One Man, One Saber, One Bird
Great Wei, Yun'an City…
The rain in the early summer was like a little flower thief breaking into a boudoir in the middle of the night. When it came, the wind was strong, and the rain was heavy. When it left, it left in a hurry, leaving only the muddy water stains between the gullies and rain-stained pear blossom trees.
The wind and rain stopped, and the streets of the capital gradually became lively. People walked out of their houses one after another, and the peddlers hawked their goods along the streets.
“Stuffed steamed buns!”
Amidst the noises all over the street, a convoy slowly approached from the entrance of Heavenly Water Bridge.
A carriage was at the back, and in front of it were thirteen martial artists on horseback. They were all wearing straw raincoats and bamboo hats and had sabers at their waists. They looked travel-worn.
It was rare to see such a team with such a strong sense of
in the capital. Many pedestrians looked sideways and saw that the leader of the team was a young man.
The man was wearing a black robe under his raincoat, and there was a big white bird standing on his shoulder. He was tall and fair-skinned, and his eyes were dark and bright. He had a pair of sharp eyebrows, and his handsome face was even more sharp.
“Wow! Mom, look, that brother is so handsome!”
“Shh! Don't shout. Aren't you ashamed?”
“That bird is so fat!”
“Huh? It can even understand human speech!”
The young man in black didn't seem to hear the praises of the young women and girls on the street. He looked straight ahead and led the team to the entrance of the Zhenyuan Escort Agency at the end of the street.
All the shops on Heavenly Water Bridge had the same family insignia with the word ‘Pei' hanging in front, and so did the Zhenyuan Escort Agency.
People who could buy a street in the capital where every inch of land was worth gold were obviously not from a small family. They were grandiose and full of pomp. Outside the tall entrance of the escort agency, there were often two escorts standing there to bring prestige.
Seeing the unfamiliar team arrive at the entrance, an escort went forward and cupped his hands. “Your Excellency, you are?”
The escort looked bewildered. He looked at the martial artists with extraordinary auras and said, “I have never heard of your name. Are you here to hire escorts, or…”
As soon as he said this, the street fell silent.
The passersby who were originally strolling the streets gathered around them. Even the wonton vendor on the street put down his soup spoon, wiped his hands on his aprons, and stood on his tiptoes to get a better look.
“What's going on?”
“A challenge? This is really rare in the capital…”
When the two escorts outside the escort agency saw that the young man in black didn't come with good intentions, their faces darkened.
If it were an ordinary hot-headed youngster, they would have ordered him to retreat. But the 13 riders outside the entrance all carried sabers and looked like they were about to wipe out the agency. They were not to be trifled with.
The escort's expression was still relatively polite as he cupped his hands and said, “Private fights are strictly prohibited in the capital. Our boss is a legitimate businessperson who abides by the law. I can't accept the challenge. If you have a dispute with the boss, you can go beat the drum and go to the government office to reason…”
As soon as he said this, the onlookers immediately started to heckle.
“Are you still a martial artist? He's already knocking on your door, but you want him to go to the officials?”
The black-clothed young man unsheathed his saber from his waist and threw it to someone behind him. Bare-handed, he said, “Ask your escort head to come out. I'll leave after a fight.”
Seeing all the neighbors surrounding him, the escort looked displeased. The person beside him ran to the side of the street, looking like he wanted to report to the officials.
Unfortunately, he had only run a few steps when a saber wielder behind the black-clothed young man blocked him.
As soon as he did this, seven people rushed out from behind the door of the escort agency, armed with sabers and spears in their hands, looking furious.
A strong voice came from inside the escort agency. “Kid, it's fine for you to be young and impetuous, but you have to keep your eyes open.”
Everyone looked over and saw a man walking out of the main hall of the escort agency's compound. He was wearing a brocade robe and had a burly figure. His right hand, which was covered in calluses, was spinning two iron walnuts.
Seeing this, the escort outside the door hurriedly called out, “Master Chen, this kid is causing trouble.”
The onlookers' eyes lit up, and they started talking at once.
“Chen Biao has come out.”
“This handsome brother won't be beaten to death, will he?”
“Who dares to kill people in the capital? At worst, he'll vomit some blood.”
“He's so handsome. Even if he just vomits blood, my heart will ache…”
Before anyone could say a word, they suddenly heard the light sound of rushing wind from the street.
Many escorts and pedestrians only saw a blur in front of their eyes. The black-clothed young man, who was originally sitting on a horse, suddenly exerted force and soared into the air. He jumped over the ten-foot-tall door of the escort agency and landed in the courtyard.
Chen Biao, who had just walked out of the main hall, was so shocked by this scene that he trembled. He instinctively threw out the two iron walnuts, but the black-robed young man swept them away with a flick of his sleeve. Then the goshawk pounced on the rabbit and grabbed his neck with its claw.
In the blink of an eye, the tall and burly Chen Biao was pressed against the doorpost behind him, knocking off a few black tiles on the eaves.
The tiles fell to the ground and shattered. The dozen or so escorts in the courtyard were shocked, and they trembled with horror in their eyes.
Chen Biao's face turned pale. He didn't even have the intention to resist as he shouted anxiously, “Young Hero, wait! I'm just an escort head. If you have a grudge against us, go find the boss. Don't come after me…”
Since he could speak, it was obvious that the young man didn't kill him.
The black-robed young man gripped Chen Biao's neck with one hand and tilted his head to signal an old saber wielder outside the door. “His name is Yang Chao. In the future, he will be the head of the escort agency, and you will be the deputy head. Do you understand?”
Chen Biao was baffled, but he didn't dare to answer back. He just spread out his hands and said, “Young Hero, we are a formal business, and we pay business taxes on time. We're not a Jianghu organization. If the boss doesn't agree, I can't make the decision even if you beat me to death…”
“My father is Pei Yuanfeng, the younger brother of your boss. He asked me to send the family's assets to you. From now on, they will be members of the Zhenyuan Escort Agency. If they are mistreated, I will look for you.”
Chen Biao was stunned. He sized up the young man in black and said in surprise, “You are Second Master's son?! Why is your surname Ye?”
Ye Jingtang didn't answer. After he finished speaking, he took out a stack of official bills with a denomination of one hundred taels, slapped them on Chen Biao's chest, and turned to leave.
Outside the door, the neighbors were stunned and started whispering to each other.
“What amazing skills…”
“Is this a young master of the Pei family?”
“It sounds like… The Pei family did have a second son in the past. It happened around thirty years ago…”
The twelve escorts who followed him all had complicated expressions. The leader, Escort Head Yang, handed the saber to Ye Jingtang, who had walked out of the door, and advised, “Young Master, why are you doing this? The old master likes to talk when he drinks. You don't have to take it seriously. Where can you go if you leave with nothing?”
“Jianghu.” Ye Jingtang took the saber and put it back at his waist. He let the pet bird rest on his shoulder, looked at the morning sun on the horizon, and took a deep breath.
His figure looked carefree, but his clear eyes flashed with a hint of confusion. Although the world was big, there was nowhere for him to stay.
It had been 18 years since he came to this dynasty called Great Wei.
When he was about two years old, he had gradually regained his memories. Ye Jingtang had lived in an escort agency in the border town of Great Wei. He was an abandoned child picked up by Pei Yuanfeng on an escort mission. Because his voice and cries were loud, Pei Yuanfeng named him Ye Jingtang and took him in as his foster son.
Pei Yuanfeng had been injured in a fight when he was young. He had never married and had no children. He was very ‘caring' for his foster son's growth. He beat him up three times a day and doubled it during festive occasions. He forced Ye Jingtang, who had hoped to make a name for himself by copying poems, brewing wine, and making soap, to become the top fighter of the escort agency.
Just last month, Pei Yuanfeng got drunk and died at the table.
After Ye Jingtang took care of the funeral, he found a letter among Pei Yuanfeng's belongings.
The letter had been written in advance to prevent any accidents. It only said three things:
One: Pei Yuanfeng was not an ordinary person. He was once a famous expert in Jianghu. Initially, Pei Yuanfeng wanted to teach him a ‘peerless saber technique' after he grew up. But since he could read the letter, it meant that Pei Yuanfeng was not lucky enough. They were father and son. He had to think of a way to practice the saber and seek revenge on the person who injured Pei Yuanfeng back then.
Pei Yuanfeng was already dead. It didn't matter if he was a true expert or not. It was only right for a son to take revenge for his father. Ye Jingtang had no objections to this.
Perhaps because Pei Yuanfeng was afraid that he wouldn't have a place to learn advanced martial arts, he told him a secret. This was the second matter. When the previous dynasty perished, Pei Yuanfeng's master took advantage of the chaos to sneak into the Imperial Palace and steal the incomplete ‘Roaring Dragon Chart'.
It was rumored that the Roaring Dragon Chart was a supreme secret manual that recorded nine strange secret arts. If one could obtain one of them, they could overwhelm ordinary people. If one could learn all of them, they could live forever and ascend to immortality.
However, the battle at that time had been too intense. He couldn't bring it out of the palace and buried it under a ginkgo tree in the ‘harem'. Pei Yuanfeng told him that if he had the chance, he had to enter the palace to retrieve it.
When Ye Jingtang saw this, he was speechless.
From the description, the Roaring Dragon Chart should be the cheat he had been looking forward to for 18 years.
He naturally wanted such a unique treasure in the world, but it was buried in the Imperial City's harem. If he, a man, went to take it, would he have to sneak in as a eunuch?
If he wanted to practice it, would he have to castrate himself first?
This matter was equivalent to not saying anything. The thing that affected Ye Jingtang the most was the last matter:
Pei Yuanfeng had left home at a young age and never returned. He felt that he owed his parents, so he asked him to sell the business of the escort agency and send the proceeds to the Pei family in the capital. He didn't say a word about leaving him a single cent.
If Ye Jingtang hadn't read the letter, he wouldn't have known that his lonely foster father had a brother.
But after all, they were family. He hadn't been filial and had been busy away from home for so many years. He had directly asked Ye Jingtang to sell everything and hand over all the assets to his family. He really didn't treat him as a son.
An ordinary person would definitely have ignored this letter. After all, no one knew about it.
But Ye Jingtang was different. His previous life had already become a thing of the past. In this world, he only had one family member. They were not related by blood. To be able to pick him up and raise him was already of utmost benevolence to him. He hadn't even had the time to repay his kindness and show his filial piety.
In the end, Ye Jingtang followed his will and sold the escort agency in the small border town in exchange for 1,000 taels of silver. He brought 12 escorts and their families who were willing to leave and traveled thousands of kilometers all the way to the capital of Great Wei.
But it was impossible for Ye Jingtang, a grown man, to live under someone else's roof.
Now that he had settled his adoptive father's matters and handed over the family's assets to the Pei family, Ye Jingtang had completely bid farewell to the past and became a wanderer in Jianghu who had no one to rely on.
He didn't know where he came from, and he didn't know where he would go. There was only one man, one bird, and one saber left. He said that he was going to Jianghu, but he stood at the entrance of the street and looked around blankly. Where was ‘Jianghu'?
Ye Jingtang led the black horse through the bustling crowd and walked along the street aimlessly.
But just as he took a few steps, two crisp sounds suddenly came from beside him.
A pole holding up a sliding window fell from the second floor and rolled to his feet.
He looked up at the window on the second floor and saw a delicate and charming figure…
Literally translates as ‘Rivers and Lakes', but figuratively refers to the ‘underground world of martial arts'. A section of society consisting of martial artists, gangsters, thieves, beggars, prostitutes, merchants, entertainers, and anyone else wanting to operate outside of mainstream society or in the gray area of the law.