. He turned into a giant beast and roared wildly, pouncing on a man from behind. The old guy was getting on in years, and he was cunning as hell. Hearing the sound of the wind behind him, he held back on making a firm stab and no longer cared about Bei Shi. He rolled away on the ground to avoid Hai Lan’s attack.
He had long been observing Chang An. Seeing him standing out of place, dazed and blown by the gale like a man made of paper, he did not hesitate to flee into his direction.
He rose from the ground in three steps and turned into a giant beast. Then he raised his front paw as high as a person’s height, enough to crush Chang An’s shoulders. This crafty old bastard had a plan in mind. With a strike of his claw, this frail, young man in front of him would be skinned and split open, saving him time from having to bite him again.
Chang An saw him lunge, but he froze in place, as if he’d been stunned silly.
The giant beast saw a foot-long scrap blade in his hand, and without thinking about it, he raised his paw to press the blade down. He thought, This is so ridiculous. Does this feeble, little sub-beast think he can use a little blade to lift his huge body as tall as a person just like how a powerful warrior can carry a heavy weapon?
Chang An naturally couldn’t. He couldn’t hold it, so he let it go. In the past, there were also times when he was forced to let go, but never once had he felt this calm. At this moment, he didn’t seem to have any tension or anxiety in his heart. He didn’t even think about how to retrieve it with the help of a hilt or an outside force. It was as if it was just a weak blade that had been bent by a strong pressure and that letting go of it was a matter of course.
Afterwards, his body also seemed to be pressed by an invisible force as he turned sideways along with the blade.
The giant beast’s paw almost crushed him. The strong wind nearly agitated Chang An, and his hair was a little messy. It flew away from the side of his cheek, revealing a good-looking profile. The blade fell to the ground and bounced upright again, and in that instant, Chang An grabbed the lower part of it.
The blade went into the giant beast’s jaw.
Chang An had a thousand ways to kill this beastman, yet none of them was like this.
Light and natural.
He stood in place somewhat dumbfounded, as if he was still relishing that move he made.
Hai Lan was surprised, and said to Bei Shi, “He learns fast.”
“With my disciple, it’s not called learning fast. It’s called natural talent5“Learns fast” here is translated from 悟性 (wu xing), which refers to wisdom gained from experience. In dictionaries, it’s translated as perception/comprehension/power to understand. Bei Shi saying “natural talent” is from the characters 灵性 (ling xing), which is often translated as “spiritual nature.” In some dictionaries, it’s called “innate wisdom.” But basically, it’s about “transcending above accumulated wisdom.”,” Bei Shi said unconcernedly, then looked down at the broken blade on the ground. His gaze flickered, but he didn’t say anything. He just sighed with a bit of melancholy.
Hai Lan heard this, and using half of his body as cover, he pulled on Bei Shi’s hand.
Bei Shi said expressionlessly, “The current head of the Puya clan truly runs very fast. He has quite the skill in pulling his head back.”
Hai Lan: “En.”
Bei Shi then said, “Still not chasing after him!”
Hai Lan: “En.”
Bei Shi tried to shake off his hand twice, but he couldn’t shake it off. He couldn’t help but frown and say, “You wooden club.”
Hai Lan, with a slight smile on his face, still said, “En.”
After a few moments, Hai Lan added, “I saw the smoke signal just now. It must be a signal for the people in the northern city gate. Chief Hua Yi has an attack coming from the rear. Once they outflank them over there, the Puya clan would be throwing themselves into the net.”
Bei Shi frowned. “That boy…”
Hai Lan’s long sleeves hung down from under the animal skin waistcoat and practically covered the place where their hands met. He interrupted his complaint and said, “Your hands are cold.”
Bei Shi was stunned, then suddenly avoided his gaze. The two of them seemed to have switched roles for a moment, and the gourd with the sawed mouth6锯嘴的葫芦 – metaphor for a dull speaker. became someone else. After a long time, Bei Shi got a bit impatient and said, “En.”