Chapter 22 – A Story
April 19, night.
The air in the hull space slowly began to grow thick. The top of the hull cabin was below the surface of the water, so of course it contained no areas of ventilation. Even the slightest gap would allow water to rush in and the ship would sink.
But Ingot didn’t care about the air. He was focused on Guo Mie.
All the events surrounding him should not have happened, so of course no one could explain them.
Ingot still wasn’t convinced.
No matter how much he thought about it, he just couldn’t explain everything that had happened. He was starting to get a headache, and still couldn’t even begin to piece everything together.
“Did you notice my head?” he suddenly asked Guo Mie. “Does it look any different?”
“It doesn’t seem so.”
“But it’s changed, I know. It’s at least three times larger than normal.” Ingot gave a bitter laugh. “My head is small to begin with. Now that it’s three times larger than normal, it hurts so bad it’s shaking.” He asked Guo Mie, “Do you know why a person’s head will change suddenly?”
“Because I can’t figure it out,” he finally admitted. “I just can’t figure out what happened between you and your wife and son.” He grabbed his head in his hands. “I used to think I was incredibly smart, that I could figure out anything in the world. But as for your story, my brain just swells up, so big that my neck might snap from the weight of it.”
“You shouldn’t have tried to figure it out,” said Guo Mie. “It’s a secret that should have remained buried. Nobody besides the three of us should know about it.”
“Because this secret is a deadly weapon, a weapon that can hurt people. Anyone who reveals the secret will harm not only us, but themselves.”
“Which three people are you referring to?” asked Ingot. “Do you mean General Li, Gao Tianjue and yourself?”
“But as of now, you need to let at least two more people know. Because there are two people who need to know!” It seemed he feared Guo Mie might misunderstand. “The two people I’m referring to, of course, are me and your son. Everyone has the right to know a secret which affects their life.”
“What of you?” Guo Mie asked Ingot. “What gives you the right to know other peoples’ secrets?”
“Because I can’t not know. If you don’t tell me, I’ll be very hurt at heart.”
Actually, he didn’t give any reason at all, and yet spoke as confidently as if he had given one hundred reasons.
“Also,” he continued, “even if I have a deadly weapon in my hand, I won’t use it to hurt people.” In a cheerful tone, he continued, “Even if it was an actual deadly weapon, in my hand it would become a good luck charm.”
Guo Mie looked at him, then looked at Xiao Jun. He sighed.
“Very well, I will tell you,” he said to Ingot. “There are no secrets in the world which can remain hidden forever. I suppose the time has come to speak it out.”
Ingot looked at him, his expression suddenly very serious and sincere. “By all means, speak it out. I can guarantee you will not regret it.”
They stared at each other, an understanding growing between them that only they two could understand.
Both could feel the mutual agreement.
And so, Guo Mie told his story:
Many years ago, a naughty and energetic child got lost in the mountain roads. People who got lost in these mountains either ended up food for leopards, or they starved to death. No one had ever passed through alive.
But the child got incredibly lucky, because he accidentally stumbled into a mysterious valley, and ran into two sisters, about the same age as him. They were as beautiful as immortal spirits from heaven.
Not only did they save him, they took him home with them.
The child was very intelligent and charming, the type to always attract the attention of others.
It was something learned by living a difficult life.
He was an orphan with horrible luck, but as of that day, his luck changed.
This was because the father of the two sisters was an extraordinary man who had long lived in seclusion, and had mystical martial arts honed to perfection. After the tragic death of his wife, he had fled from civilization and gone into hiding, eventually settling down on that wild mountain.
He accepted the child in.
He could see that his daughters had taken a fancy to him, and could also sense that he was extremely bright.
The two sisters were equally beautiful, but their temperaments couldn’t be more different. The older sister was gentle and quiet, the younger sister, ambitious and aggressive. She often lost her temper.
Though young, the child knew how to please the two sisters.
When a person struggles through a difficult life, it is impossible not to learn about that type of thing. At that time he was not yet ten years old.
All children grow up, and usually it happens without their realizing it. And usually, they will come to understand some of what goes on between men and women, even if no one teaches it to them.
There are many things in the world that do not need to be taught.
As the father grew older, it became apparent that he wanted to take this now grown child as his son-in-law.
The child understood that.
Although he got along well with the arrogant and spirited younger sister, had had fallen in love with the gentle and quiet older sister.
By that time, the older sister was completely grown up, and she of course she could tell how he felt.
And so, even though the two of them were not officially married, they were committed to each other in their hearts, and united for the first time on a soft spring night.
This is a truly beautiful story, just like a fairy tale.
But then things changed, in such a way that would cause them pain and regret for the rest of their lives.
Hearing up to this part, Ingot couldn’t help but ask, “Are you the child?”
“And the older sister? Is she General Li?”
General Li was the older sister, and Gao Tianjue was the younger sister. How could flesh and blood sisters end up mortal enemies?
How could the gentle and quiet older sister become the great thief General Li, who rocked Jianghu?
Ingot couldn’t hold back from asking another question: “What happened next? How did things turn out?”
The father gradually grew older and older. He looked much older than his actual age.
This was because he was too lonely, and could not stop dwelling on his memories of the past.
Those types of things make people grow old much easier.
Then one miserable night, on the anniversary of his wife’s death, he drank some strong liquor brewed from mountain fruit, and got more drunk than usual.
He fell down that night.
Everyone will eventually grow old and feeble, and die, even people who don’t wish their lives to end. But on his deathbed, he said something to the child. He spoke out his final wish, his final request.
He wanted the child to marry his second daughter, to care for her for his whole life.
This was his wish because he knew that although the younger daughter appeared on the outside to be stronger than the older one, on the inside, she was actually much more fragile. She did not have the ability to deal with mental suffering, could not take being attacked. Without an intelligent, powerful man to protect her, she could easily collapse into evil.
The child was the best choice for the younger daughter, and he had always treated her tenderly and with consideration. No doubt they would grow to love each other in their hearts.
The old man believed himself to have made the most wise and correct decision. What he didn’t know was that this decision would lead both daughters to live lives of suffering.
—How could a lonely old man understand the hearts of young people?
This child had been raised into an adult by the old man, how could he refuse his dying wish?
Neither could the older sister say anything.
Her father had not misjudged her. She was a soft on the outside, but hard on the inside. No matter how wronged she felt, she could handle it, and would not say a word about it.
So the day after the old man died she slipped away quietly, leaving behind her only relative, and her only lover.
What she never told anyone was that at the time she left, she was already pregnant.
Before her child was even born, he was fated live without a father.
Ingot did not look at the expression on Xiao Jun’s face.
He couldn’t bear to look, and didn’t even want to. Although, even had he wanted to, he wouldn’t have been able to see clearly.
His eyes blurred, and it seemed as if tears would stream down his face at any moment.
He felt very bad for Guo Mie.
Anyone in those circumstances would be unable to make a different choice. Only someone without the slightest bit of compassion would do differently, and such a person would not even count as being a person.
He also felt bad for the gentle and quiet older sister.
She could not defy the last wish of her father, nor ruin her sister’s chance at happiness.
She did not wish to cause pain to her lover.
Other than leaving, what could she do?
Ingot could only imagine how heartbroken she was when she left.
And of course, he felt bad for her child.
He knew that the younger sister was innocent in the whole matter. She didn’t know anything of what had happened.
She would not defy her father, because she had long since accepted being given to Guo Mie.
How could any girl, with no rhyme or reason, refuse to be given in marriage to someone she deeply loved?
And the old man hadn’t done any wrong either.
A loving father, on the verge of death, wanted to select a good person to accompany his daughter through her life.
Who could say that he had done anything wrong?
None of them had done anything wrong. So who was to blame?
Ingot couldn’t say. No one could possibly pass judgment on this situation.
Therefore, Ingot could only ask, “What happened next? How did things turn out?”
Next, “End the heavens, destroy the earth” appeared in Jianghu, like a sudden miracle.
At that time, no one knew that they were husband and wife, nor did anyone know that Gao Tianjue was a woman. She didn’t want anyone to know.
In Jianghu, women are looked down upon. When fighting women, many heroes would hold back. Others would simply refuse to fight.
She didn’t want people to hold back against her, she wanted people to fear her.
The fame of “End the heavens, destroy the earth” grew day by day. It’s hard to say how many heroes of the martial world, how many mighty men of the dark path, fell to their hand. If they chose to pursue someone, no one could help that person evade.
There was only one exception.
This person appeared just when they had achieved the pinnacle of their fame: Three Fearsome Laughs General Li.
In order to capture General Li, “End the heavens, destroy the earth” created a meticulous plan, and mobilized a force comprised of the most powerful people. And they spent six months executing the plan.
Unfortunately, they failed.
It was as if every step, every detail, of the plan had been anticipated by General Li.
They never even saw the General, and yet the General seemed to understand everything about them. It was as if he even knew how they thought.
There was only one person in the world who could understand them that well.
Only one person.
The air in the hull cabin grew even more thick. Guo Mie seemed to be having trouble breathing.
The wound on his chest was quite serious, but with effort, he continued to speak.
“And that was when they realized, the Laughing General was most likely Gao Tianyi.” 
Gao Tianyi. This was the first time Ingot hear General Li’s true name. And it was the first time Xiao Jun heard the name of his mother.
With a downcast expression, Guo Mie continued, “We had lived together for so many years, no one could possibly understand us as good as her. Although, at that time, Gao Tianjue could not understand why her sister would oppose us.”
“Why didn’t you tell her?”
“It’s bad enough that one of them was hurt, why hurt both?” He sighed. “And in any case, this matter was not something for others to know. Even to speak of it would have been difficult.”
“I don’t blame you. You’re the protagonist of this story.” Ingot also sighed. “This is an appropriate time for the expression, ‘those involved in a situation often cannot see clearly.’ How true that is.” He continued, “But I still don’t understand. If she was willing to leave quietly to help you two fulfill their father’s final wish, why would she act like that later on?”
“At the time, I didn’t understand either, because I had no idea she’d given birth to a child. Some knots get tighter the more you pull at them, until they can never be undone. Many matters in life are the same. The more you think about them, the less you can understand them. When a women gives birth to a child, her thinking changes.”
The thinking of women is something men are innately incapable of understanding.
“And so, I wanted to go looking for her,” said Guo Mie. “Alone, to discuss things.”
“Did you find her?”
“You used so many people and yet couldn’t track her down. How come you were able to find her by yourself?”
“Because this time I knew who she was. I was as familiar with her habits and way of thinking as she was with ours.”
Ingot sighed. “Well that’s horrible.”
“What do you mean?”
“The three of you grew up together. If you could find her, then so could Gao Tianjue. When you found her, Gao Tianjue was probably right behind you.” He laughed bitterly. “Unfortunately, at that time, not only were you the protagonist, thinking unclearly, but you also were not as intelligent as me. So you didn’t think of it, and therefore, Gao Tianjue caught you red-handed.”
Guo Mie didn’t respond, because he was having trouble breathing, and couldn’t speak.
But Ingot had a lot of questions he wanted to ask.
—When Gao Tianjue found out about her husband’s relationship with her older sister, how did she respond to the situation, and what did she do?
—How did her arm get cut off? Who cut it off?
—Why did General Li suddenly go into retirement? Why did she take her son to live in the middle of nowhere, and then die from hatred? And why did she send her child to live in the Beggar Sect?
—Why did Guo Mie sever his relationship with his wife? And why, when surrounded by the heroes of Jianghu, would he admit to being General Li?
Xiao Jun now understood many things.
—He understood why Gao Tianjue cut off his arm.
—He understood why Gao Tianjue’s voice had sounded so familiar.
—He understood why former Sect Lord Ren had told him his mother had been killed by General Li.
Were it not for the entanglements of love, would his mother have ever become General Li?
Had General Li not appeared, his mother would never have wasted away in death.
—He also understood why Gao Tianjue wanted to kill Guo Mie, yet was not happy about it afterwards, and had instead laughed a laugh filled with sorrow and horror.
Xiao Jun completely understood these complex matters. But he was just as confused as Ingot was about one thing.
He wanted one thing to be made clear.
But neither of them could ask.
It was a very important question, extremely important: How would they get out of this place?
If they didn’t, all of them would likely suffocate.
During that time period, they did not know that without oxygen in the air, it doesn’t matter how powerful a person’s martial arts are, they will begin to feel exhaustion and fatigue, then eventually fall asleep.
That having been said, everyone knows that if you can’t breathe, you will suffocate to death.
Ingot suddenly said, “There’s only one way. I’ve thought about it, and there’s only one method.”
“Bust a hole in the floor and let the water in, then we can go out.” He sighed. “Sadly, that method is not an easy one.”
Of course that method would not be easy.
The ship was a sturdy ship. Every plank was hewn from specially selected hardwood, and was obviously quite thick.
Were Guo Mie not injured, it would be as easy as lifting a figter.
Unfortunately, he was injured, severely.
Ingot still clung to hope. He asked Guo Mie, “Did you put medicine on your wound? Is it any better?”
People of Jianghu, who constantly live life on the edge of the blade, know that it is difficult to avoid injury. Most will carry a small amount of special medicine with them.
But Guo Mie was not the average person, so Ingot quickly gave up on that idea.
“Of course you don’t have any medicine.” He sighed. “If my martial arts were as good as yours, and I didn’t think anyone in the world could hurt me, I wouldn’t carry around medicine, either.”
Guo Mie didn’t respond.
He felt incredibly sleepy. Extremely sleepy, in a way that he had never before felt in his life.
Even though he could hear Ingot speaking, he didn’t have the strength to respond.
Like Ingot and Xiao Jun, he could think, but his thoughts seemed to be moving slower than usual.
They all slipped into a state of semi-coma.
It was not until they heard a rapping “tip tip tap tap” sound that they became somewhat sober.
The sound came from the exact part of the boat that they had wished to smash and escape from.
They wished to smash that hole, but had no energy to do so.
Now, it seemed someone was knocking on the hull outside, preparing to smash a hole in.
Who was it outside?
This part of the boat was under the surface of the lake.
A “bang” sound rang out, and a huge hole was suddenly smashed into the hull. And yet, no lake water rushed in.
Not a drop of water came in, only wind.
Ingot awoke, and then stared in shock.
He was a very intelligent person, but he couldn’t figure out how there was wind outside, but no water.
** Her name in Chinese is 高天仪 Gāo tiān yí. Tian could be translated heaven and Yi could mean gift. So her name could carry the meaning “gift from heaven.”