White Horse Neighing in the West Wind Chapter 16

White Horse Neighing in the West Wind Chapter 16

Li Wenxiu followed him into the cottage. She saw that although it was sparsely furnished, it was clean and elegant. In the centre of the hall hung a pair of wooden couplets, and on each plank was carved seven characters. The first couplet read, “Bai shou xiang zhi you an jian.” The second couplet read, “Zhu men zao da xiao tan guan.” Ever since she came to the Muslim Region, she had never seen any couplets. Neither did anyone teach her how to read. But these fourteen characters were not difficult to recognise, and her mother had taught her these characters before.

However, she did not understand their literary meaning, and muttered, “Bai shou xiang zhi you an jian…” Hua Hui asked, “Have you ever read this poem before?” Li Wenxiu answered, “I’ve never read it before. What are these fourteen characters describing?” Hua Hui was well versed in both the artistic and martial arts, and said, “These are two lines of a poem by Wang Wei. The first couplet says, if you have a bosom friend, and you’ve befriended him for you whole life and even when your hair has turned white, you must still never trust him, for he may try to harm you secretly. When he walks in front of you, you had better hold on to the hilt of your sword. The line before these two is “Ren qing fan fu shi bo lan” (the ups and downs of human relationships are like great waves). As for the line “Zhu men zao da xiao tan guan”, it means that your friend is proud of his successes and rising swiftly to fame. However, if you hope that he will promote or help you, you will only provoke him to ridicule you.”

After Li Wenxiu met him, she saw that he was extremely suspicious and cautious of her. He had believed that she no intention of harming him only after she had removed the poisoned needles from his body. As she looked at this pair of couplets again, she thought that he must have been greatly harmed by someone sometime in his life, and this person was probably a bosom friend of his. That was why he reacted so furiously and suspiciously to everyone. But at this moment, it was inappropriate for her to prod further, so she went off to boil water for brewing tea.

After drinking two cups of hot tea each, their spirits rose. Li Wenxiu said, “Master, I must return.” Hua Hi felt surprised, and an extremely disappointed expression appeared on his face. He said, “You’re leaving? You’re not going to learn martial arts from me?” Li Wenxiu answered, “No! I didn’t return home for the entire of last night, and Grandfather Ji must miss me terribly. After I tell him what happened, I’ll come back and learn martial arts from you.” Hua Hui flew into a sudden fury. His face swelled and turned red, and loudly he said, “If you do tell him, then don’t ever come back to see me.” Li Wenxiu was taken aback, and in a low voice she said, “Can’t I tell Grandfather Ji what happened? He… he dotes extremely on me.” Hua Hui said, “You cannot tell anyone. Quick, take an oath, vowing that you will not tell anyone what happened today. Or else, I will not let you leave this hill…” Due to his burst of fury, the wounds on his back ached terribly. With a cry, he fainted.

Li Wenxiu hurriedly helped him up, and sprinkled some clean water on his forehead. After a while, he gradually awoke. Amazed, he asked, “You haven’t left?” But Li Wenxiu asked, “Is your back very painful?” Hua Hui answered, “I feel better now. You said you wanted to return home, how come you haven’t left?” Li Wenxiu thought, “At most, Grandfather Ji will miss me in his heart. But Master has suffered serious injuries, and if I don’t take care of him carefully, he might die.” So she said, “Master is unwell, let me stay on for a few days to attend to you.” Hua Hui was overjoyed.

That night, both of them slept in the thatched cottage. Li Wenxiu found some dried grass, and made a bed in the hall. As she slept, she woke up several times from her dreams with a start. Not only did she dream that she had been caught by bandits, she also dreamed that evil spirits, dripping with blood, demanded her to return their lives.

When she got up the next morning, she saw that Hua Hui was in excellent spirits after resting a night. After breakfast, Hua Hui taught her martial arts, starting from the basic internal skills. He said, “You are already quite old, and it is a little late for you to start learning superior martial arts now. But the disciple is naturally intelligent, and the master is no ordinary person. A famous teacher accepting a brilliant pupil, what is there to be afraid of? In five years’ time, you’ll be invincible in the pugilistic world.” After practicing for seven or eight days, her skills improved quickly. The wounds on Hua Hui’s back also gradually healed. Only then did she bid farewell to her master, and rode the white horse home. But Hua Hui did not force her to take an oath this time. After she returned home, she did not tell Grandfather Ji what had happened. Instead, she said that she had lost her way in the great desert, and the more she walked, the farther she went. Fortunately, she met a group of camel riders, and thus did not die of thirst in the desert.

From then onwards, after ten days or half a month, Li Wenxiu would go and stay with Hua Hui. She was extremely afraid that she would meet bandits again, so whenever she left home, she wore the clothes of a Kazak man. During these stays, Hua Hui devoted all his attention to teaching her martial arts. Li Wenxiu had nowhere to place her hopes in, so she invested all her heart and soul into learning martial arts. Indeed, it was a case of a famous teacher accepting a brilliant pupil, and she made extremely rapid progress.

Two years passed. Hua Hui often praised, “With your present capability, you can now be considered one of the top pugilists in the pugilistic world. If you return to the Central Plains and display your skills, you’ll become famous instantly.” But Li Wenxiu did not want to return to the Central Plains at all; neither did she want to become a famous pugilist. But she wanted to avenge her parents’ deaths, and to prevent herself from being harmed by bandits when she met them again, she had to perfect her martial arts skills. Deep down in her heart, another thought urged her on: “If I master the skills, I can win Su Pu back.” But she did not dare to think too much of this thought. Every time she thought of it, she would blush. Even though she did not dare to think too much of it, this thought was still hidden deep in her heart. Thus, she spent less time in old man Ji’s house, and more time at her master’s. Old man Ji did ask her a couple of times about it, but she refused to tell him. He knew that she was stubborn since she was young, and would never turn back once she had made a decision, so he did not press her. One day, Li Wenxiu rode her white horse towards home, from her teacher’s house. Halfway into the journey, she realised that the sky was suddenly overcast with red clouds. The weather in the desert was unpredictable, and the northerly wind blew increasingly strongly. It seemed as if a huge blizzard was about to occur. She urged the horse to gallop more swiftly, and saw the shepherds herding their flocks home hurriedly, and there was not a single bird in the skies.

As she was about to reach home, she suddenly heard hoof beats, and a horse galloped towards her. Li Wenxiu felt slightly puzzled: “How come some people are leaving their homes, when there’s a blizzard coming?” As the horse galloped closer, she saw that the rider had a large red woolen cloak draped over her shoulders. It was a Kazak woman.