Half a year later.
A young lady walked into a restaurant. She was dressed in a short-sleeve yellow top with a matching long skirt, tied at the waist with a long belt. Although the design was plain, her robes were made of top-quality fabric giving her a simple but elegant look. Her black hair was braided at the top with a jade hairpin while the rest of her hair flowed softly to her tiny waist. Her features veered towards handsome rather than pretty, but she was nonetheless very easy on the eyes.
She asked the waiter for a table on the second floor. There were plenty of empty seats and she chose a seat next to the window. After studying the menu, she said: “Please bring me some deep fried dishes. The oilier the better.”
“Would miss like to try our herbal menu? We have the honor to get Fifth Gentleman of Cloud Manor to share some of his recipes, and we are probably the only restaurant to offer such herbal cuisine in the whole of Central Plains.”
She blinked and gave the waiter a pleasant smile “Perhaps next time. Please give me what I have ordered for now.”
As the waiter poured tea for her, he noticed that the lady has very nice features although her eyebrows were rather manly. If she has worn a man’s robes, he would probably not be able to tell that she was a woman.
She returned his look. “Is anything amiss?”
“None at all. I am just thinking that this is the first time I have seen a person with such unisex features. Miss is really…” after running through his mental vocabulary list he finally hit on “…really handsome.”
“Ay, if I must be quite a failure if you think that I look like a man when I am dressed like this.” She sighed. “It is indeed not easy for a man to cross-dress as a woman…”
The waiter was flustered by her reply. “What I mean is, Miss has features that will look good on either man or woman. If you choose to wear man’s clothing, you would have look like a handsome gentleman. But if you wear a dress, you will naturally look like a pretty lady… besides you are obviously a woman with your current dressing.”
She gave him a wan smile and asked him to serve her lunch quickly as she was getting hungry.
She played with her chopsticks out of habit while observing the street below. Because it was noontime, the restaurant got progressively crowded. By the time her dishes arrived, another three to four tables on the second floor were already occupied.
The waiter noticed that her chopsticks dropped several times from her left hand. Perhaps her left hand has a problem? As he laid the dishes on the table, he caught a sniff of herbs from her. He discreetly looked down and saw a waist satchel that he did not spot earlier.
“Is anything the matter?” she asked again.
The waiter took a while to sort through his thoughts. “Oh I see. Miss’s belt is overly long and has concealed your fragrant satchel when you walk. But once you sit down, the satchel would be revealed.” The lady has a tiny waist and surely need not wear such a long belt?
“Oh I see.” Although he was still curious, the waiter knew that he must do his utmost to serve his customers and if this customer only wished to comment so much, he would not ask further and so he left her.
A while later, all the tables on second floor were taken up. Two young men walked up to her and requested politely: “Miss, can we share the table?”
The new comers were in their twenties, with refined manners and fairly good looks. When she agreed graciously, they thanked her and proceeded to place their food orders with the waiter.
One of the young pugilists asked her: “Is Miss from the jianghu [pugilist world]?”
“I should be considered one.” She concentrated on eating, being careful not to stuff herself, as a way to stay healthy.
“Do you have a title?”
“No, I think.”
The young men thought that she could be someone new to jianghu and let down their guards. Still, they could not help but sneak a second look at her. She looks young but lacks the flighty or delicate airs of an inexperienced heroine.
Usually, young female pugilists tend to be rash and will follow their fellow brothers from the same sect when they travelling around the jianghu. But this young lady is very steady and does not seem to be the rash sort. Besides, her eyebrows are extraordinary handsome, with healthy, delicate skin…. as their thoughts took on another direction, both men turned a dull red and coughed in an attempt to cover up their nervousness.
She noted their cough, and the distance from their mouth to her food. She can tolerate this. It was nothing really, to eat another person’s saliva, she can definitely endure.
One of the young men tried to change the topic and asked his companion. “Brother Gu, are you going to Cloud Manor?”
Young Master Gu replied: “Yes. The Imperial Court holds a martial arts examination once every six years, and this year’s winner is Silver-Hand Third Master Tu San Long. He does not have a fixed residence but he is a good friend of Gentleman Xian Yun and I heard he is currently putting up at Cloud Manor. My master has sent me to congratulate Master Tu on his behalf, and to bring back some scrolls from Cloud Manor pertaining to Silver-Hand Third Master, so that our other disciples learn from him. Is Brother Huang going to Cloud Manor for the same reason?”
Young Master Huang smiled. “That is right. I have another agenda as I would like to find out from the other Gentlemen if Silver-Hand Third Master would be receptive to our Master Deng’s idea for him to marry his daughter. I would also like to…”
Young Master Gu continued for him “…sneak a peek at Fairy No Waves (无波仙子)?”
She nearly choked on her rice upon hearing “Fairy No Waves”. Tolerate. Tolerate! She took a deep breath and tried to pour some tea for herself with her left hand. Unfortunately, the teapot was too heavy and the action caused a shot of pain up her left arm.
Both men offered to pour for her. Embarrassed when they spoke out at the same time, they diverted their eyes. In the end. Young Master Gu poured the tea for her and enquired: “Did Miss injured your left hand?”
“It is just a small injury. Thank you young master”
“My name is Gu Shao De.” He was quick to introduce himself
“My name is Huang Zai Ran.” His companion did not want to lose out either.
“I see.” She looked out of the window. “Pray, do continue with your chat.”
“Is Miss waiting for someone?”
She did not wish to talk while eating so she looked out of the window again. “Yes I am.”
Seeing her disinterest, the two young men continued to eat. The people at the next table were talking rather loudly and Gu Shao De commented in low tones when he heard what they were talking about. “Ay, they were still talking about that incident which happened half a year ago.”
Huang Zai Ran appeared a little embarrassed and mumbled: ”For a small matter that happened so long ago, I don’t see what else is there to talk about.”
“How could Brother Huang say so? Several Cloud Manor disciples were either dead or injured, while Protector Huang Fu of the Evil Sect has fallen to her death. Rumor has it that it was a setup because they found dynamite buried under at the cliff. Who could have done it? When Che Yan Yan and Gentleman Xian Yun attempted to look for Huang Fu Yun at the base of the cliff, all they could find was her body. It was such a mystery”
Mystery? Of course it was a mystery. Besides the Cloud Manor disciples who perished in the incident, the Evil Sect has also lost Huang Fu Yun and Sky Slaves belonging to Che Yan Yan. Even more surprising was the fact that the Leader of Bai Ming Sect has decided not to pursue the matter of Huang Fu Yun’s death and only summoned her Sky Slave, He Zai, back to the Sect.
According to rumors, He Zai has chosen to return to Tian He Manor but no one has seen him ever since. Whenever Cloud Manor dispatched someone to Tian He Manor, He Zai would refuse to meet the messenger. He Rong Hua was still the master of the manor and things were sort of left that way. Whatever the historians of Cloud Manor have chosen to write about the incident were kept behind the three locked gates of their library without anyone being wiser. No one wanted to probe further which also made sense, for who would dare shoulder the upheaval if they stirred a hornet’s nest?
Gu Shao De sighed and continued. “Rumor has it that there were ten young men who have trailed the group ever since they left Tian He Manor. Their aim was to kill the Protectors of the Evil Sect and make a name for themselves. But when the landslide happened, it was Gentleman Xian Yun who saved their lives. Out of shame, all of them have refused to speak of the incident ever since. I wonder who these dumb asses are? For all we know, they could be the ones who planted the dynamite.”
Huang Zai Ran did not meet his eyes and concentrated on eating. She too kept silent and concentrated on savoring her oily fried chicken wing. When she heard a disturbance at the streets below, she looked out of the window and saw that someone has entered the city and were leading their horses down the street.
According to the rules of Cloud Manor, riders have to dismount once they have entered the city unless in situations of emergency. She saw two white figures leading their horses. The one walking behind was Gong Sun Zhi and the one in front was naturally the legendary deity-from-nine heavens, Gong Sun Yun.
Gu Shao De was overjoyed. “They are back! How wonderful. Now we can follow Gentleman Xian Yun to the manor.”
He was about to go down when he saw that Gong Sun Yun has lifted his head to their second-storey window. Gu Shao De was about to smile and wave his greetings when he saw Gong Sun Yun curved his lips into a generous smile.
For a moment, Gu Shao De was mesmerized.
Gong Sun Yun’s voice was cheerful. “Wu Bo, let us return together.”
She sighed: ”Endure, endure... I have already memorized the entire poetic essay of Luo Shen to heart, so this is but a small matter.” She went down the steps with her hands folded customary behind her, her long belt nearly dragging the floor.
When she reached their side, Gong Sun Zhi was the first to ask: “Have you taken your medicine today?”
“Yes, I have.” Hi Mom, you are back.
Gong Sun Yun gave her a slight smile: “Fifth Brother is just worried about you. Although you have made a speedy recovery, your tolerance too good and you could have pushed yourself harder than you realized.”
“I understand and will be careful.” Hello Dad, you are home too.
Since losing her parents since young, she has never thought that there could come a day when she would inherit another set of parents. Shouldn’t they have made their appearance earlier? Twenty seems a bit late to get another Mom and Dad right?
“Let us return.”
She nodded and pointed behind. “There are others who wanted to return with us.”
Gong Sun Zhi saw the men behind her and whispered: “Did that Huang fellow recognize you?”
She shrugged.“I think not.” and taking the reins of Gong Sun Yun’s horse, she proceeded to lead the way at a very leisurely pace.
* * * * *
Jiang Wu Bo was from the Capital, and the granddaughter of Reverend Zhou Shang before the latter became a monk. She arrived at Cloud Manor with her brother two months ago. Although Cloud Manor do not accept outsiders usually, Reverend Zhou Shang was a close friend of the Manor so they have made an exception for her while keeping her brother as a disciple. Although her father is a scholar, Reverend Zhou Shang was a well-known pugilist in his younger days, so she could be considered a descendant of reputable family.
Someone said that when the Gentleman of Cloud Manor first saw her, they were so enamored by her that they has penned her as “Fairy No Waves” on the spot. Gentleman Xian Yun has even wanted to acknowledge her as his sworn sister but she has turn down his offer gently.
This has caused many to wonder if this beauty is more outstanding if one were to compare her say, with Hai Tang Fairy? As a result, there were a lot more visitors at Cloud Manor recently on the pretext of borrowing scrolls. Many young men have spotted Fairy No Waves when they visited the manor. When looking at her for the first time, “handsome” is the first word that usually comes to mind and to call her a ‘Fairy’ seems to be stretching the term quite a bit. But on the second look, one would discover her sanguinity and refined airs. Although she is not a conventional beauty, she has her own qualities that could be deserving of the title ‘Fairy’.
Besides, a title will grow on a person as time goes by, regardless if the title is suitable or not. Especially when it is a title endorsed by the Gentlemen of Cloud Manor, who would go against popular consensus and get peg for poor judgment?
She happened to overhear the last bit when one Gentleman boasted about this to another. This was an obvious abuse of position! and she silently vowed to herself never to believe in anything that she sees or hears in the jianghu ever again.
Some thoughts of mine:-
I want to mention the word play here, just in case anyone is wondering why our heroine is spotting such an awful-sounding name. At the beginning of the story, the author explained that the 'Yun' (澐) in 'Wang Yun' refers to the waves (波) on the river (江). 江无波 (Jiang Wu Bo) is thus the complete opposite of Wang Yun because it means the 'No Waves on the River'.
I find the middle part of the book a bit dreggy so I have tried to summarize more and post the chapters closer. Still, I have retained the occasional funny like "Hi Mom!" & "Hello Dad!" because her thought process is really quite a gem. Speaking of which, I have lowered my ratings for Gong Sun Yun, because 6 months with your love interest and you only get her to view you as her Dad? Dude, I think you seriously need to charge your batteries. If smiling doesn't work, cheery voices don't do the trick, you could try showing some skin.
- posted by Moonblossom -