The more I read this story the more strongly I feel that Duan Yu's father is an *******.
The more I read this story the more strongly I feel that Duan Yu's father is an *******.
Up til now, the Yellow Browed Monk had been silent. He interjected, “Did Master Xuanbei die due to a strike to the chest, with the enemy technique being the ‘Great Veda Sceptre’?” Huizhen was startled. “Great master, your guess is just so. How…how did you…” The Yellow Browed Monk replied, “I’ve long heard that Master Xuanbei was an expert at Shaolins ‘Great Veda Sceptre’ technique. When fighting opponents, their ribs would snap from his blows. This martial arts skill, although fearfully powerful, is too tyrannous and brutal. It really does not seem like a Buddhist martial arts at all…alas!” Duan Yu interrupted, “Right! This martial arts is too brutal and ruthless.”
Hearing the Yellow Browed Monk criticize their teacher, Huizhen and Huigen naturally felt resentment. But knowing that he was of a senior generation, they did not dare to contradict him. Upon hearing Duan Yu chattering from the side, they were so furious that their eyes bulged out. Duan Yu pretended not to notice, paying them no mind.
Duan Zhengchun asked, “Martial brother, how did you know that Xuanbei died from the ‘Great Veda Sceptre’? The Yellow Browed Monk sighed. “For Abbot Wuye of Shenjie monastery to be so certain that the murdered was of the Murong family, he certainly must have had corroborating evidence. Gusu’s Murong family is known for something called, ‘Using the opponent’s skills, exercising them upon the opponent.’ Have you heard of this?” Duan Zhengchum mumbled to himself, “I have heard this saying before, but never really understand its meaning.” The Yellow Browed Monk murmured, “‘Using the opponent’s skills, exercising them upon the opponent.’ Hm. ‘Using the opponent’s skills, exercising them upon the opponent…” Suddenly, a look of dread flashed across his face. Emperor Baoding and Duan Zhengchun, in the decades they had known him, had never seen him be afraid. The other day, when he was engaged in a life and death duel with Crown Prince Yanqing, he was clearly in a losing position. Although he was in an extremely difficult situation, that look of utter calmness never left his face. For him to now show fear indicated that their opponent definitely was no one to look down upon.
For a period of time, there only silence within the warm pavilion. After a long moment, the Yellow Browed Monk said slowly, “This old monk has heard that within the world, there is a person known as Murong Bo. His personal name is ‘Bo’, abundant, and his martial arts knowledge and abilities truly are abundant and profound to the extreme. It seemed as though he knew every single unique and consummate skill of every sect within the wulin. He knew every one of them, and could use them as well. In addition, whenever he wanted to kill someone, he would use the same skills which that person had gained fame with.”
Duan Yu said, “This really is strange beyond imagining! There are so many martial arts in the world. How can he possibly comprehensively learn them all?” The Yellow Browed Monk replied, “Worthy nephew, your comment is correct. The body of learning is as vast as the sea. How could a single person know everything? But Murong Bo did not have many enemies to begin with. In addition, it was said that if Murong Bo was unable to kill his enemy with their own martial arts, he would not kill them at all.”
Emperor Baoding said, “I too have heard that there is such a strange man in the central plains. Hebei’s Three Warriors of the Luo Family excelled in using flying awls. Eventually, all three of them died due to flying awls. Daoist Zhangxu of Shandong, when killing his opponents, would chop off all four of their limbs, causing them to cry out in agony for a long time before passing away. Daoist Zhangxu himself met with such a bitter end. The phrase describing Murong Bo, ‘Using the opponent’s skills, exercising them upon the opponent’, came from Daoist Zhangxu’s dying lips." After pausing for a moment, he continued. “That year, within the busy streets of Jinan, who knows how many people watched as Daoist Zhangxu rolled about on the floor, limbless and howling.” As he said this, it seemed as though he was dimly seeing in his mind the sight of Daoist Zhangxu’s cruel death. His face was filled with both resentment and with an unbearable look.
Duan Zhengchun nodded. “Then it must be so.” He suddenly thought of something, and said, “Master Guo Yanzhi’s master, Ke Baisui, was said to be a master of the soft whip. The powerful force release from his whip was pure and hard. When killing his opponents, he could often crush their skull with a single whip. Can it be that he…he…” Slapping his hands together three times, he called for a servant. “Invite Mr. Cui and Master Guo inside. Tell them I have something to discuss with them.” The servant replied, “Yes sir!” But he didn’t know who Mr. Cui was, and hesitated to leave. Duan Yu laughed. “Mr. Cui is the Mr. Huo of the accounting room.” Only now did the servant loudly reply, “Yes sir!” Turning his body, he left.
After a short period of time, Cui Baiquan and Guo Yanzhi arrived at the warm pavilion. Duan Zhengchun said, “Brother Guo, there’s something I must ask you. Please do not be offended.” Guo Yanzhi replied, “I will not.” Duan Zhengchun said, “Might I asked, how was old master Ke ambushed and murdered? Was he fatally wounded by punches and kicks, or by martial weaponry?” Suddenly, Guo Yanzhi’s entire face flushed red. A look of deep shame on his face, he stammered for a long moment. Finally, he spoke. “My respected master was slain by the soft whip technique, the ‘Thousand Rendings of the Heavenly Spirit’. The murderer’s power was extremely hard and ferocious. Even my master himself could not…could not…”
Emperor Baoding, Duan Zhengchun, the Yellow Browed Monk, and the others exchanged glances. They couldn’t help but feel a chill in their hearts.
Huizhen walked towards Cui Baiquan and Guo Yanzhi. After saluting them, he said, “This humble monk and his brother share the same enmity with you two brothers. If we do not eradicate Gusu’s Murong family…” As he came to this point, he halted. Whether or not they could actually wipe out Gusu’s Murong family was hard to say. He clenched his teeth. “…then this humble monk will simply give his life to them instead.” Tears filling his eyes, Guo Yanzhi said, “Shaolin also has a deep enmity with Gusu’s Murong family?” Huizhen gave a brief summary of how his master, Xuanbei, died at the hands of Gusu’s Murong family.
Guo Yanzhi’s face was filled with grief and indignation as he listened, and he gnashed his teeth with hate. Cui Baiquan, on the other hand, simply looked crestfallen and was silent, as though the death of his brother was not a matter of great importance at all. Huiguan said, “Mr. Cui, are you afraid of Gusu’s Murong family?” Huizhen quickly interjected, “Martial brother, do not be so rude!” Cui Baiquan glanced to the east, then to the west, as though he were afraid that the walls might have grown eyes or ears, or as though a powerful enemy had arrived and was about to launch a sneak attack. A look of utter terror was on his face. Huiguan let out a ‘heng’, then muttered to himself, “If a real man is faced with death, then so be it. What’s the point of being afraid?” Huizhen also did not approve of Cui Baiquan’s attitude. Thus, having already reprimanding his martial brother once, he no longer said anything.
The Yellow Browed Monk coughed lightly. “This matter…” Cui Baiquan’s entire body shuddered. He jumped up, so hurriedly that he overturned his teacup. With a ‘ping’ and a ‘pang’, it crashed to the floor, breaking into tiny pieces. After calming himself down and collecting himself, he noticed that all eyes were on him. He flushed with same. “Sorry, I’m very sorry!” Guo Yanzhi knitted his brow, then bent over and began to pick up the broken pieces of the shattered teacup.
Duan Zhengchun thought to himself, “This Cui Baiquan fellow is useless.” He said to the Yellow Browed Monk, “Martial brother, what were you going to say?”
The Yellow Browed Monk took another sip of tea, then said unhurriedly, “Benefactor Cui, I take it that you have met Murong Bo before?” Upon hearing the three words, ‘Murong Bo’, Cui Baiquan let out a little ‘ah’ cry of fear. His two arms propping him up on the arms of the chair, he stammered, “I never…I…I saw him…I didn’t…” Huiguan loudly said, “Mr. Cui, have you met Murong Bo before or not?” Cui Baiquan stared towards the sky, as though his spirit had fled his body. Duan Zhengchun and all the others were secretly shaking their heads. Seeing his martial uncle shame himself in front of all these people, Guo Yanzhi felt all the more humiliated and miserable. Only after a long time did Cui Baiquan say, in a quavering voice, “I didn’t…well…I kind of…it seems there was…this…”
The Yellow Browed Monk interjected, “This humble monk has a personal experience which I will relate to everyone, so that everyone might know the details. This was something that happened forty three years ago, when I was young and in the prime of my strength. I had just entered the martial world, and had gained a little bit of fame within the jianghu. I really was a ‘newborn calf who did not fear a tiger’ [Chinese saying meant that an ignorant person knows no fear]! I felt that despite the vastness of the world, aside from my own master, no one had higher martial arts skill than me. That year, I was escorting a retiring official and his family back to their old homes. We were travelling from Bianliang back to Shandong. At a mountain pass near the Blue Leopard Ridge, we came upon four bandits. After they saw us, their first move was not to go after our belongings, but rather for that official’s daughter. At the time, I was young and impetuous. Naturally, I showed no mercy with my blows, and every strike was a vicious one. I exercised the power of my Vajra Fingers, and drove each finger into an enemy heart with each attack. All four of the bandits died before they had so much as a chance to grunt.”
“I really thought that I was something incredible, and began to brag and boast to that retiring official. I said things like, ‘Even if eight or ten bandits came, I would take their lives with my Vajra Finger.’ At that moment, I heard the sound of hoofsteps, and two people rode past on a donkey. Suddenly, one of the persons on the back of the donkey let out a ‘heng’. It was a female’s voice, but that ‘heng’ was filled with contempt and disdain. I turned around and saw a thirty six year old married woman on the donkey. The other person was a fifteen year old lad with delicate and extremely attractive features. Both of them were wearing white mourning clothes, showing great filial piety. That youth said, “Ma, what’s so impressive about the Vajra Finger, for someone to come here to brag about it?”
The origins of the Yellow Browed Monk, even Emperor Baoding and his brother were not too clear about. But everyone here very much respected his display at the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge, where he used the power of his Vajra Finger to carve out a chessboard, carve out chess moves, and struggle unyieldingly against Crown Prince Yanqing. His Vajra Finger was even more venerated. At this moment, hearing him recount these events, they all thought to themselves that it was just a young, ignorant kid whose words were full of nonsense.
They didn’t expect that the Yellow Browed Monk would let out a light sigh before continuing. “At that time, I was angry upon hearing these words. But I thought to myself, why be upset over the wild ramblings of a little kid? I glared at him, but paid him no attention. Only to hear the woman upbraid him. She said, ‘This person’s Vajra Finger comes from the orthodox teachings of the Putian Damo Courtyard of Fujian. He’s achieved a thirty percent proficiency in it. What does a little kid like you know? When you strike with your fingers, you aren’t as accurate as he is.”
“As I heard this, I was both startled and angry. Very few people of the jianghu knew where my martial arts originated from, yet this woman was able to determine it with a single sentence. In addition, she claimed that my Vajra Fingers had only reached a level of thirty percent proficiency. Of course I couldn’t take this lying down. Alas, at that time, I really had no idea as to how high the heaven is, or how deep the earth is. Based on my level of actual ability at that time, for someone to say that I had reached thirty percent proficiency was already giving me too much credit. At most, I had reached perhaps twenty six or twenty seven percent proficiency. I loudly said, “Madame, what is your respected surname? Your son belittled my Vajra Finger. Does he wish to exchange a few stances and pointers with me?” That kid brought the donkey to a halt and was about to respond. Suddenly, the lady’s eyes reddened and tears appeared in her eyes. “What words did your father say to you just before he died? Have you already forgotten?” That youth replied, “Understood. I don’t dare forget.” They spurred the donkey on and galloped forwards.
“The more I thought about it, the less I could accept their words. I spurred on my own horse to catch up to them. I called out, ‘Hey! You came here and spewed nonsense about my martial arts, but refused to exchange a few pointers with me. Do you really plan to just get away that easily?’ I was riding an extremely fine stallion. As I spoke, I passed by their donkey, then came to a halt in front of them. That woman said to her son, ‘See? You said a bunch of rubbish, and now other people are upset.’ That youth was clearly very obedient towards his mother, and did not dare to even glance at me. I saw that they were afraid of me, and thought to myself that they were just a widow and an orphan, with no martial abilities. Why lower myself to their level? But from the woman’s words, it seemed as though that youth also knew the Vajra Finger. It took me over fifteen years to begin to master this set of martial arts. How could this little kid possibly know it? Naturally, they were just blowing hot air. I said, ‘Today, I’ll let you guys go. In the future, be more careful when speaking.’”
“The woman still didn’t even so much as glance at me. She said to the youth, ‘The words of this uncle are correct. In the future, be more careful when you speak.’ It would have been so much better if I had just let the matter drop here. But that that time, I was young and strong-headed, and did not move my horse away, continuing to block the road. The woman got off the donkey and began to walk in front of it. The youth patted the donkey, then also got off and began to lead it past me. I let out a big laugh and aimed a blow at the donkey with my whip, saying, ‘Hurry, scram!’ But before my whip reached a foot of the body of the donkey, the youth turned around. With a ‘chi’ sound, he pointed, projecting his internal energy through the air and knocking my whip out of my hand. This terrified me so badly that I was totally stunned. The power of his finger was extremely strong, far surpassing my own.”
“I heard the woman say, ‘Since you have already attacked, you might as well finish the job.’ The youth said, ‘Yes!’ He turned the donkey around and rushed towards me. Stretching out my left palm, I executed the technique, ‘Cloud-Barring Hand’ and pushed towards him. Suddenly, with a ‘chi’ sound, he pointed at me with his finger. I felt some pain on the left side of my chest. Then, all my energy left my body.”
As the Yellow Browed Monk came to this point in the story, he slowly began to remove his robes, exposing his thin, bony chest. Everyone could see that on the left side of his chest, above his heart, there was a hole roughly an inch deep. Although the hole was long since scabbed over, it was nonetheless clear to everybody how severe the injury he suffered was. Everyone was absolutely astonished that with such a deep wound over his heart, he not only did not die, but had managed to survive to this very day.
The Yellow Browed Monk pointed towards the right side of his chest and said, “Everyone, please take a look.” The flesh and skin there were slightly undulating upwards and downwards. Only now did everyone realize that his body structure was a bit different from everyone else’s; his heart was closer to the right side than the left. The reason he managed to just barely survive was for this reason.
The Yellow Browed Monk once more put on his cloth robes, then continued. “For a person to have a heart like mine is really an extremely rare occurrence. That youth, seeing that I did not immediately die upon being struck by his finger on my heart, pulled his donkey back a few steps. A look of great surprise was on his face. I saw the blood flowing from my chest and knew that my life certainly would be lost. I no longer had any fear, and immediately boomed out, ‘Little crook, you claim that you know how to use the Vajra Finger. Hmph! The Vajra Finger of the Damo Courtyard, is there such a thing as it injuring the opponent and drawing the opponent’s blood but not taking the opponent’s life? Your technique is totally wrong. It definitely is not the Vajra Finger!’ That youth leapt towards me, once more about to strike at me. At that moment, I couldn’t defend myself in the slightest. All I could do was stand there and wait for death. I never would have imagined that the woman would suddenly flick her whip and capture her son’s arm with it. I dimly and hazily heard her reprimand her son. ‘The Murong family of Gusu actually has such a useless scion as you. Since your finger strike was not perfect, you cannot kill this man. I’ll punish you. For the next seven days…’ As to what sort of punishment she would assign him for the next seven days, I do not know. By that time, I had already fainted.”
Cui Baiquan said in a trembling voice, “Ma…master, afterwards…afterwards, did you ever meet them again?”
The Yellow Browed Monk said, “I am embarrassed to say this. But after that day, I felt extremely downhearted. Such a young man already achieved such great attainment in martial arts. Even if I practiced hard for the rest of my life, I might not be able to catch up to him. After the injury to my chest was healed, I left the territory of the Great Song, and came to far-away Dali. I hid myself under his majesty’s protection, and after a few years became a monk. Over these many years, I have passed beyond the point of caring about life or death, and no longer care about my past honors or humiliations. But when I occasionally think back on that event, my heart cannot help but quiver with fear. I really am like a little bird terrified by the twang of a bowstring.”
Duan Yu asked, “Master, if that youth lived to this day, he would be in his sixties. He would be Murong Bo, right?”
The Yellow Browed Monk shook his head. “I’m embarrassed to say this, but I don’t know. As to whether or not the skill he used to attack me truly was the Vajra Finger, I also could not tell for sure. I only felt that it seemed somewhat different. But regardless of whether or not it was the Vajra Finger, it was extremely powerful…extremely powerful…”
No one spoke. The disdain they had felt towards Cui Baiquan was mostly gone now. They all thought to themselves that for a martial artist of the Yellow Browed Monk’s caliber to be in dread of Murong Bo, it was excusable for Cui Baiquan to be terrified out of his wits.
Cui Baiquan said, “Sir, you have an extremely high status, and yet you do not conceal your past inglories at all. What type of person am I, to not speak for fear of being shamed? I was just about to explain to the prince my reasons for hiding myself here. As no one here is an outsider, I will tell everyone the story.” As he said this, his face became extremely agitated. He felt his tongue and his throat become dry. He grabbed his bowl of tea and gulped it down, then took Guo Yanzhi’s bowl of tea and drank that down as well. Only then could he continue. “This…this event of mine, happened…happened eighteen years ago…” After he said this, he couldn’t help but start glancing outside the window again.
He calmed himself down, then said, “Within the regional capital city of Nanyang, there was a local tyrant surnamed ‘Cai’. He was rich but cruel and oppressed the common people. A friend of my martial brother and I was framed and harmed by him. His entire family died at Cai’s hands.” Guo Yanzhi said, “Martial uncle, are you talking about that crook, Cai Qingtu?” Cui Baiquan said, “Right. Whenever your master speaks of Cai Qingtu, he always gnashes his teeth with hate. Your master wrote many letters of condemnation and complaint to the local officials, but each time Cai Qingtu would bribe the high officials to suppress and quash the complaints. If your master were to use his soft whip, he could have destroyed Cai Qingtu in a heartbeat. But although he was a lofty hero in the world of the jianghu, in his own hometown, he had a family and a business. He wasn’t willing to break the law. I, Cui Baiquan, was totally different. I thieved chickens and stole dogs, *****d and gambled, committed murder and arson. I did everything. That night, I couldn’t suppress my anger. I snuck into Cai Qingtu’s house and wiped out everyone in his household, numbering over thirty people.”
“I started killing at the main gate, and killed all the way until I reached the backyard courtyard. I didn’t even spare the female slave gardeners. Entering the courtyard, I saw some light at the window of a small building. I rushed up the building and kicked down the door. It was a study room, and all four walls were filled with books. A pair of two, man and woman, were seated there and were reading.”
“The male was in his forties and had handsome features. He wore the clothes of a scholar. The woman appeared very young, but as her back was towards me, I didn’t see her face. I saw that she wore a light green outer garment. Judging by the candlelight, she seemed quite pretty and charming. Goddamnit…” Up til now, his words had been refined, not at all in keeping with his normal behavior. He stunned everyone in suddenly letting out such an uncouth remark. Swimming in his memories, Cui Baiquan continued, “…I had just killed thirty odd people in a short amount of time and was in a great mood. I suddenly saw those two bastards, and goddamnit, I thought it was weird. Everyone in Cai Qingtu’s family was vicious and thuggish. Where did these two attractive, refined bastards come from? Isn’t this like Emperor Tangming and Yang Guifei from the opera skits? I thought it was weird, and wasn’t planning to immediately kill them. The man said, “Wife, everything from ‘guimei’ to ‘wuwang’ is not lined up correctly [tortoise sister to martial king].”
Duan Yu, upon hearing the words, ‘guimei’ to ‘wuwang’, thought to himself, “What the heck is this? What is he talking about?” After thinking for a moment, he came to a realization. “Oh, he means, from ‘guimei’ to ‘wuwang’ [tortoise sister to no rashness]. The man is talking about the I-Ching.” His interested was roused.
Cui Baiquan continued, “That woman muttered to herself for a while, then said, ‘If you go from the northeast corner and slant towards ‘dage’ [elder brother], then turn at ‘zizi’ [elder sister]…is this route possible?” Duan Yu thought to himself, “Elder brother? Elder sister? Oh, he means ‘large road’ and ‘already crossed’.” Suddenly, he was startled all the more. “This woman is clearly talking about the steps within the ‘Graceful Steps Upon the Waves’. Her positioning is a bit off though, so she isn’t totally correct. Can it be that this woman has some sort of relationship with the Dear Goddess of the mountain cave?”
Cui Baiquan continued, “These two kept on talking incessantly, babbling about turtle sisters, brothers-in-law, older sisters, yadda yadda. I got impatient and yelled, ‘Goddamnit, both of you bastards, roll the hell out!’ But both of them acted as though they were deaf and hadn’t heard my words at all. They simply continued to stare intently at that book. The woman said in a soft voice, ‘There are nine steps that need to be taken from here to the elder sister’s house. They can’t be taken.’ I yelled again, ‘Take them, take them, take them! Take as many steps as you need to your grandmother’s house! I’ll send you to meet all eighteen generations of your ancestors!’ Just as I was about to enter the room, that man suddenly clapped his hands and laughed. ‘Brilliant, brilliant! The grandmother is the ‘kun’. Eighteen generations of ancestors…hey, two times nine is eighteen! They should revolve around the ‘kun’ position. We’ve thought through this part of the footwork!’ He reached out and grabbed an abacus on the table. I don’t know what he did, but suddenly three abacus beads flew out towards me. I only felt some pain in my chest, then found my body to be paralyzed and unable to move any more.”
“These two still ignored me, and continued to talking about their little brothers and their little swine. My heart was filled with unspeakable fear. My bandit nickname was the ‘Golden Abacus’, because I always carry with me an abacus forged from gold. Hidden within was a secret spring mechanism which would shoot out seventy seven abacus beads when the mechanism was activated. But the abacus on the table was an ordinary one made from mahogany. The bamboo cross-pieces of the abacus had been broken into countless pieces; clearly, he had used his internal energy to shatter the bamboo cross-pieces, then used his internal energy to agitate the beads and shoot them out. This display of martial arts prowess really was goddamn incredible.”
“The more the man and the woman spoke, the happier their voices became. I, on the other hand, grew steadily more afraid. I committed over thirty bloody murders in this house, and now I was stuck here, unable to move, unable to speak. It would be alright if I had to pay with my own life for my murders. But if I were found here, I would be implicating brother Ke as well. The four hours that I spent there were more agonizing than that of ten or twenty years of torture. It wasn’t until the chickens began to crow that the man laughed and said, ‘Wife, it looks like we won’t be able to figure out the next few steps tonight. Let’s go!’ The woman said, ‘This ‘Golden Abacus’, Master Cui, helped you to come up with such a miraculous solution. We should give him some sort of reward!’ I was startled once more. So they had known my identity all along. The man said, ‘Since this is the case, let’s let him live a few more years. We’ll take his life the next time we meet him! He dared to insult you and insult me. We can’t just pretend that didn’t happen.’ As he spoke, he picked up his book, then sent out a palm and lightly tapped me on the back, unsealing my acupoints. Following this, the two of them flew out of the window. I lowered my head and saw that three holes had appeared in the chest of my clothes. Three abacus beads were neatly and perfectly nailed into my chest. Even if one had used a ruler and other tools, it would be extremely difficult to place them so accurately. Look, look, look. Everyone, take a look at my predicament for yourself.” And as he spoke, he removed his upper body garments.
As everyone looked at him, they couldn’t help but laugh. Two of the abacus beads were planted precisely on top of his nipples, with the other one in between them. Can it be that he wasn’t able to think of a way to remove them, despite all these years having passed? Cui Baiquan shook his head, rebuttoning his clothes. “For these three beads to be placed on my body is really a heavy punishment. At first, I wanted to dig them out with a knife. But as soon as I used the slightest bit of force, I agitated my own meridians and passed out. It took four hours before I was able to wake up. How about using sandpaper or a filing knife to slowly destroy it? It was still so agonizing that I screamed like a goddamn pig. This punishment has followed my spirit and never left my body. Whenever it is about to rain, these three points of my chest are filled with so much unbearable ****ing pain. It’s more accurate than tortoise shell divinations!” Everyone present was both astonished and amused.
Cui Baiquan let out a sigh. “This man said that the next time he saw me, he would take my life. I can’t let him take my life, but if I ever met him again, I can’t prevent him from taking it either. The only thing I could do was to make sure he would never see me again. I had no other choice but to escape far away. I ended up arriving at the South-Subduing Palace. There were many experts here, including Prince Duan, Gao Shengtai, Chu Wanli, and the other bodyguards. Surely, they wouldn’t stand by and do nothing and simply watch as my life was taken away. When these three beads on my chest began to hurt, I had no choice but to drown the pain in alcohol for a while. Any lofty aspirations, grand ideals, or dreams of becoming a famous man of my time had become totally out of ****ing reach, more distant than the ninth level of the heavens.”
Everyone thought to themselves, “This person’s situation is largely the same as that of the Yellow Browed Monk. The only difference is that one left the secular world and became a monk, whereas the other hid his identity and lived incognito.” Duan Yu asked, “Mr. Huo, how do you know that those two belonged to Gusu’s Murong lineage?” He was used to calling this person ‘Mr. Huo’, and wasn’t able to instantly change his mode of address.
Cui Baiquan scratched his head and said, “That was the hypothesis of my martial brother. After being hit by these three abacus beads, I went to discuss the situation with him. He told me that in the wulin, only Gusu’s Murong family would ‘Use the opponent’s skills, exercising them upon the opponent.’ I use abacus beads to attack others, and so he used abacus beads to attack me. Gusu’s Murong family isn’t a flourishing one. ****! It’s a good thing there’s not a lot of them in the world. If they had thousands of sons and hundreds of grandsons, there would be no others left in the jianghu. Only their family would be left.”
These words were extremely disrespectful to Dali’s Duan family, but no one cared. He continued, “The only famous person from their family is Murong Bo. Forty three years ago, the kid who used the Vajra Finger to harm this respected monk was aged fifteen or sixteen. Eighteen years ago, the man who drilled these three beads into my chest was in his forties. It seems likely that they both were the same person, Murong Bo. I never would have imagined that my martial brother would lose his life to him as well. Yanzhi, how did your master offend him?”
Guo Yanzhi replied, “These past few years, my master had been focused on his business. He would often say, ‘harmony brings prosperity’. He never quarreled with anybody. There’s no way that he could’ve offended Gusu’s Murong family. We’re located in Nanyang; they’re located in Suzhou. There’s a huge distance between us.”
Cui Baiquan said, “Most likely, Murong Bo wasn’t able to find me, shrinking, cowardly turtle that I am, and went to ask your master for my location. Your master was a loyal, filial man. He would rather die than reveal my location, and lost his life under Murong Bo’s hands. Brother Ke! I harmed you!” As he spoke, tears began to fall from his eyes and he had a runny nose. Sobbing, he said, “Murong Bo…Bo, Bo, Bo! I’ll rip your skin off [Bo is a homonym for another Chinese character, meaning to skin]!” After crying for a bit, he turned to Duan Zhengchun and said, “Prince Duan, all I have to say, I have. Thank you for taking care of me over the past few years and not exposing my identity. I feel extremely grateful towards you, but it will be difficult for me to repay you. I am heading to Gusu right now!” Astonished, Duan Zhengchun said, “You are going to Gusu?”
Cui Baiquan said, “Right! My martial brother and I are as close as blood brothers. How can I not avenge his murder? Yanzhi, let’s go!” As he spoke, he clasped his hands towards every person, then turned around and left. Guo Yanzhi also paid his respects to everyone present, then followed him out.
This turn of events was completely out of everyone’s expectations. They saw how terrified Cui Baiquan was of Gusu’s Murong family. But when he spoke of going to avenge his martial brother, despite the fact that he knew he was going to his death, he didn’t show an iota of fear. Everyone secretly felt respect for him within their hearts. Duan Zhengchun called out, “Gentlemen, please wait. Brother Guo has travelled such a long distance to get here. Please take a night’s rest at my humble abode first, then leave on the morrow.” Cui Baiquan halted, turned around, and said, “Yes! We’ll follow your orders, prince, and trouble you for one last meal. Yanzhi, let’s go drinking!” He led Guo Yanzhi away.
Emperor Baoding said to Duan Zhengchun, “Brother Chun, tomorrow, go with Ministers Hua, Fan, and Ba to the Shenjie monastery of Luliang prefecture. Hold a memorial service on my behalf for master Xuanbei.” Duan Zhengchun agreed. Huizhen and Huiguan kowtowed, showing their thanks. Emperor Baoding said to Duan Zhengchun, “After paying your respects to Abbot Wuye, wait at the Shenjie monastery for the arrival of the other master monks of Shaolin, then give them my return letter for Abbot Xuanci.” He said to Ba Tianshi, “Prepare a pair of letters. One will go to Abbot Xuanci, the other will go to Abbot Wuye. Also prepare gifts for both of them.” Ba Tianshi bowed and acknowledged the order. Emperor Baoding continued, “Escort these two eminment monks to their rooms so that they can have some rest.” After Ba Tianshi escorted Huizhen and Huiguan out, Emperor Baoding said, “Dali’s Duan family came from the wulin of the central plains. We have never dared to forget our origins, despite the passage of centuries. When friends from the wulin of the central plains come here, we always happily welcome them with lavish ceremony. But our ancestors laid down an extremely strict rule. The scions of the Duan family are completely forbidden from getting involved in the enmities of the jianghu of the central plains. Although we will not and cannot ignore the death of master Xuanbei, we will leave the question of getting revenge up to Shaolin. We cannot interfere.” Duan Zhengchun said, “Yes, your brother understands.”
The Yellow Browed Monk said, “It really is very difficult to decide what our proper course of action here is. We must assist Shaolin, but we cannot get involved in any revenge killings. Although Gusu’s Murong family does not have many people, as a famous, aristocratic wulin family, they certainly have a huge number of friends and affiliates. For Shaolin to be open enemies of Gusu’s Murong family would be an shocking, earth-shattering event of wulin. Blood will spray like rain, and the wind will reek of flesh. Who knows how many people will perish. For the past few years, the country of Dali has been peaceful and prosperous. If we get too deeply involved in this spat, I’m afraid that in future years, there will be many people who come to Dali for the purpose of settling scores.”
Emperor Baoding said, “Master, your words are most correct. Our only option is to act totally in accordance with the righteous path, while also showing as much forebearance as we can. Brother Chun, you must always remember these four words: ‘Maintain righteousness, exercise forebearance.’” Duan Zhengchun cupped his hands in acknowledgement of the lesson.
The Yellow Browed Monk said, “My two worthy brothers, I must depart now. I need to take a stroll at the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge.” Everyone was astonished. Emperor Baoding said, “Martial brother, what business do you have at the Ten Thousand Calmities Gorge? Who do you want to take with you?” The Yellow Browed Monk laughed. “I won’t even take my two disciples. My two worthy brothers, why don’t you try to guess why I am going there?” Seeing a cheerful smile on his face, Emperor Baoding and Duan Zhengchun felt that it probably wasn’t some dangerous affair. And yet, they still weren’t able to guess what it might be. The Yellow Browed Monk smiled towards Duan Yu. “Worthy nephew, I’ll wager you can guess what it is.”
Duan Yu was startled. “Why is it that I can guess what it is, despite my uncle and father being unable to?” But suddenly, the answer came to him. Laughing, he said, “Master, you are going to investigate that game of chess!” The Yellow Browed Monk laughed loudly. “Precisely. I have no idea as to how, precisely, I defeated Crown Prince Yanqing in that game of chess. Why did he kill one of his own eyes?” Duan Yu shook his head. “I don’t know either.” The Yellow Browed Monk said, “Can it be that there was some oddity within the stone house, or on the blue stone? This humble monk must go take a second look!”
For students of chess, after each game, regardless of victory or defeat, they would go and ponder and deliberate the moves of that match. They would consider where they made weak moves or unwise moves, or where they attacked to aggressively or moved too sluggishly. They wouldn’t feel comfortable until after they had totally understood the intricacies of the game. Not to mention, the Yellow Browed Monk won this game of chess in an extremely strange manner. If he couldn’t discover the secret to this game of chess, it would most likely vex him for the rest of his life.
Emperor Baoding immediately returned to his own palace. The Yellow Browed Monk instructed his two disciples to return to the Flower Gathering Monastery, then went by himself to the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge. He reassembled the blue stone chessboard which was shattered by Crown Prince Yanqing, then began pondering each move step by step.
After escorting Emperor Baoding and the Yellow Browed Monk out of the palace, Duan Zhengchun returned to his own room, intending to discuss the day’s events with his wife. Unfortunately, Dao Baifeng, still angry with him over the discovery that he had another illegitimate daughter, in the form of Zhong Ling, had locked the door and wouldn’t let him in. Duan Zhengchun begged her from outside to open up for a long time. She replied, “If you don’t leave immediately, I’m going back to the Hollow Jade Monastery!”
Helpless, Duan Zhengchun could only return to the study room, sitting down gloomily. He suddenly thought of Zhong Ling, and wondered if Zhong Wanchou and the Divine Crocodile could rescue her. Chu Wanli and the others had left to investigate, but hadn’t returned to make a report yet. His mind was uneasy. He stroked the golden box which Gan Baobao had returned to him. Staring at her slender, fine handwriting, his mind returned to a time seventeen years past, where the two of them had shared joy and happiness so overwhelming, it had penetrated to their marrows. Then he thought of how she had painfully waited for him for so long, before she finally was forced to marry Zhong Wanchou. He couldn’t help but feel a deep ache within his heart. “At that time, she was only a seventeen year old girl. Her parents had always treated her unkindly. She was carrying my child within her, out of wedlock. What else could she do?”
The more he thought, the more miserable he felt. Suddenly, he remembered the words which Dao Baifeng had earlier said to Minister Hua. “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.” He immediately ordered one of his servants to secretly summon two of Minister Hua’s most able family warriors, admonishing him to keep everything secret.
Within his own study room, Duan Yu’s mind was fully occupied with running through all the strange events which had recently transpired. First, his wedding engagement with Mu Wanqing, then his discovery that she was his sister. Even more bizarre, Zhong Ling was also his sister. Zhong Ling had been kidnapped by Yun Zhonghe, and whether or not she had escaped his clutches was as of yet unknown. His heart was filled with worry. Then, he thought of Murong Bo and his wife studying the art of the ‘Graceful Steps Upon the Waves’. He wondered what sort of connection they might have with his Dear Goddess from the cave. Could it be that they were disciples of the Xiaoyao Sect [literally, ‘Carefree’ Sect]? Are they the people whom the Dear Goddess has ordered me to kill? They have attained such an incredibly high level of martial arts. For someone to expect me to try and kill them will be a joke of colossal proportions.
His mind wandered to his imprisonment within the stone house. Thank goodness he hadn’t committed any incestuous acts. It really was a stroke of luck. In addition, he had become much more familiar with the footwork of the ‘Graceful Steps Upon the Waves’ as well. However, he had been slacking with regards to doing the homework which the Dear Goddess had assigned him. He immediately reached within his bosom, intending to pull the manuscript out. As soon as his fingers brushed its surface, he realized that something was wrong. He quickly extracted the manuscript, then let out a series of cries, “Aiyo! Aiyo!” The scroll had long since been torn into many scattered pieces. Upon unwrapping it, he found that all the pieces were jumbled together. How could this be readable at all? Of the scattered pieces of parchment, perhaps only thirty percent of the original remained. The damage done to the actual diagrams and instructions was even more severe. Duan Yu’s entire body trembled, as though he had been thrown into a room built of ice. He thought to himself, “How…how could this have happened.”
Only after a long time had passed did he vaguely recollect that after being imprisoned by the man in green, his entire body had suddenly turned unbearably hot. He had wildly ripped and torn at his clothes. Later, as he ran and jumped about madly, he had continued to wildly tear at his clothes. In his dazed state, how could he tell the difference between clothes and manuscripts? Naturally, he tore at everything, ripping them into little pieces then casting them aside.
He stared stupidly at the image of the naked girl on the scroll, whose arms and legs had been torn off with the parchment they were drawn upon. And yet, there was a feel of relief in his heart as well. “The manuscript has been destroyed. I can no longer learn the martial arts written within it. It’s not that I refuse to obey Dear Goddess’s orders, but that I am unable to. All that stuff about exterminating the disciples of the Xiaoyao Sect no longer apply.” He threw the remaining scraps of parchment into the fireplace, then lit the fire and burned them to ash. He thought to himself, “The naked pictures are badly damaged. Each time I look at them, I would be profaning the memory of the Dear Goddess. It is heaven’s will that it be destroyed in flame.”
He saw that it was now late at night, and headed to his mother’s room. He wanted to have a good conversation with her and share a meal. Arriving at her room, he saw that the door was shut tightly. The female servant in charge of waiting on the princess giggled, “The princess is sleeping. Please come back tomorrow.” Duan Yu thought to himself, “Oh, right. Father must be inside.” Turning away, he left, intending to find Mu Wanqing and have a conversation with her instead. But after taking a few steps, he decided that it would be best for him to avoid her for now. For him to visit her now would only make her feel sadder. Bored and aimless, he strolled towards the inner garden.
By now, the moon appeared. He sat for a while at the pavilion by the side of the pond, watching as the curved crescent moon rose up into the sky from the east. He thought to himself that at this moment, the moonlight would also be descending upon the jade cliffs of Mt. Wuliang. After a few more hours, a multicolored long sword would appear on those jade cliffs, pointing to the abode of the Dear Goddess. Just as he was beginning to fall into a spellbound trance, he heard a soft whistle come from outside of the walls. Listening, he heard the sound a few more times. In the past, he wouldn’t have paid such a thing any mind. But in the past few days, he had undergone many things and broaded his experiences. He thought to himself, “Can it be that a person of the jianghu is sending a secret signal?”
After a short period of time, the whistle came again. Suddenly, a shadow flashed by the peony flower terrace. As it reached the wall, it leapt on top of it. Duan Yu involuntarily cried out, “Sister Wan!” The person was Mu Wanqing. He watched as she leapt down from the wall, to the other side.
Duan Yu cried out a second time, “Sister Wan!” He rushed to the spot where Mu Wanqing had leapt onto the wall, but he himself, of course, didn’t have that sort of ability. There was a door next to him, leading out of the garden, but it was bolted and locked shut with an iron padlock. He could do nothing but loudly shout out, “Sister Wan! Sister Wan!”
Only to hear Mu Wanqing loudly shout back from the other side of the wall, “Why do you keep on calling my name? I never want to see you again! I’m leaving with my mom!” Duan Yu anxiously said, “Don’t leave! No matter what, you mustn’t leave!” Mu Wanqing did not reply.
After a while, he heard the voice of an older woman say from the other side, “Wan’er, let’s go! Alas! It’s useless.” Mu Wanqing was still silent. Duan Yu knew that this woman must be Qin Hongmian. He shouted, “Aunt Qin, please come in.”
Qin Hongmian said, “Come in? For what purpose? So that your mother can kill me?”
Duan Yu wasn’t able to formulate a reply. He hit the door hard, calling out, “Sister Wan, Sister Wan! Don’t go! Let’s slowly think of an idea.” Mu Wanqing replied, “What idea can we come up with? Heaven itself has no ideas!” After pondering a moment, she called out, “I have an idea. Are you interested?” Duan Yu happily replied, “Great! What’s the plan?”
With two ‘chi’ sounds, the blade of a thin blue sabre was inserted within the openings at the side of the doorway, then cut the henges off. Following that, with a pair of ‘peng’ sounds, the gate was pushed open. Mu Wanqing stood in the doorway. Within her hands, she held that thin blue asura sabre. She said, “Stretch out your neck and let me chop it in half. Then I’ll immediately kill myself. When we reincarnate, we won’t be brother and sister. That way, we can become man and wife.”
Duan Yu was so frightened that he was stupefied. In a quavering voice, he replied, “This…this isn’t…isn’t workable!”
Mu Wanqing said, “I’m willing. Why aren’t you? Alternately, you can kill me first, then take your own life.” As she spoke, she handed an asura sabre over towards him. Duan Yu hurriedly took two steps back. “No way, no way!”
Mu Wanqing slowly turned around. Grasping her mother’s arm, she quickly walked away. Duan Yu blankly stared as their silhouettes disappeared within the darkness of the night. For a long, long time, he did not move.
Slowly, the moon rose until it was in the middle of the sky, but he continued to stand there without moving. He suddenly felt a tightness at the back of his neck, and then he was lifted up in the sky by someone. A quiet voice laughed. “Do you wanna die, or do you wanna live? If you wanna be my master, you’ll be a dead master. But if you’re willing to be my apprentice, you’ll be a living apprentice.” It was the Divine Crocodile’s voice.
A nice big update. The Murong family is hugely hyped up here.
Poor Duan Yu is capture again. Can't wait till he learn some awsome kung fu.
Thx for the update Ren Wo Xing
If the princess ordered that the tunnel be collapsed, wouldn't it be done by now? Will Duan Zhengchun find a pile of earth where the tunnel was?
thanks very much for the translation!!
thanks a lot for the translation. there's definitely something noble in investing so much of your free time into something that brings joy to the many readers on this forum.
i am enjoying this story like any thing...want mooooooooooooore!
This has been my last two weeks of work, so I've been really busy finishing everything up. Sorry for the delay and the short update!~
Duan Zhengchun, with two of Hua Hegen’s most skilled subordinates, swiftly rode to the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge. These two subordinates, having helped Hua Hegen dig the tunnel, knew where the entrance to it was. They led him to it, then shifted away the branches and twigs which they had used to camouflage the entrance. One of them said, “Let this humble one guide you.” Duan Zhengchun said, “No need! The two of you shall just wait for me here.”
Just as he was about to crawl into the tunnel, he suddenly a shadow flash by from behind a large tree to the west. The movement was extremely quick. Duan Zhengchun immediately utilized his energy and charged over there. He cried out in a low voice, “Who are you?” Behind the large tree, a man whispered back, “Prince, I am Cui Baiquan!” He stepped out from behind the tree.
Surprised, Duan Zhengchun said, “Brother Cui, what are you doing here?” Cui Baiquan said, “This humble one heard that your honored daughter had been abducted. I came with my martial nephew Guo in order to look for her. I saw some clues on the road and deduced that the young miss most likely fled back here. But that villain is continuing to pursue her and not letting up.”
Duan Zhengchun’s mind was suddenly enlightened. “This Cui Baiquan is a man who distinguishes between benevolence and mistreatment. He had hidden himself in my manor for all these years, and consequently feels that he owes me a debt of gratitude. He is about to go seek out Gusu’s Murong family for revenge; this is tantamount to throwing his life away. He hoped to be able to find my daughter Ling’er, and in this way repay the gift of protection which I had given him for the past ten or so years.”
He immediately bowed deeply. “Brother Cui, I can’t thank you enough for the righteousness you have displayed.” Cui Baiquan replied, “I’ll go search for her over there.” In a flash, he entered the forested woods, demonstrating an exceptionally capable skill in qinggong.
Duan Zhengchun thought to himself, “Brother Cui’s martial arts is not inferior at all to Wanli or Danchen.” Returning to the tunnel entrance, he entered the tunnel. After crawling for a while, he came to a fork in the tunnel. The two subordinates had already told him earlier that the northeastern tunnel led to the stone house which had previously imprisoned Duan Yu and Mu Wanqing, and that the northwestern tunnel led to Madame Zhong’s bedroom. He immediately crawled in the northwestern direction. Arriving at the end of the tunnel, he gently lifted up the board above his head by a few inches. Bright light appeared before him. He slowly peered into the crack, only to see a pair of purple, flower-embroidered shoes resting on the floor. Duan Zhengchun felt a great shock in his heart, then pushed the board up another two inches.
He heard Gan Baobao let out a long sigh. After a while, she quietly said, “If you weren’t a prince, but were instead a farmer or a hunter, or a philandering little thief, or a bandit who plundered homes, I would still have followed you...I would have followed you my entire life...” Following this, a few teardrops fell, descending on the floorboard next to her flower-embroidered shoes.
Duan Zhengchun felt a gush of warm feeling rise from the pit of his stomach. He thought to himself, “I won’t be a prince anymore. I’ll be a thief or a bandit and have you follow me for the rest of our lives. What’s so good about being a prince anyhow?”
Only to hear Gan Baobao continue, “Can it be...can it be that I really will never see you again for the rest of my life? Not even once? I...I’m better off dead. Brother Chun, brother Chun...do you miss me at all?” These soft laments were truly heart-rending and deeply moving. Duan Zhengchun couldn’t resist from quietly whispering, “Baobao...my beloved Baobao...” Gan Baobao was startled. She stood up, then immediately let out a sigh. She mumbled to herself, “I’m dreaming again. I dreamed that you were calling to me.” Duan Zhengchun said in a low voice, “Beloved Baobao, I really am calling out to you. I’ve always been thinking of you and missing you.”
Gao Baobao let out a startled cry. “Brother Chun, is it really you?” Duan Zhengchun pushed the floorboard aside and crawled out. In a low voice, he said, “Beloved Baobao, it really is me!” Gan Baobao, upon suddenly seeing Duan Zhengchun appear before her, lost all color in her face. She took a few steps forward, her entire body trembling. Duan Zhengchun rushed forwards and embraced her in her arms. Gan Baobao’s body suddenly swayed, and then she passed out.
Duan Zhengchun hurriedly massaged her ‘Renzhong’ acupoint. Slowly, Gan Baobao began to come to. She felt that her body was in Duan Zhengchun’s embrace, while he was kissing her face. She was filled with such joy that her entire body was about to explode from it. Her mind in a daze, she whispered, “Brother Chun, Brother Chun...I’m dreaming again.” Duan Zhengchun tightly embraced her warm, soft body. He whispered in her ear, “Beloved Baobao, you aren’t dreaming. I’m the one dreaming.”
Suddenly, a coarse voice erupted from outside the door. “Who?! Who’s inside the room?! I heard a male voice!” It was Zhong Wanchou’s voice. Duan Zhengchun and Gan Baobao were both startled. Gan Baobao loudly replied, “I’m inside! What’s this nonsense about a male voice or a female voice? You’re babbling again!”
Duan Zhengchun whispered into her ear, “Run away with me. I’ll be a thief or a bandit. I won’t be a prince anymore.” Absolutely jubilant, Gan Baobao whispered back, “I’ll be a thief’s wife or a bandit’s wife. Even if it’s just for one day, it would be wonderful.”
Without his wife’s permission, Zhong Wanchou didn’t dare to enter his wife’s room. But from a window, he saw a man’s shadow inside the room. He loudly cried out, “You have a man inside your room! I...I see him!” He no longer cared about whether or not his wife had given permission and knocked the door open with a flying kick.
That's alright Ren. Though I really missed reading your updates. Duan Zengchun can really be single-minded in his pursuit of women.
The back of Duan Yu’s neck had been seized by the Divine Crocodile. Held up in mid-air, he couldn’t move in the slightest. He had only finished practicing one part of the ‘Divine Art of the Northern Darkness’, the ‘Shoutaiyinfei’ part. He could only use the ‘Shaoshang’ acupoint on his thumb to fight with people. In addition, the opponent was using all his might in seizing him; how could he drain his energy away, with all of his other acupoints unable to draw internal energy? He was just about to shout, but the Divine Crocodile stretched out his left hand and covered his mouth.
Holding him, the Divine Crocodile raced away. He did not stop until he had arrived in a quiet, secluded place, far away from the South Subduing Palace. He put Duan Yu back down, but did not release the back of his neck, fearing that if he did, Duan Yu would utilize that bizarre set of footwork to flee.
Duan Yu let out a bitter smile. “Evidently, you changed your mind. You don’t want to be my disciple after all; you’d rather be a bastard son of a turtle.” The Divine Crocodile replied, “Says who? First, return to me my eight kowtows and expel me from your sect, releasing me from your tutelage. Then kowtow to me eight more times and accept me as your master. We’ll do this orderly and by the book. That way, there’ll be no issue of me being a bastard son of a turtle.”
Duan Yu couldn’t help but laugh silently to himself. “No way! At this moment, I’ve been captured by you and don’t have the ability to defend myself. Go ahead and kill me!” The Divine Crocodile spat. “Bah! I won’t fall for your trick! Your old man definitely won’t kill you while you are helpless and give people a reason to call me a bastard son of a turtle! Do you think I’m stupid or something?” Duan Yu replied, “You are so sharp! So extremely smart!”
The Divine Crocodile had come up with a ‘brilliant plan’ that would allow him to flawlessly and properly achieve his hearts desire in terms of formalities. How could he have known that the other person would rather die than kowtow to him eighteen times? The brilliant plan he had spent days concocting was now totally useless. He couldn’t help but feel extremely anxious and indecisive.
Duan Yu said, “According to the rules of the Southern Seas sect, can a disciple kill his own master?” The Divine Crocodile replied, “Of course he can’t! A master can kill his disciple, but a disciple killing his master is unheard of!” Duan Yu continued, “So does a disciple have to listen to and obey his master, or does the master have to obey the disciple?” The Divine Crocodile replied, “Naturally, the disciple has to obey the master. After you accept me as your master, you’ll need to obey me in all things.” Duan Yu laughed. “Right now, you are still my disciple. I told you to go rescue your master-wife. Have you accomplished this or not?”
The Divine Crocodile said, “****! I started to fight with Number Four just as my master-wife’s old man rushed over. He took the opportunity to seize her back.” Duan Yu, hearing that Zhong Ling had already escaped Yun Zhonghe’s vile grasp, was filled with joy.
The Divine Crocodile continued, “Next, I started to fight with my master-wife’s old man. After we battled for a bit, he didn’t want to fight anymore. My master-wife had already run away as well. Number Four said that we should go to the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge and kill Zhong Wanchou.” Duan Yu asked, “Why’s that?” The Divine Crocodile replied, “This important task cannot go undone! Otherwise I, Yue Number Two, will never be able to raise my head in the jianghu ever again, and be looked down upon by everyone.” Baffled, Duan Yu said, “What type of logic is that? Number Four was just messing with you. You don’t need to listen to him.”
The Divine Crocodile replied, “No, no! Number Four is looking after my well-being. If you don’t understand the logic of this, let me instruct you. That little girl is now my master-wife, putting her a generation up above me. That means her old man is two generations above me. ****! What type of shitty creature is Zhong Wanchou, for him to be two generations my senior? I gotta kill him! Number Four also said that the reason he was planning to kill Zhong Wanchou and steal his wife was because of his loyalty to our group, the ‘Four Great Evils’. He was totally doing this for my sake, charging ahead without caring about his own safety and risking everything for me.”
Duan Yu was all the more baffled. He asked, “How so?” The Divine Crocodile replied, “Zhong Wanchou’s wife, being my master-wife’s mother, is also two generations above me. But if Number Four made her his wife instead, she would become the wife of the junior brother of I, Yue Number Two. That would make her my sister-in-law. Her daughter would naturally be a generation beneath me, making her my niece. You would be my niece’s husband, making you my nephew-in-law. Naturally, you’d also be one generation lower than me. I’d address you as ‘master’, and you’d address me as ‘uncle’. Wouldn’t that put both of us in a great position? Haha! What a brilliant idea!”
Duan Yu burst into loud laughter. The Divine Crocodile said, “Let’s go, let’s go! Let’s quickly go and take care of this important bit of business. There can never be a person in the world who is two generations above Yue Number Two!” Grabbing Duan Yu by the hand, he flew towards the direction of the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge.
Duan Zhengchun heard Zhong Wanchou kick down the door to enter the room. A thought flashed by his mind. “I can’t kill him!” He gently pried himself loose from Gan Baobao’s embrace and jumped back into the tunnel, hurriedly replacing the wooden board.
With his large sabre in hand, Zhong Wanchou rushed into the bedroom, only to see Gan Baobao by herself in the room. He hurriedly checked the wardrobe, underneath the bed, and behind the door. He checked every conceivable place where a person might hide. Forget about finding a male, he wasn’t even able to find half the shadow of a ghost. He was filled with total astonishment. Gan Baobao furiously said, “You’ve come to bully me again! Quick, just go ahead and kill me cleanly with a cut of your sabre!” Not finding a man inside the room, Zhong Wanchou had been filled with happiness. He hurriedly threw aside his sabre and laughed heartily. “Wife, my vision must’ve been blurry. I must’ve drank a few too many cups of wine earlier!” But even as he was saying this, he continued to peer here and there.
Suddenly, the sound of frantic footsteps came from outside. Zhong Ling cried loudly, “Mother! Mother!” She flew into the room. Yun Zhonghe’s voice pursued her in. “Even if you run to the ends of the world, I’ll still find and capture you!” With quick footsteps, he followed her in.
Zhong Ling cried out, “Daddy, this bad man…this bad man is chasing me again!” In the course of running away from Yun Zhonghe, she had long since exhausted herself. Fortunately, she was familiar with every nook and cranny of her own home, and so was able to dodge here and hide there. Yun Zhonghe on the other hand, in this twisting maze of secret paths and passageways, wasn’t able to utilize his qinggong abilities fully. This was the only reason she was able to escape into her mother’s bedroom. Yun Zhonghe, seeing both Zhong Wanchou and his wife in the room, was very pleasantly surprised. He thought to himself that this was an excellent opportunity to kill Zhong Wanchou, then carry off both Madame Zhong and Zhong Ling.
Zhong Wanchou fired off three palms in a row, but all three were sidestepped by Yun Zhonghe. Yun Zhonghe circled past the table to pursue Zhong Ling. He thought to himself, “First, let me take care of the little girl. The next step after that would be to kill her father and capture her mother. That way, I won’t give her a chance to run away.” Zhong Ling cried out, “Hey, you bamboo-pole, if you keep on chasing me, I’m going to start tickling you!” Yun Zhonghe was startled, then called out, “You’ll tickle me? I’d like to see you try!” As he spoke, he threw himself through the air towards her.
That day when Zhong Ling had been abducted by Yun Zhonghe, she had struggled with all her might. But how could she escape his grasp? She was terrified to death. She heard the Divine Crocodile rush after them from far away, and heard him loudly call out, “Master-wife! Master-wife! Stretch out your hand and scratch his armpit! This skinny bamboo pole is terrified of being tickled!” Zhong Ling thought to herself, “Tickling? I’m an expert at that skill!” Stretching out her hand, she was just about to tickle his armpit. But Yun Zhonghe had also heard the Divine Crocodile’s shout. Even before she had startled to tickle him, he couldn’t help but begin to laugh. While laughing, he was no longer able to run as quickly as before, and the Divine Crocodile was able to catch up to him.
Yun Zhonghe said, “Yue Number Three! You’ve fallen for that guy’s tricks!” The Divine Crocodile retorted, “What are you babbling about, tricks this and tricks that? Hurry up and let go of my master-wife, or I’ll give you a taste of my crocodile fang scissors!” Out of options, Yun Zhonghe was forced to put Zhong Ling down. Catching him off-guard, Zhong Ling startled to tickle him. Turning his waist away, Yun Zhonghe laughed so hard that he ran out of breath. The more he laughed, the more vigorously Zhong Ling tickled. Between laughs, Yun Zhonghe began to cough. The Divine Crocodile said, “Master-wife, please spare him! If you keep on doing this and if this goes on for much longer, he’ll suffocate to death from laughter!” Zhong Ling thought this was really bizarre. This evil person’s martial arts skill was of such a high level. How could he be literally tickled to death by someone? She replied, “I don’t believe you! I want to try and see if he can really be tickled to death!” The Divine Crocodile said, “That won’t do! If you tickle him to death, he won’t be able to come to life again. The weak spot of Yun Zhonghe’s martial arts is at the ‘Tianquan’ [Heavenly Spring] acupoint underneath his armpit. It can’t be touched!”
Upon hearing his words, Zhong Ling ceased her assaults on the crook of his armpit. Yun Zhonghe rose to his feet, then suddenly spat towards the Divine Crocodile. He cursed, “You damned crocodile, you ugly alligator! Why’d you expose the weak spot of my martial arts to an outside?!” Zhong Ling said, “Wow, now you’re cussing at people?” She stretched out her hand to tickle him again, but unexpectedly, it didn’t work this time. Yun Zhonghe sent out a flying kick that sent her flying far away.
The Divine Crocodile helped Zhong Ling stand up. He said, “Master-wife, does it hurt?” Before Zhong Ling had a chance to respond, Zhong Wanchou rushed towards them, his large sabre in hand. He cried out, “Stupid girl! What’s the point of you dying here?” The Divine Crocodile turned his head and barked out, “****, man! Why the hell are you screaming obscenities?” Zhong Wanchou angrily replied, “I’m scolding my daughter! What the hell does it have to do with you?” The Divine Crocodile was totally enraged. Pointing at Zhong Wanchou, he roared, “You…you thieving dog! You want to take advantage of me? I…I, Yue Number Two, am going to go all out on you!” Zhong Wanchou replied, “How am I taking advantage of you?” The Divine Crocodile replied, “She’s my master-wife. That means she’s a generation above me. There’s nothing I can do about that. But you dare to call yourself her father. This…this…you…doesn’t this mean you’re two generations above me!? Yue Number Two is a respected senior in the Southern Seas. Everyone politely addresses me as ‘grandpa’ or ‘ancestor’. But ever since I arrived at the Central Plains, I’ve become a generation or two lower than everybody. This old man won’t stand for it! I won’t stand for it no matter what!”
Zhong Wanchou replied, “If you won’t stand for it, then you won’t stand for it. She’s my birth daughter. That naturally makes me her old man. What’s this crap about ‘calling myself’ her father?” The Divine Crocodile craned his head to glance at both him and his daughter, then said, “Naturally, you’re ‘calling yourself’ her old man. My master-wife is spectacularly beautiful. But you’re as ugly as sin. How could you possibly be her old man? She definitely wasn’t conceived by you, she was conceived by some other bloke! You’re not really her ‘old man’, you are a fake ‘old man’!” Listening to his words, Zhong Wanchou was so enraged that his face turned black with rage. Raising up his sabre, he chopped at the Divine Crocodile.
Zhong Ling hurriedly said, “Daddy, this person rescued me from the hands of that bad man! Don’t kill him!”
The flames of Zhong Wanchou’s fury towered above the sky. He roared out, “Damn girl! I always suspected that you weren’t really my daughter! Even this huge dumbass knows it to be true! How can it be false? First I’ll kill him, then I’ll kill you, and last of all I’ll kill your mother!”
Zhong Ling saw that the two had begun to fight, and that victory or defeat would take some time to be determined. She loudly cried out, “Hey, Yue Number Three! You aren’t allowed to hurt my daddy!” She called out again, “Daddy, you can’t hurt Yue Number Three!” Then she walked away.
By the time she reached the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge, she was totally exhausted. As soon as she arrived at her own room she immediately fell asleep. She remained asleep until midnight, when she was awoken by Yun Zhonghe’s shouts and calls. He was searching through every single room, one after the other. She had hurriedly gotten up and ran away.
At this time, Zhong Ling suspected that she wouldn’t be able to get close enough to Yun Zhonghe to tickle him without being captured. She suddenly saw the plank covering the tunnel. Remembering how she was kidnapped via this tunnel by Hua Hegen, she immediately ran over there and lifted up the wooden plank then threw herself into the tunnel.
Yun Zhonghe hurriedly jumped in after her. After crawling for less than ten feet, his hand suddenly fell upon a thin, slender ankle. He heard Zhong Ling call out, “Aiyo!” Kicking frantically, she tried to kick him loose. But how could Yun Zhonghe, as ecstatic as he was, let her go? Exerting some of his upper body strength, he gave a strong pull, trying to pull her towards him. But unexpectedly, Zhong Ling let out another cry of ‘Aiyo’ and didn’t budge in the slightest. It seemed as though someone in front of her had grabbed her as well. At this moment, Yun Zhonghe felt a tight grasp settle around his own two ankles, and was himself being pulled out by someone else. He heard Zhong Wanchou call out, “Get out, get out!”
Zhong Wanchou, worried about his daughter, had also rushed into the tunnel. Zhong Wanchou gave two tugs but was unable to budge him. He was just about to exercise his strength when he, too, felt his ankles being seized by someone else. A surge of energy ran through his body, trying to pull him out. The Divine Crocodile’s hoarse voice was heard. “You ugly, horse-faced bastard, how dare you ‘call yourself’ my master-wife’s father?! You want to put yourself two generations above me? I’m going to kill you today, no matter what!”
As it were, the Divine Crocodile had just arrived, with Duan Yu in tow. From outside the room, he had watched as Zhong Ling, Yun Zhonghe, and Zhong Wanchou successively jumped into the hole. He thought to himself that there was nothing more important, at this moment in time, than killing this “fellow who dares calls himself my master-wife’s father”. He immediately rushed into the house and jumped into the tunnel as well, seizing hold of Zhong Wanchou’s feet.
Duan Yu hurriedly rushed into the room as well. He said to Madame Zhong, “Aunt Zhong, the important thing right now is to help little sister Zhong Ling.” Just as he was about to jump into the tunnel as well, somebody suddenly gave his body a push. He immediately fell down.
A female voice cried out, “Number Three, Number Four, get out of there now! Our leader has sent instructions forbidding you guys from killing each other!” It was “No Evil Left Undone”, Ye Erniang. She had received orders from Duan Yanqing to come and collect Yun Zhonghe and the Divine Crocodile. But she had arrived a bit late, and saw Yun Zhonghe wriggling into the tunnel, followed shortly by Zhong Wanchou and the Divine Crocodile. She knew that, earlier, the Divine Crocodile was trying to pursue and kill Yun Zhonghe. Yun Zhonghe’s martial arts was inferior to the Divine Crocodile. If he were to be really killed, their leader would definitely be absolutely infuriated. After calling out a few more times, and seeing that the Divine Crocodile did not respond, she too jumped into the hole after them. Grabbing the Divine Crocodile’s feet, she prepared to exert her strength and pull him out.
Duan Yu cried out, “Hey hey, you guys can’t kill sister Zhong Ling! Originally, she was my fiancée. Now she’s my sister!” But the cries and shouts coming from the tunnel were chaotic and muddled. He couldn’t tell who was calling out what. He thought to himself that with three of the most evil people in the world in that tunnel, Zhong Ling was in a very precarious situation. He felt that she had treated him with loyalty and affection; even though he did not know martial arts, he was willing to stake his life in order to rescue her. He immediately threw himself towards the tunnel opening. Grabbing onto Ye Erniang’s ankles, he prepared to pull her out.
As he clenched his hands around her ankles, his hands naturally settled around the location on Ye Erniang’s ankles, known as the “Shouyishu”. This was the location of a major acupoint, the ‘Sanyinjiao’ [‘Three Lunar Crossings’] acupoint of the ‘Zutaiyinpijing’ [‘Lunar Foot and Spleen Channel’]. The intersections were of the ‘Zushaoyinshenjing’ [‘Younger Lunar Foot and Kidney Channel’], the ‘Zutaiyinpijing’, and the ‘Zujueyinxinbaojing’ [‘Lunar Foot and Pericardium Channel’]. The ‘Shaoshang’ acupoint of his thumb was resting on the ‘Sanyinjiao’ acupoint of Ye Erniang’s ankle. As the two of them simultaneously exerted their energy, Ye Erniang’s internal energy immediately rushed out and entered Duan Yu’s body.
In the narrow confines of the tunnel, it wasn’t easy to turn around. Yun Zhonghe had seized Zhong Ling’s ankles, Zhong Wanchou had viciously grabbed on to Yun Zhonghe’s ankles, the Divine Crocodile had latched on to Zhong Wanchou’s ankles, Ye Erniang had snatched the Divine Crocodile’s ankles, and at the very end of the chain, Duan Yu was holding on to Ye Erniang’s ankles. Aside from Zhong Ling, everybody in the tunnel was using all of their strength to pull out the person in front of them. Zhong Ling did not have much internal energy, and at first, it seemed as though she was going to be easily pulled out by Yun Zhonghe. But somehow, it seemed as though someone in front of her had tightly grabbed onto her, preventing her from being pulled out!
Everyone in this human chain had the ‘Shaoshang’ acupoint on their thumbs attached to the ‘Sanyinjiao’ ankle acupoints of the person in front of them. As Ye Erniang’s internal energy flowed towards Duan Yu, it carried with it the internal energies of the Divine Crocodile, Zhong Wanchou, Yun Zhonghe, and Zhong Ling. Zhong Ling didn’t have much internal energy to begin with, so it was no big deal for her. But the other four people were terrified out of their wits and starting to kick like crazy, trying to escape the hold of the person behind them. But they were so tightly grabbed that they couldn’t shake loose no matter what. The more urgently they exercised their internal energy, the more quickly it flew away from them.
Yun Zhonghe only felt that a stream of energy was flowing from Zhong Ling’s ankle to him, and then passing through his own ankle further down the chain. He thought to himself that it was extremely strange that the little kid had such profound internal energy. Fortunately for him, even while internal energy was dissipating from his ankles, he was receiving a constant injection from his hands around her own. Naturally, no matter what he was unwilling to let go of Zhong Ling’s ankles, for fear that once he did, he wouldn’t be able to catch her again. Zhong Wanchou and the rest had the exact same ideas as well. As their hearts began to grow more and more fearful, their grips grew tighter and tighter as well. It was similar to how a drowning person will grab onto anything they can and refuse to let go no matter what.
Nobody in the tunnel could see a single thing. It was filled with the clamor of their shouts. “Our leader has summoned you!” “Let go of me!” “Your old man is gonna butcher you!” “Whaddya grabbing on to me for? Let go now!” “Mom! Mom! Daddy!” Towards the end, they began to feel that although the stream of energy entering their body from their hands was beginning to weaken, the energy flowing out of their bodies from their feet did not slacken in the slightest. This caused them to be all the more fearful.
Duan Yu pulled for a long time, and noticed that the internal energy continuously gushed forth into him. He had experienced this before at Mt. Wuliang. At the moment, he was able to handle the feeling of dry heat as he stored up the gush of internal energy within the ‘Ocean of Energies’ at his ‘Shanzhong’ acupoint. But after a while, he began to feel as though the ‘Ocean of Energies’ at his ‘Shanzhong’ acupoint was becoming bloated and swollen. Slowly, he began to grow afraid as well. But he thought to himself that with Zhong Ling in such a precarious situation, he had to hang on no matter what. He clenched his teeth together and did not let go.
Seeing so many strange events occur in succession, Gan Baobao was totally flustered and did not know what to do. In her heart, that spiritually transcendent feeling she had when Duan Zhengchun held her in his arms had not yet totally dissipated. Sitting on a chair stupidly, she softly cried out, “Brother Chun, Brother Chun…he addressed me as his ‘Beloved Baobao’, he held me, he kissed me. This time, it wasn’t a dream. It was real!”
The heat in Duan Yu’s chest was proving difficult to endure, but the energy which was entering his body from his hands was only growing stronger and stronger. At this point in time, roughly half of the internal energy of the people in the tunnel had entered his body. Finally, he was able to slowly drag Ye Erniang out of the tunnel, followed by the Divine Crocodile, Zhong Wanchou, Yun Zhonghe, and Zhong Ling. Upon seeing Zhong Ling, Duan Yu felt a great sense of relief in his heart. He immediately let go of Ye Erniang, then rushed forward to help Zhong Ling up. He called out, “Sister Ling, sister Ling, you aren’t hurt, are you?”
Ye Erniang and the other three had lost half of their internal energies. They released each other, then simply sat there on the floorboards, huffing and panting.
Zhong Wanchou suddenly cried out, “There’s a man! There’s a man in that tunnel! It’s Duan Zhengchun, Duan Zhengchun!” He suddenly understood what had happened. He thought to himself, “It must have been Duan Zhengchun who dug the damn tunnel underneath my wife’s bedroom. Earlier, I heard a man’s voice and saw a man’s shadow. It’s definitely Duan Zhengchun!” The flames of his jealousy roaring, he rushed forwards, pushing Duan Yu aside and grabbing Zhong Ling by the back of her neck, intending to toss her aside, then jump back down into the tunnel and drag Duan Zhengchun out.
Upon hearing him loudly cry out the words “Duan Zhengchun!”, Gan Baobao immediately awoke from her stupor. Rising to her feet, her heart was filled with grief and bitterness.
Zhong Wanchou had forgotten that he had lost a large part of his internal energy. Although he grabbed her back the back of her neck, not only was he unable to budge her, his own two feet suddenly buckled and he fell to a sitting position on the ground. But he was unwilling to give up; no matter what, he was going to pull Zhong Ling from the tunnel. There was no way he was going to let Duan Zhengchun slip away!
After pulling for a while, he saw a pair of hands emerge from the tunnel. These hands were wrapped around Zhong Ling’s own wrists. Zhong Wanchou loudly cried out, “Duan Zhengchun, get up! You and I are going to fight to the death!” Exerting all his strength, he pulled Zhong Ling backwards. And indeed, a person slowly emerged from the tunnel.
This person really was a male!
Zhong Wanchou loudly called out, “Duan Zhengchun!” Letting go of Zhong Ling, he threw himself forward and seized the man by the chest. He lifted the man up, only to see that this man was repulsive and ugly, with knitted brows, a miserable face, a crooked mouth, and slanted shoulders. His body was extremely thin and gaunt. He was totally different from Duan Zhengchun. Duan Yu cried out, “Mr. Huo, what are you doing here?” This person was the ‘Golden Abacus’, Cui Baiquan!
Zhong Wanchou cried out, “It isn’t Duan Zhengchun!” Lifting his face towards the sky, he fell over backwards. But even then, he wouldn’t relinquish his tight grip on Cui Baiquan. But suddenly, two more hands reached out from the tunnel, grabbing on to Cui Baiquan’s ankles. Zhong Wanchou loudly cried, “Duan Zhengchun!” Using all his might, he pulled a second person out of the hole.
Only to see that this person was bald, with incense burn-scars on the top of his head. It was a monk. His face was filled with wrinkles, and eyebrows were long and yellow. Not only was it a monk, but it was an extremely old monk. Duan Yu cried out, “Master Huangmei! What are you doing here?” This old monk was the Yellow Browed Monk.
Zhong Wanchou exerted all the remaining strength he had to pull the Yellow Browed Monk out of the tunnel. But nobody was grabbing onto his feet. Zhong Wanchou rushed into the tunnel. After a long period of time, he breathlessly emerged from it, shouting, “Nobody left, there’s nobody left in the tunnel.” He glanced at Cui Baiquan, then peered at the Yellow Browed Monk. There was no way in hell either of these two could be the secret lover of his wife. He felt a huge sense of relief. He cried out, “Wife, I’m sorry, I…I wrongly blamed you yet again!” By now, he had totally exhausted all of his internal energy, and simply lay there at the tunnel entrance, panting. He was incapable of standing up again.
The Yellow Browed Monk, Cui Baiquan, Ye Erniang, the Divine Crocodile, and Yun Zhonghe sat down on the floor, regulating their breaths and circulating their internal energy. Amongst the five, the Yellow Browed Monk’s internal energy was far and away the best. After a short period of time, he stood up. He shouted loudly, “You three evil creatures! Today, I’ll spare your lives. If you dare come to Dali again to cause trouble, don’t blame this old monk for being merciless!”
Neither Ye Erniang, nor the Divine Crocodile, nor Yun Zhonghe had any idea as to what had happened in the tunnel. They all thought to themselves that it was some trick which the Yellow Browed Monk had performed. They thought to themselves that not even their leader had been able to overcome this old monk, who was able to take away half of their internal energy in the twinkling of an eye. How could they dare to make so much as a peep? After regulating their breathing for a long period of time, they slowly rose to their feet. They fractionally bowed towards the Yellow Browed Monk, then left the room and departed. At this moment, these three evil people didn’t have the slightest evil aura about them.
After bidding Zhong Wanchou and Madame Zhong farewell, the Yellow Browed Monk, Cui Baiquan, and Duan Yu left the gorge. As they arrived at the mouth of the gorge, they saw Duan Zhengchun waiting with two of his household warriors. As Duan Zhengchun and Duan Yu, father and son, saw each other, they both felt very surprised.
As it happened, after Duan Zhengchun saw Zhong Wanchou rush into the room, he had felt extremely guilty and ashamed in his heart. He hurriedly exited the tunnel. As he left, he saw Cui Baiquan standing guard off to the side. Knowing the prince’s dissolute temperament, Cui Baiquan didn’t ask too many questions. He immediately volunteered himself to enter the tunnel and keep an eye on things, so as to make sure that Madame Zhong would not be harmed by her husband. But instead, he found Zhong Ling, whose ankles had been grabbed by Yun Zhonghe. He immediately grabbed her wrists to help her out. Just as he felt as though he would no longer be able to hold on, someone seized him by his ankles. As it happened, the Yellow Browed Monk was in the middle of pondering that game of chess. Hearing some commotion down in the tunnel, he had entered the tunnel from the stone house. Following the sound of the voices, he had discerned Cui Baiquan’s identity and location, and had decided to give him a hand. But in that short period of time, both he and Cui Baiquan had lost a small half of their internal energy to Duan Yu as well.
Thanks for the translation.
A major major boost of internal energy for DY, enabling great feats later on the novel.
This excerpt quantifies the limitation of DY's BMSG, and shows how great BMSG really is.
oh yay! thanx so much RWX!!!!! your translations are awesome!!
Thanks for your efforts. I'm thoroughly enjoying your translation.
As foxs' HSDS translation is drawing to a close, your thread is the only other one that keeps me checking spcnet daily.
Looking forward to the next update!
Hi guys, just to explain, I'm in China right now, so that's why there's not much movement here. If/when I get my personal internet set up, things might change, but short of that, atm, I don't particularly want to stay in internet cafes this long
LOL are they like slums ?
there are some really dodgy interenet cafe here in auckland.
but also some very nice truly cafe style places; witha few comps and a very nice coffee
wonder what the cyber cafe culture is like in china
Chapter 10: Sword Qi and Lines of Jade Smoke
Early in the morning, Duan Zhengchun bid his wife and son farewell. Upon hearing Duan Yu say that Mu Wanqing had already slipped away with her mother the previous night, he seemed dazed for a long time. He let out a sigh, then inquired as to the status of Cui Baiquan and Guo Yanzhi. He was informed that the two had left early in the morning, travelling northwards. Following this, he took the three ministers and four imperial guards to meet with Emperor Baoding, before departing with the monks Huizhen and Huiguan for Luliang prefecture. Duan Yu escorted him for ten li past the eastern gate before turning back.
By now, it was afternoon. Emperor Baoding was within his palace, reading and reciting Buddhist scriptures, when a eunuch named Zhanshi from Duan Zhengchun’s palace entered with a message. “Reporting to your majesty. Your imperial brother’s son has fallen ill to some sort of strange disease. The imperial doctor has already been dispatched to investigate.” Emperor Baoding had been worried all along that Duan Yu might not have escaped from Crown Prince Yanqing’s poison without injury. He immediately sent two of his own eunuch’s to further investigate the situation. After an hour had passed, the two eunuch’s returned with news. “Your Imperial Crown Brother’s son’s disease is a serious one. His mind seems to be deranged.”
Emperor Baoding was inwardly alarmed. He immediately left his palace, heading towards the South Subduing Palace to personally investigate. As soon as he reached Duan Yu’s bedchamber, he could hear a cacophonous series of sounds without end. Peng peng, ping pang, ka la, qiang lang. It was as though many household utensils were being smashed. The servants outside the room immediately knelt upon seeing the Emperor. A look of panic was on their faces.
Upon entering the room, Emperor Baoding saw Duan Yu dancing in the middle of the room like a madman, tossing and throwing about all sorts of household items, including the tables and the chairs. The two imperial physicians were dodging this way and that way, a pitiable sight. Emperor Baoding cried out, “Yu’er, what’s wrong?”
Duan Yu was still quite clear-headed. However, the internal energy flowing throughout his body was simply too powerful, raging as though it were preparing to burst forth from his chest. If he waved his arms about and destroyed some things, he felt slightly more comfortable. Upon seeing Emperor Baoding enter the room, he called out, “Uncle, I’m about to die!” His two hands frantically drew circles in the air as he spoke.
Dao Baifeng was standing off to one side, tears flowing. She said, “Elder brother, Yu’er was perfectly fine this morning when he saw his father off. I don’t know how or why, but he’s suddenly gone mad.” Emperor Baoding consoled her, “Sister-in-law, it must be that the drugs he was poisoned with in the Ten Thousand Calamities Gorge have not fully been eradicated yet. It won’t be too hard to cure.” He said to Duan Yu, “How are you feeling?”
Repeatedly stamping his feet, Duan Yu replied, “My entire body feels swollen and is incredibly painful.” Emperor Baoding saw that the skin on his face and his hands seemed unblemished and perfectly normal, without the slightest sign of swelling at all. This, clearly, was a case of Duan Yu’s mind being confused. He couldn’t help but furrow his forehead.
As it were, this was caused by his draining of a small half of the internal energy reserves of those five master martial artists last night. At the time, he hadn’t noticed anything amiss, and after he had seen his father off, he went home and took a small nap. In the midst of his slumber, his internal energy began to circulate improperly, and instantly began to rush about wildly. Duan Yu had immediately jumped up and began to exercise the steps of the Graceful Steps Upon the Waves. But as he moved faster and faster, the energy in his body only grew more and more agitated, growing even wilder and even less controllable. Right away, he began to shout and howl, terrifying everyone in the household.
An imperial physician opined, “Your majesty, his pulse is incredibly strong and vigorous right now. It seems as though his blood vessels have become enormously dilated. In your humble servant’s opinion, a little bit of bloodletting may prove helpful. May we try it?” Thinking to himself that this idea might have some merit, Emperor Baoding nodded. “Fine. Go ahead and bleed him a little.” The imperial physician replied, “Yes sir!” Opening his medicine bag, he retrieved from within a porcelain box a particularly large and fat leech. Leeches were considered to be an excellent way to bleed a patient, as it could draw away a patient’s blood conveniently but not cause pain. Grabbing onto Duan Yu’s forearm, the imperial physician carefully placed the leech directly on top of a blood vessel. But as soon as the leech touched Duan Yu’s body, it began to writhe and squirm. No matter what the imperial physician did, it refused to bite Duan Yu. The imperial physician was startled. He forcefully pressed the leech down against Duan Yu’s blood vessels. After some time passed, the leech’s body grew stiff. It had actually died. The imperial physician, having humiliated himself in front of the emperor, began to sweat. He hurriedly withdrew a second leech from his medicine bag, but to no effect; it, too, ossified and died.
A worried look on his face, the other physician interjected, “Your majesty, he must have been poisoned by some sort of powerful toxin. Even the leech was poisoned to death.” He had no idea that Duan Yu had swallowed the “King of Ten Thousand Poisons”, the Cinnabar Toad. Any sort of serpent or vermin, upon smelling Duan Yu, would fearfully scurry far away. Even the most venomous of vipers would be cowed into submission, much less a mere leech.
Emperor Baoding was extremely worried. He asked, “What sort of poison is it, for it to be so incredibly lethal?” The physician replied, “In your humble servant’s opinion, your nephew’s pulse seems to be incredibly dry. He must have been poisoned by some sort of extremely hot poison. But as to exactly what that poison might be? Well…that is….forgive your humble servant’s inadequacy…” The other physician said, “I disagree. His pulse appears to have a deficiency of Yin. The toxin must be cold in nature. A hot toxin may neutralize it.” In reality, Duan Yu’s body was not only bursting with powerful, vigorous, masculine Yang internal energy from the Yellow Browed Monk, the Divine Crocodile, and Zhong Wanchou, but also with the soft Yin internal energy from Ye Erniang and Yun Zhonghe. Each of the physicians could only grasp half of the problem, and thus were unable to come up with the real answer as to why he was so ill.
Emperor Baoding listened as the two physicians debated each other incessantly. They were the finest medical minds Dali had to offer, and yet their diagnoses differed so radically. However, it was unarguable that his nephew’s illness was bizarre to the extreme. Stretching out the ‘Shi’, ‘Zhong’, and ‘Wuming’ fingers [the index finger, the middle finger, and the ring finger, respectively], he gently touched the “Lique” acupoint on Duan Yu’s wrist. The scions of the Duan family had a strange characteristic; unlike ordinary people, whose pulses flowed through the “Cunkou” point, theirs flowed through the “Lique” point. This was what physicians termed the “Reversed Juncture Pulse”.
Upon seeing Emperor Baoding demonstrate a profound knowledge of medicine with this simple movement, the two famous physicians were in awe. One of them said, “This is written in medical books: ‘A Reversed Juncture Pulse on the left hand is the sign of nobility; one on the right hand is a symbol of wealth. For both hands to have a reversed juncture is a sign of great nobility and great wealth.’ His highness, the South Subduing Prince, and his nephew all have ‘Reversed Juncture Pulses’ on both hands.”
The other one opined, “One needn’t test their acupoints to know that these three are of great nobility and wealth.” The first one replied, “That isn’t the point. For his nephew to have two ‘Reversed Juncture Pulses’ is a sign that although this illness is certainly fearful, it will not prove to be a serious problem.” The second physician disagreed. He secretly thought to himself, “What, no one who is both rich and noble can die young?” But he didn’t dare say this aloud.
Emperor Baoding found that his nephew’s pulse was both strong and quick. If it continued, how could his heart possibly stand the strain? He exerted the slightest bit of pressure with his finger, trying to discover any irregularities within Duan Yu’s internal energy’s circulatory system. Immediately, his own internal energy began to flow towards Duan Yu, disappearing without a trace. Greatly astonished, he hurriedly released Duan Yu.
He was unaware that Duan Yu had already learned the “Divine Art of the Northern Darkness” and mastered the ‘Shoutaiyinfei’ channels of absorption. The ‘Lieque’ acupoint just so happened to be part of that set of meridian channels. When he exerted his internal energy, he only filled Duan Yu’s body with even more internal energy.
Duan Yu cried out, “Ow!” His entire body began to violently shake, trembling without end.
Emperor Baoding retreated two steps. He said, “Yu’er, did you somehow come across Ding Chunqiu of Xingxiuhai?” Duan Yu replied, “Ding…Ding Chunqiu? Your nephew doesn’t know the person.” Emperor Baoding replied, “Rumors say that he is an old man with the appearance similar to that of a Taoist divinity in paintings.” Duan Yu replied, “I’ve never met him before!” Emperor Baoding said, “This man is learned in heretic and evil martial arts, and is a master at dissolving and destroying the internal energy of others with some sort of skill called the “Great Art of Energy Dissipating. He can cause the internal energy which a martial artist has cultivated all his life to be destroyed in a day. There is nobody in the wulin world who does not utterly despise him. If…if you never met him, how could you have learned this evil skill?” Duan Yu hurriedly replied, “I have never…never learned such a skill. ‘Ding Chunqiu’ and the ‘Great Art of Energy Dissipating’…this is the first time I’ve ever heard of either.”
Emperor Baoding felt that Duan Yu wouldn’t lie to him, much less try to dissipate his own internal energy. Suddenly, another thought hit him. “I know! It must be that Crown Prince Yanqing learned this heretic skill. Somehow, he must have found a way to implant the art within Yu’er’s body, with the intention of using Yu’er to harm me and brother Chun. Hmph, this man claims to be the ‘Most Evil Man in the World’. He lives up to the reputation!”
He saw Duan Yu randomly scratch and tear at his body, ripping his clothes to utter shreds. Bloody lines began to appear on Duan Yu’s body. It was only with an effort that he managed to refrain from howling out, but continuous groans escaped from his lips. Dao Baifeng repeatedly tried to console him, “Yu’er, just endure it for a bit longer. Everything will be alright soon.” Emperor Baoding thought to himself, “What a difficult problem…I must seek advice from the Heavenly Dragon Monastery.” He said, “Yu’er, I am going to take you to pay your respects to a number of elders. I’m sure that they will have some way to cure this vile poison!” Duan Yu replied, “Yes sir!” Dao Baifeng hurriedly retrieved a new set of garments for her son to change into. Emperor Baoding escorted him out of the palace. Each mounting a chariot, they rode for Mt. Diancang.
The Heavenly Dragon Monastery was located outside of the city of Dali, being situated in the northern peaks of the Diancang mountains. Its formal name was the ‘Sublime Sage Monastery’ [Chongsheng Si], but the citizens had become accustomed to simply calling it the Heavenly Dragon Monastery. Its was built on the shoulders of Mt. Diancang, facing the waters of a river, an utterly lovely sight The monastery had three pagodas which were built during the Tang dynasty. The largest one was sixteen stories high, stretching over seventy meters. At the top, the following words were inscribed in metal: “Virtuously Built by Yuchi Jing, Loyal Officer of the Great Tang.” Of the five treasures of the Heavenly Dragon Monastery, the three pagodas were considered to be the chief.
Many of the ancestors of the Duan family who became Emperor eventually discarded their thrones and became monks here, at the Heavenly Dragon Monastery. Thus, the Heavenly Dragon Monastery became the family temple for the imperial family of Dali. It was the most respected and venerated monastery in all of Dali. After each former Emperor came here, upon their birthdays, their sons and grandsons would come to the monastery to pay their respects. And each time they paid their respects, they would build a new building as a gift. The temple possessed three pavilions, seven storied buildings, nine halls, and a hundred mansions, all of them huge in size and majestic in beauty. Even the most famous Buddhist mountain temples of the central plains, such as Wutai, Putuo, Jiuhua, or Emei could not match its splendid opulence. Only, it was situated too far to the south, and thus its fame was not as great.
During the journey, Duan Yu listened to his uncle’s instructions and suppressed the incessantly clashing and raging energy streams within him. As the pain subsided slightly, he arrived with his uncle in front of the monastery. Emperor Baoding was very familiar with the Heavenly Dragon Monastery, having often come here, and immediately searched for the abbot of the monastery, master Benyin.
In terms of familial relationship, Abbot Benyin would be considered Emperor Baoding’s uncle. However, as a monk, he did not need to pay Emperor Baoding the respects due to a king, nor did Emperor Baoding need to treat him as he might ordinarily treat a family elder. The two met with each other on equal terms. Emperor Baoding explained how Duan Yu was kidnapped by Crown Prince Yanqing, how he had been poisoned with a vile venom, and how he had been afflicted with an evil skill that caused him to dissolve the internal energy of others.
Abbot Benyin mumbled to himself for a short period of time, then said, “Please accompany me to Muni [as in Sakyamuni] Pavilion and meet with my three apprentice-brothers.” Emperor Baoding said, “I have disturbed the tranquil meditations of so many master monks. My sin is grievous indeed!” Abbot Benyin replied, “The son of the South Subduing Prince shall one day be the heir to the throne of Dali, which will be a true blessing to the people of the country. Your experience and internal energy can only be above that of my own. For you to come and ask me for help can only mean that this is a difficult problem indeed. I cannot help you by myself, and must consult with my apprentice-brothers.”
Two young apprentice monks led the way, with Abbot Benyin directly behind him and Emperor Baoding with his nephew in the rearmost position. They took a left at the Auspicious Crane Gate, passed by the Billowing Heaven Gate, the Jade Pavilion of the Pure Capital, the Boundless Hall, the Three Principals Temple, the Great Tushita [a heavenly realm] Courtyard, the Rain and Flowers Courtyard, and the Prana Terrace. Finally, they arrived at a long corridor. The two apprentice monks respectfully stood outside the doorway, halting their steps. Following the corridor, the three headed westwards, arriving at a number of rooms. Although Duan Yu had often come to the Heavenly Dragon Monastery, he had never come here before. Those rooms were all built out of pinewood. The wooden pillars were simple and unadorned and in perfect shape. They looked totally different from the splendid and majestic buildings which the three had passed on their way here.
Abbot Benyin clapped his hands together a few times, then said, “Amitabha! Benyin has come across a difficult problem which I cannot solve. Forgive me for interrupting your studies, my apprentice-brothers.” From within a room, someone spoke, “Please enter, abbot!” Slowly, Benyin stretched out his hand and pushed the door open. The door creaked and squeaked as it opened; clearly, it was opened or closed only very rarely. Duan Yu followed Abbot Benyin as the latter walked walked inside. Earlier, he had heard Benyin say he would consult with ‘three apprentice-brothers’, but there were four monks inside, seated on cattail hassocks. Of the three monks that could be seen, two of them had withered appearances, with the third one possessed of a large frame. The fourth monk was situated towards the east, and was facing the wall, still and unmoving.
Emperor Baoding recognized the two withered, skinny monks; one was named Benguan, the other was named Benxiang. They were Abbot Benyin’s elder apprentice-brothers. The large, stalwart monk was named Bencan; he was Benyin’s younger apprentice-brother. He only knew that Muni Pavilion housed three elder monks with the names ‘Guan,’ ‘Xiang’, and ‘Can’; but did not recognize the fourth monk. He immediately bowed low and paid his respects. A slight smile on their lips, Benguan and the other two returned his salute. Perhaps the monk facing the wall was rooted to the floor, or his studies had reached a critical juncture and rendered him unable to turn his attention away; regardless, he did not pay the slightest attention to Emperor Baoding. Emperor Baoding knew that the two characters, ‘Mu’ and ‘Ni’, referred to stillness and quiet. In the Muni Pavilion, the fewer words that he spoke, the better. Thus he was succinct and terse in describing the evil poison flowing in Duan Yu’s body. He finished by saying, “I earnestly hope that you four can benevolently give me some pointers.”
With any luck, the famous JMZ assault of the Heavenly Dragon Temple will finally be in full display.