Lin Changcong carefully trailed Xue Yun Zen and Sima Fei. Having observed the lodgers last night, he was curious about these two, especially the boy.
After Xue Yun Zen and Sima Fei stepped out of the blacksmith shop, they proceeded to a nearby stall to buy candied plums since Sima Fei’s eyes were glued to them. Xue Yun Zen smirked and somersaulted back and tapped Lin Changcong’s shoulder, “Friend, you’ve been following us for a while. Why don’t you step out instead, it’ll be more comfortable for you?”
Lin Changcong eyed him and responded, “Who said I was following you?”
“You’ve been following us since we left the inn.”
“This is a big street. Why don’t you accuse everyone around us of following you, then?” Taking out his pen, "I have a job to do and that is to write down events in Wulin, now please excuse me." Lin Changcong dusted himself and walked in the opposite direction.
Xue Yun Zen smiled, “So be it. I was going to invite you to join us.”
Lin Changcong turned around, "I do not plan to journey with anyone. Thanks for the invitation." He walked back to the inn, “Maybe I’ll have better luck trailing the three other men from last night. There’s still so much I don’t know about Wulin.”
Xue Yun Zen and Sima Fei decided to get various tasty mini dishes from the stalls all around the town. Xue Yun Zen smiled at Sima Fei and said, "Today we will have whatever food our hearts desire, go on and just tell me what you would like." Sima Fei felt no one has ever been this nice to him before and was extremely happy.
As they walked Xue Yun Zen thought, “Why are the Wulin people following Sima Fei? What do they want from him?” He thought there was something particularly suspicious about the frail old man. "This heroes conference is going to be a very interesting indeed; so many questions need to be answered," he smirked and whispered at himself.
While eating little snacks Sima Fei and Xue Yun Zen continued walking down the street viewing all the merchandise on sale.
They came near a large theatre. Sima Fei bumped into a girl while as he was engrossed in his snack. Xue Yun Zen saw the incident and quickly apologised to the girl. The girl blushed and said it was alright, as the two were about to leave the girl called out "Hey you are Wulin people, are you not?"
"Yes we are Wulin masters," Sima Fei smirked.
"Ahh how delightful I always wanted to meet more Wulin masters. My name is Qing Yuan; pleased to meet you."
Qing Yuan invited Sima Fei and Xue Yun Zen to her father’s manor. She sat them down in the spacious mansion filled with brilliant lighting. Sima Fei had never been inside such an amazing place, so he thought he was in some kind of a dream.
"I have always enjoyed martial arts, and I actually have aspirations of becoming a great pugilist, it's truly great to actually meet you two Wulin masters here. I assume you are going to the heroes’ conference?"
Xue Yun Zen taking a sip of his tea replied, "Yes indeed we are heading to the heroes conference, just to witness a bit of martial arts action and to meet some of the greats of the martial arts world. Are you going as well?"
"Why yes I absolutely enjoy watching people duel and I think this heroes’ conference will feature quite a plenty of it," said Qing Yuan in a mesmerizingly sweet voice.
"Wow Sister Qing, you have such a nice mansion - the best in the town!" said Sima Fei in astonishment. "Yes indeed but I don't really fancy all these wealth and treasures, I'd rather leave all this and go on countless adventures and be hailed as a great heroine," responded Qing Yuan.
After Wang Zong Yue and Wang Jian Yi introduced Li Kang to Bei Xing, the four had a long chat. All four recounted their past and up till this moment. Resting briefly, Bei Xing and Wang Jian Yi took turns trying to suppress Li Kang's disease.
After some discussion, all four decided that they would travel as a group to the conference. However, both Wang Zong Yue and Wang Jian Yi did not mention a word about Zhang Wuji and how they were related to him.
As Lin Changcong stepped into the inn, he saw that another man had joined the three lodgers from last night and they were just about to finish their breakfast.
"Say... That old man over there... There is something about him..." said Li Kang even though he had his eyes closed. "Yes. Something about him that does not seem right." replied Wang Jian Yi.
"His internal strength is not very high yet is well above average." commented Bei Xing. "Well well... Guess I would have to go find out eh?" replied a smiling Wang Zong Yue.
"Be careful brother! There are all kinds of people in Jianghu." cautioned Li Kang. With that, Wang Zong Yue approached the seemingly old man.
“Now what?” thought Lin Changcong as he immediately brought his hand to his flute. Across the room, Wang Jian Yi muttered, “Brother Li, do you notice how he’s holding onto the flute?”
“Yes, I don’t think it’s an ordinary flute.”
Wang Zong Yue cupped his hands, “Greetings, elder. I am Wang Zong Yue.”
“Who you are is not my business. Now please get out of my way.” Lin Changcong approached the innkeeper, “Please tally my bill.” After paying the innkeeper, he brushed passed the four men and left the inn.
“Brother Jian Yi, do you think we should follow him?” wondered Zong Yue, "It's strange that an esteemed Wulin historian such as himself isn't interested in meeting more pugilists."
Thinking about the situation, Wang Jian Yi shook his head, “We have two other friends who are journeying with us. We should not waste their time. If fated, our paths will cross with his again." Bei Xing agreed, "Yes, and the frail man cannot do the four of us much harm.”
As the four companions were about to leave, Li Kang purposely brushed up against the old man.
"That's odd," he thought to himself. "For a seemingly frail old man, his internal energy is extremely Yin... Almost like that of a girl’s."
Lin Changcong's eyes widened momentarily and his jaw line tightened. He briefly looked at Li Kang and his friends and swore that he would remember all their faces.
The group of four saw his eyes and noticed the fire blazing behind them. Maybe it was possible for this frail man to cause them some harm? The four quickly walked out of the inn.
"We must follow the kid and the guy with him, let’s forget about the historian for now" said Wang Jian Yi. As they proceeded to look for Sima Fei and Xue Yun Zen, he continued, "I wonder who will be nominated the next Leader of Wulin at the heroes’ conference. Any ideas or thoughts, Brother Li?"
Li Kang wasn’t listening as his thoughts were still fixed on the mysterious historian the he brushed up against at the inn.
"That owner of the kebab store said he saw the two go into the theatre," said Wang Zong Yue. They headed towards the theatre. They could see many martial arts experts in all directions obviously heading to the heroes’ conference.
Suddenly they saw a fight about to break out outside a restaurant, so they swiftly made their way there to see what was going on, and they saw 8 armed fighters pointing at one guy.
"You fool, you do not need a table for 10 when you say you’re the only person at the table, and you dare to insult us as dogs!" screamed one of the eight.
"Haha you think you can fight us all at once? Who the hell do you think you are? It's more than likely you'll be descending into hell, I suggest you piss off, you scumbag," spoke another.
The man replied with a deep voice and an evil snicker, "He-he-he who do you filthy dogs think you are speaking to... I Xie Jun Lang will sit where ever I want and do whatever I please. You people are foolish enough to oppose me. I shall show no mercy then."
"Then so be it." the eight swung their swords and began slashing at Xie Jun Lang. He drew his black sword and unleashed one mighty sword stance, completely decimating the eight brothers, and blood was splattering in all directions, but one was still barely alive. "Y-yo-you monster! You have killed my brothers..." murmured the guy. Before another word was spoken Xie Jun Lang unleashed a vicious blow of his Crimson Palms right in the face of the guy, completely mutilating it.
Wang Zong Yue, Wang Jian Yi, Li Kang and Bei Xing were stunned by the ruthlessness and viciousness in the way Xie Jun Lang had slaughtered his foes.
Bei Xing suddenly charged forward to launch an attack on Xie Jun Lang with his Iron Sand Palm, but it was swiftly defended by Xie Jun Lang’s Hurricane Palms which rendered the Iron Palms useless. Bei Xing then launched a string of continuous Shaolin 72 Fists at Xie Jun Lang as he responded with his 76 Apocalyptic Dongfang techniques.
Xie Jun Lang increasingly gained the upper hand by utilizing all his inner power in his fighting moves. "Fool! You dare to oppose my unstoppable martial arts, you've got to be joking," laughed Xie Jun Lang.
Suddenly Wang Zong Yue, Wang Jian Yi and Li Kang all jumped forward to aid Bei Xing.
"Are you alright brother Bei," yelled Wang Zong Yue.
"Yeah I'm fine, we must stop this evil person," Bei Xing shouted back.
Xie Jun Lang, knowing he had no chance facing those four martial artists after sensing their inner power levels, he quickly drew his poisonous smoke bombs from his pocket and threw it at the four.
They quickly dodged the poisonous smoke bombs and Xie Jun Lang drew his Black Dragon Sword and launched multiple stances of his powerful sword technique striking with sword Qi emitting from the sword, swinging on Bei Xing in a surprise attack as Bei Xing was dodging the poison bombs, greatly injuring him. Xie Jun Lang then threw more poison bombs at them. Li Kang used his Demon's Game technique projecting three replicas of himself and launched multiple attacks which Xie Jun Lang was barely able to withstand.
Li Kang then struck Xie Jun Lang's chest with a mighty palm strike, and he spat out some blood. He had no choice but to throw his poison darts in order to distract Li Kang, who easily dodged the poison darts, but at the smell of the poison Li Kang’s disease suddenly worsened and he began to vomit blood. Wang Zong Yue and Wang Jian Yi, who were about to pursue Xie Jun Lang, could not bear to leave their two friends behind and quickly attended to them while Xie Jun Lang laughed viciously and escaped from the fight.
Lin Changcong observed the fight from a corner and smirked as he saw the four suffer as his eyes followed Xie Jun Lang's fleeting figure, “Hard to imagine such deadly strokes and ruthlessness.” Then he looked at Bei Xing, “Why are his strokes so similar to my Dragonfly Sword Stance?”
Suddenly, two hands held onto both of his shoulders and a female voice rang, “Sneaking around like that, you must not be a good guy.” Another female voice said, “Shi-jie, no need to say more, let’s detain this man.”
The two women unsheathed their swords and attacked Lin Changcong who grabbed his flute and withdrew a sword from it, so old flute really was not ordinary after all! While fighting, Lin Changcong could not help but notice some similarities between their E-mei Sect swordplay and his Dragonfly Sword Stance, thus he was easily able to subdue and immobilize them.
Lin Changcong turned around, “I didn’t think that E-mei disciples would act so irrationally.”
Inside, Wang Jian Yi was tending to Bei Xing’s wound and looked up. When he recognized the frail old man, he asked, “Why are you following us?”
Lin Changcong approached the four, “Strange, there was a major fight here. It was natural for me to gather around and observe just like the rest of the crowd. So is everyone else here following you as well?”
Wang Zong Yue shook his head, “Shi-ge, this Lin Changcong will not be honest with us. There’s no need to interrogate him.”
Lin Changcong commented, “So you already know who i am. Then you should know that as Wulin’s historian, I do not harm or take sides. My job is to collect facts and record them.”
One of the E-mei disciples smiled and said, “So you are Elder Lin Changcong. Please pardon us E-mei disciples for offending you.”
The other said, “Shi-fu requested that we find you. Though you're still new, the Wulin sect leaders have recognized that your account of events are thorough and unbiased, hence they want to invite you to record the events at the upcoming heroes’ conference. If you follow us then we guarantee you will get a good seat.”
Seeing that this would be the perfect opportunity to do more investigation as he could overhear the conversations at the hero’s conference more clearly, Lin Changcong agreed.
The E-mei disciples looked at the four men, “Brothers, your two friends are ill. It’s unfortunate that E-mei Sect is a group of women so it would be inconvenient to have you return with us. We’re sorry.”
Li Kang coughed more as his injury worsened his disease. Wang Jian Yi transferred his Qi to him and when done, he said, “Don’t worry about it. The sooner we find Dr. Shui Dou Yi the better.”
Lin Changcong looked at the four men one last time and actually felt some guilt for not helping them. But he quickly brushed that thought aside and left with the E-mei disciples.
As the E-mei Sect left with Lin Changcong, Wang Jian Yi was still tending to both Bei Xing and Li Kang, while Wang Zong Yue went to buy medicine to treat both injured men. Although Wang Jian Yi had already transferred part of his Qi to Li Kang, Li Kang was still very much in pain due to the high toxicity level of the poison while Bei Xing suffered external cuts.
Left with no choice, Wang Jian Yi then sealed some of Bei Xing's acupoints to stop the bleeding. At this moment, Li Kang cried out in pain. Wang Jian Yi was at a loss at what to do.
"Transfer your Qi to him, Brother Wang, and purge out the poison within Brother Li. Do not worry about me. I'll live," replied Bei Xing as he too began to generate his own Qi.
Wasting no time, Wang Jian Yi then began to transferred even more of his 9 Yang Qi to purge out the poison. "Damn that guy for this! I swear I'll hunt him down and make him pay!" thought Bei Xing as his body began to heal itself.
After a long time, Wang Zong Yue finally returned with the herbs and medicine; only see Li Kang unconscious, Bei Xing and Jian Yi were deep in mediation. Signs of exhaustion were also clearly shown on Wang Jian Yi's face.
"What’s wrong, Shi-ge?" asked Wang Zong Yue as he tended to Bei Xing.
"Everything. Although I have purged out the poison from Brother's Li body, his condition is even worse now than before. Granted, with Brother Bei Xing's help and your skill in herbs, we could have suppressed the spread of his disease. Yet with his condition deteriorating and Brother Bei Xing injured, I alone can only do so much to help him. We must find the legendary doctor soon. He does not have much time left." replied Wang Jian Yi with a sad look at Li Kang.
"Do not be sad brother! We will do everything to help Brother Li. Things have been going downhill since we discovered that boy and his tattoo! For now, we must travel to the conference fast. Hopefully the doctor will be there... and your... mas... eh Elder Zhang would help us!" replied Wang Zong Yue.
Xie Jun Lang had escaped towards the lake - people were petrified of him; even the guards were trembling. One of the servants quickly ran to report to Qing Yuan about what had just occured.
"They are saying some psychotic evil is on the loose; he slew eight Wulin fighters and four other Wulin fighters who tried to stop him were injured and now that wicked person has escaped," said the servant.
"I see. Thanks; can you please quickly report the information to my father?" replied Qing Yuan.
Xue Yun Zen thought that the four Wulin people were most likely to be the people that were following Sima Fei and himself. "The person that caused the chaos is most likely a great Wulin fighter; he must be heading to the heroes’ conference as well," said Xue Yun Zen calmly. "I would like to have a look at the situation; it would be best if Mrs. Qing could look after my brother Sima Fei for a while here."
"But big brother, I want to go see the action as well," said Sima Fei anxiously while Qing Yuan also agreed they should go with him. "Yeah we won't be any hassle," she smiled sweetly. Xue Yun Zen thought a for a while and smiled, "Alright if you both insist, we shall go together then!" replied Xue Yun Zen.
They made their way out of the manor and saw a lot of people on the streets looking petrified. "Excuse me, sir, do you know which direction the evil person went?” asked Xue Yun Zen politely. "Yyyes... I b-believe he headed in the direction towards the lake," replied the stunned man. "Thank you very much sir," acknowledged Xue Yun Zen and Qing Yuan.
They headed off towards the lake, and along the way they saw puddles of blood and corpses randomly strewn. "Oh dear heavens, what monster would slaughter so many innocent people?" asked Qing Yuan, frightened. Xue Yun Zen quickly examined one of the corpses.
The wounds on the skin were very deep. "Hmm the person who did this has a very dark and powerful internal energy, I suspect he used just one palm attack and was able to deal this much ferocity," said a concerned Xue Yun Zen. "The blood on the corpses is still relatively warm so he isn't that far away."
Sima Fei suddenly felt a sense of horror in him. As they approached the lake there was a lot of bushes and trees along the way. This is certainly a great place to get ambushed, thought Qing Yuan. Xue Yun Zen was in deep thought as they continued treading; suddenly he felt a surge of dark force behind him. "So you have revealed yourself, friend," laughed Xue Yun Zen.
"Friend.. don't make me laugh, if I were you I would be praying to go to hell swiftly," said Xie Jun Lang. Xue Yun Zen noticed that Xie Jun Land wasn’t speaking fluent Chinese. "I do not wish to fight you, friend, I can see your not originally from China," replied Xue Yun Zen.
Xie Jun Lang, "I do not like wasting my time with little fiends like you three. Say hi to hell for me," as he launched his Crimson Fist at Xue Yun Zen. The attack was effortlessly defended by Xue Yun Zen with his Heavenly Mercury Palms; he the quickly counter-attacked and they continued exchanging many different stanches.
Xie Jun Lang quickly became aware that Xue Yun Zen was no pushover even though he felt his internal power was enough to crush Xue Yun Zen. He began to launch many different venomous stances of his 76 Apocalyptic Arts of Dongfang. Xue Yun Zen was easily able to see clearly each stance and its faults, so he replicated every stance with his Sheng Xing Zhao Shu.
Xie Jun Lang was getting increasingly frustrated and he drew his Black Dragon Sword and unleashed many vicious stances at Xue Yun Zen. Xue Yun Zen also drew his Shue Xing Sheng Jian (sword) to take defensive action against the ever aggressive Xie Jun Lang. As more and more stances were exchanged it became a clear stalemate with neither gaining the upper hand. Xie Jun Lang became a little worried that other Wulin fighters might arrive soon, making it harder to defeat Xue Yun Zen. Xue Yun Zen smiled, "You are too eager with your strikes to kill, you would never be able to defeat me like this. You are using too much Qi and I have not even showed you half of my techniques yet."
Xie Jun Lang quickly drew one of his poison darts and fired it at Sima Fei. Qing Yuan used her Qinggong (lightness skill) and rushed towards Sima Fei, pushing him away from the dart’s path. Sima Fei fell heavily onto the ground, ripping a bit of his clothes which revealed the tattoo that was on his shoulder. Xie Jun Lang was shocked when he saw the tattoo on Sima Fei's shoulders. "How ruthless you are, using such underhand tactics!" screamed Qing Yuan.
Wasting no time he quickly launched two more poisonous darts at Qing Yuan. She was able to dodge one of them but was unable to fully dodge the other and was partially wounded and fell unconscious onto the ground. He quickly turned to Xue Yun Zen and launched one at him as well, but he was able to swiftly deflect it with his Cloud Dispersing Palms and struck Xie Jun Lang with his Heavens Divine Heart Fist which threw Xie Jun Lang backwards with incredible force. "Xie Jun Lang leave now, we shall meet again soon at the heroes’ conference. You know you cannot defeat me right now." said Xue Yun Zen calmly. As much as Xie Jun Lang wanted to disintegrate Xue Yun Zen at that moment, he had other important things he still had to attend to. He finally chose to back down. "We'll surely meet again!" spat Xie Jun Lang furiously.
Xue Yun Zen saw the tattoo on Sima Fei's shoulders. He thought to himself, “Hmm that’s why those people have been following Sima Fei.” Xue Yun Zen quickly attended to Qing Yuan, and began transferring some of his Qi to her. Sima Fei quickly got up and went to Xue Yun Zen looking frightened. "Don't worry young brother, he's gone now and I doubt he'll be back anytime soon," Xue Yun Zen smiled at Sima Sima Fei.
"We better get Qing Yuan sister back to her father’s manor as well." Xue Yun Zen carried Qing Yuan on his shoulders and began walking back to the town. In his duel with Xie Jun Lang he had memorized some of his techniques, and he also guessed that Xie Jun Lang was not a lone warrior but was most likely sent by some greater evil to mess the heroes’ conference.
Ban Meihua had been watching the fight. She'd always been observant, but never interfered with anything that wasn't part of her business. “This is very interesting...” Ban Meihua slipped away in secret.
When Xue Yun Zen reached Qing Yuan’s manor, many of her servants looked shocked and worried. “Don't worry it'll be alright," Xue Yun Zen said to Sima Fei and the servants.
He quickly positioned her in a sitting posture, and then he began forcing out the poison with his Qi. After a while Qing Yuan’s father rushed there with two doctors. Qing Yuan looked deeply distressed.
"IS my daughter alright??" asked her father with anxiety. "She should be fine, I managed to purge most of the poison out of her system, all she needs need now is rest and take some strengthening herbs," replied Xue Yun Zen calmly.
The two doctors quickly went over to check Qing Yuan’s condition; after a few minutes they concurred with Xue Yun Zen, and quickly proceeded to brew some herbal medicine. Her father looking rather relieved finally started asking Xue Yun Zen some questions.
"Thank you very much, young man, for saving my daughter’s life, would you care to explain what happened?"
After hearing Xue Yun Zen’s explanation, Qing Yuan’s father offered many silver taels to him in gratitude. But He kindly refused, saying, "Thanks for offering but I really cannot accept this, I do not deserve it. It was me who first put Qing Yuan at risk by taking her with me and it’s my responsibility for her well-being anyway."
"Well make yourselves comfortable here, treat this place like your own home; if you need anything just ask the servants... sorry I must leave now. I have a few other matters to attend to," said her father as he left the room.
Xue Yun Zen then checked on Sima Fei, "Little brother, are you alright? Hopefully that fall wasn’t too rough."
"I'm fine, it's just a little rip in the clothes and a little scratch," replied Sima Fei.
"Well that’s good, anyway you should get some rest, we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow. I'm just going for a little walk and I'll be back later," said Xue Yun Zen.
Upon leaving the manor, Xue Yun Zen was in deep thought about all the events as he walked along the streets.
The tattoo was the most important thing on his mind; he remembered seeing it when he was little but he just could not remember where. Keeping that in mind he began to visualize Xie Jun Lang’s techniques, studying the flaws in each stance. "That Xie Jun Lang was capable of such devastating attacks through his corrupt martial arts and strong inner power, but he is over-aggressive, leaving himself vulnerable to many counter attacks. With a little modification his technique could well be extremely useful in future," Xue Yun Zen smiled to himself.
Xue Yun Zen went back to the lake again, replaying his fight with Xie Jun Lang in his mind. He unleashed multiple strokes of his Shui Ying Shen Zhang and Huo Xing Zhang with varying degrees of Qi. Then he tried his modification of Xie Jun Lang’s Crimson Palms. "Even though they may outclass me with superior inner power, I should outclass them superior techniques and stances," Xue Yun Zen muttered to himself. "With all these great martial arts at my disposal, I shall not fail in avenging the death of my family."
With those thoughts he headed back to the manor. When he reached, found that Qing Yuan conscious and well. "It's good to see that you’re better now. It was lucky that you had some internal energy, or it would have taken longer to purge the poison from your body," Xue Yun Zen said to Qing Yuan.
"Thank you very much, I am so grateful to you for saving me, I doubt there is anything I can do to repay you," replied Qing Yuan. "It’s no problem at all, for if one’s action does not seek a response it is self-willing. Anyone else there would’ve done the same," replied Xue Yun Zen humbly.
"Well I think I will be well enough to attend the heroes’ conference, I wouldn't miss it all the action that’s going to happen; it's so soon I can hardly wait," said a happy Qing Yuan.
Back at the inn, a girl's voice asked, "Can I help?"
The 2 Wang brothers looked at the direction of the voice and saw a young girl around 18 walking towards them. She was still carrying her travelling bundle. The young girl can be considered pretty if not for the light scar on her left cheek that marred her face.
"I passed by your room and see that your friend does not look well. Little girl (小女子) here has a bit of medical knowledge. So, I want to see whether I can help." explained the girl.
Wang Jian Yi and Wang Zong Yue looked at each other. Bei Xing was still in deep meditation. Wong Jian Yi finally replied, "Yes, our friend is seriously ill."
The girl looked at Li Kang and checked his pulse. This gentleman (公子) seems to have a serious case of tuberculosis and it was worsened by his recent injury.”
Wang Zong Yue thought, "This girl really does have good medical knowledge."
Wang Zong Yue purposely left out mentioning the name of Li Kang's illness to test the girl. He didn't want to endanger his friend's life even more by putting him in the hands of fake or unskilled healers.
"I have some medicine here that can sooth his breathing a bit," the girl said while taking out her writing set and writing down a formula. "I'll write a prescription for you. My father recommended this formula to a lot of his patients who suffered from tuberculosis. It works very well in suppressing the disease and strengthening the body to fight the disease."
Wang Zong Yue checked formula and the medicine powder that were given by the girl. The formula did contain a number of herbs that can fight the lung disease while the powder seemed alright.
"Some of the herbs, I've already bought it just now. I'll go buy the extra ones," said Wang Zong Yue and handed the powder to Wang Jian Yi, "You can feed this powder to Brother Li Kang first, Shi-ge."
Turning to the girl, Wang Zong Yue said, "I thank miss for your help," and left for the medicine shop again. Wang Jian Yi immediately fed the medicine to Li Kang. After a short while, Li Kang's breathing seemed to become more regular.
Wang Jian Yi turned to the girl, cupped his hands and said "Thank you for your help, miss. May I know miss's name?"
The girl cupped her hands in return and answered "My name is Li Xiao Sheng."
Slowly, but surely, Li Kang regained his consciousness. He noticed Wang Zong Yue was missing and had been replaced by a young lady in the room. Wang Jian Yi recounted all that happened and suddenly, Li Kang got down on one knee and bowed to Li Xiao Sheng.
"I am greatly indebted to you!"
Li Xiao Sheng hurriedly helped Li Kang back on his feet.
"I really wish I were able to heal you. The medicine that I've given you is only temporary. If I'm correct, it should be good for at least one week as long as you don't over exert yourself."
"You still deserve my thanks. I haven’t felt this good in quite awhile."
After expressing his gratitude to Li Xiao Sheng, Li noticed that Bei Xing was still nursing his own injuries.
"If we are to meet that adversary again, I would like to have another go at him. I haven’t felt this good in years. This tuberculosis is putting such a heavy load on my body."
Wang Zong Yue returned at this moment and was surprised that Li Kang has woken up so quickly, and his condition seemed to have improved a lot. "You've woken up, Brother Li. How do you feel now?"
"As I told Brother Jian Yi just now, I feel good and would like to have another go with our dear adversary again." said Li Kang. "Brother Li, you are not supposed to exert yourself." reminded Wang Jian Yi.
"The key word is not 'over' exert. I would take care not to. After I meditate more to heal my injury and fine-tune my internal energy, I think I would be able to compete in the Heroes’ Conference as well," countered Li Kang.
"Since you are ok, I’d better go now," Li Xiao Sheng suddenly piped up. Turning to Wang Zong Yue, she said, "You just follow the formula to brew the medicine for Master Li, then the disease will be under control. Here's more of the medicinal powder for use during an emergency." She gave Wang Zong Yue a bottle of the powder she used to help Li Kang.
Bei Xing had by now completed his meditation. He actually heard some the conversation going on, but did not show any reaction because he needed to concentrate on his meditation. He opened his eyes and saw the Li Xiao Sheng for the first time.
"Miss Li. I want to thank you too for helping Brother Li."
"I just lent a hand. It's not a big deal." answered Li Xiao Sheng.
"Looking at your travelling pack, you seem to have just arrived in this town. Are you by any chance also going to the Heroes’ Conference?" asked Bei Xing.
"Yes, I am. How did you know?" Li Xiao Sheng asked Bei Xing curiously.
"I sense that your internal energy is not low. You must be a member of Wulin, and most Wulin members coming to this town in these few days are to attend the Heroes’ Conference," answered Bei Xing with a smile.
"I don't know if I can be considered a member of Wulin. I don't belong to any sect and have never involved myself in any Wulin matters. I'm just travelling around to see the world and the Heroes’ Conference is one of the most exciting events happening now. So, I came to see."
"Miss Li, we are also going to the Heroes’ Conference, why don't we travel together? We can look out for one another during the trip. You are travelling alone, right?" asked Wang Zong Yue.
"Brother Jian Yi, Brother Li and Brother Bei, what do you think?" Wang Zong Yue asked the others.
"If Miss Li doesn't mind." said Bei Xing and everyone looked at Li Xiao Sheng.
"Well, I am travelling alone. Having some company on the road is not a bad idea," answered Li Xiao Sheng with a smile.
"Well since the Conference is tomorrow, we should spend the rest of today preparing for it. I'm gonna spend the rest of today brushing up on my sword skills," said Li Kang as he grabbed his sword, which lay on a nearby table.
"You seem to be in great spirits brother Li," said Wang Jian Yi. "You would know how I feel if you were in my shoes," said Li Kang with a smile on his face as he walked outside. "I'll go back to my room first. See you guys later," Li Xiao Sheng cupped her fists and left the room.
After leaving his companions at the inn, Li Kang went out of the town to find an isolated place where he could practice his sword arts. Not too far from the gates, he found an empty pasture. "Perfect," he thought to himself.
Li Kang quickly drew his sword like a samurai would. The sword was drawn out so fast that a gush of loud wind was caused by it. Li Kang soon started demonstrating the strokes of the Demon's Waltz Swordplay. With each stroke, his movements became faster and faster. Soon enough, one could barely see him. All one could have seen from a distance was grass being cut chaotically and the sword reflecting the rays of the sun, but not Li Kang.
"All seems to be in working order," said Li Kang cheerfully as he took a pause, "Now for the final stroke."
Li Kang walked over to a nearby tree and gently touched its bark. In his eyes was a look of content. He turned around and walked about 15 steps away and once again turned towards the tree. Li looked at the tree as if he was concentrating and then he shut his eyes. Suddenly he was gone. In the next instant, there was an unpleasant splitting noise. There he was, standing next to the tree with his sword through it.
He suddenly lost balance and quickly leaned against the tree for support. He started coughing violently and vomited blood. "It must just be that the medicine hasn't fully taken effect. I should be good tomorrow," reasoned Li Kang as he wiped off the blood on his face.
"I'll just have to wait another day till I can finally execute this stroke," said Li as he went to look for a nearby stream to clean up. On his face, there was a look of disappointment - the look of almost achieving something and failing at the last moment.
With Li Xiao Sheng and Li Kang gone, Wang Jian Yi also decided that it would be best for him to take a walk and clear his mind. With that he proceeded to the outskirts of another part of the town. Once alone in the forest, Wang Jian Yi sat down and thought about his past...
He was an orphan as young as he could he remember. Day after day he would scurry the roads looking for anything to fill his ever-hungry stomach. Hence that was why he stopped Wang Zong Yue when the latter was questioning Sima Fei. He knew what it was like scurrying all over town looking for scraps of food and being beaten up by people most of the time.
One day during a heavy winter's snow when he was about 5, he was forced to take shelter in an abandoned temple. Because of the heavy snow, Wang Jian Yi was unable to find food and his torn and tattered clothes provided little cover against the raging cold from the blistering cold. Soon he began to shiver violently, and felt into a deep sleep. When he awoke, he found himself in a small cosy hut next to a fire. Two pairs of eyes were looking at him with concern. They were none other than Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min.
Wang Jian Yi looked back at them and offered a smile as a gratitude for saving him. Although no words were said, he felt loved for the first time as he briefly saw tears in the man's eyes before he fell back into his slumber. Thereafter, the man would teach him martial arts while the lady taught him how to read and write. The days passed and Wang Jian Yi grew up to be a fine young man. He had already mastered most of his master's skills. (He regarded the man as his Shi-fu and the lady as his Mother).
Only then did the man and the lady tell Wang Jian Yi who they were. Wang Jian Yi was shocked as he recalled when he was young, people were always talking about the Great Hero Zhang who helped expel the Mongol invaders and restored the Central Plains back to the Han control. Never in his wildest dreams did Wang Jian Yi expect that his master was THE Zhang Wuji.
When Wang Jian Yi turned 19, Zhang Wuji ordered him to leave and travel to Wudang to complete his training in martial arts. He also made Wang Jian Yi swear never to tell others about the training under him and not to find him and Zhao Min again.
Instead of feeling sad and shocked, Wang Jian Yi understood the meaning behind his Master's actions. He knelt in front of Hero Zhang and Zhao Min and kowtowed to them three times each. As he turned his back on the couple, there were tears in Wang Jian Yi's eyes as there were in Zhang Wuji’s and Zhao Min’s eyes...
"Ah... those were the days. I wonder how Master and Mother are doing right now. It would be good to see them at the Conference again. Yet I doubt that they would be there," sighed Wang Jian Yi as he gazed into the sky. Just then he began to practise his Cui Ye 9 Yang Palm as taught to him by Zhang Wuji.
After some time, Wang Jian Yi finally finished all 9 styles of his Cui Ye 9 Yang Palm. When one practises this unique palm skill, instead of feeling exhausted, the practitioner actually feels more relaxed and more energetic. Prolonged training and usage of this palm style also helps to boost one's inner strength.
Wang Jian Yi barely picked up his sword when he saw a shot in the air. It was Wudang's signal to gather.
"Hmmm, I wonder, is it Brother Zong Yue? Is he in danger?" thought Wang Jian Yi as he began to use Wudang’s Cloud Stairs, a Qinggong skill unique only to Wudang disciples.
Meanwhile, at the edge of the town, citizens ran, doors flung closed, and items of every kind flew everywhere as two men battled violently with superior martial arts. One of the men, a guy dressed in Taoist robes, jabbed his sword at his opponent, a man dressed in red and blue. "I won't let you and your dumb and evil sect cause trouble at the Heroes' Conference!" the Taoist shouted
"You can't stop me nor any of my sect," replied the man as he slashed at the Taoist's throat. "Pathetic people from Wudang..."
After carefully storing the extra medicine from Li Xiao Sheng, Wang Zong Yue had also left the inn to clear his mind. All of a sudden, he saw a signal being shot in the air. It was Wudang's signal to gather. Wang Zong Yue thought, "Could it be that Leader Yu is already here?" Using Wudang's unique lightness skill, he immediately ran to the place where the signal originated.
The signal took him at the west border of the town, there he found the two people fighting. One of them was a man in red and blue who unleashed vicious stroke after stroke. The other person was a familiar face; it is one of Wudang's elders, Huang Yu, a direct disciple of Yu Lian Zhou, one of Wudang's Seven Heroes, now Leader of Wudang.
Seeing the fight, Wang Zong Yue immediately jumped in and said, "Elder Huang, do not bother yourself by fighting with him. Let me handle him."
"Zong Yue, Its good to see you. Okay you can give him a try, but be careful, he is very wicked," Huang Yu said as he jumped back to the sideline.
"Who are you?" the man in red and blue demanded. He clearly was upset that his fight was interrupted.
"My name is Wang Zong Yue. I am just a lowly disciple of Wudang."
The man in red and blue was insulted for having to fight Wang Zong Yue. He always thought highly of himself and his skill and he had planned to boast that he defeated the famous Elder Huang from Wudang. "Fine he said. Let me kill you first, before I take care of that stinky Taoist priest." He immediately jumped forward and launched seven successive deadly strokes toward Wang Zong Yue, each to the seven vital points of the body.
Wang Zong Yue remained calm under the sword attack. Using the principle of sticking and adhering, he touched the flat blade of his sword to the opponent's sword. Then using the principle of attracting emptiness, he ‘directed’ the opponent's seven strokes to miss his targets. When the enemy attacked to the left, he let his left side be empty and when the enemy attacked the right side, his right side was empty.
The man in red and blue felt as though his sword was merged with Wang Zong Yue's sword. Furthermore, with each stroke, his sword became heavier and heavier. He was shocked and thought, "I'd better finish him now, or the Wudang people would look down on me." Suddenly, he dropped his sword and attacked Wang Zong Yue with his left hand as a claw and a palm attack with his right hand. This move, the Demon and Dragon Uniting Style was his most deadly attack. The palm attack was full of Yang energy and the claw attack was poisonous. In his life, he has never failed to kill an opponent using this style.
Wang Zong Yue countered the attack with Tai Chi's Cloud Hand move. The enemy immediately felt as if he was surrounded by a never ending circle of energy and his attack was absorbed by these circles as if throwing water into the sea. Finally, using the move Fair Lady Playing the Zither, Wang Zong Yue redirected the man's attack back to himself. The man in red and blue was shocked that his attack failed, he was even more shocked when he felt himself being hit by a very familiar energy - his own.
The man in red and blue was thrown backward by the power of his own attack and several of his ribs cracked. Seeing how he can't win against this young man, he immediately used his lightness skill to run away.
"Don't bother chasing him." Huang Yu said. "He is nothing but a pawn for his master."
Wang Zong Yue then moved towards elder Huang and asked, "Elder, has Leader Yu arrived yet?"
"No, he will arrive tomorrow and he told me to come earlier to scout the situation."
Wang Zong Yue recounted all the events that had occurred the previous day. "Interesting," Huang Yu said, "I will ask Leader Yu what he thinks about the boy with the tattoo and about the foreigner. Why don't you join me for now?"
"I'm sorry, but I have several friends that need my medical attention right now. But I hope to see you and Leader Yu tomorrow at the Heroes Conference. Please take care for now."
With that, the two men parted ways and Wang Zong Yue walked back towards the inn.
Meanwhile, Wang Jian Yi reached the spot of the signal but he was surprised to see no Wudang disciples there.
"Perhaps, the need to gather has passed? Or a fight has ended? I better find Brother Zong Yue."
Li Xiao Sheng has just finished practicing her energy cultivation and was now preparing for sleep. She practiced the art every night, in hope that her energy level will one day be high enough to use all 10 fingers at once for her 6 Mai Shen Jian instead of her current ability of only one finger. She was very tempted to use Bei Ming Shen Gong to absorb more internal energy, but she felt that it was unfair to suck away other people's long-cultivated energy.
She only used it when absolutely necessary. 2/3 of her internal energy was actually transferred to her by her Shi-fu; some of it during Bei Ming Shen Gong practical training; while the remaining 1/3 expanded from her own cultivation and absorption from a few doers she encountered in the past 2 years. Her Shi-fu also taught her how to merge the inner energy she absorbed into her channels and use them effectively.
She still remembered how the guilt lifted little by little from her teacher's face as he transferred his internal energy to her and teaching her his 3 best martial arts one by one.
Soon, she was on the bed, eyes closed, dozing off to dreamland while thinking of the Heroes’ Conference of the following day and dreamt about meeting all kinds of weird people in the conference including the long-dead legendary physician Hua Tuo.
In his bed, Wang Zong Yue was also trying to sleep. His meeting with Wang Jian Yi and Huang Yu evoked a lot of emotions in him. He recalled how, as an impulsive, young man, he left Wudang due to his dislike of preparing to become a Taoist priest. However, deep in his heart he knew that Wudang was the only place he called home. Up till four years ago he had lived there for as long as he can remember. And the people there treated him nicely, especially Huang Yu and Leader Yu. "I must meet Leader Yu tomorrow and ask for his forgiveness," he thought.
After making up his mind, all of his anxiety went away and he quickly fell asleep.
A few blocks away, a middle age appeared sound asleep. But he was wide awake and had a head full of thoughts. He was still uncomfortable with wearing gloves during sleep, even though it had been 6 months since he started. But after what happened to him in the past 6 months, he has to bear the discomfort - for safety. He valued his life as much as others.
Strangely, the gloved hands were the least of his worries. His emotional and mental state had been in turmoil for that 6 months. He was filled with anger at the betrayal, but more so the sadness and pain that came with it. He was still having trouble reconciling with the betrayal. “Why?” he constantly asked himself. He gave that person a comfortable of life and taught him much of his prized knowledge. He even treated him like a son.
Now he was constantly on the run. So far it had been successful, but that was because he had been under the radar - avoiding the busy places, keeping to himself, and because of this, he has hardly treated anyone in the past 6 months.
But tomorrow, the Heroes' Conference, he had to go. This type of event happened only once or twice in a lifetime. As for the previous one, he was too young to go to, and he did not know if he can keep on hiding to see the next one. He loved talent - he could not wait to see some of the young prodigies coming through. Although he knew his enemies might be there, he decided to attend nonetheless, as himself - a disguise is an insult to his Wulin brothers.
So for the first time in 6 month, Shui Dou Yi would reappear in Jianghu, and undo the damage Wulin fighters enjoyed inflicting on each other.
After what seemed like an eternity, the night was slowly filled with brightness of dawn. As the first ray of sunlight appeared and the roosters crowed, the town became alive in unison. The numerous visitors quickly prepared themselves for the Heroes’ Conference, while residents of the city went about their normal routines. However, this was not an ordinary day. Anticipation of something great could be seen in everybody's faces. No matter who they were, rich or poor, man or woman, Wulin or ordinary folk, the selection of a new Wulin Leader at the Heroes’ Conference would surely affect their lives.
At the inn, the four men and a woman gathered at a table for a quick breakfast. "How are you, Brother Bei and Brother Li?" Wang Zong Yue inquired. "We felt really great, thanks to Miss Xiao Sheng here," replied Li Kang.
Everyone at the table finished their breakfast quickly. None of them were in the mood for conversation as everyone was preoccupied with their own thoughts. Finally, Wang Jian Yi got up and said to everybody, "Shall we go?" With that, the others stood up as well and the five friends left the inn, headed for the conference.
At another inn, Lin Changcong had already woken up before the rooster crowed. not being able to sleep any more in anticipation of the largest heroes’ conference in Jianghu ever, Lin Changcong played a haunting melody on his flute to rest his anxiety. His mind relaxed and once again, he wondered if he would encounter new clues that would lead to his past; he cared not for the results of the heroes conference. Whether evil or justice prevailed made no difference to him.
Someone knocked on the door and a feminine voice politely asked, "Elder Lin, are you awake?" Seeing him open the door, she nervously continued, "Good morning. The group is ready to leave."
Lin Changcong followed the E-mei disciples to the dining hall of the large but fully-booked inn. Stepping into the hall, Lin Changcong eyes widened briefly when he saw the Abbot of Shaolin. The E-mei disciple explained, "The Abbot and the rest of the Shaolin party arrived about an hour ago."
The entire dining hall was full yet the only sound heard was the Abbot chanting of his prayer. When done, the Abbot stood up and announced, "Friends, we gather here today not to compete but to ensure that the next Leader of Wulin is fairly selected and will control any chaos which may occur. Grand events of this nature with such prestigious prizes will attract evil in various forms and it is our duty as the orthodox sects to protect Jianghu from the disastrous outcomes which evildoers might inflict," the Abbot paused as the E-mei and Shaolin disciples and E-mei Leader nodded their heads in agreement. "Those who shave their head should retreat from worldly affairs but I find it difficult to do so when the outcome can affect so many innocent lives. So today, we must make an exception."
The Abbot nodded in satisfaction and walked towards the leader of E-mei and put his palms together, saying, "It’s time to go."
The group of forty four marched in pairs and Lin Changcong followed behind. Despite the solemn speech, many of the disciples were excited to witness the competition and wondered how many great skills would be displayed that day.
Such a large crowd of Shaolin and E-mei members walking through a major city could only attract attention. Bystanders pointed their fingers and whispered, and many could not help but follow the group.
Ban Meihua was glad that she cleverly thought of a plan to dress in a commoner's outfit that morning. She smiled as she easily joined the bystanders and followed the Shaolin and E-mei party.
As the Sun shone through the windows of the manor, Sima Fei was already up and ecstatic, he had been sleepless all night just thinking about attending the heroes’ conference. Xue Yun Zen was up was up as well and they went to the manor hall where they were served breakfast as Qing Yuan joined them.
"Can hardly wait, an event like this happens so rarely it’s so exciting," smiled Qing Yuan. "Neither can' I. The past few days have been soooo surreal," replied Sima Fei. Xue Yun Zen quietly laughed and nodded. They quickly prepared all they needed and proceeded to the Heroes’ Conference.
The distinguished leaders of all of the major orthodox sects sat with dignity at the back of the platform with few of their carefully selected disciples standing next to them. At one end, a frail old man could be seen with an open book in his lap. The flags from each sect were lined along the platform and fluttered gently in the morning breeze.
Among the crowd, people of all shapes and sizes could be seen meditating, chatting, or comparing themselves with their neighbours. People who stood farthest away from the platform pushed against those in front to get a better view and several scuffles broke out.
However, the beating of the drums silenced the entire crowd as everyone waited for Hero Zhong to step up.
As the group of five made their way to the conference, Wang Jian Yi was secretly thinking of other things.
"So much has happened these few days, and now the conference. However, even if this conference really is to elect a new leader, I fear that bloodshed will be spilt one way or the other. I must be vigilant for the good of the whole of Wulin, as well as for my friends here." With that Jian Yi turned to look at Li Kang, Wang Zong Yue, Bei Xing and Li Xiao Sheng. They returned his look of concern with a reassuring nod, except for Wang Zong Yue who gave a playful smile.
"It seems some things never change," thought Wang Jian Yi when he saw that smile.
Not long after, all five heard the beating of drums and saw a vast number of people. Numerous weapons flashed and reflections shimmered off naked blades as the people turned their attention to a huge platform in front of them.
The five had just arrived when Hero Zhong got up and laughed loudly, "Today is the day I shall retire. What more can I say? It was a wonderful experience to be the Leader of Wulin. Today we will elect a new leader with high martial arts skills. But not just that; fellow Wulin brothers and sisters must be satisfied with that particular candidate as well."
Hero Zhong hesitated then continued, "Anyone can participate in today's tournament of martial arts but it is up to fellow Wulin brothers and sisters to decide if you're worthy to take the position of Wulin Leader or not! There are a few rules in this tournament of which you MUST follow. No cheating with poisonous weapons whatsoever. No darts or similar weapons. No killing! Two people fight, one person loses, one person remains. Then someone else can challenge the remaining person. This shall be the rule until there are no further challengers. Understood?" No one objected.
"Good! Let the tournament begin!" As soon as Hero Zhong sat down, a fat bald man jumped atop the stage. The fat bald man atop the stage waited for half a minute before a challenger emerged from the crowd. The challenger was another fat man but he was not bald. The challenger laughed at the bald man and said, "You want to be Wulin Leader!? Dream on!"
The bald man's face turned red with anger as he jumped forward, preparing to palm the other fat man. The other man ducked in time to dodge his opponent's palm but was kicked in the abdomen just as he ducked.
“Hahaha! You dumb idiot! You just suffered a...," said the bald man before he was interrupted. The other fat man delivered one forceful kicked at the bald man's stomach, sending his opponent off the stage while throwing up all the food the man ate in the morning.
At this moment, Huai Shan arrived at the heroes’ conference. He did not know what was going to happen at the heroes’ conference, nor did he care. He was on a mission to find the reason why his island was attacked, and to seek revenge. He had heard that heroes’ conference was the most likely place where all sects would attend, orthodox or unorthodox. As the leader of Heavenly Light Island it was his duty to handle to all its affairs.
He looked around and saw countless Wulin people everywhere. The only clue about the massacre of his people was the wounds on the corpses. He could picture in his mind the type of martial arts that were used to kill his people, so he figured that he would be able to identify the martial arts when members from the various sects exchanged stances.
As Huai Shan stared at the stage, a lone figure stepped out from the shadows. He was dressed in blue and grey with quite long spiky hair. He walked with an aura of dominance and confidence as though he were a god among mere mortals. This man was Li Zhi Ming.
"Who do you think will become the next Wulin Leader?" asked a bystander. "Well I hope it's from either E-mei or Wudang; they are righteous and orthodox clans," replied another.
"Don't get your hopes up, boys, their martial arts are absurd. How can they expect to produce a Wulin Leader? Don't try and make me laugh," sneered Li Zhi Ming. "Who do you think will win then, Mr. Random?" asked one of the men, annoyed.
"I believe you are talking to that person right now. My godly divine arts will crush those pathetic people who oppose me," smirked Li Zhi Ming. "Yeah you sure are humble. I'm sure you will single-handedly crush the countless high class fighters," laughed one of the men sarcastically.
"Believe what you want to but I tell you, no one shall stop me. I have dreamt of this day for years. Hahaha." With the arrogant laughter he walked away.
There were many orthodox sects at the conference, but as many expected, there was always going to be trouble when unorthodox sects showed up. The Crimson Blade Sect was the first of the unorthodox sects to arrive at the heroes’ conference. The sect was lead by no other than the infamous Crimson Sword Lord of the East. Along with hundreds of disciples, Yao Hu Suan proceeded to the main area of the heroes’ conference. Many were obviously unnerved by the arrival of such a wicked character and evil sect.
Xie Jun Lang sat beside the lake disgusted at his efforts. He unleashed a series of palm blasts at the water. "I never thought there are so many high class martial artists in the Central Plains... there are so many obstacles in my way. My internal power does not allow me to defeat more than one good fighter at a time. Maybe the kid was right; my techniques are flawed, it needs to be much more refined if I'm to ever conquer the martial arts world.
“Even though I felt my internal power was above the kid’s I was unable to defeat him; his understanding of martial arts was exceptional, he was able to counter all of my attacks... Yet if I did not get hit by that palm attack from Li Kang, no matter how good the kid was, I would’ve broken through with my overpowering techniques. Now my condition has worsened since I was also struck by him. I will have my vengeance!!'
With those thoughts he got up and felt that he should report finding the kid with the tattoo. Xie Jun Lang had returned to the secret base where special preparations were being completed.
"Hurry up and give me some wine!" he shouted at one of the servants as he began to meditate and nurse his wounds. After a while, a darkly-dressed lady walked into the room "Well, well, well if it isn't the mighty and arrogant Xie Jun Lang. How did you get yourself in such a mess?" asked the darkly-dressed lady.
"Well, why don't you answer that question about yourself, Yuan Jie. Just look out you - neither man nor woman!" snickered Xie Jun Lang.
Looking quite offended, Yuen Jie stalked out of the room muttering, "Fine you lousy fool, I was only seeing if you’re alright."
Xie Jun Lang then continued meditating in preparation for the conference...
CHAPTER 2 END.