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Thread: LOCH unabridged

  1. #21
    Senior Member Du Gu seeking a win's Avatar
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    When Hou Tonghai came nearer, one could notice black marks of two palms on his cheeks: obviously, the fragile boy had managed to slap him twice. Hou Tonghai hustled everyone, managing to find a path through the crowd, but Huang Rong was already far. Hou Tonghai stopped and maliciously made gestures to show Huang Rong what he had in mind.
    - If I don't succeed in catching and slicing you up, howled Hou Tonghai insane with rage, I don't want to be called a man anymore!
    Huang Rong waited until Hou Tonghai came nearer before fleeing again. Everyone bursted out laughing, in the meantime three breathless men arrived, they were the three Demons of the Yellow River, the only one missing was Qian Qingjian, known as Killing-axe.
    Seeing such a spectacle, Guo Jing was surprised and pleased at the same time: "Thus, he thought, this friend of mine must have excellent gongfu. The other day, in the Black Pine Woods, it must be him who had lured Hou Tonghai away and hung the Four Demons of the Yellow River on the trees!"
    The surprise was not less in the opposite camp.
    - Supreme Virtue Lingzhi asked: "Ginseng Immortal, that little beggar has a remarkable agility, to which school does he belong? Apparently, Brother Hou has lost the skirmish... "
    The white-haired Master of the Eternal White Peak, was called Liang Ziwong. Since his youth, he had consumed natural ginseng and other remedies, which had protected him from attacks of old age. He didn't recognize the gongfu of the little beggar and shook his head. Then, after a moment, he said:
    - When I am way beyond the Pass (Yan Men Guan?), I often heard claims that the Dragon King of the demonic group was a frightening expert, who would have thought that his apprentice brother was such a pitiful figure, at the point of not being able to handle a mere child?
    The small man was Peng Lianhu. He frowned without really answering. He was a great friend of the Dragon King of the demonic group, with whom he often collaborated, assisting on robbing raids. He knew the gongfu of Hou Tonghai, which was not bad, but he couldn't explain how Hou Tonghai could be ridiculed that easily.
    The diversion with Huang Rong and Hou Tonghai thus stopped the duel between Guo Jing and the young Prince. The latter had clearly an edge on Guo Jing, since he succeeded several times to make his adversary fall, but he himself had to receive a multitude of blows and felt tired out. He wiped up the sweat which ran abundantly on his face with a scarf wound as a belt.

    Mu Yi, who had rearranged the brocade banner, held the hand of Guo Jing, thanking him warmly and urging him to leave the place. Suddenly, a pitter-patter was heard: Huang Rong and Hou Tonghai returned running, one chasing the other. The former held two pieces of fabric, two pieces which were missing precisely on the tunic of the latter, the torn tunic exposed a hairy chest. A little later, Wu Qinglie and My Qingxiong appeared, weapons in their hands, following arduously and breathless. Missing was the one called Shen Qinggang, whom Huang Rong apparently managed to dispose of in some mysterious way. The commotion provoked laughter and jibes among the audience.

    Suddenly, one heard shouts from the West: several tens of soldiers, wicker rods in their hands, shouted and struck the onlookers to open the way for a large red and golden palanquin carried by six musclemen.
    - It is the Princess, exclaimed the servants of the young Prince.
    - Which idiot has the insolence to inform my mother? the latter thundered frowningly. The servants, who did not dare to answer, hastened to approach the palanquin which halted at an emptied spot.
    - You've fought again? a soft female-intonated voice was heard from the inside.
    - It has been snowing and you don't have your coat on, you will certainly catch a cold ...

    Upon hearing that voice from a distance, Mu Yi seemed to be struck by lightning: "How is this possible? he thought dumbfoundedly. That voice resembles hers so much! But it's impossible, she is a Jin princess ... I believe I've thought too much of my wife and I've become crazy ... " Despite everything, he could not stop himself from nearing the palanquin.

    He saw a dainty hand with a handkerchief appearing from inside the palanquin and tenderly wiped up the sweat on the face of the young nobleman, who listened to the words pronounced in a low voice, undoubtedly of reproach and admonition ...
    - But mom, the Young Prince said, I have fun, all is well ...
    - Put your coat on quickly, the Princess said, and let us go home ...

    "How could two voices be that similar?", Mu Yi was still astonished. He saw the white hand disappearing behind a silk curtain on which peonies were embroidered in gold wire. He tried to peer in but his glance failed to penetrate the bright curtain.

    One of the servants collected the brocade coat of his Master and bawled at Guo Jing:
    - Animal! Look, what a state you've put this coat in! One of the soldiers who came with the Princess raised his wicker rod and violently bashed down on Guo Jing's head. Guo Jing dodged, seized the wrist of his attacker, took the rod away, tripped him up: the man fell on the ground. Guo Jing then whipped him with the rod:
    - You dare to strike wrongly and rampantly? he shouted. The crowd, some of whom had received blows from the rod, applauded with appreciation. The other soldiers shoutingly hastened to the rescue of their companion, but Guo Jing took them by pairs and threw them away.

    - You are still bragging? the young Prince shouted. He leapt to Guo Jing and both exchanged blows again. The Princess shouted to stop, but the son did not seem to fear his mother, on the contrary:
    - Look at me, mom, he exclaimed. This bloody peasant is doing wicked things in the capital! If he is not taught a good lesson, he wouldn't respect his old man!
    He wanted to exhibit his best performance, he redoubled his efforts: Guo Jing, not being able to parry his nimble and fast palm, was struck by several blows and stumbled twice.

    Mu Yi, for his part, was magnetized by the palanquin. A corner of the curtain had been drawn, he saw two gracious eyes appearing, some hair strands, a part of the face of a mother, full of tender worry regarding her son. Mu Yi remained petrified.

    Guo Jing had changed for the better, but was confronted with an adversary with renewed vigour. The young Prince sought to execute mortal blows, hoping to injure his adversary seriously, in order to definitively put an end to the combat.
    But Guo Jing had a thick skin, and a good basis of neigong, so that he was able to endure many blows. Moreover, the technique of the prince did certainly miss sophistication, his power was limited because of his youth and lack of experience. He tried on several occasions to grab Guo Jing with ten fingers forming claws, using the technique which had enabled him to injure Mu Yi, but the disciple of the Six Freaks defended himself using the technique "to detach tendons and disjoint bones".

    As the brawl climaxed, one still could see Huang Rong and Hou Tonghai run one behind the other. This time, the latter carried a long straw in his hair. Usually, it was a sign indicating the setting on sale of something. A bit of straw on a head thus meant that the head was to be sold. Obviously a joke of Huang Rong, of which Hou Tonghai was not aware of, occupied he was in chasing! The remaining two Demons of the Yellow River had also disappeared, obviously dispersed in some way ...

    Liang Ziwong and his companions lost themselves in racking their brains about the identity of Huang Rong. They saw Hou Tonghai run really swift, but he never managed to catch up with the boy in rags.
    - This kid, would he be a member of the Beggar Clan? Peng Lianhu asked suddenly.
    The Beggar Clan was at that time the most powerful secret society in the realm of JiangHu (Rivers and Lakes). Liang Ziwong twitched, but didn't answer.

    The two young people attacked each other swiftlier, with increasing strength. Sometimes Guo Jing received a palm blow on his shoulder, sometimes the prince got a kick on his thigh. They fought really body against body, raging and panting. Even a beginner could see that the fight became increasingly dangerous, the least distraction could cause a fatal injury. Peng Lianhu and Liang Ziwong prepared their invisible projectiles covertly, in order to intervene when necessary: Guo Jing was a very obstinate person, his gongfu was not yet up to par, and the two experts persuaded themselves to be able to control the situation in time.

    In fact, Guo Jing's development was difficult to reproduce: having grown in the desert, he had undergone all rigours, had experienced and was hardened through numerous battles. The Prince on the other hand, had always lived in luxury, no wonder, in this utterly brutal and merciless carried endurance battle, he began stumbling into lapses of fatigue. Suddenly, Guo Jing uttered a great cry, seized his adversary by the collar, raised him high and violently threw him to the ground. It was neither the technique "to detach tendons and disjoint bones" nor the qin-na, but a unique Mongolian technique that Jebe, his teacher, had taught him.

    The Prince reacted promptly, jumping up as soon as he touched the ground, seizing the legs of Guo Jing and they both fell. He got up quickly, tore from the hands of a soldier a long lance and thrusted towards Guo Jing's stomach. Guo Jing rolled to the side, whereas the other continued handling the long lance with dexterity. Guo Jing wanted to grab the lance with the stance "to seize a blade with naked hands", but in vain!

    - My son, exclaimed the Princess, do not injure him! Be satisfied with winning!
    However, the Prince, who seemed really eager to nail Guo Jing down, turned a deaf ear.
    Guo Jing, seeing the gleaming tip of the lance a few inches from his nose, parried with his arm, something collapsed behind him, he seized the brocade banner of Mu Yi. With the stance "To draw aside the clouds to peer at the sun", he used the pole like a long stick to counter the circling lance.

    Both fighters armed from now on, Guo Jing employed the techniques of the "Exorcizing cane" taught by his First Shifu. In spite of the length of the pole, which obstructed him a little, he could deploy all subtleties of this art, methodically developed by Ke Zhen' E in order to counter Mei Chaofeng. Each movement comprised of variants, often unexpected, always effective. Surprised by the ability of that weapon, the Prince was forced into defence. But his dexterity with the lance was also impressive.

    As Mu Yi saw the Prince handling that weapon, he grew astonished: indeed, all its stances corresponded with the lance style of the Yang family. This technique, which was only handed down from father to son, could rarely be seen even in the South, he was really astonished seeing it now in the capital of Jin. But, in spite of its nimble movements, this version of the lance style did not seem completely orthodox, it appeared devoid of its essence, as if it had been copied without the knowledge of its rightful owner. Thus, one saw crossing and swaying of the lance and the banner pole, fluttering the snowflakes in all directions.

    The Princess, seeing her son sweating blood and water, could not keep her anxiety anymore:
    - Stop! she exclaimed. Stop fighting both of you!
    Hearing these words, Peng Lianhu advanced with big steps in the arena, he struck the banner pole brutally. Guo Jing felt a sharp pain in his hands and released the pole, which flew away, the brocade spreading in the wind and one could read, through the falling snowflakes, the golden letters: "Contest to find a spouse".
    Very surprised, Guo Jing did not even have time to distinguish the face or the silhouette of his adversary as he felt the coming blow. He leapt back, but rather slow: the palm of Peng Lianhu had already touched him on his arm, he lost balance and fell to the ground.

    - Young Prince, Peng Lianhu said laughing, I will get rid of this thoughtless young man, so that he can not intrude anymore ...
    He raised his palm, inhaled deeply, and sent a brutal blow on the head of Guo Jing. Guo Jing, who was on the ground, knew that he did not have any chance, but regardless, he raised his arms to parry the blow. Supreme Virtue Lingzhi and the Ginseng Immortal exchanged glances: the arms of the young man would be lost, the blow of the Butcher-of-a-thousand was violent and was obviously going to break them.
    At this critical moment, a shout from the crowd was heard:
    - Hold on!
    A gray silhouette holding a strange weapon leapt, and wrapped up the right wrist of Peng Lianhu. Peng Lianhu drew with force, cracking and breaking the weapon, attacking with his left palm immediately. The man avoided the blow by lowering his head, while seizing Guo Jing by the waist and carrying him away. Then one could see him clearly:
    he was a middle-aged taoist, dressed in gray, holding a mop in his hand, of which only the handle remained, the torn-off strands were around the wrist of Peng Lianhu. Both looked at each other: they had exchanged only one stance, but had been able to fathom each others gongfu.

    - You are undoubtedly the famed Master Peng?, the taoist said. It is a great honor to meet you here today.
    - You are overcourteous. May I ask the name of Master taoist? The taoist, on which all glances were fixed, did not answer, being satisfied to advance his left foot and then to withdraw it. Then one could see on the ground, covered with a very fine layer of snow, a deep hole of ten inches! A simple pressure of the foot had dug such a deep hole, that revealed an extraordinary gongfu.

    Peng Lianhu was startled and said:
    - Are you the Immortal-with-iron-foot, Jade-Sun Wang?
    - Master Peng is overpraising, the taoist answered. I am indeed Wang Chuyi, but I am not worthy of the title Immortal.

    Peng Lianhu, Liang Ziwong and Supreme Virtue Lingzhi knew very well that Wang Chuyi was an eminent member of the Quan Zhen (Total Perfection) Sect, his fame was only a bit less than Perpetual Spring, Qiu Chuji. They only had heard, but had never seen him, and they examined him attentively: he was a man with fine features, with a little goatee on his chin. He wore immaculate white socks, gray shoes, and seemed to heed much care to his clothes. If he had not made a demonstration of his gongfu, nobody there would believe that he was indeed the Immortal-with-iron-foot, who, in keeping one foot at the cliff's edge and swaying like a "lotus leaf in the wind", had definitively impressed the brave men of Hebei and Shandong.

    Wang Chuyi smiled and said, pointing at Guo Jing:
    - I don't know this young friend at all, but seeing him intervening with such an amount of bravery and courage, I was full of admiration. That is why I allow myself to beg Master Peng to let him alive.
    "The request was courteously uttered, said Peng Lianhu, and if a Quan Zhen eminence personally interfered, who wouldn't grant him a wish?"
    - Very well, Wang Chuyi answered by cupping his hands, thank you .....
    After thanking, Wang Chuyi turned. His expression changed, his face darkened, he asked the young Prince severely:
    - What is your name? Who is your Shifu? The young Prince, after having heard the name of Wang Chuyi, felt ill and would have liked to disappear unnoticed. However, the taoist had kept an eye on him:
    - My name is Wanyan Kang, he answered, I cannot reveal the name of my Shifu.
    - Your Shifu has a red mole on his left cheek, hasn't he?
    Wanyan Kang wanted to dodge the question with a witty remark, but the terrible glance of the taoist frightened him, he suppressed what he intended to say, and nodded.
    - I suspect it, Wang Chuyi said, you are the disciple of Brother Qiu. What had your Shifu said before teaching you martial arts? Wanyan Kang understood the situation had turned very unsound for him. "If Shifu, he thought, get to know what has happened today, it would be a catastrophe!"
    - If Master taoist knows my Shifu, he said servilely, you has the right to my whole respect. Why don't you come to my modest residence, so that I can benefit from your advices?
    Before Wang Chuyi could answer, the prince had turned to Guo Jing and said bowing:
    - After exchanging blows, a friendship could grow, he said smiling. I admire the gongfu of Brother Guo very much. I invite you both to come to my house in order to know each other better.
    - And what will happen with the marriage? Guo Jing asked, pointing at Mu Yi and his daughter.
    Wanyan Kang seemed embarrassed:
    - This matter deserves further pondering ...
    - My friend, Mu Yi said, drawing Guo Jing by his sleeve, let us go, we don't need to occupy him anymore.
    Wanyan Kang bowed again in front of Wang Chuyi:
    - Master taoist, I thus await you at home, you only have to ask for the residence of Prince Zhao. The weather is very cold, all things are freezing. It is an ideal time to sit together by a fire and admire the snow. We shall drink to celebrate this meeting.
    He climbed on the horse whose bridle his servant held and galloped, without being concerned of trampling somebody, full into the crowd, who immediately dispersed.
    This contemptuous behaviour triggered the anger of Wang Chuyi:
    - My little friend, he said to Guo Jing, come with me.
    - I must wait for a very dear friend, Guo Jing said. As he said these words, he saw Huang Rong making a jump in the middle of the crowd and shouting to him:
    - Don't worry about me, I'll find you in no time at all! Huang Rong stood back on his feet and his diminutive figure soon disappeared in the crowd. One saw Hou Tonghai, the three-headed Dragon, giving chase. Guo Jing turned and kowtowed on the snow, to thank Wang Chuyi for saving his life. The taoist raised him, took his arm. Both found a path among the crowd and ran in the direction of the outskirts.


    End of Chapter 7
    Last edited by Du Gu seeking a win; 03-22-05 at 10:57 AM.

  2. #22
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Patudo)

    8.1

    Each one demonstrating his skill

    Wang Chuyi went extremely quickly. In little time, they left the city. Some li further, they arrived at the foot of a hill. Eager to test the abilities of Guo Jing, the Taoist did not slow and ran more and more quickly.

    At the time Guo Jing learned from Ma Yu to control his breath, he had climbed and descended a high mountain many times. Today, even after a heated battle, this race did not frighten him. Going against the wind, as snow fell heavily, Wang Chuyi sprang up the small hill, its sides covered with slipping snow. At the end, the slope became increasingly steep. But the progress of Guo Jing made him wonder: he advanced without being blown, as though his pulse did not accelerate, as if the ground were flat.

    The Taoist, extremely surprised, released Guo Jing's arm:

    "Your gongfu foundation is rather well established! How is it made that you are not able to beat him?"

    Guo Jing had no answer and could only remain silent.

    "Who is your Shifu?" Wang continued.

    Guo Jing knew of the Taoist, since, at the top of cliff, he had received the order to play the part of Yin Zhiping, to mislead Mei Chaofeng. He remembered that Wang Chuyi was one of the martial brothers of Ma Yu. Therefore he did not hesitate to tell the truth, telling quickly how he had been taught by the Jiangnan Odd Seven, and also by Ma Yu.

    "My senior brother gave you lessons!" Wang exclaimed, delighted. " He is formidable! Then I don't see why I should worry!"

    Guo Jing's eyes widened, looking at him without understanding.

    " This so-called Young Prince, Wanyan Kang," explained Wang," is the disciple of my brother in arms Qiu Chuji. Did you know?

    " Ah," Guo Jing was astonished. " I was unaware of it..."

    Indeed, Ma Yu had taught to him some bases for the control of internal energy, as well as the qinggong technique called "Flight of the Golden Eagle", in order to enable him to climb the cliff. But he had never given him the least indication in battle technique or in weapons skills. This is why Guo Jing did not know any Quanzhen gongfu at all. By hearing the remarks of Wang Chuyi, he remembered his battle, that night, with the young Taoist Yin Zhiping, whose movements seemed to come from of the same style as those of this Wanyan Kang.

    He believed that he had done wrong and bowed his head.

    " I did not know," he said humbly, " that this Young Prince was a disciple of Master Qiu. I behaved out of order to him, please do not hold it against him..."

    Wang Chuyi burst out laughing.

    " Your righteousness and gentlemanly spirit suits me right to the heart. How could I reproach you? The rules in our Sect are extremely strict. If a disciple is at fault, he will be punished accordingly and justice will be done. This young boy was impudent and arrogant, I will ask Brother Qiu to punish him severely."

    " If he agrees to marry this young lady, Mu," pleaded Guo Jing, " please agree to forgive him..."

    Wang Chuyi shook the head without answering. He could see that Guo Jing had good heart, and that he forgave readily, and looked upon him with still more sympathy.

    "Brother Qiu always hated evildoers, and especially Jin," he thought. " How did it come about that he agreed to take on a Jin prince for his disciple? The more so as the knowledge which it seems to have of our gongfu appears rather thorough. That means, obviously, that Brother Qiu devoted to him much time and energy! However, in his gongfu, one senses the pernicious influences of unorthodox and perverse schools. I'm totally mystified!"

    "Brother Qiu told me he was going to Yanjing," he said to Guo Jing. " He should arrive in the next few days. We will ask him for explanations when we see him. I intended to say that he took a disciple of the name of Yang, who must go to contest himself against you in Jiaxing. I do not know how powerful this chap is, but don't be worried; I will be there, and am sure you will come out on top."

    Guo Jing had obeyed the order given by his six Masters, to go, at the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, to the prefecture of Jiaxing. But they had not explained to him for what reason.

    " Master Taoist," he asked then, " why must I test myself against him?"

    " If your teachers did not think it well to explain it to you," answered Wang, "it would be wrong for me to do it in their place."

    He had learned, from Qiu Chuji, the origin and outcome of this business, and he felt, for the generous actions of the Odd Six, an immense admiration. He had had the same thoughts as Ma Yu, and hoped for the victory of the Six. However, as a junior, he could not require of Qiu to step down. Today, encouraged by the personality of Guo Jing, he wondered how he could help him secretly, without damaging to the reputation of his martial brother. He thus decided to also go to Jiaxing, and to think on the spot some way to support him.

    " Let us return and visit Mu Yi," proposed the Taoist. " His daughter seems to be rather stubborn, I fear this will cause him problems..."

    Guo Jing started. Both went to the Prosperity Inn, in the western part of the city.
    When they arrived at the door of the Inn, ten servants richly clad in brocade were there. They came to them while greeting:

    " Our master humbly requests of the Master Taoist and Lord Guo, whether they would agree to a banquet held at his modest residence."

    The red invitation card respectfully carried the inscription "Your disciple Wanyan Kang invites".

    " Well," Wang Chuyi said, shaking his head. " We will come presently."

    " These cakes and fruits," declared the chief of the servants, are a modest present from the Young Prince. If the Master Taoist and Lord Guo indicate to me where to place them, I will bring them over there."

    The servants presented twelve large boxes, filled with various fresh fruits and fine cakes, very appetising.

    "Brother Huang Rong likes finely made pastries," thought Guo Jing, " I will keep some for him"

    Because of his aversion to Wanyan Kang, Wang Chuyi intended to return the present. But, seeing that Guo Jing seemed to appreciate them, he ordered to leave them at the counter.

    "Young people are covetous," he said with a smile. " It's normal..."

    They went then in the room of Mu Yi. He was stretched out on the bed, his face pale, his daughter in tears sitting by his bedside. By seeing Wang and Guo to enter, they pushed a cry of surprise. The girl rose to her feet, the man tried to get up.

    Wang Chuyi examined the wounds of Mu Yi. On each hand, the five wounds dug by the fingers of Wanyan Kang were open to the bone, as if they had been inflicted by a weapon. The hands were extremely swollen: they had been coated with alleviating balsam but, because of fear of infection, no bandage had been applied.

    Wang Chuyi could not understand the nature of the wound: "Who taught Wanyan Kang such a cruel and brutal technique? Looking at the seriousness of those wounds, it isn't superficial; it would take a long time for someone to reach this power. How could Brother Qiu not realize this at all? Or if he had some idea about it, why didn't he do anything to stop him?"

    He turned to the girl:

    " Young lady, you are...?"

    " I am called Mu Nianci (Nianci: "to remember the mother")," she answered, casting a grateful glance towards Guo Jing before bowing her head.

    Guo Jing saw that the pole of the banner was at the foot of the bed, but the banner itself, with the inscription "Tournament to find a husband" had been torn into shreds.

    " Don't you wish to see a husband?" he wondered in surprise.

    " Your father's injury is quite serious," continued Wang. "It should be looked after properly."

    Seeing the destitution in which they lived, he understood that the father and the girl had few means, and would have probably found it very hard to find the money for the medicines. He left two ingots money from his pocket and placed them on the table.

    " I will return to see you tomorrow," he promised.

    Without awaiting the thanks of Mu Yi and his daughter, he took Guo Jing by the arm and left.

    At the door of the inn, the four brocade clothed servants advanced towards them and bowed:

    " Our young Master awaits your honourable visit, please follow us."

    Wang Chuyi agreed.

    " Master," Guo Jing said, " wait to me one moment."

    He turned and ran to the counter of the inn, opened the boxes of delicacies offered by Wanyan Kang, chooses four cakes, carefully wrapped them in a handkerchief and put them in a pocket. Then he followed Wang Chuyi to the residence.

    On the two sides of the large door painted in bright red, flags were spread on high poles. Two lions of jade, majestic and fierce, stood guard. A flight of white jade steps carried out to the large hall. The effect was impressive. Above the large door, there was an inscription in gold letters: "Residence of Prince Zhao".

    Guo Jing knew that Prince Zhao was the title of the Sixth Prince of the Jin Empire, Wanyan Honglie.

    "So," he said to himself, full of fear, " this Young Prince is the son of Wanyan Honglie? He knows me, it'll be terrible if I come upon him here!"

    As he hesitated, there came the sound of drums and trumpets. The Young Prince, wearing gold crown and a red tunic, a gold belt tied around his waist, descended the steps to meet them.

    However, he had a black eye, and a swollen face, marks of the keen combat of a few hours ago. Guo Jing was not in better state, with a swollen eye, bruises on his lips, his face and the cheek ravaged. Both felt amused, and could not prevent themselves from smiling.

    Seeing the luxurious garb of Wanyan Kang, Wang's eyebrows came together and he followed him to the large room without saying a word. Wanyan Kang requested him to sit down in the place of honor.

    "It's a distinguished honour that Master Taoist and Brother Guo have agreed to come here!"

    As he did not kowtow to him and did not seem to recognize his membership of the Quanzhen Sect, Wang felt anger rise within him.

    " For how many years were you taught the martial arts by your Shifu?" he asked.

    " I know nothing in martial arts," answered Wanyan Kang while laughing. " My Shifu gave me lessons for several years, but what he taught me would make you laugh, because that it's no more than a three-legged cat's skills."

    " The skills of the Quanzhen Sect are nothing exceptional," Wang said, containing his anger, " but it is nonetheless better than a three-legged cat skill. Your Shifu, did you know he will arrive in a few days?"

    " My Shifu is here," retorted Wanyan Kang, always smiling. " Do you wish to see him, Master?"

    " Where is he?" exclaimed Wang Chuyi, amazed.

    Without waiting for him to answer, Wanyan Kang struck in its hands, and ordered:

    " Serve the banquet!"

  3. #23
    Senior Member Du Gu seeking a win's Avatar
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    Then he took his two guests towards the banquet hall. They crossed several corridors, several decorated pavilions. Guo Jing, who had never seen such a pompous residence, was overwhelmed. But he was especially worried about the coming confrontation with Wanyan Honglie, because he did not know what he should do. "The great Khan wants me to assassinate the prince, he thought, but it turns out his son is the disciple of Taoist Elder Qiu! Should I kill him or not?" He did not manage to decide, so uneasiness plagued him.

    In the banquet hall, six or seven people have already awaited them. One of them had three lumps on his face, it was Hou Tonghai, the three-headed Dragon. Hands on his hips, he looked at them with anger. Guo Jing made a movement of retreat, then he was reassured, thinking that the presence of the Taoist Elder at his side would dissuade Hou from undertaking anything. However, not being able to suppress a certain feeling of apprehension, he averted his head, avoiding the glance of his adversary. Then, recalling the foolish behaviour of Hou during the chase of Huang Rong, he laughed up his sleeve.

    - Taoist Elder, said Wanyan Kang, a charming expression on his face, Here are several people who admire you and have wished, since a long time, to get acquainted. You have already met Chief Peng. Here is the honourable Liang Ziwong, also called the Ginseng Immortal, who is from the Eternal-white Peak. Liang Ziwong, an old man with a florid face and immaculate hair, greeted by joining his hands.
    - What an honour to meet the Perfect Wang, the Immortal-with-iron-foot! I will now be able to claim that my voyage beyond the Pass has not been in vain. Here is Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi, also known as Distinguished Big-hand, from the esoteric school of Tibet. I myself came from the North-East, he from the South-West, it had required a voyage of tens of thousands Li, one could say that ours is a predestined encounter.

    Obviously, Liang Ziwong was a very glib talker. Wang Chuyi greeted Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi, the lama answered by joining his hands.
    Suddenly, a raucous voice was heard:
    - Thus, it is because they feel supported by the Sect of Total Perfection (Quan Zhen) that the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan dare to be conceited!
    Wang Chuyi turned his head and saw a completely bald man with gleaming skull and bulging red eyes. That man reminded him of someone:
    - Are you possibly the venerable Sha, the Dragon king of the demonic group?
    - Precisely, the man retorted with an angry voice. Thus, you still remember my name!
    - We have never met, Wang thought, in what affair could I have offended him?
    - I've heard of your great reputation for a long time, he answered in a conciliatory tone, and I much admire you.

    This Dragon king of the demonic group was Sha Tongtian, and he was much abler than his brother-in-arms Hou Tonghai. However, he possessed a quick temper, was constantly enraged when teaching, that's why he had only been able to transmit a negligible part of his ability to his four disciples. That was the reason why the Four-demons-of-the-Yellow-River, as they fought against Guo Jing in Mongolia, were not able to win and had to lose face in front of Wanyan Honglie. Since then, Prince Zhao did not grant any more credit to the four men. When he heard about that, Sha Tongtian got in a terrible fury, he punished his unworthy disciples viciously, the four demons nearly turned into four ghosts. Then he ordered his brother-in-arms to capture Guo Jing, but Hou Tonghai only turned out to be a teasing object for Huang Rong, and had to undergo an even larger humiliation.

    More and more annoyed, Sha Tongtian, without being concerned anymore about courtesy in front of others, sprang to Guo Jing, his hands forming claws. Guo Jing retreated two steps, Wang Chuyi, with a protecting movement, put himself in front of Guo Jing.
    - You really want to protect this little rascal?, Sha exclaimed angrily. And he struck a palm in the direction of Wang. Wang, considering the brutality of the attack, was forced to defend himself. Their two palms clashed, and as they were both going to channel their internal energy, suddenly a man appeared, who with each of his hands, pressed their respective wrists and in that way separated them. Wang and Sha felt a shock and withdrew their hands immediately. Both being eminent personalities of the JiangHu realm, both had anticipated very well the real ability of their adversaries, and had already activated their own internal energy. That somebody was able to separate them easily with such a move were unbelievable to them!

    The man, dressed in white, carried a light fur coat and a broad belt. Aged about thirty-five or thirty-six years, he moved elegantly, had a distinguished appearance, and an undeniable martial air. He seemed to be a scion of a noble family.
    - Here is, said Wanyan Kang laughing, the Junior Chief of the White Camel Mountain from the Kunlun mountain range in the Western Territories. His name is Ouyang Ke. Honourable Ouyang had never been in the Central Plains before. It is thus for the first time you all meet him.

    The sudden appearance of this man surprised not only Wang Chuyi and Guo Jing, but Peng Lianhu and Liang Ziwong as well, who also didn't know him. After seeing a demonstration of his ability, everyone was secretly very admiring, but nobody had ever heard about the White Camel Mountain in the Western Territories.

    - Brothers, I should have arrived in the capital since several days, said Ouyang Ke while greeting. But I had a small hitch in the way, which caused a certain delay, that is why I have just arrived, please excuse me. After learning that he was the Junior Chief of the White Camel Mountain, Guo Jing understood that he was related to those young women wearing white clothes who had tried to burgle his horse on the road. He felt his heart tightening: "Have my six Shifus already clashed with him?, he wondered. Have they been injured?."

    Wang Chuyi noticed that all adversaries were of frightening ability, particularly he himself had experienced the pressure of Ouyang Ke's hand, who had an internal energy by no means inferior to his own, though it contained a strange viciousness.

    If dialogue turned out to be impossible, and it turned into a fighting, he himself was not even sure of being able to beat Ouyang Ke. Then, should the enemy attack en masse, how could they defend themselves?

    - And your Shifu?, he asked Wanyan Kang. Why don't you ask him to come?
    - I will, the young man agreed, turning to his servants. Request Shifu to come and meet the visitors.

    Wang Chuyi was feeling more reassured. "If Brother Qiu is here, he mused, though the enemy are dominant in number, we will be able at least to remain unscathed."

    Some time later, one heard noises of boots. Through the large door a big old officer of forty years dressed in brocade entered, with a thick beard on his chin and a martial air. Wanyan Kang advanced.
    - Shifu, he said respectfully. This Taoist Elder wishes to see you, and have already asked about you on several occasions.
    Wang felt upsurging anger: "Ah, wicked one, he thought, you dare to make fun of me? The way this officer moves, he can't have a remarkable skill, he is certainly not the one who taught this rascal his strange techniques"

    - Taoist, said the officer, what do you want from me? Normally I hate seeing monks or taoists.
    The anger of Wang was so strong that he burst out laughing:
    - I would like, he said, to request alms from Your Excellency, alms of thousand silver taels.
    The officer was called Tang Zude, captain of Prince Zhao's personal guard. When Wanyan Kang was small, Tang Zude had given him some martial arts lessons, that's why everybody in the household called him "Shifu".
    On hearing the outrageous request from Wang Chuyi, he was startled:
    - Rubbish! he retorted.
    - Thousand taels in silver, Wanyan Kang said, is nothing, nothing at all. Let someone quickly prepare thousand taels, and present it to the venerable Taoist.

    Tang Zude remained baffled. He examined Wang Chuyi from top to toe with his mouth agape, then upwards, without managing to understand why one should show such benevolence.
    - Please all take a seat, Wanyan Kang invited. Taoist Elder Wang, it's the first time you've come to us, the place of honour is reserved for you. Wang Chuyi refused modestly, but ended up settling at the place of honour. Three wine rounds were served.
    - You are all eminent personalities of the JiangHu realm, Wang declared then. You all shall judge how we'll regulate the affair of Mr. Mu and his daughter. All glances were fixed on Wanyan Kang, waiting to see his reaction.

    Wanyan Kang poured wine and raised the wine cup. Respectfully presenting the cup before Wang, he said:
    - Senior (qianbei), do me the honour and accept this cup first. As for the affair in question, it will be dealt according to Senior's instructions, your Junior (wanbei) dares not to disobey. Wang was amazed to see him accepting so easily. He took the cup and drank the wine in one go.
    - Very well, he said. Let us take Mr. Mu here and let him speak.
    - Thus someone must take him here, Wanyan Kang said. Could I charge Brother Guo then with the task of bringing Mr. Mu here? Wang Chuyi nodded.
    Guo Jing immediately left the banquet to go to the Prosperity Inn. But the room of Mu Yi was empty: the father and the girl had left, carrying all their belongings with them. Questioned, the boy at the inn answered that someone had come to seek them and had paid the room and the meals, but he could not say who. Guo Jing hurriedly returned to the residence of Prince Zhao, where Wanyan Kang greeted him with a great smile:
    - Brother Guo, thank you for your effort. Where is Mr. Mu? Guo Jing told him that he had sought in vain.
    - Ah, it is my fault, sighed Wanyan Kang. Turning to one of his servants, he ordered:
    - Take several men with you, go quickly in all directions. Must absolutely find Mr. Mu! The servant obeyed and left.

    Thus, without the main person of interest, it was impossible to continue. Wang Chuyi could say nothing, but his head was full of suspicions.
    "To go and seek Mr. Mu, he said to himself, it is enough to send one or two servants. This rascal insisted that Guo Jing should go, obviously he wanted that Guo Jing himself should notice the departure of Mu, and can give testimony on it."
    - It doesn't matter that mysterious things happened, he sneered, in the end the truth will always triumph.
    - Taoist Elder, you have reason to believe that Mr. Mu did mysterious things?, Wanyan Kang answered laughingly, it is really odd.

    The officer Tang Zude, already furious to see how the taoist had easily extorted thousand taels, found it intolerable to see him also showing insolence to the Young Prince. He vented his anger:
    - Thus, taoist, to which temple do you belong? What right do you have to swindle our Master?
    - Thus, officer, retorted Wang Chuyi. To which country do you belong? What right do you have to occupy an official position here? He had well seen that Tang Zude was Chinese, but occupying an officer rank in the Jin army, benefitting from it to oppress his compatriots, it was for this reason he made fun of him.

  4. #24
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (SunnySnow)

    The thing that Tang Zude hated most was people mentioning that he is a Chinese. He felt that he is highly skilled in martial arts, is loyal and willing to risk his life for the Jins but yet, they still do not allow him to lead an army. He has worked hard for 20years but is ultimately kept in the Zhao prince residence for show. Wang Chuyi’s comments has hit his sore point and his face immediately changes before roaring out in anger. He stands up, opposite Liang Ziwong and Ouyang Ke and releases a fist towards Wang Chuyi’s face.

    The later glances at the fist coming towards him and stretches out two fingers from his left palm to grab Tang Zude’s wrist, laughing,“ Even if you are not willing to answer, there is no need to resort to violence right?”

    Tang Zude’s fist is stopped in mid-air, and finally is unable to move. He is surprised but angry, and scolds, “ Brilliant witchcraft, you used witchcraft!” He uses his might to release his fists but is unable to, and scowls, feeling very embarrassed.

    Liang Ziwong, who is sitting beside him, laughs,“ General, fret not, come, sit down for a cup of wine.” And with that, stretches out his fingers towards Tang Zude’s left shoulder.

    Wang Chuyi is aware that although his two fingers can suppress Tang Zude’s fist, but is unable to prevent Liang Ziwong’s one press. (not very sure of this part) He releases a finger and aims for Tang Zude’s right shoulder. With this quick change of stunt, Liang Ziwong is unable to restrain himself and two fingers press both sides of Tang Zude’s shoulders at the same time. It is really Tang Zude’s honor to have two highly skilled fighters to ambush him at the same time and his both hands uncontrollably punches forward, with the sound of two clashes, his left hand punches into a plate of left over fish and his right hand enters a bowl of hot and sour soup, two of the dishes break into small pieces. The fish bones and broken fragments of the dishes pierce into Tang Zude’s hands, mixing flesh blood with remains of the soup, causing him to yell out in pain.

    The crowd laugh out aloud and quickly move aside. Tang Zude by this time is furious and very embarrassed, thus dashes out of the hall. The servants then suppress their laughter and move forward to clean up the mess.

    Sha Tongtian marvels,“ Quanzhen sect really lives up to its name! Brother here wants Taoist Wang to enlighten me on something.”

    Wang Chuyi replies,“ It’s nothing much, please ask, elder Sha.”

    Sha Tongtian replies,“ Yellow river clan and Quanzhen sect have all along been at peace, so why does Taoist Wang make things difficult for brother here by going all the way to support the seven freaks of Jiangnan? Quanzhen sect may have many disciples, but brother here is not afraid.”

    Wang Chuyi replies,“ I think there is some misunderstanding. I have heard of the seven freaks of jiangnan but I don’t know any of them. I have a martial brother who made a little bet with them. But I have never planned on helping the seven freaks of jiangnan against yellow river clan.”

    Sha Tongtian exclaims,“ That’s great, then please hand over this rascal to me.” Speaking, he reaches forward to grab Guo Jing’s throat.

    Wang Chuyi knows that Guo Jing is unable to avoid that grab and will get injured, thus stretches out his arm to push Guo Jing’s shoulders gently. Guo Jing falls out of his chair uncontrollably and a “ke cha” sound is heard, with Sha Tongtian’s five fingers changing direction towards the ground, the back of his chair is broken. This claw, smashing wood like bean curd (correct me if its wrong) is indeed one of the least seen but powerful stunt in the wulin world.

    Sha Tongtian, who has failed in grabbing Guo Jing, furiously asks,“ So you are going to protect this rascal?”

    Wang Chuyi replies,“ I brought this child in, so I will naturally bring him out safely. Why not brother Sha let him off today and find him another day?”

    Ouyang Ke speaks up,“ This young chap offended brother Sha, let’s talk this out shall we?”

    Sha Tongtian thinks,“ This Taoist priest’s skills are definitely not below mine, me and martial brother alone may not be able to make that little rascal stay behind. This Ouyang Ke has good skills and I’m not sure of his background, if he gangs up with that idiot, then there will be trouble.” He then speaks,“ I have 4 useless disciples who followed Prince Zhao to Mongolia for a big mission. They were about to succeed when this rascal whose surname is Guo appeared and spoilt everything, making Prince Zhao extremely furious. Gentlemen, please think, if we cannot even overcome a little rascal, how can we still accept the invitation to eat and drink in the place of Prince Zhao?”

    Although Sha Tongtian is very bad-tempered and rash, he is not stupid, with this speech, Guo Jing immediately became the centre of suspicion. With the exception of Wang Chuji and Guo Jing, everyone else was invited by Prince Zhao. Wanyan Kang is Prince Zhao’s eldest son, after hearing what Sha Tongtian said, he is a little displeased and everyone present decides to capture Guo Jing and present him to Prince Zhao.

    Wang Chuyi is anxious deep down and tries to think of a plan to escape, but there are so many strong opponents that it is quite impossible to do so. Actually he thought that since Wanyan Kang is his martial brother’s disciple, even though he is a Jin, he won’t dare to attack his teacher’s martial brother. However, he did not expect Wanyan Kang to be so insolent and even plan to trap them with the help of skilled experts, if he knew this would happen, he would not have rashly come, even if he knew, he shouldn’t have brought Guo Jing along. If he wanted to leave himself, no one had any reason to stop him, but to escape with Guo Jing at the same time was very tough.

    He thinks,“ Under this situation, it’s best to stretch time” thus saying, “ Every single one of you are highly skilled and well-known, I have the utmost respect to each of you, to be able to meet you all today is my honor.” Pointing to Guo Jing, “ This child is unaware of the serious trouble he has cause you all and offended elder Sha, if you all want him to stay, I am powerless to stop it but even so, I cannot agree to that. Thus, I daringly request that each of you display your superior skills to Guo Jing so as to let him know that it is not that I don’t want to fight, but it is I am unable to help him.”(im not very sure of this part)

    Hou Tonghai has been suppressing his boredom all the while and immediately jumps out from his chair, pulling his sleeve,“ Let me taste your skills first.”

    Wang Chuyi replies,“ My shallow skills are unworthy to exchange stunts with all present. I hope that brother Hou’s superior skills will impress and teach this little rascal a lesson, allowing him to know the existence of many skilled experts so that he won’t dare to be arrogant in the future.”

    Hou Tonghai has a feeling that there is sarcasm hidden in his speech but is unaware what is it, thus is unsure how to answer.

    Sha Tongtian thought,“ It’s very tough to compete with Taoists from Quanzhen sect. So it’s also good that I don’t have to do so.” Turning to Hou Tonghai, “ Martial brother, why not display the ‘burying one in the snow’ skill for elder Wang.”

    The snow outside had not stop, Hou Tonghai rushed to the centre of the courtroom and swept both of his arms up, bringing the snow in until there was a huge pile of snow in front of him. He used his legs to arrange the pile neatly, retreated three steps and turned upside down, with his legs on top and head below, and with a ‘pa’ sound, he thrust forward himself and landed into the middle of the snow pile. The snow was not up to his chest, Guo Jing rubbed his head in confusion when he saw this skill as Hou Tonghai head was in the snow pile, motionless.

    Sha Tongtian turned to Wanyan Kang and the others and said,“ Everyone, please kick all the remaining snow onto the snow pile which my brother Hou’s head is in.” The audience all felt curious, and laughingly kick the snow, making the pile Hou Tonghai’s head is in, even deeper. Actually Sha Tongtian and Hou Tonghai frequently practice on the yellow river, thus their water skills are excellent. Those who practice water skills focus on controlling their breathing under water and Hou Tonghai is able to bury his head in the snow without breathing and still use kungfu to fly out after a long while as he is used to it. The audience raised their cups of wine and praise this display of skill, after along while, Hou Tonghai finally use both his palms to pull his head out of the snow and flipped back to his normal standing position. Guo Jing, being an inexperienced youth, was the first to applaud out loud. However, Hou Tonghai returned to his seat and drank a cup of wine, before stared at Guo Jing fiercely.

    Guo Jing saw that there were remains of snow on Hou Tonghai’s head and couldn’t control himself, he said,“ Third master Hou, there’s snow on your head.” Hou Tonghai angrily retorted, “ I am known as the three headed dragon, but I am not third in position, why call me third master? Even if I am fourth master Hou, is it any of your business? How would I not know if my head has snow? I wanted to wipe it away, but now that you asked me to, I will purposely not wipe!” The warm temperature in the room cause the snow on his head to melt and drops of water flowed down Hou Tonghai’s head, but he is a stubborn man who keeps to his word, so no matter what, he did not even try to wipe the water off his face.

    Sha Tongtian said.“ My martial brother’s skills are rough and clumsy, please pardon him.” With that, he stretched his hand into a plate, grabbed some melon seeds, and the seeds were shot out in a straight line with a flick of his middle finger. The seeds were stuck into the snow pile which Hou Tonghai earlier built and formed a ‘huang(yellow)’ word. The snow pile was quite a distance from Sha Tongtian’s seat and yet, he was still able to form a word on it neatly with the mere use of melon seeds. His eyesight and accuracy was indeed amazing.

    Wang Chuyi thought, “ No wonder the dragon king of the demonic group rules the yellow river, his skills are indeed spectacular.” Turning his head, he saw that the snow pile had another wave of seeds, forming a ‘he(river)’ word and a ‘jiu(nine)’ word, it seems like Sha Tongtian wants to form four words, reading ‘huang he jiu qu’(nine tunes of the yellow river).

    Peng Lianhu laughed out, “ Brother Sha, I cannot help but really admire your remarkable finger skills. Lets make us make a deal, since this elder Wang wants to study our skills, I will borrow Brother Sha’s finger skills to display some of my skills.” With that, he flung his body and landed near the doorway. At this time, Brother Sha had already shot out the rest of the seeds to form the remaining ‘qu(song)’ word, but Peng Lianhu suddenly stretched out both arms to catch the seeds, it looked as if he were picking the seeds from midair. The seeds were very tiny and traveled at an amazing speed, but Peng Lianhu did not miss out a single one and had them all in his palms.

    The audience broke into praises and Peng Lianhu retuned to his seat with a smile, Sha Tongtian then only managed to finish forming the “qu(song)’ word with the seeds. Peng Lianhu’s sudden display did steal away some of Sha Tongtian’s limelight, but the two were very close and Sha Tongtian did not seem displeased and even smiled a little. He turned to Ouyang Ke and asked, “ What does mister Ouyang plan on displaying so as to enlighten us inexperienced people?”

    Ouyang Ke heard the sarcasm in Sha Tongtian’s words and knew that he was still sore at him for interrupting his hits earlier on and thought hard on what to display so as to allow Sha Tongtian to admire him. At that moment, the servants brought up four types of dessert and replaced the used chopsticks with clean ones. Ouyang Ke snatched up the used chopsticks and with a wave of his hand; twenty chopsticks flew out at the same time, stuck into the snow and neatly formed four shapes of four flowers. To snatch a chopstick up and stick in to the snow with a wave is child’s play, but to form the shape of a flower neatly using twenty chopsticks was very way difficult. This skill was deep and complex, such that Guo Jing and Wanyan Kang were not able to comprehend fully, but people such as Wang Chuyi and Sha Tongtian were secretly in praise.

    In view of the high experts, Wang Chuyi thought, “ One of them is already a quite a hassle, and yet there are so many grouped here together. Why? Even people like Young Chief of White Camel Mountain, supreme virtue, Lingzhi and Ginseng immortal who do not reside in the central plains are here. There must be some suspicious plan going on.”

    Ginseng immortal, Liang Ziwong laughed as he stood up before acknowledging the rest and reached the centre of the room with light steps. He stretched out his right foot and landed on the chopsticks, which Ouyang Ke had stuck, into the snow. Then he started his display of skills , “hugging the moon”, “two gentlemen up the hills”, “pulling arrow stunt”, “turning without shoes”, and displayed his “sparrow light fists”. His feet looked like he was jumping one moment and flying at another moment, every step he took would end by landing on top of the chopsticks. After his “giving way to step on a tiger” and “retreating to wrap it up”. Liang Ziwong finished displaying his “sparrow light fists” and the amazing thing was that the twenty chopsticks were still neatly in place, as before. With a constant smile on his face, Liang Ziwong retreated back to his seat. The hall exploded into applauses and even Guo Jing gave his praises.

    At this moment, the banquet was over and the servants brought up golden bowls of warm water for the guests to wash up a little.

    Wang Chuyi thought, “ Now, it remains Superior Virtue, Lingzi to display his skills before they all attack together.” Wang Chuyi glanced at him only to see him still dipping his hands in the water slowly, disregarding of everything else. After everyone finished washing, his hands were still in the bowl of water, as if thinking of something, everyone was feeling curious and after a while, steam was rising up from his bowl of water, the bowl gave out some noise before bubbles rose from the bottom of the bowl of water, as if water was boiling. Wang Chuyi was secretly anxious, “ His internal energy is powerful! I have to grab the chance to attack first.”

    Seeing that all attention was focused on Lingzi, Wang Chuyi thought, “ I have to take them by surprise and make the first move to gain the upper hand.” Suddenly, he flew forward, with supreme speed, caught and pulled Wanyan Kang away with his right hand, before sealing the back of Wanyan Kang’s accupoints. At that moment, Sha Tongtian and the rest were taken back by surprise and did not know how to react.

    Wang Chuyi picked up a bottle of wine with his left hand and said, “ To be able to meet up with so many heroes today is my honor, let me give everyone a toast.”

    Wang Chuyi used the bottle to---serve wine. With that he drank a large mouthful and spat out, drops of wine landing into everyone’s cups. No matter whether the person’s cup was near or far away from him, whether the cups were half-filled or empty, the wine kept landing beautifully into the cups and every cup had the same proportion of wine, there was not a single drop of wine spilled or wasted. From the way Wang Chuyi spat the wine, Superior Lingzi knew that he had excellent internal energy, and he was still able to carry the wine bottle in one hand while holding Wanyan Kang in another. Although they knew that it was possible to attack Wang Chuyi at this moment, but no one dared to in fear of Wanyan Kang getting hurt. Lastly, Wang Chuyi served wine for himself and Guo Jing, and raising his cup, he said smoothly, “ I have no animosity towards everyone and have no strong relations to little brother Guo, but seeing that he is compassionate, heroic and has backbone, I want to plead with all present to let him go on my behalf.”

    Everyone was silent. Wang Chuyi continued, “ If everyone is able to be magnanimous, I will free little prince, a royal descendent in exchange for a commoner is a very good deal right?”

    Liang Ziwong laughed, “ Since taoist Wang is so easy-going, it’s a deal then.”

    Without a moments hesitation, Wang Chuyi released Wanyan Kang. Wang Chuyi knew that although these people were well-known for their evil, cold-blooded, unorthodox methods and underhand means, they would not dare break their promise and attack in front of so many other fellow wulin experts in fear of tarnishing their reputation.

    Biding farewell, Wang Chuyi pulled Guo Jing’s hand and said, “ I’ll bid farewell from here, and may we meet again”.

    The crowd, watching their preys escape from the trap but not being able to stop them, sighed with pity and looked crashed.

    Wanyan Kang recovered himself and laughed, “ Taoist Wang is superior, please feel free to visit anytime so that I can learn from the great elder.”

    Wang Chuyi snorted, “ I haven’t solved our problem, we will definitely meet again.”

    They walked towards the doorway when superior Lingzi suddenly said, “ Taoist elder has brilliant skills which I am in awe of.” He joined his palms in a prayer position and bowed. All of a sudden, his released both palms in the air and dashed forward with all his might.

    Wang Chuyi also pushed out both his palms in defence, using the internal energy, which he had cultivated for more than ten years to meet superior Lingzi’s blow. Just as they were about to meet and exchange blows, superior Lingzi suddenly switched from internal to external energy and used his left palm to grab Wang Chuyi’s wrist.

    Within a flash, Wang Chuyi reacted swiftly by grabbing back his opponent’s wrist, both sides used the utmost force and both wrists met briefly before separating.

    Superior Lingzi’s face paled but he forced himself to say, “ I really admire Taoist skills.”

    Before retreating back. Wang Chuyi laughed, “ Abbot is famous throughout wulin, but why do you not keep your word?”

    Superior Lingzi is furious and spits out, “ I wanted to make you stay behind, not that Guo rascal….”

    He had received a blow from Wang Chuyi and was injured, if he had quietly sit down to recuperate, it would not have become serious, but being mocked by Wang Chuyi had made him furious and he had not finish talking when he started to vomit out a mouthful of fresh blood.

    Wang Chuyi did not dare stay any longer, and taking Guo jing’s hand quickly made his way out.

    Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu and the rest did not want to break their promise, and seeing that Superior Lingzi had suffered, they did not dare go forward to stop them.

    Wang Chuyi had quickly left and was quite a distance away from Prince Zhao’s residence before he turned back to check whether there was anyone behind.

    When he confirmed that there was no one, he lowered his voice and said to Guo Jing, “ Carry me back to the inn.”

    Hearing his weak voice, Guo Jing was shocked, he later studied Wang Chuyi and realized that the latter’s face was very white, and he looked very sick, it was a vast difference from the quick and swift Wang Chuyi earlier on.

    Guo Jing hurriedly asked, “ Taoist Wang, are you injured?”

    Wang Chuyi nodded and could not balance himself properly, Guo Jing quickly lower his back to carry Wang Chuyi and hurriedly ran to a large inn. He was about to enter when Wang Chuyi whispered, “ Find…find the most desolated…. and smallest…. smallest inn.”

    Guo Jing thought for awhile and then understood that Wang Chuyi was afraid that enemies may be looking for them and if they really meet rivals, with Wang Chuyi injured and himself so lowly skilled, they would definitely lose out. With that, Guo Jing lowered his head and started running to look for another inn, Guo Jing was unfamiliar with the roads and headed for routes with very little people, the further he walked, the more deserted the road seemed. He could feel Wang Chuyi’s breathe getting weaker and weaker before finding a very small inn after much difficulty.

    Guo Jing saw that the inn was small and dirty, but fearing for Wang Chuyi’s safety, he immediately dashed in and placed Wang Chuyi down.

    Wang Chuyi said, “ Find me a big tank…of water…..fresh…clean water…hurry…hurry up.”

    Guo Jing asked, “ Is there anything else?”

    Wang Chuyi remained silent and just waved his hands to hurry Guo Jing.

    Guo Jing hurried out of the room, asked a inn waiter to help him prepare the water and gave him some money to do so, before rewarding the boy with some coins.

    Ever since Guo Jing came to the central plains, he came to understand the importance of bribing. The inn boy was overjoyed, and hurriedly fetched a huge tank and filled it with clean water, Guo Jing went back to inform Wang Chuyi that the water was ready.

    Wang Chuyi responded, “ Good…good child, now carry me and put me in the water…don’t allow…anyone to come here.”

    Guo Jing did not understand why Wang Chuyi wanted to do this but did as he was told, the clean water covered Wang Chuyi’s head and Guo Jing instructed the inn boy to keep everyone out.

    Wang Chuyi sat quietly with his eyes closed and breathed urgently, after awhile, the water turned black and colour began to return to his cheeks. Wang Chuyi said to Guo Jing, “ Help me out and change the water.”

    Guo Jing changed the water before helping Wang Chuyi in again, it was after awhile before Guo Jing learnt that Wang Chuyi was using his internal energy to force out the poison in him, and allow the poison to float in the water, Guo Jing changed the water four times before no more poison came out of Wang Chuyi and the water stayed clear.

    Wang Chuyi finally smiled and said, “ It’s okay now.” He climbed out of the water and sighed, “ This lama’s skills are deadly.”

    Guo Jing was relieved and asked whether was there poison on the lama’s palms.

    Wang Chuyi replied, “ Yes, I have seen the poison sand palms many times, but this is the strongest one yet such that it almost cost me my life.”

    Guo Jing replies, “ Luckily you are alright now. What do you want to eat? I’ll ask the inn boy to buy.”

    Wang Chuyi asked Guo Jing to borrow some ink and a brush before writing down some medicine formula.

    Wang Chuyi explained, “ Although my life is not in danger now, my internal organs is not fully cleansed off the poison, if I do not cleanse the poison in twelve hours time, I may be crippled for life.”

    Guo Jing received the medicine formula and rushed out, he saw that there was a medicine shop nearby and quickly asked the owner for the medicine formula.

    The owner checked his shelves, but returned empty-handed after awhile and said, “ So sorry, you came at the wrong time, the medicine herbs that you need are out of stock.”

    Guo Jing did not wait for him to finish and dashed to find another medicine shop, but to his surprise, the second medicine shop he went to also did not have the formula he wanted, it was the same result even after he went to eight shops.

    Guo Jing grew anxious and angry at this time and ran to all the medicine shops in the city, only to get the same answer, that they had huge stock of the herbs he wanted but was all bought by someone earlier. It was then that Guo Jing realize that the people in the Zhao residence must have guessed that Wang Chuyi needed the medicine for his injury and thus, purposely buy up all the medicine herbs, so as to harm Wang Chuyi.

    Dejected, Guo Jing returned to the inn and told Wang Chuyi what had happen and the latter responded with a sigh and also looked dejected. Guo Jing was so miserable that he leaned on top of the table and cried out aloud.

    Wang Chuyi laughed, “ Everyone has to die sooner or later, it is up to heaven, we have no say and anyway I may not die, so why all this crying?” and started singing.

    Guo Jing dried his tears and looked better, Wang Chuyi laughed out aloud and sat upright on the bed before using strength to recuperate.

    Guo Jing did not dare to make any noise and crept out of the room, he suddenly thought, “ If I rush to another nearby city, they may not have finish buying up the medicine.”

    Happily, he was about to set off when he saw the inn boy running towards him with a letter, on top of the letter spelt, ‘ Please read it yourself, big master Guo.’

    Guo Jing felt curious and wondered who would write to him. He hurriedly tore open the letter and shook open a white piece of paper which wrote, ‘ I have something urgent to tell you, will be waiting for you at the river which is ten meters, west away from the city.” At the bottom of the letter, was a vivid drawing of a little beggar who was laughing, it was Huang Rong.

    Guo Jing thought to himself, “ How does he know that I am here?” and turned to the inn boy, “ Who sent this letter here?”

    The inn boy replied, “ It was sent here by a wandering commoner.”

    Guo Jing returned to his room and saw that Wang Chuyi was stretching his limbs.

    He said, “ Taoist Wang, I’m going to the nearby cities to buy the medicine.”

    Wang Chuyi answered, “ If we are able to think of this, they will able too, there’s no need to go.”

    Guo Jing would not give up and was determined to try, he thought, “ Brother Huang is so intelligent, so I will ask discuss with him first.”

    He told Wang Chuyi, “ My good friend wants to meet me, I will immediately return after meeting him.” And with that, he showed the letter to Wang Chuyi, the latter thought awhile and asked Guo Jing how he knew this fellow.

    Guo Jing related the story to Wang Chuyi and the latter thought, “ I saw how this fellow tricked Hou Tonghai, his skills are very weird and unusual…..”

    He turned to Guo Jing and said, “ You must be careful, this kid’s skills is much higher than yours, and his skills seem unorthodox, up till now, I cannot guess his origins.”

    Guo Jing replied, “ He is my best buddy so he will not harm me.”

    Wang Chuyi sighed, “ You have not known him for long, how can you be sure whether he is your best buddy? He may be petite in size, but if he wants to trick you, you won’t be able to defend yourself.”

    Guo Jing was not the least suspicious of Huang Rong and thought to himself, “ Taoist Wang says this because he doesn’t know brother Huang’s character.” And with that, kept singing praises of Huang Rong non-stop.

    Wang Chuyi laughed and said, “ Alright, go then, young people must meet some danger so as to gain experience. This person….seeing his figure and voice….he is not a…..can’t you tell?”

    Wang chuyi stopped here and just shook his head. Guo Jing placed the sheet of medicine formula in his pocket and ran out. When he reached the outer city, he could see snow, but it was isolated all around. He walked ten meters west and some reflections of water; it was indeed a small lake. The weather was not the coldest, so the lake was not frozen; flower petals covered with snow floated on the water and beside the lake were rows and rows of plum trees. The plum flowers looked magnificent beside the snow flowers.

    Guo Jing could not see anyone about and for an anxious moment, he thought, “ What if he waited for me too long and so left?” and began to shout out loud, “ brother Huang, brother Huang.”

    Guo Jing suddenly heard a sound and turned around sharply, only to realize that it was made by river birds. Guo Jing was very disappointed, and called out two more times, before thinking, “ Maybe he hasn’t reach yet, I’ll wait for him here then.”

    Sitting down by the lake, Guo Jing thought about Huang Rong, then he thought about Wang Chuyi’s injuries and no mood to enjoy the sceneries. Besides, he was used to seeing snow as he has grew up in Mongolia and he did not bother to look out for the differences in landscape between Mongolia and the central plains. He waited for a long while and suddenly heard some noises among the trees.

    Feeling curious, he walked over and heard a rough voice, “ Why still act like a big brother when all of us, including you wasted time just now?” another voice answered, “ Damn it! If it were not for you being such a coward we would have won if four of us ganged up on one.” Another one answered, “ What’s the big deal when you even tripped while running it away.” It sounded like the four demons of the yellow river.

    Guo Jing summoned all his courage and stepped into the trees, only to see no one. He suddenly heard a voice, “ If we fought up front, how can we lose, but who we have thought that the little beggar had so many tricks up his sleeves…”

    Guo Jing looked up and saw four men dangling in mid air, swinging to and fro, yet squabbling non-stop, it was indeed the four demons of the yellow river. His heart jumped for joy, as he knew that Huang Rong was nearby, and let out a laugh before asking, “Hey, are you guys practicing your lightness skill again?”

    Qian Qingjian retorted angrily, “ Who says that we are practicing our lightness skills? Haven’t you any eyes to see that we were hanged here?”

    Guo Jing laughed out loud and Qian Qingjian angrily tried to use his leg to kick Guo Jing, but how could he when the distance between them was so huge?

    Ma Qingxiong scolded, “ Rascal, if you don’t go away, I will pee on you!”

    Guo Jing laughed till he could not stand up straight and said, “ I stand away then, your pee can’t reach me.”

    Suddenly, there was a sound of gentle laughter and Guo Jing turned around, only to hear the splashing of water and see a leaf floating down from a tree. Then, he saw a girl at the tail of a boat, rowing gently. She had long hair beneath her shoulders, was dressed in white from head to toe and had some golden pins in her hair, which shone like fire, amongst the snow. Guo Jing saw that the girl’s dressing looked like a fairy and was dumb. The boat slowly rowed nearer, and he saw that the girl was barely, fifteen or sixteen years of age. She had very smooth skin that was as white as snow, a beautiful colour on her cheeks and had an incredible beauty which was incomparable. Guo Jing was struck by her amazing beauty and retreated a few steps, before turning away, not daring to look at her.

    The young girl tied the boat near the bank and called out , “ Brother Jing, come on board!”

    Guo Jing was astonished, and turned around, only to see the girl smiling sweetly and her robe floating gently in the wind.

    Guo Jing felt like he was in a dream and used both hands to rub his eyes.

    The young girl giggled and said, “ Why? You don’t recognize me?”

    Guo Jing thought that she sounded like Huang Rong, but how can a dirty and lowly male beggar suddenly transform into a beautiful fairy? He couldn’t believe his eyes.

    He heard the voices of the four demons of the yellow river behind him shouting, “ Little miss, help us to cut off the ropes that are hanging us up, let us down! If you help us, I’ll give you a hundred tales of gold! Each one of us will give you a hundred tales; you’ll get four hundred tales all together. We can even give you eight hundred tales!”

    The young girl ignored them and smiled at Guo Jing, “ I am your brother Huang, why, don’t you care about me anymore?”

    Guo Jing studied her face and saw that her features were exactly the same as Huang Rong’s and stuttered, “ You………you…………” he only managed to say the word, ‘you’ before stopping.

    Huang gave a little laugh and said, “ I am actually a girl, who asked you to call me brother Huang? Hurry, come onto the boat.”

    Guo Jing felt like he was dreaming, he move forward a little and tripped onto the boat. On the other hand, the four demons kept making a whole lot of noise in the background, raising the price of their reward higher.

    Huang Rong rowed the boat to the middle of the lake, brought out some dishes and wine and giggled, “ And don’t you call me sister Huang, call me Rong’er. My dad always calls me that.”

    Guo Jing suddenly remembered something and said, “ I brought some cakes for you.” He took out the cakes that Wanyan Kang gave earlier on but because he had carried Wang Chuyi, took care of the latter and ran all around finding medicine that the cakes were already smashed up into little pieces.

    Huang Rong saw the smashed up cakes and laughed softly. Guo Jing reddened and said, “ It can’t be eaten now” and was about to throw the smashed cakes into the water when Huang Rong stretched out her hand and took the cakes from him before saying, “ I like to eat it.”

    Guo Jing was surprised but she had already placed a small piece into her mouth and started eating. After watching her eat a few mouths, his eyes grew red and tears started forming slowly, he didn’t understand her actions.

    Huang Rong said, “ My mother died ever since I was born, no one has ever remember my likes and habits so well before…….” And a few tears flowed from her eyes. She took out a clean handkerchief, Guo Jing thought that she was going to dry her eyes but she used it to wrap the smashed cakes instead, and placed it in her pocket, before turning back to him with a smile, “ I’ll eat it slowly.”

    Guo Jing did not know much about romantic relationships, but he felt that ‘brother Huang’s’ actions were very special and unique. He asked her, “ You said you had something important to tell me, what is it?”

    Huang Rong giggled, “ I wanted to tell you that I’m not brother Huang but Rong’er, isn’t this important?”

    Guo Jing smiled and said, “ You are so pretty like this, why disguise as a little beggar?”

    Huang Rong turned her head slightly and said, “ You say I’m pretty?”

    Guo Jing replied, “ Yes, very beautiful, like the fairy on top of our snow mountain.”

    Huang Rong laughed and said, “ You’ve seen a fairy?”

    Guo Jing said, “ Of course not, if I’ve seen one, how can I still live?”

    Huang Rong asked, “ Why?”

    Guo Jing replied, “ The elders in Mongolia always say that whoever sees the fairy would never want to return back to the grasslands again, he would just stay in a daze and freeze to death after a few days.”

    Huang Rong laughed and asked, “ Then do you feel dazed after seeing me?”

    Guo Jing reddened and quickly answered, “ We are good friends, so it’s different.”

    Huang Rong nodded and said seriously, “ I know you sincerely care for me, regardless whether I’m a girl or a guy, pretty or ugly. If I dress up like this, it’s not surprising if people are good to me, but you were nice to me even when I dressed up like a little beggar, so you are truly good to me.” At this point, Huang Rong was in high spirits and smiled, “ I’ll sing a tune for you, alright?”

    Guo Jing replied, “ Can you sing tomorrow instead, we have to get the medicine for Taoist Wang first.” With that he related how the story of how Wang Chuyi got injured and how the medicine was all bought up by Wanyan Kang.

    Huang Rong replied, “ Ah, no wonder you were anxiously going to one medicine shop after another.”

    Guo Jing thought, “ She was following behind me, that’s why she knew where I stayed.”

    He said, “ Brother Huang, may I ride your little red horse to buy the medicine?"

    Huang seriously said, " Firstly, I am not your brother Huang. Secondly, the horse is yours; do you think that I would actually take it? I just wanted to test you. Thirdly, you may not be able to get the medicine even if you travel to the nearby cities.”

    Hearing what she said, Guo Jing felt anxious. Huang Rong smiled a little and said, “ I am going to sing now, listen well.” Huang Rong gently turned her head, rowed the boat and started singing in a crystal clear voice. ( sorry, I can’t translate the lyrics)

    Guo Jing listened carefully to each and every word. Although he didn’t know the meaning, but Huang Rong’s voice was gentle and sweet such that he felt like he was in a daze. The beautiful scenery gave him a feeling of warmness, one that he had never felt before.

    Huang Rong finished singing and said in a low voice, “ This is a song composed by official Xing, which describes the plum flower which blooms after winter, is it good?”

    Guo Jing replied, “ I don’t know all these, but the song sounds very nice. Who is official Xing?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ Official Xing is Xing Qiji. My father says that he is a good official who loves his people. When the Jins captured the north, and after villains harmed mister Yue, official Xing was the only one left struggling to restore our lost lands. Although Guo Jing often listened to his mother talk about how violent the Jins were, and how they mercilessly kill many Chinese, he grew up in Mongolia and so, did not feel so strongly towards the Jins.

    Guo Jing replied, “ I have never been in the central plains before, you have to tell me stories slowly another time, the most important thing now is to save Taoist Wang.”

    Huang Rong said, “ Listen to me, let’s play a little while more, don’t worry.’

    Guo Jing replied, “ Taoist Wang said that if he doesn’t eat the medicine in twelve hours time, he will be crippled!”

    Huang Rong retorts, “ Let him be crippled then, anyway it’s not you or me who will be crippled.”

    Guo Jing let out an “ Ah” sound and jumped up saying, “ This…..this……” his face turned furious.

    Huang Rong giggled, “ Don’t worry, I’ll make sure that you get the medicine.”

    Guo Jing heard the confidence in her tone and thought, “ She is way smarter than me and besides, I don’t have any brilliant ideas, so I should listen to her.” So he had no choice but to succumb to her wishes for the time being. They both clapped in laughter when Huang Rong talked about how she tricked the four demons of the yellow river and how she disturbed Hou Tonghai. The colours of white snow, water in the lake and plum flowers were beautiful, Huang Rong slowly stretched out her hand into Guo Jing’s and whispered, “ I’m not afraid of anything now.”

    Guo Jing asked, “ Why?”

    Huang Rong replied, “ Even if my father doesn’t want me anymore, you will also want me to follow you right?”

    Guo Jing answered, “ Of course. Rong’er, I…I…like…like being with you.”

    Huang Rong leaned gently on his chest and Guo Jing felt a sweet scent surround his whole body, surround the whole lake, surround the whole earth, he didn’t know whether it was the plum flower scent or was it coming from Huang Rong. The two just held hands silently. After a very very long while, Huang Rong sighed and said, “ It’s so nice here, such a pity that we have to go.”

    Guo Jing asked, “ Why?”

    Huang Rong said, “ Don’t you want to get the medicine to save Taoist Wang?”

    Guo Jing rejoiced, “ Ah, where do we go then?”

    Huang Rong asked, “ Where have all the medicine in the shop gone to?”

    Guo Jing answered, “ The medicine have been bought up by people in Prince Zhao’s residence.”

    Huang Rong said, “ Yup, that’s right, so we’ll go to his residence to take it.”

    Guo Jing was shocked, “ Prince Zhao’s residence?”

    Huang Rong replied, “ That’s right!”

    Guo Jing said, “ We can’t go there, we’ll only lose our lives.”

    Huang Rong said, “ Then can you bare to see Taoist Wang crippled? Or if his injuries take a turn for the worse, do you want to see him dead?”

    Blood rushed up to his face, and Guo Jing replied, “ Alright, but, you can’t go.”

    Huang Rong asked, “ Why?” Guo Jing answered, “ Just promise me that you won’t go.” But he couldn’t find a reason.

    Huang Rong lowered her voice and said, “ I won’t be able to stand it if continue to worry for me. If you meet with any danger, how to you expect me to live alone?”

    Guo Jing’s heart gave a leap and gratitude, happiness, love dashed to his brain, he suddenly felt a hundred time braver and wasn’t the least afraid of people like She Tongtian and Peng Liannhu, it was as if nothing was impossible in the world. He said, “ Alright, we will both go to get the medicine.”

    Both of them rowed the boat to the bank and started towards the city. Halfway there, Guo Jing suddenly remembered that the four demons of the yellow river were still stuck in midair and said, “ Hey, do you want to release those four people?”

    Huang Rong giggled, “ This four fellows call themselves ‘ Iron strong heroes’ so they are very powerful, they won’t freeze nor starve. Even if they starve to death, ‘ Four demons of the plum forest’ is superior to the ‘four demons of the yellow river’.”

    End of Chapter 8

  5. #25
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (traveller)

    Chapter 9 (part 1)

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong went to the back of Prince Zhao's palace and leaped over the wall into the courtyard. Huang Rong whispered to Guo Jing in a soft voice:

    "Your 'light body' Gong Fu is excellent!"

    Guo Jing crouching by the foot of the wall watching out for any movement in the courtyard felt ecstatic at hearing such praise from her.

    After a moment they heard some footsteps approaching - two men were laughing and talking as they walked towards them. One man was saying "What do you think the prince has in mind with the young lady?".

    The other man laughed and said (not sure of this translation)"It's obvious isn't it? This type of pretty woman, after giving birth who would give her another glance?"

    The first man retorted "With your dirty mind, you had better be careful that the prince doesn't cut your head off. This girl, although her face is pretty, she cannot compare to the princess."

    The second man exclaimed "This peasant(??) girl! How can you compare her with the princess?"

    The first man replied "The princess, you said she (??)..." He suddenly stopped, coughed twice and changed the subject(?) saying "The prince really suffered a loss at the hands of that big fellow today, you better be careful not to give him any cause for offence or you are sure to get a real beating!"

    The second man said "If the prince tries to beat me, i'll simply dodge - and return with a kick..."

    The first man laughed "Stop talking ****(?)".

    Guo Jing thought to himself "So, that "Yuan Yan Kang" already has a pretty sweetheart no wonder he cannot marry the Mu girl. But if this true, then he shouldn't have even taken up the challenge in the first place let alone grab her shoe. Why would he want to concern himself with other people's affairs? Could it be that if a person is not willing to agree then he would use force to coerce them?

    At this point the two men had walked very close (to Guo Jing and Huang Rong). One was carrying a lamp and the other a basket of food. They were dressed as servants, wearing green clothes and caps. The man with the basket laughed and said "Talking about other people I fear that someone has already become very hungry, we had better deliver these vegetables quickly!"

    The other man replied "How can he win a young girls heart if he doesn't gain her sympathy?". Both men laughed as they walked away into the distance.

    Huang Rong became very curious. She whispered to Guo Jing "Let's go and see what type of pretty girl they are talk about".

    Guo Jing asked "What about getting the medicine, isn't that more urgent?".

    "I want to see the girl first!" said Huang Rong stubbornly and she started off after the two servants.

    Guo Jing thought "What's so interesting about seeing some girl? Really strange".

    What he didn't know was that invariably when a women hears about another beautiful woman, they will never be satisfied until they have seen them with their own eyes. If the women that hears about this other woman is herself especially beautiful, then all the more is the desire to see that other woman so she can compare herself to her! Guo Jing however did know enough about girls to know that they can be extremely difficult at times so he had no alternative but to follow.

  6. #26
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (SunnySnow)

    Chapter 9-2, 9-3

    The Zhao residence was huge. Guo Jing and Huang Rong followed the two servants for quite sometime before arriving in front of a big house. At the entrance stood a few guards with weapons in their arms. Guo Jing and Huang Rong hid behind a corner and heard the two servants whispering something to the guards before the guards opened the door and allowed them in. Huang Rong picked up a stone and flung it at the torches to put out the lights, before pulling Guo Jing with her to follow the servants in. Huang Rong was so swift that she and Guo Jing overtook the servants and were in front of them. The servants and guards didn’t notice that they slipped in and cursed and joke while starting the fire for the torches again. They entered a large room, before opening a small door at the corner and walked in. Guo Jing and Huang Rong followed them in silently and noticed rows of iron bars, forming a large prison cell. Behind the bars sat a woman and a man.

    One of the servants lit a candle and placed it on the prison table. Under the candlelight, Guo Jing saw the man’s face which was anxious and furious; it was none other than Mu Yi. A young girl was sitting beside him and it was his daughter, Mu Nian Ci. Guo Jing was suspicious and thought, “ How did they end up here? Ah, it must be WanYan Kang who captured them. What does his intend to do with them? Does he love this lady or not?” The two servants took out some wine and dishes from their basket and pushed it into the cell.

    Mu Yi picked up a plate of snacks and flung it out before yelling, “I have already fallen into your trap, kill me if you want to. Why pretend to be so nice?”

    Amongst the commotion, the guard outside suddenly said, “Greetings, little prince!”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong exchanged glances and hurriedly hid behind the door, only to see WanYan Kang rushing in and scolding, “Who made Hero Mu angry? Let’s see whether I will break your legs when we leave later.”

    The two servants were frightened and dropped on their knees, “We dare not.”

    WanYan Kang answered, “Hurry up and get lost.”

    The two servants replied, “Yes, yes.” And turned to leave, but when they reached the door, they stuck their tongues out at each other, made funny faces and left.

    WanYan Kang waited till they close the door, before saying gently, “I invited Hero Mu and Miss for something else, please don’t get offened.”

    Mu Yi was furious, “You lock us up here like prisoners, and you dare use the word ‘invite’?”

    WanYan Kang said, “I’m so sorry. Please bear with it for the time being, I’m really sorry.”

    Mu Yi retorted angrily, “You can use this to cheat a three year old. I’ve seen enough of vicious officials.”

    Wanyan Kang tried to speak out several times but was shut up by the angry Mu Yi. Yet, he still remained good natured and laughed joyfully without a tint of anger.

    Mu Nian Ci listened to the argument and whispered to her father, “Father, let’s hear what he has to say.”

    It was then that Mu Yi grunted before becoming silent.

    Wanyan Kang said, “Your daughter has rare talents and beauty. I’m not blind so how can I possibly not like her?”

    Mu Nian Ci blushed deeply and lowered her head.

    Wanyan Kang continued, “However, I am the eldest son of Prince Zhao and my family rules are very strict. If people know that I marry a commoner, my father will be furious and will face a lot of trouble.”

    Mu Yi replied, “Then what do you plan to do?”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “I was thinking of letting Hero Mu and Miss stay here for a few days to recover from any injuries, before going back. After a year or half, when the situation is better, I will either go and ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage or Hero Mu you send Miss to me so as to complete the marriage. Isn’t this a perfect solution?”

    Mu Yi remained silent, though he was thinking about another thing.

    Wanyan Kang continued, “My father has gotten into trouble all because of me. The emperor even reprimanded him three months ago. If my father learns about this now, he will never agree the marriage. So I hope that Hero Mu keeps this secret tight.”

    Mu Yi turns furious, “If I listen to what you say then my daughter will suffer if she is with you since everything has to be kept under wraps.

    Wanyan Kang replied, “I have everything planned out already, I will get some grand officials to ask for her hand in marriage, it must be a grand and joyous affair.”

    Mu Yi’s faced suddenly paled and he said, “Please ask your mother to see me so that I can discuss this with her.”

    Wanyan Kang smiled and said, “How can my mother meet you?”

    Mu Yi yelled, “If I don’t get to meet your mother, I won’t give in to you no matter what you come up with.” With that, he picked up the jar of wine and threw it out.

    Ever since Mu Nian Ci fought with Wanyan Kang, she already fell for him and was delighted after she heard his plan. But her father’s sudden outburst changed everything and she didn’t know whether she was surprised or dejected.

    WanYan Kang flipped over and caught the wine jar in time before putting it back on the table and laughed, “I’m leaving!” before turning to go.

    After hearing Wanyan Kang’s words, Guo Jing felt that the former had his reasons and a very good plan, but who would expect Mu Yi to lose his temper. He thought, “I will try to convince him now.” He was about to go out when Huang Rong pulled his sleeve and brought him out of the house.

    They heard Wanyan Kang ask a servant, “Have you brought it?” The servant nodded and raised his arm to reveal a rabbit. Wanyan Kang took the rabbit from him and broke it’s hind legs in a flash, before placing it in his pocket and hurrying off. Guo Jing and Huang Rong felt curious and followed behind him. After a while, they saw a small three-roomed hut. It was a normal hut like any other commoner’s but stood out amongst the grand surroundings of the Zhao residence. The two felt very curious. They saw Wanyan Kang open the door and enter the hut. They tiptoed to the back of the house and peered into the window. They were sure that there was something secretive in the hut, which Wanyan Kang kept. However, they heard something they did not expect when he called out, “Mother!”

    A woman’s voice answered him. Wanyan Kang walked into the room, Huang Rong and Guo Jing saw a middle-aged woman sitting beside a table, gazing blankly into space. This woman looked no more than forty, had very delicate features but wore little powder on her face and very common robes.

    Huang Rong thought, “This princess is indeed prettier than Miss Mu, but why does she dress so shabbily and live in such a hut? Has she fallen out of Prince Zhao’s favor?”

    Guo Jing was thinking about the same thing at first but later felt that it was nothing special. He thought, “She must be like Rong’er. She purposely dress up shabbily like a peasant for fun.”

    Wanyan Kang walked to her side, pulled her arm and said, “Mother, are you ill again?”

    The woman sighed, “I was worrying for you.”

    Wanyan Kang leaned on her and giggled, “But your son is standing healthily in front of you.”

    The woman replied, “With swollen eyes and a broken nose? You call that fine? You are getting more and more naughty, it’s alright if your father knows, but if your teacher learns about it, you’ll be in hot soup.”

    Wanyan Kang giggled, “Mother, do you know who is the Taoist priest who came today?”

    The woman asked, “Who?”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “He is my teacher’s martial brother, and is my elder. But I purposely pretend to be ignorant of that fact and called him Taoist this, Taoist that. He scowled and was furious but couldn’t do anything.” With that, he started laughing again.

    The woman was alarmed and said, “Oh no! I’ve seen your teacher flare up before and he can kill people. It’s really a frightening thought.”

    Wanyan Kang was curious and asked, “You’ve seen teacher kill before? When? Why did he kill people?”

    The woman lifted her head and gazed at the light, as if she was somewhere far away and said gently, “That was a long time ago. Ah, I cannot remember anymore!”

    Wanyan Kang did not probe further, instead he grinned smugly and said, “ That Taoist Wang came to ask me how was I going to deal with the marriage and I told him that if he brought Miss Mu to me, I would listen to whatever he say.”

    The woman asked, “ Have you asked your father permission? Has he agreed?”

    Wanyan Kang smiled, “ Mother, you are too honest. I asked my men to trick them into coming here and locked them up in the back cell earlier on. How does Taoist Wang expect to find them then?” Wanyan Kang was going through the events in an excited manner while Guo Jing was fuming outside.

    Guo Jing thought, “ To think that I actually thought that he had good intentions just now! Luckily Hero Mu is wise not to fall into his trap.”

    The woman answered exasperatedly, “ How can you make fun of his daughter and lock them up? Hurry and release them now, and remember to apologize and give them some money.”

    Guo Jing nodded his head and thought, “That’s more like it.”

    Wanyan Kang said, “ Mother, you don’t understand! These swordsmen don’t care about money. If I release them and they go round telling people what happen, father will hear about it.”

    The woman became anxious, “ Then do you want to lock them up forever?”

    Wanyan Kang smiled, “ I sweet talked them into going back to their village and let them stupidly wait for me forever.” With that, he burst out laughing.

    Guo Jing was shaking furiously at this time, he raised a palm towards the window frame and was about to yell out when he felt a soft and smooth palm cover his mouth and someone grab his left wrist. A gentle voice whispered into his ear, “ Calm down.”

    Guo Jing recovered and turned towards Huang Rong with a faint smile before looking back into the room again.

    Wanyan Kang continued, “ That Mu fellow is really cunning, he doesn’t take the bait. But let’s see how long he can last if I lock him up for another couple of days.”

    His mother answered, “ I’ve seen Miss Mu and I find her beautiful and talented. She is quite likeable. Why not I talk to your father and ask him to let you marry her, then everything will be solved.”

    Wanyan Kang laughed, “ Mother, for the last time, we are royalty. How can I marry such a commoner? Father always tells me that he will arrange a respectable match for me. But it’s a pity that we are the Wanyans.”

    The woman asked, “ Why?”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “ If not, I can marry the princess and become the crown prince.”

    The woman sighed and said in a low voice, “ How can you look down on poor commoners…do you really think that…”

    Wanyan Kang laughed, “ Mother, I have a joke for you. That Mu fellow says that he will only believe me if he meets up and discuss with you.”

    The woman replies, “ I won’t help you to lie and do such despicable things.”

    Wanyan Kang giggled aloud and walked around in circles. He said, “ Even if you are willing to do so, I will not allow it. You don’t know how to lie and will be exposed on the spot.”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing studied the room, which was furnished with normal wood furniture and normal farming tools. On the wall hung a moldy sphere and a broken plough. An old wooden carriage was placed in the corner of the room. Both of them thought, “ This woman is a princess. Why is her house so plainly furnished?”

    Wanyan Kang pressed his chest and the rabbit in his pocket let out a squeal.

    The woman asked, “ What’s that?”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “ Ah, I almost forgot. I saw an injured rabbit just now and picked it up. Mother, please tend to it.” He took out a little white rabbit and placed it on the table. The rabbit’s hind legs were broken and it couldn’t move.

    The woman asked, “Good child!” She hurriedly took out some tools and medicine and tended to the rabbit’s injury.

    Guo Jing started to fume again and thought, “ This man purposely injures the rabbit as he knows that his mother is kind-hearted and will tend to its injuries. Therefore, the woman will forget about the bad stuff that he has done. How can he be so evil as to make use of his mother’s kind nature and cheat her?”

    Huang Rong was leaning on him and felt Guo Jing’s whole body quiver. She knew that he must be fuming with anger and was afraid that he couldn’t control it and burst out at Wanyan Kang. She pulled his hand and said, “ Let’s ignore them, come, let’s go and find the medicine.”

    Guo Jing asked, “ You know where they hid the medicine?”

    Huang Rong shook her head, “ No. So we have to go and find out.”

    Guo Jing thought about how huge the Zhao residence was and wondered where to start finding, “It would de disastrous if we alert Shao Tongtian and the rest…” he was about to discuss this with Huang Rong when there was a flash of light in front of them. A man was carrying a small lantern while humming a tune. He was walking nearer and nearer to them. Guo Jing was about to slip behind a tree when Huang Rong rushed forward, towards the man. The man was alarmed and before he could say anything, Huang Rong flipped her palm and shot out a shiny steel object (direct translation) which pierced into his throat, she asked, “Who are you?”

    The man got a fright of life and only managed to answer after awhile, “ I…I am the caretaker. What…what are you doing?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ What am I doing? I am going to kill you! You are the caretaker? That’s great. Where did you keep the medicine that your little prince asked people to buy during the day?”

    The caretaker replied, “ I…I don’t know. Little prince kept it himself!”

    Huang Rong used her left hand to twist his wrist and used her right hand to push forward slightly, causing the steel object to pierce even deeper into his throat. The caretaker felt strong pain shoot through his wrist but didn’t dare scream out loud.

    Huang Rong said in a low voice, “ Are you going to tell me or not?”

    The caretaker responded, “ I really don’t know.”

    Huang Rong used her right hand to remove his cap and stuffed it into his mouth. Following that, her left hand pulled and twisted his arm. A crack sound was heard as she broke the bone of his right shoulder. The caretaker yelled out aloud before fainting onto the ground. However the cap in his mouth muffled his voice.

    Guo Jing was stunned as didn’t expect this young petite lady to be so vicious and cruel in her actions. Huang Rong shook the caretaker and he came around. She swiftly removed the cap from his mouth and placed it back on his head before saying, “Do you want me to break your left shoulder as well?”

    The caretaker wept in pain and answered weakly, “ I really don’t know. Even if Miss kills me, I still won’t know.”

    Huang Rong only believed him then, she lowered her voice and said, “ Go and find little prince now and tell him that you fell and broke your shoulder. Also tell him that you suffer serious internal injures and the physician says that you must take the medicine which he bought up earlier and is not available in the shops now. Beg him to give you some of the medicine.”

    The caretaker listened attentively to Huang Rong’s instructions and dared not question anything.

    Huang Rong continued, “ Hurry up, little prince is at the princess’s place. I am going to follow you and if I see that you do not act properly, I will break your neck and dig out your eyes.” With that, she stretched out her fingers and made a clawing sign at the skin of his eyes. The caretaker shivered and stood up; he clenched his teeth, ignored the dreadful pain and dashed towards the princess’s house.

    Wanyan Kang was still talking with his mother when the caretaker suddenly dashed in, sweating and crying. He repeated what Huang Rong instructed him to say. The princess saw that his face was as white as a sheet and knew he was in great pain, she didn’t wait for Wanyan Kang’s answer and immediately ordered him to give the caretaker the medicine.

    Wanyan Kang frowned and said, “ The medicine is with Mister Liang, go and find him yourself.”

    The caretaker wept and said, “ Little prince, please write a note for me.”

    The princess immediately took out some paper, ink and a brush and Wanyan Kang wrote the note. The caretaker bowed and thanked them while the princess said gently, “ Hurry and take the medicine to cure your injuries.”

    The caretaker came out of the house and walked a few steps when he felt the cold blade of a knife on the skin of his neck. He heard Huang Rong say, “ Go to Mister Liang now.”

    The caretaker walked a little but he could take the pain no longer and fell to the ground.

    Huang Rong said, “ If you don’t get the medicine, your neck will be broken into two.” With that, she pressed onto his head and turned it forcefully.

    The caretaker got a shock and had a sudden wave of determination. Sweating non-stop, he hurried on. They passed by seven or eight servants but no one questioned anything when they saw Guo Jing and Huang Rong.

    When they reached Liang Ziwong’s quarters, they found the door locked. A servant then tells them that he has gone to the fragrant snow guest hall. Guo Jing saw the caretaker having difficulty walking and helped him along the way. They were reaching the guest hall, when two guards carrying lanterns in one hand and sabers in another said, “Stop, who’s there?”

    The caretaker took out the note written by Wanyan Kang and gave it to the guards. They glanced at it and let him through before going up to question Guo Jing and Huang Rong, the caretaker said, “ It’s our own people.”

    One of the guards said, “ The prince is having a banquet with important guests, so no one is allowed to disturb them. If you have anything, you can come back tomorrow to…” he didn’t finish his sentence when the two guards felt strength less, numb and were unable to move as Huang Rong had sealed their points. Huang Rong hid them in the bushes before grabbing Guo Jing’s hand and made their way towards the entrance of the hall. She gently pushed the caretaker forward and swung up with Guo Jing. They caught the wooden window frame and peered inside the hall.

    The hall was brightly lighted with a huge banquet table in the middle. Guo Jing looked at the people sitting around the table and his heart beat furiously. He saw the same people in the same room as earlier, such as the junior chief of white camel mountain, Ouyang Ke, the dragon king of the demonic group, Sha Tongtian, his martial brother, the three headed dragon, Hou Tonghai, ginseng immortal, Liang Ziwong, the slaughterer of a thousand hands, Peng Lianhu and the head of the banquet was the Jin sixth prince, Wanyan Honglie. At a corner of the table was a thickly padded grand chair, which sat superior virtue Lingzhi, who had a golden complexion and looked seriously injured.

    Guo Jing laughed in glee, “ You ambushed Taoist Wang, so it serves you right, have a taste of your own medicine.”

    The caretaker entered the room and bowed towards Liang Ziwong before handing him the note written by Wanyan Kang.

    Liang Ziwong read the note, glanced at the caretaker and handed the note to Wanyan Honglie, “ Prince, is this written by little prince?”

    Wanyan Honglie looked through the note and said, “ Yes, please follow what it says mister Liang.”

    Liang Ziwong turned behind and instructed a dwarf dressed in green, “ Go and take out five grams each of the medicine which little prince delivered today and give it to the caretaker.”

    The dwarf nodded and followed the caretaker out.

    Guo Jing whispered to Huang Rong, “Let’s go, these people here are too formidable.”

    Huang Rong smiled and shook her head. A strand of Huang Rong’s soft hair brushed pass Guo Jing’s face and he felt a tickling sensation not only on his face but also in his heart. He didn’t argue with her and jumped down. Huang Rong hurriedly grab his wrist, flung her body forward, locked her legs on the high wooden pole and gently released Guo Jing onto the ground.

    Guo Jing was relieved, “What a close shave, if I just jumped that like that, won’t it alert the top fighters inside?” Guo Jing was not a veteran Jiang Hu traveler and tended to be careless at times.

    The caretaker and the dwarf came out and Guo Jing followed behind them. He walked ten steps before turning around and saw that Huang Rong had done a somersault and was peering into the hall with her legs hooked on top and her head below. There was a light breeze, causing her white robe to float gently, the image looked like a blooming white lily amongst the darkness. Huang Rong glanced into the hall and saw that no one had notice her presence, she turned around and watched till Guo Jing’s figure disappeared into the darkness before turning her attention back to what was going on in the hall.

    Suddenly, Peng Lianhu turned around, and with eyes quick as lightning; he did a check on the windows. Huang Rong didn’t dare look anymore, and only crouched near the window to hear what was going on. She heard a rasp voice say, “ Do you people think that Wang Chuyi turned up coincidentally or was it for a reason?”

    A high pitched voice replied, “ No matter whether he has ill intentions or not, having being injured by superior virtue Lingzi would leave him dead, or at least crippled.”

    Huang Rong glanced into the hall and saw that the person talking was Peng Lianhu, who was petite and had eyes that looked like lightning. She heard a clear voice laugh, “ We would hear of the seven sons of Quanzhen even when we are in Tibet. They really live up to their name, if it were not for superior virtue Lingzi’s attack, we would have been defeated by him.”

    A deep and rough voice answered, “ Mister Ouyang, you don’t have to flatter me, both me and that Taoist priest are injured, there is no winner.”

    Ouyang Ke said, “ Anyway you just have to recuperate quietly for some time whereas even if he doesn’t die, he would end up a handicapped!”

  7. #27
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (traveller)

    Chapter 9-4 to End

    After this comment no one spoke. The host could then be heard toasting all the assembled guests. Guest by guest he said "Sir has come from a great distance to visit, I am deeply honored! It reflects greatly on the Jin nation to have such honored guests as yourself!"

    Huang Rong thought to herself that the person speaking must be Prince Zhao Wanyan Honglie. The assembled guests then all answered with modest protestations as decorum required.

    Wanyan Honglie then continued, "Lingzhi is Tibet’s foremost monk, Liang is a master of great learning and integrity, Chief Ouyang is an legendary leader of military virtue, Master Peng's prestige is widely feared on the central plains, Formidable Sha rules over Yellow River! If any one hero among the five of you lent a hand, the Jin Nation's challenges could be overcome, imagine what could be achieved with all five of you united together! Ha Ha! That would be akin to having a lion using all it's strength to catch a rabbit!". At this he sounded very arrogant indeed.

    Liang Ziwong smiled and said, "If Your Lordship has a task for us to carry out, you need only say it and we will gladly carry it out. Only this old man's (referring to himself) GongFu is very shabby and weak. I fear that if I was to be entrusted with such a task by you Lordship I would fail and not be able to show my worthless face again, ha ha!". Peng Lianhu also added a few self depreciating remarks in the same vein.

    <EducatedGuess>
    These men have always been the center of attention and power in their own areas and were not used to having to make humble and polite comments in the presence of a noble such as Wanyan Honglie.
    </EducatedGuess>

    Wanyan Honglie again toasted each guest in turn with a cup of wine "Humble Prince is deeply moved by your presence here tonight. I talk of a great matter with you all. This matter cannot be mentioned to any other person outside of this room. If it were to escape it would cause great trouble for my Jin nation. This humble prince places his great confidence in your hands."

    These words, although humbly spoken, implied a great importance and caused everyone to present to take note that this must be a very serious matter that required the utmost secrecy. Everyone therefore replied, "Your Lordship need not fear, no words that are spoken here tonight will leave this room!"

    The five invited guests all knew that the reason for their invitation must be a matter of great importance. Something that would require no small measure of effort to carry out. Although having spared no expense in sending them presents of gold, silver and other valuables, Wanyan Honglie had still not made any mention of what task he would be asking them to perform. Now that he was about to reveal such a deeply held secret, there was not one person present who didn't feel highly interested and excited.

    <EducatedGuess>
    Wanyan Honglie spoke again boasting about the weakness of the last two emperors Hui Zong and his son Qin Zong and how the mighty Jin Army secured a crushing victory over the Northern Song Empire. All the guests cheered at this speech.
    </EducatedGuess>

    Huang Rong thought to herself angrily "How Shameless! Everyone aside from that Tibetan Monk are Chinese. The Jin Prince is boasting about how his country had invaded our country and held our two emperors captive and you are all actually cheering him on!"

    She heard Wanyan Honglie again speak: "At that time our Great Jin soldiers were vigorous, their numbers were vast, but now after almost 100 years the Zhao officials serve our emperor at Huangzhou. Esteemed guests, can you guess why they serve there?".

    Liang Ziwong said "Please enlighten us your Lordship."

    Wanyan Honglie sighed "This year Yue Fei had defeated us and he had us in his hands and although there was no one who did not know it who dared to say it out loud? Our Jin Generals knew how to lead troops but when they encountered Yue Fei they were always defeated. Even after Qin Gui ordered Yue Fei's execution our soldiers were still demoralized by their earlier defeats that they lacked the willpower to act against the Southern Song. However this although the humble prince has the ambition to act, he lacks the abilities to succeed. If my guests with their god like abilities were to help with this enterprise, then there is no way that we could not succeed and earn great merit."

    <EducatedGuess>
    All the guests looked at each other without fully understanding exactly what was being asked. They all thought "Charging enemies and fighting valiantly, taking cities and seizing territory, truly all of us can do, but could it be that he actually (only?) wants us to go and kill the Southern Song palace's general (Yuan?)?
    </EducatedGuess>

    Wanyan Honglie’s face showed self importance (de2 yi4). His voice was slightly trembling "A couple of months ago, this humble prince was looking through some old files in the palace when I stumbled across a letter left behind by the former emperor. It was actually a few lines written by Yue Fei, the phrasing of which was most peculiar. I puzzled over this for a few months until at long last I figured out it's hidden meaning. It turns out that when Yue Fei was languishing in prison he realized that he had no hope of leaving with his life. His loyalty towards serving his country was so great that he wrote down his entire life's learnings regarding battle tactics and other secret military arts in this letter in the hope that it could be passed on to other loyal countrymen who could use put them to use in defending China against the Jin invaders. Luckily Qin Gui was very clever and feared that Yue Fei would try to communicate with people outside of prison so he was very careful to prepare against such an event. Every guard assigned to watch over Yue Fei was personally selected by Qin Gui as to be known as completely trustworthy and loyal to him (Qin Gui). If the troops formerly under Yue Fei were to get word from Yue Fei and rise up in rebellion against the court, who would stop them? At that time the only reason that there was not such a rebellion was in fact entirely due to Yue Fei not being willing to rebel against his emperor. If he changed his mind and decided to do so he would have certainly succeeded. What Qin Gui did not know though was that Yue Fei didn't have any desire to save his own life, only to save the rivers and mountains of the Song Empire (i.e. his country). Fortunately this letter never left the palace even after his execution."

    Everyone was listening intently to this story so intently that they forgot to drink their wine. Huang Rong hanging outside the window was also listening mesmerized.

    Wanyan Honglie continued "Yue Fei had no way to communicate his military strategies except through hiding them in his writing. He wrote four pieces entitled <<Pu Sa Man>> (Buddhist Barbarian?), <<chou nu er>> (Shameful Slave?), <<He Sheng Zhao>> (Congratulating the Sage Imperial Court?) and <<Qi Tian Yue>> (Level Heaven Music/Happiness?). Each piece of writing appeared to be nonsense. The style did not follow the proper rules and the tonal sequence was all wrong. The sentances were jumbled to the point of incoherence. Qin Gui, who was said to have wisdom and talent the size of the oceans, was not even able to figure out what meaning lay in these pieces so he dispatched some men with these letters to the Jin. Many years later these four pieces of nonsense writing found their way into the secret files of the Jin palace. No one was able to comprehend the meaning of these letters. Everyone thought that Yue Fei, who was near execution at the time he wrote these letters, was giving vent to his anger and frustrations by writing such disjointed and sensless verse. Nobody guessed that apparantly nonsense verse was in fact a riddle hiding a very great secret!

    This humble prince though continued to work on these letters until I finally discovered it's secret. It turns out that if you took every third word in a piece and put them together then reversed the order a the hidden message was revealed. In these four letters Yue Fei instructed his successors/followers in the arts of military strategy, to continuously attack along the Yellow River and wipe out our Jin armies. But for all of his dilligent work for his emperor, it turned out to be all in vain. Ha Ha!"

    All the guests gasped in surprise, then one after another began praising Wanyan Honglie's intelligence for cracking such a difficult code.

    Wanyan Honglie said " Yue Fei's military abilities were supernatural, when he attacked the was no one more formidable or successful. Imagine if we were to have his book of secret military strategies, the whole empire would be ours for the taking!".

    (Note: from the above context it seems that Yue Fei's letters refer to a book that is hidden in his tomb. I must have missed that in the above translation, but can't see where in the Chinese text)

    Everyone suddenly realised what was being asked: "Prince Zhao invited us here to do a bit of grave robbing!"

    Wanyan Honglie went on "This humble prince thinks that this great book must be with Yue Fei in his tomb." At this point he paused before continuing "Honoured Guests you are all brave heros and now you must be wondering how I could be asking you to rob a tomb? Further more, although Yue Fei is the Jin's sworn enemy, but his spirit and loyalty is something that is world renown, we couldn't possibly disturb is resting place. Humble prince searched through the historical reports from spys of the Southern Song to look for further clues. It turns out that the day Yue Fei died he was buried near by beside "Zhong An Bridge". Later Emperor Xiaozong moved his body to Xi Hu (Westlake) in a temple he had built for him. His 'cloth cap' however was buried at another place, and this must be where his book is. This other place is near LinAn." As he spoke this last sentance he watched his guests intently. Everyone was listening intently for him to reveal the exact location of the book.

    Wanyan Honglie however suddenly changed the topic: "Humble prince again had another thought: since someone moved Yue Fei items then I fear that the book must have been taken by them as well. But after some very detailed research I know that this could not be possible. The people of Song venerated Yue Fei so much that they would not have dared interfear with his belonging. We are certain to find the book at this place. However in the south there are many martial people of high ability. If we are to succeed we cannot allow the slightest word of this to get out or else some of them my try to search for the book themselves which would cause no end of trouble! This task concerns the fate of two nations and it is not something I would lightly undertake unless I had the help of the greatest heros of the Wulin world."

    Everyone nodded their head at this.

    Wanyan Honglie then said "Although the location of this book is no small matter, because this affair is indeed difficult to speak of however with the presence of people of such great ability it is easy to speak (???) The location of the book is..." At this point the door to the hall was suddenly pushed open and one man rushed in, his face all swollen and pale. He rushed forward to Liang Ziwong and called out "Master..." everyone recognised him as the dwarf dressed in green that Liang Ziwong sent to fetch the medicine.

    When Guo Jing went with the caretaker and dwarf to fetch the medicine, he used his left hand to not only support the caretaker and help him walk, but also to ensure the caretaker would not dare try warn the dwarf in any way about Guo Jing. The three of them went along a long corridor past some rooms before arriving at Liang Ziwong’s storeroom. The dwarf lit a candle, opened the doors and entered.

    Guo Jing stepped close to the room where he smelt the pungent scent of various medicinal herbs. He also saw that the table, couch, floor and everywhere else was covered with all types of dried herbs, bottles big and small, jars, bowls, vats and so forth. It seems that although Liang Ziwong was a guest here, he still couldn't help but play around with different medicinal herbs and concoct different drugs. The dwarf seemed to be well versed in the nature of herbs as well as he quickly selected portions of four different herbs and wrapped them up in separate packets of white paper which he gave to the caretaker.

    Guo Jing reached out and took the packets before turning and leaving the room. Now that he had the medicine in his hands, he didn't pay any attention to the caretaker. Unfortunately for him though, the caretaker was a slippery fellow. When Guo Jing and the dwarf left, he deliberately hung back, waiting until they were past the door. Then he suddenly slammed the door shut, grabbed the door bolt and locked the door, shouting "Robber, Thief!". Guo Jing got a big shock, and immediately turned to try and push open the door only to find that it wouldn't budge, the door was firmly shut. The dwarf, although he was small, he was by no means slow witted. He immediately sized up the situation and took advantage of Guo Jing's distraction with trying to open the door to quickly snatch the four medicine packets out of his hand and threw them into the pond beside the room. Guo Jing tried to hit the dwarf with his fists, but the dwarf was too quick and managed to slip away.

    Guo Jing became more frantic and angry. He placed both his palms against the door and used his internal energy to break the door. There was a loud crack as the door bolt snapped and the door flew open. Guo Jing rushed in and smashed the caretakers jaw with one swing of his fist which silenced him immediately. Luckily for Guo Jing, Liang Ziwong liked not to be disturbed so his room was located in an out of the way place in the palace far from anyone else so the caretakers screams had not alerted anyone. He rushed out of the room and saw that the dwarf was already a long way off. Guo Jing sprinted after him and in no time at all had caught up with the dwarf and grabbed him by the neck. The dwarf when he heard Guo Jing behind him tried to use his leg to sweep Guo Jing off his feet(?) The dwarf was no stranger to fighting having encountered many rough types in his travels with LiangZiwong so his skills were not weak. Guo Jing knew that he was in danger of not only failing to get the medicine for Wang Chuyi, but also if the alarm was raised Huang Rong would also be in mortal danger if she was caught. Since there was no time to lose he made use of his most vicious moves such as "bone and tendon splitting" move (the one taught by one of the seven freaks of the south I think).

    Guo Jing soon had the dwarf knocked unconscious and he hastily hid him in the bushes beside the path. He then hurried back to the medicine store room and lit a candle which revealed the caretaker still lying unconscious on the floor.

    ======================

    Guo Jing cursed himeself silently for being so careless: "Which four jars did the dwarf select the medicine from? I wasn't paying attention and now I have no idea of which herbs he used." All the jars were marked with strange signs but no words. He thought hard: "I remember he was standing here so maybe I should just grab a little from each jar around here and bring them all back to Wang Chuyi to select from." He hurridly snatched a pile of paper and began grabbing a handful of each type of herb/medicines which he then wrapped up in several packets all the while worried that someone had heard the caretakers shouts earlier.

    As soon as he had packed up all the medicine he felt much more relieved. As he turned to leave his elbow accidentally knocked over a large bamboo basket which fell to it's side. As soon as the lid fell off there was a sudden hiss and a huge blood red snake shot out of the basket straight towards his face.

    Guo Jing was startled and jumped back. He saw the snake was still half coiled in the basket so he wasn't sure how long it was. Its head waved back and forth as its forked tongue flickered at him. In Mongolia it was a cold climate and all the snakes that he had seen were small. This blood red snake certainly didn't look like any snake he has seen before. He felt petrified as slowly stepped back until he knocked against the table sending the candle tumbling over. In an instant the candle went out and the room was plunged into pitch black darkness.

    With the medicine in hand he quickly rushed towards the door but just as he reached it he felt something grab onto his leg as if someone was wrapping a thick rope around it very tightly. Without time to think he tried to jump up. However the thing wouldn't let go and immediately he felt a cold sensation on his right arm and found that he could no longer move it.

    Guo Jing knew that the snake had already wrapped around him so he madly used his left arm to feel around his waste for the knife that "JiSiHan" had given him long ago. A sudden stench of pungent fishy-medicine like smell assailed his nostrils and he felt something cold on his face. It was the snake's tongue licking his cheek. At this point there was no time to find his knife so he grabbed the snake firmly around its neck. The snake was incredibly powerful and began to squeeze tighter; its head inched closer towards his face...

    Guo Jing tried to hold back the snake but his arm was becoming numb and it became difficult to breathe as the snake tightened it's grip around his chest. When He tried to use his internal energy to loosen the snakes grip it gave him slight relief before the snake resumed it's crushing grip. Guo Jing's left arm was beginning to lose strength. The stench of the snakes breath was unbearable and made him feel nauseous. He knew that he would not be able to hold off the snake for much longer. eventually he might lose consciousness and losen his grip, then the snake would strike...

    *****************

    When the dwarf who was knocked unconscious by Guo Jing eventually came around his first thought was where was Guo Jing. He looked over to his masters store room but saw it was dark and silent. He assumed Guo Jing had already fled. So he rushed back towards the "Fragrent Snow Hall" to report to his master Liang Ziwong.

    Huang Rong got a shock when she heard the dwarf's report. She executed the move "Goose lands on flat sand" to quietly drop to the ground. When the guests in the hall were listening to Wanyan Honglie's story no one payed any attention to what was going outside. However as soon as they were interrupted by the dwarf's news this was no longer the case. In a room full of people with such high martial arts abilities who were no longer distracted could any of them now fail to notice Huang Rong's almost silent move outside? Liang Ziwong was the first to move. In a flash he was outside and standing in from of Huang Rong, blocking her path.

    "Who are you?" he demanded.

    Huang Rong could see by the way Liang Ziwong moved that his ability even exceeded hers. Considering that there was a room full of other highly skilled martial artists this was no time to start a fight, so she simply smiled and said sweetly "This plum tree has such beautiful blossoms, could you please break a twig of them off for me?"

    Liang Ziwong didn't expect to see such a beautiful young woman standing outside dressed in such splendid clothing. When he heard her delicate laugh (like pearls tinkling on jade) he couldn't help being surprised. He thought that she must be a palace lady, possibly (lady) Qian Jin, so he immediately broke off a twig of plum blossoms to give to her.

    Huang Rong smiled and received the blossoms saying "Thank you kind sir."

    By this time all the rest of the guests were standing by the door watching the proceedings. Peng Lianhu turned to Wanyan Honglie and asked "Sire, is this lady from the palace?" Wanyan Honglie shook his head and said "No."

    Peng Lianhu went over and stood in front of Huang Rong blocking her way, saying "Please wait a moment lady. Let me also break off some blossoms for you." His right hand moved to execute a holding lock, grabbing her wrist, extending his five fingers towards her side, then suddenly flipping his hand to a claw and striking at her throat!

    Huang Rong initially intended to pretend to be a simple lady with no martial abilities and not that bright so that play for time and find a way to escape. She didn't expect that Peng Lianhu not only had great martial ability but that he was very sharp and saw right through her deception. His blow was so strong that she had no alternative but to dodge, raising her right hand in a sweep, thumb touching index finger, the remaining fingers outstretched, as if like an orchid shooting out. Her execution of this move was not only of the highest skill but also exquisitely beautiful.

    (Note things are a little hard to figure out here after!)
    Peng Lianhu knew that if she landed her strike on his "Corner Pool" acupoint then his whole arm would become numb and useless so he was forced to suddenly change his strike to avaoid her counter strike. He was shocked that not only did this very young lady have such outstanding skill and speed, but that she also knew such secret acupoint gongfu. Although he had seen many types of gongfu in his time, he had never seen this "Orchid touch acupoint" style before.

    This "Orchid style" relies upon speed, accuracy, surprise and purity. Of these "purity" was the most important. It requires graceful execution and easy and relaxed manner to execute properly, as if the the person using it had not a care in the world. If it was executed with too much urgency or viciousness then it would lose it's advantage in a fight.

    As Huang Rong executed the "Orchid style" everyone else washed in astonishment. Peng Lianhu laughed "Little girl, what is your good name please? Who is your honourable master?"

    Huang Rong smiled and replied "This sprig of plum blossoms is quite pretty is it not? I must go and put it into a vase!" She didn't answer Peng Lianhu at all. Everyone else looked at her suspiciously wondering where on earth she came from.

    Hou Tonghai said sternly "Elder Peng asked your name. What's the matter, didn't you hear?"

    Huang Rong asked innocently "He asked something?"

    Peng Lianhu actually saw Huang Rong earlier during the day (in disguise) making fun of Hou Tonghai, now seeing her here again, acting so impertinently, he suddenly thought, "That filthy beggar boy is actually you in disguise!" Suppressing a laugh he said "Elder Peng, don't you recognize who that girl is?"

    Hou Tonghai was shocked. He looked Huang Rong over a couple of times while Peng Lianhu said "You were chasing someone all day today around in circles, how could you forget?"

    Hou Tonghai again looked at Huang Rong blankly until at last he recognized her "Yeah, that filthy boy!". When he was chasing Huang Rong, he never stopped cursing her as "Filthy boy", however even though "he" had now become a "she" he couldn’t help but curse her as before. He raised both fists and charged her, but only grasped some air as Huang Rong deftly dodged aside.

    The dragon king of the demonic group Sha Tongtian's body became a blur as he moved forward and clutched Huang Rong’s right wrist calling out "Where are you running to?"

    Huang Rong shot her left hand up and struck at his eyes with her two fingers but Sha Tongtian was too fast and grabbed her left wrist as well. Huang Rong struggled to free herself but tray as she might she was not able to. Instead she shouted out "Shameless!"

    Sha Tongtian asked, "What is so shameless?"

    "Big men bullying a girl and trying to take advantage of her!" she replied indignantly.

    Sha Tongtian was surprised at this. He was after all a famous elder martial artist and this did appear to be a case of the strong bullying the weak so he relaxed his grip and said "Go in to the Hall and we will talk"

    Huang Rong saw she had no alternative but to step into the Hall.

    "Before we do any talking let me first cut this filthy tyke down to size!" Hou Tonghai angrily demanded as he raised his fists to strike.

    Peng Lianhu stopped him, cautioning "First we need to find out exactly who her ShiFu is and what School she belongs to." He could see from her fighting style and appearance that she must be from a great school and that it would be better to find out who she was before doing anything too hasty.

    Hou Tonghai didn't pay any attention to him though and launched an attack at Huang Rong.

    She dodged aside and responded, "So you really want to fight eh?"

    "You're not going to get away", Hou Tonghai retorted. He was afraid that if she did get away then he would never be able to catch her again.

    "If you want have a little competition with me, no problem" she said as she took up a wine bowl full of wine from the table and placed it on her head. She then grabbed another full wine bowl in each hand and continued "Do you dare to take up this challenge?".

    Hou Tonghai was suspicious "What kind of mischief is this?"

    Huang Rong looked around at all the assembled guests and smiled saying "Me and this big horn uncle have no deep grievance. If I am able to defeat him what does everyone think?"

    Hou Tonghai angrily stepped forward and yelled, "You defeat me? Listen you little smelly brat, this is a carbuncle not a horn. Take a good look and stop spouting crap!"

    Huang Rong didn't pay any attention to him, but rather continued addressing the others. "Let me and him compete with three full bowls of wine each. Who ever is the first to spill a drop will be considered the loser, is this fair enough?" She had seen Liang Ziwong, Peng Lianhu and Sha Tongtian in action and knew that she would be no match for any of them in a fight. However if this three horned dragon, through increased teasing, can be enticed to fight using light body skills and quick wits she would hold the advantage. If you were to compare true martial ability she may not be the equal but she thought "Right now my only chance is to play the fool and hope they don't find me a threat and let me go."

    Hou Tonghai yelled "Who wants to play monkey tricks with you!" and with that he launched into another fierce attack.

    Huang Rong again dodged aside still holding the wine and laughed "Ok! I'll hold the three bowls of wine and you can attack without any bowls. Let's compete!"

    Hou Tonghai was more than twice as old. Although his name was not as widely renowned as that of his martial brother Sha Tongtian, he was still a fairly respected member of the Martial Arts world. To receive such a taunt in front of his peers was enough to drive him even more angry. Without a further though he grabbed up three bowls of wine placing one on his head and the others in his hands. He crooked his left leg and sent a vicious kick towards Huang Rong with his right.

    Huang Rong laughed "Well done! This shows the talents of a true hero." She then began to display her "Lightness" Qing Gonfu by moving all around the room. Hou Tonghai launched a series of kicks against her but she was able to dodge them all. Everyone began to roar with laughter to see such a ridiculous fight.

    Huang Rong kept her upper body completely steady as she glided about the room while lumbering behind her with big steps was Hou Tonghai. She began spinning as she moved, her skirt forming a circle, as she alternated between dodging and attacking trying to use her elbows to knock over Hou Tonghai's wine cup. However he was always able to avoid her attacks.

    Liang Ziwong thought to himself "This girl's gongfu is certainly trained to a high degree, but all things considered, she is still no match for brother Hou. However who wins and who loses is of no concern to me" His main concern was for his treasured medicinal herbs in his storeroom so he immediately thereupon turned and headed out the door to find this thief.

    "The four medicines listed on the prescription, "Dragon's Blood", "Pseudo Ginseng", "Bear Gallbladder" and "Myrrh" (translators note: these names are straight out of the dictionary and all appear to be real plants judging from their scientific names also quoted under the same entries) are all the same ones as those the Prince ordered to be brought up. These herbs are nothing special and not very expensive so their loss is no big deal, but what does concern me is what else he may have taken whilst he was in there.

    * * *

    Guo Jing was beginning to lose consciousness as the snake squeezed tighter and tighter. From the smell and the feel of the snake's breath on his face he knew the sake must be getting closer. He knew that once the snake was able to bite him then he would surely be dead. Already the snake’s body was brushing against his mouth. He whole body was immobile held fast in the sakes deadly vice like grip, or his left hand, which was desperately trying to hold back the snake and even this was growing weaker. The only thing that he could move was his head and teeth so he opened his mouth and bit hard into the snake’s neck.

    The snake began to writhe and squeeze even tighter as it felt the pain from Guo Jing’s teeth sinking in. Guo Jing felt a gush of snake blood flow into his mouth. It tasted extremely bitter and was hard to bear. He didn't know if it was poisonous or not but he was too afraid to let go and spit it out as he feared he may never get a second chance to latch onto the snake again so he had no option but to swallow it. He also thought that the more blood the snake lost then the more strength it would also lose and it must eventually loosen it's grip so he redoubled his efforts to start sucking out the snakes blood and continue to swallow. After continuing in this manner for a while his stomach was full and the snake gradually began to loosen its grip. Finally, after a few spasms the snake loosened its grip entirely and moved no more.

    Guo Jing was by now exhausted and had to lean heavily against the table to remain upright. His first thought was to flee; however both his legs were still numb from the lack of blood flow and so he was forced to wait for his circulation to again reach through all his limbs. After a few minutes he felt his whole body getting hotter as if he was burning up. This made him very worried until after a short while he found that he could move again. However the feeling of extreme heat still continued to course through his whole body. When he pressed the back of his hand against his cheek it felt like it was scalding hot.

    The packets of medicine were still safely in his coat. "Now I have the medicine I can help save Wang Daochang. Mu Yi and his daughter, though innocent of any wrong doing, are locked up by Wanyan Kang and are probably certain to be killed. I must help them escape before I leave."

    With this he went out of the storeroom and, after looking about for the right direction, headed off to the prison where Mu Yi and his daughter were being help.

    When he arrived at the prison he saw a bunch of guards patrolling around keeping a tight watch around the prison. Guo Jing waited a while but found no way to get in the same way they did the first time. So he went around to the back of the building and waited for a patrol of guards to go past. He then leaped lightly onto the roof of the building wall and then quietly into the courtyard within. Leaning against the building wall he listened for any presence of soldiers. When he was sure that the coast was clear he whispered quietly "Elder Mu, I've come to help you get out of here".

    Mu Yi got a shock. "Kind Sir, who are you?" he asked.

    Guo Jing replied, "Junior's name is Guo Jing".

    Mu Yi vaguely heard the name Guo Jing but after all the events of the past day and even being weak from injuries, when the two words 'Guo Jing' hit his ear drums it was light a thunderclap. With a trembling voice he asked "What? Guo Jing? Your...your...clan name is Guo?"

    Guo Jing replied "Yes, junior is the one who fought with the young prince earlier today in front of the stage."

    Mu Yi asked, "What is your father's name?"

    "My late father's name is Xiaotian". When Guo Jing was young he didn't know his fathers name. It was only later when Zhu Cong taught him to read that he was able to learn his father's name.

    Mu Yi's eyes began to swell up with tears. He raised his head up and said softly "Heaven, oh Heaven!" He reached his hands through the bars and tightly held Guo Jings hand.

    Guo Jing could feel Mu Yi's hand's trembling and at the same time could feel tears dropping on to his hand. He thought to himself "(Tr. Implied mild surprise at the depth of emotion shown like a 'Gosh' or 'Gee Wiz' here I think) Elder Mu is very grateful to me that I am coming to rescue them."

    He quietly whispered, "I have a sharp knife here which I am going to use to cut away the lock then you both can come out. Just before I heard the young prince talking. I know he is trying to deceive you, please don't trust him!"

    Mu Yi however asked, "Your mother, is her clan name Li? Has she passed away or is she still alive?"

    "Oh!", Guo Jing asked surprised, "How do you know my mothers clan name? My mother is in Mongolia"

    Mu Yi became even more excited upon hearing this. He continued holding Guo Jing's hand.

    Guo Jing said "Let my hand go so that I can break off the lock."

    Mu Yi held Guo Jing's hand as if it were the most precious treasure in the world. He was afraid if he let it go he would lose Guo Jing so he continued to hold fast, sighing "You...you have grown up into such a big man now. Ai! I only have to close my eyes and I can see your father, now long ago departed from this world."

    "You knew my father?"

    "Your father was my sworn brother. We swore to help our fellow country men." at this point his throat become choked with emotion and he was unable to continue. When Guo Jing heard this, he found his eyes become moist with tears as well.

    Mu Yi was in fact Yang Tiexin. During the battle with the government troops he suffered a deep wound from a spear in his back. He managed to cling onto a horse and was carried for several miles before he finally lost consciousness and fell off into a clump of bushes. The next morning when he awoke he crawled to a near by farmers hut where he remained for over a month recovering before he could struggle out of bed with the aid of a walking stick. The village nearby was called Lotus Pond village and was only about 7-8 kilometers (4-5 miles) from his own Ox Village. Luckily the farmer’s family was very kind and took care of him as he slowly recovered. However he was worried about his wife and wanted to go back and look for her in Ox Village. Since he was afraid that government troops may still be there searching for him, he waited until midnight to return to his old house and look around.

    When he arrived there he saw the door was ajar which made him fear the worst had happened. He pushed open the door and walked in. He looked around and saw things were very much like they were the night that they had to flee. There were some half finished new cloths that his wife, Baoshi, had left still lying on the bed. On the wall where his two family spears had once hung one was missing, probably taken by one of the soldiers that night, leaving only one hanging there looking lonely as if like himself it had too had lost it's old partner/wife. Apart from this nothing else was disturbed, all covered by a thick layer of dust...

    On the wall where his two family spears had once hung one was missing, probably taken by one of the soldiers that night, leaving only one hanging there looking lonely as if like himself it had too had lost it's old partner/wife. Apart from this nothing else was disturbed, all covered by a thick layer of dust. When he went over to his sworn brother Jing's house it was also much the same as the night they had left.

    He thought about the old wine seller Qu San (the cripple Inn Keeper from Ch 1) with his incredible martial arts skills he might be able to help him find his sworn brother's family and his wife, however when he went to the wine shop he saw it was locked up and no one was there. Yang TieXin (now disguised as Mu Yi) then went and made inquiries amongst his acquaintances in Ox Village but they all said that after the soldiers had left there had been no news of Guo or Yang.

    He then returned to Red Plum village to ask about his wife at his father in law house only to find that his father in law had died of shock shortly after hearing the news of the soldiers attack from that night. Yang TieXin wanted to cry, but had no more tears to shed. Dejected he returned to the farmer's family who had cared for him in Lotus Pond village.

    However as the saying goes "Troubles never visit in isolation". An epidemic of plague had broken out and one by one the farmer's family were stricken. After only a few days six of them died leaving only a new born baby girl alive. Yang TieXin was duty bound to care for her so he made her his adopted daughter and took her with him on his quest to find Li Ping and Bao XiRuo. But since one was halfway to the northern desert and the other already in the north what chance did he have of finding them?

    Yang TieXin however didn't dare to use his real name since he was a wanted man hunted for by government soldiers. So he 'split' the character for for his surname, "Yang" in half and used the left side to form the new character "Mu" for his assumed/new surname and the right half to form the character "Yi" for his personal name.

    (Tr Note: The character "Yang" is made up of the character "Mu" or wood and "Yang" for the sound. The whole character actually means Poplar Tree as well as being a surname. The "Mu" of his assumed name actually means solemn and has another part of a character on the right side. The "Yang" character is pronounced as "Yi" when by itself and means "Change" as well as other meanings. This is coincidently the same "Yi" as the "Yi Jing" or "I Ching" - classic of changes. I'm sure there are quite a few allusions in this simple name change from which those who know Chinese history and culture well could have hours of fun analysing. Also it is a common fact that when a man is forced to alter his name he is reluctant to lose touch with the original name, so the name Yang TieXin choose is not in keeping with custom. Anyway - on with the story!)

    After ten years of fruitless searching among the "rivers and lakes" all over the country (the Chinese south, not the Jin north) his adopted daughter Mu NianCi had grown like a flower into a young woman. Yang TieXin thought that his wife must have probably died at the hands of marauding troops by now. But he still held out the hope that heaven was not blind to the suffering of man, and that Guo XiaoTian's wife had born a son (Guo Jing) who had lived. As soon as Mu NianCi was of marriageable age he stuck his spear into the ground, erected a banner proclaiming a competition to win the hand of his daughter and waited in the hope that Guo Jing would one day come and win her hand in marriage thus fulfilling his hope and pledge to become father-in-law to his sworn brother's son.

    Although many tried, no Guo Jing was among them, and so after the best part of a year he even this hope of finding Guo Jing began to fade. Now he would even be content to find any man of good character and martial ability to marry his adopted daughter. Then, all of a sudden, on this one day, to encounter embarrassment at the hands of Wanyan Kang and help from a heroic stranger yet by nightfall to find that the heroic stranger is non-other than Guo Jing, well how could he help but become overwhelmed with emotion?

    Meanwhile, Mu NianCi was beginning to grow impatient listening to them talk about the past. She wanted Guo Jing to help them escape first and then when they were safe to talk over old times at leisure. But then she had a sudden thought "If we leave now, I will never see 'him' again!" As soon as such a thought came to her, she hurriedly pushed it aside. Guo Jing was also thinking that getting everybody out was the most important thing so he slowly raised his golden knife ready to stike the lock and cut it open.

    Suddenly a glint of light appeared under the door and the sound of many footsteps could be heard approaching. Guo Jing quickly slipped behind a door just as the prison doors were pushed open and in marched several people. Through the crack in the door Guo Jing could see the person in front was a bodyguard carrying a lantern. Behind him was the prince's consort, Wanyan Kang's mother.

    She asked the bodyguard "Are these two the people whom the young prince imprisoned?"

    The bodyguard replied "Yes", confirming it was them.

    She then ordered the guard on duty "Release them immediately."

    The bodyguard hesitated, reluctant to obey the order so she said "If the young prince asked why you released them, tell him I did it, now quickly open the lock and free them!"

    The guard dared not refuse the order any longer and opened the lock freeing both of them. The consort then produced two ingots of silver from her cloak and passed them to Yang TieXin saying softly "Please go safely!"

    Yang TieXin however didn't take the silver but just stared at her without so much as a blink. The consort assumed from his stare that he was angry with her and felt remorse at what they had suffered. In a gentle voice she apologized "Please forgive us, my son has wronged both of you most gravely today through his disgraceful behaviour".

    Yang TieXin stared at her for a little while before slowly taking the silver and putting it in his robe without a word. He then took his daughter's hand and walked out of the prison.

    The bodyguard called after him. "Hey you scum, don't you know any manners? When our lady saves your life you should get down on your knees and koutou to show your thanks!"

    But Yang TieXin kept on walking as if he had not heard a thing.

    Guo Jing waited until they had closed the door and left. Only when he heard the consort was far away did he emerge from hiding and look around. But by then there was no sign of Yang TieXin or his daughter. He thought that they must have left the palace by now so he had best return to the "Fragrant Snow" hall and pull Huang Rong away from listening so they could hurry back with the medicine for Wang Chuyi. He rushed off to the hall following the winding path when he saw two figures carrying red lanterns coming directly towards him in what also looked like a great hurry. Guo Jing tried to duck and hide behind a scenic rockery but he was too late, he had already been spotted.

    "Who's there!" shouted the man as he dashed forward with his hands raised in a claw stance.

    Guo Jing could only raise his arms to block the strike. In the light of the two lanterns he was now able to clearly see that his attacker was none other than Wanyan Kang!

    As it turned out, the bodyguard, after releasing the prisoners, had hurriedly reported the consort's actions to the young prince. Wanyan Kang got a shock when he heard this.

    He thought to himself "Mother's heart has always been too soft and she never sees the consequences of the old man and his daughter getting away! If my ShiFu were hear about this, and were to bring them to face me, how could I deny what's been going on! I would really be in deep **** (trouble)!"

    He immediately rushed to search for them and see if he could cut them off in time before they really escaped from the palace. Running into Guo Jing was the last thing he expected.

    Both of them had already fought heavily that day and now they meet again in the middle of the night, one in a hurry to rush back with medicine, the other in a hurry to kill two people so as to seal their lips, thus they fought even more(?) tenaciously now. Guo Jing tried to escape a couple of times but was always blocked by Wanyan Kang. When Guo Jing saw the bodyguard coming forward drawing out his sword ready to assist his master he thought things were going badly indeed!

    * * *

    Liang Ziwong thought that Huang Rong was about to be defeated when turned to leave but to his surprise he heard a cry from the crowd that indicated a change of situation. Huang Rong suddenly raised up both her arms and head sending the three bowls of wine soaring straight up in the air. She then swung both her fists towards Hou Tonghai and struck using a move called "Eight Steps to overtake the moon" (or something like that). Because Hou Tonghai was carrying the wine bowls he couldn't block the strike so instead he had to dodge quickly to the left. Huang Rong followed through with a flash of her right hand leaving Hou Tonghai no option this time but to block with his arm. Not only was he unable to stop the wine from spilling in his hands, but the bowl perched atop his head also tipped over and fell with a crash to the floor.

    Huang Rong instantly leaped back and caught two of her bowls in mid air while the remaining one fell neatly on her soft cloud like hair, all without spilling so much as a drop of wine. Everyone present could not help quietly murmuring "Excellent" upon seeing such a brilliant performance of skill. Ouyang Ke however didn't murmur his praise, but said it out rather loudly. Sha Tongtian shot him and angry glare
    but Ouyang Ke did not notice and again called out "Brilliant indeed!".

    Hou Tonghai's cheeks flushed red: "Try that again!"

    Huang Rong laughed and scrapped her cheek with a finger saying "Now, now, aren't you ashamed?"

    Sha Tongtian seeing his junior disciple's loss of face gave a grunt "Young girl you are certainly full of devious tricks. Tell us, who is your master?"

    Huang Rong smiled sweetly "I'll tell you tomorrow. Right now I must be on my way."

    Without appearing to bend a leg or take a step Sha Tongtian suddenly appeared in the doorway blocking Huang Rong's exit. Only just a few minutes earlier Huang Rong had already learnt just how powerful Sha Tongtien's Gongfu was when he had grabbed and locked both of her hands and this latest "Change form exchange place" maneuver only served to highlight just how powerful and opponent he would be. Although she felt a slight wave of worry, her face didn't betray her feelings.

    Instead she gave a slight frown and asked in a slightly annoyed tone "Why are you blocking my way?"

    Sha Tongtian replied "I want you to tell me which school you belong to and why you came barging into the palace."

    Huang Rong arched her pretty eyebrows and asked "And what if I don't tell you?"

    Sha Tongtian snapped: "When the dragon king of the demonic sect asks a question, there is no choice but to answer!"

    Huang Rong saw that she was surrounded in the hall and there wasn't much chance of her making a run for it. She saw Liang Ziwong was about to leave and so called out to him pleading sweetly "Uncle! This bad man is blocking my way and won’t let me go home."

    Liang Ziwong laughed when he heard her grumbling in such a cute manner " The dragon king has only asked you a question, why don't you be a nice girl and answer him? I'm sure he will let you go then."

    Huang Rong laughed in her most charming way and replied "But I just don't feel like answering." And then to Sha Tongtian: "OK - If you don't make way, I'll just have to dash through."

    Sha Tongtian laughed coldly: "Only if you have the ability to get through."

    Huang Rong demanded "You must not lay a finger on me!"

    Sha Tongtian replied "What need is there for me, the dragon king, to move a finger in order to stop a little girl like you".

    Huang Rong exclaimed "Good, It's settled then. A gentleman cannot go back on his word. Dragon King Sha, do you see that?" She pointed with her left hand off to one side of the room. Sha Tongtian looked over to where she was pointing and at this point Huang Rong made a dash to get past him whilst he was distracted.

    She moved with blinding speed, but Sha Tontian's reaction was even faster. He shot his right two fingers up and aimed towards her eyes as she moved forward. If she didn't stop she would be blinded. Luckily she was agile enough to stop in time and leap back away from the danger. She immediately tried again and again from many different angles but each time she found her way blocked no matter how quickly she moved. Finally when she found her nose almost smashing into Sha Tongtian's shiny bald head threatening to stain it with blood from her broken nose she gave up with a little shriek of frustration.

    Liang Ziwong laughed heartily: "Dragon King Sha is a master at this, there is no point in continuing. Why not just admit defeat?" He then turned off and set off at a rapid pace back to his medicine store room.

    As soon as he stepped into the room he smelt fresh bood and knew that all was not well. He looked down and saw by the glow of his torch the shriveled body of his prized red snake. All it's blood had been drained and his stores of medicines were strewn about the place. Liang Ziwong's blood ran cold - 20 years of work had been destroyed in one night! He clutched the body of his dead snake and couldn't control his tears.

    (This next bit contains a few phrases I don't understand. Any help appreciated!)

    Originally 原來

    這參仙老怪本是長白山中的參客 (???)

    Later he killed a seriously wounded senior (前輩異人 master?) and from inside his sack he took a manual of martial art's secrets along with ten or so prescriptions for the preperation of different types of medicines/drugs/potions. Study of this book combined with use of these drugs would lead to martial arts of incredible power. Part of the preparation of the drugs required the raising of a special type of venomous snake. He searched deep in the forests and mountains to find this type of snake and fed it upon the most precious of herbs and other medicines. The snakes body was originally black, but over the years as her fed it cinnabar it gradually began to turn into a bright red. After twenty years of feeding the snake it had only just a few more days to complete it's transformation when he was called to Yan Jing to meet with the Prince. When the snake was ready he only need drink the blood of the snake and meditate to gain the full benefit of the martial arts power which would make his gongfu more powerful than ever. Now to see his lifes work not only lost to him, but to possibly in addition have someone else benefit instead was more than he could bear.

    After a few moments he managed to compose himself and saw that the traces of blood on the snake had not yet congealed. He realized then that it couldn't have been very long since the snake had died, so the culprit must still be near by. He immediately leapt up into a tall tree and looked all around for any signs of the thief. From there he saw the vicious fight between Guo Jing and Wanyan Kang going on in the garden. Burning with fury and anger, he leaped down and sped off towards the fight. As soon as he arrived he could already smell the pungent smell of the snake's blood coming from Guo Jing.

    Guo Jing was not Wanyan Kang's equal yet when it came to fighting and from the start he was already at a disadvantage. To make matters worse, he felt his stomach burning up with and unbearable heat as if it were full of boiling water. He was terribly thirsty and itched most terribly all over his body.

    "This time I'm certain to die" he thought "The snake's poison is beginning to take hold."

    In the midst of these fearful thoughts he was being struck repeatedly by Wanyan Kang's fists which were made even more painful by the effects of the poison.

    "You filthy bastard!" yelled Liang Ziwong, "Who sent you to steal my precious snake?" He couldn't imagine that some stupid kid would know about such a secret as that of the snake. He thought it must be someone else who put him up to the task. In fact he was almost certain that it was Wang Chuyi who had sent Guo Jing.

    When Guo Jing heard this he was furious. "That precious snake of yours attacked and poisoned me! I've got a bone to pick with you!" (Tr. Sorry, it's hard to render it into better english without becoming too inaccurate) and he leaped toward Liang Ziwong with his fists raised for attack.

    Liang Ziwong however smelt the medicine smell mingled with the snake blood and had an evil thought. "He has drunk the snakes blood. If I kill him now and drink his blood then I may still be able to gain the beneficial effects. Who knows, maybe the drug's effects will be enhanced..." As soon as he thought of this his anger vanished and he leaped towards Guo Jing to meet his attack. With his superior gongfu he was able to easily lock Guo Jing's arms and legs and hold him down. He then prepared to bite into Guo Jing's neck to extract his precious drug/medicine...

    * * *

    Meanwhile Huang Rong, no matter how quickly she moved had not been able to get past Sha Tongtian. She was already getting anxious about what would happen if he decided to catch her. She decided that a change of tact may be more appropriate.

    "If I can get through the door then you promise to leave me be, okay?" She asked.

    "If you can get through the door I will admit defeat." replied Sha Tongtian.

    "Ai yo! What a pity my father only taught me the skill of entering, not the skill of leaving." she sighed.

    "What is this 'entering' and 'leaving' skill?" Sha Tongtian asked half doubting, half curiously.

    "Your 'Change form exchange place' skill, although not bad, is still far below that of my father's skills. Way below in fact." she boasted.

    "Don't talk crap you stupid girl." Sha Tongtian retorted angrily. "Anyway, who is your father?"

    "If I told you my father's name, I'm afraid I would scare you out of your wits, so it's best if I don't say." Huang Rong replied mischievously. "When he taught me the skill of entering he hid by the door way and I tried to rush in from outside. I tried many times but was never able to get past him. However even though I cannot get out against you with your piddling skills, there is no way that you could stop me from getting back in. I wouldn't even have to raise a sweat"

    Sha Tongtian laughed coldly and said "From outside going in or from inside going out, what's the difference? OK you come here and show me!" With that he moved aside to let her demonstrate the great 'entering' gongfu which she boasted.

    Huang Rong immediately shot outside and laughed "Ha, you fell for my trick. You said a minute ago that if I could get through the door that you would admit defeat and would let me go. Well am I outside now? Did I not go through the door? Come now Dragon King Sha, you are an honorable man, your word is your bond. You cannot think of going back on what you promised in front of all these gentlemen."

    Although Sha Tongtian knew that she had tricked him, she was correct, his word was his bond and he could hardly go back on what he promised. He scratched his bald head and flushed red but could see no way to get out of this.

    Peng Lianhu however was not about to let Huang Rong get away. He suddenly shot out a stream of darts towards her. The darts were extremely fast but they were aimed close to the back of her head rather than right at her. However when they hit the stone pillar they ricocheted towards her. They were too fast for her to catch and she had no choice but to leap forward a pace to avoid them. The darts continued in a stream and each one forced her to moved forward half a few inches. Before she knew it she had moved back inside the hall again!

    Peng Lianhu’s objective all along had been to force her back into the room and everyone watching exclaimed their praise at his skill. He just laughed and said "What's this? You've gone back inside again!"

    Huang Rong scowled "Huh! You used your 'ninja' weapons to bully a girl and force her to move, what's so fantastic about that!"

    "Who was bullying you?" he asked incredulously. I never laid a finger on you or harmed you!"

    "Then let me go!" she said angrily.

    "First tell us who taught you your gongfu." he demanded.

    Huang Rong smiled and said "I taught myself whilst in my mother's womb!"

    Peng Lianhu said "If you're not willing to tell us then perhaps I can find out another way!" With this he shot his fist straight towards her shoulder.

    Huang Rong didn't move or try to block the blow. She figured that he wouldn't dare to act so shamelessly as to hit a girl who refused to fight back.

    When Peng Lianhu saw she wasn't going to fight he pulled short his punch and withdrew his arm shouting "Come on, show me what you've got. Stupid girl! I bet I can find out who your master by your style of fighting within 10 (martial arts) moves."

    He had seen many styles during his life and although he had seen the Huang Rong was a very crafty girl, he was confident that she would not be able to hide her real martial arts style from him in a true fight. In fact he thought he needed no more than ten to do so.

    Huang Rong asked "And if you have not found out within ten moves?"

    "Then I will let you walk free." he replied, and without further ado launched into an attack using 'Triple Linked Penetration' (Literal Translation) so called because it incorporated three movements(?).

    Huang Rong turned her body and dodged whilst forming a ring with her thumb and little finger and stretching the remaining fingers to form a three-pronged fork. Using this she counter attacked using the 'Night Trident Searches the Sea'.

    Hou Tonghai cried out "'Night Trident Searches the Sea!' Senior Brother, this brat must be from the......Our (?Book says 本門 so i'm guessing he must be referring to his own school - i.e. Demon Sect?) School of Martial Arts".

    "Rubbish!" scolded Sha Tongtian. He knew the Huang Rong had already been teasing and making fun of Hou Tonghai for some time before tonight. He figured that she must have picked up the 'Night Trident Searches the Sea!' from her earlier encounters fighting with Hou Tonghai.

    Peng Lianhu couldn't suppress a laugh as he whirled around to attack again. Huang Rong turned obliquely to the left and without bending a knee or taking a step suddenly 'moved' to the side.

    Hou Tonghai again exclaimed "'Change form exchange place'!, Senior Brother, did you teach her that?"

    Sha Tonghai again scolded him saying "Can you shut up - okay? Always saying stupid things!" However, inside he couldn't help but admire Huang Rong's intelligence and skill in learning the basics of such a move after only having seen it once. Even if the execution of the move wasn't entirely correct, she had been able to dodge Peng Lianhu's strike. Amazing achievement!

    As the fight continued Huang Rong attacked using the "Soul smashing knife" followed by the 'Soul Snatching Whip" strikes. When Hou Tonghai saw these attacks and heard her call out "Yi Yi Yi" with each strike he couldn't help but call out "Senior Brother! This brat must be from out school..." If he didn't see Sha Tonghai's face growing angrier by the minute he would have again called out the name of the sects moves.

    Peng Lianhu was also getting angrier. He thought to himself "So far I've been kind and have shown mercy with my attacks, but this girl is craftier than a witch. If I don't start using more vicious attacks I run the chance of not forcing her to reveal her true style."

    Martial Artists, after training in their chosen style may pick up moves from other styles and over time can even become quite proficient at them. However, in a life and death struggle, they will always return to their roots and use the style that they first learnt and are most familiar with.

    Peng Lianhu's first four strikes had been mild and contained no desire to injure. However from his fifth strike his moves became like a whirlwind. When all the spectators saw his moves take on a vicious turn they couldn't help but become worried for Huang Rong. Everyone had not idea of her background and although she had been stubborn, no one actually had any real grievance against her or wanted to see such a young, pretty and charming girl come to any harm.

    No one except for Hou Tonghai that is, who actually thought "The sooner the ***** (brat) is dead the better!"

    Huang Rong continued hide her style by using strikes from Wanyan Kang's 'Complete Truth School' and Guo Jing's 'Southern Mountain Fists' style. She had only just learnt these moves by seeing them earlier the same day when Guo Jing and Wanyan Kang fought using them on the stage. For the seventh move she even used Peng Lianhu's 'Triple Linked Penetration' that she first saw only six moves ago! However now it was getting more and more dangerous. Even in a straight fight with Huang Rong using all her strength and true skills against Peng Lianhu she would not be able to prevail, how could she expect to survive using tricks picked up by observing others? She was gambling against the fact that even though he was using the most vicious strokes that he wouldn't actually go so far as to kill her.

    “This little girl is remarkably smart. She can hold herself against that Peng guy's fists. Ayo. Watch out, watch out. Why haven't you dodged left?”

    Peng Lianhu's style used a brilliant mixture of false (i.e. feints) and real strikes, which he was able to switch between at will. On the eighth move he made a feint with his left and a real lunge with his right. Huang Rong expected him to do the opposite on the next move and feint with his right whilst attacking with his left. This meant that she ought to dodge to her right, but when she heard Ouyang Ke call out she immediately changed her mind and leapt elegantly to the left. This sudden posture was exquisite, and it turned out that nobody in the crowd recognized it.

    When Peng Lianhu heard Ouyang Ke's crucial word of help he became furious. He thought "Do you think that I wont kill you if I have to you stupid girl!" His nickname wasn't 'Slaughterer of a Thousand Hands' for nothing. He had an extremely cruel nature when angry. At first when he saw Huang Rong he thought that she being so young, and a girl, it would be shameful to kill her, but now at the second last move of the contest and still yet to find her real School/Style, he was so angry that he no longer cared. He struck with 'Push open the window and watch the moon' using all his force, left hand "Yin", right hand "Yang", one soft, one hard, both simultaneously pushing out.

    Huang Rong knew that things were desperate now. She stepped back as she saw his fists coming toward her face. All that she could do was to duck her head, bend both her arms, point both elbows forwards and strike at his chest.

    Peng Lianhu expected her to try and block this strike and intended to follow up with the tenth stroke. However he was taken aback that she should actually try a counter attack against such a vicious strike. He had already half executed the tenth strike 'Falling Star Great Void', but immediately concentrated his internal energy to stop his strike like trying to reign a horse back from tipping over a cliff. "You are a disciple of 'Twin Killers of the Dark Winds!'" he cried out with a shiver in his voice.

    Huang Rong leapt back several feet. When Peng Lianhu called out these words a wave of fear went through the room. Everyone present, with the exception of Price Zhao knew of the dreaded 'Twin Killers of the Dark Winds'. Even the feared 'Slaughterer of a Thousand Hands' Peng was afraid to touch her now.

    Before Huang Rong could say anything a cry sounded in the still night air. It was Guo Jing, and he sounded as if he was in real danger. Huang Rong was suddenly concerned about his safety and her face went white with fear.

    Guo Jing's arms and legs were all held down by Liang Ziwong. He wasn't able to move an inch but as he saw Liang Ziwong coming closer ready to bite his throat he suddenly felt a surge of strength born of desperation and executing 'Carp Arching Backwards' he was able to free himself and leap upright. Liang Ziwong quickly struck again. Guo Jing tried to leap forward (away from Liang Ziwong) but Liang Ziwong's speed was like the wind and there was no way Guo Jing could escape it.

    "Smack!" the punch hit him square on his back and was not at all like the earlier punches from Wanyan Kang. This one felt like it penetrated to the bone. Guo Jing was frightened out of his wits and didn't stop for another hit but continued running straight ahead, away from everyone. His 'Jing Gong' (light foot skill) ability was very good and he used it to maximum ability to speed through the trees and rookeries of the garden. Liang Ziwong was not able to keep pace.

    Guo Jing initially ran very fast but after a short while felt himself growing slower and he began to pant heavily. There was a big hole torn in the back of his gown and he felt pain from where he had been hit. He thought that the Liang Ziwong’s last punch must have actually been a claw and taken some of his flesh away along with the back of his cloak. He was very worried now and looked frantically for some place to hide. Straight ahead was the Consort Wang's shabby compound. He rushed in with the hope that they wouldn't search there and he might be able to make his escape later. He lay down behind the wall at the back and didn't dare to move a muscle. Soon he heard Liang Ziwong and Wanyan Kang, one calling the other answering, coming closer. Liang Ziwong was so angry he couldn't control his voice as he called out.

    Guo Jing thought anxiously "If I wait here by the wall it's only a matter of time before they find me. Consort Wang seems to have a kind nature, perhaps she will save me."

    Given the critical situation he didn't have any time to think further so he quickly slipped inside the house. There he only found a lighted candle on the table in the middle of the room. Consort Wang must have been in another room. He quickly looked around the room and saw a wooden wardrobe in the east corner which he opened the door and slipped in before closing it leaving only a crack to see through. He then pulled out his golden knife and allowed himself to relax a little.

    He heard footsteps and saw Consort Wang walk in slowly. She sat down by the table and looked at the candle as if in a daze. Before long Wanyan Kang entered and asked "Mother, did some bad man come in and give you a fright?"

    Consort Wang shook her head and so Wanyan Kang went outside again and continued searching elsewhere with Liang Ziwong.

    Consort Wang then closed the door and looked as if she was going to bed. Guo Jing thought, "As soon as she blows out the candle I'll slip out through the window and escape. No - I had better wait a while first, in case I run into the young prince and that white haired fellow again. That crazy guy tried to bite my throat. That sure is some weird kind of Gongfu! My Shifu's never taught me anything like that before. I really must ask them about it next time I see them. Going around and biting people’s throats! What's with that?" He then thought some more "After fighting so much and being away for so long, Huang Rong must have gone by now. I had better get out as well other wise she might be wondering what's been keeping me."

    Suddenly the window creaked open and someone leaped in. Both Guo Jing and Consort Wang had a shock. Consort Wang gave a gasp but Guo Jing noticed that the person who had just entered was none other than Mu Yi or now Yang Tiexin. Guo Jing couldn't be more surprised. He had assumed that He and his daughter had fled the palace long ago.

    When Consort Wang recognized him she quickly said "Please hurry and leave, before they find you."

    Yang Tiexin replied "Many thanks for Consort Wang's king concern. If I didn't come here to thank you in person I would regret it to my dying day." His words contained an element of sarcasm as if fully of bitter rancor.

    Consort Wang sighed and said, "Please forget it. It is my son who has wronged you and your daughter. Yang Tiexin looked around and saw that beside a table, lamp, bed and wardrobe there was not much else. Everything seemed to be old, worn and familiar. He suddenly felt a wave of sadness and he could not suppress a tear as it trickled down his cheek. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve and walked over to the wall where the lone spear was hanging. He took it down and saw that it was covered with rust. He could still make out the four characters "Tie Xin Yang Clan" written on the spear blade/shaft (???).

    He gently stroked the spear shaft and sighed, "This iron spear is rusty. It has not been used for a long while."

    Consort Wang spoke softly "Please don't touch the spear."

    "Why?" Asked Yang Tiexin.

    "Because this is the most precious possession I have." she murmured.

    Yang Tiexin was suddenly angry. "Really?" he asked bitterly. He paused before going on "This spear used to have a matching partner, however today only one remains."

    "What?" asked Consort Wang suprised but he didn't reply. He hung the spear on the wall and gazed at the broken plough tip saying absentmindedly "This plough tip is worn (lah). Tomorrow you should call on Zhang Mu-er in the east village to take a catty of iron and see if her can repair it."

    When Consort Wang heard this she felt as if she had been struck by a bolt of lightning. For a moment she was speechless as she stared at him. Finally she stammered "Who...who are you?"

    Yang Tiexin replied slowly but evenly "I said the plough tip is worn. Tomorrow you should call on Zhang Mu-er in the east village to take a catty of iron and see if her can repair it."

    Consort Wang felt her knees going weak. She again stammered "Who...who are you? How...how could you know what my late husband said...said the night he died?"

    Consort Wang was none other than Yang Tiexin's wife, Bao Xiruo. When Wanyan Honglie was wounded by an arrow that day near Ox village, Bao Xiruo had saved his life. When he saw such a beautiful woman save his life he couldn't stop thinking about her after he escaped that night. So he bribed Duan TianDe to have his soldiers raid Ox village that night so that he could arrange to "save" Bao Xiruo and appear to be a hero. Once her husband and friends were dead then she would be alone in the world and would naturally look to her "rescuer" to protect her. If he took her north and was patient enough she would sooner or later give up hope of return and agree to remarry to him starting a new life together.

    During the eighteen years at the palace, her face had not changed much at all. Yang Tiexin's face though had undergone much change from the hardships he encountered on the road searching for her. Now when they met again she could not recognize her former husband at first. After all these years of mutual longing to be together again this night amongst so much danger was as if they were in a dream.

    Yang Tiexin didn't reply, he just walked over to the table and pulled open a drawer. Inside he saw a couple of sets of a man's blue coats exactly the same as the ones he used to wear. He picked one up saying "I have enough coats to wear. You are tired and should rest now that you are pregnant. No need to make more clothes for me." These words were the same ones spoken by him to her eighteen years before when she was pregnant.

    Bao Xiruo rushed over to his side and grabbed his sleeve. When she pulled it up she saw a (familiar) old scar. A mix of surprise and joy suddenly enveloped her. For the past 18 years she had thought her husband had been dead and now to recognize him now standing before her was like a ghost come back to life. She immediately hugged him with both arms, holding tightly and crying "Quickly! Quickly take me with you. Let us leave here now. I will show you a secret gateway where we can slip away unseen. I am not afraid of ghosts. I would rather become a ghost and be together with you than part with you again.

    Yang Tiexin held his wife as warm tears rolled down his cheeks. After a long while his asked gently, "Do you think that I am a ghost?"

    "I don't care if you are a man or a ghost, I wont let go of you again." she sobbed. "How is it that you are still alive? After all these years I can't believe that you are still alive. Where...what.."

    Yang Tiexin was about to reply when suddenly Wanyan Kang's voice called from just outside the window "Mother, why are you sobbing? Who are you talking to?"

    Bao Xiruo got a fright "It's nothing", she called out, "I was just sleeping."

    Wanyan Kang had clearly heard the sound of a man's voice talking inside the room. He immediately became suspicious and walked around to the door, knocking gently saying "Mother, I would like to have a word with you."

    "Tomorrow", She replied, "Let's talk tomorrow. I'm very tired now and want to sleep"

    When Wanyan Kang saw that his mother was not willing to open the door, his suspicions only increased. "I just want to have a few words, then I'll go."

    Yang Tiexin knew that Wanyan Kang was intent on coming in, so he went over to the window with the intention of making a quick get away. He tried to push open the shutter, but to his surprise he found that it wouldn't budge. Someone had locked it from the outside! Bao XiRuo was in a panic. She thought she would play for time and keep talking whilst Yang Tiexin found a place to hide. She hurriedly pointed to the wardrobe and motioned for her husband to hide inside. Imagine their surprise when they opened the door and found Guo Jing inside! Bao XiRuo couldn't help but let out a little scream.

    When Wanyan Kang heard this he became extremely worried. He thought someone was trying to harm his mother so he started trying to break open the door with his shoulder. There was no time to lose, Guo Jing grabbed Yang TieXin and pulled him into the wardrobe and closed the door just as the wooden bar on the bedroom door gave a loud crack and flew open.

    In rushed Wanyan Kang. He saw his mother's face was pale with fear and her cheeks were wet with tears but apart from her, there was no one else in the room.

    "Mother, what's wrong? What has been going on?" he asked anxiously.

    Bao XiRuo made an effort to compose herself before saying "Nothing. I just am not feeling well."

    Wanyan Kang rushed over to her and said "Mother, I promise I wont doing anything stupid again. Please don't be worried. I've been a bad son to make you so worried."

    "OK." She said in a comforting way, "Now I'm feeling so tired. Please let me go to bed. I'm very tired and want to sleep."

    But Wanyan Kang heard a waver in her voice and asked "Mother, are you sure that no one has been here recently?"

    "Who?" she asked.

    "Just recently a couple of bandits entered the palace."

    "Really?" She replied. "You really should be going off to bed. Don't let these things concern you."

    Wanyan Kang said "Yeah, I'm sure the guards, even though their a useless bunch, will be able to take care of them. You need not worry. Please go and have some rest."

    He was just on the point of leaving when he noticed a slip of a man's robe sticking out from a crack in the wardrobe door. Now he knew that something strange was really going on. He didn't say anything but instead sat down at the table and poured himself a cup of tea which he began to drink slowly whilst he mulled over what to do. "In the wardrobe a man is hiding, but I don't know if my mother knows this or not."

    He took a few more sips of tea before standing up and slowly walking over to the wall where the spear was hanging. "Mother, what do you think of your son's spear skill that your saw earlier today."

    "I have already told you that I don't like you using your skills to bully other people." Bao XiRuo said in a disapproving tone.

    Wanyan Kang replied in a hurt tone "Bully people? I was merely competing one to one in a fair competition with that stupid boy." He then grabbed the spear off the wall and playfully try a few strokes. The red tassel on the spear danced about as he executed the 'Rising Phoenix Soaring Dragon' strike aiming straight at the wardrobe. If this stroke went through the wardrobe, Yang TieXin and Guo Jing, who were not able to see what was happening, would have no hope of fending off the attack. They would be dead for certain. Seeing this Bao XiRuo immediately fainted!

    Wanyan Kang stopped short with his strike. Seeing his mother’s reaction he immediately knew that she knew about the man hiding in the wardrobe. Propping the spear down beside him, he lifted up his mother, but watched the wardrobe for any signs of movement all the time.

    Slowly Bao XiRuo regained consciousness and when she saw the wardrobe still intact with no spear hole she immediately felt immense relief. Having been through so many extreme highs and lows of emotion over the past hour she felt very weak all over.

    Wanyan Kang was very angry "Mother, am I your son or not?" he demanded.

    "Of course you are my son. Why do you ask?"

    "Well then, why do you keep so many things secret from me?"

    Bao XiRuo thought to herself, "I must tell him about today's events and let him be reunited with his true father. After that I will take my life since I have lost my chastity and thus deeply wronged my husband. This life I can never be reunited with my husband TieXin..." At this thought she again burst into tears which now flowed freely.

    When Wanyan Kang saw how his mother was acting so strangely today he didn't know what to think. Finally Bao XiRuo said, "Please take a seat and listen to what I have to say very carefully."

    Wanyan Kang sat down as told but he stayed near the spear and continued to watch the wardrobe.

    Bao XiRuo asked "Do you see the four characters written on the spear?"

    "When I was a small boy I asked you about those characters, but you refused to tell me what 'Yang Tie Xin' meant."

    "Well now I am going to tell you what they mean."

    Yang TieXin hiding in the wardrobe could clearly hear every word that was being said between mother and son. Having an impulsive nature he thought to himself "She is a Prince's Consort now. How could she possibly want to live with me again in a shabby hut in the wilds as a village wife? She is about to leak out my identity, could she actually be planning to have her son kill me?"

    He heard her continue "This spear is originally from a place call Ox Village in JiangNan near the Song city of LinAn(??) I sent men to journey far away to fetch this for me. That plough, this table, lamp, bed, wardrobe, everything in this room has been brought here from Ox Village."

    Wanyan Kang interrupted "I really don't understand why you insist on living in the old shabby shack. I can get you the most beautiful furnishings but you always refuse!"

    "You say that this place is a shabby shack. But to me it is better than the most intricately decorated palace! Child, you are not fortunate. You have never lived with your true mother and father in such a shabby place."

    When Yang TieXin heard this he felt a sudden wave of emotion and could not keep himself from shedding tears.

    Wanyan Kang laughed, "Mother, the more you talk the more strange you become. How can father possibly live in this place?"

    Bao XiRuo sighed "Such a pity he wandered all over the country for eighteen years, living amongst the rivers and lakes. If he could have just lived here for half a day that would be more than comfortable enough for him." (??Not sure if I have the correct translation here??)

    When Wanyan Kang heard this he opened his eyes wide and asked in a trembling voice "Mother, what are you saying?"

    Bao XiRuo asked in a sharp voice "Who do you think your real father is?"

    Wanyan Kang said mystified "My father is the great Jin Prince Zhao. Mother, why are you asking me this?"

    Bao XiRuo stood up and took the spear, cradling it in her arms, tears again flowing "Child, you don't know, but I can't blame you. This...this is your real father's spear that he used to use many years ago..." Pointing to the characters on the spear she continued, "This is your real father's name!"

    Wanyan Kang felt his body shake. "Mother" he cried out "You are talking rubbish. You must be going crazy. I'm going to call for the doctor."

    "Am I talking rubbish? You say that you are a Jin? You are Chinese! Your name is not really Wanyan Kang, it's Yang, Yang Kang!"

    Wanyan Kang was shocked and very angry. He turned to go shouting "I'm going to ask father."

    Bao XiRuo cried out "Your father is in there!" With this she took a bold step toward the wardrobe, pulled open the door and taking Yang TieXin's hand led him out into the room."

    ========================================
    End of Chapter 9 IRON SPEAR, BROKEN PLOW
    ========================================
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 07-09-05 at 03:51 PM.

  8. #28
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Rayon)

    Chapter 10
    Enemies Meet (Yuan1 Jian1 Ju4 Tou2)

    Wanyan Kang was shocked to find Yang Tiexin there and then recognizing him, he cried: "It's you!" Brandishing the iron spear, he quickly adopted the "Hang2 Bu4 Deng4 Hu3" (The Line of Step of Marching Tiger), followed by the "Chao2 Tian1 Yi1 Zhu4 Xiang1" (Facing Upwards to Burn a Joss Stick). The tip of the spear gleamed, going straight towards Yang Tiexin's throat.

    Bao Xirou called out: "He's your father, you... Don't you see?" As she raised her head, she saw him flung against the wall, causing her to cry out. Wanyan Kang was shocked, quickly taking a step back, still holding the spear. Then, he glanced
    down to see his mother on the ground, her body covered with blood and her breathing shallow, making it difficult for him to see for sure if she was going to live or die. Remorse filled him and he was helpless for a while. Yang Tiexin then bent down and took his wife into his arms, carrying her towards the door and outside.

    Wanyan Kang called out: "Put her down!" He then used the stance "The Lone Wild Goose Excels," the spear moving like the wind and heading towards his chest.

    Yang Tiexin heard the rushing sound behind him and quickly sent out his left hand to counter, able to stop the iron spearhead about five inches from its target. In the battlefield, the "Yang Family Marksmanship" was invincible and one move, the "Hui2 Ma3 Qiang1" (Turning the Spear on Horseback) was a unique skill passed from generation to generation. When Yang Tiexin used his left hand to grasp the spearhead, he was actually using some elements of the "Hui2 Ma3 Qiang1" but had to improvise a little. Originally, when he grasped the enemy's weapon, he only needed to send out his right hand as the iron spear drew closer but because he was holding Bao Xiruo, he could only turn around and shout angrily: "This Yang Family Marksmanship is passed only to sons. A pity your shifu did not teach you this."

    Although Qiu Chuji's kung fu was very high, he actually did not research deeper into the marksmanship. The Yang Family Marksmanship was native to Song Dynasty and was famous throughout Jiang Hu, but only 19 schools were direct descendants of the orthodox school. He knew the principles of the orthodox Yang Family Marksmanship and that same year when they fought in Ox Village, Yang Tiexin saw evidence of that but as for the unique skill that was passed on only from generation to generation, he obviously did not understand. That was why Wanyan Kang also did not completely absorb the move of the marksmanship.

    The force applied by two people caused the iron spear which was already old, its handle already starting to decay, to break into pieces with a "ka" sound. Guo Jing jumped forward and shouted angrily: "You saw that he's your father, why do you not kowtow?"

    Wanyan Kang hesitated, unable to decide. Yang Tiexin then clutched his wife to him and ran out of the room. Mu Nianci was waiting for him outside, helping him and then both father and daughter leapt over the wall.

    Guo Jing did not dare wait and also rushed out of the room. He was just about to head towards the wall to flee when suddenly, he sensed a rustle in the darkness, rushing towards his neck. He felt the force of the palm scratch the tip of his nose
    and on his face, he felt a severe pain like it was scraped by a knife. This person's internal strength was fierce and moreover, there was barely a sound, taking one completely unawares. He could not stop himself from feeling shocked as he heard the person angrily shout: "Peasant boy, this old man has waited enough! Extend your neck and let this old man drink your blood!" It was precisely Immortal Ginseng Liang Ziwong.

    ----

    Huang Rong heard Peng Lianhu exclaim that she was a disciple of the Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds. She laughed and said: "You lose!" Then, she turned around and sprinted towards the hall's entrance.

    Peng Lianhu quickly moved his body so that he was blocking the entrance as he shouted: "Since you are a disciple of the Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds, I won't embarass you. But you must tell me, why did your shifu send you here?"

    Huang Rong laughingly said: "You said that if in ten moves, you can't recognize my sect, then you will let me leave. Old gentleman, why are you being such a rascal?"

    Peng Lianhu got angry: "That final move, the "Ling2 Ao2 Bu4" (Spirit Sea Turtle Step), didn't the Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds teach you that?"

    Huang Rong laughed: "I only saw the Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds a few times. Also, the level of their kung fu is so low, how can they match my shifu?"

    Peng Lianhu said: "Your lying is useless."

    Huang Rong: "I have actually heard of the Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds. I know that these two people are dishonorable; they stop at no evil, cheat their elders; their shamelessness is known throughout wulin. How can Peng Zhaizhu compare me with these two obscene people?"

    The crowd at first thought that she was just unwilling to tell the truth but when they heard her slander the Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds this way, they could not help looking at each other in blank dismay. Only then did they believe that she was in no way related to the Twin Corpses' sect. Although some people still wanted to find out if she was lying, they all decided that no one would dare to insult their shifu in the presence of so many people.

    Peng Lianhu stepped aside and said, "Young Miss, you win. Lao Peng admires you very much and wishes to know your name."

    Huang Rong smiled: "I don't mind. I am called Rong Er."

    Peng Lianhu asked: "Your surname?"

    Huang Rong: "I'll be honest. I am surnamed neither Peng nor Sha." At that point, everyone in the hall, outside of Tibetan Monk Ling Zhi and Ouyang Ke, had lost to her. Ling Zhi was suffering from an internal injury and could not fight at the moment. That left only Ouyang Ke as the only one who could temporarily stop her. The people all turned their gazes at him.

    Ouyang Ke jogged forward, smiling pleasantly as he said: "This lowly one wants to go next and exchange moves with the young miss."

    Huang Rong glanced at the white clothes he was wearing and asked: "You are with those pretty girls of the Bai Tuoshan (White Camel Group)?"

    Ouyang Ke smiled and said: "You have seen them? If you put all those girls together, they could not match even half of your beauty."

    Huang Rong's face turned red when she heard his flattery though she was also pleased. She said: "Then you'll help me with these old men who insist on being unreasonable."

    Ouyang Ke's kung fu was high and with the support of his shifu's younger brother, he was able to run amuck in the western region for many years. His lascivious nature caused him to spend all those years collecting beautiful women from different places, turning them into his concubines. To occupy their time, these concubines also studied kung fu and therefore, they were also his female disciples. When Prince Zhao summoned him to Yanjing, he brought 24 of his mistresses with him, dressing them up in white robes and mounting them on white camels. Because the concubines were many, they took turns riding while the others walked. Eight of them encountered on the road the Six Freaks of Chiangnan speaking with Guo Jing. They heard Zhu Cong talking about the precious Han Xie horse's origin and intended to steal it and give it to Ouyang Ke as a gift but they failed in that attempt.

    Ouyang Ke was very proud of his collection of concubines, knowing that they were the most beautiful women in the world and that not even the ladies of the imperial palaces of the Jin Dynasty and Song Country could compare to them. But who would have thought that he would meet Huang Rong in the Zhao Palace? He saw that her eyes were bright, her cheeks tender and though still very young, her body was graceful. Her beauty was unsurpassable that even his numerous mistresses could not compare to her. And when she displayed her exquisite martial arts skills, his heart fluttered. Now, he listened to her friendly voice, the soft and gentle words, feeling his heart burn and his bones go soft. He could not say a word.

    Huang Rong: "I have to go. If they stop me, you will help me, won't you?"

    Ouyang Ke smiled: "If you want me to help you, then you must obey me as your teacher and stay with me forever."

    Huang Rong: "Even obeisance to the shifu does not mean staying with him forever!"

    Ouyang Ke said: "My disciples are different. They're all women so they follow me wherever I go. I only need to call and they will come."

    Huang Rong tossed her head, laughing as she said: "I do not believe."

    Ouyang Ke whistled and at once, 20 white-clad women appeared at the entrance. Whether they were fair or dark, fat or thin, all of them were wearing the same type of clothes, their carriage proud and their smiles seductive as they trained their eyes on Ouyang Ke. During the banquet earlier in the Fragrant Snow Hall, these mistresses served outside the wall. This is the first time Peng Lianhu and the others saw them and in their hearts, they were envious of his good fortune.

    When Huang Rong challenged him into calling his mistresses, her intention was to cause a disorder in the hall, taking the opportunity to escape but who would have thought that Ouyang Ke would read her thoughts? He looked at the crowd, signaling them with his folding fan to stay in the entrance. Then, he cast a sidelong glance at Huang Rong, appearing casual and self-satisfied. The mistresses looked at Huang Rong steadily, some of them feeling inferior while others had only jealousy in their minds, knowing that the pretty girl had somehow caught the eye of the "shifu's son." They could not allow her to become another one of his "female disciples" because he might hereafter stop doting on them. These mistresses gathered around him tightly, making it difficult for Huang Rong to rush out through the door.

    Seeing that the situation was not favorable, Huang Rong said: "You prefer a real fight. I have to obey you as my teacher which I've never done before. I don't want to cause any embarassment."

    Ouyang Ke asked: "Is it possible that you don't want to try?"

    Huang Rong: "Alright."

    Ouyang Ke said: "Good, then come. Don't be afraid. I won't hit you back."

    Huang Rong: "How? If you don't hit back, I'll win, won't I?"

    Ouyang Ke smilingly said: "Even if you hit me, I'll still like you. How can I hit you back?" The crowd snickered at his frivolous manner but they were also wondering, This young girl's kung fu is not weak. Even if you are ten times stronger, how do you expect to defeat her? What magic are you going to use?

    Huang Rong: "I don't believe you're really not going to hit back. I must tie up both your hands."

    Ouyang Ke then loosened the sash around his waist to give it to her. He folded his hands behind and walked towards her. Huang Rong saw that he was harmless but her mind continued to work. Although her face remained smiling, in her heart she was actually feeling more and more anxious as she paced back and forth for a while, thinking, I have to be careful with my steps. Thereupon, she received the sash and spread both her hands, pulling on opposite sides but the cloth was strong as though it was made of silk so that even though she used internal strength, she still could not destroy it. Immediately, she tied up both of his hands and smiled, saying: "How can we find out who loses or who wins?"

    Ouyang Ke stretched out is right foot to the ground, leaving his left foot at the center, which left about three feet of distance in between. Still standing, he proceeded to move his foot against the brick floor, creating a sound like flowing water until he was able to make a complete circle, six feet in diameter. Creating
    such a circle was no easy task, thus displaying his great internal strength. Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu and the others all looked on in admiration. Ouyang Ke stepped into the crcle and said: "Whoever steps out of the circle loses."

    Huang Rong: "And if we both leave the circle?"

    Ouyang Ke said: "Then, I lose."

    Huang Rong: "If you lose, you won't try to chase or stop me?"

    Ouyang Ke replied: "Naturally. But if you leave the circle, then that would result in you becoming my little darling. Everyone here is witness to that."

    Huang Rong "Alright!"

    She stepped into the circle, her left palm performing the "Hui2 Feng1 Fu2 Liu3" (Encircling the Wind to Stroke the Willow) and her right palm the "Xing1 He2 Zai4 Tian1" (River of Stars in the Sky). The left was light, the right was heavy, both hands exerting hard and soft forces. Ouyang Ke dodged slightly and both his shoulders were struck at the same time. Huang Rong encountered the force coming out of his body, startled to find that this Ouyang Ke's internal strength was truly profound. Though he remained true to his word of not hitting back, he actually borrowed the force she used and used it as his own so that no matter how many times she hit him, he was always able to immediately retaliate. His hand remained motionless but Huang Rong was standing unsteadily, almost falling out of the circle. This was why she did not dare to attack for the moment as she paced inside the circle, saying: "If I go that doesn't mean you won. You said before that if both of us left the circle, you lose."

    Ouyang Ke looked shocked as he watched Huang Rong jog out of the circle. She was afraid that a long delay might cause more complications so that she quickened her footsteps, her golden bangles sparkling and her flowing robes fluttering in the wind as she rushed towards the entrance.

    Ouyang Ke shouted loudly: "I've been cheated!" He could only shout a warning but could not pursue. Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, and the others saw how Huang Rong cleverly tricked Ouyang Ke and could not stop themselves from laughing loudly.

    Huang Rong was just about to reach the entrance when a fierce sound could be heard coming from above and a large body suddenly dropped from nowhere. She moved sideways to avoid, suppressing her fear at this unknown thing. She saw that that person sitting down on a large round-backed wooden armchair was that tall Tibetan monk. He was wearing a red gown and even though he was seated, he was still able to tower over her. The skill with which he was able to leap high with the chair still stuck to his body was no ordinary feat. Huang Rong was just about to speak when she suddenly saw the Tibetan monk whip out a pair of cymbals from beneath his robes. He struck both hands, releasing a shocking, deafening sound, before opening it like a flower and sending both, one on top of the other, letting it fly fiercely towards her. The cymbals turned into a blur of shining metal, moving so fast like there were a dozen of them. She tried to fend it off but the cymbals suddenly turned into three. Startled, she turned only to find that the cymbals were drawing nearer. She dashed forward, parrying, before immediately fleeing away, then reversing, sending out a right palm towards the top cymbal while sending her left foot towards the two cymbals at the bottom. The two cymbals separated so that they were able to fly past. This fierce stance was unusual but the cymbals were able to avoid it and Ling Zhi then leapt forward. Ling Zhi executed his "Da4 Shou3 Yin4" (Big Hand Imprint) towards her. Huang Rong was hit, the blow sending her violently forward straight towards the center of the crowd.

    Everyone shouted in alarm at the same time, seeing the young girl hit by Ling Zhi's great palm, probably breaking several bones and causing severe internal injuries.

    Ouyang Ke shouted: "Show mercy!" Was there enough time? He saw
    that Ling Zhi's great palm struck her in the back but also saw that the hand was withdrawn immediately, its owner cursing loudly. Huang Rong used the force of his palm to run out of the hall. He heard her clear laughter as though she was not injured at all. He expected that Ling Zhi's palm was strong but what he did not know was that before the palm could hit her, it was rapidly withdrawn so that the force behind the blow was diminished.

    The crowd all watched in rapt attention when they heard Ling Zhi roar out again and again, his right palm dripping with blood. He lifted it and saw ten small punctures. His features changed as he remembered, shouting: "Soft hedgehog armor! Soft hedgehog armor!" His voice revealed his great surprise, his anger, and his pain.

    Startled, Peng Lianhu asked: "This girl was wearing the soft hedgehog armor? That is the treasure of the Taohua Island (Peach Blossom Island)!"

    Sha Tongtian wondered, How can someone her age get a hold of the soft hedgehog armor?

    Missing Huang Rong, Ouyang Ke ran out of the entrance but he could barely see anything in the darkness. Not knowing where she was, he whistled for his mistresses and ordered them to track her down though in his heart, he was secretly relieved, It's good that she was able to escape and did not get injured. Good or bad, I must have her hand.

    Hou Tonghai asked: "Shi Ge (Elder Martial Brother), what is this soft hedgehog armor?"

    Peng Lianhu snapped: "Have you seen a hedgehog?"

    Hou Tonghai nodded: "Of course."

    Peng Lianhu replied: "Under her clothes next to the skin, she wears a set of soft armor. Though soft, this armor can withstand even the pierce of a sword or a spear. Moreover, it is covered with spines like that of a hedgehog. A single kick or punch will be enough to get you pricked!"

    Hou Tonghai bit his tongue, thinking, It's good that I wasn't able to hit the smelly boy!

    Sha Tongtian said: "I'll get her back!"

    Hou Tonghai looked at him and said: "Shi Ge, she... You can’t touch her body."

    Sha Tongtian: "Who asked for your opinion? I can still pull her hair."

    Hou Tonghai said: "Right, right, why didn't I think of that? Shi Ge, you are truly intelligent." And both apprentice brothers and Peng Lianhu at once gave chase.

    By now, Prince Zhao Wanyan Honglie received the worried report from his son and learned that the princess was taken prisoner. Angered, both father and son, together with their personal guards left the palace to chase after the culprits. At the same time, Tang Zude led another group of armed guards to search for and arrest the intruder. Thus, the palace was on complete alert. Guo Jing ran into Liang Ziwong near the wall but how could he extend his neck like that and let him drink his blood? In his shock, he turned around and fled. He did not know which way was north or south so he decided to hide someplace. Liang Ziwong really wanted to drink his blood and would not slow down even a bit. It was a good thing that Guo Jing's lightness kung fu was good otherwise, even though the night was dark, he would have been captured a long time ago. The light from the torch died and he could no longer see where he was going, only sensing that he had somehow stepped into a thorny area where the ground was rugged and rocky. More people were coming out of the palace, what time did Gou Jing have to deliberate? The thorny bristles cut through his legs but when he thought about Liang Ziwong biting his throat, he could not let the tiny thorns bother him. Not even a mountain or forest of swords could stop him.

    Suddenly, he felt the ground beneath him give way, causing him to cry out as he started to drop, falling some 45 feet into an extremely deep cavern. While his body was in midair, he had already circulated his internal energy so that he would not lose his balance when he landed and prevent himself from getting injured. But who would have thought that his two feet would step on round stones? He lost his balance and fell down on his seat. His hands, which supported him, held one of these round stones. Fear shot through him when upon tracing these round stones with his fingers, he realized that these stones were actually the skeleton heads of dead persons. It looked as though this deep hole was where the corpses of dead people executed at the Zhao Palace were dumped. He heard Liang Ziwong call out from above: "Boy, come up here!"

    Guo Jing thought, I'm not stupid enough to come up only to die! And with that, he raised his hand, feeling his way along and trying to feel the roof of the cave but he felt nothing. Thereupon, he moved forward to guard himself against Liang Ziwong who might follow him there and kill him. After shouting several curses, Liang Ziwong thought that perhaps Guo Jing could not come up and so he shouted angrily: "Even if you run all the way to hell, this old man will still come after you!" And taking a deep breath, he jumped down.

    Greatly surprised, Guo Jing took several steps back only to find empty space behind him. He turned around, stretching both his arms out to feel the way. As he continued on, he discovered that it was a tunnel. Liang Ziwong also noticed the tunnel. His boldness was brought on by his high skill so that even though it was so dark that when he stretched his hand out, he could not even see his five fingers, he was not afraid that Guo Jing would be laying down a trap against him. He followed, only liking the situation more: This is just like seizing a turtle in a jar. This boy can't get away again. How can I not drink his blood now?

    Guo Jing was secretly worried: Tunnels always have a dead end! Liang Ziwong was laughing loudly, both arms spread as he traced the tunnel walls. He was not impatient and took his steps slowly, one at a time.

    Guo Jing ran several feet forward when he realized that the tunnel had ended to reveal an earth room. Liang Ziwong also followed, laughing: "The peasant boy wants to run away but to where?"

    Suddenly, from the left corner an eerie, raspy voice said: "Who acts unruly in here?"

    The two of them never expected that someone lived in this black pit but they could not deny this sound, the voice though raspy actually rumbled like thunder to their ears. Guo Jing was frightened, his heart jumping madly while Liang Ziwong also could not restrain himself from feeling absolutely terrified. They heard the gloomy voice say: "Those who enter my cave are already rotting. Are you that impatient to die?" The voice now began to resemble that of a woman, speaking anxiously, her breathing heavy as though she had a contracted a serious illness.

    When the two people discovered that the sound did not belong to any ghost, their fears subsided. Guo Jing listened to her words and hurried to explain: "I did not mean to come here, some people are after me..."

    Before he could finish his words, Liang Ziwong was able to discern where he was. He dashed forward, stretching his hands out to take him. Guo Jing heard the rustle caused by his palm and hastily dodged. Liang Ziwong changed directions at once, forcing Guo Jing to dodge once more to the right. It was pitch dark so one could only grab thoughtlessly while the other could only hide blindly. Suddenly, there was a ripping sound. Liang Ziwong had taken hold of Guo Jing's left sleeve.

    The woman angrily said: "Who dares to seize a person here?"

    Liang Ziwong scolded: "You disguise yourself like a crafty ghost. Are you trying to frighten me?"

    The asthmatic woman began to breathe heavily as she said: "Hmph, the young fellow can come here and hide."

    Guo Jing had thought that the situation he was in was hopeless and critical in the extreme when he heard her saying this, without hesitation, he jumped as he felt five icy cold fingers touch his wrist. They were much stronger than him so that when he was pulled by her, his body was not able to resist from being thrown forwards and feeling himself growing numb. Gasping for breath, the woman said to Liang Ziwong: "You were able to grasp him adeptly which means your strength is not a trifle. You are from outside the mountain pass?"

    Liang Ziwong was shocked, thinking, I cannot see even half of her hair, how is it possible she was able to recognize my martial arts? Is she capable of seeing things in the dark? This woman, she must be an old eccentric who's used to being proud and strict! He did not dare to say anything careless or indiscreet and instead said pleasantly: "This lowly one who is an invited guest from Guan Dong is surnamed Liang. This boy stole something from me and I'm trying to get it back. I ask your excellency not to interfere."

    The woman said: "Ah, is the Ginseng Immortal Liang Ziwong trying to right a wrong? The other person seems unaware of it. I have no desire to interfere but when he rushed into my cave, the crime can already be pardoned. Lao Liang, you are a martial arts expert, how come you don't understand the rules of wulin?"

    Liang Ziwong was even more surprised and asked: "May I consult the name of your excellency?" The woman said: "I... I..."

    Guo Jing felt the hand grasping his wrist shiver violently, the fingers slowly beginnning to loosen and he also heard her trying to keep down a groan as though she was in extreme pain. He asked: "You are sick?"

    Liang Ziwong's high kung fu allowed him to hear her groan and surmised that this person has lost her skills not from a sickness but from an injury which caused her to be greatly weakened. He immediately applied strength to his arm, sending both hands evenly to grasp Guo Jing's chest. He managed to brush against his clothes, waiting for his fingers to grab hold when he suddenly felt a strong force meeting his wrists. Shocked, Liang Ziwong discovered that when he sent out his left hand, he managed to grab instead the enemy's arm. The woman shouted angrily: "On guard!" A palm hit Liang Ziwong on his back. He leapt, the palm forcing him to take several steps back. Fortunately for him, his internal strength was good so that he was not injured.

    Liang Ziwong said: "Hao3 zei2 po2! (Something like, you good mother-in-law of a thief! Po is sometimes used as a not-so polite term for old woman. The thief in question is Guo Jing.) You come here." When that woman continued gasping for breath, remaining motionless, Liang Ziwong realized that she could not move the lower part of her body. His alarm and fear was immediately reduced and he began to slowly approach. He was just about to jump forward to attack when he suddenly felt something curl around his ankles. This thing was like a soft whip, silent, and came like electricity. Greatly alarmed, he quickly tried to resist it, but the whip was able to lift his body in a flash. He tried to aim a kick at the woman when a sound came as the top of his head hit the earthen wall.

    His leg kung fu was of a high level, unmatched in wulin which caused him to enjoy more than 20 years of great prestige outside the mountain pass. This leg when executed was incomparably fierce. Who would have thought that before even the tip of his toe could arrive, he would suddenly sense his "Chong1Yang2 Xue2" (Flushing Out the Sun Hole) growing numb, causing him to immediately dodge in great alarm? This "Chong1Yang2 Xue2" was located five inches from the instep of the foot. If this vital point was sealed by the person, his whole leg would grow numb. Luckily, he was able to withdraw his foot quickly, avoiding it, but the action of anxiously kicking and then anxiously withdrawing has caused his knee to ache.

    Liang Ziwong thought as he dodged, This person is in this dark cave but acts as though she is dwelling in a bright and sunny place, being able to accurately find my vital point, how can she not be a witch or a demon?

    Realizing the critical situation he was in, he executed a half somersault to avoid, backhandedly sending out a palm in an effort to shake her off. He knew this stance was severe, the palm ten times stronger, and he thought that this person with asthma definitely would not have the internal strength to resist. However, he suddenly heard a loud cry as he felt the enemy's arm heading violently towards him, its fingertips already making contact with his shoulder. Liang Ziwong's left hand sensed the opponent's ice-cold wrist, her body appearing as though it was
    not made of flesh and blood as it once more tried to attack. He immediately rolled away, rushing out in a hurry, even using his hands and foot to crawl out of the tunnel, panting heavily as he thought, I have lived for dozens of years but I have never encountered such a strange event where I don't even know if she is a woman or a ghost! I must inform the prince about this matter. He hastily ran back to the Fragrant Snow Hall. On the way, he thought, The stinky boy is not aware whether this woman is a ghost or a demon who's after the precious blood in his body. How difficult is it to be polite with me? Oh, wanting to replace yin with yang (or something like that), I have raised that snake to build up its blood only to meet this ghost, both of us unable to entirely avoid having our lives endangered. What use is there to refine oneself by using unorthodox methods if the envy of ghosts and gods causes one to fail even when success seems within reach?

    When Guo Jing heard him moving farther and farther away, he felt greatly relieved and fell on his knees, kowtowing to the woman as he said: "Junior politely thanks old senior for saving his life."

    That woman was able to match Liang Ziwong's moves earlier but now she was exhausted, causing her asthma to play up. She coughed, wheezing as she said: "Why did Lao Liang want to kill you?"

    Guo Jing: "Taoist Elder Wang was injured and needed medicine to treat his wounds. The disciple then came to the palace..." Suddenly, he thought, This person lives in the Zhao Palace, how do I know he's not with Wanyan Honglie's party? He stopped talking immediately.

    That woman said: "Mmm, so you have stolen Lao Liang's medicine. Heard he is researching about medicinal herbs and so you wanted to come and steal his dan1 miao4 yao4." (I think I remember a post somewhere that said something about this medicinal red pellets made of the blood of young women? That it's supposed to
    be imbued with miraculous healing powers and also very addictive. I think this is that drug.)

    Guo Jing: "I took some of his medicine to treat an internal injury, but he was so angry he wanted to kill me. Is the old senior injured? Disciple has several medicines, four samples of tian2 qi1 (pseudoginseng), xie3 jie2 (dried blood), xiong2 dan3 (bear's gall), mei2 yao4. Taoist Elder Wang does not have to use this many, if old senior..."

    The woman angrily said: "Whether I'm injured or not, what concern is it of yours?"

    At this snag, Guo Jing could only say hastily: "Yes, yes." But after only a moment, he heard her gasping for breath and could not restrain himself from saying again: "If old senior cannot walk, junior offers to carry you out of here."

    The woman scolded: "Who is old? Who are you to say that someone is old?"

    Guo Jing no longer dared to utter a sound, thinking that she did not want to leave. However, he had always been unable to stay content even though he knew that he ought to keep his head lowered so that he once again asked: "Whatever you want, I can go get it for you."

    The woman laughed coldly and said: "You are fussy like woman but I see that your heart is good." She stretched out her left hand to pull on his shoulders. Guo Jing felt his shoulder snap and the sharp pain that followed but he was able to keep his body from falling on top of her, suddenly sensing an icy coldness as the woman's arm wound around his neck. He heard her bark an order: "Carry me to the exit."

    Guo Jing thought, I originally wanted to carry you to the exit. Thereupon, he bent at the waist and slowly made his way out of the tunnel.

    The woman said: "I am compelling you to carry me on your back. I don't owe anyone any favors." It was then that Guo Jing understood that this woman was much more arrogant and was unwilling to receive any kindness from her juniors. As he walked out, he raised his head and saw the stars in the sky. He could not help giving out a sigh as he thought, Only a moment ago, I was saved from death when I fell into this black hole where someone was waiting to help me. If I told Rong Er about
    this, even she would not believe. He was used to climbing cliffs with Ma Yu and even though that hole was like a deep well, he was actually able to climb up effortlessly.

    As soon as they left the hole, the woman asked: "Who taught you your lightness kung fu? Tell me quickly!" Her arm suddenly tightened, clutching Guo Jing's throat so he was gasping for breath.

    Alarmed, he hastily circulated his internal energy to resist. The woman was intentionally trying to test his skill by tightening her grip, but she paused before gradually relaxing.

    She loudly exclaimed: "Hey, look here, the peasant boy knows the internal strength skills of the Taoist orthodox school. You said that Taoist Elder Wang was injured, what name is this Taoist priest called?"

    Guo Jing thought, You have rescued me, so whatever you ask, I would answer you truthfully. Otherwise, how barbaric am I? He immediately replied: "Taoist Elder Wang is Wang Chuyi but others call him the Son of the Jade Sun."

    Suddenly, he felt the woman on his back begin to shake as he heard her breath out heavily: "You are a Quanzhen Sect disciple? That... That is very good." As soon as she said this, she could not contain her delight so she went on and asked: "Who is Wang Chuyi to you? You call him Taoist Elder which is not equal to shifu. Is he your shi zi (martial uncle) or shi bo (martial senior)?"

    Guo Jing: "I am not a Quanzhen sect disciple but Son of the Red Sun Ma Yu has long ago taught me his breathing techniques."

    The woman said: "Mmm, so you studied the internal strength methods of Quanzhen. That is good." After a moment, she asked: "Who then is your shifu?"

    Guo Jing replied: "Disciple altogether has seven teachers, the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan. First shifu is called Flying Bat and surnamed Ke."

    The woman began coughing violently, the sound bitter and sour as she said: "That is Ke Zhen'e!"

    Guo Jing: "Yes."

    The woman said: "You come from Mongolia?"

    Guo Jing said: "Yes." But in his heart, he wondered, How did she know I come from Mongolia?

    The woman said slowly: "Your name is Yang Kang, is it not?" Her tone of voice changed from gloomy to angry.

    Guo Jing said: "No. Disciple is surnamed Guo."

    The woman hesitated for a moment before saying: "You sit on the ground."

    Guo Jing did what was told and sat down. The woman then reached inside her bosom to fish out an object which she placed on the ground. This object was wrapped in a piece of cloth. When she revealed the thing, the star light shone on it, showing a brightly dazzling and impressive-looking dagger handle. Guo Jing saw that it looked familiar and so he took a closer look, the dagger continuing to shine brightly and on its handle were engravings of the two characters "Yang Kang." It was indeed the knife he used to kill the Copper Corpse Chen Xuanfeng. That same year when Guo Xiaotian and Yang Tiexin met the Son of Eternal Spring Qiu Chuji who gave them the dagger handles as presents, both of them made a promise that if their wives gave birth to two sons, they would become sworn brothers and if two daughters, they would become sworn sisters. However, if both are of different genders, then they would become husband and wife. The two then exchanged the daggers as a token of their faith. This was the reason why the dagger with the inscription of "Yang Kang" actually ended up in Guo Jing's hand. When he was younger, he did not know what the two characters "Yang Kang" meant but the shape of the dagger was enough for him to recognize it. He thought, Yang Kang? Yang Kang? But he could not remember that this name was once spoken by the princess only moments ago.

    While he was hesitating, the woman clamped his hand to grab the dagger as she shouted: "You recognize this dagger, do you not?"

    If Guo Jing were more quick-witted and heard how sad and shrill her voice sounded, he would have felt compelled to turn his head and look at her. Instead, he thought only of the other's kindness in saving his life, This person came to save my life. Certainly, that means she is a good person. Therefore, he was not the least bit suspicious as he immediately replied: "Ah, yes! When I was young, I once used this dagger to kill an evil man. That evil man suddenly disappeared, along with the precious dagger ..."

    As he spoke, he felt his neck tighten suddenly, suffocating him. In the midst of danger, he bent his arm and pushed it backwards but his wrist was held by that woman's outstretched left hand.

    The woman later relaxed her right arm, allowing her body to fall so that she was sitting on the ground as she shouted: "Who do you think I am?"

    Guo Jing was throttled by her earlier, making him see stars in his vision so it took him a moment to recover. Afterwards, he looked down only to glimpse through her shawl of long hair. The face, like white paper, was precisely the face of the Iron Corpse of the Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds, Mei Chaofeng. Frightened out of his wits, he lifted his left hand to struggle but with her fingers digging into his flesh, how could he escape? In his mind was confusion: How come? Why did she save my life? It can't be! But she really is Mei Chaofeng!

    Mei Chaofeng sat on the ground, her right hand clutching Guo Jing's neck, her left holding his wrist. For more than ten years, she had been searching for the man who killed her husband and now suddenly, he was here. Is it the work of Zei2 han4 zi3 (Thief Man. I think this is Mei Chaofeng's pet name for Chen Xuanfeng) from below, to have that person die in my hands? In her heart she was delighted beyond measure but this was quickly overcome by grief as past events of her life, no matter how much she fought it, came in brief flashes.

    She thought, I was once an innocent young girl who played and joked around all day. My parents treated me as their most precious treasure to which they were very attached to. At that time, I was called Mei Rehua. However, my unfortunate parents died one after another, forcing me to suffer under an evil person. Shifu Huang Yaoshi rescued me and brought me to Taohua Island (Peach Blossom Island) where he accepted me into his school. My name was changed to Mei Chaofeng for each of his disciples all bore the character for "wind" in each of their names. Under the peach trees, I saw rugged-looking youths standing in front of me. One of them picked a bright red peach and gave it to me to eat. That was apprentice brother Chen Xuanfeng. Among shifu's disciples, he was the second; I was the third. We practiced kung fu together. He often taught me and treated me very well. Even though he sometimes scolded me for not studying hard, I knew he was only doing what was good for me. Slowly, as everyone grew up, in my heart I had him and in his heart, he had me. One spring evening, when the peach blossoms were turning into a
    brilliant red, under the peach tree, he suddenly embraced me. A blush colored Mei Chaofeng's face and Guo Jing heard that her laborious breathing had intensified. Then, she let out a soft, gentle sigh.

    Mei Chaofeng recalled how she and Chen Xuanfeng secretly married each other and how they feared their shifu's punishment. When they ran away from the Island, her husband told her to steal the second "Jiu3 Yin1 Zhen1 Jing1" (Nine Yin Scripture). Later, they came to a remote mountain where they trained hard but after practicing for half a year, her husband said that he could not understand the true meaning of the text. He wanted to break his head out of frustration. That same year, my husband said, 'Zei2 po2 niang2 (Thief wife. His pet name for Mei Chaofeng?), we only stole one half of the Jiu Yin Zhen Jing. The first half of the scripture contains the foundation principles to practice the secret nei gong techniques. The kung fu scripture belongs to the Taoists and what our shifu taught us is completely different. We can't master this, what do you suggest we do?' I said, 'What choice do we have?' He said, 'Return to Taohua Island.' How could I dare to go back? Both of our skills had become ten times stronger but our shifu only had to use two fingers. Zei Hanzi (Thief man) was also afraid but knowing how many wonderful techniques he could not practice at the time, he was willing to die. He had made up his mind to steal the scripture and said, 'If we are going to be the unmatched couple under the heaven, then Zei Poniang (Thief wife) must be prepared to be a widow.' I did not wish to be a widow! If one must die, then the other must also die in the same place. And so both of us decided to risk our lives by going back. We found out later that after we ran away, shifu in a great fit of temper broke the legs of all of his disciples and expelled them from his island. That was why there was only him, his wife, the two of us, and his servants. When we arrived in Taohua Island, we discovered two people engaged in a fight. Shifu's opponent looked like an expert. The two of them were arguing about the Jiu Yin Zhen Jing and as they quarreled, one of them opened a move.
    This person was Quanzhen sect and although he spoke foolish words, his kung fu was high, arriving at a level which I could not even imagine. But shifu, when compared to him, had a better chance of winning. Witnessing this martial arts duel only served to frighten us out of our wits. I said quietly, 'Zei Hanzi, we are inferior. Let's get away!" But he was not willing. We watched as shifu grabbed his opponent, forcing him to take the oath of never voluntarily leaving the Island. Remembering that shifu's wife used to treat me with kindness, I decided to look for her through the window. Who would have thought that all I would see was a mourning hall? Shifu's wife had passed away. In my heart, I felt very sad. Shifu's wife always treated me well but now that she's dead, shifu was alone. I really felt sorry for him that time. I couldn't stand it. While I was crying, I suddenly saw near the mourning hall a one-year old little girl, sitting straight up from a chair and smiling at me. This girl really looked like my shifu's wife so I suposed she was the daughter. Was it because of childbirth that she died? I was thinking this when shifu noticed me. He flew from the mourning hall and stepped outside. I was so frightened, my feet grew soft and I couldn't move. I heard the girl laughing and calling: 'Daddy, hugs!' Her smile was like a flower as she opened her arms towards shifu. This girl saved my life. Shifu feared that she would fall down and so stretched out a hand to grab her. Zei Hanzi then pulled me and we both dashed out, snatching the boat, the sea water splashing inside. My heart was thumping so hard, it seemed like it was going to jump out of my throat.

    Zei Hanzi saw shifu fighting and had henceforth lost heart. He said, 'Not only have we not learned a tenth of shifu's kung fu but with this Quanzhen master, how can we compare?' I said: 'You regret? If the shifu can do it, then one day we can also learn his kung fu.' He said, 'If you don't regret, then I do not regret.' Thereupon, he used the fiercest martial arts method he could find and taught me everything. He said that although this method was heretical, it allowed us to increase our skills.

    At the beginning, our abilities became astounding and as we ran amuck in Jiang Hu, we earned the nickname of 'Twin corpses of the Dark Winds.' That Shen Long who flew through the sky with his axe exorcising evil spirits, was it Zei Hanzi who killed him or was it I? My memory is not so clear as to who killed but all is the same in any case. One day, we were practicing in the temple ruins the "Cui1 Xin1 Zhang3" (Destroying Heart Palm), when suddenly from all directions appeared dozens of skilled people. They were lead by our fellow apprentice, Lu Chengfeng. He hated us after shifu broke his two legs and now gathered a large group of people to help him capture us to give to shifu. THis boy really thought that he could defeat us. Humph, the 'Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds' are not that easy to defeat. Though we were able to kill 78 men and run away, we were also heavily injured. After several months, we found out that the Quanzhen Seven Elders were also secretly following us. We did not want to fight the opponents all at once because they were too many so thereupon, we left the Central Plains until we reached the Mongolian prairies. Zei Hanzi was worried that people would steal the Taoist scripture. He told me not to look. I did not know where he hid it. 'Good, Zei Hanzi, I don't know where to find it.' 'Zei Poniang, I will be good to you. I'll take care of you and teach you everything except the Taoist nei gong. If we force it, we could harm our bodies.' 'Alright! What are you waiting for?' Thereupon, we continued to practice the "Jiu3 Yin1 Bai2 Gu3 Zhua3" (Nine Yin White Bone Claw) and the "Cui1 Xin1 Zhang3." He said these two techniques were heretical and fierce but did not require one to learn nei gong. Suddenly, one evening in that stark mountainside, the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan attacked me. 'My eye! My eye!' The pain was burning from the toxins. I crawled on the ground, scratching my eyes. I did not die but my eyes were blinded and my husband dead. That was retribution for that time when we once killed that blind Ke Zhen'e's elder brother and blinded his (Ke Zhen'e) eyes.

    As Mei Chaofeng thought about this painful matter, both her hands tightened instinctively, creating a noise as she grinded her teeth.

    Guo Jing felt like the bones in his left hand were going to break and secretly complained, This is not good. How do I konw what kind of vicious method she's going to use to kill me? Then, he said: "Hey, I don't know what you want to do but I want to ask you something, please agree."

    Mei Chaofeng said coldly: "You want to ask me something?"

    Guo Jing said: "Yes. I have several medicines and I ask you to be generous. Please take away some of these and give it to Taoist Elder Wang in the Prosperity Inn outside the city."

    When Mei Chaofeng did not answer and continued to stare blankly at him, Guo Jing said: "You agree? Many thanks to you!"

    Mei Chaofeng said: "Many thanks what? All my life, I've never done any good deed!"

    She could not call to mind how much pain she suffered in her life, nor could she recall how many people she had killed, but that night on the barren hill, she remembered clearly. My surroundings suddenly went black and I could not see even the stars. Zei Hanzi said, 'I have failed! The Taoist scripture is hidden in my chest...' These were his last words. Suddenly, a heavy rain began to pour and the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan began fiercely attacking me. I was hit in the back by a palm. This person's internal strength was profound; the pain from his hit reached my bones. I carried Zei Hanzi's corpse and escaped, descending the mountain even though I could not see. They did not pursue me which was really strange. The rain became heavier and the night had grown pitch-dark; they could not see me. I dashed about wildly in the rain. Zei Hanzi's body was at first hot but afterwards, it gradually turned cold. My heart also turned cold with each minute that passed. I was shaking all over; I was very cold. 'Zei Hanzi, are you really dead? Even with your fierce kung fu, how could you die so inexplicably? Who killed you?' I drew out a dagger from his stomach, causing the blood to spurt out. What caused this? Murdered people certainly bleed, but I did not know how many people I murdered. 'I must die with Zei Hanzi! No one else will call him 'zei hanzi', in the netherworld, he would be lonely!' I placed the dagger to my throat and prepared to slice when suddenly, I traced two characters on the dagger handle, the characters "Yang Kang." Mmm, the killer must be this person named Yang Kang. How can I not exact revenge? If I don't kill this Yang Kang first, how can I die? Thereupon, I went through Zei Hanzi's pockets, searching for the secret Taoist scripture, but even though I searched the whole body, I was not able to find a trace of it. I must find it! I started from his hair, not missing an inch until suddenly, while I was feeling the
    skin on his chest, I felt something strange.

    As she came to this thought, she was unable to restrain bitter laughter from coming out of her throat. She said: "After careful investigation, I found that tattooed on his chest is the "Jiu Yin Zhen Jing." 'You were afraid that someone would steal this from you and so you tattooed this on your body so it won't be taken away!' Yes, like shifu's martial arts teachings, someone could also steal the Taoist scripture from us so you came up with a way so it can't be stolen. Your idea is 'a person comes, after he is gone, everything goes with him' (or something like that). I used the dagger to cut your chest, mmm, I must tan this skin so it won’t rot. I will keep it with me all the time so it will be like you are accompanying me forever. I was not sad anymore. When I laugh, people are usually frightened even though I was smiling. I used both hands to dig a pit in the ground to bury you inside. You taught me the "Jiu Yin Bai Gu Zhua" before; I used this technique to dig your grave. I hid in the cave, afraid that the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan would find me. At that time, I was not their match but after some practice, humph, I could grab each of their hearts. Was it really dangerous to practice the Taoist nei gong? It would cause serious injuries but I was not afraid to die only what sort of injury? I must perfect my kung fu in the shortest time. It must have been some divine intervention that Zei Hanzi tattoed the Taoist scripture on his body or with my blind eye, what use would the written words have? All these years, even when he was playing with me, he never removed his clothing on his upper body, now I know it was for this..." When she thought about this, her face burned and she released a long sigh. What is it? Zei Hanzi, can you see me from the netherworld? If you married a female ghost and made it your wife, then we do not have forever...

    Two days passed, I was very hungry when suddenly, I heard a large army on horseback pass by the hole. From their dialect, I found out they were from Jin Dynasty. I came out and asked them for something to eat. The leader of the army saw my pitiful state and decided to give me shelter, bringing me all the way to the palace. Afterwards, I discovered that he was actually the sixth son of the Jin emperor, Prince Zhao. I swept the ground in the back gardens for them but in the evening, I secretly trained. Such was that I was able to practice for several years and no one noticed anything. They only thought of me as a pitiful blind married woman.

    One evening, oh, that mischievous young prince. He went looking for bird's eggs in the garden at midnight without telling anyone. I did not see him but he saw me practicing with my silver whip and thereupon coerced me into teaching him. I taught him three moves and he learned them; he was really intelligent. Pleased with his progress, I also passed on to him the Jiu3 Yin1 Bai2 Gu3 Zhua3 (Jiu Yin White Bone Claw), tiu1 xin1 zhang3 ye3 (Push the Heart Palm). I wanted him to take the oath of not telling anyone, not even the prince or the princess. If he divulged it to anyone, I told him that I would capture him, break his bones, and send his soul to heaven. Young prince has practiced kung fu and his foundation was not low. He said that 'Shifu, I also have another male shifu. This person is not good. I do not like him. I only like you as my shifu. I will never reveal to him that you are teaching me. He can't compare to you. His kung fu teachings are not effective.' Humph, the young prince knew how to flatter. His male shifu was definitely not incompetent. But I only asked that he did not tell him that he was studying kung fu with me and I in turn would not question him about his shifu. Several years passed and the young prince said that the prince (Prince Zhao) wanted to go to Mongolia. I asked the prince to allow me to go there with him to offer sacrifice for my husband's grave. Young prince said to me that the prince agreed. The prince doted on him very much and whatever he asked, he agreed.

    Oh, even if I couldn't find Zei Hanzi's (Thief Man) bones, I kept the skin from his flesh next to my own skin all day and all night. Also, why would I offer a sacrifice to his grave? I aimed to find the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan for revenge. But my luck was not good because the Seven Elders of Quanzhen were unexpectedly all in Mongolia. My eyes could not see, how could I match these seven people? That Son of the Red Sun Ma Yu's internal strength was profound. Even though he spoke without effort, his voice was able to travel far. But my going to Mongolia was not in vain because that Ma Yu was asked by me right in his face, what, how, why, and he passed on to me some nei gong (internal strength) secrets. After I came back to the palace, I went to the tunnel to practice diligently. Oh, this internal strength could not be completed without guidance. Two days ago, I was fiercely practicing, leaning on one thigh and vigorously dashing when suddenly my qi arrived at my hip area; I could not move it back up. In light of this, the lower part of my body suffered seriously. If the young prince did not look for me, how would he know that I had an accident while practicing martial arts? Or if this Guo boy did not rush in here, I would have starved to death in that tunnel. Humph, it's Zei Hanzi's ghost that sent him here to rescue me so I could I kill him to avenge Zei Hanzi. Ha ha, ha ha! Ha ha, ah, heh heh, humph, ha ha!

    As Mei Chaofeng laughed madly, her whole body hook and her right hand suddenly made an effort to grab Guo Jing's neck. Guo Jing sensed the danger to his life at this critical moment and tried to turn her hand wrong side up by grasping her wrist, using his external strength. Ma Yu's orthodox school teachings were practiced by him for several years so his internal strength was not weak. Mei Chaofeng could not hold her fierce grip as she felt her hand being turned wrong side up by him, forcing it open. Startled, she thought, his boy's kung fu is not bad!

    Even hit three times, Guo Jing applied all his strength in that palm of hand. Mei Chaofeng cried loud and long, lifting her palm to hit him. She was using her "Cui1 Xin1 Zhang3" (Destroying Heart Palm) unique skill. Guo Jing's level of skill and hers differed too much to begin with and his left was held firmly by her, how could he move to gain an opening? But he had to exert himself to overcome her strength, lifting his right hand to block. Mei Chaofeng raised her hand to meet his but only to feel her arm shake. She changed her mind at that moment as she considered, I practiced nei gong without anyone to guide me so that it resulted in a serious illness where my lower body could not move. I heard him say a moment ago that Ma Yu taught him the Quanzhen Sect nei gong then it would be convenient if I force him to tell me the nei gong secrets. How could I kill him to avenge Zei Hanzi and only pick his brain later? Fortunately, this boy has not died yet. At that moment, she returned her hand again to grasp Gou Jing's neck and said: "You killed my husband, how can you still expect to live? But if you listen to what I have to say, then I'll let you die quickly; If you're stubborn, I will let you experience suffering and misery. I'll start with your finger, biting and chewing it until everything is eaten."

    She had an accident, resulting in her lower body paralysis. Afterwards, she was starving for days so when she said that she wanted to eat Guo Jing's finger, it was not just idle talk to intimidate him.

    Guo Jing felt a shiver as he watched her open mouth, showing several white teeth. He did not dare say a word.

    Mei Chaofeng asked: "Ma Yu taught you how to sit while meditating, how is it done?"

    Guo Jing then understood, Originally, she thought I will teach her nei gong. Then later, she will go after my six shifu to harm them. Even if I die now, how can I let this jealous woman increase her skill and harm my six shifu? He shut his mouth and did not answer immediately.

    Mei Chaofeng's left hand tightened and Guo Jing felt the pain and the biting cold but he had made up his mind so that he said: "You want to obtain the orthodox nei gong. Give up the idea while it's still early."

    Mei Chaofeng saw that he was tough and unyielding so she loosened her hands to let him go as she said softly: "I promise you that I will take the medicine to Wang Chuyi and save his life."

    Guo Jing felt a shiver of cold, Ah, this is an important change. It's good that the lower part of her body cannot move. My six shifu have no need to fear her. Thereupon, he said: "Alright, you make an oath and I in return will pass on to you the training methods."

    Mei Chaofeng was extremely happy and said, "Surname of Guo... The stinky boy with the surname of Guo said that he will teach me the Quanzhen Sect nei gong methods. If I, Mei Chaofeng, do not deliver the medicine to Wang Chuyi, may my entire body lose its movement and forever endure misery."

    As soon as she said this, suddenly to their left some ten zhang in front of the palace, a person scolded: "Stinky boy, come out here and die!"

    When Guo Jing heard the voice, he recognized it as the Three-Headed Dragon Hou Tonghai. Another one said: "Surely, this small girl is nearby. I'm relieved. She can't run away." The same time that the two people were talking, they were also walking away.

    Gou Jing was startled, Rong Er has not yet left and allowed them to track her trail. Changing his intention, he turned to Mei Chaofeng and said: "You still need to do one more thing, otherwise no matter what you force me to endure, I won't tell you the secret."

    Mei Chaofeng got angry: "What is this other thing you have? I don't agree."

    Guo Jing said: "I have a good friend, a young girl. The group of experts from the palace are chasing her. You must rescue her and bring her out of danger."

    Mei Chaofeng grunted and said: "How should I know where she is? If you want me to do it then quickly, tell me the nei gong secret!" Her arm immediately tightened.

    Guo Jing felt his throat constrict, causing him great alarm. However, he was still unyielding and said: "Rescue... You said... Did not say..."

    Having no other alternative, Mei Chaofeng said: "Alright. Then I'm depending on you but don't think that Mei Chaofeng does things to please others. Today is the exception, you stinky boy. This young girl is your sweetheart? You're really full of affection but dumb. We made a deal. I'm only doing my part. I have agreed to rescue your sweetheart out of danger but I haven't consented to sparing your life."

    Guo Jing heard her agree and was glad. Then he raised his voice and called out: "Rong Er, come here! Rong Er..."

    Just after calling twice, suddenly Huang Rong's figure appeared from behind some rose shrubs nearby. She said: "I'm already here!"

    Guo Jing was delighted: "Rong Er, come quickly. She agreed to help you. The others can't harm you now."

    Huang Rong had been listening to Guo Jing and Mei Chaofeng for some time behind the rose shrubs. She heard how he never gave a thought to his own life and never forgot about her safety. In her gratitude, two drops of tears rolled down her cheeks as she shouted at Mei Chaofeng: "Mei Rehua, let him go!"

    "Mei Rehua" was Mei Chaofeng's name before her master changed it. No one in Jiang Hu knew and for dozens of years, she had not heard these three characters uttered by anyone. However, today it was being shouted by this person.

    Greatly startled, she asked: "Who are you?"

    Huang Rong said clearly: "Taohua ying3 la4 fei1 shen2 jian4, bi4 hai3 chao2 sheng1 an4 yu4 xiao1! (The peach blossom shade leaves behind the divine sword, the jade ocean current gives life to the jade flute!) I am surnamed Huang."

    Mei Chaofeng was even more startled and could only stammer: "You... You... You..."

    Huang Rong called out: "You what? The East China Sea Taohua Island snapping finger, the pure sound of the cave, the green bamboo forest, the trial sword pavilion, you also remember?"

    Mei Chaofeng knew these places during her discipleship and when she heard them mentioned now, suddenly a thought came to her and she asked: "Taohua Island Huang... Shifu Huang, is... Is...What is he to you?"

    Huang Rong said: "Right! Since you have not forgotten my father, he has not forgotten you, too. He is coming to look for you!"

    Mei Chaofeng only wanted to turn around and flee but how could she move her foot even one step? Frightened and shocked out of her wits, she could only clench her teeth, making a grating noise. She did not know what to do.

    Huang Rong called out: "Quickly release him."

    Mei Chaofeng suddenly remembered, Shifu swore that he would never leave Taohua Island, how could he be here? It was only because of this that I and Zei Hanzi stole the "Jiu Yin Zhen Jing" (Nine Yin Manual). He had taken an oath and could not leave the island to pursue. This person is trying to deceive me. I won't let myself get confused."

    When Huang Rong saw her hesitate, her left foot pointed downwards as she leapt up ten feet and successively executed two half-circles before soaring into the air and wielding a palm towards Mei Chaofeng's head, intending to hit her. It was precisely the "La4 Ying1 Shen2 Jian4 Zhang3" (Fallen Hero Divine Sword Palm), a center move of the "Jiang1 Cheng2 Fei1 Hua1" (River Town Flying Blossom).

    She called out: "My father taught you this move. Have you forgotten?"

    Mei Chaofeng heard the noise of the air rustling around her but she kept still, her suspicion still in place, though she raised her hand and softly called out: "Shi Mei (Apprentice Sister), you have spoken with shifu?"

    Huang Rong let her body drop, using one hand to pull and then drag Guo Jing to her side. Originally, Huang Rong was the Taohua Island (Peach Blossom Island) Master Huang Yaoshi's only daughter. Before giving birth to her, her mother had a turn for the worse, which caused her to be physically and mentally exhausted, leading to her death after a difficult labor. Huang Yaoshi had a fit afterwards, expelling all his disciples from the island, leaving only the father and the daughter alone there.

    Huang Yaoshi was called "Dong Xie" (Eastern Heretic) because of his peculiarity of conduct. He often said that the etiquette and customs of the world were all nonsense. His love for his daughter was excessive and he naturally did nothing to control her, thus allowing her to become arrogant and willful. Although she was intelligent, she was not willing to focus her mind on learning martial arts. Her father was actually very proficient in the ying yang five lines, learning these methods from several classics. She was able to learn when still very young but even though her father had already reached a divine level, she was nevertheless unable to go beyond the Taohua Island martial arts basics.

    One day, she was playing in the island when she came upon her father's enemy imprisoned in the cave. Feeling lonely, she conversed with that person, talking for almost half a day. The person's words were interesting to her so that she often returned, seeking him out only to speak with him, finding relief in that exercise. Afterwards, Master Huang Yaoshi found out and reproached her severely. Huang Rong had never been beaten or scolded by her father so she reacted with anger and self-pity. Her cunning and unreasonable temperament manifested itself suddenly and she took the boat to escape Taohua Island, thinking that no one cared for her there. Thus, she cut all wish for it and disguised herself as a poor, miserable youth, going in all directions, dissolute, though in her heart she was still with her father.

    She thought angrily, Since you don't love me, then I will make the world feel most pitiful for a young beggar!" (I'm not sure about this. This is the text: 你既不爱我,我便做个天下最可怜的小叫化罢&#20102

    However, she did not expect to meet Guo Jing in Zhangjiakou. At first, she went to the wine shop with him to spend his money and cause a disturbance, intending to lay on him her resentment towards her father. Who would have thought that he would be so dumb with no idea at all, talking with her as though they were old friends and even giving her his horse, showing his concern? She was bitter and lonely, thinking about how she deceived him but he continued to treat her honestly. She was touched. Since then, the two of them became good friends.

    Huang Rong once listened to her father speak about Chen Xuanfeng and Mei Chaofeng's affair in great detail and because of this, she learned about Mei Chaofeng's maiden name and the lines "Taohua Ying3 La4 Fei1 Shen2 Jian4, Bi4 Hai3 Chao2 Sheng1 An4 Yu4 Xiao1" (The peach blossom leaves behind the divine sword, the jade green sea gives life to the jade flute), which was the heretical couplet that hung inside the sword trial pavilion and which embodied the principles of Huang Yaoshi's wugong. Every Taohua Island disciple knew this. Since she knew that her wugong could not rival Mei Chaofeng's, she then lied and told her that her father was coming. As a result, Mei Chaofeng was frightened into releasing Guo Jing.

    She thought, If shifu is indeed coming, how will I know that he won't kill me? She remembered that Huang Yaoshi had a ruthless nature and his methods were mean. She could not stop her face from going ashen and her whole body from shaking as though Huang Yaoshi, his face grim, was already standing in front. Her whole body became limp. It was as though she had lost her kung fu skills as she bent on the ground and shakingly said: "Disciple's many sins make her deserving of death. But I beseech shifu to take pity because my two eyes are blind and my lower body is handicapped. Please grant disciple leniency even though disciple is no better than a swine or a dog." Then she remembered how Huang Yaoshi used to treat her with favor. Fearing that his heart had changed, her bosom was filled with shame as she said: "No, shifu does not need to be lenient. Punish me severely."

    The whole time Guo Jing was with her, she always appeared to be fierce, her manners evil. Even when faced with a great enemy or when climbing up that steep precipice, she remained unfazed as though nothing mattered. However, when Huang Rong mentioned her father, her whole person unexpectedly changed which he thought was very strange. Huang Rong was secretly laughing as she pulled Guo Jing by the hand and led him towards the wall outside. But before they could leap over the wall to escape, they were stopped by a clear voice. A person came, chuckling softly, his hand holding a folding fan. He laughed: "Daughter, I'm not certain you can manage to climb that."

    Huang Rong saw that it was Ouyang Ke. She knew his kung fu skills and knew that it would be difficult to get past him. So, she immediately turned to Mei Chaofeng and said: "Mei Shizi (Elder Martial Sister Mei), father is always willing to listen to me. I can ask favor for you. But first, you have to do something meritorious so father can forgive you."

    Mei Chaofeng asked: "What merit?"

    Huang Rong said: "There's a bad person who wants to bully me. I will pretend to go along but you won't allow the enemy to strike or beat me. Once father comes and see you helping me, he'll be pleased."

    Mei Chaofeng heard that her younger apprentice sister was willing to ask her father for a favor. Her spirit was revived. While they spoke, four of Ouyang Ke's concubines arrived. Huang Rong dragged Guo Jing behind Mei Chaofeng to avoid getting in the way, only waiting for Mei Chaofeng or Ouyang Ke to open moves and take the opportunity to sneak off. Ouyang Ke saw Mei Chaofeng sitting on the ground, her hair disheveled and her whole body covered with dark skin. She was clutching tightly the upper part of her bosom. Opening his folding fan lightly, he moved forward to catch Huang Rong when suddenly he felt a force heading towards his chest. He looked down to find the woman on the ground stretching out her hand to grab him. He had never encountered such level of strength in one stance before. Shocked, he hastily struck towards her wrist with his fan and at the same time, leapt away. He heard a scoff, "ka" "la", and loud successive cries. The front piece of Ouyang Ke's jacket was torn, his fan broken into two, and his four concubines collapsing to the ground. He took a quick look around and saw that all four women had been violently killed, their spirits left their bodies as soon as they were hit. The tops of their heads were covered in blood and brain matter gushed out of the five holes at the center. The swiftness and viciousness of the move was extremely rare. Ouyang Ke was surprised and angry at the same time when he saw the woman still sitting motionless as though paralyzed. His fear was lessened and he quickly launched into a stance passed on by his family, "Shen2 Tuo2 Xue3 SHan1 Zhang3" (Divine Camel Snowy Mountain Palm). His body floated as his palm prepared to attack. Mei Chaofeng's ten fingers were sharp, each one poised to grab him and squeeze the air out of him while she sneered. How could Ouyang Ke dare to get close?

    Huang Rong pulled Guo Jing so they could walk away when suddenly they heard a mad roar coming from behind. Hou Tonghai's two fists headed towards them. Huang Rong leaned slightly to one side. When Hou Tonghai saw this, he aimed for her shoulders, feeling pleased with himself. His blunt brain did not calculate fast enough and it was then that he abruptly remembered that she was wearing the prickly soft hedgehog armor. He gave out a loud cry, hastily withdrawing his two fists, clapping both before hitting his own forehead above the three bumps, only to yell out in pain. Where else could he grab her besides her hair?

    At that moment, Sha Tongtian, Liang Ziwong, and Peng Lianhu all rushed in. Liang Ziwong saw Ouyang Ke engaged in a dangerous fight, his long gown torn and ragged, and realized that this woman was the same one who pretended to be a ghost in the tunnel. Roaring angrily, he went forward to attack. Sha Tongtian and the others saw Mei Chaofeng's stances were fierce. They were all astonished and so decided to keep close guard, waiting for the first opportunity to attack. They thought, Where does this woman's high wugong come from?

    Peng Lianhu watched and after figuring it out, he shouted: "The Twin Corpses of the Dark Winds!"

    Huang Rong's body moved swiftly, first hiding to the east before flashing to the west. How could Hou Tonghai grab her hair? Huang Rong saw that his hands were always aiming for the top of her head and so was able to surmise his real intention. She darted towards the rose bushes and hid behind it. Then, she used a piece of metal and stuck some thorns around it before inserting it around her head. Afterwards, she poked her head out and called: "I'm over here!"

    Hou Tonghai was greatly pleased, sending out a hand to grab the top of her head as he said: "This time, you can't get away, smelly boy...Ayo, ayo! Shi Ge (Martial Brother), the smelly boy's head also has thorns...thorns!" His palm had been punctured by the metal tips, causing him to jump out in pain.

    Huang Rong laughingly said: "Your head has three horns. It's not fair. I only have one horn. Let's do this again!"

    Hou Tonghai called out: "If you don't come, then you can't come again!"

    Sha Tongtian scolded: "Do not shout!" Then he hurried over to his side to help.

    By that time, Mei Chaofeng was engaging two masters who were attacking together. Suddenly, she sent her arm back to grab Guo Jing's chest, calling out: "Hold my legs."

    Guo Jing did not understand what she meant but he wanted to help her fight the two powerful enemies. At her words, he immediately bent down and grabbed her legs.

    Mei Chaofeng used her left hand to resist Ouyang Ke's palm while her right hand thrust towards Liang Ziwong. She said to Guo Jing: "Carry me to chase after that old man Liang!"

    Guo Jing suddenly understood, Originally, her body cannot move. She wants me to help her. Thereupon, he placed Mei Chaofeng on his shoulders, according to her instructions, and hurried after the fleeing enemy. His body had a strong kung fu basis and Mei Chaofeng's body was not heavy so even though she was on his shoulders, it did nothing to diminish his speed. He quickly leapt and Mei Chaofeng soared along with him.

    (I'm not sure about the next ones. The translation for the nei gong secret sounds a bit off. So, please, anyone...if you can piece it together, please do.)

    Mei Chaofeng did not forget about the nei gong secret so even though she was facing the enemy, she also asked: "To practice nei gong, how is it done?"

    Guo Jing replied: "Sit cross-legged, five hearts facing the heaven. (盘膝而坐,五心向&#22825 "

    Mei Chaofeng asked: "What are the five hearts facing the heaven? (甚么是五心向&#22825 "

    Guo Jing said: "Two hands, two feet, and the head all become five hearts. (双手掌心、双足掌心、头顶心,是为五&#24515 "

    Mei Chaofeng was delighted and her spirits rose. She reached out to brush the shoulders of Liang Ziwong, whose blood jumped as he started and ran away.

    Guo Jing was about to chase after him when suddenly the Dragon King Sha Tongtian ran in front of him to help his apprentice brother capture Huang Rong. Startled, he hastily carried Mei Chaofeng towards them, shouting: "First, let's take care of these two!"

    Mei Chaofeng stretched out her left arm, heading towards Hou Tonghai. Hou Tonghai anxiously withdrew, trying to dodge. Who would have thought Mei Chaofeng's arm would be so violent as though it had the strength of an ape? Although Hou Tonghai's dodging was quick, her arm was still able to follow his body, grabbing him, the fingers of her right hand already digging into him. Hou Tonghai's entire body went numb. He could no longer move.

    He shouted: "Spare my life, spare my life, I have surrendered!"

    End Chapter 10
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 07-20-05 at 08:45 PM.

  9. #29
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    (traveller)

    Chapter 11-1, 11-2
    -------------------

    Seeing his Disciple Brother in critical danger, Sha Tongtian leapt over to quickly try and break Mei Chaofeng's grip. As soon as their hands met they were both felt their arms struck by a sudden ache. Meanwhile over to their left came the sound of darts whizzing through the air. Peng Lianhu was throwing his darts directly at Mei Chaofeng. She deftly shifted her arm and threw Hou Tonghai straight towards the stream of darts.

    "Ai Yo!" yelled Hou Tonghai as the darts smacked into his body.

    Huang Rong called out "Congratulations Three Horned Dragon! You have managed to catch so many darts!"

    Sha Tongtian, seeing the amazing power of Mei Chaofeng's throw and his disciple brother down on the ground seriously injured, leaped over towards Hou Tonghai and with a stretch of his hand pulled him upright. Hou Tonghai flew up like a paper sparrow but almost immediately looked as if he would collapse again. There was no strength left in his body.

    (Not sure of the next line: I think some how Sha Tongtien managed to accidently hit Hou Tonghai when he reached out to grab him and ended up hitting on his three carbuncles???)

    All these events happened within a blink of an eye. Whilst this was going on Ouyang Ke and Liang Ziwong were attacking Mei Chaofeng from the front and rear in concert with Sha Tongtian who was attacking from the right.

    Mei Chaofeng was able to judge by the sound of the darts in the air where they were and sent them flying back in four directions towards Ouyang, Liang, Sha and Peng. She asked "What does (Gather the five bunches???)' mean?"

    Guo Jing replied "The eastern ghost's wood, western soul's metal, southern spirit's fire, northern essences water, central will's earth."

    Mei Chaofeng called out "Ai Yo! I might have guessed earlier! What does the 'Perform the four harmonious signs' mean?"

    Guo Jing replied "Hide the eyes, Concentrate the hearing, Regulate the breath, Seal the tongue Qi."

    Mei Chaofeng sighed "Ah, so this is the original meaning. What about the 'Five primary chambers' (or courts of the palace???)?"

    Again Guo Jing replied "Don't use your eyes to see, rather locate your soul in the liver; Don't use your ears to listen, rather locate your essence in the kidneys; Don't use your mouth to chant, rather locate your spirit in the heart; Don't use your nose to smell, rather locate your soul in your lungs; Don't move with your four limbs, rather locate your mind/concentration in your spleen. These are 'Five primary chambers'."

    The 'four harmonious signs' and 'Five primary chambers' were key techniques contained in the 'Nine Yin Scripture' practiced by monks. Not having anyone to explain the meanings of these key phrases to her, Mei Chaofeng had struggled without success for over ten years to understand them. Now with Guo Jing's explainations she suddenly understood everything and was extreamly pleased.

    Again she pressed for more information "Now, how do I perform the 'Gathering Three Flower Top's'. This technique was the crucial key to putting everything together. She had strived all those years for just this key point so she listened intently for Guo Jing's answer.

    Guo Jing replied "Essence is transformed into Qi, Qi is transformed into Spirit....."

    Mei Chaofeng, by concentrating on Guo Jing's words, became less attentive to the fight and her four opponents. Just as Guo Jing was saying the two sentences she was struck on her left shoulder and right side by Ouyang Ke and Sha Tongtian's fists. She felt a severe pain that was hard to bear.

    Originally Huang Rong had planned to have Mei Chaofeng detain their enemies in a fight whilst she and Guo Jing took the opportunity to slip away. She never expected that Guo Jing would be dragged into the fighting as well becoming a steed carrying a mount into the battle, making it impossible for them to get away. Now she became both worried and angry.

    Meanwhile Mei Chaofeng was becoming alarmed at suddenly being thrown on the defensive and called out "Hey! What did you do to annoy so many fierce opponents? ShiFu! Where are you?"

    At this time Mei Chaofeng’s thoughts were in deep conflict. On the one hand she was hoping her old ShiFu would appear and see with his own eyes how she was helping to save his daughter from the savage onslaught of these four highly skilled martial artists and would leap in to help her dispatch them. On the other hand when she thought about how wild and strange his nature was she was struck with a terror of meeting him again.

    Huang Rong called out "He's coming soon, but why worry - these couple of guys are no match for you. Even if you just sit on the ground none of them would be able to harm a hair on your head." She was hoping that with a bit of flattery Mei Chaofeng would feel emboldened enough to let Guo Jing go and fight it out alone. However Mei Chaofeng had already begun to feel that she was not able to manage the four opponents by herself. She was already showing signs of despondency and no amount of flattery was going to make her change her mind. Further more, she still had a few more questions to ask Guo Jing about the secrets of the sutra and was not about to let him go even if she could win the fight sitting alone on the ground.

    After a few more strikes were exchanged Liang Ziwong suddenly leaped with a cry into the air. Mei Chaofeng felt someone executing a sneak attack and extended both arms to block and sweep in defense. She felt her hair being pulled upwards by Liang Ziwong. Huang Rong saw the situation was critical and struck outwards with her fist towards Liang Ziwong's back. Liang Ziwong hooked his right hand backwards and grabbed Huang Rong's wrist whilst maintaining his grip on Mei Chaofeng's hair with his left hand. Mei Chaofeng however struck upwards and forced Liang Ziwong to release his grip in order to avoid being hit by her powerful attack.

    Peng Lianhu had been fighting with Mei Chaofeng for a while before he became aware that she was actually one of the "Evil Pair of the Dark Winds" pair. Seeing Huang Rong aiding her he called out "You lying brat! You denied that you are a disciple of the Evil "Dark Winds" sect but it's obvious that you are!"

    Huang Rong laughed "She? My ShiFu? Even if she trained for another hundred years she still wouldn't be good enough to become my ShiFu!"

    Peng Lianhu clearly saw that Huang Rong's Gongfu attacks were very similar to those of the Dark Wind's school yet she not only continued to deny she was a disciple, but actually went so far as to insult Mei Chaofeng. He couldn't think of why she would be doing this leaving him astonished.

    Sha Tongtian yelled "To kill the man, first shoot his horse!" and shot out a kick towards Guo Jing with his right foot. This change of tactic took Mei Chaofeng off guard. She thought "This kid's martial arts skills are very low. He can't possibly defend himself against their attacks. If I don't act fast I'll be dispatched by them." There was the sound of a low whistle as she bent low and shot out her hand as if to grab Sha Tongtian's foot. Ou Yangke took advantage of this moment to launch an attack against her back. However Mei Chaofeng just gave a humph and shook her right hand causing something to flash in the moonlight. All of a sudden a silver whip appeared dancing and weaving all around her and Guo Jing forming an impenetrable barrier.

    Lian Penghu thought to himself "If we don't kill her now then when her husband the "Copper Corpse" arrives we will all be in deep trouble!" The events of that night when Chen Xuanfeng had died had not become known about in the Martial World. However the infamy of the two "Dark Winds" was widely known and their reputation was such that even a highly feared martial artists such as himeself was struck with dread at the thought of facing both of them together.

    Mei Chaofeng's "Poison Dragon Silver Whip" was powerful in the extreme. If anyone approached from any direction they would die instantly. But Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, Liang Ziwong and Ou Yangke were not about to give up so easily. Suddenly there was the sound of a whistle and Peng Lianhu began tunneling under the ground! Mei Chaofeng was prepared to defend against the sky and all four directions but not from below! At the sound of digging she became greatly alarmed and struck a slap down on the ground.
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 08-15-05 at 10:09 AM.

  10. #30
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    (Xuelian)

    Chapter 11-3 - 11-6

    Seeing Guo Jing in danger, Huang Rong was about to rush to his aid but Mei Chaofeng was one step quicker. Using her long Silver Whip, she had already weaved a defensive barrier around herself and Guo Jing, making it impossible for Huang Rong or anyone to penetrate. However, Huang Rong knew that with just Mei Chaofeng’s individual might, she would not be able to successfully defend against Peng Lian Hu’s attack for much longer. Sensing that the situation was dire, Huang Rong yelled, “Everyone hold it, I have something to say.” But Peng Lian Hu of course paid no heed to her. Why should he?

    Huang Rong was preparing to raise her voice again when a voice from atop the wall said, “Everyone hold it, I have something to say.”

    Huang Rong turned her head and saw six figures on top of the wall, some taller, some shorter. In the darkness of night, she could not make out their faces clearly. Peng Lian Hu and the others knew that some people had arrived, but did not know if they were friend or foe. At present, the battles were growing ever more intense and nobody could bring themselves to stop. Two people leapt down from the wall and headed straight for Ouyang Ke; one waving a whip and the other raising a pole.

    The short plump man that held the whip exclaimed, “You lecher, let’s see you escape this time!” Upon hearing this voice,

    Guo Jing yelled gladly, “Shifu! Save me!” The six people that just arrived were the Six Freaks of Jiang Nan.

    After parting with Guo Jing at the inn, the Freaks had tailed the eight girls from White Camel Mountain. When they discovered that Ouyang Ke was leading his concubines to abduct innocent girls at night, they fought him there and then. After all, how could the Six Freaks of Jiang Nan sit by and do nothing while such atrocities were being committed? Although Ouyang Ke was highly-skilled, the Six Freaks had spent more than a decade in the desert working hard and had improved significantly since they left the Central Plains. Surrounded by six fighters, Ouyang Ke was hit by Ke Zheng’E’s mace and subsequently had his left little finger dislocated, courtesy of Zhu Cong’s Bone Dislocation technique. Left with no choice, Ouyang Ke was forced to leave the abducted girls behind and flee. The two concubines that had accompanied Ouyang Ke for the mission, however, were killed by Nan Xi Ren and Quan Jin Fa.

    After escorting the teenage girls back to their homes, the Six Freaks went in pursuit of Ouyang Ke. But Ouyang Ke was extremely sly; he must have taken another route and thus, the Six Freaks were unable to locate him. They knew that, individually, none of them were his match, and so they did not dare to split up and search. Fortunately, the girls who rode on white camels had a strange and distinct way of dressing, and it was not difficult to ask around for their whereabouts. Thus, the Six Freaks pursued them all the way to Zhao Palace.

    Ouyang Ke’s white robes stood out in the darkness, and Han Bao Ju together with Nan Xi Ren attacked immediately. Upon hearing Guo Jing’s cry, the Six Freaks were both surprised and glad. Zhu Cong and the rest then looked more closely and saw that the person weaving the barrier with a long, silver whip was none other than Iron Corpse, Mei Chao Feng! Mei was sitting on Guo Jing’s shoulder and it certainly looked like Guo Jing had fallen into her clutches. Their faces paling in shock, Han Xiao Ying immediately brandished her sword and rushed forward, Quan Jin Fa tumbled into the silver whip’s defensive radius; both hoping to rescue Guo Jing. Peng Lian Hu and the others already thought it strange that six people should suddenly arrive. Now these six people were attacking both Ouyang Ke and Iron Corpse, making it even more impossible to tell whose side they were on.

    Peng Lian Hu halted his attack and, still using his Earthen Palm, got out of the whip’s radius. “Everyone stop fighting, I have something to say,” he shouted.

    Like a large booming bell, his shout rang aloud in everyone’s ears. Liang Zi Weng and Sha Tong Tian were the first to stop fighting.

    Ke Zheng’E could tell from his shout that this person was a force to be reckoned with and called out: “Third brother, Seventh sister, don’t be rash!”

    Upon hearing their Eldest brother’s orders, Han Bao Ju and the rest backed off. Mei Chao Feng had also withdrawn her silver whip and was panting. Huang Rong stepped forward and told her, “You have reaped much credit for yourself this time. My father will be pleased.” Using both arms, she motioned to Guo Jing, telling him to toss Mei Chao Feng away.

    Guo Jing understood Huang Rong, and knew that she had spoken to Mei Chao Feng to distract her. He said: “The ‘Three Flowers Gathered Atop’ is Essence transformed into Qi, Qi transformed into Spirit, Spirit transformed into Nothingness. Remember that!”

    Mei Chao Feng pondered, then asked: “How does one transform?”

    Suddenly, she felt her body soar through the air. While she had been dwelling on the deeper meanings of this nei gong (internal energy) mantra, Guo Jing had seized the opportunity and tossed her more than ten feet away. At the same time, he had summoned his energy and leapt backward, but even before he could land, Mei’s “Poison Dragon Silver Whip” was already flying towards him, its hooks sparkling brightly.

    Han Bao Ju exclaimed: “Not good!”

    He unleashed his own whip and the two whips met. Suffering waves of shock from the extremely close shave, Han Bao Ju’s whip was snatched by her Poison Dragon Silver Whip. Mei Chao Feng was just about to land hard on the ground but her outstretched palm met the ground first, and she lightly seated herself. Having heard Ke Zheng’E’s voice and fought briefly with Han Xiao Ying, she knew the Seven Freaks of Jiang Nan must have arrived. Her heart filled with loathing and at the same time a little fear, she thought to herself: “I have searched everywhere for them in vain, and now they have delivered themselves to me. If it were any other day, I would’ve thanked the heavens, but this night I was surrounded by other strong enemies and already found them hard to handle. Now, with the addition of these seven scoundrels, I cannot possibly hope to live past tonight.” She gritted her teeth and decided: “I have no grudge with Liang Zi Weng and the others. As for the Seven Freaks, I will fight them to the death and make sure that if I perish, they perish with me. One dead Freak is one less – I’ll take as many as I can with me.” Gripping her Poison Dragon Silver Whip, she listened carefully to the Seven Freaks’ movements and wondered: “Out of seven only six came, I wonder where the other is ambushed?” She did not know that the Laughing Buddha Zhang Ah Sheng had already been killed by her husband on that fateful night in the Steppes.

    The Six Freaks, Sha Tong Tian and the others all knew the power of her Silver Whip and stood far away from her, careful not to stray within forty to fifty feet of her. For a moment, all was silent.

    Zhu Cong whispered to Guo Jing: “Why are they fighting? Why are you helping that wretch?”

    Guo Jing replied: “They wanted to kill me, but she saved me.” But Zhu Cong and the other Freaks remained puzzled.

    Peng Lian Hu called out: “What business do you have, sneaking into the Palace in the middle of the night? Leave your names.”

    Ke Zheng’E replied coldly: “My surname is Ke. We are seven brothers, and people call us the Seven Freaks of Jiang Nan.”

    Peng Lian Hu said: “Ah, so it is the Seven Heroes from Jiang Nan. I have long admired.”

    Sha Tong Tian said in a strange voice: “Great, the Seven Freaks have come knocking on my door. I have long wanted to spar with you and see just how good you are.”

    Upon hearing it was the Seven Freaks of Jiang Nan, he immediately remembered the shame his four disciples had suffered. In one swift movement, he stole forward. Appraising the Seven Freaks, he saw that Ke Zheng’E was blind, Han Xiao Ying was a woman, Quan Jin Fa was skin and bones, Han Bao Ju was short and fat, Zhu Cong had the air of someone cultured but not the air of a pugilist – of them, only Nan Xi Ren had the bold, proud quality of a fighter. Not wanting to waste his time on the rest, he struck straight towards Nan Xi Ren’s head. Nan Xi Ren stuck his pole in the ground and met Sha Tong Tian’s palm with his own. After a few moves, it was clear that Nan Xi Ren was not his match. Han Xiao Ying and Quan Jin Fa readied their weapons, sword and scale respectively, and rushed forward to help.

    With a roar, Peng Lian Hu leapt towards Quan Jin Fa and attempted to grab his weapon. Upon sensing Peng Lian Hu’s intentions, Quan Jin Fa quickly drew back his weapon and sent both ends of it – a scale mace and scale hook, flying towards Peng. For all of Peng Lian Hu’s experience in the martial world, he had never seen anything like Quan Jin Fa’s weapon before. With a “Weird Python Flip”, he dodged Quan’s attack and exclaimed: “What is this? You’re using a scale from the market as a weapon!”

    Quan Jin Fa retorted: “This hand scale of mine is precisely for weighing you lot of skinny pigs!”

    In a fit of anger, Peng Lian Hu rushed forward with both palms striking furiously – Quan Jin Fa was, of course, unable to break his attack. Seeing his Sixth brother in danger, Han Bao Ju quickly went to his aid. Though he no longer had his whip, his basic melee was still quite powerful. But even with two versus one, Peng Lian Hu still seemed almost impossible to handle. Ke Zheng’E flourished his staff, Zhu Cong brandished his fan, and both joined in the battle. Ke Zheng’E and Zhu Cong were much more powerful than the rest of their brothers, so naturally with their addition, the battle tipped in the Freaks’ favor. Over at the other side, the battle between Hou Tong Hai and Huang Rong had grown extremely intense. Hou Tong Hai’s wu gong was by right better than hers, but when he thought of “this rascal’s” Soft Hedgehog Armor and the thorns that resided even in her hair, his fist and palm strikes did not even dare come into contact with her body, much less grab her by her hair.

    Sensing his fear and hesitation, Huang Rong took full advantage and charged about brashly, forcing him to back away repeatedly.

    Hou Tong Hai shouted: “This is unfair. Take off your Soft Hedgehog Armor before we continue fighting.”

    Huang Rong replied: “Sure, but you must first slice off those three lumps on your forehead, if not then it’s also unfair.”

    Hou Tong Hai retorted: “My three lumps do not hurt anyone!”

    Huang Rong replied: “I feel disgusted when I see them, isn’t that letting you have a huge advantage? On the count of three, you slice off your lumps and I’ll take off my armor.”

    Hou Tong Hai replied angrily: “I will not!”

    Huang Rong said: “It’s a very good trade-off, I think you should.”

    Hou Tong Hai exclaimed: “I will not fall for your tricks. I won’t slice them off no matter what you say!”

    Ouyang Ke saw that the battle was not going well and thought: “I’ll kill these six scoundrels first. That wretch is unable to escape anyway, we can finish her off later.” Wanting to show off his skills, he pointed both feet and displayed his family’s “Thousand Miles in a Flash”, a superior qing gong technique, and promptly appeared beside Ke Zheng’E.

    He shouted: “Blind scoundrel, I’ll let you have a taste of your master’s prowess for being such a busybody.”

    Moving forward, Ouyang Ke struck out his right palm. Ke Zheng’E roused the end of his staff to meet the strike but caught nothing, only the sound of wind brushing past his right ear. Instead, the real attack came from the left with Ouyang Ke’s reverse left palm flying towards him. Ke Zheng’E dipped his head to avoid being struck, then used the “Diamond Guard” staff technique and fiercely attacked forward, but by this time, Ouyang Ke was already embroiled with Nan Xi Ren. Skillfully weaving his way through, Ouyang Ke had already attempted fatal blows on all 6 Freaks within a short period of time.

    From the beginning, Liang Zi Weng’s vision never shifted from Guo Jing. Upon seeing that the 6 Freaks’ defeat was imminent, he immediately tried to grab Guo Jing with both outstretched arms. Guo Jing hurriedly resisted, but of course he was not Liang Zi Weng’s match. After exchanging a few moves, Liang Zi Weng had successfully grabbed him by the chest and with his right hand, gripped Guo Jing’s stomach. Guo Jing shrunk his stomach in anxiety and his clothes tore with a ripping sound; the bags of medicine had been snatched away. Liang Zi Weng knew the bags contained medicine – he had sniffed it out long ago and now conveniently pocketed them, followed by a second strike on Guo Jing. Guo Jing successfully struggled out of the grip on his chest and sprinted towards Mei Chao Feng, yelling: “Hey! Save me, quick!”

    Mei Chao Feng thought to herself: “There are still many things I don’t understand about that mysterious school of nei gong.” Panting, she said aloud: “Come hold my legs, don’t be afraid of that old bat.”

    Guo Jing knew to hold her legs was easy, but to escape after that would be hard. Thus, he did not dare to go close to her, instead sprinting wildly around her in circles. Though Guo Jing had already entered the perimeter of her Silver Whip, Liang Zi Weng still followed him relentlessly, nonetheless still wary of a sneak attack. Mei Chao Feng pinpointed Guo Jing’s position with her hearing and unleashed her Silver Whip across the floor and towards his legs.

    Although Huang Rong was engaged in a duel with Hou Tong Hai, she already had the upper hand with her Soft Hedgehog Armor and had always been looking out for Guo Jing. First he was captured by Liang Zi Weng but she was too far away to help and was anxious to the extreme. Then Guo Jing sprinted into Mei Chao Feng’s perimeter; her whip was flying towards him and he was unable to dodge. Out of anxiety, Huang Rong flew in their direction and threw herself in front of the whip. Mei Chao Feng’s Silver Whip withdrew itself upon hitting a target and circled back, wrapping itself around Huang Rong’s waist. Huang Rong was thrown up into the air and shouted: “You dare hurt me, Mei Ruo Hua?”

    Mei Chao Feng heard that it was Huang Rong’s voice and this gave her a huge shock. She thought: “My whip is littered with reversed hooks. Now that I’ve injured her, Shifu has more reason not to spare me. But I have already gone this far, and either way I have already betrayed my school. I’ll kill her first.” Rousing her Silver Whip, she pulled Huang Rong closer towards her and rested her on the ground, thinking that all the hooks must have tore deep into her flesh by now. She never expected the hooks to tear only Huang Rong’s clothes, leaving her body completely unharmed.

    Huang Rong said laughingly: “You tore my clothes, I want compensation!”

    Mei Chao Feng was surprised to hear no hint of pain in her voice, then thought: “Ah, Shifu has naturally given his Soft Hedgehog Armor to her.” Feeling lenient, she said aloud: “That was my fault. I will return you a nice new set of clothing.”

    Huang Rong signaled for Guo Jing to come over, and he did so. The two of them now stood 10 feet or so within Mei Chao Feng, somewhere Liang Zi Weng did not dare to venture.

    Over at the other end, the 6 Freaks of Jiang Nan had formed a tight circle with their backs towards each other’s and were trying their best to resist Sha Tong Tian, Peng Lian Hu, Ouyang Ke and Hou Tong Hai. This was a formation they had mastered in the deserts of Mongolia. When faced with tough opponents, this formation made it unnecessary for them to defend their backs and instantly increased their power by half. But Sha, Peng and Ouyang were simply too strong and the dangers came in all directions; the 6 Freaks were far from their match. Not long after, Han Bao Ju’s arm was injured. Han Bao Ju knew that if he left the formation there would be a loophole for their opponents to exploit, their lives and Guo Jing’s would be in grave danger. Thus, he could only grit his teeth and hold on with great effort.

    Among their opponents, Peng Lian Hu was the most vicious in his attacks and repeatedly targeted Han Bao Ju. Guo Jing saw that the situation was urgent and rushed towards them with flying feet. With the double palm technique “Separating Cloud and Moon”, he aimed for Peng Lian Hu’s back. Peng Lian Hu let out a chilling laugh and with a wave of his hand, dismissed Guo jing’s attack. In just three moves, Guo Jing found himself in a state of emergency.

    Huang Rong saw that he was unable to escape and in her anxiety, suddenly remembered the saying: “A simple man is sinless, but a man wearing a piece of jade will be sinned against.” Thus, she yelled: “Mei Chao Feng, you stole my father’s Jiu Yin Sutra, hand it to me now so I can return it to father!”

    At this, Mei Chao Feng went cold and did not respond. Sha Tong Tian, Peng Lian Hu, Ouyang Ke and Liang Zi Weng immediately shifted their attention to Mei Chao Feng and attacked. All four harbored the same thought: “The Jiu Yin Sutra is the world’s top martial arts manual. So it really has been with the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds all along...” At present, all four couldn’t care less about anything else. Their only focus was to kill Mei Chao Feng and obtain the Jiu Yin Sutra.

    Mei Chao Feng began brandishing her Silver Whip and for the moment, none of them dared to venture within its perimeter. Seeing them being lured away by the Jiu Yin Sutra, Huang Rong whispered to Guo Jing urgently: “Let’s go!”

    At this moment, a figure emerged from the thicket and was hurrying towards them. It shouted: “Gentlemen! Father requires your help with something urgent." The person wore a gold cap crookedly on his head and his voice was filled with worry. He was none other than the little prince, Wan Yan Kang.

    Peng Lian Hu and the others all thought: “Prince Zhao has been generous in exchange for our services. Now that there is something urgent, how can we not go to his aid?” At this thought they backed off reluctantly, not bearing to give up the Jiu Yin Sutra. Their gaze still lingered on Mei Chao Feng.

    Wan Yan Kang said softly: “My mother… my mother has been abducted by villains. Father has requested that you help to rescue her, please set off at once.”

    Wan Yan Hong Lie had originally led his troops out of the Palace to chase Bao Xi Ruo, but they lost sight of her after a while. Remembering the resourceful pugilists in his residence, he hurriedly sent his son to summon them. Wang Yan Kang was caught up in anxiety and the night was dark, so he did not notice Mei Chao Feng seated on the ground.

    Peng Lian Hu and the others thought: “Oh my, the Consort has been abducted? If we don’t go to her rescue, what are we here for?” They further thought: “It must be the 7 Freaks. 6 of them have led us here to distract us, allowing the other to go abduct the Consort. This Jiu Yin Sutra or whatever will have to wait. Anyway, with so many accomplished fighters around, I can’t hope to claim the Sutra for myself. I’ll need to come up with a plan some other time.” With that, they hurriedly followed Wang Yan Kang. Liang Zi Weng trailed behind, still longing for the blood in Guo Jing’s body. He actually didn’t care about rescuing the Consort but was alone in wanting to stay behind, and so had no choice but to follow miserably.

    Guo Jing called: “Hey, return me my medicine!” Fuming, Liang Zi Weng turned and fired a bone-penetrating projectile straight at his head. The projectile cut through the night wind with incredible strength.

    Zhu Cong dashed forward and deflected the projectile with the handle of his fan. As the projectile fell, he caught it with his left hand and held it to his nose to have a sniff. “Ah,” he said, “seals throats when it sees blood, this Bone-Penetrating Meridian Nail.

    Hearing the name of his secret weapon startled Liang Zi Weng; he spun around and yelled: “What?”

    Zhu Cong went up to him and stretched out his palm, the Meridian Nail resting on it. He said lightly: “I’ll give it back to you, old mister!”

    Liang Zi Weng retrieved it calmly. He knew that with Zhu Cong’s low level of wu gong, he could not harm him. Zhu Cong saw that Liang Zi Weng’s left sleeve was dirtied with mud and grass, and used his own sleeve to swipe the dirt away.

    Liang Zi Weng said angrily: “I don’t need your bootlicking!” With that, he turned around and left.

    Guo Jing was in a miserable position. If he went back just like that without the medicine, all the night’s misadventures would have been for naught; but if he tried to snatch it forcefully, he would undoubtedly be defeated by Liang Zi Weng. He was just hesitating when Ke Zheng’E said: “Let’s go back.” Ke Zheng’E leapt to the top of the Palace walls, and the other 5 Freaks followed suit.

    Pointing at Mei Chao Feng, Han Xiao Ying said: “Elder brother, what about her?”

    Ke Zheng’E replied: “We promised Priest Ma to spare her life.”

    Huang Rong did not acknowledge the 6 Freaks and leapt on to the other end of the wall, grinning.

    Mei Chao Feng hollered: “Little martial sister, where is Shifu?”

    Huang Rong giggled and said: “Of course my father is in Peach Blossom Isle, why do you ask? Are you going to pay him a visit?”

    Mei Chao Feng seethed, her breath growing heavier and quicker. After a moment, she said: “Didn’t you just say that Shifu was on his way here?”

    Still laughing, Huang Rong replied: “He doesn’t know you’re here, but rest assured I’ll tell him for you. I’m sure he’ll come straight away. Don’t worry, I’m not bluffing.”

    Enraged, Mei Chao Feng propped herself up with both hands and sprung up suddenly. With staggering steps, she charged towards Huang Rong.

    Originally, Mei Chao Feng had lost the use of her legs as a result of forcefully practicing the nei gong she didn’t understand. A stream of Qi had flowed down to her lower dan tian (energy field) and was unable to work its way back up, paralyzing her lower body with numbness. She had stubbornly continued attempting to work the Qi back upwards but the harder she tried, the stronger the resistance met.

    Presently her senses were consumed with fury, so much so that she forgot about her paralysis. She was in a state where she had disengaged from herself, her body; she was only aware of a violent surge of anger rushing up to her heart, suddenly her legs had become part of her body again and she charged towards Huang Rong.

    Shocked that Mei Chao Feng had regained the use of her legs, Huang Rong leapt down to the other side and took flight into the night.

    Suddenly regaining her senses, Mei Chao Feng thought: “Eh, how come I can walk now?” With this thought, a sudden wave of numbness washed over her legs and she fell, losing consciousness.

    For the 6 Freaks to kill her now was a piece of cake, but they had a prior agreement with Ma Yu to spare her life. Thus, they leapt over the wall and left the palace together with Guo Jing.

    Han Xiao Ying was the most anxious and hurriedly asked: “Jing’er, how did you end up here?”

    And so, Guo Jing roughly narrated the events leading up to here – Wang Chu Yi coming to his rescue, getting poisoned at Wang Yan Kang’s banquet, stealing the medicine, bumping into Mei Chao Feng in the tunnel, et cetera. For the moment, however, he did not mention the Yang family saga.

    Zhu Cong said: “Let’s hurry and see how Priest Wang is coping.”

    Having just been reunited with his wife, Yang Tie Xin felt an inexpressible mixture of joy and sadness. Carrying her in his arms, he leapt out of the palace. His foster daughter Mu Nian Ci was anxiously waiting outside the palace walls when she saw him carrying a woman in his arms.

    Surprised and curious, she asked: “Father, who is she?”

    Yang Tie Xin replied: “She’s your mother. Let’s go.”

    Mu Nian Ci said, bewildered, “My mother?”

    Yang Tie Xin said, “Hush, we’ll talk afterwards,” and sprinted off urgently.

    After a distance, Bao Xi Ruo slowly regained consciousness. It was near daybreak and in the dim light, she saw that the person bearing her was the husband she had been thinking of day and night for 18 years. She didn’t know if it was real or just an illusion, but she felt like she was in a dream and reached out to caress his face. Her voice quivered as she spoke: “Tie-ge, am I dead too?”

    Tearing joyfully, he replied in a gentle voice: “Both of us are alive and well…”

    His sentence was interrupted by shouts from behind. Light from torches lit the area as soldiers streamed quickly forward. Raising their swords and spears together, they yelled: “Don’t let the Consort’s kidnapper escape!”

    Yang Tie Xin quickly surveyed their surroundings but there was no place they could hide. He thought: “The heavens have pitied us husband and wife and allowed us to reunite against the odds. Even if I were to die now, I have nothing left to wish for.” He called to Mu Nian Ci: “Here, hold your mother.”

    The scene at Lin’An, Ox Village 18 years ago suddenly sprung to Bao Xi Ruo’s mind: her husband fleeing with her in his arms, the cries of soldiers in the night and the 18 years of separation and grief that followed after. Sensing that the tragedy was to repeat itself, she held on stubbornly to her husband, refusing to let go. The soldiers were nearing and Yang Tie Xin thought it was better to die fighting than be captured and humiliated. With that, he pried his wife’s fingers away and entrusted her in Mu Nian Ci’s arms. Turning around, he charged towards the soldiers and with a fist, knocked out a foot soldier and seized his spear. With a spear in hand, Yang Tie Xin was even more lethal. The troop’s commander, Tang Zu De, was speared in the leg and fell promptly off his horse. With their leader down, the rest of the soldiers scampered away in all directions. On seeing that there were no skilled pugilists amongst them, Yang Tie Xin felt slightly more settled, only that it was a pity not to have been able to grab a horse. The three of them continued their escape.

    By this time it was already morning. Bao Xi Ruo noticed the bloodstains on her husband’s clothes and said, frightened: “Are you hurt?”

    Hearing this, Yang Tie Xin was suddenly aware of a sharp pain in his arm. Because he had exerted too much strength during the fight, the wound from Wang Yan Kang’s claws had burst and was now bleeding profusely again. Earlier on he had been fixated with escaping and was not aware of the pain, but now both arms felt stiff and weak and he was unable to lift them. Bao Xi Ruo was about to bandage his wounds when loud cries came from behind, and in the dust countless of soldiers were yet emerging in pursuit.

    With a bitter smile, Yang Tie Xin said: “No need to bandage.” He turned and said to Mu Nian Ci: “Child, run for your life! Your mother and I will just stay here…”

    Mu Nian Ci successfully fought back tears and raised her head proudly, saying: “Three of us will die together.”

    Confused, Bao Xi Ruo asked: “How… how is she our daughter?”

    Yang Tie Xin was just about to answer when he heard the soldiers nearing. Looking up, he saw two Taoist priests coming towards them – one had a white beard and brows and looked kindly; the other had a long black beard and slung a long sword over his back, and he looked grand and dignified. Great delight replaced his initial astonishment and Yang Tie Xin called out: “Priest Qiu, we meet again!”

    Of the two priests, one was the Scarlet Sun Ma Yu and the other was the Eternal Spring Qiu Chu Ji. The two of them, together with the Jade Sun Wang Chu Yi, had arranged to meet in Zhong Du to discuss the upcoming duel with the 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan. Both had hurried here and chanced upon the Yangs. Qiu Chu Ji had an accomplished level of nei gong and thus his appearance did not age much over 18 years, only the hair on his temples were speckled with white.

    Upon hearing this greeting, he looked more closely but it was someone he did not recognize.

    Yang Tie Xin said: “18 years ago at Ox Village in Lin'An, we once drank and killed enemies together, do you still remember?”

    Qiu Chu Ji said: “You are…”

    Yang Tie Xin declared: “I’m Yang Tie Xin, have you been well?” Yang Tie Xin approached him and bowed.

    Qiu Chu Ji hurriedly returned the formality but still harbored doubts. 18 years of hardship and grief had eroded his youthful appearance and Yang Tie Xin looked vastly different from before. Yang Tie Xin sensed his doubts but the soldiers were nearing, and it was not a good time to clarify in detail. Raising his spear, he displayed “Phoenix Striking Head”. The red tassel trembled as the spear headed for Qiu Chu Ji’s chest and he said: “Priest Qiu, you may have forgotten me, but you can’t have forgotten the Yang Family Spear!”

    The spear froze inches away from Qiu Chu Ji. Qiu Chu Ji saw that this was indeed the authentic Yang Family Spear and immediately recalled that night’s fight in the snow; it was indeed Yang Tie Xin from 18 years ago and a bittersweet feeling washed over him. He said loudly: “Aha, brother Yang, you’re still alive? Thank Heaven!”

    Yang Tie Xin withdrew his spear and said: “Priest Qiu, save me!” Qiu Chu Ji glanced at the approaching soldiers and said jovially: “Elder martial brother, I’m going to start killing again today, don’t get angry!”

    Ma Yu replied: “Kill less, just scare them off.”

    Qiu Chu Ji laughed loudly and took a huge step forward. With a stretch of both arms, he plucked two soldiers off their horses and flung them towards another two soldiers behind. The four soldiers knocked against each other and fell in a heap. Qiu Chu Ji’s arms moved at the speed of lightning and, like a canon, had fired eight more soldiers towards another eight.

    Terrified, the other soldiers turned their horses and fled. Suddenly, a chiefly figure with a bald and shiny head emerged from behind the fleeing soldiers. He bellowed: “Where has this scoundrel come from?” With a slight sway of his body, he had already stole up to Qiu Chu Ji and attacked with his palms. Qiu Chu Ji saw that this person was highly agile. Raising his palms to obstruct the attack, their palms met with a clap and both subsequently withdrew three paces. Surprised, Qiu Chu Ji thought to himself: “Who is this person with such good kungfu?”

    Little did he know that the Dragon King of Hades Sha Tong Tian was concealing the pain in his arms from their exchange and was even more surprised than he. With an angry roar, Sha Tong Tian swung his fists forward. Qiu Chu Ji did not dare to be sluggish and with full might and concentration, sent both palms darting straight at Sha Tong Tian. After exchanging 10 moves or so, Qiu Chu Ji successfully brushed his palm against Sha Tong Tian, leave five streaks of red on his bald head. Though Sha Tong Tian could not see the marks, he could feel a stinging pain coming from the top of his head. Knowing that he would not be able to beat this Taoist empty handed, he immediately pulled an iron stick from behind. This weapon was heavy but its power was great and with a “Reviving Qin Behind the Sword”, the stick struck in the direction of Qiu Chu Ji’s shoulder. Qiu Chu Qi greeted the attack with his technique of seizing weapons with bare hands. But Sha Tong Tian had been using this weapon for more than 10 years and had extraordinary skill with it, and Qiu Chu Ji failed in his attempt.

    Deep down, Qiu Chu Ji marveled at this and was just about to ask for his name when someone from the left shouted: “Who is this priest from Quan Zhen Sect?”

    This voice carried immense power. Qiu Chu Ji leapt towards his right and saw four people – it was Peng Lian Hu, Ouyang Ke, Liang Zi Weng and Hou Tong Hai.

    Qiu Chu Ji cupped his fist and said: “My surname is Qiu, may I know your names?”

    Qiu Chu Ji’s mighty name was well-known and feared in the Northen and Southern parts.

    Sha Tong Tian and the others all thought: “No wonder he is so famous. He is indeed powerful.”

    Peng Lian Hu thought: “We’ve already injured Wang Chu Yi and forged animosity with Quan Zhen Sect. If we combine forces and kill Qiu Chu Ji today, our names travel far and wide!” He shouted: “Everyone attack together.”

    Before he even finished pronouncing the last word, Peng Lian Hu had already retrieved his Judgmental Twin Brush and advanced towards Qiu Chu Ji. He knew this opponent was powerful and was vicious on the onslaught, targeting his Yun Men acupoint at the top and his Tai He acupoint below. These two hits came in full force and left no room for mercy.

    Qiu Chu Ji thought to himself: “This shorty is impudent! To be fair, his skills are also above average.” With a swiping sound he drew out his sword and pierced Peng Lian Hu’s right arm, scraped Sha Tong Tian’s waist and, collecting back the sword, sent its hilt ramming into the critical Zhang Men acupoint at the side of Hou Tong Hai’s rib. With one move he had struck three people, displaying amazing skill with the sword. Sha Tong Tian and Peng Lian Hu propped themselves up with their weapons. Hou Tong Hai had narrowly missed having his acupoint blocked and managed to withdraw quickly, but alas a heavy kick on the buttocks sent him flying to the ground. Call it a coincidence but he landed straight on the three lumps on his head. Inwardly shaken, Liang Zi Weng propelled himself forward like a monkey and attacked.

    Ouyang Ke saw that Qiu Chu Ji was occupied with Sha Tong Tian and Peng Lian Hu, and now Liang Zi Weng had also joined in. It was an advantage that just begged to be taken, and if not now – when? Brandishing a void move with his left hand, his right hand moved to block Qiu Chu Ji’s “Tao Dao”, “Hun Men” and “Zhong Shu” acupoints with his iron fan. It seemed like Qiu Chu Ji had no way out when a figure shifted beside him and in a flash, a single hand reached out and halted the passage of his fan. So it was that Ma Yu had been observing in silence by the stands and was flabbergasted when a group of highly-skilled pugilists ganged up against his younger Martial Brother. With just three fingers he had trapped the fan; Ouyang Ke immediately felt a surge of formidable inner power coming from the handle of his fan and quickly leapt backwards in astonishment.




    Ma Yu did not pursue him, but said: “Gentlemen, may I know who you are? We have never met. If there has been some misunderstanding we can talk it over, why resort to violence?” Though his tone was gentle, his voice carried abundant Qi. The projection for each word was crystal clear and bore straight into their eardrums. Sha Tong Tian and the others were immersed in their fighting when Ma Yu’s sentences made them go cold. They collectively ceased fighting and withdrew, appraising Ma Yu.

    Ouyang Ke said: “Priest, what is your revered name?”

    Ma Yu replied: “My surname is Ma.”

    Peng Lian Hu said: “Ah, so it is the Scarlet Sun Reverend, Priest Ma. We have been rude.”

    Ma Yu replied: “With my shallow cultivation, how dare I claim the title of Reverend?”

    Though Peng Lian Hu coated his words with politeness, inwardly he was thinking: “Since we have already created a grudge with Quan Zhen Sect, it is unlikely that there will be any goodwill to forgive and forget. These two characters are the main pillars of Quan Zhen Sect and we have fortunately caught them alone. If we join forces and finish them off today, we will have less to worry about in future. I just wonder if there are any skilled pugilists from Quan Zhen in the vicinity.” A quick look around revealed only the 3 members of the Yang family – there were no priests around.

    Peng Lian Hu said: “I have long admired the great name of the Quan Zhen Seven. Where are the other five? How about inviting them here so we can meet them?”

    Ma Yu replied: “Instead of concentrating on cultivation, my Martial Brothers have often meddled in worldly affairs and earned themselves an empty reputation. I’m afraid they have made a fool of themselves. The seven of us live in separate Taoist monasteries and hardly gather together. I have made this trip to Zhong Du with my Martial Brother Qiu to look for our Martial Brother Wang, and by chance met all of you. All the world’s martial arts branched from the same stem. Red lotus or white root, we all come from the same family. Since we have affinity, how about becoming friends?” Being honest by nature, Ma Yu never expected that Peng Lian Hu was merely sounding him out.

    Hearing that there were indeed no Quan Zhen pugilists nearby, Peng Lian Hu thought they could win with numbers. Not only that – the two priests had yet to meet up with Wang Chu Yi, and Ma Yu was trusting and off guard. All Peng Lian Hu had to do was keep up this friendly pretence and they would be able to pull a sneak attack. Beaming, he said: “We are honored that Priest Qiu and Ma do not look down on us, and to be friends would be fantastic. My surname is San, my full name is San Hei Mao [三黑猫 – three black cats].”

    At this, Ma Yu and Qiu Chu Ji were both startled, thinking: “This person’s kungfu is impressive, so his name must be famous. But this name, San Hei Mao, is so strange and I’ve never heard of it.”

    Peng Lian Hu tucked his Judgemental Twin Brushes back into his waist and approached Ma Yu. He said, smiling: “Nice to meet you, Priest Ma.”

    He stretched out his hand for a handshake. Unsuspectingly, Ma Yu reached out to shake his hand but the moment their hands touched, he suddenly felt Peng Lian Hu’s grip tighten.

    Ma Yu thought: “Hmph, trying to test my kungfu.” He merely smiled and applied his internal energy in response, squeezing Peng Lian Hu’s hand. Suddenly, an intense pain drilled into his five fingertips and it felt as if he was pierced by many steel needles. He quickly withdrew his hand, astonished. Peng Lian Hu burst out laughing and retreated a few feet. Ma Yu raised his palm and saw that all 5 fingertips had been punctured with holes that went deep into his flesh, lined with black.

    So it was that when Peng Lian Hu was keeping his Judgemental Twin Brushes, he had secretly slipped on his special Poison Needle Bangle on his right hand. Made from refined steel, this bangle was as slender as a thread and on it were five thin needles armed with lethal poison. As long as the needles penetrated the flesh and drew blood, the victim would undoubtedly die within ten hours. Peng Lian Hu usually wore this bangle to increase the potency of his palm attacks when exchanging blows, thus ensuring that his opponent would not live beyond half a day. He had also deliberately introduced himself as “San Hei Mao” (Three Black Cats”) so that while Qiu Chu Ji and Ma Yu were busy being astounded, he could seize the chance and sneak an attack.

    Characters of the pugilistic often harbor no admiration for one another on the first meeting, but tact and face made public aggression improper. Thus, they would often reach out for a handshake in the guise of friendliness, but in actuality it was a duel of sorts. It was not unusual for the inferior fighter to have his bones broken and his hand swollen, or beg for mercy when the pain became too much. Ma Yu only thought that Peng Lian Hu was practicing the old pugilistic habit of being friendly on the surface but secretly appraising each other’s strength. He never thought that Peng Lian Hu would have another vicious trick up his sleeve – thus, when both of them exerted strength, the five poisonous needles not only pierced his fingertips but sunk straight down to the bones of his fingers. By the time Ma Yu realized what had happened and struck forward with his right palm, Peng Lian Hu had already leapt away.

    All Qiu Chu Ji knew was that his Elder Martial Brother had been normally shaking hands with someone when suddenly, his facial expression changed and he attacked. Qiu Chu Ji hurriedly asked: “What happened?”

    Ma Yu replied angrily: “Crafty scoundrel, he poisoned me.” With that, he advanced towards Peng Lian Hu.

    Qiu Chu Ji had always known his Elder Martial Brother to be tolerant and had never seen him attack anyone in over 10 years – yet at this moment, he had opened his attack with the most formidable of Quan Zhen’s skills – the “Three Flowers Atop” Palm technique. Qiu Chu Ji knew it must have taken a great reason for him to be so furious and thus, with a flick of his sword, weaved left and right to reach Peng Lian Hu. With a quick “swish, swish, swish”, he had dealt him three strokes. By this time Peng Lian Hu had already retrieved his Twin Brushes and successfully deflected two of Qiu Chu Ji’s strokes while managing to deal a strike with one brush. But Peng Lian Hu never expected Qiu Chu Ji’s palm technique to be as ferocious as his sword. In that very instant when he was about to withdraw his brush – but not yet – Qiu Chu Ji had reached out and grabbed it by the tip. He shouted: “Withdraw!” Combining internal power and external force, Qiu Chu Ji tried to rupture the brush but despite using full energy, Peng Lian Hu was a formidable opponent and did not allow the brush to shatter. Qiu Chu Ji followed by steering his sword straight forward and Peng Lian Hu had no choice but to let go of his brush and evade. With the sword in his right hand and palm technique on his left, Qiu Chu Ji kept up the attack ceaselessly. Peng Lian Hu had lost one brush and his right arm was also feeling stiff and weak. Having lost sharpness, he continuously retreated.

    At this point, Sha Tong Tian and Liang Zi Weng were embroiled with Ma Yu. Ouyang Ke and Hou Tong Hai came forward to aid Peng Lian Hu, one on the left and the other on the right. Faced with strong opponents, Qiu Chu Ji felt even more energetic. With gliding palms and flashing sword, the more he fought the swifter his attacks became. Qiu Chu Ji was fighting three people by himself and yet had not lost advantage, but over at the other end, Ma Yu was having trouble sustaining the situation. His right palm was already swollen and besieged with numbness and itch as the poison gradually took effect – though he knew that the needle was poisoned, he never expected such drastic reaction. He understood that the more he exerted himself, the faster his blood would circulate and the quicker the poison would attack his heart. Immediately he sat down and engaged his internal energy to halt the poison’s passage, while wielding a sword in his left hand for self-protection. Liang Zi Weng’s weapon was a shovel, similar to the ones used for exhumation. Between slamming vertically and scooping horizontally, at times sweeping across and at times hitting directly, the variations in attack were plentiful. Sha Tong Tian’s iron stick was all the more heavy and dangerous. After ten moves or so, Ma Yu’s breathing was hastening and his defensive circle, shrinking. Inwardly resisting the poison and outwardly defending against two enemies, he soon felt lethargic despite having an accomplished level of internal energy.

    Qiu Chu Ji was shocked at the sight of his Elder Martial Brother seated on the floor, with hot air rising slowly from his head as if he were being steamed. He wanted to quickly finish off his 3 opponents and rush forward to aid him, but these opponents were sticky and he could not spare a moment to pause his attack and escape. Admittedly Peng Lian Hu was a weaker fighter, but Ouyang Ke was proficient in both internal energy and external moves. His attacks were both fierce and unusual and in terms of ability, he was way above Peng Lian Hu. From what Qiu Chu Ji could tell, Ouyang Ke’s kungfu looked similar to that of the “Western Poison”, someone Quan Zhen Sect had always feared the most. This startled him and he thought: “Who is this person? Could he be a disciple of the Western Poison? Has the Western Poison arrived at the Central Plains? I wonder if he’s actually right here in Zhong Du.” While following this train of thought he momentarily lost concentration and repeatedly encountered close shaves.

    Yang Tie Xin knew in his heart that the skills of these 2 priests were way above his, but upon seeing both of them in danger he immediately lifted his spear and stabbed towards Ouyang Ke’s back.

    Qiu Chu Ji yelled: “Brother Yang, don’t throw your life away in vain!” By the time he finished his sentence, Ouyang Ke had already broken the spear with his left foot and kicked Yang Tie Xin to the ground with his right. At this very moment there emerged the sound of hoofs; a great number of horses were galloping swiftly towards them. Leading the way were none other than Wan Yan Hong Lie and Wan Yan Kang, father and son.
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 08-19-05 at 01:42 PM.

  11. #31
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    (Xuelian)

    Chapter 11-7

    Wan Yan Hong Lie caught sight of his wife seated on the ground from a distance. Delighted, he hurried to her but suddenly a blade sliced through the air and came hacking right at him. Slanting his body to avoid the blow, he saw that the wielder of the blade was a young girl dressed in red. At this point, his soldiers came forward and started fighting Mu Nian Ci.

    Over at the other end, Wan Yan Kang was secretly startled on seeing his Shifu and shouted: “We’re all on the same side, everyone stop fighting!”

    Only after repeating a few times did Peng Lian Hu and the others finally retreat; the soldiers and Mu Nian Ci also halted. Wan Yan Kang approached Qiu Chu Ji and bowed. “Shifu, let your disciple do the introductions,” he said. “These are all senior pugilists engaged by my father.”

    Qiu Chu Ji nodded and went to check on his Elder Martial Brother. Ma Yu’s right palm was blackened all over and, lifting up his sleeve, Qiu Chu Ji saw that the blackness had spread all the way to the upper part of his arm. Astonished, he said: “How come the poison is like that?” Turning around, he said to Peng Lian Hu: “Hand over the antidote!”

    Peng Lian Hu hesitated, thinking: “Just a little while more and this person will die, but it won’t be appropriate to offend the little prince. Should I save him or should I not?”

    Now that Ma Yu had no more enemies attacking him, he concentrated all his internal energy on resisting the poison and sure enough, the poison halted at his arm and could not travel further upwards. Instead, the blackness gradually started moving downwards.

    Wan Yan Kang rushed over to his mother and exclaimed, “Mother, I’ve finally found you!”

    Bao Xi Ruo was frightened and replied, “Do not ask me to return to the palace. I will never!”

    Shocked, Wan Yan Hong Lie and Wan Yang Kang said in unison: “What?”

    Bao Xi Ruo pointed at Yang Tie Xin. “My husband is actually still alive, and I will follow him to the ends of the earth,” she said.

    This came as no ordinary blow to Wan Yang Hong Lie, and he subtly mouthed something to Liang Zi Weng. Liang Zi Weng understood the prince’s intentions and hoisted his right hand, sending three of his Bone-Penetrating Meridian Nails flying towards Yang Tie Xin’s essential junctures. Qiu Chu Ji saw the flight of the nails but it was too late for him to do anything, and Yang Tie Xin would surely not be able to evade. Having no projectiles with him, he grabbed a Jin soldier out of desperation and hurled him towards the space between Liang Zi Weng and Yang Tie Xin. With a loud “ah”, the three Meridian Nails had struck the soldier.

    Liang Zi Weng prided his Bone-Penetrating Meridian Nails as his greatest skill. Having fired three nails simultaneously, it was absurd to think he would miss the target. Seeing that Qiu Chu Ji had foiled his move in such a peculiar way, he roared angrily and attacked. Peng Lian Hu saw this and decided against giving the antidote, knowing that the little prince’s priority was rescuing his mother. He leapt forward abruptly and grabbed hold of Bao Xi Ruo’s arm. With two swishing sounds, Qiu Chu Ji sent his sword piercing towards both Liang Zi Weng and Peng Lian Hu. Both saw that the strokes came fierce and were forced backwards. Qiu Chu Ji thundered at Wan Yan Kang: “Ignorant boy, you have called your enemy ‘father’ and led 18 years of your life in folly. Now that your real father is here, aren’t you going to acknowledge him?”

    Having heard it from his mother, Wan Yan Kang was already 80% convinced. Hearing it from his Shifu now further reinforced his belief and he glanced at Yang Tie Xin. Wan Yang Kang saw that his clothes were old and tattered and his face, smeared with dirt; turning around, he saw his ‘father’ wearing fine, embroidered robes and expensive jewels, looking handsome and refined. There was a world of difference between these two men. Wan Yan Kang contemplated in his heart: “Am I actually going to give up this life of luxury and riches and roam the streets with this poor man? No, never!” His mind was made up.

    “Shifu, don’t listen to this person’s nonsense,” said Wan Yan Kang. “Please help to rescue my mother!”

    “You still stubbornly refuse to listen, you’re worse than a beast!” Qiu Chu Ji replied angrily.

    Upon seeing that teacher and pupil had fallen out, Peng Lian Hu and the others started to attack even more fiercely. Wan Yan Kang knew Qiu Chu Ji was in danger, but did not attempt to stop the fight again. Qiu Chu Ji was enraged and shouted: “Little bastard, you really have no conscience.”

    Wan Yan Kang had always been very afraid of his Shifu and secretly hoped that Peng Lian Hu and the rest would kill him to avoid any trouble in the future. Shortly into the battle, Qiu Chu Ji was struck by Liang Zi Weng’s spade and though it wasn’t serious, blood had seeped through his robes. From the corner of his eye he caught a hint of delight in Wan Yan Kang’s face and he was further incensed, swearing left right and centre.

    Ma Yu retrieved a sparkler from his robes and tossed it in the air, sending a blue blaze soaring through the sky. Peng Lian Hu thought it must be a communicative signal for Quan Zhen Sect’s members and alerted: “The old priest is sending for help.”

    After exchanging a few more moves, another blue blaze emerged from the Northwestern corner not far from here. “Younger Martial Brother Wang is nearby,” said Qiu Chu Ji in delight. Switching his sword over to his left hand, he attacked from the top with his sword and from the bottom with his right palm, executing 7 or 8 fatal moves one after another and forced his enemies steadily backwards.

    Ma Yu pointed to the blue glow in the Northwestern direction and said: “Go in that direction.”

    Weapons in hand, Yang Tie Xin and Mu Nian Ci rushed in that direction while guarding Bao Xi Ruo. Ma Yu followed closely behind. Qiu Chu Ji interrupted his sword mid-move and in the next instant he had also turned to leave. Sha Tong Tian repeatedly employed his “Shapeshift” [移步换形] technique, hoping to bypass Qiu Chu Ji and snatch Bao Xi Ruo over, but Qiu Chu Ji’s sword was too swift and he did not succeed. It was not long before they arrived at the small inn where Wang Chu Yi was staying, and Qiu Chu Ji wondered to himself: “Why hasn’t Younger Martial Brother Wang come out to greet us?”

    Just after this thought, Wang Chu Yi came walking unsteadily towards them, supported by a wooden stick. At the sight of each other, all 3 Martial Brothers were shocked to see that Quan Zhen Sect’s top 3 pugilists were all injured.

    Qiu Chu Ji called out: “Retreat back into the inn.”

    “Hand the Consort over in one piece, and I’ll spare your lives,” Wan Yan Hong Lie hollered.

    “Who needs your mercy, you treacherous Jin dog?” Qiu Chu Ji shot back. He raised his sword and started fighting.

    Despite being exhausted, Qiu Chu Ji still refused to yield and his swordplay remained as enthralling as ever. Seeing this, Peng Lian Hu and the others were all secretly impressed. Yang Tie Xin contemplated: “Since things have already come to this, it will not be easy to escape our end. We mustn’t implicate Priest Qiu’s life for us husband and wife.” Grasping Bao Xi Ruo’s hand, he stepped forward.

    “Everyone, stop fighting,” he yelled. “My wife and I will end our lives here and let that be the end of it.” Raising his spear, he stabbed it towards his heart. With a “pu” sound, blood splattered in all directions and he fell backwards.

    Bao Xi Ruo felt no sadness. With a bitter smile, she pulled the spear out from her husband’s body and propped it on the floor, saying to Wan Yan Kang: “Child, you still don’t believe he’s your real father?” She leaned forward and sank into the tip of the spear.

    The color flew from Wan Yan Kang’s face in his horror. “Mother!” He cried, rushing forward to save her. Upon seeing this astonishing development, Qiu Chu Ji and the others stopped fighting. Reaching her side, Wan Yan Kang saw her soft and dangling body and the spear piercing through her chest, and he started sobbing without restraint. Qiu Chu Ji went forward to inspect the couple’s wounds and saw that the spear had struck at fatal points of their bodies. There was no room for hope. Wan Yan Kang held his mother and Mu Nian Ci held Yang Tie Xin; the two of them wept in grief.

    Qiu Chu Ji said to Yang Tie Xin: “Brother Yang, tell me if you have any wish and I will see that it gets done. I… I still didn’t manage to save you in the end, I… I…” He felt a dull ache in his heart and choked in sorrow.

    At this very moment came the sound of footsteps. Everyone turned and saw the 6 Freaks of Jiang Nan hurrying over with Guo Jing. On seeing Sha Tong Tian and the others, the 6 Freaks immediately pulled out their weapons. Going closer, they saw a man and a woman on the floor and looks of surprise set in to their faces. They turned around and saw Ma Yu and Qiu Chu Ji, and were surprised even further.

    Guo Jing saw Yang Tie Xin lying on the floor with blood all over and hurriedly went to his side. “Uncle Yang, how are you feeling?” He asked.

    Yang Tie Xin was barely alive and broke into a smile when he saw Guo Jing. “Your late father and I had a pact, if we bore a son and daughter then they would be married,” he said. “I don’t have a daughter, but this foster daughter is like my own…” He turned his gaze to Qiu Chu Ji. “Priest Qiu, help me see to this marriage and I… I will go in peace…”

    “That’s easy. Don’t worry,” Qiu Chu Ji assured him.

    Bao Xi Ruo was lying beside her husband and clutched his arm with her left hand, afraid that he would leave her again. In a haze, she heard him mention the betrothal agreement from years ago. She fought to retrieve a dagger from her robes and said: “This… this is the token of remembrance…” She then said: “Brother Tie, we are finally dying together, I’m… I’m so happy…” With that, she gave a small smile and passed away peacefully, looking warm and enchanting as always. Qiu Chu Ji received the dagger and saw that it was none other than his gift to them at Ox Village in Lin’An; the words ‘Guo Jing’ were carved on its handle.

    Yang Tie Xin said to Guo Jing: “On… on account of your late father, I hope you treat my daughter well…”

    “I… I can’t…” stuttered Guo Jing.

    Qiu Chu Ji said: “I will see to everything, go… go in peace!”

    Yang Tie Xin had initially given up hope of finding Guo Xiao Tian’s descendent, and so arranged the ‘joust for a spouse’ for Mu Nian Ci. Today he was not only reunited with his beloved wife, but also found his sworn brother’s son so his daughter would have a husband to rely on. With that, he had no further regrets and closed his eyes for the last time.

    Guo Jing was both sad and confused, thinking: “Rong’er has deep feelings for me, how can I marry someone else?” At this thought, his mind suddenly turned to something else and he was further taken aback. “How could I have forgotten Hua Zheng? The Khan has betrothed her to me, this… this… how could this do?”

    All this time he had often kept his good friend Tolui in his thoughts, but seldom did he think of Hua Zheng. Although the 6 Freaks had felt this wish to be difficult to fulfill, they couldn’t bear to say so in front of Yang Tie Xin, a dying man.

    Wan Yan Hong Lie had gone through lengths of scheming to be able to marry Bao Xi Ruo, but in the end she was still unable to forget her husband. For over ten years he had loved and labored for her, but at the end of it all, things still unfolded this way. Though she was dead, Wan Yang Hong Lie saw true happiness and contentment in her face. In all their 18 years of marriage, when had she ever looked at him this way? He might be a prince, but in her heart he was much, much inferior to a village peasant. Despondent and heart-broken, he turned to leave.

  12. #32
    Junior Member Amy Vuong's Avatar
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    (Xuelian)

    LOCH Chapter 11-8

    Though the three priests from Quan Zhen were injured, the arrival of the 6 Freaks meant that Sha Tong Tian and the others wouldn’t necessarily win. Since the Prince had already turned to leave, they followed also.

    “Hey, San Hei Mao,” shouted Qiu Chu Ji, “leave the antidote behind!”

    Peng Lian Hu laughed. “Your Stockade-Chief goes by the surname Peng, people in the pugilistic world call me the Butcher With A Thousand Hands. Priest Qiu, have you lost your eyes?”

    Qiu Chu Ji went cold, thinking: “No wonder this person is so powerful, so it is him.” On seeing that the poison had penetrated deep into his Elder Martial Brother’s body and only the unique antidote from Peng Lian Hu could save him, he said aloud, “Who cares if you’ve got a thousand hands or ten thousand? If you don’t leave the antidote behind, don’t hope to leave this place.” Maneuvering his sword exquisitely, a flash of brilliant light advanced towards Peng Lian Hu.

    Though only left with one brush, Peng Lian Hu was not afraid. Brandishing it, they clashed head-on.

    Zhu Cong saw that Ma Yu was seated on the ground, working his internal energy. One of his palms had gone all black.

    “Priest Ma, how did you get hurt?”

    Ma Yu sighed. “I was shaking hands with that fellow Peng, and he hid poison needles in his palm.”

    “Ah. He’s not that great.” Turning to Ke Zhen’E, he said, “Elder Brother, pass me a caltrop.” Not understanding his intentions, Ke Zhen’E retrieved a poisonous caltrop from his bag and handed it to him. Zhu Cong turned to look at the fight between Qiu Chu Ji and Peng Lian Hu - the fight was intense, and it would be impossible to break it up with his level of kungfu alone.

    “Elder Brother, let’s go and break them apart. I have a plan that can save Priest Ma,” he said. Ke Zhen’E nodded.

    “So it is the Butcher with a Thousand Hands, Chief Peng!” shouted Zhu Cong. “We’re all on the same side, stop fighting. I have something to say.” Pulling Ke Zhen’E along, the two went forward and broke them apart – Zhu Cong with his fan and Ke Zhen’E with his staff.

    Both Qiu Chu Ji and Peng Lian Hu felt surprised upon hearing Zhu Cong’s remark and thought: “How come we’re ‘on the same side’ now?” Seeing the 2 Freaks come forward, they broke apart and waited to hear how exactly they were ‘on the same side’.

    Laughing cheerfully, Zhu Cong said to Peng Lian Hu: “18 years ago, the 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan and Priest Qiu had a small dispute that landed 5 of our brothers injured. On the other hand, the famed Priest Qiu also sustained heavy injuries that nearly left him dead. This dispute has yet to be resolved…” Zhu Cong turned to Qiu Chu Ji. “Am I right, Priest Qiu?”

    Qiu Chu Ji was enraged, thinking: “Fantastic, you’re going to take advantage of my precarious situation.” Aloud, he retorted: “That’s right, now what?”

    Zhu Cong continued, “But we also have a small feud with Dragon King Sha. One inept disciple of ours once single-handedly defeated Dragon King Sha’s top four disciples. We’ve also heard that Dragon King Sha and Chief Peng are the fastest of friends. Since we’ve offended Dragon King Sha, then we’ve also offended Chief Peng.”

    “Heh heh, how dare I?” said Peng Lian Hu.

    Zhu Cong laughed. “Since Chief Peng and Priest Qiu both have feuds with the 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan, won’t you then be on the same side against a common enemy? Haha, what are you still fighting for? Won’t Chief Peng and I also be on the same side? Come, let’s get to know each other.” Zhu Cong stretched out his hand for a handshake.

    Having listened to this warped nonsense, Peng Lian Hu thought: “Quan Zhen Sect saved the 7 Freaks’ disciple, so they’re obviously in it together. I won’t fall for your trickery. Want to cheat the antidote from me? Not so easy.” Seeing Zhu Cong’s outstretched hand, Peng Lian Hu laughed and said: “Splendid!” He tucked his Brush back into his waist and slipped on his Poison Needle Ring.

    Startled, Qiu Chu Ji said: “Brother Zhu, be careful.”

    Zhu Cong ignored this and stretched out his hand. With a slight crook of his little finger, he had hooked down the Poison Needle Ring from Peng Lian Hu’s finger. Peng Lian Hu did not realize this and went ahead with the handshake, both parties exerting strength.

    Suddenly, a small pain assaulted Peng Lian Hu’s palm and he struggled to let go. Raising his hand, he saw three holes in his palm that were much bigger than that of his Poison Needles, with black blood oozing from it. Instead of pain, the wound felt both numb and itchy and the sensation was rather nice. He knew that the more potent the poison, the less painful the wound would be because the numbness would be overpowering. Both angry and frightened, he had no idea how he had fell into this trap.

    Looking up, he saw Zhu Cong hiding behind Qiu Chu Ji, holding up an object in each hand. In between two fingers on his left hand was Peng Lian Hu’s Poison Needle Ring. In between two fingers on his right, however, was a black object shaped like a chestnut with a sharp tail, and it was stained with blood.

    Nicknamed the “Scholar with Nimble Hands”, Zhu Cong’s skill with his hands was near magical and impossible for any human to detect. To first pick Peng Lian Hu’s ring then pierce his palm with the poison caltrops was child’s play to him. Fuming, Peng Lian Hu attacked.

    Qiu Chu Ji raised his sword and warded off the blow, shouting: “What are you going to do?”

    Zhu Cong grinned. “Chief Peng, these poisonous caltrops are my Elder Brother’s specialty projectiles. Once you’re hit, it doesn’t matter if your name is tiger [Peng Lian Hu – ‘hu3’ means tiger], lion, leopard, pig, dog or any other beast on this earth. You will still not live beyond 4 hours.”

    “Big Brother Peng, he’s insulting you,” said Hou Tong Hai.

    “You talk too much,” Sha Tong Tian reproached. “Do you think Big Brother Peng hasn’t realized that?”

    Zhu Cong chuckled and quipped: “Good thing Chief Peng has 1000 hands. Allow me to give you a piece of friendly advice – why not chop off this hand that has been poisoned? You’ll still be left with 999. It’s just that you’ll have to alter your nickname a bit to become the ‘Butcher with 999 Hands’.”

    By this time, the numbness had already spread to Peng Lian Hu’s wrist. Panic-stricken, he couldn’t be bothered with Zhu Cong’s taunts. Beads of cold sweat dripped from his forehead.

    “You have your poison needles, I have my poison caltrops; these are two completely different poisons that require completely different antidotes. If you can’t bear to give up the nickname of “Butcher with 1000 Hands”, how about we exchange antidotes?” suggested Zhu Cong. “We’re on the same side, after all.” “

    Before Peng Lian Hu could reply, Sha Tong Tian said quickly: “That will do. Hand the antidote over.”

    Zhu Cong said, “Elder Brother, pass him the antidote.” Ke Zheng’E retrieved two small medicine packets from his robes and handed them to Zhu Cong.

    “Brother Zhu, don’t fall for his trap,” warned Qiu Chu Ji. “Let him hand over the antidote first.”

    Zhu Cong said cheerily, “We are all men of honor, I’m not afraid.”

    Peng Lian Hu reached into his robes and felt for the antidote, and his expression changed at once. He said in a low voice: “Oh no, the antidote is gone.”

    Qiu Chu Ji flew into a rage. “Hmph, up to your tricks again! Brother Zhu, don’t give it to him.”

    Zhu Cong laughed. “Take it!” He said. “We said we’d give it to you. The Quan Zhen 7 and the 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan are all men of our words.”

    Sha Tong Tian knew that Zhu Cong was skilful with his hands. Not wanting to be taken advantage of, he extended his iron stick horizontally. Zhu Cong placed the antidote on the stick and Sha Tong Tian fetched it. Bystanders were all perplexed, not understanding why Zhu Cong gave him the antidote so casually without forcing him to handover his. Suspecting that the antidote was not genuine, Sha Tong Tian said: “The 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan are renowned figures in the pugilistic world. Surely you mustn’t use bogus medicine to harm others?”

    Zhu Cong laughed, saying: “Of course, of course.” He then returned the poison caltrops to Ke Zhen’E and started leisurely fishing out item after item from his robes. There was a handkerchief, some notes, a few pieces of loose silver and a white snuff bottle.

    Peng Lian Hu was dumbfounded. “These items are all mine! How did they end up with him?” he thought.

    What happened was that Zhu Cong, while using his right hand to shake hands, employed his ‘empty magical hands’ with his left. As a result, all the items in Peng Lian Hu’s robes had long been picked.

    Zhu Cong uncorked the snuff bottle. It was divided into 2 compartments; one side contained red powder, the other side contained grey powder. “How is this applied?” he asked.

    Though sly and aggressive by nature, Peng Lian Hu’s life now hung on a thread and he dared not be crafty. “The red is for consumption, and the grey for topical application.”

    Zhu Cong said to Guo Jing, “Hurry and fetch some water, and two bowls.”

    Guo Jing bolted into the inn and fetched 2 bowls of clean water. He gave one bowl to Ma Yu and aided him to drink the antidote. He then applied the grey powder on Ma Yu’s palm and was just about to give the other bowl of water to Peng Lian Hu when Zhu Cong said, “Hold it. Give the other bowl to Priest Wang.”

    Though confused, Guo Jing followed Zhu Cong’s instructions and gave the water to Wang Chu Yi. Wang Chu Yi also did not understand, and accepted the bowl of water.

    Sha Tong Tian said, “Hey, how is your antidote applied?”

    Zhu Cong replied, “Don’t be anxious, nobody will die in such a short while.” He reached into his robes and took out over 10 packets of herbs.

    Guo Jing was delighted. “Yes, yes, that’s the medicine for Priest Wang!” He opened all the herb packets and laid them in front of Wang Chu Yi. “Priest Wang, you pick the ones that you need.”

    Wang Chu Yi recognized the herbs and picked out “Tian Qi”, “Xue Xie” and two other herbs. He chewed on them and swallowed with water.

    Liang Zi Weng was both furious and impressed, thinking: “This dirty scholar has truly remarkable skill with his hands. All he did was dusted my sleeve, and actually managed to steal the packets of herbs in my robes.” Turning around and brandishing his spade, he shouted: “Come, come, let’s see who the real winner is in a weapon fight!”

    Zhu Cong laughed. “At that, I am definitely not your match.”

    Qiu Chu Ji said, “So this is Chief Peng Lian Hu, what about the others? I do not know your names yet.” Sha Tong Tian declared himself in a hoarse voice. Qiu Chu Ji said, “Great, all of you have renowned reputations! There has been no clear winner between us today, and it’s a pity both sides now have injured parties. Looks like we’ll have to arrange a gathering another day.”

    “That couldn’t be better,” said Peng Lian Hu. “If we don’t meet the Quan Zhen 7, it will be the big regret of our lives. Priest Qiu, please set the date and venue.”

    Qiu Chu Ji considered: “Elder Martial Brother Ma and Younger Martial Brother Wang have both been severely poisoned, and will need at least a few months to recuperate. Younger Martial Brothers Tan, Liu and the rest are all scattered and we will need some time to notify them.” So he said aloud: “Six months later in August on Mid-Autumn Festival, we’ll admire the moon while discussing wugong. Chief Peng, what do you think?”

    Peng Lian Hu thought: “With all of the Quan Zhen 7, and plus the 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan, we will be heavily disadvantaged by numbers. We must gather more allies. Six months would be sufficient. Prince Zhao wants us to head to Jiang Nan to steal Yue Fei’s manual, so we can take the chance and meet there.” So he said: “How tasteful of Priest Qiu to arrange a martial gathering of friends on Mid-Autumn Festival. But we must also find a tasteful venue – let’s make it the hometown of the 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan.”

    Qiu Chu Ji replied, “Excellent. We’ll meet in the Jia Xing Prefecture amid the South Lake, at the Misty Rain Inn. Everyone is welcome to invite a few more friends.”

    “It’s a deal.”

    Zhu Cong said, “Looks like us 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan will have no choice but to play host and foot the bills! Of all the places both of you had to pick Jia Xing so you can feast on our expense, how sly. But since it’s so rare that all of you grace Jia Xing with your presence, we will be able to afford it. Chief Peng – about the medicine – the white is for consumption and the yellow is for topical application.”

    By this time, half of Peng Lian Hu’s arm had already gone numb. It took him great effort to bear with it and converse with Qiu Chu Ji, and then he had to put up with Zhu Cong’s incessant and useless chatter. The anger boiled in his chest but he dared not be impolite while his life was still in their hands. Finally he heard Zhu Cong’s last sentence and hurriedly swallowed the white antidote.

    “Chief Peng, for forty-nine days you will not go near wine or women,” said Ke Zhen’E coldly. “It will be a shame if we do not see you at the gathering in Jia Xing.”

    Peng Lian Hu replied angrily, “Thanks for your concern.” Sha Tong Tian applied the yellow antidote on his palm, and supporting him, turned to leave.

    Wan Yan Kang knelt on the ground and kowtowed 4 times to his mother’s dead body. Then he turned and kowtowed a few times to Qiu Chu Ji. Raising his head, not uttering a single word, he walked away.

    Qiu Chu Ji said sternly, “Kang’er, what is the meaning of this?”

    But Wan Yan Kang did not answer. He did not join Peng Lian Hu and the others, but took another turn and went on a separate path alone. Qiu Chu Ji was stunned for a while, then turned and bowed to Ke Zhen’E and Zhu Cong.

    “If not for the help of the 6 Heroes, my Martial Brothers and I might have lost our lives. Besides, my disgraceful pupil has turned out to possess such a wicked character. He cannot hold a candle to your virtuous pupil. For us martial arts practitioners, character and integrity is of foremost importance; wu gong is secondary. I’m ashamed to have a disciple like this. The duel at Jia Xing’s Drunken Fairy Inn has reached a conclusion – I admit defeat. Word will henceforth spread throughout jiang hu that Qiu Chu Ji has been trounced by the 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan, and I have sincerely and gladly admitted my loss.”

    The 6 Freaks swelled with pride as he spoke – their 18 years of effort in the deserts of Mongolia had finally paid off. Ke Zhen’E uttered a few words of humility. But the 6 Freaks then thought of their Fifth Brother Zhang Ah Sheng who died in the desert, and sadness descended upon their hearts. It was regretful that their Fifth Brother did not live to hear Qiu Chu Ji admitting defeat.

  13. #33
    Senior Member Mojo Jojo's Avatar
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    (Xuelian)

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    11-9 to 11-11

    After they had helped Ma Yu and Wang Chu Yi back into the inn, Quan Jin Fa went and bought coffins to prepare for the Yang couple’s funeral. Qiu Chu Ji saw Mu Nian Ci grieving sorrowfully and felt awful himself. He said, “Miss Mu, how did your father spend the last few years?”

    Wiping her tears, Mu Nian Ci replied, “My father and I have been wandering for over ten years, never settling at one place for more than a month. Father said he wanted to look for a… a Brother by the surname Guo…” Her voice trailed off and she slowly lowered her head.

    Qiu Chu Ji glanced at Guo Jing, then said to Mu Nian Ci, “How did your father end up adopting you?”

    “I came from Lotus Pond village in the Lin’An Prefecture,” she replied. “About ten years ago, father took refuge at my place to recover from his injuries. Soon after, an epidemic broke out, killing my parents and brothers. Father then took me in as a daughter and taught me martial arts. To find this Brother Guo, we roamed all over and started… started the ‘joust for a spouse’.”

    “Ah. Your father’s surname is actually Yang, not Mu, so you should change your name accordingly.”

    “No, I won’t take the surname Yang. I will still use Mu.”

    Qiu Chu Ji said, “Why? You don’t believe me?”

    Mu Nian Ci replied softly, “How would I dare to doubt, Priest? But I’d rather my surname be Mu.”

    Qiu Chu Ji saw that she was stubborn and dropped the matter, thinking that she must be too traumatized by the sudden loss of her father to understand. Little did he know that he was the one who did not understand. Mu Nian Ci was actually thinking of something else – she had already committed her life to Wan Yan Kang. Since he was her father’s real son, he must of course take the surname Yang. If she had the same surname, how could they marry?

    Wang Chu Yi was gradually recovering his energy after taking the antidote and lay on the bed, listening to their conversation. There was one thing he failed to understand, and so he asked, “How come your wu gong is so much better than your father’s?”

    Mu Nian Ci replied, “When I was 13, I met a strange person and he taught me wu gong for 3 days. It’s a pity I was born unintelligent, and so didn’t manage to learn much.”

    Wang Chu Yi said, “He taught you just 3 days of wu gong and you managed to defeat your father? Who is this expert?”

    “Priest, I wouldn’t dare to hide anything on purpose but he once made me vow that I will never reveal his name.”

    Wang Chu Yi nodded and did not question further. Instead, he recalled her stances and moves during her fight with Wan Yan Kang and tried to conjecture, but still failed to tell which School her wu gong came from. The more he thought about her moves, the more he felt it was peculiar. He asked, “Elder Martial Brother Qiu, you have taught Wan Yan Kang for about 8 to 9 years, right?”

    “Exactly 9 years and a half,” Qiu Chu Ji replied, sighing. “I never thought he would turn out so rotten.”

    Wang Chu Yi said, “That’s strange!”

    “Why?”

    But Wang Chu Yi did not reply. Ke Zhen’E asked, “Priest Qiu, how did you manage to find Brother Yang’s descendent?”

    Qiu Chu Ji replied, “It was such a coincidence. After we laid down the bet, I traveled widely for news of the Guo and Yang families. Years passed and still there was nothing, but I did not give up. That year I went again to Ox Village for some clues to their whereabouts, and incidentally saw a few government officials moving objects from Brother Yang’s old home. I tailed them, eavesdropping on their conversation. These officials were actually guards of Prince Zhao of the Jin Empire. They were under orders to move each and every item from the house – broken chairs or iron spears, none could be left behind. I suspected that there was something much more to it, so I followed them all the way to Zhong Du.”

    Guo Jing had seen Bao Xi Ruo’s living quarters in the Palace, and now he fully understood.

    Qiu Chu Ji continued, “To find out why Prince Zhao had moved all these old and broken things all the way from Ox Village, I sneaked into the Palace at night to investigate. What I saw made me both furious and upset – Brother Yang’s wife had become a Consort! In my great anger I initially thought of killing her, but then I saw her living in the old house and caressing Brother Yang’s spear, sobbing all night. I felt she wasn’t totally heartless after all and hadn’t forgotten her dead husband, so I spared her life. Later, I found out that the little Prince was actually Brother Yang’s flesh and blood. When he was a few years older, I started teaching him martial arts.”

    Ke Zhen’E said, “So all along he was none the wiser about his roots?”

    “I did sound him out a few times, but found that he hankered after riches,” he replied. “He was not a person of integrity, so I never once revealed the truth to him. Every time I tried to teach him important moral principles, he would always behave apathetically and retort with his slippery tongue. If it wasn’t for our wager, why would I even waste my time on him? Initially I had hoped for both sides to reconcile no matter who won the duel, and I would tell him the truth about his birth. We would then rescue his mother from the Palace and settle down in a quiet area. How was I to know that Brother Yang was alive still? But both Elder Martial Brother Ma and I were injured by those scoundrels, and still failed to save him and his wife… hai!” Hearing this, Mu Nian Ci hid her face and started weeping softly again.

    Guo Jing then explained how he met Yang Tie Xin, and how he had seen Bao Xi Ruo in the night. Everyone agreed that though Bao Xi Ruo had lost her virtue in Zhao Palace, she was, after all, under the impression that her husband was dead. In the end she still followed her husband in death, and there was no one present that did not admire her loyalty and sigh at the tragedy.

    The conversation then shifted to the Mid-Autumn duel. Zhu Cong said, “But the Quan Zhen 7 will be assembled there. What have we to worry?”

    “It’s just that they might bring along a multitude of good fighters to outnumber us,” said Ma Yu.

    Qiu Chu Ji said, “Which other good fighters can they bring along? Are there that many good fighters in the world?”

    Ma Yu sighed. “Younger Martial Brother Qiu, your skills have improved greatly in the past few years and brought glory to our Sect. Yet, you still haven’t been able to curb the arrogance of youth. You…”

    Qiu Chu Ji laughed and completed, “I must know that there will always be a higher person, like there will always be a higher heaven.”

    Ma Yu smiled. “Isn’t it so? The people we met just now really possess skills that are no lower than ours. If they invite more fighters of their caliber to Misty Rain Inn, then it’s hard to tell who will win.”

    Qiu Chu Ji cocked his head proudly and said, “Elder Martial Brother, you worry too much. Is it even possible that Quan Zhen Sect would lose to that bunch of thugs?”

    Ma Yu replied, “Nothing is certain in this world. If not for Brother Ke and Brother Zhu, the decades-old reputation of Quan Zhen Sect would have been ruined in the hands of us three Martial Brothers.”

    Ke Zhen’E and Zhu Cong declined modestly. “It was just because the opposition employed dirty tricks. How can it be taken into account?”

    Ma Yu sighed again. “Martial Uncle Zhou was taught personally by Teacher, and his skills are ten times better than ours. Alas, because of his stubborn and competitive nature, he has gone missing for over ten years. We must take this as a lesson and always remain cautious.”

    Now that Ma Yu phrased it this way, Qiu Chu Ji did not dare to rebut. The 6 Freaks never knew the Quan Zhen 7 had a Martial Uncle. From Ma Yu’s words, they deduced that this matter was not something that Quan Zhen Sect was proud of. It would not be tactful to make any comment and so they refrained, but nevertheless they were curious. Wang Chu Yi listened to their dialogue but remained silent, mulling over something.

    Qiu Chu Ji glanced at Guo Jing and Mu Nian Ci. “Brother Ke, you have nurtured a fine and gallant disciple. With such a son-in-law, my Brother Yang will be able to rest in peace.”

    Mu Nian Ci’s face reddened and she stood up. Lowering her head, she walked out of the room. Seeing her stand up and take steps, a notion flashed through Wang Chu Yi’s mind and he got out of bed, sending his palm straight at her shoulder. This move was swift and by the time Mu Nian Ci sensed it, his palm had already reached her right shoulder. He paused there for a moment, waiting for her to exercise internal energy to resist. At the moment where the energy was just about to reach – but not yet – Wang Chu Yi yanked her shoulder. So distinguished a character was the Iron Footed Fairy, Jade Sun Wang Chu Yi – even though he had not recovered from his heavy injuries and his arms devoid of internal energy, he was still able to pinpoint the void in her circulation passage. With this push and pull, Mu Nian Ci swayed and instantly fell forward. Wang Chu Yi extended his right hand to support her right shoulder and she was upright again, beyond her control. Her lovely eyes widened with a mixture of surprise and bewilderment.

    Wang Chu Yi laughed and said, “Don’t be frightened Miss Mu, I was just testing your kungfu. The senior expert who taught you for three days – did he dress like a beggar and have just 9 fingers?”

    Mu Nian Ci said in surprise, “Eh? Yes, that’s right. Priest, how did you know?”

    Wang Chu Yi smiled. “This 9-Fingered Divine Beggar, Elder Hong, goes about things in a truly mysterious manner. It’s just like seeing the heavenly dragon’s head but catching no hint of the tail. To have been taught personally by him is your great fortune and a cause for celebration.”

    “It was a pity he was busy and only taught me for 3 days.”

    Wang Chu Yi let out a sigh. “You should be content. You have gained more in those 3 days than what others can teach you in 10, 20 years.”

    Mu Nian Ci said, “Priest is right.” After a brief pause, she continued, “Priest, do you happen to know where Elder Hong is?”

    Laughing, he replied, “Now you’ve had me stumped. I last saw him at Mount Hua over 20 years ago, and have never heard from him since.” Disappointed, Mu Nian Ci walked slowly out of the room.

    Han Xiao Ying asked, “Priest Wang, who is this Elder Hong?”

    Wang Chu Yi smiled and seated himself on the bed. Qiu Chu Ji said, “Heroine Han, have you heard of the Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divinity?”

    Han Xiao Ying replied, “I’ve heard people say these are the five strongest martial artists in the world, but I don’t know if it’s true.”

    Qiu Chu Ji said, “It is.”

    Ke Zhen’E said, “So this Elder Hong is the Northern Beggar?”

    Wang Chu Yi said, “That’s right. The Central Divinity refers to our late Teacher, Reverend Wang.”

    Upon hearing that this Elder Hong was mentioned alongside the Quan Zhen 7’s Teacher, they were immediately filled with awe. Qiu Chu Ji turned and smiled at Guo Jing. “This wife of yours is the disciple of the great 9-Fingered Divine Beggar. Who would dare bully you in future?” Guo Jing felt his cheeks burn and wanted to dispute this, but he just stammered and did not manage to say anything.

    Han Xiao Ying asked, “Priest Wang, how did you tell that she was taught by the Nine-Fingered Divine Beggar by just pushing her shoulder?”

    Qiu Chu Ji motioned for Guo Jing to come over, and Guo Jing went to his side as instructed. Qiu Chu Ji pushed Guo Jing’s shoulder with his palm, exerting pressure with internal energy. But Guo Jing had cultivated profound internal energy under Ma Yu’s guidance, and also endured over 10 years of hard physical training from the 6 Freaks. As a result, he had considerable internal and external strength. With this push, Qiu Chu Ji could not bring him down. Laughing, he said, “Good lad!” and the pressure loosened.

    Guo Jing had exercised his internal energy to resist the push, and now he relaxed both outwards and inwards. Quick as lightning, Qiu Chu Ji seized this instant; Guo Jing’s earlier energy had dissipated and his new wave of energy had yet to catch on, leaving a gap. With a light pull, Guo Jing fell backwards. He extended his hands and, using his fingers, propelled himself upright again.

    Everyone burst out laughing. Zhu Cong said, “Jing’er, remember this expert move that Priest Qiu taught you.” Guo Jing nodded in obedience.

    Qiu Chu Ji said, “Heroine Han, when pulled by the shoulder, all martial artists in the world will fall backward if they are unable to resist. But with the unique kungfu of the 9-Fingered Divine Beggar, one will fall forward instead. This is because his kungfu is rooted in extreme, rigid toughness. When faced with strength, it responds with greater strength. Though Miss Mu only spent 3 days under his tutelage, she has evidently grasped his martial arts philosophy. Though she was unable to withstand Younger Martial Brother Wang’s pull, she refused to succumb to the situation. Even if she had to fall, she would fall in the opposite direction of the enemy’s strength.”

    The 6 Freaks thought what he said made sense, and admired Quan Zhen Sect’s proficient knowledge. Zhu Cong said, “Priest Wang has seen the 9-Fingered Divine Beggar display his kungfu?”

    Wang Chu Yi said, “Over 20 years ago, my late Teacher competed in the Mt. Hua Tournament with the 9-Fingered Divine Beggar, Huang Yao Shi and the other Greats. Elder Hong’s kungfu was truly outstanding but he was also very gluttonous, and Mt. Hua was short of delicacies. Feeling extremely bored, he took sword as wine and fist as dishes and began chatting about the theories of sword and fist with my late Teacher and Elder Huang Yao Shi. At that time I was waiting on Teacher and was very lucky indeed to have heard these brilliant theories. In fact, I learned a lot.”

    Ke Zhen’E said, “Oh, so out of the ‘Eastern Heretic, Western Poison,’ Huang Yao Shi must be the so-called ‘Eastern Heretic?”

    Qiu Chu Ji replied, “Correct.” He then turned to Guo Jing and said jovially, “Though Elder Martial Brother Ma has taught you some internal energy, luckily you are not officially his disciple. If you start comparing seniority, you’ll be one level lower than your wife! Then you’ll never be able to raise your head in this life.”

    Guo Jing went red. “I’m not marrying her.”

    Startled, Qiu Chu Ji said, “What?”

    “I’m not marrying her!”

    “I’m not marrying her!” Guo Jing repeated.

    Qiu Chu Ji’s face sank and he stood up. “But why?”

    Ever doting on her disciple, Han Xiao Ying saw that Guo Jing was in a tight spot and hurriedly explained on his behalf: “We received word that Master Yang’s child was a male. Thinking that the betrothal agreement was annulled, Jing’er has already gotten engaged in Mongolia. The Khan of Mongolia, Genghis Khan, has appointed him as his imperial son-in-law.”

    Qiu Chu Ji’s face hardened and he glared at Guo Jing. Laughing icily, he said, “Brilliant, this girl is a Princess, a precious imperial descendent – commoners can’t hold a candle to her, so you’re just going to conveniently ignore the wishes of the dead? You lust for riches and betray your roots. How different are you from that scoundrel Wan Yan Kang? And what of your late father’s wishes?”

    Panicking, Guo Jing bowed. “I have never met my father, and my mother has never mentioned anything about his wishes. Priest, please enlighten me.”

    At this, Qiu Chu Ji lost his cold smile and his expression softened at once. “So you are really not to blame. I was too quick to jump to conclusions.” He then explained everything from beginning till the end – his meeting with the Guo and Yang brothers 18 years ago at Ox Village, the slaughtering of soldiers that night, his search for the Guo and Yang families, his misunderstanding with the 7 Freaks of Jiang Nan and the wager that followed, et cetera.

    Now knowing the circumstances of his birth and how everything had begun, he broke down in sobs. His father died a horrible death and had yet to be avenged; he then thought of the great kindness of his 7 Teachers -- how could he even hope to repay them in this lifetime?

    Han Xiao Ying said kindly, “It’s very common for a man to have more than one wife. Just let the Khan know about this and marry both women. That way, all your problems will be solved. I reckon the Khan himself has even more than 100 wives.”

    Wiping his tears, he replied, “I can’t marry Princess Hua Zheng.”

    Surprised, Han Xiao Ying asked, “Why?”

    “I don’t like her as my wife.”

    “But haven’t you always been on very good terms with her?”

    “I view her as a younger sister and a good friend, but I certainly don’t want her as my wife.”

    Qiu Chu Ji said happily, “Good child, you’ve got backbone! Khan or not, Princess or not, who cares? Just obey your father and Uncle Yang, and get married with Miss Mu.” Unexpectedly, Guo Jing shook his head again.

    “I won’t marry Miss Mu either.”

    Everyone present was bewildered, not knowing what was running through his head. But Han Xiao Ying was a woman, and she paid heed to details. “You like someone else?” she asked gently. Guo Jing blushed and, after a moment or two, nodded his head.

    Han Bao Ju and Qiu Chu Ji asked sternly in unison, “Who is it?”

    Guo Jing opened his mouth to answer, but faltered. During the fight with Mei Chao Feng and the others in the Palace the previous night, Huang Rong had the attention of Han Xiao Ying. She had secretly marveled at this girl with her graceful movements and a face as delicate as those you only see in paintings. Thinking back, Huang Rong did seem very affectionate towards Guo Jing and had been looking out especially for him. Han Xiao Ying asked, “It’s the young girl who dressed in white, isn’t it?” Guo Jing went red as he nodded.

    Qiu Chu Ji said impatiently, “What young or old girl in white or black?”

    Han Xiao Ying muttered to herself, “I heard Mei Chao Feng call her Little Martial-Sister and addressed her father as Teacher…”

    Qiu Chu Ji and Ke Zhen’E stood up at once and said together, flabbergasted: “She’s Huang Yao Shi’s daughter?”

    Holding Guo Jing’s hand, Han Xiao Ying asked, “Jing’er, is her surname Huang?”

    Guo Jing answered, “Yes.”

    To this, Han Xiao Ying was speechless.

    Ke Zhen’E muttered, “You want to marry Mei Chao Feng’s Younger Martial-Sister?”

    Zhu Cong asked, “Her father has betrothed her to you?”

    Guo Jing replied, “I’ve never met her father, nor do I know who her father is.”

    Zhu Cong asked again, “So you have an illicit engagement?”

    Not knowing what an ‘illicit engagement’ meant, Guo Jing widened his eyes and did not reply. Zhu Cong continued, “You’ve told her that you will definitely marry her, and she’s also said that she’ll definitely marry you, is that right?”

    Guo Jing replied, “Never said that.” After a brief pause, he continued, “We don’t have to say it. I can’t do without her, and she can’t do without me. We know this in our hearts.”

    Having never experienced the feeling of love, Han Bao Ju was displeased upon hearing this and said impatiently, “What nonsense is this?”

    However, Han Xiao Ying’s mind flitted to Zhang Ah Sheng: 'Among us 7 Freaks, Fifth Brother’s character was the most similar to Jing’er. But he only loved me in secret – he always thought he wasn’t good enough for me and so he never expressed his feelings. Was it like Jing’er and that girl, what with ‘we both know it in our hearts; I can’t do without her, she can’t do without me’? If I had let him known just a few months before he died that I actually couldn’t do without him, he would have at least a few months of true happiness in his lifetime.'

    Zhu Cong said calmly, “Her father is a ruthless monster who kills without blinking, did you know that? If he found out that you got close with her daughter in secret, how could even you hope to live? Mei Chao Feng hasn’t even learned one-tenth of his kungfu and she is already so formidable. If the Master of Peach Blossom Isle wants to kill you, who will be able to save you?”

    Guo Jing said softly, “Rong’er is so nice, I doubt… I doubt her father will be a bad person.”

    “Bullshit!” Han Bao Ju berated. “Huang Yao Shi is utterly evil, how could he not be a bad person? Quickly vow that you’ll never see that little demoness again.”

    Because the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds had killed the Laughing Buddha Zhang Ah Sheng, the 6 Freaks bore a grudge as deep as the oceans towards them and hated their Teacher to the core. They all thought that the kungfu the Twin Killers used to kill Zhang Ah Sheng was taught by Huang Yao Shi; if there was no Huang Yao Shi in this world, Zhang Ah Sheng wouldn’t have died.

    Guo Jing was in an extremely difficult position. On one hand was his deep gratitude towards his Teachers, and on the other hand was a love both sincere and true. If he could never see Rong’er ever again, how could he live on? His Teachers’ eyes were fixed sternly on himself and with an aching heart, dropped down to his knees, tears streaming down his cheeks. Han Bao Ju stepped forward and said harshly, “Say it! Say that you’ll never see that little demoness again.”

    Suddenly, a clear female voice shouted from outside the window: “Why are you forcing him like this? How shameless!” Everyone was startled. That girl called: “Jing-gege, hurry outside.”

    Surprised and delighted to hear it was Huang Rong, Guo Jing dashed outside and saw her standing at the courtyard with his Blood-sweat Horse. The Little Red Horse saw Guo Jing and let out a long neigh, raising its front hoofs.

    Han Bao Ju, Quan Jin Fa, Zhu Cong and Qiu Chu Ji followed him out of the room. Guo Jing said to Han Bao Ju, “Third Teacher, that’s her, she’s Rong’er. Rong’er isn’t a demoness!”

    “You ugly and short fatty, why did you call me a little demoness?” Huang Rong scolded. She then pointed to Zhu Cong and said, “And you, sly and sloppy scholar! Why did you say my father’s a monster who kills without blinking?”

    Not taking a little girl to heart, Zhu Cong merely smiled. Looking at Huang Rong, he thought that her beauty was indeed peerless and none he had seen in his life could match hers – no wonder Jing’er was so crazy about her. Han Bao Ju, however, was absolutely furious, so much so that the moustache at the edge of his lips had curled. He yelled, “Get out, get out!”

    Huang Rong started clapping and sang: “Shorty-gourd, tumbling ball, with one kick, rolls three times; with two kicks…”

    Guo Jing exclaimed, “Rong’er, stop being naughty! These are my Teachers.”

    Huang Rong stuck out her tongue and made a face. Moving forward, Han Bao Ju struck out his arm to hit her. Huang Rong sang again: “Shorty-gourd, tumbling ball…” All of a sudden, she reached out and grabbed the cloth on Guo Jing’s waist. With a hard tug, both of them had mounted the horse together. With a lift of the reins, the Little Red Horse bolted forward and away like an arrow leaving the bow. No matter how fast Han Bao Ju was, how could possibly he catch up with the lightning pace of a Blood-sweat Horse? By the time Guo Jing had slightly settled himself, he turned his head only to see that the faces of Han Bao Ju and the others were already blurred; in the next instant they were reduced to little black dots. His own face was wrapped in rushing wind and his ears, enveloped in the sound of it. The Little Red Horse continued to surge forward with amazing pace.

    Huang Rong held the reins in her right hand and held Guo Jing’s hand with her left. Though they had parted for less than half a day, they had just only gone through an agonizing experience. Though one was inside the room and the other, outside the window, both had similar feelings of worry and anxiety, and now it felt like they had re-united after calamity. Guo Jing’s heart was clouded with indecision – escaping from his Teachers like this was a huge wrong, yet when he thought that he would have to give up this girl in his arms that was dearer than his own life and never see her again, he would rather sever his head and bleed to death.

    Only after the Little Red Horse had galloped more than 10 li past Yan Capital did Huang Rong withdraw the reins and halt, leaping off the horse. Guo Jing followed and dismounted. The Little Red Horse kept rubbing its head against Guo Jing’s waist, displaying great affection. Guo Jing and Huang Rong held hands and gazed at each other in silence, each having a multitude of words to say but not knowing where to begin. But even in the absence of words, their hearts were linked and they had long been aware of each other’s thoughts. After a long while, Huang Rong lightly released her hand and retrieved a towel from the leather sack on the horse’s side. She wet the towel by the small stream and gave it to Guo Jing to wipe his face. Guo Jing was currently in a dazed state and did not receive the towel, but said suddenly, “Rong’er, we have to do it!”

    Jumping in surprise, Huang Rong said, “What is it?”

    “We’ll head back and see my Teachers.”

    “Go back? Go back together?” She said, stunned.

    “Yes. I want to hold your hand and tell my 6 Teachers, Priest Ma and the rest: Rong’er is not a demoness…” Holding Huang Rong’s little hand and lifting his head, he said firmly as if Ke Zhen’E, Ma Yu and the rest were in front of him: “Teachers, you have shown me great kindness that I will never be able to repay even with my life. But, but, Rong’er is really not a demoness, she’s a very, very good girl, very, very good…” In his heart he had innumerable words and phrases in defense of Huang Rong, but when the words were at his mouth, he could say nothing but ‘very, very good’.

    Huang Rong found it funny at first, but as Guo Jing went on she felt greatly moved. Gently, she said, “Jing-ge-ge, your Teachers hate me to the core. Nothing you say can make a difference. Let’s not go back! I’ll follow you to the secluded mountains, to an island in the sea, to someplace where they’ll never find us and live there forever.”

    Guo Jing’s heart gave a start, but he said seriously, “Rong’er, we must go back.”

    “But they’ll surely separate us,” she wailed. “Then we’ll never be able to see each other, ever again.”

    “Then we’ll just not separate, till death do us apart.”

    Huang Rong’s initial misery abated with these words; words that weighed more than a thousand vows and a million promises. Suddenly she was filled with such a confidence, feeling that their two hearts had long been knotted stubbornly together, so stubborn that no person or force in this world could separate them. She thought to herself: 'Yes, that’s it. In the worst case we’ll only die, surely there can’t be anything worse than death?'

    She said aloud, “Jing-ge-ge, I will abide by you forever. We’ll just not separate till death do us apart.”

    Guo Jing said in delight, “I’ve always said you were a very, very good girl.”

    Smiling gaily, Huang Rong retrieved a large piece of raw beef from the sack and coated it with moist earth. Gathering some dry twigs and branches, they started a fire. She said, “Let the Little Red Horse rest for a bit. We’ll set off after eating.”

    After they had finished the beef and the Little Red Horse had had its fill of grass, the two of them mounted the horse and went back the way they came. Not long after passing the placard, they arrived at the inn. Guo Jing held Huang Rong’s hand and together, they stepped inside. The shopkeeper had once been recipient of Guo Jing’s silver and looked joyous upon seeing his return. Hurrying forward, he welcomed Guo Jing, saying, “Good day to you, sir! The other guests have all left the city. What would you like to eat?”

    Guo Jing said, surprised, “They’ve all left? Did they leave any message?”

    “No, they didn’t. They headed south and haven’t been gone for more than 4 hours.”

    Turning to Huang Rong, Guo Jing said, “We’ll catch up with them.” They left the inn and mounted the horse, heading southwards in pursuit, but eventually failed to catch sight of the three Priests or the 6 Freaks. And so, urging the Little Red Horse, they turned back once again. The Little Red Horse was ever spirited and lively; having gone two trips it still showed no signs of weariness but continued sprinting relentlessly. Along the way, they made enquiries about the 3 Priests and 6 Freaks but no one had seen anyone like them, and Guo Jing was thoroughly disappointed.

    Huang Rong said, “All of them will be gathering at the Misty Rain Inn during the Mid-Autumn Festival, so you’ll definitely be able to see your Teachers then. It still wouldn’t be too late to tell them that I’m ‘very, very good’.”

    “Mid-Autumn Festival is a whole 6 months away,” he replied.

    Smiling cheerfully, Huang Rong said, “Then in these 6 months we’ll have fun and be merry, wouldn’t that be great?”

    Besides being adventurous by nature, Guo Jing, like all young people, was also playful. Furthermore, he would be accompanied by the girl he loved and to this, couldn’t ask for more. Applauding the idea, the pair hurried to the nearest town to spend the evening. The next day they bought a white horse; Guo Jing insisted on riding it, letting Huang Rong ride the Little Red Horse. With rein in hand, they travelled leisurely and enjoyed themselves along the way. Sometimes they lay asleep beside each other in the wilderness, other times they shared a room in an inn. Despite their deep love for each other, they were young and innocent and did nothing licentious. Huang Rong did not think it was anything unusual; Guo Jing, however, felt that this was how things were meant to be.

    On this day they came to the Xi Qing Prefecture, which was East of Jing Dong Road and controlled by the Tai Ning military. As it grew closer to noon, the weather became increasingly humid. Having ridden with haste for nearly half a day, trickles of perspiration emerged on their foreheads and backs as the bright, orange sun shone directly on them. Sand and dust from the path scattered all around them as they rode, the particles sticking on their greasy faces. The discomfort was unbearable.

    “Let’s not hurry anymore. We’ll find a cool and breezy place to rest,” Huang Rong suggested.

    Guo Jing replied, “Sure. Let’s have a pot of tea in the town further up before doing anything else.”

    As they spoke, their horses caught up with a sedan-chair and a scrawny donkey in front. Riding the donkey was a big fatty clothed in yam-colored gauze robes, continuously fanning himself with a big white fan. The donkey limped under the weight of his 250 – 60 jin body, with every step proving to be a hurdle. As for the sedan, its screens were lifted for cooling purposes and within it sat a fat middle-aged woman in pink robes. Coincidentally, the two sedan-bearers were also thin and frail, and both were panting heavily. Beside the sedan was a slave girl with a sunflower-fan, relentlessly fanning the fat woman in the sedan. Huang Rong urged her horse forward and overtook this group of people by 70 or 80 feet. She then reined in and turned around to face the sedan.

    Curious, Guo Jing asked, “What are you doing?”

    “I want to see how this madam looks like,” came her reply. Peering into the sedan, she saw that the fat woman was 40-odd years of age. She had a gold hairpin in her hair, and sitting on the edge of her temples was a large, red velvet flower. She had a broad mouth, beady eyes, two flapping ears and a nose so flat it looked like it wasn’t there. Her plump face was as round as a plate, with a thick layer of powder slapped on. However, streams of perspiration from her forehead had already dissolved streaks of powder to create several dikes in her face. Hearing Huang Rong’s words, she raised a pair of bushy eyebrows and glowered fiercely at her.

    “What’s there to see?” The fat woman said rudely.

    Huang Rong long had intentions of creating trouble, and she couldn’t have been happier now that the fat woman took the initiative to stir the rift. Halting the Little Red Horse and blocking the way, she grinned and said, “I’m admiring your slim figure, it’s really nice!” All of a sudden, she lifted the reins with a cry and the Little Red Horse charged straight at the sedan. Shocked, the two sedan-bearers dropped the sedan immediately and fled to the sides. The sedan toppled over and the fat woman came tumbling noisily out, landing right smack in the middle of the path. Her arms and legs flailed helplessly about, and she was unable to pick herself up. But Huang Rong had already halted the Little Red Horse and was now clapping her hands, howling with laughter. She had intended to ride away after this prank, but the fatty on the donkey brandished his mule whip and lashed it ferociously towards her.

    He bellowed: “Where did this little witch pop up from?”

    Lying horizontally spread across the path, an even worse slew of obscenities escaped the fat woman’s mouth.

    Huang Rong caught the whip with her left hand and gave it a small tug, causing the fatty to tumble off his horse. Raising the whip, she lashed it towards him. The fat woman screamed loudly, “Female robber! Murder! She’s blocked our way and robbed us!” Unrelenting, Huang Rong pulled out her E’Mei Dagger and bent down. With a “chi” sound, blood splattered across the fat woman’s face and she shrieked like a dying pig. Her left ear had been sliced off.

    This scared the living spirits out of the fatty and he immediately knelt, whimpering: “Mercy, big Lady King! I… I have silver!”

    Huang Rong made a face. “Who wants your silver? Who is this woman?”

    “She… She’s my wife! We… we… she went back to her mother’s house to visit.”

    “Both of you are fat and robust, so why can’t you walk yourself? I can show mercy, but you just have to follow my orders.”

    “Yes, yes,” he clamored. “We’ll obey Lady King’s orders.”

    Huang Rong burst out laughing when she heard him address herself as ‘Lady King’, thinking it was a pretty interesting title. She said, “Where are the two sedan-bearers? Get inside the sedan – all three of you, together with that slave girl.”

    Not daring to defy her, the three servants propped the fallen sedan back to balance and climbed inside. Thankfully, all three of them were thin and small-built so it wasn’t much of a squeeze. In fact, their combined mass might’ve even been smaller than that of the fat woman’s. At present, six pairs of eyes – the three servants’, Guo Jing’s and the fat couples’ – were fixed nervously on Huang Rong, not knowing what strange ideas she might have.

    Huang Rong said, “You husband and wife have led a life of power and luxury, bullying the poor just because you have a little stinking money. Now that you’ve met the big ‘Lady King’, would you like to live or die?”

    By this time, the fat woman had long stopped her wailing. With her left hand pressed firmly on the wound on the side of her face, she said together with her fat husband, “We want to live, we want to live! Please have mercy, Lady King!”

    “All right,” said Huang Rong. “Today, it’s your turn to be the sedan-bearers. Lift up the sedan!”

    The fat woman cried, “I… I only know how to sit in sedans; I don’t know how to carry them!”

    A dagger flew past her, grazing the tip of her nose. Huang Rong shouted, “If you don’t carry the sedan, I’m going to slice off your nose.”

    Thinking that her nose had already been sliced off, the fat woman shrieked, “Aiya, the pain is killing me!” Huang Rong shouted again, “Are you going to carry the sedan, or not?”

    The fatty quickly lifted the sedan and said, “We’ll carry it, we’ll carry it!”

    Left with no choice, the fat woman lowered her body and placed the end of the sedan pole on her shoulder, then stood upright again. Both husband and wife were truly sturdy and robust, having eaten plenty of tonics. They strode away with the sedan on their shoulders, looking like experienced sedan-bearers.

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing cheered in unison, “Carried well!” They trailed behind the sedan on their horses for about 100 feet before Huang Rong urged her horse to sprint.

    “Jing-ge-ge, let’s go!”

    Together, they galloped swiftly and after a distance, turned back to look. They couldn’t help but burst out in peels of laughter at the sight. The fat couple was still walking with the sedan on their shoulders, not daring to put it down.

    “That fat woman is both cruel and hideous, and is actually quite suitable. I originally wanted to capture her and give her to Qiu Chu Ji as a wife, but it’s too bad I can’t win that Bull-nose in a fight.”

    “Why would you give her to Priest Qiu to be his wife?” Guo Jing asked, baffled. “He wouldn’t want it.”

    “Of course he wouldn’t. But at the same time, why doesn’t he understand? You said you didn’t want to marry Miss Mu, but he still tried to force you to. Hmph, when one day I can defeat that Bull-nose Priest, I’ll force him to take a wicked and ugly woman as his wife and let him have a taste of being forced to marry!”

    At this, Guo Jing’s smile faded and he was silent for a moment. Then he said, “Rong’er, Miss Mu is neither wicked or ugly. But I’ll still only take you as my wife.”

    With a lovely smile, Huang Rong said, “Even if you don’t say it, I know.”

    They continued their journey until the sudden sound of rushing water emerged from behind a row of trees. Huang Rong weaved her way past a big tree and gave a cry of delight. Guo Jing followed and saw that it was a clear stream, so clear that you could see the stream bed, made up of green, white, red and purple pebbles. Hanging willows graced both its banks, their branches lightly brushing the water surface, beneath which many fish swam freely. Huang Rong removed her outer robe and jumped into the water with a splash. Alarmed, Guo Jing went near the edge of the stream only to see both her hands raised high, grasping a green fish that was about 1 chi long. The fish wriggled desperately, struggling to escape. Huang Rong called out, “Catch!”

    She threw the fish towards him. Displaying his seizing method, Guo Jing caught the fish. But the fish was extremely slippery and slid out of his hands immediately, lurching and flipping wildly on the ground.

    Clapping and laughing, Huang Rong called, “Jing-ge-ge, come down and swim.” Having grown up in the desert, Guo Jing did not know how to swim and shook his head with a smile.

    “Come down, I’ll teach you,” she urged.

    Huang Rong looked like she was having a lot of fun in the water, so he removed his outer clothes and waded slowly down. But Huang Rong gave his leg a tug and he lost balance, falling and gulping down a few mouthfuls of water in panic. Huang Rong laughed as she helped him up, and began teaching him the technique of swimming. The essentials of the skill lay in regulating one’s breathing. Since Guo Jing was acquainted with internal energy practice techniques and proficient with breath regulation, it took him only half a day’s practice to get the hang of swimming. That night they slept by the bank of the stream, and early the next morning it was back to one teaching, one learning. Growing up on an island in the sea, Huang Rong had been proficient in aquatic skills since young. Be it literature or martial arts, there was nothing Huang Yao Shi did not excel in, yet his aquatic skills were far behind that of his daughter’s. Under the guidance of this brilliant instructor, Guo Jing spent 8-10 hours underwater every day. After 7 or 8 days had passed, he could swim up and down as he pleased; float and sink as he wished.

    On this particular day, they had been swimming for hours and still their enthusiasm seemed boundless. They defied the current and had just swum a few li upstream when they heard the sound of falling water. Turning a bend, their eyes were greeted with what looked like flying pearls and sprinkling jade – it was actually a waterfall of a few hundred feet in height, with its large bodies of water spilling down ceaselessly from the cliff peak.

    “Jing-ge-ge, let’s try and make it up to the cliff peak from the waterfall,” said Huang Rong.

    “Okay, let’s give it a try. You’d better wear your Soft Hedgehog Armor.”

    “No need!”

    With a determined shout, the pair drilled their way into the waterfall. The current was extremely urgent – forget climbing up, they couldn’t even stand properly, and with a slight shift of their feet their bodies were rushed far, far away by the current. After a few unsuccessful attempts, they finally gave up in exhaustion. Feeling extremely discontented, Guo Jing said with rousing anger, “Rong’er, we’ll have a good rest tonight and come again tomorrow.”

    Huang Rong said, laughing, “Okay! You needn’t get angry at the waterfall, though.”

    Realizing he was being silly, Guo Jing laughed along. The next day they tried again, and this time managed to climb over 10 feet. Fortunately, both were proficient in their lightness skill (qing gong) and every time they were rushed down by the water, they only fell into the deep waterfall and did not hurt themselves. On the 8th day, Guo Jing finally managed to reach the peak. Stretching out his hand, he hauled Huang Rong up and they jumped up and down in jubilation, delirious in their triumph. Then, hand-in-hand, they slid down the waterfall once more.

    And so, having spent nearly 10 days in this fashion, Guo Jing’s aquatic skills were no longer weak, thanks also to his deep internal energy. Though he was still far behind Huang Rong, she told him that he had already surpassed her father. Only when the waterfall ceased to interest them did they finally get back onto their horses and journey Southwards.

    On this day, the sun had already set and the vast, cloudy sky was a dark blanket of blue when the pair arrived at the banks of Changjiang River. Guo Jing gazed east where the great river’s waves broke forth, steadily and unfaltering. All around him was an abundant excess of nature, seemingly infinite. Water flowed into the river from upstream unceasingly; it was steadfast, and it would run for eternity without rest. With such awe-inspiring scenery before his eyes, feelings of heroism and valor stirred in his chest and he felt like his body had merged into one with the river. Guo Jing continued admiring the scenery for a fairly long while before Huang Rong suddenly spoke: “If you want to go, let’s go.”

    Guo Jing replied, “Okay!”

    Having spent all these days together, there was no longer a need for too many words between them before they knew what each other was thinking. Huang Rong could see from the expression in his eyes that he wanted to swim across the river. Guo Jing released the white horse’s reins and said, “You’re of no use now, go your own way.”

    With a pat on the back of the Little Red Horse, they leapt into the river together. The Little Red Horse let out a long neigh and swam in front, while Guo Jing and Huang Rong swam side-by-side behind it. By the time they reached the heart of the river, the Little Red Horse was already way ahead of them. Above them, a myriad of stars sparkled in the sky and aside from the sound of the rolling waves, all else was quiet and it was as if they were the only two people in heaven and earth.

    After swimming for a while more, dark clouds suddenly started gathering in the sky and on the river, all was pitch black. Lightning and thunder followed continuously and each roar of thunder seemed like it had struck their heads.

    “Rong’er," Guo Jing called. "Are you afraid?”

    Smiling, she said, “I’m with you, I’m not afraid.”

    The rain then started falling mercilessly, and eventually ended as abruptly as it began. When they finally reached the other side of the river, the storm had already ended and the clear moon had begun to give passage to the sun. Guo Jing gathered some dry twigs and started a fire. From her bag, Huang Rong retrieved a dry set of clothing for both of them and they changed, hanging their wet clothes above the fire to dry.

    A short nap later, brightness crept slowly over the horizon. In a small peasant hut by the river, a single rooster cleared its throat and started its long crow. Huang Rong yawned and exclaimed, “I’m hungry!” She sprinted towards the hut and returned within a quarter of an hour with a big fat chicken in hand. Chuckling, she said, “Let’s go farther away so the owner won’t see.”

    The two of them journeyed eastwards for a few li, and the Little Red Horse trailed behind them obediently. Huang Rong used her E’Mei dagger to cut the rooster’s stomach and proceeded to cleanse out its organs, but she did not pluck its feathers. Wetting some earth with water, she coated the chicken with mud and roasted it over fire. Some moments later, a sweet fragrance seeped through the mud. When the mud had become completely dry, it was skinned off and the chicken feathers fell off with it, exposing tender white meat and a rich, savory aroma that assaulted their nostrils.

    End of Chapter 11
    Last edited by Mojo Jojo; 10-01-05 at 03:45 PM.

  14. #34
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    (Patudo)

    Chapter 12-1, 12-2

    Huang Rong was on the point of cutting up the chicken when they heard a voice behind them:

    "A third portion, I will take the tail portion!"

    The two youngsters started: how had somebody been able to approach them without them realizing his being there? They turned and beheld a beggar, old, but forceful. The man had a rectangular face, a goatee beard, and vigorous but rather massive limbs. His clothes, frayed on all sides, were however very clean. He held with one hand a green cane, made from translucent bamboo like jade, and carried on his back a large red gourd. He looked so greedy and impatient, one had the impression that if his portion were not given, he was going to seize some by force! Before the two young people had time to answer, he had already sat down in front of them, without further ado. He took his water-bottle and opened it, and a heady alcoholic perfume spread itself in the air. He gluttonously swallowed several mouthfuls before tightening the water-bottle.

    To Guo Jing:

    " A drink, little urchin," said he, "with you!"

    Guo Jing found the man rather impolite, but sensed distinctly that he was no ordinary individual, so he did not dare to show disrespect:

    " No, thank you," he said courteously, " I do not drink alcohol, but you doing so causes me no inconvenience."

    " And you, little girl," asked the beggar of Huang Rong, " Do you drink?"

    Huang Rong shook her head. Suddenly, she saw that the hand which held the water-gourd had only four fingers: the index had been severed at the root. She started and thought of the conversation between the Taoists and the Odd Ones, whom she had overheard behind the window of the inn the other day, concerning the Divine Beggar with the nine fingers. "Would this be a stroke of luck," she wondered, " that we fall thus, by chance, on that Elder one? Let us try to probe him a little... " The eyes of the beggar were fixed on the chicken held in his hand and he salivated with greediness. She could not stop secretly laughing.

    He then cut out the bird into two and the tail portion was tended to him. Captivated, the beggar seized some and took a full bite. While devouring it, he did not cease praising:

    " Delicious! Delicious! Even I, who am the ancestor of all the beggars, I could not improvise such a delicious "Beggar's Chicken"!"

    Huang Rong traced a smile and tended the other piece to him.

    " But no," protested the beggar, " you have not eaten yet, you all!"

    This attempt at manners was in vain, purely for form's sake, as that did not prevent him from seizing what was offered to him: in a flash, there remained nothing any more but bones!

    He tapped his belly then and exclaimed:

    " Ah, my belly! My belly! Hasn't it been a long time that you have been starved of such a good chicken?"

    Huang Rong burst out laughing:

    " By the greatest good chance, I prepared a "Beggar's Chicken" and here it has entered the majestic belly of the ancestor of the beggars! It's a true honour!"

    The beggar burst out laughing:

    "Little girl, you are quite brave!"

    He withdrew from his pocket several gilded projectiles:

    " Yesterday," he explained, " I saw several individuals brawling...[unable to figure out this portion] The missiles which one of them launched shone like gold. I was the one who benefited from it, I took some of them. In fact, inside, it is cheap metal, but outside, to look good, it is genuine gold. Hold, little urchin, take them and have fun. Where necessary, you can [draw some funds - Editor's interpretation] from them."

    Guo Jing shook his head:

    "We regard you as a friend, and when one invites a friend to eat, one does not accept gifts in payment!"

    In doing so he honoured the rules of hospitality of the Mongols.

    The beggar, feeling thwarted, scraped his head:

    " Then, I am also embarrassed! I have no trouble begging for scraps from people, but today, you provided me such a good chicken! Such a benefit, that I cannot return it, that..."

    "Why speak about benefit and repayment, for such a small chicken?" Guo Jing said. " And, to be honest, we stole this chicken too..."

    " We took this chicken in passing," confirmed Huang Rong, you ate it while you passed here, very well done..."

    The beggar still burst of laughing:

    "You two," said he, " funny enough, I like you well. Good, if you have a wish to formulate, tell it to me."

    Guo Jing, understanding that he proposed to help them, which again infringed the rules of hospitality, shook his head again. But Huang Rong intervened:

    " In fact, this "Beggar's Chicken" is really not a great thing, I have other small favorite dishes, that I would readily make for you to taste. Why won't you come with us?"

    " Splendid!" exclaimed the beggar, enchanted. "Splendid!"

    " What is your honourable name?" asked Guo Jing.

    " My name is Hong, the beggar. And as I am the seventh in my fraternity, you can call me "Qi Gong" ("The Seventh Elder")."

    "It is indeed him!" Huang Rong said. " The Divine Beggar with the nine fingers! But it seems to be younger than the Taoist Master Qiu, how could he be a contemporary of the master of the Quanzhen Seven? Hmm...actually, my dad himself isn't old, but yet he is a peer of Qi Gong! That must be explained by the incompetence of these seven old Taoists, who wasted their time! " She always held some resentment against Qiu Chuji for his having wanted to force Guo Jing to marry Mu Nianci.

    They went towards the South and arrived in a small town, where they took a room in an inn.

    " I'll go to the market," said Huang Rong. "You men, it's better for you to rest a little."

    " She...isn't she your little wife? asked Qi Gong of Guo Jing while watching her depart with a smile.

    The young man reddened, not daring to agree nor to disagree. Qi Gong burst of laughing, and started to drowse on a chair. More than one and a half hours later, Huang Rong returned finally and settled in the kitchen. Guo Jing wanted to help her but the girl closed the door while laughing. Another half an hour passed. Qi Gng yawned, stretched, and inhaled deeply:

    " That smells jolly good," he said. " But what could that be, well? It's odd..."

    He stretched his neck, trying to look through the door of the kitchen. Looking at him, both impatient and greedy, Guo Jing could not stop himself from secretly laughing. Delicate aromas emerged from the kitchen, but Huang Rong remained always invisible.

    Qi Gong did not hold still any more, he scratched his head, rubbed his cheeks, rose, sat down, stood up, as if he were on burning coals.

    " I am like that," he confided to Guo Jing, " I have this unpleasant vice of greediness: when I think of eating, I forget everything else!

    He tightened his right hand and showed its four fingers:

    The old man said: "The index finger moves because of greediness." It was completely true! Each time I see or feel a dish that is original or exquisite, the index of my right hand cannot prevent itself from quivering. Once, because of my greediness, I ruined an extremely important business. Then, I was so much in anger against myself that, with a blow of a knife, I sliced off my index finger!"

    Guo Jing started, but Qi Gong sighed:

    " But I cut off my finger in vain, because my gluttony remained.."

    At this time, Huang Rong entered, smiling, carrying a large wooden plate, which she poised on the table. On the plate, were three bowls of white rice, a cup of wine and two large bowls containing the principal dishes. Guo Jing felt a delicious aroma, extremely appetizing, escaping: in one of the large bowls were laid out the beef sticks roasts which, apart from their odor, did not seem exceptional The other contained a clear soup the colour of jade, in which floated many red cherries and ten pink petals; on the bottom lay young fresh bamboo shoots. The association of the three colors, red, white and green, formed a multi-coloured whole that was extremely pleasant to the eye. The sense of smell was also engaged because the soup emitted a delicate scent of lotus.

    Huang Rong poured wine in the cup which she placed in front of Qi Gong while smiling:

    " Qi Gong, taste my dishes and tell me what you think of them!"

    Hong didn't need to be told twice: without even drinking the wine, he brandished his chopsticks and seized two meat sticks that he engulfed voraciously. An exquisite taste filled his mouth: this was not merely beef! Whenever he chewed, different sensations struck him; sometimes an oily and juicy flavour, sometimes a succulent freshness. Scents succeeded themselves in complex and unpredictable variations, like the blows of a martial arts expert. Startled and delighted, Qi Gong examined the sticks more closely, and saw that each of them was formed by four small different intertwined sticks. He shut his eyes to savour the taste better:

    " Hmm," he said, " there is mutton thigh on one stick, another of pig ears of milk, a third one of calf kidney, and the last one...the last one..."

    " If you guess," said Huang Rong with a grin, "you're really fantastic..."

    She had barely finished her sentence before Qi Gong cried:

    " Deer thigh mixed with rabbit!"

    " Bravo!" applauded the girl. " Well guessed! "

    Guo Jing was completely stunned: " These meat sticks needed so much work!" he said to himself. " And Qi Gong is truly astonishing to have known to distinguish the five different meats! »

    " There are only five meat types," Qi Gong went on, " but the blend of pork and mutton gives a certain taste, the deer with beef another... how many variations there is in all, that, I wouldn't like to say..."

    " If one does not count the order of the variations," said Huang Rong with a smile, " there are some twenty-five, corresponding to the five times five petals of the plum flower. As the meat stick resembles a flute, then this dish has a name- it is called "Plumflowers fall to the jade flute's song" The « that » in the question means that there is a placement sort to the test. Qi Gong, you passed the test, you are the champion of all the gourmets!"

    " Bravo!" the beggar cried to himself.

    No one knew whether he applauded the name of the dish or his own skillfulness in discerning the tastes. Then he placed two cherries in a spoon and says while laughing:

    " This bowl of lotus-leaf soup, with those bamboo sprouts and cherries, is so pretty to look at, one regrets almost to have to eat it!"

    He swallowed and cried: « Ah! », Then he said to himself, astonished: « Eh? ». He took two more and exclaimed again: « Ah! » The freshness of the leaf of lotus, the taste of the bamboo sprouts, sweetness of the cherries, all that, obviously, leaps to the tastebuds, but what's more, the cherries, after having been pitted, had been stuck something..."

    " In the cherries," says Qi Gong while hesitating, " what's there?"

    He closed his eyes again, trying to recognize the taste:

    " This is lark's meat!" he mumbled to himself. " No...if this is not partridge, this is turtledove! Yes, that's it, this is turtledove!"

    He opened his eyes, saw that Huang Rong raised her thumb and was all to trust to have found:

    " So what's the complex name of this soup with lotus leaves, bamboo sprouts, cherries and turtledove?"

    " Elder," said Huang Rong, " you haven't mentioned one more ingredient."

    " Ah yes?" Hong said, astonished.

    He regarded the soup again:

    " Yes," he agreed, " there are these flower petals..."

    " Exactly!" confirmed Huang Rong. " The name of this soup, can you imagine it from these five ingredients?"

    " If this a riddle game, I declare I've lost. Tell me quickly..."

    " I'll give you a clue," said Huang Rong, it suffices you to think about the Book of the Odes!"

    " Ah no!" Qi Gong protested, " I know nothing in the books!"

    " The flower hints at a beauty's complexion," explained Huang Rong, the cherries to her small mouth, isn't that right?"

    " Ah, this is therefore the «Beauty's Soup»?"

    " No, said Huang Rong while shaking the head, the bamboo is a symbol of modesty, it therefore characterizes a gentleman, just as the lotus is the most eminent of the flowers. Thus, bamboo and lotus relate to a gentleman."

    " Oh," said Qi Gong, " this is therefore the «Gentleman and Beauty's Soup »?"

    " What about the turtledove?" said Huang Rong. Indeed, all these elements meet again in the first poem of the Book of the Odes, that finishes thus: "The gentleman is in good company". Thus, this soup is called the "Soup of Good Company"!"

    Qi Gong burst out laughing:

    " Since there is such a complex and strange soup, it's good that it has such a complex and strange name. Very well! Very well! You're a complex and strange little one yourself, I would like to know which complex and strange father that sired you...In any case, this soup is truly exquisite, much better tasting than the soup with cherries that I ate, approximately ten years ago, in the kitchen of the Imperial Palace."

    " You have a pass to the imperial kitchen?" asked Huang Rong. " Tell me, and see if I'll try to prepare something that will please you just as well."

    Qi Gong devoured literally, and didn't have time to reply. He halted himself when he had reached the bottom of the bowls:

    " In the imperial kitchen," he explained, " there are lots of good things of course, but nothing is worth the two dishes that here... Ah, if, there is well a «Five-flavoured slices of Mandarin duck » that was delicious, but I don't know how it was prepared."

    " And it was the emperor that invited you?" asked Guo Jing.

    " Absolutely," said Qi Gong while laughing, " the emperor treated me, but he didn't know that! I lived hidden on a big beam of the imperial kitchen for three months, while tasting each of the dishes intended for the emperor. If I found it to my taste, I kept it for me, otherwise, I left it to him! The cooks believed that there were ghosts!"

    " This person really is excessively greedy, " thought Guo Jing and Huang Rong to themselves, " but he is also insanely audacious!"

    " Little chap," said Qi Gong while laughing, your little girlfriend is the best cook in the world, your happiness is assured! Goodness! Why didn't I meet such a woman when I was young?"

    He seemed sincerely sorry.

    Huang Rong, with a hint of a smile, prepared the remainder for Guo Jing and for her. One bowl of rice was more than enough for her, while the young man put away four big bowls. As for the exquisite placement, it did not seem to make a difference to him. Qi Gong shook his head while sighing:

    " Like a bull chewing on peonies! What a shame! What a shame!"

    Huang Rong put a hand in front of her mouth to prevent herself from laughing.

    "Bulls... do they like peonies?" Guo Jing asked himself. " There are many bulls in Mongolia, but no peonies, then indeed I have never seen bulls eating peonies. But why does he keep saying 'What a shame'?"

    Qi Gong patted his stomach and says:

    " Good, you are both practitioners of the martial arts, I clearly saw that right away. The little one, that went to such trouble to prepare such exquisite dishes for me, certainly has bad intentions, such as, for instance, to persuade me to give you some instruction. Is that not correct? Good, I recognize that, after having so well eaten, I would have scruples to leave me without giving something in return. Come, come with me!" He took up his gourd, his bamboo cane, and went out.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong followed until they reached outside of town.

    " What would you want to learn?" Qi Gong demanded of Guo Jing.

    " Martial arts are so varied," said the young man to himself, "if I want to learn something, how is he sure that he'll be able to teach it to me?"

    While he reflected, Huang Rong had begun to speak:

    " Qi Gong, his gongfu is inferior to mine, and so he gets angry often, because he's always trying to beat me."

    " When do I get angry?" protested Guo Jing.

    Huang Rong glanced at him, telling him to be quiet.

    " For my part," said Qi Gong while laughing, "I have the impression that all his movements are firm and assured, this that means that it has a good basis of neigong. How would he be inferior to you? Good, why don't you match skills a little?"

    Huang Rong moved aside some steps and cried:

    " My Jing, come on!"

    Guo Jing hesitated again.

    " If you don't show what you're capable of," said Huang Rong, " how do you expect this Elder to correct you? On guard!"

    She jumps on him and attacked with a palm stroke, Guo Jing blocked the blow, but she already had changed tactics, and attacked with a kick.

    " Well done, little one!" Qi Gong said. "Pretty blow!"

    " Fight seriously," advised Huang Rong in a low voice.

    Guo Jing itself concentrated and executed conscientiously the powerful " Southern Mountain Palm" taught by Nan Xiren. Huang Rong defended herself nimbly, jumping upwards and downwards. Then suddenly, she modified his technique and executed the « Palm of the divine sword falling the hero », created by his father. This palm technique resembled its name, « divine sword », for it was adapted from a sword technique. She shook her arms in all direction, her opponent was encircled by the palm shadows, incapable to determine if they were feigned or real. It was as though if the wind had got up in the wood of fishings, dropping a thousand flowers: the beauty of the gestures resided in their lightness and their aerial grace, so well that Huang Rong resembled a butterfly taking flight. As her neigong lacked again power, its blows were not as violent and also as terrifying as they should have been. It was of little importance, for Guo Jing, stunned by the multiplicity of the shadows in front of his eyes, had lost all means to resist: in some seconds, he received four palm blows, on the two shoulders, on the chest and on the back, but he was not injured, since Huang Rong had not struck with force. She stepped back with a smile.

    " Well done, Rong-er!" Guo Jing exclaimed in genuine admiration. " What a beautiful palm demonstration!"

    " Your father is so powerful," said Hong in an icy voice. " Why do you want me to give lessons to this simple-minded one?"

    Huang Rong was startled. " According to Father," she said to herself, "since he created this « Palm of the divine sword falling the hero », he not some again never is served himself, how the Venerable Seventh recognized it? »

    " Qi Gong," she demanded, "you know my father?"

    " Indeed, he is the « Eastern Heretic», and I, «The Northern Beggar », don't you think that we lacked occasions to match skills?"

    " He matched blows with Father," Huang Rong said to herself, " and managed to survive, that's really astonishing. Now I understand how the « Northern Beggar » can be ranked alongside the « Eastern Heretic»!"

    " And how did recognize you me?" she demanded again.

    " Just look at yourself in a mirror!" replied Hong. " Your nose and your eyes, are they not even as those of your father? At first, I did not think about that, I felt only that your face appeared familiar to me, but next your demonstration unveiled the jar to the roses! You believe that this old beggar does not recognize the gongfu of the Peach Blossom Isle? Even if I again never had not seen this Palm, I doubted myself well that alone a crafty fellow as your dad would have been able to invent it. Hehe...and the names of your two dishes, what were they? "Plumflowers fall at the Jade Flute's song", and the « Soup of Good Company", it was doubtless your dad that invented them?"

    " You really can read minds," said Huang Rong while laughing. " Then, according to you, my dad is very strong, isn't that right?

    " Of course he is powerful," said Qi Gong coldly, " but he is not the most powerful in all the world!"

    " Then, surely you're the most powerful in this world?" Huang Rong exclaimed while applauding.

    "Not necessarily," Qi Gong said. " Twenty years ago, we met all five of us, Eastern Heretic, Western Venom, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divine, at the summit of Huashan (Mount Hua), to match ourselves. The confrontation lasted seven days and seven nights. Finally, Central Divine revealed himself to be the most powerful, and we all gladly recognized it."

    " Who then is this Central Divine?" asked Huang Rong.

    " Your father never told you?"

    " No. Father said that, in the martial arts world, there are more bad things than good, and that there was no point for girls of good family to hear to speak, then it about it speaks me. And then after, he scolded me very strongly, he didn't love me anymore, so then I ran away. And he doesn't want anything to do with me..."

    Her eyes fell, her face sad.

    " Ah, that old monster!" Qi Gong swore. " What ...!"

    " I won't allow you to insult my father!" Huang Rong exclaimed.

    " What a pity that I was always too poor!" exclaimed Qi Gong, while laughing. " No one ever wanted to marry me! Otherwise, I would have a kind girl like you, and never would I have left you..."

    " Indeed!" said Huang Rong while bursting out laughing. " If I left, what would you do to eat?"

    " Fair enough!" Qi Gong agreed with a sigh. " Well, to answer your question, the Central Divine is Wang Chongyang, master of the Quanzhen Sect. But, after his death, it's difficult to say who's the world's most powerful."

    " The Quanzhen Sect?" Huang Rong said. " There is a fellow called Qiu, another called Wang, and yet another named Ma. This are all of the Taoist obtuse one, but I find their gongfu rather pathetic: they fought with people, and in two times three movements did to spread themselves!"

    " Ah yes? They were doubtless disciples of Wang Chongyang. It seems that, among his seven disciples, Qiu Chuji is the most powerful... But, it is certain than they are not even close to their martial uncle, Zhou Botong."

    Upon hearing this name, Huang Rong was startled; she was about to say something then stopped herself.

    Guo Jing, who was himself just satisfied to listen their conversation, interrupted:

    " It's true, Master Ma said that they had a martial uncle, but he did not mention the name of this Taoist master."

    " Zhou Botong is not a Taoist," Qi Gong replied. " He is a secular person, who was personally taught by his martial brother, Wang Chongyang... Eh, I say, my simple-minded one, you seem me well clumsy! This that your father-in-law, so fine and so crafty, really appreciates you?"

    Guo Jing, who had never thought he had a « father-in-law », stammered, without knowing how to reply.

    " My father is yet to see him again," said Huang Rong, smiling. " If you could be kind enough to give him some pointers, then, thanks to you, my dad will have some appreciation for him!"

    " Little rogue!" Qi Gong grumbled. " Who has learned not even a tenth of her father's gongfu, but who has inherited all his trickery and cleverness! I don't like your flattery and your toadying! And, also I never take disciples! Who wants a stupid one like that? To leaves you, that seem to consider it as a treasure? You planned to get me to teach your little dumb husband! Huh, this old beggar will not fall in such a trap!"

    Huang Rong bowed her head, red to the forehead. She never had not applied to learn the martial arts. His father himself was so strong, she not nothing had learned seriously of him, why would she want to learn from Qi Gong? Only, see that the gongfu of Guo Jing was not up to the mark, that his six Shifu considered her to be a «little witch », she rejoiced at having met such a master as Qi Gong, hoping that he would accept passing on a little of his knowledge to his well-loved one. So that, in front of his masters and in front of Qiu Chuji's Taoists, Guo Jing would not have to be scared, like a mouse in front of the cats. Now, Qi Gong was very greedy and always grinning, but he was not stupid, and he had seen through her act all along!

    The old beggar, muttering to himself, left without a backwards glance.

    The two young people stood silently for a long moment.

    "Rong-er," Guo Jing finally said, " this Elder has a rather original character!"

    Huang Rong heard a light rustle in the foliage, above their head, and realized that Qi Gong had done a big turn before returning, discreetly, to the top of the tree.

    " He's a really kind person," she said then. " And his gongfu is much stronger than my father's."

    " He hasn't shown his skills," Guo Jing wondered aloud, " how do you know that?"

    " My dad told me so."

    " What exactly did he say?"

    " He said that, in today's world, there was only one person who could beat him, and that was the Divine Nine Fingered Beggar, Hong Qi Gong. Unfortunately, as this Elder is always is by mounts and by is worth, he has seldom had the occasion to see him and exchange pointers."

    In fact, after he had moved away, Qi Gong had deployed his incomparable qinggong and had returned to the top of the tree, high above the heads of the young people. He wanted to hear their conversation, and to assure himself that they had not been sent by Huang Yaoshi (French translation: "Huang the Alchemist") to steal his skills. The words of Huang Rong filled him with pride:

    " So," he said to himself, " Huang Yaoshi never wanted to accept my superiority, but deep within himself, he admires me nonetheless!"

    How could he have guessed that it was all pure and simple invention from the girl?

    " I didn't learn great things from my father," Huang Rong went on, " but that's my fault: I enjoyed having fun too much, and never wanted to apply myself! Now, having had the fortune to meet Elder Hong, if he had wanted to give me some lesson, that would have been again better than with my father! What a shame I offended him, without wanting to!"

    And she herself started to sob. At first, she pretended, and Guo Jing tried to console her with softness, then she thought about the death of her mother, the intransigence of her father, and started to truly weep. Qi Gong, atop his tree, in was all returned one...

    " I heard Father say," continued Huang Rong while sobbing, " that Elder Hong had an exceptional skill, of incomparable power, of which even Wang Chongyang was afraid. It's called... It's called... How was it called? I can't remember... Anyway, I had it on the tip of my tongue all the time, I wanted to beg him to teach it...to you- it's called...it's called..."

    Indeed, she not some knew nothing, and talked big progressively.

    Hearing her hesitate, searching without finding, Qi Gong could not hold back, and cried, while jumping to the foot of the tree:

    " That is called the «Dragon-mastering Eighteen Palms»!"

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong bounded up in surprise, one's surprise was real, the other's was feigned...

    "Ah, Qi Gong", Huang Rong cried, " how did you get up in the tree? By flying? Yes, that's it: the «Dragon-Mastering 18 Palms»! Exactly! How could I have forgotten it? Father often told me that the gongfu that he admired most in the world was the «Dragon-Mastering 18 Palms»! "

    Qi Gong was delighted:

    " Then your dad knows what the truth is! I believed that, after the death of Wang Chongyang, he considered himself to be the most powerful in the world!"

    He turned towards Guo Jing:

    " Indeed, your gongfu isn't inferior to that of your little friend. The problem is that your palm technique is not at all up to the mark. Good, granddaughter, you return to the inn!"

    Huang Rong realized that he was going to give a lesson to Guo Jing, and she went away, all satisfied...

    Qi Gong addressed Guo Jing solemnly:

    " You will kneel down and promise me: without my permission, you do not must transmit my gongfu to no one else, even to your crafty little woman!

    Guo Jing was greatly embarrassed: "If Rong-er insists that I teach her," he said to himself, " how could I refuse?"

    " Qi Gong," he says then, " I do not want anymore to learn, so what if she is stronger than me..."

    " And why?" asked Qi Gong.

    " If she wants me to teach her, I cannot refuse without offending her, and I cannot accept without offending you..."

    " Simple-minded though you are," said Qi Gong while laughing, " you have a good heart, and you speak straight. That is good. Very well: I will teach you a stroke called «Resisting the Dragon means Regret» (author's interpretation - original French translation is "The Inflexible Dragon Repents"). I would imagine that Huang Yaoshi has enough pride that he won't, although he would crave to, copy my superior skills. In any case, our schools are completely different, I cannot learn his gongfu, he cannot learn mine..."

    At that, he bent his left knee, pivoted and straightened his arm, made a circle with the upright hand and pushed outwards with the other. His palm touched a great pine and « crack », its trunk broke!

    Guo Jing stood petrified, shocked by the power contained in this blow.

    " This tree cannot move," said Qi Gong, " if it was a human, it would obviously try to avoid the blow. The difficulty of this technique, is precisely to strike so that your opponent cannot, no matter what, avoid it. So well that once you land your blow, «crack », the enemy will collapse like this pine!"

    He repeated the demonstration twice, explaining in detail how to concentrate and project the internal energy. It was only one stroke, but the lesson took more than an hour.

    Guo Jing was not clever, but he had a good basis in neigong. And to learn a move such as this, made with simple movements but having unequaled power, suited him perfectly. He trained conscientiously and, at the end of two hours, had grasped the majority of this technique...


    Chapter 12.2

    " In that little imp's technique," said Qi Gong, " there are many more feints than real attacks. If you try to follow her, she will run around you like you were a donkey and you will always fall, since you never will be able to be as quick as her. You will think that, after all these feints, the next blow will be real, but no, it will be a feint! And the blow following after, you will believe that it is a feint, but no, she will strike a real blow, and you will be in trouble!"

    Guo Jing nodded his head in agreement.

    " Thus, to fight her, the clever way is to completely put the thought of whether it is a feint or not out of your mind. When she attacks you with a palm blow, whether it is a feint or not, return it with a blow of "Opposing the Dragon means Regret". Against of the power of your attack, she will be forced to withdraw and defend herself, so well that all her tricks falls to water!"

    " And after that?" asked Guo Jing.

    " What do you mean, 'and after that'?" Qi Gong replied, his face suddenly darkening. " You great idiot, do you think she is able to withstand this blow that I taught you?"

    " But if she can't withstand it, " said Guo Jing, very worried, " won't she be injured?"

    Qi Gong shook his head and sighed:

    " If, in such a blow one seeks only to send out the force and not to keep it, if one cannot somehow control its lightness or its power, firmness or softness, how can one consider himself a master of these unique 'Eighteen Dragon Mastering Palms'?"

    Guo Jing was eager to consent, but he had taken an inner decision: " As I haven't learned to control my force perfectly, I won't fight with Rong-er!"

    " You don't believe me?" said Qi Gong. " In that case, try it!"

    Guo Jing took up position, imitating his senior's posture, picked a pine with a particularly slender trunk and he struck it a violent blow. The pine was a little shaken but not at all itself broken.

    " You big idiot," Qi Gong said, " why are you shaking this tree for? To catch squirrels? Or to drop pinecones?"

    Guo Jing, red with shame, laughed with an air of denial, not knowing what to reply.

    " I already repeated it for you," said Qi Gong, " it is necessary to put the opponent in a position such that it cannot back up or get away. Your blow just now had enough force, but all it needed was for the pine to shake itself a little for it to escape the full force. It is necessary that you learn to approach and strike in such a way that the tree cannot budge, in order to be able to break it at one go."

    This was, for Guo Jing, an illumination:

    " Then," he cried joyously, " it's necessary for the force to be particularly swift, delivered in such a way that the opponent has no time to defend himself!"

    Qi Gong shot him a black look:

    " Absolutely! That goes without saying! You sweated blood for such a long time, and you only now understand this truth? One really can say that you aren't clever! For this stroke, known as "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret"- it's essence is not found in the word "Resisting" but rather in the word "Regret". If one concentrated only on pure violence, brute power, a little forces in the muscles would suffice. But then, how could this technique be admired by Huang Yaoshi? As the old saying goes: « The inflexible Dragon itself repent, the surplus will not last a long time ». This is the reason that if there has transmission, there must be rétention. When you send out a force of ten, it is necessary again to preserve within yourself a force of twenty. The day where you will know to appreciate the full meaning of the concept "Regrets", then you will be able to consider that you have understood thirty percent of this stroke. Just as a fine old wine, that has had time to season: at first taste, it is not strong, but afterwards that it releases its full heady flavour, that explains the concept "Regret"."

    Guo Jing didn't understand anything about these matters, but he tried to memorize them, in order for him to calmly reflect upon them later. To learn the martial arts, he always had adopted the same method: "That which others may assimilate in a morning, I will devote ten days!" Then he concentrated on the study of the palm technique.

    At first, the pine balanced itself to each of the blows that it received. Towards the end, these became more and more powerful, but the tree moved less and less. He realized that he had progressed and rejoiced somewhat. The face of his palm had become red and swollen, but he did not treat it, and continued to train with determination, never relaxing.

    Qi Gong, who had initially laughed at his persistence, had stretched himself on the ground and snored calmly.

    Little by little, Guo Jing felt more comfortable, he attained a mastery of his energy, to carry the blow and to keep it. He brought up his breath into his dantian, advanced his palm violently, withdrawing his force immediately, so well that the tree did not move at all. Delighted, the young man repeated in the same way while concentrating his force on the edge of his palm: he heard a creak, and the small pine broke apart.

    " Bravo!" cried Huang Rong, who had seen the scene from a distance.

    She approached slowly, carrying a heavy shopping basket.

    Before even opening his eyes, Qi Gong had smelt the delicious aroma of the food that she brought.

    " That feels good! That feels good!" he cried while jumping to his feet.

    He seized the basket from the girl's hands and opened the lid. He beheld a dish of roasted frogs thighs, a very fat duck suited to the Eight treasures, and a big bowl of white and immaculate money noodles. With joyful cries, he pounced on the foods, not drying up any praises on this that it devoured to beautiful teeth. But, as his mouth was full, one couldn't understand anything he said. In an instant, the bowls containing the frog thighs and the duck were emptied. Realizing that Guo Jing again had not eaten, the old beggar felt a little ashamed of his gluttony:

    " Go on, eat up," he says, " these noodles aren't bad..."

    And as he felt really bothered, he added:

    " They are even better than the duck!"

    Huang Rong laughed and says:

    " Qi Gong, you haven't yet tasted my best dishes!"

    Surprise and delighted, the old beggar eagerly asked:

    " What dishes? What dishes?"

    " You can't name them all," replied Huang Rong. "For example returned cabbage in the wok, steamed tofu, hard eggs, roasted meat..."

    As a well-informed gourmet, Qi Gong knew well that it was in the most simple dishes that the true masters really showed their talents. The same applied to martial arts: wondrous execution of the most simple techniques, that was the hallmark of the great masters! These words of Huang Rong delighted him, therefore, so well that his face itself was almost imploring:

    " Good, good!" he says. " I always said that you were a brave little girl..do you want me to buy you cabbage and tofu? Please?"

    " It's not worth your while", said Huang Rong while laughing. " And then, what you will buy will not suit me necessarily."

    " Fair enough," said Qi Gong. " None other than you can choose your ingredients..."

    " Just now," Huang Rong said again, " I saw him break the trunk of a pine: he's already more powerful than me!

    " Not at all," Qi Gong protested, shaking his head. " He isn't up to standard at all! It's necessary that the point the trunk breaks be perfectly neat. Look, it's all twisted, like a saw's teeth- what pathetic gongfu! And then this pine is as slender as a stick, no, as slender as a toothpick! This kid isn't up to the mark at all!"

    " But if he attacks me with this palm," objected Huang Rong, " I will not be able to defend myself. This is all your fault: if he bullies me later, how will I do?"

    Qi Gong, who wanted to get back into her good books, did not want to keep annoying her, even though he clearly saw that she was being duplicitous:

    " So what, according to you, must I do?"

    " Teach me a skill with which I can beat him. After that, I'll cook for you."

    " Very well, we're agreed," said Qi Gong. " He learned only a single blow, it's easy to beat him. I will teach you a fist technique called "Wandering Strides"."

    No sooner had he finished speaking that he rose to his feet to demonstrate: he jumped to right and to the left, with grace and nimbleness, while his big sleeves flew away...

    Huang Rong not some lost a crumb and silently memorized every movement. When the old man had finished the complete chain, she had already half-learned it. After it him given all the supplementary indications, it didn't take two hours for the girl to execute perfectly the thirty-six movements of the "Wandering Strides". At last, she executed the skill at the same time as Qi Gong: they themselves tinrent coast to coast and sprang in concert, the one to right, the other to the left, twirling as a jade swallow and a great eagle gliding in the skies. At the end of the thirty-six movements, they landed on their feet at the same time, regarding each other, and burst into laughter, while Guo Jing applauded vigorously.

    " This little one is hundred more intelligent times than you," says Qi Gong to Guo Jing.

    " So many movements and variations," marvelled the latter while scratching his head, " how did she learn so quickly? And how does she manage not to forget? Me, when I remember second movement, I've already forgot the first one!"

    Qi Gong burst out laughing:

    " Indeed you absolutely cannot learn this «Wandering Strides»! Even if you memorized the steps, you are incapable, in the practice, to produce the spirit of striding! Executed so painstakingly and clumsily, this fist technique would become a real chore!"

    " You've got a point!" conceded Guo Jing while laughing.

    " This «Wandering Strides»," Qi Gong said, " is a gongfu that I practiced in my youth. I have brought it out again to match the direction of the original gongfu of the little one, indeed, it doesn't correspond to the martial arts that I use currently. Thus, I myself haven't used it once during the last ten years."

    He wanted to mean that the «Wandering Strides» was a lot less powerful than the «Eighteen Dragon Mastering Palms».

    Huang Rong was delighted:

    " Qi Gong, if I beat him again, he'll surely be unhappy, so teach him again some blows."

    She herself had no real intention to learn, it was only a pretext to push the old beggar to give more lessons to her lover. If she really had wanted to obtain martial arts, she had at her disposal a great master in the person of her father, of which she not never all could have learned.

    " This dumb kid," said Qi Gong, " He hasn't even fully digested the single blow that I learned for him. Who too kisses poorly embraces! It suffices that you prepare me a lot of dishes, and I will grant all your wishes!"

    " Very well," said Huang Rong, smiling. " Then I leave for the market."

    Qi Gong laughed heartily and himself returned to the hostelry, leaving Guo Jing alone in the pine wood, where he returned to training with determination, late into the night.

    That night, Huang Rong indeed prepared a cabbage dish and a plateful of tofu for Qi Gong. She had carefully selected the most tender cabbage heart and leaves, than she had done to return with hen grease and filaments of duck leg. But the plateful of tofu was really extraordinary: she had cut a ham in two, then dug twenty-four small spherical cavities, in which ones had placed balls of tofu, before closing the ham and beginning to steam it. At the end of cooking, the whole flavour of the ham had passed into the tofu, while the ham himself was left out. After tasting of this dish, Qi Gong evidently was conquered. This steamed tofu had an equally inspired name of poetry Tang and was called « Full Moon Night on the twenty-four bridges ». If the girl had not had at his disposal the family technique called « The Orchid Skims the Point », her ten nimble and delicate fingers would not have been in a position to cut twenty-four small balls in the fragile mass of the tofu. To do that demanded as much delicacy as to engrave characters on a grain of rice, or to sculpture a boat in a nutshell. It would have been easy to cut pieces of tofu in cube, but where had one seen square full moons?

    After the dinner, each went to go to bed. Qi Gong was astonished to see Guo Jing and Huang Rong going to separate rooms:

    " Huh? Aren't you husband and wife? Why don't you sleep in the same room?"

    Huang Rong, that had not stopped joking with him without reserve, felt all embarrassed. Her cheeks blushing, she looked upset.

    " Elder, if you continue to talk nonsense, I won't cook for you tomorrow!"

    " What's this?" Qi Gong was astonished. " What did I talk nonsense?"

    After an instant's reflection, he realized:

    " I'm old and senile, indeed," he said while laughing. " You're clearly dressed as a girl, and not as a wife. You are yourself therefore promised to each other secretly, without the consent of the parents or a matchmaker, or the wedding ceremony. Don't worry, I will be your go-between. If your dad does not accept, I'll provoke a duel and we'll fight, my goodness! for seven days and seven nights if we have to, until he yields!"

    Huang Rong was precisely worried about this matter: she feared that her father would not like Guo Jing. The words of the old beggar filled her with joy and she returned to her room, her face radiant.

    The next day, Guo Jing went back to the pinewood at dawn. He practiced to about twenty rounds with much sweat, but rejoiced at the progress he accomplished, when he suddenly heard a voice speaking behind the trees.

    " Shifu," says a voice, "we must have travelled more than thirty li this time, isn't that right? "

    " Indeed," replied another voice, " you've achieved some progress in endurance..."

    This voice seemed very familiar to Guo Jing, who then saw four individuals appear, of which the first one had white hair and ruddy complexion: it was none other than his number one enemy, Liang Ziwong, the Thousand-Year Ginseng! He pesta internally and took to his heels.

    But Liang Ziwong already had recognized him:

    " Where do you think you're going?" he cried while thrusting himself forward in pursuit.

    The three other men were his disciples. See their Shifu running after an enemy, they themselves split up in order to surround the young man.

    " I need to get out of the pinewood and get back to the inn in order to be safe," said Guo Jing to himself, while running even faster.

    The first disciple of Liang Ziwong barred the way and shouted, while crossing the two palms:

    " Little peasant, kneel!"

    He attacked with a technique of qinna taught by his master and sought to seize Guo Jing to the chest. The young man folded his left leg lightly, the straight arm turned in, made a circle with his right palm and struck powerfully outward: it was precisely the blow that it had just learned, "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret". His opponent feels the sudden power, and attempted to dodge it, but it was so powerful that it broke his arm, throwing him a distance of six or seven feet, and made him lose consciousness. Guo Jing, that never would have believed that his blow was going to be so strong, demeura forbids, before resuming his race.

    Surprised and irritated, Liang Ziwong jumped in front of him. Guo Jing had just left the pines when he found the immortal one in front of him. Very frightened, he himself got in position and launched once more his "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret". Liang Ziwong did not know this blow but, in front of its power, knew that he could not handle it. He had to roll to earth to avoid it. Guo Jing took the opportunity to flee.

    When Liang Ziwong itself recovered, the young man had reached the front of the inn and screamed:

    " Rong-er, disaster! Here's the evil one that wants to drink my blood!"

    Huang Rong poked her head out the window. " How did this old monster get here?" she asked herself. " That's good, I'll try out on him this new "Wandering Strides" that I have just learned."

    " My love," she cried. " Don't be scared of this old crust. Begin the fight, I'll come to help you, we'll teach him a good lesson!"

    " Rong doesn't know the power of this old monster," said Guo Jing to himself, " that's why she speaks so lightly." But Liang Ziwong already jumped on him. In front of the violence of the attack, the young man had no other option but to launch once more his "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret". Liang Ziwong twisted and dodged several feet to the side, but his straight arm was almost touched by the breath of the palm, that left a burning and painful track. The immortal one, frightened inside, was amazed that this kid, in the space of some months, had progressed so much. " This must be," he said, " due to the absorption of the precious blood of the snake." This thought the mit outside him and he jumped to the attack. Guo Jing defended himself again with the same blow. Conscious that he could not oppose it, Liang Ziwong retreated, but, seeing that the young man did not have at his disposal other such fearful blows to press his advantage, his fear lessened:

    " Little idiot," he cried, " Do you know only that one blow?

    Guo Jing tumbled right into his trap:

    " Even this one blow," he replied, " you still won't be able to avoid it!"

    And he advanced, launching once again his "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret". Liang Ziwong dodged and jumped behind Guo Jing to attack it. He turned and attempted to attack again same manner, but his opponent was itself, once of more, slipped behind him. Thus, the young man, that knew only to attack in front, was completely perturbed and did not arrive anymore to face.

    Seeing him on the verge of losing, Huang Rong cried:

    " My love, let me take me care of him!"

    She sprang forward and interposed herself between the two fighters, attacking Liang Ziwong with palms and kicks, who returned the attack. Guo Jing retreated two steps to watch them. Huang Rong had well learn this wonderful technique that was the «Wandering Strides», but, besides the fact that she had obtained it too recently to truly master it, Liang Ziwong was in fact a lot stronger one than she. Thus, without the protection given by her soft armour, she already would have received several blows and certainly would have been injured long ago. Before even to have deployed the thirty-six movements of the "Strides", she was located already in bad posture. The disciples of Liang Ziwong, surrounding their elder injured brother, observed the fight and, see their Shifu was winning, shouted out, the better to encourage him.

    Guo Jing prepared himself to assist Huang Rong when all of a sudden Qi Gong was heard to shout, from behind the window:

    " His next blow is called "The nasty dog blocks the road"!"

    Very surprised, Huang Rong lives that Liang Ziwong, the legs firmly spread in the "Rider Stance", the stretched fists horizontally, indeed taking the stance of the "Terrible Tiger blocks the road". She couldn't prevent herself from laughing internally. "Qi Gong changed the name of this blow! But how was he able to guess that this would be that one?"

    She heard then the old beggar shout again:

    " And his next blow is "The stinking snake inhales water"!"

    She realized that it was a matter of the «Green Dragon inhales water », for which one lengthened the fist forward, this that unveiled a rift to the back, in the back. Venerable seventh had at pains finished to speak that she already had slipped herself behind Liang Ziwong. He attacked effectively with « Green Dragon inhales water », but as the girl, warned in advance, had the advantage and attacked from the back, he made himself safe only because of his exceptional technical mastery, that allowed him to change position right in the middle of a movement, and to fly himself further away. He landed on the tips of his toes, surprised and furious at once:

    "Who is the powerful master that hides in the shack?" he cried towards the window. "Why don't you show yourself?"

    But there was only silence behind the window. Liang Ziwong lost himself in wonderment: " How could this person succeed in predicting my blows?"

    Fortified by the support of a great master, Huang Rong now feared nothing: she regained the initiative and launched herself to the attack. Liang Ziwong resorted to killer blows so that the girl herself was forced to give up the upper hand.

    " Don't fear anything!" Qi Gong cried then. " He will do as a «Monkey with a rotten bottom climbs to the tree »!

    Huang Rong burst out laughing, leva the fists and attacked downwards. Liang Ziwong effectively had sketched a « phenomenal Gorille climbs to the tree », and had, after to have jumped in the air and attack downwards. But Huang Rong had preceded him, then if he continued to jump, that meant that he simply was going to offer the head to the falling fists! He had to change his technique immediately... If, in a fight, the opponent knew in advance all your blows, it would not take long for him to overcome you! The immortal one, fortunately for him, was a lot stronger one than Huang Rong, and this allowed himself to extricate himself from a bad situation at the last moment. Suddenly, he jumped back and shouted:

    " If you persist not to show yourself, I won't hesitate to be ruthless towards this girl!"

    Changing his tactics, he rained down his blows like hail in a storm, so much so that Huang Rong absolutely could not adorn, and that Qi Gong had not the time to call out his blows.

    Seeing his loved one in danger, reduced to dodging right and left, Guo Jing leapt forward and sent out once more his "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret". Liang Ziwong jumped back.

    " My love," said Huang Rong, " give him again three blows!"

    She turned and went back into the inn.

    Guo Jing took position, awaiting the approach of Liang Ziwong and, no matter what technique the Immortal employed, he returned it with a "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret". His opponent not some could but, furious and entertained at once: " Where on earth," he asked, " did this dumb little fellow learn this strange blow? And why does he know only that one!"

    But even if he knew only one blow, the dumb little fellow held it in respect and it there could not nothing. All two restèrent therefore immobilized on their position.

    " Silly fellow!" Liang Ziwong cried then. " You'd better watch out!"

    He jumps on his young opponent, who turned to his many times tested formula. Now Liang changed direction squarely flight and sudden struck out three «Acupoint Piercing Bones», that sped towards the young man in three different directions. Guo Jing hurriedly dodged, Liang Ziwong took advantage to thrust himself forward with the speed of light, and seized him by the nape of his neck. Very frightened, the young man struck an elbow blow at the chest of his opponent but, to his great astonishment, he felt the impression that his elbow had sunk itself in a soft mass, like cotton.

    Liang Ziwong prepared himself to deal a fatal blow when he heard Huang Rong scream:

    " Old monster! Look here!"

    Knowing that she was very crafty, he decided not to take any risk: he struck Guo Jing upon the «Jianjing» point, so that he was unable to move, before turning his head. He saw then the girl advancing slowly, and anxiously saw that in her hand was a bamboo stick, its green as clear as jade, which froze him in terror.

    " Hong..." he stammered, stunned. " Grand Master Hong!"

    " So, why haven't you released him!" threatened Huang Rong.

    At the time, when he had heard someone calling out his blows before he even carried them out, Liang Ziwong already was very surprised, but he had not thought that it could be Qi Gong. Now, at the appearance of the green bamboo stick, he realized that the voice behind the window was indeed that of the person that he dreaded most in the world. Terrified, he quickly freed Guo Jing.

    Brandishing the stick, Huang Rong approached him and said severely:

    " Qi Gong wants to ask you how, while he deigned to speak, you dare again to do evil here? What impudence!"

    Liang Ziwong tumbled to his knees:

    " Your servant did not know that Grand Master Hong was there," he stuttered. " Even if I had courage, I never would have dared to offend Grand Master Hong."

    " This fellow is, nonetheless, very powerful," Huang Rong said to herself, astonished. " How is it that he is so terrified of just the mention of Qi Gong's name? And why does he call him Grand Master Hong?"

    But she didn't allow any of her thoughts to appear and assumed a threatening air:

    "And which punishment do you deserve?"

    " I beg you to please say some words in my favor with Grand Master Hong! Said him that Liang Ziwong recognizes his great sins and that he implores Grandmaster Hong to spare his life!"

    " To say a word in your favor, why not? But several words, this would be really too much to ask. In the future, you mustn't cause trouble to both of us."

    " Your servant offended you in his ignorance," said Liang Ziwong. " I you taken of not to hold some for me harshness. In the future, indeed, I will not dare anymore to do..."

    Huang Rong, very proud of herself, smiled and reentered the inn, hand in hand with Guo Jing. They found Qi Gong sitting in front of a well-laid table, a knife in the left hand, chopsticks in his right hand, in the process of treating himself.

    " Qi Gong," said Huang Rong while laughing. " He's on his knees and doesn't dare to move even a hair."

    "Give him a hiding to unwind you, he certainly won't dare to defend himself."

    By the window, Guo Jing saw Liang Ziwong kneeling petrified, with his three disciples behind him, also kneeling, all four looking miserable. He felt pity for them and said:

    " Qi Gong, why not forgive them?"

    " Little good-for-nothing without character," Qi Gong reprimanded. " Someone comes here to trouble you, you aren't capable of defending yourself, I you except the placement and you want to forgive to your enemy! To what that resembles, I ask you?

    Guo Jing wasn't sure how to reply.

    " I'll take care of him," said Huang Rong while laughing.

    She took up the bamboo stick and went out of the inn. Liang Ziwong remained kneeling respectfully, his face full of fear.

    " Qi Gong said that you persist to do evil," thundered Huang Rong, " and that was absolutely necessary to cut your throat today! Fortunately, my dear Jing has a good heart, he did not stop pleading your cause, so much so that Qi Gong, finally, agreed to spare you."

    She wielded the stick and struck him a blow on the buttocks while screaming:

    "You go in!"

    Liang Ziwong addressed himself to the window:

    "Grandmaster Hong! I want to see you, to thank you for sparing my life!"

    Only silence greeted his plea. Liang Ziwong did not dare to rise, and continued to kneel humbly. Shortly after, Guo Jing came out and waved his hand:

    " Qi Gong is asleep," he said in a low voice. " Do not disturb him..."

    Then Liang Ziwong got up, shot a hate-filled look at the two young people, and left, along with his disciples.

    Huang Rong, heart full of joy, re-entered in the inn. She saw Qi Gong laying on the table while snoring. She touched him on the shoulder to awaken him:

    "Qi Gong!" she cried. " Your magic precious stick has a wonderful strength, now you not some done nothing... Why would you give it to me?

    Qi Gong raised his head, yawned and said:

    - You about it speak with your comfort! he says while laughing. " That is the work instrument of your old man! A beggar without a dog-beating stick, what would that look like?"

    Huang Rong continued to tap it while simpering:

    " You have such powerful gongfu! Those wicked ones flee just from hearing your name, to what serves you again to have this stick?"

    " You rotten imp! said Qi Gong while laughing. " Quickly prepare me some dishes, I'll explain it for you presently..."

    Huang Rong obeys and quickly went into the kitchen to prepare three small dishes.

    Right hand holding a wine cup, left hand squeezing the bone of a ham that he gnawed slowly, Qi Gong began:

    - The proverb says: « That resembles itself assembles itself ». The full richards to the have form a clan, the outlaws of the highway who rob the passersby form a clan, us others that freely pass our lives begging food leftovers, let us form also a clan...

    " I understand," exclaimed Huang Rong while clapping her hands. " That old Liang called you «Grand Master Hong », are you thus the chief of the beggars!"

    " Precisely. Us beggars, one we walk over, one launches the dogs on us, if one did not group together oneself in a band, how could we survive? The ordinary citizens, in the north of the country, are for the moment under the authority of the Jin; in the south, they are under the authority of the Song emperor; but every beggar in the country..."

    " Whether they be in the south or the north," interrupted Huang Rong, " are placed under your authority!"

    " Eh, yes!" Qi Gong agreed with a smile. " This bamboo stick and this gourd have been from generation to generation, since the end of the Tang dynasty until today, in other words, for several centuries ago, between the hands of the Grand Master of the Beggar Clan. This is as the jade seal of the little emperor, or the seal of now mandarin chinese."

    " Just as well you didn't give it to me," said Huang Rong, sticking out her tongue.

    " Why not?"

    " If every little beggar in the country came to find me, for me to sort out their affairs, that would be a catastrophe!"

    " You have good reason," Qi Gong sighed. "As I am of a lax and lazy nature, the weight of grandmaster of the Beggar Clan is really too heavy for my shoulders. But I can't find a person to whom I can entrust it. Then I have well to do with... "

    " So that's why old Liang fears you so much: if all the beggars of the country came to give trouble to him, he would be in big trouble. If each one dropped a louse in his collar, that would trouble him until the end of his days!"

    Qi Gong and Guo Jing burst out laughing.

    " No," the old beggar said at last, " not just for that; he's also scared of me."

    " What is that?"

    " Nearly twenty years ago, he was committing an evil deed when I fell upon him..."

    " What evil deed?"

    " That old monster," said Qi Gong hesitantly, " believed a section of the adage «Gather the yin to nourish the yang... » He had obtained for himself several virgins, of which he violated their bodies, supposedly to obtain immortality."

    " What's that, to violate the body?" asked Huang Rong.

    The girl, whose mother had died in childbirth, had been taught by her father. After the treachery and escape of Chen Xuanfeng and of Mei Chaofeng, Huang Yaoshi, furious, had crippled his other disciples and they had all fled. No others remained on Peach Blossom Island than some mute servants. No one had therefore spoke to the girl of the things that happened between men and women. Since that she had met Guo Jing, she felt a joy and an unspeakable softness in his company, a melancholy and an unbearable solitudes when she was separated of him even for an instant. She believed that to be husband and wife meant nothing more than never to part from each other, that was why for so long she had considered Guo Jing as her husband, without knowing the nature of conjugal relations.

    Her question therefore put Qi Gong in great difficulty.

    " To violate the body of the virgins," the girl insisted, " this is to kill them?"

    " No," Qi Gong responded, " when a woman undergoes a such outrages, this is sometimes more painful than the death itself. The proverb says: «To be dishonoured is grave, to die of hunger is nothing». That says well what I want to say..."

    Huang Rong did not understand not yet:

    " Does that mean to cut the ears or the nose with a knife?"

    " Peuh!" said Qi Gong, bothered, " not at all! Little imp, you better ask your mother when you get back home..."

    " My mother is dead..."

    " Ah!" said the beggar. " Then you will understand after your wedding night with our silly young fellow!"

    Huang Rong reddened, understanding at last that it was a matter of shameful things. She said softly:

    " If you do not want to explain, so worse... Therefore, you fell on the old monster in the process of committing this evil deed, than itself is it passed then?"

    Qi Gong, relieved to see that she did not put anymore embarrassing questions, continued:

    " Well, I intervened, that's right. I caught this rascal, I gave him a good thrashing and pulled out all his hair! After, I obliged it to bring back these girls at their place and to promise solemnly that he would not recommence ever again. If I resumed it to do that, he would regret ever having been born! It would seem that, for all these years, he never broke his promise, that's the reason why I spared him today. He said then, goodness, did his hair grow back?"

    " Oh yes! said Huang Rong while bursting out laughing. Pull out all the hair of the head, that would have been really funny!"

    All three finished the meal.

    "Qi Gong," Huang Rong then said, " now, even if you wanted to give me this bamboo stick, I wouldn't want it. But we cannot anyway to remain close to you all our lives! Now, what if we come across this Liang fellow, and he says to us: "Well, little brat, last time, you sheltered yourself under the name of Grand Master Hong and you hit me with his bamboo stick, today I'm going to avenge myself: I will pull out you all your hair!" That will we do then? When my Jing fought with him, his one and only blow, "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret", that is of course powerful, but that means little all the same, no? I am sure that Liang said in his heart: " Grandmaster Hong has gongfu of an infinite power, but when it begins teaching to a disciple, this is really not that terrible!"

    " I know well," said Qi Gong, " that you hurl all these stupidities, provoking and threatening, so that I'll sign off all my skills to you two! Well, so long that you get ready some good dishes for me, I won't disappoint you."

    Huang Rong, delighted, took Qi Gong by the hand to go in the pine wood.

    Qi Gong imparted then to Guo Jing the second blow of the «Eighteen Dragon-Mastering Palms», called " Flying Dragon in the Heavens". In this blow, it was necessary to jump in the air and strike from the top down, an extremely powerful attack. Guo Jing took three days to assimilate it. During these three days, Qi Gong took the snack occasion to about ten more delicious placement them a than the others. Huang Rong, for its part, asked nothing from him for herself; provided that he consented to teach her loved one, she was more than enough satisfied.

    In the space of a month, Qi Gong had taught to Guo Jing fifteen of the «Eighteen Dragon-Mastering Palms», from "Resisting the Dragon Means Regret" to "Sighting the Dragon in the Field".

    These "Eighteen Dragon-Mastering Palms" were Qi Gong's ultimate skills. He had originally learned them from his Shifu, instrumental invented himself. The number of blows of course was limited, but each of them was full of exceptional power. At the time of the first Huashan tournament, when the five supreme Masters had measured themselves, these Eighteen Palms were not completely up to the mark, but they had already given rise to respect and general admiration. Thereafter, Qi Gong often had expressed his regrets: if he had concentrated all his efforts to perfect this technique some years earlier, the title of "First in the Martial World" might not have been fallen to the grandmaster of the Quanzhen Sect, Wang Chongyang, but to himself!

    At first, Qi Gong had no intention to pass on more than two or three of these Eighteen Palms to Guo Jing, which would already have far sufficed for him to defend himself. But Huang Rong was really an unparalleled cook; every day she prepared new dishes of exceptional taste, never repeating herself, and the old beggar could not resolve himself to leave. So, day after day, he ended up teaching the fifteen blows. Guo Jing did not understand quickly, but the little that he learned, he retained, and repeated day and night, working with determination, so well that he achieved a good mastery of the fifteen blows, lacking no more in power than time and practice alone could give to him. Thus, in a little more of a month, his gongfu had achieved such progress that he was no longer the same person!

    That morning, after breakfast, Qi Gong said, while sighing:

    " My children, we've been together for more of a month, it's time we took leave of each other."

    " Ah, but no," protested Huang Rong. " I have many more small dishes for your taste..."

    " There is not endless banquets, but there is an infinity of dishes... I never have, of all my life, taught anybody for more than three days. This time, I've done that for more than thirty days! If this continues, it'll be a catastrophe!"

    " How's that?"

    " Well, you will strip me of all that I know!"

    " You've started a good work, why not go to the end! Teach him therefore the Eighteen Palms, that would be an accomplishment!"

    " Peuh, that would be an accomplishment for you two, but not for me..."

    Huang Rong, full of worry, wondered what strategems she could invent to get Qi Gong to teach the three remaining blows to Guo Jing, but the old beggar did not give her the time: hitching his gourd over the back again, he left without speaking further.

    Guo Jing chased after him, but Qi Gong went so quickly that he had disappeared in a wink. The young man raced to the pines and cried, "Qi Gong, Qi Gong!" Huang Rong had followed him and joined her cries to his.

    Sudden, a shadow arose from the pines, it was Qi Gong, who addressed them angrily:

    - That do You Have, dirty kids, to stick me to the truss? If you want me to teach you more, this is absolutely impossible!

    " You have already taught us too much," said Guo Jing. " I am more than satisfied, how could I wish to want more? It's only that I did not thank you once again for your kindness!"

    He knelt then and kowtowed, striking the ground with his forehead, several times.

    Qi Gong paled:

    " Stop," he cried, " That which I taught you, is nothing other than a suitable payment for the small dishes that she prepared for me. There has never been a relationship of master and disciple between us!"

    At that, he knelt also and himself kowtowed in front of Guo Jing. Stunned, he attempted to kowtow again, but Qi Gong extended a hand and touched on a point under the armpit of the young man, who remained petrified, legs half bent. The beggar released him only after to have prostrated itself four times in front of him:

    " Remember, you," he cautioned, " Never mention that you kowtowed to me and that you are my disciple!"

    Understanding that he had a stubborn character, Guo Jing didn't attempt to contradict him.

    " Qi Gong," sighed Huang Rong, " you were so good for us, now we must part. I had the intention to prepare you again small dishes, when we would review ourselves, but... Unfortunately... I fear that this be not anymore possible... "

    " And why not?" Qi Gong asked.

    " Many people want to do evil to us... leaving aside that old monster Immortal Ginseng, there are many more evildoers! One day, we will end up dying at their hands!"

    " What is death?" Qi Gong said with a smile. " Everyone must die one day."

    " Of course," replied Huang Rong while shaking the head, " it's not a big deal to die, but I'm scared that they would capture me and, learning that I received your teaching and that I cooked for you, they would force me to do them all these flat vouchers that I prepared you. This would be a stain on your reputation!"

    Qi Gong knew well that the girl was trying to trick more skills out of him, but, at the thought that someone might force her to cook, while himself could not taste these succulent dishes, he couldn't prevent himself from feeling great anger.

    "Who are these villains that scare you?" he demanded.

    " There is," replied Huang Rong, " a certain old monster of the Yellow River, Sha Tongtian. He eats in such a disgusting way! What a shame it would be for him to have my delicious dishes!"

    " There's no need to fear Sha Tongtian!" said Qi Gong while shaking his head. " In one or two years, this dummy Guo Jing will be stronger than him. There's nothing to fear..."

    Huang Rong mentioned again the Tibetan monk Ling Zhi and Peng Lianhu. To which Qi Gong replied again: " Nothing to fear!"

    But when Huang Rong mentioned the young master of White Camel Peak, Ouyang Ke, Qi Gong seemed taken aback. He questioned her on the techniques and moves of this new opponent, before nodding his head:

    " That's indeed him!"

    In front of the seriousness of his face, the girl s'inquiéta herself:

    " He's very powerful, isn't that right?"

    " There's nothing to fear from Ouyang Ke!" said Qi Gong. " It's his uncle, the old Venom, that is fearsome."

    " The old Venom? But no matter how fearsome, he cannot be stronger than you, isn't that right?"

    Qi Gong didn't reply. He thought for a while, before he stated:

    " At the time, we were equals. But that was twenty years ago... For those twenty years, he's surely trained harder than me, who's lazy and gluttonous. Huh, but to beat this old beggar, nonetheless, won't be easy... "

    " Then he certainly can't beat you!"

    " We will see," said Qi Gong, shaking his head. " Good, since the nephew of the old Venom, Ouyang Feng, is after your head, we must be careful. I will eat of your cooking for fifteen days. But let's make one thing clear: if, during these fifteen days, you present the same dish to me twice, I'll get up and say good-bye..."

    Huang Rong was delighted. She was decided to give the measure of all sound talent: thus, not only she never repeated the same dish, but she proposed even infinite variations in the accompaniment in noodles and rice, in different takings to every meals: fried doughnuts to the frying pan, steamed stuffed dough boulettes, ravioli to the vapor, flat noodles in broth, Cantonese rice, soft rice, rice cake slimy, Rice, tofu, etc. Qi Gong, for his part, himself took pains to teach the two young people the art to adapt itself to all the fight positions, to react and to better defend themselves. Only, he never taught the three blows lacking in the « Eighteen Dragon-Mastering Palms». Guo Jing deepened of course his mastery of the fifteen blows, but he increased equally in the power of all the martial arts he had learned with the Jiangnan Odd Six. Qi Gong had, before the age of thirty-five, practiced a very diversified gongfu, learning innumerable fist techniques and of palm, among which ones he deliberately chose bizarre types for Huang Rong, but it was just as a joke. These techniques were beautiful to look at, but their real effectiveness in battle were far inferior to the fifteen Palms, simple and direct. Huang Rong herself looked only to have fun, without really to invest herself in this apprenticeship.

  15. #35
    Senior Member sunnysnow's Avatar
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    By xfiberloss

    Chapter 12: The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse
    Part 4


    As dawn arose the next day, Guo Jing was already in the forest practicing the first move of “The 18-Dragon Subduing Palms,” “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse.” He began to sweat heavily after 20 minutes of drilling but felt encouraged by his progress. Then he heard voices approaching him.

    “Master, we walked over 30 miles this time, right?” one voice said.

    “Yes, your endurance has improved slightly,” the other voice said.

    The spoken dialects sounded familiar to Guo Jing. Soon, four people came into view, lead by a young man with white hair. He was none other than Guo Jing’s greatest foe, Liang Ziweng, the immortal ginseng fairy.

    Silently cursing, Guo Jing turned to run away, but Liang Ziweng already recognized him. “Where can you run?” he said as he and his disciples began their pursuit. They broke up into three groups to catch Guo Jing.

    “If I can get out of the forest and make it back to the inn, I’ll be safe,” Guo Jing thought as he started running faster.

    Liang Ziweng’s top disciple intercepted Guo Jing, crossed his palms and shouted, “Little thief, kneel to me!” Using a powerful technique taught by his master, the disciple tried to grab Guo Jing’s chest.

    As he shouted back, Guo Jing slightly crouched, bent his right arm and made a circle with his right palm, beginning, for the first time outside of practice, “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse.”

    The top disciple felt the powerful force approach, so he changed his attack and grabbed at Guo Jing’s arm, hoping that would stop the palm. Instead, he lost consciousness as his arm broke and his body was thrown six to seven feet away.

    Guo Jing couldn’t imagine he possessed so much power. He stared in shock before starting to run again.

    Startled and angry, the immortal ginseng fairy jumped out of the forest. When Guo Jing finally emerged from the trees, he found Liang Ziweng standing in front of him. He immediately crouched, bent his arm and made a circle with his palm, executing “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse” once more. Although Liang Ziweng did not recognize the move, he threw himself to the ground to escape its pure, powerful force. Guo Jing took his chance and ran. When Liang Ziweng began his pursuit again, Guo Jing had already reached the inn.

    “Huang Rong! Huang Rong!” Guo Jing yelled. “That evil man is here to drink my blood!”

    When Huang Rong came out of the inn, she saw that it really was Liang Ziweng. “How did this old, strange man get here?” she thought. “Well, this is a good chance to test out my ‘Wandering Strides’ kung fu.”

    “Brother Jing, don’t be afraid of this strange, old man,” she said. “You start the fight, and I’ll come help you. We’ll make him suffer.”

    “Rong-er doesn’t understand how powerful this strange, old man is,” Guo Jing thought. “That’s why she’s so relaxed.” He attacked.

    Recalling what happened before, Liang Ziweng recognized the force being thrown at him as “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse,” so he twisted his body out of the way. But the palm slightly brushed across his right arm, burning him painfully. Guo Jing’s unimaginable improvement in just a month convinced Liang Ziweng that the blood of the venomous snake really did bestow miraculous powers. He was filled with even more anger as he attacked again.

    Guo Jing once again used “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse.”

    Liang Ziweng saw he could not stop the fierce attack. But then he observed Guo Jing never followed up the stance with another, accompanying strike. His fear quickly dwindled.

    “You little idiot,” he said. “Is that the only move you know?”

    “You can’t resist my only move,” Guo Jing said without thinking. Then he once again used “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse.”

    But Liang Ziweng jumped out of the way and landed behind Guo Jing. Guo Jing turned on a dime and threw the palm again, but Liang Ziweng leapt behind him once more. After three more rounds, Guo Jing felt tired and confused.

    Seeing him about to lose, Huang Rong said, “Brother Jing, let me fight.”

    Huang Rong leapt into the middle of the fight as Guo Jing once again unleashed “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse.” Liang Ziweng leapt away from both attackers. In the meantime, Guo Jing retreated two steps to watch Huang Rong fight the immortal ginseng fairy.

    Although Huang Rong learned the mysterious “Wandering Strides,” she had just absorbed the knowledge and therefore did not possess absolute mastery. Against Liang Ziweng, whose skill level was far superior, she held her own because she was wearing the soft-hedgehog armor, which protected her from injury. Nevertheless, before she could complete all 36 moves of the “Wandering Strides” style, Liang Ziweng forced her into a bad position.

    His two junior disciples, supporting their injured elder disciple brother, saw their master on the verge of victory and cheered him on.

    Guo Jing prepared himself to help Huang Rong with an immediate strike, but Hong Qigong’s voice emanated from the window.

    “His next move is ‘The Vicious Dog Blocks the Way,’” he said.

    Surprised, Huang Rong noticed Liang Ziweng’s legs were spread in the horse stance with both his fists forming “The Evil Tiger Blocks the Road.” She couldn’t help but giggle at how Hong Qigong changed the name of “The Evil Tiger Blocks the Road” to “The Vicious Dog Blocks the Way.” Then she wondered about how he managed to predict the stance.

    “Here comes ‘The Smelly Snake Drinks the Water,’” Hong Qigong said.

    Huang Rong knew he meant “The Black Dragon Drinks the Water,” a fierce frontal attack that exposed the back. By the time Hong Qigong finished speaking, Huang Rong had circled around Liang Ziweng, putting him in the position of defender instead of attacker. But with his profound abilities, he managed to escape from danger by changing mid-movement and flying away. When he landed on his feet, he angrily shouted at the window, “Why won’t the venerable master come out?”

    He received no response. “How can this person predict my stances?” he thought.

    Knowing that she possessed a powerful master on her side, Huang Rong fearlessly took the initiative and attacked. Liang Ziweng responded with a ferocious blow. Huang Rong knew she was in danger when she felt the powerful force approach.

    “Do not fear,” Hong Qigong said. “He will use ‘The Little Monkey with the Rotten Bottom Climes the Trees!’”

    Huan Rong giggled as she saw Liang Ziweng lift his fists and strike downwards with tremendous strength. He was indeed preparing for “The Ape Climbs the Trees.” He jumped up into the air to strike Huang Rong, but she positioned her fist in such a way that if Liang Ziweng continued his jump, his head would be hit by her first. He had to change immediately. When an opponent approaches an enemy who has predicted what his next move will be and cannot change, then he will suffer a great defeat. Luckily for Liang Ziweng, his level of accomplishment in the martial arts was so much higher than Huang Rong’s that he could quickly escape from his precarious position.

    With another move broken apart, Liang Ziweng jumped away from the fight and shouted at the window, “If you don’t show yourself, brother, then it’s no wonder that I won’t be merciful to this girl.”

    Liang Ziweng then attacked with stances that quickly flowed into one another like the pouring rain in a violent storm — a new blow starting before the prior one finished. Huang Rong was pushed back by the flood as Hong Qicong could no longer shout out the moves early enough time for her to react.

    Not being able to bear watching Huang Rong in a state of confusion as she dodged frantically, Guo Jing once again unleashed “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse” and forced Liang Ziweng to end his deluge and jump away.

    “Brother Jing, attack him again three more times,” Huang Rong said as she went back into the inn.

    Guo Jing simply waited for Liang Ziweng to attack and, without any logic, returned all of the immortal ginseng fairy’s stances with “The Proud Dragon Shows Remorse.”

    Both angry and amused, Liang Ziweng thought, “I don’t know where this dumb kid learned this move, but no matter what I do, he uses it.”

    Although Guo Jing only knew this one move, Liang Ziweng couldn’t tell for certain if Guo Jing actually knew more. The two men stood a few meters apart, motionless and rigid.

    “Little fool, here I come!” Liang Ziweng said as he suddenly jumped into the air and attacked.

    Guo Jing threw out his palm. Unexpectedly, Liang Ziweng twisted mid-air, raising his right hand to release three separate attacks to the top, the middle and bottom of the body. Guo Jing quickly dodged, but Liang Ziweng took advantage of the situation and grabbed Guo Jin’s throat with a hand as fast lightning.

    Startled, Guo Jing elbowed Liang Ziweng, but he felt like he just hit a wad of cotton.

    Liang Ziweng prepared to deliver a killing blow, when he heard Huang Rong shout, “Old man, look at what I have!”

    Aware of her cunning, Liang Ziweng grasped Guo Jing tightly before turning around to see Huang Rong approaching with a bamboo stick, greener than the finest jade.

    “Hong … Master Hong,” he said shakily.

    “And yet you still don’t release him?” Huang Rong said.

    When Liang Ziweng first heard the voice from the window predict his movies, he never expected it would be Hong Qicong, but once the bamboo stick appeared, he remembered the timbre of the voice and the dialect. He realized it was the man he feared the most, so he immediately released Guo Jing.

    With both her hands holding the bamboo stick, Huang Rong said, “Qicong wants to know why you dared to cause trouble around here.”

    Liang Ziweng knelt and said, “This nobody really didn’t know Master Hong was here. Even with all the courage in the world, I wouldn’t have come if I knew Master Hong was here.”
    Last edited by sunnysnow; 03-04-06 at 01:45 AM.
    There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

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  16. #36
    Senior Member sunnysnow's Avatar
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    part 5- By me

    Huang Rong thought to herself secretly, “ This person is so highly skilled, yet is scared out of his wits when he hears Qi Gong’s name. And why does he address Qi Gong as Leader Hong?”

    However, Huang Rong maintained a neutral expression and said, “ How do you plead guilty?”

    Liang Ziwong answered, “ Lady, please put in a few good words for me, tell Leader Hong that I know my wrongdoings and plead for him to spare my life.”

    Huang Rong answered, “ I can put in a good word for you, but to put in a few good words is tough. You must never try to find trouble with both of us again.”

    Liang Ziwong answered, “ Humble one here was ignorant in the past and offended Lady and Sir, please forgive me. I wouldn’t dream of doing it again.”

    Huang Rong was pleased and smiled, she pulled Guo Jing’s arm and led him back into the hut. They saw four big dishes in front of Hong Qi Gong, whose left hand held a wine cup and right hand, a pair of chopsticks and was enjoying his meal.

    Huang Rong laughed, “ Qi Gong, he’s quietly kneeling there and doesn’t even dare move a bit.”

    Hong Qi Gong answered, “ You can beat him up to let loose your anger and he’ll not fight back.”

    Guo Jing looked out of the window and saw Liang Ziwong kneeling straightly and three of his disciples behind him were doing the same. He thought it a pitiful sight, didn’t bear to do it and said, “ Qi Gong, just spare him.”

    Qi Gong scolded, “ Useless Bum, people beat you up and you do nothing to resist. I saved you and yet you ask me to spare them. What is the meaning of this?”

    Guo Jing remained silent.
    Huang Rong laughed, “ I’ll beat him then!”

    She took the bamboo stick and walked out of the hut. Seeing a frightened Liang Ziwong kneeling in an upright position, she scolded, “ Qi Gong says you go round creating havoc and was going to deal with you today. Luckily my brother Jing is kind enough to plead for Qi Gong to spare your life.” Speaking, she raised the bamboo stick high and brought it slapping down onto his butt. She then said, “ You can leave.”

    Liang Ziwong spoke through the window, “Leader Hong, a million thanks for sparing my life.”

    There was no response from the hut and Liang Ziwong did not dare move. After a while, Guo Jing came out and waved his arms, “ Qi Gong is asleep, don’t disturb him.”

    Liang Ziwong then stood up, glared at Huang Rong and Guo Jing before leaving with his disciples.

    Huang Rong was delighted, she walked into the hut and saw Qi Gong leaning on the table. She immediately pulled his arm and said, “ Qi Gong, Qi Gong, your precious stick is so powerful. Since you don’t use it…why not give it to me?”

    Hong Qi Gong raised from the table, stretched and laughed, “ You are so highly skilled, people only have to hear your voice and they’ll be afraid, what use has this stick to you?” He smiled, “ Silly lass, hurry and prepare some nice dishes for me and I’ll slowly tell you the story.”

    Huang Rong obeyed and went to prepare three dishes. Hong Qi Gong lifted a wine cup with his left hand and took a drumstick with his right hand and slowly savored it before saying, “ There are different species of animals and plants and there are different groups of people. There are those who love wealth, there are those who rob and there are those like me who beg for scraps of leftover food…”

    Huang Rong clapped her hands and said, “ I know, I know already! That Liang creature called you ‘Leader Hong’, so you must be the leader of the beggar sect.”

    Hong Qi Gong answered, “ Yes. We people who beg for food are often bullied by people and bitten by dogs, if we do not unite as one, how on earth do we survive? The north is controlled by the Jins and the south is controlled by the Song emperor, but all the beggars on this earth…”

    Huang Rong cut in, “ Be it north or south are all under you!”

    Hong Qi Gong smiled and nodded before continuing, “ Yes. This stick and wine bottle has been the trademark of the beggar sect leader, ever since a few hundred years ago, even before the start of the Tang dynasty, It’s like the golden seal of the emperor’s.”

    Huang Rong stuck out her tongue and said, “ Luckily you didn’t give it to me.”

    Hong Qi Gong asked, “ Why?”

    Huang Rong said, “ Imagine how troublesome it would be if all the little beggars of the world come and find me and ask me to solve their problems.”

    Hong Qi Gong sighed, “ Yes, you are right. I’m lazy by nature so it is troublesome to be the leader of the beggars, but they couldn’t find a suitable candidate, so I had to accept the responsibility.”

    Huang Rong said, “ That’s why that Liang creature was so afraid of you, since it’ll be terrible if all the beggars in the world come finding him. If every beggar picks a flea from their body and puts it on his head, imagine how itchy he’ll be.”

    Hong Qi Gong and Guo Jing burst out laughing and after a while, Hong Qi Gong said, “He’s afraid of me not because of that.”

    Huang Rong asked hurriedly, “Then why is he afraid of you?”

    Hong Qi Gong said, “ About twenty years ago, he did an evil thing which was discovered by me.”

    Huang Rong asked, “ What was it?”

    Hong Qi Gong said, “ This old creature believed some superstitious nonsense and kidnapped many virgins and violated them, believing that it’ll help him attain immortality.”

    Huang Rong asked, “How do you violate a virgin?”

    Since her mother died after a difficult labor, Huang Rong was brought up by her father. After Chen Xuan Feng and Mei Chao Feng betrayed Huang Yao Shi and eloped, the latter under a moment’s fury, severed the limbs of his other disciples and chased them out of the island. Only a few mute servants were left on peach blossom island. Huang Rong had never known anything about the relationships between man and woman. Ever since she had been together with Guo Jing, she always felt an unexplainable happiness and sweetness in her heart. She would feel lonely and sad whenever Guo Jing was not with her. Therefore, she thought that as long as she and Guo Jing were always together, they will be like husband and wife and thus, Huang Rong always thought Guo Jing to be her husband. But she didn’t know anything about the sensual relations a couple had on the night of their wedding. Her question thus placed Hong Qi Gong in an awkward position.

    Huang Rong asked again, “ To violate them, is it to kill them?”

    Hong Qi Gong said, “ No. When a girl receives violation of this sort, it is even worse than death, as the saying goes, ‘ To lose one’s honor is a grave issue as compared to just starving to death’.”

    Huang Rong still did not understand and asked, “ Is it to use a knife to chop off their ears and nose?”

    Hong Qi Gong laughed but scolded, “ Peh! It’s not that either. Silly lass, go home and ask your mother.”

    Huang Rong answered, “ My mother’s long dead.”

    Hong Qi Gong let out an “Ah” and said, “ You’ll understand when you go through your marriage night with this dumb boy.”

    Huang Rong reddened and pouted, “ It’s alright if you don’t want to tell me.” She then realized that it’s a touchy subject and asked, “ What happened after you found out what that Liang creature was doing?”

    Hong Qi Gong saw that she wasn’t probing into that matter anymore and thus asserted his stern torn again and sighed, “ Then I naturally had to do something. I caught that fella and beat him up. I pulled off all his white hair and forced him to return those girls to their homes. After that, I forced him to swear that he would not do such stuff again and if I caught him doing it, he’ll meet a fate worse than death. I heard that he didn’t create trouble these couple of years and therefore spared his life today. Damn it, has his hair grown back?”

    Huang Rong laughed and said, “ It has grown back! But imagine how terribly painful it was for him to have all his hair torn out.”

    After the three finished eating, Huang Rong said, “ Qi Gong, now even if you give me that stick, I wouldn’t dare take it. But we cannot be together with you forever right? If we see that Liang creature again in the future and he says, “ Alright you little rascal, you used Leader’s Hong stick to hit me in the past, now it’s time for my revenge. I’ll pull out all your hair!” then what are we to do? Before, when Brother Jing fought with that old creature, he could only display the ‘Proud dragon shows remorse’ stance, which though is powerful, though is not spectacular enough right? That old creature must be thinking, ‘ Leader Hong’s skills are so impressive but his disciple is however just an average performer.’”

    Hong Qi Gong laughed, “ You are just scaring and provoking me into teaching both of you more skills. Alright, you both don’t have to worry as long as you cook more nice dishes for me.”

    Huang Rong was delighted and dragged Qi Gong into the forest. Hong Qi Gong passed the second stance of the ’18 subduing dragon palms”, called the ‘Flying dragon in the sky’ to Guo Jing. The stance falls in mid air and is a powerful one, which attacks one below from high above. Guo Jing only mastered it after three days. In the three days, Hong Qi Gong was able to taste more of Huang Rong’s delicious cooking. She did not pester him to teach her any more skills, she was more than happy as long as he concentrated on teaching Guo Jing. In a month’s time, Hong Qi Gong finally was able to pass fifteen stances of the ’18 subduing dragon palms’ to Guo Jing, from the very first ‘Proud dragon shows remorse’ to the ‘ Dragon battles in the wild’. The ’18 subduing dragon palms’ was Hong Qi Gong’s specialty. Half of it was due to his teacher’s guidance and the other half was his own experimental effort. Although the number of stunts were limited, each stunt carried with it immense force. During the last Hua Shan tournament with Wang Chong Yang and Huang Yao Shi etc, Hong Qi Gong had not fully mastered the skill and yet Wang Chong Yang and the rest were still in awe of it. Hong Qi Gong often lamented later on that if he had fully mastered the skill earlier, he would have gotten the number one title instead of Wang Chong Yang, leader of the Quan Zhen sect.

    He was actually only willing to teach Guo Jing two or three stances, which would be sufficient for the latter to protect himself. But who would have guessed that Huang Rong possessed such wonderful culinary skills and was able to wipe up interesting and delicious dishes everyday such that he could not bear to leave. As the days went by, he had actually passed fifteen stances to Guo Jing. Although Guo Jing is not intelligent by nature, every time he learns a new stunt or advice, he would spend the whole time practicing and examining it, such that at the end of one month, he had mastered the fifteen stances perfectly, and would have improved even more if time had permitted it, his skills were totally different and tons more powerful compared to a month ago.

    This morning, after Hong Qi Gong had his breakfast, he sighed, “ You two babies, we three have accompanied each other for more than a month, thus it’s time we parted now.”

    Huang Rong answered, “ Ah, no way, I still have so much more dishes I haven’t cooked for senior you,”

    Hong Qi Gong answered, “ There is no one banquet which doesn’t end on earth, but yet, there are so much food which one cannot fully taste. Old beggar here has never taught anyone more skills for more than three days, and yet, this time I end up teaching someone for more than thirty days. It would really be terrible if I continue.”

    Huang Rong asked, “Why?”

    Hong Qi Gong answered, “ Very soon, all my skills will be learnt by you two.”

    Huang Rong answered, “ Since you’ve started, why not pass the whole set of ’18 subduing dragon palms’ to him, it’ll be a success then no?”

    Hong Qi Gong sneered, “ Yes, it’ll be an accomplishment for you two but not for me.”
    There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

    Wise Fool

  17. #37
    Senior Member sunnysnow's Avatar
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    Chapter 12(Part6-10) by xfiberloss

    Before Huang Rong could devise a scheme to make Hong Qicong pass on the remaining three moves of the “18 Dragon Subduing Palms” to Guo Jing, the beggar had already picked up his gourd and walked away without saying another word.

    Guo Jing quickly pursued Hong Qicong, but the beggar was so fast that he was already out of sight. Guo Jing continued to chase after the beggar into the forest, all the while shouting, “Master Hong! Master Hong!”

    Huang Rong ran into the forest and shouted after Hong Qicong too.

    At the very edge of the forest, they perceived the shape of a man. It was Hong Qicong, approaching them once more. “What, you two stinky children want to entangle me — make me teach you more?” he scolded.

    “Master, you’ve already taught this junior so much, how would I dare to ask you for more?” Guo Jing said. “I just wanted to thank you.” He promptly knelt down and kow-towed.

    “Stop!” Hong Qicong shouted as his face colored. “I taught you only in exchange for the magnificent dishes the girl made. There is no master-disciple relationship between us.” He then knelt down to Guo Jing.

    Shocked, Guo Jing attempted to kow-tow back as per social custom, but Hong Qicong hit his acupuncture point, which left him without movement. Hong Qicong knelt four more times to Guo Jing before releasing the younger man’s acupuncture point.

    “This way, your bowing to me won’t make you my disciple,” Hong Qicong said.

    Guo Jing understood Hong Qicong’s strange conduct and decided not to press the matter.

    But Huang Rong sighed.

    “Master Hong, you have treated us so well that I am sorry to see you leave us,” she said. “I fear … I fear … I just wanted to make you so more small dishes for you to enjoy, so that in the future, we would have no one to fear.”

    “Who do you fear?” Hong Qicong said.

    “I am afraid we won’t be able to deal with the immortal ginseng fairy,” Huang Rong said. “I fear that we will die at his hands.”

    “Death follows death,” Hong Qicong laughed. “Who doesn’t die?”

    “I don’t fear death,” Huang Rong reasoned. “I fear being captured and it being made known that I followed your teachings and made you food. They might compel me to make for them the same dishes I made for you — the dishes I learned from the Jade Flute family on Plum Blossom island, including the ’24 Bridges on a Moonlit Night.’ Wouldn’t you be embarrassed if others kept eating these?”

    Hong Qicong knew Huang Rong was just trying to get him to teach them more kung fu. But when he thought about others eating her sumptuous dishes, he couldn’t bear the thought. “Who are these people?” he said.

    “There is the Yellow River ghost, Sha Tongtian, who might eat my dishes,” Huang Rong said. “He would spoil all my little dishes.”

    Hong Qicong shook his head and said, “What can Sha Tongtian do? In another one to two years, Guo Jing can surpass him if he practices.”

    Huang Rong then suggested the Tibetan monk Ling Zhi and Peng Lianhu.

    “Their techniques are like farts.” Hong Qicong said. “What can they do?”

    Then Huang Rong mentioned the master of White Camel Mountain, Ouyang Ke.

    Shuddering, Hong Qicong asked about the styles employed by Ouyang Ke. After hearing Huang Rong’s description, he said, “Yes, it’s him!”

    Huang Rong noticed Hong Qicong’s serious expression. “This Ouyang Ke is very powerful?” she said.

    “What can this Ouyang Ke do but fart?” Hong Qicong said. “No, it is his uncle, the old poison, who is very strong.”

    “The old poison?” Huang Rong said. “He might be strong to others but surely not to you.”

    Hong Qicong didn’t answer and looked as if he were deeply contemplating the matter.

    “We weren’t too far apart over 20 years ago,” he said finally. “But in the 20 years since then, he must have made great progress in his skills compared to me, given that he isn’t lazy or gluttonous like me.”

    Hong Qicong laughed. “That isn’t to say he would find me easy to deal with.”

    “He can’t possibly defeat you,” Huang Rong said.

    Hong Qicong shook his head.

    “That remains to be seen,” he said. “Fine, old poison’s nephew will certainly be difficult for you to deal with, but he’s not that big of a problem. I will stay with you for another half month, and you will make me two dishes every day. But if you repeat one dish, I will immediately leave you.”

    After getting her heart’s desire, Huang Rong proceeded to make a number of different dishes with skillful variations, including pot stickers, various dumplings, fried rice, lunar new year cakes, steamed rolls and rice noodles.

    Hong Qicong taught them the essence of fighting by reacting to the enemy and changing the defense of the body. He did not teach the last three moves of the “18 Dragon-Subduing Palms”

    Nevertheless, Guo Jing’s understanding of the first 15 palms solidified under Hong Qicong’s continued tutelage, as did the skills he learned from the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. His improvement was not negligible.

    In over 35 years of training in the martial arts, Hong Qicong had learned a lot of diverse techniques. He passed on some of these strange fist techniques to Huang Rong Although the skills possessed many strange variations, the techniques were inferior to the simple power of the first 15 palms of the “18 Dragon-Subduing Palms.” Furthermore, Huang Rong only learned them to amuse herself.

    Guo Jing was practicing his palms one evening, when Huang Rong climed a tree to gather bamboo shoots and plums for an unconventional dish called “The Three Friends of Winter,” which tastes of three distinct flavors.

    Hong Qicong couldn’t stop himself from drooling. He then suddenly bent into a thicket of grass and fished out a two-foot-long blue snake.

    “Snake!” Huang Rong shouted.

    With his left hand, Hong Qicong lightly pushed Huang Rong on her shoulder, forcing her a few feet away.

    The thick patch of grass rustled again, revealing more snakes. Hong Qicong struck each snake with the doggy-beating stick on the center of its head. The blow immediately killed them.

    Huang Rong shouted as her face colored. Two snakes didn’t flee from Hong Qicong. They climbed the tree and bit Huang Rong.

    Hong Qicong knew the blue snakes, although small, possessed a highly venomous poison without compare. He immediately wanted to cure Huang Rong, but suddenly a large hoard of blues snakes materialized. He grabbed Huang Rong by her waistband and took Guo Jing’s hand before running back to the inn. There, he knelt to examine Huang Rong and discovered her complexion to be normal. “How?” he said.

    “It’s not a problem,” Huang Rong laughed.

    Fear struck Guo Jing when he saw the two snakes bite Huang Rong. He reached down to pull them off of her body.

    Hong Qicong told Guo Jing to be careful. As Guo Jing prepared himself to remove the snakes, he noticed blood dripping from their heads. They were already dead.

    Hong Qicong understood. “Your father gave you his soft hedgehog armor.”

    When the snakes bit Huang Rong, they were immediately killed by the spikes on her armor, which pierced their heads.

    Guo Jing went to pull the other snake off of Huang Rong when more snakes emerged from the forest.

    Hong Qicong placed a yellow herb in his mouth and chewed.

    By this time, over a thousand snakes had emerged from the forest. Many more were out of the sight of the heroes.

    “Master Hong, let’s get out of here,” Guo Jing said.

    Hong Qicong didn’t answer. Instead, he unstopped his gourd and took a large swig from it. He mixed the yellow herb with the wine, which he spit from left to right, creating an arc in front of the three.

    When one blue snake attempted to cross the medicated wine, it immediately keeled over. None of the other blue snakes dared to cross the wine afterwards. Indeed, the ones in the front attempted to retreat, but more snakes were emerging from the forest. Both groups crashed into one another causing a great deal of chaos.

    Huang Rong clapped her hands and shouted in pleasure.

    The forest suddenly emitted a strange noise before three men dressed in white emerged from it. They used a pole to shepherd the snakes as if they were oxen.

    Huang Rong found this all amusing. But then she suddenly felt like vomiting.

    Hong Qicong struck at a snake with his doggy-beating stick. He then took the snake and used two fingers to extract its gallbladder.

    “Quickly swallow this,” he said to Huang Rong. “Don’t bite or chew them, or you will feel pain.”

    After swallowing the gallbladders, Huang Rong’s chest immediately felt at ease.

    “Brother Jing, do you feel dizzy?” Huang Rong said.

    Guo Jing shook his head.

    Because he drank the blood of the giant snake, Guo Jing had become impervious to over a hundred poisons. The snakes also felt fear whenever they smelled the scent of the blood on Guo Jing. When they emerged from the forest, they were really after just Hong Qicong and Huang Rong.

    “Master Hong, these snakes were raised by people,” Huang Rong said.

    Hong Qicong nodded and angrily glared at the three men in white.

    The three men were also angry after they saw Hong Qicong feed the gallbladder to Huang Rong. They reorganized the snake line.

    “You three bastards!” one of them shouted. “Are you tired of living?”

    “No, you must be the three bastards who are tired of living!’ Huang Rong shouted back.

    Hong Qicong clapped Huang Rong on the shoulders in approval.

    The three men became even angrier. The sallow-cheeked, middle-aged man standing in the middle thrust the long pole at Huang Rong with a surprising amount of force.

    Hong Qicong pressed the doggy-beating stick against the pole, which immediately stopped.

    Startled, the man pulled on the pole with both of his hands.

    Hong Qicong shook the doggy-beating stick and shouted, “Be gone!”

    The man stumbled and flipped over, landing right in the middle of all the deadly snakes. He had luckily eaten a herb earlier, so the snakes were unwilling to bite him.

    Shocked, the other two men took a step back. “How?” they said.

    Indeed, the other man had fallen so hard that he crushed 10 snakes and felt sore all over.

    One of his companions, a fair-skinned man, held out the pole to the sallow-cheeked man to support him. They were reluctant to fight again.

    “Who dares to stop our snakes with that herb?” the sallow-cheeked man said.

    Laughing, Hong Qicong paid no attention to them.

    “Who are you to send out so many poisonous snakes to injure people?” Huang Rong replied.

    The three men looked at one another, trying to figure out how to respond when another man dressed in white appeared at the edge of the forest. He walked through a narrow path between the snakes while fanning himself.

    Both Guo Jing and Huang Rong recognized him as Ouyang Ke, the master of White Camel Mountain, whose presence amongst their ranks caused the snakes to disperse.

    The three men welcomed their master and told him of Hong Qicong’s amazing ability and the situation that had just transpired.

    Ouyang Ke was surprised. Then he nodded.

    “These three brothers were ignorant and affronted seniors,” he said. “They apologize.”

    Then he turned to Huang Rong and smiled.

    “The lady is here,” he said. “I am at your service.”

    Huang Rong turned her attention to Hong Qicong.

    “Master Hong, you should take care of this bad egg,” she said.

    Hong Qicong nodded and said to Ouyang Ke, “How can you lawlessly herd these snakes through the country in broad daylight? You obviously intend to use these snakes for reckless acts. Who do you intend to use them on?”

    “These snakes have traveled a long distance,” Ouyang Ke said. “They can’t feed themselves in the conventional manner.”

    “How many people have you hurt?” Hong Qicong said.

    “We’ve herded the snakes though the country,” Ouyang Ke said. “Not many people have gotten hurt.”

    Hong Qicong glared at the other man.

    “Not wounded many people!” he said. “Your family name is Ouyang is it not?”

    “That’s correct,” Ouyang Ke said. “The lady must have told you. And what is the venerable one’s name?”

    “This man’s rank is a generation above yours,” Huang Rong said. “If he told you, he’d scare you to death!”

    But Ouyang Ke didn’t get angry. He laughed instead and cast a sidelong glance at her.

    “You are the son of Ouyang Feng, aren’t you?” Hong Qicong said.

    Ouyang Ke didn’t respond, but the three snake herders shouted in anger, “Old man, how dare you use the given name of our master!”

    “I say what others do not,” Hong Qicong said with a smile.

    The three snake herders continued to yell at Hong Qicong, when the beggar, who was on the ground with the doggy-beating stick, suddenly appeared in sky like a large bird. He struck down three times so quickly that the three men had no time to react. Before their bodies hit the ground, Hong Qicong had already jumped into the air again.*

    -------------------------------

    *While translating the next part, I discovered the three men might not have fallen. I was really confused by this. If anyone can clarify, please do so.

    “Good move!” Huang Rong said. “Why haven’t you taught it to me yet, Master Hong?”

    The three men could not make a sound because Hong Qicong hit them on the tiny muscle near the chin that connects to the jaw.

    Startled, Ouyang Ke said to Hong Qicong, “Senior knows my uncle?”

    “You are Ouyang Feng’s nephew,” Hong Qicong said. “It’s been over 20 years since I’ve seen the old poison. Is he still not dead?”

    Ouyang Ke grew angry, but he knew the level of Hong Qicong’s wugong was very high. And since he knew his uncle, he must also be a senior figure of enormous ability.

    “Uncle has often said that he would never die before any of his friends,” Ouyang Ke said. “So he dares not go to heaven before you.”

    Hong Qicong looked skyward and laughed.

    “Good! You turn my words around and insult me!” he said.

    “Now, why did you bring all these treasures?” he said, indicating the snakes.

    “I have spent all my life in the West,” Ouyang Ke said. “This is the first time I have ventured south of the Yellow River. The journey is lonely and solitary, so I thought I’d bring these snakes for some fun.”

    “That’s a lie,” Huang Rong said. “How can your journey be lonely and solitary with so many of your wives and concubines to accompany you?”

    Ouyang Ke snapped open his fan and looked over it at Huang Rong. Laughing, he recited, “My distant heart held no one within, but today I have met its princess.”

    Huang Rong made a funny face at Ouyang Ke and laughed.

    “I don’t need your compliments, just as much as I don’t need you to miss me,” she said.

    Ouyang Ke was speechless: He was enthralled by the goddess-like Huang Rong and her pleasant expression.

    “Your uncle rules the western region tyrannically, so obviously no one has disciplined you,” Hong Qicong shouted. “So you’ve come into central China with the same idea of doing as you pleased. Well, today, I will give your uncle face and leave you alone. Get out of my sight right now.”

    Ouyang Ke stopped himself from spitting out hateful words. Knowing himself to be no match for Hong Qicong, he began to retreat obediently, though his heart was full of distaste.

    “Junior wishes senior a new year, free of any awful misfortune,” he said. “If you should have any trouble, please come to the White Camel Moutain.”

    Hong Qicong laughed. “Little punk, you dare challenge me to a duel? If I come, it has nothing to do with an agreement. Your uncle isn’t afraid of me, and I’m not afraid of your uncle. Twenty years before yesterday, in the early morning, a group of us fought one another and found ourselves to be evenly matched. We need not fight ever again.”

    His face abruptly changed. “You are still here in front of me instead of being far away!” Hong Qicong shouted.

    Ouyang Ke was startled again.

    “I’ve only learned 30 percent of uncle’s wugong,” he thought. “This man here doesn’t seem to be lying. I’ll accept this loss of face for now and get back at him later.”

    Ouyang Ke didn’t respond, and the three men, with their chins still in pain, made no sound. Casting a glance at Huang Rong, Ouyang Ke turned and walked back into the forest.

    The three men then made strange noises to order the snakes, but because of the injury to their chins, their voices at their loudest only came out as a weak rasp.

    Like a wave, the snakes moved back into the forest, leaving a trail of gleaming slime across the ground.

    “Master Hong, do you know where these snakes come from?” Huang Rong said. “Were they raised?”

    Hong Qicong gave no response. He took a swig from his gourd, used his sleeve to wipe off the sweat from his brow and let out a sigh of relief.

    “How dangerous! How dangerous!” he said.

    “How so?” both Guo Jing and Huang Rong asked.

    “Those poisonous snakes were only temporarily blocked by my efforts,” Hong Qicong said. “They would have soon been able to come over. With so many snakes, they would have been like a flood. How would we be able to stop them? Luckily, those people were inexperienced and didn’t realize my ruse since I scared them so much.”

    “If the old poison had come, you two kids would have been in a terrible position,” he added.

    “We wouldn’t stay — we’d run away,” Huang Rong said.

    “This senior wouldn’t be scared, but you two kids would run away,” Hong Qicong laughed. “But how would you flee if the old poison sent out one of his palms?”

    “Is that man’s uncle really that powerful?” Huang Rong said.

    Hong Qicong laughed. “Not powerful? ‘Eastern Heretic,’ ‘Western Poison,’ ‘Northern Beggar,’ ‘Southern Emperor’ and ‘Central Divinity’: Your father is the Eastern Heretic, and Ouyang Feng is the Western Poison. The number one martial artist, Wang Zhenren, passed away. The remaining four of us, who fought against one another in eight pairs, were found to be equal.

    “Is your father not fierce?” he added. “Is my own ability negligible?”

    Huang Rong had secretly pondered these points before and was not able to put the pieces together. “My father is a good person, so why is he called ‘heretical’ and ‘evil?’ I don’t like his nickname.”

    “Privately, your father probably likes his nickname,” Hong Qicong said with a laugh. “That man possesses a strange, spirit. He follows his own unorthodox way — is that not perverse? I am convinced that the proper ancestry of all orthodox wugong is through Quan Zhen’s teachings.”

    “You’ve learned Quan Zhen’s neigong haven’t you?” he said to Guo Jing.

    “Ma Yu taught me at length for over two years,” Guo Jing said.

    “Indeed, indeed — you didn’t learn that in any short span of time,” Hong Qicong said. “Otherwise, how would you be able to learn my ’18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ if you didn’t possess a good nei gong basis?”

    “Who is Southern Emperor?” Huang Rong said.

    “Southern Emperor is indeed a king,” Hong Qicong said.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong were surprised.

    “Do you mean the emperor of the Song?” Huang Rong said.

    Hong Qicong erupted in laughter. “That kid emperor is only strong enough to eat from a golden rice bowl. If there are two, he wouldn’t be able to pick it up! Southern Emperor is not the Song emperor. No, this Southern Emperor possesses very powerful kung fu. Between the three of us, your father and I were slightly inferior. But the southern fire overcoming the western gold? Indeed, the old poison, Ouyang Feng, was able to overcome his star.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong wanted Hong Qicong to finish his story, but the beggar was lost in thought and fell into silence. They didn’t press him.

    Hong Qicong looked skyward. His eyebrows creased as if were pondering some sort of difficult problem. He walked back into the inn alone.

    Suddenly, Huang Rong and Guo Jing heard the sound of tearing. As Hong Qicong passed through the gate into the inn, a rivet got caught on his sleeve and tore a large hole into it. Huang Rong gasped in surprise.

    But Hong Qicong didn’t notice. He kept walking as if he were in a daze.

    “I’ll mend it for you,” Huang Rong said.

    Huang Rong went to the proprietress of the inn and borrowed a needle and thread. Then she fixed the hole in Hong Qicong’s sleeve.

    Hong Qicong shook himself from his reverie when he saw Huang Rong with the needle in her hand. He abruptly snatched the needle and ran outside the gate. Curious, Guo Jing and Huang Rong followed, only to see Hong Qicong throw the gleaming needle out. Huang Rong watched the needle arc and pierced a grasshopper. She shouted in delight.

    “This will do,” Hong Qicong said, looking satisfied. “This style will do nicely.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong waited for Hong Qicong to continue.

    “Ouyang Feng, the old poison, loves to raise poisonous snakes and poisonous insects,” Hong Qicong said. “Coming up with a way to deal with all those blue snakes is not an easy thing.” He paused before continuing. “When I saw that younger Ouyang and found him to be no good, and knowing his uncle who opposes everyone, I realized that you two needed some way to disperse the snakes since I might not always be around to save you.”

    Huang Rong clapped her hands. “You would use the needles for the snakes to the ground.”

    Hong Qicong smiled at Huang Rong. “This girl is so clever,” he said. “You say one sentence, and she already knows the next one.”

    “You don’t want to use the yellow herb anymore?” Huang Rong said. “You just spit it out with the wine and the poisonous snakes will refuse to cross it.”

    “That will only work for so long,” Hong Qicong said. “I have to practice this stance ‘Blossoms Rain from the Sky,’ which would use this needle. The snakes will approach in the future, and I will throw out these needles, hitting each snake, one by one. After I get enough needles, I will go kill all those snakes in about a fortnight.”

    Both Guo Jing and Huang Rong laughed.

    “I’ll go get you your needles,” Huang Rong said, before immediately heading off in the direction of the town market.

    Hong Qicong sighed in admiration. “Jing-er, why don’t you have her split her intelligence and cleverness apart and give one half to you?”

    “Split apart her intelligence and cleverness?” Guo Jing said. “You can’t split those apart.”

    Huang Rong returned from the market around the next meal time. She removed from a food basket two packages of sewing needles, and, while smiling, said, “I searched all over the town to buy these needles, but all the men seem to let the women talk amongst each other till they die.”

    “How did you get them?” Guo Jing said.

    “I yelled at them!” Huang Rong said. “I told them they were all useless. It’s impossible to not be able to buy needles in a town.”

    Hong Qicong burst into laughter. “You are indeed very clever! Luckily, I have not married and it will spare me from having the torment of daughters,” he said. “Come, come, come, we need to practice kung fu! You two kids won’t get another opportunity to learn from this old man.”

    Laughing, Huang Rong followed him out.

    “I don’t want to learn Master Hong,” Guo Jing said.

    “Why?” Hong Qicong said.

    “Senior has already taught me so much kung fu that I haven’t practiced enough,” Guo Jing said.

    Hong Qicong understood: Guo Jing refused to be greedy. The beggar had said he would no longer teach anymore wugong to Guo Jing, but the recent emergency situation made teaching more techniques imperative. Nevertheless, if Guo Jing allowed Hong Qicong to teach him again, it would appear to be opportunistic.

    Nodding, Hong Qicong pulled Huang Rong by the hand and said, “We practice.”

    Once alone, Guo Jing went out and practiced the first 15 palms of the “18-Dragon Subduing Palms,” thereby increasing his understanding.

    Huang Rong studied “Blossoms Rain from the Sky” for 10 days. She learned how to throw 10 needles to simultaneously hit a person’s vital areas, but could not master hitting the vital points of multiple targets at once.

    One day, Hong Qicong and Huang Rong were out practicing with the needles. The beggar threw them all at once. The needles fell to the ground in two groups — each ten feet across. Satisfied, he looked skyward and fell into contemplation. But his thinking was dull, so he said aloud, “Old poison, why did you train all these snakes?”

    “With his wugong already at such a powerful state, he can handle almost anyone near him,” Huang Rong said. “So what would the snakes do?”

    Hong Qicong slapped his head. “Of course!” he said. “It’s to deal with the Eastern Heretic and the Southern Emperor. Both the beggars and Quan Zhen are numerous in manpower, and the Southern Emperor is an actual king with many bodyguards and soldiers protecting him. Your father is a cultivated intellect possessing many strange and powerful skills, which can help him face multiple enemies alone. When the old poison fights alone, no one in his generation can completely face him. But if his enemy brings a companion and so on, then the old poison facing them alone is in a terrible position.”

    “Therefore, the old poison has raised the snakes to help him,” Huang Rong said.

    Hong Qicong sighed. “Us beggars often catch snakes and raise them for the purpose of food,” he said. “We’ve been able to do this for about 17 to 18 snakes. We sometimes even release them into fields at night to catch frogs. But the whole process isn’t easy at all. Now, the old poison has actually had the time to catch innumerable amounts of snakes. Huang-er, the old poison has spent a great deal of time on this, which means he must be planning something.”

    “He is certainly planning something,” Huang Rong said. “But luckily for us, his nephew revealed the snakes.”

    Hong Qicong slapped his head. “Of course, this Ouyang kid revealed with the secret with his frivolousness,” he said. “But what does the old poison know about what others have? These thousands of snakes could not have come from the western region. They must have been collected from the mountains in the East. And though that Ouyang Kid betrayed a part of the plan, he might not have completely revealed the whole scheme in which he plays a part.”

    “That’s not a good thing,” Huang Rong said. “Luckily, this style prepares us in advance to take care of those snakes when we observed them, as opposed to having to deal with them while fighting with the old poison himself.”

    Hong Qicong hesitated. “But suppose he wraps me up and prevents me from throwing the needles,” he said. “How would I deal with those thousands of snakes?”

    Huang Rong thought for a while, “Just run away,” she said.

    “Bah!” Hong Qicong said with a smile. “What kind of method is turning around and running away?”

    Suddenly, Huang Rong exclaimed, “I got it! I just thought of a good plan.”

    Joyful, Hong Qicong said, “What kind of plan is this?”

    “Just keep the two of us by your side,” she said. “Should we meet the old poison, you will fight him and brother Jing will deal with his nephew. I will simply use the sewing needles to kill all the snakes. The problem is brother Jing doesn’t know three of the strikes in the ‘18-Dragon Subduing Palms’ and might not be able to deal with those grinning bastards.”

    Hong Qicong stared.

    “You are the grinning bastard,” he said. “You just want to cheat me into teaching your brother Jing the last three palms. Regarding Guo Jing’s moral conduct, I would teach him all 18 palms without any hesitation. But when did this boy become my disciple? He is so dull that if I took him as a disciple, I would be giving people the right to laugh at me!”

    Huang Rong laughed.

    “I’m going to buy some groceries,” she said, knowing that would make it harder for Hong Qicong to leave.

    She went to the market and purchased many different kinds of vegetables and meats while making sure she bought ingredients with sufficiently unique tastes. With the groceries held in her left hand and her right practicing the “Blossoms Rain from the Sky” technique, she leisurely strolled back to the inn. Suddenly, she heard the sound of a bell loudly approaching. In the distance, she saw a lone, female rider dressed in white approaching the inn very quickly. Huang Rong saw it was Yang Tiexin’s daughter, Mu Nianci, whom Guo Jing’s relatives wanted him to marry. Huang Rong’s heart turned sour, and as Mu Nianci got closer, she refused to make a sound.

    “What’s so good about this girl?” she thought. “Brother Jing’s six masters and that ox-nosed priest of the Quanzhen sect all want him to marry her.”

    After more thinking, Huang Rong grew angry.

    “Let me go fight her and relieve some of my frustration,” she thought.

    But when Huang Rong went to place the groceries in the inn, she found Mu Nianci already sitting at a table.

    An anxious-looking innkeeper asked Mu Nianci what she wanted to eat and drink.

    “Bring me a bowl of noodles and some beef,” Mu Nianci said. The innkeeper quickly left to fill the order.

    “How is simple beef any good to eat?” Huang Rong said.

    Mu Nianci looked at Huang Rong. At first she couldn’t recognize her, but then she remembered it was the girl who so suddenly left with Guo Jing. She exhaled.

    “Little sister is here too?” she said. “Please sit with me.”

    “Did that smelly scholar, the fat dwarf, or the other ones come too?” Huang Rong said.

    “No,” Mu Nianci said. “I came alone. They are all off together.”

    Huang Rong at first feared running into Qiu Chuji, but she felt joy after learning Mu Nianci was there by herself. At first blinded by the possibility of the taoist’s presence, Huang Rong now examined Mu Nianci closely and noticed her small boots, dress and her hair entwined with a white flower, signifying that she was in mourning. And though she had lost weight and wore a sad expression, Mu Nianci remained elegantly beautiful as opposed to pitiable. Huang Rong then noticed a dagger worn at Mu Nianci’s waist.

    “This is the dagger exchanged by brother Jing’s parents with her parents to mark their marriage,” Huang Rong thought.

    Unable to bear the thought, Huang Rong shouted, “Little sister, may I take a look at that dagger?”

    The dagger was indeed the one Bao Xiruo gave away just before dying. It was recovered after she and Yang Tiexin killed themselves and served as a keepsake of the two adoptive parents.

    Mu Nianci looked at Huang Rong and noticed her strange expression, but before she could do anything, Huang Rong had already reached out, taken hold of the dagger and casually removed it.

    She looked at the weapon and noticed the two characters “Guo Jing” carved into its hilt.

    “This belongs to brother Jing,” she thought bitterly. “Why does she get to have it?”

    She removed the weapon from its scabbard. A cold air immediately emanated from the weapon.

    “Good dagger!” Huang Rong said.

    She put the dagger back into the scabbard and placed it within her shirt.

    “I’m going to go give this to brother Jing,” she said.

    Stricken, Mu Nianci said, “What?”

    “The two characters engraved on the hilt proves the rightful owner of this dagger,” Huang Rong said. “I’m going to give it to him.”

    Mu Nianci cried out angrily, “This is the only possession I have from my adoptive parents. How can you take it? Quickly give it back to me.” She stood up and walked towards Huang Rong.

    “If you have a problem, come and get it!” Huang Rong shouted as she ran out of the inn.

    Huang Rong knew Hong Qicong was asleep in the forest, and Guo Jing was up in the mountains practicing his palms. She ran to the left.

    Mu Nianci pursued anxiously, fearing Huang Rong would ride the red horse. She continued to chase until she heard a loud noise, which she followed.

    Huang Rong had taken a bend to a clearing surrounded by tall, locust trees. She stopped there and laughed.

    “You’ve won,” she said. “You’re the better horse. Now let us match against one another to see who gets the bride’s dagger.”

    Mu Nianci’s cheeks reddened.

    “Don’t joke little sister,” she said. “When I see this dagger, I see my adoptive father. Why did you take it away?”

    Huang Rong’s brow dropped.

    “Who is your sister?” she shouted.

    She immediately jumped at Mu Nianci with her palm extended.

    Mu Nianci tried to dodge, but Huang Rong used the “Falling Blossom Sword Palm.” Employing the many and mysterious variations in the style, Huang Rong hit Mu Nianci twice in the ribs, causing a lot of pain.

    Angry, Mu Nianci turned to the left before also returning her own palm stroke, which was a violent strike.

    “This is the ‘Wandering Strides’ fist!” Huang Rong shouted. “How is this possible?”

    Mu Nianci was surprised upon hearing Huang Rong’s shout.

    “This was the style Hong Qicong passed on to me alone,” she thought. “How could she know about it?”

    Mu Nianci watched as Huang Rong retracted her left palm and attacked with her right as a fist. After three moves, Mu Nianci recognized the style to be none other than the “Wandering Strides.” Surprised, she jumped back.

    “Stop!” she shouted. “Who taught you this style?”

    “I just figured it out myself,” Huang Rong said with a smile. “What’s so special about this rough and crude kung fu?”

    So saying, she attacked again with the “Wandering Strides,” employing its two central moves, “Alms Bowl at the Door” and “Seeing a Benefactor,” in a continuous attack.

    Mu Nianci became even more bewildered after avoiding another rmove, “Traveling the Seas Without Worry.”

    “You know Senior Hong Qicong?” she said.

    “He and I are old friends,” Huang Rong said with a smile. “You can use this style. I’ll use the kung fu I know, and then we’ll see who’ll win.”

    With a menacing chortle, Huang Rong immediately attacked. She did not use the “Wandering Strides” style. Instead, she employed the martial arts taught to her by her father to get the better of Mu Nianci, whose skills were taught to her by Hong Qicong. How could Mu Nianci block?

    Mu Nianci tried to flee but she couldn’t. She watched a palm rise like a sword slashing across with a roaring wind. Feeling the spear-like force, Mu Nianci twisted her body to the side to dodge, but then felt pain in her neck as Huang Rong successfully hit her with “Brushing the Orchid Blossoms from the Road.”

    The palm had struck the neck vertebrae precisely where the blood vessels regulate the body, hands and feet. After being hit, Mu Nianci’s hands and feet immediately turned numb and weak.

    Huang Rong then stepped forward and pressed an acupoint on Mu Nianci’s waist. Mu Nianci immediately fell over.

    Huang Rong took out the dagger and laughed, before slashing at Mu Nianci’s cheeks with 10 different strikes. None of them hit — they were only one inch away from striking flesh.

    Mu Nianci closed her eyes, expecting death, but to her surprise, she felt a cool air near her cheeks that didn’t hurt. When she opened her eyes, she only saw the dagger coming towards her eyes, only to see it stop next to her face.

    “If you’re going to kill me, kill me,” she yelled in anger. “Why all the play and theatrics?”

    “You are not my enemy, nor do I hate you,” Huang Rong said. “Why would I kill you? You just have to swear one oath, and I’ll release you.”

    Although they were indeed not enemies, Mu Nianci refused to consider even giving an oath. “Lady, you threaten to kill me because you want me to swear an oath,” she shouted. “You must be dreaming.”

    Huang Rong sighed with admiration. “It would be a real pity to kill this beautiful lady of marriageable age,” she said.

    Mu Nianci closed her eyes and waited for death, but she heard not a sound.

    After a moment, Huang Rong gently said, “Brother Jing and I have already shared our hearts. If you proceed to marry him, there is no way he would give you the same.”

    Mu Nianci opened her eyes.

    “What did you say?” she asked.

    “I know you won’t promise not to marry him,” Huang Rong said.

    “Who is it that you like?” Mu Nianci said in confusion. “Who is it you think I want to marry?”

    “Brother Jing, Guo Jing,” Huang Rong said.

    “Oh him,” Mu Nianci said. “What do you want me to swear?”

    “I want you to swear a heavy oath that you will not marry him,” Huang Rong said.

    Mu Nianci giggled. “You put a dagger to my throat when I already cannot marry him,” she said.

    “Is it true?” Huang Rong asked joyfully. “How can this be?”

    “Although my adoptive father betrothed me to brother Guo Jing, honestly —” she said before lowering her voice. “— Honestly, adoptive father, despite all his wisdom, neglected to prevent me from giving my heat to someone else.”

    “I’ve made such a bad mistake about you,” Huang Rong said ecstatically before immediately releasing Mu Nianci’s acupoints and massaging her numb hands and feet. “Elder sister, who have you matched yourself with?”

    Mu Nianci blushed before cooing, “You’ve seen this person before.”

    Huang Rong tilted her head and thought for a moment. “I’ve seen him before?” she said. “What kind of person around this town is worthy of ascending to elder sister’s level?”

    Mu Nianci laughed. “In this world, this man is unrivaled by everyone except for you brother Jing,” she said.

    “Elder sister, is he crazy since he hasn’t married you?” Huang Rong said with a smile.

    “Is brother Jing crazy?” Mu Nianci said. “His character is honest, and his heart is chivalrous. I admire him very much. He treated my father and me very well that day when he helped us at the risk of his own life, which I am very grateful for. This grade of man is very small in the world.”

    Worried, Huang Rong pressed, “Did you say that you couldn’t marry him just so I wouldn’t put this dagger against your throat?”

    Mu Nianci noticed how Huang Rong pressed the issue and concluded the imprudence she exhibited before wasn’t far off. She grasped Huang Rong’s hands and slowly spoke, “Little sister, your heart is already set on brother Jing. Finding another man his equal will be difficult even with all the thousands of men in the world, right?”

    “Yes, I do believe it’s very unlikely to find another his equal,” Huang Rong said.

    “If brother Jing heard your praises of him, his heart would be filled with joy,” Mu Nianci said. “During the contest my father set up in Beijing, a man defeated me.”

    Huang Rong understood. “I know now,” she said. “The person in your heart is the little prince, Wanyan Kang.”

    “Yes, it is the young prince,” Mu Nianci said. “He is the one my heart wants. He’s a good person underneath. I can make him stop being rotten. ”

    Though she spoke softly, Mu Nianci’s expression was very firm. Huang Rong nodded her head when she suddenly realized she felt the same way about Guo Jing as what Mu Nianci said in such simple words. They grasped each other’s hands and sat side-by-side below the locust trees with the sensation of shared feelings.

    Huang Rong thought for a moment. Then she gave the dagger back to Mu Nianci.

    “Elder sister, let me return this to you,” Huang Rong said.

    Mu Nianci did not take it.

    “Keep it — this is your brother Jing’s possession,” she said. “His name is carved there on the hilt. With it everyday, I …” She paused. “If I should carry it everyday, it wouldn’t be very good.”

    Huang Rong lovingly took the dagger and stowed it near her bosom.

    “Elder sister, you are truly good,” she said.

    After receiving the valuable dagger, Huang Rong was momentarily distracted from her thoughts.

    “Elder sister, what business has drawn you to the South alone?” Huang Rong asked. “Maybe little sister can help you?”

    Mu Nianci blushed and lowered her head.

    “I don’t have any pressing matters at hand,” she said.

    “In that case, I will take you to see Master Hong,” Huang Rong said.

    Mu Nianci felt joy.

    “Master Hong is here?” she said.

    Huang Rong nodded before grasping Mu Nianci’s hand and pulling her up. Suddenly, she heard a sound among the branches above. A piece of bark fell to the ground. In the distance, they could see one person’s shadow jumping happily from locust tree to locust tree. After a while, they could tell it was Hong Qicong.

    Huang Rong picked up the bark and saw characters carved onto its surface with a needle.

    “Two dolls like this are very good,” she read. “But if Rong-er deliberately causes trouble again, then Qicong will hit your eldest child on the ear.” The bark was not signed at the bottom. Instead, a gourd was carved in its place.

    Huang Rong knew Qicong carved the bark and couldn’t help blushing. She knew Qicong had observed the whole fight and knew all about the particulars of the oath she wanted Mu Nianci to swear. Both people had entered the locust grove and did not even notice Hong Qicong. The pair walked hand-in-hand back to the inn.

    Guo Jing, who was sitting inside after he finished practicing, was shocked to see Mu Nianci. He quickly said, “Sister Mu, did you see my masters?”

    “Your respective masters and I left the capital together and went south to Shandong,” she said. “We split up there, and I have not seen them since.”

    “Are my masters well?” Guo Jing said.

    “Be at ease, brother Guo,” Mu Nianci said with a smile. “They are not angry with you.”

    Guo Jing was indeed very worried, fearing his masters were very angry at him. He rose and fiddled with some tea and food as his simple mind was lost in thought.

    Mu Nianci turned to Huang Rong and asked how they met Hong Qicong.

    Huang Rong told the tale alone.

    “Little sister, you are so blessed,” Mu Nianci said with a sigh. “You spent so much time with Master Hong that you lived like a little family. But I only wanted to see him, and he is not here.”

    “He was looking after you,” Huang Rong said comfortingly. “He would have revealed his true ability if I tried to injure you. If I had hurt you, how could he have not acted?”

    Mu Nianci nodded in acceptance.

    Guo Jing thought this was strange. “Rong-er, why would you want to injure sister Mu?” he asked.

    “I cannot say,” Huang Rong said quickly.

    Mu Nianci smiled. “She feared … feared I would,” she said without finishing. Although she spoke of the matter, she felt shy about the subject.

    Huang Rong reached out and tickled Mu Nianci’s armpit. “You dare to speak of it?” Huang Rong said with a smile.

    Mu Nianci stuck her tongue out and then shook her head. “How would I dare?” she said. “Don’t you want me to swear an oath?”

    Huang Rong spluttered as she recalled trying to force Mu Nianci into swearing to not marry Guo Jing. Both her cheeks turned a bright red.

    Upon seeing their shared emotions, Guo Jing felt great happiness.

    After eating, the three went into the middle of the forest and strolled as they idled away their day. Huang Rong asked Mu Nianci how she received instruction from Hong Qicong.

    “It happened when I was very young,” Mu Nianci said. “I followed father to a river in the Henan province. We stopped at an inn, and while I played at the entrance, I saw two beggars lying on the ground, bleeding profusely. No one was willing to help them because the sight of the beggars’ internal organs disgusted them.”

    Huang Rong made the connection. “Oh, so you showed compassion!” she said. “You tended their injuries.”

    “I too could not do much for their injury,” Mu Nianci said. “But I pitied them and took them father’s room where I cleaned their wounds and bandaged them. When my father returned, he said I did the right thing, and then sighed and said how his former wife was kind hearted as well. Then my father gave the two beggars some money to help them with their injuries. They thanked him and left. After several months, we went to Xinyang, where we ran into those two beggars again, who had already recovered from their wounds. They took me to a temple, where I first met Hong Qicong. After praising me, he taught me the ‘Wandering Strides’ form, which took three days. On the fourth day, when I returned to the temple, the master had already gone.”

    CHAPTER 12, LAST PART by IcyFox


    Huang Rong said, “Master Qigong doesn’t allow us to teach his skills to others. But if you, my sister, would like to learn my father’s skills, I could spend the next few days teaching you some of them.” When she found out that Mu Nianci did not want to marry Guo Jing, a burden was lifted from her heart and then she felt that she was a really nice person, so she wanted to make her a gift. Mu Nianci said, “Many thanks, but at present I have some urgent matter to attend to; in future I would ask you even without you suggesting it.” Huang Rong wanted to ask her what was it but one look at her face and Huang Rong knew she did not want to talk about it and thought, “From her shyness, it seems like she’s made up her mind. If she doesn’t want to mention it, it’s alright.”

    Mu Nianci left the inn around noon in a hurry and only returned after dusk. Huang Rong noticed the joyful expression on her face but pretended that she paid no attention. After their meal, the 2 ladies retired and Huang Rong saw her cheek resting on her palm and her heart seemed full of emotions, so she pretended to sleep. After a while, she saw her reach into her bundle and took something out, kissed it lightly and looked at it fondly. Huang Rong looked over her back and saw that it was a piece of finely-embroidered handkerchief.

    Suddenly Mu Nianci jerked around and the handkerchief fluttered. Huang Rong was shocked and immediately shut her eyes while her heart pounded. She only heard the slight breeze in the room and carefully lifted her eyelid. She saw Mu Nianci pacing around the room executing moves randomly. She said to herself, “Hey, that’s the handkerchief she snatched from that young prince during their sparring match the other day.” She saw Mu Nianci smiling to herself, and felt that she was reminiscing of that day’s events as she was imitating Wanyan Kang’s movements and actions. She did that for some time before walking near her bedside.

    Huang Rong closed her eyes tightly as she knew Mu Nianci must have been looking in her direction. After a brief moment, she sighed, “You’re really beautiful!” She suddenly turned around and opened the door and walked out. Huang Rong became curious and gave pursuit, and then utilized her Qinggong to follow her. Her Qinggong was better than Mu Nianci’s, but she kept her distance behind to evade detection. She saw her jump onto a roof and glance around. Mu Nianci then jumped to a larger building on the south. Huang Rong had been visiting the place daily to buy groceries, and knew that this was a rich man’s house, so she thought, “Most likely she’d run out of money, so she came here to ‘get’ some.”

    Huang Rong saw that the door was brightly painted and there were 2 large lanterns suspended at the door inscribed with the words, “The Great Jin Kingdom’s Envoy” and there were 4 Jin soldiers guarding the door. She had passed this door numerous times but had never seen this before, so she thought, “She wants to rob the Great Jin’s bounty; that’s great, after she’s done I can also help myself.” She then followed Mu Nianci to the back courtyard and saw her hid around at every other corner, so she followed suit.

    They saw the candlelight coming from the kitchen and there was a man’s shadow there pacing about the room. Mu Nianci cautiously walked over and gazed at this shadow. After some time, the shadow was still pacing around while Mu Nianci was starring at him motionlessly. Huang Rong became impatient and thought, “Sister Mu is hesitating; why doesn’t she just barge in and immobilize him?” She went around the other side and thought, “I’ll help her by immobilizing him and hiding in one corner to surprise him.” Just as she was about to enter through a window, she suddenly heard the door open and a man went in, saying, “Reporting, sir, the Southern Imperial Court will send a special envoy here the day after tomorrow.” The man nodded and the messenger left.

    Huang Rong thought, “So the guy inside is a Jin nobleman, Sister Mu must have some good reason for coming here and not for burglary; I shouldn’t interfere.” She dipped her finger in her mouth and poked a hole in the window panel and peeped in. She was surprised; it was none other than the young prince Wanyan Kang. In his hand was some black object, and when illuminated by the candlelight, Huang Rong saw that it was a head of a rusty spear.

    Huang Rong did not know that this spear was his father Yang Tiexin’s property and only felt that it had something to do with Mu Nianci, so she laughed to herself, “The 2 of you are really acting in concert, don’t tell me you’re really inseparable.” She uncontrollably let out a laugh. Wanyan Kang was startled and quickly extinguished the candle, exclaiming, “Who’s that?” Huang Rong took this chance to sneak behind Mu Nianci and swiftly sealed her accupoints, rendering her immobilized. Huang Rong laughed, “Don’t be afraid, I’m just letting you meet your sweetheart.”

    Wanyan Kang opened the door and was about to run out when he heard a girl giggling, “Your sweetheart is here, catch!” Wanyan Kang exclaimed, “What?” A […] body landed in his arms, and the girl who spoke was swiftly over the wall laughing, “Sister, how can you thank me?” As the laughing faded, the girl in his arms struggled to get down.

    Wanyan Kang was shocked beyond words and immediately stepped backed, asking, “Who’s this?” Mu Nianci said softly, “Do you still remember me?” He felt her voice was familiar and stammered, “You… you’re Miss Mu?” She replied, “Yes.” He asked, “Who came with you?” She said, “It was a mischevious friend, I didn’t know she followed me.”

    He stepped in and relit the candle, saying, “Come in.” Mu Nianci bowed her head and entered, sitting on a chair silently but with a deafening heartbeat. Wanyan Kang saw that she was blushing profusely, he said soothingly, “Why are you here to find me at this time?” She did not reply. He thought of his parents’ deaths and said softly, “Since your father is dead, you can stay with me and I will regard you as my sister.”

    Mu Nianci replied, “He’s my foster father…” Wanyan Kang was surprised and thought, “She’s telling me we’re not related by blood.” He took her hand in his and smiled. Mu Nianci’s face reddened drastically and her head bowed lower. Wanyan Kang’s heart was on fire and he hugged her, whispering into her ear, “This is the 3rd time I’m hugging you. The first was during our sparring match, the second was just outside and now there’s no one else around.”

    Mu Nianci said “Mmm” and felt extremely sweet inside, which happened for the 1st time in her life. Wanyan Kang smelt her fragrance and felt her slender body and decided that it was all surreal. After a while he asked, “How did you find me?” Mu Nianci said, “I’d been following you; every night I stare at your shadow but I didn’t dare…” Wanyan Kang realised that her feelings were deep and was very touched, so he kissed her forehead. In the heat of passion he hugged her tightly and kissed her for a long time.

    Mu Nianci whispered, “I’m an orphan… Don’t abandon me.” Wanyan Kang embraced her and stroke her hair, saying, “Don’t worry! You’ll always be mine and I’ll always be yours, OK?” Mu Nianci felt great joy in her heart and looked into Wanyan Kang’s eyes, and nodded. Wanyan Kang saw that she was blushing profusely and did not care anymore; he blew out the candle flame and carried her to the bed and tried to undress her.

    Mu Nianci was somewhat intoxicated, but when he touched her, she hastily pushed him away and said, “No, we can’t do this.” Wanyan Kang hugged her and said, “I will definitely marry you. If my heart changes I shall die a horrible death.” She placed her hand over his mouth and said, “OK, I believe you.” He then said, “Then allow me.” Mu She pleaded, “No… no…” Wanyan Kang was really aroused and tried to undo her clothes. She struck out with half her maximum force. Wanyan Kang did not expected her to use her martial arts at this moment and he was shoved away. Mu Nianci jumped down and snatched the spear-head and pointed it towards herself, saying, “If you force me I shall die in front of you.”

    Wanyan Kang’s passion immediately turned to ice and said, “Alright, let’s talk about this, don’t do that.” Mu Nianci said, “Though I’m a poor girl who wanders through Jianghu, I have my dignity and self-respect. If you truly love me, please respect me. I have no other wish in life but to be with you. In future… in future if I marry you I’d of course… obey you. But today if you try to violate me, I’d rather die.” Though she said this softly, she never hesitated. He silently admired and respected her, saying, “Don’t be angry, it’s my fault.”

    He got off the bed and relit the candle. Mu Nianci heard that he knew his mistake and said, “I’ll wait for you at my foster father’s home in the Ox Family Village. You can send… the matchmaker anytime.” She paused and said, “If you never show up, I’ll just wait for my whole life.” Wanyan Kang was really touched and quickly said, “Don’t worry, when my official business is complete, I’ll come immediately. In this life I shall never change my mind.”

    Mu Nianci smiled shyly and left. Wanyan Kang shouted, “Don’t leave, let’s chat for a while more.” Mu Nianci waved and left. Wanyan Kang stood there and stared at her departing shadow and felt like it was but a dream. She did leave a few strains of hair behind during their struggle, which he placed in his pouch. When he first sparred with her, he did not think much about it, but he did not expect her to follow him here and stare at his shadow every night and yet she severely cherished her chastity, deeply earning his respect. He smiled and sighed.


    END OF CHAPTER.
    Last edited by sunnysnow; 01-19-07 at 08:16 AM.
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    Default Chapter 13 (Part 1-5 End)

    Chapter 13- The Crippled Person of Five Lake

    When Huang Rong returned back to the inn for the night, she though in her heart how she had done a good deed and was extremely delighted. Following that, she fell into a sweet sleep, and told Guo Jing all about it when she awoke the next morning. Guo Jing had actually spent a lot of effort on this matter. The last time, he got into a messy situation and had to fight for his life with Wanyan Kang. And he was also forced to marry Mu Nianci, so when he heard that Mu Nianci and Yang Kang were in love, he secretly felt relieved and happy, especially since Qiu Chu Ji and the six freaks of Jiangnan would not be able to force him to marry Mu Nianci anymore. He ate and chatted with Huang Rong and after some time, Mu Nianci still had not come.

    Huang Rong smiled and said, “ We don’t have to wait for her, let’s just go.”

    Following that, she went back into her room and put on a male disguise. Both of them went to the market and got a camel and rode to the Jiang residence. When they saw the lantern, which read ‘The Jin Ambassador’ at the door smashed, they thought that Wanyan Kang must have left and Mu Nianci must have followed him.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong decided to tour the countryside and rowed a boat to the south of the Yun River. They were lucky that day to see the famous Tao city, which specialized in pottery making. The rows of ceramic creations made with purple sand and clay laid amongst the green hills and blue waters which formed a beautiful sight. They traveled towards the east and not long after, chanced upon a huge lake. Since the lake was situated between three cities and it took about five hundred miles to reach east or south, the lake was named Five Lake. Guo Jing had never seen such huge waters before and pulled Huang Rong to the lakeside. They saw the sky far away from them, a huge, never-ending space in front, with the lake in the middle and couldn’t help but yell out happily.

    Huang Rong said, “ Lets go and play on the lake.”

    They found a fishing village near the lake, borrowed a small boat and left the camel with the owner before rowing out into the waters. After some distance away from the shore, the space between all four corners looked so empty and huge, and the lake seemed like heaven to them.

    Huang Rong’s robes and hair floated gently in the wind and she smiled, “ Long ago, Advisor Fan escorted Xi Shi across the Five Lake…what a clever man. His court position is nothing compared to the peaceful life here.”

    Guo Jing didn’t know anything about Advisor Fan’s story and asked, “ Rong’er, how about you tell me the story.”

    Huang Rong began to tell about how Fan Li helped King Yue avenge the Yue kingdom and how he successfully retreated with Xi shi to a peaceful life on Lake Tai. And she continued about how Wu Zi Xu and Wen Zhong were killed by King Wu and Kind Yue respectively.

    Guo Jing was in a daze after listening to the storey and after a while, he recovered and said, “ Fan Li is clever, but Wu Zi Xu and Wen Zhong are admirable too, for dying for their country,”

    Huang Rong gave a little laugh, “ Absolutely. As the saying goes, if a country is virtuous and one does not change, he is the strongest. If a country is corrupted, and one still does not change as well, he remains the strongest.

    Guo Jing asked, “What does this mean?”

    Huang Rong replied, “ If a country is virtuous, though one rises up to be a powerful official, one would still be as alert and cautious as before. When the country becomes weak one day, and you are still willing to die for your country, then you are the real hero.”

    Guo Jing nodded his head and said, “ Rong’er, how clever of you to think of this!”

    Huang Rong laughed, “ Ah yar! If I could think of this, I would be a saint. These are Confucius sayings which my father taught me when I was young.”

    Guo Jing sighed, “ There are so many matters I can never understand. If I had read more book and learnt more sayings, I would have understood more.”

    Huang Rong said, “ That may not always be the case. My father always tells me that a lot of sayings by saints and scholars are nothing but rubbish. I often see my father reading and saying out loud ‘ No, No what nonsense, this is atrocious!’ Sometimes, he would also say ‘ What saint! A pack of rubbish!’”

    Guo Jing laughed out loud upon hearing how Huang Rong described her father.

    Huang Rong continued, “ I somehow regret spending so much time studying novels and practicing art and calligraphy. If I hadn’t pestered my father to teach me such stuff as well as all sorts of other things such as the interesting ways of calculations, I would have devoted more time to practice my martial skills and we wouldn’t have to be afraid of people like Mei Chao Feng and the old Liang creature! But don’t worry brother Jing, you’ve learnt Qi Gong’s ’18 but short of 3 dragon subduing palms’ and thus, you don’t have to fear that old Liang creature anymore.”

    Guo Jing shook his head and said, “ I don’t think that’s possible.”

    Huang Rong laughed and said, “ It’s a pity Qi Gong left, if not, I would have confiscated and hide his dog beating stick and force him to teach you the remaining three stances before returning it to him.

    Guo Jing hurriedly said, “ No, no. I’m more than satisfied to be able to learn these fifteen stances. How can we make trouble for Senior Qi Gong?”

    Both started chatting and stopped rowing, allowing the wind to sail the boat freely. Unknowingly, they were already miles away from the shore. They saw a fisherman lazily fishing from a boat, not far away and there was a servant at the tip of the boat.

    Huang Rong pointed and said, “ As the mist clears, one can see the shape of a straight bamboo rod, it’s just like a painting of water inked scenery.”

    Guo Jing asked, “ What’s water inked scenery?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ That’s paintings which uses only blank ink and no other colours.”

    Guo Jing saw the green hills, blue waters, white clouds, and orange sun but could not find anything black in colour. He shook his head and did not understand Huang Rong’s words. Huang Rong chatted more with Guo Jing. After she turned around, she saw that the fisherman was still sitting straightly in front of the boat and his rod had not move an inch.

    Huang Rong laughed, “ This person does have a lot of patience.”

    A gust of wind blew over and little waves of water clashed gently against the boat. Huang Rong swung her arms freely and started singing (skipped the lyrics) a song entitled ‘The water dragon’s hum” which talks about life on the lake. She finished singing the first part of the song before resting a little. Guo Jing noticed tears in her eyes and was just about to ask her the meaning of the song when suddenly, they heard a melancholic voice singing the exact same song Huang Rong was singing earlier, except that it was the second part of the song. When they looked out, it seemed like the fisherman was the one singing the song. His voice sounded was somewhat forceful yet poised. Guo Jing did not understand what both of them were singing but thought that it sounded very nice. However, when Huang Rong heard the song, she looked stunned.

    Guo Jing asked, “ What’s the matter?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ My father often sings this song, I didn’t expect a common fisherman to know it too. Let’s check it out.”

    Both of them rowed the boat over only to see the fisherman keep his fishing rod and rowed his boat forward. When both boats neared each other, the fisherman asked, “ To think me fortunate enough to meet such special guests, can I invite you in for a drink?”

    Huang Rong thought his speech sounded composed and refined, she was secretly curious, and answered, “ We are afraid to bother senior you.”

    The fisherman laughed, “ It’s not easy to meet such special guests, but since we meet by chance on the lake, we should treasure it, please come over.”

    The two boats sailed even closer. Huang Rong and Guo Jing rowed the boat behind the tail of the other boat and crossed over to greet the fisherman.

    The fisherman greeted them whilst being seated and said, “ Please be seated. I am crippled and so can’t stand up, I apologize for any inconvenience.”
    Guo Jing and Huang Rong said, “ It’s alright.”

    Both of them sat down and observed the fisherman. He looked about forty years of age, had a rather thin face, and looked as if he were ill. He was very tall and even though he was seated, he was still half a head taller than Guo Jing. The servant at the tail of the boat began warming up some wine.

    Huang Rong said, “ My older brother’s surname is Guo, whereas junior here is surnamed Huang. I was excited for a moment and started singing in the middle of the lake. But, I haven’t offended senior have I?”

    The fisherman laughed, “ I am fortunate to be able to listen to such a clear voice. My surname is Lu. Little brother, is it your first time touring this lake?”

    Guo Jing answered, “ Yes,”

    The fisherman ordered the servant to bring out some dishes and wine for the guests. Although the four dishes were nothing compared to Huang Rong’s cooking, it tasted good too and the wine cups and dish plates looked very unique, and no doubt belonged to some precious collection.

    Three of them started drinking. The fisherman said, “ Just now I heard little brother here singing the song ‘The water dragon’s hum’ which has such perfect lyrics. It is such a surprise that little brother here, though so young in age, is still able to comprehend the deep meanings of the words.”

    When Huang Rong heard his matured tone, she gave a little smile and said, “ Ever since the Songs moved south, song writers often write sad songs for the country.”

    The fisherman nodded in agreement. Huang Rong continued, “ The song ‘The six cities’ dedicated to Lake Zhang Yu has the same meaning.”

    The fisherman started singing the lyrics, “ When people pass by, one would cry tears of loyalty and anger…”

    He drank up three cups of wine and engaged in conversation with Huang Rong. Actually Huang Rong is just a young girl and did not experience any real sorrows caused by one’s country. She did not really identify with the deep meaning of the lyrics. It’s just that she listened to her father explain the meanings before and thus used her father’s explanation which was a very refined and sophisticated one, awing that fisherman, who could not help but give praises to Huang Rong. Guo Jing listened in one corner and did not understand a single word, but he was delighted upon hearing the fisherman praise Huang Rong. After chatting awhile, he saw that the landscape had paled and the mist surrounding the lake had thickened.

    The fisherman said, “ My area of residence is just by the lake, if both don’t mind, I would like to invite both of you there for more discussions.”

    Huang Rong asked, “ How about it, Brother Jing?”

    Guo Jing hadn’t had a chance to speak when the fisherman said, “ My house is built amongst the backdrop of beautiful hills, since both are touring the countryside, why not drop by for a visit?”

    Guo Jing saw that he looked honest and earnest and thus answered, “ Rong’er, we’ll thus have to impose on Mr Lu.” The fisherman was delighted and implored the servant to row the boat back home.

    When they reached the lakeshore, Guo Jing said, “ We will have to return the boat first and collect the two camels.”

    The fisherman smiled and said, “ I’m acquainted with everyone here, I’ll just hand this task to the owner of the boat.”

    With that, he gestured to the servant. Guo Jing said, “ I think I’ll collect the camels since I’m more rough.”

    The fisherman said, “ If you insist, I’ll wait for your arrival at my residence then.” With that, the boat rowed off and disappeared into the distance.

    The servant followed Guo Jing and Huang Rong to get the things done. He got a large boat from one of the villagers, which had enough space to fit the camel as well. Six hardy fishermen rowed the boat for some distance before the front of a village came into view. They stopped the boat at the jetty, which was made of green stone. When they arrived on shore, they saw a cluster of small houses, which formed a huge manor. They crossed a large stone bridge and arrived in front of the manor. Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other, as they didn’t expect a fisherman to live in such a luxurious place. Before they could reach the main entrance, they saw a man who looked about twenty years of age come up to them. About six servants followed behind him.

    The youth said, “ My father had sent me to receive his guests.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong made grateful gestures. They noticed that he wore a long robe and had similar facial features as the fisherman, except that he looked stronger and well built.

    Guo Jing said, “ May we know brother Lu’s name?”

    The youth said, “ Humble one here is named Guanying, please just call me by my name.”

    Huang Rong answered politely, “ No, how can we?”

    The three began chatting while proceeding towards the main hall. Guo Jing and Huang Rong noticed that the interior of the hall was designed and decorated beautifully. As Huang Rong walked earlier, she concentrated on the outlay of the place and it’s pathways and she looked a little puzzled.

    As the three of them crossed the front yard and entered the guest hall, they heard the fisherman call out behind a screen, “ Please come in.”

    Lu Guanying said, “ My father is unable to walk and thus has to receive you in his East study room.”

    The three of them went by the screen and saw that the door of the study was open; the fisherman was sitting on a couch, inside. However, he was no longer dressed as a fisherman, but as an elderly scholar. He held a white goose feather fan in his hand and was fanning himself cheerfully. Guo Jing and Huang Rong entered and sat, but Lu Guanying didn’t dare sit and stood at a side. Huang Rong saw that the study was filled with shelves of literary classics and poetry collections. The tables were decorated with precious ornaments, such as jade antiques and a black inked painting hung on the wall. The painting depicted a middle-aged scholar who was posing with a sword stance in the backyard, under the moonlight. But the scholar had a lonely expression on his face. On the upper left corner of the painting was a poem.

    ‘ The night is silent without any chirping from the birds.
    It is already late in the night when I fall into deep sleep.
    I awake only to carry on alone, there is no one but the bright moon out there. A hundred pieces gain recognition and success.
    The aging hills and withering branches block my path.
    There are so many things buried within me but no one is willing to listen, to whom can I confide in my problems?’

    Huang Rong recognized this poem as one written by Yue Fei, entitled ‘Little Strong Hill’, which was taught to her by her father. She saw the signature at the bottom which read ‘ The crippled person of Five Lake is seriously ill’ and realized that the ‘Crippled person of Five Lake’ must be the term for the owner of this manor. The strokes of the words were however, written in a harsh and forceful manner, and seemed like it was tearing through the paper.

    Master Lu saw that Huang Rong was concentrating on the painting and asked, “ Brother, how do you find my painting? Would you care to give me some pointers?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ I will express my thoughts then, but I hope Master Lu does not get offended.”

    Master Lu said, “ Please go on.”

    Huang Rong said, “ The poem in the painting is Yue Fei’s ‘Little Strong Hill’, which he wrote in his Wu Mu collections. The words depict a distressed and depressed mood. However there are specific meanings to them. General Yue was a courageous soul and fought hard for his country and people. The phrase, ‘A hundred pieces for recognition and success’ in the poem is probably to show his humble being. At that time, many court officials were corrupted and were on the side of the Jins. Yue Fei was a strong official but a pity no one was willing to listen to him. This was probably why he wrote the phrase, ‘There are so many things buried within me but no one is willing to listen, to whom can I confide in my problems?’ The phrase depicts a despondent Yue Fei, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that he wanted to oppose the court. However when master here wrote this poem, you were in an agitated and aggressive mood and thus asserted much force in your brush strokes; it seems as if you wanted to fight it out with your sworn enemy and thus, your intentions and mood do not tie in at all with Yue Fei’s at the time when he worked on his Wu Mu collections. Forgive me for my ignorance but from what I know, if one strives to over achieve or over express in literary and art works, the true and pure intentions will be lost and the work will be unable to achieve its brilliance.

    When Master Lu heard what Huang Rong said, he gave a long sigh. He wore a miserable expression and was silent. Huang Rong saw his unusual response and thought, “ I’m afraid I have been too direct in my words and offended him. But it’s exactly what father taught me when he explained this poem.”

    She said, “ Humble one here has been too ignorant and spouted nonsense. Please forgive me Master Lu.”

    Master Lu recovered a little and then wore a delighted expression on his face. He asked happily, “ Brother Huang, please don’t say that. You are the first person who can actually read my feelings, what a great confidant you are. As for the over use of expression, it is one of my worse habits. I thank brother here for your pointers.”

    He turned to his son and said, “ Hurry and ask the servants to prepare the banquet.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong hurriedly conveyed their thanks and said, “ Please do not bother.” But Lu Guanying had already disappeared from the room.

    Master Lu said, “ Brother here is wise and knowledgeable, you must have mastered a high level of literary classics and your father must be a brilliant teacher. I wonder what is his honorable name?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ Humble one here knows nothing much and thus does not deserve all those praises. My father leaves in isolation and does not have any students, his name is thus not well known.”

    Master Lu sighed, “ What a pity it is, not being able to meet such talent.”

    After the banquet, they returned to the study for a chat. Master Lu said, “ The scenery outside is one of the best, why don’t both of you reside in one of the houses in the manor and enjoy the sight? Furthermore, it’s getting late and it is time for both to rest.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong stood up and bid their farewells. Huang Rong was about to leave the room when she looked up sharply and saw that eight pieces of iron strips were fixed above the study’s lintel. The iron strips were arranged to form the eight trigrams, but it was not as neat as the usual arrangement. The iron strips were arranged in a rather sloppy and messy way. Huang Rong’s heart skipped a beat but she remained silent and expressionless and followed Guo Jing to the guest room.

    The guest room was decorated in an elegant way, the two beds faced each other and the pillow and sheets were clean.

    A servant served them some fragrant tea and said, “ If sir or miss needs anything, just ring the bell beside the bed and I will come. Please be reminded never to leave the room.” With that, he left the room and gently closed the door behind him.

    Huang Rong asked in a low voice, “ What do you find peculiar about this place? Why do they ask us not to leave the room?”

    Guo Jing said, “ The manor is huge and the pathways lead out to all directions. Maybe they’re afraid that we will get lost?”

    Huang Rong gave a little laugh, “ The manor has an unusual architecture. What kind of person do you think Master Lu is?”

    Guo Jing said, “ Maybe a retired official?”

    Huang Rong shook her head, “ This person is no doubt highly skilled in martial arts. Did you see the eight iron trigrams just now?”

    Guo Jing asked, “ Eight iron trigrams? What’s that?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ That’s used to practice the ‘Thrusting Air Palms’. Father taught me this set of palm technique before, but I was bored and stopped learning it after a month. I would never have expected to see it here.”

    Guo Jing said, “ Master Lu mean us no harm. Since he did not mention anything about it, let’s just pretend that we are unaware of it.”

    Huang Rong nodded and smiled, she gently thrust out her palm towards the candle and a ‘chi’ sound was heard, before the candlelight went out.

    Guo Jing praised in a low voice, “ Great palm technique!” He asked, “ Is this the ‘Thrusting Air Palm’?

    Huang Rong smiled, “ I only learnt till this level. It can be used for fun but it is totally useless when used in a real duel.”

    There was a sudden distant humming in the middle of the night, which startled Guo Jing and Huang Rong, who were both sleeping before that. They strained to hear more and there was the sound again, which sounded like someone was blowing a tune from a seashell. After a while, the humming started again. There was definitely more than one person creating the noise as both hums were created at the same time. It seemed like there were two people standing apart and blowing the shell to communicate.

    Huang Rong whispered, “ Let’s go and see what’s up.”

    Guo Jing answered, “ Let’s not go and find trouble shall we?”

    Huang Rong argued, “ Who says we’re finding trouble? I only suggested for us to check out what’s happening.”

    Both of them pushed open the window gently and looked out. They saw many people running about with lanterns in their arms, but there was no clue as to why they were rushing about. Huang Rong looked up and saw three or four blurred figures crouching on the nearby rooftop. The light from the lanterns shone briefly onto the figures and Huang Rong saw the swift light reflecting from the weapons, which those people carried in their arms. After a while, the crowd of servants all ran out of the manor. Huang Rong was curious and pulled Guo Jing towards the side of the window. She made sure no one was about and gently leaped out such that the people on the roof weren’t aware of her movements.

    Huang Rong signaled to Guo Jing to walk backwards. The pathways in the manor turned and twisted such that the directions were very complicated. The most unusual thing was that the railings and pillars at every turn looked exactly the same. After a few whirls, one would not be able to distinguish between the different directions. Huang Rong however, was not the slightest bothered about this obstacle and walked around without any tint of worry or suspicion. Several times, it looked as if it was no pathway, but she always managed to identify a fake rock and revolve pass it or she would just twirl round the flowers and they would be back on the main path. At times, it looked as if it was a dead end in front, but somehow or another, there would always be a way pass a screen of a huge tree. At times, there would be a path through the opening of a grotto, but Huang Rong would never walk through. Instead, she would miraculously be able to identify a hidden and unnoticeable entrance on the walls and push through to enter. The more Guo Jing proceeded on, the more curious he became.

    He whispered, “ Rong’er, the pathways of this manor are really bizarre, how is it that you are always able to identify the right way?”

    Huang Rong signaled for him to be quiet and after seven or eight more turns, they arrived by the wall of the backyard. Huang Rong examined the wall and used her fingers to count before walking and counting her footsteps. Guo Jing heard her mumble, “ Form a trigram first, thirdly prepare, fifthly supplement, repeat the seventh…” and did not understand a single word.

    Huang Rong counted as she walked, and after a particular count, she stopped in her tracks and said, “ We can only leave by here, the rest of the place is filled with traps.”

    She leapt onto the top of the wall and Guo Jing followed suit. Huang Rong continued, “ This manor is built according to the sixty four bearings (positions) which are concealed. My father is a master in this particular type of architecture, which requires one to design eight different types of routes (not really sure of this part). Master Lu can obstruct others, but he can’t trap me.” Her tone was filled with pride.

    Both of them climbed up a small mound situated behind the manor and looked out towards the east. They saw a person walking towards the lake, with a lantern raised high up. Huang Rong tugged at Guo Jing’s sleeve and both of them flew forward using their lightness skill. After arriving closer, they hid behind a huge rock and noticed a row of fishing boats near the shores of the lake. A crowd of people slowly boarded the boats and after they did so, each put out their lantern lights. Guo Jing and Huang Rong waited till the last batch of people boarded, and after it was pitch dark, before leaping out and landed on the tail of a large ship. After they heard the fishing boats start to move, they leaped on top of the sail of the ship and looked down. It was then they saw some one sitting inside a room in the boat and the person was none other than the junior owner of the manor, Lu Guanying.

    As the row of boats started moving, the tune from the seashell could be heard again. A person on the ship walked to the front and also started blowing into the shell. After the ship drifted some distance, one could see many little boats drifting on the lake. The myriad of little boats looked like tiny ants in the distance; it was as if one had painted millions of black dots on a large sheet or paper. The person on the ship blew his shell three times and the large boat dropped its vessel into the midst of the lake. About ten little boats started moving in from all directions. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were mystified; they were not sure whether a battle was going to take place. They lowered their heads and peeped at Lu Guanying, who however looked calm and normal, he did not show any tint of anxiousness as one would show in times of war.

    Not long after, the boats sailed nearer. Every boat saw either two or three people coming out and entering the ship. Every person, after entering the huge boat, would bow to Lu Guanying and were respectful in their behavior. It seemed that seats had been arranged for the visitors from the little boats and according to their status. Some people arrived earlier but sat at the back, whereas some who arrived later got to sit in the front. A tea server ushered the visitors to their seats. The visitors had stern and rough expressions, and their actions were swift and fierce. Although they dressed like fishermen, it seemed as if all of them were versed in martial arts and were definitely not the usual type of fisherman.

    Lu Guanying raised his arm and said, “ Brother Zhang, what have you found out?” A skinny man sitting in the middle stood up and said, “ To answer Junior Master, the Jin ambassador has decided to sail across the lake tonight. The captain, who is on the pretext of receiving him, would reach in probably an hour’s time. The latter is late due to the ransacking on the way.”

    Lu Guanying asked, “ How much has he ransacked?”

    The man answered, “ There have been harvests from every village, and his soldiers are still robbing the villagers now. When I saw him alight the boat, his soldiers were struggling with more than twenty heavy chests of treasures.”

    Lu Guanying asked, “ How many soldiers and horses does he have with him?”

    The man answered, “ About two thousand. Those who crossed the lake with him do not have horses with them. Since there are not enough boats, there are about a thousand of them who stay back at shore.”

    Lu Guanying turned towards the audience and asked, “ Fellow brothers, what do you guys think?”

    Everyone answered, “ We will follow Junior Master’s orders.”

    Lu Guanying placed both hands into his sleeves and said, “ These corrupted officials go round snatching money through immoral means. We the people from the lake would not be doing justice if we do not get back those treasures and money. We will do our best to grab as much as we can. Half of it will go to the poor villagers by the lake and the other half will be split between us.”

    The audience all roared in agreement. It was then that Guo Jing and Huang Rong realize that these people were the pirates of the lake and Lu Guanying was probably they’re leader.

    Lu Guanying said, “ Without further a dew, let’s get going. Brother Zhang, take five small boats and continue to keep watch.”

    The skinny man took the order and immediately sailed out. Lu Guanying went on to assign everyone their tasks, such as who would lead, who would be the back ups, who would lead the ‘water ghosts’ to swim and create damage to the enemy’s boat, who would grab the treasures, who would capture the official and so on. He dutifully assigned the various tasks in a very organized way.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong were secretly puzzled. They had just dined and chatted with Lu Guanying earlier in the day and found him to be a polite, proper and decent chap, not forgetting that he was from a wealthy and cultivated family. Who would have guessed that he was a pirate leader? Just as Lu Guanying had finished assigning the various tasks and everyone was setting out, someone in the middle stood up and said coldly, “ We people have no assets whatsoever, it is alright to rob some wealthy businessmen. But if we attack such an official, won’t we have trouble living on the lake in the future? We should not offend the Jin Ambassador.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong thought the voice sounded familiar. When they squinted to have a better look, they realized that is was Sha Tong Tian’s disciple, one of the four ghosts of the yellow rive, stealing souls whip, Ma Qing Xiong; they did not know how he ended up in the group. Lu Guanying’s expression changed, he had yet to answer when a few pirates in the crowd starting hooting.

    Lu Guanying said, “ Brother Ma is a first timer and doesn’t know the rules here. Since everyone is determined to carry out the task, we’ll give our all and make sure the soldiers have no chance to retaliate, only then will we die without regrets.”

    Ma Qing Xiong answered, “ Alright, you people go ahead then, I would rather not get involved and get myself into trouble.”

    With that, he turned and started to walk out of the boat. Two men blocked him and cried out, “ Brother Ma, you swore that you will go through thick and thin with us!”

    Ma Qing Xiong pushed out with both palms and retorted, “ Get lost!”

    The two men were hit and fell to the side. As Ma Qing Xiong was about to leave the boat, he suddenly felt a gust of wind flow towards his back, when the wind flowed past him; he used his left hand to retrieve a dagger from his boot, twisted his arm and pierced the dagger behind. Lu Guanying stretched out his left arm and positioned it on the entrance door, at the same time, he leaped and thrust his palm forward. Ma Qing Xiong used his right arm to block the attack while using his left arm to pierce the dagger forward. The two men exchanged attacks on the narrow passage of the ship. Guo Jing once fought with Ma Qing Xiong back in Mongolia. When he first saw Lu Guanying’s moves, he thought that it would not be easy for him to win. But after some more moves, Lu Guanying kept gaining the upper hand and was clearly going to win. Guo Jing was suspicious and thought, “ Why is that Ma guy suddenly not strong anymore? Ah, yes, that day when he fought with me, he had the support of his martial brothers, but now, he’s singly surrounded by so many enemies, of course he’ll be afraid.” But Guo Jing did not know that the real reason lied in Hong Qi Gong’s training for the past two months. Guo Jing had mastered fifteen stances of the world’s renowned ‘Eighteen Subduing Dragon Palms’, accompanied by pointers and advice provided by Hong Qi Gong himself. Because of this, although he did not understand the full essence of the skill, his martial arts had improved tremendously and were at a very much higher level than the average skills he learnt from the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan, but at this point in time, Guo Jing was still unaware that his skills had already suppressed his six teachers, and thus, he still thought that he was less superior than Ma Qing Xiong. He saw the two men further exchange a couple of stunts when Lu Guanying shot out his left fist and a “pa” sound was heard; the blow had hit Ma Qing Xiong in the chest, who stumbled and fell back. Two pirates behind him pierced him with their daggers and Ma Qing Xiong laid dead. The two pirates then lifted up the corpse and threw it into the lake.

    Lu Guanying continued, “ Brothers, let’s embrace our mission bravely.”

    The crowd began to cheer loudly and each separated, went back to their respective boats and began to head east. Lu Guanying’s huge boat sailed right at the back of the others. After awhile, they spotted about ten huge and brightly lit boats from afar, heading west towards them.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong thought to themselves, “ These big boats must belong to those officials.”

    The two secretly climbed up the pole of the ship and sat on top at the beam/roof but hid themselves behind the sail. They heard the seashell tune from the little boats and as both opposing sides came closer, there were sounds of yelling, scolding, clashing of weapons and the sounds of splashing as bodies dropped into the water. After awhile, the officials’ boats were on fire which lit up the dark sky and cast a fiery red shadow over the lake.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong knew that the pirates had succeeded in their mission and saw a few little boats sailing forward furiously with shouts of , “ The soldiers have been defeated and the commander has been caught.”

    Lu Guanying was delighted, he walked to the head of the ship and shouted, “ Inform the various chiefs of each boat to put in a little more effort so that we can capture the Jin ambassador!”

    The pirate who delivered the news obeyed and flew off to pass the message.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong nudged each other at the same time and had the same thoughts: “ That Jin ambassador must be Wanyan Kang, I wonder how will he deal with this.”

    They heard the seashell tune coming from various boats again and saw that the group of boats had turned back towards their direction and the pirates were tugging at their sails. The east wind was suddenly blowing furiously, causing the boats to sail like arrows shooting towards the east.

    Lu Guanying’s ship was actually right at the back of the fleet but now, his ship had become the lead. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were sitting on the roof with the wind blowing on their backs. They were sailing fast across the misty lake and the myriad of stars in the sky came into view such that they had the urge to sing out loud. Suddenly, the little boats sailed past one by one and ended up in front of the ship Guo Jing and Huang Rong were on.

    The boats sailed for about an hour and the sky turned brighter before two boats sailed quickly towards the ship. One of the men in the boat raised a green flag and waved it, shouting, “ We have spotted the Jin ship! The commanding boat has already taken to lead to capture it.”

    Lu Guanying was standing in the front of his ship and called out, “ Good!”

    After a short while, another small boat sailed back and reported, “ That bastard Jin ambassador has deadly claws, our commander is injured but leader Peng and Dong are currently trying to subdue him.”

    After a while, two pirates carried an injured and unconscious commander onto Lu Guan Ying’s ship. Lu Guanying was inspecting the wounds when two small boats rowed up and the pirates helped their two injured commanders of the boats up onto the ship. The pirates also reported that Piao Miao Peak’s Leader Guo suffered a deadly blow from the Jin Ambassador and fell into the lake.

    Lu Guanying was furious and shouted, “I am going to personally kill that vicious Jin dog.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong felt strongly against Wanyan Kang’s actions but could not bear to let him fend off the group of pirates alone as this would also make Mu Nianci hate them forever.

    Huang Rong whispered into Guo Jing’s ear, “Are we going to help him?”

    Guo Jing replied with a slight sigh, “ Save him but make him repent.” Huang Rong nodded.

    At the same time, Lu Guanying leaped onto a small boat and yelled, “Let’s go!”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing said, “Lets go and stop the small boat.”

    Both of them leaped onto the side of the small boat and heard some shouting from the group of pirates in front. They looked out and saw the boats under the Jin Ambassador slowly sinking one by one. They thought that it must have been the doings of the “water ghosts” who were in charge of wrecking the bases of the boats under water.

    As the pirates waved the green flag, two small boats hurriedly rowed over and reported, “ The Jin dog has fell into the water and has already been captured by us!”

    Lu Guanying was delighted and leaped back onto his ship. After awhile, the seashell tune was blown again and the various little boats assembled together, one by one bringing along with them the Jin Ambassador and his guards onto the ship. Guo Jing and Huang Rong saw that Wanyan Kang had his hands and feet bounded by ropes and his eyes were tightly shut. They thought that he must have swallowed too much water but his chest had not contracted and he was still breathing. At this time, the sky was already bright as the sunlight shone brightly from the east revealing a line of boats floating gracefully on the lake.

    Lu Guanying commanded, “ The various leaders may return to the manor and hold a banquet to celebrate. Please lead your teams back and await your rewards.”

    The pirates cheered clamorously and the boats slowly parted ways and slowly disappeared into the cloud of mist, and the lake became peaceful and quiet once more. Guo Jing and Huang Rong waited for the ship to sail back to the Lu Manor and after Lu Guanying and his group of pirates left did they fly back to the shore. The pirates were overjoyed with their rewards and did not notice that there were people secretly hiding on their ship. Huang Rong thought out the directions and led Guo Jing into the manor via the backyard and back into their room.

    At this time, the servant who took care of their orders had checked a few times to see if they had woken up but seeing that the room door was still locked, he thought that the two young men must have had a long day yesterday and thus slept longer. After they got back into their room, Guo Jing opened the door and two servants who had stood outside waiting came forward to greet him before bringing up some breakfast and said, “ Master Lu is waiting in his study. Please go and join him after your breakfast.”

    The two ate some snacks and buns before following the servant to the study.

    Master Lu smiled and said, “The winds by the lake are strong and when they blow against the shore, the noise might be disturbing so did you two sleep well?”

    Guo Jing wasn’t used to lying so when he heard the question, he froze for a moment. Huang Rong answered, “ We only heard sounds of seashell humming during the night, I think it must have been the monks and Taoists priests chanting and practicing their rituals.”

    Master Lu laughed and did not ask anymore. Instead, he said, “ I have collected some artistic works and would like two brothers here to have a look.”

    Huang Rong answered, “Of course. Anything which Master Lu collects must be priceless.”

    Master Lu ordered the study keeper to bring out some artistic pieces and Huang Rong observed each of the pieces curiously. Suddenly there were noises which sounded like they came from outside. They could hear footsteps and it sounded like a group of people chasing a person. A voice said, “ Since you’ve stepped into the manor, it would be impossible for you to escape now!”

    Master Lu acted as if nothing had happened and as if he didn’t hear anything and asked, “ The art of calligraphy in our dynasty is dominated by the four families of Su, Huang, Mi and Cai. I wonder which family does brother Huang like best?”

    Huang Rong was about to answer when the door of the study suddenly slammed open and a person, who was wet from head to toe, rushed in. It was Wanyan Kang.


    Huang Rong tugged on Guo Jing’s sleeve and whispered, “ Look at the art pieces, don’t look at him.”

    The two turned around and lowered their heads to the calligraphy works. Actually Wanyan Kang didn’t know how to swim and thus when his boat sunk earlier on, although he was well versed in martial arts, he could not save himself. He then fainted and when he regained conscious, he was already captured and brought to the manor for questioning by Lu Guanying. Wanyan Kang saw that the guarding pirate did not carry his usual dagger and secretly came out with a plan. He summoned his internal strength and used his fingers to grab onto the ropes, which bounded him before yelling out and used the “Nine Yin White Bone Claws” to free himself of the ropes. The group of guards were stunned and rushed forward to capture him but were attacked by his claws and fell to the ground. Wanyan Kang ran off but who would have guessed that the manor was structured with bizarre mazes and if a stranger did not know the secret to the formations and did not have a guide from the manor, he or she would get stuck in the manor. Wanyan Kang got anxious after he could not find his way out and barged into Master Lu’s study. Although Lu Guanying saw that he had freed himself of the ropes, he knew that Wanyan Kang would not be able to find his way out of the manor and thus did not worry. He chased after Wanyan Kang and saw him dash into Master Lu’s study. Afraid that his father would get hurt, he hurriedly dashed forward and stood in front of his father. The various section leaders of Lake Tai blocked the doorway.

    Wanyan Kang was furious for being trapped, he pointed a finger at Lu Guanying and yelled, “ Despicable pirates! You people used dirty tricks to sink my boat, have you no sense of shame, aren’t you afraid to be mocked by other Jiang Hu swordsmen?”

    Lu Guanying laughed heartily and said, “You are a Jin Prince, what business do you have with us Han swordsmen? What has Jiang Hu people got to do with you?”

    Wanyan Kang answered, “ When I was in Beijing, I heard of many stories regarding the heroes in Jiangnan and thought that the men in Jiangnan were all upright and courageous but hah! Who would have thought in actual fact, you people…hai, you people do not live up to your reputations at all!”

    Lu Guanying was furious and shouted, “ So?”

    Wanyan Kang answered, “ You people are no more than just despicable cowards who use vast strengths to win over one person!”

    Lu Guanying laughed coldly, “ So if anyone takes you on solely and win, then you will die without regrets?”

    Wanyan Kang was actually using words to infuriate Lu Guanying so as to trick him into saying exactly this. He immediately replied, “ If the manor has one person who can win me in terms of fighting, I willingly give in and will die without regrets. But I wonder who would I spar with?” As he said this, he arrogantly looked through the crowd with hands behind him and laughed coldly.

    These words angered Lake Tai’s Mo Li Peak’s chief, the section leader, Golden Rock head who shouted, “ Bastard, I am going to beat you up!”

    With that, he rushed into the study, stretched out both fists and using the stance “Sounds of the striking bells” he aimed towards Wanyan Kang’s Taiyang point. Wanyan Kang gently shifts his body and flips his left palm to grab hold of his opponent’s back robe before swinging him out of the door.

    Lu Guanying seeing Wanyan Kang’s vicious strikes, was secretly alarmed. He knew that none of the section heads were his match and yelled, “ Excellent skills, let me exchange a few stances with you. Lets go out to the yard.” Lu Guanying knew that his opponent was strong and was afraid that if they fought in the study, one of them would accidentally harm his father and his guests, as none of them knew how to fight.

    Wanyan Kang answered, “ It’s the same wherever we fight, why not just stay here? Please display your stance section leader!” when actually his tone was hinting another meaning which Wanyan Kang was actually thinking in his heart, “ I only have to use a few stances to defeat you, why bother to change a place to fight?”

    Lu Guanying was secretly seething and said, “ Alright, since you are the guest, please start first then.”

    Wanyan Kang relaxed his right palm but used his left palm to attack Lu Guanying’s chest. His first stance was already using that of the “Nine Yin white Bone Claws”, bent on injuring his opponent.

    Lu Guanying secretly scolded, “ Arrogant fellow, let me show you what I am capable of.”

    He sucked in his chest subtly but did not retreat. Instead, he used his right fist to attack his opponent’s moving elbow, while two of his left fingers pointed towards Wanyan Kang’s face, with the intention of piercing his eyes. Wanyan Kang saw that his stances were swift and was a little nervous; he secretly thought to himself, “ Who would have thought there would be such a skilled fighter in this rural place?”

    With that, he hurriedly retreated half a step, flipped his wrist and aimed at Lu Guanying’s shoulder. Lu Guanying twisted his waist towards the right and took back both of his arms. Wanyan Kang knew that his opponent was strong and did not dare disregard him anymore. He became serious and displayed the Quanzhen fist techniques, which Qiu Chuji had taught him. Lu Guanying was the favourite pupil of Reverend Ku Mo of Yun Qi monastery. He learnt the fist techniques of the Xian Xia School, which was affiliated to Shaolin monastery in the hills of Henan. Therefore, the skills Lu Guanying learnt were also orthodox; he was cautious of his opponent and used different skills to counter whatever his opponent used. He knew that Wanyan Kang’s claw techniques were superior and thus made sure that he didn’t let Wanyang Kang’s fingers touch his body. When he saw the chance to attack Wanyan Kang, he used his legs. His teacher had taught him, “ Use thirty percent of your fists and seventy percent of your legs. Your hands are just like fans, concentrate on using your kicks.”

    Lu Guanying learnt skills that did not belong to his family and his kicking techniques were excellent. The longer the two fought, the faster their stances became and it looked like two dancing shadows sparring with each other in the study. Guo Jing and Huang Rong did not want Wanyan Kang to recognize them and thus retreated to the sides of the bookshelf and secretly observed the fight.

    Wanyang Kang was getting agitated the longer he fought on and secretly thought to himself, “ If this goes on, even if I can defeat him this round, there will still be others wanting to spar with me and by that time, how will I have any energy left to fight?”

    His skills were actually much more superior than Lu Guanying but because he was nearly drowned and swallowed too much water such that he lost quite a bit of energy and his body was exhausted. Furthermore, it was the first time he was trapped in this sort of situation and thus, was somewhat nervous, therefore allowing Lu Guanying to gain the upper hand for more than ten stances. He forced himself to concentrate and put more force in his attacks. A crack sound was heard as Lu Guanying shoulder was injured by Wanyan Kang’s fist. Lu Guanying stumbled and retreated backwards, he saw that his opponent was taking the chance to attack further and leaped up, kicking his right leg forward towards Wanyan Kang’s chest. The stance, called “ Bosom kick” is a very swift and powerful stunt, which Lu Guanying had practiced since young. He had to tie himself to a rope so as to train his speed since the stunt emphasizes on the swiftness of the kick such that the opponent is caught by surprise and cannot defend himself in time.

    Wanyan Kang’s felt a pain in his chest and he twirled his right hand and pierced his fingers into Lu Guanying’s calf. He used his left palm and thrust towards Lu Guanying’s calf before yelling, “Lay down!”

    Lu Guanying was actually standing on one foot but after that strong push by Wanyan Kang’s, he lost balance and fell backwards towards his father. Master Lu stretched out his left arm and caught Lu Guanying before gently placing him on the ground. When he saw the blood, which flowed from his son’s leg, he was shocked and furious. Master Lu shouted, “ How are you related to the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds?”

    Everyone was surprised when Master Lu intervened. Wanyan Kang and the various section leaders were unaware that that Master Lu knew martial arts, even his son, Lu Guanying did not know that. Everyone thought that since Master Lu was crippled, it was natural that he did not know and could not fight. Even since he was young, Lu Guanying never asked or probed into his father’s businesses but who would have known that that stance which Master Lu displayed to save his son was steady and strong. Huang Rong saw the eight iron diagrams on the study’s lintel last night and pointed it out to Guo Jing. They were thus, the only ones who did not seem that surprised.

    When Wanyan Kang heard Master Lu ask about the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds, he froze for a moment before answering, “ What is the Twin Killer of the Dark Winds?” Although Mei Chaofeng taught him martial arts, she never told him about her past before and Wanyan Kang did not even know her name. Therefore it was understandable that he did not know anything about the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds.

    Master Lu was furious and shouted, “Who are you bluffing? Who taught you the deadly Nine Yin White Bone Claws?”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “ I have no time to listen to your nonsense, good bye!” With that, he turned and headed towards the door.

    The various section leaders were furious and took up their weapons, ready to guard the doorway. Wanyan Kang turned towards Lu Guanying and laughed coldly, “Didn’t you give your word just now?”

    Lu Guanying was pale and waved his arm saying, “ Heroes of the lake keep to their promises, brothers, just let him go. Brother Zhang, please lead him out.”

    The section leaders were all unwilling to do so but since the junior master had given orders, they could not oppose him.

    Leader Zhang said, “ Follow me then, I bet you rascal here would not be able to find the way out yourself.”

    Wanyan Kang said, “ Where are my men?”

    Lu Guanying replied, “ Let them all go.”

    Wanyan Kang pointed to him and said, “ Good, you are a man of your words. As for the rest of you leaders, till we meet again.” He said rudely and arrogantly.

    Just as he was about to leave the room, Master Lu suddenly called out, “ Hold it! Elderly here is untalented but would like to have a taste of your Nine Yin White Bone Claws.”

    Wanyan Kang stopped in his tracks and laughed, “Alright!”

    Lu Guanying hurriedly said, “ Father, you should not deal with this rascal at your age.”

    Master Lu replied, “ Don’t worry, his Nine Yin White Bone Claws is not up to standard yet.” He stared at Wanyan Kang and said weakly, “ I am crippled and am unable to move, come here.”

    Wanyan Kang laughed but did not move. Lu Guanying’s leg wounds were hurting but he did not want his father to fight with Wanyan Kang and leaped out of the door shouting, “ I will represent my father to exchange a few blows with you.” Wanyan Kang laughed and said, “ Good! Let’s practice again.”

    Master Lu shouted, “ Ying’er move away!”

    With that, he leaped up, his left arm gripped the couch he was sitting on and he used his left arm strength to support his weight of his body. His right palm lashed out towards Wanyan Kang’s head. At the sound of the crowd’s anxious gasps, Wanyan Kang raised his hands to counter the blow but felt his left wrist tighten and trapped. He saw that swift shadow of his opponent’s palm, which was heading towards his shoulder. Wanyan Kang did not expect his opponent’s seizing stance to be so fast and unique; he hurriedly used his right hand to strike back while struggling to free his left hand from his opponent. Master Lu shifted his weight onto Wanyan Kang’s wrist and was able to float in midair. His left palm unleashed several killer strikes while Wanyan Kang used all his might to escape his grip but to no avail. He tried to unleash a flying kick towards Master Lu but missed. The crowd was delighted as they watched the ongoing fight. Master Lu raised his palm, ready to unleash a strike onto Wanyan Kang when the latter stuck out his fingers and aimed towards Master Lu’s palm. Master Lu suddenly lowered his palm and struck Wanyan Kang’s shoulder point. Wanyan Kang felt his upper body going numb and following that, his right wrist was also seized by Master Lu. Two sounds were heard before Wanyan Kang’s wrists were released. Master Lu’s stance was very quick as he used his right hand to push against Wanyan Kang’s waist while his left hand pushed against Wanyan Kang’s shoulder, thus borrowing Wanyan Kang’s strength to leap back steadily into his couch. Wanyan Kang felt both his legs giving way and he collapsed. The leaders were stunned and it was only after a moment’s silence when they started to cheer.

    Lu Guanying hurriedly run towards the couch and asked, “Father, are you alright?”

    Master Lu smiled and shook his head but his expression turned suspicious and said, “ When the teacher of this Jin dog comes for him, I will have to talk to him properly.”

    Two section leaders took some rope and tied Wanyan Kang up. Leader Zhang said, “ Amongst the belongings of that Commander Ma, we found iron locks and chains, let’s use it for this rascal and see whether he can break through them.” The crowd cheered in agreement and someone ran out to retrieve the chains and locks before returning to bind Wanyan Kang with them. The pain in his wrists was killing him and Wanyan Kang sweated profusely but he bore with it and refused to make any sound.

    Master Lu said, “ Bring him here.” Two men grabbed Wanyan Kang by the shoulders and brought him in front of the couch. Master Lu tapped onto the points of Wanyan Kang’s lower spine and left chest. Wanyan Kang suddenly felt the pain subsiding and though he was still fuming inside, he was secretly surprised but before he could say anything, he was brought away while the other section leaders all left the room slowly.

    Master Lu then turned towards Huang Rong and Guo Jing and smiled, “ I only concentrated on fighting with that young man and forgot all my manners just now, I hope you wont laugh.”

    Huang Rong saw that his palm and acupoint techniques were that of her family’s and was even more puzzled. She smiled and asked, “ Who was that? Did he steal from the manor and thus made Master angry?”

    Master Lu laughed heartily and said, “ Yes, he did steal a lot from us. Come, let us not get distracted by that evil rascal, let’s continue to appreciate the art pieces.”

    Lu Guanying left the room to the three of them. Master Lu chatted about the scenic backdrops, human expression and more with Huang Rong while Guo Jing just listened without understanding a single thing as usual. After lunch, Master Lu ordered two servants to accompany them to tour the countryside and they enjoyed themselves till nightfall before returning back to the manor. Before sleeping, Guo Jing asked, “ How Rong’er? Are we going to save him?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ Lets stay here for a few more days because I still can’t guess Master Lu’s true identity.”

    Guo Jing answered, “ His skills are very similar to yours.”

    Huang Rong sighed deeply, “ That’s the unusual part, and hmmm does he know Mei Chaofeng?”

    The two could not guess and were afraid that someone would eavesdrop and thus did not discuss further. In the middle of the night, they suddenly heard a slight sound on the rooftop, followed by a sound on the ground. They immediately got out of the their beds, gently pushed open the window and peered out. They saw a black shadow amongst the roses. That person looked around before heading towards the east. The person did not seem to be a resident of the manor as he or she was alert and on guard. Huang Rong actually thought that this manor housed heroic pirates of the lake but after seeing Master Lu’s display of skills earlier, she felt curious and decided to find out more. She waved to Guo Jing and they leaped out of the window, secretly trailing that intruder. After following that person for a while, the moonlight showed that she was a lady with average skills. Huang Rong quickened her pace and moved nearer to that lady who turned her head slightly, revealing that it was Mu Nianci.

    Huang Rong laughed secretly and thought, “ Good, now his rescuer has come, let’s see what tricks you will use.”

    Mu Nianci circled the garden and lost sense of direction after a while. Huang Rong knew the architecture of this garden (sorry I don’t understand the explanation, maybe someone would want to help me out here) as her father Huang Yao Shi was a master of this and would discuss it with her once in a while. She thought the architecture of this garden unusual but it was nothing compared to that of Peach Blossom Island, which was weird and confusing, just like its owner.

    Huang Rong thought to herself, “ If you carry on walking like that, you wont be able to find him even in a hundred years.”

    With that, she picked up some soil from the ground and when she saw Mu Nianci hesitating in her tracks, she threw a pile of soil to the left side of the track and said in a low voice, “ Go by that way” before hiding behind some flowers.

    Mu Nianci was alarmed; she turned around but saw no one and thus grabbed her dagger and walked towards the left. Huang Rong and Guo Jing’s lightness skill were much better than hers and had earlier hid themselves, not allowing her to spot them.

    Mu Nianci was worried, she thought to herself, “ I wonder whether this person is helping or harming me. But since I cant find my way, I might as well just follow the directions given.”

    With that, she followed the directions given and walked towards the left. Every time she came to a junction or crossroad, a small pile of soil would always lead her to the correct direction and after some time, she heard a sound as a pile of soil was thrown forward and hit the window of a small hut. Mu Nianci saw a blur vision as two black figures quickly flew by and disappeared, Mu Nianci thought a while and ran towards the small hut. She saw two guards lying on the floor, though their eyes were wide open and looking at her, they were motionless and did not make a grab for their weapons; Mu Nianci guessed that they must have had their acupoints sealed by someone.

    Mu Nianci knew that someone was secretly helping her. She pushed open the door gently and listened, there seemed to be someone breathing inside. She called out in a low voice, “ Brother Kang, is that you?”

    Wanyan Kang was surprised when he saw the guards at the door collapse but when he heard Mu Nianci’s voice, he was even more surprised and delighted. He called out hurriedly, “ It’s me!”

    Mu Nianci was overjoyed and walked towards the voice in the dark and said, “ Thank god I found you, that’s great, let’s go.”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “ Did you bring any weapons?”

    Mu Nianci asked, “ Why?”

    Wanyan Kang gently shook himself and chain sounds could be heard. Mu Nianci stretched out her hand and touched the chains. She was full of regret and said furiously, “ I shouldn’t have give that dagger to Sister Huang!”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing were listening outside and the former secretly laughed and thought to herself, “ Let you worry for awhile before I return you the dagger.”

    Mu Nianci was anxious and said, “ I’ll go and steal the keys.”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “ Don’t go. The people in this manor are highly skilled it’s no point to risk youself and get caught.”

    Mu Nianci replied, “ Then, I’ll carry you out.”

    Wanyan Kang laughed, “ You give me a kiss.”

    Mu Nianci moved away and said, “ I’m so worried and you still can joke.”

    Wanyan Kang laughed cheekily, “ Who’s joking? I’m serious.”

    Mu Nianci ignored him and tried to think of a plan. Wanyan Kang asked, “ How did you know I’m here?”

    Mu Nianci answered, “ I followed you.”

    Wanyan Kang was touched and said, “ You lean on me, I’ll tell you something.” Mu Nianci sat on the ground and leaned into his arms.

    Wanyan Kang said, “ I am the Jin ambassador so I don’t think they will dare do anything to me. But if I stay here any longer, it will affect father’s plans. What shall we do? Sister, help me with something.”

    Mu Nianci asked, “ What is it?”

    Wanyang Kang answered, “ Take off that golden seal hung on my neck.”

    Mu Nianci stretched out her hand and took off the golden seal.

    Wanyan Kang continued, “ This is the seal of the Jin ambassador, take it to Lin An manor and seek assistance from Prime Minister Shi of the Song Dynasty.”

    Mu Nianci asked, “ Prime Minister Shi? Would he see a commoner like me?”

    Wanyan Kang laughed, “ When he sees this golden seal, he’ll welcome you. Tell him that I’ve been captured by the pirates of Lake Tai and cannot see him personally. But you must remember one thing, if the Mongolian ambassador is there, make sure that you avoid letting him and the prime minister meet at all costs. This is the secret mission ordered by the Jin emperor, you must fulfill it.”

    Mu Nianci asked, “ Why?”

    Wanyan Kang answered, “ These are army matters, you wont understand. You will be doing me a great favor by telling Prime Minister Shi what I just I asked you to. If the Mongolian ambassador reaches Lin An first and meets with the Song Officials, it will put us Jins in a very unfavorable position.”

    Mu Nianci replied indignantly, “ What? Us Jins? I am a citizen of the Song Dynasty. If you don’t explain clearly to me, I’m not going to help you with this mission.”

    Wanyan Kang smiled faintly, “ Aren’t you going to be the concubine of the Jins in the future?”

    Mu Nianci stood up angrily and said, “ My god father is your real father, you are in fact a Han. So you still want to be your Jin Prince? I know…know you…”

    Wanyan Kang answered, “ What?”

    Mu Nianci answered, “ I always thought that you were a strong, smart and upright man. I thought you were pretending to be the Jin Prince for a while so as to help Great Song. But yet, you…you really want to acknowledge the enemy as your father?”

    Wanyan Kang heard her tone change to a furious one, she was choking with anger and could not speak for a moment.

    Mu Nianci continued, “ Great Song has lost half of our empire to the Jins and so many Hans have been tortured and slaughtered by them. Doesn’t that bother you at all? You…you…” She stopped here and could not go on. Following that, she threw the golden seal on the floor and was about to leave when Wanyan Kang called out, “ Sister, I’m wrong, come back.”

    Mu Nianci stopped and turned, “ What?”

    Wanyan Kang said, “ When I am freed of the burdens of the Jin ambassador, I wont go back to the Jins anymore alright? I will live a carefree and simple life with you, which is much better than having to suffer in silence like now.”

    Mu Nianci sighed and was silent. Ever since she sparred with Wanyan Kang, she fell for him deeply and had viewed him as an upright and just hero. She thought that there must be some reason that Wanyan Kang did not want to acknowledge his real father; when he became the Jin ambassador, she thought of an excuse for him that he was secretly spying for the Songs and help crush the enemy for the Songs. Who would have guessed that it was all wishful thinking on her part; Wanyan Kang was nothing more than a greedy and shameful traitor. She was heartbroken and felt dejected.

    Wanyan Kang asked in a low voice, “ Sister, what’s wrong?”

    Mu Nianci did not reply.

    Wanyan Kang asked, “ My mother told me that your god father is my real father. I did not have a chance to clarify when they both died. I have been really confused all along. My birthrights and origins cannot just simply be haphazardly defined right?”

    Mu Nianci was secretly comforted and thought to herself, “ So he is not clear about his birthrights. He cannot really be blamed then.” She said out loud, “ Don’t mention anything about bringing the golden seal to Prime Minister Shi anymore. I will find Sister Huang and ask her for the dagger to save you.”

    Huang Rong had actually thought of returning the dagger to Mu Nianci but when she heard what Wanyan Kang said about aiding the Jins, she was fuming and thought, “ Father hates the Jins, let him stay here for a couple more days then.”

    Wanyan Kang continued, “ The pathways in this manor are bizarre, how did you find your way through?”

    Mu Nianci replied, “ Luckily there were two masters secretly directing me thought I don’t know who they are and they do not want to reveal themselves.”

    Wanyan Kang sighed deeply, “ Sister, I’m afraid that you’ll be discovered the next time you come here. If you want to save me, then help me find a person.”

    Mu Nianci replied angrily, “ I’m not going to find any Prime Minister for you.”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “ Not Prime Minister, but help me look for my teacher.”

    Mu Nianci replied, “ Ah!”

    Wanyan Kang continued, “ Take my belt with you and use a knife to carve ‘Wanyan Kang is in danger at Gui Yun Manor located at the west bank of Lake Tai’ on the gold buckle. Following that, go to Suzhou and travel thirty miles north to a deserted hill. Find nine human skulls and stack them together into a pyramid, with five skulls at the base, followed by three in the middle and one on top. Lastly, place the belt under the top skull.”

    Mu Nianci was puzzled and asked, “ Why?”

    Wanyan Kang replied, “ My teacher is blind but when she finds the belt and feels the carvings, she will come and save me. Therefore, you must carve the words deep.”

    Mu Nianci asked, “ Isn’t your teacher Master of Eternal Spring, Taoist Qiu?” How can he be blind?”

    Wanyan Kang answered, “ No, it’s not Taoist Qiu, it’s my other teacher. After you place the belt, you must leave immediately. My teacher has a weird temper, if she finds someone near the skulls, she might harm you. She is highly skilled and can save me. You just have to wait for me in front of the Xuan Miao monastery in Suzhou. ”

    Mu Nianci said, “ You have to swear that you will not acknowledge the enemy as your father and betray your people.”

    Wanyan Kang refused and replied, “ After I find out the truth about everything, I will then act accordingly to my morals. What use is it to force me to swear now? If you are not willing to save me, then so be it.”

    Mu Nianci replied, “ Alright! I’ll help you seek help.” With that, she removed Wanyan Kang’s belt.

    Wanyan Kang asked, “ Sister, are you leaving? Come over and let me kiss you.”

    Mu Nianci replied, “ No!” With that, she stood up and headed for the door.

    Wanyan Kang said, “ I’m afraid that they might kill me before my teacher reaches and then I’ll never get to see you again.”

    Mu Nianci’s heart soften, she gave a long sigh and walked back into his arms, allowing him to kiss her on the cheek a few times.

    She suddenly beat the chains and said, “ If you do not walk the right path in the future, I cannot do anything but blame myself for my ill fate and die in front of you.”

    Wanyan Kang wanted to cuddle and sweet-talk with her a while, half hoping that she would change her mind and agree to take the golden seal to Prime Minister Shi but he felt her body shaking and her breathing was hard, signaling that she was worked up. He did not expect her to say anything like that and was in shock for a moment but Mu Nianci had already stood up and walked out of the door.

    After she came out, Huang Rong again guided her and Mu Nianci ran till she saw a wall leading to the outskirts of the manor. Before she left, she called out softly, “ Since senior does not want to show himself or herself, junior here will just have to look into the sky and express my gratitude.”

    With that, she kneeled on the ground and kowtowed three times. She heard a gentle giggle and a clear voice spoke out, “ Ah, I cannot accept this!”

    When she raised her head, she only saw stars in the sky and the surroundings were deserted. Mu Nianci was puzzled and thought that the voice sounded like Huang Rong’s but how can she be here and how would she know the way through this confusing place? She pondered on this matter as she walked on but was not able to come up with an explanation. After walking about ten miles from the manor, she decided to rest under a large tree and wait for the boat to bring her to Suzhou the next day.

    Suzhou is a busy Southeast district and although it isnt’t comparable to the capital of Hangzhou, it is still a prosperous and booming city. The Song officials in the South were also given rule over the territory of Jiangnan, and had almost forgotten about the sufferings of the people under the Jins in the North since the cities of Suzhou and Hangzhou were rich and prosperous. There was a saying ‘Heaven above, Su Hang below’ indicating the importance and grandeur of these two cities. Actually, the River Huai is the source of wealth and also a symbol of beauty for these two cities in the south. Mu Nianci admired the colorful scenes in the city before settling down in an inn. She then started to carefully carve the words Wanyan kang told her to do so on his belt. She thought how recent the belt had left its owner and prayed for Wanyan kang’s safety, hoping that the belt will return back to its owner once more. She secretly wished that Wanyan Kang would come to his senses and marry her and that she would personally wear the belt for him.

    After dreaming awhile, she wore the belt beneath her robe and couldn’t help thinking, “ This belt is like his arm, wrapping around my waist.” She immediately blushed and didn’t dare think more. After eating a quick bowl of noodles, she saw the sun heading to the west and she hurriedly travel towards the north, following Wanyan Kang’s instructions to find his teacher.

    The road to the hill was deserted, Mu Nianci felt uneasy when she heard weird sounds made by the birds and the sun had started to set. She left the main path and went to the back valley of the hill to search for the skulls, which Wanyan Kang had asked her to search for, but it had slowly turned to nightfall and she was still unable to find them. She mulled over the matter and decided to continue the search the next day. With that, she went nearby to see if there was any place in which she could seek shelter for the night. She ran up a mound and looked out in the distance; it was then that she spotted a manor towards the west. She was relieved and immediately rushed there.

    As she approached the place, she realised that the manor was actually a run downed temple and there was a signboard above the door, which read ‘Temple Earth’. She pushed open the door gently and the door gave a creak before dropping down, fluffing up a pile of dust. It was then that Mu Nianci realized that it was an abandoned temple where no one lived in. She walked into the hall and saw cobwebs on the statutes of mother and father earth. She pressed on a table and gave a blow but found that the table was still steady and did not break. Thus, she found some hay to clean the table and went on to place the broken door back into position. She ate some dried snacks before lying on the table and slept with her bag as her pillow. She could not help but feel heartbroken and ashamed when she thought about Wanyan Kang’s personality and tears rowed down her cheeks. But when she thought about his gentleness and honey words, she felt a tint of sweetness in her heart. She thought about many things and tossed a million times before she finally able to fall asleep.

    In the middle of the night, Mu Nianci heard a funny noise; she was alarmed and sat upright as the noise grew louder. She hurried to the door and peered out. It was then that she got a shock of her life as the moonlight shone onto the ground, revealing thousands of snakes gliding throughout the floor; a stench came in from the main door. After a long while, the snakes began to lessen when she suddenly heard some footsteps as three men in white appeared with long poles in their hands, subsiding the snakes. Mu Nianci was afraid that she would be discovered and hid behind the hall door, not daring to look anymore. She heard a few footsteps and peered out again. The snakes were gone and the surrounding was quiet and deserted; she thought was dreaming, as she couldn’t believe what she just saw.

    She pushed open the main door gently and peered out. She walked a little towards the direction, which the snakes had gone but could not find those men in white. She was somewhat relieved and was about to return to the temple when she saw the moonlight revealing a weird pile of white stuff from afar. She went closer for a look and let out a low gasp; it was a pile of skulls neatly arranged in the form of a pyramid, with five skulls as the base, three in the middle and one on top. Mu Nianci had been searching for these skulls the whole day and who would have thought that it would suddenly appear in front of her in the middle of the night? She thought the skull formation scary but her heart beat fast as she was happy. She approached the skulls slowly and took out Wanyan Kang’s belt. With hands shivering, she stretched out to take the skull stacked on top. She touched the skull and felt five holes on it, which fitted her five fingers; it was as if the skull had formed mouths, which swallowed her fingers. Mu Nianci was astonished and screamed before turning about to run. She had run awhile when she stopped again and realised that she was just scaring herself. She giggled nervously and went back to put the belt on top of the three skulls before placing the skull in her hands back onto the top of the formation.

    She thought to herself, “ His teacher is really weird, I wonder whether she looks frightening as well.” After placing the skull back into place, she secretly hoped to herself, “ I hope that teacher will get the belt and immediately go and save him. I hope that you will teach him proper so that he kick his bad habits and change his ways.”

    She was thinking about the chained up but handsome sweet-talker Wanyan Kang when she felt someone gently patting her shoulder. She was shocked and did not dare turn around. Due to her nervousness, she accidentally fell onto the pile of skulls. Mu Nianci used her arms to clench her chest and turned around. She had just turned around when someone patted her shoulder gently again.

    She turned around about six more times but still could not spot the person behind her, she didn’t know whether it was ghost or a demon. Mu Nianci broke out in cold sweat and did not dare move. Quivering, she asked, “ Who are you?”

    The person placed his head near her neck and sniffed before laughing out, “ What a nice scent! Guess who am I.”

    Mu Niaci hurriedly turned around and saw a scholarly dressed man, a fan in his hand with a charming expression: It was one of the culprits who had forced her godfather to death back in Beijing, Ouyang Ke. She was both surprised and angry and since she knew that she was not his match, she turned to run. Ouyang Ke was however, already in front of her, laughing out aloud with arms stretched out, ready to hug her if she took a few more steps forward. Mu Nianci hurriedly retreated a few steps and ran to her right, but had only ran a few steps when Ouyang Ke was in front of her again. She ran in all directions but still could not escape him.

    Ouyang Ke saw the pale colour on her beautiful face and was delighted. He knew that he could capture her in one move but he wanted to play the cat and mouse game with her, trapping her but letting her off again. Mu Nianci knew that she was in danger and pulled out a green dagger, aiming for his head.

    Ouyang Ke laughed and said, “ Aiyah, don’t be rough.”

    He twisted his body, grabbed her arms with his left hand while holding her waist with his right arm. Mu Nianci struggled but felt numb at her throat and her dagger was already snatched away by Ouyang Ke. She managed to free herself after awhile, only to be captured into his arms again. This was like the time Ouyang Ke held Huang Rong at Wanyan Kang’s residence; his opponent’s pulse froze the hand movement and could not move at all.

    Ouyang Ke laughed lightly and said, “ Accept me as your teacher and I’ll immediately release you and teach you this stance. But I’m afraid that by that time, you won’t want me to let go of you already.”

    Mu Nianci was trapped by his arms and Ouyang Ke used his right hand to gently brush against her cheeks. She knew that he was up to no good and was so frightened that she passed out unknowingly. After awhile, Mu Nianci woke up but she felt numb and weak all over. Someone was hugging her tightly and in the confusion, she thought it was Wanyan Kang and was delighted but after she opened her eyes, she realized that the person hugging her was Ouyang Ke. She was bashful and nervous and struggled to stand up only to realize that her could not move. She opened her mouth to call out but realized that Ouyang Ke had staffed a handkerchief in her mouth. She saw him sitting on the ground but he wore an anxious expression. On both sides of Ouyang Ke were eight women in white who each had a weapon in their hands, all of them staring suspiciously but silently at the pile of skulls.

    Mu Nianci was curious and tried thinking what they were up to. When she turned around, she was scared out of her wits as she saw thousands of green snakes behind Ouyang Ke. The snakes were motionless but were hissing with their tongues out; the moonlight shone on the thousands of red tongues, which looked like a sea of red tongues; it was a frightening sight. Amongst the snakes stood three men in white with long poles in their hands; it was the exact same men Mu Nianci had seen earlier. She didn’t dare look anymore and turned back. It was then that she saw the shiny gold belt amongst the nine skulls and thought anxiously, “ Ah, they must be waiting for his teacher. From their expressions, they must have prepared to deal with his teacher. But his teacher is traveling alone, then how can he defeat so many people? And there are so many poisonous snakes around as well.”

    She was extremely anxious and hoped that Wanyan Kang’s teacher won’t come. But she also hoped that his teacher would know what to expect and come prepared, defeating all these evil people and save her. After waiting for more than half an hour, the moon rose even higher and she saw Ouyang Ke constantly looking up at the moon. She thought to herself, “ Will his teacher only appear when the moon shifts to the middle of the sky?”

    She saw the moon rise above the top of a tree. The surroundings were empty, the wild worms were making noises and there were sounds of birdcalls in the distance. Ouyang Ke glanced at the moon once more before placing Mu Nianci into the arms of a woman beside him. He took out his fan with his right hand and stared on the corner of the hill. Mu Nianci knew that the person they were waiting for was coming soon. The silence was soon broken by a strong and piercing flute tune, which grew nearer after awhile. A figure flashed by and a woman with long hair suddenly appeared from the cliff. As she passed by the cliff, she slowed down and it seemed like she had noticed that there were people nearby. It was iron corpse, Mei Chaofeng.

    After Mei Chaofeng had gotten the a few verses of the secret formulas for the cultivation of her internal energy, she studied them carefully and it was not more than a month before her legs recovered and she could work normally. Furthermore, her internal energy had improved tremendously. Ever since she found out that the Six Freaks of Jiangnan had returned from Mongolia, she had started to plot for revenge, following the little prince as he set out for his mission. She practiced her skills every night. Mei Chaofeng found riding the boats with many people inconvenient and thus decided to travel by herself every night, and had arranged to meet Wanyan Kang in Suzhou. She did not know that Wanyan Kang was in the hands of the Heroes of Lake Tai nor was she aware that Ouyang Ke who wanted to take revenge on her for killing his men and humiliating him earlier, as well as to lay hands on her “Nine Yin Manual” had earlier spied on and found out her whereabouts, and had thus got together thousands of snakes and is now secretly waiting for her at the spot she practices her skills every night. She had just passed the cliff when she heard the breathing of several people and stopped in her tracks immediately to listen. She heard tons of weird noises behind the group of people.

    Ouyang Ke saw her alarmed expression and cursed secretly, “ What a brilliant blind Bi*ch!” Fanning himself gently, he stood up and summoned his internal energy. He was about to strike out at Mei Chaofeng when he saw another person coming from the cliff. He hurriedly took back his strike and studied that person. He saw that the man was slim and tall; he was wearing a green robe and part of his hair was bound with a squared cloth. He looked like any cultured person but Ouyang Ke was unable to see his face clearly.

    The amazing thing however, was that Ouyang Ke was unable to hear any footsteps or breathing coming from that man. Even a highly skilled person like Mei Chaofeng would inevitably make some light noises when she walked but this person was walking casually, as if his body were floating, forming a somewhat ghostly image. It seemed as if nothing could cause him to make any noise while moving. That person glanced at Ouyang Ke before standing behind Mei Chaofeng. Ouyang Ke studied his face in detail and gasped unexpectedly. That person had a very weird face, besides a pair of eyes glancing around, the rest of his face was like a dead person’s. The skin of his face was stiff, it was not ugly but neither was it charming. The man looked extremely cold and emotionless and gave one the chills. Ouyang Ke gained back his senses and saw that Mei Chaofeng was approaching him. He knew that her strikes were going to be vicious and deadly and thought that he had to gain the upper hand first. He made a signal with his left hand and the three men controlling the snakes started blowing their flutes, causing the snakes to glide forward. The eight women in white sat still as they had applied some substance on them, which caused the snakes to ignore and slide pass them.

    Mei Chaofeng heard the sounds of snakes approaching and knew there were countless numbers of them. She was secretly alarmed and kicked back some distance. The snake men used their poles to cause the thousands of snakes to disperse into all directions. Mu Nianci saw that Mei Chaofeng’s expression had paled as she was frightened and could not help but worry for her. She thought, “ Is this weird woman his teacher?”

    She saw Mei Chaofeng suddenly turn around and retrieve a long silver whip from her waist to protect herself. She was however surrounded by the poisonous snakes from all directions and several snakes, which were excited by the flute tune started to attack her, only to be stroked by her whip.
    Ouyang Ke yelled out, “ Hey demoness Mei, I don’t want your life, you just have to hand me the “Nine Yin Manual” and I’ll let you off.”

    That day when he was at Prince Zhao’s residence, he heard that the “Nine Yin Manual” was in Mei Chaofeng’s hands and being greedy as he was, he was very much tempted to get it at any cost. It would definitely make his uncle, who has been trying all means to get the manual, very happy. Mei chaofeng ignored Ouyang Ke and used her whip to strike out even more furiously.

    Ouyang Ke called out, “ Since you’re so stubborn, I’ll see how long more you can dance. I’ll wait till tomorrow and lets see whether you will hand the manual over to me or not.”

    Mei Chaofeng was secretly anxious and tried thinking of a plan to escape. She listened carefully and realized that there were snakes surrounding her everywhere. She didn’t dare move much and she was afraid that the poisonous snakes would bite her if she stepped on them.

    Ouyang Ke sat down and after awhile, called out arrogantly, “ Big sister Mei, you stole the manual and have been familiarizing yourself with the contents for the past twenty years. What use is it to hug it to your deathbed? Why not you lend it to me for a look, let’s be friends, isn’t it better that way?”

    Mei Chaofeng replied, “ Take away the snakes first.”

    Ouyang Ke laughed, “ Hand me the manual first.”

    The contents of the “Nine Yin Manual” was tattooed on her late husband’s skin and Mei Chaofeng valued it more than her life and of course was unwilling to hand it over. She decided that it she was bitten by the snakes, she would immediately tear the manual to pieces.

    Mu Nianci wanted to shout and tell her to jump onto the tree so that the snakes would not be able to bite her but she could not do so as a cloth bound her mouth. Mei Chaofeng was not aware of the few tall trees near her. She realized that if she continued fighting, her internal energy would deplete and thus pulled out something from her pockets and shouted, “ Alright, I give in, take it.”

    Ouyang Ke called out, “ Throw it over her.”

    Mei Chaofeng called out, “ Catch!” And flung something from her right hand.

    Mu Nianci heard a few faint cries and saw two women in white collapse. Ouyang Ke had fallen onto the ground but managed to avoid her deadly secret weapons. He broke out in cold sweat and was shocked and angry at the same time. He retreated back a few steps and yelled, “ Alright Bi*ch, I’ll let you suffer horribly!”

    Mei Chaofeng had shot out three “Shapeless Needles” which traveled as fast as lightening. She was secretly impressed with Ouyang Ke’s ability to escape her attacks but was all the more anxious. Ouyang Ke studied her arms and plotted to set the snakes on her once she relaxed a little. At this time, Mei Chaofeng had already killed hundreds of snakes, but there were thousands more surrounding her. How would she be able to kill all of them? Ouyang Ke saw that her whip skills were excellent and knew that she had secret weapons and thus did not dare to go near her.

    After half an hour, the moon was moving towards the west and Mei Chaofeng was beginning to feel more and more anxious such that her breathing became harder and her whipping dance was not as smooth as earlier. She thus struck out at a shorter distance so as to preserve her energy. Ouyang Ke was delighted and commanded the snakes to move nearer and nearer her. But he was also afraid that if she was still unwilling to surrender and destroyed the book, it would ruin his plans. This point in time now was thus crucial to him. Mei Chaofeng heard the snakes moving closer and closer towards her and could not help but feel the manual in her pocket. She looked very pale and curse silently, “ I haven’t seek my revenge yet but who would have thought that I would die under the hands of this bloody rascal.”

    All of a sudden, there came a noise which sounded like the tune from a qin, but it also sounded like the sounds made by jade. Following that, there was the sound of a clear and smooth flute tune. Everyone was taken by surprise. Ouyang Ke looked up and saw the weird man in green sitting on top of a tall tree, blowing his flute. Ouyang Ke was secretly puzzled. He knew that he had very sharp eyesight and yet, even under such a bright moonlight, he did not notice that that man had gone up the tree. The wind was blowing and the trees were swaying but that man was still able to sit steadily and motionless on top. Ouyang Ke was taught by his uncle since he was young and he knew that even if he trained for another twenty years, he will still be unable to achieve the standard the man has now, is that man a ghost then?

    At this time, the tune from the flute flowed continuously and Ouyang Ke lost control of his emotions, smiling unnaturally. He felt his blood pounding and messing up inside him and had to dance crazily in order to feel better. He just stretched out his arm to dance and was immediately shocked. He summoned all his concentration and saw that the snakes were all rushing to the bottom of a tree, sliding about according to the flute tune. The three men and six women in white collapsed under the tree as well dancing around crazily. They tore their clothes and scratched their faces furiously leaving bloody scars on them and laughed stupidly at nothing. It seemed like they had all gone mad and were thus unaware of any pain.

    Ouyang Ke was extremely shocked and knew that he had encountered a strong opponent tonight. He took out six poisoned projectiles and flung it towards the man’s head, chest and limbs. The projectiles were about to strike the man when he gently waved the end of his flute and blocked the projectiles. When he used his flute to block the projectiles, his lips continued to blow and did not leave the flute hole for a single moment. The tune coming out from the flute was never interrupted for a single second. Ouyang Ke could not stand it anymore and opened his fan, wanting to dance.

    Luckily Ouyang Ke had a somewhat good grasp of his internal energy, as he knew that if he started dancing with his arms, unless his opponent stopped blowing the flute, he would not stop dancing till he dies of exhaustion. Ouyang Ke was all along a clear-minded and sharp man and forced himself to take back his arm with the fan in it. He suddenly thought of a plan, “ Tear some cloth off my robe and stuff the cloth in my ears so as to block the sound. But the flute sound was marvelous; although Ouyang Ke had tore off some cloth the flute tune made him lose control of his actions and he struggled but could not put the cloth into his ears. He was alarmed and frightened and broke out in more cold sweat. He saw Mei Chaofeng sitting on the floor with her head lowered, circulating her internal energy. He guessed that she must have been summoning her internal energy to combat the flute sounds.

    At this moment, three of Ouyang Ke’s worse skilled apprentices had fallen onto the ground, ripping and tearing their clothes but twisting and turning uncontrollably on the ground. Mu Nianci had her acupoints sealed and could not move. Thus, even though her emotions and concentration was deeply disturbed and provoked by the flute tune, she did not kick out or dance madly because she could not move and laid silently on the ground.

    Ouyang Ke’s cheeks had turned bright red, his head was burning and his throat was dry and uncomfortable. He knew that if he did not stop this now and escape, he would die and thus summoned up all his determination and bit on his tongue. The pain diverted his attention from the flute tune and the sound had less impact on him for a while. He grabbed this opportunity to escape and ran for his life. It was not until he was several miles away from the place when he could not hear the flute sound anymore and was thus relieved. Ouyang Ke was thoroughly exhausted and felt extremely weak, as if he had fallen very sick,

    He thought to himself, “ Who is that weird man? Who is that weird man?”

    Meanwhile, Huang Rong and Guo Jing returned to their rooms to sleep after they sent Mu Nianci off. They were pleased with their relaxing trip on the lake so far. Guo Jing knew that once Mu Nianci was off, Mei Chaofeng would soon appear. She was vicious and deadly in her attacks. He worried that there will be no one to match her and many people would thus get hurt. Guo Jing decided to consult Huang Rong and asked her, “ I think we better tell Master Lu about Mei Chaofeng and plead with him to let Wanyang Kang off so as to save the people in the manor from any hurt.”

    Huang Rong waved her hand and replied, “ That’s not a good idea. Wanyang Kang is an evil brat; let him suffer a few more days. If he is let off so easily, then he will not learn his lesson.”

    Actually Huang Rong couldn’t care less about whether Wanyan Kang repents or not. She thought that since he was the disciple of the “two bad eggs” Qiu Chuji and Mei Chaofeng, then he might as well stay a baddie. She thought it fun to make life difficult for Wanyan Kang. But Huang Rong was afraid that if Wanyan Kang does not repent, Mu Nianci would seriously not marry him and if Mu Nianci does not have a husband, the busybodies would once again force Guo Jing to marry her which would be disastrous, therefore, she decided that it would be better for Wanyan kang to repent.

    Guo Jing asked, “ What shall we do if Mei Chaofeng arrives?”

    Huang Rong smiled, “ Let’s try out what Qigong has taught us on her then!”

    Guo Jing knew that it was pointless to argue with Huang Rong and thus returned her smile. But he thought secretly that since Master Lu had taken such good care of them, he would risk his life to protect everyone in the manor no matter what.

    Two days later, both of them told Master Lu that they would not leave yet. Master Lu was even nicer to them as he had hoped that they would stay longer. On the third morning, Master Lu was chatting with Huang Rong and Guo Jing in his study when Lu Guanying rushed in with a paled expression. Behind him was one of the housekeepers who carried a wooden tray. There was something on the tray but it was wrapped up with a green cloth.

    Lu Guanying said, “ Father, someone sent this just now.” With that, he unwrapped the green cloth to reveal a white skull with five finger holes on top of it; it was indeed Mei Chaofeng’s work.

    Guo Jing and Huand Rong were not surprised, as they knew that Mei Chaofeng would appear sooner or later. Master Lu was however in shock and he paled. Quivering, he asked, “ Who…who brought this here?” He straightened up his body as he asked.

    Lu Guanying knew that skull appeared weirdly but he was a daring and skilled fighter and furthermore, he was the leader of the the pirates of the lake. He thus, did not really take this matter too seriously. But when he saw how worked up his father was, he was even more frightened and surprised.

    He answered hurriedly, “ Someone put this in a box and sent it here. The housekeeper thought it was a normal gift and thus tipped the person without asking the origins of the gift. When he brought it to the accounts room and opened the box, he found this and was about to ask the person who sent the gift but that person was already gone. Father, what do you think is the going on here?”

    Master Lu did not answer but used his fingers and dug into the holes in the skull, which fitted his fingers perfectly.

    Lu Guanying asked in shock, “ The holes in the skull are made by fingers? Are the fingers that powerful?”

    Master Lu nodded and sighed deeply before saying, “ Ask the servants to pack up and send your mother to the north manor in the city to stay for the time being. Order the section leaders to gather and stay in their sections for three days. No matter what happens to Gui Yun Manor, tell them not to interfere.”

    Lu Guanying was astonished and asked, “ Why, father?”

    Master Lu smiled weakly and turned towards Guo Jing and Huang Rong saying, “ It is a blessing to be able to make friends with both of you. I had hope that both of you could stay longer but I made two enemies when I was younger and they are coming to seek revenge. It’s not that I want to chase you all away but Gu Yun Manor is…is in danger. If I am fortunate enough to survive, we will meet again. But…but there is only a slight chance.”

    He laughed bitterly and shook his head before turning to the study keeper and said, “ Retrieve forty gold taels for me.” The keeper did so; Lu Guanying did not dare ask any more questions and left the study to carry out his father’s instructions.

    After a while, the keeper came back with the money and Master Lu offered it to Guo Jing saying, “ The lady is beautiful and talented and is perfect match with you. This little money is a gift for your upcoming marriage ceremony, please accept this humble gift.”

    Huang Rong blushed and thought, “ This person is very sharp, so he knew all along that I’m a girl. But how did he know that I am not married to Brother Jing?”

    Guo Jing did not know the art of politeness and just thanked Master Lu before accepting the gift. Master Lu then retrieved a glass bottle from the study table and poured out more than ten red pills before wrapping them up in some paper. He continued, “ I am not talented but my teacher taught me some medical formulas before and I used them to make these pills which can prolong lives if eaten. Take these as a form of my respect.”

    When Master Lu poured out the pills, there was a sweet scent in the air and when Huang Rong smelled it, she immediately knew that those were the “Nine Flower Dew Pills”. She had helped her father make those pills before and had to collect the dewdrops from nine different types of flowers. To make the pills, one had to know how to brew the substance on the correct days and season of the year. It was a very painstaking process and the pills also consisted of many different types of scarce and precious herbs.

    Huang Rong knew that Master Lu was too generous to give them more than ten pills and spoke out, “ It is not easy to create the nine flower dew pills. We are more than grateful to accept two pills each.”

    Master Lu was slightly surprised and asked, “ How did Miss know the name of the pills?”

    Huang Rong answered, “ I know because I was weak when I was young and an honorable master gave me three pills which saw positive effects when I took it.”
    Master Lu gave a smile and said, “ Both of you don’t have to resist. It would be a waste to keep it anyway.”

    Huang Rong knew that he was prepared to die and thus did not argue and kept the pills.

    Master Lu continued in a serious tone, “ I have already prepared a boat, please cross the river quickly and even if you notice anything weird, do not stop and bother. Remember this!”

    Guo Jing wanted to stay back and help but he caught Huang Rong’s eye signal and had no choice but to agree with Master Lu.

    Huang Rong said, “ Forgive little sister here for her ignorance, but I have something to ask.”

    Master Lu answered, “ Please speak, Miss.”

    Huang Rong replied, “ Since Master Lu knows that there were be a formidable enemy coming to seek revenge, why not hide from them? As the saying goes, a hero avoids obvious dangers.”

    Master Lu let out a huge sigh and answered, “ This two people have made me suffered so much! They are the ones who caused me to be crippled. For the past twenty years, I have not sought revenge because I am unable to walk. Since they are coming now, no matter what, I will risk my life to fight them. Anyway, they offended my teacher. Even if I am unable to seek revenge for myself, I will definitely have to seek revenge for my teacher at all costs. I don’t hope to defeat them. I am more than happy as long as I can die together with them and thus, repay my teacher’s kindness.”

    Huang Rong thought, “ How come he keeps saying there are two people? Ah, I know, he still thinks that copper corpse Chen Xuanfeng is alive. I wonder what animosity he has towards them? It is unfortunate for him then and I won’t probe anymore but I am still curious over something.”

    Huang Rong asked out loud, “ Master Lu, its not surprising that you are able to see through my male disguise but how did you know that we are not married since we’re staying in the same room?”

    Master Lu was dumbfounded by her question and thought to himself, “ It’s obvious that you are still a virgin but how do I explain it to her? This little Miss is intelligent and talented in all areas but how come she’s so blur when it comes to matters like these?”

    He was thinking of a way to answer her when Lu Guanying entered the study and said in a low voice, “ I have given the command but leaders Zhang, Gu, Wang and Tan refuse to leave. They say that they will remain in Gu Yun Manor even if it means risking their lives.”

    Master Lu sighed and said, “ It is not often that you find such loyal and courageous people! Hurry and send these two guests off.”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing bid Master Lu farewell before following Lu Guanying out. The housekeeper had already prepared Guo Jing’s little red horse and their camels in a boat. Guo Jing whispered to Huang Rong, “ Are we going to get on the boat?”

    Huang Rong whispered back, “ We’ll go and come back.”

    Lu Guanying wasn’t bothered by their whispering as he was in a state of confusion and wanted to hurriedly send off the guests so as to help come out with the preparations against his father’s enemy. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were about to board the boat when Huang Rong spied someone on the bank, walking fast towards them. The person looked weird as he supported a huge jar on his head as he walked towards them without a pause.

    When he came nearer, Guo Jing, Huang Rong and Lu Guanying saw that the man’s hair was white; he wore a short yellow robe and carried a huge feather fan in his right hand, fanning himself gently as he quickened his pace. The jar looked as if it was made from iron and seemed like it weighed a hundred pounds.

    The man walked pass Lu Guanying, glanced nonchalantly at them and continued walking. He had not taken a few steps when his body hunched a little and some water spilled out from the jar. The three then realized that the jar was filled with water, which would add on to the weight of the jar, which would now weigh about a hundred pounds more. The old man must be highly skilled to be able to balance such a heavy weight on his head.

    Lu Guanying thought nervously, “ Is this man father’s enemy?”

    He ignored the danger and went up to the man, while Guo Jing and Huang Rong stole a glance at each other before following him. Guo Jing heard his six teachers mention about their fight with Qiu Chuji at Jia Xing Zui Xian inn before and knew that Qiu Chuiji was skilled enough to lift up a huge jar. But the size of the jar Qiu Chuji lifted as descriped by his teachers did not seem as big as this jar the man was lifting now. Guo Jing suspected that this old man’s skills were above that of Master of Eternal Spring, Qiu Chuiji. The old man walked on before reaching the bank of a small river with graves all over the place.

    Lu Guanying thought to himself, “ There is no bridge here, lets see whether he crosses the river to the north or go towards the west.”

    Lu Guanying was stunned by what he saw next: The old man walked without a pause over the river; his body was steady and only his lower legs were submerged in the water. When he reached the opposite side of the riverbank, he placed the huge jar among the grasses, next to a hill before turning and flew to the river, walking on the water back to the other side again.

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing had heard their seniors talk about all sorts of skills from various sects and schools but they never heard of such skills which the old man just displayed: Carrying a huge jar on his head and walking on water. They thought that such skills only existed in myths and legends, who would have thought that such skills actually exist on earth? If they did not see for themselves, they would never have believed such stuff and were secretly in awe of that old master.

    The old man’s hair was all white and laughed heartily before turning to Lu Guanying, “ You must be the leader of the pirates, Junior Master Lu right?”

    Lu Guanying bowed and answered, “ I dare not accept such praise, I wonder what is elder’s name?”

    The old man pointed towards Guo Jing and Huang Rong and said, “ Come here as well you two boys.”

    Lu Guanying turned around and got a fright when he saw Guo Jing and Huang Rong behind him. It was then that he realized that the two had been following him but their lightness skill were so good that they made no noise and he was not even aware of them following him.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong bowed and said, “ Greetings to elder.”

    The old man laughed, “ No need for such greetings.”

    He turned towards Lu Guanying and said, “ Here is not a place to talk, let’s find somewhere to sit.”

    Lu Guanying was suspicious and thought silently, “ Is he father’s enemy?”

    He decided to be direct and asked, “ Does elder know my father?”

    The old man replied, “ Master Lu? I have never met him before.”

    Lu Guanying thought that the man didn’t seem like he was lying and asked some more, “ My father received a weird gift earlier in the day, does elder know of this matter?”

    The old man asked, “ What weird gift?”

    Lu Guanying replied, “ It’s a dead person’s skull, on the top of the skull are five finger holes.”

    The old man said, “ That’s funny, could it be someone playing with your father?”

    Lu Guanying thought silently, “ This man’s skills are exceptional. Even if he wants to fight father, he would do so openly and does not need to lie about it. It seems like he really doesn’t know anything. Why not invite him to the manor to help us instead? If he agrees to help us, it will be alright no matter how great father’s enemy is.”

    The more he thought about it, the more delighted he was and answered, “ If elder does not mind, why not come to my residence for some tea?”

    The old man hummed slightly and replied, “ That will be good.”

    Lu Guanying was overjoyed and waved for the old man to go first.

    The old man pointed towards Guo Jing and said, “ These two young men are guests of the manor right?”

    Lu Guanying answered, “ They are father’s friends.”

    The old man did not probe further and walked in front with Guo Jing and Huang Rong following behind. When they reached the manor, Lu Guanying ushered the old man to a sit in the main hall and sped off to find his father.

    Not long after, two servants carried in a bamboo couch with Master Lu on it. Master Lu greeted the old man politely and said, “ I hope my ignorant son has not offended elder in any way.”

    The old man shifted his body slightly but did not greet him back. He replied blandly, “ Mater Lu may dispense with the formalities.”

    Master Lu asked, “ I wonder what is elder’s name?”

    The old man replied, “ My surname is Qiu and my name is Qianren.”

    Master Lu was shocked and asked, “ Could it be that elder is the renowned iron palm who floats on water, elder Qiu?”

    Qiu Qianren smiled slightly and answered, “ To think that you can remember my nickname, you really have a good memory. I have not been active in Jiang Hu for the past twenty over years and thought that people have long forgotten me! ”

    The name “Iron Palm who floats on water” was indeed a formidable name twenty years ago. Master Lu knew that the old man was the chief of the Iron Palm Sect in Hu Nan. He was actually famous and active in Jiang Hu but disappeared all of a sudden for a very long time so it was not surprising that many juniors born later would not know him.

    Master Lu was surprised and curious by his visit and asked, “ I wonder what has caused Senior Qiu to come here? If you need junior’s help, I would be more than happy to offer it.”

    Qiu Qianren stroked his beard and laughed, “ It’s nothing big actually, just that that I haven been too softhearted and fate has it that it will not end…erm, I would like to seek a secluded place to practice my skills, we talk again in the night.”
    Master Lu saw that he wore no evil expression but was still unsettled and asked, “ I wonder did Senior happen to meet the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds?”

    Qiu Qianren replied, “ The Twin Killers of the Dark Winds? This evil pair are not dead yet?”

    Master Lu was greatly comforted by what he heard and spoke out, “ Ying’er, please bring Senior Qiu to my study to rest.” Qiu Qianren gave everyone a nod and left with Lu Guanying.

    Although Master Lu had never seen Qiu Qianren’s skills before, he had heard of his formidable name. He knew that when the five greats, Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divinity met for the Hua Shan tournament, they had invited him but he had something to attend to and thus turned down the invitation. But his skills must have been exceptional to get the invitation, even if he was not up to the standard of the greats, he should not be far from their standard. Even if the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds came, they would not be able to mess around with him.

    He turned to Guo Jing and Huang Rong, “ Both of you haven’t left? That’s great. The elderly Qiu’s skills are formidable, how lucky that he should appear this moment. I do not have to fear my opponents anymore! Later you can rest in your rooms but please do not leave them and you will be fine.”

    Huang Rong gave a little laugh, “ Can I watch the fun?”

    Master Lu have a deep sigh and replied, “ I’m afraid that my enemy will bring lots of people and I’m afraid that I wont be able to protect myself and allow you two to be hurt. Alright then, but you two must stick with me later. With Senior Qiu around, it would be useless no matter how many people they bring!”

    Huang Rong clapped her hands in delight and laughed, “ I love seeing people fight. It was so interesting that day when you defeated that Little Jin Prince.”

    Master Lu replied, “ This time, it would be the Little Prince’s teacher who is much more skilful and hence I’m worried.”

    Huang Rong answered, “ Ah! How do you know?”

    Master Lu replied, “ Miss Huang, you wont understand these fighting matters. That claw technique which the Little Jin Prince used to attack my Ying’er’s thigh is the same as the skill used to create those finger holes on the top of the skull.”

    Huang Rong answered, “ Oh, I understand now. Wang Xianzhi’s calligraphy was taught by Wang Yizhi and Wang Yizhi was taught by Lady Wei whose teacher was Zhong You. Thus, any professional would be able to guess the family or sect the calligrapher belongs to merely by looking at him works.”

    Master Lu laughed, “ Miss is highly intelligent. I just have to give you a hint and you are able to understand everything. My two opponents are evil and vicious. Compared to Zhong Wang, they have smeared the reputation of their teacher and ancestors.”

    Huang Rong pulled Guo Jing’s hand and said, “ Let’s see what great skill white bearded Grandpa is practicing.”

    Master Lu was alarmed and said, “ Ah, don’t, don’t disturb him.”

    Huang Rong laughed, “ It’s alright.” And stood up to leave.

    Master Lu was sitting on the couch and could not move; he thought nervously, “ This lady is too mischievous, how can she spy on him?”

    He hurriedly ordered the servants to lift up the bamboo couch and hurry to the study to stop them. When he reached, he saw both of them bending down and looking into the room through a hole made in the paper covering the window frame. When Huang Rong heard the servants’ footsteps, she hurriedly turned and signaled to them not to make a single sound, at the same time, she waved to Master Lu, asking him to come over and see.

    Master Lu was afraid that if he did not go over, the little miss would throw a temper and alert Qiu Qianren. He immediately ordered the servants to walk gently and help him over to the window. When he looked through the hole Huang Rong made, he was baffled as he saw Qiu Qianren sitting cross-legged with eyes shut but smoke was continuously coming out from his mouth.

    Master Lu’s teacher was highly skilled and knowledgeable. When he trained under his teacher during his younger days, he often listen to his teacher talk about the various skills of different sects and schools but he never heard of a skill in which one could breathe out smoke. He did not dare look anymore and pulled Guo Jing’s sleeve, signaling him not to look anymore. Guo Jing respected him and anyway, he never thought it proper to spy on others. Guo Jing immediately stood up and took Huang Rong by the hand, following Master Lu back to the hall.

    Huang Rong giggled, “ This old fellow’s skills are fun. There’s a fire burning inside his stomach!”

    Master Lu answered, “ You do not understand. This is an amazing type of internal energy.”

    Huang Rong asked, “ Can he breathe out fire to burn someone?” Huang Rong was not joking was she said this, she was indeed curious over Qiu Qianren’s mysterious skills.
    Master Lu replied, “ No one can breathe out fire but to be able to attain such profound internal skills would mean that he can probably injure someone by the mere use of flowers and leaves.”

    Huang Rong laughed, “ Ah, tear a flower to hurt someone!”

    Master Lu smiled slightly and answered, “ Miss is very smart.”

    There was a poem entitled “Barbaric Buddhist” which was written by an anonymous poet during the Tang dynasty, which read:

    “ When the peonies reveal real pearls, a beauty walks by the hall.
    With a gentle laugh, she asks the gentleman, “ Which is prettier, the flower or the lady?” The gentleman mulls over it but answers, “ The flower is beautiful. “
    The lady throws a mild tantrum and flings the smashed flower at him.”

    (The underlying meaning is actually used to refer to a an insolent woman, who is not respected in the past as the ideal woman is supposed to be gentle and docile.)

    The poem thus spread far and wide. Once, there was a court case in which an evil wife broke the legs of her husband. When the Tang Emperor, Xuan Zhong learnt about it, he laughed and said to his Prime Minister “ Isn’t this tearing a flower to hurt someone?”

    Master Lu was relieved after he saw how powerful Qiu Qianren was. He ordered Lu Guanying to send people to inspect the lake and politely invite any suspicious-looking person back to the manor. He also ordered the servants to open the main entrance to the manor so as to welcome any guests. Evening came and the servants lit up many candles in the main hall of Gui Yun Manor. The bright lights surrounded the whole hall, as if waiting for a banquet to begin. Lu Guanying personally went to invite Qiu Qianren to the hall in which he was offered the middle host seat. Guo Jing and Huang Rong sat beside him while Master Lu and his son sat on seats beneath their tables. Master Lu made his toasts but did not dare ask Qiu Qianren the purpose of his visit and thus, only engaged in casual talk with his guests.

    After the drinks, Qiu Qianren spoke out, “ Brother Lu, Gui Yun Manor is leader among all heroes of the lake, and thus your skills must be good. I wonder whether you are wiling to display a stance or two for me?”

    Master Lu answered hurriedly, “ Junior’s skills are nothing compare to senior’s, I’m afraid I’ll make an embarrassment of myself. Furthermore, I have been crippled for a long time now and have given up on the skills my teacher taught me long ago.”

    Qiu Qianren replied, “ Who is your teacher? I may know him.”

    Master Lu gave a long sigh and his face paled. After a long while, he answered, “ Junior is dumb and rough and is unable to serve my teacher. Due to the doings of others, my teacher has disowned me. This is such a shameful story and I do not want my teacher’s name to be smeared due to this. I hope Senior understands.”

    Lu Guanying thought silently, “ So father was disowned by his teacher and thus never displayed his skills. Even I don’t know what a skilled fighter he is. If it weren’t for that Jin dog who hurt me, father would never have displayed his skills. He must experienced a very devastating and hateful event in his life.” Lu Guanying was deeply saddened and disturbed by this thought.

    Qiu Qianren answered, “ Brother here is at the peak of his life and is the leader of a group of heroes. Why not take this opportunity to make your name known? It will help extinguish the wrongdoings made to you and make the seniors in your school regret.”

    Master Lu replied, “ Junior is crippled and is hopeless. Senior’s advice is insightful but I cannot accept it.”

    Qiu Qianren answered, “ Brother is too courteous. There is a pathway but I’m not sure whether brother will agree to take it.”

    Master Lu answered, “ Then I shall bother Senior here to help me out.”

    Qiu Qianren laughed softly but continued eating and did not answer. Master Lu knew that this man had hidden himself for twenty years and thought, “ There must be some reason why he has resurfaced in Jiang Hu. Since he is a senior master, it is not proper for me to probe further and I can only wait for him to tell me.”

    Qiu Qianren spoke, “ If brother does not want to display your skills, it’s fine by me. Gui Yun Manor is famous for it’s name and the leader must be from a famous school.”

    Master Lu gave a small laugh, “ The matters in Gui Yun Manor has all along been handled by my son Guanying. His teacher is Reverend Ku Mo of Yun Qi monastery.”

    Qiu Qianren answered, “ Ah, Ku Mo is a skilled fighter of Xian Xia sect which is affiliated to Shaolin. His skills are also commendable. How about Junior Master display some stances for me?”

    Master Lu said, “ It is the child’s fortune to receive some pointers from Senior Qiu.”

    Lu Guanying thought it rare to be able to meet such a highly skilled master and his advice would be insightful and precious and thus, had hoped to receive a few pointers. He immediately walked to the centre of the hall and said, “ Elder, please give some pointers.”

    With that, he positioned himself and displayed his best stance, “The Luo Han subduing the tiger fists” which created some wind while he punched; he was indeed the disciple of a skilled martial artist. His skills were unique and he displayed for a while more before roaring out aloud which sounded like a tiger’s roar; the candle lights wavered and a gust of wind breezed past the four corners of the room. The servants felt a chilling sensation and were startled by his performance. Lu Guanying continued with a palm technique while shouting out aloud, looking very impressive. He did a flip and crouched on the floor, suddenly stretching his left palm out straightly, displaying a stance of the “Ru Lai Buddha Palm”. After a while more, his roar grew softer but the pace of his Luo Han Fists quickened and at his last stance, he attacked the ground and the force traveled and broke some bricks nearby. Lu Guanying flipped back up into position, and with his left arm into the air and his right leg kicking out, he steadily and motionlessly forming an image of a Luo Han Buddha.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong cheered out loud and shouted, “ Excellent Palm Technique!”

    Lu Guanying took back his stances and stood in normal position again and turned to face Qiu Qianren who gave a slight smile.

    Master Lu asked, “ How is this child’s set of palm techniques?”

    Qiu Qianren answered, “ Passable.”

    Master Lu said, “ If it’s far from perfect, I hope Senior gives some pointers.”

    Qiu Qianren replied, “ Your son’s palm techniques can be used to build up his body but is useless when fighting an opponent.”

    Master Lu answered, “ I would like to hear Senior’s comments so that he can improve.”

    Guo Jing could not understand as well and thought silently, “Junior Master’s skills are not formidable, but how can Elder say that it’s useless?”

    Qiu Qianren stood up and walked to the middle of the hall and returned back to his seat with a two pieces of bricks, which Lu Guanying had earlier broken. He did something with his hand and a cracking sound was heard as the brick broke into little pieces. He kneaded the pieces and it turned to powder, which floated off the table. Everyone was astonished by what they saw.

    Qiu Qianren swept the dust and powder on the table into his clothes and walked to the middle of the hall before shaking off the powder onto the ground. He laughed softly as he went back to his seat and said, “ It is commendable for Junior Master to be able to break the bricks with a palm but think about this: The opponent is not a brick and will not stand there deadly, waiting for you to attack him or her. Furthermore, if the opponent’s internal energy is stronger than yours and your palm strikes him or her and she reflects the strike, you will be heavily injured yourself.”

    Lu Guanying nodded silently.

    Qiu Qianren sighed and continued, “ There are many martial artist these days but only a few can be considered skilled fighters.”

    Huang Rong asked, “ Which few?”

    Qiu Qianren replied, “ Wulin’s well-known five greats. Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divinity. However, Central Divinity Wang Chongyang has the most profound skills. As for the other four, they are skilled in their own ways. But a person has strengths as well as weakness. If one knows their weakness, it is not difficult to defeat them.”

    With those words, Qiu Qianren shocked Master Lu, Huang Rong and Guo Jing. Lu Guanying did not know of the five greats and did not know why the rest were surprised. Huang Rong was actually in awe of Qiu Qianren when she saw his various display of skills but when she heard his disrespect towards her father, she was furious and gave a polite laugh before asking, “ Then if Elder can defeat the five greats, wouldn’t it be great for you?”

    Qiu Qianren answered, “ Wang Chongyang has already passed away. I was caught up with some affairs at home during the Hua Shan tournament, and hence, could not attend it, allowing that old Taoist to steal the number one title. That time, five of them were competing for the “Nine Yin Manual”, saying that the most skilful fighter and winner would get the manual. They dueled for seven days and seven nights and Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Northern Beggar and Southern Emperor lost. After that, when Wang Chongyang passed away, there was chaos again. I heard that that old Taoist passed the manual to his martial brother, Zhou Botong. Eastern Heretic, Huang Yaoshi rushed there and Zhou Botong was not his match, therefore allowing the former to steal half of the manual away. No one knows what happened later.

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing thought silently, “ So there were things which happened in between. Now, half of the manual has been stolen by The Twin Killers of the Dark Winds.

    Huang Rong said, “ Since Elder is the highest skilled, then the manual should belong to you!”

    Qiu Qianren replied, “ I cannot be bothered to fight for it. The four greats are mediocre and have been practicing all these years so as to compete for the number one title. It would be fun to see the second Hua Shan Tournament though.”

    Huang Rong asked, “ There is a second Hua Shan Tournament?”

    Qiu Qianren replied, “ Once in every twenty-five years. If the old ones die, the young ones will take over. The next Hua Shan Tournament will take place in a year’s time. But all these years have passed without any outstanding talent. I think it will be us old fellows once again. Ah, there are no outstanding descendants, the skills of the future generations will not be as great as the earlier ones.” He shook his head as his spoke as if in deep regret.

    Huang Rong asked, “ Is elder going to participate in the next Hua Shan Tournament? If yes, please bring us alright? I love to see people spar with each other.”

    Qiu Qianren grunted, “ Ah, childish talk! How can you call that sparring? I didn’t want to go initially. I am so old already, why bother about fighting for all these useless titles? However, I have a very important matter at hand, which involves the lives of everyone. I would be a selfish and greedy person I if do not step forward to help and the matter will turn into a catastrophe.”

    The four of them were astonished by his agitated tone and hurriedly asked him what was it.

    Qiu Qianren answered, “ This is a highly secretive matter. Since Brother Guo and Huang are not Jiang Hu people, it’s better you don’t hear about it.”

    Huang Rong laughed, “ Master Lu is my good friend, if you tell it to him, he will tell it to me.”

    Master Lu secretly scolded Huang Rong for being cheeky but did not deny her words.

    Qiu Qianren replied, “ Since this is so, I will tell all of you then. But before the matter is solved, I would like all of you to keep it a secret.”

    Guo Jing thought silently, “ We are not related to him in anyway and since it’s a secretive issue, it’s better not to hear it.”

    With that, he stood up and announced, “ Both us Junior bid our farewells.”

    He pulled Huang Rong’s hand and was about to leave when Qiu Qianren replied, “ Since both of you are Master Lu’s good friends, you are not outsiders. Please sit,”

    With that, he tapped Guo Jing on the shoulder. Guo Jing did not find his energy spectacular but obeyed and returned to his seat.

    Qiu Qianren stood up and toasted wine to the four people before saying, “ Not more than half a year later, Great Song will be in trouble. Does anyone know why?”

    The others were stunned by his serious expression. Lu Guanying waved to signal to the servants to leave the room and ordered them not to bring in any more food.

    Qiu Qianren continued, “ I have gotten news that in six months time, the Jins will attack the south with a formidable army and our Song Empire will be lost. Hai, this is so sudden that we cannot do much about it.”

    Guo Jing was alarmed and asked, “ Then Elder Qiu had better go and inform the imperial court and ask them to prepare and make plans to counter the enemy.”

    Qiu Qianren stared at him and scolded, “ What does a young man like you know? If Great Song is prepared, they will lose out even more.”

    Everyone did not understand what he was saying and looked at him in alarm.

    He continued, “ I have wrecked my brains for a plan to protect the safety and happiness of the people and there is only one way to protect the country. I have traveled all the way to Jiangnan for this. I heard that the Little Jin Prince and his General, Official Duan is held in this manor. Why not we invite them for a discussion?”

    Master Lu did not know how Qiu Qianren knew of this but hurriedly ordered two servants to bring them in. He ordered to have their chains removed but asked the servants to place them on the lower floor and denied them any utensils for dinning. Guo Jing and Huang Rong saw that Wanyan Kang looked weak and exhausted. Official Duan looked like he was in his early fifties and had a thick beard but he wore a frightened expression.

    Qiu Qianren looked at Wanyan Kang and said, “ Little Prince has suffered.”

    Wanyan Kang nodded and thought silently, “ I wonder why Guo Jing and Huang Rong are here?”

    That day when he fought in Master Lu’s study, he didn’t notice them hiding in one corner. The three looked at each other but did not greet each other.

    Qiu Qianren faced Master Lu and said, “ There is a plot of wealth in front of your manor but why hasn’t brother retrieved it?”

    Master Lu was curious and asked, “ I live a simple, rural life? What wealth is Elder talking about?”

    Qiu Qianren answered, “ When the Jin Army attacks the South, a great war will start and many lives will be lost. If brother gathers the heroes of Jiangnan and fight together, you all will banish the Jins and attain peace.”

    Master Lu thought silently, “ This is a serious matter indeed.”

    He answered hurriedly, “ It is my honor to help fight for my country and something that I am responsible for. I am loyal to my country but the imperial court does not appreciate it. If a person is evil, even if he becomes a priest, it is useless if he still does not have the right morals. I hope Senior creates a pathway for me and Junior will be more than grateful. And I do not crave for any wealth or rewards.”

    Qiu Qianren stroked his beard and laughed out aloud. He was about the answer when the housekeeper rushed forward and said, “ Leader Zhang has spotted six suspicious-looking people on the lake. They have already reached the Manor.”

    Master Lu paled and called out, “ Invite them in quickly.”

    He thought silently, “ Why are there six people? Could it be that The Twin Killers of The Dark Winds have found helpers?”

    ------------------------------(END of Chapter 13)--------------------------------
    Last edited by sunnysnow; 07-15-06 at 03:54 AM.
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  19. #39
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    Default Chapter 14 - The Master of Peach Blossom Island

    Chapter 14 – The Master of Peach Blossom Island
    (Translated by Foxs, edited by Eliza Bennet)

    What he saw was six people - five men and one woman entering the hall, they were the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. They have been wandering around the north and south, and on that particular day had arrived at the Tai Lake, where they met some Jianghu people on a boat who received them attentively.

    They have left their hometown for such a long time that they did not know the current affair of the martial arts world. They weren’t sure who these people were, so Zhu Cong exchanged some pleasantries with them. Turned out these people were Zhang ‘zhai zhu’ [village manager(?)] and his men from the ‘gui yun zhuang’ [Cloud Village – lit. returning cloud village/manor].

    They have received order from Lu Guanying to guard the lake and to report any unusual activities. They did not know who these six people were, and since these six wield weapons, they inclined to think these six were the enemies of the Old Village Master. Therefore, Manager Zhang acted in utmost prudence and received the six cordially, inviting them to enter the village; while at the same time sent report to the Village Master immediately.

    Guo Jing however, was ecstatic to see his six masters. Quickly he knelt down and greeted them one by one, “First Master, Second Master, Third Master, Fourth Master, Sixth Master, and Seventh Master! All of you are here! This really is wonderful!” He was rather boorish; but through his spontaneity everybody could see his sincerity and genuine delight.

    The Six Freaks were angry with him over Huang Rong affair, yet in all honesty they loved him dearly. They were pleasantly surprised to see him and all angers simply vanished into the thin air.

    “Child, where is that female demon of yours?” Han Baoju could not help scolding him.

    Han Xiaoying however, had a pair of sharp eyes. She saw Huang Rong wearing men’s clothing sat among the people. She tugged Han Baoju’s sleeve and whispered, “Calm down. We will talk this over later.”

    Initially Village Master Lu also suspected that his enemies had arrived, but then he saw that these six were total strangers to him; moreover, Guo Jing had addressed them as his masters. He was relieved. Cupping his fists in respect he apologized, “I am invalid on the legs; please forgive me for not standing up to welcome you,” and immediately gave order to prepare another banquet table for the guests.

    Without wasting another second Guo Jing immediately introduced his Masters. Village Master Lu was delighted, he said, “I have heard your illustrious names and admired you for a long time. It is very fortunate to finally meet you in person today.” His manner was very cordial.

    Qiu Qianren on the other hand, did not show any interest in these six guests. He simply smiled faintly and kept eating and drinking.

    Han Baoju was irritated and could not keep his temper. “And who is this gentleman?” he asked.

    “I am pleased to introduce to you, Six Masters,” Village Master Lu proudly said, “This is the highly respected Senior of the Wulin world, the Taishan (Mount Tai) and the Big Dipper (or Big Bear) Constellation [meaning – the ultimate] of this present age.”
    The Six Freaks were startled. “Is he the Peach Blossom Island Master Huang Yaoshi?” asked Han Xiaoying. “Could he be the ‘jiu zhi shen gai’ [nine-fingered divine beggar – Hong Qigong]?” asked Han Baoju.

    Village Master Lu smiled and explained, “No, he is neither. He is the ‘tie zhang shui shang piao’ [iron palm floating on the water], Senior Qiu.”

    “He is Senior Qiu Qianren?” Ke Zhen’E asked, surprised by the revelation.

    Qiu Qianren laughed heartily, his face was smug.

    By that time the villagers had finished preparing a new banquet table and the Six Freaks took their seats. Guo Jing wanted to sit with his masters. He tugged Huang Rong’s hand to go together, but Huang Rong simply smiled and shook her head. She was not willing to sit with the Six Freaks.

    Village Master Lu laughed and said, “I thought Brother Guo did not know martial arts. Who would have known that you are the disciple of the well-known Masters. Truly my eyes are blind, could not see the hidden treasure right in front of me …”

    Guo Jing stood up. “My skill is mediocre,” he said, “I was indeed taught by my Masters. I do not dare to show off in front of Village Master. I beg your forgiveness.”

    Ke Zhen’E was delighted listening to their conversation. He was proud that Guo Jing was well-behaved.

    Qiu Qianren suddenly said, “The Six Freaks of the South [Jiangnan] are the prominent characters of the Jianghu world. This old man has a very important matter to deal. It would be great if I could acquire your valuable assistance.”

    “Senior Qiu was just about to explain the matter when the six guests arrived,” explained the Village Master. “Now would Senior please enlighten us?”

    Qiu Qianren complied, he said, “For us who live in the Jianghu world, the ultimate purpose of our existence is chivalry: helping the suffering people. Right now we see it with our own eyes the Jin army is moving south. If our Song Dynasty cannot discern good from bad and is not willing to surrender, as soon as the war breaks I wonder how many lives will perish? As the saying goes, ‘shun tian zhe chang, ni tian zhe wang’ [following Heaven’s will means prosperity, opposing Heaven’s will means death]. Therefore, this old man is going to the South to make contact with the valiant people of the South; to take arms together with the Jin army and attack the Song Dynasty from both sides, to render it helpless, and thus it does not have any choice but surrender. If we succeed, not only we will gain riches and honor, but the gratefulness of the common people as well. That way our martial arts skills are not useless, and we do not render these two characters ‘xia yi’ (chivalry) in vain.”

    Hearing this, the Six Freaks’ countenances were flushed. Both Han brother and sister were ready to open their mouths. Luckily Quan Jinfa – who sat between them, quickly pulled their sleeves and signaled with his eyes toward the Village Master, hinting that they should wait to see how the master would respond.

    So far Village Master Lu had showed great admiration to Qiu Qianren; but to suddenly listen to his speech he was unable to restrain his great surprise. He forced a smile and said, “Even though Junior is unworthy, my body is as worthless as mere grass, but I have never dared to forget ‘zhong yi’ [loyalty and brotherhood]. The Jin army is going south to attack my country; they mean harm to the people. Junior will certainly join other Jiangnan heroes to fight the invaders to my death. Senior, what you just said, was that to test me?”

    “Brother Lu, how could you be so short sighted?” Qiu Qianren asked. “What good is it to help the Song fight the Jin? Most likely you will end up as Yue Wu Mu [i.e. General Yue Fei], who suffered a tragic death at the ‘Feng Bo Ting’ [Crisis/Disturbance Pavilion].”

    Listening to this the Village Master Lu was shocked and angered at the same time. Initially he thought he could count on Qiu to help him deal with ‘hei feng shuang sha’ [Twin Killers of the Dark Wind]; who would have thought that he was persuaded to betray his own country instead. It was useless to possess a high skill of martial arts if the person had such a low character and this shameless. He flicked his sleeve and said, “Junior is facing a formidable enemy even tonight. I was going to ask Senior to help me uphold the justice; but since we do not hold the same value, I do not dare to entertain your honorable presence even if blood would splash from my neck. Please!” He cupped his fists. His intention was clear; he did not want the guest to stay any longer.

    The Six Freaks of Jiangnan – along with Guo Jing and Huang Rong, were delighted and secretly admired their host.

    Qiu Qianren smiled, but did not say anything. His left hand gripped the wine cup, his right hand moved toward the cup mouth, revolving the cup around in his hand. Suddenly he flipped his right hand and flicked the cup away. To everybody’s amazement the cup was cut smooth into two parts: the cup bottom and about half an inch of porcelain ring. To crush the cup is not difficult, but to cut the cup smooth was a demonstration of profound energy worthy of everybody’s respect.

    Village Master Lu realized he was being threatened. But while he was still hesitating, ‘ma wang shen’ [Horse God] Han Baoju had already leaped out of his seat. Angrily he called out, “Shameless scoundrel, let us see who is superior, you or I!”

    Qiu Qianren did not falter. “I have heard the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan’s stellar reputation for a long time. Today I want to see whether what I heard is true or not. All six of you, come!”

    Village Master Lu knew Han Baoju was no match to the old man. He was delighted to hear the old man challenged all six of them. He quickly said, “The Six Freaks of Jiangnan always move forward and backward together. Facing a single enemy or fighting an army, the six go together, not a single one of them willing to be left behind.”

    Zhu Cong understood very well the Village Master’s intention. “Very well,” he said, “let us six brothers and sister fight this famous Wulin character!” He waved his hand and immediately his five brothers and sister left their seats.

    Qiu Qianren also stood up; he picked his chair up and strolled to the center of the hall, laid down the chair and sat down; his right foot above his left. Calmly he said, “This old man will fight you sitting down.”

    Ke Zhen’E and the others were startled. He knew that the old man would not dare to act so arrogantly if he did not have a very high level of martial arts.

    While his six masters have not made any move yet, Guo Jing quickly moved forward. He had heard amazing stories about this old man’s kungfu, and knew his masters were not this old man’s match. He had received his masters’ kindness and even though he knew the risk, he stepped in front of his masters and boldly said, “Junior is asking for some lessons from the Senior.”

    Qiu Qianren was surprised, but then exploded in laughter. “It wasn’t easy for your parent to raise you. Why would you waste your unworthy life for nothing in this place?”

    Ke Zhen’E and the others called out almost in unison, “Jing’er, move back!”

    But Guo Jing was determined. He was afraid his masters would hold him back, so without saying anything he bent his left leg a little bit and moved his right palm in a circular motion, and then thrust it forward, hard. It was the ‘kang long you hui’ [The Proud Dragon Show Remorse] from the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’, which he had trained hard unceasingly up to that day; therefore, it could not be compared with when Hong Qigong first taught him.

    Qiu Qianren had seen Han Baoju’s skill when he leaped out of his seat. It wasn’t extraordinary. Naturally, he thought Han’s disciple would not be good either. It was beyond his comprehension that Guo Jing’s attack was so fierce. He was shocked and hastily leaped up from his chair, only to hear a loud cracking sound. His chair was destroyed by Guo Jing’s palm.

    “Confounded kid!” he shouted angrily when his body had landed back on the ground.

    Guo Jing was a bit wary; he did not dare to advance. “Senior, please give me some pointers,” he said politely.

    Huang Rong wanted to disturb Qiu Qianren’s mind, she called out, “Brother Jing, don’t be so polite to this old scoundrel!”

    The old man was livid! Ever since he roamed the Jianghu, who would dare to call him ‘old scoundrel’ in front of his face? He was about to jump and thrust his palm to attack her, but suddenly remembered his own reputation. He sneered and lifted his right hand and positioned his left hand on his eyebrows. And then right when Guo Jing moved sideways to fend, redirected his hand to make a claw and retracted it, while the hand on his eyebrows moved forward in circular motion. His right hand followed, changed from fist to palm.

    Huang Rong called out, “What’s so special about the move? That is the ‘gu yan chu qun’ [Lone Goose Leaves the Flock] from the ‘tong bi lu he zhang’ [Open Arm Six Palms Technique]!”

    Qiu Qianren was surprised she recognized his move. It was indeed the ‘tong bi lu he zhang’, which was created based on the ‘tong bi wu hang zhang’ [Open Arm Five Elements Technique]. It was not an extraordinary move; but he had perfected this move for decades. The word ‘open’ here actually meant that his right and left arms were interchangeable. Guo Jing saw his right hand coming fast, while his left hand moving to the right, then the right hand went back and supported the left hand. So both hands were supporting each other, increasing the strength of both hands. Very fierce.

    Guo Jing had seen his amazing strength, and then actually faced him in combat. He was a little bit nervous and did not dare to counterattack. He kept stepping back.

    Qiu Qianren thought, “This kid could destroy a chair due to his strength, but actually his martial arts is only so-so.” He immediately launched several stances: ‘chuan zhang shan pi’ [lit. penetrating palm hacking down in a flash], ‘liao yin zhang’ [lit. lifting the cloud palm technique], ‘kua hu deng shan’ [lit. step across the tiger to climb a mountain], getting stronger with each stance.

    Huang Rong was anxious seeing Guo Jing was losing. She approached the two with the intention of stepping in if Guo Jing was in danger.

    Guo Jing saw her coming near, he turned his head to see her anxious face and could not help but feel nervous. Qiu Qianren saw this and wasting no time he attacked with ‘bai she tu zhi’ [White Snake Spitting Sign], his palm hit Guo Jing squarely on the chest.

    Huang Rong and the Six Freaks – as well as Master Lu and his son, all cried in alarm. They thought with Qiu’s strength hitting such a vital part, Guo Jing must have been dead or at least severely injured.

    Guo Jing was also shocked, so he immediately circulated his chi and lifted both arms up. Strangely, he did not feel too much pain, which puzzled him to no end. Huang Rong saw him staring blankly, thought that he was internally injured and was about to pass out. She immediately jumped forward to support him and asked anxiously, “Brother Jing, are you all right?” Her heart was so shaken that tears flowed from her eyes involuntarily.

    Guo Jing’s response was unexpected, “I am all right! Let me try again.” He stuck his chest out and walked toward Qiu Qianren, boldly said, “You are the Senior Hero Iron Palm, hit me again!”

    Qiu Qianren was furious; he immediately hit another palm to Guo Jing’s chest with all his might. But instead of collapsing, Guo Jing laughed loudly and shouted, “Masters! Rong’er! This old scoundrel’s skill is only ordinary. As long as he did not hit me, his secret was safe, but as soon as he hit me, his secret is revealed!” His word was followed by a sweep of his left arm; forcing Qiu Qianren to step back. “You can feel my palm too!” he shouted.

    Qiu Qianren saw his movement and thought, “You said ‘palm’ but your hand forms a fist, do you think I am blind?” He underestimated Guo Jing’s attack; he simply blocked the fist with both hands in front of his chest. Who would have known that Guo Jing was using the ‘long zhan yu ye’ [Dragon Fight out of the Field], the most mysterious stance of the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’; where both left and right arms could be either solid or void without any specific rule.

    Qiu Qianren saw Guo Jing’s left arm moved while his right arm loose; but suddenly the right arm thrust forward and hit Qiu Qianren on the right shoulder, followed by a punch on his chest. Qiu Qianren’s body flew out of the hall through the main entrance like a kite with broken string!

    Everybody uttered a startled cry. But somebody suddenly appeared at the entrance. She held Qiu Qianren on his collar, entering the main hall in big strides. She put Qiu Qianren down on the floor and stood stoically at the center of the hall. Her face was cold without any expression. Her long hair scattered on her shoulder. Her head looked up. She was none other than the Iron Corpse Mei Chaofeng. Every heart skipped a beat.

    Behind her was another person no less peculiar than the Iron Corpse. That person was tall and rather thin; wearing a dark green robe. His countenance was pale and expressionless. Other than his rolling eyes, the rest of his face was stiff like a wooden statue. He stood still and stiff like a standing corpse. As soon as everybody saw this person, a chill crept on their backs. They immediately turned their gaze away from this person, did not dare to look at his face anymore; their hearts thumping.

    Master Lu was perplexed. He would never think that the world famous Qiu Qianren would unexpectedly collapsed just from the first blow of his opponent. He was going to smile, but seeing Mei Chaofeng arrived his smile froze.

    Wanyan Kang saw his master and was very excited. He immediately stepped forward to pay his respect. Everybody could see these two: master and disciple were actually similar in appearance and could not help but were astonished.

    Master Lu raised his cupped fists and said, “Martial Sister Mei, it’s been twenty long years. Finally we meet here. How is Martial Brother Chen?”

    The Six Freaks exchanged glances with Guo Jing. They clearly heard Master Lu calling her ‘Martial Sister’, and could not help but feel dismayed. Ke Zhen’E was upset. “We fall into a trap today,” he said. “Mei Chaofeng alone is not easy to deal with, now she has her martial brother along.”

    Huang Rong on the other hand secretly nodded her head. “This Master’s martial arts and literature knowledge, as well as his general conduct and manner of speaking resemble those of my father. I had suspected he must have a family relationship with us. Who would have thought he is my father’s disciple.”

    Mei Chaofeng coldly replied, “Is the speaker my martial brother Lu Chengfeng?”

    “Yes, I am,” answered Master Lu. “Has Martial Sister been well since our last meeting?”

    “Why did you ask?” answered Mei Chaofeng. “Both my eyes are blind. Can’t you see it? Your Martial Brother Xuanfeng has been murdered a long time ago. That was your expectation, wasn’t it?”

    Master Lu was both pleasantly surprised and shocked. The Twin Killers of the Dark Wind had roamed the Jianghu and turned it upside-down. How could the Copper Corpse be murdered? But he was also relieved because he had one less formidable enemy; moreover, the one left behind was blind. However, he recalled their apprenticeship together at the Peach Blossom Island, and could not help but feeling sad. “Who had killed Martial Brother Chen?” he sighed and asked. “Has Martial Sister sought revenge?”

    “I have wandered everywhere looking for them,” Mei Chaofeng answered.

    “Let Little Brother help you,” Master Lu said. “Afterward we can sort out our own business.”

    “Humph!” Mei Chaofeng sneered.

    “Mei Chaofeng!” Han Baoju could not hold himself. He slapped the table and shouted, “Your archenemies are here!”

    He was going to pounce on her, but Quan Jinfa quickly pulled him back. Mei Chaofeng on the other hand, was taken aback. “You … you …” she stammered.

    At that time Qiu Qianren – who was silent because he felt chest pain from Guo Jing’s punch, felt his pain subsided. He opened his mouth to say, “What is it you were talking about? Revenge? Why, your own master was killed and you don’t know it? What kind of hero are you?”

    “What did you say?” Mei Chaofeng almost screamed. She tightly crushed Qiu Qianren’s hand that he cried in pain, “Let go! Let go!”

    Mei Chaofeng ignored him, “What did you say?” she repeated.

    “The Master of Peach Blossom Island has been killed!” Qiu Qianren answered.

    Lu Chengfeng was really shocked. “Is that true?” he anxiously asked.

    “Why not true?” Qiu Qianren answered. “He was surrounded and killed by the Quan Zhen Seven Masters, Wang Chongyang’s disciples.”

    Before he finished speaking Mei Chaofeng and Lu Chengfeng have already cried loudly. With a loud thud Huang Rong fell backward from her chair; passed out. Everybody else initially did not believe that with his expertise Huang Yaoshi would easily be killed by anybody, but since it was the Quan Zhen Seven Masters, they had to believe. They knew very well the combined power of Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and the others would be difficult for Huang Yaoshi to fight.

    Guo Jing panic, he hugged Huang Rong and called out, “Rong’er, wake up!” He saw Huang Rong’s countenance was deathly pale and her breathing uneven; he was even more anxious and called his masters, “Master! Master! Help!”

    Zhu Cong immediately came over and examined her nose. “Don’t worry,” he said. “She was only shocked; she is not going to die.” Then he rubbed her ‘lao gong xue’ [lit. fatigue palace acupoint] slowly transferring his internal energy.

    Huang Rong slowly recovered. “Father? Father! I want my Father!” she cried.

    Lu Chengfeng was surprised, but immediately realized. “She is Master’s daughter. No wonder she knew about the ‘Nine Flower Dew Jade Pill’.” He shed some tears and loudly called out, “Little Martial Sister, let us go to those scoundrel priests from Quan Zhen to seek revenge. Mei Chaofeng! Are you … are you coming or not? If you don’t go, let me fight you to the death right now! It … it was because of you that Master had met his fate.”

    Lu Guanying saw his father was too deep in sorrow to speak coherently. He quickly support him and urged, “Father, please don’t be so sad. We need further consideration.”

    Lu Chengfeng ignored his son, he cried louder. “Mei Chaofeng! You b***h! How you have done me much harm! You are shameless! You ran away with your man, it was all right with me, but why did you have to steal Master’s Nine Yin Manual as well? In his anger he had severed our legs’ ligament, we four martial brothers. Not only that, he expelled us from the Peach Blossom Island. I was hoping Master would change his mind and have compassion on us who didn’t do anything deserving our punishment. Now he passed away, my hope is shattered …”

    “I always thought you are spineless,” Mei Chaofeng scolded, “and you are still spineless. Three – four times you have taken other people to deal with us, forcing us – husband and wife to be without shelter, we had to run away for our lives and ended up suffering in the Mongolian desert. Now you don’t have guts to seek revenge for our Master, but nagging to settle your own old debts with me. I’ll say we go and find those seven scoundrels and deal with them. If you can’t walk, I’ll carry you!”

    All the while Huang Rong was still weeping, “Father! I want my Father!”

    Zhu Cong intervened, “Let us ask more clearly,” he said, walking toward Qiu Qianren. He brushed some dust on Qiu Qianren’s clothes and apologetically said, “My young disciple was ignorant and had offended you, he has no regard of seniority.”

    Qiu Qianren was angry, “I am old, my eyes are not clear, I let it slipped. Come, let us fight again!”

    Zhu Cong patted his shoulder, pulled his left hand gently and persuaded with a smile, “Senior is an expert, no need to fight with him.” As soon as they got to the table, Zhu Cong picked a wine cup up with his left hand, while his right hand covered the cup mouth, revolving it around just like Qiu did, and flicked the cup to the table.

    With a clanking sound the wine cup landed on the table, broken into two parts: the cup bottom and about half an inch of porcelain ring. Exactly like what Qiu Qianren demonstrated earlier. Everybody was amazed!

    Zhu Cong smiled and said, “Senior’s skill is extraordinary. Junior has stolen it from you. Please forgive my offense. Many thanks to you.”

    Qiu Qianren’s face changed color immediately. Now everybody knew there must be some tricks somehow, but nobody knew what was really going on.

    “Jing’er, come here!” Zhu Cong called, “Let me teach you a trick, later on you can use it to deceive other people.”

    Guo Jing came near, and Zhu Cong showed him a ring on his left middle finger. “This is the Senior Qiu’s belonging, I borrowed it from him a moment ago. You go ahead and put it on you,” he said while taking the ring off his own finger.

    Qiu Qianren was startled, then fuming mad. He did not understand how the ring on his finger could move to Zhu’s finger. In the meantime Guo Jing had already taken the ring. Zhu Cong explained, “This ring has a diamond piece on it, the hardest material on earth. Put the diamond tip on the wine cup and rotate the cup with your right hand.”

    Guo Jing did so. Now Lu Guanying and the others started to understand. They were unable to restrain a smile and softly murmured among themselves. Guo Jing turned the cup in his right hand and sure enough, the cup was smoothly broken into two parts. If one looked carefully, actually the diamond had left a deep mark on the porcelain pieces; so it wasn’t profound internal energy at all.

    Huang Rong was amused, she was smiling through her tears; but then the memory of her father came flooding back and she cried again.

    “Don’t cry, Miss,” Zhu Cong comforted her, “This Senior Qiu loves to deceive people, and his words cannot be necessarily true.” Huang Rong was puzzled; she looked at him with a questioning look.

    “Your father, the Venerable Huang’s martial art is so profound, how could he be easily killed by other people?” Zhu Cong said with a smile. “Also, the Quan Zhen Seven Masters are respectable people, plus, they have no enmity with your father. How could they kill him without any reason?”

    “Perhaps it was over Qiu Chuji and the other ox-nose’s [derogatory term for Taoist priests] martial uncle Zhou Botong’s business,” Huang Rong expressed her guess.

    “What business is that?” Zhu Cong asked.

    “You don’t know,” Huang Rong said, crying again. Even with her intelligence, she was not really sure what was really happening. First of all, it has something to do with her mother; that Huang Yaoshi did not want to talk too much about. Second, the business between her father and Zhou Botong was more complicated than her young mind could grasp. She did not want to believe the Quan Zhen Seven Masters would attack her father, but the fact was: she was not sure.

    “Whatever it was, I’d say this old man’s word is a little bit smelly,” Zhu Cong said.

    “You mean he was only … only …,” Huang Rong stuttered.

    “Yes, he was just farting!” Zhu Cong laughed. “He has so many tricks stored in his pocket; guess what he would do with them.” Then he groped into his pocket and produced some things which he placed on the table. Among those things were two bricks, some dry grass, a piece of cloth to light up fire, a knife with the same purpose, and a flint.

    Huang Rong took a brick and as soon as she tightened her grips she could feel the brick was soft. She crushed it harder and without too much effort the brick crumbled into powder. After listening to Zhu Cong’s words her sadness was greatly reduced. Her face broke into a smile, showing up her two dimples. “This brick was made from bread flour. He was using it to demonstrate his profound internal energy earlier.”

    Qiu Qianren’s face turned from pale to red and back to pale. He was greatly ashamed. He thought with the news of Huang Yaoshi’s death everybody’s attention could be diverted that he would find an opportunity to escape. Who would have thought that his scheme was revealed by Zhu Cong. He flicked his sleeve and turned around to walk out. But Mei Chaofeng reached backward and snatched his body, then threw it on the ground.

    “You said my Master passed away, did you tell the truth?” she asked menacingly. Qiu Qianren was too much in pain to say anything, he was only whimpering.

    Huang Rong saw the grass was half burnt; she immediately realized what happened. “Second Master, try to light the grass, put it inside your sleeve then inhale and exhale.”

    The Six Freaks of Jiangnan initially had some problem with Huang Rong, but Qiu Qianren’s trickery had united them in facing the common enemy. Zhu Cong happily complied. Actually he liked Huang Rong’s cunning mind and her eccentricity; and now Huang Rong called him ‘Second Master’ he liked her even more. He did what was asked and while doing that, he even closed his eyes and swayed his head solemnly.

    Huang Rong clapped her hands in delight. “Brother Jing,” she said laughing happily, “Didn’t we see this old man practicing his internal strength a while ago exactly like this?” She walked to Qiu Qianren’s side and said, “Stand up!” She pulled him up, but suddenly struck his ‘shen dao’ [holy way?] acupoint under his fifth rib on his back with her left hand, using the ‘lan hua fu xue shou’ [orchid acupoint sealing technique]; while shouting loudly, “Tell me, did my father die? If you say he did, I will take your life away!” With a flip of her hand she placed a shiny butterfly shaped steel on his chest.

    Everybody was amused hearing her threat. She asked him the truth but she didn’t want him to say Huang Yaoshi was dead.

    Qiu Qianren was writhing in pain, also suffering from itch. “I am afraid he is not dead yet. I don’t know …” he said, trembling.

    Huang Rong beamed from ear to ear. “Very good!” she said, “I will spare you.” She struck his ‘que pen’ [open basin] acupoint to ease up his suffering.

    Lu Chengfeng thought, “Little Martial Sister’s question was one-sided and really missed the point.” So he asked, “You said my Master has been killed by the Quan Zhen Seven Masters, did you see it with your own eyes, or did you just hear it from somebody else?”

    “I heard it from somebody else,” Qiu Qianren replied. “Who was it?” Lu Chengfeng pursued.

    Qiu Qianren hesitated, but finally said, “It was Hong Qigong.”

    “When did he tell you that?” asked Huang Rong.

    “About a month ago,” Qiu Qianren answered.

    “Where did you two meet?” Huang Rong asked again.

    “At the summit of Mount Tai [taishan],” Qiu Qianren answered. “We were having a match and he lost to me. He unintentionally mentioned this.”

    Huang Rong was ecstatic. She hopped around like a little kid. Her left hand grabbed his chest, her right hand pulled away some of his beard. Giggling she said, “Hong Qigong lost to this old scoundrel? Martial Sister Mei, Martial Brother Lu, don’t listen to him, he was just … just …” Being a girl she didn’t have a heart to say vulgar language.

    Zhu Cong continued for her, “He was just farting!” then he covered his mouth, laughing.

    Huang Rong continued, “A month ago Hong Qigong was obviously with Brother Jing and I. Brother Jing, give him another blow!”

    “Right!” Guo Jing said, moving toward Qiu Qianren.

    Qiu Qianren was scared; he turned around to escape, but Mei Chaofeng was standing in the middle of the door. He turned around again, but this time Lu Guanying blocked his way. He quickly pushed until Guanying staggered and fell. Even though he gained his fame by deceiving people, Qiu Qianren still possessed some real martial art skill. If he didn’t, he would not recklessly dare to challenge the Six Freaks and Guo Jing. Lu Guanying was certainly not his match.

    Huang Rong jumped to block him. “You carried an iron cauldron over your head and walked on water, how did you do it?” she asked.

    “That was my special skill,” Qiu Qianren answered. “My title is ‘Iron Palm Floating above the Water’; that was the ‘Floating above the Water’.”

    “You are still boasting,” Huang Rong said with a smile. “Aren’t you going to tell me the truth?”

    “I am old, my martial art is not as it used to be,” Qiu Qianren answered. “But my lightness kungfu has been trained to perfection.”

    “Very well,” Huang Rong said, “There is a large golden fish bowl outside at the courtyard. Why don’t you demonstrate your ‘Floating above the Water’ that everybody can see your skill? Just go out the hall, turn left underneath the sweet-smelling ‘gui hua’ [osmanthus] tree.”

    “How can someone trains in a fish bowl …?” Qiu Qianren had not finished speaking when something flashed brightly in front of his eyes, and without him realizing it his foot had been caught and he was hung upside down.

    “Your death is imminent, yet you still open your big mouth!” Mei Chaofeng shouted. Her ‘du long yin bian’ [poisonous silver dragon whip] curled midair and hurled him toward the fish bowl following Huang Rong’s direction.

    Huang Rong quickly followed to the fish bowl, waving her butterfly shaped steel menacingly. “I won’t let you out of the bowl unless you explain to me your ‘Floating above the Water’!”

    Qiu Qianren kicked the bowl bottom, trying to leap up, but Huang Rong’s steel punctured him on the shoulder. He fell back into the bowl, soaking wet. With face cringed from pain he said, “That cauldron was inlaid with thin sheet of iron, the mouth was sealed, above it I put three inches deep of water. In that creek I had hidden some wooden poles about five, six inches from the surface; to make them invisible.”

    Huang Rong laughed, then she re-entered the hall, did not pay Qiu Qianren any more attention. He quickly leaped up the bowl and hastily ran out the hall without looking back.

    Mei Chaofeng and Lu Chengfeng smiled in embarrassment. They have fought and cried over nothing. Their master was not killed. Everything was that old scoundrel Qiu Qianren’s blabbering mouth. Now that this matter was made clear, they felt uneasy toward each other. Mei Chaofeng hesitated for a moment, then clearing her throat she said, “Lu Chengfeng, let my disciple go. For the sake of our Master I won’t remember our past differences anymore. As for the fact that both of us husband and wife had to run to Mongolia … oh well, that was our fate.”

    Lu Chengfeng heaved a deep sigh. He said in his heart, “Her husband had died, her eyes blinded. She is alone and forsaken in this world. Both my legs are crippled, but I have a wife and a son. I have a family and I have a business. Actually my condition is hundred times better than hers. Both of us are decades older than we were, why would I keep having a resentment toward her?” Therefore, he answered, “You can take your disciple away. Mei Shijie [older martial sister], your little brother will leave for the Peach Blossom Island to visit our benevolent master tomorrow. Are you coming with me?”

    “Do you dare?” Mei Chaofeng asked with a trembling voice.

    “To visit the Peach Blossom Island without Master’s permission is a big violation of our school, but after listening to that old man Qiu talking nonsense, my heart was troubled. I want to make sure he is all right. If I don’t go, I will be haunted with uncertainty for the rest of my life.”

    Before Mei Chaofeng could answer Huang Rong had already said, “Let us all go together. I will ask his forgiveness on your behalf.”

    Mei Chaofeng was silent for a moment. Two lines of tears flowed down her cheeks. “I don’t have a face to see him,” she sadly said. “Benevolent Master had compassion on a wretched child like me. He took me as his disciple and raised me up. But because of wild ambition I have betrayed him …” Suddenly she lifted her head and shout, “I only want to seek revenge for my husband. Afterward, I know what to do. The Seven Freaks of Jiangnan, let us sort out our business now. Martial Brother Lu, Little Martial Sister, you stand aside, don’t even think of interfering. No matter who live or who die, I don’t want you to help either side. Do you hear?”

    Ke Zhen’E walked in big strides to the main hall. His iron staff knocked the brick floor, then clearly he said with his hoarse voice, “Mei Chaofeng, you can’t see me, neither can I see you. That night when we fought on that barren hill, your husband died a violent death, but our fifth brother had also died in your hands. Did you know that?”

    “Oh, so only six of you left?” Mei Chaofeng asked.

    “We promised Taoist Priest Ma Yu to no longer seek enmity toward you, but it is you that actually looking for us. Good! Even though the world is wide, we always meet each other. Looks like the heaven won’t allow the six of us to co-exist with you in this world. Come!” Ke Zhen’E coldly said.

    Mei Chaofeng snorted. “You six people can come together,” she said icily.

    Zhu Cong and the other Freaks quickly arranged themselves near their elder brother, guarding against Mei Chaofeng’s sudden attack. Everybody unsheathed their weapons.

    Suddenly Guo Jing moved forward. “Let disciple fight her first,” he said.

    Lu Chengfeng was in an awkward situation. He heard Mei Chaofeng challenged and the six accepted. He did not know how to be the mediator. He hated himself for not having authority or influence over these people. But hearing Guo Jing an idea suddenly came to his mind. He quickly said, “Both sides please hold your hands for a moment. Please listen to Little Brother’s word. Although Mei Shijie and the Jiangnan Six have deep enmity between you, but each side had suffer an unfortunate loss. In the Little Brother’s opinion, no more blood needs to be shed. Let today’s match only decides victory or defeat, please don’t deepen the enmity anymore. The Six Freaks, although they always face enemy together, still it is six against one; which, in my opinion, is not fair. Why doesn’t Mei Shijie teach several moves to this young Brother Guo?”

    Mei Chaofeng snorted and coldly said, “How could I fight an unknown junior?”

    “Your husband died in my hands. What does it have to do with my Masters?” Guo Jing called out.

    Mei Chaofeng was furious. She jumped and shouted, “Precisely! I will kill you little scoundrel first!” By listening to voices she knew where her enemy position was. Her five fingers were stretched toward Guo Jing’s skull.

    Guo Jing leaped to avoid the attack. “Senior Mei!” he called out. “I was really young and ignorant. I accidentally killed your husband. One has to be responsible for one’s own action. Today you wanted to kill me; I won’t run away. But what if you still look for my Masters in the future?” He realized he was no match to Mei Chaofeng and was ready to die under her fingers; but was determined to protect his Masters in any way.

    “You really aren’t going to run away?” Mei Chaofeng asked.

    “No!” Guo Jing asserted.

    “Good!” shouted Mei Chaofeng. “I am willing to write off the Six Freaks’ debt. Good boy, come follow me!”

    “Mei Shijie, he is a real man. You on the other hand, will be the laughingstock of the heroes of Jianghu!” Huang Rong suddenly called out.

    “How come?” Mei Chaofeng was angry.

    “He is the only heir of Jiangnan’s Six Freaks’ skills,” Huang Rong explained. “The Six Freaks martial arts cannot be compared to the past. It really is a piece of cake if they really wanted to take your life. But actually they have forgiven you. Not only that, they also gave you face. It was you who don’t know the good from the bad; yet you are still boasting.”

    “Bah! I want them to forgive me?” Mei Chaofeng was furious. “Six Freaks, your martial arts improved greatly? Want to try?”

    “Why would they want to personally fight you? Even their disciple won’t necessarily lose to you,” Huang Rong said.

    Mei Chaofeng was so angry she almost screamed, “If I can’t kill him in three stances, I will kill myself right here right now.” She had fought Guo Jing in the Zhao palace that she thought she knew his level of martial arts. What she didn’t know was that in the past few months Guo Jing had received the tutelage of the Nine-fingered Divine Beggar, that his skill now couldn’t be compared with his skill then.

    “Good!” Huang Rong said, “Let all the people here bear witness. Three stances are too few, let’s give you ten.”

    “I will accompany Senior Mei for fifteen stances,” said Guo Jing. He only learned fifteen out of the eighteen moves of the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’, hence he thought he could at least survive fifteen stances.

    “Ask Martial Brother Lu and the guest who accompany you to be the witnesses,” Huang Rong added.

    “Who accompanies me?” Mei Chaofeng was taken aback. “I rushed to this village alone. Who came with me?”

    “Who is that behind you then?” Huang Rong asked.

    Mei Chaofeng threw a backward punch, quick as lightning. Nobody saw the man moved, but her attack hit an empty space. That person moved like he was a ghost or spirit; the amazing part was that he moved without making any sound.

    After she arrived in the south (Jiangnan), Mei Chaofeng always had a feeling that somebody was following her, but no matter how she spoke or she attacked, she could not even hear anything. She thought she was losing her mind, or it was a ghost haunting her. And then she heard the flute driving away the snakes, she was certain someone with a very high level of martial arts was shadowing her. She tried to express her gratitude to the air, but nobody answered. She waited among the trees, but was not sure if that person had already left. Now she heard Huang Rong spoke, she was unable to hide her feeling.

    “Who are you?” she tremblingly asked, “What do you want from me?”

    That person did not answer. Nobody knew if he even heard the question. Mei Chaofeng thrust herself forward. That person did not seem to move but again she did not touch anything. Everybody was stunned. They had never seen someone with this person immeasurable skill.

    Lu Chengfeng boldly asked, “Honorable Guest had come from a long way, I have not had the opportunity to welcome you. Would you please sit down and have a drink with me?”

    That person turned around, seemingly floating on air he went outside.

    Mei Chaofeng gathered her courage and asked, “Is Honorable Senior the one who played the flute to help me? Mei Chaofeng is deeply grateful.”

    Nobody was able to restrain their amazement, being a blind woman, Mei Chaofeng had very sharp ears, but she could not hear that person leaving the hall.

    “Mei Shijie, that person has already left,” Huang Rong said.

    Mei Chaofeng was startled. “He did? I … How could I not hear him?”

    “Go after him quickly, don’t boast yourself in here,” Huang Rong said.

    Mei Chaofeng was dumbfounded. Her face showed sadness, yet there was a tinge of anger. Suddenly she shouted, “Guo Kid, take this!” She lifted both hands with all ten fingers stretched, emanating a spooky bluish green light under the candlelight; but she did not attack.

    “I am here,” Guo Jing said.

    As soon as Mei Chaofeng heard the word ‘I’ her right hand moved, followed by her left hand’s five fingers toward Guo Jing’s face.

    Guo Jing saw her fast movement; he slightly leaned his body sideways and sending his left palm toward her. Mei Chaofeng heard the sound of the palm and was about to evade, but she was not fast enough for the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ exquisite move and her shoulder was struck. She was shaken and was forced to step back three steps. But her martial art was not weak. While stepping backward she sent her fingernails to counterattack. Guo Jing was taken by surprise; his right wrist was caught by Mei Chaofeng on three acupoints: ‘nei guan’ [inner gate], ‘wai guan’ [outer gate], and ‘hui zong’ [ancestor meeting]. Guo Jing had carefully heeded his masters warning, that Mei Chaofeng’s ‘nine yin white bone claw’ [jiu yin bai gu zhua] was very lethal; hence he guarded himself carefully. But now he could not avoid being grasped by those deadly fingers. “Not good!” he screamed. His whole body felt weak. In that critical moment he managed to bend his two fingers; and with his hand forming a half-palm-half-fist he hit her chest. That was the ‘qian long wu yong’ [hidden dragon is useless (?)]. It was supposed to be followed by his left hook – a brilliant stance difficult to fend off; but since his left wrist was in the enemy’s hand; he could only launch a half stance. But the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ was amazing; half stance was no small matter.

    Mei Chaofeng heard the wind generated by this half-palm-half-fist move was incredible; she did not dare to parry, but tried to elude it. Still her shoulder was hit real hard and she was forced to let Guo Jing go.

    Guo Jing was struggling to free himself; he pulled hard, so when his hand was suddenly free both people were thrown backward and each hit a pillar. The roof was shaken; bricks, stones and dust fell down the hall. Many village people cried and ran out to escape.

    The Six Freaks of Jiangnan looked at each other with amazement but pleasantly surprised. “Where did Jing’er learn this kungfu?” they asked in their heart. Han Baoju looked at Huang Rong suspiciously; he thought she was the one who taught Guo Jing and secretly felt admiration, “Peach Blossom Island martial art is amazing.”

    By now Guo Jing and Mei Chaofeng had engaged themselves in a fierce battle. Palms, fists, and claws were exchanged. Mei Chaofeng was furious; she fought with gusto. Guo Jing was calm but agile. Both had exerted their full strength, the hall was filled with the sound of their blows.

    Suddenly Mei Chaofeng jumped vertically; her attack seemed to come from every direction, one after another, ever changing. Guo Jing knew this attack was fierce; he would suffer defeat if he let any opening in his defense line. He recalled Hong Qigong’s lesson on how to deal with Huang Rong’s ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ [fallen (flower) divine sword palm]; no matter how much changes his opponent executed he steadily used 15 moves out of the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’.

    By repeating these 15 moves he was able to defend himself for forty – fifty moves; without giving Mei Chaofeng even half a step advantage.

    Huang Rong was keeping her eyes on her ‘Brother Jing’ with smile on her pretty face. The Six Freaks stood with amazement, sometimes clucking their tongues in praise. Lu Chengfeng and his son could only look in dismay.

    “Mei Shijie has improved so much,” Lu Chengfeng thought. “If I had to fight her, I will certainly lose my life in only ten moves ... This young Brother Guo, how could he master such a profound kungfu in his young age? I was really blind … Luckily I had not been careless or indiscreet, but treated him with nothing but politeness and respect.”

    Wanyan Kang was also upset, “I was supposed to contest this boy; but with his kungfu, how could I win?”

    “Mei Shijie, you have been fighting for more than 80 moves. Why don’t you admit defeat?” Huang Rong loudly called out. Actually they have fought for only about 60 moves, but she exaggerated by adding twenty more moves.

    Mei Chaofeng was fuming mad. “I have trained hard for dozens of years but cannot cope with this kid?” she thought. She ignored Huang Rong’s remark and increased the speed of her attacks. Her kungfu was actually many times better than Guo Jing’s; but first, she was put at a disadvantage because of her blindness, and second, she could not think straight because her heart was filled with rage in her effort to seek revenge for her husband. Anger is a big taboo in a battle between two martial art experts. Third, Guo Jing had the advantage of youth’s strength, plus he had mastered most of the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’. Therefore, the battle between these two was really fierce.

    After about a hundred moves, Mei Chaofeng started to recognize and became more familiar with Guo Jing’s 15 moves. She knew Guo Jing’s line of defense was formidable; she could feel the wind from more than ten feet away. But she also knew that performing the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ took a lot of energy, and her internal energy was stronger than Guo Jing’s; therefore, Mei Chaofeng changed her tactic and was trying to tire him off. She used the Nine Yin White Bone Claw and ‘cui xin zhang’ [Devastating Heart Palm Technique] interchangeably.

    Huang Rong knew if this fight were prolonged, Guo Jing would suffer defeat. “Mei Shijie, it’s more than 100 moves, quickly it will reach the 200th move. You still don’t want to admit defeat?” she called. But Mei Chaofeng turned a deaf ear and increased the intensity of her attacks.

    Suddenly Huang Rong got an idea; she leaped to a nearby pillar and called out, “Brother Jing, look at me!” Guo Jing launched two moves in succession: ‘li she da chuan’ [wading a wide creek] and ‘hong jian yu lu’ [phoenix slowly arise from the land], and managed to push Mei Chaofeng back far enough so that he could turn his eyes to Huang Rong. He saw her running around the pillar and made some hand signals; but did not understand what she wanted. So she called out again, “Fight in here!”

    Finally Guo Jing understood; he turned around and leaped toward a nearby pillar. Mei Chaofeng followed with her five fingers to grab him, but her claw ended up penetrating the pillar. As a blind woman, she distinguished sound to know the whereabouts of her opponent; but the pillar was fixed in place and did not make any sound at all. So when Guo Jing hid behind one, how would she know?

    As soon as Guo Jing overcame his surprised he immediately launched a palm which Mei Chaofeng parried. Two forces collided and both was pushed back several steps and Mei Chaofeng’s fingers were freed from the pillar. Mei Chaofeng was very angry; she did not waste another second and before Guo Jing could steady himself she sent another attack his way.

    Guo Jing was able to elude, but his clothes were ripped and his arm was scratched from her fingernails. Luckily he was not injured, but Mei Chaofeng had scared the hell out of him. Guo Jing quickly counterattacked by launching three successive moves combined with hiding behind the pillar. Mei Chaofeng shouted angrily, once again her fingers pierced the pillar.

    Actually Guo Jing did not want to take advantage of her blindness, so he loudly called out, “Senior Mei, my kungfu is far inferior to yours; please show me mercy!”

    Everybody could see that Guo Jing had gained an upper hand albeit with the help of the pillar. They knew he was giving Mei Chaofeng a face by asking her to stop. Lu Chengfeng also thought that this was a good time to stop the fight.

    But Mei Chaofeng coldly said, “If we are competing martial arts, after I could not defeat you in three moves I should have admitted defeat. But today’s fight is not a martial art competition; it is I am seeking revenge for my husband. I have already lost to you, but I still want to kill you!” As soon as she finished speaking both arms launched successive attacks: three times with her right hand and another three with her left. All attacks hit the pillar squarely on. Finally both her hands hit the pillar at the same time. With a loud crack the pillar broke and the roof collapsed.

    The people in the hall were pugilists; even though they were shocked but they could jump out to escape. Lu Guanying grabbed his father and rushed outside; right in time before half of the hall was covered in debris. Unfortunately the Jin’s officer was not able to escape; his legs were pinched underneath a beam. He was screaming for help. Wanyan Kang rushed to his rescue: he lifted the beam up, pulled him up, and grabbed his hands to get out of the hall. But as soon as they turned their back suddenly they felt numbness without knowing who had sealed their acupoints.

    Mei Chaofeng had always concentrated her attention to Guo Jing. As soon as she heard Guo Jing moved she followed. By now under the heavy cloud the outside was dark. As soon as everybody was able to calm himself or herself, they could see Guo Jing – Mei Chaofeng fight became fiercer than ever. They fought under the dim starlight; both parties exchanged swift blows one after another, creating gusts of wind everywhere. Compared to the fight inside the hall this fight was more intense.

    The dark was disadvantageous to Guo Jing; he started to fall under Mei Chaofeng’s attacks. Mei Chaofeng’s left leg made a sweeping move, followed by her right leg kicked toward his legs. If he were hit, his leg would break for sure. But this kick was a trick move. Unexpectedly Mei Chaofeng held her leg half way and her left arm grabbed Guo Jing’s leg. Lu Guanying was looking from the sideline. “Watch out!” he cried. He had experienced defeat under Wanyan Kang with this exactly same move.

    In this dangerous situation Guo Jing tried hard to overcome his fear; he used his left hand to parry Mei Chaofeng’s hand. He was fast enough, but his strength was waning. As soon as their hands collided, Mei Chaofeng understood his situation. She immediately turned her hand around and used her three fingers: middle, ring, and little fingers to scratch the back of Guo Jing’s hand. Guo Jing also realized the danger he was in; his right palm thrust toward her. It was a fierce attack, if Mei Chaofeng did not back off, both of them would be injured. Mei Chaofeng avoided the attack by leaping sideway; then she uttered a sinister laugh.

    Guo Jing felt his left hand numb and itchy, then burning sensation. Lowering his head he saw three scratch marks on the back of his left palm. The scratches were bleeding only a little bit, but the blood slowly turned black. Suddenly he remembered the time he climbed that hill in the Mongolian desert; where he saw nine skulls Mei Chaofeng left behind. Priest Ma Yu had told him that Mei’s fingernails contained lethal poison. He knew immediately that his life was in grave danger.

    “Rong’er, I have been poisoned!” he called out. Without waiting for Huang Rong’s respond he immediately jumped and threw both palms toward Mei Chaofeng. His intention was to seize her and force her to hand over the antidote. It was his only chance of survival.

    Mei Chaofeng realized the fierceness of his attack; she jumped back to elude. Huang Rong and the others were greatly shocked by Guo Jing’s revelation. Almost together Ke Zhen’E with his iron staff followed by Huang Rong and the rest of the Six Freaks jumped and surrounded Mei Chaofeng.

    “Mei Shijie!” Huang Rong shouted, “You have already lost! How could you keep fighting? Quickly take the antidote out and save him!”

    Mei Chaofeng felt Guo Jing’s attack was both swift and fierce; she did not dare to lose her concentration by replying to Huang Rong’s remark; but in her heart she was delighted, “The more you exert your energy, the quicker the poison will attack your system. If I were to die here and now, I have succeeded in seeking my husband’s revenge.”

    Guo Jing felt his vision blurred and his head dizzy; his whole body felt weak. He gradually lost control of his left arm; that he decided to stop fighting. The poison started to enter his system. If he had not drunk the snake’s blood he would have died by now.

    Huang Rong saw his stupor condition and loudly called out, “Brother Jing! Get back!” Taking out her butterfly steel needle she jumped toward Mei Chaofeng.

    Guo Jing heard her call and it raised his spirit. He thrust his left palm with the eleventh stance of the ’18-dragon subduing palms’, the ‘tu ru qi lai’ [sudden movement(?)]; only his arm moved slower than it was supposed to.

    Huang Rong, Han Baoju, Nan Xiren and Quan Jinfa; four people moved together to attack Mei Chaofeng; but they saw Guo Jing’s palm squarely hit Mei Chaofeng’s shoulder and she fell down without even try to fend off. Mei Chaofeng relied on her ears to locate her opponent’s movement; and Guo Jing’s attack was so slow it did not make any noise, that was the reason she was easily hit.

    Huang Rong was startled, but Han, Nan and Quan, three people had simultaneously threw themselves on Mei Chaofeng’s body to seize her. But she struggled and was able to send Han Baoju and Quan Jinfa flying backward; while at the same time struck backward to grasp Nan Xiren’s arm. Nan Xiren saw this attack and rolled himself out of the way.

    Mei Chaofeng took advantage of this chaotic situation to leap up, but unexpectedly Guo Jing’s palm arrived at her back and she tumbled down one more time. Guo Jing’s palm was swift and silent, but actually it was weak. Even though she was hit on her vital part, she was not injured.

    After sending his attack twice Guo Jing’s energy was depleted; he staggered and fell down right next to Mei Chaofeng. Huang Rong immediately threw herself his way to protect him.

    Mei Chaofeng heard someone was falling on her side, without wasting a single moment she sent her five fingers to grab, but to her surprise she felt pricking pain. She realized she had hit the thorns on Huang Rong’s ‘ruan wei jia’ [soft hedgehog armor]. Hastily she used ‘li yu da ting’ [carp style leaping] to get away.

    Suddenly somebody shouted, “Take this!” and something was thrown her way. Mei Chaofeng did not know what was being thrown to her; so she just lifted her right arm to parry. That thing fell down and broke to pieces. Turned out it was a chair.

    That chair was followed by another thing, bigger than the first. This time the Iron Corpse stretched her left hand to grab. It was a tabletop; wide and slippery, so she could not have a good grasp. Who threw all these things to her? It was Zhu Cong. He immediately threw a couple of table legs her way. Mei Chaofeng lifted her leg and kicked the table away. Zhu Cong eluded the table but at the same time stretched his right hand and suddenly Mei Chaofeng felt three things fell down her collar. They were cold and slippery, and kept wiggling inside her clothes. She was scared, “What are these things? Is it some witchcraft or secret weapons?” Hastily she groped around her clothes and caught three goldfish.

    She was relieved, but suddenly she froze! Her porcelain bottle of antidote had disappeared, along with her dagger and the scroll of Nine Yin Manual, which was wrapped around the dagger.

    The three goldfish were from the fish bowl that was crushed when the roof collapsed. Zhu Cong knew Mei Chaofeng was careful and could not easily deceived, unlike Peng Lianhu or Qiu Qianren; so he used the goldfish to divert her attention while at the same time executed his quick hand to pull away Mei Chaofeng’s pocket’s content. He took the porcelain bottle out, pulled its plug and took it to Ke Zhen’E to smell while whispered softly, “Well?”

    Ke Zhen’E himself was an expert in using poison. As soon as he smelled the antidote he said, “To be taken orally, also to be applied to the wound. This is the antidote.”

    Mei Chaofeng heard their conversation and immediately realized what happened. Furiously she leaped toward them. Ke Zhen’E swung his iron staff to block her, assisted by Han Baoju’s ‘jin long bian’ [golden dragon whip], Quan Jinfa’s ‘cheng gan’ [balance beam - a merchant’s weight scale], and Nan Xiren’s ‘chun gang bian dan’ [carrying pole made of pure steel]. Mei Chaofeng quickly put her hand to her waist to retrieve her own whip but suddenly she heard a gust of wind from a sword coming her way. It was Han Xiaoying. She was forced to parry this attack first.

    Meanwhile Zhu Cong gave the antidote to Huang Rong. “Have him swallow some, then spread some on his wound,” he said. And then he also put the dagger he took from Mei Chaofeng to Guo Jing’s pocket. “This dagger was yours,” he said and joining his brothers and sister he lifted his iron fan to attack Mei Chaofeng. The six had trained hard these past ten years and had improved their martial arts considerably; therefore, this battle was many times fiercer than the one on that Mongolian barren hill.

    Lu Chengfeng and his son were amazed witnessing this fierce battle. “Mei Chaofeng’s martial art is no doubt swift, fierce and ruthless; but these Six Freaks of Jiangnan are certainly live up to their names,” they thought. “Ladies and gentlemen, please stop! Please listen to what I have to say!” Lu Chengfeng loudly shouted. But both parties were fighting fiercely, who would actually have time to listen to him?

    Not long after he took the antidote, Guo Jing was slowly regaining his consciousness. The poison attacked his system fast, but the antidote also neutralized it fast. His wound was still hurting, but he was able to move his left arm. After putting the dagger away he immediately jumped and joined the battle. As before, he started slowly, and when his palm was almost touching Mei Chaofeng’s body, he added more strength. It was the stance ‘zhen jing bai li’ [hundred li’s shocks]. Mei Chaofeng was busy fending off her attackers and could not hear Guo Jing’s palm. Suddenly she was hit and fell down immediately right at the moment when Han Baoju’s whip and Nan Xiren’s pole were coming down on her.

    Guo Jing bent his waist and parried these two weapons. “Masters! Please forgive her!” he shouted. The Six Freaks complied. They held their weapons and leaped back.

    Mei Chaofeng stood up and got ready to fight again. Knowing that Guo Jing was fierce and she could not see, she took out her ‘du long yin bian’ and readied it in front of her. Guo Jing did not move, “We are not going to fight you anymore. You are free to go!” he shouted.

    Mei Chaofeng put her whip back and said, “Please give my manual back.” Zhu Cong was puzzled. “I did not take your manual,” he said. “You know the Seven Freaks have never lied.” He did not realize that the skin wrapped around the dagger was the Nine Yin Manual.

    Mei Chaofeng knew even though the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan had deep enmity toward her, but they always meant what they said and never deceived anybody. She thought the manual must have fallen down when she was fighting Guo Jing a moment ago. So she bent her knees and groped around the floor looking for the manual. Where could that manual be?

    A blind lady groping around the floor made a pitiful scene. Lu Chengfeng told his son, “Guanying, help your Martial Uncle Mei to look.” But in his heart he actually thought that the manual belonged to his Master, therefore, it must be returned to the Master. He faked a cough to signal his son, and Lu Guanying understood. He nodded. Guo Jing was also looking around, but where did that manual go?

    “Mei Shijie,” Lu Chengfeng said, “Your manual is not here, perhaps you dropped it on your way here.”

    Mei Chaofeng did not answer; she kept groping around. Suddenly everybody’s eyes were blurred and that green-robed man reappeared beside her. His movement was so swift that nobody saw anything but Mei Chaofeng’s body was lifted off the ground and an instant later they were gone and vanished among the trees outside the hall. Mei Chaofeng was very skilled, yet that man had captured her without any struggle. They looked at each other in blank dismay. This person’s skill was unbelievable.

    The hall was quiet; the only distant noise was from the waves of the lake striking the shore. A long while later Ke Zhen’E broke the silence. “My young disciple had fought that wicked woman and damaged your mansion. I feel deep regret.”

    “I do not dare,” Lu Chengfeng answered. “The Six Freaks and Hero Guo have visited our place today; that was an honor to us all; not mentioning that you have helped my family escape a disaster. What Hero Ke just said, wouldn’t that make us look like outsiders?”

    “I request the honorable guests to take a rest inside the hall,” Lu Guanying added. “Brother Guo, are you still in pain?”

    “I am all right,” answered Guo Jing. At that moment the green-robed man came back along with Mei Chaofeng. They stood in front of the hall. Mei Chaofeng put her hands on her waist and shouted, “Guo Kid! You have used Hong Qigong’s ’18-dragon subduing palms’ to fight me. I am blind and could not see your moves. Mei Chaofeng did not care about life or death, victory or defeat; but if this matter were spread out in the Jianghu world, wouldn’t the reputation of my Benevolent Master of Peach Blossom Island be ruined? Come! Let us fight again!”

    “I am not your match to begin with,” Guo Jing honestly answered. “I took advantage of your blindness to protect my own life. I have admitted defeat a while ago.”

    “The ’18-dragon subduing palms’ have 18 moves,” Mei Chaofeng asked, “Why did you only use part of it?”

    “Because I am not smart …” Guo Jing answered; Huang Rong had signaled him not to reveal his secret, but Guo Jing continued, “… Senior Hong taught me only 15 moves.”

    “Very good!” Mei Chaofeng said. “You only know 15 moves yet you defeated Mei Chaofeng. Is that old man Hong Qigong really good? No! I can’t take it. We must fight again!”

    Everybody felt strange; apparently Mei Chaofeng did not come back to avenge her husband, but to dispute Huang Yaoshi and Hong Qigong’s reputation.

    Guo Jing was still calm. “Miss Huang is younger than I am, but I still am not her match, how could I be your match?” he said. “I have always admired Peach Blossom Island’s martial arts.”

    “Mei Shijie,” Huang Rong interrupted. “What are you talking about? Who in the world can exceed Father’s martial art skill?

    “No way! I must fight him again!” Mei Chaofeng insisted. Without waiting for Guo Jing to answer she stretched her claw toward him. Guo Jing could not hold himself much longer; he eluded the attack and said, “If that’s the case, I will ask Senior Mei to teach me some lessons.” Then he launched a strong counterattack.

    Mei Chaofeng parried it by turning her claw out. “Use your silent moves!” she said, “You are not my match if you are using loud moves.”

    Guo Jing leaped back several steps and said, “My First Master Ke’s eyes are not perfect. I loathe it if others bully him with silent moves. How could I use silent moves to bully you? I was injured by your poison and at that critical moment I inadvertently use a silent move. If we fight fair and square, frankly I am not your match.”

    Mei Chaofeng could hear the sincerity in his voice, her heart was stirred. “This kid is kind hearted,” she thought. But she shouted, “I told you to use your silent moves. I have a way to counter it, why do you keep nagging like an old woman?”

    Guo Jing looked at that strange green-robed man. “Could it be that he taught her how to cope with silent moves just now?” he thought. But because Mei Chaofeng insisted he did not have any choice but to comply. “Very well,” he finally said. “I will fight you another 15 moves.” He thought that by using the 15 out of 18 dragon subduing palms he might not win, but at least he could defend himself.

    Guo Jing jumped to get closer to her, then continued by tiptoeing forward, slowly sent his palm to strike. But before his palm hit its target he heard a light sound and Mei Chaofeng’s turn her wrist to grab his hand. It was like her eyes were not blind at all. Guo Jing was surprised, he immediately pull his left palm and slid his body to the left to launch the [wading a wide creek] slowly.

    His palm had only moved several inches when again he heard a light sound and Mei Chaofeng had already blocked his attack. Guo Jing retracted his palm a little bit slower that Mei Chaofeng’s fingernails swept very close to his face. He hastily leaped back and thought, “How could she know where my next attack would be?”

    His third attack was his fiercest stance, the ‘kang long you hui’ [the proud dragon show remorse] but again, following a light sound Mei Chaofeng’s steel-like fingernails moved to grab his wrist. Guo Jing knew the secret must be on that light sound, so with his fourth move he stole a glance at that strange man. This time he was able to see that man flicked something to the air and that thing created a light sound.

    “Ah, it really is him!” Guo Jing understood. “But how could he know where my next move will be? Hmmm … it was like the time when Huang Rong fought that old man Liang Ziwong; Hong Qigong had broken his attacks in advance. Now this man is using the same method to defeat me. All right, I’ll fight for the full 15 moves, and then I will admit defeat.”

    Even though the stances of the ’18-dragon subduing palms’ did not change and Guo Jing did not learn the whole set, but his attacks were not light. However, Mei Chaofeng always knew in advance where his attack would go and sometimes she would move ahead of Guo Jing that instead of in the defensive, she was actually on the offensive.

    Several moves later that strange man flicked three pebbles in succession. Mei Chaofeng was following the sound and launched three attacks one after another. Guo Jing was forced to elude one and only managed to parry the other two.

    The fight was getting fiercer; the wind generated by their hands was getting stronger. Periodically the light sound of the pebble was heard. Huang Rong understood the situation was not favorable. She silently picked some debris from the floor and flicked them away. Some were just aimed at nothing in particular, trying to confuse Mei Chaofeng; some were aimed to hit the strange man’s pebbles down. But unexpectedly the man’s pebbles were amazing; they were not knocked down by Huang Rong’s debris, on the contrary, Huang Rong’s debris was knocked down while his pebbles kept flying. Hence his clues to Mei Chaofeng were not hindered.

    Lu Chengfeng and his son, along with the Six Freaks were greatly amazed. “The strength from this man's fingers is amazing; how is he capable of giving the pebble this kind of force? Even an arrow would not create such a strong noise. If this pebble hits someone, wouldn’t that someone’s bones be shattered by it?” they thought.

    By now Huang Rong had stopped her intervention. She stood and stared blankly at that strange man. In the meantime Guo Jing was starting to lose; Mei Chaofeng’s attacks became swifter and fiercer.

    Suddenly two loud hums were heard; two pebbles flew from the strange man’s hand. The first one was slower than the latter one. The latter hit the first and two pebbles broke into pieces and flew to all directions. Mei Chaofeng took that opportunity to pounce on Guo Jing. He stumbled trying to avoid the attack. Remembering Nan Xiren’s advice, ‘da bu guo, tao!’ [if no match, run!] he turned around and ran away.

    Out of the blue Huang Rong cried out, “Father!” And she rushed toward the strange man, threw herself at his bosom and loudly cried, “Father! Your face … what happened to your face …?” Nobody expected this, so the strange man stood still without saying anything.

    Guo Jing turned around and saw Mei Chao Feng stood very close to him. She was trying to listen to the sound of the pebble. Guo Jing saw a very good opportunity and sent his right palm slowly toward her shoulder using only about 10% of his strength. But as soon as his palm hit, his left palm followed with a full strength. Mei Chao Feng was squarely hit by both palms and fell tumbling down; she was not able to stand back up.

    Lu Chengfeng heard Huang Rong called that strange man her father; he was overwhelmed with joy and sorrow at the same time. He forgot his legs were lame and jumped toward the man, but fell face down on the floor.

    The strange man let his left arm in Huang Rong’s embrace and lifted his right hand to slowly take off a thin mask from his face. He was wearing a genuine skin mask; no wonder his face was emotionless like that of a corpse. His true complexion was clear and good-looking, with a hint of sadness yet bore an aura of dignity around him; resembling an image of deity.

    Huang Rong had not dried her tears yet she screamed in joy; snatched the mask and wore it on her own face while bouncing up and down and hugged that man’s neck, giggling incessantly. That man was indeed the Peach Blossom Island Master, Huang Yaoshi.

    “Father, why did you come over here?” she asked, grinning from ear to ear. “That old man Qiu had said bad things about you. Why didn’t you teach him a lesson?”

    “Why did I come?” Huang Yaoshi sternly asked. “I came looking for you!” Huang Rong was ecstatic, she clapped her hands and shouted, “Father! You are looking for me? Wonderful! That’s just wonderful!”

    “What do you mean ‘wonderful’?” Huang Yaoshi asked. “Do you think it was wonderful to find a useless girl like you?”

    Huang Rong felt bad. She knew after losing the second half of the Nine Yin Manual to his own disciple, Chen Xuanfeng and Mei Chaofeng, her father had determined to master the skill with his own intelligence. He once said that the Nine Yin Manual was created by a human being. If other man could create it, why wouldn’t he be able to re-create it? He then made a vow not to leave the Peach Blossom Island until he had mastered the skill. Unexpectedly his prodigal daughter had run away that he was forced to break his own vow and came looking for her.

    “Father, I promise to be a good daughter and will listen to you from now on until the day I die,” Huang Rong solemnly promised.

    Huang Yaoshi was very happy to find his daughter well; and now listening to her promise had put him in an excellent mood. “Help your Shijie to get up,” he said.

    Huang Rong immediately complied. Lu Guanying also helped his father to kneel down in front of their Master. Huang Yaoshi sighed and said, “Lu Chengfeng, you are a good disciple. I was wrong to lose my temper and act rash by falsely accusing you.”

    Lu Chengfeng was sobbing. “Master, are you well?” To which Huang Yaoshi replied, “Luckily I am not irritated to death.” Huang Rong looked at her father with a naughty look, “Father, you were not talking about me, were you?” Huang Yaoshi snorted and said, “You are part of it.”

    Huang Rong stuck her tongue and diverted his attention. “Father, let me introduce you to my friends. These are the well-known heroes of the Jianghu, the Six Freaks of Jiangnan; Brother Jing’s Masters.”

    Huang Yaoshi did not even look at them. “I don’t want to meet outsiders,” he said coldly. The Six Freaks was irritated by his arrogance, but since the man owned a god-like martial art, they kept their peace.

    “Do you have anything you’d like to take home with you?” Huang Yaoshi asked his daughter. “Get them and let’s go home together.”

    “Nothing,” Huang Rong answered with a smile. “But I do have something I need to give back to Martial Brother Lu.” She took out the Nine Flower Revealed Jade pills from her pocket and gave them back to Lu Chengfeng. “Lu Shige (Elder Martial Brother Lu), these pills are not easy to make. We have two pills from you and that’s enough.”

    Lu Chengfeng waved his hand and said to Huang Yaoshi, “The disciple has seen the Benevolent Master today. I am extremely joyful. I want to present those pills to you. I wonder if you could stay for a while in my humble abode. I will be …”

    “Is he your son?” Huang Yaoshi interrupted him, pointing toward Lu Guanying. “He is,” answered the disciple.

    Lu Guanying did not wait for his father prompting. He immediately bent his knees and kowtowed several times and said, “Grand Martial Disciple pays his respect to Grand Martial Master.”

    “It’s all right!” Huang Yaoshi said. Without bending his body he extended his left hand as if he was helping Guanying to stand up; but then unexpectedly his right hand struck Guanying’s shoulder.

    Lu Chengfeng was shocked! “Master, he is my only son …” Huang Yaoshi’s palm was not light. Lu Guanying was thrown back seven, eight steps, then he fell face down on the floor.

    “You are very good,” Huang Yaoshi told Lu Chengfeng. “You have not passed your skill to him. Is he a disciple of the ‘xian xia pai’ [immortal red clouds sect]?”

    Lu Chengfeng was relieved to know his master was only testing his son’s martial art. “Your disciple did not dare to disobey our school’s rule. I did not dare to teach my skill to others without Benevolent Master’s permission. This child is indeed the disciple of ‘ku mu da shi’ [Reverend Dead Wood] of the ‘xian xia pai’.”

    Huang Yaoshi sneered, “Kumu dare to call himself ‘Reverend’ [da shi could also mean ‘big/grand master’] with his skill? Your skill exceeds his a hundred fold. Starting tomorrow you will teach your own son. Xian Xia Pai’s martial arts do not hold a candle compared to ours.”

    Lu Chengfeng was ecstatic, he hastily told his son, “Quick! Express your gratitude to the Grand Martial Master!” Lu Guanying immediately kowtowed some more to Huang Yaoshi. Huang Yaoshi lifted his head, completely ignoring Guan Ying.

    Lu Chengfeng had learned martial art in the Peach Blossom Island; even though both his legs were lame he did not lose any skill pertaining to his upper body. He realized very well the superiority of his own school. He had seen it with his own eyes how hard Lu Guanying trained, yet his achievement was limited. He was really upset, but since he did not dare to violate his school’s rule, he had to restrain himself. And in order not to disappoint his son, he pretended he did not know martial arts at all. Now that his master had given him permission he knew his son’s martial art skill would improve in leaps and bounds; how could he be not happy? He wanted to say some grateful words, but he was choked.

    Huang Yaoshi saw this, but he simply said, “Take this!” He waved his right hand and two sheets of paper gently flew toward Chengfeng. The distance between them was actually more than ten feet, but the papers flew gently like it was hand delivered to Chengfeng. This demonstration of energy was even more impressive than flicking pebbles, since the paper was flimsy and more difficult to throw. Everybody could not help but feeling very impressed.

    Huang Rong was very happy, she quietly approached Guo Jing and asked, “Brother Jing, what do you think of my Father’s martial art?”

    “Your Father’s martial art is superb,” Guo Jing answered. “Rong’er, as soon as you are home, you have to train diligently, don’t waste your time playing.”

    “You are coming with us, aren’t you?” Huang Rong asked.

    “I have to follow my Masters,” Guo Jing said. “I will look for you later.”

    Huang Rong was anxious. “No! I don’t want to leave you.” Guo Jing grinned; he did not want to be separated from her either, but he knew they did not have much choice and was sad too.

    Lu Chengfeng took the papers and examined them. He saw the papers were full of characters. Lu Guanying took a torch from a villager; he came close to his father and set the light for his father to read. Lu Chengfeng could see the papers were full of characters and symbols. They are instructions to train martial art; Huang Yaoshi’s own handwriting. He had not seen his master’s handwriting for twenty years, yet he recognized the Master’s handwriting was tall and straight, as elegant as he remembered it. On the right hand was the title, ‘xuan feng sao ye tui fa’ [sweeping leave whirlwind/tornado leg/kicking technique], six characters. Lu Chengfeng knew that the ‘xuan feng sao ye tui fa’ and ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ (see previous part above) were his Master’s own ingeniously martial arts creation. None of his master’s six disciples had ever learned this leg technique. He imagined how delighted he must have been if he learned this technique then. But still, due to his master’s mercy he could teach this technique to his son even now. He was grateful. He put the papers into his pocket and bent down to express his gratitude.

    “This set of leg technique is entirely different than the one you knew,” Huang Yaoshi said. “The external techniques remain, but the energy to drive the technique must be developed internally. You practice and meditate daily, if your progress is good, you will be able to walk without a cane within five or six years.”

    Lu Chengfeng was emotional, all kind of feelings flowed in his heart.

    “Your disability is permanent,” Huang Yaoshi added. “You won’t be able to fight relying on your legs technique; but if you diligently train this, you won’t have any problem walking like normal people. Oh …” He regretted that consumed with anger he had punished his four innocent disciples severely. In recent years he racked his brain to create the new ‘xuan feng sao ye tui fa’ with improved internal energy training method. His plan was to find his four disciples and bestowed this new technique that they would be able to walk again. Only he was too arrogant; even when his heart was full of regrets, his mouth was not willing to admit it. Therefore, although this leg technique was entirely a new creation of his, he still used the irrelevant old name; pretending he did not do anything wrong. After a while he continued, “Go look for your three other brothers, teach them this new technique.”

    “Yes,” Lu Chengfeng answered. Then he added, “Qu Shidie (younger martial brother) and Feng Shidie’s whereabouts are unknown to me, but Wu Shidie had passed away many years ago.”

    Huang Yaoshi felt a stab of pain in his heart; his eyes glistened. Then his penetrating gaze turned toward Mei Chaofeng. Luckily she was blind and could not see that, for the other people around her shuddered just looking at his gaze.

    “Chaofeng,” he called icily. “You have been really wicked, but you also have suffered greatly. When that old man Qiu said I was dead, you shed tears and even wanted to seek revenge for me. Because of those tears I am willing to let you live a few more years.”

    Not in a million years did Mei Chaofeng expect her master to forgive her that easy. She was delighted and quickly kowtowed. “All right, all right!” Huang Yaoshi said. Then he stretched his hand toward her back and tapped gently three times.

    Mei Chaofeng suddenly felt a stabbing pain, which gradually became more intense that she almost passed out. With a trembling voice she begged, “Benevolent Master, your disciple deserve to die ten thousand times. I ask for your mercy to kill me right now, but please spare me from the ‘fu gu zhen’ [bone-penetrating needle].” She had heard for a long time from her husband that once their master’s ‘fu gu zhen’ entering their bodies, it would attach itself to the bone and slowly dispensing poison. Six times a day, following the circulation of the blood, the poison would cause an excruciating pain, but it would not kill immediately. It would take as long as twelve years for that person to die slowly from pain. The higher the person’s skill, the worse the effect of the poison would be. A normal person in pain would clench his/her teeth and exert energy trying to suppress it. But actually it was like satisfying a thirst by drinking poison, because the next attack would be more intense than the previous ones. As far as they knew it, there was no antidote for this poison.

    Mei Chaofeng was desperate; she had entered a living hell, why would she want to live much longer? So frantically she shook her whip fiercely to take her own life. But Huang Yaoshi quickly stretched his hand and snatched the whip away. “Why are you anxious to die? It’s not that easy!” he coldly said.

    Mei Chao Feng did not give up easily. “Master must have wanted to torture me, that was why he won’t allow me to die,” she thought. Unable to restrain her grief she turned toward Guo Jing and smiled sadly, “I have to thank you for killing my husband; that way that bastard husband of mine died an easy death.”

    Huang Yaoshi ignored her remark and said, “This ‘fu gu zhen’ would work after a year. I’ll give you three assignments to do within this one-year period. Once you complete your assignments, come and see me at the Peach Blossom Island. I have a way to neutralize the poison.”

    Mei Chaofeng’s hope was rekindled. “Your disciple will go through fire or water to accomplish whatever Master cares to assign to me.” But Huang Yaoshi coldly answered, “You haven’t heard what I have to say, yet you complied that quick?” Mei Chaofeng did not dare to answer, she only kowtowed.

    “First, you have lost the Nine Yin Manual,” Huang Yaoshi continued. “You have to find it and give it back to me. If somebody else had laid eyes on it, you must kill that person. If there were a hundred people had seen it, kill all the hundred people. If you only kill ninety-nine, don’t even think of coming to see me.”

    All who listened shuddered involuntarily. The Six Freaks of Jiang Nan thought, “Huang Yaoshi is known as the Eastern Heretic; his character is really evil.”

    They heard him continued, “Your Qu, Lu, Wu and Feng, four martial brothers have endured suffering and hardships because of you. You are to find your brothers Lingfeng and Mofeng, and find out if Mianfeng had left behind any family. You are to take them all to this ‘gui yun zhuang’ [Cloud Manor] and let your brother Chengfeng to take care of them. This is your second assignment.”

    Mei Chaofeng nodded her head repeatedly. Lu Chengfeng thought, “I could manage this.” But knowing his master’s temperament he did not dare to say anything.

    Huang Yaoshi raised his head, looking at the starry sky above and slowly said, “You have taken the Nine Yin Manual voluntarily. I did not teach you nor did I tell you to practice it. You know what to do.” He paused for a moment then said, “This is the third.”

    Mei Chaofeng was silent for a moment; she did not fully grasp her master’s intention. After pondering in her heart she suddenly understood. With a trembling voice she said, “After I have completed the first two assignments, your disciple knows how to get rid of the ‘jiu yin bai gu zhua’ and ‘cui xin zhang’ I have learned.”

    Guo Jing did not understand; he pulled Huang Rong’s sleeve and signaling her with his eyes, asking for an explanation. Huang Rong’s countenance was sad, she lifted her right hand and made a chopping action toward her left arm. Guo Jing finally understood, “Oh, she is going to chop her own arms.” His mind kept wandering, “This Mei Chaofeng is really wicked, but she repented. Why is the punishment so harsh? I need to talk to Rong’er; perhaps we can ask her father’s forgiveness.”

    While he was still thinking, Huang Yaoshi beckoned him to come and asked, “Your name is Guo Jing?” Guo Jing stepped forward and paid an obeisance. “Disciple Guo Jing at Senior Huang’s service.”

    “You are the one who killed my disciple Chen Xuanfeng, aren’t you? Your skill must be extraordinary, ha?” Huang Yaoshi said.

    Guo Jing understood his sarcasm; his heart turned cold. “I was very young and ignorant. Senior Chen seized me up; I was scared and panic. I had injured him inadvertently.”

    Huang Yaoshi snorted and coldly said, “Chen Xuanfeng was indeed my rebellious disciple; but it was our right to punish him. How could a disciple of Peach Blossom Island be punished by an outsider?” Guo Jing was dumbstruck.

    Huang Rong quickly came to his rescue. “Father, he was only six, what did he know?” Huang Yaoshi did not like what he heard; he continued, “The old man Hong usually did not take disciple, and he was very proud of his ’18-dragon subduing palms’; but he had taught you 15 moves, you must have something good in you. If not, you must have sweet-talked him into teaching you. You have defeated my disciple with his skill; next time he sees me, I bet he would boast to no end.”

    “Father, the sweet talk part was indeed true,” Huang Rong said with a smile. “But it was not he, it was I. He is just an honest kid. Your words were too hard, you have scared him.”

    After he lost his wife, Huang Yaoshi was very fond of his daughter. In fact, he was too lenient to her that she was spoilt. That day he scolded her and she immediately ran away from home. He thought being a spoilt kid, after wandering the Jianghu for a while Huang Rong would be destitute and was in bad condition. Who would have thought that she was not thin and pale, but was tender and beautiful as ever? Then he saw her intimacy with Guo Jing; how she was always trying to protect him. Secretly he was jealous because she had never shown the same affection to her father. His jealousy turned to anger. He ignored his daughter and said to Guo Jing, “By teaching you the old Beggar obviously did not hold me in high regard. He let you defeat Mei Chaofeng; he thought my disciples are a whole bunch of nobodies …”

    Huang Rong understood that her father was upset because Chaofeng was defeated by the ’18-dragon subduing palms’. She hurriedly said, “Who says the Peach Blossom Island disciples are nobody? He was lucky because Mei Shijie’s eyes are blind, what’s so special about that? If they were fighting fair and square, he would be defeated a long time ago. Let your daughter proves it to you.” She jumped out and called Guo Jing, “Come! Let me use the skills my Father taught me to fight Hong Qigong’s special skill.”

    She knew by that time both Guo Jing and she had improved tremendously. They were more or less equally matched. She thought that as long as they could fight fairly for about a hundred moves her father would be satisfied. Guo Jing understood her intention; besides, Huang Yaoshi did not say anything, so he agreed and said, “You are always superior to me. All right, I will let you beat me up a couple more times.” And he immediately walked to Huang Rong.

    “Watch out!” Huang Rong called out. Her hand swept horizontally with a gust of wind, it was the ‘yu ji feng kuang’ [heavy rain fierce wind] from the ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’. Guo Jing immediately counterattacked using the ’18-dragon subduing palms’. However, he was very fond of Huang Rong; hence did not use his full strength. Unfortunately, the ’18-dragon subduing palms’ relied heavily on strong internal energy; in term of palm technique, it could not be compared to the exquisite moves of ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’. So after several moves he was beaten several times by Huang Rong’s fist. Huang Rong on the other hand, knew that Guo Jing was strong and resilient, so to appease her father she used her full strength. “Aren’t you going to admit defeat now?” she called out loudly. Her mouth said those words, but her hands did not stop beating him.

    Huang Yaoshi sneered, “What kind of acrobatic show are you demonstrating?” Nobody saw him moved, but suddenly he was near the two, stretched both hands to grab and throw them away. Although the movements were similar, actually he only flung his daughter to the side, while his right arm threw Guo Jing at full strength. His intention was obvious, he wanted Guo Jing to roll around on the ground. However, although Guo Jing was not able to resist the throw, he was able to turn his body midair, that when he landed, he did not fall down, but stood firmly on the ground. His face was pale and was about to throw up.

    Instead of praising his skill, Huang Yaoshi’s anger flamed. “I don’t have any disciple to fight you. Come! Let me take your few stances.”

    Guo Jing hastily bowed and said, “Even if I have courage as high as the sky I still would not dare to fight Senior.”

    Huang Yaoshi sneered. “Humph, fight me?” He coldly said. “You are not my match, kid! Tell you what, I will stand still here, you attack me with your ’18-dragon subduing palms’; if I ever move or raise my hand to parry, you win.”

    “Disciple still does not dare,” Guo Jing said.

    “I don’t care! Dare or not, you have to fight me!” Huang Yaoshi said.

    Guo Jing did not know what to do. “I don’t have any choice; I’d better hit him several times, I think he is going to borrow my own strength to shake me up. So what if I have to fall some more times?” he thought.

    Huang Yaoshi saw him hesitating, but his face had shown his willingness to try. So he urged him, “Quickly hit me! If not, I am going to hit you!”

    “Since Senior commanded me to, I would not dare to disobey,” Guo Jing said. He bent his body and moved his hand in a circling motion, launching the ‘kang long you hui’. He was afraid he might injure Huang Yaoshi; also, he worried that if he used his full strength the counterattack would be fierce; therefore, he used only 60% of his strength. His palm struck Huang Yaoshi’s chest; but to his surprise his palm slid like the chest was slick with oil. “Why, you didn’t even want to hit me,” Huang Yaoshi mocked. “Do you think I cannot take the overwhelming power of the ’18-dragon subduing palms’? Is that it?”

    “Disciple did not dare,” Guo Jing answered. Then he launched his second move, the ‘huo yue zai yuan’ [leaping the abyss(?)]. This time he did not restrain anything. Exhaling his breath his left palm lunged toward Huang Yaoshi’s throat, his right palm swiftly moved in front of the left, went straight to Huang Yaoshi’s lower abdomen.

    “Now you are fighting,” Huang Yaoshi said. Hong Qigong had taught Guo Jing to train this stance against a pine tree. The tree needs to be held still, then Guo Jing was supposed to hit it with a sudden movement. Only then did he manage to break the tree. He had practiced this stance thousand of times. But as soon as his palm touched Huang Yaoshi’s clothes he felt Huang Yaoshi’s abdomen shrunk and his palm was sucked in real hard that he felt pain because his own joint was dislocated. He immediately leaped back several feet. His hand was limp.

    The Six Freaks of Jiangnan saw Huang Yaoshi’s body did not move, nor did he lifted a hand to parry; yet he was capable of dislocating Guo Jing’s wrist. They were amazed, but also worried.

    “You have to also receive my palm!” suddenly Huang Yaoshi shouted, “Let you know which one is superior, the Old Beggar’s ’18-dragon subduing palms’ or my Peach Blossom Island’s martial arts.” Before he finished speaking a gust of wind had already blown toward Guo Jing. He endured his pain and jumped to avoid the attack. Unexpectedly Huang Yaoshi did not continue his palm but swept his legs instead. Guo Jing came tumbling down.

    Huang Rong was alarmed. “Father, no!” she cried, and quickly jumped forward and bent down to protect him.

    Huang Yaoshi did not stop; he simply changed his fist to an open palm. He grabbed his daughter’s vest and lifter her up, while his left fist went straight toward Guo Jing.

    The Six Freaks of Jiang Nan realized that if Guo Jing got hit, he would certainly die or at least suffer a very heavy injury. They moved at once. Quan Jinfa was the first. He struck Huang Yaoshi’s left arm with his steel balance arm. Huang Yaoshi calmly put his daughter aside; waved both hands casually and that steel balance arm changed direction; striking the long sword in the hand of Han Xiaoying. Both the balance arm and the sword broke into four pieces.

    “Master … !” Lu Chengfeng called out. He wanted to ask his master to stop, but knowing his master’s temperament well, he did not dare to continue.

    Huang Rong cried. “Father, kill him!” she shouted. “You will never see me again.” Without further ado she ran out toward the Tai Lake and leaped into the water.

    Huang Yaoshi was surprised, then angry. He knew his daughter was very good in water. She used to swim and dive in the ‘tang hay’ [East China Sea]; playing with fish and turtles. Sometime she went swimming for a whole day. But this time he was not sure when he would be able to see her again. So he ran toward the lake to try to grab her, but he was too late. Huang Rong had already vanished in the dark water. Huang Yaoshi stared blankly on the lakeshore.

    After a long while he turned his head and saw Zhu Cong was mending Guo Jing’s wrist. His anger flared and he wanted to vent his frustration toward this people. “You seven people! Quickly kill yourselves and save me the trouble,” he coldly said.

    Ke Zhen’E wielded his iron staff in front of his chest and proudly said, “Real men do not fear death. Do you think we are afraid of suffering?” Zhu Cong also said, “The Six Freaks of Jiangnan have returned to our hometown. If our bones can be buried here in the Lake Tai, what more could we want?” The six unsheathed their weapons or readied their bare hands and assume the battle formation.

    Guo Jing thought hard. “My six masters do not have enmity with this man. They will only give up their lives in vain. How could I let them be in the harm’s way?” he said in his heart. He quickly jumped forward. “Chen Xuanfeng died in my hand! It has nothing to do with my masters! I will pay his life with mine!” But then he had another thought, “The First Master, Third Master and Seventh Master are hot-tempered. If they see me losing my life, they will surely fight to their deaths. I have to stall. I must deal with him later, alone.” He boldly positioned himself between Huang Yaoshi and the Six.

    “My only regret is that my father’s death has not been avenged. I beseech Senior to give me a month grace period. After 30 days I will personally come to the Peach Blossom Island to give up my life there,” he fearlessly said.

    Huang Yaoshi’s anger has subsided by now; plus, he was worried about his daughter. He lost his appetite to fight. So he waved his hand casually and walked away.

    Everybody was surprised; how did Guo Jing’s simple speech could send him off just like that? They were suspicious that he was playing a trick; so they kept their eyes open wide in full alert. But after waiting a while Huang Yaoshi still did not come back.

    After a while Lu Chengfeng regained his composure and invited everybody to go back to the hall for some rest.

    Mei Chaofeng suddenly laughed; waving her sleeves and then turned around and leaped outside. Before long she had vanished in the dark.

    “Mei Shijie!” Lu Chengfeng called out, “Take your disciple with you!”

    But the darkness swallowed his voice. Mei Chaofeng had already gone far.

    End of Chapter 14
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-12-07 at 03:12 PM.

  20. #40
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    Default Chapter 15 – The Divine Dragon Swings Its Tail

    He saw in front of her two clay figurines, one resembling a man, the other a woman. These figurines were made in the famous Wuxi city; they were round, fat and really cute. In front of the figurines sat tiny clay bowls filled with flower petals, leaves, and so on.
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet, with special thanks to Sunnysnow)

    A moment later Lu Guanying remembered their other guests; he helped Wanyan Kang to stand up but he could not move because his acupoints were still sealed; only his two eyes were rolling.

    “I have accepted your Master’s request, you may go,” Lu Chengfeng said. He did not want to unseal the acupoints, since it was somebody else outside his school who did that. If he did, he would act in disrespect toward other people. Therefore, he cast his glance toward his guests. But before he even said anything Zhu Cong had come toward Wanyan Kang and hit several times on his waist, and tapped some more on his back; unsealed the acupoints.

    Lu Chengfeng was impressed. “This Wanyan Kang’s martial art is not weak, yet this man was able to seal his acupoints without any resistance. His martial art must be good,” he thought. What he did not know was that Zhu Cong took advantage of the commotion because of the collapsed roof that Wanyan Kang did not even realize what was happening.

    Wanyan Kang was ashamed; he turned his back and walked away without saying anything. Zhu Cong saw the Jin officer was still lying around; he unsealed his acupoints and called out, “Who is this officer? Take him away.”

    Thai officer had thought that he was going to die; but unexpectedly he was released. He was delighted and busily kowtowed, “Valiant Hero … thank you so much for saving my lowly life. Duan Tiande will not forget it as long as I live. Next time when you visit the capital, please make sure you stop by my residence, I will be at your service with all my heart …”

    Guo Jing heard the three characters ‘Duan Tiande’; his ears were buzzing. With a trembling voice he asked, “You … your name is Duan Tiande?”

    “That’s right,” answered Duan Tiande. “Duan Tiande at your service, Young Hero.”

    “Eighteen years ago, were you serving as a military officer in Lin An?” Guo Jing asked.

    “How did the Young Hero know?” Duan Tiande asked; and then he remembered Lu Chengfeng mentioned that Lu Guanying was a disciple of Reverend Kumu; he turned his head to Lu Guanying and said, “I am Reverend Kumu’s nephew, only I did not attend the monastery. I say we belong to the same family. Ha … ha …!” He laughed merrily.

    Guo Jing looked at him strangely but did not say anything. Meanwhile Duan Tiande was still smiling happily. After a while Guo Jing regained his composure and turned his head to Lu Chengfeng. “Village Master Lu, may I please borrow your courtyard for a moment?” he asked.

    “Sure, use it as you wish,” Lu Chengfeng answered.

    Guo Jing took Duan Tiande’s arm and led him to the courtyard in big strides. The Six Freaks of Jiangnan were having mixed feeling; they thought the heaven indeed have eyes. If he did not say his own name, they would not have known he was the person they have been looking for these past seven years and tens of thousands miles.

    Lu Chengfeng and his son, along with Wanyan Kang followed behind. They had no idea what Guo Jing was about to do.

    The courtyard was bright with the torches in the village servants’ hands. Guo Jing requested the use of some writing instruments, which the servants also quickly provided. Guo Jing then turned to Zhu Cong.

    “Second Master,” he requested, “Would you please write down my father’s name?” To which Zhu Cong complied. He wrote in large letters, ‘Guo yi shi Xiaotian zhi ling wei’ [memorial tablet for the righteous warrior Guo Xiaotian] and placed it on the center table.

    When he was taken out of the hall, Duan Tiande thought they were going to enjoy some refreshments; but as soon as he saw the name ‘Guo Xiaotian’ his blood was drained out of his body. He looked around, and found the Six Freaks of Jiangnan have taken their position surrounding him. He was especially wary of Han Baoju with his short and stout stature; involuntarily his pants were wet. That day when he took Guo Jing’s mother to the north with the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan hot on his trail, he stopped by an inn for the night. He heard a commotion and took a peek via a crack in the door. He saw Han Baoju. Han’s short and stout stature was not easily forgettable. Earlier that day they have met in the hall, but since he was a prisoner, he was more worry about his own fate that he did not pay too much attention on everybody else. But now under the bright torch light it was impossible to mistake Han Baoju as someone else.

    Guo Jing smashed a table and loudly shouted, “Now tell me, do you want a quick and easy death, or do you want me to chop your body into thousand pieces before killing you?”

    Duan Tiande knew he was not going to see another day. He scrambled to find something; anything to save his life. “Your father the chivalrous hero Guo’s death was unfortunate; and I did have a small role in his death, but … what could I do as a lowly officer against the higher authority?” he stammered.

    “Who was that? Who sent you to harm my father? Quick, say it!” Guo Jiang shouted.

    “It was the Sixth Prince of the Great Jin, Prince Wanyan Honglie,” Duan Tiande said.

    “What did you say?” Wanyan Kang was startled.

    At this point all Duan Tiande could think of was if he was going down, he wanted to drag other people with him. Who knows? He might get away with his crime. Therefore, without concealing anything he narrated how Wanyan Honglie was infatuated with Yang Tiexin’s wife, Bao Xiruo; how he conspired with Song authority to kill Yang Tiexin while Wanyan Honglie would pretend to be the good guy who rescued Bao Xiruo; how they ransacked Ox Village and ended up killing Guo Xiaotian; how Duan Tiande then took Guo Jing’s mother to Beijing, and then they joined the Jin envoy to the Mongolia; how during the chaotic time in Mongolia he got separated from Guo Jing’s mother; how he decided to go back to Lin An, and worked diligently as a career soldier and finally got promoted to his current position. He ended his story by kneeling in front of Guo Jing.

    “Young Hero Guo, Guo Da Ren [‘honorable’ – someone in high position],” he said. “Please do not blame your lowly servant. I saw how chivalrous your father was, how solemn his expression was; I wanted to befriend him, only … only … your lowly servant was a very low ranking officer, I must obey orders. It was useless for me to have a good intention. Heaven is my witness, how I, Duan Tiande, did not have any enmity toward anybody …” He saw Guo Jing expression did not change a bit and did not say anything either; so he quickly scoot over to the table and kneeled in front of Guo Xiaotian’s memorial. “Master Guo,” he continued. “I am sure your spirit in heaven is very clear that it was the Sixth Prince Wanyan Honglie who killed you, and not this lowly creature in front of you. Today I witnessed your son to be an extraordinary young man, your spirit must have been very proud of him. I pray with your blessing he will forgive a lowly dog like me …”

    While he was still babbling, Wanyan Kang swiftly leaped, struck with both hands and shattered his skull. He collapsed and died instantly.

    Guo Jing kneeled in front of the table, sobbing uncontrollably. Only now did Lu Chengfeng understand the real story, so along with his son and the Six Freaks of Jiangnan they bowed to pay their respect in front of Guo Xiaotian’s memorial. Wanyan Kang also kneeled and kowtowed several times. Then he stood up and said, “Brother Guo, only today I know that … that Wanyan Honglie is our archenemy. Little Brother did not realize it and had committed many-many unrespectable actions, more like heinous crimes.” And then he remembered his mother’s suffering and wept bitterly.

    “What are you going to do then?” Guo Jing lifted his head and asked.

    “Little Brother found out today, that my surname is actually ‘Yang’, the name ‘Wanyan’ does not have anything to do with me. From now on, I will be called ‘Yang Kang’,” Wanyan Kang answered.

    “Good!” Guo Jing exclaimed. “Finally you are a real man who does not forget your own origin. I am going to Beijing tomorrow to kill Wanyan Honglie. Are you coming with me or not?”

    Yang Kang still remembered Wanyan Honglie’s kindness in raising him since his childhood; he hesitated for a moment. But seeing Guo Jing’s stern expression he hastily answered, “Little Brother will accompany Big Brother to seek revenge.”

    Guo Jing was delighted. “Good! You know that our late parents had become sworn bothers, and my mother told me that they have made a pact to make us sworn brothers too. What do you say?”

    “That is precisely my wish,” answered Yang Kang. So they asked each other their age, and turned out Guo Jing was born two months before Yang Kang was. They kneeled in front of Guo Xiaotian’s memorial, bowed eight times toward each other and became sworn brothers.

    With everything under control, they turned in to take some rest in the Cloud Village. Early the next morning the Six Freaks, Guo Jing and Yang Kang bade farewell to the Village Master Lu and his son. The Village Master presented each guest with generous amount of money as a farewell gift to cover the traveling expense.

    Leaving the village Guo Jing said to his six Masters, “Disciple and Brother Yang are going north to kill Wanyan Honglie. I am asking Masters to give me some advice.”

    “The mid-autumn festival is still weeks away, while we do not have anything pressing to do. I think we’d better accompany you to take care of this important business,” Ke Zhen’E said. Zhu Cong and the rest voiced their approval.

    “Your kindness toward disciple is as heavy as a mountain. Wanyan Honglie martial art is mediocre. With Brother Yang’s help, I am sure killing him will not be a difficult task. For your disciple’s sake Masters have left Jiangnan for more than ten years. Now that you are back in your hometown, your disciple doest not dare to trouble Masters for my personal business.”

    The Six Freaks thought Guo Jing was very reasonable; also, they have seen it with their own eyes how Guo Jing’s martial art had improved tremendously. Hence they did not press on and one by one they gave their blessing to him.

    Finally Han Xiaoying said, “On the matter of Peach Blossom Island, I don’t think you should go.” She knew Guo Jing was uprightly honest while that Huang Yaoshi was hot-tempered and strangely cruel. If Guo Jing went to the Peach Blossom Island chances were he would meet some unfortunate events.

    “If disciple did not go, wouldn’t that mean I break my promise to him?” Guo Jing asked.

    “When dealing with a monster we don’t have to have a good faith,” Yang Kang countered. “Big Brother, I think you adhere too rigidly to old-fashioned value and tradition.”

    Ke Zhen’E snorted and said, “Jing’er, as a chivalrous hero we have to keep what we say. Today is the fifth day of the sixth month, we will meet again on the first day of the seventh month at the ‘zui xian lou’ [drunken deity wine shop – actually, ‘lou’ means a building with more than one story] at Jiaxing [in modern day Zhejiang], then we will go to Peach Blossom Island together. Now you’d better rush to Beijing to seek revenge, riding your red horse. You don’t have to always be with your younger brother. If you can achieve your goal, that would be great. If not, we can always look for Quan Zhen Sect’s priests to help us kill the traitor. Their righteousness is as heavy as the mountain, they certainly will not turn down our request.”

    Guo Jing could comprehend his First Master’s love toward him by willing to go with him in dangerous situation. His heart was overwhelmed and he kneeled and kowtowed respectfully.

    “Your younger brother came from a rich and honorable family, you must be careful,” Nan Xiren reminded him. Guo Jing did not understand, he only looked at his master. Han Xiaoying smiled, “You don’t understand your Fourth Master’s words. It’s OK. You will understand later. Just be careful at all times,” she said. “Yes,” Guo Jing said.

    Zhu Cong smiled, “Huang Yaoshi’s daughter is actually very different from her father,” he said. “We’d better not provoke her anymore, wouldn’t we, Third Brother?”

    Han Baoju twitched his moustache. “This little brat scolded me short as a winter melon, she thinks herself pretty?” Speaking thus he could not restrain his smile.

    Guo Jing knew his masters no longer bear any grudge toward Huang Rong; he was delighted. But when he remembered her whereabouts were unknown, he couldn’t help but feeling depressed.

    “Jing’er,” Quan Jinfa said, “The sooner you leave, the sooner you will be back. We will wait patiently in Jiaxing.” With that the Six Freaks of Jiangnan headed south.

    Guo Jing held his red horse’s rein, following his masters with his eyes until he no longer could see them. Then he turned his head toward Yang Kang. “My ‘xiandie’ [lit. worthy younger brother], this red horse of mine is extremely fast; we can go to Beijing and back within ten days. What do you say I accompany you spending several days looking around?” Yang Kang agreed. Two young men mounted the horse and walked slowly to the north.

    Yang Kang sighed with a heavy feeling. Only a month ago he lived a luxurious life. He came to Jiangnan with a great company as a special emissary of the Great Jin, with all the power and prestige that came with it. But now? He was traveling back to the capital quietly, with nobody pampered him along the way. It was like he was having a pleasant dream and suddenly woke up to the harsh reality of life. Even Guo Jing would not necessarily take him along to kill Wanyan Honglie; which made him more distressed. He contemplated on giving a warning to Wanyan Honglie, but could not make up his mind about it.

    Guo Jing noticed his grim expression, but thought that he was mourning the death of his parents, so Guo Jing tried to console him.

    Around noon they arrived in Li Yang and straightway tried to find a restaurant for some refreshments. Out of the blue somebody who looked like a restaurant worker came approaching. “Are you two gentlemen Mr. Guo and Mr. Yang?” he bowed and asked, smiling widely. “The table is ready, please come with me to dine.”

    Guo Jing and Yang Kang were baffled. “How did you know us?” Yang Kang asked.

    “Earlier a guest arrived and asked us to prepare a meal for you. I was even given a detailed description on how Mr. Guo and Mr. Yang look,” he said, still with a smile on his face. He then took over the horses’ reins and led them to the stable.

    Yang Kang snorted and cynically said, “The Cloud Village Master Lu is so kind.” They entered the restaurant and sat down. Turned out the food was exquisite, the wine was superb. Guo Jing even found some chicken that he liked very much. They ate to their hearts’ content and were about to pay the bill; but the restaurant worker simply smiled and said, “No need to pay gentlemen, everything has been taken care of.” Yang Kang laughed and tipped him generously. He thanked them profusely and walked them out the restaurant, bowing and smiling all the time.

    Guo Jing praised the Village Master Lu’s generosity. Yang Kang however, still bore a grudge because he was captured and held prisoner. “I assume he uses this trick to befriend the Jianghu people; no wonder he can be the leader of the Lake Tai area,” he said.

    “Isn’t Village Master Lu your martial uncle?” Guo Jing wondered.

    “It’s true that Mei Chaofeng had taught me some martial arts,” Yang Kang answered. “But that doesn’t necessarily make her my master. If I had known they came from a heretical sect, I would not want to learn anything and I wouldn’t have to fall into this situation right now.”

    “How so?” Guo Jing was confused.

    Yang Kang realized he had made an indiscreet remark. He blushed and said with a smile, “Little Brother feels the ‘nine yin white bone claw’ and her other martial arts are unorthodox.”

    Guo Jing concurred. “What my xiandie said was correct. Your master, Priest Eternal Spring’s martial art is exquisite, and he came from the orthodox Taoist school. If you tell him the truth and repent, I am sure he would be willing to forget past matters.” Yang Kang silently agreed.

    That evening they arrived at Jin Tan. Again, another restaurant worker welcomed them and led them to a table full of choice foods and wine. This happened for the next three days. The next day the two crossed a river and arrived at Gao You and received the same welcome. Yang Kang sneered and said, “I want to see how far the Cloud Village will extend their hospitality.” However, Guo Jing was started to get suspicious; every time they eat, he would find one or two bowls of his favorite food. If it were Lu Guanying, how would he know what Guo Jing liked?

    After they finished eating Guo Jing proposed, “My xiandie, let me walk ahead and investigate.” Mounting his red horse he hastily rode ahead, passing three scheduled stops and soon arrived at Bao Ying. Sure enough, nobody welcomed him there. So Guo Jing found the biggest inn in town and checked in at the best room. That evening he heard a horse with loud ringing bells galloping near, and stopped right in front of the inn. Somebody entered and ordered some foods scheduled for tomorrow, for Mr. Guo and Mr. Yang.

    Guo Jing had guessed earlier it must be Huang Rong, but hearing her voice he was overjoyed nonetheless. He restrained himself from coming out to see her. He thought Huang Rong liked to play around, so he would surprise her later that evening. He slept soundly until about the second hour [I am not sure the corresponding time in our 24 hours system], quietly got up and went tiptoeing to scare Huang Rong in her room. But he saw a shadow flashing on the roof; it was Huang Rong. “Where is she going in the middle of the night?” Guo Jing wondered.

    Quickly he used his lightness kungfu and followed behind. Huang Rong ran without looking around to the outskirt of town; oblivious that somebody was following her. She stopped at the bank of a small creek and sat underneath a willow tree. She took something out of her pocket and stooping down to play with it.

    The moonlight shone on her beautiful face, a cool breeze swayed the willow branches. Huang Rong’s clothes gently fluttered. The creek whispered softly and the insect chirped quietly. It was a beautiful scene to behold. Guo Jing was about to come near when suddenly he heard Huang Rong quietly said, “This is Brother Jing, this one is Rong’er. You two sit down nicely face-to-face. Yes, like this …”

    Guo Jing tiptoed behind her. He could not see clearly under the dim moonlight, but he saw in front of her were two clay figurines, one resembled a man, the other a woman. These figurines were made by the famous Wu Xi; they were round and fat, really cute. During their stay at the Cloud Village Guo Jing had learned from Huang Rong that although mere toys, Wu Xi’s products were the result of a very high quality craftsmanship. The locals called them ‘da a fu’ [big lucky]. Huang Rong owned several such figurines at the Peach Blossom Island.

    Guo Jing came nearer and saw in front of the figurines there were tiny clay bowls filled with flower petals, leaves, and so on. He heard her saying softly, “Brother Jing can eat this bowl, Rong’er will have this one. Rong’er cooked them herself. Aren’t they delicious?”

    “Delicious, very delicious!” Guo Jing stepped out and said.

    Huang Rong was startled. She turned her head and smiled sweetly; rushed toward Guo Jing’s bosom and hugged him tightly. They sat shoulder-to-shoulder underneath the willow tree busily talking about what had happened during their few days of separation, which felt like years to them. Actually it was Huang Rong who busily talked, Guo Jing was content by simply looking at her face and listening to her chatter.

    Huang Rong told him how that night after her father threatened Guo Jing’s life she had jumped into the lake. After hiding for some time she figured out her father must have left, so she came back to the village. She saw Guo Jing was safe and sound, so she was greatly comforted; but recalling how she had been too harsh to her father she felt really bad. The next morning she saw Guo Jing and Yang Kang heading north to Beijing, thereupon she preceded them and arranged for meals along the way.

    They talked all through the night under the warm sixth month’s weather. The weather was pleasant and Huang Rong’s heart was happy; after a while she became sleepy, her speech became fuzzy and not too long afterward felt asleep on Guo Jing’s bosom; her jade-white skin felt cool and her breath blowing softly. Guo Jing was afraid he might awaken her, so he sat motionless against the willow tree and after a while he dozed off.

    Guo Jing did not know how long he was sleeping, but by the time he opened his eyes he could hear the birds chirping merrily and he smelled the sweet fragrance of the wild flowers. The sun was rising; but Huang Rong was still asleep. Her eyebrows creased, her complexion ruddy, her smile graceful; looked like she was having a sweet dream.

    “Let her sleep a bit longer; I must not make any noise,” Guo Jing thought. He looked like he was counting her long eyelashes when suddenly a voice was heard, coming from about twenty feet to his left.

    “I have found out the Eldest Miss Cheng’s room; it is on the second floor of the building surrounded by flower garden behind the Tong Ren pawnshop,” that voice said.

    “Good! We will work tonight,” another voice replied, it sounded like an older man. Both men spoke in low voice, but in the quietness of the morning Guo Jing could hear every single word clearly. He was startled; they sounded like some ‘cai hua yin zei’ [lit. flower picking thief – serial rapist], naturally he could not let them do all kinds of evil things.

    Suddenly Huang Rong opened her eyes; she leaped out of Guo Jing’s bosom and called out, “Brother Jing, catch me!” She ran toward a big tree. Initially Guo Jing was perplexed, but Huang Rong kept beckoning him to come. Finally he understood. They were pretending to be a young couple playing hide-and-seek in the morning. He pursued her while laughing and joking loudly, intentionally made his footsteps heavy to conceal his lightness kungfu.

    Those two men were not expecting anybody else to be around that early in the morning. They were startled, but upon seeing a young man and a young woman noisily playing, their suspicion vanished. However, they did not continue talking and left immediately.

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing could see their backs. They were dressed in rags, looked like they were beggars.

    “Brother Jing, what do you think they are going to do to that Eldest Miss Cheng?” Huang Rong asked after they have walked far enough.

    “Most likely not a good thing,” Guo Jing answered. “Do you think we should help her?”

    “That’s for sure,” Huang Rong answered with a smile. “Only I don’t know if they belong to Hong Qigong’s clan or not?”

    “I don’t think so,” Guo Jing said. “But then Qigong said that all beggars under the heaven are in his care … Hmm … perhaps those two are impostors.”

    “There are tens of thousands beggars in the world, certainly some of them have turned bad. I don’t care how good Qigong is, he would not be able to manage each and every one of them. Looks like these two are the bad ones. Qigong has been so kind to us that it is impossible to ever repay him. I think Qigong will like it if we help him to take care of these bad ones.”

    “You are right,” Guo Jing agreed. Even though he was a little bit tired, the thought of repaying Qigong’s kindness lifted his spirit up.

    “These two men’s bare legs were covered with boils. I am sure they are not fake, so these two were real beggars. Other people could not disguise themselves like that,” Huang Rong said.

    “You really are very observant,” Guo Jing admired.

    The young couple went back to town for some breakfast, then they walked idly down the street toward the west end of town. There they saw a very big pawnshop with large characters painted on the white wall, ‘Tong Ren Pawnshop’ four characters, with each character taller than an average man. Behind the shop was a garden, and in the middle was a two-story building. There was a dark green bamboo curtain covering a big window on the second floor. Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other and smiled. Hand in hand they walked away to play elsewhere.

    After dinner that evening they retreated to their respective room for some rest and meditation. About one o’clock at night they ran toward the western part of the town; leaped up the garden fence and saw the dark shadow of the big building. Silently they climbed to the roof and swung their bodies down from the eaves. It was a summer night, so the window was open. They looked around the big room and to their surprise there were seven young girls, all about 18, 19 years of age. One beautiful looking girl was sitting next to a lamp, reading. They thought she must be Miss Cheng. The other six dressed as servant girls, all holding unsheathed weapons in their hands; they looked so stern yet graceful, obviously they knew martial arts.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong initially intended to help this young woman, but seeing she was well prepared they thought they would wait and see. So quietly the climbed back to the roof and waited.

    Not too long they heard a faint cry from outside the wall. Huang Rong immediately pulled Guo Jing and they looked down to see two shadows leaping the wall and walked toward the building. The shadows looked like the two beggars they met earlier. One of the beggars whistled softly; to which a servant girl opened the curtain and asked, “Have the hero brothers from the Beggar Clan arrived? Please come up.” The two beggars leaped up and entered the room.

    In the darkness outside Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other in surprised. Earlier they thought that as soon as the beggars arrived there would be some fighting or something interesting; who would have thought that they knew each other?

    Miss Cheng immediately stood up, paid her respect and uttered some pleasantries. “Would you tell me your honorable names, please?” she asked.

    “My surname is Li,” the older beggar answered, “And this is my martial nephew Yu Zhao.”

    “So you are Senior Li and Elder Brother Yu,” Miss Cheng said. “The valiant heroes of the Beggar Clan always hold justice; and are admired by the people of the martial arts worlds. It really is an honor to me, young disciple to finally meet two revered role models. Please, sit down.” Although what she said was common Jianghu pleasantries, but her facial expression was shy. She paused a lot in between sentences; which showed she was not used to this kind of talk. She said ‘admired by the people of the martial arts worlds’ with sincerity, but sounded like she was not sure what she was talking about. When she finished speaking her head hung low and her face completely blushed.

    Shyly she looked up toward the old beggar’s one eye and timidly asked, “Senior Hero, aren’t you the venerable ‘jiang dong she wang’ [Serpent King of the East River] Li Sheng, Senior Li?”

    The old beggar laughed. “You have keen eyes, Miss! I have had the honor to meet your master, ‘qing jing san ren’ [Sage of Tranquility]. Even though we are not the best of friends, but always have great respect to each other.”

    Guo Jing also heard the name ‘Sage of Tranquility’ mentioned and was delighted, “The Sage of Tranquility Sun Bu’er, Priestess Sun is one of the Quan Zhen Seven Master; therefore, this Miss Cheng and those two beggars are not outsiders.” He heard Miss Cheng continued, “I am very grateful to receive the Senior Hero’s aid in upholding justice. I will listen to Senior Hero’s instruction.”

    “Miss, you are worth a thousand gold,” Li Sheng said. “But for this licentious man to look at you even with one eye is still too much.” Hearing this Miss Cheng’s face blushed profusely. Li Sheng continued, “Now I suggest you stay overnight at the main house, along with all of these honorable servants of yours. I will deal with that conceited man alone.”

    “Young disciple is not skilled in martial art, but I am not afraid of that villain,” Miss Cheng said. “How could I let Senior to deal with him alone?”

    “Please don’t say such thing Miss,” Li Sheng said. “Our Clan Leader Hong and your honorable founder Senior Wang were good friends; that means we belong to the same family. Why do you want to consider it otherwise?”

    Actually Miss Cheng wanted to try her own martial art, but listened to Li Sheng she did not dare to defy. So she bowed and said, “Then I will leave everything under Senior Li and Elder Brother Yu’s capable hands.” Having said that she gracefully led her maidservants go downstairs.

    Li Sheng walked toward the young lady’s bed, opened the embroidered quilt, and without taking out his shoes laid his dirty body on the sweet smelling bedding. “Go downstairs,” he told Yu Zhao, “Be on guard with everybody else. Do not make any move without my command.” Yu Zhao complied. Li Sheng then hid his entire body under the blanket after extinguished the candle beside the bed.

    “That Miss Cheng might not want to sleep under that blanket anymore,” Huang Rong secretly laughed in her heart. “The members of the Beggar Clan are just like their leader, they like to deliberately creating trouble in a funny way. This matter is actually much more amusing than I originally thought.”

    Because there were other people standing guard, Huang Rong and Guo Jing quietly hid themselves under the eaves. About an hour later she heard the night watch sounding the signal ‘knock, knock, bang, bang, bang …’ at the front of the building. It was the third hour. Then she heard a pebble fell in the flower garden.

    A moment later eight people came leaping over the fence and headed straight to the second floor. They lighted a lantern briefly, enough to see the bed, then quickly extinguished the fire. In that very short time Guo Jing and Huang Rong could see their appearance. Turned out they were the female disciples of Ouyang Ke who dressed like men; all wore white clothing. Four of them opened the bed curtain and covered Li Sheng’s head with a silk hood; firmly held and lifted him up. Two of them opened a big sack and in went the blanket with Li Sheng inside it. They quickly tightened the sack mouth and lifted the sack up. They worked swiftly and quietly in the dark, without making any noise. Seemed like they were very skilled in what they were doing.

    They leaped back downstairs. Guo Jing was about to make a move when Huang Rong whispered in his ears, “Let the Beggar Clan people go first.” Guo Jing complied. He stretched his neck and saw four female disciples lifted the sack with Li Sheng in it, while the other four were guarding behind them. Further back about ten yards behind were the Beggar Clan people, each wielding a wooden staff.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong waited a moment to put some distance between them before they quietly leaped out of the garden and followed from afar. A little while later they arrived at the edge of the town. The eight women took the sack to a big house, while the four Beggar Clan members spread out to surround the building.

    Huang Rong pulled Guo Jing’s arm and they walked toward the back of the building; jumped over the back wall and saw that the building was actually an ancestral temple. The main hall was full of memorial tablets. On the main beam were hung big banners with the deceased people’s merits and honorable titles written on them. The hall was lit by four, five big red candles; and in the center sat a man wielding a folding fan.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong had guessed earlier it must be Ouyang Ke’s doing, and they were right. They hid themselves under a window, did not dare to move at all, while wondering in their hearts, “Would that Li Sheng fellow be able to fight him?”

    They saw the eight women entering the hall and said, “Young Master, Miss Cheng is here.” Ouyang Ke sneered coldly. He looked outside and said, “Friends, you have been so kind to visit, why not come in and introduce yourselves?”

    Hiding on top of the wall’s roof, the Beggar Clan people knew they have been found out, but without Li Sheng’s command they did not dare to make any noise.

    Ouyang Ke turned his head and looked at the sack. “I did not expect a beautiful lady as you would be so easily invited to come here.” He walked slowly forward, waving his folding fan slowly. When he folded the fan, it resembled an iron pen.

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing saw his hand movement and his expression; they were shocked. Looked like Ouyang Ke had already found out an enemy was hiding inside that sack and was going to strike.

    Huang Rong immediately took three steel needles in her hand, aiming them toward the fan; ready to strike if Li Sheng was in danger. But suddenly there were swishing sounds; a couple of sleeve-arrows were flying toward Ouyang Ke’s chest. They were released by a beggar who appeared on the windowsill. They also have seen the danger threatening Li Sheng, and launched a preemptive strike.

    Ouyang Ke stretched his left hand sideways, his index and middle fingers pinched an arrow, his ring and little fingers pinched the other, with a couple of ‘crack’ sound the two arrows became four pieces.

    The Beggars saw this and were amazed. “Martial Uncle Li, come out!” Yu Zhao called out. He was not even finished shouting when the sack was ripped open; out came two blades followed by Li Zheng rolling on the floor. He used the sack as a shield and quickly stood up.

    Li Sheng knew Ouyang Ke was fierce and he was not sure he could defeat him; that was the reason he wanted to attack him by surprise by hiding inside the sack; who would have thought that Ouyang Ke fouled his plan.

    “A beautiful lady turned into a beggar. It was a good sack trick!” Ouyang Ke laughed.

    Li Sheng ignored his remark. “This city has lost four girls in three days. All were your Excellency’s doing, I presume?” he countered.

    “This Bao Ying County is certainly not a poor area, how did the law enforcement officer turned into a beggar?” Ouyang Ke smirked.

    Li Sheng maintained his calmness. “I am not begging for food here,” he answered. “But I heard yesterday that four adolescent girls suddenly vanished without a trace. My curiosity was piqued, so I took a look.”

    Ouyang Ke reluctantly said, “Actually those girls are not exceptional; and since you want them –considering we are the people of the martial arts world, I’d like to give them to you. Beggars usually eat dead crabs; so I am sure you will treat these four girls as your treasures.” He waved his right hand, and several female disciples of his went inside to get those four girls. The girls’ clothes were unkempt, their faces thin and pale, their eyes red from crying.

    Li Sheng was outraged to see this. He loudly shouted, “What is your honorable name? Whose disciple are you?”

    Ouyang Ke still maintained his carefree attitude. “My surname is Ouyang. What is it that you want, my friend?” he nonchalantly answered.

    “I want to play with you!” Li Sheng roared.

    “I want nothing better!” Ouyang Ke replied. “Please start!”

    “Good!” Li Sheng shouted and moved his right hand. But just before he strike a white shadow flashed with a gust of wind. He was very shocked and leaped up immediately, but his neck was scratched nonetheless. Luckily he was swift, if not; his neck would have a hole in it.

    Li Sheng was an eight-bag disciple of his clan; a highly respected position. His martial art was strong; and the beggars in Liang Zhe area came to him for advice. In short, he was one of the Beggar Clan’s elite fighters; who would have thought that he was almost injured in just one stance. His face flushed with anger and embarrassment. Without turning his body he launched his hand backward.

    “He knows the ’18-dragon subduing palms’,” whispered Huang Rong to Guo Jing. Guo Jing nodded.

    Ouyang Ke could see this move was fierce and did not dare to meet it frontally, he jumped sideways. By this time Li Sheng had turned his body around and stepped forward. He lifted both hands in front of his chest and with a loud cry pushed them forward.

    This time it was Guo Jing who whispered into Huang Rong’s ear, “Is that move from the ‘xiao yao you quan fa’ [wandering strides fists technique]?” Huang Rong nodded; but she noticed that Li Sheng’s movement was heavy, not elegant like the ‘wandering strides’ should be executed.

    Ouyang Ke saw Li Sheng’s step was steady and his hands were profound in launching wonderful moves; he did not dare to act casual and underestimated his opponent any longer. He slipped his folding fan into his waist and quick as a flash launched a counterattack toward Li Sheng’s shoulder.

    Li Sheng parried with the ‘fan lai shen shou’ [begging for rice], still from the ‘wandering strides’ fists technique. Ouyang Ke parried with his left hand, which forced Li Sheng to lift his right arm; then swiftly Ouyang Ke moved toward Li Sheng’s back and stretched both hands with all fingers forming two claws attacking Li Sheng’s vital ‘bei xin’ [sleeveless garment] acupoints.

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing were startled, “This move is difficult to fend off.”

    By that time the rest of the Beggar Clan people had entered the hall. They saw Li Sheng was in grave danger and were rushing to help.

    Li Sheng could hear the wind behind his back and felt the claws almost touching his clothes. Again he launched his hand backward using the ‘shen long bai wei’ [divine dragon swings its tail] from the ’18 Dragon-subduing Palms’. The stance came from the trigram, ‘to thread on’ which is part of the Yi Jing. The master who created the 18 subduing dragon palms actually named the stance “threading on the tiger’s tail”. It was a more powerful description as compared to “attacking the tiger from behind” because if one steps on the tiger’s tail, it will no doubt turn around and attack furiously. However, the later generation felt that this description in the Yi Jing was too soft and not pleasing to the tongue. Thus, they changed it to “the divine dragon swings its tail”.

    Ouyang Ke did not dare to meet this attack head on, so he flexed his body and jumped back.

    “A very close call!” Li Sheng said in his heart. He turned his body around to face his opponent again. His martial art was inferior to Ouyang Ke’s exquisite moves. They have fought thirty, forty moves and already his life was dangerously threatened five, six times. Fortunately he could always use the [divine dragon swings its tail] to get out of trouble.

    “Looks like Hong Qigong only passed on this single move to him,” Huang Rong whispered to Guo Jing. Guo Jing nodded. He recalled the time when Hong Qigong passed the ‘Proud Dragon Show Remorse’ and he fought Liang Ziweng over and over using this single move. Then later on Hong Qigong taught him a total of fifteen moves; while this important figure in the Beggar Clan only knew one move. His heart swelled with gratitude toward Hong Qigong.

    In the meantime Ouyang Ke had increased the intensity of his attacks, and step-by-step he forced Li Sheng toward a corner. Earlier Ouyang Ke sent his fierce attacks without any particular target, but now his moves were intended to prevent Li Sheng from turning around and launching his backward palm. Li Sheng understood his intention very well, so he worked hard to step back into the middle of the room.

    Suddenly Ouyang Ke let out a long laugh; he whirled the fist straight up from below hitting Li Sheng’s chin. Li Sheng stammered in pain, he cried in alarm. He tried to stretch his hand to counterattack, but he was a split second too late. Ouyang Ke’s fist had struck its target. Li Sheng was hit five, six times on the head and chest. He felt dizzy, his body weakened, he wobbled and fell to the ground.

    The Beggar Clan people rushed to help, but Ouyang Ke turned around, grabbed two of the front most attackers and threw them to the wall. They fainted immediately. The rest of the beggars did not dare to continue.

    “What do you think I am to think that a bunch of stinky beggars would deceive me so easily?” Ouyang Ke sneered. He clapped his hands and two female disciples came out dragging a young woman along. Her hands were tied behind her back, her face weary, tears flowed down her cheeks; she was none other than Miss Cheng.

    Everybody, including Huang Rong and Guo Jing, was shocked and baffled.

    Ouyang Ke waved his hand and his disciples took Miss Cheng back inside. With a smug expression he said, “When the old beggar went into the sack, I worked downstairs inviting Miss Cheng and went back here immediately to wait for the rest of you.”

    The beggars looked at each other in blank dismay, they thought this time they lost big time.

    Ouyang Ke casually waved his fan and mocked, “The Beggar Clan’s name is well-known throughout the world. Today I have seen it with my own eyes, a fame that will make people laugh until their teeth fall out of their mouths! Your special skills of stealing chicken, stroking dogs, begging for food, catching snakes, I have seen them all. Now, do you still dare to mingle in your Young Master’s business? I am willing to spare this old beggar’s life, but I must take his two lights as a souvenir.” After saying that, he stretched out two fingers toward Li Sheng’s eyes.

    “Hold it!” suddenly a voice called out. A man leaped into the hall and immediately sent an attack toward Ouyang Ke.

    Ouyang Ke sensed the swiftness and fierceness of the attack; he moved sideways to evade, but still could not get out of the wind. His body shook and he was forced to draw back two steps. He could not help but secretly startled. “Ever since I left the western region I had fought many skilled masters; who is this man who has an unexpectedly high martial art skill?” He turned his eyes toward the newcomer and once again he was startled; since he had fought Guo Jing before at the Zhao Palace. His martial art was only average; how did his palm carry a profound strength just now?

    “You have committed all kinds of evil, but instead of repenting you wanted to injure this good man. Do you really not consider the heroes of the Jianghu anymore?” Guo Jing scolded.

    Ouyang Ke thought that Guo Jing’s last attack was just a coincidence. He looked down on Guo Jing, “Are you one of those ‘heroes’?” he mockingly asked.

    “I do not dare to call myself a hero,” Guo Jing answered. “But with all due respect I am asking you to release Miss Cheng and then return to the west immediately.”

    “And what if I don’t want to listen to your childish request?” Ouyang Ke smirked.

    Before Guo Jing had a chance to reply, Huang Rong called from outside the window, “Brother Jing, just punch this bastard!”

    Ouyang Ke heard Huang Rong’s voice, his spirit was shaken. “Miss Huang, you want me to release Miss Cheng, that is easy, as long as you follow me wherever I go. Not only Miss Cheng, but I will also release all my female disciples; moreover, I will promise you not to take any other female disciple. Wouldn’t that be good?”

    Huang Rong leaped inside the hall, smiling she said, “That is very good! We are going to tour the western region. Brother Jing, are you coming?”

    Ouyang Ke shook his head, “No, I want you to come with me. I don’t want this stinky kid to come along,” he said, still smiling.

    Huang Rong was angry, her palm slapped backward. “You dare to scold him? You are the stinky one!” she loudly shouted.

    Ouyang Ke was mesmerized with Huang Rong’s gracefulness and her sweet smile while talking to him. She looked so innocent yet free. His spirit was captured. Who would have thought that she abruptly turned hostile? He did not guard against her, plus Huang Rong was using the exquisite move from the [fallen flower divine sword palm], the ultimate in palm technique. So his left cheek was slapped. Fortunately Huang Rong did not use her full strength; but his face was burning in pain nonetheless.

    “Bah!” Ouyang Ke spat. His left hand suddenly stretched out toward Huang Rong’s breast. Huang Rong did not elude him; she threw both hands toward the top of his head. Ouyang Ke was lascivious, seeing Huang Rong did not move, he was delighted. While ignoring the blow on his head he caressed his hand on her breast. Who would have thought that as soon as his fingers touched her clothes, he felt stabbing pain. Suddenly it dawned on him, “She is wearing the soft hedgehog armor.” Luckily he was being frivolous that he did not use much strength. Quickly he lifted his arm to parry her blow.

    “It’s not easy for you to hit me,” Huang Rong smiled. “I can hit you, but you can’t hit me.”

    Ouyang Ke was exasperated; he could not enrage Huang Rong, so he vented his anger toward Guo Jing. “Let me kill this kid first, I hope her feeling toward him will die,” he thought. So while his eyes fixed on Huang Rong, his leg flew backward toward Guo Jing’s chest. This leg movement was swift and ruthless. It was the Western Poison Ouyang Feng’s unique family skill. It was difficult to fend off. Once the leg hit its target, the ribcage would be fractured toward the lung.

    Guo Jing did not have enough time to jump back, so he turned his body around and launched a backward palm. With a loud crash Guo Jing’s palm hit Ouyang Ke’s leg, while Ouyang Ke’s leg hit Guo Jing’s chest almost simultaneously. Both men felt searing pain to the bone. They turned their bodies around facing each other and staring at each other angrily; immediately they attacked each other.

    The Beggar Clan people were surprised, “This move obviously is Li Sheng’s unique skill, the [divine dragon swing its tail], how come this young man can use it? Moreover, his movement is superior to that of Li Sheng.” By now they have already pulled Li Sheng – who had come to his senses, to the side. He also recognized not only the [divine dragon swing its tail], but other stances as well. He saw Guo Jing’s moves were exquisite and powerful; he was amazed. “This ’18 Dragon-subduing Palms’ is Clan Leader Hong’s special skill. Because I had no regard for my own life and rendered a great service, the leader had generously rewarded me with one stance. Where did this youth learn the full set of 18 stances?” Obviously he did not realize Guo Jing only knew 15 stances.

    Ouyang Ke was also amazed. He secretly admired Guo Jing’s progress. “How could this kid’s martial art improve so much in just two months?”

    In a short time they have already exchanged about forty moves. Guo Jing had repeatedly used his 15 stances several times. It was enough for him to defend himself; but in all honesty he had to admit that Ouyang Ke’s martial art was several levels above his, so he realized he would not win.

    Another ten or so moves later Ouyang Ke changed his tactics. He swiftly moved to all directions to divert Guo Jing’s attention then he launched quick attack from unexpected direction. Guo Jing tried hard to fend off but his left hip was kicked. He stepped backward and was limping. Luckily his stances were concentrated on his palms, so he could still launch his 15 moves in succession.

    Ouyang Ke did not dare to press on for a while. He tried to force an opening in Guo Jing’s defense line. About a dozen or so moves later he did see an opening and immediately launched an attack. Guo Jing had finished all 15 moves and was about to repeat the whole set. After the fifteenth stance ‘jian long zai tian’ [dragon appeared from (rice) field] he could have launched the first stance, ‘kang long you hui’ [the proud dragon show remorse]; but he could also repeat the last stance, ‘jian long zai tian’. His mind was not quick enough, he pondered, “Shall I repeat from the beginning, or shall I reverse the order?” This slight hesitation was enough for Ouyang Ke. He immediately took advantage of this small flaw and attacked toward Guo Jing’s shoulder.

    Guo Jing was taken aback; he did not have any chance to think which one of the 15 stances he could use to parry that attack, so in reflex he stepped backward and slapped his opponent’s hand. It was a move without following any martial art principles; it was a move without a move. But it took Ouyang Ke by surprise and his arm was squarely hit. Ouyang Ke was shocked; he leaped back and immediately examined his arm. Luckily even though it hurt, but it was not broken.

    Guo Jing was delighted with this unexpected result. He thought, “I realized there are three areas on my body which are not protected well: my shoulder, left hip, and right waist. If only I can develop more stances using my both hands …” His mind was still reeling when Ouyang Ke had launched another attack.

    Guo Jing was not the smartest kid on the block. Even if he painstakingly racked his brain for ten days or two weeks, he would not necessarily come out with even half of a new move; much less now he was engaged in a fierce combat, how would he have a chance to think? All he could do was clumsily modifying whatever principle he had learned from the dragon palms just to protect his shoulder, left hip and right waist; these three areas.

    Ouyang Ke was anxious. “His stances were limited, and given enough time, I am sure I can gain an upper hand. Where did these three additional stances come from?” he thought. He did not know that Guo Jing’s three additional moves were actually useless; but he was a little bit wary since he was hit before. So he slowed down his pace and concentrating his strength on defense, carefully studied Guo Jing’s new moves. After a while he could see the flaw. “Right! He had not mastered these moves yet, that was the reason he did not use them at the beginning,” he thought. While still moving his body around he thrust his left hand to divert Guo Jing’s attention; and at the same time swung his right leg straight toward Guo Jing’s left hip.

    Guo Jing was not able to use his three self-developed stances to their full extend yet. To suddenly see the opponent attacked his weak point, he was nervous. Actually he was launching a palm, but suddenly retracted it halfway and diverted his palm to parry his opponent’s kick.

    Huang Rong was secretly disappointed. “To hesitate in a match like this is truly martial art’s biggest taboo. In this one single move Brother Jing had wasted seven, eight opportunities. Not only that, but even if he won’t be able to injure the enemy, he should be able to defend himself. By turning around his palm like that, he actually made the flaw bigger,” she reasoned. She knew for sure that Ouyang Ke had put all his strength in that kick; Guo Jing might not be able to parry it. So immediately seven, eight steel needles flew hard from her hand.

    Ouyang Ke quickly drew the folding fan on his waist and in one fluid motion open up the fan and waved it gently to block the needles. He was sure all needles were down; hence he did not slow down his kick toward Guo Jing. He was confident Guo Jing would get hit hard and fell to the ground; but then he felt a slight numbness like the acupoint above his ankle was sealed. His kick did not stop all right, but it had lost all its strength. Ouyang Ke leaped back in great surprise. “Which meddler is brave enough to backstab your Young Master?” he fumed, “Come out if you have guts …”

    But before he finished he heard a noise from above and something flew his way. He lifted his hand to fend that thing, but it came too fast. Before he knew it something had entered his mouth. It was a little bit salty and hard. He was startled and scared. Quickly he spat that thing out. Turned out it was a chicken bone.

    Nervously he looked around above him; but at that precise moment some debris came falling down on him. He busily leaped sideways while spitting the dust from his mouth. Just as he opened his mouth, several pieces of chicken bones came hitting his teeth. They were not knocked down, but it was painful! Ouyang Ke was wild with rage. Suddenly he saw something flew down from a shadow on the roof beam above; immediately he launched a palm to strike that something. He managed to strike it down to the ground only to see that something was actually half-eaten chicken claw. Then he heard the shadow on the beam exploded in laughter. “How is the beggar’s stealing chicken skill?”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing leaped in joy as soon as they heard his voice. “Qigong!” they shouted together.

    Everybody looked up and saw Hong Qigong sat on the roof beam, his feet splayed out; half of a chicken in his hand, which he ate enthusiastically. The numerous Beggar Clan people bowed and open their mouths together, “Clan Leader! We wish you Senior well.”

    Ouyang Ke saw it was indeed Hong Qigong; his heart sank. “If what he threw to me was not chicken bones but projectiles, I would be dead by now. Real men are not afraid of defeat; most important thing now is escaping.” He bowed and said, “Uncle Hong, your nephew kowtows to you.” His mouth said ‘kowtow’ but he did not kneel down.

    Hong Qigong was still chewing the chicken. “Are you not returning to the west? You have committed evil acts over here, do you want to deliver your little life in the ‘zhong yuan’ [Central Plain]?” he asked indistinctly.

    “In the Central Plain Uncle Hero is invincible,” Ouyang Ke replied. “As long as Uncle Hero shows mercy and did not come over here to bully the young and the weak, your young nephew has nothing to fear. My own uncle had instructed me that if I ever see Uncle Hong I should be respectful to you. He had warned me the difference between our skill levels; that Junior simply could not even touch you; that if I insist on trying I would be the laughingstock of all the heroes of the world.”

    Hong Qigong laughed heartily and said, “You flattered me and tried to prevent me from fighting you, but actually there are a lot of people in the Central Plain who wanted to kill you. I don’t have to move my finger if I really want you dead. Earlier you said that you have seen my skills of stealing chicken, stroking dogs, begging for food and catching snake; and you belittled those skills, did you not?”

    Ouyang Ke hastily answered, “Your young nephew was not aware this old hero is Uncle Hong’s disciple. It was very disrespectful of me. I beg Uncle and this old hero’s forgiveness.”

    Hong Qigong leaped down from the beam. “You called him ‘the old hero’ but he was defeated by you. Aren’t you the hero then? Ha … ha … aren’t you ashamed?”

    Ouyang Ke was angry, but knew his martial art was way too far below Hong Qigong; so he did not dare to say anything wrong. He suppressed his anger and did not make any sound.

    “Your skills were imparted by that old Western Poison and you are thinking of running amuck in the Central Plain. Humph … do you really think I am already dead?” Hong Qigong said.

    “Uncle holds the same rank of honor with my own uncle; Junior will have to listen to Uncle’s instruction,” Ouyang Ke said.

    “Is that so?” Hong Qigong said. “You are saying that I put you on the spot; that the older bully the younger?” Ouyang Ke did not say anything, which was the same as agreeing to what Hong Qigong was saying.

    “Even though the Old Beggar is the leader of all beggars; old and young alike, but not all beggars are my disciple,” Hong Qigong continued. “This man surnamed Li had learned a superficial amount of my martial arts; how could he be regarded as my successor? His ‘wandering strides’ fist technique has not reached perfection. You belittled my stealing chicken and stroking dogs skill, humph … if the old beggar really takes a disciple, he wouldn’t be inferior to you.”

    “Naturally,” Ouyang Ke agreed. “Uncle Hong’s disciple would be much stronger than your nephew. But your martial art skill is too high; it wouldn’t be easy for anybody to learn.”

    “Your mouth is sweet,” Hong Qigong said, “But I am sure you are scolding me in your heart.”

    “Your nephew does not dare,” Ouyang Ke answered.

    “Qigong, don’t believe his lie,” Huang Rong quipped. “He scolds you in his heart all right, and he scolds you really bad. He said although your martial art is not bad but it only benefits yourself; you don’t have the ability to teach. Even if you teach your stealing chicken and stroking dogs skills to your heart’s content, nobody would be able to learn it to perfection.”

    Hong Qigong just stared at her. He snorted and mumbled, “This little girl knows how to provoke me.” He turned his head and said, “Good, huh? This kid dares to scold me?” Suddenly he stretched one hand; quick as lighting he snatched the folding fan in Ouyang Ke’s hand. He unfolded the fan and saw some peonies painting, with two characters ‘Xu Xi’. He did not know that Xu Xi was a poet from Northern Song Dynasty. Although the peonies were beautifully painted, he still said, “Not good!” There was several lines of characters written on the fan, and at the end was a signature, ‘bai tuo shan shao zhu’ [Young Master of the White Camel Mountain]. It was Ouyang Ke’s handwriting.

    “What do you think of these characters?” Hong Qigong asked Huang Rong.

    Huang Rong raised her eyebrows and said, “Very crude. But what do you expect? A spoiled rich kid like him wouldn’t know how to write. I bet he hired a pawnshop clerk to write those characters.”

    Ouyang Ke pride himself as both martial art and literature expert, which was actually not too far from reality. Hearing Huang Rong he was really angry. He shot an angry look toward her, only to see under the candlelight the corner of her eyes bore a very faint smile. She looked so sweet and innocent that his anger vanished into thin air.

    Hong Qigong spread the fan in his hand; lifting it up he wiped his mouth with it. He just ate a chicken, so his mouth was greasy. As soon as he did that, the painting and calligraphy were completely destroyed. Then he casually crumpled the fan, made it a paper ball and tossed it to the ground.

    Other people would think nothing of it, but not so to Ouyang Ke; his fan’s spines were made of steel. The fan was his weapon. It was a demonstration of a profound internal energy. He was terrified.

    “If I personally fight you, you will die unsatisfied. So I am going to take a disciple and let him fight with you,” Hong Qigong said.

    Ouyang Ke pointed to Guo Jing. “This fellow had fought with me for dozens of stances. If Uncle Hong did not come out, I would gain the upper hand. Brother Guo, don’t you agree?” he said.

    Guo Jing nodded his head, “I might lose.” Ouyang Ke smiled with satisfaction.

    Hong Qigong looked up and laughed. “Jing’er, are you my disciple?” he asked.

    Guo Jing recalled he kowtowed to Hong Qigong, but Hong Qigong returned those kowtows. “Junior is unfortunate not to be your disciple,” he quickly replied.

    “Did you hear?” Hong Qigong asked Ouyang Ke.

    Ouyang Ke was dissatisfied. “You can’t fool me; where did this kid’s exquisite palms come from?” he asked.

    Hong Qigong turned toward Guo Jing. “If I don’t make you my disciple, that little brat girl will not let me die peacefully. She would pester me with hundreds of evil schemes forever. I guess the old beggar has to admit defeat. All right, bow to me, I’ll take you as my disciple,” he said.

    Guo Jing was ecstatic. Quickly he bent his knees and busily kowtowed several times while calling out, “Master!” That day at the Cloud Village he had recounted to his six masters how Hong Qigong had taught him the ’18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’. The Six Freaks of Jiangnan were very happy, they all said it was a pity this highly skilled extraordinary character of the Wulin world was not willing to take Guo Jing as his disciple. They told him that if Hong Qigong happened to reveal his willingness to take him, Guo Jing should accept without reservation.

    Huang Rong was even happier. She smiled broadly and said, “Qigong, I have helped you find a very fine disciple. My contribution is not small. Starting today you will have somebody you can call your successor. How will you thank me?”

    Hong Qigong made a face to her, “Kiss my a**!” Then he turned to Guo Jing and said, “’sha xiao zi’ [it’s a vulgar term, lit. foolish/dumb/stupid kid – take your pick], let me teach you three stances first.” Immediately he taught Guo Jing the last three stances of the ’18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ right in front of everybody else. Of course, compared to Guo Jing’s own three desperately-brewed stances, these moves were like a world apart.

    Ouyang Ke said to himself, “This old beggar’s martial art is outstanding, but he is not too smart. He is concentrating on teaching his disciple, totally forgetting that I am standing here, watching.” With rapt attention he watched Guo Jing’s every move. But he did not see anything extraordinary. Sometimes Gong Qigong whispered something into Guo Jing’s ears. He guessed it must be the theory behind these three moves. Sometimes Guo Jing would nod his head, but most other time he just stood there, staring blankly or shook his head. Hong Qigong would repeat what he just said until Guo Jing reluctantly nodded his head; obviously he did not fully comprehend the theory. “This guy is really stupid,” he thought, “This short period of time is not enough for him to learn the three stances. I might as well seize the opportunity to study them.”

    In the meantime Hong Qigong had Guo Jing practice six, seven times. “Good, smart disciple,” he said. “You have mastered about 50% of these three stances. Now go and beat this lecherous thief for me.”

    “Yes,” Guo Jing answered and moved forward two steps and launched a palm toward Ouyang Ke. Ouyang Ke slanted his body and counterattacked with a fist. Thus two people engaged in a fight again.

    The secret of ’18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ lies in the exact timing of energy exertion. The moves themselves were quite simple. That was the reason that although Liang Ziweng, Mei Chaofeng and Ouyang Ke’s martial arts were higher than that of Guo Jing’s; yet Guo Jing was able to fight them without losing a ground. Just a moment ago Ouyang Ke was watching Hong Qigong passed on the three stances to Guo Jing, and he knew Guo Jing had not fully comprehend the moves while he himself had memorized the stances; yet now that he was fighting Guo Jing, he found it difficult to overcome those three stances.

    Guo Jing on the other hand, had now mastered the complete set of ’18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’. He was able to use it from head to tail and back to head again. The fierceness of the original 15 moves he had already mastered was greatly increased.

    Ouyang Ke had used four different kinds of martial arts, yet he could only match Guo Jing without being able to gain an upper hand. Dozens of moves later he started to get anxious. “If I don’t use my family’s unique skill I might lose,” he thought. “I was trained by my uncle since my childhood. How come I cannot defeat the old beggar’s disciple who received instructions just a moment ago? I am afraid the old beggar will look down on my uncle.”

    A dozen or so moves later Guo Jing raised his hand to parry Ouyang Ke’s fist; but suddenly Ouyang Ke’s hand turned around and hit Guo Jing’s skull from behind. Guo Jing was stunned. He ducked to avoid the blow while simultaneously threw a fist slanting upward. Ouyang Ke stepped sideways and sent another fist. Guo Jing did not dare to parry that fist; he dodged to the right. Who would have thought that Ouyang Ke’s arm suddenly moved like a whip! Guo Jing clearly saw it was aiming his left side, but suddenly twisted to the right and struck Guo Jing’s shoulder.

    Guo Jing was hit three times in a short period of time. These three hits were heavy; he was anxious for he had no idea how to deal with it. “Jing’er, stop!” Hong Qigong called out, “Let’s just admit defeat this time.”

    Guo Jing leaped about ten feet back; he felt pain on the parts being hit. To Ouyang Ke he said, “Your martial art is really brilliant; with arm turning around like that, it was really odd.” Ouyang Ke was proud of himself; he cast a boasting look toward Huang Rong.

    Hong Qigong said, “The Old Poison raises snake for a living; this set of ‘ruan pi she’ [snake’s flexible skin] fists technique must be developed from the venomous snakes’ movement. It was brilliant. The old beggar has not been able to devise a method to overcome it. Just consider yourself lucky. Now, get out of my way!”

    Ouyang Ke’s heart turned cold. “Uncle had warned me a thousand times not to use this ‘ling she quan’ [spirit snake fist] unless in an extremely dangerous situation. Today I have let the old beggar see it. If my uncle finds out, I will be in big trouble.” His self-satisfaction disappeared almost immediately. He bowed toward Hong Qigong and walked out the temple.

    “Hold on a second! I have something to say,” Huang Rong called out. Ouyang Ke halted his steps; his heart beat faster. But Huang Rong did not pay any attention to him. She turned toward Hong Qigong and bowed respectfully. “Qigong,” she said. “You have to accept two disciples today. Good things come in pairs; you have accepted a male disciple, now you must accept a female one. Otherwise I won’t let you off easily.”

    Hong Qigong shook his head. “I have already made an exception by accepting one disciple,” he smiled. “The old beggar doesn’t want to talk about it. Moreover, your father is also highly skilled in martial art; how could he let you take the old beggar as your master?”

    Huang Rong pretended to be suddenly enlightened. “So, you are scared of my father!” she exclaimed. Hong Qigong was provoked. He was actually very fond of her. “Me? Scared of your father?” he said with a straight face. “OK, I’ll take you as my disciple. I want to see if the Old Heretic Huang can eat me alive.”

    Huang Rong smiled. “You’ve said it, you can’t take it back,” she said. “You know, my father oftentimes remarked that among the martial experts in this world, after Wong Chongyang died, only you and he two people that count. The Southern Emperor and the rest of them are not even in his book. I am sure father will love it that I take you as my master. Master, how did a beggar catch a snake? Please teach me this skill first.”

    Hong Qigong was not sure he knew her intention, but he did know the young girl was smart. She must have had some clever trick in her sleeves. So he simply explained, “Grab the snake seven inches from its head. Use your two fingers like a pair of pliers. As long as you pinch the snake at seven inches, no matter how venomous the snake is, it won’t be able to move.”

    “What if the snake is very big?” Huang Rong asked.

    “Lure it to bite your left hand, then, use your right hand to hit it at seven inches,” Hong Qigong answered.

    “Do you have to be extremely quick?” Huang Rong asked again.

    “Of course,” Hong Qigong replied. “You have to put some ointment on your left hand, so even if it gets bitten by the snake you won’t get hurt.”

    Huang Rong nodded. She winked to Hong Qigong and asked, “Master, then please apply the ointment on my hand.”

    Catching snakes was the Beggar Clan people’s specialty. Hong Qigong had never used any ointment or antidote; he would simply beat the snake with his stick. But seeing Huang Rong’s meaningful glance, he took out the scarlet gourd on his back, which actually contained some wine; and apply the wine on both Huang Rong’s palms.

    Huang Rong sniffed her palms, made a face, and said to Ouyang Ke, “Hey, I am now the world famous beggar, the Old Hero Hong’s disciple. I am asking a lesson on the ‘snake’s flexible skin’ from you. But I must warn you that my hands are full of antidote to your poison, so you must be careful.”

    “Having a match with you is exactly what I hoped for,” Ouyang Ke thought. “I don’t care whatever witchcraft is on your hands, as long as I don’t touch them.” So he smiled brightly and said, “I am willing to die under your hands.”

    Huang Rong said, “Your other martial arts are so sloppy and ordinary, I only want to fight your stinky snake moves. If you use any other martial arts, you lose.”

    “Whatever Miss say, I wouldn’t dare to disobey,” Ouyang Ke said.

    Huang Rong laughed. “Can’t believe a bastard like you have a very sweet mouth,” she said. “Watch out!” As soon as she finished speaking her fist came flying with Hong Qigong’s ‘wandering strides’ technique.

    Ouyang Ke let the fist passed on his side, Huang Rong followed with her left leg kicking horizontally, while her right hand forming a hook. It was a stance from the [fallen flower divine sword palm], her own family heritage. Unfortunately Huang Rong was still too young, the time she spent on training was limited; however, this time her purpose was a victory, so she used whatever kungfu she knew, regardless of who passed it on her.

    Ouyang Ke saw the exquisiteness of her moves; he did not dare to be careless. His right arm extended and suddenly curved back to hit her shoulder. This move from the [spirit snake fist] was swift. His hand almost touched Huang Rong body when he suddenly remembered that she was wearing the soft hedgehog armor. If he proceeded, wouldn’t his fist be dripping with blood?

    Huang Rong quickly dodged and sent both her palms whishing toward an opening on his face. Ouyang Ke brushed his sleeve and parried her palms.

    Huang Rong’s body was protected by the soft hedgehog armor, her hands were covered with ointment; the only part unprotected was her face. Ouyang Ke was in a predicament; he was getting attacked without any chance to hit back. Even though the [spirit snake fist] was wonderful; he was forced to fly east and dodging west trying to elude Huang Rong’s attack, while keeping himself from touching her palms. “If I hit her face to gain victory, that would be offensive to her, and if I pull her hair, I treat her rudely; but other than that I can’t think of anything else,” he thought. But suddenly he got an idea. He stepped aside and quickly tore the corner of his sleeve; made it into two parts and wrapped them on his hands. With protected hands he tried to grab Huang Rong’s palms.

    “You lost!” Huang Rong jumped out of the arena and called out. “It was not the stinky snake fist.”

    “Oh, I forgot,” Ouyang Ke said.

    “Your stinky snake fist is not that special, it cannot defeat Hong Qigong’s disciple,” Huang Rong continued. “At the Zhao Palace you defeated me, but that was because you have Liang Ziweng, Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, Reverend Ling Zhi, and also that wart-headed Hou Tonghai alongside. I was overwhelmed by sheer numbers; also I did not want to get into trouble, so I admitted defeat. OK, now that we have defeated each other, let’s just have a match to decide victory or defeat.”

    Li Sheng and the other were taken aback, they thought, “Even though this young girl’s martial art is good, but she is definitely not this man’s match. She won by using a trick. Why would she add something superfluous and ruin the victory? What else does she want to prove?”

    Hong Qigong on the other hand fully realized that this girl was full of clever tricks; she must have something in her mind to play trick on the enemy. So he simply smiled but did not say anything. He continued gnawing the chicken leftover and noisily ate, like the chicken was the best food in the world.

    “Why are you so serious?” Ouyang Ke laughed. “Either you win or I win, it doesn’t make a difference. But if you really want to play, I will accompany you.”

    “At the Zhao Palace we were surrounded by your friends. If I won, they would surely attack me; thus I was not willing to fight you seriously,” Huang Rong said. “But now you have your friends,” she pointed to the female disciples/concubines in whites, “and I also have my friends. Although you have more friends than I do, I am not afraid. Let us fight just like we did before: you may draw a circle on the ground; we will follow the same rule; whoever steps out of the circle first, lose. I have kowtowed and take Senior Qigong as my master; I also have highly skilled martial siblings, including this young man. You do not have to tie your hands behind you back as before.”

    Ouyang Ke was amused. What she said was partly funny, but also if you think about it, it did make sense. So he planted his left foot on the ground, and used it as the axis; while his right foot was stretched three feet apart. He turned around and made a circle about six feet in diameter.

    The Beggar Clan people did not like him, but seeing this they could not help but secretly praised him.

    Huang Rong entered the circle and said, “Are we going to fight ‘soft’ way [‘wen’ – literature] or ‘hard’ way [‘wu’ – military, or martial art]?”

    Ouyang Ke was baffled, “You are eccentric,” he said in his heart, but his mouth asked, “How do fight the ‘soft’ way? And how do you fight the ‘hard’ way?”

    “If we fight the soft way, I attack you three times, you don’t counterattack; then you attack me three times, I won’t counterattack,” Huang Rong explained. “If we fight the hard way, we can fight each other at will. You can use your dead snake fist or live mouse stance, I don’t care. Whoever steps out of the circle first, lose.”

    Ouyang Ke thought for a moment. “I think we’d better fight the soft way,” he said. “That way we can avoid injury and won’t spoil our friendship.”

    “If you chose ‘hard’ way, you will certainly lost,” Huang Rong said. “But if we fight ‘soft’ way, you still have a chance. Good! Let us fight as you wish, the ‘soft’ way. Do you go first, or I go first?”

    How could Ouyang Ke hit her first? “Certainly ladies first,” he said.

    Huang Rong smiled. “You are sly! Always choosy. You know you will suffer loss if you hit me first. OK, I am being generous to you; let me hit you first.”

    Ouyang Ke was going to say, “That case I will hit you first.” But before he could open his mouth Huang Rong had already called out, “Watch out!” She immediately sent her palm to attack. Something flashing in her hand; turned out she was throwing some secret projectiles.

    Ouyang Ke saw the multitude of projectiles; normally he would use his folding fan to parry an attack like this, but his fan was crushed in Hong Qigong’s hand; he could also use his long sleeve to wrap the projectiles, but his sleeves were torn earlier. The steel needles encompassed an area about six, seven feet wide; if he leaped sideways, he would be out of the circle. He had no time to consider any other alternatives, so he leaped about ten feet vertically upward. The steel needles all flew below him.

    Huang Rong waited until he was at the peak and was falling back down before she called out, “Here comes the second attack!” Her two hands launched about a hundred steel needles. It was the ‘man tian hua yu zhi jin zhen’ [blossoms rain from the sky tossing needles technique] from Hong Qigong. She did not even try to aim, just shot out the needles toward Ouyang Ke.

    Even if Ouyang Ke’s skill were much higher, his body was midair; there was simply no way he could avoid it. “I am finished!” he sighed in his heart, “This slave girl is so vicious.” Right at that moment he felt someone pulled his collar and his body moved back upward; with swishing noise the needles fell to the ground.

    Ouyang Ke knew somebody must have saved him. He was thrown back to the ground. It was not too hard, but the energy behind that throw was peculiar – a sign of highly skilled martial artist; he fell left shoulder first. Naturally he tried to stand back up, but he was unable to do so. He was rolling around on the ground before he finally managed to stand. He knew it must be Hong Qigong, because nobody in that vicinity had that kind of skill. He was terrified yet upset; immediately walked out the temple without saying anything. His female disciples followed.

    “Master, why did you save this scoundrel?” Huang Rong asked.

    Hong Qigong smiled. “His uncle is an old friend of mine. This kid had committed many disgraceful acts; he deserved to be damned. But it wouldn’t be good for his uncle’s face if he were injured in my hand.” He patted Huang Rong on the shoulder and said, “Smart girl, you have given my face much good today. How should I reward you?”

    Huang Rong stuck out her tongue. “I don’t want your bamboo stick,” she said.

    “Even if you want it, I cannot give it to you,” Hong Qigong said. “I have a mind to teach you one or two kinds of kungfu; but I am too lazy these past few days, I don’t have any interest to do anything.”

    “I’ll prepare some good food for you to boost your interest,” Huang Rong offered.

    Hog Qigong’s eyes lit up; but then he heaved a big sigh. “I don’t have time to eat right now. What a pity, what a pity …!” He turned to Li Sheng and the others and said, “The Beggar Clan has several matters we need to discuss internally.”

    Li Sheng and the others came to Guo Jing and Huang Rong, expressing their gratefulness for saving their lives. Huang Rong had cut the rope that bind Miss Cheng’s hands and feet. Miss Cheng was extremely shy; she held Huang Rong’s hand and quietly said her thanks. Huang Rong pointed to Guo Jing and said, “Your Eldest Martial Uncle, Priest Ma had taught him kungfu, your Martial Uncles Qiu and Wang are also very fond of him, so I can say that we belong to the same family.”

    Miss Cheng turned her head toward Guo Jing and suddenly blushed. She lowered her head and after a while quietly stole a glance toward Guo Jing again.

    Li Sheng and the other also congratulated all three people Hong Qigong, Guo Jing and Huang Rong. They knew Qigong did not usually accept any disciple; even among the Beggar Clan members rarely did he teach more than one or two stances. They wondered how Guo Jing and Huang Rong persuaded him that he was willing to take them. In their hearts they envied these two.

    “We are going to prepare a banquet tomorrow evening to congratulate Clan Leader on having accepted two very fine disciples,” Li Sheng said.

    Hong Qigong smiled, “I am afraid they won’t like filthy foods, the kind we beggars eat.”

    “We will certainly come,” Guo Jing hastily said, “Big Brother Li is a Senior Hero, Junior would very much like to know you.” Li Sheng was saved by Guo Jing; thus he kept his eyes on this young man and now listening to his humble speech he was even more delighted. He decided right then and there to befriend Guo Jing.

    Hong Qigong said, “I am glad you two feel like old friends at your first meeting; but I warn you not to persuade my first disciple to be a beggar like you! You, my younger disciple, go and take Miss Cheng back home. We, the beggars are going to steal some chicken and beg for some rice.” After saying these words, he left the temple followed by all the beggars. Just before leaving Li Sheng told Guo Jing that the banquet tomorrow would be held in that very same temple.

    Guo Jing accompanied Huang Rong to escort Miss Cheng back home.

    Miss Cheng quietly told Huang Rong her full name was Cheng Yaojia. Even though she had learned martial art from Sage of Tranquility Sun Bu’Er; but since she was born to a rich family, she was pampered since her childhood; plus by nature she was very shy, did not know too many people. Therefore, she was very different from Huang Rong who was carefree and brave. She did not dare to say even a half word to Guo Jing. Occasionally she would steal a glance and immediately lowered her head, her cheeks blushed profusely.

    End of Chapter 15.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 03:46 PM.

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