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Thread: HSDS unabridged.

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    Senior Member dgfds01's Avatar
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    Chapter 20: Help From the Son To Fight the Enemies*
    *Not sure if I got the title of the chapter correct. Really hard to figure out.

    (Translated by Meh)

    Zhang Wuji followed her a few steps, towards the bed. That little servant girl opened the curtains and got on the bed, still holding Zhang Wuji’s hand. Zhang Wuji became shocked, thinking that although this servant girl is very ugly, she’s still a girl. How can he be in the same bed with her? Besides, he needs to chase the enemy. So he took his hands off of hers. That servant girl said quietly, “The secret entrance is on the bed!” When he heard these words, he gathered himself, and forgot all about the fact that man and woman should be apart. As he saw her opened the covers and lied on the bed, he followed suit. The girl then pushed some sort of switch, the bed shook, and the two of them fell down. Although it was a drop of several meters, padding on the ground broke their fall. So he felt no pain. Only to hear a loud thud, as the bed reverted to its original position. He thought, “This entrance really is exquisite. Who would’ve thought that the entrance would be on the bed of the young lady’s room?” He held the servant girl’s hand and ran forward quickly, only to hear the chains on the servant girl’s legs drag on the ground. He suddenly remembered, “This girl’s legs are crippled, so how can she keep up?” He immediately stopped. That girl figured out what he was thinking, and said with a smile, “I was faking my cripple in front of master and the young lady.” Zhang Wuji thought, “No wonder my mom told me that all women lie, even Sister Bu Hui sneaked up on me today.” But with his mortal enemy ahead, he stopped thinking about it, and continued to run forward. They quickly reached the end of the path. Yet he could not see Yuan Zhen.

    That servant girl said, “I’ve been here before. Although I’m sure there’s more to this path, I have never found the switch to open it.” Zhang Wuji held his hand out and searched around. He tried to push at different parts of cave walls, but couldn’t move them. That servant girl said, “I’ve tried tens of times. Never did find a secret switch. So where could that monk have gone?”

    Zhang Wuji sighed, gathered his chi, pushing the left side of the wall, with no success. Then he pushed the right side, and saw the wall move a bit. He was ecstatic, and immediately gathered in two more breath of chi. This time he pushed open the door. This door is actually the best kind of secret door. There’s no hidden switch. But if you don’t have an amazing amount of inner strength, it’s impossible to open. Now that Zhang Wuji has learned the complete Jiu Yang Shen Gong*, his push utilized a tremendous amount of energy, so obviously the door opened. After opening the door a few inches, Zhang Wuji pushed out his palm into the opening, to prevent Yuan Zhen from sneaking up behind the door, then slid through the opening. A new long path opened up. As the two people ran forward, they felt the path going downward. After running for about 50 meters or so, they came upon a branch with seven paths. Just as Zhang Wuji wondered which way they should go, he heard a light cough from the left side. Although low and short, the sound was obvious when heard inside such a quiet place.

    *Jiu Yang Shen Gong is the inner power kung fu Zhang WuJi learned from reading [Jiu Yang Zhen Jing].

    Zhang Wuji said quietly, “This way!” Then followed the left-most path, This path is very uneven, sometimes going up, sometimes going down, only to hear the clanking of the chains behind him. He turned around and said, “It’s dangerous ahead, why don’t you slow down as I go on ahead?” That servant girl said, “If there’s danger, we’ll face it together. What’s there to be afraid of?”

    Zhang Wuji thought, “Are you lying to me too?” but then kept going, following the left path every single time. The path suddenly became steeper and steeper, until it seemingly became a well. Suddenly, he felt a huge wind pushing from behind, immediately grabbed that girl’s waist, then dashed quickly downward. Whether it’s a bottomless pit down there or a hard wall, he never thought about it. Thankfully there was a room down there for them to fall into. Only to hear a loud thud, as dirt and pebbles landed on their face. Zhang Wuji gathered himself, and heard the servant girl say, “That was close. The old bastard hid to the side, then tried to kill us using a boulder.” Zhang Wuji went to where the boulder got stuck to, and heard Yuan Zhen’s voice from behind, “You little bastard, today you get to be buried alive here, but at least you have a girl to die with you. So consider yourself lucky. I don’t care how much strength you have, do you really think you can push this boulder? If that’s not enough, how about another one?” Only to hear another stone falling down, on top of the last one. Zhang Wuji tried to find any holes he might go through, but couldn’t fit anything more than an arm. He gathered some chi and pushed, but while the stones shook, they didn’t budge. With thousands of pounds of stone, not even his Jiu Yang Shen Gong can break through. Only to hear Yuan Zhen breathing heavily, asking, “Little boy… what’s…. your… name…?” After he said ‘name’, he couldn’t speak anymore.

    Zhang WuJi thought, “Even if he wanted to save us, he can’t now. No need to keep talking to him.” He then started to walk around, looking for other exits. The servant girl said, “I have some flint and tinder, but no torch to use it on.” Zhang WuJi said, “No need for fire yet.” He started to search around, finally finding a torch. He said happily, “I got it!” He found lots of dust on it, but doesn’t know what it really is. Picking up the wood, he said, “Here, light the fire.” The servant girl took out her things to light the torch, which caught fire extremely quickly, and sparks flew around. The two people were both shocked, and they began tosmell something stinky. That servant girl said, “It’s gunpowder!” Then raised the torch, looking closely at the contents of the nearby chest, filled with gunpowder. She chuckled quietly and said, “If we had lit the fire here, I bet even that old monk would’ve been blown up by now.” Only to see Zhang WuJi staring intently at herself, his expression filled with surprise. So she said with a smile, “What’s wrong with you?” Zhang WuJi sighed, “So you’re… you’re this beautiful?” That servant girl curled her lips with a smile, “Oops. I was so scared that I forgot to put on my ugly expression.” As she said this, she stretched her body. It turns out that she wasn’t a cripple, nor a hunchback, nor even ugly. In fact, she really is incredibly beautiful, except she’s still a bit young, so she’s not fully developed. Zhang WuJi asked, “Why do you pretend to be like that then?”

    That servant girl said, “The young lady really hates me, but when she sees my ugly look, she becomes happy. If I don’t act like this, she would’ve killed me a long time ago. Zhang WuJi asked, “Why does she want to kill you?” That servant girl said, “She kept thinking that I’m scheming to kill her and old master.” Zhang WuJi shook his head, said, “She really worries too much. When you had the sword in your hand earlier, and she couldn’t move, you didn’t kill her. So from now on, she won’t distrust you again.” That servant girl said, “Young lady will only get more suspicious now that I’ve taken you here. But we don’t even know if we can get out of here, so I won’t worry about that for now.” As she said this, she held the torch high up into the air, scanning the area. Weapons filled this stone room. As they checked the area once more, they saw no signs of another path. Obviously, Yuan Zhen’s cough is to lure them into this room.

    The servant girl said, “Young master, my name is Xiao Zhao. I heard the young lady call you ‘Brother WuJi’, does this mean your name is WuJi?” Zhang WuJi said, “That’s right. My surname is Zhang…” He then got an idea, and picked up a spear. He tested its weight, seeing that it’s quite heavy, about 50 pounds. He said, “These gunpowder just might just save our lives. Let’s see if they can crack the boulders.” Xiao Zhao clapped her hands, “Great idea!” As she clapped, the chains on her wrists clanked together. Zhang WuJi said, “These chains are really bothersome. Let me take them off.”

    Xiao Zhao said alarmingly, “No! Master will be very mad.” Zhang WuJi said, “Just tell him I broke the chain. I’m not scared of him at all.” As he said this, he pulled on the chains. Those chains are only about the thickness of chopsticks, and Zhang WuJi applied at least four to five hundred pounds of force, yet the chains did not break. He took a deep breath, then applied more force, yet still couldn’t break the chains. Xiao Zhao said, “These chains are very strange, even sharp swords and sabers can’t break it. The key is in the young lady’s possession.” Zhang WuJi nodded, “If we get out of here, I’ll ask her to unlock the chains for you.” Xiao Zhao said, “I’m afraid she wouldn’t consent.” Zhang WuJi said, “She and I are very close friends, so she’ll definitely listen to me.” As he said this he picked up the spear again, walked over to the boulders, then stopped. When he did not hear Yuan Zhen’s breathing, he stuck the spear into the crack, trying to make a little hole. He put a bunch of gunpowder into the hole, then used some gunpowder to make a path into the room.

    He took the torch from Xiao Zhao, and she immediately put her hands over her ears. Zhang WuJi shielded her as he lit the gunpowder, and a huge explosion followed, prompting him to fall back two steps, but Xiao Zhao began to fall down. However, Zhang WuJi prepared for this, and held on to her waist tightly. The smoke filled the room. The torch blew out.

    Zhang WuJi said, “Xiao Zhao, are you alright?” Xiao Zhao coughed a few times, then said, “I… I’m fine.” Zhang WuJi heard some stutter in her voice, and thought it was odd. He lit the torch again, and saw her eyes all red. So he asked, “What happened? Do you feel uncomfortable?” Xiao Zhao said, “Young master Zhang, you… you and I are just strangers, why are you so good to me?” Zhang WuJi found this question strange, and said, “Why do you say that?” Xiao Zhao said, “Why did you shield me? I’m just a worthless servant, you… your health is much more precious. There’s no reason to do that.”

    Zhang WuJi chuckled, said, “What’s so precious about me? You’re just a little girl, of course I should protect you.”

    The smoke clear out a bit, so he walked over to the boulders, only to see them still there, with simply a small crack adding to the side. Zhang WuJi sighed. “Looks like we need repeat this at least seven or eight more times before we can get through. Yet there’s only enough powder for two more blows. He started to randomly poke at the boulder with the spear. As he did this, he accidentally poked the side of the nearby wall, and some stone fell off. Surprised and happy, he immediately went and pushed down more blocks, revealing another path. While the gunpowder didn’t break apart the boulders. It did soften the wall by it.

    He entered the new path, and then asked Xiao Zhao to come through. This time, he held up the spear in front of him to guard from Yuan Zhen. After walking a while, they came upon another stone door. Zhang WuJi gave the torch to Xiao Zhao and pushed open this one. The next room looks bigger. As he took the torch from Xiao Zhao again, he scanned the area, seeing two skeletons on the floor, a woman and a man.

    Xiao Zhao became really scared, and held on to his side. Zhang WuJi raised the torch again and searched the area, said, “Looks like another dead end. I wonder if we’ll ever find an exit.” He started to poke the walls with his spear, but with no success. None of the walls are hollow.

    He walked close to the two skeletons, saw that the woman held a dagger in her hand. The dagger apparently pierced into her body. He immediately remembered Yuan Zhen’s story. Yuan Zhen and Lady Yang met secretly here, and Yang DingTian found out. In his anger, Yang DingTian got fire deviation and died. Lady Yang then followed her husband by committing suicide.

    “Could this be the Yang couple?” he thought. As he walked up to the man, he saw the hand holding a piece of sheepskin. Zhang WuJi picked it up, looked at it, and saw that it’s blank. But Xiao Zhao quickly took it from him, and her face started to be filled with happiness. She said, “Congratulations, this is the Ming sect’s most powerful kung fu manual.” As she spoke, she made a cut on her finger with Lady Yang’s dagger, spreading her blood onto the skin. Slowly words appeared, the first line said, “The Ming sect Holy Fire manual, Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi.” Although Zhang WuJi accidentally found the powerful Ming sect kung fu manual, he felt no happiness. He thought, “This room has no food or water. If we don’t leave, we’ll last no more than seven to eight days. Since we’re going to die here, no kung fu is useful.” He stared at the skeletons again, wondering, “Why didn’t Yuan Zhen take this manual? That’s right, he probably felt bad about the whole thing, and was too scared to visit the Yang couple. Of course, there’s no way he would know that the sheepskin was the kung fu manual. Or he would’ve definitely taken it.” Zhang WuJi then asked Xiao Zhao, “How do you know the secret of this sheepskin?” Xiao Zhao lowered her head, said, “I overheard the master speaking about it with the young lady, They’re both members of the Ming sect, so they can’t come down here to look for it.” Zhang WuJi looked at the skeletons again, and said, “Let’s bury them.” So they put the bones together and gathered some dirt to cover them. As they did so, Xiao Zhao picked up something. “Young Master Zhang, there’s a letter here.” Zhang WuJi took the letter, and saw the words “To my wife” on it. He said, “Looks like Lady Yang killed herself before getting a chance to open the letter.” He then put the letter back with their body, and was about to cover them with dirt. But Xiao Zhao said, “Wait, let’s read it. Maybe it’s something important left by old leader Yang.”

    Zhang WuJi said, “But that would be disrespectful to their bodies.” Xiao Zhao said, “If he has something he wanted to do but couldn’t, you can tell the young lady and master. So they can take care of it for Leader Yang.” Zhang WuJi thought she’s right. So he opened the letter and looked at the contents. “To my wife: After you have entered the Yang family, we have often been separated, as I have neglected you, I’m truly sorry, I hope you understand. But the thirty-second leader Yi left me in his will: when I have fully learnt Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, I will lead our troops to Persia to retrieve our Holy Fire Commandment. Although our sect originates from Persia, we are now deeply rooted here in China, and have been independent for over a hundred years. Today the Mongolians rule over our land, so we must fight them to the end, and disobey our orders from the Persian Ming sect. Once the Holy Fire Commandment enters our hand, we shall finally be able to break away from the Main sect.” Zhang WuJi thought, “This old leader would disobey the main sect to fight the Mongolians. He really is a great man.” With a feeling of admiration, he read on. “Today I finished the fourth level, but due to the event with Cheng Kun, I have fire deviated, unable to control my inner chi.” When Zhang WuJi read to here, he sighed lightly, “So Leader Yang knew about his wife and Cheng Kun’s meetings when writing this.” When he saw that Xiao Zhao wanted to ask, but was afraid, he explained the events between them. Xiao Zhao said, “I say it’s all Lady Yang’s fault. If she really loves Cheng Kun, she should’ve married him instead. But once married to Leader Yang, she should’ve stopped seeing Cheng Kun.” Zhang WuJi nodded, thought, “Although she is young, she is quite wise.” He then read on, “Today my life is near the end, and as I cannot complete Leader Yi’s will, I am a criminal of the Ming sect. My only hope is to give this letter to my wife, so she can gather the Left and Right Guard, the four Protector Lords, the head of the Five Colored Flags, so they can adhere to my will. ‘Whoever obtains the Holy Fire Commandment will become the thirty-fourth leader of the Ming sect. Anyone who disagrees will be executed immediately. The interim leader of the sect will be Xie Xun.” Zhang WuJi felt a surge in his body, and thought, “So he chose my godfather to be the next leader. My godfather is great at everything, and one of the most powerful person in the Ming sect. Unfortunately, Lady Yang did not have a chance to read this letter. Or the Ming sect would never have reached this stage of inner turmoil.” He was quite happy that Leader Yang was so appreciative of his godfather, but also felt sad at the same time. After a while, he continued to read on, “The [Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi] manual will be passed on to Xie Xun, so he can give it to the next leader. Brighten our sect, Do good deeds, Destroy evil, Uphold the righteous, spread our Holy Fire to all the people in the world. This, the new leader must adhere to.”

    Zhang WuJi thought, “From the looks of this letter, the Ming sect is very righteous. So the six sects really should not be causing trouble for the Ming sect.” Only to read further,

    “ With my remaining powers, I will close off the remaining path to this room and die here with Cheng Kun. My wife can then escape with my map. Since only those who knows Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi has my energy, no one else can open this door at the ‘Wu Wang’ location. But anyone who later learns this can do so. Sincerely, Yang Ding Tian.” The last line was filled with small words, “Although my name is Ding(top) Tian(sky), I couldn’t learn much kung fu, nor could I brighten the sect, nor could I make my wife happy, I really am useless.”

    On the back of the letter is a map, detailing every single door and passageway. Zhang WuJi became ecstatic, said, “So Leader Yang wanted to die with Cheng Kun here, except he couldn’t hold up long enough, dying first. But at least this means that we can now escape with this map.” He found his location on the map, then checked for the exit. Unfortunately, the only exit route is the one Yuan Zhen blocked. So it’s useless after all. Xiao Zhao said, “Don’t worry about it, young master. Maybe there’s another exit.” She took the map and examined closely, but couldn’t find anything else either. Zhang WuJi saw her disappointment, and said with a bitter smile, “Leader Yang mentioned that once one learns Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, he can open the stone door. Yet only Left Guard Yang has learnt this technique, and only a tiny bit at that. Even if he’s here, we’re still probably stuck. Besides, I have no clue where this ‘Wu Wan’ position is.”

    Xiao Zhao said, “Wu Wan position? That’s one location within the ‘Fu Xi sixty-four Gua’*, Let’s see, it should...” As she said this, she walked to an area in the northwest corner, then said, “It should be here.”

    *Note: I looked up the web for an hour on the explanation of this particular Gua. Suffice to say I got nothing useful. Honestly, I have no knowledge of Taoism. But it doesn’t really matter too much.

    Zhang WuJi said, “Really?” He picked up a big axe from the stack of weapons, went over to the area and wiped away the dust. A crease appeared, showing a door. He thought, “Although I don’t know Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, I do know Jiu Yang Shen Gong. My power might be enough.” So he gathered his chi and his fists shot out, pushing the door. After a long time, the door still showed no signs of movement. No matter where he positions his hands and feet, how he applied his chi, the door won’t budge. After becoming sore from all the pushing, he finally stopped.

    Xiao Zhao said, “Young master Zhang, you don’t need to keep trying. Let me go get the rest of the gunpowder.” Zhang WuJi said excitedly, “Oh, I forgot about that!” The two people put the remaining gunpowder next to the door, then let it explode. Although it blew a huge hole, it still did not penetrate the door. Zhang WuJi finally gave up, held on to Xiao Zhao’s hand and said tenderly, “Xiao Zhao, it’s all my fault. It’s because of me that you’re stuck here.”

    Xiao Zhao’s bright eyes stared closely at Zhang WuJi, “Young master Zhang, you should be scolding me instead. If I didn’t take you here, then… then you wouldn’t…” She cried when she got here, and used her sleeves to wipe away her tears. After a while, she began to smile through her tears, “Since we can’t leave anyway, let’s not worry too much. How about I sing you a song?” Zhang WuJi really isn’t in the mood to listen to a song, but he couldn’t bear to say no. So he smiled and said, “Ok!” Xiao Zhao sat by his side, and began to sing.

    “Things in the world are hard to describe through logic, life filled with unexpected, for nothing will keep one’s interest very long, there’s danger within good fortune, good fortune within danger.” When Zhang WuJi heard the last phrase, he couldn’t help but think that this is how his life has been. He listened some more, hearing her soothing and clear voice. His worries became less and less, listening intently.

    When Xiao Zhao was finished, Zhang WuJi said, “Xiao Zhao, your song was great. Who wrote the lines to this song?” Xiao Zhao smiled, “You’re just kidding. What’s so great about my singing? I just heard some other people sing it, and then started singing myself. So not even I know who wrote it.” Zhang WuJi then started to hum a bit himself. Xiao Zhao said, “Do you really like it, or just pretending?” Zhang WuJi laughed, “Of course I really like it. Why would I pretend?” Xiao Zhao said, “Really? Ok. I’ll sing another piece.” She began to sing again, “Put away your worries, don’t be so bitter, even if you’re beautiful today, you will still be old some day, life has always been like this, who cares for money and fame.”

    “In the end, you still can’t escape fate. Like flowing water, what goes around comes around.”

    These words are very deep and felt like spoken from personal experience, very inappropriate for a young girl like Xiao Zhao. Obviously, she memorized it from listening to someone else. Although Zhang WuJi is still young, he has been through so much already in his life. He thought about the “In the end, you can’t escape fate.” In the past, he has never cared much for life and death. Before, his death would never affect anyone else. Yet today, he not only pulled in this innocent girl to die with him, but also would die not knowing what would happen to the Ming sect, to the safety of Yang Xiao and Yang BuHui, the revenge of his godfather. Unlike previous occasions, he really didn’t want to simply die at this moment. So he stood up and tried the door again. Yet no matter how hard he tries, the door still won’t budge.

    It’s at this time that Xiao Zhao cut open her own finger again, spreading her blood onto the sheepskin, then said, “Young master Zhang, why don’t you try learning this? Perhaps you’re a genius, and can therefore learn this in a short time.” Zhang WuJi smiled, “The old Ming sect leaders were all some of the best martial artists in the world, yet they couldn’t even learn this in a short time. How could I compare to them?”

    Xiao Zhao sang in a low voice, “Learning a little bit means a little bit more knowledge. Even if it is useless, it doesn’t hurt to try.” Zhang WuJi chuckled, took the sheepskin from Xiao Zhao, and started reading. Only to see all the text contains information on utilizing one’s chi, to make them flow easily within your body. So he followed it, and quickly finished the first level without any trouble. Then he saw the sheepskin said, “This first level requires at least seven years for experts, lesser people require fourteen years.” Zhang WuJi felt strange, wondering how this can be so.

    He followed by reading the second level, and felt his inner chi flow easily through his body. Then he felt as if icy particles shot out of his ten fingers, finishing the level. Yet on the parchment, it said, “Experts require seven years, lesser people require fourteen years. If you can’t finish in twenty one years, you should give up, or risk fire deviation.” Zhang WuJi, surprised and happy, began to learn level three. This time the words have begun to fade. Just as he was about to cut his finger, Xiao Zhao dropped her blood onto the sheepskin first. Zhang WuJi followed the directions and quickly finished level three and four. When Xiao Zhao saw that half of his face is bright red, while the other half is green, she felt scared. Yet she saw that he still has much energy, as if nothing’s going on. Then when he was learning the fifth level, his faces sometimes turn red and sometimes green. When it turns green, his face becomes cold as ice. When it becomes red, sweat poured down his face.

    Xiao Zhao took out a handkerchief, wanting to wipe some sweat off from him, but when it touched his forehead, she felt a shock, and thrown back, almost falling down. Zhang WuJi stood up and began to wipe his sweat with his sleeves, not really knowing what happened, He had completed level five of this kung fu. This Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi really is simply a cunning way of utilizing one’s power. The basic theory lies in one’s natural ability. Everyone has a huge amount of innate strength. However, most of the time, you’ll never use it. Yet when there’s an emergency, like when you’re saving someone’s life, a weak person maybe able to life a thousand pounds. Zhang WuJi, after learning Jiu Yang Shen Gong, has more natural ability than anyone else in the world. It’s just that he never received advice from experts, and therefore cannot utilize most of his abilities. This time as he learns Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, his innate power finally released.

    This particular kung fu is very difficult to learn. A single mistake can lead to fire deviation. This is due to the inner power requirement for utilizing the technique. For if you ask a young child to lift a hundred pound hammer, he’ll fail, end up hurting himself no matter how well he grabs and lifts it. But if you ask a weightlifter to do the same, he’ll accomplish it easily. The idea is easy in theory, but does not work if you don’t have the means. Every older leader of the Ming sect knows this, but they all felt that if they try hard enough, they would eventually succeed. This is why Zhang WuJi could learn the skill so fast, while many people smarter than he fails. Zhang WuJi simply had enough inner power, while the others do not. After learning level five, Zhang WuJi found himself very relaxed, as if he can do many things quickly and easily. He even forgot about the door, and concentrated on level six. Two hours later, he reached level seven. Level seven is many times more difficult then level six, prompting him to think a lot before learning. But it’s a good thing he is an expert in medicine, and can figure these things out. But after finishing the majority of the text, he found his blood began to boil, his heart pounding fast. He stopped for a while, and tried again. This time, the same thing happened. He never had experienced this before while practicing. So he skipped that sentence. The next one was fine. But he could not figure out the one after that. Overall, he had to skip nineteen sentences when finished the last level. Zhang WuJi rested for a while, then put that sheepskin on the stone, and kowtowed to it. He said, “Student Zhang WuJi accidentally found this secret manual, and learned it only because I seek to live, not because I want to steal your manual. When I leave, I will use my new power only to help the Ming sect, as to thank the former leaders of the Ming sect for saving my life.” Xiao Zhao also kowtowed a few times, and said quietly, “Former leaders of the Ming sect, please protect young master Zhang in his effort to rebuild the Ming sect, returning it to the glory of the past.” Zhang WuJi stood up and said, “I’m not a member of the Ming sect, and because of the promise to my martial grandfather, never will be. But after reading Leader Yang’s will, I know that the Ming sect really is a righteous sect. So I will do my best to arbitrate their misunderstandings with the six sects.” Xiao Zhao said, “You said you couldn’t finish nineteen sentences, why don’t you rest and try once more?” Zhang WuJi responded, “Although I missed nineteen sentences, and feel a bit empty, but why dwell on it? I have learned so much. There’s no need to ask for more.”

    Xiao Zhao said, “Young master’s right.” She took the sheepskin, asked him to point out those nineteen sentences, and memorized them. Zhang WuJi laughed, “Why are you trying to remember these?” Xiao Zhao’s face became red, and said, “It’s nothing, I just thought that if even you can’t learn it, then it must be extremely strange.”

    Who would’ve thought that since Zhang WuJi is never greedy, he was able to avoid major problems. For you see, the original creator of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi only learned to level six. So he can only conjecture how one should practice level seven. The nineteen sentences that Zhang WuJi skipped just happened to be mistakes that person made while writing down level seven’s directions. So had Zhang WuJi continued, he would’ve fire deviated, perhaps losing his life.

    After the two of them finished burying the Yang couple, Zhang WuJi walked over to the stone door. Following the directions of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, he opened it with just one hand.

    Xiao Zhao excitedly clapped her hands, praising Zhang WuJi’s powers, her chain clanked together again. Zhang WuJi said, “Let me try breaking them apart again.” Xiao Zhao said happily, “This time you’ll definitely succeed!” Zhang WuJi held the chains between her hand, and pulled. Yet for some reason, the chains only became longer and longer, not breaking. Xiao Zhao yelled, “Wait, this isn’t good. I’ll be in even worse condition with a longer chain.” Zhang WuJi said, “This chain really is strange.” When he saw Xiao Zhao sigh, Zhang WuJi tried to make her feel better, said, “Don’t worry. I promise I’ll get you the key. If we can go through death together, how are some chains going to get in our way?” He wanted to find Yuan Zhen for revenge, but found that he still couldn’t move those two boulders. So they left through the other door. As they got outside, both squinted their eyes, trying to adjust to the brightness. When they could see again, both saw sunlight reflecting off the snow on the ground. Xiao Zhao blew out the fire on the torch, then buried it inside the snow, and then said, “Thank you little torch. Thank you for shining the way for young master Zhang and myself. If it weren’t for you, we’d be dead already.”

    Zhang WuJi laughed at her, but then immediately thought, “There are so many devious people in this world, yet this little girl would even thank a torch. She must be a very kind person.” So he smiled. With the snow reflecting the light onto her face, Xiao Zhao looked even more radiant, showing her great beauty. He couldn’t help but say, “Wow. Xiao Zhao, you’re so very pretty.” Xiao Zhao said happily, “Young master Zhang, you’re not lying to me, are you?” Zhang WuJi said, “Please don’t pretend to be a hunchback and a cripple, I like you just like this.” Xiao Zhao said, “If you tell me to be like this, I’ll stay like this. Even if young lady kills me, I still won’t pretend.” Zhang WuJi said, “Oh, don’t say that. Why would she kill you?” After looking at her some more, he found her skin especially white, her nose a bit taller, her eyes as blue as the sea. He said, “You’re originally from Xi Yu*, aren’t you? You have an unique attractiveness that the mid-plains girls don’t have.” Xiao Zhao said, “But I’d rather look like the girls from the mid-plains.” As they walked further, Zhang WuJi saw some people lying on the ground to the north. Zhang WuJi said, “Let’s go over there and take a look.” He then held Xiao Zhao’s hand and immediately started to run. Now that he has mastered the seventh level of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, his whole body moves effortlessly. Making the impossible seemingly easy. Even while holding another person, his movement is still quick and agile. They soon arrived at the location of the bodies. Three has the clothes of the Ming sect, while one looked like a Shaolin monk. Zhang WuJi said with shock, “Oh no! We’ve been in the cave for so long. The six sects might have reached the mountain top now!” He touched the bodies, and realized that they’ve been dead for a while. So he started to run quickly, while holding on to Xiao Zhao. Zhang WuJi said, “I wonder what has happened to Mr. Yang and Sister BuHui?” He ran faster and faster, as if carrying Xiao Zhao in midair. On the way they saw many corpses. The majority are Ming sect members, but quite a few are also among the six major sects. Obviously, without the guidance of the likes of Yang Xiao and Wei YiXiao, the Ming sect had a lot of trouble holding off the enemy. But since they would rather die than surrender, the six sects also suffered major casualties. He suddenly heard noise of weaponry, thinking that it’s a good thing the battle hasn’t reached the main hall.

    *Xi Yu is the location of the Ming sect. It’s in the western area of china. Not sure of the exact location, though.

    As he kept going on, he heard two darts from behind, and someone yelled, “Who is it? Stop!” Zhang WuJi did not slow down, simply waved his sleeves to blow away the darts. Only then did he hear a scream. He stopped, turned around, and saw a monk on the ground, with two darts on his right shoulder. Zhang WuJi felt astonished, as he did not know that a wave of his arm could have so much power behind it. He hurried to the monk and apologized, “I’m sorry that I accidentally hurt you.” And then took out the two darts.

    Yet this monk suddenly struck out at him, his right foot struck at Zhang WuJi’s left waist. Zhang WuJi didn’t expect this, and couldn’t dodge it. Yet for some reason that monk instead bounced away, hitting a tree behind him. His right foot broken, his mouth filled with blood. By now, the chi inside Zhang WuJi is even more fluid, so his defense power was much better than when Jing Xuan* kicked him That’s why the monk’s injury was much severe.

    *This happened right before ZWJ took the three palms from Mie Jui. Jing Xuan is the top disciple of Mie Jui.

    When Zhang WuJi saw this, he felt even worse. He tried to go up and apologize again, but that monk only looked at him venomously. Hearing more noise coming from afar, he stopped caring for the monk. Picking up Xiao Zhao, Zhang WuJi immediately darted to the location of the sound. After going through the front door, he passed two buildings, and finally into a large square. The square is filled with people. The people on the west are less in numbers, and most are wounded. The people on the east are separated into six groups, with a lot more in numbers. Zhang WuJi saw the likes of Yang Xiao, Wei YiXiao, Monk Peng, and Shuo BuDe* all in the Ming group. From the looks of it, they still have trouble moving. Yang BuHui sat by her dad’s side. In the middle of the square, two people are fighting. As everyone’s attention is on the fight, no one them. Zhang WuJi got closer to see clearly. He saw that both combatants used bare fists, but their strikes carried the wind, power unimaginable. Obviously both people are two of the top fighters in the world. Those two people’s body moved quickly, their strokes extremely fast. Then suddenly, the four palms struck each other, all movement stopped immediately in a flash. The spectators all yelled together, “Great!”

    *For those who don’t remember them, Wei YiXiao is the Green Bat King. Shou BuDe(Can’t Say) is the person who carried ZWJ in his sack. Monk Peng is another member of the ‘Wu San Ren’,

    Zhang WuJi was shocked when he saw the faces of the combatants. The short middle-aged man with a determined face is Wu Dang’s fourth hero Zhang SongXi. His opponent is and old man, whose long brows look whiter than snow, his nose crooked, like an eagle’s beak. Zhang WuJi thought, “Since when did the Ming sect have another person this powerful? Who is he?” Suddenly, he heard someone in the Hua Shan sect scream, “Old man white-brow, give up now, how can you be a match for the fourth hero of Wu Dang?” When Zhang WuJi heard the name ‘old man white-brow’, he immediately figured it out, “Oh, so he… he’s my grandfather. White-browed Eagle King!” He wanted to go up and embrace him. But they’re still matching inner strength as of right now. On one side you have one of the Ming sect’s Four Great Protection Lords, on the other you have one of Zhang SanFeng’s top student. As the battle seemingly near the end, both sides started to hold their breath, concerned for their own side’s fighter. This battle is not only a match between Wu Dang and the Ming sect, but the fighters’ healths are at risk too. Only to see both people still as statues. Zhang SongXi knows that Yin TianZheng has twenty extra years of inner power cultivation, but he has the advantage of youth and a body in his prime. He didn’t realize that Ying TianZheng is a prodigy at martial arts. Although he is quite old, his body still has the stamina of a youngster. Waves of chi strikes came continuously at Zhang SongXi. When Zhang WuJi first saw them, his reaction was pure joy. But that soon turned to worry. One is his grandfather. One is his dad’s martial brother, who treated him like a son. When he was still suffering from Xuan Ming Palm, all the Wu Dang heroes took turns sacrificing their own inner power to prolong his life. No matter who dies, he would be deeply miserable.

    Just as he was about to go break up the fight, both Yin TianZheng and Zhang SongXi yelled, the four palms broke apart, and each person retreated six to seven steps. Zhang SongXi said, “Elder Yin’s power is simply amazing. You have my admiration.” Ying TianZheng said, “Brother Zhang’s inner power skill has no equal, I must say that mine is no match. You are the martial brother of my son-in-law. Do we really have to fight to the death here?” When Zhang WuJi heard him talk about his father, his head kept yelling, “Stop! Stop!” Zhang SongXi said, “I retreated one more step than you did, so I admit defeat.” After bowing, he retreated to his group.

    Suddenly another person came out from the Wu Dang sect. He pointed at Yin TianZheng, “Old man Ying, if you hadn’t brought up my fifth brother, I would have let that slide. But my third and fifth brother were both injured because of your Heavenly Eagle sect. If I don’t have my revenge here, I don’t think we would deserve our nickname of the ‘Seven Wu Dang Heroes’.” As he spoke, his sword came out. Under the bright sun the sword sparkled as he moved into the starting ‘Wan Yue Chao Zong’ position. This is the normal Wu Dang position when dueling against elders. Although Muo ShengGu is incredibly angry, he still did not lose his cool in front of the masses. Making sure he pays the proper respect to an elder. Yin TianZheng sighed, as his face showed much sadness. “After my daughter died, I stopped caring to use swords. But if I face your sword with bare fists, that would be too disrespectful.” He pointed to a Ming member who uses the iron staff, “Can I borrow your staff for a moment?” That Ming member presented it to him with both hands. Yin TianZheng took the iron staff, and then use his hand to break it in two.

    All the spectators ‘wowed’ at that action. No one thought that after so many fights, this old man still have such amazing strength. Muo ShengGu knows that he won’t attack first, so his long sword rose, attacked with the stroke ‘Hundred Bird Flying in the Wind’. Only to see the sword point move in different directions, suddenly changing into tens of sword point, aiming towards the opponents mid area. Although this stroke is very powerful, it’s still a very respectful stroke. Yin TianZheng blocked with his left broken staff, and said, “You don’t have to be so respectful.” And followed by a counter with his right broken staff. After several moves, they saw that Muo ShengGu’s swords strokes are incredibly elegant, agile, sometimes light, sometimes heavy, really is befitting of a major sect. Yin TianZheng’s staff is already quite heavy, and his strokes look quite dumb and ordinary. But in the eyes of the experts, they see that his martial arts has reached an astonishingly high level. His steps are also quite slow and unmethodical. Muo ShengGu attacked from all directions, in just a few moments, he has unleashed over sixty lethal attacks.

    After some time, Muo ShengGu’s strokes became faster and faster. Kun Lun and Er Mei has long been known for their sword art, but they too were amazed at just how powerful Muo ShengGu’s sword art is, thinking, “Wu Dang’s fame really is quite deserving. Really glad to see it today.” Yet no matter how hard he tries, Muo ShengGu still could not break through Yin TianZheng’s blockade of two broken staffs. He thought, “This person had already fought three top fighters of Shaolin, plus he wasted much energy while matching palms with fourth brother He’s already at a severe disadvantage. If I can’t beat him now, where’s the face for our sect?” He suddenly changed his sword form, as the long sword seemingly became a strand of silk, light as a feather, flowing effortlessly up and down. This is Wu Dang’s seventy-two stroke ‘Finger Spinning Soft Sword’. After twenty or so attacks, Yin TianZheng could no longer stand fairly still, and began to utilize his lightness kung fu, matching him speed for speed. Suddenly he saw Muo ShengGu’s sword came aiming at his chest, yet in the middle, it suddenly changed directions, aiming towards his right shoulder. Yin TianZheng hurriedly tried to dodge this, yet for some reason, the sword bounced back to its original direction, striking YinTianZheng’s left shoulder. Yin TianZheng’s shot out his right hand, grabbed Muo ShengGu’s wrist, twisted it, and grabbed his sword. His left hand then grabbed his ‘Jian Zhen Point’. White-browed Eagle King’s Eagle Claws is unrivaled in the martial world. If he simply applied a bit more pressure, Muo ShengGu’s bones would crack, and forever be crippled. The other Wu Dang heroes wanted to go up and save him, but knew it’s too late.

    Yin TianZheng sighed, said, “Why bother…” and released his grip. His right hand took the sword out of his left shoulder, and blood came pouring out. He said, “You know, in my whole life, I have never been beaten in terms of techniques. Zhang SanFeng really is incredible!” He was commenting that he could not block Wu Dang’s ‘Finger Spinning Soft Sword’. Muo ShengGu stared at the ground. Although he did deliver the first blow, he lost at the end. After a moment, he said, “Thank you for not taking my life.” Yin TianZheng did not speak, returning the sword to him. Muo ShengGu had always been a prodigy at the sword art. He felt terrible that his sword was taken, and couldn’t bring himself to accept it before backing down. Zhang WuJi ripped a piece of sleeve from his shirt, about to go treat his grandpa’s injuries. But the top hero of the Wu Dang sect, Song YuanQiao, came out first and said, “I’ll treat your injuries.” He then took out some blood-stopping medicine, and covered up his wound. Heavenly Eagle sect and the Ming sect both saw his righteousness expression, knows that he wouldn’t try to hurt Yin TianZheng in the process. Yin TianZheng said, “Thank you!” Zhang WuJi became ecstatic, thinking, “My uncle Song treated grandpa’s wounds for not taking uncle Muo’s life. I bet they’ll stop fighting now.” Who would’ve thought that after patching his wounds, Song YuanQiao backed off a bit and said, “I will now challenge you to another duel!” This really is something Zhang WuJi did not expect, and he immediately blurted out, “Hero Song. This is not fair that you’re all fighting him one after the other!”

    As he said this, everyone turned towards him. Other than a few, like the Er Mei sect, Yang Xiao, Song QingShu, Yin LiTing, and others, no one else knows who he is.

    Song YuanQiao said, “This boy is correct. Although Wu Dang and Heavenly Eagle sect are enemies, we’re here to fight the Ming sect. So our differences can wait.”

    Yin TianZheng looked back to his group, seeing Wei YiXiao, Yang Xiao, and the others still heavily wounded, his own son unconscious. Other than himself, no one else can possibly put up a fight against Song YuanQiao. But after fighting five times already, his energy has mostly been depleted. Besides, this shoulder wound really is quite severe.

    Just as he was thinking these things, an old, short man came out from the Kong Dong sect. He said, “Since you’ve lost already, why don’t you just surrender now? Reverend Kong Zhi, let’s go burn the place!” Kong Zhi is the leader of the Shaolin group that came to fight the Ming sect. The others all look up to him for guidance.

    Before Kong Zhi could respond, someone in the Hua Shan sect said, “Who cares whether they surrender or not? Just kill them all.” Yin TianZheng tried to recover some strength, but he felt sharp pain on the shoulders. He knew that Song YuanQiao is the eldest disciple under Zhang SanFeng. Even at full strength, he’s not sure if he can win. Yet with everyone else injured or dead, he’s the only one who can put up any resistance. So his only choice is to fight to the end. Although he’s not afraid of death, but to lose everything he’s worked for is hard to take. Song YuanQiao then said, “Elder Yin, although Wu Dang and Heavenly Eagle Sect are enemies, that is not the purpose of this visit. We are here to fight the Ming sect. Since you have already left the Ming sect, you really don’t have to be here. If you leave now, we won’t stop you.”

    Everyone knows thee story about Heavenly Eagle sect harming Yu DaiYan* to become the enemy of Wu Dang. So everyone was surprised to hear Song YuanQiao say these words. But they also know that Song YuanQiao is a righteous peson, and doesn’t want to take advantage of him.” Yin TianZheng laughed, “I thank your kindness. But I am one of the Great Protection Lords of the Ming sect. How can I ignore the Ming sect when it’s in trouble? I can only die defending today.” As he said this he stepped up, his hands by his shoulders. Song YuanQiao said, “If that’s the case, then I’m sorry!” As he said this, his hands shot out, using the move ‘Qing Shou Shi’. This is Wu Dang’s opening palm move against elders, again to show respect. Yin TianZheng said, “No need.” And moved his hands in position to block. Although in order to facilitate this strike, Song YuanQiao needed to move up another step, but instead he did not move his feet. So this palm is still inches from Yin TianZheng’s body.

    *Yu DaiYan is the third brother of Wu Dang, who was poisoned and sent back by Yin SuSu.

    Yin TianZheng thought, “Could it be that his palm is so powerful it can hit through air?” He doesn’t want to take the chance, and used his chi onto his right palm to meet the opponent. But for some reason, Song YuanQiao’s palm did not carry any extra inner power with it. Just as he was wondering what’s going on, Song YuanQiao said, “My master heard your inner power cultivation is one of the best in the world. However, after battling so many people, it’s unfair for someone as fresh as me to fight you. So let’s just compete in techniques, not inner power.” As he said this, his foot shot out. Although it did not aim at the opponent, it’s still precise and quick, making it difficult to block had he used it for real. Yin TianZheng said, “Great!” He decided to use attack as defense. Trying to gain the initiative. Song YuanQiao dodged left and right before returning a palm. Although they’re not touching each other, they both know what the results of each strike and counters were.

    The spectators include many top martial artists. They see that Song YuanQiao used soft to counter hard, his movement incredibly fast. Yin TianZheng’s style is pure power, yet he also kept up the speed. Only to see both attack and defend quickly. Although seemingly like two people practicing, they are actually in a very heated battle.

    When Zhang WuJi first saw Yin TianZheng fought Zhang SongXi and Muo ShengGu, he cared too much for their safety to actually look at their fighting style. But now that there’s no worry about anyone’s lives, he can concentrate on their techniques. Yet the more he watched, the more he doesn’t get it. “My grandfather and Uncle Song are two of the best fighters in the world, so are there so many flaws in their moves? If grandpa only aimed that last attack a bit left, he would’ve hit Uncle Song’s chest. If Uncle Song had held back this attack a bit longer, he would’ve hit my grandpa’s shoulders. Could it be that they’re purposely holding back? But that doesn’t seem to be the case.” In actuality, both Yin TianZheng and Song YuanQiao are fighting with all their concentration. But after learning Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, his abilities have raised another notch. There are many flaws in Song and Yin’s moves, but also none. The only reason Zhang WuJi thinks this way is because of Jiu Yang Shen Gong. His methods for beating the enemy might succeed, but certainly no better than the ones Yin and Song are using. Because no one else can use them. It’s the same as a bird watching a lion fight a tiger, thinking why doesn’t one just fly up and attack from above? Although lions and tigers are powerful, they still cannot fly. Zhang WuJi is hardly knowledgeable about these things, so he couldn’t figure it out. Suddenly he saw Song YuanQiao’s moves changed, his hands danced in the air, soft and without power. This is Wu Dang’s ‘Soft Palms’. Yin TianZheng still used his same palm style. One trying to counter soft, while the other trying to counter hard.

    In the middle of the fight, Song YuanQiao attacked with his left hand, his right hand followed, but attacked faster. Then his left hand then reached around and caught up with the right hand. Yin TianZheng could not find a way to escape, so he shot out both of his palms forward. Their palms facing each other, and stopped moving. At this moment, there’s nothing to do but to match inner strength. Except their palms did not meet. Song YuanQiao smiled, putting down his arms, said, “Your palm really is quite magnificent. You have my admiration!” Yin TianZheng also took back his palms and said, “Wu Dang’s palm art really is the best in the world.” They agreed not to match inner powers, so they had to stop here. Wu Dang still has Yu LianZhou and Yin LiTing still available, but Yin TianZheng’s face became red, sweat pouring down his body. Although it was not an inner power match, the opponent was too strong. So he had to waste a lot of strength anyway. At this moment, no matter which other Wu Dan hero comes forward, they would easily win, and become famous for defeating the White-browed Eagle King. Yin LiTing and Yu LianZhou looked at each other, both shook their head, thinking, “How can we possibly fight an injured person?”

    Although they wouldn’t step forward, it doesn’t mean others would follow suit. A small man from Kong Dong stepped forward and said, “Let me play around with you a bit!” His voice full of disrespect.

    Yin TianZheng thought, “Ordinarily, they’re not even worth fighting me. But now the situation is different. Had I died in the hands of Wu Dang, it wouldn’t have been too bad. But how can I let you Tan WenLiang achieve this fame?” Although he felt dizzy, he still gathered his strength to stand up. “Little guy, go ahead!” Tang WenLiang saw that his energy has been mostly depleted, that if he simply wait a bit longer, Yin TianZheng will probably collapse himself. So he quickly got behind Yin TianZheng, aiming towards the back of his heart. Yin TianZheng turned to block, but Tang WenLiang had already left his original spot, moving around like a monkey, not giving him a good target. After a while, Yin TianZheng’s eyes saw only black, his mouth coughed some blood, and fell down. Tang WenLiang excitedly said, “Yin TianZheng, today you’ll die in my hands!” He jumped down to attack. Zhang WuJi saw what’s going on, began to help, but then saw Yin TianZheng’s right hand reached up, using a perfect technique against an attack from above, grabbed Tang WenLiang’s arm. Followed by two ka-cha sounds, as his Eagle Claw broke Tang WenLiang’s shoulders, followed by his two legs. Tang WenLiang fell to the ground, unable to get up. People all felt awe that he was able to do such a thing in such condition. Members of the Kong Dong sect all looked pale. Although they’re close to Tang WenLiang, none dared to go up and retrieve him. After a while, a tall person from the Kong Dong sect came out, picked up a stone, and threw it at Yin TianZheng. This is Zong WeiXia, the second Kong Dong elder. He said, “Old man White-brow. Let’s take care of some old business.” This stone shot over and hit Yin TianZheng on the face, blood came out. Everyone became shocked, as no one thought it would actually hit him. But apparently, in his semi-conscious state, Yin TianZheng couldn’t even see the stone coming, much less avoid it. At this moment, almost anyone could go up and kill him. But before Zong WeiXia can do anything, a person came out from the Wu Dang sect. This is the second Wu Dang hero Yu LianZhou. He said, “Brother Zong, he’s already very injured. To kill him now is a terrible thing to do. Since he and us Wu Dang has some issues, why don’t you leave him to me?” Zong WeiXia said, “What injury? He’s faking it. Otherwise, how could he cripple my third brother?” I have to hit him three times for revenge.” Yu LianZhou didn’t want such a heroic person to die in such circumstances, and then thought of Zhang CuiShan and Yin SuSu, said, “Your Qi Shang Fist is world famous, how can he stand three blows?”

    Zong WeiXia said, “Fine then. He crippled my brother. I’ll just cripple him. Eye for an eye!” He saw disagreement on Yu LianZhou’s face, then said, “Second hero Yu, we came here to take out evil. How can you protect them instead?” Yu LianZhou sighed, said, “Fine then. But when we get back, le me test out your Qi Shang Fist.” Zong WeiXia thought, “Why is he protecting this old man?” Although he’s afraid of Wu Dang, he couldn’t show it in front of the masses. So he laughed coldly, “Nothing in this world is above the word ‘reason’. Although you’re powerful, you still cannot use it to force others to agree with you.”

    Song YuanQiao said, “Second brother, let it go.” Yu LianZhou said, “Great hero! Great man!” Then left. These words are obviously meant to praise Yin TianZheng. Zong WeiXia doesn’t want to make enemies of Wu Dang, so he pretended to not hear it. Once Yu LianZhou left, he went towards Yin TianZheng.

    Shaolin’s Kong Zhi started yelling orders, “Kong Dong and Hua Shan people. Finish the remaining people. Wu Dang, search left for those in hiding. Er Mei go right and do the same. Kun Lun, get some fire and burn this place. Shaolin disciples, prepare to guide the dead on their journey.” Everyone thought that after Yin TianZheng dies, they can go on destroying the place. And the plan will be a success. All the Ming sect members who weren’t terribly injured raised their arms, ten fingers apart, holding them in front of their chest. They then followed Yang Xiao in saying the sacred Ming text, “Come to me, Oh holy fire, What joy is in life, what pain in death, for righteousness against evil, happiness and sadness, as we return to earth, hopefully the living, will receive happiness.” Everyone chanted along, seemingly feel nothing about dying.

    Yu LianZhou thought, “This must be their sacred chant before they die. That really is righteous of them. Actually, the Ming sect used to be filled with heroes. It’s just that recently, many members have become evil.” Zhang WuJi originally was afraid to appear in front of so many elders of the six sects. But after Kong Zhi said those commands, and Zong WeiXia now walking towards Yin TianZheng, he can’t possibly hold back. Without thinking, he jumped in front of Zong WeiXia, said, “Hold on! How can do this to such an injured person? You’re not afraid that people will laugh?” He said these words loud and clear. Although everyone was intent on doing their duties, they all turned around when they heard this. When Zong WeiXia saw that it’s a youngster with a dirty shirt talking, he ignored him, and tried to push him away. Zhang WuJi saw Zong WeiXia trying to push himself, so he lightly held out with his palm, after a ‘peng’ sound, Zong WeiXia fell back three steps. Tried to get his balance back, but this push really is too strong. So every time he desperately to regain his balance, he fails. So he had to retreat further a few steps before getting back up. By that time, he’s already quite far from Zhang WuJi. His mind couldn’t explain what happened, while the others wonder what he’s doing. Even Zhang WuJi himself didn’t realize how much power he had. Zong WeiXia thought for a moment, and then said to Yu LianZhou, “Hey, a man should be righteous. How can you harm me like that?” He thought it must be Yu LianZhou doing something sneaky, with his brothers probably. Otherwise, how can anyone have this much power? Yu LianZhou felt awkward, not knowing why he would make up something like that. Zong WeiXia stepped up and said, “Little kid. Who are you?” Zhang WuJi said, “My name is Zeng AhNuo.” As he said this, he used his palm to shoot his chi into Yin TianZheng’s body. Jiu Yang Zhen Chi is thick and pure, so Yin TianZheng was able to open his eyes after a few moments. He looked at this youngster, wondering who he is. Zhang WuJi simply smiled at him, an began to sent his chi even faster. After only a few moments, Yin TianZheng was able to stand up, and said, “Thank you, little friend!” Then he said, “Mr. Zong, your Qi Shang Fist is nothing, I’ll take it right now!”

    Zong WeiXia never thought Yin TianZheng could stand back up again. Seeing that he’s no longer at an advantage, plus afraid of his Eagle Claws, Zong WeiXia said, “If my Qi Shang Fist is indeed nothing, then let’s match fists.” He wanted to make Yin TianZheng stick to just fist, not claws. This way, he can win due to superior inner power. When Zhang WuJi heard him talk about Qi Shang Fist, he thought back to that night when his godfather told that story about killing Reverend Kong Jian, then later forced him to memorize the formula. When he couldn’t memorize correctly, he even got scolded. But now, he has figured out the workings of this fist form. After all, no inner power in the world can match Jiu Yang Shen Gong. Plus, Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi is made to point out how best to utilize one’s power, combining all the intricacies of all the martial arts in the world. So knowing that means knowing all other martial arts. Which is why all the martial arts in the world are like open books to him. He then heard Yin TianZheng said, “Forget three fists, I can take thirty!” He then said to Kong Zhi, “Reverend Kong Zhi, I’m still alive. Are you going back on your promise?”

    Kong Zhi waved his hand, said, “Everyone stop for a moment.” Apparently, after Yin TianZheng found out what happened on the Brightness Peak, he had to trap Kong Zhi with words. Saying that they can’t try to win by numbers. And proposed one-on-one match ups. But the remaining top level Ming fighters still could not handle their opponents. And in the end, only Yin TianZheng remained. Zhang WuJi realizes that although his grandfather is much better now, he still cannot utilize his inner chi. He’s only matching palms with Zong WeiXia because he has to, in order to defend the sect. Therefore he said, “Elder Yin, I’ll go take those fists for you. If I can’t handle him, then you can go.” Yin TianZheng realizes that this youngster’s inner power is astonishing, much higher than himself even at full strength. But no matter how good he is, he still cannot fight every single person in the six major sects. So in the end, this youngster will turn out just like himself, half dead. Although he is willing to die for the Ming sect, there’s no reason for an outsider, especially someone so young and skillful, to do the same. He asked, “Which sect are you from, little friend? You’re not a Ming sect member, are you?” Zhang WuJi said, “Although I am not a Ming sect member, nor a Heavenly Eagle sect member, I have always respected you. I am willing to help out.” Yin TianZheng can’t figure out what’s going on, but just as he wants to ask more, Zong WeiXia said, “Here comes my first fist, old man.”

    Zhang WuJi said, “Elder Yin said you’re not worthy of fighting him. You have to beat me first.”

    Zong WeiXia immediately became angry, said, “Who the hell do you think you are? Let me show you the power of my Qi Shang Fist.” Zhang WuJi thought, “Only by bring up the plan of Yuan Zhen can we solve this misunderstanding. Otherwise, how can I possibly beat all these people? Besides, how can I possibly fight my martial uncles?” So he said, “I’ve long known the power of Kong Dong’s Qi Shang Fist. After all, didn’t Reverend Kong Jian die from your Qi Shang Fist?” This sentence startled the Shaolin sect. They knew that from looking at the body, Kong Jian did indeed die from the Qi Shang Fist. Kong Wen, Kong Zhi, and Kong Sheng discussed this for a long time, finally decided that no one in the Kong Dong sect has the power to kill someone who has learnt the ‘Golden Invincible Body’ skill. Later they found out that the Kong Dong elders were in the southeast area, while Kong Jian died in Luo Yang*. Other than the five Kong Dong elders, no one else can even come close to harming Kong Jian, so they let it go. Besides, there are the words ‘Cheng Kun killed Kong Jian’ nearby. So when they found out that it’s Xie Xun who pretended to be Cheng Kun, it all became clear. Only now, when Zhang WuJi brought this up again, did they all become startled. Zong WeiXia said angrily, “Everyone knows that Xie Xun is the killer. What does this have to do with us?” Zhang WuJi said, “Were you there to see this? Did you help him out?” Zong WeiXia thought, this little kid doesn’t look like a beggar, nor some farm kid, what’s he doing here? I bet it’s the Wu Dang people who sent him, trying to cause problems between Shaolin and us. I better be careful.” He said seriously, “Kong Jian died in Luo Yang. Us five elders were at Yun Nan* How can we have seen it?”

    *Luo Yang was the capital of the Tang dynasty, and roughly in the central regions of China today. Yun Nan is a lot more to the south. Just felt like sharing some of the very miniscule knowledge I have of China’s history and geography.

    Zhang WuJi said loudly, “That’s right! If you were at Yun Nan, then how do you know Xie Xun killed Kong Jian? Everyone knows that he died in the hands of the Qi Shang Fist. Xie Xun is not a member of the Kong Dong sect. How can you pin this crime on him?” Zhong WeiXia said, “Because the words ‘Cheng Kun killed Reverend Kong Jian’ appeared at the murder scene. Everyone knows that Xie Xun did all these crimes.”

    Zhang WuJi thought, “My godfather never told me this. He felt only pain and regret for killing Kong Jian. How could he possibly write something like this?” He then laughed, said, “Everyone can write these words. I can say that you wrote those words. It’s easy to write words, but hard to learn Qi Shang Fist.” He then turned to Kong Zhi and said, “Reverend Kong Zhi, isn’t it true that Reverend Kong Jian was killed by Qi Shang Fist, and that Xie Xun was not a disciple of Kong Dong?”

    Before he could respond, another monk came out, holding an iron staff in his hand. He yelled, “Little kid, which sect are you under? You think you’re worthy of talking to my teacher? This just happens to be Yuan Yin. Back when Shaolin and the others went to Wu Dang to get Xie Xun’s location, he’s the one who said it was Zhang CuiShan who killed those Shaolin disciples. Zhang WuJi remembers this person, and his blood immediately began to boil. He kept thinking, “Zhang WuJi, oh Zhang WuJi. You’re here to settle this misunderstanding, not to seek revenge. Otherwise, it can turn out really bad. You can settle this with Shaolin later.” Although he knows what’s the right decision, the tragic death of his parents keep appearing in his head. Sweat came down his face.

    Yuan Yin then said, “If you aren’t a Ming sect member, get out of here now. The Buddha is lenient. We won’t stop you if you don’t interfere.” Zhang WuJi said, “Where’s Reverend Yuan Zhen? Ask him to come out. I have some questions.” Yuan Yin aid, “Brother Yuan Zhen? Why do you want him? Get out of the way. I don’t have all day for rascals like you. Which sect are you under?” He saw the way Zhang WuJi pushed Zong WeiXia, knowing his teacher must be very good. Which is why he kept asking for his sect. Zhang WuJi said, “I’m not a Ming sect member. But I do know that someone purposely provoked the six major sects into fighting the Ming sect. I just want to settle this misunderstanding. Although I’m young, I do know the truth.” After he said this, everyone in the six major sect began to laugh at him. With many people saying things like, “This kid’s crazy. What’s he blabbering about?” “Who does he think he is? Abbot of Sholin? Master Zhang of Wu Dang?” “Did he get the Dragon Saber in his dreams?” “Haha! Haha!” “He thinks we’re all little kids. Oh man, my stomach hurts from the laughing!” Only Er Mei’s Zhou ZhiRuo held her head low, not saying anything. Ever since she found out Zhang WuJi’s identity, knowing he’s the little boy she met on the boat, she has thought of him as an old friend. Later when he took her master’s three palm strikes, saving those under the Golden Flag, she felt great admiration towards him. Now, seeing the crowd laughing, she cannot but help feel bad and sympathetic.

    Zhang WuJi did not back down, said, “Only when Yuan Zhen comes out can the truth be known.” Even though he said this amidst all the laughter, everyone can still hear him clearly. Everyone in the six major sect immediately held back their laughter a bit, knowing that this youngster is not as simple as he seems, thinking, “How can someone so young have such amazing inner power?” When the laughter died down, Yuan Yin said, “You little punk, you knew Yuan Zhen brother is dead, yet you still asks for him? Why don’t you ask for Wu Dang’s Zhang CuiShan to come out too?”

    Just as he said this, Kong Zhi immediately yelled, “Yuan Yin, be careful when you speak!” But Hua Shan, Kong Dong, and Kun Lun people have already started laughing again. Only Wu Dang remained still. Apparently, Yuan Yin, after Yin SuSu hit his eyes with her darts, still thinks Zhang CuiShan did it. And therefore felt deep hatred for him.

    Zhang WuJi could not hold back his anger after hearing him ridicule father, yelled, “How dare you speak to Fifth Hero Zhang like that?” Yuan Yin laughed coldly, “He’s just a lecherous fool, getting hooked by the beauty of an evil woman…” Zhang WuJi knows that he cannot harm anyone in order to stop this bloodshed, but how can he possibly hold back after that comment? He dashed forward, his left hand reached out and held up Yuan Yin at the back of his waist, his right hand reached out and took his staff. Yuan Yin could not fight back. But just at this time, two Shaolin disciples came out, their staffs aiming towards the left and right side of Zhang WuJi. Their moves aimed towards saving someone in the grasp of an enemy. These two disciples are Yuan Xin and Yuan Ye. Zhang WuJi held Yuan Yin in one hand, his staff with the right, jumped up, and kicked at the point of Yuan Xin and Yuan Ye’s staffs. Only to hear two sounds, as Yuan Xin and Yuan Ye both fell to the ground, their staffs bouncing back and hit them. Thankfully both of their inner powers are quite good, so they did not suffer internal injuries. Zhang WuJi twisted in midair, then gently floated down. Many people in the six sects immediately yelled, “Wu Dang’s ‘Cloud Stairs’!” Zhang WuJi learned Wu Dang’s entrance fist form ‘Wu Dang Long Fist’ from his dad, martial grandfather, and fellow martial uncles. Although he had since seen many other skills, he’s still most familiar with Wu Dang’s kung fu. For the likes of Yu LianZhou and Zhong SongXi, it’s not difficult to use ‘Cloud Stairs’ as well as Zhang WuJi. But for them to do so while holding another person is simply impossible.

    By now, he’s quite far from the Shaolin group. So the only way to reach him is through darts. But Zhang WuJi only needs to use Yuan Yin as a shield to borrow Shaolin’s hand for killing him. Even with the likes of such experts as Kong Zhi and Kong Sheng, no one has any way to save him. Only to see Zhang WuJi’s face filled with hatred as he raised the staff. Yet didn’t bring it down. It’s as if he has a hard decision to make. But then after a while, his expression calmed, and lowered the staff slowly. He thought, “If I kill just one person here, I will become the enemy of the six major sect, and can no longer be an arbitrator. This bloodshed will then continue. That’s why I must endure, endure no matter what. This is what my parents would’ve wanted me to do.” Once he thought this through, his put down Yuan Yin, said, “Reverend Yuan Yin, your eyes were not blinded by Fifth Hero Zhang, why do you hate him so? Besides, he had already committed suicide, so any grudge should’ve been settled at that point.

    After his escape from death, Yuan Yin could only stare blankly at Zhang WuJi, unable to speak. When Zhang WuJi threw him his staff, he took it and returned to his group, thinking he really did go overboard with his hatred the past years. When the high reverends of Shaolin and the heroes of Wu Dang heard this, they all nodded silently.

    End of Chapter 20

  2. #22
    Senior Member dgfds01's Avatar
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    Chapter 21:Solving Problems, Resolving Disputes and Combating the 6 Forces

    (Translated by Faerie Queen and Meh)

    (Faerie Queen)

    Zong Wei Xia became secretly alarmed as he witnessed Zhang Wu Ji capture the heavy weighing Yuan Yin with such ease. But he was already situated in the middle of the battlefield, how could he possibly retreat now and thus reveal his weakness? Therefore, Zong Wei Xia shouts out loudly, “Hey! The one called Zeng! You came in here and insisted on sticking your nose into our business. Who sent you here, and whose orders are you acting on?” Zhang Wu Ji replies, “I act merely with the hope of seeing the 6 great sects being able to resolve their conflicts and make peace with the Ming sect. I am not ordered by anyone.” Zong Wei Xia barks back, “Hmph! You expect us to shake hands and make peace with the demon sect?! It’s absurd and impossible. The old bandit Yan promised to receive 3 more stances of my Fists of the Seven Damages, let me finish him first before I take care of you!” he rolls up his sleeves and prepares to fight.

    Zhang Wu Ji immediately interrupts, “Elder Zong, you keep mentioning the Fists of the Seven Damages, but allow me to express my humble opinion elder – your current skill level of the Fists of the Seven Damages has still not been executed to an expertly stage yet. There are 5 elements within the human body – heart as governed by fire, lungs governed by gold, kidney by water, spleen by earth and liver by wood, in addition to that, there are the two chi(s) – Ying and Yang. Once one practices the Fists of the Seven Damages, all 7 elements will be inflicted with damage. The foundation of this set of fists was inclined to be in such a way that with every level you advance in, your own internal organs will also have to subsequently withstand an extra level of damage. Hence you have to first inflict harm upon your own self before you can harm your enemy. However, elder Zong, the good news is that you have not been practicing this set of fists for very long, therefore you can still be saved.”

    Listening to these words, Zong Wei Xia recognized that they were indeed the key points delineated within the manual’s central instructions for the Fists of the Seven Damages. The manual did repeatedly describe of these side-effects, warning the practitioner that if they were to attempt this set of fist, it must not be done so unless the reserve of their energy levels has reached the point of where it can course through the various acupoints of their body at will and be withdrawn with ease. If one has not reached this level yet, then they must caution to never practice this set of fists. However, this set of fists was the most famous and powerful martial art in the Kong Dong sect, therefore as soon as Zong Wei Xia reached a fairly stable reserve of internal energy he immediately started to practice this set of fists. He suddenly found the power within his punches to have increased significantly and once his appetite was wetted, it became very hard for him to restrain from continuing the practice. Hence all traces of the manual’s warning has long since been completely forgotten. Besides, all of the 5 elders in the Kong Dong sect practices this set of fists and since Zong Wei Xia himself resided in the second position, how could he possibly allow himself to be outdone? But upon hearing Zhang Wu Ji’s words at this moment, he became suddenly alarmed. Shocked, he asked, “How did you know all this?”
    Zhang Wu Ji does not reply, but continues to say, “Elder Zong, I entreat you to massage the yun-men, cloud-gate energy point on your shoulder – are you feeling a faint throbbing pain? The yun-men energy point governs the lungs, which means that the connection to your lungs has been wounded. The qing-ling, jade-spirit energy point located on the upper half of your kidney will often given you a numbing ache that becomes unbearable – am I right? The qing-ling energy point is related to the heart, meaning the heart pulse has been damaged. The wu-li, five-mile energy point on your thigh will ache with pain every time the weather rains or clouds over. This is due to the fact that the wu-li point governs the liver, meaning your liver has suffered harm. The longer you continue this practice, the more increasingly severe these faint signs of bodily disorder will become. If you continue on for another 8 or 9 years, I’m afraid that you will cripple your whole body for life.”

    As Zong Wei Xia concentrated on Zhang Wu Ji’s every word, bead after bead of sweat emanated from his forehead. Little did he know that many years ago, Xie Xun had related the whole essence and nature of the Fists of the Seven Damages to Zhang Wu Ji, thus enabling Zhang to be very well acquainted with the nature of this martial art skill. On top of that, Zhang is extremely well learned in the practice of medicine, thoroughly understanding the relationship between the various pulse points and the side effects that arises from their damage. Thus every word that he utters is dead on. Over the course of these few years, Zong Wei Xia has indeed been feeling faint traces of those side effects that Zhang Wu Ji mentioned. Due to the fact that his condition has not yet reached the state of which would give cause for any serious alarm, he has therefore always secretly harboured his illnesses and remained averse to the idea of seeking medication. But hearing Zhang Wu Ji list out one after the other, details of his physical condition so accurately, he couldn’t help but be alarmed to the point of undergoing a change of colour in his countenance. It is only after the duration of a very long pause before he is finally able to utter the words, “How … how did you know this?”

    Zhang Wu Ji smiles faintly and replies, “I happen to know a little about the laws of medicine. If elder you are willing to trust me, as soon as the situation here is resolved, I can think of ways to cure you of your present ailments. But I must remind you once more that practicing this skill will only bring upon harm, and will do you absolutely no good. You must not continue to practice it.”

    Zong Wei Xia forces himself to refute, “The Fists of the Seven Damages is the top martial art skill within the Kong Dong sect’s establishment, how can it be as you say, harmful and unbeneficial? Back in the days, our sect’s ancestor Mu Ling Zi established worldwide fame for himself solely from this set of fists. Not only did his great name spread to the four seas, but he also lived to be 91 years old! How can it be damaging to the body? Doesn’t this prove that your words are a pile of rubbish?”

    Zhang Wu Ji replies, “It can be imagined that the elder Mu Ling Zi must have achieved an extremely powerful reserve of inner energy, therefore he, of course can practice this skill. Not only will it do him no harm, it will actually work to strengthen his internal organic system. According to my humble opinion elder Zong, your level of inner energy has still not reached this level yet. If you continue to forcefully practice this skill, I’m afraid that in the end all will be to no avail, and your efforts will only result in uselessness.”

    Zong Wei Xia was a famous and important figure within the Kong Dong sect, therefore even though he recognizes that Zhang Wu Ji’s words were not without its truthfulness, yet having the most famous set of fist skill that helped to establish the name of his sect being criticized by this youngster in front of a big crowd of martial art fighters as being “useless,” how can he possibly not be angry? He shouts out loudly, “Who do you think you are? How dare you criticize my sect’s greatest martial arts skill? If you think that it is really to be looked upon so lightly, then why don’t you come out and try it yourself, see whether it really is so useless?” Zhang Wu Ji smiles ever so faintly and replies, “The Fists of the Seven Damages is most definitely a superbly complex and mystical skill. The essence of the fists lies in its embodiment of raw force that still maintains a degree of gentleness, a simultaneous energy of harmonious balance that still exerts forceful power. The seven different channels of execution are each distinct, it ebbs and flows with hundreds of variations. It really catches one’s opponent off guard and renders them defenceless.” Zong Wei Xia upon hearing Zhang Wu Ji relate with straightforward honesty the intricate relationships of the Fists of the Seven Damages, he could no longer help himself from breaking into faint signs of a smile while repeatedly nodding his head in agreement. Zhang Wu Ji continues, “I am just saying that if one’s inner energy reserve has not reached an adequate level, then practicing the fist skill will definitely cause more harm than good.”

    Zhou Zhi Rou was standing behind a bunch of her shi jies as she observed Zhang Wu Ji. She mused at the fact that though Zhang embodied the faint traces of a young person’s charismatic spirit, he was at the same time forcing himself to appear as this worldly, well-learned old soul as he lectured solemnly and soberly. It was as if he was teaching a lesson to Zong Wei Xia, the second elder of the Kong Dong sect’s 5 elders – she couldn’t help but be amused by the ridiculous and comical nature of the whole situation. Yet at the same time, she couldn’t help but start to secretly worry for him.

    Hearing the content of Zhang Wu Ji’s words gradually becoming more and more offensive, the reckless and impulsive young disciples of the Kong Dong sect were almost unable to restrain themselves from shouting out insults. But when they looked over at Zong Wei Xia, they saw that he was harbouring a serious countenance as he devotes the utmost attention and concentration to this youngster’s words. The young disciples can therefore only force back the insults that had already arrived at the tip of their tongues.

    Zong Wei Xia asks, “So from what you are saying, my inner energy levels is still not advanced enough?” Zhang Wu Ji replies, “Whether elder’s inner energy levels has progressed to an advance state yet, I dare not make any judgements rashly. But if during all this time that you have spent practicing the Fists of the Seven Damages, you are also simultaneously hurting your own body, then it is better to not practice …”

    Before he could continue, he suddenly heard an angry shout from behind him, “Brother, why waste your breath on this young rascal? If he dares to look down upon our sect’s Fists of the Seven Damages, then let him withstand the taste of one of my fists!” With the termination of this person’s voice, followed his fist. His movements were both fast and deadly, a force whooshed by to deliver a heavy fist that landed upon the ling tai, spirit-temple energy point of Zhang Wu Ji’s back.

    Although Zhang Wu Ji was very aware of the impending attack coming up from behind him, yet not only did he chose to completely ignore it, but he also continued to address Zong Wei Xia, “Elder Zong…”

    Suddenly sounds of metal chains clanging against each other were heard, and a person rushed out from the crowd. A sweet melodious voice cries out, “You’re secretly attacking him behind his back?!” upon saying this, a set of hands joined by metal cuffs reaches out over the attacker’s head. The voice belonged to Xiao Zhao. That person struck back with his left hands, thereby blocking off the metal chains and then very concretely landed a punch on Zhang Wu Ji’s back. Although this punch landed dead on upon Zhang Wu Ji’s ling tai acupoint, yet not only did Zhang Wu Ji seem to have not even registered the blow, but instead he turns toward Xiao Zhao and smiles gently, “Don’t worry Xiao Zhao, this level of the Fists of the Seven Damages will not be of much use.” Xiao Zhao breathes a sigh of relief, her snow white skin suddenly tinged with a red blush, as she says in a low voice, “I almost forgot that you have already practiced …” upon saying this, immediately hushed up and backed away, returning to the crowds, dragging her metal chains along with her.

    Zhang Wu Ji turns around and discovered that the attacker was an old man with a big head and skinny body. This man was the fourth elder of the Kong Dong sect’s 5 elders – his name was Chang Jing Zhi. Although that one punch had clearly landed directly on Zhang Wu Ji’s crucial pulse point, yet Zhang did not seem to have felt anything at all. Chang Jing Zhi was flabbergasted, as he blurted out the words, “You … you’ve already mastered the ‘Divine Art of Diamond Body Invulnerability,’ then you are from the Shaolin sect?” Zhang Wu Ji replies, “I am not a Shaolin disciple …” Chang Jing Zhi knew that all those who practiced this mystical skill of bodily-protection must depend upon the generation of a single breath of inner Qi. Once that person opens their mouth to speak, that breath of Qi will dissipate immediately. Therefore before Zhang Wu Ji can finish his sentence, Chang struck out once again, this time landing a fist upon Zhang Wu Ji’s chest.

    Zhang Wu Ji smiles and says, “I’ve already said that the Fists of the Seven Damages is useless if one has not achieved an advanced level of inner energy, if you don’t believe me, then please feel free to throw another punch at me.” Chang Jing Zhi did not waste a single moment before striking out with the speed of the wind, throwing out one punch after another, as two consecutive punches landed on Zhang Wu Ji. In total, altogether of four punches were thrown, every one of them having most definitely landed on Zhang Wu Ji’s body. Yet Zhang continues to smile easily as he receives them, as if he was oblivious to the pain. The four stances of heavy hand all embodied an obliterating force capable of smashing rocks and shattering tombs, yet they were all sustained by Zhang Wu Ji as if they were nothing more than the soft touch of a light breeze and the gentle caress of smooth silk.

    Chang Jing Zhi has always been known as the “mountain-splitting single fist,” and although the grandeur of this title may have been slightly exaggerated, yet the forcefulness of his punches cannot be denied. Among the older generation of martial art fighters, he has always remained a respected and well-known figure. There was not a single person on that scene who was not left in a state of utter astonishment and disbelief having witnessed with their own eyes how the four consecutive punches that Chang Jing Zhi executed all amounting to nothing more than a waste of energy. The Kun Lun sect and Kong Dong Sect have always been rivals, and although at this moment they were both cooperating with each other in their attempts to combat the Ming sect, yet in the hearts of both sides lies deep discontentment and contempt for the other sect. A voice coming from the Kun Lun sect mocks in an icy tone, “Oh, very good! A great ‘mountain-splitting single fist’ indeed!” Another person scoffs “And exactly what has those 4 punches been able to split?” It was a good thing that Chang Jing Zhi had such a dark complexion, for although his face has already flushed a deep red it was luckily not too noticeable under his dark skin.

    Zong Wei Xia formed a fist with his two hands in accordance to the social etiquette of respectful courtesy, “Young hero Zeng, I am much impressed and amazed at your divine martial art skills. Can this old man ask you to engage in an exchange of 3 stances?” He knew that his Fists of the Seven Damages was at a much more advanced level compared to Chang Jing Zhi’s, therefore he figured that just because his brother fails, he himself may not necessarily lose to the opponent.

    Zhang Wu Ji replies, “The Kong Dong sect’s Fists of the Seven Damages is without a doubt a superb skill IF it is practiced correctly, as it is most definitely a force that is capable of obliterating anything in its path. Even the great Shaolin monk Kong Jian who had been able to master the supreme skill of “Divine Art of Diamond Body Invulnerability” died under the Fists of the Seven Damages belonging to your sect. My martial art abilities can in no way be said to even come close to matching that of the great revered monk Kong Jian, how can I possibly be of match? But if elder you insist, I figure there is no harm in receiving 3 of your punches.” The meaning behind his words were clearly implying that though the Fists of the Seven Damages was originally powerful, yet based on the level you have achieved now, you are nowhere near the vicinity of causing any harm.

    Zong Wei Xia had no time to care about what the hidden meanings behind Zhang Wu Ji’s words may have been, as he was already secretly generating a few consecutive breathes of inner Qi. Zong Wei Xia came forward a step, noises from the bones of his arm that were rattling against each other started to emanate from the force building up within him. A punch was thrown, and with force it impacted with Zhang Wu Ji’s chest. However, as Zong Wei Xia’s fist made contact with Zhang Wu Ji’s body, Zong Wei Xia immediately discovered that there seemed to be a mysterious magnetic force surrounding Zhang’s body that is momentarily locking Zong’s arm in a fixed position. Much to his alarm, Zong Wei Xia felt that there was suddenly this very soft and warm energy that was entering him through the fist and was heading straight for his dan tien, the elixir field. In that region between his chest and stomach suddenly appeared an indescribable, yet extremely comfortable and harmonious feeling. Shocked from this mysterious phenomenon, Zong Wei Xia retracts his arm and again releases yet another punch in Zhang’s direction, this time striking his lower stomach. Yet the reverberating power that resonates back towards him was extremely strong and forceful, he had to back up a step before he was able to find his balance. He again generated internally a few cycles of energy before once again stepping forward and extended his fist in a fierce punch.

    At that moment, Chang Jing Zhi was situated right by Zhang Wu Ji. From Chang Jing Zhi’s perspective, Zong Wei Xia seemed to him to have sustained internal injuries as his countenance was fluctuating between flashes of deep red to moments of deathly paleness. Therefore as Zong Wei Xia threw his third punch, Chang Jing Zhi was already prepared to follow Zong with his own fist. Zong Wei Xia struck Zhang Wu Ji on the chest, while Chang Jing Zhi simultaneously attacked Zhang from the back. The two fists impacted on separate parts of Zhang Wu Ji’s body at the same time, and there can be no doubt that the force impacted upon his body was ferocious. Yet who could have expected those two extremely strong sources of energy to be mysteriously and completely dissipated within a brief instant? Chang and Zong’s combined efforts seemed to have resulted to nothing more than a mere punch into empty space.

    Chang Jing Zhi knew very well that he was acting from the position of an elder, and the first time he snuck up and attacked Zhang Wu Ji from behind so as to catch him unawares was already an extremely frowned upon jiang hu taboo. However, at that time he can at least adamantly claim that Zhang Wu Ji’s disrespectful words were tarnishing the reputation of Kong Dong sect’s greatest skill, and thus blame his own actions on the momentary inability to control his temper. Yet this second time around, his sneak assault was undoubtedly the despicable act of a malicious scoundrel. He originally thought that by the combined forces generated from his brother and his own Fists of the Seven Damages, this youngster will definitely succumb to defeat under their fists. Chang knew that as long as he is able to kill the youngster, even if there surfaces any kind of gossip or talk from others afterwards, the fact remains that he has nevertheless eliminated a useless nobody for the 6 great sects and therefore could still be said to have established a heroic accomplishment. Yet strangely, as soon as his fist landed upon his opponent’s body, the entirety of his forceful strength immediately dissipated into nothingness. Chang Jing Zhi was extremely puzzled, he racked his brains yet was still unable to come up with a single clue of how all this could have happened. He could only raise his left hand to his own head, scratching it in state of contemplation.

    Zhang Wu Ji addresses Zong Wei Xia with a slight smile, “How are you feeling Elder?”

    Zong Wei Xia bows to Zhang Wu Ji in an act of humble reverence, and with respectful esteem to Zhang Wu Ji he says, “Thank you hero Zeng for using your inner energies to heal my bodily afflictions. Young hero Zeng, it is obviously undeniable that your divine marital arts’ proficiency is of an unfathomably deep level. Yet it is this act of repaying the injustice done upon you with an act of kindness and goodwill, this display of such greatness in character and morality that causes me to be truly humbled by and gratuitous towards.”

    As soon as these words were said, there was not a single person on the battlefield that was not completely astonished and baffled. Of course nobody was aware of the fact that when Zong Wei Xia attacked Zhang Wu Ji consecutively with three punches, Zhang Wu Ji used that opportunity to generate his 9 Yang Zhen Jing, thus delivering his energy into Zong Wei Xia’s body. Although the duration was brief, sweeping over Zong’s body in a short moment’s timeframe, yet the 9 Yang Zhen Jing’s energy was extremely substantial and solidly profound, and even from that brief experience Zong Wei Xia has already benefited quite a bit. He knew that had it not been for Chang Jing Zhi’s surreptitious attack on Zhang Wu Ji, the benefits that could be have been reaped by the third punch would have been much greater.

    Zhang Wu Ji replies, “ ‘greatness in character and morality,’ these are kind words of which I am not worthy of. Elder Zong at this moment, your essential nerves and the eight veins have already experienced great agitation, the best thing for you to do right now would be to immediately bring your energies back into balance. It is only through this process can all the harmful toxins that have accumulated within your body from all these years of practicing the Fists of the Seven damages be gradually eradicated within two or three years.”

    Zong Wei Xia finally recognized now that his body has indeed fallen ill, so he promptly formed his hands into a fist gesturing gratitude and said earnestly “Thank you, thank you!” and without wasting a moment’s time, he immediately moved back a step and sat down on the floor in order to start generating his Qi. Although Zong Wei Xia knew very well that this gesture was somewhat unsightly and causing him to lose all dignity of appearance, yet this was a life and death situation and therefore he couldn’t allow himself to be bothered or hindered by anything else right now.

    Zhang Wu Ji bent down and started to reconnect Tang Wen Liang’s broken ribs. He turned towards Chang Jing Zhi and commanded, “bring some Yang-Rejuvenating Five Dragons Paste to me.” Chang Jing Zhi obediently took out the said paste and handed it over to Zhang Wu Ji. Zhang Wu Ji then requested, “will you please ask the Wu Tang sect to borrow a dosage of their Triple-Huang Wax tablets, and ask to borrow a bit of Hua Shan sect’s Yu Zhen Powder” Chang Jing Zhi obediently followed Zhang Wu Ji’s every word, gathering the necessary items and bringing them to Zhang Wu Ji. Zhang Wu Ji explains, “your sect’s Yang-Rejuvenating Five-Dragons paste is composed of the Cao Wu (aconite) which is extremely effective, while the Wu Tang sect’s Triple-Huang Wax tablets’ ingredients of the three different kinds of Huang – Ma Huang (ephedra herba), Xiong Huang (realgar) and Teng Huang (Resina Garciniae), is also very beneficial. Add to this the Yu Zhen Powder, and as long as elder Tang gets plenty of rest in his recuperation, 2 months later his limbs will be functioning as well as before,” as he was explaining this, Zhang Wu Ji was all the while applying the medicine to Tang Wen Liang’s broken bones, finishing the treatment within a moment’s time.

    The various sects each had their own unique formula of therapeutic medicine, each one unique in their remedial nature and the outcome they affect. The details of the various sects’ medicinal remedies were all clearly and explicitly recorded within Hu Qing Niu’s medicine chronicles. Zhang Wu Ji figured that since the 6 major sects were flanking the Ming sect on Guang Ming Peak, they must have each brought along their own remedial medicine in preparation for battle. But the onlookers just became all the more puzzled, not only because Zhang Wu Ji’s curative abilities far excels that of any eminent and famed doctor, but they were even more flabbergasted by the fact that Zhang Wu Ji was able to accurately assess the therapeutic properties of the various medicines belong to each sect. Chang Jing Zhi approached Tang Wen Liang and helped him to his feet, before retreating with a distinct expression of embarrassment and shame. Tang Wen Liang suddenly shouted, “You! Zeng! Tang Wen Liang is extremely indebted to you for healing my injuries. You have my word – one day I will repay your charitable act. But the demon sect is our sect’s sworn adversary. The Kong Dong sect will forever be enemies with the Ming sect, the various scores of vengeance and retribution is something that has long existed between us and is not something that can be resolved through a small favour done on me by you. You’re trying to persuade us to settle our arguments, but we will not be persuaded. If you feel that I am being an ungrateful bastard who does not appreciate the good deed you have done for me, you can just break all my limbs again, but you can’t persuade us to settle our scores with the demon sect.”

    Once these words were uttered, the same thought was running through everyone’s mind, “Although they both belong to the Kong Dong sect, yet this Tang Wen Liang definitely has more integrity than that Chang Jing Zhi.”

    Zhang Wu Ji replied, “If Elder Tang indeed feels this way, then may I ask what I can do in order for you to listen to my words?”

    Tang Wen Liang replies, “Show us your martial art skills. If Kong Dong sect’s skill is indeed inferior to yours, then I have nothing to say.”

    Zhang Wu Ji replies, “The number of skilled fighters within the Kong Dong sect are as vast as the clouds, how can I possibly compete with them? Forgive me for being bold and reckless, but today I am insisting on playing the role of the peacemaker so I’ll give it a try. I can only give it my all, using my life as a gamble.” He looks around him and sees that on the east end of the battlefield is an enormous pine tree that must have been taller than 30 feet. Its roots spanning out in all directions as it stands solidly rooted in the ground. Zhang Wu Ji walks over to the tree and speaks out in a loud and clear voice, “Once I happened to come upon the opportunity of learning a little bit of your sect’s Fists of the Seven Damages. If I do anything incorrectly, I entreat you to please be tolerant of me.” Everyone became very shocked upon hearing this, all in a state of disbelieve and questioning, “How can it be that this young man will also know even the Kong Dong sect’s Fists of the Seven Damages? From where could he have possibly learned this skill?” Zhang Wu Ji continues in a clear and steady voice, “The five central channels of energy balances Ying and Yang. Harm the heart, wound the lungs, and mutilate the liver and intestines. Viscera is shattered, energy recedes, will wanes. Once all three sectors of the stomach are reversed, along with the breath, the spirit flees away.”

    Although members belonging to the other sects did not take much interest in Zhang Wu Ji’s words, however, the 5 elders of the Kong Dong sect were all shaken to the core upon hearing Zhang Wu Ji clearly and accurately recite these 4 stanzas of words that resembled neither poem nor song. What was just recited by Zhang Wu Ji was indeed the general indexical stanza for the Fists of the Seven Damages, and its composition has always remained a secret belonging to the Kong Dong sect that was not related to outsiders – how could it be that this youngster also knows how to recite it? At that moment how could they have possibly guessed that many years ago when Xie Xun stole the book containing the steps to the Fists of the Seven Damages, he had also related its contents to Zhang Wu Ji?

    Zhang Wu Ji while reciting in a clear voice walks forward and strikes out with a punch. The sound of a loud “boom” echoes out and a blur of jade green flashes by the eyes as the top half of the great pine tree is severed off, flying to a side and landing on the ground almost twenty feet away from its original spot. All that is left on the ground is the bottom half of the trunk that is now only around 4 feet tall, the area of disconnection was even and levelled out.

    Chang Jing Zhi mumbles to himself, “that’s … that’s not the Fists of the Seven Damages!” The theory behind the Fists of the Seven Damages requires the method of execution to embody both hard and soft elements – where within waves of solid force will also simultaneously exist traces of gentleness, as well as vice versa where soothing suppleness bears the presence of dynamic power. Although this act of severing a big tree into two parts was indeed an extremely powerful move that would call for amazement, yet the source of power derived to execute it is of an extremely solid and forceful kind of energy. Chang Jing Zhi approached the dislocated piece for a closer inspection and could he not stop his jaw from dropping into a gaping hole of disbelief. Jolted into a state of shock and astonishment, he was unable to close his mouth. Chang saw that the core of the tree was cleanly and completely severed, clearly indicating the work of one whose practice of the Fists of the Seven Damages has already reached the highest level.

    In actuality, Zhang Wu Ji was intent upon using his power and ability to take control over the battle scene. Therefore, if he was to use the Fists of the Seven Damages to severe the core of the tree trunk, he must wait from 10 days to half a month for the core of the pine tree to dry and shrivel up before he could finish it off. Hence, as he delivered a blow using the Fists of the Seven Damages, he also proceeded with an extremely strong and forceful Yang energy in order to break the tree into a clean half. Years ago on the ice-fire island, his yi fu Xie Xun also employed a similar method based on the same principle of first using the Fists of the Seven Damages to crack and shatter the internal core of the tree before immediately using the dragon sabre to cleanly slice through it.
    All that was heard around him were the cheers, excitement and praises coming from all the sects. The energetic enthusiasm was gushing towards Zhang Wu Ji like tidal waves, lasting quite a while before finally quieting down.

    Chang Jing Zhi exclaims “Outstanding! That was indeed a demonstration of the highest achievement of the Fists of the Seven Damages skill! I truly bow to you! But I have to ask you young hero Zeng, from where did you learn this set of fists?” Zhang Wu Ji smiles faintly and does not reply. Tang Wen Liang asks in a sharp tone, “Where is the Golden Mane Lion King right now? I entreat young hero Zeng to impart upon us his whereabouts.” Tang has always been a perceptive and shrewd person, and has therefore vaguely deduced that Xie Xun must somehow be either related to, or associated with the youngster that is currently standing in front of him.

    Zhang Wu Ji becomes alarmed and thinks to himself, “Darn it! Using the Fists of the Seven Damages has brought attention upon yi fu’s presence. If I truthfully relate to them my relationship with yi fu it will only make me the enemy of the 6 great sects, and then my attempts at playing the role of the peacemaker will not succeed.” He then proceeds to say, “Your sect is insisting that the ultimate figure responsible for the abduction of the manual for the Fists of the Seven Damages is the Golden Mane Lion King? That is wrong, very wrong! That night on the Kong Dong Mountain in the midst of the fight within Qing Yang temple, there was one person in your sect who was injured by the Divine Art of Originating Formation, and hence red spots started to appear all over his whole body. The attacker that night was the one who is known to all as the ‘Lightning Hands of the Originating Formation’ – Cheng Kun.”

    Years ago, when Xie Xun arrived on the Kong Dong mountain intent on stealing the fist manual, Cheng Kun purposely assisted him without his awareness in order that he may generate more enemies for the Ming sect. That night, Cheng Kun used the Divine Art of Originating Formation to injure the two elders Tang Wen Liang and Chang Jing Zhi. Xie Xun was not aware that Cheng Kun had secretly assisted him that night, and it was only later when Xie Xun encountered the monk Kong Jian who elucidated for him the truth, did he finally understand what happened. Zhang Wu Ji was thinking to himself that since Cheng Kun has spent a whole lifetime engaged in implementing nothing but evil deeds, purposely framing others for his own evil feats, he may as well give him his just desserts by retaliating in the style of Cheng Kun. Zhang Wu Ji felt that not only was he not lying, but he was also uncovering the truth.

    Tang Wen Liang and Chang Jing Zhi had harboured suspicions in their hearts for more than 20 years. At this moment, being presented with an explanation from Zhang Wu Ji, the various incoherencies suddenly fell into place. Tang and Chang looked at each other for a moment, unable to say anything for a while. Zong Wei Xia inquires, “May I ask you hero Zeng, this Cheng Kun – where has he escaped to at this present moment?”

    Zhang Wu Ji replies, “The Lightning Hands of the Originating Formation: Cheng Kun was fuelled by only one purpose, and that was to create disorder between the 6 great sects and the Ming sect. He was later taken in under Shaolin’s wing, and changed his name to Yuan Zhen. Last night, he sneaked into the Ming sect’s inner forum and admitted to these crimes with his own mouth to the Ming sect’s head leaders. At that time, Mr. Yang Xiao, Wei Bat-King, and the 5 wanderers were all listening. I swear that this is the unembellished truth. If there is a single false word, then I am even lower than a crowd of dogs and pigs, and when I die may it be that I will be tortured by millions of diabolical calamities and doomed to suffer in eternity, never be reborn again.”

    Having heard Zhang Wu Ji deliver these words with utmost sincerity and earnestness, the majority of people were struck with wonder and speculation. Only the Shaolin sect’s various monks simultaneously erupted into loud shouts of protest.

    (Continued by Meh)

    Only to hear a person stepping up from the crowd, chanting Buddhist prayers. He wears a gray robe, his expression stern, and his left hand holds a string of beads. This is one of the three Mystical Reverends of Shaolin, Kong Sheng. He spoke as he entered the arena, “Mr. Zeng, why do you say such lies, ridiculing my Shaolin Temple? How can I possibly let you continue to say such profane words in front these heroes?” Zhang WuJi bowed and said, “Do not by angry, reverend. Please allow Yuan Zhen monk to step up, so the truth can be told.” Reverend Kong Sheng said with a glum face, “Mr. Zeng keeps asking for my martial nephew Yuan Zhen. You are still quite a young man. Why do you have such a venomous heart?” Zhang WuJi said, “I simply would like for Monk Yuan Zhen to come out, so all the truths and lies will be sorted out. Why would this be venomous?” Kong Sheng said, “Martial nephew Yuan Zhen is my martial brother Kong Jian’s last student. His devotion to the Buddha is very strong. Other than coming with us to the Ming sect, he has never left the temple even once. How can he be the The Lightning Hands of the Originating Formation: Cheng Kun? Besides, martial nephew Yuan Zhen, in order to help us demolish the Devil sect, has already died. How can you say such things about him even in death?”

    The words ‘already died’ resonate heavily into Zhang WuJi’s ears. His face instantly turns white. Whatever else Kong Sheng might have later said, he did not hear. Zhang WuJi can only stutter, “He… he really died? No… no it can’t be.” Kong Sheng then points to a pile of monk bodies on the side, and yells loudly, “You can go see for yourself!” Zhang WuJi walks in front of the dead bodies, only to indeed find the body of Yuan Zhen. He checks for breathing, then the muscles for warmth. Based on the temperature, he has already been dead for quite a while. Zhang WuJi felt sadness and happiness in his own heart. He never thought that his godfather’s mortal enemy now lies here dead. The blood in his chest boiled, as he could not hold back facing the sky and laugh, “Oh, you scoundrel. You have done so much evil in your life. Ha! Looks like even you have today’s outcome today.”

    These thunderous laughs shook the mountain, trembling the minds of everyone there. Zhang WuJi turns around and asks, “Who killed Yuan Zhen?” Kong Sheng’s face looks cold as ice, and does not respond. Yin TianZheng had already retreated to the side, but now he speaks up, “He and my son Yin YeWang matched palms. One person died and one person injured as a result.” Zhang WuJi bows and says, “I see.” He thought, “I bet after taking Wei YiXiao’s Soft Ice Palm, Yuan Zhen became seriously injured. My uncle’s power is also quite incredible. So that is how he died. I am really glad that it was my uncle who helped me achieve this revenge.” He walks to Yin YeWang’s side, checks his condition, and realizes that the injuries are not life threatening. He said, “Thank you, elder!”

    Kong Sheng became angrier and angrier as he watched on the side, exclaiming, “Little kid, get ready to die!” These words resonated loudly into the ears of everyone there. Zhang WuJi turns around and asks, “Why?” Kong Sheng said loudly, “You knew that martial nephew Yuan Zhen is dead. Yet you put all the blame on his shoulders. How can I let someone so malicious live? I will break the pillar not to kill today. Are you going to commit suicide, or do you want me to kill you?” Zhang WuJi thought, “The fact that the main culprit Yuan Zhen had died is originally a good thing. But now how can I show them the truth now?” Just as he is still thinking of a plan, Kong Sheng steps up and aims his right hand at Zhang WuJi’s head. His hand is straight as a stick from the wrist to the fingers, sharp and crisp. Yin TianZheng yelled, “Be careful, it’s Dragon Claws!”

    Zhang WuJi’s turns to the side, gently sidestepping the attack. When Kong Sheng could not grab him the first time, he tried again. This time, he’s even quicker and more ferocious. Zhang WuJi again sidesteps his grab by evading to the left. Kong Sheng’s third, fourth, and the fifth strikes immediately followed. In an instant, a gray-robed man became a gray dragon. The dragon shadow flies in the air, the dragon claws dances rapidly, pushing Zhang WuJi to the point where he can no longer move away. A quick ‘swoosh’ sound later, Zhang WuJi’s body flew up, but Kong Sheng had already grabbed his right sleeves, pulling down. Five cuts appeared on Zhang WuJi’s shoulder as blood pour out. The Shaolin monks immediately cheered on, but a lone girl screamed in shock. Zhang WuJi looked at the direction of the voice, only to see Xiao Zhao’s expression extremely pale. She said, “Young master Zhang, you… you be careful.” Zhang WuJi’s heart felt a tingle of warmth, and thought, “This little girl is really nice to me.” After succeeding with his previous move, Kong Sheng immediately followed it up with more, each with a great deal of energy. This type of kung fu is fast and furious. More powerful than anything Zhang WuJi has seen before. He can only try to dodge the oncoming blows.

    As Kong Sheng attacks continuously with his Dragon Claws, Zhang WuJi continuously backs away. They kept facing each other, one moving forward, while the other one moving back. After nine consecutive misses by Kong Sheng, he’s still about a yard away from Zhang WuJi. Although he moves forward at lightning speed, Zhang WuJi always manage to back off at the same pace. While Zhang WuJi still has not countered any attacks, one can already see just who has the edge in lightness kung fu. One is moving forward, while the other is backpedaling. The difference in difficulty between the two is easy to see. Since he could not catch up, Kong Sheng’s power in the legs is obviously much worse. Had Zhang WuJi turned around to run, he could have easily left Kong Sheng long behind. Essentially, the reason Zhang WuJi didn’t turn around is so he can see Kong Sheng use his Dragon Claws. By the time he saw the thirty-seventh claw, he realized that it was move number eight, ‘Cloud Palm form’. Obviously, Zhang WuJi does not know its name. But he knows perfectly how one would execute such a move.

    This Dragon Claws only has thirty-six moves. Its aim is to be fast and deadly, not concentrating on changing variations. Whenever Kong Sheng has met a formidable enemy, he has always gained the initiative by using this Dragon Claws. Never has he needed more than twelve moves to win the fights. From the thirteenth move on, he has practiced them, but never used them in battle. He can’t believe that he couldn’t win even after using all thirty-six moves. By his thirty-seventh move, he had to reuse his previous ones. Kong Sheng thought, “This kid only has great lightness kung fu and great agility. That’s why he can avoid my strikes. But if we truly stop and fight, I doubt he can handle twelve strikes of my Dragon Claws.” Zhang WuJi by now had already figured out the workings of the Dragon Claw. He found no weaknesses, but Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi can create weaknesses from any type of forms. He thought, “At this time, I can easily kill him. But Shaolin has always held a great reputation, and this monk is one of the three most important people in Shaolin. If I beat him today, where is the face for Shaolin? Yet it’s impossible to simply make him back down willingly. His kung fu, after all, is much better than the Kong Dong elders.” Just as he’s deciding on what to do, he heard Kong Sheng say, “Little kid, you’re just trying to run away, not fighting!” Zhang WuJi said, “Fighting is…” Kong Sheng, knowing that Zhang WuJi’s chi cannot flow efficiently while speaking, and takes advantage of the situation. ‘Swoosh, Swoosh’, two more strikes shot out. Zhang WuJi again floated away, as he continued his sentence, “…also fine. If I defeat you, reverend, what will you do?” He did not pause at all during this sentence. Had someone listened with his eyes closed, he might’ve thought that Zhang WuJi said it while sitting down. No one would believe that he spoke while dodging five attacks from Kong Sheng. Kong Sheng said, “If I lose to you in a true fight, you can feel free to kill me.” Zhang WuJi said, “Oh, I certainly don’t have that in mind! If I lose, obviously you can do what you wish with me. But should I win, I hope Shaolin will leave Brightness Peak today.” Kong Sheng said, “My martial brother is the leader of our group. I do not have a say in the decision-making. Besides, I don’t believe I can possibly lose to a kid like you.”

    Zhang WuJi suddenly got an idea, and says, “Shaolin Dragon Claws’ thirty-two strokes have no weakness. It can really be considered the most powerful claw technique in the world. Except it seems that you are using the Dragon Claws a bit wrong.” Kong Sheng said angrily, “Fine! If you can break my Dragon Claws, I’ll immediately go back to Shaolin, never to leave the door again!” Zhang WuJi said, “That won’t be necessary!” The others there cheered loudly as they watched this conversation. Because during this conversation, the two fighters never did take a break in fighting. In fact, they moved faster and faster as the battle went on, yet the tones for their conversation remained clear and calm, showing no signs of breakage. By the time Zhang WuJi finished his last sentence “That won’t be necessary”, his body flew up and then began to spin, spinning four times quickly in midair, each time higher than the last, until he made a final flip, before landing soft as a feather down to the ground far away. The watchers could only stare in awe as they watched. If they hadn’t seen it with their own eyes, no one would have believed that someone could possess such amazing lightness kung fu. Even the Green Bat King, who thought his own lightness kung fu is unparalleled, can only sigh in reverence. As Zhang WuJi landed, Kong Sheng also moved up to him, but didn’t attack. He asks loudly, “Are we going to start now?” Zhang WuJi says, “Sure. After you.” Kong Sheng says, “You’re not going to back off?” Zhang WuJi smiled and says, “If I take another step back, I’ll admit defeat.”

    Although the top fighters of the Ming sect are all too injured to move, their hearings are still fine. All of them gasped when they heard Zhang WuJi say this. They are all experienced in the martial world, and realize the power of Kong Sheng’s Dragon Claws. To them, even trying to block one hit would be a difficult task. No matter how good Zhang WuJi is, he still would likely need more than a hundred moves before winning. How can he possibly not take a step back during this time? Only to hear Kong Sheng say, “That won’t be necessary. If I win, I want to win fairly. If I lose, I want to lose willingly.” When he finished, he yelled, “Look out!” Kong Sheng then feints with his left hand, while his right hand carries a strong wind from the other side, reaching for Zhang WuJi’s Bowl Lacking Point on his left shoulder. Zhang WuJi realizes, from the feint, that this is another ‘Cloud Palm Form’. So he also feints with his left hand, while his right hand shot out to Kong Sheng’s Bowl Lacking Point on his left shoulder. Both fighters use the same move, without any difference. Zhang WuJi moves second, but reaches his target first, gaining the initiative. While Kong Sheng’s right hand is still a few inches away from Zhang WuJi’s left shoulder, Zhang WuJi’s five fingers has reached the opponent’s Bowl Lacking Point. Kong Sheng only felt a little sting on his pressure point, as he lost all strength on his right hand. Yet Zhang WuJi did not apply any more power to his claws, instead pulling back his hand. After being stunned for a moment, Kong Sheng’s both hands shot out, attacking with the ‘Pearl Taking Form’, aiming for Zhang WuJi’s left and right Sun Point. Once again Zhang WuJi moved afterwards, and again, landed the attack first, grabbing both of Kong Sheng’s Sun Point. The Sun Point is of paramount importance to a fighter. If reached, it would mean certainly defeat. Yet Zhang WuJi simply lightly touches the Sun Point. He then spins around, and changes into the Dragon Claws’ seventeenth move ‘Moon Catching Form’, aiming Kong Sheng’s Wind Manor Point at the back of his head.

    Zhang WuJi had already stunned Kong Sheng by grabbing his Sun Point, but his usage of the ‘Moon Catching Form’ left Kong Sheng dumbfounded. Kong Sheng said, “How… how did you steal Shaolin’s Dragon Claws?”

    Zhang WuJi responds with a chuckle, “The martial arts under the Heavens are hardly all unique. It’s only humans who forcibly divide them into different sects. How can you be sure that this Dragon Claws is unique to Shaolin?” But in his mind, Zhang WuJi realizes, “This Dragon Claws really is something. I bet it took Shaolin hundreds of years to refine it into the form today. It probably is unparalleled in the world. If I weren’t using Dragon Claws to fight him, I don’t think I can win.”

    Kong Sheng lowers his head, trying to digest this strange information. When it comes to the Dragon Claws, not even his martial brothers can match him in terms of skill. So how can this youngster twice move after him, yet also twice landing the blow first? Plus, this youngster’s accuracy, speed, and power are all incredible, as if he’s been practicing for tens of years.

    All the eyes in the crowds stared at him as he stood there in silence. The two moves were over in a blur. So other than the top-level fighters, no one knows just who won the exchange. But they do see that Zhang WuJi still carries a carefree expression, while Kong Sheng is agonizing in his thoughts.

    Kong Sheng suddenly roars loudly, swiftly stepping up, his palms powerful as a thunderstorm, ‘Wind Grasping Form’, ‘Shadow Catching Form’, ‘Zither Playing Form’, ‘Drum Beating Form’, ‘Carrying Form’, ‘Sham Striking Form’, ‘Evil Wrapping Form’, ‘Weakness Blocking Form’, all eight moves one after another with lightning speed. Zhang WuJi, keeping his calm, begins grasping winds and catching shadows, playing zither and beating drums, carrying and striking shams, wrapping evil and blocking weaknesses, also making the same eight moves smoothly in a row, each time he goes second, but strikes first.

    Kong Sheng’s eight strikes came continuously, looking more like eight different variations of a single move, each with unparalleled speed. Who would’ve thought that Zhang WuJi is even faster? Every time he lands the blow first. Every time Kong Sheng makes a move, he has to take a step back. By the time he has retreated seven steps, he begins to use ‘Evil Wrapping Form’ and ‘Weakness Blocking Form’. These are the last two moves of the Dragon Claws. Their appearance seems to be filled with weaknesses, making the user look unsure of himself. Yet both of these forms are based on the principle of counterattacking. Every single weakness is a trap that allows for some very potent counterattacks. Although Dragon Claws is a Hard style of martial arts, it’s last two moves changes to a very Soft style. Zhang WuJi takes another breath and steps up, also using the same final two forms, but immediately changed to a ‘Cloud Palm Form’ afterwards.

    Kong Sheng thought ecstatically, “Ha! Finally fell into my trap.” He sees Zhang WuJi’s right arm entering the trap, unable to possibly retreat. Kong Sheng recoils his arms and then spun them from the top, striking down on Zhang WuJi’s arms from above. He sees that this youngster is proficient in Shaolin kung fu. Afraid that he may be related to the temple, and knowing that Zhang WuJi had been lenient with him earlier, Kong Sheng did not try to take his life, only seeking to break his bones. Yet just before his attack landed, he felt a strong and warm inner power flowing into his chest, preventing his arms from going down further. At this time, Zhang WuJi’s five fingers have already reached his body.

    Immediately, Kong Sheng’s heart sank. Tens of years of hard practice on this Dragon Claws, thinking it is unrivaled in the martial world, has now gone up in smoke. He nods and says, “Mr. Zeng’s Dragon Claws are indeed much better than mine.” His left hand then grabs his right hand, about to break them, when he felt numbness on his left wrist. Only to see Zhang WuJi applying some chi there, and says, “I simply used Shaolin’s Dragon Claws to defeat you. What’s the shame in that? Had I used any other type of kung fu, I could not have won today.”

    Kong Sheng, in his moment of failure, had wanted to break his own fingers, never to practice kung fu again. Yet when he heard this, he realizes that Zhang WuJi had been protecting Shaolin’s integrity this whole time. If Zhang WuJi hasn’t done this, then Shaolin’s history and place in the martial world could have gone down in flames today. After he thought this through, Kong Sheng could only feel gratitude for Zhang WuJi, and says, “Mr. Zeng’s kindness is truly incredible. You have my total admiration.” Zhang WuJi responds, “I’m sorry for striking an elder. Please accept my apologies.” Kong Sheng chuckled, and says, “I can’t believe this Dragon Claws can have such amazing power in your hands. Should you have time, please come to Shaolin so you can give some more pointers.” Usually, this sort of sentence has a connotation of challenging someone to a fight. Yet Kong Sheng’s tone did not carry any of that meaning. He really does deeply respect Zhang WuJi’s kung fu.

    Zhang WuJi hurriedly responds, “Oh, you are flattering me. Shaolin’s martial arts are vast and deep, while mine is shallow and thin. Should we be fated to meet again, I would also like reverend you to share some advice with me.” His words are also just as sincere.

    Due to his lack of management skills, Kong Sheng doesn’t hold any position of authority within the temple. But his reputation in Shaolin is extremely good. Everyone deeply respects his character and martial arts skills. So when Shaolin’s people see that he admits to defeat so sincerely, they do not complain. Plus, seeing how Zhang WuJi did everything in his power to keep Shaolin from losing face, they all knew that Shaolin couldn’t challenge him further today. Kong Zhi is the leader of this whole attack, and knows that the six sects cannot simply back down like this. Seeing the problem with the situation at hand, he gave a look to the Master of Hua Shan sect, XianYu Tong. Xian YuTong is the brain behind this attack on Brightness Peak. When he sees Kong Zhi asking for help, he immediately steps into the arena. Zhang WuJi sees a forty-some year old middle-aged scholar come up, handsome and charismatic, and begins to like him a bit. Zhang WuJi asks, “What does the elder wish of me?” Before XianYu Tong could respond, Yin TianZheng says, “This is the Master of Hua Shan sect, XianYu Tong. Although his kung fu is average, he’s very devious. You need to watch out.” When Zhang WuJi heard the name, he thought, “Hey, this name sounds familiar. I wonder where I heard it before?” Only to see XianYu Tong walk up to a couple of yards in front of Zhang WuJi before stopping. He waves his hand and says, “After you, Mr. Zeng.” Zhang WuJi also returns the favor, and adds, “After you, Master XianYu.”

    XianYu Tong says, “Young Hero Zeng’s kung fu is simply marvelous, to be able to defeat the Kong Dong elders and even the Mystic Reverend Kong Sheng. I truly respect you. So may I ask, who is your teacher? Which sect did you come from?”

    Zhang WuJi has to think of how to respond, so he remains silent.

    XianYu Tong laughed, and then speaks loudly, “I wonder why Young Hero Zeng is so afraid to speak about your mentor? As a wise man once said, ‘When you see someone worthy, you hold them in high regards, when you see someone not worthy…” When Zhang WuJi heard this, he immediately thought of ‘See Death but Won’t Help’*. He then remembered that five years ago in the Butterfly Valley, Hu QingNuo told him that XianYu Tong killed his sister. At that time, Zhang WuJi thought, “This XianYu Tong really is a terrible person. If he doesn’t get bad luck later in life, then the gods really need their eyes re-examined.” The words of that day came back to him, “A youngster got the Golden Bug Poison of the Miao tribe. He should’ve died from the poison, but I treated him for three days and three nights, using all my powers to cure him. We became sworn brothers afterward. Sighs. Who would’ve thought that he later killed my sister… My poor sister… Ever since our parent’s death, we had only each other for support.” When Hu QingNuo said this, his face was so frail and miserable, making Zhang WuJi quite sad. Hu QingNuo then said that he later tried to seek revenge, but Hua Shan sect simply has too many powerful people, and XianYu Tong is too cunning. So Hu QingNuo almost died in his hands. When Zhang WuJi thought of all this, he raised his eyebrows, and his eyes brightened, staring at XianYu Tong. Zhang WuJi feels the need to teach this person a lesson, so he chuckled, and then said, “I was never poisoned at the Miao Tribe, nor did I kill the sister of my best friend, why would I have anything to hide?”

    *This made a lot more sense in Chinese, since the two phrases are similar.

    XianYu Tong is instantly shaken when he heard this, and cold sweat pours down his face. After Hu QingNuo saved his life, he and Hu QingNuo’s sister Hu QingYang fell in love. He married Hu QingYang, and she became pregnant. But later XianYu Tong wanted to be the Master of Hua Shan, so he left behind Hu QingYang. Then he married the only daughter of the former Hua Shan Master, resulting in Hu QingYang committing suicide. This is a story that XianYu Tong kept secret for years now. Yet somehow this little kid found out about it. How could he not be shocked? XianYu Tong immediately begins to think, “Since this kid knows my secret, I must kill him. It would be disastrous for him to reveal this to the world.” This prompted him to regain his intensity. XianYu Tong says, “If you won’t reveal your teacher’s name, I guess I’ll have to test out your amazing skills then. Let’s just have a friendly duel, so please don’t hurt me too much.” As he said this his left hand shot out at Zhang WuJi’s head, yelling, “Let us start!” He obviously doesn’t want to give Zhang WuJi a chance to say something else, which Zhang WuJi has figured out. He easily blocked off the oncoming blow and keeps taking, “I know Hua Shan’s kung fu is great. So I don’t need to fight to test it out. But your ‘Repaying Kindness with Reprisal*’ skill is really quite unmatched, don’t you agree?”

    *For the life of me I can’t think of the right English word for this. I think it’s a pretty simple word too. Or maybe not…

    XianYu Tong immediately attacks again to prevent him from talking further, using a top move from the seventy-two road ‘Life and Death of Eagle and Snake Art’. He closed his fan in his right hand, and held it like a snake’s head. His left hand uses a type of Eagle Claw move. The snake is used to pierce into the opponent, while the eagle grabs him. The two hands use two completely different types of techniques. This ‘Life and Death of Eagle and Snake Art’ has been the top kung fu in the Hua Shan sect for over a hundred years, and can overwhelm the opponent by attacking together with great speed and accuracy.

    Against normal people, this kung fu can easily mystify the enemy and prevent them from blocking properly. But Zhang WuJi easily figured out the intricacies after only a few moves. He knows that XianYu Tong’s skills are much worse than Kong Sheng’s, so he parried all the attacks quickly. Then he says, “Master YuXian, I have a question I need to ask. When you were poisoned that year, and were about to die. That person spent three days and three nights to cure you, and became your sworn brother. So why were you so cruel, killing his sister in return?”

    XianYu Tong can’t answer his question, so he scolded, “Hu…” He wanted to say “Hu Shou Ba Dao*”, and then shoot down Zhang WuJi’s accusations with a false story. He is well known for his cunning in terms of word usage, so this comes easily to him. His main objective is to break Zhang WuJi’s concentration, so he can sneak in for a fatal blow. Because after seeing the fight against Kong Sheng, he knows that he cannot win on kung fu ability alone.

    *Hu Shou Ba Dao means bullsh_t.

    Unfortunately, just as he said the word “Hu”, he felt a powerful palm strike, pushing in front of his chest, preventing him from finishing the sentence. In the meantime, he felt as if his lungs are being sucked out by the opponent’s palm power, and hurriedly gathered his inner chi for protection. Then he heard Zhang WuJi say, “That’s right, that’s right! You do remember that her surname is ‘Hu’. Why didn’t you finish saying her name? Ms. Hu suffered so much in your hands, so don’t you feel even the slightest guilt?” Trying to regain his breath, XianYu Tong quickly made three attacks, releasing the lock Zhang WuJi’s palm had on his chest. When he finally caught his breath again, Xianu Tong says, “You…” When he got here, he felt yet another wind of chi pressing into his chest, and his speech stopped. Zhang WuJi said, “A man should always admit to what he did. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Why are you so indecisive? Didn’t the Butterfly Valley Mystic Doctor Hu QingNuo save your life? Didn’t you kill his sister?” He doesn’t know how Hu Qingang died, so he cannot give more details. But XianYu Tong thought that he knew everything, and his face became even paler.

    The audience all knows that XianYu Tong is a master at arguing. So they’re all extremely surprised that he could not speak up against Zhang WuJi. Because of this, they all felt that Zhang WuJi must have been speaking the truth. Unfortunately for XianYu Tong, he could not plead his innocence with Zhang WuJi pressuring his lungs. The others only see Zhang WuJi’s fists dances in the air, easily parrying the attacks of XianYu Tong, then counterattack with his own fist. Not even the top fighters can see the weakness of his moves. Most members of the Hua Shan sect could only shake their heads when they see their Master getting pummeled both physically and verbally. Although some felt that he must have some trick up his sleeves. Only to hear Zhang WuJi say loudly, “For us people in the martial world, it’s important to repay kindness with kindness. Hu QingNuo is obviously a member of the Ming sect. You owe your life to the Ming sect, yet you come to attack it? He saved your life, yet you kill his relative? Where is your shame? How can you possibly be the Master of a whole sect?” XianYu Tong suddenly regained his breath again, and says, “Little bastard, stop your lies!” He then immediately pointed his fan in front of Zhang WuJi’s face, and then opened it. Zhang WuJi suddenly smelled a faint scent, and he immediately became dizzy, faltering back a bit. Then he only felt the whole world spinning, and that gold stars were dancing in front of him… XianYu Tong yells, “Little bastard, let me show you the power of my ‘Life and Death of Eagle and Snake Art’.” He quickly moves forward, five fingers reaching for Zhang WuJi’s Yuan Yi Point. He figured that Zhang WuJi couldn’t possibly block this move. Yet for some reason, it came up empty.

    The Hua Shan disciples all yelled, “’Life and Death of Eagle and Snake Art’ rules!” “Our master XianYu has mystical powers!” “Now you’ll see some real kung fu!” Zhang WuJi chuckled, and blew his breath towards XianYu Tong’s nose. XianYu Tong suddenly smelled a sweet scent, and became dizzy. He became so scared his soul almost popped out. Then he drops to his knees in front of Zhang WuJi, as if begging him for something. This caught everyone off guard. They all saw Zhang WuJi seemingly injured just a moment ago. Yet how could he make XianYu Tong drop to his knees in such a short time? Does he really know witchcraft or something? Zhang WuJi bents down and takes the fan, then yells, “Hua Shan is considered a righteous sect, so how can you have such an amazing poison skill. Look at this, everyone.” He opened the fan lightly, and flipped around so everyone can see both sides. He continues, “Who would’ve thought that this fan has a hidden trigger for poison!” As he speaks, he walks over to a flower tree, takes down a few flowers, and waves the fan in front of them. In an instant, the flowers all withered.

    This shocked everyone, and they all thought, “What kind of poison is this? How can it be so powerful?” Only to hear XianYu Tong lie on the ground, screaming in pain like a pig to be slaughtered. Kung fu experts have a very high tolerance for pain. Under almost any circumstance, they would not yell pain in front of others. So his yells made the all the Hua Shan sect members turn pale. XianYu Tong then screams, “Hurry… hurry and kill mi…. Just kill me…” Zhang WuJi says, “But I do have a way to cure you, except I don’t know what kind of poison you used.”

    XianYu Tong screams, “This… this is golden bug poison… golden bug poison… hurry… kill me… Ah…”

    The younger generations may not know about this poison, but the elders were shocked at these words. Some of the more righteous people begin to scold XianYu Tong. For the Golden Bug Poison is considered one of the deadliest poisons in the world, no taste and no smell. The poisoned person feels like being eaten by thousands of bugs, the result unimaginable. Even if you have godly powers, a person who doesn’t know any kung fu can kill you in this state. Zhang WuJi then asks, “How did you poison yourself when you are the one who hid it in here?” XianYu Tong says, “I… don’t know, I don’t know…” As he says this, he started to roll on the floor, scratching everywhere. Zhang WuJi says, “You released the poison in your fan to attack me, but I used my inner power to force it back out. Do you have anything else to say?”

    XianYu Tong says, “It’s my fault… my fault…” He put his hands to his throat, wanting to commit suicide. But after getting poisoned, he has no strength in his hands. This poison is so powerful it forces you to live, and keeps your mind clear so you can feel the agony. Years ago, he tried to leave a Miao girl after toying with her. She then poisoned him with the golden bug poison. But she had hoped that he would change his mind, so she only used a small amount. XianYu Tong was able to escape, and stole some of her poison before he left. But soon afterwards, he fell unconscious. By coincidence, Hu QingNuo was collecting herbs in that area, saving him. Afterwards, XianYu Tong began to raise this type of bug so he can use it in his fan. Whenever he applies the proper inner power to the switch, the poison will come out. At first, when fighting Zhang WuJi, he couldn’t apply any inner power. It’s only at the end, when Zhang WuJi released his hold, that he used the poison.

    Thankfully, Zhang WuJi’s inner power is without equal. In the critical moment, he held his breath, then forced out the small amount of poison in his body with his chi. Had he had less inner strength, or didn’t react fast enough, then it would be him on the ground rather than XianYu Tong. After reading Wang NanGu’s Book of Poisons*, he knows just how powerful this golden bug poison is. So he quickly blocked off the circulation of the poison into his body. Zhang WuJi thought to himself, “I do have to save him, but I need him to confess his crimes first.” So he says, “I can make the antidote, but you have to answer my questions first. If you lie, I’ll just leave you here, letting you to endure seven days and seven nights of pain before dying.”

    * Wang NanGu is Hu QingNuo’s wife. Zhang WuJi grabbed her book when he saw her corpse.

    XianYu Tong, despite his pain, can still hear clearly. He thought, “Back then, that Miao girl also said that I’ll be in pain for seven days and seven nights. How can this little kid know this too?” But he still doesn’t believe that Zhang WuJi can possibly cure his poison, and said, “You... can’t cure me.” Zhang WuJi closed the fan and pointed at his waist. “If I make a cut here, and apply the right medicine, then you’ll be saved.” XianYu Tong immediately responds, “You’re… you’re…right.” Zhang WuJi then asks, “Have you done anything you felt guilty about in life?” XianYu Tong says, “N… no.” Zhang WuJi says, “Fine, have it your way.” XianYu Tong hurriedly added, “Wait… I’ll say it.” But after all, he is in front of his peers. So the words obviously have trouble coming out.

    Suddenly, two people came out from the Hua Shan sect, one tall one short, both look around fifty, their hands holding large sabers. Walking in front of Zhang WuJi, the short old man says, “Mr. Zeng, you can kill us Hua Shan people, but you can’t play around with us. It’s not heroic to do such a thing to our Master XianYu.” Zhang WuJi put together his fists and bowed, asking, “And your names are?” The short old man says, “You’re not worthy of asking for my name.” He bent down and about to carry XianYu Tong back, but Zhang WuJi quickly pushed him out of the way saying, “His body is filled with poison. If you even touch him, you’ll be poisoned too. I suggest you be careful in the future.” That short man froze for a second, and shuddered. Only to hear XianYu Tong scream, “Hurry and save me… save me… Bai Yuan… Brother Bai… I used this poison to kill him… but that’s it….”

    When he said this, everyone’s face in the Hua Shan sect turned pale. The short man asked, “You killed Bai Yuan? This is the truth? Then why do you say the Ming sect killed him?” XianYu Tong screams, “Brother Bai… please don’t do that…” “Brother Bai, I know you died a horrible death, but why did you blackmail me back then… You had to speak about Ms. Hu in front of the master. You know master would never forgive me for that. I … I had to silence you. Please… forgive me…” He then continued, “I killed you, so I had to blame it on the Ming sect. But…. But I burnt so much money for you, I took care of your wife, kids, and parents…” Although the sun shines brightly on the square, everyone’s hearts were filled with coldness upon hearing this. The people in the Hua Shan sect who knew Bai Yuan were even more shocked. Zhang WuJi also didn’t expect this response. He originally wanted XianYu Tong to speak about Lady Hu, not his own martial brother. But Zhang WuJi didn’t know that since Hu QingYang committed suicide, XianYu Tong, with his playboy personality, never felt all that badly about it. But he did kill Bai Yuan with his own hand, and with the same poison that’s in him now. So he felt like Bai Yuan’s ghost has come seeking for revenge.

    Zhang WuJi doesn’t know who Bai Yuan is, but from XianYu Tong’s words, he can tell that the blame was put on the Ming sect. Most likely this is the reason why the Hua Shan sect came to Brightness Peak today. So he yells in the Hua Shan direction, “Listen to me, people of Hua Shan. Your elder Bai was not killed by the Ming sect. Please do not take out your revenge on the wrong people.”

    That tall old man waved his sword up, about to bring it down on XianYu Tong. But Zhang WuJi lightly flicked his saber back with a finger, bouncing it back. That tall old man said, “This is a traitor of Hua Shan. How can we let him live?” Zhang WuJi says, “I promised that I’ll cure him, so I will. You can do what you want with him later.”

    That short old man says, “Brother, he’s right.” He then swiftly kicked XianYu in the back, sending him flying, finally falling down in front of the Hua Shan group. Although XianYu Tong has many loyal disciples, none would dare catch him due to the poison.

    That short old man says to Zhang WuJi, “We are the martial uncles of XianYu Tong. Today you have resolved a big problem within the Hua Shan sect. For this, we thank you!” Both of them then bowed, as Zhang WuJi quickly returned the favor, saying, “It’s ok. It’s ok.” The short man then pulled out his saber and says loudly, “But you have ruined the reputation of the Hua Shan sect. For this, my brother and I will fight you to the death!” The tall man also says, “Yes, we shall fight you the death.” Oddly enough, he’s much taller and bigger, but he seemingly follows the shorter old man’s orders. Zhang WuJi says, “Which sect hasn’t had a bad apple in its history? Your reputation won’t be affected by one person.” The tall old man says, “You think so?” Zhang WuJi says, “Yes.” The tall old man says, “Big brother, in that case, let’s just forget about it.” He makes it sounds like he respects Zhang WuJi, but in reality, he fears Zhang WuJi’s ability. But the short old man says, “First we take care of outside enemies, then we take care of inside problems. If we don’t kill him today, where’s the face of our Hua Shan sect?” The tall man says, “Fine. Little kid, I hope you don’t object to us fighting you two on one. If you do, then just admit defeat now.” The short man raised his eyebrows, says, “Brother, what are you…” Zhang WuJi responds, “That’s fine with me. If you two lose, then Hua Shan cannot further harass the Ming sect today.” The tall man, ecstatic with the response, yelled, “If both of us fight you, then you can’t possibly win. We have a special double saber art. Its power is unlimited, capable of sweeping thousands of enemies. So you’re definitely going to lose. But of course, it’s too late to take back your words now.” Zhang WuJi says, “Of course I won’t take back my words. So please be lenient with me, elders.” The tall old man says, “My saber is never lenient. When we use this double saber technique, we become more and more powerful, until the power cannot be stopped. I can see that you’re not a bad person, so I’m feeling a bit sad that you’ll have to die.” The short old man yelled, “Geez. Can you stop yapping for a minute?” The tall old man says, “Sure, but I have to remind him, this double saber art is a reverse technique, different from normal techniques…” The short old man cuts in, “Shut up!” He turns towards Zhang WuJi and says, “I’m coming!” Followed by slashing his saber towards Zhang WuJi. Zhang WuJi blocked the blow with XianYu Tong’s fan, which prompted the tall old man to say, “Hey, hey! We can’t compete like this! This fan is too poisonous. We have to get rid of it before someone gets hurt.”

    Zhang WuJi responds, “You’re right. This sort of thing shouldn’t exist.” So he pointed the fan to the ground and threw it deep into the ground, making a tiny hole in the process. This type of ability is something no one else can emulate, and prompted wows from the audience. The tall old man then states, “Now, go find yourself a weapon.”

    Zhang WuJi originally didn’t plan on fighting. But with the current situation, he knew that he needed to show off in order to gain their respect. So he said, “What type of weapon would the elder wish for me to use?” The tall old man reached out and patted him on the shoulders, smiling, “You’re a funny little kid. You even care to ask me which weapon to use?” Zhang WuJi knows that the pat was just for fun, and didn’t think much of it. But the others were all shocked. They wondered, what if the tall old man decided to apply some inner power to the pat, or sealed his pressure point? Wouldn’t Zhang WuJi lose immediately? They of course don’t know that Zhang WuJi has Jiu Yang Shen Gong for protection. So none of those things would work. The tall old man laughed, “Since your kung fu is so good. I bet you can use all the eighteen standard weapons very well. And it would be too much to ask of you to fight bare-handed.” Zhang WuJi smiled, “Actually, bare-handed is ok too.” The tall old man looked around, trying to find the worst possible weapon for him. He suddenly saw some large rocks, and said, “I’ll let you use a nice, powerful weapon.” As he spoke, he pointed to those rocks and started to laugh. These rocks have got to be two hundred to three hundred pounds. If you don’t have a lot of strength, you can’t even move one of them. How can anyone use one as a weapon? Besides, it’s quite smooth, so there’s no place to hold it.

    The tall old mean wanted to purposely gave Zhang WuJi a hard dilemma. So Zhang WuJi would back off, and they won’t have to fight. However, Zhang WuJi smiled instead, and responds, “This is a strange weapon. Are you trying to test my strength?” As he spokem he walked over to the rock and lifted it with his left hand. He then yelled, “Let’s start!” Immediately, he flew to where the two old men stood with the rock in hand. The audience could not help but stare in shock, even forgetting to cheer on. The tall old man yelled, “This… this is impossible!” The short old man realizes that today’s opponent is much more powerful than anyone he has ever seen. Afer he calmed down and collected himself, the short old man yelled, “I’m coming!” Green light sparkled, as the saber advanced forward, aiming towards Zhang WuJi’s right arm. The tall old man asked, “Brother, are we really going to fight?” The short old man said, “Of course.” The saber slashed a semi-circle before changing directions, aiming for Zhang WuJi’s left shoulder. Zhang WuJi moved away, only to see another green light, as the tall old man also began his attack. Zhang WuJi said, “Good move.” Turned around and blocked with his rock, causing sparks to fly. In a smooth motion, Zhang WuJi then pushed the blocking rock forward, onto the tall old man. The tall old man stared in awe, saying, “You can use techniques with a rock?” The short old man then yelled, “Brother, watch out!” Then slashed the sword in a reverse manner, creating a crescent image, curving towards Zhang WuJi. The two old men continuously attack in synchronization, while Zhang WuJi gathers his Jiu Yang Shen Gong to roll the rock left and right. Although the reverse double sabers’ powers are great, this rock is simply too big. No matter what, they cannot strike past it. The tall old man then yelled, “Wait. You’re getting too big of an advantage in terms of weaponry. This isn’t fair.” Zhang WuJi chuckled, saying, “In that case, I won’t use it then.” and threw the rock up into the air. As the two old men stared at the rock, Zhang WuJi quickly dashed forward and sealed their pressure points. So the two old men can only stare helplessly as the rock falls towards them.

    The masses all let out a collect gasp. But at the last moment, Zhang WuJi came back and pushed the rock away. He then gently tapped the chest of the two old men, and said with a smile, “Sorry about that. It was just a little joke.” The short old man’s face turned gray, and sighed, “Forget it, forget it!” But the tall old man shook his head and said, “This doesn’t count.” Zhang WuJi said, “Why?” The tall old man said, “You only won because of your superior strength, not techniques.” Zhang WuJi said, “Fine. Then let’s play some more.” The tall old man said, “Of course, but we have to switch it up a bit. Otherwise, if you keep getting all these advantages, it would be quite unfair for us, don’t you think?” Zhang WuJi nodded, “Yes, of course.”

    Xiao Zhao had been watching intently on the side, but now stepped up, scraping her cheek with her hand, yelling, “Shame on you! Look at how long your beard is. And yet you keep saying about being at a disadvantage when the truth is the opposite?” The tall old man laughed, said, “What does a girl like you know? I’ve eaten more salt then you have rice. I’ve walked across more bridges than you have roads. Oh, be quiet, little kid.” He then turned around and said to Zhang WuJi, “If you don’t want to, we don’t have to compete. After all, you didn’t win or lose. Perhaps we can wait a few years before dueling again…” The short old man became increasingly annoyed at his martial brother. As a respected elder, who could he say such unreasonable things to a youngster. So he cut in, “We admit defeat. We’ll do what you say.” Zhang WuJi said, “I simply wish for there to be peace between the Ming sect and the six major sects. That is all.” The tall old man then cut in loudly, “What are you talking about? We haven’t competed with the new method yet. Are you trying to back out of that now?” The short old man stopped talking. He knows that although his tall brother acts foolishly, his thick face just might save them this time. Although it’s not righteous to do such a thing to a youngster, but at least if the plan succeeds, they won’t look too bad.

    Zhang WuJi said, “So what is the elder’s suggestions?” The tall old man said, “We have a Reverse Double Saber Art. You’ve already seen it. But Kun Lun also has a Forward Double Sword Art, which is also exquisite. They match up perfectly with our sabers. Should we combine our strength, two forms turn to four, four turns to eight. A mixture of Ying and Yang…” When he said this, he shook his head and said, “Too powerful, too powerful! There’s no way you can block it!” Zhang WuJi turned to the Kun Lun sect and said, “So who would like to come out from the Kun Lun sect?” The tall old man cut in and said, “Obviously, only the Iron Zither Couple are worthy of fighting with us. I just don’t know if Master He has the courage.” The members of the six sects all thought happily, “This old man really isn’t stupid after all. He’s seeking the help of the top two fighters of Kun Lun.” He TaiChong and Ban ShuXian looked at each other. They don’t know who these two old guys are, but since they’re the martial uncles of XianYu Tong, they must be respected elders. Besides, since they don’t live on the central plains, they don’t know too many people anyway. The couple thought, “They can’t beat this little kid, so want to drag us into it. This way, if we win, then can also save some face.” Only to hear the tall old man say, “I’m not surprised that they won’t come out. Although their Forward Double Sword Art is great, it’s still not quite as good as our Reverse Double Saber Art.” Ban ShuXian yelled angrily, “Who are you?” The tall old man said, “My surname is also He, Let’s go, Mrs. He.” His little joke prompted the crowd to start laughing*.

    *I’m not too sure about the joke here. But his words are suppose to be very funny. So let’s just assume that it is. <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0">

    Ban ShuXian has power in Kun Lun sect is near that of the master. Even He TaiChong has to defer to her sometimes. For years, she has acted like the queen on the Kun Lun Mountain. So how can she stand for this? Out comes the sword, aiming directly at the tall old man’s left arm. This all went in a blur. One moment, her hands are empty, the next, a sword appeared in her hands and is only inches away from the tall old man’s left shoulder. The tall old man quickly blocked turned his saber to block, ‘Dang’, the sword and the saber struck each other. Ban ShuXian used the ‘Plunder with the Golden Needle’ move, while the tall old man countered with the ‘No Plunder Will Succeed’, one goes forward, the other in reverse. The forms really are the exact opposites. As both fighters stepped back after the blow, they deeply became impressed with the other person. Both began to respect each other more. They thought, “These two techniques really do complement each other perfectly.” This is like a lonely person suddenly finding a friend. Ban ShuXian thought, “Their Reverse Saber really is something. If we fight together, our powers would grow exponentially. Besides, if they can’t beat this little kid, we might not either. Although it’s really terrible for four famous people like us to fight together, at least we can say that it’s the Hua Shan sect’s idea.” So she called out to He TaiChong, “Hey, come over here!” Although He TaiChong would never disobey his wife, he still has to act like a master of a sect in front of so many people. “Humph.” He called out to four servants. As one carried a sword, one carried an iron zither, the other two servants carried Buddha symbols, the five of them walked out into the arena. The servant with the sword then handed it over to He TaiChong, who took it, and promptly called off the servants. Ban ShuXian said to He TaiChong, “Hua Shan’s Reverse Double Saber Art isn’t too bad. Let’s go ahead and play around with this little kid. See just how powerful this combination can be.” As she finished and turned around, Ban ShuXian suddenly said “Huh?” upon seeing Zhang WuJi. “You… you…” She has only been apart from Zhang WuJi for five years, so although he has grown up these years, she still can see the resemblance from their last encounter. Zhang WuJi said, “Do you really want to talk about the past? My name is Zeng AhNuo.” Ban ShuXian realizes the meanings behind his words. If she reveals his identity, then he will reveal all those things her husband and her did to him in the past. So she said, “Young Hero Zeng’s skills really have advanced quite a bit. I congratulate you. Let’s see how well you’ve progressed.” Zhang WuJi said, “I’ve long known the fame of the couple’s mystical sword arts. I hope you’ll be lenient on me.” He TaiChong said, “What type of weapon would you use?” When Zhang WuJi saw him, he immediately thought of the poison-sucking snake, which died when he fell off the cliff. He also thought of that day when they went to Wu Dang and forced his parent to commit suicide. The, he remembered when He TaiChong forced Yang BuHui and him to take the poison. Thankfully, Yang Xiao was luckily there to save him, or he would’ve died that day in the mountains. With all these things in mind, Zhang WuJi’s temper flared, thinking, “Although I can’t kill you today, He TaiChong, I am going to give you a thorough beating.” He then flew towards a nearby plum tree, and took down a plum branch before floating down. He carried the branch towards the four people, and said, “I’ll use this as my weapon to test out Hua Shan and Kun Lun’s high arts.” No one could believe what they just heard, thinking, “How can he possibly fight against swords and sabers with this little thing?” Zhang WuJi said, “I heard father say that former master He ZuDao was the master of zither, chess, and sword, and was known as the Three Saints of Kun Lun. Too bad I was born so late, unable to meet this great gentleman.” Everyone can see that by praising the former master, he’s belittling the He couple. Suddenly, a person came out yelling, “Little twerp. Who do you think you are, speaking that way about my mentor and master-uncle.” Only to see a longhaired Taoist appear from the crowd, holding a sword aiming towards Zhang WuJi’s back. This attacks is quite silent, and done while he’s talking. So despite the appearance of a warning, it’s really a sneak attack. Zhang WuJi did not turn around. Just as the sword is about to reach his shirt, Zhang WuJi’s left foot kicked to the right. By the time the foot came back down, the sword has been stuck between his foot and the ground. That Taoist tries to pull it out, but couldn’t. Zhang WuJi turned around, and saw that this was the person he met on the ship as a child, Xi HuaZi. Zhang WuJi remembered that this person has a bad temper, and repeatedly insulted his mother. His own temper flared, and asked, “You are Taoist Xi HuaZi?”

    Xi HuaZi, whose face is now bright red, did not respond. He only kept on trying to pull out the sword with all his strength. Zhang WuJi suddenly released his foot while applied some chi to the sword point with his left foot. Since Xi HuaZi didn’t expect this, he immediately fell backward on his butt. Only to hear some ‘ding ding dang dang’, as his sword broke into pieces, leaving only the handle in his hand. He’s the student of Ban ShuXian, which is why he calls He TaiChong Master-Uncle. So when he saw his mentor’s face filled with rage, he knew he had disgraced her big time. Xi HuaZi hurriedly got up, and then said, “Little bastard…” Zhang WuJi originally planned on letting him go, but when he heard Xi HuaZi disparaging his parents with the word ‘bastard’, he could not hold down his anger. In a flash he swept the branch across Xi HuaZi’s chest, sealing three of his major pressure points. Then he said to the two old men and the He couple, “Let’s start!” Ban ShuXian whispered to Xi HuaZi, “Get out of here, you think you haven’t disgraced me enough already?” Xi HuaZi said, “Yes!” But he still doesn’t move. Ban ShuXian then yelled, “I told you to scram, did you not hear?” Xi HuaZi said, “Yes, mentor, yes!” Although his voice sounds respectful, he still did not move. Ban ShuXian thought, “How come he’s not listening to me?” Although she saw Zhang WuJi touch him with the branch, she couldn’t imagine that Zhang WuJi can seal pressure points through objects. So she pushed Xi HuaZi hard on the shoulders, and yelled, “Get out of here, stop disgracing yourself.”

    Xi HuaZi said, “Yes, I know, mentor.” His body moved a bit, but his arms and legs didn’t. At this point, The He couple realized that Zhang WuJi had sealed his pressure points somehow. He TaiChong walked over and tried to unseal him, but for unfortunately, his inner power isn’t enough. Xi HuaZi still could not move. Zhang WuJi pointed to Yang BuHui, and said, “Five years ago, you sealed her pressure points, then made her drink down the poisoned wine. Today I’m simply returning the favor.” When the masses heard this, they all looked at Yang BuHui, seeing only a young girl. Five years ago, she must’ve been a little kid. It really is quite terrible for a leader of a sect to do such a disgusting thing. Ban ShuXian saw that it isn’t a good idea to keep this up, so she immediately raised her sword, and began to attack Zhang WuJi. The two Hua Shan elders and He TaiChong immediately followed.

    Zhang WuJi moved in a blur, passing in between the sword and saber blows, his branch almost hitting He TaiChong’s face. Then Zhang WuJi’s left hand flicked the short old man’s saber, while his branch aimed at He TaiChong’s sword. He TaiChong thought that no matter how good he is, the branch could not possibly block my sword. But Zhang WuJi’s turned the branch sideways a bit, and skimmed the side of the sword. At this instant, Zhang applied inner power to the branch, shooting out a wave of chi that propelled the sword to the side, and incidentally hit the tall old man’s saber.

    The tall old man yelled, “What are you doing, helping the enemy, He TaiChong?” He TaiChong’s face turned red, but he couldn’t say that his sword went off course because of Zhang WuJi’s inner power. So he snapped back, “That’s ridiculous!” and then turned his attention back to Zhang WuJi.

    As He TaiChong attacked, Ban ShuXian waited from behind to cut off any escape possibilities. The two old men also utilized their reverse double sword techniques at the same time. Although they are the opposite, the sword and saber forms still follows the 8 diagrams of the Book of Changes. So they can position themselves perfectly to complement each other. As the match went out, they only attacked faster and faster. Zhang WuJi knew that this would be a tough fight. And it proved correct as the formation gave him no weaknesses to exploit. Many times, he came close to losing. If he had a real weapon in hand, he might have blocked them. But unfortunately, his attitude is too peaceful, so he just used a plum branch. Suddenly he saw the short old man’s saber coming straight at him. Just as Zhang WuJi dodge it, Ban ShuXian’s sword came from his back, skimming the back of his leg before he got out of the way. At this time, He TaiChong’s sword once again came straight at him, while the tall and short old men attacked from top and bottom. Thinking quickly, Zhang WuJi immediately sneaked behind Xi HuaZi, forcing Ban ShuXian and He TaiChong to withdraw their next attacks. Since he couldn’t figure out a way to counter this sword formation, he could only spin around Xi HuaZi, using him as a shield against oncoming attacks. In his heart, he yelled, “Zhang WuJi, oh Zhang WuJi. You really should not have been so overconfident. As they say, the arrogant is bound to lose. You really need to keep that in mind from now on. You just thought that there is indeed no inner power kung fu better than Jiu Yang Shen Gong. No kung fu technique more exquisite than Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. But there are always someone better than you.” Laughter came from the viewers, as they see Xi HuaZi only could stare helplessly in the middle of the battle, with swords and sabers coming at him. Ban ShuXian especially felt angry, as many chances of killing Zhang WuJi were wasted because of Xi HuaZi. Then the tall old man said, “Mrs. He, if you won’t kill him, I will.” Ban ShuXian snickered, “I can’t exactly control you, can I?” The tall old man then immediately aimed his saber at Xi HuaZi. Zhang WuJi thought, “Oh no. If he dies, then I would no longer have a shield. Plus, how can I let someone die for me?” So he waved his arm, and the wind carried by his sleeves guided the tall old man’s saber away. At the same time, the short old man came from the back, his saber moving silently. Zhang WuJi immediately got out of the way, but then found that his Saber is still continuing in the same direction. So he turned back and shot out his palms towards the short old man, prompting him to stop the attack. Xi HuaZia, grateful that Zhang WuJi saved his life twice, thought, “If I live past today, I’ll make sure to get back at these two old men.” When He TaiChong and Ban ShuXian saw Zhang WuJi protecting their student, their thoughts weren’t gratitude, but rather annoyance that Xi HuaZi is still around. Hence, their attacks became even more aggressive. Although it’s nearly impossible for them to aim for Zhang WuJi in this situation, they can aim for Xi HuaZi instead, and use him as bait to make Zhang WuJi help out. Then they can take the opportunity to attack Zhang WuJi straight on. When E Mei, Wu Dang, and Shaolin saw their methods, they can only shake their heads and feeling ashamed. As the battle went on, Zhang WuJi thought, “If I can’t beat them, then it’s no big deal for me to die. But why drag down the innocent with me?” He pushed back the tall old man’s attack and then used his branch to unseal Xi HuaZi’s pressure point. The short old man came from behind aiming for Xi HuaZi, but didn’t realize that his pressure point has been unsealed. Suddenly, he felt a fist hitting his nose, and blood poured out. Although the short old man’s kung fu is much better than Xi HuaZi’s, this blow came unexpectedly. So he couldn’t dodge. When the others saw this, they all started to laugh loudly. Ban ShuXian suppressed a laugh of her own, and ordered, “Xi HuaZi, get out of here!” Xi HuaZi said, “Yes. But I still owe that tall old man a punch.” But as he tried to attack the tall old man, the short old man immediately delivered a palm blow to his chest, prompting him to retreat, blood came out of his mouth. He TaiChong then came over, grabbed the back of his robe, and threw him back out into the crowd.

    The four fighters might be thoroughly pissed at each other, but with Xi HuaZi out of the way, their sword and saber combination can now execute flawlessly. Now the formation matched the strength of eight top fighters, their techniques unrivaled in variations and delicacy. For when the top kung fu theories of the central plains meets the top theories of the Xi Yu, one can see that the central plains kung fu theories are much more refined. It’s just that the Hua Shan and Kun Lun experts can only utilize twenty to thirty percent of their true potential; otherwise Zhang WuJi would’ve long been dead.

    Even so, Zhang WuJi could not break the formation, and can only try to keep himself alive. Every spectator watched with their hearts pounding, only to see sabers and swords flowing like the wind, sparkling under the sun. At this moment, Zhang WuJi can still easily escape with his vastly superior lightness kung fu. But then, what about the Ming sect? With that in mind, his only choice is to drag on the fight, hoping that they will eventually tire out. Unfortunately, he does not realize that these elders have some of the best inner powers in the world, making this an impossible task.

    Although the four fighters are at a huge advantage, none of them look all that pleased. They are already losing tons of face considering their reputation. How can four elders not even bring down a youngster in over three hundred moves? Thankfully, Zhang WuJi had already defeated Kong Sheng. Otherwise, this fight would already be a huge disaster.

    While watching the battle, elders of each sect talked quietly with their students, taking the opportunity to teach them valuable lessons.

    End of Chapter 21

  3. #23
    Senior Member dgfds01's Avatar
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    Chapter 22: Placating the Crowd and Three Conditions

    (Translation by Meh and dgfds01)

    (Meh)

    *Note: It’s quite possible that my translations in regarding the Book of Changes are off. I don’t know anything about Taoist teachings, so I can only make literal translations. Quite frankly, I have no clue what JY’s talking about here.

    E Mei’s Master Mie Jue said to her disciples, “This youngster’s kung fu is very strange, but the four fighters of Kun Lun and Hua Shan have trapped him in terms of techniques. Our righteous kung fu of central plains are broad and deep, much better than the devilish Xi Yu kung fu. The two forms uses four people. The four people occupy eight locations. The front side has eight-times-eight-for-sixty-four moves. The reverse side also has eight-times-eight-for-sixty-four moves. When combined, you have sixty-four-squared, or four thousand and ninety-two different variations. This is simply unrivaled in the world.”

    Zhou ZhiRuo, ever since she saw Zhang WuJi on the stage, has been worrying for his well-being. As one of Mie Jue’s favorite students, she has received much training in the realm of kung fu theory. So she began to ask loudly, “Master, although there are many variations in this front/reverse formation, it still does not deviate from the principle of Tai Chi dividing into Yin and Yang. In my opinion, the most important part of their formation lies with the positioning of their feet.” She said this in a clear, crisp voice; even Zhang WuJi could hear her in the middle of the fight. He turned his head, seeing that its Zhou ZhiRuo talking, and immediately thought, “Why is she speaking so loudly? Is she trying to help me?”

    Mie Jue said, “You’re very observant to have figured out the intricacies of their formation.” Zhou ZhiRuo started to talk to herself, “Yang divides up into Tai Yang, Shao Yang, Yin divides into Tai Yin, Shao Yin, Tai Yang is split into Gan and Dui, Shao Yin is split into Li and Zhen, Shao Yang is split into Xun and Kan, Tai Yin is split into Gen and Kun. Gan is south, Kun is north, Li is east, Kan is west, Zhen is northeast, Dui is southeast, Xun is southwest, Gen is northwest. From Zhen to Gan we have the front side, from Xun to Kun is the reverse side.” Then she said to Mie Jue, “Master, just as you said: Heaven and Earth determines the location, the wind flows in between the mountains, thunder and wind complements, water and fire cancels, forming the eight divine positions. Numbers are forward, while knowledge goes backward. Kun Lun’s sword art is forward, so they obviously go from the Zhen position to the Gan position. The Hua Shan Saber art is reverse, so they obviously go from Xun to Kun. Right, master?” Mie Jue was delighted to hear her disciple point out the intricacies of the sword formation, nodded, and said, “Good girl. These years of teachings were not wasted on you.” She almost never gives praises, so these words are the biggest compliments she’ll ever make. But she did not notice that Zhou ZhiRuo’s voice was way too loud. After all, why did she need to speak up when talking to someone besides her? However, others around them did notice. Zhou ZhiRuo saw many eyes looking at her, so she simply pretended to be naïve and happy, clapping her hand saying, “Master. That’s right, that’s right! We E Mei sect’s Four Shape Circular Position encapsulates a square, combining Ying and Yang, with Yang outside the circle, and Yin inside the square, Circle symbolizes movement of heaven, while square symbolizes the stillness of the earth, seemingly even superior than theirs.” Mie Jue had always been arrogant, feeling that her E Mei Four Shape Fist is one of the best kung fu in the world. So these words really made her happy. With a smile, she said, “Although in theory this is true. But in practice, it still depends on the user’s knowledge.”

    Zhang WuJi had learned some basic things about the Book of Changes when he was young. After Xiao Zhao’s help, he then figured out the Wu Wan Position. Now with Zhou ZhiRuo’s help, he realized the pattern behind the movements of the opponents. In an instant, he figured out many different ways to attack them. Each way would guarantee success.

    Yet he thought again, “But should I do this right now? Mie Jue would probably blame Ms. Zhou if it seems that she has helped me. Mie Jue is very cruel, and might do terrible things to her. I can’t possibly let her suffer because of me.” So he continued to go on like before, not changing his fighting style, while examining the moves of his opponents. With Zhou ZhiRuo telling him the basics, the rest became easy for him.

    But when Zhou ZhiRuo could not see any improvement, she became frustrated, and thought, “He’s concentrating on his enemies, so how can he digest all the information I told him?” She again began to speak loudly again, “Master, I bet Mr. Iron Zither will next move to the Gui Mei position, right?” Before Mie Jue could reply, Ban ShuXian yelled, “Little girl from E Mei, who the hell is this kid to you? Why are you helping him? You know, it’s not a good idea to mess with Kun Lun sect.”

    Zhou ZhiRuo’s face immediately turned red, as Mie Jue yelled, “ZhiRuo, stop talking. It’s not a good idea to mess with Kun Lun sect.” Her tone made it obvious that she’s protecting her student instead of scolding her. Zhang WuJi felt much warmth in his heart, thinking that if he kept on fighting like this, Zhou ZhiRuo would likely try other methods to help him. He started to laugh loudly and said, “I’ve already lost to E Mei, even got captured by Master Mie Jue. E Mei is certainly much better than you Kun Lun.” He stepped left two steps and shot out his plum branch at the short old man. His timing and accuracy are just perfect, following the concepts in the Book of Changes. The short old man felt a strong chi pushing from behind, and unwillingly changed his direction, instead aiming his saber towards Ban ShuXian. Ban ShuXian quickly tried to change her stance to block the attack. But at this time, she saw the tall old man coming to attack her. He TaiChong quickly came to the rescue, blocking the tall old man’s saber. At this time, Zhang WuJi’s palm shot out again, this time directing the short old man’s saber towards He TaiChong. Deeply angered, Ban ShuXian quickly attacked the short old man with three sword strokes, causing him to back off and yell, “Don’t fall into this little kid’s trap!” He TaiChong realized this, and turned around to attack Zhang WuJi again. But with Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, Zhang WuJi turned him back the other way again, his sword cutting the side of the tall old man’s arm. Screaming in pain, the tall old man counterattacked with his saber. The short old man screamed, “Brother, don’t lose your temper. It’s all because of that little kid, ouch…” Because Zhang WuJi had just turned away the sword of Ban ShuXian, prompting it to slash the back of the short old man. In an instant, both of the Hua Shan elders became hurt. The onlookers are gasped, not knowing what’s going on. They only see that simply by using his palm and a branch, Zhang WuJi could divert all attacks towards him onto someone else. After some more rounds, they saw the He couple’s sword and the two old men’s sabers collide numerous times. Everyone sees what’s happening, but no one knows how he’s doing it. Only Yang Xiao, who knows some rudimentary Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, can understand some of theory. But even he wouldn’t believe that Zhang WuJi actually knows Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi.

    Ban ShuXian started giving out orders, trying to change their positions a bit, but Zhang WuJi had covered all eight positions, so that no matter what they do, their weapons still ended up pointing towards themselves. After a while, Ban ShuXian threw away her sword and began attacking with her fists. The short old man saw this and thought, “Good idea. This kid knows some strange stuff, but he can’t divert our weapons if we don’t use any.” He followed by throwing away his saber. But as he did this, he saw Zhang WuJi diverting He TaiChong to him. Ban ShuXian yelled, “Get rid of your sword!” He TaiChong immediately changed his form, throwing back his sword in the process. The tall old man also released his grip on his saber, but just as he did so, he found something in his hand again. For Zhang WuJi had simply returned his saber to him. The tall old man yelled, “I don’t want it.” And threw it behind him. Yet Zhang WuJi once again grabbed the saber, and once again returned it to him. This repeated numerous times before the tall old man simply gave up, and began to laugh. At this time, the other three people kept attacking Zhang WuJi with bare fists. Being some of the best fighters in their sects, their bare-handed fighting techniques are also quite formidable. But no matter how much they try, they just could not touch Zhang WuJi, who escaped their attacks over and over.

    At this point, the four of them realizes that they’re not going to win, and started to wonder about how they should retreat. The tall old man suddenly yelled, “Stupid kid, watch out for my hidden weapon!” A spit came out of his mouth aiming towards Zhang WuJi. Zhang WuJi turned sideways to dodge it, while the tall old man sneaked in from the other side; his saber came at Zhang WuJi. But he then had to quickly withdraw his saber midway as Zhang WuJi pushed Ban ShuXian in the way, who incidentally caught the spit in her face.

    Ban ShuXian, deeply angered, tried to grab Zhang WuJi. The short old man waited behind to block off his escape. Both the tall old man and He TaiChong also attacked from other directions, thinking that this is time they’ll finally get this kid. But then Zhang WuJi utilized his Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, both feet left the ground quickly and flipped smoothly in midair, landing far away. Only to see the four Hua Shan and Kun Lun experts ram into each other, before falling back and landing on the ground.

    The tall old man got up and said, “Hey, little twerp, this isn’t fighting. You’re using witchcraft. What kind of hero does that?” The short old man realized that the longer they stay up here, the more embarrassing things will get, so he bowed to Zhang WuJi and said, “Your kung fu is incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. We admit defeat.” Zhang WuJi also bowed back and said, “Actually, if the elders hadn’t gone easy on me earlier, I would’ve already died under your sword formation.” This is actually somewhat true, for Zhang WuJi would’ve never won without Zhou ZhiRuo’s pointers. But the ‘gone easy on me’ was his own addition, in order to placate his opponents. The tall old man said, “Really? So you at least know that you didn’t win very righteously.” Zhang WuJi asked, “May I ask for your names?” The tall old man said, “My martial brother is Wei Zhen…” The short old man cut in, “Oh, shut up!” Then to Zhang WuJi, “We’re just losers. What’s the point to give our names?” As he said this, he returned to the Hua Shan group. The tall old man said, “What’s the problem with losing? Why so worrisome?” and followed back. Zhang WuJi walked up to XianYu Tong, sealed two of his pressure points, and said, “Once today’s events are over, I’ll give you the antidote.”

    Suddenly, he felt a breeze in the back. In his shock, Zhang WuJi reflexively flew up, only to hear two very low sounds passing under him. As he twisted back, he saw Ban ShuXian and He TaiChong’s swords stabbing into XianYu Tong’s chest. This is a special Kun Lun technique, called ‘No Sound No Form’, used for night battles. Of course, it’s also perfect for sneak attacks in the daytime. Unfortunately, they did not know that Zhang WuJi’s Jiu Yang Shen Gong automatically alarms Zhang WuJi of back attack, allowing him to get out of the way in time. After their miss, the He couple’s thoughts were, “If we don’t kill him today, how can we still have the face to live?” They turned around and attacked again, using only offensive moves, disregarding their own safety. After Zhang WuJi dodged a few attacks, he began to wonder just how to stop this couple. Then suddenly, he got an idea. He quickly reached down on the ground and grabbed some mud, rolling it into two balls. Then he went over to XianYu Tong and pretended to reach into his pocket. When the He couple caught up, he quickly turned around and applied a huge amount of chi to their chests, forcing both to open their mouths to breathe. In this instant, Zhang WuJi shot the mud balls into their mouths, and said, “This is Master XianYu’s golden bug poison. If it hasn’t already dissolved, you just might be able to force it back out with your inner power.” He TaiChong and Ban ShuXian quickly sat down and began to gather their chi. But by that time, they realize that it’s too late. The pill has already dissolved.

    Just as the couple is wondering what they should do, Zhang WuJi said, “Don’t worry. It won’t take affect within twelve hours. Once I’m done here, I’ll cure your poison. Just make sure you don’t try to give me poisoned wine in the future.” The He couple thanked him happily, even ignored his little sly remark.

    At this time, Mie Jue came out from the crowd and said to Song YuanQiao, “Hero Song, looks like it’s down to just us now. We E Mei sect are mainly females, so I leave the decision to you.” Song YuanQiao said, “I have already matched palms with Master Yin, but could not win. Your swordsmanship is unparalleled. I’m sure you can beat this youngster.” Mie Jue let out a cold laugh, pulled out the Heaven sword, and entered the arena. Wu Dang’s Yu LianZhou had been watching Zhang WuJi carefully. He realizes that although Mie Jue’s swordsmanship is excellent, it’s probably not likely any better than the combined forces of four Hua Shan and Kun Lun. Should she lose also, and for some reason Wu Dang also can’t handle this kid, then this whole trip would be a total waste. So he stepped up and said, “Master Mie Jue, let us five brothers first try him out first. Then you can surely win.” His intentions are clear. Wu Dang concentrates heavily on inner power. After matching inner power with five Wu Dang experts, Zhang WuJi can’t possibly have any strength left to handle Mie Jue’s sword.

    Mie Jue realizes Yu LianZhou’s meaning, but thought, “Why do we need your help? Besides, what’s the honor in winning that way?” She has always been arrogant. Even though she saw Zhang WuJi defeat so many experts, she just figured that these people are useless fools. After all, wasn’t she the one who captured him in the first place? Although he showed amazing inner power by absorbing her three palm strikes, but so what? With that in mind, Mie Jue said, “Please go back, Second Hero Yu. Once my Heaven Sword comes out, I cannot casually put it back in its sheath.”

    Upon hearing this, Yu LianZhou said “Yes” and retreated. Mie Jue held up her sword, pointing at Zhang WuJi. Countless Ming sect members had died under this Heaven sword. Many began murmur. Mie Jue gave a cold laugh, said, “What are you yapping about? After I finish off this kid, it will be your turn. Afraid that you won’t die fast enough?” Yin TianZheng knows the sharpness of the Heaven sword, and asked, “Young Hero Zeng, which weapon would you use?” Zhang WuJi said, “Elder Yin, I don’t have any weapons. How about you decide which one I should use.”

    Yin TianZheng took out a sword from his side, said, “I’ll give you this White Rainbow Sword. Although it’s not nearly as good as the Heaven Sword, it’s still very powerful.” As he said this, he gave the sword to Zhang WuJi, who said, “Thank you, Elder Yin.” Yin TianZheng said, “I have had this sword for many years, but have never used it. Humph, what’s so heroic about winning due to a superior weapon? Today I’ll die peacefully knowing this sword will draw the blood of this old nun.” Zhang WuJi thought, “But I can’t harm Mie Jue.” He held up the White Rainbow Sword and turned around. Then said to Mie Jue, “My sword skills are very mediocre, and certainly not on par with yours. Why don’t we just call a truce, and you let these people go?” Mie Jue said coldly, “You have to win my sword before making any requests.” The Ming sect members began to yell, “Old hag, if you’re really that good you should fight him with your bare hands.” “What’s so great about your swordsmanship? It’s just the sword that’s good.” “Why don’t you try using a regular sword? Then if you can survive three of Hero Zeng’s moves, we’ll consider you good.” “Three moves? She can’t even survive one!” Mie Jue simply ignored these remarks, yelling at Zhang WuJi, “Go ahead!”

    Zhang WuJi has never learnt any sword techniques before, so he’s lost at what to do. Suddenly, he remembered He TaiChong’s sword techniques just a while back, and emulated him as he attacked. Mie Jue yelled, “Kun Lun’s ‘Mountain Cliff Breaking Cloud’!” The Heaven Sword also moved, but rather than blocking, it ignored Zhang WuJi’s attack, aiming straight for the Zhang WuJi’s vital points instead. This attack carried an unimaginable power which quickly bared down on Zhang WuJi. Zhang WuJi quickly got out of the way, faltering a bit and started to roll on the floor. Just as he was getting back up, he felt a powerful wind coming from behind. With a quick spring of the right foot, Zhang WuJi’s body shot up vertically with great speed, getting out of the way. This was an escape no one had thought possible, just as the crowd was about to cheer, they see Mie Jue change her direction midway, and renewed her attack upwards. Before he could land, the sword light had blocked off his path downward. Zhang WuJi can’t change directions in midair, unable to escape. Under the sweep of the Heaven Sword, he nearly lost both of his legs. But at the critical juncture, he was able to turn his body and the pointed the White Rainbow Sword down, its tip meeting the tip of the Heaven Sword. Only to see the White Rainbow Sword bend a bit, before Zhang WuJi utilized the bounce to shoot back up.

    Mie Jue would no let up, attacking three more times at Zhang WuJi. While in midair, Zhang WuJi can only block with his sword. ‘Ding’ the White Rainbow Sword broke. Zhang WuJi then shot out with his palm at Mie Jue’s head. Mie Jue countered by trying to cut off the oncoming palm with her sword. But Zhang WuJi saw this perfectly, and flicked the Heaven Sword on its side while he backed off, landing on the ground a few yards out. Mie Jue felt a strong vibration coming from the sword, almost causing her to drop the sword. Only to see Zhang WuJi standing there blankly, holding his broken sword. This sequence of events really was beyond belief. In a few short moments, Mie Jue had unleashed eight attacks, each deadly accurate. Yet each dissipated before Zhang WuJi, who escaped near-death after each blow. The attacks were delicate and fine; the escapes were quick and clever. The spectators’ hearts almost flew out from all the action. No one had ever seen anything like it. Attacking like gods in Heaven, while evading like ghosts in Hell. Just as lightning and thunder, even when over, they can still send chills down one’s spine.

    During the eight blows, Zhang WuJi was basically getting killed, while Mie Jue held all the initiative. But Zhang WuJi’s flick at the last moment temporarily froze Mie Jue. Had he taken the opportunity to immediately strike, he would’ve won the battle by now. Unfortunately, Zhang WuJi lacked the battle experience to realize this. However, Mie Jue understands the situation, so she said, “Get another weapon. Then we’ll fight again.” Zhang WuJi thought, “I broke my grandfather’s precious sword in just a few moves. What other weapon can possibly block the Heaven Sword?” As he’s pondering, Zhou Dian* said, “I have a very good saber. Go ahead and use it.” Zhang WuJi said, “The Heaven Sword is way too powerful. I’m afraid of breaking your saber.” Zhou Dian said, “Who cares? If you lose, we’re all going to die anyway. What’s the point of saving a weapon?” Zhang WuJi nodded in his mind, and went over to grab the saber. As he did this, Yang Xiao whispered, “Mr. Zhang, be aggressive. Don’t let her take the initiative.” Zhang WuJi froze a bit when he heard Yang Xiao call him ‘Mr. Zhang’. But then realized that since Yang BuHui knows his identity, she obviously told this to her dad. Wei YiXiao also whispered, “Take advantage of your lightness kung fu. DO NOT slow down even for a moment.” Zhang WuJi, happy to have received such great pointers, said, “Thank you for your advice.” Had they not been injured, Wei YiXiao and Yang Xiao on par with Mie Jue in terms of kung fu. So they have no problems pointing out the best tactics against the Heaven Sword. Zhang WuJi took the saber and went back into the arena. He then said, “Master Mie Jue, I’m coming!” Immediately, Zhang WuJi utilized his lightness kung fu to get behind Mie Jue, before she can turn around, he quickly attacked twice.

    Mie Jue dodged the blows, but when she tried to counter, she couldn’t find Zhang WuJi. Even before he learnt Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, Zhang WuJi’s lightness kung fu was superior to Mie Jue’s. Now the difference is night and day. The crowd sees him stepping left, then stepping right, quick as lightning, practically spin circles around Mie Jue. Even Wei YiXiao can’t help but be in awe. Yet no matter how fast he is, Zhang WuJi still had to keep a certain distance from Mie Jue, not wanting to come in contact with the power of the Heaven Sword. Plus, he’s hardly skilled at using weapons. So despite the obvious advantage, Zhang WuJi still could not win after several moves.

    E Mei’s disciples all realize that should this fight continue, their master would surely lose. Jing Xuan yelled, “Today we’re here to root out the devil sect, not to compete in the kung fu. Let’s all go up trap him, so that he can’t keep playing hide-and-seek with our master.” As she spoke, her sword came out. The E Mei disciples all rushed forward, circling around to surround Zhang WuJi and Mie Jue. Ding MinJun said to Zhou ZhiRuo coldly, “Sister Zhou, it’s your choice whether you want to go up there or not.” Zhou ZhiRuo, her face blushing, said angrily, “What’s that comment for?”

    At this moment, Zhang WuJi appeared in front of Ding MinJun. With a quick wave of his hand, he grabbed her sword and in a fluent motion sent it towards Mie Jue. Mie Jue quickly waved her sword to block the flying sword. But while breaking Ding MinJun’s sword in two, her hand vibrated intensely due to the sheer force of Zhang WuJi’s throw. Before Mie Jue could recover, more swords came at her, as Zhang WuJi kept grabbing and throwing her disciples’ swords. Although only the best disciples followed Mie Jue on this trip, they still could not do anything while Zhang WuJi take their weapons.

    After cutting down a few swords, Mie Jue felt extreme pain on her right arm. So she switched over to her left hand. Her swordsmanship is the same no matter which hand she uses. Only to see broken sword pieces dance in the air, as onlookers step back to avoid the shards. In just a few moments, all the E Mei disciples become empty-handed, with Zhou ZhiRuo being the lone exception.

    Still thankful of her advice earlier, Zhang WuJi did not even try to approach her. But as a result, it made things worse by singling her out. Zhou ZhiRuo thought this might happen, so she was one of the first to attack. But Zhang WuJi’s speed is simply way too fast for her. Besides, he purposely avoided her, preventing her from giving up her sword. Ding MinJun said in a cold voice, “Sister Zhou, he really does treat you differently.” By this time, Zhang WuJi went back to concentrating on fighting Mie Jue, each sword stroke aiming directly at her vital points. Mie Jue, who while trying to dodge and block the oncoming assault, heard Ding MinJun’s words clearly. She suddenly thought, “Why doesn’t this kid take ZhiRuo’s sword too? Could there really be something between them? I need to test this.” So she immediately yelled, “ZhiRuo! Are you going against your master?” As she spoke, her sword quickly shot towards Zhou ZhiRuo’s chest.

    Zhou ZhiRuo didn’t dare to raise her sword to block, and could only yell in shock, “Master, I…” When she said to here, Mie Jue’s sword is nearly at her chest. Zhang WuJi does not know that Mie Jue was simply testing them. After having witnessed her personally kill Ji XiaoFu, Zhang WuJi could only assume the worst. So without thinking, he raced ahead of Mie Jue, picked up Zhou ZhiRuo by her waist, and flew several yards away.

    Finally getting back the initiative, Mie Jue quickly turned her attention towards Zhang WuJi. Despite his amazing inner power, Zhang WuJi hasn’t really learnt any lightness kung fu techniques. So he can’t be like Wei YiXiao, keeping his speed even while carrying a person. Zhang WuJi felt a strong wind from behind, turned around and blocked with his saber. ‘Dang’ the saber broke as it crossed path with the Heaven Sword. Zhang WuJi quickly threw out the remaining half a saber at Mie Jue, hoping to slow her down a bit. This throw utilized ninety percent of his powers, forcing Mie Jue to lower her head and dodge it. As the saber flew right over her head, Mie Jue felt a tinge of pain from the accompanying wind, temporarily paralyzing her. Zhang WuJi sees this chance, and quickly stepped up towards her, his palm shot out, and in a fluent motion snatched the Heaven Sword from her hand.

    The wrist power involved in this sword-taking method had the backing of the seventh level of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. Although her kung fu is high, Mie Jue still could not block such a powerful and accurate palm move. Zhang WuJi, even in triumph, did not let down his guard, pointing the Heaven Sword at Mie Jue’s throat. Then he stepped back a few steps slowly, when suddenly Zhou ZhiRuo struggled against his hold, yelling, “Let me go!” Zhang WuJi said in shock, “Oh! Forgot!” His face pure red as she let her go, only to smell a faint flowery scent as her headband went by his nose. Zhang WuJi couldn’t help but take a look at her, only to see her face a bit pale, looking very bashful. Although she tried to look mad, he could see in her eyes extreme joy and happiness. Mie Jue straightened herself. In silence, she looked at Zhou ZhiRuo, then at Zhang WuJi, her face whiter and whiter.

    Zhang WuJi turned the sword around and said to Zhou ZhiRuo, “Ms. Zhou, please return this sword to your master.” Zhou ZhiRuo looked at Mie Jue and saw her incredible anger. Thousands of thoughts entered her mind at that moment, “In this situation, with the way Mr. Zhang treats me, master must think that he and I are lovers. She’ll surely throw me out of E Mei. What will I do? Although Mr. Zhang has treated me incredibly well, I never did plan on helping him fight against my own sect.” Suddenly she heard Mie Jue bark out, “ZhiRuo! Kill him!”

    Back when Zhang SanFeng took Zhou ZhiRuo back to Wu Dang Mountain, he felt that it was awkward for her to stay there, since Wu Dang has no female disciples. So he took her to the E Mei sect. Zhou ZhiRuo is naturally intelligent. Plus, with her parents both dead, she concentrated solely on kung fu, and improved quickly, becoming one of Mie Jue’s favorite disciple. For the past seven years, the words of Mie Jue are like Holy Scriptures to her. She has never harbored any thoughts of defiance. So when she heard her master telling her to kill Zhang WuJi, she did not even have to think. Taking the sword from Zhang WuJi’s hand, and in one smooth motion quickly stabbing him. Zhang WuJi, never dreamed that she would possibly hurt him, did not make any attempt to dodge. In an instant, the sword has moved next to his chest. By the time he regained his senses, Zhang WuJi made a last second effort to get out of the way. But it was already too late. Zhou ZhiRuo only felt numbness in her wrist, thinking, “Am I really going to kill him?” In a state of semi-consciousness, she penetrated the sword through Zhang WuJi’s right side of the chest. Zhou ZhiRuo let out a scream, pulling out the sword, only to see red blood gushing out of Zhang WuJi’s chest, prompting everyone to gasp. Zhang WuJi blocked the wound with his hand, his body shaking, his face a strange expression, as if asking, “You really want to kill me?” Zhou ZhiRuo said, “I… I…” She wants to go over and check on him, but was too afraid, so instead she quickly turned around and ran out of the arena.

    No one thought that her strike would succeed. Xiao Zhao’s face turned white, rushed forward to hold up Zhang WuJi, yelling, “You… you...” Zhang WuJi said to Xiao Zhao, “Why… why do you want to kill me…” Luckily, the sword was a bit off to the side, and didn’t penetrate Zhang WuJi’s heart. But it did skim his lungs. When he finished talking, he began to have trouble breathing, and started cough loudly. In his condition, Zhang WuJi can’t tell the difference between Xiao Zhao and Zhou ZhiRuo. Blood kept spilling out, turning Xiao Zhao’s clothing pure red. Every member of the audience, whether they are the Ming sect, Heavenly Eagle sect, or the six major sects, all became quiet. Everyone was moved deeply by the amazing kung fu and compassion Zhang WuJi showed during his bouts. When they saw the Heaven Sword penetrating his chest, all wondered whether this is a fatal blow or not. Xiao Zhao carefully put Zhang WuJi down on the ground, then yelled, “Who has the best medicine for wounds?” Shaolin’s Kong Sheng quickly stepped up and took out a bottle from his robe, said, “This is Shaolin’s best medicine for treating external wounds.” He immediately opened Zhang WuJi’s shirt and quickly applied the medicine on the deep cut. But unfortunately, the wound is too deep and blood kept spilling out. Kong Sheng muttered impatiently, “What should I do? What should I do?” The He couple also became agitated, thinking that if Zhang WuJi died, then they would die too. He TaiChong quickly walked over to Zhang WuJi’s side and asked, “Can you tell me how to cure this poison?” Xiao Zhao yelled at him while crying, “Get out of here! If Young Master Zhang can’t live, then everyone dies with him.” He TaiChong ignored her and kept asking, “How do I cure the golden bug poison?” Kong Sheng said angrily, “If you don’t leave now, I won’t be held responsible for my actions.” At this moment, Zhang WuJi regained a bit of consciousness, opened his eyes. He immediately sealed seven pressure points around the wound, greatly decreasing the blood spillage. Kong Sheng quickly applied more medicine to block the rest of the blood, while Xiao Zhao tore up some of her clothing to wrap him up. When she saw just how pale he looks, her mind became filled with unspeakable agitation and fright. After a while, Zhang WuJi regained his senses. His only thought was, “As long as I’m alive, I can’t let the six major sects destroy the Ming sect.” With that in mind, he and got up and said, “Is there anyone else from E Mei or Wu Dang who wants to challenge me?”

    Mie Jue said, “E Mei has already lost today. If you don’t die, we’ll settle this later. Let’s see what’s Wu Dang can do now!” With Kong Dong, Shaolin, Kun Lun, Hua Shan, and E Mei all losing, Wu Dang is the only sect left who can challenge this youngster. Considering his injury, even second-rate fighters should have no problems with him. Any of the five Wu Dang heroes can easily beat him. Yet Wu Dang is famous for their ‘Righteousness’. How can they fight such a wounded person? However, if Wu Dang won’t challenge him, then won’t this whole attack be in vain? Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou, Zhang SongXi, Yin LiTing, and Muo ShengGu all looked at each other. No one can think of a good plan. Suddenly, they heard Song QingShu yell, “Dad, martial uncles, let me fight him.” The five Wu Dang heroes realizes his intentions. Song QingShu is one generation lower, so he’s much more appropriate for such a battle.

    Yu LianZhou said, “No! It won’t make much of a difference if you go instead of us.” Zhang SongXi said, “Second brother, in my opinion, we should worry about the whole picture.” Muo ShengGu said, “Reputations aren’t really important. But to do such thing to such an injured youngster...” Not knowing what to do, they all looked at Song YuanQiao, deferring to him. Song YuanQiao saw Yin LiTing standing quietly on the side, knows that his fiancé lost her virginity and subsequently her life to Yang Xiao. He said, “If we don’t destroy the Devil sect today, they’ll only cause more suffering in the world. So we have no choice. QingShu, be careful.”

    Song QingShu bowed and said, “Yes.” He walked over to Zhang WuJi and yelled, “Young Hero Zeng, if you aren’t a member of the Ming sect, you can leave now. The six major sects are just here to destroy the Ming sect.”

    Zhang WuJi said, “Thank you for your kindness. But… I have decided to live and die with the Ming sect!” People from the Ming and Heavenly Eagle sect all began to yell, “Young Hero Zeng. We shall forever remember your incredible kindness today. At this point, you really don’t need to keep fighting us.” Yin TianZheng got up and said, “Mr. Song, let me try out your powerful Wu Dang kung fu.” But just as he got up, he immediately felt numbness in his legs, and had to sit back down again. Song QingShu said, “In that case, I have no choice but to fight you. I’m sorry.” Xiao Zhao quickly shielded in front of Zhang WuJi, and yelled, “Then you have to kill me first.” Zhang WuJi said quietly, “Xiao Zhao, don’t worry. He can’t kill me.” Xiao Zhao said, “But… but you’re injured.” Zhang WuJi said tenderly, “Xiao Zhao, why are you so kind to me?” Xiao Zhao said, “Because… because you’re kind to me.” Zhang WuJi stared at her for a moment and thought, “Even if I die today, at least I have a true friend who’s good to me.” Song QingShu yelled at Xiao Zhao, “Get out of here!” Zhang WuJi said, “Why are you so rude to this little girl?” Song QingShu grabbed Xiao Zhao’s head and pushed her away, then said, “Devilish couple, how disgusting. Get up so we can fight!” Zhang WuJi said, “I heard that your father is a very honorable and righteous man. Yet you are so bullish. You’re not worthy of me fighting standing up.” In reality, he can’t fight standing-up even if he wants to.

    Yu LianZhou said, “QingShu. Simply seal his pressure point. Don’t hurt him.” Song QingShu responded, “Yes.” Then he shot out his right hand aiming for Zhang WuJi’s pressure point. Zhang WuJi didn’t move, letting him hit his own ‘Jian Zhen Point’. At the same moment, he gathered his inner power, pushing the fingers back out. It’s almost as if Song QingShu just pointed his fingers at a pond of water, showing no effect. After gathering himself, his right foot flew out, heading towards Zhang WuJi’s chest. This kick utilized much of his energy. Although Yu LianZhou told him not to hurt this youngster, for some reason, he feels much hatred towards this youngster. This really isn’t because he has an ill temper, but rather because of the caring and affectionate look on Zhou ZhiRuo’s face for this youngster. Although she did stab him in the end, one can easily see the tremendous pain on her face while doing so.

    After he saw Zhou ZhiRuo, Song QingShu’s eyes rarely moved too far away from her. Although he couldn’t watch her directly all the time, none of her expressions and actions escaped his vision. He thought, “After this stab, whether this youngster lives or dies, he will forever be entrenched in her heart.” If he kills this youngster, Zhou ZhiRuo would certainly hate him. But how can he possibly pass up this only chance of killing him? Only to see Zhang WuJi’s fingers calmly pushing the feet out of the way, causing it to slide harmlessly to the side. Song QingShu immediately regained his footing, and then kicked back with his left foot, once again diverted by Zhang WuJi’s fingers.

    After three exchanges, no one expected this kind of result. Song YuanQiao yelled, “QingShu, he has no strength left in his body. He’s using your force against you.”

    Song QingShu immediately changed his tactics after hearing his dad’s pointer. His strokes became soft and light, sometimes seemingly lack any sort of power. This is Wu Dang’s ‘Soft Palm’. The idea of redirecting the enemy’s attacks is the basis for Wu Dang kung fu, and the ‘Soft Palm’ is the epitome of this sort of fighting style. However, there is still a limit to its softness, while Zhang WuJi has already mastered all seven levels of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. With his left hand holding the wound, Zhang WuJi blocked all attacks with his right hand, moving up and down in different rhythms as if playing a zither. Even after he finished using all thirty-six moves of Soft Palms, Song QingShu still could not touch this youngster.

    While in frustration, Song QingShu accidentally saw Zhou ZhiRuo, only to see her face filled with concern, causing him to feel even angrier, because the concern is not for him. After taking a deep breath, Song QingShu’s left aimed towards Zhang WuJi’s right cheek, while his right palm aimed straight for Zhang WuJi’s ‘Que Pan Point’. This move is called ‘Flower Blooms Giving Fruit’. Although the name is pretty, the move is deadly. Two hands move at the same time with blazing speed, yet each hand attacks in a different way, combining two attacks in one. Song QingShu attacked with the force of a tornado and the speed of lightning, prompting the audience to gasp. Only to see his left hand hit his own right cheek, his right hand sealing his own ‘Que Pan Point’, as Zhang WuJi diverted both of his attacks back at him with Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. Feeling a sharp pain on his Que Pan Point, Song QingShu fell back, struggled on the ground, unable to get back up. Song YuanQiao immediately went up and quickly unsealed his pressure point. S

    Suddenly, Zhang WuJi opened his mouth, and big gulps of blood spilled out. Everyone looked at him with concern, thinking, “Although he fought off Song QingShu, he has used up all his remaining energy.” They then looked over at the Wu Dang sect, wondering if they will send someone else or give up. Song YuanQiao said, “Wu Dang has done all it can today. The devil sect must be fated to live on. That’s why a strange youngster appeared today to save them from destruction. How can we still be righteous if we still keep on fighting?” Yu LianZhou said, “Big brother is correct. We’ll go back and seek the advice of our master. When this youngster has recovered from his injuries, Wu Dang will come back and challenge him again.” Zhang SongXi and Muo ShengGu both then added, “Second brother is correct.” Suddenly, Yin LiTing stepped into the arena; his sword pointing at Zhang WuJi, yelling, “Mr. Zeng, I have no ill feelings towards you. So I won’t kill you. But Yang Xiao is my biggest sworn enemy. I must kill him!” Zhang WuJi shook his head, saying, “As long as I’m alive, I won’t let you kill anyone in the Ming sect.” Yin LiTing said, “In that case, I will kill you!”

    Zhang WuJi coughed up another gulp of blood. His head half-conscious, his heart serene, and whispered, “Sixth Uncle Yin, then go ahead and kill me!” When Yin LiTing heard the words ‘Sixth Uncle Yin’, he thought, “WuJi always called me by this name when he was young. This youngster…” He looked closely at Zhang WuJi’s face. The more he looked, the more this face look like the child he remembered from nine years ago. So he asked, “You… are you WuJi?”

    With no more energy left knowing he’s near death, Zhang WuJi felt no more need to hide his identity, and whispered, “Sixth Uncle Yin, I… I think of you… often.” Tears poured down Yin LiTing’s face. He let go of his sword, rushed forward, and held Zhang WuJi in his arms, yelling, “You’re Wuji, you’re my fifth brother’s son Zhang WuJi.” Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou, Zhang SongXi, and Muo ShengGu all immediately went up to Zhang WuJi upon hearing this, their face filled with extreme happiness. At this moment, nothing else in the world mattered to them.

    With this yell, other than the He couple, Zhou ZhiRuo, Yang Xiao and a few others, everyone gasped. No one could believe that this youngster is actually Zhang CuiShan’s son.

    Yin LiTing sees that Zhang WuJi had already fainted, so he hurriedly took out a ‘Heavenly Heart Protecting Pill’ and put it in his mouth. After handing Zhang WuJi over to Yu LianZhou, he pulled out his sword, rushed in front of Yang Xiao, and scolded, “Yang Xiao, you wicked bastard, I…I…” His throat became stuck, unable to keep yelling any further. The long sword shot out, aiming directly at Yang Xiao’s heart. Yang Xiao, unable to move, simply closed his eyes and smiled, waiting for his death. Suddenly, a young girl came from the side, blocking in front of Yang Xiao, yelling, “Don’t hurt my daddy!” Ying LiTing stopped. As he looks closely at this person, an “Ah” sound came out. His body turned cold as ice as he saw this girl. Tall and slender, eyes big and bright, she’s actually Ji XiaoFu! After Yin LiTing got engaged to Ji XiaoFu, he never could concentrate on practicing his kung fu, as his thoughts were always filled with images of his fiancé. When he later found out that Yang Xiao kidnapped her, raped her, and killed her, the pain in his heart could not be described in words. Now that she has appeared in front of him once again, he stumbled, and said with shock, “Sister XiaoFu, you… you haven’t…”

    That young girl is of course Yang BuHui. She said, “My surname is Yang. Ji XiaoFu is my mom, she’s already dead.” Yin LiTing paused, then figured out what’s going on. He said, “Oh, you’re right. That was stupid of me! You should get out of the way. Today I’m here to seek revenge for you mother.”

    Yang BuHui points to Mie Jue, “Fine. Uncle Yin, go kill this old nun then.” Yin LiTing asked, “W…Why?” Yang BuHui said, “Because my mom died under her palm.” Yin LiTing said, “Don’t be ridiculous! What does a child like you know?” Yang BuHui responded in a cold voice, “That day at the Butterfly Valley, old nun wanted my mom to come kill my dad. My mom refused, so the old nun killed her.” At the time of Ji XiaoFu’s death, Yang BuHui is still a little girl. So she obviously didn’t realize exactly what had happened. But as she grew up and recalled those events, she pieced everything together. Yin LiTing turned around and looked at Mie Jue, his face filled with puzzlement, asking, “Is… she... Ms. Ji really…”

    Mie Jue responded in a crisp, loud voice, “She’s right. What use is there to let such a despicable student live? She and Yang Xiao loved each other. She would rather disobey me than to go kill him. Sixth Hero Yin, I only lied to save you some face. Humph, what’s the need to remember such a ****?” Yin LiTing’s face turned green, yelling, “I don’t believe you! I don’t believe you!” Mie Jue said, “Why don’t you ask this girl her name?” Yin LiTing turned towards Yang BuHui. Through his teary eyes he could only see Ji XiaoFu, but his ears heard clearly, “ My name is Yang BuHui*. My mom said that she never regretted what had happened.’”

    *Bu means ‘No’. Hui means ‘Regret’.

    ‘Dang’, Yin LiTing dropped his sword, turned around and ran down the mountain. Song YuanQiao and Yu LianZhou yelled, “Sixth brother, sixth brother!” But Yin LiTing did not respond. As he’s running, Yin LiTing suddenly tripped, but he quickly got back up and resumed running.

    Everyone only felt sympathy as they watch Yin LiTing, for how could a person of his kung fu skills trip while running? The only reason would be if his mind is in a state of total disorder. At this time, Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou, Zhang SongXi, and Muo ShengGu all sat around Zhang WuJi, their palms pushing against four of Zhang WuJi’s major pressure points, trying to heal him with their inner power. Only to feel a great deal of energy in his body, sucking their strength into him at a rapid pace. If they keep this up, their inner powers would be totally gone in four hours. Yet with Zhang WuJi’s life hanging in the balance, they can’t release their palms. Suddenly, Zhang WuJi opened his eyes, and in an instant, Song YuanQiao and others felt their chi moving backwards, returning to them. Song YuanQiao yelled, “Don’t! You need to rest.” The four brothers immediately released their palms, only to feel Zhang WuJi’s Jiu Yang chi rushing into their body, strengthening their inner powers. The four brothers couldn’t believe that even with his injury, Zhang WuJi can summon such great deal of inner power. Zhang WuJi said, “Eldest Uncle Song, Second Uncle Yu, Fourth Uncle Zhang, Seventh Uncle Muo, sorry about that. How is Martial Grandfather’s health?” Yu LianZhou said, “Master is doing well. WuJi, you… you’re so big…” Despite having thousands of words in his mind, no more words would come out. Only tears of joy flowed down their cheeks.

    Delighted that that the youngster is his grandson, Yin TianZheng started to laugh out loud. But he could still could not muster the strength to get up.

    Mie Jue waved her hands, as the E Mei disciples all followed her down the mountain. Zhou ZhiRuo followed her martial sisters slowly with her head down. After a few steps, she could not help but look back. Her gaze met that of Zhang WuJi’s, who was watching her leave. Zhou ZhiRuo’s face immediately turned red, her eyes seemingly saying, “I’m really sorry to have stabbed you so severely. Please take care of yourself.” Zhang WuJi seemingly realized her thoughts, and simply nodded. Zhou ZhiRuo’s face brightened up considerably, and with a big smile, left quickly with the rest of the E Mei sect.

    Hua Shan and Kong Dong, taking their wounded, also followed down the mountain. He TaiChong came up to Zhang WuJi and said, “Little friend, congratulations on meeting your relatives…” Before he could continue, Zhang WuJi took out two common painkiller pills and said, “Here is the antidote.” He TaiChong took the pills, wondering if it really can cure his poison. Zhang WuJi added, “If I say it’s the antidote, then it really is the antidote.” Despite his low voice, everyone can see how serious he is. Besides, even if he’s lying, He TaiChong knows that he cannot force Zhang WuJi to do anything with the Wu Dang brothers around. He could only respond, “Thank you!” and swallowed the pill with Ban ShuXian. The Kun Lun sect then went down the mountain.

    Yu LianZhou said, “WuJi, you cannot go down the mountain right now due to your injury, and we can’t stay here either. But when you have time, please come to Wu Dang, if only so master can take a look at you.” Zhang WuJi nodded with teary eyes. Although they have many questions, the Wu Dang brother did not ask any, for they do not want to further burden Zhang WuJi in his current state. Suddenly, they heard a Shaolin monk yelling, “Where’s brother Yuan Zhen’s body?” Muo ShengGu looked over at Shaolin’s pile of bodies, and indeed could not see his body among the dead.

    Yuan Yin yelled at the Ming sect, “Give us back brother Yuan Zhen’s body!” Zhou Dian said with a smile, “Haha! Are you kidding me? If we don’t even care to keep your live bodies, what the hell would we do with a dead one?” Shaolin realizes that he’s right, and began searching around. But the body never showed up. They figured that some other sect must have taken it by mistake, and also began to head down the mountain. As Wu Dang sect started to leave, Zhang WuJi kowtowed to send them off. Song YuanQiao said, “WuJi, you are now the savior of the Ming sect. I hope you can guide them down the road of righteousness from now on.” Zhang SongXi said, “Be careful. Make sure you guard against the sinister people.” Zhang WuJi answered, “Yes.”

    When the six major sects all left, Yin TianZheng and Yang Xiao looked at each other, then said together, “Members of the Ming sect and the Heavenly Eagle sect express thanks to Hero Zhang for saving our lives!” In an instant, everyone got on their knees and kowtowed on the ground. Zhang WuJi doesn’t know what to do, seeing his elders and even his grandfather and uncle among the people bowing. He tried to return the bow, but reopened his wound while trying to do so, and fainted. Xiao Zhao quickly held him back up. Two uninjured Ming sect members came by with a stretcher, putting Zhang WuJi on it. Yang Xiao said, “Take him to my room and let him rest there.”

    Xiao Zhao followed Zhang WuJi as he’s being taken away. As she walked by Yang BuHui, she heard Yang BuHui say coldly, “Xiao Zhao, you really are a great actress. I knew you were strange, but I never thought that an ugly girl like you is actually a great beauty.” Xiao Zhao did not respond, only kept on walking. For the next few days, everyone on the Brightness Peak only focused on healing their wounds. After the last life-and-death battle, they all regretted the past years of inner turmoil. No one brought up any past differences, as everyone rested peacefully on Brightness Peak, healing their injuries.

    (Continued by dgfds01)

    Though Zhang Wuji's injuries were not light, Zhou Zhirou's sword had missed his heart and lungs by a few inches. With the aid of his completed Art of Nine Yang, after convalescing for seven or eight days, his wound gradually healed. Each day, Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, Shuo Bu De and others were carried into his room to visit him. They were very happy to see his condition improve day by day. After about eight days, Zhang Wuji could sit up. That night, Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao visited him again. Zhang Wuji said: "You were both injured by the Xuan Yin Finger. How have you been feeling these last few days?" Both of them were suffering daily from cold, bone searing pain. Rather than getting better, the injuries had been getting worse. However, they did not want him to worry so they said: "There's been great improvement!" Zhang Wuji saw that there was a shadow of black chi over their faces. Even their speech was weak and listless. He said: "My inner strenght is about sixty to seventy percent recovered. Let me try treating your injuries. " Yang Xiao hurriedly replied: "No, no! There's no need to rush. Hero Zhang should wait till you've completely recovered before treating us. How could we rest easy if you aggravate your injuries?" Wei Yixiao said: "A few days won't make a difference. The important thing is for Hero Zhang to rest and recover."

    Zhang Wuji said: "My grandfather the Eagle King and my godfather the Lion King are from the same generation as you. You're both my seniors. I really cannot respond to you calling me 'hero'." Yang Xiao smiled and replied: "From now onwards we are your subordinates. We'll follow behind you and we won't even dare sit without your permission. How can we speak of being your seniors?" Zhang Wuji asked in surprise: "Uncle Yang, what do you mean?" Wei Yixiao said: "Hero Zhang, you're the only person worthy and capable of bearing the heavy burden of the Ming Cult Leader's position."

    Zhang Wuji frantically waved both hands urgently saying: "That's impossible! That's Impossible!" At this instance, the sound of piercing whistles was heard from the east. This was Brightness Peak's warning signals. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao were shocked thinking:" Could it be that the six sects refused to admit defeat and are attacking again?" However, their facial expressions did not betray their thoughts. Yang Xiao said: "Was the ginseng you took yesterday good enough? Xiao Zhao, go get some more and prepare some more for Hero Zhang." Alarm whistles were now heard from the western and southern sides. Zhang Wuji said: "Are there enemies attacking?" Wei Yixiao said: "There's no lack of good fighters from our sect and the Heavenly Evil Sect. Hero Zhang, there's no need for you to worry. We can easily deal with little bandits!" But just a moment later, the whistles could be heard from a lot nearer. The enery was advancing very quickly, they were definately more than mere bandits. Yang Xiao said: "I'll go out for a while to organise things. Brother Wei will stay here with Hero Zhang. Hehe, can it be that the Ming Cult is so easily pushed around?" Even though his injuries were so serious that he could not move, his speech was still heroic. Zhang Wuji pondered: "Shaolin and E-Mei are righteous sects. They will not break their word. The attackers are probably wicked, merciless people. All the top fighters on Brightness Peak are severely injured. In this last seven or eight days, not one has recovered. If they try to fight, they'll only be throwing their lives away in vain."

    At that moment, urgent footsteps were heard outside the door. A man rushed in. His face was covered with blood and he had been stabbed in the chest with a knife. He yelled: "The enemies are attacking from three directions ......they're coming up the mountain......our brothers fighting the enemy......can't hold out......" Wei Yixiao asked: "Who are the enemies?" The man pointed outside and tried to reply. Instead, he fell face-down onto the ground, dying just like that. The whistling grew more incessant and frenzied, the danger of the situation was obvious. Suddenly, two more men rushed into the room. Yang Xiao saw that man in front was the deputy flag leader of the Flood Waters Flag. His whole body was covered with blood and his face as pale as death, but he still maintained his composure. Bowing slightly, he reported: "Hero Zhang, Left Emissary Yang, Protector King Wei, the people attacking us are from the Great Whale Clan, Sea Sand Sect, Divine Fist House." Yang Xiao frowned, hrmphed and said: "These little clowns even dare to attack us?" The Deputy Flag Leader replied: "The enemy is actually not very powerful. The problem is that most of our brothers are injured......" As he said this, the Five Wanderers - Leng Qian, the Iron Hat Priest Zhang Zhong, Peng Yingyu, Shuo Bu De, Zhou Dian - were stretched in one by one. Zhou Dian yelled: "The Beggar's Clan, Three Family Clan and the Wushan Clan have taken the opportunity to attack us as well. As long as I, Zhou Dian, has a single breath left in my body I will never let it rest......" Before he finished, Yin Tianzheng and Yin Yewang limped in supported by crutches. Yin Tianzheng said: " Wuji my child, you just lie back and rest. Damm the Five Wind Sabre and Soul Breaking Spear sects! What can two little sects like this do to us?"

    Among them, Yang Xiao was the highest ranking Ming Cult member, Yin Tianzheng was the leader of the Heavenly Eagle Sect while Peng Yingyu was the most resourceful. These three men had faced all sorts of calamities in their lives. Each time, they had managed to avert disaster with their abilitues. But they could see no way out of the present situation - they were all severly injured with a large group of enemies at their doorstep. Even if the other clans and sects had not attacked, the Beggars Clan alone with its large numbers of able fighters would have been extremely difficult to deal with. By now, everyone secretly considered Zhang Wuji their sect leader. Together, they all turned to him hoping he had some plan to get them out of this prediciament. During all this, all sorts of thoughts and ideas swirled through Zhang Wuji's mind. Though his kungfu was greater than Yang Xiao's, his grandfather, Wei Yixiao and the others, they were far ahead of him when it came to strategy and cunning. If they were unable to come up with a solution, there was no way he would be able to. He let out a groan. Suddenly, he thought of something and said: "Let's go hide in the secret tunnel. The enemy might not be able to find us. Even if they discovered the tunnel, they would have difficult attacking down it." This was the best possible solution to him so he spoke excitedly. To his surprise, the others simply looked at each other. No one agreed with him. It was if they all felt that it could not be done. Zhang Wuji said: "A true man knows when to retreat and when to advance. Let's hide and recuperate first. When our injuries recover we'll come out and fight. There is no disgrace in that."

    Yang Xiao said: "Hero Zhang's plan is brilliant." He turned to Xiao Zhao and said: "Xiao Zhao, help Hero Zhang into the secret tunnel." Zhang Wuji said: "Let's go together!" Yang Xiao said: "You go first, we'll follow later."

    When he heard this, Zhang Wuji knew that they would not follow, it was just a ploy to get him to safety. He said clearly: "Seniors, though I'm not a member of your sect I have gone through dangers with you. It can be said I have a bond of life and death with you. How could I abandon you and cowardly hide away?

    Yang Xiao said: "There are some things Hero Zhang is unaware off. For generations, it has been a strict Ming Cult rule that apart from the sect leader, no Ming Cult member may enter the secret tunnel. The penalty for breaking the rule is death. Both you and Xiao Zhao are not Ming Cult members so you're exempted from the rule."

    By now the sounds of fighting could be heard from all directions. The route up to Brightness Peak was steep and rugged. Many passes steel and rock gates blocking the way. Therefore, eventhough the Ming Cult's defenders were weak, the attackers had not had an easy time either. Added to that was the Ming Cult's awesome reputation - the attackers were cautious and did not dare rush forward. Nevertheless from the sounds of fighting, they were slowly making their way closer. Every now and then the screams were heard as exhausted Ming Cult defenders were slaughtered.

    Zhang Wuji thought: "If we don't go now, within two hours the whole of Ming Cult will be killed." He immediately said: "Can't we change the rule?" Yang Xiao shook his head darkly. Peng Yingyu suddenly said: "Everyone listen to me: Hero Zhang's kungfu is matchless and his character righteous. He's the great saviour of our sect. Let's set Hero Zhang up as our sect's thirty-fourth generation leader. If the leader orders our members to enter the secret tunnel, we'll be following his orders, not breaking the rule.” Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Wei Yixiao and the others had already intended to make Zhang Wuji the cult leader. Everyone agreeded with Monk Peng's suggestion. Zhang Wuji anxiously waved his hand saying: "I'm very young and am neither noble nor capable. How could I dare shoulder such a heavy burden? Also, my grandteacher, Venerable Master Zhang, repeatedly told me never to enter the Ming Cult. I promised him I won't. I accept follow Reverend Peng's suggestion." Yin Tianzheng said: "I'm your grandfather and I order you to enter the Ming Cult. Even if your grandfather is not closer to your than your grandteacher, at the very least we are equal. My words cancels out his, it's like neither of us said anything. It's your own decision whether to enter the Ming Cult." Yin Yewang added: "Add your uncle to the equation as well - is that enough to tip the scales? It is said: to see a maternal uncle is to see mother. As your mother is no longer around, I take her place."

    Zhang Wuji was saddened by his grandfather's and uncle's words. He said: "Sect Leader Yang left a will before he died. I brought it out with me from the secret tunnel. I had intended to give it to you once your injuries recovered. Sect Leader Yang's last wishes were that my godfather, the Golden Haired Lion King, temporarily assume the position of sect leader." Saying this, he drew out the will and handed it to Yang Xiao.

    Peng Yingyu said: "Hero Zhang, a true man knows how to change plans according to the circumstances. The Golden Haired Lion King is your godfather, relationship wise he's just like your natural father. It is only natural that a son succeeds his father. Since the Golden Haired Lion King is not here, please follow the wishes of Sect Leader Yang and become our temporary sect leader." Everyone said: "He is right." Zhang Wuji was wrecked with anxiety hearing the sound of fighting get closer and closer. For a moment he had no idea what to do. He thought: "The most important thing is to save all these people. I'll worry about the rest later." So he said clearly: "Since you all value me so, if I refuse I'll be a great sinner towards the Ming Cult. Junior Zhang Wuji will temporarily assume the office of sect leader. Once the dangers of today have passed, please elect someone more worthy.”Everyone broke out cheering at his words. Despite the fact that powerful enemies were approaching and impending danger looming, great joy was seen on everyone's face. Since the untimely death of the late sect leader Yang Dingtian, the Ming Cult had no leader to hold them together. They had fought among themselves, killing each other and splitting the once powerful and influencial sect up. Some members had left to set up their own organisations while others had descended into evil and wickedness, further worsening the situation. Now that a strong leader had surfaced, how could they not be affected? Those who were able to move fell to their knees. Though Yin Tianzheng and Yin Yewang were Zhang Wuji's grandfather and uncles repectively, they were no exception. Zhang Wuji quickly kowtowed back and said: "Everyone please rise. Left Emissary Yang, please pass my orders: every member of our sect is to retreat down the secret tunnel."

    Yang Xiao replied: "Yes! Your orders will be carried out. I have a suggestion - we should order the Raging Fire Flag to block the enemy with fire and burn down all buildings on Brightness Peak. The enemy will then think we've run away. What do you think?" Zhang Wuji said: "Your scheme is brilliant. Left Emissary Yang, please pass the orders." Inwardly he thought: "This was the same plan that Zhu Changling used years ago. It was actually a good tactic, unfortunately he used it to deceive me. " Yang Xiao's orders were passed - cult members were ordered to retreat, the Flood Water and Raging Fire Flags were ordered to form the rearguard. As the Heavenly Eagle Sect were guests, their members entered the secret tunnel first. They were followed by the Heaven, Earth, Wind and Thunder Gates; the ranking officers of Brightness Peak; the Gold, Wood and Earth Flags; the Five Wanderers and Wei Yixiao. Shortly after Zhang Wuji and Yang Xiao entered the tunnel, the members of the Water Flag went in. By now, the flames were lighting up the easter and western sky. The fire burned brighter and brighter. Then the Fire Flag sprayed oil onto the flames, causing the fires to erupt even further. Though the attackers were numerous, none of them dared to approach the flames. Instead, they surrounded Brightness Peak blocking off the escape routes. The Fire Flag members went down the tunnel and shut the entrance. Not long after, the building above collapsed, covering the entrance to the secret tunnel with burning debris.

    The raging fire burned for two days and two nights. Brightness Peak was the headquaters of the Ming Cult with a heritage stretching back hundreds of years. Everything, from the main reception hall to ordinary buildings, was burnt to the ground. When the fire subsided, the attackers found the remains of Ming Cult followers killed in battle among the debris, their bodies burnt beyond recognition. They assumed that the Ming Cult had refused to surrender, preferring to die instead. They assumed that Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the rest had all lost their lives in the fire. The Heavenly Eagle Sect and Ming Cult used the map of the tunnels to divide the area up into living spaces. The tunnel was deep underground so they felt neither the heat of the flames nor head a sound from above. They had brought enough foodstuffs and water in to last them for two months. Each member of the Ming Cult and the Heavenly Eagle Sect maintained a respectful silence. They were all aware that the secret tunnel was a forbidden, sacred place. It was only by the sect leader's grace that they were able to take refuge there. Therefore, no one dared to wander around at will.

    Yang Xiao and the other leaders gathered around Yang Dingtian's remains and listened to Zhang Wuji's story on how he came across Yang Dingtian's will and learnt Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. When he finished, he handed the kungfu manual over to Yang Xiao. Yang Xiao refused to accept it. He bowed and said: "The late Sect Leader Yang's will was clearly written: 'The Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi manual shall be given to Xie Xun for safe keeping. It shall then be passed on to the new sect leader.' It is more appropriate for you, as sect leader, to keep it." Everyone then turned to read Yang Dingtian's will. They sighed sadly when they finished, saying: "Sect Leader Yang was both brave and far-sighted. Yet it was his wife's infidelity caused him to suffer a fire deviaton and die. If only we had seen the will earlier, then we would not be in this situation today." Everyone thought of the tragic deaths of their comrades, they gritted their teeth in grief and cursed Cheng Kun. Yang Xiao said: "Though Cheng Kun was Mrs Yang's martial brother and the Golden Haired Lion King's master, we had never met him previously. But we have seen the result of his work. It turns out that for the last few decades,he has been trying to destroy our cult." Zhou Dian said: "Left Emissary Yang, Bat King Wei, you've both fallen into his trap, you can be considered supid." He had intended to attack Yin Tianzheng as well. However, he took Zhang Wuji's feelings into account and swallowed the words "White Browed Old Man". Yang Xiao's face turned red and he said: "At least heaven is just, that evil Cheng Kun died under Brother Yewang's palm." The leader of the Fire Flag said with hatred: "With all his evil deeds, Cheng Kun got off easy to die like that." They discussed the matter a little while more before breaking up to sit down and treat their injuries. After seven or eight days in the secret tunnel, Zhang Wuji's sword wound was abut ninety percent healed leaving a inch long scar. He began to treat the external wounds of the brothers. Though there was a huge shortage of medicines, he managed to heal everyone with his skills in acupuncture and acupressure. At first everyone only knew that their young sect leader's martial arts were unfanthomable. They had never imagined that his medical skills were so amazing, that they even rivaled the skills of the "Divine Doctor of Butterfly Valley" Hu Qingniu.

    After another few days, Zhang Wuji's wound was completely healed. He then used his Art of Nine Yang help Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the Five Wanderers force out the Xuan Yin Finger's cold poision. Within three days, they had completely recovered from their internal injuries and wanted to leave the secret tunnel and destroy the enemy. Zhang Wuji said: "You've just recovered from your injuries and your inner strenght has not returned completely. Since you've already been patient for so long, waiting a few more days can't hurt." For the next few days, everyone worked hard preparing themselves. Those with mediocre kungfu sharpened sabres and swords and those with better kungfu practiced regulating their chi. The Ming Cult had suffered one humiliation afte another since the six major sects beseiged Brightness Peak. Now their frustration was boiling over, needing an outlet to be released.

    One night, Yang Xiao explained the Ming Cult's creed, aim, and rules, their main power centres in different places, and the abilities and characters of their leaders to Zhang Wuji. They heard the sound of iron chains clanging as Xiao Zhao approached to serve them tea. Zhang Wuji said: "Left Emissary Yang, this young lady has committed no offence. Please unlock the chains and release her!”Yang Xiao said: "I won't dare disobey sect leader's orders." He immediately called for Yang Buhui and told her: "Buhui, the sect leader wants you to unlock Xiao Zhao's chains." Yang Buhui said: "I left the key a drawer in my room." Zhang Wuji said: "That's not a problem. The key wouldn't have been burnt."

    Yang Xiao waited until his daughter and Xiao Zhao had left before saying: "Sect leader, though Xiao Zhao is very young her behaviour is quite strange. We have to be cautious towards her." Zhang Wuji asked: "What are her origins?" Yang Xiao answered: "Half a year ago, I took Buhui on a trip down the mountain. We found her in the desert, crying over two dead bodies. We asked her what happened and she replied that they dead were her parents. Her parents had offended a government officer in the Central Plains and her family had been exiled to the Western Regions to work for the military. A few days before, unable to bear their treatment by the Mongol soldiers any longer, they had tried to escape. However, her parents sucummed to their injuries and exhaustion. I saw that she was a young girl all alone in the world. Though her face was ugly, from her speech she was not stupid. So I helped her bury her parents, then took her in as Buhui's maid." Zhang Wuji nooded his head thinking: "So both Xiao Zhao's parents have passed away. Her life is really tragic, no different from me." Yang Xiao continued: "Back in Brightness Peak, one day when I was teaching Buhui martial arts, Xiao Zhao was listening nearby. I was explaining the sixty-four Bagua positions. Buhui had not get grasped the idea when I saw Xiao Zhao's eyse look at the right position." Zhag Wuji said: "It's probably because she's very intelligent. That's why she understood the concept before Sister Buhui." Yang Xiao said: "That's what I thought at first, I was very happy. But when I considered it further, I became suspicious. I delibreately recited an extremely difficult formula, something I had never taught Buhui. Then I recited some Bagua positions worngly, only to see her frown slightly - she had noticed the mistakes. Since then I've kept this in mind, knowing that this little girl has been taught by a great master and probably has powerful kungfu. She must have been sent to Brightness Peak by someone to spy on us."

    Zhang Wuji said: "It might be that her father was an expert of the Book of Changes and she learnt it from him." Yang Xiao said: "Sect leader please reflect: the literary knowledge of the Book of Changes is different from its application to martial arts. If Xiao Zhao had learnt it from her parents, then they must be top wulin experts. How could they have been killed by Mongol soldiers? At that time, I pretended I had not noticed anything. A few days later, I casually asked her about her parents' names and origins. She smoothly asnwered everything without revealing the slightest information. At that time I showed no reaction, all I did was warn Buhui to be careful with her. Then one day, I told a joke and Buhui laughed loudly. Xiao Zhao was nearby and she couldn't help laughing as well. She was standing behind Buhui and I, we could not see her. But it so happened that Buhui was playing with a dagger in her hand and her reflection was caught clearly in the dagger. She was no ugly girl! Her features were much more beautiful that Buhui's. But when I turned around, her face had reassumed its squinted eye and twisted mouth look." Zhang Wuji smiled saying: "To twist her face to look ugly all the time...that must be quite difficult." In his heart he thought: "Left Emmissary Yang is truly amazing. There's no Xiao Zhao could continuely fool someone like him." Yang Xiao continued: "Even then I kept silent. Late that night, I quietly went to my daughter room to watch Xiao Zhao. I saw that girl lave Buhui's room. She went to the eastern side of the house looking for who-knows-what. She searched carefully in every room and corner. Unable to bear it any longer, I revealed myself and questioned her - what was she looking for and who order her to spy on Brightness Peak. She calmly replied without panic that no one had sent her. She just enjoyed playing around and being inquisitive. I tried everything to threaten and persuade her but she told me nothing. I locked her up and starved her for seven days and seven nights. Even when she was faining from starvation she wouldn't say anything. Finally, I locked her up in those iron chains. When she moves, the clanging sound follows so she can't sleathily harm Buhui. I didn't kill her because I wanted to find out her origins. Sect Leader, this girl is definately a spy sent by some enemy. Based on her proficiency in Bagua positions, she's either from Kunlun or E'Mei Sect. But she's still a young girl, no great danger to us. Let her serve you. It is her good fortune that you're willing to show mercy on her."

    Zhang Wuji stood up and laughingly said: "We've been cooped up in this underground prison for so long. Don't you think it's now time to go up and stretch our legs?" Yang Xiao asked happily: "Are we going out now?" Zhang Wuji answered: "Those who have yet to recover cannot fight. They don't have to contribute to our cause now. The rest can all go out. What do you think?" When Yang Xiao gave the order, the secret tunnel was filled joyous cheering and bustling activity.

    They had entered the tunnel through the entrance in Yan Buhui's room. Now they went out through the side entrance, coming out behind the mountain. Zhang Wuji pushed away the stone blocking the entrance, let everyone through, then pushed the stone back into place. The Earth Flag Leader Yan Yuan was the Ming Cult's strongest man. He experimentally tried to move the rock but it would not even budge. It was as if he was a dragonfly trying to move a stone pillar. His admiration for his young sect leader increased.

    They did not want to alert the enemy so the came out of the secret tunnel silently. Not even a cough was heard. Zhang Wuji stood on top of a large rock. The moonlight shone down on them. To the west were the ranks of the Heavenly Eagle Sect: the three halls - Heaven's Secret, Purple Secret and Heaven's City - and the five branches - Divine Snake, Green Dragon, White Tiger, Crimson Sparrow and Black Valiant. They formed orderly rows, each with its own leader. On the east were the Ming Cult's Five Flags: Gold, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. The Flags were arranged in the Five Elements position with their leaders and deputy leaders at the head. In the middle were the Brightness Peak troops, the Four Gates under Yang Xiao's command - Heaven, Earth, Wind and Thunder - headed by their own leaders. The Heaven Gate was made out of Central Plains men, the Earth Gate out of Central Plains women,the Wind Gate out of members who had taken religious orders, and the Thunder Gate out of non-Chinese from the Western Regions. Though most of the Five Flags and Four Gates members had been wounded in last battle, they were all full of spirit and vigour. The Green Wing Bat King Wei Yixiao, Leng Qian and the rest of the Five Wanderers stood protectively behind Zhang Wuji. Everyone waited respectfully for the Sect Leader's orders. Zhang Wuji slowly said: "Enemies have invaded our territory. No matter how patient we are, we cannot tolerate this. However I don't want any needless killing and injuring. Keep this in mind. The Heavenly Eagle Sect will attack from the west under the command of Sect Leader Yin. The Five Elements Flags will attack from the east under the command of Wood Flag's Flag Leader Wen Cangsong. Left Emmisarry Yang will lead the Heaven and Earth Gates to attack the north. The Five Wanderers will lead the Wind and Thunder Gates to attack the south. Bat King Wei and I will direct the proceedings." Everyone bowed and accepted their orders.

    Zhang Wuji waved his left hand and said softly: "Go!" The four divisions separated and surrounded Brightness Peak from the north, south, east and west. Zhang Wuji turned to Wei Yixiao and said: "Bat King, let us launch a surprise attack from the secret tunnel." Wei Yixiao said happily: "Great idea!" The two of them re-entered the secret tunnel and surfaced in Yang Buhui's room.

    They had to push hard and expand a lot of energy before they could move the pile of gravel and burnt wood blocking the trapdoor. The first thing they smelt when the came out of the tunnel was the stench of burnt things. At that time, the Ming Cult troops were still a distance away. But their presence had already been discovered by the enemies still left on Brightness Peak, they called out warning their comrades. Zhang Wuji and Wei Yixiao smiled at each other, thinking: "All this fuss over nothing. Our victory is easily assured." They hid themselves behind a partially collapsed wall. In the moonlight, they could see people running back and forth. Not long later, Shuo Bu De and Zhou Dian arrived side-by-side from the south and launched themselves into the press of enemies. Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao and the Five Flags soon appeared. Yelling loudly, they threw themselves forward to attack, like a tiger pouncing on a flock of sheep. The enemies who had attacked Brightness Peak were the Beggars Clan, Wushan Clan, Sea Sand Clan and about ten other sects organisations. When they saw Brightness Peak razed to the ground, they thought they had won a great victory. So the Beggars Clan, Great Whale Clan and most of the other sects had left the mountain. Theere were only four groups still on Brightness Peak: the Divine Fist Clan, Three Rivers Clan, Wushan Clan and the Five Wind Sabres Clan. The Ming Cult's attack was very sudden. Though there were skilled fighters among the four clans, they were no match for the lights of Yang Xiao and Yin Tianzheng. In the time it took for rice to cook, a large numeber of them were dead or injured.

    Zhang Wuji came out and said clearly: "The Ming Cult's top fighters have gathered on Brightness Peak. Listen up everyone: there's no point fighting any longer. Throw your weapons down and surrender. We'll spare your lives and see you on your way down the mountain."

    Many members of the four clans were dead or injured. The rest could see that it was pointless to keep fighting. One by one, they threw down their weapons and surrendered. Over the last ten days, the Wushan Clan had built a number of temporary shelters. Now the Wood Flag members started cutting down trees and building more thatched shelters. The female Earth Gate members busied themselves boiling water and preparing food.

    The Ming Cult built a large fire and thanked the Holy Fire for its protection. The White Browed Eagle King Yin Tianzheng stood up and shouted: "All members of the Heavenly Eagle Sect listen: Our sect and Ming Cult have the same origins, we are really the same. Over twenty years ago, I had a disagreement with my Ming Cult comrades. So I left for the south-east and set up my own sect. Now the Ming Cult has recognised Hero Zhang as their leader, all the past differences have been forgotten. From this day on, the words 'Heavenly Eagle Sect' no longer exists on this earth. All of us are Ming Cult members, we'll all obey Sect Leader Zhang's orders. Anyone who disagrees can leave the mountain now!" The Heavenly Eagle Sect members cheered joyously, all saying: "The Heavenly Eagle Sect broke away from Ming Cult, now it's returning to its roots. It's a wonderful thing for all of us to enter the Ming Cult. Sect Leader Yin and Sect Leader Zhang are relatives, it makes no difference whose orders we obey." Yin Tianzheng shouted: "From today onwards, there is only Sect Leader Zhang. Anyone who calls me 'Sect Leader Yin' is a rebel." Zhang Wuji saluted with his hands and said: "The Heavenly Eagle Sect's reunification with Ming Cult is a wonderful thing. The thing is, I only accepted the position as sect leader because of the urgent circumstances. Now that the enemies have been driven away, we should select a new sect leader. There are many great heros in the sect. I'm young and ignorant, how dare I continue as sect leader?" Zhou Dian yelled: "Sect leader, please think about us all. We, who've been fighting among ourselves for the posiion, have set accepted you as our leader. If you insist on declining the position, just appoint someone else as sect leader. Hrmph! No matter who it is, I, Zhou Dian, will be the first to reject him. Even if you choose me, I'll still reject it." Peng Yingyu said: "Sect leader, if you refuse to take up this burden, the Ming Cult will return to in-fighting and killing. When that happens, are we to beg you to save us again?"

    Zhang Wuji thought: "What they say is true. In these circumstances, how can I just shake my sleeves and leave? But I neither know how to nor want to be a sect leader." He said clearly: "Since you value me so much, I won't dare refuse. However, I have three conditions. If you don't accept them, I would rather die than become sect leader." Everyone said: "We would not dare disobey sect leader's orders. No matter whether it's three conditions or thirty, we'll agree. Please state your conditions." Zhang Wuji said: "Our sect has been labelled heretical and evil. That is probably because others do not understand our religion. But because of our large numbers, it is difficult to pick out our bad members and some unworthy ones have harmed the innocent. This is my first condition: from now onwards, everyone, including myself, must strictly adhere to the rules of our religion. We must destroy the wicked and uphold the righteous. We have to support and love each other, steering our brothers away from the wrongful path." He turned to Zhou Dian and said: "Cursing and arguing is fine, fighting is forbidden. I appoint Mr Leng Qian as Disciplinary Officer. Those who break the rules or fight with a brother will be severely punished. This includes myself, my grandfather, uncle and other elders." Everyone bowed and said: "That is how it should be." Leng Qian took a step forward and said: "I accept your orders!" He was a man of few words. By this he meant that he accepted the responsibility and would do his very best. Zhang Wuji said: "The second condition is more difficult. The enemity between our sect and the major sects of the Central Plains is great. Both parties have had their disciples, family members and dear friends killed and injured. From now on we will let matters rest and not seek them out for revenger." Everyone felt that this was not fair, no one spoke for some time.

    Zhou Dian said: "What if they bother us again?" Zhang Wuji said: "We'll act according to the circumstances. If they force our hand, we'll have no to fight back." The Iron Hat Priest said: "Alright! After all, our lives were saved by Sect Leader. If he wants us to do this, we'll do it." Peng Yingyu said loudly: "Brothers:The Central Plains sects killed many of our people, but we also killed meany of their people. If we get caught in a circle of killing and revenge, even more people will die. It's for our own good that Sect Leader orders us not to go looking for revenge." Everyone realised that he was right, so they agreed. Zhang Wuji was very happy. He cupped his fists and said: "Your open-heartedness is a blessing to the world." He then ordered the leaders of the Five Element Flags to release the Divine Fist Sect, Wushan Clan and the other prisoners, tell them of the Ming Cult's intentions to make peace with Central Plains sects, and escort them down the mountain.

    Zhang Wuji said: "The third condition concerns the late sect leader Yang's will. His will said that whoever recoverd the Sacred Fire Scriptures will become Ming Cult's thirty-fourth sect leader. Until then, the Golden Hair Lion King Xie Xun is to take his place. We'll first set out for sea to bring Protector King Xie back, then think of a way to recover the Sacred Fire Scriptures. When that is done, you can have no more objections to me retiring." When everyone heard this, they couldn't help looking at each other thinking: "We've been a headless dragon for so many years. Now we finally have a wise, brave, benevolent and righteous hero as our sect leader. What if some incompetent disciple accidently stumbles across the Sacred Fire Scriptures in the future? We can't make someone like that our sect leader." Yang Xiao said: "Sect Leader Yang's will was written over twenty years ago. The situation is very different now. We definately have to bring the Golden Hair Lion King back and recoved the Sacred Fire Scriptures. But we cannot accept some one else as sect leader." Zhang Wuji firmly stated that Yang Dingtian's wishes had to be followed. So the rest had to grudgingly agree. They all thought: "The Golden Hair Lion King probably died a long time ago. The Sacred Fire Scriptures have been lost for hundreds of years, they may never be found. Let's agree first, if things change in the future then we'll reason with him." Zhang Wuji had been thinking about these three conditions for the last 10 days. Now hearing everyone agree, he was extremely happy. He immediately ordered them to slaughter some cows and goats. Using the blood, he drank an oath with them.


    Zhang Wuji said: "The most important thing to do now is to go out to sea and find Protector King Xie. I have to go personally on this mission. Who else will go with me?" Everyone stood up and said: "We're willing to go out to sea with you." Zhang Wuji had just been thrust into this position. He knew he lacked the skills and capabilities to handle it. So he conferred quiely with Yang Xiao for a while. Then he said clearly: "We don't need many people to come with us to sea. Moreover, there are many other things to attend to. Let's do it this way: Left Emmissary Yang, please remain on Brightness Peak with the Heaven, Earth, Wind and Thunder Gates to reconstruct our headquaters. The Five Flags will carry the news of our three conditions to the members in other places. Would grandfather and uncle please lead the Heavenly Eagle Flag to investigate if enemies intend to make trouble for us. Then seek out the whereabouts of the Right Emmissary and the Purple Robed Dragon King. Bat King Wei, please set out to inform the six major sects of our intentions to make peace. Even if we can't turn enenmity into friendship, at the very least we can stop fighting. This is a very difficult task. However, with yor great wisdom you'll definately be able to accomplish it. The Five Wanderers will accompany me out to sea to find Protector King Xie." As the sect leader, though his speech was humble and polite, every word was an order that cannot be disobeyed. Everyone accepted this tasks. Yang Buhui said: "Dad, I want to go sea to see the iceberg." Yang Xiao smiled and said: "You'll have to ask sect leader for permission. I have no authority to decide." Yang Buhui only kept silent. Zhang Wuji smiled, thinking of the time he brought her to the west. Along the way he had entertained her with stories about the polar bears, seals, strange fish and all sorts of other animals, now she wanted to see them for herself. He said: "Little sister Buhui, ocean travel is dangerous. If you're not afraid and Left Emmissary Yang is willing to let you go, then both of you can come with me." Yang Buhui clapped her hands and said: "I'm not afraid on anything. Dad, let's go with Big Brrother Wuji......no, with Sect Leader!" Yang Xiao did not answer, he looked at Zhang Wuji waiting for his decision. Zhang Wuji said: "Alright then. I'll trouble Mr Leng to remain on Brightness Peak to temporarily assume command of the Four Gates." Leng Qian said: "Yes!" Zhou Dian clapped his hands and stamped his feet, yelling: "Wonderful, wonderful!" Shuo Bu De asked: "Brother Zhou, what's so wonderful?" Zhou Dian replied: "Sect leader thinks so highly of Leng Qian, that's great for the Five Wanderer's image. Plus, who knows how long we'lll be at sea, at least there'll be two extra people to talk to. If I want to argue with someone, there's always Left Emmissary Yang. Otherwise I'll have to talk to Leng Qian, and he's just like a wooden dummy." Everyone burst out laughing. Leng Qian did not get angry, neither did he laugh. He just acted like he had heard nothing.

    They all ate their fill then separated to rest. Zhang Wuji wanted Yang Buhui to unlock Xiao Zhao's chains. However they could not find the key amidst all the debris. Xiao Zhao said indifferently: "I like the sound these chains make when I move. It's alright if I keep wearing them." Zhang Wuji reassured her: "Xiao Zhao, wait here at Brightness Peak. When I bring my godfather back, I'll borrow his Dragon Sabre to cut the chains off." Xiao Zhao shook her head without answering.

    The next moning, Zhang Wuji lead his party to bid farewell to Leng Qian. Leng Qian said: "Sect leader, take care." Zhang Wuji said: "Mr Leng, your job at headquaters is a difficult one." Leng Qian turned to Zhou Dian and said: "Be careful, don't let strange fish eat you!" Zhou Dian grasped his hand feeling touched. The Five Wanderers were as close as brothers. Leng Qian rarely spoke so these few extra words showed that he was very worried that some strange fish would eat his brother in the middle of the ocean. Leng Qian and the Four Gates accompanied them to the foot of Brightness Peak, then they parted.

    End of Chapter 22.

  4. #24
    Senior Member dgfds01's Avatar
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    Chapter 23 – Intoxicating Lotus of the Green Willow Manor

    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    They continued their journey for more than a hundred ‘li’s before spending the night on the desert. Zhang Wuji slept until midnight, when suddenly he heard a faint ‘dingdong, dingdong’ of clear metallic noise coming from the west. His heart was stirred. Immediately he woke up and quietly went toward the incoming noise. Rushing ahead for about a ‘li’ he saw a shadow of a small person moving under the moonlight. He sped up his steps and called out, “Xiao Zhao, why are you following us?”

    That shadow was indeed Xiao Zhao. As soon as she saw Zhang Wuji, “Wah!” she broke into tears and threw herself on his bosom; sobbing and crying without saying anything.

    Zhang Wuji gently patted her shoulder and said, “Good child, don’t cry, don’t cry!”

    Apparently Xiao Zhao had experienced much suffering and grievance; as she finally was able to vent it off, she cried even louder. “Wherever you go, I … I will follow you.”

    Zhang Wuji thought, “This little girl’s parents are dead; and Yang Zuoshi [Left Emissary Yang] father and daughter always suspect her, she is truly pitiful. Just because I treated her nicely she is quite attached to me.” He said, “Very well, don’t cry. I will take you to the sea with me.”

    Xiao Zhao was elated; she looked up. The dim and hazy moonlight shone on her simple and beautiful, yet elegant, small face like a layer of fine veil. The crystal clear tears had not been wiped out; yet her eyes shone with happiness just like the waves of the sea.

    Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “Xiao Zhao, when you grow up, you will be very beautiful.”

    Xiao Zhao laughed, “How do you know?” she asked.

    Before Zhang Wuji could answer they suddenly heard the noise of hoof beats toward northeast to them; a large group of riders galloped from the west heading to the east. It sounded like there were at least a hundred riders.

    A short time later Wei Yixiao and Yang Xiao hurriedly came one after another. “Jiaozhu [Cult Leader],” they said, “A large group of riders speed along in the middle of the night, chances are they are the enemy of the cult.”

    Zhang Wuji told Xiao Zhao to join Peng Yingyu and the others, while he took Wei and Yang two people toward the noise of hoof beats to investigate.

    When they got nearer, they saw a row of horse hoof prints on the sand. Wei Yixiao stooped down to take a look; he grabbed a handful of sand and said, “There is a bloodstain.”

    Zhang Wuji took the sand toward his nose and smelled fresh stench of blood. Following the print on the sand three people pursued for several ‘li’s. Suddenly Yang Xiao saw a half-broken blade on the --sand to his left. He picked it up to take a closer look, and saw three characters engraved on the hilt, ‘Feng Yuansheng’. He hesitated for a moment before saying, “This belonged to a member of Kongtong Sect. Jiaozhu, I think Kongtong people prepared some horses in here to take them back to the Central Plains.”

    “It’s been more than half a month since the battle of the Brightness Peak,” Wei Yixiao said, “I wonder what craftiness they are up to by still being here?”

    As they knew it was the Kongtong people, three people set their hearts at peace. They returned to their camp and slept peacefully. Toward the afternoon of the fifth day they saw a group of pedestrians on the prairie ahead; most of them were Buddhist nuns wearing dark robes, along with some seven, eight men.

    As they were getting closer to each other, one of the nuns called out with a sharp voice, “It’s the evil thieves from the Devil Cult!” Everybody unsheathed their weapons and spread out in battle formation.

    Zhang Wuji knew they were from the Emei Sect, but he had never met any one of them before. “Are ‘Shitai’s from the Emei Sect?” he asked in clear voice.

    A small and wiry middle-aged nun stepped out and in stern voice said, “Evil thief from the Devil Cult, why do you ask? Come out here to receive your death.”

    “How must I address Shitai?” Zhang Wuji asked, “Why are you so angry?”

    “Evil thief!” that nun roared, “Are you worthy to ask my name? Who are you?”

    Wei Yixiao dashed toward the incoming group of people. He sealed two male disciples’ acupoints. Grabbing the back of their collars he kicked the ground and flew some distance away. Leaving the two men on the ground he swiftly returned to his original position. His movements were as quick as a falcon snatching a rabbit; his speed was unbelievably fast. With a cold laugh he said, “This is the Number One Martial Artist of the present age, peerless under the heaven, unifying the Left and Right Brightness Emissaries under his command, leading the Four Cult Protector Kings, the Five Wanderers, the Five-Element Flags, the Heaven, Earth, Wind and Thunder Gates; the Zhang Jiaozhu of Ming Cult. He drove away the Emei Sect down the mountain; he snatched away the Yitian sword from Mie Jue Shitai’s hand. With his reputation, don’t you think he is worthy to ask Shitai’s illustrious name?”

    The Emei Sect disciples were astonished at his words, but as they had seen Wei Yixiao’s demonstration of such an unthinkable skill, nobody doubted what he said. After calming herself down the middle-aged nun asked, “Who are you, Sire?”

    “My surname is Wei, my nickname is Green Winged Bat King,” Wei Yixiao answered. The Emei disciples cried out in alarm; immediately four of them went to take a look at their two comrades. Wei Yixiao said, “We have received Zhang Jiaozhu’s command: The Ming Cult and the Six Major Sects are to refrain from fighting each other, to forget faults and repair goodness. Your disciples are fortunate, Bat King Wei did not suck their blood.”

    After Zhang Wuji treated his injury with the Jiu Yang Shen Gong, not only had the cold poison of the Xuan Yin fingers been driven out, but the previously accumulated poison in his system had also been expelled for the most part; so that every time he exerted his internal strength he did not have to suck blood to resist the cold anymore.

    Those four Emei disciples took their two comrades back to the group. They were still thinking on how to unseal their acupoints when they heard two swishing noise. Two small pebbles flew, splitting the air, toward two people’s acupoints, unsealing them. It was Yang Xiao, using Divine Flicking Finger transmitting his ‘zhi shi dian xue’ [acupoint sealing technique by throwing rocks] skill.

    The middle-aged nun had to admit that not only the opposite party was numerous, the two people who had just demonstrated their skills showed that their martial arts were much higher. If they had to fight, her group would inevitably suffer a big loss. Besides, she was not sure if the so-called ‘refrain from fighting each other, to forget faults and repair goodness’ was true or not; therefore, she said, “Pin ni [lit. impoverished nun] ‘fa ming’ [Buddhist name/title, not real name] is Jing Kong. Have you gentlemen seen my Shifu?”

    “Honorable Master has left the Brightness Peak more than half a month ago,” Zhang Wuji said, “I believe by this time they have reached the Yumen [Jade Gate] pass. You have come from the east; could it be that you missed each other?”

    A thirty-something woman behind Jing Kong said, “Shijie [martial (older) sister], don’t listen to his nonsense; there were three groups of us, each with flare signals, how can we miss them?”

    Listening to her rudeness Zhou Dian wanted to teach her some lessons; he said, “It’s so strange …” But Zhang Wuji cut him off in low voice, “Mr. Zhou, don’t lower yourself to the same level with her. They could not find their Shifu, naturally they are anxious.”

    Jing Kong’s face showed suspicions. “Have our Master and comrades fallen into the Ming Cult’s hand?” she asked, “As men of honor, shouldn’t you tell us the truth?”

    Zhou Dian laughed. “Let me be frank to you: the Emei Sect came and without considering their own strength, attacked the Brightness Peak, so everybody from Mie Jue Shitai down to her last disciple were captured and detained in the underwater prison. Let them ponder over their own faults for eight years, ten years, then we’ll talk about whether we should release them or not,” he said.

    Peng Yingyu quickly said, “Please don’t mind Zhou Xiong’s [Brother Zhou] joke; Mie Jue Shitai’s divine energy is matchless, each of your fellow disciples’ martial art is superior, how can they fall into Ming Cult’s hand? Let us not talk any further; please return to Emei, I am sure you’ll see each other then.”

    Jing Kong half believed half doubted; she could not make up her mind. Wei Yixiao said, “This Zhou Xiong loves to joke around. But do you think our Cult Leader would swindle juniors like you?”

    The middle-aged woman said, “The Devil Cult is always crafty, deceitful and sly; how can we believe anything you said?”

    Tang Yang, the Flag Leader of the Flooding Water Flag waved his left hand; immediately the Five Element Flags spread out to surround the Emei disciples. The Gigantic Wood on the east, the Raging Fire on the south, the Sharp Metal on the west, the Flooding Water on the north, the Thick Earth moving outside the encirclement, ready to respond.

    In a loud voice Yin Tianzheng said, “Lao Fu [Old Man] is the White Browed Eagle King. I alone am enough to capture all of you juniors. The Ming Cult is showing mercy to you today; as younger generation you should think before you speak.” He spoke with a thunderous voice, shaking the Emei disciples’ ear drums so that their ears were ringing and their minds were troubled; making them difficult to concentrate. Looking at his white eyebrows and white beard and witnessing his divine power their hearts shivered in fear; everybody was dumbstruck in amazement.

    Zhang Wuji cupped his fists and said, “Please convey my respect to your honorable master; tell her the Ming Cult’s Zhang Wuji wishes her well.” Thereupon he led his people continue their journey to the east.

    Tang Yang waited until Wei Yixiao, Yin Tianzheng and the other walked pass one by one before he waved his hand once again to recall the Five Element Flags. The Emei disciples watched this procession in awe; their hearts were filled with fear, their eyes followed Zhang Wuji and his entourage for a while, jaws dropped and speechless.

    Peng Yingyu said, “Jiaozhu, I believe there is something fishy here. Mie Jue Shitai and the others have left to the east; I couldn’t think of any reason why they miss their disciples. Every sect every organization has their own special symbol for communicating with each other; how can they miss each other’s track?”

    They continued their journey while discussing this strange occurrence. They thought it was unfathomable to think this many Emei disciples to suddenly vanish in the desert. Zhang Wuji was concerned over Zhou Zhiruo’s safety and well-being; but he was uncomfortable to share his thoughts with other people.

    One day, towards the evening, the Flag Leader of the Thick Earth Flag, Yan Yuan suddenly exclaimed, “There is something strange here!” Rushing ahead he carefully examined the shrubs on their left. He took an iron spade from one his comrades and started digging the earth. Not too long afterwards, a corpse was revealed. It had been decayed, its face was unrecognizable, but judging from the clothes, it was a Kunlun Sect disciple.

    The Thick Earth Flag members immediately began excavating the earth around and very soon they dug a big hole. There were sixteen corpses lying around randomly inside the hole; all were Kunlun Sect disciples. If it were their own school, in no way would they be buried this carelessly; so it was obvious that they were buried by the enemy. Looking at these corpses, every single one of them had weapon-inflicted wounds. Zhang Wuji ordered the Thick Earth Flag to bury each corpse separately and properly. Everybody looked at each other; their minds were filled with the same question: “Who did this?”

    After getting over their shock, Peng Yingyu said, “If this matter is not brought to light, these bad debts would certainly be heaped upon our heads.”

    In a clear voice Shuo Bude said, “Everybody, listen up! If we are facing blades and spears in a broad daylight war under our Jiaozhu’s command, although I do not dare to say that we are invincible, but we wouldn’t lose to other people in any way. However, a stab in the back is more difficult to guard against. Therefore, from now on we must guard against the enemy’s poisonous plot in every drop of water we drink, every food we eat and at every accommodation we stay.” The Cult complied in one voice.

    Continuing their journey a little bit further, the setting sun appeared red like blood, very soon the sky would turn dark. They were just about to find a place to spend the night when they saw four bald condors circling the sky continuously toward the northeast. Suddenly a bald eagle dived down but flew back up immediately; some of its feathers fell and it cried out in pain. Apparently it was struck with something from below and it suffered an injury.

    After Zhuang Zheng, the Flag Leader of the Sharp Metal Flag died under the Yitian Sword, Zhang Wuji promoted the Flag Leader Deputy Wu Jincao to be the Flag Leader. Seeing the strange bald eagle Wu Jincao said, “Let me take a look.” Leading two of his brethren he rushed ahead.

    A moment later one of them came back and reported to Zhang Wuji, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: Yin Liu Xia [The Sixth Hero Yin] of Wudang Sect has fallen inside that valley.”

    Zhang Wuji was startled. “Yin Liu Xia?” he asked, “Is he injured?”

    “Apparently he is seriously injured,” the man replied, “As soon as the Flag Leader Wu recognized Yin Liu Xia, he ordered subordinate to report to the Jiaozhu. Flag Leader Wu is going down the valley to rescue …”

    Zhang Wuji was extremely shocked; he rushed toward the valley without waiting for the man to finish his report. Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, and the others followed behind. When they got near they saw a big sandy valley, more than a dozen of ‘zhang’s deep. Wu Jincao, with Yin Liting in his left arm, was stepping up and falling, strenuously trying to climb up the valley. Zhang Wuji slid down the valley wall; with one hand he grabbed Wu Jincao’s right arm, with the other he examined Yin Liting’s breath. He was slightly relieved to feeling a weak breath. Holding Yin Liting in his arms he leaped vertically several times and was out of the sandy valley then he laid Yin Liting down on the ground. As he calmed himself down and examined him, he was startled and his heart filled with grief and indignation. He found out that Yin Liting’s knees, elbows, ankles, wrists, feet, fingers; in short, all joints on his four limbs were broken. And as Yin Liting was at the point of his death, unable to move, the enemy fed him some poison. It was truly an unheard amount of cruelty.

    Yin Liting was still conscious; seeing Zhang Wuji, his face showed happiness and he spat out two small pebbles from his mouth. Apparently he was pushed down the sandy valley after he was injured, but due to his profound internal energy he did not die. The bald condors wanted to eat him, so he leaned his head sideways and bit some pebbles on the ground. With his strong internal energy he managed to shoot the pebbles up and thus had survived for several days with untold hardships.

    Yang Xiao saw the four bald condors were still circling overhead; seemingly waiting for them to leave Yin Liting and then they would swoop down to feast on his corpse. Yang Xiao picked four small stones from the ground and ‘swish, swish’ flicked those stone up. Four bald condors successively fell on the ground, their heads were smashed by the stones.

    Zhang Wuji gave Yin Liting a pill to stop the pain and protect his heart; then he thoroughly examined him. After finding more than twenty breaks on Yin Liting’s four limbs, each and every one of them was crushed by heavy fingers’ strength, Wuji was not able to continue the examination.

    In a low voice Yin Liting said, “It’s just like San Ge [third (older) brother]; Shaolin Sect … ‘jin gang zhi dao’ [diamond finger blade. Chapter 3 has it as ‘Golden Steel Finger’; ‘jin gang’ could also mean ‘a very hard substance’. I am not sure why it has an extra ‘blade’ (刀 ) character; I think it was a mistake, it should be ‘strength/power’ ( 力 ) character.] … injured by finger strength.” Zhang Wuji recalled his father telling him about how San Shibo [third martial (older) uncle] Yu Daiyan was injured; his joints were also crushed by Shaolin Sect’s Diamond Finger ‘Power’; and as a result he had been bedridden for more than twenty years. At that time his parents had not yet acquainted with each other. Unexpectedly many years later one more of his shishu [martial (younger) brother] had fallen under the same Shaolin Sect’s Diamond Finger. After calming himself down he said, “Liu Shu [sixth (younger) uncle], don’t you worry. This matter has fallen into your nephew’s hands. The criminal responsible for this will not escape justice. Which Shaolin Sect disciple did this, does Liu Shu know?”

    Yin Liting shook his head. He had suffered untold hardship these past several days; he was already dead-tired. At this moment his heart was relieved, he could not hold any longer and passed out. Zhang Wuji remembered his own life; how his parents committed suicide for his San Shibo’s sake. Today his Liu Shishu had fallen under similar circumstances. If he could not force Shaolin Sect to hand over the criminal responsible for this cruelty, how could he fulfill his duty toward his Yu and Yin uncles? How could he be worthy to see his departed parents? He knew that although Yin Liting was severely injured, his life was not in danger. Only his limbs would be difficult to heal; most likely he would end up sharing Yu Daiyan’s fate.

    Zhang Wuji’s experience was limited; facing this unfortunate situation he had to calm himself and think carefully. With his hands behind his back he wandered off some distance away; finally he sat down on top of a small hill. Two thoughts were waging war inside his mind: “Shall I go to the Shaolin Temple and find the criminal to avenge Father, Mother, San Shibo and Liu Shishu? If Shaolin Sect is willing to admit honestly and hand over the criminal, naturally nothing can be better than that. Otherwise, should Ming Cult join hand with Wudang Sect to deal with Shaolin together? My brethren and I have already drunk blood and made an oath, not to seek enmity with various sects, clans and societies [‘pai’, ‘bang’ and ‘hui’]. But as soon as I take this matter personally, I might as well throw the oath out the window; how can I win everybody’s heart? Once the disaster gate is opened blood will be avenged, I don’t know how many generations this bloodshed will continue, and how many heroes and warriors life will be sacrificed?”

    In the meantime the sky had turned dark; the Ming Cult people built a fire and cooked their meals. Zhang Wuji was still sitting on the hill. He saw the bright moon rise, but he still could not make up his mind. He was deep in thought until almost midnight before he finally decided: “I’ll go to Shaolin Temple and see Abbott Kong Wen; I’ll explain everything and ask him to render justice.” But then he thought again, “What if we reach deadlock? Must I fight? Then what will happen?” He heaved a deep sigh, stood up and thought, “I am young yet have to bear a heavy responsibility. Right from the start I face this extremely difficult situation. I wholeheartedly want to avert the war and the fighting; but this deep hatred is shoved into my face. I bear the heavy responsibility of the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, I can’t get away from it; consequently I’ll have to face endless and exhausting hardships! If only I am not the Cult Leader, wouldn’t that be a lot better?”

    As he returned to the fire he saw that everybody was very hungry but nobody dared to move their chopsticks to eat; they were standing up respectfully, waiting for him. Zhang Wuji felt very bad and busily said, “Next time you can go ahead and eat; you don’t have to wait for me.” He went over to see Yin Liting’s condition. He saw Yang Buhui had already cleaned his wounds with hot water and was feeding him hot soup. Yin Liting was still in daze; suddenly he opened his eyes and stared at Yang Buhui and loudly said, “Xiaofu Meizi [younger sister, term of endearment], I miss you so much, do you know it?”

    Yang Buhui blushed; her face looked awkward. With her right hand holding the soup spoon she said in a low voice, “Drink some more soup.”

    “Promise me you won’t leave me forever,” Yin Liting said.

    “All right! All right!” Yang Buhui replied, “Drink this soup first, we’ll talk later.” Yin Liting looked very happy; he opened his mouth and drank the soup.

    The next day Zhang Wuji passed an order for everybody not to go their assigned destinations for the time being, but to go to Shaolin Temple at Mount Song [‘song shan’], to find out the whole story about Yin Liting’s injury first and to talk about other things later. Wei Yixiao, Zhou Dian and the others had seen the severity of Yin Liting’s injury, every one of them was enraged; hearing their Cult Leader’s order to seek justice at the Shaolin Temple they cheered loudly.

    Yang Xiao had always felt regret and guilt toward Yin Liting over Ji Xiaofu’s affair; although his mouth did not say anything, in his heart he was determined to avenge him with all his might. He also quietly told his daughter to take a good care of Yin Liting and thus clearing his conscience.

    From here on they did not meet any other strange events along their way. When Yin Liting awoke later, Zhang Wuji asked him again the circumstances surrounding his injury. It was still difficult for Yin Liting to speak, he said, “Shaolin Sect’s monks, five of them besieged me. They were using Shaolin martial arts, I can’t be wrong.”

    That day they have entered the Yumen pass. They sold their camels and bought some horses so as not to raise any suspicions. They also changed their clothes and dressed up as traders. Some of them acquired mule carts and loaded them with leathers, goods, medicine, and other commodities. The next day early in the morning they left to get an early start along the Ganliang main road. The sun was blazing like fire, the temperature was starting to rise.

    After journeying for more than four hours they saw a row of about twenty willow trees ahead of them. They were very happy and urged their mounts to pick up speed since they wanted to take a rest under those trees. When they got closer they saw there were nine people sitting under the trees. Eight of them were big men dressed as hunters, with blades on their waists and bows and arrows on their shoulders. They also had five, six hunting falcons with them; the falcons looked fearsome with black feathers and sharp claws. The last man was a young gentleman, wearing a sapphire blue silk gown, lightly waving a folding fan in his hand. His appearance carried an elegant air around him.

    Zhang Wuji turned around and dismounted his horse. He cast a glance toward that young gentleman; he noticed his facial features are delicate and exceptionally handsome. His dark eyes accentuated his white face, they were shining brightly. The folding fan in his hand had a white jade handle; the hand which waved the fan was as white as the fan handle. But everybody’s attention was caught by that young gentleman’s waist. They saw a golden hook, bound by a belt inlaid with precious stones; on this hook a long sword was hung. On the hilt of the sword was carved ‘yi tian’ two ‘zhuan wen’ characters [script character normally used on official seal]. The length and the shape of this sword were exactly like the one Mie Jue Shitai used to slaughter the Ming Cult people and the one Zhou Zhiruo used to stab Zhang Wuji that he almost died earlier.

    The Ming Cult people were startled; as Zhou Dian was about to open his mouth to inquire when they heard from the east of the main road a disorder noise of hoof beats, a group of riders in a chaotic manner approached. They were a group of approximately fifty, sixty of Yuan soldiers, dragging along over a hundred women tied in ropes. These women were mostly small in stature; how could they follow the horses? Some of them fell down to the ground, but the soldiers kept pulling the rope so that the women were dragged on the ground. All women were Han people; obviously they were common people who were held captive by the Yuan soldiers. Most of their clothes had been ripped apart; some were almost naked. They were crying and weeping; creating an extremely heart-wrenching noise. Some of the soldiers had wine bottles in their hands; it seemed like they were drunk. Some wielded whips and struck the women. These Mongolian soldiers spent most of their lives on the horseback, so their skill in using whip was excellent. Once the whip was lashed, a piece of the women’s clothing was gone amidst the cheering and laughing of the soldiers.

    The Mongolians had invaded China for almost a hundred years; they regarded the Han people lower than animals, only this kind of wantonly obscene and oppressive insult in broad daylight was actually extremely rare. The Ming Cult people’s eyes narrowed into slits; they were waiting for Zhang Wuji to issue an order and they would charge to kill the soldiers and rescue the women. Suddenly that young gentleman said, “Wu Liupo, tell them to release these women and stop deliberately making such trouble!” His voice was clear and tender, sounded like a female’s voice.

    “Yes!” one of the men replied. He loosened one of the yellow horses tied on the willow tree, leaped up and landed on the horseback. He galloped forward while shouting, “Hey, you deliberately create trouble in broad daylight. Don’t you have a superior to control you? Quickly release these women!”

    From among the Yuan soldiers one rider that looked like an officer came out. A young girl in his arm, his slanting eyes bleary, he laughed and said, “You are really impatient to die, sticking your nose into your master’s business!”

    That man coldly said, “You are officers and soldiers, yet you act like bandits and robbers, without any compassion toward common people. Just do as I say!”

    The officer sized up the people underneath the willow trees; he was slightly surprised at the audacity of this man. He mused in his heart that when commoners see soldiers, they usually would try to avoid them while they are still far away; could it be that these people had eaten a leopard’s gallbladder and a tiger’s heart that they dare to mess up the soldiers’ business? Sweeping his gaze he saw the young gentleman’s hat was inlaid with two shining bright, longan fruit size pearls. His greed arose; he smiled broadly and said, “Rabbit master [‘tu er xiang gong’ – ‘rabbit-like mister’, I don’t know how to translate this properly], come and follow your master! You will enjoy a lot of happiness!” Pressing his leg he urged his mount toward that young gentleman.

    That young gentleman was initially indifferent; he did not show any anger looking at the Yuan soldiers’ atrocity. Yet as he heard this officer’s rudeness his handsome eyebrows slightly creased, he said, “Don’t let a single one of them live.”

    As the word ‘live’ left his mouth, a ‘swish’ sound was heard, a feathered arrow shot out, creating a hole in the officer’s chest. The arrow was released by a man standing next to the gentleman. His shooting technique was not only fast, but very strong as well; not in the least bit inferior to an expert of the Wulin world. How could a common hunter have this kind of ability?

    ‘Swish, swish, swish!’ Arrow after arrow was shot; all eight hunters shot with great accuracy, not a single arrow missed its target, one arrow killed one Yuan soldier. Although this attack took the soldiers by surprise, they were all skilled in horseback riding and archery; with loud shouts they returned the attack by shooting arrows. The other seven hunters also mounted their horses and charged forward. Arrow after arrow, in a short moment they had killed about thirty Yuan soldiers. The rest of the soldiers understood their precarious situation; they whistled to each other, threw the women away, turned their horses around and ran away.

    The eight hunters pressed their legs and their horses pursued with lightning speed. Eight arrows were shot and eight Yuan soldiers dropped down to the ground, dead. After about a ‘li’ the Mongolian soldiers were completely annihilated.

    The young gentleman led his horse away, mounted it, and without turning his head he galloped away. It seemed like for him, giving order to kill more than fifty Mongolian soldiers was as ordinary as eating his rice; he did not even give it the slightest thought.

    “Hey, hey!” Zhou Dian called out, “Wait! I want to ask you something!” The young gentleman did not pay him any attention; in a moment he and his eight hunters had gone far.

    If Zhang Wuji, Wei Yixiao and the others really want to ask that young gentleman a question, they could use their ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu] and overtake the speeding horses; but after witnessing those eight hunters’ divine archery skill to annihilate the enemy they were impressed with their chivalry, their hearts were full of admiration, hence they felt it was inappropriate to press and offend those people. Everybody started to talk at once, but nobody knew these nine people’s origin.

    Yang Xiao said, “That young gentleman is obviously a female wearing male clothes. Those eight men dressed as hunters were very respectful toward her. Their archery skill was divinely marvelous, but it did not look like archery skill of the people of the Central Plains.”

    By this time Yang Buhui and the Thick Earth Flag members were busy consoling the women. It turned out that they were taken captive from the neighboring villages and small towns. Thereupon the Ming Cult people searched the Yuan soldiers’ corpses and took any gold, silver and other valuables, and distributed it to the women and sent them home.

    For the next several days the topic of discussion among the Ming Cult people was the nine people whose arrows obliterated the Yuan soldiers. They regretted the fact that they were unable to befriend those people. To Yang Xiao Zhou Dian said, “Yang Xiong [brother Yang], your daughter can be considered a beautiful woman, but I am afraid she falls short compared to that young lady dressed as a man.”

    “Right, right!” Yang Xiao replied, “If they were willing to join our Cult, those eight hunters’ position would be above the Five Wanderers.”

    “Your mother’s stinky fart! [this is one of those ‘weird-to-english-speakers’-ears’ stuff]” Zhou Dian was angry, “What’s so special about horse-riding skill? Just call them to have a contest with Zhou Dian.”

    Yang Xiao hesitated a moment before replying, “Compared to Zhou Xiong [brother Zhou] they are slightly inferior, but talking about martial art skill, I think they are half a notch higher than Leng Qian Xiong [brother Leng Qian].”

    The fact that among the Ming Cult’s Five Wanderers it’s a well known matter that Leng Qian’s martial art skill was the highest. Yang Xiao and Zhou Dian were always at each other’s throat. Although they no longer fought each other openly, Zhou Dian had never missed any opportunity to argue with Yang Xiao. This time hearing Yang Xiao said that the eight hunters’ martial art was higher than Leng Qian’s, in other words, he was looking down upon the Five Wanderers, Zhou Dian was angry. He was about to open his mouth to retort when Peng Yingyu laughed and said, “Zhou Xiong, again you fall into Left Emissary Yang’s trap. He was deliberately making you angry!”

    Zhou Dian laughed a big laugh and said, “I am not angry; how can he make me angry?” But not too long afterwards he started to mutter how Yang Xiao’s riding skill was not so good. Everybody looked at each other and smiled.

    Under daily medical care of Zhang Wuji, Yin Liting had begun to regain his consciousness. He said that when he left the Brightness Peak that day, his mind was so shaken that he was lost in the desert. He walked farther and farther away, groping his way on the yellow sand of the Gobi desert for eight, nine days. By the time he found the right direction he had lost contact with his Wudang martial art brothers. That day he unexpectedly ran into five Shaolin monks. Without saying anything these five monks suddenly attacked him. Their martial art skill was not weak; although Yin Liting managed to overthrow two of them, in the end he was still overwhelmed by sheer number and in the end had to suffer heavy injury. He said these five monks’ martial art was definitely Shaolin’s martial art, only he did not see them on the Brightness Peak; so they must be the reinforcement who came later. On why they attacked him violently, Yin Liting could not come with any plausible answer. One time or another Yin Liting had announced his name, so in no way would the monks mistake him for someone else.

    Along the way Yang Buhui was taking a careful care of Yin Liting. She knew her parents had offended him; but her own compassion also grew because of his pitiful condition. That particular evening they arrived at Yongdeng. They urged their horses because they wanted to reach Jiangchengzi to spend the night there. While walking they suddenly heard horses’ hoofs; on the main road two riders were coming fast toward them. When they got within a dozen ‘zhang’s, suddenly the two riders stopped their mounts and leaped down. Holding the horses’ reins they waited on the side of the road; their manners were really respectful. Those two riders were two of the eight hunters who annihilated the Yuan soldiers with their arrows earlier.

    The Ming Cult people were delighted; one after another they dismounted their horses to greet the two hunters. The two hunters walked toward Zhang Wuji and bowed in respect. In a clear voice one of them said, “Our superior had long admired the Ming Cult’s Zhang Jiaozhu’s heroism and chivalry, along with his heroes and warriors. Xiao ren [little/lowly people] have received our superior’s order to invite all of you with sincerity and respect to take a rest at our village.”

    Zhang Wuji returned the respect and said, “We do not dare, we do not dare! I wonder how shall we address your superior?”

    That man replied, “Our superior’s surname is Zhao; but I do not dare to tell her name without her authorization.” Everyone was pleased they openly admitted that the young gentleman was actually a woman in disguise; indicating the sincerity of the invitation.

    Zhang Wuji said, “Ever since we saw your divine archery skill, we have never cease to praise you every day; to be able to make friends with you is truly our good fortune. Only we do not want to impose.”

    “You are all the heroes of this generation,” that man replied, “Our superior has admired you for a long time. Today you pass by our residence, how can it be that we do not offer you three cups of our insipid wine and chat with you to build friendship?”

    Zhang Wuji wanted to know these warriors better, but he also wanted to inquire about the Yi Tian sword they saw earlier; therefore, he said, “If that’s the case, to refuse would be impolite; we’ll visit your village.”

    The two hunters were delighted; they mounted their horses and led the way.

    Less than a ‘li’ later two more riders came their way. They stopped some distance away and waited by the side of the road. They were also part of the ‘shen jian ba xiong’ [divine archer eight heroes]. Another ‘li’ later the last four members of the Divine Archer Eight Heroes also came to welcome them. The Ming Cult people were happy and feeling reassured in seeing the courtesy their host demonstrated.

    Following a street made of green flagstones they arrived at the courtyard of a big manor. The manor was encircled by a small brook; the bank of the brook was full of green willow trees. To be able to see a Jiannan-like scenery in Gan Liang area, they felt refreshed.

    The manor gate was wide open and a draw bridge was already lowered. The lady surnamed Zhao, still wearing a man’s clothes, stood at the gate, welcoming them. Miss Zhao stepped forward and saluted them. “The heroes and warriors of the Ming Cult’s visit to the Green Willow Manor today truly bring glory to us,” she said in a clear voice, “Zhang Jiaozhu, please! Left Emissary Yang, please! Yin Lao Qianbei [old senior Yin], please! Bat King Wei, please! …” She called out the Ming Cult’s people one by one. Not only did she know everybody’s name without anybody announcing it to her, but she also knew their respective position; not a single one was missed. Everybody was astonished.

    Zhou Dian could not help but asked, “Miss, how did you know our names? Could it be that you know divination?”

    Miss Zhao smiled and said, “The Ming Cult’s heroes are well-known in the Jianghu, who has not heard of them? In the recent battle of the Brightness Peak Zhang Jiaozhu, with his divine ability, has deterred the six major sects. This news has shaken the Wulin world. You are going east to the Central Plains; along the way I don’t know how many Wulin friends will give you admiring receptions, how can this ‘xiao nuzi’ [lit. little/lowly woman] miss this opportunity?”

    Everybody agreed with her and inwardly they were very pleased, but with their mouths they muttered some modest words. They turned toward the Divine Archer Eight Heroes, asking their names and martial art school. One big and tall man answered, “Subordinate is Zhao Yishang [lit. one injury]. This one is Qian Erbai [lit. two defeats]. This one is Sun Sanhui [lit. three destructions]. This one is Li Sicui [lit. four devastations].” Pointing to the other four men he continued, “That one is Zhou Wushu [lit. five loses]. That one is Wu Liupo [lit. six damages]. That one is Zheng Qimie [lit. seven extinguish], and the last one is Wang Bashuai [lit. eight feeble/weak].”

    Hearing their names the Ming Cult people were dumbstruck. They recognized the eight men’s surnames were taken from the ‘bai jia xing’ [Book of Hundred Surnames], namely ‘Zhao Qian Sun Li, Zhou Wu Zheng Wang.” Not only it was very strange, but their given names were all unlucky. Take ‘Wang Bashuai’ for example; not even bandits and barbarians would think of such names. But in the Jianghu world it was not uncommon that some people changed their names to avoid calamity or enmity; so nobody asked any further.

    Miss Zhao personally led the way, taking everybody to the main hall. They saw in the main hall hung a large wooden tablet with ‘lu liu shan zhuang’ [Green Willow Villa] four characters engraved on it. In the middle of the hall there was a banner with Zhao Mengxiao’s poem:

    The white rainbow [oxymoron, I know, but how do you translate 白 虹 ?] stood up to fly,

    Green serpent roared inside the box,

    Murderous frost at the edge of the blade,

    The round moon just about to reach its apex.

    Sword can tear the dragon on the outer sky,

    Sword can charge against the sun,

    Sword can slit the demon’s abdomen,

    Sword can cut away the treacherous minister’s head.

    Hiding to ward off the demon’s enchantment,

    Do not frighten the consort.

    Keep the sword to behead the scaly dragon,

    Do not test it to strike the street dog.

    At the end of the poem there was a small inscription, “Testing the precious Yitian Sword in the night, it was truly a treasured thing. I wrote the poem ‘shuo jian’ [lit. speaking about sword] in praise of it. Bianliang Zhao Min.”

    Zhang Wuji’s calligraphy skill was not too good, but following the ‘shu jiu zhen lian’ [lit. vermillion nine real/true practice] character principle [Translator’s note: I am sure about this part], he was able to somewhat distinguish other people’s penmanship. Looking at the strokes of this poem he saw charm and tenderness, revealing the poem came from a female hand; so it must be this Miss Zhao’s handiwork. Other than medical book, he seldom read any other book; but the poem’s meaning was certainly not obscure. As soon as he read it he understood its meaning. He thought, “Turned out she is from Bianliang [modern day Kaifeng, previous capital of the Northern Song], and has a single character ‘Min’ as her name.” Thereupon he said, “Miss Zhao is well-versed in both literature and martial art [wen wu quan cai]; my utmost admiration. Turned out Miss belongs to the family of the former capital.”

    That Miss Zhao, Zhao Min smiled and said, “Zhang Jiaozhu’s father was well-known as the ‘yin gou tie hua’ [Silver Hook Iron Stroke], a calligraphy expert. Zhang Jiaozhu received your educational background from your family, ‘xiao nuzi’ earnestly wants to see a poem from your hand.”

    Upon hearing this Zhang Wuji’s face turned red; he lost his father when he was ten and had not learned penmanship from him. Afterwards he only learned medicine and martial art, so it could be said that his writing skill was superficial. “If Miss wants me to write,” he said, “That is the same as requesting my death. My late father departed too early; I haven’t learned anything from my father. I am really ashamed.”

    While they were talking the Manor servants had already served tea. They noticed that inside the sky blue porcelain cups there were green and tender Longjing [city in Jilin] tea leaves floating around. A delicate fragrant greeted their nostrils. The warriors felt strange; this place was separated thousands of ‘li’s from Jiangnan, how could there be fresh Longjing tea leaves? In all aspects this Miss carried a mysterious aura around her.

    Zhao Min was the first to take the cup with both hands and took a sip before inviting everybody else to do the same. She said, “You have journeyed far, our village is simple and slow, so please forgive our lack of hospitality. Everybody please follow me to have some refreshments.” She stood up and led them passed a porch and a courtyard, toward a big garden. This garden was littered with unadorned mountain rocks and a plain creek pond in the middle; there were not too many flowers and plants, but the overall impression was elegance. Zhang Wuji did not have deep understanding of landscape architecture, but Yang Xiao silently nodded his head in approval. He thought the master of the garden was certainly not an uncouth person; inwardly he was full of admiration.

    In the pavilion in the middle of the pond two banquet tables had already been prepared. Zhao Min invited Zhang Wuji and his entourage to take a seat. Zhao Yishang, Qian Erbai and the other Divine Archer Eight Heroes took the rest of the Ming Cult people to have their meals at another hall on the side. Yin Liting was unable to get up, so Yang Buhui attended to him in yet another room.

    Zhao Min poured a big bowl of wine and took it in one gulp; she said, “This is the eighteen years old ‘nu zhen chen’ [old chaste maiden (or spinster)] wine from Shaoxing; please take a taste and tell me what you think?”

    Although Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, Yin Tianzheng, and the others truly believed that this Miss was a young generation chivalrous heroine, they were still very careful. They looked at the wine pot and the wine cups and did not see anything unusual; besides, Miss Zhao had taken the first cup, so they chased their suspicion away and ate and drank with ease of mind.

    Ming Cult originally had a religious rule so-called ‘shi2 cai4 shi4 mo2’ [meat dish are a matter of the devil]; prohibiting them to consume alcohol and meat. But after their altar was moved to the Mount Kunlun this prohibition against alcohol and meat was removed. In the Western Region fresh vegetables were hard to come by; they were more expensive than meat. Plus the climate was bitter cold; without cattle and sheep fat it was difficult to fight the cold using internal energy alone.

    Around the pavilion, on the bank of the pond, there were seven, eight flower trees; they looked like ‘shui xian’ [lit. water deity; narcissus?] but not as big. The flowers were white; the fragrance was light and elegant. So close to this refreshing fragrance, drinking the good wine, the gentle breeze carried the flower scent; the warriors’ hearts were really carefree. That Miss Zhao was really cordial, she was very knowledgeable of stories and news of the Wulin world of the Central Plains; many of those were not known even to Yin Tianzheng father and son. Toward Shaolin, Emei, Kunlun, and the other sects’ martial arts she did not say too much, but she placed the highest regards toward Zhang Sanfeng and the Wudang Seven Heroes. She also heaped praises toward Ming Cult’s leaders’ martial art. She was seemingly talking without giving it too much thought; but each praise and every admiration were right on target. The guests were delighted and full of admiration toward her; but when asked which martial art school she belongs to, Zhao Min only smiled without giving any answer, and then she changed the topic.

    The wine had gone several rounds. Zhao Min always drank her cup dry. She was very open-minded. Every time a new dish arrive, she always moved her chopsticks and be the first to eat the dish. Her face was starting to exude a reddish glow from the wine; she looked even more beautiful. A beautiful woman would either be refined and elegant, or tender and glamorous; but this Miss Zhao, in her extreme beauty she also carried a third part boldness, a third part heroic attitude, while maintained her elegance. Plus, she also carried an air of authority, which gained other people’s respect and made them not dare to stare at her intently.

    Zhang Wuji said, “Miss Zhao, our Ming Cult is most grateful for your hospitality. I have a question I’d like to ask, but I do not dare to utter it.”

    “Zhang Jiaozhu,” Zhao Min replied, “Why are you acting like you are an outsider? Isn’t there a saying in the Jianghu world, ‘within four sides of the ocean, everybody is a brother’? If you do not think I am unworthy, just consider ‘xiao mei’ [little sister, she was referring to herself] your friend. Whatever it is you want to know, I will do my best to answer it.”

    Zhang Wuji said, “If that is the case, then I’d like to ask: where did Miss acquire this Yitian Sword from?”

    Zhao Min showed a faint smile; she loosened the Yitian Sword from her waist and placed it on the table. “Ever since Xiao Mei met with all of you, your eyes have never left this sword. I wonder if you care to tell me the reason behind it.”

    Zhang Wuji replied, “Frankly, this sword originally belonged to Mie Jue Shitai, the Sect Leader of Emei Sect. The number of my brethrens from the Ming Cult who perished under this sword was not a few. Even I almost died from this sword’s stab on my chest. That was the reason we pay a close attention to this sword.”

    “Zhang Jiaozhu’s divine ability is matchless,” Zhao Min said, “I heard by using ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ you were able to snatch this sword from Mie Jue Shitai’s hand. How could you be injured by this sword? I also heard the one injured Zhang Jiaoshu with this sword was a young female disciple of the Emei Sect; her martial art was only so-so. Xiao Mei really does not understand why it happened.” With raised eyebrows she looked at Zhang Wuji’s face intently; her mouth showed a faint smile, yet she was not smiling.

    Zhang Wuji blushed profusely. “How did she know this clearly?” he thought. He said “the other side came too suddenly, I was not paying attention and let it slip.”

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “That Zhou Zhiruo, Zhou Jiejie [older sister Zhou] is very beautiful, is she not?”

    Zhang Wuji blushed even redder, “Miss is teasing me,” he said. He picked up the wine cup with both hands, trying to drink it in one gulp to hide his embarrassment, but unexpectedly his left hand slightly trembled and he spilled a few drops of wine on the sleeve of his clothes.

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “Xiao Mei cannot bear the wine power, I am afraid if I drink some more I will breach the etiquette; I wouldn’t know the seriousness of what comes out of my mouth. I am going inside to change my clothes and will be back right away. Please all of you continue eating and drinking, no need to be polite.” She stood up, cupped her fists, turned around and went out of the pavilion, and disappeared beyond the willow and flower trees on the other side of the pond. The Yitian sword was left lying on the table, she did not take it with her. The Manor servants continuously served food and wine.

    The Ming Cult people stopped eating. They waited for quite a long time but Zhao Min had not returned. Zhou Dian said, “She left her precious sword here, obviously she trusts us.” While speaking he lifted up the sword with one hand. “Ah!” he suddenly exclaimed, “How come it is so light?” Grabbing the hilt he drew the sword from its sheathe. Everybody rose up from their seats in astonishment. Where is the Yitian sword, which could cut metal and slice jade, with its matchless sharpness? The sword in Zhou Dian’s hand was just a wooden sword. Immediately everybody smelt a faint incense-like fragrance, and saw that the sword’s blade was light yellow, for the sword was made of sandalwood.

    For a moment Zhou Dian was at a loss; pushing the sword back to its sheathe he mumbled, “Yang … Left Emissary Yang, this … what kind of trick is this?” Although he loved to argue with Yang Xiao daily, but actually deep down in his heart he admired Yang Xiao’s vast knowledge and experience. This time facing a mystery he could not help but asking Yang Xiao for direction.

    Yang Xiao’s face was serious, in a low voice he said, “Jiaozhu, I am 90% sure that this Miss Zhao harbors ill intention. This moment we are in danger, I think we’d better leave as soon as we can.”

    “Why would we be afraid of her?” Zhou Dian asked, “We are numerous. Even if she is making her move, do you think she can eradicate us completely?”

    Yang Xiao said, “Since entering this Green Willow Manor everywhere I looked I felt something strange. It feels right yet not exactly right; it feels wrong yet not exactly wrong. I can’t pinpoint what it is. Why should we stay in this place? We don’t have any specific reason anyway.”

    “What the Left Emissary Yang said is right,” Zhang Wuji nodded his head, “We have had our meals; it’s time for us to leave.” Then he stood up.

    Tie guan dao ren [the Iron Hat Taoist Priest] said, “What about the Yitian Sword? Aren’t you going to inquire, Jiaozhu?”

    Peng Yingyu said, “In my humble opinion, this Miss Zhao has a suspicious intention; she won’t stop until she reached her goal. Even if we don’t look for her; she will definitely look for us.”

    “That’s right,” Zhang Wuji said, “We have our own tasks to accomplish, there is no need to seek a new burden. We’ll wait for the enemy to exhaust himself; we’ll talk about it once we understand more.”

    Everybody left the pavilion on the pond; returning to the main hall they told the servant to notify the lady that they were grateful for the feast and it was time for them to leave.

    Zhao Min came out in a hurry; she was wearing a light yellow silk gown. She looked natural yet elegant; her glowing countenance was stunningly beautiful. “We have just met, why are you leaving?” she asked, “Is it because ‘xiao nuzi’s hospitality is too simple and slow?”

    Zhang Wuji said, “We are very grateful over Miss’ hospitality, how could you say ‘simple and slow’? We have businesses to attend and cannot tarry too long. We’ll meet again someday and we’ll ask for more of your advice.”

    The corner of Zhao Min’s mouth showed a faint smile, yet she was not smiling. She sent the guests off the village. The Divine Archers Eight Heroes stood on the either side of the road, bowing respectfully to send the guests off. The Ming Cult people cupped their fists, and without saying anything sped away. As they left the Green Willow Manor on all directions they saw open field, with nobody in sight.

    Zhou Dian loudly said, “This Miss Zhao does not necessarily harbor ill intentions to us. Perhaps she was just playing a joke to Jiaozhu with that wooden sword. Even if that little girl wants to create trouble, what could she do? Left Emissary Yang, this time you were wrong!”

    Yang Xiao hesitated before answering, “Whatever it is, I can’t say; but I feel uncomfortable.”

    Zhou Dian laughed and said, “After the battle of the Brightness Peak the famous Left Emissary Yang has turned into a coward … Aiyo!” He swayed and fell from his horse.

    Shuo Bude was the closest to him; he busily jumped down his horse to help Zhou Dian up. “Zhou Xiong [brother Zhou], what happened?” he asked.

    Zhou Dian laughed and said, “No … nothing. I guess I drank too much wine so I am dizzy now.”

    As the word ‘dizzy’ came out of his mouth, everybody looked at each other. Turned out as they sped way from the Green Willow Manor, everybody felt slight dizziness. Only they thought it was because of the wine, so they did not give it too much thought. But not only Zhou Dian’s martial art skill was high, his drinking capacity was also strong; how could a few bowls of wine make him so dizzy that he fell down from his horse? Surely something was amiss.

    Zhang Wuji looked up and tried to remember Wang Nangu’s Book of Poison, which poison was colorless, tasteless and odorless; but could make people dizzy. He could not think of anything. But he ate and drank the same dishes and the same wine, yet why did he not feel anything different? Suddenly something flashed in his mind like a lightning bolt; he remembered something and was extremely shocked. He shouted, “Everybody who ate at the pavilion on the pond, get down from your horses and sit down cross-legged; right now! Whatever happened, do not circulate your ‘qi’ [breathing, in term of internal energy cultivation].” He also issued an order, “Brothers of Five-Element Flags and Heavenly Eagle Flag, spread out to all directions and encircle the leaders. Whoever is trying to get near can be immediately killed!”

    Hearing their Cult Leader issued a strict order everybody replied it loud voice. They stood up, unsheathing their weapons and moved into position. Zhang Wuji ordered, “Do not leave your position until I come back!”

    The leaders were confused; they only felt slightly dizzy, certainly nothing else seemed unusual, why was the Cult Leader so alarmed? Zhang Wuji warned again, “No matter how uncomfortable you are, do not fight it with your inner strength; otherwise the poison will be difficult to neutralize.”

    The leaders were startled, “How can we be poisoned?”

    Zhang Wuji’s shadow swayed and in a blink of the eye he had already fled more than a dozen ‘zhang’s away. He felt horse would be too slow, so utilizing his ‘qing gong’ to the fullest he flew back to the Green Willow Manor.

    He was very anxious, knowing the extent of the poison attack on Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng and the others. The poison would not flare-up in three quarters or an hour; but it was not like the ‘xuan yin zhi’ [black/mysterious finger, Xuan Yin Finger in Chapter 22], in which the treatment could be delayed for a long time. If he could not find the antidote soon, these people’s lives would be in danger.

    He flew over these twenty ‘li’s or so in a short moment. As he arrived at the Manor gate, he flew up like an arrow. The gate guards did not even see anybody entering the Manor, only a blur of a shadow. Zhang Wuji went straight to the garden in the back, towards the pavilion in the middle of the pond. He saw a lady wearing a light green silk gown; her left hand holding a cup, a book in her right hand, sitting quietly, reading a book and drinking tea. It was none other than Zhao Min. This time she was wearing female clothing. Upon hearing the sound of Zhang Wuji’s footsteps she turned her head around and gave a faint smile.

    “Miss Zhao, I need some flowers and grass from you,” Zhang Wuji said. Without waiting for her to reply, his left foot kicked and he jumped from the pond bank to the pavilion in the middle of the pond. His body floated above the water like a dragonfly; while with his hands he pulled the seven, eight narcissus-like flower trees. As he landed on the pavilion, he heard several ‘swish, swish’ sounds, several tiny secret projectiles flew toward his face.

    Zhang Wuji flicked his right hand and rolled the secret projectiles inside his sleeve. His left sleeve brushed away toward Zhao Min; Zhao Min slanted sideways to evade, only to hear a whistling sound. The gust of wind from the sleeve blew away everything on the table: teapot, teacup, fruit dish and everything else flew across the pond and shattered into pieces as they struck the flower trees on the other side.

    Zhang Wuji stood up straight; he examined at the flower trees in his hand, and saw that each tree had a deep purple long root, and on these roots grew small beads the size of pearls, dark green like jadeite. He was delighted since he knew he had found the antidote; he put the roots in his pocket. “Thank you so much for the antidote, I am taking my leave now!” he said.

    Zhao Min laughed and said, “Easy to come, but difficult to leave!” Tossing her book aside she drew a pair of paper-thin and frost-white daggers from the book; and thrust the daggers forward.

    Zhang Wuji was concerned about Yin Tianzheng and the others’ injuries, he was not willing to prolong the contact. His right sleeve brushed away and dozens of golden needles in his sleeve shot out toward her. Zhao Min evaded sideways and flew out of the pavilion. Her right foot stepped on the stairs and immediately she flew back in; dozens of golden needles fell into the water.

    “Good movement!” Zhang Wuji praised. He saw her left hand in front of her body and her right hand behind, both daggers came slanting down on him. He thought, “This little girl’s heart is so poisonous. If I did not know the Jiu Yang Shen Gong [the internal energy cultivated from the Nine Yang Manual] and did not read Wang Nangu’s Book of Poison, today the Ming Cult would have fallen under her hand without knowing anything.” Both of his hands reached out to grab her hands and snatch the daggers away.

    Zhao Min’s white wrist flipped suddenly, her pair of daggers swift as lightning slashed his fingers. Zhang Wuji did not exert his energy in this move, he was inwardly groaning. But his internal energy was profound, in reflex his fingers moved and although he failed in snatching the dagger away, he managed to strike the acupoints on her wrists. Once again she flicked her wrists and the daggers flew out from her hands. Zhang Wuji leaned his head sideways to evade. ‘Bang, bang!’ The daggers struck the pavilion’s wooden pillar with such a force that they stuck on the wood and vibrated continuously.

    Zhang Wuji was stunned; speaking about martial art skill, she could not be compared to Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Wei Yixiao and the others, but in term of alertness and quick-thinking, her reflex was very fast. Even though her daggers repeatedly missed their target, they would have been able to injure the opponent in the end. If early on he erroneously thought that he managed to disarm her and was not moving quick enough, then his life would have been gone by now.

    As the pair of daggers flew out of her hands, Zhao Min’s right wrist flipped again and she quickly snatched the wooden Yitian Sword from the table. She thrust the sword, still inside its sheath, toward Zhang Wuji’s waist, without drawing the sword out.

    Using two of his left hand fingers Zhang Wuji attacked the ‘jian zhen xue’ [shoulder chaste acupoint] on her left shoulder. As Zhao Min leaned her head sideways to evade, his right hand stretched out, using a marvelous movement from ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ he snatched the wooden sword.

    Zhao Min withdrew to the steps; she laughed softly and said, “Master Zhang, what kind of martial art was that? Was it ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ divine skill? I think there is nothing special about it.”

    Zhang Wuji opened up his left palm; revealing a pearl head ornament still gently shaking. It was the head ornament Zhao Min wore on the side of her head. Zhao Min’s face changed slightly; Zhang Wuji was able to snatch the hair ornament on her temple without her feeling anything. If when taking the ornament he slightly touched the left hand ‘tai yang xue’ [sun acupoint] on her head, then her little life would have been gone. But she was quick to think and she smiled. “If you like that pearl flower, then I’ll gladly give it to you; you don’t have to snatch it away from me,” she said.

    Zhang Wuji was slightly embarrassed by her words; his left hand waved, tossing the pearl ornament back to her. “I’ll return it to you!” he said. Turning his body he was about to leave the pavilion.

    Zhao Min held out her hand to take the head ornament. “Wait a minute!” she called out.

    Zhang Wuji turned around. “Why did you steal two of the biggest pearls?” she said with a smile.

    “You are talking nonsense, I don’t have time to joke around with you,” Zhang Wuji said.

    Zhao Min lifted the head ornament high and with a stern voice said, “Look here, aren’t two of the pearls missing?”

    Zhang Wuji shot a glance and he noticed two golden threads without any pearl on them. He knew she must have had taken those pearls herself; she wanted to lure him to come back so that she could carry out some other dirty trick. “Humph,” he snorted, ignoring her.

    Zhao Min pressed the edge of the table with her hand and sternly said, “Zhang Wuji, I dare you to come within three steps of me.”

    Zhang Wuji was not fazed by her intimidation, he said, “It’s up to you if you say that I am a coward who fears death.” While talking he had already taken two steps down the stairs.

    Seeing none of her tricks worked, Zhao Min’s beautiful face changed; with a miserable voice she cried out, “It’s over! It’s over! I am defeated, how could I still have a face to see my Shifu?” Reaching back she pulled one of the dagger stuck on the pillar. “Zhang Jiaozhu,” she called out, “Thank you for your help!”

    Zhang Wuji turned his head around only to see a flash of white light; she thrust the dagger into her own chest. Zhang Wuji laughed coldly, “I won’t fall …” he had not finished whatever he wanted to say when he saw the dagger enter her chest. She cried out miserably and fell on the edge of the table.

    To say that Zhang Wuji was extremely shocked would not be an overstatement; he did not expect her to be so hard-headed that she committed suicide just because she failed to overcome him. He thought that as long as the dagger did not strike her heart, he might still be able to save her. Hence he turned around to examine her wound.

    He walked to within three steps of the table and was going to reach out to pull her shoulder when suddenly his foot stepped on empty air; his body dropped vertically down. While groaning inwardly he flicked both of his sleeves, so that his drop was slightly halted. In the meantime his palm struck the edge of the table. If his palm struck its target, then he could borrow the momentum to leap out from this trap. Who would have thought that Zhao Min’s suicide was a fake; she had already anticipated his action. Sending her strength to her right palm she managed to block his palm from reaching the table.

    This ‘rabbit-rose-up-falcon-fall-down’ exchange happened in a blink of the eye; by the time two palms met, Zhang Wuji’s body had dropped half of his height. Flipping his hand over he tried to grab four of Zhao Min’s fingers. But her fingers were slippery, they immediately slipped away from his grab. Yet within this fraction of a second Zhang Wuji exerted his strength - taking the opportunity as their fingers touched- to reach out to grab Zhao Min’s upper arm. Only the force of his falling down was too great; as soon as he pulled, the two of them fell together.

    All of a sudden darkness enveloped them; they kept falling, but heard the slam of the trap door close above their heads. The trap was about four, five ‘zhang’s [about 12 – 15 meters or 40 – 50 feet]. As his feet touched the bottom immediately Zhang Wuji leaped up, using ‘bi hu you qiang gong’ [gecko roaming the wall skill] to the fullest he crawled along the trap wall to the top, trying to push the trap door open. His hand touched something icy cold; turned out the door was made of a giant iron panel, reinforced by some kind of contraption to hold it firmly on its place. Although he had the divine strength of ‘qian kun da nuo yi’, but his body was suspended in midair; he did not have a strong foundation, unlike if he were standing on the ground. As he pushed, the iron panel did not move even so slightly, while he fell back down to the bottom.

    Zhao Min chuckled and said, “The door is reinforced with eight thick steel bars; you are pushing it from below. Although your strength is exceptional, how can you push it open?”

    Zhang Wuji was mad at her treachery; ignoring her remarks he groped around the four walls, trying to find a way out. Unfortunately the walls were all icy cold and extremely smooth and hard.

    Zhao Min laughed and said, “Master Zhang, your Gecko Roaming the Wall is excellent. These walls were made of pure cast steel, they were polished and very slippery; not a single crack exists, yet you were able to crawl along the wall. Hee .. hee … heh … heh …!”

    Zhang Wuji angrily said, “You are with me in this trap together, what’s so funny?” Suddenly he remembered, “This girl is very crafty. There must be a way out of this trap. I can’t let her escape alone.” He moved forward two steps and grabbed her hand.

    Zhao Min was frightened. “What are you doing?” she asked.

    “Don’t ever think of escaping alone,” Zhang Wuji replied, “If you want to live, you should open the trap door quickly.”

    Zhao Min laughed and said, “Why worry? We won’t starve to death in here. If they cannot find me, they will let us out. The worse case is if my men think I am going out of the Manor; then that would be too bad.”

    “Is there any secret mechanism to get us out of this trap?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    Zhao Min laughed. “You don’t look like an idiot, how come you asked such a stupid question?” she said, “This trap was not built to amuse ourselves. It was to trap an enemy inside; why would we provide a secret mechanism for the enemy to escape?”

    Zhang Wuji thought what she said was reasonable. He asked, “There are people falling into the trap; how come nobody outside knows? Hurry up and call someone to open the door.”

    “All my men are on assignments outside. You saw a moment ago there was nobody else in the pavilion, did you not?” Zhao Min said, “They will come back by this time tomorrow. Just be patient; take a rest for a moment. You have just had your meal; certainly you are not hungry, are you?”

    Zhang Wuji was angry; he thought, “I have no problem staying for a while, but how can I save (Maternal) Grandfather and the others?” Thereupon tightening his grip with 20% of his strength he roared, “If you don’t let me out, I am going to kill you first and talk later!”

    Zhao Min smiled and replied, “If you kill me, then you can forget about getting out of this trap forever. Hey, men and women are not supposed to be intimate; why are you holding my hand?”

    Hearing her words Zhang Wuji immediately released her hand and withdrew two steps; and then he sat down with his back against the wall. This steel trap’s perimeter was only several feet; even when he tried to sit as far as possible from her, their distance could not be more than one step. He was anxious and angry at the same time. He could smell her breath, and the sweet fragrance if her perfume; he could not help but feeling agitated. Finally he stood up and angrily said, “Our Ming Cult people and you are not acquainted with each other; we did not have either resentment or enmity. Why did you deliberately plan to put us all to death?”

    Zhao Min replied, “Things that you don’t understand are too much; but since you asked, let me explain it to you. Do you know who I am?”

    Zhang Wuji did not think it was a good idea; he wanted to know this young girl’s origin and her true intentions, but if he had to wait for her to tell her story in its entirety, then Yin Tianzheng and the others might be dead because of the poison. Also, how would he know whether she would tell a lie or not; if she fabricated a lie and told him a whole bunch of nonsense, then he would be stuck in that trap for a long time. His sole purpose right now was to force her to open up the trap door; therefore, he cut her off by saying, “I don’t know who you are, and right now I don’t have time to listen to your story. Are you or are you not going to call somebody to open the door for me?”

    “I can’t call anybody,” Zhao Min replied, “Even if I shout as loud as possible down here, people above won’t be able to hear. If you don’t believe me, just give it a try.”

    Zhang Wuji was really angry; his left hand reached out and grabbed her arm. Zhao Min cried out in fear and tried to move her hands to fend off; but early on her acupoints had been sealed so she could not move. Zhang Wuji’s left hand choked her throat; he said, “If I exert a little bit more strength, your life will be gone.”

    By now those two stood very close to each other; he could feel her hurried breathing, it smelt like orchid. Zhang Wuji looked up to give some distance away between his face and hers. Zhao Min suddenly broke up in tears; choking and sobbing she said, “You bully me, you bully me!”

    Zhang Wuji did not expect this turn of events; he was startled. Releasing his left hand he said, “I don’t want to bully you, I only want you to let me out.”

    Still crying Zhao Min said, “It’s not that I don’t want to. All right; I’ll call!” Raising her voice she shouted, “Hey, hey! Come here! Open the door, I fall into the steel trap!” She called out for a while, but nothing astir overhead. Zhao Min said with a smile, “You see? It’s useless.”

    Zhang Wuji’s anger had reached the top; “Shameless! Crying and laughing. What kind of person are you?” he said.

    “You are the shameless one!” Zhao Min shot back, “A big man like you bullying a weak girl like me.”

    “You, a weak girl?” Zhang Wuji replied, “You are so crafty that even ten grown men are not your match.”

    “Thank you for your praise, Zhang Da Jiaozhu [Big Cult Leader Zhang]!” Zhao Min laughed, “Little girl does not dare to accept.”

    Zhang Wuji thought the situation was getting urgent; if he did not make a drastic move, the Ming Cult people would be annihilated. Gritting his teeth he reached out and with a scoff he tore a piece of Zhao Min’s skirt.

    Zhao Min thought he suddenly had an evil intention; finally she was really scared. “You … what are you doing?” she called out.

    Zhang Wuji said, “If you decide to let me go, just nod your head.”

    “Why?” Zhao Min asked.

    Zhang Wuji ignored her question. He spat his saliva on that piece of silk cloth to make it wet. “Please forgive me,” he said, “I don’t have any choice.” Immediately he sealed up her nose and mouth with that wet cloth.

    Zhao Min could not breathe; a short moment later she felt her chest constricted, she felt utterly miserable. Unexpectedly she was so unyielding and did not want to nod her head at all; after a while her body slumped and she passed out.

    Zhang Wuji took her wrist to examine her pulse; he felt her pulse to be weak. Immediately he took away the wet cloth covering her nose and mouth. After half a day Zhao Min slowly regained her consciousness; she moaned lightly.

    “It didn’t feel good, did it?” Zhang Wuji asked, “Now, are you or are you not going to let me go?”

    Zhao Min hatefully said, “Even if I have to faint a hundred times I still won’t let you go. You’d better just kill me.” Swiping her mouth with her hand she spat several times and said, “Your spittle! Pei! It stank to the high heaven!”

    Seeing her hard-heartedness Zhang Wuji was temporarily at a loss. After remaining in this stalemate situation for some time, he was getting more anxious than ever. Finally he said, “In order to save everybody’s life I have to play rough. I apologize for being inappropriate.” Grabbing her left foot he tore away her shoe and sock.

    Zhao Min was both angry and scared. “Stinky boy, what are you doing?” she asked.

    Zhang Wuji did not answer. He grabbed her right foot and also took her shoe and sock away. With both hands extended he touched the ‘yong quan xue’ [bubbling spring acupoint] on the bottom of her feet; then he transmitted heat toward these acupoints using the Nine Yang Divine Energy.

    This ‘yong quan xue’ was located at the center of the crook of the foot; it was the end of the ‘zu shao yin shen jing’ [foot’s ‘little yin’ kidney passage], thus it was very sensitive to the touch. Zhang Wuji was very proficient in medical science, hence his knowledge was profound. When children play, they used to tickle their friend’s foot; making their body tingled from the sensation. This time he transmitted the warm Nine Yang Divine Energy into her ‘yong quan xue’; the sensation was a hundred times more difficult to bear than if she was tickled using feather or soft plume. At first Zhao Min could not help but broke up in laughter. She wanted to pull her foot away, but her acupoints were sealed; how could she move away? Later on she felt discomfort more painful than if she were cut with blade or flogged with a whip. She felt like millions of fleas were creeping and crawling in her internal organs; nipping and gnawing at her bone marrow and blood veins. Her voice became hoarse from laughing, and gradually her laughter turned into crying.

    Zhang Wuji hardened his heart; he ignored her crying and continued his torture. Zhao Min felt like her heart nearly jumped out from her chest; she felt like the hairs on her body fell off from their roots because of the itch. “Stinky kid … Thief …” she cursed, “One day, I … I will cut you … to thousand pieces. All right, all right … mercy … have mercy on me … Zhang … Master Zhang … Zhang Jiao … Jiaozhu … Boohoo … boohoo …”

    “Are you or are you not going to let me go?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    Sobbing Zhao Min replied, “I … I’ll let you go. Stop … stop it!”

    At last Zhang Wuji let his hand go and said, “Please forgive my offense!” He rubbed her back and unsealed her acupoints.

    Zhao Min gasped for breath before scolding him, “Thief, give me back my shoes and socks!”

    Zhang Wuji took the sock and grabbed her left foot. When he tortured her just a moment ago, he did not have any other thought in his mind; but now as soon as he touched her warm and soft foot his heart was beating faster. Zhao Min pulled her foot; she felt an unspeakable shyness so her face was blushing. Luckily in that darkness Wuji could not see her face. Silently she put her shoes and socks back on. A strange feeling crept into her heart; suddenly she wanted him to touch her foot again.

    “Quick, hurry up!” suddenly she heard Zhang Wuji’s stern voice, “Let me go!”

    Without saying anything Zhao Min stretched out her hand to trace a circle engraved on the steel wall, and then with the end of her dagger’s hilt she rapped the center of the circle seven, eight times; sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes long, sometimes short. As soon as she stopped a crashing noise was heard, a bright light came down as the trap door opened. The circle on the steel wall was actually connected to the outside by a narrow tube. The people outside immediately opened the door as she knocked the wall in a previously agreed pattern.

    Zhang Wuji did not expect her to open the door as soon as she said so; he could not help but feel surprised. “Let’s go!” he said.

    Zhao Min hung her head low; she stood on the side without making any noise. Zhang Wuji remembered she was only a young girl and he had repeatedly tortured her; he felt sorry. He bowed and said, “Miss Zhao, just now I did not have any other choice. Please accept my most sincere apology.”

    Zhao Min turned her head toward the wall; her shoulder slightly trembled as if she was sobbing. She was very crafty and ruthless; when he was engaged in a fierce battle of wits with her, Zhang Wuji did not have any distracting thoughts. But now he was overwhelmed with guilt; especially looking at her graceful and elegant, slender back, the skin on the back of her neck white as jade, her beautiful and fluffy hair. With pity and regret in his heart he said, “Miss Zhao, I am leaving. Old Zhang has offended you.”

    Zhao Min’s back moved slightly, but she still was not willing to turn her head. Zhang Wuji did not dare to tarry much longer; using the ‘bi hu you qiang gong’ he crept upward. When he was about a ‘zhang’ away from the trap door, his right foot kicked the steel wall and he flew out of the trap, while sweeping his sleeve away to protect his head and face for fear somebody set up an ambush by the trap door. Before his feet even touched the ground he swept his gaze around, but did not see a single soul in the pavilion. Without wasting a single second he leaped over the outer wall and rushed along the trail towards the place where the Ming Cult leaders took a rest.

    By this time the sun was setting behind the mountains; he had been delayed for more than an hour inside the trap, without knowing Yin Tianzheng and the others’ condition. With an anxious heart he ran faster and not too long afterwards he was not too far away from his destination. His heart skipped a beat because he saw a large group of Mongolian cavalry charging forward; surrounding the Ming Cult people, shooting arrow after arrow.

    Zhang Wuji thought, “Our Cult leaders are poisoned, nobody gives orders; how can we withstand the enemy’s besieging?” He picked up speed and rushed forward.

    When he got closer he heard a clear female voice from among the crowd calling out, “Sharp Metal Flag attack to the northeast, Flooding Water Flag outflank the southwest.” It was Xiao Zhao’s voice. Just as her voice trailed off, a group of the Ming Cult people under a white flag came out, charging toward the northeast. Another group under a black flag outflanked toward the southwest. The Yuan soldiers divided themselves to engage the enemy. Suddenly the yellow flag of Thick Earth and the green flag of Gigantic Wood came out from among the Ming Cult people like a yellow dragon and a green dragon shoulder to shoulder attacking the enemy. The Yuan soldiers were thrown into confusion and were forced to retreat.

    With several leaps Zhang Wuji arrived in front of the Ming Cult people. As they saw their Cult Leader came back, they burst out in cheers and their spirit was greatly aroused. Zhang Wuji saw Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao, Zhou Dian and the others, as well as the Five Elements Flags commanders and their second-in-commands, were still sitting cross-legged on the ground. Xiao Zhao, holding a small flag in her hand, was standing on a mound, commanding the Ming Cult people to defend against the enemy.

    Actually, everybody in the Five Elements Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Flag was a warrior with excellent martial art skill; only their leaders were poisoned that they were in disorder. As soon as Xiao Zhao arranged the defense line according to the Eight Diagram the Yuan soldiers actually could not penetrate their defense for a long time.

    “Master Zhang,” Xiao Zhao happily called out, “Come and assume the command.”

    “I can’t,” Zhang Wuji replied, “You can command better. Let me kill some officers first.”

    With ‘swish, swish’ sound several arrows came toward him. Zhang Wuji grabbed a lance from among the Ming Cult people and struck the incoming arrows one by one to the ground. Raising his arm he hurled the lance like an arrow penetrating a ‘bai fu zhang’s [leader of a 100 men unit] chest, nailing him to the ground. The Yuan soldiers cried out in alarm and withdrew several dozens of steps.

    Suddenly they heard a bugle sound; about a dozen riders came fast. Zhang Wuji saw the ones in the front were Zhao Min’s Eight Divine Archers. He creased his brows and said in his heart, “These eight people’s shooting skill is too strong. If they attack I am afraid the damage to my brethren will not be small. I’ll have to attack first!” But he saw the leader of the Eight Divine Archers, Zhao Yishang, wave a short golden dragon-head staff and called out, “Master’s order: withdraw troops immediately.”

    The commander of the Yuan troops, a ‘qian fu zhang’ [leader of a 1000 men unit], shouted some Mongolian words. The Yuan soldiers turned their horses around and galloped away. Qian Erbai dismounted his horse. Holding a tray in his hands he walked toward Zhang Wuji, bowed down and said, “My Master is asking Jiaozhu to accept this as a souvenir.”

    Zhang Wuji saw yellow brocade spread out on the tray; on the brocade was a small exquisitely carved golden case. He was not afraid of any crafty trick; holding out his hand he took the box. Qian Erbai bowed in respect, walked backward three steps, turned around to mount his horse and galloped away.

    Zhang Wuji handed over the golden case to Xiao Zhao. He was very concerned over his people’s condition that he did not care to look what was inside the case. Immediately he took the flower tree from his pocket and gave an order for someone to fetch some clear water. He crushed the deep purple root along with the dark green small beads and put them in the water. One by one he gave the concoction to Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao, as well as to the Five Elements Flags commanders and their second-in-commands. Practically every one of the Ming Cult leaders who joined the banquet at the pavilion, except Zhang Wuji who was protected by the Nine Yang Divine Energy, was poisoned.

    Yang Buhui accompanied Yin Liting outside the pavilion; Xiao Zhao and the rest of the Ming Cult people ate at the side reception hall. Everybody followed their Cult Leader’s order; every dish was quietly tested with silver needles before they ate it; hence they were free from poisoning.

    The antidote was very effective that in less than an hour the toxicity inside their bodies was neutralized; they no longer feeling dizzy, only they were still feeling very weak. Immediately they asked the whole story on how they got poisoned.

    Zhang Wuji sighed and said, “We were being very careful; the water, wine and the food did not have any poison. I am sure about it. How would I know that that Miss Zhao’s evil mind was very cunning that she employed an unthinkable method? This kind of ‘shui xian’-like flower is called ‘zui xian ling fu’ [drunken immortal phantom lotus]. It is extremely rare but in itself it is not poisonous. The fake Yitian sword was made of a ‘qi ling xiang mu’ [marvelous pangolin fragrant wood], which grows on the ocean floor. In itself it is also not poisonous. But if these two fragrances are mixed together, they become violently poisonous.”

    Zhou Dian slapped his thigh, “It was my bad; who told me to have an itchy hand and pull that Yitian sword out to take a look at it? Damn it!”

    Zhang Wuji said, “She had already planned to harm us; even if Zhou Xiong did not pull it out, she would have sent someone else to draw it out and poison us. It was unavoidable.”

    “Come!” Zhou Dian said, “Let us burn that Green Willow Manor to the ground!”

    He barely closed his mouth when in the distant they saw black smoke rose up to the sky, red flame flickered; the Green Willow Manor was on fire. They looked at each other, dumbstruck; everybody had the same thought, “This Miss Zhao has anticipated everything; she knew that as soon as the poison in our bodies is neutralized we will settle the debt by burning the manor, so she beat us by setting the manor on fire first. This person is young, she is also a girl, yet she is a formidable enemy.”

    Zhou Dian slapped his thigh, “She burned the manor, so what? We can still catch up and kill them all.”

    Yang Xiao said, “Since she had already burned the manor, she must have prepared everything. We may not necessarily be able to pursue them.”

    “Yang Xiong,” Zhou Dian said, “Your martial art is not bad, but when it comes to scheming, you beat Zhou Dian by half a notch.”

    Yang Xiao laughed and said, “I wouldn’t dare, I wouldn’t dare! Zhou Xiong’s strategic ability is divine; how can Little Brother match it?”

    Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “You two don’t need to be modest. This time we do not suffer too much damage, except for thirteen, fourteen brothers who suffer some arrow wound; we should thank our lucky stars. Let’s continue our journey.”

    Along the way they asked Zhang Wuji how he knew the cause of their poisoning. Zhang Wuji replied, “I remember in the Poison Manual there is an article: If the fragrance of the ‘qi ling xiang mu’ is mixed with that of some kind of lotus flower, the resulting mixture oftentimes can cause someone to become intoxicated for a few days. It can be neutralized by drinking the mixture of the beads of the flower with water. If the poison is not dispelled immediately, the toxicity will greatly damage the heart and the lung. This ‘zui xian ling fu’ is several times more severe than regular lotus. That was the reason I asked everybody not to circulate your internal energy. Otherwise the fragrance would have entered all passages and pulses, and then your life would be in danger.”

    Wei Yixiao said, “I am surprised that this little girl Xiao Zhao has rendered a great service today; if it wasn’t for her bravely stepped forward in critical situation, our casualty would be very heavy.”

    Initially Yang Xiao believed that Xiao Zhao was the enemy’s spy; but her actions that day could be considered a great service to the Ming Cult. It was so totally beyond his anticipation that for the time being he did not know what to think.

    Along the way they tried to guess Zhao Min’s origin, but nobody was able to offer a plausible explanation. Zhang Wuji did not tell anybody that they fell into the trap together, and that he touched her feet, ripped her skirt, and the circumstances surrounding that occasion. Although he felt that he did not do anything shameful, he still didn’t feel comfortable talking about it in public.

    That evening they decided to stop by an inn a little bit early. The rest of the Ming Cult people went their separate ways to find temples and ancestral halls to spend the night. Xiao Zhao took some water to Zhang Wuji’s room for him to wash his face.

    “Xiao Zhao,” Zhang Wuji said, “Today you have rendered a great service; you don’t have to act as my servant anymore.”

    Xiao Zhao flashed one of her captivating smiles. “I am very happy to attend to your needs; what servant are you talking about?” After waiting for him to wash his hands and face; she took the golden case out and said, “I wonder what kind of poisonous bugs or secret projectiles are in this box?”

    “Right,” Zhang Wuji said, “We have to be very careful.”

    Placing the case on the table he pulled her away from it. Taking out a copper coin he tossed it away. ‘Ding!’ the coin hit the edge of the golden case and opened up its lid. Nothing strange happened. He came near to take a look. Inside the box was a pearl head ornament; it still vibrated lightly. It was precisely the head ornament he took from Zhao Min’s temples, except the two big pearls, which Zhao Min said were missing, were back on their golden stems. Zhang Wuji was taken aback; he could not guess Zhao Min’s real intention in doing this.

    Xiao Zhao smiled and said, “Master, that Miss Zhao is very good to you, she sent somebody to deliver this precious pearl head ornament to you.”

    Zhang Wuji said, “I am a man, what am I supposed to do with this kind of girl’s jewelry? Xiao Zhao, you can keep it.”

    Xiao Zhao shook her hand; she laughed and said, “How can I? Others show their affection to you; how do I dare to take it?”

    With three of his left hand fingers Zhang Wuji took the pearl ornament. “Catch!” he laughed, and tossed the ornament away. His strength was neither light nor heavy; the ornament landed on Xiao Zhao’s hair without the golden pin scratching her skin.

    Xiao Zhao reached up to take it away, but Zhang Wuji shook his hand and said, “Can’t I give you some trinkets?”

    Xiao Zhao’s cheeks blushed; in a low voice she said, “Thank you very much, then. I am only afraid my Miss will be angry with me.”

    “What you did today was not a small matter,” Zhang Wuji said, “How can the Left Emissary Yang, father and daughter, still suspect you?”

    Xiao Zhao’s heart was filled with joy; she said, “You have been gone for a long time, I was really worried; plus those Tartars came to attack. I don’t know how, but suddenly I was swept by a great courage. If I think about it now, I was really scared. Master, can you talk to the Five Elements Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Flag brothers: asking them not to be offended by Xiao Zhao’s boldness and unseemly behavior?”

    Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “They can’t thank you enough, how can they blame you?”

    Less than a day later they arrived within the Henan borders. By that time the world was in chaos; everywhere heroic and patriots raised their arms to fight the invaders. Mongolian officers and soldiers conducted an even stricter questioning and searching of insurgents. It was inconvenient for the Ming Cult people to travel together as a large group, therefore, they traveled in smaller groups to the Mount Song [Song Shan] and regrouped at the foot of the mountain before they finally traveled together up the Shaoshi Peak.

    The Gigantic Wood Flag Chief, Wen Cangsong, was sent ahead to deliver Zhang Wuji and the others’ name cards to the Shaolin Temple. Zhang Wuji knew that this time they went up to the Shaolin Temple to ask for justice and although they did not want any fight, the end result would be difficult to tell. Supposing that the Shaolin monks did not want to talk but resort to violence instead, the Ming Cult could not balk at the challenge. Thereupon he passed on an order: while the leaders were entering the temple, the Five Elements Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Flag were to disperse around the temple and wait outside; as soon as they heard him whistle three times, they were to render their assistance. The flag leaders accepted the order and went their separate ways.

    Not too long afterwards an old monk acting as the welcoming host went down the mountain accompanied by Wen Cangsong; he said, “The Temple Abbot and all elders are closing themselves in meditation; they cannot receive any guest.”

    The Ming Cult leaders’ faces changed as they heard this. Zhou Dian indignantly said, “This is the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, personally came to the Shaolin Temple to pay a visit; the Senior Monks do not want to see him, don’t you think this is a bit rude?”

    That ‘welcoming host’ monk [Translator’s note: I can’t think of a single English word for this. Literally it means ‘receiving guest’.] lowered his head with knitted eyebrows; his face full of anxiety, he said, “Can’t see!”

    Zhou Dian angrily stretched out his hand to grab his collar. Shuo Bude raised his arm to block, he said, “Zhou Xiong, don’t be rude.”

    Peng Yingyu said, “Since the Abbot is in seclusion, then it will be the same if we can see Reverend Kong Zhi or Kong Xing.”

    That ‘welcoming host’ monk clasped his palms and said with an icy-cold voice, “Can’t see!”

    Peng Yingyu said again, “How about the Head of the Damo Hall or the Head of the Luohan Hall?”

    That ‘welcoming host’ monk maintained his cold and indifferent look. “Can’t see!” he said.

    With a thundering voice Yin Tianzheng roared, “Bottom line: are you or are you not going to see us?” Both of his palms shot out with an earth-shattering force, ‘bang!’ he hit and broke a nearby pine tree into two; the top part, still with branches and leaves on it, collapsed to the ground, taking three crow nests with it.

    The ‘welcoming host’ monk began to show fear on his face, he said, “You have come from afar, it is only proper for us to see you, but our elders are meditating in seclusion. Please come back later!” He bowed and clasped his palms, then turned around to leave.

    Wei Yixiao’s shadow flashed, blocking in front of the monk, he said, “I wonder how should we address Reverend?”

    The ‘welcoming host’ monk said, “I can’t say lowly monk’s Buddhist name.”

    Wei Yixiao stretched out his hand and lightly slapped the monk’s shoulder twice; he laughed and said, “Very good, very good! You repeatedly said ‘Bu Jian’ [Can’t see] two words, turned out you are ‘Bu Jian Da Shi’ [Reverend ‘Bu Jian’ or Reverend Can’t See], you are Kong Jian Shen Seng’s [Divine Monk Kong Jian – the same ‘Jian’ character as ‘Bu Jian’] martial brother. I wonder if the Yan Luo Wang [King of the Underworld] called you, ‘Bu Jian Shen Seng’, will you answer him?”

    As the ‘welcoming host’ monk took the slap, a cold air flew from his shoulder to his chest; his body shook, his teeth chattered and his mouth made ‘ge, ge’ noises. Enduring all these he leaned sideways and slipped past Wei Yixiao; trembling and staggering all the way he ran back up the mountain.

    “This fellow’s internal strength is not Shaolin’s,” Wei Yixiao said.

    Immediately Zhang Wuji recalled Yuan Zhen’s internal strength, and admitted that Shaolin’s internal strength was extraordinary. He said, “Bat King has slapped him twice with the ‘han bing mian zhang’ [cold-ice soft palm]; how can his grandmasters and his masters ignore it? Let us go up the mountain, I want to see if the senior monks truly do not want to see us.”

    Everybody knew a fierce fight would be unavoidable, Shaolin Sect was known as the Wulin world’s ‘tai shan bei dou’ [Mount Tai and Big Dipper – meaning ‘the ultimate’]; over the last thousand of years it had enjoyed the reputation as the Undefeated Sect in the Jianghu. In the battle that would happen today finally they will see between the Ming Cult and the Shaolin Sect, which one was strong and which one was weak. Everybody’s spirit was boosted a hundred folds; picking up their speed they climbed up the mountain. They realized Shaolin Temple’s martial art experts were as abundant as the cloud; so the intensity of the incoming big battle would not be a small matter.

    Less than the time needed to drink tea later they had arrived at the pavilion in front of the temple. Zhang Wuji recalled how as a kid he followed his grandmaster going up this mountain and saw the Shaolin Sect’s Three Divine Monks right here in this pavilion. Although it was only a few years, but back then he was a lone thin and sickly kid; while today he was the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, with all the honor and respect belonged to the position. He felt like the two visits were a world apart.

    He saw that two of the pillars of the stone pavilion were broken; the stone table in the middle of the pavilion was turned upside down on the ground.

    Shuo Bude laughed and said, “Shaolin Monks are brave and fierce; these two pillars are broken recently. It looks like they had a big fight only a few days ago and have not had any chance to fix it.”

    Zhou Dian said, “After winning the battle today, we can come back and tear this pavilion apart.”

    They waited at the pavilion, expecting a lot of martial art experts to come out of the temple; after exchanging pleasantries they were going to ask straightaway why Yin Liting fell under such a cruel hand. If the monks did not give them a satisfying answer, then they will resort to violence. Who would have thought that after waiting for half a day they did not see any movement from the temple. A moment later they saw that some people came out from the back of the temple and were going toward the mountain, from the distant it looked like there were forty, fifty people.

    “Humph,” Peng Yingyu said, “They are deploying people to set an ambush.”

    “Let’s go into the temple!” Zhang Wuji said.

    Immediately, with Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao on his left, Yin Tianzheng and Yin Yewang on his right, Tie Guan Daoren [Priest Tie Guan], Peng Yingyu, Zhou Dian and Shuo Bude, Four Wanderers behind him, Zhang Wuji entered the temple gate. Upon entering the ‘da xiong bao dian’ [great hero precious hall] they saw the sacrificial table in front of the image of Buddha was laying on its side, the incense burner fell and the ashes were scattered on the ground; but they couldn’t see anyone there.

    Shuo Bude laughed coldly and said, “As the Shaolin Sect people saw us coming, they were panic-stricken and confused that they knocked the incense burner over. Funny, very funny!”

    In a clear voice Zhang Wuji said, “Ming Cult’s Zhang Wuji, joined by Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Wei Yixiao, and the other Cult Leaders have come to pay a visit. We wish to see the Abbot.” His voice was not loud, but it was supported by abundant power that it echoed on the copper bell and the big drum hanging inside the hall, creating a buzzing noise throughout the hall.

    Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the others looked at each other, thinking, “Jiaozhu’s internal energy is so profound, it truly is amazing. Even if Yang Jiaozhu [Cult Leader Yang] were still alive, his internal energy would still be inferior to this. It looks like in the incoming battle today our victory is imminent.”

    Zhang Wuji’s voice could be heard in the front and rear courtyards, and all over the Shaolin Temple; yet after waiting for half an afternoon nobody came out.

    “Hey!” Zhou Dian shouted, “Shaolin Temple Monks! Brothers! Are you playing hide and seek? Are you pretending to be a new bride?” His voice was louder than Zhang Wuji’s, but the copper bell and the big drum were not buzzing.

    They waited for a little bit longer; still nobody came out. Peng Yingyu said, “Suddenly I got a bad feeling about this temple; something is really wrong.”

    Zhou Dian laughed and said, “You are a monk entering a temple; this is your appropriate place, what do you mean something is wrong?”

    “Ah,” Tie Guan Daoren suddenly said, “Here is a piece of meditation stick cut by a blade.”

    “Ah!” Shuo Bude exclaimed, “There is a blotch of blood here!”

    Zhou Dian laughed, “They must have remembered the battle of the Brightness Peak,” he said, “Our Jiaozhu’s reputation has spread far and wide, Shaolin Temple hangs high the truce flag! You see, they were so panic-stricken that they ran away dropping everything, including their weapons.”

    Tie Guan Daoren shook his head, “That’s not right!” he said.

    “Why not?” Zhou Dian asked.

    Tie Guan Daoren said, “What about this blood stain?”

    Zhou Dian replied, “Most likely they cut themselves in fright …” Speaking to this point he stopped, since he realized his idea was too far fetched. Right that moment a gust of wind blew, rising everybody’s sleeve. “It’s nice and cool!” Zhou Dian exclaimed. Suddenly they heard a loud crashing noise from the west, a big pine tree about a dozen ‘zhang’s away from them fell down.

    The crowd was startled; immediately they jumped toward the collapsed tree. The tree grew on the southeast corner of the courtyard; there was nobody in the courtyard, so nobody knew how such a big tree fell down just by a puff of wind and in the process crashed half of the surrounding wall. They examined the broken part only to see the core of the tree to be already ruptured, clearly it was shaken by someone with profound skill; so the tree had already withered and dried up, and not fell down because of the wind just now.

    They looked around their surrounding and one after another exclaimed, “Ah, it’s strange!” “There was heavy fighting in here!” “So fierce, so many people were injured!” The courtyard was full of traces of intense fighting: there were blade marks and imprints of fists and palms on the green flagstones below, on the trunk and branches of the surrounding trees, and on the enclosing walls. They could also see bloodstains everywhere; obviously the battle was truly bloody. There were also deep footprints on the ground, a sign that the combatants were martial art experts who stake their whole internal energies.

    Zhang Wuji said, “Quickly grab that ‘welcoming host’ monk, we need to ask him clearly.”

    Wei Yixiao, Shuo Bude and the others quickly dispersed to look, but the ‘receiving guest’ monk had disappeared without any trace. The Five Elements Flags also looked everywhere. A little over an hour later all the Flag leaders came back one after another with their report: nobody was found in the temple, but they saw traces of violent battle everywhere. Many of the halls and rooms had bloodstains in them, along with broken blades and other weapons, but not a single body was to be seen.

    “Left Emissary Yang, what do you think?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    “This battle happened two, three days ago,” Yang Xiao replied, “Could it be that the entire Shaolin Sect is annihilated and not a single one survived?”

    “Wasn’t there a few dozens people went out the temple from the back just now?” Shuo Bude asked.

    Yang Xiao replied, “Quite possibly they were the Shaolin Sect’s enemy. They were left behind to take care of things in here; but as they saw our large group arrived they slipped away.”

    Peng Yingyu said, “Judging from the turn of events, I think you are right. That ‘welcoming host’ monk must be an impostor; it’s a pity we could not capture him. But among the enemies of the Shaolin Sect, which one is this powerful? Could it be the Beggar Clan?”

    Zhou Dian said, “The Beggar Clan is indeed big, and has a lot of martial art experts, but they don’t have the ability to wipe out the entire Shaolin Temple that not a single survivor is left. Only our Ming Cult has this kind of ability; but we clearly did not do it, do we?”

    “Zhou Dian, can you not spout nonsense?” Tie Guan Daoren said, “Our Cult obviously did not do it, do you think we don’t know?”

    “Reporting to Jiaozhu,” Yan Yuan, the Flag Leader of the Thick Earth came to report, “It looks like the eighteen arhats in the Luohan Hall have been shifted, but there was no footprint around.”

    The leaders knew that Yan Yuan and his Thick Earth Flag were experts in building and construction, so his suspicion must not be unfounded. “Let us take a look,” they said.

    Upon entering the Luohan Hall, they saw quite a bit of blood splattered on the walls and broken blades and meditation sticks strewn on the floor.

    “Yan Xiong,” Zhou Dian said, “What’s unusual about these eighteen arhats?”

    “Each Luohan arhat was moved from their original position,” Yan Yuan replied, “At first I thought there was another door somewhere, but after carefully examining the wall, I did not see any secret passageway anywhere.”

    Yang Xiao was deep in thought for half an afternoon before he finally said, “Let us push these arhats and take a look.”

    Yan Yuan leaped toward the platform and pushed the long-eyebrowed arhat to the side, exposing the wall behind it, but there was nothing unusual there. Yang Xiao also leaped to the platform to take a closer look at that long-eyebrowed arhat. “Uh,” he suddenly exclaimed, “There is a character on the back of this arhat.” He turned the arhat around. To their astonishment, the crowd saw a ‘mie’ [extinguish] character as big as a human’s head.

    The Luohan arhats were inlaid with gold, but by now a large ‘mie’ character was engraved on the glittering golden back with a sharp object. The engraving was about a ‘cun’ [an inch] deep that the clay inside was exposed. The engraving was new, obviously it was done not too long ago.

    “What’s the meaning of this ‘mie’ character?” Zhou Dian wondered, “Ah, right! It must be the Emei Sect attacked the Shaolin Temple; Miejue Shitai left this to demonstrate her power.”

    The group of heroes thought his idea was too unthinkable; they all shook their heads. While speaking they turned all the arhats around. Other than the Subduing Dragon Arhat on the extreme right and the Crouching Tiger Arhat on the extreme left, a large character was engraved on the back of every arhat. From right to left there were sixteen characters which read: ‘First execute Shaolin then extinguish Wudang, only our Ming Cult is fit to be Wulin world’s king!’

    Yin Tianzheng, Tie Guan Daoren, Shuo Bude and the others called out together, “This is a treacherous plan to shift the blame!” They realized these sixteen characters were a threat to incite terror; they recalled how the Shaolin Temple’s monks suffered an unexpected calamity, and the blame was put upon the Ming Cult’s head. Everybody was anxious and grieved at the same time.

    “Let us quickly scrape off these characters to avoid injustice toward us,” Zhou Dian called out.

    Yang Xiao said, “The enemy intention is obviously malicious; scraping off these sixteen characters may not be necessarily useful.”

    This time Zhou Dian felt what he said made a good sense, so he did not argue. “What should we do, then?” he asked.

    Shuo Bude said, “This is actually evidence. If we can find the person who hatched this treacherous plan, we can take him here and confront him with these sixteen characters.”

    Yang Xiao nodded his agreement.

    Peng Yingyu said, “Xiao Seng [little/lowly monk] still have a question, I need the Left Emissary Yang’s enlightenment. The person who carved these sixteen characters obviously wanted to shift the blame to our Cult; placing the responsibility of Shaolin Sect’s destruction on our head, so that the Wulin world’s heroes would rally together to attack us. Then why did he turn these arhats to the wall? Why didn’t they leave these large sixteen characters facing outward? If it wasn’t because of Flag Leader Yan’s attentiveness, nobody would know there are characters on the back of these Luohan arhats.”

    Yang Xiao was deep in thought. “Come to think about it,” he said, “There must be someone else who turned these arhats back. Most likely there is someone helping our Cult in secret. We owe him a big debt of gratitude.”

    “Who is this person?” the crowd asked almost simultaneously, “How did Left Emissary Yang know?”

    Yang Xiao sighed and said, “This is a complicated mystery, I cannot possibly know everything …”

    “Ah!” he has not finished his words when suddenly Zhang Wuji loudly exclaimed, “‘First execute Shaolin, then extinguish Wudang,’ I am afraid … I am afraid Wudang is facing a terrible disaster.”

    “We must leave immediately to render our help,” Wei Yixiao said, “We might also find out which dog has done it all.”

    “We can’t wait much longer,” Yin Tianzheng also said, “We must leave now. These bandits have already left one or two days ago.”

    End of Chapter 23
    Last edited by dgfds01; 07-08-07 at 04:06 AM.

  5. #25
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    Chapter 24: Tai Chi - The Origin of Soft Subduing Hard

    (translated by dgfds01)

    Zhang Wuji wondered whether some misfortune had befallen his martial uncles on the way back from the Western Regions. Throughout the whole journey there had been no news of them. If any misfortune had delayed them on their way, the only people left on Wudang Mountain were his grandteacher and the third generation disciples. His third martial uncle Yu Daiyan was paralysed. If a formidable enemy attacked, how could they resist them? Thinking so, he felt anxious. He said clearly: “Elders and brothers, my late father was a Wudang disciple. I am greatly indebted to my grandteacher. Now that Wudang is facing great trouble, the earlier we get there the better. Bat King Wei will accompany me to first to lend aid. The rest of you should arrive in batches. I request that Left Messenger Yang and Grandpa arrange this. ” After saying this, he cupped his hands and left. Wei Yixiao used his lightness kungfu and followed him. Before the crowd could say anything in agreement, the two of them were already outside Shaolin temple. Their lightness kungfu was really amazing, without equal in the world. The two of them did not dare risk even a short moment’s delay. Without stopping they quickly covered ten li. Though Wei Yixiao did not fall behind, after some time he gradually found it difficult to keep up. Zhang Wuji thought: “Wudang Mountain is a long distance away, we can’t keep this up without rest. Moreover there is a formidable enemy in front. We should save our energy for battle.” He said to Wei Yixiao: “Let’s buy a couple of horses from the next town to conserve our energy.” Wei Yixiao had already considered this but he had brought the matter up. He said: “Sect Leader, buying horses will waste too much time.”

    Not long later, they met five or six horses approaching. Wei Yixiao jumped up, lifted up two riders and put them gently on the ground. He called out: “Sect Leader, mount up!” Zhang Wuji stopped in his tracks. In his heart he felt that stealing horses like that was not the right thing to do. Wei Yixiao called out: "When dealing with important matters, don't be held back by trifling affairs. Why worry so much?” He lifted another two riders off their horses. It so happened that those people also knew some martial arts. Cursing, they drew their weapons to attack. While holding on to four horses, Wei Yixiao kicked their weapons out of their hands. One of them shouted: “Who are you robbers? What are your names!” Zhang Wuji felt it would be even worse if they got tangled up any further. So he leapt onto a horse's back and went with Wei Yixiao. Not daring to give chase, the horse owners could only curse. Zhang Wuji said:“Even though we have pressing matters to attend to, others may also have urgent matters. I don't feel comfortable doing this.” Wei Yixiao laughed and said: “Sect Leader, this is small matter not worth mentioning. The way the Ming Cult handled affairs in the past... - now that is truly unscrupulous and illegal.” So saying, he laughed loudly.

    Zhang Wuji thought: "The Ming Cult is considered an evil sect. There is some truth that. However it can be hard to determine what is righteous and what is evil." He was the sect leader and yet he had difficulty making decisions. He was even undecided about a minor issue like the horses. Though his kungfu skills were of a high level, there are many matters in this world that cannot be settled with kungfu alone. He hoped to bring Xie Xun back soon, and pass this heavy burden on to him. Yet he was unwilling to simply take the asy way out. At this moment, he suddenly saw two people with silver rods in their hands blocking the road. Wei Yixiao shouted:“Get out of the way!” He waved the horse whip. One man blocked the whip with his staff, another man yelled and waved his left hand. Wei Yixiao’s horse was startled and stood up on its hind legs. Four men dressed in black then came out from a grove. They looked like they were able fighters. Wei Yixiao yelled: “Sect leader go on,let me deal with them.” Zhang Wuji saw that these people are trying to prevent reinforcements from reaching Wudang. Wudang Sect was in a very precarious and dangerous situation. He knew that Wei Yixiao's lightness kungfu and martial arts is amazing, he could handle these people. Even if he couldn't win he would be able to protect himself. Zhang Wuji squeezed both his legs to urge the horse forward. Two men in black used steel staffs to block the way. Zhang Wuji bent down, seized the staffs and threw them forward. The two men screamed as their legs were broken by the steel staffs and they fell to the ground. He saw that the four men fighting Wei Yixiao were not weak. He was worried that after he left more enemies will appear, so he helped Wei Yixiao deal with two of them.

    Though Mt. Song and Mt. Wudang are in two different provinces - Henan and Hubei, one is in west Henan and the other in north Hubei. So the distance between them was not that great. After crossing the Ma Mountain, to the south was open country and the horse was able to travel quickly. At noon, he passed a small village. Zhang WuJi felt hungry so he stopped to buy some food. Suddenly he heard a horse scream behind him. He turned around and saw a knife stuck in a horse's stomach. A man quickly tried to hide.

    Zhang Wuji jumped up and grabbed that person. Only to see it is another man dressed in black with the front of his clothes splashed with horse blood. Zhang Wuji yelled: “Whose orders are you following? Which sect do you belong to? Has your party reached Wudang Mountain?” That person did not answer despite being questioned a few times. Zhang Wuji did not dare delay any longer, thinking that that once he reached Wudang Mountain he would understand what was going on. He sealed the man's 'Da Tui' pressure point. The sealed pressure point would cause the man to suffer great pain for three days and three nights.

    He then got onto his horse and continued his journey. Soon he reached the Three Palaces and crossed the Han River. While on a boat, he stared into the water thinking of the time Zhang Sanfeng and himself met Chang Yuchun and saved Zhou Zhiruo. Her beautiful image surfaced in his mind. After crossing the Han River, he headed south. By now night had already fallen. He continued for another two hours. It was a dark night. The horse was extremely exhausted and could not take it anymore. It collapsed to the ground. Zhang Wuji patted the horse's back saying:“Horsey, you're free to go now!” He utilised his lightness kungfu and was quickly on his way.

    After traveling for eight hours, he heard the sound of hoofbeats - there was a group of people ahead. He quicken his pace and overtook them swiftly. Because of his speed and the darkness, no one noticed him. From their direction, they are heading for Wudang Mountain. The twenty or so people did not say a word, so he was unable to determine their intentions. But he could dimly see that each one carried weapons. There is no doubt that they are going to cause trouble for Wudang Sect. He thought: “I've managed to overtake them so Wudang Sect has not yet been attacked.” After continuing for less than an hour, he met another group of people heading for Wudang Mountain. In total he ran into five groups. The biggest group consisted of about thirty people and the smallest about ten. After seeing the fifth group, he was even more anxious, thinkng: “How many other groups have already gone up the mountain? Have they already clashed with people from my sect?” Though he was not a Wudang disciple, because of his father's background he considered Wudang his own sect. So thinking, he increased his speed. Not long later reached the mountain and started climbing. Fortunately he did not run into anymore enemies. Halfway up the mountain, he saw someone hurrying upward. It was a monk and his lightness kungfu was amazing. Zhang Wuji followed him from a distance observing his actions.

    He saw the monk go up the mountain. At the peak, someone shouted:“Which friend comes to Wudang at this time of the night?” As the sound died away, four people appeared, two Taoist priests and two laymen (non-priests). These were Wudang Sect's third and fourth generation disciples. The monk said: “Kong Xiang of Shaolin has an urgent matter to see Wudang's Master Zhang about.” Zhang Wuji though with surprise: “So he is a member of Shaolin's 'Kong' generation, the same generation as Abbot Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing. He actually took the trouble to come personally to Wudang Mountain to bring news.”

    One of the Wudang Taoist priests said:“Reverend, you has come from afar. Please come in and have some tea.” And soo saying he lead the way. Kong Xiang gave his saber to a priest, not daring to bring his weapon in. Zhang Wuji saw the priest lead Kong Xiang into the Purple Paradise Hall. He squatted down outside the window. Only to hear Kong Xiang say loudly: “Please report to Master Zhang immediately. The situation is urgent; there is no time to lose!” The priest replied: “Reverend, you have come at the wrong time. My grandteacher has been meditating in seclusion for over a year. We haven't seen him in some time.” Kong Xiang said:“In that case, can you please inform Eldest Hero Song.” The priest replied: “My Eldest Martial Uncle, my Master and the other martial uncles have not returned from attacking the Ming Sect.” When Zhang Wuji heard this he was shaken. So Song Yuanqiao and the rest had really run into trouble on the way back.

    Kong Xiang sighed and said: “If that is so then Wu Dang and Shaolin are in the same boat. It would be difficult to escape today's disaster.” Not understanding what he meant, the priest said: "Senior Martial Brother Guxu Zi is in charge of our sect's general affairs. I will ask him to come and pay his respects to reverend.” Kong Xiang asked: “Whose disciple is this Guxu Zi?” The priest answered: “He is Third Uncle Yu's disciple.” Kong Xiang said:“Even though Third Hero Yu's arms and legs have been injured, his mind is still clear. Let me speak to him.” The Taoist said:“Alright.” He turned around and went inside.

    Kong Xiang paced back and forth impatiently. From time to time, he tilted his head and listened intently,worrying that the enemy had arrived. Not long later, the priest hurriedly came out. He bowed and said: “Third Uncle Yu invites you in. He requests that the Reverend excuses him for being unable to come out and greet you." The priest's behaviour was now even more respectful than before. This was probably because on hearing that a Shaolin monk of the “Kong” generation,Yu Daiyan ordered him to be very polite. Kong Xiang nodded his head and went along with him to Yu Daiyan's room.

    Zhang Wuji pondered: “Third Martial Uncle's four limbs are paralysed buut his eyes and ears are still very sharp. If I listen outside his window, he might detect me.” He walked towards Yu Daiyan's room but stopped outside. A short while later, the Taoist priest hurriedly came out of Yu Daiyan's room. He said in a low voice: “Qing Feng, Ming Yue! Come here.” Two novice priests came up to him and called:“Martial Uncle!” The priest said:“Third Martial Uncle wants to come out. Get the carry chair ready. ” The two novices complied. Zhang Wuji had lived on Wudang Mountain for a few years. That priest was Yu Lianzhou's new disciple so he had never met him. However, he recognized Qing Feng and Ming Yue. He knew that when Yu Daiyan was carried on his chair by novices whenever he left the room. He watched the two go to the wing where the carry chair was kept and silently followed them. He waited till the two entered the room before suddenly calling: “Qing Feng, Ming Yue, do you recognize me?” The two of them jumped in fright. Looking at Zhang Wuji, they thought he seemed vaguely familiar but they failed to recognize him. Zhang Wuji laughed, and said: “Have you forgotten me? I'm Little Martial Uncle Wuji.” The two of them then remembered the past, and were very happy. They said:“Ah, Little Martial Uncle, you've come back! Have you recovered from your illness?” The three of them were around the same age and used to play together. Zhang Wuji said: “Qing Feng, let me pretend to be you and go carry Third Martial Uncle. Let's see whether he notices it's me.” Qing Feng hesitated, saying:“That...that is not a very good idea!” Zhang Wuji said: “When Third Martial Uncle sees that I have recovered from my illness and returned, he'll be very happy. Why would he scold you?” Both of them knew that Zhang Sanfeng and the Wudang Six Heroes all love Zhang Wuji very much. His recovery and return to Wudang was a very happy thing. He only wanted to play a little joke to cheer Yu Daiyan up; there was no harm in it. Ming Yue laughed: “Let's do what Little Martial Uncle says!” While giggling, Qing Feng took off his Taoist robe and shoes, and exchanged them with Zhang Wuji. Ming Yue tied his hair in Taoist fashion. He now looked like a little novice priest.

    Ming Yue said:“You want to impersonate Qing Feng but you don't look like him. We'll say that you are a newcomer and that Qing Feng broke his leg so you replaced him.” Zhang Wuji laughed:“Good idea......” The priest outside the room scolded:“What are you two giggling about? Taking so long to get here.” Zhang Wuji and Ming Yue stuck out their tongues and carried the chair into Yu Daiyan's room. The two of them lifted Yu Daiyan into the carry chair. Yu Daiyan had a solemn expression on his face and he paid no attention to who the novices who carried him were. He said:“Go to the small compound at the back of the mountain to see grandteacher!” Ming Yue answered: “Yes!” He lifted the front end of the carry chair while Zhang Wuji lifted the back end. Yu Daiyan could only see Ming Yue's back; Zhang Wuji was hidden from his view. Kong Xiang went along with them but the priest did not dare follow without Yu Daiyan's orders. The small compound where Zhang Sanfeng meditated was deep in the bamboo forest at the back of the mountain. The forest is dense and dark - other than the sound of birds chirping, not the slightest sound could be heard. Ming Yue and Zhang Wuji carried Yu Daiyan to the front of a small compound and stopped. Yu Daiyan was about to call out when suddenly they heard Zhang Sanfeng say:“A eminent reverend from Shaolin comes to my humble residence. Please forgive this old Taoist for not coming out to welcome you.” With a ‘ya’ sound,the bamboo door was shoved open and Zhang Sanfeng came out. Kong Xiang wore an astonished expression on his face, he was shocked that Zhang Sanfeng already knew he was a Shaolin monk. But then he assumed that the priest had already come to report. Yu Daiyan knew his Master's martial arts were growing more and more profound. By the sound of Kong Xiang's footsteps alone, he could tell which sect he belong to. Zhang Wuji could hide his presence from Zhang Sanfeng because his inner power was much grater that Kong Xiang's. He saw that though his grandteacher's face was glowing with health, his bread and eyebrows are completely white. He had aged quite a lot since their separation. He was both happy and grieved. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he hurriedly turned his head away.

    Kong Xiang put his palms together and said: “Kong Xiang of Shaolin pays his respects to Master Zhang of Wudang.” Zhang Sanfeng returned his salutations saying:“There's no need to be so polite. Please come in.” The five of them entered the small compound. On the table was a teapot and a teacup. There was a rush cushion on the floor and a wooden sword hanging on the wall. Other than that, the room was bare. Kong Xiang said: “Master Zhang, Shaolin Sect has suffered the greatest catastrophe in its history. The Demon Cult launched an unexpected sneak attack on us. From the abbot Kong Wen downwards, all have either died in battle or have been captured. I barely managed to escape. The Demon Cult is now heading for Wudang. Today the fate of the martial world rests in Master Zhang's hands.” After saying this he cried. Zhang Wuji was shaken, he knew Shaolin had met with a tragedy, but he never imagined the whole sect was destroyed.

    Though Zhang Sanfeng had been seeking enlightenment for a hundred years, this sudden sad news shocked him and he was momentarily speechless. Collecting himself, he said: “The Demon Sect is really savage. How did the Shaolin experts fall to the Demon Cult?” Kong Xiang replied:“Martial brothers Kong Zhi and Kong Xing and their disciples, together five main sects besieged Brightness Peak. The monks who stayed behind waited calmly everyday for good news. On that day, there was a report that they had returned from a great victory. Abbot Kong Wen was delighted with the news. Accompanied by the temple disciples, he went out to welcome them. We saw martial brothers Kong Zhi and Kong Xing leading the disciples who had gone along, returning to the temple. They had even captured several hundred prisoners. When they entered the main courtyard, the Abbot asked about details of the victory. Brother Kong Zhi gave yes, no answers. Brother Kong Xing stared at the ground and said:‘Brother look out, we have fallen into the enemies' hands. The prisoners are our captors...’ At the moment of the Abbot's shock, the prisoners took out weapons and suddenly attacked. My sect's people were caught off guard. Also, the most skilled fighters went on the Western expedition, those who remained behind were weak fighters. The escape routes from the courtyard blocked by the enemy. After a fierce fight, we were finally defeated. Brother Kong Xing died for our cause at the scene...” After saying up to here, he broke off sobbing. Zhang Sanfeng said sadly: “The Demon Sect is really ruthless. How can anyone be prepared for such an evil trick?” Only to see Kong Xiang open the yellow cloth bundle he had carried on his back. Inside was an oil-cloth. He opened the oil-cloth to reveal human head. The eyes were wide open and the face angry. It was one of the three Divine Reverends of Shaolin, Kong Xing. Zhang Sanfeng and Zhang Wuji both knew Kong Xing's appearance. As soon as they saw it, they could not help exclaiming in shock. Kong Xiang sobbed:“I risked my life to retrieve martial brother Kong Xing's body. Master Zhang, how do you think we should take revenge? ” So saying he placed Kong Xing's head on the table, and prostrated himself on the ground. Zhang Sanfeng bowed back.

    Zhang Wuji thought back to the fight on Brightness Peak. Divine Reverend Kong Xing was generous and heroic, a worthy great master of Shaolin. Now that he had suffered death in the hands of an evil person, his head and body separated, Zhang Wuji was sad.

    Zhang Sanfeng saw that Kong Xiang knelt on the ground crying for a long time. He helped him up saying:“Brother Kong Xiang,Shaolin and Wudang are one family. This blood debt must not...” Just as he said that,there was a loud 'wham' sound as Kong Xiang's two hands hit him on the stomach.

    This happened extremely suddenly. Though Zhang Sanfeng's martial arts were profound and amazing,he never expected that a top Shaolin expert who had come from far to bring news would attack him. At this moment, he even thought that Kong Xiang had lost his mind momentarily due to grief, and imagined he was an enemy. The next moment he realized that this could not be. The palm used to hit him was Shaolin's “Diamond Prajna Palm”. Kong Xiang had attacked with full force, using all his internal energy. His face was pale but there was a hint of a fierce smile.

    Zhang Wuji, Yu Daiyan and Ming Yue were so shock they were rooted on the spot. Yu Daiyan was paralysed, so he could not help his Master. Zhang Wuji was young and inexperienced, he did not realize that Kong Xiang had struck a lethal blow. The two of them could only let out an exclaimation. Only to see Zhang Sanfeng stretch out his left palm and tapped Kong Xiang lightly on the head. Though this tap was soft and gentle, it was as hard as iron. Kong Xiang's skull was smashed and he dropped dead to the ground without uttering a sound. Yu Daiyan said urgently: "Master, you...” As he said this, he stopped. He saw Zhang Sanfeng sit down with his eyes closed. White mist was coming out of his head. Suddenly he opened his mouth and coughed out fresh blood.

    Zhang Wuji was shocked. He knew his grandteacher's injuries were not light. If the blood had been black or purple, with his unparalleled internal energy, he would be able to recover within 3 days. But the blood he coughed up was fresh and it spurted out. This meant he had suffered severe internal injuries. At this time, he wondered: "Should I reveal myself to help grandteacher?”

    Just at this time,the sound of footsteps approaching could be heard, someone had arrived outside. From the hurried sound of the footsteps, the person was very anxious. But he did not dare rush in or make a sound. Yu Daiyan said:“Is that Ling Xu?What is the matter?” The welcoming priest Ling Xu said:“Third Martial Uncle, there is a big group of Demon Cult outside. They say they want to meet Grandmaster. They swore with vulgar words, saying they want to annihilate Wudang Sect......” Yu Daiyan shouted:“Shut up!” He was afraid Zhang Sanfeng would be distracted, causing his injuries become worse. Zhang Sanfeng slowly opened his eyes and said:“Shaolin's Diamond Prajna Palm is really powerful. Unless I have 3 months to take care of my injuries it'll be difficult to make a complete recovery.” Zhang Wuji thought:“It looks like Grandteacher's injuries are more serious than I thought.”

    Only to hear Zhang Sanfeng say:“The Ming Cult is launching a large attack on us. Ai, I wonder if Yuanqiao, Lianzhou and the others are safe?Daiyan, what do you think we should do?” Yu Daiyan did not reply. He knows that except for his Master and himself, all the third and forth generation disciples remaining on the mountain had mediocre martial arts. Going out to fight would be the equivalent of suicide. The only thing to do would be to sacrifice his life facing the enemy to give his master a chance to escape and recover, and take revenge in the future. So he said:“Ling Xu, go and tell those people that I'm coming out to meet them. Let them wait in the Hall of Triple Clarity.” Ling Xu obeyed and left. Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan's master-disciple relationship was very old and they understood each other very well. Hearing this, Zhang Sanfeng understood his intentions. He said:“Daiyan,life of death, victory or defeat, these are unimportant things. But Wudang's martial arts legacy must not disappear just like that. During my meditation in the past eighteen months I have comprehended the essence of martial arts and created Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword. I'll teach it to you now.”

    Yu Daiyan was stunned. He had been paralysed for such a long time, how could he learn martial arts? Moreover the enemies were already at their doorstep – there was no time to learn martial arts. He could only say:“Master!” Beyond that he was speechless. Zhang Sanfeng laughed a little and said:“Since the founding of Wudang, we have done many good deeds. If there is any justice in the world we will not be destroyed like this. This Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword that I have created are completely different from all other kinds of martial arts. Stillness defeats movement, and that which moves first overcomes that which moves later. Your master is already more than a hundred years old. Even if I don't run into a powerful enemy, how much longer can I live?I am happy that I have created these martial arts at the twilight of my life. Yuanqiao, Lianzhou, Songxi, Liting and Shenggu are not here now. Except for Qingshu, there are no extraordinary talents among the third and fourth generation disciples. Moreover he is not here too. Daiyan, you are the one who can bear this heavy burden. It matters not that Wudang Sect is humiliated today. So long as Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword survive, Wudang Sect's name will live on for thousands of years.” After saying this, his spirit lifted up heroically, the presence of powerful enemies no longer bothered him. Yu Daiyan obeyed, he understood his master wanted him to bear the enemies' insults. The main priority is to ensure Wudang's martial arts survive.

    Zhang Sanfeng slowly stood up. He lowered both of his hands, with the back of his hands facing outwards and his fingers relaxed. His feet were slightly apart. He then raised his arms to chest height. His left hand faced upward in the Yin Palm position and the right hand in the Yang Palm position. He said:“This is the Taiji Fist opening stance.”Then he demonstrated each form one by one, calling out their names:- Grasping the Sparrow's Tail, Single Whip, Lifting up the Hand, White Crane Spreads its Wings, Brushing the Knee and the Twisted Step, Playing the Pipa, Step Forward Deflect Parry and Punch, Apparent Closure, Crossing Hands, Carrying the Tiger Returning to the Mountain......
    *These are the actual names of Taijiquan forms.

    Zhang Wuji watched attentively, not taking his eyes away. At first he thought his grandteacher was deliberately demonstrating the moves slowly so Yu Daiyan could see them clearly. But when he saw the seventh stance “Playing the Pipa (a Chinese musical instrument)”- the left hand embodiying Yang and the right hand Yin,eyes fixed on the back of his left hand, both hands pushing slowly. This push was as heavy as a mountain but as light as a feather. Zhang Wuji finally understood:“This is about the slow beating the swift, about stillness overcoming movement. I never imagined such amazing martial arts to exist in this world.” He could understand this because his martial arts foundation was very firm. The more he watched the more amazed he felt. Both of Zhang Sanfeng's hands moved in circular form. Each stroke encompassed Taiji's Yin and Yang. It was so incredible, like nothing ever seen in the world before. After a while, Zhang Sanfeng stopped. Even though he had just suffered severe internal injuries, he seemed stronger and more energetic going through the fist techniques. With his two hands holding the Taiji circle, he said “The essence of this fist technique is 16 words -'Xu Ling Ding Jin, Han Xiong Ba Bei, Song Yao Chui Tun, Chen Jian Zhui Zhou' (*). Use intention not strength. The form and spirit become one. This is core of the fist technique.” Then he went on explaining the details.

    *Xu Ling Ding Jin-Empty the neck, let energy reach the crown
    Han Xiong Ba Bei-Sink the chest, lift the back
    Chen Jian Zhui Zhou-Sink the shoulders, drop the elbows
    (From "The Way of Qigong" by Kenneth S. Cohen, thanks to dustbiter)
    and Song Yao Chui Tun - Loose waist, bend at the buttocks.*

    Yu Daiyan did not say a word and listened. He knew that time was pressing, he did not have the leisure to ask questions. Although there were parts he did not understand completely, he memorized everything. In the event that any calamity should befall his master, he would still be able to pass the theory on. In the future there will be some intelligent and talented disciple who would be able to understand it. By contrast, Zhang Wuji could understand most of it. He could figure out Zhang Sanfeng’s every word and each stance and was extremely happy. Zhang Sanfeng saw that Yu Daiyan looked confused. He asked:“How much do you understand?” Yu Daiyan said:“Your disciple is stupid. I can only understand 30-40 percent. But I have memorized each stance and all the theory.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“It is difficult for you. If Lianzhou were here he would be able to understand about 50 percent. Ai, your fifth brother's comprehension was the greatest. It's a pity he died young. If I had 3 years to teach him, I would be able to pass my legacy on.” Listening to him talk about his father, there was a sour feeling in Zhang Wuji's heart. Zhang Sanfeng said:“The key to this fist technique is its loose yet not loose, spread out yet not spread out, broken yet uninterrupted......” As he was talking, there was a yell:“That old Taoist Zhang Sanfeng is hiding. Let us kill all his disciples and grand-disciples.” Another coarse and heroic voice said:“Great! First let us burn this place down. ” Yet another person said:“Burning the old Taoist to death is letting him off easily. We should catch him, tie him up and parade him in front of every sect. Let everyone see how this Mount Tai and North Star is brought down.”

    Though the small compound was two li away from the main hall, everyone could hear those words clearly. The enemies must be showing off their internal energy, which was very powerful. Listening to these insults on his master, Yu Daiyan was furious and his eyes flared up. Zhang Sanfeng said:“Daiyan,why do you forget what I told you so easily?If you can't bear some insults, how can you accomplish the important task? ” Yu Daiyan said:“Yes, I accept your teachings.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“Your whole body is paralysed so the enemy won't be wary against you. Whatever happens, you must not lose your temper and act rashly. This technique has been created with much sweat and blood. If it fails to be passed on, you will be the worst sinner of Wudang Sect.” When Yu Daiyan heard this, he broke out in cold sweat. He knew the meaning behind his master's words – no matter what the enemies do to humiliate them, he must seek to preserve his life so the techniques can be passed on.

    Zhang Sanfeng took out a pair of Lohan figurines and gave them to Yu Daiyan (I'm not sure how Yu Daiyan received them with his crippled hands ) saying:“Kong Xiang said that Shaolin has been annihilated. We don't know if that is true. This person is a top expert from Shaolin and yet he has surrendered to the enemies. This means Shaolin must have suffered from some great danger. These Lohan figures were give to me by Heroine Guo Xiang a hundred years ago. In the future you should return them to Shaolin. Hopefully parts of Shaolin martial arts will be preserved through them.” He then waved his sleeve and walked out the door.

    Yu Daiyan said:“Carry me and follow Master” Ming Yue and Zhang Wuji lifted up the carry chair and followed behind Zhang Sanfeng. When the four of them arrived at the Hall of Triple Clarity, they saw there were about three to four hundred people there. Zhang Sanfeng walked to the centre and nodded a greeting but remained silent. Yu Daiyan said loudly:“This is my Master, the Venerable Master Zhang. Why did you come to Wudang Mountain?” Zhang Sanfeng's reputation had shaken the martial arts world, for a moment everyone looked at him. They only saw a man with tall stature with silver coloured hair and beard and wearing a dirty grey Taoist robe, there was nothing special about him. Zhang Wuji saw that around half of the people present were wearing Ming Cult's clothes. Their ten leaders were wearing ordinary clothes, probably because they were too proud to impersonate other people. There were tall and short, monks and ordinary people, hundreds of people crowded into the hall. It was difficult to judge them based on their appearance. At this moment,suddenly someone called out:“Cult leader has arrived!” Immediately the hall fell into a respectful silence. The ten leaders and their followers rushed out to greet their leader. In just a short time, the hall was completely empty. Then footsteps signaled the return of those people. They halted outside the hall. Zhang Wuji looked through the door and was startled. He saw eight people carrying a yellow satin sedan chair and seven or eight bodyguards. They stopped at the entrance. The people carrying the sedan chair were the Eight Divine Archers from Green Willow Village.

    Zhang Wuji was shaken. He rubbed both his hands on the dusty floor and then smeared the dust on his face. Ming Yue only thought that he was terrified seeing a powerful enemy arrive and so tried to hide his features. He too panicked and followed Zhang Wuji. In a flash, the two novice priests' faces were both grey, making it difficult to make out their features. The sedan chair's door opened and a young man got out. He was wearing a white robe embroidered with a blood red flame and carrying a fan. It was Zhao Min disguised as a man. Zhang Wuji thought: "So it is her who is behind all this, no wonder Shaolin was so utterly defeated.” Only to see her enter the hall followed by around 10 people. A tall and powerfully-built man steps forward, bowed and said: "Reporting to Sect Leader, this is Wudang Sect's Zhang Sanfeng and that paralysed man should be his third disciple Yu Daiyan." Zhao Min nodded, took a few steps forward, folded her fan, cupped her hands and bowed to Zhang Sanfeng, saying: "Ming Cult Leader, Junior Zhang Wuji, is fortunate to meet the North Star of the wulin today!" Zhang Wuji was furious. He scolded in his heart: “It's bad enough that you pretend to the Ming Cult leader. How dare you use my name and come to trick my Grandteacher!” When Zhang Sanfeng heard the words “Zhang Wuji”, he thought it was very strange: “How is it that the Demon Sect's leader such a young girl? And why does she have the same name as Wuji?” Nevertheless he returned her salutation and said:“I did not know that Sect Leader was coming so I didn't come out to greet you. I hope you'll forgive me!” Zhao Min said: “You flatter me!”

    Ling Xu directed the novice priests to serve tea. Zhao Min sat down. Her subordinates stood a distance behind her, not daring to come within five feet of her for fear of offending her.

    Zhang SanFeng had practiced Taosim for a hundred year, it had been a long time since anything affected him emotionally. However, he had a deep bond with his disciples. With the safety of Song Yuanqiao and the others unknown, he was extremely worried, so he immediately asked: “The disciples of this old Taoist overestimated their own abilities, they even dared to challenge top experts from your cult. To date, they've not returned. Would you be so kind as to inform me of their whereabouts?” Zhao Min laughed and said:“Eldest Hero Song, Second Hero Yu, Fourth Hero Zhang and Seventh Hero Mu have fallen into my cult's hands. All of them have suffered some injuries, but their lives are not in danger.” Zhang SanFeng said:“Suffered some injuries?More likely they have been poisoned.”Zhao Min laughed:“Master Zhang has great confidence in Wudang's kungfu. If you say they have been poisoned, then they are poisoned."

    Zhang Sanfeng knew that his disciples were top-class experts of their time. Even if they were outnumbered and defeated, at least a few would have made it back to report. Since all of them were capturured,it was definitely because they had been poisoned. Zhao Min saw that he had guessed what happened, so she casually admitted it. Zhang Sanfeng then asked:“What about my disciple surnamed Yin?” Zhao Min sighed:“Sixth Hero Yin fell into Shaolin's ambush. His four limbs have been broken with Shaolin's Golden Silver Fingers. He won't die but he can no longer move!” From her expression, Zhang Sanfeng knew that this was not empty talk,he was deeply grieved. With a ‘wa’ sound, he coughed out a mouthful of blood. Zhao Min's followers behind her were delighted, they knew Kong Xiang's sneak attack must have been successful and this Wudang master had suffered a serious injury. Their only fear had been Zhang Sanfeng, now there was nothing left to worry about.

    Zhao Min said: “Junior has some advice to give. Would you like to hear it Master Zhang?” Zhang Sanfeng replied: “Please speak up.” Zhao Min said: “All land under heaven belongs to the Emperor, the Emperor and his ministers lead the country. The Mongol emperor's power stretches over the whole world. If Master Zhang chooses to serve, His Majesty will surely reward you and Wudang will be greatly honoured. Eldest Hero Song and the rest too will come to no harm.” Zhang Sanfeng looked up to the ceiling and coldly said: “Though the Ming Cult has walked the unrighteous path and has committed all sorts of atrocities, you have always opposed the Mongols. When did you submit to the government? This old priest must be really isolated since I have heard nothing about this.” Zhao Min said:“Leaving the darkness and embracing the light,it is the mark of a hero to follow the trend of the times. Shaolin's Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and the others have all submitted and pledged their loyalty to the government. My sect is just following the way the wind is blowing, what's so strange about that?”

    Zhang Sanfeng's eyes flashed, he stared directly at Zhao Min and said: “The Yuan (ie Mongol dynasty) are brutal and do great harm to the common people. At present all the heroes of the world have risen up to drive out the barbarians and reclaim our land. It is the aspiration of every descendent of the Yellow Emperor (ie Chinese) to do so – that is the way the wind is truly blowing. Though I am a priest,I still understand the meaning of righteousness. Kong Wen and Kong Zhi are enlightened monks of our time, how could they bow to power? How can your words be so confused?”

    Suddenly, a man came out from behind Zhao Min, yelling:“Stupid old monk, you don't know what you are talking about! Wudang Sect is about to be annihilated. Though you're not afraid of death, can it be that the hundred plus priests and disciples on this mountain are not?” This person's speech is full of vigour,with his tall stature and powerful build,he cut an intimidating figure. Zhang Sanfeng recited:“Since olden days, which man has lived and not died? I'll leave a loyalist name in history!*"
    (*Translation from http://www.chinapage.org/poet-e/wentian2e.html).

    This was two lines from a poem by Wen Tianxiang. At the time Wen Tianxiang died,Zhang Sanfeng was still very young. He deeply respected this heroic prime minister. Later on he regretted that at the time his martial arts were still undeveloped,otherwise he definitely would have risked his life to save him. Faced with this difficult situation, he naturally recited the poem. He paused for a moment then continued: “Actually Prime Minester Wen was somewhat obstinate. As for me, I'll just remain loyal,it doesn't matter what the history books say!” He looked at Yu Daiyan thinking:“And yet I hope that my Taichi Fist and Taichi Sword will managed to be passed on to future generations. Wouldn't it be the same result as Prime Minister Wen taking into consideration his reputation after death? As long as I have a clear conscience, why worry whether my Taichi Fist can be passed to future generations or whether Wudang Sect survives!”

    Zhao Min waved her left arm gently. That man bowed and retreated. She smiled faintly and said:“Since Master Zhang is so stubborn, there is no need to say anything else for now. Will you all please come with me!” So saying, she stood up. Four people standing behind her immediately surrounded Zhang Sanfeng. These four people are the powerfully built man, a man in rags, a skinny monk, and a bearded foreigner with blue eyes. Zhang Wuji saw from the way they moved that this four men were no pushovers. He was startled: “How is it that this Miss Zhao has such powerful fighters working for her?” He saw that if he refused to go along with her; the four of them will attack. Zhang WuJi thought: “The enemy are in large numbers, plus they are immoral and shameless people. They're not comparable to the six major sects which attacked Brightness Peak. It won't be easy for me to protect grandteacher and third martial uncle. Even if I defeat a number of them,they won't admit defeat and will definitely attack together. Still, the situation is such that I'll have to risk everything to do so. The best thing to do would be to capture Miss Zhao to force them to give in.”

    He was just about to step forward to deal with those four when a long laugh was heard from outside. A green man-shaped shadow darted into the hall. This man's movements were as stealthy as a ghost and a swift as lightning. In a flash, he was behind the powerfully built man, and launched a palm attack. The powerfully built man returned a palm without turning around, intending to compete strength. The man in green didn't wait for this move to be completed, his left hand had already tapped the foreigner's shoulder. The foreigner swiftly dodged sideways and kicked at his lower abdomen. That man had already turned to attack the skinny monk while tilting his body to the side his left palm hit out at the person dressed in rags. In a split second, he had made four attacks, each against a top fighter. Though none of them found it's target, the speed of his techniques was truly beyond imagination. These four people knew they were facing a formidable opponent. Each leapt a few steps backwards, focusing the full attention on the battle.

    That person in green ignored the enemy, bowed to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Ming Cult's Sect Leader Zhang's subordinate, junior Wei Yixiao pays his respects to Master Zhang!” This man was really Wei Yixiao. After dealing with the enemies' obstructions, he had doubled his speed to catch up.

    Zhang Sanfeng heard him refer to himself as “Ming Cult's Sect Leader Zhang's subordinate”. So he assumed that he was part of Zhao Min's party, and suspected that the forcing of those four people to retreat was just a trick. He said coldly: “Mr. Wei doesn't have to be so polite. I have long heard that the Green Wing Bat King's lightness kungfu is without peer in the world. Now I see that you really live up to your reputation.” Wei Yixiao was delighted. He rarely came to the central plains so he was not well known there. Who would have thought that Zhang Sanfeng knew of his lightness kungfu. Bowing, he said: "Venerable Zhang is the North Star of the martial arts community. It is a great honour for me to receive your praise.”

    He turned around, pointed at Zhao Min and said: "Miss Zhao, what is your purpose in impersonating the Ming Cult and ruining our reputation? Should a real man be so sly and crafty?" Zhao Min giggled: "I am not a man to begin with. So what if I'm sly and crafty – what can you do about it?" The very first thing Wei Yixiao said was already a mistake. He was unable to come up with a reply. Instead he said: “What do you mean by “first attack Shaolin, then harass Wudang? If you have a enmity with Shaolin and Wudang, the Ming Cult shouldn't interfere. But as you use our name and impersonate us, I, Wei Yixiao cannot ignore it!”

    All along, Zhang Sanfeng had not believed that the Ming Cult would surrender to the government after being mortal enemies for a hundred years. After hearing Wei Yixiao's words he understood, thinking: “So this girl is actually pretending to be someone she's not. Though the Demon Cult has a bad reputation, when it comes to major matters they are clear on what has to be done.” Zhao Min turned to the powerfully built man and said: “Listen to him blow his own trumpet! Go and try out his skills.” The man bowed and replied:“Yes!” Tightening his belt, he walked to the middle of the hall and said: “Bat King Wei, let me have the pleasure of seeing your Cold Ice Cotton Palm!”

    Wei Yixiao was startled: “How does this guy know about my Cold Ice Cotton Palm? Since he knows that I have this skill and yet still challenges me, he can't be an easy opponent.” He said:“May I know your name?” That man replied:“We are here impersonating Ming Cult, so you think we will reveal our real names? Bat King Wei, you are really stupid to ask this.” The people behind Zhao Min burst into laughter. Wei Yixiao said coldly: “That's right,I was stupid to ask. You're simply a running dog of the government, a slave of the foreigners, it is better you don't tell us your real name in order not to disgrace your ancestors. ” The man's face turned red and he struck out at Wei Yixiao's chest in anger.

    Wei Yixiao dodged quickly and moving as fast as lightning, he stretched out his arm to poke the man's back. He did not use his Cold Ice Cotton Palm yet because he wanted to test out his opponent's skills first. The man blocked with his left arm and counter-attacked. The man's palm strokes grew faster and more aggressive as the fight progressed. Though Wei Yixiao's internal injuries had been cured by Zhang Wuji, and he no longer has to drink blood to suppress the cold poison, nevertheless he only had had a short time to recover. Now faced with a powerful opponent, coupled with the fact he was fighting in front of the legendary Zhang Sanfeng, he did not dare get careless. So he started to use his Cold Ice Cotton Palm. Their palm strokes gradually slowed as they shifted to competing internal strength. Suddenly there was a yell and a greenish-black object shot through the door heading for that man. This object was larger than a rice sack – it is really odd that there such an enourmous weapon even existed. The man's right palm shot out hitting the object about ten feet away. As his hand made contact, he realised the object was soft yet he could not put a finger on what it was. But a scream was heard - it turned out that there was someone inside. This person has been hit by that man with full power and no mercy, how could his muscles not be smashed and his bones broken? The man was startled and froze in place for a moment. Noiselessly, Wei Yixiao moved up behind him and struck his Da Tui acupoint with his Cold Ice Cotton Palm. The man turned around angrily using his full strength to hit Wei Yixiao's head.

    Wei YiXiao laughed and surprisingly he did not move. In the middle of his strike, the man's hand felt weak. Though he made contact with his opponent, the effect was like being gently stroked. Wei Yixiao knew that once the Cold Ice Cotton Palm energy enters the body, the person's strength will dissipate. Nevertheless, in a battle between expert fighters, to allow a powerful opponent to hit his head was an extremely daring thing to do. Therefore, all the spectators were astonished. In the event that the man had been able to resist the Cold Ice Cotton Palm Wei Yixiao's skull would have been crushed. Wei Yixiao had been a strange person all his life. If there was anything other people are afraid of doing or would refuse to do, he would be more than happy to do it. He had taken advantage of that man's distraction to launch a sneak attack, which was underhand thing to do. Therefore, he daringly let the man hit his head as compensation.

    The man dressed in rags tore open the sack and pulled a person out. His face was blood-red having met a violent death under the hand of that powerfully built man. This person is dressed in black and was a member of their party. Somehow he had been caught and imprisoned in the sack. The man in rags was furious, he yelled: “Who was it who cunningly......” Before he could finish, a white sack floated onto his head. He leapt backwards to avoid it, only to see a fat monk grinning at him. Cloth Sack Monk Shuo Bu De had arrived.

    Since Shuo Bu De's Qian Kun Yi Qi Sack was thorn to shreds by Zhang Wuji on Guang Ming Peak he had no weapon. He could only quickly fashion a few cloth sacks to use. These were only ordinary sacks unlike the Qian Kun Yi Qi Sack with was impenetrable by swords and sabers. Though his lightness kungfu could not match Wei Yixiao, it was still quite good. Added to the fact that he faced no hindrance along the way, this meant he managed to catch up. Shuo Bu De saluted to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Ming Cult's Sect Leader Zhang's subordinate, Wanderer Cloth Sack Monk Shuo Bu De pays his respects to Venerable Zhang.” Zhang SanFeng returned his salute saying:“You must be tired from your long journey.” Shuo Bu De said: “My humble cult's sect leader's subordinates the Emissary of Guang Ming, White Browed Eagle King, as well as the other four Wanderers, Five Flags Leaders and other forces have already arrived at WuDang. Master Zhang can just relax and watch the Ming Cult deal with these shameless imposters.”

    He was actually bluffing. Such a large group of Ming Cult's forces could not have arrived so quickly. But when Zhao Min heard it, she could not help frowning slightly while thinking:“Who would have thought that they could arrive so quickly? Who leaked our secret?” Unable to bear it any longer she asked: “Where is your Sect Leader Zhang? Ask him to come and see me.” So saying she turned to Wei Yixiao and looked him in the eye. Her gaze was questioning – asking him where his Sect Leader was. Wei Yixiao laughed and said:“Now you are no longer trying to impersonate us, right?” He too wondered:“Sect Leader has definitely arrived, but where is he right now?” Zhang Wuji was hidden behind Ming Yue,he knew Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bu De have yet to recognize him. He was relieved seeing that these two helpers have arrived. Zhao Min laughed coldly and said: “One venomous bat, one stinking monk, what can you do?”

    Just as she said this, a long laugh was heard from the roof on the east of the building, asking: “ Reverend Shuo Bu De, has Left Emissary Yang arrived?” This person's voice resonated loudly. The White Browed Eagle King Yin TianZheng had arrived. Shuo Bu De had not yet answered when Yang Xiao's laughter was heard from western roof. Only to hear him laughingly say: “Eagle King, you keep improving as you grow older. You reached here a step faster.” Yin TianZheng laughed: “No need to be so polite, we both arrived at the same time. It'll be splitting hairs to decide who's faster. I fear that you gave way to me for Sect Leader Zhang's sake.” Yang Xiao said: “Definitely not! I've given it my best shot but still failed to beat you.” Enroute to Wudang the two of them had decided to compete to see who was faster. Yin TianZheng's inner power was profound but Yang Xiao's steps were quicker. As a result they were neck to neck with each other from the start to finish. Laughing, both men jumped down from the roof.

    Zhang Sanfeng had long heard of Yin Tianzheng's reputation. Moreover he was Zhang Cuishan's father-in-law. Yang Xiao was also a famous person in the martial world. He took three steps forward, cupped his hands and said: “Zhang Sanfeng respectfully welcomes Brother Yin and Brother Yang.” In his heart he wondered: “Yin Tianzheng is the Heavenly Eagle Sect's leader. Why did he say ‘for Sect Leader Zhang’s sake’?” Yin and Yang bowed to him. Yin Tianzheng said: “I've long heard of Master Zhang distinguished name, but never had the opportunity to meet you. Today, I am very fortunate to do so.” Zhang Sanfeng said: “You are both great masters of the era. The arrival of you both has truly made this a great occasion.”

    Zhao Min saw that more and more Ming Sect experts were arriving and she became even angrier. Though Zhang Wuji had not showed up, she was worried about any schemes he might have put in place. It looked like it would be difficult for her carefully laid plans to succeed. But they had managed to seriously injure Zhang Sanfeng, there woould not be another opportunity as good as this. If they did not wrap up matters at Wudang today, once his injuries recover he will be a thorn in their side. With her eyes sweeping around, she sneered: “It is said in the martial arts world that Wudang is a top righteous sect, but how can hearing stories beat seeing with our own eyes? In reality Wudang has ganged up with the Demon Cult. The Demon Cult has simply been lending a land in all battles, Wudang' martial arts is really nothing worth talking about.” Shuo Bu De said:“Miss Zhao, you're only a little girl. When Master Zhang shook the martial arts world, your grandfather probably wasn't even born yet. What does a little kid know?” The ten or so people behind Zhao Min stepped forward glaring at him. Shuo Bu De smiled: “Do you think my words are unfit to be said? My name is Shuo Bu De (ie cannot to be said), but when I want to saw something I'll say it. What can you do about it?” The skinny monk yelled angrily: “My lady, let your subordinate deal with this big-mouthed monk!” Shuo Bu De called out: “Wonderful! Wonderful! You are an unruly monk, I am also a unruly monk. Let us compete with each other. If Master Zhang gives us some pointers, it'll be more beneficial than 10 years of our own dedicated practice.” So saying, he pulled a cloth sack out. The onlookers saw him take out one sack after another, there seemed to be no limit to the nimber of sacks inside his robe.

    Zhao Min shook her head slightly, saying: “Today we have come to seek pointers from Wudang. No matter which fighter from Wudang comes forward, we will gladly compete him. Let's see if Wudang's martial arts are really great or whether it's just an empty reputation. We can settle our differences with the Ming Cult another time. That little devil Zhang Wuji, I want to rip his flesh and peel off his skin to vent my anger.” When Zhang Sanfeng heard this he was surprised: “Is Ming Cult's Leader really called Zhang Wuji? And why ‘little devil’?” Shuo Bu De laughed and said: “Our Sect Leader Zhang is a young hero. Miss Zhao is just worried that since you're a few years younger than our Sect Leader Zhang, you won't be able to marry him. In my opinion, you're a perfect match......” Before he could finis his sentence, the followers behind Zhao Min yelled out angrily: “Total nonsense!” “Shut up!” “The unruly monk is farting rubbish!” Zhao Min blushed. Her appearance was gentle and delicate, really like a shy young girl. However, this side of her was only seen for a moment. In a split second, her expression turned frosty. Turning to Zhang Sanfeng she said: “Master Zhang, if you're not willing to fight, you only have to admit that Wudang has been deceiving the world all along. We will then clap our hands and leave. Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the rest will also be returned to you.” At this moment, the Iron Hat Priest Zhang Zhong and Yin Yewang arrived. Not long later, Zhou Dian and Peng Yingyu too arrived. The Ming Cult now has four more fighters to help them.

    Zhao Min realized that if they fight, victory is not assured. The most worrying thing is what sort of scheme Zhang Wuji had hatched. Her gaze swept over the Ming Cult members, thinking: “Zhang Sanfeng is a threat to the government because of his reputation and prestige. He is the figure the martial arts community looks to, the Mount Tai and the North Star. As long as he remains the enemy of the government, they will continue to resist us. But then again, he's already an old man, how much longer can he live? There's no need to take his live today. All we need to do is to disgrace him and destroy Wudang Sect's reputation. Our mission will then be successfully accomplished.” She said coldly: “Our purpose for visiting Wudang is to see if Master Zhang's martial arts are real or not. If we want to destroy the Ming Cult, we would have gone to Guang Ming Peak. There would have been no need to come to Mt Wudang to compete matrial arts. Can it be that in this world only you Master Zhang who can decide on a winner? I have three servants - one of them has learnt some basic swords skills, another has some shallow inner power, and the last one has learnt some mediocre boxing. Ah Da, Ah Er and Ah San come out. If you defeat my three servants, I'll recognise that Wudang Sect's martial arts really live up to its name. Otherwise the wulin will form its own opinion, there's no need for me to say any more.” So saying, she clapped her hands. Three men came out from behind her.

    Ah Da was a dried up old man. In his hands was a long sword -this sword was the Heaven Sword. This man's body was slender, his face was set in a frown and full of wrinkles. His expression was one of a person who had just been defeated in a fight or a person whose wife and children had recently died. Just looking at his face made the onlookers feel sad and want cry for him. Ah Er was fellow of short stature. His head was smooth and oily and totally bald, the Tai Yang pressure points on both sides were depressed to about half an inch deep. Ah San was a strong-looking man with the power of a tiger. His face, hands and neck were bulging muscle. His whole body was full of energy, just like it was about to explode outwards. There was a mole with long hairs growing out of it on his left cheek. Zhang SanFeng, Yin TianZheng, Yang Xiao and the others were startled on seeing these three people.

    Zhou Dian said: “Miss Zhao, these three are top experts of the martial arts world. I, Zhou Dian, am not a match for them. How is it that they lower themselves to pretend to be your servants to play a joke on Master Zhang?” Zhao Min replied: “When did I say that they are to experts of the martial arts world? Do you know what their names are?”Zhou Dian paused, then laughed saying: “This is‘Revealing a Sword to the World’ the Frowning Divine Gentleman and this is‘Qi Master of All Directions’ Bald Heavenly King. As for the other one, the whole world knows he is, hehe..he is...‘Unrivalled Divine Fist’ Honourable Elder of Great Strenght.”

    Zhao Min could not help laughing a little after hearing such rubbish. She said: “How can my cooks and menial servants be a divine gentleman, a heavenly king and an honorable elder? Master Zhang, you compete with Ah San first.” Ah San took a step forward, cupped his fist and said: “Master Zhang, please!” He stamped his left foot. With a “kala” sound, three tiles broke. Breaking the tile his foot stepped on was nothing unusual. What was amazing was how the two tiles next to it also broke. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao glanced at each other, thinking: “What a powerful guy!” Ah Da and Ah Er lowered their heads and retreated without a glance at the crowd. From the moment they entered the hall, these three only stood behind Zhao Min, their gaze lowered to the ground and with a humble expression on their faces. Because of this, nobody paid any attention to them. Unexpectedly, they are truly amazing experts. And yet when they retreated, they changed back into humble looking servants.

    Ling Xu was worried about Zhang Sanfeng's injury. He could not take it anymore and shouted: “Can't you see that my grandteacher is injured? How...how can you...” As he said this, he started crying.

    Yin Tianzheng thought: “So Master Zhang has been injured. Who was it who injured him? Even if he is not injured, at his age, how can he fight with this person? This person's martial arts are entirely of the hard style. Let me take Master Zhang's place.” So he said in a clear voice: “With Master Zhang's position, how can he fight the younger generation? Wouldn't he be the laughing stock of the world?Hrmph, these slaves are not even worth of fighting with me.” He knows Ah Da, Ah Er and Ah San are definitely no ordinary people, yet he deliberately tried to infuriate them to gain an advantage for himself. Zhao Min said: “Ah San, what did you do most recently? Tell them. Let's see if you aren't worthy to fight Wudang experts.” She emphasized on the word “Wudang”. Ah San said:“I didn't do anything much recently. I only fought with a Shaolin monk named Kong Xing defeated his Dragon Claws and cut of his head.”

    These words caused a sensation within the hall. The Ming Cult members had seen the Divine Monk Kong Xing fight with Zhang Wuji on Guang Ming peak. It was unimaginable that he had been killed by this person. He was definitely a match for Zhang Sanfeng. Yin Tianzheng said loudly: “Great! You even killed Shaolin's Kong Xing, let me try out your skills.” So saying he took two steps forward and took a stance with white eyebrows sticking out, exhibiting awesome power.

    Ah San said: “White Browed Eagle King, you are from an evil and unorthodox background, I am also from an evil and unorthodox background. We cannot fight our own people. If you want to fight, we can choose another day to compete. Today my master orders me to try out Wudang's martial arts.” He turned to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Master Zhang, if you don't want to come forward, you only need to say so. We won't force you. Once Wudang Sect concedes defeat, there'll be no need to take your life.” Zhang Sanfeng smiled faintly. Even though he was severely injured, using his newly created Taiji Fist's philosophy of 'emptiness overcoming fullness', he might not necessarily lose. The difficulty was that after defeating Ah San, he would then have to compete inner power with Ah Er. There was no way out of the situation, he could only focus on the present. He would have to defeat Ah San first then decide what to do.

    He walked slowly to the centre of the hall. Turning to Yin Tianzheng he said: “I appreciate Brother Yin's good intentions. In the past few years I've created a new set of fist techniques called ‘Taiji Fist’. I believe it is quite different from other forms of martial arts. This benefactor wants to verify that Wudang's martial arts are real. If Brother Yin defeats him, he won't be satisfied. Let me exchange a few stances with him and take the opportunity show you the result of my painstaking work over these years.”

    When Yin Tianzheng heard this he was happy and yet worried. Zhang Sanfeng spoke with full confidence in his Taiji Fist. He would not have spoken if he could not back up what he said. But he had just suffered a serious injury, even if the fist technique was excellent, his inner power might be insufficient. Still, he merely cupped his fists and said: “Junior respectfully defers to Master Zhang's divine skill.” On seeing Zhang Sanfeng unexpectedly come forward, fear struck Ah San's heart. But he turned his face and said: “Today I'll fight a battle of life or death with this old Taoist. Neither one of us will escape uninjured. This will shake the martial arts world.” He immediately drew his breath while staring at Zhang Sanfeng's face. As he held his breath, the sound of bones cracking was heard from all over his body. Everyone was startled. They knew this meant he had achieved the highest level of orthodox Buddhist martial arts. It was the Defeating Demon Diamond Skill.

    When Zhang Sanfeng saw this he was startled: “This is no ordinary person! I wonder if my Taiji Fist can defeat him.” He slowly lifted up both hands in readiness to fight. Suddenly a disheveled and dirty-looking little novice priest came out from behind Yu Daiyan saying: “Grandteacher, this benefactor wants to witness our Wudang's fist skills. But there's no need for grandteacher to show him yourself. It'll be enough for this disciple to demonstrate a few stances for him.” This dirty-faced novice was Zhang Wuji. Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao and the rest parted with him only a short time ago. So even though his appearance was now completely different, after hearing his voice they recognized him. The Ming Cult members were overjoyed on seeing their sect leader had been there all along. How could Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan even imagine this?

    Zhang SanFeng could not see his face clearly, and so assumed he was Qing Feng. He said: “This benefactor uses Shaolin's Defeating Demon Diamond Skill, an extremely powerful external skill. He is probably a top expert of Western Shaolin. He'll simply crush you to pieces with one blow.” Zhang Wuji's right hand pulled Zhang Sanfeng's sleeve and his left hand gently held Zhang Sanfeng's right hand. He said: “Grandteacher, the Taiji Fist you taught me has never been used before, we don't know if it will work or not. This benefactor is a hard style expert. Let me try out our philosophy of softness overcoming hardness and using the void to resist the solid. Wouldn't that be great?” After saying this, he used his palms to transfer his Art of 9 Yang chi into Zhang Sanfeng's body. At that moment, Zhang Sanfeng felt that the chi emitting from his palms to be so powerful that it without comparison in the whole world. Though it was far from being as refined as his own, the chi was firmly grounded yet soft and was limitless. He started and stared into Zhang Wuji's face. Only to see that his eyes did not shine brightly but had a soft, crystal-like layer in them. This meant that his inner power had reached the ultimate level. Except for his master Reverend Jue Yuan and Hero Guo Jing and a few others, he has never seen the same in anybody else. Of the top experts of the era, except for himself, he can think of no other person who has achieved this stage. In this instant, he mind was plagued with doubts and questions. However, this youth's abundant inner power was being used to treat his injury, he had no evil intentions. So he made his decision. He smiled while saying: “I am feeble and muddle-headed. How can I have any great kungfu to teach you? If you want to learn from this benefactor's super-hard kungfu, that is fine. Be careful.” Thinking that this young novice priest is a top expert from another sect sent to help out Wudang, his speech was humble and polite.

    Zhang Wuji said: “Gradnteacher, I am greatly indebted to you. Even if my body is smashed to powder, I'll not be able to repay my debt to Grandteacher and Martial Uncles. Even though we do not dare claim Wudang's kungfu is matchless, it will not necessarily lose to Western Shaolin. Martial Grandfather, don't worry.” He spoke very earnestly, saying “Grandteacher” a few times. Even Zhang Sanfeng found it strange: “Could it be that he is a Wudang disciple? Cultivating himself secretly just like my master Reverend Jue Yuan?” He slowly released Zhang Wuji's hand, retreated and sat down. Glancing at Yu Daiyan he saw that he was equally bewildered.

    Ah San saw Zhang Sanfeng send out this little novice to fight, it was like regarding him with disdain. But if he killed this little novice in one blow, agitate the old Taoist and then only fight with him, there will be a higher chance of coming out victorious. So he just said: “Little kid, watch out!”

    Zhang Wuji said: “This fist technique I've just learnt is the product of my grandteacher's sweat and blood. It's called ‘Taiji Fist’. I'm only a beginner so I may not have fully comprehended its key points. I'm afraid I won't be able to defeat you within thirty stances. But that is because I'm not yet proficient at it, nothing to do with its inadequacies. This is something you must understand.” Instead of getting angry, Ah San laughed, turned to Ah Dan and Ah Er and said: “Eldest Brother, Second Brother, this kid is really barking mad.” Ah Er laughed heartily. Ah Da saw that this little novice priest was nobody to be trifled with. He said: “Third Brother, don't take your enemy lightly.” Ah San took a step forward, and punched Zhang Wuji's chest with a yell. This move was a quick as lightning. Midway through his strike, his left fist struck out even more quickly, reaching there first, aimed at Zhang Wuji's face. The stance was quite unusual, a true rarity.

    Zhang Sanfeng had demonstrated and explained his Taiji Fist about an hour ago. Since then, Zhang Wuji had pondered about and understood its principles. On seeing Ah San's left fist heading his way, he countered with the Taiji Fist stance “Grasping the Sparrow's Tail”. With his right leg solid and his left leg empty, he used the “squeeze” technique and stuck with him. His right palm reached his opponent's left wrist,released his energy at full power. Unable to take the force, Ah San retreated two steps to the side.

    The watching crowd gasped in astonishment. With this “Grasping the Sparrow's Tail” stance, the world had seen Taiji Fist used in combat for the first time. Zhang Wuji already had the Art of 9 Yang and Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, now he suddenly made used of Taiji Fist's “sticky” technique. Though he learnt the skill no longer than two hours ago, it appeared as if he has studied it all his life. Ah San felt as if his punch which carried with it the force of a hundred thousand catties had simply entered an ocean and disappeared without a trace. At the same time, the force of his punch was directed back at him. At first he was startled but amazement quickly turned to fury. His fist attacked very quickly, the speed was such that it looked like he had more than ten arms with ten fists attacking all at once. His attacks descended like hurricane and rain. The watchers all though: “No wonder Kong Xing, despite his powerful martial arts, died under his hand.” Everyone apart from Zhao Min and her followers were worried for Zhang Wuji's safety.

    Zhang Wuji intentionally wanted to show off Wudang's power and prestige. So he did not use his own martial arts. Each stance he used was Zhang Sanfeng's Taiji Fist – Single Whip, Lifting up the Hand, White Crane Spreads Its Wings, Brushing the Knee and the Twisted Step. He executed the stance “Playing the Pipa”, with the right pushing down and the left accepting. In this instance, he understood the essence of the Taiji Fist. His stance became just like the moving clouds and flowing water, natural and unrestrained. Ah San felt like he was completely enveloped by Zhang Wuji's hands. He was unable to flee or resist. He could only direct his energy to his back to receive this strike with hard force. At the same he lashed out with his right fist, hoping that both of them would hit each other intending to
    take his enemy down with him. Unexpectedly, Zhang Wuji's hands formed a circle, like carrying the cosmos. From this came out a revolving force which was powerful any comparison, making Ah San spin round seven or eight times. Ah San has to use his “Thousand Catties Falling” skill to stop spinning. He was in a wretched state, his face red with embarrassment. The Ming Cult members applauded loudly.

    Yang Xiao called out: “Wudang's Taiji Fist is so wonderful. It's a real eye-opener.” Zhou Dian laughed: “Ah San, I advice you to change your name to ‘Ah Zhuan’ (Note: “Zhuan” means to spin/turn)!” Yin Yewang said: “There's nothing to be embarrassed about if you spin a few more circles. Didn't the ancients say of the Thirty-sixth Stratagem is ‘spinning is the best strategy’?” (Note: this is a clever play on words by JY. The 36th Stratagem is “zhou wei shang ji – running away is the best option. Yin Yewang changed the word “走 zhou” which means “run” to “转 zhuan” which mean spin.) Shuo Bu De said: “Among the Heros of Mt Liang was Black Whirlwind. That whirlwind spun around too!” (Note: This is from Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh. The Black Whirlwind refers to Li Kui. I'm not familiar with the story, so don't ask me for details )

    In his fury, Ah San's face changed from red to green. Yelling angrily, he threw himself forward in attack. His left hand switched between a fist to a palm and back again irregularly. His right hand used purely finger techniques - snatching and poking, hooking and digging, all five fingers extended like judge's brushes, like pressure point sealing pegs, like sabers and swords, like spears and lances, all extremely offensive moves. Zhang Wuji was not yet familiar with the Taiji Fist techniques. Faced with this barrage, he was unable to cope and his movements became erratic. Suddenly, part of his sleeve was torn off. He could only utlise his lightness kungfu to dash out of the way. Faced with this strange finger technique he only thing he could do was dodge. Ah San yelled and chased him. There was no where for Zhang Wuji to escape his fingers combined with lightness kungfu. While dodging, Zhang Wuji thought: “If I keep running without fighting, wouldn't that be losing? Since I'm not yet proficient at Taiji Fist, I'll have to use Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi.”

    He turned around, both hands executed Taiji Fist's defensive stance “Wild Horse's Mane”. His left hand unleashed Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi techniques. Ah San's right hand was moving to jab Zhang Wuji's shoulder. Instead, there was a sound of laughter as he ended up poking his own left arm. The pain was so great that he saw stars, he almost could not move his left arm.Yang Xiao saw that this was not a Taiji Fist stance so he hurriedly yelled: “Taiji Fist is really amazing!” Ah San shouted in pain and anger: “What Taiji Fist? That was sorcery!” He then attacked three times consecutively. Zhang Wuji jumped away, he saw Ah San stretch out his arm to jab him, he again used his Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. With a “tuo” sound, he redirected Ah San's two fingers straight into a pillar, embedding them deeply. Everyone was shocked and yet found it very funny.

    Amidst the laughter, Yu Daiyan said in a harsh voice: “Stop! Is that Shaolin's Diamond Finger?” (Note: Diamond Finger = Golden Steel Finger in Meh's translation). Zhang Wuji jumped when he heard the words “Shaolin's Diamond Finger”. He remembered that Yu Daiyan was injured by Shaolin's Diamond Finger. For the past twenty years, Wudang Sect had harbored a deep resentment towards Shaolin. It looked like the real perpetrator was this man. Only to hear Ah San say coldly: “So what if it is the Diamond Finger? It's your own fault for being so stubborn and not giving up the Dragon Sabre. How does it feel to be paralysed for the last twenty years?” Yu Daiyan harshly said: “Thank you for revealing the truth today. So it is Western Shaolin who is responsible for maiming me. It's a pity...it's a pity about fifth brother.” As he said these words, he choked with a sob.

    Zhang Cuishan committed suicide because he could not face his martial brother after finding out that Yu Daiyan was injured by Yin Susu's silver needles. In actual fact, after Yu Daiyan was injured with the silver needles Yin Susu entrusted the Dragon Gate Escort Agency to send him back to Wudang. After a month's treatment, he would have recovered from the poision. Unfortunately, his four limbs were broken with the Diamond Fingers. If they had found this culprit at that time,Zhang Cuishan and his wife would not have died a tragic death. Yu Daiyan was filled with grief about his innocent martial brother's death while also hating his crippled condition. He heart was filled with hatred. When Zhang Wuji heard their words, he immediately understood what had happened. When he was young he heard his father say a ‘Huo Gong Tou Tuo' of Shaolin Temple secretly learnt martial arts and killed the head of the Damo Hall Reverend Ku Zhi. The top Shaolin experts then had a huge argument. As a result, Reverend Ku Wei went to the Western Regions and set up Western Shaolin. It seemed that
    this person was a descendant of Ku Wei.

    Zhang Sanfeng said: “This benefactor is excessively vicious. We never imagined that there is a person like you among Reverend Ku Wei's descendants.” Ah San grinned ferociously and said: “What kind of thing is Ku Wei?”

    When Zhang Sanfeng heard this, he struck with sudden realization. After Yu Daiyan had been injured by the Diamond Fingers, Wudang Sect sent people to ask Shaolin for an explanation. The Abbot of Shaolin resolutely denied any involvement. They then suspected Western Shaolin. But after a few years of making enquiries, they got to know that Western Shaolin had now changed. All disciples only studied Buddhism and did not know martial arts. He knew that if Ah San was a Western Shaolin disciple, he would never curse the founder of his sect. So he said in a clear voice: “No wonder! This benefactor is Huo Gong Tou Tuo's (the kitchen worker monk – see Athena's translation of Chapter 2 for details) descendant. Not only did you learn his martial arts, but you also picked up his evil nature! Is Kong Xiang your martial brother?”

    Ah San replied: “Right! He is my martial brother. His name is not Kong Xiang, but is Gang Xiang. Master Zhang, how does my Diamond Prajana Palm compare with your Wudang palm skills?” Yu Daiyan said harshly: “Not even close! His skull was crushed with one palm strike from my master. With his mediocre skills how dare he come up against my master! Death is really too light for him!”

    Ah San let out a yell and rushed out to attack. Zhang WuJi used the “Apparent Closure” stance of the Taiji Fist to block him and said: “Ah San, give me the ‘Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment!” So saying he stretched out his right hand. Ah San was shocked: “Our sect's bone healing medicine is such a closely kept secret that even our sect's ordinary disciples don't know about it. Where did this little novice priest hear about it?”

    How could he know that Hu Qingniu's “Medical Classic”, stated that in the Western Regions there existed an external school of martial arts which branched out from Shaolin. Its techniques were extremely weird, no medicine can treat bones broken by it. The only exception was the school's “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment. However, no one else knew how to make this ointment. Zhang Wuji only wanted to test him by saying this. When he saw Ah San's expression change, he knew he had guessed correctly. He said clearly: “Give it to me!” He thought about his parent's deaths as well the suffering of his two martial uncles. Feeling great hatred, he had no desire to continue talking to him. Even though Ah San's martial arts were slightly inferior, when he executed the powerful Diamond Fingers, Zhang Wuji could only avoid his strokes but was unable to counter-attack. As long as he remained careful towards Zhang Wuji's weird techniques he should win this fight. He stepped forward and yelled: “Kowtow to me three times and I'll spare you, or else you'll end up like the one named Yu.” Zhang Wuji wanted to wrest his “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment”away from him. However, he had no idea how to deal with the Diamond Fingers. Though he could use Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi to injure Ah San, he would still be unable to force him to hand over the ointment. Then Zhang Sanfeng said: “Child, come here!” Zhang Wuji replied: “Yes, Grandteacher.” He walked over to stand in front of him.

    Zhang SanFeng said: “Use intention not force. Taiji is circular and continuous, it does not break off. Take control of the situation and let your opponent break his own form. Each stance and each form is linked together like the Chang Jiang (ie Yangtze River), a never-ending torrent. ” He realized that Zhang Wuji had understood the secret of Taiji. The problem was that his martial arts were too powerful so his stances contained distinct edges and corners rendering him unable to accomplish the Taiji Fist concept of “continuous circles”. This was the crux of Taiji philosophy. Zhang Wuji's martial arts were profound, after hearing Zhang Sanfeng's words, he immediately understood. He envisioned the circular Taji Diagram (ie the famous Yin-Yang symbol) and the philosophy of Yin and Yang.

    Ah San laughed coldly: “Isn't that too late to learn martial arts now?” Zhang Wuji raised his eyebrows and said: “There's just enough time. Let me test out a few moves with you.” As he said this he turned around, his right hand moving in a circular manner, sweeping at Ah San's face. This was Taiji Fist's “Tall Mounted Scout” stance. Ah San's five fingers came together, assuming the shape of a knife, chopping towards him. Zhang Wuji countered with the “Double Wind Piercing Ear” stance, his two hands formed a circle. He now understood and used the “continuous circles” concept that Zhang Sanfeng had taught him. He executed left circles and right circles, circles within circles, large circles, small circles , flat circles, vertical circles, perfect circles, slanting circles – each one a Taiji circle, surrounding Ah San and pushing him. Unable to withstand it, Ah San staggered around like a drunkard.

    Suddenly, Ah San's five fingers shot out violently. Zhang Wuji used the “Cloud Hand” stance, right hand high and left hand low forming a circle surrounding his arm and applied the Art of Nine Yang power. With a “krak” sound, all the bones on Ah San's right arm were broken. The power of the Art of Nine Yang was really frightening. In one moment, Ah San's arm was broken in six or seven places. The Taiji Fist alone without the Art of Nine Yang was not capable of generating such power. Zhang Wuji hated his wickedness so he employed the “Cloud Hands” stance repetitively. Before the first circle was completed, the second circle began. With another “krak” sound, Ah San's left arm was broken. This was followed by more “krak” sounds as both his legs were also broken. In his whole life, Zhang Wuji has never been so vicious to his opponents. But this person caused his parent's deaths and his third and sixth uncles' suffering. If he had not wanted to obtain the “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment” from Ah San, he would have taken his life.

    Ah San screamed and fell to the ground. One of Zhao Min's subordinates rushed out, picked him up and retreated. The spectators were totally astonished by Zhang Wuji's power. Even the Ming Cult experts forgot to applaud. The bald Ah Er then dashed forward, his right palm shot out towards Zhang Wuji's chest. Before the palm arrived, Zhang Wuji felt his breath constricted. He immediately used the “Slant Flying Form” to redirect the palm. Without a sound the bald old man landed firmly on the ground. With full concentration he launched one palm attack after another, each attack accompanied with incomparable inner power.

    Zhang Wuji saw his palm strokes were of the same origin as Ah San's. From his age he is probably Ah San's older martial brother. Though he was not as quick and agile as Ah San, he was steadier. Zhang Wuji used Taiji Fist's “stick”, “divert” and “push” forms intending push Ah Er off balance. Unexpectedly, this person's inner strength was extremely powerful, he himself ended up stumbling. Zhang Wuji thought: “Let me see whether your Western Shaolin's inner power is greater or my Art of Nine Yang is greater.” Seeing a palm coming towards him, he used brute force to meet that palm directly. Both palms met with a thunderous clash, both their bodies swayed. Zhang Sanfeng inwardly yelled: “Not good! When fighting with brute force, the more powerful one will win. It's completely opposite to the principle of Taiji Fist. This baldie's inner power is very powerful, rarely seen in the martial arts world. The kid will suffer severe injuries under his palm.” At this moment, the combatant's palms came crashing together a second time. Ah Er's body wobbled and he retreated one step while Zhang Wuji stood firm and steady.

    At the pinnacle of both arts, the Art of Nine Yang and Shaolin internal energy were equal. But the founder of the “Diamond School” was a kitchen worker monk who learnt martial arts on the sly without proper instruction. It is possible to learn external forms and weapons techniques by watching. However, inner power is practiced within the body. No matter how long a person watches, he will still be unable to see how energy is regulated and moved through the body. That i why it is possible to secretly learn external martial arts but impossible to learn internal arts. The Diamond School's external arts were extremely powerful, on par with orthodox Shaolin. However, their internal arts are very far behind. Ah Er was a unique member of the “Diamond School”. Born with powerful strength, he took a different course from the rest and cultivated profound inner power. His achievements in this category have long surpassed that of his school's founder, the kitchen worker monk. Few people have managed to last more than three stances against him. Now while fighting hard against hard, he was forced a step backwards by Zhang Wuji. He was both shocked and angry. He took a deep breath and used both palms to attack Zhang Wuji. Zhang Wuji called out: “Sixth Uncle Yin, watch me help you vent your anger.” It turned out that Yin Liting, Yang Buhui and Xiao Zhao have already arrived at Wudang Mountain.

    Zhang Wuji yelled and brought his right fist out. With a thunderous crash, the bald Ah Er retreated three steps, his eyes bulged out and blood gurgled within his chest. Zhang Wuji called: “Sixth Uncle Yin, was this baldie among your attackers?” Yin Liting said: “Yes! This person was the leader.” Only to hear cracking sounds coming from the bones in Ah Er's body as he gathered his energy. Yu Daiyan knew Ah Er's inner strenght was very powerful. By generating his energy like that, his palm force will be no trivial matter and extremely difficult to deal with. He yelled: “Attack while he is crossing the river!” His meaning was not to wait for Ah Er to finish gathering his strength but to attack first. Zhang Wuji replied: “Yes!” He took a step forward but did not strike. Ah Er raised his arms, and with earth-shattering force struck out. Zhang Wuji inhaled and circulated his internal chi, his right palm swept out, received the attack, and redirected the force back to him. These two forces combined to become one. Ah Er yelled, his body was flung backwards right through the wall as if thrown by a catapult. The shocked onlookers turned pale. A man carried Ah Er through the hole in the wall and laid him on the ground. This person was short and fat, as round as a drum. His appearance was very comical. Yet, his movements were very agile. He was the Ming Cult's Earth Banner Chief Yan Yuan. Ah Er's arms, ribs and shoulder joints had been broken by his own hard energy. After putting Ah Er down, Yan Yuan turned to Zhang Wuji and bowed. He then excited through the hole in the wall looking like a fat mouse.

    When Zhao Min saw that this little novice priest defeated two of her to experts, she had become suspicious. After seeing Yan Yuan bow to him, recognition dawned onto her. He secretly scolded herself: “I deserve to die! I thought I had arrived ahead of him. I never expected that he'll go as far as to pretend to be an apprentice priest, causing trouble here and spoiling my great plans.” She immediately said gently: “Sect Leader Zhang, why do you lower yourself by disguising as a little apprentice priest? You keep saying grandteacher this and grandteacher that, yet you're not embarrassed.”

    Zhang Wuji saw that she had recognized him. So he said clearly: “My late father Cuishan was Grandteacher's fifth disciple. If I don't call him ‘Grandteacher’, what can I call him? What's there to be embarrassed about?” He turned around, faced Zhang Sanfeng, knelt down and kowtowed saying: “Zhang Wuji pays his respects to Grandteacher and Third Martial Uncle. Because of the urgent situation, I didn't have time to report to you. Please forgive me for deceiving you.” Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan were filled with joyous shock. Never in their wildest imagination did they think that this youngster was the same sickly child of many years ago. Zhang Sanfeng laughed loudly, stretched out his hand to help him up, saying: “Good boy, you didn't die. Cuishan has a descendant.” The fact that Zhang Wuji's martial arts were so amazing was secondary. Believing that Zhang Wuji had died long ago, Zhang Sanfeng was happiest over the fact that he was still alive. His heart overflowed with joy. He turned to Yin Tianzheng and said: “Brother Yin, congratulations for having such a great grandson.” Yin Tianzheng laughingly replied: “Master Zhang, congratulations on having such a wonderful grand-disciple.”

    Zhao Min cursed: “What wonderful grandson? What wonderful grand-disciple? Just two old men bringing up a cunning and sly little devil. Ah Da, go and try out his sword skills.” The frown-faced Ah Da answered: “Yes!” With a brushing sound, he pulled out the Heaven Sword. Everyone stared at the gleaming sword radiating in power. Zhang Wuji said: “This sword belongs to E-Mei. How did it fall into your hands?” Zhao Min spat: “Little devil, what do you know? The old nun Mie Jue stole this sword from my family. The sword has simply been returned to its true owner. What has the Heaven Sword got to do with E-Mei Sect?” Zhang Wuji had no knowledge of the origins of the Heaven Sword. He was unable to answer her. So he immediately changed the subject: “Miss Zhao, please give me the ‘Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment’. Once my third and sixth martial uncles' broken limbs are healed, we can just let bygones be bygones” Zhao Min said: “Hrmph! Let bygones be bygones? Talk is cheap. Do you know where Shaolin's Kong Wen and Kong Zhi; Wudang's Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the rest are?” Zhang Wuji shook his head saying: “I don't know. Could you please tell me?”

    Zhao Min laughed coldly: “Why should I tell you? Are you going to repeat your disgraceful conduct in the Green Williow Manor prison?” As she said this she blushed. Thinking about the incident made her furious and yet bashful at the same time. Zhang Wuji blushed when heard her say “disgraceful conduct”. That day, in order to save the Ming Cult fighters he had had no choice but to resort to such tactics - he had tickled the base of her foot with his hand. Actually he had had no inappropriate thoughts however, there was a barrier between men and women. This incident had to be kept a secret from the crowd - it would be a disaster if they assumed that he had violated a young girl. Instead of offering an explanation he said: “Miss Zhao, are you going to give me the ‘Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment’?” Zhao Min laughed coldly and said: “I can easily give you the ‘Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment’. If you do three things for me, I'll offer it up to you with both hands.” Zhang Wuji asked: “What three things?” Zhao Min replied: “I haven't thought of them yet. When I think of them I'll tell you what to do.” Zhang Wuji said: “That won't do. What if you ask me to commit suicide or become a pig or dog?” Zhao Min laughed: “I won't ask you to commit suicide. I also won't ask you to become a pig or a dog. Hehe... even if you're willing to you lack the ability.” Zhang Wuji said: “You'll have to tell me what you want first. As long as it's not anything dishonourable and within my abilities, there can be no harm obliging you.”

    Zhao Min was just about to reply when she caught sight of an pearl ornament in Xiao Zhao's hair. It was none other than the hair ornament that she had given to Zhang Wuji. She couldn't help but become furious. She saw that Xiao Zhao was a beautiful girl with a sweet smile. Though she was still young , she was like a lotus flower in the glow of dawn, raising feelings of tender affection in people's hearts. Her heart was filled with even greater hatred. Gritting her teeth she said to Ah Da: “Go and cut off both his arms!” Ah Da replied: “Yes!” He raised the Heaven Sword, took a step forward and said: “Sect Leader Zhang, my lady orders me to cut off both your arms.”

    Zhou Dian had been controlling himself for a long time. But now he was unable to bear it anymore. He cursed: “Your mother's farting crap! Why don't you cut your own arm off?” Ah Da's expression was one of worry and anxiety. He bitterly said: “You do have a point there.” Zhou Dian was delighted. He said loudly: “Cut it off then.” Ah Da said: “There's no need to rush.” Zhang Wuji was quietly fretting. The Heaven Sword was extremely sharp, any weapon that collides with it will break. The only thing to do was to use Qian Jun Da Nuo Yi to snatch the sword from him. However, it was extremely risky to use his bare hands to do so. If his opponent's sword technique was unusual and he was unable to anticipate the moves he would be in trouble. No matter which part of his arm comes into contact with the sword edge, it will immediately be chopped off. He had no idea what to do.Suddenly Zhang Sanfeng said: “Wuji, you've already learned Taiji Fist, I also have a Taiji Sword skill. There's no harm in teaching it to you so you can use it to match swords with this benefactor.” Zhang Wuji said joyfully: “Thank you Grandteacher.” He turned to Ah Da and said: “Elder, I'm not familiar with swordsmanship. I'll have to ask my grand-teacher for some pointers before crossing swords with you.”

    Ah Da was actually secretly afraid of Zhang Wuji. Despite the advantage of having the Heaven Sword, he could not be sure of victory. He was delighted to hear that Zhang Wuji was just about to learn swordsmanship. In his heart he felt that however wonderful the sword techniques were, Zhang Wuji would definately be unfamiliar with it. Sword techniques required careful and diligent study. It would take at least ten to tewnty years of dedicated practice before a person could proficiently use it in a fight. He nodded his head and said: “Go and learn. I'll wait here for you. Is four hours enough?” Zhang Sanfeng said: “There's no need to go elsewhere. I'll teach him here, that way everything will be fresh in his mind. It'll take less than an hour.” At these words, with the exception of Zhang Wuji, everyone was stunned. They could not believe their ears and thought: “No matter how profound and mysterious Wudang Sect's Taiji Sword Art is, an enemy watching him teach would be able to pick up and understand its intricacies. The skill will no longer be a secret.” Ah Da said: “That's fine. I'll go outside and wait.” He did not want to gain an advantage this way. Despite his position as a servant, he conducted himself as an eminent master of the martial arts world.Zhang Sanfeng said: “That won't be necessary. This is the first time this new sword skill of mine sees action. I've no idea whether it will be any use at all. You're a famous swordsman - I invite you to point out the flaws of this sword art.” At this time Yang Xiao suddenly realized something. He said clearly: “So you're the ‘Eight Arm Divine Swordsman’ Fang Dongbai. You were once an elder of the Beggar Sect – how did you become a lowly servant?” The Ming Cult members listened with shock. Zhou Dian said: “Aren't you supposed to be dead? This...this...how is this possible?”

    Ah Da sighed, lowered his head and said: “The old beggar is almost dead. Why bring up the past? I am no longer a Beggar Sect Elder.” Those of the older generation know that Eight Arm Divine Swordsman Fang Dongbai was the head of the four elders of the Beggar Sect. He was famous throughout the martial arts world for his swordsmanship. He was so unusually fast with the sword that it seemed like he had seven or eight arms, this earned him his nickname. He was said to have died of a serious illness over ten years ago. At that time everyone thought it was a great pity. It was quite a shock to see that he was still among the living. Zhang Sanfeng said: “It is an immeasurable honour for the Eight-Armed Divine Swordsman to give a few pointers. Wuji, do you have a sword?” Xiao Zhao stepped forward and presented the wooden Heaven Sword Zhang Wuji had taken from Zhao Min to him. Zhang Sanfeng pick it up and laughed: “A wooden sword?Isn't this used for drawing talismans and expelling demons?” He stood up with the sword in his left hand and his right hand forming sword forms. Both hands made a loop and he slowly raised them. This opening form was followed by "Encase the Moon with Three Rings","Biggest Star in the Big Dipper", "Swallow Skims the Water", "Left Block", "Right Block"...each form smoothly following the other. At the fifty-third stance "The Compass" his hands simultaneously drew a circle followed by the fifty-fourth form “Grasping the Sword and Returning to the Begining”. Zhang Wuji did not try to remember each stance and form. Instead, he focused on the spirit of the unbroken, flowing sword. At the end of Zhang Sanfeng's demonstration, not a single person applauded. Everyone was thinking: “How can such a slow and gentle sword art be used to fight an enemy?” Then they thought: “Master Zhang must have deliberately slowed down for Zhang Wuji to learn.”

    Only to hear Zhang Sanfeng say: “Have you seen everything clearly” Zhang Wuji answered: “Yes.” Zhang Sanfeng asked: “Do you remember everything?” Zhang Wuji answered: "I've already forgotten a small portion.” Zhang Sanfeng said: “Good. Think about it for a while.” Zhang Wuji lowered his head in contemplation. After a while, Zhang Sanfeng asked:“What about now?” Zhang Wuji replied:“I've forgotten a large portion.”

    Zhou Dian yelled out:“Damm!He's forgetting more and more as time passes. Master Zhang,this sword art of yours is too profound. How can anyone remember it all after seeing it only once? Please demonstrate it once more for our sect leader.” Zhang Sanfeng smiled and said: “Alright, I'll demonstrate it once more.” He picked up the sword and went through the moves again. After watching a few stances, the spectators were surprised. The stances in the second performance were completely different from the stances in the first. Zhou Dian yelled: “Damm, damm!This will make him even more confused.” Zhang Sanfeng drew a full circle, then he asked:“Child, what about now?” Zhang Wuji replied: “I still haven't forgotten three stances.” Zhang Sanfeng nodded his head, put down the sword and returned to his seat. Zhang Wuji paced slowly in a circle. He contemplated a while, then slowly turned a half-circle. He then lifted his head up and with a joyous expression, said: "I've completely forgotten it all, not a trace is left.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“Not bad, not bad!You forgot it very quickly. You can now ask the Eight Armed Divine Swordsman to give you some pointers!” After saying this he gave the wooden sword to him. Zhang Wuji accepted it with a bow. He turned to Fang Dongbai and said: “Elder Fang please.” Zhou Dian scratched his head, his heart heavy with worry. Fang Dongbai stepped forward and said:“Sorry for offending you!” His gleaming sword stabbed forward with a 'chi' sound. His internal strenght was not inferior to Ah Er's. The onlookers were shocked, thinking that even wihout the Heaven Sword, an ordinary sword weilded with such powerful inner strenght would be extremely destructive. The “Divine Swordsman” was really not an empty name.

    Zhang Wuji drew a half-circle to counter, pushing his wooden sword against the flat of the Heaven Sword while channelling his inner strenght. The Heaven Sword was forced downwards. Fang Dongbai praised: "Great sword skills!" He turned his wrist and stabbed at his left arm. Zhang Wuji countered with a circular movement. With a clapping sound, the two swords met and both parties leapt backwards. Fang Dongbai's Heaven Sword vibrated with a 'weeiiing' sound, it continued for sometime without stopping. One weapon was a precious sword and the other a wooden sword. Yet when they collided there was no difference between the two swords. With this stance Zhang Wuji used bluntness to defeat sharpness, displaying the essence of the Taiji Sword. What Zhang Sanfeng taught him was "sword intention", not "sword techniques". He had to forget all the stances completely in order to grasp the essence. During combat, intention directs the sword producing countless variations with no limits. However, if one or two techniques remained in the memory, they will restrain the mind and the sword skills will not be pure. Top experts like Yang Xiao and Yin Tianzheng vaguely understoond the concept. Zhou Dian's lack of understanding was the cause of his anxiety. At this time the sounds of the battle echoed through the hall. Fang Dongbai's aggressive sword technique and deep internal strenght utilised the sharp sword to produce extremely exquisite swordplay. Sword chi rippled through the hall unrestrained. The onlookers felt like they were caught in a snow-storm, the cold energy chilling them to the bone. Amid all this Zhang Wuji's sword drew one circle after another. Each stance, whether attacking or defending, within a circle. His mind was clear, using intention to guide the sword. The wooden sword seemed to give out thin threads, winding round and round the Heaven Sword. More and more of these threads appeared forming a ball around the Heaven Sword. After more than two hundred stances, Fang Dongbai's sword was becoming more sluggish. The sword in his hand felt heavier and heavier - five cattys, six cattys, seven cattys...... ten cattys, twenty cattys...... He thrusted the sword but had no strenght to back it up. The wooden sword forced it to spin a coupl of circles.

    The longer he fought, the more afraid Fang Dongbai became. After three hundred or more stances the two swords had not clashed. Such a thing had never before happened in his whole life. It was as if his opponent had unfurled a gigantic net which was getting smaller and smaller. Fang Dongbai alternated between six or seven different sword styles. The variations were so complex that the spectators felt dizzy just watching him. Throughout the battle Zhang Wuji simply drew circles with the sword. With the exception of Zhang Sanfeng, none of the spectators could see which of his stances were offensive and which were defensive. This Taiji Sword was comprised of all sorts of cirlces. It was really made up of only one stance but there was no limit to its uses. A loud hiss was heard from Fang Dongbai. He thrusted the Heaven Sword forward with every once of evergy he had left, putting everything into this one strike.

    Recognising the danger of the situation, Zhang Wuji used his sword to block. With great skill, Fang Dongbai adjusted his stance slightly. The Heaven Sword now attacked from the side. With a 'qing' sound, six inches of the wooden sword was cut off. The minor obstruction was not enough to hold back the Heaven Sword and it stabbed straight at Zhang Wuj's chest.

    In shock, Zhang Wuji shot his left land out and caught the sword between his index and middle fingers. At the same time, the broken wooden sword in his right hand chooped down on Fang Dongbai's right arm. Though it was a wooden sword, when backed with the power of the Art of 9 Yang it was no different from a steel blade. Fang Dongbai tried to pull his right arm back but Zhang Wuji's two fingers held onto the Heaven Sword with an iron-grip. In this circumstances, his only option was to let go of the Heaven Sword and jump away. Only to hear Zhang Wuji yell: “Let go!” Fang Dongbai gritted his teeth but held on to the sword. In a blink of an eye a 'pa' sound was heard. His arm, still holding on to the sword, was cut off by the wooden sword. Fang Dongbai refused to let go of the sword because he wanted to protect it. He stretched out his left hand and snatched the falling right arm out of the air. Though the arm had left its body, its five fingers still held on firmly to the Heaven Sword. Zhang Wuji was stunned at this display of courage. He also felt regret. So he did not try to take the sword. Fang Dongbai walked in front of Zhao Min, bowed and said: “My lady, your servant is useless. I should be punished.” Zhao Min completely ignored him. She said: “Today we'll give Sect Leader Zhang face and let Wudang Sect off.” She waved her right hand saying: “Let's go!” Her subordinates carried Fang Dongbai, Ah Er and Ah San and left the hall. Zhang Wuji yelled: “Hold on! If you don't leave the Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment behind, don't even think about leaving Wudang Mountain.” He jumped forward and made a grab for Zhao Min's shoulder.

    His hand was about a foot away from Zhao Min's shoulder when he felt palm wind heading towards the left and right side of his body. These palms were soundless and appeared out of no where. In shock, Zhang Wuji brought both his palms out. His right hand met the palm attacking on his right and his left hand met the palm attacking from the left. The four palms clashed at the same time. Only to feel a strange powerful energy. The palm force contained a matchless cold yin energy he knew well. It was no other than the “Xuan Ming Divine Palm” which tormented him in his youth. Startled, Zhang Wuji channelled his Art of 9 Yang chi. Suddenly, two palms hit him simultaneously on the left and right side of his body. With a grunt, Zhang Wuji was thrown backwards. He saw that his attackers were two tall and skinny old men. With one hand, they clashed palms with Zhang Wuji and while the other soundlessly struck his body. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao yelled in anger and rushed forward. The two old men struck out again. There was a crahsing sound. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao retreated a few steps, their chests feeling constricted and cold energy penetrating their bones. The bodies of the two old men swayed a little. The man on the right laughed coldly: “The famous names of Ming Sect are really nothing!” Turning around, they left protecting Zhao Min.

    End of Chapter 24.
    Last edited by dgfds01; 06-04-07 at 02:03 AM.

  6. #26
    Senior Member dgfds01's Avatar
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    Default Chapter 25

    Chapter 25: Lighting a blazing fire to burn the sky.

    (translated by Huang Rong and Foxs, editing by Han Solo and Eliza Bennet)

    (Huang Rong, edited by Han Solo)

    Everyone was worried about Zhang Wuji’s injury so they did not attend to the pursuit and instead effusively surrounded him. Wuji showed a faint smile, and gently swung his right hand downward once to demonstrate that he was not injured at all. As the Nine Yang Divine Art inside his body began to expel the Yin cold energy of the Xuan Ming Divine Palm [editors note: using Xuan Ming divine palm to match previous translations] from the body, white jets of steam starts to emit hastily and continuously out from the top of his head which now looked like a steamer. When he untied the coat, both sides of his body have a clear deep black palm mark imprinted on. Under the revolutions of the Nine Yang Divine Art, the color of the two palm marks changed from black to purple, from purple changed into ashen grey, until finally the two palm marks were all gone after around an hour. In the past, Wuji had spent several years yet unable to fully drive the poison of the Xuan Ming Divine Palm out of his body, this time, in only a short while it was eliminated easily and completely.

    He stood up, said: “Although this event was very dangerous, but eventually we can recognize our enemy’s appearances.” When the Xuan Ming Elders clashed palms with Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao, they had already been attacked by the Nine Yang Divine Art of Zhang Wuji, so the Yin poison in their palm power was less than two tenths of its normal self, but both Yang and Wei still had to sit in meditation and circulating their energy for over a half of the day in order to totally expel the Yin poison from their bodies. Zhang Wuji cared for his martial grandfather’s wound, Zhang Sanfeng said: “The fireworker monk’s internal cultivation technique was not good, even though his external technique was fierce, it was still far inferior to the Xuan Ming Divine Palm, my wound is not ominous.”


    At that time, the Sharp Metal Flag’s General Flag Herald Wu Jingcao entered the hall and reported that all the intruding enemies had withdrawn from the Wudang mountain. Yu Daiyan ordered the Taoist who was tasked with managing guests to prepare a vegetarian feast in honour of the members of the Ming Cult. During the feast, Zhang Wuji turned toward Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan to report on what had happened to himself since the separation. Everybody exclaimed after hearing the story. Zhang Sanfeng said: “That year, in this Wudang temple, I clashed a palm with an old man, but during that time he disguised himself as a Mongolia military officer so I don’t know which one he is in those two old men. It’s really ashamed that up to now we still have not been able to know thoroughly about our enemy.” Yang Xiao said: “I don’t know what is the origin of that young girl surnamed Zhao that even elite fighters such as the Xuan Ming Elders are willing to accept her command.” Everybody made many guesses but could not come to a conclusion on this matter.


    Zhang Wuji said: “At the moment, there are two important tasks. The first one is obtaining the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste to well treat Yu third elder matial uncle’s and Yu sixth martial uncle’s injuries. The second one is finding out eldest martial uncle Song and his companions’ whereabouts. The solutions to both matters is in the hands of that girl surnamed Zhao.” Yu Daiyan said with a strained smile: ”I’ve been disabled for twenty years so even if you really had miraculous pills and divine medicines, my injury would not be able to be cured. Rescuing the eldest brother and the sixth younger brother is more important.” Zhang Wuji said: “We cannot delay anymore, Left Herald Yang, Bat King Wei and Shuo Bude you three please descend the mountain together with me to trace the enemy. The 5 General Flag Vice Heralds of the 5 Basic Element Flags, each to go to one of the five main schools including Emei, Huashan, Kunlun, Kongtong and Fujian Southern Shaolin to contact and inquire about the news. Grandfather and uncle please proceed to Jiangnan to reorganize the members of the Heavenly Hawk Flag. Priest Tie Guan, mister Zhou, great monk Peng and the Five Basic Element General Flag Heralds temporarily stay on at the Wudang mountain and listen to the orders of my martial grandfather.”

    During the feast, he casually gave the instructions. Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the others all stood up and bowed their bodies to accept the orders. Initially Zhang Sanfeng had doubted that such a young man as Zhang Wuji being could unite and command the hero group, but seeing Zhang Wuji giving orders which great heroes in wulin such as Yin Tianzheng obeyed without any hesitation, he felt overjoyed and thought to himself: “He can learn my Taiji fist, Taiji swordsmanship, that’s only because he has a good internal energy background and a strong perceptivity, although it’s hard to do so, that is still not really valuable. But as for he being able to control the great devils of the Ming cult, the Heavenly Hawk sect, lead them into the upright path, that’s really a big matter. Cuishan has a heir, Cuishan has a fine heir already. [Note: spoken with pride that Zhang Cui Shan had a fine heir ]” Thinking as far as here, he couldn’t help stroking his beard and smiling. Zhang Wuji, Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bude the four people hastily finished their meal and then immediately said good-bye to Zhang Sanfeng and went down the mountain to search for Zhao Min’s track.

    Yin Tianzheng and others send the four people off to the front of the mountain before returning. Yang Buhui was attached to his father and didn’t want to part from him so she accompanied them for another mile. Yang Xiao said: “Buhui, you go back and look after Yin sixth uncle carefully.” Yang Buhui responded: “Yes.” Her eyes darted towards Wuji, suddenly she blushed and said in a tiny voice: “Elder brother Wuji, I have a few words to say with you.” Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bude the 3 people chuckled: “You two have been friends since childhood, certainly there’re some personal affairs to speak to each other.” They then sped up their footsteps and ran away for a far distance. Yang Buhui said: “Elder brother Wuji, come here.” She pulled his arm to come to and sit down a big rock next to the mountain side. Zhang Wuji was secretly confused: “She and I have been acquainted since childhood, the friendship between us is not ordinary, this time we met again after a long separation, yet since then she have treated me coolly and stand-offishly. What does she have to talk to me now?” He only saw that although Yang Buhui had not begun to speak her face had reddened already, she bowed her head in silence, only after quite a long time did she say: “Elder brother Wuji, when my Mom was at the brink of death, she asked you to look after me, didn’t she?” Zhang Wuji said: “Yes.” Yang Buhui said: “You crossed tens of thousands of miles, accompanying me from the bank of the Huaihe river to the Western region and delivered me to my Dad’s hands. On the way, you had to risk you life many times and suffer so many hardships. This great graciousness cannot be repaid by merely saying thanks, that kindness of you I’ve only put it deeply in my heart and from before up to now I’ve not raised anything about it at all.” Zhang Wuji said: “Never mind. What good does that have to be raised? If I had not accompanied you to the Western region, I myself wouldn’t have had those lucky encounters and if that’s the case I’m afraid that at this moment I would have been dead due to the dispersion of the Xuan Ming poison already.” Yang Buhui said: “No, no! You’re humane, heroic and generous so every adverse thing that you met can change into good luck. Elder brother Wuji, I’ve been motherless since childhood, although my Dad love me there’re some matters which I don’t dare to talk to him about. You’re the head of our cult, but in my heart, I still only consider you as my older full brother. That day at the Brightness Peak, when I suddenly see you return, I was so happy that I was speechlessness. I felt embarrassed to say it out in front of you, are you angry with me?” Zhang Wuji replied: “No! Certainly no.”

    Zhang Wuji saw her back vanish behind a mountain side. His mind was puzzled, he didn’t know how to deal with this matter. After standing in trance there for a while, he ran after the trio including Wei Yixiao. Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bude found that there seemed to be traces of tears in the corners of his eyes, they couldn’t help glancing at Yang Xiao and smiling faintly, meaning: “Congratulations! Left Herald Yang will soon become the father-in-law of Cult Leader.” After the four people had descended the Wudang mountain, Yang Xiao said: “This Miss Zhao doesn’t travel alone, there are many henchmen around her so it’ll not be hard to find her whereabouts. Let us separate to give chases in the four directions East, West, South and North. At tomorrow’s midday we will be gathering together in Gu Cheng town. What about your venerable opinion, Cult Leader?” Zhang Wuji said: “Very good, let’s do just so. I’ll go westward.” Gu Cheng town was to the East of the Wudang mountain, going westward to search meant he’d have to go farther than the others would for a stretch of road. He went on: “The martial arts of the Xuan Ming Two Elders are extremely fierce, seeing them, you three should evade them if it ’s possible and should not single-handedly engage in any fight with them.” The trio accepted the commands. They immediately bowed and made their farewells to Zhang Wuji then left toward three different directions East, South and North to investigate. In the West, there were only mountain roads, Zhang Wuji applied his qing-gong (lightness skill) and ran fast. In more than two hours, he arrived in Shi Yan town. He stopped at a restaurant in the town to order a bowl of noodles. He asked the waiter whether there had been any golden-brocade-covered palankeen going past here. The waiter replied: “Yes, there was! There were also three seriously injured people. They lied on three hammocks which were carried along with the palankeen. They have just gone toward Huang Long town in the West for less than an hour.” Zhang Wuji was very pleased, he thought that the pace of these people was not fast, so in order to avoid revealing his own track, waiting until the evening to pursue them would not be late. He then found a quiet place to take a sleep and waited till the first watch of the night (1 a.m.) before going to Huang Long town.

    Zhang Wuji reached the town when it was still earlier than the second watch (2 a.m.) of the night. He hid behind a corner of a wall and saw that the street was very quiet without any sound of anyone. But in a big hotel, there was still a dazzling brightness of lamps and torches. He jumped onto a nearby roof, after several leaps he arrived at the roof of a small house next to the hotel. Looking around, he saw a big cloth tent on a riverside ground. There were many people coming and going at the front and the back of the tent. Obviously it was guarded with strict security precautions. Zhang Wuji thought: “Is it possible that Miss Zhao is in that cloth tent? Her facial expression and her way of speaking are not different from those of the Han Chinese, but the way she acts is overbearing and extravagant to a certain extent.” At that time, the Yuan dynasty had been dominating the Central Plain for a long time, Han tyrannical gentries also tried to immitate the prevailing customs of the Mongolian for honour so this was not strange. While he was pondering on how to approach the tent, unexpectedly, he heard some groans spreading from window of the hotel. He then changed his mind, jumped off the roof, tiptoed to a place under the window and looked inside the room. He only saw that there were three people lying on three beds, among them, there were two whose faces he couldn’t see. The man lying near the window was exactly A’San, he was moaning softly, his injuries was clearly in extreme agony, his two arms and two legs all were bound up with white plain cloth. Suddenly an idea flashed upon him, he thought: “His four limbs were all broken, he must have used the efficacious medicine of his own school, the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste, to treat the injuries. If I don’t snatch it right now, so when?” He broke open the window and jumped into the room. A man standing in the room called out in alarm and sent out a fist. Zhang Wuji used his left hand to grab that man’s fist, his right hand extended and hit on the man’s numb acupoint. He turned around and saw that the two people who were lying there were precisely A’Er and Eight-Armed Swordsman Fang Dongbai. The man whose acupoint had just been sealed wore a black gown, he was still holding two gold needles in his hands. Perhaps he had been acupuncturing the three injuried to cut off the pain for them. On the table, was putting a black bottle, there were several pieces of mugwort next to the bottle. Zhang Wuji took up the bottle, pulled out its lid to smell, he only felt a rush of a hot and pungent odour to his nose. A’San called out: “Help! There's a medicine robber...” (NOTE: in the Chinese text: 来人哪,抢药… - sorry, I don’t how to translate it well ) Zhang Wuji moved his finger fast as wind to successively seal the mute acupoints of the 3 men. He ripped open the bandage on A’San’s arm. Expectedly, he saw the arm was covered by a thin black layer of medicinal ointment. For fear that Zhao Min was devilish cunning and had intentionally put fake medicine in the bottle to entice him to come here by himself, he began to scrape the ointment of the sores of A’San and the bald A’Er onto the bandage. He thought that even if in the bottle was fake medicine, the paste taken from their sores couldn’t be false. Hearing the sounds, the outside guards kicked the door open wide and fled into. Zhang Wuji didn’t need to look at them, he gave each one a kick sending them out. In a short moment, the people in the hotel had begun to scream noisily and gotten into a chaotic crowd. He had kicked six people out one after another but he had only scraped more than a half of the ointment on A’San's and the bald A’Er’s sores. Thinking that it would possibly not be very wonderful if he tarried here more so that the Xuan Ming Two Elders would enter, he put the bottle and the bandage in his bosom then lifted the physician and threw him out of the window.

    Only a big noise of crushing resounded, that physician was hit by a hard palm and felt on the ground. This was what Zhang Wuji expected, there were definitely elite fighters ambushing outside the window. Zhang Wuji took advantage of that moment to rush out. White light flashed in the dark when two sharp weapons thrusted toward him. To the Great Universal Shifting Technique this was just a minor matter to deal with, applying the technique, he used his left hand to pull and his right hand to direct (NOTE: this sentence is 乾坤大挪移心法牛刀小试 in the Chinese text, but I don’t know how to translate it into English literally and smoothly, I’m so sorry ), the sword on the left then stabbeb at the man on the right and the spear on the right hit the man on the left. In chaotic sounds he had already run away. On the way back, Zhang Wuji felt very joyful thinking that even though this time he had not found out Zhao Min’s origin yet, he had obtained the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste, which was even much better. At this moment it was too late to go to Gu Cheng to meet the group of Yang Xiao, he returned to the Wudang mountain and ordered the Red Water Flag to send members to call them back. Hearing the news that Zhang Wuji had gotten the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste, Zhang Sanfeng and the others all were very glad. Zhang Wuji examined the medicine he had scraped from the sores on A’San's body carefully, he also took out a bit of the ointment in the bottle to make a more detailed compare and confirmed that they were the same. The black bottle was carved out of a big piece of jade. It was as black as lacquer, caused a feeling of warmness when touching and looked very antique. Even the bottle alone was an extremely precious treasure. No longer having a doubt, he ordered his subordinates to carry Yin Liting to Yu Daiyan’s room, placing the two beds in parallel. Yang Buhui followed into the room. She didn’t dare to look directly at Zhang Wuji’s eyes, but her face showed a radiance and there was an extreme appreciation in her heart. Obviously, Zhang Wuji accompanying her to the Western region and drinking the cup of poisoned wine at He Taichong’s residence on behalf of her, such much of kindness still couldn’t compare to him urgently curing Yin Liting’s injury.

    Zhang Wuji said: “Third uncle, your former injury healed up, to treat you now, nephew will have to break off the bones of your arms and your legs then connect them back. I hope you’ll try to bear this temporary pain.” Yu Daiyan did not believe that he himself having been disabled for more than twenty years could be fully restored, but he thought even if the treatment failed, the worst of it would not be worse than the present condition, for the past twenty years he had not been caring for anything already anyway. He only thought: “Wuji has exerted himself to the utmost wholeheartedly wanting to make up for the faults of his parents, otherwise he’ll never be able to put his mind at rest. There’s nothing whatsoever considerable about my transitory pain.” He then did not ask about anything, only smiled faintly, said: “No problem, you can do anything at your convenience.” Zhang Wuji asked Yang Buhui to go out, took off all the clothes of Yu Daiyan, localted all the breaks in his bones carefully, afterwards he sealed his comatose acupoint. He transfered his energy to his ten fingers, ‘crack crack crack’, the snaps resounded continously, all the breaks which healed up in Yu Daiyan’s bones were broken again. Although Yu Daiyan’s acupoint had been sealed, the pain was still so great that it awoke him up. Zhang Wuji’s technique was fast as wind, irrespective of whether the bones were big or small, he broke them all, Then he immediately rejoined all the breaks accurately, applied the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste to the sores, bound them up, put them in wooden splints before giving acupuncture to relieve the pain.

    To treat Yin Liting was much easier than to treat Yu Daiyan since when they had been in the Western region, Zhang Wuji had set all the broken bones of Yin Liting in place so at this time he only needed to apply the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste. After treating Yin Liting, he sent the very General Vice Heralds of the Five Element Flags to guard by turns in case the enemy would come to harass. In the afternoon of the same day, after finishing his lunch, Zhang Wuji took a quick nap in the cloud room to regain his strength after a weary night of scurrying. When he was in a dream, suddenly he heard light foot-steps approaching the entrance and woke up immediately. Xiao Zhao, who was guarding outside, asked in a low voice: “What’s the matter? Cult Leader is resting.” Yan Yuan, the General Flag Herald of the Thick Earth Flag, said under his breath: “Sixth Hero Yin has been in such pain that he has fainted three times, does Cult Leader…” Zhang Wuji did not wait till Yan Yuan finished the sentence, he stood up like a spring, rushed out of the room and accelerated his pace to Yu Daiyan’s room. When he arrived, he only saw Yin Liting’s 2 eyes have rolled upward, leaving only the whites, he had lost his unconsciousness already, Yang Buhui was so scared that her eyes filled with tears, she did not know what to do. Lying next to Yin Liting was Yu Daiyan, he was clenching his teeth with screeching noises. Obviously he was trying to endure the pain, only because his temper was unyielding that he did not let out any groan. Seeing that scene, Zhang Wuji was greatly surprised, he massaged several times on the acupoints Cheng Qi, Tai Yang, Tan Zhong... of Yin Liting, resuscitating him, then asked Yu Daiyan: “Third uncle, the breaks in your bones are very painful, aren’t they?” Yu Daiyan replied: “The breaks are painful, that’s just plain, but even the six internal organs and the five innards are itchy unbearably… as if, as if there’re tens of thousands of insects eating and digging higgledy-piggledy. Zhang Wuji could not be more worried, on hearing what Yu Daiyan had just sid, he knew clearly that this was a condition of being poisoned seriously. He hastily asked Yin Liting: “How do you feel, sixth younger uncle?” Yin Liting raved: “Red, purple, blue, green, yellow, white, azure,… How beautiful, so many little balls hovering and moving back and forth… Really attractive… You see, you see…”

    Zhang Wuji uttered a loud cry: “Ayo” and nearly passed out on the spot. He instantly thought of a passage in the Book of Poisons written by Wang Nangu that said: “The Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste, made by mixing up seven kinds of poisonous flower and seven kinds of poisonous insect. The victim of this poison first feels itchy in the internal organs as if he is being gnawed internally by seven kinds of insect, then he sees seven colors appearing in front of him which looks wonderful and fanciful as if there are seven kinds of flower flying flickeringly. The Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste is composed of seven kinds of insect and seven kinds of flower so its components vary with individuals and regions. It has a maximum of forty nine different ways of combination each of which has sixty three variants. Only the person who makes up the poison can know how to detoxify.” Cold sweat streamed down from Zhang Wuji’s forehead, he knew that he himself had fallen into Zhao Min’s devilish trap. Not only had she intentionally put the Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste in the black jade bottle but she had also applied this violent poison on the bodies of A’San and the bald A’Er regardless these two elite fighters’ lives essentially aiming to lure him into her trap. Such a fiendish mind was really unimaginable. He utterly repented and hastily untied all the splints and bandages on the bodies of Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting then used white liquor to clean the poisonous paste from their limbs. Yang Buhui saw his serious expression, she knew this important business had not been successful so she was no longer shy of anything and helped Zhang Wuji to clean Yin Liting’s four limbs with liquor. However, the black had soaked through the skin, it could not be washed off no matter how hard they tried. Just like the case of lacquerers whose hands were dyed with colors, cleaning the black was not an overnight affair.

    Zhang Wuji did not dare to use medicine rashly, he only picked out several kinds of pain-killer and tranquillizer for them to take. He walked to the outside room, feeling both alarmed and ashamed. His fortitude was exhausted and his knees could not help becoming weak. Suddenly he dropped down, bent on the floor of the palace and burst out crying. Yang Buhui was frightened, she could only call out: “Wuji ge-ge, Wuji ge-ge!” Zhang Wuji sobbed: “I myself killed third uncle and sixth younger uncle already.” He only thought in his mind: “This Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste has at least one hundred ways of combination, who knows what seven kinds of insect and flower that she used are? To detoxicate this fierce poison is merely to use the principle of neutralizing poison by poison, so even if only one kind of poisonous insect or flower is guessed wrong and I use that remedy carelessly, third uncle and six younger uncle will die forthwith.” At that moment, all of a sudden, he fully understood his father’s thoughts when he had ended his life, that was once a serious mistake was unable to be saved, there would really be no way except commiting suicide. Zhang Wuji sluggishly stood up. Yang Buhui asked: “Is there really no cure for this poison? Even reluctantly trying one time is also impossible?” Zhang Wuji shook his head. Yang Buhui said: “Alright.” She looked calm and no longer showed any sign of panic.

    Zhang Wuji’s mind was stirred up, he recalled the sentence which she had said before: “If his injury was too serious to be cured, I wouldn’t be able to live too.” He thought: “This time I kill not only 2 people but actually 3.” When Zhang Wuji was at a loss, suddenly Wu Jingcao walked to the outside of the door and reported to him: “Cult Leader, that Miss Zhao is seeking a meet at the outside of the gate.” Just on hearing that, Zhang Wuji felt so indignant that he could not restrain himself, he shouted out: “I’m just about to look for her.” He drew out the long sword from Yang Buhui’s waist, hold it in his hand then went out in big strides. Xiao Zhao took down the pearl hairpin on her hair, hand it to Zhang Wuji, said: “ Mister, you give it back to Miss Zhao please.” Zhang Wuji cast his eyes upon her, thought: “You really know my intention. The feud between me and that girl surnamed Zhao is deep as the ocean, I cannot keep anything of her.” Holding the sword in one hand and the pearl hairpin in the other he walked out of the gate, only saw Zhao Min standing there alone, she was smiling. It was sundown by then, the Sun obliquely projected the blood-red rays of light on her cheeks, she looked incomparably beautiful. The Xuanming Two Elders stood behind her from more than ten zhang (33.33m), they were holding three excellent horses in their hands and staring into space.

    Zhang Wuji moved his body, in a flash he was right in front of Zhao Min. He extended his left hand and grabbed both Zhao Min’s wrists, his right hand pointed the tip of the sword at her chest. He shouted at her: “Give up the antidote, quick!” Zhao Min smiled: “You’ve bullied me once before, this time you also want to bully me again, don’t you? I come here to inquire after you, yet you bear a glowering face, how can this be a proper way of welcoming guest?” Zhang Wuji said: “I need the antidote, if you don’t hand it over, I… I’ll not want to live anymore, you don’t think you’ll be able to live as well.” Zhao Min’s cheeks slightly reddened, she spit in a soft voice and said: “Bah! How nice? You dying is your own business, how come it has anything to do with me that you want me do die together with you?” Zhang Wuji raised his voice: “Who’s joking with you, huh? Hand over the antidote or else this day will be the day you and I die togerther.” At that time both the hands of Zhao Min were being seized tightly by him, she felt he was tremulously all of a shake showing an extremely excited mood, she also felt a hard object in his hand, so she asked: “What are you holding in your hand?” Zhang Wuji said: “Your pearl hairpin. I give it back to you.” He lifted his left hand to fix the hairpin onto her hair then immediately got hold of her two wrists again. His technique was fast as lightning performing the release and the grasp nearly at same time. Zhao Min said: “I gave it to you, why don’t you want it?” Zhang Wuji said fretfully: “You’ve always played me up and caused me good miseries, I don’t want to receive anything from you.” Zhao Min said: “You don’t wanna receive anything from me? Are you serious or just kidding? So why did you ask me to hand over the antidote as soon as you began to speak?” Previously, every time Zhang Wuji had argued with her, he had always gotten disadvantaged, this time he got stuck too. Thinking of Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting going to die before long, he felt deep grief in his heart and his eyes could not refrain from turning reddish, he almost let his tears roll down. No longer being able to bear up anymore, Zhang Wuji was about to implore her for the antidote but remembering that Zhao Min was such malignant, he did not want to show his feebleness in front of her.

    At this time, Yang Xiao and others had known the news, they walked out of the gate together and saw that Zhao Min had been caught by Wuji and the Xuanming Two Elders were standing from a long distance as if they did not care for or did not fear anything. Everybody then stood aside and observed calmly.

    Zhao Min smiled and said: “You’re the Leader of the Ming cult, your martial arts can shake the world, yet just encountering a bit of difficulty you wept ‘wah wah wah’ noisily like a child already. You just cried a short moment ago, right? That’s just really shameful. Let me tell you. You were hit two stances of the Xuanming Divine Palm by the the Xuanming Two Elders so I come here to ask after your injury. But to my unexpected, just barely seeing my face, you already made a fuss about nothing but die and live stuff, why? Let go of me will you?” Zhang Wuji thought even if she wanted to take the opportunity to get away she would not be able to do so since as soon as her feet moved, he would immediately grab hold of her, so he set her hands free. Zhao Min raised one hand to adjust the pearl hairpin on her hair, she smiled and said: “You seem not to be injured at all, don’t you?” Zhang Wuji said coldly: “Just the Xuanming Divine Palm alone not necessarily can injure me.” Zhao Min said: “Then how about the Great Force Diamond Finger and the the Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste?” These two sentences were like two big iron hammers striking hard on Zhang Wuji’s chest. He said vexedly: “It’s expectedly the Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste.” Zhao Min said in a stern voice: “Cult Leader Zhang, you want to get the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste, I can give you, you want to get the antidote for the Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste, I also can give you provided that you’re willing to promise to meet my three matters, then I’ll offer them up to you with pleasure. But if you use force to intimidate me, well, it’s easy to kill me, but to obtain the antidote, that’ll be hard and even harder in addition. And if you dare to torture me again, I’ll only give you poison and fake medicine.”

    Zhang Wuji felt very jubilant and immediately showed gladness in his expression, although his eyes were still being dewed with tears. He hastily said: “What three matters? Quick say, quick say.” Zhao Min said with a smile: “Both crying and smiling at the same time, you’re really shameless! I said to you earlier, I’ve not thought them out yet. When I think of them I’ll let you know, as long as you promise me faithfully and don’t break your words. I will not ask you to clutch the Moon in the sky, also not ask you to do the evil things which violate the chivalry ethics, not ask you to commit suicide as well, and of course not ask you to act as dogs or pigs either.” Zhang Wuji thought: “On condition that those matters don’t go against the chivalry ethics, no matter how hard they are I’ll work myself to exhaustion to complete.” He then said chivalrously: “Miss Zhao, if you kindly bestow the efficacious medicine so that I can cure my third uncle Yu and sixth younger uncle Yin, then no matter what you ask me to do, Zhang Wuji will never dare to refuse even if I’ll have to jump into boiling water or walk on burning fire. Please yourself.” Zhao Min streched out one palm, said: “Good, let’s applaud for the oath. I’ll give you the antidote so that you can treat your third uncle and sixth younger uncle. Later on, if I ask you to do three things which don’t offend the knightliness you will not be permited to refuse and will have to try your best to fulfill them.” Zhang Wuji said: “With respect, I obey your venerable words.” He gently clashed palms with her three times. Zhao Min took down the hairpin from her head, said: “So now, do you want to accept my present?” In fear of her not giving the antidote, he did not dare to disobey her will and hastily received the pearl hairpin. Zhao Min said: “But I don’t want you to pass it on to that pretty maidservant again.” Zhang Wuji said: “Yes.” Zhao Min took three steps backward, she smiled and said: “The antidote will be delivered to you immediately, Cult Leader Zhang, goodbye!” She brushed her sleeves, turned around and walked away. The Xuanming Two Elders then led the horses along. They helped her get on a horse to leave first before following her. The clop-clop of hoofbeats resounded when the three horses descended the mountain.

    When the trio including Zhao Min had just passed a mountain side, a man poked out from the canopy of a big tree on the left, he was Qian Er’bai of the Divine Arrow Eight Heroes and was holding an iron bow. He fixed an arrow on the bow and shouted: “With all due respect, my owner submits a letter to Cult Leader Zhang, please accept and read.” Upon these words, a ‘sou’ sound was heard, the arrow had shot toward him. Zhang Wuji made a wave with his left hand to catch the arrow. He found that the arrow did not have the arrowhead and there was a letter tied to the end of it. Zhang Wuji untied the letter from the arrow to take a look, the envelope read ‘Personally addressed to Cult Leader Zhang’. He opened the envelope and saw a flower-filigreed paper on which there were several lines written in the little standard script style (xiao kaishu - 小楷書 ):

    ‘The golden box has two compartments
    one of which has contained the efficacious paste for long,
    The pearl hairpin is hollow
    which has the remedy for the poison inside
    Those two things were offered to the gentleman long ago
    why are you so exhausted and worried?
    Though they are just tiny things
    which are not worthy being taken into consideration
    why did you give them to a maidservant?
    why did you regard them just as dirt and dust?
    They are not counted as my sincere wishes are they?’


    (Foxs, edited by Eliza Bennet)

    Zhang Wuji read this note three times; he was pleasantly surprised but also ashamed. Hastily he examined the pearl head ornament and tried to twist the pearls one by one. Finally he found one he could unscrew and remove completely. The golden stem was hollow and inside it was a little white scroll. Zhang Wuji took out a golden needle from his pocket, the one he usually used for acupuncture, and fished the scroll out. The paper was very thin; on it the list of seven poisonous insects and seven poisonous flowers, plus the recipe of the antidote, were indeed written, everything was explained clearly one by one. Actually, Zhang Wuji only needed to know the seven insects and seven flowers, since he did not need other people’s direction on how to detoxify it. He looked at the recipe and found it to be correct, so he knew Zhao Min was not trying to swindle him. Hastily he rushed to the inner courtyard and prepared the antidote. Sure enough, a little over two hours later Yu and Yin two people were in a much better condition, the itch inside their bodies stopped and the various colors they saw in their vision disappeared.

    Zhang Wuji took out the golden case in which Zhao Min delivered the pearl head ornament. After examining it carefully he found the secret compartment on the box’s wall, with black paste pressed in between. The paste smelled fragrant and cool. This time he did not dare to act recklessly, thereupon he caught a dog and broke its hind leg, then spread the paste on it. Early morning the next day that dog was running around without any sign of poisoning, and its broken leg was healed.

    By the third day the poison inside Yu and Yin two people was completely eradicated; thereupon Zhang Wuji applied the ‘hei yu duan xu gao’ [black jade break connecting (or fracture healing) paste] on their four limbs. This time nothing strange happened. The ‘hei yu duan xu gao’ was marvelously effective; after about two months Yin Liting’s hands could move freely. It looked like very soon not only he would be able to move his hands and feet, but also his martial art was not damaged too much. Too bad Yu Daiyan had been disabled for too long, it would be difficult for him to fully recover. But looking at his condition right now, there was a great chance that within half a year he would be able to walk with crutches. He would still be handicapped, but he would be able to move around and not be crippled anymore.

    Because Zhang Wuji was delayed on the Mount Wudang, he dispatched the Five-Element Flags to go down the mountain ahead of him. Upon their return they brought some rather disturbing news. Not a single one of the people from Emei, Huashan, Kongtong and Kunlun Sects who went to the Brightness Peak returned to their respective sect. The Jianghu world was shaken. Everybody said that the Devil Cult had annihilated all experts from the six major sects who went on the expedition to the western region, and then extinguished each sect separately one by one. The sudden-disappearing Shaolin monks had created an unprecedented wave in the Wulin world. Luckily each flag leader and his second-in-command carried the letter written by Zhang Sanfeng of Wudang Sect; they also did not reveal their true identities, otherwise they would be torn to pieces by each sect they visited.

    All flag leaders and his second-in-commands also reported that by that time in Jianghu world every sect, clan and society, as well as expedition companies, robbers, pirates, harbor gangs, and so on were on the highest level of alert since they were afraid the Ming Cult would launch a large scale attack.

    A few days later Yin Tianzheng and Yin Yewang father and son had also returned to Wudang, reporting that the completion of the reorganizing effort of the Heavenly Eagle Flag; it is now part of the Ming Cult. They also reported that the warriors of the southeast raised their arms to fight the Yuan invaders; the world was in great tumult. In the meantime the Yuan army was still too strong, furthermore each rebellion was staged individually, without any contact with each other; therefore, they were easily crushed.

    That same evening Zhang Sanfeng held a vegetarian banquet at the rear hall in honor of Yin Tianzheng father and son. During the banquet Yin Tianzheng narrated the cause of each defeat, and how in each insurrection the Ming Cult and the Heavenly Eagle Sect disciples always took part in it, and that many of them were captured or even killed by the Yuan soldiers; making an ultimate sacrifice in the process.

    As the group of warriors listened to his narration, they all sighed in grief and anger. Yang Xiao said, “The people’s suffering is already very deep. Their hearts are changed; they want to drive the Tartar and capture back our river and mountain [‘he shan’ – country or land]. When Yang Jiaozhu was still alive, day and night it was his sole concern. It’s a pity that our Cult used to handle matters differently that for the last hundred of years we are always involved in feud against various Wulin sects of the Central Plains; making it difficult to join hands to fight the enemy. With the Heaven’s blessing we now have Zhang Jiaozhu to handle the Cult’s affairs, gradually solving our enmity with each sect. The time is ripe to work together and drive out the invaders.”

    “Yang Zuoshi,” Zhou Dian said, “What you said was not wrong, but it was a pile of rubbish, it was like a fart.”

    Yang Xiao was not angry, “Then I am waiting for Zhou Xiong’s advice,” he said.

    Zhou Dian replied, “The Jianghu people all say that our Cult has killed the experts of six major sects. Once they heard the word ‘Ming Cult’ their hatred is going deep into their bones and marrows. What do you mean by ‘working together and drive out the invaders’? It was pleasant to the ears, but how do we do it?”

    “It’s true that we have a bad name,” Yang Xiao said, “But the truth will always be revealed in the end; moreover, we now have Zhang Zhenren [lit. true/real person – a respectable term to address a Taoist Priest] as our witness.”

    Zhou Dian laughed, “Supposing that it was really us who killed Song Yuanqiao, Old Nun Mie Jue, He Taichong and the others, how would Zhang Zhenren know that he was not being deceived?”

    Tieguan Daoren [Iron Hat Taoist Priest] reprimanded him harshly, “Zhou Dian, don’t talk nonsense in front of Zhang Zhenren and Jiaozhu!”

    Zhou Dian stuck out his tongue but did not reply. Peng Yingyu said, “What Zhou Xiong said was not without reason. According to pinseng’s [lit. impoverished monk – he was referring to himself] opinion, we should hold a general assembly of the Ming Cult’s leaders, where we will make known Zhang Jiaozhu’s intention to repair our relation with the Wulin world’s various sects. At the same time, more people means broader horizon; we can discuss these matters and investigate Song Daxia [great hero Song], Mie Jue Shitai and the others’ whereabouts during the assembly.”

    “If you want to find Song Daxia and the others’ whereabouts; that is very easy. I might say as easy as blowing off the dust on top of this table,” Zhou Dian said.

    They were all surprised, “How?” they asked, “Why didn’t you say so earlier?”

    With a smug expression on his face, Zhou Dian drank a cup of wine and said, “All we need is Jiaozhu to go and ask that Miss Zhao. I am 90% sure that we will understand everything. I say if those people are not killed by Miss Zhao, then they must be captured by her.”

    For the last two months, Wei Yixiao, Yang Xiao, Peng Yingyi, Shuo Bude and the others had separately gone down the mountain trying to find out Zhao Min’s origin and to track her trail; but since her appearance in front of Wudang and she shook hands with Zhang Wuji to seal their agreement, this person had disappeared without any trace. Even her many subordinates all had vanished without leaving the least bit of trace. They all speculated that she was related to the imperial government, but other than that they did not have any clue as where to seek her. This time hearing Zhou Dian speak they said, “Now you are talking rubbish! If we found that girl surnamed Zhao, wouldn’t we ask her ourselves?”

    Zhou Dian said with a smile, “You certainly can’t find her; but Jiaozhu does not have to seek her to find her. Jiaozhu still owes her three things; do you think that fierce Miss will let him go so easily? Hey, hey! This girl is beautiful, but each time I think about her, all the hair on my body stands on its end; she causes me to shiver.”

    Everybody could not help but smile, yet they understood the truth in what he said. Zhang Wuji sighed and said, “I only hope she would give me her three difficult problems quickly then I will do my best to do them and bring this matter to completion. Otherwise my thoughts will be in suspense all day long; not knowing what kind of strange trick she is performing. Anyway, about Peng Dashi’s [reverend, lit. grand master] suggestion earlier; our Cult will hold a general assembly of the leaders. This is quite feasible. What do all of you think?”

    “It is,” they replied, “But it is better not on Mount Wudang.”

    “Jiaozhu,” Yang Xiao said, “Where do you think is the best place?”

    Zhang Wuji hesitated a moment before saying, “Being a humble Cult Leader today I always remember our own Cult’s two people’s benevolence. One is the Yi-xian [lit. medicine/medical immortal – Divine Doctor] of Butterfly Valley, Mr. Hu Qingniu; that Senior died under the Golden Flower Granny’s hand. The other is Chang Yuchun Dage [big brother]; I don’t know his whereabouts nowadays. I think, let’s hold our Cult’s general assembly on the Butterfly Valley in Huaibei.”

    Zhou Dian clapped his hands and said, “Very good, very good! I bickered constantly with this ‘jian si bu jiu’ [seeing death without helping – previous translator used ‘rather see death than help’] in the past, but actually he was not a bad person, just a little bit eccentric. He employed different methods from Yang Zuoshi [Left Emissary Yang], but achieved equally wonderful results. He saw someone in danger and did nothing, in the end he died without anybody helping him; it was his retribution. I, Zhou Dian, want to go to his grave and bow to honor him.”

    The rest of the group did not have any objection, they agreed upon the Midautumn Festival [‘zhong qiu’] in the eighth month, which was still a little over three months away; all leaders of the Ming Cult would hold their general assembly on the Butterfly Valley in Huaibei, the former residence of Hu Qingniu.

    Early morning the next day all the Five-Element Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Flag went down Mount Wudang to convey their Cult Leader’s order: All cult leaders, from ‘xiang zhu’ [Translator note: I am not sure about this; I think this is a supervisory position name within the Cult] and above to leave the business of the Cult to their assistants, and to be at the Huaibei’s Butterfly Valley before the eighth month’s Mid-autumn Festival, to pay their respect to the new Cult Leader.

    By that time the Mid-autumn Festival was still some days away, and since Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting had not fully recovered from their injuries, Zhang Wuji was afraid their illness would recur and thus his efforts would be in vain; therefore, he decided to stay on Mount Wudang to look after Yu and Yin two people, while at the same time he leisurely asked Zhang Sanfeng to teach him more about Taiji Fist and Sword techniques. Wei Yixiao, Peng Yingyu, Shuo Bude and the others went down the mountain once again trying to track Zhao Min’s whereabouts. Yang Xiao received the Cult Leader’s order to stay at Wudang, but because of Ji Xiaofu’s affair, he felt uncomfortable to meet Yin Liting; hence he stayed cooped up in his room reading books and did not go out even for a single step from his door unless it was important to do so.

    And so two months have passed. About the seventh hour [between 11am – 1pm] one particular day Zhang Wuji visited Yang Xiao in his room; he wanted to consult Yang Xiao on the Butterfly Valley congress and to ask him about important matters surrounding their Cult. He was still young and lacking experience, suddenly thrown into the deep end of the pool; he oftentimes felt inadequate to bear this heavy responsibility. He was afraid he might do wrong an important matter and cause harm; while Yang Xiao had a deep knowledge of their Cult’s affair. For that reason Zhang Wuji wanted Yang Xiao to be nearby so he could consult him anytime.

    Two people discussed the congress at length. Zhang Wuji casually took a book lying on top of Yang Xiao’s table. On the cover these seven characters were written‘Ming Jiao Liu Chuan Zhong Tu Ji’ [A record on the spread of Ming Cult to the Central Earth]; underneath, in smaller characters, ‘Di Zi Guang Ming Zuo Shi Yang Xiao Gong Zhuan’ [respectfully compiled by the Brightness disciple, Left Emissary Yang Xiao]. Zhang Wuji said, “Yang Zuoshi, you are skilled in both pen and sword [‘wen wu quan cai’], truly you are our Cult’s pillar.”

    “Many thanks for Jiaozhu’s compliment,” Yang Xiao said.

    Zhang Wuji opened the book and saw in neat little characters an extensive documentation of everything about the Cult. The Ming Cult originated from Persia; it was originally called ‘Mo Ni Jiao’ [Manichaeism]. It entered the Central Earth during the first Yan Zai year of Empress Wu of the Tang Dynasty, when a Persian man presented the Ming Cult’s ‘san zong jing’ [three-purpose scripture] to the court; since then the Chinese people started to practice this teaching. In the third year of Tang’s master calendar, on the twenty ninth day of the sixth month the first Ming Cult temple was built in Luoyang, Chang’an, with the name of ‘Da Yun Guang Ming Si’ [Great Cloud Brightness Temple]. Later on, these kinds of temples were built in Taiyuan, Jingzhou, Yangzhou, Hongzhou, Yuezhou, and other strategic small cities. Toward the third Hui Chang year the imperial government issued an order to kill the Ming Cult disciples; at that time the Ming Cult influence was greatly diminished. Since then the Ming Cult became an underground religion, oppressed by subsequent dynasties. In order for the Ming Cult to survive, it had to resort to sly and secret behavior, that in the end the character ‘mo’ of the ‘Mo Ni Jiao’ was changed to ‘mo’ [devil]; hence the people started calling it the Devil Cult.

    Reading to this part Zhang Wuji heaved a long sigh and said, “Yang Zuoshi, our Cult’s original teaching was to shun evil and do good deeds, no different than Buddhism or Taoism. Why is it since the Tang Dynasty we have been the target of oppression even to the point of atrocious slaughters?”

    Yang Xiao replied, “Although Buddhism aim for the restoration of human kind, once a monk leaves home he empties himself and doesn’t pay any more attention toward worldly matters. Taoism is the same. Our Cult moves among the common people and peasants; if we see someone in suffering or deep poverty, regardless of who it is, our people will strive to help. The government officials always bully common people; when did you ever see they didn’t? Where did you ever see they didn’t? As soon as we know someone received unjust treatment from an officer, our Cult is bound to clash with that officer.”

    Zhang Wuji nodded his head, “Only when the royal government authorities stop bullying common people, local tyrant landlords do not dare to run amuck, when that time comes, our Cult will enjoy true prosperity,” he said.

    Yang Xiao slapped the table and with a loud voice said, “What Jiaozhu said was the key point of our Cult’s purpose.”

    “Yang Zuoshi,” Zhang Wuji asked, “Do you think that day will come?”

    Yang Xiao was silent for half a day before answering, “I do hope that day will come. During the Song Dynasty, Fang La, our own Fang Jiaozhu, rose up to tell the government authorities not to bully the common people.” He opened the book and pointed the record about Ming Cult’s Cult Leader Fang La staging an earth-shaking rebellion on east Zhejiang.

    As Zhang Wuji read that part, he lifted his eyes to gaze towards the distance. Closing the book he said, “A real man should be as strong as he was. Although Fang Jiaozhu sacrificed his life, we can say that in the end he had rendered a massive contribution to our cause.” Two people were thinking of the same thing and their blood was boiling.

    Yang Xiao continued, “Although our Cult is oppressed for the last several dynasties, we actually are still standing strong. During the fourth Shaoxing year of the Song Dynasty there was an officer by the name of Wang Juzheng who presented a report about our Cult to the Emperor. Jiaozhu, you can take a look at it.” While saying that he turned the page containing Wang Juzheng’s report.

    Zhang Wuji read the report as follows: ‘In two of Zhejiang prefectures there is a custom of worshipping the devil and eating only vegetables.” Before Fang La the ban against this custom was still lenient and it was not as widely spread. After Fang La, the ban was stricter, but the devil worshiping became more rampant … Subordinate heard that this is how they operate: there are one or two crafty devil worshipper leaders in every town and village, these have the record of names of the villagers who pledge to join the devil society. All of the devil worshippers do not eat meat. If one of their members is in difficulty, their comrades would do all they can to help. Basically by not eating meat they life a frugal and simple live. By helping each other in the same society they promote camaraderie, which, in the end, also support their frugal and simple way of living …’

    Reading to this point Zhang Wuji said, “Although that Wang Juzheng was hostile toward our Cult, he was aware that our people live a frugal and simple life, and we love and help each other.” He continued reading, ‘… Subordinate believes the previous Emperor also admonished the people to live a simple life and to love and help each other. Living a frugal and simple life is an honorable way of life since the ancient times. It’s a pity that today’s government leaders cannot be good example for the people, so that the Devil Leaders are able to entice them into joining their society and blindly follow their teaching. Common people are simple and ignorant; by following the Devil’s teaching and live the Devil’s way, living a simple and frugal life, they confirm the Devil Leaders’ words as trustworthy sayings and do not made the slightest effort to challenge them. Therefore, the stricter the ban, the more they expand’

    Zhang Wuji stopped reading, turning his head to Yang Xiao he said, “Yang Zuoshi, ‘the stricter the ban, the more they expand’; this is exactly the proof that our Cult is deeply loved by the people. May I borrow this book, so I can learn more about our Cult’s previous saints’ outstanding achievements and their wishes?”

    “I was about to ask Jiaozhu to give me your opinion,” Yang Xiao replied.

    Zhang Wuji took the book and said, “Yu Sanbo’s [third martial (older) uncle] and Yin Liushu’s [sixth martial (younger) uncle] conditions have improved tremendously; we are leaving for the Butterfly Valley tomorrow. I have another matter I’d like to discuss with Yang Zuoshi; it is about Buhui Meizi [sister/beloved].”

    Yang Xiao thought Zhang Wuji was about to propose, so he was overjoyed. “Buhui owes her life to Jiaozhu; we, father and daughter, would love to pay that debt of gratitude back as soon as we can. Jiaozhu only need to say it and we will certainly comply.” Thereupon Zhang Wuji recounted the details of what Yang Buhui had told him that day to Yang Xiao.

    As Yang Xiao heard this, he was stunned and was at a loss for words. Only after a long time did he finally open his mouth, “That my daughter is loved by Yin Liuxia [Sixth Hero Yin], it is truly a fortunate matter. But their age difference is huge, plus they come from different generations, this … this …” After saying the word ‘this’ twice, he did not know how to continue.

    Zhang Wuji said, “Yin Liushu is not even forty years of age yet; he is still in the prime of his life. It’s true that Buhui Meizi calls him ‘Shushu’ [(younger) uncle], but they don’t have actual blood relationship or even martial relationship. Those two are perfectly suited to each other. If this marriage arrangement can be consummated, then the past animosity can be dissolved; won’t that be great?”

    Yang Xiao was a very open-minded person. Because of Ji Xiaofu’s affair, he felt ashamed each time he saw Yin Liting. He silently pondered the fact that since Buhui was already in love then if the marriage could be consummated, it would not only redeem his own past transgression, but it would also strengthen the alliance between the Ming Cult and the Wudang Sect. Thereupon he cupped his fists and said, “That Jiaozhu is willing to lend a hand in the successful conclusion of this matter shows your loving concern to us. Subordinate would like to express my gratitude in advance.”

    That very evening Zhang Wuji announced the good news. The group of warriors immediately offered their heartiest congratulations to Yin Liting. Yang Buhui was shy; she did not dare to come out from her room. At first Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan were quite surprised to hear this, but later on they were happy for Yin Liting.

    When asked about the wedding date, Yin Liting replied, “By the time Da Shige [first martial brother] and the others are back and everybody is here, it won’t be too late to talk about the wedding.”

    The next day Zhang Wuji, along with Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Yin Yewang, Tieguan Daoren, Zhou Dian, Xiao Zhao and the others, bid their farewells to Zhang Sanfeng and his disciples; they were leaving for Huaibei. Yang Buhui stayed behind on Mount Wudang to take care of Yin Liting. At that time the rule against men and women relationship was very strict, but they were Wulin people, so they did not adhere to this rule too strictly.

    The Ming Cult people took their journey from dawn to dusk, heading towards northeast. Along the way they saw barren rice fields and the people had hunger written all over their faces. The coastal regions are usually rich and populous areas, but at that time the fields were dry and everywhere people died of starvation. The suffering of the common people had reached its peak. Seeing this disaster the Ming Cult people heaved a heavy sigh. They were aware that the brutal reign of the Mongolians on the Central Earth would not last too long. It was precisely the best opportunity for the warriors to take up their arms and fight the invaders.

    One day they arrived at Jiepaiji; not too far from the Butterfly Valley. While they were walking suddenly they heard a deafening battle noise ahead; two opposing cavalries were engaged in a fierce battle. The Ming Cult people rushed their horses ahead. Passing through a forest they saw over a thousand Mongolian soldiers were attacking a fortified camp on a hill. Above the camp fluttered a big banner with a picture of red flame on it; it was the Ming Cult’s banner. The people defending the camp were smaller in number. It seemed like they were in a disadvantageous situation, but they still fought unyieldingly.

    The Mongolians’ arrows came like rain. “Devil Cult rebels!” they shouted, “Quickly surrender!”

    “Jiaozhu,” Zhou Dian said, “Shall we?”

    “All right!” Zhang Wuji said, “Kill the leaders first.”

    Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Yin Yewang, Tieguan Daoren, Zhou Dian, five people answered his call; breaking into the enemy formation. Long swords waved and two Mongolian ‘bai fu zhang’ [leader of 100 men unit] fell down their horses; followed by their ‘qian fu zhang’ [leader of 1000 men unit] fell under Yin Yewang’s blade. The Yuan soldiers were thrown into confusion as soon as their leader fell down

    The people defending the camp cheered as they saw help coming their way. The camp gate opened and a big burly man dressed in black came out with a lance in his hand. He charged into the Yuan soldiers and they were scattered away; nobody dared to block his lance. That big man swung his lance, quick as lightning, and a Yuan soldier was stabbed and fell from his horse. The soldiers around him cried out in alarm and fled to all directions.

    Seeing this man’s impressive, almost deity-like power, Yang Xiao and the others praised him highly, “Truly a heroic commander!”

    Actually Zhang Wuji had seen that man’s face clearly; he was none other than his big brother, Chang Yuchun, whom he missed dearly. Only the battle was raging wild, he did not have the opportunity to greet him. The Ming Cult people attacked left and right, killing about five, six hundreds Yuan soldiers. The rest of the enemy did not dare to prolong the battle, they scattered around and fled the battlefield.

    Chang Yuchun lifted his lance horizontally and laughed. “Which brothers come to lend help? Old Chang is deeply grateful,” he called out.

    “Chang Dage,” Zhang Wuji called out, “I miss you very much.” Leaping toward him he grabbed Chang Yuchun’s hands tightly.

    Chang Yuchun bowed in respect and said, “Brother Jiaozhu, I am your Dage [big brother], but I also am your subordinate. My joy is unspeakable.”

    It turned out that Chang Yuchun was an officer under the Gigantic Wood Flag. He had learned Zhang Wuji’s taking over the Cult Leader position and the circumstances surrounding it from the Flag Leader Wen Cangsong. He recently led a group of Cult brethrens to wait for Zhang Wuji. Unfortunately they were attacked by the Yuan army. Knowing his group was inferior in number, he originally was about to pretend defeat to lure the enemy into the camp, and then he would crush them. Unexpectedly Zhang Wuji and his entourage arrived and lent their assistance. Taking advantage of this favorable situation he went out of the camp and made some killing. His position in the Ming Cult was not high; therefore, he immediately paid his respects to Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng and the others. The leaders knew he was their Cult Leader’s sworn brother, so they did not dare to act condescendingly. They held out their hands to greet him and treated him with utmost respect. Chang Yuchun invited the leaders to enter the camp. He butchered some sheep and prepared a banquet for his guests. And then they talked about what happened after they were separated.

    The Huainan and Huaibei area experienced drought for the past several years in a row; the common people’s suffering was beyond description. Chang Yuchun did not expect to live; he gathered a band of brothers and they lived as robbers [‘lu lin’ – lit. green forest], plundering food, gold and silver and storing them in the stronghold. After accumulating enough, they distributed the goods to the poor people. Several times the Yuan army tried to attack, but they always failed.

    They all spent the night inside the camp. The next day they, along with Chang Yuchun, went north. They thought since the Yuan soldiers were defeated, they would not dare to attack within these two, three months. Several days later they arrived at the Butterfly Valley. As the Ming Cult people who had arrived earlier heard their Cult Leader’s arrival, they went out the valley to welcome him. In the meantime the Gigantic Wood Flag had built many thatched huts and wooden cabins as temporary residence of the leaders. Wei Yixiao, Peng Yingyu, Shou Bude and the others had already arrived earlier; they reported their failure to find Miss Zhao’s whereabouts.

    After receiving the Ming Cult leaders, Zhang Wuji prepared some offerings and went to the graves of Hu Qingniu, husband and wife, and Ji Xiaofu. He recalled the day he left the valley, he was sorrowful, frightened and in a very difficult situation. Today he returned in glorious splendor as the Cult Leader of a powerful cult; it felt like a whole world apart.

    Three days later it was the fifteenth of the eighth month. A tall altar had been built in the middle of the Butterfly Valley. A huge bonfire was built in front of the altar. Zhang Wuji climbed on top of the altar to announce their pledge to put away their previous enmity with various sects of the Central Plains and their desire to drive the Yuan invaders out. He also issued some religious rules; reaffirming their pledge to do good and shun evil, and thus following the original Cult teaching.

    The Cult members immediately showed their obedience by lighting up the incense and they swore their pledge that they would not dare to disobey their Cult Leader’s decree. Under the bright sun the fire in front of the altar was blazing high, the fragrance of the incense spread everywhere, the Ming Cult flourished far beyond in the time past. Seeing this prosperous situation, some older members remembered how for the last dozen of years the Ming Cult was split up and their destruction was imminent, they could not help but break down in tears.

    Later in the afternoon a Ming Cult subordinate came to report, “Flooding Water Flag disciples, Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da and the others seek an audience with Jiaozhu.”

    Zhang Wuji was delighted; he personally went out of the gate to meet them. Zhu Yuanzhang and Xu Da were accompanied by Tang He, Deng Yu, Hua Yun, Wu Liang and Wu Zhen. They stood respectfully outside the gate. As they saw Zhang Wuji come out, they bowed in respect and said, “Greetings to Jiaozhu!”

    Zhang Wuji often remembered how Xu Da had saved his life; he was very happy to see these people, he immediately returned the salute. Taking Zhu Yuanzhang in his left hand and Xu Da in his right, he took them inside and invited them to sit down. After apologizing to each other they took their seats. By then Zhu Yuanzhang had already returned to secular life, he was no longer dressed as a Buddhist monk. He said, “As your subordinates received Jiaozhu’s order, we hurried along to the Butterfly Valley. We should have been arrived a few days earlier, but on the way we met a completely baffling matter that your subordinates had to investigate; hence we missed the general assembly. We ask for Jiaozhu’s forgiveness.”

    “I wonder what kind of baffling matter was that?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    Zhu Yuanzhang said, “All of us were delighted when we received Jiaozhu’s order on the first week of the sixth month; we brothers discussed what kind of gift we need to prepare to congratulate Jiaozhu. Huaibei is a poor place, there is nothing good in there; fortunately the assembly was still some times away, so we went to Shandong to try our luck. We were afraid the government authorities would recognize us; therefore, we disguised ourselves as mule cart drivers, your subordinate was the leader. One day we arrived at Guidefu in Henan, where were hired by some customers who wanted to go to Heze, Shandong. While we were traveling suddenly some people pursued us with blades and spears, very fierce and menacing. They chased away our customers and told us to drive other customers. Brother Hua wanted to deal with them right away, but Brother Xu signaled him with his eyes to look clearly into this matter before making any move first. Those people led us with our nine mule carts to a valley in the mountain. We saw there were already about a dozen other carts waiting, while on the ground sat some Buddhist monks.”

    “Buddhist monks?” Zhang Wuji wondered.

    “That’s right,” Zhu Yuanzhang replied, “Those monks hang their heads low, they looked so dejected. But among them there were some unusual looking people, some had their ‘tai yang xue’ [sun acupoint] bulging out of their temples, some were tall and powerfully built. Brother Xu quietly told me that those monks were all martial art experts. Those fierce people ordered the monks to ride on the carts and then they led us all to the north. Subordinate believed something was wrong, so I quietly told everybody to be on their guards and not to reveal our true identity. Along the way we paid full attention to what those fierce people were saying, but those people were very secretive; they did not say anything in our presence. Afterwards Brother Wu Liang gathered up his courage and eavesdropped outside their window in the middle of the night. He did that for four, five nights in a row before he finally found out that those monks were actually from the Shaolin Temple of Mount Song in Henan.”

    “Ah!” Although Zhang Wuji had partly guessed it, he still could not restrain himself from exclaiming.

    Zhu Yuanzhang continued, “Brother Wu Liang heard one of those fierce people say, ‘Master’s strategy is truly divine, worthy of other people’s utmost admiration. Shaolin, Wudang, and the rest of the six major sects are in our hand. Who had ever achieved such result since the ancient time?’ Another man said, ‘I am not surprised. One arrow two eagles [killing two birds with one stone], the Devil Cult leaders will be implicated by this matter.’ We seven people pretended going to the bathroom and quietly discussed this matter. We all agreed that since by coincidence this matter concerning our Cult fell into our hands, then we must investigate carefully and submit a report to Jiaozhu.”

    “You have done the right thing,” Zhang Wuji commented.

    “We continued going north,” Zhu Yuanzhang said, “All the while we maintained our disguises as simple men. Brother Tang He and Brother Deng Yu pretended to bicker over five coins of silver; they fought awkwardly, like people who do not know martial art at all. Those fierce people clapped their hands and laughed, and afterwards they did not pay us any attention anymore. We called them ‘lao ye’ [lit. old master] this and ‘lao ye’ that, flattering them by all kinds of crap. At one time Brother Wu Zhen was thinking of drugging them, diverting their attention and then saving those Shaolin monks; but then we thought it over, we did not know anything about what was going on, these ominous people were well-trained in martial arts. We were afraid we might disturb the grass and scare the snake, and harming an important matter by alerting the enemy; therefore, all along we did not dare to make our move.

    When we arrived at the Hejian prefecture we met with six other big carts, also full of prisoners. They dressed as common civilians. During the meal I overheard a Shaolin monk greeted one of the newcomers, ‘Song Daxia [great hero], you are here!’”

    Zhang Wuji leaped up and hastily asked, “Did he say ‘Song Daxia’? What did he look like?”

    Zhu Yuanzhang replied, “His body was slim-built, he looked about fifty, sixty years of age, wearing a three-branch long beard. His face looked simple yet elegant.”

    Zhang Wuji knew it was indeed Song Yuanqiao. He was pleasantly surprised and asked further what the rest of those people looked like. Turned out Yu Lianzhou, Zhang Songxi, Mo Shenggu three people were also among those prisoners. “Are they injured? Are they shackled?” he asked.

    “I did not see any shackle,” Zhu Yuanzhang replied, “I also did not see any injury. They talked and ate just like any ordinary people, only they looked dispirited; also they walked swaying and staggering. As he was greeted by that Shaolin monk he only smiled bitterly but did not say anything. The Shaolin monk was about to say something else, but one of the fierce people pulled him away. Thereafter our two groups were separated by about ten ‘li’s; we did not stop and eat together anymore; subordinate has never seen Song Daxia’s group ever since. About the third day of the seventh month our group of Shaolin monks arrived at Dadou [lit. grand capital, present day Beijing].”

    “Ah,” Zhang Wuji exclaimed, “You went to Dadou, then they must have fallen into the treacherous hand of the royal government. And then what happened?”

    Zhu Yuanzhang continued, “Those fierce people led us to take the Shaolin monks toward a big temple on the west side of the city. They also told us to spend the night in the temple.”

    “What temple was that?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    “When we entered the temple, subordinate looked up at the sign above the gate, it was called Wan An Si [Temple of Ten-thousand Peace],” Zhu Yuanzhang answered, “But because of that one of the ominous people struck me with his horse whip. That night we brothers quietly discussed our situation. We believed these ominous people would kill us to shut our mouths up, so when the sky turned black we quietly escaped.”

    “It was very dangerous,” Zhang Wuji said, “You were lucky those ominouspeople did not pursue you.”

    Tang He smiled and said, “Zhu Dage [Big Brother Zhu] has already anticipated that. Before leaving we captured seven mule cart drivers from the neighborhood and changed our clothes with theirs. Afterwards we killed them inside the temple. We mutilated their faces so that those ominous people would not recognize them. We also killed the other mule cart drivers who came with us and we scattered money everywhere to make it look like two groups of people fought over money and killed each other, so that when those ominous people returned, they would not suspect anything.”

    Zhang Wuji was secretly shocked; he saw Xu Da’s face showed he did not have the heart to do so, Deng Yu looked embarrassed, Tang He sounded very proud, but Zhu Yuanzhang was the only one who maintained his composure and did not show any emotion on his face, like nothing out of ordinary happened. Zhang Wuji thought, “This man is cruel and shrewd.” He said, “Although Zhu Dage’s idea was wonderful, but from now on we must not kill innocent people so easily.”

    It was their Cult Leader’s order, so Zhu Yuanzhang and the others stood up at once. They bowed and said, “We will follow Jiaozhu’s instruction.” Thereafter when Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da, Deng Yu, Tang He and the others went out to battle, they always observed Zhang Wuji’s order and did not dare to randomly kill innocent people. In the end they won the people’s hearts and were able to accomplish a great undertaking.

    Zhang Wuji said, “Zhu Dage, the seven of you managed to find out the whereabouts of Shaolin and Wudang two sects’ masters; it was not a small merit. After arranging the strategy to fight the Yuan we will go to Dadou to rescue the two sects’ masters.”

    After the official business was done, Zhang Wuji chatted with Xu Da and the others as friends. He recalled the time they stole and butchered an ox outside Zhang Yuan. They clapped their hands and laughed heartily.

    That evening in the general assembly Zhang Wuji burned incense to proclaim their oath to fight a coordinated insurrection against the Yuan from various places. The Cult leaders echoed their determination to work together; their main target was to drive the Yuan army away little by little. The following was their strategy:

    Cult Leader Zhang Wuji, assisted by the Brightness Left Emissary Yang Xiao and Green-winged Bat King Wei Yixiao held the ‘zong tan’ [lit. head/chief altar – central government] position, as the highest command for the entire Cult.

    White-browed Eagle King Yin Tianzheng commanded the Heavenly Eagle Flag, making their movement in the Jiangnan area.

    Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da, Tang He, Deng Yu, Hua Yun, Wu Liang, Wu Zhen, joined by Chang Yuchun’s stronghold cavalry, plus Sun Deya’s troops would raise their arms in Huaibei’s Haozhou.

    Bu Dai Heshang [cloth sack monk] and Shuo Bude were in command of Han Shantong, Liu Futong, Du Zundao, Luo Wensu, Sheng Wenyu, Wang Xianzhong, Han Jiao’er and the others, to raise their arms at Yingchuan district of Henan.

    Peng Yingyu led Xu Shuohui, Zou Puwang, Ming Wudeng to fight at Jiangxi’s Ganzhou, Raozhou, Yuanzhou, Xinzhou and other districts.

    Tie Guan Daoren [iron hat priest] led Bu Sanwang, Meng Haima and the others raised their arms at Xiangchu and Jingxiang districts.

    Zhou Dian commanded Zhi Mali, Zhao Junyong and the others raised their arms at Xuxiu and Fengpei districts.

    Leng Qian was in charge of the Ming Cult member in the western region, cutting off any Mongolian reinforcement coming to the Central Plains from the western region.

    The Five-Element Flags were under ‘zong tan’s command, to be dispatched as necessary as the reinforcement for those who needed it.

    The people were 90% sure that this strategy came from Yang Xiao and Peng Yingyu’s minds.

    As Zhang Wuji finished outlining their strategy, the crowd broke into a thunderous applause. Zhang Wuji also said, “Logically, we cannot rely only on our own Cult’s strength to shake nearly one hundred years of Yuan’s occupation. We must make good contacts with the heroes and warriors; only by pooling our strength and resources together will we be able to achieve great merits. Presently almost half of the masters of the Wulin world of Central Plains are being captured by the royal government, ‘zong tan’ will think of a way to rescue them. Tomorrow all of the brothers will go your own way. Fight and kill the Tartars whenever you have the opportunity. ‘Zong tan’ will also head for Dadou for a rescue operation. We have met and enjoy this joyous fellowship today; I don’t know when we are going to see each other again in the future. Brothers, you must show loyalty to each other, give the important matter a foremost place in your heart, don’t fight with each other over power and profit, don’t kill each other. If any injustice of this kind is found among you, ‘zong tan’ will not be lenient.”

    The crowd shouted their answer with one voice, “We won’t dare to disobey Jiaozhu’s order!” Their cheers and shouts echoed throughout the valley. Afterwards everybody sealed their oath by shedding their blood and burning the incense; determined to hold fast to their just cause in live or death.

    The moon was shining brightly as it was daytime. The Ming Cult leaders sat around the banquet tables, while the staff of ‘zhong tan’ served some vegetable-stuffed round cakes to everybody. The round cakes looked like the moon, hence they called it ‘moon cake.’ Later on a legend developed that the Chinese made a pact to kill the Tartars while eating moon cake during the Mid-autumn Festival [‘ba yue xhong qiu - lit. mid-autumn of the eighth month]; it was because of the Ming Cult held their assembly that evening to decide the battle strategy.

    Zhang Wuji also said, “Our Cult has always had a rule passed on from generation to generation, that we don’t eat meat or drink wine. But presently there are famines everywhere; we can’t always choose what we eat. Moreover, our primary objective today is to drive the Tartars out. If we don’t eat meat or fish our strengths will wane and it will be difficult to fight. From now on I lift up this religious rule of not eating meat and drinking wine. We live in this world must put important matter first, eating and drinking rule is trivial matter.” From that time on the Ming Cult people ate the moon cake with pork stuffing.

    Next day early in the morning everybody bade Zhang Wuji goodbye. Although they were warriors and brave people, but thinking about the incoming bloody battle nobody knew who would survive and who would perish. Although they were confident that they would be successful, but among the attendees of the Butterfly Valley assembly, perhaps only half of them would live; inevitably they all left with heavy hearts.

    While the ceremonial fire was still ablaze in the Butterfly Valley, suddenly someone sang in a clear voice,

    “Burn my wretched body, oh raging holy fire.
    What joy is in life, what pain is in death?”

    The rest of the crowd responded in one voice,
    “Burn my wretched body, oh raging holy fire.
    What joy is in life, what pain is in death?
    To do good and shun evil, only for brightness’ cause.
    Whether it is a life of happiness or sadness,
    Everybody will go back to the dust.
    I pity the mankind, with their many suffering!
    I pity the mankind, with their many suffering!”


    The last phrase of ‘I pity the mankind, with their many suffering! I pity the mankind, with their many suffering!’ echoed in the Butterfly Valley. With their clothes as white as snow, the warriors came to Zhang Wuji’s presence one by one, bowing their heads and salute, raised their head back up, turned around and left without looking back. Remembering that in the ten or twenty years to come, these warriors, such as Xu Da, would shed their blood for the sake of the Central Plains, Zhang Wuji could not help his eyes brim in tears.

    The sound of singing was getting farther and farther away; the warriors dispersed their own separate ways. In a few moments stillness went back to reign in the Butterfly Valley, which was bustling with noise and excitement for the last several days; only Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, and Zhu Yuanzhang with his company left. Zhang Wuji asked in details the Wan An Temple’s location, as well as those ominous people’s appearance.

    “Zhu Dage,” he said, “The world is in chaos, we cannot waste any time in this insurrection. You do not need to accompany me to Dadou; let us part here.”

    Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da, Chang Yuchun and the others said, “We wish Jiaozhu success. Subordinates will wait to hear the good news.” Bidding their farewell to Zhang Wuji, they left the valley toward their assigned post.

    “We also have to leave,” Zhang Wuji said, “Xiao Zhao, you have shackles on your hands, you can’t move easily, you better wait for me here.”

    Xiao Zhao agreed reluctantly, but with the pretense of sending them off she followed them going out of the valley. They had walked for three miles, she still followed them. Then three more miles, she still did not want to leave. “Xiao Zhao,” Zhang Wuji said, “If you send us off farther, you might not recognize the way back.”

    “Master Zhang,” Xiao Zhao said, “Are you going to see Miss Zhao in Dadou?”

    “Can’t say for sure, but I might,” Zhang Wuji replied.

    “If you see her, will you ask her a favor on my behalf?” Xiao Zhao asked.

    “What do you want her to do?” Zhang Wuji wondered.

    Xiao Zhao held out her arms and said, “I want to borrow the Yitian Sword from Miss Zhao to cut this iron chain, otherwise I will not be free for the rest of my life.”

    Zhang Wuji could not bear to see her pitiful expression, “I am afraid she won’t let me borrow her precious sword, let alone let me bring it here,” he said apologetically.

    “Then … then, why don’t you take me along, ask her to borrow the sword just for a moment?” Xiao Zhao asked.

    Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “You talked in circles, in the end you want to go with me to Dadou, don’t you? Yang Zuoshi, do you think we can take her along?”

    Yang Xiao knew from the way Zhang Wuji speak that he wanted to take her along; he said, “I don’t think that’s a problem; so there is someone to take care of Jiaozhu’s clothes and serve him tea. Only your iron chain’s ‘clink, clink, clank, clank’ will be conspicuous. Let’s do it this way; she pretends to be ill, then she can ride in a carriage and not come out unless it’s important.”

    Xiao Zhao was delighted, “Many thanks Master, many thanks Yang Zuoshi,” she busily said; then she cast a glance toward Wei Yixiao and said, “Many thanks, Wei Fawang [lit. law king – I think another translator translated it as ‘protector king’, the same ‘fawang’ as Jinlun Fawang of ROCH]”

    “What do you thank me for?” Wei Yixiao said, “You need to be careful, if my previous sickness recurs, I am going to suck your blood.” While saying that he grinned widely, showing rows of white teeth; looking very strange.

    Xiao Zhao knew he was only joking, but she could not help feeling scared; she withdrew three steps backward and said, “Don’t … don’t scare me.”

    End of Chapter 25.

  7. #27
    Senior Member dgfds01's Avatar
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    Chapter 26 – Self Deformation of a Handsome Jade Face
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    Approaching the afternoon that day, three riders and one carriage were seen galloping toward the north and in less than a day they had entered Dadou [lit. grand capital], the Yuan Dynasty’s capital. By this time the power of Mongolian cavalry had reached a hundred thousands ‘li’s [1 li is approximately 0.5 km], making their borders vast and wide, matchless throughout the history. Dadou later on became Beijing. It is the city where the emperor resided, where countless smaller nations and tribes sent their envoys to pay tribute.

    As Zhang Wuji and his company entered the city gate they saw that a lot of people were coming and going; many of those people had yellow hair and blue eyes. Four people went to the western side of the city to find an inn for them to spend the night. Acting as a rich merchant Yang Xiao asked for three of the best rooms. The inn attendant rushed back and forth to serve them. Yang Xiao asked him about the historical sites and scenic spots around the Dadou; after a while he casually asked about ancient temples or monasteries. The inn attendant mentioned Wan An Temple of the western city first, “This Wan An Temple is situated among a thick forest; it has three big copper Buddha idols. No matter where you are going in this world, you won’t find the fourth one. You should have come to visit this temple. It’s a pity you have come in an unfortunate time. For the past half a year the temple has been occupied by foreign western monks; common people do not dare to come anymore.”

    “Occupied by foreign monks, that shouldn’t be a problem, should it?” Yang Xiao asked.

    The attendant stuck his tongue, he looked left and right before lowering his voice and said, “It’s not that I talk too much, but honorable guests have come to the capital, you must be careful when talking. If they see people coming in, those foreign monks will beat or even kill as they please; if they see pretty women then they will grab and take them inside the temple. They are backed by the Emperor. Who dare to swat a fly on a tiger’s head by coming to those foreign monks and confront them?”

    The foreign monks were backed by the Mongolian power, plundering and rampaging, oppressing the Han people, Yang Xiao and the others had long been aware of it; but they did not expect these people would unscrupulously run amuck in the capital. Thereupon they did not talk with the inn attendant any longer.

    After dinner that night they stayed in their respective rooms to cultivate their energy. Around the second hour [between 1 and 3 am] three people leaped from the window, heading west.

    The Wan An temple was a big four-story building, with a thirteen floor pagoda behind it, which they could see in the distant. Zhang Wuji, Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao launched their ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu] to the fullest and in a short time they had arrived at the temple. Exchanging hand signals they circled to the left, with the intention of climbing up the pagoda to take a better look of the overall temple’s situation from a higher position. Unexpectedly when they were still about twenty ‘zhang’s [1 zhang is approximately 10 ft or 3.3 m] away from the pagoda they saw shadows of people on each floor of the pagoda, going back and forth, patrolling. It turned out that there were twenty, thirty people guarding the pagoda. As they saw this, three people were both startled and delighted at the same time, because if the pagoda was guarded this heavily, then Shaolin, Wudang, and other sects’ people must be imprisoned here; hence saving them time to investigate further. Only the enemy’s guard was so heavy, their rescue effort would certainly not be easy. Much less since each one of Kong Wen, Kong Zhi, Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou, Zhang Songxi, and the others had an outstanding level or martial art skill; yet they were still captured by the enemy, showing that the enemy was not only numerous, but their methods were undoubtedly fierce and cruel. Before coming to this Wan An Temple, three people had decided not to be rash and act recklessly; therefore, they quietly retreated.

    Suddenly they saw a flicker of light on the sixth floor; about eight, nine people walked slowly with torches in their hands. The light moved from the sixth floor to the fifth, then from the fifth to the fourth, going down the pagoda. As they arrived at the first floor they went out the pagoda’s main entrance, moving towards the back of the temple.

    Yang Xiao waved his hand and slowly crept toward these people. On the rear courtyard of the temple there were old trees towering to the sky. Three people hid behind one of the trees; and as soon as the wind blew they moved several ‘zhang’s away to the next tree. These three people’s ‘qing gong’ was very high, yet they only dare to move with the blowing wind and rustling leaves in fear of their movement to be detected by enemy.

    Stepping stealthily they managed to move more than twenty ‘zhang’s. They saw around ten men wearing yellow robes, each with a weapon in his hand, escorting an old man wearing an oversized robe with wide sleeve. As that old man turned his head, Zhang Wuji could see clearly that the old man was the Kunlun Sect’s Sect Leader, ‘tie qin xian sheng’ [Mister Iron Qin (a musical instrument)], He Taichong; Wuji could not help but shiver, “Even Mr. He is also here,” he thought.

    As they saw those people enter Wan An Temple’s back door, three people waited for a moment. After looking around to make sure nobody else was watching, they also entered the back door quick as a flash. The temple was huge, with many rooms inside; some of the rooms looked similar to those in the Shaolin Temple. They saw bright light coming out through long windows of the main hall; and guessed this must be the room where He Taichong was detained. Three people moved swiftly toward this hall. Zhang Wuji crouched on the ground trying to take a peek inside the hall via a small crack on the long window. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao stood on either side, guarding against any possible sneak attack. Although these three people were bold and highly skilled, they were entering a tiger’s den at this moment, so their hearts were anxious.

    The crack on the long window was very small so Zhang Wuji only managed to see the lower part of He Taichong’s body; he could not see any other people inside the hall. He heard He Taichong roar angrily, “I have already fallen into your treacherous hand; just kill me or cut me off, but don’t say another word. If you want me to take an oath to be the government’s hunting falcon or dog, then dream on. Even if you talk for three or five more years, you are only wasting your words.”

    Zhang Wuji silently nodded his head, “Although this Mr. He is not an honorable gentleman, he stands firm in critical moment; he truly befits the character of a sect leader,” he thought.

    He heard a man in a cold voice say, “You are so stubborn, our Master won’t force you. But do you know the custom here?”

    “Even if you cut all my ten fingers I still won’t surrender,” He Taichong said.

    “Very well,” that man said, “Let me explain it to you once again. If you can defeat three of our people, we’ll immediately release you. If you lose, we’ll cut one more of your fingers and lock you up another month. Then we’ll ask you again whether you want to surrender.”

    He Taichong replied, “I’ve already lost two fingers, so what if I lose another one? Come, take your sword out!”

    That man laughed coldly, “By the time you lose all your fingers, although you surrender, we won’t want a trash. Give him a sword! Mokopas, you can try him first!”

    Another hoarse voice replied, “Yes!”

    Zhang Wuji sent his strength to the point of his finger and gently pushed the crack to make it wider. He saw that He Taichong was holding a wooden sword; its body was wrapped in cloth. It was a soft and blunt sword; could not possibly injure anybody. Standing in front of him was a burly foreign monk. In his hand was a steel blade, flickering its bluish ray under the light. One weapon was sharp, the other blunt. It was clearly no competition; it was so easy to see who was strong and who was weak. But He Taichong was not discouraged; he shook the wooden sword in his hand and said, “Please!”

    ‘Swish!’ his sword hacked down swiftly and fiercely, sending out a secret move from the Kunlun Sword technique. That foreign monk, Mokopas, was big and tall, but his movement was very agile; his blade flashed back and forth, aiming He Taichong’s vital points.

    Zhang Wuji only need to watch several moves before he was shocked, “How come Mr. He’s footwork is unstable, utterly discomfited, as if he doesn’t have any internal energy at all?” he thought.

    He Taichong’s sword technique was exquisite, but without internal energy, he did not differ much from an average person; the swiftness and fierceness of his sword could not be unleashed to the fullest. Fortunately that foreign monk’s martial art skill was two levels beneath his, so although the monk launched several fierce attacks, He Taichong always managed to counterattack thanks to his wonderful moves.

    After about fifty moves He Taichong shouted, “Gotcha!” His sword slashed to the east and turned back to the west, slanted to the rear and then back to the front, with a light ‘bang!’ the sword hit the monk’s armpit. If it was a real sword, also if his internal strength was not gone, then the sword would have already penetrated the monk’s flesh and bone.

    “Back off, Mokopas!” that cold voice said, “Unwol, your turn!”

    Zhang Wuji turned his attention to the owner of that cold voice. He saw a dark face, as if this person’s face was covered with a layer of black smoke, with graying grizzled beard; he was one of the Xuanming Two Elders. He stood with his hands behind his back, his eyes were partly open, as if he was indifferent to whatever was happening in front of him.

    Moving his eyes forward Zhang Wuji saw a short stool covered with brocade, on which rested a pair of feet, wearing a pair of yellow satin shoes, with a pearl on the tip of each shoe. Zhang Wuji’s heart was beating faster, because he recognized these delicately beautiful feet with round anklebones; this pair of feet belonged to Zhao Min, which he had grabbed in his hands in the Green Willow Manor. When they met at Mount Wudang, they faced each other as enemies. This time he saw this pair of delicate feet resting on a brocade stool, somehow his face turned red and his heart was beating fast. He saw Zhao Min’s right foot tap the stool lightly, as if she was deeply engrossed in the martial art contest between He Taichong and Unwol.

    After about the time needed to drink tea has passed, He Taichong shouted, “Gotcha!” Zhao Min raised her right foot as Unwol was defeated.

    That black-faced Xuan Ming Elder said, “Unwol, back off. Helin Pohu, your turn.”

    Zhang Wuji heard that He Taichong’s breathing was getting heavier; he knew that Mr. He must be extremely exhausted after he successively battled two people. A short moment later the fight began. Helin Pohu was using a long and big, heavy steel staff as his weapon. The gust of wind from his weapon filled the hall and the candles flickered, creating a dancing shadow like a cloud on Zhao Min’s shoes. Suddenly a black shadow swept across the floor, a red candle on top of a small table on the right side of the hall was extinguished. ‘Crack!’ the wooden sword snapped. He Taichong heaved a long sigh and threw the sword on the floor. At last he lost the match after staking everything he got.

    “Mister Iron Qin, do you surrender?” the Xuanming Elder asked.

    He Taichong boldly replied, “I said I won’t surrender. If I have my internal energy, how can this foreign monk be my match?”

    The Xuanming Elder coldly said, “Cut his left ring finger; take him back to the pagoda.”

    Zhang Wuji turned his head toward Yang Xiao, and Yang Xiao shook his hand; his meaning was obvious: ‘If we break into the hall to save people, then our own important matter will fail.’ They heard the finger got cut, medicine applied to stop the bleeding, and the wound wrapped. He Taichong was really unyielding; he did not even utter a single grunt. The group of yellow robed men took the torch and took him back to the pagoda.

    Zhang Wuji and the others shrunk back to hide behind the corner wall. Under the torch light they saw He Taichong’s face was white as a sheet, his jaws were clenched, he looked really angry.

    After the group walked far, a gentle and charming clear voice was heard in the hall, “Mr. Lu Zhang [lit. deer staff], Kunlun Sect’s sword technique is really profound. In the stance with which he stabbed Mokopas, first he slashed to the left like this, and then turned to the right like this …”

    Zhang Wuji put his eyes back on the crack and saw that it was indeed Zhao Min. She was talking and walking toward the center of the hall, with a wooden sword in her hand, imitating He Taichong’s movement earlier. The foreign monk Mokopas brandished his blade to block her sword.

    That black-faced Xuanming Elder, which Zhao Min called ‘Mr. Lu Zhang’, short for ‘Lu Zhangke’, praised her, “Master’s intelligence is matchless. This stance was absolutely correct.”

    Zhao Min practiced again and again, every time she hit Mokopas’ armpit. The sword was a wooden one, but each stab hit the same spot over and over again, causing quite a bit of pain. Mokopas turned all his attention to spar with her; he did not dare to complain or try to evade her stabs. She practiced this move until she mastered it, and then called Unwol and practiced the stance He Taichong used to defeat him earlier.

    Zhang Wuji understood; it turned out Zhao Min imprisoned the experts from various sects here and drugged them to suppress their internal energy and force them to surrender to the royal government. Naturally these people would not surrender; so she ordered her people to fight with them, while she observed from the side. That way she could steal various sects’ exquisite moves. Her intention was really evil; her scheme wicked, making other people’s blood boil.

    While she was sparring with Helin Pohu, toward the very last several stances Zhao Min hesitated and asked, “Mr. Lu Zhang, is it like this?”

    Lu Zhangke hesitated without answering; he turned his head and asked, “He Xiongdi [lit. Brother Crane], did you see it clearly?”

    From the left corner a voice replied, “Ku Dashi [lit. grand master ‘bitter/painful’ – Reverend Ku] must have seen it clearly.”

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “Ku Dashi, I will have to bother you; please come here and give me directions.”

    From the right corner came a ‘tou tuo’ [Buddhist monk with hair]; his hair was so long that it draped over his shoulder like a cape. His stature was big and tall, his face was full of scars so that it was difficult to tell what his original face would look like. His hair and palm looked red, like he was a middle-eastern man. Without saying anything he took the sword from Zhao Min’s hand and ‘swish, swish, swish, swish’ he repeatedly swung it toward Helin Pohu, using Kunlun Sect’s sword technique.

    This so-called ‘Ku Dashi’, the Ku Toutuo, was using He Taichong’s sword technique, also without internal energy; while Helin Pohu fought him with all his might. Toward the end his staff swept away with a strong gust of wind, extinguishing the red candle on the right hand side of the hall. He Taichong was not able to evade this move and thus was forced to parry the steel staff with his wooden sword; as a result his sword broke and he was defeated. But that Ku Toutuo’s wooden sword turned around sharply; light as a feather it slid along the staff, like a swallow sweeping the water, following the staff’s movement it slid upward to slice Helin Pohu’s fingers which held the staff. Helin Pohu felt his palm went numb; he could not hold on to his staff. ‘Clang!’ it fell to the ground hitting the green brick tile making brick dust flew up.

    Helin Pohu’s face turned red; he knew that if the wooden sword was a real sharp one, his eight fingers would have been cut off. Bowing down he said, “My respect! I admit defeat,” Then he stooped down to pick up his steel staff. Ku Toutuo held the wooden sword with both hands and gave it back to Zhao Min.

    Zhao Min said with a smile, “Ku Dashi, that last move was really wonderful; was it also from the Kunlun Sect’s sword technique?”

    Ku Toutuo shook his head. Zhao Min continued, “No wonder He Taichong could not do it. Ku Dashi, can you teach me?”

    Using his bare hand Ku Toutuo attacked Zhao Min’s sword. Sparring for the third time Ku Toutuo’s hand moved lightning fast; his speed was unimaginable. Zhao Min could not match his speed; but although her sword was slower, her movement was similar to his, without the slightest amount of discrepancy. Ku Toutuo turned his body around, shot both of his hands out then stopped dead on his track.

    “Good!” Zhang Wuji applauded silently, “That was brilliant!”

    For a moment Zhao Min did not understand, leaning her head sideways she stared at Ku Toutuo’s position. After thinking for a while she finally understood. “Ah, Ku Dashi, if you were holding a weapon, then the staff would break my arm,” she said, “How do you counter it?”

    Ku Toutuo made a movement of flipping his hand and grabbing the steel staff. His left foot flew up, his head raised up; he simultaneously snatched the enemy’s staff and kicked. This movement looked clumsy, but actually it was a very skillful movement of martial art from outside the great wall.

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “Good Shifu, quickly teach me.” Her expression was tender and flattering.

    Zhang Wuji’s heart skipped a beat. He thought, “Your internal energy is not enough, you can’t learn it. But the way she asked made it difficult for others to refuse.”

    Ku Toutuo made two hand signals; his meaning was obvious, ‘You don’t have enough internal energy, you can’t learn this move.’ Then he turned around and ignored her.

    Zhang Wuji pondered in his heart, “Ku Toutuo’s martial art is strong; I am afraid he is not below the Xuanming Elders. I don’t know his internal energy level, but his movements were exquisite. He is truly a formidable opponent. He keeps making hand signals, but did not speak a single word; could it be that he is mute? But he definitely is not deaf. Miss Zhao is very respectful to him; he is obviously a character with an extraordinary background.”

    Seeing Ku Toutuo was not willing to teach her Zhao Min was not angry; she showed a faint smile and said, “Take Kongtong Sect’s Tang Wenliang here.”

    Not too long afterwards Tang Wenliang was ushered into the hall. Again Lu Zhangke ordered three of his men to fight with him. Tang Wenliang was not willing to suffer defeat under a weapon, so with bare hands he fought against the enemy’s palms. He won the first two matches; but on the third match his opponent used internal energy. Tang Wenliang was not able to resist and he lost one of his fingers. Again Zhao Min practiced according to what she just saw while Lu Zhangke gave directions from the side.

    It dawned on Zhang Wuji that Zhao Min realized her internal energy was insufficient and it was difficult to cultivate internal energy intensively; so she wanted to learn the martial arts of various sects’ sect leaders and experts. This method was not only more feasible, but by practicing the most exquisite of each skill she might be able to greatly make up of her own inadequacy.

    After practicing the fist technique Zhao Min said, “Call the Old Nun Miejue!”

    One of the yellow-robed men said, “The Old Nun Miejue has gone on a hunger strike for five days. She is still as stubborn as ever; not willing to take any order.”

    “Starve her to death, then!” Zhao Min smiled, “Hey, call that Emei Sect’s young girl, Zhou Zhiruo.” Her subordinate complied; he turned around and went out the hall.

    Zhang Wuji remembered Zhou Zhiruo had cared for him attentively on the boat in Han River; he felt that he owed her a debt of gratitude. On the Brightness Peak Zhou Zhiruo also helped him by giving him pointers on positions, so that he was able to defeat the Huashan Sect and Kunlun Sect’s Saber and Sword Combination Technique; later on she stabbed him with her sword, but it was because she was following her Shifu’s strict order, so he did not hold it against her. Now that he heard Zhao Min’s order to get her, his heart was shaken.

    A short moment later the group of yellow-robed men came back, ushering Zhou Zhiruo into the hall. Zhang Wuji saw that she was as beautiful as he remembered her; only compared to at the Brightness Peak she was slightly thinner and paler. Although imprisoned by the enemy, she managed to maintain her composure as if she had already disregarded life and death.

    As usual Lu Zhangke asked if she was willing to surrender or not. Zhou Zhiruo simply shook her head without saying anything. Lu Zhangke was about to send someone to fight with her when Zhao Min said, “Miss Zhou, you are very young, yet you are one of Emei Sect’s martial art experts; that is truly something to be envious of. I heard you are Reverend Mie Jue’s protégé and have mastered her profound swordsmanship, is that true?”

    Zhou Zhiruo replied, “My Master’s martial art is so broad and deep; let’s just say that she [here the term used was ‘lao ren jia’ – Senior] has passed all her knowledge to me, I am [here the term used was ‘xiao nu zi’ – a little girl] young and my understanding is shallow, I fall far too short.”

    Zhao Min smiled, “The rule is as long as you can defeat three of our people, then we’ll let you go, free and unharmed; we won’t trouble you anymore. Why is your honorable master so proud that she disdains to compare martial art with us?” she asked.

    Zhou Zhiruo replied, “My Master prefers death over disgrace. She is the Sect Leader of Emei; how could she ask for mercy from your subordinate? What you said was not wrong; my Master certainly look down upon contemptible, evil woman and lowly people. Of course she disdains fighting with you.”

    Surprisingly Zhao Min was not angry; she still smiled and asked, “How about you, Miss Zhou?”

    “I am but a little girl, what do I have to say?” Zhou Zhiruo answered, “Whatever Shifu said, I follow.”

    “Your honorable master also forbade you to fight with us, didn’t she?” Zhao Min asked, “Why is that?”

    Zhou Zhiruo replied, “Although Emei Sect’s sword technique is not the greatest technique there is, it is still the Central Plains’ major sect’s martial art; certainly we cannot allow some shameless barbarian captors to steal it.” She spoke with a refined manner, but her words were sharp, in total disregard of other people’s feeling.

    Zhao Min was startled; she did not expect Miejue Shitai to correctly guess her true intention. She heard Zhou Zhiruo first said ‘evil woman, lowly people’, then she said, ‘shameless barbarian’; she could not bear her anger. ‘Swish!’ the Yitian Sword appeared in her hand. “Your Shifu cursed us as shameless barbarians. Fine! Let me ask you this: this Yitian Sword is obviously my family’s treasure; how could the Emei steal it?”

    Zhou Zhiruo indifferently said, “Yitian Sword and Tulong [slaying dragon] Saber have always been the Central Plain Wulin world’s precious weapons. I have never heard they have anything to do with a barbarian woman.”

    Zhao Min’s face turned completely red; “Humph!” she angrily said, “I did not know your tongue is actually very sharp. So you are determined not to fight with us?” Zhou Zhiruo shook her head. Zhao Min said, “I always cut a finger of those other people who lost in the martial art match or simply refuse to fight. You, this little girl, must be very proud of your beautiful face; no wonder you are so arrogant. I am not going to cut your finger.” While saying that she pointed her finger toward Ku Toutuo and continued, “I am going to make you as this Reverend; I am going to add twenty, thirty sword marks on your face. I want to see if you are still arrogant.” She waved her left hand and immediately two of the yellow-robed men came forward to grab Zhou Zhiruo’s arms. Zhao Min smiled and said, “I want to turn your smart face into a honeycomb; and I don’t need Emei’s exquisite sword technique to do that. Do you think I can’t turn you into an ugly clown with my ‘three-legged cat’ skill?”

    Tears started to well up Zhou Zhiruo’s eyes; her body started to tremble. She saw the tip of the Yitian Sword was only a few inches apart from her own cheeks. She knew as soon as this demon moved her hand, her face would look like that ugly and fearsome ‘toutuo’.

    “Are you scared?” Zhao Min asked with a smile. Zhou Zhiruo did not dare to act strong anymore; she nodded her head. “Good!” Zhao Min said, “Do you surrender?”

    “I won’t surrender!” Zhou Zhiruo said, “Just kill me!”

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “I’ve never killed anybody; I only want to cut a little bit of your skin and flesh.” A cold ray flashed; the sword in Zhao Min’s hand slashed toward Zhou Zhiruo’s face.

    ‘Bang!’ suddenly something was thrown from outside, hitting the Yitian Sword. At the same time the long window broke and someone flew into the hall; throwing the two yellow-robed men who held Zhou Zhiruo’s arms outside. The person who broke the window and flew in turned his left arm around to protect Zhou Zhiruo, while at the same time stretched out his right arm to block Lu Zhangke’s palm. ‘Bang!’ both people staggered two steps backward.

    Everybody turned their eyes toward this person; he was none other than the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, Zhang Wuji. His entrance was so sudden like he descended from the sky; everybody was shocked. Even masters like the Xuanming Elders did not expect anything like this that they were caught off guard.

    Lu Zhangke heard the window burst; immediately he rushed to the front of Zhao Min’s body to protect her. He used all his strength to strike Zhang Wuji; but to his surprise his legs wobbled and he staggered back two steps. He was about to attack in anger when suddenly he felt an unbearable dry heat on his body, as if he was entering a hot furnace.

    Zhou Zhiruo saw an impeding doom in front of her eyes, but unexpectedly someone suddenly came to her rescue. Finding herself in Zhang Wuji’s embrace, Zhou Zhiruo was conscious of his broad and solid chest and smelling a whiff of a strong male breath; she was pleasantly surprised. In an instant she felt her body weaken and she almost passed out. She did not know that Zhang Wuji had used the ‘jiu yang shen gong’ [nine yang (positive) divine energy] to block Lu Zhangke’s ‘xuan ming shen zhang’ [mysteriously dark/deep divine palm]; the pure ‘qi’ in his body came out. Zhou Zhiruo had never been this close to a male body before; moreover, this man was the one who was always in her mind day and night, even in her dreams. She felt an indescribable joy in her heart, so even though all around her the enemies threatened to cut her with a thousand blades and ten thousands swords she had nothing to worry, she had nothing to fear.
    As soon as they saw their Cult Leader break in to rescue someone, Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao followed quick as a flash and stood behind him on either side. At first the martial art experts under Zhao Min’s command were thrown into confusion; but very soon they saw that only three enemies broke into the hall. The guards outside and inside the hall exchanged some whistles, confirming that there was no other enemy outside. Immediately they moved to guard all doors, waiting quietly for Zhao Min’s order.

    Zhao Min was neither alarmed nor afraid, she was not even angry; she only looked at Zhang Wuji with a startled look on her face. She turned her gaze toward the two pieces of bright golden objects on the corner of the hall. When she swung the Yitian Sword toward Zhou Zhiruo’s face Zhang Wuji threw something to block the sword. Turned out that object was the golden case she gave him as a souvenir. The Yitian Sword was very sharp that it cut the golden case into two halves on contact. She stared at those two golden pieces for a long time before saying, “Do you hate this box so much that you want to break it?”

    Zhang Wuji noticed her gaze was full of quiet resentment; not anger, but more sorrow because of desires being cut short. He was startled; apologetically and in a soft voice he said, “I did not bring any secret projectile; in a hurry I reached into my pocket and took this box out. It was really unintentional. I hope Miss do not mind it.”

    Zhao Min’s eyes shone, “Do you always carry this box with you?” she asked.

    “Yes,” Zhang Wuji replied. Suddenly he realized Zhao Min’s beautiful eyes were staring at him; while his left arm was still hugging Zhou Zhiruo. He blushed slightly then loosened up his arm.

    Zhao Min sighed and said, “I didn’t know Miss Zhou is your … your good friend; otherwise I wouldn’t treat her this way. Turned out you two are …” She did not finish her words and turned her head away.

    Zhang Wuji said, “Miss Zhou and I … we are not … it’s only … it’s only …” He said ‘it’s only’ twice, but actually he did not know what to say.

    Zhao Min turned her gaze back toward those two halves of the golden box on the floor; she did not say anything, but her eyes actually spoke a thousand words. Zhou Zhiruo’s heart was stirred, “This female demon is very passionate toward him; could it be …”

    But Zhang Wuji actually did not share these two girls’ sentiment; he only partially understood Zhao Min’s dazed expression, but did not realize the profound meaning behind it. He thought Zhao Min gave him the pearl head ornament and the golden case with which he cured Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting, yet now he had broken the golden case; he felt he was being inappreciative toward others. Thereupon he walked to the corner of the hall, bent down to pick the two halves of the golden case and said, “I will find a skilled craftsman to have it fixed.”

    “Really?” Zhao Min happily asked.

    Zhang Wuji nodded; but in his heart he thought, ‘You and I both command countless warriors, how can we be worried about such an insignificant silver and gold matter? Although this golden case is exquisite, it is not a rare treasure. The ‘hei yu duan xu gao’ [black jade break connecting (or fracture healing) paste] hidden inside the box has already taken out, then the box does not have much usefulness anymore; so what if it is broken? Putting them back together is also a minor matter; presently we have many important matters to deal, but you actually worry about this box; you are such a fussy little girl, who cares much about such a trivial matter. Such a typical woman.’ Immediately he put the golden box pieces into his pocket.

    “Then off you go!” Zhao Min said.

    Zhang Wuji thought Song Da Shibo [First Martial (older) Uncle] and the others had not been rescued yet; how could he leave just like that? But the enemy’s experts surrounded them like a cloud, while there only three people on his side; so speaking about rescue was easier said than done. “Miss Zhao,” he asked, “Why did you capture my Da Shibo and the others?”

    Zhao Min smiled, “My intention is good; I want to advise them to be loyal to the royal government, then everybody will enjoy splendor, riches and honor together. Who would have thought that they are so stubborn and don’t want to listen. I have no choice but to slowly persuade them.”

    “Humph,” Zhang Wuji snorted; turning around he returned to Zhou Zhiruo’s side. With the enemy all around him he walked toward the box, picked it up and returned to his original position, all with calm and composed manners, as if there were nobody else there. He swept his cold gaze around and said, “Since that is the case, we’ll take our leave then!” Taking Zhou Zhiruo’s hand he turned around to leave.

    Zhao Min hastily said, “You want to leave then just leave. But if you want to take Miss Zhou along without asking my permission; what kind of person do you think I am?”

    “It is really inappropriate for me to do that,” Zhang Wuji said, “Miss Zhao, will you release Miss Zhou and let her go with me?”

    Zhao Min did not answer; she cast a meaningful glance toward the Xuanming Elders. He Biweng [lit. old man crane pen] moved forward one step. “Zhang Jiaozhu,” he said, “You come and go as you like, you want to rescue others as you like; where do you think we should place our old faces? If you don’t demonstrate some special skills, I am afraid we brothers will have difficulty submitting to you.”

    Zhang Wuji recognized He Biweng’s voice; anger welled up his chest. He roared, “You captured me when I was small and made my life nearly gone. Today you still have a face to speak to me? Take this!” With a loud grunt he sent out a palm toward He Biweng.

    Lu Zhangke had just suffered a defeat; he knew He Biweng’s strength was not Zhang Wuji’s match. Rushing forward he shot a palm toward him. Zhang Wuji’s right palm was still moving toward He Biweng, his left palm moved underneath his right arm to block Lu Zhangke’s palm. Pure internal energy met pure internal energy, there was not the slightest margin of error. Three people, four palms. As soon as they met, they all staggered back.

    When they were at the Wudang Mountain the Xuanming Elders had exchanged palm strikes with Zhang Wuji and managed to land a couple of slaps on his body. This moment they wanted to repeat the same trick, also with two palms striking together. But that day Zhang Wuji had suffered defeat once; how could he let himself fall into the same trick? His elbows shrunk slightly launching the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ technique; ‘Clap!’ He Biweng’s left fist landed above Lu Zhangke’s right palm. These two men’s received the same instructions from their master; their palm techniques were similar, their strengths were also more or less the same. They both felt their arms go numb and were confused as how could they, martial brothers, strike each other? Although their martial art skills were high, they did not understand this profound mystery.

    While those two men were startled and angry, Zhang Wuji’s palms had arrived. Each of the Xuanming Elders launched their palms; one to counterattack, the other to block. They used a totally different move from the previous one, but Zhang Wuji still used the same technique to lead Lu Zhangke’s left palm to strike above He Biweng’s right palm. Zhang Wuji executed the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ technique skillfully and with great precision that his attack arrived at an unthinkable condition.

    While the Xuanming Elders were still stunned Zhang Wuji’s third palm strike arrived; as if by prior agreement each of them lifted a palm to block. Three people’s pure energy collided; the Xuanming Elders felt their opponent’s ‘yang’ [positive] energy surge in, it was difficult to block. Zhang Wuji’s palm technique was like the wind; he recalled his many years of sufferings when he was little and was struck by He Biweng’s Xuanming Divine Palm. For that reason his palm strike was a little bit lenient toward Lu Zhangke, he did not give any leeway to He Biweng.

    Twenty or so palms later He Biweng’s greenish face had turned completely red. Seeing the opponent’s palm strike, he raised his left palm trying to fend it off, while his right palm is slanting down heavily. ‘Slap! Slap!’ He Biweng’s palm fiercely hit Lu Zhangke’s shoulder. In the end he still failed to fend off Zhang Wuji’s palm, which hit him squarely on his chest. Luckily Zhang Wuji had never had any intention to take his life; thus he only used 30% of his strength. With a ‘wah’ noise He Biweng spurted a mouthful of blood. His face from red turned to purple, his body swayed; if Zhang Wuji took advantage of this situation and launched another palm strike, his life would be gone right there and then. Lu Zhangke’s shoulder was also so painful that his face greatly changed and his lips bleed from his own biting.

    The Xuanming Elders had always been Zhao Min’s most capable subordinates; who would have thought that both of them were injured in under thirty moves? No wonder the rest of Zhao Min’s warriors were flabbergasted; even Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao were astonished. They had seen it with their own eyes how on Wudang Mountain the Xuanming Elders had injured Zhang Wuji with their palms; surprisingly in just several months he had made a tremendous progress. But they also remembered that in these last several months while treating Yu Daiyan and Yi Liting’s injuries on Mount Wudang, Zhang Wuji had also consulted Zhang Sanfeng on the subtle and profoundly deep study of the martial arts; finally he was able to combine the ‘jiu yang shen gong’ [nine ‘yang’ (positive) divine skill], ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ [great shifting of the universe], plus Wudang’s ‘tai ji chuan jian’ [Taiji’s fist and sword], three martial arts into one. They were secretly praising Zhang Sanfeng’s divine knowledge, which could be called ‘shen bu ke ce’ [immeasurably deep], four characters.

    As the two Xuanming Elders were defeated, they howled and took their weapons out. In Lu Zhangke’s hand there was a short stick with a forked head, resembling a pair of deer antlers. The body of the stick was dark; it was unclear what the stick was made of. He Biweng’s hands were grasping a pair of pens; the tip of the pens was sharp, shaped like a crane’s beak. The pens glistened with crystal-like rays. These two people had followed Zhao Min for quite a while, but even Zhao Min had never seen them using their weapons. As these three weapons were launched, one black shadow and two white lights were seen; surrounding Zhang Wuji in their midst.

    Zhang Wuji did not bring any weapons with him; with only his bare hand and empty fist, his situation was quite disadvantageous. But he was not scared one bit. He determined to test his own martial art against these two powerful opponents; he wanted to see if he would be able to score victory barehanded.

    The Xuanming Elders had always relied on their profound internal energy, the Xuanming Divine Palms was a lost art of the martial art world; yet as soon as they went into battle against Zhang Wuji’s palms, his ‘jiu yang shen gong’ was actually so unfathomable that in dozens of palms they were defeated.

    When using their weapons, these two people oftentimes scored victory because of their strange moves. Their names actually came from their weapons, ‘lu jiao duan zhang’ [deer antler short stick] and ‘he zui shuang bi’ [crane beak pair of pens]. Each of their moves was swift, fierce and very ruthless; rarely seen in the world.

    With total concentration Zhang Wuji launched attacks and put up defenses among the weapons, but momentarily he had not yet understood his opponents’ movements; so it would not be easy to score any victory. Luckily He Biweng was severely wounded and his movements were unavoidably sluggish.

    In the meantime Zhao Min lightly clapped her hands three times and naked blades dazzled in the hall. Three men attacked Yang Xiao, four people attacked Wei Yixiao, and two pointed the tip of their weapons on Zhou Zhiruo’s back. Yang Xiao snatched a sword and brandished it lightning fast, stabbing a man attacking his back. Wei Yixiao used his ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu] as his weapon and slapped two people with his ‘xuan yin mian zhang’ [dark cloud cotton palm]. But in reality the enemies were too many, for every man down, two came out to take his place; while Zhang Wuji was engaged in a fierce battle against the Xuanming Elders and was not able to lend them a hand. It would not be too difficult for the three of them to escape, but certainly it was almost impossible if they wanted to take Zhou Zhiruo along.

    While they were anxious, suddenly Zhao Min shouted, “Everybody hold your hands!” Her voice was not too loud, but her subordinates obeyed her and immediately leaped backward.

    Yang Xiao tossed his sword to the ground. Wei Yixiao had just snatched a blade from an enemy’s hand; he turned it around and threw it back to its owner, while laughing a big laugh. Seeing someone was still holding a dagger on Zhou Zhiruo’s back; Zhang Wuji could not help but feeling anxious and it showed on his face.

    With a sad voice Zhou Zhiruo said, “Zhang Gongzi [young master, a respectful term to address a young man], please leave. Xiao Nuzi [little/young girl] is deeply grateful of three gentlemen’s kind intention.”

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “Zhang Gongzi, I feel sad to destroy such a beautiful face like this. Surely she is your beloved?”

    Zhang Wuji blushed; he said, “Miss Zhou and I have known each other since we were little. When I was a child I was hit by this man’s …” he pointed to He Biweng, “… Xuanming Divine Palm. The cold poison entered my body and made me difficult to move. I was lucky this Miss Zhou helped me eating and drinking. I do not dare to forget her kindness.”

    “So you were childhood friends,” Zhao Min said, “You are thinking of making her the Devil Cult’s Madame Cult Leader, aren’t you?”

    Zhang Wuji blushed even deeper. “The barbarians have not yet been extinguished, how can I think of raising a family?” he said.

    Zhao Min’s face darkened. “You surely want to destroy me very much, don’t you?” she asked.

    Zhang Wuji shook his head. “Until now I still do not know Miss’ origin,” he said, “Although our paths have crossed several times, every time it was Miss who seeks out Zhang Wuji; it wasn’t the Old Zhang who looks for trouble with Miss. I will be deeply grateful if Miss is willing to let my martial uncles and the Wulin warriors from various sects go; I wouldn’t dare to seek enmity with Miss. Moreover, Miss still has to tell me three matters, which I will strive to carry them out, in no way will I refuse your command.”

    Zhao Min could hear the sincerity in his voice, her face brightened like a fresh flower just blossomed. She smiled and said, “Hey, you haven’t forgotten that.” Turning her head toward Zhou Zhiruo she said to Zhang Wuji, “This Miss Zhou is not your beloved, she is neither your martial sister, nor your fiancé; so if I want to destroy her face, it has nothing to do with you …” She cast a sidelong glance; Lu Zhangke and He Biweng immediately raised their weapons in front of Zhou Zhiruo, while another man raised a sharp dagger toward her cheeks.

    If Zhang Wuji wanted to save her, he would have to break the Xuanming Elders’ defense line; which was not easy. Zhao Min coldly said, “Zhang Gongzi, you’d better tell me the truth.”

    All of a sudden Wei Yixiao held out his palms and spat some saliva on them. He rubbed his palms several times to the sole of his shoes, and laughed a big laugh. Nobody knew what kind of crafty trick he was about to perform; suddenly a green shadow flashed. Zhao Min felt her left and right cheeks were rubbed by a palm. She looked at Wei Yixiao and found him stood on his original position, but now in his hands were two daggers; it was not clear whom he snatched the daggers from. Zhao Min realized things were not good; she did not dare to rub her own cheeks, but took a handkerchief and wiped her face. She saw her handkerchief was black with some mud, and knew instantly that it was the dirt from Wei Yixiao’s shoes plus his saliva. This thought made her sick that she almost threw up.

    Wei Yixiao said, “Miss Zhao, whether you want to destroy Miss Zhou’s face or not, it is up to you. You are cruel and merciless; I, the one with surname Wei, cannot stop you. Just know this: today you cut Miss Zhou’s face once, the one surnamed Wei will double it; I will cut your face twice. You cut her face twice, I will cut yours four times. You break one finger of hers, I will break two of yours.” Speaking to this point he struck the daggers in his hands to each other and continued, “What the one surnamed Wei wants to do, he can do it. ‘Qing Yi Fu Wang’ [The Green Winged Bat King] will do what he says. All my life I have never said an empty talk. You can guard against me for a year or a year and a half, but not for eight years, ten years. You can send your people to kill me, but I doubt they will be able to pursue me. I take my leave now!” When the word ‘now’ came out of his mouth, he had already disappeared.

    ‘Slap! Slap!’ two daggers flew and struck a pillar; followed by “Aiyo! Ah!” screams, two foreign monks in the hall slowly sat down. Somehow the swords in their hands were snatched by Wei Yixiao; while their acupoints were also sealed by him.

    Wei Yixiao’s words were spoken lightly, but everybody knew it was not idle talk; they saw with their own eyes that Zhao Min white cheeks, which were red from rouge earlier, were smeared black by Wei Yixiao’s dirt. If he was holding knives in his hands, Zhao Min’s cheeks would have been destroyed. His movement to her and back was lightning fast; it was like a ghost or a demon’s movement; certainly no experts would be able to guard against him. Even Zhang Wuji felt ashamed of his own inferiority. In a long distance race Zhang Wuji would be able to win relying on his stronger internal energy, but moving in the courtyard or between the porch and the veranda nobody could match this person’s divine speed.

    Zhang Wuji bowed and saluted. “Miss Zhao,” he said, “We have offended you today; we’ll take our leave now.” Taking Yang Xiao’s hand he turned around and went out the hall. He knew with Wei Yixiao’s threat Zhao Min would not dare to harm Zhou Zhiruo. Zhao Min looked at his back with mixed feelings: ashamed and angry; but she did not command her people to block their way.

    Zhang Wuji and Yang Xiao returned to the inn; Wei Yixiao was already waiting for them there. Zhang Wuji laughed and said, “Wei Fuwang [Bat King Wei], today you have given them a demonstration of your prowess, letting them know not to easily provoke the Ming Cult.”

    “It wasn’t difficult to scare a little girl,” Wei Yixiao said, “She can pretend to be fierce and wicked, but as she heard me wanting to destroy her face, I guarantee you she won’t be able to sleep for three whole days and three whole nights.”

    Yang Xiao smiled and said, “She can’t sleep; that’s not good. It will make our effort to rescue people more difficult.”

    “Yang Zuoshi [Left Emissary Yang],” said Zhang Wuji, “Speaking of rescuing people, do you have any ingenious plan?”

    Yang Xiao hesitated. “We are only three people, plus our presence is already known; it is truly a thorny problem,” he said.

    Zhang Wuji apologetically said, “When I saw Miss Zhou’s dire situation I could not bear not to help. In the end I messed up an important matter.”

    “The way the turn of events went, nobody could bear not to help,” Yang Xiao said, “Single-handedly Jiaozhu [Cult Leader] defeated the Xuanming Elders and that can crush the enemy’s spirit big time; that was also very good. Moreover, now that they know we are here, they won’t dare to treat Song Daxia [great hero Song] and the others too rudely.”

    Zhang Wuji remembered that his Song Dabo [first (older) uncle], Yu Erbo [second (older) uncle] and the others were still in the enemy’s hand; and then seeing how Zhao Min has treated He Taichong, Tang Wenliang and the others with disgrace, his heart burned with anxiety.

    Three people discussed their course of action for half a day without reaching any conclusion; finally they went their separate rooms to rest.

    Toward the dawn the following morning Zhang Wuji was still half dreaming when he heard a noise from the window; he woke up immediately and opened his eyes wide only to see the window slowly open. There was someone outside staring at him. He was startled. Lifting up the bed curtain he saw that person’s face was filled with scars, he looked fearsomely ugly; it was none other than Ku Toutuo. Zhang Wuji was even more shocked; he immediately jumped out of bed, but Ku Toutuo’s face was still at the window, staring blankly at him. It seemed like Ku Toutuo did not mean any harm to him. “Yang Zuoshi! Wei Fuwang!” Zhang Wuji called out.

    Yang and Wei two people responded from the neighboring rooms. Zhang Wuji was slightly relieved. In the meantime Ku Toutuo’s face disappeared from the window. Zhang Wuji hastily jumped out the window and saw Ku Toutuo go out the front gate in a hurry. By this time Yang and Wei two people had also caught up. Looking around to see there was no other enemy, three people moved their feet to pursue Ku Toutuo.

    Ku Toutuo was waiting on a street corner. As he saw the three people approach, he turned around and went to the north. His strides were big, but he was not running. Three people exchanged hand signals and followed behind. By that time it was daybreak, not too many people were outside; so in a short moment they had reached the northern gate. Ku Toutuo continued leading the way along a small pathway. About seven, eight ‘li’s [1 li is approximately 0.5km] later they arrived at a small mound with rocks scattered around it. At last Ku Toutuo stopped and turned around; he waved his hands toward Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao, asking them to step back, following which he cupped his fists in respect toward Zhang Wuji.

    Zhang Wuji returned the salute while thinking in his heart, “I wonder what is this Toutuo’s intention in leading us here? There is nobody else here, if we fight, with one against three, he would surely lost. Judging by this, he doesn’t seem to have an ill intention.”

    Before Zhang Wuji made his mind up, Ku Toutuo had already made a ‘heh, heh’ noise, then he attacked with his hands in the form of claws: tiger claw on his left hand, dragon claw on his right hand; all ten fingers in the shape of hooks, ferociously attacked Zhang Wuji.

    Zhang Wuji diverted the attack by a sweep of his left palm; he said, “Shangren [lit. upper/above person, a respectful term to address a Buddhist monk], what is your intention? Please make it clear; we can always fight later.”

    Ku Toutuo did not pay him any attention, as if he did not hear anything. His left hand tiger claw changed into an eagle claw, his right hand dragon claw changed into a tiger claw; one attacked the opponent’s left shoulder, the other attacked the right abdomen. The attacks were very vicious.

    “Do we really have to fight?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    Ku Toutuo’s eagle claw turned into a lion palm, his tiger claw turned into a crane beak; one struck the other pecked, in an ever-changing style. In a short three stances he had already used six different styles.

    Zhang Wuji did not dare to slack off; he immediately launched the ‘Taiji Chuan’ [taiji fist]. His body moved like the passing clouds or flowing water, fighting his opponent on that stone mound. He felt this Ku Toutuo’s movements were very complicated; sometimes they were wide open and easily predicted, but just they turn surreptitiously strange as swift, like the martial art from a demonical unorthodox sect, casting a profound heretical, almost evil, air around him, but all along Zhang Wuji only used Taiji Chuan to fight him.

    After about seventy, eighty stances later Ku Toutuo suddenly grunted and shot his fist straight forward. Zhang Wuji used the ‘ru feng si bi’ [Apparent Closure] to seal his fist power, followed by the move ‘dan bian’ [Single Whip] his left palm slapped Ku Toutuo’s back; only he did not exert any internal energy, as soon as he touched his back, Zhang Wuji withdrew his palm.

    Ku Toutuo knew Zhang Wuji was showing him mercy; he leaped backward and stared at Zhang Wuji for half a day. Suddenly he made a hand signal to Yang Xiao, indicating he wanted to borrow the long sword on Yang Xiao’s waist. Yang Xiao loosened up the sword belt and presented the sword, complete with the sheath, with both hands to Ku Toutuo.

    Zhang Wuji felt strange, “How can Yang Zuoshi lend a weapon to the enemy?” he thought.

    Ku Toutuo drew the sword and made a hand signal, telling Zhang Wuji to borrow Wei Yixiao’s sword. Zhang Wuji shook his head; he took the sword sheath from Ku Toutuo’s left hand, and with a ‘qing shou’ [invitation] stance he used the sheath as a sword. With his left hand he pinched the tip of the sheath and positioned the sheath horizontally in front of his chest.

    Ku Toutuo swept the sword and stabbed diagonally down. Zhang Wuji had seen him teaching sword technique to Zhao Min, so he knew this man had a superb swordsmanship. At once he focused his attention to use the Taiji Sword he had learned for the past several months on Mount Wudang. He saw that the opponent’s sword moved sometimes fast sometimes slow, with the blade seemingly everywhere; but Zhang Wuji was always able to block or divert the attack. Ku Toutuo withdrew immediately and re-attacked with new stances; yet not a single one of them was able to penetrate Zhang Wuji’s defense.

    Zhang Wuji silently praised him, “If I fought this man half a year ago, I certainly would not be his match in swordsmanship. Compared to that ‘ba bi shen jian’ [Eight-armed Divine Sword] Fang Dongbai this Ku Toutuo is a notch better.” He started to feel fondness toward him and decided not to score victory too conspicuously.

    Ku Toutuo brandished his sword like a ‘luan pi feng’ [tornado]; the blade of his sword glistened under the sun as if ten thousands metal snakes scurried around the opponent. Zhang Wuji looked clearly and then abruptly turned the sword sheath around. ‘Shua!’ the sword entered its sheath perfectly while both of his hands shot out and lightly touched Ku Toutuo’s wrists. Smiling slightly Zhang Wuji leaped back. If he made any effort ever so slightly, he would have been able to seize the sword. This move to seize the sword was really dangerous; but it also demonstrated his excellent skill.

    Before Zhang Wuji’s feet landed on the ground Ku Toutuo dropped the sword and with a grunt sent out his palm forward. Zhang Wuji heard the gust of wind and knew that this palm carried a lot of strength. It was truly not a small matter; obviously the opponent was testing his internal strength. He turned his right palm around and met the incoming palm head-on, while his left foot finally touched the ground.

    In an instant Ku Toutuo’s force flowed out like a stream. Zhang Wuji used the power of the seventh level of ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ to gradually dissipate the incoming force. Suddenly he shouted loudly and pushed back; it was like the dam on a mountain lake suddenly burst and the water flooded out with an earth shattering force. Zhang Wuji was actually returning Ku Toutuo’s palm strength to its owner. It was the combination of ten opponent’s palm strength into one; the world had never seen such force. If Ku Toutuo was hit, his wrist bone, arm bone, shoulder bone, and his ribs would be broken; blood would spurt out and he would have turned into a heap of shapeless pulp as he died a miserable death.

    At this moment a pair of palms stuck to each other. It was impossible for Ku Toutuo to escape. Suddenly Zhang Wuji’s left hand grabbed his chest and flung him up; Ku Toutuo’s big body flew up. With a loud ‘Bang!’ the rocks behind him flew all over the place. Zhang Wuji’s matchless palm strength had hit the rocks on that mound.

    Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao, who were watching from the side, both cried out in alarm. They knew Ku Toutuo and their cult leader were staking it all in that internal energy competition. They thought it would take at least the time needed to drink tea for the match to reach its conclusion; who would have thought that the moment of life and death had arrived in just a short time. These two had a lot in their mind to say, but it was too late for them to open their mouths. Now that Ku Toutuo had landed on the ground, safe and sound, their palms were wet with cold sweats.

    As his feet touched the ground Ku Toutuo’s hands made a sign like a blazing flame in front of his chest; he bowed to pay his respect to Zhang Wuji and said, “Xiao Ren [lit. little/lowly person] is ‘guang ming you zhi’ [Right Emissary of the Brightness] Fan Yao; I pay my respect to Jiaozhu [Cult Leader]. I thank Jiaozhu for sparing my life. Xiao Ren also asks forgiveness for my offensive behavior.” He had never talked for more than ten years, so his intonation was rather unnatural.

    Zhang Wuji was pleasantly surprised; not only this mute Ku Toutuo could talk, but he was also his own Cult’s Right Emissary of the Brightness. It was truly beyond what he expected. He Busily held out his hands to raise him up and said, “It turns out that you are our Cult’s Fan Youshi [Right Emissary Fan]. I am extremely happy. We are family, so you don’t have to be overly courteous.”

    Actually when they arrived at the rock mound, Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao had already guessed with 30% certainty; only Fan Yao’s appearance was greatly changed that they did not dare to say anything. When he displayed his martial art, they were 70, 80% sure; now that he mentioned his own name, they rushed forward held his hands tightly. Yang Xiao stared at his face for half a day with tears streaming down his face. “Fan Xiongdi [Brother Fan],” he said, “Gege [big brother] missed you very much.”

    Fan Yao hugged Yang Xiao and said, “Da Ge [big brother], we should be thankful for ‘Ming Zun’s [Translator’s note: I don’t know how to translate this properly. I am guessing that Fan Yao was referring to the Ming Cult founder (or prophet).] blessing and protection, that we have such a highly capable Jiaozhu, and that we brothers can see each other again.”

    “Xiongdi,” Yang Xiao said, “How did your appearance change like this?”

    “If I didn’t deform my own face, how can I deceive that traitor, the ‘hun yuan pi li shou’ [Lightning Hands of the Originating Formation] Cheng Kun?” Fan Yao said.

    As soon as they heard him, they realized that he intentionally destroyed his own face to get close to the enemy. Yang Xiao’s heart was moved. “Xiongdi,” he said, “You have suffered greatly.” In the past Yang Xiao and Fan Yao were known in Jianghu as the ‘Xiao Yao Er Xian’ [Xiao and Yao, two immortals]; because they both were outstandingly handsome men. Fan Yao had deliberately made his own face unbearably ugly; truly not many people could match his pain and suffering.

    Wei Yixiao had never been close to Fan Yao; but this time he could not help but be deeply moved. He knelt down and saluted, “Fan Youshi,” he said, “Today Wei Yixiao truly submits to you.”

    Fan Yao also knelt down to return his salute. Smiling he said, “Wei Fuwang’s ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu] is matchless in this world. Your divine skill is even better than in the past. Last night Ku Toutuo broadened his outlook.”

    Yang Xiao looked around and said, “This place is not too far from the city; the enemy has ears and eyes everywhere. We’d better go farther up and talk on the mountain ahead.”

    Four people ran for about ten ‘li’s and stop on the back of a small hill, where they were able to see for several ‘li’s around and thus did not have to worry anybody would hide and listen secretly, yet from a distant nobody would be able to see them. They sat down and told each other what happened after they were separated.

    That year Yang Dingtian suddenly disappeared without any trace; the Ming Cult’s leaders fought with each other over the Cult Leader position. Nobody was willing to submit, so the Cult split up. Fan Yao still believed their Cult Leader had not passed away, so he wandered the Jianghu alone to look for his whereabouts. Several years passed and he had not found the slightest trail. Afterwards he thought that perhaps their Cult Leader was harmed by the Beggar Clan, so he secretly captured many Beggar Clan’s important people and tortured them to force a confession; still he did not find any clue, while in the process he had killed many innocent Beggar Clan members.

    Later on he heard the escalating sharp dispute among the Ming Cult leaders; some people even went everywhere looking for him, they wanted to appeal to him. Fan Yao had never wanted to be the Cult Leader; he was also not willing to be involved in this power struggle. Hence he went as far as possible for fear that his brethren would find him. Thereupon he grew a long beard and disguised himself as an elderly scholar; wandering everywhere, free and unrestrained.

    One particular day he saw someone at a bustling street in Dadou; he recognized that person as Madame Cult Leader’s martial brother Cheng Kun. He could not help to be secretly shocked. By that time there was a rumor in the Wulin world that many skilled pugilists were murdered, and there was always this message written on the adjacent wall: ‘The killer is Lightning Hands of the Originating Formation Cheng Kun’. He wanted to investigate this case, but also wanted to inquire the Yang Jiaozhu’s whereabouts to Cheng Kun; thereupon he followed Cheng Kun from a safe distance.

    He saw Cheng Kun enter a restaurant, where two older men were waiting; they were the Xuanming Elders. Fan Yao knew Cheng Kun’s martial art level was high, so he sat on a rather far away table, drinking wine. He could only hear those three people talking indistinctly, but the words ‘must destroy the Brightness Peak’ were heard clearly. Hearing his cult was in danger Fan Yao could not ignore it; he followed those three secretly and saw them entering the Ruyang [a place in Henan] ‘wang fu’ [lit. king mansion – governmental palace]. Later he found out that those two Xuanming Elders were martial art experts under the employment of the Prince of Ruyang.

    The Prince of Ruyang, Khakan Timur, was a very high ranking officer in charge of the military forces. He was brave and resourceful; in fact, he was the most capable person of the imperial household. He was the one who dispatched troops to suppress the rebellion of Jiang Huai [Jiangsu and Anhui]. It can be said that the victory and defeat of the imperial army was the sole responsibility of this prince Khakan Timur.

    Zhang Wuji and the others had heard his name for quite some time, by now hearing that Lu Zhangke and the others were his subordinates, they more or less could guess, but in the end they were still surprised.

    “Who, then, is this Miss Zhao?” Yang Xiao asked.

    “Da Ge, there is no harm for you to take a guess,” Fan Yao answered.

    “Is it possible that she is Khakan Timur’s daughter?” Yang Xiao said.

    “Pretty good!” Fan Yao clapped his hands, “One guess and right on target. This Ruyang Wangye [Prince, lit. king master] has one son and one daughter. His son is Kuku Timur; his daughter is this girl. Her Mongolian name is Minmin Timur something. Kuku Timur is Ruyang Wangye’s crown prince; he will succeed his father as the future Prince Ruyang. The daughter’s title is Shao Min Jun Zhu [‘jun zhu’ means a ruler of some region, or a princess. Translator’s note: I don’t know how to translate this ‘Shao Min’ name; I guess we’ll leave it as is: a name.]. These two children are good in martial arts and they both have good level of skill. They love to dress as Han people and they speak Han language. They even adopted Han names; the boy chose Wang Baobao, while the girl chose Zhao Min. These two characters ‘Zhao Min’ came from her title, Shao Min Jun Zhu.”

    Wei Yixiao smiled and said, “These brother and sister are very strange; one uses Wang as his surname, the other Zhao. From our Han people’s perspective, it is very funny.”

    Fan Yao said, “Actually, their surname is Timur. Their given names are in the front; this is the custom of the barbarians. Ruyang Wangye Khakan Timur also has a Han’s surname; which is Li.” Speaking to this point the four of them burst out in laughter.

    [Author’s note: In the New Yuan History, 220th chapter, on the biography of Khakan Timur: ‘Khakan Timur was the ancestor of Kuokuotai, Zunaimantai, Fualuwen. He made Henan his home and thus was known as Shenqiu people. Later he changed his surname to Li.’ Although officially Kuku Timur was his crown prince, in reality he was Khakan Timur’s sister’s son. This little detail is not distinguished clearly in the novel.]

    [Translator’s note: I apologize for not able to find any reference on the above note; hence my translation might be inaccurate.]

    Yang Xiao said, “This Miss Zhao’s appearance and lifestyle is just like Han people, but the way she handles affairs was so fierce and ruthless, revealing her true barbarian origin.”

    Until that moment Zhang Wuji did not know Zhao Min’s origin. Although he guessed she must be from the royal household, he had never expected that she was actually the daughter of Prince Ruyang who was the commander of the Yuan Dynasty’s military forces. He had fought with her several times and each time he was somewhat overpowered. Although her martial art skill was not as good as his, when it comes to quick-thinking and resourcefulness, he was not her match.

    Fan Yao continued, “Subordinate continued listening secretly and found out that Prince Ruyang had made up his mind to exterminate Jianghu’s martial art exponents [‘men, pai, bang, hui’ – gate, sect, clan and society]. He had accepted Cheng Kun’s scheme, in which the first step was to eliminate our Cult. I considered it carefully; our Cult was involved in endless internal strife, while the enemy was so strong, our destruction was imminent. The only way to prevent this is by entering the palace, learning Prince Ruyang’s plot, and act accordingly. Other than that I could not think of anything else. What I found to be strange was that Cheng Kun is not only Madame Yang Jiaozhu’s martial brother, but he is also Xie Shi Wang’s [Lion King Xie] master; why did he hate our Cult so much? I thought about it but could not come up with a good answer. I thought he must be seeking riches and honor so that by exterminating our Cult he would render a meritorious service to the kingdom. There are not too many Cult brethrens who know Cheng Kun, but I have met him once, so he knew me. To prevent my plan from leaking out, I have to kill this man.”

    “You should,” Wei Yixiao commented.

    “But this man is so sly, also his martial art is strong,” Fan Yao continued, “I have tried to kill him secretly three times but to no avail. The third time I managed to stab him with a sword, but I was hacked by his palm. It was really not easy for me to escape. I did not reveal my identity, but I suffered a severe injury, which took me more than a year to recover. By this time the Ruyang Palace conspiracy has ripened. I thought if I disguise myself I might be able to conceal my identity for a while. In the past the number of Jianghu people who knew me and Yang Xiong [brother Yang] as the ‘Xiao Yao Two Immortals’ were truly not a few. Over longer period of time I will surely give myself away. Thereupon clenching my teeth I destroyed my own face and disguised myself as a Toutuo. I used some medicine to dye my hair, and went to the Watzu kingdom of the Western Region.”

    “Watzu kingdom?” Wei Yixiao wondered, “It is tens of thousands ‘li’s away; why did you go there?”

    Fan Yao smiled, but before he could answer Yang Xiao clapped his hands and said, “That’s a marvelous idea! Wei Xiong, Fan Xiongdi went to Watzu kingdom looking for a chance to show his skill, so that the Mongolian nobility would surely notice. Prince of Ruyang was looking for warriors from all over the world, so if the ruler of Watzu wanted to please the Prince, he would send him to the palace to offer his service. This way Fan Xiongdi became a warrior from the Watzu kingdom. His face was changed, also he did not open his mouth. Even if Cheng Kun had divine skill, there is no way he would have recognized him.”

    Wei Yixiao heaved a deep sigh and said, “Yang Jiaozhu placed the Xiao Yao Er Xian above the four ‘Fa Wang’ [Protector King]; his vision was truly as bright as a torch. This kind of scheming, some Eagle King, Bat King, will never think about.”

    “Wei Xiong, that’s enough of praising,” Fan Yao said, “Just like Yang Zuoshi said, in Watzu I killed some lions and slaughtered some tigers, making a name for myself; for their honor, the local king sent me to the Ruyang Palace. But that Cheng Kun was not in the palace; I didn’t know where he went.”

    Immediately Yang Xiao narrated briefly the enmity between Cheng Kun and the Ming Cult; how he sneaked into the Brightness Peak to attack, and how Zhang Wuji thwarted his treacherous plan, and how in the end he fought with Yin Yewang and finally died.

    As Fan Yao listened to this story he was silent for half a day; he did not realize that there were so many twist and turns in this affair. He stood up and bowed respectfully toward Zhang Wuji, “Jiaozhu,” he said, “Subordinate would like to ask for your forgiveness.”

    “Fan Youshi, there is no need to be modest,” Zhang Wuji replied.

    Fan Yao said, “When subordinate entered the Ruyang Palace, in order to win the King’s heart, during a disturbance in the market place subordinate has killed three of our own Cult’s ‘xiang zhu’ [a position within the Ming Cult; I am not sure how to translate this term properly], giving the impression that there was a deep enmity between myself and the Ming Cult.”

    Zhang Wuji was silent, he thought, “Killing a Cult brother is one of our Cult’s five big prohibitions; that was the reason why although Yang Zuoshi, Four ‘Fa Wang’s, Five-Element Flags and the others fought fiercely over the Cult Leader position, they had never killed a fellow Cult brother. Fan Youshi’s transgression is really not light, but his primary motivation was to protect our Cult and not because of personal grudge, so I really cannot judge him guilty.” He said, “Fan Youshi has suffered so much in protecting our Cult, I can’t really blame you.”

    Fan Yao bowed and said, “Thank you for Jiaozhu’s forgiveness.”

    Zhang Wuji silently thought, “A man as cruel as Fan Youshi is truly rare. He is capable of mutilating his own face with seventeen, eighteen cuts; then he killed several of our own Cult’s innocent ‘xiang zhu’s, all without any guilty feeling. People calling the Ming Cult a heretical Devil Cult is not without reason. I wonder if, in the future, we can change this perverse and evil characteristic.”

    Although with his mouth Zhang Wuji said, ‘I can’t really blame you,’ Fan Yao could see the unsatisfied look on his face. He held out his hand to draw Yang Xiao’s sword, and with a swing of his left hand he cut off two of his right hand fingers.

    Zhang Wuji was shocked; he snatched the sword from Fan Yao’s hand and said, “Fan Youshi, you … you … why did you do this?”

    Fan Yao replied, “Killing our own innocent Cult brothers is a grave offense. Fan Yao still has an unfinished important matter, so I can’t kill myself yet. I cut my two fingers first then later on I’ll cut my own head.”

    Zhang Wuji said, “I have already forgiven Fan Youshi’s mistake, why bother doing this? We should be more concerned over the important matter. Fan Youshi, don’t raise this matter anymore.” He quickly took out some cut wound medicine and applied it to his wound; he also tore up his own clothes and wrapped Fan Youshi’s wound. He knew in his heart that this man was hard-hearted; although Zhang Wuji said he did not hold him accountable, he could see any sign in Fan Youshi’s face that he would take Zhang Wuji’s words by heart. He was capable of doing what he said, so there was a great possibility he would commit suicide in the future for his own crime. Zhang Wuji remembered how he had suffered this much for the sake of the Cult, his heart was moved. Suddenly he knelt down and said, “Fan Youshi, you have rendered a great service to the Cult; please accept my respect. If you harm yourself, that means you are saying to me that I am neither competent nor worthy to hold the Jiaozhu position. You stab yourself with a sword, I will stab myself twice. I am young and my knowledge is shallow; I don’t understand much of our affair, I can’t distinguish good from evil.”

    As they saw their Jiaozhu kneel down, Fan Yao, Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao quickly knelt down on the ground. With tears in his eyes Yang Xiao said, “Fan Xiongdi, please rest your case. Our Cult’s prosperity and decline are in the hands of our Jiaozhu only. Jiaozhu has given you an order, you surely must not disobey it.”

    Fan Yao saluted and said, “Today subordinate has tested his sword and palm skill against Jiaozhu’s, and I fell on my knees in full admiration. Ku Toutuo’s personality is eccentric and unreasonable, I am asking for Jiaozhu’s forgiveness.”

    Zhang Wuji held out his hands to stand him up. From that day forward a strong bond had formed between the two; no more misunderstandings happened.

    Fan Yao continued his narration on what happened after he entered the Ruyang Palace. The Ruyang Prince, Khakan Timur, was very capable in commanding the military force. Unfortunately for him the royal government was dominated by corrupt ministers, plus the current emperor was a muddle-head, so chaos and confusion reigned everywhere in the kingdom; insurrections arose everywhere, forcing the Ruyang Prince to dispatch troop’s expeditions to east and to the west, crushing innumerable rebellions. These insurrections had kept the Ruyang Prince busy for years and his plan of annihilating the Jianghu’s sects, schools and clans was put on hold for the time being.

    Several years passed; his children grew up. While his son Kuku Timur followed his steps commanding the troops, his daughter Minmin Timur gathered Mongolian warriors under her command, Western Region’s warriors and foreign monks, to carry out a large scale attack against the sects, schools and clans. Cheng Kun secretly helped her engineer the plan; taking advantage of the six major sects’ besiege of the Brightness Peak, Zhao Min sent a large quantities of her martial art masters in an attempt to extinguish the Ming Cult and the six major sects all at once.

    The Green Willow Manor affairs and the subsequent events were part of this grand scheme. At that time Fan Yao’s assignment was to protect the Ruyang Prince, hence he did not participate in the attack to the western region and he did not learn about the attack until much later. Fan Yao said that although he did not raise any suspicion in the Ruyang Palace, Zhao Min would not allow him to participate in the attack to the western region since he came from the western region. Perhaps it was also part of Cheng Kun’s idea.

    Zhao Min used the poison ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ [ten-fragrance muscle softener powder], offered by the foreign western region monk, to drug the masters of the six major sects who were just returning from the Brightness Peak, by poisoning their food. This poison had no color and no smell, so once it was mixed in the dishes, who could detect it? Once the drug worked, the muscles and bones in one’s whole body would be weakened for a few days. Although they were able to move around as usual, they could not exert the least bit of internal energy; for that reason all the six major sects’ masters who were involved in the Brightness Peak expedition were captured one by one within just one short month. It was when they tried to drug the third group Shaolin monks under Kong Xing’s command that they were detected. A fierce battle followed, Kong Xing died under Ah San’s hand; about a dozen or so others died under the hands of Xuanming Elders, Shen Jian Ba Xiong [Eight Divine Archers], as well as Ah Da, Ah Er, Ah San and the others. The rest were captured.

    The next step was to raid the six major sects’ bases; the first being the Shaolin Sect. The Shaolin Temple was heavily guarded, so it was not easy to mix the poison into their food. It was completely different from drugging the monks when they were spending the night in the inn while traveling. Therefore, they had to resort to different method. “’Jun zhu’ [princess] was afraid their strength was not sufficient to fight the Shaolin Temple head-on, so they called for reinforcement from Dadou, which happened to be under my command. We arrived right on time to help capturing the Shaolin monks. Shaolin Sect is always rude to our Cult; so I was glad they undergo a little bit of suffering. Even if I have to kill several stinky monks, Ku Toutuo won’t crease my brows. Jiaozhu, I believe you’ll agree with me, ha … ha …!”

    “Xiong di [brother],” Yang Xiao interrupted, “Were you the one who turned those Luohan statues around?”

    Fan Yao said with a smile, “I saw ‘Jun zhu’ ordered her people to carve those sixteen characters on the back of the Luo Han statues; her intention was to shift the blame to our Cult. Later on I came back quietly and turned those statues back. Dage [big brother], you are very observant, you managed to find out about this matter. At that time did you guess it was ‘Xiong di’?”

    Yang Xiao said, “At that time we only know that there was a master helping our Cult in secret; how would I know that it was my old partner, good brother?” Four people broke up in laughter. Immediately Yang Xiao told Fan Yao briefly that the Ming Cult had ceased all enmity with the six major sects and joined hands to fight the Mongols together; for that reason they must rescue all the masters.

    Fan Yao said, “The enemy is numerous, we are only four people; it will be difficult for us to accomplish this. The best way would be to get the antidote for ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ and feed it to those stinky monks, stinky nuns and all those ox-noses; after their internal strength is recovered then we can make a surprised attack to those Tartars and then we can escape Dadou together.”

    The Ming Cult had never had any good relationship with Shaolin, Wudang and other orthodox sects, so in his speech Fan Yao did not have the slightest respect toward these six major sects. Yang Xiao tried to cast him some meaningful glances, but Fan Yao was oblivious to him. But actually Zhang Wuji did not mind at all; he clapped his hands and said, “That’s great, Fan Youshi; but then how are we going to get the antidote for the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’?”

    Fan Yao said, “Although ‘Jun zhu’ pays me a lot of respect, she has never discussed any important matter with me because I’ve never opened my mouth. When she talked and the other person did not utter a single word, how could she not be disappointed? Moreover, I came from a small country in the western region, so she could not treat me as a trusted friend. Hence I don’t know where the antidote for the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ is. But I do know that this matter is very important to her, so she would guard this secret carefully. If my guess is correct, the poison and the antidote are in the hands of the Xuanming Elders; one has the poison, the other has the antidote, and they swap those poison and antidote periodically.”

    Yang Xiao sighed and said, “This princess is so cunning that even a man might not necessarily be better than her. Doesn’t she trust the Xuanming Elders?”

    Fan Yao replied, “First, distrust is right; second, it is also safer this way. Take us, for example, we want to steal the antidote; but we don’t know whether it is in Lu Zhangke’s hand, or is it in He Biweng’s hand? Moreover, I heard that between the poison and the antidote there is no distinct color or odor differences, so unless we are really familiar with it, we might end up stealing the poison when we want to steal the antidote. This ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ also has another fierce characteristic; when one took the poison, one’s muscles and bones would be weakened, but one’s life would not be threatened in any way. However, if that same person took the poison for the second time, even only for a little bit, immediately his blood flow will reverse and there is no cure for it.”

    Wei Yixiao stuck out his tongue and said, “If that’s so, then we must not steal the wrong antidote.”

    “That’s true,” Fan Yao said, “But I have an idea: we steal both the poison and the antidote from the Xuanming Elders then we give it to some low level master from Huashan or Kongtong Sect. If he dies, then that one is the poison. Don’t you think it is a good idea?”

    Zhang Wuji realized he still had some heretical nature and did not put too much thought about other people’s life. He laughed, “That’s not good,” he said, “What if after we painstakingly steal them, they are both poison?”

    Yang Xiao slapped his thigh, “Jiaozhu is right,” he said, “Last night we made such a commotion that perhaps ‘Jun zhu’ is scared and keep the antidote herself. I think we’d better investigate carefully who has the antidote then we’ll talk about how to get it from him.” He paused for a moment and then said, “Xiong di, what do those two Xuanming Elders like most?”

    Fan Yao smiled and said, “Lu loves pretty face, He loves wine; what else do they like?”

    “Jiaozhu,” Yang Xiao asked Zhang Wuji, “Is there any drug that can make someone physically weak like the effect of the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’?”

    Zhang Wuji thought for a moment and smiled, “To make someone weak and drowsy is certainly not difficult; only if you give it to a martial art expert, he would recover in less than an hour. To make something as fierce as the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’, that I cannot do.”

    Yang Xiao smiled, “About an hour is enough,” he said, “Subordinate has an idea, but I don’t know whether it will work. I am asking Jiaozhu to give me your opinion. Although I said it is an idea, it might be just a worthless thought. Fan Xiongdi, you invite He Biweng to drink some wine; put the poison Jiaozhu make into it. Then Fan Xiongdi make up some trouble, pretend that he is being poisoned by He Biweng with the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’; at that time we will find out who has the antidote. Then we can steal it and use it to rescue the others.”

    Zhang Wuji said, “This idea is feasible; only it depends on He Biweng’s temperament. Fan Youshi, what do you think?”

    Fan Yao contemplated this idea back and forth and thought that although this idea was simple, it was flawless; so he said, “I think Yang Dage’s idea is feasible. That He Biweng is temperamental, but he is not as smart as Lu Zhangke. If the antidote is in his hand, I think I can still deal with him even though my martial art skill is inferior to him.”

    “What if the antidote is in Lu Zhangke’s hand?” Yang Xiao asked.

    Fan Yao knitted his brows and said, “Then it is a lot more complicated.” He stood up and paced back and forth on that little hill. After a long time he clapped his hands and said, “I have a way; that Lu Zhangke is smarter than average men, if we try to trick him, he might see through our deception. We must get hold of his weakness and then blackmail him; of course he will consider the pros and the cons, but he will never realize our scheme. I know that this idea is risky; we might fail, but other than this I can’t think of anything else.”

    “What kind of weakness does this old man have?” Yang Xiao asked, “He is an old man with a young heart; what weakness of his fall into Xiongdi’s hand?”

    “In the spring this year Ruyang Wangye took a concubine and he invited some of us to an informal dinner in his residence,” Fan Yao said, “Wangye proudly talked about his beautiful concubine; he even ordered the new bride to come out and serve us wine. I saw Lu Zhangke’s lecherous eyes almost popped out of their sockets, while he swallowed his saliva; his heart was indeed burning with desire.”

    “Then what happened?” Wei Yixiao asked.

    “Nothing,” Fan Yao replied, “She is Wangye’s beloved concubine; although he has guts as high as the sky he would not dare to indulge his wicked thought.”

    “Lecherous eyes can’t be called some secret you can blackmail him with,” Wei Yixiao said.

    “I can’t blackmail him over that matter,” Fan Yao said, “But I am going to bother Wei Xiong [brother Wei]; with your ‘qing gong’ [lightness skill] you can go and steal Ruyang Wangye’s beloved concubine and place her on Lu Zhangke’s bed. I am 70, 80% sure that this old lecher won’t be able to hold his desire forever. Even if he really is able to rein his horse before falling off the cliff, I will rush in. Although he has a hundred mouths he won’t be able to wash himself clean, so he will be forced to hand the antidote over to me nicely.”

    Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao laughed and clapped their hands, “This is a very nice ploy. Although he is as smart as the Devil, he will be framed for sure.”

    Zhang Wuji was annoyed and amused at the same time, thinking that he was the leader of this heretical and unorthodox bunch. But although their conduct was sly and no different than Zhao Min and her people; they were doing it for a good cause, not an evil one. So in a way it was completely different from Zhao Min. It could be said that they were using poison to combat poison. Having this thought he relaxed a little bit; smiling he said, “It’s a pity Ruyang Wangye’s concubine’s honor will be ruined.”

    Fan Yao replied with a smile, “I will rush into the room as soon as possible, so Lu Zhangke won’t have a chance to molest her.”

    Immediately four people sat down to discuss their plan in detail; after acquiring the antidote, Fan Yao was to rush to the pagoda and distribute it to masters of Shaolin, Wudang, and the other sects. Zhang Wuji and Wei Yixiao would wait outside the temple. As soon as Fan Yao set off fire in the Wan An Temple, they would set the common people’s homes around the temple on fire, so that the group of warriors could take advantage of this confusion to escape. Yang Xiao would buy some horses and prepare some carriages and wait outside the western city gate; the warriors would then use these horses and carriages to separately escape from the city, and to finally rendezvous at Changping.

    Zhang Wuji objected to the idea of burning common people’s homes; he would rather not to implicate the innocents. But Yang Xiao said, “Jiaozhu, the affair of this world is oftentimes difficult to predict. We are saving the warriors of the six major sects so that someday we will drive the Tartars away; that would certainly benefit millions of common people. Today we are forced to harm hundreds of homes, this is because we don’t have any other alternative.”

    Once the plan was decided four people went back to the city separately to attend to their individual business. Yang Xiao went to buy some horses and hired some carriages. Zhang Wuji bought the ingredients and concocted some drugs. To conceal the taste, he added three types of spices so when it was mixed with the wine, it would produce a sweet smelling fragrance. Wei Yixiao went to the market and bought a big cloth sack. When the sky turned dark he went to the Ruyang Palace and kidnapped the Prince’s concubine.

    Fan Yao and Xuanming Elders, along with other martial art experts, lived nearby the Wan An Temple complex to guard the major sects warriors. Zhao Min still lived at the palace; only on the evenings she wanted to learn martial art did she ride a carriage to go to the temple. Fan Yao took the drug back to the temple with a happy and grateful heart. He remembered how over the last twenty years or so the Ming Cult was in disunity, but today a new hope emerged; his many sufferings over the years were not in vain. Zhang Wuji was not only a martial art expert, but his heart was righteous as well, so others can easily put their trust in him. The only problem was that Zhang Wuji was not cruel and merciless enough; he was somewhat weak and fussy, otherwise he would be a perfect leader.

    Fan Yao lived in the west building, while the Xuanming Elders stayed at the ‘bao xiang jing she’ [the most refined precious fragrance hall] of the rear courtyard. Normally he did not hang around those two elders too much for fear that they might be able to look through his disguise; that was the reason he chose a room far away from them. Now he had to invite He Biweng to drink wine, he did not have any idea how to do it. Casting his glance to the rear courtyard he saw the sun was setting in the sky; already the sun could not reach the lower half of the 13-level pagoda, while the light reflected from the glazed tiles on top of the pagoda were also gradually turning pale. He still did not know what to do. Slowly pacing back and forth along the rear courtyard with his hands behind his back, he suddenly caught a sweet fragrance of meat from the small building opposite the ‘bao xiang jing she’; it was the building where Sun Sanhui and Li Sicui of the Eight Divine Archers lived.

    Fan Yao’s heart was stirred; he walked toward that building, shoved the door open, and the strong meat smell greeted his nostrils. He saw Li Sicui was squatting on the floor, busily fanning the fire in a small brick stove, on which was a big earthenware pot. The fire was blazing hot; the strong smell of meat came out of that pot. Sun Sanhui was setting the bowls and chopsticks on the table. Obviously these two were about to have their dinner.

    They were slightly startled as they saw Ku Toutuo push the door and come in; upon seeing his stern face they groaned inwardly. They had just killed a big yellow dog on the street; cut its limbs and quietly cooked the dog inside their room. Wan An Temple was a Buddhist temple, so cooking meat in the temple was a great trespass. If it was other people they might still get away from it, but Ku Toutuo was a Buddhist monk. If he was angered he might beat them up. Ku Toutuo’s martial art skill was very high, these two people certainly were not his match; moreover, they were the ones who committed the crime, so if they were beaten, they got what they deserved. Thinking of this they were scared; but then they saw him walking to the stove, opened the lid, took a look and drew a deep breath, seemingly to say, ‘Smells good, smells good!’ Suddenly they saw him putting his hand into the pot, seemingly oblivious to the boiling soup, to fish out a slice of dog meat. Opening his mouth wide he put the meat entirely in his mouth; chewing it for a while and swallowed it. Then he licked his lips as if he was tremendously enjoying the meat.

    Sun and Li two people were delighted, they busily said, “Ku Dashi [Reverend Ku], please sit down, please sit down! We didn’t know you like to eat dog meat.”

    But Ku Toutuo did not want to take a seat; he squatted in front of the stove and picked another piece of dog meat and chewed it right there. Sun Sanhui wanted to win his heart, so he presented a bowl of wine to him. Ku Toutuo took the bowl and drank a mouthful, but suddenly he spat it back out to the ground. He waved his left hand in front of his nose, as if he was saying that the wine was of inferior quality and not good to drink; and then he left the room in big strides.

    Sun and Li two people were anxious to see him going out of the room, seemingly angry. But not too long afterwards they saw him back with a big wine gourd in his hand. “Right! Right!” they exclaimed delightfully, “Our wine is a low quality one; Ku Dashi has a good quality wine, nothing can be better than that!” They busily arranged the stool and the bowl, inviting Ku Toutuo to sit on the head of the table; they took a bowl full of dog meat and served it in front of him. Ku Toutuo’s martial art skill was very high; among Zhao Min’s subordinates he could be ranked near the top. Under normal circumstances the Eight Divine Archers would not curry favor with anybody, but today they had an opportunity to invite him eating dog meat, perhaps if his heart was happy he would impart to them one or two special skills, then they would reap the benefit for the rest of their lives.

    Ku Toutuo pulled out the gourd’s cork and poured three bowls full of wine. The wine was golden yellow in color and it was rather thick like diluted honey; as soon as it was poured, a sweet aroma greeted their nostrils. Sun and Li two people cheered, “Good wine! Good wine!”

    Fan Yao silently mused, “I wonder if the Xuanming Elders are home; if they are out and not back yet, then what I am doing right now is useless.” He took the wine bowl and held it above the pot on the stove; while the dog meat was boiling, the steam rose up and warmed up the wine, making the wine aroma stronger.

    Sun and Li two people were drooling over the wine; they were going to drink the wine cold, but Ku Toutuo signaled them not to do that, he told them to warm the wine before drinking it. Three people took turn warming their wine over the boiling soup; the aroma spread out everywhere. If He Biweng was not in the temple complex, then that was the end of it. Otherwise if he was around the courtyard would be impossible for him not to smell the wine and come over. And sure enough, the door of the ‘bao xiang jing she’ across the street opened up and He Biweng was shouting, “Good wine, good wine! Hey, hey!”

    He was not shy; so he crossed the courtyard toward their door, he pushed it open and walked in. He was startled to see Ku Toutuo along with Sun and Li two people gathered around the stove, drinking wine and eat the dog meat, with the soup dripping everywhere. He Biweng laughed and said, “Ku Dashi, I didn’t know you like eating and drinking too; we have the same taste.”

    Sun and Li two people busily stood up and said, “He Gong-gong [grandfather, respectful term toward someone older], quickly drink some wine, this is Ku Dashi’s good wine, not everybody can drink it.”

    He Biweng sat opposite Ku Toutuo, it was as if they were having an eating and drinking competition; Sun and Li two people ended up became their servants, busily serving them meat and pouring them wine. Four people were all in high spirits, they ate and drank for half a day and were 60, 70% drunk. “Now I can make my move,” Fan Yao thought.

    After pouring wine on his own bowl until it was full, he laid the wine gourd horizontally on the table. Turned out his wine gourd’s cork was hollow. He put the powder made by Zhang Wuji inside the cavity and wrapped the cork with two pieces of cloth. When the wine gourd stood upright, the powder did not fall down, so what the four of them drank was ordinary good wine. But once the wine gourd was laid on its side, the wine would wet the cloth and diluted the powder, so now the wine became poisonous. The bottom of the wine gourd was round, so it did not matter whether it was standing upright on lying down on its side; besides, they had been drinking for a good long while, so nobody paid any attention. They were drunk and felt entirely carefree.

    After He Biweng drank the bowl in front of him, Fan Yao pulled the cork and handed the gourd over to him. He Biweng poured a bowlful of wine for himself, and then he also poured some wine in Sun and Li’s bowls. Because Ku Toutuo’s bowl was still full, he did not pour any wine for him. Four people lifted the bowl to their mouth and ‘glug, glug’ they emptied their bowls. Other than Fan Yao, the three of them had drunk the poisoned wine.

    Sun and Li two people’s internal strength was not too deep; once the drug entered their system they immediately felt their limbs weaken and their bodies get sick. In a low voice Sun Sanhui said, “Si di [fourth brother], there is something wrong with my tummy.”

    “I … I … I think I am poisoned,” Li Sicui also said. By this time He Biweng also felt something was wrong; he tried to circulate his internal strength, but failed. His expression changed drastically.

    Fan Yao stood up; his face was full of anger, he grabbed He Biweng’s collar and grunted some ‘Heh, heh’ noise, but did not say anything. Sun Sanhui was scared, “Ku Dashi, what is it?” he said. Fan Yao dipped his finger in the wine and wrote ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ five characters on the table. Sun and Li two people knew that the Xuanming Elders were in charge of this poison, and so it seemed Ku Toutuo and the two of them were being poisoned with this drug. They looked at each other and knelt down in front of He Biweng, “He Gong-gong,” they pleaded, “We two brothers do not dare to offend you, Senior; please don’t punish us too severely.” Both of them thought that He Biweng was trying to attack Ku Toutuo, and they happened to be there, so they suffered as innocent bystanders; if He Biweng meant to harm them, he did not need to use any poison.

    He Biweng was also greatly shocked; this month it was indeed his turn to be in charge of the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’, which he hid inside his left crane-beak pen. This pair of weapons had never left his body even for a single step, so it would be impossible for anybody to steal it without his knowledge. But as luck would have it, he could not exert the least bit of internal energy, so without a doubt he must have been poisoned with the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’. Actually, although the drug Zhang Wuji made was also potent, but it was greatly inferior to the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’; the effect felt by the victim was not the same. But He Biweng only knew that the victim of ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ would lose their ability to exert their internal energy, he had never taken the poison personally; therefore, although the difference was great, he was not able to distinguish between the two.

    He saw Ku Toutuo look flustered and angry, while Sun and Li two people did not stop imploring him to have mercy; his doubt was gone, he said, “Ku Dashi, please don’t be angry; we are brothers here, how could I have an ill intention to harm you? I am also poisoned; I feel weak all over my body. I don’t know who is playing dirty trick on us. It’s really strange.”

    Fan Yao dipped his finger in the wine again and wrote on the table, ‘Quickly give us the antidote.’

    He Biweng nodded and said, “That’s right, we must take the antidote first, then we’ll find and deal with the traitor who played this trick on us. But the antidote is in Lu Shige’s [martial (older) brother] hand. Ku Dashi, please come with me.”

    Fan Yao was secretly delighted; he did not expect Yang Xiao’s plan worked flawlessly, without too much trouble he found out where the antidote was. Holding up his left hand he grabbed He Biweng’s wrist, deliberately making his steps falter. They crossed the courtyard together, walking toward the ‘bao xiang jing she’.

    He Biweng was secretly happy to see Fan Yao staggering, he thought, “This Ku Toutuo’s martial art is supposedly very high, but he has never contended against us, two brothers. Looking at his flustered condition after being poisoned, it seems like his internal strength is way below ours.”

    Two people walked over the hall’s gate. He Biweng’s room was against the south wall, while Lu Zhangke lived in the room against the north wall. The door of the northern room was tightly closed. “Shige,” He Biweng called out, “Are you home?”

    Lu Zhangke answered from inside the room. He Biweng stretched out his hand to push the door open, but it was bolted. “Shige, hurry up and open the door,” he called out, “This is important.”

    “What’s so important?” Lu Zhangke asked, “I am busy training my martial art. Can you not disturb me?”

    He Biweng and Lu Zhangke’s martial arts came from the same school, their skill levels were almost equal. But first of all Lu Zhangke entered their school earlier, secondly he was smarter, hence He Biweng had always been respectful to him. Hearing his annoyed tone, He Biweng did not dare to call again.

    Fan Yao, on the other hand, could not wait any longer; if the drug’s effect disappeared, his scheme would be exposed. Therefore, disregarding everything he pushed the door with his right shoulder, breaking the bolt and the door flew open. A shrill cry of female voice was heard. Lu Zhangke was standing in front of the bed; hearing the sound of the broken door he turned his head immediately. His expression was that of startling and embarrassment. Fan Yao saw lying on the bed was a woman, her body was wrapped inside a sheet of blanket, her head was the only part exposed, the blanket was tied up with a string of rope, just like a bedding roll. The woman’s long hair spread outside the blanket, her face was white and beautiful. Fan Yao recognized her as the Ruyang Prince’s new beloved concubine, Han Shi [lit. a maiden with surname of Han]; he said in his heart, “Wei Fuwang [Bat King Wei] is really good. He managed to enter the palace alone to kidnap Concubine Han and bring her over here.”

    Actually, although the Ruyang Palace was tightly guarded, but the warriors only concentrated on guarding the Prince, the Crown Prince and the Princess [original: Wangye (lit. master king), Shi zi (a royal son), and Jun zhu (princess)] three people; nobody had ever thought of someone kidnapping one of the numerous concubines around the palace. Besides, Wei Yi Xiao moved like lightning, he was quick and agile exceptionally; as soon as he entered the Palace he stealthily kidnapped Concubine Han and brought her out. It was actually a lot more difficult for him to enter Lu Zhangke’s room. He waited for half a day before finally Lu Zhangke left his room to go to the bathroom. Like a ghost he sneaked in and put Concubine Han on the bed, and just as quick he left the room.

    When Lu Zhangke returned he saw a woman was lying on his bed. He jumped out his room immediately; looking to four directions he did not see anybody, Wei Yixiao was already far away, other than some noise of eating and drinking from Sun and Li two people’s room, he saw nothing unusual. Lu Zhangke felt strange, but maintaining his composure he returned to his room. When he looked at the woman, he was dumbstruck. That day when the Prince took a new concubine and invited his top-tier warriors for an informal dinner in his palace, Concubine Han served the wine. She was graceful and full of smiles. Although Lu Zhangke was not young anymore, he was unable to restrain his soul to be stolen by her. He was a lecherous man and all his life he had devastated countless women of respectable families. That day when he saw Concubine Han’s beauty he sighed and regretted that he did not meet this kind of beautiful woman earlier. If he had seen her before she was taken by the Prince, he was certain she would not escape from his hand. He had oftentimes remembered her for many days to come; but afterwards he found a new lover and Concubine Han slowly faded from his memory.

    To his complete surprise right at this moment Concubine Han was on his bed, as if she was dropped from heaven. He was pleasantly surprised. Thinking for a moment he guessed it must be his oldest disciple Wuwang Apu who knew his deepest desire and had secretly took Concubine Han away for him.

    Lu Zhangke saw she was wrapped inside a blanket, the exposed skin of her neck was as white as snow. Faintly he could see her obviously naked shoulder, as if she was not wearing any clothes inside the blanket; his heart was thumping wildly with excitement. He quietly asked her how she came to this place; but after asking her several times, Concubine Han still did not give him any answer. Finally Lu Zhangke guessed her acupoint must be sealed. He was about to reach out and unseal her acupoint when He Biweng and the others arrived at his door and then Ku Toutuo shoved the door open. It was an unexpected change and Lu Zhangke was in an extremely awkward situation. He meant to cover her up, but it was already too late. Now he thought that perhaps the Prince had discovered that his concubine was kidnapped and sent Ku Toutuo to arrest him. Things had come thus far, he had no choice but trying to escape. ‘Shua!’ his right hand unsheathed his deer antler staff, while his left hand grabbed Concubine Han with the intention of rushing out through the window.

    “Shige,” He Biweng was startled, “Quickly give me the antidote.”

    “What?” Lu Zhangke asked.

    He Biweng answered, “I don’t now how, but Xiao Di [little brother] and Ku Dashi are poisoned with the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’.”

    “What did you say?” Lu Zhangke asked again, and He Biweng repeated what he said. “Isn’t the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ in your hand?” Lu Zhangke was confused.

    “Xiao Di is also baffled,” He Biweng said, “We, four people, were merrily eating and drinking, and suddenly we were all poisoned. Lu Shige, quickly take the antidote and give it to us.”

    Listening to this part Lu Zhangke’s fear subsided. He returned Concubine Han to the bed, making sure that her head was facing inside. He Biweng knew his martial brother’s lecherous nature, so seeing a woman inside his room was not surprising at all. Moreover, He Biweng was so frightened of being poisoned that he did not pay any attention to what the woman looked like. Besides, he would not recognize her anyway. That day during the banquet at the Palace, when Concubine Han came out to serve the wine, she retreated right after greeting the guests. He Biweng only had his eyes on the wine; why would he care if that woman wearing pearl bracelet and jade necklace was beautiful or ugly?

    Lu Zhangke said, “Ku Dashi, please come in and take a rest with He Xiong Di [brother He] here, I’ll go to get the antidote.” While speaking, he gently pushed them to lead them inside. Because of this, He Biweng faltered and nearly fell down. Fan Yao also staggered, pretending that his internal strength was gone. But his internal strength was actually very deep, so as soon as there was an external force, his internal strength reacted naturally. As Lu Zhangke pushed, he immediately knew his Shidi [martial (younger) brother] really lost his internal strength, while Ku Toutuo was only pretending.

    Lu Zhangke was afraid he was mistaken, so he pushed them one more time. He Biweng and Ku Toutuo fell back together outside, but Lu Zhangke felt while one was devoid of strength, the other was stable and solid. Lu Zhangke maintained his composure; he smiled and said, “Ku Dashi, I am sorry.” While saying that he held out his hand as if he was going to help Ku Toutuo stand up, but actually he was going to grab the ‘hui zong’ [gathering ancestor] and ‘wai guan’ [outside passage] acupoints on Ku Toutuo’s wrist.

    Fan Yao understood his intention and knew that his scheme was exposed. With a wave of his left hand he heavily hit the ‘hun men xue’ [soul gate acupoint] on He Biweng’s back, rendering him paralyzed for the next three quarters of an hour. Fan Yao understood that he had to fight a martial art master; but he was not afraid of Lu Zhangke if it was a one-to-one fight. “Hey, hey,” he sneered and said, “Are you bored of your life? How dare you kidnap wangye’s beloved concubine?”

    As he opened his mouth to speak, the Xuanming Elders were shocked. They had known Ku Toutuo for fifteen, sixteen years, yet they had never heard him say even a single word. For all they know, Ku Toutuo was mute since his birth. Although Lu Zhangke knew Ku Toutuo did not have good intentions towards him, he had never suspected this man to be able to speak. Come to think about it, Ku Toutuo had deliberately planned this deception, then without a doubt he meant to place Lu Zhangke in a more dangerous situation. He immediately said, “Turned out Ku Dashi is not mute at all. You have been concealing the truth for more than a dozen years; what is your intention?”

    Fan Yao said, “Wangye knew your heart is not right, he ordered me to pretend to be mute and stay near you to keep watch over you.” There were actually many flaws in his argument, but the fact was Concubine Han was on Lu Zhangke’s bed, so even if he did not have any ill intention, it was hard for Lu Zhangke not to believe. Besides, he knew very well how the Ruyang Prince treated the masters under his command.

    As Fan Yao said those words, Lu Zhangke felt his knees weakened. “Wangye ordered you to arrest me?” he said, “Hey, hey, although you are the Ku Dashi, master of martial art, you might not necessarily able to capture me, Lu Zhangke.” While saying that he raised his deer staff, ready to fight.

    Fan Yao laughed a little bit and said, “Mr. Lu, although Ku Toutuo’s martial art skill is not superior to yours, but the difference is not much. If you want to defeat me, I am afraid you won’t accomplish that within one or two thousand moves. It’s not difficult for you to have three moves or two stances advantage over me, but if you are thinking of taking Concubine Han along and saving your martial brother, I don’t think you, Lu Zhangke, have this kind of ability.”

    Lu Zhangke shot a look at his martial brother; he knew Ku Toutuo was not speaking an empty threat. His martial brother and he had been studying martial art together since their childhood all the way until they were both old, they had never been separated for even a day. Both did not have wife or children, all they had was each other; hence it would be very hard for him to escape alone and abandon his martial brother.

    Fan Yao understood his heart was moved, he called out to Sun and Li two people, telling them to enter the room and then he said, “Mr. Lu, nobody knew about this matter yet. Ku Toutuo is willing to protect you.”

    Lu Zhangke was surprised; “Protect me?” he asked, “How?”

    Without answering Fan Yao turned around and sealed Sun and Li two people’s mute and paralyze acupoints; his movement was swift and accurate, forcing Lu Zhangke to silently sigh in admiration. Ku Toutuo said, “Certainly you won’t tell anybody yourself, your Shidi won’t intentionally make things difficult for you. Ku Toutuo was mute, and he will stay mute, can’t speak a word. About these two brothers, Ku Toutuo can seal their death acupoints to close their mouths for good. I don’t think that’s a problem.”

    Sun and Li two people were greatly shocked; they both thought that they had nothing to do with this matter, they were just having fun eating dog meat and drinking wine, yet it led them to this kind of big disaster. They wanted to implore, asking for mercy, but unfortunately they could not open their mouths.

    Fan Yao pointed his finger to Concubine Han, “As for this concubine, the Old Monk has two ideas: the first is we wash our hands clean; take her along with Sun and Li two people to a deserted place and kill them with a blade. We’ll report to Wangye that she and Li Sicui, this handsome little thief, are having an affair and are running away together. Ku Toutuo found out about them and in his anger he killed both of them on the spot. We can spare Sun Sanhui’s life. The second idea is you take her away and hide her well. Whether later this matter leaks out or not, it will depend on your own ability.”

    Lu Zhangke could not help from turning his head to look at Concubine Han; he saw on her eyes she was pleading him to take the second idea. Seeing her natural beauty Lu Zhangke felt that it would be a great pity if she were to be killed by a sword; his heart was greatly moved. “Thank you so much for standing up for me,” he said, “But since you are so thoughtful, there must be something you want from me. What is it?” He knew perfectly well Ku Toutuo would not help him without any compensation.

    “It is an extremely easy matter,” Fan Yao replied, “I have a deep friendship with the Sect Leader of Emei Sect Miejue Shitai. That young miss surnamed Zhou is the result of my relationship with that old nun. I am asking you to give me the antidote so that I can rescue these two people. I will take full responsibility in front of Junzhu. If in anyway I implicate you, let the family of Ku Toutuo and the Old Nun Miejue, the males become thieves and the females become prostitutes, let us die a violent death without any opportunity to reincarnate forever.”

    He thought that because of Lu Zhangke’s romatic nature, it would be easier to win his heart if Fan Yao raised the affair between a man and a woman. He also recalled Yang Xiao’s story about how many of his fellow Ming Cult brethrens had died under Miejue Shitai’s sword; hence he fabricated a fake story about a monk and a nun secret relationship. He was a heretical man to begin with, so his speech and conduct were not those of a gentleman. He did not mean it with his heart when he made a heavy oath of ‘the males become thieves and the females become prostitutes’ kind of punishment.

    As Lu Zhangke listened, he broke into smile, as he thought that this old Toutuo was no different than he was; in order to save his old lover and his daughter he was willing to ask favor from other people. Although it was a risky venture , it was all worth it for the sake of a beautiful woman. As Ku Toutuo asked him a favor, Lu Zhangke felt relieved. He laughed and said, “So then kidnapping Wangye’s beloved concubine and brought her here is also Ku Dashi’s handiwork?”

    Fan Yao replied, “This is an important matter, how can I request with an empty hand? Consider it my payment.”

    Lu Zhangke was delighted, only he was afraid there was somebody outside, so he did not dare to laugh out loud. But suddenly he remembered something, “Then how could my Shidi got poisoned with the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’? Where did it come from?” he asked.

    “Isn’t that easy?” Fan Yao replied, “The poison is in your Shidi’s hand, and he is a drunkard. Once he drank a lot of wine, can’t Ku Toutuo steal it from him?”

    “Very well!” all Lu Zhangke’s doubts were gone, he said, “Ku Dashi, let Xiongdi [brother] become friends with you. I will not sell you, I hope you won’t play such a dirty trick on me again.”

    Fan Yao pointed at Concubine Han and smiled, “Next time if you have a dirty trick as beautiful as this, I am asking Mr. Lu to set up a trap, let Ku Toutuo enter it. The Old Monk will happily fall into it.”

    Two people laughed together, but each one actually had his own thought. Lu Zhangke secretly calculated how to kill this evil Toutuo after this current trouble had passed. Fan Yao knew that although Lu Zhangke submitted to his wish right now, but what kind of people were the Xuanming Elders that they were willing to let this kind of defeat go unavenged? As soon as Lu Zhangke hid Concubine Han and unsealed He Biweng’s acupoint, he would look for him to settle the debt. But at that time the masters of the six major sects would had been rescued and Fan Yao would shake the dust from his buttocks and walked away.

    Seeing Lu Zhangke was slow in taking out the antidote, Fan Yao thought that if he urged, then Lu Zhangke might deliberately make things difficult, so he sat down and said with a laugh, “Why don’t Lu Xiong unseal Concubine Han’s acupoint? Then we all can drink several cups together. Looking at beautiful face under the bright lamp light is a rare lucky occasion that you won’t necessarily experience it once in a lifetime.”

    Lu Zhangke knew that there were a lot of people in the Wan An Temple complex; the longer Concubine Han stayed in his room, the more dangerous their situation would be. Therefore, immediately he took the deer antler staff and turned one of the antlers open. He took a cup and pour some powder into it while saying, “Ku Dashi, Xiongdi concede defeat to your divine strategy; please take this antidote.”

    Fan Yao shook his head, “Such a little antidote, what can I do with that?”

    Lu Zhangke said, “Not to mention two people, this powder is enough to rescue six, seven people.”

    “Don’t be stingy,” Fan Yao said, “What harm is it in giving me some more? To be brutally honest, you are so crafty that Ku Toutuo is afraid of your scheming.”

    Seeing him wanted more of the antidote, Lu Zhangke suddenly stood up and said, “Ku Dashi, could it be that the people you want to rescue is not Miejue Shitai and your beloved daughter?”

    Fan Yao was about to make some excuse when suddenly they heard footsteps on the courtyard; about seven, eight people rushed in. One of them was heard saying, “The footprints stop here. Could it be that Concubine Han is in the Wan An Temple area?”

    Lu Zhangke’s expression changed; he pulled the cup back into his bosom, out of Ku Toutuo’s reach. He thought that Ku Toutuo had prepared an ambush; as soon as he took the antidote, he would make his move. Fan Yao waved his hand, telling him not to panic, then he took a blanket and covered up Concubine Han, including her head; he also pulled down the bed curtain.

    “Mr. Lu, are you home?” one of the men on the courtyard called out. Fan Yao pointed to his own mouth, reminding Lu Zhangke that he was a mute, telling him to answer.

    “What is it?” Lu Zhangke said in loud voice.

    “One of the concubines from the palace is kidnapped,” that man replied, “We trace the bandit’s footprints and looks like he came to Wan An Temple.”

    Lu Zhangke shot an angry look toward Fan Yao; his meaning was clear: ‘If you are not intentionally framing me, with your kind of skill, how could you leave a trail behind?’

    Fan Yao grinned widely and smiled. He made some hand signals, telling him to send these men away; while in his heart he thought, “Wei Fuwang truly went all the way; he directed the track from the palace to this place.”

    Lu Zhangke coldly laughed and said, “You don’t scatter and look around, but making disturbance here. What do you want?” Because of his high level of martial art skill, everybody was scared of him. That man answered indistinctly and did not dare to say anything else. He ordered his men to disperse and search the temple.

    Lu Zhangke knew that with people all around the Wan An Temple searching for Concubine Han, to actually take Concubine Han out of the temple and bring her someplace else would not be easy even though they would not dare to search his room. He frowned and stared angrily at Ku Toutuo.

    Suddenly Fan Yao got an idea, in a low voice he said, “Lu Xiong, there is a place within the Wan An Temple which can be used as a good hiding place for your beloved. We’ll wait for half a day then we’ll take her out; I don’t think that will be too late.”

    Lu Zhangke angrily replied, “The safest place is in your own room.”

    Fan Yao smiled and said, “With this kind of beautiful woman hiding in my room, the Old Toutuo’s heart might be moved. Are you sure Lu Xiong won’t be jealous?”

    “Then what kind of place were you talking about?” Lu Zhangke asked.

    Fan Yao pointed his finger toward the peak of the pagoda outside the window while showing a faint smile.

    Lu Zhangke was smart; he understood immediately. Raising his thumb he praised, “Good idea!”

    The pagoda was used as a prison for the martial art masters of the six major sects; it was under Lu Zhangke’s first disciple Wuwang Apu’s custody. Other people or other places could be under suspicion, but nobody would suspect the Prince’s concubine was hidden in the most heavily guarded place of all: the prison.

    “Right now there is nobody on the courtyard,” Fan Yao said, “We must not tarry. Let’s move.” Raising the four corner of the blanket he wrapped Concubine Han inside, making it looked like a big bundle. With his right hand he lifted it up and gave it to Lu Zhangke.

    Lu Zhangke, however, thought that he was being swindled; he thought that as soon as he carried Concubine Han on his shoulder, Ku Toutuo would make a racket announcing it to everybody, then Lu Zhangke would be caught red-handed with the kidnapped person in his hand, at that time he would not be able to say anything. Having this thought his expression changed and he did not hold out his hand to receive the bundle.

    Fan Yao understood his thought, he said, “Mustn’t help someone half way. Sending off Buddha must send him off to Heaven. What harm is it in letting Ku Toutuo protecting you again? Who told me to ask a favor from you?” While saying that he carried the bundle on his back, pushed the door to go out and in a low voice said, “You walk ahead. If anybody stops us to inquire, just kill them.”

    Walking sideways Lu Zhangke went out the door; he still did not want to let Ku Toutuo walking behind him for fear of any sneak attack. Fan Yao reached back to close the door, then with Concubine Han on his back he walked toward the pagoda.

    It was already late eleventh hour (between 7 – 9 pm); other than the pagoda guards, there was nobody else walking around the Temple. As the guards saw Lu Zhangke and Fan Yao they bowed to salute and respectfully moved aside to let them pass. As they arrived in front of the pagoda, someone had already informed Wuwang Apu, so that he was waiting on the door. “Shifu,” he said, “I wish you, Senior, well. Are you going to take a walk in the pagoda?”

    Lu Zhangke nodded his head; along with Fan Yao he was about to step into the pagoda when suddenly from the moon gate on the east side of the pagoda someone stepped out, it was none other than Zhao Min. Because he was guilty, Lu Zhangke was really shocked. He thought Zhao Min was personally leading her warriors to arrest him. He had no alternative but summon his courage and he stepped forward to pay his respect along with Ku Toutuo and Wuwang Apu.

    The previous night Zhang Wuji made such a disturbance and Zhao Min did not know only three people from the Ming Cult came over. She feared they were dispatching a large scale raid; therefore, she personally came to the pagoda on an inspection tour. Seeing Fan Yao, she smiled slightly and said, “Ku Dashi, I was looking for you.” Fan Yao nodded, maintaining his composure. Zhao Min continued, “I want you to accompany me going to a certain place.”

    Fan Yao was inwardly groaning, “With great difficulty I lured Lu Zhangke into the pagoda; all I have to do is snatching the antidote and then this great endeavor will be brought into its successful completion. Who would have thought that this little girl pick this exact same time to look for me?” Frantically he tried to find an excuse, but could not come up with any good explanation; besides, he was a mute, so he was not supposed to say anything. Suddenly he had an idea, “I’ll let Lu Zhangke think of something.” Immediately he pointed toward the bundle on his back and shoved it toward Lu Zhangke. Lu Zhangke was taken aback; he inwardly scolded Ku Toutuo as being very malicious.

    “Mister Lu,” Zhao Min asked, “What is inside Ku Dashi’s bundle?”

    “Uh … uh … It’s Ku Dashi’s bedding,” Lu Zhangke stammered.

    “Bedding?” Zhao Min was surprised, “Why is Ku Dashi bringing his bedding along?” she asked. She chuckled and said, “Ku Dashi thinks I am too dumb that he is not willing to take me as his disciple; and now he has to carry his own bedding?”

    Fan Yao shook his head; his right hand moved around as if he was making some hand signals, while in his heart he was thinking, “Let Lu Zhangke fabricates all kind of lies. I am a mute, I might as well take advantage of it.”

    Zhao Min could not understand his hand signals, so she turned her gaze toward Lu Zhangke, waiting for him to explain. Lu Zhangke’s quick mind got a sudden inspiration, he said, “It’s like this: last night some sorcerers [Translator’s note: the literal translation is ‘devil head’] from the Devil Cult came and made some disturbance. Subordinate is afraid they might not give up easily. This … this … this is not confirmed yet, but they might come to the pagoda to rescue these people. For this reason Subordinate two martial brothers, along with Ku Dashi, decided to personally guard the pagoda so Junzhu’s major plan will not be disturbed. This bedding is Ku Dashi’s cotton quilt.”

    Zhao Min was very pleased; she smiled and said, “Actually I was going to ask Mr. Lu and Mr. He to personally guard the prisoners, but I was afraid I might be condescending toward people of your position, so I was uncomfortable in asking you. Now that the three of you are concerned about me, I couldn’t ask any better. With Mr. Lu and Mr. He guarding in here, I am sure those ‘devil head’ won’t be able to do anything; so I don’t need to go up the pagoda to take a look. Ku Dashi, please come with me.” While saying that she held out her hand to pull Fan Yao’s hand.

    Fan Yao had no choice; he thought that even if he exposed Lu Zhangke right now, first, it would not do him any good, second, Concubine Han was obviously on his own back. He might not necessarily able to convince Zhao Min. Hence he handed over the big bundle to Lu Zhangke.

    Lu Zhangke held out his hands to receive the bundle and said, “Ku Dashi, I will be waiting for you on this pagoda.”

    “Shifu,” Wuwang Apu said, “Let disciple carry the bedding.”

    “No need,” Lu Zhangke laughed, “This is Ku Dashi’s belonging, I want to win his heart, so I must carry this bedding myself.”

    Fan Yao grinned widely, he stretched out his hand to slap the bundle, right on Concubine Han’s buttocks. Luckily her mute acupoint was sealed; otherwise she would cry out in shock. But Lu Zhangke was scared out of his wits; his countenance paled. Without delay he bowed toward Zhao Min and carrying Concubine Han on his back he hurriedly entered the pagoda. His mind had already cooked up a plan; as soon as he entered the pagoda, he would wrap a cotton quilt inside the blanket. If Ku Toutuo told Zhao Min about him, he would deny any knowledge of Concubine Han.

    End of Chapter 26.

  8. #28
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    Default Chapter 27 – Soaring Down from a Hundred-foot Pagoda

    Chapter 27 – Soaring Down from a Hundred-foot Pagoda
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    Following Zhao Min, Fan Yao went out of the Wan An Temple complex. He was both anxious and feeling strange; did not know where Zhao Min would take him. Zhao Min pulled her cloak over her head, covering her beautiful hair. “Ku Dashi,” she quietly said, “We are going to look for that guy Zhang Wuji.”

    Fan Yao was startled; he cast a sidelong glance to her but she averted his gaze. Her cheeks blushed; as if she was 70% shy and 30% happy. She did not look like she already knew about him. His heart was relieved. He recalled the situation of the previous night, when she met Zhang Wuji in the Wan An Temple; where they were facing each other as archenemies. As soon as the word ‘archenemies’ came into his mind, his heart was stirred. “Enemy?” he thought, “Could it be that Junzhu [Princess] fell in love secretly with my Jiaozhu [Cult Leader]?” But then another thought came into his mind, “Why does she want me to go with her? Why didn’t she take her trusted subordinates, the Xuanming Elders? Ah, right! It must be because I am mute, so I won’t leak her secret.” Having this thought he nodded his head, with a strange-looking smile on his face.

    “What are you laughing at?” Zhao Min angrily asked.

    Of course Fan Yao could not tell her what he thought was funny; thereupon he busily gesticulated, telling her that Ku Toutuo would do his best to protect the Princess, that he would accompany the Princess even going to the dragon’s pool or tiger’s cave. Zhao Min did not speak anymore; she quietly led the way, and very soon they had arrived at the gate of the inn where Zhang Wuji stayed.

    Fan Yao was secretly surprised, “Junzhu is really resourceful, she knew exactly where Jiaozhu stays,” he thought, while following her entering the inn.

    Zhao Min asked the innkeeper, “We are looking for a guest by the surname of Zeng.” Turned out when he checked into the inn Zhang Wuji was using his fake name, Zeng Aniu. The innkeeper went inside to inform the guest.

    Zhang Wuji was sitting in meditation, circulating his internal energy, waiting for the fire signal at the Wan An Temple to render his assistance; when suddenly he heard someone was looking for him. He felt strange, but he went out anyway. Arriving at the reception room he saw the visitors were Zhao Min and Fan Yao. “Not good!” he silently groaned, “Looks like Miss Zhao has exposed Fan Youshi’s identity and now she is here to deal with me.” He had no choice but step forward and cup his fists, “I didn’t know Miss Zhao was here; please forgive me for not welcoming you,” he said.

    Zhao Min said, “It’s not convenient to talk in here. What do you say we go to the small restaurant over there and have three cups of wine?”

    “Very well,” Zhang Wuji did not have any choice but to agree.

    Zhao Min was still leading the way; she was the first to leave the inn. They walked past five shops before they finally arrived at a small restaurant. There were several tables made of rough wood planks scattered sparsely inside the restaurant, with wooden tubes of chopsticks on the tables. It was already late in the evening; there was no other guest inside the restaurant. Zhao Min and Zhang Wuji sat facing each other. Fan Yao made some hand signals, saying that he was going to drink some wine on the outer hall. Zhao Min nodded her head; she called the waiter and ordered a bowl of hot pot with three catties of fresh mutton, plus two catties of white wine.

    Zhang Wuji’s heart was full of suspicions; he thought she was a princess, yet she went to this dirty little restaurant to eat mutton soup with him. He wondered what kind of trick she was playing.

    Zhao Min poured out two cups of wine. She took the cup in front of Zhang Wuji; drank it a little and said with a smile, “There is no poison in this wine; set your heart at peace and have a drink.”

    Zhang Wuji said, “Miss invites me here, I wonder what instructions do you have for me?”

    “Please drink three cups, then we’ll talk,” Zhao Min replied, “I’ll dry my cup first to honor you.” She raised her cup and drank it dry.

    Zhang Wuji also raised his cup. Under the light from the coal of the hot pot stove he faintly saw lipstick mark on the edge of the cup, while his nose caught a soft and sweet smelling fragrance. He did not know whether the fragrance came from the lipstick mark on his cup, or it was the perfume she was wearing. With a shaken heart he drank the wine.

    “Please drink two more cups,” Zhao Min said, “I know you are suspicious toward me, so I’ll drink each cup first.”

    Zhang Wuji knew she was very shrewd; he certainly must set up his guard. Although she was unexpectedly willing to taste the wine in advance, he would still be braving a great danger. In the end he drank three cups anyway. He tried to feel if there was anything unusual, but he could not find any. Raising his head he saw a faint smile on her graceful face, the wine had made her cheeks blush a little bit; truly it was a tender and extremely beautiful face. Zhang Wuji did not dare to look at her too long, hastily he turned his gaze somewhere else.

    In a low voice Zhao Min said, “Zhang Gongzi [young master, a respectful term to address a young man], do you know who I am?” Zhang Wuji shook his head. Zhao Min said, “Let me tell you today. My father holds authority over the imperial armed force, the Ruyang Prince. I am a Mongolian girl, my real name is Minmin Temur. The Emperor granted me the title of Shao Min Junzhu. ‘Zhao Min’ two characters, is the name I chose to be my Han name.”

    If Fan Yao did not tell him that morning, Zhang Wuji would have been shocked; but listening to her revealing her true identity without concealing anything was also beyond his expectations. Only he was not used to pretend, so he did not show an expression of great surprise.

    “What?” Zhao Min was surprised, “So you have already found out?”

    “No, I haven’t. How can I?” Zhang Wuji replied, “But I know that you are but a young girl yet you command that many Wulin masters, your position must be unusual.”

    Zhao Min gently stroked the wine cup in her hand. She was silent for half a day. Lifting up the wine pot she poured two cups of wine and then slowly said, “Zhang Gongzi, I have a question I would like to ask you. Please answer me truthfully. If I killed that Miss Zhou of yours, what would you do?”

    Zhang Wuji was startled. “Miss Zhou has never offended you; how could you kill her for no reason at all?” he asked.

    “There are some people I don’t like, so I have them killed. Do you think I only kill those who offended me?” Zhao Min replied, “Some people continuously offend me, yet I did not kill them. Take you, for example, how many times have you offended me?” While saying this, her eyes were smiling.

    Zhang Wuji heaved a deep sigh and said, “Miss Zhao, I offended you because I did not have any other choice. You have given me the medicine I need to save my San Shibo [third martial (older) uncle] and Liu Shishu [sixth martial (younger) uncle]; for that I will be eternally grateful.”

    Zhao Min laughed and said, “I think a third part of you is muddleheaded. Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting received their injuries from my subordinates. You did not blame me, but thank me instead?”

    Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “My San Shibo was injured twenty years ago; at that time you haven’t been born yet.”

    “Those people are my father’s subordinates; therefore, they are also my subordinates. So what’s the difference?” Zhao Min asked, “Anyway, don’t divert the subject, I asked you: If I killed your Miss Zhou, what would you do? Would you kill me to avenge her?”

    Zhang Wuji was silent for half a day before answering, “I don’t know.”

    “What do you mean you don’t know?” Zhao Min pressed, “You just don’t want to say it, do you?”

    Zhang Wuji said, “My father and mother were forced to their death by some people. They are from Shaolin Pai, Huashan Pai, Kongtong Pai [‘pai’ = Sect] and the others. When I got older my reasoning also grew; but the more I think, the more I don’t understand: Who was my parents’ real killer? I should say it was not Kong Zhi Dashi [Reverend Kong Zhi], Tie Qin Xiansheng [Mister Iron Qin], those people; I can’t even say it was my (maternal) grandfather or my uncle; so much so that I can’t say it was your subordinates, Ah Er, Ah San, the Xuanming Elders, and so on. All I can say is that it was fate; I have thought it over yet I could not come to the clear truth. Let’s just say that those people were the killers; then I would kill them all one by one. What do I gain? My father and mother would not come back to life. Miss Zhao, these past several days I have been thinking: If everybody does not kill somebody else, live in harmony with each other, love each other as friends, won’t that be good? I don’t want to seek revenge by killing someone; I also hope others would not kill and harm other people.”

    He had had this thought for a long time, only he had not told Yang Xiao, he had not told Zhang Sanfeng, he had not told Yin Liting, yet suddenly in this small restaurant he told it to Zhao Min. Once it came out of his mouth, suddenly he felt weird.

    Listening to him pouring out his heart Zhao Min paused to ponder, and then she said, “You are very kind-hearted. I can’t do that. If someone killed my father or my brother, not only I would kill him and his whole family, I would also kill his relatives, his friends, everybody who is related to him. I will wipe them clean.”

    “Then surely I must stop you,” Zhang Wuji said.

    “Why?” Zhao Min asked, “Are you going to side with my enemy?”

    “You kill one person, you will add one guilt to your life,” Zhang Wuji said, “To the person you killed, after he died he won’t know anything, so that was that. But how about his parents, his children, his brothers or sisters, his wife; won’t they feel unbearable grief? When you recall what you did in the future, your conscience will not be peaceful. My ‘yi fu’ [godfather] has killed many people. Although he has never said anything, I know he feels deep regrets in his heart.”

    Zhao Min did not say anything; she quietly pondered over what he said. Zhang Wuji asked, “Have you killed anybody?”

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “I have not. But when I am older, I will kill a lot of people. My ancestor is Genghis Khan the Great Emperor, Tuolei, Badou, Xuliewu, Khubilai, those heroes. I regret that I was born female. If I were a man, hey, hey, I would certainly accomplish great undertakings.” She poured out one more cup of wine, drank it, and said, “You have not answered my question.”

    “If you killed Miss Zhou, or anybody related to my subordinates, then I will no longer consider you as my friend; I will never see you again, nor will I speak to you,” Zhang Wuji said.

    Zhao Min laughed, “Then do you currently consider me as your friend?” she asked.

    “If I hated you in my heart, then I would not sit together and drink some wine with you,” Zhang Wuji said, “Ah! It is so difficult for me to hate anybody. All my life the person I hated most was that ‘hun yuan pi li zhang’ [Lightning Palms of the Originating Formation] Cheng Kun. [Translator’s note: previously it was ‘shou’ (hand) instead of ‘zhang’ (palm); perhaps Jin Yong ‘forgot’?] Yet now that he died, I feel sorry for him. I actually wish he did not die.”

    “If I die tomorrow, what would you think?” Zhao Min asked, “I bet you will say: Thank the Heaven and thank the Earth, my wicked and fiendish enemy has died; from this time on I will be spared of many troubles.”

    “No, no!” Zhang Wuji loudly said, “I am not looking forward to your dying; not in the least bit. Wei Fuwang [Bat King Wei] has scared you by threatening to cut your face several times. Later on when I think about it I am very anxious.”

    With a captivating smile Zhao Min blushed and lowered her head.

    “Miss Zhao,” Zhang Wuji said, “Please don’t make things difficult for us. Why don’t you release the six major sects’ masters; then we all can live happily as friends, won’t that be good?”

    “Very good,” Zhao Min delightfully said, “That’s what I was hoping for. You are the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, your words carry a lot of weight. Go and talk to them, tell them to surrender to the royal government. Wait till my father becomes the Emperor, then he will grant rewards to everybody.”

    Zhang Wuji slowly shook his head, “Our Han people all have a wish: to drive you, Mongolians, from invading our land,” he said.

    Zhao Min abruptly stood up and said, “What? You dare to say such preposterous thing, defying your superior? Don’t you realize you are blatantly rebelling against the government?”

    Zhang Wuji replied, “I am a rebel. Don’t tell me you realized it just now?”

    Zhao Min fixed her gaze at him for a long time; the anger and shock on her face slowly dissipated, turning into tenderness and despair. Finally she sat back down and said, “I have already known for a long time, but I want to hear it from your own mouth before I can believe it was absolutely true. You are really beyond any help.” These words were spoken with intense bitter feeling.

    Zhang Wuji’s heart was soft to begin with; this time he could not bear to hear her grieving even more, he almost blurted, “I will listen and obey you.” But this thought disappeared in a flash; he tried to control his mind, but could not find some comforting words.

    Two people sat facing each other silently for a long time. Finally Zhang Wuji said, “Miss Zhao, it is late, let me walk you home.”

    “You don’t want to accompany me much longer, do you?” Zhao Min asked.

    “No!” Zhang Wuji frantically said, “If you want to sit here, drinking and talking, then I’ll accompany you.”

    Zhao Min smiled slightly, then slowly said, “Sometimes I am thinking: if I am not a Mongolian girl, also not a Junzhu, but a common Han girl just like Miss Zhou, then perhaps you will treat me a lot better. Zhang Gongzi, what do you say: am I prettier, or Miss Zhou is prettier?”

    Zhang Wuji had never expected this kind of question to ever come out of her mouth; but he remembered that after all, barbarian women were frank and did not guard their speech too much. Under the lamp light he saw her to be sweet and extremely pretty; he could not help but blurted, “Of course you are prettier.”

    Zhao Min reached out with her right hand to hold the back of Zhang Wuji’s hand, her eyes showed happiness. “Zhang Gongzi,” she said, “Would you like to see me often? If I invite you from time to time to come over here and have a drink, would you come?”

    As his hand was being touched by her soft and tender palm, Zhang Wuji’s heart was thumping madly. Calming his heart down he said, “I can’t stay here for too long. In a few days I am going to the south.”

    “What do you do in the south?” Zhao Min asked.

    Zhang Wuji sighed and said, “Even if I don’t tell you, you will be able to guess; if I do, I’ll make you angry …”

    Zhao Min averted her gaze toward the round moon outside the window; she suddenly said, “You have made a promise to do three things for me. Have you forgotten your promise?”

    “Of course I haven’t forgotten,” Zhang Wuji said, “As soon as Miss tells me, I will do my utmost to fulfill it.”

    Zhao Min turned her head back, looking straight at his face. She said, “Only now do I have my first request. I want you to accompany me to get that Tulong [Slaughtering Dragon] Saber.”

    Zhang Wuji had already guessed that her three requests would not be easy to do; but never in his life would he guess that the first request was already a very difficult matter to do. Zhao Min saw his distress look and said, “What? You are not willing? This request certainly does not violate the way of the chivalry; it is also not something you are unable to accomplish.”

    Zhang Wuji thought, “The Tulong Saber is in the hand of my Yifu; this fact is well-known in Jianghu [river and lake – martial art world], I don’t have to hide the truth from her.” Thereupon he said, “The Tulong Saber belongs to my Yifu, ‘Jin Mao Shi Wang’ [Golden Mane Lion King], Xie Daxia [Great Hero Xie]. How can I betray my Yifu by taking his saber and give it to you?”

    Zhao Min said, “I do not meant for you to steal or snatch or take it by deceit; I also do not want to own this saber. All I want is for you to tell me your Yifu’s whereabouts, so I can borrow it and play with it for a couple of hours, and then I will return it to him right away. You are Yifu-yizi [foster-father, foster son]; don’t tell me he won’t allow you to borrow it even for a couple of hours? I want to take a look at it, not to swindle his possession; I won’t use it to kill anybody, do you think I am violating the way of the chivalry?”

    Zhang Wuji said, “Although this saber is talked-about in the martial world, but actually it doesn’t have anything worth looking about it except it is very heavy and unexceptionally sharp.”

    “There is a saying,” Zhao Min said, “’Wu lin zhi zun, bao dao tu long, hao ling tian xia, mo gan bu cong. Yi tian bu zhu, shei yu zheng feng?’ [Martial world’s most venerable, Prized saber dragon slaying, Controlling all under Heaven, None dares not to follow. Power of heaven not appear, who can possibly compete? – Meh’s translation] The Yitian Sword is in my hand; I surely must see what this Tulong Saber looks like. If you are concerned, you can stay by my side while I am examining the Saber. With your current skill level, I should not be able swindle you in any way.”

    Zhang Wuji considered carefully, “My original plan was leaving immediately to fetch Yifu after rescuing the six major sects’ masters, to ask him to hold the Jiaozhu position. Miss Zhao promises to take a look at the Saber only for a couple of hours. I know it’s hard to say whether she has some crafty trick under her sleeves, but if I guard by her side, she won’t be able to seize the Saber. Only Yifu once said that the Tulong Saber holds a big martial art secret. Yifu has taken possession of this treasured Saber before his eyes were blinded, yet by his intelligence and wisdom he still could not penetrate the details of this secret. Given only a short couple of hours, how could this Miss Zhao uncover the secret? Besides, Yifu and I have not seen each other for more than ten years; perhaps on that isolated island he has succeeded in understanding the Saber’s secret.”

    Seeing he was hesitating and not answering, Zhao Min laughed and said, “It’s up to you if you are not willing. I can think of something else for you to do, and it surely will be much more difficult.”

    Zhang Wuji realized this woman was extremely cunning; if she presented another difficult problem, he might not be able to do it. Thereupon he busily said, “Very well, I agree to borrow the Tulong Saber for you. But let me get it clear: you can only borrow it for a couple of hours. If you change your mind and want to steal it, I will not let you go.”

    “That’s right,” Zhao Min laughed, “I can’t use a saber, especially a heavy one. What’s good it is for me? You are respectfully presenting the Saber to me so I will not dare to offend you. When are you going to leave?”

    “Within these next several days,” Zhang Wuji replied.

    “Nothing could be better,” Zhao Min said, “I am going to pack now. When it’s time to leave, come and get me.”

    Zhang Wuji was startled. “Are you going to come?” he asked.

    “Of course,” Zhao Min answered, “I heard your Yifu lives on an isolated island far away. If he is not willing to return to the mainland, will you take tens of thousands ‘li’s journey to bring the Saber to me, let me look at it for a couple of hours, then take another tens of thousands ‘li’s journey to return the Saber back to him, and then take tens of thousands ‘li’s journey again to go back home? There is no such logic in this world.”

    Zhang Wuji remembered the dangerous great billows of the ‘Bei Hai’ [Northern Sea]; whether they would be able to find the ‘bing huo dao’ [Ice and Fire Island] in the vast and boundless ocean was still a great uncertainty. There was no guarantee if they would not meet any accident during the three times voyage back and forth to the island, so what she said was right. Moreover, his Yifu had lived on ‘bing huo dao’ for more than twenty years; he might not be willing to return to the mainland in his sunset years. “The wind and the waves on the ocean are merciless,” he said, “Are you sure you want to brave this danger?”

    “If you can brave the danger, why can’t I?” Zhao Min replied.

    With uncertainty in his voice Zhang Wuji asked, “Will your father let you go?”

    Zhao Min replied, “Father has given me the authority to command the Jianghu warriors. For the last several years I have wandered to the east and journeyed to the west; Father has never forbidden me.”

    Hearing the words ‘Father has given me the authority to command the Jianghu warriors’ Zhang Wuji’s heart was moved, “My journey to the ‘bing huo dao’ to fetch Yifu might take years or at least months,” he thought. “Supposing she is executing the luring-the-tiger-to-leave-the-mountain trick, then she might launch a large scale attack on my Cult while I am gone. But if she goes with me, her subordinates might lose command and spare me unnecessary worries over those I leave behind.” Thereupon he nodded and said, “Very well, I’ll come and get you when it’s time for us to leave.”

    He had not finished speaking when suddenly they saw bright red light from beyond the window, followed by a faint clamoring noise of commotion coming from a distance.

    Zhao Min went to the window to take a look. “Aiyo!” she cried out in alarm, “The Wan An Temple Pagoda is on fire! Ku Dashi, Ku Dashi, come here, quick!” She called out several times, but Ku Toutuo did not answer. She went to the outer hall but Ku Toutuo was nowhere to be seen. She asked the waiter and was told that that Toutuo went away as soon as they arrived; he did not even sit down, and he had left for a long time. Zhao Min as astonished; suddenly she recalled his strange smile earlier and could not help blushing. She lowered her head and stole a glance toward Zhang Wuji.

    Zhang Wuji saw the fire was getting bigger by the minute; he was afraid his Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle] and the others’ internal strength had not recovered and they died inside the burning Pagoda. “Miss Zhao,” he said, “I have to go!” Before finished speaking he had rushed out the restaurant.

    “Wait!” Zhao Min called out, “I am coming too!” But by the time she reached the door, Zhang Wuji had disappeared.


    .o0o.


    When Ku Toutuo was taken away by the Princess, Lu Zhangke decided to take Concubine Han into his disciple, Wuwang Apu’s room. The Wan An Temple Pagoda had a total of thirteen floors, so the total height was about thirteen ‘zhang’s [1 zhang is approximately 10ft or 3.3m]. The top three floors were consecrated to house the image of Buddha, Buddhist literature, and other religious articles; nobody could stay in these floors. Wuwang Apu was in charge of guarding the Pagoda, so he occupied a room in the tenth floor; from which he could see all around and thus had a better control over the overall situation.

    As he entered the room, Lu Zhangke told Wuwang Apu, “Go and guard outside the room, don’t let anybody enter in.” As Wuwang Apu went out the room Lu Zhangke immediately closed the door, untied the bundle to let Concubine Han out. Her beautiful face showed both shocked and hurt expression; her sad eyes were pleading. Lu Zhangke quietly said, “Now that you have arrived here, you don’t have to be afraid. I will treat you well.”

    He did not want to unseal her acupoints yet, fearing she would cause a commotion. Thereupon he gently laid her down on Wuwang Apu’s bed, pulled up a quilt to cover her up; and then took another cotton-quilt to replace the bundle and set it aside. With Concubine Han safely tucked in the bed Lu Zhangke started to attend to other businesses. He did not dare to stay inside the room for too long; he went out hurriedly, forbidding Wuwang Apu from entering the room or allowing others from doing so. He knew his main disciple had always regarded him with respect and fear, so it was unlikely for him to disobey his master’s order.

    Lu Zhangke thought, “I need Ku Toutuo to help me keeping the secret. If I want to win his favor, I must rescue his old lover and his daughter first. Luckily the Cult Leader of the Devil Cult made such disturbance last night, precisely over that girl by the surname of Zhou. I can always put the blame on him by saying the Devil Cult’s Jiaozhu rescued Old Nun Miejue and Miss Zhou. Truly the Heaven is on my side; Junzhu will not suspect anything. This little devil head’s martial art is superior, Junzhu cannot blame us from failing to stop him.”

    All Emei Pai’s female disciples were imprisoned on the seventh floor. Miejue Shitai, being a Sect Leader, was imprisoned alone inside a smaller room. Lu Zhangke ordered the guard to open the door and then walked in. He saw Miejue was sitting cross-legged on the floor, her eyes were closed in meditation. She had been on a hunger strike for several days, but although she looked thin and pale, her countenance still showed her proud and valiant character.

    “Miejue Shitai, how are you?” Lu Zhangke greeted.

    Slowly Miejue Shitai opened her eyes. “It’s not good in here, what good are you talking about?” she asked. [Translator’s note: It was a play on words: ‘How are you?’ in Chinese is ‘ni3 hao3’, with literal translation ‘you good’]

    “You are so stubborn,” Lu Zhangke said, “My master said keeping you alive is useless, I am ordered to send you to heaven.”

    Miejue Shitai had determined to die anyway, so she said, “Very well. Only I do not need to bother Sire to do it; just lend me a knife and I will do it myself. I only request Sire to bring my disciple Zhou Zhiruo, I have something I need to talk to her.”

    Lu Zhangke turned around and went out the room, ordering the guard to bring in Zhou Zhiruo; he thought, “The feeling between a mother and a daughter is really unusual; otherwise why didn’t she ask for her other main disciples, but ask for her instead?”

    Not long afterwards Zhou Zhiruo entered her master’s room. “Mr. Lu,” Miejue Shitai said, “Please wait outside, I only need to speak a little bit with her.”

    Zhou Zhiruo waited until Lu Zhangke left the room before she pushed backward to close the door, and then she threw herself at her master’s bosom and wept. For all her life Miejue Shitai had been strong and firm; this time she was going to die, she could not restrain to be emotionally touched; she stroked Zhou Zhiruo’s hair gently. Zhou Zhiruo knew her time to speak with her master was not long; immediately she narrated how Zhang Wuji came to rescue her the previous night. Miejue Shitai wrinkled her brows and was silent for half a day before she finally said, “Why did he only rescue you and did not rescue other people? That day on the Brightness Peak you stabbed him; why did he repay it by rescuing you?”

    Zhou Zhiruo’s cheeks blushed and she softly said, “I don’t know.”

    “Humph,” Miejue Shitai indignantly said, “That kid is so wicked. He is the leader of the Devil Cult; how can he have good intentions? I think he is setting a trap and he is luring you to enter in.”

    “He … he is setting a trap?” Zhou Zhiruo wondered.

    “We are the Devil Cult’s archenemy,” Miejue Shitai said, “I don’t know how many devil disciples died under my Yitian Sword. The Devil Cult hates Emei Pai to their bones; how could they come over to rescue us? This surnamed Zhang’s devil-head must have been looking at you and took a liking; he wanted you to fall into his snare. He ordered some people to capture us then he would deliberately rescue you to curry your favor, so that from this time on you will always be grateful to him.”

    “Shifu,” Zhou Zhiruo weakly said, “I think … I think he was sincere.”

    Miejue Shitai was very angry; in a loud voice she said, “You are just the same as that good-for-nothing Ji Xiaofu; captivated by Devil Cult’s disciples. If I had my internal energy, I’d strike you dead with my palm.”

    Zhou Zhiruo was so scared that her whole body trembled. “Disciple does not dare,” she said.

    In a stern voice Miejue Shitai said, “You really do not dare, or was that just sweet-talk to deceive your master?”

    With tears in her eyes Zhou Zhiruo said, “Disciple simply does not dare to disobey ‘En shi’s [benevolent master] instruction.”

    Miejue Shitai said, “Kneel on the floor. Make a heavy oath.”

    Following her command, Zhou Zhiruo knelt down but she did not know what to say. Miejue Shitai said, “Say it like this: ‘Xiao Nuzi [lit. little/young woman – this is kind of hard to translate without losing the real meaning] Zhou Zhiruo make an oath against the Heaven: if in the future my heart adores Zhang Wuji, that evil Cult Leader of the Devil Cult, if I become husband and wife with him, let the bones of my departed parents bodies in the ground do not have peace; let my Shifu Miejue Shitai’s departing soul becomes restless spirit, haunting me night and day for the rest of my life; and if I give birth to sons and daughters with him, let my sons become slaves and my daughters prostitutes.”

    Zhou Zhiruo was shocked; her natural disposition was meek and gentle. She had never thought of making such a sinister oath; not only cursing her dead parents and cursing her benevolent master, but cursing the children who had not even born yet. She saw her master’s eyes were staring fiercely at her face with a malicious gleam. Suddenly she felt dizzy; yet she did not have any choice but repeating what her master said, word for word.

    As she listened to this heavy oath Miejue Shitai’s countenance softened. “All right, you can stand up,” she warmly said.

    Zhou Zhiruo’s tears fell like rain; she stood up with a heavy and hurting heart. Miejue Shitai’s face turned serious when she said, “Zhiruo, I did not deliberately force you; I am doing this for your own good. You are a young and naïve girl. Later on your Shifu wouldn’t be able to look after you anymore. If you repeat your Ji Shijie’s [martial (older) sister] mistake by treading on the road to disaster, your Shifu in the next world will not rest in peace. Moreover your Shifu is relying on you to carry the heavy responsibility of our Sect; you must not be careless.” While saying that she took out the iron ring on her left index finger, stood up, and said, “Emei Pai’s disciple Zhou Zhiruo, kneel down to receive my order.”

    Zhou Zhiruo was startled; she knelt down immediately.

    Miejue Shitai lifted the iron ring high above her head and said, “The Third Generation Sect Leader of Emei Pai, ‘Nu ni’ [lit. female (Buddhist) nun] Miejue, hereby passes the Sect Leader position to the Fourth Generation ‘nu di zi’ [female disciple] Zhou Zhiruo.”

    After she was compelled by her master to make that heavy oath, Zhou Zhiruo’s mind was still confused; now that suddenly hearing the Sect Leader position was being passed on to her, she was so shocked that she did not know what to think.

    Slowly, word by word, Miejue Shitai said, “Zhou Zhiruo, receive this iron ring of our Sect; held out your left hand.”

    Still stupefied, Zhou Zhiruo held out her left hand, Miejue Shitai put the iron ring on her index finger. With a trembling voice Zhou Zhiruo said, “Shifu [Master], disciple is young, I joined the sect not too long ago, how can I bear this heavy responsibility? You, Senior, must not be desperate; please don’t say such thing. Disciple really cannot …” Speaking to this point, she hugged her master’s legs and cried.

    Waiting outside, Lu Zhangke was already impatient for a while; hearing the weeping noise he banged the door and called out, “Hey! Are you done talking? Your talking days in the future are still long!”

    Miejue Shitai shot back, “What kind of nonsense are you talking about?” To Zhou Zhiruo she said, “Do you dare to disobey your Shifu’s command?” Immediately she proceeded by telling Zhou Zhiruo the Sect Leader’s rules and regulations, wanting her to commit them in her memory.

    Zhou Zhiruo could see through her master’s words; it was like she was leaving her death wish; Zhou Zhiruo was alarmed and scared. “Disciple cannot do this, disciple is not able …”

    In a stern voice Miejue Shitai said, “If you don’t do what I said, you are disobeying your Sect’s ancestors.” Noticing Zhou Zhiruo pitiful face and remembering about her impending departure from this world, she thought about how she was placing this heavy responsibility on this mild-mannered, soft and weak female disciple’s shoulder; Miejue Shitai was afraid her disciple would actually not able to withstand this heavy load. But among the Emei disciples she was the one with the highest comprehension and the one most likely to reach the pinnacle of their martial arts and brighten their reputation. Other than her there was no other disciple worthy of this position. Miejue Shitai also realized that in the days to come this young disciple would inevitably experience innumerable difficulties and dangers; she could not help but feel heartbroken.

    Miejue Shitai raised Zhou Zhiruo up and embraced her in her bosom; in a soft voice she said, “Zhiruo, I picked you to be the next Sect Leader instead of your numerous Shijies [martial (older) sisters], not because I am biased toward you. It was because the Emei Pai has always dominated by women; the Sect Leader’s martial art must be outstanding. Only then will we be able to stand among the heroes of the Wulin world.”

    “How can disciple’s martial art exceed those of numerous Shijies?” Zhou Zhiruo asked.

    Miejue Shitai smiled and said, “Their accomplishment is limited; once they reach certain level, it would be very difficult for them to make a good progress. This is the Heaven-given natural ability and no power on earth can change it. Right now you are inferior to your Shijies, but in the future your progress will be unlimited. Hmm, unlimited, truly unlimited. That’s exactly what you will be.”

    Zhou Zhiruo was confused; she looked at her master with eyes full of questions. Miejue Shitai put her lips close to Zhou Zhiruo’s ear and in a very low voice said, “Since you are now our Sect Leader, I am going to tell you our Sect’s greatest secret. The founder of our Sect was Guo Nuxia [Heroine Guo]; she was the youngest daughter of Daxia [great hero] Guo Jing. In those days Guo Daxia’s name shook the world; all his life he was known to possess two kinds of special skills: the first one was military strategy, the second was martial art. Guo Daxia’s wife was Huang Rong, Huang Nuxia; she was known as the most intelligent and quick-witted person. She had realized early on that the Yuan army’s power was unstoppable; that in the end Xiangyang could not be defended. They, husband and wife, had made up their minds to sacrifice their lives for their country as a token of their patriotism and loyalty. But would they bring Guo Daxia’s special skills down to the grave? Moreover, she had predicted correctly that although the Mongolians would occupy China for a moment, in the end the Han people would not be willing to live in slavery under the Tartars’ rule; that there would be bloody battles on the Central Plains [‘zhong yuan’] in the future. At that time the military strategy and the martial art would play a very significant role. For that reason she hired a very skilled craftsman to melt the black steel sword Yang Guo, Yang Daxia gave to our founder Guo Zushi [martial art ancestor], mixed it with refined gold from the western area, and forged it into the Tulong [slaughtering dragon] Saber and the Yitian [relying on Heaven] Sword.”

    Zhou Zhiruo had long ago heard about the names of Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword; but it was only now did she find out that this pair of Saber and Sword was forged by the mother of her own Sect’s Founder, Guo Nuxia.

    Miejue Shitai continued, “While these weapons were forged, Huang Nuxia and Guo Daxia two people toiled for a whole month writing the military strategy and the martial art manuals and hid them inside the weapons. The Tulong Saber held the military strategy manual. It was called ‘tu long’ with the wish that someday someone would obtain the military strategy book, then drives out the Tartars and kills the Tartar Emperor. Among the martial art secrets concealed in the Yitian Sword, the most precious are the Nine Yin Manual and the Eighteen Dragon-subduing Palm Techniques, hoping that the later generation who study the martial arts from the Sword would enforce justice on behalf of Heaven and rid the people of evil.”

    Zhou Zhiruo listened with eyes wide open; the more she listened, the more marveled she became. Meanwhile her master continued the story, “After Guo Daxia and his wife finished forging the Sword and the Saber, they gave the precious Saber to their son, Guo Gong Polu [Translator’s note: the word ‘gong’ here denotes respect or honor; there is no English equivalent to this way of addressing other people]; while the precious Sword was passed on to our Sect’s Guo Zushi. It goes without saying that Guo Zushi was taught martial arts by her parents, as Guo Gong Polu was also instructed in military strategy. But when the Xiang Yang’s city wall was broken, Guo Daxia husband and wife, as well as Guo Gong Polu died together as patriots. Guo Zushi’s character did not go very well with her father’s martial art style; for this reason our Sect’s martial art style differs from that of Guo Daxia of the past.”

    After a short pause Miejue Shitai continued, “Over the last one hundred years the Wulin world was shaken repeatedly; these Saber and Sword have changed hands several times. The later generation only knows that the Tulong Saber is the Wulin world’s most venerable, and only the Yitian Sword is worthy to be its match; but why is it most venerable, nobody knows. Guo Gong Polu died for his country in his youth; he had no descendant not disciple, so only our Sect’s Guo Zushi alone knew the Saber and the Sword’s secret. Before her death, the Senior had spent considerable amount of effort to find the precious Tulong Saber, but she had not succeeded. On her death bed she passed on this secret to my ‘en shi’ [benevolent master], Feng Ling Shitai. Upon receiving Zushi’s commandment, my ‘en shi’ also looked for the Tulong Saber, but to no avail. In turn when she died she passed on this Sword and Guo Zushi’s commandment to me.

    It was not too long after I took over the Sect Leader position of our school when your Shibo [martial (older) uncle] Gu Hongzi made an appointment for a martial arts match with a young master from the Devil Cult. They agreed to fight one-on-one, not allowing anybody to receive help from anybody else. Your Shibo knew that although his opponent was young, his martial art skill was actually very profound. Thereupon he came to me to borrow the Yitian Sword.”

    As Zhou Zhiruo heard the phrase ‘a young master from the Devil Cult’ she could not help her heart thump madly, and her face involuntarily blushed; but she immediately remembered, “It was not him, I am afraid at that time he was not even born yet.”

    Meanwhile Miejue Shitai continued, “At that time I wanted to go along and help him, but your Shibo insisted that he wanted to keep the good faith; saying he stated clearly with that devil-head that no third-party participation was allowed; therefore, he was firm in not letting me go along. In that martial art match your Shibo’s skill was certainly not below his opponent; but because the devil-head employed a dirty trick, in the end he managed to land a palm on your Shibo’s chest and snatched away the Yitian Sword before it even came out of its sheathe.”

    “Ah!” Zhou Zhiruo exclaimed, remembering how Zhang Wuji snatched away the Sword from Miejue’s hand on the Brightness Peak.

    Her Shifu continued, “That devil-head laughed coldly several times and said ‘What a big reputation Yitian Sword has! In my eyes it is no different that scrap copper and rusty iron!’ Casually he threw the Sword to the ground and swaggered away. Your Shibo picked the Sword up and went back to the mountain to return it to me. Who would have thought that because of his proud character, the more he thought about the lost, the more he was grieved. He only managed to take a three-day journey when he caught an illness along the way and was not able to get up again. The Yitian Sword fell into the hands of the local authorities who in turn presented it to the royal government. Do you know who was this evil disciple of the Devil Cult who angered your Shibo Gu Hongzi to his death?”

    “No …” Zhou Zhiruo replied, “I wonder who that was?”

    “It was he who later on harmed your Shijie Ji Xiaofu; that devil-head Yang Xiao!” Miejue Shitai replied.

    Right at that moment Lu Zhangke banged the door and shouted, “Are you done talking? I can’t wait much longer!”

    “Don’t be impatient,” Miejue Shitai said, “We will be done very soon.” Quietly to Zhou Zhiruo she said, “We don’t have much time; we can’t talk too much. This Yitian Sword was later on granted by the Tartar Emperor to the Ruyang Prince so I went to the Ruyang Palace to steal it back. It is so unfortunate that by an evil plot the Sword has fallen into the hand of the Devil Cult.”

    “No, it was that Miss Zhao who stole it,” Zhou Zhiruo said.

    Miejue Shitai stared at her and said, “This surnamed Zhao girl is obviously in cohort with that Cult Leader of the Devil Cult. Don’t tell me that up to this point you still don’t believe your Shifu?”

    In all honesty it was hard for Zhou Zhiruo to believe her; but she did not want to argue with her master. Miejue Shitai continued, “I have a strong reason why I want you to take over the Sect Leader position. This time I fall into the crafty villains’ hands, my reputation is falling down the drain; I do not want to get out of this Pagoda alive. That lecherous man surnamed Zhang has dirty thoughts toward you, but I believe he won’t harm your life. You may pretend to get close to him, and then seize the opportunity to take back the Yitian Sword. The Tulong Saber is in the hand of his foster father, that wicked bandit Xie Xun. This kid will not reveal Xie Xun’s whereabouts no matter what; but I know there is one person in this world who will be able to get this Saber.”

    Zhou Zhiruo knew her Shifu was talking about her; she was startled and shy, and happy but scared at the same time.

    Mie Jue Shitai said, “That person is you. I want you to use your beauty to obtain the treasured sword. I know this is not a very chivalrous thing to do, but for an important matter I don’t want to worry about little things. Just think about it: presently the Yitian Sword is in that surnamed Zhao girl, while the Tulong Saber is in that wicked bandit Xie Xun’s hand. Both have close relationship with him. If by any chance he acquires both the Sword and the Saber, and if by chance he obtains Guo Daxia’s military strategy and martial arts manual; then it will be catastrophic for the common people. I don’t know how many innocent people in the world will lost their lives, families will be broken, not to mention the great undertaking of driving out the Tartars will be more difficult to accomplish. Zhiruo, I know perfectly well that this matter is too difficult, in all honesty I don’t want you to bear it; but what is the purpose of us training martial arts all our lives? Zhiruo, I beseech you for the sake of the common people in the world.” Speaking thus, she suddenly stood up, and then bent her knees and bowed in front of Zhou Zhiruo.

    To say that Zhou Zhiruo was mildly shocked is certainly an understatement; she hastily knelt down and called out, “Shifu! Shifu! You …”

    “Quiet!” Miejue Shitai said, “Don’t let the wicked bandit outside hear. Do you agree? If you don’t, I won’t get up.”

    Zhou Zhiruo was utterly confused; in just a short moment her Shifu had just asked of her three very difficult matters. The first was to make the heavy oath that she would not to fall in live with Zhang Wuji, the second was for her to take over the Sect Leader position; afterwards she wanted her to utilize her beauty to entice Zhang Wuji to obtain the Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword. Each one of these three might take her ten years to decide. Based on her gentle and warm character, chances are she would not agree to any of them, much less she was given just a short time to accept. Her head was spinning and she passed out, losing her consciousness completely.

    Suddenly feeling a sharp pain on her upper lip she opened her eyes and saw her Shifu was still kneeling in front of her. Crying she said, “Shifu, please get up.”

    “Do you agree to my request, then?” Miejue Shitai asked.

    Bursting into tears Zhou Zhiruo did not have any choice but nodding her head; she almost fainted again. Miejue Shitai grabbed her hands and in a low voice said, “After obtaining the Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword, here is how you’ll get the secret inside: With one hand holding the Saber and the other the Sword, exert your internal energy and strike the Saber and the Sword to each other. Both the Sword and the Saber will break simultaneously, and then take the secret scrolls from inside the Saber’s body and the Sword’s blade. This is the only way to take the secret out of those precious Sword and Saber, and to destroy them at the same time. Do you understand?” She spoke in low voice, but her tone was very urgent.

    Zhou Zhiruo nodded her head. Miejue Shitai continued, “This is our Sect’s greatest secret; ever since Guo Daxia husband and wife passed it on to our Sect’s Guo Zushi, only the Sect Leaders of our school are aware of it. To think that the Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword are weapons with matchless sharpness, let’s just say that someone getting hold of these precious sword and saber at the same time; who would dare to strike the Sword and the Saber to each other and thus risking the destruction of these valuable weapons? After you obtain the military strategy book, go and find a good and honest warrior, a patriot who is undoubtedly loyal to the country; give the book to him, tell him to make an oath to drive the invaders away. Take the martial arts manual and train yourself in it. The Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palm is a pure positive, hard and ferocious technique; it is not suitable for you. You may learn the Nine Yin Manual. According to my ‘en shi’ [benevolent master], Guo Zushi said that the original Nine Yin Manual was so broad and deep that it would be impossible to master it in a short period of time. But Huang Nuxia had thought that obliterating the Tartar’s fierce and ruthless government is an urgent matter; accomplishing it one day sooner means sparing the common people one less day of suffering. For that reason among the secrets inside the Yitian Sword she had written some chapters that can be learned intensively. However, after the important matter is accomplished, you must go back and revisit the prescribed path to strengthen your foundation. Those intensive courses can only be used temporarily. It was created from Huang Nuxia’s profound intelligence and wisdom to provide a quick fix. It is by no means a true matchless-under-the heaven’s martial art method. You have to keep this firmly in your mind.”

    Zhou Zhiruo nodded her head absentmindedly. Miejue Shitai continued, “Our Sect has two greatest desires: the first is to drive out the Tartars and get our mountains and rivers back; the second is to make Emei Pai the leader in the martial arts world, surpassing Shaolin, Wudang, and the other schools, to become the Number One Sect in the Wulin world of the Central Plains [zhong yuan]. These two goals are very difficult to achieve; but now we have a way. As long as you comply with your Shifu’s injunction, you can achieve it one by one. At that time your Shifu in the next world will be very grateful to you.”

    As she finished speaking Lu Zhangke again knocked on the door. “Come in!” Miejue Shitai said.

    The door opened and to their surprise instead of Lu Zhangke it was Ku Toutuo who walked in. Miejue Shitai did not think differently; she thought these people were the jackals from the same lair anyway, so whoever came in did not make any difference. “Please take this child out,” she said. She was not willing to commit suicide in Zhou Zhiruo’s presence, to spare her from grieving.

    Ku Toutuo came closer and in a low voice he said, “This is the antidote; take it quick. As soon as you hear commotion outside, everybody get out and join hands to kill the enemy.”

    Miejue Shitai was surprised. “Who are you, Sire?” she asked, “Why are you giving the antidote to me?”

    “I am the Ming Cult’s ‘guang ming you shi’ [Brightness Right Emissary] Fan Yao,” Ku Toutuo replied, “I managed to steal the antidote and come here to rescue Shitai.”

    “Devil Cult traitor!” Miejue Shitai was angry, “You still want to play joke on me!”

    Fan Yao smiled and said, “All right! Let’s just say I am playing a joke on you. This is a poison to add the effectiveness of the poison in your system. Do you have the guts to take it? Once it goes into your belly, within a couple of hours your intestines will ruptured and you will die miserably.”

    Without saying anything Miejue Shitai reached out into his hand, took the powder, and swallowed it.

    “Shifu … Shifu …” Zhou Zhiruo called out in alarm.

    “Quiet!” Fan Yao said, stretching out his other hand, “You must also take this poison.”

    Zhou Zhiruo was shocked, but Fan Yao had already grabbed her cheeks and poured the powder in her mouth, followed by a cup of water; very soon the powder had entered her throat.

    Miejue Shitai was shocked too; she thought with Zhou Zhiruo’s death her meticulously planned scheme would go down the drain. Disregarding her own safety she threw herself with an open palm toward Fan Yao. Unfortunately her internal energy was lost; although her palm technique was exquisite, but it was devoid of any strength. With only a light push Fan Yao sent her body flying to the wall.

    Fan Yao laughed and said, “All Shaolin monks and all Wudang heroes have taken my poison. Whether our Ming Cult is good or evil, you’ll find out really soon.” With a big laugh he turned around, went out the room and slammed the door closed.

    When Zhao Min took Fan Yao for a rendezvous with Zhang Wuji, his mind was still fully occupied by how to steal the antidote. As soon as Zhao Min told him to wait in the outer hall of that small restaurant, he left immediately, rushing toward the Wan An Temple, straight to the Pagoda. When he reached the tenth floor, he saw Wuwang Apu was standing on guard in front of his own room. As Wuwang Apu saw Fan Yao, he greeted him respectfully, “Ku Dashi.”

    Fan Yao nodded while laughing in his heart. “Good!” he thought, “The Old Lu disregards the honor of his own school; he is hiding inside, having a good time with Wangye’s [Prince, lit. King Master] beloved concubine, while he orders his disciple to guard the door. I’d better rush in and seize the antidote while this old man is doing the Heaven-knows-what.” Slanting his body sideways he slipped through Wuwang Apu’s side and suddenly stretched out his finger, sealing the acupoint on Wuwang Apu’s lower abdomen.

    It would still be very difficult for him to avoid this attack even if he was completely alert not to mention Wuwang Apu was taken by surprise. Once his acupoint was sealed, his body went numb and he was paralyzed. Inwardly he was feeling very strange; when did he offend this mute Toutuo? Could it be that his ‘Ku Dashi’ greeting just a moment ago was not respectful enough?

    Fan Yao shoved the door open and quick as lightning he plunged into the bed. Before his feet even touched the floor his palm had already struck toward someone on the bed. He fully realized the level of Lu Zhangke’s martial art skill; if he failed to inflict serious injury with this one palm strike, then it would not be easy to determine victory or defeat in a life and death fight, hence he had exerted his whole strength in this one strike.

    “Splat!” the quilt burst open; cotton fibers flew everywhere. Fan Yao opened the cotton-waded quilt and as he looked, he saw Concubine Han with blood coming out of her mouth and nose. She was as dead as a jade statue. But Lu Zhangke’s shadow was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly Fan Yao got an idea; he turned around and went out the room. He pulled Wuwang Apu inside and stuffed him underneath the bed. He had just closed the door when he heard Lu Zhangke’s angry voice outside, “Apu! Apu! How dare you leave your post?”

    Turned out Lu Zhangke had been waiting outside Miejue Shitai for quite a while; he wondered how long these mother and daughter would fussily talk to each other. He did not dare to offend Ku Toutuo, so he did not dare to crash in. His heart wandered toward Concubine Han and he missed her already; thereupon he returned to Wuwang Apu’s room, only to see that his always-obedient main disciple was unexpectedly not guarding outside the door. He was really angry. Shoving the door open he was relieved not to see anything unusual. Concubine Han was still lying on the bed facing inward, her body was still covered by the cotton quilt.

    Lu Zhangke bolted the door behind him before turning around and smiled, “Pretty girl, I am going to unseal your acupoint, but you must not make any noise.” While speaking he stretched out his hand toward the bedding, his finger aimed toward Concubine Han’s spine. Suddenly a strong hand, with its five fingers as hard as a pair of iron pliers, grabbed the main artery on his wrist; at once his body weakened, not a bit of strength was left in his body. He saw from the cotton quilt a head covered in long hair came out; it was none other than Ku Toutuo.

    With his right hand Fan Yao held tight Lu Zhangke’s main artery, while at the same time his left hand moved like the wind, sealing nineteen major acupoints all over Lu Zhangke’s body. Lu Zhangke was paralyzed; he lay on the floor with his eyes full of anger. Fan Yao pointed his finger to him and said, “The Old Man here has never changed his surname, nor has he changed his name. I am the Ming Cult’s Right Emissary of the Brightness; surnamed Fan, given name Yao. Today you have fallen into my hand. You are always proud of your peerless intelligence, but you are actually a stupid and useless man. If I kill you now, I am neither a hero nor a real man; therefore, I am going to spare your life. If you have the ability, look for Fan Yao to seek your revenge in the future.”

    He was not done yet; he stripped Lu Zhangke naked and lay him down next to Concubine Han’s dead body, and then he covered both people, one dead the other alive, under the cotton quilt. Now at last he took the antler staff, unscrewed the tip of the antler to get the antidote; and then went to the prisoners’ room one by one to distribute the antidote to Kong Wen Dashi, Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou, and the others. In doing so he had spent a lot of time; especially since he had to explain everything to the prisoners again and again. Finally he reached Miejue Shitai’s room, and when she did not believe it was the real antidote, he bluffed her by saying it was another poison. Fan Yao hated her for killing so many of his Ming Cult brethrens, so if he could hurt her some, he was very pleased.

    Finished distributing the antidote Fan Yao felt very pleased of himself, but suddenly he heard clamoring noise of people shouting outside the Pagoda; among those people He Biweng’s voice was the loudest, “This Ku Toutuo is a spy, get him down here, quick!”

    Fan Yao groaned inwardly, “This is bad, really bad!” he thought, “Who helped this fellow out?” Poking his head outside he saw He Biweng leading a large number of warriors surrounding the Pagoda.

    As they saw Ku Toutuo’s head, Sun Sanhui and Li Sicui shot their arrows while cursing, “Wicked thief Toutuo, you harmed us really bad!”

    Actually, when He Biweng and the other two’s acupoints were sealed, they should not be able to get out of trouble for a while; moreover, they were hidden inside Lu Zhangke’s room, so normally nobody would dare to rashly go in. Who would have thought that Ruyang Palace dispatched a lot of warriors everywhere, including to the Wan An Temple. When they failed to see the Prince’s beloved concubine’s track, someone remembered Lu Zhangke’s lecherous nature. But these warriors were always afraid of him; although they suspected the missing of the Prince’s beloved concubine was somewhat related to him, who would dare treading on a tiger’s head by offending him? After contemplating for a long time, the captain of the guards, Captain Ha, finally made up his mind. He sent a low ranking soldier to knock on Lu Zhangke’s door; he figured out that a person of his rank, although Lu Zhangke was angry, he would not stoop so low as to harm this lowly soldier.

    The soldier knocked on the door several times, but nobody answered. Captain Ha clenched his teeth and ordered the soldier to just shove the door open and take a look. To their surprise they saw He Biweng, Sun Sanhui and Li Sicui were lying on the floor. By this time He Biweng had managed to circulate his internal energy, trying to unseal his acupoints. He had unsealed three, four passages; and then Captain Ha helped him unseal the rest. Very soon he was able to move about freely.

    He Biweng’s anger had reached the heaven; he inquired about Lu Zhangke and Ku Toutuo’s whereabouts and was told that they went to the Pagoda. Thereupon he led the warriors to surround the Pagoda and then shouted loudly, calling Ku Toutuo to go down and fight to the death.

    Fan Yao was secretly alarmed, “Fight to the death then fight to the death, do you think the one surnamed Fan is scared of you?” he thought, “Only these stinky monks and old nun have not taken the antidote for too long; they will still need about one and a half hour to recover their internal strengths. This He Biweng has heard my conversation with Lu Zhangke; although I kill the old Lu, I still cannot close his mouth. What should I do?”

    At a loss of what to do Fan Yao paced back and forth for a while. He Biweng called out again, “Deserve-to-die Toutuo, if you don’t get down, I am going up!”

    Fan Yao returned to the room to get Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han who were still bundled inside the cotton quilt; he brought them to the railings and lifted them high in the air. “Old He!” he called out, “If you come near the gate even for one step, I am going to throw this old lecher Lu down.”

    The warriors were carrying torches high in their hands, which made the surrounding area as bright as day; but the Pagoda was too tall that the light could not reach Fan Yao. However, in spite of the dim light they could still recognize Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han’s faces.

    He Biweng was greatly shocked. “Shige [martial (older) brother], Shige, are you all right?” he called out. After calling out several times without hearing Lu Zhangke’s reply, he started to think that his Shige was killed by Ku Toutuo. “Thief Toutuo, you killed my Shige. I swear I won’t live on the same earth as you do.”

    Fan Yao unsealed Lu Zhangke’s mute acupoint. Immediately Lu Zhangke shot some abusive words, “Thief Toutuo, you are the enemy’s spy! I am going to cut you into thousand pieces …” Fan Yao let him shout curses for a while before sealing his mute acupoint again.

    Seeing his martial brother did not die, He Biweng was somewhat relieved; he was afraid Ku Toutuo would really throw his martial brother down, so he did not dare to come near the gate.

    This deadlock situation dragged for quite a while; He Biweng did not dare to rescue his martial brother, while Fan Yao only hoped to gain as much time as possible. Half an hour by half an hour passed by, Fan Yao stood by the railings and laughed loudly, calling out, “Old He, your Shixiong [martial brother] has such nerve that he dared to kidnap the Prince’s beloved concubine. I caught them red-handed and captured them on the spot. You are still thinking of protecting your Shixiong? Captain, Sire, quickly arrest this old man. These two martial brothers are staging a rebellion, committing a capital crime. If you arrest him, I am sure the Prince will heap you with rewards.”

    Captain Ha cast a sidelong glance toward He Biweng; he wanted to take an action, but lack the courage to do so. He felt strange to suddenly see Ku Toutuo open his mouth and speak, but the evidence in front of his eyes was that Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han were wrapped together in one cotton quilt. Besides, he had already had some previous suspicions, so in his heart was 90% believed what Fan Yao said. “Ku Dashi, please get down,” he loudly called out, “Let us go together to the Prince and sort this thing out. The three of you are senior masters, Xiao Ren [lit. little/lowly person] does not dare to offend any of you.”

    Fan Yao was very bold and he thought that while he went to the Prince’s palace to sort out right from wrong, the prisoners would have had enough time to recover from their poisoning. “Wonderful! Wonderful!” he called out immediately, “I am just about to go to Wangye to receive the reward. Captain, Sir! Please look after this Old Man He, don’t ever let him escape!”

    While he was still speaking suddenly they heard sound of hoof beats, a rider was coming fast toward the temple, straight to the Pagoda. The surrounding warriors immediately bowed to pay their respect, “Xiao Wangye! [Young Prince]” they greeted.

    From the Pagoda looking down Fan Yao saw that the crown on this person’s head glittered under the flame light. When he was dismounting from a big and tall white horse, Fan Yao noticed that that person was wearing an embroidered gown. He was none other than the Ruyang Prince’s crown prince, Kuku Temur, whose Chinese name was Wang Baobao.

    “Where is Concubine Han?” in stern voice Wang Baobao asked, “Fuwang [father king] is extremely angry; he ordered me to come over and investigate.”

    Captain Ha stepped forward to give his report; he said that Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han did indeed in the temple and were currently in Ku Toutuo’s hands. He Biweng hastily said, “Xiao Wangye, don’t listen to this rubbish; that Toutuo is a spy, he frames my Shige …”

    Wang Baobao raised his eyebrows and called out, “All of you, get down here to talk!”

    Fan Yao had been serving in the palace for a long time, he knew Wang Baobao was very astute and competent; he was not inferior to his father. Fan Yao might be able to deceive others, but it would be difficult to hide the truth from this young prince. If he went down, the young prince might be able to see through his scheme in just a few sentences. Then if the young prince ordered the warriors to besiege him, He Biweng alone would give him enough trouble, making it difficult to escape, not to mention rescuing the imprisoned heroes on the Pagoda. In loud voice he said, “Xiao Wangye, I have Lu Zhangke in my hand. His Shidi [martial (younger) brother] hates me to the bones. If I came down, he would surely kill me.”

    “Just get down quickly, Mr. He will not kill you,” Wang Baobao said.

    Fan Yao shook his head and shouted, “It is still safer for me to stay on this Pagoda. Xiao Wangye, for all my life Ku Toutuo has never spoken; today the circumstance has forced me to open my mouth. I am doing it all to repay Wangye’s kindness to me. If you don’t believe me, Ku Toutuo would rather jump into the ground to meet my death to show my loyalty to you.”

    Listening to him, Wang Baobao knew that 70, 80% of what he said was nonsense; so it was obvious that he was trying to stall. In a low voice Wang Baobao asked Captain Ha, “What conspiracy is he in? He is deliberately stalling. Is he waiting for someone to come?”

    “Xiao Ren does not know …” Captain Ha replied.

    “Xiao Wangye,” He Biweng cut him off, “This bandit Toutuo has stolen my Shige’s antidote; he must be planning on rescuing the rebels imprisoned in the Pagoda.

    Wnag Baobao realized it immediately. “Ku Dashi,” he called out, “I know your loyalty. Quickly get down here; I am going to heap rewards on you.”

    “My legs were kicked by Lu Zhangke earlier,” Fan Yao said, “Both legs are broken. I must not move now. Xiao Wangye, please wait a moment, as soon as I can move, I’ll come down immediately.”

    “Captain Ha,” Wang Baobao barked his order, “Send some men to go up and carry Ku Dashi down.”

    “No, no,” Fan Yao said, “As soon as I move, my two legs will be crippled.”

    This time Wang Baobao did not have any suspicion anymore. With his own eyes he saw Concubine Han and Lu Zhangke were wrapped together inside the cotton quilt. Even if there was nothing going on between the two, he was certain his father king would not want to have Concubine Han anymore. In a low voice he said, “Captain Ha, set the Pagoda on fire. Set your men around with their bows and arrows. Whoever jumps down from the Pagoda, shoot him dead.”

    Captain Ha complied; he passed the order around. His archers surrounded the Pagoda with bows and arrows, ready to shoot; while the other warriors spread around to gather firewood and grass to light up the fire.

    He Biweng was shocked. “Xiao Wangye,” he called out, “My Shige is up there.”

    Wang Baobao coldly said, “This Toutuo can’t stay up there forever; as soon as the Pagoda is on fire, he will come down.”

    He Biweng called out, “What if he throw my Shige down? Xiao Wangye, please don’t light the fire.”

    “Humph,” Wang Baobao snorted, ignoring his plea.

    A short moment later the warriors had gathered enough kindling material and they set the Pagoda on fire.

    He Biweng had always enjoyed good reputation in the Wulin world; even when he entered the service in the Ruyang Palace he had always been highly revered. Unexpectedly today not only he had fallen into Ku Toutuo’s sinister plot, he was also ignored by the Young Prince. Seeing his martial brother in grave danger he did not care anymore whether it was the ‘Xiao Wangye’ or the ‘Da Wangye’ [lit. old king master]. Raising his pair of crane-beak pens he charged toward the warriors who were lighting the fire. ‘Bang, bang!’ two warriors were thrown away.

    Wang Baobao was very angry. “Mister He,” he shouted, “Are you defying my command?”

    “If you did not set the Pagoda on fire, I would not dare to defy your command,” He Biweng replied.

    “Set the fire!” Wang Baobao shouted. With a wave of his left hand five foreign monk wearing red robes jumped from behind his back; they snatched away the torches from the warriors’ hands and tossed them to the firewood and grass on the base of the Pagoda. As soon as the kindling material was lit, the fire was raging wild.

    He Biweng was very anxious. He snatched a spear from a warrior’s hand and frantically beat the wood and grass, trying to extinguish the fire.

    “Arrest him!” Wang Baobao shouted.

    Those five foreign monks in red unsheathed their sabers and surround He Biweng immediately. He Biweng was very angry; he dropped the spear and snatched the saber of a foreign monk to his left. Eluding his hand the foreign monk flipped the saber over and hacked his shoulder. He Biweng moved sideways to elude, while from behind came a gust of saber wind; as a result two sabers struck each other.

    There were a total of eighteen foreign monks with high level of martial art under Wang Baobao’s command; they were known as the ‘Shi Ba Jin Gang’ [eighteen Buddha’s warrior attendants], consisted of Five Sabers, Five Swords, Four Staves, and Four Cymbals. These five monks were the ‘Five-Saber Buddha’s Warriors’. Each one of them alone was far below He Biweng in term of martial art level; however, with five of them fighting together, they complement each other in defense and offense. Furthermore, He Biweng’s martial art level was high, but Zhang Wuji struck him until he vomited some blood the previous day; his internal energy suffered serious damage. On top of everything right in front of his eyes the fire was raging wild, his martial brother was in a precarious condition; unavoidably he could not keep himself calm and steady. As a result, it was difficult for him to score a quick victory.

    In the meantime, Wang Baobao’s subordinates kept adding wood and grass to make the fire even bigger. The Pagoda was constructed of brick and wood. Very soon the first several lower floors were starting to burn. Fan Yao dropped Lu Zhangke and dashed toward the room in which the Wudang heroes were imprisoned. “The Tartars are burning the Pagoda,” he called out, “Has everybody’s internal energy recovered?” But Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the others were still sitting cross-legged, cultivating their internal energy in full concentration. Nobody replied; apparently they were at a critical moment of their recovery process.

    Several guards came to attack him. Fan Yao struck and grabbed them one by one; throwing them to their death at the bottom of the Pagoda. The rest of the guards scrambled downstairs over the fire, trying to save themselves.

    A moment later the fire had reached the fourth floor, where the people from Huashan Pai were being imprisoned. They did not have time to wait for the recovery of their internal energy; in this dangerous situation everybody fled to the fifth floor. But the fire kept creeping upward to the fifth floor, causing the Kongtong Pai people also ran to the sixth floor. Some were rather slow, resulting in their clothes to catch fire. Fan Yao was at a loss.

    Suddenly he heard someone calling out, “Fan Yaoshi [Right Emissary Fan], catch!” It was Wei Yixiao’s voice.

    Fan Yao was greatly delighted; looking toward the direction of the voice he saw Wei Yixiao was standing at the rooftop of a big building behind the Wan An Temple. Wei Yixiao swung his arms to throw a long rope toward Fan Yao and Fan Yao caught it.

    “Tie it on the railings, we’ll make a rope bridge,” Wei Yixiao called out.

    Fan Yao had just tied the rope to the railings when ‘swish!’ Zhao Yishang of the ‘Shen Jian Ba Xiong’ [Eight Divine Archers] shot an arrow and cut the rope. Simultaneously Fan Yao and Wei Yixiao opened their mouths to curse; they knew that if they want to build a rope bridge, they would have to get rid of these Eight Divine Archers.

    “Shoot your granny,” Wei Yixiao cursed, “If that one does not drop his bow and arrow, the Old Man will butcher him first.” While cursing he drew his sword and jumped down.

    His feet were barely touching the ground when five foreign monks wearing dark green robes surrounded him with swords in their hands. They were the ‘Five-Sword Buddha Warriors’ from the ‘Eighteen Buddha Warriors’ under Wang Baobao’s command. The swords in their hands glittered, their sword moves were strange; and they attacked Wei Yixiao together.

    He Biweng brandished his pair or crane-beak pens, fighting a fierce battle. “Xiao Wangye,” he loudly called out, “If you don’t order your men to put off the fire, don’t blame me for being impolite to you.”

    Wang Baobao did not pay any attention to him. Four foreign monks with long Buddhist staves in their hands stood around the Young Prince, guarding him from any possible sneak attack.

    He Biweng’s anxiety rose up; his double-pen suddenly moved in ‘heng sao qian jun’ [sweeping a thousand soldiers], forcing the three foreign monks in front of him to retreat two steps. He Biweng anxiously rushed toward the Pagoda. The five foreign monks ran after him. He Biweng’s feet kicked the ground and he flew to the eaves of the first floor. Seeing the fire was raging wild, the five foreign monks did not pursue.

    He Biweng jumped from floor to floor. When he reached the eaves of the fourth floor Fan Yao poked out his head from the seventh floor; lifting high Lu Zhangke’s body he loudly called out, “Old He, stop! If you move one more step, I am going to throw the Old Lu down, let him become deer mince meat.” [Translator’s note: the ‘Lu’ of Lu Zhangke means ‘deer’]

    He Biweng obediently did not dare to move again. “Ku Dashi,” he called out, “We, martial brothers, have never offended you in the past, we still don’t have any enmity against you today, why do you make things difficult for us? If you want to save your old sweetheart Miejue Shitai and your beloved daughter Miss Zhou, then rescue them. I will not stop you.”

    After taking the antidote from Ku Toutuo, Miejue Shitai thought that she had taken a poison and would die soon; but then Zhou Zhiruo had also taken the poison. Her lifetime hopes were shattered; how would her heart not bitter? While she was grieving suddenly she heard commotion at the base of the Pagoda; she heard Ku Toutuo and He Biweng’s argument, then she also heard Wang Baobao issued an order to set the Pagoda on fire. She heard it all, one by one, clearly. She felt strange, “Could it be that this devil-like Toutuo is really rescuing us?”

    She thought she might as well try, whether good or bad. Immediately she felt warm energy flowing up from her ‘dan tian’ [pubic region]; which was different from when she was still under the influence of the poison. She would rather starve herself to death than obeying Zhao Min’s order to get out to the mail hall and contend in martial arts, as a result, she had been fasting for six, seven days. Her stomach was completely empty; therefore, as the antidote entered her belly, it rapidly entered the blood and neutralized the poison in her system. Her recovery was faster than everybody else. Furthermore, her internal energy was profound; it was even higher than Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou, He Taichong and the others, perhaps it was somewhat inferior only to the Abbott of Shaolin Pai, Kong Wen Shen-seng [divine monk].

    As the effect of the ‘Ten Fragrance Muscle-weaken Powder’ was gradually dispersed by the antidote, her own internal energy was able to push the toxicity away. In less than an hour later her internal energy had been recovered 50, 60%. She was still cultivating her internal energy intensively when suddenly from outside came He Biweng’s voice; each word was like an arrow piercing her ear, “…If you want to save your old sweetheart Miejue Shitai and your beloved daughter Miss Zhou, then rescue them. I will not stop you.”

    How could she not get angry hearing this ‘Old Sweetheart’ and the other nonsense? In big strides she walked out of her room toward the railings. “What nonsense are you blabbering about? Such a dirty mouth!” she shouted angrily.

    He Biweng looked at her imploringly, “Lao Shitai [Old Shitai], please tell your old … old friend to let my Shige down. I guarantee your family of three will be able to leave safely. Xuanming Elders always say one as one, two as two; in no way we will fail to keep our words.”

    “What family of three?” Miejue Shitai asked angrily.

    Although he was in a precarious situation, Fan Yao could not help to laugh aloud. Feeling very proud of himself he said, “Lao Shitai, this old man said I was your old sweetheart, and that Miss Zhou was our daughter.”

    Miejue Shitai was really, really angry, that under the flickering light of the fire downstairs her face looked terrifying. “Old He,” she roared, “Come up here! I want to exchange a hundred palms with you before we talk again.”

    If it was different time, when He Biweng was challenged to come up, he would come up; he was not scared of the Sect Leader of Emei. But this time his martial brother had fallen into the enemy’s hand; he did not dare to act recklessly. “Ku Toutuo,” he called out, “It was you who said that; I certainly would not talk irresponsibly.”

    Miejue Shitai shifted her gaze toward Fan Yao and in stern voice she asked, “Did you say such thing?”

    Fan Yao laughed heartily; he was about to take that opportunity to ridicule her when suddenly he heard loud shouts at the bottom of the Pagoda. He looked down and saw by the flames a shadow was dancing like a fluttering butterfly among the flowers. That shadow moved around the warriors and the foreign monks. ‘Bang! Clank! Clank! Bang! Clank! Clank!’ everywhere he went a weapon fell down to the ground. The Cult Leader Zhang Wuji had arrived.

    Zhang Wuji attacked the five wielding-swords foreign monks who were surrounding Wei Yixiao; sending their swords flying high into the air. Wei Yixiao was delighted; like a flash of lightning he dashed toward Zhang Wuji. “I am going to set the Ruyang Palace on fire,” he said in a low voice.

    Zhang Wuji nodded; he understood his intention. They had only a few people on their side; if they failed to rescue the masters of the Six Major Sects in a short period of time, the enemy might send more reinforcement. With the Green-winged Bat King went to set the Ruyang Palace on fire, the enemy would be forced, first and foremost, to protect the Prince. It was an excellent ‘luring the tiger out of the mountain’ or ‘removing firewood from under the pot’ plan.

    Wei Yixiao’s dark green shadow flashed by and flew over the tall wall surrounding the Temple. Zhang Wuji looked around him to assess the situation. “Fan Youshi,” he called out loudly, “How are you?”

    “It’s bad!” Fan Yao called back, “The escape route is completely on fire; we are trapped here.”

    By this time, fourteen out of the eighteen foreign monks under Wang Baobao’s command had spread our and surrounded Zhang Wuji. Zhang Wuji thought that to defeat the enemy he had to capture the leader first; thereupon he turned his attention to that young Tartar prince wearing a golden helmet. If he could capture him, than he could force the Prince to order his people to put off the fire and release the prisoners. Immediately he leaned sideways and slipped from among the foreign monks; he went straight to Wang Baobao fast and fluid like a fish swimming in the water.

    Suddenly out of the blue a sword came from his left side, the blade carried a cold gust of wind; in a flash the sword tip was moving toward his chest. Hastily Zhang Wuji drew a step backward, only to hear a woman’s voice said, “Zhang Gongzi, this is my brother. Don’t hurt him.”

    The sword in her hand moved in graceful and elegant way; the blade was colder than water. It was the Yitian sword; a sword as beautiful as a flower. The bearer was of course Zhao Min. She hastily followed Zhang Wuji, it was just that she was a bit slower.

    Zhang Wuji said, “Please order your people to put out the fire and let the people go; otherwise I will not be polite toward the two of you.”

    Zhao Min called out, “Shiba Jin Gang, this man’s martial art is high; all Jin Gang are to fight him together.”

    Those eighteen foreign monks had just suffered under Zhang Wuji’s hand; they did not need their Junzhu [Princess] to remind them. They knew their opponent was fierce. ‘Bang! Bang!’ the eight copper cymbals in the Four-Cymbal Buddha Warriors’ hands crashed together. Eighteen foreign monks moved together in front of Wang Baobao and Zhao Min, separating them from Zhang Wuji.

    Zhang Wuji took a glance; he saw eighteen foreign monks walked in circle around him. Their footwork was strange, eighteen people formed a human wall; apparently their movement contained many changes. His interest was piqued; he wanted to see if he could break this ‘Jin Gang Zhen’ [Buddha Warrior Formation]. But right at that moment a loud bang was heard, one of the big pillars on the Pagoda broke and fell down. Turning his head around he saw the fire had reached the seventh floor. Amidst the blood-red flickering tongues of fire two people were engaged in an intense battle; they were Miejue Shitai and He Biweng.

    Looking further up he saw the corridor by the railings of the tenth floor was full of people; they were the masters from Shaolin, Wudang, and the other Sects. Their martial arts were not recovered yet; but even if they were, the Pagoda was over ten ‘zhang’s tall [over 100 feet tall], even if their internal energy and qing gong [lightness skill] were not the slightest bit lost, they would certainly plunge to their deaths if they jumped down.

    An idea came into Zhang Wuji’s mind; he pondered over it for a moment, “I can’t possibly break this Jin Gang Zhen in a short period of time. Even if I did, the other warriors are certainly going to attack me. It won’t be easy to capture Miss Zhao’s brother. Miejue Shitai has been fighting He Biweng all this time without showing any sign of defeat. It appears that her internal energy has already been restored. Then Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle] and the others must also be recovered. Only the Pagoda is too high, they are unable to jump down.”

    As soon as his mind was made, he moved around the courtyard in lightning fast speed; his hands struck and snatched, slapped and grabbed the Eight Divine Archers and the warriors around the Pagoda. He either knocked down the bows and arrows from their hands, or sealed their acupoints. In a short moment there was no one standing with neither bow nor arrow around the Pagoda. “Seniors on the Pagoda!” he called out, “Please jump down! I will catch you down here.”

    The people on the Pagoda were stunned; they thought, ‘This Pagoda was over ten ‘zhang’s tall, the force of their bodies falling down would be tremendous, although you have thousand catties strength, how could you catch us?’ Immediately some people from Kongtong, Kunlun and some other Sects blurted out, “Surely we cannot jump down; don’t listen to this kid! He wants to deceive us so that we will meet our cruel deaths.”

    Zhang Wuji saw the smoke and fire filled the air, it almost reached near the place where those masters were standing. If they did not jump soon, they would inevitably become barbequed meat. Raising his voice he shouted, “Yu Erbo [second martial (older) uncle], your kindness to me is like a mountain, do you think Xiao Zhi [little nephew] would deliberately harm you? Why don’t you jump first?”

    Yu Lianzhou trusted ZhangWuji completely; besides, he thought that although his martial art skill was stronger, he would still not be able to save himself. Therefore, rather than being burned to death, wouldn’t it be better to plunge to death? “All right!” he called out, “I’ll jump down!” Without hesitation he jumped from the Pagoda down to the ground.

    Zhang Wuji’s eyes followed his uncle closely; he waited until they were about five feet apart before his palm gently patted his uncle’s waist. In this one palm he had unleashed the ultimate power of the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ [the great shifting and moving of the universe]; by absorbing and releasing energy he dispersed the falling down momentum from top to bottom to from left to right, and thus sending Yu Lianzhou flying horizontally several feet to the side. By that time his internal energy had been recovered 70, 80%; flipping his body midair he landed steadily on the ground. In one fluid motion his palm struck a Mongolian warrior that he spurted blood from his mouth.

    “Da Shige [first martial (older) brother], Si Shidi! [fourth martial (younger) brother],” he loudly called out, “Jump down!”

    The people on the Pagoda cheered as they saw Yu Lianzhou land safely on the ground. Out of his deep love toward his son, Song Yuanqiao wanted him to jump down first. “Qingshu,” he said, “You jump down!”

    Ever since they came out of their prisons, Song Qingshu had always been standing up next to Zhou Zhiruo. “Miss Zhou,” he said, “Quickly jump down.”

    Zhou Zhiruo’s internal strength had not been recovered yet; she was unable to help her master, yet she was unwilling to escape alone. Hearing Song Qingshu, she shook her head and said, “I am going to wait for Shifu!”

    By this time He Taichong, Ban Shuxian, and the others had jumped down one after another; they were all intercepted by Zhang Wuji using the marvelous power of the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ to the fullest; breaking the vertical force of the drop, turning it horizontally, delivering them all one by one from danger.

    These people’s internal energy had not been fully recovered yet, but although their strength was only 50, 60% of their normal level, they had already given the foreign monks and the warriors a lot of trouble. Yu Lianzhou and the others snatched some weapons and they formed a fence around Zhang Wuji.

    Wang Baobao’s and Zhao Min’s subordinates were trying to stop Zhang Wuji, but Yu Lianzhou, He Taichong, Ban Shuxian and the others blocked them. One more person jumped down from the Pagoda meant one more person was protecting Zhang Wuji. Ever since these people were being held captives by Zhao Min, they had suffered innumerable humiliations and a lot of them even lost their fingers. This time they were freed from their bondage, all of them were staking whatever they have, venting their anger. In a short moment the ground around the Pagoda was littered by more than twenty warriors’ corpses.

    Seeing the unfavorable situation, Wang Baobao issued an order, “Get my special archer force over here!”

    Captain Ha was just turning his body around to carry out the Young Prince’s order when he saw the sky toward the southeast corner was bright with fire. He was shocked and immediately called out, “Xiao Wangye, the Palace is on fire! We must hurry to save Wangye!”

    Wang Baobao was concerned over his father’s safety, he could not be bothered by catching or killing some rebelling thieves. “Meizi, [younger sister – term of endearment]” he hastily said, “I am going back to the Palace. You must be careful!” Without waiting for Zhao Min to answer he turned his horse around and galloped away to the exit.

    As Wang Baobao left, the Eighteen Buddha Warriors followed; as did most of the palace guards. They saw the Palace was on fire and thought that a large number of rebels had attacked the Palace, they were very anxious; nobody guessed it was a trick played by Wei Yixiao, one person.

    Meanwhile Song Qingshu, Song Yuanqiao, Zhang Songxi, Mo Shenggu, and the others had jumped down from the Pagoda. Very soon the situation was reversed, the warriors were outnumbered. A little later Kong Wen Fang Zhang [Abbot Kong Wen], Kong Zhi Dashi [Reverend Kong Zhi], as well as the senior monks from the Damo Hall and Luohan Hall had also jumped down. Zhao Min’s warriors lost any chance to gain victory.

    Zhao Min thought that if they did not escape now, they would change from captors to captives. Therefore, immediately she issued an order, “Everybody, get out of Wan An Temple!” Turning toward Zhang Wuji she said, “At dusk tomorrow, I will be waiting for you to have some drinks. I hope you’ll come.”
    Zhang Wuji was startled; but before he could answer Zhao Min flashed one of her captivating smiles, and hurriedly retreated toward the hall at the rear of the Wan An Temple.

    He heard Fan Yao, still on top of the Pagoda, shouted loudly, “Miss Zhao, quickly jump! Your eyebrows are burned. You don’t want to jump, do you want to be a beautiful-woman charcoal?”

    “I want to be with Shifu!” Zhou Zhiruo replied.

    In the meantime, Miejue Shitai was still in fierce battle against He Biweng. When the floor they were on was burned down, they jumped to the higher floor. Very soon they were fighting in the room at the corner of the tenth floor. Her internal energy had not 100% recovered, but from the beginning she had disregarded her life by concentrating all her strength in offense without thinking about defense at all. On the other hand, He Biweng was first of all anxious over his martial brother’s safety, so he could not focus his attention to the battle. Secondly, his previous injury from Zhang Wuji’s palm had not been healed completely. Thirdly, he had just recovered from the poison administered by Fan Yao, plus his acupoints were sealed for quite a long time, his limbs were not as agile as at normal time. Therefore, the two of them fought for a long time without clear winner or loser.

    Miejue Shitai heard her disciple’s voice; “Zhiruo,” she called out, “Quickly jump down! Don’t mind me! This old thief has humiliated me too much, how can I let him live?”

    He Biweng was groaning inwardly, he thought, “This old nun is disregarding her own life fighting me; while I must save my martial brother. Must I lose my life together with her in this hell hole?” He shouted loudly, “Miejue Shitai, it was Ku Toutuo who said that, what do I have to do with it?”

    Miejue Shitai held her palm and turned around, “Stinky Toutuo, was it you who said all those crazy talk?” she asked Fan Yao.

    Fan Yao was amused, he deliberately asked, “What crazy talk?” He wanted Miejue Shitai to say it with her own mouth, ‘He said that I am your old sweetheart, and that Zhou Zhiruo is our daughter.’ But how could she say such thing? However, hearing Fan Yao’s answer, Miejue Shitai knew He Biweng was telling the truth. She was so angry that her body trembled.

    As Miejue Shitai was turning her back toward him, suddenly a burst of black smoke rolled in; He Biweng saw this was a good opportunity to launch a sneak attack. Thereupon amidst the smoke he launched a palm strike toward Miejue Shitai’s back.

    Zhou Zhiruo and Fan Yao saw it clearly; they shouted together, “Shifu, watch out!” “Old Nun, watch out!”

    Miejue Shitai quickly struck her left palm backward to counterattack, but He Biweng’s yin-yang palms had already arrived. Her left palm blocked He Biweng’s left palm, but her back was struck by his right-hand Xuanming Shen Zhang [Xuanming Divine Palm]. This Xuanming Divine Palm was the exact same palm he exchanged with Zhang Sanfeng at Mount Wudang a few years back. Miejue Shitai staggered; she almost fell down.

    Zhou Zhiruo was greatly shocked; she rushed ahead to support her Shifu. Fan Yao was very angry; “Wicked despicable coward!” he roared, “You are not worthy to live!” Lifting the cotton quilt containing Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han, he threw the bundle down.

    He Biweng loved his martial brother very much; without thinking he jumped, trying to catch the bundle, but it was already too far outside the Pagoda that He Biweng only managed to grab the corner of it. Because of the weight, He Biweng was also dragged down.

    Zhang Wuji was standing at the base of the Pagoda. Because of the smoke, he could not see clearly the battle high on the Pagoda. He saw a big object followed by a man was falling down. He did not know what the bundle was, but amidst the smoke he saw vaguely there was somebody inside the bundle. He could see clearly however, that the man was He Biweng. He realized this man had caused him endless suffering, even his parents’ death was closely related to him. But in the end Zhang Wuji just could not bear to see him falling down to meet his cruel death. Immediately he flew up and with both palms he struck the bundle and He Biweng, sending each one of them flying about three ‘zhang’s to the right and to the left.

    He Biweng flipped his body midair and landed on the ground. “Really dangerous!” he inwardly called out in alarm. Never in his life would he expect Zhang Wuji to render good for evil by saving his life. As he turned his head around to look for his martial brother he was shocked. Turned out Zhang Wuji’s palm strike had caused the bundle to burst open, throwing two naked bodies into a pile of burning wood. Lu Zhangke’s acupoints were still sealed; he was unable to move that his beard and hair was burned immediately.

    “Shige!” He Biweng called out in panic and rushed toward the fire.

    As he landed on the fire, before his feet were steady, Yu Lianzhou had called out, “Eat my palm!” followed by a left palm strike toward He Biweng’s shoulder.

    He Biweng did not dare to block, he shrank his shoulder to evade. It seemed like Yu Lianzhou’s palm had lost its momentum, but as He Biweng’s shoulder shrunk, the palm followed and ‘slap!’ He Biweng was so much in pain that his forehead was drenched in cold sweats. Yet rescuing his martial brother was more important that ignoring the pain He Biweng hastily embraced Lu Zhangke and took him flying over the tall wall surrounding the temple.

    At that moment a burning big pillar of the Pagoda fell down, crushing Concubine Han’s body and in a short moment her body was caught on fire. The people on the ground shouted repeatedly, “Quickly jump down! Quickly jump down!”

    Fan Yao fled to the east and leaped to the west to avoid the fire. As the main pillars burned down, the bricks and tiles from the Pagoda started to fall down like rain. The Pagoda was starting to sway, looked like it would collapse anytime.

    In stern voice Miejue Shitai said, “Zhiruo, jump down!”

    “Shifu, you jump first, then I’ll jump!” Zhou Zhiruo replied.

    Miejue Shitai suddenly leaped and hacked Fan Yao’s left shoulder with her palm, while shouting, “The Devil Cult’s thief, I can’t let you go!”

    Fan Yao let out a long laugh and jumped down. Zhang Wuji received him with a slap of his palm, let him gently landed on the ground.

    “Fan Youshi,” Zhang Wuji praised him, “You have successfully accomplished a very difficult task!”

    Fan Yao steadied his feet before answering, “If not because of Jiaozhu’s matchless skill, everybody would become roast pork on top of that Pagoda. Fan Yao’s way of handling affair was improper; what merit do I have?”

    Miejue Shitai stretched out her arm to grab Zhou Zhiruo and take her jump down. When she was about a little over a ‘zhang’ away from the ground, she sent all her strength to her arms and threw Zhou Zhiruo several feet upward. That way she broke the momentum of Zhou Zhiruo’s fall that she only had about a ‘zhang’ to fall to the ground, while at the same time her own falling down momentum was actually strengthened.

    Zhang Wuji dashed forward to pat her waist with the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’. Who would have thought that even in her death Miejue Shitai was not willing to receive any kindness from the Ming Cult. Seeing Zhang Wuji’s palm was about to reach her, she gathered all her remaining strength to launch an attack. Two palms collided. ‘Bang!’ Zhang Wuji’s palm was shifted sideways. ‘Crack!’ Miejue Shitai crashed on the ground; her spine, as well as several bones on her body, broke immediately.

    On the other hand, Zhang Wuji was hit really hard from her palm strength plus the falling down momentum; blood bubbled up in his chest and he staggered several steps backward. He did not understand because with this one palm attack Miejue Shitai obviously was trying to kill herself.

    Zhou Zhiruo threw herself on top of her Shifu’s body while crying out, “Shifu, Shifu!” The rest of the Emei disciples, both males and females, all gathered around their master’s body in great confusion.

    “Zhiruo,” Miejue Shitai said, “From this day on, you are our school’s Sect Leader. The things I want you to do, you won’t disobey all … all of them?”

    Zhou Zhiruo cried and said, “Yes, Shifu, disciple does not dare to forget.”

    Miejue Shitai showed a faint smile and said, “Then, I can die with closed eyes …”

    Right away Zhang Wuji came forward to check on her pulse, but suddenly Miejue Shitai flipped her right hand and grabbed Zhang Wuji’s wrist. In a stern voice she said, “Devil’s Cult evil disciple, if you dare to violate my beloved pure disciple, even being a ghost I will not spare …” The last ‘you’ word had not been uttered, she had already breathed her last; yet her grip was not loosened up, her five fingernails dug Zhang Wuji’s flesh until he was bleeding.

    Fan Yao called out, “Everybody, come follow me; we are going out from the western gate. If we tarry, that scoundrel king’s cavalry would catch us here.”

    Carrying Miejue Shitai’s lifeless body in his arms Zhang Wuji said in low voice, “Let’s go!”

    Zhou Zhiruo gently pried her master’s fingers from Zhang Wuji’s hand, she held out her hand to take her master’s body, all the while she avoided Zhang Wuji’s eyes; and then she quietly walked out of the temple.

    By then the masters from Kunlun, Kongtong and Huashan had already swarmed out the temple. Only Shaolin Pai’s Kong Wen and Kong Zhi, two ‘shen seng’ [divine monks], did not lose their seniority demeanor; they came to Zhang Wuji with clasped palms to express their gratitude. And then they exchanged some modest greetings with Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the others before finally they left the temple together.

    Zhang Wuji had spent a lot of energy in using the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ to rescue the masters from the Six Major Sects; his internal energy was depleted. Last of all he exchanged a palm with Miejue Shitai that he suffered a major internal injury; by now he was so weak that he could not walk. Mo Shenggu took him and carried him on his back. Zhang Wuji took that opportunity to silently cultivating his ‘jiu yang shen gong’ [the Nine Yang divine strength/energy] that at last his strength was recovered.

    Meanwhile it was almost dawn; as the crowd of heroes reached the western gate, they dispersed and went out the city separately to avoid the gate guards. Several ‘li’s outside the city they met Yang Xiao who had already prepared several large mule and horse carriages. He congratulated them on escaping the danger.

    Kong Wen Dashi [Reverend Kong Wen] said, “If not for the Ming Cult’s Zhang Jiaozhu and gentlemen’s help today, it is difficult to say what our Central Plains’ [zhong yuan] Six Major Sects’ fate would be, our gratitude of your kindness is unspeakable. Now about next step, how we are going to proceed, please Zhang Jiaozhu gives us instruction.”

    “My knowledge is shallow,” Zhang Wuji answered, “I don’t have any plan, so I invite Reverend Abbot of the Shaolin Pai to give us orders.” But Reverend Kong Wen strongly refused.

    Zhang Songxi said, “This place is not too far from the city. Today we have made an earth-shattering disturbance inside the Tartar’s capital; how could that evil king let it go? As soon as the fire in the palace is extinguished, he would certainly dispatch a cavalry to pursue us. Let us leave this place first before deciding on our next action plan.”

    He Taichong said, “If that evil king sends a cavalry to pursue us, then that would be best. We can kill them all to vent our several days of built-up anger.”

    “Our internal strength is not completely recovered yet,” Zhang Songxi said, “Killing the Tartars right now is not our priority; we’d better avoid them first.”

    “Zhang Sixia [fourth hero Zhang] is right,” Reverend Kong Wen said, “We could kill many Tartars today, but our own casualty would not be small. We’d better withdraw for the time being.” Certainly the words of Shaolin’s Abbot carried a different weight. As soon as he opened his mouth, nobody dared to raise any objection anymore.

    Reverend Kong Wen asked again, “Zhang Sixia, according to your respected opinion, where should we go to temporarily avoid the enemy?”

    Zhang Songxi replied, “The Tartars would certainly expect us to go if not to the south, then to the southeast. We will go to the opposite direction; to the northwest. What do you think?”

    Everybody was stunned; yet Yang Xiao actually clapped his hands and said, “Zhang Sixia’s plan is really marvelous. The people of the northwest is sparse, we can look for any uninhabited mountain and hide there for a while. The Tartars would not think of looking for us there.” The more the rest of them think, they more they realized Zhang Songxi’s plan was indeed marvelous. Thereupon they turned their carriages around and went northwest.

    About fifty ‘li’s later the group of heroes stopped at a valley to take a rest and eat. Yang Xiao had already prepared dried provisions, dried meat and wine; nothing was lacking. They were talking about the rescue operation they had just undergone and they all agreed that Zhang Wuji and Fan Yao were in charge of the entire battle and the rescue operation.

    On the side Zhou Zhiruo and the Emei disciples were cremating Miejue Shitai’s body. Kong Wen, Kong Zhi, Song Yuanqiao, Zhang Wuji, and the rest of them, one by one, offered their last respect. Miejue Shitai was a great hero; although her temperament was peculiar she had always upheld chivalry and justice. Her character was imposing; there was no one in the Wulin world who did not respect her. The Emei disciples cried and wept loudly, the rest of the people were also mournful.

    In a loud and clear voice Reverend Kong Wen said, “The dead cannot go back to live. The heroes of Emei must carry on the will Shitai had left behind; hence although Shitai died, she will also live. This time we fell under evil people’s poisonous hands; everybody suffered a great defeat. Even our own Sect’s Kong Xing Shidi [martial (younger) brother] had died under the Tartars’ hands. This debt must be settled, but as how we are going to do this, we need to discuss it further.”

    Reverend Kong Zhi said, “Initially the Six Major Sects of the Central Plains and the Ming Cult are enemies to each other; but Zhang Jiaozhu has forgotten this animosity and lent a hand to rescue us. This way the enmity between us is to be forever eradicated. From now on we are of one heart and mind, driving the invaders together.”

    Everybody voiced their agreement at once. However, speaking of revenge, each sect’s opinion differed with one another; it was difficult to reach decision. Finally Kong Wen said, “We cannot decide on this matter, let us take a rest for several days, and then separately go back to our places. Someday when we are ready to launch a large attack of vengeance, then we will slowly talk it over.” Everybody nodded their heads in approval.

    Zhang Wuji said, “Now that this important matter is done, I have some personal business I have to attend; I need to return to Dadou. Hereby I bid everybody farewell. Later on we will work hand in hand, fighting the Tartars to the death together.”

    Everybody raised their voices together, “We will work hand in hand, fighting the Tartars to the death together.” Their shouts shook the sky, the valley reverberated with their cry; and then they send Zhang Wuji off to the mouth of the valley. Zhang Wuji raised his hands in salute and said goodbye.

    “Jiaozhu,” Yang Xiao said, “The heroes of the world look up on you; you have to take a really good care of yourself in everything.”

    “Xiongdi [brother] will remember that,” Zhang Wuji said. Mounting his horse he galloped to the south.

    End of Chapter 27.

  9. #29
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    Default Chapter 28 – Broken Kindness, Lost Friendship, Purple Robed King

    Chapter 28 – Broken Kindness, Lost Friendship, Purple Robed King
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    When he was nearing the Dadou, Zhang Wuji thought that with the uproar at the Wan An Temple the previous night, a lot of the warriors working for the Prince of Ruyang would certainly recognize his face; hence it would be inconvenient for him to enter the city as he was. Thereupon he stopped by a farmer’s house along the way to buy a set of old peasant clothes. He changed his clothes and wore a bamboo hat; he also blackened his face and hands using some soot and mud before he finally entered the city.

    He returned toward the inn he was staying at the western side of the city, but did not enter the inn right away. He went around looking everywhere, and after ensuring that he saw nothing unusual he went into his room quick as a flash.

    Xiao Zhao was sitting by the window; her hands were busy with needle and thread. She was startled to see someone enter the room; but her face broke into joyous smile just like a blooming flower in the spring after recognizing him. “Gongzi ye [young master], I thought it was a farmer breaking into the wrong room; turned out it was you,” she said with a laugh.

    Zhang Wuji also laughed. “What are you doing?” he asked, “Aren’t you lonely?”

    Xiao Zhao blushed; immediately she hid the clothes she was sewing behind her back. “I am learning to sew, but it is so bad,” she said bashfully. Stuffing the clothes underneath her pillow, she rose up to pour some tea for Zhang Wuji. Seeing his black face she laughed and said, “Aren’t you going to wash your face?”

    “I put this on purpose,” Zhang Wuji smiled, “I can’t take it out yet.” He took the teacup while pondering in his heart, “Miss Zhao wanted me to come with her fetching the Tulong Saber. As a real man I have to live up to my promise; I can’t break it. Besides, I also want to take Yifu [foster father] to return to the ‘zhong tu’ [mainland, lit. middle/central earth]. Yifu was afraid that he made too many enemies in the ‘zhong yuan’ [Central Plains]; now that he is blind, he won’t be able to deal with them. But right now the warriors of the Wulin world are united to fight the invaders; certainly personal grudges can be resolved. As long as he is with me, nobody will be able to harm a single hair of his head. The wind and the waves of the ocean are dangerous; this child Xiao Zhao cannot come with us. Mmm, I got it. I can ask Miss Zhao to settle Xiao Zhao in the Palace; it is certainly a lot safer than any other places.”

    Seeing him suddenly smile, Xiao Zhao asked, “Gongzi, what are you thinking?”

    “I am going to a far, far away place,” Zhang Wuji said, “It is not safe to take you along. I am thinking of taking you to a place where you can stay temporarily.”

    Xiao Zhao’s face changed. “Gongzi ye,” she said, “I am going with you. Xiao Zhao must attend to your need everyday.”

    “This is for your own good,” Zhang Wuji tried to persuade her; “The place I am going is too far and too dangerous. I don’t know when I am coming back.”

    Xiao Zhao said, “Inside that cave on the Brightness Peak I had made a resolution; wherever you go, I am going with you. Only if you kill me then you can get rid of me. Am I that disgusting that you do not want to be with me?”

    “No, no,” Zhang Wuji said, “You know I like you very much, but I don’t want you to brave an unnecessary danger. As soon as I return, I’ll immediately look for you.”

    Xiao Zhao shook her head, “As long as I am with you, I don’t mind any danger. Gongzi, take me with you!”

    Zhang Wuji grasped Xiao Zhao’s hands and said, “Xiao Zhao, I am not going to lie to you; I have made a promise to Miss Zhao that I am going to accompany her overseas. On the ocean, the waves are so high that they reach the sky. I have to go since I don’t have any choice, but for you, what good is it for you to brave this mighty danger?”

    Xiao Zhao’s face turned red, “You are going with Miss Zhao, I have more reasons to go with you.” While saying this, she was so worried that tears welled up in her eyes.

    “Why do you have more reasons to go with me?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    “That Miss Zhao is so evil,” Xiao Zhao said, “Nobody could guess what she is going to do to you. If I am with you, I can look after you.”

    Zhang Wuji’s heart was stirred, “Could it be that this young girl have a deep feeling toward me?” he thought in his heart. Hearing the sincerity in her words his heart welled up with gratitude. He smiled and said, “All right, I’ll take you with me. But if you get seasick on the boat, you are not allowed to complain.”

    Xiao Zhao was very happy; she gave her promise repeatedly. She said, “If I make you mad and you are not happy with me, you can toss me to the sea to feed the fish!”

    Zhang Wuji laughed and said, “How can I bear to part with you?”

    Although the two of them had known each other for quite a while, and sometimes had to share the same room due to the inconveniences of traveling, Xiao Zhao had always taken the position of a servant, and Zhang Wuji had never teased her or said anything inappropriate to her. Now that he blurted out, ‘How can I bear to part with you?’ he realized that he had made an indiscreet remark; he could not help blushing and turned his head around to look out the window, yet Xiao Zhao actually sighed and sat by the bed side.

    “Why do you sigh?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    “Actually, there are many people you cannot bear to part with,” Xiao Zhao replied, “Emei Pai’s Miss Zhou, Ruyang Palace’s Junzhu Niang-niang [princess; ‘niang-niang’ can also mean ‘empress’]; I don’t know how many more. How can you be concerned over a little girl like me?”

    Zhang Wuji stood up in front of her and said, “Xiao Zhao, you are always good to me. Do you think I don’t know it? Do you think I am such an ungrateful man that I do not know good from bad?” He said these things with a serious face, showing her his earnestness.

    Xiao Zhao was shy and happy at the same time. Lowering her head she said, “I am not asking you to treat me in a special way. As long as you allow me to be with you forever; to be your servant, to take care of you, I will be satisfied. You haven’t slept for the whole night, you must be very tired. Why don’t you lie on the bed and take some rest?” While saying that she lifted the blanket from the bed to let him lie down; and then she returned to her seat by the window, resuming her sewing.

    While closing his eyes Zhang Wuji could still hear the occasional clinking noise of the iron chain on her hand; he felt safe and peaceful. Not too long afterwards he fell sound asleep.

    Zhang Wuji slept until dusk. He woke up and ate a bowl of noodles. “Xiao Zhao,” he said, “Let me take you to see Miss Zhao, we can borrow her Yitian Sword to cut the iron shackle on your hands and feet.”

    Two people went out to the street. They saw Mongolian soldiers on horsebacks everywhere. It seemed like the security level was at its highest after the fire at the Ruyang Palace and the big trouble in the Wan An Temple the previous night. As two people heard the hoof beats, they shrank back and hid behind the corner of a house to avoid being seen by the soldiers. They arrived at the small wine shop without taking too much time.

    Zhang Wuji took Xiao Zhao and entered in pushing the door open. He saw Zhao Min was drinking wine, she was sitting on the same table as on the previous night. As she saw them she stood up and smiled, “Zhang Gongzi is truly a trustworthy man,” she said.

    Zhang Wuji noticed her expression was as usual, as if last night’s trouble had nothing to do with her at all; he mused, “This girl is truly extraordinary; I sent someone to kill her father’s beloved concubine and released the masters of the Six Major Sects whom she painstakingly captured after a meticulous plan. She should be very angry, yet she looks like nothing happened. I wonder how she is going to vent up her anger.”

    He saw the table was already set with two sets of chopsticks and cups just like last night. He bowed slightly and took a seat. Xiao Zhao stood a bit farther away, taking the position of a servant.

    Zhang Wuji cupped his fists and said, “Miss Zhao, about last night, I offended you a lot. Please forgive me.”

    Zhao Min said with a smile, “That Concubine Han of my father was bewitchingly enchanting. I was repugnant. My Mama praised you as a smart and competent man.”

    Zhang Wuji was stunned; her reaction was truly beyond his anticipation.

    Zhao Min also said, “I am fine with you rescuing those people too. They were not willing to surrender anyway, so what the use of keeping them here? Now that you have rescued them, everybody must be very grateful to you. Currently in the Wulin world of the Central Plains nobody surpasses you in term of power and prestige. Zhang Gongzi, let me offer you a toast!” With a soft laugh she raised her cup.

    Right at this moment the door was pushed open and someone came in; it was Fan Yao. He went to Zhang Wuji first to pay his respect; and then he turned toward Zhao Min and bowed respectfully to her. “Junzhu,” he said, “Ku Toutuo is taking his leave from you.”

    Zhao Min ignored his greeting; “Ku Dashi,” she said in a cold voice, “You have hidden the truth from me really good. This time Junzhu has stumbled big time.”

    Fan Yao stood straight up, he boldly said, “Ku Toutuo’s surname is Fan, first name Yao; the Guangming Youshi [The Right Emissary of the Brightness] of the Ming Cult. Because the royal government is in enmity with the Ming Cult, I entered the Ruyang Palace to spy on the enemy. I have received a lot of Junzhu’s kindness; thereupon I come today to bid you farewell.”

    Zhao Min remained to be cold; she said, “If you want to go, just go. What’s the purpose of this propriety?”

    “A real man always handles matters in the open,” Fan Yao said, “From this day on, I am Junzhu’s enemy. If I do not let Junzhu know this, I am betraying Junzhu’s kind treatment in the past.”

    Zhao Min turned toward Zhang Wuji and asked, “What is it that you have, that each one of your subordinates is willing to die for you?”

    To which Zhang Wuji replied, “We are doing it for our country and our people, for chivalry, for loyalty and self-sacrifice. Fan Youshi and I did not know each other, yet we feel like old friends; we are devoted to each other, lifting high this ‘yi4’ [justice/righteousness] character.”

    Fan Yao laughed aloud and said, “Jiaozhu’s words truly express what is in subordinate’s heart. Jiaozhu, you have to be really careful; this Junzhu Niang-niang is young, but her heart is cruel and merciless, she is truly an extraordinary woman. You have too kind of a heart; you must never let her swindle you.”

    “Yes,” Zhang Wuji replied, “I will not dare to be careless.”

    Zhao Min laughed and said, “Ku Dashi, thank you for your compliment.”

    Fan Yao turned around to leave the inn. When he walked pass Xiao Zhao, he suddenly stopped dead on his track. His face showed a big shock, as if he suddenly saw a ghost or a demon. “You … you …” he stammered.

    “What?” Xiao Zhao asked.

    Fan Yao stared blankly at her for half a day before he finally said, “No … it can’t be … I thought you are someone else.” Heaving a deep sigh he pushed the door and left; his face looked so gloomy. “Looks alike, looks alike,” he softly mumbled.

    Zhao Min and Zhang Wuji looked at each other in bewilderment; they wondered to whom Xiao Zhao might look alike.

    Suddenly they heard the sound of whistle in the distant; three long and two short whistles, sharp and shrill whistles. Zhang Wuji was startled; he remembered it was the signal of Emei Pai disciple whenever they were trying to contact their fellow martial brothers or sisters. In the Western Region he had met Miejue Shitai and the others, and he heard this exact same signal back then. “Why do the Emei Pai’s disciples return to Dadou [lit. grand capital, the present day Beijing]? Could it be that they are dealing with some enemies?” he pondered in his heart.

    “That is Emei Pai’s signal,” Zhao Min said, “Looks like they have an urgent matter. Let us go and take a look, shall we?”

    Zhang Wuji was surprised, “How do you know?” he asked.

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “In the Western Region I followed them for four days and four nights before I finally managed to capture Miejue Shitai. Why wouldn’t I know?”

    “All right, let us go and take a look,” Zhang Wuji said, “Miss Zhao, I have a favor I’d like to ask. Can I borrow your Yitian Sword for a moment?”

    Zhao Min laughed. “I have not borrowed the Tulong Saber, you want to borrow the Yitian Sword first. You do have an astute business skill,” she said. Loosening the precious sword from her waist she handed it over to him.

    Zhang Wuji took the sword. Drawing the sword from its sheath he called, “Xiao Zhao, come over here.”

    Xiao Zhao walked over. Zhang Wuji brandished the Sword; with some light ‘swish, swish, swish’ sounds the iron chain on Xiao Zhao’s hands and feet fell clanking down on the ground.

    Xiao Zhao bowed down and said, “Many thanks Gongzi, many thanks Junzhu.”

    Zhao Min smiled. “What a beautiful young girl,” she said, “Your Jiaozhu must be very fond of you.”

    Xiao Zhao blushed profusely; but her eyes sparkled with joy.

    Zhang Wuji returned the sword into its sheathe and handed it back to Zhao Min. He heard the Emei Pai’s signal sound was moving toward the northeast. “Let’s go,” he said.

    Zhao Min fished out a silver coin from her pocket and threw it on the table; then she dashed out of the inn.

    Zhang Wuji was afraid Xiao Zhao could not keep up; he pulled her hand with his right hand, while with his left he pushed her waist, keeping a distance between their bodies. They followed Zhao Min closely. But after only a dozen of ‘zhang’s or so, he felt Xiao Zhao’s body was very light; her footsteps were also very fast. He felt strange, so he took away the strength from his hands; yet Xiao Zhao was still able to run side-by-side with him, she did not show any sign of lagging behind at all. Zhang Wuji did not utilize his ‘qing gong’ [lightness skill] to the fullest, but his feet were moving very fast; yet to his surprise Xiao Zhao was able to match his speed.

    In an instant Zhao Min had already crossed several desolate alleys and arrived at an empty yard enclosed in a partly collapsed wall. Zhang Wuji heard a faint noise of some women arguing inside the enclosure. Knowing that the Emei Pai’s disciples were on the yard, he pulled Xiao Zhao’s hand and took her crouching behind the wall, silently hiding in the darkness. He noticed long grass everywhere on the yard; it seemed like it was an abandoned garden. Zhao Min followed them hiding in the grass.

    There was a broken down pavilion on the north corner of the garden; in this pavilion there were about twenty or so shadows of people sitting or standing. One female voice was heard, “You are our school’s youngest disciple; based on either in knowledge or martial arts, you are still unworthy to be our Sect Leader …”

    Zhang Wuji recognized this voice as belonged to Ding Minjun. He crawled among the thick patch of long grass toward within a few ‘zhang’s of the pavilion to get a better view. That night the starlight was dim, all he could see was dark shadows. Focusing his attention, he could see there were male and female shadows in the pavilion; they were all Emei Pai’s disciples. Other than Ding Minjun, it looked like the rest of Miejue Shitai’s senior disciples were all present. To the left stood a slender woman with her dark green long skirt reaching the ground, it was Zhou Zhiruo. Hearing Ding Minjun talked nonstop with an excited voice, ‘You said this, you said that …’ Zhou Zhiruo calmly said, “What Ding Shijie [martial (older) sister] said was right; Xiao Mei [little/young sister] is the youngest disciple of our school. Whether in term of qualifications and records of service, martial arts, talent, or personal character, none is sufficient to qualify me as the Sect Leader. When Shifu assigned this heavy responsibility to me, Xiao Mei has repeatedly declined wholeheartedly; but Xian Shi [late/departed teacher] was severely adamant, telling Xiao Mei to make a heavy oath that I will not fail to follow Shifu’s injunction.”


    Jing Xuan, a senior Emei disciple said, “Shifu was very wise; if she appointed Zhou Shimei [martial (younger) sister] to be our next Sect Leader, then she must have had a profound meaning. All of us have received Shifu’s kindness. It is just proper for us to receive and obey her will by supporting Zhou Shimei with one heart, and thus brighten our Sect’s martial arts’ prestige.”

    Ding Minjun laughed coldly and said, “Jing Xuan Shijie said that Shifu must have had a profound meaning; this ‘profound meaning’ was well-said. When we were on the Pagoda, as well as when we were on the ground, didn’t we all hear Ku Toutuo and He Biweng shouting loudly? Who are Zhou Shimei’s parents? Why did Shifu regard her with special fondness? Haven’t you understood?”

    Ku Toutuo did tell Lu Zhangke that Miejue Shitai was his old sweetheart, and that Zhou Zhiruo was their daughter. It was simply because he came from a heretical background; he meant those things as a joke, but unexpectedly He Biweng shouted it loud that everybody could hear it. They might not necessarily believe what they heard, but it was also difficult to avoid suspicions. This male-female relationship was a private matter, other people could choose to either believe or not believe, but Miejue Shitai did indeed treat Zhou Zhiruo with special attention, which was puzzling to the rest of the disciples. Therefore, this ‘daughter’ stuff was the most logical explanation to them. Listening to Ding Minjun’s argument, the disciples were silent.

    With a trembling voice Zhou Zhiruo said, “Ding Shijie, if you cannot accept Xiao Mei as the Sect Leader, just say so. You are talking nonsense, ruining Shifu’s clean lifetime reputation, what did she do to deserve this? Xiao Mei’s late father’s surname was Zhou, he was a boatman along the Han Shui [River Han]; he did not know any martial arts at all. My late mother was from the Xue household, an aristocratic family from Xiangyang. After the City of Xiangyang fell down, they fled to the south to escape calamity, they lost their fortune and she finally married my late father. Over Wudang Pai’s Zhang Zhenren’s [lit. real/true man, a respectable term to address a Taoist priest] recommendation, Xiao Mei became Emei disciple. I have never met Shifu before then. You have received Shifu’s great kindness. Today Xian Shi returned to the western sky [i.e. died], yet you dared to say such thing. This … this …” Speaking to this point her voice cracked and teardrops started to fall down her cheeks like rain, she was not able to continue.

    Ding Minjun laughed coldly and said, “You are only thinking of becoming our school’s Sect Leader, you have not received our school’s recognition, your position is not clear yet, but you have already flaunted your authority by accusing me. What ‘ruining Shifu’s lifetime clean reputation’? What ‘accusing her of doing something to deserve anything’? You want to control me, don’t you? Let me ask you this: if you have received Shifu’s order to become the next Sect Leader, then you should go back to Emei soon. Shifu passed away, our school’s affair is not only numerous, but complicated as well; every thing is in need of the Sect Leader’s attention. But you, without consulting anybody else, suddenly returned to Dadou alone; may I ask why?”

    Zhou Zhiruo said, “Xiao Mei has received an extremely urgent assignment from Shifu; which left me no choice but to return to Dadou.”

    “What assignment is that?” Ding Minjun asked, “Here we are all of the same school, there is no outsiders present. You may tell us clearly.”

    “It is our Sect’s greatest secret,” Zhou Zhiruo said, “Nobody else is privileged enough to hear it other than the Sect Leader.”

    “Humph, humph!” Ding Minjun sneered, “You keep pushing this ‘Sect Leader’ business but you can’t deceive me. Let me ask you: our Sect’s enmity with the Devil Cult is as deep as the ocean; many of our Sect’s disciples died under the hands of the Devil Cult disciples, while the Devil Cult’s disciples who died under Shifu’s Yitian Sword is even more numerous. Shifu died because she was not willing to receive any kindness from that Devil Cult’s Jiaozhu. That being the case, Shifu’s body has not turned cold yet, why did you stealthily seek that pervert little thief surnamed Zhang of the Devil Cult, that Jiaozhu, the leader of the devils?”

    Hearing the last few sentences Zhang Wuji’ body shook; but then he felt a soft hand reaching out to his left cheek, gently traced his face down with two fingers. It was Zhao Min who was by his side, tracing her fingers on him to shame him. Zhang Wuji’s face turned completely red; he thought, “Was Miss Zhou really looking for me?”

    He heard Zhou Zhiruo stammer, “You … you are talking nonsense …”

    “You still want to deny it?” Ding Minjun shouted, “You told everybody to return to Emei first. We asked you why you must return to Dadou, and you gave us an indistinct answer; you were not willing to tell us. We felt something was not right, so we followed you behind. You asked your father Ku Toutuo of this pervert little thief’s whereabouts. Do you think we don’t know it? And then you went to that inn looking for that pervert little thief. Do you think we don’t know it?”

    Almost in every other sentence in her speech she mentioned ‘pervert little thief’ and although Zhang Wuji was not temperamental, he was very angry nonetheless. Before he could do anything, again Zhou Min blew a breath to his neck to tease him.

    Ding Minjun continued, “It certainly is not other people’s business to whom you like to speak, with whom you want to be intimate, but this pervert little thief surnamed Zhang is the archenemy of our Sect. Last night when we escaped from Dadou, why did you keep looking at him along the way? Wherever he went, your eyes had never left him. I did not make up this story; all our fellow martial brothers and sisters witnessed it with their own eyes. That day on the Brightness Peak, Xian Shi told you to stab him with your sword. Unexpectedly he neither dodged nor evaded, but he cast his alluring glance at you instead; you made eyes with him in response and gently pricked him just for show. With the Yitian Sword in your hand, why did he not die? Who would believe there isn’t something fishy going on here?”

    Zhou Zhiruo broke up in tears. “Who made eyes with him?” she sobbed, “Your vicious words are falsely accusing others.”

    Ding Minjun laughed coldly and said, “My words are vicious; but what about you? Aren’t you afraid others may say ugly words of your unsightly conduct? Are your words pleasant to the ears? Humph, how did you ask that innkeeper a while ago? ‘Mister Innkeeper, is there any guest by the surname Zhang in here? Mmm, he is about twenty, rather tall. Perhaps he did not use the surname Zhang, but some other family name?’”

    She talked slowly with a sharp throaty voice, imitating Zhou Zhiruo’s slow intonation; with an exaggerated action imitating a demonic seductress, absolutely horrifying those who heard her. Zhang Wuji was very mad; he thought this Ding Minjun was Emei Pai’s most sly and nasty disciple. The gentle and soft-spoken Zhou Zhiruo was definitely not her match. But he could not come out to stand for her; because first of all it was Emei Pai’s internal affair, it was inappropriate for outsiders to butt in, second, he would only make Zhou Zhiruo’s situation more disadvantageous. In the end, he could only see Zhou Zhiruo was cornered without him able to render any help.

    The majority of the Emei Pai disciples were originally submitting to their Shifu’s wish; they were ready to support Zhou Zhiruo as the new Sect Leader. But listening to Ding Minjun’s fiery argument, which was actually logical and reasonable, they thought, “Shifu’s hatred to the Devil Cult was so deep. Zhou Shimei and that Devil Cult’s Jiaozhu have nothing in common. Supposed she is selling our Sect to the Devil Cult, how can that be good?”

    Ding Minjun continued, “Zhou Shimei, you entered Shifu’s school by Wudang’s Zhang Zhenren’s recommendation. That Devil Cult’s pervert little thief is Wudang’s Zhang Wuxia’s [Fifth Hero Zhang] son. Nobody knows the details to what kind of intricate plot you are scheming.” Raising her sharp voice again she said, “Martial brothers and sisters, even though Shifu left us her will that Zhou Shimei is to take over the Sect Leader position, surely she could not know that while her skeleton is not yet cold, this new Sect Leader would look for the Devil Cult’s Jiaozhu to nurture their personal relationship. This is a grave matter concerning the life or death, the prosperity or decline of our Sect. If Xian Shi were here tonight, she would definitely appoint another Sect Leader. Shifu’s desire was certainly the bright future of our Sect, not its destruction under the Devil Cult’s hands. In Xiao Mei’s opinion, we must lift high Xian Shi’s lifelong desire; we will respectfully ask Zhou Shimei to hand over the Iron Ring, the Sect Leadership’s token of authority. And then we will nominate someone else with both ability and integrity, a senior martial sister whose martial art can be an example to our fellow disciples, to take the position of our school’s Sect Leader.”

    As she finished her oration, some six, seven disciples voiced their agreement.

    Zhou Zhiruo said, “I have received Xian Shi’s order to take over this school’s Sect Leader position; in no way I can hand over this Iron Ring. In all honesty, I did not want to become the Sect Leader; but I have made a heavy oath in front of her. I simply cannot … simply cannot betray her trust.” Her voice was so weak that some disciples could not hear clearly what she was saying. They could not restrain from inwardly shaking their heads.

    In a stern voice Ding Minjun said, “This Iron Ring, you must hand it over, whether you want it or not! One of our school’s strictest rules is prohibition against deceiving masters and ancestors; the other is strict abstention against immorality and shameless act. You have violated these two most important rules; how can you even be the disciple of our school?”


    Zhao Min put her lips close to Zhang Wuji’s ears and in a very low voice said, “Your Miss Zhou is done with! You call me ‘good elder sister’, I will come out to her rescue.”

    Zhang Wuji’s heart was stirred; he knew this girl was shrewd, certainly she could think of some way to get Zhou Zhiruo out of trouble. But she was a few years younger than he, so if he called her ‘good elder sister’, he thought it was just too corny. He hesitated and did not open his mouth.

    “You want to call or not, it’s up to you,” Zhao Min said, “I’m leaving.”

    Zhang Wuji had no choice; he whispered on her ear, “Good elder sister!”

    Zhao Min stifled her laughter. She was about to stand up and come out when the people in the pavilion had already cried out in alarm.

    “Who’s there?” Ding Minjun shouted, “Hiding in the dark eavesdropping to other people in here?”

    From outside the wall came several coughing noises, a clear and crisp female voice was heard, “What are you, Emei Pai people, doing in the middle of the night, stealthily gathered in here?” The sound of flapping clothes swept by and there were two more people standing outside the pavilion.

    These two people were facing the moon. Zhang Wuji was able to see clearly. One was a frail hunchback old lady, with a walking stick in her hand; it was none other than Jin Hua Popo [Golden Flower Granny]. The other was a young lady with a graceful figure, but her face was strangely ugly; it was Yin Yewang’s daughter, Zhang Wuji’s own cousin Zhu’Er [Spider Kid] Yin Li.

    Zhu’Er was captured by Wei Yixiao the other day; but before he reached the Brightness Peak the cold poison in his body flared-up. He did not want to suck her blood, so finally he collapsed to the ground. Afterwards he was rescued by Zhou Dian, but by the time he tried to find Zhu’Er, she was nowhere to be found. Ever since Zhang Wuji argued with her, he had never forgotten her. He was pleasantly surprised to unexpectedly see her here that he almost opened up his mouth to call her.

    “Jin Hua Popo, what are you doing here?” Ding Minjun coldly asked.

    “Where is your Shifu?” Jin Hua Popo asked her back.

    “Xian Shi passed away yesterday,” Ding Minjun said, “You have eavesdropped outside the wall for a while, why are you still pretending?”

    “Ah, Miejue Shitai has passed away!” Jin Hua Popo exclaimed in a weak voice, “How did she die? Why didn’t she wait for me? Ay, ay, what a pity, what a pity …” Before finished speaking, she had already bent down and was coughing incessantly.

    Zhu’Er gently patted her back. She sneered toward Ding Minjun and said, “Who eavesdrops on your conversations? Popo and I are simply passing by; we heard someone was mumbling nonstop. I recognized your voice, so we stopped by to take a look. Popo asked you, have you not heard? How did your Shifu die?”

    Ding Minjun indignantly said, “What business is it of yours? Why do you expect me to answer you?”

    Jin Hua Popo slowly exhaled, she calmly said, “In all my life dealing with other people, I only suffered defeat one time under your Shifu’s hands. It was not because her martial art was better than mine, but because the sharpness of the Yitian Sword. These past several years I have been wandering everywhere, trying to find a comparably sharp weapon so that I can challenge your Shifu once again. Finally my wandering to the end of the world has not been in vain; an old acquaintance has agreed to let me use a precious saber of his. I heard Emei Pai people were imprisoned at the Wan An Temple by the royal government. I had a thought of rescuing your Shifu, so that we can decide whose skill is better. Who would have thought that as I arrived today, the Wan An Temple has been reduced to rubble. Ay! This is fate; for the rest of her life Jin Hua Popo will not be able to wash away the shame of this defeat. Miejue Shitai, oh, Miejue Shitai, can’t you wait just one and a half day later to die?”

    Ding Minjun said, “If Shifu were still alive, you will certainly suffer another defeat. So you’d better not have any dream …” Suddenly ‘slap, slap, slap, slap’ four times, loud and clear; Ding Minjun’s head spun and she faltered, since Jin Hua Popo had slapped her on the face four times, left and right.

    This old granny looked frail, as if she could not support her own weight; she was also coughing repeatedly, but who would have thought that her hand could move in an unbelievable speed with a very weird palm technique. These four palm strikes were so fast that Ding Minjun did not have the slightest idea they were coming, let alone try to evade them. She was separated about two ‘zhang’s [about 20 feet, close to 7m] away from Ding Minjun, yet she was able to slap her and go back to her original position like a ghost.

    Ding Minjun was angry; she drew her sword and pointing it toward Jin Hua Popo she said, “Old beggar granny, are you always this impatient?”

    Jin Hua Popo ignored her insult, she also did not seem to see the sword in her hand, but slowly said, “How did your Shifu die?” Her voice was full of sorrow, as if she was completely discouraged.

    The tip of Ding Minjun’s sword was actually less than three feet away from Jin Hua Popo’s chest, but in the end she did not have the courage to thrust it in. “Old beggar granny,” she cursed, “Why do you expect me to answer you?”

    Jin Hua Popo heaved a deep sigh and lamented, “Miejue Shitai, you were a hero; you can be considered as the Wulin world’s outstanding character. It’s a pity that you died. Don’t you have any decent disciple to take over the Sect Leader position?”

    Jing Xuan Shitai stepped forward; joining her palms in greeting she said, “Pin ni [lit. impoverished nun] Jing Xuan, paying my respect to Popo. Before her death Xian Shi had appointed Zhou Zhiruo, Zhou Shimei to take over the Sect Leadership position. Only in our Sect there are certain numbers of fellow disciples who have not submitted to that decision yet. Xian Shi has died; it would be difficult to fulfill Popo’s wish. Since that is the case, what else can we say? Our school’s Sect Leader has not been decided; we cannot make any appointment with Popo. But Emei is a great Sect of the Wulin world; in no way would we degrade Xian Shi’s prestige. We will listen to whatever instruction Popo have; in the future our Sect Leader, according to the rule of the Wulin world, will deal with you. But if Popo, relying on your seniority, want to take an unfair advantage of us, although Emei Pai has just suffered a great calamity, we will fight with you until our blood is poured over this abandoned garden, until the very last of us die.”

    She was speaking boldly, yet without any trace of arrogance or submissiveness; making Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min applauding silently.

    Jin Hua Popo’s eyes flickered. “Turns out before she died, Zun Shi [lit. revered master] had appointed her successor, the new Sect Leader. That’s wonderful! Which one? May I see her?” she said. Her manner of speaking was a lot more polite than when she talked with Ding Minjun.

    Zhou Zhiruo stepped forward and saluted. “Popo, may you be blessed! Emei Pai’s fourth generation Sect Leader Zhou Zhiruo wishes Popo well.”

    “Shameless!” Ding Minjun bellowed, “Proclaiming yourself as the Emei Pai’s fourth generation Sect Leader.”

    Zhu’Er sneered. “This Zhou Jiejie [elder sister Zhou] is a good person; I have received her loving care in the western region. If she is not fit to become the Sect Leader, do you think you are? You dare to blubber your big mouth in front of Popo; you make me want to slap your ugly face!”

    Ding Minjun was angry. ‘Swish!’ her sword stabbed toward Zhu’Er. Zhu’Er leaned sideways to evade, her palm struck toward Ding Minjun’s face. Her movement was exactly the same as Jin Hua Popo’s, but her speed was far inferior than Popo’s. Ding Minjun ducked to avoid the strike, but her sword also missed its target.

    Jin Hua Popo said with a smile, “Girl, I have taught you many, many times, but you have not mastered such an easy move. Watch carefully!” Her right palm moved, conveniently slapped Ding Minjun’s left cheek. She flipped her palm and slapped her right cheek. Then her palm returned and slapped her left cheek, flipped over and slapped her right cheek again. These four palm strikes were very distinct; everybody could see them clearly. But Ding Minjun felt as if her body was enveloped with a great power that her limbs were completely unmovable, so her cheeks were slapped four times without her having any strength to block or evade. Fortunately, Jin Hua Popo held up her strength that Ding Minjun did not suffer any serious injury.

    Zhu’Er smiled and said, “Popo, I have mastered your palm technique, but I don’t have the kind of power you do. Let me try again!”

    Ding Minjun was still bound by Jin Hua Popo’s internal strength; she saw Zhu’Er’s palm was about to strike her face. In her fury she almost passed out. Suddenly Zhou Zhiruo moved sideways; stretching her left hand she blocked Zhu’Er’s palm and said, “Jiejie [elder sister], hold on!” Turning her head toward Jin Hua Popo she said, “Popo, my Shijie Jing Xuan has said it clearly; although our martial art skills are not as exquisite as Popo’s, we will not let ourselves to be bullied by others.”

    Jin Hua Popo smiled and said, “This surnamed Ding woman’s mouth is too sharp; she kept on saying she won’t submit to your leadership, yet you still stand up for her?”

    Zhou Zhiruo replied, “The internal affair of our school is not any outsider’s business. Xiao Nuzi [lit. young woman] has received Xian Shi’s order. Although my skill is too shallow, I will not let any outsider to humiliate my fellow disciple.”

    Jin Hua Popo smiled. “Good, good, good!” she said ‘good’ three times, then broke up in coughing again. Zhu’Er immediately handed a pill to her. Jin Hua Popo took it, while gasping heavily. With a sudden movement both of her palms reached out; one palm pressing Zhou Zhiruo’s chest, the other pressing her back, so that all Zhou Zhiruo’s fatal acupoints were covered by her palms. As soon as she pressed her palms, Zhou Zhiruo’s life would be gone.

    It was a very strange move. Although Zhou Zhiruo had not learned martial art for a long time, she had mastered about 30% of Miejue Shitai’s skill, yet she was baffled and was rendered speechless by this strange move that held her in between the opponent’s palms, she was shocked and scared, and it showed on her face.

    “Miss Zhou,” in a gloomy voice Jin Hua Popo said, “As the Sect Leader, your skill is really shoddy. I wonder if Zun Shi did really assign this heavy responsibility to a pampered pretty young girl like you. I’ll say you are merely boasting.”

    Zhou Zhiruo made up her mind; she thought it in her heart, “If she exerted her strength right now, my arteries would be shaken and immediately broken, then I will die on the spot. But how can I degrade Shifu’s power and prestige?” As soon as she remembered her Shifu, her courage escalated a hundred folds; lifting her right hand high she said, “This is Emei Pai’s Iron Ring of the Sect Leader; Xian Shi has personally put it on my finger. How can it be a fake?”

    Jin Hua Popo laughed; she said, “Just now your Shijie said that Emei is a major sect in the Wulin world. She was right, but relying on your meager skill, can you be the Wulin world great Sect’s Sect Leader? I think you’d better be an obedient child and listen to what I have to say.”

    “Jin Hua Popo,” Zhou Zhiruo said, “Although Xian Shi has already died, Emei Pai did not die with her. I have fallen under your hands, so if you want to kill me you can just kill me; but if you want to force me to submit to your desire, I suggest you give up that idea. Our Sect was fallen into the royal government’s sinister plot and we were imprisoned in the Pagoda; but did you see any of us surrender? Zhou Zhiruo is merely a young and feeble woman, yet I have accepted the heavy responsibility assigned to me. I know it is very difficult, so early on I have already disregarded my own life and death.”

    Zhang Wuji saw the vital acupoints on her back were threatened by Jin Hua Popo; her life was hanging on a thread of hair, yet she was stubbornly standing up. He was afraid that in her anger Jin Hua Popo would take her life. He realized the situation was desperate; he wanted to jump out to rescue her. Zhao Min had already guessed his intention; she grabbed his right arm while lightly shaking her head, meaning that he should not act recklessly.

    They heard Jin Hua Popo laugh aloud and say, “Miejue Shitai did not make a wrong decision. This young Sect Leader’s martial art skill is weak, but her character is actually very strong. Hmm, that’s right, that’s right, insufficient martial art can be learned, river and mountain can be changed, but character is difficult to be altered.”

    Actually, right at that moment Zhou Zhiruo was scared to death, only she remembered about how her Shifu just before her death had placed her great trust on her, so she summoned all her courage and stood unyieldingly upright.

    The other Emei disciples were originally looking down upon Zhou Zhiruo, but at this moment they saw her disregarding personal dislike bravely stepping forward to protect Ding Minjun, and then she did not demean their school prestige at all even under a powerful enemy’s threat, feelings of respect and admiration started to grow in their hearts.

    Jing Xuan brandished her sword and let out some signal whistles; the Emei disciples moved at once, with weapons in their hands they dispersed surrounding the pavilion.

    “What is it?” Jin Hua Popo smiled and asked.

    Jing Xuan said, “Popo captures Emei’s Pai Leader, what do you want?”

    Jin Hua Popo coughed several times and said, “You want to achieve victory by sheer numbers? Hey, hey, will ten times your number make any difference in Jin Hua Popo’s eyes?”

    Abruptly she let Zhou Zhiruo go, and then her body swayed and dashed straight toward Jing Xuan. Her two fingers moved toward Jing Xuan’s eyes as if she wanted to dig her eyes out. Jing Xuan hastily waved her sword trying to chop her arm. Suddenly she heard a ‘hey’ noise, followed by a grunt; one of her Shimei standing close to her had fallen down. Turned out that when Jin Hua Popo faked an attack to Jing Xuan, her left foot actually kicked the acupoint on the waist of an Emei female disciple.

    Her shadow dashed around the pavilion, her sleeves fluttered in the air, occasional coughs were heard, Emei disciples thrust their swords, but nobody was able to stab her; on the contrary, seven male and female disciples fell down because their acupoints were sealed. Her acupoint sealing technique was very strange; those who were hit were screaming from pain. In a short moment the garden was full of sad and shrill screams, rending the hearts of those who heard them.

    Jin Hua Popo clapped her hands and returned to the pavilion. “Miss Zhou,” she said, “How is Jin Hua Popo’s martial art compared to your Emei Pai’s?”

    “Our Sect’s martial art is certainly better than Popo’s,” Zhou Zhiruo replied, “You were defeated by my Xian Shi’s sword the other day; have you forgotten?”

    Jin Hua Popo was furious, “The Old Nun Miejue was using a precious sword; that doesn’t count!” she said.

    “Popo, let’s be honest,” Zhou Zhiruo said, “If Xian Shi and you fight barehanded, who do you think will win?”

    Jin Hua Popo was silent for half a day before answering, “I don’t know. I came to Dadou today to find out between your Zun Shi and me, who’s weak and who’s strong. Ay! Miejue Shitai has died, Wulin world lost one of its martial art masters. Someone like her had never been seen in the past, and will never be seen in the future. Henceforth Emei Pai will become weak.”

    Those seven disciples were still screaming and wailing, as if they were underlining Jin Hua Popo’s words. Jing Xuan and several other senior disciples tried hard to unseal their acupoints, but their efforts did not show any effect. It looked like they would have to be released by Jin Hua Popo herself.

    Zhang Wuji had treated not just a few of Wulin world’s characters who were injured by Jin Hua Popo in the past. He knew this granny was very vicious, a person of her caliber was rare in the Jianghu. He was thinking of coming out and help, but after careful consideration he decided against it. He thought, “If I help Miss Zhou, I will offend Zhu’Er. This cousin of mine has been so good to me; moreover, she is my close relative. How can I favor one and discriminate against the other?”

    In the meantime, Jin Hua Popo said, “Miss Zhou, do you admit defeat?”

    Zhou Zhiruo gathered up her courage and said, “Our Sect’s martial art is as deep as the ocean, it can’t be learned in a short time. We are still young. Right now we are inferior to Popo, but our progress in the future will be immeasurable.”

    Jin Hua Popo laughed. “Wonderful, wonderful!” she said, “Since that’s the case, Jin Hua Popo is taking my leave now. Just wait until your progress is immeasurable then you can come back and unseal their acupoints.” While saying that she took Zhu’Er’s hand, and turned around to leave.

    Zhou Zhiruo realized her fellow disciples were too much in pain; they might not be able to endure another hour and might die from their pain. “Popo, wait a minute!” she hastily said, “Please help my Shijie’s and Shixiong’s [martial (older) sisters and brothers].”

    “You want me to help them? That’s easy,” Jin Hua Popo said, “From this day forward, wherever Jin Hua Popo or her disciples go, Emei disciples have to make yourselves scarce.”

    Zhou Zhiruo thought, “I have just accepted the Sect Leader responsibility, already I have to face this strong enemy. If I agree to her condition, how can Emei Pai set our feet in the Wulin world? How can I let the demise of Emei Pai to be in my hand?”

    Jin Hua Popo saw her hesitation; she laughed and said, “You don’t want Emei Pai’s prestige to fall; that’s fine. Just let me borrow the Yitian Sword then I will help your fellow disciples.”

    Zhou Zhiruo said, “Our Sect’s master and disciples all fell into the royal government’s evil plot and were held captives on that Pagoda. How can the Yitian Sword still be in our hands?”

    Jin Hua Popo had already expected this answer, she knew her chance of borrowing the Sword was only one in ten thousands, yet hearing Zhou Zhiruo say so, her countenance showed disappointment nonetheless. Suddenly in a stern voice she said, “If you want to save Emei Pai’s reputation, you cannot save your own life …” Taking a pill from her bosom she said, “This is the ‘duan chang lie xin’ [breaking intestines, cracking the heart] poison. You take this, then I’ll save your people.”

    Zhou Zhiruo remembered that her heart was already broken when she received her Shifu’s injuction; she said in her heart, “Shifu told me to deceive Zhang Gongzi [young master Zhang]; I can’t do this. Rather than keep on living with this constant torture, death is a hundred times better; nothing matters anymore.” With a trembling hand she took the poison.

    “Zhou Shimei, don’t eat that!” Jing Xuan shouted.

    Zhang Wuji saw the situation was critical; he was ready to jump out and snatch the poison away. Zhao Min hissed into his ear, “Idiot! It’s a fake; that is not a poison.”

    Zhang Wuji was stunned, but Zhou Zhiruo had already swallowed the pill. Jing Xuan and the others shouted and rushed toward Jin Hua Popo, ready to strike.

    “Excellent, you have guts!” Jin Hua Popo said, “The poison won’t kill you in an hour or two. Miss Zhou, come with me and nicely listen to me. If Lao Po [the old granny] is happy, she might give the antidote to you.” Finished speaking she walked around and slapped and kicked those Emei disciples. Immediately their pain stopped; so their screams stopped as well. Only their limbs were still weak that they would not be able to move for a while.

    These people saw with their own eyes that Zhou Zhiruo took the poison to save their lives; they were overwhelmed with gratitude. “Thank you, Sect Leader!” one of them shouted.

    Jin Hua Popo pulled Zhou Zhiruo’s hand, “Good child,” she tenderly said, “Come with me, Popo won’t make things difficult for you.”

    Before she could reply, Zhou Zhiruo felt an enormous power pulling her body and she jumped forward against her own will.

    “Zhou Shimei …” Jing Xuan shouted and rushed forward, trying to block, but suddenly she felt a strong wind from her side, a finger almost touched her. It was Zhu’Er attacking her from the side. Jing Xuan used her left palm to block, but to her surprise Zhu’Er’s move was a fake one. ‘Slap!’ Ding Minjun’s face ate her palm. This ‘zhi dong da xi’ [aim to the east strike to the west] was indeed Jin Hua Popo’s technique.

    Zhu’Er chuckled and jumped over the wall.

    “After them!” Zhang Wuji said. With one hand pulling Zhao Min along and the other carrying Xiao Zhao, he also jumped over the wall.

    Jing Xuan and the others were startled to suddenly see three people coming out from the grass. They tried to pursue after them, but how could their ‘qing gong’ [lightness skill] be compared to Jian Hua Popo and Zhang Wuji? By the time they jumped over the wall, six people had already disappeared into the darkness.

    Zhang Wuji and the others pursued for a dozen of ‘zhang’s or so. Without slowing down the least bit Jin Hua Popo shouted, “I am surprised Emei Pai disciples have the courage to pursue Jin Hua Popo. Hey, hey, it’s amazing!”

    “Let our Sect Leader go!” Zhao Min shouted. Her body swayed and she flew several ‘zhang’s forward. The tip of her Yitian Sword threatening Jin Hua Popo’s back. She was using the ‘jin ding fu guang’ [golden peak like a ray of light], one of Emei’s sword techniques; which she learned from an Emei female disciple in the Wan An Temple. It could not be compared to Miejue Shitai, but it was exquisite nonetheless.

    As Jin Hua Popo heard the gust of wind behind her back, she let Zhou Zhiruo go and quickly turned around. Zhao Min flicked her wrist and launched another stance, ‘qian feng jing xiu’ [a thousand peaks compete to show their elegance].

    Jin Hua Popo knew the sword in Zhao Min’s hand was the Yitian Sword; she was alarmed yet happy. Stretching out her hand, she tried to snatch the sword away.

    Several stances later Jin Hua Popo pressed in front of Zhao Min, her finger was just about to reach Zhao Min’s wrist, which was holding the sword; unexpectedly Zhao Min turned her sword around with one of Kunlun Pai’s sword techniques, the ‘shen tuo jun zu’ [divine camel with stallion’s feet].

    Jin Hua Popo saw Zhao Min was a young girl; she was holding the Yitian Sword, she was also using Emei’s sword technique, therefore, she must be an Emei Pai disciple. In order to challenge Miejue Shitai, Jin Hua Popo had extensively studied Emei’s sword techniques for several years. After seeing Zhao Min’s several stances, she knew her internal strength was only mediocre; hence for the next several stances she thought she would understand and able to anticipate her attack. For that reason she pressed on with the intention of snatching the Yitian Sword away. Who would have thought that this young girl was able to launch a Kunlun Pai’s sword technique? If she were not too engrossed with her preconception, Kunlun Pai’s sword technique would never give her any trouble; it was just that she was taken completely by surprise. Although her martial art skill was high, she was unable to block and was forced to hastily roll back to evade the attack; only she was not fast enough that the end of her left sleeve was cut by the sword.

    In her anger Jin Hua Popo pounced back. Zhao Min realized that her martial art skill was too far below her opponent; she did not dare to take the attack head on. Relying on the Yitian Sword she stabbed to the left and cut to the right, brandishing the sword to the east and striking to the west, at the same time keep changing her sword style; one time it was Kongtong, another time Huashan. She launched Kunlun’s ‘da mo fei sha’ [great desert flying sand], followed by Shaolin Pai’s ‘jin zhen du jie’ [crossing golden-lily’s pond]. Each stance was the best feature of each Sect; each stance carried an enormous power; enhanced by the very sharp Yitian Sword, confounding Jin Hua Popo and rendering her helpless to press closer.

    Zhu’Er was anxious; she loosened the sword from her waist and tossed it towards Jin Hua Popo. Meanwhile Zhao Min ferociously attacked for seven, eight stances. Toward the ninth stance Jin Hua Popo could not help but block using the sword. ‘Crack!’ her sword was cut into two.

    Jin Hua Popo’s countenance changed greatly, she rolled away and shouted, “Who are you?”

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “Why didn’t you pull out the Tulong Saber?”

    Jin Hua Popo was angry, “If I had Tulong Saber in my hand, do you think you can stand eight, ten stances against me? Do you dare to try it?”

    Zhao Min laughed and said, “Then go and get the Tulong Saber. I am fine with it. I’ll be waiting for you at Dadou; we’ll fight again when you have the Saber.”

    “Turn your head around,” Jin Hua Popo said, “Let me take a look at your face.”

    Zhao Min turned her body sideways, stuck out her tongue, closed her left eye and opened her right one, twisted her face muscle; making a ghost face. Jin Hua Popo was very angry; she spat on the ground, tossed her broken sword away, and pulling Zhu’Er and Zhou Zhiruo along she left in big strides.

    “Let us go after them,” Zhang Wuji said.

    “No need to worry,” Zhao Min said, “You come with me. I guarantee your Miss Zhou’s safety.”

    “What Tulong Saber were you talking about?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    “In that deserted garden I heard that old granny say that she went all over the world, till the end of it, before she finally found an old acquaintance who’d let her borrow a precious weapon, with which she was going to fight Miejue Shitai’s Yitian Sword,” Zhao Min replied. She recited, “’Yi tian bu chu, shei yu zheng feng’? [Meh’s translation: ‘Power of heaven not appear, who can possibly compete?’ Literal translation: ‘relying on heaven (the ‘Yitian’ of the ‘Yitian Sword’) does not appear, who can fight its (blade) edge?’] There is no weapon which can match the Yitian Sword but the Tulong Saber. Could it be that she acquired the Tulong Saber from your ‘Yifu’ [foster father] Xie Lao Qianbei [Old Senior Xie]? I used the Yitian Sword to attack her, with the intention of forcing her to pull the Saber out. Turns out she did not have the treasured Saber in her hand, and challenged me to fight her in the future. Apparently she knows the Tulong Saber’s whereabouts; only she was unable to get it yet.”

    Zhang Wuji thought for a while. “This is strange,” he said.

    “My guess is she will go to the seaside,” Zhao Min said, “She will go to the ocean to fetch the Saber. We must precede them; don’t let the old malicious granny swindle blind but kindhearted Xie Lao Qianbei.”

    Hearing her last sentence, Zhang Wuji’s blood bubbled up from his chest, “Yes, yes!” he hastily said. At first he agreed to go with Zhao Min to borrow the Tulong Saber just because as a real man his words must worth a thousand gold; he could not eat his own words. But this time, thinking of Jin Hua Popo was about to make things difficult for his ‘yifu’, he wished he had wings so that he could fly in a hurry and save his ‘yifu’.

    Immediately Zhao Min took two people to the Palace. She talked with the guard at the Palace gate without going inside. The guard repeatedly answered in affirmative, then turned around to enter the palace. In a relatively short moment he came back out, leading nine steeds along. He also carried a large bag of gold and silver. Zhao Min, with Zhang Wuji and Xiao Zhao, rode on three steeds, while leading the other six steeds behind. By alternating their mounts, they sped up eastwards.

    By early morning the next day, the nine steeds were so exhausted that they were unable even to stand. Zhao Min presented the golden medal of the Ruyang Prince, as the highest commander of the entire army, to the local government; they traded the nine steeds and continued their journey. By late evening that day they had arrived at the seaside.

    Zhao Min rode the horse straight to the local government mansion. She ordered the magistrate to quickly prepare a strong ocean ship; complete with the helmsmen, the sailors, food and water, weapons and winter clothes. In addition, all ocean ships were to be moved immediately to the south; no other ships were to be moored within fifty ‘li’s [about 25 km] from that place. With Ruyang Prince’s gold medal, how could a lower ranking county magistrate dare not to obey? Zhao Min, Zhang Wuji and Xiao Zhao waited leisurely inside the mansion, eating and drinking wine. Less than a day later the magistrate came back to report that everything was ready.

    When three people went to the seaside to inspect, Zhao Min could not help but stomping her feet repeatedly, “Wasted effort!” she bellowed. Turned out by the beach anchored a really big ship with two decks; the decks of the bow, the port and the starboard were loaded with heavy canons. It was a Mongolian navy’s battleship.

    In those years the Mongolians were trying to send military expedition to Japan; hence they recruited a large number of boat makers. Unexpectedly a major hurricane had scattered the Mongolian navy, resulted in the expedition to the east was postponed indefinitely, but since then the extent of boat making had been declining.

    Zhao Min was at her wit’s end; she did not expect in order to curry her favor the county magistrate would prepare a battleship for her. By now the food, the water and the supplies had been prepared on board; the other boats had also obeyed the Ruyang Prince’s gold medal, they had sailed dozens of ‘li’s southwards. With a bitter smile Zhao Min ordered the sailors to cover the canons with fishnets, she also had the boat loaded with several hundred catties of fresh fish, to give the impression that it was an old battleship, which was converted to a fishing boat.

    Zhao Min, Zhang Wuji and Xiao Zhao three people changed into sailor attire. Using greasepaint they made their faces darker, and then glued some fake moustache and beards; they were not taking any chances. Afterwards they sat quietly in the boat, waiting for Jin Hua Popo’s arrival.

    This Zhao Min Junzhu’s prediction was very accurate; sure enough, that very same evening a large carriage arrived by the seaside. Jin Hua Popo, along with Zhu’Er and Zhou Zhiruo, came looking for a boat. The sailors had received Zhao Min’s instruction; they pretended to refuse by saying that the boat was a fishing boat converted from an old battleship, they only caught fish and not interested in taking passengers. It was not until Jin Hua Popo produced two ingots of gold did the captain reluctantly agree to take them aboard. Jin Hua Popo took Zhu’Er and Zhou Zhiruo on board and they set sail immediately, heading east.

    On that vast boundless open sea the lone boat sailed to the southeast. During the two days of sailing, Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min looked out their cabin window in the bottom deck. They noticed that during the day, the sun, and in the night, the moon, were both rising from the port side. Obviously the boat was sailing to the south. It was the beginning of winter, the boat had the full advantage of the north wind blowing strong on its sail that they were traveling very fast.

    Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min often had some discussions. “My ‘Yifu’ is on the ‘bing huo dao’ [ice and fire island] of the extreme north; if we want to find him, then we must sail to the north. Why are we going to the south instead?”

    Each time Zhao Min always replied, “This Jin Hua Popo is certainly a strange woman. More over, right now the south wind has not arrived yet, there is no way we can sail to the north even if we want to.”

    Toward noon on the third day, the captain came down to their cabin to give his report, he said Jin Hua Popo was very familiar of the sea condition around this place; she knew exactly where the sand bar, the reef, and the shallow waters were. She was even more knowledgeable than the captain was.

    Zhang Wuji suddenly remembered, “Ah, right!” he exclaimed, “Could it be that she is returning to the ‘ling she dao’ [spirit snake island]?”

    “What Ling She Island?” Zhao Min asked.

    “The Ling She Island is Jin Hua Popo’s home,” Zhang Wuji said, “Her late husband was called the ‘yin ye xiansheng’ [Mister Silver Leaf]. Ling She, Jin Hua, Yin Ye [Spirit Snake, Golden Flower and Silver Leaf]; haven’t you heard?”

    Zhao Min laughed mockingly and said, “You are only a few years older than I am, but seems like you are an expert in the Jianghu’s matters.”

    Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “The heretical devilish Ming Cult certainly knows a lot more of Jianghu matters than Junzhu Niang-niang.”

    These two people were originally archenemies; the groups of warriors under their commands had been engaged in several tough battles. But after several days of living together in a ship’s cabin in the middle of the sea, they were unable to restrain from chatting with each other amiably. Also, with Jin Hua Popo as their common enemy, one more day they were together, one more day the estrangement between them was shed away.

    In order not to raise Jin Hua Popo’s suspicions, the captain immediately went back to the upper deck right after giving out his report. Zhao Min laughed and said, “Da Jiaozhu [great cult leader], I wonder if it is bothersome for you to tell this friendless and unlearned young girl about the power and prestige of the Spirit Snake’s Golden Flower and Silver Leaf that shook the Jianghu.”

    Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “To my shame, I don’t have the slightest idea Yin Ye Xiansheng is what kind of person; but Jin Hua Popo, I actually have had some encounters with her.” Thereupon he told her how he went to the Butterfly Valley and studied medicine under the ‘die gu yi xian’ [the Divine Doctor of the Butterfly Valley] Hu Qingniu, how some people from different sects were wounded by Jin Hua Popo until they were in between life and death, how they came to the Butterfly Valley for medical help, and how under Hu Qingniu’s direction he cured them all. How Jin Hua Popo contended with Miejue Shitai in martial arts and was defeated, how in the end Hu Qingniu and Wang Nan’gu husband and wife died under Jin Hua Popo’s hands. He told her all kinds of emotions surrounding the circumstances. He felt that although Hu Qingniu’s character was rather peculiar, his treatment toward Zhang Wuji was not bad. Thinking about how those husband and wife’s bodies hung high on the tree, he was unable to restrain his eyes from turning red. The only thing he did not tell was how Zhu’Er grabbed his hand because she wanted to take him as her playmate on the Ling She Island; and how he bit her arm really bad. Why he omitted this part of the story, Zhang Wuji could not explain; perhaps he felt what he did was rather unsophisticated.

    Throughout Zhao Min listened attentively without saying anything. Finally with a serious look on her face she said, “At first I only thought this old granny as a powerful martial art master, turned out she is involved in many gratitude and grudges. Listening to your story, it seems that this old granny is truly a formidable opponent, we must not be careless at all.”

    Zhang Wuji said with a smile, “Junzhu Niang-niang is well-versed in both pen and sword, under her command there are numerous warriors with marvelous and diverse ability. Dealing with a trivial Jin Hua Popo, she should be able to accomplish the task with ease.”

    Zhao Min also smiled and said, “Too bad in this boundless ocean I have no way to summon numerous warriors and foreign monks under my command.”

    Zhang Wuji said, “That chef who prepared our meals, the sailors who pull the sail, although they can’t be considered Jianghu’s top rank fighters, can’t they be counted as the second rank warriors?”

    Zhao Min was startled, then broke into chuckle while saying, “My admiration! Da Jiaozhu truly has a good pair of eyes; nothing can be concealed from you.”

    Turned out when she returned to the Palace to get the gold, silver and the horses, she also left a secret message via the guard, dispatching a group of warriors under her command to rush to the seaside. They also rode on fast horses, only they arrived half a day later than Zhang Wuji. She had carefully picked the warriors who had not participated in the battle at the Wan An Temple; those who had not met Zhang Wuji before, to come over and guised themselves as kitchen helpers, sailors, et cetera. However, for people who practiced martial art, naturally their facial expression and bodily movement differed from average people; therefore, although they tried to conceal it carefully, Zhang Wuji only needed to take a single look and he had already found out their true identities.

    Hearing him say that, Zhao Min mused on the fact that since he could see through their disguise, then Jin Hua Popo must have had seen it also; since she had a lot more experience, plus she was a wily old fox. Luckily they had more people on their side; Zhang Wuji’s martial art was far superior. It would be fine whether Jin Hua Popo saw through the disguise or not. Either way, if they were to battle each other, Zhao Min did not have anything to fear from Jin Hua Popo plus Zhu’Er. And since Jin Hua Popo had most likely seen through their disguise then they did not have any reason to continue concealing their true identities.

    These past several days, Zhang Wuji was most concerned over whether the poison pill Zhou Zhiruo took had broken out or not. Zhao Min understood his concern; as soon as she saw he wrinkled his brows, she sent someone to the upper cabin with the pretense of serving tea, while spying around on their enemies. Each time he returned, he would report that Miss Zhou looked just fine, without any poisoning symptoms. This happened several times; finally Zhang Wuji felt embarrassed. He sat quietly on the corner of the cabin; thinking about the snowy area of the western region, where Zhu’Er kept him company for several days. How He Taichong, Wu Lie, Ding Minjun, and the others came and surrounded them, how in the presence of He Taichong and the others he was saying loudly, ‘Miss, with all my heart I sincerely desire to marry you. I only hope you will not regard me unworthy.’ How wholeheartedly he promised, ‘From now on, I will cherish you with all my might, I will look after you. No matter how many people come to make things difficult for you, no matter how many fierce people come to bully you, I don’t care if I’ll have to lose my life, I will protect you. I want you to be happy, I want you to forget your past sufferings.’ Thinking about these things he could not help but blush.

    “Pei!” Zhao Min suddenly spat, “You are daydreaming about your Miss Zhou!”

    “No, I am not!” Zhang Wuji denied.

    “Humph,” Zhao Min snorted, “Daydreaming is daydreaming. You are a real man, why would you lie?”

    “Did I lie?” Zhang Wuji countered, “I am telling you: I was not thinking about Miss Zhou.”

    “If you were thinking about Ku Toutuo or Wei Yixiao, you won’t have that kind of expression,” Zhao Min said, “They are ugly and weird fellows; if you are thinking of them, would you have that kind of gentle and bashful expression on your face?”

    Zhang Wuji smiled bashfully, “You are really good,” he said, “You can tell whether other people were thinking about some pretty people or some ugly ones. But I am being honest with you, the person I was thinking about is not the least bit pretty.”

    Zhao Min could see the sincerity in his words; she showed a faint smile and did not pay him anymore attention. Although she was intelligent, she would never guess that the person he was thinking about was that ugly girl Zhu’Er who was inside the upper deck cabin of their boat.

    Zhang Wuji recalled how in order to train the poisonous martial art, ‘qian zhu wan du shou’ [thousand spiders ten-thousand poisonous hands], Zhu’Er’s face had become contorted and bumpy. That night at the deserted garden he thought that she looked even worse than in the past. Thinking to this point he could not restrain from heaving a deep sigh; remembering that the deeper she practiced this poisonous skill, the more her whole body and mind would be harmed. He also remembered when Yin Liting told her that Zhang Wuji had died falling down from the cliff; Zhu’Er had shown her true feeling by crying bitterly. Zhang Wuji was very grateful over that matter.

    Ever since he arrived at the Brightness Peak, day in and day out he was either busy training martial arts or busy tending the Ming Cult affairs; when did he ever have time to sit down peacefully and think about his own concerns? Once in a while he would remember Zhu’Er, then he would ask Wei Yixiao to look for her, or ask Yang Xiao to dispatch some search and rescue team to look around the Peak; but all those times nobody found out her whereabouts. Now he rebuked himself deeply, “Zhu’Er has always been good to me, but why have I been so ignorant about her? Why haven’t I given any thought to her these past several days?” Actually, since he took the Cult Leader position of the Ming Cult, all his personal affairs were totally out of his mind.

    “What are you regretting?” Zhao Min suddenly asked.

    Before Zhang Wuji could reply, they heard shouts from the upper deck; followed by a sailor coming down to give his report, “We see land ahead. The Granny ordered us to pick up speed and come ashore.”

    Zhao Min and Zhang Wuji looked out from their window and saw that there was a big island several ‘li’s ahead with trees and lush green vegetation on it. There was a strange looking peak on the island; it was tall and towering straight above a forest of pine trees. The boat was sailing fast because of the favorable wind; they had arrived on shore in just a time needed to eat a bowl of rice.

    On the eastern end of the island there was a rocky hill protruding into the sea, with no sandy beach on it. Although the battle ship was deep into the water due to its weight, it would be able to anchor right next to the shore. But before the anchor was down, they heard a ferocious shout coming from the hill; the shout was full of rage, with an overwhelming power in it.

    Zhang Wuji was pleasantly surprised, since he recognized the voice; the shout belonged to his Yifu, the ‘jin mao shi wang’ [golden-mane lion king] Xie Xun. It had been more than ten years, but his Yifu’s heroic air was still as he remembered it; how could he not feel extremely joyful? Without thinking how Xie Xun from the far north Bing Huo Island could be on that island, also without any regard if Jin Hua Popo would see through his disguise, he hurriedly stepped down the wooden plank and ran toward the hill from which the shout originated to take a look.

    He saw four men with unsheathed weapons in their hands surrounding a tall and big man. That man was facing the enemies with an empty hand. He was none other than Jin Mao Shi Wang Xie Xun.

    Zhang Wuji took a quick glance and saw that although his Yifu was blind, although he was surrounded by four men, although he faced four weapons barehanded, he did not by any chance lose his imposing air. Zhang Wuji had never seen his Yifu fight an enemy before; now that he had the opportunity to witness several stances, he was very happy. “Jin Mao Shi Wang’s prestige shook the world in the past; it certainly was not an empty reputation,” he said to himself, “Yifu’s martial art skill is above ‘Qing Yi Fu Wang’ [Green-Winged Bat King]; I’ll say he is on par with (maternal) grandfather.”

    The four people’s martial arts were certainly not bad either. From where he was, near the boat, looking to the hill, Zhang Wuji was not able to see their faces clearly; but he could see that they were wearing raggedy clothes with cloth sacks on their backs. Obviously, they were from the Beggar Clan. Three other men stood on the side, ready to join the battle.

    Zhang Wuji heard someone was saying, “Hand over the Tulong Saber … we’ll spare your life … precious saber in place of your life …” The strong wind from the hill transmitted the voice intermittently, making him difficult to understand clearly what they were saying; but Zhang Wuji knew that these people were here to snatch the precious Tulong Saber.

    He heard Xie Xun laugh a big laugh and say, “The Tulong Saber is in my possession. The Beggar Clan’s stinky thieves; if you have the ability then get it from me.” His hands and feet did not slow down the least bit when his mouth was speaking.

    In a flash Jin Hua Popo had run ashore; amidst the coughing she said, “Beggar Clan’s Heroes, welcome to the Ling She Island. You did not come and talk to Lao Po, but disturb the Ling She Island’s honorable guest. What do you want?”

    “This is indeed the Ling She Island,” Zhang Wuji thought, “Listening to Jin Hua Popo, apparently Yifu is her invited guest. Yifu has said that in any event he won’t be willing to leave Bing Huo Island and return to the Central Plains; how come on Jin Hua Popo’s invitation he was willing to come? How could Jin Hua Popo find out Yifu’s whereabouts?” Questions after questions grew in his heart.

    Hearing the host had arrived, the four people on the hill wanted to subdue Xie Xun as quick as possible; they attacked more urgently. But in doing so, they had actually violated a major principle in the study of martial art. Xie Xun was blind, thus he depended on the wind generated by the weapons to distinguish the enemies’ positions. The faster these four people moved their hands, the stronger the wind generated by their weapons.

    Xie Xun let out a long laugh. ‘Bang!’ he hit one enemy squarely on his chest. That man let out a long miserable scream and fell straight down from the hill into the rocks below. His skull broke and his brain splattered everywhere.

    One of the three people standing on the side shouted, “Back off!” With a light movement he stepped forward, his fist floating in the air with strength that was sometimes there and sometimes not there, making it hard for Xie Xun to distinguish the sound. Sure enough, it was not until the fist was only a few inches from him that he finally realized it. He hastily tried to block the attack; his movement was awkward, he was truly in a very difficult situation.

    The three men who fought previously moved back quickly; while an old man who was standing on the side took over their place. This old man incorporated the same technique as the first man; his palm was also light. Several stances later Xie Xun was forced to block to the east and evade to the west; he was in a really dangerous situation.

    “Ji Zhanglao [Elder Ji], Zheng Zhanglao [Elder Zheng]!” Jin Hua Popo shouted, “Jin Mao Shi Wang is inconvenienced by his eyes; you are fighting him with this despicable method. You are enjoying a reputation as Jianghu’s heroes for nothing.” She was talking and walking to the hill at the same time, with the help of her walking stick.

    She was walking in faltering steps, as if a mountain breeze would blow her off the hill; but actually she was moving very fast. Supported by the stick, it looked like she was riding the wind, floating forward; with several strikes of her stick she quickly reached the waist of the hill. Zhu’Er followed closely behind her, but just in a short moment she fell behind.

    Zhang Wuji was concerned over his Yifu’s safety, he quickly ran up the hill. Zhao Min followed behind him. In a low voice she said, “With this Old Granny here, Shi Wang [Lion King] will not be in grave danger. Don’t do anything yet, you’d better hide your identity first.”

    Zhang Wuji nodded and followed behind Zhu’Er. By now all he could see was Zhu’Er’s graceful and slender body. If he did not know Zhu’Er’s face, wouldn’t he think she was an extremely beautiful woman, not inferior to Zhao Min, Zhou Zhiruo, and Xiao Zhao, three girls? Once he had this thought, immediately he scolded himself, “Zhang Wuji, oh, Zhang Wuji, your Yifu is facing a grave danger, yet you are looking at a girl and seizing her up, whether she is a beautiful woman or not.”

    In a short moment, the four of them had reached the peak of the hill. They saw that Xie Xun was keeping his hands close to his body, in a defensive position without even trying to attack. Only when the enemy’s fist or kick came near did he use a little bit of ‘qin na’ [grappling technique] to parry the attack. This way he was able to hold out against the enemy momentarily, but it would be difficult for him to score a victory.

    Zhang Wuji stood underneath a cluster of pine trees. He saw his Yifu’s face was full of wrinkles, and there were more white hair on his head; he looked a lot older than the last time they parted. Zhang Wuji guessed that for the past dozen of years he was living alone on that desolate island, he must have passed the days with difficulty. Zhang Wuji was grieved, he felt blood rushing up in his chest and could not help but feel a strong urge to fight the enemy for him. He stepped forward to get a closer look at the enemies. Zhao Min understood his intention; she lightly pinched his hand and shook her head.

    “Ji Zhanglao,” Jin Hua Popo said, “Your ‘yin shan zhang da jiu shi’ [lit. nine great style of ‘yin’ (negative, female, of ‘yin and yang’) mountain palm] is famous throughout the Jianghu; why are you stealthily changing it to ‘mian zhang zhao shi’ [lit. cotton palm style]? Zheng Zhanglao is even more unspeakable; you conceal the ‘hui feng fu liu quan’ [lit. returning wind brushing away the willow fist (technique)] inside the ‘ba gua quan’ [eight-diagram fist (technique)]. Of course Jin Mao Shi Wang Xie Daxia [great hero Xie] does not know that … (cough, cough) …”

    Since Xie Xun could not see the enemies’ style, he was at a great disadvantage over them. Moreover, Ji and Zheng two elders were extremely cunning; by deliberately concealing their style, Xie Xun was having trouble predicting their moves. As Jin Hua Popo exposed their trick, Xie Xun’s confidence grew. He waited until Zheng Zhanglao was about to change his fist technique, suddenly he struck straight ahead; his fist collided with Zheng Zhanglao’s fist. Zheng Zhanglao staggered back two steps until he bumped into a tree stump. Ji Zhanglao thrust his palm from the side to protect his companion, forcing Xie Xun to stop from pursuing him.

    Zhang Wuji turned his attention to the two Beggar Clan’s Elders; Ji Zhanglao was short and plump, with a red face, reminding him of a village butcher. Zheng Zhanglao was tall and skinny, with an ashen look, a perfect picture of a beggar. Both men carried eight cloth sacks on their back. The other man standing afar looked about thirty years of age; he also wore a beggar clothes, but his clothes was neat and clean. Surprisingly he also carried eight cloth sacks on his back. For someone his age to achieve an eight-bag elder position of the Beggar Clan was extremely rare. Suddenly that man opened his mouth, “Jin Hua Popo, you said you were not going to help Xie Xun, but in the end you are helping him. Aren’t you ashamed?”

    Jin Hua Popo coldly said, “Are you also a Beggar Clan’s Elder, Sire? Please forgive this Old Granny’s faulty vision for not recognizing you.”

    “I joined the Beggar Clan not too long ago, no wonder Popo did not know,” that man replied, “My surname is Chen, given name Youliang.”

    “Chen Youliang? Chen Youliang?” Jin Hua Popo muttered, “I have never heard that name.”

    Suddenly a cry was heard as Zheng Zhanglao’s left arm was hit by Xie Xun. The three Beggar Clan disciples who were standing on the side immediately charged forward with their unsheathed weapons. These three’s martial art skills were inferior to Ji and Zheng, two Elders; normally they would only be in the Elders’ way, but since Xie Xun became blind, he had never fought with anybody, so his battle experience was lacking. Today was the first time he fought powerful enemies. Amidst the sound of fists and kicks were the sounds of the weapons; these mixtures of noises made him difficult to distinguish the enemies’ positions. In a moment his shoulder was hit by a fist.

    Seeing the critical situation, Zhang Wuji was about to make his move, but Zhao Min said in a low voice, “Certainly Jin Hua Popo would help?” Zhang Wuji halted his steps; he looked at Jin Hua Popo, and saw that she was leaning on her stick with cold smile on her face, without giving any sign that she was going to help.

    By that time Xie Xun’s left leg was kicked heavily by Zheng Zhanglao. Xie Xun staggered, he nearly fell down. Zhang Wuji had already prepared seven small pebbles in his hand; by now he could not wait any longer, his right hand moved, the seven pebbles flew toward the five people surrounding Xie Xun. But before the pebbles hit their targets, a black light flashed; ‘swish!’ three weapons were cut down. Among the five people, four were cut off right on their chests, becoming eight pieces, which scattered to all directions, falling off the hill. Only Zheng Zhanglao survived with his right arm cut off, but his back was hit by the two pebbles Zhang Wuji shot; he fell on the ground. The four of the slain people’s back were also hit by the pebbles, only the Saber cut them off first before the pebbles arrived. This time Zhang Wuji’s action was actually unnecessary.

    This incident happened so fast that everybody was startled. They saw Xie Xun’s hand was holding a deep black saber, precisely what was known as ‘wu lin zhi zun’ [the most revered in the Wulin (martial art) world], the Tulong Saber [Dragon-slaying Saber]. He held the Saber horizontally across his chest, standing on the peak of the hill, his power and prestige made people shiver, he looked just like a deity.

    Zhang Wuji had seen this Saber since he was little, yet he had never expected its sharpness to have such an overwhelming power as demonstrated just now. Jin Hua Popo muttered, “’Wu lin zhi zun, bao dao tu long’! [the most revered in the Wulin world, precious saber slaying the dragon] ’Wu lin zhi zun, bao dao tu long’!”

    Losing his arm, Zheng Zhanglao screamed in pain just like a pig getting slaughtered. Chen Youliang pale faced, he said in a loud voice, “Xie Daxia’s [great hero Xie’s] martial art is unparalleled, my utmost admiration! I ask you to let this Zheng Zhanglao go down the hill. Let me trade my life with his. Xie Daxia, please make your move!”

    His speech made everybody’s countenance change; they had not expected this person’s ‘yi qi’ [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice/code of brotherhood] to be this deep. Zhang Wuji could not help but feel quite respectful towards him.

    “Chen Youliang,” Xie Xun said, “Hmm, you are a real man. Take this surnamed Zheng away, I will not make things difficult for you!”

    “Let me thank Xie Daxia first for your graciousness in not killing us,” Chen Youliang said, “Only the Beggar Clan has five lives died under Xie Daxia’s hands. I am going to train for ten more years. If I achieve success, I am going to come again to settle this debt.”

    Xie Xun thought that he only have to move one step forward and brandish his precious saber, then this man would not escape alive; yet under this extremely dangerous situation he still had the nerve to say that he would come back to seek revenge in the future; he was a very brave man. Thereupon Xie Xun said, “If the Old Man is still alive ten years from now, I am going to wait for your instructions.”

    Chen Youliang cupped his fists toward Jin Hua Popo in salute and said, “Without permission the Beggar Clan has trespassed your island; herewith we apologize!” Carrying Zheng Zhanglao, he went down the hill in big strides.

    Jin Hua Popo turned toward Zhang Wuji and coldly said, “You, this young fella, you are good at the acupoint striking technique. Why are you shooting seven pebbles? One was meant for Chen Youliang, the other was meant for me, wasn’t it?”

    Seeing she was able to see that he has prepared the seven pebbles, but was not able to see through his disguise, Zhang Wuji did not know how to reply; he only showed a faint smile.

    “Young fella,” Jin Hua Popo said sternly, “What is your honored name? Disguising yourself as a sailor, following Lao Po Zi [the Old Granny] around, what is your purpose? You dare to act craftily in front of Jin Hua Popo; are you bored of your life?”

    Zhang Wuji was not used to tell lies; he was startled and could not answer. Zhao Min made her voice hoarse and answered, “We are from the ‘ju jing bang’ [gigantic whale clan], we make our living on the sea, doing business without any capital. Lao Popo [Old Granny] offered us a lot of gold, so what’s wrong with giving you a ride? This brother saw the Beggar Clan was cheating and he wanted to lend a hand. His intention was good, but we did not expect Xie Daxia’a martial art was this high; in the end we were only being meddlesome.”

    Although she imitated a male’s voice, her voice was still unavoidably sharp; piercing the ears of those who heard her. Luckily her makeup was perfect; her face was yellowish and looked like an old man, Jin Hua Popo was not able to see the flaw.

    “Many thanks!” Xie Xun waved his left hand and said, “Ay, Jin Mao Shi Wang is like a tiger fallen on the plains that he has to receive help from Ju Jing Bang. Leaving the Jianghu for twenty years, capable people have come forth in the Wulin world in large numbers; why should I come back?”

    When speaking the last sentence, his voice was full of sorrow, as he sighed with depressing emotion. Just now when Zhang Wuji shot those seven pebbles, Xie Xun could hear clearly the strength behind the shot; strength like that was truly rare in the world. He was shocked that there was such an expert in the Wulin world. Also, in the battle today, the reason he escaped injury from besiege after fighting all night was entirely due to the Tulong Saber. Suddenly the memory of the Wangpan Island some twenty years ago where he faced a group of warrior was like a different lifetime to him.

    “Xie San Ge [third (older) brother Xie],” Jin Hua Popo said, “I know you don’t like other people meddling in your fight; that’s why I did not lend you a hand. You are not offended, are you?”

    Hearing her unexpectedly calling his Yifu ‘San Ge’, Zhang Wuji was astonished. He did not know his Yifu ranked third in seniority; because looking at Jin Hua Popo, he was certain that she was older than his Yifu.

    “Why am I not surprised?” he heard Xie Xun replied, “You were returning to the Central Plains this time, did you hear anything about that child of mine Wuji?”

    Zhang Wuji was shocked; but he felt a soft palm was holding his hand tightly. He knew Zhao Min did not want him to step forward and expose himself. Just now he did not listen to her advice and rashly shot the pebbles to help; in the end he let their existence to be known. Only his concerns toward Xie Xun went to the extreme; he could not let Xie Xun being bullied by anybody. This time he felt it was all right to momentarily restrain himself.

    “Nothing,” Jin Hua Popo said.

    Xie Xun heaved a deep sigh and was silent for a long time before he finally said, “Mrs. Han, we are brother and sister [Translator’s note: the characters used here are ‘xiong mei’ - (older) brother, (younger) sister], you cannot deceive me, a blind man. Tell me, that child of mine, Wuji, is he still alive in this world?”

    Jin Hua Popo hesitated without answering. Zhu’Er suddenly said, “Xie Daxia …” Jin Hua Popo reached out with her left hand to grab her wrist and stared hard at her; Zhu’Er did not dare to continue.

    “Miss Yin,” Xie Xun said, “Tell me, tell me! Your Popo is deceiving me, is she not?”

    Two streams of tears flowed down on Zhu’Er’s cheeks. Jin Hua Popo lifted up her right hand and placed it on top of her head, so that as soon as Zhu’Er said something she did not wish she would exert her internal energy and take her life.

    “Xie Daxia,” Zhu’Er said, “My Popo did not deceive you. We went to the Central Plains this time, we did not hear any news about Zhang Wuji.”

    Hearing what she said, Jin Hua Popo took her right palm from Zhu’Er’s forehead, but she still grabbed her wrist tight.

    “So what news did you hear?” Xie Xun asked, “What happened to the Ming Cult? What happened to our old acquaintances?”

    “I don’t know,” Jin Hua Popo replied, “I did not inquire anything on the Jianghu matters. I was only looking for the Toutuo [Buddhist monk with hair] who killed my husband to settle the debt; and for Emei Pai’s Miejue Laoni [Old Nun Miejue], to avenge that sword duel defeat. As for other matters, Lao Po Zi does not care.”

    Xie Xun indignantly said, “All right, Mrs. Han, that day on the Bing Huo Island, what did you say to me? You said my Zhang Wudi [fifth brother Zhang], husband and wife, were not willing to reveal my hiding place; they were forced to cut their own throats on the Wudang Mountain. That child of mine, Wuji, became an orphan with nobody to care for him; that he was wandering in the Jianghu, that everywhere he went he was bullied by others, that he was destitute and miserable beyond words. Did you not say that?”

    “That’s right!” Jin Hua Popo said.

    “You said that he was struck by the Xuanming Shen Zhang [mysterious and dark divine palm]; he endured the suffering day and night,” Xie Xun continued, “You said you met him at the Butterfly Valley, and that you wanted him to come with you to the Ling She Island , but he was not willing. Is that right?”

    “That’s right!” Jin Hua Popo said, “If I lied to you, may the Heaven punish me and the Earth extinguish me, may Jin Hua Popo becomes the lowest of low in the Jianghu, may my departed husband does not have peace in his grave.”

    Xie Xun nodded. “Miss Yin,” he said, “What was it that you wanted to say?”

    Zhu’Er replied, “I was going to say that at that time I urged him to come with us to the Ling She Island; he did not want to listen, and bit me instead. His teeth mark is still on the back of my hand; I am telling you the truth. I … I am very concerned about him.”

    Suddenly Zhao Min tightened her hand, which was grabbing Zhang Wuji’s palm; her eyes were staring at him with contempt, but also with a teasing look, as if she was saying, ‘You lied to me! Turned out you knew this girl; not only that, there were many entanglements between the two of you.’

    Zhang Wuji blushed; remembering how Zhu’Er had a strange fondness toward him, his heart was bittersweet. All of a sudden Zhao Min lifted up Zhang Wuji’s hand toward her mouth and she bit the back of his hand really hard. As his hand was bleeding, the Jiu Yang Shen Gong [Nine Yang Divine Energy/Power] in Zhang Wuji’s body automatically reacted. Zhao Min felt a shock on her mouth that the corner of her mouth was also bleeding. This short episode between the two of them happened noiselessly.

    Zhang Wuji looked at Zhao Min with questioning eyes, wondering why in the world she suddenly bit him. But he saw her eyes were full of smiles, her face was blushing, beautiful as the springtime. Although she was wearing fake moustache above her lips, the moustache failed to cover her sweetness and beauty. Confusion filled his heart.

    “Very well!” Xie Xun said, “Mrs. Han, it was because of my concern over my child Wuji that I took the tens of thousands of ‘li’s journey back from the Bing Huo Island to the Central Plains. You promised to find Wuji for me; why didn’t you keep your promise?”

    Tears streaming down Zhang Wuji’s cheeks; it was only then did he found out that although his Yifu knew he had enemies everywhere, disregarding grave dangers he returned to the Central Plains, it was all because of him.

    Jin Hua Popo said, “That day we reached an agreement; I will look for your Zhang Wuji, you will lend me the Tulong Saber. Xie San Ge, let me borrow your Saber, Lao Po Zi’s words are like mountain; I will find this youngster for you.”

    Xie Xun shook his head. “Bring Wuji over here; naturally I’ll lend you the Saber.”

    “You don’t trust me?” Jin Hua Popo coldly asked.

    “The matters of the world are not easy to say,” Xie Xun replied, “Even close relatives like father and son or brother and sister sometimes are not trustworthy.”

    Zhang Wuji knew he was referring to Cheng Kun in the past; he felt sorry for his Yifu.

    “Then you are sure you won’t let me borrow the Saber in advance?” Jin Hua Popo asked.

    “I let the Beggar Clan’s Chen Youliang go down the mountain,” Xie Xun said, “From now on there will be no more peaceful days on the Ling She Island. I don’t know how many enemies of mine of the Wulin world would come over to make things difficult for me. Jin Mao Shi Wang is not like what he used to be; other than this Tulong Saber, I don’t even have a staff to lean on. Hey … hey …” Suddenly he let out a cold laugh and said, “Mrs. Han, just now five people were surrounding me. Even that hero from the Ju Jing Bang was preparing seven pebbles in his hand. Are you sure you don’t have any intention to harm me? You are hoping that I would die under the hands of the Beggar Clan, and then you can leisurely pick up the spoil. Xie Xun’s eyes maybe blind, but his hear is not. Mrs. Han, let me ask you again, Xie Xun came to your Ling She Island in secret; how did the Beggar Clan find out my whereabouts?”

    “I was just going to find out,” Jin Hua Popo said.

    Xie Xun flicked a finger on the blade of the Tulong Saber then he put it inside his robe. “You are not willing to find my Wuji for me, that’s fine,” he said, “Xie Xun only needs to re-enter the Jianghu and makes some earth-shattering disturbance.” Tilting up his head he let out a loud whistle; and then leaped up and ran from the west side of the hill. His steps were quick; he headed straight toward a mountain peak on the northern end of the island. There was a lone thatched hut on the mountain peak; apparently it was where he lived.

    Jin Hua Popo waited until Xie Xun had gone far. She turned around and stared at Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min. “Get lost!” she barked.

    Pulling Zhang Wuji’s hand, Zhao Min immediately went down the mountain, returning to their boat.

    “I want to see Yifu,” Zhang Wuji said.

    “When your Yifu left, Jin Hua Popo stared at him viciously, didn’t you see that?” Zhao Min asked.

    “I am not afraid of her,” Zhang Wuji replied.

    “There are so many surreptitious matters on this island,” Zhao Min said, “How could the Beggar Clan people come into this island? How did Jin Hua Popo know your Yifu’s whereabouts? How could she find the Bing Huo Island? There are so many unanswered mysteries here. It’s not difficult for you to kill Jin Hua Popo, but then we will never find out the answers to these questions.”

    “It’s not that I want to kill Jin Hua Popo,” Zhang Wuji said, “It’s just that Yifu misses me so much; I must go and see him.”

    Zhao Min shook her head, “You haven’t seen each other for more than a dozen years,” she reasoned, “Why can’t you wait one or two more days? Zhang Gongzi [young master Zhang], let me tell you
    something: no doubt we must guard against Jin Hua Popo; but more importantly, we must guard against Chen Youliang.”

    “That Chen Youliang?” Zhang Wuji asked, “This man’s ‘yi qi’ is very deep; he is a true gentleman.”

    “Do you really believe it in your heart? Or are you merely making fun of me?” Zhao Min asked.

    “Why would I make fun of you?” Zhang Wuji wondered, “This man was willing to die in place of that Zheng Zhanglao; a man of his quality is truly rare.”

    Zhao Min stared at him for a moment and sighed. “Zhang Gongzi, oh, Zhang Gongzi,” she said, “You are the Ming Cult’s Cult Leader; you are commanding of I don’t know how many fierce and wild warriors and heroes, executing I don’t know how many important matters, yet you are this gullible? How can that be?”

    “I am gullible?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    “This Chen Youliang was obviously swindling Xie Daxia,” Zhao Min said, “You were witnessing it with your own eyes; how can you not see it?”

    “He was swindling my Yifu?” Zhang Wuji jumped.

    “Xie Daxia was wielding the Tulong Saber,” Zhao Min said, “Four of the Beggar Clan’s masters were killed. Even if Chen Youliang’s martial art skill were higher, he might not necessarily be able to escape from the Tulong Saber’s cut. In this situation, he could charge forward staking everything he got and die, or he could kneel down for mercy. But just think about it, Xie Daxia does not want anybody to know his whereabouts; even if Chen Youliang knocked his head three hundred times, he might not necessarily be able to gain pity from Xie Daxia’s tender heart. Other than pretending to be someone with thick ‘yi qi’, do you think he would have a better way?”

    While she was speaking, she took Zhang Wuji’s hand and applied ointment on the bite-wound, and wrapped her own handkerchief over it.

    Listening to her analysis of Chen Youliang’s plight, Zhang Wuji thought she was right; but thinking back about Chen Youliang’s heroic and vehement attitude, also his manner of speaking, Zhang Wuji could not detect any falseness; hence, he was still unconvinced.

    “All right,” Zhao Min said, “Let me ask you this: when that Chen Youliang was speaking to Xie Daxia, what were the positions of his hands and his feet?”

    When he was listening to Chen Youliang, Zhang Wuji only occasionally looked at his face, while the other times looked at his Yifu; he had not paid any attention to Chen Youliang’s hands and feet, but actually Chen Youliang’s posture was projected in his mind. If nobody mentioned this, he would not remember; this time hearing Zhao Min’s question, the scene came back in his brain. He said, “Mmm, Chen Youliang’s right hand was slightly raised, his left hand across the body; that was the ‘shi zi bo tu’ [the lion catches the rabbit]. What about his feet? Mmm, right! That was the ‘jiang mo ti dou shi’ [devil-subduing kicking style]. Both were part of Shaolin Pai’s fist techniques; nothing special about them. Could it be that he was asking a favor from Yifu, but actually he was going to launch a sneak attack? That can’t be right; these two styles are not very effective.”

    Zhao Min coldly laughed, “Zhang Gongzi,” she said, “You really do not have any understanding about people’s hearts, do you? Even if that Chen Youliang wanted to stealthily attack Xie Daxia, do you think he has the ability? This person is so cunning, he is a first class smart person; he understands people very well. Supposed his feigned ‘yi qi’ did not work; Xie Daxia could see through his scheme and was not willing to let him go, then with his posture, whom would he kick with the ‘devil-subduing kick’? Whom would he catch with the ‘lion catches the rabbit’?”

    Because Zhang Wuji had always thought people everywhere were kindhearted, he had never thought deeply about Chen Youliang’s scheme. Now that Zhao Min brought it up, his mind was churning. Cold sweats started to trickle down his back; with a trembling voice he said, “He … he was going to kick Zheng Zhanglao who was lying on the ground; and he was going to grab Miss Yin.”

    Zhao Min smiled sweetly. “That’s right!” she said, “He was going to kick Zheng Zhanglao toward Xie Daxia. He would also grab that childhood sweetheart of yours, that Miss Yin whose hand you bit, and shove her toward Xie Daxia, with the hope that they would slow him down a little bit. Then he would use the opportunity to escape with his life. Even though Xie Daxia’s ability is matchless and he was holding a precious saber in his hand, Chen Youliang still had a slim chance of escaping; other than that, he did not have any other choice. If it were me, I’d do the same. Up until now, I still have not found a better way. This man was able to think such a clever method in a short moment; he is truly amazing.” She could not stop praising him.

    The more Zhang Wuji thought, the more upset he became; he had never thought that people in this world could be that ruthless. Ever since he was little, he had experienced countless hardships, yet he had never seen anything of Chen Youliang’s caliber. After half a day he said, “Miss Zhao, you were able to see through his intentions; I am afraid you are not inferior to him.”

    Zhao Min’s countenance turned dark. “Are you ridiculing me?” she asked, “Let me tell you something: if you are afraid of my wicked scheming, then stay far away from me.”

    “That is not necessary,” Zhang Wuji said with a smile, “You have already used a lot of deceit against me, I can guard against all of them.”

    Zhao Min showed a faint smile and said, “You can guard against my deceit? How come you don’t know I applied some poison to the back of your hand?”

    Zhang Wuji was startled; he did feel a bit of itch and numb, a rather unusual feeling. Hastily he tore the handkerchief down and brought his hand to his nose. “Aiyo!” he could not help exclaiming. He knew it was the ‘qu fu xiao ji gao’ [flesh/muscle decomposer ointment], an external medication, which could erode rotting flesh from a wound. Although it was not a poison, applied to the bite-marks it would deepen the wound. This ointment actually carried a pungent smell, but Zhao Min had mixed some rouge in it; she also used her own handkerchief to wrap the wound, so the smell was somewhat obscured that Zhang Wuji was not able to detect it.

    Zhang Wuji hurriedly ran to the stern to wash his wound with some fresh water. Zhao Min followed behind him; helping him washing the wound while laughing and giggling.

    Zhang Wuji pushed her shoulder away and said angrily, “Stay away from me! What kind of joke is this? Do you think it didn’t hurt?”

    Still giggling Zhao Min replied, “It is truly ‘the dog that bites Lu Dongbin’; you are unable to recognize other’s kindness. I was afraid you are in so much pain that I used this method.”

    [Translator’s note: ‘the dog that bites Lu Dongbin’ is a Chinese proverb, which means an inability to recognize goodness and repay kindness with vice. Lu Dongbin was one of the Eight Immortals (ba xian) in Taoist legends.]

    Zhang Wuji ignored her remark; he furiously went back to his cabin and closed his eyes.

    Zhao Min followed in and called, “Zhang Gongzi!” Zhang Wuji pretended to be asleep. Zhao Min called him two more times, but Zhang Wuji simply snored even louder. Zhao Min sighed, “If I knew you would be like this, I would have spread a real poison to take your dog’s life then I wouldn’t have to deal with you anymore.”

    Zhang Wuji opened his eyes and said, “How can I be the dog that bites Lu Dongbin; unable to recognize other’s kindness? You tell me.”

    Zhao Min smiled and said, “If I tell you, then what are you going to do?”

    “You are always able to present a strong argument on everything; naturally I can’t argue with you,” Zhang Wuji said.

    “You haven’t heard what I am going to say and you admit defeat already?” Zhao Min said with a smile, “You knew all along that my intention was good.”

    “Pei!” Zhang Wuji spat, “Good intention indeed! You bit my hand, but did not apologize. Fine! But why did you have to spread poison on my wound? I’d rather not receive your kindness.”

    “Hmm,” Zhao Min said, “Let me ask you this: which one was deeper, my bite on you, or your bite on Miss Yin?”

    Zhang Wuji blushed. “That … that was a long time ago,” he stammered, “Why do you have to bring it up?”

    “I want to bring it up,” Zhao Min insisted, “Just answer my question; don’t talk in circles.”

    “Granted that my bite on Miss Yin was deeper,” Zhang Wuji admitted, “But at that time she was grabbing me, while my martial art was inferior to her; no matter what I did, I could not shake her loose. As a child, my heart was anxious, and I just bit her. You are not a child; I did not grab you and want you to come to the Ling She Island, did I?”

    “That’s strange,” Zhao Min laughed, “So she grabbed you and wanted you to come to the Ling She Island, but you’d rather die than come with her. Presently nobody invited you to come, yet you willingly came without any fuss? After all, when people grow, their hearts also grow, everything changes.”

    Zhang Wuji’s entire face turned red. “You are the one who wanted me to come!” he said with a smile.

    Hearing this, Zhao Min’s face also turned red, but she felt an indescribable sweetness in her heart. It was as if Zhang Wuji was saying, ‘She wanted me to come, I’d rather die than come. You wanted me to come, I immediately came.”

    Two people looked at each other for half a day without saying anything then suddenly they averted their gaze from each other. Zhao Min lowered her head and said, “Very well, I’ll tell you: it was a very long time ago that you bit Miss Yin, yet she has never forgotten you. I heard the way she talked; I am afraid she won’t ever forget you for the rest of her life. The reason I bit you is so that you also won’t forget me for the rest of your life.”

    Only upon hearing this last sentence did Zhang Wuji finally understand her profound meaning; his heart was moved and he was speechless.

    “I saw the tooth marks on the back of her hand,” Zhao Min continued, “Your bite was very deep; I thought that you bit her really deep, her memory of you is also deep. I wanted to bite you really deep, but I did not have the heart to do so; but if I bit you lightly, I am afraid you will forget me in the future. I thought about it left and right, then decided to bite you first, then spread the ‘qu fu xiao ji gao’; so that those tooth marks will be deepened.”

    At first Zhang Wuji thought it was funny then he thought that although with this act she was indulging in fantasy, in the end it was a demonstration of her deep affection to him. He sighed and softly said, “I don’t blame you. I was truly the dog that bites Lu Dongbin; I was unable to recognize your kindness. You are treating me this way, as such; there is no way I’m going to forget you.”

    Initially Zhao Min felt vulnerable after revealing her tender feelings, but after hearing his words her eyes flashed mischievously; she smiled and said, “You said, ‘you were treating me this way’; are you saying that I treated you badly, or I treated you well? Zhang Gongzi, my bad treatments to you is actually numerous, but my good treatment is none.”

    Zhang Wuji said, “Later on your treatment to me will be somewhat better.” Grabbing her hand, he brought it to his mouth. “I want to also bite you really bad, so you won’t forget me for the rest of your life,” he said with a laugh.

    Zhao Min suddenly felt very bashful; she shook his hand and rushed out of the cabin. As she opened the cabin door, she almost bumped into Xiao Zhao. Zhao Min was startled. “Damn it!” she silently cursed, “If my conversation with him was heard by this girl, I would die of embarrassment.” She could not help but blushing profusely while she ran to the upper deck.

    Xiao Zhao came to Zhang Wuji and said, “Gongzi, I saw Jin Hua Popo and that ugly girl went that way; they were carrying a big sack together. I don’t know what kind of crafty trick they are planning to do.”

    “Hmm,” Zhang Wuji mumbled. He realized his conversation with Zhao Min had turned intimate; to have Xiao Zhao suddenly appear, he was unavoidably ashamed. He stared blankly for a moment before finally asking, “Are they going toward that small mountain hut on the northern side of the island?”

    “They are going north alright, but they are not going to the mountain,” Xiao Zhao replied, “It seemed like they were in a deep argument with each other. That Jin Hua Popo looked very angry.”

    Zhang Wuji went to the stern. He saw Zhao Min was standing at the bow with her eyes gazing toward the ocean. She did not turn her body around. He heard the mighty waves of the sea pounding the hull of the boat. He felt that his heart was as tumultuous as those fluctuating waves; he tried with great difficulty to calm it down.

    The sun gradually set toward the western horizon in what he felt like a very long time; the trees on the island turned darker and became a blur in his eyes. Finally Zhang Wuji returned to his cabin.

    During supper that night he told Zhao Min and Xiao Zhao, “I am going to visit Yifu. It would be better for the two of you to stay and guard the boat, so that we won’t scare Jin Hua Popo away.”

    “Then I think you’d better wait for another night watch,” Zhao Min said, “Wait till the sky turns really dark before you leave.”

    “Yes,” Zhang Wuji replied. His heart was boiling with anxiety over his Yifu’s safety; this one night watch was indeed unbearable to him.

    With great difficulty he waited until he could not see anything anywhere he looked. Finally he stood up, smiled faintly at Zhao Min and Xiao Zhao then he walked toward to the cabin door.

    “Zhang Gongzi,” Zhao Min called while loosening the Yitian Sword on her waist, “Take this sword for self defense.”

    Zhang Wuji was startled; “You’d better keep it with you,” he said.

    “No!” Zhao Min refused, “This time I am worried about you.”

    Zhang Wuji smiled, “Why?” he asked.

    “I don’t know,” Zhao Min replied, “Jin Hua Popo’s surreptitious craftiness is unpredictable; Chen Youliang is a bag full of tricks. Also I don’t know whether your Yifu will be convinced that you are his ‘child Wuji’ … Ay, this island is known as the ‘Spirit Snake’, perhaps there are highly venomous vipers everywhere; besides …” Speaking to this point, she suddenly stopped.

    “Besides what?” Zhang Wuji asked.

    Zhao Min raised her hand toward her mouth and made a biting motion. She giggled and her cheeks blushed. Zhang Wuji knew she meant to say his cousin, Miss Yin. He waved his hand and went out the cabin door.

    “Catch!” Zhao Min called out, tossing the Yitian Sword to him.

    Zhang Wuji caught the Sword; his heart was touched. “She trusts me this much to the point of letting me borrow the Yitian Sword,” he thought. He tied the Sword on his back and walked toward the mountain peak on the northern end of the island. Keeping in mind what Zhao Min said he always stepped on bald rocks fearing there were venomous snakes among the grass.

    In about the time needed to drink a cup of tea, he reached the base of the mountain. He looked up and saw that the hut where his Yifu lived was completely dark, without any light. “Has Yifu gone to bed?” he thought. But then he remembered, “His eyes are blind; why would he need any light?” Right at that moment he faintly heard voices from the left-hand side of the mountain. Quickly he crouched down, turning his attention towards the direction of the sound, but by that time the voices were gone.

    It was the beginning of the month and the north wind was blowing over the trees and bushes. Zhang Wuji moved quickly along the rustling noise of the blowing wind toward the source of the voices. Soon he heard Jin Hua Popo’s low and throaty voice about four, five ‘zhang’s ahead, she said “Still don’t want to do it? What are you waiting for?”

    “Popo,” Yin Li replied, “Why are you doing this, as if … as if you don’t care about the old friendship? Xie Daxia and you have known each other from dozens of years; he trusted you and thus agreed to leave the Bing Huo Island to return to the Central Plains.”

    “He trusted me?” Jin Hua Popo laughed coldly, “What a joke. If he did, why didn’t he let me borrow the Saber? He returned to the Central Plains because of his ‘yi zi’ [adopted/foster child]; what does it have to do with me?”

    In the darkness Zhang Wuji vaguely saw Jin Hua Popo’s hunched back. Suddenly he heard a ‘clink’ noise as she pounded a metal nail with a mountain rock in front of her. A moment later the same noise was heard again. Zhang Wuji felt very strange; but he was afraid he might be detected by these two women, so he did not dare to move forward to take a closer look.

    He heard Yin Li say, “Popo, if you want to take his treasured weapon away then fight him with a saber or a spear; that won’t be considered a hero’s misdeed. If the present matter is known, how can you not be the laughingstock of the heroes and warriors of the world? Besides, that Miejue Shitai has already died; what use is the Tulong Saber to you?”

    Jin Hua Popo was angry; she straightened up her back and said in a stern voice, “Little girl, who rescued your insignificant life from the hands of your father? Now that you are a grown up, you don’t want to listen to Popo anymore! This Xie Xun is neither your friend nor your relative, why are you so adamant in protecting him? Give Popo a good reason.” Although her tone was grim, but her voice was actually low; apparently she was afraid Xie Xun on the mountain peak might hear her. Actually, the distance between that place and the peak was very far, it was a slim chance Xie Xun might hear her as long as she did not shout using her internal energy.

    ‘Clank, clank!’ Yin Li threw the bag she was carrying on the ground, and then she moved three steps backwards.

    “Well?” Jin Hua Popo sternly said, “Your wings have grown, and now you want to fly, don’t you?”

    Although watching from the darkness, Zhang Wuji could see her eyes shine with an intimidating power, like a cold piercing thunder.

    “Popo,” Yin Li said, “It’s not that I dare to forget your great kindness in saving my life and teaching me martial arts. But Xie Daxia is his … is his Yifu.”

    Jin Hua Popo let out a hollow laugh. “Surprisingly there is such an idiot like this in the world,” she said, “That boy surnamed Zhang has fallen into a ten-thousand ‘zhang’s ravine in the Western Region. You have heard it with your own ears from Wu Lie and Wu Qingying. If you don’t believe me, just capture those people and torture their confessions out. They have told us clearly; don’t tell me you think they were lying? That boy surnamed Zhang’s skeleton has turned into ashes by this time, and you still cannot forget him?”

    “Popo,” Yin Li said, “I cannot cast him aside from my heart. Perhaps, this is what you said about some … some debt from the previous life.”

    Jin Hua Popo heaved a sigh and said, “Let’s not talk about that boy was not willing to come with us to the Ling She Island; even if he agreed to marry you, he’s dead now. What are you going to do? Luckily he died early; if he did not die and see your appearance, how could he love you? You would helplessly see him fall in love with some other woman; how would you feel then?”

    The tone of these last few sentences was greatly moderated. Yin Li was silent; obviously she could not give her any answer. Jin Hua Popo continued, “Let’s not talk about other women, even our captive, that Emei Pai’s Miss Zhou, is very pretty. If that boy surnamed Zhang saw her, his heart would have been stirred. Would you then kill Miss Zhou, or would you kill that boy? Hm, hm, if you didn’t practice this ‘hand of thousand spiders ten thousand poison’ [‘qian zhu wan du shou’], you were actually a beautiful woman; but now? There is nothing we can do.”

    “He has already died, my face has already been destroyed; what else can I say?” Yin Li said, “But Xie Daxia is his Yifu. Popo, we cannot hurt a single strand of his hair. Popo, I beseech you on this matter only; otherwise, I will listen to you.” While saying that, she bent her knees to kneel down.

    Zhang Wuji was secretly astonished, “I became the new Ming Cult’s Jiaozhu and have already caused quite a stir in the Wulin; how come these two actually know nothing about it?” he thought, “Hmm, that’s right; it must be that they went to the far away Bing Huo Island to get my Yifu. The round trip journey took a really long time. This time they came back to Dadou without having any communication with anybody; no wonder they have not heard about me.”

    Jin Hua Popo hesitated a moment before answering, “Very well, you stand up!”

    “Many thanks, Popo!” Yin Li happily said.

    “I promise you not to harm his life, but I must take the Tulong Saber from him …” Jin Hua Popo said.

    “But …” Yin Li said.

    “Don’t fuss and make Popo angry,” Jin Hua Popo cut her off. Her hand moved and a ‘clink’ noise was heard again.

    Zhang Wuji saw Jin Hua Popo’s hands were moving swiftly; successive ‘clink, clink’ noises were heard nonstop, farther and farther away. Yin Li sat on a rock with her head in her hands, sobbing softly. Zhang Wuji was very appreciative seeing, unexpectedly, that she has such a deep feeling toward him.

    A moment later Jin Hua Popo shouted from about ten ‘zhang’s away, “Bring them here!” Yin Li had no choice but to take the two sacks and bring them to Jin Hua Popo.

    Zhang Wuji crept forward several feet and looked; he was greatly shocked for he saw steel spikes seven, eight inches long were planted on the ground, among the rocks, about two, three feet apart. The sharp points of the spikes were facing upward; they looked very sharp, flickering with dim rays. The more Zhang Wuji thought about it, the more he was shocked. Apparently Jin Hua Popo was going to fight the Golden Mane Lion King, but she was afraid she might not be his match. If she launched secret projectiles, Xie Xun would be able to hear and evade; but steel spikes scattered on the ground were without noise and without movement. All she needed to do was lure him into the trap; how would a blind man like him be able to withstand the spikes?

    Zhang Wuji’s anger flared up; he was about to reach out and pull the steel spikes and unmask her plot, but he changed his mind. “This wicked Popo calls my Yifu ‘Xie San Ge’; in the past they must have had unusual friendship,” he thought, “I’ll wait till she fights Yifu face to face, then I’ll expose her trick. Today the Heaven has led me, Zhang Wuji, to this place, so that Yifu may not suffer any harm.” Thereupon he sat on a rock, hugging his knees, waiting quietly for what would happen.

    Suddenly he heard a rustling noise amidst the blowing wind, like a falling leaf on a rock. He knew a martial art master with high ‘qing gong’ [lightness skill] was quietly coming near. Turning his head around he saw a shadow moving stealthily; it was no other than the Beggar Clan’s Elder, Chen Youliang. He had a curved saber in his hand, with its blade wrapped in cloth to avoid it from reflecting any light. Zhang Wuji mused how accurate Zhao Min’s prediction was; this man was indeed not a good person.

    “Xie San Ge!” Jin Hua Popo shouted, “There is a dog thief who is not afraid of death coming here looking for you!”

    Zhang Wuji was startled, he thought Jin Hua Popo was very good; could it be that his presence had already been detected? Reasonably said, it would not be the case. He saw Chen Youliang was crouching among the tall grass, without daring to make any movement. Zhang Wuji crept carefully several more ‘zhang’s forward; he wanted to get as close as possible to his Yifu, to guard him against Jin Hua Popo’s deceit and to offer his assistance as quickly as possible.

    Not too long afterwards, a shadow of a big and tall man appeared from the hut on the mountain peak. Xie Xun walked slowly down the hill, and stopped several ‘zhang’s away from Jin Hua Popo. All along he did not utter a single word.

    “Hey, hey,” Jin Hua Popo said, “Xie San Ge, you are utterly suspicious toward an old acquaintance, yet you readily believed a total stranger. This fellow Chen Youliang, whom you let go today, has come looking for you.”

    Xie Xun coldly replied, “An open spear is easy to avoid, a hidden sword is hard to guard against. All my life Xie Xun has often suffered under those people close to me. That Chen Youliang is looking for me; what does he want?”

    “This kind of treacherous lowly man, why would we want to care about him?” Jin Hua Popo said, “This afternoon you spared his life; do you know what position did his hands and feet take? His hands were in the ‘shi zi bo tu’ [the lion catches the rabbit] position, while his feet were in the ‘jiang mo ti dou shi’ [devil-subduing kicking style]. Ha ha ha ha …!” Her speaking voice was clear and crisp, pleasant to the ears; but her laughter was sad and shrill like those of a crying owl in the deep of the night.

    Xie Xun was startled for he knew Jin Hua Popo was not lying. Because of his blindness, he had fallen into Chen Youliang’s scheme. He wryly said, “It was not the first time I was taken advantage of by others. Lowly people like that are a dime a dozen in the Jianghu; I kill one more or one less, what difference does it make? Mrs. Han, you can be considered my good friend; you saw it, but chose to ignore it, and only now did you come and tell me. Are you trying to incite my anger?” Having finished speaking, he suddenly jumped toward Chen You Liang with an unbelievable speed.

    Chen You Liang was shocked; he brandished his saber to hack. Xie Xun bent his left hand and snatched the saber away. ‘Slap, slap, slap!’ He successively slapped Chen Youliang’s ears three times; then his right hand grabbed the back of his neck and lifted him up. “If I want to kill you now, it would be as easy as killing a chicken,” he said, “But Xie Xun has given his words, letting you go and come back in ten years. If I see you again before that time on this island, I am going to take your dog’s life away.” Waving his hand, he threw Chen Youliang away.

    Right away Chen Youliang’s body flew toward the spikes on the ground. If he fell down to the ground, the spikes would certainly pierce his body; and then Jin Hua Popo’s all-night effort would be wasted. Immediately Jin Hua Popo flew forward and hit Chen Youliang’s waist with her walking stick, sending him off several more ‘zhang’s to the side.

    “If you dare to tread your feet even for one step on my Ling She Island, I am going to kill a hundred of your Beggar Clan disciples,” she shouted, “Jin Hua Popo has always been true to her words. Today I’ll let you enjoy one of my golden flowers [‘jin hua’] first.” With a wave of her left hand a golden light streaked by. ‘Puff!’ a golden flower pierced the ‘jia che xue’ [jawbone acupoint] on Chen Youliang’s left cheek, rendering him unable to speak momentarily, so that her secret plan would not be revealed.

    Pressing his left cheek with his hand, Chen Youliang scurried downhill. By this time Xie Xun was only several ‘zhang’s away from the spikes. Zhang Wuji was crouching behind him. Only Zhang Wuji’s internal energy was much higher than Chen Youliang’s; he was able to regulate his breathing in such a way that Xie Xun and Jin Hua Popo were not aware of his presence.

    Jin Hua Popo turned around and praised, “Xie San Ge, your ears are as sharp as your eyes were. Hereafter you can arouse your heroic manner and wander unhindered in the Jianghu for twenty more years.”

    “I was not able to see the ‘shi zi bo tu’ and the ‘jiang mo ti dou shi’,” Xie Xun replied, “As long as I know what really happened to my child Wuji, I will die with my eyes closed. The blood debts Xie Xun bears on his body are as high as the mountain. I deserve to die a miserable death, why would I want to wander unhindered in the Jianghu?”

    Jin Hua Popo laughed and said, “For a Ming Jiao Hu Jiao Fa Wang [The Protector King of the Ming Cult], killing several people is nothing. Xie San Ge, let me borrow your Tulong Saber.” Xie Xun shook his head without saying anything.

    Jin Hua Popo said again, “This place is no longer a secret; you can’t stay here any longer. Let me find another safe place for you to stay for a few months. Lend me the Tulong Saber so I can defeat my archenemy from the Emei Pai; and then I will seek Zhang Gongzi [young master Zhang] with all my might. Based on my skill, finding Zhang Gongzi and bringing him to your presence should not be a difficult matter.” Again Xie Xun shook his head.

    Jin Hua Popo continued, “Xie San Ge, do you still remember the ‘si da fa wang, zi bai jin qing’ [four great protector kings, purple white golden and (dark) green], these eight characters? Remember how the four of us were under Yang Jiaozhu’s [Cult Leader Yang] command, the ‘Ying Wang Yin Er Ge’ [Eagle King, Second (older) Brother Yin], ‘Fu Wang Wei Si Ge’ [Bat King, Fourth (older) Brother Wei], and the two of us, ran amuck in the world, nobody could stop us? Today our great aspirations have grown old; can you let your ‘zi shan lao mei zi’ [purple robe old (younger) sister] being bullied without you lending a hand?”

    Zhang Wuji was greatly surprised, “Listening to her, is it possible that she is unexpectedly the chief of our Cult’s Four Protector Kings, the ‘zi shan long wang’ [Purple Robe Dragon King]? Could there be such a coincidence in the world? How can she call Wei Fu Wang [Bat King Wei] ‘si ge’ [fourth (older) brother]?”

    He heard Xie Xun sigh and say, “Those are all past events; why do you raise them up? Old, we are all old!”

    “Xie San Ge,” Jin Hua Popo said, “My old eyes are not blind yet; do you think I cannot see that in these last twenty years your martial art skill has advanced greatly? Why be so modest? In our whole lives we haven’t had too many good days. I’ll say before the Ming Jiao Si Da Fa Wang die, we have to join hands and attempt to achieve a great undertaking in the Jianghu.”

    Xie Xun sighed said, “Yin Er Ge [second (older) brother Yin] and Wei Si Di [fourth (younger) brother Wei] might not necessarily still alive today. Especially Wei Si Di; the cold poison in his body was difficult to eliminate. I am afraid he is no longer alive.”

    Chapter 28 – Part 16
    Jin Hua Popo laughed and said, “This time you might be wrong. Let me tell you honestly, at this time Bai Mei Ying Wang [White-browed Eagle King] and Qing Yi Fu Wang [Green-winged Bat King] are both on the Brightness Peak.”

    “They went back to the Brightness Peak?” Xie Xun wondered, “What are they doing?”

    “This Ah Li has seen it with her own eyes,” Jin Hua Popo said, “Ah Li is Yin Er Ge’s granddaughter. She offended her father and he wanted to kill her. The first time it was I who saved her; the second time it was Wei Si Ge. Wei Si Ge was taking her to the Brightness Peak, but along the way I stole her away. Ah Li, tell Xie Gong-gong [grandfather, a respectful term to address a senior] how the six major sects besieged the Brightness Peak.”

    Thereupon Yin Li narrated briefly what happened in the western region. Only she was taken away by Jin Hua Popo before reaching the Brightness Peak, so that she did not have any recollection of the later incidents.

    The more Xie Xun listened to her, the more anxious he became, “What happened next? What happened next?” he asked repeatedly. In the end he got angry, “Mrs. Han,” he said, “Although you did not get along with our brethrens very well because of your marital issue, our Cult is in difficulty, how could you stand as a spectator? Yang Jiaozhu was your Yifu. Have you forgotten how he treated you? Look at Yin Er Ge and Wei Si Di, Wu San Ren [the five wanderers] and the Five-Element Flag; didn’t they all come to the Brightness Peak to fight?”

    Jin Hua Popo coldly said, “Without the Tulong Saber, I was defeated by Emei Pai’s Old Nun Miejue. Even if I went to the Brightness Peak, I still didn’t have a face to fight her; then why should I have gone?”

    The two of them were silently standing facing each other. After a while Xie Xun asked, “How did you find out where I was? You have always been unwilling to speak plainly. Was it the Wudang Pai people?”

    “How would the Wudang Pai people know?” Jin Hua Popo said, “When pressed by people of various sects, Zhang Cuishan, husband and wife, would rather kill themselves than revealing your hiding place, naturally Wudang disciples did not know. All right, I am not going to conceal anything from you today: in the western region I met by accident someone by the name of Wu Lie. He is a descendant of Wu Santong, a disciple of Duan Family from Dali. Quite by chance I overheard him talking to his daughter; from which I deduced the subject of their conversation. Thereupon I tortured him to tell me everything.”

    Xie Xun was silent for half a day before saying, “This man surnamed Wu has met my child Wuji, hasn’t he? I believe he deceived that child to reveal my secret.”

    Listening to this point, Zhang Wuji was really ashamed, remembering how he was cheated at the ‘Zhu Jia Zhuang [Zhu Family Village], how Zhu Zhang Ling and Zhu Jiu Zhen, father and daughter, had used deceit to obtain the secret from him. If his Yifu had suffered any harm because of him, he would never atone for that guilt even if he had to die ten thousand times. Although his Yifu was blind, his ability to see things through was like those of seeing people.

    Xie Xun continued, “The Six Major Sects besieging the Ming Cult is not a small matter; what happened to our Cult next?”

    Jin Hua Popo replied, “The rise or fall, prosperity or decline, of the Ming Cult has nothing to do with Lao Po Zi. In the past, everybody on the Brightness Peak made things difficult for me. You might not remember that, but Lao Po Zi will never forget it. At that time only Yang Jiaozhu and you, Xie San Ge, who were good to me; that also I will not forget.”

    “Ay, personal grudge is a small matter, protecting our Cult is important,” Xie Xun said, “Mrs. Han, you are rather narrow-minded.”

    Jin Hua Popo was angry, “You are a real man, I am only a narrow minded, unethical woman. When I left the Cult, I swore that I would have nothing to do with the Ming Cult. How could that Hu Qingniu treat me as an outsider if this was not so? Why did he compel me to return to the Ming Cult before he would be willing to treat the poison from Yin Ye Xiansheng [Mr. Silver Leaf]? I was the one who killed Hu Qingniu. Zi Shan Long Wang has violated the Ming Cult’s major law. How can I have any relation with the Ming Cult?”

    Xie Xun shook his head. “Mrs. Han,” he said, “I understand what’s in your heart. You want to borrow my Tulong Saber; you said you wanted to deal with the Emei Pai, but actually you want to deal with Yang Xiao and Fan Yao. You have never forgotten your desire to enter the Brightness Peak via the secret passage. That gives me even more reason not to lend the Saber to you.”

    Jin Hua Popo coughed several times. “Xie San Ge,” she said, “How was your martial arts compared to mine in the past?”

    “Four Great Protector Kings, each one has their own strengths and weaknesses,” Xie Xun replied.

    “But now you have lost your eyes; how would you fare compared to Lao Po Zi?” Jin Hua Popo asked.

    Xie Xun fearlessly said, “You want to take the Saber by force, don’t you? With the Tulong Saber in his hand, Xie Xun will overcome the loss of his eyes.” Exhaling a long breath he moved one step forward; the pupils of his blind eyes were aimed at Jin Hua Popo imposingly.

    Yin Li was intimidated; she withdrew several steps backward. Jin Hua Popo, with her hunchback, was standing up supported by her walking stick; occasionally she would let out one or two coughs, as if as soon as Xie Xun stretched out his hand, the Saber would be able to chop her into two pieces. But she stood motionless, as if she completely ignored Xie Xun.

    Zhang Wuji had seen her in action several times; her speed was truly unbelievable. Probably she was slightly inferior to Wei Yixiao, but her movement was very strange, like a demon or a ghost; totally unpredictable. This moment Xie Xun and she were facing each other; one was like a drawn sword or bent bow, ready to spring into action; the other was like an enlightened sage, totally calm and at ease in the face of danger.

    Zhang Wuji thought that since her position was above his (maternal) grandfather, his Yifu and Wei Fu Wang, her martial art skill must be very high; he could not help but secretly feel anxious for Xie Xun.

    The wind was howling, the sound of the waves of the sea were faintly heard; adding some chill in the air to this already suspenseful situation. Two people stood less than a ‘zhang’ away facing each other, but neither one was willing to make the first move.

    After a long time, Xie Xun suddenly said, “Mrs. Han, today you are forcing me to fight you, breaching the oath we made as the Four Protector Kings of the olden days, Xie Xun is really in pain.”

    “Xie San Ge,” Jin Hua Popo said, “You are always soft-hearted; I can’t believe those countless famous Wulin’s heroes and warriors were killed single-handedly by you.”

    Xie Xun sighed, “I bore the enmity of my father, mother, wife and child; hence I disregarded everything,” he said, “The one thing I regretted most was with thirteen strokes of ‘qi shang quan’ [seven injuries fist (technique)] I killed Shaolin Pai’s Kong Jian Shen Seng [Divine Monk Kong Jian].”

    Jin Hua Popo was awestruck. “Kong Jian Shen Seng really died under your hands?” she asked, “When did you learn that kind of fierce martial art skill?” At first she was confident her hands and feet would be able to deal with Xie Xun, but now she started to feel fear.

    “Don’t be afraid,” Xie Xun said, “Kong Jian Shen Seng took the beating without retaliating. He wanted to use the vast and boundless Dharma to help me cross over from my evil way.”

    “Hmm,” Jin Hua Popo said, “That sounds better. Lao Po Zi can’t be compared to Kong Jian Shen Seng. If you used thirteen punches to kill him, you would only need nine, ten punches to handle Lao Po Zi.”

    Xie Xun took a step backwards, his tone suddenly turned gentle, he said, “Mrs. Han, at the Brightness Peak you treated me well. As your big brother I was sick, while my wife was weak from giving birth and could not get up. You took care of me with full attention for more than a month. I will always appreciate that.” Patting the grey cotton robe he was wearing he said, “I was overseas wearing beast’s leather as clothes, you sewed me this outfit, which fits me well inside and outside, showing me that your brotherly love at the Brightness Peak has not changed. Please leave! From now on we are not going to see each other anymore. I only ask you to find information on that child Wuji’s whereabouts and then bring him here to me; I will always be indebted to you.”

    Jin Hua Popo laughed bitterly and said, “You still remember this friendship from the past. Let me be frank to you; ever since Yin Ye Da Ge [big brother Silver Leaf] died, my heart had died with him. It’s just that I still have some unresolved gratitude and grudges, so I cannot die just like that, and join Yin Ye Da Ge underground. Xie San Ge, although the people of the Brightness Peak are martial art experts and brilliant strategist, in your ‘mei zi’s [younger sister – term of endearment] eyes they are nothing. Only you, Xie San Ge, are special in my eyes. Do you know the reason?”

    Xie Xun raised up his head and was silent for half a day before he finally shook his head and said, “Xie Xun has always been ordinary and mediocre, he certainly is not worthy of ‘xian mei’s [worthy (younger) sister] regard.”

    Jin Hua Popo walked over several steps toward a piece of boulder, and then she slowly sat down. “At the Brightness Peak in those days,” she said, “Only Yang Jiaozhu and you, Xie San Ge, are special in my eyes. When I married Yin Ye Xiansheng, only the two of you did not resent my decision.”

    Xie Xun also sat down and said, “Although Han Da Ge [big brother Han] was not a member of our Cult, he was a hero. Our brothers dissented to your marriage, they were rather a bit narrow-minded. Ay, they are under siege of the Six Major Sects, I wonder how they are doing?”

    “Xie San Ge,” Jin Hua Popo said, “You are overseas, but your heart is still in Zhong Tu [central earth]; you have never forgotten your brethren of old. A man’s life is only a few decades, which will pass in a flash, why should you always think of others?”

    By this time the two of them were only a few feet apart; hence they were able to hear each other’s breathing. Xie Xun noticed that Jin Hua Popo would cough every other sentences; he asked, “You suffered lung injury from the frostbite at the ‘bi shui han tan’ [jade-green water, frozen pool]; from that day until now, you are not completely healed?”

    “Each time the weather turns cold, my coughing always gets worse,” Jin Hua Popo said, “Hmm, after coughing for dozens of years, I already became accustomed to it. Xie San Ge, I hear your breathing is uneven, is it the injury you suffered from training the ‘qi shang quan’? You must take a good care of yourself.”

    “Many thanks for your attention, Xian Mei,” Xie Xun said. Suddenly he raised his head up and called Yin Li, “Ah Li, come over here.”

    Yin Li came over and greeted him, “Xie Gong-gong.”

    Xie Xun said, “Use your entire strength and pierce me with your finger.”

    Yin Li was startled; “I do not dare,” she said.

    Xie Xun laughed, “Your ‘qian zhu wan du shou’ won’t be able to hurt me, although you are using your entire strength. I simply want to test your skill,” he said.

    Yin Li still said, “Hai’er [lit. child] do not dare.” And then she added, “Xie Gong-gong, since Popo and you are old friends, whatever problem we have right now, why can’t we talk it over? We don’t have to fight over it.”

    Xie Xun laughed bitterly, “Just pierce me with your finger,” he said.

    Yin Li did not have any choice; she wrapped a handkerchief around her right index finger then stabbed Xie Xun’s shoulder with it. “Aiyo!” suddenly she called out and stumbled backwards; her body flew for more than a ‘zhang’ away. ‘Bang!’ she landed heavily on the ground. She felt as if the bones in her body were broken into pieces.

    Jin Hua Popo maintained her composure; “Xie San Ge,” she slowly said, “Your heart is so wicked. You are afraid I might have a helper, hence you get rid of her first.”

    Xie Xun was silent for half a day before saying, “This child is kind hearted. She pricked me with only 20, 30% of her strength, and she wrapped her finger with a handkerchief, so that the ‘thousand spiders poison’ did not harm me. Very good, very good. Otherwise, the ‘thousand spiders poison’ would come back and attack her heart; her life would be gone by now.”

    Listening to these words, Zhang Wuji’s back broke into cold sweats; he thought his Yifu plainly stated that he was going to test Yin Li’s strength, if she did indeed attack him with all her strength, wouldn’t she die a violent death? The Ming Cult people were indeed cruel; even his kind Yifu was no exception. He did not know Xie Xun and Jin Hua Popo had been friends for a long time; obviously they cared of each other. He thought after talking to each other amiably, they would certainly not hold ill feeling toward each other. But with an extra help for Jin Hua Popo, Xie Xun was greatly disadvantaged; hence he wanted to get rid of her preemptively.

    “Ah Li,” Xie Xun asked, “Why are you so kind to me?”

    “You … you are his Yifu,” Yin Li said, “Besides … besides, you came here for his sake. In this world you and I are the only people who remember him.”

    “Ah,” Xie Xun said, “I did not expect you to be this kind to my child Wuji; I nearly took your life. You come over here.”

    Yin Li struggled up and slowly walked to him. Xie Xun put his lips on her ear and said, “I am going to pass on to you an internal energy cultivation method, which I developed on the Bing Huo Island. It is the essence of my life-long martial art accomplishment.” Without waiting for Yin Li to reply, he recited the theory from top to bottom one time.

    Yin Li could not comprehend it completely; she tried desperately to memorize it. Xie Xun was afraid she could not remember, so he recited it two more times. “Have you memorized it?” he asked.

    “I have,” Yin Li replied.

    “After you train it in five years, you will reap some benefit,” Xie Xun said. “Do you know why I pass this skill on to you?”

    Yin Li suddenly cried and said, “I … I know. But … but I can’t.”

    “What do you know? Why can’t you?” Xie Xun asked sternly. His left palm was on her hair, ready to strike if Yin Li’s answer did not satisfy him.

    Covering her face with both hands, Yin Li said, “I know you want me to find Wuji and pass this skill on to him. I know that after I master this skill, you want me to protect Wuji, so that he won’t suffer under evil people’s cruel hands, but … but …” After saying two ‘buts’ she broke into a loud cry.

    Xie Xun stood up and shouted, “But what? Has my child Wuji encountered any mishap?”

    Yin Li threw herself on his bosom and wept. “He … he has died six years ago in the … in the western region, he fell down a valley and died.”

    Xie Xun was trembling. “Are you … are you … serious?” he asked.

    “I am,” Yin Li was still crying. “Those Wu Lie, father and daughter, saw it with their own eyes. Seven times did I prick both of them with the ‘qian zhu wan du shou’ and seven times I saved their lives again, until they were suffering in between life and death. They … they could not tell me a lie.”

    When Yin Li recounted Zhang Wuji’s death, Jin Hua Popo was going to stop her; but then she changed her mind, thinking that as Xie Xun heard his Yizi died, his mind would be troubled. True, in the coming fight he would be fiercer by 30%, but also he would be less cautious by 30%; thus increasing the chance he might fall into her steel spikes trap. Therefore, she only laughed coldly and did not say anything.

    Xie Xun lifted up his head and let out a loud whistle, while tears stream down his cheeks. Seeing his Yifu and his cousin loved him this much, Zhang Wuji could not contain himself much longer. He was about to come out and make himself known, but suddenly Jin Hua Popo said, “Xie San Ge, since your Yizi, that Zhang Gongzi has already died, why would you hold on to that Tulong Saber? Please lend it to me.”

    Xie Xun hoarsely said, “You hid the truth from me really well. If you want to take the precious saber, you must take my life first.” He gently pushed Yin Li to the side. With a hiss he used the lapel of his robe to wipe his tears, and then tore it and tossed it toward Jin Hua Popo. It was called ‘ge pao duan yi’ [lit. cutting off the robe, breaking friendship].

    Zhang Wuji thought, “I’d better come out and tell them the truth, so that these two will not senselessly injure their ‘yi qi’ [friendship, code of brotherhood]” He had just finished thinking when suddenly he heard some light breathing noise from the tall grass toward his far left. The noise came from quite a distant away, plus it was very light; if not due to his extremely keen ears, Zhang Wuji would not be able to hear it. His heart was moved, “Could it be that Jin Hua Popo secretly prepared some helpers? I’d better not rashly come forward.” In the meantime, he heard the gusts of wind from the Saber, as Xie Xun and Jin Hua Popo had started fighting each other.

    Xie Xun brandished his precious saber around his body like a black dragon circling around him; sometimes fast, other times slow, with a divine variation. Jin Hua Popo was afraid of the Saber’s sharpness; she kept moving in circles some distant away from him. Sometimes Xie Xun would deliberately open up a hole in his defense, trying to entice Jin Hua Popo to enter, but Jin Hua Popo did not buy his trick; she would wait for him to attack, then with extreme ingenuity she would evade and launch a counterattack.

    These two people knew their opponent’s martial art very well; victory or defeat would not be easily determined within one or two hundreds moves. Xie Xun relied on the precious saber, while Jin Hua Popo took advantage of his blindness. Each of them was trying to exploit this slight advantage to gain victory. In a way they were having a contest of wits and not of internal energy.

    ‘Swish, swish!’ suddenly two yellow rays flashed by; Jin Hua Popo launched two of her ‘jin hua’ [golden flower]. Xie Xun turned the Tulong Saber around; both ‘golden flowers’ stuck to the Saber. Turned out the golden flowers were made of pure steel plated with gold; while the Tulong Saber was cast from some ‘xuan tie’ [black/mysterious iron] with some magnetic property, which attract any ferrous metal.

    These golden flowers were the secret projectiles that brought fame to Jin Hua Popo’s name, when released, the variation was endless; even if Xie Xun’s eyes were not blind he would be hard pressed to evade them. Unexpectedly, this Tulong Saber was the bane of these secret projectiles. Jin Hua Popo moved swiftly to the left and to the right, successively launching eight more golden flowers; all of them stuck to the Tulong Saber.

    It was a dark night, with neither the moon nor the stars in the sky; the golden flowers on the Saber looked like several hundreds of fireflies dancing around in the air. Suddenly Jin Hua Popo let out a cough and shot sixteen, seventeen golden flowers at once, so that if Xie Xun intercepted the ones on his east, he would not be able to evade the ones on his west. Xie Xun waved his sleeve and rolled in about seven, eight golden flowers; while intercepted the other eight or so golden flowers with his Tulong Saber.

    “Mrs. Han,” he shouted, “Your title is ‘zi shan long wang’, which is a big taboo against this saber. If you have a prolonged contact with it, I am afraid it won’t be to your advantage.”

    Jin Hua Popo shivered. For martial art practitioners who live their lives on the blades of the weapons; mostly they paid particular attention to taboos like this. She was known as the ‘long wang’ [dragon king], while the saber was named ‘tu long’ [slaughtering the dragon]; so it was a very unlucky combination. She forced a laughter and said, “Perhaps my ‘sha shi zhang’ [killing-the-lion staff] will kill the blind lion first.” Abruptly her staff shot out.

    Xie Xun shrunk his shoulder to evade, but suddenly his foot stumbled. “Ah!” he cried, as the staff hit his left shoulder. Although the force had been dissipated for the most part, the hit was not light by any means.

    Zhang Wuji was delighted, he cheered in his heart. He knew Xie Xun pretended he was not fast enough to dodge and thus took the hit; Zhang Wuji thought, “Yifu only needs to shoot the golden flowers in his sleeve, and then use the Tulong Saber in ‘qian shan wan shui’ [thousand mountains ten thousands rivers] to chop randomly. Jin Hua Popo will not dare to block the blade; she will be forced to move to the left. After two steps she won’t be able to move farther; at that time Yifu will use his internal energy to force the golden flowers on the Tulong Saber to shoot forward. Jin Hua Popo will be powerless to evade; most probably she will be seriously hurt.”

    He had just finished thinking when yellow rays streaked out, Xie Xun did indeed broadcast the golden flowers rolled inside his sleeve; forcing Jin Hua Popo to withdraw to the left. Zhang Wuji was watching the fight when suddenly he remembered something. “Aiyo, not good!” he thought, “Jin Hua Popo also has already calculated her steps.”

    By this time Zhang Wuji had acquired a universal knowledge of the martial art. When these two martial art masters attacked and blocked, not a single one of their movements was outside his anticipation. He saw Xie Xun’s ‘qian shan wan shui’ was successful in forcing Jin Hua Popo to withdraw to the left. With a loud shout Xie Xun shot the dozen or so golden flowers on his precious saber; “Aiyo!” Jin Hua Popo cried out and staggered several steps backwards. Xie Xun was a man of his words; after ‘ge pao duan yi’ [breaking the friendship], he showed no mercy whatsoever. He leaped forward to pursue, brandishing his saber to strike Jin Hua Popo.

    “Watch out!” suddenly he heard Yin Li shouted loudly, “There are sharp spikes underneath your feet!”

    Xie Xun heard the shout, and was shocked; but it was too late for him to stop. Suddenly he heard a series of ‘swish, swish’ noise; more than a dozen golden flowers came his way. Jin Hua Popo was taking advantage as his body was midair and incapable to evade; she wanted to force him to land and thus tread on the sharp spikes.

    Xie Xun had no alternative but brandish his saber to block the golden flowers. Suddenly a series of clinking noises were heard; his feet reached the ground, uninjured. He stooped down and groped around. He found out that there were seven, eight inches long of steel spikes planted among the rocks on the ground. He could feel the spikes were very sharp; but someone had already shot the four spikes that his feet were supposed to land on, with gravels, sending the spikes fly away from him. From the wind generated by the gravels, Xie Xun could tell that the shooter was the youngster from the Gigantic Whale Clan who shot the seven pebbles to help him that afternoon. This man had been hiding nearby, but Xie Xun had not had the slightest idea; if not because of that man’s help, he would have been seriously injured by now, and then Jin Hua Popo only needed to butcher what was left of him. Thinking about this possibility, he was unable to restrain cold sweat from trickling down his back.

    These two people had both laid a trap to harm their opponent; Xie Xun’s shoulder was hit by the staff, Jin Hua Popo was hit by two golden flowers from Xie Xun’s saber. Although the injuries were not life-threatening, considering the strength of their opponents, both of them were nonetheless suffering considerable disadvantages.

    Jin Hua Popo was coughing badly several times before turning toward the place Zhang Wuji was hiding, “Ju Jing Bang kid,” she said, “You have repeatedly interfered with Lao Pozi’s business. Quickly give me your name.”

    Zhang Wuji had not replied when suddenly he saw a yellow ray flashed by and Yin Li grunted as three golden flowers hit her on the vital points on her chest. Turned out Jin Hua Popo had realized that Zhang Wuji’s martial art was superior, and if she wanted to punish Yin Li, he would try to thwart it; therefore, she faced and spoke to him, and when he was the least expecting it, she backhandedly shot out some golden flowers.

    Zhang Wuji was shocked; he flew up and caught two golden flowers midair; and as soon as he landed, he embraced Yin Li in his bosom. Yin Li had not lost her consciousness; seeing a bearded man embracing her, she pushed out and struggled trying to get free, but when she exerted some strength, she threw up some blood. Zhang Wuji realized immediately what was going on; he quickly pulled the fake beard and moustache, and wiped the makeup from his face, revealing his real face.

    Yin Li was dazed; “Ah Niu Gege [big brother Ah Niu],” she called out, “Is it you?”

    “It’s me!” Zhang Wuji smiled. Yin Li felt relieved and immediately passed out. Seeing her injury was serious, Zhang Wuji did not dare to pull away the golden flowers; he quickly sealed her ‘shen feng’ [divine grace], ‘ling xu’ [spirit grave], ‘bu lang’ [stepping porch], and other vital acupoints connected to the injury, to protect her main artery.

    He heard Xie Xun say with a loud voice, “Sire has lent your hands twice to save me; Xie Xun is greatly indebted.”

    With a choking voice Zhang Wuji said, “Yi … Yi … You don’t have to …”

    End of Chapter 28.

  10. #30
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Chapter 29 – The Hopes of Four Women on the Boat
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    At that moment, they heard two ‘ding-a-ling’ sounds coming from behind them, and very soon three people had arrived. Zhang Wuji took a glance and saw three people wearing wide robes; two of them were very tall, while the one on the left was a woman. They were approaching with their backs to the moon, so that he could not see their faces clearly; but their robes were embroidered with an image of flaming fire, so obviously they were Ming Cult disciples. Each person had their hands high in the air, with each hand holding a black, about two feet long, tablet. The one, which was the tallest, said in a clear and loud voice, “The Ming Cult’s Sheng Huo Ling [Decree of the Holy Fire] have arrived, Cult Protectors Dragon King and Lion King have not kneeled down, what are you waiting for?”

    His accent was terrible; he sounded very stiff. Zhang Wuji was startled; he mused, “Yang Jiaozhu [Cult Leader Yang] did mention that our Cult’s Sheng Huo Ling has been lost since the time of our thirty-first generation Cult Leader, Shi Jiaozhu. How can it be in these three people’s hands? Is this the genuine Sheng Huo Ling? Are they really our Cult’s disciples?”

    Jin Hua Popo said, “I have left the Cult a long time ago, so these four words ‘hu jiao long wang’ [cult protector dragon king] don’t mean anything to me. What is Sire’s honorable name? Is that Sheng Huo Ling the real one or a fake? Where did it come from?”

    That man barked, “You have left the Cult; what are you prattling about?”

    Jin Hua Popo coldly said, “In all her life Jin Hua Popo has never allowed others to slander her for even half a word; in the past, when Yang Jiaozhu was still alive, even he was 30% respectful toward me. What is your position in the Cult that you dare to shout and bicker in my face?”

    In a sudden movement, the three people’s shadow swayed, and simultaneously three left hands moved to grab Jin Hua Popo. She brandished her walking stick, sweeping horizontally toward them. It was unclear how these people moved, but somehow their position changed and Jin Hua Popo’s stick had struck empty air and three right hands reached out to the back of her neck; her body shook and she was thrown far away.

    Based on Jin Hua Popo’s martial art level, even if three highest-skilled martial art masters besieged her, they would not necessarily able to throw her out in one move like that. But, not only the footwork of these three people in white robes was very strange, their coordination was also near perfection; they were just like one person with three heads and six arms.

    “Wow!” Zhang Wuji could not stop from exclaiming. As those three people moved, he was able to see their features clearly; the tallest among them had pointy whiskers, his eyes were bluish green. The other man had blonde moustache and eagle nose. The woman’s hair was black, just like the Chinese, but the pupils of her eyes were so pale that they were almost colorless. Her face was watermelon-seed shaped; she was around thirty years of age. Although her features were strange, she looked very beautiful.

    Zhang Wuji thought, “Turn out these people are Middle-Easterners; no wonder their accents are so stiff, almost sounds like they are reciting a book.”

    In a loud and clear voice the man with the pointy whiskers said, “Seeing the Sheng Huo Ling is like seeing the Jiaozhu; Xie Xun, why haven’t you knelt down?”

    “Who are the three of you?” Xie Xun replied, “If you are Ming Cult disciples, then Xie Xun should know you. If you are not Ming Cult disciples, then Sheng Huo Ling has nothing to do with the three of you.”

    “Where is the origin of the Ming Cult?” the pointy whisker asked.

    “It came from Persia,” Xie Xun answered.

    “Correct, correct!” the pointy whisker said, “I am the ‘Liuyun Shi’ [flowing/spreading (take your pick) cloud emissary] from the Persian Central Ming Cult. These other two are ‘Miaofeng Shi’ [wonderful wind emissary] and ‘Huiyue Shi’ [glorious moon emissary]. We come to the Central Earth [‘zhong tu’] from Persia on assignment from the Central Cult Leader.”

    Xie Xun and Zhang Wuji were stunned. Zhang Wuji had read Yang Xiao’s book, the ‘Ming Jiao Liu Chuan Zhong Tu Ji’ [A record on the spread of Ming Cult to the Central Earth]; so he knew the Ming Cult came from Persia. He saw these three people were Persian Middle-Easterners, their martial arts were also this good; so they must be telling the truth.

    He heard that blonde-moustache Miaofeng Shi say, “Our Jiaozhu received the news that the Central Earth’s Jiaozhu was missing and the disciples were killing each other, the Cult was declining quickly. He ordered Cloud, Wind and Moon, three Emissaries, to reorganize the Cult’s affairs. All Cult disciples, from the top to the bottom, must receive our commands without fail.”

    Zhang Wuji was delighted, “The Central Cult Leader has sent his orders; nothing can be better than that,” he thought, “Now I don’t have to bear this heavy responsibility with my superficial experience and cause harm on the important matter.”

    He heard Xie Xun say, “Even though the Central Earth’s Ming Cult stemmed from Persia, we have become an independent faction for several hundred years; therefore, we are outside the Persian Central Cult’s jurisdiction. The three of you have come from afar to the Central Earth, Xie Xun is very pleased; as for kneeling down and so on, don’t you think it is rather unreasonable?”

    The pointy whiskered Liuyun Shi struck the two pieces of black tablets in his hands to each other. ‘Clang!’ The noise was neither those of metals nor jade; it sounded very strange. He said, “This is the Central Earth’s Ming Cult’s Sheng Huo Ling; the former Jiaozhu surnamed Shi was unworthy; he lost it to the outsiders, and now we took it back. Seeing the Sheng Huo Ling is like seeing the Jiaozhu; Xie Xun still does not obey orders?”

    When Xie Xun joined the Cult, Sheng Huo Ling had been lost quite a long time, so he had never seen it; but he had heard about its divine features, it was also frequently mentioned in the Ming Cult’s Holy Scripture. Therefore, listening to this unique sound, he knew that the Sheng Huo Ling in that person’s hand was the genuine one. Besides, those three were able to catch and throw Jin Hua Popo away with only one move, which ordinary people would not be able to do; his doubts were gone.

    “Subordinate believes what Sire has said,” he said, “I wonder what instructions do you have for me?”

    Liuyun Shi waved his left hand; together with Miaofeng Shi and Huiyue Shi they leaped together. In two jumps they landed by Jin Hua Popo’s side. Jin Hua Popo attacked them with some golden flowers; the three Emissaries dodged to the east and swayed to the west; the golden flowers fell to the ground. Huiyue Shi dashed forward with extended finger toward Jin Hua Popo’s throat. Jin Hua Popo raised her walking stick to block, followed by a counterattack. Suddenly her body flew up, because her back was grabbed and lifted up by Liuyun Shi and Miaofeng Shi. Huiyue Shi immediately advanced three steps and her palms struck Jin Hua Popo’s chest and abdomen three times. The palm strikes were not too heavy, but Jin Hua Popo was immobilized.

    Zhang Wuji said in his heart, “These three’s movements were not extraordinary, but the ingenuity of their coordination was matchless. Huiyue Shi attacked from the front to entice the enemy and the other two mysteriously come in and out to capture Jin Hua Popo. Strictly speaking, in term of martial art, each one of them is inferior to Jin Hua Popo. That woman’s three palm strikes are not really sealing acupoint technique, but it was cunningly comparable to our Central Earth’s sealing acupoint technique.”

    Liuyun Shi grabbed Jin Hua Popo with his left hand and tossed it toward Xie Xun. “Shi Wang [Lion King],” he said, “According to our Cult’s law, once somebody enters our Cult, he cannot rebel and leave the Cult. This woman has left the Cult on her own accord; hence she is a traitor. Behead her.”

    Xie Xun was shocked; “The Central Earth Ming Cult does not have this law,” he said.

    Liuyun Shi coldly said, “From now on the Central Earth Ming Cult will receive the Persian Central Cult’s orders. A traitor who leaves the Cult will bring disaster later on, if left alive. Quickly execute her.”

    Xie Xun fearlessly said, “The Four Kings of the Ming Cult are no different than sworn brothers and sister. Although she treated the Old Xie ruthlessly today, the Old Xie cannot retaliate cruelly. I cannot harm her.”

    Miaofeng Shi laughed loudly. “Chinese people are wishy-washy, with so many customs to be observed” he said, “How can you not kill a traitor? Where is the logic in that? What a load of crap!”

    “The Old Xie can kill people without batting an eyelid,” Xie Xun said, “But I have never killed my fellow Cult disciple.”

    Huiyue Shi said, “You don’t want to kill her that means you are defying order. We will kill you first.”

    Xie Xun replied, “The three of you came to the Central Earth, and your first order of business is forcing Jin Mao Shi Wang to kill Zi Shan Long Wang, is it because you want to establish authority by intimidation?”

    Huiyue Shi showed a faint smile. “Your eyes are blind, but your heart is not,” she said, “Hurry up, do it!”

    Xie Xun tilted his head up and let out a long laugh; his voice shook the mountain and valley. He loudly said, “Jin Mao Shi Wang has always been frank. Not to mention I won’t kill friends and comrades, even if the Old Xie has a deep enmity toward someone, you have already captured and immobilized her; how can the Old Xie kill someone who is unable to fight back?”

    Listening to his Yifu’s heroic and frank speech, Zhang Wuji cheered inwardly; but he started to loath these Three Emissaries from the Persian Ming Cult.

    He heard Miaofeng Shi said, “For the disciples of Ming Cult, seeing Sheng Huo Ling is the same as seeing the Jiaozhu. Do you dare to defy the Cult?”

    Xie Xun boldly said, “The Old Xie has been blind for more than twenty years. Even if you place it in front of my eyes, I still cannot see it. What do you mean by ‘seeing Sheng Huo Ling is the same as seeing the Jiaozhu’?”

    Miaofeng Shi was angry. “Fine! Then have you made up your mind to rebel?”

    “The Old Xie has never dared to rebel against the Cult,” Xie Xun said, “But the Cult’s teaching is to do good and shun evil; ‘yi qi’ is heavily emphasized. Xie Xun would rather lose his head than do this despicable thing.”

    Jin Hua Popo was paralyzed, but she heard everything Xie Xun said. Zhang Wuji realized his Yifu was about to face a life and death situation; he immediately laid Yin Li gently on the ground. He heard Liuyun Shi say, “Ming Cult disciples who refuse to follow the Sheng Huo Ling’s order will be killed without mercy!”

    “I am a Protector King of the Cult,” Xie Xun shouted, “Even if Jiaozhu himself want to execute me, he would have to bow to the Heaven and the Earth, and to the Ming Zun [the Ming Cult prophet(?)] in front of the altar and state my crime clearly.”

    Miaofeng Shi chuckled and said, “The Ming Cult of Persia was fine, but once it arrived at the Central Earth, it has so many of these stinky customs!” All three Emissaries let out a whistle and together they charged forward.

    Xie Xun brandished his Tulong Saber, forming a wall in front of his body. The Three Emissaries successively attacked three times but failed to get close to him. Huiyue Shi managed to sneak in, the tablet in her left hand struck toward the top of Xie Xun’s head. Xie Xun raised the Saber to block, ‘Clang!’ the noise was very strange. No other weapon could match the sharpness of the Tulong Saber; yet it failed to cut the Sheng Huo Ling.

    In between strikes, Liuyun Shi rolled down toward the left and hit Xie Xun’s leg with his fist. Xie Xun staggered. Right that moment Miaofeng Shi swept his tablet horizontally toward Xie Xun’s back, suddenly he felt that his wrist was grabbed and the Sheng Huo Ling in his hand was snatched by someone else. In great surprise he turned around and saw a young man with the Sheng Huo Ling in his right hand.

    With an unmatched speed and unbelievable agility Zhang Wuji had managed to jump in and snatch the tablet away. Liuyun Shi and Huiyue Shi were startled and angered; they attacked together from two sides. Zhang Wuji turned around and dodged to the left; unexpectedly, ‘Slap!’ his back was squarely hit by the tablet in Huiyue Shi’s hand.

    The Sheng Huo Ling was made of special material; it was extremely hard. As Zhang Wuji was hit, his vision turned black, he almost passed out. Luckily, the divine energy [‘shen gong’] protecting his body was so profound that he managed to control his mind and he dashed three steps forward. The Persian Three Emissaries immediately rushed after him and surround him.

    Zhang Wuji attacked Liuyun Shi with the tablet in his right hand, while his left hand swiftly reached out and grabbed the Sheng Huo Ling in Huiyue Shi’s hand. Who would have thought that suddenly Huiyue Shi let her hand loose; the Sheng Huo Ling flew upward with the tail first. ‘Slap!’ it hit Zhang Wuji’s wrist. Zhang Wuji felt all five fingers of his left hand went numb; he had no choice but let the Sheng Huo Ling he just seized to fall down. Huiyue Shi deftly reached out and snatched it back.

    Ever since Zhang Wuji learned the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ plus receiving Zhang Sanfeng’s instructions on the most refined secret of the Taiji Fist, he had been roaming around without any match. Unexpectedly now that he fought Huiyue Shi, a woman, he was hit repeatedly. On the second time, if not of his ‘shen gong’ reacted naturally to provide protection, his wrist would have been broken. He was wary and did not dare to attack; he stopped and focused his attention to see his opponents’ moves more clearly.

    The Persian Three Emissaries were also amazed that he was hit twice without sustaining any injury. Miaofeng Shi suddenly bent down and charged toward Zhang Wuji with his head as a battering ram. Using one-self’s most important part to strike the enemy was actually a big violation of the martial art theory. Zhang Wuji did not budge from his position; he knew that a clumsy move like this bound to be followed by an exceptionally fierce stance. He waited until the head was only about one foot in front of his body before he finally moved one step backward.

    Liuyun Shi suddenly leaped up; trying to land on top of Zhang Wuji’s head. It was another weird move; attacking the enemy using one’s buttock. Although there were countless strange moves within the martial art world, such a clumsy and seemingly useless stance had never been heard of. Without batting an eyelid, Zhang Wuji stepped sideways to evade. Suddenly he felt pain on his chest, as Miaofeng Shi struck him with his elbow. The ‘jiu yang shen gong’ [nine-yang divine energy] in Zhang Wuji’s body reacted naturally, sending Miaofeng Shi stumbling three steps backward. He was just about to steady his feet when the residue of the force compelled him to fall back three more steps.

    The Persian Three Emissaries’ countenances changed in consternation. Huiyue Shi swept the Sheng Huo Ling in her hands horizontally, while Liuyun Shi made three somersaults in the air. Zhang Wuji wondered what his intention was, but he knew he had better evade. He had just moved one step to the left when a white ray of light flashed, and his right shoulder was heavily hit by the Sheng Huo Ling in Liuyun Shi’s hand.

    It was indeed an unthinkable stance that Zhang Wuji did not the least bit anticipate. Liuyun Shi was obviously somersaulting in the air; how could he suddenly reach out with his Sheng Huo Ling and struck out his shoulder? Zhang Wuji was startled and did not dare to prolong contact. Besides, although his body was protected by the ‘jiu yang shen gong’, the strike on his shoulder was so heavy that he felt the pain to his bone and marrow. However, he fully realized that if he drew back, his Yifu’s life would be difficult to protect. Therefore, he took a deep breath and clenching his teeth he leaped forward; his palm struck toward Liuyun Shi’s chest.

    At the same time, Liuyun Shi leaped forward and struck the Sheng Huo Ling in his hands to each other. ‘Clang!’ Zhang Wuji was still in the air; hearing the noise his mind was suddenly disturbed and he fell back down to the ground. He felt a shot of pain on his waist as Miaofeng Shi kicked him. ‘Bang!’ Miaofeng Shi stumbled backward from the ‘jiu yang shen gong’ reaction; while Huiyue Shi hit Zhang Wuji’s right arm with her Sheng Huo Ling.

    All this time Xie Xun was standing on the side, listening to the fight. He knew this young man from the Gigantic Whale Clan had already hit several times and was presently exhausted. Xie Xun regretted his blindness that he was helpless to step forward and lend his hand. He was very anxious; if he was fighting alone, he would be able to distinguish the enemy’s weapon, fist or kick by listening to the wind. But if he was fighting alongside a friend, how could he tell whether it was the friend’s fist or kick, or it was the enemy’s weapon? He could brandish his Tulong Saber; but wouldn’t he be greatly distressed if he inadvertently hacked down his own friend?

    “Shao Xia! [young hero]” he called out, “Please back off. This is the Ming Cult’s business; it has nothing to do with you, Sire. Shao Xia has repeatedly helped me today; Xie Xun is deeply grateful.”

    Zhang Wuji shouted, “I … I … Go away quickly! Please listen to me, go away!”

    Right away Liuyun Shi struck with his Sheng Huo Ling. Zhang Wuji parried with the Sheng Huo Ling in his hand. ‘Clunk!’ Two Sheng Huo Ling struck each other, the noise was unbearable, it sounded like a slaughtered animal or grating metals. Liuyun Shi could not hold his grip, his Sheng Huo Ling flew up. Zhang Wuji quickly leaped up trying to snatch it; but suddenly ‘Rip!’ a large portion of the clothes on his back was grabbed by Huiyue Shi. Her fingernails created several lines of claw cuts on Zhang Wuji’s back. Zhang Wuji was in so much pain that his action was slowed down and Liuyun Shi managed to snatch the Sheng Huo Ling back.

    The fight went on for several more stances. Zhang Wuji realized that in terms of strength, these three were far inferior to him, but their martial art was very strange, and their weapons were mysterious, almost magical. But it was their collaboration that was the most difficult to deal with; it was like a formation, but not quite a formation, like choreographed movements, but not quite like it. It was mysterious and ruthless, beyond imagination. He knew that as long as he could strike one of them, he would win the battle. But whenever he attacked one, the other two would launch a converging attack to help their comrade. Zhang Wuji kept changing his style, but throughout he was unable to break these three people’s defense; instead, he was hit twice by the Sheng Huo Ling. Luckily, for the Persian Three Emissaries, this was the first time their fists and kicks bounced back to hurt them each time they attacked; after a while they did not dare to made fists and kicks contact with him anymore.

    With a loud shout Xie Xun leaped forward, holding the Tulong Saber in front of his chest. He came near Zhang Wuji and said, “Shao Xia, use this Saber!” while handing the Saber over to him.

    Zhang Wuji thought that with this precious saber’s invincible power, he might be able to repel the enemy; hence he took the Saber immediately. Xie Xun’s right foot kicked down to jump backward, but within a split second his back was heavily hit by Miaofeng Shi’s fist, he felt as if his internal organs inside his chest and belly were turned upside down. This fist was without a noise and without a trace; Xie Xun did not hear the least bit of wind.

    Zhang Wuji brandished the Saber to hack Liuyun Shi. Liuyun Shi raised both of his Sheng Huo Ling, moved both of his hands, and the Sheng Huo Ling rode on the Tulong Saber. Zhang Wuji felt an intense vibration on his palm and the Tulong Saber almost fell off his hand. He was shocked and hastily added more internal strength to his hand.

    It had always been easy for Liuyun Shi to use the Sheng Huo Ling to seize his opponent’s weapon; he had done it thousands of times without failing. This time unexpectedly he failed; he was greatly surprised. Huiyue Shi let out a shrill shout and the Sheng Huo Ling in her hands also rode on the Tulong Saber’s blade. Four tablets pulled the Saber together, the force increased.

    Zhang Wuji had received seven, eight injuries; although they were all minor, his internal energy had been greatly reduced. At this moment he felt half of his body was feverish, his right hand, which was grabbing the Saber, was trembling. He knew this Saber was his Yifu’s lifeline. His Yifu had not found out the truth about him, yet surprisingly he was willing to lend the Saber away, demonstrating his heroic character. Supposing that Zhang Wuji lost the Saber in his hand, how would he still have the face to see his Yifu? Thereupon with a loud grunt he sent out his ‘jiu yang shen gong’ like a steady stream of energy attacking his enemies.

    Liuyun Shi and Huiyue Shi’s faces changed. Miaofeng Shi realized the disadvantageous situation, he moved the remaining Sheng Huo Ling in his hand to also ride on the Tulong Saber. Now Zhang Wuji had to resist three powerful pull on his Saber, yet he was able to hold his ground. He was secretly glad that he managed to snatch the Sheng Huo Ling away from Miaofeng Shi earlier; otherwise, he would be really hard-pressed to resist the six Sheng Huo Ling altogether at the same time.

    By this time these four people had reached the stage where they were staking everything in this internal energy tug-of-war. Zhang Wuji thought that this internal energy duel was exactly what he was expecting, since his internal energy was a lot stronger.

    For a moment four people stood motionless with each one exerting his/her internal energy. Suddenly Zhang Wuji felt a shot of pain in his chest as if a very fine sharp needle was pricking his heart and lung. His grip loosened and the five Sheng Huo Ling pulled the Tulong Saber away. Facing this great change, he stayed calm; in one fluid motion he pulled the Yitian Sword from his waist and using the ‘yuan zhuan ru yi’ [lit. circle/sphere revolving harmoniously] from the Taiji Sword, he made some slanting circles, simultaneously sweeping the Persian Three Emissaries’ lower abdomen.

    When the Three Emissaries were about to leap back to evade, Zhang Wuji returned the Yitian Sword into its scabbard on his waist, while simultaneously reached out and snatched the Tulong Saber back. These four movements: loosing the Saber, pulling the Sword, returning the Sword, and snatching the Saber back, were executed swiftly, lightning fast; based on the seventh level of ‘qian kun da nuo yi’.

    “Ah!” the Persian Three Emissaries exclaimed in amazement. Their internal energy was not as strong as Zhang Wuji’s; as soon as they opened their mouths, three Sheng Huo Ling were pulled away by the Tulong Saber. Three people quickly exerted their internal energy to pull back the Sheng Huo Ling; once again the four of them were locked in a stalemate situation.

    Suddenly Zhang Wuji felt that pricking pain in his chest again. This time he had anticipated the attack, so that his grip on the precious saber was not loosened. These two attacks were tangible, he could feel it; but in reality they were formless attacks. A thread of cold air broke through his ‘jiu yang shen gong’ defense line, straight to his internal organs. He knew it was the Persian Three Emissaries’ cold ‘yin’ internal energy, concentrated into a singular point and entered his body via the Sheng Huo Ling.

    When a ‘yin’ type of energy attack a ‘yang’ one, it might not necessarily be able to penetrate the ‘jiu yang shen gong’ defense. However, his ‘jiu yang shen gong’ was protecting his whole body, while the ‘yin’ energy was concentrated like a thin silk thread, drilling through his defense system. It was difficult to guard against, as well as difficult to bear. For example, the elephant has great strength, yet even a woman or a small child will be able to prick its skin with a small embroidered needle. As the ‘yin’ energy entered the body, it would disperse immediately; but this prick could really cause the pain to enter the bones.

    Huiyue Shi successively sent out two attacks of ‘tou gu zhen’ [bone penetrating needle] internal energy. She was astonished to see the opponent resisted her attacks seemingly without too much effort. Although Miaofeng Shi’s left hand was free, his entire strength was actually concentrated to his right arm; so that his left hand was no different from if it was paralyzed.

    Zhang Wuji realized that if this deadlock situation continued and while the enemy keep repeatedly sending this needle-like ‘yin’ energy attacks, he would not be able to hold on in the end; yet he did not have any real idea on how to get out of this situation. He heard Xie Xun’s heavy breathing behind him, and realized he was walking step-by-step closer; apparently he meant to strike the enemy to help Zhang Wuji. However, by this time the four people’s entire bodies were covered with their internal energy; if Xie Xun struck the enemy, it would be the same as striking Zhang Wuji, and therefore, he did not dare to act recklessly.

    “This situation is dangerous,” Zhang Wuji thought, “Getting Yifu away from this place is more important.” Thereupon with a clear voice he said, “Xie Da Xia, although these Persian Three Emissaries’ martial art is marvelous, it is not difficult for me to escape alone. Would you please leave for the time being, after I’m done, I will return the precious saber to you.”

    The Persian Three Emissaries were even more alarmed to hear him open his mouth as if nothing happened, while in reality he was exerting his entire internal energy.

    Xie Xun asked, “Shao Xia, what is your honored surname and great given name?”

    Zhang Wuji thought that if he let himself known, out of his deep love toward him, his Yifu would certainly stake it all to fight the Persian Three Emissaries; hence, controlling his emotion he said, “My surname is Zeng, given name Ahniu. Xie Da Xia, you haven’t left; could it be that you are afraid I might embezzle your treasured saber?”

    Xie Xun laughed aloud and said, “Zeng Shao Xia [young hero Zeng], you don’t need to incite me. You and I have the same guts; Xie Xun is very happy that in his sunset years he can have a friend like you. Zeng Shao Xia, I am going to use the ‘qi shang quan’ [seven-injury fist (technique)] to strike that woman. As I send out my strength, you can let the Tulong Saber go.”

    Zhang Wuji knew the fierceness of his Yifu’s ‘qi shang quan’. As long as he was willing to let the Tulong Saber go, one fist from his Yifu would send Huiyue Shi to her violent death. On the other hand, his Cult would develop a very deep enmity with the Persian Central Cult. Zhang Wuji had always been earnestly admonishing his brethrens to live in harmony with their fellow Cult disciples; if today without any reason he killed one of the Central Cult’s emissaries, how could he continue to be the Cult Leader? Thereupon he hastily said, “Hold on!”

    Toward Liuyun Shi he said, “Let us hold our hands for a moment, I have something I’d like to say to the three of you.” Liuyun Shi nodded.

    Zhang Wuji continued, “I have a close relationship with the Ming Cult. The three of you have the Sheng Huo Ling in your hands then you are our honored guests. Just now I offended you; for which I apologize. Let us pull our internal energy back together and stop fighting; what do you say?”

    Liuyun Shi repeatedly nodded his head. Zhang Wuji was delighted; he pulled his strength back and pulled the Tulong Saber to the front of his chest. He felt the Persian Three Emissaries were also pulling their internal energy back; but suddenly a whiff of ‘yin’ energy – like a saber, like a sword, like a dagger, like a chisel, struck straight into the ‘yu tang xue’ [jade hall acupoint] on his chest.

    This time, although the cold ‘yin’ energy was still formless and invisible, it felt like a steel blade’s stab. In an instant Zhang Wuji was suffocated, his body was paralyzed; several thoughts flashed in his mind, “After I die, it will be difficult for Yifu to escape their cruel hands. I can’t believe the Persian Central Cult’s emissaries do not give any thought to good faith. I wonder if my cousin Yin Li is going to live… What will happen to Miss Zhao and Miss Zhou? Xiao Zhao, ay, poor little child! What will happen to our Cult’s great undertaking of driving the Yuan away?” He saw that Liuyun Shi raised the Sheng Huo Ling in his right hand, ready to strike the top of his head. Zhang Wuji quickly circulated his internal energy, trying to attack the ‘yu tang xue’ on his chest, but he felt the energy flow was sluggish.

    Suddenly a loud female voice was heard, “The Central Earth Ming Cult battle force has arrived!” Liuyun Shi was startled, his hand halted in midair and did not strike down. A grey shadow flashed by, pulled the Yitian Sword on Zhang Wuji’s waist, and swept toward Liuyun Shi’s chest.

    Although Zhang Wuji’s body was immobilized, he could see clearly that this person was Zhao Min. He was delighted, but his delight quickly turned into shock, because the stance she was using was Kunlun Pai’s deathly stance called the ‘yu sui kun gang’ [jade shattered over Kunlun (mountain) ridge]; it was the stance to kill the enemy without any regard of one self’s safety. Although Zhang Wuji did not know the name of this stance, he knew that by using this move plus the Yitian Sword’s sharpness, she would certainly inflict harm to Liuyun Shi, but it would also difficult for her to escape the enemy’s cruel hand.

    Liuyun Shi could see immediately the fierceness of this sword attack. It would be difficult for him to save himself, let alone thinking of joining hands with the other Emissaries to launch a converging attack. In his desperation he raised his Sheng Huo Ling to block with all his might, followed by throwing himself on the ground and rolled away. ‘Bang!’ the Sheng Huo Ling managed to divert the Yitian Sword, but he felt a breeze of his left cheek. Without knowing whether he was dead or still alive he stood up and traced his cheek; he felt something wet and sticky, and extremely painful. Turned out the beard and whiskers on his left cheek, along with a piece of his skin, had been sliced by the Yitian Sword. If not because of the special material Sheng Huo Ling was made of, half of his skull would be sliced by this Yitian Sword strike.

    When Zhang Wuji left to see Xie Xun, Zhao Min kept thinking that Jin Hua Popo was hiding a lot of craftiness; plus, Chen Youliang’s actions were suspicious. She was anxious over his safety; therefore, she quietly followed behind. She knew her own ‘qing gong’ was inferior, hence if she came too close she would be discovered in no time. She stayed some distance away and did not come close until Zhang Wuji was fighting the Persian Three Emissaries.

    When Zhang Wuji was engaged in internal energy duel against the Three Emissaries, she was delighted; thinking that although these three foreigners’ martial art was weird, in term of internal energy, no way would they surpass Zhang Wuji’s ‘jiu yang shen gong’. When Zhang Wuji suddenly called out to hold their hands, Zhao Min was about to call him to be careful, but the enemy had already launched the ‘yin feng dao’ [‘yin’ wind saber] that Zhang Wuji was hurt and he fell down. In her anxiety she disregarded everything and dashed out, snatched the Yitian Sword and brandished it with Kunlun Pai’s suicidal stance she saw in the Wan An Temple earlier.

    Zhao Min succeeded in forcing Liuyun Shi away, but the Yitian Sword had bounced back and slashed her own hat, exposing a cluster of her beautiful hair. Her Sword made a slanted circle as she threw herself toward Miaofeng Shi, while her Yitian Sword followed behind.

    This move was called the ‘ren gui tong tu’ [man and ghost travel together], a Kongtong Pai suicidal move, similar to Kunlun Pai’s ‘yu sui kun gang’; both were used as one was certain he or she would definitely lost, then his or her only hope would be to die together with the enemy. Shaolin and Emei, two Buddhist sects did not have this kind of desperate stances. Those who launched ‘yu sui kun gang’ and ‘ren gui tong tu’ were not trying to score a victory amidst a defeat, or to seek life amidst deaths; but they deliberately wounded themselves to perish together with the enemy. When the masters of Kunlun Pai and Kongtong Pai were imprisoned, they were humiliated by being forced to contend in martial arts while their internal energy was gone. Because they knew it was impossible for them to score any victory, some hot-tempered masters had used these kinds of stances. Unfortunately, their strength was not enough and they failed in their attempts, giving Zhao Min the opportunity to memorize these stances, one-by-one, in her heart.

    Seeing her coming his way in this violent manner, Miaofeng Shi was shocked; his body turned cold and he froze. Although his martial art skill was high, his courage was lacking. Seeing this kind of move, he was unable to parry; he was so intimidated that he stood as stiff as a corpse, with hands froze in the air, waiting for death. In the meantime, Zhao Min’s body had already reached the Sheng Huo Ling in his hand; shaking out her Sword, she stabbed Miaofeng Shi’s chest.

    The principle of this stance was throwing one’s body to the enemy’s weapon first, and then, as the weapon, be it saber or sword, spear or axe, was still in one’s body that the enemy’s movement was temporarily delayed, one would stab one’s sword. Even if the enemy’s martial art skill were higher, they would not be able to escape.

    Miaofeng Shi was scared to death to see this fierce attack. Fortunately, the weapon in his hand was the Sheng Huo Ling, which looked like an iron ruler, without any sharp edge. As Zhao Min’s body landed on the weapon, she was unharmed. Her Sword had barely stabbed forward when her back was grabbed by Huiyue Shi. The Persian Three Emissaries’ collaboration in fighting the enemy together was truly marvelous beyond imagination.

    Zhao Min’s two suicidal moves had thrown three martial art masters into confusion; until this time, Huiyue Shi only managed to grab Zhao Min’s back. Her grab seemed ordinary, but actually it was very accurate and swift like a meteor. Although Zhao Min’s sword was also swift and fierce, it still failed to reach Miaofeng Shi’s body in the end.

    As Zhao Min felt her arm tighten, she knew something was amiss, she did not resist the pull, she let her body fall backwards at the same time turned her sword around and stabbed her own lower abdomen. This suicidal stance was even fiercer than the previous ones; it was a part of Wudang Pai’s sword technique called the ‘tian di tong sui’ [heaven and earth live together]. Actually, it was not created by Zhang Sanfeng, but came from Yin Liting’s painstaking effort; he meant to use it against Yang Xiao. Ever since Ji Xiaofu died, he could think nothing else but how to kill Yang Xiao to avenge her death; yet he realized his martial art skill was not Yang Xiao’s match. Although his Shifu was the number one martial artist in the world, his own intelligence and perception was limited; his comprehension was only about 30, 40% of his Shifu’s skill. In any case, after killing Yang Xiao he did not think to live anyway, hence on the Wudang mountain he painstakingly thought of several moves, which might enable him to kill the enemy while disregarding his own life.

    Yin Liting trained his sword in secret. One time Zhang Sanfeng saw him. He sighed, knowing that whatever he said, Yin Liting could not be persuaded. Thereafter he named this stance ‘tian di tong shou’, meaning that after someone dies, the spirit becomes immortal, it will live for tens of thousand springs (season). Hence, in actuality, it was a solemn and stirring sword move to take away the shell in which that spirit resides.

    Yin Liting’s senior disciple was trying to use this stance at the Wan An Temple; luckily Fan Yao saved him. Zhao Min saw it and this time she used it. This move could be used to kill an enemy who was grabbing one from behind. The sharp sword penetrated one’s lower abdomen, straight through to the enemy’s lower abdomen; how would Huiyue Shi escape? If Miaofeng Shi was not scared out of his wits and Liuyun Shi was standing close by, then the two of them might be able to save her, since Huiyue Shi and her partners had been working together long enough that they developed an alertness as if they were one person.

    They saw the Yitian Sword was about to pierce Zhao Min and Huiyue Shi’s lower abdomen. Right at this crucial moment Zhang Wuji succeeded in breaking through his sealed acupoint. Quickly he reached out to seize the Yitian Sword. Zhao Min struggled to free herself from Huiyue Shi’s grab. Moving very fast she took the Sheng Huo Ling from Zhang Wuji’s hand and threw it far away. ‘Swish!’ it fell among the sharp steel spikes Jin Hua Popo spread on the ground earlier.

    To the Persian Three Emissaries, this Sheng Huo Ling was as important as their lives. Liuyun Shi and Huiyue Shi disregarded Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min as their enemy; they did not even give any thought to Miaofeng Shi’s safety, they jumped toward the steel spike formation to look for the Sheng Huo Ling.

    Rushing forward for only a ‘zhang’ or so, they reached the steel spikes. “Ah!” Huiyue Shi screamed, as she treaded on one of the steel spikes.

    It was a moonless night with wind blowing hard, the grass was knee-deep; they could not see the steel spikes and the Sheng Huo Ling. They were forced to get down and pull the spikes while groping around for the Sheng Huo Ling. At that moment Miaofeng Shi called out in alarm, as if he had just awaken from a dream, and leaped forward to follow his comrades.

    In order to save Zhang Wuji, Zhao Min had used these three stances much like a rabbit fighting a falcon; certainly without even give it a thought in advance. Now that the excitement subsided, the more she thought about it, the more she was afraid. “Wah!” she broke into a cry and threw herself in Zhang Wuji’s bosom.

    Zhang Wuji embraced her with a heart full of gratitude, but he realized that as soon as the Persian Three Emissaries found the Sheng Huo Ling, they would turn around against them. “Let’s go quickly!” he hastily said. He turned to return the Tulong Saber to Xie Xun. Carrying the severely wounded Yin Li, he said, “Xie Da Xia, let us temporarily escape from them.”

    “Right,” Xie Xun replied. Stooping down he unsealed Jin Hua Popo’s acupoints.

    Zhang Wuji thought that after narrowly escaped death, Jin Hua Popo would certainly forget her enmity towards Xie Xun. Four people went down the hill for several ‘zhang’s when Zhang Wuji thought that although Yin Li was his own cousin, yet a man and a woman should not be to close to each other; thereupon he handed her over so Jin Hua Popo could carry her.

    Zhao Min was leading the way, followed by Jin Hua Popo and Xie Xun. Zhang Wuji was the last, to protect them against the enemy. Looking back he saw the Persian Three Emissaries were still stooping down, searching among the long thick patch of grass. Zhang Wuji recalled the thrill of his defeat just now, and his heart shivered in fear; plus he was not sure if Yin Li would survive this severe injury.

    While he was still deep in thought, suddenly he heard Xie Xun’s angry shout and saw him sending his fist toward Jin Hua Popo’s back. Jin Hua Popo reached back to parry, while simultaneously throwing Yin Li to the ground. Zhang Wuji was shocked and flew forward.

    “Mrs. Han,” Xie Xun barked, “Why do you want to kill Miss Yin?”

    Jin Hua Popo laughed coldly, “Whether you killed me or not, that’s your business. Whether I want to kill her or not, that’s my business. Why do you care anyway?”

    “Since I am here,” Zhang Wuji said, “I won’t let you harm anybody on your whim.”

    “Haven’t you meddled enough in other people business for today, Sire?” Jin Hua Popo asked.

    “That’s not necessarily your business,” Zhang Wuji said, “The Persian Three Emissaries will pursue us here in an instant and you still will not go?”

    Jin Hua Popo snorted and ran westward. Suddenly she shot three golden flowers backhandedly toward the back of Yin Li’s head. Zhang Wuji stretched out his hand and flicked his fingers. ‘Swish, swish, swish!’ the sound of golden flowers split the air, flying back toward Jin Hua Popo, stronger than arrows shot from a crossbow.

    Jin Hua Popo had already seen his face clearly when Zhang Wuji held Yin Li for the first time and wiped out the beards pasted on his lips. Since realizing this young man’s internal energy was surprisingly very profound, she did not dare to reach out and catch; hastily she ducked down to dodge. The three golden flowers swept past her robe and tore away three big strips of clothes on her back. She was so frightened that her heart was jumping madly; she scurried away without even looking back.

    Zhang Wuji reached out to carry Yin Li. Suddenly he heard Zhao Min moan in pain while bending her waist and pressed both hands on her lower abdomen. Hastily he went forward and asked, “What is it?” But then he saw that her hands were full of blood, which was still seeping out from her fingers. Turned out the ‘tian di tong shou’ had stabbed her abdomen after all.

    Zhang Wuji was very shocked and busily asked, “Is the injury deep?”

    Right at that moment they heard Miaofeng Shi cheered, “I found it! I found it!”

    “Don’t mind me!” Zhao Min urged, “Go! Just go!” Zhang Wuji reached out to carry her and rushed downhill.

    “To the ship! We escape to the sea!” Zhao Min said.

    “Right!” Zhang Wuji responded. With one hand carried Yin Li and the other hand Zhao Min, he sped downhill.

    Xie Xun followed close behind; he was secretly astonished, “This youngster is amazing; carrying two adults yet still able to run this fast.”

    Zhang Wuji was so anxious that he felt his heart go numb. Even if only one of these two girls in his hands would die of her wounds, he would hate himself for the rest of his life. Luckily their bodies were still warm and did not gradually turn cold.

    As the Persian Three Emissaries found the Sheng Huo Ling, they rushed to pursue, but these three’s ‘qing gong’ was definitely inferior to Zhang Wuji. It was even greatly inferior compared to Xie Xun’s.
    As Zhang Wuji was nearing the ship, he loudly called out, “Shao Min Junzhu’s order: Raise the sail and weigh the anchor, prepare to sail immediately!”

    So when he and Xie Xun stepped their feet on the deck, the ship was ready to sail. But the captain must hear from Zhao Min personally; he went forward to ask for instruction.

    Zhao Min had lost a lot of blood. With a weak voice she said, “Hear … hear Zhang Gongzi’s order … do it …”

    The captain immediately complied, the ship set sail that when the Persian Three Emissaries reached the shore, the ship had already sailed dozens of ‘zhang’s away from the island.

    Zhang Wuji laid down both Zhao Min and Yin Li side by side in the cabin. Xiao Zhao helped him take off their clothes to reveal the wounds. Zhang Wuji assessed these two women’s conditions; he saw the sword wound on Zhao Min’s abdomen was approximately half a ‘cun’ [1 cun is about 1 inch] deep. Although she was bleeding profusely, her life was not in danger. All of the three golden flowers on Yin Li’s chest had hit her vital points; apparently Jin Hua Popo did not attack her half-heartedly. Whether her life could be saved remained very difficult to say. He applied some medicine and wrapped their injuries.

    Yin Li remained unconscious, while tears streaming down Zhao Min’s face. Zhang Wuji asked how she felt; she merely clenched her teeth without giving an answer.

    “Zeng Shao Xia,” Xie Xun said, “Old Xie has left the matters of the world; this time unexpectedly returning to the Central Earth, and still can make an acquaintance with a friend with such a deep ‘yi qi’, I am happy beyond believe.”

    Zhang Wuji led him to sit on a chair in the middle of the cabin. He knelt and bowed down, crying, “Yifu, child Wuji is unfilial; has not been able to meet you sooner, causing Yifu to suffer extreme hardships.”

    “You …” Xie Xun was shocked, “What did you say?”

    “I am your child Wuji,” Zhang Wuji said.

    But how could Xie Xun believe? “You … what did you say?” he asked.

    “The fist technique starts with a focused attention, intention precedes strength, only then victory will be achieved …” Zhang Wuji gushed non-stop, reciting the theories Xie Xun passed on to him on the Bing Huo Island just before they bade each other good-bye.

    After he recited about twenty sentences or so, Xie Xun was surprised and happy; he grabbed Zhang Wuji’s arms and said, “You … you are really my child Wuji?”

    Zhang Wuji stood up and embraced Xie Xun tightly, while trying to control his emotions. Thereupon he narrated in brief important points of what