Swordswoman: A Tale of Love, Secrecy, and Revenge

Explore a captivating tale of love, secrets, and revenge, where a young man's life becomes intertwined with a mysterious female warrior, leading to unexpected twists and turns.

In Nanjing, Gu Sheng, a talented and versatile person, came from a poor family. Because his mother was elderly and he couldn’t bear to leave her, he had no choice but to write and draw every day to make a little money for a living. Gu Sheng was already twenty-five years old and had not yet married a wife. Across the street, there was originally an empty house, but now an old lady and a young girl were renting it. Because they were all women, no one inquired about their background.

One day, Gu Sheng returned home from outside and happened to see a young girl coming out of the neighboring house, who appeared to be around eighteen or nineteen years old, with a graceful and elegant appearance rarely seen in the world. She didn’t avoid Gu Sheng much when she saw him, but her expression was quite serious. When Gu Sheng entered the house, he asked his mother, and his mother said, “She is the girl from next door who came to borrow scissors and a ruler from me. She just mentioned that she lives with her mother alone. This girl doesn’t seem to be from a poor family. When I asked her why she hasn’t married yet, she cited taking care of her elderly mother as the reason. Tomorrow, you should go and meet her mother, express your intention to propose, and if their wishes are not unreasonable, you can take care of her elderly mother on her behalf.”

The next day, Gu Sheng’s mother went to the girl’s house. Her mother was an elderly lady with hearing impairment, and there was no surplus food in their house. When inquired about their livelihood, they relied solely on the girl’s needlework. Gu’s mother gradually revealed the idea of both families living together, and the old lady seemed to agree. She then discussed it with her daughter, who remained silent and seemed quite unhappy. So Gu’s mother returned home and told her son about the situation, speculating, “Could it be that this girl thinks we are poor? She doesn’t talk to people, doesn’t smile, as beautiful as peaches and plums, yet as cold as ice and frost. She’s truly an unusual person!” Mother and son speculated and sighed, but that was the end of it.

One day, Gu Sheng was sitting in his study when a young man came to buy a painting. He had a handsome appearance and behaved somewhat frivolously. When asked where he was from, he said he was from a neighboring village. He started coming by every two or three days. As they became familiar with each other, they gradually began to playfully tease each other. Gu Sheng affectionately embraced him, and he didn’t resist much, eventually leading to a secret affair. They became very close.

One day, as the young girl passed by, the young man stared at her and asked who she was. Gu Sheng replied, “She’s the neighbor’s daughter.” The young man remarked, “She looks so enchanting, but her demeanor is so solemn, it’s intimidating.” Shortly after, Gu Sheng went into the house, and his mother told him, “Just now, the girl from next door came to ask for rice. She said she hasn’t cooked for more than a day. This girl is very filial and terribly poor. In the future, we should help them as much as we can.” Gu Sheng followed his mother’s wishes, carrying a bucket of rice to the neighbor’s house and conveying his mother’s intentions. The young girl accepted it without saying a word of thanks.

Whenever the young girl visited Gu Sheng’s house, she would proactively help with sewing, and she eagerly took on various household chores, just like a daughter-in-law in the family. Gu Sheng respected her even more. Whenever they had something delicious, they would always share it with the girl’s mother, and the young girl rarely expressed gratitude.

Just when Gu Sheng’s mother developed sores on her lower body, causing unbearable pain, she cried out day and night. The young girl often came to her bedside to visit, washing and applying medicine to her wounds, visiting three or four times a day. Gu Sheng’s mother felt deeply grateful, even though the young girl didn’t mind the dirtiness at all. Gu’s mother sighed and said, “Ah! Where can one find such a good daughter-in-law who would take care of an old woman like me until death!” She finished with a mournful sob.

The young girl comforted her, saying, “Your son is a great filial son, a hundred times better than us, widowed mother and lonely daughter.” Gu’s mother replied, “How can a filial son handle these trivial matters at the bedside? Moreover, I am already old, and death is a matter of sooner or later. The worries about passing on the family line weigh heavily on my heart.”

While they were speaking, Gu Sheng entered the room. Gu’s mother cried and said, “We owe the young lady too much! You must never forget to repay her kindness.” Gu Sheng knelt before the young girl in gratitude. The young girl said, “You honor my mother, I haven’t thanked you, so why should you thank me?” Consequently, Gu Sheng held the young girl in even greater esteem and admiration. However, the young girl was always serious and dignified in her every action, and Gu Sheng dared not offend her in the slightest.

One day, as the young girl was leaving, Gu Sheng watched her eagerly. Suddenly, the young girl turned back and gave Gu Sheng a charming smile. Gu Sheng was delighted and quickly followed her to her home. Gu Sheng used words to tease her, and the young girl didn’t resist much, so they enjoyed each other’s company. Afterward, the young girl cautioned Gu Sheng, saying, “Some things can be done once, but they can’t happen again!” Gu Sheng didn’t say anything and left.

The next day, Gu Sheng tried to arrange another meeting with the young girl, but she had a stern expression, didn’t even look at him, and walked away. The young girl often visited, and sometimes they crossed paths, but she didn’t offer kind words or a friendly demeanor. If Gu Sheng tried to make a joke, she responded with cold and icy remarks. One day, in a secluded place, the young girl asked Gu Sheng, “Who is that young man who frequently visits your home?” Gu Sheng told her. The young girl said, “His behavior has offended me on multiple occasions. I didn’t say anything because of his closeness to you. Please tell him that if he continues as before, he might as well not live!”

In the evening, Gu Sheng relayed the young girl’s words to the young man, and he added, “You must be cautious; she is not to be offended.” The young man asked, “If she is not to be offended, why did you offend her?” Gu Sheng tried to explain, but the young man continued, “If you really didn’t offend her, how did those intimate words reach your ears?” Gu Sheng couldn’t explain. The young man further stated, “Please also convey to her not to pretend to be virtuous, or else I will spread the word everywhere.” Gu Sheng was very angry, and his expression changed, and then the young man left.

One evening, Gu Sheng was sitting alone when suddenly the young girl arrived, smiling and saying, “Our destiny is not yet severed; perhaps it’s fate!” Gu Sheng ecstatically embraced the young girl. Suddenly, they heard a flurry of footsteps, so they stood up in alarm, and it turned out the young man had entered the room. Gu Sheng asked in surprise, “What are you doing here?” The young man smiled and said, “I’ve come to see that chaste maiden.” Then he turned to the young girl and said, “No complaints today, alright?” The young girl, infuriated, raised her eyebrows, blushing in her cheeks. She didn’t utter a word but quickly opened her clothing, revealing a pouch. She pulled out something, which turned out to be a shining dagger about a foot long.

Upon seeing this, the young man was so shocked that he turned and fled. The young girl chased him out of the door, looking around, but there was no sign of him. She threw the dagger into the air, and with a “swish,” it emitted a bright light like a rainbow. Something fell to the ground with a loud noise. Gu Sheng hurriedly used a lamp to illuminate it, and it turned out to be a white fox, decapitated. Gu Sheng was greatly alarmed. The young girl said, “That was your handsome admirer. I had originally forgiven him, but he chose not to live, and there was nothing I could do!” She then put the dagger back into the small pouch.

Gu Sheng tried to pull the young girl into the house, but she said, “The demon just spoiled our mood. Let’s wait until tomorrow night.” With that, she left.

The following evening, as expected, the young girl arrived, and they warmly embraced each other. Gu Sheng inquired about the young girl’s swordsmanship, and she replied, “This is not something you should know. You must keep it a secret, as revealing it could be detrimental to you.” Gu Sheng then brought up the topic of marriage, but the young girl said, “We have already shared a bed and performed household chores like fetching water and cooking. Isn’t that what a wife does? We are already a couple, so why talk about marriage again?” Gu Sheng asked, “Is it because you still think my family is poor?” The young girl replied, “Your family is indeed poor, but does that mean mine is wealthy? Our joyful meeting tonight is precisely because of your family’s poverty.”

As they parted, she added, “Such casual encounters should not happen multiple times. I will come when it is appropriate, and no amount of coercion will work if it isn’t.” After that, whenever Gu Sheng encountered her and wanted to have a private conversation, the young girl would avoid him. However, when it came to household chores like mending clothes and cooking, she handled them all diligently, no different from a daughter-in-law.

The following evening, as expected, the young girl arrived, and they warmly embraced each other. Gu Sheng inquired about the young girl’s swordsmanship, and she replied, “This is not something you should know. You must keep it a secret, as revealing it could be detrimental to you.” Gu Sheng then brought up the topic of marriage, but the young girl said, “We have already shared a bed and performed household chores like fetching water and cooking. Isn’t that what a wife does? We are already a couple, so why talk about marriage again?” Gu Sheng asked, “Is it because you still think my family is poor?” The young girl replied, “Your family is indeed poor, but does that mean mine is wealthy? Our joyful meeting tonight is precisely because of your family’s poverty.”

As they parted, she added, “Such casual encounters should not happen multiple times. I will come when it is appropriate, and no amount of coercion will work if it isn’t.” After that, whenever Gu Sheng encountered her and wanted to have a private conversation, the young girl would avoid him. However, when it came to household chores like mending clothes and cooking, she handled them all diligently, no different from a daughter-in-law.

After more than a month, the young girl didn’t visit for several days, which made Gu Sheng’s mother worried that something might be wrong. She decided to go and check on her. The front door was tightly shut, and there was no sign of activity. Gu Sheng’s mother knocked on the door for a long time, and finally, the young girl, looking disheveled, opened the door and let her in. Shortly after, she immediately closed the door again. When they entered the inner room, they saw a crying baby on the bed.

Gu Sheng’s mother was surprised and asked, “How long ago was the baby born?” The young girl replied, “Three days ago.” When they picked up the baby and took a look, it was a boy with a broad forehead and a large face. Gu Sheng’s mother happily said, “You have already given birth to a grandson for me. But you are all alone and helpless; how will you make a living in the future?” The young girl said, “I dare not reveal my secret to you, Mother. Wait until late at night when it’s quiet, and then you can take the child with you.”

When Gu Sheng’s mother returned home, she told her son about the situation, and both of them were astonished. Later that night, they brought the child back home.

Several nights later, close to midnight, the young girl suddenly knocked on the door. She was holding a leather pouch and smiling as she said, “I have completed a significant task, and now I bid farewell.” Gu Sheng anxiously asked what had happened, and the young girl replied, “Your kindness in supporting my mother has been etched in my heart at every moment. When I said, ‘It can happen once but not a second time,’ my intention was not related to the intimate relationship between a man and a woman. Due to your family’s poverty and inability to marry, I intended to continue your family’s lineage, to carry on your legacy. Originally, I hoped that one encounter would result in pregnancy, but unexpectedly, my menstrual cycle returned, violating our agreement for a second time. Now, your family’s kindness has been repaid, and my own wish has been fulfilled. There is nothing left to regret.”

Gu Sheng asked, “What is in the pouch?” The young girl said, “The head of an enemy.” When she opened the pouch, they could see that the hair and beard were tangled, and it was a gruesome sight. Gu Sheng was so shocked that he almost fainted but managed to regain his composure and asked for the full story. The young girl explained, “I didn’t want to tell you in the past because I feared revealing the secret. Now that the major task is accomplished, there’s no harm in telling you the truth. I am originally from Zhejiang, and my father held the position of a magistrate. However, we were framed by our enemies, and our entire family was exterminated. I fled with my elderly mother, hiding our identities for three years. I couldn’t seek revenge immediately because my mother was still alive. After her passing and due to my pregnancy, I couldn’t fulfill my long-standing desire for revenge. The night I left was not for any other reason but because I was unfamiliar with the routes and feared making mistakes during the revenge mission.”

She continued, “I gave birth to a son. Take good care of him. Your fortune is limited, and your lifespan is not long, but this child can carry on the family name. It’s late now; don’t disturb my elderly mother any further. I must leave.” Gu Sheng was deeply distressed and wanted to inquire about her destination, but the young girl disappeared like lightning, and her figure could no longer be seen. Gu Sheng stood there, sighing and melancholic, as if he had lost his soul.

The next day, Gu Sheng told his mother about the events, and both of them could only marvel at the astonishing and puzzling tale.

Three years later, Gu Sheng did indeed pass away. When Gu Sheng’s son turned eighteen, he passed the imperial examination and took care of his grandmother until her final days.

The chronicler of strange tales said: “A person must have a female warrior at home before they can keep a male lover. Otherwise, if you associate with him, he may covet your wife.”

《侠女》

顾生,金陵人。博于材艺,而家綦贫。又以母老,不忍离膝下,惟日为人书画,受贽以自给。行年二十有五,伉俪犹虚。对户旧有空第,一老妪及少女,税居其中。以其家无男子,故未问其谁何。

一日,偶自外入,见女郎自母房中出,年约十八九,秀曼都雅,世罕其匹,见生不甚避,而意凛如也。生入问母,母曰:“是对户女郎,就吾乞刀尺。适言其家亦止一母。此女不似贫家产,问其何为不字,则以母老为辞。明日当往拜其母,便风以意,倘所望不奢,儿可代养其母。”明日造其室,其母一聋媪耳。视其室,并无隔宿粮。问所业,则仰女十指。徐以同食之谋试之,媪意似纳,而转商其女,女默然,意殊不乐。母乃归。详其状而疑之曰:“女子得非嫌吾贫乎?为人不言亦不笑,艳如桃李,而冷如霜雪,奇人也!”母子猜叹而罢。

一日,生坐斋头,有少年来求画,姿容甚美,意颇儇佻。诘所自,以“邻村”对。嗣后三两日辄一至。稍稍稔熟,渐以嘲谑,生狎抱之,亦不甚拒,遂私焉。由此往来昵甚。会女郎过,少年目送之,问为谁,对以“邻女”。少年曰:“艳丽如此,神情一何可畏!”少间,生入内,母曰:“适女子来乞米,云不举火者经日矣。此女至孝,贫极可悯,宜少周恤之。”生从母言,负斗米款门达母意。女受之,亦不申谢。日尝至生家,见母作衣履,便代缝纫,出入堂中,操作如妇。生益德之。每获馈饵,必分给其母,女亦略不置齿颊。

母适疽生隐处,宵旦号咷。女时就榻省视,为之洗创敷药,日三四作。母意甚不自安,而女不厌其秽。母曰:“唉!安得新妇如儿,而奉老身以死也!”言讫悲哽。女慰之曰:“郎子大孝,胜我寡母孤女什百矣。”母曰:“床头蹀躞之役,岂孝子所能为者?且身已向暮,旦夕犯雾露,深以祧续为忧耳。”言间,生入。母泣曰:“亏娘子良多!汝无忘报德。”生伏拜之。女曰:“君敬我母,我勿谢也,君何谢焉?”于是益敬爱之。然其举止生硬,毫不可干。

一日,女出门,生目注之,女忽回首,嫣然而笑。生喜出意外,趋而从诸其家,挑之,亦不拒,欣然交欢。已,戒生曰:“事可一而不可再!”生不应而归。明日,又约之,女厉色不顾而去。日频来,时相遇,并不假以词色。少游戏之,则冷语冰人。忽于空处问生:“日来少年谁也?”生告之。女曰:“彼举止态状,无礼于妾频矣。以君之狎昵,故置之。请更寄语:再复尔,是不欲生也已!”生至夕,以告少年,且曰:“子必慎之,是不可犯!”少年曰:“既不可犯,君何犯之?”生白其无。曰:“如其无,则猥亵之语,何以达君听哉?”生不能答。少年曰:“亦烦寄告:假惺惺勿作态,不然,我将遍播扬。”生甚怒之,情见于色,少年乃去。

一夕方独坐,女忽至,笑曰:“我与君情缘未断,宁非天数!”生狂喜而抱于怀。欻闻履声籍籍,两人惊起,则少年推扉入矣。生惊问:“子胡为者?”笑曰:“我来观贞洁人耳。”顾女曰:“今日不怪人耶?”女眉竖颊红,默不一语,急翻上衣,露一革囊,应手而出,则尺许晶莹匕首也。少年见之,骇而却走。追出户外,四顾渺然。女以匕首望空抛掷,戛然有声,灿若长虹,俄一物堕地作响。生急烛之,则一白狐,身首异处矣。大骇。女曰:“此君之娈童也。我固恕之,奈渠定不欲生何!”收刃入囊。生曳令入,曰:“适妖物败意,请来宵。”出门径去。

次夕,女果至,遂共绸缪。诘其术,女曰:“此非君所知。宜须慎秘,泄恐不为君福。”又订以嫁娶,曰:“枕席焉,提汲焉,非妇伊何也?业夫妇矣,何必复言嫁娶乎?”生曰:“将勿憎吾贫耶?”曰:“君固贫,妾富耶?今宵之聚,正以怜君贫耳。”临别嘱曰:“苟且之行,不可以屡。当来,我自来;不当来,相强无益。”后相值,每欲引与私语,女辄走避。然衣绽炊薪,悉为纪理,不啻妇也。

积数月,其母死,生竭力葬之。女由是独居。生意孤寝可乱,逾垣入,隔窗频呼,迄不应。视其门,则空室扃焉。窃疑女有他约。夜复往,亦如之,遂留佩玉于窗间而去之。越日,相遇于母所。既出,而女尾其后曰:“君疑妾耶?人各有心,不可以告人。今欲使君无疑,乌得可?然一事烦急为谋。”问之,曰:“妾体孕已八月矣,恐旦晚临盆。‘妾身未分明’,能为君生之,不能为君育之。可密告母,觅乳媪,伪为讨螟蛉者,勿言妾也。”生诺,以告母。母笑曰:“异哉此女!聘之不可,而顾私于我儿。”喜从其谋以待之。

又月馀,女数日不至,母疑之,往探其门,萧萧闭寂。叩良久,女始蓬头垢面自内出,启而入之,则复阖之。入其室,则呱呱者在床上矣。母惊问:“诞几时矣?”答云:“三日。”捉绷席而视之,则男也,且丰颐而广额,喜曰:“儿已为老身育孙子,伶仃一身,将焉所托?”女曰:“区区隐衷,不敢掬示老母。俟夜无人,可即抱儿去。”母归与子言,窃共异之。夜往抱子归。

更数夕,夜将半,女忽款门入,手提革囊,笑曰:“我大事已了,请从此别。”急询其故,曰:“养母之德,刻刻不去诸怀。向云‘可一而不可再’者,以相报不在床笫也。为君贫不能婚,将为君延一线之续。本期一索而得,不意信水复来,遂至破戒而再。今君德既酬,妾志亦遂,无憾矣。”问:“囊中何物?”曰:“仇人头耳。”检而窥之,须发交而血模糊。骇绝,复致研诘。曰:“向不与君言者,以机事不密,惧有宣泄。今事已成,不妨相告:妾浙人,父官司马,陷于仇,彼籍吾家。妾负老母出,隐姓名,埋头项,已三年矣。所以不即报者,徒以有母在,母去,又一块肉累腹中,因而迟之又久。曩夜出非他,道路门户未稔,恐有讹误耳。”言已,出门,又嘱曰:“所生儿,善视之。君福薄无寿,此儿可光门闾。夜深不得惊老母,我去矣!”方凄然欲询所之,女一闪如电,瞥尔间遂不复见。生叹惋木立,若丧魂魄。明以告母,相为叹异而已。

后三年,生果卒。子十八举进士,犹奉祖母以终老云。

异史氏曰:人必室有侠女,而后可以畜娈童也。不然,尔爱其艾豭,彼爱尔娄猪矣!

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