Chapter 19

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Chapter 19 – Executioner

A flash of sabre light. A splash of blood.

She saw the flash of sabre light. She even saw the splashing blood.

The pearls of blood seemed to splash out from between her eyes. When she saw these pearls of blood, it was as though she had seen her own ghost, or seen her two legs leave her body and then give her a kick.

She even felt as though her left eye could now see her right eye.

Who can truly understand her feelings?

Nobody. Only living people can understand other people’s feelings. A dead person’s head definitely can’t hold these thoughts, because it has already been chopped in half. A person whose head had been chopped in half originally shouldn’t be able to see anything, unless the sabre was simply too fast. When the sabre blade chopped down, the sense of vision hadn’t died yet. She could still see what happened in that split second.

This very last split second.

How long is a split second?

There are sixty split seconds in the snap of a finger. The strange thing was, the last split second before a person dies, they can think of some things which they normally wouldn’t think through in an entire day and night.

Right now, nobody knew what she was thinking, and she naturally would never be able to say it.

Ni Ping. Thirty three years of age.

The second son of Ni Baofeng, ‘Master of the Pavilion of Hidden Treasure’, he wielded a long sword. He was one of the more famous quick swordsmen of the next generation of martial artists.

He was single and had never wed.

After the Ni Family Garden had been destroyed, he often stayed with the famous prostitute, Bai Ruyu, in her ‘Courtyard of Jade Fragrance’.

On April 19th, Fu Hongxue killed Ni Ping.

Ni Hui, twenty years old.

The second daughter of the ‘Master of the Pavilion of Hidden Treasure’, intelligent and resourceful, with extremely high skills in lightness kungfu. She alone practiced the overpowering hidden projectile skill, ‘Celestial Maiden Flowers’. She had killed three people.

She was single and had never wed.

On April 19th, Fu Hongxue killed Ni Hui.

Duo Qingzi, thirty-five years old.

Originally, his surname was ‘Hu’. His background was unclear, but he entered the Xingxiuhai sect in his infancy. Even as a youth, his martial arts proficiency was very high, and the ‘Great Soul-Searching Hand of Severing Heaven and Shattering Earth’ was one of the seven great Secret Skills of the martial world. He had killed an innumerable number of people.

He was single and had never wed.

Before March had ended, he had evilly killed six married women.

On the night of April 19th, Fu Hongxue killed Duo Qingzi.

Luo Xiaohu, forty years old.

He had robbed and plundered the lands west of the river. He wielded a sabre and thought very highly of himself. He considered himself the best sabre-wielder in the world.

He was single and had never wed.

On April 21st, Fu Hongxue killed Luo Xiaohu.

Yang Wulu, forty four years old.

The cousin of Yang Wuji, ‘Master of the White Clouds Temple.’ A disciple of the Kunlun sect. He had a very high attainment in the ‘Eighteen Stances of the Flying Dragon’. He was very narrow minded, and would definitely take vengeance when slighted. He really rather had Yang Wuji’s attitude of ‘abstain from nothing when killing’.

He became a Taoist priest when young, and was single.

On April 22nd, Fu Hongxue killed Yang Wulu.

Yin Rudi, thirty years old.

Jin Rumu, thirty three years old.

The two worked together and had killed people without number. They were nicknamed the ‘Twin Killers of the Five Elements’. Their martial arts techniques were extremely secretive.

They had very unkind temperaments and were very stingy. By this year, they were fabulously wealthy.

Yin Rudi was a lecher.

Jin Rumu was castrated at birth.

On April 23rd, Fu Hongxue killed Yin Rudi, Jin Rumu.

Zhuge Duan, fifty years old.

He was the Buddhist disciple of Guanxi’s ‘One Sabred Luo’. He was unfeeling and skeptical, and loved to kill people.

He had long since become a widower.

He had married three times, but all three of his wives had died to his sabre.

No children.

On April 24th, Fu Hongxue killed Zhuge Duan.

‘A Flower Branch’, Qian Lixiang. Twenty nine years old.

A rapist and an expert in using knockout drugs.

He was single and had never wed.

On April 25th, Fu Hongxue killed Qian Lixiang.

There was a great deal of material left in the thick folder in front of him. It had all been obtained from various places by the two men in front of him.

He only flipped a few pages. Then he no longer read.

One of the two standing in front of him was Gu Qi, him of the black shirt and white socks. The other wore a moon-white monk’s robe that was totally spotless. It was the crazy monk from the Ancient Monastery of the Celestial Dragon.

Right now, he didn’t seem crazy in the slightest.

His attitude towards the two was very gentle and mild. They, on the other hand, were very respectful towards him, just like how loyal ministers would act towards their monarch.

Although they were standing facing him, there was a very large, very broad table between them.

Regardless of the time or place, he would always keep an appropriate distance between himself and others.

Although his smiling face was very amiable, no one ever dared to annoy him, because he was the most legendary figure in the martial world of this day and age.

He was Gongzi Yu.

The room was tasteful and secluded. Every single item had been selected with the greatest care and placed in the most suitable place. But there weren’t many things on the table. Aside from that folder, there was only a long sword wrapped in yellow silk.

From outside the window, the shadows of flowers flickered about. No voices could be heard, and there were only the three of them inside.

When he wasn’t speaking, they didn’t even dare to breathe too loudly. They all knew that Gongzi Yu liked silence.

The folder was shut.

Gongzi Yu finally let out a sigh. “Why do you always want me to look at these things?”

With two fingers, he gently flicked the folder back to them, as though he were afraid of being contaminated by the bloody acts and murderous aura described within.

Only then did he continue, “Why don’t you directly tell me, how many people has he killed over these past few days?”

Wu Hua looked at Gu Qi.

Gu Qi said, “Twenty three.”

Gongzi Yu wrinkled his forehead. “Seventeen days, twenty three people?”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu sighed. “Hasn’t he killed just a little too many people?”

Gu Qi said, “It is too many.”

Gongzi Yu said, “I hear that your chess buddy, Yang Wuji, also had his hand chopped off by him.”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu chuckled. “Fortunately, one can still play chess with his left hand.”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Did Yang Wulu seek out Fu Hongxue in order to get revenge for his cousin?”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Luo Xiaohu naturally fought in order to compete to see whose sabre was faster.”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Why did Zhuge Duan kill all three of his wives?”

Gu Qi said, “Because they smiled once at other men.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Out of these two people, one thought too highly of himself, and the other was too skeptical of others. Those types of people can do more harm than good. From now on, you must not accept those sorts of people into our organization.”

Gu Qi and Wu Hua simultaneously said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu’s countenance became mild again. “But I know that their sabre techniques weren’t weak.”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu said, “The Great Soul-Searching Hand of the Xingxiuhai sect can also be considered a very powerful martial arts technique.”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu said, “I hear that Fu Hongxue has always been depressed recently, and has drowned himself in alcohol.”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu said, “And yet, none of these experts you sought out were able to block even a single sabre chop of his.”

Gu Qi did not dare to open his mouth. He didn’t dare to say ‘yes’ again.

But Gongzi Yu was waiting for him to respond. When he asked a question, the answer must be concise, but there must be an answer. A lack of an answer would be an indication that his question was not worth being taken seriously.

Anyone who didn’t take him seriously was guaranteed to receive a suitable punishment.

Gu Qi finally said, “Although he drinks a great deal, his hand is still very steady.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Alcohol has no effect on him?”

Gu Qi said, “It has a little effect.”

Gongzi Yu said, “What effect?”

Gu Qi said, “When he strikes, he becomes even more vicious than before.”

Gongzi Yu was silent, then slowly said, “I imagine he must be very angry. Thus, his sabre has become even more fearsome.”

Gu Qi did not ask why. In front of Gongzi Yu, he only answered, never asked.

But Gongzi Yu continued. “Because rage is also a type of power. A power which can compel someone to do many things.”

Looking at him, Gu Qi’s eyes were filled with admiration and respect.

He never looked down upon his opponents. His analyses and judgements were always correct. His understanding of his opponents was perhaps even deeper than they themselves had.

Thus, he was successful. His success definitely was not due to luck.

Gongzi Yu suddenly asked, “He still waits for others to attack first before drawing?”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu let out another sigh. “This is the most fearsome point of all. A man who can gain mastery after his opponent launches the first strike is definitely much more fearsome than a man who gains the advantage after taking the initiative.”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Do you know why?”

Gu Qi said, “Because when one launches an attack, right at the point when he is about to attack but hasn’t yet, his power is at the softest point. His sabre severs the opponent’s life at precisely that moment.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Can anyone else do this?”

Gu Qi said, “They cannot.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Why?”

Gu Qi said, “Very few people besides him are capable of seizing that brief, transient moment.”

Gongzi Yu smiled. “It seems your martial arts have improved.”

Gu Qi said, “Just a bit.”

He didn’t dare to be too modest. His words were honest. In front of Gongzi Yu, no matter who you are, you must speak the truth.

Gongzi Yu’s smile became jubilant. “Do you want to test his sabre and see how fast it is?”

Gu Qi said, “No I don’t.”

Gongzi Yu said, “You know you aren’t his match?”

Gu Qi said, “To my understanding, there are only two people who can stop him.”

Gongzi Yu said, “One of them is Ye Kai?”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu said, “The other one is me?”

Gu Qi said, “Yes.”

Gongzi Yu slowly stood up. He walked to the window and pushed the screen open, causing the fragrance of the garden to rush towards his face. He stood there quietly, not moving, not speaking.

Gu Qi and Tu Hua didn’t dare to move either.

After a long, long time, he slowly said, “I’m afraid there’s something you don’t know.”

Gu Qi still didn’t dare to ask.

Gongzi Yu said, “I don’t like killing people. In my entire life, I have never personally killed anyone before.”

Gu Qi wasn’t surprised. Some people didn’t need to personally kill.

Gongzi Yu said, “Nobody can stop him. At most, I can kill him.”

Because he himself was like a sabre, a steel sabre. You can break him, but you definitely can’t make him bend.

Gongzi Yu said, “But right now, I don’t want to make an exception and kill him.”

Because he still had misgivings. His incomparably noble, just, and heroic reputation wasn’t easily obtained. So he couldn’t kill people, and even less could he kill Fu Hongxue.

Because Fu Hongxue wasn’t a person whom everybody felt deserved to die.

Gongzi Yu said, “So now, I can only let him kill people. The more he kills, the better.”

Let him kill? Until when? Until everybody wanted to kill him, until he went mad.

Gongzi Yu said, “So now, we can still give him some more provocations, and let him kill a few more people.”

Turning around, he looked at them. “We can even give him some people to kill.”

Gu Qi said, “I will make arrangements.”

Gongzi Yu said, “What type of people do you plan to arrange for him to kill?”

Gu Qi said, “The first is Xiao Siwu.”

Gongzi Yu said, “Why have you chosen this person?”

Gu Qi said, “Because this person has already changed.”

Gongzi Yu said, “I think you can definitely arrange for some more interesting people for him to kill.”

Smiling, he slowly continued, “Right now, I’ve already thought of the most interesting person.”

The scent of flowers filled the garden.

His two hands resting on his back, Gongzi Yu strolled about the garden. He was in a very good mood. He believed that his subordinates would definitely complete the task he had given them, a task to kill people.

But he himself never killed people. Never.

A peaceful night. A deep night.

Fu Hongxue couldn’t sleep. Although staying awake was painful, falling asleep was even more painful.

When a person is sleeping on a cold, hard wooden bed, with the room filled with the foul, cheap scent unique to all cheap inns, while staring at the shabby, broken down ceiling, he would start to think of those past events which he should not think about.

Wanderers without roots, who can understand your sorrow and your pain?

He would rather have his spirit roam around in the darkness.

Some windows were still lit.

What were the people inside doing? Why hadn’t they slept yet? Had a husband and wife awoken from their happy exhaustion, and were making boiled rice stews from leftover dishes from last night’s dinner? Was it, perhaps, that the child had awoken in the middle of the night, and so the parents could only light a lamp and help him change his diapers?

Although this lifestyle is simple and dull, the pleasure within it was something which a type of person like Fu Hongxue would never enjoy. Hearing the cries of the child, his heart once again began to ache.

He wanted to drink again.

Although alcohol couldn’t solve any problems, it could at least make one temporarily forget them.

A dim light flickered in the alleyway ahead of him.

A tired, depressed old man was drinking alcohol by himself underneath the dim light.

He had already owned a stall here for thirty-five years. He was busy very early each morning, purchasing the cheapest of bones to boil stew with, stewing some vegetable dishes which everyone could eat with the alcohol. He would set up his stall at dusk, and keep it open all the way until early morning, before dawn.

In the past thirty-five years, his lifestyle had never changed. His sole pleasure was waiting until late night, when the customers were fewest, and then drinking a little wine by himself. Only after drinking a little wine could he enter a world which totally belonged to himself. A peaceful, beautiful world, a world where there definitely wasn’t people who devoured other people. Although this world only existed in his imagination, he thought it was pretty decent. If a man can at least preserve a few illusions, then that would be pretty decent.

Fu Hongxue arrived beneath the dim light.

“Give me two jin of wine.”

So long as it would make him drunk, any type of alcohol was fine.

In front of the stall, there were only three shabby, worn-out tables. Only after seating himself did he notice that he wasn’t the only customer. There was another, a big, burly fellow who was originally eating a large bowl of noodles and drinking large bowls of wine. But at this moment, he stopped and stared in surprise at Fu Hongxue.

He recognized this pale-faced ‘diseased sot’. He once ate some suffering from this diseased sot, in the small room of the girl who wore jasmine flowers.

Feeling a bit tipsy, he actually walked over. Smiling, he said, “I didn’t imagine that you liked alcohol as well. For you to be coming out here this late at night and drinking by yourself, you must have really good alcohol tolerance.”

Fu Hongxue ignored him.

The big fellow said, “I know that you detest me, but I admire you. You look like a diseased sot, but you are actually a real man.”

Fu Hongxue still ignored him. Even if he had thicker skin, he still couldn’t not leave, but unexpectedly, Fu Hongxue suddenly said, “Sit!”

Even if a person has long since become accustomed to being alone, sometimes he will still feel very miserable. He suddenly wished that someone could keep him company. Any type of person would do. In fact, the more vulgar, the more ignorant the person, the better, because that sort of person couldn’t touch the pain in his inner heart.

But the big fellow looked absolutely delighted, immediately sitting down and calling for alcohol in a loud voice. “Chop another pig’s tail and two more duck heads!”

He laughed again. “Too bad the duck heads have already been chopped in half by someone long ago. If I had the chance to do the chopping, I would definitely have done it more neatly and tidier.”

The old noodle seller was also a bit tipsy. He glanced sideways at the big fellow. “You often chop off duck heads?”

The big fellow said, “Duck heads, human heads. I often chop off both.”

Clapping himself on the chest, he said, “I’m not boasting when I say that my skill at chopping off heads is the best for hundreds of li around.”

The old man said, “What is your job?”

The big fellow said, “I am an executioner. My prefecture is county thirteen, and I am the number one executioner. If someone wants me to chop off their head, they at least have to give me a hundred or so taels.”

The old man said, “You are going to chop someone’s head off, and yet they are going to give you silver?”

The big fellow said, “If they don’t give enough, I won’t do it.”

The old man said, “Based on what?”

The big fellow stretched out his giant palm. “Based on these two hands of mine, and that extremely heavy demon-faced sabre of mine.”

He pantomimed chopping someone’s head off. “When I chop downwards, sometimes the executed doesn’t even know that his head has fallen off.”

The old man said, “If they stretch their neck off, they get the axe. If they shrink, they still get the axe. Why should people pay you?”

The big fellow said, “Because a short period of pain is better than a long period of pain. If I am the chopper, they will die cleanly!”

The old man said, “What, so other people aren’t able to come up with a way chop heads off with a sabre?”

The big fellow said, “Do you still remember the young fellow I came here with last time?”

The old man said, “How is he?”

The big fellow said, “He’s also an executioner. In order to train in this line of work, he used watermelons as heads for practice. He practiced for many years before finally feeling confident. When he came, he didn’t think much of me at all.”

The old man said, “Afterwards?”

The big fellow said, “It wasn’t until the first time he went to the execution ground that he realized something was wrong.”

The old man said, “What was wrong?”

The big fellow said, “I’m afraid that even in your dreams, you won’t be able to imagine the power, prestige, and killing aura emanated by the execution ground. As soon as he stepped foot on to the execution ground, his two legs went soft. He launched seventeen or eighteen chops, but that prisoner’s head was still connected to his neck. He was in such pain, he was rolling around on the floor, screaming as miserably as a butchered pig.

While sighing, he said, “Imagine what it must feel like to have been chopped at seventeen or eighteen times, yet still be alive.”

The old man’s face had already turned pale. “If you are the chopper, only one chop is needed?”

The big fellow said, “I guarantee that I will do it in one chop. Clean and straightforward.”

The old man said, “Can it be that there is a type of learning needed to chop heads?”

The big fellow said, “The learning inherent in this sort of business is very great indeed.”

The old man couldn’t resist bringing his own alcohol over as well, sitting down to one side. “Tell me. I’ll listen.”

The big fellow says, “Not only is a deft hand and a quick eye required, you also need to figure out what type of person is being executed.”

The old man said, “Why?”

The big fellow said, “Because some people were born with great courage. When the sabre draws near, their spines are still stiff and straight. They won’t shrink their neck in either. Chopping this sort of person is the easiest.”

With an audience, his words became an even more willing narrator. “But the bones of some people go limp as soon as they step foot into the execution ground. The crotch of their pants is filled with piss and shit, and you can’t even pull them up.”

The old man said, “Can it be that you can’t chop off their heads while they are lying on the ground?”

The big fellow said, “I can’t chop.”

The old man said, “Why not?”

The big fellow said, “Because the bones at the back of ones neck are very hard. You need to carefully see the joints before you can chop off the head at one blow.”

He continued, “If I know that the prisoner being executed is a coward, I need to make preparations first.”

The old man said, “Prepare what?”

The big fellow said, “Usually, I’ll pour him a few cups of wine first to stir up his courage. But I can’t actually get them drunk, so first I need to find out how good his alcohol tolerance is.”

The old man said, “And then?”

The big fellow said, “After arriving at the execution ground, if he still doesn’t dare to stretch his neck out, I’ll give him a kick on his waist. As soon as he stretches his head out, I’ll give him the chop, and I’ll also need to pull out my long-prepared steamed buns as well, as quickly as possible.”

The old man said, “What do you want a steamed bun for?”

The big fellow said, “As soon as his head falls down, I’ll stick the steamed bun into his throat.”

The old man said, “Why?”

The big fellow said, “Because I can’t let the blood which spurts out get onto my body. The size of the steamed bun is perfectly suited for absorbing blood. Even after everyone in the execution ground has left, that steamed bun is still warm. I’ll then eat the steamed bun while it is still warm.”

The old man wrinkled his forehead. “Why would you eat that steamed bun?”

The big fellow said, “Because eating it can boost one’s courage.”

He drank another cup of alcohol, then laughed again. “People in our line of business will become terrified after killing too many people as well. At the beginning, we’ll only be unable to sleep at night. Towards the end, we might even go crazy.”

The old man said, “Truly insane?”

The old fellow said, “My teacher is crazy now. He went crazy after only twenty years of being an executioner. He always says that there are wronged ghosts who seek him for their lives back, who want to chop his head off. One day, he actually stuffed his own head into a furnace.”

Looking at him, the old man sighed. “Today, all the alcohol you drank is on the house.”

The big fellow said, “Why?”

The old man said, “Because it isn’t easy for you to earn money in this way. In the future, you definitely will go crazy as well.”

The big fellow laughed loudly. “If you want to treat me, then I might as well drink, but I definitely won’t go crazy.”

The old man said, “Why not?”

The big fellow said, “Because I like this line of work.”

The old man wrinkled his forehead. “You really like it?”

The big fellow laughed. “Other people are violating the law when they kill people. But when I kill people, I earn money. Where can you possibly find such a great bargain as this?”

He suddenly turned his head and asked Fu Hongxue, “How about you? What do you do?”

Fu Hongxue did not respond. His stomach was contracting again, as though he were about to vomit again.

From within the darkness, a cold voice said, “He’s the same as you. He’s also an executioner.”

The long night was almost over.

It is always the darkest before the dawn. This person was standing in the darkest spot.

The big fellow was shocked. “You said that he’s also an executioner?”

The shadow within the darkness nodded. “Only, he can’t compare to you.”

The big fellow said, “In what way can’t he compare to me?”

The shadow within the darkness said, “To you, not only is killing somebody very easy, but it’s also a very cheerful thing.”

The big fellow said, “And him?”

The shadow within the darkness said, “But he feels bitter pain when he kills. He is already no longer able to sleep at night.”

At the beginning, we’ll be unable to sleep at night. Towards the end, we go crazy.

The big fellow said, “He’s already killed many people?”

The shadow within the darkness said, “Not counting those in the past, he’s already killed twenty three people in the past seventeen days.”

The big fellow said, “When he kills people, does he get paid for it?”

The shadow within the darkness said, “None.”

The big fellow said, “Even though he isn’t getting paid, and even though he’s miserable doing it, he still kills people?”

The shadow within the darkness said, “Yes.”

The big fellow said, “Will he keep on killing people in the future?”

The shadow in the darkness said, “Not only will he kill people in the future, he’ll kill right now as well.”

The big fellow suddenly became tense. “Who is he going to kill right now?”

The shadow in the darkness said, “Me!”


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