The Riddle in the Words and the Ming Family Gets a Daughter-In-Law
Hero Shen Zhou left. The leaders of Shaolin and Wudang left too.
The emperor stood there in place blankly, staring at the white wall with the words.
Does thou know?
The dragons roar brought the support of the gods down below the clouds.
The moon shook at the cry of the phoenix.
One fool banned nine states.
The devil ruined the dynasty of five generations.
Does thou know?!
After looking at it for a while, the emperor suddenly realised that phrases were formed when read vertically too!
“Dragons and phoenixes are retards”, “What the fuck are you bitching for”?*
The emperor then realised it: He cussed at me?!
The next vertical line over was, “There are too many princes”, which was pointing at how the fight for the throne would come due to having too many sons.
Then the next vertical line that the emperor saw was, “I’m tired”?
What the hell?!
You left in a rush because you were tired?! How dare you?! I asked you to come to look into national affairs and that’s your reason for leaving?! You damn unreliable geezer!
The last three phrases, “Forbid the Divine Moon”, “Clouds move nine five”, “Shake the nation”.
They didn’t seem to make sense. But after pondering them for a while, the emperor felt like it addressed a concern he had.
The phrase “Shake the nation” was straightforward and required no explanation. But the other two phrases carried implicit meanings.
Divine moon? Was he referring to the Divine Moon Sect? The demon sect called Divine Moon had existed since the founding emperor’s era. Their leader had always resided in the Western regions. They worked with the countries in the West to fight against the imperial court. They were indeed a problem in the shadows. “Forbid the divine moon”, could that be suggesting that the Divine Moon Sect were going to bring harm to his children?
The very thought of it enraged him. If they dare touch a hair on my children, I’ll go all out and eradicate them!
The phrase “Clouds move nine five” also confused him.
The cloud character should be pointing to one of the four major forces of the evil sects, the Demon Cloud Heavenly Palace. They are the most mysterious powerhouse in the pugilistic world. They’ve always behaved in inexplicable and strange ways. So “Clouds move nine five”…….. Could I……
The emperor stared at the white wall silently in a daze.
But after a while passed, the emperor looked clearly bewildered.
The characters didn’t resemble a poem, nor could they be considered phrases. The tones weren’t making sense, and neither were they an antithesis. It was void of literacy refinement and colour, and its meaning was even more so confusing. But after staring at it for a long time, the emperor subconsciously began to shift his attention. It was like the characters and the spaces between them were imbued with an alluring magic. It was like looking at a demon that one couldn’t shift their gaze away from.
The emperor initially pondered the implied meaning of the text. However, looking at the text only made him feel heartbroken. The text looked magnificent on the white wall. He stopped paying attention to the meaning behind the text and just stared at the characters themselves blankly.
The characters curved like the movement of dragons and snakes, and the text emitted a powerful aura. The sentence “The roar of the dragons brought the support of the gods down below the clouds”. Instead of calling it a sentence of a poem, it would be better to say it was fifteen separated words. The stroke of every character had its own personal intent. Every slash of the sword had its own aura. For example, the “dragon” character was carved with ferociousness. The character for “roar” alone seemed like it could blow the clouds away. Every character after it was just as amazing. The emperor loved the “cloud” character in particular. It looked heroic and seemed like it was flying, like a wind blowing the snow.
The emperor was so impressed he almost cried out!
While some of the characters had repetitive components, but it was clear that there were some differences.
For example, the character for “ruined” in “The devil ruined the dynasty of five generations” was written leisurely, without any suave feel to it. The second time it was written, it was written with a strong demeanour, and stood out as an excellently written character.
Next, there was the repeated phrase “Does thou know”.
The first time it was written, the three characters were written beautifully. “Does” was written beautifully, “thou” was written eloquently and “know” was written naturally.
The second time it was written, it was written in a completely different style. It was like two different people wrote them. The second time, “does” was written nimbly, the “thou” character was written uniquely, and the “know” character was written as if it were rushed.
The emperor got more surprised as he looked at it. It was like he was no longer himself. He suddenly wondered to himself: C-Could this be a sword taolu?
Emperor Yuan Sheng knows martial arts. His Li family has been proficient with archery and equestrian ever since the founding emperor established the dynasty. The founding emperor was a top-level master at the time. The martial arts he passed down could compare to the best arts in the world.
It was just that Emperor Yuan Sheng was still young at the time. Since he was young, his martial development was naturally limited by his age. And since he was born into royalty, he never had the chance to spar with anyone. The empress dowager doted on him. She wasn’t even willing to let him pick up a pet. He couldn’t improve his martial arts much living in such an environment.
Secondly, although the founding emperor passed down his martial knowledge, martial art training requires a teacher. It’s not possible to master all the elements of a true master’s martial arts from a single book. An emperor is only permitted to train with his family members. That further increased the difficulty of passing on the knowledge, skills and inhibiting development. If by chance the exponent wasn’t talented, the chances of the art being passed down incorrectly or fading away entirely would be scary-high.
The founding emperor possessed formidable martial prowess, but when he passed it onto his son, the second emperor, his son failed to learn half of it. The second emperor lacked internal strength. He was only half as powerful as his father. What he could teach the next generation was even less. And the level deteriorated with each successive generation. In the end, none of the emperors managed to reach the level of the founding emperor. They couldn’t even execute it with half the potency the founding emperor could.
Emperor Yuan Sheng didn’t lack potential. But due to the aforementioned circumstances, he was only a second-grade fighter in the pugilistic world at the age of twenty. The only difference was that his horizons were broader than normal people since he learnt the founding emperor’s incredible art.
When he had the thought that a sword taolu was hidden within the text, Emperor Yuan Sheng’s comprehension of the text reached another level. Extrapolating based on what he knew, he was further convinced that the sword taolu was an incredible one.
The emperor had completely forgotten about the six dragons sealing the nation matter as he was focused on the sword taolu. But regardless where he started reading from, it just looked off. The more he looked at the text, the more he found it changed. The more he looked, the more amazing the techniques appeared. The more he looked, the more confused he became. It was like watching forty-three swordsmen wielding their swords before him, with each technique coming from different sources that couldn’t be connected. As he continued looking, he became distressed so much that he was on the verge of puking, and broke out in a cold sweat.
The emperor couldn’t help but continue looking. He looked at it a few more times. He stopped looking at it as columns and rows, instead looking at them in a disoriented order. He examined them horizontally, vertically and diagonally, but to no avail.
While looking at it made him feel terribly sick and experience a throbbing headache, he couldn’t resist the curiosity to decipher the sword taolu. But after looking at them a few more times, he felt the text was no longer carved on the wall. He just felt the power of them increase more and more, and jump off the wall!
It was virtually like a sharp sword flew out of the wall, straight towards the point between his eyebrows and through the other side of his head. The emperor then suddenly felt a flash of pain between his forehead like the sword was at point-blank.
He then suddenly felt a hot energy enter his arms, like the illusion of a strong wind blowing away all the clouds before his eyes, revealing the bright moon in the sky.
He then heard: “Your retainer, Jian Yue is here!” He then felt somebody tugging him. A strong flow of energy entered his body. The emperor got tugged away so that he couldn’t face the text on the white wall.
When his eyes moved away from the wall, the emperor returned to his sentences, and exclaimed “ah”. If his heart was not protected by the internal energy of someone with profound internal energy, his exclamation might have shot his blood pressure through the roof and killed him.
The emperor huffed and puffed, with layer of cold sweat on his forehead. After finally catching his breath, he asked: “Wh-What just happened to me? Did I experience qigong psychosis by chance?”
He was so afraid he’d go mad that he didn’t dare to look at the text on the white wall again.
The one who saved the emperor from his sea of illusions was none other than Liu Shan Men’s number one fighter, Yan Shisan.
Yan Shisan snuck a glance at the white wall and didn’t look again. He congratulated the emperor: “Your majesty, there is a sword taolu hidden within the text. You slowly entered qigong psychosis as you followed the sword sequence.”
“Really?” The emperor still felt dizzy. He shut his eyes and said: “But why would I fall into qigong psychosis?”
“It was all because Hero Shen Zhou’s skills are so formidable. It truly is something rare to chance upon. The forty-three words are the essence of Hero Shen Zhou’s sword art. It is most brilliant, and without equal. Your cultivation level is not high enough, so you will get injured if you look at it for long, your majesty.”
“Y-You’re saying Hero Shen Zhou deliberately left behind this sword taolu? Could the sword taolu be the key to resolving the prophecy?”
“I do not know.” Yan Shisan slowly continued: “I just know that not even I am not qualified to learn that sword taolu with my martial arts. This sword taolu is completely different to anything that I have ever seen. While I will not get hurt looking at the white wall, I know that there is no way I could learn the sword taolu.”
“Not even you?”
The emperor felt disappointed. Based on what he saw just before, the sword taolu was indeed a brilliant work, and it was the key to resolving the prophecy. Yan Shisan is one of the ultimate three among the three offices. So if he was incapable of learning it, who else in the imperial court could?
“Oh right! Hero Shen Zhou comes and leaves without a trace, but he has disciples! Shisan, go and capture, I mean, go and ask that Ming Huayu to come here!”
Yan Shisan itched to say something. The emperor was clueless about how the pugilistic world worked, so he could only say: “Your majesty, Ming Huayu and I are acquainted. Hero Shen Zhou can be said to be an individual whose whereabouts are unknown. However, Ming Huayu is one who is completely untraceable.”
“Untraceable? What do you mean untraceable? He’s harder to find than his shifu?”
“You are unaware of this, your majesty. Hero Shen Zhou tours the world and will help those in need. And thus, there are people who see him allowing me to find some clues. However, Ming Huayu deliberately hides. If he doesn’t want to reveal himself, he can disguise himself so well that you wouldn’t meet him even if you were to run into him face-to-face. I truly have no means of locating him.”
The emperor couldn’t help but frown. Yan Shisan was his competent assistant who’d always demonstrated strength and intelligence. While he is unorthodox in his ways, he always succeeded whenever he attempted a job. Even the assassins from the League of Assassins got captured in a month when he was tasked with capturing them. Yet he’s now saying that can’t find a hero from a sect of justice? Does that make sense? Clearly he’s avoiding the job.
“He deliberately hides? What would he, a sect leader of a sect of justice be hiding from?”
“Your majesty, he’s hiding from his debts.”
“That’s ridiculous! Mount Daluo is backed by the sects of justice. How would anyone dare to find trouble with him? What debts could he possibly be hiding from?”
“Your majesty… they are love-debts.” Yan Shisan itched to say more, “Ming Huayu was born a player. If he doesn’t anger three-hundred and sixty five women in a year, he’d anger at least three hundred. Would you dare to reveal yourself if you were him?”
The emperor went silent. He seemed to recall all the daily bickering in his own harem and sympathised with him.
Not long after, he shook his head and asked: “Wait. It’s just angering women. If he has the guts to do it, what’s he afraid of?”
“Your majesty, he wasn’t afraid in the past, but not this year…..”
“Why?! Why can’t I look for him?!”
“Because he got married.” Yan Shisan helplessly continued: “And he happened to marry two wives. His second wife is Heavenly Sabre’s elder’s only daughter.”
“Heavenly Sabre’s elder? Isn’t he the one they call the world’s number one broadsword master? I heard that he had a daughter in his later years. His daughter is apparently a beauty. She’s only fifteen this year and yet her name is renowned throughout the north as a female broadsword heroine. I heard her broadsword skills were brilliant.” The emperor laughed and asked: “Ming Huayu still dares to flirt around after marrying the daughter of a big-wig like that?”
The emperor felt sorry for him. He shook his head, smiled helplessly and asked: “That guy is willing to throw his life away for women.” But then as he thought about it again, something was amiss, “Eh? Did you say second wife? He married Heavenly Sabre’s elder’s daughter as his second wife? What’s the background of his main wife then?”
Instead of hopelessly hoping to catch Ming Huayu, the emperor was more interested in listening to more gossip in the pugilistic world. Plus, this news made him curious as a man.
Yan Shisan slowly replied: “The other woman… it was not big deal initially, but after last year, her elder sister took part in something big… so she too underwent a drastic change.”
“God damn it, Yan Shisan, stop leaving me hanging. Can you stop talking in such a roundabout way?” The emperor grumbled: “Can you just come out with it? What did her elder sister do?”
“Her elder sister became the empress……” Yan Shisan waved his hands and hopelessly added: “Ming Huayu married your younger sister-in-law, our empress’s younger sister.”
“Your majesty, you know best what the temperament of our empress is like. I heard her younger sister’s temperament was the same as her’s. It is said that they are just like twins. So…… Ming Huayu, he……”
The emperor’s urge to say something grew stronger with each additional piece of information he heard. He opened his mouth to say something but then felt it was better not to say it.
As if he had returned from a dream where he went into deep thought, he sighed helplessly.
In the end, the emperor just gave a quiet response: “… Send him my condolences then.”
*Only applicable in Chinese. Sorry, but I don’t possess the aptitude to recreate the word play in English. God bless the author for coming up with this sequence. This is god-tier work. Wish I could do it justice. Like I said before, I am thoroughly impressed with the writing of this series in its original language.
**When the emperor reacted elatedly over the character for cloud, it might be weird for non-Chinese readers, but it’s actually quite normal to have a fondness for certain characters or the way they’re written, hence calligraphy’s popularity.
***In the section where he breaks down the characters for “does thou know”, I have switched the ordering of the original text to match the English syntax.
****Taolu as I explained in one of the previous chapters is a sequential set of moves which are comprised of individual techniques, in this case sword techniques. If it helps, think of it like a procedure of sorts, for example, gluconeogenesis. But instead of performing the moves in the air, the emperor thinks that the text was the result of Hero Shen Zhou performing the taolu on the wall.
*****The part with forty-three swordsman is originally thirty-four. But since we have forty-three words as opposed to thirty-four characters in the translation, I used forty-three since it would make more sense than suddenly seeing thirty-four and wondering where it came from.
******Qigong psychosis, also known as Zuo Huo Ru Mo is a Chinese term traditionally used to indicate that something has gone wrong in spiritual or martial arts training, applied to describe a physiological or psychological disorder believed to result during or after practice involving qigong. The condition was a result of improper practice of qigong and other self-cultivation techniques. In this case, it is considered improper practice since the emperor tried to learn something he wasn’t qualified to learn (albeit accidentally)