Sword Stained with Royal Blood
credits to baidu
There are two story threads in SSwRB, the ongoing one of Yuan Cheng Zhi and the rebellion against the Ming government and another of the deceased 'Golden Serpent Gentleman' Xia Xue Yi which is told through various characters. When I first read the novel, I only cared for Xia Xue Yi's story which had all the hallmarks of a romance novel. He kidnapped Wen Yi as part of his revenge against the Wens for killing his entire family but her kind and gentle nature won him over and eventually he fell in love with her (lakorn much? lol). However Wen Yi's evil family made use of her to poison Xia Xue Yi and tortured him viciously to force him to reveal the whereabouts of a hidden treasure he had discovered. He managed to escape but later died in a cave still biting Wen Yi's hairpin. See why I fancied him? In comparison Yuan Cheng Zhi was a dull young man involved in rebellion I had no interest in reading about and his other half Qing Qing (daughter of Xia Xue Yi and Wen Yi) was an insecure girl who often threw jealous fits. However something strange happened as I grew older and looked again at this same story: I grew fond of the ordinary Yuan/Qing relationship and saw Xia Xue Yi's flaws after the fog of romance cleared. Other than Wen Yi, there was another woman in Xia Xue Yi's life but she wasn't as lucky as Wen Yi. Xia Xue Yi made used of He Hong Yao's love for him to gain access to the treasures of the Five Poisons Cult and he dumped her as soon as he had what he wanted, not caring that he pretty much ruined her life as she would most certainly be subjected to horrible punishments by the cult. And she was, her beautiful face mutilated and forced to drift from place to place as a begger, so it's hardly a surprise when she turns into a bitter and vengeful woman. When I think of the young He Hong Yao who trusted Xia Xue Yi with all her heart only to be rewarded with a cruel betrayl, I can't see his romance with Wen Yi the same way anymore.
Then there's Yuan/Qing, two characters and their relationship which I once overlooked and later learnt to appreciate. Qing QIng is a difficult character to like at first glance: she's pretty but not exceptionally beautiful, clever but not outstandingly so, knows martial arts but again not very skilled. She's insecure due to her family background and prone to emotional outbursts so it's no wonder some fans find the beautiful, gentle Princess Ah Jiu a more compatible partner for Yuan. The fanwar between the two camps is complicated further by the latest revision of the novel by Louis Cha which expanded on Yuan's feelings for Ah Jiu (the ending of Yuan/Qing remains the same though) because duh, who on earth would not prefer Ah Jiu who is superior to Qing Qing in every way? That is why I hate the new version so much because it takes away the beauty of Yuan/Qing's relationship and Ah Jiu's tragedy and turns it into a messy love triangle where Yuan is a jerk who deserves to be dumped by both women. If only those who are 'superior' deserves to be love, what about the rest of us mere mortals? Other than outward conditions, Qing Qing had one thing which Ah Jiu didn't: Qing Qing actually understood Yuan. Qing Qing was with Yuan from the beginning when he was a nobody and she supported his ideals and cause full heartedly and even gave up her father's treasures for his use. She knows what is important to him and she stood behind him all the way. Ah Jiu on the other hand never fully comprehended the rebels' (Yuan included) greviences against her father the Emperor and naively believed their differences could be bridged. The defining moment of the great divide between Yuan and Ah Jiu was the scene where Ah Jiu told Yuan to bow to the Emperor to thank him for sparing his (Yuan's) life, completely ignoring the fact that her dad was the one who had his loyal general father executed. I don't blame Ah Jiu because she was born and raised in the royal family and it's only natural that she should see the world from their POV, only problem was that world did not overlap with the world in Yuan's eyes. That's why I love Yuan/Qing as it's a relationship based on understanding and acceptance of each other's flaws, and not on looks or status. I haven't talked much about how Yuan treats Qing Qing but his gradually growing love for Qing Qing is in the small things like when he spoils Qing Qing and gives her the 'right' to throw jealous fits as the woman by his side and he loses his composure when Qing Qing disappears. The 2007 drama has become my definitive version of this story and here's an MV of Yuan/Qing moments in it! If anyone's interested, eng subs is available. There's no complete playlist but just search for the English title on youtube and you should find the related videos.
Master Swordsman Lu Xiao Feng
Gu Long is another popular wuxia novelist but I'm personally not fond of his writing style nor his type of heroes so I've only skimmed through bits of his novels and my only completed drama based on his works is 'Master Swordsman Lu Xiao Feng 1 & 2' which surprisingly gave me a couple that I shipped pretty hard. Nope, not the titular character of LXF but his friend the cold swordsman Xi Men Chui Xue, specifically the version played by Christopher Lee. One word: ho~~~~t. His romance with Sun Xiu Qing is pretty straightforward and doesn't get much story time since he's a supporting character but I really like how it played out. After an elder (? or master?) of E Mei sect is killed by XMCX in a duel, some of its disciples went after him for vengeance. As they were no match for XMCX even in a large group, they resorted to trickery using SXQ to steal his sword (this part wasn't very convincing but anyway ...). SXQ didn't agree with the ways of her fellow disciples and in a spilt second decision that would change her life, she returned XMCX's sword to him in the nick of time. She was heavily injured by another E Mei elder and XMCX brought her back to his cottage in the woods. SXQ's stance towards XMCX soften after he kept saving her despite her continued attempts on his life. When her compatriots came for her life to punish her for her 'betrayal' of the sect, XMCX saved her again and she chose to put down vengeance and be with XMCX. It would be perfect if the story ended here but the pregnant SXQ was killed off later in the story and whatever little warmth and gentleness XMCX had in his life was forever gone and he returned to being the man who lived only to pursue an ever higher level of swordsmanship. I wish the drama had filled out the blanks in their relationship instead of using voice overs to inform the viewers of their changing feelings but I guess that's keeping in line with the novel's practically non-existent description of their love? The drama version of events differs quite a bit from the novel but I liked how it turned out and of course Christopher Lee~~~~
Sadly there doesn't seem to be any English subs but if anyone's interested I can link you to the videos without subs. It's not hard to follow XMCX's parts and I'll be happy to translate.
Have some swashbuckling XMCX!
Other notable wuxia romances:
Return of the Condor Heroes Yang Guo and Xiao Long Nv (Incidentally, Christopher Lee also acted as Yang Guo in the Singapore version of RofCH which I thought was pretty good too!)
Demi gods and semi devils Qiao Feng and Ah Zhu