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Literature / A Deadly Secret

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Cover of the 1985 edition
"A Deadly Secret" is Jin Yong's 10th novel, set in the 17th century during Qing Dynasty. The story revolves around the adventures of the protagonist Di Yun, an ordinary young peasant, who is imprisoned after being framed. In his quest for vengeance, he accidentally acquires the Liancheng Swordplay manual, an ancient artefact not only prized for the skills detailed inside, but also for containing a secret leading to a treasure.

Essentially The Count of Monte Cristo of Wuxia novels. Probably the most depressing story written by Jin Yong.

It received a film adaptation, A Deadly Secret, from Shaw Brothers in 1970.

A Deadly Secret presents examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: A main source of angst for Di Yun. His love interest Qi Fang marries the guy who caused him to be imprisoned and tortured all those years.
  • Accidental Pervert: Di Yun. He tries to nullify Blood Sabre Elder's pressure point technique on Shui Sheng by touching various parts on her body. It doeasn' work.
  • Angst
  • Asshole Victim : Quite a bit of them. Notably Di Yun's master Qi Zhangfa, Wan Zhenshan, Yan Daping...
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The Blood Sabre Elder, several other characters.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Di Yun masters the Blood Sabre Technique, a very evil martial art. He's still firmly on the side of good.
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  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: It would be easier to find a character who is not one.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of the novel, every person close to Di Yun has died, including his master, his first love and his only friend. But he has a faithful partner waiting for him in the snowy valley and the daughter of his first love to care for.
  • Butt-Monkey: Di Yun, attacked and abused by almost every person he meets.
  • The Chew Toy: Poor, poor Di Yun. First he got framed for thief and rape, got imprisoned and tortured for years, his cellmate abuse him everyday because he mistakens him for a spy. He did escape from prison, but his life after that ain't got any better.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Qi Fang and Di Yun.
  • Damsel in Distress: Shui Sheng was captured by the Blood Sabre Elder which prompts a Rescue Arc.
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  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Liancheng Swordplay manual. It's actually a map leading to a great treasure.
  • Dirty Coward: Hui Tiegan.
  • Driven to Suicide: After years of abuse at the hand of Ding Dian, Di Yun finally snaps and hangs himself. Ding Dian saves him, though.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: The Blood Sabre Elder. Despite being a horrible villain, he is fairly popular in the 2004 TV series.
  • Faking the Dead: Qi Zhangfa, Di Yun's master. Assaulted by Wan Zhenshan, he faked his death and escaped later.
  • Greed: The central theme of the novel is how greed corrupts men into monsters.
  • Humans Are Bastards: What A Deadly Secret revolves around. From disciples murdering their own master to cannibalism, even The Cynic would find the pessimistic mood to be disturbingly strong. A notable mention is Ling Tuisi, who buries his daughter alive as a part of his scheme to gain the secret leading to a hidden treasure.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Hua Tiegan.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: the Blood Sabre Elder could slice off one strand of hair on Shui Sheng's face.
  • Karmic Death: Every character who lusted after the treasure were driven insane and killed by the poison hidden in the treasure.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Di Yun at the end of the novel. After witnessing the worst humanity has to offer, he becomes totally disillusioned with the dark nature and greed of humanity and intends to live a reclusive life with Shui Sheng and Kongxincai.
  • Last Girl Wins: Di Yun ends up with Shui Sheng, the last female character he meets.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Ding Dian. He saved Mei Niansheng and was entrusted with the Liancheng Swordplay manual. News about this soon reaches the Jianghu and Ding Dian's life goes to hell soon after. He is relentlessly hunted, is eventually captured and imprisoned for years, then finally got killed by poison.
  • Old Master: The Blood Sabre Elder, a villainous example.
  • One-Man Army: Ding Dian, he could easily kill dozens of fighters sent to interrogate him. Later Di Yun and Blood Sabre Elder could qualify.
  • Rescue Arc: A large portion of the second half of the novel is Shui Dai's attempt to rescue his daughter Shui Sheng from the Blood Sabre Elder. It ends badly for everyone involves.
  • Serial Rapist: The Blood Sabre Elder and his disciples. Di Yun got mistaken for one.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly on the Cynicism side.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Di Yun and Qi Fang. Ding Diang and Ling Shuanghua.
  • Together in Death: Ding Dian and Ling Shuanghua.
  • Took a Level in Badass: After learning the Divine Light Skill and Blood Sabre Technique, Di Yun becomes the strongest martial artists in the novel.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: between Qi Zhangfa, Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping; Mei Niansheng's three disciples. The trio murdered their master Mei Niansheng for the Liancheng Swordplay manual, which is actually a collection of Tang-Dynasty poems. A combination of numbers will reveal several sentences hiding in the text, leading to the location of a great treasure. One day the manual was lost, they suspected each other for hiding the manual. The three settled in different regions while keeping an eye on each other. Wan Zhenshan lost patience and invited Qi Zhangfa and his disciples to his manor. Di Yun was harassed by Wan Zhenshan's disciples but was saved by Yan Daping disguised as a beggar. Yan Daping taught Di Yun several advanced sword techniques and Di Yun used them to defeat Wan Zhenshan's disciples. Wan Zhenshan suspected that those sword techniques are from the Liancheng Swordplay manual and lured Qi Zhangfa to his room and killed him, imitated Qi Zhangfa's voice to make it look like an argument and Qi Zhangfa injured Wan Zhenshan and escaped. In fact, he killed Qi Zhangfa by strangling, then hided his corpse in the brick wall in his room. Unbeknownst to him, Qi Zhangfa faked his death and escaped later that night. Wan Zhenshan discovered several bricks in the wall were out of place and suspected that Qi Zhangfa was still alive, causing him nightmare everynight. Yan Daping, having successfully eliminated Qi Zhangfa by Wan Zhenshan's hand, set up shop in Qi Zhangfa's house to find the manual but without success. Qi Zhangfa kept hiding in the dark and waited until the other two have found the treasure to made his move.