Chapter 1.1, Bai Fengxi

Though autumn had just begun, the weather was still extremely warm, and noon was precisely the hottest time of the day, when the shining white glow of the sun made people dizzy. Those that could remained in their homes to bask in the cool air, while those who couldn’t searched for shade to hide away under.

“Yan Yingzhou, hand over the Xuanzun Seal!”

At the foot of the Bai Kingdom’s West Jingxuan Mountain, a sudden burst of shouting erupted from the thick forests. The voices were exceptionally rough and unpleasant, and if there were any sleeping in the forest, they must certainly have been woken up by this noise. In the forest there stood ten or so large men, all of whom differed in occupation and dress. Some looked to be scholars, others merchants, and others still peasants. Their only similarity was that they all carried weapons in their hands.

They surrounded a black-robed man of about twenty seven or twenty eight, who held a green steel blade about three chi tall. He stood with his back straight and his head high, and faced this crowd expressionlessly. He was injured in many places, and the grass at his feet was already stained red with the blood from those wounds.

Yet the vast majority of the crowd concentrated their gaze on the bundle the man carried on his back. From its shape, it likely held a box of some kind.

“Yan Yingzhou, if you hand over that satchel, you can keep your life!” The man who spoke was clothed in armour, and looked to be a general of some kind. He pointed at the black-robed man – at Yan Yingzhou.

A cold smile emerged on the face of the one called Yan Yingzhou, and he sneered, “I’ve long heard that General Zeng Fu of the Hua Kingdom always engages in three days of massacre after he overruns a city. Who knows how many died unjustly on your spear. How could it be that today you’ve decided to be so benevolent to one such as I?”

General Zeng Fu’s face turned red, and he looked as if he would have contested this statement, except that it was the truth.

At this time, the blue-robed Confucian scholar by his side snapped his fan shut and spoke: “Yan Yingzhou, it’s not likely you’ll leave here today with your life. You know this, I know this, but if you were to hand the satchel over, I could make your death easier for you to bear!”

“Of course I knew that it would be hard for me to escape with my life today, but Gong Wudu, you killed twenty of my warriors with the poison in your fan. But even if I were to die, you’re going with me!” He lowered the spear in his hand a fraction to point it at Gong Wudu, his gaze poisonous.

And though Gong Wudu’s fan had slain so many, his heart could not help but to tremble when confronted with such a look. And the crowd around them involuntarily grasped their weapons that much tighter, standing ready. After all, the Generals “Wind Frost Snow Rain” of the Huang Kingdom have shaken the world, and the leader of the four, the General hailed as “Fierce Wind,” Yan Yingzhou, is even more to be feared in his peerlessness. Once, in the battle for Qingcheng, he alone slew three hundred of his enemies.

“Yan Yingzhou, I admit that you are unrivaled in your prowess, but today, you’re injured and you’re outnumbered. Everyone already knows who will win this round.” The speaker, a peasant farmer, unsheathed his broadsword. “What need is there to fear him? Let’s attack him together; that way, we can each bring a part of him back to our kings so we can be recognised for our efforts!”

“Yes! Lin-daxia’s words make sense. If we kill Yan Yingzhou, the Xuanzun Seal will be ours!” The merchant detached a whip from his waist and, with a flick of his wrist, sent the length of it flying. The whip was not directed towards any person, but to the satchel on Yan Yingzhou’s back.

“Attack! Everyone, this is not the time to be concerned about acting nobly!” General Zeng brandished his weapon, aiming it directly for Yan Yingzhou’s heart.

“Yes!” Each person rushed towards him, knives and swords in hand.

Though Yan Yingzhou was wounded, he was still nimble. With his left arm raised, he caught the whip in his hands and jerked the merchant towards him to block the thrust of General Zeng’s blade. With his right, he used his Qinggang Sword to block the blades that came cutting down at him. With a shout, he flung his energy into his arm. Those whose blades were in contact with his felt a tremor through their weapons, and an acute pain between their thumbs and forefingers and had no choice but to withdraw.

All this Yan Yingzhou did in the blink of an eye, his movements straightforward and agile.

“Kill!”

Before Yan Yingzhou could so much gasp for breath, a white-robed general of about twenty three or twenty four, who had previously hung back from the crowd, commanded five imperial bodyguards to attack. They forced their way to Yan Yingzhou. Though they were not close to his body, he could feel the blazing air of their sabres pierce into skin, enough to see that these five guards were immensely skilled in martial arts.

“Let’s go!” Gong Wudu flourished his fan, and slashed his way into the fray. Those who had been hanging back before each began to hack and slash their way towards Yan Yingzhou. Only the little white-robed general stayed in place, staring unblinkingly into the circle.

Surrounded by a mob of more than ten people, Yan Yingzhou’s sword turned this way and that, thrusting towards his enemies. Wherever the sword went, howls of grief and a rain of blood followed.

Looking at the melee, the white-robed general nodded, and whispered, “Yan Yingzhou, you’re not undeserving of the name ‘General Fierce Wind.’ Your martial abilities are indeed impressive, but today, I cannot tolerate you to leave. Xuanzun Seal belongs to my Kingdom of Feng!”

“Aiyo…aiyo…”

“Damn it! Yan Yingzhou, are you looking to die?”

From the clearing one could only hear wailing and cursing; many those whose martial abilities were not up to par had already fallen, and the ground was a field of red. Yan Yingzhou knew that it would be hard for him to survive today, and as a result didn’t bother to use defensive tactics. attacking with all his might. But he had already been injured, and as a result, those wounds had re-opened; wherever his feet fell, the grass was stained with his blood, and he became gradually less and less able to defend himself, such that he was now bleeding from several more places.

“Yan Yingzhou, die!”

With this shout, Gong Wudu took the opportunity to lunge at the man, aiming for his chest with his iron fan. Yan Yingzhou moved slightly to one side, as if he were going to duck away from the blow, but he was a second too slow, and the weapon lodged itself in his ribs.

In this second of triumph, Gong Wudu felt a sharp pain in his chest. He lowered his head to see Yan Yingzhou’s Qinggang Sword buried deeply within his own chest.

“I said that I would take your worthless life!” Yan Yingzhou snarled. At the risk of his own life, he would take that of Gong Wudu.

“You…”

Before Gong Wudu had the chance to utter another word, Yan Yingzhou ripped the sword from his body, and he collapsed.

Yan Yingzhou swung the sword behind him, but he was a second too late; he felt a stabbing pain in his left shoulder, the result of General Zeng’s sabre. It had been embedded deeply in his shoulder from behind him.

“Attacking from behind, and you still have the gall to call yourself a general?” Yan Yingzhou glowered at General Zeng and sucked in a shaky breath.

“Heng! Who can call themselves noble at such a time as this?” General Zeng snorted, without a trace of shame upon his face. His left hand extended, the general reached for the satchel that was still slung across Yan Yingzhou’s shoulders, satisfied to see his enemy so heavily injured. “You’re still…you…ah–!”

He had not finished speaking before a flash of green wind elicited a wretched howl from his mouth. His hands were severed at the wrists. He slumped into a dead faint.

With a flick of his hand, Yan Yingzhou pulled the blade from his shoulder and flung it to the ground alongside the hands that were previously attached to General Zeng. Those watching could not help but to shiver. Their blades halted, and they couldn’t but to back away from Yan Yingzhou.

Yan Yingzhou, on the other hand, had exhausted all his energy and had sunk down to one knee. Yet he still supported himself on his sword and raised his head to look around at all those who were his enemies. That bloodthirsty gaze, both sharp and vicious, smothered the courage of those surrounding him, who didn’t dare attack.

Finally, he pushed himself back to his feet, sword in hand, and those people could not help but to back away once more.

“Come! To have met you heroes today is a blessing from three lifetimes! To have you as company, walking on the Yellow Springs Road will not be lonely!” Yan Yingzhou jeered to see how pale their faces turned, and he lifted his sword to point at Lin-daxia, who stood straight before him. The hero called Lin could not keep himself from backing away from Yan Yingzhou, unable to muster up the nerve to cross swords withhim.

From the forest there came a sudden burst of applause.

Even Yan Yingzhou stared towards the direction of the clapper.

They could only see a white-robed general, standing thirty feet away from the crowd. It was just this person who had been clapping. With the attention of all towards him, he stopped clapping, his daze directed straight at Yan Yingzhou.

“Yan Yingzhou, you are indeed a hero worthy of praise! Instead of dying at the hands of these incompetent fools, why don’t I help make your name legendary instead? Come receive my Cloud-Piercing Silver Spear!”

Just as he finished speaking, he rose up into the air and rushed at Yan Yingzhou, the spear in his hand like a flash of lightning, so fast as to actually break through the clouds.

Yan Yingzhou stood his ground, gripping the hilt of his sword tightly in his hands, awaiting that spear. He did not avoid it, nor could he avoid it. He could only stand and wait, wait for the spear to make its way through his heart. But his sword would surely strike true as well.

The spear flashed towards him, but just as it was about to pierce Yan Yingzhou’s body, a white light flashed by, gone before it could be seen with any clarity, and Yan Yingzhou disappeared, the spear piercing only empty air.

Before it could be registered, the event had passed, leaving people staring blankly. And that white-robed young general remained standing, spear outstretched as if it had really hit its mark, when in reality all it had it was empty air. His eyes were glued to the tip of the spear, as if unable to believe that though he had used all his energy to attack, he came up empty, and to not even know who it was that stole his victory! This was a defeat he had never suffered the likes of before.