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Thread: LOCH unabridged

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    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    Default LOCH unabridged

    This is a thread to collect the various LOCH translations into one uninterrupted thread for people who want to read without all the comments. It'll also make it much easier to find something and to pickup when a new translation appears.

    Again, only a moderator or translator should post in this thread. If I don't properly credit someone for their part in the translation, please PM me and I'll correct my error.

    Many thanks to Moinllieon, Foreva, Strunf, Patudo, Taihan, and Du Gu seeking a win for their hard work in translating this epic for the rest of us!



    Edit: I'd like to add SunnySnow, Traveller, Rayon, and Xuelian to the list of people to thank!
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 08-15-05 at 10:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Moinllieon)

    Chapter 1: Incidents in the Blizzard

    Day in and day out, day after day, the QianTang River majestically winds through and around Ox Village, near the city of LinAn, on its journey toward the sea. On the shores there stands 30 or so tallow trees, leaves red like the fire, yet another sign that it is now August. The wild weed and grass around the village has just started to turn yellow. The sun shines down sideways on the grass, adding even more to their bleakness. Under two giant pine trees there gathered a group of villagers, the crowd included both men and women along with more than 10 children. Every single one of them are listening to a thin old man, giving him their complete attention.

    The old man is about 50 or so, the green robe that he is wearing has been washed to a blueish-gray. He banged 2 pieces of wood together a couple of times, and with the little bamboo stick in his left hand, he started to beat on a little drum to keep pace. He started to sing:

    "The peach blossoms without fail, vast unused fields feeding the crows. After the soldiers by the well, families gather in sorrow."

    The old man banged together the two pieces of wood a couple of times more, then continued: "Old Man Yie had a wife, a son, and a daughter. They lost each other when the Jin invaded through. Finally, after much hardship and difficulty, they were able to get back together. They returned to their home to find that it was burned to the ground by the Jin soldiers. They had no choice but to head off to BianLiang (modern day KaiFeng, capitol of North Sung). 'The heavens have unexpected storms, people have unforseen misfortunes'. As soon as the four of them got to BianLiang, they ran into a line of Jin soldiers. The leader of the soldiers looked down, saw that Young Miss Yie was quite beautiful, jumped down from his horse, and grabbed her. With a laugh, he threw her onto his saddle and said: 'Pretty little girl, you are going to go home with me.' How could young Miss Yie agree? She struggled with all her might. The leader yelled out: 'If you don't stop struggling, then your family will die!' He picked up his wolf-fang-club and smashed it down on her brother's head.

    "'The nether world gains a new ghost, the real world loses one more soul.'
    "Old Man Yie and his wife fell onto their son's body and started to cry their heart out. That Jin soldier lifted up this wolf-fang-club twice more and took care of them. Young Miss Yie did not cry, she simply said: 'Sir, please stop killing more people. I'll go with you.' This made the soldier extremely happy. Just as he let his guard down, Young Miss Yie suddenly grabbed the sabre around his waist, pulled it out, and thrusted at his heart. It looks like she was about to revenge her family's death, but alas it was not to be. That soldier has had much experience on the battlefield, without thinking, he merely pushed forward very naturally, sending Young Miss Yie falling to the ground. He was just able to say: 'Little *****!' Young Miss Yie has already brought the blade to her neck. Poor her:

    "'With flower's beauty and moon's grace, such sweet soul dying sad so young.'"
    He alternates between talking and singing. Every single one of the villagers by now are all sighing in sadness and rage.

    That man continued: "Dear audience members, as the saying goes:
    "'Treat others with an honest heart, hold your head up on high in pride. If evil deeds go unpunished, only the evil will survive.'

    "Jin soldiers has conquered half of our Great Sung, killing and burning, raping and pillaging, not an evil deed left undone. Yet no punishment whatsoever seems to be forth coming. Our Great Sung's officials are responsible for this, China has plenty of healthy and available soldiers. Yet every time we go up against the Jin armies, all they do is turn around and run, leaving behind us peasants to suffer. There are stories like the one about Young Miss Yie and her family by the thousands north of the river. Living here south of the river, is truly like being in heaven on earth, only fearing the day the Jin soldiers come invading.

    "'Rather be a dog in peace, than a man in troubled times!'

    "My name is Zhang ShiWu, thank you everyone for listening to the story of 'Miss Yie, the Young Martyr'." After banging the 2 pieces of wood together several more times, he held up a tray.

    Many of the villagers placed a farthing or two in the pan, which quickly filled up. Zhang ShiWu thanked the villagers and gathered the 60 to 70 farthings into his traveling bag. He got up and started to walk off.

    A young man of around 20 years of age walked out from among the villagers. He asked: "Mr. Zhang, did you just come from the north?" The young fellow was very tall and very built with big eyes and a pair of very busy eye brows. Zhang ShiWu answered: "Yes." The young man answered: "Then let's go get a couple of drinks. I'll pay, what do you say?" Zhang ShiWu replied: "I dare not receive such a favor as a stranger." The young fellow laughed and answered: "Once we had a couple of drinks, then we are no longer strangers are we? My surname is Guo, given name XiaoTian" Pointing at a clean, white faced fellow behind him, he continued: "This here is Yang TieXin. The 2 of us were just listening to your story. As expected, it was a good story. But we still have several questions we wanted to ask." Zhang ShiWu replied: "No problem, no problem. To run into the two of you today is probably fate doing its work." Guo XiaoTian led Zhang ShiWu to one of the small wineshops in Ox Village and sat down at one of the tables.
    {That whole passage that Zhang ShiWu told was HARD as anything to translate. All the sayings, poems, and idioms just drove me up the wall! Excuse the poor excuse for poetry in the translation, but those were as good as I can get it. To think that there is plenty more where that comes from in LoCH is just great. On a completely different note, Guo XiaoTian looks a lot like Guo Jing, which seems to be obvious but they are almost identical in their description. I have never noticed that before until now.}

    The owner of this little wineshop is a cripple. Supported by two crutches, he slowly brought out 2 kettles of wine, a plate of peas, a plate of salted peanuts, a plate of dried bean curd, and a plate with three salted eggs. Afterwards, he just sat down on the stool by the door and stared at the setting sun, not even glancing at the three men.

    Guo XiaoTian poured the wine and made Zhang ShiWu down 2 shots before he began: "Here in the country, we only get to buy meat on the 2nd and the 16th, so we don't have anything to go down with the wine. Please forgive us." Zhang ShiWu replied: "At least we got wine, can't complain about that. From your accents, seems like you 2 are from up north." Yang TieXin answered: "We are both from Shan Dong province. But we moved away 3 years ago because we can't stand the Jins running loose there. When we arrived here, we fell in love with the people here and settled down. Just now you were saying that us living here south of the river is like living in heaven itself, fearing only an invasion by the Jin. Do you really think that the Jin will invade?"

    Zhang ShiWu sighed: "The gold and silver could literally cover the ground and beautiful women every which way you look, such is the richness and enchantment of the south. There isn't a day that passes without the Jin thinking about invading. But the final decision over the invasion of the Jin is not made by the Jin, but is made by the Imperial Court of our Great Sung in LinAn!" This took both Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin by surprise as they asked as one: "Why do you say that?"

    Zhang ShiWu continued: "We Han Chinese outnumber the NuZhen by more than 100 to 1. If only the Imperial Court start using honest and loyal men, 100 of us going up against 1 of them, how can the Jin army win? The northern half of our country, was literally handed over to the Jins back then by Hui Zong, Qin Zong, and Gao Zong. Those 3 emperors, from grandfather to grandson, trusted and used corrupted officials, oppressed the masses, and then they either killed or got rid of all the generals that were fighting the Jin. Such a beautiful land, and they just literally put it right into the hands of the Jin. The Jin people just respectfully accepted it. If the Imperial Court continues to do what it did, trusting and using corrupt officials, it is as if they are kneeling on the ground asking the Jin army to come. How could the Jin people refuse?" After hearing that, Guo XiaoTian couldn't help but to slam his hand down onto the table in rage. All of the cups, plates, and chopsticks on the tables jumped from the impact.

    Zhang ShiWu continued: "Thinking back, Hui Zong was all set on trying to trying to live forever, becoming immortal. He was surrounded by corrupt and useless officials: Zai Jing and Wong Yu only knew to raise taxes and skim off the top, Tong Guan and Liang ShiChen were eunuchs that only knew how to kiss up, Gao Qiu and Li BangYan only knew how to mess around and get women for the emperor. The emperor did not attend to official matters at all, if he wasn't going off to visit monks to ask for guidance, then he was traveling around in search of rare and interesting looking rocks. Once the Jins came, he became a turtle and hid in his shell, and passed the throne to his son, Qin Zong. At that time Li Gang was defending the capital BianLiang and fought off the Jin army. But who knew that Qin Zong would believe some rumors that was started by corrupt officials and dismissed Li Gang. On top of that, he did not replace Li Gang with another experienced and able general. Instead he put the defense of the capital in the hands of a self-proclaimed ambassador from the gods named Guo Jing and asked him to invite the armies of heaven to defend the city. The armies of heaven did not show up. How could we not lose the capital? At last both Hui Zong and Qin Zong were captured by the Jin army. These 2 fools had it coming and got what they deserved, but they also brought disaster to millions of Chinese peasants who did nothing to deserve it." {Note: the Guo Jing mentioned here is not the one in this book. This Guo Jing is a liar and a fool who only hastened the demise of Northern Sung. Surprisingly, all of what Zhang ShiWu says here is historical fact, it is hard to imagine anybody being foolish, let alone 2 emperors in a row.}
    Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin are just getting angrier and angrier. Guo XiaoTian said: "We have all heard about the capture of emperors, the Disgrace of the year of Jing Kang, many times. We have also heard about the 'armies of heaven' talk before, but we just thought it was a joke or some unfounded rumor. Could this possibly be true?" Zhang ShiWu answered: "Absolutely true." Yang TieXin added: "Afterwards Lord Kang declared himself emperor in Nanjing, he had under him such able and loyal generals like Yue Fei and Han ShiZhong. If he had immediately attacked north, although he might not have reclaimed all the lost lands, but recapturing the capital BianLiang should have been no problem. But that hated traitor such as Qing Gui only wanted to negotiate, turning the tables and killed our beloved General Yue." {Note: the year of Jing Kang translates to A.D. 1127. The Jin demanded that Yue Fei be killed to show that the Sung were sincere in their efforts.}

    Zhang ShiWu poured a cup of wine for all 3 of them and downed his cup in one gulp. He went on: "Beloved general Yue once said these 2 lines: 'Only aspire to eat Tartar flesh, chatting away while drinking Hun's blood.' This poem has conveyed what is in the heart of every Chinese. Ay! This traitor Qing Gui is awfully lucky. Shame that we were born 60 years too late." Guo XiaoTian asks: "What do you mean?" Zhang ShiWu replied: "Then you 2 heroes would go into LinAn and kill this traitor. Then the 3 of us would eat his flesh and drink his blood, no more need for us to come here to eat peas and drink cold wines anymore!" All 3 of them laughed heartily at that comment.

    Yang TieXin noticed that the kettle has been emptied and ordered another one. The 3 of them just sat there cursing at Qing Gui. The cripple placed another dish of peas as well as a dish of peanuts. Hearing the 3 men's spirited cursing of Qing Gui, he suddenly let out a rather loud sneer.

    Yang TieXin turned to him and asked: "Qu San, what's the matter? You don't think we are wrong to curse at Qing Gui do you?"

    Qu San, the cripple, answered: "Good cursing! Great cursing! Nothing wrong with that. It is just that I have heard that Qing Gui isn't the chief culprit in killing Yue Fei in order to negotiate peace." The 3 men asked in surprise: "Qing Gui isn't? Then who is?" Qu San replied: "Qing Gui was the Chancellor, whether or not peace is negotiated he still is and will keep on being Chancellor. But our beloved General Yue only wanted to destroy the Jin and bring back the 2 emperors Hui and Qin. Once these 2 emperors return, how do you suppose Emperor Gao Zong is going to keep his crown?" As soon as he finished saying what he said, he turned around and struggled back to that stool, and returned to staring at the sky as if in a trance. Qu San's face looks no older than 20 something, yet he is hunched over with traces of white in his hair. From the back, he looks like an old man.

    Zhang ShiWu and the 2 men look at each other in silence. After a while, Zhang ShiWu spoke up: "That is so true! Sir, you have really said something! The real culprit behind the killing of our beloved General Yue could very well not be Qing Gui, but Emperor Gao Zong. This Emperor Gao Zong is shameless to begin with, he definitely could do something like this!"

    Guo XiaoTian asks: "Is he really that shameless?" Zhang ShiWu replied: "Back when the beloved General Yue had just beaten the Jin army in several battles in a row, that along with the rebellion of our patriotic brothers in the north had the Jin army against the wall. The Tartars were just beginning to panic as to what to do when suddenly Gao Zong sent them a letter of surrender and asked for peace negotiations. Naturally the Jin Emperor was ecstatic, but he replied: 'There will be no peace negotiations unless Yue Fei is killed.' So Qing Gui went about his evil plan and our beloved General Yue was killed in the Pavilion of Changes. The beloved General Yue was killed November of the 11th year of Zhao Xing, merely one month later, peace is agreed upon. The boundary between Sung and Jin is drawn at the river Huai and Emperor Gao Zong calls himself a subject toward the Jin Emperor. How do you think the letter of surrender was written?" Yang TieXin answered: "Shamelessly, of course."

    Zhang ShiWu replied: "Of course! I happen to know what was written in the letter. It read: 'Your humble subject asks for forgiveness and mercy. If received, your subject will be forever grateful and humble sons and descendants will forever be of service to your majesty. Your humble subject also swear to give yearly tribute in the amount of 250,000 taels of silver and 250,000 bolts of silk.' Not only did he sell himself as a servant, but all of his descendants as well. His becoming a servant is really no big deal, but is that not like saying that every Chinese is their servants as well?"

    Bang! Guo XiaoTian slammed down hard onto the table again, this time tipping one of the cups over, spilling wine all over the table. In anger, he shouted: "Shameless! Disgraceful! How did this sorry excuse for a man become an emperor?" {Note: literal translation is something to the end of "From which family did the bird emperor fly out of?" Which does not really sound like what he meant, so I took some creative liberties.}

    Zhang ShiWu continued: "When our nation heard about this treaty, there was not a person on the street who was not enraged. Especially for those Chinese people north of the river Huai were even more grieve stricken because they see that our country cannot be whole. Gao Zong sees that his seat on the throne is secured, immediately rewarded Qing Gui for his 'meritorious'service. Qing Gui was already Lord of Lu, and now Gao Zong added a title of Tai Shi to his name, giving him almost supreme powers under the emperor. Xiao Zong succeeded Gao Zong, and Guang Zong succeeded him, all the while the Jin is still controlling half of China. Now Guang Zong has been succeeded by Emperor Qin Yuan, he has been on the throne for 5 years now, mostly going with what the Chancellor Han TuoZhou says. What is the future going to be like? Hehe, hard to say, hard to say!" During the last little bit, he did not stop shaking his head.

    Guo XiaoTian replied: "What's so hard to say about it? This is the countryside, not like LinAn where you might get your head cut off! There isn't a person in the world who don't call Han TuoZhou a crook! If you go by betraying the country and oppressing the people, the man is practically a sworn brother of Qing Gui!"
    Now that they are talking about current affairs, Zhang ShiWu is starting to get a little tinge of fear and dare not to criticize and talk straight from his heart as he did. He downed another cup and said: "Thanks to both of you gentlemen for the wine. May I offer a modest word of advice? I know both of you gentlemen are passionate men, but it is still most wise to be cautious in words and deeds so as to avoid any possible calamities. At this point, the most that us normal folk can hope muddle along and do the best that we can. Ay! Just like the saying:
    "Surrounded by the mountains in the halls, when will West Lake parties finally go?
    Southern fragrances intoxicates all, happily mistook HangZhou for BianZhou!"

    Yang TieXin asks: "What the story behind these 4 lines?" Zhang ShiWu answers: "There is no story. It is just saying that the official of our Great Sung dynasty only care to party and drink on the shores of the West Lake. They want to pretend that HanZhou is our capital and never bother with taking back our land and moving back to BianLiang again."

    By the time Zhang ShiWu said goodbye, he was dead drunk. As he stumbles toward BianLiang, one can hear him muttering to himself the words of "River Soaked in Red" by Yue Fei: "Jing Kang's Disgrace, still fresh in mind; people's hatred, when will it stop? I drive my cart..."

    Guo XiaoTian paid the tab and walked by home with Yang TieXin. The two of them live right next to each other, after walking a short distance, they have made it back to their homes.

    Guo XiaoTian's wife, Li, was just chasing a chicken into a little trap. Turning around, she smiled and said: "You two gone drinking again? Brother Yang, why don't you and your wife come over for dinner tonight? We are going to make a whole chicken."

    Yang TieXin smiled back and answered: "Alright, I guess we are going to inconvenience you 2 again. We have so many chickens and ducks just there to waste food upon, but we can't part with any of them." Li replied: "Well your wife is just that kind hearted. She says that she has raised these chickens and ducks since they were babies, how could she possibly kill them?" Yang TieXin laughed and replied: "I told her that I would kill them if she can't make herself, she then starts crying and sobbing. Ay! What can I do? Tell you what, tonight I'm going to go hunting and we'll invite the 2 of you over tomorrow night!" Guo XiaoTian cuts in: "We are family! Quit talking about who's inviting and who is not! Tonight we go hunting together!"

    That midnight, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin went into the woods 3.5 kilometers (a little over 2 miles) west of the village, hoping to catch a boar or something of that nature. But after waiting for more than 2 hours, nothing could be heard. Just as they were about to lose their patience, they suddenly started to faintly hear sounds of metal thumping coming from outside of the woods. They looked at each other, both wondering: "What's going on now?"

    At this moment, from afar, there came several men shouting: "Where do you think you are going?" "Stop this instant!" Then a shadow jumped into the woods. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin finally were able to see the person now that he is under the moonlight. The two of them were shocked. For this man was the crippled owner of that wineshop in the village, Qu San. He thumbed his left crutch into the ground, producing a "Zeng!" His body flew off the ground and hid behind a tree. This is a display of an incredible level of Qing Gong (lightweight martial arts). Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin looked at each other again with astonishment, both of them thinking: "We had no clue that Qu San's kungfu is this good, and we have been living here for 3 whole years!" Both of them stayed hidden in the bushes, not daring to move or come out.

    Footsteps kept on getting closer, 3 men had made it to the edge of the woods. They whispered something to each other and started to slowly walk into the woods. All 3 were dressed in military clothing, each of them had a sabre in hand. In the moonlight, the sabres gave off a faint green glow. One of them shouted: "Damn cripple! Your old man here can see you, better quickly surrender and come out!" Qu San kept still behind the tree. The 3 men started to waving their sword wildly, swinging and taking a cut at anything in their way. Very slowly, the 3 of them got closer and closer. Suddenly there came a faint thump, Qu San stabbed his right crutch out from behind the tree, hitting one of the men squarely on his chest. That man gave off a muffled groan before flying backwards and falling on the ground. The other 2 men immediately hacked down at Qu San.
    Qu San gave his right crutch a push and jumped several feet to the left, avoiding the sabres. His left crutch immediately went straight for one of the men's face. The man's kungfu was not that shabby either, he tried to parry the crutch away with his sabre. Qu San did not wait for the 2 to meet before withdrawing his crutch to support him again. His right crutch came swinging in on the other man's waist. He uses his crutches with great speed and quickness, even though he always has to use one of them to support himself, leaving only one to fight with at all times, he is not losing at all to the men. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin notices that he is carrying a huge bundle on his back, seemingly very cumbersome. After some more fighting, one of the sabres came down and hit the bundle. "Dang!" The bundle ripped and the objects inside spilled onto the ground. Qu San took advantage of his temporary distraction and smashed down hard on the head of the man with his crutch. The man fell onto the ground without so much as a whimper. The only man left is by now scared to death, he turned around and started to run. Qu San took out something from his bosom and raised his arm very quickly. A ball-like object flew through the air under the moonlight, followed by a muted thump as the object hit the back of the man's head. The man let out a ghastly scream and dropped his sabre as his arm started to swing wildly out of control. Slowly and facing upward, he crumpled to the ground. After a couple of twitches, he stopped moving.

    Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin has just witnessed Qu San kill 3 men in succession while displaying a level of kungfu that neither one of them has ever seen before. Both of their hearts are racing, afraid to even breath too loudly, for both of them were thinking the same thing: "He just killed government officials, that is a huge crime. We don't stand a chance if he finds us here and want to kill us to keep this quiet."

    Qu San turned around and slowly spoke out: "Brother Guo, Brother Yang, you can come out now!" Once the 2 of them got over the shock of it, they had no choice but to step out of the bushes, although both of them were holding their pitchforks rather tightly. Yang TieXin snuck a look over at Guo XiaoTian and the pitchfork in his hand and took 2 extra steps. Qu San smiled: "Brother Yang, your Yang Family Lance Technique (Yang Jia Qiang Fa) can be used with a pitchfork, but your adopted brother uses a pair of short halberds and the pitchfork does not fit his skills, so you step up in front of him. Such righteousness, such friendship!" Yang TieXin, hearing that Qu San spelled out exactly what he was thinking, suddenly felt very exposed and can't decide what to do. Qu San continued: "Brother Guo, let's say you had your double halberd in hand. Do you think the 2 of you together can beat me?"

    Guo XiaoTian shook his head: "No, we can't. The 2 of us must have been blind, living together with you here for all those years and not even noticing that you knew kungfu, let alone a master."

    Qu San shook his head and sighed: "I can't even use my legs, how can I be considered a master?" As if his spirits were waning, he continued: "Back then, would I have had so much trouble with several armed guards? Ay! I'm useless now! Useless!" Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin glanced at each other, not sure how to or dare to respond. Qu San continued: "Would you 2 help out this cripple and bury these 3 bodies?" The 2 of them glanced at each other again, Yang TieXin answered: "Alright!"

    The 2 of them dug a big hole using their pitchforks and tossed the 3 bodies in. While they were moving the last body, Yang TieXin notices that part of the black object was still sticking out of the back of the man's head. He gave it a good tug with his right arm and pulled it out. Turns out it an Eight Diagram made out of iron, he wiped the blood off on the body and handed it back to Qu San. {The Eight Diagram is 8 combination of 3 whole or broken lines used to in religious, mostly Taoist, ceremonies. The 8 combinations usually surround a ying-yang symbol. The flag of South Korea is very similiar except it has only 4 of the 8 diagrams.}

    Qu San took the Eight Diagram and said: "So sorry for troubling you." He puts the Eight Diagram back into his pocket. He then laid the piece of cloth that used to be his bundle onto the ground and started to put the objects that is scattered on the ground back into it. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin finished putting dirt back into the hole, turning around, they see 3 rolled up painting on the floor as well as many other bright and shiny metals. Qu San leaves out a golden kettle and a golden cup out. After putting everything else back in the bundle, he held those 2 things up to Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin, saying: "These things are stolen by me from the Royal Palace in LinAn. The emperor has done enough wrong to the peasants, taking a little bit of what he stole from the peasants isn't really a crime. Consider these 2 things a present from me."

    The 2 of them can't believe that he is actually brazen enough to break into the Royal Palace and steal. Neither one of the dared to accept his offer.

    Qu San said in a stern voice: "Are you guys scared to accept? Or do you 2 not want to?" Guo XiaoTian replied: "The 2 of us did nothing to deserve such gifts and that's why we can't accept your gifts. As for what happened tonight, you don't have to worry about a thing brother, neither one of us is going to let this secret get out." Qu San replied: "Hmph! Why should I be worried about you 2 leaking this secret? I know all about you 2 and your backgrounds, or else why would I let you 2 leave here alive? Brother Guo, you are the descendent of Guo Sheng, one of the heroes of the Water Margins of Mt. Liang. You use the halberd skill that is taught in your family, only that it is short instead of long, and 2 instead of 1. Brother Yang, your ancestor is Yang ZaiXing, one of the generals under the Beloved General Yue. You 2 are descendants of 2 patriotic heroes, when the Jin army conquered the North, you 2 began wandering in the martial world and became martial brothers. And then the 2 of you moved to Ox Village together. Am I right so far?"

    {Note: Those familiar with Heroes of the Water Margins should remember 2 characters that uses halberds that are always together: Lu Meng and Guo Sheng. The nickname of Lu Meng was "Little Vassal" while Guo Sheng's was "Benevolent Aristocrat". They joined the rebellion at the same time and is always deployed in battle in pairs. Both of them even died together, smashed by rocks while attacking an higher position during the effort to quell the Rebellion of Fang La, who is the head of the Ming Cult mentioned later on in this novel and in Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre. Yang ZaiXing was one of the most famous heroes under Yue Fei. During the 2nd Jin invasion of Southern Sung, the group of a little over 200 scouts that Yang ZaiXing led were surrounded by the Jin army of over 12000. Yang ZaiXing and his men fought to the last man, taking over 1200 Jin soldiers with them. Soon afterwards, Yue Fei lured the Jin army into engaging 800 calvary men that he himself led while his main force snuck around and attacked the Jin army from the sides. In thoroughly defeating in the Jin in the battle, Yue Fei became famous. His strategy was probably inspired by the effort, bravery, and the results of Yang ZaiXing and his 200 men.}

    The 2 of them sees that Qu San knows their past inside out, became even more shocked. All they could do was nod.

    Qu San continued: "Guo Sheng and Yang ZaiXin were both rebels before going over to the government's side to fight for the Great Sung Empire. So both of them have stolen from the thief that is the government. So tell me, are you 2 going to accept my presents or not?" Yang TieXin thought to himself: "If I refuse, then it will surely offend him." So he took the presents from Qu San's hands and said: "We are very grateful for this. Thanks."

    Qu San was pleased by this, he picked up the bundle and put it back onto his back, turning around he said: Time to go home." The 3 of them walked side-by-side out of the woods. Qu San said: "Caught a couple of prize pieces tonight, got 2 paintings by Emperor Dao Jun, and a sheet of his writing showing off his calligraphy as well. This fellow is no emperor, but his Red Green Plume and Thin Gold Form is indeed supreme in the world."

    The other 2 men had no idea what in the world "Red Green Plume" or "Thin Gold Form" is, so all they did was nod in agreement. {Red Green Plume is a style of ancient Chinese painting featuring birds and animals with emphasize on the colors of red and green, obviously. Thin Gold Form is a style of calligraphy.}
    After walking for a while, Yang TieXin spoke up: "Earlier today you said that half of our Great Sung's land is lost in the hands of Emperor Dao Jun. So what is so good about his paintings or writings? Why would brother you go through such troubles and taking such a big risk to go into the Royal Palace to steal it?" Qu San smiled: "This is something that I guess you just won't understand." Guo XiaoTian spoke up as well: "If Emperor Dao Jun can be so good at painting and writing, he must be pretty smart. Pity that he does not concentrate on being a good ruler. When I was little my dad told me that a person, no matter what he does, must concentrate on doing one thing. If he tries to learn a little bit here, do something there, in the end he will get nothing accomplished."

    Qu San answered: "For a normal person, this is true. But in this world there is someone who is a genius at everything. From language to kungfu; including writing, painting, music, and Go; from math to military tactics; even medicine, astrology, and the 5 elements; there is not a thing that he does not understand, not a thing that he does not excel in. It's just that you guys won't ever meet him." He looked up a the waning moon, and let out a long sigh.

    Under the moonlight, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin suddenly noticed tears on Qu San's face. When the 2 of them got home, they buried the 2 golden objects deep within their backyard, not even telling their wives about this. After that night the 2 of them acted as if nothing happened, living off their farm and whatever they catch, when there is spare time they practice their kungfu. Even when by themselves, neither one of them ever brought what happened that night up. The 2 of them still visit the little wineshop occasionally for a couple kettles of wine. Qu San still served the wine along with some peas, peanuts, and other snacks that helps the wine to go down. Afterwards he always goes and sits down by the door and goes into his own little world, lost in his thoughts. It was as if that night had never happened. The only difference is that when Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin look at Qu San, their eyes are filled with respect.

    Autumn slowly gave way to Winter, the days just kept getting colder and colder. One night, with the cold north winds blowing, it started to snow. The day after that it continued to snow even more. The whole sky is filled with snow flakes and the ground looks like it's covered with precious jade, white as far as the eye can see. Yang TieXin told his wife that tonight he is going to get some wine and food so that they can invite his brother and his wife over so all of them can have a nice dinner and enjoy the snow. After lunch, he grabbed 2 big bottle gourd and went off to the wineshop to get some wine. When he got there, he noticed that the door is shut tight, even the wineshop sign is taken down.

    Yang TieXin knocked on the door a couple of times and shouted: "Brother Qu San, I'm here to buy 3 kilos of wine." No response came. After waiting a bit, he called out again and still no response came. He walked over to a window and looked inside, everything in the room is covered in a thick layer of dust. He thought to himself: "Haven't came in several days, turns out that Qu San hasn't been here for several days as well. Hope nothing happened." So he had to brave the blizzard and walk to the wineshop 2.5 kilometers away in Red Plum Village to get the wine as well as a chicken. When he got back he killed the chicken and gave it to his wife to take care of the rest.

    His wife's surname is Bao, given name is XiRuo. She's the daughter of the teacher at the private school in Red Plum Village. They have been married for a little under 2 years now. She puts the chicken along with some cabbage, bean curd, and vermicelli made from bean starch (fen si) into a big pot. While the pot is boiling on top of a fire, she cutted a plate of cured meat and cured fish. At dusk, she went over and invited the Guo's over to for some wine and enjoy the snow.

    Guo XiaoTian happily came over. His wife Li is not feeling very well in the last couple of days because of her pregnancy, throwing up anything she eats, so she decided not to come over. Li's given name is Ping. She and Bao XiRuo are like sisters and the 2 of them chatted for a long time. Only after making her a pot of tea did she finally return home. When she got back she saw that the 2 men have already moved the charcoal stove onto the table to keep the wine warm. The 2 of them has already started.

    Guo XiaoTian said: "Sister, we weren't patient enough to wait for you. Please come and join us." The 2 men have always gotten along, both are also men of character, add that to the fact that in the country nobody really cares about all the rules regarding men and women meeting. So Bao XiRuo smiled and nodded, putting some more charcoal onto the stove, she picked up another cup for the wine and sat down beside her husband. She notices that there are hints of anger on both men's faces, she smiled and asked: "Something the matter again? What's gotten the 2 of you so angry?" Yang TieXin answered: "We were just talking about the ##### that goes on in the Imperial Court in LinAn."

    Guo XiaoTian added: "I was at the Joyful Rain Pavilion, the tea house at the head of the Tranquility Bridge yesterday when I heard some people talking about the the bastard Chancellor Han Zhou. Didn't sound like he was making the stuff up either. He says that no matter which official is filing a report, if the report does not have the words: 'Also present whatever to Chancellor', this bastard Chancellor does not even give the report another glance!" Yang TieXin sighed: "When you have this kind of emperor, you'll get this kind of chancellor. When you have this kind of chancellor, then you'll get this kind of official. Big Brother Huang that lives outside of Gushing Gold Gate of LinAn told me this story. One day he was cutting trees for firewood at the side of the mountain, when he suddenly saw a whole bunch of soldiers protecting a crowd of officials coming his way. Turns out that Chancellor Han Zhou was taking a sight seeing trip with all his underlings. He kept on minding his own business and went on cutting his trees. Suddenly he heard that Han Zhou sigh and say: 'The bamboo fences and thatched cottage here really do make an extraordinary country scene. Pity it's missing the sounds of chickens crowing and dogs barking.' Pretty soon after he said this, there suddenly came barking from the bushes." Bao XiRuo laughed a little: "This little dog really do know how to please." Yang TieXin answered: "It sure does, after barking for a bit, it jumped out of the bushes. What kind of dog do you suppose it was? Turns out it was our dignified and honorable Magistrate of the city of LinAn, His Excellency Zhao!" Bao XiRuo doubled over with laughter. Guo XiaoTian observed: "This little dog act by His Excellency Zhao has probably insured that he would be promoted very quickly." Yang TieXin answered: "Of course, it's only natural."

    The 3 of them drank for a while. The snow outside is coming down even harder, but with some wine in their bellies, all 3 of them felt very warm and cozy. Suddenly, from the east, there came footsteps on the road. The footsteps were very rapid. The 3 of them looked over and saw a Taoist priest.

    The Taoist priest is wearing a bamboo hat and a cape, but snow is all over his body. There is a sword on his back, the yellow thread hanging off the handle of the sword swung back and forth in the wind. Snow filled the sky, the lonely figure walking in the snow, such a grand and gallant scene. Guo XiaoTian spoke up: "This Taoist knows quite a bit of kungfu, looks like a real man of honor." Yang TieXin replied: "That's right. Let's invite him in for a couple of drinks and make friends with him." Both of them always love to make new friends, so they both stood up and stepped outside. They noticed that the Taoist is already past them by more than 20 yards even though he is only walking. Such levels of Qing Gong is rarely heard of in the world.

    The 2 of them looked at each other in astonishment. Yang TieXin yelled out: "Father, please stop!" The Taoist turned around and nodded at Yang TieXin. Yang TieXin continued: "Such kind of weather outside, Father, why don't you come and drink a couple of cups to warm up."

    The Taoist sneered and in an instant arrived in front of them. Face full of disdain, he asked coldly: "Want me to stop, what for? Be frank and tell me!"

    Yang TieXin thought the Taoist's rudeness was completely uncalled for, so he just lowered his head and didn't bother to answer. Guo XiaoTian cupped his fist and replied: "The 2 of us were just sitting by the fire keeping warm and drinking wine when we saw Father walking alone in the snow. So we boldly asked if Father to join us, please forgive us for our offenses." The Taoist rolled his eyes and said rather loudly: "Alright alright! If you want to drink then let's drink!" And he walked through the door.

    This made Yang TieXin even angrier, he grabbed the Taoist's left wrist, and with a pull he shouted: "Still haven't ask as to how to address Father." Suddenly he felt as if he was grabbing onto a slippery fish rather than a hand as the Taoist's hand escaped his grasp. He knew he was in trouble and tried to back away, but before he could, a pain shot through his wrist as the Taoist grabbed his wrist. It was as if he is cuffed, feeling both enormous pressure and heat, he hurriedly tried to struggle out of the Taoist's grasp. But his entire right arm felt lifeless and weak, with his wrist in great pain.

    Guo XiaoTian knew his adopted brother is getting the worst of it from his blood red face. He just wanted to make an acquaintance and wanted to avoid offending the Taoist, or anyone in the martial world for that matter. So he spoke up: "Father, please sit here." The Taoist sneered a couple of times more and let go of Yang TieXin. He walked to the center of the room and sat down in a rather ostentatious matter before saying: "The 2 of you are obviously from ShangDong, yet are here pretending to be farmers. Pity that your accents are still obviously of ShangDong dialect. Why would a peasant know any kungfu anyway?"

    Yang TieXin felt both embarrassed and angry as he walked into the backroom. He took out a small dagger from the drawer and hid it in this shirt before walking back out again. He poured out 3 cups of wine and toasted one for himself, all the while not saying a word.

    That Taoist just stared at the snow outside of the house with a sneer on his face, not drinking any wine nor saying anything. From the hostility on the Taoist's face, Guo XiaoTian figured that he is suspicious of any trickery in the wine. So he took the cup of wine in front of the Taoist and drank it. Then he said: "Wine gets cold very quickly. Father, let me get another warm one for you." He poured another cup for the Taoist, which the Taoist drank down in one gulp. Afterwards the Taoist said: "Even if there are knockout drugs in the wine, it wouldn't get to me." Yang TieXin finally had about all he can take: "We nicely invited you to come and have a drink with us, why would we tried to harm you? If you plan to keep talking in such a manner, then please leave now! It's not like we had sour wine and rotten food that we can't get rid off!"

    The Taoist ignored him and grabbed the wine bottle. Pouring and drinking, he downed three cups in a row. Then he suddenly took off his bamboo had and cape and threw them on the ground. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin looked him over carefully. The Taoist is about 30 or so, squared face with slanted eyebrows and a hint of redness. His eyes were bright and piercing. Next he untied the leather bundle on his back and threw it on the table. Immediately, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin jumped up. Because from the leather bundle rolled out a bloody human head!

    Bao XiRuo screamed in fear and ran into the back room. Yang TieXin felt his chest to make sure the dagger is in place. The Taoist gave the leather bundle a shake and 2 more bloody objects fell out: a heart and a liver. From the looks of them they are probably not pig heart and pig liver but very likely to be human. Yang TieXin shouted: "Taoist bastard!" as he took out the dagger and thrusted it towards the Taoist's chest.

    The Taoist snickered: "Eagle Talon. So you want to fight now?" He lightly hit Yang TieXin's wrist with his left hand. Yang TieXin felt a numbing pain in his wrist as his fingers lost all their strength. Before he knew it, his dagger has already been taken away.

    Guo XiaoTian was just shocked to see all this. He knows that his adopted brother is the descendent of a renowned hero and his family's kungfu is slightly superior from his own from their daily sparring. But it was as if he was nothing in front of this Taoist, the move that he just pulled off was obviously "Bare Hand Seizes Blade", a skill that he has only heard of in the martial world. He immediately picked up a wooden bench that he was sitting on, waiting to block the dagger when the Taoist inevitably stabs back at his adopted brother.

    But the Taoist completely ignored them. He just wildly cut the human heart and liver to pieces with the dagger. Suddenly, he let out a huge roar, so loud that it rattled the tiles on the roof. He lifted up his right hand and brought it down hard, so hard that the contents on the table all jumped at the impact. The 2 men looked over and saw he had just smashed the head into smithereens, even the middle of the table was cracked. The 2 of them were still recovering when the Taoist shouted: "Shameless scoundrels, today I will have to break the no-killing rule big time!"

    Yang TieXin couldn't be any angrier; he grabbed the iron spear that was leaning against the corner of the room and jumped outside. He shouted back: "Come on! Let's teach you a lesson in the art of the 'Yang Family Spear'!" The Taoist snickered a bit: "You think you are worthy enough to use the 'Yang Family Spear' based on all this fake bravado?" He walked out the door as he was finishing the sentence.

    Seeing the situation has deteriorated to this point, Guo XiaoTian ran back to his house and got his double halberds. When he got back the Taoist was still standing there with his sword still in the sheath and his sleeves flapped noisily in the wind. Yang TieXin yelled out: "Unsheath your sword!" The Taoist replied: "Even if the 2 of you come at me together, I would still fight you with my bare hands."

    Yang TieXin made a gesture signaling he is about to start and followed it with a "Poisonous Dragon Coming Out from the Cave". The red tassel on his spear shook, creating a huge flash of red heading towards the heart of the Taoist. The Taoist was briefly surprised and praised: "Excellent!" His body went along with the spear and dodged to the left. His left palm spun around and came up to meet the spear head in an attempt to grab it.

    Yang TieXin has worked hard with this spear since he was a little kid and fully received his father's skills. Yang Family Spear is nothing to scoff at, back then, Yang ZaiXin took a spear and 300 Sung soldiers into battle against 40000 Jin soldiers at Little Merchant Bridge. In the battle, they killed more than 2000 Jin soldiers, not to mention one Ten-Thousand-Head, as well more than 100 Thousand-Heads and Hundred-Heads. Actually, the Jin arrows came flying in like rain, as soon as he was hit by an arrow, he would break the wood part off and keep on fighting. At last, his horse got tripped up in mud and he finally gave his life for his country. When the Jin army burned his body, the amount of melted metal from the arrow heads topped an amazing 2 liters. This battle shocked and scared the Jin army and made Yang Family Spear famous in all of China.
    Although Yang TieXin is not as great as his forefathers, he does almost fully understand the spear skill inside out. So there he is, parrying, thrusting, swinging, flicking, blocking, fending, and obstructing. The point of the spear flashes silver, the tassel emits red. What a spear skill!

    Yang TieXin pulled out all the stops, the moves were swift and agile, changing and faking as if they were an illusion. But the Taoist's body followed the spear around, easily dodging forward and back, making him almost impossible to hit. After using all 72 moves of the Yang Family Spear, Yang TieXin couldn't help but get anxious and upset. He turned around and walked away carrying the spear backwards. As expected, the Taoist started to chase very close behind. Yang TieXin let out a big shout, grabbed the spear with both hands, suddenly twisted his waist and extended his arms, and thrusted the spear back right at the Taoist's face. This move was ferocious, for it is the move in Yang Family Spear that is used to break enemy formation and kill enemy generals, called "Return Horse Spear". Back before Yang ZaiXin surrendered over to the Sung army while he battled Yue Fei, he used this exact move to kill Yue Fei's younger brother Yue Fan.
    The Taoist sees that the spear has already arrived in front of him in an instant, couldn't help but praise: "Excellent move!" Smacking his hands together, he was able to clamp on to the spear point. Yang TieXin gave one mighty push, but spear did not move at all. Shocked, he tried with all his might to pull the spear back. But it seemed as if the spear is caught underneath a mountain, no chance at all of pulling it out. His face had turned red as he tried 3 times more, but the spear still would not leave the Taoist's hands. The Taoist let out a hearty laugh, suddenly his right palm came up and with the speed of a lightning, struck the handle of the spear. Yang TieXin felt the part between the base of his thumb and index finger go numb and immediately released the spear, letting it drop onto the snow covered ground.

    The Taoist smiled and said: "You are really using Yang Family Spear. Sorry for any offense. Please honor me with knowing your surname." Yang TieXin still haven't recovered from the shock of all this, so he replied without much thought: "My surname is Yang, given name is TieXin." The Taoist asked: "Are you related to General Yang, Yang ZaiXin." Yang TieXin answered: "He's my great great grandfather." (I think it is great great grandfather, not sure though.)

    The Taoist cupped his fist and saluted: "I mistook the 2 of you for scoundrels, turns out that you are descendants of patriots, please forgive me. May I be so bold as to ask this gentleman's surname?" Guo XiaoTian answered: "Surname is Guo, given name is XiaoTian." Yang TieXin added: "He's my martial brother, he is the descendent of Guo Sheng, one of the Heroes of the Water Margins of Mount Liang." The Taoist replied: "Your humble Taoist acted rashly and rudely, please forgive me." Then he saluted again.

    Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin both cupped their fist and saluted back: "No problem, no problem at all. Would Father please come in for 3 more drinks?" Yang TieXin conveniently picked up his spear as well. The Taoist smiled and said: "Of course! I just got the urge to drink it up with you 2."

    Bao XiRuo was worried that her husband might get hurt, so she stood in the doorway anxiously observing. Seeing the 3 of them stopped fighting and became friends, she felt greatly relieved and started to set the table back.

    After the 3 of them all sat down, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin asked the Taoist for his Taoist name. The Taoist replied: "My name is Qiu ChuJi...." Yang TieXin jumped up and shouted: "Ah Ya!" Guo XiaoTian was shocked as well: "Man of Eternal Spring (Chang Chun Zi)?" Qiu ChuJi smiled and replied: "That's the name that my Taoist friends gave me, I do not dare to claim such a name." Guo XiaoTian replied: "The hero Man of Eternal Spring of the All True Sect (Quan Zhen Pai), I am honored to meet your acquaintance!" The 2 of them threw themselves onto the floored and saluted.

    Qiu ChuJi hurriedly helped them up and said while smiling: "I personally killed a traitor today. The government was chasing me very closely, and you 2 gentlemen suddenly invited me in for a drink. This is the capital and neither of you are normal farmers, so I became suspicious." Guo XiaoTian replied: "This martial brother of mine always had a temper. When we entered he tried a hand at Father, that probably furthered Father's suspicion." Qiu ChuJi agreed: "How could a normal farmer be that strong? I thought that you 2 gentlemen were dogs of the government who were waiting here undercover for me. So that's why I was so rude, too rash and rude." Yang TieXin smiled and replied: "Can't blame those who don't know." The 3 of them laughed heartily. After several rounds of drinks, Qiu ChuJi pointed at the head that is now in pieces on the floor: "This man's name is Wang DaoKun, a traitor! Last year when the emperor sent him to pay respects to the Jin emperor on his birthday, this man actually started to collude with the Jins in their effort to invade the South. I chased him for 10 days before finally getting him." The other 2 men had long heard around the martial world that Man of Eternal Spring Qiu ChuJi's amazing kungfu and heroic character. Seeing his patriotism at this moment, killing a traitor for the country, they admired him even more. The 2 of them seized the opportunity to ask him some questions about kungfu, Qiu ChuJi was only too happy to help.

    Even though Yang Family Spear never met an enemy on the battlefield, but when going up against a kungfu master, it becomes rather lacking. Although Qiu ChuJi's inner and outer kungfu cannot be considered at the highest of levels, they are nevertheless at a very high level, how could Yang TieXin last up to more than 10 moves against him? Turns out that Qiu ChuJi was surprised to see his skills, so he purposely yielded in order to make him use up all 72 moves of Yang Family Spear to make sure that it is authentic. If they were really going at it, Yang TieXin's spear would have been knocked out of his hand in a few moves. At this point, Qiu ChuJi observed that Yang Family Spear was intended to be used on horseback, if used on foot, then one has to be more creative and imaginative and not just use it in a rigid fashion. The 2 men could not stop nodding upon hearing this. Yang Family Spear has always been a skill of the Yang males, so although Qiu ChuJi is very knowledgeable, he still does not fully understand the inner workings of the skill. So he asked a few questions about it to Yang TieXin as well.

    The 3 of them had their ear turn warm from the wine and were really hitting it off. Yang TieXin suggested: " We 2 brothers are really fortunate to be able to meet Father today. Father, why don't you stay a couple of days?"

    Qiu ChuJi was just going to answer before his face suddenly froze: "Someone is here for me. No matter what happens, you 2 stay inside and don't come out, understand?" The 2 men nodded. Qiu ChuJi picked up the human head, walked out of the door, jumped up on a tree, and hid among its leaves.

    Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin didn't really understand his strange actions, there were no noise whatsoever other than the howling of the wind. After a while, there came faint hoof beats from the west. Yang TieXin thought: "Father's ear is incredible." Then immediately his thoughts followed: "This Father's kungfu is amazing, but if compared with Qu San, who would come out on top?" After another while, the hoof beats got closer and closer. Finally, about 20 riders, all dressed in black, appeared out of the snow flying in the air. Galloping, they arrived in front of the door.

    The leader of the group suddenly pulled his horse to a stop and yelled out: "The footprints stop here. Looks like there's just been a fight here." Several people behind him jumped off their horses and inspected the footprints in the snow.
    The head of the pack ordered: "Search the house!" 2 more men jumped of their horse to knock on the door. Suddenly an object came flying from the trees, hitting one of them on the head. The object was thrown with such an incredible amount of force that it smashed the skull of the man. The other men all started to yell and scream as several men surrounded the tree. One man picked up the object that was thrown and yelled in shock: "It's His Excellency Wang's head!"

    The leader pulled out a sabre and let out a loud yell. Quickly 10 or so men surrounded the tree. He gave out another command and 5 men whipped out their bow and shot 5 arrows toward Qiu ChuJi.

    Yang TieXin picked up his spear and was just about to go outside and help when Guo XiaoTian grabbed him and whispered: "Father told us not to go out. Besides, if he starts having trouble with how many of them there are, then it still won't be too late for us to help." Just as he finished, an arrow came screaming down from the top of the tree. Qiu ChuJi had dodged 4 of the arrows and caught the last one, then he just threw the arrow back down like a flying weapon. With a scream of "Ah!", one of the men in black was hit and fell off his horse. His body rolled into a bush and stopped.

    Qiu ChuJi pulled out his sword and jumped down. The sword just started flashing when 2 men were hit. The leader shouted out: "Damn Taoist! It's you!" Sha, sha, sha! He fired out 3 short bows, then his ride came forth as his sabre came slashing through the wind. Qiu ChuJi's sword continued to flash in the snow as 2 more men were hit and fell off their horse. Yang TieXin was awe struck, knowing that even if he practiced kungfu for 10 more years, he still would not be able to even see the sword clearly, much less fight back. If Qiu ChuJi wasn't holding back just then, he would have been a dead man by now.

    Qiu ChuJi moved as if carried by the wind, and now is fighting the rider with the sabre. That man's sabre skill is not bad, each move, be it a parry or a slash, came out ferociously. After fighting for a bit more, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin both figured out that Qiu ChuJi was prolonging their duel on purpose as to be able to use openings and breaks to pick off the other opponents. He is doing this in order to be able to kill all the enemies, for if the leader was killed, the rest might just all turn and run for their lives, making it impossible to kill all of them.

    After some more fighting, there were only 6 or 7 of them left. The leader knew he was not good enough, so he turned and tried to escape. Qiu ChuJi reached out with his left hand and grabbed the horse's tail. With a slight pull, his body jumped off of the ground. Before even landing on the back of the horse, his sword had already penetrated the man's back all the way out of his chest. Qiu ChuJi threw down the body, grabbed ahold of the reins, and started to chase the others. Silver colored iron horseshoes danced in the snow as silver flashes of his sword danced in the air. Amidst the screams, one body followed another onto the ground. Blood stained a ground that was covered in pure white snow into a deep red.

    Qiu ChuJi stopped and looked around. Seeing only several riderless horses running off, he laughed heartily. Turning to the 2 men by the door, he waved and said: "How did you guys like that?"

    Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin had just opened the door and walked out, so they have not completely calmed down from what they just witnessed. Guo XiaoTian asked: "Father, who are these people?" Qiu ChuJi replied: "We'll know when we search their bodies."

    Guo XiaoTian searched the body of that sabre using man and found an official document. Turned out to be an order from that very Magistrate Zhao that pretended to be a dog saying that the Ambassador from Jin has ordered that the government troops and Jin troops to work together to catch the man that murdered Wang DaoKun as soon as possible. Guo XiaoTian's rage just came on when Yang TieXin yelled out. In his hand was some tags found on the bodies of some other men, the tags were written in NuZhen language. It meant that in this group of men, there were several Jin soldiers.

    Guo XiaoTian spoke up: "The enemy soldiers can do whatever they want, including capturing and killing, within our borders, and our Sung officials are actually obeying orders from their Ambassador! What kind of world is this?!"

    Yang TieXin sighed: "Even the Emperor of Great Sung has to refer to himself as an official to the Jin emperor, so it's no surprise that our officials and generals are all becoming their servants as well."

    Qiu ChuJi bitterly said: "We taoists are supposed to be merciful and benevolent in our hearts and actions. But seeing a bunch of traitors and enemies that does nothing but add to the suffering of our people, I could never be merciful nor benevolent." The 2 other men replied at the same time: "You were right to kill them! They deserved to die!"

    This small village did not have many people at all to begin with. Now with the blizzard going, nobody is coming out at night. Even if someone witnessed what just happened, they would have ran back home a long time ago. Who has guts to come out to inspect and ask questions? Yang TieXin took out shovels and hoes and the 3 of them buried all of the bodies into one big grave.

    Bao XiRuo picked up a broom and started to sweep the traces of blood on the snow. After a while, she suddenly felt the smell of blood go straight into her stomach. Her eyes went back for a second as she let out a little scream and sat down on the snow covered ground. Yang TieXin was shocked and immediately ran over to help her up, all the while asking over and over: "What's the matter?" Bao XiRuo's eyes were closed and she did not answer. Seeing her white face and feeling her cold hands, Yang TieXin just got more and more worried.

    Qiu ChuJi came over, grabbed Bao XiRuo's right wrist, and felt her pulse for a bit. Suddenly he bursted out laughing and said: "Congratulations! Congratulations!" Yang TieXin was quite taken aback and asked: "What?" At this time Bao XiRuo suddenly woke up with a "Yin". Seeing the 3 men standing around her, she can't help but get a little shy and immediately walked back into the house.

    Qiu ChuJi said with a smile: "Your wife is pregnant!" Yang TieXin can't quite believe it and asked: "Really?" Qiu ChuJi smiled and replied: "Of all the things I learned in my life, I take comfort in saying that I know a little something about only 3 things. First is medicine, I couldn't master inner strength, but came into contact with a lot of medicinal and herbal knowledge because of that. The 2nd thing is writing a couple of messed up lines of poetry. The little cat-like tricks called kungfu that I know can only be placed 3rd." Guo XiaoTian replied: "Father, if your kungfu can only be called 'little cat-like tricks', then we 2 brothers can only lay claims to 'not even rat-like skills'!" The 3 of them buried the bodies while talking and laughing. After that they went back into the house and started on the food and drinks again. With all the Jins that Qiu ChuJi killed today, all of them felt great joys and excitement.

    Thinking about his wife's pregnancy, Yang TieXin could not stop smiling. He thought: "Father here knows poetry, then that means he excels in all facets." So he suggested: "Brother Guo's wife is pregnant as well. Could we vex Father to think of two names?" Qiu ChuJi thought for a bit and said: "Brother Guo's child will be called Guo Jing, and Brother Yang's child will be called Yang Kang. It doesn't matter if they are boys or girls, they can still use these names." Guo XiaoTian replied: "Great! Father's reminding the two of them to remember the Disgrace of the Year of Jing Kang, the humiliation of the capture of the two emperors."
    Qiu ChuJi replied: "That's right." He reached into his shirt, took out 2 daggers and placed them on the table. This pair of daggers is completely the same in every way with green leather sheaths, gold hand guard, and ebony handles. He picked up one of the daggers and carved the words "Guo Jing" on the other dagger's handle. Then he carved "Yang Kang" on the handle of the first dagger. He carved with great speed and quickness, faster than most people can write. Before Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin can figure out what he was doing, he had already finished carving the words. Smiling, he said: "I do not have anything worthy with me, only this pair of daggers. Why not leave them for the two kids?" The two men thanked him and took their respective daggers. When the daggers were unsheathed, a sinister coldness came from them. Their blades were obviously very sharp.

    Qiu ChuJi explained: "This pair of daggers came into my possession by coincidence. Although they are sharp, their small design does not fit me at all. But the kids can use them to protect themselves. Ten years from now, if I am lucky to be still in this world, I would come to this place again and teach the kids some kungfu. How about it?" The two men could not be any happier and thanked him repeatedly. Qiu ChuJi concluded: "The Jins are occupying the north and torturing the people there. This situation cannot last long. Gentlemen, please take care of yourselves." He picked up his cup of wine and downed it in one gulp. Then he got up and walked out of the door. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin jumped up and tried to invite him to stay. But his steps were fast and steady as he was already very far away.

    Guo XiaoTian sighed: "Masters like him are always coming and going like the wind. We were lucky to meet him today, I was thinking of talking to him and asking for his views a bit more, but alas, it was not to be." Yang TieXin smiled and replied: "Big Brother, at least Father was able to kill so many Jins today and vented out some of our angers for us as well." He held up the dagger and unsheathed it again. Gently stroking the blade, he suddenly spoke up: "Big Brother, I have a stupid idea, tell me what you think of it?"

    Guo XiaoTian asked: "What is it?" Yang TieXin explained: "If both our kids are boys, then they will be sworn brothers. If they are girls, then they'll be sworn sisters...." Guo XiaoTian cuts in: "And if it is a boy and a girl, then they'll be husband and wife." The two of them grabbed each other's hand and laughed heartily.

    Bao XiRuo came back out from inside, smiled and asked: "What has made you two so happy?" Yang TieXin repeated what they just said to her. Bao XiRuo blushed, but she was happy in her heart as well. Yang TieXin suggested: "Let's trade our dagger right now as a pledge to the engagement. If they turn out to be sworn brothers or sisters, we can still switch back. If they are a little couple...." Guo XiaoTian joked: "Then I'm really very sorry, for both daggers would belong to my family then." Bao XiRuo laughed and replied: "You never know, maybe they would both belong to our family instead." So the two men switched daggers right there. Actually, arranging marriages before a child is born happens very often, there was nothing unusual about it.

    Guo XiaoTian took the dagger and happily ran back home to inform his wife. When Li Ping heard it she was quite happy as well.

    Playing with the dagger and drinking by himself, Yang TieXin was drunk before he knew it. Bao XiRuo helped her husband onto the bed and collected the dishes and cups. Noticing that it is quite late, she went out to the backyard and collected the chicken cages. As she was closing the back door, she suddenly saw some drops of blood in the snow just in front of the door. Startled, she thought: "So not all of the blood was taken care of. If some official sees this, then we would all be in trouble." So she hurriedly grabbed a broom and started sweeping.

    The drops of blood lead all the way to the woods behind the house. There were also traces of someone crawling along in the snow. Bao XiRuo's suspicion rose as she followed the blood into the pine trees. She arrived behind an old grave and saw something black curled up on the ground.

    Bao XiRuo walked closer for a better look. It turned out it was a corpse. The man was covered in black, obviously one of the men that came for Qiu ChuJi earlier. He probably didn't die right away after being wounded and crawled here. She was just about to go wake her husband to take care of this corpse when she suddenly thought: "What if someone came and saw him right at this moment?" So she summoned up her strength and went over to the corpse. She wanted to pull it into a bush close by and then go get her husband. But just as she gave a pull, the corpse suddenly twitched and groaned.

    This scared all the wits out of her, thinking it was a zombie, she wanted to turn around and run for her life. Yet it was as if her feet were nailed to the ground, she could not move at all. After a long wait, seeing that the corpse did not move again, she gently nudged it with her broom. The corpse groaned again, but this time much weaker. Only now did she realize that the person is still alive. She looked closer and saw that the back of his shoulder was hit by a wolf-fanged arrow. The arrow is embedded deep and the arrow shaft is covered in blood. Snow is still falling and there is already a thin layer of snow on his face. It would only be a little while longer before he is frozen to death.

    She has always been kindhearted ever since she was little. If she saw an injured sparrow, frog, or even a bug, she would just have to take it home and take care of it until it has fully recovered. Only then would she release it back. If for some reason she can't nourish it back to health, she would be unhappy for an entire day. This little quirk of hers never changed with her age and led to her house just crawling with small critters of each kind. Her father, being the time-tested country scholar that he is, gave her a name that goes along with this personality of hers: XiRuo, meaning weak-pitying. The Bao family in Red Plum Village had an unusually high amount of old roosters and hens. This is because once Bao XiRuo has taken care of a chick, she would never allow even one to be killed. If her parents wanted to eat one, they would have to go and buy one at the market. So the chickens that the family raised all lived to a very old age before dying. Because Yang TieXin loved this flower-like beauty that is his wife, he always went along with whatever she wanted. So naturally, the yard of the Yang house has become the chickens and other little critter's world as well. The little chicks have slowly grown to be adult chickens and ducks. There aren't any old chickens or ducks because she hasn't been in this house-hold for very long. But if things continue as they are, it will only be a matter of time.

    Right now, seeing this man lying in the snow about to die, her kind heart started to act up. Even though she clearly knows that this man is not good, she can't just watch him bleed and freeze to death. She hesitated for only a second before running back to the house to discuss this with her husband. But Yang TieXin was deep in his sleep because of the wine, no matter what she did, he wouldn't wake up.

    Figuring that she save the person first and then worry about the rest, she took out her husband's blood clotting powder that stops bleeding. Grabbing the small dagger, some pieces of cloth, and half a kettle of warm wine that was on the stove, she ran back to behind the grave. That man was still lying on the ground, not moving. Bao XiRuo helped him sit up and slowly poured what's left of the wine in the kettle into his mouth. She has been taking care and curing animals ever since she was little, so she has a little bit of medical knowledge. The arrow has embedded itself deep inside of him, pulling it out might cause blood to shoot out of him and kill him. But if the arrow isn't pulled out, there will be no way to start taking care of the wound. So she gritted her teeth, cut open the flesh around the wound using the dagger, grabbed a hold of the arrow shaft, and gave one hard pull. The man let out a savage scream and passed out. Blood shot out of the wound as Bao XiRuo's shirt was covered with little specks of blood, but that arrow had finally been pulled out.

    Bao XiRuo's heart was beating like crazy as she anxiously and hurriedly applied the blood clotting powder onto the wound and firmly bandaged it with the pieces of cloth. After a while, that man slowly began to come around, just that he's too weak and tired to even make a sound.

    Bao XiRuo had been scared to the point that there is no way for her to gather up enough strength to help move this man. Suddenly an inspiration came to her, she went back home and grabbed a door plank. She dragged the man onto the door plank and then pulled the door plank along the snow, as if she was pulling a sled. She pulled him back into the house and set him up in the barn. After being fully occupied for so long, only now did she get the chance to calm down. She switched out of the bloodied shirt and washed her hands and face. She poured out a bowl unfinished chicken soup, grabbed a stick of candle, and went to the barn once again to check on that man. When she arrived, that man's breathing was weak but steady. Bao XiRuo felt a little better and started feeding him the chicken soup. That man drank down half a bowl before suddenly breaking out with a violent coughing fit.

    Startled, Bao XiRuo held up the candle for a closer look. Under the candle light, she saw the man's delicate features and rather high nose bridge. Turns out he was actually a very handsome young man. Her face suddenly heated up and her left hand shook, disturbing the candle holder and several drops of wax fell onto the man's face.

    That man opened his eyes. In front of him was a face as beautiful as a flower, cheeks blushing red, and eyes like twinkling stars, filled with both sympathy and bashfulness. It was as if this was a dream as he couldn't help but become spellbound.

    Bao XiRuo whispered: "Feeling any better? Here, drink the rest of this bowl of soup." That man tried to take the bowl in his hands, but he had no strength in his hands whatsoever and almost spilled it all on himself. Bao XiRuo immediately grabbed the bowl back. At this time the most important thing is to save a life, so she fed him the soup little by little.

    After drinking all of the soup, that man's eyes slowly gained back some life. He stared at her, obviously grateful beyond words. But Bao XiRuo was getting embarrassed by the stare. So she grabbed some straw, put it on him to keep him warm, and went back into the house with the candle.

    She did not sleep well at all for the rest of the night for she had several nightmares in a row. Suddenly she would see her husband spearing that man to death. But then she would see that man killing her husband with a sabre and then start to chase her, she was surrounded by darkness and had no where to run or hide. Several times she was scared awake by her dreams, covered with cold sweat. When she woke up in the morning, her husband had already gotten up. Seeing him grinding the spear head of his spear, her dreams last night came rushing back into her mind. She anxiously made her way to the barn and pushed open the door. Even more startling, there was nobody in the barn, only a messed up pile of straws. The man had disappeared.

    She ran to the backyard and noticed the backdoor was only half-closed. The snow showed the traces of someone crawling and rolling toward the west. She stared at the traces and became lost in her thoughts. After a long while, a gust of wind came in right at her face as she suddenly felt her waist go sore and bones go soft. Sleepy, she walked back to the main room. Yang TieXin had already made some porridge and put them on the table. Smiling, he said: "See, my porridges aren't that bad after all." Bao XiRuo knows that her husband is being even more considerate because of her condition. So she smiled, sat down, brought up the bowl, and started to eat the porridge. She figured that if she told her husband about what happened last night, he would be jealous and angry and would no doubt chase the man down and kill him. Then is that not the same as killing the man? So she decided to never mention it at all.

    Winter ended and Spring returned. In a blink of an eye several months had passed. Bao XiRuo's waist slowly got bigger as she slowly began to feel more and more weary and tired. And the incident of that night when she saved a man gradually disappeared from her memory.

    On this particular day, the Yang family had just finished dinner and Bao XiRuo was sitting by the lamp as she was working on sewing a new pair of trousers for her husband. Yang TieXin was hanging up the 2 pairs of straw sandals he just finished on the wall. Remembering that he broke the head of the plough while working in the fields earlier that day, he turned to Bao XiRuo and said: "The head of the plough is broken. Tomorrow I'll go to Zhang MuEr on the east side of the village and have him add a bit of iron and take care of it." Bao XiRuo replied: "Alright." Yang TieXin looked at her and said: "I have enough clothing already. Your body is weak and is carrying a baby, you should rest as much as you can. Don't worry about making clothes for me anymore." Bao XiRuo turned her head towards him and smiled, but her hands did not stop. Yang TieXin walked over and gently took the needle and thread out of her hands. Only now did Bao XiRuo let out a yawn, blow out the lamp, and went to bed.

    At midnight, Bao XiRuo was suddenly snapped out of her dream by the sound of her husband sitting up. Faint sounds of hoof beats could be heard coming from very far away. The sound came from the west, after a while, hoof beats started coming from the east as well, followed by sounds coming from north and south. Bao XiRuo sat up and asked: "How come there are horses in all 4 directions?" Yang TieXin jumped out of the bed and started to put on cloths. Soon, the hoof beats were getting closer from all 4 directions and the dogs in the villages started to bark. Yang TieXin replied: "We are surrounded!" Shocked, Bao XiRuo asked: "What for?" Yang TieXin replied: "Don't know." He handed the dagger that Qiu ChuJi gave him to his wife and said: "Take this, to protect yourself!" He took down a spear on the wall and firmly held it in his hands.

    By now, the horse neighs and the human voices from all 4 direction were loud and chaotic. Yang TieXin opened up a window and looked outside. A group of soldiers had already surrounded the entire village with torches in hand. Seven or eight of them are galloping back and forth on horsebacks.

    The soldiers shouted as one: "Catch the traitors, don't let them get away!" Yang TieXin thought to himself: "Are they here to catch Qu San? Haven't seen him around recently. Luckily, he isn't here, or else there is no way he could beat all of these soldiers, no matter how great his kungfu is." Suddenly one of the men on a horse shouted: "Guo XiaoTian, Yang TieXin. You two traitors come out now and get what's coming to you!"

    This shocked Yang TieXin and Bao XiRuo's face turned white. Yang TieXin whispered to her: "Don't know what's gotten into the authorities, they only know how to malign us normal citizens. We won't get a chance with the authorities. The only thing we can do is run for our lives. Don't panic, with this spear of mine, I can assure you that we'll get out of here." His kungfu was good and had made a living in the martial world before, so even though he is in grave danger, he did not panic. He put the arrow bag onto his back and grabbed his wife's right hand.
    Bao XiRuo spoke up: "I'll pack." Yang TieXin replied: "Pack what? We are leaving everything!" Bao XiRuo's heart suddenly went sour as tears rolled down her cheeks. She said in the shaking voice: "What's going to happen to our home?" Yang TieXin answered: "All we need is to survive. We can start another home somewhere else." Bao XiRuo asked: "What about these little chicks and cats?" Yang TieXin sighed: "Silly, why are you still worrying about them?" After a pause, he tried to console her: "Why would the authorities bother the little chicks and cats?"

    Just as he finished his sentence, the light from the torches outside fluttered. The soldiers had just lit two thatched cottages on fire. Two more foot soldiers were heading this way with torches to light the house on fire, all the while shouting: "Guo XiaoTian, Yang TieXin. If the 2 of you don't come out now, we'll burn all of Ox Village down to the ground!"

    Yang TieXin had about all he can take, so he opened the door and walked out. He shouted at the top of his lungs: "I am Yang TieXin! What do you people want?" The 2 foot soldiers were shocked as they dropped their torches, turned around, and ran back. In the firelight, a man rode forth on his horse and shouted: "Good, so you are Yang TieXin. Come with us to the magistrate. Seize him!" At once, 4 or 5 foot soldiers ran up. Yang TieXin twirled his spear, pulled a "White Rainbow in the Sky", and swept 3 of the soldiers onto the ground. He followed it up with "Madly Deafening Spring Thunder" as he picked up a soldier by the spear shaft and threw him into the crowd. He shouted: "If you want to catch me, first tell me what crimes I committed."

    That man shouted back: "Traitor! How dare you resist arrest!" Even though he was calling names, he nevertheless feared his foe's courage as well as skill and was afraid to get any closer. Another man on horseback behind him shouted: "Just come with us to the courthouse peacefully, that way there won't be anymore punishment to add for your crimes. We have the official document for your arrest here." Yang TieXin replied: "Let me see it!" That man replied: "What about the other traitor, Guo XiaoTian?"

    Guo XiaoTian stuck half of his body out of the window with his bow and arrow and shouted: "Guo XiaoTian is here!" The arrow was aimed at the man on horseback.
    That man's heart felt all hairy as cold waves washed up his back, so he shouted: "Put down your bow and arrow, then I'll read the document to you." Guo XiaoTian viciously shouted back: "Read it now!" He pulled his bow full. Seeing that he has no say in the matter, that man brought up the document and read aloud: "Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin of Ox Village of the Prefecture of LinAn, colluded with traitors and criminals with intentions of wrong doing. Capture them and bring them in to be strictly judged by the law." Guo XiaoTin asked: "Which office issued the order?" The man replied: "Chancellor Han himself."
    Both Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin were shocked by this: "What could be so important that Han TouZhou himself got involved? Could it be that Father Qiu's actions that night were discovered?" Guo XiaoTian asked: "Who is the plaintiff? On what evidence?" That man shouted back: "We only worry about capturing you guys, if you guys want to plea your case then come to the courthouse with us." Yang TieXin shouted back: "Chancellor Han only knows how to do harm to us good honest people, everyone knows that! We won't fall for that lie!" The leader shouted in response: "Refusing arrest, that is another crime to your sheet!"
    {Actually Han TuoZhou is not as bad as portrayed in the book. Between Yue Fei's execution in 1142 and Han TuoZhou's ascension as head chancellor in 1206, the Southern Sung emperors did not once invade the Jin territories in an attempt to reclaim some lands. Only when Han TuoZhou became chancellor did another attempt was made. However, this attempt was poorly planned and general preparations were lacking, add on top of that the internal conflicts within the imperial court, it is no surprise that it failed. NingZong, the emperor at the time, and a bunch of officials favoring peace executed Han TuoZhou and presented his head to the Jin emperor as a show of their willingness for peace. This was the last attempt by the Southern Sung dynasty to drive out the Jins. So Han TuoZhuo was actually a patriot who died for his country instead of how he is portrayed in this book.}

    Yang TieXin turned toward his wife and said: "Quickly put on some more clothes. I'll go get his horse for you. Once I shoot down the leader, the rest of them will panic." The sound of bow being released was followed by a meteor-like arrow hitting the leader's right shoulder. The leader let out an "Ai-Yo!" before tumbling down onto the ground. All the soldiers shouted in surprise. Another official shouted: "Seize them!" All the soldiers came rushing forth. The 2 men were shooting arrows one after another and in an instant, they had already shot down 6 or 7 soldiers. But there were too many of them as they still managed to charge to the front of both houses.

    With a loud shout, Yang TieXin jumped out of the door with his spear making the soldiers back up in surprise and fear. He jumped to the side of an official that was riding a white horse and thrusted the spear at him. The official tried to parry with his spear.

    But Yang Family Spear was too fast, Yang TieXin's spear dove down and hit the official on his leg. He then lifted his spear up and flipped the official off his horse.
    Yang TieXin put his spear shaft on the ground and pushed off, jumping onto the horse. He squeezed his legs, making the horse neigh and gallop towards the house. Yang TieXin killed a soldier by the door with a thrust, leaned down, extended his arms, grabbed Bao XiRuo, and lifted her up onto the horse as well. He then turned and shouted: "Brother, follow me!" Guo XiaoTian was waving his twin halberds and protecting his wife as he charged out from the crowd. Seeing the ferocity of the 2 men, none of the soldiers dared to get any closer. So they started to shoot arrows at them.

    Yang TieXin made his horse run to Li Ping's side and shouted as he jumped off: "Sister, get on!" Li Ping anxiously said: "That won't be any good." Yang TieXin didn't care what she said and threw her onto the horse. The 2 sworn brothers followed behind the horse and slowly walked off while battling off the soldiers.
    After a bit of walking, suddenly loud shouting came from ahead as another group of soldiers came charging in. The two men silently groaned. As they were looking for another direction to run to, arrows started coming in from ahead. Suddenly, Bao XiRuo screamed: "Ai-Yo!" For her ride was hit by an arrow and fell over, throwing the 2 women on its back off. Yang TieXin said: "Brother, you guard them, I'll go get another horse." He charged toward the crowd of soldiers. Ten or so soldiers lined up, pointed their spears at Yang TieXin, and let out a yell together.
    Seeing the overwhelming number of enemies, Guo XiaoTian thought: "For us 2 brothers, escaping is not hard. But with enemies in front and behind, there is no way our wives could escape. It is not like we broke any laws, so going to the courthouse in LinAn to argue our case is much better than dying for no reason here. Last time Father Qiu ChuJi killed all of the men there, not a single one of them got away. Therefore nobody is there to prove we did it, so the court can't say for sure that we were guilty of anything. Besides, the 2 of us didn't kill any officials or Jin soldiers." So he yelled: "Brother, stop it. Let's go with them!" Yang TieXin was very surprised by this and ran back dragging his spear behind him.
    The leader of this group of soldiers ordered the men to stop shooting and surround the 2 men. Then he shouted: "Throw down your weapons and arrows, then your life will be spared."

    Yang TieXin spoke up: "Brother, don't fall for their lies." Guo XiaoTian shook his head for a while and then threw his twin halberds onto the ground. Yang TieXin looked over at his beloved wife and could not bear the frightened look on her face. He sighed and threw his spear on the ground as well. As soon as both of their weapons fell on the ground, 10 or so long spears immediately came and surrounded the 4 of them. Eight foot soldiers walked up and tied the 4 of them up with their hands behind their backs.

    Yang TieXin held his head up high and sneered. The leader of the group lifted his horse whip up and smacked Yang TieXin squarely on his face: "Damn traitor! Do you really want to die?" A welt appeared on Yang TieXin's face from his forehead all the way down to his neck. In rage, Yang TieXin replied: "Ok! What is your name?" That official got even angrier as his whip came down like rain: "Your old man here is Duan TianDe! Remember that? When you get to the gates of hell you can tell them all about me!" Yang TieXin did not back up or flinch at all as he just stood there staring at him. Duan TianDe continued: "I got a knife scar on my forehead and a birthmark on my face! Can you remember all that?" His whip came down some more.

    Seeing her husband being treated like this, Bao XiRuo cried out while tears rolled down her cheeks: "He's a good man and has done nothing wrong. Why are you... you beating him? Don't... Don't you know anything about justice?" Yang TieXin suddenly spit at him, hitting him in the face. Furious, Duan TianDe pulled out his sabre and screamed: "I'm going to kill you traitor right now!" He brought his sabre up and swung it down. Yang TieXin sidestepped the strike. The 2 foot soldiers at his side pushed their spears up against his sides to stop him from moving as Duan TianDe chopped down once again. With nowhere to dodge on the sides, Yang TieXin could only jump back to avoid the strike. Turns out this Duan TianDe knows a little bit of kungfu, even though he missed again, he immediately thrusted his sabre forward. The sabre he was using is saw-toothed and with his move he sawed a gash on Yang TieXin's left shoulder. He then immediately followed it with another chop.

    Seeing that his sworn brother's life is in grave danger, Guo XiaoTian suddenly jumped up and aimed his feet at Duan TianDe's face. In shock, Duan TianDe brought his sword back to parry this away. Even though Guo XiaoTian's hands were tied behind his back, his footwork was still quite formidable. So before his body fell down, he twirled his left leg and brought it back and, at the same time, sent out his right leg, hitting Duan TianDe in his stomach.

    In extreme pain and rage, Duan TianDe shouted: "Stick those spears in them! Orders from above, if the traitor resist arrest, then kill them all!" The soldiers stabbed forth with their spears. Guo XiaoTian kicked down 2 soldiers in a row, but with his hands tied behind his back his quickness was restricted as he had to jump away from spears. Duan TianDe came up from behind him and swung down hard, chopping Guo XiaoTian's entire right arm off at the shoulders. Yang TieXin was trying to struggle out of the ropes but could not no matter how hard he tried. Suddenly seeing his sworn brother wounded on the ground, a surge of strength came from nowhere inside of him. He snapped the ropes off his body, punched a soldier, grabbed his spear, and whipped out the Yang Family Spear. This time he is fighting without regards to his own life, it was as if he could take on tens of thousands of soldiers all by himself. He had just started but had already taken down 2 soldiers. Seeing that the situation has turned, Duan TianDe immediately back away. Last time Yang TieXin was holding back somewhat, not really wanting to kill government soldiers; but now he could not care less. Flicking right and swinging left, he killed several soldiers in an instant. Seeing his ferociousness, the rest of the soldiers scattered at once.

    Yang TieXin did not bother chasing them as he helped his sworn brother sit up. Blood is gushing out where Guo XiaoTian's arm was chopped off and by now his whole body was covered in blood. Yang TieXin could not stop his tears from falling down at the sight. Guo XiaoTian gritted his teeth and shouted out: "Brother, don't worry about me... leave, leave now!" Yang TieXin replied desperately: "I'm going to get a horse, and then I'm going to fight until I die to make sure you escape." Guo XiaoTian faintly replied: "No... no...." He passed out. Yang TieXin took off his outer shirt so he can bandage up the wound. But Duan TianDe chopped off his shoulder and portions of his chest as well, the wound is almost half-a-body in length, impossible to bandage up. Guo XiaoTian had slowly come to and shouted: "Brother, go save our wives. I... I can't... make it...." Before he finished what he was saying, he slumped over and died.

    The 2 sworn brothers always thought of each other as real blood brothers. Seeing his brother die like this, a phrase popped up amidst the anger and the rage in Yang TieXin's mind. It is the phrase that they said when they became sworn brothers: "Hope to die on the same day of the same month of the same year." He lifted his head up to look around. The 2 wives had gone missing in all the chaos.

    He screamed: "Brother, I'm going to avenge your death!" He grabbed his spear and ran toward the crowd of soldiers. By now, the soldiers have already line up in formation. Duan TianDe issued an order and immediately, arrows came flying out towards him. Yang TieXin did not care, knocking the arrows out of the way and charged ahead. An official swung the sabre in his hand down hard at Yang TieXin's head. Yang TieXin ducked and suddenly scrambled underneath the belly of his ride. That official was just about to turn his horse around when a spear penetrated through his heart from the back. Yang TieXin threw off the corpse and jumped onto the horse. Waving his spears around, none of the soldiers dared to come closer to battle as they started to run off.

    After chasing for a while, he suddenly saw an official running away as fast as he could with a woman in his arms. Yang TieXin jumped off his horse and knocked down a foot soldier. Picking up the soldier's bow and arrow, he aimed the best he could in the dim fire light and let loose. The arrow hit the horse's behind, making the horse kneel down all of a sudden. The 2 people on the horse came tumbling off. Yang TieXin let loose another arrow and killed the official. Running up, he saw that the woman who is now trying to sit up on the ground is his wife.

    Overwhelmed with surprise and excitement upon seeing her husband, Bao XiRuo jumped into his arms. Yang TieXin asked: "Where's our sister-in-law?" Bao XiRuo answered: "Ahead, with... with more soldiers." Yang TieXin instructed: "You stay here and wait for me. I'm going to save her." Bao XiRuo suddenly said in shock: "There are more soldiers coming from behind!"

    Yang TieXin turned around and, as she had said, there really was a group of soldiers coming this way with torches in hand. Yang TieXin gritted his teeth and said: "Brother is dead. No matter what, I have to save sister-in-law to save the Guo family bloodline. If the heavens pity us, there will be a day when we meet again." Bao XiRuo put her arms around her husband's neck and would not let go. She said in between sobs: "We'll never be apart, you said it yourself, even if we die we will die together! Remember? You said it yourself!" Yang TieXin's heart went sour for a moment as he picked up his wife and gave her a kiss. Then despite every part of his heart not wanting to, he shook free of her arms and charged forward with his spear. After charging for 10 steps he turned around and saw that his wife was sobbing in a cloud of dust and the soldiers have already arrived at her side.

    Wiping away the sweat, blood, and tears on his face, Yang TieXin threw his own life out of consideration and thought only about saving Li Ping to make sure that his sworn brother has descendants. After chasing a while, he got another horse. After grilling the official, he found out that Li was just a bit ahead. So he chased as hard as he could on the horse. Suddenly, he heard the cries and screams of a woman coming from the woods by the path. He immediately turned the horse and charged into the woods. Li had already freed her hands from the ropes and was desperately fighting off 2 foot soldiers. Being born and raised in the farms, she was very strong for a girl; so although she does not know any kungfu, her desperate fighting is quite tough to handle as well. The 2 foot soldiers were cursing and laughing at her, but still could not quite handle her at the moment. Yang TieXin did not bother to say anything and just charged up and killed the 2 with 2 thrusts. He then helped Li up onto the horse. The 2 of them rode back together, trying to find his wife. When they got back to the place where they parted ways, nobody was there. By now the sky is getting slightly brighter, so he jumped off the horse to inspect the ground. There were traces of someone being dragged away, his wife was probably captured by the soldiers again.
    Yang TieXin immediately jumped up onto the horse and gave the horse several wild kicks in the stomach. In great pain, the horse shot forward. Just as they were galloping at full speed, suddenly a bugle sounded on the side of the path and 10 or so warriors clad in black charged out. The first one lifted up his wolf-ganged-club and smashed down. Yang TieXin parried it away with his spear and answered with a thrust. That man replied by a swing of his club sideways. His club techniques were very unique, as if it isn't a skill from the Central Plains.
    When Yang TieXin and Guo XiaoTian used to discuss kungfu and kungfu techniques, they talked about one of the Heroes of the Water Margins, Thunderclap Fire Qing Ming, who used to be the best in the world in wolf-fanged club techniques. But outside of him, it was very rare to meet someone in the martial world who uses this weapon. This was because the sheer weight of the weapon required that the user had to have enormous upper back strength. However, the Jin army loved to use this weapon. This is because the Jin people lived in the freezing cold climate of LiaoDong, so they were all very strong. When using this weapon in the battlefield, its heaviness gave them a distinctive advantage. Back when the Jins invaded and defeated the Song armies using the wolf-fanged club, in the rage and anger of the peasants and farmers, suddenly a joke went around. Someone, A, said: "What's so scary about the Jin army? For any one thing they got, we have one thing to counter them." Another person, B, responded: "They got Akutta." A replied: "We got Protector Han." B went on: "They got Crippled Horse." A replied: "We got Thin Coarse Sabre."
    B said: "They got wolf-fanged club." To which A replied: "We got the crown of our heads." Meaning when that wolf-fanged club comes down, the farmers of Song could only meet it with the top of their heads. This joke is actually filled with bitterness and anger.

    So now Yang TieXin has fought several exchanges with this man with the wolf-fanged club. Remembering his discussion with Guo XiaoTian, he became more and more suspicious. From the moves and techniques of this man, it was obvious that he was a Jin army official. What's he doing here? Several more exchanges passed when he suddenly quickened his spear moves and stabbed the man off his horse. The rest of them turned around and ran in shock.

    Yang TieXin turned around to check up on whether or not Li was hurt in that last fight. Suddenly a sniper arrow was shot out from the woods. It caught Yang TieXin by surprise and hit him from the back. In utter panic, Li shouted: "Brother Yang, arrow! Arrow!" Yang TieXin's heart went cold: "So this is when and where I die! But I have to at least disperse these bastard soldiers before I die, that way Sister-in-Law can get away." So he waved his spear wildly and charged straight at an area crowded with soldiers. But the pain from the arrow on his back was too much as his eyes went black and he fainted.

    Back when her husband pushed her off, Bao XiRuo felt as if her heart had been shredded. In a blink of an eye the soldiers had made it to her side. By the time she tried to run away, she was already tied up and thrown onto a horse. One of the army officials brought a torch up to her face and gave her a good look-over. Nodding, he said: "Hard to believe those two bastards can actually do a thing or 2, wounded so many of our men." Another official smiled and said: "Well, finally we can call it a wrap and a job well done. After all that trouble, I would have to say that everyone deserves at least more than 10 taels of silver each." The first official replied: "Hmph! Just hope the higher ups don't take it all for themselves." Turning around, he instructed the bugler: "Let's head back!" The bugler brought up his bugle and blew several notes. Bao XiRuo could only sob because all she could think about was her husband and whether or not he's still alive. By now the sky has brightened up somewhat as people are slowly appearing on the path. Seeing a group of army men, all of the farmers quickly got out of the way as far as they could. At first Bao XiRuo was worried that the soldiers might get ideas about her, but surprisingly, these men actually were polite in their actions and words, so she slowly stopped worrying about it.

    After several kilometers, shouts suddenly came from ahead as 10 or so armed men dressed in black came charging in from the side of the path. The leader of the group yelled: "Shameless scums! Killing good innocent people! Come down here at once and get what's coming to you!" The leading official was furious and shouted back: "Who do you think you scums are, making trouble here in the outskirts of the capital? Get out of the way now!" The gang of men in black did not reply as they charged into the soldiers. Even though there were more soldiers, the men in black were all well versed in kungfu, so neither side seemed to have gained an advantage at this moment.

    Bao XiRuo was silently excited as she thought to herself: "Maybe Dear Tie's friends heard the news and came to rescue us." In the chaos of battle an arrow came flying in and hit the butt of the horse she was on. Driven by the pain, the horse ran off as fast as it could to the north.

    {Here's something to think about, the first time I read this part I missed it but now I get it: she was obviously not riding in the front of the group of soldiers (because it just doesn't make sense to put a person that might run away in front of everyone else, that's like giving them a head start) and the men in black came charging in from the front, yet the arrow that hit her horse had to have came from behind. So doesn't that seem rather fishy to you guys as well?}

    In utter shock, Bao XiRuo grabbed ahold of the horse's neck with both arms in fear of falling off. Sounds of hoofbeats came as another horse came chasing up from behind. In an instant, a black horse came over her. The man on the horse twirled a lasso in the air a couple of time and skillfully tossed it around her horse's neck. The 2 horses galloped side-by-side. The man slowly shortened the lasso and the 2 horses gradually slowed down. After several more steps, the man whistled and the black horse immediately stopped dead in its tracks. Because of the lasso, Bao XiRuo's horse could not continue forward and stood up on its hind legs, neighing loudly.

    Bao XiRuo has been worn out by the events of the night. In a mixture of sadness and horror, she could no longer hang on to the reins. She fell off the horse and fainted.

    After sleeping for what seemed like forever, she slowly woke up. It felt like she was sleeping on a very soft and comfortable bed with a thick cotton quilt over her, she felt warm all over. She opened her eyes and the first thing that she saw was the green colored canopy of the bed, it turns out she really was sleeping on a bed. A lamp was lit on the table by the bed and it seemed like there was a man dressed in black sitting by the bed. Hearing her turn, that man immediately stood up, parted the bed curtains, and quietly asked: "Are you awake?" Bao XiRuo haven't completely recovered all of her consciousness, all she could tell was that this man was somewhat familiar. That man placed his hand on her forehead and gently said: "Still very hot, don't worry, the doctor will be here soon." In a daze, Bao XiRuo slowly fell back asleep.

    After a while, it seemed like a doctor was examining her and then someone was feeding her medicine. Yet all she could do was sleep. She snapped out of her dream and screamed: "Dear Tie! Dear Tie!" This was followed by someone patting her softly on the shoulder and gently consoling her.

    The next time she woke up was in the middle of the day and she couldn't help but groan. A person walked up and parted the bed curtains. This time they faced each other, Bao XiRuo saw the face clearly. She was shocked, for this handsome, smiling man in front of her was that very man she saved from certain death in the snow several months ago.

    Bao XiRuo asked: "Where am I? Where's my husband?" That young man shook his hand, telling her not to be loud, and then lightly replied: "The soldiers are looking all over the place outside, right now we are borrowing a room at a farmer's place. So very sorry, I had to lie and say that I am your husband, please don't accidentally tell them the truth." Bao XiRuo blushed and nodded, but she asked again: "Where's my husband?" That man answered: "Your body is very weak right now. After you get better, then I'll tell you everything."

    Bao XiRuo was shocked, from his tone of voice, it seemed like something has happened to her husband. She grabbed the corner of her quilt tightly with both hands and asked in a shaking voice: "He... What... What happened to him?" That man only replied: "Worrying will get nothing accomplished now, the most important thing is your health." Bao XiRuo kept on asking: "Is... Is he dead?" The man's face showed that he realized he had no choice in the matter as he gently nodded: "Mr. Yang was killed by those bastard soldiers." He shook his head and sighed. Bao XiRuo felt as if her heart was being stabbed as she fainted. When she came to after a long time, she started to cry her eyes out.

    That man gently consoled her. In between sobs, Bao XiRuo asked: "He... How did he died?" That man replied: "Was Mr. Yang a tall, broad-shouldered man around the age of 20, and uses a spear as a weapon?" Bao XiRuo answered: "Yes, that's him." That man answered: "Earlier today I saw him fighting with several soldiers, killing a couple of them. But... ay! But one of the army officials snuck behind him and stabbed him squarely in the back with his spear."

    Bao XiRuo fainted again. She did not drink nor eat for that entire day as she felt obligated to die with her husband. That man didn't force her either as he just talked to her in a very gentlemanly manner to keep her company. As this continued Bao XiRuo started to feel as if she was neglecting him, so she asked: "What is your name? How did you know that we were in trouble and came to help?" That man replied: "My surname is Yan, given name is Lie. I and some of my friends were just passing by here yesterday when we saw soldiers causing trouble. We didn't like what we saw so we decided to help. Who knew that I would end up rescuing my savior. It was as if we destined to meet like this."
    Hearing the words "destined to meet", Bao XiRuo's face turned a little red as she tried to ignore him by turning to face inward. She thought about all this in her head a bit. Suddenly something suspicious popped up in her mind as she found a hole in his story. She turned and asked: "Were you on the same side as the soldiers?" Yan Lie was shocked: "Wh... What?" Bao XiRuo explained: "Back on that day weren't you with the soldiers that tried to catch that Taoist Priest? That's why you were injured right?" Yan Lie answered: "Such bad luck on that day. I came from up north and was heading for LinAn, passing by your village. Who was to know that an arrow was going to come out of nowhere and hit me on the shoulder. If it wasn't for your benevolent heart and kindness I would have really died without even knowing why or how. Why were they after that whatever Taoist Priest anyway? Taoist Priests gets catch ghosts, but soldiers catch Taoist Priests, what kind of logic is that?" When he got to here he couldn't help but laugh a little.

    Bao XiRuo observed: "Oh, so you were just passing by and not with them. I thought you were one of those people that was there to catch that Taoist. I really didn't know whether or not I should have saved you." She then went on to explain of why the soldiers were there and how Qiu ChuJi killed them all.
    After talking for a while, Bao XiRuo suddenly noticed that he was staring at her with a trance-like gaze and immediately stopped talking. This snapped Yan Lie out of his trance, he smiled and said: "Sorry. I was just thinking about how we can escape without being caught by the soldiers."

    Bao XiRuo started to cry and replied: "My... My husband is gone now, how can I live on? Why don't you just escape by yourself and not worry about me?" Yan Lie replied with a straight face: "Madame, your husband was murdered by those bastard soldiers, his death has not been revenged for. Yet you are not trying to bring the culprits to justice and is only seeking death. Your husband was a hero among men when he was alive, I'm afraid he won't rest in peace when he finds out about this in the netherworld."

    Bao XiRuo replied: "I'm only a weak female, how can I possibly avenge his death?" In anger, Yan Lie replied: "Madame's burden, I will gladly take upon my shoulders. Do you know who the culprit is?" Bao XiRuo thought for a bit and answered: "The leader of the soldier's name is Duan TianDe. He has a knife scar on his forehead and a birthmark on his face." Yan Lie replied: "With a name and a way of recognizing him, no matter how far away he runs off to, we have to bring him to justice!" He went outside and came back with a bowl of porridge with some salted eggs. He spoke up: "If you don't take care of your health, how can you get your revenge?" Bao XiRuo thought what he said made some sense, so she took over the bowl and started to slowly eat its contents.

    The next morning, Bao XiRuo arranged her cloth and got off of bed. She brushed her hair properly against a mirror, found a piece of white cloth and placed a white flower in her hair to pay respects to her husband. What she saw in the mirror was a beautiful woman in the prime of her life, yet her husband had already left her behind. Overwhelmed by sadness and loneliness, she put her head down and started crying. Yan Lie walked in and saw her. He said softly: "The soldiers are gone now, let's go." Bao XiRuo followed him out. Yan Lie gave a bit of silver to the master of the house and then led the 2 horses over. The horse that Bao XiRuo had ridden on was hit by an arrow, but Yan Lie had taken care of the wound.
    Bao XiRuo asked: "Where do we go to now?" Yan Lie gave her a look, signaling her not to talk so much in front of others. He helped her onto the horse and the 2 of them rode side by side northward. After riding for over ten kilometers, Bao XiRuo asked again: "Where do we go to now?" Yan Li replied: "Let's find a place where we can settle down for a while and wait out this storm. After the soldiers stop looking for us and let their guards down, then I'll go and find your husband's body so we can give him a proper burial. After that I'm going to find that bastard Duan TianDe and kill him."

    Bao XiRuo has a very tender and selfless personality, rarely does she come up with ideas of her own. Besides, right now she's all by herself in the world, seeing that he has it all figured out, she could not help but be touched. She said: "Mr. Yan, how... how will I ever be able to repay you?" Yan Lie confidently replied: "Madame, this life of mine was saved by you. So even if I have to jump into boiling oil or be smashed into dust, I would serve you for the rest of my life." Bao XiRuo replied: "I only hope that we can avenge my husband's death and kill that evil Duan TianDe as soon as possible so I can join him on the other side." When she thought to here, tears started to roll out of her eyes again. The 2 of them rode for the rest of the day and then stopped at a little hotel in ChangAn for the night. Yan Lie put the 2 down as a couple and got one room. Bao XiRuo could not help but feel that there is something wrong about this. So she did not utter a word during dinner as she secretly touched that dagger that Qiu ChuJi gave her to make sure it's there. She made up her mind: "If he gets the slightest bit of ideas, I would kill myself right there on the spot."

    Yan Lie instructed the floor manager to bring him 2 bundles of straws into the room. He waited until the floor manager left before locking the door up and laying out the straws on the floor. He lied down on the straws and covered himself with a felt blanket. He turned to Bao XiRuo: "Goodnight Madame." And then he closed his eyes.

    Bao XiRuo's heart was beating a mile a minute. Remembering her dead husband, she felt all torn up inside. She blankly sat there for over an hour before finally sighing and blowing out the candle. Still clutching the dagger tightly, she climbed into the bed with her cloths on.

    When Bao XiRuo woke up the next day, Yan Lie had already packed and readied everything, not to mention instructing the floor manager to get some breakfast ready. Bao XiRuo was very thankful for his gentlemanly actions and let most of her guard down. By the time she ate breakfast, she noticed that it was a dish of chicken fried noodles, a dish of ham, a dish of sausages, a dish of smoked fish, and a small pot of deliciously smelling rice and stalk gruel. She was raised in a moderately well off family, even after marrying into the Yang family, she had always had a life of normal farmer. Usually, breakfast for her is a couple of salted vegetables and half a salted egg. Other than New Years and weddings, she had never eaten such delicacies. So she felt quite uncomfortable during all of breakfast.

    Once she finished eating, the floor manager came in with a bundle. By now Yan Lie had left their room. Bao XiRuo asked: "What is this?" The floor manager replied: "Mister went out as soon as the sun rose and bought a change of clothing for Madame. He told me to ask you to change into it." Once he finished he put down the bundle and left. Bao XiRuo opened the bundle and was shocked. It was a completely white mourning dress made out of silver with matching white socks, shoes, inner garments, and jacket, as well as matching scarf, bandanas, and other accessories. She thought: "So hard for a young man like him to think of everything." When she changed into the clothing, the thought that Yan Lie bought these himself made her blush. She had left the house in a hurry in the middle of the night, so her clothing was not very neat to begin with, then after a whole night of misadventures, she was covered in dirt and sweat. Now that she had brushed up somewhat, her spirit picked up somewhat as well. When Yan Lie returned, she noticed he had changed into colorful and expensive attires as well.
    The 2 of them got on the way again. Sometimes one of them rode in front while the other one followed, other times they rode side-by-side. The season of Spring was in its full glory south of the the Yangtze, willows brushed people's shoulder on the road, flower fragrances filling the air and people's hearts, and plants were starting to sprout in the farms.

    In order to distract her thoughts and lessen her troubles, Yan Lie kept on talking to her about varies random subjects. Bao XiRuo's father was an unaccomplished scholar in a little village, her husband and his sworn brother were both straightforward and unrefined men. So she had never met someone as refined, gentlemanly, and knowledgeable as him. When they talk she felt that every word, every sentence that he said was greatly intelligent and thought-provoking, she could not help but secretly look at him in wonder. However, they kept on heading north and getting further and further away from LinAn, not only did he never once mentioned about revenge, he did not even bring up the subject of a proper burial for her husband. Finally, she could not keep it in anymore and asked: "Mr. Yan, what are your plans regarding my husband's body?"

    Yan Lie relied: "It's not that I don't want to search for your husband's body and give him a proper burial but I killed government officials when I rescued Madame, so right now it is very dangerous for me there. As soon as I show myself around LinAh, I would no doubt be killed by soldiers. Besides, right now the soldiers are all over the place looking for Madame. After all, your husband did commit treason by killing officials, this is a huge crime. If his relatives are captured, men are executed and women are made into prostitutes for the soldiers. Dying for me is no big deal, but if nobody was around to protect Madame and the soldiers catch you, I could not bear and think of the consequences. Even in the nether world, I would be saddened beyond my own imagination." Seeing how honest and sincere he looked, Bao XiRuo nodded. Yan Lie continued: "I have thought this over thoroughly, the most important thing right now is to give you husband a proper burial. So we are going to JiaXing, then I can take out some money and get someone to take care of it at LinAn. If Madame has to do it by herself, then let me settle you down in JiaXing and take the risk by myself." Bao XiRuo felt she was asking a bit too much to ask him to take such a big risk for her and replied: "If Mister can find someone reliable to take care of the whole matter, then that would be for the best." She continued: "My husband had a sworn brother with the surname of Guo, he died with my husband. I am sorry to trouble you by asking you to try to give him a proper burial as well. I... I...." She started crying.
    Yan Lie replied: "It's no trouble at all, just leave it all to me. As for revenge, that bastard Duan TianDe is a government official, so killing him is not easy. Besides, he is extra careful right now, all we can do is patiently wait for our chance." Bao XiRuo only wanted to kill him to avenge her husband and then follow him into the nether world. Even though Yan Lie's every word was true, she didn't know how long she would have to wait for this to happen. In a moment of impatience, she started to sob loudly. In between sobs, she replied: "I really don't know about revenge. Even a hero like my husband could not defeat him. I... I'm just a weak woman, what... what can I do? Just let me die and join my husband and that'll be that."

    Feeling that the situation was truly difficult, Yan Lie thought for a long while before finally saying: "Madame, do you trust me?" Bao XiRuo nodded. Yan Lie continued: "The only thing we can do now is to head up north to avoid the soldiers. The Song officials can't chase us if we are up north. So as soon as we cross the Yangtze, we should be out of danger. We'll wait until things have cooled down before returning down south and avenge your husband. Madame, please rest assured. I will take care of this whole matter of justice for your husband."
    Bao XiRuo hesitated: "I am homeless without any relatives in the world, if I don't follow him, where can a woman like myself settle down in this world? The faces of the soldiers that night were beastly, if I had fallen into their hands, I would definitely suffer a fate worse than death itself. Yet this man is not a friend nor a relative, should a widow like me be traveling together with a young man like him? If I tried to kill myself right now, he would without a doubt stop me." She felt lost, the only thing she was sure of is that the future will be difficult. Thinking forward and looking back like this, she felt as if her intestines were being twisted. For several days straight now she had shed tears and now it seems as if she has ran out of tears to shed.

    Yan Lie spoke up: "If Madame feels that any part of my plan is bad, then please tell me. There is nothing I wouldn't do for you." Seeing how accommodating he is, Bao XiRuo actually felt a little bad about hesitating. Other than committing suicide, she really could not find another way out. Having no other choice, she lowered her head and replied: "Why don't you take care of it."

    Yan Lie could not be happier: "I will forever be grateful that Madame saved my life. Madame...." Bao XiRuo interrupted him: "You don't have to mention that matter ever again." Yan Lie replied: "Yes, yes of course."

    That night, the 2 of them stopped at an inn in the town of XiaShi, still only getting one room. Ever since Bao XiRuo agreed to go up north with him, Yan Lie's actions have not been as gentlemanly and proper as before, for once in a while, his excitement would get out of hand. Bao XiRuo felt an indistinct notion that something might not be appropriate. But seeing that he had not shown even the slightest trace of getting any ideas, she figured that he must be a little too excited about being able to fully show his gratitude.

    The 2 of them reached JiaXin at noon the next day. JiaXin is a big city in the western parts of ZheJiang. Since this was the place where many trade routes come together, it had always been a very prosperous place. When the Song dynasty moved south, JiaXin had also become much closer to the capital, thus becoming even more prosperous and bustling.

    Yan Lie suggested: "Let's find an inn and rest up for a bit." Bao XiRuo was worried about soldiers finding them and said: "It's still early, we can still cover some ground." Yan Lie replied: "The stores here aren't half bad. Madame's clothing is old and worn, have to buy some new ones." This surprised Bao XiRuo as she took a moment to recover and replied: "Didn't you just buy this yesterday? How is it already old and worn?" Yan Lie answered: "There were alot of dust on the way, after wearing the same clothes for a couple of days it is no longer colorful anymore. Besides, as beautiful as Madame is, how can Madame possibly not wear the best clothing in the world?"

    Hearing him praising her beauty, Bao XiRuo was secretly happy inside, but she lowered her head and said: "I am in the middle of paying my respects...." Yan Lie immediately cut her off: "Yes, of course. I understand." Bao XiRuo did not say anything more. Her husband had never praised her beauty to her face like this before, she peeked over at Yan Lie and saw only sincerity on his face. At once her heart shook, but she couldn't figure out if it was from happiness or sadness.
    Yan Lie asked around and went to the biggest hotel around, "Elegant Waters Hotel". After washing up, the Yan Lie and Bao XiRuo ate some snacks together, sitting across from each other. Bao XiRuo wanted to ask him for a separate room but didn't know how to word it. Her face changed colors several times for this was a heavy burden on her heart. After a bit, Yan Lie spoke up: "Madame, please make yourself at home. I'm going out to buy some things and coming right back afterwards." Bao XiRuo nodded: "Please don't spent too much money." Yan Lie smiled and replied: "Pity that Madame is wearing mourning apparel and can't wear any jewelry. Even if I want to spend too much I can't."
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 03-21-05 at 08:04 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Moinllieon)

    Chapter 2: Seven Weirdos of the South

    Just as Yan Lie walked out of the door, he saw a middle aged scholar walking this way in the hallway, dragging his boots and yawning constantly; he was sort of smiling but not really and kept on giving him curious looks, all the while looking very slack and lazy. He was covered with dirt and oil and his clothings were a mess, obviously haven't took a shower in a long time. He had an old and broken black oil paper fan in hand that he was fanning as he was walking.

    Seeing such an obviously refined scholar looking so dirty, Yan Lie frowned and picked up his pace in fear of getting some dirt on himself. Suddenly that scholar began laughing very drily, a laugh that was very harsh to the ear; when walking by him, he naturally reached out with his fan and patted Yan Lie on the shoulder. Even though Yan Lie knew kungfu, he was not able to get out of the way in time, this set him off and he shouted: "What do you think you are doing?"

    The scholar laughed drily a bit more as he kept on walking, dragging his boots all through the hallway and said to the manager: "Hey, fellow, even though your old man here is looking really rough, I have lots of money. Some people you have to watch out for though, they trick people with their nice and refined looks. They put up a show to everyone, seducing women, eat free food, live in hotels for free, you know the type, so be on the lookout for them. To be safe, make them pay the bill beforehand." He didn't wait for the manager to respond before walking off, still dragging his boots. Yan Lie got even madder, knowing that that whole talk was aimed at him.

    After that little comment from the scholar, the manager turned his sights towards Yan Lie as he couldn't help but get a little suspicious; walking up to Yan Lie, he yawned a little, smiled and said: "Sir, please don't mind too much, it's not that I want to be impolite...." Yan Lie knew what he meant as he humphed and replied: "Put this money on the drawer!" He put his hand into his shirt to take the money out and was shocked. There was at least 40 or 50 taels of silver on him, but nothing was there now that he was looking for it. The manager saw the expression on his face and actually thought that the scholar's words were true, immediately his expression became less polite as he thrusted his chest out and asked: "What? No money?"

    Yan Lie replied: "Wait here, I'm going to get some right now." He thought that he had forgot his money while he was in a hurry to leave; but as it turns out when he went back and looked into the bag that he had with him, all the taels of gold was gone as well. As to where this money went off to, he had no idea at all; he thought: "Just a bit ago Madame Bao and I both went to the water closet, but that was only several minutes or so, how could anyone have entered and mess around with the room? The thieves here in JiaXin are really getting good."
    The manager stuck his head in through the door and looked around, seeing that he does not have any money, he went off: "Is this woman your wife? If you're doing something indecent, then don't bring it here because it'll bring us trouble as well!" Bao XiRuo was thoroughly embarrassed as her entire face turned burning red. Yan Lie took one quick step towards the door and swung his arm, slapping the manager so hard that his face was covered with blood and lost several teeth. The manager had his face in his hands as he began to scream: "Alright! First you don't pay, now you want to fight!" Yan Lie added another kick on his behind and the manager went rolling out of the room.

    In shock, Bao XiRuo suggested: "Let's get out of here, we can't stay here anymore." Yan Lie smiled: "Don't worry, if we don't have any money then we'll just ask them for some." He grabbed a chair and sat down by the door. Not long afterwards, the manager came back with 12 or so men, each with clubs and sticks in hand as they charged into the yard. Yan Lie let out a big laugh and shouted: "So you guys want a fight?" He suddenly jumped out and conveniently grabbed a stick from one of the men; faking left and hitting right, in a blink of an eye he had already knocked 4 or 5 men down. These ruffians usually only get by using intimidation and bullying the weak, but seeing that this time the opponent was actually a match for them, they immediately threw down their weapons and scrambled out of the yard; those who were on the ground were crawling and rolling with all their might in fear of being left behind.

    Bao XiRuo, who had been scared out of her mind a long time ago, said in a shaky voice: "Things are getting out of hand, the authorities might catch wind of this." Yan Lie smiled and replied: "I want the authorities to show up." Bao XiRuo could not figure out his plan, so she decided to stay quiet and see.

    After not even an hour's time, a ruckus occurred outside as 10 or so government henchmen came bursting in with iron sabres in hand, the rings on the sabres were banging against each other, making all kinds of noise; they shouted up above the cacophony: "Not only kidnapping, but assault as well, how dare he? Where is the perpetrator?" Yan Lie sat there motionless in that chair. Seeing his fancy cloth and his proud arrogance, the henchmen didn't really dare to charge up. The leader of the bunch shouted: "Ay! What's your name? What are you doing here in JiaXin?" Yan Lie shouted back: "Go get Gai YunCong!"

    Gai YunCong was the governor of the prefecture of JiaXin, hearing that he dared to speak their boss's name directly, the henchmen were both shocked and furious, the leader shouted: "Are you crazy? How dare you shout the Honorable Governor Gai's name in public!" Yan Lie took out an envelope from inside his shirt and put it down on the table, he looked up at the ceiling and said: "Take this to Gai YunCong and see if he comes or not!" The leader took the envelope, seeing the words on the envelope, he took a step back in shock; not sure if it was real or not, he whispered to the other henchmen: "Look after him, don't let him get away." He then went flying off. Bao XiRuo just sat there in the room nervously, not knowing what will happen next.

    Soon another 10 or so government henchmen came running in, along with them walked in 2 men wearing official uniforms who scrambled in front of Yan Lie and kneeled while saying: "Humble Governor Gai YunCong of the city of JiaXin and Administrator Jiang Wen of the county of XiuShui are honored to meet your excellency. Your humble servant did not know that your excellency had arrived, so please forgive us for not welcoming you properly." Yan Lie waved his hand a little and shifted his weight slightly: "I lost a little bit of money in this county and would like to request you 2 genius judges to investigate the matter a little." Gai YunCong immediately nodded: "Yes, of course." He then waved his arm, 2 of the henchmen came walking up with a plate in each of their hands, one of them was glowing yellow because of the gold on it, the other one, needless to say, had silver on it.

    Gai YunCong spoke up: "To think that there are such brazen thieves under my jurisdiction, it is my fault as well. Hope your excellency would first accept this as a slight compensation." Yan Lie smiled and nodded. Gai YunCong reverentially held up that envelope and said: "Your humble servant had just cleaned up my humble dwellings and would be honored if your excellency and madame would move in there." Yan Lie replied: "This place isn't too bad, I like the peace and quiet here," his face suddenly darkened, "don't come around disturbing us anymore." Gai YunCong immediately nodded and said: "Yes, yes of course! If your excellency still want anything, then please do not hesitate at all to come and tell your humble servant." Yan Lie did not reply, only shaking his head and waving his arm repeatedly. The 2 men quickly led all the henchmen away.

    The manager had long been scared out of his wits as the owner of the place dragged him out, kneeled down, and kowtowed in order to ask for mercy on them both, saying that as long as they are left alive, they are willing to whatever other punishment that might come their way. Yan Lie took out an ingot of silver from the plate, threw it down on the floor, and said smiling: "Take it, it's a reward. Now get out of my sight." The manager couldn't quite believe it all, but the owner saw that Yan Lie had no ill will on his expression, so he immediately picked up the ingot of silver, kowtowed a couple of times, and dragged the manager out of sight in fear that Yan Lie might change his mind.

    Bao XiRuo could not quite believe what she just saw either: "What kind of magic does that envelope have? How come when the authorities were scared out of their wits when they saw it?" Yan Lie smiled: "I actually have no power over them really, but these officials are just hopeless. Zhao Kuo only has this kind of people serving him, if he doesn't lose the country, then there is no justice in the world." Bao XiRuo asked: "Zhao Kuo, who is that?" Yan Lie casually replied: "The present Song Emperor Ning Zong." Shocked, Bao XiRuo immediately admonished: "Quiet! How can you say His Majesty's name out loud like that?" Seeing that she cared about his safety, Yan Lie was ecstatic; smiling, he said: "It's no big deal if I say it out loud. Up north, what do we call him if we don't call him Zhao Kuo?" Bao XiRuo was confused: "Up north?" Yan Lie nodded and was about to explain when suddenly hurried hoof beats suddenly come from outside as 10 or so riders came and stopped in front of the door. Some redness had just returned to Bao XiRuo's white face; but upon hearing the hoof beats, events of that night all came back to her, making her face turn white as a sheet again. But Yan Lie was frowning, looking as if he wasn't quite pleased.

    Then came sound of boots as another several soldiers in fine clothing came walking in. Upon seeing Yan Lie, their faces immediately broke out into a smile as they simultaneously shouted: "Your Majesty!" All of them kneeled down and saluted. Yan Lie smiled: "You guys are finally here." Hearing that they would call Yan Lie "Your Majesty", Bao XiRuo was both surprised and puzzled. As those men got up off the floor, she noticed that they were all very strong and well built. Yan Lie waved his arm a bit and said: "Go wait outside." The soldiers all answered and ran out. Yan Lie turned to Bao XiRuo: "How do you think my men compare with those Song soldiers?" Bao XiRuo was even more surprised: "They are not Song soldiers?" Yan Lie smiled: "I guess I have to come clean now, they are all Great Jin's elite soldiers!" He could not help but laugh out of pride.

    Bao XiRuo suddenly realized: "Then... you... you are..." Yan Lie smiled and answered: "To tell madame the truth, my surname need one more word: 'Wan', and my given name also has one more word: 'Hong'. WanYan HongLie, the 6th Prince of the Great Jin, titled as the Lord Zhao, at your service."

    Ever since she was little, Bao XiRuo had heard from her father the devious ways that the Jins took the land of her Great Song, the shame of the capture of the 2 emperors, and the cruelty with which the Jins torture and treat the Han peasants up north. It was the same after she married Yang TieXin, who hated the Jins even more. But to find out that the person that she had spent all this time with these last couple days was actually a prince of the Jins, she was left speechless in shock.

    Seeing the expression on her face change, WanYan HongLie smiled and continued: "I have always been fascinated by the south. So last year I asked my father to let me travel down to LinAn as the ambassador of good will for the new years. On a side note, the Emperor of Song still owed a couple hundred thousand taels of silver in annual tribute, so father wanted me to get those on my trip as well." Bao XiRuo interrupted: "Annual tribute?" WanYan HongLie replied: "Yes, the Song emperors, in order to convince us not to invade, pays us a tribute every year in silk and silver. But they always say something in terms of not enough revenue was generated through taxes, so they never just gave us the tribute straightforward. This time I didn't leave any grounds for Han TuoZhuo to back to. I told him that if he didn't get all the money together within the month, I would personally lead an army down to collect it ourselves so he doesn't have to worry about it anymore." Bao XiRuo interrupted again: "What did Chancellor Han say?" WanYan HongLie proudly replied: "What can he say? I haven't even left LinAn, the silk and silver were all north of the river! Haha!" Seeing Bao XiRuo looking downwards and not responding, he went on: "Actually, this tribute stuff doesn't really need me, any plain emissary would have done the job. What I really wanted to do was to see the south, to experience its beauty, to meet its people for myself. Who's to know that I would meet madame, I dare not hope for such good fortune." Bao XiRuo was still at a lost as to what to make of the situation and did not reply. WanYan HongLie offered: "I'm off to buy some clothes for madame now." Bao XiRuo replied with her head down: "No need." WanYan HongLie smiled and said: "The traveling money Chancellor Han gave me under the table wouldn't be gone if I bought a new set of cloth for madame everyday for 1000 years. Madame, don't worry, my soldiers are stationed all around his place, nobody would dare to trouble you." After he finished, he walked off. Bao XiRuo thought about all that has happened since she has met him, a royal prince like him, treating her as politely as he does, what does he plan to do? Then her thoughts drifted to her husband's love and care for her, and yet he was still killed and left her here alone, she really didn't know what she should do or could do. In desperation and confusion, all she could do was clutch her pillow and cry her heart out.

    WanYan HongLie put the gold and silver into his shirt and walked out onto the street. Seeing the friendly attitude of the people and the place, compounded by the fact that even though most of them were peasants, there were still many refined and educated people, he could not but be impressed. Suddenly, hurried hoof beats came from ahead of him as a horse galloped through the streets towards him. This street wasn't wide to begin with, now it was filled with people and merchants, add that to the fact that people have sent up small vendor booths on both side of the street, how could a horse gallop through it? WanYan HongLie immediately dodged onto the side of the street as in a blink of an eye a yellow horse came bursting out through the crowd of people. This was no ordinary horse, it was tall and fit, with muscles rippling through its body, obviously it was a very rare thoroughbred. WanYan HongLie was just admiring the horse when he looked up at the rider and was surprised yet again. Such a beautiful horse, but the rider was a sorry looking fellow who was both short and fat, he looked like a giant swab of meat riding on that horse. This person's arms and legs were amazingly short, he did not have a neck, yet his head was extraordinarily big, as if his neck was sucked into his shoulders. Seems rather odd really, that horse was galloping through the crowd of people at full speed, yet it did not run into a single person or knock over a single object. His hooves landed on the ground softly and nimbly, jumping over pottery, stepping besides vegetables, every time it seemed to be flashing through some non-existent gap in the crowd, as if this crowded street was a wide open plain to it. WanYan HongLie could no longer contain himself and shouted out loud: "Excellent!"

    Hearing that praise, that short chubby fellow turned his head and glanced at him. WanYan HongLie noticed that his entire face was covered with red spots caused by drinking too much wine; his wine nose was big and round as well as equally red, as if there was a red tomato stuck on his face. He thought to himself: "Such an excellent horse, I have to have it, no matter the price." At this moment, 2 kids playing tag ran onto the street just in front of the horse. They came out of nowhere and gave the horse quite a scare as it did not get out of the way. The horse's left foot was just about to land on the kid when the rider lifted up the reins and jumped off of the saddle. Suddenly becoming lighter, the horse's stride became higher and longer, easily flying over the kid's head. That rider then softly and gently landed back onto the saddle.

    Shocked, WanYan HongLie's immediately decided that even though there were a great number of skilled riders among the Jins, none were a match for him. If he could get this man to go back with him to train the calvary, then his calvary would be almost invincible, this was something much more important to him than a great horse. This trip south, he made mental notes on where an army could be stationed and where the rivers could be crossed, he even asked around for the skills and names of every administrator in the counties he crossed. Seeing the amazing skill of this short fellow, he couldn't believe how stupid the Song authorities were for letting a talent like this go to waste. So he decided then and there that he was going to somehow convince this man to go back to YianJing with him. Having made the decision, he immediately started running after them, fearing that the horse's speed would lose him. He was just about to shout at them when he saw the horse had ran to the corner of the street and stopped. This was quite unexpected to him as he figured with the speed that the horse was running he would have to be slowly come to a stop, yet this horse was able to stop on a dime. This is something he had never ever seen before, even some great kungfu practitioners wouldn't be able to just come to a complete stop when they are exerting themselves like this. The short, fat fellow jumped off the horse and charged into a building.

    WanYan HongLie hurried to in front of the building, inside the building was erected a large wooden sign: "Handed Down from Venus", it was a 2-storied restaurant. Looking up, a huge sign hanging from the roof had the words "Pavilion of Drunken Goddess" written on it, the calligraphy was very elegant; on the side was written, in smaller letters, "By Resident DongPo", turns out that the words were written by Su DongPo. {One of the greatest scholars during the Song dynasty as well as all of Chinese history.} Seeing the grandeur of this restaurant, WanYan HongLie thought: "Since he is here, then I might as well invite him to a great big meal, that way I can become great friends with him and everything after that would be simple." Suddenly, that fellow came running down from upstairs to the horse's side with a wine jug in hand. WanYan HongLie immediately got out of the way.

    Now that he is standing on the ground, the fellow looks even more out of proportion. He wasn't over 1.5 meters high, yet he was almost 1.5 meters wide as well. That horse just had to be very tall in stature because of its long legs, his head was barely as high as the stirrup on the horse. He placed the wine jug in front of the horse, gently hit the jug a couple of times, and then casually picked the top half of the jug off, turning the jug into a gigantic bowl with wine in it. The horse stood up on its hindlegs and let out a huge neigh before bending back down and drank from the bowl. From the sweet fragrance in the air, WanYan HongLie could tell that the wine was actually the famed wine "Blushing Daughter" {Nu-Er Hong} from ShaoXing county in ZheJiang province. And from the fragrance it had at least been left sitting for more than 10 years.

    The short, fat fellow walked back into the restaurant and tossed a huge silver ingot onto the owner's desk: "Prepare 3 tables of the best food, 2 of them can have meat and wine, the other one can't." The owner smiled and replied: "Right away, Mr. Han. We just received 4 SaiLu Fish from Song River, they are the best when served with wine. Please take the money back Mr. Han, we'll sort out all that later." The short, chubby fellow rolled his eyes and shouted: "What's the matter? Eating and drinking are free? Do you think I'm broke and just bum off of other people?" Still with a smile on his face, the owner argued no further as he turned and shouted: "Men, prepare some really good stuff for Mr. Han!" The cooks and waiters all around the place answered back and went about their jobs.
    WanYan HongLie was taking all this in: "Although he's dressed plainly, he spends money like a wealthy man; and judging from how everyone is treating him with such manners, he's probably a powerful men in JiaXing. Looks like convincing him to go up north with me to teach horse riding is going to be quite difficult. Let's see who are all the people he's inviting to lunch before going any further." So he went into the restaurant, sat down at a table by the window, and ordered a couple of small dishes along with a catty of wine.

    Pavilion of Drunken Goddess was situated on the shores of the South Lake. The lake surface was covered by a light fog as several small boats were slowly making their way around the lake. Green and smooth looking water caltrop leaves cover about half of the lake. Upon seeing such a sight, he immediately felt relaxed and at peace. JiaXing is a famous city of the ancient state of Yue, the plums grown here were sweet and delicious like the best wines. So during the Spring and Autumn Period this place was called ZuiLi, meaning Drunken Plums. It was also here that the famed Lord of Yue, Gou Jian, had thoroughly defeated the famed Lord of Wu, He Lu, for this place was the point at which travelers and merchants between the 2 states came together. The South Lake here was famous for another thing, the green water caltrops grown in it. Not only are the stalk of the caltrops sweet and smooth, they are also crunchy and refreshing, deservedly proclaimed as the best in the world, causing a lot of caltrop to be grown in the lake. It was right in the middle of Spring, the lake was clean and the leaves were green, as if someone had covered a sheet of jade glass with small pieces of jadeite.

    WanYan HongLie was just enjoying the scene when he suddenly noticed a single boat came flying into view. This boat was unusually narrow in width and the head of the boat was extraordinarily high, along the side of the boat there were 2 rows of waterfowls. At first he didn't pay much attention to it, but in a blink of an eye, that boat had overtaken another boat that was far in front of it. The speed at which the boat was going was astounding, soon it had neared, WanYan HongLie saw that there was person sitting in the middle of the boat; another person wearing a straw cape sat at the end steering the boat, surprisingly it was a girl. She had to only lightly flicked the oar in the water and the boat would shoot forward like an arrow. That one flicked had to be at least powerful enough to move an 100 catty object, it was odd enough that a girl would be so strong, but how could she exert such a force through a wooden oar? A few more strokes and the boat had neared the pavilion. The sun shined down onto the oar, turned out the oar was made of copper. The girl tied the boat to one of the wooden posts besides the stone staircase next to the pavilion and nimbly jumped ashore. The man sitting in the middle of the boat put a pole with a load of firewood on each end on his shoulders and followed her ashore. The 2 of them walked up into the pavilion. The girl shouted at the fat, chubby fellow: "Third Brother!" She proceeded to sit down next to him. The fat guy greeted: "Fourth Brother, Little Sister, you 2 showed up early." When WanYan HongLie sized the 2 newcomers up, he noticed that the girl was about 17 or 18 of age with a slender body, big eyes, long eye-lashes, and snow white skin, she was obviously a local girl from south of the Yangtze. She had the copper oar in her left hand and took off her straw hat with her right hand, revealing a head of soft, shining, black hair. WanYan HongLie mused: "Although this girl isn't as beautiful as Madame Bao, she is still very attractive in another way."

    The man carrying the firewood was about 30 or so, his clothing was all green colored with a belt made of straw around his waist and straw sandals on his foot. His hands and feet were huge and his face was without emotion. He put down the 2 loads of wood and rested his carrying pole against the table. "Errrrr"! The entire table was pushed several centimeters by the weight of the pole. Shocked, WanYan HongLie inspected the pole closely, but there was nothing out of the ordinary with this pole, it was black and smooth all over with a slight curve in the middle and 2 little covers on either end. For this pole to be that heavy, it had to be made of iron of some other kind of heavy metal. A wooden ax hung around this man's waist, there were some noticeable dents on the blade of the ax.
    The 2 of them had just sat down when foot steps came in from the stairs as 2 more men came walking up. The girl shouted: "Fifth, Sixth Brother, did you 2 come together?" The first man was big and tall, at least 130 or 140 kilograms, he wore an apron around his waist. His body was naturally oily and his top of his shirt was open, revealing some of what must be a chest full of hair. His sleeves were all rolled up as well and his arms were covered with black hair that's several centimeters long and around his waist was a foot-long knife. From his appearence he was a butcher. The one behind him was unusually short with a small felt hat on his head and a small scale and bamboo basket in his hands; looking just like a street vendor. WanYan HongLie could not help but wonder: "These 3 people obviously know kungfu, yet they call these 2 average city dwellers brothers?"
    Suddenly there came a constant knocking outside on the street, like those made from metal hitting stone. The knocking slowly came up the staircase, and a blind man dressed in ragged clothing followed. He looked around 40 years of age, his lips were sharp and his cheekbones were pronounced. His face looked gray and seemed full of hate and anger. The 5 people sitting at the table all stood up and greeted: "Big Brother!" The girl lightly knocked on the seat of one of the chairs: "Big Brother, you sit here." That blind man replied: "Alright, is Second Brother here yet?" That butcher looking man replied: "Second Brother has arrived in JiaXing, he should be here any time soon." The girl laughed: "Speak of the devil!" The sound of someone dragging his boots as he walked came from the staircase.

    Before WanYan HongLie figured it all out, up the stairs came a dirty rotten fan, the fan was flicked a couple of times, only then did a poor, lackadaisical scholar came walking up, the very one that he had met earlier in the hotel. A thought popped in WanYan HongLie's mind: "He must have been the one that took my money...." Just as his anger was coming on, the man shot a smile at him and then stuck his tongue out and made a face; only then did he turn to the others and greet them, turns out that he was second among them. WanYan HongLie speculated: "Looks like everyone of them are kungfu masters, if I can somehow take them under my wings, they would be an enormous amount of help to everything. As for the small matter of the poor scholar taking my money, that could be easily forgiven. Best to see what's going on first." That poor and pedantic scholar downed a cup of wine, then proceeded to, still shaking his head from one side to another, loudly orating: "Dishonorable riches... let it go ... The Jade Emperor {Yu Huang Da Di, the Supreme Diety in Taoism whose kingdom the Monkey King smashed in The Journey West}... will get mad!" As he was reciting these lines, he reached into his shirt and took out one gold or silver ingot after another and neatly lined them up on the table. In total there were 8 ingots of silver and 2 ingots of gold.

    From these ingots' color and shape, WanYan HongLie knew that these were his. But he did not get mad; on the contrary, this piqued his interest even more: "Entering my room and stealing the money isn't hard, but he only tapped my shoulder one time with his fan, yet he was able to steal all the money that was inside my shirt without my detection. That magical hand skill of his is indeed something rarely seen in this world."

    From the actions of these 7 men, it seemed like they were doing the inviting, inviting 2 tables of men here for a drink. Because guests hadn't arrived yet, the 7 of them were only drinking some light wine and the dishes haven't been brought out either. But on the other 2 tables were only placed one pair of chopsticks each, then that means there were only 2 guests. WanYan HongLie mused: "These 7 weirdos are waiting for guests, wonder what kind of weird guests they would have?" After waiting for about the time it would take to boil a pot of water, a voice came up from downstairs: "Amida Buddha!" The blind man spoke up: "Father Burnt-Wood is here!" He stood up; the other 6 weirdos followed him as they all stood up in preparation to welcome the guest. "Amida Buddha!" The voice said again as a monk that looked every bit like a withered piece of wood came walking up the stairs. This monk was about 40 or so, he was wearing a yellow monk robe and in his hand was a piece of wood with one end burnt black, although it's unclear what it's used for.

    After the monk and the 7 of them went through the formal greetings, the poor scholar led him to one of the empty tables and all of them sat down. The monk rose slightly out of his seat in respect and said: "That person came all the way to our gates, I knew that I was no match for him. Now that the 7 Heroes of the South are willing to lend a hand, I could not be anymore grateful."

    The blind man replied: "Father Burnt Wood, you do not need to be so polite. We 7 brothers and sisters have all been dependent upon Father now and then, now that Father is in trouble, how could we not get involved? Besides, that man came and, relying entirely upon his kungfu skills, made trouble for Father for no reason; it is clear that he thinks nothing of all of us here in the martial world around here. Even if Father did not ask us, we would have came had we found out about...."
    He hadn't finished what he was going to say when the stairs started to sound like as if it was going to collapse, like a huge, heavy beast, if not an elephant then a huge water buffalo, was walking up the stairs. The owner of the place and the waiters were all screaming downstairs: "Ay! You idiot, you can't take that up there!" "The stairs are going to collapse!" "Quick, quick, stop him, get him back down here!" But the sound of wood bending got louder and louder. "Crack"! One of the pieces of wood snapped. Soon 2 more pieces snapped as well.
    For a moment WanYan HongLie wasn't sure what he was seeing, a Taoist monk came walking up the stairs with a huge copper vat in his hands. After taking another look, he was scared out of his wits; the Taoist monk was Son of Eternal Spring Qiu ChuJi.

    WanYan HongLie's mission as emissary to the Song Imperial Courts was to coerce some of the officials of the Song court so that when they eventually invade South there would be agents lending a hand from the inside as well. The Song Emissary, Wang DaoKun, that accompanied him down from YanJing (Present Day BeiJing) was greedy and corrupt, he had already secretly sworn allegiance to the Jin dynasty. When they arrived at LinAn, he was the one that did the legwork for WanYan HongLie. But unexpectedly he was suddenly killed by a Taoist monk; even his head, heart, and liver was gone. Shocked, and in fear that someone had found out about his plan, WanYan HongLie decided to lead his bodyguards and, with the best city guards of LinAn leading the way, personally chase down the assassin. When they chased to Ox Village the met up with Qiu ChuJi; but unexpectedly, this Taoist monk was a kungfu master. WanYan HongLie hadn't even made a move before he was shot through the shoulders with an arrow that Qiu ChuJi threw back and the men that came with him were all killed. If WanYan HongLie had not quietly crawled away during the confusion of the battle and was then rescued by Bao XiRuo, the dignified and honorable royal prince of the Jin dynasty would have died there in a farm village without even really knowing how.
    WanYan HongLie forced himself to calm down, and noticed that Qiu ChuJi glanced at face for a moment before moving his attention entirely onto Father Burnt Wood and the 7 men; obviously, he had not recognized him. Figuring that this was because he had been shot as soon as he showed up that night so Qiu ChuJi was not able to see his face clearly, only then did he feel a little better. But when his eyes moved onto the copper vat, he was shocked again, so much so that he almost jumped out of his seat.

    This kind of vat was common in temples or shrines and was commonly used for burning papers and fake money for the dead. It was more than a meter across and was probably around 200 kilograms or so. From the vat came the sweet smell of wine, obviously it was filled with expensive wine, which without a doubt added a lot more weight to the vat. But he did not seem to be using any strength in his arm at all. Every step he took the floorboards moaned and bent from the weight. Panic engulfed the bottom level as the owner, waiters, cooks, all the patrons, and everyone else scrambled out, fearing that the entire floor would collapse on top of them.

    Coldly, Father Burnt-Wood spoke up: "Honored that my Taoist brother would show yourself here, but what's the point in bringing the paper burning vat from our humble little temple? Let me introduce you to the 7 Heroes of the South!" Qiu ChuJi made a respectful gesture with his left hand and said: "Humble Taoist just visited your holy temple when I heard from the other monks there that Father was inviting me for a drink at Pavilion of Drunken Goddess. I figured that Father would have undoubtedly invited some other friend, turns out I was right. I have long admired the 7 Heroes of the South, so fortunate today to meet your acquaintance." Father Burnt-Wood turned to the 7 oddballs and said: "This here is Man of Eternal Spring Qiu ChuJi of QuanZhen Sect, I'm sure everyone has heard of him." Turning around to Qiu ChuJi, he pointed at the blind man and continued: "This is the head of the 7 Heroes, the hero Ke, Flying Bat Ke ZhenE." He followed by introducing the others, all the while WanYan HongLie giving this all his attention and memorizing their names. Number 2 in rank was that poor and downtrodden scholar that stole his money, named Magic Hands Scholar Zhu Cong. The fat, short fellow that arrived first was Horse God Han BaoJu, he ranked 3rd. The peasant that carried the load of firewood was number 4, his name was Wood Chopper of the Southern Mountains Nan XiRen. Ranked number 5 was that huge and butcher looking man, Smiling Dhuda Zhang AhSheng. The little vendor looking fellow's surname was Quan, JinFa was his given name, and his nickname was Hidden Hero of the Bustling City. That fisher girl was called Yue Maiden Sword Han XiaoYing, obviously the youngest of the 7 Heroes.

    All the while Father Burnt-Wood was introducing everyone, Qiu ChuJi would always very respectfully bow a little as a sign of respect, but his right hand was still holding up the vat and there was no sign of fatigue at all. A few of the braver ones of the people downstairs saw that there was no immediate danger and actually walked back in to see what's going on.

    Ke ZhenE spoke up: "People call us 7 brothers and sisters the 7 Weirdos because we are a rather odd collection of characters; we dare not assume the name '7 Heroes' that Father Burnt-Wood called us. All of us have long admired the famed 7 Disciples of QuanZhen, especially that of Man of Eternal Spring, whose many chivalrous deeds we have all heard of. Father Burnt-Wood is a most warm and friendly man; we can't understand how he could have offended Father. If Father here thinks anything of us, then please let the 7 of us be a mediator for once. Besides, even though Taoism and Buddhism worship different types of deity, you 2 gentlemen are still both monks and members of the martial world. Why don't we forget and forgive so we can just get together and have a nice little drink here?"
    Qiu ChuJi replied: "I have never met Father Burnt-Wood before, nor are there any gratitude or revenge between the 2 of us. As long as he hand over 2 people, then I personally will automatically go to China Zen Temple to ask for forgiveness." Ke ZhenE asked: "Which 2 people?" Qiu ChuJi replied: "I have 2 very good friends who was killed by corrupted officials working with the Jins. Their widows are all alone in the world. Hero Ke, do you think that I should step into this matter?" When YanLie heard this, the cup in his hand suddenly shook and some wine was spilled onto the table. Ke ZhenE replied: "It wouldn't even matter if they are widows of Father's good friends, even if none of us have ever met them, we would step in and do the best we can to take care of them if we knew about something like this happening. This is something that just should be done without any hesitation." Qiu ChuJi loudly replied: "That's right! I just want Father Burnt-Wood to hand those 2 widows to me! He is a monk, how could he keep 2 widows in his monastery and not hand them over? The 7 heroes here are reasonable and righteous people, please do the right thing here!"
    When he finished saying this, not only was Father Burnt-Wood and the 7 Weirdos shocked, WanYan HongLie was quite surprised as well. He thought: "Is he actually not talking about Madame Yang and Madame Guo but someone else?"
    Father Burnt-Wood's face was burnt yellowish to begin with, now it was even more burnt looking. He could not bring himself to reply for a while as he could only stammer: "You... you... are talking nonsense... nonsense...."

    Qiu ChuJi was furious: "You are a man of the martial world too, how dare you do such a shameful deed?" He pushed with his right hand and the several hundred kilograms heavy vat with the wine still in it went flying out towards Father Burnt-Wood. Father Burnt-Wood immediately jumped aside.

    The people that gathered at the end of the stairs were scared out of their mind as all of them turned around and pushed their way down the stairs in a panic.
    Smiling Dhuda Zhang AhSheng figured that although this vat was heavy, he could still be able to handle it with his strength. So he stepped up, moved some inner strength into his arms, and waited until the vat arrived before he, with a shout, grabbed a hold of the vat. The muscles on his back and his shoulders bulged out as he was actually able to control the vat all by himself. As he lifted the vat up over his head, the amount of force exerted under his feet was too great as with one single crack, his left foot went through the floorboards, causing the crowd downstairs to scream. Zhang AhSheng took 2 steps forward, bent his arms slightly, and, with the move "Opening the Windows to View the Moon", he threw the vat back at Qiu ChuJi. Qiu ChuJi caught the vat with his right hand and laughed: "7 Weirdos of the South are just like the rumors say, very deserving of their fame!" Then his expression darkened as he turned to Father Burnt-Wood: "What happened to those 2 widows? You are forcing 2 widows to live in your monastery, what for? If you dare to touch a single strand of their hair, I'll smashes your bones until they are dust and burn down that monastery of yours!" Zhu Cong flicked his fan and said while shaking his head: "Father Burnt-Wood is an honorable and respected monk, how could he do such a shameful thing? Father must have heard of this from someone shameless and despicable. This kind of gossip can't be trusted."

    Qiu ChuJi was still furious: "I saw it with my own eyes, how could that be untrue?" The 7 Weirdos were all surprised by this. Father Burnt-Wood finally spoke up: "You want to come here and make a name for yourself here south of the Yangtze, alright. But you don't need to drag my name through the dirt... you... you... go out into JiaXing and ask around, see how many people think I would do such a thing?" Qiu ChuJi snickered: "Alright, you got helpers and want to win by sheer numbers. I am involved in this matter now, so there's no way you can get away from this. You are using the sacred ground of you deity to hide women, that's bad already, but the women's husbands are the descendants of patriots and they were murdered."

    Ke ZhenE spoke up: "Father accused Father Burnt-Wood of hiding 2 women, but Father Burnt-Wood denies it. Why don't all of us go to the temple and see who's right and who's not. Although I'm blind, my ears are still working fine." His 6 brothers and sisters immediately agreed with him.

    Qiu ChuJi sneered: "Search the temple? I have already searched it inside and out. But apparently 2 women walked in and disappeared. The only possibility is if the monk hands them over." Zhu Cong replied: "So it turns out that these 2 women aren't women." Qiu ChuJi was confused: "What?" Zhu Cong answered with a straight face: "They are fairies and either knows how to turn invisible or become one with the ground!" The other 6 weirdos couldn't help but laugh at that remark.
    Qiu ChuJi was furious: "So you guys are mocking me? Alright, it seems like you guys are taking the monk's side, right?"

    Ke ZhenE righteously replied: "Although our kungfu might be laughable in the eyes of a master from QuanZhen Sect, but we still have a little bit of a name here south of the Yangtze. Ask around, people will say: 'Seven Weirdos of the South? They may be crazy, but they are not cowards.' We wouldn't dare bully others, but we can't let others bully us either." Qiu ChuJi replied: "I have heard much about the good name of the 7 Heroes of the South. This matter does not concern you so please do not get involved in this sticky matter and let this monk and me settle it among ourselves. Monk, follow me." He reached out towards Father Burnt-Wood's wrist. Father Burnt-Wood dipped his wrist and dodged this move. Seeing that the 2 of them have started to fight, Horse God Han BaoJu shouted: "Father, why are you being so unreasonable?" Qiu ChuJi stepped back and asked: "What do you mean?" Han BaoJu replied: "We trust Father Burnt-Wood, if he says there isn't then there really isn't any women. Which man living in the martial world would lie?" Qiu ChuJi replied: "He isn't lying, then am I causing him trouble for no reason whatsoever? I saw it with my own eyes! If I'm wrong then I'll dig out these 2 eyeballs and give it to you. I am definitely going to see this to the end, seems like the 7 of you are definitely getting involved right?" The 7 Weirdos answered simultaneously: "Right!"

    Qiu ChuJi replied: "Alright, I'll toast a shot to all 7 heroes. Let's get started after we are finished toasting." He dipped his right hand and lowered the vat to his mouth. After taking a good shot, he shouted: "If you please!" With one flick of the hand, the vat went flying towards Zhang AhSheng again.

    Zhang AhSheng thought to himself: "If I catch it over my head like I did last time, then it would be impossible for me to drink out of it wouldn't it?" So he took two steps back, held his hands in front of his chest, and waited for the vat. Once it arrived, he threw his arms to the side and let the vat hit him straight on the chest. He was born chubby so his chest was covered with layers upon layers of fat and muscle, which acted like a mattress as the vat hit his chest. He immediately took a deep breath, flexed his chest muscles, brought his arms along the side of the vat with his arms, and caught the vat. He then lowered his head and took a huge chug of the wine. "Excellent Wine!" He praised as he suddenly retracted his arms back to the front of his chest and, before the vat could fall onto the floor, executed the move "Mountain Moving Double Palms", sending the vat flying back towards Qiu ChuJi. This move was powerful, fast, and quick, obviously a move from a master of kungfu moves. WanYan HongLie was secretly shocked by what he had just witnessed.

    Qiu ChuJi caught the vat and took another gulp before shouting: "A toast to Big Brother Ke!" And the vat went flying towards Ke ZhenE.

    A thought shot across WanYan HongLie's mind: "This man is blind, how is he suppose to catch it?" But it turned out that not only was Ke ZhenE the head of the 7 weirdos, his kungfu was also the best and he could easily tell where the smallest of weapons were from the sound they made, so this huge vat was no problem for him. He just calmly sat there as if he didn't notice anything until the vat was just about to hit his head. Only then did he suddenly raise his right arm and hit the bottom of the vat with his staff. That staff spun endlessly at the top of the staff, just like those plates at the end of an acrobat's stick. Suddenly his iron staff moved a little off-center and the vat began to lean as if it was going to fall onto his head. But for some reason the vat just could not fall over as it just stayed there, tilted. The wine in the vat poured out of it in a neat little line, Ke ZhenE opened his mouth and the wine fell neatly into it. After taking 3 or 4 mouthfuls, his iron staff moved again and was again in the middle of the vat bottom. He pushed his staff upwards and the vat flew straight up; with a swing of the staff, he smacked the vat back towards Qiu ChuJi with a loud "Bang!" The echoes could still be heard when Qiu ChuJi caught it again.

    Laughing, Qiu ChuJi commented: "Hero Ke must like to spin plates in his spare time." Ke ZhenE coldly answered: "When I was little, I used to live off of the money I get from that little trick." Qiu ChuJi observed: "Not forgetting where he comes from is the sign of a real man! Fourth Brother Nan, a toast!" I took another gulp from the vat and threw it at him.

    Nan XiRen didn't say a word as he waited for the vat to arrive and then lifted his carrying stick to block. "Dang"! The vat was stopped cold in mid-air and began to fall. Nan XiRen cupped his hand, scooped up some wine from the vat, and downed it. He held his carrying stick flat, kneeled down on his right knee with the middle of the carrying stick resting on his left knee. He pushed down on one end of the stick with his right hand and caught the bottom of the vat with the other end, flicking the vat up in the air once again.

    He was just about to hit the vat back to Qiu ChuJi when Hidden Hero of the Bustling City Quan JinFa laughed and said: "I make a living selling stuff, so I like taking advantages. So I might as well get a bit of wine without doing anything." He ran up to Nan XiRen's side and, when the vat fell back down again, scooped up a bit of wine and downed it. Suddenly he jumped up and curled his legs so that the bottom of both of his feet were on to the vat as he pushed in midair, causing his body to take off like an arrow and the vat to fly off in the opposite direction towards Qiu ChuJi. His body landed on the side of the wall and lightly scaled down. The fan in Magical Hands Scholar Zhu Cong's hand did not stop flicking as he could not stop commenting: "Beautiful, beautiful!"

    Qiu ChuJi caught the vat and took another big gulp before saying: "Beautiful, beautiful! A toast to Brother Zhu!" Zhu Cong shouted in desperation: "Ai-yo! Don't do that! I'm not even strong enough to subdue a chicken, and I can't hold my alcohol at all! I'll surely drink to death if I'm not squashed to death first...." Before he finished, the vat was already heading his way. Zhu Cong was shouting at the top of his lungs: "Someone's going to be smashed to death! Help! Help...." He made a scoop with his fan into the vat and brought it up to his mouth. Then he turned the fan around and hit the bottom of the vat with it and sent it flying off. "Crack!" The floorboards underneath him suddenly collapsed, forming a huge hole in the ground and he fell through it, all the while screaming: "Help! Help!" Everyone present knew that he was just playing around so nobody was really surprised or worried. WanYan HongLie, however, seeing that he was able to flick away a huge vat like that with a force that was no weaker than that which came from Nan XiRen's stick with a small fan like that, was secretly in shock.

    Yue Sword Maiden Han XiaoYing shouted: "My turn for a drink!" She hopped off of her right foot as she took off like a bird. Just as she flew over the top of the vat, she lowered her head and took a gulp before nimbly and gently landing on the windowsill on the opposite side of the room. She was skilled at Qing Gong and swordplay and her strength wasn't up to par, so she figured that there was no way she would be able to catch this vat when it comes flying towards her, tossing it back towards Qiu ChuJi was even further out of the question. So she seized the opportunity and took her turn using her Qing Gong.

    The vat was still flying out onto the street. With the street crowded like it was, it would be disastrous if the vat landed outside. Qiu ChuJi was a bit worried and was just about to jump out onto the street to catch it when he suddenly a whistle as a person in yellow ran past him. Another whistle and the yellow horse that was downstairs had ran out onto the street.

    To the people gathered around, it looked as if the huge ball of meat suddenly hit the vat and fell with it as one. The ball of meat and the vat both landed onto the back of the yellow horse. The yellow horse ran forward a couple of meters before turning around and running back into the pavilion and up the stairs.

    Horse God Han BaoJu's body was actually underneath the belly of the horse with his left foot was in the stirrup as his right foot and both of his hands were holding the vat, making it sit neatly in the saddle. The horse was fast and steady, as if the stairs were flat ground to him. Han BaoJu jumped back onto the horse, put his head into the vat and took a huge mouthful before pushing the vat off onto the floor with his left hand. Letting out a hearty laugh, he cracked his whip and the horse jumped out of the window and, like a pegasus, gently landed in the middle of the street. Han BaoJu jumped off his horse and walked back up along with Zhu Cong.

    Qiu ChuJi complimented: "7 Heroes of the South are really as good as the rumors say! I am speechless at the display of kungfu I have just seen. Giving the 7 heroes face, I promise not to cause this monk anymore trouble if he hand over the 2 women and will leave at once when he has."

    Ke ZhenE replied: "Father Qiu, you are in the wrong here. Father Burnt-Wood has been fasting and clean for several decades now, he is a truly enlightened monk, someone that all of us have admired for a long time. Temple of Oriental Zen is also one of the famous sacred Buddhist landmarks here in the city of JiaXing. How could females, not to mention widows, possibly be hidden inside?" Qiu ChuJi replied: "In this world, there are always those people who are hypocrites and does not deserve their reputations." Trying to control his anger, Han BaoJu shouted back: "So is Father saying that he doesn't believe us?" Qiu ChuJi replied just as loudly: "I much rather believe my very own eyes." Han BaoJu replied: "So what is Father planning to do now?" Even though he was short, he still was quite intimidating and heroic in his own way because of his loud and clear voice.
    Qiu ChuJi replied: "This matter originally had nothing to do with you 7, but since you are insisting on jumping into this matter, you are obviously quite confident of your abilities. Forgive me for daring to challenge the 7 heroes, if I lose, then I'll do as everyone here wishes." Ke ZhenE replied: "If Father insists on going through like this, then would Father please choose on how we should settle this."
    Qiu ChuJi thought for a moment and said: "We never had any grudges nor have we wronged each other, I have long admired the heroic name and reputation of the 7 Heroes of the South. I don't think any of us want to start fighting with swords or fists. How about this?" He shouted: "Wine keeper! Bring 14 big bowls!"
    The wine keeper had been hiding in the floor below, but upon hearing his instructions and noticing that it had been quiet for a while upstairs, he immediately went to brought the bowls up.

    Qiu ChuJi instructed him to place the bowls in 2 rows and fill them to the brim with wine. Turning to the 7 Weirdos, he said: "I challenge everyone to a drinking contest. For every bowl you guys drink, I will drink one as well until there is a winner. What do you say?"

    Han BaoJu and Zhang AhSheng were both huge drinkers, so they immediately agreed without any hesitation. Ken ZhenE frowned and replied: "This is one against 7, even if we win we didn't win it fairly. Could Father please choose something else?" Qiu ChuJi frowned: "What makes you so sure that you'll beat me?"

    Even though Han XiaoYing was a girl, she was still quite macho, so she immediately answered back: "Alright, let's go at it then! This is the first time I have met someone that dares to look down at us so much." As she talked she grabbed a bowl of wine and downed it in one breath. It was obvious she drank it too quickly as her face flushed red immediately.

    Qiu ChuJi complimented: "Miss Han really is a man among females! Everyone, please!" The other 6 of the 7 Weirdos each picked up a bowl and drank it. Qiu ChuJi responded by downing 7 bowls of wine in an instant, each with just one gulp, without a single pause for breath in between. The winekeeper immediately shouted praise to everyone and filled up the 14 bowls, which the 8 of them finished off immediately.

    By the 3rd round of drinks, Han XiaoYing could only drink half a bowl before having to pause because her hands were shaking. Zhang AhSheng took the bowl out of her hand: "Sister, I'll finish this for you." Han XiaoYing inquired: "Father, is that alright?" Qiu ChuJi replied without hesitation: "Of course, doesn't matter who drinks it as long as it is 7 bowls." Another round and Quan JinFa had to back out as well.

    Seeing that even after 28 bowls Qiu ChuJi was still looking sober and normal, the 7 Weirdos were quite shocked. WanYan HongLie thought as he looked on: "Hopefully this Taoist would just get smashed and these 7 Weirdos would finish him off before he could do anything."

    Quan JinFa calculated that his side still had 5 men left, each a heavy drinker and could probably drink 3 or 4 more rounds, the opponent could not possibly be able to hold another 20 or so drinks in his belly, or could he? Even if he really could not get drunk, his belly could only hold so much. So, figuring that victory was in hand, he was just feeling pretty good when he accidentally glanced down at the ground and saw that the floorboards under Qiu ChuJi's feet were obviously soaked through. Shocked, he whispered to Zhu Cong: "Second Brother, take a look at his feet." Zhu Cong only looked down for a moment before muttering: "Not good, he's using his inner strength to force the wine out through his feet." Quan JinFa quietly replied: "That's right, didn't think that his inner strength would be so powerful, what do we do?"

    Zhu Cong thought to himself: "With this little trick, he could go 100 more bowls without any problem. I have to come up with another contest or something." He took a step back before suddenly falling through the hole in the floorboards that he caused earlier and climbing back up through the hole, all the while shouting: "So drunk, I am so drunk!"

    Another round of drinks and now the floor boards under Qiu ChuJi's feet were saturated with wine as a little bit of a fountain shot out from the wood onto the floor. By now Nan XiRen, Han BaoJu, and everyone else all noticed, and everyone was secretly admiring such a powerful display of inner strength.

    Han BaoJu put his bowl back onto the table and was just about to admit defeat when Zhu Cong shot him a look and turned Qiu ChuJi: "Father's inner strength is almost god-like and we can't but admire such a display. But it is still 5 against 1, doesn't seem quite fair really." Qiu ChuJi was a bit surprised and asked: "Then what does Second Brother Zhu suggest we should do?" Zhu Cong smiled and said: "I say let the 2 of us battle it out to see who's the best."

    All the spectators were rather baffled by this, Zhu Cong was one of the group of 5 that went up against him that was obviously losing, why would he go and lower his odds some more? But the other 8 Weirdos knew that although this brother of theirs doesn't seem to take anything serious, he's full of ideas and tricks and his actions were often genius. Figuring that he must have a plan in mind, the 6 of them didn't object.

    Qiu ChuJi let out a little laugh: "The 7 Weirdos of the South really do want to look good no matter what. How about this? If Second Brother Zhu finish the wine left in this vat with me, if nobody is losing, then it'll count as a defeat for me. How about it?"

    By now the vat was a little bit less than half full, about upteen bowls, which would mean that only 2 drunken Buddhas with their big bellies could hold all of it. But Zhu Cong didn't seem to mind that as he smiled and said: "Although I am not a very big drinker, I once beat several pretty big drinkers in one of my adventures. A toast!" Waving his fan in his right hand and his left shirt sleeve, he downed a bowl.

    So the 2 of them downed one bowl after another, in between drinks, Qiu ChuJi asked: "What kind of big drinkers?" Zhu Cong replied: "Well, once I traveled to Tibet and the Tibetan King dragged out a water buffalo to challenge me in a drinking match. But in the end neither of us won out or lost."

    Knowing that Zhu Cong was poking fun at him, so he just snorted in response and downed another bowl. However, he noticed that even though Zhu Cong was waving his hands all over the place while talking nonsense, he was still matching him bowl for bowl. There wasn't any wine spilling out from his hands or feet, obviously not forcing the wine out of his body with inner strength; but there was a huge bulge in his stomach, he figured that Zhu Cong may know how to expand and retract his stomach at will. He was feeling rather puzzled when Zhu Cong spoke up again: "The year before last I went to Siam, ha, now that's even more ridiculous. This time the king of Siam got an elephant to challenge me. That huge thing drank 7 vats! How much do you think I drank?"

    Even though Qiu ChuJi knew he was just making stuff up, he could not help but ask: "How much?" Zhu Cong's face suddenly turned dead serious as he lowered his voice and said: "9 vats!" Suddenly he raised his voice again and shouted: "Drink up, drink up!"

    So he just went on like this, sort of drunk but not really, kind of crazy but kind of not, and soon the 2 of them had finished off the entire vat. The rest of the weirdos had no idea that he could hold all of that wine as all of them were pleasantly surprised.

    Qiu ChuJi gave him a thumbs up: "Brother Zhu really is amazing!"

    With a smile, Zhu Cong replied: "To keep the wine out of our bodies, Father used inner force, but I had to resort to merely outer techniques. Here, have a look." With a hearty laugh, he suddenly did a backflip and when he landed there was a wooden bucket in his hand. With a slight wave of his hand, the fragrances of the wine that filled half the bucket came pouring out. All of the people present were kungfu masters and, with the exception of Ke ZhenE, were sharp to pick up any trickery or moves, yet not a single one of saw where the bucket came from. Looking down, Zhu Cong's belly suddenly returned to its normal flat shape; obviously the bucket was originally hidden underneath his robe. The 7 Weirdos of the South all burst out laughing and Qiu ChuJi was shocked.

    Turned out that Zhu Cong was best at trickery and illusions, which was where the nickname "Magical Hands Scholar" came from. This little trick that he just pulled has passed down all the way to today. A magician would walk onto the stage with nothing in hand, with one backflip a goldfish bowl would be in his hand, another backflip and a bowl filled with water appears; this would go on until there were enough bowls on stage to hold one goldfish in each bowl, just absolutely astounding when witnessed first hand and has to be seen to be believed. The second time Zhu Cong fell through the hole was when he hid the bucket underneath his robe. All those crazy talk was to distract Qiu ChuJi. When a magician does his trick right, even hundreds upon thousands pairs of eyes could not spot how the trick was done. Not to mention that at that time Qiu ChuJi did not even suspect that he would be pulling this kind of trick and was not able to catch him pour one bowl after another into the bucket underneath his robe.
    Qiu ChuJi snorted: "Hmph! You call this drinking?" Zhu Cong laughed: "And what you did was? The wine I drank is in this bucket, the wine that you drank is on the ground, any differences there?"

    He paced back and forth as he talked, suddenly he accidentally slipped on the puddle of wine by Qiu ChuJi's feet and fell towards Qiu ChuJi. Qiu ChuJi caught him and let Zhu Cong balance himself. After pacing back and forth once more, he suddenly said in a loud voice: "Wonderful poem! Such wonderful poetry! Mid-Autumn have always... moon most bright, cool winds lead the way... for refreshing night. A day's fortunes... sinks man and silver, the dragons in 4 seas... leap out water...." His voice were slowly dragging out as he began to sing the lines.

    Shocked, Qiu ChuJi thought to himself: "That's the poem that I started but didn't finish last Mid-Autumn, so I always have it by my side in case I ever thought of the next 4 lines. Nobody else has seen it, how does he know it?" Reaching into his shirt, he found that the scroll that contained the poem was missing.

    With a smile, Zhu Cong unrolled the scroll and laid it out on the table: "Not only is Father's kungfu among the best in the world, his poetry and style is as well. Amazing, truly amazing." He slipped and fell on purpose, enabling him to use those magical skills of his and steal the scroll from Qiu ChuJi.

    Qiu ChuJi thought to himself: "I didn't notice it at all when he reached into my shirt and took the scroll out. If he didn't intend to take my poem but was instead trying to stab me, would I still be alive now? Obviously he had my life in his hands and let me live." Now that he thought about that, the anger in him subsided as he said: "Since Hero Zhu has finished this entire vat of wine with me, I will do as I promised and admit defeat. This little match today in Pavilion of Drunken Goddess, Qiu ChuJi lost to the 7 Heroes of the South."

    Amid smiles, the 7 Weirdos of the South replied: "No, no, that's ok. This kind of game can't be taken seriously." Zhu Cong added: "Besides, Father's inner strength is miles above all of us."

    Qiu ChuJi continued: "Although I have admitted defeat, those 2 widows have to be rescued." He saluted with his hands and lifted up the vat: "I'm heading off to Temple of Oriental Zen to get them." In anger, Ke ZhenE demanded: "You have admitted defeat, why are you still troubling Father Burnt-Wood?" Qiu ChuJi replied: "Lives are at stake, it has nothing to do with win or lose. Honored Hero Ke, if your friend met an unfortunate end and his widow was suffering in the hands of others, would you do all you can to save them?" Suddenly his expression changed as he shouted: "Oh I see how it is, you had more people coming! Even if you get the entire Jin army here I'm still going to see this to the very end, even if it means giving up my life!"

    Zhang AhSeng replied: "There's just the 7 of us, no need for more people." But Ke ZhenE had heard several dozens of men running in this direction as well as the clanking of their weapons as well, so he immediately stood up and commanded: "Everyone back off!" Zhang AhSeng and all the others hid their weapons as all of them heard the footsteps by now. Before long, several dozen men came running up the stairs.

    These men were Jin soldiers. Qiu ChuJi had respected the 7 Weirdos of the South and figured that they were just kept in the dark by the lies of Father Burnt-Wood, so he always watched what he said so as to not offend them too much. But suddenly seeing dozens of Jin soldiers showing up, he could not control his anger any longer as he shouted: "Monk Burnt-Wood, 7 Weirdos, how dare you guys actually befriend and ask the Jins for help! How can you still call yourself righteous men of the martial world?" Han BaoJu shouted back: "Who's asking the Jins for help?"

    These soldiers were actually the personal guards of WanYan HongLie, they felt unsettled because WanYan HongLie had been out for a long time and followed him into town. Upon hearing that there was fighting in the Pavilion of Drunken Goddess and fearing the worst, they came running over.

    Qiu ChuJi snorted: "Hmph! Alright, alright! Please forgive me for not staying any longer! This matter between us is not over yet!" He picked up his vat and started to walk toward the stairs.

    Ke ZhenE stood back up: "Father Qiu, there's some misunderstanding here." Still walking, Qiu ChuJi replied: "Misunderstanding? You guys are all righteous heroes? Why ask Jin soldiers to help you in a fight?" Ke ZhenE replied: "But we didn't." Qiu ChuJi rebuked: "I can see what's going on in front of me, I'm not blind" What Ke ZhenE hated the most was the fact that he was blind and anything that reminded him of it. So he slammed that iron staff of his onto the ground and demanded: "And what if I am blind?" Qiu ChuJi didn't answer as he lifted up his left hand and struck a Jin soldier on his forehead with his palm. The soldier did not even have a chance to mutter a sound before his head split open. Qiu ChuJi shouted back: "He is a good example!" Tossing his sleeves in the 7 Weirdos' general direction, he walked down the stairs.

    Seeing that one of them have died, the Jin solders immediately descended into chaos as several of them charged at Qiu ChuJi with lances pointed at his back. He did not even turn around and, as if there were eyes on the back of his head, knocked each of the lances down one by one. The rest of the soldiers were just about to charge up as well when WanYan HongLie ordered them to stop. Turning to Ke ZhenE, he said: "This Taoist bastard is just intolerable, whey don't all of us sit down and have a nice drink while we discuss how to take care of him?" When he ordered the Jin soldiers to stop, Ke ZhenE had figured out that he was the head of the soldiers, so he shouted back: "TaMaDe! Get out of my face!" WanYan HongLie hadn't even recovered from the shock when Han BaoJu added: "My Big Brother told you to get out of his face!" He bumped WanYan HongLie on his waist with his right shoulder. WanYan HongLie stumbled back several steps as the 7 Weirdos and Father Burnt-Wood all quickly filed out.

    Zhu Cong was trailing behind them. As he walked by WanYan HongLie, he gently tapped him on the shoulder with his fan and asked with a smile: "Have you sold off that girl? How about selling her to me? Haha!" He hurried down the steps as he was laughing. Before, although Zhu Cong did not know anything about WanYan HongLie, he could tell from the way that he was treating Bao XiRuo that they were not a couple. Then he overheard him bragging about his wealth, so he had to take a bit of his money, just to cause a little trouble. But now that he found out that he's a leader of Jin soldiers, how could he not take more of his money?

    WanYan HongLie reached into his shirt and, as expected, all the money that was in his shirt had, inexplicably, disappeared. Not only was he worried about the fact that all these men were such great kungfu masters, but if they somehow found out that he has Madame Bao with him, what a disaster that would be? Luckily, now that Qiu ChuJi and the 7 Weirdos still haven't worked out their misunderstanding, this was the perfect time for him to get out of town. So he immediately went back to the hotel and headed north with Bao XiRuo that very night, all the way until they arrived back at the capital of the Jin Empire, YanJing. {Modern day Beijing}

    As it turned out, after that night in which Qiu ChuJi killed Wang DaoKun, met the 2 men, and killed another group of Jin soldiers, he arrived in HangZhou in great spirit. So he spent several days in a row by the lake. The Ge Peak at the north end of the West Lake, besides being a famous Taoist retreat, was just the place where Ge Hong concocted his medicine pills at that time. So Qiu ChuJi spent his mornings enjoying the land and the people and his afternoons inside the Taoist temple on top of Ge Peak, making medicine and practicing kungfu.

    One day, he was walking by a pier at the shore of Qing River when he suddenly saw a group of 10 or so government soldiers walking by in a very sorry state with their armor falling apart and their weapons all broken. Obviously they had just lost a battle. He was rather puzzled: "We aren't at war with the Jins nowadays, and I haven't heard anything about any ruffians or uprisings around here. Where in the world did they lose this battle?" He asked around but nobody knew about it either. His curiosity piqued as he followed the soldiers back to their camp, under Command Post 6.

    He waited until after midnight before he snuck into the camp and dragged a soldier out into a small alley to interrogate. That soldier was in the middle of a dream when suddenly, out of nowhere, a sharp blade was put up against his throat. In shock and fear, he did not hide a thing as he spilled all the secrets about going into Ox Village to capture 2 men and all that happened that night. Qiu ChuJi just could not believe it when that soldier told him that Guo XiaoTian had died that night; and Yang TieXin, gravely wounded, was missing, most likely dead as well. The soldier kept on saying that the 2 widows had been captured, but on their way back they had ran into another group of soldiers out of nowhere and, for some weird and stupid reason, they fought and lost. Qiu ChuJi was about to lose his temper when he realized that this man was merely a soldier who was following orders and not truly responsible for what happened. So he demanded: "Who's your superior?" The soldier answered: "The commander's... s... surname is Duan, given name TianDe." Qiu ChuJi let him go and snuck back trying to find Duan TianDe, but to no avail.

    The next morning, a pole was erected in front of the command house, a head was dangling off of the top of it, as a warning to other criminals. Qiu ChuJi only took one look and recognized that it belonged to Guo XiaoTian. In sadness and anger, he thought: "Qiu ChuJi, Qiu ChuJi, this man is a descendent of a patriot. Out of kindness, he asked you to have a drink with him, yet you brought upon him such calamities. If you do not bring justice for him, how can you go on pretending to be a man?" In fury, he flicked his arm and shattered the flag pole in front of the command post to pieces.

    After forcing himself to wait until night fall, he climbed up the pole and took down Guo XiaoTian's head. He dug a hole on the shore of the West Lake and buried the head there. After several kowtows, he wiped the tears away from his face as he silently swore: "I promised to teach the 2 hero's children kungfu. I keep every promise I have ever made, if I could not turn your children into heroes among men, then let me never see my brothers in the afterlife, I no longer deserve such an honor." He calculated that the first thing he needed to do was find that Duan TianDe and get revenge for his 2 dead sworn brothers. After that he would rescue the 2 widows and take them to some place safe, so that the 2 kids could be born and leave a legacy for these 2 heroes.

    For 2 straight nights, he searched through Command Post 6, but was not able to find Duan TianDe at all. He became worried that this man, out of greed and corruption so as to not follow military regulations at all, might not spend time with the soldiers under him at all. On the 3rd night, he stepped out in front of the command post and shouted: "Duan TianDe! Come out here this instant!"
    Because of the fact that Guo XiaoTian's head had been taken, Duan TianDe was just inside interrogating Li Ping about any other criminal mastermind that her husband might know when suddenly there was chaos outside. He stuck his head out of a window and saw a tall and big Taoist, with incredible ferocity and style, grabbed a soldier in each hand and tossed them out of the way as he made his way through the crowd of soldiers. One of the commanders repeatedly shouted: "Let loose the arrows! Let loose!" In the chaos, some of the soldiers grabbed a bow but couldn't find any arrows while other soldiers gathered some arrows but did not grab any bow.

    Furious, Duan TianDe pulled out his sabre and charged up screaming: "Want to rebel?" He swung at Qiu ChuJi's waist. Seeing that he was an officer, Qiu ChuJi did not budge at all. Instead he tossed aside the soldier that was in his hands and, with one simple motion of his left hand, grabbed Duan TianDe's wrist and demanded: "Where's that bastard Duan TianDe?"

    Just writhing in pain, Duan TianDe immediately replied: "Is Father looking for Mr. Duan? He... He's drinking on the West Lake, don't know if he's going to make it back today." Believing him, Qiu ChuJi let him go. Duan TianDe turned to 2 soldiers by his side and ordered: "Take Father to the lake shore so that he could find the commander." The 2 soldiers didn't catch on, so he shouted: "What are you standing there for? Hurry! Father will get mad!" The 2 men finally caught on and began walking. Qiu ChuJi followed them off.

    Not daring to stay a moment longer, Duan TianDe took several guards and Li Ping and headed straight towards the 8th command post. The commander was his drinking pal and, upon hearing what had happened, immediately offered to dispatch some help to him to catch this Taoist bastard. He was just about to dispatch his troops when his camp suddenly descended into chaos as one of the soldier ran in and reported that a Taoist had came charging into camp. Turned out the soldiers that were with him couldn't take the pressure and told him about the places that Duan TianDe frequently goes to.

    Being the alert man he was, Duan TianDe did not hesitate as he grabbed Li Ping and ran. He ran away to the 2nd Command Post outside of the city, figuring that he could lose Qiu ChuJi because of its remote location. After he settled down, the images of that Taoist rampaging through the army haunted him. By this time his wrist began to hurt and swell again. He went to an injury doctor in the camp and it turned out that 2 bones in his wrist had actually snapped. Too scared to go home, he decided to stay in the 2nd Command Post for the night. He slept till midnight when some disturbances outside woke him up, apparently one of the soldiers standing guard had disappeared.

    Duan TianDe jumped out of his bed, somehow knowing that the guard must have been kidnapped by that Taoist. Deciding that no matter where he hides in the army camps, the Taoist would eventually find him, he had to find something to do! This Taoist had already met him and was only coming at him and him alone. Even though there were lots of soldiers in the army, he was probably not going to come out unscratched. He was about to break down into a panic when he suddenly remembered that his uncle, who's kungfu was quite good, had retreated to Cloudy Pavilion Temple to become a monk, why not hide there? Figuring that this Taoist's attacks probably had something to do with Guo XiaoTian, he ordered Li Ping to be changed into a soldier's uniform and dragged her to Cloudy Pavilion Temple with him in the middle of the night, thinking that if he really got into trouble he could use her to threaten the monk.

    His uncle, given the Buddhist name of Withered-Wood, became a monk a long time ago and had became the Abbot of Cloudy Pavilion Temple. Before he had been an army officer and his kungfu training came as a disciple of XianXia Sect that was prevalent in the province of ZheJiang and JiangSu and could be considered a branch of ShaoLin kungfu. He never approved Duan TianDe's character and kept a distance between them. Seeing him stumbling in to the monastery in such a sorry state in the middle of the night, he was quite annoyed and asked coldly: "What are you doing here?"

    Knowing that his uncle hated the Jins to the bone, Duan TianDe knew that if he told the truth his uncle might have killed him on the spot himself, so on the way here he had already thought of a lie. So seeing that his uncle's cold stare at this moment, he immediately knelt down and kowtowed: "Someone is troubling me, please help me uncle!"

    Father Withered-Wood replied: "You are an army officer here, it's already a miracle if you don't go troubling others, who would dare to trouble you?" With an innocent look on his face, Duan TianDe replied: "I'm no good, hiding here and there from this Taoist bastard. Hope that uncle would, for sake of late father, save me." Out of pity, Father Withered-Wood asked him: "Why is the Taoist chasing you?"

    Duan TianDe knew that the more repentant he sounded the better of he was, so he said: "It's all my fault, my fault! Two days ago I went to the Wah-Zi on the west side of Clear Coolness Bridge...." Father Withered-Wood snorted and his face dropped. "Wah She", or "Wah-Zi", was the slang for brothels back at that time; from that came the saying "Wahs gather when time comes, wahs scatters when time goes", which is used to describe something that comes easily and goes just as fast.

    Duan TianDe continued: "There was someone there that I had met on many occassions and she was in the middle of a song when a Taoist suddenly burst in and say that she had to entertain him because her song was so good...." Father Withered-Wood abruptly cut in: "Bull! What is a monk doing in a place like that?" Duan TianDe replied: "That's what I said and then I told him to leave. But it turned out that Taoist was a low-life and cursed me for enjoying myself despite of the fact that I would lose my head in the next couple of days." Father Withered-Wood asked: "What is he talking about?" Duan TianDe replied: "He said that the Jin army was going to cross the river and invade south soon and was going to kill every single one of us Song soldiers."

    Furious, Father Withered-Wood demanded: "Did he really say that?" Duan TianDe nodded: "Yes! I guess my temper was not really good either and I got into an argument with him, saying that if the Jins really did invade, we would at least all die fighting and wouldn't necessarily lose." This really rubbed Father Withered-Wood the right way, so much so that he could not help but nod in approval as he thought this was the best thing that this nephew of his ever said. Seeing him nod, Duan TianDe's heart lit up and continued: "We just kept on arguing until we began to fight, but I wasn't a match for the Taoist. He came chasing after me, I had nowhere else to go, so that's why I came here. Uncle, please help me!" Father Withered-Wood replied: "I am a monk, I'm not getting involved in these kind of name-seeking matters that you guys got yourself into." Duan TianDe begged: "Just this one time, uncle, I will never do anything like this again."
    Remembering his brother of yesteryears and quite mad at the Taoist for saying what he said, Father Withered-Wood finally relented: "Alright, you can hide here for a couple of days. I don't want any kind of troubles from you." Duan TianDe agreed to everything and anything he demanded. Father Withered-Wood sighed: "An honorable army officer, so useless. If the Jin army really did invade, then what could we do? Ay! Back then, I...."

    Scared by threats from Duan TianDe, Li Ping just stood there by his side through all his lies, not daring to say a single word.

    The next afternoon, the camerarius ran in and reported to Father Withered-Wood: "There's a Taoist monk out front, shouting all kinds of stuff and creating a havoc, saying something about making Duan.... Commander Duan come out."
    {Note: the camerarius is a monk that basically greets everyone that visits the first temple and serves as both an one-man welcoming committee and a guide.}

    Father Withered-Wood went and got Duan TianDe and told him. In a panic, Duan TianDe said: "It's him, it's him!" Father Withered-Wood observed: "Which sect does this vicious Taoist belong under?" Duan TianDe replied: "Don't which hole that barbarian crawled out of, but his kungfu doesn't seem that great either, just that his arm strength is enormous. The only reason I lost is because I didn't know any kungfu at all." Father Withered-Wood replied: "Alright, I'm going to go meet him in person." Walking out to the Main Hall, he ran right into a Qiu ChuJi who was trying to bust into the temple. The guard monks were trying their best to slow him down, but they were failing. Father Withered-Wood walked up to him and gently pushed Qiu ChuJi's shoulder, using a bit of inner strength, he figured he would just push Qiu ChuJi out of the Main Hall. But, to his surprise, it felt as if he was pushing down on a pile of cotton, there was nothing there that he could actually push against. Knowing he was in trouble, he immediately tried to pull back. But it was too late as he stumbled back out of control and backed into the offering table. "Crack!" "Boom!" Half of the offering table collapsed and all the offerings on it were scattered or fell onto the floor.

    Shocked, a thought ran through his mind: "This Taoist's kungfu is truly amazing, much more than just enormous arm strength, that's for sure." So he immediately held his palm up and saluted: "May I ask why Father has come and visited our humble monastery?" Qiu ChuJi replied: "I'm looking for an evil criminal with the surname of Duan." Knowing that he himself was no match for Qiu ChuJi, Father Withered-Wood replied: "We monks should always be merciful and forgiving, why is Father stooping to the same level as those laymen?"

    Ignoring him, Qiu ChuJi walked into the Inner Hall. By now Duan TianDe had already hid himself and Li Ping. Cloudy Pavilion Temple's incense was very popular and it was just the Spring pilgrimage season, so the hall was filled with believers of both genders. Realizing that it was impossible to search thoroughly, Qiu ChuJi snickered a bit and walked out.

    When Duan TianDe came out from his hiding place, Father Withered-Wood demanded angrily: "Barbarian? If he wasn't holding back, I would be dead by now!" Duan TianDe replied: "That barbaric Taoist is a spy of the Jins, why else would he make a point to specifically trouble us officers of the Great Song?" The camerarius came back in and reported that the Taoist had left. Father Withered-Wood asked: "Did he say anything as he left?" The camerarius replied: "He said that he would never give up until we turn over that... that officer named Duan."
    Father Withered-Wood shot an angry look at Duan TianDe and said: "I can't figure out what you are hiding from what you said. It's just that this Taoist's kungfu is really too strong. You probably wouldn't come out alive if you fall into his hands." After quietly thinking for a while, he continued: "You can't stay here any longer. My younger martial brother Father Burnt-Wood's kungfu is better than mine. He's the only one who has a chance to stop that Taoist, why don't you go and hide with him for a while?" Duan TianDe didn't even dare to utter a single word fearing that he might anger his uncle. After his uncle handed him a letter to give to Father Burnt-Wood explaining the situation, he immediately rented a boat and headed for JiaXing in the middle of the night.

    How could Father Burnt-Wood have guessed that the person he dragged in with him was actually a girl? Since he had the letter from his elder martial brother, he naturally allowed Duan TianDe to stay. When Qiu ChuJi found out about this, he came chasing along as well. He even spotted Li Ping in the back gardens of the temple. But by the time he burst into the temple, Duan TianDe had already dragged Li Ping into the underground storage with him. Qiu ChuJi, still thinking that Li Ping was in the temple, demanded her to be handed over. Since he saw her with his own eyes, he did not believe any reasoning that Father Burnt-Wood came up with, and their argument got worse and worse. As soon as Qiu ChuJi revealed a bit of his kungfu, Father Burnt-Wood knew he was no match. Having always been good friends with the 7 Weirdos, he set up a meeting with Qiu ChuJi in the Pavilion of Drunken Goddess. That huge vat that Qiu ChuJi had with him came from that very Temple of Oriental Zen. When he ran into the Jin soldiers in the Pavilion of Drunken Goddess, Qiu ChuJi's misunderstanding got even worse.
    Father Burnt-Wood really did not know much about the truth of the entire matter. So on the way back to Temple of Oriental Zen from the Pavilion of Drunken Goddess, he told the 7 Weirdos about the men that his martial brother Abbot Withered-Wood sent to him. He added at the end: "I have heard that all of the 7 Disciples of QuanZhen Sect are masters of kungfu, each receiving the direct teachings of Saint ChongYang. Among them, Son of Eternal Spring was known as the best, and it turns out that he's as good as advertised. Even though he's rather rude, he doesn't seem to be the kind who just doesn't care for reason, and there aren't any enmities between the 2 of us. So there must be some great misunderstanding at work here."

    Quan JinFa suggested: "I think the best thing to do is to bring out the 2 men that your martial brother sent to you so we can sort all of this out." Father Burnt-Wood nodded: "Good point, I haven't really interrogated them very well yet." He was just about to sent some people to go get Duan TianDe when Ke ZhenE spoke up: "That Qiu ChuJi's temper is really something, just terrible. He obviously do not even consider us people in the martial world just south of the Yangtze as worthy of respect. His QuanZhen Sect may be able to act like bosses up north, but we can't allow them to act like bosses when they come down south like this. If we can't clear up the misunderstanding, then we have to sort this out with kungfu. If we go up against him one-on-one, none of us are a match for him. But he didn't come with good intentions, and came without any good intentions.'" Zhu Cong added: "Let's gang up on him together!" Han BaoJu commented: "Eight against one? Not very heroic don't you think?" Quan JinFa reasoned: "It's not like we are going to kill him, we are only trying to calm him down so he can listen to Father Burnt-Wood's explanations." Han XiaoYing was rather worried: "If it gets out that Father Burnt-Wood and the 7 Weirdos of the South ganged up on someone, wouldn't that tarnish our name?"

    The 8 of them hadn't worked out what to do yet when a thunderous knell came from the Main Hall of the temple followed by a cacophony of metals banging on the floor. Qiu ChuJi was banging the huge bell that hung from the ceiling of the Main Hall with the bronze vat. After several hits, the vat began to crack. The look on his face was filled with fury and anger. The 7 Weirdos didn't know that Qiu ChuJi wasn't always this unreasonable and rash. He had been so frustrated by his own inability to capture Duan TianDe that he was about to blow, add to that his deep-seeded hatred of the Jins and that would be the reason he was behaving this way. The 7 Weirdos all thought that he was trying to just bully them with his reputation, so they decided and were determined to fight it out. The more famous the 7 Disciples of QuanZhen were, the more determined the 7 Weirdos were not to back down and appear to be bullied. If Qiu ChuJi had been some unknown kungfu practitioner, this situation would have, ironically, been much easier to resolve and probably would have already been resolved.
    Han BaoJu shouted: "Sister, let's take the lead." He's Han XiaoYing's first cousin on her father's side and had the least amount of patience. In one motion, the golden-dragon whip that was around his waist was now in his hands as he pulled a "Wind Swirling the Crippled Cloud" causing the whip to snap toward Qiu ChuJi's right hand, which was holding up the vat. Han XiaoYing unsheathed her sword as well and thrusted toward the center of Qiu ChuJi's back. Attacked from both fronts, Qiu ChuJi rotated his wrist, causing the whip to hit the vat instead. Then he turned his body slightly sideways and let the sword thrust by his side.
    In the last years of the Spring and Autumn era, the states Yue and Wu were mortal enemies. The Lord of Yue Gou Qian, in order to remind himself of the shame of defeat and to motivate himself to excel, tortured himself by sleeping on a straw bed and tasting a gall-bladder that he hung from the ceiling everyday. But nevertheless, the Lord of Wu had a general under him named Wu ZiYi(not sure about the pinyin here, any help?) who, being a disciple of Sun-Tze's school of combat, was a great tactician and trainer. Seeing that his army was still no match for his enemy's, Gou Qian got more and more depressed. One day, a beautiful young girl with amazing sword skills suddenly appeared inside Yue borders. Happy beyond words, Gou Qian immediately asked her to teach his soldiers her skills and was finally able to defeat the Wu army because of it. JiaXing, being the meeting place between the 2 states, was a place where several battles occurred. So it was no surprise that the entire sword techniques was passed down around here. Only problem was that the sword skill was mostly designed to be most effective on the battle-field, meaning that it was mostly used to chop down numerous soldiers and bringing down horses in a crowd and not nimble or agile enough when used against kungfu practitioners in the martial world. It was only until the last days of the Tang dynasty did this sword technique receive a much needed upgrade from a swordplay genius around this area, who made the moves much more complex and speed. Although Han XiaoYing hadn't mastered this entire repertoire that she learned from her master yet, she was still very deadly. Her nickname "Yue Sword Maiden" was a reference to this.

    {Note: This entire story regarding this sword technique is covered in another Jin Yong short story, Yue Maiden Sword, or Yue Nu Jian.}

    However, only after a few moves, Qiu ChuJi had figured out her repertoire and decided to beat its speed with even more speed. She was fast, Qiu ChuJi was even faster, using his right arm to blocked off Han BaoHu's whip, his left hand came shooting out in an attempt to snatch the sword out of her hand by sheer force. In an instant, Han XiaoYing was forced to retreat to the side of the Buddha statue.

    Nan XiRen and Zhang AhSheng both charged up and attacked from both sides. Nan XiRen was just as quiet as can be, letting his carrying stick make all the sounds. But Zhang AhSheng was completely opposite, shouting and screaming all kinds of street talk, all in his south Yangtze accent. Qiu ChuJi didn't understand a thing that he's shouting, so he just pretended he didn't hear it.

    In flurry of the fight Qiu ChuJi's left palm suddenly came straight out right at Zhang AhSheng's face. Instinctively, Zhang AhSeng bent himself over backwards to avoid it, but the move turned out to be a fake as Qiu ChuJi's right foot came flying out and hitting Zhang AhSheng's right wrist, knocking his knife loose. But Zhang AhSheng's much better with nothing in his hands, so he did not miss a beat as he balanced himself with his left leg, faked with a right hand, and attacked with his left fist.

    Qiu ChuJi let out a shout of approval before dodging out of the way and uttering: "Pity, pity!" Zhang AhSeng had to ask: "What?" Qiu ChuJi replied: "Pity that you, such a kungfu artist, would bring on shame to yourself by befriending evil monks and serving the Jins." Furious by that accusation, Zhang AhSheng shouted back: "Bastard Taoist, you are the one that's serving the Jins!" He took 3 swings at Qiu ChuJi in quick succession during that. Qiu ChuJi dodged out of the way and tilted the vat, causing 2 of Zhang AhSheng's punches to actually land on the vat.

    Seeing that they were still losing despite of their 4 to 1 advantage, Zhu Cong made a gesture towards Quan JinFa and the 2 of them charged into the scuffle. Quan JinFa's weapon was a huge hand scale in which he used the scale handle as a bat, the scale hook as a flying hook, and the scale weight as a mace; literally 3 weapons in 1. Zhu Cong, on the other hand, excelled at hitting pressure points. That dirty and broken fan of his was actually made of iron which he used like a extension of his arm, which facilitates hitting pressure points with distractions such as other weapons or enemies flying at him.

    Qiu ChuJi spun and tilted the vat in his hand at will, making it a huge shield that guarded his frontside while using his other, left, hand to fight back and attack. Although with such a huge burden in his hand, he could no longer move around as nimbly as he could, it was still quite advantageous for him because he could just use the vat to block all of the attacks coming towards him.

    Father Burnt-Wood, seeing the fight quickly getting out of hand, figured that someone could be seriously hurt any moment now. So he tried to get everyone's attention by shouting as loud as he could: "Everyone please stop! Please listen to what I have to say!" But who would actually stop in the middle of a fierce fight?
    Qiu ChuJi shouted back: "Pervert! Who wants to hear you talk? Watch this!" Suddenly his left hand turned ferociously towards Zhang AhSheng as it shifted between fist and palm over and over again without a rhyme or reason. This move, called "Flying Mountain Outside the Heavens," was based on weird form and incredible speed, meant to take an opponent by surprise, as it did to Zhang AhSheng. Father Burnt-Wood shouted: "No! Father! Please don't!" But Qiu ChuJi had been fighting for so long and against so many able opponents that he was afraid for the fight to last too long, especially when there were 2 men standing on the sidelines waiting to jump in at any moment, so at that time he was worried very much about his own life. Now that he had found an opening in his opponents, how could he just let that go? Therefore he put all his strength and power behind this move.

    Having trained his body specifically to strengthen up his skin in his kungfu training plus the fact that he liked to wrestle with wild bulls and buffaloes for work and hobby, Zhang AhSheng's body was covered with a layer of thick and hard muscles, which sometimes resembles the thick skins of bulls. So even though he knew that this strike packed quite a force, he, figuring that he couldn't get out of the way anyway, immediately gathered his inner strength and prepared himself for a strike on his shoulders and shouted: "Come on!". And hence, he caught the palm full on. "Crack!" Incredibly, his collar bone, despite of all his preparation, snapped in half under the sheer force of the pure inner force of the QuanZhen Sect.

    Shocked, Zhu Cong attacked aggressively with his iron fan, aimed right at a pressure point of Qiu ChuJi. As the saying goes, offense is the best defense; Zhu Cong attacked to protect his sworn brother from further harm now that he's injured. But Qiu ChuJi, having just gained the upperhand, immediately began trying to seize some of the weapons that were flying around him. "Ai-Yo!" Quan JingFa shouted as Qiu ChuJi got a hold of his scale. With a jerk, Qiu ChuJi had pulled him a meter closer. Putting between the 2 of them and 2 other attackers, Nan XiRen and Zhu Cong, Qiu ChuJi's left palm came flying down towards the scalp of Quan JingFa.

    Han BaoJu and Han XiaoYing both immediately jumped in and lunged their weapons at Qiu ChuJi's head in an attempt to stop him. Qiu ChuJi had no choice but to dodge out of the way and let Quan JingFa escape. Having just escaped death, Quan JingFa was covered in sweat, but he nevertheless still took a kick to his side that made him writhe on the ground in pain, not able to get up at all.
    Father Burnt-Wood didn't want to actually come to blows, having hoped that his misunderstanding with Qiu ChuJi would have been peacefully worked out, but seeing that his friends that had came to his aid are going down one by one, he had to join in the scuffle. So he tossed his long sleeve, raised that piece of burnt-wood in his hand, and lunged at Qiu ChuJi. Qiu ChuJi thought: "So it turns out that this monk is a master at hitting pressure points." So he put his guard up against him.

    Ke ZhenE figured from all the shouting that his sworn brothers and sisters are hurt, so he grabbed his iron staff and was about to charge into the fight when Quan JingFa shouted: "Big Brother, fire your projectiles! First at 'Jin', then go for 'Xiao Guo'!" Before his voice even died down, 2 projectiles came flying directly towards Qiu ChuJi's forehead and right hip.

    Qiu ChuJi was shocked. It's not often that one meets a blind man able to fire projectiles so accurately, even with a person on the side telling him where to fire it at. So he immediately spun the vat in his hand and knocked the 2 projectiles down. These projectiles are used only by Ke ZhenE, with corners on all 4 sides like a diamond, but as sharp anyone could make it. He learned to use this after he was blinded because the projectiles are heavy, making it easy for him to be accurate. After knocking the projectiles down with the vat, Qiu ChuJi actually felt the vat shake! He thought: "Wow, what strength!"

    By now all the other weirdos had dodged out of the way. Quan JingFa still kept shouting: "'Zhong Fu', now 'Lie'!.... Good, now the Taoist has moved into ' Ming Yi"...." He had done this with Ke ZhenE so many times with over the years that it's almost as if his eyes were Ke ZhenE's; he's the only one among the other weirdoes that could do this.

    Ke ZhenE was firing as if he could see and in an instant he had fired dozens of projectiles. So much so that Qiu ChuJi was now forced to merely fending off the projectiles with no opportunity to fight back whatsoever.

    Suddenly a thought came to Ke ZhenE: "He's hearing 6th brother as well, so he's prepared every time, no wonder I can't hit him." Quan JingFa's voice was getting softer and softer with moans sandwiched in between, obviously in great pain. But Ke ZhenE did not hear Zhang AhSeng make a single bit of noise at all as nobody was quite sure whether or not he's alive. Quan JingFa struggled to get out: "Hit... hit... 'Tong Ren'...." But this time Ke ZhenE did not follow his advice, instead he threw up both arms and fired 4 projectiles, one each at the "Jie" and "Sun" positions right of "Tong Ren" and the other 2 heading for the "Feng" and "Lie" position left of "Tong Ren."

    Not expect Ke ZhenE to suddenly use trickery, Qiu ChuJi took a big step left and dodged the "Tong Ren" position as 2 people suddenly screamed in pain.
    Qiu ChuJi's right shoulder was hit, but the projectile aimed towards the "Sun" position hit Han XiaoYin's back.

    Surprised and pleased, Ke ZhenE shouted: "Little sister, come here!"

    Knowing that her big brother soaked his projectiles in extreme poison, Han XiaoYin immediately scrambled to his side. Ke ZhenE took out a small, yellow looking pill from his bag, stuffed it in her mouth, and instructed: "Go to the yard outside and sleep, do not move, I'll come and attend to you later." Han XiaoYin immediately got up and ran towards the yard. But Ke ZhenE shouted: "Don't run! Don't run! Walk slowly!" Han XiaoYin immediately understood and cursed at herself for being so stupid. Because blood will circulate faster when she runs and if the poison was carried into the heart then there would be know way she could be saved. So she stopped and slowly walked out.

    After being hit, Qiu ChuJi just kind of ignored it because it was not very painful and just kept on fighting against the rest of the crowd. However, in the midst of the fight he suddenly heard Ke ZhenE shout "Don't run!" several times. A chill went through his heart as he suddenly noticed that his arm around the wound felt very numb and he realized that the projectile had poison on it. Not daring to hesitate, he collected his strength and aimed a punch at Nan XiRen's face as hard as he can.

    Noticing that the punch was coming his way, Nan XiRen bent his knees, held his iron carrying stick across his chest, and pulled a move called "Iron Chain Across the River" to block the punch. Qiu ChuJi did not pull the punch at all. On the contrary, he actually took a deep breath and put even more force into the punch, hitting the stick squarely in the middle. Nan XiRen's body shook violently and he had to drop his stick as the part of his hand between his thumb and index finger split open and blood began rushing out. Turned out that Qiu ChuJi wasn't leaving anything in reserve in an attempt to bring the fight to a speedy end so he could save his own life. So he pretty much put all he's worth into this punch, causing massive internal injuries to Nan XiRen. Feeling light on his feet and numbness in his mouth as well as seeing stars, Nan XiRen suddenly fell to the ground throwing up blood.

    Although he had taken down another foe, the numbness in Qiu ChuJi's shoulder was getting worse and worse, causing him to start having trouble controlling that huge vat in his hand. So with a shout, he swept his left leg, making Han BaoJu leave his feet to dodge the attack. "Where do you think you are going?" Qiu ChuJi yelled as as he pushed the vat off so that it came down on top of Han BaoJu. Because he was in midair, Han BaoJu could not do a thing other than do half of a flip. By then the vat had already covered his head. In an attempt to avoid any serious injuries, he immediately put his hands over his head and curled up into a ball. "Bang!" The vat hit the floor as it conveniently and neatly covered up Han BaoJu.

    As soon as he let go of the vat, Qiu ChuJi unsheathed his sword. With a little kick against the ground with his toes, he jumped up and cut the rope that held the huge bell to the ceiling. At the same time, he gave the bell a little push to aim the bell directly at the vat, making it come down right on top of the vat. Now Han BaoJu was truly stuck; however, Qiu ChuJi had really spent a huge amount of energy with these last 2 moves and as a result, all of his extremities were beginning to feel numb and huge drops of sweat were beginning to bead on his forehead.

    Ke ZhenE shouted: "Drop your weapons and stop now! If you wait any longer, your life could be in danger!" But Qiu ChuJi figured that since the monk was in bed with both the Jin and the Song soldiers and hid women in his temple, then his friends, the weirdoes, could not be anything better. He would rather die than to submit to these bastards. So he turned around and began to try and fight his way out.

    With only Ke ZhenE and Zhu Cong still unharmed and the conditions of others still unknown, how could either one of them let him get away? So Ke ZhenE held up his iron staff and stood in front of the door, blocking his way out. Desperate to fight out any way he could, Qiu ChuJi stuck his sword out right at Ke ZhenE's face. Ke ZhenE's nickname Flying Bat came about for a reason, so he easily heard what's going on and parried away the sword with his staff, almost knocking the sword out of Qiu ChuJi's hand. Shocked, Qiu ChuJi said to himself: "How strong is this blind man's inner strength? Could it possibly be stronger than mine?" So he immediately followed with another thrust, which was parried away again. But Qiu ChuJi had found out that it wasn't because Ke ZhenE's inner strength was stronger, it was because his right arm was wounded and therefore he could not exert his full force through it. So he switched the sword over to his left hand and began using a skill that he never used combat before, "Common Ruin Sword Skill." The sword flashed as one move after another came flying towards the vitals of Ke ZhenE, Zhu Cong, and Father Burnt-Wood; he wasn't defending at all, every single one of his moves was an attack.

    The name "Common Ruin Sword Skill" was designed for one to fight for his life against a much more powerful opponent. Every move is designed to attack the enemy in an vital spot with incredible force without the slightest care for one's life. Although this is a highly refined sword skill, it's actually very similiar to those scraps between the ruffians and low-lifes on the streets. Turned out that Quan Zhen Sect has a nemesis that resides in the western regions. This man was much more powerful than the 7 Disciples of Quan Zhen, and he was as ruthless as he was powerful. Back then only the disciples' master could subdue and control this man, but now that the master had passed away, there's a chance that this man could come back to the central plains any time and destroy the entire Quan Zhen Sect. The 7 disciples do have a "Big Dipper Formation" that could contain this man; however, this formation only works with all 7 disciples present, so there was the possibility that they might ran into this man without every present. This "Common Ruin Sword Skill" was meant to be used against this man, especially in single combat, in the hopes that the 2 combatants would both perish and thus preserving the sect. Poisoned and surrounded by 3 kungfu masters, Qiu ChuJi had no choice but to use this skill.

    After about a dozen exchanges or so, Ke ZhenE's leg was hit. Father Burnt-Wood shouted: "Big Brother Ke, Brother Zhu, why don't we just let him go on his way?" But because of this little distraction, his right rib was hit, causing him to fall to the ground screaming.

    By now, Qiu ChuJi was having trouble keeping his balance as well. His eyes bloodshot, Zhu Chong exchanged several more moves with him, all the while cursing at him nonstop. Ke ZhenE, not being able to see, was completely baffled by the sound created by Qiu ChuJi's sword and was hit again, this time on his right leg, as he fell to the ground.

    Zhu Cong cursed: "Dog of a Taoist, bastard Taoist! The poison in your veins have reached your heart now! Why don't you try and make 3 more moves at me?"
    Furious, Qiu ChuJi gimply came charging at him, but Zhu Cong's lightness kungfu was very good as he flew around the hall. Knowing that he could not keep this up anymore, Qiu ChuJi stopped and sighed. Suddenly every turned dark in front of him. He tried to shake his mind clear and was just about to go look for a way out when suddenly something smacked his back. It was a shoe that Zhu Cong had taken off.

    Even though the shoe was soft, he still carried quite a bit of force with it because of Zhu Cong's inner strength. Qiu ChuJi teetered as he fought hard to maintain consciousness. Suddenly something else hit the back of his head. This time it's a wooden fish that Zhu Cong had found lying in front the Buddha statue.

    Fortunately, Qiu ChuJi's inner strength was very strong, for a normal person would have undoubtedly died from that hit, but even he almost black out from that hit. So Qiu ChuJi yelled at the top of his lungs: "Forget it, forget it! Son of Eternal Spring shall die today in the hands of these shameless bastards!" Feeling his knees suddenly give away, he collapsed onto the floor.

    {Note: the wooden fish is a wooden percussion instrument that Buddhist priests use to keep rhythm while chanting.}

    Fearing that he might jump back up again, Zhu Cong reached down to hit the pressure point in the middle of Qiu ChuJi's chest when he suddenly saw Qiu ChuJi's left hand move. Knowing that he was in trouble, Zhu Cong immediately tried to bring his right arm back in front of his chest to block the blow. But a huge force came flying up from underneath his belly and shot him off. He was spitting out blood even before he landed. Even though he could not move, Qiu ChuJi put all the strength left in him into this strike. There was no way in the world that Zhu Cong could take such a force.

    Not only does none of the other monks in the temple knew any kungfu, none of them even knew that their master knew kungfu. So the sudden chaos in the main hall had sent them fleeing for their lives a long time ago. Only after thing had quieted down for quite a while did they a couple of the braver monks stuck their heads out to see what had happened. What they saw, blood everywhere, bodies everywhere, sent them screaming and scrambling to Duan TianDe.

    Duan TianDe had been hiding in the underground storage the entire time and was ecstatic upon hearing the news that both sides were completely destroyed in the fight. Making sure that Qiu ChuJi was among those fighting, he told the monks to go and check whether or not the Taoist had died. Only when the monks came back with the news that the Taoist was lying on the ground with his eyes shut did he finally feel safe and dragged Li Ping to the main hall.

    He gave Qiu ChuJi a kick, causing Qiu ChuJi to let out an almost imperceptible moan. So Duan TianDe pulled out his sabre and shouted: "You have any idea how much suffering you have given me you Taoist bastard? Well now your old man is going to send you on your way to the Western Paradise!"

    Even though he was greatly injured, Father Burnt-Wood summoned all his strength and shouted: "Don't... don't harm him!" Duan TianDe inquired: "Why not?" Father Burnt-Wood, still recovering from the shout, got out between breaths: "He's a good man... just a little im... impatient, so there was some misunderstand...." Duan TianDe replied: "A good man? Who cares? Let me kill him first!" Father Burnt-Wood angrily rebuked: "Are you going to listen to me or not? Put... put down your sabre!" Duan TianDe laughed heartily at that remark and shouted back: "Put down my sabre? Then what? Become enlightened on the spot?" He lifted up his sabre and began to swing it down at Qiu ChuJi.

    {Note: Duan TianDe's becoming enlightened remark is a reference to a Buddhist saying that one could put down his weapon and become enlightened on the spot.}

    Furious, Father Burnt-Wood summoned up all his strength again and tossed the piece of burnt wood in his hand at Duan TianDe as hard as he could. Duan TianDe tried to dodge out of the way, but his kungfu was just not good enough as it caught him on the side of his mouth and knocked out 3 of his teeth. In pain and humiliation, Duan TianDe, ignoring the fact that he owed his life to Father Burnt-Wood, lifted his sabre and tried to chop off Father Burnt-Wood's head. However, a small monk who was right beside him grabbed onto his right arm and held on for his life while another one grabbed his collar. In fury, Duan TianDe swung his sabre back and brought it down upon those 2 monks.

    Even though Qiu ChuJi, Father Burnt-Wood, and Weirdoes were all kungfu masters, every single one of them was gravely injured and could not do a thing to stop him.

    Li Ping screamed: "Bastard! Stop! Stop!" She had been dragged all over the place by Duan TianDe and was just basically waiting for an opportunity to present itself for her to avenge her husband. But seeing the ground covered in blood and this man about to commit more murders, she could not hold back anymore. She charged up at him and began to fight for all she's worth.

    The others had thought she was just an underling of Duan TianDe because of her uniform. So everyone was quite surprised when she suddenly attacked Duan TianDe.

    Being blind, Ke ZhenE's hearing was especially sensitive and knew that she was female as soon as he heard her. He turned to Father Burnt-Wood: "Monk Burnt-Wood, we are all going to die because of you. You really did have a girl hidden in your temple!"

    After a moment of surprise, Father Burnt-Wood understood what had happened. Thinking that because of one slight oversight on his part, he had not only hurt himself, he had taken his friends down with him as well. In anger and humiliation, he punched the ground with both hands to help him stand up and charged at Duan TianDe with all his might. Seeing him coming with such ferociousness, Duan TianDe immediately dodged out of the way in fear. Not being able to control his own body because of the injury, Father Burnt-Wood's ran smack into one of the columns head first and died on the spot.

    Scared out of his wits, Duan TianDe grabbed Li Ping and ran off as fast as he could. Li Ping's shout for help got further and further.
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 03-21-05 at 08:15 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Moinllieon)

    Chapter 3: The Winds of the Steppe

    The monks were all crying because of Father Burnt-Wood's death but some of them were still able to take care of the wounded by bandaging up their wounds and carrying them into the guest rooms.

    Suddenly there came an incessant banging from the vat underneath the huge bell. Not knowing what kind of monster was present, the monks looked at each other with blank faces and, not knowing what to do, started to chant "Sutra of the High King" {Gao Wang Jing}. But the banging continued through all the chants of "help the sufferers" and "Amida Buddha". Finally, a dozen or so of the more courageous monk pulled the huge bell back up again with a huge thick rope. As soon as they lifted the vat, a huge ball of meat came rolling out from underneath it. Scared beyond words, the monks scattered. That ball of meat suddenly stood up, turned out it was Han BaoJu. Being covered for the last half of the fight, he had no idea what had happened. Looking around, he noticed Father Burnt-Wood had died and all his sworn brothers were greatly injured and almost panicked. He walked over to Qiu ChuJi and was just about to strike down at his head with his Golden Dragon Whip.

    "Third Brother, no!" Quan JinFa shouted.

    "Why not?" Han BaoJu demanded out of anger.

    "You... just can't," was all Quan JinFa could get out because of the pain in his abdomen.

    Even though both of his legs were wounded, Ke ZhenE's mind was still working fine. So he took out the cure for his poison and instructed the monk to give the right amounts to both Qiu ChuJi and Han XiaoYin, all the while explaining what happened to Han BaoJu. Enraged, Han BaoJu was about to go chasing after Duan TianDe when Ke ZhenE shouted: "We'll find that bastard sooner or later. First help those of your brothers that suffered internal injuries."

    Both Zhu Cong and Nan XiRen suffered severe internal injuries and that kick in Quan JinFa's gut was quite a shot too. Zhang AhSheng's arm was broken and his chest was hit as well, knocking him out temporarily, but once he woke up, it turned out he wasn't in any mortal danger. So he immediately began helping others in the temple.

    Temple of Oriental Zen sent a couple of errand runners to go report the events to Father Whithered-Wood in Cloudy Pavilion Temple and also began to make funeral arrangements for Father Burnt-Wood.

    After several days, the poison in Qiu ChuJi and Han XiaoYin's body were eradicated. Being the medical expert that he was, Qiu ChuJi immediately began making herbs and treating Zhu Cong and others as well as massaging and snapping every bone back into place. Luckily, everyone's kungfu base was strong enough so that the internal as well as the external injuries were not serious. After several more days, everyone was able to sit back up again. One day all 8 of them gathered in one of the monk's rooms and reflected how they were manipulated into fighting each other, resulting in the death of Father Burnt-Wood and injuries to all parties. All of them were silent, not knowing what to say.
    After a while, Han XiaoYin finally broke the silence: "Everyone knows about Father Qiu's intelligence and wit, and the 7 of us didn't exactly begin wandering the world yesterday. Yet we were all manipulated into this by some little nobody. If this ever gets out, everyone in the martial world would laugh at us. Father, do you have any idea as to how to clean up this mess?"

    Qiu ChuJi had been blaming himself for the last couple of days, thinking that if only he had sat down and calmly talked with Father Burnt-Wood then all of this could have been avoided. So, out of deference, he turned to Ke ZhenE: "Big Brother Ke, what do you say?"

    Ke ZhenE's temper was bad to begin with, after his eyes were blinded it got even worse. The fact that Qiu ChuJi himself brought down all 7 of them combined was, in fact, what he considers to be one of the biggest embarrassment of his life. Coupled with the fact that the pain on his leg from the sword wound was still throbbing, he was barely able to hold back his indignation. So he sneered and replied: "Father Qiu uses his sword skills to take down anyone in his way and is never in need to respect anyone. Why consult us over this matter?"

    Qiu ChuJi was taken aback for a moment, but immediately realized that he was still mad over the matter. So he stood up, cupped his fist, and bowed to the 7 Weirdos. "I was wrong in my actions, I was too rude and headstrong. This entire matter is entirely my fault and I ask for all of your forgiveness."

    Zhu Cong and the rest of the Weirdos all returned the gesture. Ke ZhenE pretended not to notice and coldly replied: "I say the 7 of us have lost all of our rights to meddle in the affairs of the martial world. We should settle down here, fishing, chopping wood, whatever. As long as Father do not come around again, we would at least be able to spend the rest of our lives in peace."

    Qiu ChuJi blushed a bit from that verbal thrashing. After a brief pause, he suddenly stood up and said: "Since I was at fault this time, I will never dare to step into this area again. As for retribution for Father Burnt-Wood's death, it will all fall on my shoulders and I will kill that bastard with my own hands and avenge him. Having said all that I need to say, now it's time for me to leave."

    Qiu ChuJi bowed towards everyone again and began to walk out.

    "Stop!" Ke ZhenE shouted.

    "Does Big Brother Ke have something else to say?" Qiu ChuJi turned around and said.

    "You have injured all of us," Ke ZhenE replied, "and you expect all of this to just disappear because you said a couple of words?"

    "Then what does Big Brother Ke want? As long as it is within my abilities I will try my best to do it."

    "We just can't let this slip right now," Ke ZhenE answered, "so it would be nice if Father give us something more."

    Although the 7 Weirdos were all very righteous and moral individuals, they were also all very proud and act very strange, making them well deserving the title of "7 Weirdos". Each is a master of kungfu and always worked together, so they have never come out on the short end of the struggle when going up against others in the martial world. Several years ago they got into a fight with the HuaiYang Clan, the 7 of them killed over 100 or so of the HuaiYang Clan members on the shores of the Yangtze. Back then Han XiaoYin was still a kid, but she still managed to kill 2 foes and the name of the "7 Weirdos of the South" were famous throughout the martial world. So losing at the hands of Qiu ChuJi did not go down very well with any of them. Add that to the fact that Father Burnt-Wood, a good friend of the Weirdos, died because of, one could argue, Qiu ChuJi's rashness. But there was still the fact that a woman was hidden inside the temple and she was the widow of Guo XiaoTian, like Qiu ChuJi had claimed, which puts the Weirdos in the wrong. However, the Weirdos at this moment had forgotten about that.

    "I was hit by your projectile," Qiu ChuJi replied. "And if it wasn't for Big Brother Ke's antidote, I would have been dead a long time ago. So for this fight, I wholeheartedly admit defeat."

    "If that's the case," Ke ZhenE replied, "then leave that sword of yours that you carry around on your back and you can leave." He knew that if the 2 sides fought again at this moment only the Han siblings would be able to even put up a fight and that victory for his side was impossible. But all of the Weirdos would rather die than to let the matter pass like this.

    This angered Qiu ChuJi greatly: "I have already given you guys a lot of face, that should be enough. Then I also admitted defeat, what else do you want?"

    "This is for my protection," he continued, "just like that stick Big Brother Ke carries around."

    "Are you poking fun at my blindness?" Ke ZhenE shouted back.

    "I dare not!"

    "We are all injured right now, so it's hard to actually fight at this moment." Ke ZhenE shouted angrily. "So I invite Father to come and duel it out with the 7 of us a year from today at the Pavilion of Drunken Goddess."

    Qiu ChuJi frowned at that remark. He figured that because the 7 Weirdos weren't bad people, there's really no point in keeping this grudge going between them; that day after Father Burnt-Wood died, Han BaoJu could have killed me easily once he got out from underneath the bell; besides, this whole matter was caused more or less by his own rashness; and lastly, a real man knows what's right and wrong, if he's wrong then he should admit it. But to sort all of this out with the Weirdos won't be easy either. After thinking silently for a bit, an idea suddenly came to him.

    "If you really want to determine who's better between us, then we could do that," he said. "But only according to the rules I lay down. Otherwise, I have already lost to Hero Zhu at Pavilion of Drunken Goddess, and I lost again fighting here in the temple. I have already lost twice and would inevitably lose the third time as well, no point in going any further."

    Han BaoJu, Han XiaoYin, and Zhang AhSheng immediately stood up, the other 4 guys could not stand up but all sat up as much as they can. They answered in unison: "When the 7 Weirdos of the South duel with another, we always let our opponent to choose the time, place, and method."

    Seeing how competitive they were, Qiu ChuJi smiled: "So I decide how we should fight no matter what?"

    Figuring that no matter what dirty trick Qiu ChuJi would come up with wouldn't necessarily mean defeat for them, Zhu Cong and Quan JingFa answered simultaneously: "That's right!"

    "A man's word..." Qiu ChuJi replied.

    "... wild horses can't bring back!" Han XiaoYin finished, but Ke ZhenE remained silent.

    {The saying "A man's word can't be brought back by wild horses" is a famous saying in China about keeping one's word. When a person says it, it means that he's not going back on his word.}

    "If you gentlemen feel that my way is unfair in any way," Qiu ChuJi continued, "then I will admit defeat right then and there." Obviously planning to gain ground by giving up a little because he knew that the Weirdos would never let him admit defeat that easily because of their competitiveness.

    "No need to play all these word games to anger us, just tell us what it is," Ke ZhenE replied, as expected.

    Qiu ChuJi sat down and began to explain: "This way that I have on my mind might be a little bit dragged out, but what it really measures is real abilities and skills and susceptible to some temporary mishap or surge. Everyone that knows any martial arts can fight with blades and fists. We all have names in the martial world and absolutely cannot stoop down to those lowly underling's level."

    "What's left to fight if we can't do it with blades or fist? Are we doing a drinking contest again?" All of the Weirdos wondered at that comment.

    "This huge contest between us, you 7 against me 1, not only does it measure our kungfu skills, but also our will, determination, and wit. With this huge contest, we would see once and for all who is a real hero."

    This entire talk had all of the 7 Weirdos shaking in anticipation and excitement. "Stop stalling, tell us!" Han XiaoYin demanded. "The harder the better!"

    "If we are competing meditating, making medicine, fortunetelling, or ghost-busting; then we are no match for Father at all." Zhu Cong said with a smile.

    "And I don't really want to compete with Second Brother Zhu in stealing chicken or taking sheep." Qiu ChuJi replied with a smile.

    This caused a small bit of laughter from Han XiaoYin, who quickly went back to urging Qiu ChuJi on: "Come on, say it!"

    "At the very bottom of all of this, our misunderstanding that led to our fight was for saving the descendants of a couple of good men. Then this matter would be best to end it that way as well." Qiu ChuJi went on to tell how he met up with Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin all the way to how he chased Duan TianDe to this temple. Throughout his entire explanation, the Weirdos could not stop cursing the Jins as well as the Song government for its corruption.

    After he had finished the story, Qiu ChuJi went on further: "That woman that Duan TianDe dragged away was Guo XiaoTian's widow, Mrs. Li, other than Big Brother Ke and the Han siblings, I'm sure the other 4 of you saw them."

    "I remember her voice," Ke ZhenE interrupted, "I will never forget that voice!"

    "Great." Qiu ChuJi continued, "As for Yang TieXin's widow, Mrs. Bao, there is no clue on where she might be. I have seen her before, but you guys haven't. So what I propose we do is...."

    "... that the 7 of us would go rescue Mrs. Li while you go save Mrs. Bao and that whoever succeeds wins. Right?" Han XiaoYin eagerly cut in.

    Qiu ChuJi smiled and replied: "Saving people, while definitely not easy, can't really be used to determine who's a hero and who's not. What I have in mind is much harder and troublesome."

    "So what are you suggesting?" Ke ZhenE demanded.

    "Both of the women are pregnant," Qiu ChuJi explained. "After we save them, we must make sure they settle down nicely and allow them to give birth. After that I would teach the Yang kid while the 7 of you teach the Guo kid...."

    The 7 Weirdos were getting more and more amazed with every word that he says. They were practically mesmerized when Han BaoJu cut in: "Then what?"

    "Then after 18 years, when the kids would both be 18, all of us, as well as invited friends from all over the martial, shall gather at the Pavilion of Drunken Goddess once again for a huge feast. Then, when we are all sufficiently full and merry, we'll let the 2 kids duel it out to see whether it is my disciple better or is the disciple of the 7 Heroes really the man."

    The 7 Weirdos stared at each other, completely speechless.

    Qiu ChuJi continued: "If the 7 Heroes fight me once more and defeat me, then it could easily be because you outnumber me, not much glory there. But if I pass all my kungfu to another and you guys pass all of your kungfu to one person, then whichever one wins must mean that their master or masters were better."

    Filled with pride, Ke ZhenE slammed his iron staff onto the ground: "Alright! That's what we'll do!"

    "What if that bastard Duan TianDe had already killed Mrs. Li? Then what?" Quan JingFa asked.

    "That's just the luck of the draw," Qiu ChuJi replied. "The heavens wanted me to win, what else more could be said?"

    "Alright!" Han BaoJu pitched in his opinion. "Rescuing widows and orphans are the right things to do to begin with. Even if we weren't competing against you we would do it."

    Qiu ChuJi gave him a thumbs-up and declared: "Third Brother Han is exactly right. If the 7 Heroes are willing to care for the Guo kid to adulthood, then I would like to thank everyone for my late Brother Guo." He bowed to each of them again.

    "This idea of yours is rather cunning," Zhu Cong observed. "With those several sentences of yours, we brothers and sisters would have to waste 18 years of our lives?"

    Qiu ChuJi's face changed colors a bit and he suddenly let out a loud laughter.

    "What's so funny?" Han XiaoYin demanded.

    "I have long heard and admired the name of the 7 Weirdos of the South," Qiu ChuJi replied. "Everyone says that the 7 Heroes are real, righteous heroes that are always there when you need them. But today, upon inspection... hehe... I see that the rumors were greatly exaggerated."

    This made all of the Weirdos furious. Han BaoJu slammed his fist down onto the bench that he was sitting on and was about to say something when Qiu ChuJi cut him off: "Since ancient times, for the real heroes and men, making friends was for life in every way and giving one's life to a friend would be no big deal if loyalty and friendship called for it. Nobody has ever heard about Jing Ke and Nie Zheng haggling about some little thing. The Yang and Guo family are in need of help right now, how could anyone start haggling about anything?"

    {In popular Chinese lore and most versions of Chinese history, Jing Ke and Nie Zheng were 2 great friends that had helped the Lord of Qi during the beginning of the Spring and Autumn Period. Their friendship was legendary and, in view of most Chinese, including Confucius, the epitome of what friendship should be.)

    After that little speech, Zhu Cong's face was pale with embarrassment. He flicked his fan and replied: "Father is right, I realize my mistake now. The 7 of us will take on this matter!"

    Qiu ChuJi stood up and said: "Today is the 24th of March, 18 years from today at noon, we'll meet again upstairs in the Pavilion of Drunken Goddess and, there, in front of all of the martial world, we will find out who's the real hero!" And, with a flick of his sleeve, he walked out of the door.

    Han BaoJu shouted: "I'm off to look for that Duan TianDe now, if he crawled into a tortoise hole and disappeared, then we are going to have to waste a lot of energy."

    He was the only one among the 7 Weirdos that wasn't injured, so he charged out of the door, mounted Wind-Chaser, his yellow horse, and began to go chase after Duan TianDe and Li Ping.

    "Third Brother! Third Brother!" Zhu Cong shouted. "You don't know what they look like!" But Han BaoJu wasn't the patient type and with Wind-Chaser well deserving of his name, he was long gone.
    ---------------------------------------
    Once he was out of the temple, Duan TianDe ran as fast as his legs would carry him, all the while dragging Li Ping. Only after he was sure that nobody was chasing after him did he finally stop and take a breath. Then he ran to the bank of the nearest river and jumped on the first boat that he saw. Taking out his sabre and putting it up against the neck of the fisherman, he ordered the man to start the boat. The rivers and canals south of Yangtze were dense like a spiderweb and boats were the everyday mode of transportation, as common as horses and carriages were up North. Hence the saying: "Northerners ride horses, Southerner rides boats." With Duan TianDe looking as vicious as he did, as well as being dressed like an official, how could the fisherman dare to not obey? So he immediately undocked and guided the boat out of the city.

    "What a mess! If I go back to Lin-An, if nothing else, my uncle would kill me at first sight." Duan TianDe thought to himself. "The best thing is probably to head north to get away for a while. Hopefully that bastard of a Taoist and those 7 Weirdos all died of their injuries and then my uncle would get so angry that he just passes away. Then I can go back and get my position back."

    Once he made up his mind, he instructed the fisherman to start heading north. Even though Han BaoJu's horse was faster, he was nevertheless searching on land, and thus let the 2 of them slip through.

    Duan TianDe switched boats a couple of more times as well as change his clothes and forced Li Ping to change hers. After 10 days or so, he arrived in YangZhou and decided to check into an inn. He was hoping to be able to just settle down in the city for a while and wait through the storm. By an extraordinary coincidence, he just happened to overhear someone inquiring about his own whereabouts. Shocked, he peeped through the little crack in the door and saw an amazingly ugly, short, and fat guy with a beautiful young girl. Both of them had a JiaXin accent. Figuring that they were of the Seven Freaks, he immediately grabbed Li Ping and ran out of the back door. Luckily, the YangZhou native at the front desk did not quite understand their dialect and didn't realize what they were asking for, making it possible for Duan TianDe to get away and rent another boat.
    Not daring to stop even for a second, he made his way north, up the Grand Canal, all the way to the shore of LiGuo Post on the shores of Mount Wei Lake inside the borders of ShangDong province.

    Li Ping, who was extraordinarily homely and whose stomach was quite bulged out by now, was spending days on end cursing and crying. So even though Duan TianDe was by no means a gentleman, he never had any inclinations towards her. All the two ever did was fight and curse at each other, there wasn't a moment of peace between them.

    After several more days, that ugly dwarf and pretty girl showed up again. Duan TianDe was hoping to hide in the back. But Li Ping, knowing that her rescuers were near, began to shout at the top of her lungs. Duan TianDe immediately stuffed a wad of cotton into her mouth and beat her. Li Ping struggled and shouted for her life. Even though she wasn't successful in her attempt to get their attention, it was too much of a close call for Duan TianDe.

    At first, Duan TianDe had brought Li Ping along hoping to use her as a hostage, so as to help him get out of a jam should it ever come that. But the situation had changed. Figuring that it would be much easier if he was by himself and that this feisty woman was a disaster waiting to happen, he decided that it was best to kill her. So once the Han siblings had left, he took out his sabre.

    Li Ping had been waiting the entire time for an opportunity to avenge her husband's death. However, she was tied up every night, making it impossible. Now, upon seeing the murderous look in his eyes, she prayed: "Xiao-Ge, please protect me and allow me to kill his monster. Then I will join you."

    {Note: Xiao-Ge is an affectionate reference by Li Ping to Guo XiaoTian.}

    So she reached into her shirt and placed her hands on that dagger that Qiu ChuJi gave her. She had hidden the dagger very well and was able to slip it by Duan TianDe's guard.

    With a snicker, Duan TianDe raised his sabre and swung down at her. Prepared to die, Li Ping summoned all her strength, pointed the dagger at Duan TianDe, and charged. Feeling a shot of murderous cold air upon his face, Duan TianDe flicked his sword in an attempt to knock her dagger out of her hands. But unexpectedly, the dagger was so sharp that, with a loud bang, it sliced the sabre in half. The sabre fell onto the ground as the tip of the dagger was touching Duan TianDe's chest. Shocked, Duan TianDe instinctively jumped back. Nevertheless, the front of his shirt was slashed wide open. In complete shock and panic, he picked up the chair at his side and shouted: "Put that down this instant! Else I'll kill you!"

    Li Ping was exhausted and the baby in her belly was kicking non-stop. Not able to fight anymore, she fell onto the ground and tried to catch her breath. But she was still clenching the dagger tightly.

    Duan TianDe was afraid that Han BaoJu was come around again. But if he ran off by himself, he was afraid that Li Ping would reveal where he was going to those chasing him. So he immediately forced her onto another boat and went further up north the Grand Canal, passing LinQing, DeZhou, and arrived within HeBei province.

    Every time he set up camp, no matter how remote the location, there would always be several men arriving to look for him before long. Eventually, the ugly gnome and the girl was joined by a staff wielding blind man. Luckily, none of them recognized him, so he was able to escape every time.

    Soon another troublesome thing happened, Li Ping suddenly began acting crazy. Every time they stopped somewhere, she would periodically begin shouting and screaming nonsense; sometimes, she would even start to tear and rip at her clothes and make all kinds of weird faces and gestures. At first Duan TianDe thought that she really had gone crazy, but after a few days he suddenly realized. Turned out that she was afraid that her pursuers had lost her trails and was purposefully leaving a trail for them to follow. This was making it even harder for him to lose them. By now the dead of summer had passed and the cool breeze began to blow. In order to avoid capture, Duan TianDe was well up in the North country, and the money he had taken with him was about to run out, yet the Freaks were still close on his tail.

    "Back in HangZhou, I was important, I was somebody. Meat, wine, money, woman, I had it all. But I had to get greedy and go to Ox Village and kill this *****'s hubby and get into all this mess." He cursed at himself.

    Several times, he was on the verge of leaving Li Ping and just run off by himself. But every time, he could not summon up enough courage to just leave her. Every time he tried to kill her ended in failure as well. What was supposed to be protection had somehow turned into a curse that he just could not get rid off. Not only that, he had to be constantly on the look-out against her attempts to avenge her husband on top of everything else. He was frustrated, scared, and mad, yet there was nothing he could do.

    Before he realized it, he had arrived at the capital of the Jin Empire, YanJing. Duan TianDe thought for a bit and decided to try and find an out of the way place and finish off Li Ping. In such a huge and bustling town, there was no way those who were chasing him could find him then.

    Happy that things were finally going to work out, he made his way towards the city. Unexpectedly, just as he arrived at the front of the gate into the city, a team of Jin soldiers came walking out from inside. Not even bothering to ask any questions, they seized both him and Li Ping, handed them each a carrying stick, and commanded them to carry cargoes for them. Because Li Ping was short and a woman, her load was reasonably light. But Duan TianDe was given two 50 kilograms worth of load and they were practically smashing him into the ground.
    This group of soldiers followed an official as they headed north. Turned out that particular official was an emissary who was sent out in order to give Royal Edicts of the Jin Emperor to the Mongolian subjects of the Jin Empire. The Jin soldiers that accompanied him were seizing random Han Chinese that they ran into to carry their heavy cargo and food so as to save themselves some work and labor. Duan TianDe argued back a couple of times and was immediately answered to by several stinging whips on his head. This situation he had seen many times before so it was all quite familiar to him; but before, he had been the one that was doing the whipping, not the other way around.

    By now, Li Ping's belly was huge and doing all this heavy work was on the verge of killing her. However, so determined was she to get revenge that she tried her best not to let the Jin soldiers find out about her condition. Fortunately, she had been working on a farm ever since she was able to walk, which made her strong and used to this kind of tortuous work. Having basically resigned herself to death, she was barely able to grind out the dozen of days they spent walking through the freezing and miserable steppe.

    Even though it was only October, being as far North as they were, a blizzard hit one day that not only brought snow, but also a sandstorm. Having nowhere to hide from the sand and the snow, the entire group, all 300 or so of them, lined up single-filed and continued to make their way through the endless grasslands of the steppe. Suddenly, faint shouting noises could be heard approaching from the north. Through the sand filled air, an army of countless horsemen came charging at them.

    Before any of them realized what was going on, the army had already arrived. Turned out they were an army from some unknown tribe to the north that had just lost a battle. Chaos descended on the group as everyone tossed their weapons away and began running for their lives. Some of those who did not have horses were quickly trampled over by those who had horses.

    The Jin soldiers, seeing that defeat was inevitable, immediately scattered as well. Li Ping was originally at Duan TianDe's side, but lost him during the chaos of the stampede. She threw off her share of the cargo and ran as fast as she could in the direction where there seemed to be the least amount of people. Luckily, everyone was so concerned with their own survival that nobody harmed her.
    After some running, her belly was hurting like crazy. Not able to go any further because of the pain, she lied down behind a sand dune and fainted. After what seemed like forever, she began to slowly come around. In the back of her mind, there seemed to be the crying noises of a baby. Not completely coherent, she still wasn't quite sure whether or not she was dead or alive yet. But the crying gradually got louder. She twitched and suddenly realized that there seemed to be a warm object between her legs. By now it was after midnight, the snow had just stopped and the moon had finally appeared from behind the parting clouds. She snapped wide awake and began to cry. Under this impossible situation, the baby in her belly was born.

    She immediately sat up and took the baby in her hands. It was a boy. Overjoyed and crying, she used her teeth to bite off the umbilical cord and hugged the baby as tightly as she could. Under the moonlight, she saw that the infant's eyes were huge and bright and looked very much like her deceased husband, not to mention his cry was incredibly loud. Under normal circumstances, there should have been no way that she was going to survive after giving birth in such harsh conditions. But upon seeing her child, she suddenly found strength that she didn't know existed before as she slowly got up and crawled into a small ditch close by to hide from the cold. Looking at the baby and thinking of her husband, bittersweet memories and emotions overwhelmed her.

    The 2 of them spent the night in that ditch. The next morning, hearing nothing all around her, she summoned up enough courage to climb out of it. The ground, among the white snow and yellow sands, was covered with discarded weapons and the corpses. Nobody alive was to be seen.

    She dug out some preserved food from one of the dead soldiers as well as some fire making stone and knives. After carving out some horse meat and cooking it, she searched around for some thicker clothing. She wrapped one around her baby and put one herself as well. Luckily, the weather is so cold around this time of the year that nothing rots, so the horse meat was able to last her for a good few days, during which she was able to recover her strength. After which she carried her baby and began walking confidently towards the East. Even though she has lost that hated Duan TianDe, all the hatred in her heart has turned into love and tenderness. All she wanted was to protect the baby's face from the harsh steppe winds.

    After several more days, she noticed that the plant lives around her were getting denser. This particular dusk, she suddenly spotted 2 horses come galloping towards her. The riders noticed her and stopped to ask her what happened. Making wild gestures with her arms, she described her experience of meeting the defeated army and giving birth in the snow. Turned out these 2 riders were Mongolians. Even though they couldn't understand her at all, they, being the friendly and hospitable kind of people Mongolians are and feeling sorry for her, invited her to spent the night with them in their Mongolian gers. Mongolians are a nomadic group of people, migrating along with the herds and the weather. So they live in huge tents called gers that are easily put up. The next morning, this particular group of nomads left, but decided to leave her 4 small sheep to help her survive.

    Through all the suffering and labor, Li Ping settled down in the steppe. She erected a little hut by the reeds using tree branches and obtained food through barter using the sweaters she knitted using the wool from the sheep.

    Time flies, and the little kid was already 6 years old. Following the wishes of her former husband, Li Ping gave him the name of Guo Jing. The boy was rather slow and only began to speak at the age of 4. Luckily, he was a very strong boy and was able to herd the animals by himself. The 2 of them, mother and son, relied on each other, surviving on only the mere essentials and leading a very simple and happy life. Both of them had learned Mongolian, and only when they were alone with each other did they speak in the Lin-An dialect of Chinese. Seeing the manly face on her son and hearing him saying everything in the Lin-An dialect of her home frequently made her feel bittersweet: "You dad was a man among men in ShanDong, you should by all means speak in ShanDong dialect as well. But we weren't together for long enough of a time and I couldn't learn it from him, so I can't teach you."

    It was October and the weather was slowly turning colder and colder. Guo Jing climbed onto his own little pony and set out, with a shepard dog, to herd the sheep. Around noon, a huge black eagle suddenly appeared in the sky and dove down towards the herd. A particular young sheep was frightened and began to run for his life towards the East. Guo Jing shouted several times at it to make the sheep stop, but it just kept on going.

    Guo Jing immediately climbed onto his pony and went chasing after it. After 4 or 5 kilometers or so, he finally caught up to that little sheep. Just as he was about to head back, he suddenly heard a very loud and constant rumble. Startled, he could not figure what the rumble was, even though he suspected that it might be thunder. The rumble got louder and louder until, after a while, he was able to distinct the sounds of horses neighing and humans screaming within the rumbling.
    Having never heard such things before, he was scared and hurriedly led his little pony and sheep into a little bush on top of a close-by hill top. Only then did he dare to stick his head out to see what was going on.

    What he saw was dusts covering the sky as countless number of chariots were bustling about. Several leaders were shouting out commands as the armies were lining up. One was to the East while another one was to the West, both contained more people than Guo Jing thought there were in the world. Everyone was wearing a white-colored bandana on their head, some even stuck colorful feathers on their bandanas. By now Guo Jing wasn't scared anymore, he was too curious and excited.

    After another pause, from the left there suddenly came trumpet sounds as several rows of soldiers came charging, they led by a tall and thin looking young man wearing a blood red cape. He was holding his sabre above his head, ready to strike at anyone he happened upon. The 2 armies clashed and gruesome fighting ensued. The attacking side was outnumbered and was slowly being overwhelmed and began to retreat. But reserves soon came to support and the fighting escalated to a deafening level once again.

    It looked as if the attacking armies were about to collapse once again when those 10 horns that sounded the start of the battle suddenly came to life again, making the noise level even more deafening than it was. The attacking soldiers shouted: "Temujin is here! The great Khan Temujin is here!" Even though the 2 armies were still fighting relentlessly, everyone's head periodically turned towards the East, where the horns were located.

    Following their gazes, Guo Jing looked towards the East as well. Through all the sand and dust that was filling up the sky, he saw a group of riders galloping forth. Within the group there was a huge pole, on which there were several white feathers. The cheering got louder as the the riders got closer as the attackers seemed to fight more and more fiercely and the formations of the defending army were torn apart instantly. The huge pole slowly moved towards this very little hill that Guo Jing was hiding on, who retreated even deeper into the bush, but was still peeking out with that huge, bright pair of eyes of his. He noticed a very tall and big middle-aged man in the midst of the riders who climbed onto the hill. He was wearing an iron helmet on his head and had a brown tuft of beard on his chin. His eyes were beaming with energy and force. What Guo Jing didn't know was that he was the leader of the Mongolian tribe, Temujin; but even if he did, he wouldn't have known what a "khan" was.

    On his horse, Temujin calmly surveyed the battle that was occurring at the foot of the hill accompanied by several riders. After a while, that young man with a red cape came riding up the hill. "Father, there are too many of them, should we retreat a bit?" He shouted once he made it up the hill.

    By now Temujin had already finished surveying the battlefield. In a low voice, he commanded: "Take your team and fall back to the East."

    "Muqali, go with 2nd Prince and fall back to the West. Bogurchi, you and Tchila'un retreat to the North. Kublai, you and Subutai take your army and head South." Temujin continued, never taking his eyes off the battlefield. "When you see my banner raised up on high, that's my signal. Immediately sound the horns, turn around and counter-attack!"

    All the officers rode off with their orders. Within seconds, the Mongol troops began retreating on all fronts.

    The enemy soldiers let out a great collective howl and, upon seeing Temujin's White Feathered Banner being raised on high at the top of the hill, shouted in unison: "Capture Temujin! Capture Temujin!" Like ants, the opposing army began charging up the hill, completely ignoring the other, retreating Mongol troops. Horses and men were charged without abandon; a yellow fog surrounded the hill from the dust they kicked up.

    Temujin stood at the top of the hill, not moving and resolute. A score of foot soldiers held up their shields and was protecting him from arrows flying in from all directions. Temujin's sworn brother Kutuku and standout general Jelmi, along with 3000 elite troops, were guarding the base of the hill with everything they can muster, determined to the last man.

    Amid the flashes of blades and spears, the cries of battle were shaking the earth. Witnessing this, Guo Jing was at the same time excited and scared.

    After an hour or so of intense fighting, and under the relentless charges of tens of thousands of enemy troops, Temujin's elite guard of 3000 had suffered about 400 casualties while cutting down more than 1000 enemies as well. Looking out, Temujin saw that even though the battlefield was covered with enemy bodies and riderless horses running aimlessly; the enemy arrows flying in was still strong. On the Northeastern end of the battle, the enemy attack was especially fierce as the defense looked closer and closer to collapse. "Father," Ogedei, Temujin's third son, anxiously suggested, "is it time to raise the banner?"

    "Their troops aren't tired yet!" Temujin answered gravely, not moving his eyes away from the battle, even for a moment.

    By now there was 3 black banners at the northeast end of the battle, meaning that the enemy had gathered 3 standout generals there to command the troops. The Mongol defenders were steadily dropping back. Up the hill came Jelmi, shouting at the top of his lungs: "Khan, we can't stop them anymore!"

    "Can't stop them?" Temujin angrily shouted back. "What kind of man are you?"
    Jelmi's expression changed and grabbed a sabre from one of the foot soldiers. With a shout, he charged into the enemy formation. Fighting with utter abandon, he carved a path of blood to the black banners. The enemy commanders, seeing his fierceness, immediately pulled hard on their reins and backed away. Jelmi, with 3 swings of his sabre, cut down the 3 men that were carrying the banners. Throwing down his sabre, he wrapped his arms around the 3 banners, took them back to the top of the hill, and stuck into the ground upside down. Seeing this incredible display, the enemy morale was rocked. The Mongol troops responded with a fury and the hole in the defense on the northeast end was quickly plugged.
    After more fighting, an enemy general, with a black cape, suddenly appeared on the southwest corner. Not wasting a shot, he quickly took down a dozen or so Mongol soldiers with his bow and arrow. Two Mongol officers turned and charged at him with their spears. Using only 2 arrows, he easily shot the 2 officers off their horses.

    "Such amazing skills!" Upon seeing that, even Temujin had to praise him.
    By now, the general with the black cape had fought to near the foot of the hill. With a faint twang of a released bow, an arrow hit Temujin on his neck. Another arrow quickly followed, heading straight for Temujin's stomach. Just realizing that he had been shot and another arrow was coming, Temujin immediately pulled hard on his reins, making his horse stand up on his hind legs. The arrow buried into the horse's chest all the way to the feathers, knocking the horse to the ground. Seeing the leader hit and fall, the Mongol troops were shocked. Screaming at the top of their lungs, pouncing on the opportunity, the enemy charged forward like floodwater.

    Ogedei had just finished helped his father pull out the arrow in his neck and was tearing off his shirt in order to bandage up the wound when Temujin shouted: "Forget about me, defend the hill!"

    Nodding quickly, Ogedei turned and immediately shot down 2 enemy officers.
    Kutuku was commanding his troops guarding the west end of the hill, but, due to the fact that they had ran out of arrows and spears, he had to retreat. Jelmi's eyes turned red as he saw him: "Kutuku, are you going to run like a scared rabbit?"

    "Who's running?" Kutuku smiled back, "I ran out of arrows."

    Temujin, still lying on the ground, took out a handful of arrows and tossed it over to him. Kutuku quickly put a put an arrow onto his bow and shot the closest black bannered general off his horse. Quickly charging downhill, Kutuku grabbed onto that general's horse and returned.

    "Brother, you are really something!" Temujin praised.

    Covered with blood from head to toe, Kutuku quietly asked: "Can we raise the banner and sound the horns?"

    "The enemy still isn't tired yet, just a bit longer." Temujin said, blood streaming down his palm that's pressing hard on the wound in his neck, trying to stop the bleeding.

    Upon hearing that, Kutuku dropped to one knee and begged: "We owe our lives to you and have no reservation for dying here. But Khan, please, you have to take care of yourself."

    Temujin shakily stood up, took over the reins of the horse from Kutuku, and struggled mightily before finally mounting the horse. Waving his sabre and shouting, "Hold the hill!" at the top of his lungs, he cut down 3 enemy soldiers that had charged up the hill. Seeing Temujin reappear, the opposing army's morale was shaken once again and the momentum shifted as it began to fall back down the hill.

    "Raise the banners! Sound the horns!" Temujin commanded, seizing on the fact that their enemy's morale was at a low.

    The Mongol army let out a collective howl as an officer climbed onto a horse, stood up, and raised the white feathered banner up as high as he could. The horns from all corners sounded. Immediately, the screaming of men drowned out the horns as row after row of Mongolian solders appeared from far away and approached with lightning speed.

    The enemy outnumbered the Mongols, but they were gathered around the hill. As soon as the soldiers on the outer edge began to fall back, the middle of their formation descended into chaos. The general in black, noticing that the tide was turning, immediately began ordering his troops around in hopes of rallying his troops. But the formation had already collapsed and the soldiers had no desire to fight anymore. Within an hour, the army had been smashed apart; those who weren't killed were running for their lives. The general in black, riding a black horse, turned and joined them.

    "50 taels of gold to the man who catches that scoundrel!" Temujin shouted, which immediately sent several scores of Mongolian elites after him.

    That general in black, not missing a shot, turned and shot down about a dozen or so pursuers in a row. The rest of the pursuers did not dare to get too close and, in the end, let him get away. Seeing all this from inside the little bush, Guo Jing was in awe of that general's bravery and skill.

    The battle was a complete victory for Temujin, destroying more than half of his nemesis', the Tatars, power. Surveying the battlefield, the memories of his past flashed before his eyes again: the poisoning of his father, being captured by the Taijiuts, and all the tortured and shame he went through at their hands. Although his wound was still not healed, his heart was filled with the joys of the sweet taste of revenge. Unable to hold it in anymore, he leaned back and laughed in triumph. Every soldier joined in the cheer, which shook the earth as they began to file into formation and leave the battlefield.

    Guo Jing waited until even the gravediggers had left due to darkness before he came crawling out of the bush. It was midnight when he got home and his mother, who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown waiting for him to come back, was overjoyed seeing him. Guo Jing described, as best as he could, what had happened to his mom in between his stuttering. Li Ping, seeing his face alight with joy and amazement without even a trace of fear, thought to herself that even though he was just a kid and a bit dumb, he was still very much like his father in this respect, which caused a bittersweet feeling to fill her.

    The morning after the next day, Li Ping went off to the marketplace 15 kilometers away with 2 hand made wool blankets. Guo Jing was shepherding out in front of his own house when his mind wandered back to what he had seen 2 days ago. Figuring it would be fun, he raised his shepherding whip and began waving it around. Riding on his little horse, shouting at the top of his lungs, and moving the herd around, he felt just like a general commanding his own troops into battle.
    Just as he was getting really into it, he suddenly heard the sound of horse hooves from the East. A solitary horse slowly approached with a person was lying on its back. The horse got close and stopped, causing the man on the back of the horse to lift his head and look up. The sight of the man made Guo Jing scream in fear.

    The man's of face was covered in mud, dirt, and blood. It was that general in black that he had seen the day before yesterday. In his left hand was the bottom half of what had been a sabre, which was stained purplish red with blood. The bow and arrow he had fought off so many foes with where gone. It looked as if he had another encounter with his enemies again after escaping 2 days ago. His left cheek had been slashed open and was bleeding profusely. His horse was injured as well. His body shuddered as he, with his blood red eyes fell upon Guo Jing, muttered in a hoarse and exhausted voice: "Water, water... some water?"
    Guo Jing immediately ran into the house and brought out a bowl of water from the water tub. That man grabbed it out of Guo Jing's hand and drank it all in one gulp. "More!" He demanded.

    Guo Jing retrieved another bowl for him. He drank half before the blood dripping off of his face turned the water red. The man let out a loud laugh, then suddenly, his face twitched and he fell off his horse and fainted.

    Guo Jing panicked, he didn't know what to do. Luckily, the man came to after a while. "Give my horse some drink too," he said, "and do you have anything to eat?"

    Guo Jing brought out some roasted lamb for him and got to whole bucket of water for the horse. After chomping down the hearty meal, the man was thoroughly refreshed and jumped up off the ground.

    "Thanks, brother." He said as he took off the gold bracelet he had around his wrist and held it out at Guo Jing. "Here, take it."

    Guo Jing shook his head: "Mom said that we should take care of guests and not ask for or take anything in return."

    The man laughed at this and commented: "What a good kid you are!"

    He put the bracelet back on his wrist, tore off half of his sleeve, and began to attend to both his and his horse's wounds.

    Suddenly, from the East came the faint rumblings of horses galloping. The man's face dropped: "Hmph, looks like they are not going to let me go!"

    The 2 of them ran out of the door and saw that the land in the distance was covered by dust kicked up by countless horses heading this way.

    "Kid, do you have any bows and arrows in the house?" The man asked.

    "Yes, sure." Guo Jing replied just before darting back into the house.

    Hearing that, the man looked somewhat relieved, but that soon changed when he saw that Guo Jing had just brought out his own little toy bow and arrow. He let out a little laugh before frowning: "I need the fighting kind, the big ones."
    Guo Jing merely shook his head.

    The pursuers were getting closer, theirs banners could be faintly seen waving in the distance. The man figured that, with his horse injured, he wouldn't be able to get away, so while hiding is always dangerous, he had no alternative.

    "I can't beat them all by myself, so I have got to hide." He said, turning to Guo Jing. He looked around and noticed that there's nowhere to hide around the hut, so in desperation, he settled on the big pile of grass outside.

    "I'm going to hide in there. Could you chase my horse as far away as you can? Be sure to find a good place to hide for yourself too and don't let them catch you." He instructed as he dug himself into the grass pile. Traditionally, as soon as the scorching summer has passed, Mongolians would immediately cut down all the tall grass and pile them up. During the harsh winters, Mongolians rely on these grass piles for all the feed for the animals as well as fire for warmth. So often these grass piles would be bigger than their huts. The man was actually very well hidden inside the grass pile and probably wouldn't be discovered without a careful inspection.

    Guo Jing turned and gave the black horse a couple of good lashes, causing the horse to gallop off. Only until it was almost entirely out of sight did it finally stop and started to graze again. Guo Jing jumped onto his little horse and took off to the West.

    The pursuers, noticing that someone was there, sent 2 advanced scouts forward to give chase. Guo Jing's pony wasn't fast and the 2 scouts soon caught up. "Kid, did you see a man riding a black horse around here?" One of them demanded.
    Guo Jing didn't know how to tell a lie, so he couldn't find the words to answer the question. The 2 scouts asked several more times, but there was still no answer. "Let's take him to First Prince!", one of them finally suggested, seeing blank face on the kid. The 2 scouts took a hold of Guo Jing's reins and let him back to the hut.

    "I just won't say." Guo Jing made up his mind on the way back.

    A good number of Mongolian soldiers surrounded a tall and skinny young man. Guo Jing recognized the face, he had seen him on the hill the day before. Noticing that the soldiers were all obeying his command, Guo Jing decided that he was an enemy of that black robed general. "What did the little kid say?" The First Prince shouted.

    "This kid is scared stiff, he hasn't said a word."

    The First Prince looked around and suddenly noticed that black horse off grazing in the distance. "Is that his horse? Go and bring it here." He quietly ordered.
    Ten Mongols split into 5 groups and quietly surrounded the horse. By the time the horse noticed and tried to escape, it had already ran out of places to run.

    "Isn't this Jebeh's horse?" The First Prince asked rhetorically in an arrogant voice.

    "Yes sir, it is!" The solders answered in unison.

    The First Prince, using his whip, landed a lash on the side of Guo Jing's head and shouted: "Where is he hiding? Spit it out. Think you can fool me?"

    Hiding among the pile of dried grass, Jebeh held his sabre tightly in his grasp. Seeing Guo Jing getting hit and a huge welt immediately starting to develop on his head, his heart began to beat out of control. He knew that this was Temujin's eldest son, Jorchi, whose cruelty and savagery was famous throughout all of the Steppe. He figured that the kid would undoubtedly be frightened into telling where he was hiding, then all he could do was jump out and fight to the death.
    Guo Jing wanted to cry, but, with all his might, he kept back his tears and, holding his head up high, asked: "Why did you hit me? I didn't do anything wrong!" For all he knew, kids only get beat when they did something wrong.

    "Trying to be tough huh?" Jorchi shouted angrily before he whipped Guo Jing again, making Guo Jing burst out crying.

    By now the other soldiers had already given Guo Jing's house a thorough search. Two of the soldiers given poked about the grass pile with their spears. Luckily, the grass pile was huge and they didn't hit Jebeh. "The horse is still here, he couldn't have gone far. Kid, are you going to tell or not!" Jorchi continued as he lashed at Guo Jing's head 3 more times. Guo Jing reached out and tried to grab the whip, but how could he?

    Suddenly, they heard some horns sounding from afar. "The Khan is coming!" All of the soldiers shouted as Jorchi stopped and turned to greet his father. "Father!" He shouted as an army with Temujin at the head came galloping in.

    The wound that Jebeh inflicted on Temujin turned out to be severe. During the battle Temujin was able to fight through it, but after the battle was over he actually fainted several times from the pain. His trusted general Jelmi and third son Ogedei took turns sucking the bad blood clots out of his wound. The officers and his sons waited by his bedside for an entire night until he was no longer in mortal danger. The next morning, swearing to catch Jebeh and quarter him so as to avenge this wound to the Khan, the Mongol soldiers spread out in all directions. By dusk on the second day, a small scout team finally ran into Jebeh, but was decimated by him. However, Jebeh was injured as well in the melee. Upon hearing the news, Temujin immediately sent his eldest son Jorchi after him before taking his other sons with him as the rear guard.

    "Father, we found that bastard's horse!" Jorchi reported, pointing at the black horse.

    "I don't want the horse, I want him!" Temujin replied.

    "Yes father, we will find him." Jorchi answered before returning to Guo Jing's side. Pulling out his sabre, he swung it in the air a couple of times and shouted: "Are you going to tell?"

    His face covered in blood from the beating earlier, Guo Jing actually got feistier and shouted back: "I'll never tell! I'll never tell!"

    From that, Temujin noticed how innocent the kid was, replying with "I'll never tell" instead of "I don't know", giving away the fact that he knew where Jebeh was hiding. So he turned to Ogedei and whispered: "Go and trick it out of him."

    Smiling, Ogedei walked up to Guo Jing, removed 2 gold studded peacock feathers from his helmet and said: "If you tell me, this is yours."

    "I'll never tell!" Guo Jing still replied.

    "Let loose the dogs!" Jagahati, Temujin's second eldest son ordered as the soldiers immediately brought forth 6 huge hunting dogs.

    Mongolians love to hunt and all of the aristocrats or people of wealth own hunting dogs and falcons. Jagahati especially loves dogs and this search for Jebeh presented a perfect use for his dogs. So he ordered the dogs be taken around the black horse a couple of times before letting them loose and letting them find where Jebeh was hiding. The dogs barked wildly as they ran in and out of the hut repeatedly.

    Guo Jing never met Jebeh before, but 2 days ago he had greatly admired his bravery and skill on the battlefield. On top of that being whipped several times by Jorchi brought this natural stubbornness and feistiness out of him as he called his shepherd dog out. By now Jagahati's hunting dogs were getting very close to the grass pile, so, upon Guo Jing's command, the shepherd dog positioned itself between the grass pile and the hunting dogs, not letting any of them get closer. Jagahati gave a loud shout and all 6 huge hunting dogs leapt forth and the air was quickly filled with the cacophony of dog barking as the 7 dogs fought. The shepherd dog, smaller to begin with and battling 1 against 6, was quickly covered with bite marks but still fought back ferociously, not backing down one bit. Guo Jing was cheering his shepherd on loudly between sobs. Seeing this, Temujin, Ogedei, and everyone present knew that Jebeh must be hiding in the grass pile, so they just smiled and enjoyed the show of the dog fight.

    Furious, Jorchi began to hit Guo Jing with his horsewhip again, causing him rolled around in pain. He rolled next to Jochi's legs before suddenly jumping up and grabbing his right leg. Jorchi tried to throw him off with a kick, but the boy's grip was surprisingly tight and he couldn't get him off. The other sons, seeing their older brother is such an awkward and pathetic state, began to laugh out loud. Even Temujin began to snicker a bit. His face flushed blood red, Jorchi unsheathed his sabre and brought it down toward Guo Jing's head. Just as it looked as if the kid was about to be hit, a broken sabre suddenly stuck out from inside the grass pile. "Bang!" The 2 sabres collided and Jorchi, feeling his hands go numb, almost dropped his sabre. The soldiers let out a collective gasp as Jebeh jumped out of the pile.

    Pulling Guo Jing behind him with his left hand, he snickered: "Bullying a little kid, have you no shame?"

    The soldiers immediately their spears and surrounded Jebeh. Seeing that he had nowhere to run, Jebeh tossed aside the broken sabre in his hand. Jorchi charged forth and landed a punch on his chest with Jebeh not even trying to guard himself.

    "Kill me now!" He shouted, but then he added with in a quiet and heavy voice: "Pity that I cannot die in the hands of a true hero!"

    "What did you say?" Temujin cut in.

    "To die on the battlefields, in hands of a hero that beat me, is dying with no regrets. But today the eagle has fallen onto the ground and was bitten to death by ants!" Jebeh replied with his a fury in his eyes and let out a tremendous howl. Jagahati's hunting dogs, who had collectively pinned Guo Jing's shepherd dog onto the ground and was relentlessly biting it, jumped at the howl and ran away whimpering behind their trainers.

    "Khan, don't let this little bastard boast like that." A person stepped out from beside Temujin and shouted. "Let me duel with him!"

    "Alright, go have a duel with him." Temujin replied, happily discovering that the man was Bogurchi. "We don't have much of anything else, but we do have some heroes."

    "I'm going to kill you by myself, so that you can die with no regrets." Bogurchi took a few steps forward and shouted at Jebeh.

    "Who the hell are you?" Jebeh shouted back, noticing that the challenger was very well built and had a very deep and loud voice.

    "I'm Bogurchi! Heard of me before?"

    A coldness shot through Jebeh's heart: "So this is him, rumor say that Bogurchi was the hero of heroes among the Mongols." Not wanting to reply, he simply shot a look sideways and hmmphed.

    "You boast about your skills at bow and arrow, and others even call you Jebeh. Then why don't you and this friend of mine have a little shooting contest?" Temujin declared. In Mongolian, "Jebeh" means both "arrow" and "divine archer." Jebeh had another name, but because of his incredible skill with the bow and arrow, everyone called him Jebeh and his real name had long been forgotten.

    {Note: According to Mongol records, when he first entered Temujin's tribe, Jebeh gave his name as Jirgadei.}

    "So you are a friend of him?" Jebeh shouted at Bogurchi. "Then I guess I'll just kill you first."

    This remark caused all of the Mongol soldiers to let out an audible laugh, for everyone of them knew that Bogurchi was unbeatable as a fighter and was famous through out all of the Steppe. Even though they saw how great Jebeh was with the bow, claiming to be able to kill Bogurchi was just a bit too much for them to stomach.

    Back when Temujin was just still just a boy, he was once captured by the Taijiuts, who placed him in a cangue. The many tribes of the Taijiuts gathered at the Onon River to celebrate by drinking and whipping him at the same time. After the gatherers were sufficiently drunk, Temujin knocked his guard unconscious with his cangue and escaped into the nearby woods.

    {Note: Cangue is an ancient Chinese device for punishing criminals. It consists of 2 wooden halves that's cut out so that they fit perfect around a person's neck and hands, holding them in place and prevents the person from retaliating or lying down.}

    The Taijiuts conducted a massive search trying to find him. It was then that he met a young man named Tchila'un who, despite of the enormous danger, took him into his house. It was Tchila'un who smashed the cangue off of him and threw it in the fire; and it was also Tchila'un who hid him in a cart of fleeces. When the Taijiut scouts came around and searched Tchila'un's house, they came upon the cart of fleeces and began to take the fleeces off layer by layer.

    Just as Temujin's feet was going to be revealed, Tchila'un's father suddenly interrupted: "Such a hot day, how could anyone hide in a pile of fleeces? If he did he's probably roasted to death by now."

    It was the dead of summer and everyone was sweating profusely. The scouts thought what he said made sense and didn't look any further. Temujin's life was filled with dangerous moments and close calls, but this was the most dangerous and closest call of them all.

    After he ran away, Temujin lived a squalid existence along with his mother and brother as they were forced to rely on captured prairie rats to survive.
    One day, the 8 white horses that Temujin had were stolen by a small group of robbers from the Taijiut tribe. As Temujin rode after them all by himself, he ran into another young man who was in milking his horse. When Temujin stopped to inquire about the thieves, he learned that the young man's name was Bogurchi.

    "Our lives are full of the same hardship," Bogurchi said, "let's be friends."

    The 2 of them rode off. It was 3 days before they finally caught up to the thieving tribe. The 2 of them, by themselves, took on a couple hundred foes and took back those 8 horses. Temujin offered to split the horses with him and asked him how many he wanted.

    "I did this as a friend, so I don't want a single one." was Bogurchi's answer.
    From that day forth, the 2 of them worked together and Temujin continued to insist on calling him his good friend. Theirs was a true friendship forged in the times of trouble.

    Bogurchi and Tchila'un, together with Muqali and Boroqul were the 4 foremost founding generals of the Mongolian Empire.

    Knowing how great Bogurchi was with the bow and arrow, Temujin handed his own bow to Bogurchi and hopped off his white colt. "Ride my horse, use my bow and arrow, then it'll be as if I killed him."

    "Yes sir!" Bogurchi hopped onto Temujin's treasured horse with bow and arrow in hand. Turning to Ogedei, he said: "Let Jebeh use your horse."

    "Well, lucky him." Ogedei commented before hopping off and ordering a guard to walk the horse over to Jebeh.

    "I am already surrounded," Jebeh turned to Temujin after securing himself into the saddle, "if you wanted to kill me, it would have been easier than killing a sheep. Since you have already showed mercy by letting me duel with arrows with him, I dare not ask for anymore. Therefore I ask only for a bow and no arrows."

    "No arrows?" Bogurchi shouted feeling insulted.

    "That's right. I can kill you with just a bow!"

    This time the laughter from the Mongolian soldiers was even louder. "What a braggart!" One of them shouted as Temujin ordered him to hand over his best bow to Jebeh.

    Bogurchi had seen Jebeh in action during battle and know very well what a great marksman he was and didn't dare to take him lightly. However, with no arrows, how could Jebeh apply his great skill? Borguchi, knowing that Jebeh must be planning to use the arrows that he himself shot, gave his horse a good squeeze with his legs, causing it to start to gallop. Not only was this particular colt fast, it had been through many a battle and was especially perceptive to the whims of its rider. Because of this, Temujin had taken quite a liking to it.

    In response of the opponent's speed, Jebeh pulled on the reins, making his horse slowly back up. Borguchi fitted an arrow onto the bow and, aiming directly at Jebeh's face, let loose. Jebeh tilted his body and with incredible hand-eye coordination grabbed the arrow by the tail out of mid-air.

    "Oh that's good." Bogurchi muttered under his breath and shot another arrow.

    Hearing the arrow piercing through the air, Jebeh knew that he would not be able to catch this one. So he leaned forward, laying his body flat against the back of the horse. The arrow flew over his head, barely missing grazing him. Immediately he made his horse gallop forward with a little kick and sat back up. But what he didn't know was that Bogurchi was a master at shooting arrows one after another as 2 more arrows came baring down on him. Not expecting such a skill from his foe, Jebeh was forced to immediately slip off of his saddle and, hooking his right foot through the stirrup, almost hit the ground. The horse was still galloping forth at full speed, making it look as if there was a dancing bird at its side. Jebeh twisted his waist around, he had already loaded that arrow he had just caught onto the bow when he was barely half around, and as let loose aiming at Bogurchi's belly. Then he immediately flipped back onto the saddle.
    "Excellent!" Bogurchi shouted as he aimed at the coming arrow and let loose. The 2 arrows met head on and shot off in different directions before both arrows, still carrying a great force, stuck into the ground with their tails up. The exchanged caused Temujin and all other spectators to cheer in amazement.

    Bogurchi feigned shooting to the left, waited until Jebeh to react to the right before suddenly letting off a shot towards the right. Jebeh flicked his bow with his left hand and knocked the arrow down on the ground. Bogurchi followed with anther 3 shots, all of which were dodged by Jebeh. Jebeh, speeding his horse up, suddenly slipped off the saddle, reached down, picked up 3 arrows off the ground, sat back up, and shot one all in one motion.

    Wanting to show off a bit of his own skills, Bogurchi jumped on his saddle. Keeping his balance with his left leg, he kicked away the arrow with his right foot. Then, still standing, he used the height advantage and let loose a especially fierce shot. Jebeh pulled his horse to the side to dodge the shot and responded with another shot, which, with a "crack", split the arrow that Borguchi in half along the shaft.

    "He doesn't even have any arrows and yet we are fighting to a draw up to now. How can I get revenge for the Khan?" Bogurchi thought to himself.

    Getting impatient, Bogurchi began to shoot arrows one after another nonstop, so much so that it all became a blur to the spectators. Not having enough time to grab the arrows, Jebeh was forced into just dodging them. However, the arrows just kept on flying in and they kept on getting faster and more numerous until finally, he was hit on his left shoulder. At this everyone present cheered in unison.
    Ecstatic, Bogurchi was just about to shoot several more arrows to end Jebeh's life when he reached down into his arrow bag and came up empty. He had actually used up all his arrows while he was showering Jebeh with them. He always brought a tremendous amount of arrows with him when he enters battle, 2 quivers on his side and 6 more on the horse for a total of 8 quivers filled with arrows. However, this time he was using the Khan's own supply of arrows and, in the midst of battle, he had forgotten that there was a limit on arrows and resorted to his habitual way of using them. So now, shocked to discover that he had used all of his arrows, he immediately turned his horse around and reached down to pick up some arrows.

    Clearly seeing all of this, Jebeh pounced on the opportunity. Before the sound of the arrow piercing through the air had faded from everyone's ears, the arrow had already hit Bogurchi's back, right where his heart was. The spectators gasped in shock. But strangely, even though this arrow was shot with great force and caused a wave of pain to shoot through Bogurchi's back, it didn't penetrate his clothing and fell off onto the ground. Bogurchi picked up the arrow, which was lying right by where he was reaching down and inspected it. It turned out that Jebeh had actually taken off the arrowhead in a show of mercy. He flipped himself back onto the saddle and shouted: "I am avenging for my Khan. I don't need your mercy!"

    "I, Jebeh, never show any mercy to my enemies! That last arrow was to exchange a life for another!"

    When he saw Borguchi hit, Temujin was devastated. However, now that he suddenly realized that Bogurchi was not dying, he was overjoyed. At this moment he would have absolutely been willing to trade all of the sheep, ox, and horses in his tribe in exchange for Borguchi's life without the least bit of hesitation. So, upon hearing Jebeh's remark, he immediately answered: "Alright, no need to go any further. You let him go so I'm letting you go. His life for your life."

    "I'm not asking to exchange my life for his life."

    "What?" Temujin was puzzled.

    "I'm asking for an exchange for his life!" Jebeh answered, pointing at Guo Jing, who was standing by the door of the hut. "I ask that the Khan not to trouble this kid any further.

    "As for me?" He continued, raising one of his eyebrows higher. "I wounded Khan and deserves whatever punishment that comes to me. Bogurchi, come on!"
    As he finished, he pulled the arrow from his shoulder and, with blood still dripping off of it, fitted it onto his bow. By now, Bogurchi's underlings had already supplied him with 6 more quivers of arrows. "Alright, let's try this again!" Borguchi replied as he showered Jebeh with arrows. The arrows were coming so fast that they were almost connected, creating a chain of arrows in the air.

    Seeing the situation, Jebeh, holding himself up by hooking his foot through the stirrup, flipped himself underneath his horse's belly. Leaning sideways so as to not hit the ground, he aimed and fired a shot at Bogurchi's belly. The white colt, not waiting for his master to pull the reins, instinctively dodged to the left. But unfortunately, the shot from Jebeh was much faster than any normal shot and the colt was not able to get out of the way in time. The a thud, the arrow hit the colt on the head and instantly brought it down.

    Lying on the ground, Bogurchi dared not to risk Jebeh shooting a follow up, immediately twisting and firing another shot, snapping the bow in Jebeh's hand in half. Losing his weapon, Jebeh cursed at the fact he wasn't able to fight back anymore, as he had to resort to zigzagging in an effort to dodge Borguchi's shot. The Mongolian soldiers present all began to shout and cheer for Bogurchi as he loaded another arrow onto the bow. "He really is quite a hero!" Borguchi thought as he aimed for Jebeh's back and let loose.

    The great marksmen never misses when it matters and this arrow hit Jebeh smack on the back of his head. Jebeh's body shook and fell off the horse, the arrow falling to his side. Turned out that Bogurchi, not able to bring himself to kill such a hero, took the arrowhead off of this arrow as well. Borguchi loaded another arrow onto his bow and aimed at Jebeh before turning towards Temujin: "Great Khan, I ask you to show mercy and let him go!"

    By now, Temujin had long grown to admire Jebeh's courage and skill, so he shouted: "Are you still not going to surrender?"

    Seeing Temujin sitting there in all his glory and magnificence, Jebeh was suddenly won over. He ran over as fast as he could and, with his head down, knelt down in front of Temujin.

    Temujin let out a hearty laugh: "Wonderful! Wonderful! From now on, you are with me!"

    Mongolians frequently sing to express their feelings and thoughts. So at this moment, still kneeling on the ground, Jebeh began to sing: "Oh Great Khan, you showed me mercy and let me live, in the future, be it jumping into boiling water or walking in fire, I would do. I would cross the black seas and crush the mountains to protect the Great Khan. Conquering foes, digging out their hearts! Just ask of me and I will do. For the Khan I would lead charges and run 1 million kilometers a day!"

    {Note: It's a song! So give me a break would ya?}

    Ecstatic at the turn of events, Temujin took out 2 gold ingots and give one each to Bogurchi and Jebeh. Jebeh thanked him and asked: "Great Khan, is it ok if I give this ingot to that kid?"

    "My gold I can give to whoever I want," Temujin replied with a smile, "your gold you can give to whoever you want!"

    Jebeh walked over to Guo Jing and held out the ingot. But Guo Jing just shook his head: "Mom said that helping guests is the right thing to do and that it's wrong to take anything from guests.

    Temujin had grown to like Guo Jing because of the unyielding toughness the kid showed earlier. And now, hearing those words, he liked Guo Jing even more.

    "Bring the kid into our tribe as well." He instructed Jebeh before leading the soldiers back. Several of the soldiers stayed behind to put the white colt's corpse on the backs of 2 horses before leaving as well.

    Able to save his own life and find a master at one time, Jebeh was overjoyed and tired. So he lay down on the ground, rested until Li Ping had returned from the market, and explained to her what had happened.

    "Now that's a good kid," Li Ping said to Guo Jing upon hearing of how courageous and loyal he was, even though she was greatly distressed by all the wounds on his face. "That's how a man should act and behave." She figured that joining the army and going through the vigorous would be much better for Guo Jing than shepherding, especially if Guo Jing was to avenge his father. So the mother and son followed Jebeh into Temujin's tribe.

    Temujin assigned Jebeh as a Squad Leader under his third son, Ogedei. After meeting with the Third Prince, Jebeh went and met up with Bogurchi. Fueled by mutual respect, the 2 of them became fast friends. Feeling as if he owed Guo Jing a debt of gratitude, Jebeh took great care in looking after the mother and son and decided that he will begin teaching Guo Jing about bow and arrows as soon as Guo Jing gets a little older.

    On this particular day, Guo Jing was just tossing some rocks around with a couple of Mongolian kids for a game when they saw 2 Mongolian riders flying into the camp, obviously carrying urgent news for the Khan. Not long after the 2 riders entered Temujin's tent, the horns started to sound, causing the soldiers to pour out of their tents. Temujin had an iron fist when it came to the training and discipline of his army. Ten soldiers were organized into a squad, which was led by a Squad Leader. The squads were ordered into platoons made up of ten squads that were led by a Hundred-Men Commander, ten Hundred-Men groups were led by a Thousand-Men Commander, which were then organized under one of a few Ten-Thousand-Men Commander. When Temujin gave an order, it was as if he was just moving his fingers, no order was disobeyed or miscarried out.

    As Guo Jing and the other children looked on, at finish of the first blow of the horns, all the soldiers had already picked up their weapons and mounted their horses. When the horns sounded for the second time, the world shook from the chaos of men and beasts moving. By the time the third sounding of the horns came to a stop, the plain just outside of the main gates of the encampment were covered with some 50,000 men and soldiers in formation. Other than the breathing of horses, there wasn't another sound, neither chattering noises of conversation nor any sounds of weapons colliding.

    Temujin, escorted closely behind by his 3 eldest sons, walked out of the main gate. "We have beaten many a foes and our feats has reached the Great Jin Empire." He shouted at the top of his lungs. "At this moment, the great Emperor of the Jins has sent the Third Prince and Sixth Prince here to officially anoint your Khan as an officer!"

    The soldiers all, in unison, raised their sabres and shouted in joy. At that time, the Jurchens controlled Northern China with a fierce and strong army. Their empire was famous and powerful. On the other hand, the Mongols were just a small tribe among many in the middle of the Steppe. That was the reason why Temujin would feel honored to be an official of the Jin Empire.

    Temujin ordered the eldest son Jorchi to take 10,000 men with him to welcome and escort the guests while the other 40,000 men line up in formations in waiting.
    In reality, the Jurchen Emperor at the time, WanYan Jing, who took the title of Zhang Zong, was apprehensive of growing power's of some tribes on the Steppe such as Temujin's tribe and Toghril, the Ong Khan's tribe, the Keraits. Fearing that his northern neighbors would grow to be troublesome, he had sent Lord Rong, his third son WanYan HongXi, and Lord Zhao, his sixth son WanYan HongLie to anoint the leaders as officers of Jin. But in addition of tightening the ties of the tribes to Jin and increasing tributes, the princes had another mission, to scout the tribes and make note of the weakness of each so as to be able to gain the upper hand in case of future conflicts. That Lord Zhao, WanYan HongLie, was the same one that had traveled to Lin'An, wounded by Qiu ChuJi at Ox Village, and met the Seven Freaks at JiaXin.

    Guo Jing and the kids all stood at a distance, trying to catch a glimpse of this happening. After a long wait, a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon as Jorchi had met up with WanYan HongXi and WanYan HongLie. The WanYan brothers had with them 10,000 elite soldiers, each wearing silk capes and iron armor and carrying a spear in the left hand with a wolf-fanged club in the right hand while riding on their horses. The clanging of the armors could be heard for kilometers around. As the army got closer the silk shine and the armor glowed even more under the bright sun, creating a spectacular scene. The two brothers approached shoulder to shoulder, Temujin and his sons and generals waited by the roadside to welcome them. Seeing Guo Jing and all the other kids standing there staring at him, WanYan HongXi burst out laughing. He reached into his shirt and took out a handful of gold coins and tossed it towards the crowd of kids. "As a reward for you guys!" He shouted with a laugh, figuring that the kids would undoubtedly cheer and scramble around on the ground for the money which would show off of his own magnanimity and wealth.

    However, host-guest etiquette and respect was of utmost importance to the Mongolians. Not only were his actions inappropriate for the occasion, it was very disrespectful. The Mongol generals and solders were all left aghast at his actions. Every one of the kids were sons and daughters of the Mongolian soldiers and generals, so even though they were little, each of them had a sense of self-respect. As a result, none of them went and picked up the coins. His joy dampened, WanYan HongXi tossed another handful of gold coins and shouted: "Come on! Fight over them! Your mother's little devils you are!"
    This caused an even bigger stir upon the Mongols. Even though the Mongolians had no written language at the time and little culture, they placed a great deal of importance on politeness and respect, especially regarding guests. Mongolians, traditionally, never curse, even when facing lifelong nemesis or just joking around. When someone enters their tents, no matter if the person was a friend or not, that person would be treated with great respect and honor. By the same token, the guest must absolutely not disrespect his hosts either for it was considered the greatest of insults. Even though what WanYan HongXi shouted was in Jurchen and none of the Mongols understood it, everyone could tell that he was cursing at the kids from his body language and the tone of his voice.
    Constantly being told stories of how the Jurchens rape, pillage, and steal from the people of China, of how Jurchens corrupt officials and killed Yue Fei, Guo Jing's young heart had long been filled with hatred for the Jurchens. Now, upon seeing how rude this Jin Prince was, he picked up a couple of gold coins from the ground and, taking a little run up, threw it at WanYan HongXi with all his might. "Who would want your money!" He shouted. WanYan HongXi tilted his head sideways to avoid the coins; but nevertheless, one of them hit him squarely on the cheekbone. Even though Guo Jing wasn't strong and it really didn't hurt, he was still made to look bad in front of tens of thousands of people. Every Mongolian from Temujin downwards cheered on the inside.

    WanYan HongXi was furious, when he's in China, many a times had he kills people at the slightest displeasure. Never had he been so humiliated like this. So, as his temper flared up, he grabbed a spear from the guard that was riding at his side and threw it at Guo Jing's chest with all his might and shouted: "You want to die you little devil?"

    "Third Brother, no!" WanYan HongLie shouted, knowing this was bad. But he was too late; the spear had already taken off. Just as it looked as if Guo Jing was about die from the spear, an arrow suddenly shot out of the Mongolian army to the left. Like a meteor shooting around the moon, the arrow hit the spear dead on the head with a loud "bang!" Packed with incredible strength, the arrow was able to deflect the spear away despite being many times lighter. Guo Jing immediately scrambled away. The Mongolian soldiers all cheered in unison, shaking the Steppe. The person that shot the arrow was none other than Jebeh.

    "Third Brother, don't bother with him anymore!" WanYan HongLie whispered to his brother.

    Seeing and hearing the might of the Mongolian army, WanYan HongXi was a bit shaken, so he just shot a mean look at Guo Jing and cursed under his breath: "Little bastard!"

    At this point, Temujin and his retainers had come forth for to formally welcome the 2 Jin Princes and took them into the main tent. There they served up koumiss and vast quantities beef and lamb. There were translators on both sides, translating between Jurchen and Mongolian. WanYan HongXi read the royal decree out loud, granting the title of The Northern Ambassador of The Empire of the Jin to Temujin. Temujin, who knelt on the ground during the reading, humbly accepted the official document and the Golden Belt, which signified his allegiance to the Jin Emperor.
    {Note: Koumiss is a very strong Mongolian alcoholic drink that came from horse milk.}

    That night the Mongolians celebrated with a huge feast to entertain the honored emissaries.

    "Tomorrow, my brother and I are going to appoint a post for Ong Khan." WanYan HongXi, somewhat under the influence of koumiss, said to Temujin. "Won't the Ambassador come to join us?"

    Temujin was overjoyed at the news and immediately agreed to come along. Ong Khan, Toghril, was the leader among the tribes on the Steppe. His tribe was the richest and most powerful; furthermore, he was a good man, always treating others as equals. So it was no great stretch to say that he was respected and liked by every tribe. Ong Khan had once been the sworn brother of Temujin's father. After Temujin's father was poisoned to death by his enemies, when Temujin had nowhere to go, it was Ong Khan who took him as a step-father. Not long after Temujin was married, his wife was taken away by the Merkits. It was only because of Ong Khan and Jamuka, Temujin's sworn brother, joining him did he manage to defeat the Merkits and save his wife.

    That was the reason Temujin was elated upon hearing that Ong Khan would be granted a title as well. "Is the Great Jin Empire going to grant titles to anyone else?" He asked.

    "No, that's it." WanYan HongXi replied.

    "But that's entirely because up here in the North there is only 2 great heroes:

    Ong Khan and Great Khan yourself." WanYan HongLie immediately added onto his brother's statement. "None of the others are worthy."

    "There is another person around here that perhaps Your Excellencies haven't heard of." Temujin replied.

    "Really? Who?" WanYan HongLie asked.

    "He just happens to be your humble servant's sworn brother, Jamuka. He's a righteous man who is very adept at commanding an army. I humbly request that Third Prince and Sixth Prince would consider to grant him a title as well."

    Temujin and Jamuka were childhood friends who grew up together, at the time they became sworn brothers, Temujin was merely 11. When Mongolians become sworn brothers, they call it swearing "anda", which was Mongolian for sworn brother. Mongolian tradition dictates that when swearing anda, the sides must exchange gifts. At the time, Jamuka gave Temujin a granite stone that resembled a deer thighbone while Temujin gave Jamuka a granite stone that looked like it was made of brass. Mongolians used small granite rocks to hunt rabbits, but Mongolian kids often played catch and competed to see who threw the furthest with them. After the 2 of them became andas, they went and threw rocks on the frozen Onon River. The next Spring, while the 2 of them were out shooting arrows with their own little wooden bows, Jamuka gave Temujin a noisy-arrowhead that he carved out himself using 2 little ox horns, Temujin returned the gift with a cypress tipped arrowhead and the two of them swore to become anda once more.
    {Note: noisy arrowheads are arrowheads that are carved with slits in them so that they would create a very loud screeching noise once they are shot. These arrows are often used to relay messages and orders in battle.}

    After they grew up, both of them lived within Ong Khan's tribe and were still very close. Everyday they would compete to see got up earlier, whichever one got up earlier would get to drink one cup of koumiss out of Ong Khan's own jade cup. Later, after Temujin's wife was kidnapped and was rescued with the combined help of Jamuka and Ong Khan, Temujin and Jamuka exchanged gold and horses and sworn anda to each other for a third time. The two of them drank out of the same cup in the day and slept under the same tent at night. However, eventually, having to migrate with the changing weather and rain, they and their tribes parted. As Temujin's tribe rose in fame and power, Jamuka's tribe was growing nonstop as well. Their friendship was still as strong as ever and was deeper than blood brothers. That's why Temujin, realizing that his brother was not being honored, would ask for him to be honored as well.

    "So many Mongolians, where can we go and find all the titles if we give each one of them a title? How many titles do you think we have?" WanYan HongXi, half drunk, casually answered back without much thought. WanYan HongLie shot his brother numerous looks trying to get him to stop, but was ignored.

    Feeling slighted because of the remark, Temujin offered: "Might Your Excellencies consider giving your humble servant's title to him instead?"

    "Are you belittling the titles of the Great Empire of the Jins?" WanYan HongXi smacked his leg and shouted.

    Temujin slammed his palm down on his table and stood up in anger. Finally and barely holding off his fury, he did not say another word as he grabbed his cup and drank its content in one gulp. WanYan HongLie immediately told a joke and changed the subject.

    The next morning, Temujin and his 4 sons led 5000 troops to escort WanYan HongXi and WanYan HongLie to Ong Khan.

    By the time the sun was barely peeking over the distant horizon, Temujin had already mounted his horse and the 5000 soldiers had already line up in perfect formation. The Jurchen soldiers and generals, however, were still fast asleep.
    At first, Temujin was impressed with the Jurchen army by their grandeur and organization. But now, after seeing what an undisciplined and fun seeking group they were, he humphed and turned to Muqali: "What do you think of the Jin army?"

    "A thousand of us Mongolian troops can defeat 5000 of theirs!" Muqali observed.
    "I thought so too," Temujin replied with a smile. "But it's said that the Jin Empire has an army of over 1 million strong. We only have 50,000 people."

    "A million troops can't enter battle all at once," Muqali responded. "Divide and conquer, we can take down 10,000 today and then sweep another 10,000 tomorrow."

    "When it comes to military strategy, your opinions are always the same as mine." Temujin smiled and patted him on the shoulder. "A 50 kilogram man can eat 10 cows that weighed over 1000 kilograms. He just won't do it in one day."
    The 2 men burst out in laughter.

    Temujin settled back straight in his saddle and suddenly saw that Tolui's horse was riderless. "Where's Tolui?" He shouted in fury.

    Tolui was just 9 years old, but Temujin had always been a harsh disciplinarian whether he was training troops or bringing up sons, never showing mercy for anyone who violated his rules. With him shouting so loudly in anger, all the generals and troops immediately got a bad feeling in their stomach. General Boroqul, Tolui's mentor, almost panicked and offered: "This kid had never overslept before, let me go check."

    Just as he turned his horse to gallop off to search for Tolui, he saw 2 kids came running up hand in hand. One of them, with a silk bandana on his head, was Tolui while the other turned out to be Guo Jing. Tolui ran straight towards his father and shouted: "Dad!"

    "Where were you?" Temujin demanded in a harsh tone.

    "Guo Jing and I just became andas down by the river. Look, this is what he gave me." Tolui replied, waving a red handkerchief with a flower embroidered on it in the air. It was something that Li Ping made for Guo Jing.

    Reminded of the time he and Jamuka became andas as kids, Temujin's face immediately became serene. "What did you give him?" He asked the 2 cute and innocent kids standing in front of him.

    "This!" Guo Jing replied, pointing on top of his head, where Temujin saw the golden necklace that his youngest son often wore.

    "Now you two better help and look after each other in the future, you hear?" Temujin said with a smile.

    Both of the kids nodded.

    "Now get on your horses," Temujin ordered, "Guo Jing can come with us too."

    Ecstatic, Guo Jing and Tolui both mounted their horses.

    After another period of waiting, the WanYan brothers finally finished dressing and exited their tents. WanYan HongLie, seeing the Mongolian soldiers was already in formation, immediately ordered his soldiers to fall in. However, WanYan HongXi, determined to put the Mongolians in their place, took his time to slowly drink several cups of wine and ate a little breakfast before finally climbing onto his horse. After another hour of general chaos, the 10,000 Jin troops were finally in formations.

    The army marched northwards for 6 days before meeting up with Ong Khan's welcoming committee, comprised of Ong Khan's son Senggum and adopted son Jamuka. Upon hearing that Jamuka was here, Temujin immediately rode forth to meet him. The 2 men hopped off their horses and bear hugged each other. Every one of Temujin's sons came riding forth to greeting their adopted uncle as well.
    When WanYan HongLie first laid eyes upon Jamuka, he saw a tall and skinny man with a few strands of gold in his mustache and a pair of eyes that were filled with energy and enthusiasm. He looked strong and spirited. Senggum, on the other hand, was fat and pale, probably from living in luxury all his life, not at all like someone who grew up on the Steppe. Not only that, he had an arrogant look on his face and seemingly ignored Temujin whenever he felt like it, a stark contrast from the warmth of Jamuka.

    After another day of marching, they were very close to Ong Khan's encampment when 2 of Temujin's advanced scouts suddenly returned with news.

    "There are Naimans blocking the way up ahead. About 30,000 of them," they reported.

    "What do they want?" WanYan HongXi asked, panicking a bit after hearing the news through his translator.

    "From the looks of it, they want to fight," the scouts reported.

    "They.... they have.... they really have 30,000 troops?" WanYan HongXi stuttered. "That... that's more than us... this... this...."

    "Go and find out what's going on," Temujin ordered Muquli, not waiting for WanYan HongXi to finish his sentence.

    Muqali headed off with 10 bodyguards while the rest of them stopped and waited. Not long after, Muqali returned.

    "The Naimans said since the great Jin princes granted a title to our Khan, they want to be granted a title too," He reported. "If not, then they say they will take Your Excellencies the princes as hostages until they too are granted titles from the Great Jin Empire. They also said that they want a title that's above our Khan Temujin's."

    "Demanding titles by force? That... that's rebellion! What do we do?" WanYan HongXi's face went pale upon hearing the news. WanYan HongLie began organizing troops into positions in case of any unexpected escalations.

    "Brother, those Naimans frequently steal our livestock and cause trouble for us. Are we really going to let them get away with this?" Jamuka said to Temujin. "Don't know what the Jin princes would have us do?"

    By now, Temujin had thoroughly surveyed the surrounding landscape and was confident of victory. "Let's show the Princes how the 2 of us do things around here!" He replied to Jamuka before letting out a howl and cracking his whip in the air twice, causing the 5000 Monglian soldiers to simultaneously howl in response and startling the unexpecting WanYan brothers.

    A cloud of dust had appeared ahead as the enemy slowly approaches, forcing the advanced scouts to return.

    "Brother, order our boys to charge now!" WanYan HongXi said. "These Mongols are of no use now."

    "Let them fight first," WanYan HongLie whispered back.

    Immediately understanding his brother's intentions, WanYan HongXi simply nodded and sat back. The Mongolian soldiers let out another loud shout, but did not move. "What on Earth are these Mongols doing shouting like rabid dogs?" WanYan HongXi frowned. "It's not like they are going to scare the enemies away no matter how loud they are."

    On the left side of the formation was Boroqul. "Follow me and don't fall behind. See how we defeat our foes," he instructed Tolui, who, along with Guo Jing, were shouting at the top of their lungs just like the others.

    In a heartbeat, the approaching army emerged out of the cloud of dust only a few paces away. Yet the Mongolians still did nothing but shout.

    This time it was WanYan HongLie who got nervous, seeing how spirited the Naimans were. Fearing his formation would be broken through if they continued unimpeded, he ordered: "Fire arrows!"

    The Jin army discharged several volleys, but because of the distance between the 2 armies, most of the arrows fell onto the ground before ever reaching the enemy.
    Frightened by the ferociousness on his enemies' faces as they gritted their teeth and charged at full speed, WanYan HongXi began to panic. "Why don't we just give them what they want and give them some bullshit title and be done with all this?" he turned around and suggested to WanYan HongLie. "So what if the title is a little big? Not like we are going to lose anything."

    Suddenly, Temujin cracked his whip in the air several times. The Mongolian army immediately stopped shouting and split into 2 groups. Temujin and Jamuka each leading a wing and immediately headed towards the high ground on either side. The 2 of them leaned down into their horses and galloped along with their troops, shouting out orders as they ran. The Mongolian troops split up into smaller and smaller groups that, in a very short amount of time, occupied every high ground in every direction. With the height advantage, the Mongols loaded their arrows onto their bows and aimed at the opposing army, but not firing.

    The leader of the Naimans, sensing that he was at a disadvantageous position, ordered his troops to head straight for the high grounds. The Mongolian troops set up soft walls made of several layers of fleece to shield themselves from the arrows. The bowmen shot back from behind the walls as the troops stationed on nearby high ground fired arrows in support as well. With enemies on either side of it, confusion descended upon the Naimans as they tried to attack both sides.
    "Jelmi, attack the rear!" Temujin shouted, seeing the opposing army had become disorganized from his position on the left.

    With a huge sabre in hand, Jelmi led a group of 1000 soldiers down in a charge and cut off the enemy's retreat. Jebeh, determined to slay the enemy general in order to show his gratitude to Temujin for sparing his life, was at the front of the charge with his spear sticking out in front of everyone. Being hit head on by a charge like this, the Naiman rear collapsed into chaos, and their forward units were shaken as well. The Naiman general was just at a lost at what to do next when Jamuka and Senggum began to charge down from their position as well. Attacked from both sides, the Naiman army completely collapsed before long. The leading general turned around and tried to escape, followed by several retainers as they headed back in the direction they came from.

    Jelmi didn't order a pursuit and let most of the opposing army go by. Only when there were about 2000 enemies left did he order his army to charge out and block their retreat. With nowhere to go, the brave Naiman soldiers that were left fought to the death while the rest of them laid down their weapons and surrendered.
    In this brief battle, the Mongols killed over 1000 foes and captured over 2000 while sustaining only a little over 100 in casualties.

    Temujin ordered all captives be stripped of their armor and split into 4 equal groups, one for the WanYan brothers, one for his adopted father Ong Khan, one for sworn brother Jamuka, and one for himself. All Mongolian families that had a relative die in the battle received 5 horses and 5 captives as slaves as compensation.

    Only now did WanYan HongXi finally calm down from his scare. "They want a title? Brother, why don't we give them a title of 'Ambassador of the Defeated Losers?' Haha!" He could not stop talking about the battle that just occurred.

    The Mongolian victory despite being outnumbered made WanYan HongLie even more nervous than he was before the battle. "At this moment, the reason that our northern borders are safe is because the northern tribes are battling amongst themselves. But if Temujin or Jamuka ever brought all the tribes on the Steppe under their rule, our Great Jin Empire would no longer have any peace." He thought to himself.

    Other things troubled him as well. Even though his own troops of 10,000 did not enter into battle, their formation began to waver when the Naimans initially charged and there were fear on every one of their faces. The battle had not yet begun but the outcome had already been determined. Such courage and efficiency displayed by the Mongolians represents a huge threat in the future.
    He was still pondering things over in his mind when a cloud of dust appeared up ahead as another army approached.
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 03-21-05 at 08:33 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Moinllieon)

    Chapter 4 Twin Killers of the Dark Winds

    "Alright, let's fight again!" Wan Yan Hong Xi proclaimed out loud.

    But unexpectedly, the forwards scouts came back with a different report. "The Ong Khan is here to personally welcome the two Jin Princes!" Temujin, Jamuka, and Senggum immediately rode forward to greet him.

    From the dust clouds an army emerged. With several hundred personal guards with him, The Ong Khan rode up, rolled off of the back of his horse in one fell swoop, with his adopted sons Temujin and Jamuka at his side, approached and kneeled before the two princes. He was a rather chubby man with glittering silver hair. He wore a robe made of the finest black leopard furs that was held in place by a golden belt around his waist. The way he carried himself was one of great dignity and confidence. Wang Yan Hong Lie hurriedly got off his own horse and returned the gesture, but Wan Yan Hong Xi remained on his horse and merely replied by cupping his fists.

    "You humble servant had just heard the news of the Naimans's rudeness and was worried that Your Majesties might have been disturbed, so your humble servant brought a force here as soon as possible. But fortunately, due to Your Majesties' awe-inspiring presense, the three kids were able to defeat them already." The Ong Khan spoke.

    Next, he took the lead and courteously led the Wan Yan brothers all the back to his very own ger. The inside of his ger was covered with leopard and fox furs as well as littered with the finest of furniture and wares. Even his personal guards are dressed in more luxurious than that of Temujins, not to mention him and his son. The bellowing of horn continuously clamored for several kilometers surrounding the ger, the men and horses bustled about, giving off an atmosphere of something great going on. Not since the Wan Yan brothers been outside the Great Wall have they seen anything approaching such grandeur.

    After the ceremony of bestowing the title was finished, everyone settled down. That night, the Ong Khan held a huge banquet in the big ger to celebrate the arrival of the Wan Yan brothers. Scores of female slaves danced as entertainment as the banquet progressed late into the night, it became quite lively, miles apart from the simple and slightly backwatered reception that they received at Temujin's tribe. Wan Yan Hong Xi was having one hell of a time, two female slaves had caught his fancy and he was pondering ideas in his head, never did it occur to him to even talk to the Ong Khan.

    After about half of the koumiss had been consumed, Wan Yan Hong Lie turned to the Ong Khan.

    "Your heroic deeds are known far and wide, even we who resides within the Great Wall have long admired your greatness. But I really want to meet some of the heroes of the younger generation of Mongolians." He said.

    "Well my two adopted sons over just happens to be the two greatest heroes of Mongolia." The Ong Khan responded with a smile. Senggum, his own son who sat at the side, did not react well to hearing this and began downing one cup of koumiss after another.

    "Your very son is another hero, why isn't hero mentioning him?" Wan Yan Hong Lie asked, taking note of Senggum's displeasure.

    "After I die, he would naturally take over my tribe." The Ong Khan smiled and replied. "But could he compare to his two adopted brothers? Jamuka is smart and intelligent. Temujin is even more brave and courageous, he started with nothing and made himself into what he is today with his own hands. What Mongol warrior wouldn't want to put his life in their hands and serve them?"

    "Does that mean that the generals under hero doesn't compare to Temujin Khan's generals?" Wan Yan Hong Lie queried. Noticing that there was a hint of instigatin in his words, Temujin shot a look towards Wan Yan Hong Lie and mentally prepared himself for what might come next.

    The Ong Khan slowly stroked his beard and did not reply. Instead he took another gulp from his cup of koumiss.

    "Last time, when the Naimans came and stole several thousands of my livestock, it was only because of Temujin and his Four Aces were we able to get those livestock back. Even though he doesn't have many men under him, but each and every one of them are skilled and brav. Your Highnesses must have witnessed that first hand today." Senggum's face turned even angrier as he slammed the gold cup in his hand onto the table, causing a loud bang.

    "What good am I really? I have today simply because of the attention and care that my adopted father has showered me with." Temujin hurried added.

    "Four Aces? Who are they? I want to meet them." Wan Yan Hong Lie changed the subject as well.

    "Why don't you summon them inside?" The Ong Khan asked Temujin. Temujin lightly clapped his hand and four men walked into the ger.

    The first one look gentle and scholarly with a white and clean face, he was the master of strategy, Muquali. The second man had a strong and sturdy built, his eyes pierced like an eagles, he was none other than Temujin's good friend, Borgurchi. The third man was short but agile, his steps light and swift, that was Tolui's master Boroqul. The last one's face and hands were covered with battle scars, his face was blood red, this was the man who had saved Temujin's life so many years ago, Tchila'un. The four of them were each founding generals in rise of Mongolia, called the Four Aces by Temujin.

    Upon seeing them, Wan Yan Hong Lie praised each one a bit, awarded all of them with a big cup of koumiss.

    "On the battle field today, there was a general with a black cape that led the charge through enemy formations, nobody could stop him, do you know who he was?" Wan Yan Hong Lie inquired after the Four Aces had finished their drinks.

    "That's a Squad Leader that I just recruited," Temujin answered. "Everyone calls him Jebeh."

    "Then why don't we invite him in for a drink as well?" Wan Yan Hong Lie suggested. Temujin turned and sent out the commanded.

    Jebeh entered the ger and properly gave thanks for the reward of a drink. He was just about to drink when he was interrupted.

    "How dare you, a measley Squad Leader, drink from my gold cup?" Senggum shouted. Jebeh was shocked and furious, but stopped bringing the cup up to his lips nevertheless. He looked over at Temujin for the proper course of action. In Mongol culture, stopping someone else from drinking is an enormous insult. Not to mention that this was done in front of all these people, how could anyone bear such an insult?

    "For my adopted father's sake, I'm going to let Senggum get away with this one." Temujin decided turned to Jebeh.

    "Bring it over here, I'm thirsty, let me drink it!" He took the cup from Jebeh's hands and drank all of its contents in one gulp. Jebeh shot an angry look towards Senggum, turned and began to walk out of the ger.

    "Come back here!" Senggum commanded fiercely, but Jebeh just ignored him and walked out of the ger with his head held high.

    "Even though Brother Temujin has his Four Aces, I have something that could defeat all four of them as soon as I let it out." Unhappy that things did not work out to his liking, Senggum changed the subject. He chuckled when he said that. Even though he called Temujin brother, he was not an anda of Temujin, he only did it because his father was Temujin's adopted father.

    "Really? What could that be? What could be that powerful?" Wan Yan Hong Xi's interest was piqued by that statement.

    "Well, we can go outside and I can show you." Senggum said.

    "We are having a good time drinking, what are you trying to stir up now?" The Ong Khan objected.

    "Just sitting here and drinking is getting boring, let's see something different." Wan Yan Hong Xi wanted very much to see some troubles, so much so that he had already stood up by the time he finished his sentence and walked out. The others had no choice but to follow him out.

    The Mongolian troops had started several hundred camp fires and were celebrating at their sides. Once the Khans had exited their gers, there was a huge cacophony as a huge section of troops to the West all stood up immediately. They were lined up in perfect formation, not one of them was moving. They were none other than Temujin's troops. To the East, the Ong Khan's troops slowly and scatteredly picked themselves up from the ground, there were even faint sounds of joking to be heard within their ranks.

    "Even though the Ong Khan's troops are much more numerous, it can't even compare with Temujin's troops!" Wan Yan Hong Lie concluded upon seeing this display.

    "Wine!" Temujin had noticed that under the glow of the fire, Jebeh's face was covered with fury. So he ordered that a big jug of wine be brought to him.

    "Today's tremendous victory over the Naimans was a result of everyone's hard work and dedication!" He loudly declared to everyone.

    "It's because we were led by Ong Khan, Temujin Khan, and Jamuka!" All of the soldiers answered in one voice.

    "Today, I saw someone who was especially brave, charging the enemy's rear no less than 3 times in a row. And shot down several dozens of enemies, who was he?" Temujin asked.

    "Squad Leader Jebeh!" The soldiers answered again.

    "No, not Squad Leader, Company Commander Jebeh!" Temujin corrected. Everyone was momentarily taken aback before realizing what he meant and began to cheer.

    "Jebeh is a warrior, he's well deserving of being Company Commander!" They all shouted in approval.

    "Bring my helmet to me!" Temujin turned and instructed Jelmi, soon Jelmi returned with the helmet and presented it to him.

    "This is the helmet that I wear onto the battle field! This is the helmet that I wear as I kill my enemies!" Temujin raised the helmet high above his head for everyone to see. "Now this will be as a cup for a warrior to drink out of!"

    He popped open the jug of wine and poured all of its contents into the helmet. Bring it up to his own lips, he took a huge chug from the helmet and offered it to Jebeh.

    Overwhelmed with gratitude, Jebeh knelt down on one knee to receive the helmet and finished the rest of the koumiss inside of the helmet.

    "Even the most precious and most diamond studded gold cup in the world cannot compare with my Khan's helmet." He said in a low voice. Temujin smiled as he took his helmet back and put it back onto his head.

    The Mongol troops had all caught word of how Jebeh had been humiliated by Senggum and felt bad for him, even those troops under the Ong Khan had thought that Senggum was wrong in what he did. Now, seeing how Temujin had treated him, they all burst out in a great cheer.

    "What a man among men this Temujin is! At this moment Jebeh would gladly die one thousand times for him!" Wan Yan Hong Lie thought to himself. "Back in the Imperial Court all those officials insist that the North was populated by brainless barbarians, it's obvious that they have grossly underestimated these people."

    But Wan Yan Hong Xi was only concerned about finding out what was that thing that Senggum claimed could eat all four of the "Aces."

    "So what is it that you have that's so powerful that it could eat all four of the Aces?" He said as he casually sat back down onto the tiger-fur covered chair that his personal servants had carried out.

    "I invite Your Highness to get ready to see something really special. Four Aces my foot, they probably won't even measure up to these 2 bastards of mine." Senggum quietly said with a smile before turning around to the troops and loudly ask. "Where are my Brother Temujin's Four Aces?"

    The four men came walking up and saluted their superiors. Senggum turned and whispered something to his trusted servant at his side and he nodded before running off. Soon after, a wave of beastial roar could be heard as a pair of huge golden leopards came strolling out from behind the ger. In the darkness the leopard eyes were glowing like a pair of lanterns, emitting an oily jade-like glow as they slowly approached. This gave Wan Yan Hong Xi quite a scare as he immediately grabbed the handle of his sabre tightly. Only when the leopards walked close to a particular bonfire did he see that, in fact, there was a collar around their necks and each leopard had a big fellow on the other end of the leash. The big fellows both had a long stick in their other hand, turned out that they were especially in charge of raising and taking care of the leopards. Mongolians love raising leopards for hunting purposes. Not only do leopards run faster than hunting dogs, but they are especially feisty, being caught by the leopard means instant death for whatever they are set upon. The only draw back was that the leopards consumed a great deal of food, so only royalty or top officials could afford to keep leopards. Although the leopards were restrained by men, they were still snarling and clawing every which way, glaring viciously at everyone, and scuttling left and right randomly. The muscles on their bodies looked as if they contained boundless energy within them, ready to explode at any moment. Wan Yan Hong Xi felt his heart get a little hairy as he felt exceedingly uncomfortable, from the power and might that these two leopards were showing, it looked as if they could easily break out of the grips of their masters on a whim.

    "Brother, if those Four Aces of yours are truly great warriors and could subdue these two leopards of mine bare handed, then I'll be truly convinced." Senggum turned towards Temujin.

    The Four Aces were furious as the same thought ran through their minds. "You humiliated Jebeh, now you are going to humiliate us? Are we just game? Are we wild wolves? Then why should we fight your leopards?"

    Temujin was far from happy about this whole proposal as well.

    "I love my men like my own life, how could I let them fight a leopard?"

    "Is that so?" Senggum burst out into a loud laugh. "Then why claim to be Four Aces or whatever you want to call it. Not even brave enough to fight my leopards!"

    Of the Four Aces, Tchila'un;s temper were the shortest and he could not stand such insult any further as he took a huge step forward.

    "My great Khan, it doesn't matter if they laugh at us, but we cannot allow you to be shamed in the slightest." He said to Temujin. "I'll fight the leopards!"

    Wan Yan Hong Xi was ecstatic to hear this. So much so that he removed a bright red ruby-studded ring from his finger and tossed it on the ground, proclaiming: "If you can beat the leopard, then that's yours."

    Tchila'un did not even give the ring a look before lunging forward, only to be held back by Muqali. "Our name are known throughout the Steppe because we have defeated so many foes. Can a leopard command an army? Can a leopard ambush or surround enemies?" Muqali reasoned loudly.

    "Brother Senggum, you won." Temujin said as he bent down, picked up the ring, and placed it in Senggum's hand. Senggum immediately put the ring on one of his fingers and let out a triumphant laugh as he raised his hand to show off his newly won ring. The Ong Khan's troops began to cheer in response. Jamuka stayed silent throughout but was frowning heavily. Temujin kept a calm expression about him. And the Four Aces bittered retreated back to their ranks.

    Disappointed and terribly unhappy about not seeing a man versus leopard fight, Wan Yan Hong Xi asked the Ong Khan for two female slaves and retired to his own ger.

    The next morning, Tolui and Guo Jing ran off to play. Hand in hand, they made their way far from the main camp when suddenly a white rabbit ran by right in front of them. Tolui took out his own little minature bow and arrows, aimed, shot, and hit the rabbit squarely in the belly. But because he was so young the arrow lacked power, so even though it was a direct hit, it was not immediately fatal and that rabbit scuttled off with the arrow. The two little kids, screaming at the top of their lungs, chased after the rabbit.

    After running for quite a while, the rabbit finally collapsed. The two kids let out a simultaneous cheer and was just about to retrieve the rabbit when 7 or 8 kids suddenly came pouring out from the woods at their side. One particular kid who was about 12 years or so was quick to recognize the situation and grabbed the rabbit from off of the ground. He pulled the arrow from the rabbit's belly, threw it on the ground, and shot a fierce look in Tolui and Guo Jing's direction before stomping off with the rabbit.

    "Hey, I shot that rabbit, why are you taking it?" Tolui shouted. That kid whirled around and came back."Who says that you shot it?" He laughed.

    "Well this arrow is mine isn't it?"

    That kid's eye brows suddenly flared up and his eyes bulged out.

    "This rabbit was my pet, you are lucky I'm not asking you to pay for this!" He shouted back.

    "You are lying, this is obviously a wild rabbit." Tolui shot back. That kid became even angrier as he walked up and shoved Tolui.

    "Watch who you are accusing! My grandpa is the Ong Khan, my dad is Senggum, did you know that? Even if you did shoot this rabbit, I'm taking it anyways, so what?"

    "My dad is Temujin!" Tolui proudly answered.

    "Pei! So what if he's Temujin? Your dad's a coward! He's scared of my grandpa and scared of my dad!" This kid's name was Dukhsh, he was Senggum's only son. After having a daughter, Senggum had to wait several years before finally having a son, and after him he had no other off spring. Therefore he had always spoiled his son, letting him bully as he pleased. Temujin, Ong Khan, and Senggum had not met for a long time, even though that their sons had met before, this was for all practical purposes their first meeting.

    Hearing someone making fun of his father, Tolui was mad with anger and proudly shouted back: "Says who? My dad's not scared of anybody!"

    "When your mom was stolen, it was my grandpa and my dad who went and took her back for your dad. You think I didn't know that? So what's the big deal if I just take this measely little rabbit of yours?"

    Even back then, Senggum had been envious of Temujin's fame. So when they helped out Temujin that one time, Senggum made sure to tell everyone that he knew about it, even his son had heard it many times.

    Tolui was still a small kid back then, and also Temujin had always viewed that event as an incredible embarrasment for himself, so naturally he never told Tolui about it. So at this moment, upon hearing this, Tolui was so mad that his face turned white as sheet.

    "You liar! I'm going to tell my dad!" He agrily threatened before turning around and walking off.

    "Your dad's scared of my dad, so what if you tell him?" Dukhsh laughed at Tolui. "Last night when my dad brought out his two leopards, your dad's Four Asses were all so scared they couldn't even move!"

    Of the Four Aces, there was Boroqul, Tolui's master. Hearing this only made Tolui even angrier. So angry he could barely speak.

    "My master isn't even scared of tigers, why would he be scared of leopards? He just didn't want to fight against wild animals." He finally stuttered out.

    Dukhsh took a step forward and suddenly slapped Tolui squarely on his face.

    "How dare you talk back to me! Are you scared of me?" He yelled. Tolui was startled as his cheeks instantly swelled to blood red. He wanted to cry, but could not let himself cry.

    Guo Jing had been seething on the side all this time, but now he could no longer hold back as he suddenly lunged forward and rammed his head squarely in the stomach. This caught Dukhsh by surprise and knocked him flat on his back.

    "Yay!" Tolui clapped in joy for a moment before grabbing Guo Jing's hand and tried to run away.

    "Kill those two bastards!" Dukhsh screamed out, still on the ground. Dukhsh's companions chased up to the two kids and a fierce fight quickly broke out. Dukhsh picked himself up from off the ground and angrily charged into the fray. Dukhsh's gang was older to begin with and also outnumbered the opposition, so they were able to pin down Tolui and Guo Jing very quickly.

    "Give up? Give up?" Dukhsh shouted as he continually flailed punches into Guo Jing's back. Guo Jing tried with all his might to get back up, but was weighed down by his foe's weight. At his side, Tolui was also being ganged up on by two kids.

    It was at this precarious moment that the sound of horse bells could be heard coming from just over the sand dune as a small group of riders appeared. The leading rider was a short, fat fellow riding on a yellow horse. Upon seeing the kids fighting at a distance, he let out a little laugh.

    "Hah, fighting!" Only when he ride closer for a better look did he realize that it was 7 kids or so bullying two much smaller kids, pinning them down on the ground and beating them. The two little kids' faces were already full of bruises.

    "Shame on you! Let them go!" He shouted.

    "##### off!" Dukhsh shouted back. "Do you know who I am? I'll beat up whoever I want to, and you can't do anything about it!"

    His father was one of the most powerful men in the North, so he was used to bullying everyone as nobody dared to challenge him.

    "How dare you act like that? Let go of them!" The rider on the yellow horse yelled back. By this time, the rest of his group had joined him.

    "Third Brother, stop meddling in affairs that doesn't concern us, let's go." There was a woman in that group.

    "Look at this, what kind of fighting is this?" The rider on the yellow horse replied.

    These riders were the Seven Freaks of the South. They had followed Duan Tian De all the way north into the Steppe before losing his trail. These 6 years, they had roamed up and down the Steppe in search of Duan Tian De and Li Ping. All 7 of them had actually learned Mongolian through it all, but they still could not find any clue as to the whereabouts of Li Ping. The Seven Freaks were all stubborn characters, and very competitive as well, so even if faced with ordeals 10 times more difficult and more dangerous than this, they would not concede this bet to Qiu Chu Ji. Without ever conferring, the 7 of them all had the same plan, even if they never find Li Ping, they would still search until the 18 years is up, at that time they would go to Pavilion of Drunken Goddess in Jia Xin and admit defeat to Qiu Chu Ji's face. Besides, Qiu Chu Ji might not find Yang Tie Xin's widow either. If neither side could find their widow, then a tie would result and then maybe another challenge would be issued.

    "Two against one, we can't allowed that." Han Xiao Yin hopped off of her horse and picked the two kids that were ridding on Tolui's back off of him. Suddenly realizing that all the weight was off of his back Tolui struggled to jump up. Dukhsh paused for a moment and Guo Jing took advantage as he flipped his body violently and crawled out from in between Dukhsh's legs. The two of them, having finally freed themselves, immediately tried to run away.

    "Go after them!" Dukhsh yelled as he led the rest of his gang in hot pursuit.

    Seeing these little Mongolian kids fight reminded the Seven Freaks of all the mis-adventures that they had together when they were little, causing all of them to smile quite fondly over them.

    "Time to go now, let's get to the market ahead before it disperses, or else we would miss a chance to ask the people there!" Ke Zheng'E suggested. By this time, Dukhsh's little gang had caught up to Tolui and Guo Jing once again and surrounded them.

    "Do you give up?" Dukhsh demanded. Tolui, still looking might angry, did not reply but instead fiercely shook his head.

    "Well you ask for it!" The kids converged upon one another yet again.

    Suddenly a cold flash covered the ground as a little dagger suddenly materialized in Guo Jing's hand.

    "You want some of this?"

    Turned out that Li Ping, out of love for her son, had already given him that dagger that her husband left her for him to carry around. She felt that this object was good for warding off evil and had intended for this dagger to protect her son from evil spirits. But because of the bully Guo Jing was receiving, he pulled it out.

    Seeing that he had a weapon with him, none Dukhsh's gang was brave enough to challenge him.

    Magical Hand Scholar Zhu Cong was already on his way when a sudden flash caught his eyes. The way the dagger reflected the sunlight lit up his heart.

    "This reflection is incredibly strong, gotta see what precious little toy this is." Having stole from government treasuries and rich gentry vaults all his life, he was quite an expert at discerning precious objects. So he immediately pulled his horse around and saw that one of the kids had a dagger in his hand. The dagger reflected a blue light that flickered endlessly, obviously an extremely rare weapon. But how did it end up in the hands of a little kid? Looking over the kids again, he noticed that other than Guo Jing, all the other kids were wearing expensive shirts made of leopard furs. But Guo Jing made it up by having a golden crown-looking ring on top of his head. Obviously the kids were all members of wealthy and influential Mongol families.

    "The kid probably stole his father's favorite knife out to play with. Stealing from kings and aristocrats won't cause too much harm." Once he made up his mind, he jumpped off of his ride and smiled sweetly as he approached the kids.

    "Come on everyone, stop fighting. Play nice." As he was talking, he suddenly flashed into the circle of kids and grabbed the knife. Having devoted an incredible amount of training on capturing weapons with bare hands, only the best martial arts masters could hope to stop him from taking their weapons, never mind a small kid like Guo Jing.

    As soon as the dagger was in his hand, Zhu Cong immediately scuttled out of the circle and hopped onto his horse. With a jerk of the reins, he laughingly galloped off and caught up to the rest of his group.

    "Well, today wasn't a total loss, ended up with a little number." He laughed quite heartily about his success.

    "Second Brother, you won't ever get rid of that stealing habit of yours will you?" Smiling Dhuda Zhang Ah Sheng joined in on the laughter.

    "What little number? Let me see it." Hidden Hero of the Bustle Quan Jin Fa, being a merchant by trade, was curious. With a flick of his arm, Zhu Cong tossed the dagger over.

    A streak of blue shot across the sky, under the sunlight, the light from the dagger wavered, looking as if a small rainbow had just materialized, causing everyone present to shout in praise.

    "Excellent!" Quan Jin Fa involuntarily yelled as the dagger flew towards his face, giving him a shiver up his spine. He reached out and caught the dagger by the handle. He "tch"ed endlessly in admiration as he examined the dagger over. When his attention moved to the handle, he saw the characters "Yang Kang" carved onto it.

    "This is a Han name! How did this dagger end up here in Mongolia?" A question shot through his mind. "Yang Kang... Yang Kang? I have never heard of any hero named Yang Kang. But if he wasn't a martial arts hero, then why would he have such a exceptional weapon?"

    "Big Brother! Do you know who Yang Kang is?" He called out.

    "Yang Kang?" Ke Zheng'E searched through his memory for a while and shook his head. "I have never heard of him before."

    "Yang Kang" was the name that Qiu Chu Ji had given to the baby that was still inside of Bao Xi Ruo. The two fathers had exchanged their daggers and that was how Li Ping ended up with the dagger that had "Yang Kang" carved on it. Of course, the Seven Freaks did not know of this entire matter. Of the 7 of them, Ke Zheng'E was the oldest as well as the most knowledeable. If even he did not know, then there was no way that the other 6 did.

    "Qiu Chu Ji is searching for Yang Tie Xin's widow, could this Yang Kang have something to do with that Yang Tie Xin?" Quan Jin Fa's attention to detail made him ask.

    "Well, if we find Yang Tie Xin's widow, we would still have one-upped that Bull Nose." Zhu Cong joked. But having searched endlessly and fruitlessly for the past 6 years, this seemingly remote and completely unrelated lead was something that none of them were willing to let slip by.

    "Let's go back and ask that kid." Han Xiao Yin concluded.

    Han Bao Ju's horse was the fastest, so he arrived back where the kids were first, only to discover that the kids were at it again. Tolui and Guo Jing were, once again, pinned down on the ground. Han Bao Ju ordered the kids to break it up, but none of them heeded to his words. Getting impatient, he grabbed a couple of kids and threw them off to the side.

    "You two dogs, come back tomorrow and we'll fight again!" Dukhsh threatened Tolui, because he was too scared to carry on fighting.

    "Alright, tomorrow!" Tolui shouted back as Dukhsh led his gang away. He already had plans on what to do, he would go and ask his third oldest brother Chagatai for help as soon as he get back. Of his brothers, Chagatai was the nicest to him, and strong as well. He would surely help if asked.

    "Give it back!" Despite having his face covered in blood from his nose, Guo Jing put his hand out at Zhu Cong.

    "Sure, no problem," Zhu Cong waved the dagger back and forth in front of Guo Jing's face. "But you have to tell me where you got this dagger from."

    "My mom gave it to me." Guo Jing answered, wiping blood away from his still bleeding nose with a sleeve.

    "What's your dad's name?" Guo Jing never had a father and was caught speechless by the question. All he could do was shook his head.

    "Is your surname Yang?" Quan Jin Fa asked. Once again, Guo Jing shook his head. Seeing that this kid was acting rather slow, the Seven Freaks were all quite disappointed.

    "Who's Yang Kang?" Zhu Cong probed further. Guo Jing still shook head.

    The Seven Freaks had always valued their integrity above all else, so they had always kept their word, even to a kid. So Zhu Cong handed the dagger back to Guo Jing.

    "You can go home now." Han Xiao Yin took out a handkerchief and wiped off the blood from Guo Jing's face as she tenderly told him. "Don't fight anymore. You are still small, you can't beat them yet."

    Afterwards, the 7 of them climbed back onto their horses began to leave. Guo Jing just stood there, watching them ride off to the East.

    "Guo Jing, let's go back." Tolui suggested.

    The Seven Freaks was already quite a distance away, but Ke Zhen'E's hearing was incredibly sensitive. When he heard the name "Guo Jing", his entire body shook violently as he immediately jerked his horse around and ran back to the kids.

    "Kid, your surname is Guo? You are Han Chinese and not Mongolian, right?" He anxiously asked.

    Guo Jing nodded, setting Ke Zheng'E into the clouds with joy.

    {Note: I'm not sure how Ke Zheng'E knew that Guo Jing nodded. Maybe Jin Yong just forgot that Ke Zheng'E was blind.}

    "Who is your mother?" He hurriedly asked.

    "Mom is mom." Guo Jing answered, making Ke Zheng'E scratch his head for a bit. "Can you take me to your mother?"

    "My mom is not here."

    "Sister, you ask him." Ke Zheng'E suggested, realizing that there was some hostility in Guo Jing's responses. Han Xiao Yin hopped off of her horse and walked up to Guo Jing.

    "Where's your father?" She asked in a warm voice.

    "My dad was killed by bad people, when I grow up, I'm going to kill them and avenge my father."

    "What was your father's name?" Han Xiao Yin was so excited that her voice was trembling. But Guo Jing just shook his head.

    "Who killed your father?" Ke Zheng'E asked.

    "His... his name is Duan Tian De!" Guo Jing could barely contain his anger as he said that name.

    As it turned out, Li Ping knew that at such a desolate and remote place like the Steppe, any moment could bring with it many dangers and that her chances of ever returning to China was slim to none. If something should suddenly happen to her, then her son would never come to know the name of his mortal enemy, and that would not do. So she had long ago told her son over and over again the name and appearance of Duan Tian De. She was an illiterate farm girl and had always called her husband "Xiao-Ge," she had heard other people call him "Brother Guo" but had never minded what her husband's real name was. So Guo Jing had only ever known his father to be "dad" and did not know that he had other names.

    "Duan Tian De". That name did not come out of Guo Jing's mouth very loudly at all, but when the 7 Freaks heard them, it immediately rendered all of them speechless in shock. Even if three bolts of lightning suddenly struck down beside them on this clear and sunny day would not have shocked them as much. In a blink of an eye, it felt as if the Earth beneath them shook, as if the wind and air around them became colored. Only after a very prolonged silence did Han Xiao Yin suddenly let out an ecstatic shout, all the while Zhang Ah Sheng was beating his fists into his chest like a mad man, Quan Jin Fa had thrown his arm tightly around Nan Xi Ren's neck, Han Bao Ju was doing back flips on the horse saddle, Ke Zheng'E reared his head back and laughed crazily, and Zhu Cong was spinning like a top. Seeing them act like this, Tolui and Guo Jing could not decide whether they were funny or just plain weird. Only after a long time did the Seven Freaks finally, slowly, calm down, but their faces were still covered with joy.

    "Merciful Bodhisattva, thank you, thank you!" Zhang Ah Sheng knelt down and prayed.

    "Little brother, let's sit down and talk." Han Xiao Yin said to Guo Jing. Anxious to get back and ask his brother Chagatai for help as well as having a bad feeling about these seven strangers over their strange accent and even stranger behaviour, Tolui did not want to stay any longer, even though these same strangers had just helped them in a fight. So Tolui incessantly begged Guo Jing to start heading back.

    "I need to go now." Guo Jing finally relented and and began to walk away hand in hand with Tolui.

    "Hey, hey! You can't go now. Let that little friend of you go back by himself." Han Bao Ju almost panicked and yelled at the top of his lungs.

    The two little kids was scared of the man's ugly complexion and immediately started to run as soon as he started to yell. Han Bao Ju chased up and was just about to grab the back of Guo Jing's head with his fat hands when Zhu Cong cut him off.

    "Third Brother, don't be so rude." Zhu Cong lightly parried Han Bao Ju's hand and stopped it in its track, much to Han Bao Ju's surprise. Picking up a little speed, Zhu Cong quickly got in front of the two little kids.

    "I'm going to do some magic, you guys just watch, ok?" He smiled at the kids as he picked up three stones. Guo Jing and Tolui's curiousity were immediately piqued as both of them stopped and watched him.

    Zhu Cong laid his right hand out for all to see and placed the stones in the middle of his hand.

    "Gone!" He shouted as he balled his hand together in a fist. When he opened his palm again, the stones were gone, shocking the little kids.

    "Get in there!" Zhu Cong pointed at the old hat that was on top of his head before taking it off. The stones were sitting right in the middle of the hat. Guo Jing and Tolui let out a loud cheer and applauded in joy.

    At this moment, a flock of wild geese came flying toward them in a spear formation. This gave Zhu Cong an idea.

    "Now let our Big Brother show you a trick." He fished out a handkerchief, handed it to Tolui, and pointed at Ke Zheng'E. "Put this blind fold on him."

    "Is it hide and seek?" Tolui wondered hopefully as he put the blind fold on Ke Zheng'E.

    "No. He will shoot a wild geese out of the sky while blind folded." Zhu Cong answered as he produced a bow and an arrow.

    "How could he? I don't believe you." Tolui concluded.

    While the conversation was going on, the wild geese flew straight over head. Zhu Cong flicked his arm and tossed the three stones in his hand up at the geese. Because of his powerful hands, the stones shot up and startled the geese, causing the leading geese to honk several times as he was getting ready to lead the formation to a different direction. But Ke Zheng'E had already determined his location, drew his bow to the fullest, and let loose. He hit the goose squarely in the belly as the goose, with the arrow still in it, came tumbling down onto the ground.

    Tolui and Guo Jing exploded into another cheer. They ran off to retrieved the goose and brought it back to Ke Zheng'E, their young hearts filled with admiration.

    "Remember how the 8 of them ganged up on you two earlier? Well, if you know some martial arts, then you wouldn't have to worry about there being more of them." Zhu Cong told the kids."We will fight some more tomorrow, I'm going to get my older brother to help." Tolui told him.

    "Getting help from your older brother? Hmph, that's something that useless kids do. I'll teach you a couple of moves that I guarantee will help you win tomorrow." Zhu Cong replied.

    "You mean that two of us beating the eight of them?" Tolui asked.

    "Yes!"

    "Yay! Come on, teach me!" Tolui was greatly excited at the prospect of beating Dukhsh.

    "How about you? Don't you want to learn?" Zhu Cong noticed that Guo Jing was standing to the side, seemingly uninterested, and asked him.

    "Mom told me that I shouldn't fight others, if I learn how to fight, then my mom would be unhappy."

    "Scaredy-cat!" Han Bao Ju lightly berated him.

    "Then why were you in a fight just then?" Zhu Cong asked again.

    "Because they started it."

    "Well what are you going to do when you see your enemy, Duan Tian De?" Ke Zheng'E asked in a heavy tone.

    "I'll kill him to avenge my father!" Just hearing the name made fire shoot out from Guo Jing's young eyes.

    "Your father was an expert in martial arts and was still killed by him, how could you kill him if you don't know any martial arts? How can you get your revenge then?" Ke Zheng'E rendered Guo Jing speechless with those questions.

    "See? You have to learn some martial arts." Han Xiao Yin concluded for him.

    "See that peak over there?" Zhu Cong pointed to a deserted mountain top to his left. "If you want to learn martial arts and get your revenge, then come to the top of that mountain tonight at midnight. But you have to come by yourself. And besides this little friend of yours, you can't let anybody find out about this. Brave enough to do it? Scared of ghosts?"

    Guo Jing was still stupidly standing there, but Tolui was getting impatient.

    "Come on, teach me, please!"

    Zhu Cong suddenly grabbed his wrist, hooked his left foot around the kid, and gently tripped him, sending Tolui onto the ground.

    "Why did you hit me?" Tolui angrily demanded once he got back up off the ground.

    "That was martial arts, did you learn it?" Zhu Cong smiled and answered. Turned out Tolui was quite smart and understood right away. He mimicked Zhu Cong and showed the move against an imaginary foe once.

    "Teach me something else." He said to Zhu Cong. Zhu Cong faked a punch toward Tolui's face. Tolui dodged to the left, but Zhu Cong's right fist was waiting there for him. This punch had no force behind it and stopped the moment it touched Tolui's nose.

    "Yay! Teach me something else!" Tolui was esctatic. Zhu Cong suddenly braced himself and gently bumped his shoulders squarely into the little kid's stomach, sending him flying off. Quan Jin Fa jumped up, caught him in mid air, and steadly put him back onto the ground.

    "Mister, teach me something else!"

    "If you master those three moves, most adults won't be able to beat you, enough is enough." Zhu Cong smiled and told him before turning towards Guo Jing. "Did you get them?"

    Guo Jing was still dumbstruck and not really thinking of anything as he absent mindedly shook his head. When compared to the smart and intelligent Tolui, Guo Jing looked incredibly stupid and slow to the Seven Freaks, who were all very disappointed at this turn of events. Han Xiao Yin let out a long sigh and her eyes reddened.

    "I say that we stop wasting energy, just take the mother and son back South and hand them over to Qiu Chu Ji. As for the competition, let's just admit defeat." Quan Jin Fa observed.

    "This kid's make up is just too bad, he's not the kungfu practicing type." Zhu Cong agreed.

    "There isn't a bit of fight in him, I don't see how it's going to work either." Han Bao Ju also agreed and the Seven Freaks began discussing the matter over among themselves in their Southern dialects.

    "You two can go home now." Han Xiao Yin waved at the two little kids. Tolui grabbed a hold of Guo Jing hand and happily skipped off.

    Having searched for 6 long and hard years all over the boundless Steppe, the Seven Freaks were joyous beyond description when they finally found Guo Jing. But as it turned out the joy was only temporary as they discovered that the kid was so dumb that it would be incredibly difficult for him to ever amount to much of a martial artist. They could not help but feel defeated. This set back could only be matched by the one they would experience if they had, in fact, never found Guo Jing. Han Bao Ju, whip in hand, was relentlessly beating the ground, trying to vent his frustration and nobody could get him to stop. All this time, only the Woodsmen of the Southern Mountains, Nan Xi Ren, remained silent.

    "Well, what do you think, Fourth Brother?" Ke Zheng'E asked.

    "Very good." Nan Xi Ren replied.

    "What's very good?" Zhu Cong inquired.

    "The kid's very good."

    "Fourth Brother is always like this. Acting as if speaking costs him money." Han Xiao Yin was letting the frustration get to her. "He would never say a word more than he has to."

    "I was also very dumb as a kid." Nan Xi Ren gently smiled. He was always very quiet and every word that he spoke had already been carefully thought over, meaning that everything he said would always hit the nail on the head.

    Hearing this, the other 6 Freaks immediately found a glimmer of hope and instantly became more confident.

    "Right! That's right! Since when have I been smart?" Zhang Ah Sheng agreed, looking in Han Xiao Yin's direction.

    "Let's wait and see if he got the guts to come tonight." Zhu Cong suggested.

    "I say most likely not." Quan Jin Fa replied. "Well, I'm going to go find where he lives first."

    He jumped off of his horse and trailed far behind Tolui and Guo Jing all the way until he saw them walking into their own gers.

    That night, the 7 Freaks waited on the deserted mountain top. It was 15 minutes until 10 and the Big Dipper was noticeably changed its position, but Guo Jing was nowhere to be seen.

    Looking to the west, the dark clouds were gathering on top of each other off around the horizon. But above their head nary a cloud could be found in the dark blue sky. The winds were swirling around them from the northwest, sometimes it would gust, other times it would be still. The middle of the sky hung the bright moon, but a faint yellow ring could be discerned around the moon.

    "Looks like there's going to be a storm tonight." Han Xiao Yin observed. "The kid is really not going to come then."

    "Then let's go to him tomorrow morning." Zhang Ah Sheng replied.

    "Being a little slow is not a big problem. But if this kid is so cowardly as to be scared of the dark... Ay!" Ke Zheng'E sighed and shook his head.

    The 7 of them were just plodding around when Han Bao Ju suddenly spotted something in a bush.

    "Hey what's that?" He pointed at three piles of white objects that looked awfully strange under the moon light.

    Quan Jin Fa walked over to investigate only discover that they were human skulls placed neatly in 3 piles.

    "Must be those little kids who did this, lining up skulls like this." He laughed before suddenly noticed something else. "What? Second brother, come quickly!"

    The sudden change in tone in his voice was easily noticeable and unsettling for everyone. Other than Ke Zheng'E, the other freaks all made their way over.

    "Look at this!" Quan Jin Fa picked up one particular skull and handed it over to Zhu Cong. When Zhu Cong inspected the skulls closely, he noticed that on the dome of the skull was five holes positioned in such a way as to look like they were made with fingers. He tried out with his own hand and the five holes were positioned right onto his fingers, even the hole that was positioned for his thumb was a little bigger while the hole for his pinky was a little smaller. It seemed as if somebody had carefully carved the holes onto the skull to match with a particular hand. Obviously it was not a children's toy that little kids have left.

    Zhu Cong's expression changed dramatically as well. He bent over and picked up two more skulls only to discover that they also had these holes on them as well.

    "Could somebody have made these holes with their fingers?" His thoughts wondered. But there had not been anybody in the world with martial arts skill so powerful as to be able to smash holes through bones using just fingers. He was rendered speechless in awe and realization.

    "could it be some man eating beast or monster that live around here?" Han Xiao Yin almost yelled.

    "That's right, it must be a moster." Han Bao Ju concurred.

    "But if it was some beast, then why would it or even how could it put the skulls in such neat piles?" Quan Jin Fa asked in deep thought.

    "How are they placed?" Ke Zheng'E had made his way over after hearing what Quan Jin Fa had said.

    "In three pyramid formations, every pile consists of 9 skulls." Quan Jin Fa answered.

    "Placed in three layers? With 5 skulls on the bottom layer, 3 in the middle layer, and one on the top?"

    "Yes!" Quan Jin Fa was shocked. "Big Brother, how did you know that?"

    "Quickily, go 100 steps northeast and northwest and tell me what you see!" Ke Zheng'E did not answer his question and instead instructed them anxiously.

    His demeanor was one of extreme anxiety, almost bordering panic. Which was so different from his normal calm and steadiness that the other Freaks did not dare to waste one second as they headed off in the two directions in groups of threes. Soon, Han Xiao Yin, who went towards the northeast, and Quan Jin Fa, who went to the northwest, both yelled out at the same instant.

    "There is skull piles here too!"

    "This is a matter of life and death!" Ke Zheng'E literally flew over to the pile of skulls to the northwest and forcefully, but quietly ordered. "Don't raise your voice, no matter what!"

    The three Freaks were quite taken aback by his words and was not quite sure what to make of them as Ke Zheng'E quickly made his way to where Han Xiao Yin's group was to the northeast and told them the same thing.

    "Is it monsters or mortal enemies?" Zhang Ah Sheng hushed his voice and asked.

    "They are the ones that gave me these blind eyes of mine." By this time the Freaks in the other group had already made their way over as well. Hearing his words, all of the Freaks were quite surprised.

    Even though the six of them had known Ke Zheng'E ever since they were little kids, they have never mentioned or asked about his disability because they knew how much he hated it. So they had always assumed that it was the result of an accident when he was young, only now did they know that he was blinded by powerful enemies. Ke Zheng'E's martial arts skills were top notch and had always carried himself in a steady and intelligent matter. For him to suffer such a complete and humiliating defeat, he must have went up against an unimaginable enemy.

    Ke Zheng'E picked up a skull and ran his hands over it for inspection. After finding the holes he took his right hand and tried out the holes with his fingers.

    "They did it. They did it. They really mastered it." He mumbled to himself before turning to the other Freaks. "There's 3 piles here as well?"

    "Yes!" Han Xiao Yin answered.

    "Are there eight skulls in every pile?" Ke Zheng'E inquired.

    "One pile has 9, the other 2 piles has 8." Han Xiao Yin answered again.

    "Go and count up the other group as well." Han Xiao Yin swiftly ran over to the other group and then returned just as quickly."There's 7 a pile over there, they are all decapitated heads, but the meat has not decomposed yet."

    "Then that means they will be here very soon." Ke Zheng'E concluded quietly and handed the skull over to Quan Jin Fa. "Carefully return this to where it was, don't leave any trace of our presense."

    Quan Jin Fa quickly placed everything back to their original positions and returned to Ke Zheng'E. All of their eyes were upon Ke Zheng'E as they quietly waited for his explanation.

    "It's Copper Corpse and Iron Corpse!" Ke Zheng'E looked as if he was looking up at the sky and his face twitched endlessly.

    "But aren't they dead? How are they still alive?" This news shocked Zhu Cong tremendously.

    "I thought they were dead as well. But it turns out that they had been hiding here training their Nine Shades White Bone Claw," said Ke Zheng'E. "Brothers, quickly mount your horses and ride south as fast as you can and don't come back! Wait for me after you have gone 5000 kilometers. Wait for me for 10 days. If I don't show up on the 10th day, then you need not wait for me anymore."

    "What are you saying Big Brother?" Han Xiao Yin anxiously replied. "We have all drank each other's blood when we swore to live and die together! Why are you telling us to leave now?"

    "Go! Leave!" Ke Zheng'E repeatedly waved his hand. "You don't have any time to waste!"

    "What do you take us for? A buncha heartless bastards?" Han Bao Ju angrily rebuked.

    "If the 7 of us lose, then we'll just leave our lives there, what's the big deal? That's what we have always said." Zhang Ah Sheng also voiced his objection. "Since when have we ever ran away?"

    "These two possess incredible martial arts skills, and now that they have mastered the Nine Shade White Bone Claw, the 7 of us are definitely no match for them. So why stay here and give your life away in vain?" Ke Zheng'E protested.

    The other Freaks knew how proud of a man that Ke Zheng'E was and how he would never admit defeat. Even when faced with such a master like Qiu Chu Ji he would still throw caution into the winds and fight without abandon. To see him talk about these two characters like this, it could be inferred that their power was something beyond comprehension.

    "In that case let's leave together!" Quan Jin Fa proposed.

    "They condemned me to a life of suffering. But that I can deal with." Ke Zheng'E coldly replied. "However, I have to avenge what they did to my Elder Martial Brother!"

    "Share the blessings, share the hardships!" Nan Xi Ren declared. He never says much, but he never needed to say anything more.

    Ke Zheng'E thought about it. He knew that his sworn brothers were people who valued honor and would never even consider running to save their own lives. The words he just said was based off of his worry for their lives and he now realized that they were bordering on the offensive to his brethrens. At this thought, he sighed.

    "Alright, if that's the case, then please be careful," he said. "Copper Corpse is a man, Iron Corpse is a woman, they are husband and wife. Back then, when they just started training for Nine Shade White Bone Claw, they ran into my brother and I. That was when my martial brother lost his life and when I lost my eyes. The other details aren't important, what all of you need to watch out for is those claws of theirs. Sixth brother, go 100 steps to the south, is there a coffin there?"

    Quan Jin Fa, as quickly as he dared, counted his steps. When he made it to 100, he did not spot a coffin. But upon closer inspection, he suddenly noticed that there was a corner of a stone slab pertruding out of the ground. Pulling on it, the stone slab did not even budge. So he turned around and waved his arms, soon the other Freaks joined him. Zhang Ah Sheng and Han Bao Ju both got down and, together, barely lifted the stone slab up. Under the moonlight, they were able to see that there was a ditch hidden underneath the stone slab. In the ditch laid two bodies, both of them dressed in Mongolian attire.

    "These two monsters will come soon and use these corpses for practice." Ke Zheng'E hopped into the ditch. "I'll hide here and ambush them. You guys hide yourselves around here, make sure that they don't find you. Once you hear that I have began fighting with them, attack all at once and try to catch them off guard. Please don't hold anything back. This type of ambush might not be righteous, but our foe is too powerful this time and this is the only way or else none of us might make it out of this alive."

    The 6 other Freaks listened intently to his every word.

    "They are also extremely attentative and bright. They could spot even the slightest trace of disturbance from far away." Ke Zheng'E continued. "So put the stone slab back and just leave the a small slit for me."

    The six Freaks nodded and gently placed the slab back where it was. Afterwards they immediately grabbed their weapons and hid inside bushes and behind trees in the area immediately surrounding the ditch.

    Seeing Ke Zheng'E worry like she had never seen him before, Han Xiao Yin was worried as well as curious. So when she looked for a hiding spot she made sure to find one close to Zhu Cong.

    "Who are these Copper Corpse and Iron Corpse?" She asked him as quietly as she could.

    "The two of them together are known as the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds. In the past they made a lot of trouble up in the north. They were methods were ruthless, their skills were amazing, and their actions were incredibly smart. Sometimes it really did seem like they were ghosts, appearing and disappearing at random." Zhu Cong answered. "But for some unknown reason, they stopped appearing altogether. A couple of years went by, and everyone in the martial world had figured that they had simply done all the evil they could and died. But who could have figured that they were actually just hiding out in the desolation of the Steppe."

    "What are their real names?" Han Xiao Yin asked some more.

    "Copper Corpse is a man, his name is Chen Xuan Feng. He had a burnt yellow complexion like copper, and never showed a bit of emotion on his face, like a corpse. That's why everyone referred to him as Copper Corpse."

    "So does that woman, Iron Corpse, have a black complexion?"

    "Yes, her surname is Mei, full name Mei Chao Feng."

    "Big Brother said that they were training for some Nine Shade White Bone Claw. What kind of kungfu is that?"

    "I haven't heard of it before either."

    Han Xiao Yin looked over at a pile of skulls to her side and saw that top skull was positioned in such a way that the holes where the eyes were faced directly at her, as if it was staring at her. She shuddered involuntarily and turned away, not daring to take another look.

    "So how come Big Brother never brought this up?" She asked. "Could it be...."

    She was not finished when Zhu Cong suddenly covered her mouth with his left hand and pointed at the bottom of the hill with his right hand. Han Xiao Yin followed his finger and looked out from behind the bush. Underneath the moonlight around the horizon, a faint black shadow could be seen quickly approaching at an incredible speed.

    "I should be ashamed!" Han Xiao Yin reprimanded herself. "I was too busy talking to Second Brother and did not pay any attention to looking out for the enemy."

    In a blink of an eye, the black shadow had made it to the foot of the hill. By now they could finally discern that it was actually made of two figures, hence why it looked so fat from afar.

    "This Twin Killers of the Dark Winds truly do have some bizarre kungfu." The 6 Freaks all thought to themselves. "Running at that speed yet they were still able to stick together that close to each other, it really is as if they are inseparable!"

    The 6 of them held their breaths and cowered even lower, quietly waiting for them to come up the hill. Zhu Cong clutched tightly onto his pressure point hitting fan. Han Xiao Yin quietly buried the blade of her sword into the dirt so as to avoid giving herself away because of the reflection off the blade; nevertheless, her right hand held a tight grip on the handle of the sword.

    The sounds of sand and rocks being kicked could be heard as footsteps traveled up the hill. Each and everyone of their hearts pounded along with every step as these moments seemed to last an eternity to them. At this moment, the northwest winds picked up as well. The dark clouds to the west looked like individual mountain tops as they came rolling in relentlessly.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Strunf)

    A few moments later, the noises of step ceased. On the free space, to the top of the hill, two silhouettes were held: the first, immobile, with a leather hat on the head, looked like a Mongol; the second, with a long hair floating with the wind, was visibly a woman.

    "Here is Copper Corpse and Iron Corpse therefore, thought Han Xiao Ying. Let's see how they are going to train themselves." They saw the woman slowly turn around the man, and heard her articulations crack gently. Then she accelerated her speed, and the crunches became increasingly strong, increasingly brought closer, as when one knocked on several drums at the same time.

    "Her neigong is this strong! wondered Han Xiao Ying again. It’s not astonishing that Older Brother appeared as prudent! "The woman moved back and forth her two hands and, every time, the joints of her arms crackled. Her long hair was stretched practically to the horizontal by the speed, and gave her a terrifying aspect.

    Han Xiao Ying felt an icy cold invade his heart and his hairs to bristle on his body. All of a sudden, the woman raised the right palm and knocked the left palm down on the man's chest.

    "As it is strange, thought the six, could it be that her husband's body is capable to resist her palm strokes?" The man fell backward, but she had already turned behind him and hit his back. Thus, going back and forth at high-speed, she had hit him with eight palm strokes, each time more quickly, each time more mightily. The man didn't make a noise. After the ninth stroke, she bounds suddenly very high, coming down like an arrow, raised the man’s leather hat, and planted the five fingers of the right hand in his forehead!

    Han Xiao Ying failed to utter a scream. The woman had fallen again on her feet and had exploded to laugh. The man, collapsed on the floor, didn't move. She stretched her hand spotted of blood and brains, examining it under the moon while laughing. She turned the head, and Han Xiao Ying saw that her face, although a little blackish, was rather pretty, and that she seemed to have like forty years.

    The six had understood that the man was not her husband, but only a living target that she had captured for the purpose of her practice. This woman had therefore to be and Iron Corpse, Mei Chao Feng.

    She stopped laughing, stretched the hands and tore the dead’s clothes. In the North, where the weather was extremely cold, one always carried thick leather coats. However, she tore these very resistant clothes as if it was the paper, without any effort. Then she plunged the hand in the poor target’s wretched chest, withdrawing the internal organs one by one, that she examined attentively under the moonlight, throwing them afterwards on the ground. From afar, the six could see that all these organs, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, was completely destroyed .They then understood the finality of this practice: she had hit the body of this man with nine palm strokes and had succeeded in breaking the internal organs without breaking the bones of the skeleton. By examining the internal organs, she could see the progression of her strength.

    Very angry, Han Xiao Ying wanted to immediately attack. She pulled off her sword, and was about to attack when Zhu Cong retained her silently.

    "For the moment, thought the Literate, Iron Corpse is all alone, she seems dangerous, but with the seven of us, we should be able to end with her. If we get rid of her first, it will be easier to take care of Copper Corpse after, whereas we would be absolutely unable of facing the two of them at the same time... But who knows if Cadaver of Bronze is not hidden in a corner, ready to fall over us unexpectedly? Older Brother knows well the habits of these two monsters, its better to follow his instructions and wait that he launches the first attack..."
    After having inspected the internal organs, Mei Chao Feng seemed satisfied. With a smile to the lips, she sat down with her legs crossed, facing the moon, and began to practice the regulation of breath. She turned her back to Han Xiao Ying and Zhu Cong, that saw her shoulders rising and dropping as she inspired and expired.

    "If I attack with the stroke "The lightning illuminates the big sky", wondered Han Xiao Ying, I am nearly certain of being able to transpierce her right through. But if I miss my stroke, it is our entire plan that will be compromised!"

    She trembled of all her body, incapable of deciding what to do.

    Zhu Cong didn't dare to move either, he felt an icy feeling in the back, because he was flooded in cold sweat. While raising the eyes, he noticed that the black clouds coming from the west had invaded half of the sky, like a rice paper sheet that one would have sprinkled with ink. In the middle of the dark clouds lightning strikes sparkled, increasing even more the anguishes and terror in the heart of the six Freaks. The thunder roared dully, as if it was suppressed by the thickness of the clouds.

    After having practiced the breath regulation during a certain time, Mei Chao Feng rose, moved, while dragging the cadaver behind her, towards the hole where Ke Zhen'e had been dissimulated, and bent down to raise the tile of stone.

    The six Freaks tightened their weapons, ready to bound on her as soon as the tile would have been open.

    However, Mei Chao Feng, hearing a rustle of leaves that didn't seem her provoked by the wind, turned suddenly the head and saw a human shade appear on the top of a tree. Pushing a long scream, she bounds in that direction.

    The man hidden on the tree, was Han Baoju. Taking advantage of his small size, he had perfectly dissimulated himself in the foliage but, as he got ready to jump, a little himself overdraft, which had immediately alerted Mei Chao Feng. This one leaps on him of an irresistible dash! The Han, of a stroke "The black Dragon inhales water", knocked down his whip on the wrist of Mei. This one, contrary to all expectations, did not seek to avoid the stroke, but seizes the extremity of the whip. The dwarf, very strong, pulled her nimbly toward him, that benefited from this to let herself bring nearer, and counterattacked of a lightning palm. Han Baoju felt that a stroke was to arrive and, knowing that he could not resist to it, released his weapon, made a somersault to jump down from the tree. But Iron Corpse didn't let him escape, she jumped right behind him, carrying her claws in the dwarf's back.


    This one felt again like an icy breath on the nape of the neck and made an extraordinary effort to advance faster. At the same time, Nan Xiren and Quan Jinfas, hidden close to the bottom of the tree, threw their invisible projectiles on the pursuer, an awl "transpierce-bone" for the first and a dart hidden in the sleeve for the second. She swept them of a flick of left hand, whereas her right hand tore off a piece of clothing on the back of Han Baoju. The dwarf touched ground of the left foot and rebounds immediately. However Mei, agile as wind, was already held in front of him:
    - Who are you? She shouted. What did you came to do here?

    At the same time, she planted ten fingers in his shoulders. Han felt like a lightning pain, as if ten iron awls had suddenly encrusted in his flesh. He gave a kick toward the Iron Cadaver stomach, that avoided the stroke of the right hand while nearly breaking him the ankle. Without losing her figure for as much, the dwarf threw himself on the ground and rolled to clear himself.

    As Mei was going to trample him, a heavy black rod fell on her foot: it was Nan Xiren, the Lumberman of the southern Mountain.

    Abandoning Han, Mei Chao Feng quickly moved back to avoid the rod. In one instant, she found herself surrounded of enemies: a literate holding an Iron apron tried to hit the vital points on her meridians while a girl handling a sword attacked by the right.

    A big paunchy strong man armed of a large knife and a small skinny fellow so with a weird instrument on her left; a vigorous peasant making some trolls with his Iron rod was held facing her; the noises of step that stopped behind her, had to come from the feet of the big dwarf with a whip. All these people were perfectly unknown to her and, yet, they seemed to be some eminent experts in martial arts.

    "They are too numerous, thought Mei Chao Feng, it would be necessary to resort to the strong manner to eliminate some of them without lingering. No matter their names or their origins... Anyway, besides my beloved Shifu and my bastard of husband, I put myself to kill anyone in this low world! "She jumped, all claws stretched, on Han Xiao Ying. Seeing the power of this attack, Zhu Cong took fear: he bounds while pointing his iron apron on her vital point "Sinuous pond" situated in the hollow of her elbow. However, she that didn't seem to worry herself about it, stretched her right hand; Han Xiao Ying defended himself of a stroke "White dew on the stream", with the intention to hit her in the arm. But Iron Corpse turned her wrist, trying to catch the sword on naked hand, as if she didn't fear the blade. Han Xiao Ying was afraid on her turn and moved back. To this moment, the apron of the Literate hits with precision her "Sinuous pond" point. It was there a very important vital point of the human body, and the arm of Mei should be paralyzed immediately. Zhu Cong was delighted for having succeeded in his stroke, when he suddenly saw her arm lie down, and her dangerous nails practically on his head! He moved back at the last moment and escaped of by a hair to death!

    "Doesn't she has any vital points? he wondered, surprised and afraid”. Han Baoju had collected its whip by now, and the Six, waving their weapons, surrounded Mei Chao Feng. However, this one didn't seem at all impressed: her naked hands, of which she seized their weapons, appeared as efficient as of the fangs made out of steel. The Freaks were especially worried specially after noting that their adversary's nickname was not usurped: Iron Corpse appeared to effectively have a body of iron! She had just received two strokes in the back, inflicted by the balance of Quan Jinfa, apparently without causing her any injury. They understood that she had succeeded in pushing the resistance of her body to an extreme: a part the sharpened tips of the large knife of Zhang Asheng and the sword of Han Xiao Ying, she seemed to not fear any of the other weapons, that she didn't even try to avoid, only worrying to attack.

    She increased in vigor and seizes by the arm Quan Jinfa, too slow escaping. The other five hurried, but it was too late, and Mei, of a violent stroke, had pulled a piece of flesh of his sleeve.

    "All those that practice this technique of the iron body, thought Zhu Cong, possess necessarily a nodal practice location, on which it is impossible to them to spread their protection using this technique. This point is particularly vulnerable, a small touch is sufficient to wound them to death... Where could this shrew's nodal location located be? " He bounds on the right, on the left, playing the fan, trying successively to touch the meridian point "Meeting of the Hundred" on the top of the head, to the point "Screen of the Spring" on the throat, then to the point "Tomb of the mind" on the hollow of the umbilicus, to the point "Hollow of the Middle" on her back... He tried about ten points, while thinking that, if she puts a particular care to defend this or that other point, it would be there her nodal location.

    The significance of this back and forth movements didn't escape Mei Chao
    Feng:
    - Literate measly! she shouts. My technique is perfect to the point that I don't have a nodal location!

    And of a stroke, she seizes Zhu wrist. This one, amazed, fortunately had the quick mind and the agile hands. Before Mei could plant her nails in his flesh, he had returned the wrist and slipped his fan in his adversary's hand, while whispering:
    - Attention, there’s poison on the fan!

    First feeling suddenly a hard object in her hand, Mei Chao Feng, speechless, was effectively afraid of the poison and threw the fan on the ground.

    Zhu Cong benefited from this to escape and to move several steps back. He looked at his hand, whose back carried five bloody grooves and felt floods of cold sweat: the fight had already lasted a certain time, not only the Freaks had not finish her over, but three of theirs were already wounded. So if Copper Corpse arrived, they all went there to loose their life. Zhang Asheng, Han Baoju and Quan Jinfas were already quite tired and sweat. Only Nan Xirens, whose neigong was more powerful, and Han Xiao Yings, lighter, didn't seem tired, whereas their enemy became more and more valiant. He suddenly saw, to the pallid gleam of the moon, the three heaps of skulls on the left. He shivered and had the idea to hurry towards the hole where Ke Zhen'e was hidden, while shouting: - Run for your lives!

    The other understood and moved back while fighting.

    - Illegitimate children left of nowhere, sneered Mei Chao Feng, you wanted to trap me here, it is too late to run away now!

    She rushed to their pursuit. Nan Xiren, Quan Jinfa and Han Xiao Yings did their best to entertain her, while the three others united their strengths to raise the tile of stone. It was just in time, because Mei Chao Feng had seized the iron rod of Nan Xiren and already advanced her claws in direction of his eyes.

    - Come down quickly to help us, shouted Zhu Cong.

    He had pointed his finger upwards, all stingy skywards, and made gestures of the other hand, as to call the help of a mate hidden on the heights. Surprised, Mei could not stop herself from raising the eyes, but she only saw the low clouds veiling half of the moon... There wasn’t anyone up there!


    - To seven steps right! shuts Zhu Cong.

    To these words, Ke Zhen'e had thrown six poisoned projectiles to seven steps, two to the top, two to the middle and two below, while bounding out of the hole. The other Freaks attacked all the sides at the same time. Mei Chao Feng pushed a scream of pain: two projectiles had reached her eyes! Fortunately for her, her agility allowed to move her head back immediately, so that the invisible projectiles didn't penetrate into her brain, but she was definitely blind!

    Full of pain and rage, she knocked down her two palms, but Ke Zhen'e had already escaped to the side. One heard two deaf strokes, because her strokes had hit a rock. Even more furious now, she gave a kick, that knocked the tile and made it fly off. The Seven, afraid by of the strength of her attacks, remained carefully aside.

    As she didn't see them anymore, she thrashed in all senses, striking, scratching, knocking. She looked like a furious tiger, or a demon, breaking everything on her way, raising clouds of dusts, breaking the branches of the trees, without hurting her enemies, who were held sufficiently far away, while keeping their breath. Shortly after, her eyes became completely insensible, she then understood that the poison had made its effect: - Who did this? she said of a terrifying voice. Say it quickly, that I die while knowing who killed me...

    Zhu Cong made a gesture in direction of Ke Zhen'e to ask him to be quiet and to let Mei die in the ignorance. But he then remembered that his Older Brother was blind, how could he have seen his gestures?

    - Mei Chao Feng, said Ke of an icy voice, you remember of "Dragon in full sky", Ke Bixie, and of "Bat in full sky", Ke Zhen'e?

    Mei Chao Feng exploded on a thundering and terrifying laugh.

    - Bastard, you are not dead yet! Do you come to revenge Dragon in full sky?

    - Precisely! Yourself you didn't die yet, that suits well!

    Mei sighed and stayed silent.

    The Seven Freaks remained on their guard. At that moment, the moon was nearly entirely hidden by the dark clouds, one felt an insidious and discerning cold weather. Mei Chao Feng stood immobile like a statue of stone, her hands along the body, the fingers slightly open showing her sparkling nails. The violent wind that blew from behind raised her long hair. Han Xiao Ying that was in front of her saw blood sinking from her eyes.

    All of a sudden, Zhu Cong and Quan Jinfas shouted at the same time: - Attention! Old Brother!

    Their voices resounded again when Ke Zhen'e felt like a hit was to arrive on his chest. He bounds in air by giving a big stroke on the floor with his cane, and landed on the top of a tree that was behind him. Iron Corpse, that didn't find anybody . Iron Corpse, that didn't find anyone in front of her, planted her ten fingers in the trunk of the tree. The six Freaks became pale of terror: if Ke Zhen'e had lingered of only one second, the nails would be planted in his body, how would he have be able in to escape alive?

    Having missed her stroke, Mei Chao Feng pushed sudden a long and weird howling, on a very sharp tonality, but with a powerful breath that carried very far.

    "Misfortune, thought Zhu Cong then, she calls her husband Copper Corpse for help." - Quickly, he shouts, it is necessary to finish her!

    He mobilized all his energy in the arm and heavily hit the back of Mei Chao Feng, whereas Zhang Asheng raised a big stone that he knocked down on her head.

    Iron Corpse, that had just lost the view, didn't know yet how to position herself by the hearing, like Ke Zhen'e. The big stone, while falling, made a noise that she could hear and she quickly avoided it. But she could not avoid the stroke of Zhu Cong. Even though she had turned her body extremely resistant, the Literate not only had quick hands but also heavy ones, and she felt a lightning pain in the back.

    Zhu Cong wanted took advantage of his position and continued to hit, but Mei Chao Feng counterattacked with a stroke of claws, and he moved back.

    The others Freaks got ready to bound in to, when they heard a long howling coming from far away, on the same tonality that Mei used a while ago, that gave them the creeps. Shortly after, a second howling sound was heard but this time a lot nearer.

    "As this personage moves quickly", thought the Seven, alarmed.

    - Attention, there is Copper Corpse! shouts Ke Zhen'e.

    Han Xiao Ying runed away and looked downwards the hill, she saw a shade that approached at a quick pace screaming while running.

    Mei Chao Feng had adopted a defense stance, not attacking anymore. She concentrated her internal energy to contain the progression of the poison, while waiting for her husband's arrival to wipe out the enemies.

    Zhu Cong made a sign to Quan Jinfa, the two men hided themselves in the brushwood. Iron Corpse was already dangerous by herself. From the pace of Copper Corpse, Zhu Cong suspected that he could be even stronger than his wife. Obviously, it was impossible to defeat the two while facing both of them at the same time. On the other hand, a chance subsisted if one took them by ruse.

    All of a sudden, Han Xiao Ying uttered a scream of surprise: she saw, in front of the shade that ran at full speed, another smaller silhouette, that had also undertaken the climb of the hill. Only, like this silhouette went more slowly, and that it was all small, no one had seen it before. She watched more attentively and saw that it was a child, Guo Jing certainly. Surprised and delighted, she hastened herself to his meeting.

    She was not very distant of him, and the downward slope was easier to descend, but Copper Corpse, remarkable expert in lightness gong fu, was gaining terrain. Han Xiao Ying hesitated: "I am not of size to face Copper Corpse... But the child is going to fall between his hands, how could I not carry myself to his help? " She then accelerated and shouted: - Quickly, child, run more quickly!

    While seeing it, Guo Jing uttered a scream of joy, unconscious of the imminent danger that threatened him.

    During all these years, Zhang Asheng had been secretly in love for Han Xiao Ying, but never dared to express his feelings towards her. Seeing that she ran a terrifying danger, he feared for her safety so he sprang to catch her up and protect her.

    In top of the hill, the others Freaks didn't attack anymore and observed what went by at the middle of the hill, keeping their invisible projectiles concealed in their hand, ready to intervene.

    In the blink of an eye, Han Xiao Ying had arrived to the height of Guo Jing, she took his small hand and turned the heels to run away with him. But hardly had they browsed some heights, that she felt the hand of Guo Jing slip: the child uttered a big scream, Chen Xuanfeng had just clutched it in the back!

    Han Xiao Ying turned around with agility and, of a sword stroke "The Phoenix nods the head", feinted towards the enemy's left armpit, then, moving herself to the side, raised the tip of the sword of a quick and precise gesture, aimed the adversary's eyes. It was there the very essence of the sophisticated technique of "The sword of the Girl Yue."

    Chen Xuanfeng took the child under his left arm, defended the stroke with his right while repulsing the blade to the right, and carried the palm’s stroke the "To push the skiff while following the current." The young woman turned her weapon and moved away, but the arm of Chen Xuanfeng seemed sudden to lie down of half a foot: Han Xiao Ying, that had the impression to be outside of his range, was reached therefore to the shoulder and fell on the ground.

    This exchange took place in the blink of an eye. Copper Corpse, pitiless, carried a stroke of claws directly on the summit of the Han Xiao Ying’s head. This white bone’s Claw of the Nine Darkness was a dangerous and cruel technique, which destroyed the flesh and broke the bones. The stroke would not fail to break the skull of the young woman. Zhang Asheng, that was some steps away, understood the danger and, without thinking about his own safety, intervened by throwing himself to on her, protecting her with his body. The claw fell, and the five fingers of Copper Corpse penetrated in the “laughing” Buddha back.

    This one pushed a terrifying howling and tried to reach the enemy's chest with his large knife. But Chen Xuanfeng defended it, making the weapon to fall, and returned a palm against Zhang, that was projected on the ground.

    The others Freaks shouted frightened and hurried to their rescue.

    - My shrew, shouts Chen Xuanfeng, what happened here?

    - They destroyed my eyes! replies Mei Chao Feng in anger, holding herself against a tree. If you let escape one of them, my bastard, you will deal with me!

    - No worry, my shrew, shouted Chen Xuanfeng, not even one will escape alive. You... Are you have hurt? Don't move...

    Copper Corpse knocked down its hand again on the head of Han Xiao Ying. This one, with "A lazy Dunce makes a somersault", escaped while rolling.

    - Do you believe to be able to escape me? mocked Chen while raising his left hand.

    Zhang Asheng, severely wounded, saw confusedly that his beloved was in danger of death. Mobilizing his last strengths, he gave a kick toward the enemy's hand. This one planted its fingers in the leg of Zhang that, goaded by the pain, straightened himself and passed his arms around his aggressor's size. Chen caught it by the neck, wanting to throw it far away, but the laughing Buddha, fearing that he would hurt Han Xiao Ying, stubbornly refused to release him. Copper Corpse carried him a deathblow to the head that stunned it. The butcher fainted, and his arms slackened.

    The intervention of Zhang had given the time to the young woman to bound on her feet to take the fight. She didn't dare to approach him much, and contented to turn around the enemy thanks to her lightness technique.

    - Fifth brother, she shouts, how do you feel?

    She had made two times the tour, when her mates joined in. Zhu Cong and Quan Jinfas immediately threw their invisible projectiles.

    Copper Corpse was surprised to see as many enemies of this strength. "We are in the middle of a desert, he thought, from where came these hard to cook that I don't know?" - My shrew, he shouts, these strong men who are them?

    - It’s the members of Bat in full sky group, the brother of Dragon in full sky.

    - Good, that bastard didn't die, he came to look for his punishment here.

    Fearing for his wife's injury, he shouted: - And you, my shrew, are you seriously wounded? Tell me at least that it doesn’t threaten nevertheless your ***** life?

    - Rush yourself to slaughter them, shouted Mei Chao Feng furious. Me, I am not even dead yet...

    Seeing that his wife remained supported to the tree, without coming to lend him assistance, Chen had understood well that, in spite of her stubbornness, she was seriously wounded. Worried, he only hoped to liquidate the enemies as soon as possible, in order to go take car of her. At this moment, five Freaks were surrounding him, only Ke Zhen'e remained aside, ready to intervene at any time.

    Chen Xuanfeng threw Guo Jing on the ground and gave a punch in direction of Quan Jinfa. This one, worried for the child, bent to avoid the stroke and benefited from this to catch up Guo Jing then, and of a somersault, got out of the enemy’s range. This movement, named "The mischievous Cat catches the mouse", who permitted to avoid and save at the same time, had been executed with agility and precision. Even Chen Xuanfeng was in awe for his author.

    Copper Corpse was cruel by nature: the more the adversaries were strong, the more he wanted to make them die in atrocious sufferings, especially since they had wounded his beloved wife. The Two Mischievous of the Black Wind trained for a long time the two dangerous techniques: the white bone’s Claw of the Nine Darkness and the "Heart-breaker" palm, that he now mastered to eight or nine tenths of their power. Pushing a terrifying howling, he attacked his enemies without worrying for his own safety, attacking every time with deadly strokes.

    The five, that were conscious that their lives were played at this precise moment as well, didn't take his attacks lightly and mobilized all their strengths to defend themselves. But they could not approach the enemy to much as this one appeared so dangerous.

    Han Baoju decided to attack, using the technique "Whip at the even soil", rolling on the floor, throwing strokes from all sides towards the Copper Corpse’s legs. This one, troubled by this unexpected attack, received a stroke of Nan Xiren’s stick in the back, that made him utter screams of pain. He turned around and stretched his claws towards the Lumberman.

    This one didn’t have the time to bring back his stick for defense that he sensed the claws coming after him, and felt backwards to escape. However, he heard a bang coming from the joints of Copper Corpse, whose arm stretched out suddenly of several inches, so that his hand was against the Lumberman's forehead. In a fight between experts, the murderous strokes were often avoided by one or two inches. Nan Xiren had saw that the tension of his adversary's arm had arrived to its extreme, and yet, it had stretched farther again! How could the Lumberman escape this stroke? He soon felt the nails tip of Chen on his forehead...

    In panic, he raised his left arm and seizes the enemy's wrist with the technique of the qinna*, trying to block it. At that moment, Zhu Cong had bounded on the back of Copper Corpse and had stuck his forearm on the adversary's throat in order to strangle him. By doing that, he fully exposed his own chest, but to save the life of his soared brother, he didn't worry himself for breaking the elementary rules of precaution in a fight.

    *qinna: ”catch and control”, technique of seizure of the muscles, keys and dislocations (to dislocate the articulations), in a body to body fight.

    At this moment, where the life of the fighters was hold by a fin line, a thunder sounds was heard and the clouds covered the moon completely. It was a total obscurity, one couldn’t even see the fingers of his own hands anymore and rain started to fell heavily.

    One heard the sound of two crunches and a plunk: Chen Xuanfeng had just broken the left arm of Nan Xiren and, at the same time, had given a stroke of hit elbow in Zhu Cong’s chest. This one felt like such a horrible pain that he was forced to loosen the pressure on the enemy's neck and fell backwards. Copper Corpse had felt like suffocating and was holding himself on the side, out of breath.

    -All, move back, shouted Han Baoju in the obscurity. Seventh sister, how do you feel?

    - Silence! replies Han Xiao Ying while moving of several steps.

    Astonished by the movement’s noises of his mates, Ke Zhen'e
    asked: - Second brother, what happened?

    - The obscurity is total at the moment, answered Quan Jinfa, one doesn't see anything here!

    It is the Sky that comes to help us, thought Ke Zhen'e, delighted.

    The Seven Freaks, of which three were severely wounded, were thinking that they had lost the part, but the dark clouds had covered the sky and it was raining a lot. Each of them kept its breathing, no one dared to move. The extremely fine hearing of Ke Zhen'e allowed him to recognize that the breathless man that was standing seven or eight steps away of him, on the left, was not one of his brothers. He immediately threw six poisoned water nuts in that direction.

    Chen Xuanfeng discerned the arrival of the invisible projectiles and jumped in air. He was indeed very strong, because he succeeded in avoiding, in extremis, the six water nuts and put, at the same time, distinguish their source. Without making a noise, he suddenly bounds, all claws outside, towards Ke Zhen'e. This one heard him, briskly escaped to the side, and attacked of a stroke with his stick. For him, there was no difference between the day and the night. As Chen Xuanfeng couldn’t see anything, his power was greatly decreased. Thus, the two men where on equal strength. After about ten exchanges, Copper Corpse had the impression that his enemy was attacking from all parts, without knowing for sure that if his own strokes were carried in the good direction and felt like living a nightmare.

    While slowly probing, Han Baoju, Han Xiao Ying and Quan Jinfas were going to help their injured brothers. The fate of Ke Zhen'e evidently preoccupied them, but they weren’t able to help him at all in this dark night. In the middle of rain’s noise, one heard the hisses provoked by the hands of Chen Xuanfeng and the cane of Ke Zhen'e. The two fighters had hardly exchanged about thirty strokes, but, for the others Freaks, it seemed to last for an eternity. Suddenly, one heard two deaf strokes, and Copper Corpse started screaming in pain: he had been touched by the cane. The Freaks were delighted, when a lightning striped in the sky, illuminating the whole summit of the hill.

    - Attention, Older Brother! shouts Quan Jinfa.

    But Chen Xuanfeng had benefited from this clarity instant to mark
    himself: he advanced while concentrating his energy on the left shoulder and supported without flinching the cane’s strokes, that he seized then with his left hand, whereas his right hand was already grabbing to the blind's chest. This one, surprised, released its cane and bounded backwards. Copper Corpse evidently wasn’t going to let pass such a great opportunity: the claw that had already torn the adversary's garment turned suddenly into a fist. Without a single movement of his body, the arm of Chen stretched and carried a strong stroke, loaded of internal energy, in the blind's chest, that was projected violently backward. At the same time, he threw the blind’s cane like a javelin. All these gestures were executed in a clever continuity, Copper Corpse was very proud of it, and pushed a long howling of joy, that accompanied by the thunder growls.

    On lightning’s sparks that illuminated the stage briefly again, Han Baoju saw the cane fly off toward his older Brother, unconscious of the danger. He slapped immediately his whip of the golden Dragon to roll itself around the projectile and made it fall.

    - Now, exclaimed Chen while running toward him, I’m going to take your life of dog!

    But, taken away by his impetus, he stumbled on something like a body, he bent and grabbed it: it was effectively a small boy, Guo Jing.

    - Release me, shouted the child.

    At this moment, a new lightning illuminated the stage: Guo Jing saw the man's face that held him in air, a sallow face giving a menacing look. He was so frightened that, instinctively, he drew his dagger and plunged it in the enemy's body, right in the middle of the navel, till he could no more.

    Chen Xuanfeng pushed a terrifying howling and let himself fell backward. In the technique that he used to turn his body invincible to the strokes, the vulnerable nodal location was precisely situated in the navel. The dagger of Guo Jing was of an extremely sharp blade, but even a simple knife, if it touched this place, would have been fatal to him. It was the reason for which, during a fight, he took all precautions to protect this part of his body. When he had seized the child, he didn't feel that he was a danger for him, having already caught him on the flank of the hill, a little while ago, he knew that the youngster didn't know anything in martial arts for sure. However, as says the proverb, "It is the good swimmer who drowns, and it is in flat land that the cart reverses itself": who would predict that this dangerous expert was going to lose his life by the hand of a small weak and ignorant boy!

    After having killed Copper Corpse, Guo Jing stayed on his foot, petrified, standing without knowing what to do. He seemed to want to cry, but didn't dare to let himself go.

    While hearing her husband's long scream, Mei Chao Feng hurried, stumbled, fell and crawled to reach him.

    - My bastard, did she shouts, what happened to you?

    - It is done, my shrew, he mumbled, rush to run away you...

    - I am going to revenge you, she creaked.

    - The Sûtra, he says of a mumbling voice, I have it... I burned it... the essential, I have it on my chest...

    And he returned his soul.

    With her heart broken, Iron Corpse slipped her hand toward her husband's chest, in search of the essential of the Nine Darkness’s Real Sûtra.

    Chen Xuanfeng and Mei Chao Fengs were both disciples of the Master of the peach blossom island, Huang the alchemist. This one had created a particular style of martial arts, of which the power and the complexity didn't have anything to envy to the well-known authorities that were the absolute Perfection Sect and the Duan royal family, that reigned in the South. Chen and Mei had fallen in love for each other even before finishing their formation. They knew that if their Shifu discovered their love, not only they would not have their life safe, but they would die in atrocious sufferings. The more they thought of it, the more the terror won them. They ended up deciding to run away. By one obscure night, they filthily embarked in a small boat that led them to another small island on the East, running away then to Ningbo, in the province of the Zhejiang.

    Before leaving, Chen Xuanfeng thought that the little they had learned would be sufficient to defend themselves in the Streams and the Lakes, but wouldn’t be able enough to assure them a true renown. Thus, he grabbed his courage on his hands, and penetrated in the secret room of his Shifu, where he stole half of the "Nine Darkness’s Real Sûtra", that his master cherished as a pupil on his eyes. Huang the alchemist evidently entered in a fury, but as he had made the vow to not leave the island as long as a promise he made would not have been achieved, he could not rush to the pursuit of the runaways. However, his anger was such that it punished his other disciples: he cut to all of them their legs tendons and chassed them of the island, staying all by himself, reclusive, to ruminate his wrath.

    The two lovers were the reason of the misfortune of their schoolmates. But they were able to, thanks to the Sûtra, to acquire an exceptional art of fight. This Nine Darkness’s Real Sûtra was in fact the compilation of the orthodox martial arts of the taoism. But, Chen had only succeeded in stealing the second half of the document, whereas the formulas of neigong’s practice, of mastery of the internal energy, were in the first half. The martial arts of the peach blossom island followed a particular way, that didn't look in anything like the practice developed by the taoism. Cruel by nature, the two renegades tried to understand the indications of the Sûtra while interpreting them in their own way, choosing to practice the more corrupted and most pitiless techniques .

    One day, they were training, in the mountain, the white bone’s Claw of the Nine Darkness, stacking skulls nine by nine, when the brothers Ke fell on them by luck. Seeing that the two spouses killed some innocents, the brothers wanted to intervene. But Dragon in full sky, Ke Bixie, died immediately under a palm stroke of Chen Xuanfeng. Fortunately, the white bone’s Claw of the Nine Darkness was not yet, at its point, therefore Ke Zhen'e managed to escape, but he couldn’t save his eyes.

    When Chen and Mei felt ready, they voyaged through the Streams and the Lakes, without ever meeting any adversaries of their strength. The ordinary masters of the plain evidently were not of their size, but even some famous experts fell under their strokes. It was cause of their pitiless that they received the nickname of "Two Mischievous of the Black Wind." Seeing that their Shifu didn't leave the island, they became even more arrogant and harmful, until several valorous fighters had decided to form a group against them, and had made them fall in an ambush. During the fight, the couple escaped severely wounded, and disappeared of the circulation. During numerous years, no one hear speak anymore of them, believing that they had died. However, they were only hidden in the desert, training to perfect their arts of the death.

    These two techniques, the White bone’s Claw of the Nine Darkness and the heart-breaker Palm, were effectively registered in the Nine Darkness’s Real Sûtra. Chen Xuanfeng, that adored his wife, never wanted to show her the original text of the Sûtra. He studied it alone and, only in a second time, transmitted her what he had understood by himself. She could implore him or threaten him, but he never to this rule.

    "He told her, this Sûtra has two parts, I didn't succeed in stealing the second one. However, all fundamental techniques, to assure the bases, are in the first part. If I let you read the text, you will be too gluttonous and you will try to assimilate everything in a row, this will lead you in an erroneous path that will lead you to your loss. At best, you will be severely wounded, at worse, you risk to let your life in the path. There are a lot of techniques in the Sûtra, but we can only practice those that are compatible with our basic formation.

    This reasoning convinced Mei Chao Feng, conscious of the real love that her husband carried for her. Even though, in the daily life, they bad mouth each other "bastard" and "shrew" all the time, they were bound by a deep love. Then she didn't insist.

    Seeing her agonizing husband, she then thought about to asking him the question of the Sûtra, but he had expired before having answered completely. She searched it in his chest without finding anything. Speechless, she wanted to look for it again, but Han Baoju, Han Xiao Ying and Quan Jinfa, taking advantage of first gleams of the dawn, had rushed to the attack.

    Mei Chao Feng had not only lost her view, but she felt her head turning, probably because of the poison that made its effect. To train the White bone’s Claw of the Nine Darkness, the two spouses, since about ten years ago, absorbed the arsenics acid regularly in small quantities, which they neutralized the toxic effect with their internal energy. It was the only way that Chen Xuanfeng had found to increase, while using a stupid method, their internal and external power. With the time, Mei had been immunized to poison, otherwise the poisoned water nuts of Ke Zhen'e would have kill her long ago.

    She defended herself so bitingly that the Freaks, didn't even managed to reach her, and were put repeatedly in danger. Han Baoju was starting to get furious: "If we don't manage, thought himself, to take over her on a three against one, even worst she’s a wounded woman and blind, what a shame for the Seven Freaks of the Jiangnan!" He then attacked more furiously with his whip, especially trying to hit her in the back. Han Xiao Ying and Quan Jinfa, seeing that the enemy staggered, also increased in vigor. As they seemed to be able to carry away with her, a storm rose, and the dark clouds covered the sky again. Suddenly, they couldn’t see anything anymore, the mixed violent gusts of wind and rain swept all on their way. The three Freaks flattened to the soil to protect themselves. A long time after, the storm calmed and the moon pierced behind the clouds. Han Baoju bounds on its feet and uttered a scream of spite: Mei Chao Feng had disappeared, as well as the cadaver of Chen Xuanfeng. He only see on the ground his friends with extended injures. The small head of Guo Jing appeared slowly behind the rocks. All were soaked to the bone.

    The three survivors raised up to take care of the injured: Nan Xiren had the broken arm, but no internal injury, fortunately. Ke Zhen'e and Zhu Cong, whose neigong was powerful, were not too affected either, even though they had been hit by the strokes of Copper Corpse. Only Zhang Asheng, hit at two times, by the White bone’s Claw of the Nine Darkness, had received a deadly stroke on the head. He had taken conscience but his life was on the line.

    Seeing him close to die, the Six collapsed of sadness, especially Han Xiao Ying, that knew very well that the Fifth brother was in love with her for a long time. But she was a kind of tomboy, liking the martial arts above all, and little to do with the heart matters. Zhang Asheng, for his part, laughed the whole time with a simple air, they had never admitted their real feelings. While wondering that he had thrown himself under the enemy's claws to protect her, she hugged Zhang while sobbing.

    On the always funny face of the Butcher floated a light smile again. Of his big hand like a beater, he softly caressed the hair of Xiao Ying:
    - Don’t cry, he said to her trying to comfort her. Don't cry, I am well.

    - Fifth brother, she says while hiccupping, do you want to marry me?

    Zhang gave a dumb laugh, causing his injuries to make him suffer awfully, and he began to lose conscience.

    - Fifth brother, she pursued, reassure you, consider that I am already your wife... I won't ever get married again and, after my death, we will remain together for the eternity.

    - Seventh sister, mumbled Zhang, I have never taken good care of you... Me... I am not worthy of you...

    - You took good care of me, she sobbed. Very, very well. I always knew it...

    With his eyes full of tears, Zhu Cong asked Guo Jing: - If you came here, is it to learn the martial arts with us?

    - Yes, answered the child.

    - Then you must obey us henceforth.

    Guo Jing nodded the head.

    - Us, the seven brothers and sister sums up all your Shifus, pursued Zhu Cong while wiping his tears. Now, your fifth Shifu is going to go up to the sky, prostrate and return him homage.

    Guo Jing didn't know what meant precisely "to go up to the sky", but he immediately obeys, prostrating and hitting the soil with his forehead.

    Zhang Asheng, white like a linen, forced itself to smile: - It is sufficient like that... Brave boy, I wont be able to transmit you my knowledge... Ah, but anyway, even if you had learned what I know, that would not serve you to anything. I am a natural obtuse, and rather lazy to the practice... I took support on the little strength that I had... If back then I had worked more, maybe I would not have this sad end today...

    He almost fainted and became even more pale.

    - Neither you, he says while panting, you are not naturally very gifted, it’s absolutely necessary for you to make some efforts. When you will be tempted to be lazy, think about your Fifth Shifu and the state in which you see him...

    He wanted to continue, but didn't have anymore strength.

    Han Xiao Ying approached her ear of the Zhang’s mouth, and heard him hardly:
    - Form the child well... To not have the underside facing the pretentious taoist...

    - Be assured, says Han Xiao Ying, the Seven Freaks of the Jiangnan never lose!

    Zhang Asheng gave a small fool laugh, closed the eyes and returned the soul.

    The Six Freaks exploded in sobs. Since they had become soared brothers, very strong ties united them. During the last years, searching for Li Ping and of her son, they had lived day and night together. And has that moment one of them had just tragically died in this foreign land. How could they not be flooded of pain? After having cried all the tears of their body, they dug a tomb and buried Zhang Asheng. When they had finished to erect a big rock to mark the place of the tomb, the day had already rise.

    Quan Jinfa and Han Baojus left in search of susceptible indications that could lead them to Mei Chao Feng. After the storm, the sand didn't carry any trace, and it was impossible to know where she had gone. They pulled their investigating to several li to the round, but came back with nothing.

    - In this desert, said Zhu Cong, I imagine that this blin... this woman can’t go very far away. The poisoned water nuts should have made their effect by now and she will probably died somewhere. Lets bring back home the child first and take better care of our injured. After that, Third and Sixth brother, Seventh sister, and you will continue the research.

    All acquiesced and poured some tears while saying farewell to the tomb of their deceased brother.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (foreva)

    Chapter 5 - Crooked Bow, Shooting Condors


    A row of people came down the mountain, after walking for awhile, they suddenly heard the cries of wild beasts coming from the front. Han Bao Ju picked up his reins, leapted on his yellow horse to see what is happening in front of them. After sprinting for awhile, the yellow horse suddenly stopped moving, as if something was compelling it to stop.

    Knowing in his heart that there's something weird happening, he looked into the distance but can only see a group of people with several leopards on the ground clawing a mess.

    As the yellow horse is afraid of leopards, he jumped off his horse and pulled out his Golden Dragon whip. Moving forward, he only saw that two leopards have have a dead corpse in their claws. Running forth a few more steps, he saw that the dead body was actually Copper Corpse Chen Xuan Feng. However, the area from his collar bone to his lower abdomen have already been ripped into a mess, as though the skin was sliced off. He wondered, "He was killed by the boy yesterday night with a dagger through his navel, what is his corpse doing here? Furthermore, he is already dead, why will one be so low as to do this to his corpse... I wonder will did this treachery and what is the meaning behind it... Unless.. the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind have some other enemies in the desert with hatred so deep!


    Not long after that, Zhu Cong and the others arrived. No one could figure out the reasoning behind the mutilation. They looked at Chen Xuan Feng's corpse with still showing a fierce expression on his face, he has still died with the expression of a warrior. Thinking back about yesterday night's terrifying fight in the barren hills, knowing that if it's not for Guo Jing's lucky hit with the dagger, it would have been difficult for even one of them to come out alive. Just thinking about that gave them shivers deep in their hearts.

    By this time, the two leopards have almost chewed the corpse to the bone. At the side, there was a little boy riding on a horse loudly urging the leopard handlers to lead the leopards away.

    Turning his head, he saw Guo Jing, and shouted to him "Ha! You are hiding here. You don't have the guts to help Tolui fight, what a useless thing!" This child is Senggum's son Dukhsh.

    "You all went to beat up Tolui again? Where is he?" Guo Jing asked hurriedly.

    "I'm going to lead the leopards to eat him up. You better surrender now, or else I will include you in as well", Dukhsh replied smugly. He had seen the 6 freaks of the South at the side, and if not for them, Dukhsh would have already sent the leopards to eat Guo Jing up.

    Guo jing persisted "Where is Tolui?"

    Ignoring him, Dukhsh shouted loudly, "The leopards will eat Tolui now!", as he lead the leopard handlers forward. One leopard handler advised him, "Little master, that boy is Temujin Khan's son." Dukhsh immediately hit the leopard handler with a slash of his whip, shouting "What is there to be scared of? How dared he raised his hand to hit me today? Move aside!" The leopard handler did not dare to disobey his order, thus he can only lead the leopards along while following Dukhsh. Another leopard handler was afraid that this may cause some unreversible troubles, thus he turned and ran, shouting "I'm going to inform Temujin Khan." Before Dukhsh could stop him, the leopard handler alread ran off as though he's flying. Dukhsh said bitterly, "Fine, let's first eat Tolui, and see that when Uncle Temujin comes, what solution can be come up with?" On saying that, he whipped his horse harder for them to move faster.

    Though Guo jing is also terribly afraid of leopards, but in the end, he is still worried about his sowrn brother's safety. He then said to Han Xiao Ying, "Teacher, Dukhsh is going to get the leopards to eat up my sworn brother. I need to inform him so he can escape."

    "But if you hurried there, what if the leopards eat you up too? Aren't you scared?" Han Xiao Ying asked.

    "I'm scared."

    "Then are you going?"

    Hesitating for a millisecond, Guo Jing affirmed "I'm going!", before running rapidly away.

    Because Zhu cong's wound was still painful, he was lying on the horse's back. On seeing Guo Jing had such chivalry in his heart, he mused, "This child may be stupid, but nevertheless is still a person in our generation."

    Han Xiaoying replied, "Fourth brother's perception isn't bad! Let's go save people now."

    Quan Jin Fa cautioned the rest, "This little lord keeps leopards at home, therefore he must be the son of an important general. We better be careful now as not to create trouble, as three of us are wounded."

    Han Bao Ju used his lightness kung fu to pick up Guo Jing, and placed him on his shoulder. Although Han Bao Ju is short with short legs, but his legs can move very fast. Guo Jing sitting on his fat and sturdy shoulders, is like sitting on a good race horse, fast and steady. Han Bao Ju rushed to Yellow Chasing Wind's (his yellow horse) side, and with a great leap, he took Guo Jing with him onto the horse's back. And within moments, they have already caught up with Dukhsh and the leopard handlers. After running for awhile, they saw more than ten kids surrounding Tolui. All those kids listen to Dukhsh's commands, they were not trying to attack him, but just trying to keep Tolui from leaving.

    After learning three skillful moves from Zhu Cong, Tolui had practiced the moves that night until he was familiar with them all. Upon morning he was not able to find Guo Jing, and unable to get his third brother WoKuoTai to help, Tolui bravely went to fight Dukhsh by himself. Dukhsh brought along around 7-8 helpers, and on seeing him alone, was rather surprised. Therefore, when Tolui requested for that they can only fight one on on, and not attack him as a group, Dukhsh agreed immediately, thinking that there's no way Tolui can even beat them up. Who would have known that once they started fighting. Tolui kept using the three moves that Zhu Cong taught him, and incredibly, he managed to beat Dukhsh and the rest. You need to know that although the three moves that Zhu Cong taught him are simple, they are actually the essence of the Vacant Emptiness Fist. Furthermore, Tolui is very smart, and these three moves have no complicated changes, thus he picked it up immediately upon learning. Using this, these little mongolian kids are no match for it. The Mongolians place a great importance on keeping promises. Since they have already agreed to only battle one on one, though these mongolian kids are fed up in their hearts, they will not able to do anything else. Tolui made Dukhsh fall twice in a row, and even hit him in the nose, Dukhsh was furious. He then ran off to get his father's hunting leopards out.

    After single handedly winning against so many kids, Tolui was really proud of himself. Thus he stood in the center of the surrounding kids, not even thinking about running away from their grasps. Unknowing to him, great troubles are already coming.

    From a distance, Tolui heard faint cries of Guo Jing's shouts, "Tolui, Tolui, run away now as Dukhsh is bringing his leopards over to eat you up!"

    On hearing that, Tolui was shocked, and tried to rush out of the circle. But those kids around him kept blocking him, thus there was no way for him to escape. Not long after, the 6 freaks of the South, together with Dukhsh arrived one after the other. Following them, the leopard handlers have also guided the leopards over. Though the 6 freaks of the South can prevent the oncoming casualty by catching Dukhsh, however they did not want to create more trouble and wanted to see how Tolui and Guo Jing face any dangers. Therefore, they did not lend a helping hand.

    Suddenly they all heard noises rushing from their backs, numerous horses have arrived like the wind. instantaneously, someone shouted at the top of their voice, "Don't let go of the leopards, don't let go of the leopards!" It was actually Muquali, Boroqul and the other four aces that arrived. Upon receiving the leopard handler's reports, they did not have enough time to inform Temujin, and hurriedly rushed over. Temujin, Ong Khan, Jamuka, Senggum etc. were at the Mongolian camp chatting with Wan Yan Hong Lie and his brothers. Hearing the leopard handler's reort, they were all shocked and each ran out of the tent and leapt on their horses' backs.

    "Quick! Inform them that I order Dukhsh not to go overboard. It is important that Temujin Khan's son is not injured," Ong Khan ordered his men, who spirited their horses to where the troubles where.

    As Wan Yan Hong Xi was not able to see the exciting performance of leopards fighting against men yesterday, he was feeling bored. But at this time, he was feeling the excitement and stood up exclaiming, " Let's all go look!"

    In his heart, Wan Yan Hong Lie was conspiring, "If Senggum's leopards really bit Temujin's son to death, both their families will no longer be peaceful, and from then, they may start battling non stop. Who knows, maybe both sides will be terribly wounded, and in the end, die from killing each other, and that will definitely be the fortune of my Jin country!"

    The Wan Yan brothers, Ong Khan, Senggum, Jamuka etc. all arrived at the scene, only seeing that the two hunting leopards' leather chain has already been unfastened. The leopards stood with four legs on the ground, producing low growling noises from their throats. In front of the leopards stood two kids, which were Tolui and his sworn younger brother Guo Jing. Temujin Khan and his four heroes raised their bows, with the arrow heads pointing at the leopards, all ready for action with their eyes trained on the leopards. Although Temujin saw his youngest son in a dangerous situation, he knows that those two hunting leopards are very precious to Senggum. Senggum had caught the leopards when they were young, reared and trained them until they have grown strong and ferocious today. As that cannot be achieved in a split second and took much time, Temujin feels that if the leopards do not start attacking, he did not wish to harm the leopards by shooting.

    Upon seeing the crowds arrived, Dukhsh, relying on his grandfather's and father's adoration for him, felt even more courageous. Thus he kept commanding the leopards to leap forward to bite someone.

    Ong Khan then shouted out, "Stop this now!"

    Suddenly, hooves sounds were heard from the back, as one riding on a red horse arrived. On the horse was a middle age woman, cladded in leopard fur, and in her arms, carrying a little girl. This is Temujin's wife, Tolui's mother.


    She was chatting at the camp with Senggum's wife, when she received the news. On hearing that, she hurriedly rushed over with her daughter Hua Zheng. On seeing the danger right now, she was both shocked and worried, shouting, "Quick, let go of the arrow!" With all her energy focused on her son, she offhandedly placed her daughter on the ground, and actually forgot to look after her. Being a little girl of four years old, how was Hua Zheng supposed to know of the leopard's ferocious nature? She laughingly bounded over to her brother's side, and seeing the leopards with pretty patterns all over their fur, she was reminded of her second elder brother Jamuka's hunting dogs. She stretched her hand out, trying to pat the leopard's head, as the crowd was startled, and tried yelling to stop her, but it was already too late. The two leopards were already agitated and nervous, and on seeing someone come over suddenly, they both let out yowls at the same time, as they leapt up fiercely. Everyone in the crowd were alarmed as they all shouted out in distress all at once. Although Temujin has already aimed his arrow before, yet Hua Zheng's sudden appearance was something that no one had expected and within a blink of the eye, the leopards were already in the air. At this time, Hua Zheng was blocking Temujin's aim of the leopards. She was standing in front of the leopards and therefore blocking the strategic spot on the leopard's head where they have to be hit to kill them instantaneously. At this point, Temujin can only injure the leopard's body with his arrow, and this will only aggravate their moods. The four aces threw down their bows and arrows, and pulled out their knifes, as they moved forward all at once. Only to see Guo Jing rolling forward to pick up Hua Zheng, but at the same time one leopard's front claws were already on Guo Jing's shoulders. The four aces raised their knifes and stepped forward, only to hear several light faint noises. Once the noises passed, they saw that the two leopards had suddenly fell backwards and kept howling and rolling from side to side. After a short while, they were motionless with their belly facing the skies.

    Boroqul went forward to find out what happened, only to see blood gushing out from the leopard's forehead. It was obvious that a Kung Fu master had used a hidden weapon to hit through the leopard's brain, which was the reason it lost it's life. He turned around, only to see six composed and calm Han people standing at the side and watching the on going scene, at the point, he knew that this hidden weapon was shot by them. Temujin's wife hurriedly picked up bawling Hua Zheng from Guo Jing's arms and pulled Tolui in her bosom as she tried to comfort and pacify Hua Zheng repeatedly.

    Angrily, Senggum asked, "Who killed the leopards?"

    However, the crowd remained silent as no one answered. Ke Zhen E had heard the leopard's howls, and fearing that the leopards will harm Guo Jing, had fired four missiles with poisonous tips. As that action only took a wave of the hand, and since everyone had their eyes focused on the leopards, there was no one who saw who fired the hidden weapon.

    Temujin smiled, saying, "Brother Senggum, I'll repay you with four best leopards when we get back, and I'll add eight pairs of black condors."

    On hearing that, Senggum was still seeting with anger, but he remained silent. By now, Ong Khan was angrily scolding Dukhsh. Humiliated at receiving this treatment in front of the crowd, he tried to push the blame off himself, and laid down on the ground, rolling and hitting, crying and shouting. Ong Khan commanded him to stop loudly, but he did not care.

    As Temujin was still grateful for what Ong Khan did for him in the past, he felt that it was a pity to break up the two families' friendship over such a small matter. Thus, he smiled and bent over to pick up Dukhsh. Dukhsh was still crying and yellow, and tried his best to struggle, but when picked up by Temujin, how can he still struggle?
    Still smilsing, Temujin tried to salvage the sitution, "Godfather, the kids were only playing, there's no need to get worked up. I think this kid is very good and I'm thinking of letting my daughter get engaged to him. What do you think?"

    Ong Khan saw that Hua Zheng had eyes like glistening dew, and skin like a baby lamb, fair and cute, and felt happy in his heart. Laughingly, he said, "What will be wrong with that? How about this, let's have a closer relationship, I'll let my eldest granddaughter marry your son Shu Chi?"

    Temujin agreed, "Thanks Godfather!" as he turned around to say to Senggum, "Brother Senggum, we are now in-laws!"

    Senggum had always felt that he was of a higher background than Temujin, thus was already jealous of Temujin and looked down on him. Although he was not happy about becoming in-laws with Temujin, but he cannot go against his father's wishes, thus he can only smile weakly.

    At this point, Wan Yan Hong Lie saw the 6 freaks of the South, and he was shocked. "What are they doing here? I'm sure it's because they are trying to chase me. I wonder if the bad taoist priest with the surname Qiu is around here?", he asked himself. Since he was currently under the protection of the numerous soldiers, he was not afraid of them. Yet if he gave out the command to capture them, he was afraid that it may cause some trouble. Seeing that the 6 Freaks were listening to Temujin and the others' conversations and had not even noticed him, he then turned his head, and moved behind the crowds of soldiers, at the same time, keep thinking of ways to handle the matter. As for Ong Khan and Temujin's families' engagement, he did not think much of it.

    Temujin knew that it was the 6 freaks of the south that saved his daughter's life, and he waited for Ong Khan and the others to leave, before commanding Boroqul to reward them richly with furs and gold. He then reach his hand out to stroke the top of Guo Jing's head and repeatedly praise him for his courage and valour. Temujin said that risking his own life to save another, it is already something that not all adults will do, not to mention such a small child. When he asked Guo Jing why was he so brave as he dared to save Hua Zheng, Guo Jing just stood around dumbly as he cannot find an answer, and after pondering for some time, said, "The leopards will eat people."

    On hearing that, Temujin laughed out aloud. Tolui then narrated the story of why he started fighting with Dukhsh, and knowing that Dukhsh kept mentioning the shameful happenings of his past, Temujin was boiling deep down in his heart. But he did not say anything about it, only to say, "In the future, don't bother about him."

    Temujin then turned to Quan Jin Fa and asked, "How much gold do you all want to stay at my camp to teach my son Kung Fu?"

    Quan Jin Fa thought "We are all thinking of finding a place to teach Guo Jing Kungfu. If we can teach him here, there will be no better place then this." Thus he replied saying, "The Great Khan's willingness to take in the six of us, is something that we cannot even ask for. You can pay us anything you want, how will we even dare to discuss or fight about how much?" Temujin was pleased as he commanded Boroqul to look after these six people, and upon that, he went off on his horse to send off the Wan Yan brothers.

    At the back, the Six freaks of the South were riding slowly as they discussed.

    Han Bao Ju said, "The skin on the chest of Chen Xuan Feng's corpse was cut off by someone, so I think that the person must be his enemy."

    Quan Jin Fa then replied, "The Twin Killers of the Black Wind are cruel and ruthless, so having enemies all over the place isn't something to be surprised at. But I don't know why his enemy did not chop up his body, nor stab him all over, but only sliced off a large piece of skin off his chest?"

    "I have been thinking of that all this while, but I still cannot think of the reasoning behind it", Ke Zhen E replied, "The most pressing task on hand is to find out where Iron Corpse is."

    "Exactly. If this person is not killed, she will bring much dangers to us in the future. I'm only scared that she will not die after being poisoned," Zhu Cong agreed.

    With tears in her eyes, Han Xiao Ying spoke up, "Fifth brother's deep hatred, how can we all not revenge him?"

    Thus the three of them, Han Bao Ju, Han Xiao Ying and Quan Jin Fa, all rode on their fast horses to find Iron Corpse. However, even after numerous days of searching, they were not even able to find a trace of her. Han bao ju decided, "This woman's eyes were hit by my eldest brother's poison darts. By now, the poison must already worked on her, and she probably fell dead in some mountain valley." The rest of them then agreed as well. In his heart, Ke Zhen E knew that the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds were very smart and vicious, and thus worried that unless he could touch her corpse with his own hands, it will always remain a heavy weight in his heart. But at that time, he did not want to bother his younger brothers and sister with his worries, and thus did not inform them of his feelings.

    From then on, the Six Freaks of the South were living permanently in the desert, teaching Guo Jing and Tolui Kung Fu. Temujin knows that these kungfu are needed close contact with the other side, and are only important for protecting oneself. Thus he only wanted Tolui and Guo Jing to learn fists briefly, and to spend most of their time learning riding, shooting with their bows and arrows, and learning to handle other important tasks on the battle field. As the Six Freaks of the South are not familiar with these, Guo Jing and Tolui learnt these under Jebeh and Boroqul. (foreva)

    During the nights, the Six freaks of the South then taught Guo Jing alone, teaching him fists, swords, hidden weapons, lightness Kung fu. Although Guo Jing was slow in nature, he knew that he had to revenge his father with these kungfu in the future, thus he could not complain and worked as hard as he could.

    Although Zhu Cong, Quan Jin Fa and Han Xiaoying's kung fu may be too hard for him to comprehend, yet with Han Bao Ju and Nan Xi Ren's basic Kung fu, he just followed their directions exactly, and could actually learn steadily. But with these basic Kung fu, one can only use to strengthen their bodies and are not moves to beat up enemies and to win a fight.

    Han Bao Ju often said, "The way you train is like a camel. Strong is strong, but can a camel be victorious over a leopard?"

    ON hearing that, Guo Jing could only give a silly smile. When the 6 freaks teach Guo Jing, they will only supervise his learning, instead of explaining to him. Yet on seeing that out of the ten moves they will teach him, and he usually can't even learn even a single move, they still could not help but to feel discouraged. Whenever they held discussions, they could only sigh and shake their heads. Though they know that the chance of being victorious over Qiu Chu Ji's disciple, was almost naught, there was an agreement made, and they can't give up half way. However, Quan Jin Fa is a business man with his qualities lying in the fields of intricate calculations. Therefore, he often said, "For Qiu Chu Ji to find the Yang family's widow, he has about eighty percentage chance. With that, we have won by twenty percent. Who knows whether the Yang family's widow gave birth to a boy or girl. The chance for her to give birth to a boy is only half, so with that, we gain another forty percent. If it's a son, maybe he can't grow to adulthood, we gain another ten percent. Even if he manages to grow up, maybe he's as stupid as Jing-er. Therefore, I will say that we have already have an eighty percent chance of winning."

    The other 5 freaks thought that what he said wasn't wrong, however, by saying that the Yang family's son aptitude in learning the martial arts is as slow and stupid as Guo Jing, they can't help but know that Quan Jin Fa was just trying to console them.

    Luckily, Guo Jing has a good heart, and he is exceedingly obedient, so that six freaks like his character alot.

    On the prairies of Outer Mongolia, with the green summer grass, brillant whites of winter snow, within the blink of the eye, ten years went by. By now, Guo jing is a sturdy youth of sixteen. There was only two years between now and the martial arts competition, so the six freaks stepped up the supervision. They commanded him to stop practicing riding and shooting temporarily, and from dusk to dawn, to concentrate on practicing fists and the sword. Within these ten years, Temujin had battles non stop, and had swallowed innumerous tribes of Mongolia into his own. He commands his subordinates strictly, and all his soldiers are courageous and excel in fighting. He himself has both courageous and resourceful, therefore he knows when to attack by force or attack by strategy. Across all of Mongolia, no one can be compared to him. As the livestock breed and reproduce, the population increase, the distance between Temujin and Ong Khan became greater.

    The violent winds gradually stops, and the heavy snow starts to lessen, but the outer prairies of Mongolia still remain bitterly cold. On this day, it was the Pure Brightness Festival. (Note: Qing Ming Festival. A day for paying respect to the dead, so the chinese will pay their respects at their ancestor/family's graves, and probably sweep the grave and pull out the weeds etc.) The Six Freaks of the South had arisen early, and Guo Jing with them, took cows and sheep as sacrifical items to Zhang Ah Sheng's grave to sweep the grave. As the Mongolians are nomads, and they move around with no fixed place to stay, at that point of them, the Mongolian camp they said at was very far away from Zhang Ah Sheng's grave. Even riding on fast horses, it took them more than half of the day to get there. The seven of them climbed on the barren hill and swept away the piled up snow on the grave. They then lit up the candles and incense, and knelt in fron of the graves praying.

    Han Xiao Ying secretly prayed, "Fifth brother, for the past ten years we spent all our energy and our hearts teaching this child. Only that his quality for learning isn't high, and could not pick up our martial arts properly. However, I hope that fifth elder brother's spirit in the heavens will look over him, and at the Jia Xing martial arts competition in two years time, do not let this child spoil our Seven Freaks of the South's prestige and name!"

    The Six freaks were born and had lived their lives in the South, with it's warm hills and waters, at this time, they stayed at the Mongolian deserts with it's cold winds slashing like knifes, they had became weak and frail; and looked grave and somber. The hair at their temples, had also started turning white. Although Han Xiao Ying's charisma did not lessen, she was no longer the pink-cheeked young girl of yesteryears.

    Zhu Cong surveyed the graveside piles of skeletons. After ten years of enduring winds and snow, but the skeletons have not started to decay. In his heart, there was a feeling that he cannot speak. For these years, he had looked all over the surrounding hundred miles with Quan Jin Fa, and in every mountain valley, and in every cave, trying to find Mei Chao Feng's whereabouts. If this person had died from poisoning, there would be a skeleton left behind. If she did not die, it is terribly hard for a blind girl to live in seclusion for a long time, but not even leave a trail for a long time. However, she had vanished into thin air like a spirit. And only on this hill in the wilderness, this grave and these piles of white bones, are the only marks that the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds had left behind on the desert. The seven of them stayed at in front of the grave to have a meal and drink, and then returned to their dwellings. After a short rest, the Six freaks took Guo Jing to the hill sides to practice his martial arts.

    Today his fourth master "South Hill Woodsman" (Nan Shan Qiao Zi) Nan Xi Ren and him had a practice spar of the "Open Hills Palms Technique" (Kai Shan Zhang Fa). Nan Xi Ren had the intention for him to use as much martial arts as he could, so they sparred for around seventy to eighty moves continuously before suddenly pushing his left palm outwards and flipping his body in a move of "The Hawk Hunting Rabbits" (Cang Ying Bu Tu), and aimed towards Guo Jing's back. Guo Jing then bent over to avoid his move, and moving his leg in a circular motion with "Autumn Winds Sweeping the Fallen Leaves" (Qiu Feng Sao Luo Ye), he swept his leg towards his teacher's lower body. Nan Xi Ren then used "Iron Bull Tilling the Land" (Tie Niu Tian Di), attacking with his palms. Guo Jing had just wanted to withdraw his leg to change his moves, when Nan Xi Ren shouted "Remember this move!" His left hand swiftly moved out and tried to hit Guo jing's chest from the front. Guo Jing's right palm hurriedly went to block, and this palm is considered rather fast. Nan Xi Ren's left palm flew out, and with a slap, both palm connected. Although Nan Xi Ren only used about thirty percent of his power, Guo Jing could not help falling. His both palms connected with the ground, before immediately jumping up, showing shame on his entire face.

    Now, Nan Xi Ren wanted to instruct him about the importance essence in this move, when suddenly from the tree groves, trailed out two sounds of laughter. With that, a youthful girl came out, clapping her hands and smiling, shouting, "Guo Jing, you are beaten by your teacher again?"

    Guo Jing's face went red, saying, "I'm practicing now, don't bother me!"

    That young girl laugh, "I just like to see you getting beaten up!"

    This girl is Temujin's young daughter Hua Zheng. She, Tolei and Guo Jing are around the same age, and from young they played together. Because her parents dote on her, it is no surprise that she may be more arrogant and wilful. Since Guo Jing's birth, his character is more straight and simple, whenever she throws a tantrum without reason, they will always clash. However, after arguing, they will make up after awhile. It will always be Hua Zheng who knows that she was wrong, and will beg him with soft words. Hua Zheng's mother still remembered Guo Jing had risked his life at the leopard's mouth to save her daughter, so she is especially fond of him and often give gifts of clothing and livestock to his mother and him.

    Guo Jing said, "I'm practicing with teacher now, go away!"

    Hua Zheng laughed and said, "This is practicing? I'll call it getting beaten up!"

    When they are talking, several numbers of Mongolian soldiers on horses had arrived suddenly. One Ten Soldiers Leader got off his horse, and bowed towards Hua Zheng, saying "Hua Zheng, Big Khan is calling for you." As the Mongolians are simple in nature, and do not have the customs of Han people to use courtesy terms, although Hua Zheng is the Khan's daughter, but everyone just calls her by her name. Hua Zheng said, "What for?" The Ten Soldiers Leader replied, " It's because Ong Khan's messengers have arrived."

    At once, Hua zheng wrinkled her brow and said angrily "I'm not going."

    The ten man head continued, "But if you don't go, the Khan will be angry."

    From young, Hua Zheng had been engaged to Ong Khan's grandson Dukshk by her father, but in these few years, she has a closer relationship with Guo Jing. Although all of them are still young and therefore, can't really say that there are feelings between them. Yet whenever she thinks about having to part with Guo Jing to marry that infamously arrogant Dukskh, she can't help but feel sad. Now, she pursed her small mouth, and kept silent as she thought for awhile. In the end, she did not dare to disobey her father's command, and followed the Ten Soldiers Leader back.

    Ong Khan and Senggum thought that the son has grown up, and wanted to pick a date for them to get married. So, they sent people over with presents, and Temujin wanted her to meet the messengers.

    During that night, Guo Jing was sleeping til the middle of the night, when he suddenly heard soft noises of someone clapping three times outside the tent. He sat up only to hear someone speaking Han language, "Guo Jing, You come out."

    Guo Jing was feeling curious and felt that the voice was not familiar. Therefore, he lifted up the flap of the tent by a corner and peered outside, only to see under the moonlight, a person standing near a large tree on the left.

    Guo Jing went out of the tent and moved forward, only to see that person is dressed in a wide robe with large sleeves, his hair combed into a bun, neither looked like a man nor a women, the face shielded by the shadows of the tree, so it can't be seen clearly. This person is actually a Taoist priest, but Guo Jing had never saw a taoist priest before, and asked, "Who are you? Why are you looking for me?"

    That person said, "You are Guo Jing, aren't you?"

    "Yes", replied Guo Jing.

    That person demanded, "Where's your dagger that can cut iron as though it is mud? Take it out and show me!" His body suddenly moved and leapt close by to him, and sent out a palm aimed right on his chest. Guo Jing saw that the person attacked without reason, and his attacks are vicious, in his heart he was greatly surprised, and moved sideway immediately to evade, shouting, "What is that for?"

    The person said with a smile, "Just testing your abilities", and with his left arm, sent out a fist, with a strength that is fierce and swift.

    Guo Jing felt his anger rising, and slant his body to avoid the move, raised his hand and fiercely grabbed the enemy's wrist, and his left hand to take his opponent's elbow. This move by his hand, is actually "Strong Soldier Breaks the Wrist" (Zhuang Shi Duan Wan) from "Spilting the muscles and Rearranging the Bones Technique" (Fen Jing Cuo Gu Shou). You only need to catch hold of the enemy's wrist, and next the elbow, push front a little, then a twist, and with a "kacha" noise, the right wrist bone will immediately be twisted out of place. This "Spliting the muscles and Rearranging the Bones Technique" was passed on to him by his second teacher Zhu Cong. Although Zhu Cong's spoken language and everyday behaviour tends to be comical, his mind is actually very sharp. Ke Zhen E and him had secretly held several discussions about Mei Chao Feng. Although both her eyes were poisoned, her martial arts are queer and strange, perhaps she could even cure the posion. If she did not die, she will definitely seek revenge. The later she shows herself, the more thorough her plans are, and the more vicious and evil are her methods. Although in the past ten years, Mei Chao Feng had never ever shown any trace of her, the Six Freaks were never negligent, in fact, they were even more cautious then ever. Whenever Zhu Cong looked at the fingernail scars left by Mei Chao Feng on the back of his hand, he can't help but feel fearful, thinking about her having such strong martial arts, it will be very hard to harm her. Thus to resist "Nine Yin White Bone Claws", why not with "Splitting The Muscles and Rearranging the Bones Technique". This set of kung fu focuses on disalocating the bones and breaking their bones, using ultra fast methods, to attack the other party's limbs, skull and neck bone.

    Zhu Cong regretted that in the main country (Meaning china) in the past, he had never asked for advice from any Masters that are experts in this style of Kung Fu. And within the six brothers (and sister), none of them knows it.

    After some time, he thought, all the martial arts in the world are created by people. Since there is no one here to pass this on to me, will it be so hard for me to create my own? His nickname is "Clever Hands Bookworm" (Miao Shou Shu Sheng), his pair of hands are very fast. Furthermore, he is familiar with attacking the accupoints, thus knows the positions of accupoints on the human body well. With these unique talents, researching this "Splitting muscles and Rearranging the Bones" method isn't hard. After numerous years, the essense of this technique is deeply ingrained into him. Although this method may be different from Shao Lin Kung fu, however, it is still powerful. He then analysed and worked on it with Quan Jin Fa, and passed on all his technique to Guo Jing.

    At this time, Guo Jing is battling a strong opponent, and when he started attacking, the first move he used is "Splitting Muscles Rearranging Bones"'s strange moves.

    As he practiced this kungfu alot, though he may not be an expert in it, the way he used the moves are almost close to perfect. That person's wrist and elbow was suddenly being grasped by Guo Jing, and being shocked, he sent out his left palm swiftly, aiming towards Guo Jing's face. Guo Jing's both hands had just wanted to twist the enemy's wrist out of place, but who knows that the enemy's palm will suddenly come, and since both his hands are holding onto the enemy, he had no way to defend. Thus he could only let go and leapt backwards to sense the force of the palm sweeping his face with an uncomfortable hot burning sensation.

    When he turned around, he saw clearly, the enemy was actually a handsome youth around 17 to 18 years, with a refined look and long lashes. Only to hear him say in a low voice, "Your kung fu is not bad. Did not waste the Six Freaks of the South's ten years of teachings."

    Guo Jing was only using one palm to protect himself, so he became even more cautious and asked, "Who are you? Why are you looking for me?"

    The youth shouted, "Let's spar again." Before he even stopped speaking, he already raised his palms from his side.

    Guo Jing kept calm and did not move, and waited as he could feel the movement of the air caused by the enemy's palm nearing his chest. He moved his bother slightly with his left hand grasping the enemy's arm, and raised his right hand, and pinch the enemy's cheek, he only did to hold on the enemy's face and swiftly pull outwards, the jaw joint will then fall out of place.
    This move was given a funny name by Zhu Cong, called "Jokes will undo the jaws" (Xiao Yu Jie Yi), the meaning of laughing until the chin drops. However, this time around, the youth was more alert, and used his right hand to defend while attacking horizontally with his left. Guo Jing still used "Splitting Muscles and Rearranging Bones Technique" to defend. Within a short while, they have already matched more than 10 moves. That youth priest movements are light and lively, his palms are swift and dashing. Before the palm even hits, his body would already had moved, thus it is hard to tell how he is moving.

    The first time that Guo Jing fights an enemy after his time of learning martial arts, is already one with such high kung fu. After battling for awhile, he can't help but despair. The youth's left foot flew over, and with a pat, he hit Guo jing's right hip right on the target. Luckily, Guo Jing's basic kung fu is very strong, and the enemy did not use all his strength. Now, his body only shook a little, and immediately both his palms were flying again and protecting all the weak spots on his body, trying his best to protect and attack. The youth priest kept pressing on hard, and Guo Jing knew that he could almost not cope anymore, he suddenly heard a voice from behind him shouting, "Attack his lower body!" Guo Jing heard that it was his third teacher Han Bao Ju's voice, and felt joy in his heart, and angled his body to the right and turned around. He saw all his six teachers were already standing behind his back for a long time. Only with all his concentration focused on battling with the enemy, he did not discover that they were there.

    With this, his spirit rose greatlyy and followed his third teacher's advice, fiercely attacking the priest's lower body. That person's body form is light, and his lower body, as his third teacher said, was definitely not very strong. As the spectators could usually see the flaws easily from the sidelines, the six freaks of the South had saw his flaws right from the beginning. Being attacked by Guo Jing for a time, the youth can't help but fall back. Guo Jing saw that victory was near, and on seeing that the enemy had stumbled, he attacked with a series of "Yuan Yang" (Manderin Ducks) kicks, with both foot flying forth. Who knew that this enemy was only trying to lure Guo Jing with this trick, both Han Bao Ju and Han Xiao Ying called out together, "Watch out!"

    As Guo Jing lacks experience, and did not even know what to watch out for, when his right foot kicked out, it was already grasped by the enemy immediately.

    That youth priest took advantage of the way he kicked out his leg and sent his palms out to hit him. Guo Jing can't help it, but with a somersault, he fell onto the ground. He landed on his back and it hurt terribly. With a move "Carp flipping upright" (Li Yu Da Ting", he immediately sprung up to attack again, only to see that his six teachers have already surrounded the youth priest. The priest neither resist or tried to attack, only raised his hands together in a greeting manner, and said in a clear voice, "Disciple Yin Ping Zhi, following the instructions of my honoured teacher "Chang Chun Zi" Qiu Chu Ji, asks if masters are well." While saying that, he respectfully kowtowed.

    On hearing that this person is sent by Qiu Chu Ji, the Six Freaks of the South all felt curious, and feared that it may be part of a scheme, so they did not raise their arms to help him up. Yin Zhi Ping stood up, and took out a letter. With both hands, he presented it to Zhu Cong.

    Ke Zhen E heard the patrolling Mongolian soldiers coming nearer, so he said, "Let's talk inside."

    Yin Zhi Ping followed the six freaks into the tent. Quan Jin Fa lit up a candle made of sheep's fat. This is the tent that the five male freaks live in, Han Xiao Ying lived in another tent with other unmarried Mongolian women. Yin Zhi Ping saw that the furnishings in the tent were simple and coarse, and felt that the six freak's everyday life must be quite tough, so he bowed and said, "Every elder here must have suffered here for these years, my teacher is grateful to you beyond words, and he specially commanded disciple here to come and thank each of you."

    Ke Zhen E let out a hmph, thinking, "If the reason you are here is truly so, then why did you fight Jing-er till he fell over with a somersault? Unless you want to make us feel low before the competition?"

    By now, Zhu Cong had opened the envelope and removed the letter inside, in a clear and resonant voice, read out, "Quan Zhen disciple Qiu Chu Ji, greets respectfully the Six heroes of the South, Master Ke, Master Zhu, Master Han, Master Nan, Master Quan and Heroine Han. When we part in the south previously, the years had passed quickly. The Seven Heroes' promise is as heavy as a thousand taels of gold (meaning trustworthy etc.), with righteousness as tall as the clouds and the skies ***(insert similar phrases here but I'm not really sure how to translate)***. And it is really the chivalry and benevolence seen in olden days, coming back to life."

    When Ke Zhen E heard til this point, his wrinkled brow smoothed a little.

    Zhu Cong continued reading, "Master Zhang passed away in Northen Mongolia, it is really enough to make people sigh deeply grasping their wrists and always feeling sad, and can't even forget about it no matter how many days gone by. Lowly priest had relied on the fortune of you heroes, and luckily did not waste that fortune, after nine years of searching, I managed to find the Yang family's child."

    "Ah..." the other five freaks went simutaneously. They had known that Qiu Chu Ji is really capable and the disciples under the Quan Zhen sect is all over the world. It is expected for him to find Yang Tie Xin's family and offspring, because he must have always borne in mind the scheduled meeting for the martial arts competition in Jia Xing; but being able to find the female whose whereabouts are unknown, it is still regardlessly like searching for a needle in a haystack. When whether the child borned is a girl or boy, it is all up to the heavens. If it is a girl, there is still a limit to the power of her martial arts. Now hearing from the letter that the child has already be found, it gave them a momentarily shock. The six of them, had never told the Guo mother and child about this matter. Zhu Cong slide his eyes towards Guo Jing, and on seeing that his expression did not change, read on, "After two years, when the flowers are blooming and the grass long in Jiang Nan, will meet and drink with all you masters at the Drunken Goddess Pavillion. Life is gone like the dew, and these eighteen years are as though a dream. Will the brave heroes of the world laugh at my foolishness?" When he read to this point, he stopped.

    Han Bao Ju asked, "What is below?"

    "The letter ended there. It is definitely his handwriting," Zhu Cong replied.

    That day at the restaurent, Zhu Cong had once stole a piece of poetry from Qiu Chu Ji's pocket and could recognise his handwriting.

    Ke Zhen asked in a somber voice, "The Yang family's child is a male? His name is Yang Kang?"

    Yin Zhi Ping replied, "Yes."

    Ke Zhen E continued, "So he is your junior brother?"

    "Is my senior brother. Although disciple is older than him by a year, Yang senior brother had started learning from Quan Zhen earlier by two years," Yin Zhi Ping replied.

    The six freaks of the south had seen his kung fu, and Guo Jing is definitely not his match. If the junior brother is already so good, his senior brother must be even more powerful. At this point, they felt their hearts sinking. Not to mention, Qiu Chu Ji knows of their actions like the back of his hand, he even knew of Zhang Ah Sheng's death. They all felt that they are already on the losing end.

    Ke Zhen E said coldly, "When you sparred with him earlier, was it to test his abilities?"

    Yin Zhi Ping heard his tone of voice was hostile and felt anxious in his heart, hurriedly saying, "Disciple would not dare to."

    Ke Zhen E said, " Go back and tell your teacher although the six freaks of the south may not be as good, but they will definitely not miss the appointment at the Drunken Goddess Pavillion. Tell your teacher not to worry. We are not going to write a reply letter!"

    After hearing these sentences, Yin Ping Zhi did not know whether to comply or not, and felt very awkward. He followed his teacher's instructions to come up to the north to pass the letter, and Qiu Chu Ji had indeed told him to find a way to test Guo Jing's character and kungfu. The Man of Eternal Spring (Chang Chun Zi) cares about his friend's son, and it was actually out of a good intention. But Yin Ping Zhi as a youth is naturally more troublesome, and on reaching the Mongolian plains, he did not rush to see the six freaks, but instead sparred with Guo Jing in the middle of the night.

    Now, on seeing the unfriendly expressions the six freaks were wearing, his heart started to fear and did not dare to delay any longer, and first bowed to everyone, saying, "Disciple will go now."

    Ke Zhen E suddenly said in a sharp tone, "You should turn a somersault too!", and swiftly sweeping his left arm out, he caught hold of Yin Zhi Ping's collar. Yin Zhi Ping got a big fright, and with both his hands, tried with all his might to push away Ke Zhen E's arms. However, how would he know that if he did not attempt to get away, he would only had been made to fall with a somersault. But by hitting back, he only made Ke Zhen E more angry. With his left arm bent, he lifted up Yin Zhi Ping's entire body, and with a "hey" sound, threw this little priest heavily onto the ground.

    From this fall, Yin Zhi Ping's back was hurting so badly as though it was cracked, and after awhile, slowly struggled to get up, and limped away.

    Han Bao Ju said, "The little priest have no manners. It's a good thing that big brother taught him a lesson."

    Ke Zhen E was silently thinking, and after quite a long while, took a deep sigh. As the five freaks felt the same way and all were depressed.

    Nan Xi Ren suddenly said, "No matter what, still have to fight, even if it could not be won!"

    Han Xiao Ying said, "Fourth brother is right. After we seven people become sworn siblings, we had gone over the world together. We had gone through so many dangers and the seven freaks of the south had never retreated."

    Ke Zhen E nodded and said to Guo Jing, "Go back to sleep. We will work harder starting from tomorrow."

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    Since then, the Six Freaks of the Jiangnan were even more severe in their teaching. However, in studies or martial arts, like in music and in the checkers, when someone looks for a fast success, he risks to get precisely the opposite effect and to stagnate. The Six hopped for so much from their disciple that they exercised a big pressure on him. To make things eve harder, Guo Jing didn't have a quick and intelligent mind, on the contrary, he was even slower than most young of his age. The more the wanted from him, the more he panicked and lose his means. Since the nocturnal visit of Yi Zhiping, he didn’t made much of a progress for three months, he even seemed to have regressed! It was precisely what the popular believe says: "The one that hurries too much doesn't arrive safely", and "The one that swallows too much digests badly."

    In fact, the Six Freaks were all remarkable masters in their respective arts, acquired at the cost of constant efforts on a long period. Wasn’t it a illusion to wish that Guo Jing acquires such a mastery of all those arts in just some years? Even an extremely gifted person would have a lot of troubles to accomplish such a prodigy, then how could someone hope the same thing from a young not very gifted? The Six had conscience of the problem, considering the character of Guo Jing, he could have practiced the techniques of Han Baoju or Nan Xiren at most and, after twenty or thirty years of fierce efforts, maybe he could have half of their respective strength. If Zhang Asheng had not died prematurely, his teaching would have been the most adapted to Guo Jing. But the Six wanted to beat Qiu Chuji so much that, even knowing that it would be better to teach only one art rather than to touch to all, they could not resolve to remain crossed arms, without teaching everything they knew to this dumb disciple. During the last sixteen years, Zhu Cong had not stopped thinking about the fights in the pavilion of the drunk Immortals and in the Temple of the beaming law. He reviewed with precision every movement and every stroke of Qiu Chuji. But he had good turn and return them in his mind, he didn't succeed in finding any flaw. Sometimes, he even thought that only Copper corpse and Iron corpse could be able to beat the Taoist.

    That morning, Han Xiaoying taught to Guo Jing two movements of the sword of the Yue girl. To execute the first, "The Branch hits the white gorilla", it was necessary to bound, make two turns with the sword before straightening it up to attack. Guo Jing had worked a lot the stability of the lower members, but missed of agility in the jumps. He could hardly make a half a turn in air that he was already falling heavily. After seven or eight attempts, he didn't succeed in making it better. Han Xiaoying began to get angry and forced herself to keep calm. She continued her explanations, indicating him how to land on tiptoe, how to take his impulse, etc. But when he jumped sufficiently high, he forgets of doing the rolls, or the other way around.

    Han Xiaoying thought that, the Seven had passed more than ten years in the rigors of the Mongolian desert, that the Fifth brother had lost his life here, and after all that the result was so disappointing! She felt a pain in her heart and exploded in sobs. Throwing her sword on the ground, and she left, the hands covering her face.

    Guo Jing ran behind her, but didn't succeed to catch her up. He stayed there, stupidly immobile, with his heart broken. He knew that he owed everything to his Shifus, and only hoped to succeed in the martial arts, in order to prove them of his recognition. But he had good make all the efforts he could, he didn't managed to succeed and he didn't knew what to do anymore.
    He was lost in his thoughts, when he suddenly heard the voice of Huazheng call him :

    - Guo Jing, come quickly! Come quickly!

    He turned around and saw her in a horse, with a anxious and excited face at same time.

    - What happened? asks Guo Jing.

    - Come to see, quickly, answered Huazheng. There’s a fight with two big eagles.

    - I’m training now.

    - Did you train soo badly and your Shifu scold you, am I wrong?

    Guo Jing nodded with the head miserably.

    - It is indeed a terrifying fight, come let’s see it...

    Guo Jing was very tempted, but he remembered the disappointment he was for his Seventh Shifu, and shook the head sadly :

    - I won't go.

    - I came especially to warn you, said Huazheng excited . If you don't come, don't expect to find me later!

    - Go then alone quickly. You will tell me after how it went, it will be almost the same thing...

    Huazheng jumped down from the horse, making a stubborn face:

    - If you don't go there, I won't go either. I wonder if its the black eagles who are going to win, or the white ones...

    - Is it the couple of big white eagles, that live on cliff?

    - Yes! But even the black eagles outnumber them the white ones are still very dangerous: they already killed three or four blacks with their beak...

    On the top of the cliff, nestled a couple of white eagles of an exceptional size. The white feather was already rare among the eagles, and these eagles were not only completely white but also of a exceptional size. The Ancients used to say that never saw any equals to them, and considered those eagles as divine birds. Some women even vowed them a cult.

    While hearing her, Guo Jing didn't hold it anymore. He took the hand of Huazheng, and the two bounded on the back of the horse and rushed to the cliff. When they got there, they saw the white eagles against seventeen or eighteen black ones, attacking them with their beaks and their fangs, making feathers fly in the air. The white eagles were bigger and stronger. A single stroke of their powerful beak on the head was enough to kill an enemy, who fell then on the ground. The others ran away, but came back soon after to surrounding the couple.

    The spectacle had attracted many spectators, more than six hundred men and women, from many tribes, were reunited and commenting the fight. Even Temüjin, accompanied of Ögödei and Tolui, had come and watched the fight with interest.

    Guo Jing, Tolui and Huazhengs often played at the bottom of the cliff, and saw the white eagles nearly every day fly around their nest, or to leave it when going to hunt. Sometimes, the children threw them some cuts of sheep meat, the eagles then dove and snatched while in the air with precision. By doing this they created somme affection ties between the, and the eagles. As, the white eagles were lower in number, the children encouraged them with more vigor :

    - Go, white eagles! Attack! Attention, enemy on the left! Quickly! Well!

    Two black eagles fell again, but the white eagles were also wounded, and their white feathers were covered with blood. Suddenly, a particularly big black eagle uttered several screams and ran away, followed by about ten of its mates. They disappeared in the clouds. Four other black eagles remained fighting. Seeing the victory of the white eagles, the spectators uttered screams of joy. Shortly after, three other black eagles ran also away to the east, pursued by one the white eagles. Soon, they were out of view. Only a black eagle tried to escape the remaining white eagle, and was going to succumb, when one heard strident noises coming from clouds, and about ten of the black eagles that had previously ran away appeared out of the clouds and attacked the white eagle.

    - Excellent strategy! exclaimed Temüjin, admiring.

    The isolated white eagle was not able to, spite of its bravery, resist the constant assault of its adversaries and fell on the cliff, overwhelmed by black eagles. The children were very worried, and Huazheng exploded in sobs :

    - Quickly, dad! she says crying. Kill the black eagles!

    But Temüjin was thinking about the ruse implemented by the winners.

    - The black eagles won, he says to Ögödei and Tolui, thanks to a very clever strategy. Don’t forget it!

    His two sons acquiesced.

    After having finished the white eagle, the black eagles hurried towards a cavity, in the cliff: one could see the head of two white eaglets, that would probably succumb to the strokes of their aggressors.

    - Guo Jing, watch! cries Huazheng. The eagles had some eaglets! How come we never notice them? Ah, dad! shot quickly to kill these black eagles!

    Temüjin smiles, aimed his bow and pulled an arrow of iron that, like the lightning, crossed the body of a black eagle from part to part. The crowd applauded. The Khan then gave his bow to Ögödei :

    - It’s your turn!

    Ögödei pulled, and also knocked his target down, as well as Tolui. The black eagles started to panic.

    Other officers and soldiers also started to help the white eaglets, but the fowls had taken the height, and it became very difficult to reach them.

    - A reward for those that will make a hit! shouts Temüjin.

    Jebe, skilled archer, wanted that Guo Jing, his pupil, had its hour of glory, and stretched him his own bow of war :

    - Knee on the ground, recommended him in a low voice, aim the neck.

    Guo Jing complied, putting his right knee on the ground. His left hand firmly held the powerful bow, that he bandaged with the right hand. After ten years of training with the Six Freaks of the Jiangnan, even if he had not assimilated the sophisticated martial arts, one of the less he had acquired the strength of the arms and a outstanding precision when aiming. Seeing two eagles flying in concert on the left, he turned, aimed the neck and released his projectile.

    It was precisely, as the popular expression described it: "The bow bandaged as the full moon, the arrow spinning like a meteorite". The first eagle didn't have the time to escape that the arrow had already pierced its neck, before continuing its way as far as planting itself in the flank of the second fowl! Only one arrow for two eagles, who fell like stones! The crowd noisily applauds, the other eagles didn't waited anymore and rushed to disperse themselves.

    - Offer the two eagles to my father, whispered Huazheng in the ear of Guo Jing.

    This one obeys: he collected the two eagles, ran to Temüjin and, kneeling, he offered the two eagles to him respectfully.

    Temüjin appreciated, above all, the valorous fighters. He was delighted to see Guo Jing suddenly bringing two eagles down, specially since these eagles from the North were dangerous birds: the span of their wings passed the meter, their feather was as hard as iron, and they were so strong that they could seize and carry away in the airs ponies or big sheep! Even tigers and leopards were afraid of them! And to kill two eagles with a single arrow constituted therefore a remarkable exploit.

    - Brave boy, says Temüjin while accepting the offering. You manage the bow quite well!

    - It is master Jebe that taught it to me.

    - The master is Jebe, says Temüjin while laughing, the disciple is also jebe.

    In Mongol, jebe means "skilled archer."

    - Dad, said Tolui that wanted to help his brother by pact, you promised a reward to the one that would bring an eagle down. My anda killed two of them of a stroke. What reward you will grant him?

    - What he wants, answered Temüjin while smiling. Guo Jing, what do you want?

    - Is it true? insists Tolui, delighted. All what he wants?

    - Do I have the habit to lie… even to children?

    During all these years, Guo Jing had lived under the Khan's protection. Everyone, in the tribe, liked him for his simplicity and his kindness, and no one rejected him even if he was Chinese. Seeing the Khan in a good mood, all had turned towards the young man, hoping that he would get a good reward.

    - The Khan was so good for me, said Guo Jing, my mother has everything that she needs, you don’t need to have the trouble of giving me a reward...

    - That a good example of filial piety, says Temüjin. You always think about your mother first... But for yourself, what you wish? Speak without fear.

    Guo Jing thinks a instant, and then knelt before Temüjin:

    - I don't want anything for me, but I have a wish to address to the Khan for someone else.

    - What is it? asks Temüjin.

    - Dushi, the son of Senggüm, is bad and mean. So if Huazheng marries him, she will be very unhappy for sure. I implore the Khan to not give her in marriage to this ignoble men.

    Temüjin was disconcerted at first but exploded in laugh after.

    - These are indeed wishes of a child! How could this be possible? Alright, I am going to give you a very precious object.

    He detached from his belt a dagger that he handed to Guo Jing. All officers showed their admiration and their desire noisily: it was the preferred weapon of Temüjin, with which he had killed innumerable enemies. If he had not made a solemn promise a while ago, he would never detached himself from it.

    Guo Jing thanked and took the dagger. He had often seen it on the Khan's belt, but it was the first time that he examined it closely: the girdle was of pure gold, and the extremity of the handful was decorated with a grinning head of a tiger in gold also.

    - Take my golden dagger, said Temüjin, and kill some enemies for me.

    - Yes, answered Guo Jing.

    Huazheng exploded in sobs, bounded on her horse and left at full speed. Temüjin had a hardened heart, but he could not stop from sighing while thinking of his daughter's pain. He then took the path of the camp, followed by his officers and soldiers.

    After the crowd had dispersed itself, Guo Jing drew the dagger and felt the coldness of the blade, on which one had the impression of seeing traces of blood. This weapon was short, but massive, and it impressed him because it had killed so many people! He manipulated it during one moment and then put it back in its sheath, that he attached to his belt. Then he drew his sword and started practicing “the sword of the Yue girl”. But, in spite of all his efforts, he didn't succeed in executing the movement "branch that hits the white gorilla" correctly : either he didn't jump sufficiently high or he didn't have the time to make the trolls. The more he got excited, the less he mastered his breath, the result was catastrophic and he was sweating heavily. Sudden, he heard a gallop: it was Huazheng caming back.

    Arrived not far from him, she got off the horse and lay down on the grass of the prairie, the chin put on a hand, to watch Guo train. Seeing that het seemed to suffer awfully, she shouted to him :

    - Stop, rest for a while.

    - Don't come to disturb me, retorted Guo Jing, I don't have the time to chat with you.

    Huazheng didn't say anything else, observing him while smiling. Then, she took a handkerchief from her fob, made two knots, and threw it to him :

    - Wipe your sweat with it!

    Guo Jing grumbled, but didn't look to catch it up, continuing to train.

    - In a little while, she asked, you implored dad to not marry me with Dushi. Why?

    - Dushi is very mean; once, he had released the leopards so that they devour your brother Tolui. If you marry him, maybe he will beat you...

    - If he beats me, you will come to defend me!

    - But, says Guo Jing, speechless, how would this be possible...

    - Then, said Huazheng while looking at him with tenderness, if I don't marry him, who will marry me?

    - I don't know, says Guo Jing while shaking the head.

    - Peuh! gets Huazheng, of which the face that blushed in a little while became suddenly furious. You never know anything!

    Some instants later, she softens. One heard the eaglets, to the summit of the cliff, to squeal. Then some atrocious screams resounded in the sky: it was the second white eagle that came back, after having been, attracted very far by the black eagles. From afar, he saw its beloved companion dead on the cliff, and flew like a white cloud in concentric circles.

    Guo Jing stopped and raised the head. The white eagle didn't stop whirling, while uttering screams of pain.

    - Watch, says Huazheng, as the eagle is unhappy!

    - Yes, acquiesced Guo Jing, it must be so sad.

    The eagle uttered a long scream and flew off suddenly towards the most elevated clouds.

    - Why does it go up so high? wondered Huazheng.

    Then the eagle come down again like an arrow and to dive on the cliff, where it smashed itself. Terrified, Guo Jing and Huazhengs uttered a scream of surprise, and didn't know what to say.

    Suddenly, they heard a loud voice behind them :

    - Admirable! Admirable!

    They turned around and saw a taoist white-haired and with a red-face. His clothing was weird: his hair was covered with three high chignons, and he wore a immaculate dress of taoist, what was rather surprising in this windy and dusty plain. As he had spoken in Chinese, Huazheng didn't understand him, and she lost interest about him.

    - The two eaglets lose their father and mother, she says while looking up to the top of the cliff, how will they survive now?

    The extremely steep cliff went up until the sky, it was practically impossible to climb it. Obviously, the two eaglets, who had not yet learned to fly, were going to die of hunger in their nest.

    - Except, says Guo Jing, if someone has some wings and go there flying! It is the only way to save them...

    He collected his sword and start to practice. In spite of all his efforts, he still didn't manage to execute his movement, and began to despair, when he heard behind him a voice say coldly :

    - That way, you will have good drag your sword hundred years, you won't progress of a hair!

    Guo Jing turned around: it was the taoist with the three chignons.

    - What did you say? he wondered.

    The man smiles, didn't answer, but suddenly advanced. Guo Jing felt like his arm was paralyzed and, without knowing how, saw his sword, that he held firmly, in the hand of the taoist! Zhu Cong had already taught him the technique “to seize a blade on bare hands”; even though he didn't masteries it entirely, he had assimilated the principles of it. However, this time, he didn't have the smallest idea of the way of which the taoist had seized his weapon. Scared, he moved back three steps, standing before Huazheng to protect her, and drew the knife of Temüjin.

    - Watch closely! shouts the taoist.

    He bounds and, as if of nothing was, made six or seven trolls with the sword, before falling again softly on his feet. Guo Jing stayed in awe.

    The man threw the sword on the ground and says while laughing :

    - The white eagle was admirable, it is necessary to save its offspring!

    He sprang towards the cliff, that he began climbing at full speed, while using his feet and hands, as agile as a monkey, as light as a bird. The slope, rose very high and was in part as stiff as a wall. But the slightest bump was sufficient to him to climb up higher. Even when the rock appeared smooth like a mirror, he succeeded in climbing like a lizard.

    Guo Jing and Huazhengs had were very anxious, if he slipped, the fall would definitely kill him. The silhouette became smaller and smaller, and gave the impression to enter into the clouds. The girl closed the eyes, in fear of seeing what could happen:

    - Where is he now?

    - He arrived nearly to the summit, answered Guo Jing. There, he made it!

    Opening the eyes, she saw the taoist fly off as if he was going to fall and pushed a scream of fright. In fact, he landed on the summit, the large sleeves of his dress floated on the violent wind that blew, and one had the impression, seen from below, that he was a huge bird.

    The man slipped the hand in the nest, caught the two eaglets and sized them against his chest. Then, back to the slope, he let himself slip, clinging of the hand on a bump or giving a kick from time to time, to slow down his fall, and reached the ground in next to no time at all.

    Guo Jing and Huazhengs ran towards him. He took the eaglets and said to the girl, in Mongol, :

    - Will you take good care of them?

    - Yes, yes, yes, hastened to answer Huazheng, surprise and delighted, while stretching the hands.

    - Attention to their beak, warned the taoist, they are small, but their bite is dangerous...

    Huazheng undid its belt and attached the fledglings by the paw, and took them against her, delighted, :

    - I am going to look for meat to feed them.

    - Wait, says the taoist. It is necessary that you promise me one thing, if you want the eaglets.

    - What?

    - You must not tell anyone that I climbed the cliff to catch the birds.

    - Okay, says Huazheng joyously. That, it is easy. I won't say it to anyone.

    - While growing, warned the taoist while smiling, these two white eagles will become terrifying. Attention while feeding them!

    All happy, she tells Guo Jing :

    - Each one of us will have one, its me who will keep them for the meantime, okay?

    Guo Jing nodded the head, Huazheng rode on her horse and left.

    The young man stayed immobile, as petrified, reviewing in his head the ease of the movements of the taoist executing "The Branch hits the white gorilla." The man grabbed the sword and offered it to him with kindliness and turned the heels. Seeing that he was leaving, Guo Jing says, in panic:

    - You... please... Don't leave...

    - What for?

    Guo Jing scraped his head, not knowing what to say. Suddenly, he prostrated, knocking the soil of his forehead, without stopping.

    - Why do you prostrate before me? asks for the taoist.

    He had a face full of kindness. Guo Jing, the big heart, had the impression that he met a parent, to whom he was able all to confide himself. Suddenly, two big tears flowed on its cheeks, and he says while hiccupping :

    - Me... Me... I am very dumb, I don't manage to learn the martial arts, and I am a disappointment to my six Shifus, to whom I owe everything...

    - What are you going to do?

    - I have good to give all of me day and night, still I don't manage to do it properly... I really don’t manage to learn it...

    - Do you want that I indicate you a way?

    - Yes, please! replies Guo Jing, while prostrating again.

    The taoist smiles :

    - It seems to me that you are full of sincerity. Very well, let's meet each other again in three days, we will be in fifteenth day of the month. When the moon will be full, I will wait for you at the summit of the cliff. But you must not say it to anyone!

    Then he left.

    - But I won't be able to climb there, protested Guo Jing in a rush.

    The taoist didn't answer, one had the impression that his feet didn't touch the earth at all, and he was already far away.

    "He made it on purpose to embarrass me, visibly, he doesn't want to teach me. "Then he says himself: "I am not yet without a Shifu, my six Shifus give themselves such a pain to teach me, its me that is stupid, what choices I have ? This Ancient is probably very strong, but I won't be able to learn from him anyway what he knows, then why should I even try"?

    He contemplated the top of the cliff, and then he tried to not think more about it. He took his sword, and repeated again and again "The branch hits the white gorilla", until the sunset, when the hunger pushed him to go back home.

    Three days has passed in the blink of an eye. This afternoon, Han Baoju taught him the “Whip of the gold Dragon”. This kind of flexible weapons required a particular attention: if one didn't master all the refinements of it, not only one didn't reach the enemy, but one risked to get injured by himself. Guo Jing, precisely, made a false movement, and "splash", the whip turned against him, striking on the head and causing a big bump. Han Baoju, who has a legendary harsh character, immediately returned him a slap. Guo Jing didn't dare to shy away and continued to practice. Seeing him make a lot of efforts, Han Baoju regretted to have lost the temper. Even though the pupil made mistakes several times again, the master didn't scold him anymore. He showed him five more movements, encouraged him, and recommended to train all by himself and left on his horse.

    To practice the “Whip of the gold Dragon” wasn’t a easy task: after having executed about ten times the set of the sequences, Guo Jing had the forehead, the arms, and the thighs covered with blues. Tired and aching of all parts, he fell asleep on the grass. When he woke up, the moon appeared behind the mountains. He felt burning pains on the whole body and notably on the cheek, where Han Baoju had slapped him.

    Contemplating the top of the cliff, he had suddenly a burst of self-esteem: "If the taoist can climb up there, why not me"? he thought while tightening the teeth. He ran to the cliff and began to climb it, clinging on the plants that grew there, going up slowly. At the end of six or seven zhang*, the cliff became completely smooth, without any vegetation nor bump. How to advance in these conditions?

    He tightened his teeth, tried on two occasions, but his foot slipped every time, and he almost displaced it. Understanding that all new attempt would be in vain, he wanted to come down again. But while glancing behind him, he was terrorized: he had forced the path in his ascension, and now, his feet were unable to use the same steady points in the way down. If he jumped, it was certain to smash himself below!

    In this desperate situation, it came to his mind the words of his Fourth Shifu: "In this world, there’s nothing impossible to the men of good will." Since the death watched him of all parts, rather than remain in an untenable position, it was better to continue. He drew his dagger and dug two small holes, in which he placed one foot slowly and steady, and then the other, after having felt the solidity of his support. He rose thus of a few more inches. Then he continued to dig the wall, to hold with his feet, rising thus laboriously of a zhang*, cause of the hard task his head started to turn and his members were exhausted.

    He the stopped to take clear his mind, he hold sticky against the wall and controlled his breathing. Then he wondered how many holes it would be necessary to dig again before arriving at the summit, because as strong as his dagger was, this one provably wouldn’t be able to dig about ten more holes, and it would break then. But, since he had arrived at this point, he could not go back anymore. After a brief rest, he got ready to dig again when he heard a burst of laugh coming from the summit of the cliff.

    Not daring to bend backward to look, he remained the nose against the smooth wall of the cliff and only wondered from where came this laugh without having the power to watch upwards. He then saw a big rope slip down and stop next to him. Then he heard the voice of the taoist to say :

    - Attach the rope around your size, I am going to pull you up.

    Delighted, Guo Jing enclosed his dagger, assured a hold of his left hand, took the rope with the right hand and rolled it up around his size two times and made two knots.

    - Did you attach it firmly? shouts the taoist.

    - Its done, said Guo Jing.

    The taoist seemed to not have heard.

    - Did you attach it? he asks again.

    - Its done, repeated Guo Jing, with out any result.

    Some instants later, the taoist laughs again and says :

    - Ah, I forgot: your breath is not yet sufficiently powerful, your voice cannot carry as far as mine. If you tied it well, pull three times the rope!

    Guo Jing obeys and pulled three times. Suddenly, the rope stretched itself, his body flew off toward the summit of the cliff, as on a cloud. He knew that the taoist was going to pull it, but not at such speed. In the blink of an eye, he fell again on his feet, just in face of the old man.

    He knelt and got ready to prostrate, but the taoist hold him by the arm.

    - Three days ago, you already prostrated more than an hundred times, it is amply enough! Well, you are a child with a good character!

    On the summit of the cliff spread a flat ground covered by snow. The taoist showed two big round rocks that looked vaguely like stools :

    - Sit there.

    - I will remain standing to serve you, Shifu, said Guo Jing.

    - You don't belong to my school, says the taoist while smiling. I am not your Shifu, and you are not my disciple. Sit then.

    Guo Jing, perplexed, obeyed and sat down.

    - Your six Shifus, continued the old man, are eminent personalities of the martial arts world, I don't know them personally, but I always felt a lot of admiration for them. It would be more than enough for you to acquire the technique of one of them to make yourself a name in the Streams and the Lakes region. It is not due to a lack of efforts from your part, and yet, during the last ten years, you didn't progress that much. Do you know why?

    - It is because I am too dumb, my Shifus have good to teach me the best they can, it won't serve to anything.

    - It’s not really cause of you, moderated the taoist. It would be rather, as the popular byword says, if "those that teach don't know how to teach, those that learn wont learn anything!"

    - Shif... Euh, I don't understand what you want to say.

    - If we look only to the plain martial arts, the level to which you arrived today is already not negligible. Only, at the time of your first real fight since the beginning of your formation, when you have been beaten by the taoist kid, you questioned yourself, and thought it was impossible to you to beat him. However, on this point, you are completely mistaken!

    "How does he know of this matter? wondered Guo Jing."

    - This taoist kid made you do a somersault, but he arrived there by ruse. In the fundamental techniques, it’s not at all certain that he surpasses you. Besides, your six Shifus are probably as strong as I am, that’s why I cannot teach you the martial arts.

    - Yes, says Guo Jing.

    "He’s right, thought Guo. My six Shifus are very strong, it’s me that is too dumb."

    - Your seven Shifus made a bet, pursued the taoist. If I teach you some martial art, your masters will be sad while learning it. They are brave, who grant a lot of importance to loyalty and to honor, and that would refuse to take advantage of some unfair advantage in a bet.

    - What bet? wondered Guo Jing.

    - You don’t know about it then? Well, if your masters didn't told you anything about it yet, it’s cause you don't have to know about it at the present. During the next two years, they will certainly explain you in detail. Let's make as this: you are full of sincerity, and it seems that our meeting was written in the destiny. Then, I am going to teach you some methods to breathe, to sit down, to walk and to sleep.

    The astonishment of Guo Jing didn't know any boundary-marks anymore. To "breathe, to sit down, to walk, to sleep, thought for himself, I know how to do that already, why would I have to learn it again"? he thought about a lot of questions, but didn't let anything of it to appear.

    - Remove the snow on this big rock, ordered the taoist, you will be able to sleep there.

    Guo Jing found it strange, but obeyed. He swept the layer of snow and laid down on the rock.

    - Not like that, says the taoist. If it is to sleep like that, I don't have need to teach it to you. Here are four formulas, remember them well: "When the thought sets, the feelings will be forgotten"; "When the body empties, the breath will circulate"; "When the heart dies, the mind will live"; "When the sun abounds, the darkness will vanish."

    Guo Jing repeated the formulas several times to learn them by heart, but he didn't understand the sense of them.

    - Before sleeping, pursued the taoist, it’s necessary to clarify the mind, to let no thought nor no preoccupation there. Then, it is necessary to consolidate the body, while lying down on the side, and breathe in a continuous way by the nose, so that the soul doesn't wander inside and that the mind doesn't go outside.

    Thus, he taught Guo the breathing and the mastery of the breath, the technique to meditate and to eliminate the worries.

    Guo Jing made what the taoist indicated to him: in the beginning, his thoughts stayed chaotic, difficult to control. But after having applied the method of breathing, to exhale and to inspire deeply, slowly at the end of a certain time, he felt his heart to calm down, a tepid breath thrust to go up slowly in his dan tian (hypogastrium). An icy wind blew on the summit of the cliff, but he didn't feel any difficulty to resist it. He remained immobile, stretched out on the side, during close to an hour, before feeling some “ants” in the members. The taoist, that was sitting cross legged in front of him, practicing the meditation, opened the eyes :

    - Now, said the taoist, you can fall asleep.

    Guo Jing obeys and fell asleep. When he woke up, the rays of the sun began to point at the East. The taoist let him go down attached by to the rope, telling him to come back in the same evening, while recommending him to not speak of it to anyone.

    Guo Jing returned the same evening there, the taoist brought him up by the same rope. Taken by his practice with the six Shifus, it often happened to him to not go back home from the night, and his mother didn't worry about him.

    Thus, he went in the evening and left at dawn, practicing all night the meditation and the mastery of the breath on the summit of the cliff. It was weird: the taoist didn't teach him any movement at all, not the least sequence, and yet, in his daily practices, he became lighter and faster. Six months later, the movements that he didn't manage to do at all once were executed perfectly. The sequences that he could had never executed before some months ago, were executed with speed and precision. The Six Freaks of the Jiangnan believed that, with the age and the regular practice, he was finally himself open to the martial arts, didn't feel anymore the frustration they had at the beginning of his training.

    Every evening, when he arrived to the cliff, the taoist climbed with him, showing how to use his breath and his strength. They went up together until he was incapable of continuing, the taoist then rushed itself to the summit and raised him with the rope. With the passing of the months, the young man climbed more and more quickly, and higher and higher. The steps once so difficult were cleared of only one jump! Only some particularly difficult places required the help of the rope.

    Another year passed, it remained only some months before the competition, the Six Freaks of the Jiangnan could only speak of this event, that was going to probably change the world of the martial arts and to attract the attention of all the brave of the country. Seeing the lightning progress of Guo Jing, the Six were sure to win, and the idea to review their native country of the Jiangnan filled them of joy. However, they still didn’t explain to Guo Jing the reasons of the this competition.

    That morning, Nan Xiren says to Guo Jing :

    - My small Jing, these last months, you privileged the weapons. Maybe you lack to practice the fight on bare hands. Today, we are going to work the palms more.

    Guo Jing nodded the head.

    They arrived to the land where they usually trained. Nan Xiren got ready to begin the lesson when they suddenly saw a clouds of dust to rise not far, accompanied by screams and neighs. A herd of horses approached at big gallop, the beasts were agitated, the Mongol who kept them had problems to retain their ardors with the whip.

    Hardly they were a little calmed that one could see suddenly, coming from the west, a small red horse with the fur of fire to speed along in the herd, he harassed it with paws and bites, before disappearing northwards at the speed of wind. Then, the red tornado came back in the blink of an eye, like a lightning, provoking a considerable tumult again. Furious, the guards of herd tried to capture this spoilsport, but this one was so fast that it was impossible to catch it. In one instant, he had moved away and had held to several zhangs away, neighing gladly, as if he was very proud of the shambles that he had sowed. The Mongol didn't really know if should laugh or be angry. When the small horse charged down for the third time, several guards pulled some arrows in its direction, but he was so astute and fast that he departed as the projectiles were going to reach it. An expert in martial arts couldn’t have made it any better!

    The Six Freaks and Guo Jings were fascinated. Even Han Baoju, that liked the horses above all, had never seen an as magnificent and fast animal. His own setting, Pursuit of wind, was already of a rare speed, unequaled even in Mongolia. However, the small red horse surpassed them all. Han asked the guards from where came this marvel.

    - This wild horse, answered a guard, it come from some mountain. A few days ago, we saw it and found it so beautiful that we wanted to capture it, without succeeding. But this attempt put it of mean mood and, these last days, it doesn't stop coming to bother us.

    - It is not a horse, said an old shepherd, very serious.

    - What is it then? wondered Han Baoju.

    - It is a transformed celestial dragon, we shouldn’t bother him!

    - A dragon transformed in horse! mocked another shepherd. What a nonsense!

    - What do you know of it, kid? Me that kept horses during several years, I never saw an animal as fabulous as this one, ever!

    He had not finished to speak that the small red horse sped along again in the herd.

    The equestrian art of Han Baoju, nicknamed divine King of the horses, was evidently remarkable. Even the Mongol, who constantly lived in saddle, recognized his superiority. Seeing that the small horse came back, and knowing well which way he was going to leave, he stood to a strategic position, and waited the passage of the animal. When this one approached, he suddenly bounds, of a so very calculated jump that he was persuaded to straddle the beast. He had tamed so many stubborn horses in his life that he had the conviction that once on its back, he wouldn’t fall. However, in a split of a second, the small red horse accelerated, thus making Han Baoju miss his stroke. Furious, this one run after him furious, but how could he have caught up with such a beast?

    Suddenly, someone bounds and seizes, of the left hand, the mane of the horse that, surprised, galloped even faster. Always clutched, the man let himself drag, with his body floating in air.

    All spectators noisily applauded.

    Astonished and delighted, the Six Freaks noted that it was Guo Jing that was being cheered!

    - But where, asks Zhu Cong, did he learn a lightness technique as this sophisticated?

    - Our Jing made immense progresses lately, said Han Xiaoying. Could it be his defunct father that protects him, from the top of the sky? Or would it be Fifth brother?...

    How could they have known that, during the two draining years, the taoist of the three chignons have taught him every evening, on the summit of the cliff, the art of the mastery of the breath? Even if he didn’t taught him the least movement of fight, he had initiated him to the superior art of the neigong.

    Every evening, when he climbed and descended of the cliff, Guo Jing practiced in fact, without the knowledge, a very subtle lightness technique, called "Flight of the golden eagle". Of a natural simple and confident mind, he was completely unconscious of what he had learn from the taoist. The progress that he accomplished in the mastery of his internal energy, or in this technique of the "Flight of the golden eagle”, only appeared when he practiced the lightness technique with Zhu Cong, Quan Jinfa or Han Xiaoying. Himself didn't realize it, and the Six Freaks were only pleasantly surprised of his performances, without suspecting of the truth.

    Now seeing the lightness of their disciple and his suppleness, that didn’t corresponded at all to what they had taught to him, they looked at themselves with astonishment, suspecting that the young man had another master.

    Suddenly, Guo Jing made a somersault in air and fell again astride on the back of the horse. This one reared, gave strokes of backward paw, bounding of all sides, as possessed! But the boy tightened the thighs and didn't let himself fall.

    Han Baoju shouted him some instructions and gave him some tricks to master his setting, that ran with a vigor renewed during more of one hour, apparently untiring.

    The public was in awe: the old shepherd knelt and whispered some prayers, imploring the sky not to punish the men for having offended the dragon-horse, before shouting to Guo Jing to let him go. But this one didn't hear anything, glued to the horse as if he was attached by a rope, reacting to all of his movements smoothly.
    - Come down of that horse, shouted Han Xiaoying. Let your Third Shifu replace you...

    - Absolutely not! protests Han Baoju. Changing the trainer now would risk all to work he has done till now!

    He knew very well that such a stallion had to have a strong character: if someone manage to tame it, it would fear its master and would stay forever faithful to him. But if more than one tried to overcome it, it would rather die than to submit!

    Guo Jing also had an obstinate character. He started to become tired when he slipped his arms around the neck of the horse, and began to tighten it, making use of his internal energy. The animal bounds, jumps, shook itself in all directions, without getting rid of this pressure that was suffocating it. It then knew that it had met its master, and stopped itself.

    - Bravo! exclaimed Han Baoju, delighted. That’s it! You have succeeded!

    Fearing that the horse would run away, Guo Jing didn't dare to come down from it.

    - You can come down, reassured him Han Baoju. Now, it will follow you all your life. Even if you would like to get rid of it you wouldn’t be able to do it...

    The young man jumped on the ground. The horse licked his the hand, showing a big affection, that made laugh everyone there. A guard approached it a little too near and the animal gave him a “horse kick” that made him make the somersault. Guo Jing took it then close to the water, to clean it and calm it down.

    As this session of horse raising had tired him a lot, the Six dispensed him from the practice for now, but the doubt tapped them.

    After the lunch, Guo Jing came in the yourte of his masters.

    - My little Jing, said Quan Jinfa, I would like to see how is your practice of the Crunching-Mountains palm strokes.

    - Here, in the yourte?

    - Yes. One can meet enemies in any place, it’s necessary to train to fight even in the closed spaces.

    He tricked with the left, and carried a stroke of the right fist.

    Guo Jing, respecting the rule of courtesy due to the eldests, defended three movements before retorting. Quan Jinfa then attacked with a fulgurating violence: suddenly his fists hit the chest of the young man, with a movement name "Penetrating deeply in the lair of the tiger." It wasn’t a stroke to practice anymore, but a deadly, violent and heavy stroke, used to kill! In panic, Guo Jing wanted to move back, but he was already with his back against the wall of the yourte. Try to protect himself when one was confronted to a danger was a natural reaction, especially since he had a rather slow mind: without even think about it, he turned his left arm, and blocked the attack of Quan by repulsing his two arms. But the fists had already touched the chest, Quan realized then with surprise, that it was as soft as the cotton, without making any resistance. Then he was repulsed with strength, and his arms were crossed by a lightning pain, he moved back three steps before recovering his balance.

    Guo Jing speechless knelt :

    - I probably made a something that I shouldn’t, he exclaimed, I accept the punishment of the Sixth Shifu!

    Afraid and surprised at a time, he wondered what crime he could have done, that was worthy of his master's anger, to the point of wanting to kill him!

    Ke Zhen'es and his mates had get up, all with a stern face.

    - You train with someone besides us, said Zhu Cong. Why did you hide it from us? If Sixth Shifu had a test like that, you would have continued to lie to us, am I wrong?

    - There is only master Jebe, justified Guo Jing, that teaches me the bow and the spear!

    - Do you dare to lie us again? says angry Zhu Cong, with a severe face.

    - I would not dare to lie to my Shifus ever! says Guo Jing, the eyes full of tears.

    - Then where did you learn this mastery of the neigong? insists Zhu Cong. Now that you have the support of a powerful master, you don’t have any respect for us!

    - Neigong? wondered Guo Jing. But I don't have a neigong!

    "Peuh! " expels Zhu Cong, doubtful, while advancing the index toward a location situated two inches below sternum, named "Tail of turtledove"

    A stroke on this essential point of the body provokes the immediate unconsciousness. Guo Jing didn't dare to avoid or to defend it and remained immobile. However, he had practiced close to two years with the taoist of the three chignons and, even though he didn't know it himself, all of his body was filled of internal energy. On the contact of the Zhu Cong finger, his flesh retracted naturally and then inflated itself, repulsing the finger away. The stroke still hit the point effectively, but provoked only a certain pain, without succeeding in affecting that point on the meridian. Zhu Cong had not used all his strength, but the internal energy of Guo Jing had succeeded in neutralizing him. He was astonished and in anger after realizing it:

    - And that, he shouts, it’s not the neigong?

    Could "the taoist master then have taught me the neigong"? wondered Guo Jing that understood it just now, and says :

    - During these last two years, someone came, every evening, to teach me how to breathe, to sit me, to sleep. As I found it funny, I followed his indications. But he didn't teach me any technique, while telling me to not talk of it to no one. As I thought that there wasn’t anything wrong with it and that it didn't affect in anything my practice, I didn't speak of it to any of you. I recognize my mistake, I won't go to have more fun with him anymore.

    He prostrated. The Six looked at themselves: the young man seemed sincere, he didn't seem to lie.

    - Don't you know what the neigong is? asks Han Xiaoying.

    - I don't really know what the neigong is! says Guo Jing. He told me to sit me and to breathe slowly, without thinking in anything, concentrating only in the way the breath circulates inside the body. At the beginning I didn't manage to do it, but lately I had like the impression that in me there was like a small mouse all hot that rune through all my body, it was very funny.

    The Six were surprised and delighted at the same time, to see that this simple-minded kid had succeeded in reaching such a level, that was not really easy specially for him.

    In fact, Guo Jing was a simple mind. Contrary to the so-called intelligent people, he didn't have the head cluttered of difficult and various thoughts to hunt, this type of mind encouraged the progress in the acquirement of the neigong. Thus, in hardly two years, he had succeeded in reaching a consequent level.

    - Who taught you it? asks Zhu Cong.

    - He doesn't want to say me his name, answered Guo Jing. He affirms that the gongfu of my Shifus is not lower than his own, that’s why he cannot teach me the martial arts and cannot be my Shifu. And he made me swear to not describe his appearance ever to anyone.

    The Six Freaks were more and more astonished. In the beginning, they said to themselves that Guo Jing had by luck met an expert, and were delighted for him. But the individual appeared so mysterious that they were now suspicious. Of a gesture, Zhu Cong asked Guo Jing to leave.

    - I won't have the audacity to go and amuse myself with him anymore, said the young man.

    - You can go there, reassured Zhu Cong. We are not angry at you, but you don’t need to tell him that we know.

    Guo Jing acquiesced and, seeing that his masters weren’t annoyed anymore, left all happy. Outside of the yourte, he saw Huazheng with the two white eagles, who had grown a lot: standing next to her, they nearly passed her in size.

    - Come quickly, says Huazheng, it has been a long time that I’ve been waiting for you here.

    One of the eagles bounds and came to perch on the shoulder of Guo Jing.

    - A while ago, he says, I tamed a small red horse, who runs at an incredible speed! I don't know if it will let you mount it...

    - If it doesn't let me, said Huazheng, I’ll slaughter it!

    - No you wont!

    The two young people, hand in hand, ran in the plain to have fun with their horses and their eagles.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    Chapter 6 : Mysterious happenings on the summit of the Cliff
    Remained in the yourte, the Six quietly conferred with each other.
    - This man taught a superior neigong to our Jing, says Han Xiaoying. He cant possible want to hurt him...
    - Then why doesn't he want us to know about it? asks Quan Jinfa. And why he doesn't tell clearly to our Jing that it’s the neigong that he’s teaching him.
    - I fear that he’s someone that we know, says Zhu Cong.
    - Someone that we know? wondered Han Xiaoying. Then if it’s not a friend, it can only be an enemy!
    - Among our friends, confirmed Quan Jinfa, no one has a gongfu as this exceptional.
    - But if that is an enemy, pursues Han Xiaoying, what reason could he have to teach our Jing?
    - Who knows if there isn’t a mischievous plan behind it? says Ke Zhen'e of an cold voice.
    All froze thinking in he’s words.
    - Tonight, says Zhu Cong, Sixth brother and me will discreetly follow Jing, to see who the expert is.
    The five approved.
    By the night fall, Zhu Cong and Quan Jinfas hid themselves no far from the yourte of Guo Jing and his mother. After half-hour of waiting, they heard the young man say at a high voice:
    - I’m going, mom!
    He then left the yourte, discreetly followed by his two masters, who were surprised by the speed of his pace. Fortunately, there wasn’t many obstacles to the view in the arid plain, and they could see him from afar. Arrived to the bottom of the cliff, he climbed it without slowing down.
    At this moment, Guo Jing had already made a huge progress in his lightness technique, and he had the habit of climbing the cliff every evening, so he didn't need the help of the taoist anymore and went to the top very quickly.
    Zhu Cong and Quan Jinfas were more and more astonished staying a long time in silence, until the arrival of the others freaks. Fearing of falling in the hands of enemies, they had taken their weapons and their invisible projectiles. Zhu Cong explained that Guo Jing was already up there. Han Xiaoying raised the head, saw the summit of the cliff lost in the clouds and shivered:
    - We’ll have a difficulty time going up there, she shouts.
    - Let's hide in the bushes, says Ke Zhen'e, we’ll wait that they come down again.
    The other five agreed.
    Han Xiaoying thought about the night ten years ago, the night of the fight against the Two Mischievous of the Black Wind. The Seven brothers and her were also hided waiting for the enemies. It was then a cold night as this one, the cold wind rushed through the bones, the lone moon, the desolate hill, the wind of sand, the silence of the night only broken by some sounds coming from afar ... The only difference, was that she wouldn’t see anymore Zhang Asheng and his always smiling face. She the felt a cold in her heart.
    The hours passed, and they didn’t notice any movement on the summit of the cliff. The day rose, and still no trace of Guo Jing nor of his mysterious pedagogue. They tried to look up there but couldn’t see nothing.
    -Sixth brother, says Zhu Cong, let's give a glance of what is up there.
    - Will you succeed in climbing there? asks Han Baoju.
    - Not sure, but we can only know after we try, says Zhu Cong.
    He returned running to the yourte and brought back two long ropes, two axes and several big nails. Quan Jinfa and Zhu Cong attached each other with the rope and undertook the ascension, by digging some holes and planting the nails in order to make sure support points. They were in sweat, but finally arrived at the summit. Hardly they put the feet on the top that they threw a scream and became pale of fear.
    Next to a big rock, they saw, perfectly stacked, nine white skulls, five below, three to the middle and one in the top, identically to the disposition done once by the Two Mischievous of the Black Wind. Examining the skulls, they noticed that each also carried five holes on the forehead. The borders of the holes were very clean, as cut with a blade, without any break. Obviously, the power of the fingers of the Mischievous had increased considerably when compared to the one they had ten years ago.
    With their heart bumping like drums, they cautiously examined the surroundings, but didn’t saw anything else unusual. Then they came down to tell to the others what they saw.
    Seeing their awful look, Han Baoju worried.
    - It’s Mei Chaofeng! says Zhu Cong. The other four froze.
    - And our Jing? asks for Han Xiaoying.
    - They came down by the other side, answered Quan Jinfa. And he told them what they had seen.
    - Who could have predicted, sighed Ke Zhen'e, that all our efforts, during eighteen years, only served to feed a snake among us!
    - Jing is a honest and straightforward boy as gold, disagreed Han Xiaoying, he cant ever betray us.
    - Honest and straightforward? sneers Ke Zhen'e. Then how could he learn the martial arts with this witch during two years and didn’t tell us anything?
    Han Xiaoying stayed silent, uneasy with out knowing what to say.
    - Unless, says Han Baoju, Mei Chaofeng, now blind, wanted to use Jing to harm us?
    - It’s probably what she’s doing, confirmed Zhu Cong.
    - Even if Jing had bad intentions, protested Han Xiaoying, he could never play the a comedy like that!
    - Maybe, suggests Quan Jinfa, this witch didn’t estimate that the moment to inform him of the plot, is not yet to come.
    - Ok, let's admit, says Han Baoju, the lightness technique of Jing is good, he has a good basis in neigong, but for what is of martial arts, he stills far behind us.
    Why the witch she doesn't teach him any technique?
    - This witch only uses him, explained Ke Zhen'e, she doesn't want to make him good! Didn't her husband die by the hand of Jing?
    - It is that! It is that! exclaimed Zhu Cong. She wants that we all die by the hand of Jing, then she will kill him, like that her vengeance will be fulfilled!
    All shivered, struck by the good possibility of this reasoning. Ke Zhen'e hit of a big stroke the floor with his cane and quietly says;
    - Now lets go back, while making as if we didn’t know nothing. When Jing will arrive, we will eliminate him. After, when the witch arrives to train him, we will take care of her. Even though she may have became stronger than before, she doesn't see anything, with the six of us together, we should be able to get ride of her once and for all.
    - Eliminate Jing? exclaimed Han Xiaoying, frightened. And the challenge we made with Qiu Chuji?
    - What’s more important? replies Ke Zhen'e coldly. To have our life safe or to go to that challenge?
    All stayed silent.
    - No, says sudden Nan Xiren. We cant do it.
    - What we cant do? asks for Han Baoju.
    - Eliminate him.
    - Eliminate Jing?
    Nan Xiren approved with the head.
    - I am of the opinion of Fourth brother, said Han Xiaoying. It’s necessary to interrogate him in depth in order to make sure we don’t do a irreparable mistake.
    - The problem is too serious, says Quan Jinfa. If, by weakness, we show the slightest hesitation, and that he benefits from this to betray us in secret, what will happen to us?
    - If we don’t take the right decision, says Zhu Cong, the consequences from it may be terrifying. Do not forget that our adversary is that mischievous woman, Mei Chaofeng!
    - What do you think about it, Third brother? asks Ke Zhen'e.
    Han Baoju didn't know what to decide, but he saw the tears in the eyes of Han Xiaoying, that seemed so sad :
    - I’ll take the Fourth brother side, he says then. To kill Jing, I won't ever be able to.
    Thus, three Freaks were of the opinion to use violence on Guo Jing, the other three wished for a more measured decision.
    - If Fifth brother was still among us, sighed Zhu Cong, it would be possible to him to uneven us...
    While hearing him evoke Zhang Asheng, Han Xiaoying had heart shake of saadness. Holding her tears, she then says :
    - How could we not want to revenge our Fifth brother? Let's obey to our older Brother wish!
    - Well then, says Ke Zhen'e. Let's go back to the camp.
    Back in their yourte, they all stayed silent, the death in the soul.
    That night, when Guo Jing had arrived to the summit of the cliff, the taoist was there already. While seeing the young man, he tells him in a low voice, while showing him something next to the big rock where they usually trained :
    - Watch!
    Guo Jing approached, and saw, to the moonlight, the heap formed by the nine skulls and jumped :
    - The Two Mischievous of the Black Wind! he says of a trembling voice. Here they come again!
    - Do you know also the Two Mischievous of the Black Wind? asked the taoist.
    The young man told him the terrifying fights of that night, in the course of which his Fifth Shifu had lost his life and where he had himself, without wanting it, killed Chen Xuanfeng. The pictures were again so present in his mind that he could not stop himself from shivering. When he had stabbed Copper Corpse, he was very young, but the terrifying images had been engraved deeply in his memory.
    - This Copper Corpse caused so much suffering, sighed the taoist, and he died of your hand!
    - My Shifus often speak of the Two Mischievous of the Black Wind. For Third Shifu and Seventh Shifu, Iron Corpse should be dead... But Older Shifu always says: "Not sure! Not sure! ."
    These nine skulls are arranged here, in fact, Iron Corpse cant therefore be dead...
    He shivered.
    - Did you see Mei Chaofeng? he asks.
    - I arrived here not long ago, answered the taoist. And I immediately notice this heap of skulls. Did Iron Corpse came thus, to take herself against your Shifus and you?
    - Older Shifu turned her blind, says Guo Jing, we are not afraid of her.
    The taoist grabbed a skull by the hand and attentively examined it.
    - This person has a gongfu of a terrifying power, he says while nodding the head. I fear that your six Shifus are not of size to face her. And even if I lend them some assistance, we may not defeat her!
    Seeing him so assured of what he was saying, Guo Jing was stunned :
    - Ten years ago, he says, she was not blind and yet she had not succeeded in beating my seven Shifus. Today, we are eight... You... will you help us, in this or not?
    - I thought about it since for a little while, answered the taoist after one instant of silence, but I don't understand how her fingers can be this powerful... As says the proverb: " Those that wish you good don't come to find you, those that come to find you don't wish you good" ! Since she dares to come to take her vengeance, it is that she is very sure of her.
    - But for what reason did she arrange the skulls here? Won't we be on our guards after seeing it?
    - I imagine that it must be a part of the ritual to practice the “Nine Yin White Bone claw ”... She must think that no one comes to the summit of this cliff so difficult to climb. Lack of luck, we fell over!
    Fearing that Mei Chaofeng had was already going to fight his masters, Guo Jing says :
    - I am going to warn my Shifus.
    - Well, approved the taoist. Tell them that you transmit a message on behalf of a good friend: that they are to held aside during some time, the time to find the best solution... There’s no need to face her at all price.
    Guo Jing acquiesced, but to the very moment where he was going to let itself slip along the cliff, the taoist grabbed him and, of a light jump, jumped behind a big rock where they themselves. Guo Jing was going to ask him what’s going on when the taoist put the hand over his mouth. He hold himself then against the rock, without daring to make a noise, only risking to watch from an eye.
    Shortly after, a shade bounds on the other side of the cliff. Under the moon, its long hair floated to wind: it was Mei Chaofeng. The other side of the hill was even steeper than the cliff: as she was blind, she probably couldn’t have made the difference. That was a luck, because the Six Freaks were hidden of the side of the cliff. If she had gone up by there, she would not have failed to meet them, and they would be already fighting!
    Mei Chaofeng turned suddenly around, Guo Jing afraid lowered the head quickly. Then he remembered that she was blind, and he stood up slowly. He saw that she was sitting with her legs crossed on the big rock where he trained himself every day, and began to inspire and expire. He understood then that this was the way to breathe and to master the breath constituted in fact the practice of the neigong, and he felt a big recognition for the taoist.
    A little later, he heard sudden crunches coming from the whole body of Mei Chaofeng, first occasional, then faster and faster, in a set of crackles, as when one grilled some peanuts in a wok and that they exploded. The noise really came from the inside of her body, that stayed apparently immobile. Guo Jing didn't know that it was a weird and superior form of the neigong, but he was still very impressed.
    The crackle lasted strong for a long time, then the rhythm slowed down, till it completely stopped. Guo Jing saw her rise then slowly, her left hand seized something in her waist, that she made spring like a long silver snake. First surprised, he saw then that it was a very big whip.

    The Golden Dragon Whip of his Shifu Han Baoju didn't pass six feet long, this one had to be more than four Zhangs long!
    She turned around slowly, the rays of the moon illuminated her face, that still was very pretty. But she held her closed eyes and, with her long hair, seemed sinister and frightening.
    In the silence, one heard her sigh and whisper :
    - My bastard of husband, could it be that, in the Hell where you are, you also think of me every day?
    Holding her whip by the middle, she quietly laughs and began to train.
    This whip danced in a curious way: the movements were slow, and didn't make any noise. A stroke enveloping at the East, an astounding other to the west, every attack was more surprising than the other. All of a sudden, her hand slipped and caught up to its extremity the whip that, of all its length, reached a big rock that it enveloped and raised, as if it was a hand. Guo Jing was again quite stunned of this agility when the whip, after having projected the rock far away, moved back towards the head of the young man. To the moonlight, one saw distinctly, at the end of the whip, about ten ends of very sharp hooks.
    Guo Jing was already holding his knife. Seeing the whip coming in his way, he was going to avoid the stroke, without even think about it, when he felt his arm go numb and a hand came to plate him on the ground. Like a silvery lightning, the extremity of the whip passed above his head. "If the Taoist friend had not stopped me in time, he thought covered of cold sweat, and if my dagger had touched its goal, the whip would certainly smash my skull! " Fortunately, the Taoist did it efficiently and quietly, and Mei Chaofeng didn't notice anything.
    She trained during a certain time, then replaced the whip to her waist, and took from her fob a piece of cloth or leather, that she unfolded and spread on the floor. She groped, thought, stood up to sketch some movements, lowered herself again to feel the thing and to think again. Finally, she ranged it and went away by the other side of the hill.
    Guo Jing sighed and stood up.
    - Let's follow her, said the Taoist in a low voice. Let's see what mischievous plan she’s preparing us!
    He caught the young man by the belt and the two slowly slipped downwards of the hill.
    When they touched earth, they saw the Mei Chaofeng already far away up the north. The Taoist took Guo Jing under his arm, this one felt a lot lighter and the two of them went at a great speed, through the desert, after Iron Corpose. When the dawn pointed out, they saw a camp formed of several score of big tents far away. The shadow of Mei Chaofeng soon disappeared between the tents.
    They accelerated the pace, avoiding the sentries and the patrols, till they arrived at a big yellow tent. Guo Jing plated itself to soil, raised a flap of the tent slightly to give a look of the inside. He then saw a man draw his large knife and hit a huge man, that collapsed on the ground.
    In its fall, his face was precisely in the field of vision of the Taoist and Guo Jing. However this one recognized him: he was a personal guard of Temüjin! He was stunned: "How could it be that he came to be killed here?" he wondered, while raising a little more the flap of the tent. At this moment, the murderer turned around and Guo Jing recognized Senggüm, the son of To'oril.
    Senggüm wiped the blade on his sole and says :
    - Now you don’t have any more doubts, don’t you?
    - My brother Temüjin is intelligent and courageous, answered a man, this plan seems to me difficult to achieve.
    Guo Jing recognized the sworn brother of Temüjin, Jamuqa.
    - Since you like your sworn brother this much, sneered Senggüm, hey…well, you only have to go and warn him!
    - You, says Jamuqa, you are also my sworn brother. Your father filled me with kindness, I wont betray you. Besides Temüjin has the ambition of absorbing my troops into his, I know it very well.
    It is only because of our oath of fraternity that I didn't break our relations yet.
    "Could they be plotting against the Khan Temüjin? wondered Guo Jing. How is this possible? "
    - The one that takes the initiative always has the advantage, said another man. If you wait that he comes to attack you, you are lost! After the victory, all goods of Temüjm, his herds, his wives, his treasures, will come back to Senggüm. His men, on the other hand, will be incorporated in Jamuqa’s army, that will receive the title of "General conqueror of the North" from the Jin empire.
    Guo Jing could only see his back, then he crawled farther a little, in order to see him better. Clothed of a sumptuous yellow brocade tunic, covered of sable, the man was not unknown to him, but he took a certain time to remember his identity. "Yes, he’s the Sixth Prince of the Jin empire”.
    Jamuqa seemed convinced by this speech.
    - So To'oril, if my adoptive father gives me the order, he says, I will evidently obey.
    - Since you put it like this, says Senggüm, very happy, if my father doesn't give the order to do it, he will offend the Jin empire. In a little while, I will be going to ask him, he won't be able to refuse it to the Sixth Prince.
    - Soon, continued Wanyan Honglie, the troops of the empire are going to descend in the South to destroy the Song. At that moment, each among you, to the head of twenty thousand men, will be able to participate in the invasion. After the victory, others rewards will wait you!
    - I always heard, exclaimed Senggüm full of joy, that the South was a marvelous world, paved of gold, where all women look like flowers. If the Sixth Lord could take us all two to amuse us, it would be perfect!
    - Nothing easier, says Wanyan Honglie while smiling, I only fear that there could be too many beautiful women in the South that you cant face all of them!
    All exploded laughing.
    - Now, pursued the prince, tell me how you intend to take care of Temüjin... In fact, I had already asked him to help us to destroy the Song, but he always refused.
    He’s a clever man, we cant give him any reasons to doubt of us. This is why we need to redouble of precautions.
    At that moment, Guo Jing felt that the taoist pulled him by the sleeve. He turned around, and saw Mei Chaofeng a little farther away, that had caught someone and seemed to question him. "Whatever is this witch's intentions, he thought, my Shifus aren’t threatened for now, I am going to try first to know more about the plot against the Khan and then take a decision about what to do”. He then turned again inwards of the tent.
    - He promised his daughter to my son, said Senggüm, while showing the body on the floor, and sent an emissary to agree of the date of the marriage. I’ll immediately go to ask him to come here to confer with my father. He will surely come, without an important escort. I will place some men in ambush on the whole path, and even if he had three heads and six arms, he won't escape to me alive!
    He exploded in laugh.
    - Well, says Jamuqa, as soon as one has eliminated Temüjin, our two armies will invest his camp.
    Guo Jing was full of anger and concern: "How, could the man's heart be so cruel, to the point of plotting against his sworn brother! "He stretched the ear again, but the taoist pulled him out by the waist. He moved back, and was lightly touched by Mei Chaofeng, that was leaving very quickly, holding someone by the neck.
    The taoist took Guo Jing by the hand and the two moved away from the tents.
    - She’s trying to know where your Shifus are, said the taoist in a low voice. We must go there immediately, otherwise it will be too late
    The two started their lightless technique and ran briskly. When they arrived before the yourte of the Six Freaks, it was already close to noon.
    - In the beginning, says the taoist, I didn't want to appear, this is why I recommended to you to not say anything about me to your Shifus. But now, there is emergency, and one cannot worry anymore of details. Go and say that Ma Yu, of the absolute Perfection Sect, demand to see the Six Valiant knights of the Jiangnan.
    Since two years, Guo Jing saw him every evening, but it was only to this instant that he learned his name. Without knowing what character precisely was this "Ma Yu, of the absolute Perfection Sect", he acquiesced and ran in the yourte while shouting :
    - Older Shifu!
    As soon as he entered, his two wrists were clutched brutally, and he felt a sharp pain to the knees, that made him fall on the ground. He then saw his Older Shifu, Ke Zhen'e, knock him down with his heavy cane of iron. Completely terrified , he didn't even tryed to struggle or to defend himself, closed the eyes and waited the death. He heard the shock of two weapons then, and felt someone to throw himself over him.
    He opened the eyes, and saw the Seventh Shifu, Han Xiaoying, that protected him with her body, while shouting :
    - Older Brother, one instant please!
    Her sword, with which she had avoided the stroke, had flown far away. Ke Zhen'e sighed, knocked his cane heavily on the floor down :
    - Seventh Sister always has a too tender heart!
    Guo Jing realized then that Zhu Cong and Quan Jinfas had seized his wrists! He didn't understand anything anymore.
    - Where is the person who teach you the neigong? asks for Ke Zhen'e with severity.
    - Him... Him... stammers Guo Jing. He is... There… outside... He asks to
    to see you...
    Surprised to see Mei Chaofeng coming to find them at daylight, the Six Fanciful hurried outside, the weapons to the hand. But they only saw a taoist white haired, the hands joined in a salute. No sign of Mei Chaofeng!
    - Where is this witch of Mei Chaofeng? shouts Zhu Cong, without releasing the wrist of Guo Jing.
    - I saw her last night, answered this one, I fear that she may come in soon!
    The Six looked at Ma Yu with puzzlement. This one advanced briskly and greeted :
    - For a long time I admire the Six Valiant knights of the Jiangnan. Today, I finally meet them, it is a huge honor for me.
    Zhu Cong, still holding Guo Jing, nodded the head to answer the salute and said:
    - We don't dare to ask for the respectable name of the taoist master.
    Guo Jing remembered that he had not announced the visitor and hastened to say :
    - He’s Ma Yu, of the absolute Perfection Sect.
    The surprise of the Six Freaks was huge. They knew that Ma Yu, that had for nickname " Sun of cinnabar", was the first disciple of the founder of the absolute Perfection Sect, Wang Chongyang. After the death of the last, Ma Yu became therefore the Older Master of the Sect. Qiu Chuji, perpetual Spring, was even his younger brother. Only, as he always lived reclusive in the temple, especially dedicating himself to the meditation, and since he hardly ever put the feet in the “Streams and the Lakes” region, his reputation in the world of the martial arts didn't equal the one of Qiu. As for the power of his gongfu, no one had ever seen it in action and could not judge how strong he was.
    - Here is the Older Master of the absolute Perfection Sect, said Ke Zhen'e. We are very honored. What comes to make the taoist Master up in the desert of the North? Does it have a relation with the competition in Jiaxing, challenge of your brothers-in-arms that we raised?
    - My miserable younger brother, when he should dedicate himself to the practice of the Way, likes to tackle with the other, often trying to win and to impose his viewpoint, what is quite contrary to our principles. I reprimanded him time and time again on this topic. I don't have the intention to mingle me of his bet with you, the Six Valiant knights, and it doesn't have anything to do with me. Two years ago, I met this child by chance. Finding him a pure and good heart, I took the liberty to teach him some ritual formulas to fortify the body and to feed the character, that especially have a virtue for longevity. It is true that I took this initiative without having asked beforehand for the authorization of the Six Valiant knights, I hope they wont hold any anger cause of it.
    But, I didn't teach him any martial technique, and we don't have at all a master to disciple relation. We could say that I merely made myself a young friend, and that we never broke any rules of our world.
    Saying it, he smiled warmly.
    The Six were very surprised, but could only agree with his explanations. Zhu Cong and Quan Jinfas then released the wrists of Guo Jing.
    - My child, said all happy Han Xiaoying, it was then the Senior Taoist who gave you some lessons? Why didn't you tell us about him earlier? We were mistaken judging you!
    She caressed him the shoulder, founding of tenderness.
    - He... stammers Guo Jing, it was him who told me to not say anything...
    - How that, "he", "him" ? reprimanded Han Xiaoying. It is very disrespectful, little kid, you need to say “Senior Taoist”...
    She scolded him, but her happy face showed the true feelings.
    - Yes, acquiesced submissively Guo Jing. The "Senior Taoist."
    Since two years ago, he always treated My Yu on equal terms, without having ever thought to speak to him at the third person, in sign of respect, while calling him " Senior Taoist" for example, and My Yu had never taken offense.
    - I travel like a cloud, says My Yu, without itinerary nor final destination, and I don't like to bother the others. This is why, even being neighbor of the Six Valiant knights, I didn't come to greet you. I ask you again to forgive me.
    He greeted them again.
    In fact, after acknowledge the circumstances of the arrival of the Six Freaks, he had felt for them a big admiration. He interrogated Yi Zhiping, that confirmed to him that Guo Jing didn't have any basis in neigong. As Senior of the absolute Perfection Sect, he knew perfectly the principles of the Taoism, that prone the constriction of oneself to go in the sense of the other. He didn't wish that Qiu Chuji was able to, in this matter, to impose itself against the Six Freaks. But he had good to try to convince he’s brother in arms repeatedly, Qiu didn't want to hear anything about it. As last resort, he came in the desert, trying to help Guo Jingm with out telling to anyone. Otherwise how would he have met the child, by accident , in the immensity of the North plain? And what other reason would he have, otherwise, for dedicating two whole years of his life to give Guo a precious teaching? If Mei Chaofeng had not reemerged unexpectedly, he would have discreetly left to South, once assured that the neigong foundations of Guo Jing were well establishedl. Nor the Six Freaks nor Qiu Chuji would have suspected of anything.
    Owing so much nobility and humility, that contrasted with the bravery and deprived arrogance of his brothers-in-arms, the Six tilted and greeted. They were going to inquire him about Mei Chaofeng when they heard the noises of horses to the gallop, and they saw several riders heading towards the big tent of Temüjin.
    Guo Jing understood that it was the emissaries of Senggüm, who had come to attract him into a trap, and started to panic.
    - Senior Shifu, he says to Ke Zhen'e, it is necessary that I leave one moment.
    Ke Zhen'e had almost seriously wound him a while ago and regretted it. He felt even more compassion for this disciple and feared to see him meet Mei Chaofeng if he moved away. Thus, he said :
    - No, you remain close to us, don't move away at any case!
    Guo Jing was going to explain to him why he had to leave, but Ke Zhen'e had begun to discuss, with Ma Yu, of the titanic fight against the Two Mischievous of the Black Wind. In spite of his anguish, the young man didn't dare to interrupt his Senior Shifu, who got in anger for a mere nothing. He hoped to be able to benefit from a pause in the conversation to explain the emergency of the situation. Suddenly, a horse arrived at quick pace, the rider wore a short jacket in black fox: it was Huazheng. She stopped ten feet away, making signals. Fearing to be punished by his Shifus, Guo Jing didn't dare to move away, but made her a signal so that she approached. The girl had red and swollen eyes, as if she had cried.
    - Dad, she says while sobbing, wants me to go marry this Dushi...
    - Quickly, says Guo Jing, go warn the Khan that Senggüm and Jamuqas prepared a trap and want to kill him...
    - Is it true? asked Huazheng, stunned.
    - Absolutely true, answered Guo Jing, I heard it of my own ears. Go warn your father quickly.
    - Okay! assents Huazheng.
    The face full of joy, she went back up on her horse and left at great speed.
    "One wants to murder the Khan and you seem all happy? " wondered internally Guo Jing. Then he understood that, she would not have to marry Dushi. He liked the girl as his sister and always protected her. Wondering if she was going to be able to avoid this disgraced marriage, he was delighted for her and came back the smile to the lips.
    - I don't have the intention to glorify the enemy nor to belittle us, said Ma Yu, but Mei Chaofeng visibly knows the essence of the Senior of the Peach blossom island teachings, Huang the alchemist. Her Nine Yin White Bone claw is practically invincible, and the strokes of her Silver whip of four Zhangs nearly unstoppable. If we unite our strengths, we may not lose, but we won't certainly defeat her without suffering some damages.
    - This woman is effectively dangerous, says Han Xiaoying, but us the Seven Freaks of the Jiangnan, we vow her an implacable hate.
    - One told me, says Ma Yu, that your Fifth brother, Zhang the Valiant knight, as well as Dragon in full sky, the valiant Ke, have been both killed by Chen Xuanfeng. But as you killed Copper Corpse, one could consider that the debt has been paid. As say the Ancients: is better to unknot a hate that to tie it. Mei Chaofeng is henceforth an single woman, affected in addition to a serious handicap, she also appears to pity...
    The Six stayed silent during some instants.
    - She finalized this perverse and dangerous technique, said Han Baoju, that is going to cause the death of innumerable innocents! Senior Taoist, even though you are moved by compassion, you cant let her go in all impunity... - This time, said Zhu Cong, it is her that came to look for us, and no the opposite...
    - And even though we avoid it this time, says Quan Jinfa, if she indeed wants to take a vengeance on us, we will never be in security.
    - I imagined a small stratagem, said Ma Yu, but it is necessary that the Six Valiant knights appear magnanimous and, taking mercy of this poor wretch, let her the possibility of redemption.
    Zhu Cong didn't want to speak, letting to Ke Zhen'e the care to decide.
    - Us other the Seven Freaks of the Jiangnan, said this one, have a coarse and brutal temperament. We only know how to fight to the barbaric. If the Senior Taoist wants to indicate us a path, we would be very thankful for it. You only have to speak.
    While listening to Ma Yu, he had understood that, during these ten years, Mei Chaofeng had made considerable progress. In appearance, the Taoist was trying to grant the safe life to Iron Corpse, but in reality he tried to save the face of the Six Freaks, his real intention being to indicate them a way to escape the terrifying claws of Mei. The other Freaks believed that their Senior Brother had become merciful and were astonished.
    - As showing this merciful, Senior Brother Ke, said Ma Yu, thus you will receive the blessing of the Sky. There is a something else very important. According to me, during these ten years, Mei Chaofeng certainly received the teaching of Huang the alchemist.
    - But one says, wondered Zhu Cong, that the Two Mischievous of the Black Wind were renegade disciples of the Peach blossom island Senior. How would Huang the alchemist be able to teach her again?
    - It is what I also believed, said Ma Yu. But according to the description that you made of the fight you had, her gongfu of then is by far lower than the one of today. If she didn't receive the indications of an illuminated Senior, it would be impossible to her, while training all alone, to arrive to her present level. Then if we kill today Iron Corpse, the alchemist risks to be angry at us...
    Ke Zhen'e and Zhu Congs had already heard to speak of the gongfu of Huang the alchemist, often in so exaggerated terms that they had difficulty believing in this man's power. But the absolute Perfection Sect represented the orthodox origin of all martial arts. So if the Senior felt such a fear with regard to the alchemist, it was evidently something to take into account.
    - The Senior Taoist thinks of everything, said Zhu Cong, we can only be in admiration. Please make us part of your idea that will be necessarily astute.
    - This miserable stratagem, said Ma Yu, may appear a little snobbish, I’m afraid, and I ask the Six Valiant knights to not laugh of it.
    - The Senior Taoist is too modest, says Zhu Cong, the reputation of the Seven Perfect, disciples of Wang Chongyang, is so very established that she causes the general admiration!
    Zhu Cong felt a real respect with regards to Ma Yu. Indeed, he would not held such a respect to Qiu Chuji, that was also part, of the Seven Perfect of the absolute Perfection.
    - Thanks to the virtues of our defunct Shifu, said Ma Yu, us others seven brothers-in-arms benefit from a small authority in the world of the martial arts, and I think that this Mei Chaofeng would not dare to come herself against us. This is why I imagined a ruse, in order to make her leave on the only faith of our vain reputation. This stratagem lacks nobility and exemption, but as our intention is to make the good, the end justifies the means, and it won't harm to the honorable reputation of the Six Valiant knights.
    He then explained the artifice. The Six Freaks found it rather depreciating: they thought to themselves that even though Mei Chaofeng had made important progress, or even though Huang the alchemist came in person, what they risked? At most they would lose life, as Zhang Asheng ten years before! Ma Yu undertook to convince them. Finally, the Six Freaks, out of respect for him and by recognition for everything that he had made for Guo Jing, accepted.
    After having taken some refreshments, they moved towards the cliff. Ma Yu and Guo Jing undertook the ascension ahead. The Six noticed that the taoist didn't try to show of his skills and he slowly climbed behind Guo Jing, but his steps were firm and his movements of a great stability, what showed the power of his gongfu. "He is certainly not weaker than Qiu Chuji, how comes the reputation of this last is so big, whereas one doesn't know practically anything about Ma Yu? The explanation comes from their difference of character..." Arrived at the top, Ma Yu and Guo Jing pushed then the Six to the summit with long ropes.
    They could then examine, on the rocks, the traces let by the whip of Mei Chaofeng. They were stunned, and finally believed on the words of Ma Yu.
    The eight sat down and waited. The night had fall progressively, and it was already late. Han Baoju began to lose patience :
    - How comes that she is this late?
    - Quiet! says Ke Zhen'e, there she is!
    They all opened their ear, without hearing anything. Only Ke Zhen'e, with his particularly developed hearing, had discerned the steps of the Iron Corpse, that was several li away.
    But she was coming: they saw, on the moonlight, like a black smoke that approached at a very quick pace and in the blink of an eye to the foot of the cliff, that she climbed with agility. Zhu Cong exchanged a look with Quan Jinfa and Han Xiaoying: he saw that they had face all pale, anguished, and thought that himself should present such an aspect.
    Very quickly, Mei Chaofeng bounds on the esplanade. On her back, she carried someone that wasn’t moving, they didn't know if he was either alive or already dead. Guo Jing had the impression that this person wore a dress that was familiar to him. He watched more attentively and recognized in fact the short jacket in black fox of Huazheng. Of surprise, he was going to cry when Zhu Cong, that had a quick eye and the a fast gesture, put his hand on his mouth, while saying at a high voice :
    - This harmful witch of Mei Chaofeng, if she falls between my hands, me, Qiu Chuji, I won't let her escape!
    Surprised by the noise on the esplanade, Iron Corpse was even more astonished to hear the name of Qiu Chuji and her own name. She hid behind a rock to listen the conversation. Ma Yu and the Six Freaks clearly saw her intentions and, in spite of their tension, wanted to laugh. Only Guo Jing, worried by the security of Huazheng, trembled of anguish.
    - Mei Chaofeng arranged this skulls here, said Han Baoju, she is certainly going to come , we only have to wait for her.
    Not knowing how many powerful enemies were gathered together in this place, she remained immobile behind the rock.
    - She certainly caused us a lot of pain, but the absolute Perfection Sect as always prone compassion and mercy for the other. Let's give her the possibility to repent herself.
    - The Lady of the Purity and the tranquility has always a tender heart, says Zhu Cong while laughing. Not astonishing that Shifu always said that you would reach the Way easily!
    Wang Chongyang, the founder of the absolute Perfection Sect, had seven disciples, whose reputation was well established in the world of the martial arts: on the first rank was Ma Yu, called Sun of cinnabar, on the second Tan Chuduan, called " Eternal truth" ; then followed each other by Liu Chuxuan, called "Eternal life", Qiu Chuji, called perpetual Spring, Wang Chuyi, called "Sun of jade", Hey Datong, called "Infinite peace", and finally the last disciple was called Sun Bu'er, called "Lady of the Purity and the tranquillity", who had been the wife of Ma Yu before this one enter into the religion.
    - Brother Tan, did ask for Han Xiaoying, what you think about it?
    - Her crimes deserve an exemplary punishment! replies Nan Xiren.
    - Brother Tan, says Zhu Cong, lately you made a big progress in your technique of the "Finger calligrapher." Later, when this devil one arrives, will you make us a demonstration?
    - Is better to let Brother Wang show us his technique of "Foot of iron", said Nan Xiren. Of a kick, he will send her down the cliff, where she will lose the body and soul.
    Among the Seven Perfect of the absolute Perfection Sect, Qiu Chuji was the most known, then came Wang Chuyi, Sun of jade. Once, for a bet, he had held close to an abyss on only one foot, swinging forth and backwards in a violent wind that raised his large sleeves. Several braves of the Shandong and the Hebei attended to the stage, astounded and amazed. This exploit worth him the immortal's nickname of “Foot of iron”. He had lived reclusive in an underground cave during nine years, dedicating himself to the practice of the martial arts. Even Qiu Chuji appeared very admired of his gongfu. He had dedicated him a poem, in which of the formulas as "Nine standing summers in the sun, three winters lain down in snow" celebrated the power of his neigong.
    All these retorts between them had been studied in advance. Only Ke Zhen'e, that had already spoken to the Two Mischievous of the Black Wind, stayed silent, so that Mei Chaofeng didn't recognize him by his voice.
    Iron Corpse was more and more astonished: "Apparently, the Seven Perfect of the absolute Perfection Sect are here! I am not already certain to be able to beat a single Taoist, how would I with the seven united! If they discover me, I am dead! "
    At that moment, the moon illuminated the esplanade perfectly. But Zhu Cong says :
    - This night, the black clouds invaded the sky, one can't even see the five fingers of the hand! That everybody be on is guards, so that this witch doesn't take advantage of the obscurity to escape!
    "It's a good thing that it is a black night, reassured herself Mei Chaofeng, otherwise they would already have discovered me. I return to thanks the Sky and the Earth! So long as the moon doesn't appear!"
    Guo Jing had not stopped looking to Huazheng. He suddenly saw that she opened the eyes mildly. Delighted to see her regain conscience, he made her signals with the hands so that she remained calm. However, the girl, who had also seen him, exclaimed :
    - Help! Help!
    - Don’t say nothing! shouts Guo Jing.
    These screams surprised Mei Chaofeng. She immediately pushed the finger on one particular point of Huazheng’s body, that turned the girl mute: the suspicion had awakened in her mind.
    - Zhiping, said Zhu Cong, is that you that has just spoken?
    Indeed, Guo Jing was supposed to play the role of the youngster Taoist Yi Zhiping.
    - Yes... Yes, me...
    - I believed, says Zhu Cong, to hear a woman's voice, again.
    - Precisely, confirmed Guo Jing.
    "And if, thought Mei Chaofeng, this was a trap? The Seven Perfect of the absolute Perfection Sect are united precisely in the desert, to the summit of this cliff far away from everything, what a coincidence! Unless someone is trying to take advantage of my blindness to deceive me? "
    Ma Yu saw her slowly standing up behind her rock and understood that she began to have some suspicions. However, if she discovered the scheme and immediately pass to the attack, himself we wouldn’t probably risk much, but Huazheng would certainly succumb, and the Six Freaks would undergo some injuries without a doubt. He was therefore very anguished, but he had never had a fast mind and he didn't know what to do.
    Seeing that Mei Chaofeng, a big whip silvered to the hand, seemed about to attack, Zhu Cong hastened to say :
    - Senior Brother, during all these last years, you practiced the most sophisticated techniques transmitted by our Shifu assiduously, you should have gotten consequent results. What would you say to make us a demonstration of it?
    Ma Yu understood that Zhu Cong suggested him to show the power of his gongfu, in order to impress Mei Chaofeng.
    - I am certainly the eldest of our schoolmates, he says then, but my stupid nature makes me less capable than you all. The formulas transmitted by our Shifu, I am ashamed to say it, I hardly understood a sentence of it...
    He pronounced each of his words very slowly, while feeding them his breath fully. The tone was quiet and humble, but the voice carried and resounded very far. He had not finished to pronounce his last speech that the echo of the first came back with winds, as growls of tiger and the screams of dragon.
    Witness of this demonstration of an extraordinarily powerful neigong, Mei Chaofeng, impressed, lowered herself slowly behind her rock.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    "I have heard " said Ma Yu " that this woman has lost her mind, and that she is, rather, worthy of pity. If she herself repents of her past sins, if she promises to no longer harm the innocent, and that furthermore she will not trouble the Jiangnan Odd Six, well, we could let her continue living because our departed master formerly had respectful relations with the master of Peach Blossom Island. Brother Qiu, you are the friend of the Odd Six; you should go to speak to them, to ask them to no more try and seek a reckoning with her. If both parties make an effort, the vendetta can extinguish itself."

    This time, he spoke without using his internal energy, in order that there did not appear to be such a great power difference between the others and himself.

    " That is easy," replied Zhu Cong. " The problem is knowing if Mei Chaofeng will agree to correct herself, or not."

    Suddenly, an icy voice was heard:

    " Many thanks to the Quanzhen Seven for their benevolence! I am here, Mei Chaofeng, in person!"

    Suddenly and surprisingly, she appeared. Ma Yu had hoped to frighten her and to make her leave, that she would regret her deeds and would amend her ways. But confident in her new power, she had the audacity to come and confront her opponents directly.

    " Being a woman," said Mei Chaofeng, " I would not dare to contest myself against the Taoist masters. But for a long time I have admired the gongfu of the Lady of Purity and Stillness, I ask the honour to measure myself to her."

    Armed with her whip, she stood on guard, waiting for Han Xiaoying's response.

    At that moment, Guo Jing was acutely aware that Huazheng had fallen to the ground, motionless. Having grown up with her, he held for the girl the affection of an elder brother. Without a moment's reflection, without even worrying about the terrifying presence of Mei Chaofeng, he leaped out and freed Huazheng. With a left hook, the 'Iron Corpse' seized his left wrist. Now, with Ma Yu, Guo Jing had practiced orthodox Taiost inner energy for two years, and his healthy body was strengthened by a natural force. With his right hand, he propelled Huazheng towards Han Xiaoying, while he pivoted his left hand with force and released himself from Mei's control. She, who possessed extremely swift skills, felt Guo Jing escape and advanced her hand immediately to recapture him. This time, she held him firmly, compressing the joint of the principal artery of his arm, so well that he could no longer move.

    " Who are you? she demanded in a terrible voice.

    " Zhiping," cried Zhu Cong, "listen!"

    Guo Jing, who was already panicked because he could not free himself, was going to reply instinctively "I am Guo Jing!" when he heard the warning of Zhu Cong.

    " I am..." he stammered, " I am Yin Zhiping... Disciple... disciple of the Quanzhen .. ... Spring"

    Although he had repeated those words thirty or forty times, in his panic he was not able to say it without stammering.

    " He is only a simple apprentice," Mei Chaofeng said to herself, " and his neigong already is capable: not only did he succeed in saving someone under my nose, but he has even been able to release himself from my first stroke! I think it's better that I retreat this time."

    She dropped his hand. Guo Jing itself hastily returned to his masters: five marks were deeply inlaid into the flesh of his left arm! He knew well that she had not used all her power, otherwise his wrist already would have been broken.

    Mei Chaofeng did not dare anymore to challenge the false Sun Bu'er, that was played by Han Xiaoying. She suddenly asked:

    " Taoist Master Ma, what is the meaning of 'Lead and mercury preserve well'?"
    " Lead is heavy," responded Ma Yu automatically, " it resembles the kidneys; the mercury is liquid, it is a metaphor for internal warming. « Lead and mercury preserve well» means that it is good to stabilize the kidneys and to extinguish the internal fire, in order to obtain results from meditation."

    " And what is the meaning of "Babe of the girl Cha"?" pursued Mei Chaofeng.

    Ma Yu suddenly became aware that she asked for him to explain secret formulas of neigong!

    " Heretical witch," he cried, " Do not try to to extract the secrets of my sect from me! Leave quickly!"

    Mei Chaofeng laughed:

    " Thank you for your pointers, Taoist Master!"

    She suddenly leapt, armed with her silvery whip, and she glided to the bottom of the cliff at an unbelievable speed. Those remaining looked on, themselves relieved, glad to have escaped. Far away, in the desert, a shadow went spinning away like a phantom.

    Ma Yu unsealed Huazheng's acupoints, thus returning her ability to move. The girl laid herself on a boulder to rest.

    " In ten years," said Zhu Cong, "that woman made such progress that if the Taoist Master had not lent us a strong hand today, our account would have been settled!

    Ma Yu responded modestly, but his eyebrows were gathered, as if an inner worry tormented him.

    " If there is some task to finish," said Zhu Cong, " we are not capable of great things, but we can at least do your bidding. Do not hesitate therefore to ask it of us."

    " By my oversight," said Ma Yu, " I was trapped by that crafty woman!"

    " Were you injured by a secret weapon?" demanded the Six.

    " No," replied Ma Yu, " it is nothing like that. That time she asked me a question, I replied without thinking, and I fear that it might result in further evil."

    His friends were perplexed and seemed not to understand. The Taoist explained:

    " The external technique of Iron Corpse has already reached a level that we cannot even imagine. Even if my brothers Qiu and Wang really had been present here, we might not have been able to overcome her. That the Master of Peach Blossom Island succeeded in producing a disciple of such strength...that indicates his own power. Only the neigong of Mei Chaofeng is not at all advanced. I do not know where she succeeded finding secret formulas to practice the Taiost neigong, but without pointers from a master, she was not able to understand them. That time, she asked me to explain a formula, of which lack of understanding had to have arrested her progression. I realized something was wrong and did not reply to her second question, but my first explanation would already allow her to make great progress in her neigong."

    " Let us only hope," said Han Xiaoying, " that she will regret her past crimes and no more do evil."

    " May it be thus! says Ma Yu. " Otherwise, if her neigong becomes stronger, it will be yet more difficult to contain... Ah, this is my fault, I was too naïve, for not distrusting her..."

    After a moment's thought, he continued:

    " One thing intrigues me. The skills of the Peach Blossom Island are completely different to those of Taoism. Yet, nonetheless, these two formulas that she quoted correspond precisely to our Taoist neigong. How that is it possible?"

    At this point in time, Huazheng suddenly leapt off her boulder:

    " Ah!" she cried, "Guo Jing! Father did not believe me, he left to go to To'oril!"

    " Why?" Guo Jing asked.

    " I explained to him," said Huazheng, " that Uncle Senggüm and Uncle Jamuqa plotted against him. He then burst out laughing, saying that not wanting to marry Dushi, I invented lies! I said to him that you had heard it with your own ears, but he did not want to believe it, saying even that he would punish you on his return. I saw him leave with my three elder brothers and a small escort, then I hurried to come to find you. But on the way, that blind woman caught me. She wanted to bring me to see you, isn't that right?"

    " If we had not been here," said the Six ominously," you already would have had five holes in your skull!"

    " When did the Khan leave?" demanded Guo Jing anxiously.

    " A long time ago", responded Huazheng. " Father said that he wanted to arrive as soon as possible. He did not even wait for sunrise to leave. Their horses are very quick, they must be far away now. Is it really true that Uncle Senggüm wants to harm Father? What will we do?"

    She herself began to weep. As this was the first time of his life that he found himself confronted with a matter so grave, Guo Jing was himself all distraught.

    "Jing-er," said Zhu Cong, " Quickly descend the cliff: you take your small red horse and rescue the Khan. Even if it is not true, let us first send someone to ascertain Senggüm's. Huazheng, will you ask your brother Tolui to muster troops and to carry itself to rescue your father."

    Guo Jing agreed with recognition and quickly descended the cliff. Ma Yu went next descending with Huazheng while hanging on to a long rope.

    The young man dashed to his yurt, mounted his horse and they set off in a frantic gallop.

    At that moment, the sun started to rise. Guo Jing, very worried, said: "I fear that the Khan might already have fallen into Senggüm's trap, then it will be impossible to rescue him!"

    The small red horse loved to run off its bridle, and its heart danced in joy. It galloped more and more quickly on the plain. Fearing that it would fall, Guo Jing tried to rein it in a little, but the animal wanted nothing to do with it, and rushed on while whinnying in joy. Besides, even at great speed, it did not seem to show no signs of fatigue.

    After more than two hours' galloping, Guo Jing slowed his mount to rest a little. Then they continued upon their way. One hour later, they saw far away three cohorts of riders, three squadrons, it seemed.

    While approaching, he recognized the standards of To'oril: the riders advanced themselves, arrows on string and sabres drawn, ready for battle.

    " The Khan is further on," lamented Guo Jing, " but his line of retreat already is cut!" He pressed his thighs and his horse raced on like an arrow, passing To'oril's troops. They cried for him to stop, but he was already far gone.

    Guo Jing do not dare to linger. He discerned again three squadrons lying in wait, before he saw, raised far away, the high plume of white feathers that signaled the presence of Temüjin. Escorted by several hundred riders, they rode tranquilly heading for the north.

    Guo Jing rose to his full height and cried:

    " Great Khan! Stop, you mustn't go on!"

    Temüjin halted, taken aback:

    "Why is this?"

    Guo Jing him recounted what he had heard in the camp of Senggüm, and explained that his line of retreat had been cut. Temüjin glanced at him skeptically, not knowing whether he should believe it: " I never got along well with that fool Senggüm," he said to himself, " but my adopted father To'oril needs me now. And Jamuqa is my sworn brother! How could they plot against me? Unless this is the Sixth Jin Prince trying to sow dissension?"

    He hesitated, and Guo Jing said suddenly:

    " Great Khan, you have only to send someone back the way that you have just travelled and you will see..."

    Since childhood, Temüjin had lived in the middle of plots and treacheries, he had survived hundreds of battles thanks to his bravery and his caution. Even though he had said that it was absolutely impossible that To'oril and Jamuqa could have allied themselves against him, he said: " To be careful ten thousand times is not serious; but to die by carelessness one time is."

    He then ordered his second son, Jagataï, to leave with Tchila'un. The two men went back over the way they had come.

    Temüjin observed the lay of the land and ordered:

    " Let us ascend the hill and make ready!"
    His escort was made up of from some hundreds of men, but they were all elite soldiers and officers. Without needing other orders, they dug trenches, raised barricades, and got ready to withstand a siege.

    Shortly after, one saw dust clouds rising in the south, raised by several thousands of riders that galloped in pursuit of Jagataï and Tchila'un. Jebe had particularly good eyesight and distinguished the banners of the pursuers.

    " They are the soldiers of To'oril" he shouted.

    These had divided themselves in several detachments and tried to surround Jagataï and Tchila'un. The two men leaned on their saddles, and desperately whipped their mounts.

    " Guo Jing!" cried Jebe. " To their aid!"

    Both of them descended the hill. The small red horse, glad to meet its herdmates, arrived quickly to the front of Tchila'un. Guo Jing loosed three arrows with a rush of wind, cutting down the three closest soldiers, before interposing himself between pursuers and pursued, continuing to fire his arrows in all directions. Jebe had arrived also and his arrows flew again, swift and deadly. Nevertheless, the men of To'oril, too numerous, rushed forward like an irresistible tide.

    Jagataï, Tchila'un, Jebe and Guo Jing at last reached the hill, while their companions dropped a rain of arrows on their pursuers. They did not dare to launch a frontal attack, and for the moment, waited out of range.

    Standing on the hill, Temüjin observed the surroundings. Soon, the To'oril regiments came rushing from all directions. Under a yellow flag, a man climbed onto a great horse: it was Senggüm, son of To'oril. The Khan well knew that it was impossible to break the encirclement, and that it was better to stall.

    " Why is Brother Senggüm afraid to approach and parley?" he cried.

    Under the protection of his guards, that covered him with their shields, Senggüm approached, confident and arrogant:

    " Temüjin, Hurry up your retreat!"

    " How," demanded Temüjin, " did I offend To'oril, my adopted father, so that you attack me?"

    " For generations and generations, said Senggüm, " the Mongolians lived in separated tribes, at the heart of which the flocks were spread and divided in common. Why do you want to run counter to the traditions of our ancestors, while mixing the tribes? My father says often that you are wrong to want to do that."

    " Us Mongols," replied Temüjin, " are under the oppression of the Jin Empire, that demands of us, each year, a tribute of tens of thousands of head of cattle. Is this just? If that continues, we all will starve to death! If we do not battle between ourselves, why should we be afraid of the Jin Empire? I have always maintained good relations with my adopted father, there is no hatred between our two families. All that is the fault of the Jin, who want to sow disunity between us!"

    The soldiers of Senggüm, hearing this debate, found that his words had reason.

    " Us Mongolians are valiant warriors," pursued Temüjin, " why should we not go and take the treasures of the Jin? Why should we furnish tributes every year? Among the Mongolians, there are some that work a lot to husband the herds, and there are lazy ones. Why should those that tire themselves at work nourish those that do not do nothing? Why should those that sweat not have more head of cattle, and of sheep? Why do they not leave the lazy ones to die of hunger?"

    At that time, the Mongolians lived according to a kind of tribal socialism: their principal wealth, the cattle, belonged to all. Now, during the last years, the flocks had increased themselves. The tribes had equally learned from the Chinese to work iron, for the manufacture of tools and weapons. Most of the shepherds wished to keep the wealth that they produced for themselves, just like the warriors that, at the risk of their lives, won battles, and did not want to divide prisoners and loot with those that did not go to war. Thus, these matters spoken of by Temüjin went right to the heart of all the soldiers.

    Seeing Temüjin begin to influence his men, Senggüm cried:

    " Cast down your weapons at once and give yourself up! Otherwise, it will take but a signal of my whip to rain down ten thousand arrows! You have no chance of escape!"

    Guo Jing saw that the situation had became critical, but did not know what to do. He suddenly beheld, at the foot of the hill, a young officer, his armor covered by a coat of grey fur, a sabre in his hand, who proudly paraded on his war steed. He recognized Dushi, the son of Senggüm, whom he had fought in childhood. He was a villanous rascal, that had wanted to unleash the leopards on Tolui. Guo Jing did not understand why this had happened, and especially not why To'oril, Senggüm and Jamuqa wanted to plot against Temüjin. "The Khan and To'oril always lived in harmony," he said to himself, " then this means that Dushi, at the instigation of the Sixth Jin Prince, has peddled misleading and malicious lies upon the others. If I capture him and force him to accept his lies, then everyone will be able to reconcile themselves!"

    Spurring his small red horse, he descended the hill and taking advantage of the surprise of the soldiers, forced his way to Dushi.

    Attacking with his blade, Guo Jing leaned himself out of his saddle, the blade held above his head, with his right hand he trapped the principal artery on the wrist of Dushi. It was a movement of the famed technique "Disconnect the sinews and undo the bones" perfected by Zhu Cong, how could Dushi have withstood it? With a pull, Guo Jing snatched him out of his saddle. He heard the hissing of heavy projectiles to his left, about to fall upon him. He pressed lightly with his knees, the small red horse obeyed immediately and flew like an arrow towards the hill.

    The soldiers of Senggüm cried: " Fire arrows!" Guo Jing placed Dushi behind his back, using his body as a shield, so well that the enemies did not dare to fire.

    Arriving at the summit of the hill, Guo Jing threw Dushi to the ground while laughing: " Great Khan, this rascal is surely the person responsible for this treachery! Let us make him acknowledge it!

    Temüjin, very happy, pointed his lance on the chest of Dushi and shouted in the direction of Senggüm:

    " Move back your men two hundred yards!!"

    Senggüm, upset and worried to see his well armed son fallen to the hands of the enemy, not put that to do to back up his army. He ordered to encircle the hill by ordered ranks of wagons, so that the horsemen of Temüjin were unable to sally out.

    On the hill, Temüjin praised Guo Jing warmly, and ordered him to tie the prisoner's hands behind his back.

    On threee occasions, Senggüm sent a messenger to negotiate: if Temüjin released Dushi and went, his life would be spared. Each time, the Khan cut the ears of the messenger before he returned to his master.

    The sun descended to the horizon. Fearing that Senggüm would use the dusk to attack, Temüjin ordered that all should redouble their vigilance.

    Towards midnight, a man clothed in white went on foot to the bottom of the hill:

    " I am Jamuqa," he cried. " I wish to see my sworn brother Temüjin."

    " In that case, climb up!" said the Khan.

    Jamuqa ascended slowly and beheld Temüjin standing at the top of the slope. He advanced and made to embrace him, but the Khan did not let his guard down and said roughly:

    " You consider me again to be a brother?"

    Jamuqa sighed and seated himself cross-legged.

    " Brother," he said, " you already are the chief of a tribe, why do you have this excessive ambition to wish to unify all the Mongols?

    " What do you believe?" replied Temüjin.

    " The chieftains of the tribes say: our ancestors lived thus for hundreds of years, why does Temüjin want to change the traditions? Heaven will not allow it!"

    " Do you yourself remember the history of our ancestor Lady Alan-Qo?" Temüjin said. " She had five sons that were in discord. She asked all of them to come eat with her. Then she gave an arrow to each, asking them to break it. This they did very easily. Next, she tied five arrows together, and demanded again that they break them. Each tried in turn, but none were able to break the five arrows. Do you recall what she said to them then?

    " If you are disunited," said Jamuqa in a low voice, you can be broken by those of no importance, as a single arrow. If you unite yourself, you will be as solid as the five arrows together and no person will break you."

    " Well," said Temüjin, " you yourself remember that. What then happened next?"

    " Next the five sons united their efforts and conquered an immense territory. They are the ancestors of our Mongol tribes."

    " Exactly! Both of us are brave and heroic, why not unite all the Mongolians? If we do not quarrel amongst ourselves, we will be sufficiently strong to destroy the Jin Empire!"

    " How?" asked Jamuqa, " The Jin Empire is so powerful- its armies and wealth are innumerable! How could us Mongolians attack them?"

    " Then you prefer to undergo the oppression of the Jin?"

    " The Jin Empire does not oppress us," protested Jamuqa. " The emperor has even made you a "conquering general"!"

    " At first," Temüjin said vigorously, " I believed also that they had good intentions. But the greed of the Jin has no limits, and each time they demand more of us: first they want cattle, next horses, and now they ask that we send soldiers to help them make war. But the country of the Song is far removed from our lands! Even if the Song dynasty falls, all the lands conquered will belong to Jin alone. We will lose warriors, to win what? Since when would our cattle stop eating the green grass of our plains to go eat the sand on the other side of the mountains? If we must battle, it should be only against the Jin Empire!"

    " To'oril and Senggüm do not want to betray the Jin."

    " To betray?" mocked Temüjin. " Betray? And you?"

    " I beseech you, brother, not to let your anger get the better of you: release Dushi, and Senggüm, I myself will guarantee, will leave you to set off again in security."

    " I have no confidence in Senggüm, and I have no confidence in you!"

    " Hear the words of Senggüm," said Jamuqa. " If a son dies, other sons again can be born. If Temüjin dies, there will be no longer be another Temüjin in the world! If you do not release Dushi, you will never see another sunrise!"

    Temüjin knew well the character of Senggüm and of Jamuqa. If it fell between their hands, he knew well that he would have no chance of survival, while, if To'oril was there, he might possibly live. He brandished his sabre and whirled around.

    " I would rather die in battle," he cried, " than ever to surrender! Under heaven, there is only a Temüjin who will die on the field of honour, and no Temüjin that flees!"

    Jamuqa said:

    " You give the whole of the loot to the warriors, saying that it belongs for them, and not to the entire tribe. The chieftains of the tribes consider that you do wrong, that you run counter to our traditions."

    " But the young warriors are delighted!" said Temüjin harshly. " The chieftains pretend that the treasures of war cannot be distributed equitably to each, so then they keep all for themselves. Such practices insult the warriors that risked their life to support them. When we are at war, do we need stupid and greedy chieftains, or do we need young courageous warriors?"

  11. #11
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    - Brother, said Jamuqa, you always acted on your own, without listening the leaders of the other tribes. Don't call me ungrateful or traitor: these last days, you didn't stop sending people to try to convince my soldiers to join your army, while saying that, once at home, the resources gained in the battle belong to the ones that fought for them, and that they won't be distributed between all the tribe's members. Did you believe that I didn't knew of it?
    "If you are aware of it, thought Temüjin, then we won't ever live in peace with each other". He then took a small sachet out of his fob and threw it to the feet of Jamuqa :
    - Here are the gifts that you offered me when we promised, by three times, fidelity. Take them. Later, when you cut my head with your saber, you will only kill an enemy, and not a sworn brother... I am a hero, you are also a hero. The plain of Mongolia is vast, but it cannot contain two heroes.
    Jamuqa collected the sachet, took a small sachet of leather of his own fob, deposited it in silence to the feet of Temüjin, and moved away down the hill.
    Temüjin looked at him while he move away and stayed a long time in silence. He then slowly opened the sachet, withdrew the stones and the tips of arrow of it, and he remembered the games that they played when they were children. He sighed, dug a hole with a dagger and buried the gifts of his ex-brother there.
    Guo Jing was next to him, also with his heart broken: what Temüjin buried, he knew well, it was an infinitely precious childhood friendship.
    The Khan stood up and watched far away: as far as he could see, fires lit by the soldiers of the armies of Senggüm and Jamuqa illuminated the plain, as the myriads of stars in the sky.
    He remained dived in his thoughts, turned around and saw Guo Jing close to him.
    - Are you afraid? he asked.
    - I was thinking about my mother, answered the young man.
    - Indeed, you are a brave, said Temüjin, a true brave!
    He showed the thousands fires that illuminated the plain :
    - They also, he continued, these are also brave! We, the Mongols, have so many braves, but everybody spends its time making themselves wars. If we could united our braves, we would take over the world and make it a huge field for our herds!
    Guo Jing, while hearing these so ambitious words, only felt more of admiration for Temüjin. He stuck out the chest and said :
    - Big Khan, we are going to win for sure, because we cannot be beaten by this coward of Senggüm!
    - Precisely, answered Temüjin, the radiant face. Let's recall ourselves what we said tonight. If we manage to get away alive this time, I will consider you henceforth as my own son.
    He then hugged the young man.
    While they spoke, the day had risen. The horn sounded repeatedly in the ranks of the besiegers.
    - The help won't come, said Temüjin. Let's prepare ourselves to die on this hill.
    One heard in the adverse army the jangle of the weapons and the neighs of the horses: the attack was imminent.
    - Big Khan, said Guo Jing suddenly, my red horse is extremely fast. Take it and bring back some help. During this time, we will remain here to face the enemies.
    Temüjin smiles and stretched the hand to caress the hair of the young man :
    - If Temüjin, he said, was capable of abandon his friends and his men to run away, fearing for his life, he wouldn’t be worthy of being your Khan anymore!
    - It is true, Big Khan, recognized Guo Jing, I was wrong...
    They protected themselves behind the some mounds of earth, ready to fire some arrows on the attackers.
    Shortly after, preceded by a yellow standard, three men left the enemy's ranks and moved forward: on the left, Senggüm; on the right, Jamuqa; to the center, it was, oh surprise, the Sixth Prince of the Jin empire, Wanyan Honglie! Covered of an armor and a golden helmet, a shield of gold to the arm, and he shouted :
    - Temüjin, do you dare to betray the big Empire Jin?
    Jöchi, the eldest son of Temüjin, shot an arrow on him, a man of his escort seizes it in the air, with an astounding speed.
    - Capture Temüjin! shouts Wanyan Honglie.
    To these words, four men hurried upwards the hill.
    Their movements caused a big surprise to Guo Jing: he noted, indeed, that the newcomers, who used a lightness technique, were experts in martial arts, and they weren’t warriors of the plains. Arrived to mid-hill, they avoided with agility the rain of arrows that Jebes, Bo'orchus and the others shoot. "We have officers and brave of great strength here, worried Guo Jing, but they wont ever be a match to experts in martial arts! What to do? "
    One among them, clothed of black, bounds until the summit of the hill. Ögödei tried to stop him, but the newcomer hit his nape with a dart and stroke down with his saber the injured. However, in a lightning, a sword come down to hit his wrist, with a great speed and precision, a movement so well done that he was forced to move back three steps. Surprised, he saw a young man with a virile posture be held before Ögödei. Not expecting to find, among the soldiers of Temüjin, an expert swordsman, he exclaimed, in Chinese :
    - Who are you? What is your name?
    - I am called Guo Jing!
    - Never heard to speak of you! Now surrender yourself! Guo Jing threw look around, and saw that the three other attackers were at the summit of the hill and already in a unarmed fight with Chila'un, Bo'orchus and the other. He then stroke the man of the saber. This one defended and retaliated.
    The soldiers of Senggüm got ready to rush on the assault of the hill, when Muqali put his saber on the nape of Dushi :
    - If you go up, he shouted, my blade will be without mercy! Senggüm, very worried, turned towards Wanyan Honglie :
    - Lord, tell your men to come back, we will find another way! There’s no reason to wound my child!
    - Don’t worry, says Wanyan Honglie while smiling, it won't happen anything to him!
    He wanted to make Temüjin kill Dushi, in order to make a lasting hate between the two tribes.
    The men of Senggüm didn't dare to move, while those of the Prince were in a violent fight.
    Guo Jing used the technique of the sword of the Yue girl, that Han Xiaoying had taught him. After several exchanges, he was, to his big surprise, in a situation of inferiority: his strokes, full of lightness and agility, proved to be of little efficient against his adversary's heavy and powerful saber. The man was indeed clever, and seemed to have a consequent neigong. The Six Freaks, with their multiple gongfu and their vast experience, had shown to their disciple the essential of the martial arts of the different schools that they knew of. But the technique of this man's saber was particular and strange: a stroke carried on the right fell, by a weird movement, on the left! Guo Jing, powerless, didn't stop moving back. All of a sudden, he wondered: "Big Shifu often says that, in the fight, it is very important to take the initiative and not only suffer. For now I keep defending, do I therefore only suffer ?" Seeing a stroke of the saber arriving, he decided to not worry himself of it, and to concentrate on the attack, pushing his sword towards the enemy. This one seeing him so daring and a little preoccupied of his own security, was afraid and moved back, Guo Jing thus took the initiative and increased in ardor. Defending this avalanche of strokes, the man began to lose his advantage.
    His three mates, who had already defeated several Mongol officers, saw him in difficulty. One among them, armed of a big spear, approached of a jump :
    - Big Brother, I come to give you a helping hand!
    But the man to the saber had a very high idea of himself: hired at the price of gold by Wanyan Honglie, it was the first time that he made a demonstration of what he was capable of. How could he have accepted, with all the army knowing, the help of his brothers-in-arms, and thus admit to being incapable of defeating a young rookie?
    - Don't move, he shouted, admire the dexterity of your Older Brother!
    Taking advantage of his distraction, Guo Jing, of a stroke "The Phoenix flies off and the snake bounds", he pointed the tip of the saber the lower part of the his body. The man moved back, but the blade had already split his left sleeve.
    - Hey, hey, sneered the man of the spear. Come to admire the dexterity of the Older Brother!
    The mockery was obvious: he seemed to be delighted with the misfortune of his brother!
    Jebes and all officers had gathered together around Temüjin to protect him. Seeing this martial attitude of these elite warriors, armed with long spears, the two other attackers, of which one used a whip of iron and the other a pair of short axes, didn't dare to make a frontal attack. They heard their brothers-in-arms call them. They thought, these Mongols cannot escape anyway, why not attend to the spectacle first? The three were held side by side, the crossed arms, to look at the fight of their Older Brother with Guo Jing.
    The man to the saber moved back and shouted :
    - Who is your master? Why do you come to look for your death here? Guo Jing remained in a defending posture but used the language of the Streams and Lakes taught by his masters :
    - I am disciple of the Seven Freaks of the Jiangnan. What are your honorable names and surnames?
    He had repeated these formulas during a long time, but it was the first time that he used them for real.
    - Our names, says the man to the saber while throwing a look toward his brothers-in-arms, even if I told them to you, you would not know them, rookie! In guard!
    After these first clashing of weapons, Guo Jing had well felt that his adversary was stronger than he. But the technique taught by his Seventh Shifu was extremely sophisticated and provoked a big apprehension at the enemy, so that he could take the initiative and attack without moving back. They exchanged about thirty strokes again. The tension was extreme: the thousands of soldiers at the bottom of the hill, the men and the officers of Temüjin, the three other attackers, all watched with attention this astonishing fight. The man to the saber wanted to win it, in order to cause a good impression of himself to the Sixth Prince but, the time was passing, he began to get nervous, and his strokes started to be more and more violent. Suddenly, he feinted and attacked the waist of Guo Jing. This one revolved and retorted of a stroke "Turn around to pick the fruit" towards the arm that held the saber. The adversary, seeing that he didn't seem to worry to defend, believed that his hour was going to come: "When your sword will touch its goal, he thought, my saber will have cut you in two already!" However, Guo Jing, sure of his strong neigong, moved his waist to the side, without even move the rest of the body, avoided the saber and planted his sword in his chest.
    The man screamed, released his saber and gave a stroke of the hand on the blade of the sword that made it fall on the ground, but the tip of this one had already penetrated a half inch in his chest! He had the his life safe, but his palm was cut and bled abundantly.
    Guo Jing would have been able to kill him but, due to the lack of experience, he had let escape the opportunity. "What a pity!" he thought while lowering himself to collect the enemy's saber. He then discerned the hiss of a weapon behind him and heard Jebe to shout :
    - Attention, behind!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Patudo and Taihan)

    Without even looking back, Guo Jing executed a backwards kick and blocked the stroke that came towards him. At the same time, he executed a sabre cut down upon the hand of the enemy: it was precisely the stroke "The Swallow Returns to its nest", that was part of the "Southern Mount Sabre" technique taught by Nan Xiren. This kick, delivered without even a glance, demanded absolute precision, otherwise, the enemy's spear would strike him squarely in his heart! Guo Jing had spent months of training to succeed in mastering it.

    " Well!" cried the spearman.

    He wheeled around and thrust towards Guo Jing's chest. He responded with a "The Drunkard Removes His Boot", that consisted of disarming the spear with a sabre cut, while delivering a kick upon the wrist of the enemy.

    This man believed that Guo Jing had trained himself specially to wield a sword and wanted to take advantage of the fact that he had lost his weapon, in order to obtain an easy victory. Now, he had not predicted that the martial arts foundation of this young man would have been so profound, not limited to one weapon, or that he would show himself so skillful with the sabre. He had himself sweated blood and water on the lance for nearly twenty years, his Shifu was one of the better ones in this specialism, so he applied more pressure to Guo Jing.

    The young man saw clearly that his enemy's heavy spear sought constantly to strike the sabre in his hand, by very quick blows, this meant that the man looked for a swift and certain victory to assure his fame in front of the armies. But to the end of several tens of exchanges, Guo Jing saw that his opponent grew tired, that his lance slowed down. He therefore deployed the whole power of the "Southern Mount Sabre" , charging, fending, slashing, sweeping... Even the Big Brother of the four assailants, an expert wielder of the sabre, was somewhat impressed.

    He delivered a stroke "Advancing a pace to seize the basket", separating the lance of the left hand. Normally, he then should have advanced a step and slashed with the sabre directly down upon the enemy. But upon contacting the lance, his palm felt immediately the slowness of his opponent. Since the two years that he practiced neigong, the reactions of his body had become quicker than his thought. As soon as he sensed the weakness of his enemy, without even a moment's reflection, he turned his left palm and seized his opponent's hand by a movement of "Disconnect the sinews and undo the bones"; his sabre, instead of attacking his enemy's body, glided alongside his hand, in such a way that if he did not immediately loosen his grip, he was going to lose his ten fingers. The man pulled with all his strength, but did not succeed in pulling out his lance, when he saw the sabre's blade cutting down to the thumbs of his hands, he feared that he might lose them all and jumped back!

    The Six Odd ones had thought that, Yang Tiexin being the direct descendant of the great general Yang Zaixing, he had to be expert in the Yang Family's lance art. Qiu Chuji, for his part, had to pay special attention to this weapon in the training of Yang's son, in order not to fail to the reputation of his ancestors. Thus, while teaching sabre to Guo Jing, Nan Xiren particularly had insisted on the technique "Lone Sabre undoing the Spear", that he had made him learn by heart. And before even to serve to Jiaxing, this technique allowed Guo Jing to realize a brightness blow in the desert!

    After this victory, the young man felt stronger again: with a flourish, he threw the sabre down to the foot of the hill, and picked up the lance. The fourth man jumped on him while shouting, attacking with his two short axes. But how could he close with Guo Jing? As to this matter, the specialists always granted on the fact that the longer the weapon, the more it allowed its wielder to dominate the battle: those that used short weapons effectively had to arrive close to their opponent to attain it. Aware that Yang Kang would without a doubt be well trained in spearmanship, the Six Fantastic ones had equally given an exhaustive foundation to their disciple. The chosen weapon of Quan Jinfa, the balance, had a similar technique of the one of the lance. Thus, this was him that took in hand this teaching. Under the Song Dynasty, the army had attached great importance to the lance. Without even mentioning the "Yue Family Lance", there were a number of great generals, such Yang Ye or Huyan Zhan, that were experts of the lance.
    The technique deployed here by Guo Jing was, precisely, the Huyan Lance, contemporary to this era. His opponent wielded his axes well, but he could not approach to strike. Nevertheless, his blows were sufficiently powerful to worry the young man. He then adopted one of the cunning strategems of his Sixth Shifu and pretended to stumble. The opponent did not fail to take advantage of this occasion: he jumped, shouted out and hacked down with his axes on Guo Jing. This one para while getting up his lance, that was broken in three pieces. But that gave him the time to land a kick in the stomach of the enemy, that propelled him far back. He recovered himself, infuriated, and returned to the attack. Guo Jing, who had no more weapons, do not n'eut fear for as much and fought with bare hands.

    The martial brother of the axeman went to the rescue with his whip; they were therefore two against one. This provoked the indignation of all the soldiers. The Mongols, simple and frank as they were, respected above all men of courage. They already were scandalized to see these four men to take it in turns to fight Guo Jing, now. here they were pitting themselves two against one unarmed man! They felt that this was dishonourable, and shouted out for them to stop: Guo Jing was a worthy opponent, they acclaimed him to encourage him.

    Bo'orchu and Jebe drew their sabres and joined the battle, so well that the two others assailing themselves joignirent equally in battle. The two Mongolians were invincible on the battlefield, but they did not pull their weight, in single combat, against experts in martial arts. They fought out only a couple of exchanges with great difficulty before they were disarmed and had to retreat. Guo Jing dut very to provide assistance for them, in order to release them.

    The four assailants had only one obsession: to kill Guo Jing. "Verily," they did say, " if we lose today facing this novice, how could we show our faces again in the martial arts world [jianghu]? How will we be able to hold our place with the Sixth Prince?"

    Then they quietly freed the two Mongol officers to surround the young man. The soldiers upon the summit and at the foot of the hill redoubled their boos and insults, but the four turned a deaf ear to them. The spearman had collected on the ground a javelin, Guo Jing saw striking down at him, at the same time, sabre, javelin, whip and axe! As he was disarmed, he could not parry or riposte, so his only option was to avoid the blows, while deploying his lightness art [Qinggong]. He was hit nevertheless by several blows, and tumbled to earth.

    Bo'orchu raises the saber within his hand and yell, “Catch.” He threw it to Guo Jing. Guo Jing pushes himself up to catch it, but the person with the steel whip knock the saber away. The expert using the two axes was still angered from the opponent(Guo Jing)’s last kick; no matter what, he keeps circulating his axes to cut down on Guo Jing. Guo Jing jumps to the side to dodge it, but the saber has already come above his head. Guo Jing bends down to dodge it. His left foot just reaches the ground and had stamped on the head of the person using the axes (I not sure if this is by accident or intention); at the same time, Guo Jing’s left calf was strike by the whip. That one strike sent pain down to the heart and lungs; lucky that strike wasn’t planned out which only carry half the amount of force. There weren’t any bones broken, but his leg is staggered, almost falling down. The man with the axes threw away his axes, and with his two hands held on tightly to Guo Jing’s legs and wouldn’t let go.

    Guo Jing couldn’t stand steady, fell down to the ground; his eyes looking at the sunlight. The saber and whip have already come above his head; Guo Jing thinking that he couldn’t survive today. The images of his mom, seven masters, Taoist Master Ma Yu, sworn brother Tolui, and sworn sister Hua Zheng appear in his head, he then grab on tightly to axes person’s chest. With all his strength, he lifts up the axes person and places it on his body for cover. The other three afraid of hurting the axes person withdraw their weapons. Guo Jing’s left hand held onto the opponent’s pressure point, disability his movements. Guo Jing’s right hand held on the opponent’s neck which Guo Jing is hiding under his body.

    The three raise their feet and begin kicking onto Guo Jing’s shoulder and feet. Guo Jing just ignore those attacks and thinking, “Even if I die, I would strangle this guy to death.” Guo Jing then gathers his strength, his fingers squeezing harder. At the time, the battle didn’t use any martial art techniques; it’s all relying on brute strength now. The three for the time couldn’t do any to Guo Jing.

    Jebe and his men seeing Guo Jing being compress under there; all of them holding weapons rush over to rescue him. The oldest martial art of brothers, the one using the single saber, said to two of his little martial art brothers, “You all go and hold them off, and I will kill this bastard here.” He bended his body down and thrust the tip of the saber toward Guo Jing’s shoulder that was sticking out. The opponent’s right hand is gathering strengths and pushing down. Guo Jing suddenly felt a sharp pain in his shoulder; he then gathers his strength into his back and thighs. Using a stance [the lazy interest on interest](translated by WorldLingo, not sure it is correct) he rolls out two zhangs. At the time, the person who was holding onto Guo Jing’s legs was strangled and couldn’t breath, so he fainted already. Guo Jing pushes his body and jumps up. Seeing the person with the saber rushing over, Guo Jing wanted to counter, but the pain from injuries on his right foot begin to become unbearable. He couldn’t stand steady, so he fall again and roll over.

    The other person changes the direction of the saber and now cutting down. Guo Jing suddenly figured something out, with his hand, he reaches out to the back of his waist area and pull out […….](can’t translate the name but I think it is a soft whip) that was used for protection. Laying flat on his back on the ground, he uses the move [Golden Dragon(Jin Long) whip technique(I think it is fa like jian fa)] which cover all of the weak points on his body. The king and god of horse(MaWangShen) Han Bao Ju is a short person; he mainly study method on how to attack lower part of the body. At the times, Guo Jing is fighting on the ground; the strokes of the whip techniques have been precise, being able to control it at will. The other person was screaming and scolding, but he was unable to harm Guo Jing.

    Fighting over 20 stances, the fainted one is now awake, and the other two had pushed back the two Mongolian generals and is returning to fight Guo Jing.

    The position had become critical for him when cries themselves were heard at the foot of the hill: a tumult agitated the ranks of the army of Senggüm, one saw six individuals nimbly brushing themselves through the soldiers and ascending the hill. The Mongolians thought that they were more lackeys of Wanyan Honglie coming to lend assistance to their comrades, and forcefully manifested their disapproval.

    The men of Temüjin prepared themselves to fire arrows to prevent them from approaching when Jebe, whose vision was particularly acute, perceived that it was the Jiangnan Odd Six.

    " Jing!" he cried, " here are your teachers!"

    Guo Jing, that not some could more, was cheered up.

    Arrived the first, Zhu Cong and Quan Jinfa realized right away the perilous position their disciple was in. Quan jumped and struck, with a blow of his balance, the four weapons:

    " Have you no shame!" he cried.

    Feeling a great pain in their hands, the four men realized that a more powerful opponent had just arrived and drew back. Zhu Cong rescued Guo Jing. Meanwhile, the other Odd Ones arrived.

    - Louts without vergogne! scolded Quan Jinfa. Ouste! Put on file me the camp!

    The man with the sabre was well aware that they had lost the advantage, and that, if they continued the fight, they would be defeated. But if themselves backed down, they would lose face and would no more dare to serve the Sixth Prince!

    " Are you the Jiangnan Odd Six?" he demanded to give itself a breathing space.

    " Indeed," replied Zhu Cong while laughing. "Who are you?"

    " We are the disciples of the "King Dragon of the demonic Harbors"."

    The Odd Six were very surprised, for, given that these individuals had openly abused their numerical superiority, they had believed that they were vagabonds without a master. Now, the King Dragon of the demonic Harbors, Sha Tongtian, was a weighty personality in the martial arts world.

    " Are you usurping that name, or what?" demanda Ke Zhen'E in an icy voice. " The King Dragon of the demonic Harbors is a renowned personage, how could he have disciples as miserable as you?"

    " Usurping a name?" said the axeman. " Here is our Big Brother Shen Qinggang, nicknamed "Sabre Breaks Down The Soul"; here is our Second brother, Wu Qinglie, nicknamed "Lance Seizes Life"; here our Third brother Ma Qingxiong, nicknamed "Whip Captures Spirit"; and I Qian Qingjian, nicknamed "Axe Buries Family"."

    " So," said Ke Zhen'e, " that seems to be true. You really are the "Four Demons of the Yellow River". You occupy nevertheless a certain position, in the Jianghu; how could you lower yourself to attack to four against one, while my disciple is all alone?"

    Wu Qinglie said cunningly:

    " What, four against one?" he argued. " Isn't your disciple helped by all these Mongols? Indeed, we are four against several hundreds!"

    " Third brother," demanded Qian Qingjian to Ma Qingxiong, " this blind person shows himself to be well boastful. Who is this?"

    He had asked the question in a low voice, but Ke zhen'e heard him. Very upset, he leapt and struck a cane blow at Qian, the prit by the collar and threw him to the bottom of the hill. The three other Demons did not even have the time to react: Ke zhen'e already was upon them, grasping them one after each other and pitching them similarly far away. All the Mongol soldiers cried out joyfully. The Four Demons of the Yellow River, covered with sand, rose painfully to their feet, the limbs aching and shame upon their faces.

    At that moment, one saw immense dust clouds rising in the distance, as if tens of thousands of horsemen were charging. A flutter of agitation immediately arose within the army of Senggüm.

    Temüjin, delighted to see reinforcements arriving, knew that an iron discipline reigned in the army of Jamuqa, that its officers and soldiers were all hardened, while Senggüm, protected by the reputation of his father, was a less formidable commander in chief. He indicated then the left wing of Senggüm and cried:

    " Attack in this direction!"

    Jebe, Bo'orchu, Jöchi and Jagataï foncèrent the first ones. One heard the faraway cries of the warriors of the relief column. Muqali swept his sabre down on the nape of the neck of Dushi and shouted

    " Open up the pass! Open up the pass!"

    Senggüm, who was going to order to his men to block the pass, hesitated upon seeing that his son was menaced. In a wink, the small troop of Temüjin was located to the foot of the hill. Jebe aimed carefully and loosed an arrow heading for the head of Senggüm. He shielded himself quickly, but the projectile struck the atteignit to the upright cheek and he tumbled down from his mount. Seeing their chieftain fall, its men made their escape in pitiful disarray.

    Temüjin and its companions broke out of the siege, firing arrows upon those that they pursued. Several li further away, a cloud of dust was apparent: Tolui and his troops. The pursuers had always feared the bravery of Temüjin. Now that they no longer had the advantage of numbers, they turned tail.

    In fact, Tolui, being young, had not been able to make himself obey the chieftains and generals, so much as it did not dispose personal seal of his father. He had not therefore been able to make fun that some thousands of young warriors that had well wanted to follow him. Not being stupid, he knew well that the enemy, superior in number, would gobble up these reinforcements. He had then conceived the idea to attach branches to the tails of the horses, so that quantity of dust this raised concealed the weakness of his troops. The ploy was a success. Temüjin reentered his camp in safety.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Du Gu seeking a win)

    That evening, Temüjin gave a large banquet to reward his troops, but he placed Dushi at the place of honor, which caused general indignation. The Khan carried three toasts to pay homage to Dushi and said:
    - To'oril, my adoptive father, and my brother Senggüm have treated me always well. There is no reason for hatred between the two families.

    Please present my excuses to them, which will be accompanied with gifts of great value. I won't hold a grudge against you because of what you have done. After you return, you will prepare your marriage with my daughter. We will give a great feast, where we will invite the chiefs of all the tribes. It will be a great rejoicing. You are my son-in-law, you are thus my son. From now on the two families must be united like one and not let themselves be divided by gossip.

    Dushi, relieved not to be killed, accepted all what was asked. Having noticed that Temüjin, when he spoke, kept his right hand on his chest under the tunic, and was coughing nonstop, he wondered: "Could it be that he's wounded? "
    - This day, said the Khan, I got shot by an arrow. It will take three months to recuperate before I'm healthy again, if it isn't so, I could accompany you back myself. He withdrew his hand from under his tunic: it was full with blood!
    - It will even be necessary, he began again, to marry you (with my daughter) before I am fully restored. If not, perhaps it will be necessary to wait for too long a time.

    All the present officers were amazed, they were outraged to see their Khan afraid and apprehensive with regard to To'oril, and always so eager to marry Huazheng with Dushi. The son of the division commander was part of Temüjin's reuniting force and had been killed defending the hill. This commander, insane with anger, unsheathed his sabre and wanted to kill Dushi. The Khan let him seized and beaten in front of the son of Senggüm until he fainted and was covered with blood.

    - He will stay imprisoned, ordered Temüjin, and he will be beheaded with all his family in three days! The following day, Dushi returned home, taking along two carriages filled with gold and fur, thousand fat sheep, hundred war horses, the whole escorted by fifty soldiers. Temüjin had also sent an emissary known for his eloquence, to plead his cause to To'oril and Senggüm. At the time of the departure, Temüjin, who seemed to have no more strength to ride a horse, arrived on a stretcher and bade him farewell while still coughing.

    Eight days later, Temüjin brought his officers together:
    - Gather your troops, he ordered, we will attack To'oril! All were looking aghast.
    - To'oril has a very large army, whereas we are very few. If one cannot win a frontal battle, a ruse is needed. I have let Dushi go, heaping him with gifts, then I pretend to be wounded by an arrow and lay dying, all that to make him off guard!

    All expressed their admiration. This moment, Temüjin freed the commander he had let beaten and gave him a big reward. Learning that the army was going to attack To'oril, the commander felt joyous. He knelt down to express his thanks and asked for the honor of commanding the attacking front force, which Temüjin granted him. The army of the Khan was divided into three columns, which marched in the night, bivouacking during the day, using deserted paths. When they met shepherds, they made them captive and took them along, to avoid any indiscretion.

    At the beginning, To'oril and Senggüm, fearing that Temüjin would come to avenge, kept their guard. But the triumphal return of Dushi, the gifts he brought back, the servile remarks of the emissary and the news of the serious wounds of the Khan reassure them completely. They withdrew even the sentinels and spent their time feasting with Wanyan Honglie and Jamuqa. However, one night, the three columns of Temüjin fell on them like lightning! The troops of To'oril and Jamuqa that are many, in panic lost any of their combativeness: it was a general stampede. To'oril and Senggüm fled towards the west, they were killed thereafter by Naïmans and Liaos. In the mob, Dushi was trampled by the horses.

    Wanyan Honglie, for his part, escaped in the middle of the night, under the protection of the Four Demons of the Yellow River and turned back to the Jin capital. Given up by his troops, Jamuqa took refuge at the Tangnu mountain with his five guards. Those took possession of him and brought him to Temüjin. Temüjin got furious:
    - Guards who betray their master! he cried. What good is it to let such people live? He ordered their heads decapitated in front of Jamuqa.

    Then he turned to Jamuqa:
    - Shall we become friends again?
    - Even if you spare my life, answered Jamuqa with tears in his eyes, I haven't any honor left to live in this world. I beg you only to let me die without bloodshed, so that my soul did not go out of my body *.

    * According to the beliefs of the shamans, the soul resided in the blood. The princes that one wants to kill but to which one wish to pay homage were put to death by strangulation.

    Temüjin remained a long time silent and sad.
    - Well, he said finally. I agree to such a death, and I will bury you at the place where we played as children. Jamuqa knelt down and left the tent. A few days later, Temüjin united the tribes on the river banks Onon in a kuriltai (general assembly). Its fame stretched beyond the large desert: the tribes, warriors and all the shepherds, feared and revere it. The men of To'oril and Jamuqa had been built-in. During the kuriltai, Temüjin was acclaimed Grand Khan of all Mongolia, he carried from that time on the title of "Gengis Khan", which meant "Supreme Chief".

    Gengis Khan rewarded the most deserving soldiers: Muqali, Bo'orchu, Boro'ul, Chila'un, the Four Intrepid ones, and the officers, Jebe, Jelme and Süboteï were made generals. During the battle, Guo Jing had rendered exceptional services and he was made general too! A young man who did not yet reached twenty years of age regarded as an equal to officers of great reputation! During the banquet, Gengis Khan accepted homage from his faithful ones and drank without bounds. Slightly drunk, he said to Guo Jing: - My good boy, I will still give you something which is invaluable. Guo Jing knelt down to thank.

    - I give Huazheng to you, said Gengis Khan. From tomorrow, you will be my son-in-law, wearing the large golden knife! All the warriors gave cries of joy and congratulated the young man:
    - Son-in-law, wearing the large golden knife! Well, hurrah!
    Most content with all this was without any doubt Tolui, who embraced his sworn brother. But the person of principal interest remained dazzled. He had always regarded Huazheng as his sister and he did not feel any other kind of love. He had devoted all his time to martial arts, when would he had time to think of other things? The words of Gengis Khan threw him in distress and he didn't know what to do anymore. Seeing him speechless, all burst out laughing.

    After the banquet, Guo Jing went to inform his mother. Li Ping remained thoughtful for a long time, then asked him to invite the Six Freaks from Jiangnan. They were delighted to see their beloved disciple covered with honor and they congratulated his mother. But she did not say a word, then fell suddenly to her knees, in front of the Six.

    - Please raise!, they protested. If you have something to say to us, do it, why such a ceremony?
    Han Xiaoying helped her raise.
    - Thanks to the education of the six Shifus, said Li Ping, my child finally became a man. Never could I express my gratitude to all of you. But now, I face a difficulty and I need your enlightened counsel. She then told about the marriage which had been arranged by her late husband and his sworn brother, Yang Tiexin.
    - That the Khan wants my son to be his son-in-law, she began again, is of course a great honor. But if Uncle Yang left a girl and I do not keep my husband's promise, how could I later, in the underworld, face my husband and Uncle Yang?
    - You don't have to worry, said Zhu Cong laughing. The honorable Yang actually left a descendant, but it is not a girl: it's a boy!
    Li Ping was astonished and charmed at the same time.
    - How do you know, Shifu Zhu?
    - A friend who remained in the Central Plains wrote to us to inform. By the way, he wishes that we take Jing along to Jiangnan to meet the son of Yang, and to compare their respective gongfu.
    In fact, the Six Freaks never made anything known to Li Ping and her son of the challenge launched by Qiu Chuji. When Guo Jing raised questions about the small taoist Yi Zhiping, they merely murmured something without really answering. Knowing the kindness of their disciple, they thought that, had he suddenly know the story of Yang Kang, he would not show all his potential at the time of the combat: it would distort the competition irremediably.
    The words of Zhu Cong charmed Li Ping. She asked whether the Yang spouse was still in this world, raised questions about the character of Yang Kang, the Six were unable to answer her. They were sure taking Guo Jing along to Jiangnan to meet the Yang son, while seeking Duan Tiande to be avenged. Guo Jing would not return to marry Huazheng.
    Guo Jing went to report this arrangement to Gengis Khan.
    - Well, said Temüjin. You go to the South, you will bring back for me the head of Sixth Prince Jin, Wanyan Honglie. My sworn brother Jamuqa betrayed me and lost his life, it's the fault of that scum. How many men do you need to achieve this mission?

    After unifying the Mongolian tribes, Gengis Khan posed a serious threat for the Jin Empire. Confrontation would take place earlier or later, it is inevitable. Having met Wanyan Honglie on several occasions, Temüjin knew his intelligence and his competence, so it was important that he be gotten rid of as soon as possible. As for his break with Jamuqa, the true reasons were elsewhere: he had upturned the traditions, had kept the spoils of war for his own warriors, and had sought to attract three soldiers of Jamuqa to his own army. Only, their oath of fidelity was bad, they did not want to recognize its responsibility and were charmed to put them on the account of Wanyan Honglie.

    Since his childhood, Guo Jing wanted his mother to tell his exact relationship with the Jin. He had conceived a great hatred in that connection. This time, it had failed to perish under the blows of the Four Demons of the Yellow River. Answering the question of Gengis Khan, he said to himself: "If my six Shifus would lend me a hand, certainly my mission will be a success. To take along brave men who do not know martial arts, is likely to obstruct me"
    - If my six Shifus accompany me, then he answered, I don't need anybody else.
    - Very well, said Gengis Khan. We are still weak at the moment and we cannot face the Jin Empire directly.
    It is necessary for you to be careful and not to let them guess our intentions.

    Guo Jing agreed. The Khan gave him ten pounds of gold for his voyage, and offered the Six Freaks a part of the spoils plundered from To'oril. Learning that he will leave on a mission to the South, all the friends of Guo Jing also offered gifts to him.
    - Anda, Tolui reminded, people of the South don't keep their word, you must be careful, and not get duped ...

    Three days later, Guo Jing and his Shifus left at dawn for the tomb of Zhang Asheng to pay homage. Then they returned to bid farewell to Li Ping, before taking the road to the South. Li Ping accompanied with a glance the high silhouette of her son riding the small red horse which disappeared in the desert. She thought of the childbirth during the desolate battlefield, and felt her heart tightening.
    After riding about ten Li, Guo Jing saw two white eagles swerving in the sky:
    Tolui and Huazheng had come to bid farewell to him. Tolui still offered him a valuable coat of black sable without any flaws, which he had taken from To'oril.
    Huazheng, with feverish cheeks, looked at her future husband without saying anything.
    - Oh well, little sister, said Tolui, speak to him! I will not listen to what you'll say!
    He burst out laughing and went forth.
    Huazheng bowed her head, she did not find anything to say ...
    - Return quickly! she finally murmured. Guo Jing shook his head.
    - What else do you want to say to me? he asked. She shook her head.
    - Then, I'll go ...
    She lowered her head without saying a word.
    Guo Jing leaned, slightly pressing her to him, rode towards Tolui, also hugged him, then put his horse in a gallop in order to catch up with his six Shifus who were far already.
    Seeing him so formal, without showing any tenderness, though they were already promised in marriage and he would travel faraway, Huazheng felt an upsurging annoyance, she violently whipped her horse although the poor animal couldn't help it ...

  14. #14
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Strunf)

    Chapter 7 Joust to find a spouse

    The Six Freaks of the Jiangnan and Guo Jing took the southeastern direction. The journey promised to be long: many days passed before they even left the steppe.
    That day, they were not very far from Kalgan anymore. It was the first time that Guo Jing landed his feet on the Chinese soil, all was new for him, and he was full of enthusiasm. He loosened the bridle of his horse, that ran so quickly that the wind whistled to the ears of the young man and the landscape changed so quickly before his amazed eyes. The little red horse galloped without interruption till the Black River, then Guo Jing stopped in a hostel by the road, in order to wait for his masters.
    Seeing that, after this long race, the horse had sweated a lot, Guo Jing had mercy of him and took a handkerchief to wipe it. He was stunned then to see, on the handkerchief traces of blood! Passing the hand on the neck, he withdrew it covered of blood. He almost burst into tears, blaming himself for not stopping his horse and take care of it. He was therefore the responsible of its loss! He embraced the horse, making him one thousand caresses, however the animal seemed to be very healthy, without appearing to suffer from anything.
    Impatient to see his Third Shifu, so he may give some care to the horse, he didn't stop stretching the neck toward the road to see him as soon as possible. Suddenly, he heard a warbling tolling of bells: four camels of a snow white color arrived at full speed on the road, each brought by an individual clothed in white. Guo Jing had grown in the desert, but he had never seen any as beautiful camels and could not stop himself from looking fixedly at them. Aged of about twenty years, the “cameleers” had all one face of fine lines and attractive, of a beauty that one rarely could see in Mongolia. They got down with agility of their settings to enter in the hostel. Guo Jing could not leave them of the eyes.
    One of the cameleers, embarrassed by the fixity of this look, blushed and lowered the head. Another, on the other hand, got in anger :
    - Little stun! What do you have to look like that?
    Guo Jing, taken on the fact, diverted the head with embarrassment. The newcomers whispered in a low voice and one heard them to laugh.
    - Congratulations! seemed to say one among them. You really hit that little stun!
    Guo Jing understood that one ridiculed him and felt all ashamed. The red to the cheeks, he wondered if he had to remain or leave, when Han Baoju arrived on his stallion “Pursuit of wind”. The young man hastened to tell to his Shifu of his misadventure.
    - How is this possible? wondered Han Baoju.
    He approached the horse, caressed it, examined its hand attentively, and exploded to laugh :
    - It is not blood, he says, it is sweat!
    - Sweat? stammers Guo Jing, speechless. Red sweat?
    - My small Jing, it is a horse to the sweat of blood, a rare beast and of an inestimable value!
    Guo Jing was in heaven to learn that his setting was not wounded :
    - Third Shifu, did he asked, how sweat can it look like blood?
    - I heard about it from my deceased Shifu, that it existed in the kingdom of Ferghana (central Asia Valley, shared today between Uzbekistan, the Kirghizstan and Taczhikistan.), in the Territories of the west, celestial horses, whose sweat was red as blood. Its gallop looked like he was going to fly, and it could browse more one thousand li per day. But it was a legend, no one ever saw one, and I didn't believe myself in it too much. However, here is that this legendary animal let himself be tamed by you!
    In the meantime, the other Freaks had also arrived. All took place in the hostel and ordered to eat. Zhu Cong, whose learning was incomparable, said while nodding the head :
    - It is effectively an anecdote consigned in the Historic Memorials and in the dynastic history of the Hans, that The emperor Han Wudi, having heard to speak of the horse to the sweat of blood, had sent an emissary in kingdom of Ferghana with a full size statue of the animal, all gold, and had asked to have one of it. However, the king of Ferghana refused.
    - How did the emperor react? asked for Han Xiaoying. Did he give up on the horse?
    Installed on another table, the cameleers in blank, also stretched the ear to listen the history. At that moment, one heard to ring some bells and four other individuals, also clothed of white, entered and sat down with their mates.
    - Of course no, says Zhu Cong. He entered in a terrifying anger and invaded Ferghana. To the term of a long and terrifying war, during which the kingdom was annihilated, he finally captured one of the famous horses, but at what price!
    All exclaimed on the madness of the men and continued to eat the meal that they had ordered.
    The eight cameleers had listened to history attentively, throwing looks of desire on the attached outside red horse, and didn't quit to whisper in a low voice. Ke Zhen'e, whose hearing was especially fine, heard them distinctly, although the tables were relatively distant from each other.
    - If one wants to go for it, said one of them, we need to do it right away. If he rides his horse again, we wont be able to catch him up!
    - There is too many people here, retorted another. And he has some mates...
    - If they dare to interfere, said a third, we only have to kill them all!
    "How can these eight individuals appear as cruel?" wondered Ke Zhen'e, but he didn't let anything of it to appear and continued to swallow his dough’s greedily.
    - We are going to offer this precious horse to the young Master, said one of them. Mounted on such beast, his arrival in the Yanjing will be a lot more spectacular! No one will be talked as much as him, not even conceited persons like “the immortal of the Ginseng”, or the “Virtuous Supreme Lingzhi”!
    Ke Zhen'e had heard to speak already of the "Virtuous Supreme Lingzhi", that was an eminent personality of the esoteric school of Tibet, known in the whole Southwest for his so-called technique "Stamp of a big hand." On the other hand, he didn't know anything about the "Immortal of the Ginseng."
    - These last days, said another, we met on the road a lot of outlaws, these are all of the men of Peng Lianhu, called "Butcher of the one thousand Hands." They are probably going to the appointment in Yanjing. If they fall on this precious horse, do you believe that we will get another chance to get it?
    Ke Zhen'e froze: he knew that Peng Lianhu was a dangerous strip chief who raged in the region of the Hubei and Shanxi. He had many henchmen under his orders and acted with cruelty. He had killed so many people that he had received the nickname of "Butcher of the one thousand Hands." Why, did he wonder, all this sinister outlaws are to meet in the capital? And from where did these eight women came? "
    These women, continued to plot to low voice, deciding to lie a ambush on the road, outside of the township, in order to seize the horse of Guo Jing. Then they chattered, talking of cloths and other business, of the kind : "It is you that the young Master prefers", or "The young Master must be thinking about you now", etc. Ke Zhen'e raised the eyebrows, angry, but he could not close his ears and he heard all in spite of him.
    - If we offer the horse to the sweat of blood to the young Master, did ask for one among them, what reward do you believe that he is going to give us?
    - He is surely going to spend more nights with you, answered another while laughing.
    The first protested, sulky. They bickered while laughing.
    - Be quiet, says one among them. Don’t unveil our intentions, they don't seem to be that easy...
    - The woman over there, says another in a low voice, carries a sword, she practices the martial arts for sure. And she is rather good looking!
    If she had ten years less, the young Master would certainly fall for her!
    Ke Zhen'e understood well that they were speaking of Han Xiaoying and felt even agrier: this "young Master" of which they spoke cant be someone that advisable!
    The eight women finished their meal, took their camels and left the hostel.
    After their departure, Ke Zhen'e asked Guo Jing :
    - Jing, what do you think if the gongfu of these eight women?
    - What women? wondered Guo Jing.
    - They are disguised in men, explained Zhu Cong, but you didn't realize it, dint you?
    - Who knows the Mount of the white Camel? asked Ke Zhen'e.
    No one had heard to speak of it. Ke informed them about the conversation that he had heard, the other Freaks found that these shameless women didn't lack of boldness, but their audacity to want to tackle someone stronger than them was something to laugh of.
    - Two among them, said Han Xiaoying, have a big nose and green eyes: they probably aren’t Chinese...
    - Effectively, confirmed Han Baoju. And these entirely white camels only exist in the Territories of the west.
    - That they want to steal the horse, said Ke Zhen'e, that is not too serious, but they said that numerous dangerous personalities were going to a meeting in Yanjing: it must probably hide an important plot to harm the Song dynasty. It could even have disastrous consequences for our people! Since we fell on such a business, we cannot wash our hands of it.
    - Certainly not, said Quan Jinfa, but the appointment of Jiaxing is near, we cant waste any time.
    They hesitated, because it appeared impossible to reconcile the two missions.
    - That Jing goes there first, says suddenly Nan Xiren.
    - Fourth brother wants to say, did decipher Han Xiaoying, that Jing must go alone in Jiaxing, and that we will join it once we will have solved this business in Yanjing?
    Nan Xiren nodded the head.
    - It is true, says Zhu Cong, it is time that Jing travels a little alone to acquire some experience all by himself...
    The young man appeared very saddened to part away from his Shifus.
    - You are now big, reprimanded Ke Zhen'e. Don't behave like a child!
    - You go and wait for us there, comforted Han Xiaoying. In less than one month, we will join you.
    - The appointment of Jiaxing, said Zhu Cong, we didn't explain it in detail to you until now. Whatever it arrives, at the twenty-fourth day of the third lunar month, at noon, you must imperatively be to the Pavilion of the drunk Immortals, even if the sky was to fall on your head!
    Guo Jing acquiesced.
    - These eight women want to steal your horse, continued Ke Zhen'e. Don't look for the fight: your horse is fast and they wont be able to catch you up. You have important things to attend to, avoid to embark in useless histories.
    - If these women dare to cause any trouble, said Han Baoju, the Seven Freaks of the Jiangnan will stop them!
    Zhang Asheng had died more than ten years ago, but the six always called themselves "Seven Freaks", never forgetting to associate their dead brother to all their actions.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Patudo)

    Guo Jing therefore bid farewell to his teachers. They had witnessed his battle against the Four Demons of the Yellow River, and were not too greatly worried: the young man had proved that he knew to use the skills that had been taught to him. Therefore they let him leave alone. On one hand, the meeting of the outlaws in Yanjing worried them greatly, so that they could not make themselves lose interest in it; and on the other hand, a youngster always had to travel the jianghu alone, in order to learn lessons that no teacher could pass on.

    At the moment of parting, each made his last recommendations. As usual when the Six spoke after one another, Nan Xiren was the last one to express himself:

    " If you cannot defeat the enemy," he said. "Flee!"

    Knowing the dogged character of Guo Jing, he knew that he would prefer to die rather than to surrender: if he met a master, he would certainly fight to the bitter end, even at the risk of death. That was the reason Nan Xiren gave him this common-sense warning.

    " The martial arts have no limits," added Zhu Cong. " As the proverb says: 'For every peak there is one yet higher', so for every man there is one stronger. Whatever your power, you will always one day meet a foe stronger than you. A true man knows to retreat when necessary: when facing grave danger, it is necessary to contain one's impatience and anger. This what is meant by the adage: « If one preserves the earth and its forests, one does not fear to lack firewood ». It is not therefore not cowardly to take good advice! When the enemy is too numerous and that you cannot face them there, it is especially necessary to avoid being too reckless. Keep in mind Fourth Shifu's advice!"

    Guo Jing agreed and kowtowed to his teachers, before mounting his horse to head for the South. He felt great sadness at parting from his masters, with whom had lived every day for the ten last years, so that the tears flowed down his face. He thought also of his mother, whom he had left alone in the desert. Of course, she did not lack for anything, since Genghis Khan and Tolui had promised to look after her, but his loneliness weighed upon him nonetheless, and he grieved for her.

    After travelling about ten li, he arrived in a mountainous region: the road wound in the bottom of a valley dominated by craggy slopes sprinkled by strange boulders. As it was the first time that he had confronted the outside world, he could not help but feel a little apprehensive at the sight of this threatening landscape. One hand on the hilt of his sword, he paused then while smiling: « If Third Shifu saw me thus, trembling and terrified, he would certainly make fun of me! ».

    The path climbed the mountain flank, becoming more and more narrow and serpentine. After a turn, he suddenly became aware of a mass of white shapes in front of him: four women clothed in white, mounted on white camels, blocked the road.

    Guo Jing halted and pulled up the reins of his horse. From a distance, he shouted:

    " Excuse me! Please, may I pass!"

    The four women laughed.

    " Little guy," replied one of them. " What do you fear? Why don't you come over! We won't eat you!"

    Red-faced, Guo Jing did not know what to do: could he amicably negotiate passage, or was it necessary to rush and force the pass by arms?

    " Your horse seems not a bad animal," said another woman. "Come, let me have a look at him!"

    She spoke to him as to a little child. Guo Jing felt anger rise within him. But the layout of the terrain worried him. To his right rose a craggy cliff, to the left there was a mist-drowned precipice, whose bottom could not be seen.

    " Eldest Shifu," he said to himself, " has given me good advice not to seek trouble. If I ride swiftly at them, those girls will be well obliged to let me pass!"

    He lashed his reins, pressed with his thighs, and the red horse sped forward like an arrow. Sword in hand, Guo Jing cried:

    " Listen, you people! Let me pass! If someone is jostled and falls in the precipice, it won't be my fault!"

    In an eyeblink, he arrived in front of the four women. They had leapt down from their camels and attempted to seize the bridle of the horse. But, with a whinny, the horse leapt over the camels! Guo Jing had the impression that he was flying in the clouds as he landed behind his opponents, who were just as surprised as him!

    Hearing them scream out their anger, he turned and saw the flash of two projectiles flying towards him. This being his first travels in the jianghu, he had taken heed of the prudent recommendations of his masters: worried that the missiles were poisoned, he did not wish to seize them with his bare hand. He waved his leather cap, and gathered them, intercepting their flight.

    " Well done!" cried two of the women. " Pretty gongfu!"

    Guo Jing dipped his head and saw, inside his cap, two silver darts tipped with extremely sharp fishbones, deadly weapons! He felt disturbed and upset: " There is no ill-will between us," he said to himself. " You covet only my horse and here you are ready to injure me mortally! ».

    He placed the missiles in his pouch, and fearing to meet the four other women, he loosened his horse's reins. It galloped like the wind and in less than an hour, had covered 80 li. The assailants had to be ambushed more far on the road, but it was passed so quickly than they did not have to have the time to stop it. After a brief rest, he continued on. Before night fell again, he had arrived to Kalgan, sure that he had left behind those following.

    Kalgan, the crossroads of commerce between the South and the North, was a small but very lively city, where the trade of the region was centered, especially the fur trade.

    Holding his red horse by the reins, Guo Jing glanced right and left with great curiosity. Never had he seen a town of such importance, so that everything appeared strange and novel to him.

    Arriving in front of a large restaurant, he felt the pangs of hunger. He tied up his horse in front of the door and went in. Once seated at a table, he ordered a dish of beef, with two pancakes, and being of good appetite, he ate in the Mongol manner, winding the meat in the pancake and taking bites out of it.

    While he treated himself, he suddenly heard a tumult at the door of the inn. Fearing for his mount, he rushed to the doorway. The little red horse was quietly eating his fodder, but two inn boys were scolding a young, slender boy, clothed in rags.
    Aged about fifteen or sixteen years, on his head he wore an old leather hat with many holes, his face and hands were all dirty, so much so that one could not distinguish his features clearly. He held a big bun in his hand and laughed stupidly, revealing two rows of beautiful white teeth, that seemed out-of-place in comparison with his general appearance. His black, very lively eyes, shone with intensity.

    " Hey!" screamed one of the boys. " Get lost!"

    " Sure," said the young man, " since you want me to go, I'll go.. "

    He turned on his heel, but the other inn boy interrupted:

    " Leave the bun!"

    He did so, passed back the bun, but it was spattered with the tracks of dirty fingers and could no longer be sold. The inn boy, furious, launched a blow with his fist, that the other ducked.

    Guo Jing felt pity for him, thinking that he had to be hungry, and interposed himself:

    " There's no need for violence," he said. " Put that on my account!"

    He obtained the bun and gave it to the young man, who took it, but said:

    " This bun is no good! Poor thing, wait; here, for you!"

    He threw the bun to a small skinny dog that started to devour it.

    "What a waste!" swore the inn boy, " giving a dog such a good bun!"

    Guo Jing was taken aback, for he had believed that the boy had suffered from hunger... He returned to his table to continue his meal. Now, the young man followed him inside the establishment and stayed there, looking at him fixedly. Guo Jing felt a little bothered, then he asked:

    " Do you want to eat here, too?"

    " Gladly so," replied the young man with a laugh. " Exactly, I was bored all alone and I've been looking for a buddy..."

    He had a Jiangnan accent, and its familiarity delighted Guo Jing. In fact, his mother was from Lin'an, in Zhejiang province , and the Odd Six all came from Jiaxing: he had therefore, since childhood, been immersed in the accent of the Jiangnan. The young boy seated himself at the table. Guo Jing ordered a cover of more to the waiter. He saw the rags and dirtiness of the new guest, his appearance was not very nice. It was necessary to to call him several times before he brought over a bowl and plate, dragging his feet.

    " You take me for a pauper," said the young boy, " unworthy to eat here?"
    Peuh! Even if you serve your finest dishes, who knows whether they might be to my taste!"

    " Ah yes?" said the waiter coldly. " We will assuredly follow your orders, sir. The problem is that we don't know if anyone will pay!"

    " Whatever the dishes that I order," the boy demanded of Guo Jing, " will you treat me?"

    " Of course, of course!" réplied Guo Jing, who then ordered the waiter: " quickly, will you cut up a plate of roast beef and a half plate of mutton liver!"

    For him, roast beef and mutton liver constituted the ultimate in delicacies...

    " Do you drink wine?" he asked the boy.

    " Wait," the other replied. " Don't rush into the meat. Let us begin first with fruit. Eh, waiter! Bring us first four dry fruit, four fresh fruit, two salted sweetened ones, four preserved fruit in honey."

    The waiter was shocked, not expecting such orders:

    " Which fruit and sweets would you wish, sir?" he enquired.

    " In this little establishment, in this pathetic little town," says the boy, " I imagine it's impossible for you to do anything great. Then, one will content oneself with little: the four dry fruit are lichis, longans, jujubes to the steamed and gingkos. For the expenses, you will choose seasonal fruits. For the salted sweetened, perfumed cherries and plums to the filaments of ginger, but I don't know if one can find some here. As for the preserved fruit in honey, you will bring perfumed orangettes to the rose, preserved grapes, fishing lamelles to sugar freezes, and pear slices."

    This knowledge of culinary matters impressed the waiter, who no longer dared to act superior.

    " There is no fresh fish or fresh shrimp here, to accompany the wine," continued the boy, " so I will be content with eight average... dishes."

    " What would you desire, sir?" asked the waiter;

    " Of course," said the boy with a sigh. " If one does not explain all the tiniest details, you would be incapable of doing anything! Here are the eight dishes: steamed pheasant, fried ducks feet, a soup of chicken tongues, deer stomach to rice wine, beef ribs with chives, rabbit in filament to the chrysanthemum, thigh of wild boar stir-fried, pork feet in ginger vinegar... I'm choosing simple dishes only, it's not worth speaking of more sophisticated dishes."

    The waiter's mouth gaped.

    " These eight dishes," he said, " are rather expensive! For the duck feet and the chicken tongue soup, we will require a lot of poultry!"

    " This gentleman is paying," résponded the boy while pointing at Guo Jing, " do you believe that he does not have the means?"

    The waiter saw that Guo Jing carried a sable coat of great value. « Even if you have no means of payment," he said to himself, " this coat will suffice to cover the expenditures! ».

    Then he demanded:

  16. #16
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Du Gu seeking a win)

    - Are those all?
    - You will also bring, the boy said, twelve more dishes to accompany the rice and eight different desserts. And it will go on like that ...

    The waiter didn't dare to ask details concerning the dishes, fearing the boy would order dishes he could not provide, he went to the kitchen telling to prepare the best.
    - Which wine does the gentlemen wish to drink? he returned to ask. We have white wine ten years of age. What would you say of two horns to start?
    - Why not? said the boy. One continued with ...

    A little later the waiter brought fruits and cookies, Guo Jing tasted each plate and marvelled at all those delicious things he had never know. The boy spoke much, telling about the local customs and habits, describing famous characters and famous anecdotes about the country of the South. Guo Jing was fascinated by his refined eloquence and his immense knowledge. Guo Jing's Second Shifu was a well-read man and a great scholar, but Guo Jing, who had devoted all his time and energy to martial arts, had only learned from Zhu Cong, during their rare free time, some basic characters.
    It seemed to him now that this young boy was as cultivated as Second Shifu and he was filled with wonder: "I believe, he thought, what seems just a poor beggar was in reality a well-read man of immense culture. The men in China are definitely quite different from those in Mongolia."
    Half an hour later, the dishes were ready: it was necessary to join two large tables together to be able to serve them all. The young boy drank very little and ate in the same way, being satisfied with pickings of the less spiced dishes. Suddenly, he called the waiter and thundered:
    - This rice wine is five years old! How do you dare to serve it with the food?
    - Your palate is really very refined! the manager came to beg for pardon. Please excuse us. In fact, our humble establishment did not have it, it was necessary to borrow some from the nearest larger restaurant, The House of Eternal Celebration. In general, one does not find fresh wine in Kalgan.
    The young boy made a gesture to return it and resumed his conversation with Guo Jing again, asking him thousand questions about the desert and Mongolia. As his Shifus had reminded him to be discreet, in order not to reveal his identity, he was content to tell anecdotes on hunting for hares and wolves, the shootings of eagles, horse races etc. The boy listened with fascination, applauding the sharpest accounts and often bursting into fresh and childish laughter.

    Guo Jing had lived all his life in the desert. He had certainly tied a sincere friendship with Tolui and Huazheng. But Temujin, who loved his youngest son very much, often kept his son near him, so that Tolui didn't have much time to play around. As for Huazheng, she had a strong character and often quarrelled with Guo Jing, who felt reluctant to do everything she wanted. Although they always ended reconciled, the relation wasn't easy. However, everything was different with this young boy: they were conversing during eating and Guo Jing, without knowing why, felt a joy he never experienced before.

    Usually he spoke little and expressed himself with difficulty. One really needed to pose him with questions forcing him to answer painfully. Han Xiaoying nicely made fun of him by saying that he was the preferred disciple of Fourth Shifu, because he had adopted Nan Xiren's motto: "silence is golden".
    This time, he surprisingly could speak nonstop, not hiding anything of his life, except his martial arts training and what was related to Temujin, telling even all silly things and his stupidities. He spoke glibly and at a certain moment, he forgot himself and seized the left hand of his interlocutor. He was surprised because this hand was soft and smooth, it was flexible and seemed boneless. The boy smiled slightly and bowed his head. Guo Jing realized whereas the boy's face was dark with filth, the skin of his nape had the whiteness of jade. Guo Jing found this a bit strange, but he did not pay further attention.
    - Well we've chat for a long time, the boy said, withdrawing his hand, all are cold now, the dishes and also the rice ...
    - Yes, Guo Jing said, but it is not spoilt, it is still good nevertheless ...
    The boy shook his head.
    - Then we'll let it warmed up ...
    - No, the boy said, what is warmed up isn't good anymore ...
    He called the waiter, ordered him to throw all away and prepare new dishes with fresh ingredients. The manager, cooks and waiters found this attitude quite strange, but they did it readily. The Mongols had a habit of showing extreme hospitability to their guests, and besides, it's the first time of his life Guo Jing handled money, he didn't knew its value at all. But even if he did know, he got along so well with the boy, he felt such a pleasure in the boy's company, he would have spent ten times as much without batting an eye.

    The new dishes were served, the boy ate some mouthful and had enough. "You are really an idiot", the waiter inwardly said to Guo Jing, "This little urchin has taken advantage of you".
    He brought the check, which amounted to nineteen taels, seventy-four conderins. Guo Jing took a gold ingot, ordered the waiter to change against taels at the money changer, and paid.
    When they left the restaurant, the northwind blew violently. The young boy seemed to feel cold. He shivered and said: - I've disturbed you ... Now, goodbye.
    Seeing the boy dressed not warm enough, Guo Jing felt his heart tightening. He removed his black sable coat and covered the shoulders of the boy:
    - Brother, he said, I got the impression we've known each other forever. Please accept this coat.
    He had four gold ingots left, he took two ingots, slipped them into the coat's pocket. Without even thanking, the boy, wearing the sable coat, stepped along heavily.
    After walking about ten steps, he turned and saw Guo Jing, holding his horse by its bridle, fixedly looking at him. He understood Guo Jing did not want to separate like that, then he made a gesture with his hand. Guo Jing approached him eagerly and required:
    - Does worthy brother still need something?
    - I haven't yet asked for the name of my big brother, said the boy smiling.
    - Indeed, Guo Jing said laughing, we forgot about that. My name is Guo and Jing is my first name. And you, brother?
    - My name is Huang and my first name is Rong.
    - Where are you bound for? asked Guo Jing. If you want to go towards the South, we could travel together, what do you think?
    - I do not go towards the South, Huang Rong said, shaking his head. Then he said suddenly:
    - Big brother, I'm still hungry ...
    - Very well, Guo Jing ardently said. Let us eat something together.
    This time, Huang Rong brought him to the House of Eternal Celebration, the principal restaurant of Kalgan, which decoration accurately imitated the great establishments of the ancient capital of Song, Bianliang. He did not order a feast anymore, but asked only four plates of fine pastry, a pot of longjin tea (famous green tea of the province Zhejiang), and both continued their rambling conversation.
    Having learned that Guo Jing had tamed two white eagles, Huang Rong expressed a certain desire.
    - Very well, he said, I did not know exactly where to go. Indeed, tomorrow I'll leave for Mongolia, to catch two white eagles for my amusement.
    - They are not easy to find, Guo Jing remarked.
    - Then how did you find them? Guo Jing didn't answer and only smiled. The climate is severe in Mongolia, he said, the northwind blew icy and hard, how would this young boy with such a weak constitution could withstand it?
    - Where do you live? he asked. Why don't you return home?
    Huang Rong had tears in his eyes:
    - Dad doesn't want me anymore!
    - And why?
    - He locked up somebody, answered Huang Rong, and did not want to set that person free. I took pity on the prisoner; as he is displeased all alone, I brought good things for him to eat, and I try to converse with him. Dad got angry and cursed at me, I ran away in the middle of the night.
    - Your dad surely thinks of you at this moment, Guo Jing said. And your mom?
    - Died for a long time! I didn't have a mom since very little ...
    - If you have had your fun, it would be better to return home.
    - Dad does not want me anymore, Huang Rong said crying.
    - That's impossible.
    - Then why doesn't he look for me?
    - Perhaps he is still seeking, but haven't found you ...
    - You are probably right, Huang Rong said, who changed from crying to laughing. Then when I have my fun, I'll return. But first of all, it is necessary to tame two white eagles.
    They chatted again about what they have seen or experienced. Guo Jing told the incident of the eight women in white disguised as men who wanted to take possession of his horse. Huang Rong raised questions about the small red horse, its capabilities, its character, and was full of envy. He drank a mouthful of tea and said smilingly:
    - Big brother, I want to ask for something of great value to you. Would you approve of that?
    - Of course, why wouldn't I?
    - What I would like, is precisely your horse with the sweat of blood!
    - Allright, Guo Jing said without hesitating, I'll give it gladly to you. In fact, Huang Rong was joking: he saw very well that Guo Jing adored his invaluable horse, and they have met just recently and by chance. He just wanted to see how this good chap was going to refuse his improper request. However, Guo Jing answered with such an amount of generosity and simplicity that he was taken by surprise. Moved beyond words, he could not prevent himself breaking into sobs and hide his face with his arms.
    Guo Jing was even more surprised:
    - Well, brother, he asked with concern. What has occurred? Don't you feel well?
    Huang Rong raised his head. He had cried, but now a big smile lit his face. The running tears had wiped away the filth, revealing a white skin like pure jade.
    - Big brother, he said, let us go!
    Guo Jing paid and they left the restaurant. Guo Jing took his horse by its bridle, caressed it gently and gave it the following advice:
    - I've given you to my great friend here. You will show yourself obeying and especially not show your foul temper! Then he adressed Huang Rong:
    - Brother, mount the horse!

  17. #17
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Patudo)

    Usually, the small red horse did not allow anyone else to mount it, but, during the last few days, it had quietened a lot. And, since its master had ordered it to do so, it didn't make a fuss. Huang Rong leapt on the horse, Guo Jing let go the bridle, and clapped him lightly on the rump. Rider and horse disappeared in a cloud of dust.

    Guo Jing waited till he could see them no more before he returned. It was very late when he obtained a room in a hostelry. The moment he was going to extinguish his candle and to go to bed, he heard a scratch at the door. He thought that it was Huang Rong who had returned, and felt great joy:

    " Is that you, brother?" he demanded. " That's great!"

    " It's your old man!" replied a hoarse voice. " What 's so wonderful?"

    Surprised, the young man opens the door and saw, by the glimmer of the candle, five men. While looking at them more closely, he felt a shiver go down his spine: four of them, armed with sabre, lance, whip and twin axes, were none other than the Yellow River's Four Demons, whom he had fought earlier at the hill. The fifth one was a lean man of about forty years, with a dark and long face, with three big bumps on the forehead, that gave him an extremely ugly appearance.

    The lean man sneered and swept grandly into the room. He seated himself arrogantly on the bed of bricks (in northern China, sleeping arrangements generally were installed on top of a kind of brick "oven", that allowed for heating underneath), then turned his head to regard Guo Jing.

    The senior brother of the Yellow River's Four Demons, Shen Qinggang, nicknamed "Sabre Breaks the Soul", declared coldly:

    " Here is our martial uncle, the renowned Hou Tonghai, known as "Three-Headed Dragon"! Kowtow before Lord Hou right now!"

    Guo Jing realized that he was cornered. He already could not defeat the Four Demons of the Yellow River by themselves, to say nothing of their martial uncle, who had to be fearsome.

    " What do you want?" he demanded, while joining his fists in greeting.

    " Where are your teachers?" questioned Hou Tonghai.

    " My six Shifu are not here."

    " Huh," sneered Hou Tonghai. " Then I will leave you a respite of a half-day. If I killed you now, one could say that the Three-Headed Dragon was taking advantage of an opponent weaker than him. Tomorrow noon, I will await your six Shifus in the Black Pine Wood, ten li to the west of here."

    He left without even waiting for Guo Jing's reply. Wu Qinglie, nicknamed "Whip Pulls out Life", closed the door and locked it from the outside.

    Guo Jing put out the candle, lay down on the bed, and saw, on the paper of the window, a shadow came and went with no small swiftness: the enemy, clearly, were mounting a watch over him. Shortly after, he heard a noise on the roof, someone hitting the tiles with a weapon, while saying: " Little chap, don't even think about running away, your old man is watching you." Understanding that escape was impossible, Guo Jing lay still, glancing at the ceiling, wondering how he was going to leave tomorrow, but he fell sleep before he found the beginnings to a solution.

    The next day morning, the inn boy brought hot water for his bath and noodles for breakfast, closely followed by Qian Qingjian, armed with his two short axes.

    Guo Jing reflected that his Shifu were faraway and probably could not arrive on time to save him. Since he could not flee, it was necessary to fight and die as a man! His Fourth Shifu had for him well says "If you can't beat the enemy, flee!", But to flee without even being beaten, this would not be following the advice... In fact, it would not have been difficult for him to escape from Qian Qingjian alone, but his spirit was not very lively or very resourceful. If only Nan Xiren had said to him: "Flee from danger!", he probably would have taken to his heels, and Qian Qingjian certainly would not have been in a position to catch him. The Three-Headed Dragon, Hou Tonghai, believed that the Jiangnan Odd Six were located in this area, and that, given their fame, they never would have failed to keep an appointment, so would never have imagined that Guo Jing would flee on his own.

    Seated on the bed, he praticed the meditations and controlled his breath according to the pointers given by Ma Yu. Next to him, Qian Qingjian whirled his axes while shouting and while criticizing his methods. Guo Jing gave him not the least attention. Towards noon, he rose.

    " Let's go," he said to his jailer.

    He paid his expenditures to the innkeeper and both headed for the west. Ten li further on, they indeed came across a wood of thickly foliaged pines. Qian Qingjian left Guo Jing and entered the wood.

    The young man pulled out the supple whip that he always carried by his side and cautiously entered the undergrowth. Progressing slowly, all the direction to the aguets, he followed the small path for a little more than one li, without seeing anyone. All was silent, with an occasional bird cry now and then. As he advanced, his apprehension grew.

    " No one is watching me," he said suddenly to himself, " the wood is so thick, why not hide myself? To hide myself, that's not to flee!"

    He prepared himself to slip into a bush when he heard swearing above his head:

    " Little bastard! Idiot! Moron!"

    Guo Jing jumped back, his whip held on guard. He looked up and burst out laughing: all at the top of four big trees, the Yellow River Demons, hands tied behind their backs, were hanging at the end of a rope and wriggled in the air. They struggled hopelessly but could not escape. Seeing Guo Jing, they redoubled their cursing.

    " You playing at swings?" asked Guo Jing while laughing. " This is very funny, isn't it? Then good-bye, I'll take my leave-"

    He took a few steps back, then returned.

    " How did you end up like that?"

    " Damn you!" growled Qian Qingjian. " We were trapped by surprise, this is not worthy of a real man!"

    " Little guy," cried Shen Qinggang, " if you're brave enough, let us down, we will fight one on one to decide between us. For if we attacked you en masse, we would be cowards!"

    Guo Jing wasn't very intelligent, but neither was he completely stupid. He burst out laughing again and said:

    " I'll accept that you're brave, without needing to match blows!" Afraid that Hou Tonghai, the Three-Headed Dragon, might arrive, he had no desire to linger; he hastily departed and returned to the city. He bought a horse and resumed without delay his journey south.

    " Who was it that helped me secretly?" he asked himself. " These Four Demons of the Yellow River have excellent gongfu, who succeeded in tying them up, and suspend them in the trees? And this Three-Headed Dragon that had seemed so frightening, why was it that I didn't see him anymore? My Shifu always said: when an appointment is taken, it is necessary to keep it, even if the sky falls on your head. I've kept his appointment, if he didn't arrive himself, that's not my fault."

    The journey went on without incident. That day, he finally arrived at Yanjing. It was the capital of the Jin Empire, the most prosperous city in the country. Even the former capital of the Song, Bianliang, or the new, Lin-An, could not compete with it. Guo Jing, who had grown up in the desert, never had seen similar organization. Red buildings of cunning architecture, decorated panels, majestic doors, splendid attachments in front of the sumptuous residences, fiery standards disputing the passage in the streets. Merchandises of all sorts were exposed in of immense stores, a colorful crowd to the luxurious clothes pressed themselves in the tea parlors and the debits of drinks. Brilliant signs, multicolored standards, in the air resounded a thousand musics, a hundred perfumes filled with fragrance. Guo Jing did not know anymore where to turn his head. There were so many things before his eyes that he did not recognize one object out of ten!

    Not daring to enter a restaurant that was too richly furnished, he chose a small stall where he ate quickly, then continued to walk about at random. Suddenly, he heard a continuous cheering, and saw a crowd in the distance, massed around something.

    Pressed on by his curiosity, he approached and slipped among the onlookers. They pressed themselves around a wide open area, in the middle of which was planted an ornamented standard with the phrase "Challenge to find a spouse" embroidered upon it. Beneath the standard, two persons faced each other in unrelenting combat: one was a girl dressed in red, the other a big fat fellow. Guo Jing saw right away that the girl, whose every movement was measured and checked, had good gongfu, while the fat fellow was clearly not up to the mark. After some exchanges, the girl feigned to lower her guard, the fat fellow advanced to attack with a blow "Twin Dragons Leaving their Lairs", projecting both fists towards the chest of the opponent. But the girl stepped back lightly, her left arm pivoted and struck the back of the fat fellow, who tumbled to the ground. He got up, covered in dust, an embarrassed look on his face, and disappeared into the crowd. The spectators applauded and acclaimed the girl.

    She rearranged a strand of hair and returned to the standard. Guo Jing regarded her more attentively: aged about eighteen years, she was very graceful and her face extremely pretty, lightly marked by life. Gusts of cold wind fluttered the standard, to either side of which had been planted an iron lance and two short halberds.

    The girl exchanged some words in a low voice with a middle-aged man. He nodded, and stepped forward, clasped his hands and saluted the onlookers:

    " Your servant is named Mu Yi. I am from Shandong. In visiting your honourable city, I seek neither fame or fortune. It is just that, my girl is of the age to put a comb in her hair (HAS to leave fifteen years, the girls, considered as adults, can groom and squeeze their hair with a comb) and she has no fiance. She has formerly made a vow: she does not desire a prosperous husband or a noble one, but a valiant expert in martial arts. This is the reason we have the audacity to propose a contest for her to find a husband: all young men, aged less than thirty years and who are unmarried, can match themselves against my girl. If he can vanquish her in a single move, I will give her to him in marriage. We traversed the country of the South to the North, but all the renowned experts already are married, and the young brave ones doubtless did not deign to try...this is the reason we have not been able to find a good husband... Yanjing is a place where 'tigers and dragons hide in the shadows'. Here there certainly are many heroes and valiant men. If my actions seem presumptous, I beg your kind pardon!"

    This Mu Yi looked sturdy and strong to Guo Jing, but his back was slightly hunched, he was white-haired and his entire face wrinkled. His air was melancholic and sad; he was clad in coarse fabric, patched in several places, while the girl was clothed in lively colours.

    After making his speech, Mu Yi listened for some time. He heard louts making vulgar comments, but they did not dare to descend in the arena.

    He raised his eyes to the sky, saw leaden clouds accumulating and the wind grew stronger.

    " One would say that a blizzard threatens," he said in a low voice. Ah, it was so dark, that day..."

    He turned back, took down the banner from the standard and prepared to stow away the banner when two simultaneous cries were heard from the east and west: "One moment!", and two men leaped in the open space.

    Upon seeing them, the crowd burst out laughing. The one who had come from the east was obese and elderly. He had a big beard and had to be at least fifty years old. The one come from the west was even more comical: he was a shaven-headed monk.

    " What are you laughing at?" the fat one shouted to the crowd. " Isn't this a contest to find a spouse! I am not married, why can't I try my luck?"

    " Venerable ancestor," said the monk while giggling, " even if you win, you wouldn't want this girl, as beautiful as a flower, to become a widow right away!"

    " And you," said the fat one angrily, " What are you here for?"

    " If I can have such a pretty girl," replied the monk, " I'll return to the secular world!"

  18. #18
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Du Gu seeking a win)

    The crowd was roaring again.
    The girl frowned her eyebrows, apparently annoyed. She removed the cape which she used to cover herself and wanted to continue the fight. Mu Yi held her arm, saying not to be irritated, and replanted the banner in the ground. The monk and the obese person continued their bickering, each wanted to fight the girl first.

    - Why don't you start fighting against each other first? the hilarious spectators suggested. The winner will have the honor to fight the girl!
    - Allright, the monk said. Old chap, let's have a little fun! He threw a blow with his fist, the obese one avoided it by lowering his head, before returning the blow.
    Guo Jing recognized the style of the monk, the Arhat style from the ShaoLinTemple. The obese one practised the style of the Five Movements. Both were thus practitioners of external gongfu. The monk showed himself of great agility, whereas the obese one, in spite of his age, privileged heaviness and power. Suddenly, the monk stealthily struck three blows at the stomach of his adversary, who fought stoically, in order to be able to batter down his right fist on the head of the monk. Who fell to the ground, dazzled, then found his spirits again, took a knife out of his robe and run to attack. The crowd shed a cry of surprise. The obese one leapt back before wielding an iron whip which was rolled up around his waist: thus, both had become armed! The fight began again, still desperate, but more dangerous. The spectators applauded while moving back, fearing to be injured by straying blows.

    Mu Yi approached the two men and said with a loud voice:
    - Stop! We are here in the imperial capital, it is forbidden to exhibit weapons! The two adversaries, carried away by their fight did not give any attention to him. Mu Yi leapt suddenly, jumping he kicked the knife of the monk while seizing the end of the whip. He drew with force, the obese one could not resist and released the whip. Mu Yi threw the whip onto the ground. The two adversaries, not daring to fight anymore, collected their weapons shamefully and disappeared under the gibes from the crowd.

    Then tinkling of small bells which were attached to the harnesses of horses was heard and one saw a flamboyant company appearing: several tens of vigorous servants accompanying a young nobleman. He looked at the brocade banner and examined the girl from head to toes. Then he smiled, got down from his horse and came forward.

    - Is this the girl who seeks a husband through a contest? he asked. The girl blushed and turned her head without answering. Mu Yi advanced, joining his fists and greeted:
    - My name is Mu. What does the young Lord wish?
    - What are the rules of this contest?

    Mu Yi explained it to him.
    - Then I want to try my chance as well... He was a young and handsome nobleman about eighteen or nineteen years old, dressed in a lavish brocade coat.
    "At last a boy, thought Guo Jing, who would make a beautiful couple with this girl! Unfortunately the monk and the old obese one a while ago were not up to par, if not... if not... ".
    - Your Lordship is joking, said Mu Yi mortified.
    - What do you mean?
    - We are only wanderers without abode, how would we dare to measure ourselves against you? And it is not an ordinary contest, it decides the marriage of my daughter ... Please forgive us.
    - Since when have you held this contest?
    - It has been more than six months that we traverse the roads.
    - And still nobody could overcome your daughter? the young nobleman said unbelievingly.
    - It is undoubtedly, Mu Yi answered smiling, because the experts in martial arts are all already married, or they condescend to be measured with her.
    - OK, OK! the young dandy exclaimed. I will test ...

    "This is a young man with a refined and distinguished bearing, Mu Yi thought. If he came from an ordinary family, he would have made a husband of choice for my child. But obviously, he belongs to the nobility. We are here in the capital of Jin, his family is perhaps well-known at the Court, or in any case, he is certainly rich and powerful. If my daughter wins, that could be worth our troubles; if she loses, would it be bad for us to be united to such a family?"
    - We are just wanderers in the realm of Rivers and Lakes, he said, we cannot measure ourselves with you. Please forgive us! We will leave!

    - This is an honorable contest, the young nobleman said laughing. I assure you, I will not harm your daughter. He then turned to the girl and said amiably:
    - It will be enough that the young lady touches me to win, allright?
    - In a contest, it is necessary to comply strictly to the rules, the girl protested.
    - Hurry up with the fight, a cry was heard from the crowd. The speedier you will fight, the more quickly you will be married, and the more quickly you will have babies! The spectators burst out into laughter. The girl wrinkled her eyebrows and removed her cape sulkily. She greeted the young nobleman, who bowed in return:
    - Please, young lady.

    "This young dandy grew in affluence, Mu Yi thought, does he know martial arts? It is better to defeat him quickly and to leave the city as soon as possible, in order to avoid trouble."
    - Allright, then he said, perhaps Your Lord wants to get rid of his coat.
    - That is not necessary, the young dandy said smiling.
    The spectators, who knew the ability of the girl, thought that to show oneself that careless, one was going to suffer!

    - But, some of them thought, the Mus have experience in the realm of Rivers and Lakes. They will certainly not injure a son of a noble family. They probably will arrange that he does not lose face.
    - Do you believe, whispered the others, that they really perform a "contest to find a spouse"? Probably, old Mu only wants to benefit from the beauty and gongfu of his daughter to cheat money from fools! This young dandy should watch his wallet!
    - Please! the girl also said. The young nobleman swivelled towards the right, whereas his left sleeve flew with flashing speed towards the shoulder of the girl. She, surprised by the speed and skill of the attack, leaned and plunged, thus escaping the blow. But the action of her adversary was stunning, the right sleeve already arrived near the head of the girl, clamping both sides. She had to leap back with the quickness of an arrow.

    - Good! the young nobleman shouted, he advanced without letting her the time to fall down on her feet. The girl, still in the air, swivelled and attacked to defend herself, kicking with her left foot in the direction of the nose of the young man. He had to move back hastily, and both fell down simultaneously on their feet. The young man had attacked with three stances, the girl had defended herself with agility, they both began to feel respect and watched each other. The girl blushed, and took the initiative to attack. The battle started anew, more desperate: it was performed so quickly that the young man looked like a shadow of shining brocade, whereas the girl resembled a red cloud.

    At the side, Guo Jing was increasingly stunned: "These two young people are of my age, he said to himself, and they possess such a high level of martial arts, it is really extraordinary! They would make a perfect pair: if they marry, they could then, during their leisure hours, replay some "contest to find a spouse", it would be funny!"
    With his mouth agape, he followed the spectacle with participation, when suddenly, the girl clutched the sleeve of her adversary and tore it off with force. She jumped back immediately, holding her trophy up.

    - Young Lord, shouted Mu Yi, We are sorry! Then he turned to his daughter:
    - Well, let us go now.
    - Not so quickly, the young man shouted with a grim look on his face. Nothing is really decided yet!
    He caught the two sides of his coat and pulled, causing the jade buttons to pop out. One of his servants helped him to remove his coat, while another collected the buttons. Underneath, the young man wore a water green satin tunic, tightly held to his waist by a delicate green scarf, which gave him an even more captivating air. He raised his left palm and sent a blow, showing his true gongfu this time. An extremely violent gust of air passed very close to the girl.

    Guo Jing, Mu Yi and his daughter were dumbfounded:
    "How could, they wondered, a person of such distinction has such a cruel and brutal gongfu?"
    The young nobleman did not look for fun anymore, his blows were so powerful that his adversary could not approach him anymore.
    "We have a formidable expert here, Guo Jing thought, the girl is no match for him: apparently, marriage is in sight. And I am quite content for them ... My six Shifus always said that exceptional men are legion in the Central Plains. Indeed, this young nobleman has an original palm style with sophisticated variations. Should we fight, I would probably not win against him!"

    For his part, Mu Yi could also foretell the outcome of the duel:
    - My daughter, he shouted, it is useless to continue. The young Lord is much stronger than you!

    "This young man has excellent gongfu, he said to himself, thus he is not one of these idle, gambling and whoring sons of certain families. Presently, I will request information about his family. If he is not related to the Jin government authorities, I will approve of a marriage. Then my daughter's future will be secured ..."
    He shouted to both to stop their fight. But the battle was full blown and couldn't cease.

    "If I wanted to injure you now, the young man thought, nothing would be easier, but I do not have the heart to do it." Suddenly, his left palm changed into a claw, and he clutched the wrist of the girl. She, surprised, sought to break loose. The young man pushed slightly forward and the girl lost balance. At the time she was going to fall, the right arm of her adversary pulled her gently, and she fell into his arms. The spectators applauded and hollered with enthusiasm causing a great tumult.
    Shamefully blushing, the girl begged with a low voice:
    - Release me, quickly!
    - Say "my dear" to me, he answered laughing, and I'll release you!

    Outraged by such an impudence, she struggled, but he held her firmly and she could not break loose. Mu Yi advanced and said:
    - You've won, please release my daughter!
    The young nobleman burst into laughter but did not do anything.
    Losing her patience, the girl gave a kick in the direction of the plexus of her adversary, in order to make him release her. He indeed freed his right arm, parried the blow and caught the foot immediately: his qin-na technique was perfectly timed and he could seize anything he wanted. The girl panicked, sought to release her foot by pulling with force. At last she succeeded, but by doing so she lost her small shoe which was embroidered with red flowers.

  19. #19
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    (Patudo)

    She sat down on the ground, head lowered and red with shame, holding her foot covered by a sock of white fabric. The young aristocrat smiled unsteadily, wore the laced boot to his nose and sniffed it. In the situation, the hooligans were obviously not going to let pass this occasion:

    " That smells good!" they shouted in chorus.

    " What is your name?" asked Mu Yi.

    " It's not worth speaking of," answered the young aristocrat while laughing.

    He took again his brocaded coat, cast a glance in direction of the girl, and placed the small embroidered laced boot in his pocket. At that moment, the wind redoubled in strength and large snowflakes started to fall.

    " We live at the Inn of Prosperity," said Mu Yi, " in the western part of the city. Let us go there thus together, in order to make plans."

    " To plan what?" the young aristocrat retorted. " It's snowing now, it is necessary that I hurry home."

    Mu Yi turned pale.

    " You won this challenge, I made a promise, that I give you my daughter in marriage. It is a serious business, one cannot treat it with lightly!"

    The young aristocrat burst out laughing:

    " We had a little fun with martial arts," he said, " it was rather interesting... But, as for the marriage, ha, I am obliged to decline this honour!"

    Anger choked Mu Yi and prevented him from speaking:

    " You... You..."

    " What do you take our Young Prince for?" shouted a servant while laughing. " Do you believe that he would wed with vulgar travelling performers from the jianghu? In your dreams, old man!"

    Mu Yi was so angered that, with a blow, he struck him senseless. The young aristocrat did not seek any explanation: he got his servant to be carried and was on the point of mounting his horse.

    " You really make fun of us!" Mu Yi shouted, clutching him by the left arm. " Well, in any event, my daughter cannot marry such an insolent person as you. But return to us the laced boot!"

    " It's she who gave it to me!" said the young aristocrat while laughing, "why do you interfere yourself? I won the tournament, I've declined your marriage, but I'll keep the consolation prize!"

    He pivoted his arm, exerted some inner force and pulled clear.

    " It won't happen like that!" Mu Yi exclaimed, trembling with anger.

    He leaps and struck with both fists, in a blow called "Bell and drum sounds together", towards the temples of his adversary. He turned and returned to the arena.

    " And if I beat you, old man," he said while laughing, "you won't force me more to become your son-in-law?"

    The crowd, indignant at the impudent and arrogant attitude of the young man, remained quiet. Only some hooligans and good-for-nothings burst out laughing roughly.

    Without saying a word, Mu Yi tightened his belt, and leapt with a "Sea Swallow Skimming the Flood" on the young aristocrat. He knew that he was extremely angry and did not take the attack lightly. He dodged, replied with a blow to the belly, "The poisonous snake seeks its den". Mu Yi dodged, struck with his left palm at the shoulder, the young man turned, advanced his right palm under the left arm. It was an extremely vicious blow, called "Benefit from the cloud to change the sun", executed without the knowledge of the adversary. However, Mu Yi parried effectively and closed again his two hands on the cheeks of the young aristocrat.

    At that moment, whatever move he made, he could not avoid the blow! He wrinkled his eyebrows, bit his lips, and decided to employ another technique: his two hands flew like flashes and his ten fingers were planted in the back of the hands of Mu Yi. When he withdrew them, the ends of his fingers were smeared with red!

    All the spectators shouted in surprise. The girl, thrown into a panic, supported her father: she tore a strip of her tunic to wrap his hands, which bled profusely.

    Mu Yi pushed back his daughter:

    " Move aside," he said. " Today, it's either him or me!"

    The girl, pale, looked at the young aristocrat fixedly, drew a dagger suddenly and wanted to plunge it full into her heart. Surprised, Mu Yi sought to stop her hand, and the girl did not have time to draw aside the blade, which was planted in the hand of her father.

    The spectators sighed and deplored to see a beautiful scene finishing in such a bloody way! Even the hooligans seemed indigant at such a outcome. The comments started to focus on the improper attitude of this young aristocrat.

    Facing such unrighteousness, Guo Jing could not remain standing by. He gently drew aside the people in front of him and advanced into the open space:

    " Ha!" he shouted, " to act like that, that's not good!"

    The young aristocrat, disconcerted for a moment, retorted while laughing;

    " Ah yes? How is it necessary to act well?"

    His servants, seeing that Guo Jing was clad like a peasant and that he spoke with a marked southern accent, made fun of him. Guo Jing did not understand the mockery, and said seriously:

    " You should marry this young lady!"

    " And if I don't marry her?"

    " If you don't want to marry her, why did you come down to fight? It was well marked, on the banner, "Challenge to find a husband"!"

    " What are you interfering for, kid?" retorted the young aristocrat, in a threatening voice.

    " This young lady is not only very beautiful, but she has excellent gongfu. Why don't you want her? Didn't you see that she felt so offended that she wanted to commit suicide?"

    " You're such a moron that it isn't worthwhile to explain it to you..."

    The young aristocrat turned on his heel. Guo Jing restained him:

    " Huh! How can you leave like that?"

    " What do you want?"

    " Didn't I tell you to marry this young lady?"

    The aristocrat laughed and was about to leave.

    Mu Yi, seeing the intervention of Guo Jing, understood that he was generous, but naive and little acquainted with the way of the world. He approached and says to him:

    " Little brother, don't worry about him. So long as I have a breath of life, I will find to be avenged for this insult."

    Then he shouted towards the young aristocrat:

    " At least leave your name!"

    " I told you I couldn't call you "father-in-law"," he retorted insolently, " why do you want to still know my name?"

    Very annoyed by this, Guo Jing leaped forward while shouting:

    " Then return that embroidered laced boot to the young lady!"

    " Is that any of your damn business!" the nobleman said furiously. " You've taken a fancy to this young miss yourself, have you?"

    Guo Jing shook his head and said: " No! Look, are you going to return it, or not?"

    The young aristocrat tightened the hand suddenly and slapped Guo Jing heavily. He moved sharply, and employed a qinna technique, seizing, by crossing the hands, the wrists of his adversary. He sought to escape, in vain.

    " Do you want to die?" he shouted then, surprised and annoyed, giving a kick towards Guo Jing's lower belly.

    He flexed his muscles and pushed back the young aristocrat towards the open space. Obviously, this person had a good lightness technique (Qinggong), for, instead of falling on his back, he corrected himself and landed on his feet. He nimbly removed his brocaded coat and exclaimed:

    " You don't want to continue living, little idiot? If you've got guts, come and test yourself against me!"

    " Why would I fight with you?" said Guo Jing shaking the head. " Since you do not want to marry with the young lady, return her laced boot!"

    The spectators, seeing the intervention of Guo Jing, wanted to see what he was capable of and didn't think that he would retreat. Some hooligans even hooted:

    " Talk without action, it's unworthy of a hero!"

    For his part, the young aristocrat, having been caught by Guo Jing, had realized that his gongfu wasn't insignificant, and especially that he had powerful internal energy. So he was happy not to fight. But, of course, he couldn't return the laced boot without losing face! He therefore gathered his coat and turned on his heel while laughing. Guo Jing caught him by the side of the coat and repeated:

    " How can you leave like that?"

    The young aristocrat had a sudden idea: he cast his coat over the head of his opponent and struck two fists into his chest. Wrapped up in the coat, Guo Jing could not avoid the impacts. Fortunately, he had practised two years of orthodox neigong with Ma Yu, so that these blows, although extremely painful, could not truly wound him. Pressed by danger, he launched successively, by changing alternate stances, nine fast kicks: it was a skilled technique developed by Han Baoju, which had already enabled him to beat many enemies. Even if the disciple did not have yet the skill of the master, and even if these kicks were made while he was blinded, they disturbed the young aristocrat, who could avoid the first seven, but was caught by the two last fully in his chest.

    The two young men simultaneously leapt back. Guo Jing, still amazed, got rid of the coat that hampered him. He could not believe such treachery on behalf of his adversary: "He knew well," he thought, " that he entered a "Challenge to find a husband", he had won, and yet refused to marry the young lady! Moreover, when I tried to reason with him, not only was it he who struck first, but he used a shameful trick! If I hadn't practiced neigong well, he would have broken my ribs and crushed my internal organs!" Being of a simple and frank nature, he had always lived with decent people, so that he did not know anything about the perfidy of the human nature. Even though, during the last years, his Masters had not failed to warn him against tricks and treacheries which one might meet in the jianghu, he listened to them like one listens to stories, which could not remain engraved in one's consciousness as long as they had not been lived oneself. At that moment, he was at the same time furious and perplexed, unable to believe in the existence of such frauds.

    The young aristocrat, angrered by the two kicks he had received, advanced, his fist raised, on Guo Jing. He parried, but could not face the rain of blows which fell on him, and fell down. The servants were filled with laughter. Their Master puffed out his chest and said while laughing:

    " Then, you think you can play a deliverer of justice with your three-legged cat technique? Go back home and tell your Shimu to give you lessons for twenty more years!"

    Guo Jing got up, breathed in deeply, and circulated his breath in his whole body, so that the pain diminished.

    " My Shifu doesn't have a wife," he retorted.

    " Then tell him to marry one quickly!"

    Guo Jing was going to answer: "I have six Shifu, whose wife..." but did not have time. He saw that the other was going to leave, then advanced on him, his fist raised, while shouting:

    " On guard!"

    The young aristocrat dodged, Guo Jing struck a left hook right at his face, the other blocked. They stood, their arms supported upon their adversary's, each one trying to use internal energy to overcome the other. Guo Jing was a little stronger, his opponent had a better technique, it was difficult to immediately decide between them.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    Guo Jing inspired deeply to concentrate its internal energy, while the other loosened its pressure making Guo Jing fall forward. He tried to re-establish his balance when he felt a stroke coming from his back. He hastened to avoid it but, not having a strong basis, he stumbled. While falling, he took support on his elbow and rebounded, while spinning in the air he threw a stroke of his left foot.

    Watching this fast and spectacular recovery, the crowd applauds.

    The young aristocrat moved away and attacked with two palms, one was a feint to disturb the adversary, while the other was the real stroke. Guo Jing used then the technique "To dissociate the tendons and to dislocate the bones": his hands fluttered in all senses, aiming the tendons and the joints on the whole body. Seeing the virulence of this attack, the aristocrat changed suddenly of tactic: he also started to use the same technique!

    Only, the one learned by Guo Jing had been invented by Zhu Cong, the “Literate to the quick hands”, and diverged from the orthodox technique transmitted by the masters of the central Plains considerably. The two looked alike in their principles, but had some differences in the execution. One threatened with the index and the thumb the point " Food of the old man" behind the wrist, the other tried to pick the joints of the fingers. But the two felt mutual apprehensions and didn't dare to go all the way, hardly sketching a movement before passing to another. Thus, after forty or so exchanges, they still couldn’t see who had the upper hand.

    Snow continued to fall, and a fine white layer covered the head and the shoulders of the spectators that surrounded them.

    Suddenly, the young aristocrat seemed to have an opening on his chest.
    Guo Jing saw it immediately and tried to benefit from it by pointing his index on the point "Tail of turtledove" of his adversary. But he had some scruples when passing to the action:
    "There is no hate between us, he said to himself, I cant use such a deadly stroke on him!" He then deviated his finger and touched another point, what had no effect on his adversary. This one had the whole leisure to catch his wrist and pull him, while making a hook-foot. Guo Jing lost the balance and fell once again.
    Mu Yi, whose hands had just been bandaged by his daughter, also watched the two. He saw Guo Jing fall for the third time and understood that he was not of size to face the insolent youngster and he hastened to raise him from the ground:
    - Little brother, he said, let it go. There’s no point to stay any longer among scoundrels of this kind!
    Guo Jing, that had seen the stars and was hurt already, felt the rage mount on his head.

    He moved away from Mu Yi and rushed on his adversary, while increasing in strokes.
    The young aristocrat, surprised to see him to insist on it of the sort, in spite of the beating that he had just received, moved back three steps :

    - Don't you recognize your defeat?
    Guo Jing didn't answer and continued to attack.
    - If you don't stop, threatened the young aristocrat, I am going to be obliged to kill you!
    - If you don't return the handkerchief, retorted Guo Jing, I will never finish with you!
    - But this girl is not even your sister, why do you persist to want to be my brother-in-law ?
    "To be the brother-in-law of someone" constituted an injury on the capital, the scoundrels exploded to laugh while hearing it, but Guo Jing didn't understand a drop of it.
    - I don't even know her, he said, she isn’t my sister!
    The young aristocrat didn't know anymore if he had to laugh or to be angry :
    - Then in guard, he end up saying. Stupid!

    The two young people restarted to fight. This time, Guo Jing appeared more prudent, and didn't fall anymore in the repeated traps that the adversary prepared him. In fact, from a strictly technical viewpoint, the gongfu of the young aristocrat was superior, but Guo Jing never gave up and fought like a barbarian: he had good receive some strokes, he always restarted to the attack with persistence, without renouncing. He had already fought like this when he was small, during the fights with the kids of the Dushi’s gang. Now, he had acquired more agility while learning the martial arts, but his way of fighting didn’t fundamentally change since it was in his nature to fight with savagery, not taking note of the recommendation of his Fourth Shifu: "Unbeatable enemy, flee!" In his mind, the more important formula had always been "Unbeatable enemy, insist!", except that he didn't realize it!

    The spectacle attracted more and more world, the place was completely cluttered. Wind and snow increased in intensity, but no one left.

    Mu Yi, because of his big experience of the Streams and Lakes, knew well that, if the fight continued, the crowds were going to attract the attention of the authorities and maybe provoke their intervention. He knew that it was better to not eternalize themselves there! Only, this young man had come generously to help them, he could not leave him alone here. But he felt very anxious. He raised the eyes and vaguely browsed the assembly, when he noticed, in the crowd, several individuals who seemed to belong to the world of the martial arts. He had been so concentrated on the fight that he had not even realized their arrival.

    He moved then slowly, approaching of the servants of the young aristocrat who were held in a corner. Watching them of the corner of his eye, he saw, among them, three characters to the martial look: the first wore a big scarlet bonze dress and a golden cap, it was a very tall Tibetan llama. The second, medium-sized, had silvery white hair but a rubicund and beaming face, to the smooth skin as the one of a baby, without only one wrinkle. He was clothed of a long dress, one didn't know if it was a Taoist or a bonze. The third was very small, but his blood injected eyes had a piercing look, and he carried a proud small mustache.

    The presence of these original faces astonished Mu Yi. He then heard one of the servants to say :
    - Supreme Virtuous, have the goodness to rid us of this stupid, please! If that continues and that it arrives whatever to the Young Prince's, us other servants would be good for the gallows!

    Mu Yi shaked hearing it: "Thus, he thought, this scoundrel is a young prince! Effectively, if the fight continues, it could happen a misfortune to him. Apparently, all these people are experts belonging to the royal house, that the servants summoned here to lend assistance to the prince."

    The Tibetan llama smiles without saying a word. The old man shouted while laughing :
    - The Supreme Virtuous Lingzhi is an eminent member of the esoteric school of Tibet, he cannot fall as low as to come to the hands with a rookie of this kind, it would be to disrespectful ... And then, if it was to arrive something, the Prince would at most break your legs, he wouldn’t go as far as wiping you out, wouldn’t he?
    - Anyway, did intervene the small man of the eyes injected of blood, the Young Prince is stronger than this kid, what do you have to fear ?
    He was small, but had a piercing voice. The spectators around them jumped while hearing it and turned around to look at him but, nervous by his menacing look, all lowered the eyes immediately.
    - Our Young Prince had such a hard work to learn all this gongfu, said the silvery old man, if he cant even make the a demonstration publicly of it, he would be really frustrated if all these years of efforts were just wasted! If someone takes the liberty to go help him, he will be surely very vexed...
    - Venerable Liang, says the small man, according to you to what school the technique of palm of the Young Prince does belong?
    - Brother Peng, did answer the old man, while laughing, do you want to put me to the test? The Young Prince has a technique of palm allying agility and complexity, that are indeed difficult to acquire. If I am not mistaken, he should have learned his gongfu with the taoist of the absolute Perfection Sect!
    Mu Yi jumped again: "Would this inconsiderate youngster be a disciple of the absolute Perfection Sect? "
    - The Venerable Liang has a remarkable eye, says the small man. You spend your life to the foot of the Mountain of the eternal Whiteness and you dedicate yourselves to the meditation and to the alchemical practices. One says that you rarely come in the central Plains, and yet you seem to know by heart the styles of the Chinese schools. I’m very admired of you.
    - Brother Peng is too laudatory, says the old man while sketching a smile.
    - Only, pursued the small man, the Taoists of the absolute Perfection Sect are all of the bizarre and unforeseeable characters. How could they accepted to take the Young Prince for disciple? It is rather astonishing.
    - When the Prince wants to insure the collaboration of someone, did retort the old man, do you believe that he doesn't have the arguments to what he wishes? As yourself, for example, Brother Peng, who dominates the Shandong and the Shanxi, don't you now make part of the Prince's house?
    The small man agreed. Their attention was again concentrated on the fight: they noticed that Guo Jing had changed style again, his technique of palm adopted a slower rhythm, but permitted an extremely tight defense. The Young Prince had, repeatedly, searched to attack but had been repulsed by very heavy strokes.
    - In your opinion, asked the old man to the small man, from where comes the gongfu of this small boy?
    - His gongfu is very mixed, he answered after one moment of hesitation. One would say that he had several Shifus...
    - Chief Peng is right, intervened someone nearby. This kid is the disciple of the Seven Fanciful of the Jiangnan.
    Mu Yi examined the person who had just taken the word: it was a skinny man with a dark face, with three bumps on the forehead. "He called him of Chief Peng, would this small man therefore be the bandit Peng Lianhu, the Butcher to the one thousand hands, who slaughters without frowning? As for the Seven Fanciful of the Jiangnan, it has been since a long time that I didn't hear their name anymore, would they still be part of this world? ."
    During this time, the skinny man with the dark face roars suddenly :
    - Little brat, I finally found you.
    He drew a steel trident with short-sleeved and bounded in the arena. Hearing the noise behind him, Guo Jing turned around and fell nose to nose with the three bumps on the forehead: it was the Dragon with three heads, Boo Tonghai, the uncle in arms of the Four Demons of the yellow Stream. Surprised and worried, he hesitated, not knowing what to do. The Young Prince took benefit out of this hesitation to hit him on the shoulder, thus making Guo Jing come back to the fight.
    Seeing Boo Tonghai to bound in the arena arms to the hand, the spectators believed that he was going to help one of the fighters and, finding this unworthy attitude, began to hoot it.

    Mu Yi, that had understood that he was part of the royal house, moved forward, ready to fight him if he intended something against Guo Jing, while being conscious that the enemy was superior in number.
    However, Boo Tonghai was not angry at the young man. He sped along directly into the crowd, to the other side, where a young boy, puny, in rags, jumped while seeing him and turned the heels. The Dragon with three heads rushed after him, himself follow-up by four men.

    Of the corner of eye, Guo Jing had well seen that it was Huang Rong, the new friend that he had gotten used to since Kalgan, and that Boo Tonghai pursued the weapons to the hand, with the help of the Four Demons of the yellow Stream. Very worried, he throwed a kick and jumped backward :

    - A moment! he exclaimed. I need to stop for one moment, we will continue our fight later.
    The Young Prince, tired of this fight, had lost all desire to continue and had not asked better to stop :
    - If you recognize your defeat, he sneered, you can go...
    Preoccupied by his friend's security, Guo Jing got ready to be going to lend him assistance when he heard noises of step: it was Huang Rong that came back while dragging a worn-out old shoe while laughing, pursued by Boo Tonghai, that called him names and tried to hit him with its trident on the back. But Huang Rong was of an extraordinary agility, and the trident always missed its target of little. The young boy adroitly slipped through the crowd and had already come out again on the other side.

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