Sending hatred away to the horizon
Myriads of thoughts to consider
Qin melody flying over the great desert
(Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)
Zhuo Yihang looked everywhere, but failed to see even Priest White Stone's shadow; suddenly He Luhua cried out in alarm. Zhuo Yihang quickly came over to see, He Luhua pushed aside the thinly spread weeds outside the cave, she pointed down. Zhuo Yihang faintly saw a few drops of blood on the sandy stone.
He Luhua's countenance changed. "Could it be that my father has been murdered?" she said with a tremor in her voice.
Zhuo Yihang was also shocked; he stooped down to examine carefully. Other than these bloodstains, he could not see anything out of ordinary. Putting up a cheerful expression he laughed and said, "Hua Mei, don't worry, if Shishu White Stone were murdered, there would be a lot more than these few drops of blood."
"But where did he go?" He Luhua asked.
"The storm in the desert is quite strong," Zhuo Yihang explained, "Oftentimes the wind would blow and change the shape of the sand dunes, so that people and animal can easily lose their bearings. Perhaps he was out looking for you, but lost his way on this great desert. Quite possibly he went out to look for you and was lost in the great desert. Those few drops of blood probably came from a minor cut when his skin was scraped by a rock."
He Luhua thought his explanation made sense; she said, "When those two bandits saw me, they mentioned father's name. Perhaps they have some enmity with my father? If they have companion nearby, when father went out to look for me, won't he bump into them?"
"I know those two bandits," Zhuo Yihang said, "Our Sect and they are how the water of the well does not mix with the water of the river, normally there should not be any enmity between us. Besides, Shishu's swordsmanship is exquisite, his martial art skill is strong, he shouldn't worry over those few small thieves. I am more afraid that he is lost."
Thereupon the two of them looked high and low over the desert, but after half a day, they still could not find his tracks. The red sun was starting to set on the western horizon, the cold wind was starting to rise.
Zhuo Yihang said, "Shishu is an adult, he won't get lost. Perhaps because he could not find you, he has already crossed the desert to the grassland over there. Right now the day is almost spent, the desert cold is difficult to bear, moreover, we did not bring any tent, spending the night on the desert will be most uncomfortable. Let us also hurry to cross to the prairie over there."
This desert was located in between two grasslands, so before long the two of them had already reached the prairie. By this time the evening had fallen, stars rose over the grassland, far away on the horizon the Tianshan seemed to reach the sky; its peaks were white with snow, in the dim light of the night the peaks glittered like sparkling crystals. The cold wind blew, sweeping over the grassland. Antelopes were galloping on the grass, bald eagles were circling high in the sky, it was a perfect picture of a night beyond the Great Wall.
Zhuo Yihang gazed on the stars above as he was leisurely lost in thought. Suddenly he sighed and said, "I haven't seen you for ten years, you have grown this big. Time passes so quickly, how can't we be sad?"
He Luhua looked up and said with a smile, "Zhuo Dage, how come you do not seem to grow older? You look exactly the same as in the past, only a little bit darker. I still remember when you went up Mount Song for the first time, father wanted you to meet my Jiejie, you were so shy and timid like a big girl. My Jiejie and I laughed at you behind your back. Ay, that time you carried me and accompanied me playing. Do you remember?"
"How can I forget?" Zhuo Yihang said with a bitter smile. At that time, if not for Priest White Stone who deliberately complicated the issue, Yu Luocha and he would not have to go through these many conflicts.
"Zhuo Dage," He Luhua said, "Don't you want to go home?"
"The prairie beyond the Great Wall is my home," Zhuo Yihang said, "Why would I want to go back?" After being lost in thought for half a day, he asked He Luhua, "How is our Wudang Pai nowadays? Is Er Shibo's body and spirit well?"
He Luhua sighed and said, "After you left, Er Shibo stayed in the Cloud Room all day long, he did not want to come out easily. He is growing old, last autumn he was seriously ill, he repeatedly told my father to go find you and bring you back. The mountain was a lot quieter, not bustling with activities like before."
Listening to this, Zhuo Yihang could not help but heave a deep sigh as well. In that instant the image of Priest Yellow Leaf suddenly flitted across his mind. His eyes stern, yet full of hope seemed to stare at him. Suddenly Zhuo Yihang felt that although his several martial uncles were loathsome, they were also pitiful.
"Dage," He Luhua asked again, "You really don't want to go back?"
Zhuo Yihang looked up to the stars and quietly said, "Um, I won't!"
"Have you found her?" He Luhua suddenly asked.
Zhuo Yihang's heart was shaken. "Who?" he asked.
He Luhua laughed, she said, "Who in the world does not know about Dage and Yu Luocha's affair? Do you still need to ask? It's a pity I have never seen her. All Shishu said that she is our school's public enemy, Father hates her even more, only Jiejie has never said anything bad about her."
With a bitter laugh Zhuo Yihang asked, "What about you?"
"I have never seen her," He Luhua replied, "How would I know? Although all of our school's Shishu and Shixiong curse her as a demoness, I actually think that as a woman she is able to dominate Wulin, whatever they say, she is an outstanding woman who is superior to men."
Zhuo Yihang laughed at her comment. He Luhua continued, "Dage, is it true that you want to grow old and die together with her beyond the Great Wall?"
"I haven't found her," Zhuo Yihang replied, "No, actually, she comes and goes like the desert wind, swirling the yellow sand, and swiftly pass."
He Luhua stuck out her tongue. She laughed and said, "In that case, Dage, you have to be careful. It won’t be fun if you are buried under the swirling sand!"
The prairie wind was getting colder, the night was getting darker, the chill crept into their bodies. Zhuo Yihang saw a flicker of fire some distance away. "It looks like some herdsmen are building a fire to keep themselves warm over there. The herdsmen of the prairie are most hospitable, we'd better join them to pass the cold night."
When they were near, they saw a large group of Kazakh people gathered around a bonfire, with a dozen or so camels scattered around them. There were bundles of merchandise on the back of these camels. Apparently they were not herdsmen, but a caravan of merchants passing through the desert. Some of them understood Chinese. Seeing Zhuo Yihang and He Luhua come near, they looked surprised. Zhuo Yihang said that after the sandstorm they lost their way. Immediately some of them gave up their places to let the visitors sit.
The traveling merchants of the desert considered camels as their homes; they did not have a fixed address, therefore, they travelled around as a family. Also, because of the danger on the desert, more often than not several families would travel together as a caravan, so their lifestyle was more or less similar to nomadic tribes. Kazakh people loved singing and dancing, there were several young people and children circling around the bonfire, singing loudly. One of them, a young woman, had a very beautiful voice. Soon the chorus turned into a solo, a young man accompanied the singing with a huqin. Zhuo Yihang had been on the prairie for several years, he had quite a good understanding of their language. He heard the young woman was singing:
The storm swirls the yellow sand,
the circling eagle on the horizon wishes to sweep down,
My brother, you are like that eagle on the horizon,
although you are not afraid of the sandstorm,
you do not wish to come down!
The storm swirls the yellow sand,
the circling eagle on the horizon wishes to sweep down,
It's not that I am not afraid of the sandstorm,
My sister, it is because I want to see your face
that I ride on the wind to seek for your home!
The sound of the qin was clear and beautiful, the singing sounded heroic yet touching; Zhuo Yihang listened with a blank expression on his face, as if he was drunk. He thought to himself, "It's a pity I am not an eagle. She is the eagle, but she is unwilling to ride the wind to seek for me."
The Kazakh people continued singing and dancing for a while, and then one of the young people said, "We invite the two guests that come from a distant place to also sing a song for us." Immediately someone handed the huqin to He Luhua, inviting Zhuo Yihang to sing first.
Zhuo Yihang's heart was filled with misery, obviously he was not in the mood to sing or dance; however, it was Kazakh people’s etiquette and if the guest does not sing, the host may think that the guests are dissatisfied. Left without any choice, Zhuo Yihang sang:
Gazing on the moon in despair, the scenery turned into anxiety,
Like the desolate sound of a bao se,
a broken-hearted man blames most of his feelings to the pain of separation,
on the brink of ascending the jade-blue mountain or crossing the distant river.
Lifting up the eyes to the unending waves of withering grass,
Sitting by the table in the dead of the night to clear away the burden.
The yellow leaves will fall without any wind,
Autumn cloud looming overhead without any rain.
If the Heaven has passion, the Heaven will also grow old,
Hidden hatred is difficult to be shaken away.
Regret and despair make former happiness feel like a dream,
When one awakes, it's nowhere to be found.
When he was singing 'If the Heaven has passion, the Heaven will also grow old', tears were flowing down from his eyes, his voice turned a bit hoarse. On the Bright Moon Gorge, Yu Luocha had said to him, 'Ever since the beginning of time, has there been any eternally young person? I tell you, if Laotianye was just like a mortal, full of considerations and anxieties, even Laotianye will grow old! Each time we see each other we quarrel, the next time you see me, I am afraid I will be a white-haired old granny!' Unexpectedly those were prophetic words, which now had become reality. Zhuo Yihang sang this poem (a famous poem, A Full River, composed by Sun Zhu of the Song Dynasty) because he remembered his feelings toward Yu Luocha. It was after he sang that he realized his song was not in harmony with the joyous atmosphere of the night.
When the song finished, everybody looked gloomy. Although most of Kazakh people did not understand Chinese, they could hear the sadness of the melody. He Luhua mused, "Others are reveling in gaiety, yet you sang this kind of song!" Without waiting to be invited by the Kazakh people, she volunteered, "I want to sing a song too!"
Asking Zhuo Yihang to play the qin, she sang:
Before the evening breeze the willow branch droops while the moon arises on the horizon.
Very quietly the golden hook adjusts the blinds, the silver cup extinguishes the lamp.
Sleeping in the spring time on the embroidered bed, the fragrant musk of deer orchid adorns the folding screen.
Suddenly footsteps are heard outside the window shutters.
I do not see my beloved, only a meddlesome person hiding in the winding corridor.
I push the dual-pane window to scold the frivolous person, but see from behind the bamboo shade, blown by the wind the fragrant flowers fall.
I sigh in wishful thinking, how many more demons of temptation will come into the depths of lady’s chamber?
It was a popular folksong of the Jiangnan; her voice seemed to linger in the air, the melody was lively. As soon as she finished singing, the mood was reversed. The Kazakh youth said, "Miss sings really well!" And he gave the precious huqin to He Luhua to show his respect. Zhuo Yihang told her that it was a Kazakh's custom, so she must not decline. With a big grin on her face He Luhua accepted.
Several Kazakh youths had very good impressions toward her, they all crowded around her to engage her in conversation. He Luhua asked, "Where are you from?"
A youth who understand Chinese replied, "We are from Yili, we had just passed through the Taklamakan desert!"
He Luhua had an idea, "During your journey today, did you by any chance see a Taoist priest?" And then she described her father's appearance in detail.
"Oh," the Kazakh youth said, "We did. Is he your traveling companion? That Taoist priest looked really strange, he was riding on a horseback with an angry look on his face, as he travelled in the midst of a group of Lamas."
"What?" He Luhua was surprised, "Lama!" Her father had never had any good relation with any Lama!
"That's right," the Kazakh youth replied, "We also felt it is unusual for a Han Taoist priest to mingle with Tibetan Lamas, it struck us as very strange. Those Lamas also rode on horsebacks, all of them looked very inauspicious!"
He Luhua was shocked. "Was the Taoist priest tied up by them on the horseback?" she asked.
The Kazakh youth shook his head, "I did not see it clearly," he said, "The Taoist priest was riding in the middle of the Lamas' horses, he carried a dejected appearance. Their horses galloped really fast, we did not get out of the way fast enough and had to suffer several whip lashes."
"Which direction were they going?" Zhuo Yihang asked.
The Kazakh youth said, "The direction we were coming from."
"So they were also heading toward the Taklamakan desert," Zhuo Yihang said.
After thinking for half a day, suddenly Zhuo Yihang took out several snow lotus herbs from his sack. "What do you think of this snow lotus herb?" he asked. Zhuo Yihang picked these snow lotus herb flowers on Tianshan's northern peak when he went to visit Reverend Hui Ming. Each flower had several dozens of petals, stacked on top of each other in layers, so that it looked like a snowball.
Those Kazakh people exclaimed in astonishment; they said, "We have never seen such a big snow lotus herb; where did you find it?"
With a chuckle Zhuo Yihang said, "I want to trade these several flowers of snow lotus herb with a camel and a tent. Would you trade?"
Those Kazakh people were very fair; they said, "Camels are easy to find, snow lotus herb are rare. These flowers worth far more than a camel."
Zhuo Yihang said, "To me, a camel is hard to find, snow lotus herb is easy to pick. If you are willing, let's trade."
The Kazakh people were delighted; they threw in some tools which would be very useful in the desert, and some dry rations.
Early in the morning the next day, Zhuo Yihang bade farewell to his Kazakh friends, and rode on the camel with He Luhua, heading straight to the west.
"Why do you want a camel?" He Luhua asked, "Camel is slower than our running speed?"
"The Taklamakan desert is actually a string of smaller deserts linking north and south of the border, yellow sand spread out for thousands of li," Zhuo Yihang explained, "You are not accustomed to the desert, how are we going to cross the desert if we do not have this camel?"
He Luhua said, "How can my father travel together with that crowd of Lamas? I cannot think it through. Could it be that he is kidnapped? But my father has never been beyond the Great Wall before, let alone having some business with those Lamas. This is just too strange."
Zhuo Yihang remembered his encounter with the Tibetan Lamas of the Tian Long Pai, which resulted in some grudges between them. "Perhaps it is Tian Long Pai's doing," he thought, "But how could they know he is my Shishu? Besides, in our Sect, Shishu White Stone's swordsmanship can be reckoned as first or second best, how did he fall into their treacherous hands?" He could not think it through either; thereupon he said, "Since we now know that they are entering the great desert, all we need to do is follow their trail and gather some information."
The yellow sand spread over thousands of li uninhabited land over the great desert, luckily the two of them were travelling together, so they could keep each other company. He Luhua was only young girl of seventeen or eighteen years of age, plus this was the very first time she travelled beyond the Great Wall, so to her, the desert scenery was very fascinating. She also asked a lot of questions about all kinds of Jianghu affairs. Zhuo Yihang chatted with her almost all day long that he was not feeling too sad. Only whenever He Luhua asked him about Yu Luocha Zhuo Yihang would answer her with a smile without saying anything, or try to talk about other things.
Without even realizing it, they had travelled for half a month. They frequently found tracks of camel or horse footprints, yet when they tried to follow the tracks, oftentimes they would be covered or altered by sandstorms. After traveling these many days without leaving the desert, He Luhua started to be distressed.
One day toward the twilight a gust of wind was blowing straight to them, the yellow sand was starting to rise. Zhuo Yihang said, "It seems like there will be a sandstorm tonight, we'd better find some place sheltered from the wind to erect our tent."
Sure enough, that night the storm blew, the moon and the stars disappeared from the sky, the air was thick with yellow sand, as if the whole world was covered with thick yellow screen. Zhuo Yihang picked a good place to put up the tent, he tied big rocks on all sides, he also kept the camel outside the opening of the tent as a wall to stop the sandstorm. The strong wind blew over the tent, creating all kinds of scraping noise.
"I did not expect the storm beyond the Great Wall to be this terrible," He Luhua said.
Zhuo Yihang laughed and said, "Right now it is not the stormy season yet; if it is, the sand dunes will be moved by the wind. If caught in the storm, people and animals will also be blown to the air. Other than huge beasts like the camel, no one can withstand it. This storm cannot be considered big, I think it will be over very soon."
A moment later, the storm did indeed abate. The two of them were about to sleep when suddenly outside the tent the camel neighed. Zhuo Yihang dashed out of the tent, and saw two dark shadows who quickly ran away from the camel. Zhuo Yihang raised his hand and called out, "The storm has not stopped completely, why don't the two of you come in and visit with us inside the tent?"
The two men stopped on their tracks and went back. To Zhuo Yihang's surprise, they were wearing Han people's attire. The one on the front replied respectfully, "Our horses are collapsed by the wind and suffocated, they cannot be used anymore. Since Sire invites us in, we have nothing else to hope.” Thereupon the two of them followed Zhuo Yihang in.
Zhuo Yihang was fully aware that those two were going to steal the camel, but remembering the dangerous sandstorm and the fact that they did not have any ride, he thought wanting to steal camel was understandable; hence he did not say anything and simply received them politely.
These two Han men had sabers hanging on their waists, their faces were ugly and ferocious-looking. He Luhua signaled Zhuo Yihang with her eyes, her expression showed her dislike. Zhuo Yihang smiled and said, “The desert night is cold, let’s build a fire and boil some water.”
He Luhua built a fire and poured some water from the water sack into a copper pot. She said, “Why don’t you build a furnace? Otherwise how are we going to put the pot over the fire?”
Zhuo Yihang looked around and said with a laugh, “There are no gravels around here, and we cannot take the rock holding down the tent. What should I do?”
The two Han men said, “Please do not bother Sire, we have been in the desert for a long time, we are used to suffer the cold.”
“Why do we have to suffer?” Zhuo Yihang said, “Let me think of something.” He looked around again and said, “I got it! Let’s have a try.” He brought one of the big rocks holding down the tent inside. Quietly he gathered his cultivated internal strength into his palms and then suddenly he slammed both palms down while shouting, “Open up!” The big rock split into four pieces. He laughed and said, “I think this will work!” and quickly set the rocks into a furnace. The two men stared with open mouths; they were speechless.
Zhuo Yihang knew these two men were bad people, therefore, he intentionally made a show of his skill, yet he maintained his composure and chatted with them as if nothing happened.
By the time the water boiled, the storm outside had stopped. The two men drank their warm water and took their leave, saying, “Thank you very much Sire for your hospitality.”
“Isn’t it inconvenient to hasten on your journey in the night?” Zhuo Yihang asked.
The two men replied, “We are always running around all year long, we are used to it. Now it is not the storm season, so the wind rarely blows. After this storm, the wind won’t blow again in three, five days; it doesn’t make any difference whether we travel during the day or during the night. Besides, Sire has a female family member with him, it is not convenient for us to disturb you.”
He Luhua blushed, Zhuo Yihang said, “In that case, I wish the two of you a safe and pleasant journey,” as he sent them off outside the tent.
The two men suddenly turned around and asked, “Would Sire tell us your illustrious name so that we can repay you back in the future?”
“Such a trivial matter, it’s not worth mentioning,” Zhuo Yihang said. The two men looked at each other, and then left after expressing their thanks again.
Zhuo Yihang went back into the tent. He Luhua complained, “It’s hard to fathom a person’s mind, why didn’t you ask clearly before inviting them in?”
Zhuo Yihang said, “We are chivalrous people, how can we see people in distress and not help?”
He Luhua said, “Those two men are ugly and ferocious looking, I was disgusted as soon as I saw them. They are definitely not good people. Luckily you showed you skill and scared them off. I am guessing that they had bad intentions and quickly left only after your demonstration.”
Zhuo Yihang laughed and said, “It’s over now, no need to make wild guesses.”
“Dage,” He Luhua said, “Your martial art skill is really good. Just with the strike of your palms that big rock split into four pieces. I don’t think even my father can do that. I believe that in our Sect, other than Er Shibo, no one else has this kind of skill. No wonder all Shishu are determined to ask you back to the mountain.”
Zhuo Yihang said, “Damo ancestor’s martial art skill is inconceivably extensive and profound, what I know is merely a superficial knowledge. Only if we can uncover the Damo ancestor’s secret, our Wudang Pai will truly be unequalled under the heaven.”
By this time Zhuo Yihang had already made an oath: for as long as he live, he would never return to Mount Wudang. However, to repay the kindness of his master and school, he must by all means uncover the Wudang’s highest secret. If he happened to die beyond the Great Wall, he would commission Xin Longzi to continue his endeavor.
The sandstorm stopped, the night was growing deep, after chatting for a while, they went to sleep. After those two men left, He Luhua had nothing to worry about, so she slept soundly, snoring lightly. The fire cast its weak light onto her apple-pink face; there was a fascinating spirit of a young girl on her childlike appearance. Zhuo Yihang sighed quietly, he could not help but remember the time he met Yu Luocha for the first time in the Yellow Dragon Cave. At that time Yu Luocha was also sleeping with a naive, guiltless expression on her face. He remembered how he was afraid she might catch cold, so he gently took off his own coat and covered her up with it ... And then his thoughts took an abrupt turn, he remembered the phrase 'From time immemorial, beautiful women are just like famous generals, they would never let people see them growing old'. He remembered his own failure in raising a family, while the years were rolling by like a stream, totally beyond his control.
Despair and anxiety surged into his heart like a tide, Zhuo Yihang was unable to sleep for quite a long time. Noticing the fire was almost gone, he was just thinking of adding some more fuel to it when suddenly the camel outside the tent let out a long neigh. "Could it be those two fellows are back?" Zhuo Yihang mused.
He was about to stand up when with a sharp noise the tent ripped open; the wind blew in, a cold ray flashed, a shiny flying dagger flew in. Zhuo Yihang shouted and caught the flying dagger between his index and middle fingers. Flinging the dagger down, he pulled out his sword and with the White Snake Leaves the Hole style, the tip of his sword dashed out and circled to all directions to guard against sneak attack. In the wake of the flickering sword, his body also dashed out the tent. Yet the enemy outside did not shoot any more secret projectiles.
In the dark of the night Zhuo Yihang was able to vaguely see the silhouettes of three big-statured people running westwards. Zhuo Yihang angrily shouted, "Camel thieves, I kindly invited you in to avoid the sandstorm, yet you are repaying kindness with evil; you still dare to take your companion to secretly commit an evil act. If I don't punish you today, the justice of heaven won't be served!" With sword in his hand, like a tornado he stormed forward; in an instant he had caught up with the three men.
Zhuo Yihang was under the impression that two of those three men were his guests earlier. To his surprise, however, as soon as he caught up with them, the three men suddenly turned around and barked, "Your old man has roamed the area beyond the Great Wall, if I want to steal, I would steal a rare treasure; why would I want to steal your camel?"
Another man sneered, "I want to see what ability the Wudang Pai's Sect Leader has! Is it worth our Incense Master to spend so much effort in specifically delivering the invitation?"
Those three men wore black cotton cloth masks on their faces; the voices of those two men were rather hoarse, definitely they were not the two Han men earlier. The other masked man did not say anything; he was only giggling coldly.
Zhuo Yihang was startled, these three masked men's demeanor and speech were so strange that it was completely beyond his expectations! First of all, listening to their tone, they seemed to be some people of prominent background, however, launching a sneak attack like that could be considered a despicable conduct in the Wulin world, which was usually committed by thieves, not by people who speak like that. Secondly, the title 'incense master' was an important position within the clans and societies in the Central Plains; what relation did these people in the remote area beyond the Great Wall have with the 'incense hall' organization in the Central Plains?
Although for the last several years Zhuo Yihang had gained a vast amount of experience, he had no clue about the origin of these people. At first he thought these masked men were Lamas of the Tibetan Tian Long Pai, but they spoke a fluent Chinese, so it was unlikely that they were Tibetans.
By this time both sides were like arrows strung on a bow, Zhuo Yihang did not have the luxury of carefully considering his options. The two men who spoke earlier turned around and attacked him. One with a pair of judge pens in his hand, poking, striking and stabbing very swiftly and fiercely; the other hacking and sweeping with his palms, generating strong gusts of wind, the strength of his palms was also very powerful.
Zhuo Yihang had never expected to meet such powerful masters in the great desert, he was shocked and rather frightened, but his spirit was aroused. Quickly he launched the Wudang's 72-style Sequential Sword Technique to fight the enemy. 'Shua! Shua!' quick as lightning his sword attacked the two men simultaneously.
The one with judge-pens moved his left-hand pen to divert the attack, while his right-hand pen struck slantingly down toward Zhuo Yihang's laugh acupoint on his waist. 'Clang!' sparks flew everywhere as two weapons collided, the judge-pen was pushed sideways, while the palm of Zhuo Yihang's hand felt hot.
Zhuo Yihang moved very nimbly, his 72-style Sequential Sword changing continuously. In a flash he moved sideways and launched three stances against the other enemy. This other man was also very formidable; he bent his knees to evade the first attack, stretched out one finger of his left hand, and struck with his right palm toward Zhuo Yihang's left arm. His finger stabbing, his palm hacking, he forced Zhuo Yihang's second attack to be skewed sideways, followed by his feet kicking the ground, 'swish!' his body slid about a zhang to the right and thus evaded the third attack. Unexpectedly all three swift and fierce attacks of Zhuo Yihang's school's unique skills were evaded by his half-offensive, half-defensive movement.
No sooner said than done, the masked man with judge-pens in his hands rushed over and attacked. The pens flew up at an angle, very fast yet powerful. Zhuo Yihang turned around to fend off while his leg swept across with Wudang Pai's Mandarin Ducks Chain-Kicks, which was as famous as the sword technique. This particular move was called top and bottom intersect in an attack, the sword and the leg were used together. If the masked man evaded the stabbing upward sword, he could not avoid the sweeping downward leg; if he evaded the sweeping downward leg, he would not be able to evade the stabbing upward sword. His situation was very critical.
Sword and leg flew simultaneously, the sword arrived first, the leg arrived later, the masked man had just raised his pen to parry the incoming sword, Zhuo Yihang's flying leg swept to the left and kick to the right, it already arrived at the man's heart. But in this instant, the other man who was forced by Zhuo Yihang to withdraw earlier leaped back in, delivering an attack with both of his palms. Surprisingly, it was the move Flying Eagle Catches the Rabbit from the Great Grappling Technique. If Zhuo Yihang's lower leg was caught, he would be toppled down immediately even if his martial art skill were stronger. Zhuo Yihang hastily pulled his leg back slightly, and flitted sideways about six, seven feet; he was inwardly very shocked, he had a feeling that he had seen this technique and footwork before.
The two masked men barked, "Where are you going?" From left and right they both pounced forward in a converging attack. The pens danced like a dragon or a snake, the palms generated loud gusts of wind, the combined force was overwhelming.
"Do you think I am scared of you?" Zhuo Yihang angrily said, "Looking at your status, you are not people of mediocre position, but you are actually committing a third-class shady business. What a pity!"
The man wielding the judge-pens roared in laughter and said, "We are only testing your skill, how can you consider it a third-class shady business?"
Zhuo Yihang did not want to waste time by arguing with him, unleashing his swordsmanship to its full potential he swiftly stabbed. Although the man said they were only testing his skill, the pair of judge pens always threatened thirty-six major acupoints on Zhuo Yihang's body without showing any leniency at all. The other man, the expert in Great Grappling Technique, attacked even more ruthlessly, as if they were fighting a strong archenemy!
Unleashing the result of his life-long training, Zhuo Yihang launched the 72-style Sequential Sword in continuous motion, like the billowing waves of Yangtze River, countering each attack with an attack. They were caught up in a fierce, inextricable battle.
Thirty, fifty stances later, they were still evenly matched. Two out of three masked men were fighting Zhuo Yihang, the third masked man was standing leisurely on the sideline watching the battle, letting out a laughter or two from time to time. Zhuo Yihang was wary, but he could not divide his attention to guard against this man's sneak attack. All along he was unable to guess what kind of men were these three?
During the raging battle, suddenly He Luhua rushed out of the tent and flew toward them. Zhuo Yihang worried over the powerful enemies, he called out, "Shimei, don't come here!" But how could she be willing to listen? Like a tornado she charged in! 'Shua!' she stabbed the phoenix eye acupoint of the man with the judge pens. The man flipped the pen backward to meet the sword. He Luhua was very slippery, turning around, she had already at the right side of the other man, the tip of her sword stabbed toward the spirit haste acupoint on the man's waist. The man turned one palm backhandedly, the wind of his palm brushed He Luhua's clothes. He Luhua jumped in fright. "How fierce!" she called out while dodging the attack.
He Luhua's swordsmanship came from the devoted teaching of Priest White Stone, although her level was far below Zhuo Yihang's, these two people were under the threat of Zhuo Yihang's swift and fierce sword, so they could not divert their attention to deal with her; moreover, her footwork was very agile, she slipped here and there, roved around, stabbing and slashing from left and right, top and bottom, threatening those two men's acupoints. Although they did not consider her a powerful enemy that they should be afraid of, they had no choice but to guard against her attacks.
And thus the battle situation underwent a great change. The two men had already entailed a strenuous effort in fighting Zhuo Yihang, now there was He Luhua who invaded and harassed them, hence very soon they were falling into a disadvantageous position.
The last masked man, who was standing on the side thus far, could not take it much longer. Suddenly he let out a long whistle as he pulled the leather belt from his waist and brandished it smoothly. 'Crack! Crack!' In his hand, the leather belt became a flexible whip, which circled in the air and swept down on Zhuo Yihang's shoulder. Zhuo Yihang sidestepped using the Treading on Seven Stars move; he spun around, and suddenly his body along with his sword had already behind the enemy, like the wind the tip of his sword stabbed forward. It was as if the masked man had eyes on the back of his head, without turning around, his whip coiled backward and struck down. Zhuo Yihang was greatly shocked and hastily retracted his sword. He did not expect the masked man to be proficient in 'listening to the wind to distinguish direction' technique, his martial art skill was also higher than the first two men.
Now that the man wielding the whip joined the battle, the situation changed again. With two against three, slowly Zhuo Yihang and He Luhua were hard-pressed until they were only able to defend without any chance to attack.
The man wielding the judge pen mocked again, "Ha, Wudang Sect Leader is only so-so! The Incense Master had overestimated him!"
Zhuo Yihang was enraged, his sword revolved, like an eagle diving into the forest, a giant bird swooping over its prey, the tip of the sword moved away from the man wielding the whip, in a move called Ferocious Fowl Seize the Grain, the sword flashed toward the eyeballs of the man wielding the pen. The man launched the move Supporting Horizontal Golden Beam, his pair of pens went up horizontally to block the sword. Who would have thought that it was only a feign attack on Zhuo Yihang's part. With a bluish flash the sword circled down and pierced forward; 'rip!' a big hole appeared at the front of that man clothes. Luckily he managed to evade quickly, otherwise the sword would pierce his abdomen all the way to the side of his body.
The masked man wielding the judge pen was frightened that his body was drenched in cold sweat. Zhuo Yihang's sword technique was so strange that it was beyond their anticipation. The man wielding the whip even exclaimed in surprise, because to his surprise it was not part of Wudang's 72-style Sequential Sword Technique. It was like a wave appeared suddenly on a flat land, like a strange peak arose prominently; it came swiftly yet vanished quietly, so unpredictable that it was virtually impossible to guard against.
After several stances in succession, the three masked men were repeatedly forced backwards. Obviously these three men had never dreamed that these moves were Wulin's ultimate skill, the long lost Damo Sword Style. These three masked men were used to face a powerful enemy together; seeing Zhuo Yihang’s strange moves, they withdrew as if by prior agreement and formed a joint defense.
Although Damo Sword Style was formidable, Zhuo Yihang only knew several stances. It was sufficient to be used in a surprise attack, but quite useless in a prolonged battle. Several stances later, the enemy was able to see the actual situation, hence they pressed in forward again. Zhuo Yihang did not have any choice but to fight the enemy using Wudang’s 72-style Sequential Sword Technique again, intermingled with the Damo Sword Style.
Thirty to fifty stances of intense battle later, Zhuo and He, two people, were in a very difficult position. The three masked men tightened their encirclement. Fortunately Zhuo Yihang’s mastery of the sword skill was thorough, He Luhua’s movements were quick and skillful, so they were able to hold for the time being.
The masked man wielding the whip’s murderous intentions was aroused, he launched the Whirling Wind Sweeping the Willow, his whip generated a whooshing noise as it attacked violently. Zhuo Yihang’s heart was stirred, suddenly he shouted, “Senior Huo, why do you repeatedly treat me as your enemy?”
This masked man was precisely Huo Yuanzhong, who climbed the Tianshan’s southern peak earlier and defeated by Yu Luocha. Huo Yuanzhong’s flexible whip was renowned in the Wulin world. Because one, he was wearing a mask, and two, he was using a leather belt as the whip, Zhuo Yihang did not recognize him immediately.
Huo Yuanzhong let out a cold laugh and said, “Where is your Yu Luocha?”
Zhuo Yihang said angrily, “If you have any enmity with Yu Luocha, then go and find her. In vain you are being a hero of the senior generation yet committing this kind of rat-stealing, dog-groping kind of shady business, throwing daggers and shooting arrows in the dark. If I tell this to Wulin friends, I want to see where you are going to put your thick face at?”
Huo Yuanzhong laughed aloud and said, “Who is plotting against you? Go back to your tent and look, I was only delivering an invitation for you! Someone else is delivering an invitation to Yu Luocha. If you have guts, then come to our meeting!” Finished speaking, he laughed aloud again before calling out, “Enough testing. What do you think, as a guest of your Incense Master, this kid won’t let you down, will he?” Moving his whip in a half-circle, he parried Zhuo Yihang's incoming sword, and then withdrew immediately.
Zhuo Yihang was stunned, he did not realize that when he was busy talking with Huo Yuanzhong and did not pay attention to the other two masked men, they suddenly launched a killer move toward He Luhua. While the man with the judge pen was fending off He Luhua's sword, the other man formed his left hand into a claw to capture her wrist, and delivered a blow toward her chest with his right palm. Since her sword was entangled by the man with the judge pen, He Luhua was unable to evade. She felt the palm wind was as sharp as a blade, the palm had already reached her clothes; she could not refrain from screaming.
Just in that instant, there was another scream, followed by a heavy thud as someone fell to the ground. Turned out it was Zhuo Yihang who pounced forward to save her, using the stance Rushing through the River from the Damo Sword Style to pierce the man's palm. However, because he was rushing to help, while flying forward, his shoulder was hit by the man's claw that he screamed from the burning pain.
"Are you hurt?" Huo Yuanzhong called out to his companion. Without saying anything the man with the judge pen picked up his companion and carried him on his back, and then he turned around and ran away.
"Zhuo Yihang," Huo Yuanzhong called out, "If you are not afraid someone will avenge this, we'll meet again at the Feng Sha Tie Fort!" Zhuo Yihang simply let out several cold laughs, he held his sword, but did not pursue.
"Dage," He Luhua asked, "Are you injured by his ghostly hand?"
"It's nothing," Zhuo Yihang replied, "Let's go back."
"Do you know them?" He Luhua asked again, "They said they only wanted to test you, why were they so vicious?"
"I only know that man with the leather belt is Huo Yuanzhong," Zhuo Yihang said.
"Hm, Huo Yuanzhong," He Luhua said, "He has some grudges against my father. I think my father has fallen under their treacherous plot."
Zhuo Yihang was surprised, "What grudges?" he asked, "I have never heard Shishu White Stone ever mention it."
He Luhua said, "It was after we arrived beyond the Great Wall that I heard about it. According to my father, about thirty years ago Huo Yuanzhong came to Wudang to discuss martial arts with him; unwilling to accept that Wudang Sword Technique is number one in the world, he challenged father for a duel. Within thirty stances father managed to stab him with a sword. He asked him if he surrender. That Huo Yuanzhong was stubborn, he shut his mouth and did not answer. My father stabbed him one more time, and thus he was compelled to surrender and that was the end of it."
Zhuo Yihang sighed and said, "When Shishu was young, he must have been a very proud man." Actually, even after he grew old, Priest White Stone’s temperament had not changed.
“You’re right,” He Luhua said, “In this mater father was indeed a bit too much. That’s the reason was he and I traveled beyond the Great Wall this time, he told me that there is no martial art master in this area, but we must guard against Huo Yuanzhong, since he might want to avenge his defeat thirty years ago.”
Zhuo Yihang said, “Based on Huo Yuanzhong’s martial art, at best he is currently on the same level as your father; it is unlikely that your father has fallen under his treacherous plot. I am afraid there are more people involved in this matter.”
“That’s right,” He Luhua said, “Didn’t Huo Yuanzhong just now mention something about Feng Sha Tie Fort? He also mentioned something about invitation. Perhaps he has more companions and delivered the invitation to our tent on their behalf! We must guard against them!”
While speaking, they have arrived outside their tent. Zhuo Yihang lighted up his flint while pushing the tent curtain open with his sword. He looked inside, only to see the dying fire; there was no one else inside. He Luhua went inside and put some straw, which was originally to feed the camel, into the fire. “Huo Yuanzhong talked nonsense! Where is the invitation?” she wondered aloud.
Zhuo Yihang’s eyes were sharper, he glanced toward the flying dagger he tossed to the ground a moment ago, and indeed, there was a piece of paper skewered on the dagger’s blade. Quickly he lifted it up and said, “Oh, turns out the invitation is here.” Delivering an invitation on a dagger blade was actually a common custom of the Jianghu, it was not meant to offend anybody, and therefore, it could not be considered a sneak attack.
Zhuo Yihang read the invitation and laughed, “I am still wondering how that old fellow Huo Yuanzhong could do such a shady business, a person with a status such as his? What kind of people could make him agree to deliver the invitation?”
He Luhua came over to look at the invitation, it said, “We have long heard Wudang Pai dominates the Central Plains; it’s a pity that due to the tens of thousands li separation over the mountain pass, we have no opportunity to ask for guidance. Today since the respected Sect Leader has already travelled far to this remote area, why not take advantage of the closer proximity to make friendship? On the seventh day of the seventh month, at the fort awaiting for your instructions. The Fort Master of Feng Sha Fort respectfully invites.”
Zhuo Yihang knitted his eyebrows as he said, “Must be that blabbermouth Huo Yuanzhong; he told people everywhere that I am the Sect Leader of Wudang Pai, so much so that it draws this kind of invitation. How can I have the mood to vie for supremacy in the Wulin?”
He Luhua said, “For my father’s sake, even if you did not want to vie for supremacy, you still have to fight.”
“Those Kazakh people said your father was travelling with a group of Lamas,” Zhuo Yihang said, “He may not be at the Feng Sha Fort.”
“This is at least a clue,” He Luhua said.
“Be that as it may, we still do not know where the Feng Sha Fort is situated,” Zhuo Yihang replied. His wounded shoulder was throbbing with pain.
Seeing him frown, He Luhua quickly took out some medicinal ointment used to treat cut wound. “Dage,” she said, “Put some medicine first before we continue talking.”
“Um, give that to me,” Zhuo Yihang said. He turned around, ripped open the clothes off his shoulder, and applied the medicine himself.
He Luhua was innocent and carefree, ordinarily she would not adhere strictly to propriety. Being with her, Zhuo Yihang was constantly on the edge; he was afraid Yu Luocha would appear suddenly and would arouse a misunderstanding. Thereupon he always avoided close physical contact with her. Seeing she was going to apply the medicine, he hastily asked to apply it himself.
He Luhua snickered inwardly, she mused, “Shame on him to be Sect Leader, such a bashful attitude.”
Suddenly there were footsteps outside the tent, the camel neighed again. Zhuo Yihang tossed down the medication, pulled his sword and shouted, “Who’s there?”
The tent opened, the two Han men who came earlier walked in and said, “Master Zhuo, we have come to apologize!”
He Luhua angrily said, “What kind of deceit are you two playing? I’ll say you are Huo Yuanzhong’s $hit.”
The two men replied, “Miss has guessed correctly, but you have also guessed wrong. Aiyo, you are wounded. This is the Venomous Sand Palm injury; how can we treat this on this side of the desolate great desert?”
Because the wound was itchy, Zhuo Yihang had already suspected as much; hearing their exclamation, he smiled and said, “It’s really the venomous palm of the Old Freak Jin.”
The two men said, “Since Master Zhuo is already aware, why don’t you seek treatment as soon as possible?”
With an indifferent laugh Zhuo Yihang said, “Even after the poison breaks out in twenty four hours, I still can treat and cure it. What’s so amazing about Venomous Sand Palm? Why worry too much? You said you are here to apologize. What for?”
Hearing that it was the Venomous Sand Palm, He Luhua’s expression changed. Wudang Pai did have a secret recipe handed down from generation to generation on how to treat the Venomous Sand Palm injury; however, it involved making ten cauldrons of hot water, utilizing the steam to drive out the poison from the body. Only by using this method the treatment would be effective. In this kind of desert, drops of water was more valuable than gold. The water in the pouch on the camel was barely enough to last for several days; how could they boil ten cauldrons of water? Yet Zhuo Yihang did not seem to mind, he urged the two men to speak quickly.
The two men said, “We are from the Feng Sha Fort.”
“Mm, I have just received an invitation from your Fort Master,” Zhuo Yihang said.
“We already know that,” the two men replied.
He Luhua was impatient, she pressed in, “What is your Fort Master’s surname? Why does he want to have a martial art competition with my Dage?”
The one right in front of her replied, “Our Fort Master is called Cheng Zhangwu, he was actually coming from inside the pass.”
“I have never heard that name,” Zhuo Yihang said.
The man laughed and said, “He has been here for dozens of years. Perhaps Master Zhuo’s Shishu knew him. Formerly he opened an Incense Hall in Huainan region, running an illegal salt business. Later he was hard-pressed by the imperial army and had nowhere to set his feet on, and hence along with several brothers he escaped beyond the Great Wall. It was nearly thirty years ago, only a few of the brothers who came with him remained. Only then did he settle beyond the Great Wall. Our father actually came with him. There is a piece of fertile land with water and grass at the edge of Taklamakan desert. The local herdsmen are afraid of the sandstorms, they do not dare to raise their herds over there. It’s exactly on that place he built his fort, fortifying it with an iron tower so that it can withstand the sandstorms, and thus it is called the Feng Sha Fort, outsiders also all it the Feng Sha Tie Fort. He leads us, a group of Han people, for several decades to raise livestock in there, so that we can make a living.”
“That’s very good, passing the days in peace like that,” Zhuo Yihang said, “But why does he want to seek trouble with me?”
The man said, “He is well advanced in years, he has great aspirations, but lack the physical strength. In the last several years, there is a White Hair Demoness who has come from the Central Plains. The heroes of various tribes beyond the Great Wall, almost all famous characters have received some kind of humiliation from her and it didn’t matter whether he was a Han or a barbarian. Luckily because of our location at the edge of the desert, plus our Fort Master having gone into seclusion long ago, she has not come to us. However, there are some people among those who received humiliation from her who know that our Fort Master is a man of ability, thereupon they promptly invited him to lead the effort to eliminate that woman. Our Fort Master did not give his consent right away.”
“It’s the White Hair Demoness!” He Luhua called out, “Let me tell you: White Hair Demoness is our Wudang Pai’s enemy, why did your Fort Master look for our Wudang Pai’s heads instead?”
The man laughed and said, “Our Fort Master is already aware that the White Hair Demoness is also known as Yu Luocha, and it was because of her that Master Zhuo has come beyond the Great Wall!”
Zhuo Yihang blushed; “Is it because of her that your Fort Master is reaching out to me?” he asked.
“Not exactly,” the man replied, “In the spring this year, Huo Yuanzhong arrived at the fort, he urged our Fort Master to set up an Incense Hall to dominate the area beyond the Great Wall. The people of Tibetan Tian Long Pai are even more willing to support our Fort Master to be a prince of the area beyond the Great Wall. I heard because one of Tian Long Pai people was killed by Master Zhuo, plus he was expelled by the Kazakh people beforehand, the Cult Leader of Tian Long Pai is willing to help Kadar Chief and our Fort Master's alliance to gain control over the desert and prairie. At the same time, Tian Long Pai people have also suffered defeat under the White Hair Demoness; and thus Tian Long Shangren is most willing to join hands with the heroes and warriors of the desert and prairie to fight her."
Zhuo Yihang was shocked. "If that's the case," he said, "Doesn't that mean that the martial art masters of Tibet and the border regions will all come to deal with us?"
"That's right," the man said, "Our Fort Master is still afraid that we won't be able to overcome the White Hair Demoness, therefore, he sends invitations everywhere to gather more martial art masters. Actually, we were sent to Beijiang to invite people."
"Such being the case," Zhuo Yihang said, "Why did you tell me all this?"
The man replied, "Our life here is not bad, we also don't want our Fort Master to wage any war. We heard that White Hair Demoness is very formidable, won't that be really bad if both sides suffer? Moreover, Master Zhuo treated us very well, you obviously knew we were going to steal your camel, but you were still willing to give us shelter; how can we bear to see Master Zhuo brave the danger?"
He Luhua could not refrain from asking, "Why didn't you say so earlier?"
"At that time I did not know you are Master Zhuo," the man replied, "Afterwards we came across our Vice Fort Master and Huo Yuanzhong, we mentioned that we have bumped into a certain highly-skilled individual, and straightaway Huo Yuanzhong guessed it must be Master Zhuo. Huo Yuanzhong seems to know you very well ..."
"It's because Yu Luocha and I have fought with him once," Zhuo Yihang cut him off.
"No wonder," the man said, "He was also the one who told us that White Hair Demoness' name is Yu Luocha. A lot of people do not know that."
The man continued, "And then those three people went to find you. Actually, they were sent by our Fort Master to scout your whereabouts."
"Wait a second," Zhuo Yihang said, "Which one is your Vice Fort Master?"
The man replied, "Our Vice Fort Master is a master in sealing acupoint technique ..."
"Oh," Zhuo Yihang said, "Needless to say, he must be the one wielding the judge pens."
"Who is the other one?" He Luhua asked.
"I heard he is a disciple of Jin Duyi's Venomous Palm of the Yin Wind school, who at one time dominated the northwest," the man explained, "Jin Duyi had a lot of disciples, after his death, many of his disciples went over to the area beyond the Great Wall."
"No wonder his palm technique seems rather familiar," Zhuo Yihang commented.
"Do you know Priest White Stone?" He Luhua asked.
The man shook his head and said, "Never heard of him. But a few days ago a large number of Tian Long Pai lamas arrived. I heard someone mentioned that among them there was a Taoist Priest; maybe he is the Priest White Stone you are talking about. I am not sure."
He Luhua sprang up and said, "Even though your Fort Master did not send me any invitation, I must come. Hey, what day is today? In this desert, I have forgotten all about sunrise, sunset and the season."
"Today is the fourth day of the seventh month," the man replied, "Our Fort Master will set up the Incense Hall on the seventh day of the seventh month."
"How far is the Feng Sha Fort from here?" He Luhua asked.
The man thought for a moment, and then he laughed and said, "If you are the guests who come to congratulate us, you may leave on the evening of the seventh day of seventh month and still arrive on-time."
Zhuo Yihang also laughed and said, "We are definitely going to congratulate you."
The man anxiously said, "Master Zhuo, you'd better not come. I am also thinking of asking Master Zhuo to advise the White Hair Demoness not to come. Two tigers fight, injury is inevitable. If Master Zhuo is injured, that won't be good, if our Fort Master is injured, that won't be good either."
"I understand. We have another plan," Zhuo Yihang said, "Since your Fort Master sent you out to deliver invitation, you'd better go."
After the two men took their leave, He Luhua suddenly clapped her hands and said, "It's really unexpected!"
Zhuo Yihang was startled. "What’s unexpected?" he asked.
He Luhua said, "Looking at their appearance, those two men look fierce, yet they actually know how to repay kindness. Um, Dage, how can we find ten cauldrons of water in this desert?"
Zhuo Yihang knew she was thinking of his Venomous Sand Palm injury; he laughed and said, "That's easy, just listen to me ..." Suddenly he frowned and did not continue.
What happened was that Zhuo Yihang was thinking that based on his current level of internal energy cultivation, he may not need steam; he could use the internal circulation of mysterious strength to drive the poison out of his system. However, after careful consideration, he recalled that while using the internal circulation of mysterious strength, he must not move at all, plus he needed someone to massage his acupoints. If he had a male companion, that would be best, but He Luhua was obviously a female. Besides, if He Luhua's internal energy cultivation was deep enough, she may be able to massage the acupoints through the fabric of his clothes, but he knew for a fact that her cultivation was still shallow; he would have to take off his clothes and let her touch his skin.
He Luhua did not know this; therefore, seeing his eyebrows were tightly pressed, she panicked. "Dage," she said, "You are injured because of me, but I am unable to help you. What should we do? I depend on you to rescue my father. It will be the seventh day of seventh month four days from now, yet you are injured. What should we do?"
Zhuo Yihang said in his heart: in case of emergency, I cannot worry over too many things.
With tears on her eyes He Luhua stepped forward and pulled Zhuo Yihang's hand. Zhuo Yihang said, "Venomous Sand Palm is nothing, but I do need your help."
"How can I help?" He Luhua asked.
Zhuo Yihang explained the technique to her and taught her how to massage the acupoints. With tears still in her eyes, He Luhua giggled. "You are weird," she said, "If it is that easy, why didn't you tell me earlier? Quickly sit down cross-legged."
Zhuo Yihang took off his upper garment and regulated his breathing, his eyes were looking at the tip of his nose, his nose pointed toward his heart; just like an old Buddhist monk meditating. He Luhua helped him massaging his acupoints to disperse his inner strength.
After a while, Zhuo Yihang's body was drenched in sweats; he opened his eyes and said, "That's good, only the heat is unbearable."
He Luhua pulled up the corner of the tent's opening to let cold breeze in, she said, "Let's rest for a while, then you can put on your clothes again."
By this time Zhuo Yihang had finished circulating his internal strength, he was gasping for breath from the heat. He Luhua thought: I'd better divert his attention by urging him to speak, so he won't feel hot. Thereupon she asked, "Are you good friends with Yu Luocha?"
Zhuo Yihang grunted, but did not say anything. He Luhua intentionally tried to get him to speak. "I don't believe you," she said, "How did the two of you become good friends?"
Zhuo Yihang smiled, he said in his heart: The feeling between a man and a woman is marvelous beyond comparison, you are only a little girl who is still wet behind the ears, how can you understand?
He Luhua pressed on, "Yu Luocha loves to fight, doesn't she?"
Zhuo Yihang nodded; he said, "If not for her fondness of picking a fight, we won't have this much trouble."
"Because you don't love to fight, right?" He Luhua asked.
Zhuo Yihang nodded again. He Luhua giggled. "That's exactly your problem," she said, "The two of you have different basic temperaments. She is the world-famous 'Demoness', but you actually look like an elegant scholar, no wonder you and she don’t get along well!”
Zhuo Yihang was stunned, what she said made a lot of sense. He was afraid she could not curb her mouth and Yu Luocha would hear it in secret. His heart was nervous and the heat flared out again. “Let’s not talk about Yu Luocha, alright?” he anxiously said.
He Luhua smiled and said, “In that case, let me play huqin and sing for you. When my father is vexed, he also loved to hear me sing.”
Zhuo Yihang mused: as long as you don’t speak nonsense, whatever you sing is alright. Thereupon he nodded. He Luhua took out the huqin given to her by the Kazakh people and asked what Zhuo Yihang would like her to sing.
“Why don’t you sing a cheerful folksong of Jiangnan?” Zhuo Yihang said.
He Luhua tuned up the string and then she played and sang:
Can it be that studying diligently in spite of poverty under the fairy lights will chase away leisure time?
Can it be that flirting coquettishly will bring sweet dreams at night?
Can it be that having a quiet time alone will mistakenly remind the tea and grain shelves?
Can it be that a light boat and a fast horse will take you to the other end of the world?
Can it be that bragging about one’s literacy and wine capacity will bring ruin to his family?
Can it be that chatting and joking will anger him?
Can it be that dreading the heat and cursing the cold will bring sickness?
Ten thousand different kinds of and a thousand good teachings will not ease my suspicion!
This song was actually a modification of a courtesan melody of the Jiangnan region from the story ‘Romance of the West Chamber’. It described someone who wandered far away and had not returned home for a long time, who was pondering about his feelings. But because the melody was lively and elegant, it spread among the common people, and the upscale women loved to sing it. Since Zhuo Yihang said he would love to hear a cheerful and light-hearted song, without thinking He Luhua chose to sing this song.
Listening to this tune, Zhuo Yihang's emotion was carried away, unconsciously he called out softly, "Lian Jiejie."
He Luhua could not stifle her laughter as she said, "You said not to talk about Yu Luocha, but you yourself are calling out her name? Hey, I heard that Yu Luocha's beauty is not inferior to the immortals, is that true?"
Zhuo Yihang mused: How can the feeling between a man and a woman be based upon appearances? Thereupon he said, "Her hair has turned white now, she is not as beautiful as her former self, will you say she is beautiful? She may not be comparable to you, but ..."
He was about to explain that it did not matter if Yu Luocha was old and ugly, he would still like her, when suddenly they heard a long laughter, as clear as the sound of silver bells. There was also a ripping sound as Yu Luocha sliced an opening on the tent and then she leaped in.
Zhuo Yihang's shock was not a small matter. "Lian Jiejie," he was about to call out, but before he regained his voice, he saw her eyes - she was wearing a silver-colored silk headband on her forehead, her countenance was still as bright as when she was a young woman, her eyebrows were willow-shaped, her eyes as sharp as a dagger - swept He Luhua, and with a mocking laugh she said, "What a pretty girl, what a beautiful huqin playing. Why don't you continue playing?"
"This does not concern her," Zhuo Yihang anxiously said, "It's me, it's me ..." He was going to explain that because he was hit by the Venomous Sand Palm, she was helping him treating it. However, he knew that if he told her that, her misunderstanding would only increase.
With a cold laugh Yu Luocha said, "It's you! Of course it's you!" 'Whoosh!' she pulled out her sword and thrust it toward Zhuo Yihang's heart.
Actually, when Zhuo Yihang was wandering around the prairie, she had visited the Camelback Peak on the Muztagata mountain and saw Xin Longzi was guarding the immortal flower. Although she knew that the flowers would not bloom for several decades, she could still recall fondly Zhuo Yihang's sincere thought; therefore, she went down to the prairie to follow his trail. Unexpectedly, as they met each other tonight, she saw him listening to He Luhua playing the qin with naked upper body, she also overheard Zhuo Yihang and He Luhua's discussion about her own appearance. All of a sudden her love turned into anger, her hatred reached its peak, as she could not restrain herself from pulling out the sword.
"Yu Luocha," He Luhua called out in alarm, "What are you doing? If you kill him, nobody is going to save my father; I'll have to fight you to the death." Drawing out her sword, she charged forward.
Zhuo Yihang took a step forward, sticking out his chest to meet the tip of the sword, he said with a bitter laugh, "Lian Jiejie, to die under your sword is my earnest wish! Turns out your love for me is this deep!"
Yu Luocha's countenance changed, hastily she withdraw her hand. By this time He Luhua's sword had reached her back, which Yu Luocha easily deflected upward, and then she flew out of the tent.
In that instant, love and hate were surging together in Yu Luocha's heart, which she herself found it hard to distinguish. Zhuo Yihang threw himself forward trying to catch the corner of her clothes.
With a mournful laughter Yu Luocha said, "You are from a government official family, a Sect Leader of an upright Sect, what do you want with a peasant girl like me? Go back to Mount Wudang with her!" Leaping lightly, Zhuo Yihang's grab caught an empty air, Yu Luocha's shadow disappeared.
Zhuo Yihang tumbled down dejectedly. He Luhua was bewildered. "Uh," she said, "How come Yu Luocha is that temperamental?" She was so naive that she did not have the slightest idea that Yu Luocha was jealous of her.
Such is: the sound of qin flying across the great desert, the string increases a tangled emotion.
Second (older) martial uncle.
A type of standing harp, with 5-25 strings.
Or Ili, a modern day Kazakh autonomous prefecture.
Lit. Wind, Sand and Iron.