“If having bad luck could be ranked, Xie Yun felt that his luck was at the level of ‘ranking first three times’.”
The qinggong of this uninvited guest was at an extremely high level, likely the highest level Zhou Fei had seen in her entire life…even though she hadn’t seen that many people in her short “entire life”.
Where he landed, there wasn’t even a single water droplet; he was like a floating ghost, except his landings were extremely precise. As more and more Qian Ji wires “sprouted” from the river, it didn’t seem like he moved to dodged them—yet not a single one was able to cut the corner of his clothes.
Zhou Fei was dumbstruck, thinking: Is this person a human or a demon?
But as the number of Qian Ji wires around them visibly increased, even a real-life demon was better than being disassembled into eight pieces. Zhou Fei chose the lesser of two evils and caught up to the mysterious person clad in black. Li Sheng was in an even sorrier state than she was and his clothes had begun to bloom in all directions. He asked: “Qianbei (senior) is a master from where?” 
“My last name is Xie.”  That clad-in-black person swiftly turned sideways, giving way to three Qian Ji wires: up, middle and down. It was clearly a very simple move, yet when he did it, there was a feeling of “sleeves fluttering in the wind”—despite the fact that night travelling clothes were tight-fitting and couldn’t flutter at all.
Xie gongzi  glanced at Li Sheng and smiled with the air of a master: “Don’t call me qianbei, I feel like I immediately aged 10 years.”
With this turn of his head, Li Sheng realized under the dim light that he was a young person likely only older than them by a few years. Suddenly, out of nowhere he felt a wave of discouragement—he truly experienced a high and low today. In the first half of the night, he had been boasting and bragging, feeling like there was nowhere in the world he couldn’t go; in the later half of the night, he felt that he didn’t have a single good quality in him, just like a frog in a well who didn’t know the immensity of the universe. Even a random person who came was stronger than he was.
Zhou Fei was often beaten up in different ways by Li Jinrong, causing her skin to be thicker than others’ by three layers. Although she was also stricken for a moment, she wasn’t as sensitive internally. As she followed that Xie gongzi, she kept an eye on his footwork. As he stepped forward and backward, she felt that he seemed to know the ins and outs of this water monster. So she asked: “What mechanism is this?”
“The name of this object is Qian Ji, I’ve  only ever seen it in books. I didn’t expect that through the luck of the two of you, I’d have the honor of personally experiencing it once.” Xie gongzi said at an unhurried pace, “The ancients had a type of poison that also had the same name, back in those days…”
The root of Zhou Fei’s ear twitched and she felt that this person’s way of talking had a sense of familiarity—this style of beating around the bush and talking nonsense was completely from the same line  as her sickly father.
“As soon as Qian Ji is activated, countless Qian Ji wires will rise from the surface of the water, but this isn’t the scariest part. It’s just mechanisms and springs after all, there’s still a trace you can follow. While it hasn’t fully activated, we should leave as soon as possible. You see that small pavilion at the heart of the river? People live there, so there must be a passageway…” Even though Xie gongzi said a lot of nonsense, it didn’t affect his speed. As he spoke, he led Zhou Fei and Li Sheng out of the many layers of Qian Ji wires and they were already nearing the small pavilion in the river.
Zhou Fei glanced back at the road they came from that was now sealed shut and asked: “What is it like when it’s fully activated?”
Right after she spoke, all the rocks bordering the bottom of the small pavilion suddenly sunk without warning. It was already too late for Xie gongzi, who walked at the very front, to move back. All of a sudden, he leapt up into the air and threw out the luminous pearl in his palm. With a tap of his feet, borrowing this feather of strength, he spun around and after many dangers, landed on one of the rocks behind him. On the way, he grabbed Zhou Fei’s shoulder and with strength, he pulled her back…she didn’t move.
Starting from when she could hold chopsticks, Zhou Fei had been forced by Li Jinrong to practice martial arts and her foundation was very solid. Even if she had been standing somewhere and staring into blank space, it was impossible for her to be moved when someone lightly pushed her—not to mention that she was currently in a nervous state. Suddenly pulled back, Zhou Fei was also caught by surprise, because this “master”‘s hands were unexpectedly soft.
When someone practiced some type of martial arts, whether strength or agility, their level of skill could be glimpsed through their hands—especially through pulls and drags carried out under emergency circumstances. Yet the hands of Xie gongzi were just like the hands of a normal gentle and frail scholar.
Zhou Fei’s inner perplexity flashed by quickly and she didn’t have time to think it through because the entire Xi Mo River began to move restlessly. A giant whirlpool emerged from the surface of the water and the terrifying Qian Ji wires that filled the entire sky began to make sounds that sounded like instrument strings. Xie gongzi stopped and stood still, shaking his head and sighing: “E mi to fo , guniang’s  golden mouth really is ‘the good don’t come true but the bad do’.”
With a shaky voice, Li Sheng asked: “What is this?”
That activity was truly frightening. Zhou Fei suddenly lifted her head, only to see the huge rocks that were hiding underneath the water on one side of the Xi Mo River rise and fall like the tides. The dense Qian Ji wires slowly rose up, weaving a large net in the sky, coming down towards them in all directions. Standing in the turbulent waters, the three of them were like clueless ants when the world was about to end.
The road ahead had sunk and the road behind had been cut. As he saw that there was no chance of avoiding the wires, Li Sheng paled and his voice even changed tones. Loudly, he asked: “Since it’s a mechanism, there’s definitely an off switch right?”
Completely calm, Xie gongzi paused in thought and said: “Mn, let me think…”
Li Sheng almost went crazy on the spot.
Still thinking even in this situation! Is this Xie gongzi crazy?
On the other hand, Zhou Fei wasn’t willing to wait for death and swiftly pulled out her dao from its sheath. Without even a word, she vigorously chopped towards a Qian Ji wire.
Shocked, Li Sheng shouted: “A-Fei, what are you going to do?”
When Zhou Fei made her first cut, the sharp blade nearly caused sparks. The huge Qian Ji wire didn’t move even the slightest, yet her dao quaked and bounced back. Instantly, a crack appeared on her blade. All the Qian Ji wires in the surrounding area all began to shake and sing a song of eardrum-bursting sharp sounds. Mockingly, they conversed about this ignorant young girl who tried to shake the huge monster that filled the entire river all by herself.
The incoming large web of Qian Ji wires naturally moved the rocks in the water that they stood on. On one side, all of the rocks had sunk; the ink-colored river water held a deep and dense intent to kill. Li Sheng was already completely soaked from knee down and his feet were almost completely submerged in the water. The icy cold of the river water transformed into a bone-piercing chill, moving up from his lower back. Li Sheng’s mind went completely blank; at this critical moment, one thought emerged—I shouldn’t have come, I shouldn’t have gotten A-Fei to come with me.
Xie Yun was deep in concentration and listened intently; every sound, whether high or low, entered his ear. He suddenly lifted his head and pointed before Zhou Fei made her second cut: “Chop that one!”
Zhou Fei could feel that Qian Ji wire closing in on her. If she had fur, it would’ve probably formed a ball by now. Her nerves were tensed to the extreme and it was as if the brutality deep in her blood was lit by a fire. She subconsciously followed Xie Yun’s pointer and her wrists rapidly spun in the air, using both of her hands to stop the hilt. With lightning speed, she swung towards the Qian Ji wire again, using once again the “Zhuang Nan Shan” (Knocking Down South Mountain) she used to insinuate Li Sheng the other day.
However, this knock was different from the move she used when fighting with Li Sheng—that time, she was just really mad. When the body of her dao moved out, it could be easily retracted; it was even able to hook the pouch Li Yan threw towards them with agility. This time, it was going with no return, head knocking South and dying without regret. The edge of the knife cut through the mist on the surface of the river, almost making a heavy and unclear roar. Coming into unavoidable confrontation with the thin wire that was able to move the entire body of wires, the chang dao that Zhou Fei had carried for over ten years instantly broke. The place where it broke cracked into a spider web and the tip of the dao fell into the river.
Unbelievably, that Qian Ji wire swung out due to her cut and a huge rock the width of two hugging people was pulled up as a result, suddenly coming out of the surface of the water and perfectly standing in front of the three of them. The incoming Qian Ji wires were too dense and immediately wrapped onto the huge rock. Both sides were locked together and unable to separate, somehow being locked in a stalemate. This perfectly blocked out a lifeline for the three of them that was a small area of one cun (1 cun = 3.33 cm) squared.
For a good two breaths, no one made a sound. All six eyes stared at that delicate stalemate. Then, Xie gongzi lightly released a breath, speaking first: “In any case, I guessed right this time.”
The remaining half of the dao in Zhou Fei’s hand fell onto the ground and hit a rock, rolling into the water. There was no strength left in both of her hands and for a moment, they were completely numb.
Scared, Li Sheng immediately asked: “What’s wrong?”
Even though Zhou Fei had no strength left and began to feel scared after confronting the Qian Ji wire, she was proud of herself because she had just done a heroic deed. The reason why she didn’t show it was because her tongue was stiff and she couldn’t speak. Expressionlessly, she lowered her eyelids and shook her head like a master who was situated outside of worldly matters.
Looking at their surroundings, they were standing at the heart of the boundless Xi Mo River with Qian Ji tusks everywhere below them. This corner was the only place where they could be on their last legs—don’t even talk about what that felt like. However, Xie gongzi lowered his head and smoothed out the front of his robe, smiling as he said: “No worries, with this much commotion, people in your Stronghold will find their way over very quickly. Good people are protected by Heaven.”
As he spoke, he even had a slight relaxed smile on his face, his tone very joyous, the splitting image of extending New Year greetings. You couldn’t tell at all that just a second ago, he had nearly been cut into eight pieces. He even had the time to observe the highly skilled young girl in front of him.
“Guniang’s cut was decisive and firm and has the “Nine Deaths Without Regret” style of Qian Zhong…” First, Xie gongzi politely started the conversation. Halfway through his praise, he suddenly discovered that this “Shui Cao Jing” had an outstanding outer appearance. Her eyes were very unique, the outer corners of her eyes a bit longer than those of normal people. Her eyes were long but not thin, the outer corners ended in a very elegant curve, gently drooping by the slightest bit. On the contrary, her eyelids lifted upward. As a result, when she opened her eyes wide and looked at someone, her clear gaze seemed a bit innocent; when she lowered her eyelids, she seemed to be cold and hard to approach.
Xie gongzi’s tone immediately changed, asking: “Is your name ‘A-Fei’? Which character is it?”
Before Zhou Fei even made a sound, a slightly recovered Li Sheng interrupted: “That’s my sister’s nickname, just something we call her at home, any character is the same.”
After saying that, if an outsider continued to ask, it would be a breach of etiquette. Xie gongzi knew how to behave and smiled in a scholarly manner, not saying anything else as expected. Li Sheng pulled at the ripped cloth on his body and saluted  in his direction: “Thanks Xie xiong ([older] brother) for your help, if we are able to escape today, we will remember this kindness. If you need us in the future, no matter the difficulty or danger, we would not refuse under any circumstances.”
Xie gongzi was well-versed in many topics and identified at a glance that the dao technique Zhou Fei had used to cut the Qian Ji wire was from the Qian Zhong sect, assuming that the two of them were from the “Qian Zhong” branch of the 48 Strongholds. Seeing that despite the youth’s polite tone, he was still on guard, Xie gongzi self-identified himself: “I’m  Xie Yun, coming to your place to deliver a letter. As I just got here, I had no way of entering or exiting and decided to try out this path as a last resort, I don’t have any ill intent.”
Li Sheng said: “To which qianbei is Xie xiong delivering to, we will notify them for you when we return.”
Before Xie Yun could speak, they heard a huge noise. The Qian Ji that had forced them to flee in all directions earlier slowly sunk into the water. Right after, lights lit up everyone on the two sides of the Xi Mo River. Yu Lao and Li Da Dang Jia had finally arrived.
 “Qianbei is a master from where?”: this line sounds kind of rude but it is actually phrased in an extremely polite way. I had to settle on this because it was hard to even find a way to word it in English…Old Chinese and Modern English don’t mix too well.
 When Xie Yun says “My last name is Xie”, the 鄙 bi or “my” (or I, me, etc) he uses is a form of I/me/my that is self-deprecating and of a lower status. That’s not to say that his status is actually lower than Zhou Fei and Li Sheng, it’s just that in this situation he is an intruder and he wanted to put himself at a lower position than them.
 公子 gong zi: this the way to address a young male in the ancient times, typically a son of a wealthy family/feudal price. In order words, families that have power and/or position. It’s like Sir but for young men, particularly when you only know someone’s last name. Hence, “Xie gongzi”.
 “I’m Xie Yun”: once again, the ‘I’ he uses, 在下 zai xia, is a way of referring to himself as a lower status (but not as self-deprecating and low this time). It literally means “at the bottom”. In the ancient times, particularly in the imperial court and the imperial city where status and rank is highly valued, people did not typically say 我 wo or “I/me/my”. Instead, they replaced that with their rank/status/position. If you were of a lower status and used 我 in the presence of someone of a higher status, it could be considered a very serious offence.
 “completely from the same line”: this part means that Xie Yun’s style of talking was exactly the same as Zhou Fei’s father. The word the original text uses refers to something that is passed through a single line, generation to generation, which means that only specific people would have that thing, but that gets much deeper and there’s too much subtext to put into a few English words.
 阿弥陀佛 e mi tuo fo: this is a phrase that is used in Buddhism (but not necessarily as sometimes people just use it as an expression) that prays for or thanks Buddha for their protection.
 姑娘 gu niang: similar to gongzi (but not its direct counterpart, the counterpart to gongzi would be 小姐 xiao jie), it’s a way of addressing young girls but in a generic way. No matter their status, young girls are all guniang.
 This salute is called 抱拳 bao quan. It’s a kind of salute you do with your fists, used among people in the ancient times and in particular, people who practice martial arts. Even nowdays, martial artists continue to use this salute.
The three of them made it all safe and sound! A new danger comes now though in the form of Li Jinrong and Yu Lao…
A little insight into my translating process: This chapter was pretty hard to translate because of the amount of action that was described. There will be many many more fighting sequences in future chapters (and I’m not really looking forward to translating those haha) so that’ll be a lot of fun. These take particularly long because I have to analyze and visualize the scene and every movement and change that is being made so it will flow well when in English. Unfortunately, there are a bajillion ways to describe one movement in Chinese and like a word for it in English and I have to find ways around it so I’m not using the exact same word 4 times in one sentence. (A bit of an exaggeration, but still.) It takes longer than, say, conversational chapters, especially since the way action scenes are written in Chinese writing is so different from the way they are written in English writing. Even I, as a reader, tend to gaze over action scenes and don’t really spend time reading each line carefully to visualize the movement pattern…but it’s a much different experience as a translator. Just some thoughts as I translate for the first time, don’t mind me!
Unfortunately, these next two weeks are exam season for me and I’m very sad to announce that I will not be updating until the 12th or the 13th at the earliest. I hate to leave you guys hanging for so long, but I hope you can understand. Thank you all for reading, your comments mean the world to me ❤