The Legend of the Condor Heroes

Chapter 1: Incidents in the Blizzard

Original novel written by Jin Yong (Louis Cha)

Fan translation by Moinllieon (send email)

Day in and day out, day after day, the QianTang River majestically winds through and around Ox Village, near the city of LinAn, on its journey toward the sea. On the shores there stands 30 or so tallow trees, leaves red like the fire, yet another sign that it is now August. The wild weed and grass around the village has just started to turn yellow. The sun shines down sideways on the grass, adding even more to their bleakness. Under two giant pine trees there gathered a group of villagers, the crowd included both men and women along with more than 10 children. Every single one of them are listening to a thin old man, giving him their complete attention.

The old man is about 50 or so, the green robe that he is wearing has been washed to a blueish-gray. He banged 2 pieces of wood together a couple of times, and with the little bamboo stick in his left hand, he started to beat on a little drum to keep pace. He started to sing:

"The peach blossoms without fail, vast unused fields feeding the crows. After the soldiers by the well, families gather in sorrow."

The old man banged together the two pieces of wood a couple of times more, then continued: "Old Man Yie had a wife, a son, and a daughter. They lost each other when the Jin invaded through. Finally, after much hardship and difficulty, they were able to get back together. They returned to their home to find that it was burned to the ground by the Jin soldiers. They had no choice but to head off to BianLiang (modern day KaiFeng, capitol of North Sung). 'The heavens have unexpected storms, people have unforseen misfortunes'. As soon as the four of them got to BianLiang, they ran into a line of Jin soldiers. The leader of the soldiers looked down, saw that Young Miss Yie was quite beautiful, jumped down from his horse, and grabbed her. With a laugh, he threw her onto his saddle and said: 'Pretty little girl, you are going to go home with me.' How could young Miss Yie agree? She struggled with all her might. The leader yelled out: 'If you don't stop struggling, then your family will die!' He picked up his wolf-fang-club and smashed it down on her brother's head.

"'The nether world gains a new ghost, the real world loses one more soul.'

"Old Man Yie and his wife fell onto their son's body and started to cry their heart out. That Jin soldier lifted up this wolf-fang-club twice more and took care of them. Young Miss Yie did not cry, she simply said: 'Sir, please stop killing more people. I'll go with you.' This made the soldier extremely happy. Just as he let his guard down, Young Miss Yie suddenly grabbed the sabre around his waist, pulled it out, and thrusted at his heart. It looks like she was about to revenge her family's death, but alas it was not to be. That soldier has had much experience on the battlefield, without thinking, he merely pushed forward very naturally, sending Young Miss Yie falling to the ground. He was just able to say: 'Little whore!' Young Miss Yie has already brought the blade to her neck. Poor her:

"'With flower's beauty and moon's grace, such sweet soul dying sad so young.'"

He alternates between talking and singing. Every single one of the villagers by now are all sighing in sadness and rage.

That man continued: "Dear audience members, as the saying goes:

"'Treat others with an honest heart, hold your head up on high in pride. If evil deeds go unpunished, only the evil will survive.'

"Jin soldiers has conquered half of our Great Sung, killing and burning, raping and pillaging, not an evil deed left undone. Yet no punishment whatsoever seems to be forth coming. Our Great Sung's officials are responsible for this, China has plenty of healthy and available soldiers. Yet every time we go up against the Jin armies, all they do is turn around and run, leaving behind us peasants to suffer. There are stories like the one about Young Miss Yie and her family by the thousands north of the river. Living here south of the river, is truly like being in heaven on earth, only fearing the day the Jin soldiers come invading.

"'Rather be a dog in peace, than a man in troubled times!'

"My name is Zhang ShiWu, thank you everyone for listening to the story of 'Miss Yie, the Young Martyr'." After banging the 2 pieces of wood together several more times, he held up a tray.

Many of the villagers placed a farthing or two in the pan, which quickly filled up. Zhang ShiWu thanked the villagers and gathered the 60 to 70 farthings into his traveling bag. He got up and started to walk off.

A young man of around 20 years of age walked out from among the villagers. He asked: "Mr. Zhang, did you just come from the north?" The young fellow was very tall and very built with big eyes and a pair of very busy eye brows. Zhang ShiWu answered: "Yes." The young man answered: "Then let's go get a couple of drinks. I'll pay, what do you say?" Zhang ShiWu replied: "I dare not receive such a favor as a stranger." The young fellow laughed and answered: "Once we had a couple of drinks, then we are no longer strangers are we? My surname is Guo, given name XiaoTian" Pointing at a clean, white faced fellow behind him, he continued: "This here is Yang TieXin. The 2 of us were just listening to your story. As expected, it was a good story. But we still have several questions we wanted to ask." Zhang ShiWu replied: "No problem, no problem. To run into the two of you today is probably fate doing its work." Guo XiaoTian led Zhang ShiWu to one of the small wineshops in Ox Village and sat down at one of the tables.

{That whole passage that Zhang ShiWu told was HARD as anything to translate. All the sayings, poems, and idioms just drove me up the wall! Excuse the poor excuse for poetry in the translation, but those were as good as I can get it. To think that there is plenty more where that comes from in LoCH is just great. On a completely different note, Guo XiaoTian looks a lot like Guo Jing, which seems to be obvious but they are almost identical in their description. I have never noticed that before until now.}

The owner of this little wineshop is a cripple. Supported by two crutches, he slowly brought out 2 kettles of wine, a plate of peas, a plate of salted peanuts, a plate of dried bean curd, and a plate with three salted eggs. Afterwards, he just sat down on the stool by the door and stared at the setting sun, not even glancing at the three men.

Guo XiaoTian poured the wine and made Zhang ShiWu down 2 shots before he began: "Here in the country, we only get to buy meat on the 2nd and the 16th, so we don't have anything to go down with the wine. Please forgive us." Zhang ShiWu replied: "At least we got wine, can't complain about that. From your accents, seems like you 2 are from up north." Yang TieXin answered: "We are both from Shan Dong province. But we moved away 3 years ago because we can't stand the Jins running loose there. When we arrived here, we fell in love with the people here and settled down. Just now you were saying that us living here south of the river is like living in heaven itself, fearing only an invasion by the Jin. Do you really think that the Jin will invade?"

Zhang ShiWu sighed: "The gold and silver could literally cover the ground and beautiful women every which way you look, such is the richness and enchantment of the south. There isn't a day that passes without the Jin thinking about invading. But the final decision over the invasion of the Jin is not made by the Jin, but is made by the Imperial Court of our Great Sung in LinAn!" This took both Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin by surprise as they asked as one: "Why do you say that?"

Zhang ShiWu continued: "We Han Chinese outnumber the NuZhen by more than 100 to 1. If only the Imperial Court start using honest and loyal men, 100 of us going up against 1 of them, how can the Jin army win? The northern half of our country, was literally handed over to the Jins back then by Hui Zong, Qin Zong, and Gao Zong. Those 3 emperors, from grandfather to grandson, trusted and used corrupted officials, oppressed the masses, and then they either killed or got rid of all the generals that were fighting the Jin. Such a beautiful land, and they just literally put it right into the hands of the Jin. The Jin people just respectfully accepted it. If the Imperial Court continues to do what it did, trusting and using corrupt officials, it is as if they are kneeling on the ground asking the Jin army to come. How could the Jin people refuse?" After hearing that, Guo XiaoTian couldn't help but to slam his hand down onto the table in rage. All of the cups, plates, and chopsticks on the tables jumped from the impact.

Zhang ShiWu continued: "Thinking back, Hui Zong was all set on trying to trying to live forever, becoming immortal. He was surrounded by corrupt and useless officials: Zai Jing and Wong Yu only knew to raise taxes and skim off the top, Tong Guan and Liang ShiChen were eunuchs that only knew how to kiss up, Gao Qiu and Li BangYan only knew how to mess around and get women for the emperor. The emperor did not attend to official matters at all, if he wasn't going off to visit monks to ask for guidance, then he was traveling around in search of rare and interesting looking rocks. Once the Jins came, he became a turtle and hid in his shell, and passed the throne to his son, Qin Zong. At that time Li Gang was defending the capital BianLiang and fought off the Jin army. But who knew that Qin Zong would believe some rumors that was started by corrupt officials and dismissed Li Gang. On top of that, he did not replace Li Gang with another experienced and able general. Instead he put the defense of the capital in the hands of a self-proclaimed ambassador from the gods named Guo Jing and asked him to invite the armies of heaven to defend the city. The armies of heaven did not show up. How could we not lose the capital? At last both Hui Zong and Qin Zong were captured by the Jin army. These 2 fools had it coming and got what they deserved, but they also brought disaster to millions of Chinese peasants who did nothing to deserve it." {Note: the Guo Jing mentioned here is not the one in this book. This Guo Jing is a liar and a fool who only hastened the demise of Northern Sung. Surprisingly, all of what Zhang ShiWu says here is historical fact, it is hard to imagine anybody being foolish, let alone 2 emperors in a row.}

Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin are just getting angrier and angrier. Guo XiaoTian said: "We have all heard about the capture of emperors, the Disgrace of the year of Jing Kang, many times. We have also heard about the 'armies of heaven' talk before, but we just thought it was a joke or some unfounded rumor. Could this possibly be true?" Zhang ShiWu answered: "Absolutely true." Yang TieXin added: "Afterwards Lord Kang declared himself emperor in Nanjing, he had under him such able and loyal generals like Yue Fei and Han ShiZhong. If he had immediately attacked north, although he might not have reclaimed all the lost lands, but recapturing the capital BianLiang should have been no problem. But that hated traitor such as Qing Gui only wanted to negotiate, turning the tables and killed our beloved General Yue." {Note: the year of Jing Kang translates to A.D. 1127. The Jin demanded that Yue Fei be killed to show that the Sung were sincere in their efforts.}

Zhang ShiWu poured a cup of wine for all 3 of them and downed his cup in one gulp. He went on: "Beloved general Yue once said these 2 lines: 'Only aspire to eat Tartar flesh, chatting away while drinking Hun's blood.' This poem has conveyed what is in the heart of every Chinese. Ay! This traitor Qing Gui is awfully lucky. Shame that we were born 60 years too late." Guo XiaoTian asks: "What do you mean?" Zhang ShiWu replied: "Then you 2 heroes would go into LinAn and kill this traitor. Then the 3 of us would eat his flesh and drink his blood, no more need for us to come here to eat peas and drink cold wines anymore!" All 3 of them laughed heartily at that comment.

Yang TieXin noticed that the kettle has been emptied and ordered another one. The 3 of them just sat there cursing at Qing Gui. The cripple placed another dish of peas as well as a dish of peanuts. Hearing the 3 men's spirited cursing of Qing Gui, he suddenly let out a rather loud sneer.

Yang TieXin turned to him and asked: "Qu San, what's the matter? You don't think we are wrong to curse at Qing Gui do you?" Qu San, the cripple, answered: "Good cursing! Great cursing! Nothing wrong with that. It is just that I have heard that Qing Gui isn't the chief culprit in killing Yue Fei in order to negotiate peace." The 3 men asked in surprise: "Qing Gui isn't? Then who is?" Qu San replied: "Qing Gui was the Chancellor, whether or not peace is negotiated he still is and will keep on being Chancellor. But our beloved General Yue only wanted to destroy the Jin and bring back the 2 emperors Hui and Qin. Once these 2 emperors return, how do you suppose Emperor Gao Zong is going to keep his crown?" As soon as he finished saying what he said, he turned around and struggled back to that stool, and returned to staring at the sky as if in a trance. Qu San's face looks no older than 20 something, yet he is hunched over with traces of white in his hair. From the back, he looks like an old man.

Zhang ShiWu and the 2 men look at each other in silence. After a while, Zhang ShiWu spoke up: "That is so true! Sir, you have really said something! The real culprit behind the killing of our beloved General Yue could very well not be Qing Gui, but Emperor Gao Zong. This Emperor Gao Zong is shameless to begin with, he definitely could do something like this!"

Guo XiaoTian asks: "Is he really that shameless?" Zhang ShiWu replied: "Back when the beloved General Yue had just beaten the Jin army in several battles in a row, that along with the rebellion of our patriotic brothers in the north had the Jin army against the wall. The Tartars were just beginning to panic as to what to do when suddenly Gao Zong sent them a letter of surrender and asked for peace negotiations. Naturally the Jin Emperor was ecstatic, but he replied: 'There will be no peace negotiations unless Yue Fei is killed.' So Qing Gui went about his evil plan and our beloved General Yue was killed in the Pavilion of Changes. The beloved General Yue was killed November of the 11th year of Zhao Xing, merely one month later, peace is agreed upon. The boundary between Sung and Jin is drawn at the river Huai and Emperor Gao Zong calls himself a subject toward the Jin Emperor. How do you think the letter of surrender was written?" Yang TieXin answered: "Shamelessly, of course."

Zhang ShiWu replied: "Of course! I happen to know what was written in the letter. It read: 'Your humble subject asks for forgiveness and mercy. If received, your subject will be forever grateful and humble sons and descendants will forever be of service to your majesty. Your humble subject also swear to give yearly tribute in the amount of 250,000 taels of silver and 250,000 bolts of silk.' Not only did he sell himself as a servant, but all of his descendants as well. His becoming a servant is really no big deal, but is that not like saying that every Chinese is their servants as well?"

Bang! Guo XiaoTian slammed down hard onto the table again, this time tipping one of the cups over, spilling wine all over the table. In anger, he shouted: "Shameless! Disgraceful! How did this sorry excuse for a man become an emperor?" {Note: literal translation is something to the end of "From which family did the bird emperor fly out of?" Which does not really sound like what he meant, so I took some creative liberties.}

Zhang ShiWu continued: "When our nation heard about this treaty, there was not a person on the street who was not enraged. Especially for those Chinese people north of the river Huai were even more grieve stricken because they see that our country cannot be whole. Gao Zong sees that his seat on the throne is secured, immediately rewarded Qing Gui for his 'meritorious'service. Qing Gui was already Lord of Lu, and now Gao Zong added a title of Tai Shi to his name, giving him almost supreme powers under the emperor. Xiao Zong succeeded Gao Zong, and Guang Zong succeeded him, all the while the Jin is still controlling half of China. Now Guang Zong has been succeeded by Emperor Qin Yuan, he has been on the throne for 5 years now, mostly going with what the Chancellor Han TuoZhou says. What is the future going to be like? Hehe, hard to say, hard to say!" During the last little bit, he did not stop shaking his head.

Guo XiaoTian replied: "What's so hard to say about it? This is the countryside, not like LinAn where you might get your head cut off! There isn't a person in the world who don't call Han TuoZhou a crook! If you go by betraying the country and oppressing the people, the man is practically a sworn brother of Qing Gui!"

Now that they are talking about current affairs, Zhang ShiWu is starting to get a little tinge of fear and dare not to criticize and talk straight from his heart as he did. He downed another cup and said: "Thanks to both of you gentlemen for the wine. May I offer a modest word of advice? I know both of you gentlemen are passionate men, but it is still most wise to be cautious in words and deeds so as to avoid any possible calamities. At this point, the most that us normal folk can hope muddle along and do the best that we can. Ay! Just like the saying:

"Surrounded by the mountains in the halls, when will West Lake parties finally go?

Southern fragrances intoxicates all, happily mistook HangZhou for BianZhou!"

Yang TieXin asks: "What the story behind these 4 lines?" Zhang ShiWu answers: "There is no story. It is just saying that the official of our Great Sung dynasty only care to party and drink on the shores of the West Lake. They want to pretend that HanZhou is our capital and never bother with taking back our land and moving back to BianLiang again."

By the time Zhang ShiWu said goodbye, he was dead drunk. As he stumbles toward BianLiang, one can hear him muttering to himself the words of "River Soaked in Red" by Yue Fei: "Jing Kang's Disgrace, still fresh in mind; people's hatred, when will it stop? I drive my cart..."

Guo XiaoTian paid the tab and walked by home with Yang TieXin. The two of them live right next to each other, after walking a short distance, they have made it back to their homes.

Guo XiaoTian's wife, Li, was just chasing a chicken into a little trap. Turning around, she smiled and said: "You two gone drinking again? Brother Yang, why don't you and your wife come over for dinner tonight? We are going to make a whole chicken."

Yang TieXin smiled back and answered: "Alright, I guess we are going to inconvenience you 2 again. We have so many chickens and ducks just there to waste food upon, but we can't part with any of them." Li replied: "Well your wife is just that kind hearted. She says that she has raised these chickens and ducks since they were babies, how could she possibly kill them?" Yang TieXin laughed and replied: "I told her that I would kill them if she can't make herself, she then starts crying and sobbing. Ay! What can I do? Tell you what, tonight I'm going to go hunting and we'll invite the 2 of you over tomorrow night!" Guo XiaoTian cuts in: "We are family! Quit talking about who's inviting and who is not! Tonight we go hunting together!"

That midnight, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin went into the woods 3.5 kilometers (a little over 2 miles) west of the village, hoping to catch a boar or something of that nature. But after waiting for more than 2 hours, nothing could be heard. Just as they were about to lose their patience, they suddenly started to faintly hear sounds of metal thumping coming from outside of the woods. They looked at each other, both wondering: "What's going on now?"

At this moment, from afar, there came several men shouting: "Where do you think you are going?" "Stop this instant!" Then a shadow jumped into the woods. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin finally were able to see the person now that he is under the moonlight. The two of them were shocked. For this man was the crippled owner of that wineshop in the village, Qu San. He thumbed his left crutch into the ground, producing a "Zeng!" His body flew off the ground and hid behind a tree. This is a display of an incredible level of Qing Gong (lightweight martial arts). Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin looked at each other again with astonishment, both of them thinking: "We had no clue that Qu San's kungfu is this good, and we have been living here for 3 whole years!" Both of them stayed hidden in the bushes, not daring to move or come out.

Footsteps kept on getting closer, 3 men had made it to the edge of the woods. They whispered something to each other and started to slowly walk into the woods. All 3 were dressed in military clothing, each of them had a sabre in hand. In the moonlight, the sabres gave off a faint green glow. One of them shouted: "Damn cripple! Your old man here can see you, better quickly surrender and come out!" Qu San kept still behind the tree. The 3 men started to waving their sword wildly, swinging and taking a cut at anything in their way. Very slowly, the 3 of them got closer and closer. Suddenly there came a faint thump, Qu San stabbed his right crutch out from behind the tree, hitting one of the men squarely on his chest. That man gave off a muffled groan before flying backwards and falling on the ground. The other 2 men immediately hacked down at Qu San.

Qu San gave his right crutch a push and jumped several feet to the left, avoiding the sabres. His left crutch immediately went straight for one of the men's face. The man's kungfu was not that shabby either, he tried to parry the crutch away with his sabre. Qu San did not wait for the 2 to meet before withdrawing his crutch to support him again. His right crutch came swinging in on the other man's waist. He uses his crutches with great speed and quickness, even though he always has to use one of them to support himself, leaving only one to fight with at all times, he is not losing at all to the men. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin notices that he is carrying a huge bundle on his back, seemingly very cumbersome. After some more fighting, one of the sabres came down and hit the bundle. "Dang!" The bundle ripped and the objects inside spilled onto the ground. Qu San took advantage of his temporary distraction and smashed down hard on the head of the man with his crutch. The man fell onto the ground without so much as a whimper. The only man left is by now scared to death, he turned around and started to run. Qu San took out something from his bosom and raised his arm very quickly. A ball-like object flew through the air under the moonlight, followed by a muted thump as the object hit the back of the man's head. The man let out a ghastly scream and dropped his sabre as his arm started to swing wildly out of control. Slowly and facing upward, he crumpled to the ground. After a couple of twitches, he stopped moving.

Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin has just witnessed Qu San kill 3 men in succession while displaying a level of kungfu that neither one of them has ever seen before. Both of their hearts are racing, afraid to even breath too loudly, for both of them were thinking the same thing: "He just killed government officials, that is a huge crime. We don't stand a chance if he finds us here and want to kill us to keep this quiet."

Qu San turned around and slowly spoke out: "Brother Guo, Brother Yang, you can come out now!" Once the 2 of them got over the shock of it, they had no choice but to step out of the bushes, although both of them were holding their pitchforks rather tightly. Yang TieXin snuck a look over at Guo XiaoTian and the pitchfork in his hand and took 2 extra steps. Qu San smiled: "Brother Yang, your Yang Family Lance Technique (Yang Jia Qiang Fa) can be used with a pitchfork, but your adopted brother uses a pair of short halberds and the pitchfork does not fit his skills, so you step up in front of him. Such righteousness, such friendship!" Yang TieXin, hearing that Qu San spelled out exactly what he was thinking, suddenly felt very exposed and can't decide what to do. Qu San continued: "Brother Guo, let's say you had your double halberd in hand. Do you think the 2 of you together can beat me?"

Guo XiaoTian shook his head: "No, we can't. The 2 of us must have been blind, living together with you here for all those years and not even noticing that you knew kungfu, let alone a master."

Qu San shook his head and sighed: "I can't even use my legs, how can I be considered a master?" As if his spirits were waning, he continued: "Back then, would I have had so much trouble with several armed guards? Ay! I'm useless now! Useless!" Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin glanced at each other, not sure how to or dare to respond. Qu San continued: "Would you 2 help out this cripple and bury these 3 bodies?" The 2 of them glanced at each other again, Yang TieXin answered: "Alright!"

The 2 of them dug a big hole using their pitchforks and tossed the 3 bodies in. While they were moving the last body, Yang TieXin notices that part of the black object was still sticking out of the back of the man's head. He gave it a good tug with his right arm and pulled it out. Turns out it an Eight Diagram made out of iron, he wiped the blood off on the body and handed it back to Qu San. {The Eight Diagram is 8 combination of 3 whole or broken lines used to in religious, mostly Taoist, ceremonies. The 8 combinations usually surround a ying-yang symbol. The flag of South Korea is very similiar except it has only 4 of the 8 diagrams.}

Qu San took the Eight Diagram and said: "So sorry for troubling you." He puts the Eight Diagram back into his pocket. He then laid the piece of cloth that used to be his bundle onto the ground and started to put the objects that is scattered on the ground back into it. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin finished putting dirt back into the hole, turning around, they see 3 rolled up painting on the floor as well as many other bright and shiny metals. Qu San leaves out a golden kettle and a golden cup out. After putting everything else back in the bundle, he held those 2 things up to Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin, saying: "These things are stolen by me from the Royal Palace in LinAn. The emperor has done enough wrong to the peasants, taking a little bit of what he stole from the peasants isn't really a crime. Consider these 2 things a present from me."

The 2 of them can't believe that he is actually brazen enough to break into the Royal Palace and steal. Neither one of the dared to accept his offer.

Qu San said in a stern voice: "Are you guys scared to accept? Or do you 2 not want to?" Guo XiaoTian replied: "The 2 of us did nothing to deserve such gifts and that's why we can't accept your gifts. As for what happened tonight, you don't have to worry about a thing brother, neither one of us is going to let this secret get out." Qu San replied: "Hmph! Why should I be worried about you 2 leaking this secret? I know all about you 2 and your backgrounds, or else why would I let you 2 leave here alive? Brother Guo, you are the descendent of Guo Sheng, one of the heroes of the Water Margins of Mt. Liang. You use the halberd skill that is taught in your family, only that it is short instead of long, and 2 instead of 1. Brother Yang, your ancestor is Yang ZaiXing, one of the generals under the Beloved General Yue. You 2 are descendants of 2 patriotic heroes, when the Jin army conquered the North, you 2 began wandering in the martial world and became martial brothers. And then the 2 of you moved to Ox Village together. Am I right so far?"

{Note: Those familiar with Heroes of the Water Margins should remember 2 characters that uses halberds that are always together: Lu Meng and Guo Sheng. The nickname of Lu Meng was "Little Vassal" while Guo Sheng's was "Benevolent Aristocrat". They joined the rebellion at the same time and is always deployed in battle in pairs. Both of them even died together, smashed by rocks while attacking an higher position during the effort to quell the Rebellion of Fang La, who is the head of the Ming Cult mentioned later on in this novel and in Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre. Yang ZaiXing was one of the most famous heroes under Yue Fei. During the 2nd Jin invasion of Southern Sung, the group of a little over 200 scouts that Yang ZaiXing led were surrounded by the Jin army of over 12000. Yang ZaiXing and his men fought to the last man, taking over 1200 Jin soldiers with them. Soon afterwards, Yue Fei lured the Jin army into engaging 800 calvary men that he himself led while his main force snuck around and attacked the Jin army from the sides. In thoroughly defeating in the Jin in the battle, Yue Fei became famous. His strategy was probably inspired by the effort, bravery, and the results of Yang ZaiXing and his 200 men.}

The 2 of them sees that Qu San knows their past inside out, became even more shocked. All they could do was nod.

Qu San continued: "Guo Sheng and Yang ZaiXin were both rebels before going over to the government's side to fight for the Great Sung Empire. So both of them have stolen from the thief that is the government. So tell me, are you 2 going to accept my presents or not?" Yang TieXin thought to himself: "If I refuse, then it will surely offend him." So he took the presents from Qu San's hands and said: "We are very grateful for this. Thanks."

Qu San was pleased by this, he picked up the bundle and put it back onto his back, turning around he said: Time to go home." The 3 of them walked side-by-side out of the woods. Qu San said: "Caught a couple of prize pieces tonight, got 2 paintings by Emperor Dao Jun, and a sheet of his writing showing off his calligraphy as well. This fellow is no emperor, but his Red Green Plume and Thin Gold Form is indeed supreme in the world."

The other 2 men had no idea what in the world "Red Green Plume" or "Thin Gold Form" is, so all they did was nod in agreement. {Red Green Plume is a style of ancient Chinese painting featuring birds and animals with emphasize on the colors of red and green, obviously. Thin Gold Form is a style of calligraphy.}

After walking for a while, Yang TieXin spoke up: "Earlier today you said that half of our Great Sung's land is lost in the hands of Emperor Dao Jun. So what is so good about his paintings or writings? Why would brother you go through such troubles and taking such a big risk to go into the Royal Palace to steal it?" Qu San smiled: "This is something that I guess you just won't understand." Guo XiaoTian spoke up as well: "If Emperor Dao Jun can be so good at painting and writing, he must be pretty smart. Pity that he does not concentrate on being a good ruler. When I was little my dad told me that a person, no matter what he does, must concentrate on doing one thing. If he tries to learn a little bit here, do something there, in the end he will get nothing accomplished."

Qu San answered: "For a normal person, this is true. But in this world there is someone who is a genius at everything. From language to kungfu; including writing, painting, music, and Go; from math to military tactics; even medicine, astrology, and the 5 elements; there is not a thing that he does not understand, not a thing that he does not excel in. It's just that you guys won't ever meet him." He looked up a the waning moon, and let out a long sigh.

Under the moonlight, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin suddenly noticed tears on Qu San's face. When the 2 of them got home, they buried the 2 golden objects deep within their backyard, not even telling their wives about this. After that night the 2 of them acted as if nothing happened, living off their farm and whatever they catch, when there is spare time they practice their kungfu. Even when by themselves, neither one of them ever brought what happened that night up. The 2 of them still visit the little wineshop occasionally for a couple kettles of wine. Qu San still served the wine along with some peas, peanuts, and other snacks that helps the wine to go down. Afterwards he always goes and sits down by the door and goes into his own little world, lost in his thoughts. It was as if that night had never happened. The only difference is that when Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin look at Qu San, their eyes are filled with respect.

Autumn slowly gave way to Winter, the days just kept getting colder and colder. One night, with the cold north winds blowing, it started to snow. The day after that it continued to snow even more. The whole sky is filled with snow flakes and the ground looks like it's covered with precious jade, white as far as the eye can see. Yang TieXin told his wife that tonight he is going to get some wine and food so that they can invite his brother and his wife over so all of them can have a nice dinner and enjoy the snow. After lunch, he grabbed 2 big bottle gourd and went off to the wineshop to get some wine. When he got there, he noticed that the door is shut tight, even the wineshop sign is taken down.

Yang TieXin knocked on the door a couple of times and shouted: "Brother Qu San, I'm here to buy 3 kilos of wine." No response came. After waiting a bit, he called out again and still no response came. He walked over to a window and looked inside, everything in the room is covered in a thick layer of dust. He thought to himself: "Haven't came in several days, turns out that Qu San hasn't been here for several days as well. Hope nothing happened." So he had to brave the blizzard and walk to the wineshop 2.5 kilometers away in Red Plum Village to get the wine as well as a chicken. When he got back he killed the chicken and gave it to his wife to take care of the rest.

His wife's surname is Bao, given name is XiRuo. She's the daughter of the teacher at the private school in Red Plum Village. They have been married for a little under 2 years now. She puts the chicken along with some cabbage, bean curd, and vermicelli made from bean starch (fen si) into a big pot. While the pot is boiling on top of a fire, she cutted a plate of cured meat and cured fish. At dusk, she went over and invited the Guo's over to for some wine and enjoy the snow.

Guo XiaoTian happily came over. His wife Li is not feeling very well in the last couple of days because of her pregnancy, throwing up anything she eats, so she decided not to come over. Li's given name is Ping. She and Bao XiRuo are like sisters and the 2 of them chatted for a long time. Only after making her a pot of tea did she finally return home. When she got back she saw that the 2 men have already moved the charcoal stove onto the table to keep the wine warm. The 2 of them has already started.

Guo XiaoTian said: "Sister, we weren't patient enough to wait for you. Please come and join us." The 2 men have always gotten along, both are also men of character, add that to the fact that in the country nobody really cares about all the rules regarding men and women meeting. So Bao XiRuo smiled and nodded, putting some more charcoal onto the stove, she picked up another cup for the wine and sat down beside her husband. She notices that there are hints of anger on both men's faces, she smiled and asked: "Something the matter again? What's gotten the 2 of you so angry?" Yang TieXin answered: "We were just talking about the ##### that goes on in the Imperial Court in LinAn."

Guo XiaoTian added: "I was at the Joyful Rain Pavilion, the tea house at the head of the Tranquility Bridge yesterday when I heard some people talking about the the bastard Chancellor Han Zhou. Didn't sound like he was making the stuff up either. He says that no matter which official is filing a report, if the report does not have the words: 'Also present whatever to Chancellor', this bastard Chancellor does not even give the report another glance!" Yang TieXin sighed: "When you have this kind of emperor, you'll get this kind of chancellor. When you have this kind of chancellor, then you'll get this kind of official. Big Brother Huang that lives outside of Gushing Gold Gate of LinAn told me this story. One day he was cutting trees for firewood at the side of the mountain, when he suddenly saw a whole bunch of soldiers protecting a crowd of officials coming his way. Turns out that Chancellor Han Zhou was taking a sight seeing trip with all his underlings. He kept on minding his own business and went on cutting his trees. Suddenly he heard that Han Zhou sigh and say: 'The bamboo fences and thatched cottage here really do make an extraordinary country scene. Pity it's missing the sounds of chickens crowing and dogs barking.' Pretty soon after he said this, there suddenly came barking from the bushes." Bao XiRuo laughed a little: "This little dog really do know how to please." Yang TieXin answered: "It sure does, after barking for a bit, it jumped out of the bushes. What kind of dog do you suppose it was? Turns out it was our dignified and honorable Magistrate of the city of LinAn, His Excellency Zhao!" Bao XiRuo doubled over with laughter. Guo XiaoTian observed: "This little dog act by His Excellency Zhao has probably insured that he would be promoted very quickly." Yang TieXin answered: "Of course, it's only natural."

The 3 of them drank for a while. The snow outside is coming down even harder, but with some wine in their bellies, all 3 of them felt very warm and cozy. Suddenly, from the east, there came footsteps on the road. The footsteps were very rapid. The 3 of them looked over and saw a Taoist priest.

The Taoist priest is wearing a bamboo hat and a cape, but snow is all over his body. There is a sword on his back, the yellow thread hanging off the handle of the sword swung back and forth in the wind. Snow filled the sky, the lonely figure walking in the snow, such a grand and gallant scene. Guo XiaoTian spoke up: "This Taoist knows quite a bit of kungfu, looks like a real man of honor." Yang TieXin replied: "That's right. Let's invite him in for a couple of drinks and make friends with him." Both of them always love to make new friends, so they both stood up and stepped outside. They noticed that the Taoist is already past them by more than 20 yards even though he is only walking. Such levels of Qing Gong is rarely heard of in the world.

The 2 of them looked at each other in astonishment. Yang TieXin yelled out: "Father, please stop!" The Taoist turned around and nodded at Yang TieXin. Yang TieXin continued: "Such kind of weather outside, Father, why don't you come and drink a couple of cups to warm up."

The Taoist sneered and in an instant arrived in front of them. Face full of disdain, he asked coldly: "Want me to stop, what for? Be frank and tell me!"

Yang TieXin thought the Taoist's rudeness was completely uncalled for, so he just lowered his head and didn't bother to answer. Guo XiaoTian cupped his fist and replied: "The 2 of us were just sitting by the fire keeping warm and drinking wine when we saw Father walking alone in the snow. So we boldly asked if Father to join us, please forgive us for our offenses." The Taoist rolled his eyes and said rather loudly: "Alright alright! If you want to drink then let's drink!" And he walked through the door.

This made Yang TieXin even angrier, he grabbed the Taoist's left wrist, and with a pull he shouted: "Still haven't ask as to how to address Father." Suddenly he felt as if he was grabbing onto a slippery fish rather than a hand as the Taoist's hand escaped his grasp. He knew he was in trouble and tried to back away, but before he could, a pain shot through his wrist as the Taoist grabbed his wrist. It was as if he is cuffed, feeling both enormous pressure and heat, he hurriedly tried to struggle out of the Taoist's grasp. But his entire right arm felt lifeless and weak, with his wrist in great pain.

Guo XiaoTian knew his adopted brother is getting the worst of it from his blood red face. He just wanted to make an acquaintance and wanted to avoid offending the Taoist, or anyone in the martial world for that matter. So he spoke up: "Father, please sit here." The Taoist sneered a couple of times more and let go of Yang TieXin. He walked to the center of the room and sat down in a rather ostentatious matter before saying: "The 2 of you are obviously from ShangDong, yet are here pretending to be farmers. Pity that your accents are still obviously of ShangDong dialect. Why would a peasant know any kungfu anyway?"

Yang TieXin felt both embarrassed and angry as he walked into the backroom. He took out a small dagger from the drawer and hid it in this shirt before walking back out again. He poured out 3 cups of wine and toasted one for himself, all the while not saying a word.

That Taoist just stared at the snow outside of the house with a sneer on his face, not drinking any wine nor saying anything. From the hostility on the Taoist's face, Guo XiaoTian figured that he is suspicious of any trickery in the wine. So he took the cup of wine in front of the Taoist and drank it. Then he said: "Wine gets cold very quickly. Father, let me get another warm one for you." He poured another cup for the Taoist, which the Taoist drank down in one gulp. Afterwards the Taoist said: "Even if there are knockout drugs in the wine, it wouldn't get to me." Yang TieXin finally had about all he can take: "We nicely invited you to come and have a drink with us, why would we tried to harm you? If you plan to keep talking in such a manner, then please leave now! It's not like we had sour wine and rotten food that we can't get rid off!"

The Taoist ignored him and grabbed the wine bottle. Pouring and drinking, he downed three cups in a row. Then he suddenly took off his bamboo had and cape and threw them on the ground. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin looked him over carefully. The Taoist is about 30 or so, squared face with slanted eyebrows and a hint of redness. His eyes were bright and piercing. Next he untied the leather bundle on his back and threw it on the table. Immediately, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin jumped up. Because from the leather bundle rolled out a bloody human head!

Bao XiRuo screamed in fear and ran into the back room. Yang TieXin felt his chest to make sure the dagger is in place. The Taoist gave the leather bundle a shake and 2 more bloody objects fell out: a heart and a liver. From the looks of them they are probably not pig heart and pig liver but very likely to be human. Yang TieXin shouted: "Taoist bastard!" as he took out the dagger and thrusted it towards the Taoist's chest.

The Taoist snickered: "Eagle Talon. So you want to fight now?" He lightly hit Yang TieXin's wrist with his left hand. Yang TieXin felt a numbing pain in his wrist as his fingers lost all their strength. Before he knew it, his dagger has already been taken away.

Guo XiaoTian was just shocked to see all this. He knows that his adopted brother is the descendent of a renowned hero and his family's kungfu is slightly superior from his own from their daily sparring. But it was as if he was nothing in front of this Taoist, the move that he just pulled off was obviously "Bare Hand Seizes Blade", a skill that he has only heard of in the martial world. He immediately picked up a wooden bench that he was sitting on, waiting to block the dagger when the Taoist inevitably stabs back at his adopted brother.

But the Taoist completely ignored them. He just wildly cut the human heart and liver to pieces with the dagger. Suddenly, he let out a huge roar, so loud that it rattled the tiles on the roof. He lifted up his right hand and brought it down hard, so hard that the contents on the table all jumped at the impact. The 2 men looked over and saw he had just smashed the head into smithereens, even the middle of the table was cracked. The 2 of them were still recovering when the Taoist shouted: "Shameless scoundrels, today I will have to break the no-killing rule big time!"

Yang TieXin couldn't be any angrier; he grabbed the iron spear that was leaning against the corner of the room and jumped outside. He shouted back: "Come on! Let's teach you a lesson in the art of the 'Yang Family Spear'!" The Taoist snickered a bit: "You think you are worthy enough to use the 'Yang Family Spear' based on all this fake bravado?" He walked out the door as he was finishing the sentence.

Seeing the situation has deteriorated to this point, Guo XiaoTian ran back to his house and got his double halberds. When he got back the Taoist was still standing there with his sword still in the sheath and his sleeves flapped noisily in the wind. Yang TieXin yelled out: "Unsheath your sword!" The Taoist replied: "Even if the 2 of you come at me together, I would still fight you with my bare hands."

Yang TieXin made a gesture signaling he is about to start and followed it with a "Poisonous Dragon Coming Out from the Cave". The red tassel on his spear shook, creating a huge flash of red heading towards the heart of the Taoist. The Taoist was briefly surprised and praised: "Excellent!" His body went along with the spear and dodged to the left. His left palm spun around and came up to meet the spear head in an attempt to grab it.

Yang TieXin has worked hard with this spear since he was a little kid and fully received his father's skills. Yang Family Spear is nothing to scoff at, back then, Yang ZaiXin took a spear and 300 Sung soldiers into battle against 40000 Jin soldiers at Little Merchant Bridge. In the battle, they killed more than 2000 Jin soldiers, not to mention one Ten-Thousand-Head, as well more than 100 Thousand-Heads and Hundred-Heads. Actually, the Jin arrows came flying in like rain, as soon as he was hit by an arrow, he would break the wood part off and keep on fighting. At last, his horse got tripped up in mud and he finally gave his life for his country. When the Jin army burned his body, the amount of melted metal from the arrow heads topped an amazing 2 liters. This battle shocked and scared the Jin army and made Yang Family Spear famous in all of China.

Although Yang TieXin is not as great as his forefathers, he does almost fully understand the spear skill inside out. So there he is, parrying, thrusting, swinging, flicking, blocking, fending, and obstructing. The point of the spear flashes silver, the tassel emits red. What a spear skill!

Yang TieXin pulled out all the stops, the moves were swift and agile, changing and faking as if they were an illusion. But the Taoist's body followed the spear around, easily dodging forward and back, making him almost impossible to hit. After using all 72 moves of the Yang Family Spear, Yang TieXin couldn't help but get anxious and upset. He turned around and walked away carrying the spear backwards. As expected, the Taoist started to chase very close behind. Yang TieXin let out a big shout, grabbed the spear with both hands, suddenly twisted his waist and extended his arms, and thrusted the spear back right at the Taoist's face. This move was ferocious, for it is the move in Yang Family Spear that is used to break enemy formation and kill enemy generals, called "Return Horse Spear". Back before Yang ZaiXin surrendered over to the Sung army while he battled Yue Fei, he used this exact move to kill Yue Fei's younger brother Yue Fan.

The Taoist sees that the spear has already arrived in front of him in an instant, couldn't help but praise: "Excellent move!" Smacking his hands together, he was able to clamp on to the spear point. Yang TieXin gave one mighty push, but spear did not move at all. Shocked, he tried with all his might to pull the spear back. But it seemed as if the spear is caught underneath a mountain, no chance at all of pulling it out. His face had turned red as he tried 3 times more, but the spear still would not leave the Taoist's hands. The Taoist let out a hearty laugh, suddenly his right palm came up and with the speed of a lightning, struck the handle of the spear. Yang TieXin felt the part between the base of his thumb and index finger go numb and immediately released the spear, letting it drop onto the snow covered ground.

The Taoist smiled and said: "You are really using Yang Family Spear. Sorry for any offense. Please honor me with knowing your surname." Yang TieXin still haven't recovered from the shock of all this, so he replied without much thought: "My surname is Yang, given name is TieXin." The Taoist asked: "Are you related to General Yang, Yang ZaiXin." Yang TieXin answered: "He's my great great grandfather." (I think it is great great grandfather, not sure though.)

The Taoist cupped his fist and saluted: "I mistook the 2 of you for scoundrels, turns out that you are descendants of patriots, please forgive me. May I be so bold as to ask this gentleman's surname?" Guo XiaoTian answered: "Surname is Guo, given name is XiaoTian." Yang TieXin added: "He's my martial brother, he is the descendent of Guo Sheng, one of the Heroes of the Water Margins of Mount Liang." The Taoist replied: "Your humble Taoist acted rashly and rudely, please forgive me." Then he saluted again.

Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin both cupped their fist and saluted back: "No problem, no problem at all. Would Father please come in for 3 more drinks?" Yang TieXin conveniently picked up his spear as well. The Taoist smiled and said: "Of course! I just got the urge to drink it up with you 2."

Bao XiRuo was worried that her husband might get hurt, so she stood in the doorway anxiously observing. Seeing the 3 of them stopped fighting and became friends, she felt greatly relieved and started to set the table back.

After the 3 of them all sat down, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin asked the Taoist for his Taoist name. The Taoist replied: "My name is Qiu ChuJi...." Yang TieXin jumped up and shouted: "Ah Ya!" Guo XiaoTian was shocked as well: "Man of Eternal Spring (Chang Chun Zi)?" Qiu ChuJi smiled and replied: "That's the name that my Taoist friends gave me, I do not dare to claim such a name." Guo XiaoTian replied: "The hero Man of Eternal Spring of the All True Sect (Quan Zhen Pai), I am honored to meet your acquaintance!" The 2 of them threw themselves onto the floored and saluted.

Qiu ChuJi hurriedly helped them up and said while smiling: "I personally killed a traitor today. The government was chasing me very closely, and you 2 gentlemen suddenly invited me in for a drink. This is the capital and neither of you are normal farmers, so I became suspicious." Guo XiaoTian replied: "This martial brother of mine always had a temper. When we entered he tried a hand at Father, that probably furthered Father's suspicion." Qiu ChuJi agreed: "How could a normal farmer be that strong? I thought that you 2 gentlemen were dogs of the government who were waiting here undercover for me. So that's why I was so rude, too rash and rude." Yang TieXin smiled and replied: "Can't blame those who don't know." The 3 of them laughed heartily. After several rounds of drinks, Qiu ChuJi pointed at the head that is now in pieces on the floor: "This man's name is Wang DaoKun, a traitor! Last year when the emperor sent him to pay respects to the Jin emperor on his birthday, this man actually started to collude with the Jins in their effort to invade the South. I chased him for 10 days before finally getting him." The other 2 men had long heard around the martial world that Man of Eternal Spring Qiu ChuJi's amazing kungfu and heroic character. Seeing his patriotism at this moment, killing a traitor for the country, they admired him even more. The 2 of them seized the opportunity to ask him some questions about kungfu, Qiu ChuJi was only too happy to help.

Even though Yang Family Spear never met an enemy on the battlefield, but when going up against a kungfu master, it becomes rather lacking. Although Qiu ChuJi's inner and outer kungfu cannot be considered at the highest of levels, they are nevertheless at a very high level, how could Yang TieXin last up to more than 10 moves against him? Turns out that Qiu ChuJi was surprised to see his skills, so he purposely yielded in order to make him use up all 72 moves of Yang Family Spear to make sure that it is authentic. If they were really going at it, Yang TieXin's spear would have been knocked out of his hand in a few moves. At this point, Qiu ChuJi observed that Yang Family Spear was intended to be used on horseback, if used on foot, then one has to be more creative and imaginative and not just use it in a rigid fashion. The 2 men could not stop nodding upon hearing this. Yang Family Spear has always been a skill of the Yang males, so although Qiu ChuJi is very knowledgeable, he still does not fully understand the inner workings of the skill. So he asked a few questions about it to Yang TieXin as well.

The 3 of them had their ear turn warm from the wine and were really hitting it off. Yang TieXin suggested: " We 2 brothers are really fortunate to be able to meet Father today. Father, why don't you stay a couple of days?"

Qiu ChuJi was just going to answer before his face suddenly froze: "Someone is here for me. No matter what happens, you 2 stay inside and don't come out, understand?" The 2 men nodded. Qiu ChuJi picked up the human head, walked out of the door, jumped up on a tree, and hid among its leaves.

Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin didn't really understand his strange actions, there were no noise whatsoever other than the howling of the wind. After a while, there came faint hoof beats from the west. Yang TieXin thought: "Father's ear is incredible." Then immediately his thoughts followed: "This Father's kungfu is amazing, but if compared with Qu San, who would come out on top?" After another while, the hoof beats got closer and closer. Finally, about 20 riders, all dressed in black, appeared out of the snow flying in the air. Galloping, they arrived in front of the door.

The leader of the group suddenly pulled his horse to a stop and yelled out: "The footprints stop here. Looks like there's just been a fight here." Several people behind him jumped off their horses and inspected the footprints in the snow.

The head of the pack ordered: "Search the house!" 2 more men jumped of their horse to knock on the door. Suddenly an object came flying from the trees, hitting one of them on the head. The object was thrown with such an incredible amount of force that it smashed the skull of the man. The other men all started to yell and scream as several men surrounded the tree. One man picked up the object that was thrown and yelled in shock: "It's His Excellency Wang's head!"

The leader pulled out a sabre and let out a loud yell. Quickly 10 or so men surrounded the tree. He gave out another command and 5 men whipped out their bow and shot 5 arrows toward Qiu ChuJi.

Yang TieXin picked up his spear and was just about to go outside and help when Guo XiaoTian grabbed him and whispered: "Father told us not to go out. Besides, if he starts having trouble with how many of them there are, then it still won't be too late for us to help." Just as he finished, an arrow came screaming down from the top of the tree. Qiu ChuJi had dodged 4 of the arrows and caught the last one, then he just threw the arrow back down like a flying weapon. With a scream of "Ah!", one of the men in black was hit and fell off his horse. His body rolled into a bush and stopped.

Qiu ChuJi pulled out his sword and jumped down. The sword just started flashing when 2 men were hit. The leader shouted out: "Damn Taoist! It's you!" Sha, sha, sha! He fired out 3 short bows, then his ride came forth as his sabre came slashing through the wind. Qiu ChuJi's sword continued to flash in the snow as 2 more men were hit and fell off their horse. Yang TieXin was awe struck, knowing that even if he practiced kungfu for 10 more years, he still would not be able to even see the sword clearly, much less fight back. If Qiu ChuJi wasn't holding back just then, he would have been a dead man by now.

Qiu ChuJi moved as if carried by the wind, and now is fighting the rider with the sabre. That man's sabre skill is not bad, each move, be it a parry or a slash, came out ferociously. After fighting for a bit more, Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin both figured out that Qiu ChuJi was prolonging their duel on purpose as to be able to use openings and breaks to pick off the other opponents. He is doing this in order to be able to kill all the enemies, for if the leader was killed, the rest might just all turn and run for their lives, making it impossible to kill all of them.

After some more fighting, there were only 6 or 7 of them left. The leader knew he was not good enough, so he turned and tried to escape. Qiu ChuJi reached out with his left hand and grabbed the horse's tail. With a slight pull, his body jumped off of the ground. Before even landing on the back of the horse, his sword had already penetrated the man's back all the way out of his chest. Qiu ChuJi threw down the body, grabbed ahold of the reins, and started to chase the others. Silver colored iron horseshoes danced in the snow as silver flashes of his sword danced in the air. Amidst the screams, one body followed another onto the ground. Blood stained a ground that was covered in pure white snow into a deep red.

Qiu ChuJi stopped and looked around. Seeing only several riderless horses running off, he laughed heartily. Turning to the 2 men by the door, he waved and said: "How did you guys like that?"

Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin had just opened the door and walked out, so they have not completely calmed down from what they just witnessed. Guo XiaoTian asked: "Father, who are these people?" Qiu ChuJi replied: "We'll know when we search their bodies."

Guo XiaoTian searched the body of that sabre using man and found an official document. Turned out to be an order from that very Magistrate Zhao that pretended to be a dog saying that the Ambassador from Jin has ordered that the government troops and Jin troops to work together to catch the man that murdered Wang DaoKun as soon as possible. Guo XiaoTian's rage just came on when Yang TieXin yelled out. In his hand was some tags found on the bodies of some other men, the tags were written in NuZhen language. It meant that in this group of men, there were several Jin soldiers.

Guo XiaoTian spoke up: "The enemy soldiers can do whatever they want, including capturing and killing, within our borders, and our Sung officials are actually obeying orders from their Ambassador! What kind of world is this?!" Yang TieXin sighed: "Even the Emperor of Great Sung has to refer to himself as an official to the Jin emperor, so it's no surprise that our officials and generals are all becoming their servants as well." Qiu ChuJi bitterly said: "We taoists are supposed to be merciful and benevolent in our hearts and actions. But seeing a bunch of traitors and enemies that does nothing but add to the suffering of our people, I could never be merciful nor benevolent." The 2 other men replied at the same time: "You were right to kill them! They deserved to die!"

This small village did not have many people at all to begin with. Now with the blizzard going, nobody is coming out at night. Even if someone witnessed what just happened, they would have ran back home a long time ago. Who has guts to come out to inspect and ask questions? Yang TieXin took out shovels and hoes and the 3 of them buried all of the bodies into one big grave.

Bao XiRuo picked up a broom and started to sweep the traces of blood on the snow. After a while, she suddenly felt the smell of blood go straight into her stomach. Her eyes went back for a second as she let out a little scream and sat down on the snow covered ground. Yang TieXin was shocked and immediately ran over to help her up, all the while asking over and over: "What's the matter?" Bao XiRuo's eyes were closed and she did not answer. Seeing her white face and feeling her cold hands, Yang TieXin just got more and more worried.

Qiu ChuJi came over, grabbed Bao XiRuo's right wrist, and felt her pulse for a bit. Suddenly he bursted out laughing and said: "Congratulations! Congratulations!" Yang TieXin was quite taken aback and asked: "What?" At this time Bao XiRuo suddenly woke up with a "Yin". Seeing the 3 men standing around her, she can't help but get a little shy and immediately walked back into the house.

Qiu ChuJi said with a smile: "Your wife is pregnant!" Yang TieXin can't quite believe it and asked: "Really?" Qiu ChuJi smiled and replied: "Of all the things I learned in my life, I take comfort in saying that I know a little something about only 3 things. First is medicine, I couldn't master inner strength, but came into contact with a lot of medicinal and herbal knowledge because of that. The 2nd thing is writing a couple of messed up lines of poetry. The little cat-like tricks called kungfu that I know can only be placed 3rd." Guo XiaoTian replied: "Father, if your kungfu can only be called 'little cat-like tricks', then we 2 brothers can only lay claims to 'not even rat-like skills'!" The 3 of them buried the bodies while talking and laughing. After that they went back into the house and started on the food and drinks again. With all the Jins that Qiu ChuJi killed today, all of them felt great joys and excitement.

Thinking about his wife's pregnancy, Yang TieXin could not stop smiling. He thought: "Father here knows poetry, then that means he excels in all facets." So he suggested: "Brother Guo's wife is pregnant as well. Could we vex Father to think of two names?" Qiu ChuJi thought for a bit and said: "Brother Guo's child will be called Guo Jing, and Brother Yang's child will be called Yang Kang. It doesn't matter if they are boys or girls, they can still use these names." Guo XiaoTian replied: "Great! Father's reminding the two of them to remember the Disgrace of the Year of Jing Kang, the humiliation of the capture of the two emperors."

Qiu ChuJi replied: "That's right." He reached into his shirt, took out 2 daggers and placed them on the table. This pair of daggers is completely the same in every way with green leather sheaths, gold hand guard, and ebony handles. He picked up one of the daggers and carved the words "Guo Jing" on the other dagger's handle. Then he carved "Yang Kang" on the handle of the first dagger. He carved with great speed and quickness, faster than most people can write. Before Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin can figure out what he was doing, he had already finished carving the words. Smiling, he said: "I do not have anything worthy with me, only this pair of daggers. Why not leave them for the two kids?" The two men thanked him and took their respective daggers. When the daggers were unsheathed, a sinister coldness came from them. Their blades were obviously very sharp.

Qiu ChuJi explained: "This pair of daggers came into my possession by coincidence. Although they are sharp, their small design does not fit me at all. But the kids can use them to protect themselves. Ten years from now, if I am lucky to be still in this world, I would come to this place again and teach the kids some kungfu. How about it?" The two men could not be any happier and thanked him repeatedly. Qiu ChuJi concluded: "The Jins are occupying the north and torturing the people there. This situation cannot last long. Gentlemen, please take care of yourselves." He picked up his cup of wine and downed it in one gulp. Then he got up and walked out of the door. Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin jumped up and tried to invite him to stay. But his steps were fast and steady as he was already very far away.

Guo XiaoTian sighed: "Masters like him are always coming and going like the wind. We were lucky to meet him today, I was thinking of talking to him and asking for his views a bit more, but alas, it was not to be." Yang TieXin smiled and replied: "Big Brother, at least Father was able to kill so many Jins today and vented out some of our angers for us as well." He held up the dagger and unsheathed it again. Gently stroking the blade, he suddenly spoke up: "Big Brother, I have a stupid idea, tell me what you think of it?"

Guo XiaoTian asked: "What is it?" Yang TieXin explained: "If both our kids are boys, then they will be sworn brothers. If they are girls, then they'll be sworn sisters...." Guo XiaoTian cuts in: "And if it is a boy and a girl, then they'll be husband and wife." The two of them grabbed each other's hand and laughed heartily.

Bao XiRuo came back out from inside, smiled and asked: "What has made you two so happy?" Yang TieXin repeated what they just said to her. Bao XiRuo blushed, but she was happy in her heart as well. Yang TieXin suggested: "Let's trade our dagger right now as a pledge to the engagement. If they turn out to be sworn brothers or sisters, we can still switch back. If they are a little couple...." Guo XiaoTian joked: "Then I'm really very sorry, for both daggers would belong to my family then." Bao XiRuo laughed and replied: "You never know, maybe they would both belong to our family instead." So the two men switched daggers right there. Actually, arranging marriages before a child is born happens very often, there was nothing unusual about it.

Guo XiaoTian took the dagger and happily ran back home to inform his wife. When Li Ping heard it she was quite happy as well.

Playing with the dagger and drinking by himself, Yang TieXin was drunk before he knew it. Bao XiRuo helped her husband onto the bed and collected the dishes and cups. Noticing that it is quite late, she went out to the backyard and collected the chicken cages. As she was closing the back door, she suddenly saw some drops of blood in the snow just in front of the door. Startled, she thought: "So not all of the blood was taken care of. If some official sees this, then we would all be in trouble." So she hurriedly grabbed a broom and started sweeping.

The drops of blood lead all the way to the woods behind the house. There were also traces of someone crawling along in the snow. Bao XiRuo's suspicion rose as she followed the blood into the pine trees. She arrived behind an old grave and saw something black curled up on the ground.

Bao XiRuo walked closer for a better look. It turned out it was a corpse. The man was covered in black, obviously one of the men that came for Qiu ChuJi earlier. He probably didn't die right away after being wounded and crawled here. She was just about to go wake her husband to take care of this corpse when she suddenly thought: "What if someone came and saw him right at this moment?" So she summoned up her strength and went over to the corpse. She wanted to pull it into a bush close by and then go get her husband. But just as she gave a pull, the corpse suddenly twitched and groaned.

This scared all the wits out of her, thinking it was a zombie, she wanted to turn around and run for her life. Yet it was as if her feet were nailed to the ground, she could not move at all. After a long wait, seeing that the corpse did not move again, she gently nudged it with her broom. The corpse groaned again, but this time much weaker. Only now did she realize that the person is still alive. She looked closer and saw that the back of his shoulder was hit by a wolf-fanged arrow. The arrow is embedded deep and the arrow shaft is covered in blood. Snow is still falling and there is already a thin layer of snow on his face. It would only be a little while longer before he is frozen to death.

She has always been kindhearted ever since she was little. If she saw an injured sparrow, frog, or even a bug, she would just have to take it home and take care of it until it has fully recovered. Only then would she release it back. If for some reason she can't nourish it back to health, she would be unhappy for an entire day. This little quirk of hers never changed with her age and led to her house just crawling with small critters of each kind. Her father, being the time-tested country scholar that he is, gave her a name that goes along with this personality of hers: XiRuo, meaning weak-pitying. The Bao family in Red Plum Village had an unusually high amount of old roosters and hens. This is because once Bao XiRuo has taken care of a chick, she would never allow even one to be killed. If her parents wanted to eat one, they would have to go and buy one at the market. So the chickens that the family raised all lived to a very old age before dying. Because Yang TieXin loved this flower-like beauty that is his wife, he always went along with whatever she wanted. So naturally, the yard of the Yang house has become the chickens and other little critter's world as well. The little chicks have slowly grown to be adult chickens and ducks. There aren't any old chickens or ducks because she hasn't been in this house-hold for very long. But if things continue as they are, it will only be a matter of time.

Right now, seeing this man lying in the snow about to die, her kind heart started to act up. Even though she clearly knows that this man is not good, she can't just watch him bleed and freeze to death. She hesitated for only a second before running back to the house to discuss this with her husband. But Yang TieXin was deep in his sleep because of the wine, no matter what she did, he wouldn't wake up.

Figuring that she save the person first and then worry about the rest, she took out her husband's blood clotting powder that stops bleeding. Grabbing the small dagger, some pieces of cloth, and half a kettle of warm wine that was on the stove, she ran back to behind the grave. That man was still lying on the ground, not moving. Bao XiRuo helped him sit up and slowly poured what's left of the wine in the kettle into his mouth. She has been taking care and curing animals ever since she was little, so she has a little bit of medical knowledge. The arrow has embedded itself deep inside of him, pulling it out might cause blood to shoot out of him and kill him. But if the arrow isn't pulled out, there will be no way to start taking care of the wound. So she gritted her teeth, cut open the flesh around the wound using the dagger, grabbed a hold of the arrow shaft, and gave one hard pull. The man let out a savage scream and passed out. Blood shot out of the wound as Bao XiRuo's shirt was covered with little specks of blood, but that arrow had finally been pulled out.

Bao XiRuo's heart was beating like crazy as she anxiously and hurriedly applied the blood clotting powder onto the wound and firmly bandaged it with the pieces of cloth. After a while, that man slowly began to come around, just that he's too weak and tired to even make a sound.

Bao XiRuo had been scared to the point that there is no way for her to gather up enough strength to help move this man. Suddenly an inspiration came to her, she went back home and grabbed a door plank. She dragged the man onto the door plank and then pulled the door plank along the snow, as if she was pulling a sled. She pulled him back into the house and set him up in the barn. After being fully occupied for so long, only now did she get the chance to calm down. She switched out of the bloodied shirt and washed her hands and face. She poured out a bowl unfinished chicken soup, grabbed a stick of candle, and went to the barn once again to check on that man. When she arrived, that man's breathing was weak but steady. Bao XiRuo felt a little better and started feeding him the chicken soup. That man drank down half a bowl before suddenly breaking out with a violent coughing fit.

Startled, Bao XiRuo held up the candle for a closer look. Under the candle light, she saw the man's delicate features and rather high nose bridge. Turns out he was actually a very handsome young man. Her face suddenly heated up and her left hand shook, disturbing the candle holder and several drops of wax fell onto the man's face.

That man opened his eyes. In front of him was a face as beautiful as a flower, cheeks blushing red, and eyes like twinkling stars, filled with both sympathy and bashfulness. It was as if this was a dream as he couldn't help but become spellbound.

Bao XiRuo whispered: "Feeling any better? Here, drink the rest of this bowl of soup." That man tried to take the bowl in his hands, but he had no strength in his hands whatsoever and almost spilled it all on himself. Bao XiRuo immediately grabbed the bowl back. At this time the most important thing is to save a life, so she fed him the soup little by little.

After drinking all of the soup, that man's eyes slowly gained back some life. He stared at her, obviously grateful beyond words. But Bao XiRuo was getting embarrassed by the stare. So she grabbed some straw, put it on him to keep him warm, and went back into the house with the candle.

She did not sleep well at all for the rest of the night for she had several nightmares in a row. Suddenly she would see her husband spearing that man to death. But then she would see that man killing her husband with a sabre and then start to chase her, she was surrounded by darkness and had no where to run or hide. Several times she was scared awake by her dreams, covered with cold sweat. When she woke up in the morning, her husband had already gotten up. Seeing him grinding the spear head of his spear, her dreams last night came rushing back into her mind. She anxiously made her way to the barn and pushed open the door. Even more startling, there was nobody in the barn, only a messed up pile of straws. The man had disappeared.

She ran to the backyard and noticed the backdoor was only half-closed. The snow showed the traces of someone crawling and rolling toward the west. She stared at the traces and became lost in her thoughts. After a long while, a gust of wind came in right at her face as she suddenly felt her waist go sore and bones go soft. Sleepy, she walked back to the main room. Yang TieXin had already made some porridge and put them on the table. Smiling, he said: "See, my porridges aren't that bad after all." Bao XiRuo knows that her husband is being even more considerate because of her condition. So she smiled, sat down, brought up the bowl, and started to eat the porridge. She figured that if she told her husband about what happened last night, he would be jealous and angry and would no doubt chase the man down and kill him. Then is that not the same as killing the man? So she decided to never mention it at all.

Winter ended and Spring returned. In a blink of an eye several months had passed. Bao XiRuo's waist slowly got bigger as she slowly began to feel more and more weary and tired. And the incident of that night when she saved a man gradually disappeared from her memory.

On this particular day, the Yang family had just finished dinner and Bao XiRuo was sitting by the lamp as she was working on sewing a new pair of trousers for her husband. Yang TieXin was hanging up the 2 pairs of straw sandals he just finished on the wall. Remembering that he broke the head of the plough while working in the fields earlier that day, he turned to Bao XiRuo and said: "The head of the plough is broken. Tomorrow I'll go to Zhang MuEr on the east side of the village and have him add a bit of iron and take care of it." Bao XiRuo replied: "Alright." Yang TieXin looked at her and said: "I have enough clothing already. Your body is weak and is carrying a baby, you should rest as much as you can. Don't worry about making clothes for me anymore." Bao XiRuo turned her head towards him and smiled, but her hands did not stop. Yang TieXin walked over and gently took the needle and thread out of her hands. Only now did Bao XiRuo let out a yawn, blow out the lamp, and went to bed.

At midnight, Bao XiRuo was suddenly snapped out of her dream by the sound of her husband sitting up. Faint sounds of hoof beats could be heard coming from very far away. The sound came from the west, after a while, hoof beats started coming from the east as well, followed by sounds coming from north and south. Bao XiRuo sat up and asked: "How come there are horses in all 4 directions?" Yang TieXin jumped out of the bed and started to put on cloths. Soon, the hoof beats were getting closer from all 4 directions and the dogs in the villages started to bark. Yang TieXin replied: "We are surrounded!" Shocked, Bao XiRuo asked: "What for?" Yang TieXin replied: "Don't know." He handed the dagger that Qiu ChuJi gave him to his wife and said: "Take this, to protect yourself!" He took down a spear on the wall and firmly held it in his hands.

By now, the horse neighs and the human voices from all 4 direction were loud and chaotic. Yang TieXin opened up a window and looked outside. A group of soldiers had already surrounded the entire village with torches in hand. Seven or eight of them are galloping back and forth on horsebacks.

The soldiers shouted as one: "Catch the traitors, don't let them get away!" Yang TieXin thought to himself: "Are they here to catch Qu San? Haven't seen him around recently. Luckily, he isn't here, or else there is no way he could beat all of these soldiers, no matter how great his kungfu is." Suddenly one of the men on a horse shouted: "Guo XiaoTian, Yang TieXin. You two traitors come out now and get what's coming to you!"

This shocked Yang TieXin and Bao XiRuo's face turned white. Yang TieXin whispered to her: "Don't know what's gotten into the authorities, they only know how to malign us normal citizens. We won't get a chance with the authorities. The only thing we can do is run for our lives. Don't panic, with this spear of mine, I can assure you that we'll get out of here." His kungfu was good and had made a living in the martial world before, so even though he is in grave danger, he did not panic. He put the arrow bag onto his back and grabbed his wife's right hand.

Bao XiRuo spoke up: "I'll pack." Yang TieXin replied: "Pack what? We are leaving everything!" Bao XiRuo's heart suddenly went sour as tears rolled down her cheeks. She said in the shaking voice: "What's going to happen to our home?" Yang TieXin answered: "All we need is to survive. We can start another home somewhere else." Bao XiRuo asked: "What about these little chicks and cats?" Yang TieXin sighed: "Silly, why are you still worrying about them?" After a pause, he tried to console her: "Why would the authorities bother the little chicks and cats?"

Just as he finished his sentence, the light from the torches outside fluttered. The soldiers had just lit two thatched cottages on fire. Two more foot soldiers were heading this way with torches to light the house on fire, all the while shouting: "Guo XiaoTian, Yang TieXin. If the 2 of you don't come out now, we'll burn all of Ox Village down to the ground!"

Yang TieXin had about all he can take, so he opened the door and walked out. He shouted at the top of his lungs: "I am Yang TieXin! What do you people want?" The 2 foot soldiers were shocked as they dropped their torches, turned around, and ran back. In the firelight, a man rode forth on his horse and shouted: "Good, so you are Yang TieXin. Come with us to the magistrate. Seize him!" At once, 4 or 5 foot soldiers ran up. Yang TieXin twirled his spear, pulled a "White Rainbow in the Sky", and swept 3 of the soldiers onto the ground. He followed it up with "Madly Deafening Spring Thunder" as he picked up a soldier by the spear shaft and threw him into the crowd. He shouted: "If you want to catch me, first tell me what crimes I committed."

That man shouted back: "Traitor! How dare you resist arrest!" Even though he was calling names, he nevertheless feared his foe's courage as well as skill and was afraid to get any closer. Another man on horseback behind him shouted: "Just come with us to the courthouse peacefully, that way there won't be anymore punishment to add for your crimes. We have the official document for your arrest here." Yang TieXin replied: "Let me see it!" That man replied: "What about the other traitor, Guo XiaoTian?"

Guo XiaoTian stuck half of his body out of the window with his bow and arrow and shouted: "Guo XiaoTian is here!" The arrow was aimed at the man on horseback.

That man's heart felt all hairy as cold waves washed up his back, so he shouted: "Put down your bow and arrow, then I'll read the document to you." Guo XiaoTian viciously shouted back: "Read it now!" He pulled his bow full. Seeing that he has no say in the matter, that man brought up the document and read aloud: "Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin of Ox Village of the Prefecture of LinAn, colluded with traitors and criminals with intentions of wrong doing. Capture them and bring them in to be strictly judged by the law." Guo XiaoTin asked: "Which office issued the order?" The man replied: "Chancellor Han himself."

Both Guo XiaoTian and Yang TieXin were shocked by this: "What could be so important that Han TouZhou himself got involved? Could it be that Father Qiu's actions that night were discovered?" Guo XiaoTian asked: "Who is the plaintiff? On what evidence?" That man shouted back: "We only worry about capturing you guys, if you guys want to plea your case then come to the courthouse with us." Yang TieXin shouted back: "Chancellor Han only knows how to do harm to us good honest people, everyone knows that! We won't fall for that lie!" The leader shouted in response: "Refusing arrest, that is another crime to your sheet!"

{Actually Han TuoZhou is not as bad as portrayed in the book. Between Yue Fei's execution in 1142 and Han TuoZhou's ascension as head chancellor in 1206, the Southern Sung emperors did not once invade the Jin territories in an attempt to reclaim some lands. Only when Han TuoZhou became chancellor did another attempt was made. However, this attempt was poorly planned and general preparations were lacking, add on top of that the internal conflicts within the imperial court, it is no surprise that it failed. NingZong, the emperor at the time, and a bunch of officials favoring peace executed Han TuoZhou and presented his head to the Jin emperor as a show of their willingness for peace. This was the last attempt by the Southern Sung dynasty to drive out the Jins. So Han TuoZhuo was actually a patriot who died for his country instead of how he is portrayed in this book.}

Yang TieXin turned toward his wife and said: "Quickly put on some more clothes. I'll go get his horse for you. Once I shoot down the leader, the rest of them will panic." The sound of bow being released was followed by a meteor-like arrow hitting the leader's right shoulder. The leader let out an "Ai-Yo!" before tumbling down onto the ground. All the soldiers shouted in surprise. Another official shouted: "Seize them!" All the soldiers came rushing forth. The 2 men were shooting arrows one after another and in an instant, they had already shot down 6 or 7 soldiers. But there were too many of them as they still managed to charge to the front of both houses.

With a loud shout, Yang TieXin jumped out of the door with his spear making the soldiers back up in surprise and fear. He jumped to the side of an official that was riding a white horse and thrusted the spear at him. The official tried to parry with his spear.

But Yang Family Spear was too fast, Yang TieXin's spear dove down and hit the official on his leg. He then lifted his spear up and flipped the official off his horse.

Yang TieXin put his spear shaft on the ground and pushed off, jumping onto the horse. He squeezed his legs, making the horse neigh and gallop towards the house. Yang TieXin killed a soldier by the door with a thrust, leaned down, extended his arms, grabbed Bao XiRuo, and lifted her up onto the horse as well. He then turned and shouted: "Brother, follow me!" Guo XiaoTian was waving his twin halberds and protecting his wife as he charged out from the crowd. Seeing the ferocity of the 2 men, none of the soldiers dared to get any closer. So they started to shoot arrows at them.

Yang TieXin made his horse run to Li Ping's side and shouted as he jumped off: "Sister, get on!" Li Ping anxiously said: "That won't be any good." Yang TieXin didn't care what she said and threw her onto the horse. The 2 sworn brothers followed behind the horse and slowly walked off while battling off the soldiers.

After a bit of walking, suddenly loud shouting came from ahead as another group of soldiers came charging in. The two men silently groaned. As they were looking for another direction to run to, arrows started coming in from ahead. Suddenly, Bao XiRuo screamed: "Ai-Yo!" For her ride was hit by an arrow and fell over, throwing the 2 women on its back off. Yang TieXin said: "Brother, you guard them, I'll go get another horse." He charged toward the crowd of soldiers. Ten or so soldiers lined up, pointed their spears at Yang TieXin, and let out a yell together.

Seeing the overwhelming number of enemies, Guo XiaoTian thought: "For us 2 brothers, escaping is not hard. But with enemies in front and behind, there is no way our wives could escape. It is not like we broke any laws, so going to the courthouse in LinAn to argue our case is much better than dying for no reason here. Last time Father Qiu ChuJi killed all of the men there, not a single one of them got away. Therefore nobody is there to prove we did it, so the court can't say for sure that we were guilty of anything. Besides, the 2 of us didn't kill any officials or Jin soldiers." So he yelled: "Brother, stop it. Let's go with them!" Yang TieXin was very surprised by this and ran back dragging his spear behind him.

The leader of this group of soldiers ordered the men to stop shooting and surround the 2 men. Then he shouted: "Throw down your weapons and arrows, then your life will be spared."

Yang TieXin spoke up: "Brother, don't fall for their lies." Guo XiaoTian shook his head for a while and then threw his twin halberds onto the ground. Yang TieXin looked over at his beloved wife and could not bear the frightened look on her face. He sighed and threw his spear on the ground as well. As soon as both of their weapons fell on the ground, 10 or so long spears immediately came and surrounded the 4 of them. Eight foot soldiers walked up and tied the 4 of them up with their hands behind their backs.

Yang TieXin held his head up high and sneered. The leader of the group lifted his horse whip up and smacked Yang TieXin squarely on his face: "Damn traitor! Do you really want to die?" A welt appeared on Yang TieXin's face from his forehead all the way down to his neck. In rage, Yang TieXin replied: "Ok! What is your name?" That official got even angrier as his whip came down like rain: "Your old man here is Duan TianDe! Remember that? When you get to the gates of hell you can tell them all about me!" Yang TieXin did not back up or flinch at all as he just stood there staring at him. Duan TianDe continued: "I got a knife scar on my forehead and a birthmark on my face! Can you remember all that?" His whip came down some more.

Seeing her husband being treated like this, Bao XiRuo cried out while tears rolled down her cheeks: "He's a good man and has done nothing wrong. Why are you... you beating him? Don't... Don't you know anything about justice?" Yang TieXin suddenly spit at him, hitting him in the face. Furious, Duan TianDe pulled out his sabre and screamed: "I'm going to kill you traitor right now!" He brought his sabre up and swung it down. Yang TieXin sidestepped the strike. The 2 foot soldiers at his side pushed their spears up against his sides to stop him from moving as Duan TianDe chopped down once again. With nowhere to dodge on the sides, Yang TieXin could only jump back to avoid the strike. Turns out this Duan TianDe knows a little bit of kungfu, even though he missed again, he immediately thrusted his sabre forward. The sabre he was using is saw-toothed and with his move he sawed a gash on Yang TieXin's left shoulder. He then immediately followed it with another chop.

Seeing that his sworn brother's life is in grave danger, Guo XiaoTian suddenly jumped up and aimed his feet at Duan TianDe's face. In shock, Duan TianDe brought his sword back to parry this away. Even though Guo XiaoTian's hands were tied behind his back, his footwork was still quite formidable. So before his body fell down, he twirled his left leg and brought it back and, at the same time, sent out his right leg, hitting Duan TianDe in his stomach.

In extreme pain and rage, Duan TianDe shouted: "Stick those spears in them! Orders from above, if the traitor resist arrest, then kill them all!" The soldiers stabbed forth with their spears. Guo XiaoTian kicked down 2 soldiers in a row, but with his hands tied behind his back his quickness was restricted as he had to jump away from spears. Duan TianDe came up from behind him and swung down hard, chopping Guo XiaoTian's entire right arm off at the shoulders. Yang TieXin was trying to struggle out of the ropes but could not no matter how hard he tried. Suddenly seeing his sworn brother wounded on the ground, a surge of strength came from nowhere inside of him. He snapped the ropes off his body, punched a soldier, grabbed his spear, and whipped out the Yang Family Spear. This time he is fighting without regards to his own life, it was as if he could take on tens of thousands of soldiers all by himself. He had just started but had already taken down 2 soldiers. Seeing that the situation has turned, Duan TianDe immediately back away. Last time Yang TieXin was holding back somewhat, not really wanting to kill government soldiers; but now he could not care less. Flicking right and swinging left, he killed several soldiers in an instant. Seeing his ferociousness, the rest of the soldiers scattered at once.

Yang TieXin did not bother chasing them as he helped his sworn brother sit up. Blood is gushing out where Guo XiaoTian's arm was chopped off and by now his whole body was covered in blood. Yang TieXin could not stop his tears from falling down at the sight. Guo XiaoTian gritted his teeth and shouted out: "Brother, don't worry about me... leave, leave now!" Yang TieXin replied desperately: "I'm going to get a horse, and then I'm going to fight until I die to make sure you escape." Guo XiaoTian faintly replied: "No... no...." He passed out. Yang TieXin took off his outer shirt so he can bandage up the wound. But Duan TianDe chopped off his shoulder and portions of his chest as well, the wound is almost half-a-body in length, impossible to bandage up. Guo XiaoTian had slowly come to and shouted: "Brother, go save our wives. I... I can't... make it...." Before he finished what he was saying, he slumped over and died.

The 2 sworn brothers always thought of each other as real blood brothers. Seeing his brother die like this, a phrase popped up amidst the anger and the rage in Yang TieXin's mind. It is the phrase that they said when they became sworn brothers: "Hope to die on the same day of the same month of the same year." He lifted his head up to look around. The 2 wives had gone missing in all the chaos.

He screamed: "Brother, I'm going to avenge your death!" He grabbed his spear and ran toward the crowd of soldiers. By now, the soldiers have already line up in formation. Duan TianDe issued an order and immediately, arrows came flying out towards him. Yang TieXin did not care, knocking the arrows out of the way and charged ahead. An official swung the sabre in his hand down hard at Yang TieXin's head. Yang TieXin ducked and suddenly scrambled underneath the belly of his ride. That official was just about to turn his horse around when a spear penetrated through his heart from the back. Yang TieXin threw off the corpse and jumped onto the horse. Waving his spears around, none of the soldiers dared to come closer to battle as they started to run off.

After chasing for a while, he suddenly saw an official running away as fast as he could with a woman in his arms. Yang TieXin jumped off his horse and knocked down a foot soldier. Picking up the soldier's bow and arrow, he aimed the best he could in the dim fire light and let loose. The arrow hit the horse's behind, making the horse kneel down all of a sudden. The 2 people on the horse came tumbling off. Yang TieXin let loose another arrow and killed the official. Running up, he saw that the woman who is now trying to sit up on the ground is his wife.

Overwhelmed with surprise and excitement upon seeing her husband, Bao XiRuo jumped into his arms. Yang TieXin asked: "Where's our sister-in-law?" Bao XiRuo answered: "Ahead, with... with more soldiers." Yang TieXin instructed: "You stay here and wait for me. I'm going to save her." Bao XiRuo suddenly said in shock: "There are more soldiers coming from behind!"

Yang TieXin turned around and, as she had said, there really was a group of soldiers coming this way with torches in hand. Yang TieXin gritted his teeth and said: "Brother is dead. No matter what, I have to save sister-in-law to save the Guo family bloodline. If the heavens pity us, there will be a day when we meet again." Bao XiRuo put her arms around her husband's neck and would not let go. She said in between sobs: "We'll never be apart, you said it yourself, even if we die we will die together! Remember? You said it yourself!" Yang TieXin's heart went sour for a moment as he picked up his wife and gave her a kiss. Then despite every part of his heart not wanting to, he shook free of her arms and charged forward with his spear. After charging for 10 steps he turned around and saw that his wife was sobbing in a cloud of dust and the soldiers have already arrived at her side.

Wiping away the sweat, blood, and tears on his face, Yang TieXin threw his own life out of consideration and thought only about saving Li Ping to make sure that his sworn brother has descendants. After chasing a while, he got another horse. After grilling the official, he found out that Li was just a bit ahead. So he chased as hard as he could on the horse. Suddenly, he heard the cries and screams of a woman coming from the woods by the path. He immediately turned the horse and charged into the woods. Li had already freed her hands from the ropes and was desperately fighting off 2 foot soldiers. Being born and raised in the farms, she was very strong for a girl; so although she does not know any kungfu, her desperate fighting is quite tough to handle as well. The 2 foot soldiers were cursing and laughing at her, but still could not quite handle her at the moment. Yang TieXin did not bother to say anything and just charged up and killed the 2 with 2 thrusts. He then helped Li up onto the horse. The 2 of them rode back together, trying to find his wife. When they got back to the place where they parted ways, nobody was there. By now the sky is getting slightly brighter, so he jumped off the horse to inspect the ground. There were traces of someone being dragged away, his wife was probably captured by the soldiers again.

Yang TieXin immediately jumped up onto the horse and gave the horse several wild kicks in the stomach. In great pain, the horse shot forward. Just as they were galloping at full speed, suddenly a bugle sounded on the side of the path and 10 or so warriors clad in black charged out. The first one lifted up his wolf-ganged-club and smashed down. Yang TieXin parried it away with his spear and answered with a thrust. That man replied by a swing of his club sideways. His club techniques were very unique, as if it isn't a skill from the Central Plains.

When Yang TieXin and Guo XiaoTian used to discuss kungfu and kungfu techniques, they talked about one of the Heroes of the Water Margins, Thunderclap Fire Qing Ming, who used to be the best in the world in wolf-fanged club techniques. But outside of him, it was very rare to meet someone in the martial world who uses this weapon. This was because the sheer weight of the weapon required that the user had to have enormous upper back strength. However, the Jin army loved to use this weapon. This is because the Jin people lived in the freezing cold climate of LiaoDong, so they were all very strong. When using this weapon in the battlefield, its heaviness gave them a distinctive advantage. Back when the Jins invaded and defeated the Song armies using the wolf-fanged club, in the rage and anger of the peasants and farmers, suddenly a joke went around. Someone, A, said: "What's so scary about the Jin army? For any one thing they got, we have one thing to counter them." Another person, B, responded: "They got Akutta." A replied: "We got Protector Han." B went on: "They got Crippled Horse." A replied: "We got Thin Coarse Sabre."

B said: "They got wolf-fanged club." To which A replied: "We got the crown of our heads." Meaning when that wolf-fanged club comes down, the farmers of Song could only meet it with the top of their heads. This joke is actually filled with bitterness and anger.

So now Yang TieXin has fought several exchanges with this man with the wolf-fanged club. Remembering his discussion with Guo XiaoTian, he became more and more suspicious. From the moves and techniques of this man, it was obvious that he was a Jin army official. What's he doing here? Several more exchanges passed when he suddenly quickened his spear moves and stabbed the man off his horse. The rest of them turned around and ran in shock.

Yang TieXin turned around to check up on whether or not Li was hurt in that last fight. Suddenly a sniper arrow was shot out from the woods. It caught Yang TieXin by surprise and hit him from the back. In utter panic, Li shouted: "Brother Yang, arrow! Arrow!" Yang TieXin's heart went cold: "So this is when and where I die! But I have to at least disperse these bastard soldiers before I die, that way Sister-in-Law can get away." So he waved his spear wildly and charged straight at an area crowded with soldiers. But the pain from the arrow on his back was too much as his eyes went black and he fainted.

Back when her husband pushed her off, Bao XiRuo felt as if her heart had been shredded. In a blink of an eye the soldiers had made it to her side. By the time she tried to run away, she was already tied up and thrown onto a horse. One of the army officials brought a torch up to her face and gave her a good look-over. Nodding, he said: "Hard to believe those two bastards can actually do a thing or 2, wounded so many of our men." Another official smiled and said: "Well, finally we can call it a wrap and a job well done. After all that trouble, I would have to say that everyone deserves at least more than 10 taels of silver each." The first official replied: "Hmph! Just hope the higher ups don't take it all for themselves." Turning around, he instructed the bugler: "Let's head back!" The bugler brought up his bugle and blew several notes. Bao XiRuo could only sob because all she could think about was her husband and whether or not he's still alive. By now the sky has brightened up somewhat as people are slowly appearing on the path. Seeing a group of army men, all of the farmers quickly got out of the way as far as they could. At first Bao XiRuo was worried that the soldiers might get ideas about her, but surprisingly, these men actually were polite in their actions and words, so she slowly stopped worrying about it.

After several kilometers, shouts suddenly came from ahead as 10 or so armed men dressed in black came charging in from the side of the path. The leader of the group yelled: "Shameless scums! Killing good innocent people! Come down here at once and get what's coming to you!" The leading official was furious and shouted back: "Who do you think you scums are, making trouble here in the outskirts of the capital? Get out of the way now!" The gang of men in black did not reply as they charged into the soldiers. Even though there were more soldiers, the men in black were all well versed in kungfu, so neither side seemed to have gained an advantage at this moment.

Bao XiRuo was silently excited as she thought to herself: "Maybe Dear Tie's friends heard the news and came to rescue us." In the chaos of battle an arrow came flying in and hit the butt of the horse she was on. Driven by the pain, the horse ran off as fast as it could to the north.

{Here's something to think about, the first time I read this part I missed it but now I get it: she was obviously not riding in the front of the group of soldiers (because it just doesn't make sense to put a person that might run away in front of everyone else, that's like giving them a head start) and the men in black came charging in from the front, yet the arrow that hit her horse had to have came from behind. So doesn't that seem rather fishy to you guys as well?}

In utter shock, Bao XiRuo grabbed ahold of the horse's neck with both arms in fear of falling off. Sounds of hoofbeats came as another horse came chasing up from behind. In an instant, a black horse came over her. The man on the horse twirled a lasso in the air a couple of time and skillfully tossed it around her horse's neck. The 2 horses galloped side-by-side. The man slowly shortened the lasso and the 2 horses gradually slowed down. After several more steps, the man whistled and the black horse immediately stopped dead in its tracks. Because of the lasso, Bao XiRuo's horse could not continue forward and stood up on its hind legs, neighing loudly.

Bao XiRuo has been worn out by the events of the night. In a mixture of sadness and horror, she could no longer hang on to the reins. She fell off the horse and fainted.

After sleeping for what seemed like forever, she slowly woke up. It felt like she was sleeping on a very soft and comfortable bed with a thick cotton quilt over her, she felt warm all over. She opened her eyes and the first thing that she saw was the green colored canopy of the bed, it turns out she really was sleeping on a bed. A lamp was lit on the table by the bed and it seemed like there was a man dressed in black sitting by the bed. Hearing her turn, that man immediately stood up, parted the bed curtains, and quietly asked: "Are you awake?" Bao XiRuo haven't completely recovered all of her consciousness, all she could tell was that this man was somewhat familiar. That man placed his hand on her forehead and gently said: "Still very hot, don't worry, the doctor will be here soon." In a daze, Bao XiRuo slowly fell back asleep.

After a while, it seemed like a doctor was examining her and then someone was feeding her medicine. Yet all she could do was sleep. She snapped out of her dream and screamed: "Dear Tie! Dear Tie!" This was followed by someone patting her softly on the shoulder and gently consoling her.

The next time she woke up was in the middle of the day and she couldn't help but groan. A person walked up and parted the bed curtains. This time they faced each other, Bao XiRuo saw the face clearly. She was shocked, for this handsome, smiling man in front of her was that very man she saved from certain death in the snow several months ago.

Bao XiRuo asked: "Where am I? Where's my husband?" That young man shook his hand, telling her not to be loud, and then lightly replied: "The soldiers are looking all over the place outside, right now we are borrowing a room at a farmer's place. So very sorry, I had to lie and say that I am your husband, please don't accidentally tell them the truth." Bao XiRuo blushed and nodded, but she asked again: "Where's my husband?" That man answered: "Your body is very weak right now. After you get better, then I'll tell you everything."

Bao XiRuo was shocked, from his tone of voice, it seemed like something has happened to her husband. She grabbed the corner of her quilt tightly with both hands and asked in a shaking voice: "He... What... What happened to him?" That man only replied: "Worrying will get nothing accomplished now, the most important thing is your health." Bao XiRuo kept on asking: "Is... Is he dead?" The man's face showed that he realized he had no choice in the matter as he gently nodded: "Mr. Yang was killed by those bastard soldiers." He shook his head and sighed. Bao XiRuo felt as if her heart was being stabbed as she fainted. When she came to after a long time, she started to cry her eyes out.

That man gently consoled her. In between sobs, Bao XiRuo asked: "He... How did he died?" That man replied: "Was Mr. Yang a tall, broad-shouldered man around the age of 20, and uses a spear as a weapon?" Bao XiRuo answered: "Yes, that's him." That man answered: "Earlier today I saw him fighting with several soldiers, killing a couple of them. But... ay! But one of the army officials snuck behind him and stabbed him squarely in the back with his spear."

Bao XiRuo fainted again. She did not drink nor eat for that entire day as she felt obligated to die with her husband. That man didn't force her either as he just talked to her in a very gentlemanly manner to keep her company. As this continued Bao XiRuo started to feel as if she was neglecting him, so she asked: "What is your name? How did you know that we were in trouble and came to help?" That man replied: "My surname is Yan, given name is Lie. I and some of my friends were just passing by here yesterday when we saw soldiers causing trouble. We didn't like what we saw so we decided to help. Who knew that I would end up rescuing my savior. It was as if we destined to meet like this."

Hearing the words "destined to meet", Bao XiRuo's face turned a little red as she tried to ignore him by turning to face inward. She thought about all this in her head a bit. Suddenly something suspicious popped up in her mind as she found a hole in his story. She turned and asked: "Were you on the same side as the soldiers?" Yan Lie was shocked: "Wh... What?" Bao XiRuo explained: "Back on that day weren't you with the soldiers that tried to catch that Taoist Priest? That's why you were injured right?" Yan Lie answered: "Such bad luck on that day. I came from up north and was heading for LinAn, passing by your village. Who was to know that an arrow was going to come out of nowhere and hit me on the shoulder. If it wasn't for your benevolent heart and kindness I would have really died without even knowing why or how. Why were they after that whatever Taoist Priest anyway? Taoist Priests gets catch ghosts, but soldiers catch Taoist Priests, what kind of logic is that?" When he got to here he couldn't help but laugh a little.

Bao XiRuo observed: "Oh, so you were just passing by and not with them. I thought you were one of those people that was there to catch that Taoist. I really didn't know whether or not I should have saved you." She then went on to explain of why the soldiers were there and how Qiu ChuJi killed them all.

After talking for a while, Bao XiRuo suddenly noticed that he was staring at her with a trance-like gaze and immediately stopped talking. This snapped Yan Lie out of his trance, he smiled and said: "Sorry. I was just thinking about how we can escape without being caught by the soldiers."

Bao XiRuo started to cry and replied: "My... My husband is gone now, how can I live on? Why don't you just escape by yourself and not worry about me?" Yan Lie replied with a straight face: "Madame, your husband was murdered by those bastard soldiers, his death has not been revenged for. Yet you are not trying to bring the culprits to justice and is only seeking death. Your husband was a hero among men when he was alive, I'm afraid he won't rest in peace when he finds out about this in the netherworld."

Bao XiRuo replied: "I'm only a weak female, how can I possibly avenge his death?" In anger, Yan Lie replied: "Madame's burden, I will gladly take upon my shoulders. Do you know who the culprit is?" Bao XiRuo thought for a bit and answered: "The leader of the soldier's name is Duan TianDe. He has a knife scar on his forehead and a birthmark on his face." Yan Lie replied: "With a name and a way of recognizing him, no matter how far away he runs off to, we have to bring him to justice!" He went outside and came back with a bowl of porridge with some salted eggs. He spoke up: "If you don't take care of your health, how can you get your revenge?" Bao XiRuo thought what he said made some sense, so she took over the bowl and started to slowly eat its contents.

The next morning, Bao XiRuo arranged her cloth and got off of bed. She brushed her hair properly against a mirror, found a piece of white cloth and placed a white flower in her hair to pay respects to her husband. What she saw in the mirror was a beautiful woman in the prime of her life, yet her husband had already left her behind. Overwhelmed by sadness and loneliness, she put her head down and started crying. Yan Lie walked in and saw her. He said softly: "The soldiers are gone now, let's go." Bao XiRuo followed him out. Yan Lie gave a bit of silver to the master of the house and then led the 2 horses over. The horse that Bao XiRuo had ridden on was hit by an arrow, but Yan Lie had taken care of the wound.

Bao XiRuo asked: "Where do we go to now?" Yan Lie gave her a look, signaling her not to talk so much in front of others. He helped her onto the horse and the 2 of them rode side by side northward. After riding for over ten kilometers, Bao XiRuo asked again: "Where do we go to now?" Yan Li replied: "Let's find a place where we can settle down for a while and wait out this storm. After the soldiers stop looking for us and let their guards down, then I'll go and find your husband's body so we can give him a proper burial. After that I'm going to find that bastard Duan TianDe and kill him."

Bao XiRuo has a very tender and selfless personality, rarely does she come up with ideas of her own. Besides, right now she's all by herself in the world, seeing that he has it all figured out, she could not help but be touched. She said: "Mr. Yan, how... how will I ever be able to repay you?" Yan Lie confidently replied: "Madame, this life of mine was saved by you. So even if I have to jump into boiling oil or be smashed into dust, I would serve you for the rest of my life." Bao XiRuo replied: "I only hope that we can avenge my husband's death and kill that evil Duan TianDe as soon as possible so I can join him on the other side." When she thought to here, tears started to roll out of her eyes again. The 2 of them rode for the rest of the day and then stopped at a little hotel in ChangAn for the night. Yan Lie put the 2 down as a couple and got one room. Bao XiRuo could not help but feel that there is something wrong about this. So she did not utter a word during dinner as she secretly touched that dagger that Qiu ChuJi gave her to make sure it's there. She made up her mind: "If he gets the slightest bit of ideas, I would kill myself right there on the spot."

Yan Lie instructed the floor manager to bring him 2 bundles of straws into the room. He waited until the floor manager left before locking the door up and laying out the straws on the floor. He lied down on the straws and covered himself with a felt blanket. He turned to Bao XiRuo: "Goodnight Madame." And then he closed his eyes.

Bao XiRuo's heart was beating a mile a minute. Remembering her dead husband, she felt all torn up inside. She blankly sat there for over an hour before finally sighing and blowing out the candle. Still clutching the dagger tightly, she climbed into the bed with her cloths on.

When Bao XiRuo woke up the next day, Yan Lie had already packed and readied everything, not to mention instructing the floor manager to get some breakfast ready. Bao XiRuo was very thankful for his gentlemanly actions and let most of her guard down. By the time she ate breakfast, she noticed that it was a dish of chicken fried noodles, a dish of ham, a dish of sausages, a dish of smoked fish, and a small pot of deliciously smelling rice and stalk gruel. She was raised in a moderately well off family, even after marrying into the Yang family, she had always had a life of normal farmer. Usually, breakfast for her is a couple of salted vegetables and half a salted egg. Other than New Years and weddings, she had never eaten such delicacies. So she felt quite uncomfortable during all of breakfast.

Once she finished eating, the floor manager came in with a bundle. By now Yan Lie had left their room. Bao XiRuo asked: "What is this?" The floor manager replied: "Mister went out as soon as the sun rose and bought a change of clothing for Madame. He told me to ask you to change into it." Once he finished he put down the bundle and left. Bao XiRuo opened the bundle and was shocked. It was a completely white mourning dress made out of silver with matching white socks, shoes, inner garments, and jacket, as well as matching scarf, bandanas, and other accessories. She thought: "So hard for a young man like him to think of everything." When she changed into the clothing, the thought that Yan Lie bought these himself made her blush. She had left the house in a hurry in the middle of the night, so her clothing was not very neat to begin with, then after a whole night of misadventures, she was covered in dirt and sweat. Now that she had brushed up somewhat, her spirit picked up somewhat as well. When Yan Lie returned, she noticed he had changed into colorful and expensive attires as well.

The 2 of them got on the way again. Sometimes one of them rode in front while the other one followed, other times they rode side-by-side. The season of Spring was in its full glory south of the the Yangtze, willows brushed people's shoulder on the road, flower fragrances filling the air and people's hearts, and plants were starting to sprout in the farms.

In order to distract her thoughts and lessen her troubles, Yan Lie kept on talking to her about varies random subjects. Bao XiRuo's father was an unaccomplished scholar in a little village, her husband and his sworn brother were both straightforward and unrefined men. So she had never met someone as refined, gentlemanly, and knowledgeable as him. When they talk she felt that every word, every sentence that he said was greatly intelligent and thought-provoking, she could not help but secretly look at him in wonder. However, they kept on heading north and getting further and further away from LinAn, not only did he never once mentioned about revenge, he did not even bring up the subject of a proper burial for her husband. Finally, she could not keep it in anymore and asked: "Mr. Yan, what are your plans regarding my husband's body?"

Yan Lie relied: "It's not that I don't want to search for your husband's body and give him a proper burial but I killed government officials when I rescued Madame, so right now it is very dangerous for me there. As soon as I show myself around LinAh, I would no doubt be killed by soldiers. Besides, right now the soldiers are all over the place looking for Madame. After all, your husband did commit treason by killing officials, this is a huge crime. If his relatives are captured, men are executed and women are made into prostitutes for the soldiers. Dying for me is no big deal, but if nobody was around to protect Madame and the soldiers catch you, I could not bear and think of the consequences. Even in the nether world, I would be saddened beyond my own imagination." Seeing how honest and sincere he looked, Bao XiRuo nodded. Yan Lie continued: "I have thought this over thoroughly, the most important thing right now is to give you husband a proper burial. So we are going to JiaXing, then I can take out some money and get someone to take care of it at LinAn. If Madame has to do it by herself, then let me settle you down in JiaXing and take the risk by myself." Bao XiRuo felt she was asking a bit too much to ask him to take such a big risk for her and replied: "If Mister can find someone reliable to take care of the whole matter, then that would be for the best." She continued: "My husband had a sworn brother with the surname of Guo, he died with my husband. I am sorry to trouble you by asking you to try to give him a proper burial as well. I... I...." She started crying.

Yan Lie replied: "It's no trouble at all, just leave it all to me. As for revenge, that bastard Duan TianDe is a government official, so killing him is not easy. Besides, he is extra careful right now, all we can do is patiently wait for our chance." Bao XiRuo only wanted to kill him to avenge her husband and then follow him into the nether world. Even though Yan Lie's every word was true, she didn't know how long she would have to wait for this to happen. In a moment of impatience, she started to sob loudly. In between sobs, she replied: "I really don't know about revenge. Even a hero like my husband could not defeat him. I... I'm just a weak woman, what... what can I do? Just let me die and join my husband and that'll be that."

Feeling that the situation was truly difficult, Yan Lie thought for a long while before finally saying: "Madame, do you trust me?" Bao XiRuo nodded. Yan Lie continued: "The only thing we can do now is to head up north to avoid the soldiers. The Song officials can't chase us if we are up north. So as soon as we cross the Yangtze, we should be out of danger. We'll wait until things have cooled down before returning down south and avenge your husband. Madame, please rest assured. I will take care of this whole matter of justice for your husband."

Bao XiRuo hesitated: "I am homeless without any relatives in the world, if I don't follow him, where can a woman like myself settle down in this world? The faces of the soldiers that night were beastly, if I had fallen into their hands, I would definitely suffer a fate worse than death itself. Yet this man is not a friend nor a relative, should a widow like me be traveling together with a young man like him? If I tried to kill myself right now, he would without a doubt stop me." She felt lost, the only thing she was sure of is that the future will be difficult. Thinking forward and looking back like this, she felt as if her intestines were being twisted. For several days straight now she had shed tears and now it seems as if she has ran out of tears to shed.

Yan Lie spoke up: "If Madame feels that any part of my plan is bad, then please tell me. There is nothing I wouldn't do for you." Seeing how accommodating he is, Bao XiRuo actually felt a little bad about hesitating. Other than committing suicide, she really could not find another way out. Having no other choice, she lowered her head and replied: "Why don't you take care of it."

Yan Lie could not be happier: "I will forever be grateful that Madame saved my life. Madame...." Bao XiRuo interrupted him: "You don't have to mention that matter ever again." Yan Lie replied: "Yes, yes of course."

That night, the 2 of them stopped at an inn in the town of XiaShi, still only getting one room. Ever since Bao XiRuo agreed to go up north with him, Yan Lie's actions have not been as gentlemanly and proper as before, for once in a while, his excitement would get out of hand. Bao XiRuo felt an indistinct notion that something might not be appropriate. But seeing that he had not shown even the slightest trace of getting any ideas, she figured that he must be a little too excited about being able to fully show his gratitude.

The 2 of them reached JiaXin at noon the next day. JiaXin is a big city in the western parts of ZheJiang. Since this was the place where many trade routes come together, it had always been a very prosperous place. When the Song dynasty moved south, JiaXin had also become much closer to the capital, thus becoming even more prosperous and bustling.

Yan Lie suggested: "Let's find an inn and rest up for a bit." Bao XiRuo was worried about soldiers finding them and said: "It's still early, we can still cover some ground." Yan Lie replied: "The stores here aren't half bad. Madame's clothing is old and worn, have to buy some new ones." This surprised Bao XiRuo as she took a moment to recover and replied: "Didn't you just buy this yesterday? How is it already old and worn?" Yan Lie answered: "There were alot of dust on the way, after wearing the same clothes for a couple of days it is no longer colorful anymore. Besides, as beautiful as Madame is, how can Madame possibly not wear the best clothing in the world?"

Hearing him praising her beauty, Bao XiRuo was secretly happy inside, but she lowered her head and said: "I am in the middle of paying my respects...." Yan Lie immediately cut her off: "Yes, of course. I understand." Bao XiRuo did not say anything more. Her husband had never praised her beauty to her face like this before, she peeked over at Yan Lie and saw only sincerity on his face. At once her heart shook, but she couldn't figure out if it was from happiness or sadness.

Yan Lie asked around and went to the biggest hotel around, "Elegant Waters Hotel". After washing up, the Yan Lie and Bao XiRuo ate some snacks together, sitting across from each other. Bao XiRuo wanted to ask him for a separate room but didn't know how to word it. Her face changed colors several times for this was a heavy burden on her heart. After a bit, Yan Lie spoke up: "Madame, please make yourself at home. I'm going out to buy some things and coming right back afterwards." Bao XiRuo nodded: "Please don't spent too much money." Yan Lie smiled and replied: "Pity that Madame is wearing mourning apparel and can't wear any jewelry. Even if I want to spend too much I can't."

Chapter two

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