WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. If you DO NOT want to be spoiled, please DO NOT read. You have been warned.
I recently re-watched this series after haven’t watched it for over ten years now and I must say it was an interesting journey because I watched it with much more observation this time around.
The story was about the five families assigned to guard a certain treasure that was hidden for emergency crisis, such as the fund for war against the Mongolians. The five families were Jun, Qiu, Si Ma, and two of the other ones. Of the five families, the Jun family kept the map while the Qiu kept the little knife that was supposed to be the key to reading the map. Without both items, one or the other was useless by itself.
In the process of guarding the treasure, conflicts arose within the five men representing the five families–as it was expected when treasures were involved. Somehow, they all died because of those conflicts. Out of the five families, the Qiu’s son, Qiu Dong Li (秋東籬 – portrayed by Steve Ma Jing Tao) had already betrayed his own country by serving under the Mongolians. He also caused a misunderstanding between the Jun and Si Ma families by spreading the rumors that Si Ma Xiao (司馬嘯 – portrayed by Chen Xing) had killed Jun Wu Chou (君無愁 – portrayed by Liu De Kai)’s father. Qiu intended for both Si Ma and Jun to fight to death, eliminating his ultimate threats so it was easier to manipulate the rest of the jianghu world in following the Mongolians.
Upon hearing that Si Ma Xiao was present at this one inn, Jun Wu Chou came to challenge Si Ma to a duel. They did not have to fight if it wasn’t for Qiu’s scheme again by swapping the letters Si Ma sent to Jun to explain of his reasons and to dispel the rumors. Si Ma was not a coward but it was because he suddenly feared of losing his family after his wife just gave birth.
Seeing that it was unavoidable, Si Ma took up the challenge and fought with Jun for five days. Within those five days, they became the best of friends and even ended up becoming sworn brothers in the end. They even had an agreement if one died, the other would carry out some unfinished business for him. Si Ma wanted Jun to promise that Jun would take care of his wife and son if he were to die. He also made Jun promised to take over the duty of taking care of General Zhou (周)’s nephew–to which he was supposed to find. Jun’s unfinished business was finding the enemy who had killed his brother and sisters and avenged their deaths. (This was actually carried out by Si Ma one of the nights after the day’s duel. He actually used very fast horses for the journey and was able to come back the next morning and in time for the next duel.)
On the fifth day of the duel, Si Ma and Jun swapped their saber and sword–respectively–to change their methods since they wanted to seek feedback on their learned skills from one another from the past four days. After a few more rounds of fighting, it was apparent that Si Ma had mastered Jun’s swords skills–though he had used less force or Jun would have lost his left hand already. Jun’s admittance of defeat and admiration for Si Ma’s skills was short lived since they returned to the subject of Jun’s father’s death. Si Ma then found out that the letter he sent to Jun did not come through. Si Ma asked Jun about the letter but Jun denied having received it. However, that was also cut short because Si Ma soon felt the poison seeping in and died instantly. Jun checked Si Ma’s saber again to find poison on it as well as on Si Ma’s wound. Jun then turned to Qiu Dong Li and his men to demand an explanation for the incident. Qiu denied and even swore that he had nothing to do with it. He insisted on investigating the matter for Jun–just to escape from Jun’s grasp.
Jun did not have any more time to argue with Qiu since he was brought back to tending to Si Ma’s wife. She requested to go back to her room before coming back to discuss some matters with Jun. She knew that Jun was not to be blamed since the poison was actually on her husband’s saber. After repeating of Jun’s promise about taking care of their son–Jun (俊 – which means handsome), Si Ma’s wife committed suicide with Jun’s sword–which was still laying by her husband’s body all the while. Jun was too late to stop her since she had slashed her throat. However, Jun did discover that his sword also had poison on it.
Jun rushed upstairs to find Si Ma’s son whom Si Ma’s wife had placed in her room earlier to discover that the room was empty. What happened was one of the waiters from the inn named Yao San (姚三) had carried the baby away since he found out about Si Ma’s death. (Si Ma Xiao had helped him and his family paid off some debt so he was very grateful of Si Ma and was willing to repay one day.) Though he was the one who saw the greedy medic sprayed poison onto the sword and saber the previous night, he still blamed the whole incident on Jun because if Jun had not demanded a duel, the whole incident would not happen. Jun rushed downstairs to find Qiu and his men still around. Qiu had set up a scapegoat to take the fall for the one who schemed against Si Ma and Jun. Jun did not any time to waste since he wanted to find Si Ma’s son immediately, so he rushed off after having found out that Qiu had killed the scapegoat already. (Qiu had faked the other man’s death to convince Jun and told the man to go into hiding for a while.)
While Jun was on his way to find Si Ma Jun (司馬俊) and the waiter–Yao San, he encountered many of the hitmen sent by Qiu to get rid of both Jun and the baby–to avoid troubles in the future. Jun only vaguely suspected Qiu since he knew that Qiu was a despicable type–and was jealous of Si Ma’s skills, but did not think that Qiu was already working for the Mongolians.
Anyway, Jun and Qiu’s men continued to chase after Yao San and the baby Si Ma Jun. Time after time, Jun or someone would appear to rescue Yao San and Si Ma Jun in time. Yao San’s father was killed by Qiu’s men since he did not open his mouth to expose his son’s whereabouts. Yao San’s sister was soon killed as well since she was trying to protect Yao San and Si Ma Jun–by using herself as a decoy. Yao San also lost a hand and was forced to jump off the cliff by Qiu’s men. (Jun was not around to save Yao San from the cliff incident because he was stopped by another swordsman who heard of Jun’s skills and wanted to challenge him to a duel–which caused a delay for Jun to come in time.)
After having learned that Yao San and Si Ma Jun had encountered their worst fate, Jun returned to where the swordsman was and carried out his promise with the swordsman. Jun did not forget to inform the swordsman of Yao San and Si Ma Jun’s fate either–which the swordsman was full of remorse but was not able to do anything else to mend the situation. (The swordsman was known as Ou Yang Bu Sai.) Jun and Ou Yang found a place where they had their duel–to which Ou Yang lost. He was shattered because he did not believe he would lose to Jun just like that. He left and was not seen for the time being.
Jun continued on his journey in an attempt to find Yao San and Si Ma Jun again–though the chances were slim. He got himself tangled into some conflicts because he rescued a young woman named Yun Yun (雲芸 – portrayed by Chi Qiu Mei). Her father was killed because he did not give in to the enemies’ request of handing over his famous sabers. Jun and Yun Yun traveled through the night and ended up at a lake. Jun then handed the sabers back to Yun Yun since it was her father’s. However, she tossed them down the lake after an outburst, claiming that it had caused her father’s death, therefore, she did not want to keep it. She then apologized for her outburst and gave Jun a souvenir since he had saved her. She also made a request that he shall accompany her back to her hometown since she wanted to bring her father’s ashes back there. She stopped herself and said she was too demanding since he had already helped her so much. He stopped her in her tracks and agreed to accompany her on the way.
Along the way, they were stopped various times and were told that they should follow another path instead. The order was issued by a young master by the name of Nan Gong Sheng (南宮胜). After many battles between Nan Gong’s men, Yun Yun was abducted and Jun was on the journey to find her once again. As time passed, many pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.
Ou Yang’s identity was also revealed and the reason behind his wanting to have a duel with Jun was uncovered. He wanted to be the best swordsman in the world. But moreover, he wanted to prove to his soulmate, Shan Shan (珊珊), that he was the best. Ou Yang was devasted of the defeat and was using wine as a release for his failure. Shan Shan soon pulled him out of it by her encouraging words. He soon discovered a new way to win Jun–through Shan Shan’s dance movements, so he was on his way to find Jun once again. To Ou Yang’s disappointment, he lost again to Jun a second time and sulked his sorrows over wine once again. Shan Shan once again rescued him with her encouragements–and then more of scolding. Ou Yang and Shan Shan soon joined forces with Jun to help Jun in solving the mystery surrounding Jun. (Shan Shan also wanted to solve the mystery of her father’s death.)
Nan Gong Sheng’s identity was also elaborated. He was actually working under Yun Yun to create a trap for Jun. Apparently, Yun Yun’s real name was Xiao Yu. She was under the commander of her father to get rid of Jun. (Yes, she was on the Mongolian side.) To everyone’s surprise, Nan Gong soon found out that Jun was a very righteous man and a noble swordsman. He began to feel conflicted time after time when he was plotting against Jun. He finally broke away from Xiao Yu’s grasp after learning that she had many pursuers who were willing to die for her–like himself. Unwilling to be made a fool of and feeling the loyalty to Jun’s friendship, Nan Gong finally chose to help Jun uncover the truth behind Xiao Yu’s plot.
Another unexpected thing happened since Xiao Yu found herself falling for Jun and did not want to kill him anymore. She ended up wanting to recruit him to join the Mongolians instead. Jun denied her request and even turned down her love for him. Yes, he was reminded of his past lover Rou Rou (柔柔 – portrayed by Wu Feng) when he first met her and seeing her kindness as Yun Yun, but he was not blinded by it that he would betray his country. Xiao Yu, feeling both frustrated and humiliated, sent out the order to make Jun suffer. She captured him many times–mostly using underhand tricks but he soon escaped because he had learned how to survive through different skills that he was taught.
After many failed attempts to kill Jun, Xiao Yu finally joined forces with Qiu Dong Li (who had been hiding in the dark the whole time to observe the scenes between Jun and Xiao Yu hoping to reap without taking any actions). They both thought up of various traps to capture and kill Jun. Qiu resorted to using his old trick of trying to frame Jun for robbery and murder, getting him in trouble with one of the most powerful clans of the jianghu world. However, with the help of Ou Yang, Nan Gong, Shan Shan, and Miss Tang (whom Jun met along the way when Qiu and Xiao Yu were creating misunderstandings between her family and Jun earlier but was cleared of already), Jun was able to clear his name. Xiao Yu threw in a final blow at Jun by bringing out Jun’s brother Ding Wu Jian (丁無劍 – portrayed by Long Guan Wu) after realizing that the plan of framing Jun had failed, causing Jun to be shocked of his appearance since Jun believed that Ding had died already. Jun called out “Da Ge” (大哥 – Eldest Brother) upon seeing Ding but Ding told him that, “I’m not your brother.” Jun insisted that Ding was and that Ding will always be his brother. They exchanged a few words before Ding requested a duel between the two. Jun was not able to turn down the request since Xiao Yu had poisoned everyone present and said that if Jun did not agree to the duel, everyone would die. Jun had no choice but to agree.
The conflict between Ding and Jun was due to their parents’ generation. Ding and Jun were actually cousins more than brothers, but they lived under the same household hence the whole ‘brothers’ thing. Ding’s father eloped with one of the housemaids because the other Jun elders did not approve of such relationship (due to high-low class differences between the two). Ding’s father–aka Jun’s uncle–was considered dead to the family after the incident. However, Ding’s mother brought him back to the Jun household after Ding’s father’s death. Ding’s mother was also very ill at that time and only wanted someone to take care of Ding. The elders of the Jun family did not care to acknowledge her words and told her that Ding did not belong there, saying how they would not know if the kid was really a ‘Jun’ or not. Ding’s mother begged them to take Ding in and that Ding could take her surname instead. After saying those words, Ding’s mother committed suicide. The Jun elders finally fulfilled Ding’s mother’s request and took Ding in. That was how Ding was not a ‘Jun’ although his father was. Having witnessed his mother’s tragic death at such a young age, Ding kept to himself and did not care to acknowledge the others during his stay. Although the young Wu Chou was very friendly and kind toward Ding time after time, Ding did not open up to him at all. Things changed when Rou Rou came into the picture since her nice and kind nature had affected Ding, making him more alert to his surroundings. The three became the best of friends. Ding even taught Jun some of the most fierce techniques of learning different martial art skills as well as survival instincts. He also taught Jun the swords techniques he discovered that was used to defeat the Jun family’s swords techniques. Although Jun was very smart, he was not as good as Ding.
The bond between Ding, Jun, and Rou Rou ended the day Ding learned that Jun and Rou Rou were getting married soon. One day when some people came to cause trouble for the Jun family, Ding jumped out to rescue Jun and also used that opportunity to challenge Jun to a duel. Ding stated that he was more capable than Jun of leading the Jun family, but the underlying reason was because of Rou Rou–and probably something he wanted to do for his mom. After Ding left, Jun and Rou Rou tried to think up of a way to stop the duel from happening. Rou Rou was very smart and had seen through Ding’s real reason for the duel. She told Jun to meet her in her room the next day since she had a plan. Jun asked of her plan but was told to wait for the following day. Jun had no choice but to do just that. The next day when Jun came, Jun only spotted the letter Rou Rou left behind for him, stating that she had left with Ding to an unknown place to live together. Jun was heartbroken and used wine to erase his misery but failed. Soon, the Jun family met with more troubles so the elders of the Jun family told Jun to put aside his love problems and focus on their family crisis. Jun woke up from his trance and concentrated in mastering his skills and continued to lead the Jun family. He later heard of the rumor that Ding killed Rou Rou somehow and had also died afterward.
The mystery of how Ding was still alive was solved through Ding’s conversation with Xiao Yu. Apparently, the real reason why Rou Rou ran off with Ding was because she wanted to save Jun, knowing that Jun was not a match of Ding’s if they were to go forth with the duel. She wanted to prevent the tragic event from happening. Ding and Rou Rou lived quite happily at a small hut in the woods for the first several years but Ding later discovered of Rou Rou’s distant behaviors. He soon found out that Rou Rou was missing Jun and the real reason of her running off with him. He used wine to erase his sorrows but failed (like every single guy in this series who attempted to erase their sorrows with wine). Rou Rou questioned Ding of his behavior and tried to stop him from drinking. However, Ding turned mad and confronted Rou Rou of the real reason why she was willing to live with him. He threatened to go find Jun and carry out his words of dueling with Jun. However, Rou Rou tried to stop him and told him that he was drunk and was not himself. Both because he was mad and because he was very drunk, he pulled out his sword and killed Rou Rou, which he soon realized and regretted. It was too late since she died that night. Before she died, Rou Rou made Ding promise her not to harm Jun. Ding went mad afterward and left the place after burying Rou Rou. He was later rescued by Xiao Yu’s father when he was injured at one time and vowed his loyalty to Xiao Yu’s father. He also became Xiao Yu’s master from that point on.
Xiao Yu held the final piece of the puzzle that many, especially Jun, wanted to know of the outcome. She was reconsidering over her behaviors toward Jun and found it ironic that she was stuck in between her master and Jun–like how Rou Rou was stuck in between them when she was still alive. She felt that the duel was unavoidable–though she was the one who wanted it to be that way so she could get rid of Jun. However, after hearing the story of how Rou Rou had sacrificed for Jun, Xiao Yu was having second thoughts about the whole matter. She knew it was too late to stop Ding so she went to Jun and persuaded him to leave so he did not have to fight Ding. Jun denied her request because he had to save all the people who were poisoned.
In an attempt to stop the duel from happening, Ou Yang and Nan Gong tried to sneak into Xiao Yu’s place to find the remedy to the poison. They were stopped by Ding and had to flee the scene. (Ding had no intention of killing them anyway.)
The day of the duel finally arrived and Jun met Ding at the location at the exact time. Their duel became intense after several strikes because Ding was eager to get it over with. Ding finally used his fiercest technique toward Jun–to which Xiao Yu jumped in and received the stab. The scene of Xiao Yu jumping in to shield Jun from harm reminded Ding of how Rou Rou had sacrificed for Jun, causing him to go mad once again. He ran off yelling out that he had killed Rou Rou while Jun tended to Xiao Yu. Xiao Yu took the last few minutes of her life to tell Jun about Rou Rou’s sacrifice for Jun, clearing up Jun’s misunderstandings of Rou Rou and Ding. She told Jun that she wanted to be remembered just like Rou Rou.
Qiu benefited the most with Xiao Yu’s death since the Mongolian leader whom he served under–aka Xiao Yu’s father–had to rely on him since Xiao Yu was dead.
After they cured the ones who were poisoned, Jun and his friends parted ways. Jun said that he would once again go search for Yao San and Si Ma Jun since he learned that both were still alive. (It was because of Qiu’s carelessness in trying to create a realistic story when setting up a trap one time that he disclosed too much information, causing Jun and the others to be suspicious that it was true of the matter.) Miss Tang (who preferred to be called Xiao Jin Dao – 小金刀 or Little Golden Saber) wanted to follow Jun on the journey. Jun agreed upon seeing how persistent she was in helping him. Ou Yang and Shan Shan were heading back home to settle down but told Jun that if he ever needed them, they would appear within a blink of an eye to help him. Nan Gong said he would go back to his house and gather up his men to join forces with General Chang (常). Each with a different goal in mind, they separated.
Along the way, Jun and Xiao Jin Dao had to fight off Qiu Dong Li’s men once again. Yao San was on the run once again upon hearing of Jun’s presence drawing near. Xiao Jin Dao soon left Jun since she no longer wanted to follow him, knowing that her love will never be reciprocated. (She just hoped that one day she will be remembered and that was good enough.) She wished him luck, knowing he was more than capable of taking care of himself with his skills.
Go here for part 2.