Why does Huangmei refer to emperor baoding as martial brother?
Great update RWX!
Why does Huangmei refer to emperor baoding as martial brother?
Great update RWX!
Great job Ren Wo Xing, i really like this novel, ah ah you're really lucky to have read it original and not waiting like us hehe. keep it up!
^ But we're lucky in that we're not translating. Translating can be such a pain. Much thanks bao bei.
Fan Hua muttered to himself, “The South-Subduing Prince’s son has fallen into the hands of a vile man. For the Emperor to suddenly decide to abolish the salt tax…he must be using this as a method of beseeching heaven for its help to return the South-Subduing Prince’s son safe and sound. If we cannot help alleviate his concerns as a Emperor and as an uncle, what face will we have to remain in the leadership position of the imperial court?”
Ba Tianshi said, “Exactly so. Second brother, what brilliant scheme have you thought of to rescue the child?” Fan Hua replied, “Since our opponent is Crown Prince Yanqing, the Emperor will do everything possible to avoid directly confronting him as an enemy. I do have a plan, but I’m afraid it will be burdensome for our elder brother.” Minister Hua Hegen hurriedly said, “So what if it requires hard work? Second brother, hurry and explain.”
Fan Hua explained, “The Emperor himself said that Crown Prince Yanqing’s martial arts ability was slightly above that of his own. Naturally, it won’t be possible for us to forcibly break Duan Yu out of the house. Elder brother, why don’t you once more take up that old profession of yours from twenty years ago?” Minister Hua’s entire face blushed red. He laughed. “Second brother, you’re making fun of me again.”
The Minister of Education Hua Hegen was originally named Hua Egen. He was of lowly birth. Although he had now risen to the stature of being one of the three most powerful ministers of Dali, before his rise, he was in the business of graverobbing. His best skill was in looting the tombs of princes and rich merchants. After they died, these wealthy people would often be buried with many riches and precious treasures. Hua Egen would tunnel his way into the tombs and steal the treasures. Although it required a tremendous amount of effort, he was never detected by anyone.
Once, upon tunneling his way into a particular tomb, he discovered a secret martial arts manual. Practicing in accordance with it, he managed to learn an extraordinarily powerful set of exterior martial arts. Following that, he abandoned his mean job and became an assistant to Emperor Baoding, rendering outstanding service and finally rose to the prestigious level of Minister of Education. He felt that the deeds attached to his old name were too vulgar, and therefore changed his name to Hegen. Aside from Ba Tianshi and Fan Hua, those two dear friends of his whom he had undergone life and death experiences with, very few people knew of his origins.
Fan Hua said, “How would I dare mock you, elder brother? I was thinking of us secretly sneaking inside the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge, then digging a tunnel straight into the stone house where the South-Subduing Prince’s son is kept. That way, without a single soul knowing, we would be able to rescue him.”
Hua Hegen slapped his thigh. “Brilliant! Brilliant!” He was born addicted to the hobby of tomb-robbing. Although in the past twenty years he didn’t dare do such a thing, whenever he thought about the old days and reminisced, his hands couldn’t help but itch. But he was a high official of exceeding rank and glory. How could he possibly go back to grave-robbing again? But now, upon hearing Fan Hua’s words, he couldn’t help but be hugely delighted.
Fan Hua laughed. “Elder brother, don’t be too happy this early. There are plenty of difficulties with regards to this plan. The Four Evils are residing with this gorge; in addition, Zhong Wanchou, his wife, and the Asura Sabre are also exceptionally formidable people. To keep this hidden from them really is no simple task. In addition, Crown Prince Yanqing has personally decided to serve as garrison for the stone house. If the tunnel is dug past him, how could he not feel it?
Hua Hegen mumbled to himself for a long while, then said, “The tunnel must be dug from the back of the stone house, so as to avoid Crown Prince Yanqing.” Ba Tianshi said, “The South-Subduing Prince’s son is in imminent danger. Digging a tunnel is no small task. I’m worried that we won’t be able to complete it in time.” Hua Hegen said, “Let us three brothers do it together. I’ll have to request that you lower your stations and dignity, and learn the arts of being a petty graverobbing thief from me.” Ba Tianshi laughed. “It seems that the three great ministers of Dali are now unshakeably duty-bound to engage in the unsavory business of tomb raiding.” All three of them laughed, clapping their hands together.
Hua Hegen said, “There’s no time to waste. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it!” Ba Tianshi immediately whipped out the map of the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge. Hua Hegen drafted out a proposed tunnel route. The issues of what to do with the dirt they dug out, or how to avoid being detected, were things that he was incomparably skilled at.
Duan Yu had felt hot and agitated for every moment within the past day and night. He began to use the ‘Graceful Steps Upon the Waves’, walking about quickly within the room. He only needed to complete one or two revolutions before feeling a sense of coolness. But Mu Wanqing’s entire body felt as though it were scorching, and her senses were addled. At least half the time, she would just dazedly lean against the stone wall.
At midday, Duan Yu once more began to stride about the room. Suddenly, he heard an aged voice speak from outside. “So very many people have been engrossed by the nineteen horizontal and vertical lines. Layman, would you be in the mood to discuss some things with this old monk?” Duan Yu felt strange. He immediately slowed down his footsteps, and after taking ten more, came to a halt altogether. He peered outside via the hole through which food was delivered.
He saw an old monk with sallow yellow eyebrows and a face filled with wrinkles. In his left hand, he held a steel muyu instrument [Buddhist percussion instrument used to beat a rhythym while chanting prayers] the size of a rice bowl. In his right hand, he held a hammer. He repeatedly struck the muyu with the hamer several times, producing a series of loud clangs. From the sound of it, the hammer must have been made of steel as well. While doing so, he chanted Buddhist prayers. “Amituofo! Amituofo!”
Bowing his head, he pointed the hammer at a blue stone in front of the stone house and began to draw a line. With a ‘chi’ sound, bits of stone began to fly everywhere, and a straight line immediately appeared. Duan Yu felt strange. He vaguely felt as though he had seen this old monk before in the past. The power in his hands was incredible. With but a casual wave of the hand, a deep mark had been made in the blue stone. The results were similar to that which a stonemason might have achieved using hammer and chisel over a long period of time. The line carved was extremely straight as well. If a stonemason had wanted to carve out a line so straight, he would have had to draw it out first.
A gloomy voice in front of the stone house spoke. “Power of the Vajra Finger. Good skill!” It was the man in green, “Evil Beyond Human Capacity.” Stretching out his left cane, he also carved out a horizontal line on the stone. This straight line intersected perfectly with the one carved out by the Yellow Browed Monk. His line was also carved deeply within the stone and very straight, without any crookedness or curvature.
The Yellow Browed Monk laughed. “Benefactor, you are willing to grant your instructions to me? Excellent, excellent.” He carved out a second vertical line with his steel hammer. Following him, the man in green carved out a horizontal line with his steel cane. And thus, in such a manner, these two exerted their energies to carve. They carved slower and slower, unwilling for there to be the slightest difference in the depth of their respective lines, or crookedness in their lines. If that had happened, they would have lost to their opponent.
In the time it would take to cook a bowl of rice, the nineteen horizontal and vertical lines of a Go chessboard had been neatly carved out on the stone. The Yellow Browed Monk thought to himself, “Mr. Zhengming spoke truly. Crown Prince Yanqing’s internal energy really is formidable.” Crown Prince Yanqing didn’t know that the Yellow Browed Monk had come with a specific purpose in mind. He was shocked, wondering to himself, “Where did such a powerful old monk come from? Hm, he must be a helper whom Duan Zhengming called for. With him keeping me entangled, if Duan Zhengming were to go rescue Duan Yu, I would be unable to prevent him from doing so.”
The Yellow Browed Monk said, “Benefactor Duan, your strength is deep and profound. Admirable, admirable. Your skill at chess is surely tenfold that of this old monk’s as well. This old monk would like to request that you allow me a handicap of four stones.” The man in green was startled. He thought to himself, “The power of your fingers is so very profound. You must be a famous man of high status. You came to challenge me. How could you immediately ask for me to give way to you?” He replied, “Master, no need to be courteous. Victory and defeat must naturally be determined on an even playing field.” The Yellow Browed Monk replied, “You really must allow me the handicap of four stones.” The man in green said emotionlessly, “Since you claim that you have little skill in chess, there is no need for you to force yourself to play.” The Yellow Browed Monk replied, “Then just let me have an advantage of three stones instead?” The man in green replied, “I will give you a handicap of one stone, if you give me the same.”
The Yellow Browed Monk laughed. “Evidently, your accomplishments in the field of chess are limited. I’ll allow you the handicap of three stones instead.” The man in green replied, “That is also unnecessary. We shall simply play.” In the Yellow Browed Monk’s heart, a feeling of dread grew. “This man is neither conceited nor rash. He is somber to the extreme. A truly formidable opponent. No matter how I badgered him, he wouldn’t react to me.” As it happened, the Yellow Browed Monk wasn’t certain of victory. He knew that all chess players liked to outdo others. Generally, when he requested a handicap of three or four stones, his opponents would agree. He himself was beyond such worldly things, and cared little for such empty things as reputations. If Crown Prince Yanqing, desiring to flaunt his abilities in chess, had agreed to allow a handicap, the Yellow Browed Monk would have gained a massive advantage, and naturally would have had an increased chance of success in this battle. He didn’t expect that Crown Prince Yanqing neither allowed others to take advantage of him, nor would take advantage of others. He wasn’t the least bit negligent, showing an unparalleled solemnity and sternness.
The Yellow Browed Monk said, “Fine. You’re the host. I’m the guest. I’ll take the first move.” The man in green said, “No! A powerful dragon cannot crush a snake in his own haunts [lit., a powerful force must give way to a weaker one if on the weaker one’s turf]. I will go first.” The Yellow Browed Monk said, “Then the only way we can determine who will go first is via a guessing game. Please guess if my age this year is even or odd. If you guess correctly, you may go first. If not, I go first.” The man in green said, “Even if I guess correctly, you will deny it.” The Yellow Browed Monk said, “Fine! Then guess something which I won’t be able to deny. When I am seventy years old, will the number of toes on my feet be even, or odd?”
This riddle was extremely bizarre. The man in green thought to himself, “Everyone has ten toes. Of course the number will be even. He’s purposefully trying to lead me into saying that the number of toes he has when he is seventy will be an odd number. It is written in the Art of War that lies are hidden within the truth, and the truth is hidden within lies. He has ten toes, but purposefully made the exact number seem mysterious so as to deceive me. How can I fall for such a trick?” He said, “The number is even.” The Yellow Browed Monk replied, “Wrong. It is odd.” The man in green said, “Remove your shoes and prove it.”
The Yellow Browed Monk took off his left shoe, revealing five toes in perfectly good shape. The man in green, observing his opponent’s countenance, saw a small smile on his face. He thought to himself, “So he really only has four toes on his right feet.” He watched as the monk unhurriedly removed his right shoe as well, then slowly began to remove his socks. He was just about to say, “No need to check. Just go ahead and play the first stone.” But suddenly, he thought to himself, “Wait. I can’t fall for a trick.” He watched as the monk removed the sock from his right foot as well. Once again, five perfect, undamaged toes were revealed. Where was any disfigurement? There was none at all.
Countless thoughts flashed through the mind of the man in green, as he wondered what was the meaning behind this move of his opponent. Only to see the Yellow Browed Monk casually wave his small steel hammer downwards. With a ‘ka’ sound, he chopped off the pinky toe of his right foot. His two disciples stood behind him. Upon seeing their master disfigure himself, causing blood to flow in front of him, they couldn’t help but let out an ‘ah’ cry. Uncertaintly, the elder disciple took out the ‘Golden Salve’ medicine from his breastpocket, applying it to his master’s wounds. Ripping off part of his clothes, he bound up the wound.
The Yellow Browed Monk laughed. “This old monk is sixty nine years old. When I am seventy years old, the number of toes on my feet will be odd.”
The man in green said, “So it will be. You may move first.” He was known as ‘The Most Evil Man in the World’. What type of vile or brutal atrocity had he not committed? Why would he care about the mere chopping off of a pinky toe? But upon seeing this old monk be willing to part with his own toe and resort to such extreme methods in order to gain the small advantage of moving first, he knew that he would definitely prove the victor in this game of chess. Even if he lost, the terms which he would exact would be harsh beyond imagining.
The Yellow Browed Monk replied, “Thank you for giving way.” Extending his steel mallet, he drew two circles on a diagonal line of the inside of the board, symbolizing white chess pieces. The man in green extended his own cane and lightly pressed on the line of the opposing diagonal. The circular indentation served to symbolize the black chess pieces. Together, the four formed a square within the middle of the board. To place two black and two white chess pieces on the board in such a fashion, forming a ‘shizi’, was a rule in the ancient Chinese art of Go. The white pieces would be placed first, followed by the black pieces, opposite of what later generations would do. Following this, the Yellow Browed Monk placed a white piece in the ‘Ping’ quadrant, where the sixth vertical and third horizontal lines intersected. The man in green answered with a piece at where the ninth vertical and third horizontal lines intersected. These two starting moves came extremely quickly. The Yellow Browed Monk didn’t dare to be the slightest bit negligent, for fear of losing the advantage which he had purchased using his own pinky toe.
By the time the seventeeth or eighteenth stones were laid, the two sides were in diametric opposition to each other, engaging in a fierce struggle. At the same time, the power from each person’s finger continued to be used up. They focused on the game, striving for victory, while also generating their internal energies. The game began to slow down.
The second disciple of the Yellow Browed Monk, Pochen, was also an expert at this game. He saw his master and the man in green utilize marvelous military tactics, and many variations were used. A threat to the Yellow Browed Monk’s pieces in the lower right corner of the board appeared. If the Yellow Browed Monk did not move to cope with the threat, he would be exposing those pieces to extreme hidden dangers. But if he used a piece to guard that corner, he would have lost the offensive.
The Yellow Browed Monk was unable to make up his mind for a long time. Suddenly, a voice cried out from the stone house. “Counterattack at the ‘Qu’ quadrant, and you won’t lose the offensive.” As it happened, Duan Yu excelled at chess ever since his youth. At this moment, seeing the vicious battle which those two were engaged in, he couldn’t help but blurt out what the next move should be. A common saying described this situation most aptly: “The spectators see clearly, the players’ eyes are clouded.” Duan Yu’s skill in chess was higher than that of the Yellow Browed Monk. With him being in the position of a spectator, it was all the more easier for him to see the key to solving the dilemma.
The Yellow Browed Monk said, “This old monk was going to make that move all along. Only, I was unable to follow through with that choice. Young benefactor, your words have removed the doubt in my mind.” He immediately placed a piece at the ‘Qu’ position, where the seventh vertical line met the third horizontal. According to ancient Chinese rules of playing Go, the chessboard was divided into the quadrants of “Ping”, “Shang”, “Qu”, and “Ru”. The “Qu” quadrant was in the upper right corner.
The man in green said emotionlessly, “The onlooker who does not speak is of noble character; the player who makes his own move is a true man.” Duan Yu yelled back, “You imprisoned me in this room. You aren’t a gentleman of noble character to begin with!” The Yellow Browed Monk laughed. “I’m a true monk, not a true man.” The man in green said, “Shameless. Shameless.” After thinking for a moment, he pressed his cane down and created an indentation within the ‘Qu’ quadrant.
After their armies had exchanged countless attacks, the Yellow Browed Monk’s forces were once more in danger. His disciple, Pochen, was worried while watching. Duan Yu, however, didn’t make a sound. Thus Pochen walked next to the stone house. In a low voice, he whispered, “Mr. Duan, how should this next move be played?” Duan Yu replied, “I already thought of a solution. The problem is, the solution must be implemented across seven moves. If I say it and the opponent hears me, he’ll counter it. That is why I hesitated to speak.” Pochen extended his right palm. With his left hand, he wrote on his right palm, “Please write it out.” Following that, he immediately extended his hand into the hole in the boulder. But as he did so, he said, “Since this is the case, there’s nothing that can be done.” He knew that the internal strength of the man in green was astonishing. No matter in how low a voice Duan Yu whispered, he would overhear.
Duan Yu thought to himself that this strategy was brilliant. He immediately stretched out his finger and wrote out the seven moves. He said, “The venerable master is an expert at chess. He certainly has a wonderful move in mind. There’s no need for me to give any more advice.” Pochen thought for a while, then realized that these seven moves truly were extremely clever. He returned to his master’s side. Extending his finger, he began to write out those moves on his master’s back. The billowing folds of the sleeves of his cassock hid his hands, rendering the man in green unable to see his chicanery. The Yellow Browed Monk thought for another moment, then made his move as instructed.
The man in green let out a ‘heng’ sound. “Another instructed you to make this move. Based upon your own accomplishments in chess, master, you could never have formulated such a move.” The Yellow Browed Monk laughed. “The game of chess originated as a battle of the wits. A person must be modest and not reveal their real skill to the opponent. If the depths of my chess abilities could be see easily and totally seen through by you, benefactor, would we even need to play this match?” The man in green replied, “Crafty, cunning schemer, playing tricks with your sleeves.” He had seen Pochen walk back and forth, then cover the Yellow Browed Monk’s back with his sleeves. He knew that there must be something odd about that action. But he was too busy concentrating on the changes and variations within the chess game, and so could not spare any more attention to other things.
The Yellow Browed Monk’s next six moves were all acccording to Duan Yu’s instructions. He did not need to use his energy to think of them, and only needed to exert his energy to draw the actual pieces on the board. Correspondingly, the six circles which he drew with his steel hammer were extremely round and deep, giving him the appearance of being full of vigor and an unending source of energy. The man in green, seeing that each of these six moves were more powerful than the previous, was forced to ponder deeply in order to defend against each one of them. He was totally forced to the defensive, and the indentations which his steel canes made began to show some differences in depth. After the Yellow Browed Monk played his sixth piece, the man in green simply sat there for a long moment. Then, suddenly, he played a piece in the ‘Ru’ quadrant.
This move was strange to the extreme. It was completely different from what Duan Yu had anticipated. The Yellow Browed Monk was stunned. He thought to himself, “This seven-step strategy of Mr. Duan was carefully devised and perfect in the details. By the time I laid down the seventh piece, I would have advanced from being one move ahead to being two moves ahead. But now, I’ll no longer be able to make the seventh move. All my previous efforts were wasted.”
As it happened, the man in green saw that the battleground was becoming more and more disadvantageous to him. No matter what defense he might use, he would still be in trouble. So instead, he decided to ignore the threat to his own pieces, and attack the opponent’s pieces in a different area instead. This was known as “defending without defending”. Truly, it was a formidable move. Furrowing his forehead, the Yellow Browed Monk tried to devise a good reply.
Translator’s thoughts: Brilliant! It looks like Dugu 9 Jian applies not only to martial arts, but also to chess!
The next chunk will finish the chapter.
I'm first. The 1st evil immediately recognized the yellow browed monk's skill. I agree with Huangmei's evaluation of Duan YanQing, a man who does not give advantage nor take advantage is rare and must hide something powerful or unique.
this shows the impact of intelligence and strategy on martial arts battles. their martial arts knowledge translates onto their battle stragey and battle strategy on to their chess skills, and vice verse. this is an indicator of duan yu's martial arts potential.
THE KYSS OF THE SWORD IS DEADLY BUT EXQUSITE
he's the strongest in history but he's the disciple.
Pochen saw the sudden change in the battlefield of chess pieces and that his master’s pieces were once again in great danger. He immediately ran next to the stone house. Duan Yu had long ago come up with a strategy, and wrote six countermoves on Pochen’s palm, one after the other. Pochen then rushed back to the Yellow Browed Monk’s side, once more writing down the moves on his master’s back.
The man in green was known as “The Most Evil Man in the World.” How could he possibly ignore his opponent’s constant cheating and trickery? He stretched out his left steel cane, pointing it at Pochen’s shoulder. He shouted, “Junior disciple, stand farther back!” And as he pointed, a ‘chi’ sound emanated from the cane.
The Yellow Browed Monk saw that his disciple wouldn’t be able to resist the enemy’s power, and that it would be difficult for him to avoid sustaining a heavy injury. He thrust out his own left palm in a snatching attack towards the cane. The man in green’s cane trembled, then pointed towards the acupoint beneath the left side of the monk’s chest. The Yellow Browed Monk turned the snatching attack into a chopping attack on the cane. But once again, the steel cane changed position.
In the blink of an eye, the two had exchanged over eight stances. The Yellow Browed Monk thought to himself that his arm couldn’t reach long enough. He struck with his finger at the steel cane. The man in green didn’t budge a single step, and the monk’s finger and the steel cane touched. Both of them generated their power and began to compete in internal energy. Immediately, the steel cane and the monk’s fingers came to a halt, neither of them moving in the slightest.
The man in green said, “Master, it is your move. You have delayed for so very long now. Are you preparing to forfeit?” The Yellow Browed Monk laughed. “Sir, you are an elite master of a senior generation. Why would you launch a sneak attack against my disciple? I’m afraid you really are lowering your own status!” With his right hand, the monk drew another small circle on the blue stone with his steel hammer. The man in green didn’t even take time to think. With a casual wave of his hand, he made his own move. And so, their left hands remained locked in a fierce internal energy competition, with neither side daring to slacken off in the slightest. Their right hands continued to play chess. Each side continued to advance their own pieces, continuing to counter each move of the other.
Five years ago, the Yellow Browed Monk had pled on the behalf of the commoners of Dali, asking Emperor Baoding to abolish the salt tax. Only now did Emperor Baoding agree. The two of them had reached a tacit understanding that the Yellow Browed Monk would rescue Duan Yu in Emperor Baoding’s place. The Yellow Browed Monk thought to himself, “It is of little consequence if I lose my life. But if I cannot rescue Duan Yu, how can I possibly face my worthy brother, Zhengming?”
When martial arts exponents were cultivating their internal energy, they couldn’t allow themselves to be distracted in the slightest. This is what is described as “Reflecting the brilliance of emptiness, forgetting both myself and the world.” But in playing chess, one must strive to outdo someone else. Each game of chess had three hundred and sixty one possible moves, and every single move had to be carefully contemplated. It truly did require that one calculate out ever minor detail, and haggle over every minor point. These two principles were directly opposite to each other, highly incompatible. Although the Yellow Browed Monk was a master at chan meditation, his skills in chess were inferior to his opponent. While secretly generating internal energy to resist the opponent, he neglected the game. If he focused on the game of chess instead, he would find himself disadvantaged in the internal energy competition. It seemed as though today, he found himself in an inextricably dangerous and strange situation. His only option was to die fighting, so as to repay his bosom friend. His own safety was no longer a concern for him. As the ancients said, “An army burning with righteousness is guaranteed victory.” But although the Yellow Browed Monk certainly was filled with righteousness, the words ‘guaranteed’ and ‘victory’ really did not apply.
The three ministers of Dali, ‘Minister of Education’ Hua Hegen, ‘Minister of War’ Fan Hua, and ‘Minister of Soil and Water’ Ba Tianshi, led thirty subordinates who possessed martial arts in their expedition. They brought along timber, shovels, kongming lanterns, and other tools, and snuck into the forest at the back of the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge. After selecting a suitable location, they began to dig the tunnel. The thirty three men dug for an entire night, tunneling out a passageway that was several hundred feet long. The following day, they continued to dig, all the way until late afternoon. They calculated that they shouldn’t be too far from the stone house. Hua Hegen ordered his subordinates to withdraw and dispose of the dirt, leaving only the three of them as they continued to dig. They knew that Crown Prince Yanqing’s martial arts were extremely profound, and so they dug as quietly as possible, not daring to make even the slightest of sounds. Under the circumstances, their forward progress slowed greatly. They didn’t know that at this moment, Crown Prince Yanqing was exhausting all of his energy and concentration in competing in both chess and internal energy with the Yellow Browed Monk. There was no chance that he might hear them digging a tunnel.
They continued to dig until the ‘shenpai’ hour [3 PM to 5 PM], then stopped, calculating that they should be beneath Duan Yu. They were now no more than ten feet away from Crown Prince Yanqing. Consequently, it was now all the more important for them to proceed with caution. They definitely could not risk making a single sound. Hua Hegen put down his iron shovel and began to dig using his ten fingers. He executed his ‘Exceeding Claw Skill’, and his ten fingers became much akin to a pair of steel claws, tearing through large chunks of dirt. Fan Hua and Ba Tianshi stood behind him, taking the dirt which his claws dislodged and disposing of it. At this point in time, Hua Hegen was no longer digging forwards; rather, he had begun to dig upwards. The architectural feat had been completed. But as to whether or not Duan Yu could be rescued, they would find out very soon. All three of them couldn’t help but have their heart’s beat faster.
Digging upwards was a much less taxing proposition than digging forwards. Once the dirt and mud was loosened, they would fall down of their own accord. After Hua Hegen had dug sufficiently upwards to allow himself to straighten his body, his digging speed increased even further. After digging for a while, he would stop and listen carefully, trying to hear any movement above him. In such a manner, he dug for the length of time which might take two joss sticks to burn down. By then, he judged that he could be no more than a foot away from the surface. He dug even more slowly now. As he gently brushed aside the remaining mud and dirt, his hand came into contact with a flat wooden plank. He was ecstatic. “So the stone house has a wooden floor. That makes it much easier to deal with.”
Pouring power into his fingers, he slowly carved out a two-foot long square in the wooden board. He then withdrew the support his free hand had been providing the wooden plank, and the wooden square lightly fell down, creating an aperture which a single person could easily pass through. Hua Hegen lifted up his iron shovel, waving it in a circle above the floor in order to guard against a sneak attack. Suddenly, he heard a loud ‘ah’ sound, as a female voice screamed loudly.
Hua Hegen said in a low voice, “Miss Mu, don’t scream. I’m a friend. I’m here to rescue you.” With a leap, he jumped out of the hole.
But when he saw the insides of the room, he was hugely startled. What type of ‘stone house’ was this? The room was bright and clean, and all sorts of bottles and jars covered every single cabinet and table. A young girl with a terrified expression on her face was standing in one corner. Hua Hegen immediately knew that he had miscalculated, and dug into the wrong place. The location of the stone house was only known by Emperor Baoding, who had described it to Ba Tianshi, who in turn described it to him. Afraid of being caught, he hadn’t dared to personally inspect the terrain. Operating on the basis of thirdhand information, he hadn’t been too far off, but nonetheless a huge error had been made.
Hua Hegen had dug himself directly into Zhong Wanchou’s house. That young girl was Zhong Ling. She was in the process of rummaging through her father’s belongings, trying to find the antidote for Duan Yu. All of a sudden, a big man suddenly jumped up out of the floor. How could she not be terrified?
Hua Hegen’s thoughts moved quickly. “Since we dug to the wrong place, we’ll have to start digging anew. I’ve already left behind traces of my passing. If I kill this girl in order to silence her, after finding her corpse Zhong Wanchou will certainly search the area. He’ll find me before I can manage to tunnel my way to the stone house. The only option is to temporarily take her into the tunnel. If others go looking for her, they’ll definitely search outside of the gorge.”
But at this very moment, footsteps could be heard outside the room as someone walked nearby. Hua Hegen waved his hands towards Zhong Ling, signifying that she wasn’t to cause a disturbance. Turning his body, he extended his left leg towards the hole, as though he were preparing to go back down. But suddenly, he spun around and leapt towards Zhong Ling, covering her mouth with his left hand while hugging her around the waist with his right. He carried her within the hole, passing her downwards. Fan Hua received Zhong Ling from Hua Hegen, then grabbed a big handful of mud and covered her mouth with it. Hua Hegen jumped back into the tunnel, then placed the wooden square which he had cut out back to its original position. Pressing his ears against the cracks, he listened to any sounds which might come from above.
He heard the sound of two people walking into the room. A male voice said, “You must have lingering affection for him. Otherwise, why would you keep on trying to prevent me from ruining the reputation of the Duan family?” A displeased female voice replied, “What ‘lingering’ affection are you babbling about? I never had any affection for him to begin with.” The male voice said, “If that’s true, I couldn’t be happier. Excellent, excellent!” Utter happiness was in his voice. The woman said, “However, Miss Mu is my martial sister’s daughter. She’s one of our people. How can you mistreat her so?”
By now, Hua Hegen had already realized that the two people speaking had to be gorge-master Zhong and his wife. Hearing that the topic of their conversation had to do with Duan Yu, he became all the more attentive in his eavesdropping.
He heard Zhong Wanchou say, “Your martial sister wanted to sneakily release Duan Yu. Fortunately, she was discovered by Ye Erniang. Your martial sister is already one of our enemies. Why care about her daughter? Wife, the people who are now at our halls are all famous members of Dali’s wulin community. But you didn’t pay the slightest attention to them. You walked into the room, widened your eyes, and glared at them. Isn’t that a little…a bit…eh, not polite.” Madame Zhong angrily replied, “What’s the point of you inviting those fellows into our house? We don’t have much of a relationship with any of them. Do you think they will dare offend the Emperor of Dali for our behalf?”
Zhong Wanchou said, “I didn’t invite them here for the purpose of asking them to loan us their fists in battle and rebel against Duan Zhengming. As it happened, they all were present within Dali. I invited them here to drink wine and serve as witnesses for what will happen. Duan Zhengchun’s own son has shared a room with his own sister and engaged in licentious, incestuous acts, as though they were animals. The guests that I invited today even include some heroes from the Central Plains to our north. Early tomorrow morning, we’ll open the door to the stone house and give everybody something to see. The heir of the Duan family’s ‘Solitary Solar Finger’, in such a state…won’t that be so very amusing? Won’t this be spread far and wide throughout the jianghu?” As he spoke, he began to laugh loudly, utterly delighted.
Madame Zhong let out a ‘heng’ sound. “Contemptible and despicable! Brazen and shameless!” Zhong Wanchou said, “Who are you cursing as being despicable and shameless?” Madame Zhong said, “Whoever performs despicable and shameless acts is a despicable and shameless person. There’s no need for me to curse them as being such!” Zhong Wanchou said, “Right! That evil fellow, Duan Zhengchun, describes himself as being a dissolute playboy, and has brought many sins upon his own head. In the end, his own children will fall in love and engage in an illicit sexual relationship. He really is extremely despicable and shameless!” Madame Zhong let out a cold smile, but did not respond. Zhong Wanchou asked, “Why did you just smile coldly like that? Can it be that those two words, ‘despicable’ and ‘shameless’, were not directed towards Duan Zhengchun?”
Madame Zhong smiled coldly again. “You aren’t able to overcome the Duan family with your own abilities, and hide yourself here in this gorge, not daring to show yourself. Fine, whatever. As the saying goes, knowing how to avoid being shamed is something akin to courage. This is still something which a man might do. But I never would have imagined that you would use such despicable means to manipulate his children instead. The heroes of the world won’t be laughing at him, no. They will be laughing at you! Zhong Wanchou!”
Zhong Wanchou leapt to his feet. He angrily said, “You’re calling ME shameless and despicable?”
Tears flowed down Madame Zhong’s face. Her voice choked with sobs, she said, “I didn’t imagine that the husband whom I married, the good man to whom I entrusted my entire being, would be…would be a person like this. I….I…my life is so bitter!”
Seeing his wife cry, Zhong Wanchou couldn’t help but be flustered. “Fine. Fine! If you want to curse at me, then curse at me as much as you want!” He stalked back and forth across the room. He wanted to offer his wife some sort of apology, but couldn’t immediately think of anything appropriate to say. Finally, he said, “This wasn’t my idea! Duan Yu was captured by the Divine Crocodile. Mu Wanqing was seized by ‘Evil Beyond Human Capacity’. The ‘Yin and Yang Conjoining’ powder belongs to him as well. How could I use such a despicable and shameless sort of drug?” At the moment, he wanted to disavow all responsibility. Madame Zhong laughed coldly. “As long as you know what the words ‘despicable’ and ‘shameless’ mean. If you don’t approve of this idea, then you should release Miss Mu.” Zhong Wanchou said, “That won’t work, that won’t work. If I release Mu Wanqing, what type of performance can Duan Yu put on by himself?”
Madame Zhong said, “Fine! If you want to be despicable and shameless, I’m going to do something despicable and shameless as well for you to see!” Zhong Wanchou was startled, and hurriedly asked, “You…you…what are you going to do?” Madame Zhong let out a ‘heng’ sound. “Just go imagine it by yourself.” In a trembling voice, Zhong Wanchou said, “You…are you going to find Duan Zhengchun…find Duan Zhengchun, that evil thief, and commit adultery with him again?” Madame Zhong angrily roared, “What do you mean, AGAIN?” Zhong Wanchou hurriedly laughed. “Wife, don’t be angry. I misspoke. Of course you never…never…never did that with him. When you said you would do something despicable and shameless for me to watch, that was…that was just a joke. Right?” But Madame Zhong did not respond.
Zhong Wanchou’s mind was greatly disturbed. Casting his gaze wildly about the room, he saw that all the bottles and jars were all jumbled about. He said, “Humph. What a mischievious kid Zhong Ling is. At her tender age, she actually came and asked me about the ‘Yin and Yang Conjoining’ powder. Where did she hear about it, anyhow? Now she came here and made a mess of things.” As he spoke, he went into the room and began to straighten and reorganize the medicine cabinets. One foot strode on top of the piece of wood which had been cut away earlier. Hua Hegen hurriedly exerted his strength to keep the piece of wood from collapsing, in order to prevent Zhong Wanchou from discovering them.
Madame Zhong said, “Where is Ling’er, anyhow? Where’d she go? Why did you need to take her to the grand hall to meet the guests, anyhow?” Zhong Wanchou laughed. “The two of us made such a beautiful little girl together. How can I not introduce her to my friends?” Madame Zhong said, “What, are you a monkey showing off your treasure? I saw the wicked look in the eyes of that Yun Zhonghe fellow as he stared nonstop at our daughter. You need to be careful.” Zhong Wanchou laughed. “I only need to be careful about you. You are a lovely woman with the complexion of a flower and are as beautiful as the moon. Who wouldn’t be scheming to steal you away?”
Madame Zhong spat, then shouted, “Ling’er! Ling’er!” A serving girl walked towards her. “The young miss was just here a moment ago.” Madame Zhong nodded. “Go find that young lady. I have something to tell her.”
Underneath the floor and within the tunnel, Zhong Ling clearly heard every single word her parents exchanged. Unfortunately, there was no way for her to respond. Her heart was filled with fear, and in addition, her mouth was covered with mud, making her feel even worse.
Zhong Wanchou said, “Take a rest. I’ll go keep our guests company.” An icy expression on her face, Madame Zhong coldly replied, “Why don’t you rest instead. I’ll go keep them company.” Zhong Wanchou said, “Let’s go together.” Madame Zhong said, “The guests want to see my ‘flower-like complexion’ and my ‘moon-like beauty’. Why would they be interested in seeing your long, horse-like face? One day, even I’ll be tired of seeing that face, and then you’ll know how it feels.”
These past few days, Zhong Wanchou had been getting blamed for everything he did. No matter what he said, his wife would abruptly ridicule him. He clearly saw that after his wife had met with Duan Zhengchun again, old passions once more began to rise in her thoughts. Even though he was unhappy, he never dared to snap back at her. He could only let out a laugh, then walk towards the great hall. While walking, he thought to himself, “She’s going to do something shameful and despicable for me to see? Then she said that one day, even she’ll be sick of seeing my face. Hmm. That means, she isn’t sick of seeing my face yet. Things aren’t so very bad! I’m just worried about Duan Zhengchun, that thieving scoundrel…”
Chapter 9: The Luan and Feng Who Exchange Nests
[Luan is the male counterpart to the female feng, which is commonly translated as ‘phoenix’. The phrase ‘luan and feng’ thus is a reference to a husband and wife.]
Upon hearing that Emperor Baoding had abolished the salt tariff, the tens of thousands of citizens of Dali felt extremely grateful. Yunnan did not produce a great deal of salt. Throughout the country, only the cities of Baijing, Heijing, Yulong, and six others produced salt. Every year, they would need to import salt from Shu [modern day Sichuan]. The salt tariff was extremely heavy, often forcing many of the poorer citizens at the outlying regions of the country to go without. Emperor Baoding knew that as soon as he abolished the salt tariff, the Yellow Browed Monk would certainly try to think of a way to rescue Duan Yu, so as to show his gratitude.
He had always admired the Yellow Browed Monk’s intelligence and martial arts, and also knew that the monk’s two disciples were not weak either. With the three of them working together, they would certainly achieve victory. Much to his surprise, after waiting an entire day and an entire night, he hadn’t received any news of success at all. He was just about to send out Ba Tianshi to investigate when he discovered that Ba Tianshi, Minister of Education Hua, and Minister of War Fan had all disappeared as well.
Emperor Baoding pondered to himself, “Can it be that Crown Prince Yanqing truly is this formidable? Can it really be possible that the Yellow Browed Monk, his two disciples, and my three ministers have all fallen to him within the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge?” He immediately sent for his Imperial Crown Brother Duan Zhengchun, the South-Subduing Princess Dao Baifeng, the Marquis of Virtuous Enlightenment Gao Shengtai, and the Four Imperial Bodyguards to once more make their way to the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge.
Her heart aching for her beloved son, Dao Baifeng asked Emperor Baoding to call out the imperial army and totally obliviate the gorge. Emperor Baoding replied, “Unless we’re completely out of all other options, we must act in accordance with the customs and rules of the jianghu. The centuries-old instructions of the Duan family ancestors cannot be cast aside.”
The party arrived at the entrance to the gorge, only to see Yun Zhonghe approach them with a little smile on his face. Cupping his hands politely, he said in a deep voice, “We Four Evils and gorge-master Zhong anticipated that you, sir, would once more honor us with your presence today. I have been respectfully waiting for you here for a long time. If you have brought your armored soldiers here, we will simply escaped, taking with us your beloved son and your precious daughter. But if you have come here in accordance with the rules of the jianghu, intending to greet friends based upon your martial ability, then please enter the main lounge and enjoy some tea.”
Emperor Baoding saw that he was extremely calm and showed not a single hint of fear, acting in a manner far different from the previous day, where he had immediately rushed out and launched and attack. This made him feel all the more alarmed. Instantly, he cupped his hands as well. “It couldn’t be better if that is truly the case.” Yun Zhonghe escorted the party inside the lounge. Upon stepping foot within, Emperor Baoding saw that room was filled with heroes of the jianghu. Ye Erniang and the Divine Crocodile were there as well, but Crown Prince Yanqing was nowhere to be seen. Once again, he secretly prepared for the worst.
Yun Zhonghe cried out loudly, “Master Duan, the head of the Duan family of the southern skies has arrived!” He didn’t use the phrase, ‘His majesty, the Emperor of Dali’, but rather introduced him in accordance with his wulin title, showing that everything would proceed in accordance with the rules of the jianghu.
Not only was Duan Zhengming the ruler of a country, but he was also an extremely esteemed expert in the wulin, of great prestige and stature. As soon as the crowd heard that he had arrived, they all immediately rose to their feet. Only the Divine Crocodile remained sitting. He loudly shouted, “I was wondering who showed up. So its the ole emperor, eh? How ya doing?”
Zhong Wanchou quickly rushed forward and said, “I, Zhong Wanchou, did not come to welcome a distant guest. Please forgive me.” Emperor Baoding said, “You’re too polite, too polite.”
Presently, everyone retook their seats. Their positions were in accordance with the rules of the jianghu. Duan Zhengchun, his wife, and Gao Shengtai no longer needed to act in accordance with the rules governing how a subject should behave in front of his ruler, and so sat next to Emperor Baoding. Chu Wanli and the other three guards stood behind Emperor Baoding.
Servants of the gorge came to them, offering them tea. Emperor Baoding, seeing that the Yellow Browed Monk, Ba Tianshi, and the others were not here, was busy formulating a way which would allow him to inquire about their whereabouts. Suddenly, he heard Zhong Wanchou speak. “Master Duan, you’ve really given me a huge amount of face! It’s so seldom that so many good friends would be gathered in one place. Come, let me introduce them to you.”
Following this, he began to introduce the other guests one by one. Some were heroes from the Central Plains to the north. The rest were all outstanding members of Dali’s wulin community. They included Xin Shuangqing, Zuo Zimu, and Ma Wude amongst others. Emperor Baoding had never met most of the people present, but had heard of their names. These heroes of the jianghu all respectively paid their respects to Emperor Baoding. Some were extremely respectful; others intentionally acted arrogantly. Others addressed him using the language that a wulin person who was of a junior generation to him might use.
Zhong Wanchou said, “It is a rare thing for Master Duan to come here. Why not stay here for a few additional days? That way, you could get to know all the friends here better.” Emperor Baoding replied, “It would be enough if you could pardon Duan Yu for his offense, gorge master Zhong. He has been detained at your noble residence. Today, I have come here for two reasons. Firstly, to ask for clemency on his behalf. Secondly, to offer my apologies. Gorge master Zhong, I hope that you will give me some face and forgive the ignorance of the child. I will be extremely grateful.”
Upon hearing his words, everyone secretly felt admiration for him. They thought to themselves, “We’ve long heard that Emperor Duan acts in accordance with the rules of the wulin. His reputation is well earned. This place falls within the borders of the country of Dali. He only needs to send out a few hundred cavalrymen and would immediately be able to take his nephew back. Who would have thought that he would come in person, and instead ask in such respectful language?”
Zhong Wanchou laughed loudly, but did not immediately respond. Ma Wude said, “Ah, so Duan Yu offended gorge master Zhong. Some time ago, he went to the city of Pu’er, then went sight-seeing with me and my brothers at Mt. Wuliang. I didn’t take good care of him, and this was the cause of so many problems. I would also like to request clemency on his behalf.”
The Divine Crocodile suddenly shouted loudly, “What right do you have to meddle in the affairs of my apprentice?!” Gao Shengtai said coldly, “The young lord Duan is your master. You’ve even knelt down and kowtowed to him. Are you reneging on that?” The Divine Crocodile’s entire face turned red. He cursed, “**** your grandmother. I’m not reneging! Today, I’m going to kill the brat who is my master only in name. I wasn’t careful and somehow ended up accepting that brat as my master. I’m dying of shame!”
No one in the crowd knew what he was talking about, and each and every one of them was flabbergasted.
Dao Baifeng said, “Gorge master Zhong, whether or not Duan Yu will be released lies in a single word from you.” Zhong Wanchou laughed. “Release, release, release! Of course I will release him! What good does it do me to keep your honorable son?” Yun Zhonghe interjected, “Duan Yu is romantic and handsome. Madame Zhong, the ‘Lovely Poisonist’, is an extremely beautiful woman. To keep him within the gorge would be like leading a wolf into a sheep pen, or like raising a tiger with your children. Naturally, gorge master Zhong will release him. He can’t help but release him. He doesn’t dare not release him!”
Upon hearing these words, everyone present was startled. They realized that this ‘Thoroughly Cruel and Evil’ Yun Zhonghe spoke without the slightest scruples, as though he really didn’t give a damn about gorge master Zhong. His nickname, ‘Thoroughly Cruel and Evil’, really was not mistakenly given.
Zhong Wanchou was furious. Turning his head, he said, “Brother Yun, after finishing the business at hand, I would like to experience your brilliant moves!” Yun Zhonghe replied, “Wonderful, wonderful! I’ve long wanted to kill the husband, seize the wife, then settle down within this gorge.”
The face of every person present turned pale. Xin Shuangqing, lady of the Wuliang Cave, spoke. “The good and noble heroes of the world haven’t been exterminated. No matter how high the martial arts of you ‘Four Evils’ are, you won’t escape justice in the end!” In a coquettish, delicate voice, Ye Erniang said, “Daoist friend Xin, I, Ye Erniang, haven’t offended you. Why rope me in with him?”
Zuo Zimu, suddenly recalling how she had abducted his son, couldn’t help but have lingering fears. He snuck a sideways glance at her. Ye Erniang laughed. “Mr. Zuo, your little boy must be even fatter and cuter now, right?” Zuo Zimu didn’t dare to not respond. He said in a low voice, “Last time, he was exposed to the cold. He hasn’t fully recovered from the illness yet.” Ye Erniang laughed again. “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s all my fault. Later, when I have a chance, I’ll head over to your mountain and pay a visit to my cute little grandson.” Zuo Zimu was terrified. He quickly replied, “I wouldn’t dare to trouble you to come.”
Emperor Baoding thought to himself, “These Four Evils have perpetrated many atrocities and committed many outrages. Many people have formed grudges and enmities against them. These jianghu heroes clearly aren’t their allies. This makes things much more easier to handle. After rescuing Yu’er, I should take the chance to eliminate these evil people. Although the leader of the Four Evils, Crown Prince Yanqing, is a member of the Duan family, making it inappropriate for me to personally deal with him, there will still be a day when he truly is called to account for his monstrous crimes [another possible meaning of the title, ‘E Guan Man Ying’].”
Dao Baifeng, hearing everyone speak, saw that the conversation was getting derailed. She suddenly stood up. “Gorge master Zhong, as you have agreed to return my son, please return him to me and let the two of us, mother and son, meet.”
Zhong Wanchou also stood up. “Alright!” Suddenly turning his head, he shot a glance towards Duan Zhengchun. He sighed. “Duan Zhengchun, you have such a wonderful wife and son. Why aren’t you satisfied and remain so greedy? Today, when your reputation is trampled underfoot and when you lose all face, you will have no one to blame save yourself. You cannot blame me, Zhong Wanchou!”
Duan Zhengchun, after hearing that Zhong Wanchou was willing to release his son, immediately suspected some sort of conspiracy or trap, as he did not believe the matter would be settled so easily. Now, upon hearing Zhong Wanchou’s words, he immediately stood up and walked to Zhong Wanchou’s side. “Gorge master Zhong, if you have maliciously harmed him, then I assure you that I, Duan Zhengchun, will also have a method to make you bitterly repent your actions for the rest of your life.”
Zhong Wanchou saw that he had a majestic appearance and an awe-inspiring presence, with a magnificent and lofty aura. He felt that he himself truly was vastly inferior to this man. A feeling of shame suddenly filled his chest, and it engendered a jealous flame in his heart. He loudly said, “Since things have already come to this point, I’m going to take this all the way to the end, even if the final result is that I become destitute and homeless, and have my corpse broken into a thousand pieces. If you want your son back, come with me!” And as he spoke, he strode away from the hall entrance.
The group of people followed Zhong Wanchou as he arrived at the giant tree wall. Yun Zhonghe, showing off his qinggong abilities, was the first to leap over the wall. Duan Zhengchun thought to himself, “We’ve almost reached the point of no return. We might as well demonstrate our power and prestige, so as to cause the other side to know how much disaster will be in store for them and perhaps retreat.” He called out, “Ducheng, chop the tree down, so that everyone will find it easier to pass.”
Gu Ducheng responded, “Yes sir!” He raised his steel hatchets. With a series of quick ‘ca’ sounds, he immediately chopped down one of the trees. Fu Sigui launched a twin palm attack on the tree. With a loud crash, it fell down to the side. The steel hatchet, gleaming with bright light, continued to chop away. The chopping sounds went on non-stop, and the large trees were felled one after another in succession. In short time, all that could be seen were five tree stumps.
It had not been easy at all for Zhong Wanchou to plant and cultivate this wall of trees. He had labored mightily, and it had cost him a great deal of blood and sweat. After seeing them chopped down by Gu Ducheng, he couldn’t help but become agitated and furious. But then he had second thoughts. “Today, the Duan family of Dali is going to lose a huge amount of face. Why quibble over such a small things as this?” He immediately walked past the cleared stumps.
Only to see that past the chopped down wall, the Yellow Browed Monk and Duan Yanqing were both pressing against a steel cane. A cloud of white mist hover over their heads, showing that they were in the middle of an internal energy competition. The Yellow Browed Monk suddenly stretched out his right hand and used a small steel hammer to draw a circle on a blue stone in front of him. The man in green thought for a moment, then stretched out his right steel cane and pressed it downwards on the blue stone. Staring at them, Emperor Baoding immediately realized that his martial brother, the Yellow Browed Monk, was competing in both chess and internal energy with Crown Prince Yanqing. It was a competition of both intelligence and strength. The competition was as fresh and original as it was deadly. He thought to himself, “He never gave me an update. It seems as though it is because this competition has been going on for one day and one night, without victory or defeat having been achieved.
Glancing at the chess game, he saw that the two sides were locked into a ‘Life or Death Knot’. Victory and defeat would completely depend on the resolution of this knot. However, the Yellow Browed Monk was in the weaker position, barely keeping his pieces alive with strenuous effort. His two disciples, Pochi and Pochen, had fallen unmoving to the ground. Earlier, upon seeing their master in a critical situation, had attacked the man in green from both sides in a pincer attack. But both of them had been felled by his steel cane.
Duan Zhengchun walked forward and unsealed their acupoints. “Wanli, you four go and push aside the stone and rescue Yu’er.” Chu Wanli and the other three replied in the affirmative and walked forwards as well.
Zhong Wanchou called out, “Wait! Do you know who else, in addition to Duan Yu, is in this stone house?” Duan Zhengchun angrily said, “If you used ruthless tricks to coerce my son, then you should remember that you yourself have a wife and daughter!” With a cold expression on his face, Zhong Wanchou laughed. “Right on. I, Zhong Wanchou, do indeed have both a wife and a daughter. Fortunately, I don’t have a son, much less a son who will engage in depraved, incestuous acts with his own sister.” Duan Zhengchun’s face turned ashen. He called out, “You’re full of crap! What are you babbling about?” Zhong Wanchou said, “Mu Wanqing is your daughter, is she not?” Duan Zhengchun angrily replied, “What business is it of yours as to what her origins or family are, you busybody?”
Zhong Wanchou laughed. “I’m not necessarily a busybody. Dali’s Duan family serve as the rulers of the southern world and dominate it. Your name is also famous and prestigious within the wulin. Heroes and noble men present! Open wide your eyes and watch as Duan Zhengchun’s son and daughter become husband and wife, fornicating like animals. He made a hand signal towards the Divine Crocodile, and the two of them prepared to push aside the boulder which was blocking the door.
Duan Zhengchun called out, “Wait!” He extended his hands to halt them. But Yun Zhonghe and Ye Erniang each sent out a palm to attack him from two sides, forcing him to block. Slanting his body, Gao Shengtai surged forwards and blocked Yun Zhonghe’s palm attack. But unexpectedly, both Ye Erniang’s attack and Yun Zhonghe’s attacks were feints. Although they waved their right hands in a false attack, they simultaneously pressed their left palms against the boulder as well and exerted their force. That giant boulder weighed thousands of jin, but, faced with the combined efforts of Ye Erniang, Zhong Wanchou, Yun Zhonghe, and the Divine Crocodile, immediately rolled aside.
This trick was something which the four of them had long ago planned out. It was very difficult to discern, and there was no way for Duan Zhengchun to stop them. And, in all honesty, Duan Zhengchun was worried sick about his son, and thus didn’t use all of his efforts to stop them from rolling the boulder aside. After the boulder was rolled aside, a doorway was exposed. The insides of the house was dim and dark, and the circumstances inside could not be seen.
Zhong Wanchou laughed. “A lonely man and a single woman, completely naked, together inside a dark room. What type of good things might they possibly be doing aside? Haha, haha. Everyone, take a good look!”
In the middle of Zhong Wanchou’s laughter, a young man with tousled hair, naked from the waist up, walked out. He was only wearing a pair of shorts, exposing most of his legs as well. It was Duan Yu. In his arms, he held a woman. The woman cuddled into his arms. She, too, was only wearing her underwear, exposing her arms and her thighs, as well as much of the pure white flesh of her back.
Emperor Baoding’s entire face was flooded with shame. Duan Zhengchun lowered his head, unable to look. Tears filled Dao Baifeng’s eyes. She mumbled to herself, “Karma...this is karma...” Gao Shengtai removed his own gown, preparing to give it to Duan Yu to wear instead. Ma Wude, wholeheartedly trying to ingratiate himself with the two brothers of the Duan family, hurriedly stepped forward and stood in front of Duan Yu, concealing him. The Divine Crocodile called out, “Sonufab.itch, f.uck off!”
Extremely delighted, Zhong Wanchou continued to laugh loudly. Then, suddenly, his laughter came to an abrupt halt. He fell silent for a long moment, then let out a wretched shout. “Ling’er? Is that...is that you?”
Zhong Wanchou just kept getting whipped.
Thanks for translating RWX.
Upon hearing his loud cry, the hearts of the entire crowd trembled. Zhong Wanchou suddenly pounced towards Duan Yu, snatching at the woman whom he was holding in his arms. At this time, everyone present could now see this girl’s face. Her age was certainly younger than that of Mu Wanqing, and her figure was also smaller and slimmer. A look of youthfulness remained on her face. It wasn’t Mu Wanqing. It was Zhong Wanchou’s own daughter, Zhong Ling! When the group of heroes had first arrived at the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge, Zhong Wanchou had brought her to the grand hall to introduce her to the guests, with the intention of showing off his beautiful, adorable daughter.
Somewhat confused and bewildered, Duan Yu saw that there were many people in front of him. He recognized his uncle and his parents, and immediately released Zhong Ling, allowing Zhong Wanchou to take her away from him. He called out, “Mother! Uncle! Father!” Dao Baifeng rushed towards him, embracing him within her arms. “Yu’er, are you...are you alright?” Bewildered, Duan Yu replied, “I...I...I’m not sure.”
Not only had Zhong Wanchou failed to harm his enemy, he had harmed himself instead. How could he have imagined that the woman whom Duan Yu carried out in his arms would actually be his own daughter? Dazed, he let go of his daughter. Zhong Ling was only wearing some form-hugging undergarments. Seeing so many eyes on her, her entire face blushed red. Zhong Wanchou took off his own gown, wrapping it around her, then slapped her on the face, causing her left cheeks to redden even more. He scolded her, “Shameless! Who told you to get together with that little swine?” Zhong Ling’s face was a picture of grievance at being falsely accused, and started to cry. How could she explain everything in such a short time?
Zhong Wanchou suddenly thought to himself, “Mu Wanqing clearly was imprisoned within the stone house. I doubt she was able to push the boulder aside. She must be within the house still. I’ll go drag her out and have her help shoulder some of the humiliation which Ling’er is suffering.” He loudly cried out, “Miss Mu, hurry up and come out!” He called out three times, but heard no sound within the house.
Zhong Wanchou rushed inside the house. The stone room was only ten feet wide and long. It was obvious at first glance that there wasn’t even a shadow of a person within. Zhong Wanchou was so angry that he felt as though his chest would explode. He left the room, then struck out with another palm towards his daughter. He screamed, “Stupid girl, I’m going to kill you!”
But suddenly, a hand stretched out from the side, with the ring finger and the little finger striking towards his wrist. Zhong Wanchou hurriedly withdrew his hand to escape the blow, then turned his head. The person who had interfered was Duan Zhengchun. He angrily said, “I’m teaching my daughter a lesson. What business is it of yours?”
Chuckling, Duan Zhengchun said, “Gorge master Zhong, you really treated my son incredibly well during his stay here! You were afraid that he would get lonely by himself, and ordered your precious daughter to come here and keep him company. I am incredibly grateful towards you. This being the case, your precious daughter is already a member of my Duan family. How can I not interfere?”
Zhong Wanchou roared, “How is she a member of your Duan family?” Duan Zhengchun laughed. “Within this stone room, your daughter attended to the needs of my son, Duan Yu. They’ve been together quite some time now. As you said. A lonely man and a single woman, completely naked, together inside a dark room. What type of good things might they possibly be doing aside? My son is the heir to the South-Subduing Palace. Although he might not be able to take on your daughter as his chief wife, he can still take her on as a concubine. For the nobility, what’s wrong with having three wives or four concubines? It looks like you and me have become in-laws! Ha ha ha ha, he he he!”
Zhong Wanchou was unable to suppress the violent rage which filled him, and rushed towards Duan Zhengchun. ‘Hu’, ‘hu’, ‘hu’. He struck out with three palms. His laughter not stopping, Duan Zhengchun neutralized each of his attacks.
Everybody present thought to themselves, “Dali’s Duan family really is formidable! I wonder what method they used to abscond with gorge master Zhong’s daughter, then imprison her within the stone room. Zhong Wanchou is a citizen of Dali, but repeatedly sets himself against the Duan family and stirs up trouble for them. Isn’t he really asking for trouble?”
As it happened, this entire scene was planned out by Hua Hegen and the other two. After kidnapping Zhong Ling and taking her down into the tunnel, Hua Hegen’s original idea was to simply prevent her from leaking out their plans. Only after hearing Zhong Wanchou and his wife speak did he realize that Zhong Wanchou and Crown Prince Yanqing had created such a devious, ruthless plan to destroy the reputation of the Duan family. The three of them discussed the situation in a low voice within the tunnel. All three of them knew that this was a matter of the gravest importance. Moreover, time was of the essence. As soon as Madame Zhong left, Ba Tianshi quietly left the tunnel and scouted out the area. He found the exact location of and distance to the stone house, and informed Hua Hegen. All of them sped up their excavating pace. They were busy for yet another night, digging until dawn break. Only then did they arrive at the stone house.
Hua Hegen dug his way into the stone house, only to see Duan Yu running around the room madly, as though he had gone insane. He stretched out his hand to grab him, but Duan Yu’s movements were both fast and bizarre, and he wasn’t able to get a hold of him. Ba Tianshi and Fan Hua also entered the room and surrounded Duan Yu. The room really was too small, and there was nowhere Duan Yu might go. Hua Hegen stretched out his hand and grabbed Duan Yu’s wrist, but his entire body immediately shook. He felt as though he had grabbed onto a hot coal. He quickly tugged hard, trying to knock Duan Yu into the tunnel so that they might quickly escape. But as soon as he exerted his strength, he felt his internal energy flow out of him and into Duan Yu. He couldn’t keep from uttering a startled ‘aiyo’.
Ba Tianshi and Fan Hua grabbed him and pulled at him hard. Only with their combined efforts did they manage to separate the two and shake off the internal-energy leeching ‘Divine Art of the Northern Darkness’. The internal energy of the three chief ministers of Dali was much greater than that of the Wuliang disciples, and they had reacted more quickly as well. Only for this reason were they spared. Their bodies were covered with cold sweat. They thought to themselves, “The heretical skills of Crown Prince Yanqing truly are formidable!” They no longer dared to touch Duan Yu’s body.
Just as they were at a loss as to what to do, they heard voices from outside the room. They realized that both Emperor Baoding and the South-Subduing Prince had arrived, and heard Zhong Wanchou’s loud mockery. Fan Hua suddenly was struck by a brainwave. “Zhong Wanchou is hateful and vile. Let’s play a big prank on him!” He immediately stripped off much of Zhong Ling’s outer garments, then dressed Mu Wanqing with them. Then, he put Zhong Ling in Duan Yu’s arms. Duan Yu dazedly accepted her. Hua Hegen and the other two grabbed Mu Wanqing then returned to the tunnel, covering the hole as they left, not leaving behind the slightest bit of evidence that they had ever been there.
Emperor Baoding saw that his nephew was totally fine. He would never have imagined that things would have turned out this way. He was both gratified and amused. For the moment, he wasn’t able to think of the reason why this all happened. He suddenly remembered that the Yellow Browed Monk and Duan Yanqing had reached a critical juncture of life and death in their internal energy competition. If they were disturbed in the slightest, their lives would immediately be in danger. He quickly walked back to the two men and their competition. Beads of sweat the size of a pea were rolling down the Yellow Browed Monk’s head, falling down onto the chessboard below. But Crown Prince Yanqing sat there nonchalantly, the expression on his face unchanged, as though nothing had happened at all. Clearly, victory and defeat had already been determined.
Duan Yu’s mind slowly became clearer. He was also concerned about the outcome of the chess match, and walked over to stand next to the two men. He saw that the Yellow Browed Monk’s resources were exhausted. Crown Prince Yanqing would only need to make one more indentation, and the Yellow Browed Monk would be out of moves and would be forced to admit defeat. He saw Crown Prince Yanqing extend his steel cane, preparing to push down on the chess board. The place he was pointing at was precisely the critical point of the match. After making this move, there would be nothing more that the Yellow Browed Monk could do at all.
Duan Yu was extremely worried. He thought to himself, “Let me go muddle up the situation a bit.” He stretched out his hand and grabbed at the cane. Just as Crown Prince Yanqing’s steel cane was about to press down at the ‘Shang’ quadrant, where the third vertical and seventh horizontal line intersected, he felt a shock in his arm. The energy from his right arm, which was as tightly wound and directed as a bowstring, suddenly was diverted and flew away from him.
The sense of startlement he felt was not small. Glancing out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Duan Yu had grabbed onto the tip of his cane. Duan Yu had only wanted to pull the steel cane aside and prevent him from striking the critical point in the chess match, but the steel cane, hovering in midair, didn’t even budge. He immediately exerted as much force as he could, and Crown Prince Yanqing’s internal energy suddenly entered his body via his ‘Shaoshang’ acupoint.
Greatly startled, Crown Prince Yanqing thought to himself, “It’s the ‘Energy Dissolving Art’ [Hua Gong Fa] of that old freak Ding from Xingxiuhai [a plateau in Qinhai].” He immediately gathered his internal energy within his dantian, then transferred it to his arm. An incomparably powerful burst of energy erupted from his steel cane, shaking off Duan Yu’s fingers.
Duan Yu only felt half his body go sore, and wanted to faint. His body trembled, and only by gripping the blue stone in front of him did he manage to stabilize himself. But a small part of that violent burst of energy from Crown Prince Yanqing had entered the ocean of energy within Duan Yu’s dantian, then disappeared. Crown Prince Yanqing was greatly startled, and his steel cane drooped downwards slightly. The tip of it just so happened to precisely alight upon the ‘Shang’ quadrant, at the point where the seventh vertical and eighth horizontal lines connected.
After Duan Yu’s interference, his internal energy did not flow smoothly. Although his steel cane sagged, it still carried a tremendous force and he involuntarily pressed downwards. Crown Prince Yanqing secretly cried out, “Not good!” He hurriedly lifted his cane, but at the point where the seventh vertical and eighth horizontal lines intersected, a small indentation had already appeared.
When experts played chess, they had to make sure that they would not regret making even a single mistaken move. Much less in this game, a large stone was the chessboard and indentations and circles served as the pieces. How could a move be taken back? But the move he had just made, at the point where the seventh and eighth lines intersected, was where one of his ‘eyes’ were. As anyone who knows even a little bit about chess would know, having a safe pocket of two eyes meant those pieces were safe, but a single eye by itself was doomed. Crown Prince Yanqing had long ago turned that part of the board into a pocket of two eyes, making it a safe base of operations from which he could launch attacks at the Yellow Browed Monk’s pieces. What sense would there be for him to kill one of his own eyes and doom his position? And yet, he had already made the move. Although it was totally counter to the logic of chess, the move was made due to his own internal energy being weakened and unstable.
Crown Prince Yanqing secretly sighed. “A single failed move will result in defeat across the entire playing field. Is this truly the will of heaven?” He was a person of extraordinarily high status and dignity. He definitely would not get into a dispute with the Yellow Browed Monk over this matter. He immediately rose up, pressing both of his hands down against the blue stone chessboard, staring at it and not moving for a long time.
Most of the heroes present had never seen him before. Upon noticing his strange appearance, everyone’s attention was drawn towards him. He stared at the chessboard for a long time. Suddenly, without saying a word, he propped himself up with his steel canes. Their tips pressed against the earth as though he was stepping on the ground. Each step he took was very large, and he quickly departed.
Suddenly, a series of cracking sounds could be heard. The blue stone trembled, then split into six or seven pieces. And so this brilliant game of chess, the likes of had never been seen before and which might never be seen again, was erased from the world. The group of people couldn’t help but let out cries of surprise. Aside from Emperor Baoding, the Yellow Browed Monk, and the three remaining Evils, everyone present thought to themselves, “That person seemed neither like a human being, nor like a ghost. That living corpse who wore green had such an amazing level of martial arts.”
The Yellow Browed monk managed to win this game of chess by sheer chance. Both of his hands rested against his knees, and he himself was entranced in a daze as he replayed the thrilling events in his mind. He couldn’t understand at all why Crown Prince Yanqing, just as victory was within his reach, would suddenly harm his own side and seal off one of his own eyes. Could it be that upon seeing Duan Zhengming and other experts arrive, he feared coming under attack and thus conceded the match? But he had many helpers on his side as well. He wouldn’t necessarily have been defeated.
Emperor Baoding, Duan Zhengchun, and Gao Shengtai also did not understand what had happened. But luckily, Duan Yu had been safely recovered, and the pure name of the Duan family was not damaged in the slightest. With Crown Prince Yanqing having conceded the match, a total victory had been achieved. Although there were many details of this encounter which they did not understand, at the moment it was not necessarily to thoroughly investigate everything.
Duan Zhengchun smiled towards Zhong Wanchou. “Gorge master Zhong, now that your daughter has become my son’s concubine, in the coming days, I will send someone to escort her to our palace. We will naturally take good care of these two lovebirds and treat her as though she were our own daughter. Set your mind at ease.”
Zhong Wanchou was already in the middle of an uncontrollable fury. Upon hearing Duan Zhengchun speak in such a mocking tone towards him, he pulled out his sabre with a ‘shua’ sound and chopped at Zhong Ling’s head with a loud shout. “I’m dying of anger! I’m going to kill you first!”
But suddenly, a long shadow flashed by. With matchless speed, it seized Zhong Ling, then it flew away like a gust of wind, floating tens of feet away. With a ‘ta’ sound, Zhong Wanchou’s sabre connected with the ground. He saw that the man holding Zhong Ling was none other than ‘Thoroughly Cruel and Evil’ Yun Zhonghe. He angrily said, “What...what are you doing?!”
Yun Zhonghe laughed. “You don’t even want this daughter anymore. Just pretend that she’s dead and that you chopped her to death. Let me have her.” Even as he spoke, he further flew tens of more feet away. He knew very well that aside from Emperor Baoding and the Yellow Browed Monk, whose martial arts were far above his own, even Duan Zhengchun and Gao Shengtai were incredible figures. And so, as soon as he hatched the scheme to kidnap Zhong Ling, he immediately fled. Seeing that Ba Tianshi was not present, he knew that as long as he could utilize his qinggong, not a single person present could catch up to him.
Zhong Wanchou knew that his qinggong abilities were incredible. He was so worried that he was literally hopping mad, jumping up and down as he cursed. Emperor Baoding had seen Yun Zhonghe run around in circles with Ba Tianshi the other day. Today, seeing Yun Zhonghe move as though he were unburdened despite carrying Zhong Ling, he knew that there was nothing he could do either.
Duan Yu suddenly had a idea flash by his head. “Yue Number Three! Your master has an order for you! Quick, get this young girl back!” The Divine Crocodile was startled, then angrily replied, “Bastard, whaddya talking about?” Duan Yu said, “You accepted me as your master, and even kowtowed to me. Are you going back on your words? Are your promises worth nothing more than a fart? You must really want to be a bastard son of a turtle!”
The Divine Crocodile furrowed his eyebrows as storm clouds gathered across his face. He thundered, “Of course I won’t go back on my words! So what if you are my master? If you piss me off, I’ll even kill you, my ‘master’!” Duan Yu replied, “It’s good that recognize me as your master! Miss Zhong is my wife. That makes her your master-wife. Go get her back for me! If Yun Zhonghe disgraces her, then he’s disgracing your master-wife! You’ll lose so much face that you won’t be able to be considered a hero or a real man!”
The Divine Crocodile was startled. He thought to himself, “Huh, these words make a lot of sense.” But he suddenly thought to himself that Mu Wanqing was Duan Yu’s wife. How was it that this little girl surnamed Zhong was also his wife? He asked, “How many master-wives do I have, anyhow?” Duan Yu replied, “Stop asking! The bottom line is, if you aren’t able to get back this master-wife, you’ll lose a huge amount of face. All of the heroes present have seen with their own eyes that you can’t even overcome the Fourth Evil, Yun Zhonghe. That drops you down to the position of being the Fifth Evil. Heck, maybe you’ll become the Sixth Evil!”
To the Divine Crocodile, being ranked beneath Yun Zhonghe was literally a fate worse than death. He’d feel less miserable if he were killed. He let out an insane roar, then rushed towards Yun Zhonghe. He screamed, “Put down my master-wife right now!”
Running and leaping forwards, Yun Zhonghe called out, “Yue Number Three, you really are a gigantic idiot! You’ve fallen for his trick!” The Divine Crocodile loved more than anything else to think of himself as an awe-inspiring person. Hearing Yun Zhonghe claim in front of so many people that he had been tricked only infuriated him all the more. He loudly roared to the heavens, “How could I, Yue Number Two, fall for someone else’s tricks?” He immediately sped up his pursuit. In the blink of an eye, the two of them, one in the front, the other in hot pursuit, passed outside the gorge.
In the middle of his earlier, blind rage, Zhong Wanchou had chopped towards his daughter. But at this moment, seeing his daughter being abducted by a thug, he was greatly agitated. After all, the love between a father and his daughter was deep. Not to mention, he realized that if his wife asked him what had happened, he would be incapable of giving her an answer. In a fit of desperation, he, too, chased after them.
Emperor Baoding quickly bade the crowd of heroes farewell, and with the rest of his party also left the gorge. They returned to the city of Dali and returned to the South-Subduing Palace. Hua Hegen, Fan Hua, and Ba Tianshi emerged from the palace to welcome them. Next to them was a bright and beautiful young lady, dressed in the most gorgeous of clothes and ornaments. It was Mu Wanqing.
This part is so much more detailed in the book than any of the series. It really explains a lot. Looking forward to the next part!
Thank you so much Ren! Love the story
Fan Hua gave a brief report to Emperor Baoding about Hua Hegen digging out a tunnel, putting Zhong Ling in the stone house, and rescuing Mu Wanqing. Only now did everyone realize that this was why Zhong Wanchou, in trying to harm others, ended up harming himself. Everyone laughed uproariously.
Although the power of the ‘Yin and Yang Conjoining’ powder was very fierce, it wasn’t poisonous. After taking a dose of counteracting medicine, then drinking a big bowl full of cold water, the powder’s effect was dissolved.
At noon, the palace prepared a banquet. During the banquet, everyone happily and animatedly discussed all the events which had transpired at the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge. Everyone agreed that the contributions of the Yellow Browed Monk and Hua Hegen were the greatest. If the Yellow Browed Monk hadn’t kept Duan Yanqing distracted, he certainly would have discovered the tunnel being dug.
Dao Baifeng said, “Brother Hua, I would like to trouble you to do something else for me as well.” Hua Hegen replied, “Princess, say the word. I will obey your order.” Dao Baifeng said, “Please send someone to collapse the tunnel.” Hua Hegen was startled. He replied, “Yes ma’am!” But he did not understand what she was thinking. Dao Baifeng gave Duan Zhengchun a hard stare. “This tunnel passes by Madame Zhong’s bedroom. If you don’t collapse it, I’m afraid that one of the gentlemen currently present will henceforth go tunnel his way there every night from now on.” Everyone present burst into loud laughter.
Every once in a while, Mu Wanqing would steal glances towards Duan Yu. Every time their gazes crossed, they would quickly turn their heads away from each other. She knew that for the rest of her life, she could forget about being wife and husband with him. Thinking back to the situation of the past few days, where they shared a room, she felt all the more miserable. She heard everyone discuss how Zhong Ling would become Duan Yu’s concubine, and how despite being kidnapped by Yun Zhonghe, the Divine Crocodile and Zhong Wanchou would surely bring her back. She also heard Emperor Baoding order the Four Imperial Bodyguards to send out search teams to find news regarding Zhong Ling and to protect her. The more Mu Wanqing heard, the angrier she got. From her bosom, she retrieved a tiny golden case. It was the letter which Madame Zhong had given to Duan Yu, requesting his father come and rescue Zhong Ling. She handed it over to Duan Zhengchun and said, “Gan Baobao asked me to give this to you.”
Duan Zhengchun was startled. “Huh?” Mu Wanqing indignantly said, “It’s the little girl’s astrological birth horoscope.” Pointing towards Duan Yu with the golden box, she said, “Gan Baobao told him to give it to you.” Duan Zhengchun took the box, his heart aching. He had immediately recognized the golden box as the gift which he had given to Gan Baobao on the night when they had first requited their passions for each other. Opening the cover of the box, he saw a small piece of red paper with words written on it. There were nine words in total. “December 5th, year of the Sheep, the ‘chou’ hour [1AM-3AM].” The handwriting was in a trembling scrawl. It was definitely Gan Baobao’s personal writing.
Dao Baifeng coldly said, “How very lovely. She’s even sent the girl’s birth horoscope over to us.”
Duan Zhengchun turned over the red paper, only to see several lines of small words written on it. “Broken-heartedly waiting, every hope has turned to dust. A child cannot be without a father. Sixteen years ago, I thought about you every morning and longed for you every evening, hoping that you would come to me. But now I am out of alternatives. As of the May of the ‘Yiwei’ year [32nd year of a 60 year cycle], I belong to the Zhong clan.” Every single word was extremely fine and slender. If one didn’t squint, the words would be nearly invisible.
Duan Zhengchun’s eyes reddened as he recalled how very badly he had let down Gan Baobao. Suddenly, his heart trembled, and in an instant he understood the hidden meaning behind the words of these few lines. “Baobao married Zhong Wanchou in May of the ‘Yiwei’ year, but Zhong Ling was born on December 5th of the ‘Gai’ year. Most likely, she isn’t Zhong Wanchou’s daughter. After waiting for me and seeing me not come, she wrote that a child cannot be without a father. Then she said that she had no alternative to marrying, because she couldn’t give birth to a child without having a husband. That means that Zhong Ling is my daughter. It was precisely...it was precisely sixteen years ago, in the spring, when the two of us shared a joyous time lasting not even a full month. That must be when she conceived Zhong Ling....”
After understanding everything, he suddenly blurted out, “Oh, no! This won’t do!”
Dao Baifeng asked, “What won’t do?” Duan Zhengchun shook his head. With a forced smile, he said, “This fellow, Zhong Wanchou...this fellow really has a malicious heart, to come up with such a poisonous plot to harm my Duan family. We definitely cannot...definitely cannot become in-laws with him. No matter what, we cannot do this!”
Hearing him hemming and hawing, Dao Baifeng knew that his words were insincere. She took the red piece of paper from his hands and read it. She pondered it for a moment, then suddenly broke out into loud laughter. “So she...so she...ha ha...so that little girl Zhong Ling is also your daughter!” Her anger rising, she sent out a palm. Duan Zhengchun leaned his head to the side to avoid it.
Everyone in the hall felt extremely awkward and embarassed. Emperor Baoding let out a small smile. “Since this is the case, then it looks like we’ll have to abandon the idea of marriage...”
Suddenly, one of the family warriors entered the hall. In his hands, he respectfully pro-offered a name placard. Bowing, he said, “Master Guo Yanzhi of the Hulao Pass has come to see you, lord.” Duan Zhengchun thought to himself that Guo Yanzhi was the eldest disciple of Ke Baisui leader of the ‘Hidden Ox’ sect. He was nicknamed the ‘Soul Pursuing Whip’. Supposedly, his martial arts were quite good, but he never had any relations with the Duan family. Why would he come from such a long distance? He immediately rose to his feet and said to Emperor Baoding, “I don’t know what this man has come here for. Your brother will go take a look.”
Emperor Baoding nodded, a small smile on his lips. “The arrival of ‘Soul Pursuing Whip’ is very fortuitous for you. You can seize the opportunity to sneak away.”
Duan Zhengchun left the flower pavilion. Gao Shengtai and the Four Imperial Bodyguards followed behind him. Entering the hall, he saw a middle-aged man of great height seated on a chair to the west. The man was wearing a mourning garment. He wore a hat on his head, and his face was covered with dust and dirt. His eyes were red and swollen. It was evident that a tragedy had happened, and that a family member must have died.
Upon seeing Duan Zhengchun enter, he quickly rose to his feet and bowed. “Guo Yanzhi of Henan pays his respects to the prince.” Duan Zhengchun returned the salute. “Master Guo, you honor Dali with your presence. Please forgive your little brother Duan Zhengchun for not having come out and welcomed you to the city personally.” Guo Yanzhi thought to himself, “Everyone says that despite being rich and powerful, the Duan brothers of Dali are not arrogant at all. That really is the case.” He said, “Guo Yanzhi is only a common, ordinary person. For me to beg an audience from the prince is really quite presumptuous of me.” Duan Zhengchun replied, “The position of ‘prince’ is just something set up to show the common people. I have long admired the reputation of Master Guo. Let us address each other as friends and as brothers. There’s no need for us to adhere to such false propriety.” After introducing him to Gao Shengtai, all three of them sat down.
Guo Yanzhi said, “Prince, my martial-uncle has resided within your palace for a long time now, and has long been away from home. Please tell him that I would like to see him.” Duan Zhengchun said, “Brother Guo, your martial-uncle?” He thought to himself, “There’s no member of the ‘Hidden Ox’ sect in my palace.” Guo Yanzhi said, “My martial-uncle changed his name and surname, hiding himself within your palace to avoid a calamity. He didn’t dare expose himself to you, prince. This really was very disrespectful. I hope that you, prince, will be forgiving and merciful, and won’t blame him. Allow me to thank you in advance.”
As he spoke, he rose to his feet and profoundly saluted Duan Zhengchun with cupped hands. While returning the courtesy, Duan Zhengchun was deeply pondering the situation, but could not come to a realization as to who his martial-uncle might be.
Gao Shengtai was also wondering to himself, “Who is it? Who could it be?” Suddenly, he thought of that person’s surname and nickname. “It must be him!” He spoke to a nearby servant. “Go to the accounting rooms and tell Mr. Huo that the ‘Soul Pursuing Whip’ of Henan, Master Guo, has arrived. He has important news to report to the ‘Golden Abacus’, the venerable senior Cui. Please invite him to the great hall to chat with us.”
The servant nodded and left. After a short time, the sound of footsteps coming from the back hall could be heard. All alone, a man appeared, slowly shambling forwards. He said, “Now, thanks to you, I won’t be able to have free meals here anymore.”
Upon hearing the seven words, ‘the Golden Abacus, venerable senior Cui’, the expression on Duan Zhengchun’s face changed slightly. He thought to himself, “Can it be that the ‘Golden Abacus’, Cui Baiquan, really is hidden here? How could I have been unaware of this, and why wouldn’t worthy brother Gao have told me?” Only to see an old man with a humble appearance emerge with a grin on his face. It was Mr. Huo of the accounting room, who assisted in all sorts of menial tasks. Every day, the man was either intoxicated or gambling. He was extremely lazy. The only reason why they had allowed him to stay for the past ten or so years was because he was totally honest with regards to the accounting. Duan Zhengchun was hugely surprised. “So Mr. Huo really is Cui Baiquan? I have eyes but am blind as a bat. How can I possibly recover the face I have lost?” Fortunately, Gao Shengtai had managed to come up with the right person in a single try, leading Guo Yanzi to assume that the people of the South-Subduing Palace had long since known about the situation.
Originally, Mr. Huo was always seventy percent drunken, thirty percent awake, with a confused and uncomprehending expression perpetually on his face. But seeing Guo Yanzhi wearing mourning clothes, he couldn’t help but feel startled. He asked, “You...why are you...” Guo Yanzhi rushed forward a few steps. He fell to his knees and began to cry loudly. “Martial uncle Cui, my mas...master has been murdered!” The face of Mr. Huo, of Cui Baiquan, immediately change. His skinny yellow visage turned, in a twinkling of an eye, sinister and predatory. Slowly, he said, “Who is our enemy.” Guo Yanzhi replied, crying, “Your nephew is useless. I wasn’t able to definitively identify our enemy. But from what I know, I guess that it is probable that the murderer was a member of Gusu’s Murong family.” A look of dread flashed across Cui Baiquan’s face, but it quickly vanished. In a low voice, he said, “We need to carefully calculate our response.”
Duan Zhengchun and Gao Shengtai exchanged a glance. They thought to themselves, “’Northern Qiao Feng, Southern Murong.’ If the ‘Hidden Ox’ sect has become enemies with the Murong clan, then it will be very difficult for them to avenge their loss.”
A distressed look was on Cui Baiquan’s face. He said, “Worthy nephew Guo, please recount the story of how my martial brother died as clearly as possible.” Guo Yanzhi said, “The murder of one’s master is like the murder of one’s father. Every day that vengeance is delayed, your nephew finds it hard to eat or sleep. Martial uncle, please go with me immediately, and I will report it to you on the road, so as to avoid wasting any more time.”
Seeing the expression his face, Cui Baiquan realized that it was because he felt there were too many people in the hall, making it inconvenient to speak, rather than really being worried about time. He thought to himself, “For ten years or so, I’ve hidden myself here and not revealed myself at all. I never would have thought that Marquis Gao had long ago realized my true identity and seen past my masquerade. If I do not apologize to Prince Duan, then I will have deeply offended the Duan family. In addition, I want to seek revenge upon Gusu’s Murong family on behalf of my martial brother, but that’s something I cannot accomplish by myself. If the Duan family is willing to send people to assist me, things may be different. The difference between ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’ is huge.” He abruptly walked over to Duan Zhengchun’s side, then knelt before him on both knees. He repeatedly kowtowed, banging his head against the ground with a series of ‘dong’ sounds.
This was something which was totally unexpected by everyone present. Duan Zhengchun hurriedly stretched out his hand to lift Cui Baiquan up, only to find that it was as though Cui Baiquan’s body had been nailed to the floor, not budging in the slightest. Duan Zhengchun thought to himself, “Nicely done, you ‘drunkard’. So your martial arts is this profound. You totally deceived me!” Exerting his strength through both his arms, he lifted Cui Baiquan upwards. Cui Baiquan no longer resisted, and rose to his feet. As soon as he stood up, he felt as though the hundred bones in his body were filled with unspeakable discomfort, as though a tiny boat was being thrown about by killer waves in the ocean. He knew that it was Duan Zhengchun’s way of reprimanding him. He thought to himself, “If I generate my energy to resist, then the South-Subduing Prince will be all the more upset with me. Perhaps he will even suspect me all the more of having crafty ulterior motives for having snuck my way into his palace. While his internal energy is raging inside my body, I might as well fall down.” He collapsed, head facing the sky and cutting a sorry figure indeed as he let out a cry. “Ow!”
Duan Zhengchun let out a small smile and extended his hand to help him up. With a light touch, he dispelled the nauseous feeling in his body.
Cui Baiquan said, “Prince, Cui Baiquan was pressed so heavily by his enemy that he had nowhere to turn. For this reason only did I hide myself within your manor and rely on your aid. Only by hiding myself under your glorious name have I managed to live until today. Cui Baiquan never revealed the truth to you, prince, and I deserve to die a thousand deaths for my offense.”
Gao Shengtai replied, “Brother, why be so modest? The prince knew your true identity long ago. But since you, brother Cui, were unwilling to reveal your true identity, the prince did not want to break your disguise either. Forget about the prince, even others know about the situation. That day, when Duan Yu was fighting against the Divine Crocodile, didn’t he grab brother Cui and claim you were his master? He knew that within this palace, only brother Cui could handle that vile fellow surnamed Yue.”
Actually, that day when Duan Yu had grabbed Cui Baiquan and claimed he was his master, he was purely putting on a show for entertainment. As Cui Baiquan’s appearance was the most unsightly and humble within the palace, he had picked him to mock the Divine Crocodile. But at the moment, upon hearing these words, Cui Baiquan believed and did not doubt them. He secretly felt ashamed.
Gao Shengtai continued, “The prince has always been a welcome and hospitable host. Brother Cui, you came to Dali without any malicious intent. But even if you had come with an intent on causing harm, the prince would have courteously welcomed you and thrown a banquet on your behalf. Brother Cui, why stand on such ceremony?” The implicit meaning of this statement was that the only reason Cui had not been exposed was because he had not come with an evil intent; if he had, he would have been disposed of long ago.
Cui Baiquan said, “Marquis Gao is brilliant and wise. Although your words are very kind, I, the one surnamed Cui, should make clear to you the reason why I sought refuge within your palace and why I must depart now. Otherwise, my actions would be too inglorious. Only, this matter involves others. If I may be so bold, I would like to explain.”
Duan Zhengchun nodded. He said to Guo Yanzhi, “Brother Guo, although the enmity between you and your master’s killer is deep, there’s no need to quibble over such a small amount of time. Let’s slowly discuss the situation.” Before Guo Yanzhi had a chance to respond, Cui Baiquan had already hurriedly said, “Naturally, I will obey the requests of the prince.”
At this moment, a family warrior entered the hall. Bowing at the entrance, he said, “Reporting to the prince! The abbot of Shaolin has sent two eminent monks with a letter for you.” Ever since Shaolin had been founded in the Tang dynasty, it had been the Mt. Tai and the Big Dipper of the wulin [meaning that it held a position of extreme eminence]. Upon hearing these words, Duan Zhengchun immediately stood up and left the hall to personally welcome the guests.
He saw a pair of middle-aged monks be escorted by two of his family warriors, making their way past the small yard. One of the monks, who had a dry and shriveled up appearance, bowed towards Duan Zhengchun, then said, “The junior monks of Shaolin, Huizhen and Huiguan, pay their respects to the prince.” Duan Zhengchun cupped his hands, returning the courtesy. “For you to have travelled such a distance to brighten my doorway must have been very difficult on you. Please, come inside and have some tea.”
After entering the pavilion, the two monks did not sit. Huizhen said, “Prince, this humble monk has come here on the instructions of my abbot to deliver a letter to Emperor Baoding or the South-Subduing Prince.” As he spoke, he withdrew a wrapped bundle from his breast. Slowly he unwrapped it, removing a yellow parchment from within, then pro-offering it respectfully to Duan Zhengchun.
Duan Zhengchun accepted it, then said, “My imperial brother actually is inside at this very moment. This is the perfect time for you to meet him.” He said to Cui Baiquan and Guo Yanzhi, “Gentlemen, please take some refreshments for now. We will speak shortly.” He then brought Huizhen and Huiguan deeper within the palace.
Actually, at this moment, Emperor Baoding had already retired into the warm pavilion and was having a tranquil conversation with the Yellow Browed Monk. Duan Yu sat next to them and listened quietly. Upon seeing Huizhen and Huiguan, he rose to his feet. Duan Zhengchun handed the scroll over to Emperor Baoding, who opened it. The letter was addressed to them two, and was filled with such flowery language as “long respected your illustrious name, but never had the fortune to meet you,” “rule over the south, acting with vast benevolence,” “admired by thousands of people, of exceptional ability and wisdom,” “guardian of the Buddhist truth, glorifying the saintly path,” etc. etc. etc. Finally, it came to the meat of the letter. “My younger martial brother, Master Xuanbei, will be heading towards your respected area with his four disciples. On the basis of our shared worship of Buddha and of our friendship within the wulin, I respectfully request that you take good care of him.” The letter was signed, “The lowly disciple of the Shaolin monastery, Xuanci, pays a hundred respects.”
Emperor Baoding rose while he read the letter to show the respect he held for Shaolin. Huizhen and Huiguan politely stood off to their side. Emperor Baoding said, “The two of you, please be seated. All of us followers of Buddha’s teachings and, as members of the wulin, share the same heart and arteries. Whatever the abbot of Shaolin requests, we will certainly exert all of our efforts to comply with. Master Xuanbei’s understanding of Buddhism is extremely subtle, and his martial arts level is deep and profound. I admire him to the extreme. Might I ask when he will grace my humble abode? We eagerly anticipate his arrival.”
Huizhen and Huiguan suddenly felt to their knees. With a series of ‘dong’ sounds, they kowtowed repeatedly. They began to cry bitterly.
Emperor Baoding and Duan Zhengchun were both startled. They thought to themselves, “Can it be that Master Xuanbei has died?” Emperor Baoding stretched his hand out and helped them up. “Both of us are members of the wulin. You cannot be so polite towards me.” Huizhen stood up and indeed said, “My master has passed on to Nirvana.” Emperor Baoding thought to himself, “This letter must have been intended for Master Xuanbei to personally present to me. Can it be that he died within the borders of Dali?” He said, “Master Xuanbei has returned to the western heavens. The Buddhist family has lost an eminent monk, and the wulin has lost a skilled exponent. This is mournful news indeed. May I ask when Master Xuanbei entered Nirvana?"
Huizhen replied, “A month ago, my martial uncle, the abbot, received a letter stating that the ‘Four Greatest Evils of the World’ were headed towards Dali with the intention of making trouble for your majesty and for the South-Subduing Prince. The Duan dynasty of Dali reigns supreme over the southern world. Naturally, you wouldn’t fear such a trifling group as the ‘Four Evils’. But the abbot feared that you two might not know of this news and fall into their ambush. Thus, he sent Master Xuanbei and we four disciples to come here and inform you. This is why we came.”
Emperor Baoding felt a deep sense of gratitude. He thought to himself, “No wonder Shaolin has been held in the utmost respect for the past hundreds of years. He has taken it upon himself to safeguard the wulin. Although we are located in the distant south, he has so much concern over our well-being. Although in his letter, he asked that we take good care of Master Xuanbei, his actual intent was to station him here to assist us.” He immediately bowed slightly and said, “Abbot Fangzheng is a man of great kindness and thoughtfulness. I do not know how we brothers can repay him.”
Huizhen replied, “Your majesty, you are too modest. Our group rushed southwards upon receiving his directive. On the 28th of last month, we arrived at Dali’s Liangzhou prefecture and took shelter for the night at Shenjie monastery. Who would have imagined that on the morning of the 29th, as we four disciples woke up, we saw that our master…our master had been murdered. He died in the main hall of the Shenjie monastery….” As he came to this point, he was sobbing so much that no further words could come out.
Emperor Baoding let out a long sigh. He asked, “Was Master Xuanbei killed by means of poison or hidden weaponry?” Huizhen replied, “No.” Emperor Baoding, the Yellow Browed Monk, Duan Zhengchun, and Gao Shengtai were all startled. They thought to themselves, “With Xuanbei’s level of martial arts, unless he was struck by hidden weaponry coated with a poison that would kill on contact, even if the enemy had ambushed him from behind, he wouldn’t be completely defenseless and die on the spot. Within Dali, what evil master martial artist has such a high and vicious level of ability?”
Duan Zhengchun said, “Today is the third. The 28th of last month was four days ago. Yu’er was kidnapped on the night of the 27th. Emperor Baoding nodded. “It wasn’t the ‘Four Evils’.” For the past few days, Duan Yanqing had been focused on keeping guard over Duan Yu. He definitely wouldn’t have had the time to travel such a great distance to commit murder at the Shenjie monastery. In addition, even if it were Duan Yanqing, he wouldn’t have been able to silently and stealthily kill Xuanbei in the blink of an eye.
Huizhen said, “As we propped up our master, we felt that his entire body was icy cold. He had gone to Nirvana hours ago. There was no trace of any battle having occurred within the main hall. We rushed out of the temple, and the monks of Shenjie monastery assisted us as well. But within a ten-li radius, we couldn’t find a single trace of the murderer’s passing.
Emperor Baoding gloomily said, “Master Xuanbei not only died on behalf of the Duan family, but perished within the borders of Dali. No matter how one views it, we two brothers definitely cannot let this go unpunished.”
Huizhen and Huiguan immediately dropped to their knees, kowtowing in thanks. Huizhen spoke again. “After the four of us discussed the situation with Abbot Wuye of Shenjie monastery, we decided to temporarily keep our master’s remains at Shenjie monastery. We didn’t dare to cremate him on the spot, so as to allow our martial-uncle, the abbot, to see him with his own eyes. The other two disciples rushed back to Shaolin to report the situation to the abbot. This humble monk and Huiguan rushed to Dali to report the situation to your imperial majesty, and to the South-Subduing Prince.”
Emperor Baoding said, “Abbot Wuye is of venerable age and eminent virtue. His knowledge is broad and he knows many anecdotes regarding the wulin. What did he have to say?”
Huizhen replied, “Abbot Wuye said: ‘There is an eighty or ninety percent chance that the murdered was a member of Gusu’s Murong family.”
Duan Zhengchun and Gao Shengtai exchanged glances. Both of them thought to themselves, “Once again, it’s Gusu’s Murong family!”
THanks for the translation.
An terrifying reputation for the Murong as they first make their appearance in the novel, also the first time that we heard the phrase of "North Qiaofeng, South Murong." - also nicely staging the appearance of another person later in the coming chapters.